And the most popular Game of Thrones fan theory is…


…R + L = J. Naturally.

BEWARE SPOILERS. (Well, some people would say this theory is so definitive that it doesn’t constitute a spoiler, and can you really spoil a theory anyway? Whatever.) BEWARE SPOILERS

Do the math.

For anybody who doesn’t know, R + L = J is the shorthand way of describing the theory that Jon Snow (J) is actually the son of former Westerosi crown prince Rheagar Targaryen (R) and Lyanna Stark (L). The show would have us believe that Jon is the bastard son of Ned Stark and a woman named Wylla, but very few fans bought that story. There are several theories as to Jon Snow’s actual parentage out there, but R + L = J is by far the most popular.

It was also the most popular option on our poll by a decent margin. It should be noted that the second and third most popular theories also involved Jon Snow—he’s just a popular guy.

[polldaddy poll=9179222]

I think the reason for that is simple: R + L = J would resolve a mystery that’s been hanging over the story since A Game of Thrones was released all the way back in 1996. It would add new shading to Rheagar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, two characters who have a strong presence in this tale despite being over 15 years dead. It would re-contextualize Robert’s Rebellion, the war that set the stage for A Song of Ice and Fire, it would fit with the clues we’ve been given, and it would provide an exciting new direction for Jon Snow’s story.

In short, R + L = J just feels right. In fact, it feels so right that many fans don’t even consider it theory, including our own Ani Bundel. Several commenters, like Davos 4 King, agreed:

"Is Jon being the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna still a theory? I think it’s pretty obvious at this point."

However, that opinion isn’t universal. Warginfortheweekend provided an alternate perspective.

"R+L = J isn’t fact. We just don’t have enough info. Obviously it’s the most convenient theory, but still just a theory."

I’m inclined to agree with Warginfortheweekend (love the name, by the way). While I do expect R + L = L to be borne out, until there’s official word, I can’t be sure. Plus, George R.R. Martin is an author who thrives on subverting expectations, zigging when we expect him to zag and killing important characters when we expect him to center the story around them. Who’s to say he’s not setting us up for a rude awakening here? I wouldn’t put it past him.

Cheeky bugger.

Given the enormous number of fan theories out there, not everything ended up on the poll. Commenters chipped in with theories we missed. Take Bandit77’s contributions, for example:

"Does the Starks being descendants of the Others (White Walkers) qualify as a theory?"

And later:

"The flip side to this is that the Starks are descended from the Children, and with them they have an ancient alliance."

I’d never heard of those theories, but it sounds like they deserve a good think. Meanwhile, The Black Knight suggested a whole slew of theories:

"– Oberyn poisoned Tywin before Tyrion killed him.– The Wall was built by the White Walkers. The long knight ended with some kind of pact.– The White Walkers are created and being controlled by the Children of the Forrest. (or they are created by them but they somehow lost control over them)."

And of course, this classic from Gaia:

"Ser Pounce is the PtwP!!! That’s absolutely gotta be my favourite!! COME ON!"

One of the reasons I love A Song of Ice and Fire is because the text is rich and layered enough to support all these theories. This story is a giant sandbox in which we can all play. Play on, everyone. Play on.

Next: Introducing All Things Rowling, a J.K. Rowling fansite—Accepting submissions now!