Eddard + Wylla = Jon

Ned Stark as Jon’s father
By: Markg171

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The Starks were not like other men. Ned brought his bastard home with him, and called him “son” for all the north to see.

As most know, the books and GRRM have been telling us for 20 years that Ned Stark is Jon Snow’s father, but still there have been doubters. The purpose of this essay will be thus to examine Ned Stark as a possible father for Jon Snow. This will be done by first examining Ned Stark’s reputation as an honourable man who therefore would not lie about having fathered Jon. The paper will then examine Jon Snow’s looks as evidence for Ned Stark being his father and of the story Ned weaves to explain Jon. Following this, the paper will examine Ned’s curious (or rather not so curious) “Jon is my blood” and not “Jon is my son” line to Catelyn in the early days of their marriage, before moving on to examine Bran’s weirwood vision of a younger Ned praying for two people to “grow close as brothers”, and an examination of Jon possessing a direwolf. Then the paper will examine why Ned never told his family who Jon’s mother was, before once again examining Jon’s looks and how they relate to what I call “the bastard look”. Then finally the paper will examine the truths hidden in the faces of children, of which the only truth that can be found is that Jon is Ned’s son. Finally, the essay will finish off with a brief summary of the essay’s major arguments and then some brief parting remarks.

The Honourable Ned Stark says so

I knew Ned Stark as well. Your father was no friend of mine, but only a fool would doubt his honor or his honesty.

Ned Stark was considered by many to be one of the most honourable men in the Seven Kingdoms during his lifetime. When Ned said he would do something, he went through with it to the bitter end.

You are an honest and honourable man, Lord Eddard. Ofttimes I forget that. I have met so few of them in my life… When I see what honesty and honor have won you, I understand why.

This is the man whose sense of honour demanded that he tell Cersei Lannister to flee with her children as he planned to tell Robert that Cersei had swindled him and the realm for all these years.

“For a start,” said Ned, “I do not kill children. You would do well to listen, my lady. I shall say this only once. When the king returns from his hunt, I intend to lay the truth before him. You must be gone by then. You and your children, all three, and not to Casterly Rock. If I were you, I should take ship for the Free Cities, or even farther, to the Summer Isles or the Port of Ibben. As far as the winds blow.”
“Exile,” she said. “A bitter cup to drink from.”
“A sweeter cup than your father served Rhaegar’s children,” Ned said, “and kinder than you deserve. Your father and your brothers would do well to go with you. Lord Tywin’s gold will buy you comfort and hire swords to keep you safe. You shall need them. I promise you, no matter where you flee, Robert’s wrath will follow you, to the back of beyond if need be.”

So if honourable Ned Stark says that he fathered Jon Snow, then his character lends enormous credit that he is not lying.
But of course, the very fact that Ned is such an honourable man makes it unlikely that he’d have cheated on Catelyn, which is what he says that he did when he fathered Jon.

Ned’s mouth tightened in anger. “Nor will I. Leave it be, Robert, for the love you say you bear me. I dishonored myself and I dishonored Catelyn, in the sight of gods and men.”
“Gods have mercy, you scarcely knew Catelyn.”
“I had taken her to wife. She was carrying my child.”

He’d agreed to take Catelyn as his wife, and for an honourable man, that would mean forswearing other women. So it would seem out of character that this honourable man broke his vows to Catelyn to father Jon, so perhaps he’s lying. But, as Ned’s best friend tells us repeatedly, Ned Stark couldn’t lie for shit.

Robert slapped Ned on the back. “Ah, say that I’m a better king than Aerys and be done with it. You never could lie for love nor honor, Ned Stark. I’m still young, and now that you’re here with me, things will be different. We’ll make this a reign to sing of, and damn the Lannisters to seven hells. I smell bacon. Who do you think our champion will be today? Have you seen Mace Tyrell’s boy? The Knight of Flowers, they call him. Now there’s a son any man would be proud to own to. Last tourney, he dumped the Kingslayer on his golden rump, you ought to have seen the look on Cersei’s face. I laughed till my sides hurt. Renly says he has this sister, a maid of fourteen, lovely as a dawn…”
Robert took his hand, fingers squeezing hard. “You are… such a bad liar, Ned Stark,” he said through his pain. “The realm… the realm knows… what a wretched king I’ve been. Bad as Aerys, the gods spare me.”

As Ned’s best friend, Robert was one of the people most attuned to Ned’s personality and characteristics. On multiple occasions he’s able to note when Ned’s lying to him in AGOT, and the first quote shows that he’s very familiar with Ned’s attempts at lying throughout their life, and has always been able to detect when Ned lies. Yet Robert never detects any hint of a lie regarding Ned’s story of fathering Jon on a common girl named Wylla.

“You are too hard on yourself, Ned. You always were. Damn it, no woman wants Baelor the Blessed in her bed.” He slapped a hand on his knee. “Well, I’ll not press you if you feel so strong about it, though I swear, at times you’re so prickly you ought to take the hedgehog as your sigil.”

He’s confused that 15 years later Ned is still beating himself up over the fact that he had cheated on a woman he barely knew, but other than that he doesn’t pick up on any hint that Ned is lying to him when Ned says that Wylla is Jon’s mother. And it’s not just that Ned would have had to have sneaked a lie past Robert once regarding Wylla and Jon.

“You were never the boy you were,” Robert grumbled. “More’s the pity. And yet there was that one time… what was her name, that common girl of yours? Becca? No, she was one of mine, gods love her, black hair and these sweet big eyes, you could drown in them. Yours was… Aleena? No. You told me once. Was it Merryl? You know the one I mean, your bastard’s mother?”
“Her name was Wylla,” Ned replied with cool courtesy, “and I would sooner not speak of her.”
“Wylla. Yes.” The king grinned. “She must have been a rare wench if she could make Lord Eddard Stark forget his honor, even for an hour. You never told me what she looked like…”

Ned has told Robert before that Wylla is Jon’s mother as Robert remembers her name. They’ve had this conversation at least once before, and Robert has never detected any lie in Ned’s voice, despite being very familiar with how Ned lies. Which is peculiar if Ned is indeed lying. Either Robert isn’t as good at detecting when Ned lies as we are told, or Ned is not lying.

Other than Robert not picking up on Ned possibly lying to him regarding Jon Snow’s mother, there’s a few other clues that make it unlikely that Ned is lying when he says that he is Jon’s father.

First of all, Edric Dayne, the Lord of Starfall in faraway Dorne, confirms Ned’s tale.

“My lady?” Ned said at last. “You have a baseborn brother… Jon Snow?”
“He’s with the Night’s Watch on the Wall.” Maybe I should go to the Wall instead of Riverrun. Jon wouldn’t care who I killed or whether I brushed my hair… “Jon looks like me, even though he’s bastard-born. He used to muss my hair and call me ‘little sister. “‘Arya missed Jon most of all. Just saying his name made her sad. “How do you know about Jon?”
“He is my milk brother.”
“Brother?” Arya did not understand. “But you’re from Dorne. How could you and Jon be blood?”
“Milk brothers. Not blood. My lady mother had no milk when I was little, so Wylla had to nurse me.”
Arya was lost. “Who’s Wylla?”
“Jon Snow’s mother. He never told you? She’s served us for years and years. Since before I was born.”

We learn that Wylla is indeed a real person, and that she currently serves House Dayne in Dorne, where presumably she is telling the exact same story as Ned for Edric to believe that she is Jon Snow’s mother. Or at the very least, if not Wylla, then someone in House Dayne is repeating the same story as Ned regarding Jon’s parentage and Wylla’s role as Jon’s mother. Regardless, Ned’s is a tale that’s verified by other people as it’s the same story being told in far away Dorne. That makes Ned Stark, Robert Baratheon, Edric Dayne, and Wylla all saying that Jon’s parents are Ned Stark and Wylla.

Some might argue however that Wylla is an impossible mother for Jon as she lives in Dorne and Ned never travelled there in the right timeline for Jon to be “off an age with Robb”. But note that Edric never says in the above quote that Wylla was serving the Dayne’s during the Rebellion. Simply that she’s been serving the Daynes since before Edric was born, which is years after the Rebellion. So Wylla is perfectly capable of having been some chance encounter on the road, as we simply have no idea where she was before she began serving the Daynes in Starfall, or when she began serving them. Furthermore, not only is Ned’s explanation for fathering Jon Snow being verified and repeated by other people literally across the country, we also never hear of anybody doubting it.

Part of this is potentially due to Ned’s honourable reputation (and therefore if he says he fathered Jon then he did), but no one ever wonders that Jon might not have been Ned’s. Jon is obviously at least half Stark, but no one ever thinks that Jon might have been Brandon’s, Benjen’s, Rickard’s, or even Lyanna’s who was supposedly being raped hundreds of times by Rhaegar during the war. With all these Starks who could have supplied Jon with his Stark blood, why does no one ever question if Jon is one of theirs instead of Ned’s? Simple plot device by GRRM? Or is it simply that people have investigated, and not found anything that could indicate that Jon is not Ned’s? Surely guys like Varys and Littlefinger dug up every ounce of information they could find as knowledge is power to men like them, but nope. Everyone seems to be entirely convinced that Jon is indeed Ned’s son. So either Ned has hidden the truth so well that not even masters of secrets like Varys and Littlefinger could find it, or they never tried, or there’s nothing to find as Ned is indeed Jon’s father.

Next though, this paper will examine Jon Snow’s looks and how they help us identify Ned as his father.

The Starkest Stark

Riding through the rainy night, Ned saw Jon Snow’s face in front of him, so like a younger version of his own.

It is repeatedly, and I mean repeatedly stated, that Jon looks incredibly like Ned. Qhorin, Cersei, Catelyn, Ned, Tyrion, Stannis and numerous others all say that Jon looks like Ned.

The ranger gave his horse into the care of one of his men and followed. “You are Jon Snow. You have your father’s look.”
“Did you know him, my lord?”
“I am no lordling. Only a brother of the Night’s Watch. I knew Lord Eddard, yes. And his father before him.”
“The brothers of the Night’s Watch have taken leave of their wits and chosen Ned Stark’s bastard son to be their Lord Commander.”
“Snow, the boy is called,” Pycelle said unhelpfully.
“I glimpsed him once at Winterfell,” the queen said, “though the Starks did their best to hide him. He looks very like his father.”
Jon was never out of sight, and as he grew, he looked more like Ned than any of the trueborn sons she bore him.
“Lord Eddard Stark is my father,” Jon admitted stiffly.
Lannister studied his face. “Yes,” he said. “I can see it. You have more of the north in you than your brothers.”
Stannis snorted. “I know Janos Slynt. And I knew Ned Stark as well. Your father was no friend of mine, but only a fool would doubt his honor or his honesty. You have his look.”

Obviously the Starks have a recognizable family look, but this goes beyond that. People are saying he looks specifically like Ned, which is very important for judging if Ned is Jon’s father, as Ned looked different than Rickard, Brandon, Lyanna, and Benjen.

She remembered her own childish disappointment, the first time she had laid eyes on Eddard Stark. She had pictured him as a younger version of his brother Brandon, but that was wrong. Ned was shorter and plainer of face, and so somber.
“She was more beautiful than that,” the king said after a silence. His eyes lingered on Lyanna’s face, as if he could will her back to life.

His uncle was sharp-featured and gaunt as a mountain crag, but there was always a hint of laughter in his blue-grey eyes.
There were three tombs, side by side. Lord Rickard Stark, Ned’s father, had a long, stern face. The stonemason had known him well. He sat with quiet dignity, stone fingers holding tight to the sword across his lap, but in life all swords had failed him.

Catelyn notes that Ned wasn’t as handsome as his brother Brandon, Robert (and a few others) tell us that Lyanna was beautiful (and therefore not plain looking like Ned), Benjen was sharp-featured and gaunt, and Rickard had a long stern face. Ned therefore has a distinct look from his family and if Jon looks like Ned so much so that people comment on that fact so often, than we can reasonably conclude that he does not just look like a Stark in general. He looks like Ned, and not Brandon, Lyanna, Benjen, or Rickard. As we all know it’s of course possible to have children who look like their aunts and uncles more so than their own parents, so it’s possible for Jon to still look incredibly like Ned if Ned was his uncle instead of his father, but it’s far more likely that one would look like a specific family member if they were directly related to them.

Which also ties into the fact that no one ever says that Jon looks like Brandon, Benjen, Lyanna, or Rickard. It’s only ever Ned who people say that Jon looks like in the Stark family tree. No one who ever knew the other Starks mention that Jon looks like any of them, which would be particularly odd if Jon was one of their children’s instead of Ned’s as he’d be more likely to look like them than Ned. There’s of course the fact that Arya and Jon apparently resemble each other as Arya has the Stark look, and Arya resembles Lyanna according to Ned so the argument might be there that Jon looks like Lyanna. But no, this is not true, because as noted above, Lyanna was noted to have been beautiful while Ned was plain looking. If Jon truly resembled Lyanna, he would be more handsome, and people would say that he looks like Brandon instead of Ned as Brandon was handsomer than Ned. Or they would simply say that Jon looks like Lyanna. But no, it’s always Ned that people say Jon looks like, even though many people knew the other Starks from Ned’s family and could say that Jon looked like one of them. They don’t, so Jon does not beyond the general Stark features. The resemblance between Arya and Jon is nothing more than the resemblance that they would have shared with any of Ned’s other children had they inherited the Stark look as well.

Jon grinned, reached over, and messed up her hair. Arya flushed. They had always been close. Jon had their father’s face, as she did. They were the only ones. Robb and Sansa and Bran and even little Rickon all took after the Tullys, with easy smiles and fire in their hair.
Sansa could never understand how two sisters, born only two years apart, could be so different. It would have been easier if Arya had been a bastard, like their half brother Jon. She even looked like Jon, with the long face and brown hair of the Starks, and nothing of their lady mother in her face or her coloring.

Which means it’s far more likely that Jon is Ned’s son, than any other Stark. Jon’s looks point to Ned as his parent.

Jon’s looks also potentially help support Ned and Edric’s story that Wylla is Jon’s mother.

“The deserter died bravely,” Robb said. He was big and broad and growing every day, with his mother’s coloring, the fair skin, red-brown hair, and blue eyes of the Tullys of Riverrun. “He had courage, at the least.”
“No,” Jon Snow said quietly. “It was not courage. This one was dead of fear. You could see it in his eyes, Stark.” Jon’s eyes were a grey so dark they seemed almost black, but there was little they did not see. He was of an age with Robb, but they did not look alike. Jon was slender where Robb was muscular, dark where Robb was fair, graceful and quick where his half brother was strong and fast.

Jon is noted to be “dark where Robb was fair” right after Robb was noted to have “fair skin”. This means that Jon has darker skin than Robb. As I pointed out already in this essay, we don’t actually know where Wylla is from, simply that she currently lives in Dorne. But if she lives in Dorne because she is Dornish, then the fact that Jon has dark skin supports the idea that Wylla is his mother as 2/3 Dornish have darker skin.

The salty Dornishmen were lithe and dark, with smooth olive skin and long black hair streaming in the wind. The sandy Dornishmen were even darker, their faces burned brown by the hot Dornish sun. They wound long bright scarfs around their helms to ward off sunstroke. The stony Dornishmen were biggest and fairest, sons of the Andals and the First Men, brownhaired or blond, with faces that freckled or burned in the sun instead of browning.

Assuming Wylla is Dornish, as long as she’s not a stony Dornishwomen, then she would have darker skin. Thus if her and Ned were to have a baby, then this child would have darker skin due to its mother having dark skin. Jon has dark skin, so the signs point to a Dornish woman or Summer Isle woman as his mother, and if Wylla is indeed Dornish, then this is another clue that Ned is indeed not lying when he says that he fathered Jon.

Which fits with the fact that 5/7 characters (Ned, Robert, Cersei, Catelyn, Edric Dayne, Godric Borrell, and Tyrion) who comment on Jon’s parentage possibly think that Jon’s mother was Dornish.

“Her name was Wylla,” Ned replied with cool courtesy, “and I would sooner not speak of her.”
“Wylla. Yes.” The king grinned. “She must have been a rare wench if she could make Lord Eddard Stark forget his honor, even for an hour. You never told me what she looked like…”
Arya was lost. “Who’s Wylla?”
“Jon Snow’s mother. He never told you? She’s served us for years and years. Since before I was born.”

Again, it’s unknown if Wylla is herself Dornish, but she does have a Dornish connection so it seems likely. But regardless, Ned, Robert, and Edric all say that Jon’s mother is Wylla. If she’s Dornish, then they’re saying that Jon has a Dornish mother.

The Lady Ashara Dayne, tall and fair, with haunting violet eyes. It had taken her a fortnight to marshal her courage, but finally, in bed one night, Catelyn had asked her husband the truth of it, asked him to his face.
“Honor, “she spat. “How dare you play the noble lord with me! What do you take me for? You’ve a bastard of your own, I’ve seen him. Who was the mother, I wonder? Some Dornish peasant you raped while her holdfast burned? A whore? Or was it the grieving sister, the Lady Ashara? She threw herself into the sea, I’m told. Why was that? For the brother you slew, or the child you stole? Tell me, my honorable Lord Eddard, how are you any different from Robert, or me, or Jaime?”

Catelyn and Cersei both think that Ashara Dayne is possibly Jon’s mother, and Ashara was Dornish, so they believe that Jon had a Dornish mother.

The boy absorbed that all in silence. He had the Stark face if not the name: long, solemn, guarded, a face that gave nothing away. Whoever his mother had been, she had left little of herself in her son.

Tyrion decides that he cannot see past Jon’s Stark features (and more accurately Ned’s features as should have been noted, Tyrion is one of the many who notes that Jon looks liked Ned) to guess at who Jon’s mother was.

“At the dawn of Robert’s Rebellion. The Mad King had sent to the Eyrie for Stark’s head, but Jon Arryn sent him back defiance. Gulltown stayed loyal to the throne, though. To get home and call his banners, Stark had to cross the mountains to the Fingers and find a fisherman to carry him across the Bite. A storm caught them on the way. The fisherman drowned, but his daughter got Stark to the Sisters before the boat went down. They say he left her with a bag of silver and a bastard in her belly. Jon Snow, she named him, after Arryn.

Godric Borrell believes that Jon’s mother was a woman from the Vale, but he has never seen Jon Snow before so he’s hardly reliable for discussing Jon’s features, nor does he ever mention them.

So, that makes 5 of 7 characters who guess at Jon’s mother thinking that she was Dornish. Therefore the majority of characters believe Jon to be of Dornish descent, and there must be a reason for this, otherwise they wouldn’t believe this. Jon therefore potentially has some Dornish features otherwise people wouldn’t believe that he had a Dornish mother. We see that he has dark skin which lends credence to the idea that his mother was Dornish as the Dornish have dark skin, and again, assuming that Wylla is indeed Dornish, then Ned’s story is all adding up to point to him and Wylla being Jon’s parents. Ned and a Dornish woman would make a child who looks like Jon does.

Next this essay will discuss the fact that Ned tells Catelyn that Jon is his blood, and not his son.

The blood of the Stark: Ned’s not so curious choice of phrase when asserting that Jon is his blood

That was the only time in all their years that Ned had ever frightened her. “Never ask me about Jon,” he said, cold as ice. “He is my blood, and that is all you need to know.”

While many might see this as Ned refusing to call Jon his son by instead calling him his blood, this is not so. Calling someone your blood can indeed mean that you are related to them as you share the same blood, but it does refer to your children as well. In fact, that is what it is mainly used to indicate when someone says that someone is their blood in the North.

“Then let Lord Hornwood’s bastard be the heir,” Bran said, thinking of his half brother Jon.
Ser Rodrik said, “That would please the Glovers, and perhaps Lord Hornwood’s shade as well, but I do not think Lady Hornwood would love us. The boy is not of her blood.”

Ser Rodrik calls Lord Hornwood’s bastard his blood, but not Lady Hornwood’s seeing as he was only Lord Hornwood’s child. This though indicates that calling Lord Hornwood’s bastard his blood indeed indicates that he is his son.

Once, when she was littler, Sansa had even asked Mother if perhaps there hadn’t been some mistake. Perhaps the grumkins had stolen her real sister. But Mother had only laughed and said no, Arya was her daughter and Sansa’s trueborn sister, blood of their blood.

Catelyn calls Arya her blood to indicate that she’s her daughter.

Mormont grumbled. “That’s all they’re good for, ravens. Why I put up with that pestilential bird… if there was news of Lord Eddard, don’t you think I would have sent for you? Bastard or no, you’re still his blood.

Mormont says that as Eddard’s bastard, Jon is his blood. Therefore calling someone your blood can mean calling them your son. And note that this is the second instance that when discussing a person’s bastard that they are called their father’s blood and not their son in the North as both Jeor Mormont and Ser Rodrik Cassel have now done so. Perhaps that’s the norm to indicate that a bastard is someone’s son?

“They will garb your brother Robb in silks, satins, and velvets of a hundred different colors, while you live and die in black ringmail. He will wed some beautiful princess and father sons on her. You’ll have no wife, nor will you ever hold a child of your own blood in your arms.

Mormont says that Jon will never hold a child of his own blood in his own arms, therefore any son of Jon’s could have been called his blood. Interestingly, this quote also implies that if Jon holds any child of Robb’s, he will not be holding a child of his blood. Therefore when Ned says that Jon is his blood, according to this, he cannot be talking about anybody other than his own child.

I would need to steal her if I wanted her love, but she might give me children. I might someday hold a son of my own blood in my arms.

Jon calls a child of his and Val’s a son of his own blood, thus the child would be his blood, and not any of his other sibling’s blood. Thus my own blood indicates someone who is solely your own blood.

So when Ned called Jon his blood instead of his son to Catelyn, he never said that Jon wasn’t his son. In fact, as these quotes all show, that’s exactly what “my blood” indicates Jon is: Ned’s son. Ned calling Jon his blood did mean that he was calling him his son. He wasn’t avoiding calling Jon his son at all. And besides, Ned does call Jon his son in some of the very first pages of AGOT.

That was when Jon reappeared on the crest of the hill before them. He waved and shouted down at them. “Father, Bran, come quickly, see what Robb has found!” Then he was gone again.
Jory rode up beside them. “Trouble, my lord?”
“Beyond a doubt,” his lord father said. “Come, let us see what mischief my sons have rooted out now.” He sent his horse into a trot. Jory and Bran and the rest came after.
They found Robb on the riverbank north of the bridge, with Jon still mounted beside him.

Ned never avoided saying that Jon is his son.

Next this essay will examine Bran’s weirwood vision of a young Ned Stark.

The Truth in The Trees

… but then somehow he was back at Winterfell again, in the gods-wood looking down upon his father. Lord Eddard seemed much younger this time. His hair was brown, with no hint of grey in it, his head bowed. “… let them grow up close as brothers, with only love between them,” he prayed, “and let my lady wife find it in her heart to forgive …”

While many point to this as definite proof that Jon is not Ned’s son, this text is actually far more ambiguous and indeed works perfectly well as showcasing that Jon is indeed Ned’s son. Bran sees Ned asking for two people to grow up close as brothers, and this works perfectly well for Jon and Robb as Jon is not Robb’s brother. He’s his half-brother. Ned asking for them to grow up like brothers implies that he wants them to focus on their similarity, i.e. their shared father, and not their differences, i.e. their different mothers. There need be no hidden meaning behind Ned not saying that Jon and Robb, if that’s who he was discussing, are not brothers, when they are indeed not brothers.

Furthermore, we actually have no idea if Ned is even talking about Jon and Robb here. Ned Stark wants two people to grow up like brothers, but it never says that he wants Jon and Robb to grow up like brothers. A very real possibility is that Ned could be talking about Theon and Robb, who we see did in fact grow very close together. Theon initially says that the Starks didn’t treat him well, but then in Dance says that Ned was a father to him, and certainly Ned never made any attempt not to let Theon grow close to Robb. It seems like he actually encouraged a friendship between Robb and Theon, otherwise why else bring Theon to execute Gared, why bring Theon on hunts with Robb, why have Rodrik train Theon when Rodrik was training Robb and Jon, etc. Ned did clearly did want Theon and Robb to grow up like brothers, and they definitely were not brothers, so they fit about who Ned might be talking about “growing up as close as brothers”.

And finally, the vision says that Ned looks younger, but never how young. Presumably Ned was around 20-21 when he brought Jon back, and 26 when he brought Theon back. In both instances Ned would indeed look much younger than how Bran last saw him at 35 years old, so the timeframe works for both instances. And in both instances, seeing as Ned never consulted Catelyn either time he brought Jon or Theon home, he would indeed need to ask her for forgiveness. The point being though is that the vision is not conclusive about exactly who Ned is talking about, and more importantly, does not automatically indicate that Jon is not Ned’s son.

Next this essay will discuss the importance of Jon’s direwolf Ghost.

Part of the Pack – The Wolves of Ned

Catelyn remembered the day when her boys had found the pups in the late summer snows. There had been five, three male and two female for the five trueborn children of House Stark… and a sixth, white of fur and red of eye, for Ned’s bastard son Jon Snow

At the start of AGOT, the 6 children happen to find 6 direwolf pups. All of the direwolves correspond exactly to the sexes of the children of Ned, and all reflect their owners. In short, they all deeply represent the children, and all of these children happen to be Ned’s. So the fact that Jon also received a direwolf, who mirrors the others in that it is both male and bonds with Jon, indicates that Jon is also a son of Ned’s.

There is an argument to be made that possibly one need not be a child of Ned’s to have received a direwolf. But, I think this argument is flawed, as it seems likely that there are other Stark bastards running about other than Jon.

“You are a boy of fourteen,” Benjen said. “Not a man, not yet. Until you have known a woman, you cannot understand what you would be giving up.”
“I don’t care about that!” Jon said hotly.
“You might, if you knew what it meant,” Benjen said. “If you knew what the oath would cost you, you might be less eager to pay the price, son.”
Jon felt anger rise inside him. “I’m not your son!”
Benjen Stark stood up. “More’s the pity.” He put a hand on Jon’s shoulder. “Come back to me after you’ve fathered a few bastards of your own, and we’ll see how you feel.”
Brandon died before he had sons

It’d be an exaggeration to say that Brandon died before he could have children. It’s established in the books that he was no virgin. He could very well have left behind some little Snows in the various places he visited. But what’s absolutely clear is that he had no legitimate children.


Benjen implies that he’s slept with a woman and fathered a few bastards, and the SSM implies that Brandon fathered some daughters, or that he died before his son was born, but that he “very well” could have fathered some bastards. Of course there’s no definitive proof that Benjen and Brandon had any bastards, but if Benjen and Brandon’s bastards did not receive a direwolf (at least we’ve never heard of them receiving such, and these are the first direwolves in 200 years so it’s doubtful that they did), then it’s awfully convenient that only Jon, out of all the Stark descendants who are not Ned’s, received a direwolf. It seems far more likely that only Ned’s kids received direwolves, and therefore Jon must be Ned’s son.

Next, this essay will examine why Ned never told his family who Jon’s mother was.

The Silent Bond

Ned would not speak of the mother, not so much as a word, but a castle has no secrets, and Catelyn heard her maids repeating tales they heard from the lips of her husband’s soldiers. They whispered of Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, deadliest of the seven knights of Aerys’s Kingsguard, and of how their young lord had slain him in single combat. And they told how afterward Ned had carried Ser Arthur’s sword back to the beautiful young sister who awaited him in a castle called Starfall on the shores of the Summer Sea. The Lady Ashara Dayne, tall and fair, with haunting violet eyes. It had taken her a fortnight to marshal her courage, but finally, in bed one night, Catelyn had asked her husband the truth of it, asked him to his face.
That was the only time in all their years that Ned had ever frightened her. “Never ask me about Jon,” he said, cold as ice. “He is my blood, and that is all you need to know. And now I will learn where you heard that name, my lady.” She had pledged to obey; she told him; and from that day on, the whispering had stopped, and Ashara Dayne’s name was never heard in Winterfell again.

The interesting bit here is that Ned wouldn’t speak of who Jon’s mother was when he initially moved in with Catelyn. Not necessarily that he wouldn’t speak of her at all, or might not have spoken of her should anybody have asked him as the years passed. He only refused to answer the question then and there, and then seemingly never went out of his way to talk about it himself over the years.

Even his own mother had not had a place for him. The thought of her made him sad. He wondered who she had been, what she had looked like, why his father had left her. Because she was a whore or an adulteress, fool. Something dark and dishonorable, or else why was Lord Eddard too ashamed to speak of her?
“Jon never knew his mother. Not even her name.” Arya gave Ned a wary look. “You know her? Truly?”

We have no other reference to Ned refusing to tell his family who Jon’s mother was other than Catelyn’s, as far as I am aware. He simply didn’t talk about it, not that he refused to talk about it when questioned and was actively ignoring his family’s questions surrounding Jon’s mother.

And while many would say that Ned actively tried to keep Jon’s parentage a secret because of the Catelyn quote where he silenced all talks of Ashara, this is not true.

Sansa could never understand how two sisters, born only two years apart, could be so different. It would have been easier if Arya had been a bastard, like their half brother Jon. She even looked like Jon, with the long face and brown hair of the Starks, and nothing of their lady mother in her face or her coloring. And Jon’s mother had been common, or so people whispered. Once, when she was littler, Sansa had even asked Mother if perhaps there hadn’t been some mistake. Perhaps the grumkins had stolen her real sister. But Mother had only laughed and said no, Arya was her daughter and Sansa’s trueborn sister, blood of their blood. Sansa could not think why Mother would want to lie about it, so she supposed it had to be true.

Sansa tells us that there were rumours in Winterfell that Jon’s mother was common born. So clearly Ned was not stopping talks regarding Jon’s mother, otherwise Sansa would never have heard this rumour. All we actually know, is that Ned didn’t allow talks of Ashara Dayne in Winterfell. And Robert and Edric tell us that Wylla was indeed common born, which is what the rumours in Winterfell repeat. So Ned allowed the rumours that were true to percolate, but he would not allow people to believe that Ashara was Jon’s mother. This is likely because if Ashara was not Jon’s mother, than it was a slight on her honour to say that she’d birthed Jon when she did not. Regardless though, Ned clearly was not going out of his way to end talks of who Jon’s mother was in Winterfell, as we see that he let these rumours stand.

Also, let’s say that he did refuse to answer the questions his family were asking. It’s not as though it wouldn’t make sense. Telling his family who he cheated on his wife with would just serve to drive a wedge in the family. It would alienate Catelyn, and it would cause the children to focus on the fact that they were different, instead of similar. And we know that that is definitely not what Ned wanted.

Benjen Stark gave Jon a long look. “Don’t you usually eat at table with your brothers?”
“Most times”
Jon swelled with pride. “Robb is a stronger lance than I am, but I’m the better sword, and Hullen says I sit a horse as well as anyone in the castle.”
She was looking at him the way she used to look at him at Winterfell, whenever he had bested Robb at swords or sums or most anything.

We see that Ned went out of his way to include Jon in the family. He made him eat with his trueborn children, he had him trained with Robb, he had him educated with Robb, etc. Ned wanted to unite his family, and went out of his way to do so, so there’s no reason why he should have actively gone out of his way to drive wedges into what he was trying to accomplish, which is what telling everyone who Jon’s mother would do. Better to let it be a mystery and let everyone focus on the fact that they all share him in common.

“When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.”

Next this essay will once again take a look at Jon’s features, but this time it will do so in the context of the other bastards found within the story, and in doing so showcase that there is something called “the bastard look” in the series which serves to prove that Jon is Eddard’s son.

The Bastard Look

Her hair was gold as well, and her eyes were deep blue pools . . . and yet somehow they reminded the captain of her father’s eyes, though Oberyn’s had been as black as night. All of Prince Oberyn’s daughters have his viper eyes, Hotah realized suddenly. The color does not matter.

We see repeatedly throughout the novels bastards who look like their fathers in some way. When GRRM describes both the bastard and the father, there is repeatedly some aspect of the father’s features in the bastard. I call this “the bastard look”.

Here is every bastard I could find, where there is a description of both the father and the bastard, who has “the bastard look”.


The ranger gave his horse into the care of one of his men and followed. “You are Jon Snow. You have your father’s look.”

Robert’s bastards

“You brought my uncle Stannis fish to eat before I was born, when Lord Tyrell had him under siege.” The boy drew himself up tall. “I am Edric Storm,” he announced. “King Robert’s son.”
Of course you are.” Davos had known that almost at once. The lad had the prominent ears of a Florent, but the hair, the eyes, the jaw, the cheekbones, those were all Baratheon.

Jaime Lannister’s bastards

After them came the children. Little Rickon first, managing the long walk with all the dignity a three-year-old could muster. Jon had to urge him on when he stopped to visit. Close behind came Robb, in grey wool trimmed with white, the Stark colors. He had the Princess Myrcella on his arm. She was a wisp of a girl, not quite eight, her hair a cascade of golden curls under a jeweled net. Jon noticed the shy looks she gave Robb as they passed between the tables and the timid way she smiled at him. He decided she was insipid. Robb didn’t even have the sense to realize how stupid she was; he was grinning like a fool.
His half sisters escorted the royal princes. Arya was paired with plump young Tommen, whose white-blond hair was longer than hers. Sansa, two years older, drew the crown prince, Joffrey Baratheon. He was twelve, younger than Jon or Robb, but taller than either, to Jon’s vast dismay.Prince Joffrey had his sister’s hair and his mother’s deep green eyes. A thick tangle of blond curls dripped down past his golden choker and high velvet collar. Sansa looked radiant as she walked beside him, but Jon did not like Joffrey’s pouty lips or the bored, disdainful way he looked at Winterfell’s Great Hall.
He was more interested in the pair that came behind him: the queen’s brothers, the Lannisters of Casterly Rock. The Lion and the Imp; there was no mistaking which was which. Ser Jaime Lannister was twin to Queen Cersei; tall and golden, with flashing green eyes and a smile that cut like a knife. He wore crimson silk, high black boots, a black satin cloak. On the breast of his tunic, the lion of his House was embroidered in gold thread, roaring its defiance. They called him the Lion of Lannister to his face and whispered “Kingslayer” behind his back.


“A year later this same wench had the impudence to turn up at the Dreadfort with a squalling, red-faced monster that she claimed was my own get. I should’ve had the mother whipped and thrown her child down a well … but the babe did have my eyes. She told me that when her dead husband’s brother saw those eyes, he beat her bloody and drove her from the mill. That annoyed me, so I gave her the mill and had the brother’s tongue cut out, to make certain he did not go running to Winterfell with tales that might disturb Lord Rickard. Each year I sent the woman some piglets and chickens and a bag of stars, on the understanding that she was never to tell the boy who had fathered him. A peaceful land, a quiet people, that has always been my rule.”

The Sand Snakes

Her hair was gold as well, and her eyes were deep blue pools . . . and yet somehow they reminded the captain of her father’s eyes, though Oberyn’s had been as black as night. All of Prince Oberyn’s daughters have his viper eyes, Hotah realized suddenly. The color does not matter.


His real name was Aegor Rivers, and he was the natural son of King Aegon IV by his fifth mistress, Lady Barba Bracken. Younger than Daemon Blackfyre, older than Bloodraven. Bittersteel was also a warrior, and looked the part. He was only half Tagaryen, so he got the purple eyes, but his hair was black. As a adult he wore a beard, cropped very short, little more than a shadow on his face and jaws. Somewhat of a Conanesque look to him, but not the Frank Frazetta Conan and definitely not the Arnold Conan, more the Barry Windsor-Smith version, or the one described by REH — he is tall and well made, but lean and lithe as a panther. And angry. No smiles here. Bittersteel was pissed off all his life, and had a special loathing for Bloodraven and his mother, who had displayed his own mother as the king’s favorite.

Daemon Blackfyre

Targaryen on both side, Daemon had all the hallmarks of his house; the silver-gold hair, the deep purple eyes, fine features of almost inhuman beauty. Daemon’s friends and supporters often remarked on how much he resembled Aegon the Conquerer (or at least his likeness, since none of them had ever seen Aegon in the flesh), and indeed there was a certain similarlity, though Daemon wore his hair long, flowing down to his shoulders in a silvery-gold mane. He went clean-shaved, with neither beard nor mustache. Daemon looks every inch the warrior; broad shoulders, big arms, a flat stomach, but he was also a man of considerable charm. I’d give him a warm smile. He made friends easily, and women were drawn to him as well.

Shiera Seastar

Shiera was born with one dark blue eye and one bright green one, but the singers said that this flaw only accentuated her loveliness. She was the greatest beauty of her age, a slender and elegant woman, slim of waist and full of breast. She had the silver-gold hair of the Targaryens, thick and curling, and wore it very long. At some points in her life it fell well below her waist, almost to the back of her knees. She had a heart-shaped face, full lips, and her mismatched eyes were strangely large and full of mischief; her rivals said she used them to melt men’s hearts. Even at an early age, she was a great reader. She spoke a dozen tongues and surrounded herself with ancient scrolls. Like her mother, she was reputed to practice the dark arts. Though she never wed, she had many offers, and several lovers through the years. Duels were fought over the right to sit beside her, men killed themselves after falling from her favor, poets outdid each other writing songs about her beauty. Her most ardent admirer was her half-brother, Bloodraven, who proposed marriage to her half a hundred times. Shiera gave him her bed, but never her hand. It amused her more to make him jealous.

Walder Rivers

If Robb seemed cool at table and Edmure surly, Lame Lothar made up for them both. He was the model of courtesy, reminiscing warmly about Lord Hoster, offering Catelyn gentle condolences on the loss of Bran and Rickon, praising Edmure for the victory at Stone Mill, and thanking Robb for the “swift sure justice” he had meted out to Rickard Karstark. Lothar’s bastard brother Walder Rivers was another matter; a harsh sour man with old Lord Walder’s suspicious face, he spoke but seldom and devoted most of his attention to the meat and mead that was set before him.

Donnel Hill

Of the dozen odd brothers who sat by the fire, four were his. He gave each one a hard squinty look as he ate, to see if any showed signs of breaking. Dirk seemed calm enough, sitting silent and sharpening his blade, the way he did every night. And Sweet Donnel Hill was all easy japes. He had white teeth and fat red lips and yellow locks that he wore in an artful tumble about his shoulders, and he claimed to be the bastard of some Lannister. Maybe he was at that. Chett had no use for pretty boys, nor for bastards neither, but Sweet Donnel seemed like to hold his own.

Aurane Waters

Margaery was dancing with her cousin Alla, Megga with Ser Tallad the Tall. The other cousin, Elinor, was sharing a cup of wine with the handsome young Bastard of Driftmark, Aurane Waters. It was not the first time the queen had made note of Waters, a lean young man with grey-green eyes and long silver-gold hair. The first time she had seen him, for half a heartbeat she had almost thought Rhaegar Targaryen had returned from the ashes. It is his hair, she told herself. He is not half as comely as Rhaegar was. His face is too narrow, and he has that cleft in his chin. The Velaryons came from old Valyrian stock, however, and some had the same silvery hair as the dragonkings of old.

Ronald Storm

By the time Connington made his descent, his men had gathered the castle garrison and surviving smallfolk together in the yard. Though Ser Ronnet was indeed off north somewhere with Jaime Lannister, Griffin’s Roost was not quite bereft of griffins. Amongst the prisoners were Ronnet’s younger brother Raymund, his sister Alynne, and his natural son, a fierce red-haired boy they called Ronald Storm. All would make for useful hostages if and when Red Ronnet should return to try and take back the castle that his father had stolen. Connington ordered them confined to the west tower, under guard. The girl began to cry at that, and the bastard boy tried to bite the spearman closest to him. “Stop it, the both of you,” he snapped at them. “No harm will come to any of you unless Red Ronnet proves an utter fool.”

While this is obviously not every single bastard that can found in ASOIAF, it is the list of every bastard who has a description of both themselves and their father, and there is a clear pattern that bastards can be identified by who their father was by their features as they have some aspect of their father’s features. Of the bastards I found while researching this part of the essay, where there were descriptions of their and their father’s features in the books to compare each other to, I found only TWO bastards, who DO NOTlook like their father in some way, and that’s Harry Rivers and Ser Glendon Flowers. Want to know what they both have in common however? People doubt that their fathers are actually who they claim they are.

Harry Rivers

Blackwood’s relief was palpable. “Thank you, my lord.” He hesitated a moment. “If I may be so bold, you would do well to require a hostage from Lord Jonos too. One of his daughters. For all his rutting, he has not proved man enough to father sons.”
“He had a bastard son killed in the war.”
Did he? Harry was a bastard, true enough, but whether Jonos sired him is a thornier question. A fair-haired boy, he was, and comely. Jonos is neither.” Lord Tytos got to his feet. “Will you do me the honor of taking supper with me?”

Ser Glendon Flowers

“Heroes.” Glendon Ball turned his shield about, so all of them could see the sigil painted there, a fireball blazing red and yellow across a night-black field. “I come from hero’s blood.”

“You’re Fireball’s son,” Egg said.

Ser Kyle the Cat studied the boy closely. “How can that be? How old are you? Quentyn Ball died—”

“—before I was born,” Ser Glendon finished, “but in me, he lives again.” He slammed his sword back into its scabbard. “I’ll show you all at Whitewalls, when I claim the dragon’s egg.”

The scorn in his voice made Dunk give the youth a closer look. Ser Glendon’s clothes were of good cloth, but well-worn and ill-matched, with the look of hand-me-downs. Tufts of dark brown hairstuck out from beneath his iron halfhelm. The lad himself was short and chunky, with small close-set eyes, thick shoulders, and muscular arms. His eyebrows were shaggy as two caterpillars after a wet spring, his nose bulbous, his chin pugnacious. And he was young. Sixteen, might be. No more than eighteen. Dunk might have taken him for a squire if Ser Kyle had not named him with a ser. The lad had pimples on his cheeks in place of whiskers.
Dunk scratched his neck again and glanced over at Ser Glendon Ball, who was tightening the cinches on his saddle as he waited for the ferry. That horse will never serve. Ser Glendon’s mount was a sway-backed stot, undersized and old. “What do you know about his sire? Why did they call him Fireball?”

“For his hot head and red hair. Ser Quentyn Ball was the master-at-arms at the Red Keep. He taught my father and my uncles how to fight. The Great Bastards too. King Aegon promised to raise him to the Kingsguard, so Fireball made his wife join the silent sisters, only by the time a place came open, King Aegon was dead and King Daeron named Ser Willam Wylde instead. My father says that it was Fireball as much as Bittersteel who convinced Daemon Blackfyre to claim the crown, and rescued him when Daeron sent the Kingsguard to arrest him. Later on, Fireball killed Lord Lefford at the gates of Lannisport and sent the Grey Lion running back to hide inside the Rock. At the crossing of the Mandel, he cut down the sons of Lady Penrose one by one. They say he spared the life of the youngest one as a kindness to his mother.”

Unless I’ve missed a bastard (and I used the wiki’s Notable Bastard section and looked over every bastard there plus all the others I could think of), Jon’s father pretty much needs to have been a male Stark as GRRM has always made his described bastards take after some aspect of their father’s features and Jon’s features are all Stark. It’s of course possible that Jon is the sole described bastard who’s inherited no features from his father (and thus Lyanna must be his mother for him to look like a Stark), but that seems quite unlikely to me. GRRM has created “the bastard look” which seemingly always showcases the father’s features in some way in their bastard and Jon’s features are all the same features that his father possesses.

Next this essay will examine the truth hidden behind the faces of children to slam home that not only does Jon have “the bastard look”, but his bastard look points to a specific Stark as his father.

The Truth in the Faces of Children

How could they have all been so blind? The truth was there in front of them all the time, written on the children’s faces. Ned felt sick.

While many fans believe that Jon is in fact not the child of Ned, one has to then wonder how that assumption can ever stand in the face of the above quote. Ned is sickened to learn that Cersei has managed to pass off Jaime’s children as Robert’s. Yet if Jon isn’t Ned’s, then that is exactly what Ned himself did by passing off Lyanna/Benjen/Brandon/Rickard’s child as his own all these years. He should be thinking about how he has done the same thing she did, but instead he’s horrified that Cersei not only passed off Jaime’s children as Robert’s, but that she did it so successfully and that someone should have noticed. If Jon isn’t Ned’s, then Ned did the exact same thing, yet he feels nothing but horror to find out that someone could have done such a thing.

And if Jon is Lyanna’s son as most fans seem to think, then the truth would have been written on his face all along like it’s written on Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen’s faces. While I personally do not subscribe to the popular fan held believe that Jon actually looks like Arya beyond that they both have the Stark look, and therefore anyone with the Stark look would look like Jon as well so Arya is not some special case of “real” similarities between their features, it is commonly held that because Arya is said to look like Lyanna, and that because Jon is said to look like Arya, then Jon also looks like Lyanna. So the truth would have been “there in front of them all the time, written on [Jon’s] face” if he was not Eddard’s son, in the same way that the truth is written on Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen’s faces that they are not Robert’s children.

Yet as I had previously explored in this essay, no one remarks upon how Jon looks like Lyanna, despite Jon encountering people who knew her in her lifetime. Yet with Joffrey and the others, people DO see the truth written on their faces. They look at the children and see who their parents truly are, even if they think they’re still Robert’s children.

“He is!” Sansa insisted. “I don’t want someone brave and gentle, I want him. We’ll be ever so happy, just like in the songs, you’ll see. I’ll give him a son with golden hair, and one day he’ll be the king of all the realm, the greatest king that ever was, as brave as the wolf and as proud as the lion.”

Arya made a face. “Not if Joffrey’s his father,” she said. “He’s a liar and a craven and anyhow he’s a stag, not a lion.”

Sansa felt tears in her eyes. “He is not! He’s not the least bit like that old drunken king,” she screamed at her sister, forgetting herself in her grief.

Sansa sees Joffrey and see’s nothing of his “father” the “stag” in him, only that he’s a “lion”. Which he is as he only has Lannister (lion) blood by being actually Jaime and Cersei’s child. But when people regard Jon, they see nothing of the she-wolf, or the wild wolf, or the young pup, or the elder wolf. They see only the quiet wolf when they look at Jon’s face. The truth is written on the faces of children, and that truth is that Jon is Ned’s son.


Before briefly concluding with some parting remarks, this essay will quickly go over the main arguments in this paper.

Ned Stark is one of the most honourable men in Westoros, but he’s also a terrible liar. Despite this, no one in story has ever doubted that he is Jon Snow’s father, and there are multiple people verifying his tale that he is Jon Snow’s father.

Further evidence that Jon is Ned’s son, is that he distinctly looks like Ned, who looked distinctly different than his siblings. Thus it seems far more likely that he is Ned’s son than any other Stark’s son. Furthermore, Ned’s explanation for who Jon’s mother was seemingly fits with the fact that Jon has dark skin as presumably Wylla is a Dornish woman as she is currently a Dornish servant.

Thirdly, Ned calling Jon his blood by no means meant that he was not calling Jon his son. Rodrick Cassel, Catelyn Tully, Jeor Mormont, and Jon Snow all use the notion of blood to denote someone’s child, thus when Ned says Jon is his blood, he is also calling him his son.

Fourthly, Bran’s weirwood vision does not indicate that Jon is not Ned’s son. Firstly, it’s unclear if Ned is even talking about Jon and Robb in that vision as he could be talking about Robb and Theon, but regardless, Jon is not actually Robb’s brother, Ned’s bastard or not. They are half brothers, and Ned is simply hoping that they will grow up as if they were full brothers.

Fifth, Jon Snow received a direwolf while every trueborn child of Ned and Catelyn’s did as well. Seeing as there is some evidence that there are other Stark bastards than just Jon, but none of them received direwolves seeing as the 6 pups and their mother are the first direwolves seen in 200 years, it seems likely that only Ned’s children received direwolves. Thus Jon is a son of Ned.

Sixth, Ned never ignored his family’s questions regarding Jon Snow’s mother. Rather it seems that he simply didn’t bring it up himself, and choose instead to try and unite his family around their similarities instead of their differences. Ned did not speak of Jon’s mother as to do so would create wedges in his family, which is something that we know that he did not want.

Seventh, GRRM has seemingly created a so called “bastard look” in his series where bastards always inherit some feature of their father. Seeing as Jon’s features are all Stark, Jon’s father must have been a male Stark.

Eighth, Ned feels sickened to learn that Cersei has managed to pass off Jaime’s children as her own. Yet if Jon is not Ned’s, then that is exactly what did himself did by claiming that Jon was his son if he in fact was not. Furthermore, we see that people are able to see who someone’s parents are by looking at the face of the child. Yet everyone agrees that Jon looks like Ned.

In conclusion, Jon is indeed the son of Eddard Stark. He may not have the Stark name, but Ned Stark’s son he is.

He belongs to the old gods, this one. And he alone of all the direwolves was white. Six pups they’d found in the late summer snows, him and Robb; five that were grey and black and brown, for the five Starks, and one white, as white as Snow.
He had his answer then.

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