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Updated May 03, 2019 at 03:46PM EDT by Brad.

Added May 12, 2014 at 10:09PM EDT by Efraín.

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R+L=J is a hypothesis which posits Jon Snow, a character in George RR Martin's fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, is not the son of Ned Stark, but is actually the son of Ned's sister Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen.


George RR Martin published A Game of Thrones, the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, which the HBO show Game of Thrones is based on, on August 6th, 1996. The first mention of the R+L=J fan theory online comes from fan forum A Forum of Ice and Fire[1] in a thread created by user Stark Future on May 2nd, 2006, titled “The Lyanna + Rhaegar = Jon Thread.” The original thread spawned 23 parts, with the most recent[2] started on June 22nd, 2011.

The Theory

In George RR Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice, Jon Snow is introduced as the bastard son of Ned Stark, but little is known about the maternal side of his parentage, as Ned rarely spoke of the matter before his death. While a number of female characters have been brought up as the possible mother of Jon Snow, the uncertainty has led many fans to seek an alternate explanation, the most prominent theory being that he is the child of Rhaegar Targaryen, the deceased heir of King Aerys II Targaryen, and Lyanna Stark, the sister of Ned Star who was abducted by the former. According to the theory, when Ned reaches his sister in the Tower of Joy a year after she disappears with Targaryen, Ned finds her dying “in a bed of blood,”[9], not from wounds but from childbirth. It also suggests the promise she made Ned give her, which has yet to be revealed in the series, was to take care of her son and conceal his Targaryen heritage.


On February 20th, 2009, user dooley started a thread titled "i get the R+L=J theory, but….," on the Chronicles Fiction and Fantasy Community board. On September 1st, 2011, Redditor Ytoabn submitted a thread to the /r/asoiaf/[10] subreddit titled "What is R+L = J? (Unmarked ADWD Spoilers?)." The theory has been included in many Game of Thrones fan theory roundups. On January 25th, 2013, it was included in the article "All the Game of Thrones Fan Theories You Absolutely Need to Know," published by io9.[3] It was also included in the WhatCulture[4] article "Game Of Thrones: 10 Bizarre Fan Theories You Won’t Believe," which was published on August 7th, 2013. It was featured in several fan theory roundups in 2014, including lists published on The Huffington Post[5], Flavorwire[6] and The Daily Dot.[7] As of May 2014, there are over 200 submissions on DeviantArt[8] tagged "Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen." There are several Tumblrs devoted to the theory including fuckyeahrhaegarandlyanna[11] and jontargaryen.[12]

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