- Warning: Spoilers ahead for the “Game of Thrones,” season eight, episode one, “Winterfell.”
- Lyanna, Ned Stark’s sister, is Jon Snow’s mother.
- She secretly married Rhaegar Targaryen, and their covert relationship contributed to the downfall of the Targaryen regime.
- Lyanna is described by many as “wild” and “willful,” with similarities to Arya Stark. Keep reading to learn more about her childhood and teenage years.
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On the seventh season of “Game of Thrones,” Bran and Sam Tarly pieced together a monumental truth: Jon Snow is the son of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Not only that, but his parents were married in a secret ceremony, making Jon the legitimate heir to the Targaryen dynasty.
Both Rhaegar and Lyanna are very mysterious figures both on “Game of Thrones” and in George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels. We’ve already done a deep dive into Prince Rhaegar’s life and motivations (read about that here), and now let’s take a closer look at Lyanna Stark.
Lyanna Stark’s early life and reputation
Lyanna was the only daughter of Lord Rickard and Lyarra Stark. She was one of four children – Brandon was the oldest, then came Eddard (Ned), then Lyanna, and finally Benjen.
In the books, this generation of Stark children are described as having different wolf personalities. Lyanna is the “she-wolf” while Brandon is the “wild wolf.” Ned was the “quiet wolf,” while Benjen is the “pup.”
We saw young Ned, Benjen, and Lyanna in one of Bran’s season six greenseeing visions:
Lyanna is often compared to Arya Stark in the books. In one chapter from Martin’s first “A Song of Ice and Fire” novel, “A Game of Thrones,” Ned tells Arya that she is similar to Lyanna after he discovers her sword, Needle.
“You have a wildness in you, child. ‘The wolf blood,’ my father used to call it. Lyanna had a touch of it, and my brother Brandon more than a touch. It brought them both to an early grave.”
Arya heard sadness in his voice; he did not often speak of this father, or of the brother and sister who had died before she was born. “Lyanna might have carried a sword, if my lord father had allowed it. You remind me of her sometimes. You even look like her.”
“Lyanna was beautiful,” Arya said, startled. Everybody said so. It was not a thing that was ever said of Arya.
“She was,” Eddard Stark agreed. “Beautiful and willful and dead before her time.”
Lyanna was also known for being a talented horseback rider. Again in the books, Arya is told she resembles Lyanna by a man named Harwin. He was the son of Winterfell’s “master of horse,” and so knew both Lyanna and Arya well.
“You ride like a northman, milady,” Harwin tells Arya. “Your aunt was the same. Lady Lyanna.”
In that same season six flashback to young Lyanna and her siblings, Bran sees Lyanna ride a horse into the courtyard. Her brothers chastised her for showing off.
Lyanna, again just like Arya, is described as tomboyish but still beautiful. Arya is often described as having a long face with brown hair and grey eyes, so it’s possibly Lyanna had similar qualities.
In his historical fiction, “A World of Ice and Fire,” Martin wrote that Lyanna was “by all accounts a wild and boyish young thing.”
Lyanna’s engagement to Robert Baratheon
Ned and Lyanna’s father, Lord Rickard agreed to marry Lyanna to Robert Baratheon when they were in their late teen years. In the books, Ned thinks back to the night Lyanna was told the news:
“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.”
In Ned’s memory, Lyanna was not excited nor hopeful about the prospect of her marriage to Robert. Instead she is wary of his reputation for bedding different women.
Robert, on the the other hand, only has fond memories of Lyanna and his passionate love for her. In the early chapters of the books and in the pilot of “Game of Thrones,” Robert laments over her death. Even more than 10 years later, Robert still mourns Lyanna’s death and seeks vengeance against the Targaryens.
On the show, Robert and Cersei discuss Lyanna and how she was the reason their marriage could never have worked. On their wedding night, Robert came to bed stinking of wine and whispered “Lyanna” into Cersei’s ear. Robert confesses that all these years later he only thinks of his feelings for her.
“Do you want to know the horrible truth? I can’t even remember what she looked like,” Robert told Cersei. “All I know is that she was the one thing I ever wanted. Someone took her from me and seven kingdoms couldn’t fill the hole she left behind.”
All of this points to Robert being out of touch with the real Lyanna, and instead fixating on an idealization of his future bride. Ned calls out Robert on this misunderstanding of Lyanna in the books.
“You never knew Lyanna as I did, Robert,” Ned tells him. “You saw her beauty, but not the iron underneath.”
Lyanna’s marriage to Rhaegar and her early death
From the season seven finale, we know now that Lyanna eventually ran away and married Prince Rhaegar Targaryen instead. Lyanna’s wild “wolf” qualities may have contributed to this rash decision, but there’s still so much we don’t know. To learn more about Rhaegar and why Lyanna might have fallen in love with him, read our explainer on the fateful Tourney of Harrenhal.
What matters is Robert believed Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna against her will, and this was the main motivating factor behind his rebellion against the Targaryens.
Robert killed Rhaegar during the ensuing war, but he never saw Lyanna again. Instead Ned was the one who found Lyanna in Dorne, at a place called the Tower of Joy. She had just given birth to Jon (whose real name is Aegon, but more on that here).
Lyanna was dying, likely as a result of childbirth complications, and she made Ned promise her that he would keep her baby safe. Baby Jon needed protection from Robert’s wrath, and from anyone threatened by the true heir to the Iron Throne and Targaryen dynasty.
So Ned Stark raised Jon Snow as his own bastard, and the secret of his “wolf” and “dragon” parentage lay dormant – until now. Will people rally around him as the true heir to the Seven Kingdoms when they learn about his Targaryen heritage?
What will Daenerys think of her new lover when she learns the truth? Plus, what if the Night King’s armies decimate the realm before it even matters? “Game of Thrones” fans will need to wait until the series finale to see how this truth bears out for our heroes.
- Read more:
- ‘Game of Thrones’ has been hinting at Jon Snow’s true parentage since season one – here’s every clue we spotted
- Why Jon Snow’s ‘real’ name is so confusing for some fans
- Everything we know about Jon Snow’s mysterious true father on ‘Game of Thrones’
- Why Jon Snow’s big dragon moment on ‘Game of Thrones’ was surprisingly underwhelming