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The Season 7 finale of Game of Thrones was a doozy when it comes to Jon Snow. The good news for him is that he finally hooked up with the beautiful young queen he’d spent most of the season ogling; the bad news for him is that Dany is actually his aunt on his paternal side. Thanks to Bran’s Three-Eyed Raven abilities and Sam’s reveal of what Gilly discovered at the Citadel, Jon’s status as a legitimate Targaryen was confirmed, even if he doesn’t know it yet. Of course, as this is Game of Thrones we’re talking about, his lineage isn’t exactly straightforward. So, read on for a breakdown of the history behind how Jon and Dany are related on Game of Thrones.
The story of how Jon and Dany are related goes all the way back to the beginning of the Targaryen dynasty in the Seven Kingdoms. The Targaryens brought many things with them to Westeros from Essos, one of which was incest. From the time Aegon the Conqueror flew into Westeros with his sisters/wives, incest was a big deal for the Targaryens. In fact, any Targaryen family tree wouldn’t see too many additions with different surnames. If there were Targaryen brothers and sisters, they were probably going to be married.
Interestingly, it was a few of the very rare instances of Targaryens marrying outside the family line that set the stage for the current state of affairs in Westeros. Robert Baratheon was actually part Targaryen, due to the marriage of Rhaelle Targaryen and Ormund Baratheon. Robert’s grandmother was Targaryen, which is what gave him a better claim to the Iron Throne than Ned Stark or Jon Arryn after the rebellion. Then, there’s Rhaegar’s first marriage to Elia Martell and his second to Lyanna Stark. Jon exists due to Rhaegar’s marriage to a non-Targaryen, which at least means that he and Dany aren’t as closely related as brother and sister.
The many generations of inbreeding began to take a toll on the Targaryens by the time Robert’s Rebellion kicked off. Aerys earned the title of Mad King due to his deep-seeded paranoia and love of burning people alive, and his intention to roast King’s Landing with wildfire rather than allow it to be sacked by Tywin Lannister didn’t exactly make him look saner in hindsight. In the books, Aerys was also quite cruel to his sister/wife Rhaella and made strong overtures to Joanna Lannister, Tywin’s wife. It’s worth noting that the Mad King wasn’t necessarily an outlier among Targaryens. Viserys probably would have given Aerys a run for his money when it comes to madness, and even Dany has had fits of temper.
Then, there’s Rhaegar. While Rhaegar was obviously less off his rocker than Aerys, he did make a pretty huge mistake by running off with Lyanna Stark. Even if they were madly in love and he wanted to marry her, he probably should have known that disappearing with the daughter of a lord who was engaged to another lord was not going to end well. Robert’s Rebellion happened when it did because Rhaegar and Lyanna ran off, and while Lyanna has her share of blame in this, the crown prince should have known better. Perhaps all the inbreeding did have an effect on Rhaegar’s mind.
Game of Thrones hasn’t made it entirely clear when Rhaegar and Lyanna first crossed paths, but the now not-so-dearly departed Littlefinger shared a story with Sansa in Season 5 about the tourney at Harrenhal when Rhaegar rode past his wife and gave a crown of flowers to young Lyanna in front of a crowd of lords and ladies, including the Mad King and Robert Baratheon.
It wasn’t too long after Harrenhal that Rhaegar ran off with her. They went to Dorne, where Rhaegar annulled his marriage to Elia Martell and married Lyanna. She would later give birth to a baby boy there, although Rhaegar died at the Trident before he could meet his son. Lyanna named the baby Aegon Targaryen and entrusted him to her brother Ned, who renamed him Jon after Jon Arryn in order to keep Robert from having him killed. Thus, Jon is the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, and he may or may not start going by a different name by the end of the series.
The story of Dany’s survival is pretty remarkable as well. Aerys’ first two children were both sons, and so he had no option to marry one child to the other to produce the next line of inbred Targaryens. Rhaegar was married to Elia Martell of Dorne, and together they had two children who would have been rendered illegitimate if they’d survived Robert’s Rebellion due to Rhaegar annulling his marriage to Elia. If not for the war, Viserys and Daenerys probably would have married, and poor Dany would have had a very difficult lot in life.
When Robert’s Rebellion started heating up, Aerys sent his pregnant wife Rhaella and Prince Viserys to Dragonstone for safety, although he kept Elia and her children with him in King’s Landing to keep the Dornish from joining Robert and Co. in rebellion. Dany was born in the midst of a massive storm on Dragonstone, earning herself the title “Daenerys Stormborn.” She and Viserys were smuggled to Essos before any of Robert’s men could find them and kill them. So, Dany survived against all odds, and the death of Viserys means that she won’t have to marry a brother.
Instead, she’s hooking up with her nephew, which could make for a very awkward conversation when Jon inevitably finds out that he’s a Targaryen. Throw in the fact that Jon’s claim to the Iron Throne would be stronger than Dany’s in the traditional Targaryen line of succession, and their passions may cool off pretty quickly once the truth comes out. Then again, Dany might be cool with the incest part. She grew up on stories of her family, and she seems to hold at least Rhaegar in high regard. Maybe the whole blood-relation thing won’t be a deal-breaker. In fact, given that Jon is technically the rightful heir to the Targaryen dynasty, she may want to marry him to increase the chances of winning the Iron Throne.
A bigger question might be how Jon will feel about the incest. He wasn’t raised in the knowledge that he comes from a line of inbred royals, and the whole mess with Cersei and Jaime’s affair is his prime example of the disaster that can ensue when relatives hook up. Then again, he wasn’t raised with Dany the way he was raised with Arya and Sansa, and he and Dany don’t exactly look alike. He might be okay with the incest, especially since she has told him she can’t have kids. That said, my money is on Jon and Dany making a baby, which could point to incest kicking off a new generation in Westeros.
We can only wait and see. Game of Thrones will return to HBO for Season 8, hopefully sooner rather than later. For all we know at this point, Jon and Dany will both die moments after winning the Iron Throne, leaving Gendry as the only potential rightful claimant if he declares himself a Baratheon. Pretty much anything can happen. Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for the latest in Game of Thrones news, and don’t forget to check out our fall TV premiere schedule for what will soon hit the airwaves.
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