With Game of Thrones-the-show having finally passed A Song of Ice and Fire-the-books, long-treasured (and some crackpot) fan theories have begun dropping like flies. Others have been confirmed. Not the one where Varys is a merman. They’re holding onto that one for the season seven premiere. But others.
Some of these confirmed/denied fan theories may turn out differently in the books—there are a lot of changes between the two, after all—but my money is on the bulk of these matching up with their show counterparts. Sorry, guy planning a Vampire Bolton cosplay.
SPOILERS for the season six finale and all published books.
After years of message board posts about mysterious promises and blue roses, the most famous of ASOIAF fan theories, “R+L=J”—which posits that Jon Snow’s real parents are Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen—was confirmed in the season six finale. Some people thought afterwards that the “R” might be for Robert Baratheon (No), but HBO itself confirmed it: Jon Snow is half-Targ. That would make him and Daenerys two of the three “heads of the dragon” that are going to wail pain upon Westeros; some fans believe that Tyrion is also half-Targ, making him the third, but we’ll still have to wait and see on that.
Targaryens: They’re popping up everywhere! Like daisies!
I fully understand the need for Weiss and Benioff to prune storylines and omit characters in order to turn thousands of pages of epic fantasy into a watchable TV show, but that doesn’t stop me from hoping we might get a peek at the Manderly clan. One of the North’s richest houses, House Manderly is led by one Lord Wyman Manderly, who—while pretending to be too fat and stupid to possibly rebel against the Lannisters—is secretly one of the most devious fucks on the show. How devious? So the theory goes, he has three members of Walder Frey’s family murdered and cooked into pies, which are then served at Ramsay Bolton’s wedding. He doesn’t even tell anyone he does it—it’s just for shits and giggles, and because Wyman Manderly is devoid of even the tiniest shred of chill. In the season six finale, it was Arya that cooked two Freys into pies and served them to Walder Frey before slitting his throat, a pretty big hint that the Frey pies book theory has some legitimacy to it.
Sandor Clegane Is Alive
So the book theory goes, after being left for dead by Arya Stark, Sandor Clegane is discovered by the “Elder Brother,” a member of the Faith of the Seven who runs a sort of halfway house for recovering sinners called the Quiet Isle. Sandor is taken to the Quiet Isle and goes about the process of healing; he is briefly spotted by Brienne of Tarth, who visits the isle with Podrick Payne as part of her search for Sansa Stark. In the show, some of the specifics have changed, but the basics are still there. The murder of the show’s Elder Brother equivalent (“Brother Ray,” played by Ian McShane) at the hands of the Brotherhood Without Banners and Sandor’s subsequent return to a life of violence don’t exactly indicate that book!Sandor will be on the Isle all that long.
Ser Robert Strong is Gregor Clegane
Speaking of the Clegane bros—while Game of Thrones-the-show outright says that Cersei’s hulking surgical freak of a bodyguard is (or was) Gregor “The Mountain that Rides” Clegane, the books were never so clear. As an aside, though the fan theory known as “CleganeBowl,” which posits that Sandor and Gregor will fight to the death at Cersei’s trial by combat, was shot down in the show, it could still easily happen in the books, given how much Cersei’s storyline has been altered.
Benjen = Coldhands
One of the longest-running ASOIAF fan theories is that Ned’s brother Benjen Stark, missing ever since an ill-fated mission beyond the Wall during book one, reappears later as Coldhands, Bran Stark’s ice zombie BFF. Last year, a Redditor combed through the entire original manuscript of A Dance with Dragons and found what looked at the time to be proof that Benjen isn’t Coldhands… in the form of a margin note where Martin straight-up tells his editor, no, he’s not. In the show, Coldhands showed up later than he did in the books, and when he did pull a Deus Ex Ice Zombie, he was identified as Benjen right away. Two options: Either showrunners Weiss and Benioff rejected Martin’s reality and substituted their own, or Martin is a lying liar who lies.
Benjen = Daario Naharis
If Benjen is Coldhands, then it follows that he cannot also be Daario Naharis, having fucked off from the North to enjoy some sun, sand, and murder in Essos.
Ramsay Bolton is Azor Ahai
ASOIAF fans have spent countless hours combing Martin’s text for clues as to the identity of the reincarnated Azor Ahai, a prophesied hero believed by the followers of the Red God to be able to harness fire and fight back the ice zombie hordes. The most popular theories pin this mantle on either Jon Snow or Daenerys. Some have believed, however, that it would fit with Martin’s revisionist fantasy bent for Azor Ahai to be Ramsay Bolton. There’s nothing to say Azor Ahai, who in the legends is kind of a brutal figure (he gained his power by stabbing his wife in the heart), has to be a good guy, after all. Fortunately for Westeros but unfortunately for this fan theory, Ramsay is kibble now, so he’s probably not going to take on the White Walkers anytime soon.
Meera Reed is Jon Snow’s Sister
There may some shred of ambiguity in the show about who Jon Snow’s father is, but it’s pretty damn clear that Lyanna Stark did not have twins. And poof goes the “Meera Reed is Jon Snow’s sister and thus secretly half-Targaryen” theory, which came about because… Meera and Jon are close to the same age and both have curly, dark hair. Yeah, this was never one of the more likely ones.
Howland Reed is the High Sparrow
Another crackpot Reed family theory that had a boot shoved up its ass: Meera and Jojen’s father Howland Reed, one of Ned Stark’s oldest friends, infiltrated King’s Landing as the High Sparrow in order to lay some pain on the Lannister family. The High Sparrow is dead now, so a revelation as to his secret identity, never particularly likely, would be all but pointless now.
FrankenGregor Has Ned’s (or Robb Stark’s, or Joffrey’s…) Head
There’s no shortage of corpses in ASOIAF, so it’s a natural—if somewhat macabre—assumption that Ser Robert Strong, cobbled together by mad scientist Qyburn using Gregor Cleganes’ body, might possess the noggin of a different departed character. People have speculated that Strong’s head might once have belonged to Ned, Robb Stark, or even Joffrey Baratheon. Martin could still pull something like this off in the books, but in the show, Strong’s noggin still belongs to Gregor Clegane actor Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson.
Roose Bolton is Immortal
Yeah, not so much.
Cersei Will Be Killed by Tommen
When she was a girl, Cersei was told via prophecy that she would eventually be killed by a “valonqar,” High Valyrian for “little brother.” Cersei assumed the “valonqar” was Tyrion, while many readers think it’s Jaime Lannister—the younger twin, after all—who will eventually take Cersei down. That could—probably will, if you ask me—still be true. Not in such good shape is the theory that the “valonqar” is Cersei’s youngest son Tommen, pushed to the breaking point by all the King’s Landing fuckery. He is a younger brother, after all. He’s just not hers. Alas, show!Tommen was pushed to the breaking point, just in a different way.
Rickon Is Being Raised on Cannibal Unicorn Island
Fuck this. No. Little Anger Issues Stark is absolutely on Skagos, being raised by a Wildling among cannibals. He’s gonna fuck stuff up later on. Book!Rickon would zig zag.