Who is Jon Snow’s mother? A Theory of Ice and Fire

Is Jon Snow really Ned’s bastard son?

"You're not my son, Jon Snow."

“You’re not my son, Jon Snow.”

One of the most popular Game of Thrones revolves around Jon Snow’s parentage. Ned Stark claims Jon is his bastard son after he returned from the war for Robert’s throne. But there are several points in the show and book that make us doubt this is true:

  • From everything we have ever known about Ned Stark, he is a man of uncompromising honor who loves Catelyn Stark and would never be unfaithful to her
  • Ned refuses to reveal anything about Jon’s mother or the circumstances of his conception and birth. Sounds to us like a man who’s hiding something!
  • Jon looks different than any of Ned’s other children. While Catelyn and Ned’s children share more Tully traits, Jon looks “more like a Stark”. More on why this is evidence AGAINST Jon being Ned’s son later.

*Most of the below is based on theory and conjecture, but there are possible spoilers ahead from the books series. Proceed at your own risk.*

So who are Jon Snow’s real parents?

To understand the basis of this theory, we’ll first need to understand the story of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. Lyanna Stark was Ned’s beautiful, willful, spirited sister. She was originally engaged to be married to Robert Baratheon. However, at a tournament in King’s Landing, the Prince Rhaegar surprised the crowd by crowning Lyanna as the “Queen of Love and Beauty”. This was shocking to all present since Rhaegar was at that time already married to Elia Martell of Dorne and had children with her. Soon after, Rhaegar supposedly kidnaps Lyanna into the Tower of Joy. Robert Baratheon then joins forces with Brandon and Ned Stark to rescue Lyanna, starting Robert’s rebellion and ending the Targaryen reign. Based on this chain of events, many believe that Jon Snow was actually the child of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark.

For a deeper examination of why this theory holds up, we highly recommend an amazing summary by imgur contributor thrillfight. We’ve posted his summary below. Please note: all credit for the below work goes to thrillfight on imgur and respective fanart artists. We were just lucky to find it!

R + L = J

There are many reasons, aside from the fact that the kidnapping was assumed, to suggest that Lyanna wasn’t kidnapped at all but actually chose to run away with Rhaegar. For starters she wasn’t happy about her engagement to Robert Baratheon at all and knew he would be unfaithful to her. He actually already had one bastard child and he wasn’t even married yet. She was also known to be very strong-willed, think of her like Arya Stark all grown up. A woman like that would do her damnedest to get away if she was being held against her will.

At the Tournament at Harrenhal Lyanna was so moved she was literally brought to tears by Rhaegar’s harp playing, Benjen even made fun of her for it. Then Rhaegar even named her the Queen of Love and Beauty over his own wife. When they disappear they both go to the “Tower of Joy” which Rhaegar himself named.

About a year has passed by the time Eddard gets to the tower and he finds it’s guarded by 3 Kingsguard. One could argue what better reason to have them there than to protect an unborn heir apparent. Rhaegar also believed that one of his children would be the Prince that is Promised and it was rumored that his current wife, Elia, was barren after her first two children.
The 3 Kingsguard at the Tower of Joy were Lord Commander Gerold Hightower (the White Bull), Ser Arthur Dayne (believed to be one of the greatest swordsman in history), and Ser Oswell Whent, another great knight. These Kingsguard were at the Tower as opposed to on the field commanding troops. Something had to be really important for them to be there. Once Eddard defeats the Kingsguard only himself and Howland Reed are alive.

It should be noted that Ned’s recollection about the showdown at the Tower of Joy was while he was under the influence of milk of the poppy, so it’s debatable how reliable it is.

Ned describes finding Lyanna in a “bed of blood” which, if you know anything about childbirth, sounds about accurate. She makes him promise her something before she dies. Ned never reveals what that promise was. That means that the only living person that would know what truly happened in the Tower of Joy is Howland Reed, who is conveniently MIA (thanks, GRRM!)

Daeny’s visions while in the House of Undying include Rhaegar with his newborn son Aegon saying “there must be a third” because “the dragon has three heads”. She also has a vision of a blue winter rose growing from a wall of ice. Lyanna was very fond of these winter roses and Jon is at the Wall… which is made of ice.

Barristan Selmy said he was convinced that “Prince Rhaegar loved his Lady Lyanna.” Viserys also claimed that Rhaegar wasn’t happy in his marriage to Elia. He actually even once blamed Daeny because she was born too late to marry Rhaegar, stating that if she had been born earlier then he would have been content and never wanted Lyanna.

So there you have it. The most popular theory of Jon Snow’s birth and where the series is headed. (Hello, the books are named “A Song of Ice and Fire”!) Are you convinced? Leave us a comment if you agree or let us know your own theories!

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One Response to Who is Jon Snow’s mother? A Theory of Ice and Fire

  1. DJF says:

    I reached the same conclusion based upon comments made to Jon Snow in episode 5 or 6 of season 5. thank you for writing the detailed post.