The Winds of Winter: Who wrote the letter that killed Jon Snow?
One of the many mysteries in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books is the identify of the person who wrote the pink letter. The pink letter is a message that Jon Snow receives at the end of Book 5, A Dance with Dragons, and it eventually causes his death in the last chapter of the book.
On the surface, the answer is clear because the pink letter is signed by Ramsay Bolton. Mystery solved right? Well, like pretty much everything in these books, it’s a bit more complicated than that. We will have to wait until The Winds of Winter comes out to learn the answer for sure, but until then, let’s analyze the pink letter and try to determine which character wrote the message that led to Jon Snow’s death.
In the Game of Thrones TV show, Jon Snow is killed by the Night’s Watch because they disagree with him about aiding the wildlings and bringing them back to the Wall after his mission to Hardhome. In the books, Jon helps the wildlings in a similar way, but it takes more for an angry faction of the Night’s Watch to turn against him and resort to murder. They are satisfied when Melisandre burns the wildling leader Mance Rayder at the stake. However, it wasn’t really him; the red priestess Melisandre used a glamor to make another wildling called the Lord of Bones look like Mance. The real Mance then freely walks the castle disguised as the Lord of Bones.
The other wildlings at Bastle Black include Tormund Giantsbane and the princess Val, the sister of Mance’s deceased wife Dalla. Dalla died giving birth to a baby boy, which Jon put in the care of Gilly when she left the Wall with Sam. Everyone still thinks that the baby at the wall is Dalla’s, but it is secretly Gilly’s son.
Meanwhile, a conflict in Winterfell is brewing. Stannis leaves Castle Black in the middle of Dance to march on the Boltons. He is successful in capturing Deepwood Motte, which was held by Asha Greyjoy, and by the end of the book Stannis and his men are camped in a snowed-in village outside Winterfell.
Inside the castle, the Boltons are struggling to control their bannermen; their two largest supporters, the Freys and the Manderlys, are literally at each other’s throats. Earlier in the book, the Boltons lied to everyone and claimed that Ramsay had married Arya Stark. The girl is actually one of Sansa Stark’s old friends Jeyne Poole, who went south with the Starks in Book 1, A Game of Thrones. After being held hostage by the Lannisters, Jeyne Poole was sent north by Tywin Lannister to help the Boltons establish authority over the North. Since almost everyone who would know the difference between Arya and Jeyne is either dead or in on the conspiracy, everyone takes the Boltons’ word that the girl is actually Arya.
When Jon finds out about the marriage, Melisandre reveals to him that Mance is still alive. The pair send Mance along with six wildling women to infiltrate Winterfell and retrieve Jon’s long-lost sister “Arya.” Through the eyes of Theon (currently living as Reek, Ramsey’s pet), we see that Mance’s mission is somewhat successful, as Theon and Jeyne are able to escape and make their way to Stannis’ camp. Mance and the spearwives are still in Winterfell the last time we see them.
In the final chapter of Dance, Jon receives the pink letter from who he believes is Ramsay Bolton. The letter’s contents persuade Jon to abandon the mission he was going to lead to Hardhome. Instead, he calls a meeting of the Night’s Watch and wildlings to announce his intention to march on the Boltons. Most of the wildlings agree to go with him, but the men of the Watch are not so keen on the idea.
One of the rules of the Night’s Watch is they are forbidden from taking part in the politics of the south, and cannot choose sides in their wars. As the Lord Commander, Jon is not only obliged to follow this rule, but to set the example for the rest of his men. Even though he does not order them to take part in his campaign, he still causes severe discontent in the ranks when he announces the plan.
Soon after, the giant Wun Wun starts killing one of Stannis’ men. In the confusion, a group of officers in the NIght’s Watch repeatedly stab Jon presumably to death while shedding tears and muttering “for the watch.” Jon’s last word is “Ghost,” the name of his direwolf.