A Jaehaerys, Not a Jon
By Robert Keal
Spoilers for HBO Series Game of Thrones!!
So: Game of Thrones. All over for another year! Brought to a close with bangs and whimpers aplenty, Season 6 has greatly exceeded the show’s “Holy shit!” quota: Aged crones in the guise of young beauties, the reappearance of heroes (or villains, depending on how you swing the sword) long-dead, a full-on cock-shot — showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss have created yet another spectacular sequence of this award-winning series. So spectacular, in fact, that it has made adaptation history, becoming the first tv show to surpass its source material by quite some margin (don’t worry, we still love you George!). Over the course of the last six years, GoT has taken on a life of its own, beyond that of the Ice and Fire books, and I am sure I am not the only fan who thinks that’s just hunky dory.
Season 6 has re-focused the show in a lot of (great!) ways. As a viewer, I feel for the first time like I really am tucking into an Iron Throne sandwich: Dany and Jon’s respective forces appear ready to attack King’s Landing at exactly the right moment. Think the Battle of Hastings, think Henry VII’s invasion of England. Historical parallels aside, Game of Thrones is on course to reach an incredible climax *(cries profusely)*.
However, the coolest part of the series so far, in my opinion, isn’t Dany sailing to reclaim her homeland. It isn’t Cersei going full tyrant and seizing the Iron Throne for herself. It is, in fact, Jon Snow: Secret Targaryen.
It is confirmed in the Season 6 finale that Jon Snow, long thought to be the bastard son of fan favourite Ned Stark, is in truth the offspring of his sister Lyanna with Targaryen Prince Rhaegar, who died at the Trident at the hands of Robert Baratheon, who was betrothed to Lyanna. Typical Ned Stark, he sacrificed his own honour in order to protect his nephew from Robert’s wrath. It’s all incredibly touching. This season’s scenes at the Tower of Joy are without doubt some of the most pivotal in the entire series, and the viewers really feel the urgency of the situation at hand. But, as one keen-eyed Redditor points out, passing Jon off as his bastard wasn’t the only thing Ned did to keep him safe.
Said Redditor theorises that, as she lays dying, Lyanna reveals to Ned her son’s true name: Jaehaerys. Possibly Ned re-named him Jon after Jon Arryn: What better name to protect him from Robert than that of their foster father, mentor and dearest friend.
Whether it proves true or not, I find this theory fascinating. For those of you who don’t know your Westerosi history, Jaehaerys is the name given to several royal family members in the last 300 years, since Aegon’s Conquest. The first, known as the Old King, or the Conciliator, was a fierce friend to the Night’s Watch, which just so happens to be where a young Jon Snow has spent his formative years, and in the company of his own (albeit unknown to him) Targaryen blood, Maester Aemon. The second Jaehaerys is said to have wounded Tully pride after refusing to take a riverlord’s daughter to wife, favouring instead his own sister. Now, I’m not saying Jon is about to jump on the show’s incest bandwagon anytime soon, but he does certainly wound Catelyn Tully’s pride, because she thinks he is her husband’s bastard. However slight, the parallels are visible. Throughout the series, Jon has done a great job of living up to his alleged Targaryen namesake.
There are other Targaryens with the name Jaehaerys in the Ice and Fire universe, but they are of little consequence, bastards in the annals of Westerosi history *wink wink, nudge nudge*. The truth is, the most intriguing part of the whole Jon/Jaehaerys theory is not the names themselves but what they represent. You may recall that Maester Aemon told Jon to “kill the boy and let the man be born” back in Season 5. (That episode is even called “Kill the Boy”, so it’s obviously significant.) For those of you who are unfamiliar with the books, Aemon originally gives the same advice to his brother Aegon, when he abdicates the throne in Aegon’s favour. “The realm needs an Aegon, not an Egg,” he tells his younger brother. With “Kill the Boy” on our radars once again, it does seem that history is on course to repeat itself. (Or maybe it already has.)
What if Jon Snow really did die at the end of Season 5? What if the boy really was killed? What if the Jon Snow we have been watching throughout Season 6 is the man reborn: Jaehaerys?
Sure Jon has done some pretty amazing stuff over the course of the series (leading Season 6’s incredible battle against monster-lord Ramsay Bolton is only the tip of the iceberg), but just because he is a great warrior, does that then mean he is worthy of his brother/cousin Robb’s old style King in the North? It is Renly who says, way back in Season 1, that good soldiers do not necessarily make good kings, referring to his sot of a brother Robert, and to Ned Stark no less. Jon Snow may be a good soldier, but whether he will be a good King is another matter entirely. If it’s one thing the show teaches us, it is that it is one thing to take a crown but quite another to hold on to it.
The Long Night is fast approaching. Winter is already here (the Starks are always right eventually). One thing’s for sure, Westeros needs a wise king as much as a warrior to lead its people through the Darkness. A conciliator, a cool, clear head. A Jaehaerys, not a Jon.
This post originally appeared on RobKeal.com.