In Mailbag Of Thrones, A.V. Club contributor Michael Walsh answers your pressing questions about the Game Of Thrones universe. Wondering about the show, novels, theories, characters, past episodes, or Game Of Thrones/A Song Of Ice And Fire lore? Have questions about the current season? Forget using a raven, send them to us at email@example.com. We’ll get to reader questions next week; in this first installment, we address inquiries from House A.V.
What’s your favorite fan theory that’s still semi-plausible?
“Semi-plausible” means I can’t go with ones I think will happen, like Tyrion being a secret Targaryen, Bran warging into a dragon, or the Night King killing a dragon and resurrecting it into his army. I can’t even say the Wall coming down, because I’m positive that will happen. But there’s a theory about what’s inside the Wall that fits. While I wouldn’t bet on this, I wouldn’t rule it out entirely: there’s an ice dragon inside.
It was long believed the Wall has magical protections, and now we know for sure because Benjen Stark said so. It prevents him and his half-zombie existence from crossing back. But what if it is also a prison? There are legends of ice dragons (George R.R. Martin even wrote a kid’s book about one, though it’s not definitively set in the same world), and what better place to imprison one than a giant wall of ice protected by spells? If the legendary Bran The Builder from the Age Of Heroes really did build the Wall, it’s not hard to imagine he also locked up an ice dragon inside.
The show has never raised this possibility, so it would be a very late development, and that’s why I think it is unlikely. But imagine what that dragon fight would look like. It would be so incredible, I’m not willing to totally rule it out.
Who the hell are Dunk and Egg, and why should I care?
They’re the two heroes of a series of novellas written by George R.R. Martin about a young Targaryen prince, Aegon (nicknamed Egg), and the knight he squired for, Ser Duncan The Tall (“Dunk”). They traveled all over the Seven Kingdoms together, with Aegon mostly hiding his true identity, roughly 90 years before the events on Game Of Thrones. Their adventures range from small and personal to kingdom-saving.
Egg grew up to become King Aegon V, known as “The Unlikely” because as the 4th son of a 4th son he was a long shot to ever rule. He was given the crown after his older brother Aemon turned it down. You know this elder Targaryen as Maester Aemon of the Night’s Watch, who, when he was dying, cried out, “Egg, I dreamed that I was old.”
Ser Duncan The Tall is a legendary knight (Jaime mentioned him on the show) who was almost 7 feet tall and was renowned for his bravery. He was Aegon’s Lord Commander of his Kingsguard, and George R.R. Martin has confirmed the theory that Brienne Of Tarth is his descendant.
But why should you care? Just on their own merit the stories are great, offering a vastly different look into what life was like in Westeros before magic came back to the world. They also show the lasting effects on the kingdom after the divisive and deadly first Blackfyre Rebellion (very relevant to events in the novels), as well as the way House Targaryen was viewed before the Mad King. They also feature appearances by the infamous Lord Bloodraven, a Targaryen bastard named Brynden Rivers who was thought to use dark magic and see through weirwood trees. In the novels he became the Three-Eyed Crow (the show calls the non-Brynden Rivers version of the character the Three-Eyed Raven), so it’s insightful to see the man he was.
But if you want to know why you should care just as a show viewer, it’s because the lessons of Egg’s life exemplify how powerful and important dragons were to Targaryen rule, and how even good men can fail as king.
Having grown up traveling and interacting anonymously with the common folk, King Aegon tried to enact policies to make their lives better. Unfortunately his children kept breaking wedding promises he hoped would strengthen his ties with powerful houses, and the lords of Westeros kept pushing back on his reforms, which he kept having to roll back.
Those frustrations made him become obsessed with dragons, believing if he had them he could make the world a better place. That’s what led him one tragic night to try and hatch dragon eggs with magic. Among the victims of the massive fire known as the Tragedy At Summerhall were both Egg and Dunk.
But the connections to the show’s story don’t end with lessons about dragons, magic, and Aegon’s sad end, because Rhaegar, Jon Snow’s father (we’ll get to that “theory” shortly) was born that night too. It’s possible the end of Egg’s life is when the father of the Prince That Was Promised began his. Or that the Prince himself was born amid the flames in “smoke and salt” (the tears shed) just like the prophecy foretold. (How could Rhaegar be the Prince if Robert killed him? Wouldn’t that mean Robert doomed mankind years before the story even started? Would you put that past George R.R. Martin? Sleep well with that possibility.) If you love the palace intrigue of the show, or just enjoy good writing, read the novellas (then read the graphic novel versions of them), but beyond that they also have direct connections to the television series and books, and they give greater depth to both. That’s why you should care to know who they are.
I’ve seen stories about how Jon Snow’s real name is going to be revealed. I know the theories behind his parenthood, and I know that bastards get the “Snow” moniker, but would he have a different first name? Who would have named him Jon?
Let’s get this out of the way: Rhaegar Targaryen is Jon’s father. The show has only confirmed Lyanna Stark is his mother, but Rhaegar being his actual dad is a theory the way gravity is a theory. You can argue it all you want, but that apple still falls from that tree. Lyanna feared Robert would kill Jon if he knew the truth, which is why she made Ned promise to hide his true identity.
So what’s the deal with his real name? There are reports—and this was a popular fan theory anyway—that say it will be revealed this season to be Jaehaerys. That’s the name of two Targaryen kings. The first King Jaehaerys, known as “The Wise,” “The Conciliator,” and the “Old King,” ruled for 55 years, the longest Targaryen reign. He came to power after Maegor the Cruel (guess what people thought of him), and restored peace and prosperity to Westeros. He was beloved, and if you wanted to give your half-Targaryen son a name that would remind people of something good, you’d be hard pressed to do better.
The second King Jaehaerys was Rhaegar’s grandfather. Even more important than that connection though is that it was Jaehaerys II who was told by a witch that the Prince That Was Promised would come from a line born of his daughter Rhaella and his son Aerys. So he had his kids marry to fulfill the prophecy (a common Targaryen practice). Aerys became known as the Mad King, and he and Rhaella gave birth to Rhaegar, Viserys, and Daenerys (who just so happens to be the other best living candidate to be the Prince). Rhaegar was obsessed with the prophecy, and that might be why he desired Lyanna Stark. In theory their child would be the Prince, who the prophecy says will have a song of ice (Stark) and fire (Targaryen).
Ned Stark couldn’t hide Lyanna’s son with a name like Jaehaerys. That would be like walking into a Lakers game with a Larry Bird jersey on and saying you were rooting for L.A. But if he wanted to keep the spirit of the name, Jon was a perfect option. It starts with a “J,” and also pays tribute to Jon Arryn of the Vale, who was like a second father to Ned. Both Robert Baratheon and Ned became friends growing up together as wards of Jon Arryn. Lord Arryn refused the Mad King’s demand that he turn the two over, and instead they marched together to overthrow Aerys. Jon Arryn was Robert’s hand until his death/murder, which led Robert to ask Ned to take the job at the start of the series.
If Jon’s real name is Jaehaerys, and that is revealed, people in Westeros won’t even need Bran and his vision to tell them what that means. (Petyr Baelish is skeptical about the story surrounding Lyanna and Rhaegar, and Stannis doubted Ned would have broken his vows and come home with a bastard.) A Targaryen name like that would be such a telling piece of the puzzle most people would figure out who Jon Snow really is. “Jaehaerys” says a lot more than “Jon” ever could.