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."

A Game of Thrones, Eddard V

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?


5 Answers 5


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

A Game of Thrones, Catelyn VI

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 described 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.

A Game of Thrones, Eddard XII

  • 1
    the most complete answer and therefore +1. Aug 19, 2014 at 17:56
  • I thought Jon & Lysa's kid was named Robyn?
    – Omegacron
    Aug 19, 2014 at 18:56
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    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, 2014 at 19:17
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    "seed is slang for sperm" -- in terms of the etymology, "sperm" is Greek for "seed" :-) Aug 20, 2014 at 14:55
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    @SteveJessop Right, or rather "seed" is English for "sperm", as "semen" is Latin. The translators of the King James Bible used "seed" rather than "sperm" or "semen", so I wouldn't call it slangy.
    – user14111
    Aug 24, 2017 at 9:15

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.

  • 3
    Strong in the sense that all of Robert's bastards really looked like Robert and not their mothers. Aug 19, 2014 at 16:47
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    Convincing rather than powerful?
    – Vinz243
    Aug 19, 2014 at 16:48
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    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, 2014 at 17:27
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    @Vinz243 the seed refers to the sperm Aug 19, 2014 at 17:31
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    @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, 2014 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.

  • What evidence do you have that "seed" is a term used to denote hair or hair colour? Aug 19, 2014 at 16:39
  • gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/… "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, 2014 at 16:42
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    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, 2014 at 16:43
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    @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, 2014 at 16:52
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    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, 2014 at 20:08

I was pondering other theories of Game of Thrones, "Hold the Door" and "Burn Them All", and it came to me that what if "the seed is strong" is also another one of these events.

In the TV show young Hodor is portrayed as simple and could be warged into and taken over, in both the book and show Bran's ability to warg into Hodor is fact. King Areys is known to be crazy and therefor Bran should also be able to warg into him or tip him over the edge. But, Jon Arryn is, I feel, a smart and head strong person and I think this would have stopped Bran from warging in.

There is reference in the books to Hodor trying to fight it the first few times but he is weak. So Jon should be able to fight it off, block it or hear only a voice like Ned Stark hearing "father" in both the book and show. When Jon becomes weakened from the poison this could change allowing Bran to win his way in to deliver the message.

People talk in book/show of Jon Arryn's death described his behavior as acting odd and repetitively going on about "the seed is strong". Which seed he is talking about or why he needed to use Jon Arryn to deliver the message I'm not sure. Perhaps to get Ned to investigate and discover the truth of the Lannister's bastards to remove then from contention to the throne as he may have played the Lord of Light to remove the Baratheons.

  • 1
    I've edited this so that i is easier to read with paragraph breaks. I've also corrected some of the spelling mistakes that were throughout the post, can you take more care when answering in the future as there were quite a lot and some obvious ones. Also whilst this is an entertaining theory I don't think it's correct. I highly doubt Bran had any part in Jon Arryn saying those words.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Nov 8, 2018 at 13:26

Seeing the last episode, made me suddenly think about the words of Jon Arryn..."The seed is strong". He was poisoned by Lysa, who didn't know the secret of the Lannisters, nor did Petyr Baelish. So why would he utter the same to the king, queen, Lysa and Pycelle. Maybe he was talking about Jon Snow. Maybe he found out that through Maynard's book and while doing investigation on that he found out about the Lannisters.

  • I thought Baelish did know the secret of the Lannisters?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Aug 29, 2017 at 10:26

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