Throughout the entirety of Game of Thrones, Lyanna Stark is mentioned. Usually this happens in the Winterfell crypts when characters are looking at the statue that rests by her grave. The Stark children know little about her except for the fact that their father had a sister.
What Everyone Knew Was Wrong
“Father never talked about her,” is said more than once in reference to Lyanna. It’s never revealed how they’ve all learned it, but they’ve heard a story that Rhaegar Targaryen kidnapped and raped her, leading to the start of Robert’s Rebellion and, ultimately, her death.
In the Season 6 finale, Bran uses his newfound abilities to go back to the Tower of Joy and follow his father up the winding steps. Once there, he finds a few things he wasn’t expecting. The first thing is that Lyanna Stark is on her death bed. He witnesses an emotional exchange between his father and Lyanna, but then he hears Lyanna mention the name of her newborn baby followed by the plea for Ned to protect him. We’re not immediately shown who the baby is or what Lyanna said about his name as it’s cleverly hushed compared to everything else she says. The look on Ned’s face is one of strong shock. Then we hear the baby cry and a shot of the baby’s face transitions into a close-up of Jon Snow. Turns out Jon Snow is not Ned Stark’s bastard. Ned just passed him off as such to uphold his promise to Lyanna.
That scene throws into question the entire story that’s been told up until that point. While it doesn’t actually prove outright that she wasn’t kidnapped and raped, it’s questionable that she would ask to have her child be protected if he wasn’t wanted. And since he’s wanted, it seems Lyanna may not have been kidnapped at all, but ran away with Rhaegar of her own volition.
At the end of this episode we know that two characters now know the truth. In Season 7, Sam learns not only the truth about Rhaegar and Lyanna, but he and Bran also learn the full truth about Jon Snow. But there are hints throughout the series that suggest they aren’t the only three who knew Rhaegar and Lyanna were in love.
At the beginning of the series, there’s no reason to believe Ned Stark is keeping any sort of secret, let alone a huge one. The only family he’s shown to have outside of his wife and children is his younger brother Benjen. Benjen is a ranger in the Night’s Watch. The vows of the Night’s Watch make its members swear off all relations to the political dealings of the Seven Kingdoms, as well as family relations. It seems that rule is not a hard and fast one, as Benjen is allowed to attend the feast at Winterfell in celebration of King Robert’s visit.
At the feast, Ned and Benjen have a quiet conversation about the Night’s Watch deserter who Ned beheaded earlier in the episode. Based on this conversation, it’s easy to see that the brothers are close enough to share thoughts on the possibilities of White Walkers, which would create a panic if anyone overheard. Since the brothers can share a secret like that between them, it’s plausible that they had shared other secrets as well.
Ned Stark is a strong and honest man, but he’s still human. It’s difficult to believe he wouldn’t need to confide in someone about his sister, and Benjen, as his only living brother, is the perfect person to do so. There are also hints that Benjen not only knows about Lyanna, but that he knows about Jon Snow, as well.
When Benjen arrives at Winterfell for the feast, the first person he encounters in Jon Snow, who isn’t at the feast because Catelyn Stark doesn’t want him there. Benjen tells Jon he’s always welcome on the Wall, but when Jon asks to go with him immediately, he’s hesitant.
“You don’t understand what you’d be giving up. We have no families. None of us will ever father sons,” says Benjen.
“I don’t care about that,” Jon says.
“You might,” Benjen says. “If you knew what it meant.”
This may be an innocuous comment about how happy a family can make a person, but it also could mean that Benjen knows Jon is a trueborn Targaryen and having kids would be a bigger deal to him than it might be to others.
The Look on Littlefinger’s Face
In Season 5, right before he leaves Sansa to her horrible fate with the Boltons, Littlefinger joins her in the Winterfell crypts, just after she’s lit a candle and placed it in the hands of Lyanna’s statue. Littlefinger tells Sansa about the first time he saw Lyanna. He got to attend a tournament at Harrenhal, and basically everyone from the Seven Kingdoms was there. He goes on to tell Sansa what Rhaeger did during the tournament.
“He rode right past his wife, Elia Martell, and all the smiles died,” he says. “I’ve never seen so many people so quiet. He rode past his wife and he lay a crown of winter roses in Lyanna’s lap, blue with frost. How many tens of thousands had to die because Rhaegar chose your aunt?”
Sansa responds, “Yes, he chose her and then he kidnapped her and raped her.” As Sansa says the last words, Littlefinger closes his eyes for just a moment and there’s a slight movement of his forehead and mouth. Then he quietly chuckles. It’s very subtle, but one thing we know about Aiden Gillen, who plays Littlefinger, is that he’s a master of acting only with his face. He achieves so much with a slight turn of his eyes or a twist of his lips. Littlefinger’s character is also known for having almost as much knowledge of secrets as Varys. It’s completely plausible that he would have discovered the truth. Despite this, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that he knows the truth about Jon Snow.
There are so many hints at so many events that are scattered throughout the series. Some are barely perceptible. I’m confident I haven’t discovered them all even after multiple viewings of the entire series. There may be even more people who knew the truth, and we just haven’t figured it out yet.
So what do you think? Do you think Benjen and Littlefinger were privy to some information? Is anyone else a possibility?