SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones Season 6.
We finally know the truth about Jon Snow's (if that is even his real name!) parentage. Fans suspected all along that he was not the true son of the honorable Lord Eddard Stark, and now we know for certain that he's actually the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. Looking back on Jon's childhood at Winterfell, and the strain his existence put on the marriage between Ned and Catelyn, it begs the question, why didn't Ned just tell Catelyn the truth? Why wrap himself up in an incriminating lie?
In typical George R.R. Martin fashion, there's no simple answer to the question. But that hasn't stopped Redditors from trying to hash it out. The over-arching conclusion? The secret was just that important. He literally couldn't tell a soul.
Knowing what we know about Catelyn Stark, it was hard for her. She felt guilty for hating a child, but still couldn't bring herself to love him.
Rewatch the scene where she talks about praying for his death, and for his life when he was young:
Catelyn is not an evil woman. She's a strong matriarch that just wanted to keep her family together, and Jon's presence makes her think she's failed. If she had known who Jon's real parents were, she would have undoubtedly been warm and motherly toward him. Then, everyone who knows Catelyn would know that something was off. Reddit user The Waker sums it up succinctly:
Ned needed everyone to believe Jon was his bastard, and what better way to convince everyone of that than to allow his own wife to legitimately believe it as well? If his own wife treats Jon as his bastard, the question as to whether Jon is his bastard would never, ever be raised by anyone. That alone would sell the lie.
While it might have eased Ned's conscience, softened Cat's jealousy, and given Jon a much happier childhood, Ned knew that little things like personal happiness mean zilch when lives are on the line. And many lives would have been thrown into jeopardy if anyone else had even so much as guessed at Jon's true parentage.
Quora User Kelsey L. Hayes makes another great point:
Catelyn not knowing about Jon means that she can't, in a desperate moment, use him as leverage to benefit her own children. Ned actually thinks about this while he's confronting Cersei. If Catelyn thought that she could get Sansa and Arya back by handing Jon — a Targaryen heir — to the Lannisters, would she do it? Ned doesn't want to think about the answer to that question, and by not telling her, he's removed it as one of her options.
It's dark but true. Maternal devotion — or desperation — has been a common theme throughout Game of Thrones, as we've seen with both Cersei and Catelyn. Catelyn would have done anything to get her daughters back. If she had known Jon's true lineage, she would have sold him to the Lannisters in a heartbeat to get her girls back.
I never thought I'd say this, but maybe it's for the best that they're both dead now. The final scene between Ned and Jon was hard enough to watch. Picture the scene where Catelyn finds out her husband had been lying to her for decades; the Starks have had enough heartbreak for a life time.
Why do you think Ned couldn't tell Catelyn the truth about Jon's true parents?
Image Source: HBO