Ser Petyr Parker

The identity of the Knight of the Laughing Tree

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Posted (edited)

I'm sure this has been discussed many times before, but I have some thoughts about the identity of the Knight of the Laughing Tree, so I thought I'd summarise all the evidence for and against different theories that I can think of, and then just leave it here and see what happens. Perhaps this has all been said before, but this is all my own work, so I hope some of it will be new to some of you.

There are only three likely candidates, the way I see it: Ned, Benjen and Lyanna. This is based on the assumption that the KotLT is one of the people featured in Meera's story, and that it couldn't be Brandon as he was too tall. It also leaves out the idea that it could be Howland himself, which I don't find convincing.

Benjen:

As far as I can tell, we have no reason to think it was him, but not much evidence that it wasn't either. He would have been a bit young at the time, but perhaps not impossibly so. I think that's all we can say about Benjen. If it's him, I think we need a good explanation.

Lyanna:

Aspects of this theory make sense, and I sort of want to believe it. Rhaegar was sent to find the KotLT and supposedly failed, but shortly afterwards seemed to find himself infatuated with Lyanna. We know he was trying to fulfil prophesies of three-headed dragons, and apparently he didn't think Elia was enough to help him there. She was frail, whereas if Lyanna was the KotLT she would have shown herself to be a strong woman, perhaps a perfect mother for a "dragon". Perhaps he found her and took a shine to her, so lied to Aerys when he said he didn't find the Knight.

On the other hand, there seems to be evidence against Lyanna as the mystery knight:

  • Most obviously, the fact the KotLT won several jousts. We're repeatedly told Lyanna was a good rider, and at least once that being a good rider is important when jousting ("three quarters" of it, according to Jaime), but never that being a good rider is enough to joust well, and never that Lyanna has practised jousting. She secretly trains with a sword, but practising jousting would be much harder to hide, and although sword skills are useful, she'd never expect to have to use lances, which are for tourneys and organised battles. We do know the three knights the KotLT defeats previously did well, so it's fair to assume whoever defeated all three must be a good jouster.
    • Slight counterpoint: Ser Jorah was able to win multiple jousts against the odds at one tourney.
      • Counter-counterpoint: Jorah would have actually trained in jousting, and if it was common for people to just "get lucky" and win a joust, it's unlikely winning would be so prestigious.
  • The "booming voice". I know some people might credit this to the Knight's helm, but it's a bit unrealistic. A woman is unlikely to sound like a man if she's speaking loudly and clearly, and a helm might disguise the voice a bit, but not change its nature completely. The voice would become muffled, not deeper.
    • Slight counterpoints: As Syrio quite rightly tells Arya, people often see what they expect to see. A person dressed as a knight would be assumed to be a man, and for those who don't "listen with their ears", might seem to sound like one too.
      • Counter-counterpoint: This is a bit weak, but we have already seen a woman dressed as a knight and mistaken for a man: Brienne, when Catelyn first sees her in Renly's melee. But Catelyn doesn't hear hear voice and has no opportunity to judge what it sounds like before Brienne's identity is revealed. This seems like a missed opportunity to set a precedent or leave a clue that the KotLT could be a woman. If Catelyn had heard Brienne say "Yield!" and still assumed there was a man under the armour, we'd have a nice clue.

Ned:

There is nothing strong to support this theory either, but I'd almost be disappointed if the circumstantial evidence for him turns out to be nothing. I really like the first part:

  • The "booming voice" again: We have some evidence that Ned is capable of a booming voice. This would mean nothing in a court of law, but in this series you never know:
    Quote

    He has a lord's voice, Jon thought. His father had always said that in battle a captain's lungs were as important as his sword arm. "It does not matter how brave or brilliant a man is, if his commands cannot be heard," Lord Eddard told his sons, so Robb and he used to climb the towers of Winterfell to shout at each other across the yard. 

    The person who Jon thinks has a lord's voice is Donal Noye. How else is his voice described?

    Quote

    The two from the Fingers pulled him off, throwing him roughly to the ground. Grenn began to kick at him. Jon was rolling away from the blows when a booming voice cut through the gloom of the armory. "STOP THIS! NOW!"

    And then we have this:

    Quote

    It was the king's voice that put an end to it … the king's voice and twenty swords. Jon Arryn had told them that a commander needs a good battlefield voice, and Robert had proved the truth of that on the Trident. He used that voice now. "STOP THIS MADNESS," he boomed, "IN THE NAME OF YOUR KING!"

    So Jon Arryn taught Robert and Ned to use "a good battlefield voice", which in Robert's case (at least) is a "boom". Donal Noye's booming voice reminds Jon of "a lord" and what Ned taught him. So we don't exactly ever have Ned's voice described as capable of "booming", but we have a lot of circumstantial evidence that he is capable of such a thing. This comes together so well that I'd be surprised and disappointed if it weren't deliberate.

  • Some people say if it were Ned, this would "explain" Howland Reed's loyalty to him.
    • Counterpoint: I don't find this convincing. From what little we know of Howland, the Reeds, and Crannogmen in general, they don't seem the sort to place that much importance on someone winning a joust. Howland just came from the Isle of Faces, which must have made jousting seem particularly frivolous, and in general the Crannogmen don't seem that interested in knightly ideas of honour, with their "sneaky" fighting tactics. Howland might appreciate the gesture, but I don't think he'd see it as a "forever in your debt" type thing. Howland is loyal to Ned because the Reeds are sworn to the Starks and because Ned is a good lord. That's the kind of honour the Reeds believe in, and some foolishness at a tourney pales in comparison to ancient allegiances and oaths.
      • Counter-counterpoint: If the events at the tourney were so unimportant to the Reeds, Meera probably wouldn't know the story so well.
Edited by Ser Petyr Parker

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Why assume that luck makes jousting not prestigious? That doesn't apply to professional poker or major league sports or, for that matter, elections.

Also, while we know that tKotLT defeated three knights, which was considered impressive, we don't know much about how good those knights were. If you have a world-class rider (and we just need to go along with GRRM's confusion about jousting being more horsemanship than strength and soldiery) against three below-average knights, and maybe an unconventional style due to her small size, add in a little luck, and presto!

The booming voice is a red herring. Anyone's voice can boom when spoken out of a metal can.

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A booming voice does not necessarily need to be deep. Often it will be but it only has to be loud and reverberating.

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I remember seeing a note somewhere, whether it was the app or whatever that Lyanna did in fact practice at rings.  Also, I would include as evidence for her that Fireballs son won a jousting tourney having never jousted before, and in fact was never even hit solidly by a lance because he had no breastplate and would've been killed.

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Posted (edited)

TKOTLT was absolutely Lyanna Stark.

As for TKOTLT's "booming voice through his helm," we have no source other than little Howland Reed and his children that describe the voice. The fact is, Aerys believed TKOTLT to be fifteen year old Jaime Lannister, legally an adult, but little older than Lyanna, and not likely to have had anything resembling the voice of a grown man.

And while we know little about Jaime's volume levels as a fifteen year old, that same TKOTLT story describes the "roar" of Lyanna, and how the she-wolf "howled" at the squires.

Edited by Bael's Bastard

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3 hours ago, aryagonnakill#2 said:

I remember seeing a note somewhere, whether it was the app or whatever that Lyanna did in fact practice at rings.  

Yep. It is stated somewhere. In TWOW, we also have

Spoiler

12-year-old Elia Sand aka Lady Lance, whose favourite sport is... jousting.

2 hours ago, Bael's Bastard said:

As for TKOTLT's "booming voice through his helm," we have no source other than little Howland Reed and his children that describe the voice. The fact is, Aerys believed TKOTLT to be fifteen year old Jaime Lannister, legally an adult, but little older than Lyanna, and not likely to have had anything resembling the voice of a grown man.

And while we know little about Jaime's volume levels as a fifteen year old, that same TKOTLT story describes the "roar" of Lyanna, and how the she-wolf "howled" at the squires.

A good point about Jaime.

Also, with a small person, one would expect their voice to be rather high-pitched rather than deep, no? And then, people hear what they expect to hear, and since no-one expected KotLT to be a woman, no-one would expect to hear a woman.

 

One important point about Ned as KotLT: not possible. The mystery knight was notably short. Ned wasn't. He was shortER than Brandon, but not notably short in comparison to average population. The short persons in the story would be Howland, Lyanna and Benjen. Howland doesn't have the skill, Benjen doesn't need to hide his face.

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4 hours ago, velo-knight said:

Why assume that luck makes jousting not prestigious? That doesn't apply to professional poker or major league sports or, for that matter, elections.

Also, while we know that tKotLT defeated three knights, which was considered impressive, we don't know much about how good those knights were. If you have a world-class rider (and we just need to go along with GRRM's confusion about jousting being more horsemanship than strength and soldiery) against three below-average knights, and maybe an unconventional style due to her small size, add in a little luck, and presto!

The booming voice is a red herring. Anyone's voice can boom when spoken out of a metal can.

 

Quote

"The daughter of the castle was the queen of love and beauty, with four brothers and an uncle to defend her, but all four sons of Harrenhal were defeated on the first day.  Their conquerors reigned briefly as champions, until they were vanquished in turn.  As it happened, the end of the first day saw the porcupine knight win a place among the champions, and on the morning of the second day the pitchfork knight and the knight of the two towers were victorious as well.

They were good enough to defeat other accomplished jousters who were in turn good enough to defeat the Harrenhal sons.  And The porcupine knight at least was good enough to reign as champion for more than one day.

It seems impossible to believe that a girl who had never taken part in a formal joust would have been able to defeat all three.  (Not without some magical assistance anyway).

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44 minutes ago, Frey family reunion said:

 

They were good enough to defeat other accomplished jousters who were in turn good enough to defeat the Harrenhal sons.  And The porcupine knight at least was good enough to reign as champion for more than one day.

It seems impossible to believe that a girl who had never taken part in a formal joust would have been able to defeat all three.  (Not without some magical assistance anyway).

How is that any different than Fireballs son winning an entire tournament without ever once being struck center mass, when he also had never jousted before?

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46 minutes ago, Ygrain said:

Yep. It is stated somewhere.

I think it is stated in the app.

29 minutes ago, Frey family reunion said:

They were good enough to defeat other accomplished jousters who were in turn good enough to defeat the Harrenhal sons.  And The porcupine knight at least was good enough to reign as champion for more than one day.

It seems impossible to believe that a girl who had never taken part in a formal joust would have been able to defeat all three.  (Not without some magical assistance anyway).

They all participated and won their matches on the earliest days of a week long tourney, and all lost to a short knight with mismatched ill-fitting armor by the afternoon of the second day. 

There is really no telling how accomplished the jousters TKOTLT defeated were, or how seriously they took TKOTLT because of his small stature and mismatched ill-fitting armor, or what tactics or possible manipulations the TKOTLT used to defeat them.

The case can easily be made for Lyanna based on actual book descriptions of her and jousting, without any need for magic, but no case can be made for Howland, or Ned, or anyone else without introducing magic or ignoring TKOTLT's small stature.

 

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56 minutes ago, Bael's Bastard said:

I think it is stated in the app.

They all participated and won their matches on the earliest days of a week long tourney, and all lost to a short knight with mismatched ill-fitting armor by the afternoon of the second day. 

There is really no telling how accomplished the jousters TKOTLT defeated were, or how seriously they took TKOTLT because of his small stature and mismatched ill-fitting armor, or what tactics or possible manipulations the TKOTLT used to defeat them.

The case can easily be made for Lyanna based on actual book descriptions of her and jousting, without any need for magic, but no case can be made for Howland, or Ned, or anyone else without introducing magic or ignoring TKOTLT's small stature.

 

This. Also, meta-textually: what is the point of the repeated descriptions of Lyanna's riding ability and personal ferocity if not to set her up as the Knight of the Laughing Tree? The only other purpose I can see is as a red herring - but I'd argue a woman is a strange choice of red herring for an archetype that is so heavily gendered as male.

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3 hours ago, aryagonnakill#2 said:

How is that any different than Fireballs son winning an entire tournament without ever once being struck center mass, when he also had never jousted before?

Glendon Flowers was an obsessive jouster, who was training specifically to try and prove his doubters wrong.  We don't have any evidence of Lyanna ever training at being a jouster.  Nor did she show up at the Harrenhal tourney expecting to joust, unlike Glendon.

2 hours ago, Bael's Bastard said:

I think it is stated in the app.

They all participated and won their matches on the earliest days of a week long tourney, and all lost to a short knight with mismatched ill-fitting armor by the afternoon of the second day. 

There is really no telling how accomplished the jousters TKOTLT defeated were, or how seriously they took TKOTLT because of his small stature and mismatched ill-fitting armor, or what tactics or possible manipulations the TKOTLT used to defeat them.

The case can easily be made for Lyanna based on actual book descriptions of her and jousting, without any need for magic, but no case can be made for Howland, or Ned, or anyone else without introducing magic or ignoring TKOTLT's small stature.

 

Thee are no descriptions of Lyanna ever jousting or training to joust in the books.

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2 hours ago, velo-knight said:

This. Also, meta-textually: what is the point of the repeated descriptions of Lyanna's riding ability and personal ferocity if not to set her up as the Knight of the Laughing Tree? The only other purpose I can see is as a red herring - but I'd argue a woman is a strange choice of red herring for an archetype that is so heavily gendered as male.

I think the point may be that Lyanna and her brother Brandon may have been wargs/skinchangers.  Without a dire-wolf, their bond went to their horses.  And yes, before you ask, I think this could possibly give Lyanna a chance to have been TKOTLT, even though I remain skeptical until we're given some evidence that Lyanna had ever held a lance before.

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It was clearly Lyanna imo. The voice is odd but that is an absolutely minor issue compared to all the clues and the meaning to the story it gives if it was her. I have absolutely no problem with her easily beating them at jousting. We saw her scatter them (all three at once) with a tourney sword after they were beating up Howland, it's implied her athleticism, coordination and determination was significantly greater than all of them.

It's our only window into her meeting with Rhaegar, it explains why he crowned her and what piqued his interest, and why they probably fell in love. She has the motive to teach the squires a lesson and stick up for Howland. There have been clues dropped that she was an excellent rider. The story has no meaning or point if it was anyone else other than her.

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8 hours ago, Makk said:

The story has no meaning or point if it was anyone else other than her.

Bingo. Just as

Spoiler

the narrative point of Elia Sand's hobby is to introduce us to a jousting girl before dropping the bomb.

 

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Posted (edited)

It's definitely Ned.

He is, in fact, established as notably short. Especially during the tournament when he wasn't yet full grown.

The booming voice is a stronger link than anything for Lyanna.

The purpose of Lyanna's horse riding skill is to link her to Arya and Jon, not KotLT. Jaime's statement of horsemanship & jousting is far overblown as it comes down to simply a prerequisite. You have to be a good rider to be a good jouster, but being a good rider does not automatically make you a good jouster.

The sad truth is that the theory for Lyanna is only popular because of R+L=J. People think it "enhances" RLJ somehow so they grasp onto it.

In truth there are a dozen plausible and narratively effective reasons for Ned to be the KotLT, but that would diminish RLJ for many people so they turn their backs on logic and consistency.

Edited by Kienn

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8 minutes ago, Kienn said:

He is, in fact, established as notably short.

Where?

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Ned should be about six feet tall. He's about the same size as Ice.

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3 hours ago, Kienn said:

It's definitely Ned.

He is, in fact, established as notably short. Especially during the tournament when he wasn't yet full grown.

The booming voice is a stronger link than anything for Lyanna.

The purpose of Lyanna's horse riding skill is to link her to Arya and Jon, not KotLT. Jaime's statement of horsemanship & jousting is far overblown as it comes down to simply a prerequisite. You have to be a good rider to be a good jouster, but being a good rider does not automatically make you a good jouster.

The sad truth is that the theory for Lyanna is only popular because of R+L=J. People think it "enhances" RLJ somehow so they grasp onto it.

In truth there are a dozen plausible and narratively effective reasons for Ned to be the KotLT, but that would diminish RLJ for many people so they turn their backs on logic and consistency.

Ned would have been full grown at this point, and he is capable of wearing Ice on his back, a 6 ft sword, hence he is over 6 feet tall.

Jon specifically states that Robb was the better jouster, he was the better sword.  That does not link her to Jon.

 

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16 hours ago, Frey family reunion said:

I think the point may be that Lyanna and her brother Brandon may have been wargs/skinchangers.  Without a dire-wolf, their bond went to their horses.  And yes, before you ask, I think this could possibly give Lyanna a chance to have been TKOTLT, even though I remain skeptical until we're given some evidence that Lyanna had ever held a lance before.

We are told that the animals you skinchange effect you.  More specifically we are told that spending time in prey animals will make you fearful.  Lyanna and Brandon are literally the opposite of fearful people, being described as having wolf blood.

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