A Compendium of Theories
Beware the spoilers of this dusty tome
For those less familiar with the story and the theories, I thought it might be interesting and useful to have a single thread that lists all of the theories that have arisen given the various questions and unknowns surrounding the Song. There are a lot of brilliant people on these boards and some of them have come up with truly excellent theories, right or wrong, to answer those thoughts we have.
I have begun accumulating some of those that I have found (listed below with a link to their discussion and a short description of them), but I would love if people posted all those that I have not added yet. Some theories seek to answer a single question while others go much further in attempting to explain the grand design. All I ask is that the theories be decently thought out and/or supported with some form of evidence (e.g. textual or meta-textual), rather than a random question shooting in the dark (e.g. "What if Benjen was transmogrified into Pretty pig!?").
Note: I will be making a somewhat subjective decision on which theories to include, not based on whether I think they are correct, but on whether I think they have passed muster: well thought out, textually supported, reviewed favorably by the community, etc.
It may be interesting to add some rankings of the theories later, from "It is Known" to "Crackpot," but for now I am merely trying to build a compendium theories.
I've added a bunch of theories and links that I've found, but I would appreciate help in adding to and making the list better. At the end, I wrote a section of characters, questions, and theories that I haven't found a good theory or page outlining the theory (please feel free to add to this list as well).
The Varys-Illyrio Conspiracy
Since they met in the dungeons during Games of Thrones, much has been made of these two enigmatic characters who seem to find themselves in the midst of it all. Their history has been revealed slowly over time and may be the key to their connection and their plotting.
The Grand Tyrell Conspiracy
Cersei's downfall and arrest by the High Sparrow was due to the plotting by the Tyrells to remove her from power. They manipulated Cersei into her scheme against Margaery Tyrell in a manner that would prove ineffective so that she would effectively reveal her own crimes.
The Grand Faceless Men Conspiracy
Valar Morghulis. Behind the scenes of it all, the Faceless Men are pulling the strings and manipulating the world to achieve their own end. To what end? As a "death cult," naturally to bring "peace" to all mankind via conspiring with the Others.
Tywin Knew About the Purple Wedding
A bold theory that Tywin knew about the plot to kill Joffrey and let it happen. He viewed Joffrey as incompetent and likely to be as bad a king as Robert and Aerys. Joffrey had already shown he would defy the regent when he foolishly decides to kill Ned, so replacing him with Tommen would allow Tywin to control the realm with better ease.
Targaryan and Blackfyre Alliance Theory
"Black or Red, a dragon is still a dragon." - Illyrio Mopatis
The Great Northern Conspiracy - Part 1 - Part 3 - Part 4
The Northern Lords are aware of Robb Stark's will and are playing Stannis and Ramsey against each other with the goal of crowning Robb's heir-declarant Jon Snow as King in the North
According to Lady Barbrey Dustin, who hates the Starks for first not letting her marry Brandon Stark and then dragging her forced husband into the rebellious war of Robert Baratheon, there's more to Robert's Rebellion than meets the eye. In fact, Lord Rickard Stark was embroiled in a grand conspiracy with the other great houses.
The Northmen Inside Winterfell
Has Mance retaken Winterfell, conspired with Northern Lords, and written the "Pink Letter" to Jon?
Varys and the Antler Men
Varys has the great stabilizer of the status quo? A conspiracy theory that sees Varys has "pruning" the middle class during times of danger in order to maintain the feudal system of Westeros.
Rhaegar + Lyanna = Jon
The much discussed and evidenced theory that Jon Snow is not Lord Eddard's bastard, but actually the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark who ran off together to the "Tower of Joy." Lyanna died giving birth to Jon and made Ned promise to protect him. The implications of this theory include that Jon Snow has a greater role to play in the story as a Targaryan, born of Ice and Fire, and potentially Azor Ahai or The Prince That Was Promised.
Howland Reed + Ashara Dayne = Meera & Jojen
"[A] theory... that Ashara Dayne is still alive, living in the Neck, and married to Howland Reed. I believe they met at Harrenhal, fell in love, and married. Meera was conceived almost immediately, and it was a pregnant Ashara who went back to Starfall or King’s Landing—perhaps forcibly sent there by her parents. After the Tower of Joy, Howland picked up Ashara from Starfall, along with their daughter, and went North. The story was put about that Ashara died, and she assumed the name Jyana Reed."
Aerys + Joanna = Tyrion
The hypothesis that Tyrion is actually the bastard son of Aerys Targaryan the Mad King and Joanna Lannister (the wife of Tywin Lannister who was Aerys's Hand), either through rape or love. It is unclear whether Tywin knew about it or suspected it and it is debated as to how it might affect the relationship of Tywin and Tyrion. If true, Tyrion would be half-(albeit bastard)-Targaryan.
The Knight of the Laughing Tree - Potential Identities
While traveling north, Meera Reed tells Bran the tale of the Knight of the Laughing Tree, a mystery knight who showed up at the Tourney of Harrenhal and defeated three knights whose squires had attacked a crannogman (thought to be Howland Reed). It is often thought that the knight is Lyanna Stark in disguise and lends itself to the popular Rhaegar + Lyanna = Jon theory.
Cold Hands is the Night's King
Cold Hands, the mysterious undead "man" who saves Samwell Tarly and brings Bran to the cave, is the Night's King, the 13th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch who fell in love with a woman (who may have been an Other) and declared himself king at the Nightfort.
Piecing Together Varys as a Blackfyre
"Varys is a Blackfyre. Aegon is the son of Illyrio and Serra who is Varys sister. Varys and Illyrio as information brokers were aware that Aerys sent Steffon Baratheon to the Free Cities to look for a bride for Rhaegar but could not find someone of Valyrian blood and sufficient high birth. Illyrio married the daughter of a Pentos Noble to give him sufficient noble status while Varys left for Kings Landing. Illyrio had his wife disposed of and then married Varys sister with the intention of marrying their son to a Targaryen heir and then eliminating any competition for the throne..."
The Gravedigging Hound
A well laid out analysis of how the briefly mentioned novice gravedigger on the Quiet Isle is actually, as many suspect, Sandor Clegane, aka the Hound.
Beneath the Armor of Ser Robert Strong
The well theorized idea that the true identity of Ser Robert Strong, the newest edition to the Kingsguard and savior of Cersei, is Ser Gregor Clegane, the Mountain that Rides, as reanimated by Qyborn.
The Golem and the Gravedigger
A more in-depth look at the fates of The Hound and the Mountain and their "resurrections."
Alleras the Sandsnake
A complete analysis of Alleras the Sphinx and "his" true identity as Sarella the Sandsnake, bastard daughter of Prince Oberyn.
Aegon is Legitimate
Contrary to the growing popularity of the (F)aegon theory, this claims Aegon is actually the legitimate Aegon Targaryen
Three-Eyed Crow is Brynden Rivers *CONFIRMED*
Simply that the true identity of the Three-Eyed Crow in the Cave and of Bran's dreams is Brynden Rivers, aka Bloodraven, a legitimized Targaryan bastard who fought as a loyalist against the Blackfyre rebellion.
The Green Grace is the Harpy or is it Shavepate?
Some agree that Hizdahr zo Loraq was too obvious a choice and thus wrongly accused by Shavepate and Barristan as being the Harpy and poisoner of Dany. So who else can manipulate the city and has something to gain? The Green Grace most obviously (female as a harpy) or maybe a traitorous Shavepate with a more devious plan.
Is Septa Lemore actually Ashara Dayne or Tyene's Mother or Serra Mopatis!
The Sailor's Wife - Littlefinger and Tysha
Tysha, the not-really-a-whore first love and wife of Tyrion Lannister, is the subject of much theorizing after her disappearance post-abuse by Tywin's men. She is much on Tyrion's mind throughout the series, never more so then when he kill's his Tywin whose last words include the answer to where she is as "Wherever whores go." It's possible Tysha is the much talked about "Sailor's Wife" in Braavos, a whore who insists men marry before bedding her. Or possibly the simple answer to "Where do whores go?" is the obvious "Littlefinger's brothels!"
Septon Chayle is the Hooded Man TWOW Spoilers
The murders in Winterfell were committed by the Spearwives and Big Walder, while the Hooded Man that Theon encounters is Septon Chayle, the little-noted Septon that was supposedly killed when the sea came to Winterfell.
Missandei the Faceless One
A more detailed and supported account of the oft-mentioned theory that Missandei, wise beyond her years, is something other than a simple 11-year-old slave-girl. Rather than an innocent, sweet handmaiden, the theory posits that she is a dedicated faceless man/woman (and possibly a descendant of the Children of the Forest), which would go along way to explain her knowledge, abilities, and influence over Dany.
The Hooded Man of Winterfell
Theon runs into a mysterious hooded figure while at the Bolton's Winterfell who is very possibly the Ghost of Winterfell responsible for at least some of the unexplained murders happening. But Who is this man that recognizes Theon as "kinslayer?" (Note: The link is to a particularly helpful post in the thread - see the full thread for more discussion.)
Hatching a Dragon: A Summerhall Theory
How visions and prophecies of "dragons" refer not to the fire-breathing beast, but to those of "Targaryen" lineage. Such a shift in interpretation could have major effects on the understanding of major prophecies like Azor Ahai and the Prince that was Promised.
The Drowned King and the Faceless Crow
A complete analysis of whether or not King Balon Greyjoy was murdered by a faceless man, hired by his brother Euron Greyjoy.
Oberyn Poisoned Tywin - There's Something Rotten in King's Landing
A rundown of the evidence that Oberyn Martell had managed to poison Tywin Lannister with the substance known as "Widow's Blood" and subsequent discussion.
Syrio Forel, Alive and Full-Faced from the Never-Ending Fight
Syrio, Arya's "dancing" teacher in King's Landing, is oft inferred dead but presumed living either through escaping Ser Trant or as the faceless man from the black cells, Jaqen H'ghar (the latter being said by many as impossible due to the timing of events). As the former First Sword of Braavos, Syrio's incredible skill and speed enabled him to dispatch the guardsmen and endure an unending battle against Trant until he gave up.
The Pyre Revisited
A reexamination of what transpired on that fateful day when Dany entered the bonfire of Drogo's funeral pyre and emerged The Mother of Dragons. GRRM himself has revealed that Targaryens are not fire-proof, so how exactly did she emerge unscathed? Perhaps it was actually the witch, Mirri Maz Duur, and her wailing gone-wrong that changed the course of history and saved Dany from a foolish mistake.
Shireen's True Purpose
With Jon stabbed and dying/dead at the Wall and many of us readers convinced of Jon's greater importance and role to play in the story, he must be returned from the brink of death in some manner. This theory suggests Melisandre will invoke blood magic and sacrifice Shireen to use her royal blood as the medium with which to bring back Jon.
Winterfell Huis Clos - A True Queen - The Black Bat - The Princes of Dorne
A remarkable amount of analysis from Branvras on the topics of Theon in Winterfell, the hidden importance of matrilineal lineage (Stark and Tully), and Quentyn Martell's foolhardy quest. Winterfell Huis Clos (Sartre's "No Exit") is a must read perspective on the cliffhanging validity of the letters from Winterfell at the end of ADWD.
Ice and Fire Assessment/Theory
A "Look at the Valyrians and First Men and a speculation of their history and purpose," the dualism and parallels between the two, and the inevitable clashes that have shaped the history of men.
From Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa
An amazingly extensive analysis of Sansa Stark and her roles and relationships in the world from Princess-to-be to UnKiss to Alayne Stone.
If It's Chains You Want, Come With Me...
A look at all things happening around the Citadel from the Sphinx to Jaqen H'Ghar
Breaking the World
A brief discussion of the disasters that have struck the world from beyond the wall to Valyria and Sothyros. Was it natural tectonic movements or did the Children of the Forest, the Faceless Men, or some sorcerer's cause a very unnatural destruction.
North is No Place for a Blackfish
An analysis of the whereabouts of Brynden Tully after having escaped the siege at Riverrun
The Mastermind and the Gold Digger
An expose and comparison of the backstory, persona, modus operandi, and endgame of Varys and Littlefinger.
Drawing Blood from a Bolton
An extensive look at the Boltons and their odd views on blood and life. It is hypothesized that the Boltons are the product of the Night's King and his Other bride, while Roose is specifically after some form of ice magic (that may have initially corrupted the Others).
Mocking Bird: The Petyr Baelish Story
As High as Honor - Tyrion, Tyrell, Tully - Along Came a Spider
An extensive, three-part analysis of the great schemer Lord Petyr Baelish from his ascent to the Eyrie to his dealings with Varys.
The Mad Genius of Petyr Baelish
Another detailed analysis of the mind of Petyr Baelish and the machinations that makes him one of the great champions of chaos in Westeros
Lightbringer is the Night's Watch
The legend of Azor Ahai's sword, known as Lightbringer, used to defeat the Others is a metaphor. Lightbringer is actually the Night's Watch, wielded by Azor Ahai reborn, Jon Snow, the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.
The Wall, the Watch, and a Hersey - Heresy 38
The first and most recent topics in the incredible line of heresy threads. "Its an eclectic thread all about challenging orthodoxy, as we try to figure out what’s really going on not in the Game of Thrones but the over-arching Game of Ice and Fire." By rejecting the orthodox views on certain ideas and theories, new understanding may come to light regarding the great questions of the series.
Jon Snow at the Crossroads of Resurrection Mythology
Sometimes answers to the mysteries of the Song are aided by understanding where GRRM's mind has borrowed his ideas from. The mythology of many cultures are admittedly woven into the Song and Jon Snow may be at the heart of much of it.
For that prophetic fool who hangs around Stannis's court, a thread devoted to answering his mysteries (including foreseeing the Red Wedding) by starting from only the facts that are known.
Night's King - A Turn From Fire to Ice: The Story of Stannis Baratheon *WARNING: TWOW SPOILER*
...Or will Stannis turn away from fire to ice be the Night's King Reborn?
Heresy of the Night's King
Some information and observations about the Night's King from the heretics.
The Old Gods Love the Starks
"Joffrey tried to have Bran killed, right? Well no. Bran's attempted murder was a comedy of errors, a "mummer's farce" as Varys told Illyrio." In truth, Littlefinger was after his ultimate prize, Catelyn Stark, failing only due a series of fortune events. An examination of how the Starks' continuous luck is fortune showered upon them by the Old Gods.
Sansa, The Hound, Brienne and The Valonquar
Marriages, Battles, Murders... When plot-lines collide in Westeros: a fight between the Vale and Harrenhal, a wedding between Sansa and Harry the Heir, the Brotherhood without Banners, Jamie and Brienne and UnCat...
A Big ol' Theory of Dorne and Aegon
A series of conclusions and thoughts trying to reconcile the seemingly useless goings-on of the Dornish (Quentyn Martell and Gerold Dayne, Darkstar) and Varys's unnecessary lie to Ser Kevan Lannister as he lay dying about Aegon's return (if Aegon is really a Blackfyre).
Heir to the North: Jeyne's Hips Don't Lie? (NOTE: The discrepency in anatomy has been corrected in foreign editions.)
The case for Robb Stark's son and rightful heir to the North via Jeyne Westerling. iIn large part the theory is prompted by two different descriptions of Jeyne's anatomy, once from Catelyn as having good birthing hips and once from Jamie as having narrow hips.
The Others and the Children
The two sides north of the Wall are actually "cousins," according to the Theory, two sides of a coin. During their conflict with the First Men, the Children embraced nature while the Others abandoned it for the icy tundras of the deep north and turned to warging to raise an army of undead. Note: GRRM has described the Others as inhuman, elegant, and dangerous, but also opposes creating characters of pure evil.
A slightly gruesome theory that Jojen was ground up into the paste that Bran ate while in the Cave with Leaf, a Child of the Forest, and the Three-Eyed Crow. Bran reckons the paste tastes like blood and afterwards he is unable to find the Reeds (while Jojen has had an impending sense of doom
Warrior's Sons, Knight-Assassins, and a Trial by Magic
What is the true purpose of the religious order of knights described as holy men, ascetics, fanatics, sorcerers, dragonslayers, and demonhunters. A new force of power has entered the world of Westeros and its enemies are all things not-Seven.
Septon Barth's Unnatural Story
Little talked about, Septon Barth was the Hand of the King to Jaehaerys I for forty years, but perhaps more importantly is regarded by some as a great source of knowledge on dragons. While much of his writings have been burned, it's possible he has secrets left to tell about the mysteries of the world.
Rhaegar Targaryen: Early passion for the Lord of Light, Foul Play at Harrenhal, The Spearwife Princess
The great prince Rhaegar has been the subject of much discussion regarding his kidnapping or courtship of Lyanna, but the man may have hid other secrets as well. He turned from the Seven and embraced the Red God, emblazoning rubies on his armor during the Tourney at Harrenhal so that none might touch him.
Roose Bolton and the Fate of Domeric - Roose Bolton and the Last Day in Harrenhal - Roose Bolton and Lady Dustin
Three theories surrounding Roose Bolton, Lord of the Dreadfort. Is he a sorcerer, responsible for his son, Domeric Bolton's, death, and in fact allied with Lady Dustin?
A Unifying Theory of Magic
Lies and Arbor Gold
Incomplete and in no particular order
- Tyrek Lannister's disappearance
- Benjen Stark's disappearance
- Lightbringer's true nature
- Cold Hands other possible identities (Benjen, Benjen-warg, Cold Hands, Lord Ryswell)
- Full explanation of (F)aegon (Blackfyre)
- Darkstar (Most Dangerous Man in Dorne? Targaryen?)
- Three Heads of the Dragon
- Azor Ahai / The Prince that Was Promised / The Stallion Who Mounts the World
- Any of the prophecies (Quaithe, HOTU, Melisandre, Moqorro, stories, etc.)
- Doom of Valyria
- Mormont's Warged Raven
- Ned Stark's Mother
- Aegon V's 3rd Son
- Doran's Spies at Court
- Horn of Winter (Joramun) / Dragon Horn / Kraken Horn
Not that I have any right to do this, but I would love for someone with substantially more time than I to do a fuller write up on Cold Hands, what we know and the various theories surrounding him.
Two of the older theories are that he is the Night's King, possible, or Benjen, doubted due a comment that Cold Hands was killed long ago. Recently, however I came across two newer sounding theories that Cold Hands was Lord Rysell from the story of the 79 Sentinels or that Benjen warged a wight. Unfortunately both of those theories have little textual evidence or preponderance of all that is known about cold hands, benjen, etc. I would be much obliged to add such a link to the OP if someone took the time to measure out the theories in a nice write-up.
Edited by Full-Faced Braavosi, 08 December 2013 - 05:56 PM.