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Megorova

Swan Song part 2/16. Johanna Swann - the black swan or a dark horse?

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Let’s begin with a small history lesson. In 96 AC the Triarchy of Lys, Myr and Tyrosh invaded the Stepstones to cleanse them of pirates and corsairs. Though after gaining control over the islands and the channels between, they started to demand higher and higher tolls from all passing ships. Later, in addition to extorting money from the passers-by, Lyseni started to take off the ships beautiful women, girls, and comely young boys to serve in their pleasure gardens and pillow houses. Amongst those who were enslaved by them was Lady Johanna Swann, a fifteen-year-old niece of the Lord of Stonehelm. Her niggardly uncle refused to pay the ransom, and thus Johanna was sold to a pillow house. She became a famous courtesan known as The Black Swan of Lys, and eventually became ruler of Lys in all but name. The Narrator of the Fire & Blood claims that - “Alas, her tale, however fascinating, has no bearing upon our present history.”

On the contrary to that claim, I think that Johanna Swann played a crucial role in the fate of the Targaryen dynasty, and that her “game of thrones” even now still influences what is happening in the main series. Thus, rather than being a black swan, Johanna was a dark horse.

dark horse

a person who keeps their interests and ideas secret, especially someone who has a surprising ability or skill - Cambridge Dictionary

a candidate or competitor about whom little is known but who unexpectedly wins or succeeds - Definitions from Oxford Languages

Little is known about Johanna’s life in Lys, only that the Triarchy was eventually brought down by internal conflicts following the murder of Sharako Lohar, a Lyseni admiral who was killed by a rival for the affections of Johanna. So who could have been that rival? Who benefited from the Triarchy’s fall and their subsequent separation? Could be that it was a man who, by getting rid of his rivals, both in his private life and in the professional sphere, afterwards became a de-facto ruler of Lys. I mean him - Lysandro Magnificent, the head of House Rogare and Larra Rogare’s father.

What is known about Rogare family?

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Lysandro was the patriarch of a rich and powerful banking and trading dynasty whose bloodlines could be traced back to Valyria before the Doom. Amongst many other holdings, the Rogares owned a famous pillow house, the Perfumed Garden. - F&B, Under the Regents.

…he had sired six trueborn sons, three daughters, and sixteen bastards…

Drazenko’s ties to Sunspear and Lysandro’s to the Iron Throne made the Rogares the princes of Lys in all but name. - F&B, The Lysene Spring and the end of Regency.

Thus, considering that Lysandro owned a famous pillow house and was the prince of Lys in all but name, while Johanna Swann was a famous courtesan and a ruler of Lys in all but name, isn’t it kind of obvious that those two were together?

In TWOIAF and in the Fire & Blood there’s a lot of additional information about Rogares, including names of Lysandro’s nine legitimate children, though no name of Larra’s mother. Did GRRM just forgotten to mention who was the mother of the woman that gave birth to one of the most notorious Kings of the 7K, or was that information omitted on purpose? Also, why does it matter whether Johanna was or wasn’t Larra’s mother, and how could this influence the bigger picture?

If my theory is correct, then the majority of the players in the game of thrones are Johanna’s descendants and partially Swanns - Targaryens (starting from Aegon IV), Martells (starting from the children of Daenerys Targaryen and Maron Martell), Baratheons (starting from Steffon), Blackfyres, Bloodraven, Shiera Seastar, Black Pearls of Braavos, Brown Ben Plumm, Golden Company (thru Bittersteel), and several “dark horses” about whom I will write in the following threads.

In my opinion these events possibly were orchestrated by Johanna:

-         Sharako Lohar’s death and the subsequent separation of Lys from the Triarchy.

-         The dowfall of House Rogare.

Even though I’m sure that Johanna Swann was Larra Rogare’s mother and either one of Lysandro’s wives or his concubine, I don’t think that she ever loved him. People like Lysandro gained their wealth by selling women’s bodies at the pillow houses and pleasure gardens. He was the same as the other Masters of Lys and the Triarchy, those who enslaved Johanna and forced her to become a courtesan. So, as soon as Johanna married her daughter to a foreign prince and sent them to safety away from Lys, she began her vengeance campaign.

-         Possibly this people were Johanna’s ex-clients (they all died in Lys under suspicious circumstances, following the fall of Rogares): Torreo Haen, Silvario Pendaerys and his brother Pereno, Moreo Dagareon, Matteno Orthys.

I think that Johanna was a cat-skinchanger (same as her daughter and granddaughter - this topic I will explore further in my next threads), and that she killed Matteno Orthys by skinchanging into his shadowcat.

-         It’s likely that eventually Johanna went back to Westeros and took House Swann under her control. Could be that she married with one of her cousins, and that Swanns from then on are Johanna’s descendants, including Gawen, Manfred, Lady Jeyne, and a Kingsguard Balon Swann.

-         Seems that Johanna robbed Rogare Bank, and possibly used that gold to pay to the Faceless Men for the assassination of Lysandro and Drazenko Rogare.

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Though the narrow sea lay between them, the two Rogares died within a day of each other, both under suspicious circumstances. Drazenko perished first, choking to death upon a piece of bacon. Lysandro drowned when his opulent barge sank whilst carrying him from his Perfumed Garden back to his palace. Though a few would insist that their deaths were unfortunate accidents, many more took the manner and timing of their passings as proof of a plot to bring down House Rogare. The Faceless Men of Braavos were widely believed to have been responsible for the killings; no more subtle assassins were known to exist anywhere in the wide world.

But if indeed the Faceless Men had done these deeds, at whose bidding had they acted? - F&B, The Lysene Spring.

My answer is - Cherchez la femme or look for the woman.

The French meaning of this adage implies that no matter what the problem may be, a woman is often the cause. It is a cliche in detective fiction, used to suggest that a mystery can be resolved by identifying a femme fatale. Look for the mistress, jealous wife, or angry lover: a woman is at the root of each problem.

If my findings concerning Johanna are correct, then she played a key role in multiple historical events. Though, despite all that, she’s a character that got completely overlooked by the other readers. That’s why my Grand Theory is titled “Swan Song”, in dedication to Johanna Swann, a “dark horse” character and one of ASOIAF’s Femme Fatales.

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9 hours ago, Megorova said:

a lot of people from the same House have similar names;

I think similar names can be clues across disparate Houses as well. You point out the syllables or combinations of letters often identified with Targaryens, but I think there are syllables or combinations of letters that can point to a type of character or to a parallel character "reborn" in a new generation.

For instance, names ending in "-ella" sometimes identify characters who are crones or women out of childbearing age: Septa Unella, Lady Donella Hornwood (nee Manderly), Lady Ravella Smallwood (nee Swann), possibly Ellaria Sand, Lady Mellario, Elza (or Ella), a deceased weaver slave once owned by Grazdan zo Galare.

It may not always work - Queen Rhaella doesn't seem like much of a crone, based on her life as described in the books so far. And there are other crones who do not seem to have -ella names. 

You cite the name "Ambrose" as a name featuring the "ae" combination that marks a Targaryen. Similarly, I look at ways that GRRM scrambles letters: mixing up the identifying letters helps to keep readers guessing and avoids making the trail of breadcrumbs too obvious. If the letters "E," "L," and "A" are hints, then Olenna and Melisandre might be part of the -ella group.

A crone connection for the Ella names may not be the salient point: GRRM uses the name Lea (as well as Robb) in a number of his stories. The Ella names may be variations on Lea, which opens up many new lines for comparison.

More to the point of your Johanna Swann idea, though, is the syllable "ann." This is easily combined with other syllables to create a variety of names. But several "ann" names immediately came to mind as I read your posts (particularly posts 2 and 3):

  • Lann the Clever
  • Johanna Lannister
  • Rohanne Webber

Definitely a strong association with House Lannister. And the lions associated with the Lannisters might add further strength to the cat theme you have connected to Larra Rogare (although cat symbolism is pretty complicated in ASOIAF). 

In a slowly-evolving analysis of the Dunk & Egg stories, the Rohanne Webber / Rohanne of Tyrosh connection recently took on a new meaning in my mind. Long story short: Dunk's flirtation with Rohanne Webber alludes to the Oedipus / Jocasta relationship in the ancient Greek tragedy; Dunk is probably a Blackfyre descendant; the "Rohanne" given name connects Lady Webber to the wife of Daemon I Blackfyre, adding to the idea of a man who is attracted to his mother.

I was long ago persuaded by a discussion in this forum that Lann the Clever was probably a woman. And now I'm thinking that the common element in the "ann" characters seems to be that they are fertile women who suddenly disappear. Johanna Swann being kidnapped, Johanna Lannister dying suddenly in childbirth (or so her children are led to believe), and Rohanne Webber disappearing under mysterious circumstances would all fit this profile. 

I love your idea that Larra Rogare and Serenei of Lys are the same person. I also love the idea that Johanna Swann became both the Black Swan of Lys and the matriarch of House Rogare. But we know that another famous courtesan with a pirate connection and an Aegon IV connection is "reborn" when the name of The Black Pearl is handed down from generation to generation. Along with the other evidence you cite (bathing in blood, etc.) I think the Black Pearl pattern lends support to the possibility that the Black Swan is "reborn" in each of these women descended from Johanna Swann. So Shiera Seastar may be Johanna Swann, Larra Rogare and Serenei of Lys -- reborn over and over again after bathing in blood or performing whatever magic is needed to rejuvenate and reappear in a new setting. 

But your connections among the Johanna Swann descendants also leads me to think of other characters: Sansa Stark might be an "ann" character -- she disappears after Joffrey's wedding. (But she is not a mother, unless her sudden maternal role in the life of Sweetrobin Arryn qualifies.) The detail that seems most directly connected to the Swann descendants is that Larra's guards seem to be her jailers except for the loyal Sandoq the Shadow, with the damaged face. This sounds a lot like Sansa being a hostage in King's Landing except that Sandor Clegane (with the damaged face) seems to genuinely care about her. She is reborn as Alayne, which could be another "ann" name.

Of course, another "ann" character who gives birth and then disappears would be Lyanna Stark. 

Thanks for writing up and sharing your ideas! Some great fresh thinking here.

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11 hours ago, Seams said:

If the letters "E," "L," and "A" are hints, then Olenna and Melisandre might be part of the -ella group.

I wrote a bit about both Olenna and Melisandre in the other parts of the "Swan Song", specifically in part 9/16. Though I don't want to mix everything together from different threads, thus we'll have to wait to discuss that topic until I will post that other thread. Ok?

11 hours ago, Seams said:

More to the point of your Johanna Swann idea, though, is the syllable "ann." This is easily combined with other syllables to create a variety of names. But several "ann" names immediately came to mind as I read your posts (particularly posts 2 and 3):

  • Lann the Clever
  • Johanna Lannister
  • Rohanne Webber

Good that you noticed this "ann" part. ^_^ I also found several other Annes, and all three of them had children fathered by Duncan the Tall. This topic will be featured in "SS part 6". I'll post it tomorrow.

11 hours ago, Seams said:

Dunk is probably a Blackfyre descendant;

He is definitely a Blackfyre descendant. We discussed this possibility a few years back in one of your threads. Since then I found even more evidences concerning Dunk's ancestry.

11 hours ago, Seams said:

But your connections among the Johanna Swann descendants also leads me to think of other characters: Sansa Stark might be an "ann" character

Yes! You smart girl (or boy)! Sansa is a dragonseed, same as her siblings. This concept is featured in "SS part 7". You'll be surprised how many of ASOIAF's characters are bloodrelated to Targaryens and thru them bloodrelated to each other. A LOT! For example - Khal Drogo (yes, I'm absolutely serious), Beric Dondarrion, Hodor, Petyr Baelish, the current Sealord of Braavos, etc.

11 hours ago, Seams said:

The detail that seems most directly connected to the Swann descendants is that Larra's guards seem to be her jailers except for the loyal Sandoq the Shadow, with the damaged face. This sounds a lot like Sansa being a hostage in King's Landing except that Sandor Clegane (with the damaged face) seems to genuinely care about her.

:agree:

Sansa and Sandor are bloodrelated. Though distantly. Sandor is one of Dunk's descendants, and both Sansa and Robert Arryn are Aegon the Unworthy's 3-times-great-grandchildren thru their mothers.

I wanted to gradually explain everything in chronological order, that's why even though all of this is connected, I devided this topics into separate threads not to confuse the readers by pouring at them everything at once. You know the saying? - the one about the boiling frog?

"The boiling frog is a fable describing a frog being slowly boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of sinister threats that arise gradually rather than suddenly."

:D

If I will throw it at them like this - BAM! Melisandre is a Targaryen. BAM! Varys' parents are XXX & XXX. BAM! Rhaegar choose Lyanna as the mother of his third child because he knew that she was XXX. Then obviously readers will react with - Tinfoil! Crackpot! Fanfiction! Though if I will be explaining it to them in stages, then maybe at least some of them will see the logic behind my ideas and will be able to grasp the whole concept.

12 hours ago, Seams said:

Thanks for writing up and sharing your ideas! Some great fresh thinking here.

Thank you :blush:

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30 minutes ago, Megorova said:

If I will throw it at them like this - BAM! Melisandre is a Targaryen. BAM! Varys' parents are XXX & XXX. BAM! Rhaegar choose Lyanna as the mother of his third child because he knew that she was XXX. Then obviously readers will react with - Tinfoil! Crackpot! Fanfiction! Though if I will be explaining it to them in stages, then maybe at least some of them will see the logic behind my ideas and will be able to grasp the whole concept.

I can understand wanting to publish a complex theory in bite-sized pieces. I will look forward to seeing your upcoming installments. I just wanted to offer support for some of your ideas as it occurred to me. 

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