Rhaegar’s Plan: Jon…or Visenya?
The theories surrounding Rhaegar Targaryen, the Three-Headed Dragon, and the Prince that was Promised are plentiful, varied, and jolly-well interesting.
Most of these theories take differing slants on exactly what Rhaegar was trying to achieve in the final years of his life. All but a few agree that in some shape or form he was trying to give birth and potentially raise a child (or children) who could become either humanity’s saviour, or at the very least a reignition of sorts for House Targaryen (given that their dragons were all gone and Rhaegar’s dad was cuckoo).
A specific cache of these theories centre around the idea of the Three-Headed Dragon, a concept that spreads itself wide across all those involved with the Targaryen family. Whether it be concerning Daenerys’ Westeros invasion, the ability to ride dragons or the identity of ‘secret’ Targaryens, it always reverts back to the family’s famous sigil.
I have been thinking about a particular facet of The Three Headed Dragon and exactly what Rhaegar thought he was up to. I’m sure it has been brought up before in one way another, but few things are as fun as dusting off our theory brooms and doing some good ole sweeping, so feel free to come and indulge with me.
Firstly, a confirmation of Rhaegar’s desires:
Rhaegar’s mission (One Dragon into three)
As we all know, at some point in his youth Rhaegar got it into his head that he was destined for something greater than merely being the king of an entire continent. Rhaegar, already handy at most things, got quite into books and maybe found something in there that alerted him to
So whether by book or family secret, Rhaegar knew he was important. On one hand he was heir to the Seven Kingdoms, on the other the secret to reintroducing dragons, or saving his family, or saving the world.
Remember that due to Summerhall, inbreeding, and various other factors, the Targaryen flame was not burning so hot in Rhaegar’s time. A lot of pressure was put on him to reinvigorate the royal family.
Presumably, Rhaegar carried this burden with him into young adulthood. It would certainly lend a reason for his frequent visits to Summerhall. If he did, he must have hidden it well, for the political side of things was all too present to be forgotten in favour of some prophecy. Aerys was falling deeper into madness, and the realm falling deeper in the love with the idea of a change of management.
For whichever reason, great or small, some little Rhaegars were required, so the Prince got to it by marrying Elia Martell of Dorne and proceeding to have two children. The first, a daughter, was named Rhaenys. The second, a boy, was named Aegon.
And then it all gets a bit complicated.
Before we move on to Lyanna and her pregnancy with Jon, we have to address a major issue with both this and any theory or thought about Rhaegar: We have almost zero reliable information about Rhaegar the person.
Considering the time he was alive, and the people he crossed paths with, George (likely purposefully) has withheld a lot of information. We get almost nothing reliable from our POVs, and almost all of that comes later in the series. Cersei remembers his looks, Jaime recalls one fated goodbye, and even Barristan fully admits that it was Arthur Dayne whom Rhaegar trusted with his secrets, not himself. Jon Connington does his best to persuade that he was the man’s best friend, but closer examination shows perhaps he was not as much a part of the cool crowd as he’d like us to think.
The crucial point is that almost everything we know of Rhaegar is him as a political figure; a Prince or an heir. We know really nothing about Rhaegar the father or husband. Everyone who might know: his wife, his mother, his best friend in Arthur Dayne, aren’t likely to be telling us anytime soon.
We have just one
The man had her brother’s hair, but he was taller, and his eyes were a dark indigo rather than lilac. “Aegon,” he said to a woman nursing a newborn babe in a great wooden bed. “What better name for a king?”
“Will you make a song for him?” the woman asked.
“He has a song,” the man replied. “He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.” He looked up when he said it and his eyes met Dany’s, and it seemed as if he saw her standing there beyond the door. “There must be one more,” he said, though whether he was speaking to her or the woman in the bed she could not say. “The dragon has three heads.” He went to the window seat, picked up a harp, and ran his fingers lightly over its silvery strings. Sweet sadness filled the room as man and wife and babe faded like the morning mist, only the music lingering behind to speed her on her way.
This brief vision, less than 200 words long, is the hinge of almost everything we have on Rhaegar and his prophecies. When you think about it, that’s nuts. This occurred all the way back in the second book of the series, came from magic by way of an off-her-head-on-Shade-of-the-Evening Dany. She is even told that she will see things that never were.
After all, as Ser Jorah points out, if it was Elia’s Aegon being named the Prince that was Promised, it ended with a broken promise. Yes, we can hear about how Rhaegar likely wasn’t anywhere near Lyanna when she gave birth, but we can also refer back to that ‘things that never were’ statement. Perhaps this is the last hope of Rhaegar’s ghost, perhaps it was his final wish that this moment happened.
Regardless: the point is we don’t know Jack about what Rhaegar was upto with his kids. With that in mind, allow me to suggest a possibility.
Recreating the Conqueror
Quite a while back, Westeros was divided into Seven Kingdoms ruled by a bunch of different kings. Half a world away, the Valyrian Empire and its Dragonriders were at the height of civilisation and power. One of those things ended, one did not. A century later, three Targaryens set out to finish off the other. In Aegon’s Conquest, the Targaryens and their dragons changed the face of Westeros entirely. As Tyrion says in one episode of a popular television show “Aegon made the wheel”, by which he meant, Aegon basically set up life as we know it.
For Aegon I, or the Conqueror, was the driving force behind this victorious invasion. Having said that, he would have got nowhere without his sisters Rhaenys and Visenya (or their respective dragons). The three siblings set up a dynasty that lasted three centuries until it wound all the way down to Rhaegar. As you might have noticed, we’ve got some similar naming going on.
In daddyhood, Rhaegar got two-thirds of the way to recreating a full set of the first Targaryen royals. Which finally brings me to my central question. Was Rhaegar intending to fully recreate the set? Or more specifically, was Jon supposed to be a girl, and by extension, the second Visenya?
Let’s start off by assuming that he
Rhaegar was attempting to restart House Targaryen
As mentioned above, Rhaegar kind of needed a home run. His father was basically throwing the realm away, his only sibling was still a toddler, and Targaryen supporters were dropping like flies. Rhaegar was a smart enough man to figure out even if his generation survived the next one really needed a better set up.
So, why not go back to your roots? No one did so much for the Targaryens as the original Aegon, Visenya and Rhaenys. Why not the new three as well? We can look at this two ways: in an eldritch power, unknown magics, secret secrets, way where Rhaegar knew only these three could complete the task, whether that be by bringing dragons back or whatnot.
Or, maybe it was just a desperate guy who was going to take any piece of luck he could get.
After all, this wasn’t exactly the first Aegon. There had also been one other Rhaenys, and a Visenya (though she was still-born). The Targaryens put a lot of stock in names. Maybe Rhaegar was just taking anything he could get at this point.
Rheagar was preparing for his children to save the world
Much more interestingly, perhaps he was preparing for the battle for humanity’s survival. Again, as mentioned above, it is widely believed that Rhaegar somehow got involved in the second coming of the Others and the potential for another Long Night. We base this off of Dany’s vision. After all, what is the Prince that is Promised (or the song of Ice and Fire) if not someone who is going to save the
So perhaps Rhaegar also got it into his head that in order for someone of his line to be this prophesied person, someone who was going to change the world, they needed to be the second coming of three who changed it before. Perhaps something lead him to believe that for Aegon to be successful, he needed two sisters beside him to help out (this may have been fuelled by the fact that if we go back through the long history of Targaryen Aegons, it gets pretty hard to call any of them successful)
Or it might have been more pragmatic than that. Rhaegar may have worked out that to defeat the Others, or Winter, or Ice, they needed dragons. Who introduced dragons in the first place? Aegon, Rhaenys and Visenya. Maybe those three needed to do it again.
You have been very kind in listening to potential reasons for me being right. As a reward, let’s get to
Why Rhaenys first?
The most glaring problem with this idea (aside from the penis that came along with Jon) is that Rhaegar messed up. He named his first born daughter Rhaenys, despite Visenya being the elder sister in the original trio.
So he screwed this up on day 1, right? That, or he wasn’t all that bothered about exact reflection. Maybe he just needed the names and the order didn’t matter, who knows. But while we are on the subject, isn’t Rhaenys a very strange choice for his daughter’s name anyway, considering who his wife is? Elia Martell was Dornish. The Dornish captured, tortured and eventually killed Rhaenys-One. That was three hundred years ago, sure, but it’s still fairly dodgy ground. Why would you bother…unless you knew it was a requirement for the survival of the human race perhaps?
Aegon is not ice and fire…
This next point isn’t directly referring to Rhaegar’s attempt at Conquerers 2.0, but more to his idea of who the Prince who was Promised actually was. And it’s a point that both puts that- as well as my central essay theme- in dire jeopardy.
“And his is the Song of Ice and Fire”. The idea around Ice and Fire has been boiled down to those who very persuasively argue that Jon Snow is the Promised Prince/Azor Ahai/ The Essential chosen one. Why? Because Jon Snow is both a Stark and a Targaryen…or put another way he is both ice and fire. That all makes sense.
But Baby Aegon was definitely not that. Baby Aegon was half Targaryen and half Martell. That’s not ice and fire. It’s basically sand and fire. So unless the argument is that glass is the magical weapon to defeat the others, we’re on rocky ground again. (Even as I write this the word Dragonglass floats before my eyes, but I won’t go there)
If Rhaegar were trying to follow the conqueror blueprint, then he knew his son would need to be named Aegon, as he was. So while Rhaegar might believe the Aegon to be this promised prince, the Ice and Fire song definitely ain’t his. Again, this just reinforces the fact that we know nothing of Rhaegar’s take on these prophecies, or what he believed he was doing. After all, did he always know he would need at least one born of Fire AND Ice…did he
The original three did nothing in comparison
Assuming that Rhaegar was hoping to save the world, it’s quite a jump to get from Aegon I to Azor Ahai. Aegon I has the benefit of absolutely, definitely existing. And conquering an entire continent relatively easily is nothing to be sniffed at. But there is also not much of a comparison between using dragons to burn a bunch of guys who definitely don’t have dragons, and repelling an invasion of supernatural, otherworldly ice beings who seem to literally be the harbingers of death.
We can go back to that every bit of luck thing, but unless there is even more to Aegon I than we know, the two are kind of on different planes. Still, I suppose it may be a matter of working with what you’ve got. Aegon, Rhaenys and Visenya were the very best of the Targaryens, results-wise anyway, so maybe Rhaegar is just trying to shoot his best shot here.
Upon Aegon’s birth
Let’s halt poking holes, and pause for two points that are just worth having a think about.
The events immediately after Baby Aegon’s birth are of high importance. Firstly, and this point mesmerises me, Rhaegar is told by the maesters that Elia can birth no more children. So things turn on a heel here. Still working with the idea Rhaegar knew he had- had- to have three children to accomplish whatever goal he was working with, the maesters’ news left three options:
- Try to get Elia pregnant again, risking her and the child’s life. It’s possible that Rhaegar only didn’t attempt this because the death of the child would mean the end of the prophecy, but he would have done if he thought he could get away with it, just as it is equally possible that Rhaegar never ever intended to risk Elia’s life no matter what
- Abandon the prophecy altogether, and hope that a pair is good enough, especially if you have the main attraction in a new Aegon
- Go and find another woman to birth him a third child, and a third head of the dragon.
Now, we know what Rhaegar actually did, but we’ve no idea of the reason. Did he go off with Lyanna (willingly or unwillingly on her part) because he knew he needed a third child? Did he choose Lyanna because he knew he didn’t have the Ice/Fire child we discussed above yet? Did he choose her because he loved her? Could it have been both?
Like I say: no way of knowing, but I can envision a world where Rhaegar had never planned on abandoning Elia until the fateful news of her health came. I can see a Rhaegar who places duty above all else, and knows his task. Equally, because I have read a song of ice and fire and my heart is thusly blackened, I can imagine a Rhaegar who knew he was getting three children no matter what, where the prophecy was all that mattered.
Let’s also revisit that vision, and say it is as Daenerys took it: Rhaegar with Elia at Baby-Aegon’s birth. He says two things:
“He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire”
“There must be one more,”
Again, I’m not saying anything concrete here, but I am saying it fits. Baby Aegon is, according to Rhaegar, both the Prince that is Promised, and also not the whole story. Something else needs to be accomplished. He lays it out…there has to be another. And we can take that as he needs another child.
Maybe Rhaegar loved Lyanna maybe he didn’t. Maybe she consented maybe she didn’t. But there is at least a hint of the idea that Rhaegar abandoned Elia, Baby-Rhaenys and Baby-Aegon almost immediately because he knew there had to be a third child no matter what.
Jon, Visenya, Dark Sister
I am tiring of typing ‘perhaps’ and ‘maybe’, so it’s nearly time to wrap this up. But before we go, one final thought. Let’s all just agree I’ve hit the jackpot here. For whatever reason, Rhaegar intended Jon to be the Visenya of the group, whether by gender or role or whatever.
— And for what it’s worth, I’ll say here that even if that were somehow proved true it has next to no bearing on the actual story. Jon Snow is what he is because of what he’s done. But then I’d actually quite like George sticking a middle finger up to
So let’s say that was Rhaegar’s intention and Jon = Visenya. There are some small connections we can make. Both handy with a sword. Visenya was rumoured to delve in dark magic. Jon will probably hear some of those whispers after he’s raised from the dead. Both seem a bit broody. But it’s swords we’re interested in here, specifically Visenya’s
It is believed that Dark Sister was taken north by Brynden Rivers upon his exile to the north. Many people believe it may well be hidden in a certain cave where Brynden ended up. Whether it is there or hidden at the Wall somewhere, it is most certainly within the same general region as Jon Snow. Blackfyre, Aegon I’s sword, is either lost, still hidden, or maybe down in the south with Aegon/Young Griff. If it is to end up in either Aegon/Young Griff or Daenerys’ possession, that’s all well and fine, you can make arguments for either to wield it. Some make the case that Longclaw is actually Blackfyre, and I’d love to be able to make the same claim for Dark Sister, but the descriptions don’t really match. Still, it would be good if Dark Sister were to somehow make its
Maybe he will even get to rename it Dark Brother, ya know, with him being a Black Brother and all.
Or, to look at it a different way, Jon would most certainly be the ‘dark’ sibling of Daenerys and/or Aegon/New Griff.
There’s a lot of stock put in swords, as with names, and it would certainly be not only a cool moment to have Jon make his Targaryen connection in that fashion but also a pretty good confirmation for Rhaegar’s intentions.
We got answers like Rhaegar got Rubies
In conclusion, who knows?
There are too many variables for us to really prove anything here. I didn’t even really get into Aegon/Young Griff and if he is the real Aegon. Or Daenerys taking the role of Aegon I by bringing dragons. We can spout off a hundred different mini-theories about Rhaegar needing at least one ICE/FIRE child, or maybe just needed three regardless of gender, what would he have done if he had lived to find Jon was a boy, would it have mattered, etc etc etc.
For the future of the story, some people may really want to shoehorn some possibilities in, like Tyrion being a Targaryen and Dragonrider, and it becoming an inverse of the original trio, with this time having two males flank a female. Someone out there will no doubt try and claim Daenerys is Rhaegar’s daughter and his plan worked all along.
Thank god I wasn’t that bad, eh?
Again, this is all just something I thought up. There’s no real evidence, and there’s no real point. It won’t change how we view Jon Snow. Or even Daenerys. I think the part that interested me most in writing this is just how little we know of Rhaegar’s intentions, or personality, or anything. So much is pinned on Dany’s vision in Clash, but on inspection that is built on quicksand. Why should Daenerys see that? What purpose does it serve? I am itching to find out what Rhaegar’s motivation or thoughts or plans were in his last years, but I truly doubt we will ever be told of them.
Which is good for me, since this theory is all about intention, and it’s unlikely any evidence will ever come out that will stop me from still being able to suggest it. I’m well aware this is far-fetched, and I’m not for a minute saying I’m correct, but in a world of patterns and repeats and copied names, I just had fun looking for yet one more.
Thanks for coming on the journey with me, and lets wait eagerly for someone to tell Jon his true name (and then slyly whisper “But not if you were a girl” to the camera)