On this week's episode of Game of Thrones the greatest moment may have been the resurrection of Jon Snow, but we also have to give it up for the OMG moment that is the flashback/vision of Bran Stark to a moment of his father's childhood back at Winterfell. Not only are we seeing something that very rarely happens on this show a happy time we are also seeing Ned as a child with his siblings, including a character we have heard a bit about but never really seen: Ned's sister, Lyanna. Though she's not a player in the series because she's dead before the events of the show take place, anyone who subcribes to one of Game of Thrones' biggest theories is familiar with her name. But if you're not familiar, let's go over the info we have from the books and the show, and why it's significant that we're "meeting" her now.
Bran Stark’s crucial glimpse through the weirwoods during Sunday night’s Game of Thrones took us back to Winterfell, long before Ned Stark was the Ice-wielding lord of the castle. While watching Winterfell with the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran sees his father, Ned, and uncle Benjen spar together as children. The prophetic vision gave us everything we’ve been clamoring for a verbose Hodor back then he was a stableboy who went by the name Wyllis and a young Ned Stark in action but it’s Lyanna Stark’s boisterous first appearance we can’t seem to shake.
In George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, Ned described his sister Lyanna as “beautiful, and willful, and dead before her time.” She was “wolf-blooded” headstrong, courageous, and hot-tempered. She was a woman who could not, and would not, be tamed. The comparison to Arya Stark wasn’t lost on Ned, who told his youngest daughter in Season 1 that Lyanna probably would have carried a sword if their father had allowed it.
Game of Thrones has been name-dropping Lyanna since Season 1, which certainly adds to her significance. Last season, Littlefinger recounted the moment “all the smiles died”: when Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen gave Lyanna and not his wife Elia Martell a winter rose at the tourney at Harrenhal. It was the event that sparked Lyanna’s abduction and the inevitable downfall of the entire Targaryen dynasty. So it seems quite obvious that Bran wouldn’t have seen Lyanna in his vision if she wasn’t of some importance to the larger story.
However, Bran’s vision of Lyanna that of a strong-willed young woman riding into Winterfell to disrupt her brothers’ training seems to contradict the narrative we’ve been told. Lyanna wasn’t a helpless young maiden; she was a blue winter rose made from iron. So why would she allow Rhaegar Targaryen to kidnap her?
Unless she didn’t. The nature of Rhaegar and Lyanna’s relationship has long been debated by fans of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. While the Starks believed she was kidnapped by the Targaryen prince, the Targaryens themselves wove an entirely different narrative: They were in love. Did Rhaegar kidnap Lyanna, or did she somehow run away to be with her dragon prince? The books have yet to explore their relationship, just as they have yet to reveal Lyanna’s dying plea to Ned Stark, but as Bran explores the depth of his power, the answers to these questions won’t stay in the shadows for long.
The bloodshed left House Targaryen nearly extinct. Toward the end of the war, Ned Stark, now Lord of Winterfell after the deaths of his father and older brother Brandon at the hands of the Mad King (King Aerys II Targaryen), along with six of his companions (including Meera’s father, Howland Reed), stormed Rhaegar Targaryen’s Tower of Joy in Dorne where, under Rhaegar’s orders, Lyanna was being guarded by three knights of the Kingsguard, including King Aerys’s legendary knight Ser Arthur Dayne.
Lyanna died soon after Ned’s arrival in a room that smelled of “blood and roses.” However, upon her death she made her brother give a promise the content of which remains unknown. Some fans believe that Jon Snow was born mere moments after this epic battle, the secret son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark and the subject of Lyanna’s dying wish.
We know Ned returned from war with a newborn he claimed to be his bastard son, but for years fans of A Song of Ice and Fire have speculated that it was all a ruse to protect his late sister’s honor and her infant son from his Targaryen destiny. After all, Ned was always a man of honor, up until his very last breath, and he was always specific about calling Jon “his blood.”
Bran’s visions aren’t just a passage through fabled history and family memories; he’s filling in the gaps. Lyanna Stark’s story deserves to be told. Her legacy deserves to be remembered and cherished. She’s the key to unveiling Jon Snow’s true destiny.
Right before Jon left to fulfill his duty in the Night’s Watch, Ned told him, “The next time we see each other, we’ll talk about your mother. I promise.” Ned never got to fulfill that promise. But thanks to Bran, we’ll get our answers and Lyanna will finally get to rest in peace.