Sunday, July 17, 2016

Jon Snow's Patrimony (blog)

I am taking a badly needed half-day off by combining my podcast and blog into essentially the same product, and on top of that, I am reporting about someone else's amazing bit of work that is just too good not to share. —mw.


First a disclaimer. I love Game of Thrones, but I am no expert. I have not read the books—though I hope to rectify that during this year's lull—but have only watched the shows. I speak not from any expertise or insight, but only exhilaration and enthusiasm. If I bring something new to the table today, it comes from someone else's work.

A woman who has the YouTube Channel Hurleybird has produced an amazing montage of scenes from Game of Thrones that shows they have been telling us all along who Jon Snow is. If you care about this show at all, you must watch the video. The video is called R+L=J | Departure. That stands for Rhaegar Targaryen + Lyanna Stark = Jon Snow.

We see many of the characters who know about Jon Snow's origins speaking in double entendres. For example, in a scene between King Robert Baratheon and Lord Eddard Stark, Robert says he'd like to "kill every Targaryen I can get my hands on." And Ned replies, "But you can't get your hands on this one, can you?" Out of context of all the quotes that this video assembles, we the audience, along with King Robert, presume that Eddard means Daenerys Targaryen, and Ned lets Robert think that, but Ned also means Jon Snow.

It isn't any one quote here that shoves the truth in our dull faces. It's the synergy—the whole truth greater than the sum of its parts—where the truth waits to be found. Though Lord Petyr Baelish's snippet with Sansa, "How many tens of thousands have to die because Rhaegar chose your aunt?" comes pretty close to spelling it out, especially after we see Bran's time traveling dream sequence in which he watches Ned receive the baby from his dying sister, then we see the telling graphic match of the baby's face to the face of the adult Jon Snow.

The revelation that Jon Snow is a Targaryen completely changes the game. These past six seasons of Game of Thrones have been but the final scene of a star-crossed lovers tragedy, and I have come in on the last scene, which is about the chaos left in the wake of the now dead principals. It's like walking in on that sword fight at the end of Hamlet and enjoying some great swordplay but not really understanding what it's all about.

Melisdandre (Carice van Houten), the Red Woman 
Now we know what the Red Woman, Melisandre, has an inkling about. Now we know why she was able to bring him back to life—he is so key to the Targaryen story that not only MUST he not die, he simply CANNOT die.

We also know that the Red Woman must feel shame because when she was with the Baratheons, she had the right agenda but the wrong people. The blood test failed because Gendry had the blood of Robert Baratheon, not Targaryen blood. Most tragic of all, she burns Shireen Baratheon at the stake: had she burned someone with Targaryen blood instead, he might or certainly she certainly would have survived.

Master Aemon was Jon Snow's great grandfather's brother, or, in formal kinship terms, his great great uncle, or his great granduncle. All that great counsel that Jon had from Master Aemon came from blood kin.

Several of the quotes in the Hurleybird video are ambiguous, and only when she puts them side-by-side does the synergy reach its critical mass so that the meaning becomes clear. When, for example, Jon Snow seeks Master Aemon's council about the need for forming an alliance with the Wildlings, Aemon doesn't even want to hear about Jon Snow's problem. He says, simply, "Kill the boy, Jon Snow. Winter is almost upon us. Kill the boy, and let the man be born." I of course assume that Aemon is talking about throwing away childish hesitation and taking manly action, and he is, but he's also saying something much bigger about Jon Snow's tremendous destiny: "Kill Jon Snow, and rise from the dead as Jon Targaryen."

In these scenes we hear many references to Eddard Stark sacrificing his honor when he rides back with a baby that he claims as his own bastard son. Yet Ned knows that to tell the truth would mean Jon being killed, even as an infant. As Aemon explains it, even before Jon Snow (or I) is ready to understand it, "When your Lord Father was forced to choose between honor on one hand and loyalty to those he loved on the other, what would he do?" By "Lord Father" this can mean either Lord Stark or Lord Targaryen, but the statement works in both cases. Raeghar Targaryen makes his decision for love over duty, and Eddard Stark chooses to tarnish his reputation, even damage his relationship with his wife, rather than name the baby truly so that it would be killed.

Yet Uncle Benjen has delivered Brandon Stark and Meera Reed within spitting distance of the wall and Castle Black. And through his dream training from the three-eyed raven, Bran has the knowledge that will reveal to Jon Snow's origins to him. Meanwhile, Daenerys Targaryen in a fleet of ships is on her way to Westeros with two of her three armies, her trusted counsel Tyrion, and three dragons who have been waiting all their lives to receive their purpose.

The bloody intermission while the Targaryens were out for a smoke, so to speak, is about to end, and they are ready to rise up from their ashes, and with a unified Seven Kingdoms, face the enemy north of the wall.

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