Lyanna Stark is one of the most influential characters in the Game of Thrones universe. She holds this position largely because she is at the center of the events that shaped the “game of thrones” as we know it.
While she died long before the show’s story began, her life has cast a long shadow on all of the Game of Thrones‘ central characters. Her secrets have the power to change the position of every game piece on the board, especially her son’s. She holds the crucial keys to Jon Snow’s past and future.
It is for those reasons that it is time to take a hard look at the life of one of the Game of Thrones‘ biggest game-changers, Lyanna Stark. Who is she, really? It is time to find out.
Lyanna Stark (Aisling Franciosi) was the third child and only daughter of Lord Rickard Stark and his wife, Lyarra. She had two older brothers, Brandon and Eddard (“Ned”), and a younger one, Benjen.
Lyanna shared a close bond with all of her brothers. When her oldest brother, Brandon, learned that she had gone missing with Rhaegar Targaryen, he assumed she had been kidnapped. His reaction and the actions he took on behalf of his sister would lead to Robert’s Rebellion.
Before the war
Lyanna was promised to Ned’s best friend, Robert Baratheon; a man she did not love. The true nature of Lyanna’s relationship with Prince Rhaegar Targaryen is still open to speculation. What is known is that she cried listening to him sing a song during the great Tourney at Harrenhal.
At that same tourney, she was given the Queen of Love and Beauty’s crown by Rhaegar. This was scandalous because Prince Rhaegar was a married father, who had not only disrespected his own wife with the gesture, but he also insulted Robert Baratheon, Lyanna’s fiancé.
Lyanna and Rhaegar
Were Lyanna and Rhaegar in love, or was she the victim of his unrequited obsession? Fans have yet to learn the definitive answer. Evidence to support the former contention lies in how Lyanna grew emotional listening to the prince sing his ballad.
Evidence to support the latter theory is equally circumstantial. Would Lyanna really bring an entire kingdom and her own House to its knees, so she could pursue a married man? No matter the nature of it, Lyanna Stark’s relationship with Rhaegar Targaryen sparked an uprising that would change everything.
Outraged by the news of his sister’s “abduction,” Brandon forewent his wedding to Catelyn Stark, so he could go to King’s Landing and demand Rhaegar’s imprisonment. When Rhaegar’s father, King Aerys II aka the “Mad King,” heard this, he arrested Brandon and his men, charging them with treason.
King Aerys II demanded that Brandon’s father, Lord Rickard Stark, come to King’s Landing. When Lord Stark arrived, the Mad King had him and all of the Starks’ men burned alive, with the exception of Brandon, who died trying to save his father.
This atrocity led to Robert’s Rebellion, which would ultimately lead to the collapse of House Targaryen, and place Robert Baratheon on the Iron Throne.
Shortly before the great tourney at Harranhal, Lyanna rescued Howland Reed from a group of mean-spirited squires. That tale is recounted by Howland’s daughter Meera (Ellie Kendrick) in one of the “History & Lore” segments on the Game of Thrones Season 6 home box set. That is not the only tale Meera recounts.
She also describes the story of the Knight of the Laughing Tree, a mysterious knight who sweeps into the tourney and defeats several opponents before disappearing into the ether. It is largely believed that the true identity of that Knight is none other than Lyanna Stark.
In the Season 6 finale, Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) finally finished the Tower of Joy vision. In it, he learned that Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is not actually Ned Stark’s illegitimate son. Rather he is Ned’s nephew, the son of Lyanna Stark, and presumably, Rhaegar Targaryen.
Lyanna’s last wishes
Lyanna’s dying words are spent begging her brother Ned to protect her presumptive newborn.
“His name is [indecipherable]…If Robert finds out, he’ll kill him. You know he will. You have to protect him. Promise me, Ned. Promise me.”
Ned consents, later claiming Lyanna’s baby is his illegitimate son with an unnamed woman. He names his nephew Jon Snow. By claiming Jon under this guise, he allows Jon the knowledge that he is a Stark, which lets him grow up around his biological family. Ned’s claim also plunges Jon to the bottom of the social ladder.
Did Lyanna ever plan for Jon Snow to learn who his biological parents were? We do not hear her beg Ned to tell Jon of his true origins, only to “protect” him.
For whatever reason, Game of Thrones does not allow us to hear Lyanna definitively claim Jon Snow as her son. Why? Who else could be Jon Snow’s mother? If this is not a mystery, why leave it as one?
Lyanna’s legacy is indelibly woven into every Game of Thrones storyline, though none more so than Jon Snow’s. If he is the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen, he is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Regardless of his legitimacy, he is undoubtedly the son of fire (House Targaryen) and ice (House Stark).
It is not known if the Iron Throne is what his mother wanted for him. She wanted Ned to “protect” Jon. She did not say anything about Ned protecting him until he could come of age and assert his legacy.
Lyanna remains shrouded in quite a bit of mystery as fans hurtle toward Game of Thrones Season 7. The truth about her relationship with Rhaegar is among the most pressing issues to resolve. That secret will inform the final chapter of Game of Thrones, and the destiny of one its most central characters.
Warning: Possible spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 7 ahead…
Will Season 7 finally resolve the true nature of Lyanna and Rhaegar’s relationship?
According to the alleged Reddit plot leak, fans will finally see the truth for themselves. As stated in the supposed leak that was originally published on the subreddit Free Folk and authored by ‘awayforthelads,’ and recompiled by user ‘maureencreates,’ viewers will see a flashback of Rhaegar and Lyanna’s wedding. While a wedding sounds like confirmation that the relationship between them was consensual, there is also a reasonable possibility that it was not.
Throughout Game of Thrones‘ sordid history, few of its weddings have been born out of love. With the exception of Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and his wife Talisa (Oona Chaplin), most of the marriages on Thrones have been forged for the sake of political alliances (Margaery Tyrell and Tommen Baratheon), or as the result of ill-advised persuasion (Sansa Stark and Ramsay Bolton).
Was Lyanna marrying Rhaegar as his lover or his captive? It is possible the answer is on the horizon. As reported by the Inquisitr, at least nine spoilers from the alleged Reddit plot leak have been confirmed, so far. Will Lyanna’s wedding to Rhaegar increase that number? Find out when Game of Thrones Season 7 premieres next summer on HBO.
[Featured Image by HBO]