The mystery behind Jon Snow’s identity has raged on since the very first episodes of Game of Thrones. From the moment Ned Stark promised Jon they’d talk about his mother the next time they met, fans have been actively forming their own theories. Season 6 finally put most of those theories to rest, while proving some of the more popular ones to be unequivocally true. Jon’s true lineage could very well end up deciding the fate of Westeros, and now that we know exactly what it is, it’s easier to see the Game of Thrones endgame.
So what exactly is it that makes Jon Snow so integral to the GoT story? The answer is “so god damn much,” marked by the host of information we now know about his parents, relatives, and prophesied fate.
1. The son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark
The Westeros history books tell a wildly different story than what actually happened when it comes to Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. The common story is that Rhaegar kidnapped and raped Lyanna (Ned’s sister), later leading to her death (and single-handedly sparking Robert’s Rebellion in the process). The way it actually went down though is far more friendly to the Targaryens. Rhaegar and Lyanna were actually in love and ran away together, before Lyanna died giving birth to, you guessed it, Jon freaking Snow. As of now, Jon still doesn’t know his true heritage, but we imagine it’ll come into play at some point down the line.
2. The true heir to the Iron Throne
The line of succession is a mess right now over in King’s Landing. Robert Baratheon, despite siring a handful of bastards, never actually had any trueborn children of his own. The three kids he thought to be his were in fact the result of Cersei and Jaime’s incest, meaning that with Robert, Stannis, and Renly all pushing up daisies, the Baratheon line has effectively ended. If you believe the Targaryens still have a claim to the Iron Throne, that makes Jon Snow, the son of Prince Rhaegar, the true heir to the seat.
At the same time, things also aren’t quite so clear cut. Technically, Jon is still a bastard, just by a different set of parents (Rhaegar and Lyanna had him out of wedlock). This significantly weakens his potential claim to the Iron Throne, and could clear a path for Daenerys as the last trueborn Targaryen left in the world. In the books there’s even another Targaryen kid wandering around, a plot that was axed by HBO for the sake of simplicity.
3. Why Ned Stark kept Jon’s lineage a secret
Bran’s flashback in the Season 6 finale was the final confirmation for all the “R+L=J” theorists out there, solidifying Jon (“J”) as the offspring of Rhaegar (“R”) and Lyanna (“L”). For Ned, the only one who fully knew the truth, this carried a whole lot of implications. He was a man of honor, not known for taking his oaths lightly, making his siring of a bastard with some random tavern girl seem dubious. We of course now know that his bastard was in fact his nephew, a secret he kept even from his own wife, Catelyn.
In fairness, Ned had little choice in the matter. Robert Baratheon started a war over losing Lyanna to Rhaegar, and odds are he would have killed the baby born as a result of that conflict. Taking the secret to his grave was tantamount to ensuring Jon’s long-term survival. The only problem is that not even Jon has been keyed in, which could lead to some major issues once a certain Mother of Dragons arrives on the shores of Westeros.
4. How this all relates to Daenerys Targaryen
When it comes to the blood of the Dragon, the only thing that matters is whether or not a Targaryen sired you (whether in or out of wedlock). We’ve seen magical properties passed down to Daenerys, shown to us by an immunity to fire and her ability to control her three dragons. Genealogically, she’s also Jon’s aunt, so take that for what you will. As a Targaryen, Jon stands to inherit similar abilities, and when Daenerys arrives with her dragons, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them take a shine to him. The only problem is the one person capable of telling the two Targaryens they’re related is Bran, and he’s not really in the neighborhood right now. The lack of that knowledge could lead to some tragic Game of Thrones-esque bloodshed, so Bran had better hurry up and get south quickly.
5. The Prince That Was Promised
Within the Song of Ice and Fire mythology, there’s a prophecy surrounding an ancient hero known as Azor Ahai, or “The Prince That Was Promised.” As the legend tells us, he fought back the darkness with a flaming sword called Lightbringer, and was prophesied to be born again “amidst salt and smoke.” The exact wording from the source novels reads:
There will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world. In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him.
Jon seems to fit this profile, and with the White Walkers poised to descend on Westeros, the world will desperately need a hero. Still, there’s no guarantee that he’s actually the Prince That Was Promised, with a host of other characters also filling many of the prerequisites.
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