Jon Snow’s (Kit Harington) parentage is at the core of “Game of Thrones,” with the critically-acclaimed series confirming the long-standing theory that he’s the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark during Season 7. As if that wasn’t enough of a plot twist, a new theory suggests Jon unknowingly met and killed his father, who was hiding beyond the wall as the king of the Free Folk, Mance Rayder.
The incredibly thought-out theory, posted on A Forum of Ice and Fire by Wheels in 2016, states Rhaegar’s magical Valyrian blood, mixed with the fires of his funeral pyre, resurrected him after his death at the Battle of the Trident. Seeing that his wife was dead and the Baratheons controlled Westeros, he set out to fulfill the prophecy of the Prince That Was Promised and stop the long night. The theory cites characters from the novels and show, like Catelyn Stark and Gregor Clegane, who died and became someone else — Lady Stoneheart and Robert Strong, respectively — as a similar explanation of how Rhaegar became Mance Rayder.
When George R. R. Martin introduces Rayder, he heavily emphasizes his cloak, even giving Mance a monologue explaining it. The catch? His cloak is red and black, the colors of House Targaryen. But wait, wouldn’t someone have recognized Rhaegar’s face when Mance showed up? Not necessarily, as the theory states he could’ve learned how to change his face, similar to Arya, as his royal blood gives him a predisposition to magical abilities. If true, the theory makes Jon’s execution of Mance at Castle Black in Season 5 much more emotional.
Mance’s disguise could be the theory’s key
While Mance Rayder died in “Game of Thrones” Season 5, he lives on in the books. Melisandre used magic to swap his appearance with Rattleshirt, a free folk leader who died in his place. Eventually, Jon Snow learns of this, sending Mance to rescue “Arya Stark” — who ends up being Jeyne Poole — from Winterfell. The last time readers hear of him, he is allegedly a prisoner of Ramsay Bolton. While this doesn’t necessarily play into the fan theory of Mance being Rhaegar, the disguise he uses to sneak into the Bolton-controlled Winterfell could.
As Wheels mentions in their fan theory, the word “able” is commonly used to describe Rhaegar in the books. “Able. That above all. Determined, deliberate, dutiful, single-minded,” Ser Barristan Selmy tells Daenerys Targaryen about her brother Rhaegar in “A Storm of Swords.” Interestingly, a few books later, in “A Dance with Dragons,” Mance disguises himself as a bard named Abel to infiltrate Winterfell. Not only does the name call back to one of Rhaegar’s descriptors, but it’s also an anagram for “Bael,” a free folk bard who, according to legend, stole the daughter of Winterfell, much like Rhaegar did with Lyanna Stark, giving birth to Jon Snow. In the books, Mance would sing songs of Bael after the free folks’ raids, and considering that Rhaegar was also an exceptional musician, it makes the theory of Mance being Jon Snow’s father all the more interesting.
Given that other “Game of Thrones” fan theories, like Jon being a Targaryen, turned out to be true, it makes you wonder what George R.R. Martin is cooking up for his final installments.