In Season 7 Episode 7, The Dragon and the Wolf:

When Bran goes in his vision to see Rhaegar and Lyanna getting married he mentions that Robert's rebellion was built on a lie.

Per my understanding it was not. Robert and Starks were not aware about this. Ned only came to know (If Lyanna told him all) only in the end of the war and others were never aware.

Wouldn't it be more appropriate to say that his rebellion was built on a misunderstanding?

I know books have not gone that far but it will be fine if answer can provide context from the books.

  • 17
    It was built on a lie, they just didnt know it
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 8:04
  • 14
    Maybe I'm repeating what @TheLethalCoder said, but "built on a lie" implies intentional lying, which isn't the case. It would be more correct to call it "built on a mistake". I guess that could be considered a semantical answer to your question, as you're already aware that neither Robert nor Ned knew about Lyanna eloping.
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 8:22
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    @Flater I think you're being too pedantic in this case. "Lie" here means "misunderstanding".
    – user428517
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 15:39
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    @sgroves: If I responded now with "I was lying", would you understand that I mean I was mistaken? No you wouldn't. The most widely accepted definition of lying is the following: “A lie is a statement made by one who does not believe it with the intention that someone else shall be led to believe it” (Isenberg 1973, 248)
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 15:44
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    @Flater No, because context matters in English. "Built on a lie" is a set phrase that native speakers should be able to interpret as "built on a misunderstanding". Language is defined by usage, not by dictionaries. Again, you are being pedantic and prescriptivist here.
    – user428517
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 15:59

4 Answers 4


Expanding on Edlothiad's answer, The War never was about Lyanna's abduction! I blame the singers for making out that it was fought as such because fighting for love is better for songs than fighting for your life.

See the timeline of these events.

Tourney of Harrenhal happened in 281 AC in which Rhaegar crowned Lyanna as Queen of Love and Beauty. When the Starks were on their way to Riverrun afterwards for Brandon's marriage, Rhaegar abducted Lyanna.

Brandon went to King's Landing to challenge Prince Rhaegar to "Come out and die". There he got himself imprisoned, the fool along with his friends Elbert Arryn, Jeffory Mallister, Kyle Royce and his squire Ethan Glover. Royal summons went to fathers of the captives, including but not exclusively, Rickard Stark.

Rickard travelled all the way to King's Landing as did fathers of the other captives. Aerys had them all killed (Except Ethan Glover).

How long do you think it took for them to travel? The captives and their fathers, all of them? Months presumably? Or at least Weeks?

Nobody raised any banners for Lyanna, nobody called their sworn swords. Everyone was just watching.

With all the prisoners executed, still no one lifted a finger. However we must note that we do not know how much time did pass between the execution of prisoners and Royal edict calling for deaths of Ned and Bobby B. It could be that they received the word from the same bird that brought the royal command for execution of the young Lords. Still, the realm did nothing in the months of prelude before the war broke out.

The factor which actually started the war was Aerys' orders to have the young Lords Robert and Eddard executed. That's when Jon Arryn called his banners. Not for rescuing Lyanna and returning her back to her betrothed, but to save the lives of his foster sons. This was the year 282 AC.

As you can see, if Robert's Rebellion was indeed built on rescuing Lyanna, why didn't it break out as soon as Lyanna was abducted? Or as soon as Brandon was arrested as the monarch didn't appear to be in the mood to legally return the abducted girl? Brave Lord Robert did nothing till then, remarkable for someone whose words are "Ours is the Fury", no Fury was seen at all. Brave Lord Eddard didn't either even though Winter had come for House Stark. Neither did the honorable Lord Jon Arryn whose words were "As High as Honor". Nor did Lord Hoster Tully who boasted "Family, Duty, Honor". The Silence of the Lions of the Rock who proudly carved "Hear me Roar" on their gates and sigil was deafening. Lord Reaver of Pyke was pretending he wasn't even there. There are your Rebels, such as they are, the Glorious Honorable Lords who supposedly fought against the grave injustice done to Poor Robert Baratheon when bad Dragonprince stole away his Wolf-love.

Robert's Rebellion was based on only one thing, which was the lives and safety of the Young Lords Stark and Baratheon. It was never about Lyanna even though Robert personally wanted Lyanna more than he wanted a crown. But since he never rose until the alternative was his death, We can assume that he wanted his life more than Lyanna.

So Robert's Rebellion wasn't based on a lie. It was based on a truth, the sole truth which is the survival instinct of every living thing. It's just that Bran has been fed the lies that it was to rescue Lyanna.

  • 6
    We don't know if they already conspired about a rebellion and prematurely raised banners when Aerys forced them too. But even if they did, the real planning in my opinion still only would have started after the first round of executions, not the "abduction". +1 that the latter was massively played up by the singers as THE reason for the war.
    – Annatar
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 12:18
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    @Annatar, indeed, there are many reasons to suspect that tourney of Harrenhal was actually an informal Great Council called to depose King Aerys , financed by either Tywin Lannister or Rhaegar himself. The odd southern alliances of rickard stark are intriguing as well given how little did The Northmen show interest in South since the conquest. Aerys, for all we know, preempted them, even if unknowingly
    – Aegon
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 12:22
  • I like your answer, but do we know how long it was between Aerys wanting their heads and the deaths of all the prisoners? Robert could've wanted to rebel the entire time, but was held back by Jon. Only when Jon felt personally threatened and the deaths of the prisoners clear was there a real cause for rebellion. I think you've over dramatised the events, but yes, it was the call for the ward's heads which led to the rebellion.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 12:22
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    @Edlothiad, Very true. It could have been that they received the word of executions from the same raven that brought the royal execution orders for Ned and Bobby B. Jon didn't feel threatened personally however, the Royal edict had nothing about Lord Arryn. He did what he did just for his wards.
    – Aegon
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 12:27
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    “How long do you think it took for them to travel? The captives and their fathers, all of them? Months presumably? Or at least Weeks?” Were season 7 rules in force? If so, anything between 36 hours and 10 minutes. Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 14:17

The "misunderstanding" is the lie. According to Bran

From Bran's point of view, Robert's rebellion was built on the lie that Brandon was told about Rhaegar "kidnapping and raping" Lyanna. This point of view his held by most of Westeros as the reason for Robert's rebellion. As Aegon describes, this is the likely because the singers sang a tale of love and loss, a more compelling song, then that of the defence of their own live.

However, in reality, Robert's Rebellion was built on the premise that Ned and Robert's heads were wanted for the treasonous acts undertaken by Brandon Stark. It was then and ONLY then when Jon raised his banners and sent his wards to do the same at Winterfell and Storm's End. Although the rebellion only began with the call for the heads of the wards, there is no reason for us to think Robert didn't plea to be allowed to rise up against the king and claim back his betrothed, however after the death of Rickard, Brandon and their companions and the call for the death of the two wards was there real reason for a revolution.

Brandon's treasonous acts: riding up to the Red Keep and asking for Rhaegar's head for stealing Lyanna. After Brandon and Rickard were killed, Aerys asked for Eddard and Robert's heads. When Jon Arryn refused, he raised his banners, as well as those of Eddard (now Lord of Winterfell) and Robert in Rebellion.

The reason they thought she must've been kidnapped was because she was betrothed to Robert. Why would she run away? However had they known she wanted to marry the Prince, and willingly consummated the marriage, Brandon and therefore Rickard wouldn't have asked for Rhaegar's head and their deaths wouldn't have lead to Robert's Rebellion.

In conclusion, therefore the "lie" the rebellion is based on is that Rhaegar kidnapped and raped Lyanna.

  • Great answer. I was just about to ask a follow up why they assumed that she was kidnapped and why no-one explained the misunderstanding to them, but your answer touches on that as well.
    – Narusan
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 8:16
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    Can it not be argued that Aerys' overreaction (killing Brandon) caused the rebellion? If Aerys had merely denied Brandon's claim (which Aerys in fact could have correctly done if he was aware of them eloping, though I'm not sure if he was aware of that at the time), then the Starks would've been disgruntled but not necessarily up in arms. Analogously: if I think you took my money (turns out you didn't), and you break my jaw for accusing you, and then you get arrested; then you will have been arrested because you broke my jaw, not because I falsely accused you of stealing.
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 8:18
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    @RichardC I don't see why Rickard would be upset with marrying their daughter into the Royal line. Especially as her children would now be the heirs. If they were unhappy, they would just talk to Lyanna, and not charge the Red Keep and ask for Rhaegar's head. Robert would still be unhappy, but you wouldn't have a good reason to start a revolution "because she loved him more than me".
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 8:24
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    Answer makes sense but what Brandan, Rickard, Robert and Ned did was based on their understanding which was incorrect and should be called misunderstanding instead of a lie. It would have been a lie if they knew that Lyanna and Rhaegar eloped together and still started the rebellion telling everyone that Rhaegar has kidnapped her.
    – HBhatia
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 8:25
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    @RichardC: Robert B would not have been happy, but he would have no leg to stand on. Lyanna eloped with Rhaegar willingly, no crime was committed. The Starks could punish Lyanna (behind closed doors) for betraying her betrothal to Robert, but she didn't commit a crime as such. I do agree with your notion that Aerys' rule was already a powder keg (similar to how Franz Ferdinand's death kicked off World War I, but it could just as well have been any other diplomatic crisis)
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 8:27

"Built on a Lie" is a saying in English that carries meaning beyond its component parts.

Something can be "Built on a Lie" without there being deception or misdirection at the core. An error of premise, a foundation of something that is not true, and a large chain of events that fall off of it is sufficient for this term to be used and understood.

The details; how the "abduction" led to war -- is part of the "built on a" sub phrase. The Starks believing in the abduction, demand justice in a way that reads as treason. The punishment for Treason is meted out (death), and extended to their family. Their allies feel honor bound not to betray their wards, refuse to give up their family, and raise their banners in refusal. The central authority, who feels it cannot in pride accept that, raises its banners to put down this rebellion. Allies and friends of the defenders raise their banners in return, as the King seems to be enforcing an unjust response to an unjust act, and a civil war breaks out.

That being said, it may be the case that there was a Lie here; the Starks reached a conclusion that Lyanna was abducted as opposed to Eloped. It is possible that (off-camera) someone who knew better lied, or someone expressed certainty beyond grounds and convinced them that this occurred.


Adding to Aegon's answer:

The rebellion was a long time coming. Targaryen rule of Westeros was in decay, as is metonimized by the decay of their dragons. Aerys was more of a symptom then a cause. The Dragons had been the basic instrument for 1-up'ing the Westerosi; without them, there's tradition and inertia, but a ruling family needs to maintain stability and some level of prosperity, or as a second best make sure their potential rivals are kept from allying with each other. The Targaryens were certainly not great at doing that, with their constant infighting (Blackfyre rebellions) and their psychological stability issues.

There seems to have been quite a bit of conspiracy going on well before the Lyanna-Rhaegar affair, including the decisions to have Eddard and Robert be fostered at the Eyrie, but I can't source that (perhaps others can help in comments?)

Finally, we should probably not ignore the slow, subtle but determined involvement of the Citadel and perhaps house Hightower. This has not yet come to light fully in the books; but we've already learned from Marwyn that they was they had more than a hand in the Dance of the Dragons. (And I have this feeling that something is up with Lord Leyton being holed up in that tower of his for so long.)

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