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In ASOIAF, Jon Arryn repeated several times while dying, "The seed is strong":

Eddard: "Was there nothing else? No final word?

Pycelle: "When I saw that all hope had fled, I gave the Hand milk of the poppy [...] He whispered something to the king and his lady wife, a blessing for his son. The seed is strong, he said. At the end the speech was too slurred to comprehend. Death did not come until the next morning, but Lord Jon was at peace after that. He never spoke again."

But so far (I have read all the books), it doesn't seem to me that he was talking about sickly Robert. But who else? What is the evidence that he was/wasn't talking about his son?

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How is it even possible to read the first book and to miss such a point? – Cthulhu Aug 20 '14 at 7:52
@Cthulhu I read all the books once, and now I was reading it again. I just asked the question after reading this part. And I'm not english. – Vinz243 Aug 20 '14 at 9:50
up vote 48 down vote accepted

The clear implication made in the books is that when Jon Arryn, Hand of the King, said "The seed is strong" he was referring to the indications - based on documented bloodlines and inherited genetic characteristics - that Robert Baratheon did not father Joffrey, Tommen, or Myrcella on Cersei Lannister.

(Of course, in Westeros, no one would think of them as "genetic characteristics". But the inherited traits which we know to be genetics have long been recognized as having a bloodline relationship - more so, frankly, in systems where nobility intermarries and documents their births and marriages better than is the average. And seed is slang for sperm, which leads to births, or so I'm led to believe...)

As for evidence:

Lysa Arryn remembering:

Jon knew. The seed is strong, he told me. His last words. He kept saying Robert's name, and he grabbed my arm so hard he left marks. Tell them, the seed is strong

She goes on to interpret it as "[Jon's] seed. He wanted everyone to know what a good strong boy my baby was going to be." But she's an idiot (that's clearly established in the books). Robert is the name of both her son and the King. He was trying to get a message out, she was hearing what she wanted to.

Ned confronted Cersei when he figured it out:

"All three are Jaime's," he said. It was not a question.

"Thank the gods."

The seed is strong, Jon Arryn had cried on his deathbed, and so it was. All those bastards, all with hair as black as night. Grand Maester Malleon recorded the last mating between stag and lion, some ninety years ago,... Their only issue, an unnamed boy descrbied in Malleon's tome as a large and lusty lad boar with a full head of black hair. ... No matter how far back Ned searched in the brittle yellowed pages, always he found the gold yielding before the coal.

(Several people have posted this answer, but there seems to be a lot of doubt and pedantry on words, so I brought some quotes to bear. +1 to @Shevliaskovic and @stonemetal)

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the most complete answer and therefore +1. – The Giant of Lannister Aug 19 '14 at 17:56
I thought Jon & Lysa's kid was named Robyn? – Omegacron Aug 19 '14 at 18:56
Definitely Robert Arryn - I just rechecked the earlier books, that's his name both in the text and the House Arryn appendix. I believe Jon Arryn named his son after Robert Baratheon, who had been his favored ward (along with Ned Stark). However, you may be thinking how Sansa Stark calls little Robert "sweet robin" as a pet name - sorry, I don't have Dances with Dragons on my phone, so I can't look it up exactly right now. – gowenfawr Aug 19 '14 at 19:17
@omegacron Robyn is his nickname. – Mooz Aug 19 '14 at 20:13
"seed is slang for sperm" -- in terms of the etymology, "sperm" is Greek for "seed" :-) – Steve Jessop Aug 20 '14 at 14:55

He was referring to the seed of Robert Baratheon. Besides what @stonemetal said about not a single Baratheon having blonde hair, Robert had quite a few bastards. Not a single one of them had the hair of his mother. All of the bastards strongly resembled Robert.

So Jon Arryn along with Stannis became suspicious about the fact that all of the 'legitimate' children of Robert and Cersei's are blonde and strongly resemble the Lannister bloodline.

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Strong in the sense that all of Robert's bastards really looked like Robert and not their mothers. – Shevliaskovic Aug 19 '14 at 16:47
Convincing rather than powerful? – Vinz243 Aug 19 '14 at 16:48
However, it could be noted that all of Robert's bastards do posses a level of his (Robert's) physical strength as well. It was always stated that in his youth Robert had incredible strength and vigor, especially on the battlefield while wiedling his war hammer. Gendry posseses at least some of that physical strength, no doubt coming from his work as a blacksmith's aprentice as well as genetics. – Monty129 Aug 19 '14 at 17:27
@Vinz243 the seed refers to the sperm – Shevliaskovic Aug 19 '14 at 17:31
@Vinz243 It might be a good question to ask on English.StackExchange if you're having difficulty understanding the multiple meanings of "strong". – TylerH Aug 19 '14 at 18:24

He was talking about the king, and how Joffrey wasn't the rightful heir. He had been doing research into all known Baratheon offspring including Robert's bastards to see if there had ever been a golden haired Baratheon. There hadn't been, so "the seed is strong" means it tends to overpower other physical traits in offspring.

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What evidence do you have that "seed" is a term used to denote hair or hair colour? – Lightness Races in Orbit Aug 19 '14 at 16:39… "After his daughters note that Joffrey Baratheon has blonde hair, Lord Stark checks the Lineage and Histories, and discovers that all members of House Baratheon are described as "black of hair", except for the "golden headed" Joffrey, leading Ned to realize that Joffrey and his siblings may not be Robert's biological children, and thus not rightful heirs" At least in the show they link it to hair color, but physical appearance in general not necessarily hair color. – stonemetal Aug 19 '14 at 16:42
None... "seed" denotes the male genetic materials, which modern people know to have dominant or recessive traits, but even medieval knew that if the child looked like someone else it implied the presumptive father... wasn't. – gowenfawr Aug 19 '14 at 16:43
@LightnessRacesinOrbit No one suggested it did. However hair color was a physical trait noted in the big book of blood lines so was easiest to trace over generations. – stonemetal Aug 19 '14 at 16:52
Pre-industrial people didn't know genetics as such, but they understood breeding and cross-breeding well enough to come up with hundreds of different breeds of cattle, crops, dogs, etc. They may have been ignorant but they weren't stupid. – Joe L. Aug 19 '14 at 20:08

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