*Warning: This article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones, Season 6, as well as future speculation.*
The name may've been whispered at an inaudible volume during the season finale, but make no mistake: the R+L=J theory has finally been unveiled. This is welcome news for those who have speculated for years that Jon Snow has Targaryen blood coursing through his veins, but now the truth is out, how will the freshly crowned King of the North be informed of his royal heritage?
The answer could lie with Jon's enigmatic and now undead uncle, Benjen Stark. Also known as Coldhands, he's an elusive character, who walked off into the (permanent) sunset as First Ranger of the Night's Watch, only to appear this season in time to save Bran and Meera from an onslaught of wights in one of the most badass returns in the series. The only downside is, well, he's dead. But that is a minor detail in Game of Thrones.
Benjen Stark: An Important Character
All of the evidence suggests he is a character of the utmost importance; as well as sharing a close relationship with Jon Snow, Benjen was pulled back from the abyss by the Children of the Forest. Those children know the everyman from the savior, and their belief in him is a significant endorsement.
Reddit user one_big_tomato claims Benjen is one of a giant's handful of people privy to the Earth shattering secret. Consequently, this could link to how events unfold across the rest of the narrative, and suggests:
- Benjen made a remark to Jon that could mean much more than first meets the eye (or, ear).
- He may already know the truth, that Rhaegar Targaryen is Jon's father
- If so, he could be the person to tell Jon the truth
- This could lead to future events, and the climax to the entire series
The theory derives from a conversation that Benjen has with Jon Snow, when Jon is expressing his desire to join the Night's Watch. The theory highlights the following conversation:
Jon: "I'm ready, to swear your oath."
Jon: "I don't care about that."
Benjen: "You might, if you knew what it meant... We'll talk later."
The scene was portrayed — with the dialogue intentionally intact — in Season 1, which you can view below (featuring a cleanly shaved and slightly more articulate Jon Snow). The significance of Benjen's claim that Jon may care about fathering children "if he knew" has been interpreted to illustrate Benjen's knowledge of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark.
Could Benjen Pass The Message To Jon?
From the voyeuristic eyes of the TV audience, we witnessed the reveal when Bran warged back to the Tower of Joy. Having used his ability, he was witness to Lyanna revealing the truth and requesting a promise of secrecy from a young Ned Stark.
The difficulty is, even now Bran knows, he may not be able to pass this message on to Jon. Considering what happened with Hodor, he's probably petrified from the potential repercussions, and may abstain from an attempt to convey message while warging. Which is understandable.
The theory suggests Benjen could be the person to reveal R+L=J to Jon Snow, but there is one flaw in the foundation of that possibility. When Benjen takes care of Bran and Meera, he leaves them near The Wall, claiming that the zombie repellant magic means he won't be able to cross. So Benjen physically passing on the news to Jon may not be a possibility.
Another option would be that Benjen knew Bran's path would lead to uncovering the truth, and his action of saving him kept those chain of events alive. That would also explain why the Children of the Forest saved Benjen; so he could be in the right place at the right time.
An Excruciating Finale
Either way, like distant objects slowly solidifying on an expansive horizon, the individual pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are beginning to formulate. To save the world from the White Walkers, it's looking more likely that Jon Snow will need to be informed of R+L=J to set off the snowball effect (possibly leading to him falling in love with Daenerys, and then possibly leading to her sacrifice, *sad face*).
Time to take a deep breath, for the next two seasons are shaping up to be intense. We can cling on to one glimmer of hope; GRRM has promised a bittersweet ending, and he's known for taking it easy on followers of the series, and giving us exactly what we want...
Do you think Benjen will be the person to reveal R+L=J? Or is his job in the bigger picture complete?
All images credited to HBO