Warning: As you probably guessed, this post contains plenty of spoilers.
LONDON Okay, so after the Season 6 finale we now finally know that R + L = J, the long-speculated theory that Jon Snow’s real parents are Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, is indeed (probably) correct.
We also know that Lyanna died in childbirth at the Tower of Joy, and that her last request to her brother “promise me” was that he keep her child a secret and protect him from Robert Baratheon’s wrath.
Which is all very well and good, but wouldn’t it have made Ned’s life a hell of a lot easier if he’d at least told Catelyn? The two of them clearly had a close relationship, so isn’t it a bit hard to believe that Ned would have kept such a destructive secret from the woman he loved most?
Well, maybe not. A user recently asked exactly that question on a Science Fiction & Fantasy forum, and a user named Aegon came back with an impressively definitive answer.
The history of the Stark family is touched upon briefly during Bran’s flashbacks and has cropped out throughout the show, but it’s definitely not covered in the same level as detail as it is in George R. R. Martin’s books.
First, Aegon writes about Ashara Dayne and Brandon Stark’s death.
Remember that bloke young Ned stabbed in the back during the first Tower of Joy flashback? Well, it turns out he was in love with the guy’s sister. This is a pretty crucial bit of backstory, as it clearly plays a part in Ned’s motivation for not telling Catelyn the truth about Jon’s real parents.
Although Ned and Catelyn clearly love each other in present-day Westeros, their marriage was more of a tactical one in the beginning. The fact that Ned didn’t know (or likely love) Catelyn when they first got together, coupled with the risk that they may have been overheard by spies, was probably his main motivation for keeping quiet about Jon.
Ultimately, Ned Stark’s decision re-enforced just how loyal a character he really was. Despite Jon Snow’s shadowy parentage risking his marriage, his family and his honour, he decided that telling Catelyn would have been too much of a risk to Jon’s safety.
In the end, no matter what the stakes, he decided to honour the promise he made to his dying sister.
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