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Game of Thrones Theorycrafting: Is Daario Naharis Benjen Stark in disguise?



On Game of Thrones and in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, it’s often said that no character is truly considered dead unless there’s a firsthand account of their demise. Even then, fans know of a few exceptions to that rule: both Catelyn Stark and Beric Dondarrion have return from the other side, and it’s looking likely something similar will happen with Jon Snow. There are also a multitude of characters who disguise their true identities, from Sansa pretending to be Alayne Stone to Barristan Selmy going by Arstan Whitebeard to Arya posing as a whole host of different people.

Lastly, we have the characters who are missing and presumed dead, characters like Benjen Stark.

Benjen’s disappearance remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of the series. The First Ranger of the Night’s Watch was last seen leading a ranging party north of the Wall, never to be heard from again. My tinfoil theory is that Benjen Stark is alive and well in Essos, living in disguise as Daario Naharis (in the books—it’s clear this isn’t happening on the show, on account of the different actors). Let’s take a closer look at some of the parallels between the two characters, and at Benjen’s possible motives for deserting the Night’s Watch, escaping the Wall, and taking on a new identity.

Benjen and Daario: Parallels

For this theory to work both, men have to share some basic physical traits, which they seem to. Both have sharp features: blue eyes, dark hair, and are described as thin. We don’t have much intel on their respective heights or Daario’s age. If Daenerys Targaryen is attracted to him, I’m assuming he’s not too old. Also, interestingly, Daario is described as having smooth skin. This seems an odd trait for a sellsword who’s had a rough life. Could his skin suggest he’s higher born?

In the books Daario, is a Tyroshi and dresses quite flamboyantly. His hair is dyed blue and his mustachios are painted gold. In A Dance with Dragons, he tells Dany his men aren’t smart enough to be spies and says, “I trust all my men just as far as I can spit. One is bald and two have braids and one dyes his beard four different colors. What spy would wear such a beard, I ask you?” This could be an innocuous comment, but you could also make the argument that he’s trying to persuade her that someone in disguise wouldn’t dress so outlandishly an attempt to remove suspicion from himself.


Despite his colorful garb, Dany takes note of his one piece of drab clothing: a heavy black cloak with feathers that’s seen a lot of wear and is fraying. Could the cloak be Benjen’s one remaining relic from the Night’s Watch? In addition to the cloak, both Daario and Benjen wear high leather boots, as do many other characters. What’s interesting about Daario’s boots are that they are heavily stained with salt. From what we know about Daario’s life, there’s nothing to suggest he’s been on ships for extended periods of time. If Benjen is actually Daario, his boots were likely stained from the lengthy voyage from the Bay of Ice to Essos.

Both men have also demonstrated strong fighting abilities, which would be necessary to become either First Ranger or captain of a sellsword company (in the books, Daario commands the Stormcrows; on the show, it’s the Second Sons). If this theory is borne out, an interesting bit of irony is that Benjen is still fighting for a group of “crows,” but unlike the members of the Night’s Watch, the people in the sellsword company are free men. There’s not a ton of information on Benjen’s personality, but Daario is described as reckless and quick to anger. That tracks with how many members of the Stark family have hot temperaments (see Brandon, Lyanna, Arya, Rickon). It’s known as “the wolf’s blood.”

So now on to the most important question. Why would Benjen risk dishonor and a death sentence to start a new life in Essos?

Benjen and the Night’s Watch:

Benjen grew up the third son of Lord Rickard Stark, and third in line to inherit likely got the short end of the stick for most of his life. During Robert’s Rebellion, he served as the Stark in Winterfell, and got a brief taste of what it was like to be a Lord. Once Ned returned from the war and produced an heir in Robb, there was little left for Benjen to do. He joined the Night’s Watch a few months after Ned’s return, for reasons unknown.

When Jon first expresses interest in joining the Night’s Watch, Benjen does a fair amount to discourage him. In A Game of Thrones, he tells Jon, “If you knew what the oath would cost you, you might be less eager to pay the price, son.” When Jon finally joined, he quickly became disillusioned with his new brothers and saw that the Night’s Watch was clearly in decline. Imagine how cynical Benjen was after all those years, rotting away at the edge of the world with a band of criminals.


In A Storm of Swords, even Bran remembers a conversation with his uncle that had bitter undertones. During King Robert’s feast at Winterfell, Bran recited all the names of the castles along the Wall. Benjen replied, “You know them better than I do Bran. Perhaps you should be First Ranger. I’ll stay here in your place.”

When Benjen disappears, there are disturbing reports from the Haunted Forest. At this point in the series, the only ranger who tangled with the White Walkers and lived to tell about it was Gared. Ned thought his ravings made him sound mad, and executed him for desertion. I don’t believe Benjen would have deserted if he was aware that the White Walkers had returned. So instead of killing wildlings and living out his days on the Wall, maybe Benjen decided to take the rest of his life into his own hands and flee to start anew in Essos.

Benjen’s Escape:

It’s said that nobody knew the Haunted Forest as well as Benjen. It seems like it would be fairly easy for him to slip away from his ranging party in the night undetected. If he did desert, he must have been fairly close to the Wall, since his horse made it back alive. The last traces of him were blazes in the trees northwest of Castle Black. Just to the northwest of Castle Black is the abandoned wildling village of Whitetree, where he could have hidden for a time. Very close to Whitetree is a tributary of the Milkwater river.

Growing up in the north made Benjen privy to the fact that Tyroshi slave ships commonly sailed north of the Wall looking for wildlings to enslave. In fact, when he was on Bear Island, Jorah Mormont sold poachers to a Tyroshi slaver, which led to his exile. Benjen could have bided his time until the next slave ship traveled up the Milkwater and either fought for or bought passage on the ship. The ship would eventually travel down the Milkwater, through the Gorge and under the Bridge of Skulls, and out into the Bay of Ice. The Night’s Watch castle closest to this area is the abandoned Westwatch-by-the-Bridge, so there was little risk of him being caught sailing past the Wall. The Tyroshis not only aided Benjen’s escape from the Wall, but their costume-like clothes and hair also provided him with the perfect disguise. Once he boarded the ship, Benjen Stark was gone and Daario Naharis was born.


Daario/Benjen in Essos:

A job as a sellsword would be a logical choice for someone with Benjen’s fighting skills. It was probably fairly easy for him to join the Stormcrows and quickly rise through the ranks. In the books, Daario gives no information about his backstory or how he ended up in the Stormcrows. He loves to talk, so the fact he’s never discussed his past in the books is interesting, unless of course he has something to hide.

When he meets Dany in A Storm of Swords, the political landscape of Westeros has greatly changed. King Robert is dead, Ned has been executed, and Robb is fighting in the War of the Five Kings. Seeing Daenerys in power may have given him an idea, and it has to do with Jon Snow.

To start, I believe Benjen knows the truth about Jon’s parentage, whether Ned actually told him or not. By that, I mean that Benjen knows Jon is actually the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. Benjen and Lyanna were said to be close, so it’s hard to believe he bought into the Rhaegar kidnapping story, or that his honorable brother fathered a bastard. Knowing this, meeting Daenerys and her dragons could have given him impetus to embark on a new mission: help return the Targaryens to power in Westeros, which in the end will aid his half-Targaryen nephew. So he kills his Stormcrow comrades, tosses their heads at Dany’s feet, and pledges himself to her to prove his loyalty. When asked why he killed them, he doesn’t give a straight answer, and says that only the dead know.

Also interesting to note: for a sellsword, Daario doesn’t seem obsessed with money and plunder, at least outwardly. He also seems to have genuine affection for Dany. On the road to Yunkai, he attempts to woo her by bringing her flowers to help her learn the land, including one called the prickly ben. This is either a funny coincidence or a sly hint from George R.R. Martin.

Dany and Daario

Another interesting exchange takes place during A Dance with Dragons. Daario is infuriated when he realizes that Quentyn Martell and friends have tricked him regarding their true identities. He snatches the marriage pact they bring and jokes that he can’t read Westerosi scratchings, all the while examining it anyway. It seems possible he was actually reading the document, but literate sellswords are rare.

If Daario is indeed Benjen, it’s unlikely that Jorah and Barristan Selmy would recognize him. Benjen took up residence in Winterfell during Robert’s Rebellion and probably didn’t fight alongside either of them. Even if he had met Jorah prior to his exile, Benjen would have likely been much younger. An interesting test will be if Benjen ever crosses Tyrion’s path. Benjen and Tyrion had a few not-so-pleasant exchanges when they were at the Wall together. Tyrion would likely be able to flush out his true identity pretty quickly, the way he did with Aegon/Young Griff and Jon Connington.

Daario also implores Dany to round up the masters of Meereen at her wedding to Hizdahr zo Loraq and murder them. He tells her, “It’s better to be the butcher than the meat. All kings are butchers. Are queens so different?” It could mean nothing, but it also sounds like he’s speaking from experience. Basically, he’s encouraging Dany to do to the masters what Walder Frey did to Robb and Catelyn Stark at the Red Wedding, which he’d likely found out about by this point. He seems to be imploring Dany to kill the Meereenese before they can kill her.

daario fight

The Tyroshi Accent:

Between dying his hair and dressing outlandishly, Benjen is succeeding at posing as Daario the Tyroshi in all but one regard: the infamous Tyroshi accent. One of the things the Tyroshis are most well-known for is their accents. Their dialect is a corrupted form of High Valyrian.

In the books, nobody remarks about Daario’s accent, which leads me to believe he doesn’t have one. It’s hinted that even Dany herself still has a slight Tyroshi accent from her childhood. A member of the Night’s Watch, Ollo Lophand had a Tyroshi accent and was mocked as sounding “girlie.” Symon Silver Tongue ridicules Tyroshi singer Collio Quaynis and says “With that absurd accent, if you understand one word in three count yourself fortunate.” Tyrion hears Collio sing for himself and also thinks, “the accent is as ludicrous as Symon had promised.” Assuming Daario is who he says he is, if the Tyroshis have such strong accents, it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t have one worth noting.

Speaking of accents, Daario makes another interesting remark to Dany: he wants her to meet the Westerosi members formerly of the mercenary company the Windblown. In A Dance with Dragons he tells her, “You should hold court. My new men do not believe that you are real. Bred and born in Westeros, most of them, full of tales about Targaryens. They want to see one with their own eyes.” She agrees to meet with them and comments, “It would be nice to hear the Common Tongue from someone besides Ser Barristan.” Right after that he grins, bows, and takes his leave…with his cloak swirling behind him. What is he grinning about? The fact that she’s been hearing the Common Tongue from him and hasn’t put two and two together?


So that’s my version of the Benjen-is-Daario conspiracy theory. Although a lot of the evidence is circumstantial, I think at a minimum there are enough questions to raise some reasonable doubt that Daario may not be who he says he is.

There are several other interesting fan theories regarding these characters, including that Benjen is actually Coldhands, a mysterious hooded figure from beyond the Wall who guides Bran to the Three-Eyed Raven. George R. R. Martin seems to have debunked that one, though. Another theory is that Daario is actually Euron Greyjoy, but I’m not sure the timing works out for that to be true. There’s also the distinct possibility that Benjen is a White Walker or deader than dead in a fifty-foot snow drift, but it’s much more fun to speculate.


  • This theory can only exist in the books because in the show Tyrion and Benjen have met and unless I’m mistaken Tyrion and Daario have met.

    BTW I don’t believe in this theory. Doesn’t make sense.

    • A) It’s not even her “tinfoil theory”; I saw this one last year or the year before. I hate when “journalists” pass off someone else’s work as their own.

      B) Yes they met in the show, not the books; Tyrion is still with one of the free companies, along with Jorah and Penny.

      I doubt Benjen is Daario. That’s like, I don’t know,…..jumping the dragon.

  • Clearly Benjen is actually Euron Greyjoy who is actually Daario who is actually Benjen’s horse who is actually Mance Rayder who is actually Arthur Dayne who is actually Howland Reed who is actually Gerion Lannister who is actually Coldhands who is actually Benjen Stark.


  • I think Benjen will infact be coldhands! I know it’s been written with a “NO” by R.R.Martin. A lot of things have been “said” that didn’t happen the way we thought. Who else would the hooded person be on the horse with the fireball?

    • Who else would the hooded person be on the horse with the fireball?

      Some Night’s Watchman that died a long time ago…

      There have been many of those.

        • it might be Podrick Payne, if he gets sent to find Bran and Rickon. It might be Hodor, if he’s been warged by Bran. It might even be Stannis if he escaped from Brien. My theory is that the one on the horse is Gendry!!! He has to be somewhere, he can’t still be rowing that boat lol

          • I always thought Gendry had a part to play in the greater story but I don’t think that’s the case anymore. What would Gendry add by coming forth as a claimant to the throne? Nothing but more of the same chaos during the War of the 5 Kings, and we need to get to the greater war of Others vs everything; there’s only 2 books left for that. Plus, there’s little evidence to suggest he’s Robert’s son. The Barratheon’s aren’t the only ones with dark hair.

            It sucks how GRRM built up his character with his special helmet, he’s the oldest to survive Cersei’s purge (besides Mya, who doesn’t feature in the TV show), and he’s a generally cool character. But I think that was all a red herring designed as a nod to “typical” fantasy books where a long lost heir becomes king, like Aragon.

        • Even so, that wouldn’t make him Coldhands, it would just make him Benjen on a horse, slinging a fireball.

      • She’s on the right in that scene, hiding. I wrote about it below. Apparently, she left the cave. Did Bran leave the cave???? I hope so. But it would also be cool if Benjen was with the Bloodraven all this time or in a secret mission and he’s coming back, so that he’s the Stark dying in the Battle of the Bastards.

        • actually you can see Benjen Stark in the Season 6 trailer if you freeze it just before you see all the faces of wildlings. It’s only there for half a second, it’s really hard to see. Right after the big where Sansa is running in the woods, for half a second, there’s Benjen Stark.

  • There are parts of your theory that I like. But, considering the show has pretty much ruled it out as something they could do, then that leads me to believe that it’s not something that will be important to the story. And after all this time of Benjen’s disappearance being a mystery, I’d like to think his reemergence or at least the explanation of his disappearance will be more important than just helping Dany to do what she was planning to do all along – which is to return to Westeros. If that is the direction that GRRM is going with Daario/Benjen, then I can understand why the show has excluded the possibility. But in general, I do like the idea of Daario being something more than what he has portrayed himself to be.

  • Some may find this interesting. I found this on a friend’s private Facebook post (he works for Irish and British shows) and uploaded it to Imgur. The picture was taken the 20th of October 2015. Although it does not say Game of Thrones anywhere, I am pretty certain that is where it is from. I would say the Stark flashbacks will include more than just Ned and Lyanna then. If Sean Bean is back then that is the whole family back.


  • So Benjen basically brings Jon into the night’s watch, then immediately leaves him alone to fight the white walkers? Morally he would never do that.

    Plus Daario is admittedly pretty smooth with the ladies. How would Benjen gain such skills being in the Night’s Watch?

    Daario is shady and lying, but secretly being Benjen? No way.

  • One of the worst theories for Game of Thrones. Daario is a badass in the show, and I’m glad they dropped the whole blue hair and beard weirdness

  • What if he’s Karl Drogo 2.0? Maybe the witch Mary Mazda put a spell to change his appearance, like Melisandre does to Mance Raider in the book. Isn’t it funny he only showed up after Karl Drogo “died”? And remember what Mary said: “You will see him again when north is south”, or something like that. I don’t know what that means, but it must mean something. Maybe he will come with Danny to Westeros and become the King of Dorne.

    • Yea and I’m surprised wic even did a story about it. Should we expect a Hodor is AA reborn next?

      • Well we all have some out there theory we choose to believe. Mine is Theon was the hooded man at Winterfell. I also thought Varys was a Blackfyre. But, with the show cutting Aegon and Varys now backing Dany I don’t think that’s the case.

        • I’m open to the Varys one. And as for the hooded man, I’m pretty sure he must be ‘somebody’ but I’m going down the GNC route for the answer to that.

  • Let’s talk about the scene in the trailer with the man on a horse killing someone with fire. Meera is there hiding on the right. It’s the same scene from Inside Got (Best seat in the house). The horse has supplies. Meera is returning home or going to Castle Black. No direwolf around, so probably Bran isn´t there. Can he be Benjen Stark???? Benjen could have been hiding somewhere, while spying the white walkers or maybe with Bloodraven. I also like the idea that Bran is returning home and walking with magic though.
    Benjen could be the Stark that dies in the Battle of the Bastards.
    Running away from Westeros to Essos isn’t Stark behaviour. I don’t want to believe that theory. IMO, Benjen went to Castle Black to be a leader. He could have been Lord Commander as Jon. The danger was real, he wouldn’t escape leaving Jon behind.

    • yes it’s true! go watch the trailer, for a split half second after you see Sansa running in the woods, there is Benjen Stark’s face and he looks like he’s part of the battle!! it’s true, let me find a link and post it….

    • Benjen could be the Stark that dies in the Battle of the Bastards….burning flayed person on the bolton cross??????

  • Personally I think Daario is a mummer and has closes ties to Varys and Illyrio, could perhaps be Illyrio’s son/brother or half brother to Aegon. There would be a lot to speculate

    • What connection could he have to the Harpy? They could possibly do a storyline where the Harpy hire him but he’s definitely not the leader.Daario is from a different place and born into slavery. The SOH leader is one of the nobles.

      • Davos 4King,

        One reason: When Daario gives flowers to Dany. The last flower he gives her Is named Harpy’s Gold. Daario tells her ” Harpy’s gold it’s beautiful but poisonous. Hmmm coincidence .. Something stinks about Daario!

  • I can’t believe this trash theory was given this much thought!

    Remember when these same geniuses were saying that Daario was Euron? Remember how stupid that was?

    Here’s a theory, Tormond has a beard and so did King Robert. Clearly King Robert faked his death and escaped North to live the life he’s always wanted. Also Littlefinger is secretly Lysa and he/she killed a fake Lysa to disguise her death.

    • I could see that. Ramsay is the bastard son of Robert because y’all know look at the hair. He will be named king of Westeros , become extremely religious and become the kindest, greatest king of all time. I

      It all there you just have to follow the clues.
      1. They both have dark features.
      2. They are both avid hunters.
      3. They are both ladies men.
      4. They were both either betrothed or married a Stark girl.
      5.They both enjoy a good joke.

      Yup it’s so obvious. I await an article detailing this theory.

    • I know Euron/Daario is whacked out but it’s just so awesome and there’s just about enough strands to tie it together as vaguely credible. I wanna believe. So I’m gonna. Shamelessly.

  • I love a good theory as much as the next guy, but this is not that.

    I don’t mean to offend, but I wonder if people realize how truly awful the books would be if George were using stuff like this in his books.

  • On a side note – the guy who plays the Mountain is in Australia at the moment for some Strongman competition. He appeared on Breakfast TV this morning on Sunrise. Seemed like a sweet guy. Amazed at the amount of food he had to eat….I mean the guy has to EAT.
    So yesterday we had Alfie Allen. Today the Mountain. We’re getting spoiled at the moment.

  • Really ?
    Seriously ??
    Benjen may be Daario’s twin
    Or a Faceless Man who has donned a new face to go MIA and set upon whatever task…
    But he is not Daario
    It is known
    I think the new Season should just start already… This is clearly the result of too much waiting around!!!

  • Lexi,

    Thanks for a seriously detailed theory craft even though it’s getting torn down in the comments. While I agree that this has a .0001% chance of happening, I’d love to see a theorycraft on Ashara Dayne’s potential fate, Tyrion’s ex in Braavos, or maybe some Melisandre-Bloodraven theories.

    But, yeah, this season needs to start already so we can get this R+L=J thing settled once and for all. Goooooooo WIC!

    • If it’s him, not his best photo. Joseph Mawle is handsome. Besides, I can’t find this in the trailer.

      • I agree. With everything you said :)
        The screencap is low quality, shape of face is obscured (which makes the forehead look similar), camera is probably distorted. But one can still clearly see that the eyebrows are different compared to Mawle’s. Should be more prominent/dark, vertical folds between eyebrows are missing…
        I’m not convinced that this is Benjen / Joseph Mawle.

        But I do want him back! They can keep their Jon Snow, as long as Benjen comes back!! *fangirling*

    • Is there something new to talk about Jon???? He’s coming back. 100% sure. We just have to wait to see how and when it happens. But a potential return of Benjen is news, specially because there were rumours that a Stark was going to die this season.
      I suppose we could make a poll on how Jon’s resurrection is going to happen or should happen.

  • I don’t believe that the photo is of Benjen, nor do I believe that Dario is Benjen either. Benjen will come back when it’s necessary in the war with the Others at the wall. The bigger drama I see is what will happen at the NW when the loyal ones fight against the murderess son’s. That’s when the Others will attack & the Bran prophecy clip of “they have no idea what is going to happen” will occur. And the Ice Dragon will come out of the wall, destroy the NW and the FF will save the kingdom with Azor Ahai, “Jon Snow”. I’ve posted a similar comment on one of hbo’s GOT sites and they deleted it, wonder why…

    • If the Wall falls this season, it will be on the last episode. The fight between Jon loyalists and mutineers will happen in the first episode.

  • This is reaching pretty far. I’m sure Benjen is dead, a wight, or looking for the white walker home base of operations. I do believe we will find out by winds. Bran most likely will see.

  • Just let the story flow without every piece of dialogue and every coincidence having to mean something big.

    Is Hodor related to Gregor Clegane because they’re both huge? Is Brienne related to them too? Did Roose and Ned switch their bastards at birth so Ramsey is actually a Stark and Jon a Bolton? Is Robert Baratheon still alive because we didn’t see him die on page nor on screen? Is Jon Snow related to President Snow from The Hunger Games?

    So many theories!!!

  • By far the worst theory in ASOIAF history.

    I hate when anyone brings it up from the depths of the Internet. Stop reading too far into things.

  • Daario=Benjen has always struck me as one of the silliest of the tinfoil theories out there, along with High Sparrow=Howland Reed.

    • Yeah the Howland Reed theory makes not a bit of sense IMO. It is interesting that Howland Reed has played no part beyond sending Meera and Jojen to Bran, but I expect that will change in the Winds of Winter.

  • Surprised WIC gave into writing an article like this. Now we are getting off trachk. GRRM is laughing the dust off of his balls right now.

  • I just think it’s highly unlikely that Benjen would abandon Jon on the Wall. And it’s REALLY hard to imagine that the First Ranger of the Night’s Watch has smooth skin after years in the frigid north and crude conditions of Castle Black. There are plenty other reasons this is way too far-fetched. I think Coldhands is more likely. Still, I do agree that there are plenty of hints that Daario isn’t what he says he is, and I don’t think he’s Euron either.

  • In ADWD Daeny described Daario’s eyes as being “a deep blue, almost purple”…… Those don’t sound like the gray eyes of the Starks.

  • Hodor is Old Nan’s son I think. Hopefully we get some back story through the Weirnet on those two, maybe we will get some interesting tidbits there

  • I think there’s a better chance of Benjen coming back via a faceless man using that glamor magic everyone talks about.

  • Benjen, like Ned, would die before even considering deserting. Sure, they’d grow bitter or disillusioned with the watch but they’d stick with it until the bitter end. That alone debunks this frankly nonsense theory.

  • Why so many people left comments about the absurdity of this “theory” confuses me. Are we not all reading and watching the same series? Did anyone miss that this story includes dragons, essentially ice zombies, and the capability of humans to worg into animals? If you don’t come to the community of fans with an open mind, why in the hell are you reading or watching at all? If you gave a synopsis of GOT to any non-reader/watcher, you better be careful, you might just get an eye roll yourself… remember the real topic of the entire conversation that everyone here loves to so rapidly (and sometimes rudely) debate. It’s Fantasy. So have a little imagination, eh?

    Well done Lexi, I read a well thought out idea that line by line correlated directly with passages from the books.

  • Yeah to many people have sticks up their arses.
    Let people share theories even if its wrong there will still but a tiny bit of truth in it. Westeros is still a world of Mystery. Keep the tinfoils on people

  • Benjen Stark is the Nights King This is why Bran leaves the Cave/Under the Tree. Coldhands Leads Bran, Mera & Hodor back South. The Nights King and the other White Walkers kill Brynden Rivers AKA Three Eyed Raven. Season 7 Bran arrives at Castile Black so does Sam & His Brother Dickon(who has heartsbane). Sam learns about the Horn of Winter(Sam, Grenn and Ed found with the Dragonglass at the Fist of the FirstMan in Season 2). It is also my Belief that Dragons will play a part in the War for Dawn. How awesome would it be for Bran to warg into a Dragon.

  • Benjen is the Night’s King (in the books he is Coldhands, but since Coldhands doesn’t exist in HBO Westeros…)

    There ya go.