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

   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. Mance is dead
  5. Physical appearance
  6. Uncharacteristic
  7. Not Martin's style
  8. Jorah's quote
  9. No evidence
  10. No narrative purpose
  Bonus! 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.

Furthermore, let us not forget that George is willing to make false statements when pressed with difficult questions.

   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.

   The tale of Mance Rayder's upbringing is almost certainly a tall one.

   If the Mance Rhaegar Theory is true, the very few people with direct knowledge of the origins of this story would want to keep Rhaegar's identity secret.  To this end, Rhaegar would have had help from loyal friends and even family.  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 an ancestral Targaryen sword to Jon.  (While GRRM explicitly stated on his blog that Longclaw is not Blackfyre, he deliberately dodged the assertion that Dark Sister is more likely.)  The Old Bear 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 died on television.

   The television show is not the same story as the books.  George explains, "Some of the 'spoilers' you may encounter in season six may not be spoilers at all... because the show and the books have diverged, and will continue to do so."

   Furthermore, George revealed in an interview that he has a huge plot twist planned for the next book: "I have decided to do it. Will you know it? I don’t know. It is fairly obvious because it is something that involves a couple of characters, one of which is dead on the show, and not dead in the books. So the show can’t do it, unfortunately, because they have killed someone I have not killed."

   This fits perfectly with the possibility that Mance is someone significant, such as Rhaegar or Dayne.

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.

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

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

   I've pointed out before that "There are some very mislead and confused characters in the story whose words should not be trusted. Some of them understand things so thoroughly incorrectly that it would be wise to assume the opposites of their opinions."

   Consider Jorah's words other words to Daenerys: "Your brother was the last dragon, and he died on the Trident."  Dany already proved the first statement to be wrong.  What about the second?

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.

No.  Just, no!

   Yes.  Oh, yes!

* A note on George making false statements when pressed with difficult questions:

GRRM: "I wanted to reflect some of this... this realistic thing that the show people facing very difficult choices where it's not enough just to say, 'I will be good and wise and do the right thing.'  What is the right thing?  That's the question."
Our smug, moral superior nods sagely as he pontificates.
BBC: "But in fact the right thing often in the case of your characters in Game of Thrones is vicious and appalling and murderous." GRRM: "Ehhh..." His face says, "Whoa, you got me there.  I need to think up an excuse for why my entire moral framework has been invalidated, and quick!"
BBC: "Come."
GRRM: Babbling.  "... Joffrey, the teenage boy king - in an effort to show how strong he was and how you defied him at your peril - executes Eddard Stark at the end of the first book.  And this is a colossal mistake.  [The Night's Watch deal] would have been a much better solution."

   Of course, anyone who has read past the first book shouldn't be fooled.  We note that Ned's execution actually worked out fantastically for Joffrey's house.  It provoked the North into an attack that lost it all its power, and the Lannisters won the war.

Additions and corrections welcome in the comments!


J! said...

No need to convince me Jeremy!

I like the stuff you included about the Mormonts. I started and never finished some investigation into how the Mormonts could be influencing the story.

- Jorah and the Hightower element is interesting
- Jorah and the slave sale is interesting: Assume Aegon VI is real and Varys saved him, as he said, then Varys is supporting Rhaegar. If so, Varys helping Jorah get to Dany and corresponding with him has deeper meaning
- The whole Longclaw = Blackfyre thing is interesting
- Maege Mormont is likely with Howland Reed
- Alysanne Mormont is with Stannis
- Tormunds bear rendezvous would have interesting for Mance

And then there are the Blackmonts of the Torentine. Are they related to the Mormonts? We don't know, but a Blackmont king was sent to the Wall once, and their seat is situated quite close to the Daynes, Ser Arthur of course best friends with Rhaegar, and Sandstone, where LC Qorgyle was from who at the least allowed Mance to ride with him to Winterfell and at most gave him cover at the Shadow Tower. Also, their sigil is a vulture stealing a baby. There was a lot of baby snatching around the time of the Tower of Joy (Ned, Varys, Ashara?). I think there's something to the Mormont/Blackmont angle, I just don't have the time to investigate it these days.

Jeremy Johnson said...

Yes; there's definitely something going on with the Mormonts. Barristan hints that the tourney where Jorah won Lynesse Hightower was staged:

"A change in the wind may bring the gift of victory" He glanced at Ser Jorah. "Or a lady's favor knotted round an arm". Mormont's face darkened. "Be careful what you say, old man"

Consider "The Bear and the Maiden Fair." I believe the fair is the tourney and Lynesse was a trap for him - "the maid with honey in her hair."

Also, it's been suggested that one of the "raiders" (possibly just wildlings) Jorah caught was Tormund. That would definitely earn the wrath of Ned if Tormund was in on the conspiracy. Alysanne Mormont is almost certainly the bear in Tormund's story.

I wonder if the meeting of Qorgyle and Mance at Winterfell had something to do with deciding what to do about Jorah. It's all very sketchy and most unusual.

Thanks for pointing out the Blackmonts! That sigil has to be significant...

Derek Dwilson said...

Thanks for mentioning my post.

I'm glad you are elaborating on the Rhaegar = Mance angle. I've pondered this one quite a while. You've got a great bevy of evidence, but the most convincing to me are the deductions regarding GRRM's intent.

He is a master at using perspective, and a change in perspective, to make a point. That makes him extremely hard to predict. But you are right to observe that Rhaegar is getting more time in the books than seems appropriate. It makes you raise an eyebrow.

Knowing GRRM as an American colors my expectations about the way the wildings are described. On all topics not related to raiding, they seem to be ideal freedom enthusiasts. I found it strange how their demise wasn't used for some grander point... Yet.

Then there is the attention paid to the songs. The mirrors to Rhaegar and Mance are obvious for a blind man to see. The conversation begins and ends with those two if you're discussing music in the series. Martin doesn't even go for subtlety where this is concerned.

The way Mance would travel the realm in anonymity, crashing events, studying his enemies, etc. It sets him up as a savior. I just don't expect him to be a repeat of the Rob Stark "it can happen to anybody" lesson that GRRM is fond of reminding us of.

I'll be thinking more about your points.

One thing I suggest is trying to shoehorn Hardhome into this. GRRM is dead set on making it a central part of Rhaegar's story. I think that Rhaegar figuring he needed to become a warrior was a subsequent revelation to the one he learned at Hardhome. Bad example; perhaps he found out he is the "Prince who was Promised" at Hardhome and then later discovering that the "Prince who was Promised" must be a great warrior.

Finally, the Ruby evidence did it for me. RT for sure didn't die at the Trident.

Jeremy Johnson said...

Thank you, Derek!

I thought your piece about Blackfyre was comprehensive as well as entertaining. My own research has only served to confirm it. There was definitely something going on with the Mormonts, as noted in my comment above. It's very suspicious that Jeor passed by Denys Mallister for the position of Lord Commander while relatively new to the Wall.

I agree that the increased coverage of Rhaegar is the best evidence for the Mance Rhaegar Theory. It was this that originally put the idea in my head when I was halfway through Dance. I was not aware of the theory before that, but I was aware of R+L=J. When Selmy and Connington were pining for the man ad nauseum, I felt there had to be something much bigger going on with Rhaegar. Why couldn't they shut up about the man when Jon Snow was supposed to be the new hotness? The Rattleshirt duel was fresh in my mind, so it didn't take much to start connecting the dots.

I do want to point out that this particular post was not even an attempt to make a positive case for the Mance Rhaegar Theory. My only goal with this post was to refute the most prominent arguments against it. I have been slowly gathering a very large amount of evidence that I have barely even begun to present. If I could freeze time right now, I am sure I could put forth a case that would convince even some of the most staunch doubters. The fact that this meager post is fairly persuasive in itself really speaks to the overall strength of the theory. I am more certain of Mance Rhaegar than I am of R+L=J.

I'm pretty sure you meant Summerhall instead of Hardhome, right? I agree that it's central. I'm going to get to it eventually, but I'd like to establish a few other things first. As a primer, however, check out my previous post: Rhaegar the Dragonfly.

Right now I'm working on unraveling the relationships between Rhaegar, Arthur, Ashara, Elia, Lewyn, and Oberyn. This is the key to making sense of the tourney at Harrenhal and the later disappearance of Lyanna. That blasted tourney is so convoluted. Even the most vocal of the "Rhaegar is dead" crowd will admit that what he did at the end was stupid. The BryndenBFish crowd did a podcast where half the time was spent laughing at how ridiculous this single action was. Everything we know about Rhaegar screams that he was not that incompetent - George simply cannot make this more clear. This is a blatant contradiction, so the Official Story simply cannot be true.

More to come. Eventually...

Unknown said...

Great post .

Unknown said...

I heard that podcast and commented to them on their dismissive behavior. You have some great ideas. I may have a few nuggets to add to them.

ND said...

What is the significance of the scarlet silk from Asshai in Mance's back story? It was sewn into his cloak, which makes me think the cloak carries some sort of magic and may explain why Mance abandoned the Night's Watch when they told him he had to wear a black cloak. Perhaps it was concealing his identity?

Here's an interesting line from Melisandre:

Call it what you will. Glamor, seeming, illusion. R'hllor is Lord of Light, Jon Snow, and it is given to his servants to weave with it, as others weave with thread.

The silk is also referred to as a gift, which is how Melisandre refers to things given by R'hllor.

Any idea who the wisewoman & daughter are?

Jeremy Johnson said...

I am sure that the scarlet silk is significant, but I'm not exactly sure how. I do believe that Mance's shadowcat story is a retelling of Rhaegar's history, but some of the details are not clear yet. I do not think any of the elements are true as exactly described. For example, skinning an elk actually means stopping a Baratheon. I do not believe he was merely told that he could not wear a colored cloak. There is a lot about the Shadow Tower's history that, well, lies in shadow. The glamour possibility is strong, but not as solid as I would like it. Regardless, the red and black cloak is a huge tipoff to the probability that he is some form of Targaryen (or Blackfyre, as a distant possibility) or at least loyal to them.

Regarding the women, I'm wondering a lot about Dalla and Val. Dalla is referred to as a "wise woman" multiple times. I also get the feeling that Val is closely related to Jon, as perhaps even a sister. It's a vibe emanating from the way she talks with him. There's also some moon imagery tied with her, Jon, and Lyanna. She may be a daughter of Mance and maybe Dalla, not Dalla's sister.

The women in the shadowcat story may also have a relationship with the Ghost of High Heart and/or Jenny of Oldstones. I think Rhaegar used to play Jenny's Song for the Ghost when he would make his visits to Summerhall in solitude. It is probably the song that made all the ladies cry when Rhaegar played it.

I'm borrowing some analysis from Bran Vras and from Cantuse with this comment.

Jeremy Johnson said...

Ned remembers Rheagar wearing a plume of scarlet silk when all the smiles died. He was also wearing his ruby armor.

The crown prince wore the armor he would die in: gleaming black plate with the three-headed dragon of his House wrought in rubies on the breast. A plume of scarlet silk streamed behind him when he rode, and it seemed no lance could touch him.

I believe Cersei describes his armor and plume a bit differently when she remembers him from the earlier tourney at Lannisport.

Seventeen and new to knighthood, Rhaegar Targaryen had worn black plate over golden ringmail when he cantered onto the lists. Long streamers of red and gold and orange silk had floated behind his helm, like flames.

Why wouldn't she mention rubies unless he didn't have them then? They were the most prominent part of his armor. The plume is not scarlet either. He certainly may have "upgraded" later for no significant reason, and then perhaps George left this as a clue to solving a greater mystery.

This fuels a suspicion that I have long held - that Rhaegar may have been using disguises for various reasons, and that the tourney at Harrenhal was such a time. I suspect his squires or kingsguard, especially Arthur Dayne, may have been pretending to be Rhaegar at times. Did Rhaegar really win the tourney at Harrenhal, or was it Arthur? Did the honorable Rhaegar truly pass by his wife? The nature of tourneys and the deception surrounding them leads us to expect that something must have been afoot during this most pivotal of events.

Later, did Rhaegar truly battle at the Trident?

Is Mance truly what he seems?

Scarlet silk and rubies demand that we be suspicious.

ND said...

The presence of rubies doesn't necessarily mean that something suspicious is happening. I believe GRRM uses rubies to indicate that he's using some sort of misdirection in his narrative.

In this case, I think it's referring to Rhaegar dying: The crown prince wore the armor he would die in: gleaming black plate with the three-headed dragon of his House wrought in rubies on the breast

But because this line comes from Ned, and we believe Ned to be in on the conspiracy, why would he believe that Rhaegar died?

Mance's backstory says:

And she sewed up the rents in my cloak as well, with some scarlet silk from Asshai that her grandmother had pulled from the wreck of a cog washed up on the Frozen Shore. It was the greatest treasure she had, and her gift to me.

His 'cloak' is repaired using 'scarlet silk from Asshai', a 'gift'. I think this is a metaphor for his body being repaired using 'red magic from Asshai', and the 'gift' part also makes me think of Melisandre who repeatedly refers to fire & magic as 'gifts from R'hllor'.

This leads me to believe that Rhaegar DID die at the Trident but was resurrected.

The misdirection that GRRM uses here is that Rhaegar's death as described by Ned was not final.

As I was writing this, I think I deciphered some more of Mance's backstory:

But at the Shadow Tower, I was given a new wool cloak from stores, black and black, and trimmed with black, to go with my black breeches and black boots, my black doublet and black mail. The new cloak had no frays nor rips nor tears . . . and most of all, no red. The men of the Night's Watch dressed in black, Ser Denys Mallister reminded me sternly, as if I had forgotten. My old cloak was fit for burning now, he said.

My interpretation of this section is:

But at the Shadow Tower, I was given a new identity as a brother of the Night's Watch, Mance Rayder. The new identity had no connections to Targaryens. My old identity as Rhaegar was useless, as he was cremated.

This also implies Denys Mallister is in on the conspiracy.

Jeremy Johnson said...

I believe GRRM uses rubies to indicate that he's using some sort of misdirection in his narrative.

Absolutely. It could be a direct lie, or merely misdirection. I just meant that we need to be alert and critical when there's red. Also with blue/sapphires, I think.

The crown prince wore the armor he would die in

This is a great point. I like where you went with it! I'll keep the Lord Beric style resurrection in mind when looking at the other clues in the future. I think "The Dornishman's Wife" works with this theory:

As he lay on the ground with the darkness around,
and the taste of his blood on his tongue,
His brothers knelt by him and prayed him a prayer,
and he smiled and he laughed and he sung,

It's as if a prayer resurrected him. Brothers from the Quiet Isle, maybe?

That being said, I think that Ned's words, "armor he would die in," would also make sense if there was merely a plan to fake his death.

Mallister could be in on it, but I think he may also have merely been used by the conspirators. His character just doesn't seem the type for it, in my opinion.

Regardless, I am sure that multiple people at the Shadow Tower are in on it. I've been thinking a lot about Stonesnake, Ebben, and Squire Dalbridge lately. I wonder how much they all knew about Jon. Where in the text does it say that Dalbridge actually squired for Jaehaerys? I couldn't find it. Could he have squired instead for... Brandon Stark? Someone else?

ND said...

I think I may have found another clue linking Qhorin Halfhand to Arthur Dayne.

Mance describes Qhorin as "carved of old oak" a few paragraphs before giving Jon his backstory.

This is interesting, because Old Oak is the seat of House Oakheart, who happen to be bitter enemies of House Dayne.

From Queenmaker chapter in Feast for Crows:

"No, my lady. What I know is that Daynes have been killing Oakhearts for several thousand years."
His arrogance took her breath away. "It seems to me that Oakhearts have been killing Daynes for just as long."

Jeremy Johnson said...

Aah! I had wondered about that "old oak" line because it seemed significant. Indeed, you seem to have connected the dots on that one. Very good!

I am increasingly convinced that of Mance Rayder, Qhorin Halfhand, and Jeor Mormont, two of them are Arthur Dayne and Gerold Hightower. I think the evidence best fits that they're Rhaegar, Arthur, and Gerold respectively; however, I see reasons why other possibilities might work and am not as fully convinced of that order.

Anonymous said...

Rhaegar and Mance are supposed to both have 'iron tones' in their voices.

Unknown said...

Wow. I've been thinking a lot about this theory recently, and to me it really does seem like it's true. But this write up is one of the best I've seen on it. I'm absolutely 100% sold. I'd like to add that your point regarding this being the biggest secret and reveal in the series is completely correct. R+L=J is the main reveal, something that GRRM has dropped numerous hints into the books for. And why has he done this? So we would piece that together ourselves and not see the MAIN reveal coming, which is M=R. It's absolutely genius. For me there's just way too many similarities for this not to be true, and I really, really hope it comes true in the books.

I'd also like to add a line that was spoken by both Mance and Arthur Dayne in the show. In S5 when Mance is burned, he bids Stannis good fortunes in the wars to come. In season 6 at the Tower of Joy, Arthur Dayne says the exact same phrase to Ned Stark. Oh come on now! Do they really expect us to think that this is a common phrase? It's clear to me that there is a connection here. Mance learned this saying somewhere, or he told it to someone while Dayne was present. There is no way these two characters just came up with the same phrase like that, one at the very north of the map and one at the very south in Dorne.

I'm 100% sold. Really great write up.

Jeremy Johnson said...

Thanks, Matthew! The similarities are indeed staggering.

Though I don't watch it, I have heard about the line from the show. While I acknowledge that the show cannot be trusted much for canon, I suspect that it will contain hints of truth. This quote actually has me wondering about an alternate theory: that Mance is Arthur Dayne. I don't really consider this to be a wholly separate theory because much of the evidence for Rhaegar also works as evidence for Arthur. The two worked very closely together, after all.

Several clues work even better for Arthur. Consider:

- When Qhorin says of Mance, "he was not a man whose knees bent easily," this more closely mirrors Arthur's words about himself: "Our knees do not bend easily."

- When Mance/Rattleshirt defeats Jon in the practice yard, his skill at arms more closely resembles what we know of Arthur - that he was renowned for his use of a greatsword.

- While Rhaegar was beloved of the people, Mance's gathering of the wildlings is similar to the way Arthur gained the trust of the smallfolk in the Kingswood.

- Jeor Mormont, who is clearly in on the conspiracy, has respect for Mance and yet calls him an oathbreaker. If Arthur, he probably broke Kingsguard oaths.

- Finally, Mance says, "I only sing the songs that better men have made." This would make more sense if Arthur was carrying on his prince's quest.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the reply! I did post another reply, it must not have gone through.

As far as the show is concerned there is no way Mance is Arthur, in the season 6 ToJ flashback Howland Reed stabs Dayne in the back and Ned finishes the job with a sword from the front. He's 100% dead in the show world.

Again this is only the show, things could have gone differently in the books.

Jeremy Johnson said...

True. I don't watch the show, I've been reading summaries of the episodes for hints. It's diverged so much from the books that it's anybody's guess what's real and what's not.

Comments here go into a queue until I approve them, but I didn't see any more.

ND said...

I don't think Mance can be Arthur. In the backstory he gives to Jon he is clearly unhappy about having to give up his Targaryen colours (red & black) for Night Watch colours (black only). Arthur Dayne didn't wear red & black, he wore the white of the Kingsguard.

Mance then abandons the Night's Watch for his red & black cloak. He wanted to be a Targaryen (ie, a ruler) again.

Qhorin sacrificing himself for Jon seems more in line with what a Kingsguard like Arthur would do.

Jeremy Johnson said...

Don't get me wrong; I wholly agree that most of the evidence fits Rhaegar best. It's overwhelming. Relatively speaking, there are only a few pieces that have me wondering about Arthur.

Speaking of Arthur, what's with the Elder Brother taking the name "Morgarth" (Death Arthur?) and joining up with the Mad Mouse?

ND said...

A garth is part of a monastery, so it could just be a hint that he's the elder brother.

Jeremy Johnson said...

I didn't know that. Makes much more sense!

ND said...

What do you think of the theory that Lem Lemoncloak is Rhaegar's squire Richard Lonmouth?

Jeremy Johnson said...

I'd say it's solid enough to be considered a certainty.

I suspect Richard was serving to misdirect Robert during the tourney at Harrenhal. First, by drinking with him the night of the party, and later by preventing him from discovering the knight of the laughing tree.

ND said...

That makes sense. However, I read somewhere else that Lonmouth was torn between Robert & Rhaegar, as he was close to both. At the Battle of the Trident he had to make a choice between the two, and decided instead to flee. After all, the words of House Lonmouth are 'The Choice is Yours'.

I suspect the survival of Lonmouth will tie in with Mance & Rhaegar somehow. Jaime will recognise Lonmouth for sure, before he returns to Kings Landing. In the show, the Brotherhood without Banners are heading north (I don't remember why), so they probably will in the books too and this will set up Lonmouth and Mance for a reunion. Although, I doubt it will be that simple. Perhaps he will be torn between loyalty to Rhaegar & Lady Stoneheart? If Stoneheart finds out Mance was involved in the attack on Bran, it will certainly make things interesting.

Which brings up another question about Mance. Why attack Bran? His involvement isn't a certainty, but the catspaw who attacked Bran was paid with a bag of silver and Mance told Jon he visited Winterfell at the time. He said he took only his lute and a bag of silver and that's too much of a coincidence to ignore.

This might be crazy, but I suspect Mance is working with the Children, and they tasked him to set things in motion to enable Bran to find them. The reason I suspect this, is because of the histories Rhaegar read at Summerhall. We don't know what he read, but I think he learned some things about the Children and the Others, and decided he needed to find them. The Night's Watch knew Mance was using the wildlings to look for something in the North; he was probably trying to locate the Children, and I think he found them.

Jeremy Johnson said...

I like the Mance's catspaw theory. Additionally, I wonder if Mance was present around the time of Bran's birth when he visited Winterfell with Qorgyle.

The "why" is more shaky. Consider that "All men must die" likely represents both the goal of the Others as well as a declaration of revenge by the Children of the Forest. Did the Children create the others? At the very least, I wouldn't be surprised to find that they share the same goal: destruction of humanity.

Also considering that Mance Rhaegar is working to protect the kingdom from the invasion of the Others, might he be working against Bloodraven and the Children? I do like the idea that Mance was searching for the Children/Bloodraven instead of the horn. However, if Mance is an ally of Bloodraven, why would he need to search for him when Bloodraven could easily lead Mance to him?

ND said...

Some good questions there!

The origin of the Others has been revealed in the show. Do you want to know?

I think Mance would have needed to find Bloodraven before they could become allies. Bloodraven would have no idea Mance is looking for him.

Mance may also have motive to work against Bloodraven. We know from the show that Bran's greenseer dreams can actually influence the past. It's possible Bran did something incredibly significant in the past and Rhaegar is working to reverse that, having learned about it at Summerhall. The first step could have been to find Bloodraven, and having failed, he then goes after Bran.

Jeremy Johnson said...

I'm aware of some of it from the show, but again, the show has deviated so wildly that I see no reason to accept any of it as canon.

I don't see why Mance would need to find Bloodraven in order for Bloodraven to be aware of his intentions. The Three Eyed Crow has a thousand eyes and one. Furthermore, Jeor was almost certainly in on some of these secrets, as seen by his interactions with Jon, and Jeor almost certainly communicated with Bloodraven via his bird.

I like the ideas about Bran influencing the past. Even in the book, didn't he get a response out of Robb in one of his visions? Or was it Ned? Either way, the changing of the past is indeed canon.

Anonymous said...

You seem to be wondering where Gerold Hightower is? I wrote a theory here:
It also has something about the Hightower/Mormont connection and a little bit of the Blackmonts.
You could list also the question: Who is Mance? Since noone in planetos has his skillset. And why would a wildling bastard, desert from the Night's Watch, become king and then he saves his people (like Moses) from a threat who is just rising. I would think, if he makes it to king he would gather gold and land and fame...
I wrote a little more here:
I am convinced mainly because of your work. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I like this idea. A lot.

One of the things that has always bothered me about L+R=J is that both L and R are "off-screen", so to speak, because they are both dead. The only thing a reader knows about the characters are what other characters say about them, which creates a very nebulous picture.

It is a little easier for Lyanna because Ned has POV chapters where he thinks about his sister so she comes a little more into focus (but not much), but Rhaegar, as a character, is so remote and distant that there is no emotional shock for a reader to discover that Jon is his son. All it means is that Jon is a Targ, and what really does that mean in the substance of the story anyway? So he might be able to ride a dragon, so he might have a dubious claim to the Iron throne; this sort of narrative turn belongs to a children's story, not an adult fantasy of intrigue and harsh political realities where major characters are executed and/or abused.

And, to me, such a revelation would be rather deus ex machina. It's way too easy. GRRM is far cleverer than this. One dead parent you can get away with, but two? All you have then is an orphan and it is terribly cliched to make that orphan the secret, lost son of a king or prince.

I have often felt that Jon being Mance's son made more narrative sense. As readers, we've met Mance. We know Mance. We know how he behaves and speaks because we've seen it in direct action through the eyes of POVs. We have opinions about Mance. And Mance is alive. For Jon to be Mance's son would mean that, as readers, two characters we know well would be shockingly discovered to be father and son, and we can anticipate what that means in terms of how their relationship would change, and how Jon himself would have to re-evaluate every exchange he ever had with Mance.

It also makes sense in terms of the old story of Bael the Bard and the daughter of Stark, the blue roses in ice, Jon's ability to work with the wildlings, Lyanna's agreement to elope (I never quite bought the idea that Lyanna, a wolf girl, would fall for someone who seemed so pompous, pretentious and perfect as Rhaegar often comes across, he's almost deified). I even felt the concept of the Knight of the Laughing Tree suggested a commitment and strong identification to both the North and the land beyond the wall.

The only thing that slightly irked me about M+L=J was that it pinned Jon to a very northern identity and the implications wouldn't ripple much more of Westeros. For GRRM to make it a killer, there had to be another level.

But if Mance is Rhaegar, there it is. It is a massive twist. Everything we know about what happened prior to the rebellion, during the rebellion and after the rebellion during Robert's reign changes. Everything and everyone has to be seen in a new light: Lyanna, Rhaegar, the Wall, Jon, Danys, the Starks, the Lanisters ... everything is turned on its head, and Rhaegar's character suddenly becomes incredibly complex and provides a strong through-line for the story, now almost every senior player in the GOT, who was alive at the time of Robert's Rebellion is dead.

It also explains the lack of information about what happened to Rhaegar after his death, why GRRM takes care to mention the rubies floating up to the Isle, and would explain why Rhaegar was so interested in Lyanna in the first place (because he knew his destiny lay beyond the wall and she was a Stark).

It fits. Beautifully.

Unknown said...

I stumbled across this while doing some Rhaegar research. A couple of nights ago, I went to sleep with GoT on the brain. Now that season 7 is over, and we're suffering a long wait until 2019 for GoT S8 to air, I've been doing a lot of channeling D&D - channeling GRRM and how it relates to the show story. I DO know that TWOW and ADOS will vary greatly, and that several characters are alive in the books that are dead on the show. That being said, and everyone knowing that R+L=J, we realize that GRRM WILL go there with situations that were previously not fleshed out. For that reasoning, I have come to the conclusion via research, that the Golden Company will indeed betray Cersei. And that left me wondering WHY Qyburn would ever set up a deal with a bunch of Targaryen bastards and loyalists that were totally loyal to Rhaegar Targaryen ...? Something is not right here. With Qyburn's maester background, and being Master of Whisperers, he should certainly know that the Golden Company is not likely to fight Rhaegar's sister (or his true-born son Jon/Aegon). And, Euron Greyjoy should know better than that, too. Then I stumbled across some information about Qyburn and Jaqen H'ghar actually being in the same sellsword company that Tywin hired to take the Riverlands ... my head is spinning, and I come to the conclusion that GRRM has been hiding some really serious plot points from us. And when I woke up the next morning, it was clear as day - Rhaegar Targaryen is alive! But how I came to that conclusion is not the same route that you did. Until I saw your post, I had only vaguely heard about Mance being Rhaegar, and dismissed it. You do make a convincing case for the book story but, Mance is not only dead on the show ... but D&D had Jon shoot him with an arrow, for good measure to make sure he's dead. So, I'm proposing that Jaqen H'ghar is taking that story arc on the show, instead of Mance. The more I'm piecing it together, the more possible it seems. And somehow, Qyburn is involved - and possibly Euron Greyjoy (though the later is more doubtful - I think Euron has his own distinct motives for what he does). So, somehow, Rhaegar, Jaqen, and Qyburn are connected in an unknown plot twist that won't be fleshed out until Winds of Winter - or possibly the upcoming Ice & Fire first novel that GRRM will release BEFORE TWOW. You are right about one thing ... GRRM's response about Rhaegar at that Q & A is highly suspect. And we already KNOW that he lied about Jon Snow, so he's not above lying about Rhaegar, too, if it serves his business purpose.

So ... a whole new set of questions around the supposed death of Rhaegar.
I've been using the Wiki at for my information, because it seems to be the most concise.
1. Just WHEN did Qyburn get booted out of the Citadel? - it doesn't say
2. WHERE was Qyburn at the time of the Battle of the Trident? - it doesn't say
3. Did Qyburn have time to explore the Faceless Men and the religion of R'Hllor after being booted from the Citadel? - it also doesn't say, but it IS looking very possible.

The Brave Companions, Oberyn Martell's sellsword company, is the tie between Jaqen H'ghar and Qyburn. I find the fact that they were doing Tywin Lannister's dirty work in the Riverlands very suspicious. Don't the Martells HATE the Lannisters ...? Then why in Seven Hells would Oberyn agree to send them to help Tywin? UNLESS there was an ulterior motive for doing so... Bits and pieces, bits and pieces, but somehow they all make the big picture, which turns out with Qyburn using Faceless Men AND Red magic to first heal and then remove Rhaegar Targaryen to Braavos. There, he's been biding his time, waiting for the right time to reappear ... and Essos, the home of the Golden Company, is a skip and a jump away. Coincidence? I think not.

Jeremy Johnson said...

Hey House, thanks for the great thoughts!

I've long believed Qyburn to be Varys. There's plenty of evidence for this, and I think that perspective will help with some of your reasoning.

I've also long believed Varys to be in league with the Faceless Men, if not one himself. Look up the Grand Faceless Men Conspiracy Theory for more info. The Order of the Green Hand seems to think his loyalties lean the other way, if you want to see a good alternative.

I don't put any weight into what the show does at this point, because it has diverged so heavily from the books. I would not be surprised to find that the climax of the entire show is fundamentally different from the climax of the books on many levels. They're just not the same story anymore. Therefore, Mance being alive is still on the table. If he's not Rhaegar, he's Arthur Dayne.

When you say that GRRM lied about Jon Snow, to what are you referring? That would be an interesting weapon to add to the arsenal.

Just FYI, don't use the wiki for any detailed work. It's nice for quick references, but it makes a lot of claims that aren't actually canon. For example, it claims that Lyanna was found in the Tower of Joy, but the books never actually say this. For precision, this is handy: A Search of Ice and Fire.

I hadn't heard that the Brave Companions were Oberyn's, but that does make sense. Hmm...

Good luck in your research!

Anonymous said...

Just thought I'd check in for a sanity check. As one comment states above, M=R adds so much narrative through line to the whole story, and it essentially makes Rhaegar the central character of the whole story. I don't know how much GRRM was influenced by Star Wars, but it works almost the same way--Episode IV picks up at the beginning, seemingly making it a hero's journey for Luke, but by the time we've finished watching Episode III thirty years later, we realize the whole story is a more complex redemptive arc for Annakin.

The single biggest thing striking me these days is Lyanna's insistent "promise me Ned." Of all the character's in the book, I don't think Lyanna needed to secure Ned's promise to protect Jon, and furthermore, Lyanna wouldn't need to ask for a specific promise, like say "never tell anyone his true identity." Or whatever; the point is that she would trust Ned to take care of Jon in the best way he knew how, period. I mean, I guess there was a chance she thought Ned might not keep Jon as his own, but Ned just doesn't seem like someone who would think twice about it, even though it meant having to deceive even his own wife into thinking he'd dishonored her.

No, I suspect the promise was more along the lines of "never tell Robert that Rhaegar isn't dead." (Although saying that just now reminds me of the time Robert says he'd kill Rhaegar again if he could...hmm--a tweak from GRRM, or does Robert somehow know that Rhaegar survives as a wildling? I'd say the former, but who knows.)