Game of Thrones' Jon Snow - who are his parents, why does it matter, and is he the Warrior of Light?

It can be tricky to keep track of who is who, and what’s happening in Game of Thrones. If you’ve made it this far, you’re likely quite familiar with the show and its various twists and turns, but it’s tough to know all the finer details talked about by hardcore fans. The biggest talking point of season 6, which will inevitably feed into Game of Thrones season 7, is that Jon Snow isn’t who you think he is. So, who the hell is he?

Who was Jon Snow?

In seasons 1-5 (and for most of 6) we assumed Jon Snow was the bastard son of Ned Stark (Sean Bean). When Ned was alive he told everyone that he returned from war, fighting alongside Robert Baratheon (who was King in season 1), with a son. That son was Jon, and because he was born out of wedlock, he was a bastard. In Game of Thrones bastard children take names like Snow and Sand, regardless of their parentage. When questioned about who the mother of Jon was, Ned would never give an answer. Anyone who knew Ned admitted it was strange that he’d be unfaithful to Caitlin, his wife, and father an illegitimate child - Ned was always faithful, principled, and fiercely loyal. He’s executed in season 1 before revealing the truth about Jon’s mother and… we assumed the secret had died with him.

So, who is Jon’s mother?

Anyone who watched to the end of season 6 knows that Lyanna Stark, Ned’s sister, is Jon’s mother. Ned didn’t father Jon at all - he adopted him during the war after defeating Ser Arthur Dayne at the Tower of Joy in an attempt to rescue his sister. We learn all of this through Bran’s flashbacks during season 6. Although Ned does reach Lyanna, she dies in childbirth and Ned adopts her child as his own. So, the real question becomes… who is Jon’s father?

Before Game of Thrones starts Rhaegar Targaryen - eldest son of Aerys The Mad King, who Robert Baratheon overthrows (and who Jaime Lannister kills, earning him the name Kingslayer) - kidnaps Lyanna Stark and keeps her locked away in the Tower of Joy, which is where Ned finds her. He’s Jon’s father, which makes Jon technically Targaryen and Stark, placing him in an enormously powerful position. How powerful? Is he the rightful heir to Winterfell? Although families in Game of Thrones run by male succession, Lyanna Stark was older than Ned, so had a good claim to become head of the house before she died. With both her and Ned dead, a son of the older Stark would have a better claim than a daughter (Sansa) or son (Bran) of the younger one. If, that is, Jon was legitimate, which he isn’t… Technically, Sansa has the better claim to Winterfell. Even if Jon has been ‘crowned’ King in the North. It’s a sticky one, for sure.

(Image: © HBO)

Ok, does this mean he can be King?

What’s even more interesting is that Rhaegar (Jon’s father) was part of the Targaryen royal family, who were displaced when Robert Baratheon rose up and killed the Mad King Aerys. With Aerys dead, the throne should have passed to Rhaegar, his eldest son. Failing that, the Throne should then have gone to Viserys (dead - got a crown of gold in season 1) and then Daenerys. In case you’re wondering, Daenerys is actually Jon’s aunt, which is a little strange. She has the stronger claim on the Throne, technically.

What makes this interesting is that Jon is the only character left in the show that can realistically unite most of the armies in play. He has the support of the north, which would only strengthen when his true parentage is known, and he technically has the Targaryen blood that makes him a natural ally with Daenerys. Of course, there will be no alliance between Jon and Cersei, but you could perhaps see him striking a deal with Jaime.

What’s this other theory I hear about the Warrior of Light?

Ok, so you recall Melisandre - the red haired fire priestess who accompanied Stannis Baratheon, and who later brought Jon back to life at the start of season 6? Her religion believes that a ‘Prince who was promised’ (also known as the Warrior of Light) will be reborn to save humanity from the long night, and to represent her god (R’hllor) on earth. According to Melisandre’s beliefs, the Warrior of Light will be “reborn amidst salt and smoke” and will be the one to pull a flaming sword out of the fire to prove him/herself. The sword will be known as Lightbringer and it’ll be used to fight the darkness. Originally, Melisandre believed this to be Stannis, but he’s dead and - quite frankly - didn’t fit the prophecy.

Let’s look at the way Game of Thrones now has its characters aligned, and the way it seems to be positioning Jon Snow as the Warrior of Light. Jon was indeed reborn “amidst salt and smoke” as Melisandre literally brought him back to life in a smoky room at Castle Black. He’s yet to pull a sword from the flames but… we know from the latest trailer for season 7 that Beric Dondarrion, who wields a flaming sword, is joining Jon for a raiding party north of the wall. That means Jon will have a chance to grab the flaming sword if it falls for some reason. Will he then use it to fight the darkness, clearly a reference to the White Walkers? Jon seems to be the only main character interested in fighting the real threat at the moment, so it seems hugely likely. Therefore, we get a strong case for him being the Warrior of Light.

Interestingly, the books suggest that the Warrior of Light may be a Targaryen, and we now know that Jon is part Targaryen, so he fits that part of the prophecy too. It’s not quite confirmed, though, and there are a few reasons Jon may not be the Warrior of Light. In the books it’s revealed that the word ‘Prince’ in ‘Prince who was promised’ is gender neutral, so Dany has a decent chance at being this saviour too. Similarly, there are fan theories that suggest Davos is actually the Warrior of Light. He was pulled from the sea and resuscitated during the Battle of the Blackwater, which means he was reborn amidst salt and smoke. We see him handle the sword Stannis claims is Lightbringer in season 2 (which is on fire), and there’s also a suggestion that his being around Stannis could have somehow mislead Melisandre into thinking Stannis was the ‘Prince who was promised’. It’s an interesting theory, for sure.

What next for Jon Snow, then?

The trailers for season 7 suggest he’s going to try and unite the houses against the White Walkers, which is a sensible thing. Jon will likely return to the wall (although he won’t resume his post as Lord Commander, because he died in that role, and passed on the job to Edd Tollett), and range out beyond it… for some reason. We see him running away from something in the first full-length trailer, along with Tormund and a bunch of other people. They could be heading north of the wall to try and dig up more Dragonglass from the Fist of the First Men, which would fit with the idea of them fighting the ‘Walkers.

In terms of Jon’s heritage… we see Bran and Meera arriving at the gate of the Wall in the second trailer, so Bran and Jon will likely meet and discuss his true identity in this season. It’ll be interesting to see how Snow responds to this revelation, and whether other characters (like Littlefinger) will try to use it against him. Perhaps it’ll create more tensions between him and Sansa at Winterfell, and maybe it’ll lead to a natural alliance with Daenerys. Whatever happens, Jon Snow is very much central to the end-game of Game of Thrones, and I can’t wait to see what happens to him next.