'Game of Thrones' has been hinting at Jon Snow's true parentage since season one — here's every clue we spotted

Helen Sloan/HBOJon Snow-Stark-Targaryen (Kit Harington) in all his glory.

As revealed on the season-seven finale of “Game of Thrones,” Jon Snow is the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Rhaegar was the son of the Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen, and the older brother to Daenerys Targaryen. Lyanna was Ned Stark’s younger sister, betrothed to Robert Baratheon before running away with Rhaegar and bearing his secret lovechild, Jon.

A new “Game of Thrones” season-eight promotional clip had heavy emphasis on Jon’s parentage, including an important reference to Lyanna’s crypt and the feather placed there by Robert.

The show has been dropping clues about Rhaegar and Lyanna’s relationship ever since season one.

Keep reading for a closer look at the biggest moments from “Game of Thrones” hinting towards Jon’s true parentage.


Ned Stark purposefully didn’t call Jon Snow his son, but instead said “my blood.”

HBOSeason one, episode two: ‘The Kingsroad.’

Ned kept Lyanna’s secret his entire life, choosing to raise Jon as his own for the boy’s own protection. But Ned is an honorable and moral man. He avoided lying outright when he could help it. So when Jon asked Ned about his mother on season one, Ned replied carefully: “You are a Stark. You might not have my name, but you have my blood.”

The Stark family blood does indeed run through Jon. It just happens to be Lyanna’s blood, not Ned’s.


Daenerys Targaryen had a vision of “Snow” in the Throne Room.

HBOSeason two, episode 10: ‘Valar Morghulis.’

When Daenerys enters the House of the Undying in Qarth, she experiences a series of prophetic visions. In one, she saw snow in the Throne Room of King’s Landing. Immediately afterwards, she walked through a door and found herself at the Wall. This was heavy foreshadowing of Jon’s true family history and ties to the royal Targaryen family.

Read more: Here’s how Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen are related in ‘Game of Thrones’


Oberyn Martell explicitly says Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark had an affair.

HBOSeason four, episode one: ‘Two Swords.’

Before running off with Lyanna, Rhaegar was married to Elia Martell, the sister of Oberyn Martell. The running story in Westeros was that Rhaegar kidnapped and assaulted Lyanna, but Oberyn seems to know about a different version of events.

“The last time I was in the capital was many years ago,” Oberyn told Tyrion Lannister. “Another wedding: my sister Elia and Rhaegar Targaryen, the last dragon. My sister loved him. She bore his children … and beautiful, noble Rhaegar Targaryen left her for another woman.”

This was the first time on the series that viewers were told anything other than the kidnap-and-assault narrative, making it a significant moment for theorists watching.


Stannis Baratheon doubted Ned’s story about siring a bastard.

HBOSeason five, episode four: ‘Sons of the Harpy.’

On the fifth season, Jon was elected Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch while Stannis Baratheon and his wife, Selyse Baratheon, were staying at Castle Black. At one point, the husband and wife were watching Jon train young recruits and had a telling conversation.

“You think highly of this boy?” Selyse asked Stannis.

“Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch?” Stannis replied.

“And a bastard by some tavern slut,” Selyse throws back.

“Perhaps, but that wasn’t Ned Stark’s way,” Stannis said.

For the first time in five seasons, a character outwardly doubted that Jon might be Ned’s son. Then, almost immediately afterwards, the next big clue came.


On the same episode, Littlefinger seemed to imply that he knew about Jon’s parents.

HBOSeason five, episode four: ‘Sons of the Harpy.’

While in the crypts of Winterfell, Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish told Sansa a story about Rhaegar and Lyanna.

“Lord Whent had a great tourney at Harrenhal,” Littlefinger said. “Lyanna was already promised to Robert … the last two riders were Barristan Selmy and Rhaegar Targaryen. When Rhaegar won everyone cheered for their prince … until he rode right past his wife, Elia Martell, and all the smiles died … he rode past his wife and lay a crown of winter roses in Lyanna’s lap, blue with frost. … How many tens of thousands had to die because Rhaegar chose your aunt?”

Then Sansa chimed in. “Yes, he chose her. And then he kidnapped her and raped her,” she said.

Instead of replying, Littlefinger gave Sansa a knowing smirk and changed the subject. He seemed to know that Lyanna chose Rhaegar in return and wasn’t unwillingly taken anywhere.

Read more: Everything we know about Jon Snow’s mysterious true father on ‘Game of Thrones’


Jon conveniently walks into frame while Maester Aemon is lamenting about lonely Targaryens to Sam Tarly.

HBOSeason five, episode five: ‘Kill the Boy.’

Sam Tarly and Maester Aemon received a raven at Castle Black with news of Daenerys’ struggling conquest of Slaver’s Bay. Maester Aemon is one of Daenerys’ uncles and last living relatives. He expresses regret about not being by her side during her time in need.

“A Targaryen alone in the world,” Aemon says. “It’s a terrible thing.”

As soon as Aemon finishes his line, Jon walks through the door. He’s technically half Targaryen and is more or less alone in the world. As Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, he has few friends he can trust.


Rhaegar ordered the Targaryen Kingsguard to protect Lyanna and her baby.

HBOSeason six, episode three: ‘Oathbreaker.’

In the first Tower of Joy vision on season six, young Ned and two Targaryen Kingsguard members have an important exchange.

“The Mad King is dead. Rhaegar lies beneath the ground. Why weren’t you there to protect your prince?” Ned asks.

“Our prince wanted us here,” Ser Arthur Dayne replied.

This is big deal, because the five Kingsguard are sworn to protect the royal family at all costs. Rhaegar’s choice to station two of his five protectors at the Tower of Joy must mean there is something significant inside he wants safe.

Arthur was the greatest swordsman in Westeros at the time, so his presence on a battlefield could have helped the Targaryens win the war. Rhaegar was a believer in prophecy and seemed to think that his child born with Lyanna was a worthier life to save than his own. He only would have made that kind of sacrifice for his child – no one else’s.


Inside the Tower of Joy, viewers hear Lyanna whisper to Ned.

Helen Sloan/HBOSeason six, episode 10: ‘The Winds of Winter.’

An essential part of the “R + L = J” theory focuses on a dire promise Ned swore to Lyanna. On the season six finale, we finally heard most of what Lyanna said to her brother.

“His name is . If Robert finds out, he’ll kill him, you know he will,” Lyanna said to Ned. “You have to protect him. Promise me, Ned.”

As far as Robert knows, Lyanna was kidnapped against her will by Rhaegar. His wrath against all Targaryens is established time and again throughout season one. Robert would want to kill any Targaryen child, and Lyanna must know this as well. This is why she makes Ned promise her to never tell anyone and raise the boy as his own. The child is only safe as long as no one realises his Targaryen roots.


Finally, there was the not-so-subtle scene change from this brooding, dark-eyed baby …

HBOSeason six, episode 10: ‘The Winds of Winter.’

right to Jon Snow.

HBOSeason six, episode 10: ‘The Winds of Winter.’

In addition to the camera work making it clear that Jon was Lyanna’s baby, the soundtrack playing at that exact moment was climactic and very symbolic. As the shot switched from baby Jon to grown man, the iconic Stark theme song swelled in a huge crescendo that conveyed the importance of the moment. Viewers were meant to understand that this reveal gave Jon a huge and significant backstory.


Then came the seventh season, which made several more connections between Jon and his parentage. One happened when Jon saw a dragon for the first time.

HBOSeason seven, episode three: ‘The Queen’s Justice.’

Jon was startled by Drogon right after proclaiming he wasn’t a Stark – foreshadowing much? Jon telling Tyrion that he’s not a Stark and then moment later being surprised by a dragon felt like one more nod to viewers – we know the reveal of his Targaryen bloodline will be another tumultuous time for Jon.


Gilly found evidence that Rhaegar had his marriage to Elia Martell annulled and wed Lyanna instead.

Helen Sloan/HBOSeason seven, episode five: ‘Eastwatch.’

When Gilly found the record of Rhaegar’s annulment, many fans were shocked to realise that means Jon is a legitimate Targaryen heir and ahead of Daenerys in the succession line. The idea still raises many questions (like why Rhaegar was willing to denounce his first wife and children), but it also provides a big answer to a mystery.

But for now, most of Westeros and Jon himself remain in the dark when it comes to Jon’s parentage. We’ll have to wait for the final season to see the fallout of this news.

“Game of Thrones” season eight premieres Sunday, April 14.Watch the latest teaser video here.

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