If you are reading my blog, that means you are an internet user. If you are an internet user, there is no way you are unaware that Game of Thrones (seemingly) killed off Jon Snow in the Season 5 finale. But the thing is, Jon Snow can't be dead. He just can't!
Ever since I finished A Dance With Dragons, I’ve been mulling over ways in which Jon could have survived the traitorous attack by fellow Night’s Watch members. Following last week’s Season finale, I’ve been revisiting those theories. So, here are the reasons which I believe indicate that Jon Snow is not dead.
This post contains several theories and possible spoilers. If you are unfamiliar (and would prefer to remain unfamiliar) with theories surrounding Jon’s true identity and fate, you should not read this post.
First things first: Jon’s final chapter in A Dance With Dragons ends when he loses consciousness. This is not confirmation that Jon is dead. A previous Arya chapter ended with her losing consciousness (and very clever wording that made it seem like The Hound had killed her), but thankfully it was just that: she was unconscious. The same could be true of Jon.
Jon fell to his knees. He found the dagger’s hilt and wrenched it free. In the cold night air the wound was smoking. ‘Ghost’, he whispered. Pain washed over him. Stick them with the pointy end. When the third dagger took him between the shoulder blades, he gave a grunt and fell face-first into the snow. He never felt the fourth knife. Only the cold…
|Jon Snow, seemingly dead in the Season 5 finale|
How, you may ask, could Jon possibly have survived? It is possible that his attackers stopped stabbing him when he lost consciousness, though I agree it is unlikely. It is also possible that Jon did die, but that he will not stay dead and that Melisandre will resurrect him much like Thoros of Myr resurrected Beric Dondarrion and Catelyn Stark (surprise non-readers! In the books Catelyn Stark was resurrected and now goes by the name of Lady Stoneheart, the leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners). Or, and this is the most likely scenario, Jon warged into Ghost (like Bran wargs into Summer and Hodor). After being stabbed, as he succumbed, Jon's last word was “Ghost”.
All the Stark children have warging abilities, though at this stage only Bran and Arya seem to understand this ability to some extent. Bran often purposely wargs into Summer and Hodor, and while Arya wargs into Nymeria in her sleep (she experienced Nymeria dragging Catelyn's body from the river after the Red Wedding), she also warged into a cat in the House of Black and White when she bested The Kindly Man at "a game of slaps" while blinded. As for Jon, while he has not consciously warged into Ghost (or anything else) we do know that Jon has warged into Ghost in the past, only he was unaware of doing so as he did it in his sleep and assumed his time in Ghost's skin were merely dreams; very vivid dreams, but dreams all the same. In a moment of pure instinct it is very possible that Jon wargs into Ghost just in the nick of time. In one of Melisandre’s visions “she heard the whispered name Jon Snow… Now he was a man, now a wolf, now a man again”.
The prologue in A Dance With Dragons didn’t quite make sense to me at the time I first read it. I could not understand the significance of this seemingly random chapter. This is a chapter where a character named Varamyr Sixskins dies, and as he is dying he wargs into a wolf. “True death came suddenly; he felt a shock of cold, as if he had been plunged into the icy waters of a frozen lake.” This entire chapter could have been placed as an indication of what to expect when a dying person wargs into another creature. The cold Jon felt could have been as a result of warging into Ghost. The prologue also mentions "They say you feel warm near the end, warm and sleepy”. Jon only felt the cold.
The Black Brothers will probably take Jon's body to the ice cells so that he does not return as one of The Others. Why else did Martin invest so much effort into describing the ice cells, their purpose and their upkeep, and have Jon demonstrate that bodies kept in the ice cells do not reanimate? This could also connect to Daenerys’ vision of “A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness…”. (more about this later). If Jon’s body is preserved in such a way, he could possibly later find a way to get back into his own skin. Otherwise, he could obviously also take over someone else's body, but as Jon has not developed his warging abilities yet I doubt that he is skilled enough to do that at this stage (even Bran, who is more skilled, has difficulty controlling Hodor).
We have dealt with the how, now let’s talk about why Jon can’t be dead.
Let’s start with the obvious. Jon Snow is the most likely candidate to be Azor Ahai come again (more about that later), “the prince that was promised and his is the song of ice and fire”. The book series is called A Song of Ice and Fire. The entire series is about him!
At this point I doubt there is an ASOIAF / GOT fan alive who hasn’t heard the R+L=J theory. Benioff and Weiss have made no secret of the fact that George R.R Martin only agreed to give them the rights to adapt the book series after they correctly answered his question, “Who is Jon Snow’s mother?”, therefore Jon Snow’s mother was clearly not some lowborn woman named Wylla (as Ned told Robert), and the identity of Jon Snow’s mother has to be a very important aspect of the series. You have already been warned of spoilers, but if you do not want to know who Jon Snow’s mother is, STOP READING NOW.
Though still unconfirmed, every little clue Martin has deigned to throw our way indicates that Jon Snow is not the illegitimate son of Ned Stark, but that he is in fact the son of Ned’s sister, Lyanna Stark and Prince Rhaegar Targaryen.
|Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Art by denkata5698 on Deviantart|
"[Jon] knew nothing of his mother; Yet he dreamed of her at times, so often that he could almost see her face. In his dreams, she was beautiful, and highborn, and her eyes were kind". Tyrion Lannister notes that Jon has the traditional Stark face. Of all the Stark children, Arya is said to resemble Jon the most, and Arya’s likeness to her Aunt Lyanna is often observed.
Ned married Catelyn Tully and after one night together headed off for the War of the Usurper, the war that brought an end to the Targaryen dynasty. He returned to her a year later with another woman's child in his arms. Robert’s Rebellion was triggered by the “kidnapping” of Lyanna Stark by Rhaegar Targaryen. Lyanna was betrothed to Robert Baratheon, but she was not as enthusiastic about the match as Robert was. For one, she knew that he would never be faithful to her. He had already fathered Mya Stone and Lyanna told her brother that Robert will never keep to one bed. "Love is sweet, dearest Ned, but it cannot change a man’s nature”. Ned himself had said to Robert, “You never knew Lyanna as I did, Robert. You saw her beauty, but not the iron underneath”. Robert was taken with Lyanna’s beauty, and while he claimed to love her, there is no proof that he truly did. Enter Rhaegar Targaryen. Rhaegar is said to have been very beautiful, and he was a gifted musician. It is said that during the great Tourney at Harenhall, prince Rhaegar played a song so sweet, it made Lyanna weep. When Prince Rhaegar was named the victor of the tourney, he got to crown The Queen of Love and Beauty. “Ned remembered the moment when all the smiles died, when Prince Rhaegar Targaryen urged his horse past his own wife, the Dornish princess Elia Martell, to lay the queen of beauty’s laurel in Lyanna’s lap. He could see it still: a crown of winter roses, blue as frost”.
|Rhaegar crowns Lyanna the Queen of Love and Beauty. Art by M. Luisa Giliberti|
Approximately a year later, Lyanna disappeared with Rhaegar Targaryen. Legend has it that Lyanna had been abducted, but this is something we learn only from Robert’s perspective. The nature of Lyanna’s disappearance is unknown to readers at this stage, but it is very likely that Rhaegar and Lyanna were in love, and that Lyanna went with him willingly. Her father had promised her to Robert Baratheon, so Lyanna might have run away with Rhaegar because her father would not have permitted her to end her engagement in order to be with a man who was already married to another. Ser Barristan Selmy, who was close to the Prince, firmly believes “Prince Rhaegar loved his Lady Lyanna”. There may be no proof that Rhaegar and Lyanna were secretly married, but there is also no proof that they were not. The Targaryens do have a history of polygamy, so it is not impossible that Rhaegar would have taken two wives.
Rhaegar was later killed in battle by Robert Baratheon. “Rubies flew like drops of blood from the chest of a dying prince, and with his last breath he murmured a woman's name”. This name was most probably “Lyanna”. As for Lyanna, Ned found her tucked away in the Tower of Joy in Dorne.
He could still hear her at times. Promise me, she had cried, in a room that smelled of blood and roses. Promise me, Ned. The fever had taken her strength and her voice had been faint as a whisper, but when he gave his word, the fear had gone out of his sister's eyes. Ned remembered the way she smiled then, how tightly her fingers had clutched his as she gave up her hold on life, the rose petals spilling from her palm, dead and black. After that he remembered nothing. They had found him still holding her body, silent with grief. The little crannogman, Howland Reed, had taken her hand from his.
It is entirely possible, and probable, that the blood and Lyanna’s death were as a result of childbirth. If this scenario is true, Lyanna made Ned promise to raise her baby as his own and to protect his identity at all costs. If Robert ever found out that Lyanna had a child with another man, and that her son was a Targaryen and as such an heir to the throne, her child would never have been safe. Ned kept this promise. "I will, Ned promised her. That was his curse. Robert would swear undying love and forget them before evenfall, but Ned Stark kept his vows. He thought of the promises he made to Lyanna as she lay dying, and the price he'd paid to keep them”. Even Catelyn was led to believe that Ned had fathered the child with another woman while away at war. I think we can all agree that Ned Stark is too honourable to ever cheat on his wife. Ever. We learn that “Whoever Jon's mother had been, Ned must have loved her fiercely, for nothing Catelyn said would persuade him to send the boy away”. A very clever piece of prose! Ned did love Jon’s mother fiercely – only nobody knew that it was his sister.
|Promise me, Ned. Art by CyanideMilkshake on Deviantart|
Lyanna clutching the rose petals would also indicate an attachment to the person who gave them to her – it could only have been Rhaegar. I believe that the blue winter roses also play a part in confirming Jon’s true identity. Blue winter roses grow in Winterfell and are synonymous with Lyanna Stark, who is widely known to have been extremely fond of them. While Lyanna and blue winter roses go hand in hand, I believe the blue winter roses symbolise not Lyanna, but Jon Snow. If Rhaegar and Lyanna are Jon’s parents, the story of his conception begins with blue winter roses – the crown of blue winter roses that Rhaegar laid in Lyanna’s lap at the Tourney at Harenhall. The fact that it is a crown could point towards Jon’s royal Targaryen blood, and the fact that the flowers are blue winter roses points to Stark. In her House of the Undying visions, Daenerys notes “A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness…”. This could definitely represent Jon Snow at The Wall. All of this supports the theory that Jon Snow is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. So, technically, Jon is a Prince. The Prince that was promised.
In The World of Ice and Fire it is confirmed that the joining of Stark and Targaryen is key. Lord Cregan Stark made an agreement with the Targaryens during the reign of Aegon III called “The Pact of Ice and Fire,” which was designed to wed Stark and Targaryen to each other. Sadly it went unfulfilled. The Pact of Ice and Fire equates to Stark + Targaryen, so, logically A Song of Ice and Fire has to be Stark + Targaryen – not necessarily individual Starks and Targaryens, but possibly one who is both. Jon Snow simply has to be “the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire".
So, why is Jon’s parentage important and what does it mean for the series?
The Prince that was promised is a prophesied leader or saviour, a hero to deliver the world from darkness. It is believed that the Prince that was promised will save the world from the Others (White Walkers) much like the legendary hero Azor Ahai did during The Long Night approximately 8000 years before Aegon’s Landing. It is said that Azor Ahai rose up and defeated the Others, wielding a sword of fire, called Lightbringer. There is a prophecy that Azor Ahai will come again to defeat the great Other. The prophecy is believed to have originated in Old Valeria, and the Prince is expected to be born through the Targaryen line. In Daenerys’ vision in the House of the Undying, Rhaegar said of a newborn baby in the arms of a woman, “He is the Prince that was promised and his is the song of ice and fire”. This is believed to be his son Aegon, as Rhaegar goes on to mention that he must have one more child, which could also indicate the coming of Jon Snow. We know now that Prince Aegon is still alive, but I believe he was introduced to the story way too late and as too minor of a character (at this stage) to be the character the entire series is named for. Rhaegar could have been wrong. It was not his second child that would be the Prince that was promised, but his third.
Melisandre has mentioned the Prince that was promised and Azor Ahai interchangeably. This could be one and the same hero of the same prophecy, or two distinct people part of the same prophecy. At this point it is unknown. Maester Aemon firmly believes that the Prince is not a Prince, but a Princess, Daenerys. Melisandre believes that Stannis is Azor Ahai, but she ponders “I pray for a glimpse of Azor Ahai, and R'hllor shows me only Snow”. While she only saw actual snow in her flames, this could obviously point to Jon Snow.
Jon also has this dream: “Jon was armored in black ice, but his blade burned red in his fist. As the dead men reached the top of the Wall he sent them down to die again”. Jon could have had a prophetic dream wherein he was holding Lightbringer, the flaming sword of Azor Ahai.
There prophecy goes: “When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone.” Now, this red comet was seen at the start of the series. Many people believe that Daenerys fulfilled this prophecy when she was “reborn” with her dragons on Drogo’s funeral pyre, but the prose Martin uses in Jon’s “death” scene could also fulfil the conditions of the prophecy: Wun Wun tears apart a man with a red star sigil, his traitorous Black Brothers could represent the darkness, Jon’s wounds are described as “smoking,” and the salt could be represented in one of his attackers' tears.
Maester Aemon once told Jon, “Kill the boy and let the man be born”. Perhaps Jon’s “death” is some necessary part of Jon’s development and the process of becoming Azor Ahai.
Lastly, the most important reason why Jon can't be dead: He hasn't reunited with Arya yet!
|Kit Harington (Jon) and Maisie Williams (Arya)|
While Season 6 of Game of Thrones is expected to premier in April 2016, showrunners Benoiff and Weiss as well as Kit Harington (who portrays Jon Snow) insist that Kit will not return for Season 6. Kit Harington has even cut his hair, which he was not allowed to do according to his GOT contract. If Jon warged into Ghost, they would not need Kit to continue Jon’s storyline, so even if Kit is out that doesn’t necessarily mean that Jon Snow is dead. Interesting to note is that when talking about Jon Snow, Benioff said “Dead is dead”. This sentence appears on the very first page of A Game of Thrones (Book 1 of ASOIAF), referring to dead wildlings – who then come back to life! Benioff could either be messing with our heads, or he dropped a hint only book readers would pick up on; or I'm reading too much into an innocent remark.
Another hint suggesting that Jon’s story is far from over is found in Season 6 casting news. GOT is looking to cast “A man in his thirties or forties who is a great swordsman and a paragon of knighthood. He carries a hugely famous sword on his back. The show is seeking a very impressive swordsman for the role- the best in Europe, for a week of filming fight scenes for a season 6 role.” This seems to be a call for the famous Kingsguard member Arthur Dayne, often referred to as “Sword of the Morning”, who wore his famous ancestral blade slung across his back. Arthur Dayne is long dead at the time ASOIAF/GOT takes place, and would therefore only be featured in flashbacks (which would explain only one week of filming). The only possible flashback featuring Arthur Dayne that could be significant at this stage is the events at Tower of Joy! Arthur Dayne was Rhaegar Targaryen’s best friend and was one of three Kingsguard members protecting Lyanna at the Tower of Joy. The fact that there were members of the Kingsguard (even after Rhaegar had been killed) leads many to believe that there had to have been someone royal in the Tower (either Lyanna had married Rhaegar and was now a Queen, and/or Rhaegar’s child was in the tower with Lyanna). If Jon Snow is dead, why would GOT bother to reveal the truth of his birth? And why would they reveal the truth of his birth if not to reveal that he is a Targaryen? If Jon Snow is truly dead, there could be no reason to disclose his parentage.
Regardless of what GOT will do next, even if Jon Snow is dead in Game of Thrones, readers still have to await the publication of the next book in the series, The Winds of Winter (for which no release date has been assigned) to learn Jon’s fate. I have previously predicted a 2017 release and at the rate Martin is writing I am sticking to it. Here’s hoping he proves me wrong by having the book ready next year.