In season one of the TV show, Eddard Stark discovers the book which the previous Hand was after. It contains the family trees and descriptions of the houses of Westeros; he discovers that people from house Baratheon usually are dark-haired. However, Joffrey is blonde. Eddard seems to conclude that Robert cannot be Joffrey's father.

If I recall correctly, this conclusion is incorrect according to human genetics; the dark-haired Robert and the blonde Cersei could very well have blonde children. Is this true? Does human heredity simply work differently in Westeros?

  • 2
    I think that was Ned Stark, and not Robb...
    – Pier
    Commented Apr 20, 2013 at 20:22
  • I edited that :)
    – Kalissar
    Commented Apr 20, 2013 at 20:37
  • He is also blonde in the books, and with curly hair at that.
    – Solemnity
    Commented Apr 21, 2013 at 3:54
  • I thought GRRM had said that genetics works different in Westeros, but I can't find a quote. Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 11:50

6 Answers 6


Hmmm. I don't think genetics work differently in Westeros. What's more important is how the characters of Westeros perceive genetics to work. As the book demonstrates, every Baratheon child previously has had the typical dark Baratheon features, and so it is not a stretch for the characters of this world to suppose that he cannot be a true Baratheon based on this knowledge, in the absence of anything to the contrary. Remember, just because a Baratheon child could have had light hair, doesn't mean one that one has to have been born before, and so this theory would seem to hold true to the people of Westeros. That is why this discovery is so important, because without the availability of any kind of genetic testing, this is the only evidence available and as such it places a massive amount of doubt on Joffrey's legitimacy.

  • 6
    +1; the characters simply don't know that genetics even exists, never mind how it works, so a PoV opinion given by one of them should not be read as any indication of anything - the same could have (and probably did) happen many times in Earth's history and yet nobody would claim that genetics suddenly started working different on Earth in recent times; why do so for Westeros?
    – user8719
    Commented Apr 20, 2013 at 22:27
  • 1
    @mh01 OQ should possibly have used 'hereditary features' instead of 'genetics'. It's not a modern discovery that black-haired people usually produce black-haired children or that there are strong family traits.
    – Solemnity
    Commented Apr 21, 2013 at 3:28

You are correct that a Baratheon child could have been born with blonde hair. What made Ned really suspicious was the fact that Robert had quite a few bastards here and there, and every single one of them strongly resembled Robert (the father) and not the mother, especially in the hair and the eyes, whereas Robert's 'legitimate' looked nothing like him.

This is the reason Jon Arryn said

The seed is strong

to his wife Lysa Tully and King Robert Baratheon when he was dying.


The key point you are missing is that Ned (and Jon Arryn before him) had discovered that every offspring of a Baratheon and a Lannister, the child was dark-haired, thus proving that the Baratheon hair was dominant and showing that none of Cersei's children were Robert's.

  • So, anonymous downvoter. Is my answer incorrect?
    – Ryan Reich
    Commented Sep 9, 2014 at 4:00
  • I can’t speak for the anonymous downvoter, but I don’t think that the TV show made it clear that Ned looked at every Baratheon/Lannister offspring. So it’s less that the OP missed that, and more that the show didn’t convey that. Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 16:39

This scene was simplified for the show. In the books, Eddard looks through the book at all previous children born from a Baratheon father and a Lannister mother (it may have been Lannister father and Baratheon mother as well) throughout the entire history recorded in that particular book. Every one of them was born with the Baratheon brown hair. This is what prompted his realization that Joffery was not Robert's son.

In the show, he only looks at the recent Baratheons, noticing that all but Joffery have brown hair. It is possible that this prompted him to look closer at the lineages offscreen.

I would think that all previous children born of Baratheon-Lannister parentage having brown hair would be a much more concrete indication of infidelity than just the hair color of Robert and his brothers. I think it was just changed so that it would play better on TV where writers cannot give as much details as in books


Let's draw an analogy to "our" scientific history. Genetics wasn't really discovered until the late 1850's by Gregor Mendel. This was post industrial revolution, where society had better tools and knowledge to make scientific advancements. The realm of Westeros is clearly pre-industrial revolution, and likely simply hasn't made that discovery yet.

Let's go with that instead of presuming science works differently somehow. If that were the case, we could pretty much dispute anything in any work anywhere.

  • 1
    So the fact that there are dragons is fine, but presuming science works differently in a work of fantasy is ridiculous to you?
    – Monty129
    Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 19:38
  • Not to mention zombies! but ek778 has a point, but do we even know if the people of Westeros are in fact human? Commented Sep 9, 2014 at 13:56

Remember, Ned seemed to think that the blonde Princelings were Robert's. He never suspected any foul play until suspicious death of Jon Arryn.

Ned didn't really have a grasp of how genetics work of course. He simply saw the precedent and found out that whenever Black haired Baratheon and Blonde Lannisters bred, the off-spring had black hair. He did not realize it even after reading the records over and over again until Sansa pointed out to him that Joffrey was nothing like Robert. He just didn't see anything weird with Joffrey and his siblings being blonds.

“He is!” Sansa insisted. “I don’t want someone brave and gentle, I want him. We’ll be ever so happy, just like in the songs, you’ll see. I’ll give him a son with golden hair, and one day he’ll be the king of all the realm, the greatest king that ever was, as brave as the wolf and as proud as the lion.”

Arya made a face. “Not if Joffrey’s his father,” she said. “He’s a liar and a craven and anyhow he’s a stag, not a lion.”

Sansa felt tears in her eyes. “He is not! He’s not the least bit like that old drunken king,” she screamed at her sister, forgetting herself in her grief. Father looked at her strangely.

“Gods, “ he swore softly, “out of the mouth of babes...”
AGOT - Chapter 44

That's when everything from Arryn's death, Bran's fall, Stannis' retreat started making sense. It had to be that. It appeared to be the natural and logical conclusion to him.

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, when Tya Lannister wed Gowen Baratheon, third son of the reigning lord. Their only issue, an unnamed boy described in Malleon’s tome as a large and lusty lad born with a full head of black hair, died in infancy. Thirty years before that a male Lannister had taken a Baratheon maid to wife. She had given him three daughters and a son, each black- haired. No matter how far back Ned searched in the brittle yellowed pages, always he found the gold yielding before the coal.
AGOT - Chapter 45

Even the bastards like Gendry and Barra whose mothers had light hair inherited the Baratheon Black Locks from Robert. As Ned says, everytime gold yielded before the coal.

Also in another context, the author said:

"I don't know if I want to get into genetics - this is fantasy, not scifi" He replied.

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