Who Are Jon Snow's Mother and Father?
You should not go ahead and read this article about Jon Snow's mother if you are just beginning with George R R Martin's Song of Ice and Fire novels, or if you're currently enjoying Game of Thrones season three on HBO- the article includes some information and Jon Snow theories that you will not yet have come across, and it would be a huge pity to ruin any of the surprises or story developments that you're going to relish deicovering while you read or watch this amazing work.
Jon Snow in HBO's Version of Game of Thrones
One of the main characters in George R R Martin's Song of Ice and Fire cycle of novels, Jon Snow is the illegitimate son of Lord Eddard Stark, a Westerosi nobleman who is also known within the books as Ned Stark of Winterfell. He is unfailingly morally correct and decent, even when he has to make impossible choices, and this as well as his courage, unwavering dedication, considerable conscience and prowess in battle tends to endear Jon Snow to the reader all the way through the books. Jon Snow's parentage is withheld from the reader all the way through the series of novels, indeed it is unkown even by the character himself; since Ned Stark is executed at the close of A Game of Thrones, he appears to take the tantalising secret of who Jon Snow's mother is with him to the crypts beneath Winterfell. This leaves the reader pondering over many Jon Snow theories. So what is Jon Snow's lineage? Who is Jon Snow's mother? The Song of Ice and Fire books leave the reader desperate to know, and there are several Jon Snow theories around that might help us hazard a guess.
Morally staunch and thoroughly upright in everything that he does, Ned Stark's begetting of an illegitimate child so soon after his own wedding to Catelyn Tully, to whom he is still married at the start of the cycle of novels, is wholly out of keeping with his character. This surely only increases the intrigue concerning Jon Snow's parentage and makes us question the stories we are half told throughout the early books: none of these vague tales of Jon Snow's parentage really make sense, so just who is Jon Snow's mother? Initially, whenever he is asked the question concerning Jon Snow's mother, Ned Stark refuses to discuss the matter at all. The reader is left to wonder what kind of woman Jon Snow's mother must have been: who on earth could have tempted such a conscientious and honourable man as Ned Stark to stray so far from his habitual path, particularly so early into his marriage and while his young wife is already expecting their first child. Given Jon Snow's central and heroic role in the sprawling narrative of ASOIAF and the huge impact had on his prospects in life by the fact of his illegitimate birth, it's very tempting to speculate about whether Jon Snow's mother might not have been some important, noble Lady, possibly one who has since died.
There are a quantity of possible mother candidates among the huge number of characters and the detailed backstory of the Song of Ice and Fire series, and the many fans of the books are desparate to develop their own theories as to who is Jon Snow's mother.
We are told that Jon Snow was conceived during the period that Lord Eddard Stark was away on a campaign in the South of Westeros during Robert Baratheon's rebellion. At that time, Ned spent a period of time staying at castle Starfall down in Dorne. We learn from the text that soon after Ned's departure from Starfall, Ashara Dayne, who was the daughter of the Starfall family, killed herself. Faced with this fact, the reader must speculate whether this was perhaps because she was desparately in love with Ned? Or possibly even, had she handed over her son to leave with him on his travels? So far, as with all the many Jon Snow theories out there, all we can do is speculate.
Another potential candidate for Jon Snow's mother, Wylla was a wet nurse working for the Dayne family at Starfall during Ned's time there. We first hear of Wylla early in the first novel, Game of Thrones, when the King Robert Baratheon asks Ned Stark if she was Jon Snow's mother. When Robert mentions Wylla in his typically lewd and bawdy style, Ned is similarly typical in his polite refusal to be drawn on the subject, neither confirming nor denying that Wylla is Jon Snow's mother. Is this because he is too polite to discuss a lady's honour, or because Wylla had nothing to do with Jon Snow's birth, and Ned is sworn to secrecy about who Jon Snow's mother really is?
Later in the cycle, Ned Stark's younger daughter Arya meets the young heir to the Dayne family, Lord Edric Dayne. He is travelling as the squire to the rebel hero Beric Dondarrion when Arya is captured as their prisoner. In the conversation between the two, Lord Edric announces that he and Jon Snow are "milk brothers" since Jon Snow's mother, Wylla, served as Edric's wet nurse. Arya makes a note to pass on to her half brother this invaluable little nugget of information should she ever get to meet him again, but beyond that the whole discussion goes almost unnoticed.
This Jon Snow theory has it that if a "patsy" were required, somebody who could be passed off as Jon Snow's mother in order to obfuscate the identity of his true parents, both as function of the narrative and as a catspaw in some noble scheme within its plot (ie to hoodwink the characters as well as hoodwinking the readers) then Wylla would be a perfect candidate- she was beautiful and worked in high service, she was in the right location at the right time, but was not so noble as to be denigrated by the implication that she was the mother to a bastard child. It is significant that at no point before his untimely demise does Eddard Stark, who it seems rarely if ever lies, say that Wylla is Jon's mother. It also seems unlikely and perhaps even a little unsatisfying that such an intriguing secret as Jon Snow's parentage would have such a softly whispered and relatively dull solution: one which is announced in an off-hand manner, third hand, to a character (Arya) who is not even direclty concerned. Surely we, the reader, will get to find out who Jon Snow's mother was in the same instance as Jon himself, so that we can share this revelation with him and derive far greater satisfaction than we could from seeing some random chap announce it to Arya several books before Jon himself finds out.
Robb Stark's Crown
Robb Stark is Ned Stark's eldest child and as such, according to the laws of primogeniture, the rightful heir to the Winterfell seat and the rights and incomes that go with it. Following Ned's death, Robb is claimed by his clansmen to be the King in the North, a title that the Starks were entitled to in Westeros' ancient past. Shortly before Robb's death, he announces Jon snow to be his chosen heir: Jon will stand to inherit the throne of the King in the North should Robb die, and on announcing this, Robb asks that all of his attendant lords accept Jon Snow's claim to the throne and swear to defend it, in writing. However, when Robb Stark does eventually pass away his force is fractured and his clansmen are either murdered with him or subsequently obliged to yield to the superior force of the Lannisters and so make their own individual peace with the Iron Throne of Westeros. However, the revealing of royal parentage for Jon Snow and the cleansing of his taint of bastardy, as well as Robb Stark's naming him as the heir to his throne, would perhaps provide the needed impetus to re-unite the North and provide a focal point for a force that could once again attack the Lannisters' hegemony over Westeros and possibly eventually unseat them from the Iron Throne. This re-dressing of the political situation within the nation is something that the narrative arc seems to demand as well as something that seems especially unlikely at the end of the fifth novel, thus suggesting the need within the story for the kind of rallying point that Jon Snow could become. It would also suit plot well to see Jon Snow on the throne of Westeros. The structure of the novels, as well as the likely force needed within their diegetic space to unseat the Baratheons, surely requires for the pulling together of the books' various strands into one united force- Jon's claim to Robb's throne provides one way in which the northern lords can be roped into the fray once more and pressed into service in one last final, epic battle for the Iron Throne.
Is Ned Really Jon Snow's Father?
One of the many Jon Snow theories discussed by readers and fans of the Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF) books is that Ned Stark is not really Jon Snow's real father, and that instead he has out of some sort of selflessness or obligation taken on the dishonour and notoriety of philandering and has raised Jon as his son in a bid to conserve the honour of someone else, or more likely to protect someone else's memory. This would explain Ned Stark's affair being so out of character, with it turning out that he didn't really have an affair after all. This possible explanation could also help to account for the exceptionally nurturing and inclusive upbringing Jon had at Winterfell. If Jon isn't Ned's son this additionally raises the chance that Jon perhaps isn't illegitimate at all, opening up the possibility that he could inherit some important noble (or possibly even royal) role as the series of books continues. This may be unlikely given Jon's position as Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, which demands of him that he set aside all inheritances and any claims to land or title, but it would definitely make it easier for him to assume a more prominent role in the story that, given his central position in the narrative, seems to be required structurally.
There is of course the important matter of Jon's physical similarity to Ned Stark: it's commented upon by the narration itself and by a number of the characters, including Catelyn Stark's internal thoughts, that Jon Snow very much resembles his father Ned. Therefore, in order for Jon Snow not to be Ned Stark's child, he must instead be the child of somebody closely related to Ned. The candidates here include Ned's older brother Brandon, who in fact died too long before Jon's birth to be his father; Ned's younger brother Benjen, who doesn't seem to be prominent enough within the story to be a realistic candidate, and Ned's sister Lyanna. Lyanna is a quietly shadowy yet hugely important figure in the recent past of Westeros- she died some years before the events of the first novel begin, yet she seems to have been the major cause of the battling that unthroned the Targaeryns and raised Robert Baratheon to their place. So far the prominence of Lyanna within the narrative of the stories seems disproportionately small compared to the massive impact she's had on the history of Westeros. Surely the revelation of the fact that Lyanna is Jon Snow's mother would redress this imbalance?
Lyanna Stark and the Targaryen Conspiracy
So we come to the big one, the major GRRM conspiracy theory, the huge Jon Snow Targaryen theory: Lyanna was betrothed to Robert Baratheon, but, we're told, was kidnapped by Rhaegar Targaryen before they could get married. It's therefore possible that Jon is either the bastard child of this couple, or that we will later be learn that Lyanna ran away with Rhaegar of her own volition and that Jon is therefor legitimate progeny of their secret wedding. If this is true, Jon Snow would be the legitimate heir both to throne in the North, through his cousin Robb Stark's nomination, and also the true heir of the Targaeryen's throne, as (potentially) the only still living descendant of Arys II Targaeryen's firstborn son, Rhaegar. Oddly, this would not only make Jon Snow a Targaryen, it would also make him Danaerys Targaryen's nephew. Vitally this would allow GRRM, through the agency of Jon Snow, to reunite Westeros under one legitimate and, frankly, worthy and benficent ruler. A ruler who is entitled to rule and thoroughly well equipped to do so. In England the War of the Roses was ended in a similar fashion, when Henry VII's fairly weak claim to the throne managed to unite both the Yorkists and the Lancastrians under the one banner.
Vital to the Jon Snow Targaryen theory is this: with her last breath, we are told that Lyanna extracted an oath from her brother Eddard. So far it hasn't yet been disclosed to the reader precisely what this promise entailed. It's possible however, and this is only speculation, clearly, that Lyanna was asking Ned to take care of her newborn baby: Jon Snow, and to keep secret his true parentage and raise him as a Stark bastard. Since Robert Baratheon despised the Targaryens in general and loathed Rhaegar in particular, and in view of Ned's close friendship with Robert, it seems possible that Lyanna would ask her brother to protect her baby from the man who would soon be crowned as King. If Ned were going to do this, the safest and easiest way would be for him to make out to everyone in the land, even his own wife, that Jon Snow was his bastard son. This, in a brief nutshell, is the crux of the Jon Snow Targaryen theory which is setting so many GRRM fans speculating the world over.
What Do You Think?
Do comment below and let me know what you think- who is Jon Snow's mother? Is Jon Snow really Ned Stark's son or is George R R Martin trying to sneak something by us? Are you sold on the Jon Snow Targaryen theory? Or do you have a Jon Snow theory of your own? Do let me know...