UPDATE: Jon Snow’s father has now been seemingly confirmed by HBO.com. While the season 6 finale very firmly announced that Snow’s mother is Lyanna Stark, the identity of his father was left a bit vague — we all naturally assumed he was sired by Rhaegar Targaryen, but were weren’t 100 percent sure. But a new infographic on the network’s official Making Game of Thrones website clearly links Rhaegar as Snow’s father.
We also might now know Jon Snow’s real first name. We also went and asked the finale’s director, Miguel Sapochnik, about the identity of Snow’s dad, he said he couldn’t outright tell us. But then he hinted, “I reckon if you turn the sound right up and listen carefully it might just give you the answer you need…” We all originally heard Ned’s dying sister say: “His name is…” and then just a whisper. One theory making the rounds online is that Lynanna is saying the name “Jaehaerys” — which is also the name of two previous Targaryen kings. It’s not certain, obviously, but if Snow’s first name is Jaehaerys, and Ned needed to hide his identity, “Jon” is pretty seamless shorthand.
PREVIOUS: He’s a bastard no more! Game of Thrones confirmed a major fan theory Sunday night, finally revealing (at least half of) Jon Snow’s real parentage.
In a long-awaited sequence, Bran Stark continued his flashback to a key event during Robert’s Rebellion at the Tower of Joy in Dorne. There, Young Ned Stark just defeated the double-sword-wielding Ser Arthur Dayne, and Bran followed his father up into the tower. Ned discovered his sister Lyanna dying in a bloody bed. Lyanna was either kidnapped by Prince Rhaegar Tagaryen or eloped with him, depending on who in Westeros you ask (the Starks and Robert say kidnapped, but Littlefinger once smirked at that description, and Ser Barristan praised Rhaegar as “the finest man I ever met”). Either way, Rhaegar’s actions caused a civil war.
This much has long been backstory canon from George R.R. Martin’s novels.
But Sunday’s finale, “The Winds of Winter,” added to the tale in a huge way.
Ned finds Lyanna had just given birth to a brown-eyed baby — Jon Snow. From the very start of the books and the show, we’ve been told Snow is Ned Stark’s illegitimate son, conceived during a random hook-up during the Rebellion. Even Ned’s wife Catelyn thought this, and strongly resented Jon due the betrayal that he represented. Now we learn Jon Snow’s father wasn’t Ned (presumably it’s Rhaegar) and his mother was, in fact, Ned Stark’s sister. She tells him “His name is [this part we don’t hear] … if Robert finds out, he’ll kill him. You know he will. You have to protect him. Promise me Ned. Promise me.”
We assume she’s asking Ned to raise the child and keep his lineage a secret. Given that Robert Baratheon was on a mission to wipe out Targaryens, if Lyanna’s child’s father is half-Targaryen, she would want her child’s true parentage hidden to protect him. (Fun fact: Correctly guessing the identity of Jon Snow’s mother was famously one of the ways that showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss convinced George R.R. Martin to let them adapt his books into an HBO series.)
The only potential wrinkle to the theory is that we’re not explicitly told Rhaegar is the father. We’re assuming he is: It makes plenty of sense, and there have been some winks in this direction in previous episodes, as you’ll see in the video below. (It would be funny if this long-awaited scene answering the question of “who is Jon Snow’s mother?” just spawned a whole new mystery of “so wait — who is Jon Snow’s father?”)
So Jon Snow is the son of a Stark and likely a Targaryen too. He was born out of wedlock, presumably, since Rhaegar was already married, but nobility still (one could argue, as some do below, that he’s still a bastard, but if he can claim the surname Targaryen, then I think it’s a debatable point). Before this, Jon Snow has never been remotely in the running for the Iron Throne. But now that he’s also loopholed his way out of his Night’s Watch pledge by dying, and that he’s likely half Targaryen and half Stark, he’s got quite a claim to the spiky chair in King’s Landing. Jon Snow is now free to pursue his true destiny — even though he knows nothing yet about his true parentage. In the meantime, Snow also claimed Winterfell and became the King in the North, which is ironic because this new revelation means that while he’s a contender for the Iron Throne, he doesn’t have nearly as great of a claim to Winterfell as everybody thought.
And it’s impossible not to think about all of this without also thinking about Daenerys Targaryen. If Rhaegar is Jon’s father, then Jon and Dany are aunt and nephew, as strange as that is to contemplate. With Dany on the verge of landing in Westeros, could they end up as rivals to the Iron Thorne? Incest-y lovers? Both?
So now, finally R+L = J (or, at the very least, x+L = J).
Below, a fan stitched together a rather well-edited collection of all the previous references hinting at Jon Snow’s parentage. One key beat is when Ned says goodbye to Jon Snow, he doesn’t refer to himself as Snow’s father, but rather: “You are a Stark. You might not have my name, but you have my blood.”
READ ON: Here’s star Natalie Dormer revealing her feelings about her character’s tragic end. Here’s star Lena Headey with her thoughts on those huge game-changing twists (she doesn’t think she’ll last long!). And star Emilia Clarke making her bold season 7 predictions. Actor Finn Jones on Ser Loras’ sad fate. Plus there’s our ultra deep-dive recap with our opinions on the finale. Director Miguel Sapochnik breaking down that opening sequence. Maisie Williams reveals who Arya should kill next, and don’t forget to subscribe to our Game of Thrones Weekly podcast (New episode posted below).
RELATED: Check out our Game of Theories season finale!