The Maternal Matrix of Jon Snow
The latest developments in the biggest ‘Game of Thrones’ mystery of them all.
By Amy Garcia, Johns Hopkins University
Ah, Jon Snow—the “Game of Thrones” fan favorite.
So beloved, in fact, that the writers of the show (and presumably George R. R. Martin in the books) were too heartbroken by his absence to keep him dead permanently.
It is obvious that Jon will be very important in whatever way they choose to end the story, as it can’t really be justified killing him again. However, this is “Game of Thrones,” the same show that introduced about fifteen happy, genuinely good people in the last episode “The Broken Man,” only to kill them in the same episode.
Either way, there is a mystery that needs to be solved before they kill Jon off for good: Who the hell is the bastard’s mom?
There are three main possibilities, some of which are concocted by fans who read and reread all five books for their hints, and rewatched Season 1 of the show to analyze everything Ned Stark ever said. Unless George has a hidden woman in mind about which he never wrote anything, it seems impossible that there could be any surprises for Jon’s mother outside of these three options.
The first option is quite easy, as Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark discuss it both in the books and the second episode of the show. “Your bastard’s mother?” Robert asks Ned. “Must have been a rare wench if she could make Lord Eddard Stark forget his honor.” Ned confirms her name as Wylla, and then declines to speak any further of her.
The show doesn’t speak of Wylla any further, but the books do. She was, according to someone that Arya meets in “A Storm of Swords,” a wet nurse in Dorne at Starfall, the castle of House Dayne. The boy who reveals this information nursed from Wylla himself, and he says that she also nursed Jon Snow.
This seems credible information, as the boy who tells Arya this swears this truth on the honor of his house. But the fact that Jon nursed from her does not necessarily mean she was his mother. It could also be credible evidence for the second possibility of Jon’s mother: Ashara Dayne.
Ashara Dayne was the sister of Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, who was in the episode “Oathbreaker” this season when Bran delved into his father’s past. Arthur Dayne fought with two swords and slayed all of Ned’s banner men but Howard Reed, before Ned and Howard killed the Sword of the Morning together.
Ashara, however, has never been on the show, but she is widely believed in the books to be Jon Snow’s true mother. She is mentioned in the first book by Caitlyn herself, as Catelyn heard the rumors of Ned carrying the sword of the slain Arthur Dayne to his beautiful sister at the castle Starfall, the sister who would later commit suicide. When Catelyn asks her husband if Ashara Dayne was Jon’s mother, Ned becomes very angry. “Never ask me about Jon. He is my blood, and that is all you need to know.” Even Cersei Lannister has heard the story of Ashara, as she brings the woman up to Ned in “Game of Thrones.”
The same boy who tells Arya about Wylla also states that Ashara met Ned Stark and his brother Brandon at the Tourney of Harrenhal, and that Ashara loved Ned very much. She is Jon’s mother, he tells Arya, and it was her heartbreak that caused her suicide.
Even Barristan Selmy, the honorable member of Daenerys’ Queensguard, believes Ashara to have loved Ned Stark, though he states in “A Dance With Dragons” that her child was a girl, and stillborn.
This casts a shadow on the theory of Ashara Dayne, and makes the last possibility perhaps the most likely: the theory that Jon was not Ned Stark’s son at all, but fathered by Ned’s sister Lyanna Stark and Daenerys’ brother Rhaegar Targaryen.
This theory is taken as truth for most diehard “Game of Thrones” fans, as the evidence in both the books and the show is overwhelming. The first and foremost being that Ned Stark was simply too honorable to ever betray his wedding vows and father a bastard. Even Stannis Baratheon knows this of the fallen Lord of Winterfell. “That was not his way.”
The rest of the evidence is much more compelling. Lyanna was supposedly kidnapped and raped by Rhaegar Targaryen, and it was this abduction that starts the series of events that led Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark to war against the Mad King. This is why Robert, Lyanna’s betrothed, despised all Targaryens. He was remorseless for the vicious deaths that Rhaegar’s trueborn children suffered, and he sent orders for Daenerys to be killed once she became pregnant.
It is Robert’s hatred of Targaryens that would have convinced Ned to conceal Jon as his own bastard.
If Robert were ever to know who Jon really was, Jon would never be safe.
But the initial idea would have come from Lyanna herself. Ned is haunted all through the first book “Game of Thrones” by Lyanna’s last words, “Promise me, Ned,” as she dies covered in blood. It is believed by many fans that she dies in childbirth, and she dies begging Ned to keep her newborn son safe.
Rhaegar himself was not known as a man who would kidnap or rape. Both Daenarys and Barristan believed that Rhaegar loved Lyanna, and they ran away together. This is supported by anything the books or show say of Rhaegar: he sang to the poor, he preferred books to violence and he treated his guards and servants with the utmost kindness. He was beloved by most of the realm. At the Tourney at Harrenhal, he rode passed his own wife, and crowned Lyanna as the “queen of love and beauty.”
If this theory is true, it better explains Ned’s stubbornness to never reveal the identity of Jon’s mother to even his own beloved wife. If anyone knew the truth then Jon, a descendant of the Targaryens, would be in danger of being killed as he would be a threat to the crown. Ned even resigns as Robert’s Hand in disgust at the king’s desire to murder Daenerys for the unborn child inside of her; his disgust could be borne of his fear of what would happen to his adopted son if Robert ever knew the truth.
Hopefully the truth will be revealed soon, as Jon Snow has lived too long without knowing the identity of his mother. If it truly is Lyanna, it will most likely be revealed when Bran revisits his father’s past, which cannot come soon enough.