Post by kingmonkey on Aug 25, 2015 14:38:05 GMT
So here we have it. Jon's parents were Rhaegar and Lyanna. R+L=J. The Mother of All Theories, the über-theory, the ur-formula and trope namer, without which there would be no x+y=z threads. This is not heresy, it's orthodoxy.
One of the problems for making the R+L=J case is that it there is simply too much data, and much of it is noise. When people pore over the text, examining every sentence for possible hints to R+L=J, they will inevitably find them everywhere. We are very good at finding patterns and no doubt much of the evidence that has been used to support R+L=J is no more than literary pareidolia, the tendency to see significance wherever we look for it. We see R+L=J all over ASOIAF, just as we see faces in clouds. For this essay I will therefore start by going back to basics. R+L=J stands on its own. It does not need the elaborations that have been heaped on it, and they tend to act as distraction. Such concepts as protect vs. obey, or the marriage of R&L, or King Jon etc., are ancillary to the theory of R+L=J. They may add to the discussion, but they are not necessary to the theory. I will avoid these extras as much as possible, and concentrate on finding the baseline of evidence that makes R+L=J by far the most likely possibility.
Back to the beginning
This is not CSI: Westeros. In these close studies of the text, it's easy to think we are looking for historical clues rather than understanding a literary work. Do you remember what it was like to read A Game of Thrones the first time, unsullied? We, experienced students of the text, find it easy to forget that each clue we pick out is not a piece of a jigsaw-puzzle, but is given to us in a specific order. The order has meaning. Martin is telling a story, and the craft of the storyteller is to build a construction of ideas, to channel the assumptions and the feelings of the reader from start to finish.
The piecemeal approach to these theories means we're leaving some of the most important data on the cutting-room floor. We look at the words, without considering the context. When do we first get a particular piece of information, and what did we know prior to that which illuminates it? On first reading, A Game of Thrones is packed with so many characters it's hard to keep track. Martin uses standard techniques of storytelling to build up the image we have of those characters, and to weave the story he wishes to tell.
The first 13 chapters of A Game of Thrones function as an Act 1. They introduce us to House Stark, and to the core dynamics that lead to the events of the series. They take us to the start of the voyage, when Ned and co. head south, while Jon heads north. What Martin tells us in this opening act, and the way he tells it, is fundamental to the story he's telling..
Martin uses a range of well-understood literary techniques to weave his narrative. For example, he paces the introduction of characters carefully. He avoids leaving too long between appearances of any of the important characters, and he often builds up our understanding of characters by introducing them in stages. Thus for example we first meet Ned as a distant father figure in Bran's chapter 1, before seeing a much more intimate view of him in Cat's chapter 2. Then we get into his head in his own PoV chapter 4. Had we started with chapter 4, he wouldn't have the sense of distant authority that chapter one grants him. The way we are introduced to the core mysteries of the book is similar – we get a small reference to prime us to be aware there's something important going on, then some background, then the detail. When presenting so much material to the reader, this technique of reinforcement ensures the important stuff stays with the reader. Any writer or literary critic will see all of this very clearly in that opening act -- it's textbook stuff.
I will jump straight to the conclusions, because the full analysis is big. If you want to see how I draw the following conclusions, read the appendix. Be warned, it's big.
Ned and Jon are active participants in 5 chapters, while nobody else is in more than 3. Jon is discussed when not present more than anyone else – only Bran comes close. He's obviously important, yet when the action starts, he's effectively exiled from the story. The main storyline of the first couple of books (first book, in Martin's original trilogy concept) is the game of thrones between Stark and Lannister. We get to see Jon's frustration in sitting this out, effectively exiled from events. To paraphrase Aemon, the boy must be killed and the man born before Jon's real role in the story can play out.
The next thing to observe is that we've been given two "whodunnits". There is the death of Jon Arryn, which makes up the main thrust of Ned's journey in the south. The second one is less obvious, as it doesn't have a murder mystery to flag "whodunnit" in big red letters. This is the mystery of Jon (Snow's) birth. The first mystery is for the journey south, the second for the journey north. Martin never presents this second mystery as being a mystery to be solved like Jon Arryn's death, yet it gets more attention. The question of Jon's birth is raised directly twice, once by Cat and once by Robert, and indirectly by Arya (questioning her parentage because she looks like Jon), Benjen ("Jon felt anger rise inside him. 'I'm not your son!' Benjen Stark stood up. 'More's the pity.'") and twice by Tyrion ("Some woman, no doubt" and "Whoever his mother had been."
These two separate whodunnits are played out very differently. The first is the subject of Ned's investigations in King's Landing, while the second, never presented as being a whodunnit, is left to the reader to solve. As well as the two whodunnits, we're left with a bit of an enigma: Rhaegar and Lyanna. At first this seems like background detail, but Martin uses the aforementioned pattern of reinforcement to clue us in that it is important. In this opening 13 chapter act, Rhaegar's name crops up 10 times over 3 chapters, and Lyanna's 9 over 3 chapters. Jon Arryn is ostensibly the key mystery of the book, yet they get as much attention as he does – and at this point in the story, it's all very vague. We don't yet know what happened to Lyanna, so we're primed to want to learn more. The clues to Lyanna's fate, just like the clues to the overt mystery of Jon Arryn's, unfold with the narrative.
We are invited to consider Jon's appearance. Jon is first described in chapter 1, contrasting him to Robb. Most characters get a single introductory description, yet Jon's appearance is discussed again in chapter 5, again in 6, again in 7 and again in 13, each time in relation to his parentage. Why would Martin keep telling us that Jon looks like Ned? You don't have to be particularly genre - savvy to start wondering whether Jon is Ned's son at all. Telling us once or twice would have been enough. Repeating it invites us to question it. On the other hand, how can Jon not be Ned's son if he so clearly looks like Jon?
We are given hint as to a possible solution. Jon has Ned's look, but he isn't the only one to have Ned's look. Arya does too. This doesn't yet get us very far, as Arya is Ned's daughter. There's a subtler clue too.
Ned: "Ned turned away from them to gaze out the window, his long face silent and thoughtful." ch.6
Arya and Jon: "It would have been easier if Arya had been a bastard, like their half brother Jon. She even looked like Jon, with the long face and brown hair of the Starks, and nothing of their lady mother in her face or her coloring." ch.7
Rickard Stark: "Lord Rickard Stark, Ned's father, had a long, stern face. " ch.4
We even have: "A face had been carved in the trunk of the great tree, its features long and melancholy, the deep-cut eyes red with dried sap and strangely watchful." - ch.2
Does Jon really have Ned's face, or is it simply the face of Winterfell, the Stark face? In chapter 6 we had "'Never ask me about Jon," he said, cold as ice. "He is my blood, and that is all you need to know.'" -- Ned calls Jon his blood, not specifically his son. Benjen's son then, despite the "More's the pity" line and the omission of a "long face" description for him? Brandon, who we know little about? Or could Tyrion's "Whoever his mother had been, she had left little of herself in her son" comment be an ironic reversal (from Tyrion? Surely not!) because really he got his features from Lyanna? After all, she keeps being mentioned for no clear reason. We know she died mysteriously in Ned's presence somewhere in the south, just before Ned mysteriously acquired a motherless bastard son somewhere in the south, despite this apparently being out of character for Ned.
These possibilities all raise a question we have no answer for as yet. If it were any of these three, why not say so? Why would Ned be lying to his wife, who's obviously hurt by Jon's presence? Why would he pretend to have done something dishonourable? "I dishonored myself and I dishonored Catelyn, in the sight of gods and men," he tells Robert. Why the qualifier "in the sight of gods and men"?
For all her resentment of Jon, Cat doesn't seem to be too aware of the dishonour. "Many men fathered bastards. Catelyn had grown up with that knowledge. It came as no surprise to her, in the first year of her marriage, to learn that Ned had fathered a child on some girl chance met on campaign. (...) He was welcome to whatever solace he might find between battles." That phrase "in the sight of gods and men" comes up in two other contexts. One is marriage, but the other is confession. "...let my truth or falsehood be judged openly, in the sight of gods and men," Tyrion says in ch.38. Is Ned's dishonour that he falsely confessed?
...continued in next post.