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5 Game of Thrones Theories That Will Change the Way You Watch the Show (and Read the Books)

(Well, I guess it’s too late to say “SPOILER ALERT.”)

By Matt Saccaro

Think you’ve got the world of Westeros figured out? Well, you probably don’t. A pink mast is never just a pink mast in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Everything the characters say, or don’t say, is part of a masterfully woven, intricate plot. They’re all competing in the game of thrones—a contest of deception, murder, and worst of all, marriage. Legions of intrepid fans on Westeros.org have unearthed many conspiracy theories and other interesting schemes that demonstrate how deep Martin’s writing goes (or just how crazy his readers are). For example…

1. Tywin Lannister Knew About the Purple Wedding

The entire world basked in King Joffrey’s recent death. Audiences had been waiting three seasons to see that little punk get his due…and his grandfather might’ve been waiting along with them.

Think about it. Tywin is ruthless and an adept schemer; he’s the guy who machinated the Red Wedding and still slept soundly afterwards. Could the Tyrells and Littlefinger really manage to dupe such a Machiavellian mastermind? And while Joffrey was Tywin’s grandson, nobody had any delusions about the kind of person and king he was, especially not Tywin. Joffrey was bad for the realm. More importantly, he was bad for the Lannister legacy. That’s something Tywin won’t put up with. After all, he even tried to indirectly murder his son, Tyrion, by sending him to fight on the front lines against Robb Stark’s army (though it proved to be a decoy force of only 2,000 men).

Once Tywin learned of the plot to kill Joffrey, why wouldn’t he let it continue? He knows the younger, more malleable Tommen would serve as a perfect figurehead while Tywin himself pulls the strings from behind the Iron Throne and becomes the de facto king of Westeros. By killing Joffrey, the Tyrells and Littlefinger would be doing him a favor.

2. Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon Were Lovers

Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon were best friends growing up, though perhaps they were a little more than best friends…perhaps they were lovers. That’s what one theory, titled “Nedbert” in a portmanteau of Ned and Robert as is common in shipping lingo, maintains.

There might be something to it. Ned’s in-built hatred of Cersei Lannister could be due to her stealing his man. There’s even a line in the books where Ned remarks that Robert was “muscled like a maiden’s fantasy.” Did he mean his own fantasy? And the two did spend their teenage years together in the Vale. What’s to say they didn’t experiment sexually, as teenagers are wont to do?

3. Syrio Forel Isn’t Dead

Syrio Forel—Arya’s “dancing master”—is among the most beloved minor characters in both the books and the show. Even if you didn’t cherish the Braavosi swordsman’s wit and swoon at his accent, you couldn’t help but respect him when he sacrificed himself to save Arya.

The fans’ adulation of Syrio reached such heights that some refused to believe that he was killed at the hands of Meryn Trant. There are alleged clues scattered throughout the text, indicating Syrio’s survival and escape from King’s Landing.

Syrio Forel could even be Jaqen H’ghar, the assassin Arya meets later in her story arc, according to a popular theory.

Is there any truth to these musings? Not really. It seems Syrio is as dead as Ned. Sorry, Syrio fans.

4. R + L = J

R + L = J is the most credible and widely believed theory in the A Song of Ice and Fire world. And it’s got nothing to do with math. It’s about lineage.

R stands for Rhaegar, the Targaryen prince who kidnapped Lyanna Stark and was killed by Robert Baratheon during the Battle of the Trident. But who’s the J?

Jon Snow.

R + L = J surmises that Jon Snow is the offspring of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. That would make him a potential claimant to the throne rather than just a crestfallen bastard who knows nothing. Game of Thrones watchers might not understand the significance of R + L = J or how it’s even possible seeing as Lyanna and the Tower of Joy incident are scarcely mentioned. Fret not, here’s a great guide to the whole story.

The theory is so popular that literally hundreds of pages of R + L = J discussion exist on Westeros.org alone. Some readers will likely object to its inclusion on the grounds that it’s too obvious. Still, it’s important to know the basics.

5. A + J = T

Jon Snow isn’t the only character with disputed parentage. Some believe Tyrion Lannister, too, is a secret Targaryen. Their proof? Tyrion’s hair is described as “so blond it seemed white” in the books, and white (or platinum) hair is a Targaryen trait. Furthermore, in chapter 13 of Game of Thrones, Tyrion states that he fantasized about dragons as a child, even going so far as to picture burning his father and sister alive in dragon fire.

Say, who else burned people alive?

The Mad King, Aerys Targaryen. He’s the A in A + J = T. The J is Joanna Lannister, Tywin’s wife and Tyrion’s mother—a woman who Aerys was said to fancy in the books. Could Aerys have used his authority as king to bed Joanna, producing Tyrion? It’s certainly possible. Maybe we’ll see Tyrion riding a dragon, bathing anyone who dares call him an imp in fire next season.

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