TV Features

Game Of Thrones: Everyone Who Knew Jon Snow Was A Targaryen Before Him


  • Jon Snow’s true parentage as a Targaryen and rightful heir to the Iron Throne created conflicts with his loyalty and romance with Queen Daenerys Targaryen.
  • Ned Stark, along with his friend Howland Reed, knew about Jon’s true parentage and kept it a secret to protect him.
  • Other potential mothers of Jon Snow, such as Wylla and Ashara Dayne, may also have knowledge of his true parentage in the books.



Despite being the biggest Game of Thrones for quite a while, there were a number of people who knew Jon Snow was a Targaryen. Game of Thrones season 7 confirmed Jon Snow is the trueborn son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen who secretly married shortly before Rhaegar was killed by Robert and Lyanna died during childbirth. Jon was raised as the bastard son of Ned Stark as Lyanna had asked her brother to protect him as Jon would likely be killed by Robert if his true parentage was revealed. While he found out in season 8 himself, there were other characters who knew Jon Snow was a Targaryen even before he did.

Both a Stark and a Targaryen, the reveal of Jon Snow’s parents also meant that he was the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, which got in the way of his loyalty to (and romance with) Queen Daenerys Targaryen. While Jon initially tried to keep his Targaryen blood a secret, the word quickly got out as his supporters, such as his sister Lady Sansa Stark, wanted him to vie for the throne over Daenerys. Jon’s parentage was Westeros’ best-kept secret for over 25 years, but once it spread to Jon himself, quickly became common knowledge among Westeros’ nobility. However, while HBO’s Game of Thrones answered the question of Jon’s parentage, the A Song of Ice and Fire books have yet to do so.

RELATED: The 50 Best TV Shows of All Time, Ranked

Ned Stark

Young Ned Stark holding baby Jon Snow as Lyanna dies in her bed in Game of Thrones

In both Game of Thrones and the books, Ned Stark is the only character confirmed who knew Jon Snow was a Targaryen. In Game of Thrones season 6, the Three-Eyed Raven takes Bran back in time to when Lyanna died after giving birth to a baby, with Lyanna simply saying “promise me, Ned” before giving him the child. It isn’t until the end of season 7 that the identity of the baby is confirmed to be Jon Snow, proving that Ned was always just his uncle who had to live with the secret of knowing Lyanna and Rhaegar had a child together.

Understanding that Robert would kill Jon, a.k.a. Aegon Targaryen, if he found out the truth, Ned also lied to his best friend for the remainder of their lives, with most of Westeros believing that Jon was the son of Ned and a woman he met on the road at war. Although making Jon his bastard son put a public stain on Ned Stark’s honor as he seemingly cheated on Catelyn, Game of Thrones reveals that Ned had kept his honor all along, as he was maintaining a promise he made to his dying sister. While Game of Thrones’ books still hint that Ned could truly be Jon’s father, the only certainty about Ned is that he’s the one person who is confirmed to know Jon’s parentage.

Howland Reed

Howland Reed standing with soldiers at the Tower of Joy in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones’ Ned flashback revealed that he wasn’t the only character who knew Jon Snow was a Targaryen, as his friend Howland Reed, the father of Jojen and Meera, was there with him when Lyanna died. Since Ned would have to explain why he left the tower with a baby in his arms and his sister deceased, it’s clear Howland at least knew that Jon was never truly the son of Ned Stark. Even if Ned hadn’t directly told Howland that Jon’s father was Rhaegar Targaryen, anyone in the realm could have guessed as much.

The story of how Jon Snow was conceived went that Rhaegar Targaryen had kidnapped Lyanna, raped her, then killed her, so finding Lyanna with a baby would have to mean he was Rhaegar’s. While Howland wasn’t in the tower with Ned in Game of Thrones’ series, he was the one who finally pulled Ned away from Lyanna’s dead body in the books. Author George R.R. Martin revealed that Howland Reed won’t be a POV character in the A Song of Ice and Fire books because he knows too much, hinting he does also know the identity of Jon’s parents in the novels.

Bran Stark

Bran Stark at Winterfell in Game of Thrones

Although Bran Stark isn’t someone who knew Jon Snow was a Targaryen in the books, he was the first character to confirm his parents as Lyanna and Rhaegar in Game of Thrones. The end of Game of Thrones season 6 sees Bran have a vision with the Three-Eyed Raven. It was then that Bran discovered Jon Snow was truly Lyanna Stark’s son, with the details of Jon Snow’s father coming about in season 7.

Bran had already come to understand that Jon was the son of Lyanna and Rhaegar but believed that he was still a bastard until Sam helped fill in the information on their secret marriage. Game of Thrones’ season 7 finale then saw the Three-Eyed Raven Bran enter a vision in which he watched the marriage of Lyanna Stark to Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, confirming that Jon, really Aegon Targaryen, was their trueborn son and rightful heir to the Iron Throne.

Samwell Tarly

John Bradley as Samwell Tarly looking concerned in Game of Thrones

The last person to find out about Jon Snow’s parents before Jon Snow himself was his best friend, Samwell Tarly. Sam learned about Jon Snow’s real parents from Bran Stark. When Bran and Samwell meet at the end of Game of Thrones season 7, Bran explains that Jon needs to know the truth about himself, with the new Three-Eyed Raven trusting the soon-to-be Grand Maester with such information.

However, Sam had already unintentionally discovered the full truth about Jon’s parentage when at the Citadel with Gilly. Gilly had read in High Septon Maynard’s diary that he had annulled Rhaegar’s marriage with Elia Martell, and had later secretly married Rhaegar to another woman in Dorne. When Game of Thrones‘ Samwell Tarly hears from Bran that Rhaegar and Lyanna are Jon’s parents, he realizes that the secret woman Rhaegar married was Lyanna Stark, making Jon not just their legitimate son, but also a Targaryen heir.


Baby Jon Snow wrapped in blankets in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones season 1 features a quick mention of Wylla when Robert and Ned eat a meal together, with the two reminiscing about their time during the rebellion. Robert asks about the mother of Ned’s bastard, whom Ned confirms as “Wylla.” Ned never again mentions Wylla, and dies before he can tell Jon the truth about his mother. While Wylla isn’t the true mother of Jon in Game of Thrones’ series, it’s still possible that she is in the books.

George R.R. Martin’s books describe Wylla as a wet nurse who had served House Dayne for many years, though it’s unclear how she met Ned. However, the character Edric “Ned” Dayne tells the adventurous Arya Stark that he and her brother Jon Snow are “milk brothers,” as they were both nursed by Wylla as babies. Dayne was born several years after Jon Snow and Ned left, so he doesn’t know the true circumstances of their time at Starfall, but believes that Wylla is Jon’s mother.

It’s also been suggested that even if Wylla isn’t Jon Snow’s mother in the books, she at least knows some of the truth behind his parentage. Game of Thrones‘ books confirm that Ned went to Starfall following Lyanna’s death because he had to return House Dayne’s ancestral sword after killing Ser Arthur Dayne, with it being likely that Wylla was simply the wet nurse for Jon during their stay there. Wylla has also been speculated to have been the wet nurse present while Lyanna gave birth to Jon Snow on Dorne, which would have made her privy to the information about Jon Snow’s Targaryen identity.

Ashara Dayne

Art of Ashara Dayne in Game of Thrones

While not confirmed, Ashara Dayne is another rumored mother of Jon Snow in the books, which would clearly indicate that she knows the truth about Jon Snow’s parents. Ashara was presumed to be a love interest of Ned before Robert’s Rebellion, with her story apparently coming to an end when she threw herself out the window and into the sea at Starfall after the rebellion. Catelyn, having heard rumors around the realm, believed that the mother of Jon Snow was Ashara, but Ned never confirmed it.

The extent of Ashara Dayne’s knowledge was never revealed in Game of Thrones, nor has it been explained in the books. If Ashara truly is revealed to be Jon’s mother in The Winds of Winter, she’ll have been in on the secret, while it’s also likely that she would know the truth if her wet nurse is his mother. It’s also possible that Ned told both Ashara and Wylla the truth about Jon being a Targaryen when he went to Starfall, though it’s unclear whether the books will ever confirm her knowledge.

Did Jon’s Targaryen Lineage Matter In Game Of Thrones?

Jon Snow looking sad in Game of Thrones season 8

Looking back at the final seasons of Game of Thrones, there is still the question of whether or not “how is Jon Snow a Targaryen” actually important to the plot. When the truth came out, it felt like a game-changing revelation that set incredibly high stakes for the rest of the series with the idea that he was a prophesied hero and that the Iron Throne would come down to a battle between the two remaining Targaryens, Jon and Daenerys. However, the reality was that the truth of Jon’s lineage barely factored into Game of Thrones‘ ending.

From the moment Jon found out that he was the true heir to the Iron Throne, he suddenly took a much less active role in the series. The final season was filled with Jon watching other people do important things while he continuously insisted he didn’t want the throne. Even in killing Daenerys, the fact that he was effectively making himself the last living Targaryen was never even mentioned, nor is the fact that the heir to the Iron Throne decided to live out his life Beyond the Wall.

It is not hard to see Jon ending up in a similar place in the novels, but it is also easy to see George R.R. Martin finding a bittersweet poetic justice in it. Perhaps Jon being a Targaryen was never meant to lead to him taking the Iron Throne, but it should have meant something for the character. He was a bastard with no real name for his whole life and now he was Aegon Targaryen. Yet all the show managed to do with all this information is to let him form a bond with Daenerys’s dragons and fly them in two short sequences.

How House Of The Dragon Is Making Jon Snow’s Targaryen Lineage Matter

King Viserys Targaryen sits on the Iron Throne in House of the Dragon

House of the Dragon is exploring Jon’s Targaryen lineage in greater depth, and the introduction of the A Song of Ice and Fire prophecy is only emphasizing how important his family history is despite its lack of impact of GoT‘s line of succession. In House of the Dragon, King Viserys gives his heir Rhaenyra Targaryan a familiar artifact: the Catspaw dagger. The Catspaw dagger is, of course, the very same weapon used in the attempted assassination of Bran Stark in Game of Thrones season 1.

The Valyran steel weapon came with a story from Viserys, one of Aegon’s dream, which turns out to be the Song of Ice and Fire prophecy, along with the Prince that was Promised. This means that the Targaryens would’ve known about the coming White Walker threat — Aegon’s very reason for conquering Westeros and uniting the country to prepare for the invasion. The end of Aegon’s dream/the prophecy states that it is the Targaryens who will save Westeros from the White Walkers, and Aegon’s dream does come true in the end in many ways.

Though Arya was the one to defeat the Night King in battle, Jon Snow was an integral player in the survival of the Westerosi populace. Between the dragon he rode that took out swarms of White Walkers and all the time he spent beyond the Wall, Jon played a significant role when it came to taking down the Night King. In the end, the eventual occupant of the Iron Throne would come down to either Jon or Dany – both technically Targaryens.

Though a Targaryen didn’t end up on the Iron Throne due to Dany becoming the Mad Queen and Jon being shipped back to the Wall (and the Throne being melted), Game of Thrones proves that these were the two Targaryens that Aegon spoke of in his House of the Dragon dream, only solidifying the importance of Jon’s Targaryen heritage even though it didn’t matter as far as Westerosi politics were concerned. The prophecy was never about ruling — it was about safeguarding the people of Westeros against a real and imminent danger, a warning that unfortunately became misconstrued.

Jon’s Targaryen Heritage Should Be Explored More In His Spin-Off

Kit Harington as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones looking concerned

The upcoming Jon Snow spinoff could reveal more about Jon Snow’s parents, which is exactly what the series needs. With House of the Dragon bringing the full Targaryen line to the foreground, interest in the Targaryen family has never been more palpable — and Jon Snow is part of that family. In an interview (via Entertainment Weekly), Jon Snow actor Kit Harington teased that Snow’s journey after Game of Thrones will see the character going to battle with many of his past traumas, and that could include his Targaryen lineage.

Recounting all the harrowing events that befell Jon Snow in Game of Thrones, Harington had this to say about what the character is going through, “He’s gotta go back up to the place with all this history and live out his life thinking about how he killed Dany, and live out his life thinking about Ygritte dying in his arms, and live out his life thinking about how he hung Olly, and live out his life thinking about all of this trauma, and that, that’s interesting.” The new Game of Thrones spinoff will at least have to mention Jon Snow’s father, but to what capacity remains to be seen.


Back to top button