“Different roads sometimes lead to the same castle. Who knows?” —Jon Snow
Jon Snow is perhaps the most honorable and heroic character in Game of Thrones—and yet he’s committed numerous sins. Initially considered a lowly bastard, it’s eventually revealed that he comes from far greater stock than anyone could ever have imagined. If you’re still trying to avoid Game of Thrones spoilers, be warned—this article will cover right up to the polarizing finale. With that said, read on to discover more about the White Wolf.
1. Teen Dream
When Jon first appears in the A Song of Ice & Fire books, he’s only fourteen years old. The TV series ages him a wee bit, but he’s still only seventeen during the first season.
Jon Snow and Theon Greyjoy each held a strange place in the Stark household growing up. Theon was a hostage, held to keep the Iron Islands in check, while Jon was a bastard. Jon was always jealous of Theon, who was a legitimate highborn lord, while Theon was always jealous of Jon, who was treated better by the Starks despite being a bastard.
3. Rightful Claim
Jon’s sword, the Valyrian steel-forged Longclaw, originally belonged to the Lord Commander who preceded him, Jeor Mormont. However, Jon wasn’t the first person to receive the blade. Mormont had originally gifted it to his son, Jorah Mormont, but after the latter was disgraced and fled into exile, the sword returned to Jeor, and he then gave it to Jon.
4. The 998th
Britain has only had 66 monarchs over the course of its history, but the Night’s Watch has been around for a little bit longer than Great Britain or England: 8,000 years to be exact. Because of this long history, Jon Snow is the 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
5. Ancient Faith
The children of Ned and Catelyn Stark were raised with two religions—the Old Gods of the North, which Ned adhered to, and Catelyn’s Faith of the Seven. Jon Snow, however, had very little to do with Catelyn, and so unlike his siblings, he only ever followed the Old Gods.
6. The Bastard Snow
Snow is the name given to children born out of wedlock in the North. Bastards are not allowed to take their father’s names in Westeros and instead are given a common surname related to their region. Other names include Flowers, Hill, Pyke, Rivers, Sand, Stone, Storm, and Water. You can try and guess which region each of those names belongs to.
7. Don’t Let History Repeat
Jon clearly resented being a bastard. When Benjen Stark warns Jon that he will be giving up any chance of a family in joining the Night’s Watch, Jon replies that he doesn’t care. He later clarifies that he would never want a child that is a bastard because he wouldn’t want them to live with shame like he did.
8. Abstinent by Choice
Jon’s fear of fathering another bastard actually kept him a virgin for many years. Though he had the chance to sleep with many prostitutes, as Theon Greyjoy did, Jon was so terrified of fathering a child that he abstained from sex completely—that is, until Ygritte came along…
9. Not a Bastard After All
Although Jon long-believed (as did we all) that he was the acknowledged bastard of Ned Stark, it turns out he is actually the son of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. His real name? Aegon Targaryen.
10. Most Devastating
Probably the biggest death in Game of Thrones—and let’s face it, we’ve had lots of deaths to choose from—was Jon’s death in the Season 5 finale. Over 50% of people in one fan poll chose Jon’s death as the most devastating event of the series. No mean feat, considering the Red Wedding (polling at 45%) was in the race.
11. He Almost Died As A Baby
Catelyn Stark tells her daughter-in-law Talia that she long prayed for Jon’s death. Yet when Jon was struck down with pox, Catelyn spent all night at his bedside, wracked with guilt, praying for him to live. Which is it, Catelyn?
12. Last Words
The last words that Catelyn Stark says to Jon before he leaves for the wall are, “it should have been you.” She is referring to Bran’s fall from the tower and his subsequent paralysis. Harsh.
13. Not Dead Yet
At the end of Season 5, Alliser Thorne, Bowen Marsh, and others of the Night’s Watch accuse Jon, their Lord Commander, of being a traitor, and they all join together to assassinate him. They didn’t, however, considered the Red Priestess Melisandre, who later uses her magic to bring Jon back to life. What, you didn’t really think he was gone, did you?
14. Stark at Heart
Ironically, given that he turns out to be a Targaryen, Jon Snow actually looks more like a Stark than his siblings. He’s got his uncle Ned’s long face and dark hair, while his siblings, specifically Robb and Sansa, have the auburn hair of their mother.
15. Legitimate Heir x 2
In the books, Robb Stark makes Jon his heir just before he dies. Robb does this in response to Sansa’s marriage to Tyrion Lannister; he wants to prevent the Lannisters from taking control of Winterfell.
16. Childhood Heroes
Though almost nobody in Westeros was aware of Jon’s true parentage, maybe he knew somewhere deep down. When he and Robb were children, they would pretend to be legendary heroes. Of all the options, Jon preferred to play the role of King Daeron Targaryen, the Young Dragon, who conquered Dorne at age 14.
Jon Snow is the first inhabitant of Westeros to come face-to-face with both White Walkers and dragons.
18. We Meet Again
In the books, Jon first meets the King Beyond the Wall and the sworn enemy of the Night’s Watch, Mance Rayder, as a child. At the time, Rayder was a ranger of the Night’s Watch. Jon and his brother Robb had collected a pile of snow on top of the castle gate and were planning to dump it on the next passerby. Rayder discovered them and kept their secret.
19. Inverted Sigil
Jon’s sigil is the same as that of his Stark siblings (a grey direwolf on a white field), but with inverted colors, a white wolf on a grey field. It’s like he and Ghost were born for each other.
Jon is considered by some to be a deserter of the Night’s Watch: after he dies and is resurrected, he claims that, since he died, his watch has ended; Jon then leaves his post (though he ends up right back where he started before the series’ end). Honestly, if you could die and come back to life, that would probably open up a whole host of loopholes.
21. Secret Weapon
Jon is the first, at least in the current age, to figure out that Valyrian steel, much like dragonglass, can kill a white walker. If he didn’t thank Jeor Mormont for Longclaw at first, he sure did after learning that.
22. Fan Favorite
In a poll of Game of Throne’s fans, Jon was voted the greatest hero (33%), far ahead of his next closest rival Daenerys Targaryen, who came in at 17%. And I have a feeling that after the events of Season 8, Dany’s standing didn’t get any better.
23. Claim to Fame
As the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, Jon technically has a stronger claim to the throne than Daenerys. Although Jon bent the knee in the TV show, according to the rules of primogeniture, which seem to dominate in Game of Thrones, as the last surviving male child of Rhaegar, Jon’s claim trumps Dany’s, who is neither a male nor an elder child.
The fact that Jon’s mother was a Stark further cements his claim.
Fans have long predicted that Jon was the savior of the Seven Kingdoms. Prophecies predict that Azor Ahai, the Prince who was promised and who saved the Seven Kingdoms from the White Walkers one thousand years ago, would be reborn and save the Kingdoms again.
25. A Song of Ice and Fire
To be fair, there’s plenty of proof that Jon Snow is Azor Ahai: He is both ice (from mother Lyanna Stark) and fire (from father Rhaegar Targaryen). He has a sword, courtesy of Jeor Mormont, that can kill White Walkers. Oh, and he’s already been brought back from the dead. Now that the series has played out, we can let those fans argue over whether or not Jon was the savior they’d hoped for.
26. Born for the Role
Jon Snow didn’t know his real name was Aegon Targaryen for many years—in that, Kit Harington actually has a lot in common with the character he plays. His real name is Christopher Catesby Harington, but he had no idea until he was 11. He’d always gone by Kit, and just assumed that was his real name.
27. Honor Above All
Bringing a bastard home from war was the most dishonorable act of Eddard Stark’s life. It stained his reputation and permanently damaged his relationship with his wife. This was all the more strange given that Ned was famously one of the most honorable men in Westeros—so it was fitting to learn that he sacrificed all of that to protect his sister’s son Aegon, proving just how remarkable of a character he was.
Too bad we only got to see him for one season.
28. A Kingdom of Lies
Many people assume that Robert Baratheon’s rebellion began because Aerys Targaryen went mad, but that’s not actually the case. Robert had been engaged to Lyanna Stark, and it was widely believed that Rhaegar Targaryen abducted her against her will. Robert began his rebellion to rescue Lyanna—when, in fact, Lyanna never wanted to be with him, and she had willingly gone with Rhaegar, whom she loved.
The mere fact that Jon Snow existed proved that Robert’s entire rebellion was based on a lie.
29. Not a Bastard
When it was revealed that Jon Snow was actually Aegon Targaryen, some fans made a double take. Since his father Rhaegar was married to Elia Martell, not Lyanna Stark, wouldn’t that mean Jon was still a bastard, and ought to be Aegon Blackfyre? Thankfully, this was one plothole that the show filled up.
Before their deaths, Rhaegar had his marriage to Elia Martell annulled and married Lyanna Stark, so little Aegon was a legitimate Targaryen.
30. But Not The Youngest
Although Jon is very young when he’s raised to Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, he isn’t the youngest person to ever achieve the same feat. That honor belonged to Osric Stark, who made Lord Commander at the tender age of 10. Not even Lyanna Mormont can top that.
The Jon Snow of the books looked a lot more grizzled than in the show. He suffers terrible burns on his right hand and arm while saving Lord Commander Mormont from a wight, and he later gains gruesome scars across his eye when he’s attacked by an eagle.
32. Not Exactly a Shock
Though the revelation that Jon Snow is actually Aegon Targaryen certainly shocked audiences, many fans had actually predicted it for years. Remember, the first A Song of Ice & Fire book came out in 1996, and readers have had a lot of time to come up with theories about Jon’s parentage. The idea that he was the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna was one of the most popular of these theories—so much so that fans eventually came up with a shorthand for it: R+L=J, for Rhaegar plus Lyanna equals Jon.
It turns out that fan-theories are sometimes right!
33. He’s A Warg
Jon, like Bran, is a skinchanger—at least in the books. He has a unique ability to project his consciousness into the bodies of animals or occasionally other human beings. In particular, Jon can enter the mind of his direwolf, Ghost. This leads to some major “Jon-wargs-dragon” dreams, but at least in the show, it looks like it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe in the books?
34. Had to be Kit
Kit Harington landed the role of a lifetime with Jon Snow, but he had to compete with a lot of other actors to get the part—including several actors that ended up on the show themselves! Iwan Rheon, who played Ramsay Bolton, Alfie Allen, who played Theon Greyjoy, and Joe Dempsie, who played Gendry, were all up for the role before Harington snagged it.
35. White Lies
If you asked Kit Harington if his character was alive in the days between Season 5 and 6, he would have told you “No way.” We’d eventually learn that was a total lie, but it’s not Harington’s fault—the showrunners told him to do it. Jon Snow’s fate was kept under close wraps, and only those on a need-to-know-basis were let in on the secret. Even other castmembers like Sophie Turner were kept in the dark.
When it was finally revealed that Jon was brought back to life, Harington issued a public apology for lying to everyone.
36. Shh, Don’t Tell
According to Harington, he actually admitted Jon Snow’s fate to one person: He was pulled over for speeding in between the fifth and sixth seasons of Game of Thrones, and the officer happened to be a fan of the show. He gave Harington an ultimatum—pay the ticket, or reveal the truth about Jon Snow. Harington looked at him and said, “I am alive next season.” The officer simply nodded and said, “On your way, Lord Commander.”