Westeros Romance: the roses are blue, but the blood is still red.

Posted: February 14, 2017 by patricksponaugle in Game of Thrones, TV
Tags: , , , , , ,

Happy Valentine’s Day! (If you’re into that thing.) This post will be talking about Game of Thrones and a very specific story of love and broken hearts. I’ll be tromping all over a spoilery plot detail, one that some might argue hasn’t been 100% comfirmed, so I’ll just let you decide if you want to keep reading.


“Promise me, Ned,” Lyanna’s statue whispered. She wore a garland of pale blue roses, and her eyes wept blood.

Whoa, Jon is Ned’s…

Season Six of the television show has pushed past the books in some important ways, but perhaps the most anticipated moment that has not yet been seen in the books was in a Bran-warging flashback where a young Ned Stark reunited with his beloved sister, Lyanna.

And she handed him his nephew, a young boy who would grow up acknowledged as Ned’s bastard son, Jon Snow.


Ned: Whew, everything’s going to be totally okay now.
Lyanna: Remember how you hated helping change Benjen’s diapers? I’ve got some bad news for you.

Now, the show has not absolutely positively beyond-all-shadow-of-an-unreasonable-doubt confirmed that Jon Snow is actually Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen’s baby boy. I mean, maybe that chubby cherub handed to Ned at the Tower of Joy was actually the future Sam Tarly, and Ned just dropped the kid off at Horn Hill since Randyll Tarly was otherwise occupied.

But come on. We know what happened, right? I can’t say that everyone who read the books had this epiphany, but it was a commonly held belief among book readers that Ned’s promise to Lyanna was to keep Jon’s identity a secret, to save the boy from Robert Baratheon’s wrath.

This was one of those unconfirmed but commonly-held theories among the fans that loomed over the show with a quasi-spoilery status. It was just speculation, but should this explosive hypothesis be talked about to people who hadn’t been exposed to the clues?

There were so many clues in the books, and almost all of them dreamlike references to blue roses, the flowers which made up the garland given to Lyanna by Rhaegar at the Tourney of Harrenhal. (Harrenhal dooms everything.)

I’m not trying to be the arbiter of how speculation should be handled in general, but for me and this specific theory, it seemed that if the speculation was true, then it would be such a dramatic reveal that the theory shouldn’t be discussed openly, just out of politeness. Or at least the chatter should be handled carefully and obliquely.

This view was more or less in sync with how the online community mostly talked about Jon’s mysterious parentage, even coming up with a mathematical codename for the theory: R + L = J. This equation could conveniently be used when among “mixed” company. (And no, the Joffrey of Podcasts, the formula did not mean Robert + Lysa = Joffrey.)

I won’t try to recap all of the debates and unanswered questions concerning the backstory of Rhaegar’s abduction of Lyanna (you know: whether Lyanna went willingly with Rhaegar, or if they got married as part of the process, or if they actually had twins, etc.)

I’m not recapping all that because it can be found elsewhere and probably more eloquently expressed.

Instead I’d like to talk about all of the consequences of Rhaegar and Lyanna’s story, regardless the level of consent (I say she was totally in love with Rhaegar), or how many kids Lyanna had (I say she totally only had one child – come at me Meera theorists), or whatever.

The Doom that Came to Westeros

We’re not sure exactly what the Doom was that came to Valyria, but a lot of political consequences and strife in Westeros can be attributed to Rhaegar and Lyanna’s situation.

  • Lyanna’s perceived abduction by the crown prince directly led to the death of Lord Rickard Stark and his eldest son, Brandon. (Lyanna’s dad and big brother weren’t too keen on the Targaryen prince’s intentions towards Lyanna, and the mad king was having none of their lip about it.) This had personal consequences for Lyanna, but represented a huge political situation in regards to the crown and the North.
  • Robert, Lyanna’s betrothed, raised the Stormlands in defiance of the crown. The North likewise rebelled. The Lord of the Vale, political foster-father to both Ned Stark and Robert also rebelled. Love and War, baby.
  • Hoster Tully’s eldest daughter Catelyn had been betrothed to Brandon Stark, but Brandon’s execution pretty much ended that. So the new Lord of Winterfell, Ned Stark, honorably stepped in as the replacement groom to keep faith with the Tullys and form the political marriage between the North and Riverrun.

Wait, who do I have to marry again? Uh, you see, there’s this other girl that I’m kind of sweet on.

  • The Riverlands, situated in-between the North, the Vale, and the Crownlands, saw a lot of fighting.
  • “Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly, Rhaegar fought honorably. And Rhaegar died.” (Thanks, Ser Jorah, for that quote.) Allegedly, Rhaegar had been quietly talking to some of the lords about having Mad Dad abdicate, once the rebellion had been dealt with. Those plans were crushed, like Rhaegar’s sternum, at the Trident.
  • Jaime Lannister assassinated the Mad King, and Lannister goons murdered Prince Rhaegar’s family, to remove any ethical problems from Robert Baratheon’s plate.

Tywin: Now you don’t have to kill any babies. You’re welcome.
Robert: Oh, there’ll always be a baby or two that needs killing.
Ned: Man, I don’t even know you.

  • Weeks later in Dorne, Ned located his sister Lyanna dying in a bloody bed. Rhaegar probably had good reasons for keeping Lyanna off at the remote location, but it probably wasn’t the best place for a difficult childbirth.

Ned: Oh, a baby. *Remembers what happened to baby Aegon and young Rhaenys*

  • The last children of King Aerys: Viserys and itty-bitty Daenerys Targaryen, escaped to Essos keeping just ahead of assassins and ne’er-do-wells. With Rhaegar and his first son Aegon dead, and Jon’s birth kept a secret (regardless if he was legitimate or not) Viserys could claim to be the rightful king of the Seven Kingdoms.
  • With Lyanna Stark dead, on the urging of Lord Jon Arryn, Robert Baratheon married Cersei Lannister to cement an alliance with the kingdom of the West. It’s fair to say that the Lannister influence in the realm took advantage of King Robert’s lack of interest in the minutiae of ruling. Thus laying the groundwork for Robert’s death and the resultant and bloody War of the Five Kings.

Not counting all of the smallfolk and other lords who died during the war, Lyanna and Rhaegar’s romance took a toll on their families, resulting in two Stark deaths and five Targaryen deaths (I’m counting Elia of Dorne here, but not counting Daenerys’ mother. Maybe I should. Viserys was so awful that I assume he was doomed to an early grave no matter what.)

But I don’t want to lay all of the bad situations on the love between Rhaegar and Lyanna.

What ifs…

  • Had the Mad King not wildly overreacted to Lord Rickard and Brandon’s legitimate family concerns, the realm might not have plunged into rebellion. (Maybe Brandon could have been a bit cooler-tempered about it, as well.)
  • After the rebellion, maybe Jon Arryn shouldn’t have been so quick to set up an alliance with the ambitious and treacherous Lannisters. It might have worked out better to secure the favor of Highgarden and get the Reach (since it would be unlikely for the remaining kingdoms of Dorne and the Lannister West to ally against the new regime.) But Margaery was just a child at the time, and it probably wouldn’t have worked for Robert not to secure a political marriage for the stability of the Realm.

Robert: I’d have married all of the women of the Seven Kingdoms if I could have! (Or at least had sex with them.)

  • Regardless, it wouldn’t have killed Robert to have tried to be a decent husband to Cersei and a good king to the realm. That would have mediated A LOT of problems. And I’m serious about it “not killing” him. But maybe I’m asking too much.

More of those What ifs…

Okay, I understand the inclination to tsk-tsk Rhaegar and Lyanna for their unannounced elopement. The die was probably cast at that moment. But let’s imagine if the two star-crossed lovers opted to not act on their love.

For starters, Jon Snow would not have been born. Neither would have Robb, Sansa, Bran, Arya, or Rickon.

Catelyn would have married Brandon Stark (who I don’t think was a cool as my man Eddard) and Ned would have married someone else. (We book readers think we know who.) It’s possible that Ned would have been able to produce a daughter much like Arya, who seems to have inherited the bare minimum of Catelyn DNA (as opposed to Sansa, who might have been produced parthogenetically from her mother.)

I don’t know if I’d like having a Westeros where Arya Stark wasn’t running around with a kill-list. (Arya haters, no need to respond with your wrong wrongnesses.)

Anyway, it’s not like the past can be changed.

Bran: Hey! I’ll just warg back in time and tell Rhaegar and Aunt Lyanna to keep it in their pants.
Me: Hold up, Doctor Who. Wouldn’t that prevent you from being born, therefore unable to warg back in time in the first place? Hey! Maybe this time-travelling cock-blocking plan of yours is what caused them to elope in the first place!
Bran: *brain explodes*
Meera: Gross!

(I’ll talk more about Bran/warging/time-travel in a month or so. Sorry about that.)

Anyway, Happy Valentine’s Day to all you lovable lovers out there. Just be glad that you and the object of your affection aren’t likely to cause a tremendous story of bloodshed and heartbreak.

At least I assume you two crazy kids don’t have a romance of mass destruction. Maybe your love life is way more interesting than I’m imagining. But go follow your heart! Before someone stabs it!


Or eats it…

(Comments are always welcome. Super welcome! But if you want to talk spoilery Game of Thrones talk with me (also welcome) I’d invite you to visit my Safe Spoilers page on my backup blog. That way my non-book-reading friends won’t be shocked with foreknowledge.)

Most images from HBO’s Game of Thrones (obviously.) 

I make no claim to the images, but some claims to the text. So there.

If you liked this article, thank you! I have all of my Game of Thrones related articles on my handy-dandy Game of Thrones page should you want to read more but don’t want to navigate around my site.

© Patrick Sponaugle 2017 Some Rights Reserved

  1. writingjems says:

    This bit is pure gold. “Allegedly, Rhaegar had been quietly talking to some of the lords about having Mad Dad abdicate, once the rebellion had been dealt with. Those plans were crushed, like Rhaegar’s sternum, at the Trident.”

    Anyway, it’s probably been mentioned before, but I definitely see parallels between Lyanna and Rhaegar and Helen and Paris of Troy. It seems pretty irresponsible of them to think this elopement wouldn’t have far-ranging consequences, but I suspect if Lyanna was already pregnant at the time, there wouldn’t be much way to avoid the fallout regardless. I suppose Lyanna and Rhaegar do give us an important lesson: never cheat, or you might cause the downfall of an empire.

    I guess you could forgive them for their redhot passion, but the other war-starting couple of Robert and Cersei is much worse to me, since the whole War of the Five Kings could have been avoided if Robert was a marginally decent human being instead of the worst husband of all time.

    But then, we wouldn’t have gotten another golden line:

    “I shall wear it like a badge of honor.”
    “Quiet, before I ‘honor’ you some more.”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Scribbling Owlet says:

    I don’t quite understand the bit of whispering in the show though. Or the real name of Jon Snow. And my hair will be as white as the Targaryens before the show reveals everything! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. erinb9 says:

    Maybe the fact that I’m a wife influences me here, but would it have *killed* Ned to let Cate in on the Jon Snow secret? I mean, she’s a decent person who would’ve understood the extreme importance of never telling another soul.

    She was needlessly tortured by picturing her husband’s infidelity for years and resented Jon Snow, depriving him of the only mother he could’ve known. Yes, she shouldn’t have blamed an innocent child for the deeds of his father (and the guilt weighed heavily on her soul)–but she might’ve been an extremely loving mother to him if she weren’t drowning in confusion and perceived betrayal.

    Just goes to show why a rigid, black & white moral code is flawed.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Haylee says:

    Firstly, Robert + Lysa = Joffrey? Really? That was a theory?!

    Secondly, I’ve just stepped onto the dark side and visited your other blog. 😉 Never ventured before because of book knowledge spoilers… I got scared! But now I’m a little confused – Do you have two or three blogs? (Is the book spoiler one the same as the ‘long post’ site? I’m basically just curious!)

    Liked by 2 people

    • The alternate R + L = Joffrey is not a real theory, although the Joffrey of Podcasts did have a podcast built around it, for fun.

      I do have three blogs, since I have my rarely used Orcs who watch Game of Thrones thing. The backup second blog has the long spoilery prediction page, and also less spoilery backup features. It is a mix, I guess.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haylee says:

        So glad that was a spoof theory – you never know in the crazy world of fandom!
        How are you organised enough for three (or 2.5) blogs?! I struggle to find time for three posts!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Awww, you’re too kind! The need for the second blog came when I wrote my first Stannis post. I wanted to recap his backstory and talk about (I was so pompous) the legitimacy or illegitimacy of authority and how it related to Stannis, and that made my Stannis post just too big. So I created this backup blog and put those limited-interest materials there, in case anyone wanted to click on a link and read more stuff. So, that’s how it started. Sometimes when I write a post, I realize I can expand and make more information available in the secondary post, and sometimes I like to talk about spoilery details, and the backup blog works well for that. So it doesn’t see a lot of love from me (although I do love it.)

          The Orcish Perspectives on Game of Thrones post started as a joke, and I just ran out of steam with it.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Haylee says:

            Well now I know what I may find there, I may be popping along more often!

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yay! Some of my best stuff is there (that is a dubious claim) like my treatise on why Sam is wrong about his overly literal interpretation of the Night’s Watch Oath.

              If you check out my Game of Thrones page, any post that seems to have a subordinate post under it (like the several under the first Stannis post in my Baratheon category) is on the backup blog. I didn’t make it all that easy on the backup blog to bounce around.

              As always, thank you for your interest, Haylee (everyone, Haylee is an honorary Sponaugle, just because)

              Liked by 1 person

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