Update: After the gruesome "Battle of the Bastards," Jon Snow announces his plans to lay Rickon to rest in the Winterfell crypt beside his father — which means that Jon will be visiting the graves below his family's house. As the season finale draws closer, it seems all the more likely that Jon will discover his true parentage during this visit to the Stark family crypt. What a season clincher that would be, eh? Read the original post for our full theory about why the crypts are so important for the future of Westeros and what it could mean for our favourite bastard.
Original: Game of Thrones has a way of letting viewers get the tiniest bit comfortable before completely ripping the rug out from underneath them — and because we've grown so confident in our assumptions about Jon Snow's origins, it's high time for the show to completely shatter our expectations.
Since the series has been grooming Bran's storyline to reveal the big secret about Jon's real parents, one Redditor thinks that HBO will surprise everyone by revealing the truth through a much more unexpected scenario. In a long, detailed explanation that provides 18 separate citations (including both proof within the series and iconic fantasy tropes that likely inspired the show's creators), Reddit user jamieandclaire theorises that Jon will learn the truth when exploring the Stark family crypt after retaking Winterfell.
It sounds crazy, right? But the theory purports that Ned Stark, wanting to honour his sister Lyanna's memory without endangering her half-Targaryen son (Jon), had a tomb built for Jon within the Winterfell crypts. It is a Stark tradition to prepare these graves far in advance, and the crypt is huge — there are multiple levels, one of which was blocked off to regular visitors by rubble. Here's how the Redditor suggests the revelation would go down:
Jon, upon retaking Winterfell, decides to go down into the crypts to visit Eddard's grave, but finds that Ned's bones haven't come to Winterfell yet. He instead passes by the future resting places of his siblings . . .
He stops for a moment, sad with the new knowledge that there is no life everlasting for him or his siblings. Then, remembering his nightmares [about the crypt] (or perhaps finding some clue in Ned's empty grave), he continues down to the lower levels of the crypt in the growing darkness.
His finds his way is blocked by rocks and rubble from the collapse. He considers going back, but something catches his eye beyond the obstruction. He begins pulling at stones, and sees another tomb, prepared and empty.
Clambering over the debris, he walks to the tomb and holds out the torch in the darkness, wiping away the dust from the slab. And this is what he reads.
While much of this theory is sound, some of the most convincing points actually come from the A Song of Ice and Fire book series, not the HBO show. Here are some of our favourite indications that Jon might learn his own story among the dead of Winterfell.
- Jon Snow has dreams that bring him to the depths of Winterfell's crypt: "And then I find myself in front of the door to the crypts. It's black inside, and I can see the steps spiralling down. Somehow I know I have to go down there, but I don't want to. I'm afraid of what might be waiting for me," Jon describes in the first book. Additionally, the Redditor notes that "when Ned is killed, Bran and Rickon both dream of him in the crypts, sad, saying something about Jon."
- Parallels between Bael the Bard's tale and the R+L=J theory: The story of Bael the Bard comes up multiple times in the series. Bael, the king beyond the Wall far before Jon's time, infiltrated Winterfell disguised as a singer and wooed Lord Stark's daughter. He "stole her away" (much like Rhaegar Targaryen is accused of doing to Lyanna Stark) in the middle of the night, leaving a blue Winter rose (Lyanna's favourite flower) in her bed. Many months later, the daughter returned with a baby of her own — she had never left Winterfell, simply hidden in the crypt. That son, the bastard of Bael the Bard, went on to rule the North. Can you see the connection between this lore and the theory about Jon's parentage? And it all comes back to one place: the crypt of Winterfell.
- Foreshadowing from ancient Targaryen lore: Another story repeated in the series, points out the Redditor's theory, is that of Vermax the Targaryen dragon. Vermax supposedly laid eggs in the Winterfell crypt during a visit from Prince Jacaerys Velaryon, creating a theme of Targaryens/dragons being hidden in Winterfell's hall of the dead.
- Ned Stark could totally have prepared Jon's grave in secret: Because the lower level of the crypt is blocked off by rubble, none of the Stark children or visitors would stray into the closed-off parts . . . plus, Ned Stark could have commissioned a stonemason to design the tomb without anybody finding out. Tyrion mentions in season two that stonemasons typically can't read — "He was a well-read stonemason? Can't say I've ever met a literate stonemason!" — which means that the words inscribed on the tomb would reveal nothing to the tradesman who carved them. Plus, the theorist believes this scenario could explain both Hodor's mental impairment and his fear of the Winterfell crypt: "If the lower levels were collapsed on purpose, it's possible that Hodor was asked to help, as he was big and strong. There could have been an accident which left him with a head injury. We know that at a certain point, Hodor was terrified of entering the crypts."
- This theme would honour the fantasy tradition of Lancelot: The story of Lancelot (orphaned as a baby only to become one of Arthur's knights) is arguably one of the most famous in fantasy lore, time and again inspiring authors and filmmakers. "Sir Lancelot . . . conquers a keep called the Dolorous Gard where Queen Guinevere is being held. He renames it the Joyous Gard. In the graveyard is a tomb covered by a giant jewelled metal slab, engraved to indicate that only the man who conquers the keep will be able to lift it. He lifts the tomb's slab with ease, and beneath it is written 'Here will lie Lancelot of the Lake, the Son of King Ban.' He thus learns he is a prince inside a grave," the Redditor wrote. The similarities between Jon's storyline and Sir Lancelot's — including the variations of a "tower of joy" where a woman is being held hostage — could be a huge clue that this theory is accurate.
- Game of Thrones needs a major cliffhanger to hold us over until season seven: This theory would likely come true in one of the final episodes of season six, so it totally fits the timeline that the show usually follows — reveal something huge, then keep everyone waiting for another year.
So, do you buy this insanely detailed theory? We're definitely convinced! While only time will tell if Jon discovers his own truth in Winterfell's burial place, we're almost positive it'll happen this way in the show, the books, or both.