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maidenandwarrior

Howland Reed + Ashara Dayne = Meera & Jojen?

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Howland Reed + Ashara Dayne = Meera and Jojen

This is the quick and dirty version of the theory. To read the whole thing, which is about 6,000 words, please click on the spoiler tags below.

My theory is 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.

Once at Greywater Watch, the couple had Jojen as well, and have been living there ever since.

In sum, H+A=M & J

The evidence in brief is:

  • The Tourney at Harrenhal: Howland Reed is watching Ashara and actually makes a list of all the people that she dances with. This has no bearing on the rest of the KotLT story, and yet it is mentioned. Why? Meera, who is telling the story, would have no reason to mention this to Bran and yet she does. Why?

  • We are told by Barristan that Ashara had a daughter. If that daughter was not stillborn, and lived, Meera is one of the only candidates, due to being the right age and gender. She is about nine or ten months older than Jon, and therefore one of the only known characters born in the beginning of Robert's Rebellion.

  • Jojen got grey water fever, which is odd because while it affects the Ironborn, you would think that the crannogmen would be immune to it. His eyes are moss-green, which is a color given to mark seers. But what color were they before the fever?

  • Barristan Selmy, who loved Ashara, remarks that: "She wants fire, and Dorne sent her mud. You could make a poultice out of mud to cool a fever. You could plant seeds in mud and grow a crop to feed your children. Mud would nourish you, where fire would only consume you, but fools and children and young girls would choose fire every time." Considering how many things he has been wrong about so far, is he wrong about this too? Did Ashara choose an actual "mudman"?

  • We are told that Ned would have died at the TOJ but for Howland Reed. What does this mean? Was it crannog magic, or was Howland Arthur's brother-in-law?

  • Why was Ned so quick to defend Ashara if R+L=J? It would make sense if she was the wife of his bannerman.

  • There is specific language over and over again with regards to the Reeds and Bran. Towers, Stars, Falling, and Summer come up constantly. Hints for Starfall, Palestone Tower, and the Summer Sea, perhaps?

  • The Dornish are looked down on by the other kingsdoms, as are the crannogmen. The crannogmen are reviled for their guerrilla tactics, which are considered cowardly, something the Dornish also have in common with them. Howland has spent his life among the water, just as Ashara spent hers on the edges of the Summer Sea. House Reed also has an ongoing feud with House Frey, just as House Dayne has an ongoing feud with House Oakheart. Common ground for a romance?

This is really the theory in brief, and the rest of it can be seen in the spoiler tags with evidence and analysis.

I kid you not, I thought up this theory after seeing it as a joke on the forums. I can’t find the thread now, but it was about guessing the identity of Ashara’s baby daddy, and all the usual suspects were there. Brandon, Ned, Robert…pretty much every man at Harrenhal. Then someone tossed out a name as a joke, and the conversation pretty much skipped over it. But I think it bears further attention. The name?

Howland Reed.

If you are still reading this, let me explain.

  • The Theory

My theory is 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, where Arthur Dayne did not die, Howland picked up Ashara from Starfall, along with their daughter, and went North with Arthur Dayne. The story was put about that Ashara died, and she assumed the name Jyana Reed.

Once at Greywater Watch, the couple had Jojen as well, and have been living there ever since.

In sum, H+A=M & J

Now, to the evidence…

  • Harrenhal and the Spectator’s Gaze

There is a lot of strangely compelling evidence, that when put together, seems to at least afford the possibility that I am heading in the right direction. So let’s start from the beginning. Consensus seems to state that Ashara Dayne’s baby daddy must have been at Harrenhal. And while she might have talked to him off screen, someone we never saw, it is more likely that GRRM placed him in the scene right under our noses. To quote from Meera’s Tale:

The crannogman saw a maid with laughing purple eyes dance with a white sword, a red snake, and the lord of griffins, and lastly with the quiet wolf…but only after the wild wolf spoke to her on behalf of a brother too shy to leave his bench. (ASOS 340)

There are many interesting things going on in this passage. For one, this is used by both Brandon and Ned-as-the-dad proponents to prove their point. But it is interesting if you look at the opening of the sentence, rather than the end of it. Up to that point, the passage had just been listing the number of things going on in the hall:

Under Harren’s roof he ate and drank with the wolves, and many of their sworn swords besides, barrowdown men and moose and bears and mermen. The dragon prince sang a song so sad it made the wolf maid sniffle, but when her pup brother teased her for crying she poured wine over his head. A black brother spoke, asking the knights to join the Night's Watch. The storm lord drank down the knight of skulls and kisses in a wine-cup war. The crannogman saw a maid with laughing purple eyes dance with a white sword, a red snake, and the lord of griffins, and lastly with the quiet wolf . . . but only after the wild wolf spoke to her on behalf of a brother too shy to leave his bench.

Ashara danced with a white sword, which could be any member of the Kingsguard, most likely her brother or Ser Barristan. Next a red snake, which is most likely Oberyn Martell. Then came Jon Connington, and then Ned Stark. She also spoke to Brandon, who was the one to ask if Ned could dance with her. However, it is worth noting that the author intentionally makes Ashara Dayne’s first mention in Meera’s tale within the context of being seen by another.

Howland Reed was watching her, so much so that he noted all the men she danced with. This is not a simple casual viewing of the hall. If R+L=J, which Howland Reed would be the one person who would certainly know it, why on earth would he watch Ashara so closely? It is one thing to watch a woman and admire her beauty, but it is quite another to note all her dance partners.

And what man remembers the dance partners of a woman with no connection to him more than a decade later, when telling the story to his daughter? Isn’t it much more likely that Ashara was the one who told Meera that part of the story?

Also, why would Meera even mention Ashara Dayne to Bran? She can’t think that Ashara has any connection to House Stark, because I very much doubt that Howland Reed has been lying to his children all these years. If he wanted to keep R+L=J a secret, why even mention it at all? Simply never mention Jon’s mother, and that’s an end to it. However, if Ashara is Meera and Jojen’s mother, it would be quite important to the story from Meera’s perspective.

Meera mentions Ashara more than once too. She says, when taking about maidens fairer than the current Queen of Love and Beauty: “One was the wife of the dragon prince, who’d brought a dozen lady companions to attend her. The knights all begged them for favors to tie about their lances.” Remember that Ashara was one of Elia’s companions at this time. Meera might have even been about to say more about her, but Bran doesn’t want it to be a love story: “‘This isn’t going to be one of those love stories, is it?’ Bran asked suspiciously” (ASOS 339). He also at one point, cuts off the narrative and urges Meera to get to the jousting. Who knows what she might have added to the story without those caveats?

  • Swords and Dead Knights

Moving forward chronologically, we get this little tidbit from Ned about the battle at the Tower of Joy:

“The finest knight I ever saw was Ser Arthur Dayne, who fought with a blade called Dawn, forged from the heart of a fallen star. They called him the Sword of the Morning, and he would have killed me but for Howland Reed.” Father had gotten sad then, and he would say no more. Bran wished he had asked him what he meant. (ACOK 332)

The common interpretation of this passage is that Howland Reed used some crannog magic to subdue Arthur so Ned could kill him, but it is never explicitly stated in the text. We are told that “only two lived to ride away” (AGOT 427) but also that “They had found him still holding her body, silent with grief. The little crannogman, Howland Reed, had taken her hand from his” (AGOT 44). Who is the “they”? Did Arthur Dayne “die” that day, and the sword returned to Starfall was actually Dayne himself? There is already imagery of the Kingsguard being referred to as swords, not to mention Arthur’s title was Sword of the Morning. We are told in Catelyn II that:

…a castle has no secrets, and Catelyn heard her maids repeating tales they had heard from the lips of her husband’s soldiers. They whispered of Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of Morning, deadliest of all the seven knights of Aerys’s Kingsguard, and of how their young lord had slain him in single combat. And they told how afterward Ned had carried Ser Arthur’s sword back to the beautiful young sister who awaited him in a castle called Starfall on the shores of the Summer Sea. The Lady Ashara Dayne, tall and fair, with haunting violet eyes. (AGOT 65)

Already, we know there are many problems with this tale. First of all, he didn’t defeat Dayne in single combat, by his own admission. Second of all, the men who “witnessed” it weren’t actually there, making them unreliable narrators at best, because Ned took six men with him, and only he and Howland made it out alive. Thirdly, Ned seems keen to protect Ashara for some reason, even though he would have no reason to if R+L=J. But when Ned gets angry to the point of making his wife fear him, he asks for who told her. Catelyn then says this: “She told him; and from that day on, the whispering had stopped, and Ashara Dayne’s name was never heard in Winterfell again.” Seriously, this only makes sense if Ashara was Jon’s mother, or if there was another reason Ned wanted to protect her good name…like if she was married to one of his bannermen, and he wanted to prevent tales of her from being spread through the North.

Ashara Dayne’s mystery really is a house of cards. We know from one of GRRM’s SSMs that her body was never found. If she is alive, as many people think, this being discovered would be very bad for Ned. It stands to reason that as one of the last people to see her alive, Ned was asked about Ashara over the years. If he knows she is alive, he would have had to lie. “He had lived his lies for fourteen years, yet they still haunted him at night” (AGOT 115). Lies, plural, not singular. He has been lying about more than just Lyanna and Jon. If Arthur Dayne and his sister are still alive, this would make a great deal more sense. But if it is discovered that she is alive, Ned’s word falls into question, and this could lead to the discovery of Jon’s identity. Also worth mentioning is that Ned has absolutely no reaction to Ashara’s supposed death when it is mentioned by Cersei.

And finally, more than once Meera and Jojen stress that there are no knights in the Neck, almost as if they want to make sure no rumors get started: “My father taught me. We have no knights at Greywater. No master-at-arms, and no maester” (ACOK 435). And yet, for all that, both of them are remarkably well educated. Odd, right? Perhaps the answer comes in A Storm of Swords when the Reeds repeat that there are no knights in the Neck:

“There are no knights in the Neck,” said Jojen.

“Above the water,” his sister corrected. “The bogs are full of dead ones, though.” (ASOS 337).

If Arthur Dayne is alive, and living at Greywater Watch, he is literally a “dead” knight, living in a bog.

There ideas of "dead" seem to be flexible too:

Sam was staring at him. "You're Jon Snow's brother. The one who fell..."

"No," said Jojen "That boy is dead." (ASOS 771).

I guess if I had grown up with a mother, and possibly uncle, who were "dead" to the rest of the seven kingdoms, "dead" would be a pretty broad term.

  • Justice for Starfall?

Still moving forward chronologically, we know that Ned and Howland went to Starfall after the Tower of Joy. Strange, isn’t it that a man, who supposedly just killed their favored son, got out of there alive? Or that he even went in the first place? Seriously, what was to stop Ned from camping half a day away in some little town to get a wetnurse, while he sent a messenger, like a lord from the North, with the sword to Starfall? That would be as honorable as doing it himself, and certainly wouldn’t offend the family. In some cases, it might seem rude to go to the house of the man you just killed, even if it was in honorable combat.

It makes no sense that he would go himself, unless, of course, he had nothing to fear from them.

Consider that Ned Dayne is very interested in Ned Stark, and wanted to meet him at the Tourney of the Hand. Obviously, he didn’t grow up on tales of Ned as a monster. Allyria spoke to Edric of Ned Stark as star-crossed lovers with her sister, so even she doesn’t seem to resent him. It is very unlikely that they knew the truth about what happened, or even that Ashara is alive. What is more likely is that Edric’s father, who was Ashara’s older brother, new the truth of everything and raised his son and sister accordingly.

After Starfall, what happened there is anyone’s guess, but we know that Ned left with Wylla accompanying him and Jon as well. Weird, isn’t it, that the Daynes, whose son Ned had just killed, sent him off with a trusted family servant? Someone they later allowed to nurse their heir? And Wylla was able to come back after she finished nursing Jon to nurse Edric, so obviously the Daynes don’t harbor any ill will towards her for leaving with Ned Stark.

Around this time, the fiction of Ashara’s suicide begins. Edric Dayne says that Ashara threw herself off the Palestone tower because her heart was broken. But again, this is only hearsay that he heard from his Aunt Allyria who, if she was too young to marry Lord Beric for so many years, would have only been a child or younger when Ashara and Arthur “died.”

Ser Barristan, who harbored an unrequited love for Ashara says this:

But Ashara’s daughter had been stillborn, and his fair lady had thrown herself from a tower soon after, mad with grief for the child she had lost, and perhaps for the man who had dishonored her at Harrenhal as well. She died never knowing that Ser Barristan had loved her. How could she? He was a knight of the Kingsguard, sworn to celibacy. No good could have come from telling her his feelings. No good came from silence either. If I had unhorsed Rhaegar and crowned Ashara queen of love and beauty, might she have looked to me instead of Stark? (ADWD 879)

The wording there is interesting as well, “looked to me.” (Now, Barristan is an unreliable narrator for reasons I will go into later, but his passages are important, if only because they show what tales he heard that were circulated through the kingdoms, or told to him by someone he thought would know the truth.) Barristan seems to imply that it was the so-called dishonoring that led to Ashara “looking” to a Stark. Which Stark, we don’t know. This often gets misquoted as “turned to Stark”, implying a relationship where there might have been none. However, if Ashara married and became pregnant by one of his bannermen, there is a very large possibility that Ned or Rickard (or Brandon) would have had to step in and smooth the way.

Why? Because the Daynes are not at all just a common house. They are not one of the Big Eight, so they often get overlooked by readers, I think, but there is nothing just average about their house. For one, Gerold Dayne states: “My House goes back ten thousand years, unto the dawn of days” (AFFC 432). They have a cadet branch, the Daynes of High Hermitage, and possibly a second cadet branch if House Jordayne springs from them as well. Also, Ser Gerold Dayne is of the cadet branch, yet Arianne thinks: “He was highborn enough to make a worthy consort” (AFFC 425-426). This is not just any old noble house; that much is clear.

Imagine then that Lady Ashara married Howland Reed without permission, or simply bedded him and became pregnant. He might have been a highborn lord, possibly descended from Kings, but crannogman are looked down on by northmen, let alone the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. The help of House Stark might have very much been needed.

If Ned was able to convince Ashara’s brother, or parents if still living, of the worthiness of House Reed, of their descent from the Marsh Kings, their blood ties to House Stark, the fitness of Greywater Watch, that Howland didn’t dishonor Ashara and married her in good faith, as well as bringing their son back to them alive…yeah, that is probably worth naming the next heir after him for.

Edric, which is a combination of Eddard and Rickard. Interesting, to say the least.

  • Think of the Children

In a Clash of Kings, we are told that Meera is “almost sixteen” (432). This puts her about nine months older than Jon, who had just turned fifteen at the end of A Game of Thrones. If she was conceived at Harrenhal, or thereabouts, it fits very nicely in with the timeline. Not only would her parents have been in the same place, but also it helps to explain her existence.

Think of it another way. For her to be born to a crannogwoman, Howland would have had to go straight home and marry immediately. He could have had a betrothed waiting for him, but it probably would have taken him anywhere from two weeks to a month to get home from Harrenhal, and then there would have had to be preparations for a wedding, because remember, he had been on the Isle of Faces for an entire winter. He would have been gone from his home for years, so a wedding would have taken a little time to pull together. Unless, of course, Ashara and Howland followed Harwin’s school of thought: “There’s naught like a tourney to make the blood run hot” (ASOS 599).

Also, it is worth noting that House Reed seems to follow Dornish inheritance laws. When they are presented at Winterfell, they are presented as: “Lady Meera of House Reed…with her brother, Jojen, of Greywater Watch” (ACOC 328). Jojen is not introduced as the lord and heir, Meera is. This could be because Jojen has foreseen his own death, and Howland Reed took steps then to make Meera his heir, but it could also be that Ashara Dayne insisted that her daughter not be denied her birthright. In any case, Meera truly seems to be her father’s heir. Like him, she can “…run swiftly, and stand so still she seems to vanish…breathe mud and fly through trees” (ASOS 131). Her father is described in the exact same way, and was also a great hunter when he was younger.

Jojen, on the other hand, is, quite literally, a dreamer. According to the story, he got grey water fever when he was a little boy, and when he recovered, his eyes had turned green. This is interesting, for two reasons. One, when Theon meets with the Ironborn in A Dance With Dragons at Moat Cailin, they warn him not to drink the water because it makes you ill. Meera, we are told, can breathe mud like her father. Presumably, Jojen tried this as well, and got sick instead. You would think that after millennia of living in the Neck, all crannogmen would be immune to grey water fever. Unless, of course, he is only half crannog and he got the bum roll of the genetic lottery and is more like his mother. And two, what color were his eyes before he got sick? Meera, we are told has green eyes, but Jojen’s turned green. Presumably then, Jojen had the same color eyes as his mother…

There are also repeated images of summer, towers, falling, and stars associated with both the Reeds and Bran. Beginning with Summer, the obvious connections are Bran’s direwolf, and Old Nan and Jojen call him a “summer child” and Osha calls him “summer boy.” But there are less obvious ones as well. The first sentence of the first chapter of the book, Bran’s POV, ends in the word summer. Jojen, when petting Summer, is described as having “a touch as light as a summer breeze” (ACOK 333). And when Jojen is telling Bran to open is third eye, he says: “With three you would gaze south to the Summer Sea and north beyond the Wall” (ACOK 437). Remember that Starfall is set on the Summer Sea.

The idea of Bran, the Reeds, and Towers was not as obvious, but rather pointed in the re-read. Bran falls from the Broken Tower, and afterwards calls himself Bran the Broken. On their journey north, Bran names one of the towers they stay in Tumbledown Tower, and they stop at the Queenscrown tower as well. The Freys are enemies of the “mudmen” and their sigil is two towers and a bridge. (Interesting to note, but the bridge at Winterfell between the bell tower and the rookery collapsed after the burning). And one of the squires who attacked Howland Reed at Harrenhal was in service to a Frey, or a Frey himself. And one of the things that drew Howland to Harrenhal was “the towers reached ever higher as he neared shore” (ASOS 338). When they arrive at the Nightfort, Bran notes that it is full of broken towers. And it should be remembered that it was the Children’s Tower at Moat Cailin from where the Children of the Forest called down the Hammer of the Waters, creating the bog that Meera and Jojen live in. If Ashara Dayne was their mother, her having “jumped” from Palestone Tower would add just one more dimension to this.

The falling is obvious as well, but still worth mentioning. Bran was convinced he would never fall when climbing, so of course he did. “It seemed as though he had been falling for years” (AGOT 160). Afterwards, he has no memory of it: “Bran did not remember falling, yet they said he had, so he supposed it must be true” (ACOK 72). But it continues on, even after he has awoken. He dreams of falling over and over again. He also worries that Meera will fall when she is climbing up the wall. And there is one more connection with the Daynes and Starks, if for no other reason than both of them have castles with variations of fall in them, Starfall and Winterfell.

Last, but not least, the star imagery. This appears mostly in Summer’s dreams, who sees things that Bran cannot, and even remembers Jaime before Bran does. During the sack of Winterfell, Summer thinks: “Behind the cliffs tall fires were eating up the stars” (ACOK 957). And Bran says: “He loved to listen to the direwolves sing to the stars” (ACOK 70). During his coma, he thinks: “There was no sun, no stars” (AGOT 160). And stars literally guide them as they trek north: “The blue star in the dragon’s eye pointed the way north” (ASOS 331). And perhaps the greatest connection of Bran’s arc, the Reeds, and Starfall comes when Maester Luwin is warning Bran against believing in Jojen’s green dreams:

The years pass in their hundreds and their thousands, and what does any man see of life but a few summers, a few winters? We look at mountains and call them eternal, and so they seem…but in the course of time, mountains rise and fall, rivers change their courses, stars fall from the sky, and great cities sink beneath the sea. (ACOK 442)

It should also be noted that Meera and Jojen Reed set off from Greywater Watch (on horses, when they have no master of horse) right after the comet appears in the sky.

  • Attraction and Common Interests

But would Ashara have bedded or married Howland Reed in the first place? Without this answer being yes, the whole theory falls apart. To answer it, we simply need to take a look at if it was possible, which I think is yes.

Consider the following. From the moment she comes to court, Ashara Dayne is renowned for her beauty:

His choice would have been a young maiden not long at court, one of Elia’s companions … though compared to Ashara Dayne, the Dornish princess was a kitchen drab. Even after all these years, Ser Barristan could still recall Ashara’s smile, the sound of her laughter. He had only to close his eyes to see her, with her long dark hair tumbling about her shoulders and those haunting purple eyes. (ADWD 879)

This paints a very pretty picture, but it could not have been fun to be at court in those days. For one thing, the king was a mad shut in, who hadn’t left the Red Keep since Duskendale. She was also Lady in Waiting/companion to Elia, who was bedridden after Rhaenys was born for six months, and nearly died birthing Aegon. For a young girl, possibly anywhere from fifteen to nineteen (or Barristan wouldn’t have called her young), this couldn’t have been fun. And despite what I have seen suggested, she did not come to court with Elia, or Barristan wouldn’t have called her “not long at court.” Having her brother nearby wouldn’t have even been much comfort to her, because he would have been busy with his duties, and off fighting the Kingswood Brotherhood.

Over and over, I have seen it said that Ashara Dayne was a great friend to Elia, but there is no canonical evidence for this. For one thing, she would have been much younger than Elia, at least five years. For another, the most likely way she got her position at court was through her brother, who was Prince Rhaegar’s best friend. Seriously, Queens (or princesses) and their ladies don’t have to be friends, just ask Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. And even if they were friends, Elia was still sick for a lot of that time, which would have left Ashara pretty much to her own devices when not serving the princess. And being at court, as the sister of the famed Arthur Dayne, yet looked down upon for being Dornish, yet praised for her beauty, must have been exhausting.

So why wouldn’t she have been looking to have a little fun at Harrenhal? The Dornish do not hold love affairs with the same horror as the rest of the seven kingdoms. She could have easily gotten together with Howland and conceived Meera. The problem would come if and when she wanted to marry him, I think. Remember that Doran Martell doesn’t care when he hears that Arianne slept with the Bastard of Godsgrace, but he rejected Daemon Sand’s offer of marriage out of hand. Yes, it could have been because she was already betrothed, but Daemon Sand seems to feel otherwise. We simply do not know how the Daynes would have felt about it.

But would Ashara even have been attracted to Howland in the first place?

Possibly, if she was attracted to the typical Dornish look: “… Dornishmen were small and swarthy, with black hair and small black eyes.” (ASOS 595). The Daynes were described mostly like First Men, with Valyrian coloring, despite not having any Valyrian blood. But most of the other men Ashara saw in her day to day life would have been the “Salty Dornishmen,” who lived on the coasts.

Remember that Ashara was described by Catelyn as “tall and fair,” which is a First Men quality, so in all likelihood she would be taller than the men she met every day who had Rhoynish blood, save her family, so Howland Reed wouldn’t have been that much of a change. And regarding the Salty Dornishmen: “There were the salty Dornishmen who lived along the coasts…the salty Dornishmen were lithe and dark, with smooth olive skin and long black hair streaming in the wind” (ASOS 520). Furthermore, the Dornishmen Tyrion sees are described as wearing copper armor. Oberyn’s “shirt was armored with overlapping rows of copper disks.” Later, they are described as scales. Dornishmen are also famous for fighting with spears.

In Meera’s tale, Howland Reed was described thusly:

Once there was a curious lad who lived in the Neck. He was small like all crannogman, but brave and smart and strong as well. He grew up hunting and fishing and climbing trees, and learned all the magics of my people…he could breathe mud and run on leaves, and change earth to water and water to earth with no more than a whispered word. He could talk to trees and weave words and make castles appear and disappear…he donned a shirt sewn with bronze scales, like mine, took up a leather shield and a three pronged spear, like mine, and padded a little skin boat down the Green Fork. (ASOS 337-338)

Consider this in comparison to typical Dornishmen, and even more, compare it to Ashara’s experiences of life so far. We are told that Princess Elia was looked down upon for being Dornish, so it is no stretch of the imagination that at court, Ashara was as well. Howland Reed is likewise looked down upon for being a crannogman. The crannogmen are reviled for their guerrilla tactics, which are considered cowardly, something the Dornish also have in common with them. Howland has spent his life among the water, just as Ashara spent hers on the edges of the Summer Sea. House Reed also has an ongoing feud with House Frey, just as House Dayne has an ongoing feud with House Oakheart.

For them to meet, all it would have taken was an introduction, which I am sure Ned was happy to provide if he took Ashara over to meet his sister…who was sitting right next to Howland Reed.

  • The Great Lie

So why lie?

Why say Ashara was dead? Why keep it a secret that she was married to Howland Reed?

Jon.

In the end, it all comes back to Jon. As the true king of the Seven Kingdoms, at least in Arthur Dayne’s eyes, his safety would always be the number one priority. And despite being “dead” Arthur Dayne was the greatest knight that ever was…and he would never let Jon go north without him. My guess is that he went back to the Neck with his sister and her husband, and frequently made trips north to Winterfell to see Jon.

Now, this might not seem like a good place for him to be, but it is for a number of reasons. First of all, the Neck is the sight of Moat Cailin, and according to Ned Stark: “Two hundred determined archers can hold the Neck against an army” (AGOT 202). By living there, at least part of the time, Arthur would be able to meet any foes head on. It is also a sight which makes it easy for him to move back and forth. The crannogman could easily get him up to Moat Cailin, and from there he could go to White Harbor which is extremely close. Having a port right there would be very important for news, or even if he needed to get Jon on a boat quickly. It is also close enough to Winterfell that Arthur could move easily enough.

I wouldn’t even be surprised if Arthur had an identity that he was known to all the folk of Winterfell by, save Ned. The Hooded Man, anyone?

Again, this explains why Ashara Dayne had to “die.” Her living in the Neck would cause stories to circulate, and the last thing Arthur would want is for attention to be drawn northwards.

The next objection would be that Jon has taken the Black and is now no longer king of anything.

So why has the secret continued, and why aren’t Howland Reed and Arthur Dayne back in the story then? Why hasn’t Arthur gone to Dany like Barristan? Easy.

Greendreams.

Jojen has greendreams, and it isn’t a stretch of the imagination to think that he might have said something to his father and uncle about biding their time before he left for Winterfell. He might have also had dreams of Jon’s future as a monarch, making Arthur know his place is still in the North, not in Essos.

In any case, Howland Reed is very busy at the Neck anyway, fighting Freys and Ironborn. But consider that Maege Mormont and Galbart Glover went to Seaguard from where they were supposed to head to Greywater Watch…and have been curiously absent ever since. Something is going on in the Neck, and whatever it is, I doubt it’s unimportant to the story.

According to a SSM, Dawn is currently at Starfall. Arthur might have relinquished the sword when he “died.” Of course, it is also possible that Arthur in fact does have the sword, and we are only meant to think that it is at Starfall. Whatever the case, I think the sword is too important, and mentioned too many times, to have no connection to the end of the tale.

  • Pièce de résistance

The final, and maybe most important, piece of evidence comes from Ser Barristan the Bold himself. More than once, Barristan displays questionable judgment throughout the books. While he is essentially a morally “good” character, that doesn’t mean he is always right. For example, bending the knee to Robert rather than dying for his principles like Whent and Hightower did. When Barristan did this, he gave immediate legitimacy to Robert’s reign: “Yes, the man was old, but the name of Barristan the Bold still has meaning in the realm. He lent honor to any man he served” (AGOT 770).

Ser Barristan also tells Dany that the small folk are waiting for her in Westeros, something her brother Viserys said, and it is pretty much hopeful nonsense. And was it poor judgment which led him to serve Aerys too? Or simply honor’s sake? And Barristan simply stands by when Robert’s decree is ripped offering only a token protest, though he does hesitate when Cersei orders him to seize Ned. He backs off when Dany doesn’t want to hear that her father was a madman, and couches his words very carefully, not saying anything bad about her family. Questionable behavior, certainly, and no, it does not make him a monster. It is hard to know if this points to a weak mind or bad judgment, but it does show a pattern.

It also shows that everything he says should be taken with a grain of salt. His thoughts and quotes about Ashara are useful in only that they show the rumors going around her at the time, or even his own thoughts on the matter. Like the idea that she was “dishonored” at Harrenhal. Like the maids and soldiers that Catelyn heard about Ashara Dayne from, Barristan Selmy is an unreliable narrator at best. So when I see the following quote, I tend to think just the opposite:

She wants fire, and Dorne sent her mud. You could make a poultice out of mud to cool a fever. You could plant seeds in mud and grow a crop to feed your children. Mud would nourish you, where fire would only consume you, but fools and children and young girls would choose fire every time. (ADWD 785)

This quote is interesting on so many levels, not for the least in that Barristan takes himself to be knowledgeable about the desires of a young girl’s heart, when he is, by his own admission, celibate. But it also does two things in my opinion. It links the image of Dorne and mud, and it brings to mind the “mudmen.” And to add another parallel, Quentyn Martell, who Barristan calls “mud”, was also called “Frog” on his journey to Meereen. The crannogmen of the Neck are often called “frog eaters” for their dietary choices. It is interesting that Quentyn, who is Dornish, also unites the “mud” and “frog” aspect as well.

There would be great irony if Ashara, the so-called love of Barristan’s life, literally rejected every other man who was “fire”, only to choose “mud.”

  • Conclusion

So what does it all mean? Well, not much at the moment. On the surface, if Ashara + Howland = Meera and Jojen, it doesn’t really explain much but to add another layer of complexity to the tale. It would certainly help to explain the linkage between Ashara and Ned, and some of the discrepancies presented in the books. It would also explain why Starfall and Dawn and Ashara and Arthur keep getting mentioned in the books, over and over and over. In a sense, they have never really been “off screen”. With Meera and Jojen around since A Clash of Kings, and Arthur popping up in flashbacks, and Ashara getting mentioned by so many disparate people, along with Howland Reed too—it helps to link everything together.

One thing that gets said repeatedly is that Howland Reed is the only one who knows the truth about Jon. But this actually makes no sense when it comes to revealing his identity. Ultimately, it comes down to how GRRM will reveal it and what it will mean. Like if it is revealed and Jon doesn’t really care, and dies in the Last Battle, then no, it will never really matter that Howland Reed told him. But, as many people think, if Jon will ultimately take a throne in the end, like the Northern or Iron, it will matter a great deal who his parents were and it will need to come from a reliable source. Howland Reed might have been a great friend of Ned’s, but crannogmen are not well-respected. But if, on the other hand, Arthur Dayne is alive—one of the greatest knights ever who was beloved by the smallfolk—and he too gives his word about Jon…

Considering that Robb’s will is currently in the Neck, along with Maege Mormont, and Galbart Glover, and the crannogmen are in the perfect position to attack the Dreadfort men at Moat Cailin and then meet any army that might march up the Kingsroad, like from the Vale or Riverlands—the Lord of Greywater Watch will have an important part to play in the future story, even if he remains off screen.

Why couldn’t Howland Reed also have a great backstory as well, one that also took place off screen?

And why couldn’t Ashara Dayne not be the victim of Ned or Brandon that everyone seems to think she was, and instead be the master of her own destiny?

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Thanks! This was a lot of fun to write up, and it has been nagging at the back of my mind since I first saw HR suggested. Ever since then, everything has a double meaning.

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You are truly dedicated and this was nicely worded.

But, nothing about theory... Yes, nicely worded. Also, welcome to the forum :cheers:

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Sorry I did not read everything, but why do you think Arthur Dayne is alive? The KG (the real ones, not Cersei's pretenders) do not strike me as the type to run away and hide. They would rather die in battle 1v100 than run away.

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Mother of god... :eek:

Is there a tl;dr version? If not, I'll read it later if I have time.

ETA: Welcome aboard! :cheers:

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Sorry I did not read everything, but why do you think Arthur Dayne is alive? The KG (the real ones, not Cersei's pretenders) do not strike me as the type to run away and hide. They would rather die in battle 1v100 than run away.

Well, I think that their responsibility mostly falls with protecting the king. We don't know if Arthur was or wasn't in and out of Winterfell for all of Jon's life. To be honest, Arthur being alive could go either way. But I certainly think Meera and Jojen are Ashara's kids.

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Mother of god... :eek:

Is there a tl;dr version? If not, I'll read it later if I have time.

ETA: Welcome aboard! :cheers:

Thanks!

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But, nothing about theory... Yes, nicely worded. Also, welcome to the forum :cheers:

Thanks, and I will always take compliments where I can find them. :cool4:

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Or outside the canon material, more likely.

Hmm, you could think of it that way if you like. I think I have presented plenty of quotes that at least puts it within the realm of canon discussion.

The problem with Ashara Dayne is, in many ways, that she is fundamentally unknowable. Unlike with her brother, we don't get any quotes of her dialogue or scenes with her in them. Because of this, I think there is a lot of leeway with what could have been regarding her character. Arthur Dayne still being alive, I'll grant you, can be called crackpot. But if reading the series has taught me anything it is that GRRM likes to surprise and play with our expectations.

Ashara Dayne was beautiful and lovely and reportedly leapt to her death, so of course she must have had a tragic romance. Arthur Dayne was the epitome of a perfect knight, so of course he died on the job.

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You write very well maidenandwarrior, I am anxious to see more topics by you.

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I was ready to write this one off with laughter when I first clicked on it. I loathe fake death theories, and definitely any theories about Ashara. But somehow, I find something oddly attractive about this theory, even with all of the holes. It certainly is outside the box. I think I really kinda sorta love it.

Still, despite my attraction, there are some problems that make it a less than optimal crackpot. Some are little nitpicks that don't really have much bearing on the theory, but some are more relevant. Here goes.

Imagine then that Lady Ashara married Howland Reed without permission, or simply bedded him and became pregnant. He might have been a highborn lord, possibly descended from Kings, but crannogman are looked down on by northmen, let alone the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. The help of House Stark might have very much been needed.

As far as I recall, this isn't true at all. When Meera and Jojen arrived at Winterfell, they were received warmly by the northmen. The two Walder Freys were the only one to hurtle insults their way. Outside of the Neck and the North, the crannogmen are looked down on, for sure, but not within the North. The North remembers, and remembers well all those times the crannogmen have admirably defeated marching armies.

And finally, more than once Meera and Jojen stress that there are no knights in the Neck, almost as if they want to make sure no rumors get started: “My father taught me. We have no knights at Greywater. No master-at-arms, and no maester” (ACOK 435). And yet, for all that, both of them are remarkably well educated. Odd, right?

I don't find it odd. I also don't know if we can determine exactly how educated they are compared to other nobles of the same age. They don't have maesters or knights and masters-at-arms but they are still capable and have shown much intelligence. This indicates to me that the crannogmen are different but not lesser, and there are two ways to skin a rabbit (btw, one of my favorite scenes in the show!). Howland presumably did not have the benefit of a maester, and he was still knowledgeable about the world and apparently knew how to fight considering he taught Meera skills that served to subdue a direwolf.

<snip>Arthur Dayne, "they" at the tower of joy, Jon future king, Ned's lies<snip>

This part of the theory is absolutely the weakest. First, the "they". A group of nobles at the TOJ would likely have servants. The knights would probably have at least one squire or page helping them. There would probably also be a midwife and/or wetnurse on hand. Any of these people would be part of the "they".

Now Arthur. This is really where things start to fall apart in the theory. He need not be alive for the theory to be somewhat plausible. Ned recalls the ten cairns he built.

Actually, as I'm writing this, I'm sort of starting to talk myself out of why this is the weakest part of the theory. I'm reminded of Sandor and the Hound. The Hound is dead but Sandor lives. The Elder Brother even made a grave for the Hound. Hmm, ok, I'm going to have to come back to this.

Re: Barristan

This is the part I agree with the most. I almost always think the exact opposite when Barristan makes a comment or observation. I like the irony of of Ashara possibly being attracted to mudmen when Barry thinks it's the opposite.

Ok, so this critique was not what I expected it to be at the beginning. There are probably some holes, but for some reason while writing, I kinda forgot what they were. I'm going to need to come back to it.

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Interesting theory, I'm not sure I buy it but I do like it. Well done.

Welcome to the forum, I look forward to many more well written but crazy ideas.

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Can we go ahead and nominate this for best crackpot theory ever?

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I'm to 'Attraction & Common Interests,' but I had to take a break and say that as someone who officially DESPISES Ashara is alive theories, I'm madly in love with this one. Though I think Arthur is likely dead, Ned speaks of the number of cairns he and Howland raised.

- Back to reading.

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I was ready to write this one off with laughter when I first clicked on it. I loathe fake death theories, and definitely any theories about Ashara. But somehow, I find something oddly attractive about this theory, even with all of the holes. It certainly is outside the box. I think I really kinda sorta love it.

Still, despite my attraction, there are some problems that make it a less than optimal crackpot. Some are little nitpicks that don't really have much bearing on the theory, but some are more relevant. Here goes.

As far as I recall, this isn't true at all. When Meera and Jojen arrived at Winterfell, they were received warmly by the northmen. The two Walder Freys were the only one to hurtle insults their way. Outside of the Neck and the North, the crannogmen are looked down on, for sure, but not within the North. The North remembers, and remembers well all those times the crannogmen have admirably defeated marching armies.

I don't find it odd. I also don't know if we can determine exactly how educated they are compared to other nobles of the same age. They don't have maesters or knights and masters-at-arms but they are still capable and have shown much intelligence. This indicates to me that the crannogmen are different but not lesser, and there are two ways to skin a rabbit (btw, one of my favorite scenes in the show!). Howland presumably did not have the benefit of a maester, and he was still knowledgeable about the world and apparently knew how to fight considering he taught Meera skills that served to subdue a direwolf.

This part of the theory is absolutely the weakest. First, the "they". A group of nobles at the TOJ would likely have servants. The knights would probably have at least one squire or page helping them. There would probably also be a midwife and/or wetnurse on hand. Any of these people would be part of the "they".

Now Arthur. This is really where things start to fall apart in the theory. He need not be alive for the theory to be somewhat plausible. Ned recalls the ten cairns he built.

Actually, as I'm writing this, I'm sort of starting to talk myself out of why this is the weakest part of the theory. I'm reminded of Sandor and the Hound. The Hound is dead but Sandor lives. The Elder Brother even made a grave for the Hound. Hmm, ok, I'm going to have to come back to this.

This is the part I agree with the most. I almost always think the exact opposite when Barristan makes a comment or observation. I like the irony of of Ashara possibly being attracted to mudmen when Barry thinks it's the opposite.

Ok, so this critique was not what I expected it to be at the beginning. There are probably some holes, but for some reason while writing, I kinda forgot what they were. I'm going to need to come back to it.

Thanks for reviewing! Seriously, I have been sitting on this for a couple months now because at first I thought it was so out there. But, in the course of re-reading for other purposes, specifically character arc by character arc, I became slowly convinced that this was a real possibility.

Regarding the other Northmen looking down on the crannogmen, yeah I probably should have phrased that better. I sort of think that the rest of the North looks at them like the bayou. Sure they're apart of the country, but you still make jokes at their expense. I absolutely could be wrong about this, and I would think that people who actually fought with them and met them would disagree, but they do keep to themselves. The small folk might not have much interaction with them.

There is actually a part in ASOS when Meera mentions a Wull who was friends with her father during the war. I think on a personal level, maybe man to man, crannogs would be respected, certainly, but maybe not as a group.

With regards to Meera and Jojen's education, yep, they could just have a very well-educated father. You are totally right about that. I just think it is curious.

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I'm to 'Attraction & Common Interests,' but I had to take a break and say that as someone who officially DESPISES Ashara is alive theories, I'm madly in love with this one. Though I think Arthur is likely dead, Ned speaks of the number of cairns he and Howland raised.

- Back to reading.

Yep, that is certainly a problem with the theory, and one of the SSMs mentioned that Dawn was at Starfall. I can't explain that, but it is certainly fun to try.

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