fan theories

What Does Jon Snow’s Parentage Mean for His Future?

#TBT. Photo: HBO

Spoilers ahead for the season-six finale of Game of Thrones.

Well, there you have it: Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones confirmed a fan theory 20 years in the making. Rather than being Ned Stark’s bastard, Jon Snow is actually the son of Ned’s sister, Lyanna, and the late crown prince Rhaegar Targaryen. In Game of Thrones fandom, the theory — which went by the equation R+L=J — was accepted as basically gospel truth, and thanks to the power of the internet, even non-readers were familiar with it. So congratulations, everyone: We were all right! But what does the truth of Jon Snow’s parentage mean for his future? We’ve got some guesses.

Jon’s chances of sitting on the Iron Throne just shot way up.
Things in Westeros have gotten so topsy-turvy that it’s unclear if the normal laws of succession still apply. (Hello, Queen Cersei!) But at the very least, he’s now got a fairly solid claim: As a male-line descendant of the Mad King, Jon would technically rank above Daenerys in the Targaryen line of succession, which is basically the only line of succession we’ve got now that all of King Robert’s relatives are dead. A lot depends on legitimacy: Jon’s parents would need to have been married for him to be a serious heir, and Rhaegar was already married when he absconded to the Tower of Joy with Lyanna. However, the Targaryens do have a family history of polygamy, so it’s conceivable our star-crossed lovers tied the knot before Rhaegar was killed at the Trident. Of course, Jon might want nothing to do with ruling Westeros. After all, his experience as head of the Night’s Watch didn’t end well for him, and it’s possible he may see the battle against the White Walkers as more of a calling than any throne. But in the House of the Undying, Daenerys did see a vision of snow on the Iron Throne. Could it be meant to signify Jon Snow?

Jon is now the title character of the series.
George R.R. Martin’s planned seven-book saga is formally known as A Song of Ice and Fire — ice for White Walkers, fire for dragons. But as the union of the Stark and Targaryen families, Jon himself is now half ice, half fire. The title has only popped up once in the books so far: In one of Daenerys’s visions, Rhaegar says of his son Aegon, “He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.” Wrong son, right prediction. Martin’s reputation as a genre revisionist is slightly overstated: If the hidden parentage, magic sword, and symbolic death didn’t tip you off, Jon is definitely the hero in the fantasy series.

Daenerys and Jon are almost certainly going to team up.
Daenerys didn’t just lose a lover Sunday night; she also gained a nephew. Though they’ve never met, Dany and Jon have been structurally linked since the very beginning: The duo started as the two main characters who stood most outside the once-dominant Stark/Lannister story line, and they’ve since become the strongest candidates to fulfill the Prince Who Was Promised prophecy. Now, with Jon’s heritage confirmed, it seems likely the last two Targaryen will join forces against the White Walkers at some point. There are some who think Jon and Dany will get together romantically; since Thrones already has all the incest it can handle, we’ll just say they’ll probably become really great friends.

He’ll have to come to his own interpretation of Rhaegar’s legacy.
The first time we hear about Rhaegar Targaryen is from Robert Baratheon in season one, when the drunken king reminisces slaying the terrible rapist who kidnapped his lost love Lyanna. Next we hear about him from Ser Barristan Selmy, who paints a picture of a good man and a true knight, one who loved singing even more than he loved fighting. Which version is true? Fandom seems inclined to take the latter view, but Rhaegar’s abduction of Lyanna still complicates his legacy. Was Jon conceived out of love, or out of Rhaegar’s conviction that he needed a third child to fulfill the Prince Who Was Promised prophecy? (As the prophecy says, “The dragon must have three heads.”) The truth will likely remain shrouded in mystery, but Jon will have to come to grips with his father’s memory just as Daenerys did.

Jon’s going to get to ride a dragon.
It’s heavily implied throughout the series that only those with Targaryen blood can ride dragons. (What Tyrion’s relationship with dragons says about this is a question for another day.) And hey, who just so happens to have two spare dragons that could use someone to ride them in the war against the White Walkers? The truth of R+L=J will prompt some sort of soul-searching in Jon, but at the very least, it will also give him one awesome dragon ride. If you’re taking bets, he’ll probably get the green dragon, Rhaegal, named after his late father.

Bran is going to reunite with his siblings.
Someone has to talk to Jon Snow about his mother. He’s been waiting for 58 episodes now

Jon Snow’s Parentage: What Does It Mean for Him?