(Warning: The following contains potential SPOILERS for Game of Thrones season seven, as well as some discussion of the events of the recently concluded sixth season of the show. Proceed with whatever level of caution your friendly neighborhood Three-Eyed Raven suggests to you is wise...)
Now, there are a whole lot of things George R.R. Martin is great at - writing world-entrancing fantasy novels, writing screenplays for the TV adaptation of said novels, taking his sweet time about whatever he damn well feels like - but it seems that his most greatest skill may in fact be something far more subtle. Y'see, as it turns out, Martin hasn't just been threading carefully thought out plot twists into his A Song of Ice and Fire novels (which have latterly become HBO's Game of Thrones) since he first began writing them - he's been subtly teasing them in public, too. Specifically...
It Seems George R.R. Martin Subtly Confirmed Jon Snow's Parentage... Back In 2002
Or, to be more precise, Martin seems to have subtly confirmed that - as viewers of Game of Thrones' season six finale now know - Ned Stark isn't, in fact, Jon Snow's father. The reason that's vaguely shocking? He did so way back in 2002, during a Q&A session with fans.
Recently uncovered by intrepid Redditor DeadHopesAndDreams, Martin's answer to the question "Since all of their mothers died, who gave Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, and Tyrion Lannister their names?" is, as it turns out, hugely revealing:
"Mothers can name a child before birth, or during, or after, even while they are dying. Dany was most like [sic] named by her mother, Tyrion by his father, Jon by Ned."
The reason that's so notable? While he argues that Daenerys and Tyrion were likely named by their mother and father respectively - Jon was instead named by 'Ned'. Who, we now know - and Martin very much knew then - is not, in fact, Jon's father.
Which, as well as being a magnificently sneaky move on Martin's part, also just so happens to connect with a pretty big question currently making its way around the internet:
Just What Is Jon Snow's Real Name, Anyway?
After all, not only is he potentially not a Snow at all, but Lyanna's whispered words to Ned in the season six finale sure did seem to suggest that his first name isn't actually Jon, either (at around about the 3:47 mark in the video below):
Now, exactly what that makes Jon's real name seems set to remain a mystery until next season - with current theories suggesting the likes of Jaeherys, Aerys, Rheagar and Aegon, among others - but one thing seems for sure: You can bet that George R.R. Martin is going to turn out to have teased it somewhere...