Lyanna the Grey

Several times have I argued that there are often multiple candidates that fulfill the visions and prophecies we encounter throughout A Song of Ice and Fire.

This phenomenon is particularly prominent with regards to Melisandre and her visions in A Dance with Dragons. From the eyeless faces to the arrival of the Pink Letter, from the visions of “Snow” to her vision of the ‘grey girl’, we can identify at least two candidates for each prediction. Let’s call this phenomenon ‘multiple candidacy’.

NOTE: This claim of ‘multiple candidacy’ was originally articulated in another essay of mine, “Prophecy: A Cipher for Readers”. You can read that essay if you wish to explore this idea in detail before continuing. That said, I provide a simplified analysis of the same concepts in the footnotes below.

NOTE: Footnotes pending.

A few months ago I proposed a hypothesis concerning the grey girl in Melisandre’s vision:

Lyanna Stark is the grey girl.*

This statement is not entirely correct, but I express it this way in order to earn your attention. Stated more precisely:

The grey girl was an amalgam of various women that fulfill Melisandre’s vision.

Lyanna Stark is one of those constituent women.


  1. The Greys. The various candidates for the grey girl. Showing that the existence of multiple candidates are most likely deliberate.
  2. Location and Timing. Establishing Lyanna’s circumstances when Rhaegar found her, and why they matter.
  3. Lyanna the Grey. Establishing the legitimacy of Lyanna as a candidate for the grey girl.
  4. Directions to Lyanna. The amazing applicability of Melisandre’s directions to the grey girl, when considered for Lyanna.
  5. Conclusion

*   *   *


comp_blizzardThere are several candidates for the grey girl, a few of which initially seem far more compelling:

  • Alys Karstark is perhaps the most prominent: she expressly fulfills the parameters of the vision and is even recognized by Jon and Melisandre as the manifestation of the vision.
  • There is a lesser known candidate, one that far more strikingly appeals to the vision’s description of the girl: Jeyne Poole. Credit for the theory of Jeyne Poole as the grey girl must be attributed to /u/lady_gwynhyfvar and /u/yolkboy. I provide a synopsis of this argument in the footnotes.
  • Val is another notable candidate, based on arguments I also provide in the footnotes.

Whether or not you agree that a particular candidate is valid is not relevant, only that you believe more than one of them are.

If you do, you must consider this in the context of the many other visions that appear to manifest several times. When you do, a dilemma manifests:

Do these multiple candidates present a puzzle, wherein only one is truly correct?

I find that difficult to believe, based on the number of visions that share the mere appearance of multiple candidacy.

Conversely, are none of the candidates correct? Is the vision entirely false?

This doesn’t match with reality –at least the reality within Westeros. It’s fair to say that the main body of visions (both fiery and green dreams) have been shown to come true. I won’t provide citations because this should be readily obvious.

Or, perhaps, are several (or all) of these candidates truly correct —the target of the vision thereby being a gestalt of the various individuals?

This is the novel suggestion put forth in this essay. Divorcing ourselves from the idea that the ‘grey girl’ vision can only represent a single person is much more reflective of the research because it curtails the subjective desire to reject some candidates on the basis that another is simply more appealing.

NOTE: I explore additional reasoning in favor of this conclusion in the footnotes.

If you find at least two of the ‘grey girl’ candidates compelling, then you should strongly consider the possibility that the latter ‘gestalt’ interpretation may be the most truthful. It’s certainly in keeping with the theory of multiple candidacy that I proposed at the beginning of the essay.

*   *   *

Having established the applicability of ‘multiple candidacy’ to the grey girl vision, we can begin to address the core assertion of this essay.


There are striking parallels between the parameters of the grey girl vision and what we know about Lyanna’s fateful encounter with Rhaegar Targaryen when he absconded with her.

With the release of The World of Ice and Fire, this hypothesis has only grown in strength. Prior to the book’s publication, several elements of the hypothesis (theory?) were predicated on details that where wholly unknown and/or unsubstantiated.

The World of Ice and Fire finally allows this hypothesis to be proposed with a measure confidence.

The remainder of the essay provides the reasoning (deductive and otherwise) that direct us to these conclusions.

<table of contents>

*   *   *


Harrenhal1Articulating just how Lyanna satisfies the requirements to be Melisandre’s grey girl begins by examining the context in which she was found by Rhaegar Targaryen.

Ten Leagues

According to The World of Ice and Fire, Lyanna was encountered “not ten leagues from Harrenhal”

This establishes conclusively that Lyanna was not loitering in some castle when Rhaegar eloped(?) with her.

This is important because it helps justify the conjecture that she was our grey girl, as you will later see.

*   *   *

A False Spring

It should also be noted that Rhaegar found Lyanna amid a terrible winter:

The False Spring of 281 AC lasted less than two turns. As the year drew to a close, winter returned to Westeros with a vengeance. On the last day of the year, snow began to fall upon King’s Landing, and a crust of ice formed atop the Blackwater Rush. The snowfall continued off and on for the best part of a fortnight, by which time the Blackwater was hard frozen, and icicles draped the roofs and gutters of every tower in the city.

This is compelling because it suggests that Lyanna took a terrible risk to be away from a castle in such conditions.

<table of contents>

*   *   *


lyanna_stark_p3_details_by_reddera-d65iqwe - CopyNow we can begin to look at the various features of the grey girl from Melisandre’s vision and identify the ways in which Lyanna exhibits them.

These features are derived from only a few, key passages:

“I have seen your sister in my fires, fleeing from this marriage they have made for her. Coming here, to you. A girl in grey on a dying horse, I have seen it plain as day. It has not happened yet, but it will.”

The girl. I must find the girl again, the grey girl on the dying horse. Jon Snow would expect that of her, and soon. It would not be enough to say the girl was fleeing. He would want more, he would want the when and where, and she did not have that for him. She had seen the girl only once. A girl as grey as ash, and even as I watched she crumbled and blew away.

Who else could it be? She was racing to him for protection, that much Melisandre had seen clearly.

I will draw from these passages in the various inquiries below, refer to them as needed.

A Grey Girl

It is obvious that this element refers to a woman with a prominent association with the color grey. For many of the grey girl candidates this refers to the color of their cloaks or clothing. In Lyanna’s case it most certainly refers to family identity. She is a Stark, whose blazon just so happens to be a grey direwolf on a white field.

*   *   *

A Dying Horse

Recall the description in which Rhaegar found Lyanna (posted above). The described conditions share dramatic similarities to the weather in which mired Stannis’s army in A Dance with Dragons. In those conditions, the horses in Stannis’s army had begun dying of exposure, exhaustion and starvation.

With this parallel in mind, it seems fair to assume that Lyanna’s horse might very well have been similarly faltering.

NOTE: Of course this observation is predicated on the belief that Lyanna was traveling with a horse when she was found, a relatively safe assumption given her skill at riding and the perilous conditions.

*   *   *

Fleeing the Wedding they have Made for her

We know that Lyanna was betrothed to Robert, and that the prospect of the match had little appeal to her:

“Robert will never keep to one bed,” Lyanna had told him at Winterfell, on the night long ago when their father had promised her hand to the young Lord of Storm’s End. “I hear he has gotten a child on some girl in the Vale.” Ned had held the babe in his arms; he could scarcely deny her, nor would he lie to his sister, but he had assured her that what Robert did before their betrothal was of no matter, that he was a good man and true who would love her with all his heart. Lyanna had only smiled. “Love is sweet, dearest Ned, but it cannot change a man’s nature.”

Barbrey Dustin’s account of Rickard Stark’s motives (in A Dance with Dragons) seem to bear out the notion that the pairing was made primarily for political gain. This is hardly surprising, since most noble betrothals in A Song of Ice and Fire are made for these reasons.

Now consider that Lyanna was found “not ten leagues from Harrenhal”, amid a terrible winter.

With such a marriage planned, why would anyone allow her to be put in such a dangerous situation?

If Lyanna was traveling with company, why is there no mention of a confrontation?

In pondering these questions, I have come to the conclusion that Lyanna must therefore have been traveling alone, most likely to the dismay of her family. Lyanna thus shows disregard for familial obligation and the risks she takes by traveling in foul, wintery weather alone.

Therefore, it seems to be an entirely fair conclusion that she was indeed fleeing from something, her arranged marriage being the most appropriate of explanations.

<table of contents>

*   *   *


site-headerOperating under the hypothesis that Lyanna is one manifestation of the ‘grey girl’, we have an exciting avenue of thought:

When Melisandre explains to Mance where she thinks Arya Stark can be found, the description she provides might also be directions to where Rhaegar found Lyanna.

As stretchy as this sounds, it is borne out by the text. Just read on:


Melisandre states that the grey girl was traveling beside a lake. Mance notes that locating her might be difficult and asks what side of the lake the girl will be on:

He frowned. “That will make it difficult. She was coming north, you said. Was the lake to her east or to her west?”

Melisandre closed her eyes, remembering. “West.”

Obviously Melisandre has no compass. Thus when she closes her eyes, she is recalling the visuals from her visions and determining orientation based off of the assumption that the grey girl is headed north.

This cannot be overstated enough:

Melisandre has assumed that the grey girl was headed north.

And we all know how much Melisandre’s assumptions/bias affect the accuracy of her visions.

What this really means is this:

Melisandre only saw that the lake in her vision was on the grey girl’s left.

Let’s apply this to Lyanna. If Lyanna was close to Harrenhal, that puts her close to the God’s Eye. If she was traveling with the God’s Eye on her left, then she would be traveling south along the lake’s western shore.

Lyanna was traveling south along the western shore of the God’s Eye.

I’m sure this all seems specious so far.

*   *   *


When Mance asks what else Melisandre saw around the girl, she states the following:

“Long Lake. What else did you see around this girl?”

“Hills. Fields. Trees. A deer, once. Stones. She is staying well away from villages. When she can she rides along the bed of little streams, to throw hunters off her trail.”

In A Clash of Kings, Arya travels up to Harrenhal by way of the western shore of the God’s Eye. Notice what she says:

From up here, she could see a small wooded island off to the northeast.

This is how I know they are walking up the western shore: in order for the island to be to the northeast, they must be to the west of the lake.

Every day they marched, and every night she said her names, until finally the trees thinned and gave way to a patchwork landscape of rolling hills, meandering streams, and sunlit fields, where the husks of burnt holdfasts thrust up black as rotten teeth. It was another long day’s march before they glimpsed the towers of Harrenhal in the distance, hard beside the blue waters of the lake.

Not only does the terrain entirely match Melisandre’s statement, but the exact same words are used.

*   *   *

The Wildlife

Embedded in the previous quote from Melisandre is the mention of a deer:

“Hills. Fields. Trees. A deer, once. Stones.”

Perhaps this is a stretch, but isn’t intriguing that Lyanna was once betrothed to a stag?

Further she and said stag were both present at Harrenhal at least once (the tourney at Harrenhal).

*   *   *

The Lake

Melisandre provides a description of the lake:

“If your stiff-necked lord commander will allow it. Did your fires show you where to find this girl?”

“I saw water. Deep and blue and still, with a thin coat of ice just forming on it. It seemed to go on and on forever.”

Compare to Arya’s description of God’s Eye:

The setting sun made the tranquil surface of the water shimmer like a sheet of beaten copper. It was the biggest lake she had ever seen, with no hint of a far shore.

To the east, Gods Eye was a sheet of sun-hammered blue that filled half the world. Some days, as they made their slow way up the muddy shore (Gendry wanted no part of any roads, and even Hot Pie and Lommy saw the sense in that), Arya felt as though the lake were calling her. She wanted to leap into those placid blue waters, to feel clean again, to swim and splash and bask in the sun.

It was another long day’s march before they glimpsed the towers of Harrenhal in the distance, hard beside the blue waters of the lake.

*   *   *

The Ice

As for the ice forming on the lake in Melisandre’s vision, note an element of winter in which Rhaegar found Lyanna:

The False Spring of 281 AC lasted less than two turns. As the year drew to a close, winter returned to Westeros with a vengeance. On the last day of the year, snow began to fall upon King’s Landing, and a crust of ice formed atop the Blackwater Rush. The snowfall continued off and on for the best part of a fortnight, by which time the Blackwater was hard frozen, and icicles draped the roofs and gutters of every tower in the city.

Considering that the Blackwater is an active river and it is significantly further south than the God’s Eye, it only makes sense that the still waters of the lake would also be freezing.

*   *   *

Following the shoreline

We are explicitly told that following the shoreline of a snowy, frozen lake is the safest way to navigate around one:

“You’ll stay. The boy must be protected. There is a lake ahead, hard frozen. When you come on it, turn north and follow the shoreline.”

…They came upon the promised lake not long after, and turned north as the ranger had bid them. That was the easy part.

The water was frozen, and the snow had been falling for so long that Bran had lost count of the days, turning the lake into a vast white wilderness. Where the ice was flat and the ground was bumpy, the going was easy, but where the wind had pushed the snow up into ridges, sometimes it was hard to tell where the lake ended and the shore began.

Thus, we can anticipate that if Lyanna was traveling in heavy winter (and not along the kingsroad), following the shoreline makes great sense.

*   *   *

Avoiding detection

If as I propose, Lyanna is fleeing from her familial obligations, it makes sense that she would not want to be caught. This suggests that should would want to avoid major thoroughfares like the kingsroad, and perhaps even take routes that might allow her to deceive any pursuers, such as crossing streams to break any trails (which is a feature of Melisandre’s vision).

Such streams are prominently described in the Arya chapters when she and her companions are traveling up the western side of the God’s Eye.

*   *   *

Looking over these geographical details, there seems to be a striking compatibility between Melisandre’s grey girl vision and the observation that Lyanna may have been south of Harrenhal, somewhere along the west coast of the God’s Eye.

Thus I propose that Lyanna was found by Rhaegar south of Harrenhal, alongside the God’s Eye.

The number and precision of similarities just seems far too great to me dismiss as accidental coincidence.

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*   *   *


Perhaps the most satisfying element of these observations is this:

Let’s consider that Lyanna was actively fleeing from family and duty. Thus she traveled the western shore of the God’s Eye to avoid detection.

How then did Rhaegar find her?

Again, pondering this leads me to believe the following:

It would seem clear that this means Rhaegar and Lyanna intended to find each other:

It means that the meeting between Rhaegar and Lyanna was consensual.

It means that Rhaegar’s ‘half dozen companions’ knew why and where Rhaegar was taking them.


7 thoughts on “Lyanna the Grey

  1. No One

    This hypothesis also carries the weight of hinting towards Lyanna being Jon’s mother. If R’hilor’s fires do show hints to your questions, and Melisandre is looking around/about Jon, then it would be natural for the fires to be showing imagery concerning him. And the secret of his parentage being glimpsed has plenty of plausability.

    As you point out very well elsewhere, Mel isn’t likely to guess this is the case, of course.

    1. DougL

      Well, to be sure, Stannis almost certainly believes that it was Wylla, as that’s what his brother would have told him, and as such, that’s almost certainly what Mel believes. I don’t know why people give her such a hard time, it was very, very reasonable to assume the girl on the horse was Arya based on all available information.

  2. Preston Jacobs

    Although, metaporically, Lyanna is certainly the fleeing Grey Girl (as is Alys, Asha, Jeyne, Dany and Sansa), I’m not necessarily sold on the literal. Lyanna was encountered “not ten leagues from Harrenhal.” Is that enough distance to be heading south along the God’s Eye? I suppose her heading west along the God’s Eye’s northern shore is no different. But, the lake in Mel’s vision was only beginning to develop ice. If a normally moving river like the Blackwater Rush were frozen solid, I feel the God’s Eye would have been frozen solid as well – it being a placid lake. Not to mention, the God’s Eye is teaming with fishing villages while Mel’s vision was not.

    But, I think the metaphorical Grey Girl is more interesting. If Lyanna, Alys, Asha, Jeyne, Dany and Sansa were all “Wayward Brides”, that is, they are women fleeing a marriage or potential marriage (to Robert, Cregan, Erik Ironmaker, Ramsay, Hizdahr, and Tyrion) and are “kidnapped/rescued” (by Rhaegar, Jon, Stannis, Theon, Drogon and Littlefinger, it is difficult to extrapolate the degree of consensuality. Theon’s kidnap of Jeyne is very consensual. However, Stannis’ kidnap of Asha is not. Littlefinger’s kidnap of Sansa is semi-consensual as it involves a large amount of manipulation.

    So, I think the jury is out on Rhaegar and Lyanna’s relationship. I’m guessing there is some manipulation going on (and not necessarily Rhaegar manipulating Lyanna).

    1. cantuse Post author

      Since we’re on the subject of multiple candidates for the grey girl, I would like to point out something: Catelyn very well could be one too. She’s in a grey cloak and has the appropriate pallid complexion. She obviously ‘fled’ a marriage someone made for her (in a manner of speaking), and she is crumbling like ash (physically and spiritually).

      Also, in Mel’s vision she mentions seeing a deer once. Which is incredibly interesting considering Martin goes out of his way to mention that Stannis and Asha eat a deer (hart) that a scout found along the march.

  3. ecr56

    I like the theory very much,although I agree with Preston Jacobs. Also, about the motivations of Lyanna, if she flees her marriage with Robert because he won’t keep to one bed, it’s kind of illogical to run off with Rhaegar, a married guy.

  4. DubC

    Jon’s conception is going to get out somehow so yeah, maybe Mel is starting to glimpse some really important information. It’s pretty sound. Feel free to correct me, but there are no exact time references for the R+L triste, AWOIAF just provides the temporal and physical conditions under which it took place. Lyanna could have been traveling the God’s Eye early in the False Spring, when ice was first starting to form. Conversely, she could have set out when the False Spring subsided because it did come to an end (under both conditions horses could still be dying since they would likely be dead already during the worst of the False Spring). And while currently there are fishing villages all over the God’s Eye, who’s to say those same villages were there 20 years ago (rough guess) when Ned and Lyanna were young? Her motivations are not so illogical, when you think about. Lyanna is like every other female character in the series. Her ultimate desire is self-determination and when you look at through that lense it becomes simple: if you gonna be stuck with a cheater, you may as well be stuck with the one you want. Why marry an adulterous lord when you can marry an adulterous king? Especially one you want for yourself.


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