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Everything You Need To Know About This "Game Of Thrones" Fan Theory

Here's all the evidence.

Originally posted on
Updated on

UPDATE: IT WAS CONFIRMED! Read on for all the hints leading up to this big reveal.

There's been a lot of hype around the popular fan theory R+L=J during Season 6 of Game of Thrones, and with one episode left to go, it looks like we'll finally see it confirmed.

We thought it might happen in Episode 3, but when that turned out to be more of a tease, we were left to (im)patiently wait out the rest of the season. Now the end is here – and so, it seems, must be R+L=J.
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We thought it might happen in Episode 3, but when that turned out to be more of a tease, we were left to (im)patiently wait out the rest of the season. Now the end is here – and so, it seems, must be R+L=J.

If you're unfamiliar with R+L=J, it's basically a widely believed theory that Jon is actually the son of Rhaegar Targaryen (Daenerys's brother) and Lyanna Stark (Ned's sister).

Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna (or, as some theorise, secretly eloped with her), which led Ned and Robert (who was betrothed to Lyanna) to go to war with the Targaryens. Robert killed Rhaegar and later became king, while Ned discovered Lyanna dying in a "bed of blood" in the Tower of Joy in Dorne, and made her some kind of promise. According to R+L=J, Lyanna actually died in childbirth, and Ned's promise was to protect her half-Targaryen son from Robert and the Lannisters, who were busy trying to kill all remaining Targaryens. Ned did so by claiming the baby as his own bastard.
Alt Shift X / Via youtu.be

Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna (or, as some theorise, secretly eloped with her), which led Ned and Robert (who was betrothed to Lyanna) to go to war with the Targaryens. Robert killed Rhaegar and later became king, while Ned discovered Lyanna dying in a "bed of blood" in the Tower of Joy in Dorne, and made her some kind of promise. According to R+L=J, Lyanna actually died in childbirth, and Ned's promise was to protect her half-Targaryen son from Robert and the Lannisters, who were busy trying to kill all remaining Targaryens. Ned did so by claiming the baby as his own bastard.

There's a lot of evidence for this theory in the books, but the show has also been dropping hints for years. Let's take a look at all of the relevant scenes...

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In the very first episode in Season 1, Robert and Ned visit Lyanna's grave in the crypt of Winterfell.

The scene establishes Robert's obsession with Lyanna and hatred of Rhaegar and all Targaryens. Ned, meanwhile, is protective of his sister even in death, while also trying to quickly dismiss Robert's anger. Robert's statement that not all the Targaryens are gone is, of course, in reference to Daenerys – but it could also be foreshadowing Jon's heritage.
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The scene establishes Robert's obsession with Lyanna and hatred of Rhaegar and all Targaryens. Ned, meanwhile, is protective of his sister even in death, while also trying to quickly dismiss Robert's anger. Robert's statement that not all the Targaryens are gone is, of course, in reference to Daenerys – but it could also be foreshadowing Jon's heritage.

In the same episode, Jon (who is angry he's been exiled from the royal feast because of his bastard status) discusses joining the Night's Watch with his Uncle Benjen, and Benjen discourages him.

Some fans think Benjen is in on Ned's secret, and his line about what it would ~mean~ for Jon to father no sons is in reference to his royal blood. But there is a chance Benjen was merely referring to Jon's youth and inability to understand the magnitude of never having a family.
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Some fans think Benjen is in on Ned's secret, and his line about what it would ~mean~ for Jon to father no sons is in reference to his royal blood. But there is a chance Benjen was merely referring to Jon's youth and inability to understand the magnitude of never having a family.

In Episode 2, Catelyn reveals her feelings of betrayal in this scene with Ned.

By this stage, Catelyn's hatred of Jon has been established – as has Ned's honour. Indeed, it becomes his defining characteristic, compromised only when he thinks his family's lives are in danger (such as when he confesses to treason in order to save Sansa and Arya). It doesn't add up that the honourable Ned would be unfaithful, but it does make sense he'd concede some of his honour to save the life of his sister's son.
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By this stage, Catelyn's hatred of Jon has been established – as has Ned's honour. Indeed, it becomes his defining characteristic, compromised only when he thinks his family's lives are in danger (such as when he confesses to treason in order to save Sansa and Arya). It doesn't add up that the honourable Ned would be unfaithful, but it does make sense he'd concede some of his honour to save the life of his sister's son.

Ned and Jon then leave Winterfell together and say their final farewell on the Kingsroad – and talk about Jon's mother.

Significantly, Ned reiterates Jon's Stark blood without saying he's his son. He also gets incredibly emotional about Jon's mother while still seeing the need to keep her identity a secret.
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Significantly, Ned reiterates Jon's Stark blood without saying he's his son. He also gets incredibly emotional about Jon's mother while still seeing the need to keep her identity a secret.

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Later, Robert brings up Jon's mother and Ned gets angry and shuts him down.

Robert reinforces the idea that this affair was out of character for Ned. There's a very good chance "Wylla" is just Ned's cover story, especially considering the fact that Ned never told Jon his mother's name. If she was some "wench" named Wylla, there would be no need for such secrecy.
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Robert reinforces the idea that this affair was out of character for Ned. There's a very good chance "Wylla" is just Ned's cover story, especially considering the fact that Ned never told Jon his mother's name. If she was some "wench" named Wylla, there would be no need for such secrecy.

In Episode 4, Jon tells Sam that the reason he's still a virgin is because he didn't want to father a bastard like he was, and the mystery of his mother's identity is again mentioned.

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Some eagle-eyed viewers also spotted initials in the background of this scene that look like "R" and "L".

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In the next episode, Ned resigns as hand of the king when Robert reveals his plan to have Daenerys Targaryen killed.

He objects as a matter of honour and says it's wrong to kill a "child". But many think his reasoning was also tied to his feelings about another Targaryen – Jon.
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He objects as a matter of honour and says it's wrong to kill a "child". But many think his reasoning was also tied to his feelings about another Targaryen – Jon.

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The same episode sees Cersei and Robert discuss Lyanna, revealing more about his intense obsession with her and subsequent hatred of Rhaegar.

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In Episode 7, Ned confronts Cersei with the knowledge that her children are Jaime's, and accuses her of always hating Robert. Cersei tells him it only began on her wedding night, when Robert called her "Lyanna".

Ned plans to tell Robert the truth, but warns Cersei in order to protect her children from "Robert's wrath". Just as he has always protected Jon, perhaps?
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Ned plans to tell Robert the truth, but warns Cersei in order to protect her children from "Robert's wrath". Just as he has always protected Jon, perhaps?

In Episode 9, we have Ned's final attempt to protect those he loves – when he sacrifices his honour to try to save Sansa and Arya. Joffrey orders his execution, and Ned mumbles something just before he is killed. Some fans think it is the words "I kept my promise".

It's really hard to hear, but if this is true, it's no doubt a reference to the promise he made Lyanna.
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It's really hard to hear, but if this is true, it's no doubt a reference to the promise he made Lyanna.

In the Season 1 finale, Bran tells Osha the ~official~ story of Lyanna and Rhaegar when showing her the crypt of Winterfell.

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In Season 2, the only real reference to R+L=J is when Jaime taunts Catelyn about Ned's infidelity. It highlights once again how out of character having a bastard was for him.

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Then in Season 3, Episode 2, Catelyn talks about her hatred of Jon and her guilt over not being able to love him.

Interestingly, she specifically mentions his brown eyes. The actress who plays the young Lyanna Stark in early Season 6 appears to have brown eyes.
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Interestingly, she specifically mentions his brown eyes. The actress who plays the young Lyanna Stark in early Season 6 appears to have brown eyes.

In the next episode, we hear more about Rhaegar himself, when Ser Barristan and Ser Jorah tell Daenerys about him.

The fact that Ser Barristan – one of the noblest men in the whole series – describes Rhaegar as the finest man he ever met is significant. It lends weight to the theory that Rhaegar was not the kind of man who would kidnap Lyanna and that, instead, they were in love.
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The fact that Ser Barristan – one of the noblest men in the whole series – describes Rhaegar as the finest man he ever met is significant. It lends weight to the theory that Rhaegar was not the kind of man who would kidnap Lyanna and that, instead, they were in love.

In Season 4, Episode 1, Oberyn Martell arrives in King's Landing and talks about his sister, Elia, who was married to Rhaegar.

It's interesting that even Oberyn seems to frame the incident as an affair/elopement rather than a kidnapping. He is, of course, in King's Landing to avenge his sister's death. The Mountain, working for the Lannisters (who were allied with Robert Baratheon), killed her and her children during Robert's Rebellion – the incident that would necessitate Ned keeping another Targaryen child a secret.
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It's interesting that even Oberyn seems to frame the incident as an affair/elopement rather than a kidnapping. He is, of course, in King's Landing to avenge his sister's death. The Mountain, working for the Lannisters (who were allied with Robert Baratheon), killed her and her children during Robert's Rebellion – the incident that would necessitate Ned keeping another Targaryen child a secret.

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Then in Season 5 we get SO MANY R+L=J hints in the fourth episode. First, Stannis expresses doubt about the official story of Jon's parentage.

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And Melisandre tries to seduce Jon, sensing power in him that can "cast shadows".

Perhaps not unlike the shadow baby she and Stannis created. The key ingredient? King's blood. Which Jon would have as Rhaegar's son.
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Perhaps not unlike the shadow baby she and Stannis created. The key ingredient? King's blood. Which Jon would have as Rhaegar's son.

Then THE BIG ONE: Littlefinger and Sansa visit Lyanna's grave in the crypt of Winterfell, and he tells her about the tourney at Harrenhal, during which Rhaegar publicly snubbed his wife in favour of Lyanna.

Littlefinger gives a very significant look when Sansa comments that Rhaegar kidnapped and raped Lyanna that hints he knows a lot more than he is letting on. Like, perhaps the fact that that wasn't what happened at all. Also of note in this scene is that Sansa mentions that Ned never talked about Lyanna.
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Littlefinger gives a very significant look when Sansa comments that Rhaegar kidnapped and raped Lyanna that hints he knows a lot more than he is letting on. Like, perhaps the fact that that wasn't what happened at all. Also of note in this scene is that Sansa mentions that Ned never talked about Lyanna.

To top the episode off, we get another edition of ~Rhaegar Was Actually a Great Guy~ courtesy of Ser Barristan. He tells Daenerys about how Rhaegar would pretend to be a minstrel for fun, and didn't like violence.

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In the next episode, Sam and Maester Aemon discuss Daenerys's situation. Aemon's comment that a lone Targaryen is a terrible thing is immediately followed by Jon Snow entering the room.

This could not be more obvious.
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This could not be more obvious.

Then, at the end of Season 5, Jon Snow gets stabbed, and we open Season 6 with a visual of his dead body. Some fans believe the pattern of his blood turns from a wolf into a dragon.

That might even be the Tower of Joy above him. Or it could just be a random pattern.
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That might even be the Tower of Joy above him. Or it could just be a random pattern.

In Season 6, Episode 2, we see Lyanna herself. She appears as a young girl in Bran's vision, showing off in front of her brothers.

Her interactions with her brothers and the young Hodor/Wylis in this scene reveal her to be fierce, smart, and kind. Bran, meanwhile, reiterates the mystery surrounding her through the fact Ned never talked about her.
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Her interactions with her brothers and the young Hodor/Wylis in this scene reveal her to be fierce, smart, and kind. Bran, meanwhile, reiterates the mystery surrounding her through the fact Ned never talked about her.

Then in Episode 3, we finally see the ultimate R+L=J scene: the Tower of Joy. Except the Three-Eyed Raven cuts us off before we actually see what's in the tower. Even still, it's very illuminating.

The fact that Rhaegar stationed two of his best men at the Tower of Joy rather than taking them into battle is important. As is the fact they continue to guard the tower even after his death. It seems unlikely these heroic figures were there to keep Lyanna captive. It makes more sense that they're really there to protect her and the Targaryen baby she is about to give birth to. We hear Lyanna scream towards the end of the scene, which could be related to labour.
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The fact that Rhaegar stationed two of his best men at the Tower of Joy rather than taking them into battle is important. As is the fact they continue to guard the tower even after his death. It seems unlikely these heroic figures were there to keep Lyanna captive. It makes more sense that they're really there to protect her and the Targaryen baby she is about to give birth to. We hear Lyanna scream towards the end of the scene, which could be related to labour.

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The shot of young Ned asking "where's my sister" appears again in Episode 6, in another of Bran's visions. It's followed by a quick glimpse of what appears to be Ned's hand and a woman bleeding.

There's a good chance that's Lyanna in her "bed of blood".
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There's a good chance that's Lyanna in her "bed of blood".

There's one final reference to Lyanna in the next episode, when Jon and Sansa meet little Lady Mormont, who was named after her.

We didn't really learn anything from this scene, but it kept Lyanna in the viewer's mind – especially in the way her fierce namesake captured everyone's hearts. Also we get to hear Jon Snow say his (presumed) mother's name so it's kinda emotional.
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We didn't really learn anything from this scene, but it kept Lyanna in the viewer's mind – especially in the way her fierce namesake captured everyone's hearts. Also we get to hear Jon Snow say his (presumed) mother's name so it's kinda emotional.

Which brings us to Episode 10. After years of dropping hints, and one huge season of revealing secrets, it seems really likely the show will finally confirm R+L=J in this finale.

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HBO

Some fans believe there'll be something hidden in the crypt of Winterfell that will reveal the truth, and others think Howland Reed will show up to tell all. There's also a chance Benjen or Littlefinger know something, too. But with Bran set to reappear after being absent for three episodes, and reports the actor who plays young Ned Stark will have a "significant part" in the finale, it looks like we'll actually get to see the rest of that Tower of Joy vision.

It will be so damn satisfying.

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Aaaand if it doesn't happen, we'll probably riot.