If you’ve been fighting your way through the thickets of Game Of Thrones internet fandom for the past few years, you’ll probably have come across the R+L=J theory already.
If, on the other hand, you know nothing (Jon Snow) then allow us to explain: the theory is a plausible bit of speculation about past and future events of the series, and after the season six finale, well, shit just got a whole lot more real.
What we’re about to explain could very well spoil a surprise or two in the coming series, so tread carefully if you want to stay pure.
R+L=J: what is it?
Let’s start at the end: J is for Jon. The theory aims to explain who Jon’s real parents are. From the start of the show (and the books) it’s been obvious to everyone except the characters that Ned Stark is a really unlikely person to have fathered a bastard. Given that his honesty, nobility and integrity got him executed, how likely is it that he sired a boy on a random wench while out warring with Robert Baratheon under the reign of the Mad King Aerys II?
Ned promised Jon that when he returned from King’s Landing he’d tell him the truth about his mother, but sadly Ned never came back and Jon never found out.
But Bran did.
In his visions of the past, Bran saw the young Ned (and Howland Reed, father of Meera and Jojen Reed, the brother and sister who helped Bran get to the Three-Eyed Raven) slay the legendary Sir Arthur Dayne and enter the Tower Of Joy. Inside the tower he finds his sister, Lyanna, who, we know from series one, was kidnapped by Rhaegar Targaryen, Aerys’ eldest son, precipitating Robert Baratheon’s war on Aerys.
In the tower, the dying Lyanna hands over a baby to Ned, muttering words about someone wanting to kill him.
While the show is coy about it – Rhaegar rarely gets a mention – book-readers will be under no illusion that the baby is Rhaegar’s. R+L=J, QED. OMG. WTF. LOL.
R+L=J: so what?
If Rhaegar and Lyanna are Jon’s parents, then Jon is a Targaryen. The Targaryens ruled Westeros for centuries. Not only does Jon have a strong claim to the Iron Throne, being the Mad King’s illegitimate grandson, but he’s also Daenerys’ nephew. (She was Rhaegar’s baby sister).
Targaryens, as we all know, share an affinity with dragons. They also practice marriage between siblings, though whether that flexibility extends to aunts and nephews remains to be seen. Dany is looking for a husband in Westeros, after all, and Jon is King In The North…
And on that point, let’s not forget that Jon is not only a Targaryen but a Stark as well, which makes him the living embodiment of a united Westeros.
Seems like that would be important, no?