The Secret in the Winterfell Crypts

A harp in the tomb,
a child in the womb;
a dragon in a stone egg.

I have a strong theory about a possibly ‘game-changing’ secret in the Winterfell crypts:

Rhaegar’s unique silver-stringed harp is in Lyanna’s tomb.

Note: /r/asoiaf followers will recognize this as an extremely revised version of my ‘Rhaegar’s Harp’ theory from 2013. I’m reposting it to my blog for posterity and to make it easier for newer readers to find. Switching to wordpress also allows me to expand on areas that reddit’s self-post character limit prevented me from exploring.

“Will you make a song for him?” the woman asked.

“He has a song,” the man replied. “He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.”

This quote is about Aegon and it’s between Elia and Rhaegar. Recall what Marwyn says, “Prophecy is like a treacherous woman”. Rhaegar may have been wrong about Aegon; or more likely he believes that one, all or any of the three ‘heads of the dragon’ are/is the prince that was promised.

Thematically it’s more sensible if Jon Snow is the prince that was promised and especially when you consider his parentage. Simply combine the Stark and Targaryen words. Also note that if you currently believe that Jon’s parents are indeed Rhaegar and Lyanna, then Jon is possibly a ‘promised prince’, based on Ned’s recollections about Lyanna’s final words: “Promise me, Ned”.

*   *   *


I was deeply conflicted when I first read A Dance with Dragons.

I’ve been a longtime believer in the “R+L=J” theory, so I knew I had a personal bias: that Jon must be a central protagonist and a true ‘secret Targaryen’, that this Aegon VI (“Young Griff”) was merely a pretender. I struggled with this bias against Aegon VI for some time, with no real answers in sight. Intellectually I knew I couldn’t answer the question of who is actually legitimate.

*   *   *

Proving Legitimacy

It then occurred to me that there was a more practical method of addressing the issue, the formation of a question that renders the mystery with possible answers: “How does a person prove legitimacy?”

This poses a challenge to both Aegon and Jon. Looking at them closely:

  • Aegon
    It’s not enough to just show up looking like a Targaryen or declaring yourself one; you need legitimacy, you need proof. The lords of Westeros already doubt his legitimacy so he must prove it or subjugate them all. At some point winning bannermen via a legitimate claim will be more valuable than conflict. It doesn’t help that he’s backed by the Golden Company either. It is telling that he and his advisors all know this, which is why he is initially bent on securing Daenerys’s hand in marriage; so he has her blood and her dragons to establish him.
  • Jon
    He’s supposedly dead. Keep in mind, if the notion of establishing some connection between Jon and Rhaegar is important to the story irrespective of his living status, then this theory is still useful. No one aside from Howland Reed has knowledge of Jon’s heritage, so he has no self-driven need to find something like this harp. But for those of us who would like to see him revealed as a bastard- or trueborn Targaryen, Azor Ahai or the prince that was promised, he must also prove it to himself and/or others.

The logical next step is to then ask : “What would significantly bolster a claim of Targaryen ancestry?”

Note that there are no living, universally acknowledged Targaryen (aside from Daenerys) that could vouchsafe a person’s authenticity. This is also true of anyone who claims not to be a Targaryen, yet still have extensive knowledge of a candidate’s legitimacy. Thus there are no living people who could genuinely and lawfully declare a person a true Targaryen, on the basis of their word alone. This would be true of Jon Connington just as much as it is of Stannis and Howland Reed.

Simply put, the nobles of Westeros have no intrinsic reason to assume a candidate is legitimate on the basis of words alone.

*   *   *

The Need for Evidence

Consequently, the lords of Westeros will need objective, physical evidence of legitimacy before they can seriously consider a proclaimed Targaryen’s authenticity.

But what kind of evidence would cause this sort of contemplation?

My first thoughts ran to the Valyrian swords Dark Sister and Blackfyre.

Unfortunately both swords are associated with bastard Targaryen lineages, each tainted with histories that would actually detract from any claim of legitimacy.

Both have also gone unseen for a number of years, thus there could be serious logistical questions regarding whether they’ve stayed in families of true or bastard Targaryen blood: there is no reliable “chain of custody” to suggest that a current bearer has any true relationship to the Targaryen dynasty.

So it seems that the idea that the Targaryen blades could demonstrate legitimacy is shaky at best. But the exploration of the idea was not without benefit: we come to a valuable realization.

We readers inherently know that if any kind of proof exists; it will be something that is:

  1. Well-known to the high lords and ladies of the realm,
  2. Universally recognized as a symbol of the true Targaryen lineage,
  3. Possesses a strong chain of custody,
  4. And somehow demonstrates a claimant’s heredity.

*   *   *

Using Meta-textual Information

We can also exploit some knowledge of  factors that exist outside of the books themselves.

In the fifth book of a seven book series, it would be somewhat sophomoric to introduce a new piece of evidence to the story merely for the sake of answering the riddle of legitimacy. It would likely be seen by readers as a cop-out, a device invented to solve a corner that Martin had written himself into.

Martin has already stated that he wants to avoid writing such an ending to the series because he was unhappy with the ending of Lost. Additionally, knowing Martin’s preference for implementing surreptitious indications of future events, the evidence is likely something lurking beneath our very noses. The kind of thing we’ll kick ourselves over when you look back.

*   *   *

A Eureka! Moment

So there I was, brainstorming every possible Targaryen artifact, tome and treasure I could think of. At some point I was off on a tangent, ruminating on the following passages:

“As a young boy, the Prince of Dragonstone was bookish to a fault. He was reading so early that men said Queen Rhaella must have swallowed some books and a candle whilst he was in her womb. Rhaegar took no interest in the play of other children. The maesters were awed by his wits, but his father’s knights would jest sourly that Baelor the Blessed had been born again. Until one day Prince Rhaegar found something in his scrolls that changed him. No one knows what it might have been, only that the boy suddenly appeared early one morning in the yard as the knights were donning their steel. He walked up to Ser Willem Darry, the master-at-arms, and said, ‘I will require sword and armor. It seems I must be a warrior.’”

“Prince Rhaegar’s prowess was unquestioned, but he seldom entered the lists. He never loved the song of swords the way that Robert did, or Jaime Lannister. It was something he had to do, a task the world had set him. He did it well, for he did everything well. That was his nature. But he took no joy in it. Men said that he loved his harp much better than his lance.”

Dany did not want to hear about Rhaegar being unhorsed. “But what tourneys did my brother win?”

“Your Grace.” The old man hesitated. “He won the greatest tourney of them all.”

“Yes. And yet Summerhall was the place the prince loved best. He would go there from time to time, with only his harp for company. Even the knights of the Kingsguard did not attend him there. He liked to sleep in the ruined hall, beneath the moon and stars, and whenever he came back he would bring a song. When you heard him play his high harp with the silver strings and sing of twilights and tears and the death of kings, you could not but feel that he was singing of himself and those he loved.”

What emerges is that it seems like Rhaegar was intent on winning the Tourney at Harrenhal for whatever reason, but otherwise was much less interested in chivalry and combat in other matters. As a matter of fact, its strongly shown that Rhaegar was much more interested in playing his harp and reading ancient scrolls.

Suddenly I had a wild thought!

What if Rhaegar never wanted to be a fighter, but only did it to meet Lyanna. And therefore, aside from that tourney, he would have much rather continued playing his harp!?

That idea may not be true and it’s not really important to this essay’s theory. What matters is that the harp jumped into my mind.

That’s when the epiphany hit me like an anvil:

It’s that damn harp.

The idea quickly formed: Rhaegar’s harp would be central to establishing authenticity. It almost immediately meets all of the requirements I established above, to a more precise and objective standard than any competing suggestion.

*   *   *

The Strength of a Harp

So just how does Rhaegar’s harp meet the three requirements I laid out in the previous section?

  1. How do we know that it is well-known throughout Westeros?
  2. How could it’s authenticity be confirmed, as a sign of true Targaryen heritage?
  3. How do we verify that it has a strong chain of custody, indicating that it has not fallen into the hands of a unscrupulous pretender?
  4. How does an object like the harp actually prove blood heritage?

Recognition: A Well-known Instrument

First and foremost, there are many prominent characters who give specific recollections or observations concerning Rhaegar’s harp:

“When you heard him play his high harp with the silver strings and sing of twilights and tears and the death of kings, you could not but feel that he was singing of himself and those he loved.”

Dany could not let it go. “His is the song of ice and fire, my brother said. I’m certain it was my brother. Not Viserys, Rhaegar. He had a harp with silver strings.”

Ser Jorah’s frown deepened until his eyebrows came together. “Prince Rhaegar played such a harp,” he conceded. “You saw him?”

By night the prince played his silver harp and made her weep. When she had been presented to him, Cersei had almost drowned in the depths of his sad purple eyes.

At the welcoming feast, the prince had taken up his silver-stringed harp and played for them. A song of love and doom, Jon Connington recalled, and every woman in the hall was weeping when he put down the harp.

Every single character specifically mentioned the unique characteristic of Rhaegar’s harp: it’s silver strings (Cersei refers to the instrument as a ‘silver harp’ in its entirety).

This is not counting the obvious innumerable others who saw the harp at any of Rhaegar’s many performances.

Given all of this emphasis, it seems entirely reasonable to conclude that Rhaegar’s harp could be readily recognized by several (perhaps many) characters in Westeros.


Rhaegar’s harp is readily recognized for its unique feature: its silver strings.

Many specific characters have seen and distinctly recall this feature.

There are many, many other unnamed characters who have seen the harp as well.

Thus we meet our first requirement, the harp is indeed well-known throughout Westeros.

*   *   *

Authenticity: The Sign of A Targaryen Prince

The second criteria is verifying that the harp is indeed a sign of Targaryen ancestry.

The biggest problem here is an obvious one: Possessing the harp (or any similar relic) does not automatically establish Targaryen ancestry. A grave-robber cannot proclaim himself the descendant of a pharoah simply because he looted an Egyptian tomb.

This creates an obvious problem for the harp theory (or any other Targaryen relic-ancestry theory). Resolving this issue requires two things to happen:

  • Verification that the relic in question is truly the one associated with the Targaryens and not a facsimile.
  • Establishing the chain of custody showing that the relic hasn’t gone into a limbo wherein it could be in the possession of those not possessing the ‘right’ to own it.

It’s fair to say that there are a number of Targaryen artifacts that might, upon close inspection, be recognized as authentic: the Valyrian swords, Targaryen crowns and so forth. However, most of them have been absent from history for decades, which means that there are fewer and fewer people left alive to vouchsafe their authenticity.

Similarly, other theories about the existence objects that confer are also similarly hampered by the inability to establish authenticity. The popular idea that a Targaryen bridal cloak might exist, indicating a legitimate union between Rhaegar and Lyanna, is vulnerable to the extremely basic questions of “Who really made it?” and “Why have I never seen that before?”. A subsequent point is that whatever object or evidence exists should also be difficult to forge or replicate.

Essentially, what you need is an object that could be recognized as authentic by multiple, living individuals. It would also be of greatest value if those individuals represented multiple, differing sets of interests. Much like an alibi or a set of witnesses to a crime, you don’t want to gather your facts from unilaterally biased sources: people are much more likely to support authenticity if they feel the claim of such is truthful and objective.

As I noted in the previous section, Rhaegar’s harp certainly qualifies as an object that we know has been seen by many people who still live (many of them relatively young). It also has been expressly mentioned by several disparate, conflicting characters. This reinforces the notion that such characters would know the authentic harp is true, even if their public position is otherwise. It also helps that readers have consistently been given a relatively distinct description of the harp, thus readers are also in a position to appreciate a proclaimed harp’s validity.

So you can see that Rhaegar’s harp has the unique status of being a relic almost certainly: affiliated with Targaryens, recognizable as authentic by many living lords and ladies and readers, of which many are from different allegiances.

*   *   *

Ownership: A Chain of Custody

Even if a consensus of characters believe that the harp is authentic, it does not inherently prove anything. If a relic does not prove bloodline, what would? Why then would a relic be valuable?

In order to establish any faith that ownership of the harp implies heritage, we must first show that the harp has not been in a position where an unscrupulous pretender might repossess it. We must show that it traversed from Rhaegar to its new owner via some method which had no exposure or risk of tampering.

In addition, the possession or receipt of the harp by any claimant has to be witnessed. Specifically it has to be witnessed by individuals whose authority and honor are beyond reproach.

What this means for the harp is that, wherever it may be (if it still exists), its retrieval must be documented or observed by multiple prominent lords of Westeros. It must also be shown that the harp has been in place where we can trust that it has not been tampered with or abused by false claimants. Thus, given the absence of a documented or true Targaryen owner, the best place for the harp would be in a vault or tomb of some kind. One that could be reasonably determined as not being tampered with.

Given that the harp has gone unseen for years, it’s chain of custody is best established if it had been kept securely in a vault or other trusted equivalent.

If indeed the harp is located in a vault, tomb or other manner of physically secure safekeeping; it’s deposition and withdrawal legally witnessed by a quorum of lords, then we can be reasonably sure the harp’s history is not tainted.

*   *   *

Heritage: Establishing a Blood Connection

Even if a character believes that the harp is real and it has a strong chain of custody, it doesn’t mean that whoever retrieves it is automatically conferred Targaryen heritage.

This would be true of any object intended to establish a person’s legitimacy.

Thus your object must comply to either of the following:

  • It must be capable of directly specifying a indisputably recognized successor, or
  • There needs to be something further that does.

There are no indications throughout the books that the harp itself might point to any successor. This could be said of any such evidence, whether it be a cloak or a sword or a crown.

This of course means that there must be something else that does confer blood ancestry. The harp then acts as leverage, increasing the claim’s validity and hopefully establishing what could reasonably be called a ‘preponderance of evidence’.

While the harp’s discovery may give others pause and consideration, it does not by itself establish blood relations. Some other piece of evidence must be used.

However, the harp can dramatically aid the legitimacy of that evidence.

I discuss this possibility further in a later section of this essay. For now, let us set aside the issue.

*   *   *

An Instrument Left Behind

Now I’d like to share the tale of how Rhaegar’s harp ends up in Lyanna’s tomb.

First, I recognize that I can’t deductively prove that harp is in Lyanna’s tomb. Instead, I have speculated as to the circumstances which led to it’s being there, with a high degree of confidence in the resulting answer. I then considered this theory against alternatives using the notions of ‘least complicated’ and ‘most relevant to the narrative’ to arrive at the conclusion that this is more likely that any alternatives. It is a puzzle piece that solves more of the puzzle than any other possibility.

The circumstances and motives regarding how the harp ends up in Lyanna’s tomb are best described as a sequence of events:

First, Rhaegar left the harp at the Tower of Joy

Rhaegar loved to play his harp. It’s something everyone familiar with him says. He elopes with Lyanna for almost a year before returning to King’s Landing and then to his doom at the Trident. It’s unlikely that Rhaegar would leave his harp behind while ‘retreating’ to the Tower of Joy.

After the outbreak of Robert’s Rebellion, it appears he waited until it was clear that Lyanna was with child. Assuming he planned on returning, it is likely he would not carry things to war that he didn’t plan on using or would be coming back to. Taking it to war or to King’s Landing also puts it at risk of being destroyed should he lose. He also may have left it as a symbol for Lyanna of his affection and promise to return.

At the very least, there has been no mention of it at any time during or after Robert’s Rebellion, implying it vanished somewhere. Given that the harp has always been mentioned as being in Rhaegar’s possession, it stands to reason that he was in control of the harp’s disposition. While it’s true that the harp could have simply been destroyed at the Trident, one would figure that Rhaegar would have acted to prevent the harp from even being near the battle, and if the harp was kept in Rhaegar’s encampment, why is there no mention of how it was disposed of?

Additionally, Rhaegar may have calculated the odds of his own demise. It’s interesting to note from the citations above that Rhaegar was not interested in tournaments and was even defeated in them. Perhaps he truly only practiced at combat as it related to those secrets he discovered in his scrolls. Given that he most prominently won at Harrenhal, it seems reasonable that he only participated in it insofar as it suited whatever prophecies he discovered.

This would perhaps suggest that Rhaegar knew Robert might defeat him, both on the basis of having been defeated in championships before, and/or the fact that perhaps Rhaegar’s prophecies indicated that his win at Harrenhal was what mattered, not his victory on the Trident. Given that Rhaegar shows no such fatalism in his final conversation with Jaime, I’m inclined to believe that Rhaegar was himself uncertain of the battle’s climactic outcome and would have prepared thusly.

The harp is itself also a powerful tool. Leaving it behind may also have been a deliberate attempt to leave a device which could somehow be used at a later date by those who survived him. This would be particularly true if Rhaegar thought the harp could be used to establish his consent or his affirmation of some sort of controversial event or agenda. This would seem particularly likely if was convinced that said event or agenda was fundamental to those prophecies to which he was so beholden.

Given the extremely persuasive arguments that Jon Snow is the offspring of Rhaegar and Lyanna, one begins to suspect that Rhaegar may have left the harp behind as some component of a scheme to establish Jon’s heredity or legitimacy.

This would be based on the fact that his harp is so unique, it’s presence in the wrong place would suggest a connection with Rhaegar. If Lyanna –supposedly kidnapped by Rhaegar– had emerged with a newborn child, and evidence including the harp; it would have been a compelling argument.

However, that did not happen. Lyanna died at the tower of joy. No child or harp or claim emerged.

Instead, we know what really happened: the Battle of the Trident, the fight at the tower of joy. Promise Me, Ned; and a bed of blood.

Or do we?

*   *   *

Lyanna’s Deathbed Demand

“Promise me, Ned.”

Imagine someone saying to you “Promise me ,<yourname>”. Imagine it being said multiple times.

If you’re like me, the most immediate thing that comes to mind is someone asking you to do something you’d be otherwise reluctant to do or something they might not otherwise trust that you’ll do.

For example, “Promise me you’ll clean this mess up” typically means “I know you don’t want to do it, but please do clean this mess up.”

This leads to a fairly obvious set of observations:

People don’t demand that a person promise to do something they’d do naturally.

Precisely the opposite, they demand a person’s promise to do something uncomfortable, risky, inconvenient or injurious.

Thus, Ned’s promise to Lyanna most likely involved something that wasn’t easy for him.

As other theories point out, asking to be buried in the Winterfell crypts seems mundane to be a mundane and wasteful wish to make on your deathbed (a point that will appear ironic after you read this theory). Keep in mind two points that undermine this idea:

  1. The Stark family has been buried in the Winterfell crypts for generations, to include relatives such as brothers and sisters.

    They were almost at the end now, and Bran felt a sadness creeping over him. “And there’s my grandfather, Lord Rickard, who was beheaded by Mad King Aerys. His daughter Lyanna and his son Brandon are in the tombs beside him. Not me, another Brandon, my father’s brother. They’re not supposed to have statues, that’s only for the lords and the kings, but my father loved them so much he had them done.”

  2. Only the Lords of Winterfell and the previous Kings of Winter have statues.

It’s hard to imagine that Lyanna’s promise consisted of asking Ned for a statue in her honor. As I mentioned, that is a seemingly mundane, oafish wish. And truthfully one that Ned would really have little difficulty keeping.

Therefore it seems entirely plausible, logical even, that Ned’s promise to Lyanna involved something other than her statue. Certainly something of a magnitude more uncomfortable for Ned. And that is what helps drive the subsequent speculations.

More than anything, Ned hates to see children put to death.

Ned loves his family dearly, willing to bear severe punishment and dishonor when necessary to protect his children. But this goes even beyond his flesh and blood: notice how strongly he fights against Robert’s demand that a pregnant Daenerys be put to death, and how he risks everything and confronts Cersei about her incest, all because he wants to avoid harm to her children.

I have no doubt that even if Lyanna hadn’t asked him, Ned would have taken Jon in. As many challenges as he would incur from adopting Jon, he would do it.

Ned’s promise to Lyanna did not involve raising Jon, since Ned would do that anyhow.

But going back to what I said about the nature of asking promises of others, Lyanna most likely asked him to do something he was apprehensive about. What seems likely is that she is asking him to preserve Jon’s heritage, to be one day shared with Jon or others, something Ned would never want to do.

More than anything, Ned’s promise involved something that would endanger a child.

The most relevant child would be Lyanna’s prospective offspring.

The task that would put Lyanna’s child in the greatest danger would be establishing his heritage. Particularly if that child was legitimate.

Remember that Ned already endured the loss of his father, his brother, possibly Jon’s half-brother and half-sister and is witnessing the death of his sister. Any sane man would be understandably traumatized. He’s seen too much of death and war, too many dead children.

With the apparent end of the Targaryen dynasty at hand, there would be no practical reason to ever tell Jon of his ancestry. Doing so would only re-open wounds just starting to heal (at that time), tarnish Lyanna’s image to the kingdom, and likely result in Jon’s death both as a Targaryen and possibly as a bastard pretender (consider that the nature of his parentage recalls the bastards of the Blackfyre Rebellion). At the very least, Robert’s lust for Targaryen blood would demand Jon’s death.

There are several possible reasons why Lyanna could want Jon to know his bloodline:

  • Perhaps she also believed in the prophecy of the prince that was promised. After all, given “Promise me, Ned”, isn’t Jon an obvious ‘promised prince’?
  • She doesn’t want Jon to live never knowing who his mother and father are. Perhaps she, knowing her death is imminent, regrets being unable to raise him as a mother should.
  • She does this for out of vanity and regret for herself, for the personal reason that Jon’s parents did not die for a foolhardy reason, and that at least someone should know the mutuality of their relationship.

I surmise that either Ned would vocally argue that he would never tell Jon or that Lyanna just implicitly knows he doesn’t want to. I’m inclined to believe the former, that Ned would counter Lyanna’s request by talking about the deaths of Aegon and Rhaenys. Perhaps then Lyanna simply demanded his promise or thereafter tricked him in some fashion.

*   *   *

An Attempt to Keep a Secret Promise To Reveal a Secret

Whether or not you believe that Lyanna outright demanded that Ned one day tell Jon about his heritage or alternatively tricked him, it seems clear that Lyanna wanted Jon to find out somehow.

Now of course Ned could one day tell Jon, but to what end?

Ned’s famous subservience to honor dictates that if he told Jon that he might have a legitimate claim to the throne, then Jon must needs act on it and subsequently Ned would likely have to support it. So then the obvious question is, how would Ned prove to others that Jon indeed was legitimate?

Alternatively, if Lyanna was trying to trick Ned into keeping evidence of Jon’s heritage, how could she do so?

Despite being different in action, the answer to both of these hypothetical scenarios is the same:

Ned would retain an object or objects that would confirm Jon’s heritage. Objects that met all of the requirements I laid out earlier in this essay.

This is notably an element of his promise to her that he could keep.

Under this idea, Ned would have gathered such evidence from the tower of joy, to be retained safely for future use.

The hazard here is that the discovery of such artifacts, if validated, once again immediately put Jon in danger.

Ned could have concluded (or Lyanna if she was forced to trick him) that the crypts of Winterfell would make the best place to conceal such artifacts. What’s especially potent here is that the idea burying such evidence in Lyanna’s tomb is not only well-calculated and protected from Robert, it resonates with thematic relevance. A harp in the tomb, much like a child in a womb, like a dragon in a stone egg.

When to tell Jon?

As is strongly implied in A Game of Thrones, Ned shows great remorse at the lost opportunity to speak to Jon.

The thought of Jon filled Ned with a sense of shame, and a sorrow too deep for words. If only he could see the boy again, sit and talk with him …

It would appear that Ned wanted to at least tell Jon something, something he never did and something he feels great shame for failing to accomplish.

As noted above, Ned knew that revealing Jon’s secret would have immense consequences. One can see why he delayed it perpetually. Perhaps the reason Ned feels such regret at the time of this excerpt is because Jon has presumably joined the Night’s Watch, forfeiting any claims he may have had. Perhaps Ned felt Jon was finally ‘safe’ from his own heritage.

This theory invokes a beautiful duality between the original, straight-forward interpretations of ‘Promise me, Ned’ readers first have, and the more intuitive interpretations put forth in the ‘classical’ R + L = J theories.

*   *   *


There are a number of interesting observations and speculations that lend credence to the significance of both Lyanna’s tomb and the harp.

There are no other female statues in the Winterfell crypts.

The sole exception in a population set as large as ‘all the lords of Winterfell back to the time of Bran the Builder’, being the only female statue is an extreme outlier. It draws attention to itself on that basis alone.

*   *   *

Only the male statues have swords across their laps, intended to conceal their spirits within. Lyanna’s statue does not.*

The importance of this is entirely speculative; but it could be implied that the absence of the sword for Lyanna implies that her tomb does not contain her spirit and is possibly less ominous, opening it if necessary is less abominable as opening others.

There is a plethora of passages suggesting specifically that there are ghosts wandering Winterfell, of a ‘frozen hell’ in the crypts from which damned spirits wander in the mists that permeate the castle grounds.

It may all of course be metaphor and prose, but it’s a striking observation nonetheless.

Note: There is one notable exception to this observation. Per Bran’s previous quote, it would appear that the statue of Ned’s brother Brandon also lacks a sword.

*   *   *

What better place to hide secret Targaryen relics than in a tomb you know Robert will never defile?

Talk about hiding in plain sight!

If there were any Targaryen relics of importance at the tower of joy that should be hidden in order to clear Lyanna of any ‘wrong-doing’ in her dalliance with Rhaegar, hiding them in a place where Robert would never think or dare to look is brilliant.

*   *   *

How would Jon or anyone know to look in the tomb?

There are a number of possibilities here –each of varying degrees of plausibility:

  1. Jon Snow learns of the tomb’s contents while dreaming or in an altered state.
  2. A character who knows about Jon’s heritage and the tomb might emerge to attest to the contents of Lyanna’s tomb.
  3. The tomb is somehow opened for other reasons and the evidence spontaneously discovered.

Of these three, I find the first and second to be the most compelling:

Via a Dream

Jon Snow has had frequent ominous dreams of a mysterious destiny that awaits him in the crypts. Bran and Rickon dreamed of Eddard trying to talk to them about Jon in the crypts, and Eddard regretted things he never told to Jon while in the black cells.

As for how Jon might learn, consider the possibility that Jon may have a Bran-like dream or vision while he is dead or near-death after A Dance with Dragons. Do you remember Jon’s recurring dream of the Winterfell crypts —the one he can never finish because he always wakes up, where something terrifying awaits him down in the dark? Well, in his near-death state he is unable wake up and is forced to finish the dream. This dream gives him the knowledge he needs.

This is strongly reminiscent of Bran’s near-death experience where Bran was finally forced to ‘fly or die’.

Secondly, it’s well connected with the idea of spirits in Winterfell, in a ‘frozen hell’ and the idea that perhaps Jon learns of the tomb’s contents via such a visitation.

It’s also tremendously congruent with Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey”, particularly the point where the hero enters the underworld, to eventually return to the land of the living armed with secret knowledge.

Via a Champion

Alternatively, if a character emerged to vouch for the tomb’s contents, you are first faced with the challenge of sacrilege: who is going to want to actually open the tomb?

For what it’s worth, the additional question is obviously “Who?”. To which I answer with the obvious Howland Reed. I also sometimes consider that Arthur Dayne may still be alive, but that is a lesser idea. It is rooted in the specious argument that Howland subdued Arthur simply by talking to him, and that Arthur survives in some fashion.

The harp has been mentioned in four of the five books currently in print.

This means that the harp has not only been established fairly well, but that readers have been regularly reminded of its presence and appearance. Compared to any alternative means of revelation, it bears the strongest familiarity to the reader. As often as the phrase is misused, the harp is potentially a very real ‘Chekhov’s Gun’. The other possibilities are –as noted– weakly established (or not at all), and much more likely to be rejected as a valid resolution of this enduring mystery.

Almost every time the subject of Rhaegar is discussed at any length the harp is mentioned. Particularly when characters are reflecting on their experiences with him. The only exception I can think of is Jaime’s remembered talk with him before Rhaegar departed for the Trident.

It’s important to remember that the majority of people reading A Song of Ice and Fire are not fanatically aware of subtle historical details. Bringing up a device that is for all purposes known only to aficionados will be terribly disorienting to casual readers, and perhaps cheapen any related ‘reveals’.

*   *   *

It’s unique silver strings are mentioned every time.

And I do mean every time.

*   *   *


As mentioned earlier in the essay, the harp by itself does not definitely prove that a person has Targaryen blood. Something else must be added.

Even if the harp is verified as authentic and it’s history safely established, it does not effectively prove that Jon (or anyone else) actually has Targaryen blood, that he is the issue of Rhaegar and Lyanna’s union.

A document declaring Jon’s legitimacy and signed by respected witnesses must also be present.

The function of the harp is therefore to apply palpable thematic and objective emphasis to such a declaration. It is a lever that aids in lifting a load, so to speak.

The only conceivable way to prove blood is to have it vouchsafed by one’s parents and their confidants. As such, I speculate that document was drafted declaring Jon as Rhaegar’s biological son.

A Bastard or Not?

This letter may or may not have declared Jon as being trueborn –the product of a secret marriage. I find that idea interesting but perhaps unnecessary.

Jon does not need to be trueborn to satisfy Martin’s admission that Jon will eventually know who his parents are, therefore Rhaegar may have just declared Jon to be his bastard son.

As for the witnesses, I suspect that it would include Rhaegar obviously and his three kingsguard: Arthur Dayne, Oswell Whent and Gerold Hightower. Additionally it could have included Ned Stark and Howland Reed, added after the fight at the tower. A document containing the affirmations of the most heroic of Aerys’s kingsguard and Ned Stark strongly coincides with my observation that the validity of such momentous documents greatly benefit when witnessed by notably disparate parties.

These affirmations were likely indicated with signatures and with seals. Seals in particular have been given great significance in recent books, implying a superior sense of authenticity when compared to a signature alone. Examples:

  • The ribbon that Davos carries in A Dance with Dragons, bearing three different seals and intended to lend authenticity and authority to Davos’s words.
  • Robb’s letter proclaiming Jon as his heir and a legitimate Stark, with multiple lordly witnesses affixing their seals to validate the letter’s authority.
  • The wedding invitations ostensibly sent by Ramsay Snow, signed and sealed by various northern lords to indicate the letter’s authenticity.

*   *   *

A Legitimate Bastard?

There is a third idea, that Rhaegar did not announce Jon as his biological ‘baseborn’ son, or as a trueborn son of a secret marriage.

Instead, Rhaegar may have announced Jon as a ‘legitimized bastard’. Of course, only the king can legitimize bastards. Thus this means that Rhaegar would have had to usurp the throne to do such a thing. Is this possible or plausible or suggested in the text?

Yes indeed it is.

  • By Jaime Lannister’s account, Varys warned Aerys that Rhaegar was conspiring against him. Perhaps the eunuch was more correct than readers initially thought.
  • Rhaegar himself admits to Jaime that he wants to call a Great Council, a conference whose principal function has always been to elect a new king (thus dethroning Aerys in the process).
  • It may also help explain why the three kingsguard were at the tower of joy instead of with Aerys or at the Trident, they were protecting one of the “new king’s” princes.

*   *   *

Contextual Clues

So are there any indications suggesting that Rhaegar might have written such a document?

I believe so.

First, the books have well established that a king may in fact legitimize bastards. We see it happen when Tommen legitimizes Ramsay Snow and when Robb presumably declares Jon Snow as legitimate and the heir to Winterfell. It’s also well established historically, under the story of Aegon the Unworthy and his bastard children that he legitimized on his deathbed. An act which had tremendous significance on the history Westeros.

An interesting observation here is that the Blackfyre Rebellion was also significantly influenced by Aegon IV’s act of bequeathing a Targaryen relic –the Targaryen sword Blackfyre– to his bastard son Daemon; a striking mirror of this theory’s core elements.

The latter books further established the concept that some methods exist for usurping a throne by declaration of a ruler’s inability or invalidity. First we see the Great Council of 233AL that raised Aegon V to the throne. Although technically unrelated, we also see the process by which an ironborn king can be dethroned as well, via the tale of Torgon Greyiron and Urragon Goodbrother. In addition there is always the simple act of contesting a rule using political and/or military clout.

Knowing that Rhaegar wanted to call a great council after presumably winning the war against Robert,  and how Aerys handled Rickard and Brandon Stark, we can suss out that Rhaegar was well-aware of how Aerys would handle any such demand for a council. It would all but require Rhaegar to approach his father with sufficient political/military backing that Aerys was coerced into consent.

Assuming that Rhaegar was aware of all of the risks entailed in such a course of action, a writ declaring himself the true king and bearing the seals of witnesses would be a strong way to preserve his intended plan of dethroning the Mad King.

This idea is no different than the ribbon with three seals that Davos bears from Stannis, or Robb’s declaration of Jon’s legitimacy, witnessed by several northern lords.

It would be at this time that Rhaegar could further legitimize Jon as his legitimate offspring.

Thus, my speculations regarding a document legitimizing Jon all are based on events and and other documents that we’ve actually witnessed in the books. The idea bears merit on the basis that such documents have been well-established, having both contemporary and historical counterparts.

Finally, out of all the passages in the books related to harps, there are only two which are abstract in nature, and are rather eye-catching in light of this theory:

In his soft hands he held a twelve-stringed woodharp more deadly than a longsword.

“A harp can be as dangerous as a sword, in the right hands.”

34 thoughts on “The Secret in the Winterfell Crypts

  1. BarberBen

    This theory doesn’t really grab me only because I just don’t see the harp as really proving anything. The documents in and of themselves would prove something. I think it possible Aerys legitimized any issue of Lyanna’s by Rhaegar before they fled. That and the prophecy scroll would possibly be enough. Lyanna’s lack of a sword with her statue (her father told her her sword must always remain hidden) says more that in fact a sword might be hidden in her tomb. A known sword with magical properties would prove more than Rhaegar’s beautiful but non-magical harp. Not that I want there to be a known sword in the tomb, particularly, it just seems like it would be better supporting proof than the harp. Everyone knew Rhaegar was at the Tower of Joy, probably with his harp, and if it turned up at Winterfell people would just think it the spoils of war for Ned.

    Sometimes I wonder if Lyanna made Ned promise to bury the prophecy scroll with her so her son would not face the same obsessions as his father and others of the Targaryens.

    1. cantuse Post author

      I based the harp idea off of the fact that the harp has been so prominently mentioned, yet in a very subtle fashion. I’m sure many of us readers who have a fanatical interest in the series would be able to whip up ideas for relics that make tremendous sense historically (certain swords, the Targaryen bridal cloak idea, a ruby signet or from Rhaegar’s armor, Torrhen’s crown, Aegon I’s crown, a dragon egg, I’ve heard them all).

      The idea was that the harp had actually been well established in context for even casual readers. Any of the other ideas generally would come off as a deus ex machina in the sense that they have not been nearly as well established. Readers would be thinking, “Huh? When was this MacGuffin established? Did Martin just make this up because he wrote himself into a corner?”

      And yeah I don’t believe the harp actually proves anything. A declaration or something is virtually the only way to prove Jon’s ancestry. However, it wouldn’t really resonate with audiences (readers and in Westeros).

      Speaking for myself, a mere document would leave me thinking “That’s it?… I’ve wondered for seven-plus years about Jon’s bloodline and all I got was this stupid parchment!?” The harp may not prove anything, but it adds tremendous leverage to the validity of any such declarative document.

      I gotta say, I’ve never thought about the idea that Aerys would legitimize any issue of Rhaegar’s. It’s an interesting concept. I think one issue would be the budding suspicion he had for his son.

    1. Carl

      As you said, there is no physical object such as a harp or cloak that can legitimize Jon. Harps and cloaks can be war booty and do not prove anything. Even if Rhaegar had a document sealed by three kingsguard, that document has no authority, regardless of what Rhaegar might do in the future. Aerys had the sole right to do that. The argument of a legitimized Jon based on Rhaegar’s will is DOA. However, as said before, Aerys has that authority.

      Why do I bring this up? Because there was a great deal of peculiar behavior that can only be explained by Aerys’ involvement. 1. Lyanna was kidnapped by Rhaegar, Arthur Dayne, and Oswell Whent. Arthur’s involvement is noteworthy. He held the office of Sword of the Morning. An office based on worthiness of unquestionable honor and martial skill. This man would not act this way without unambiguous orders from Aerys. 2. House Martell was on the verge of revolt. Elia and her children were being held hostage by Aerys to ensure their loyalty. Why? Rhaegar shacking up with Lyanna is not a reason. The Dornish accept paramours and do not reject bastard children-bastards just cannot inherit. 3. Kingsguard protection was withdrawn from Aerys’ wife and children. Only Aerys can issue that order. 4. Aerys NEVER complained that his kingsguard had betrayed him. Barristan nor Jaime claim he thought that three of his finest were betraying him. The only way this is acceptable is if Aerys ordered them to be elsewhere. 5. In Ned’s dream, the kingguard specifically stated they were loyal to Aerys and were in their proper place. They stated: “Woe to the Usurper if we had been”..…”Aerys would yet sit the Iron Throne, and our false brother would burn in seven hells.” 6. Aerys sends Hightower to the Tower of Joy to get Rhaegar. Rhaegar returns. Hightower, Dayne, and Whent stayed at the TOJ. The kingsguard say they are not fleeing from battle and ignoring their duties. They are obeying legal authority by guarding the TOJ. Hightower says: “The Kingsguard does not flee.” Dayne says: “Then or now.” “We swore a vow,” explained Hightower. Those vows were to the King so only Aerys can issue these order.

      Only one conclusion can be drawn from the series of events. 1. Aerys was involved in Lyanna “kidnapping” and ordered the kingsguard involvement during and after. 2. He did something which caused Dorne to threaten revolt. I presume he put the child of Lyanna and Rhaegar in the line of succession or perhaps, ahead of ELia’s other children. I believe there is a document stating this signed by Aerys himself.

      Perhaps Aerys believed in the prophecy just as much as Rhaegar did.

  2. Stonevulture

    Why not both? Instead of needing a harp and documents, why not just engrave the harp itself? Harder to prove, of course, than seals and witnesses… but if the harp is only to establish Jon’s parentage to Jon and not to anyone else, then it could be sufficient.

  3. nkanyiso

    Guys Shaun Bean is doing an ama on reddit and just confirmed that Jon Snow isn’t his so this theory just got a little bit more believable.

  4. beardedtortoise

    ” Per Bran’s previous quote, it would appear that the statue of Ned’s brother Brandon also lacks a sword”

    Brandon’s statue did have a sword. In fact, it was taken by Bran when they fled Winterfell.

    “But with Mikken slain and the ironmen guarding the armory, good steel had been hard to resist, even if it meant grave-robbing. Meera had claimed Lord Rickard’s blade, though she complained that it was too heavy. Brandon took his namesake’s, the sword made for the uncle he had never known.” (Bran VII, ACOK)

    “Only a little farther on, three tombs were closely grouped together. That was where they halted. “Lord Rickard,” Lady Dustin observed, studying the central figure. The statue loomed above them—long-faced, bearded, solemn. He had the same stone eyes as the rest, but his looked sad. “He lacks a sword, as well.”

    It was true. “Someone has been down here stealing swords. Brandon’s is gone, as well.” “(Theon V, The Turncloak, ADWD)

    1. cantuse Post author

      Funnily enough I know this… but brain-farted. You’ll see I didn’t include that caveat in the original reddit thread. I just got confused late in the writing by the passage I cited from Bran in AGOT. I should fix this when I get the chance.

  5. Mike D

    Really enjoyed this theory! Great work.

    I too feel that the harp was mentioned enough to warrant attention. Have you ever read the “Mance Is Rhaegar” theory? A lot of it seems tinfoil at first, but I don’t know… It’s a possibility.

    Thought it might be one you’d enjoy! 🙂

    1. cantuse Post author

      I’ve read a few variations on the Mance = Rhaegar theories. I did consider them, and even considered the idea that Mance might have been Richard Lonmouth or Myles Mooton (Rhaegar’s squires). However, the chief problem with these ideas is that Mance was a member of the Night’s Watch from near childhood. For Mance to actually have been Rhaegar, Lonmouth or Mooton in disguise would require either some sort of ‘body swap’ with the ‘real’ Mance, or some sort of lies on the part of members of the NW. It just seems to be a bit stretchy since you have to invent things to support it. I mean, yeah that sounds hypocritical in light of the ‘harp theory’, but at least we can reasonably guess that it was at the Tower of Joy and perhaps vanished with Ned.

  6. Trinity

    If the but about Ned Stark is true, would he have not been thinking of Jon when he changed Roberts ‘will and testament’ to reflect the ‘tru heir’ rather than ‘jeoffrey’? In that case, wouldn’t he have sent word up north or headed out himself? Perhaps he felt his duty superseded his promise? Not so sure. The other issue is if this is indeed true, wouldn’t Ned have objected more rigorously to Jon joining the NW? Either way, it’s interesting and I do think parts of it are true.

    And thanks

  7. John Evans (@JohnPEvans)

    Something worth mentioning is that there is a well-established precedent of a king conferring inheritance (on a bastard, no less) merely by passing down a sword. It’s not a one-off, either: the reason people saw that as sufficient to back Daemon Blackfyre was that it was *already* a tradition, if a long-unused one.

    That, coupled with the passages describing the harp as being more Rhaegar’s symbolic “sword” than any sword was, adds a lot of weight to this theory.

    Also, presumably this would have something to do with what Barbrey Ryswell was looking for in the Winterfell crypts. Is it possible then that she’s sheltering Howland Reed, or that he’s told her the truth in the past?

  8. Master Jack

    Certainly…JRRM has harped on the harp..And one point not directly related to the harp, but in the World of Ice and Fire (the new book) the section on Winterfell mentions rumors of catch of dragon eggs in the Crypt…There are other theories about Winterfell and dragons….Rhaeger`s harp might not be overwhelming evidence, nor would it mean nobles would flock to Jon snow…But if you threw in a dragon (conveniently found in the crypt as well)….He would gain followers and legitimacy rather quickly…

  9. shawn segler

    Seems to me if this theory about the harp as a symbol of legitimacy for Jon is true it wouldn’t be in the Winterfell Crypt but rather in the safest place in Westeros for such a secret- Greywater Watch with Howland Reed. He was the only other survivor of the Tower of Joy and was the one who found a PTSD’d Eddard with his sister in her Bed of Blood. Anyway, it’s an interesting theory.

  10. Nolxander

    This might be far fetch.
    First, instead of R+L=J I think it is B+A=J. Which can then make the object in the crypt not a harp but instead a sword. The sword I am talking about is Dawn, which we know was taken from the Tower Of Joy and supposedly given back to House Danye.(However no one has seen the sword sense then) The reason the harp does not seem realistic to me is that it will offer no concrete evidence to Jon’s parents and will not help Jon at all with his problems. Jon is about to fight the others, or the Other, and needs something to fight them with. Finding out he is a Targaryen will not help him at all with this, especially sense he can not make a claim at the throne, do to the black brother. I mean i know he died and people can claim that will means he served till death, but who in the kingdom would really take that seriously. What would seem more likely would be that the crypts contain something he can use. We also know that the sword Dawn is a lot different than the other Valyrian blades, it glows and is a different color. Plus the sword is called Dawn and Lightbringer was said to bring the Dawn……… It seems like a very close connection. I don’t know i can be wrong but I think it would make more sense that the blade was in Brandon’s crypt and will be something to help Jon against the Other. Finally, if Quaithe is the one sending the dreams and if she knows about Jon’s past, it would make sense how she knows something is in the crypts.

  11. 2inklings

    Could the document be hidden in the wood harp? The body and column of a harp is usually hollow to resonate and project sound.

    1. cantuse Post author

      That’s a clever idea I’ve not heard of (or thought of) before. Obviously who can say once we’ve wandered this far into speculations, but I think it’s a novel concept. Especially since—under this idea—it’s entirely possible that Ned placed the harp in the crypt unawares of the instrument’s hidden contents (and possible proof of Jon’s ancestry).

  12. Amris

    If you are right about the harp – and you have made a good case above – then I propose that the accompanying document you are speaking of – or one of the documents – may contain a song written by Rhaegar.

    The series IS called A Song of Ice and Fire after all.

    And Rhaegar mentions that same title in Dany’s HotU prophecy.

    Plus you made the case above that Rhaegar liked to make songs. Sad songs.

    What better document to place near a harp than a song?

    The song’s text may tell Rhaegar’s, Lyanna’s and Jon’s story.


    Another idea that came to me while reading your essay:

    Suppose Lyanna wasn’t abducted but went willingly and was ‘on board’ with Rhaegar’s prophecy ideas – or at least was in love with Rhaegar. And even had a child by him.

    Under the above premise: What would Lyanna do upon Neds arrival?

    I mean, logically: What choices did she have? What COULD she do?

    Imagine: In this situation Lyanna hears that Rhaegar has fallen at the Trident, slain by Robert Baratheon, the man she was promised to and had eloped from – and that her brother Ned had come to reclaim her and supposedly give her back to Robert? With a baby by Rhaegar and her having loved Rhaegar?

    It would mean her having to return to a man she supposedly hates now (if not earlier) for killing her love. Her ‘unfaithfulness’ (loving Rhaegar instead of her proposed) getting known all over the Seven Kingdoms. Putting Ned in an impossible situation: Jon with near-certainty getting killed by Robert, unless Ned risks a 2nd civil war. The Stark family name being ‘dishonored’ by all of this, regardless of what Ned does.

    So I ask: Is there a way out for Lyanna? What IS the only way out?

    In my opinion the ‘bed of blood’ gets a very different meaning in this situation. It has nothing to do with childbirth.

    Lyanna killed herself. Probably by cutting her wrists or so.

    Jon was already born at that point.

    With her dying breath Lyanna exacted her promise.

    The rest may well have played out like you outlined above.

  13. Rob

    Cantuse, there is growing support that Rhaegar & Lyanna are not the parents of Jon Snow. The primary analysis for this idea comes from Preston Jacobs and the below video:

    The scenario presented is that Lyanna & Rhaegar are the parents of of Dany, born 8 months after Jon Snow. The parents of Jon Snow are suggested to be Brandon Stark (who is basically only mentioned in AGOT and never referenced again) and Ashara Dayne from the Tourney at Harrenhal. So Jon Snow is Brandon Stark’s bastard or Brandon and Ashara got married in secret. When Ned turns up at Starfall with Dany (after collecting her at the Tower of Joy), he sees that Ashara has a boy with Stark features and agrees to take him to Winterfell if Ashara fosters Dany, who has Targaryen features, in Dorne where there are actual lemon trees (not Braavos, which is a lie by Viserys).

    The other suggestion is that Lyanna and Arthur Dayne are the parents on Jon Snow and Rhaegar and Ashara are the parents of dany, but there is very little evidence for that combination. Either way, the proponents of this theory seem to be stuck on GRRM’s comment in 1999 that Jon is 8 months older than Dany and that if you work through the chronology of Robert’s Rebellion, Jon can’t be the son of Lyanna.

    So, could you see the other item hidden in Lyanna’s tomb being Dawn, the sword of House Dayne?

    Full disclosure – I still support the R+L=J theory, but I just wanted to get your thoughts on this argument.

    If Brandon is Jon’s father, it would seem that he has nothing in common with him and the story would be a bit of a let down. If Arthur Dayne is Jon Snow’s father, I get the similar personal characteristics, but it would be way out of left field. The key evidence I see for Dany being Lyanna’s daughter is from the Tyrion II sample chapter from TWOW, where after the Second Sons betray the Yunkai and kill their messenger, who falls on a cyvasse board, Tyrion notes the following:

    “The white cyvasse dragon ended up at Tyrion’s feet. He scooped it off the carpet and wiped it on his sleeve, but some of the Yunkish blood had collected in the fine grooves of the carving, so the pale wood seemed veined with red. “All hail our beloved queen, Daenerys.” Be she alive or be she dead. He tossed the bloody dragon in the air, caught it, grinned. “We have always been the queen’s men,” announced Brown Ben Plumm. “Rejoining the Yunkai’ was just a plot.””

    This does suggest a connection between Dany (white dragon) and a weirwood tree (“pale wood seemed veined with red”). Could be evidence that she is Lyanna’s daughter.

  14. Pingback: Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 4 – Sons of the Harpy | The Shameful Narcissist Speaks

  15. Pingback: Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 4 – Sons of the Harpy | The Caffeine Crew

  16. Wolfson

    It’s true that possession of Rhaegar’s harp does not inherently prove a Targaryen bloodline, and that proving a bloodline is exceedingly difficult in a world without DNA testing. However, there is a clear way to prove a TARGARYEN bloodline, which has interestingly not occurred to anyone here.


    Only the nobles of Valyria ever possessed the ability to tame and ride dragons, and within the context of Westeros, dragonriding has ONLY ever been seen among Targaryens, close descendants of Targaryens from marriages with other families (i.e. the Velaryons), or bastards strongly believed to be fathered by Targaryens (the Dragonseeds). If Jon were to come into contact with Rhaegal (hmm, naming coincidence?) or Viserion and manage to ride one of them, it would prove beyond a doubt that he has Targaryen blood. It would not prove him to be either a legitimate or bastard Targaryen, but this is where a strong piece of symbolic evidence like Rhaegar’s harp would strongly bolster his case, the “lever lifting the load”, as you put it. This would certainly address your complaint of “I wondered for seven-plus years and all I got was this stupid document?”. Riding a dragon dramatic enough for you? 🙂

    I could see the sequence of events roughly unfolding like this. First, while in his dead or near-dead state and warged into Ghost, Jon has and finishes his dream about the Winterfell crypts (likely with some guidance from Bran), thus discovering the idea of Rhaegar’s harp in Lyanna’s tomb. After being resurrected/healed by Melisandre, Jon then returns to Winterfell and physically finds the harp. While this alone would not prove a bloodline or claim to most of Westeros, it would presumably be enough to convince Jon himself, and set him on a course to prove his heritage and/or declare it. Then, given that anything dragon-related (dragonglass, dragonsteel) seems to be the kryptonite of the Others, it seems logical that Dany and her dragons would make their way to the North at some point, thus bringing the two riderless dragons into close proximity with Jon.

    By the way, any eta on new additions to the Mannifesto? The ASOIAF theorycrafting itch must be scratched…

    1. cantuse Post author

      I’d love to write more, but lately I’ve been lacking for compelling new ideas. I don’t really feel bad about that actually, since I’d rather wait for something good than just keep trying to dig for things that might not be there. What has been bothering me is that I’ve been slogging through my old essays trying to fix/revise them based on discussions (esp. from you and Riusma). Life has thrown a number of distractions my way in the last few months.

  17. Dan

    where is the “A harp in the tomb, much like a child in a womb, like a dragon in a stone egg.” from? is that in the books?

  18. Pigeonherd

    Help me, Cantuse, I’m going crazy! I swear there was a passage in the most recent book where Cersei was thinking (or perhaps instructing someone) about how she wanted Lyanna’s bones removed from the crypt at Winterfell and… Cast into the sea? Burned? Scattered? Something about making it so Lyanna could not rest in peace.

    Did I dream this?? If this actually happened, this could be how the tomb gets opened…

  19. Pingback: Favorite “Crackpot” ASOIAF Theories | The Shameful Narcissist Speaks

  20. ich

    I don’t think that the PP (/ AA) needs to be necessary be the / a King of Westeros. So I don’t see it storylike necessary that there is a sure prove of heritage. there will be someone on the throne. but that maybe also a simple pragmatic thing like who got the most power / best image (f.e. after fighting the others)

  21. Matthew Koons

    When referring to the tower of joy I never really ever hear anyone talk about the incredibly amazing unprecedented deus ex machina that is Ned showing up at the EXACT same time that Lyanna just gave birth. Ive read everything George ever wrote and that absolutely isn’t his style.

  22. Katie (@heartsleeve)

    I’m confused why people are fixated on something secret being down in the crypt. We know what’s in the crypt: hundreds of dead Starks. The original Starks who built Winterfell knew the Night King could reanimate dead bodies, and yet chose to keep the bodies of their family dead in the crypt beneath their castle. Why would they do that?

    The Starks have basically said 2 things over and over for 8,000 years: “Winter is coming” and “There must be a Stark in Winterfell.” We know now that the winter they were referring to was not just a few years of cold, but the Long Night. So what is the deeper meaning of the other Stark phrase? I’m guessing there doesn’t need to be a Stark in Winterfell just to protect the family’s claim to the castle. There needs to be a Stark in Winterfell to control the undead army the original Starks/builders of Winterfell intentionally built into Winterfell as a critical component in the war against the Night King.

  23. Dan Davis

    Good article but I’m not really compelled that it would carry the weight needed. More likely, Bloodraven, last known wielder of Dark Sister, carried the word into the wild and it is there, under the Weirwood forest with Bran. The last thing Bloodraven does before passing the mantle is provide the sword or location to Bran. Later Bran informs resurrected Jon or gives him sword, thereby providing him with a truly classic and highly optic form of validation.
    Great concepts at work here!
    PS the history or chain of ownership is often called its “provenance.”

    1. cantuse Post author

      Thanks for the tip. I wrote the essay and original reddit post six-seven years ago; so I didn’t have as much experience with the topic.

      As for swords, crowns, etc; you have to keep in mind the context of the fandom at the time I wrote the essay. Back in 2012/13 the more popular ideas were that Jon’s heritage could be established via a Targaryan bridal cloak or perhaps a ring of some sort (Egg’s ring IMO was the most common suggestion).

      One of the chief things I cited in the essay was my problem with a cloak or Egg’s ring was that neither appeared in the ‘main-line’ story series, thus most readers who only read the main ASOIAF series would have no idea where these things came from and would likely feel like a late-game twist or deus ex machina. In particular the bridal cloak would feel a little ‘ex post facto’ in much the same way as Aegon VI’s survival seems a little wonky. Furthermore, the inhabitants of Westeros (especially contenders to the throne) would be very biased to claim such a cloak was a fabrication.

      The harp had the distinct advantage of being in the main story, viewed or mentioned by characters in a variety of arcs and places.

      So in general the harp theory was really about discarding old ideas about items and relics with gaps ‘provenance’ (I like that word), and instead relying on something that made sense based on its presence in the source material and its ‘literary elegance’ (the idea that the sudden appearance of the harp might be a ‘whoah’ type moment for readers).

      While this was originally my most popular theory (winning best theory in 2013 on the asoiaf subreddit), its more of a novelty these days. I do hold out hope that I ‘could’ be right, but to be honest we still have no fucking idea what could happen.

      Since I’m a major Stannis writer, I’ve been skeptical of using the show for understanding the books since Season 5 when they did him dirty. To that end, I don’t think we can really use the show to get *any* idea how the later acts of the story will unfold. It’s entirely plausible that Jon may never actually discover his heritage and it exists only for readers to dwell on. At this point I just try to enjoy the idea of this essay (and other ‘heritage theories’), but I don’t get hung up on any of them.


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