The Bastard of Winterfell

Guest post from Fraser

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Kill the boy, Jon Snow. Winter is almost upon us. Kill the boy and let the man be born.

These words uttered to Jon Snow by Aemon Targaryen were perhaps more important than ever at the end of the ambitious episode 8 of Game of Thrones. It was an episode where the young Lord Commander truly took center stage. Jon Snow is arguably the most important character in the ASOIAF universe and I will prove that he is. George R. R. Martin tries to break fantasy tropes in his world- it isn’t a fantasy story in the same wayThe Lord of the Rings is. It is much more complex, and his characters follow this pattern. Jon Snow is one of these characters. You often see people say he is ‘too gloomy’ or ‘2 dimensional’ and these people are incredibly wrong!  Jon is a character whose journey is at a crossroads come the end of A Dance with Dragons, and you would expect it will be in the same place come the end of season 5. It’s a journey that deserves to be understood and to understand the journey, you need to understand Jon Snow.

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When we meet Jon Snow in A Game of Thrones he is just a 14 year old boy. A 14 year old boy who has been brought up in Winterfell by Eddard Stark alongside the other Stark children and the relationships with his half-brother Robb, his father’s ward Theon Greyjoy and his half-sister Arya are the most important to his development as a child. Robb and Theon are there when Jon is trained with a sword and on a horse and  it is said that he was more skilled than Robb with a sword. He is also said to have the most Stark like features of Ned Stark’s children, along with Arya whom he is very close to. This relationship does not need explaining if you have read the books or understand the significance of Arya’s sword Needle. Jon certainly has a soft spot for people who might be viewed as the odd one out and Arya is one of these people. This would perhaps explain Jon’s eagerness to join the Night’s Watch. He feels more comfortable with people who may be viewed as outsiders. It’s how he has experienced his life as Ned Stark’s’ bastard son. As relatively privileged as his upbringing was, a point he is not allowed to forget when he goes to the Wall, he is often mocked and called ‘Lord Snow’ due to his upbringing. However something that affects him the most is the lack of a mother or not knowing who his mother was, or is. I am personally not in the camp that solely blames Catelyn Stark for this. Her actions are far from perfect but understandable. It is surprising that Ned never seemed to trust her enough to tell her the truth of Jon’s parentage. This could have changed the way Catelyn viewed Jon if the theory of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark being Jon’s actual parents is true. It almost seems as if Ned felt a deep shame about not being able to save his sister. Or perhaps he did not want people to know about Jon’s true parentage as it puts him at risk. Jon’s struggle to understand why the man who bought him up never told him the truth about who is mother is something that he must get over throughout his journey. After Ned’s death, he figures that he will never find out. He does not know if anyone alive knows who his mother is. He believes his father was executed at the Sept of Baelor and the truth of his parentage was lost at this point. This is perhaps something that helps him become who he is by the end of A Storm of Swords .

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Throughout a Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords a lot is asked of Jon by the Night’s Watch and those around him. Qhorin Halfhand asks the most of him. Jon’s time with the Wildlings is very important to his development as a leader. He crucially learns why the Wildlings are marching south and perhaps more importantly, that they aren’t that different from people south of the Wall. A lot of decisions Jon makes throughout the series are ones that he antagonises over. He isn’t someone who takes the decisions he makes lightly. One of the first major decisions he makes is going back  to the Watch after temporarily leaving to go help Robb. After this his commitment to the Watch and his role in it grows immensely. One of the biggest moments for Jon is meeting Ygritte. His relationship with her is challenging to everything he believes in. After being told by Qhorin Halfhand to go undercover to find out what the Wildlings’ plans are, his commitment to the Watch is shown yet again when he leaves Ygritte to warn them of the coming Wildling invasion. Leaving the woman he has fallen in love with, and may have to face when the Wildlings invade, is proof of how much Jon has grown and how he now feels that the Night’s Watch is truly where he belongs. He has the chance to leave the Watch and be with someone he loves but instead chooses to warn his brothers and in the end it is a decision that saves their lives. After the battle of Castle Black and having been given the command of the Wall during the fighting, Jon’s leadership skills are evident. The eventual arrival of the wonderful father and non-religious fanatic Stannis creates further decisions for Jon to make. Jon is given the chance to have what he always dreamed of having by Stannis- Winterfell. Stannis offering to legitimise Jon and making him Warden of the North is something Jon has always secretly wanted. One of the main reasons he does not accept it is he is chosen as Lord Commander by his brothers. However another important reason he turns it down is Ghost. When reunited with Ghost he looks at his red eyes and sees the Weirwood tree in Winterfell. Melisandre would want to burn the heart tree and after all his family has been through Jon decides against it. This is perhaps the most important decision made by Jon, and one of the most important made in the entire series by someone. If Jon had accepted it he would have joined Stannis and gained him a lot of support in the North. But by choosing to become Lord Commander he takes on perhaps an even more important role- the fight against the White Walkers. The rest of this post will look at the most recent events involving Jon and theories about what is next for him. The theories surrounding Jon are perhaps some of the most important in the series.

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Jon is not going to die. Let’s get that straight. He is too important. His actions following the arrival of the “Pink Letter” lead to a mutiny and end with him getting stabbed. Of course we know nothing more of his fate after this. It also seems unlikely we will find out about what happens to him in episode 10 of season 5. There are many ways Jon could be ‘resurrected’. Firstly the importance of Melisandre at the Wall cannot be ignored and the show has even had her meet with Thoros of Myr and discuss resurrection through the Lord of Light. Also Melisandre starting to believe Jon is increasingly important will play a role in this. The ability to warg is something that is also shown to be increasingly important with the Varamyr prologue chapter as well. Jon’s ability to potentially warg his mind into Ghost’s before his body is resurrected by Mel is probably what will save his life. There is no question Jon would be a different man after this experience but in essence he would still be Jon Snow. The questions of what would be next for Jon then come up. Would dying release him from his Night’s Watch vows? Would he still be able to hold his position as Lord Commander after the attempt on his life? This is a very important question because Jon does have other options. Perhaps something that is forgotten by people is the letter that Robb made legitimising Jon as his heir should he die before having a child. Jon is the only brother that remains to me. ‘Should I die without issue, I want him to succeed me as King in the North.’ Although we cannot be sure where the letter is there is a good possibility it is with Howland Reed at Greywater Watch. If this is true this makes Howland Reed important to Jon’s future for more than one reason. Not only would this letter legitimise Jon, something he may be more favourable of having been attacked by his own brothers and the legitimisation coming from Robb himself rather than some southern King he had never met before. It would not be too surprising if Jon took this offer. Although staying at the Watch would perhaps be more in character for Jon, the experience of warging into Ghost for an extended period of time may change his motivations. Howland Reed’s importance may perhaps be even greater when it comes to knowledge about Jon’s parents. Being the only surviving member from the battle at the Tower of Joy it is likely that Howland will confirm the theory that Rhaegar and Lyanna are Jon’s parents. This would also give credit to the theories of Jon being The Prince that Was Promised, or Azor Ahai, or maybe even both. The nuances of whether these two prophecies are the same or not can be debated, but I do not believe they are. However I do believe it is possible they are the same people. Someone of Ice and Fire. Of course it could be argued either Aegon or Daenerys are Fire whilst Jon is Ice but what would the purpose of Jon having mixed Stark and Targaryen blood if he was not both? If was just ice he would just be a Stark, he is not. This is of course presuming that R+L does equal Jon but it does seem highly likely, if not obvious.

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Jon is crucial to the future of the story. We now know that we will find out his fate in either season 6 or if TWOW comes out before it. The show has set it up for Melisandre to revive him. He understands that the real fight is yet to come. The Iron Throne does not matter. This is why he cannot be dead. Whether Jon is ‘ice’ or ‘fire and ice’ or The Prince that Was Promised or Azor Ahai, or both, or he just ends up being Ned Stark’s bastard his importance cannot be overstated. He is trying to help the Wildlings, he is trying to strengthen the Night’s Watch, he is trying to prepare for the coming Winter. A Winter that will bring much more danger than any in 8000 years. He has lost his father, his brothers, his uncles, his sisters, he has lost almost everything that he grew up with. He gained a brotherhood which has turned against him, by the start of The Winds of Winter, Jon Snow may have nothing. He might be a completely different man. We do not know. But one thing I am almost certain of, he will try and do the right thing, he might gain an identity which gives him a new purpose. There must always be a Stark in Winterfell, and as Eddard Stark said, ‘You may not have my name, but you have my blood.’

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