George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire book series and its television counterpart, HBO's Game of Thrones, boast some of the most rabid fans on the Internet, who have pooled their collective knowledge of both the books and the TV show to come up with some fascinating theories about what's really going down in the land of Westeros.
Note: This article and the links contained within it do contain spoilers for the show (up through the conclusion of season four) as well as for the books. Proceed with caution.
1. THE MAD KING WASN'T IMAGINING THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST HIM.
What if the “Mad King” Aerys Targaryen's belief that there was a massive conspiracy to overthrow him wasn't so off-base after all? One theory, originally posted on the Tower of the Hand website by Stefan Sasse, argues that, before his death, Ned Stark's father Rickard was masterminding a plot to overthrow the Targaryen family. This theory is supported by some pretty strong textual evidence, according to Sasse:
There are several great lords, all knowing each other better than usual because they fought together in the War of the Ninepenny Kings a few years prior. Jon Arryn, Steffon Baratheon, Rickard Stark, Hoster Tully, and Tywin Lannister are all war buddies. With the exception of the latter, they seem to have taken kind of a friendship out of this war. At least this would explain why they sent each other wards: Eddard and Robert both went to the Eyrie for fostering. Robert was in love [with] Lyanna [Stark] and talks of a betrothal were conducted. And Hoster wanted to wed his daughters to the heirs of Winterfell and Casterly Rock, respectively.
These kinds of relationships are "highly unusual," according to Sasse, who goes on to theorize that “if we look into the relations of the great houses under normal circumstances, they rarely marry each other. In fact, they normally marry with their own bannermen.” He believes that there are only two reasons to arrange such a marriage: to broker peace or to seal a military alliance. Based on these alliances, it’s highly likely that there really was an alliance to overthrow King Aerys.
2. JON SNOW IS A TARGARYEN.
Also known as “R + L = J,” this is one of the most widely circulated fan theories, and has even managed to get some mainstream press in outlets like Slate. The premise states that Jon Snow is not the bastard son of Ned Stark, but the child of Rhaegar Targaryen and Ned’s sister, Lyanna. When Ned arrives at the Tower of Joy during Robert’s Rebellion, he finds his sister in what is described as a “bed of blood,” a phrase commonly associated with childbirth. Lyanna dies shortly afterward, but not before uttering her final words, “Promise me, Ned.”
Fans believe that Lyanna died from complications after giving birth to Jon and asked Ned to raise the boy as his own. Fans also point out that, in the books, both Jon and Lyanna are frequently represented by blue winter roses. Not only that, but Arya and Jon look very much alike (so much so that at one point, Sansa believes that Arya is a bastard like Jon), and Arya is said to resemble Lyanna. If this theory is true, this would mean that Jon is Daenerys’ nephew and therefore the true heir to the Iron Throne.
3. JON SNOW IS A TWIN, AND WE'VE ALREADY MET HIS SISTER.
For this theory, not only is Jon Snow the son of Ned's sister Lyanna, but she gave birth to twins, and the promise Ned made was to keep both of these children safe. This likely meant splitting them up (for safety, but also because returning home to Winterfell with a story for Catelyn about two bastard infants would not have gone well), and one of the twins would need to be with someone Ned trusted implicitly.
Before he got to Lyanna on her deathbed, Ned and six of his companions had to battle three Kingsguardmen to enter; of that battle, only Ned and Howland Reed survived. Howland has been an unseen character in the series, but we've met his children—Jojen and Meera Reed, who helped Bran Stark on his journey to find the three-eyed raven. However, with this theory, Meera becomes the twin daughter born to Lyanna, whom Howland took to Greywater Watch to raise, far away from her brother Jon Snow.
The evidence presented for this theory includes Jon and Meera both being the same age (they're listed as having been born in 283 AC—the same year Lyanna died); having similar looks (both having dark hair and a slim build, though this side-by-side of the television series actors is crazy-convincing); and the twist having a historical precedent in the mythology of Romulus and Remus—something GRRM is well-known for. Plus, Romulus and Remus were raised by a she-wolf, which could easily draw comparisons to the Stark direwolves.
4. TYRION LANNISTER IS A TARGARYEN.
Some fans believe that Tyrion might not be a Lannister after all, but the son of the Mad King Aerys Targaryen. In A Dance With Dragons, Ser Barristan Selmy tells Daenerys that the Mad King had lusted after Joanna Lannister, Tyrion's mother, for years:
Prince Aerys ... as a youth, he was taken with [Joanna]. When she and Tywin wed, your father drank too much wine at the wedding feast and was heard to say that it was a great pity that the lord’s right to the first night had been abolished. A drunken jape, no more, but Tywin Lannister was not a man to forget such words, or the ... liberties your father took during the bedding.
Tyrion also displays some typical Targaryen qualities: his pale blonde hair more closely resembles the Targaryens' silver hair than the Lannisters' gold, and he is fascinated by dragons. Also, Tyrion's eyes are two different colors, which some suspect is a nod to his mixed heritage. Some fans argue that this theory takes away from Tyrion’s complicated relationship with Tywin, but if Tyrion really is a Targaryen, then he could be one of the “Three Heads of the Dragon” along with Daenerys and Jon.
5. JAMIE LANNISTER'S DYSLEXIA MIGHT COME IN HANDY.
One of the defining moments in Jaime’s character arc—and the catalyst for his redemption story—is losing his hand, which viewers witnessed in Game of Thrones’ third season. Up until that moment, Jaime had always been defined as a master swordsman, causing him to lose his identity along with his hand. However, some fans are confident that Jaime will once again become one of the world's great fighters. In both the series and the books, it’s mentioned that Jaime had great difficulty in school and it’s heavily implied that he is dyslexic. It’s believed that people with dyslexia also have a natural tendency for ambidexterity, leading some fans to speculate that Jaime will become a great left-handed swordsman.
6. OBERYN MARTELL POISONED TYWIN.
It’s widely believed that Prince Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper of Dorne, poisoned Tywin before his death in the season four finale. According to a theory originally posted by Sean Collins on BoiledLeather, Martell had the means, motive, and opportunity to poison Tywin. In the third book, A Storm of Swords, Martell is described as a master of poisons: “Who knows more of poison than the Red Viper of Dorne, after all?” and he tells Tyrion, ominously, “Your father may not live forever.” When Tyrion confronts his father in the season four finale, Tywin is hunched over the toilet, which Collins points to as proof he has been poisoned with Widow’s Blood, which the book describes as shutting “down a man’s bladder and bowels, until he drowns in his own poisons.”
7. THEON MURDERED HIS OWN CHILD.
In season two, shortly after taking Winterfell, Theon murders two children and passes the bodies off as Bran and Rickon Stark. In the fifth book, A Dance With Dragons, Theon thinks about how he had slept with the murdered boys’ mother: “Theon did not want to think about their mother. He had known the miller’s wife for years, had even bedded her. Big heavy breasts with wide dark nipples, a sweet mouth, a merry laugh.” Because Theon would have only been 12 when the first child was born, many fans think that the younger of the two boys was actually Theon’s child, making him a kinslayer. This would also explain Theon’s bad luck since taking Winterfell, as the gods are likely punishing him for his crime.
8. ROOSE BOLTON IS IMMORTAL.
Known as “Bolt-On,” a theory originally posted by Reddit user maj312 argues that Roose Bolton, the man most famous for stabbing Robb Stark, is actually an immortal face thief. “How he achieved this, I’m not sure,” maj312 writes:
One theory that I like is that the Bolton line began when the Night’s King and an Other had a half human child. That child grew to an adult, but then ceased to age. How could this strange creature continue its existence while living in the world of men? It must pretend. It must be cautious. It must look to live and die and give birth to heirs, like men do. And when it has lived 50 or 60 years, not long enough for its unlined face and dark hair to draw too much attention, it flays a son with pale, pale eyes, and assumes his identity.
According to this theory, Roose was the one who killed Domeric because Domeric had the wrong eye color. But Ramsay was spared because of his blue eyes, and is going to be killed and skinned later.
9. TYWIN LOVES PROSTITUTES.
In the first book, A Game of Thrones, Tyrion asks Varys, ”How is it a brothel happens to have a secret entrance?” to which Varys replies, “The tunnel was dug for another King’s hand, whose honor would not allow him to enter such a house openly.” Many fans believe that Varys is referring to Tywin Lannister. In the third book, A Storm of Swords (and in the show’s season four finale), Shae, a whore—and, for a while, Tyrion’s lady friend—is found in Tywin’s bed. Fans believe this to be proof that Tywin harbors a secret appreciation for prostitutes, which he has kept hidden from the rest of Westeros. This also explains why Tywin resents Tyrion so much, as Tywin sees many of his own flaws in his son.
10. DRAGONGLASS IS DRAGON POOP.
In the show’s second season, Samwell Tarly finds a stash of Dragonglass weapons, which can be used to kill White Walkers. (In the books, it’s Jon Snow who discovers the dragonglass arrowheads, beyond the Wall at the Fist of the First Man.) But where did these weapons come from? Many fans believe Dragonglass is simply obsidian, but a theory from Reddit user The_Others_Take_Ya argues that these weapons are actually frozen clumps of dragon poop. While burrowing through the ground, dragons consume large amounts of sand which, according to the theory, heats up and forms into glass within the dragon’s fiery stomach. “What happens when you combine silica/quartz sand with heat? GLASS,” the theorist explains. “So I think they poop molten glass that solidifies and hardens and said glass is their byproduct, filled with the magical substance that gives them the ability to belch fire. Once they’ve 'eliminated' the waste from their system, the molten glass hardens and cools outside of their warm bodies.”
This piece originally ran in April 2015.