Jon Snow
Discover what is in store for Jon Snow in "The Winds of Winter." And who his mother is! HBO

“The Winds of Winter” is the next installment in George R.R. Martin’s phenomena of a book series, “A Song of Ice and Fire” but before the long delayed release date finally arrives, readers of the series are aggressively attempting to answer all of the series’ mysteries. One the most talked about and theorized unresolved issues in “A Song of Ice and Fire” is the identity of Jon Snow’s mother, and while there may be multiple theories on who gave birth to “Ned Stark’s bastard” one in particular seems to be the most popular and of course the most interesting. So in order to prove just why the R+L=J theory is the most likely explanation as to who exactly is Jon Snow’s mother, we must first discredit all the other possible explanations of his parentage.

Warning! Possible spoilers ahead for “Game of Thrones” and George R.R. Martin’s “The Winds of Winter.” Do not read any further if you do not want to discover fan theories regarding Jon Snow and the next installment of “A Song of Ice and Fire.”

The question of who is Jon Snow’s mother arose early in the series and now with the pending sixth book release there is still no concrete answer form GRRM. However, the author who is notable for his symbolism has left readers with a literal trail to follow -- which has brought most fans to consider the R+L=J theory almost divine. But the first possible explanation for the identity of Jon Snow’s mother was Wylla. In “A Game of Thrones” King Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark engage in a conversation about their time at war during Robert’s Rebellion. The conversation seems common among men and somewhat unimportant until Robert asks for the name of the woman who made the “honorable” Ned Stark forget his vows for even an hour, casually adding “your bastard’s mother.” Ned quickly replies that her name was Wylla, however he provides no other information and the conversation is quickly ended.

The name Wylla was not again discussed until “A Storm of Swords” when Edric Dayne tells Arya Stark that he and Jon Snow are “milk brothers.” Confused by the statement, she believes he is mocking her and her beloved brother Jon and presses him for more information. Dayne explains that one of the servants at Starfall named Wylla was the mother of Jon Snow, and later served as a “wet nurse” for Edric. The young Lord realizes Arya does not believe his story, swears on his house that he is telling the truth, Arya then decides to remember the name Wylla and vows to tell Jon.

Another possible theory is that Jon Snow’s mother was Ashara Dayne also of Starfall. This theory comes from Ser Barristan Selmy, who recounts a tale of Brandon Stark, and Ned Stark at the Tourney at Harrenhal. Barristan says that one of the Starks, either Brandon or Ned, slept with her at the tournament which resulted in a pregnancy. It was well known throughout Westeros that Ashara was pregnant before she committed suicide by jumping from the tower of Starfall. Barristan does confirm that he believes the bastard child was a stillborn girl, but the rumor of Ashara Dayne being Jon Snow’s mother still persists. So much so that both Cersei Lannister, and Ned Stark’s beloved wife Catelyn have heard the story and attempted to question Ned about it, too little avail.

“Never ask me about Jon,” he said, cold as ice. “He is my blood, and that is all you need to know. And now I will learn where you heard that name, my lady.” She had pledged to obey; she told him; and from that day on, the whispering had stopped, and Ashara Dayne’s name was never heard in Winterfell again. – Catelyn Tully, “A Game of Thrones”

In addition to these not so convincing tales about the mother of Jon Snow is a theory that has been highly touted around the Internet in a rather secretive form R+L=J, so what does this mathematical equation reveal? Not only does it expose the identity of Jon Snow’s mother but also his father. Many readers of the series believe that Jon is not the bastard son of Ned Stark; instead that Jon Snow is the son of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and Ned's beloved, younger sister Lyanna Stark. Rhaegar and Lyanna have a long and complicated history, the pair disappeared together early in Robert’s Rebellion, and occupied the Tower of Joy, it is believed that during this time Lyanna became pregnant, and Rhaegar then had to leave her to defend the Targaryen dynasty and the Iron Throne upon which his father sat. The story is even more in-depth than it originally appears.

The cause of Robert’s Rebellion was Rhaegar and Lyanna; the Targaryen Prince allegedly kidnapped Lyanna, who was at the time betrothed to Robert Baratheon. At the end of Robert’s Rebellion, about one year after the initial “kidnapping,” Ned and his bannermen, including Howland Reed, went to the Tower of Joy and were surprised to find three Kingsguard defending it. A fight ensued, and although their presence nor the battle was never fully explained by GRRM, many readers believe the Kingsguard was there to protect the unborn son of the Targaryen heir — Jon Snow. The only survivors of the battle at the Tower of Joy were Ned, and Howland Reed. Tragically Ned found his sister Lyanna inside the tower in a “bed of blood,” before dying she made him promise her something that is still unknown. The cause of her death nor the promise Ned made to her are known, but the readers know they are important as the phrase “Promise me, Ned.” Is recounted multiple times throughout the series.

Evidence within the series supports the theory that Jon Snow is the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, unlike his half siblings he has the appearance of a Stark. Robb, Sansa, Bran and Rickon are notable for their Tully features, however Jon’s sister Arya, who is rumored to look exactly like a young Lyanna Stark, resembles him in most features. The Starks direwolves who serve as a large symbol through the series, provide some clue that Jon is heir apparent to the Targaryen line. Unlike his sibling’s direwolves, who all have dark fur, Jon’s direwolf Ghost is albino, with snow-white fur, similar to the blonde white of the Targaryen dynasty.

It seems unlikely to most readers that the great mystery of Jon Snow’s mother would be solved with her identify being an unknown wet nurse. Instead most agree, that Jon Snow’s mother and father are significant character to the story. In “Game of Thrones,” GRRM hints that Jon’s mother is Lyanna. Catelyn notably dislikes Jon, being that he seemingly serves as a constant reminder of Ned’s betrayal. However, despite his undying love for Catelyn and his well-known honor, Ned refuses to abandon Jon Snow.

“Whoever Jon's mother had been, Ned must have loved her fiercely, for nothing Catelyn said would persuade him to send the boy away.” –Catelyn Tully, “Game of Thrones”

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