Warning: Spoilers from the latest season of the HBO show below.
We know, we know; these “secret” Targaryens seem to be in every theory pertaining to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones mythos these days. Let’s take a look at some of the major candidates anyways, though because that’s part of the fun:
First it was Maester Aemon, the blind maester on the Wall who happened to be the brother of Aegon V. Then it was the three eyed crow who turned out to really be one of the Great Bastards of King Aegon IV. Who else might secretly be carrying a drop or two of dragon blood? Here are my guesses:
The Story: To understand this theory we have to go back all the way to year 281 AC to the Tourney at Harrenhal. Still a little while before Robert’s Rebellion, tensions were at a high between Mad King Aerys Targaryen and his son, Prince Rhaegar; Aerys was paranoid from his time as a prisoner during the Defiance of Duskendale and thought Rhaegar was plotting against him. Rhaegar at this point had two children and a wife (Elia Martell, sister to Oberyn) who was sickly and no longer able to give him any more children.
During the tourney, Rhaegar unhorsed all the other challengers including legendary heroes like Arthur Dayne and Barristan Selmy and was named champion. Exercising the honor to name his “queen of love and beauty” he chose Lyanna Stark, even though he was married to Elia Martell and Lyanna was already betrothed to Robert Baratheon.
The moment all smiles died.
A year later, in 282AC, Rhaegar and Lyanna disappeared into the mountains of Dorne, an act that triggered Robert’s Rebellion. After Aerys and Rhaegar had been killed, the Battle of the Trident won by Robert’s forces, and the Siege of Storm’s End lifted, Eddard Stark and a few companions rode to the Tower of Joy to bring Lyanna home. After defeating the last three members of Aerys’s Kingsguard who were stationed at the tower, Ned arrived to watch his sister die in her bed with her last words being “Promise me Ned.”
In the story, as written thus far, there is no explanation for Lyanna’s death.
Here’s the theory: Lyanna died BIRTHING JON. She asked Ned to promise not to tell that Jon was RHAEGAR’S CHILD. Ned claimed the bastard was his to PROTECT JON.
Proof: This story should stand as proof to the theory’s legitimacy. Furthermore, would it really make sense for the most honorable character in the whole series have fathered an illegitimate child while already married? No. Would it make sense that a brother would want to protect his sister’s fatal secret? Absolutely.
How will this secret be confirmed?: My guess is that at some point Howland Reed, the father of Jojen and Meera Reed and one of the men who accompanied Eddard to the Tower of Joy will come looking for his children up North. While passing through the Wall he will decide that it is time for Jon to know his true heritage.
How? According to the A+J=T theory, Tyrion Lannister is actually the child of Mad King Aerys II Targaryen and Joanna Lannister, making him half-Targaryen, half-Lannister.
“One green eye and one black one peered out from under a lank of hair so blond it almost seemed white.”
The story: Even before Joanna married her cousin Tywin, King Aerys II Targaryen was infatuated with the young lioness. He often remarked on her beauty and his crush on her was a well known fact. This is illustrated by this quote from Barristan Selmy when talking to Daenerys, Aerys’s daughter about her parents. She asks if her mother Rhaella was the only woman Aerys ever loved.
“Not loved. Mayhaps wanted is a better word, but … it was only kitchen gossip, the whispers of washerwomen and stableboys …”
Furthermore, at Tywin and Joanna’s wedding (one of the rare times Tywin actually smiled in his life) Aerys made a crude remark while intoxicated. He said that he thought it unfortunate that the lord’s right to the first night had been abolished; the lord’s right was a right that was abolished early on in the rule of King Jaehaerys I, hundreds of years ago, which entitled lords and kings to any woman’s virginity before her husband. Even though it was abolished, Aerys had the power to reinstitute it, although he in the end did not.
During the time Joanna spent at Aerys’s court both with her husband Tywin and with her friend Elia Martell, it would not be unfathomable that Aerys got her pregnant with Tyrion.
“The best part of Tywin died with her.”
Proof: The fact that Tyrion came out deformed and killed his mother in childbirth may be a cause of the bad Targaryen genes that make up half of him. His defects may well be a result of the generations of Targaryen inbreeding.
Tyrion’s deformities could also be contributed to the countless contraceptives that enraged Tywin must have had Joanna take to avoid letting Aerys’s child come into the world. Although the contraceptives didn’t kill Tyrion they may have messed him up.
Also, Tyrion is nothing like Cersei and Jaime and it seems inconceivable that he would be born from the same parents. If Tyrion really wasn’t Tywin’s son it would also make their dynamic all the more hostile; if Tywin knew, he would be enraged that the world viewed this monster as Tywin’s own doing, without Tywin even being the father.
How will this secret be confirmed?: This may seem a bit far-fetched, but I hold out hope that Tyrion’s uncle Gerion will return from his quest to find the missing Lannister sword in Valyria to tell Tyrion the truth about his parents. I do think it is very unlikely that we will see Gerion again in the books or show, so I’m not totally sure that is the way it’s going to be revealed, but it is a prediction.
How?: According to my home-cooked A+ON=H theory (and one I’ve seen in passing a few times on internet forums), Hodor is actually the grandchild of Maester Aemon Targaryen and Old-Nan, making him half-Targaryen, half-Nan.
The story: Maester Aemon and Old Nan had sex once before Aemon became a Maester of the Citadel.
Only Hodor can stand to be in the hot springs of Winterfell for long periods of time.
Proof: Very little to back this one up. In the show, Hodor has traditional Targaryen, platinum hair and in the books he is mentioned as being resistant to heat.
Maester Aemon talks to Sam Tarly about once loving a woman, who may well have been Old Nan, but there really isn’t much more objective evidence to prove this theory.
How will this secret be confirmed?: It probably will never be proven. In all likelihoods it will just be a fun little theory that we can keep on believing.
How?: According to the little known, semi-plausible, theory RT=MR (last theory abbreviation, I promise), Mance Rayder is actually Rhaegar Targaryen resurrected.
The story: After Rhaegar and Robert fought it out on the Trident, Rhaegar’s body was recovered by Targaryen loyalists and reincarnated via magic of the Red God, Rh’llor.
Knowing somehow that his son Jon was going to join the Night’s Watch he became the King Beyond the Wall as a means to get closer to his son so that he could eventually lead him to his rightful throne. Now, Mance is just biding the time until his son is ready to learn the truth of his claim to the throne.
The King Beyond the Wall.
Proof: Not much proof for this one either. And actually, quite a lot of proof against it. In the books Mance had spent time in Winterfell prior to becoming King Beyond the Wall. Wouldn’t it have been more convenient to relinquish his disguise then and take Jon back to King’s Landing? I assume that if Mance really is Rhaegar he would want to wait until Targaryen hating King Robert I Baratheon was dead before revealing that he was a Targaryen and had a son. Even if this is true, it just seems like there are more efficient ways to get close with your son than starting a full on invasion on the Wall.
We already know that it would not be out of reach for a priest/priestess of the Red God to resurrect someone believed dead, but we also can assume that Robert smashed Rhaegar’s body so much during the Battle of the Trident that he would not be able to be recovered. However, if this theory were true, the Jon-Mance dynamic would be enhanced and made more interesting.
The most credible piece of evidence however is from George R. R. Martin himself in one of his Q & A sessions. The question was: “What happened to Rhaegar’s body after the Trident?” And thus Martin answered: “Rhaegar was cremated, as is traditional for fallen Targaryens.”
This answer seems unsatisfactory if you take into consideration how strong Robert Baratheon’s hatred for Rhaegar was; would Robert’s intense hatred for the man who stole his love (Lyanna Stark) away have prevented the right to a traditional funerary custom?
How will this secret be confirmed?: Only if Mance-Rhaegar himself tells us his true identity.
And of course the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin.