One of the longest-running unanswered question of Game of Thrones was about the identity of Jon Snow's mother. A popular theory was that he was actually the product of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen rather than Ned Stark and another woman, and that theory was seemingly confirmed in the Season 6 finale. Looking back now that we've actually seen a dying Lyanna hand her infant son over to her brother, it appears that one character may have known and even hinted about Jon Snow's true parentage way back in Season 1. Maester Aemon Targaryen delivered a speech so full of foreshadowing about Rhaegar + Lyanna = Jon that we are beginning to believe he almost had to have known. Here's what he had to say in his chat with Jon at the Wall:
Love is the death of duty. If the day should ever come when your lord father was forced to choose between honor on the one hand and those he loves on the other, what would he do?...What is honor compared to a woman's love? And what is duty against the feel of a newborn son in your arms? Or a brother's smile?
The parallels between Maester Aemon's speech to Jon and the story of how Jon came to be raised by Ned in Winterfell were pointed out by a Reddit user with an eye for detail, and the similarities are too great to ignore. Aemon's speech to Jon came in the ninth episode of Season 1, which remains one of the most pivotal episodes of the series to date. Ned was executed after confessing to treason in an act that sacrificed his honor for Sansa's sake in the same hour of television that Aemon revealed that he had been born Aemon Targaryen. The monologue originally seemed written to parallel Ned's trials in King's Landing and give a bit of backstory about Aemon and the Targaryens; in hindsight, it feels like it had to be about Jon's real parents.
Ned chose his love for his sister over his honor and duty to Catelyn when he claimed Jon as his own bastard son. Assuming that the relationship was consensual, Lyanna gave up her honor for love of Rhaegar. Newborn Jon was innocent of any of the crimes that had condemned the rest of the Targaryens. Ned and Lyanna had one last chance to smile at one another before she died.
Either Maester Aemon was awesome at foreshadowing or he knew that Jon was as much a Targaryen as a Stark. The question now is: How he could have possibly known? The characters who were most aware of Jon's true birthright were Ned Stark and Howland Reed. Ned wouldn't tell even Catelyn that Jon was Lyanna's, and Howland Reed doesn't seem like somebody who makes regular trips to the Wall to chat with the maester. Perhaps Aemon kept contact with someone from his old life who may have been in the know or perhaps possessed the gift of greensight that allowed Bran to witness the passing of Jon from sister to brother. Who knows? Maybe Aemon was just great at sensing when he's around people who share his bloodline. Or maybe it really was just lucky word choice.
Unfortunately, Season 6 has only just ended, so we still have a while to wait before we get to see more of Jon Snow and perhaps learn if anybody else had the chance to learn of his parentage. Check out our breakdown of what we know so far about Season 7, and take a look at our fall TV premiere schedule to see what you can watch during the wait for more Game of Thrones.