Game of Thrones theorycrafting: Did Maester Aemon know about Jon Snow’s true birth?


Who knew about Jon Snow, and when did they know it? For most book-readers, it was probably around the time they hit Book 3 and the story of the Year of the False Spring, but in the story itself, outside of Ned and Howland Reed (and now Bran, onscreen), very few have a clue.

That’s not to say that there aren’t characters who know the truth about Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, and how Robert Baratheon forced a sad lie into history because he couldn’t face the truth. But just because some characters interrogated history closely doesn’t mean they put together that the “bastard son” Ned brought home at the end of the war, the one with the strong Stark features and coloring, was in fact his nephew, and a Targaryen.

So who, other than Ned, Howland Reed, and a couple of Dornish handmaidens, knew the truth? Some think Littlefinger suspects, and that may be true, but suspecting isn’t knowing, and it’s not like he has a tree wizard friend to take him back in time to get proof. Other than that, the list is short. Up until Bran, none of the Starks suspected a thing, not even Catelyn. The Lannisters never guessed, or they’d have had Jon done in as fast as Robert would have, and with less feeling. Clearly, Daenerys Targaryen has no idea that a male heir of her family line (and a rival for the throne) is running around.

But are there other Targaryens who could have known? Did Maester Aemon, for instance, know? A new meme floating around thinks it’s possible.

Now I will admit, prior to seeing this, it never occurred to me that this beautiful speech from Season 1 lined up as well as it did with the reveal of Jon’s birth in “The Winds of Winter,” and kudos to those who put two and two together. But the chances of Maester Aemon having clue one about Jon’s true birth are pretty slim. After all, Aemon had already been up at the wall for generations before Robert’s rebellion began. As we discussed in our history series last year, Aemon chose to take the black way back in 233 AC, after his brother Aegon (the “Egg” of the Tales of Dunk and Egg) took the crown, in order to avoid being used in a coup against his new king. Robert’s Rebellion happened  in 282 AC, nearly 50 years later. And although Aemon grieved for the loss of his family in that war, he knew his oaths were more important. So how could he have known? If there had been whispers loud enough about Jon for him to hear, tucked away at the Wall, they would have been heard first by Robert, Cersei, and all the rest, and Jon would not now be alive to rule as King in the North.

No, that meme simply shows how the show loves its themes and how the writers are good at foreshadowing. Chances are Aemon never knew, but the information would have doubtlessly pleased him. But what do you think?