Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tower of Joy - For the Record

Spoiler Alert: This piece may contain spoilers from any material of A Song of Ice and Fire.

   I want to get two mini-theories out there just for the record, because I haven't seen anyone suggest them yet.  Both of them have something to do with the Tower of Joy, and tie in well with the Mance Rhaegar theory.

   As you read, remember George's words regarding Ned's flashback: "Ned's account, which you refer to, was in the context of a dream... and a fever dream at that. Our dreams are not always literal."

1) Lyanna was kidnapped, but not by Rhaegar.

   Look.  Everyone is pointing out how stupid Rhaegar was to kidnap or elope with Lyanna.  I totally agree that it would be completely irresponsible and short-sighted.  We're also told in no uncertain terms that Rhaegar simply is not that stupid.  This is a contradiction that cannot be ignored.

   The most common attempts to reconcile this apparent contradiction are to suggest that Rhaegar was blinded by true love or an obsession with prophecy.  These is inadequate, to say the least.  Ser Barristan Selmy described Rhaegar as "Able. That above all. Determined, deliberate, dutiful, single-minded."  Such a man would have certainly taken more care in securing a third heir.  The Official Story just doesn't fit.

   What fits better?  This: the kingsguard (and perhaps Rhaegar with them) were on a rescue mission.  If someone else kidnapped Lyanna, there would be an element of urgency that much better explains Rhaegar's sudden absence.  Who would do such a thing?  Oberyn Martell.

   "My sister loved him. She bore his children. Swaddled them, rocked them, fed them at her own breast. Elia wouldn't let the wet nurse touch them. And beautiful, noble Rhaegar Targaryen... left her for another woman."

   Some have noted the similarities between the Tower of Joy and Joyous Gard.  Who did Lancelot confront at Joyous Gard?  The copper knight.

   Oberyn's love for his sister, Elia, is well known.  He, and all of Dorne, would have taken the crowning of Lyanna at Harrenhal as an insult.  Furthermore, we know how important Dorne's arranged marriages were to the ruling family.  Rhaegar's attention toward Lyanna would have been viewed as a threat to Dorne's power and influence.  Dorne simply could not permit a relationship between Rhaegar and Lyanna to grow.

   "But it is the grass that hides the viper from his enemies and shelters him until he strikes."

   The World of Ice and Fire tells us, "With the coming of the new year, the crown prince had taken to the road with half a dozen of his closest friends and confidants, on a journey that would ultimately lead him back to the riverlands, not ten leagues from Harrenhal . . . where Rhaegar would once again come face-to-face with Lyanna Stark of Winterfell, and with her light a fire that would consume his house and kin and all those he loved—and half the realm besides."

   Lyanna was probably on the way to Brandon's wedding in Riverrun.  Rhaegar may have been too.  This would have been a great opportunity for Oberyn to strike as Lyanna had left the safety of Harrenhal where she was residing as a ward.  Rhaegar seems to have split his group and gone south after her.

   How, then, did the rumor of a kidnapping by Rhaegar originate?  Funny you should ask, because there just happened to be a bitter little snot whose path met the Crossroads Inn during this same timeframe.  Petyr Baelish had just received a good beating from Brandon Stark at Riverrun, and was on his way back to the Fingers to lick his wounds and rage about losing Catelyn forever.  Could he have witnessed the kidnapping?  Could he have even sped Rhaegar and friends on their way to rescue Lyanna?  And finally, could he have concocted the most convenient lie that Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna and took her back to King's Landing - the lie that led to the immediate death of his most hated rival?

   After Brandon's death, Littlefinger sent a letter to Catelyn, which she promptly burned unopened.  What was in it, I wonder?

   If the kingsguard were indeed on a rescue mission, then the encounter at the Tower of Joy probably was not the duel to the death that many believe it to be.  This fits in quite well with the Mance Rhaegar theory, as well as a little something else...

The standard of House Wells Wull by Eagle of Seagard
2) Theodan Wells is Theo Wull.

   There is a very solid theory about Howland Reed being the High Sparrow.  (Also related: Goldilocks and the Three Bears.)  Given that, and given the possibility that there are more survivors from the Tower of Joy than we originally thought, (Lord Dustin's bones, anyone?) I submit that Theo Wull is still working with Howland Reed to this day.

   Theo was nicknamed "Buckets" because his house's sigil is three wooden buckets, brown on blue, with a border of grey and white checks.  It looks a lot like a fricken well.  Bricks on the outside, water inside, and buckets.  Seriously.

"Well, he is, but they just call him the Wull." - Bran

   Howland needs to be working with people he can implicitly trust.  Who better to be the captain of the Warrior's Sons than someone who has been in on the whole Mance Rhaegar conspiracy from the beginning?  Besides, the only account of his character is given by Ned Stark, and the one word Ned used to describe the man is "faithful."  That's cute, George.

   This is an extremely important revelation because, if true, there are almost certainly other survivors of the encounter at the tower.  I suspect that Ned's other companions are knee deep in these shenanigans.  Let me know if you spot any more.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Tyrion Targaryen

Spoiler Alert: This piece may contain spoilers from any material of A Song of Ice and Fire.

Tyrion Lannister by winthersanna
   Face it; it's practically a fact.

   Aerys's infatuation with Joanna is well documented:

   The scurrilous rumor that Joanna Lannister gave up her maidenhead to Prince Aerys the night of his fathers coronation and enjoyed a brief reign after he ascended the Iron Throne as his paramour can  safely be discounted.
   It has been reliably reported, however, that King Aerys took unwonted liberties with Lady Joanna's person during her bedding ceremony, to Tywin's displeasure. Not long thereafter, Queen Rhaella dismissed Joanna Lannister from her service. No reason for this was ever given, but Lady Joanna departed at once for Casterly Rock and seldom visited King's Landing thereafter.
   - The World of Ice and Fire

   "Prince Aerys... as a youth, he was taken with a certain lady of Casterly Rock, a cousin of Tywin Lannister. When she and Tywin wed, your father drank too much wine at the wedding feast and was heard to say that it was a great pity that the lord's right to the first night had been abolished. A drunken jape, no more, but Tywin Lannister was not a man to forget such words, or the ... liberties your father took during the bedding."
   - Ser Barristan to Daenerys

   At the great Anniversary Tourney of 272 AC, held to commemorate Aerys's tenth year upon the Iron Throne, Joanna Lannister brought her six-year-old twins Jaime and Cersei from Casterly Rock to present before the court.  The king (very much in his cups) asked her if giving suck to them had "ruined your breasts, which were so high and proud."  The question greatly amused Lord Tywin's rivals, who were always pleased to see the Hand slighted or made mock of, but Lady Joanna was humiliated.  Tywin Lannister attempted to return his chain of office the next morning, but the king refused to accept his resignation.
   - The World of Ice and Fire

   Tyrion was born in the next year, so this tourney is when he was most likely conceived.  The only other time Tywin attempted to resign as Hand was when Tyrion was made his heir.  You see, this makes Aerys's appointment of Jaime to the Kingsguard especially cruel - it made his own bastard the heir to Casterly Rock.

   "Men’s laws give you the right to bear my name and display my colors, since I cannot prove that you are not mine."

   After Aerys's death, Tywin's hatred for the man would rest solely on Tyrion.  Tywin's "payment" to Tyrion's "whore" wife was revenge for what Aerys did to Tywin's own wife.

   "You are on son of mine." - Tywin's last words to Tyrion

   When Tyrion had the last laugh, he didn't actually kill his own father.  He avenged his true father, in a manner of speaking.  Jaime is mad at Tyrion for killing his dad?  Perhaps someone should inform him that it was merely payback for slaying Tyrion's father.  Ouch.

   That Night Tyrion Lannister dreamed of a battle that turned the hills of Westeros as read as blood. He was in the midst of it, dealing death with an axe as big as he was, fighting side by side with Barristan the Bold and Bittersteel as dragons wheeled across the sky above them. In the dream he had two heads, both noseless. His father led the enemy, so he slew him once again. Then he killed his brother, Jamie, hacking at his face until it was a red ruin, laughing every time he struck a blow. Only when the fight was finished did he realize that his second head was weeping.

   One of Tyrion's halves is Targaryen, the other is Lannister.  It's right there in the text.  I'm not sure Martin can make it any more clear without literally drawing us a picture.  The two halves are also represented by his mismatched eyes, reminding us of the half-Targaryen Shiera Seastar.

   Tywin would go to great lengths to make Tyrion behave like a Lannister, because he certainly wouldn't be allowed to behave like a Targaryen.  Yet he did behave quite like a Targaryen, specifically Rhaegar.  Tyrion is bookish and excels at everything he sets out to do, even when cleaning the toilets of Casterly Rock.

   "Dragons," Moqorro said in the Common Tongue of Westeros... "Dragons old and young, true and false, bright and dark. And you. A small man with a big shadow, snarling in the midst of all."

   Tyrion also felt a connection to Jon Snow.  If R + L = J, it's not just because they're both rejects.

   "What the hell do you know about being a bastard?"
   "All dwarfs are bastards in their father's eyes."
   (Especially when they are, you know, actual bastards.)

   Tyrion may not have Rhaegar's skill in arms, but a dragon would be a great equalizer, wouldn't it?

   "Even a stunted, twisted, ugly little boy can look down over the world when he's seated on a dragon's back. I used to start fires in the bowels of Casterly Rock and stare at the flames for hours, pretending they were dragonfire. Sometimes I'd imagine my father burning. At other times, my sister. Don't look at me that way, bastard. I know your secret. You've dreamt the same kind of dreams."

   Moving forward, this will make Tyrion the perfect advisor for Daenerys.  He has extensively studied dragon lore, and he even has practice making unconventional saddles.  Just what she needs!  Maester Aemon thinks so, too:

   "Daenerys is the one, born amidst salt and smoke. The dragons prove it." Just talking of her seemed to make him stronger. "I must go to her. I must."
...
"Daenerys is our hope. Tell them that, at the Citadel. Make them listen. They must send her a maester. Daenerys must be counseled, taught, protected."

   Since the death of the dragons, much dragon lore has been lost to the Targaryen family.  Tyrion could not be in a better position to restore it now that the dragons have returned.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Rhaegar's Tower of Crows

Spoiler Alert: This piece may contain spoilers from any material of A Song of Ice and Fire.

   If you read A Song of Ice and Fire as if it is a mystery series, you quickly catch on to the fact that George R. R. Martin likes to use songs and other tales to give you clues about secrets within the greater story.  These tales are more than mere flavor; they have double meanings and hidden messages.  Sometimes the characters presenting them are unaware of the implications, but George is using them to give clues to the reader.

   Several of these items are pertinent to the Mance Rhaegar Theory, such as the tale of Bael the Bard, the song The Dornishman's Wife, and Mance Rayder's own account of his shadowcat attack.  Others have discussed these, though I plan to do the same eventually.  In this post, however, I would like to address a connection that I have not yet seen made.

   "Old Nan told him a story about a bad little boy who climbed too high and was struck down by lightning, and how afterward the crows came to peck out his eyes.  Bran was not impressed.  There were crows' nests atop the broken tower, where no one ever went but him, and sometimes he filled his pockets with corn before he climbed up there and the crows ate it right out of his hand.  None of them had ever shown the slightest bit of interest in pecking out his eyes."

   Nan's tale seems to be a reference to - you guessed it - Rhaegar Targaryen.  Consider that those in Winterfell might view him as "a bad little boy who climbed too high" because, as the Official Story goes, he abused his power as the prince to abduct Lyanna Stark, the daughter of a great lord who was already engaged to another great lord.  That latter lord - the Storm Lord - is the lightning that struck him down.

   The part about the eyes isn't quite as clear, but I suspect it means that the Night's Watch erased his identity.  Crows are a common reference to the Watch, and Rhaegar's eyes were his most defining characteristic.  Old Nan may or may not be aware of Rhaegar's hiding, but George can still use her tale to send a hidden message to the reader.

   Jaime also recalls that crows "had feasted on Rhaegar Targaryen after the Trident."  Crows often start with the eyes.

   What's cute is that Bran isn't buying the Official Story.  This is George's way of saying that you shouldn't either.  Bran's own take has significance, too.  Bran is being used by George to further relay the hidden meaning to the reader.

Westeros and Essos
   "There were crows' nests atop the broken tower," means the Night's Watch has castles at the top of Westeros.  Westeros's map does look very much like a broken tower.  It can also be described a broken due to the fall of the Targaryens and the resulting feuds, or the earlier tensions fueled by Aerys.

   "where no one ever went but him," describes the isolation that would protect Rhaegar, especially at the Shadow Tower.  Rhaegar's motivation for getting involved in northern affairs may have also been fueled by the fact that few go there anymore and the Watch is dwindling.  It needs a man with his special gift for uniting people in order to weather the coming storm.

   "sometimes he filled his pockets with corn before he climbed up there and the crows ate it right out of his hand."  This may mean that he disguised himself and they bought it - hook, line, and sinker.

   "None of them had ever shown the slightest bit of interest in pecking out his eyes."  Nobody wants Rhaegar's new throne.  He is far removed from the feuding now.

As always, I welcome any corrections or additions to help strengthen the theory.

Friday, July 24, 2015

10 Reasons Rhaegar is Not Dead

"Take heart, Father.  At least Rhaegar Targaryen is still dead."
Mance Rayder's second cousin

Spoiler Alert: This piece may contain spoilers from any material of A Song of Ice and Fire.

   Below are some of the most common objections to the Mance Rhaegar Theory.  You may now consider them answered.  I plan to keep this post updated as new, prominent objections arise.  In the interest of keeping future topics on track, I also plan to redirect such objections to this post.  Please debate them here.

  1. Martin's cremation comment
  2. Eye witnesses
  3. Mance's upbringing
  4. Physical appearance
  5. Uncharacteristic
  6. Not Martin's style
  7. No evidence
  8. No narrative purpose
  9. Jorah's quote
10. Indignation

In an interview, George R. R. Martin said that Rhaegar was cremated.

   This is true, and seems to be the strongest evidence against the Mance Rhaegar Theory.  However, I will explain why this case is not open and shut.

   First, let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the Mance Rhaegar Theory is true.  In such a scenario, I think we can all agree that it is one of the biggest secrets, if not the biggest secret, in the entire series.  George  would almost certainly be saving the "big reveal" for the climax of A Song of Ice and Fire.  When put to the question, what would you expect the author to say in such a case?

   If he outright refused to answer by responding, "What body," "Keep reading," or "Good question, one day you will get an answer," he would be inviting so much speculation as to spoil the grand surprise.  The mastermind behind the mystery would have to choose between engaging in a little misdirection and ruining the climax of his magnum opus.  It is ridiculous that critics of the theory suggest he would do the latter.  George said exactly what I would have expected him to say if an impersonator was slain at the Trident and the body believed to be Rhaegar's was cremated.

   Those who rely on this argument must answer the question, "Assuming Mance Rhaegar was true, how should George have answered the question?"  If a sufficient answer cannot be provided, then the argument is not a valid reductio ad absurdum.  I submit that any answer that spoils the mystery is insufficient.

   Second, cremation may be a vague reference to other events.  Mance was supposedly burned at the Wall, remember.  Rhaegar was born at the massive pyre of Summerhall.  It has been suggested that he attempted a similar pyre at the Tower of Joy.  It could also be symbolic of burning the past and being reborn like a phoenix.  It is a bit of a stretch, but we know there is Targaryen precedent for this.

   Remember, the Elder Brother refers to his own death (and that of the Hound) in the sense of becoming a new man.  That's just one of many examples in the series.  George may be doing the same here.

"The unburnt king supplied some names"
Jon, on cremated Mance

   Third, Robert was pleased with the gruesome deaths of Rhaegar's wife and children.  He would never allow Rhaegar, the direct object of his never-ending hatred, a dignified, traditional Targaryen cremation.  No matter how you slice it, something secretive is going on here.

   Finally, George did not actually answer the question about Rhaegar's body!  The question has often been misquoted and the answer taken out of context.  Here is the original Q&A:

   Q: "Who recovered Rhaegar's corpse (if anyone did it) and where was he buried (if he was buried)?"

   GRRM: "Rhaegar was cremated, as is traditional for fallen Targaryens. This has been fun, but time is passing and I have another long day tomorrow, and so I´m going to need to wind this up. Three more questions, and let´s close."

   It was a specific, two-part question.  George only gave the vaguest possible answer to the second part, and completely ignored the first.  Then, he made a deliberate effort to change the subject even though he had time to answer more questions!  It cannot be denied that George R. R. Martin intentionally refused to discuss who recovered Rhaegar's corpse.  Any reasonable person would admit that this revelation actually supports the belief that Rhaegar may not be dead.

   Shame on those who have quoted a portion of this out of context when the context makes all the difference.

Everybody saw Rhaegar die by Robert's hand.

   First, battles are not as easy to follow as they are in the movies.  It's not like there was a crowd gathered around the two combatants chanting, "Fight!  Fight!  Fight!"  Watching somebody else's combat is a quick way to become good and dead.

"The singers would have us believe it was all Rhaegar and Robert struggling in the stream for a woman both of them claimed to love..."
The Elder Brother

   Second, in the known example of Mance using a "glamour" to disguise himself, the magic was controlled using a ruby held by a black iron fetter.  Similarly, Rhaegar's armor was black with encrusted rubies.  Not only would his narrow-slitted helm have concealed his face, but the body itself may have been that of an impersonator disguised as Rhaegar using red magic.

   Third, Lord Eddard Stark points out that he had to take over because Robert was injured in the battle.  The Mance Rhaegar Theory posits that Ned, some of the Kingsguard, and a few other lords are plotting together with Rhaegar.  (Ser Barristan Selmy was not in on the secret, but he was also greatly injured.)  Ned would have been responsible for cleaning up the mess, and had a very strong motive for interfering with the evidence.  If a few of his close vassals found out and/or assisted him, they would have been great candidates to take to the Tower of Joy.

"Better rubies than bones."
Septon Meribald

   Fourth, the Elder Brother of the Quiet Isle, where six of Rhaegar's rubies washed up, is known for healing - and being healed of - wounds that others would dismiss for being fatal.

   Fifth, I believe that "brothers" assisted Rhaegar after the battle.  There are two indicators of this.  I'll expand on them elsewhere, but here's the basic rundown:

   The song, The Dornishman's Wife, is a retelling of part of Rhaegar's life.  It says that a man was mortally wounded, prayed over by his brothers, and then "he smiled and he laughed and he sung."  He then says "my days here are done," meaning that he must go into hiding, and "all men must die," which means that his new quest is to stop the Others and the Faceless from destroying the world.  (According to The Grand Faceless Men Conspiracy Theory, "all men must die" actually means "humanity must be exterminated."  I suggest that it has a double meaning in the song, too.)

   In Mance's shadowcat story, which is another retelling of his fall in the war, his "brothers" carried him to where he was healed.  "Brothers" might refer to his brothers-in-law, Ned and Ben.  It might be some of the Kingsguard.  It could also be the brothers of the Quiet Isle.

   Note that Mance gives Jon both of these retellings at their first meeting.  The very first words out of Mance's mouth to Jon were in a song about his mother!  "How did you like the song, lad?"  That's cute, Dad.

   Finally, Jaime gives us this very interesting tidbit: "On the morning after the battle, the crows had feasted on victors and vanquished alike, as once they had feasted on Rhaegar Targaryen after the Trident.  How much can a crown be worth, when a crow can dine upon a king?"

   If crows munched on Rhaegar - or his replacement - they probably would have gone for the eyes first as they tend to do, and even his scalp if his helm fell off.  Rhaegar's eyes were his most defining characteristic.  Though silver hair is a bit more common and easier to reproduce, even that may not have remained.  If there was a replacement in Rhaegar's armor, nobody may have had the opportunity to find out.

   Additionally, this demonstrates that the aftermath of the Trident was extremely chaotic.  The great Rhaegar Targaryen - the crown prince - was left to lie long enough for crows to feast on him!  This would have given Ned ample opportunity to mess with the evidence, such as discovering a dying Rhaegar and replacing him with a man whose head was "feasted" upon.  Jaime's rhetorical question is a clue.  Ned clearly honored the memory of Rhaegar.  He would not have allowed such shame to come to him if he could help it.

Mance was fostered at the Wall from childhood.

   If the Mance Rhaegar Theory is true, the only people with direct knowledge of the origins of this story, such as Qhorin Halfhand, would want to keep Rhaegar's identity secret.  The tale is almost certainly a tall one.  Rhaegar would have had help from loyal friends and even family, and Qhorin is a prime candidate for such a helping hand.  (Halfhand of the King?)  Almost nobody remaining at the Wall remembers as far back as Mance's childhood.  Furthermore, Mance operated at the Shadow Tower, well away from prying eyes and ears.

   Remember, the Mance Rhaegar Theory posits that several people with great influence over the Night's Watch are in on the secret.  Ned Stark does not have insignificant sway over the Wall, and Benjen is First Ranger.  Maester Aemon is a relative of Rhaegar, and so was the past Lord Commander Brynden Rivers.  Also, how many Targaryen loyalists may have ended up at the Wall after Robert's Rebellion?

   There is even a very solid theory that Jeor Mormont knowingly gave the ancestral Targaryen sword, Blackfyre, to Jon.  (Update: GRRM explicitly stated on his blog that Longclaw is not Blackfyre, but I believe Dark Sister fits better anyway.  More on that another time.)  The man also demonstrates a thorough knowledge of Targaryen history, and an awareness that the wildlings are not the real threat to the Watch.

   It is almost certain that Mormont was in on the conspiracy.  Perhaps Ned even encouraged the Old Bear to join the Watch and used his influence to help him rise to Lord Commander for this purpose - a rapid rise that Ser Denys Mallister lamented.  In fact, I can find no mention of House Mormont in The World of Ice and Fire by Maester Yandel, even though it mentions many less significant houses as well as several references to Bear Island.  It seems that House Mormont may have been silently established by Eddard Stark some time after Robert's Rebellion and Yandel's work.

   Furthermore, the wildling, Osha, actually contradicted the story that Mance was born as a wildling and raised at the wall when she said, "He can call himself King- beyond-the-Wall all he likes, but he’s still just another old black crow who flew down from the Shadow Tower. He’s never tasted winter. I was born up there, child, like my mother and her mother before her and her mother before her, born of the Free Folk. We remember."  Why wouldn't Mance want the wildlings to know he was born as one of them, and that he has always lived in the North?  Perhaps he knew he couldn't fool them, and didn't need to.

Mance Rayder doesn't look like Rhaegar Targaryen.

   This is true.  Mance is plain looking.  His hair is turned mostly gray from brown, and his eyes are brown.  Rhaegar was stunning, with silver hair and deep, lilac eyes.

   However, if you think this destroys the Mance Rhaegar Theory, then we must not be reading the same books.  Mance has proven willing to disguise himself and impersonate others multiple times.  Such disguises include the musician at Robert's feast in Winterfell, Rattleshirt, and Abel the bard.  In addition, Arya's branch of the tale has shown us how looks can be very deceiving by "Faceless" means in this series.  There's even the possibility of "warging" into other people such as Bran does to Hodor, though I do not think the Mance Rhaegar Theory needs to resort to that unusual device.

"I have a great fondness for the charms of women."
Mance Rayder, on glamours

It's not like Rhaegar to cowardly hide at the Wall.

   I don't see how Mance's actions can be described as cowardly.  He earned the respect of the Wildlings through many feats of strength, courage, and cunning.  He is actively working to save the realm - and those beyond it - from the greatest threat it has ever known.  His efforts toward this end have been skillfully well-played as well as bold, and his goal for the safety of the realm is that of a true king.

"I knew Mance Rayder, Jon. He is an oathbreaker, yes... but he has eyes to see, and no man has ever dared to name him faintheart."
Jeor Mormont, on girly men calling Mance a coward

"Mance had spent years assembling this vast plodding host, talking to this clan mother and that magnar, winning one village with sweet words and another with a song and a third with the edge of his sword, making peace between Harma Dogshead and the Lord o' Bones, between the Hornfoots and the Nightrunners, between the walrus men of the Frozen Shore and the cannibal clans of the great ice rivers, hammering a hundred different daggers into one great spear, aimed at the heart of the Seven Kingdoms. He had no crown nor scepter, no robes of silk and velvet, but it was plain to Jon that Mance Rayder was a king in more than name."
Jon Snow, screaming in your face that Mance is Rhaegar

It's not George R. R. Martin's style.

   I think it's entirely consistent with his style.  There are clearly many conspiracies afoot that have come to fruition.  Also, many others (ahem) in the series have been thought dead that were not.  Just ask Bran, Rickon, Davos, the Clegane brothers, Catelyn, Beric Dondarrion, and the Elder Brother.  Oh, and Mance himself, of course.

   References to Rhaegar in the later books seem to have been growing, which is not what you would expect for a dead man from the previous war.  Look at how much Ser Barristan Selmy and Lord Jon Connington have been reminiscing about their fallen prince, for example.  George is trying to tell you something.  He's setting the stage for the big shocker that you totally should have seen coming but didn't.

   If you don't agree, however, consider this: the biggest secret of his magnum opus will necessarily be without precedent.

There is no evidence that Mance is Rhaegar.

   This is blatantly, demonstrably false.  Anyone making this claim should be given a dictionary.  Evidence and proof are two very different things.  One can make a case that the theory has no proof, but one cannot reasonably claim that it has no evidence.  There is evidence to support Rhaegar's death as well as his life.  The job of the reader is to weigh the evidence and determine which conclusion is better explained by it.

This would totally ruin the story!

   Many would have said the same about killing off Ned.  I suggest you wait to see how George pulls it off with his masterful prose.

Jorah Mormont said, "Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly, Rhaegar fought honorably. And Rhaegar died."

   How's Jorah's wisdom working out for him?

No.  Just, no!

   Yes.  Oh, yes!

Additions and corrections welcome in the comments!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Rhaegar the Dragonfly

Spoiler Alert: This piece may contain spoilers from any material of A Song of Ice and Fire

   Many have wondered how the beloved Rhaegar Targaryen could be so different from his mad and cruel father, Aerys II Targaryen.  It is a fair question.  After all, Aerys's other son, Viserys, clearly did not fall so far from the tree.  Despite Robert's hateful claims, the rest of the seven kingdoms had the highest praise for Prince Rhaegar.  How can such a disconnect be reconciled?

Rhaegar Targaryen by GabrielJardim   The answer is actually quite simple: Rhaegar is not the son of Aerys II.  The evidence for this is so, umm, stark that I am surprised I was unable to find any direct discussion of the matter.  Let us begin by taking a look at the timeline of births from Aerys II and Rhaella:

259 AC, birth of Rhaegar Targaryen during the Tragedy at Summerhall.
263 AC, a miscarriage.
264 AC, a miscarriage.
267 AC, stillbirth of Shaena Targaryen.
269 AC, birth of Daeron Targaryen.  Died half a year later.
270 AC, stillbirth of an unnamed child.
271 AC, a miscarriage.
272 AC, birth of Aegon Targaryen, two months premature.  Died in 273 AC.
274 AC, birth of Jaehaerys Targaryen.  Died later that year.
275 AC, King Aerys II blames his infidelity for these misfortunes and finally vows to be faithful to his wife.
276 AC, birth of Viserys Targaryen, small, robust, and quite healthy.
284 AC, birth of Daenerys Targaryen in exile on Dragonstone.

   Which of the above does not fit the pattern?  While one could certainly raise legitimate questions about Daenerys, Rhaegar's birth is undeniably out of place as the only healthy child before Aerys's vow of fidelity.  It's worth noting that Aerys II was born in 244 AC and Rhaella in 245 or 246.  They were quite young, albeit not impossibly young, to give birth to Rhaegar.

   Why did Aerys attempt to have children so many times after so many failures when Rhaegar was everything a king could desire in an heir?  If the answer is that he wanted many children, then why the long wait after Viserys?

   Furthermore, after Joanna Lannister gave birth to Jaime and Cersei, Aerys said, "I appear to have married the wrong woman."  This remark makes little sense if, by that time, each woman had given birth to one trueborn son.

   It also seems that Aerys deliberately married Rhaegar to someone who seemed unlikely to bear children: "Jon Connington remembered Prince Rhaegar’s wedding all too well. Elia was never worthy of him. She was frail and sickly from the first, and childbirth only left her weaker. After the birth of Princess Rhaenys, her mother had been bedridden for half a year, and Prince Aegon’s birth had almost been the death of her. She would bear no more children, the maesters told Prince Rhaegar afterward."

   I submit that Viserys is the first legitimate child of Aerys, so let us zero in on his birth for a moment.  Even though Viserys was healthy, Aerys II was extremely, insanely paranoid for his safety.  Nobody, not even Rhaella, was allowed to touch him.  He could not even be alone with his mother.  Aerys commanded that his food taster suckle the breasts of the wet nurse in case of poison.  The child's gifts were burned for fear of sorcery.  When Tywin held a tournament to celebrate the prince's birth, Viserys and Rhaella were commanded to remain in King's Landing.  This is the behavior of a mad king who has long been deprived of a direct heir.

   It is important to note that, in contrast, Rhaegar was permitted to compete in said tournament.  Aerys was not stupid enough to openly disown Rhaegar now that he had a legitimate son, but he evidently had no qualms about the young man engaging in such risky activities.

   A year after the birth of Viserys, Aerys believed Rhaegar conspired with Tywin to have him killed at the Defiance of Duskendale.  The fact that the king became suspicious of the prince immediately after the birth of Viserys is quite telling.  I'm reminded of how Prince Caspian, nephew of a king, had to flee once a son was born.

   This theory answers many questions, but asks an obvious one: who, then, were Rhaegar's parents?  It seems fitting to me that such a beloved character as Rhaegar would be more closely related to Aegon V, our favorite Targaryen from the Dunk and Egg stories, than originally claimed.  I believe the best explanation is that Rhaegar was not Egg's great-grandson, but his grandson through Duncan the Small, Prince of Dragonflies.  We are not told whether Duncan and Jenny had any children, as the record keepers seem to have lost interest in them after the prince gave up the throne and married for love.

   What we do know is that Jenny had a friendship with a prophetess, the woods witch who is probably the Ghost of High Heart who "gorged on grief at Summerhall."  We also know that Rhaegar had a passion for prophecy.  Egg and Duncan the Small died at Summerhall trying to fulfill a prophecy about the rebirth of dragons.  Rhaegar often returned to Summerhall in solitude to compose songs of sadness.  Rhaegar felt a stronger connection to those lost in the fire than the other survivors who actually knew them in life.

   "And yet Summerhall was the place the prince loved best. He would go there from time to time, with only his harp for company. Even the knights of the Kingsguard did not attend him there. He liked to sleep in the ruined hall, beneath the moon and stars, and whenever he came back he would bring a song. When you heard him play his high harp with the silver strings and sing of twilights and tears and the death of kings, you could not but feel that he was singing of himself and those he loved."

   I suspect that both Jenny and Rhaella were pregnant at the same time.  When tradegy struck Summerhall, I believe the baby almost "...died, but for the valor of the Lord Comman..."der.  (The History Of Archmaester Gyldayn)  Ser Duncan the Tall and Jenny of Oldstones either died or left in grief.  Rhaella, being consistent with her early pattern, either miscarried or had a stillbirth.  Aerys and Rhaella then took Jenny's child as their own.

   Why adopt Rhaegar?  There are many possible reasons.  Perhaps Jenny abandoned her child to their care.  After all, what we know of Jenny's Song suggests that she went mad if she lived.  Perhaps Aerys or Rhaella took pity on their infant cousin, who was family after all.  Perhaps Aerys thought it unfair that his own child was not the fulfillment of the prophecy and took the resulting baby for himself.  Perhaps Rhaella was heartbroken from her first stillbirth, or even lied to her husband at the start.  The imagination need not stretch at all.

   This conclusion also ties closely with events later in Rhaegar's life.  It shows a connection between the prince who crowned Lyanna Stark Queen of Love and Beauty and his father and grandfather who married for love at great cost to the realm.  It gives us another reason why Rhaegar was probably plotting to overthrow Aerys II around the time of the Tourney at Harrenhal.  Perhaps Rhaegar's historical research even gave him reason to suspect Aerys of foul play at Summerhall.

   Finally, this theory is more poetic for the readers who have a love of Dunk and Egg and who also believe that Rhaegar still has a heroic part to play in the Song of Ice and Fire.

   "My father was only nine-and-thirty. He had it in him to be a great king, the greatest since Aegon the Dragon. Why would the gods take him, and leave you? Begone with you, Ser Duncan. Begone."

   Proponents of the theory that the dragon flew in disguise to the wall would do well to recall Dunk's thoughts at the opening of the tale: "Why would they name it a dragonfly? he wondered. It looks nothing like a dragon."

Additions and corrections welcome in the comments!