I've heard speculation that Jon Snow's actual parents may be Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark, but in reading the books I'm not sure what evidence could be used to support this conclusion. I thought there might have been something in the conversation Davos had before being smuggled into White Harbor, but I couldn't stretch anything that far.

What evidence do proponents of this theory cite? Does any of it involve stuff in the texts or just sweeping generalizations of the characters' personalities (e.g. "Ned Stark is too honorable to father a bastard").

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    I feel a little stupid for this having never occurred to me... Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 11:50
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    @OmarKooheji: Don't. You're not alone. It never occurred to me either. Learned about it from discussion forums. I didn't pick up on Renly/Loras either. Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 23:40
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    @System Down I watched the series and was like WTF when I saw Renly /Loras my girl friend was like yeah that was totally obvious in the book... Commented Nov 21, 2011 at 14:24
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    See also the question on Movies & TV SE: movies.stackexchange.com/questions/18892
    – b_jonas
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 17:35

10 Answers 10


Like the previous answer stated, its a very big and expansive issue. But I'll list a few highlights:

Reasons to doubt that Eddard is Jon's father:

  • Eddard is honorable to a fault and, from what we've seen, extremely self disciplined.

  • In a flashback, when pressed by his wife he only states that Jon is "his blood", never outright saying that he is his father. Eddard being coy with words to avoid a lie?

  • Eddard always avoids speaking of his possible parenting of Jon. Shame at a youthful lapse of honor? Or to hide something else?

  • In the TV version, just before Jon leaves for the Wall, Eddard promises Jon that when they meet again he will discuss Jon's parentage with him, implying that until then Eddard has something to hide.

Reasons to affirm that Eddard is Jon's father:

  • In the aforementioned investigation by Catelyn, a recurring rumor was that the mother was Ashara Dayne. It is implied by other flashbacks (principally the story of the Knight of the Laughing Tree) that Ashara and Eddard shared a mutual attraction.

  • When pressed by Robert, Eddard claims the mother is a servant girl named Wylla. Edric Dayne claims to Arya Stark that Wylla was his wet nurse (making him Jon's milk brother), giving more credence to the story, and that Wylla was not just a name Eddard made up to shut people up.

Reasons that imply Jon is Lyanna Stark's son:

  • A recurring dream/flashback of Eddard's is arriving at Lyanna's death bed, drenched in blood and her extracting a "promise" from Ned. It is speculated that this scene is Lyanna dying from birth complications, and asking Ned to hide her child.

  • It is mentioned more than once that Jon looks a lot like Arya. And Arya herself greatly resembles her dead aunt; Lyanna. Hereditary Stark look? Or an indication about who Jon's mother is?

Reasons that imply Jon is a Targaryen-Stark:

  • It is implied by many flashbacks (mainly of the tourney at Harrenhall) that there existed an affair between Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark.

    When Arstan Whitebeard and Daenerys are speaking during the battle of Yunkai:

    “But that was the tourney when he [Rhaegar] crowned Lyanna Stark as queen of love and beauty!” said Dany. “Princess Elia was there, his wife, and yet my brother gave the crown to the Stark girl, and later stole her away from her betrothed. ..."

    -A Song of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords, Pt. 2 (Blood and Gold).

  • During the sack of King's Landing that won Robert the throne, while Targaryens were being slaughtered left and right; three of the Kingsguard (almost half!) were deployed to guard the Tower of Joy, where Lyanna was. If Lyanna were just a prisoner (as Robert claims) why all the security? Perhaps they were guarding something very precious to Rhaegar?

  • Many prophecies claim that the "Song of Ice and Fire" will be humanity's salvation. Rhaegar was obsessed with them. Ice = Stark, Fire = Targaryen?

That's all I can remember at the moment. But I'm sure there are more.

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    Another one to add: Apparently Lyanna loved blue roses. In one of Dany's visions, there is a blue rose growing out of the Wall. More here: westeros.org/Citadel/FAQ/Entry/2291
    – Ash
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 9:26
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    Considering Robert's feelings for Lyanna, there's a good chance that the Wylla story was there to protect Robert
    – Dan Kelly
    Commented Mar 11, 2013 at 13:42
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    @Kalissar - It's in the first book. Ned has just found out that Arya has a sword and is telling Arya about the "Wolf's Blood" that some Starks have. He tells her that her aunt Lyanna had a touch of it, and that she looks like her which makes him worried. Arya is surprised since she knows that Lyanna was beautiful and she perceives herself as not. Most of Arya's perceived ugliness is due to her tomboyish nature and not caring for her appearance. When Lady Smallwood dresses up Arya, Gendry compliments her on how pretty she looks. Give her time, many beauties are late bloomers. Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 15:10
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    At the present moment on the books, there is only one survivor left from the assault to the Tower of Joy: Howland Reed. I bet we'll know the truth from his lips
    – Bardo
    Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 12:55
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    @Bardo - Repeat with me "Howland Reed's in the next book and it's coming out soon. Howland Reed's in the next book and it's coming out soon!" Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 15:53

I'm surprised no one mentioned the scene that ends with Ned resigning his position of Hand of the King, because that was the moment that finally gave it away for me.

When I first read it, I figured it to be Ned only being who is he, a very honourable man, refusing to take part in such heinous acts. On rereading it, it came to me that Ned protested too vehemently, that it was personal to him. And when Robert said he would kill all the "Dragonspawn" that he could find, everything came together.

Ned was not just protecting Daenerys, who he does not even know, he was protecting Lyanna's son. Promise me, Ned.

Read the passage, you will see it too.

Also, as mentioned, Ned is a very controlled, very strictly honourable man. It is hard to imagine him fathering a bastard. It is however easy to imagine him sacrificing his own honour to protect someone else. Much like Robb did when he married Jeyne Westerling.

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    Nice point! Never occurred to me before. Time for a reread methinks. Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 2:02
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    @SystemDown Indeed. The problem is, every time I find out something new, I just have to reread. I've reread ASOIAF so many times I can actually quote a great many things verbatim. =)
    – TLP
    Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 2:29
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    You're right of course and I've grown bored with the whole issue because there's a clue virtually every other chapter that Jon is the child of Rhaegar and Lyanna and I'm tired of enumerating them. There are also counter-factual clues where the apparent opposite is stated. For example, Tyrion wondering who Jon's mother was that she left so little of herself in how Jon's looks (because he appears so strongly a Stark). The irony is that his MOTHER was the Stark and it's his father whom he doesn't take after. Ned's repeated use of "you are of my blood" rather than "you are my son" is another. Commented Mar 4, 2013 at 17:58
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    @TheMathemagician A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness. Daenerys' prophecy from the House of the Undying. However in ADWD, it is hinted at that Jon might be the son of a fishwife.
    – TLP
    Commented Mar 4, 2013 at 18:08
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    @user1129682 No, it is not invalid. You are just having a brainfart. GRRM does not say "Jon looks like Lyanna", he is more subtle and says "The only sibling who looks like Arya is Jon" and "Arya looks like Lyanna."
    – TLP
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 21:53

This question is the subject of endless discussions here, and IMHO it is way too big to be answered here. There are many subtle hints and clues that are being interpreted to support this theory. The timing of Jon's birth, Lyanna's saying "Promise me, Ned..." before she died, the fact that Ned never really talks about Jon's mother, the various prophecies about the dragon having 3 heads, about the prince that was promised, Raegar's obsession with those prophecies, etc., etc., etc.

And yes, Ned is way too honorable to father a bastard. He is honorable to the point of being utterly stupid. While there are several theories about who Jon's parents really are (Raegar and Lyanna, Brandon Stark and Ashara Dane), I think there is a prevailing opinion that Ned is not his father.

The point is, we'll never know for sure, until George Martin tells us. But it is fun to speculate about it nevertheless. Please see the forums on westeros.org for details.

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    I saw the forum thread(s), but I wasn't getting much after reading a few pages, and looking through 100-200 more didn't seem appealing. I hoped someone more familiar with the argument could give us the highlights :P
    – Nick T
    Commented Nov 14, 2011 at 23:24

I think it is worth noting that when Sam told Jon of his intention to claim Gilly's son as his own so that he may be fostered at Horn Hill, he asked Jon if there was honor in that lie. Jon replied that there was. I can easily imagine that this was meant to parallel similar circumstances that may surround Jon's parentage. Ned may have told an honorable lie as well when he claimed Jon as his bastard.


Just after season six finished, HBO released this infographic, showing the various links between characters. There are two black lines, indicating parentage, leading from Jon Snow's icon. We now know for certain that Jon Snow's parents are Lyanna Stark, sister of Ned, and Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. This confirms the long-held R+L=J theory, as well as making Jon Snow the nephew of Daenerys, since Rhaegar was her older brother.

enter image description here

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    Lol, "abducted"
    – Möoz
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 5:14
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    To be fair, this only confirms parentage in the TV show, not necessarily in the book universe.
    – Jim Conant
    Commented Aug 5, 2016 at 17:17
  • Yes, and the question is specifically tagged with the books tag and not the show tag.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 10:39

Well, after reading the other answers it be became clear to me that Jon Snow was Lyanna and Rhaegar's son. Nonetheless some things are missing to Snow to make him Rhaegar's son (he fears the fire, he does not look like Rhaegar...)

However, in the first chapter of Davis in ADWD Lord Godric says :

At the dawn of Robert' rebellion. The mad King had sent to the Eyrie for Stark' head [...] The fisherman drowned, but his daughter got Stark to the Sisters before the boat went down. They say he left her with a bag of silver and a bastard in her belly.Jon Snow he was called [...].

It may be just a tale or a lie, but I still wanted to add to this.


Regarding Jon being a Targaryen, but not having the look remember when Aemon is talking about the prophecy:

"that the prince is born of blood and fire?"

Well, we all know what happens at the end of Book 5, that's the blood part. And if he is dead and is brought back by Melisandre then that's the fire part and when Jon comes back he will have been born of blood and fire. After this its likely that his appearance will be effected...so he may look more Targaryen, yet...


An alternate parentage is quite likely. Jon as Ice (snow) and Daenerys as Fire (dragonfire). This is possibly the main thrust of the narrative. I also don't see Ned allowing his wife to treat Jon as he does if Jon is his son (though a caring uncle might let that conflict slide). If he's a Targaryen, he'd be even more conflicted.

Daenerys wasn't just told she wouldn't get her Sun and Stars back. She was given a prophecy instead. When the sun rises in the west, etc, she would be able to have a living child again. Lloyd Alexander's series has a similar prophecy "a river of fire" and "night turns to day". Seen as a prophecy for the next time Daenerys will love (Jon Snow), some big and crazy things need to happen but that's what you'd expect at the climax of a story this big. Them ruling as a Song of Ice and Fire would cement the story and give us all both southron humbling and the complete end of House Baratheon of Kings Landing (sic) AKA our ever unpopular Lannister rulers, and the reelevation of Stark to Warden of the North.


Reasons to doubt that Jon snow isn't Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark's son:

  1. As mentioned, Ned is a very controlled, very strictly honourable man. It is hard to imagine him fathering a bastard. Although, when Ned Killed Arthur Dayne, he travels only to return the Dawn sword. It's very hard to imagine a strictly honourable man traveling with a newborn, heir of all seven kingdoms, his nephew, son of his beloved recent-killed sister, a child that he swore to protect, only to return a sword.

  2. For that reason, it's much more likely to imagine that he goes to Dayne's house to find some help in the house of the man who was described as the closest friend of Rhaegar Targaryen, and a natural place that could protect Rhaegar's son.

  3. Ned is described as a very heavily guilty man in the first book. Every man that lives a life trying to follow his honor knows that the pains come everywhere, but suffering and guilt comes only when you do what you believe is wrong.

  4. When Ned resigned his position as Hand of the King, and refused to take part in Dayneri's murder and her son, I totally agree that he protested too vehemently, because it was personal to him. Personal in the guilty way, not in the honorable way. He misses his duty and these means that he didn't protects Lyanna's son as he promised to her. For that reason I believe that Lyanna's son unfortunately dies in Dwayne's house.

  5. This goes in the right direction of the guilty part of Ned's history. It is however easy to imagine him sacrificing his own honour to protect someone else. But I think his honor and his self-sacrifice, in some way, make Ashara Dwayne's suicide. Why should Ned brings a bastard to his own place? I really think Jon came to make Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark's son a proper funeral or to be created there in the place of Ashara Dwayne's Bastard, Jon Snow.

  6. Concluding, i think Ned acted as honourable as he could, but this sacrifice leads him in a guilty spiral. He took off Ashara Dayne's bastard, Jon Snow, and leave him to Winterfell. But with which right? Probabily the blood right. Perhaps his own, wath i think it's not, perhaps his brother blood, "his blood" in his own words. Which makes Jon Snow also a Stark.


Jon Snow cannot be the son of Rhaegar Targaryen. If he were Rhaegar Targaryen son he would have "blood of the Dragon" and fire would not burn him. Yet in his fight with the one of the White Walkers deadmen he is burned badly by the fire he uses to kill it.

Any other thoughts on why he was affected by fire while Dany was unaffected by the Pyre?

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    Dany is not immune to fire - the pyre was a one-time magical event. She has been burnt at other times. Furthermore multiple Targaryens have been killed by fire. Read this thread for the relevant quotes: asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/topic/…. There are two direct quotes from GRRM: "it was never the case that all Targaryens are immune to all fire at all times" (westeros.org/Citadel/SSM/Entry/945) and "TARGARYENS ARE NOT IMMUNE TO FIRE!" (westeros.org/Citadel/SSM/Entry/1428)
    – user12784
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 17:51
  • Plenty of Tagaryens died due to fire, they are not all fully immune to fire. Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 14:26

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