Fan Theories of Westeros

When it comes to fan participation within George R. R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire, fan theories provide a diverse and engaging involvement from the community. The way Martin presents his world, along with his use of prophecies and the pace the story plays out, book readers and show watchers alike are able to posit their own ideas of what will happen. Ranging from well thought out using any and all evidence from the books, to downright silly, every fan of the series has at some point tried to guess what will happen. Fan theories are able to not only allow immense community involvement[1], but also allow fans to work out the many mysteries of the series, thus making them the perfect form of fan involvement.

In order to demonstrate the vast variety of fan theories, this paper will discuss some of the most widely accepted theories, as well as a few of the less accepted ones. These will include “fAegon”, “Bolt-on”, “Tyrion Targaryen”, “Cleganebowl”, and lastly “R+L=J”.

fAegon

An artist's rendition of Young Griff, a.k.a. Aegon Targaryen

An artist’s rendition of Young Griff, a.k.a. Aegon Targaryen

The first theory to be discussed is one of the more doubted ones, “fAegon”, which is short for fake Aegon. The theory goes as such: Upon his exile, Tyrion meets two interesting characters, Griff and Young Griff, who are in reality Jon Connington and Aegon Targaryen, son of Rhaegar and Elia. Despite dying his hair blue and taking on a secret identity, Tyrion deduces that Young Griff is truly Aegon, going so far as to call him his prince[2] later confirmed when Jon Connington “introduces ‘Young Griff’ as Aegon VI”[3]. The fake part of the theory comes from the notion that Aegon is not who he claims to be. There are two alternating theories on who he really is, the first being that he is just an unknown person trying to make a name for himself, but the more widely suggested theory is that he is actually a Blackfyre, a supposedly extinct “cadet branch of House Targaryen… founded by Daemon Blackfyre, a legitimized Great Bastard of King Aegon IV Targaryen”[4]. Either of these possibilities makes for Young Griff/Aegon’s claim to the throne invalid, unless he were to take it by force, much like King Robert. The reason this theory is not widely accepted is because many believe it would not make sense to have him introduced as Aegon (a twist in itself as he was supposed to have had his skull crushed in) only to have it revealed that he is an imposter, especially so late in the proverbial game. As seen in this thread[5], many people seem to doubt the legitimacy of this theory.

Bolt-on

This next theory is certainly one of the strangest theories, and fans of the series tend to be on the fence about it. The theory, “Bolt-on”, first fleshed out here[6] suggests that Roose Bolton, lord of the Dreadfort and Warden of the North, is actually an immortal, skin-stealing vampire/White Walker who steals the skin of his heir using a form of blood magic in order to achieve either immortality or simply a disguise. This theory comes from two factors: the first, that Roose’s face is described as “a pale grey mask, with two chips of dirty ice where his eyes should be”[7], and the fact that while Martin has detailed all the major houses lineages, House Bolton begins with Roose. The theory certainly fits with the fact that Roose not only allows Ramsay to continue doing what he does (an act of political suicide almost), but also legitimizes him, making him Roose’s true heir. Given what we know of the Boltons, that they have a penchant for flaying their victims alive and wearing skins as cloaks, and that skin can be used to transform a person’s identity (a la the Faceless Men), it does seem to be possible. The existence of beings that are able to live unnaturally long lives (White Walkers, The three-eyed crow, the Children) means that it is possible for Roose to do the same. Fans have even pointed out that Martin has included some of the other notable magical creatures: dragons, zombies, werewolves (Wargs and Direwolves), and even Frankenstein and his monster (Qyburn and Robert Strong)[8], so logically it would not be much of a stretch to include a variation of the vampire. The majority of naysayers to this theory claim that it just does not have enough textual evidence backing it up, and that the lack of folklore concerning vampire-type creatures within the series points to it not being realistic to ASOIAF standards (because dragons and ice zombies are cool, but vampires are where they draw the line). A video that summarizes this theory as well as providing all the necessary evidence can be seen here[9]:

 

Tyrion Targaryen

This next theory is another example where fans are divided. The “Tyrion Targaryen” theory is despised by fans, and yet hoped for by others. The theory suggests that Aerys, acting on his attraction Joanna Lannister (Tyrion’s mother), impregnated her and is actually the father of Tyrion, making him a half-Targaryen. Fans of this theory have pointed out quite a bit of evidence in support of this theory. Some of the evidence is based on his appearance, as he is described as having hair so blonde it was almost white, as well as one black eye[10]. The white hair is a common trait among Targaryens, and Daenarys’ eyes, while deep purple, were described as looking black[11]. Further evidence is provided in the fact that Tyrion was known to have a morbid fascination with them[12], even going so far as having dreams of them, which strongly correlates with the “dragon dreams” Targaryens often had[13]. Lastly, supporters of the theory claim that Tyrion being the son of Aerys is the reason why Tywin hates him so much, and even denying Tyrion what should be his rightful inheritance of Casterly Rock. Having Tyrion be a Targaryen would also fit in with the prophecy Daenarys hears in the House of the Undying, that the dragon must have three heads, which many have taken to mean three ruling Targaryens. While there certainly is evidence Martin could use should he choose this theory is correct, there is one crucial detail that deniers of this theory always bring up, and that is the relationship between Tyrion and Tywin. Tywin and Tyrion are seen to be extremely similar in personality: both are cunning, politically intelligent, and put their family before all else; and yet Tywin despises Tyrion, going so far as to essentially disown him (though he had just been shot with a crossbow). The reason the rivalry between Tyrion and Tywin is as powerful to the readers/viewers is because Tyrion is truly Tywin’s son, resembling him the most out of all three of Tywin’s children. Having Tyrion be a Targaryen would diminish the significance and complexity of their relationship. Alt Shift X, the creator of the previous video, also has one on this theory, and in it he discusses not only the evidence for it, but also why he does not think it should be correct. The video can be seen here[14]:

Cleganebowl

The fourth theory discussed is an example of how the smallest thought can become one of the most hoped for and anticipated events in ASOIAF. What started out as a post on 4chan.org, “Cleganebowl” has become one of the better know theories, and has generated quite a bit of hype (pun intended). Spawning several videos,[15]

 its own catchphrase and even its own subreddit[16], “Cleganebowl” is an example of how a theory can be so well believed that in the minds of fans that it is considered canon. The theory goes as such: Ser Robert Strong, who is believed to be Gregor Clegane, will face off against his brother, Sandor Clegane, posing as a novice gravedigger on the Quiet Isle, in Cersei’s Trial by Combat, with Gregor fighting as Cersei’s champion, and Sandor as the Faith’s[17]. This theory is supported by Bran’s vision from Chapter 18 of A Game of Thrones, where he sees “One shadow… dark as ash, with the terrible face of a hound. Another… armored like the sun, golden and beautiful. Over them both loomed a giant in armor made of stone, but when he opened his visor, there was nothing inside but darkness and thick Cleganebowlblack blood”[18]. Many have taken the characters in Bran’s vision to be Sandor Clegane, Jaime Lannister, and Robert Strong, respectively. While the books make it seem as though both brothers are dead, the descriptions of both Robert Strong and the gravedigger seem to point to their being the Clegane brothers. From the books, fans know that Qyburn, the ex-maester working for Cersei, was experimenting on Gregor as he lay dying from manticore venom, and creating a new champion for Cersei[19]. When Qyburn requests armour for this new champion in Chapter 33 of A Feast For Crows, the armourer tells Cersei “that no man is strong enough to move and fight in such a weight of plate”[20]. It seems from this that Ser Gregor is very much alive, or at least undead, and the loss of his head[21] would not interfere with Bran’s vision of a giant of a man with only darkness under his helmet. Meanwhile, the last fans saw Sandor, Arya had abandoned him after succumbing to his wounds, particularly an infected leg wound, from battle (either from Polliver and the Tickler, or Brienne of CleganebowltheoryTarth, depending on whether one follows the books or the show)[22]. Fans then learn from the Elder Brother of the monastery that the Hound, had died[23]. While this seems like definitive proof, the Elder Brother goes on to say that he had died at the Trident during Robert’s Rebellion, showing that dying does not mean ceasing to live according to the Elder Brother[24]. Brienne of Tarth then notices a novice gravedigger larger than herself, and appeared to be lame, (meaning that he had an injured leg)[25]. This gravedigger also appears to have a soft spot for dogs – which are featured on the Clegane family sigil, as well as the inspiration for Sandor’s persona of the Hound – as he puts down his spade to scratch one behind the ear[26]. With all of this evidence, fans are positive that both Clegane brothers are alive, and will battle one another in Cersei’s Trial by Combat.

R+L=J

The final theory to be discussed is the infamous “R+L=J” theory, which fans accept as fact despite the lack of confirmation from George R. R. Martin. While the fans are told that Jon Snow is the bastard son of Ned Stark and a common woman named Wylla, fans strongly believe Jon to in fact be the son of Rhaegar Targaryen, Daenarys older brother, and Lyanna Stark, Ned’s sister, whom Rhaegar named Queen of Love and Beauty during the Tourney of Harrenhall[27], and then ran away with to the Tower of Joy in Dorne, sparking Robert’s Rebellion. The majority of fans accept this theory as absolute fact, seeing no possible explanation otherwise that would be acceptable, given the amount of evidence supporting it. The piece of evidence that first leads fans into questioning the parentage of Jon Snow is Ned Stark’s honour. It is quite safe to say that Ned is possibly one of, if not, the most honourable men in Westeros. To come home from the war with a bastard son, meaning that he forsook his wedding vows, is surprising to say the least[28]. The next piece of evidence fans receive is Ned remembering where he found Lyanna: in the Tower of Joy guarded by three members of the kingsguard. The interesting part about this is that when Ned reaches the tower, the mad king Aerys and Rhaegar are dead, and Aegon, who would be next in line, is believed to be dead, leaving Viserys as the rightful king, and thus the kingsguard ought to be with him, as their duty is to protect the royal bloodline[29]. That is, unless Rhaegar were to have had a second son, in which case, the Kingsguard would be sworn to protect the child, as he would be the rightful heir[30]. The next piece of evidence fans have pointed out is Ned’s last interaction with Lyanna before she died. Ned had found her on a blood-soaked mattress, evidence that she had just given birth, and begging Ned to promise her something. While fans are led to believe she is begging to be buried in Winterfell, the instances where Ned recalls his promise do not seem to have anything to do with that. Take for example this line from A Game of Thrones, “He remembered Rhaegar’s infant son, the red ruin of his skull, and the way the king had turned away, as he had turned away in Darry’s audience hall not so long ago. He could still hear Sansa pleading, as Lyanna had pleaded once”[31]. Fans have questioned why Ned would “compare Sansa pleading for Lady’s life to Lyanna pleading to be buried in Winterfell–especially in the context of Robert’s hatred of Targaryens[32]”. Given that King Robert was on a mission to kill any and all Targaryens in Westeros, it would make more sense that Lyanna was instead pleading for Ned to conceal the true identity of Jon. The next piece of evidence comes the combination of Lyanna’s favourite flower and Daenarys’ vision while in the House of the Undying. It had been stated that Lyanna “loved the smell of blue winter roses”[33], evidence that they may have been her favourite flower. Combine that with Daenarys’ vision of “[a] blue flower [growing] from aRLJ chink in a wall of ice”[34], and it is easy to see why fans claim that Jon is the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna. The final piece of textual evidence comes from the description of Jon’s looks, in the sense that he is said to look like Arya, while Arya is commonly said to resemble Lyanna[35]. The HBO show also provides evidence for this theory. When Martin first met producers Benioff and Weiss, commonly referred to as D&D, he asked them who they thought Jon Snow’s mother was, which they guessed correctly[36]. Add that to this scene from episode four of season one[37], and it becomes obvious that they are hinting at this theory. While hard to make out, there is what appear to be an R and an L on the wooden beam, with Jon standing next to it. In other words, R and L = Jon Snow.

As shown, fans have a theory for just about everything, from imposters posing as the long dead heir of the kingdom, an immortal vampire man who steals the skins of his heirs, two of the main characters being secret Targaryens, and even an ultimate showdown between two brothers who the books have claimed to be dead. And that’s not even mentioning some of the other, more disturbing theories[38] (read at your own discretion). The overall conclusion that can be gleamed from all these theories is that the fan base of ASOIAF is unique and creative, and as seen on the multitude of subreddits and other online forums, is able to come together as a community to discuss their common interest, and posit what they think will happen, making fan theories the perfect form of fan involvement within the series.


Footnotes

[1] As seen on the subreddits r/fantheories and r/asoiaf

[2] “Aegon Targaryen (son of Rhaegar).” – A Wiki of Ice and Fire. February 27, 2015. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Aegon_Targaryen_(son_of_Rhaegar)#cite_note-Radwd22.7B.7B.7B3.7D.7D.7D-30.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “House Blackfyre.” – A Wiki of Ice and Fire. July 2, 2008. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/House_Blackfyre.

[5] “(Spoilers All) What Theory Do You Believe to Absolutely Not Be True and Why? • /r/asoiaf.” Reddit. April 6, 2015. Accessed April 6, 2015. https://www.reddit.com/r/asoiaf/comments/31irc0/spoilers_all_what_theory_do_you_believe_to/.

[6] “(Spoilers All) BOLT ON! Apply Directly to the Forehead. • /r/asoiaf.” Reddit. February 9, 2014. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://www.reddit.com/r/asoiaf/comments/1xe89h/spoilers_all_bolt_on_apply_directly_to_the/.

[7] Martin, George R. R. “The Prince of Winterfell” In A Dance with Dragons (New York: Bantam Books, 2011).

[8] “(Spoilers All) Doing the Legwork on the BOLT-ON Theory • /r/asoiaf.” Reddit. March 2, 2014. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://www.reddit.com/r/asoiaf/comments/1zd1q4/spoilers_all_doing_the_legwork_on_the_bolton/.

[9] “Bolt-On: Is Roose Bolton a Skin-stealing Immortal? [ADWD Spoilers].” YouTube. August 15, 2014. Posted by “Alt Shift X”. Accessed March 27, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MO2Yb2OJ6Q.

[10] “A J = T – A Dance with Dragons.” A Forum of Ice and Fire. October 10, 2012. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/topic/75441-a-j-t/.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] “(Spoilers All) Is Tyrion (and/or Jaime & Cersei) a Targaryen? • /r/asoiaf.” Reddit. May 23, 2013. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://www.reddit.com/r/asoiaf/comments/1exibx/spoilers_all_is_tyrion_andor_jaime_cersei_a/.

[14] “Tyrion Targaryen: Is Tyrion the Mad King’s Son? [ASOS/S4 Major Spoilers, ADWD D&E Minor Spoilers].” YouTube. October 26, 2014. Posted by “Alt Shift X”. Accessed March 27, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqVhKOxmJCw.

[15] “ENTER THE BOWL.” YouTube. June 21, 2013. Posted by “Benny2kk8”. Accessed March 27, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FGT7NzqDRU.

[16] r/cleganebowl

[17] “(Spoiler All) Can Somebody Summarize Cleganebowl for Me? • /r/asoiaf.” Reddit. February 2, 2014. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://www.reddit.com/r/asoiaf/comments/1wtqvk/spoiler_all_can_somebody_summarize_cleganebowl/.

[18] “Tower of the Hand.” The Golem and the Gravedigger ~. September 16, 2010. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://www.towerofthehand.com/blog/2010/09/16_the_golem_and_the_/index.html.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] “Sandor Clegane.” – A Wiki of Ice and Fire. April 2, 2015. Accessed April 3, 2015. http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Sandor_Clegane.

[23] Ibid

[24] “Tower of the Hand.” The Golem and the Gravedigger ~. September 16, 2010. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://www.towerofthehand.com/blog/2010/09/16_the_golem_and_the_/index.html.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Larissa, Arlinka. “5 Fan Theories about A Song of Ice and Fire.” The Artifice. November 1, 2013. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://the-artifice.com/a-song-of-ice-and-fire-fan-theories/2/.

[28] Ibid

[29] Vaughn, Jackson. “Community Post: 17 Game-Changing Game Of Thrones Fan Theories.” BuzzFeed Community. August 25, 2014. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://www.buzzfeed.com/jacksonv/17-game-changing-game-of-thrones-fan-theories-htvg#.dwwbQY8gP.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Martin, George R. R. A Game of Thrones. New York: Bantam Books, 1996. 199.

[32] Holden, Chris. “Tower of the Hand.” Past Events: Jon Snow’s Parents ~. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://towerofthehand.com/essays/chrisholden/jon_snows_parents.html.

[33] Martin, George R. R. A Game of Thrones. New York: Bantam Books. 1996. 631.

[34] Martin, George R. R. A Clash of Kings. New York: Bantam Books, 1999. 707.

[35] Holden, Chris. “Tower of the Hand.” Past Events: Jon Snow’s Parents ~. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://towerofthehand.com/essays/chrisholden/jon_snows_parents.html.

[36] Gilmore, Mikal. “George R.R. Martin: Outtakes From the Rolling Stone Interview.” Rolling Stone. April 28, 2014. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://www.rollingstone.com/tv/news/george-r-r-martin-outtakes-from-the-rolling-stone-interview-20140428.

[37] Kawakami, Robin. “The Strongest ‘Game of Thrones’ Scene Supporting R L=J.” Speakeasy RSS. January 17, 2015. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2015/01/17/the-strongest-game-of-thrones-scene-supporting-rlj/.

[38] “(Spoilers All) D D=T – a Never-before-seen Theory • /r/asoiaf.” Reddit. March 28, 2015. Accessed March 28, 2015. https://www.reddit.com/r/asoiaf/comments/30mat2/spoilers_all_ddt_a_neverbeforeseen_theory/.


Bibliography

Gilmore, Mikal. “George R.R. Martin: Outtakes From the Rolling Stone Interview.” Rolling Stone. April 28, 2014. Accessed March 27, 2015.

Holden, Chris. “Tower of the Hand.” Past Events: Jon Snow’s Parents ~. Accessed March 27, 2015. 

Kawakami, Robin. “The Strongest ‘Game of Thrones’ Scene Supporting R L=J.” Speakeasy RSS. January 17, 2015. Accessed March 27, 2015.

Larissa, Arlinka. “5 Fan Theories about A Song of Ice and Fire.” The Artifice. November 1, 2013. Accessed March 27, 2015.

Martin, George R. R. A Game of Thrones. New York: Bantam Books, 1996.

Martin, George R. R. A Clash of Kings. New York: Bantam Books, 1999.

Vaughn, Jackson. “Community Post: 17 Game-Changing Game Of Thrones Fan Theories.” BuzzFeed Community. August 25, 2014. Accessed March 27, 2015.

“A J = T – A Dance with Dragons.” A Forum of Ice and Fire. October 10, 2012. Accessed March 27, 2015.

“House Blackfyre.” – A Wiki of Ice and Fire. July 2, 2008. Accessed March 27, 2015.

“Sandor Clegane.” – A Wiki of Ice and Fire. April 2, 2015. Accessed April 3, 2015.

“Tower of the Hand.” The Golem and the Gravedigger ~. September 16, 2010. Accessed March 27, 2015.

“(Spoilers All) BOLT ON! Apply Directly to the Forehead. • /r/asoiaf.” Reddit. February 9, 2014. Accessed March 27, 2015.

“(Spoiler All) Can Somebody Summarize Cleganebowl for Me? • /r/asoiaf.” Reddit. February 2, 2014. Accessed March 27, 2015.

“(Spoilers All) D D=T – a Never-before-seen Theory • /r/asoiaf.” Reddit. March 28, 2015. Accessed March 28, 2015.

“(Spoilers All) Doing the Legwork on the BOLT-ON Theory • /r/asoiaf.” Reddit. March 2, 2014. Accessed March 27, 2015.

“(Spoilers All) Is Tyrion (and/or Jaime & Cersei) a Targaryen? • /r/asoiaf.” Reddit. May 23, 2013. Accessed March 27, 2015.

“(Spoilers All) What Theory Do You Believe to Absolutely Not Be True and Why? • /r/asoiaf.” Reddit. April 6, 2015. Accessed April 6, 2015.


Image Sources

Nelson, Winona. “Young Griff.” Awoiaf.westeros.org. January 1, 2012. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://awoiaf.westeros.org/images/7/78/Young_griff_by_Winona_Nelson.jpg.

Kurp, Josh. “‘Game of Thrones’ Season Two GIF Recap.” Uproxx.com. June 4, 2012. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://uproxx.com/tv/2012/06/game-of-thrones-season-two-gif-recap/#page/37.

Horan, Molly. “Literal Cleganebowl | Cleganebowl.” Know Your Meme News. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/785533-cleganebowl.

“Cleganebowl.” Know Your Meme News. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/cleganebowl.

Kawakami, Robin. “The Strongest ‘Game of Thrones’ Scene Supporting R L=J.” Speakeasy RSS. January 17, 2015. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2015/01/17/the-strongest-game-of-thrones-scene-supporting-rlj/.

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