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«Game of Thrones»: Jon Snow, the dragon and the wolf

Luca Fontana
Zurich, on 13.05.2019
Spoiler Alert for anyone who hasn't seen season 7 yet. Jon Snow is supposedly Eddard Stark’s bastard son and King in the North. He brings together the Stark and Targaryen bloodlines – uniting Ice and Fire. He just doesn’t know it.

Dragons. Long passed creatures from ancient legends. Jon Snow knows the stories. They once helped the Valyrians to conquer the continent of Essos. After the Doom of Valyria it was the Targaryens who rode them to conquest over six of the seven kingdoms of Westeros. Then came «A Dance with Dragons». A poetic name for a bloody war. It signalled the end for these majestic but deadly creatures.

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Jon now knows that these stories are true. All of them. Drogon’s pitch-black wings cast shadows the size of castles, being the first living dragon in over 150 years. His maw is even big enough to engulf Ser Gregor Clegane, the Mountain, in one bite. Its teeth are sharper than Valyrian steel.

And this beast is standing right in front of Jon. Stalking. Watching him.

The King in the North stretches out this hand. He touches Drogon’s thick black scales. There’s another story Jon probably doesn’t know. It says that only Targaryens can tame dragons: their blood is supposed to be magically bonded to that of dragons. This could be the reason for the Targaryen family motto: Fire and Blood. But Jon is a Northman. Won’t the dragon eat him then?

Not at all. Drogon lets Jon touch him and breathes calmly.

The bastard of Winterfell

Jon Snow grew up in Winterfell as Eddard Stark’s bastard son. Even as a bastard, he enjoys many pleasures that come with a noble upbringing: he learns to read and write, trains in sword combat with his Stark brothers and becomes accustomed to the Stark way.

Still, he never truly belonged.

Look at Catelyn Stark. She was Eddard Stark’s wife. The only thing she saw when looking at Jon since the day he was brought back from war with Eddard was the bastard of Winterfell. Her disgust went so far as in wishing that Jon catch the pox during infancy. Only when Jon did catch the disease and nearly died from it did Catelyn realise that she wished death upon an innocent child. Seeing herself as a murderer, she begged the gods to help Jon. In exchange, she would love Jon like her own children.

Jon survived the pox, but Catelyn broke her promise. Her jealousy of an unknown woman prevented her from ever loving this foreign brown-eyed boy. Years later, when her husband Eddard was beheaded and her children either killed or taken captive, she believed it to be the gods’ punishment for her broken promise.

«All this horror that’s come to my family, all because I couldn’t love a motherless child,» Catelyn said later on.

So Jon already knows from a young age: He will join the Night’s Watch. There, men wear black and watch the wall that protects the empires of men. A place where lords and bastards are equal and family or nobility don’t play a role. Whoever joins the Night’s Watch relinquishes all their titles and gains to dedicate his life to the Watch. Until death, so goes the oath of every young recruit.

Jon Snow puts on the black.
Jon Snow puts on the black.

«You might not have my name. But you have my blood,» Eddard Stark once told Jon Snow. A farewell, shortly before the bastard heads north for the wall.

«Is my mother alive? Does she know about me, where I am, where I am going? Does she care?»

Jon knows next to nothing about his mother. His father never spoke of her. And whenever Jon asked, he changed subject.

There are tears in Eddard Stark’s eyes. «The next time we see each other we’ll talk about your mother. I promise,» he ends. Eddard has never broken a promise. Never. So Jon nods.

Their ways part. Jon will never see him again.

The bastard who would be Lord Commander

At the wall, Jon became Jeor Mormont’s personal steward, Lord Commander and leader of the Night’s Watch. A slap in the face for Jon. Stewards are glorified maids of the Watch. Then he realises that Mormont hadn’t chosen him at random: As the Lord Commander’s steward, Jon can be with him to learn diplomacy, leadership and the secrets of the Night’s Watch.

In Jeor Mormont’s eyes, Jon Snow shall one day become Lord Commander himself.

Jeor Mormont on his way North, beyond the wall.
Jeor Mormont on his way North, beyond the wall.

Then Jeor Mormont was killed during an expedition beyond the Wall – by raiders. The picture Jon painted of the Night’s Watch in his mind didn’t match up at all. Without enough volunteers ready to pledge their life to the Watch, kings and lords across Westeros send their criminals, murderers and rapists to the Wall: their crimes are pardoned in exchange for putting on the black.

Now it’s up to the bastard to lead an expedition. His goal: to avenge the fallen Lord Commander. After his return the Wildlings attack. They are a people north of the Wall and thereby living cut off from the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. Without a Lord Commander, Jon takes lead during the Wall’s defence – successfully. The Wildlings are defeated and the brothers of the Night’s Watch vote for Jon as their new Lord Commander.

Attack of the Wildlings
Attack of the Wildlings
«Game of Thrones» Concept Arts

Even now, Jon isn’t free of danger. He knows about the Army of the Dead approaching the Wall, bringing an eternal winter with them.

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As the Night’s Watch doesn’t have enough men to defend the Wall, Jon takes in the remaining Wildlings – and hereby seals his fate.

Lord Commander, King in the North

For the men of the Watch, Jon’s leniency with the wildlings is unacceptable. Many are still mourning the loss of their fallen brothers after the battle at the Wall. After all, the Night’s Watch is proud that they never let a Wildling cross the border to the South.

A mutiny is orchestrated. Jon is killed.

Melisandre, a red priestess from Asshai, raised him from death. The pious witch, one of the few people in Westeros who believes in R’hllor, the Lord of Light, sees him as Azor Ahai reborn, the prince that was promised and destined to destroy the darkness.

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Jon hangs the traitors, puts down the black and leaves the Night’s Watch. After all, his oath only lasted until his death. And die he certainly did. Finally, Jon can recapture Winterfell. After Eddard Stark and his on Robb’s death, the Boltons had allied with the Lannisters and betrayed the Stark family. As a reward, they were named new lords of Winterfell and Wardens of the North.

Jon during the Battle of the Bastards
Jon during the Battle of the Bastards

In an epic battle – the Battle of the Bastards – Jon didn’t only retake Winterfell, but also the approval of all northern houses: Jon Snow, once bastard of Winterfell, is proclaimed as King in the North.

The King in the North, who carries the blood of dragons.

Eddard Stark’s bastard son still doesn’t know the truth about his birth. But it will be deciding in the war to come.

About 20 years ago, a young Eddard Stark fought on Robert Baratheon’s side during the rebellion that would bring to an end the Targaryen dynasty of Westeros. It was sparked by crown prince Rhaegar Targaryen, who had supposedly kidnapped and raped Eddard’s sister and Robert’s betrothed Lyanna Stark. When Eddard finds out she is being kept in the Tower of Joy, he goes to rescue her.

When arriving at the Tower of Joy, he finds Lyanna in pain; lying in blood-soaked sheets, screaming terribly. She gives birth to a child. A boy. Eddard realises: Lyanna had never been kidnapped. Especially not raped. She went with Rhaegar willingly, the man she truly loved and married in secret. What’s more: the Targaryen prince was the boy’s father. That would make Jon, who never even had the slightest claim to lordship, the rightful king of the Seven Kingdoms.

Rhaegar and Lyanna marrying in secret.
Rhaegar and Lyanna marrying in secret.

«If Robert finds out he’ll kill him,» Lyanna says with her final breath. She is dying. But she fears Robert’s anger at the truth of the boy’s birth more than death. «You must protect him. Promise me, Ned. Promise me.»

Lyanna dies.

«I promise,» Eddard says.

Eddard Stark gives a promise he shall never break.
Eddard Stark gives a promise he shall never break.

He names the boy he brings home Jon Snow. The common last name of northern bastards – Snow. The promise he made to his dying sister was one he would never break. An honourable trait he would imprint on Jon.

Jon, who isn’t a Snow, but a Targaryen.

Drogon and Jon: the dragon and the wolf.
Drogon and Jon: the dragon and the wolf.
Vadim Simanin

Years later, Jon Snow would meet Drogon, the largest living dragon since Balerion the Black Dread. He would lay his hand on him, in a whirl of courage and madness. He would be scared, not knowing that the dragon knows whose blood flows through Jon’s veins.

Dragonblood.

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Luca Fontana
Luca Fontana
Editor, Zurich
I'm an outdoorsy guy and enjoy sports that push me to the limit – now that’s what I call comfort zone! But I'm also about curling up in an armchair with books about ugly intrigue and sinister kingkillers. Being an avid cinema-goer, I’ve been known to rave about film scores for hours on end. I’ve always wanted to say: «I am Groot.»

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