The Wild Blue Rose: Who Was Lyanna Stark?

Lyanna Stark

Beautiful, and willful, and dead before her time

Lyanna Stark. The L in R+L=J. The woman whose memory Robert Baratheon fought for and cherished until the end of his days. A beauty of the seven kingdoms, a maid with blue winter roses in her hair. A wild she-wolf of Winterfell who longed for her own future and adventure. Her life and her flight from marriage brought an entire country into civil war, and her legacy continues to shape Westeros to the current day.

Much like her husband Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, she is a character wrapped in mystery, yet understanding who she was and wanted to be is crucial for knowing the future of Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire. Who was Lyanna Stark, and why did she run away with Rhaegar?

As with Rhaegar, let’s start with the basic facts of her life. Some of this information comes from the books and may not be included in the show.

Lyanna was born in 266 AC, 7 years after her future husband Rhaegar, as the third child and only daughter to Warden of the North and Lord of Winterfell Rickard Stark and his wife Lyarra Stark. Lyanna was born and raised in Winterfell. She had a reputation of having “wolf blood” and was known as what we would call a tomboy today. Lyanna loved fighting, riding, and playing like one of the boys with her brothers Brandon, Ned, and Benjen. Years after her death, she is still known in the North for her incredible skill riding horses.

Arya was breathing hard herself then. She knew the fight was done. “You ride like a northman, milady,” Harwin said when he’d drawn them to a halt. “Your aunt was the same. Lady Lyanna. But my father was master of horse, remember.” – A Storm of Swords, Arya III

Brandon was fostered at Barrowton with old Lord Dustin, the father of the one I’d later wed, but he spent most of his time riding the Rills. He loved to ride. His little sister took after him in that. A pair of centaurs, those two.  – A Dance With Dragons, The Turncloak

Horses… the boy was mad for horses, Lady Dustin will tell you. Not even Lord Rickard’s daughter could outrace him, and that one was half a horse herself.  – A Dance with Dragons, Reek III

This flashback from season 6’s “Home” of Lyanna and her brothers shows much the same. She shows off her skill at riding, gives Wylis (later known as Hodor) tips on how to beat her brothers, and participates in the boys’ games.

This scene is very similar to one shown in Season 1, Episode 1, “Winter is Coming,” where Arya, so much like her aunt years earlier, shows up her own brothers in the practice yard too.

Much of the details of Lyanna’s life comes from the memories of her older brother, Ned. Unfortunately for viewers of Game of Thrones, many of these scenes have been cut as they are his internal thoughts. Much like Rhaegar in my previous feature, it is difficult picturing a character we know so little about. It helps if you think of Lyanna as a more grown-up version of Arya Stark. Ned very early on draws these comparisons between Arya and Lyanna in contrast to the images we get of her in the show. 

Her father sighed. “Ah, Arya. You have a wildness in you, child. ‘The wolf blood,’ my father used to call it. Lyanna had a touch of it, and my brother Brandon more than a touch. It brought them both to an early grave.” Arya heard sadness in his voice; he did not often speak of his father, or of the brother and sister who had died before she was born. “Lyanna might have carried a sword, if my lord father had allowed it. You remind me of her sometimes. You even look like her.”

“Lyanna was beautiful,” Arya said, startled. Everybody said so. It was not a thing that was ever said of Arya.

“She was,” Eddard Stark agreed, “beautiful, and willful, and dead before her time.” – A Game of Thrones, Arya II

But that was not all there was to Lyanna; she also was like her other niece Sansa. Lyanna loved flowers and music, particularly the blue winter roses that grew in the gardens of Winterfell. Long after her death, Ned would bring those same blue winter roses and lay them on her statue.

Ned Robert Lyanna's tomb

Her brother Ned was fostered in the Vale of Arryn with a young Robert Baratheon under the watch and tutelage of Lord Jon Arryn. Ned and Robert became as close as brothers. The two schemed that they truly could be brothers if Robert married Ned’s sister. Ned suggested the match and Lord Rickard Stark agreed. The young Lord of Storm’s End and Lyanna Stark were bethrothed. However, and this is critical for understanding her, no one asked what Lyanna thought of her future being decided for her, or took her opinion into account.

We know this because Lyanna expressed doubts about the match. She had never met Robert Baratheon before but knew him by reputation. She was no fool, and he had the same reputation for womanizing in his youth that he did later as king.

Robert will never keep to one bed,” Lyanna had told him at Winterfell, on the night long ago when their father had promised her hand to the young Lord of Storm’s End. “I hear he has gotten a child on some girl in the Vale.” Ned had held the babe in his arms; he could scarcely deny her, nor would he lie to his sister, but he had assured her that what Robert did before their betrothal was of no matter, that he was a good man and true who would love her with all his heart. Lyanna had only smiled. “Love is sweet, dearest Ned, but it cannot change a man’s nature.”  – A Game of Thrones, Eddard IX

She spent most of her life as if she would end up as Brienne of Tarth, a warrior woman clad in armor traveling the Seven Kingdoms with a sword at her side. Drastically her future changed from a wolf running through the forests of the North (like her son would one day) into being the lady-wife of a stranger in the damp, dreary, foreboding castle of Storm’s End while her husband bedded every woman he could. Robert and the life he offered was not one she wanted. But, Lord Rickard had spoken, and the betrothal moved forwards.

Robert never really knew Lyanna, demonstrated here in the first episode at her tomb. Robert gave her a feather and wanted her buried on a sunny hill. Lyanna loved blue flowers and requested to be buried in the crypts. Robert knew and loved Ned as a brother- but the same can’t be said for his “beloved” Lyanna. The future king loved the idea of Lyanna not the real person.

The next major event in Lyanna’s life was the famous Tourney at Harrenhal. Many remember it for the sheer number of lords and ladies from all corners of Westeros who showed up on the shore of the God’s Eye. In the show, Harrenhal was shown as a dreary ruin. Yet in those days, when held by House Whent, it was a spectacular sight. Banners of every lord streaming above the ground, heroes and knights clashing in the jousts and melee, and lusty cheers for the Silver Prince Rhaegar above all. But, in the middle of the pageantry, there was Lyanna, her brothers, Howland Reed (you may remember him from the Tower of Joy), and a mystery knight known only as the “Knight of the Laughing Tree”. It’s a major story related to Bran Stark by Jojen and Meera Reed left out of the show thus far (except for the season 6 Histories & Lore). To quote the Reeds:

“Sometimes the knights are the monsters, Bran. The little crannogman was walking across the field, enjoying the warm spring day and harming none, when he was set upon by three squires. They were none older than fifteen, yet even so they were bigger than him, all three. This was their world, as they saw it, and he had no right to be there. They snatched away his spear and knocked him to the ground, cursing him for a frogeater.”

“None offered a name, but he marked their faces well so he could revenge himself upon them later. They shoved him down every time he tried to rise, and kicked him when he curled up on the ground. But then they heard a roar. ‘That’s my father’s man you’re kicking,’ howled the she-wolf.”

“A wolf on four legs, or two?”

“Two,” said Meera. “The she-wolf laid into the squires with a tourney sword, scattering them all. The crannogman was bruised and bloodied, so she took him back to her lair to clean his cuts and bind them up with linen. There he met her pack brothers: the wild wolf who led them, the quiet wolf beside him, and the pup who was youngest of the four.

“That evening there was to be a feast in Harrenhal, to mark the opening of the tourney, and the she-wolf insisted that the lad attend. He was of high birth, with as much a right to a place on the bench as any other man. She was not easy to refuse, this wolf maid, so he let the young pup find him garb suitable to a king’s feast, and went up to the great castle. – A Storm of Swords, Bran II

Screenshot from Season 6 Histories & Lore, "The Great Tourney at Harrenhal"

Screenshot from Season 6 Histories & Lore, “The Great Tourney at Harrenhal”

Lyanna, angry that squires would hurt her father’s bannerman in Howland, beat them back with a training sword and offered him the courtesy of the North. This is the Lyanna the North knew. Fierce, brave, and not afraid to swing a sword. As for the music I mentioned earlier:

“Under Harren’s roof he ate and drank with the wolves, and many of their sworn swords besides, barrowdown men and moose and bears and mermen. The dragon prince sang a song so sad it made the wolf maid sniffle, but when her pup brother teased her for crying she poured wine over his head. –  A Storm of Swords, Bran II

Prince Rhaegar, known for his harp-playing and singing, performed for the lords and even Lyanna cried at his song. It’s here, in this night, the connection between the eventual husband and wife began. However, this is only how Lyanna noticed Rhaegar. What made him notice her among all the other ladies at the tourney? That came next in the jousts, and the Knight of the Laughing Tree:

“Whoever he was, the old gods gave strength to his arm. The porcupine knight fell first, then the pitchfork knight, and lastly the knight of the two towers. None were well loved, so the common folk cheered lustily for the Knight of the Laughing Tree, as the new champion soon was called. When his fallen foes sought to ransom horse and armor, the Knight of the Laughing Tree spoke in a booming voice through his helm, saying, ‘Teach your squires honor, that shall be ransom enough.’ Once the defeated knights chastised their squires sharply, their horses and armor were returned. And so the little crannogman’s prayer was answered . . . by the green men, or the old gods, or the children of the forest, who can say?”

It was a good story, Bran decided after thinking about it a moment or two. “Then what happened? Did the Knight of the Laughing Tree win the tourney and marry a princess?”

“No,” said Meera. “That night at the great castle, the storm lord and the knight of skulls and kisses each swore they would unmask him, and the king himself urged men to challenge him, declaring that the face behind that helm was no friend of his. But the next morning, when the heralds blew their trumpets and the king took his seat, only two champions appeared. The Knight of the Laughing Tree had vanished. The king was wroth, and even sent his son the dragon prince to seek the man, but all they ever found was his painted shield, hanging abandoned in a tree. It was the dragon prince who won that tourney in the end.” A Storm of Swords, Bran II

With Lyanna’s martial prowess, her skill at riding, and her fearlessness, many in the fandom have come to the conclusion that the Knight was actually Lyanna in disguise. The Knight specifically called out the knights whose squires had been bullying Howland and were chased off by Lyanna. The Knight also was extremely skilled on their horse and unhorsed mighty lords and knights as if they had been doing it for years. Which, coincidentally Lyanna had been, as she trained with her brothers for years, daring her father to make her stop. And in the line, “Even sent his son the dragon prince to see the man,” many have further speculated that not only did Rhaegar find the Knight as commanded, he unmasked the knight only to find Lyanna- the same pretty young girl who had cried at his songs during the feast. Rhaegar did not turn in Lyanna, but instead gave her the crown of winter roses meant for his wife Elia Martell. This gesture was interpreted by those at the tourney as romantic. The champion of a tournament was allowed to declare anyone his “Queen of Love and Beauty”. Most wedded lords and knights give the honor to their wives. Not Rhaegar, and all the smiles died. Littlefinger explains the offense well to Sansa in this scene from the crypts of Winterfell in front of Lyanna’s statue.

A common misconception is that Rhaegar and Lyanna left together from this tourney. On the contrary, from the end of the tourney to their eventual disappearance, almost 8 months passed. Lyanna was on her way for her oldest brother Brandon’s marriage to Catelyn Tully (Ned’s eventual wife) when the infamous abduction happened.

As mentioned before, those on the side of the Starks and Baratheons insist that Lyanna was kidnapped, that Rhaegar was a mad dragon who abducted their beloved sister and Robert’s fiancee. Those on the side of the Targaryens insist that Rhaegar and Lyanna loved each other, having met at the tournament and citing his lack of passion for Elia, and ran off together in a romantic gesture.

Whatever the truth may be, this caused Brandon Stark to ride to King’s Landing and call for Rhaegar to “come out and die” to his father’s face. This ill-advised act led to his execution along with his father, leading to Robert’s Rebellion. Robert was betrothed to Lyanna, and after the death of Rickard and Brandon, he started a war to reclaim her from Rhaegar and depose King Aerys for his crimes.

In the TV show, it has been revealed in the season 7 finale that Rhaegar and Lyanna ran away together in passion, eventually marrying in Dorne.

However, even without that scene, if we take into account what we know about Lyanna, it is perfectly understandable that she did indeed run away with the crown prince of her own free will. Her wild and adventure seeking nature, her apprehension about marrying Robert Baratheon, how she wanted a future she determined. Rhaegar was handsome, intelligent, powerful, a master of the harp and song,  and unlike other suitors, had seen Lyanna not as the daughter of Lord Rickard Stark, Ned’s sister, but as she truly was.

“You never knew Lyanna as I did, Robert,” Ned told him. “You saw her beauty, but not the iron underneath. She would have told you that you have no business in the melee.”  – A  Game  of Thrones, Eddard I

However romantic, their elopement was ill-advised. Robert wasn’t just her betrothed, he was a hot headed lord of an entire kingdom with powerful, loyal friends and an army at his back. Rhaegar was already married to Elia Martell, the sister to the Prince of Dorne, and had two children with her. Lyanna’s brother Brandon’s antics in his young life made Lyanna look positively docile, from deadly duels to womanizing his way around Westeros. Rhaegar’s father King Aerys was paranoid on his best days and murderous on his worst days. These were extremely powerful and dangerous people that had enormous personal stakes in Rhaegar and Lyanna’s futures. And Rhaegar and Lyanna left them all behind anyway.

Rhaegar and Lyanna disappeared into the wilderness, with only Rhaegar re-appearing around 8-9 months later to take his place at the head of the Targaryen army. In those months, it’s likely Rhaegar took her all over Westeros. Places like his family’s destroyed palace of Summerhall, the magnificent castle Starfall that has housed the Daynes since the Dawn age and home of Rhaegar’s best friend Arthur, the obsidian caves on Rhaegar’s home of Dragonstone, the weirwoods of High Heart- and we know the eventual end of the journey was  at the Tower of Joy in the mountains of Dorne. It is here, at this tower, that Ned eventually found Lyanna guarded by Aerys’ Kingsguard members Arthur Dayne, Gerold Hightower, and Oswell Whent (the last one present only in the books).

A large unanswered question about their relationship though is how much Rhaegar told Lyanna about his beliefs about how he or his children were the saviors of Westeros. The pair spent months together traveling through the wilds of Westeros and in Dorne and, for his many faults, Rhaegar seemed to be much more in love with Lyanna than he ever seemed to be with Elia. And with Elia, Rhaegar spoke openly about these beliefs. It appears likely that he did tell his Lady Lyanna what he was doing with his life.

Will you make a song for him?” the woman asked.

“He has a song,” the man replied. “He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.” He looked up when he said it and his eyes met Dany’s, and it seemed as if he saw her standing there beyond the door. “There must be one more,” he said, though whether he was speaking to her or the woman in the bed she could not say. “The dragon has three heads.” He went to the window seat, picked up a harp, and ran his fingers lightly over its silvery strings. Sweet sadness filled the room as man and wife and babe faded like the morning mist, only the music lingering behind to speed her on her way.  –  A Clash of Kings, Daenerys IV

However, Lyanna never mentioned it. In her final moments and dying in her bloody bed, Lyanna asked Ned to promise her that he’ll protect her newborn child from Robert’s wrath, and in the books, raise him as Ned’s own and bury her in the crypts of Winterfell along with her pack. Robert had turned into a raging demon during the war, promising death for all Targaryens. She had good reason to believe that Robert would kill her child once he found out Rhaegar was the father.

In the books, it is nearly identical with no acknowledgment that she knew what Jon would become.

I was with her when she died,” Ned reminded the king. “She wanted to come home, to rest beside Brandon and Father.” He could hear her still at times. Promise me, she had cried, in a room that smelled of blood and roses. Promise me, Ned. The fever had taken her strength and her voice had been faint as a whisper, but when he gave her his word, the fear had gone out of his sister’s eyes. Ned remembered the way she had smiled then, how tightly her fingers had clutched his as she gave up her hold on life, the rose petals spilling from her palm, dead and black. After that he remembered nothing. They had found him still holding her body, silent with grief. The little crannogman, Howland Reed, had taken her hand from his. Ned could recall none of it. “I bring her flowers when I can,” he said. “Lyanna was … fond of flowers.” A Game of Thrones, Eddard I

Ned kept his promise; Lyanna’s child was kept hidden as a bastard named Jon Snow and her body interred in the crypts with her family.

Lyanna’s story, like Rhaegar, is one of intense tragedy and mystery. Was she a young girl (only 15-16 at the time of her death), seduced by an older man and in way over her head? Do Rickard and Ned share blame for trying to take a free spirit like Lyanna and lock her into an arranged marriage against her wishes? Did she buy into Rhaegar’s theories about the future? What would she think of Jon today and all the hardships he has endured and overcome? Why didn’t she write a letter to her family explaining that she wasn’t kidnapped? If she did, what happened to it? What did she think of Elia and her two children that Rhaegar choose to abandon? How much of the responsibility does she share with Rhaegar for the wars and suffering that followed their escapade?

Ned and Lyanna

Many fans also believe that Lyanna was referenced along with Rhaegar in Daenerys’ visions in the House of the Undying, in A Clash of Kings.

A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness. . . . mother of dragons, bride of fire . . .

Her own favorite blue winter rose growing from a chink in a wall of ice, a mother of a dragon in Jon, and the bride to Rhaegar’s fire.

We can only hope that Lyanna would be proud- of her brother for keeping her promise and Jon’s secret until his death, and of her son for leading men against the hordes of the dead and the endless winter Rhaegar knew was coming. It’s a tragedy that she died so young and so far from home, but she lives on in Jon: Lyanna’s son blooming at the Wall like her favorite flower, and his song is ice and fire.

70 responses

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    1. GREAT ARTICLE! Loved it! Great work guys!

      Yet I still don’t like Lyanna, maybe because she is beloved by many many fans even though she betrayed her whole family and caused the dead of thousands of people. Which really annoys me because that is the reason why many people hate Sansa, she was a naive, young beautiful girl who only wanted to marry for love and ended up betrayed her family, even though the consequences were not as bad as in Robert’s rebellion.

      A lot of People praises the love story between Rhaegar and Lyanna, I just hated, they destroyed the realm (I mean, Aerys contributed a lot to the demise of his entire family too) because of their stupidity, rhaegar was married to ellia and already had two children, and Lyanna was Bethroded to Robert Baratheon, they shouldn’t have kept their respective oaths.

      And another thing that really annoys me is that rhaegar cast his wife (and his children) aside for a woman who was already bethroded to another man, like, WTF?.

      #SorryNotSorryForTheHate

      That being said, I have this weird feeling that history will repeat itself and Daenerys will die in childbirth and Jon in battle.

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    2. Fantastic article! Lyanna is a fascinating character, and I love the mystery surrounding the little we do know of her life.

      She’s always compared to Arya, the niece who most physically resembles her, but I always tend to think of Lyanna as a tragic and toxic blend of Arya’s wolf-blooded wildness and Sansa’s romantic nature. For me, that is seen in one line from A Storm of Swords:

      The dragon prince sang a song so sad it made the wolf maid sniffle, but when her pup brother teased her for crying she poured wine over his head. (Bran II; A Storm of Swords)

      Although she dies years before the opening of A Game of Thrones, Lyanna’s story and the different versions of it that are transmitted throughout Westeros looms large. As do her dying words, which haunted Ned until the day of his own death. Promise me, Ned.

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    3. This will now be my de facto article for pointing people to when they want this topic explained. Wonderful piece!

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    4. This is a great article! I have not read the books so all this background is helpful and adds much to the character. Thank you!

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    5. A lovely summary of Lyanna’s life and role.

      I sometimes describe the story of her and Rhaegar as a bit like ”a Disney saga that went horribly, horribly wrong”.
      Lyanna is like many modern Disney princesses – a beautiful, independent and quite capable young woman, who’s down to the earth, almost a woman of the people in spite of being born into a noble family. She’s betrothed against her will to this womanizer who obviously won’t respect her or treat her well, but then meets Prince Charming – scholared, gentle, plays the harp – and immediately falls in love with him. In a Disney saga the story would have built up towards a duel where the noble prince defeats the boisterous bully, and then marries his fair lady so they can live happily ever after …

      Except in this version the chauvinistic bully wins – he kills the prince and seizes the throne, and spreads lies about what actually happened. Essentially he starts a chain of events that throws the realm into chaos.

      The comparison obviously isn’t perfect; no target of a Disney princess’s affection would be a bigamist (I don’t think the book’s version of Rhaegar will turn out to have annuled his first marriage; in the television series that is probably a consequence of the decision to have a high septon document his marriage to Lyanna), and I don’t think many Disney princesses would have eloped without letting anyone in their family know, but the core of the love story still follows the typical fairy tale structure. Until the story’s less fairy-tale-like side elements throw spanners in the works.

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    6. I am not good at it but I try to keep out an ear for guest actors or returning actors for a season.
      As far as I know I saw no leak not the sliver of a spoiler that Aisling Francisosi would be back this season for one of those 30 second, may have been shorter, appearances.
      I gave a little jump when I saw her !

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    7. Great article, but I think Rhaegar was talking to Elia Martell when he was about the Song of Ice and Fire and the three heads of the Dragon. “There must be one more” “The dragon has three heads.” Rhaegar’s first two children were suppose to two out of the three heads. Jon was suppose to be third head of the Dragon.

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    8. Great article, especially for me, a non-book reader.

      Alvaricomg: That being said, I have this weird feeling that history will repeat itself and Daenerys will die in childbirth and Jon in battle.

      I agree with your views about Rhaegar and Lyanna. But why should history repeat itself? Jon is not married to a Lord’s sister, with two kids. Daenerys is not betrothed to a Lord. Why would she die in childbirth when she didn’t before? She and Jon are Targs, and both share that elusive dragon gene (the one that Drogon was able to sniff out in Jon). Lyanna didn’t have Targ genes, which is why she probably died. Also, Jon’s father died because of a war of his own making. Jon has done nothing to provoke a war. Why should he die? His parents’ deaths are in a way, because of karma.

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    9. Great Article about Lyanna.. and is good for non books readers, I think she like Rhaegar is one of the characters we have to make own mind about them.. maybe is a love history, a quest for fulfilled a prophesy….

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    10. Kay,

      Tyrion points out that children are not doomed to make parent’s mistakes. Certainly someone can argue that Jon, Daenerys, and their child could end up dying, [ spoiler ] particularly if you believe Jon Snow is Azor Ahai Reborn/The Prince that was Promised and Daenerys is Nissa Nissa [ / spoiler] Personally I do not think Jon and Daenerys’ story will end with both parents dying.

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    11. Thanks a bunch for this excellent article ! ^^

      If I may add my two cents…

      Was she a young girl (only 15-16 at the time of her death), seduced by an older man and in way over her head?

      Entirely possible. George RR Martin has often demonstrated that he likes history repeating itself, in both cruel and sad ways. The Lyanna storyline is but the extreme version of the initial Sansa plot (girl chooses questionable royal prince over her family, her and said prince’s Houses go to war against each other after the unfair execution of her father) so the idea that she was “dazzled” by Rhaegar and did not think anything through would fit the parallelism.

      Do Rickard and Ned share blame for trying to take a free spirit like Lyanna and lock her into an arranged marriage against her wishes?

      Wouldn’t a real “free spirit” protest her arranged marriage openly ? As mad as a chair as Lysa Tully might have been, she at least had the courage to oppose her father frontally when he decided to marry her off to Jon Arryn. Now, of course, it did not work but at least she tried.
      If Lysa had enough bravery to demand for her wishes to be taken into consideration, shouldn’t Lyanna “Free Spirit” Stark have too ?

      Did she buy into Rhaegar’s theories about the future?

      Who knows ? ^^

      What would she think of Jon today and all the hardships he has endured and overcome?

      She would be devastated but proud, I would assume. As she should be.

      Why didn’t she write a letter to her family explaining that she wasn’t kidnapped? If she did, what happened to it?

      Even if she did wrIte a letter and it got either lost or stolen, she and Rhaegar still could have intervened. First Brandon heard of her disappearance and rushed from Riverrun (I believe) to King’s Landing to demand Rhaegar’s execution (Brandon was not bright) where he got arrested. Then, the Mad King sent a “invitation” to Winterfell so Rickard would come to help his son out and, once he arrived (Rickard was not very bright either on this one), he was captured too.
      Given than neither son nor father had a jetpack, there must have been at the very least a handful of weeks between Brandon’s arrest and his and his dad’s “trial by combat”. Weeks during which the entire kingdom knew what was going on.

      Lyanna and Rhaegar were, to the best of our understanding, hiding in Dorne at the time. They had ample time to travel to King’s Landing to explain the situation. They did not. So unless they were sequestrated, we can only conclude that they chose not to intervene.

      What did she think of Elia and her two children that Rhaegar choose to abandon?

      Given how she reacted to Rhaegar’s unnecessary public humiliation of his wife at the Harrenhal tourney, I would guess she did not take that into consideration. Adultery is not in itself a problem (the heart wants what it wants) however I cannot help but notice Lyanna’s double-standard on the subject.

      One of the main reasons why she did not want to marry Robert Baratheon was because she could tell, rightly so, that in spite of his repeated declarations of love, he would never really change and always be a philandering oaf. Lyanna did not want to be cheated on, dammit !
      Yet, she was more than happy with Elia suffering that exact fate. Hypocrisy much hypocrisy ?
      I guess the Dornish princess was not enough of a “free spirit” for Lyanna to think her deserving of the same level of respect the Stark girl demanded for herself. Elia should have worn trousers and enjoyed riding more ! Then, she would have been worthy of Lyanna’s compassion or sympathy !

      How much of the responsibility does she share with Rhaegar for the wars and suffering that followed their escapade?

      All of it ?

      Lyanna’s family were in the right, given what they thought they knew of the situation. Even a royal prince cannot get away with kidnapping and raping one of his most important vassals’ daughter. Now, Rickard and Brandon were foolish to expect a king they knew to be insane to behave reasonably so they never should have set a single foot in King’s Landing but instead should have declared war on the Targaryens there and then, as was their right. Their duty even.
      So, even if we take Rickard and Brandon’s “quick tempers, slow minds” attitude out of the equation, Lyanna and Rhaegar’s decision to run away in secret could only ever lead to one thing : war, chaos and destruction.

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    12. I really really wish they would actually have some blue winter roses on the show. One of my favourite iconic images from the books, and such an important symbol for Lyanna and for her son.

      Jon is the blue rose growing from the wall of ice in Dany’s visions, by the way. That bit of metaphorical foreshadowing blew me away when I read the books, and I still can’t believe they left it out of the House of the Undying on the show. Such a striking and haunting image.

      I love that the secret heart of the story is a Helen-of-Troy-style doomed star-crossed romance. George is secretly a sap, despite all the characters he slaughters!

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    13. Every time I rewatch S07E07, I want Bran to clunk their heads together like coconuts and yell at them.

      Very well written article!

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    14. Thank you for this well written article. Lyanna has always intrigued me because so little is known about her thoughts and motivations. What lwe know of her comes from Ned, a brother who loved her dearly and kept her secret for many years.

      charlie Stark:
      I think she like Rhaegar is one of the characters we have to make own mind about them..

      Yes. It is up to each viewer/reader to form their own opinions about this pair.

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    15. HBO really really should produce a GOT, Tourney at Harrenhall movie, have same young actors reprise their roles, and air it after season 8.

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    16. I’m excited for a scene next year with Jon in the crypts of Winterfell looking at Lyanna’s statue. Maybe just after it happens and Dany comes to join him for their one on one convo of the matter.

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    17. Lyanna never betrayed her family like Sansa did. There’s no comparison in that regard. If Sansa noticed Joffrey was a sadistic, psychopath & refused to marry him & ran off would you say that she betrayed her family? I think not. She just didn’t want to be forced to marry a loser while Sansa could care less if Joffrey was crazy. She chose to settle whereas Lyanna wouldn’t.

      Plus Arya loved flowers too. There’s a passage in the books when they are all traveling to KL on the Kingsroad, where Arya speaks of all the different kind of flowers she saw. I also think Sansa remembers Arya picking flowers & giving them to Ned. And Arya was originally supposed to fall in love with Jon. So she was supposed to have a little bit of a romantic side.

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    18. Thank you for the insight into Lyanna and Rhaegar and their relationship with regards to Robert’s rebellion and ultimately the future of Westeros.

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    19. Nothing to complain about this time, I really enjoyed reading this guys – thanks!

      (Euron and Sansa/Arya are still ruining the show)

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    20. Alvaricomg,

      I totally get why you don’t like them; and given our mores, that is how we’d probably act if someone we knew did that. They did cause the war that killed thousands. But as I often say when something like this comes up – if they hadn’t, this would have been a very differenrt story than the one we know and love!

      Reading this, recalling those passages in the book, make me wish that the show had in some way included these. The scenes in Brans visions helped, but I think it would have hcelpd morce if Ned, while talking about Lyanna, brought up other comments about her. But Im sure they were pressed for time and needed to cut things out. But given how important both were to the story, it would seem they could have tried to include the story a bit better for non book readers. Excellent post – I will also pass this on to others who ask questions about them. Very well done, thank y ou.

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    21. If Lyanna had donned all the Stark heraldry and symbols some folks wished she had worn, she’d have had to make her wedding vows sitting down, if not laying on the ground. What I’m saying is she’s no Brienne of Tarth.

      Speaking as the brother of five smaller than average sisters, give a petite-sized girl a break, people!

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    22. Aegon the Icedragon: Lyanna never betrayed her family like Sansa did. There’s no comparison in that regard.

      I am afraid I cannot quite agree with you on this one.

      Sansa fell for a royal prince in spite of him showing signs of cruelty (Joffrey had Mycah killed). Lyanna fell for a royal prince in spite of him showing signs of cruelty (Rhaegar needlessly humiliated the woman who almost died giving birth to his children).
      Sansa went against her father’s wishes to get what she wanted (in the books, she ratted him out to Cersei). Lyanna went against her father’s wishes to get what she wanted (she ran away with Rhaegar withouth telling anyone).
      Sansa’s family went to war against Joffrey’s. Lyanna’s family went to war against Rhaegar’s.
      Sansa’s father died partly as a result of her actions and partly as a result of his own stupid decisions. Lyanna’s father died partly as a result of her actions and partly as a result of his own stupid decisions.

      In terms of both structure and dynamics, the two storylines are shockingly similar. Now of course, there are some differences as well but I fear they may not be to Lyanna’s advantage…
      Sansa was twelve when she made her decisions. Lyanna was sixteen when she made her decisions. After her father’s arrest, Sansa tried everything she could to save his life. After her father’s arrest, Lyanna did nothing and stayed in hiding.

      On a sidenote, there are more, somewhat anecdotal Lyanna / Sansa parallels scattered throughout the narrative : they both received a rose-themed token from a handsome knight at the end of a tourney, quite a few elements of their overall arcs seem heavily reminiscent of the legend of Bael the Bard’s relationship with Brandon the Daughterless’s daughter, etc.

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    23. Great article. I enjoyed reading this. Thank you!

      I’ll reserve judgment on Lyanna (and Rhaegar) until I know what truly transpired during those months she disappeared. We know so little of what really happened!

      Tyjon:
      HBO really really should produce a GOT, Tourney at Harrenhall movie, have same young actors reprise their roles, and air it after season 8.

      I’d love for this to happen! It will give us some insight on what drove these 2 star-crossed lovers to act/behave the way they did.

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    24. Such a fantastic article and it brought up questions I’ve had as well. There’s obviously more to the Rhaegar-Lyanna story, I almost wonder if they, or Lyanna alone, did in fact try to send out word about her relationship with Rhaegar. This story parallels Romeo and Juliet that I have to wonder if they tried to send a messenger or raven that never made it to its destination to deliver critical information.

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    25. That’s another excellent piece Joe! Thank you! 🙂

      I still have Bran’s words on the matter in my head’ Robert’s Rebellion was based on a lie‘. Not on a mistake or misunderstanding, but on a lie. The wording is important. There is more in this than what we know.

      Before I get to that, just a few scattered thoughts on the matter:

      Elia was Dornish:we have repeatedly seen that the Dornish ways on marriage and relationships are totally liberal. Elia would have accepted Raegar having another relationship, or even marriage to another because that wasn’t uncommon where she grew up. Remember that, Oberyn blamed the Lannisters and particularly the Mountain for what happened to his sister. The Dornish part of the equation never blamed Rhaegar, or Lyanna.

      It was a Lannister order that killed Elia and her children. We mustn’t forget that. Yes, that came as a consequence of Rhaegar giving others a (false as we know) general cause to go to war, but he didn’t put the weapons in their hands neither did he expect, order or wish any of this.

      Quoting wikia: ‘Horrified at such a treasonous way to win the war, Ned demanded that Tywin and Gregor be punished for their crimes, but Robert’s immense hatred of the Targaryens overcame his sense of justice and he refused, to Ned’s fury.

      Daddy Lannister was a monster. Jamie and Varys both told Mad King not to trust him, not to open KL doors to him, but Alas! he preffered to listen Grand Maester Pycelle. Pycelle was definitely a Lannister fan and I wouldn’t be surprised if he scheamed with them.
      So the Lannisters did those terrible things; we must impute each about their own decisions and responsibilities, not oversimplify what actually happened blaming everything on 2 people.

      The other important thing is that, given even the little info that we know about their personalities, both Rhaegar and Lyanna – especially the latter, would have definitely send word to her family that would have prevented any of this ever happening. And Rhaegar wasn’t a hot headed like Robert, he was an educated smart guy, so he would never intend for a war against his house therefore he would have taken actions to avoid that. I’m certain of it, or else both those character arcs would be total non-sense.

      So, something or rather someone intervened in that occassion and those messages never arrived to her family or to the right place. Who could it have been?
      LF was the only one on the show to speak of the Harrenhal incident and he certainly knew more than he said. Catelyn described him as ‘He was a sly, mischievous child with the ability to always look contrite after his mischief’. Remember that he’s the one who with his scheams and actions started the Games of Thrones story: the death of Jon Arryn. Ned’s death. Chaos is a ladder! I’ll leave you with that thought.

      It was as Joe mentions 8 months between the Harrenhal incident and Lyanna running away with Rhaegar. What happened in that time between them? Why wait 8 months if they were so taken already? How did they communicate with each other? They probably planned ahead. What was the plan? And why did it go wrong?

      So, that said, who knew that Robert’s Rebellion was based on a lie because obviously someone knew. Someone pulled the strings in such a way that neither Rhaegar or Lyanna could control what happened, framing them in such a way that they couldn’t go back or move forward, turning them into a cause for war. Who would gain from this war? Not the Starks nor the Targaryens. We know who gained from the war: the Lannisters, Robert, LF.

      One of the few things I haven’t received from the show is exactly this point. It would clarify so much about the circumstances. It would be so excellent if Bran has another vision that shows us how a lie was turned into a cause of war, next season.

      Again, thank you Joe for a wonderful article, it’s extremely useful for us who haven’t read the books! 🙂

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    26. Joey:
      Nothing to complain about this time, I really enjoyed reading this guys – thanks!

      (Euron and Sansa/Arya are still ruining the show)

      I enjoyed the article also. Joey, as you are not a fan of Pilou Asbaek’s Euron might I ask if you have an actor in mind who would better fit your idea of how Euron should look? I promise I won’t snark even if I disagree. But please leave the she-wolves of Winterfell alone.

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    27. That’s a nice picture of Aisling Franciosi at the head of the article. I remember last year there were some parties last year who beefed that she wasn’t “hawt” enough to play Lyanna – although she was playing Lyanna at a stage when she was dying. I don’t know whether it’s because she’s (Ms Franciosi) Irish (well half Irish anyway) but the linking of Lyanna with roses made me think of the song “My Wild Irish Rose” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yil9WFTMxWs It’s rather a sentimental song and Lyanna was a rough and tumble tomboy (but seemingly capable of being moved by a sad song).

      ..and belatedly thanks to Mr Magician for the article.

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    28. Yes I know that all about Rhaegar and Lyanna is #problematic but I really don’t care.I am so fascinated by their story.What can I say I love tragic love stories.I want to know everything about them.I know George doesn’t want it but somebody make a movie about RR just for me lol.I don’t care that we know how it ends.I want to see it.And they made Jon so all is forgiven in my book.Also this article is great.

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    29. SiriuslyStark: Elia was Dornish:we have repeatedly seen that the Dornish ways on marriage and relationships are totally liberal. Elia would have accepted Raegar having another relationship, or even marriage to another because that wasn’t uncommon where she grew up.

      We should also remember that it was an arranged marriage and not a love match.

      Something that bothers me: why WASN’T there a maester present at the birth of AeJon? You would think Rhaegar would have made better arrangements. He left guards, but no medical assistance?

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    30. Concerning Rhaegar, I believe he was a big romantic. He was a singer of beautiful songs and a believer in prophecy. He fell in love with Lyanna and had to have her. The books do say he was fond of Elia, but not in love. Perhaps he knew that Elia could not have a third child, or it would mean her death. Again, he did not love Elia, but did care for her, and did not want to put her in a position (pregnant) to cause her death. In a way, he may have felt it was the right thing to do to keep her alive. He was young, and I doubt he wanted to live a celibate life! I get the feeling that Rhaegar was not the type to take mistresses, but wanted to love, and by annulling his first marriage and marrying Lyanna, he was doing the honorable thing. I am sure he would have taken care of her and her children, not just cast her out. Still, he was naive to think that the Dornish wouldn’t be enraged over the annulment. Though maybe that’s why he married in secret and would deal with the consequences later.

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    31. Boojam,

      Most of the Starks aren’t as mysterious and interesting as Lyanna to me. Or at least the ones that are on the show. Like I enjoy historical figures such as Cregan Stark, Brandon of the Bloody Blade, the she wolves of Winterfell that are likely to appear in Dunk and Egg, Brandon the Breaker, Artos Stark, Torrhen Stark and his bastard Brandon Snow. But they are sadly left out, so it would be historical gobblygook with little context for fans of the show.

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    32. Dark Sister,

      I do personally think that they sent word and it got misplaced, either by accident or purpose. Someone told Brandon it was a kidnapping, and that sent him charging at King’s Landing. I could see it being someone like Littlefinger or the more magical puppeteers like the three eyed raven or Bran. It seems so insane to not leave word that I have trouble believing it.

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    33. SiriuslyStark: Elia was Dornish:we have repeatedly seen that the Dornish ways on marriage and relationships are totally liberal.

      I was thinking the same thing! I haven’t read the books yet, so I’m not sure if there’s any part that mentions Elia’s feelings over it all. Plus since she knew about the prophecy and couldn’t risk having any more children, that could be another reason why she might have supported what he did. This was a really great article I enjoyed reading.

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    34. This is a fantastic article, thank you. It actually gave me goosebumps!

      As a show only fan (although now so hooked on Westeros that I plan to read the books after S8 ends – not before, as I want to treat them as separate entities) I’ve had to do some reading on Rhaegar, Lyanna and Robert’s Rebellion to fully understand what happened and the ramifications on the story we’re following. I will be directing my people to this!

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    35. SiriuslyStark:
      That’s another excellent piece Joe! Thank you! 🙂

      I still have Bran’s words on the matter in my head’ Robert’s Rebellion was based on a lie‘.Not on a mistake or misunderstanding, but on a lie. The wording is important. There is more in this than what we know.

      So, that said, who knew that Robert’s Rebellion was based on a lie because obviously someone knew. Someone pulled the strings in such a way that neither Rhaegar or Lyanna could control what happened, framing them in such a way that they couldn’t go back or move forward, turning them into a cause for war. Who would gain from this war? Not the Starks nor the Targaryens. We know who gained from the war: the Lannisters, Robert, LF.

      One of the few things I haven’t received from the show is exactly this point. It would clarify so much about the circumstances. It would be so excellentif Bran has another vision that shows us how a lie was turned into a cause of war, next season.

      Again, thank you Joe for a wonderful article, it’s extremely useful for us who haven’t read the books! 🙂

      I must say I totally agree with everything you said and I, myself, have been thinking that there is so much more to this story than what we’ve been told. Lyanna (from what we know) wouldn’t sit back and say, “let them go to war then I’ll be Queen.” Someone put this whole situation into motion and we can only hope that we find out who it was, and why it happened. My first bet would be Robert and the Lannister’s. The Lannister’s had so much to gain that I could see them convincing Robert that Rhagar had cuckolded him, but then again he vehemently believed she was kidnapped so in that case…Lannister’s…somehow I honestly think they had the most to gain in this war happening, and it DID happen and they DID end up on the throne.

      This is an amazing piece to read! I can’t thank you enough for the hard work in putting it together for everyone. I’ve read the books so I knew more than my friends who are just show watchers and I’ve tried to give them background where I could. This will help them understand better!

      Many thanks!

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    36. Great article really enjoyed it.

      Although I always thought Dany will be the bride of fire since Lyanna cannot be the mother of dragons since its plural not singular and she only birthed one dragon.

      Also, now that we know Jon is really Aegon i wonder if when Rhaegar said there must be another he was talking about Dany (which is why its unclear if is he is talking to the woman or Dany) and the dragon must have three heads is the reason in that Dany and Jon must produce an offspring which would be the third head of the dragon.

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    37. Kay,

      Two simple answers, Dany could die in childbirth because the birth of Rhaego was not easy and her womb may have been seriously damaged. Elia Martell gave birth twice and she almost died the second time. Also you must consider that with the walkers already through the wall, if Dany is pregnant she will be moving from place to place and their situation will be precarious. If she decides to fly in battle, even worse. Really, a pregnancy (if it happens) could not come at a worse time. Anyone not able to move fast will be dead meat when the walkers show up.

      Jon doesn’t need to start a war because a war is already crossing through the wall. So the chances of Jon dying in battle are like 85%. Jon was conceived to be a savior (at least that is what I think Rhaegar intended) and he was brought back to fulfill his destiny. I adore Jon, but I would be surprised if he survives the Long Night.

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    38. I don’t care how it’s credited on IMDB, that was not Gerold Hightower in the ToJ scene on the show. That was so obviously Oswell Whent. Sharpening his sword like Whent from the books, even the same quick line. All of Hightower’s lines were given to Dayne in the show.

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    39. SiriuslyStark,

      Interesting. My theory goes goes like this… There is already a 3rd Targaryn( dragon). We all know him, his name is Tyrion, I know what you are thinking, but hear out my case.

      I propose the following: 1:only a Targaryn can touch a dragon. Who has done that and lived? Danerys, John, and Tyrion in the crypts in the pyramid. 2: Tarygaryn births are conspiciously hard on the mothers. Elia had two children with Rhaegar but was unable to have any more and almost died during childbirth. Lyanna did die giving birth to John. Johanna Lannister (highly coveted by the mad king btw) died giving birth to Tyrion….coincidence? Also worth note that Danny had a very unsuccessful child birth with a non Targaryn. 3: There was almost assuredly ANOTHER reason why Tywin enacted revenge against the mad King by sacking Kings landing….revenge for an affair that resulted in a bastard (Tyrion…whom Tywin hated) perhaps. Think, Tywin was hand to the mad king and almost assuredly the uncrowned King and real power, he hated the mad king for making Jaimie a kingsgaurd (there by eliminating an heir for Casterly rock…wait where was Tyrion?

      The answer for who could have abetted the kidnapping lie is easy…Pycelle and whoever was the maester at Winterfell. After all how were messages conveyed? RAVENS. who controlled the ravens? The maesters. Pycelle was the maester at Kingslanding, and a known Lannister ally. Im a little less convinced on the Winterfell maesters loyalty, but there was always the possibility of Little Finger being there. It could have been his first step on the ladder of chaos. Also remember the maesters at the citadel are in possesion of alot of information that has been secreted away for various reasons, they may not be as noble as they seem.

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    40. SiriuslyStark:
      The other important thing is that, given even the little info that we know about their personalities, both Rhaegar and Lyanna – especially the latter, would have definitely send word to her family that would have prevented any of this ever happening. And Rhaegar wasn’t a hot headed like Robert, he was an educated smart guy, so he would never intend for a war against his house therefore he would have taken actions to avoid that. I’m certain of it, or else both those character arcs would be total non-sense.

      So, something or rather someone intervened in that occassion and those messages never arrived to her family or to the right place. Who could it have been?
      LF was the only one on the show to speak of the Harrenhal incident and he certainly knew more than he said. Catelyn described him as ‘He was a sly, mischievous child with the ability to always look contrite after his mischief’. Remember that he’s the one who with his scheams and actions started the Games of Thrones story: the death of Jon Arryn. Ned’s death. Chaos is a ladder!I’ll leave you with that thought.

      It was as Joe mentions 8 months between the Harrenhal incident and Lyanna runningaway with Rhaegar. What happened in that time between them? Why wait 8 months if they were so taken already? How did they communicate with each other? They probably planned ahead. What was the plan? And why did it go wrong?

      Good heavens! You might be on to something there. Initially I thought that you took Bran’s statement too literally, and that ”lie” should only be read as a false assumption, a false basis for the rebellion, not as a literal lie. I also thought that Petyr Baelish must surely have been too young to be scheming at those levels already at that point. But we know how vindictive he is, and how he has punished the whole Stark family for being spurned by Catelyn … why then, shouldn’t he have started with the same person who bested him and humiliated him in that duel for Catelyn’s hand: Brandon Stark?

      Petyr Baelish surely knew about Brandon’s temper – what better way to take vengeance upon him than to make his temper put him in a position that would get him killed – like travelling to King’s Landing to spew insults over the prince and demand that he “come out and die”? If he somehow managed to get into a position where he could prevent Lyanna’s messages from reaching her people back home, and then spread some false rumours about what had happened, Brandon’s reaction probably wouldn’t have been that difficult to predict.

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    41. My head cannon has always been that Lyanna is not some swooning love-addled damsel… but that she believed what she was doing was for the good of the realm. She was “all in” on the prince that was promised stuff. Aaaand well it also involved bonking a super hot prince but that was beside the point! I believe Lyanna was swept away more with the romance of her destiny than she was by the handsome prince in front of her.

      Lyanna naming Jon Aegon was a surprise to me but is actually consistent with a theory I had long ago. We know the The dragon has 3 heads (there must be one more) flashback/prophecy with Rhaegar, Elia, and baby Aegon from tHotU… But I had always figured that by the time Rhaeger pursued Lyanna, he had decided that a union of Fire and Ice would birth the prince that was promised – and his kids with Elia unfortunately would not qualify. By telling Lyanna to name her son Aegon as well… that was to help signal his importance and centrality as the PtwP.

      It was a dick move, however to disinherit and really essentially replace his son with Elia with his new kid. I don’t buy the idea that Lyanna somehow knew that prince Aegon died before she named her son Aegon and had some other name in mind if he had survived. They were in the middle of nowhere in a tower and no one knew where they were. They don’t have ravens or really any means of communication. this baby was always going to be Aegon because Lyanna and Rhaegar believed in the stupid prophecy. Yeah maybe they turned out to be right but they did it in a way that destroyed thousands.

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    42. “Those on the side of the Targaryens insist”
      Are there any characters who stick up for Rhaegar on this particular action? Lots of people had a general admiration for him, but since he never appeared to give any explanation (or even an acknowledgement), I don’t think Targaryen loyalists had a line other than that rebels were traitors who needed putting down.

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    43. Alvaricomg,

      Way to blame everyone for the wars that have raged since Aerys died except for the ones that carried them out. In my opinion it wasn’t love that tore the realm apart it was all the stupid oaths and “honor”. But hey I guess in your world a woman should just be happy she gets to marry a “high lord” and keep her mouth shut and her uterus open.

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    44. QueenofThrones,

      No those thousands destroyed each other. War doesn’t just happen there have to be people to fight it and what really tore the realm apart was the idea of “honor”. I guess had they done nothing there would be plenty of “honor” but that won’t kill any wights or Walkers.

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    45. ACME,

      There is a difference: Sansa was in love with marrying a prince, despite his character as a man. Lyanna was in love with a man, despite his being a prince.

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    46. Letrax: Good heavens! You might be on to something there. Initially I thought that you took Bran’s statement too literally, and that ”lie” should only be read as a false assumption, a false basis for the rebellion, not as a literal lie. I also thought that Petyr Baelish must surely have been too young to be scheming at those levels already at that point. But we know how vindictive he is, and how he has punished the whole Stark family for being spurned by Catelyn … why then, shouldn’t he have started with the same person who bested him and humiliated him in that duel for Catelyn’s hand: Brandon Stark?

      Petyr Baelish surely knew about Brandon’s temper – what better way to take vengeance upon him than to make his temper put him in a position that would get him killed – like travelling to King’s Landing to spew insults over the prince and demand that he “come out and die”? If he somehow managed to get into a position where he could prevent Lyanna’s messages from reaching her people back home, and then spread some false rumours about what had happened, Brandon’s reaction probably wouldn’t have been that difficult to predict.

      Petyr Baelish certainly had a motive for wanting Brandon to do something stupid and get himself killed before he married Catelyn Tully. Baelish might have even still had some foolish hope that Catelyn would marry him if Brandon died.

      Brandon was on his way to Riverrun to marry Catelyn when Rhaegar “abducted” Lyanna, so if Lyanna tried to send a message explaining her elopement, she probably would have sent it to Riverrun, expecting her family to be there for the wedding. Littlefinger may not have been a master schemer yet, but I could believe that he might be sneaky and spiteful enough to intercept and burn a few messages arriving at Riverrun, so that everyone would “assume the worst”.

      If Littlefinger was actually involved in this, it’s possible that this early attempt at turning people against each other through deceit was so successful that it became sort of a template for his entire approach to power throughout his life. He never got to marry Catelyn (or Sansa), but he certainly caused more than his fair share of chaos over the years…until his “assume the worst” game finally backfired on him.

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    47. Gfx:

      That’s a very good point!

      Elizabeth:

      I totally agree with your train of thought, Elizabeth! And indeed the Lannisters had everything to gain: Tywin didn’t take sides in the war until all was lost for house Targaryen (which in itself proves he had a strategy) and used treachery to seize KL and kill every Targaryen with a claim to the throne: it’s very much like Cercei’s plan now. Let my enemies kill each other and when their man power is diminished or /and they are killed, then I make my move and finish them off. But while it seems that history is repeating itself, everything is different now, because the players are different people and the Long night is upon them all. Maybe the Lannisters will pay their debts after all, and not in gold this time.

      Daryl:

      It could be so, as far as we know Daryl. I’m actually a fan of the theory that Tyrion could be a Targ -it would be so cool if he proved to be Dany’s brother! – even if there isn’t any clear evidence of it! 😀

      But even if Tyrion isn’t a Targaryen, just the suspicion and hatred Tywin had about the fact the Mad King wanted his wife so badly and some humiliations he had suffered from the Mad King, would make enough of a motive for him to want to destroy the Targaryens and KL.
      Tywin, would sooner blame the birth of Tyrion to someone else (he’s a dwarf therefore he can’t be mine), than accept this ‘deformed’ child as his own. Furthermore his wife died while giving birth to Tyrion so in his mind not only it wasn’t possible that this ‘deformed’ child was his, but it also was a ‘bad seed’ that murdered his wife.
      So, Tywin indeed had a strong motivation – no matter how deranged it was in its core- to hate the Targaryen house. But above all – and his entire life decisions prove that – he was craving power for him and his house. A cruel power thirsty man, such as he was, is capable of the most horrific actions… as the Sack of KL proves.

      FictionIsntReal:

      I doubt the books are going to take their cues from the show. I really don’t think Littlefinger had enough influence at the time to have played much of a role.

      I haven’t read the books and I’m not aware of how Mr Martin will continue; and I haven’t mentioned anything regarding that. 🙂

      As far as LF is concerned, you don’t need to have influence to play a role: you just have to be at the right place, at the right time, have a motive – and have the manipulating, calculating and resentful nature LF was master of. He would have difinitely seized the opportunity: he was still around the Starks which he hated – especially Brandon. It would be extremely easy to manipulate his anger, hide or destroy Lyanna’s messages and twist whatever else possible, to get what he wanted.
      That doesn’t exclude the paraller game that was probably in play in KL by the Lannisters, Pycelle and etc.

      The story reminds me of Homer’s Iliad and it is clear that the Trojan war happened for reasons that had nothing or little to do with Helen, in reality. 🙂 Power and money are the true wheels that motion a war, usually covered under a false pretend. And war is the best occasion for anyone to climb that ladder LF mentioned as the cards on the table get shuffled.

      Thank you all guys, for such an interesting conversation and thoughts – and again thanks Joe for the wonderful piece and food for thought:)

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    48. QueenofThrones: I don’t buy the idea that Lyanna somehow knew that prince Aegon died before she named her son Aegon and had some other name in mind if he had survived. They were in the middle of nowhere in a tower and no one knew where they were. They don’t have ravens or really any means of communication. this baby was always going to be Aegon because Lyanna and Rhaegar believed in the stupid prophecy.

      I may have missed something somewhere, but why is the name Aegon significant? Is there a prophecy that actually names the Prince Who Was Promised?

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    49. I think that there is much more to all of this than we already know. George RR Martin and possibly D&D are the only ones who really know, and George could yet change his mind on how the books pan out. There are things in the books that point in different ways and are ambiguous, deliberately so, I would assume. It is certainly possible that LF could easily have caused so much “Chaos” by starting a lie, perhaps even intercepting and destroying any letter sent by Lyanna. I am not sure about whether Tyrion is another Targaryen, as I remember reading something which pointed to Tyrion being a true Lannister. If Aerys did make Joanna pregnant, I am unsure as to when it would have been; as timing seems to be very fluid in the books and the show. Could Jaime and Cersei, in fact, be Targaryen? Whatever, there must be many more things to be uncovered and unravelled before we find out the true story, even if we ever do find out everything. I really hope we do find out the exact series of events that lead to whatever the end will be, as I for one will be sadly disappointed if we don’t. As a book reader, I avidly await the publication of “The Winds of Winter” and “A Dream of Spring”, after all, they will be the “Gospel” according to George RR Martin and I’m sure he will have a few more tricks up his sleeve before the end of the tale.

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    50. A beautiful essay for sure. And within the reality of Game of Thrones it is a full and proper explanation of what happened. But of course, in A Song of Ice and Fire there is much more. Recall Jojen Reed told Bran Stark and proved to him green dreams can be relied upon. Lyanna met and befriended Howland Reed at the infamous tourney.

      It is my belief Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen both were subject to green dreams that told them of the world’s peril, and discussed this when they met. Either Howland or the sages at Greywater Watch helped Lyanna interpret her dreams and understand the truth of them.

      Lyanna Stark ran off with her prince for the specific purpose of making Ice and Fire Baby, whom we have known to date as Jon Snow, the reconciler of irreconcilables. Yes, they loved each other, but that was not the reason they took the risk.

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    51. Once again, fantastic article. As a show watcher only, I didn’t know too much about Lyanna but after reading this, I feel like I know her better now.

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    52. Very much enjoyed this article! Thank you! The 2 scenes I have eagerly waited for since Season 1 are: Jon finding out the identity of his mother (as Ned promised in S1.2) and a full Stark reunion (Jon/Arya/Bran/Sansa). I already know I’m going to cry so much when these unfold on screen. Only wolves are allowed (maybe Samwell) but no other characters cluttering the scene. C’mon D&D! Give it to me in Season 8!

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    53. keltia: There is a difference:Sansa was in love with marrying a prince, despite his character as a man.Lyanna was in love with a man, despite his being a prince.

      I do not wish to be overly cynical so please forgive me for asking but what does that change ? Is “love” the ultimate trump card that absolves someone of any responsibility ?

      I doubt the poor soldiers who were slaughtered during Robert’s Rebellion, be it on the Stark side or on the Targaryen side, would have been consoled by the discovery that Prince “I play the lute therefore I am a decent guy” Rhaegar and Princess “riding a horse makes me so free-spirited no one can handle my awesomeness” Lyanna were truly, madly, deeply in lurv. ^^

      SiriuslyStark,
      You do bring up some very interesting points yet I cannot shake the impresssion that there is a general desire to blame the Rebellion and its monstrosities on everyone but Rhaegar and Lyanna, at times to the point of stretching logic a touch too far. For some reason I cannot quite fathom, it appears paramount to exonerate the Dragon prince and his Wolf wife…

      Rhaegar did not have to give Lyanna the Crown of Love and Beauty in front of his wife and everyone present to seduce the Stark girl. So even if we assume Elia knew of the prophecy and agreed that her husband should have a third child with someone else, the idea that she would have given her ok to being publicly humiliated for no reason is beyond odd. Equally bizarre is the notion that she would have consented to her husband marrying Lyanna thereby legitimising his third child : such a move could onlyweaken her own son’s claim (Targaryens were no strangers to disputes over the line of succession).

      Had Rhaegar been in cahoots with Elia, I dare hope he would have gone about his plan in a more proper and careful fashion. He could have “hit on” Lyanna without turning his wife into an object of pity or ridicule; he also could have sent his wife to live at Dragonstone or, better, in Dorne as soon as possible so she and their children would be safe from his father’s insanity. He did neither of these things so I can only conclude Elia was not an active participant or co-conspirator in much, if any, of his plans.

      In regards to Tywin, it is true that he did not like Aerys. No one in the kingdom did. But the Old Lion, like pretty much most inhabitants and noblemen of Westeros, did not mind Rhaegar at all. The tourney at Harrenhal was originally meant as a pretext for lords from all over the Seven Kingdoms to meet with Rhaegar so they could discuss how to remove his father from the throne and sit him, Rhaegar, on it instead. If I remember correctly, the plot failed because Varys told Aerys about it and he decided to show up at Harrenhal to keep an eye on everyone…
      So while I can totally imagine Tywin plotting against Aerys, I see no reason why he would attempt anything against Rhaegar.

      As for Littlefinger, he did indeed resent Brandon so he might have tried to engineer something to bring about his demise. So we could assume Lyanna did send a letter to Riverrun and Baelish stole it, hoping it would cause Brandon to do something stupid.
      However, there is a bit of a issue with the timeline : at some point between the tourney at Harrenhal and Lyanna’s abduction, Brandon nearly eviscerated Littlefinger who, immediately after his recovery, was thrown out of Riverrun by Hoster Tully. So, Lyanna’s hypothetical letter can only have reached the Tully stronghold either during Baelish’s convalescence or after his departure… Either way, how could he possibly have intercepted anything ?

      Furthermore, the “Lyanna wrote a letter to her family but it was stolen” scenario still does not explain in any way, shape or form why neither Lyanna nor Rhaegar intervened when they found out Brandon and later Rickard had been captured…

      On a broader note, if we truly are to assume the worst of everyone, why not assume the worst of Rhaegar and Lyanna as well ? Why should they be exempted from the exercice ?
      So let’s do it ! ^^
      Assuming the worst, Rhaegar and Lyanna were simply too obsessed with the prophecy and / or each other and their “luuuurv” to pay careful attention to the world around them. They simply chose themselves and their own interests, be they sentimental, egotistical or prophetical, over those of everyone else. Perhaps they even rationalised it to themselves by thinking that the Rebellion and its chaos were but the birthing pangs of a better world over which their messianic kid would rule supreme…

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    54. Question (for book readers, I guess):

      How many times did Robert actually see and talk to Lyanna?

      From the article (and the show), it’s almost as if she was an idealized accoutrement to Robert’s bromance with Ned.

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    55. Ten Bears,

      He supposedly met Lyanna twice that we know about, and maybe not that many times. He may have met her the night Rickard agreed to the match. And then later at the Tourney at Harrenhal. Robert was the kind of person who fell “in love” very quickly. Often for just one night. It appears to me, and others, that Robert was in love with Ned and being his real brother much more than Lyanna.

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    56. Loved this article guys! I’ve read all the books and watched the show countless times but there is still that air of mystery with Lyanna so reading this was so insightful for me. I assume we will not see her or Rhaegar again on the show now so there will be room left for interpretation when the show ends.

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    57. Ten Bears,
      That is an extremely fair assessment indeed. Robert and Lyanna did not really know each other. To Baratheon, Lyanna was the “one who got away” in many ways and he was mournful of the image he had of her, not her as a person.

      That being said, we have no evidence that Ned’s sister and Rhaegar saw or talked to each other extensively either before she agreed to run away with him…

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