‘Game of Thrones’: What the Tower of Joy Tells Us About Jon Snow
Warning: Spoilers for Season 6 of Game of Thrones ahead!
We’re now three episodes into the sixth season of Game of Thrones, and for the first time in the show’s history, we’re getting significant early plot movement. The pacing of the HBO series has traditionally fallen somewhere between “snail-esque” and “glacial,” making the rapid development of Season 3 a welcomed break from the norm. The premiere kicked off by revealing the true form of Melisandre, episode 2 brought Jon Snow back from the dead, and now, we have our first insight into the Game of Thrones endgame.
The endgame in question all revolves around the flashback visions Bran has been shown by the Three-Eyed Raven. With the White Walkers approaching from north of the Wall, the young Stark is getting a history lesson on his father Ned, and his aunt Lyanna. From his perspective, he has no idea why or how his visions are important. But we as an audience have a lot more context than he does, and if the third episode is any indicator, all roads lead to the Tower of Joy.
1. What is the Tower of Joy?
To get this answer, let’s sit down for a brief Game of Thrones history lesson. Robert’s Rebellion is coming to close, with Baratheon, Stark, and Arryn forces having just defeated the Targaryens at the Battle of the Trident. Prince Rhaegar has died at the hands of Robert, but Lyanna, Ned’s sister and Robert’s betrothed, is still in the hands of Targaryen forces. She’s held in the Tower of Joy in the Red Mountains of Dorne, by three members of the Kingsguard: Lord Commander Oswell Whent, Ser Arthur Dayne, and Ser Mark Ryswell (the show amended it to not include Ryswell).
As the legend goes, Prince Rhaegar kidnapped and raped Lyanna, before imprisoning her in the Tower and leaving her in the care of his finest men. Ned, in the company of Howlen Reed and a host of other bannermen, killed Whent, Dayne, and Ryswell, but found Lyanna dead once they entered the Tower. It wasn’t long before Lannister forces eventually overtook Kings Landing, ending the war and putting Robert on the Iron Throne.
2. What really happened
While Bran may not understand the full gravity of his visions, we’re starting to see the full picture ourselves. Bran first saw his father and aunt as children in Winterfell. Next, he was shown his father’s rescue of his aunt from the Tower of Joy. To the uninitiated, it seems like a basic walk through the history many in Westeros already know. But what it’s really showing us though, is that history is written by the victors, and that things aren’t quite what they seem.
The most prevalent theory goes as follows: Rhaegar didn’t kidnap Lyanna, so much as the two fell in love and ran away together. Lyanna was betrothed to Robert, and Rhaegar was married to Elia Martell of Dorne, and so they eloped. Rumor has it Lyanna was pregnant with Rhaegar’s offspring, and died in childbirth in the Tower of Joy. Ned, upon defeating Ser Arthur Dayne and company, found her in her final moments. To protect the young Targaryen heir from Robert’s wrath, he promised to keep it safe by claiming it as his bastard. That child’s name: Jon Snow.
3. Why show us this now?
Why reveal the truth behind Jon Snow’s parentage? Because Jon may very well be the one person who can save Westeros from certain doom. If he truly is the song of Rhaegar and Lyanna, that carries tons of implications. He’d be the true-born heir to the Iron Throne and Winterfell, and more than that, his Targaryen blood makes him eminently qualified to take on the White Walkers.
In the lore of A Song of Ice and Fire, dragons are the rock to the White Walker’s scissors so-to-speak. Valyrian steel, forged by dragon fire, is one of two weapons known to kill them. The other is Dragonglass, found in the ancestral home of the Targaryens at Dragonstone. Basically, dragons come up a lot when it comes to defeating White Walkers, and knowing what we do about the ones in the possession of the world’s only other surviving Targaryen, Jon’s lineage makes him eminently qualified to lead Westeros against the imminent zombie horde.
The season has been pointing a gigantic neon sign toward Jon Snow as a key player in what’s to come. And while Bran’s flashback was ended right before he got to see what happened inside the Tower, it seems safe to say that we’ll have all our theories confirmed sometime this season. The war against the White Walkers is coming to Westeros, and there’s no better general to lead the resistance than Jon Targaryen (or Jon Stark depending on who you talk to).
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