‘Send the Ravens’: The Significance of Jon Snow Riding a Dragon on ‘Game of Thrones’

In our return to ‘Send the Ravens’ where we answer your questions about ‘Game of Thrones’, we look into Jon Snow riding a dragon and his claim to the Iron Throne…

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

The final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ has officially kicked off with last weekend’s episode titled ‘Winterfell’ as Jon Snow and Queen Daenerys Targaryen arrived back at Winterfell to prepare for the war ahead against the army of the dead.

The episode was a true throwback to the earliest days of ‘Game of Thrones’ with several moments mirroring the debut when King Robert Baratheon led his caravan into Winterfell where he asked Ned Stark to be the Hand of the King.

We all know how that turned out.

This time around, Daenerys faces more than a little opposition to her rule as the Northerners have become rather untrusting of anyone not named Stark after what happened with ‘The Mad King’ Aerys II Targaryen and then living under rule of House Bolton for a brief time as well.

The first episode also featured several introductions and reunions including the biggest one of all when Jon Snow finally saw his sister Arya again. That was a huge emotional beat in the episode because Jon was always treated as an outcast amongst the Stark children because he was a bastard (and because Catelyn was awful towards him) but Arya loved him as her brother and treated him as such. And of course, Jon was the one person who saw Arya’s passion for swords and combat rather than dresses and dolls, which is why he forged Needle for her.

Towards the end of the episode one of the biggest revelations made throughout the entire series finally came to light when Samwell Tarly pulled Jon aside in the crypts beneath Winterfell and told him that he was not Ned Stark’s son.

Instead, Jon was actually the natural born son to Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark — and his name was Aegon Targaryen, the true heir to the Iron Throne.

Now there was some confusion as to why Jon would have the rightful claim to the throne ahead of Daenerys, considering she is a direct heir of ‘The Mad King’ Aerys II Targaryen, who was her father.

In Westeros hierarchy ever since the Targaryen dynasty began, the Iron Throne was passed down from the king to his eldest male child. Now there are numerous situations throughout Westeros history where that didn’t actually happen for one reason or another but the easiest way to explain the line of succession it goes from father to oldest son.

As we saw back in season one, when King Robert Baratheon died, Ned Stark uncovered that he had no natural heirs because the children he supposedly had with Cersei were actually bastards of her incestuous relationship with her brother Jamie. With Robert having no natural heirs, the line of succession then went to his oldest living brother.

That’s why Stannis had a claim to the Iron Throne more than anyone else at the time of Robert’s death and it also explains why he murdered his younger brother Renly, who tried to supplant the line of succession to take the crown for himself.

In this particular case, Aerys II Targaryen’s oldest son was Rhaegar Targaryen and he was known as the crown prince because he was expected to take the Iron Throne once his father died. Most believed Rhaegar would have been a just king because he was level headed and beloved by the people. Unfortunately he had a psychopath for a father so he never got the opportunity to actually take his reign as king.

Rhaegar was killed in battle by Robert Baratheon and thus ended his claim to the Iron Throne.

By right, Rhaegar’s oldest son would then have the next best claim but his eldest child Aegon was murdered by ‘The Mountain’ Gregor Clegane during Robert’s Rebellion when they sacked King’s Landing and usurped the throne away from the Targaryens. Clegane bashed the young boy’s head against the wall while his mother watched and thus ended the heir to the Iron Throne.

That is where Jon Snow become the next person in the line of succession.

Because Rhaegar’s marriage to Elia had been dissolved and he was allowed to wed Lyanna Stark in a secret ceremony, when Jon was born he was not a bastard but the natural born son to the Targaryens and the Starks. His given name was Aegon Targaryen, just like his older brother — primarily because Rhaegar was big into prophecies and he believed his son would be the ‘prince who was promised’ and Aegon is a famous name as the Targaryen who conquered the Seven Kingdoms.

Now because Jon was the natural born son to Rhaegar and Lyanna, he would be the next person in the line of succession. While Daenerys is the daughter of King Aerys and the sister of Rhaegar, she gets passed over because Jon is a living, natural son of the crown prince who would have been king.

The line of succession always goes from father to son if that is available — in this case Aerys II Targaryen to Rhaegar Targaryen to Aegon Targaryen aka Jon Snow.

That’s why Jon Snow has a better claim to the Iron Throne than Daenerys Targaryen.

With that said, let’s get to your questions from this week’s episode of ‘Game of Thrones’

It’s been a long time coming that Jon Snow was expected to ride one of the dragons but his ability to mount Rhaegal in the debut episode is a little different in the show than what would be expected from the books.

In the original books, the working theory (when dragons were still alive) was that only someone with Valyrian bloodlines could mount and ride a dragon.

Dragons were first born thousands of years ago in a region of Essos called Valyria where powerful families of dragonlords ruled, which is where House Targaryen began. Now in those days, House Targaryen was not a well known or powerful whatsoever, but they existed in the same bloodline from Valyria, which meant they also rode dragons.

The idea that only people of Valyrian descent can ride dragons partially comes from the fact that those dragonlord families always attempted to keep their bloodlines pure, which meant marrying brother to sister in most cases. The Targaryens kept that practice alive even after Aegon I Targaryen took his family to Westeros and then conquered the Seven Kingdoms on the backs of their dragons.

Riders have a very special relationship with their dragons and once they are bonded, the ferocious creature will not allow anyone else to mount them until their rider has perished.

The Targaryens eventually fled Valyria with five of their dragons and moved to Dragonstone prior to Aegon then conquering the Seven Kingdoms.

While it’s never fully explained, the Targaryens continue to have a special bond with their dragons over the centuries and that’s why it is believed that it at least partially comes from their Valyrian bloodlines.

Now the show treats dragons slightly different than the books in that it appears Daenerys has some sort of specific bond with her ‘children’.

In the fighting pits of Meereen when Daenerys is attacked by the Sons of the Harpy, she appears to be in distress, which is then answered by her dragon named Drogon, who flies into rescue her. In the books, the dragon is drawn by the screams and the smell of blood.

When she wiped out the masters in Slaver’s Bay, Daenerys also appeared to have some kind of mental bond with her dragons as she essentially commanded them to attack the ships even while she wasn’t riding on the back of two of them. By that estimation, it would seem that Daenerys has control over her dragons, which would then allow somebody else to ride one if she allowed it.

That could explain why Jon Snow was able to jump on the back of Rhaegal and go for a ride because his mother essentially allowed it to happen.

The other explanation is that Jon Snow is truly a Targaryen and the dragons can sense that in him, which is why they gave him a rather friendly greeting when meeting him last season and why Rhaegal allowed him to ride on his back in the debut episode. As cheesy as it was to see Jon flying on the back of Rhaegal like something out of ‘The Neverending Story’, the reality was that’s a very important scene because it sets the stage for Jon to ride a dragon into battle against either the Night King or the eventual war against Cersei Lannister at King’s Landing.

We’ll know more in future episodes, but it would appear that joy ride in the debut was the introduction that Jon needed to Rhaegal (ironically enough that is the dragon named after his father Rhaegar) so he could then mount the dragon in battle.

There is also a long talked about prophecy called ‘the dragon has three heads’ but ‘Game of Thrones’ never actually tackled that in the show so it’s doubtful they would bring it up now so late in the game.

This goes back to last season and the seeds of distrust that ‘Littlefinger’ Petyr Baelish was attempting to sew between sisters Sansa and Arya Stark.

In the penultimate episode during season 7 we saw Sansa discover that her sister was actually a trained assassin after learning from the Faceless Men in Braavos. We also saw Arya taunt her sister about the letter she had written to her brother Robb after their father Ned Stark was taken prisoner and branded as a traitor.

Now somewhere between the end of that episode and the season finale when Sansa put Baelish on trial and Arya later executed him, they figured out that they were being played.

How did they figure that out and when did that happen?

As ‘Game of Thrones’ showrunner David Benioff pointed out in the ‘Inside the Episode’ after the season 7 finale, Baelish realizes in that moment when the tables are turned on him that he may have taught Sansa too well with his methods of deception and betrayal. The fact that Baelish was trying so hard to drive a wedge between the two sisters likely triggered Sansa to realize she was being played.

At the time when Arya confronted Sansa with that message she sent to her brother, she had no idea how she would have found it.

You have to go all the way back to season one to find when Sansa was manipulated into writing that letter when she was confronted by Cersei Lannister, Grand Maester Pycelle, Lord Varys — and Petyr Baelish.

It was actually Baelish who stood up for Sansa during that meeting saying that she was innocent of her father’s crimes, which led to the letter being written in the first place. While Baelish continued to attempt to manipulate Sansa in season 7, it seems she remembered who was in the room when that letter was written and who would know where it was being sent.

The only person possible was Lord Petyr Baelish.

The other connection to Baelish’s myriad of crimes was Bran Stark after he became the Three-Eyed Raven. While his powers have never been fully explained, it appears he can travel back in time to any specific occasion in his mind and when Baelish handed him back the ‘catspaw’ blade — the one the assassin used to try and murder him back in season one — he may have flashed to the real conspirator behind that attempt on his life. Baelish had orchestrated all of that in an attempt to turn the Starks against the Lannisters.

So that seems to explain when Sansa started to figure out how Arya found that letter and then put the pieces together along with the information provided by Bran that ultimately doomed Baelish to death.

This is tough to predict.

Because we know there is an epic battle scene upcoming that will end up as the longest episode of the entire series, it’s likely that will be the fight between the living and the dead when the Night King reaches Winterfell.

Now considering that fight has been teased since the opening scene in the first episode of ‘Game of Thrones’, it might be somewhat disappointing that the war would come and go in a single episode but that certainly appears to be the direction we are headed.

Obviously Cersei’s forces to the south are looming and the eventual battle will be for the Iron Throne. Last season, I had predicted that perhaps the war with Cersei would finish up in the finale and we’d see the battle between the living and the dead dominate the final season but it appears we’re going to get both.

The emotional dynamic leading to the fight for the Iron Throne seems inevitable for those final two episodes so the short version to answer your question — yes, I believe the fight with the Night King will finish earlier and the final battle will be with Cersei and the war for the Iron Throne.

Well here’s the thing about Gendry — at least based on the history in the show, he knew his mother, although she died when he was very young. She was a tavern wench, who had sex with King Robert only on one occasion and he was the result. Robert never knew about Gendry or the other bastard children he may have sired while whoring around King’s Landing.

So Gendry’s mother is dead and probably of no consequence to this story.

The bigger question would be will Gendry attempt to lay claim to the Baratheon name should he survive the upcoming war against the Night King and Cersei Lannister.

As the last known living heir to Robert Baratheon, the king or queen of the Seven Kingdoms could choose to issue a royal decree saying he is no longer a bastard and he can take his father’s name. This happened a few seasons back when Roose Bolton received a royal decree to allow his son Ramsay to take his last name rather than his bastard name of Snow.

Gendry has no claim to the Iron Throne because even though he is Robert’s son, he was born a bastard and that means he couldn’t become king even if he wanted it.

What Gendry could do, however, is take a wife and have children as a Baratheon to restart that bloodline after everybody else in that family was wiped out. King Robert and both of his brothers, Stannis and Renly, are dead and the only child any of them had, Princess Shireen was burned alive.

As a reward for his service, Gendry could be declared a Baratheon and allowed to sit as the Lord of Storm’s End, which is his family’s ancestral home.

There have actually been a huge list of musicians who have appeared on ‘Game of Thrones’ in one form or fashion over the years.

Icelandic band Sigur Ros played ‘The Rains of Castamere’ at King Joffrey’s wedding reception. Ed Sheeran famously appeared last season during a scene with Arya as she makes her way north towards Winterfell.

The metal band Mastodon appeared as wildlings during the infamous episode ‘Hardhome’ when Jon Snow faced the Night King for the first time. Members of Coldplay, Snow Patrol and Of Monsters and Men have also appeared on ‘Game of Thrones’ over the past seven seasons.

The National does a killer cover of ‘The Rains of Castamere’ that was actually featured on ‘Game of Thrones’ and Serj Tankian (lead singer of System of a Down) covered that same song during the ‘Game of Thrones’ music tour when they landed in Los Angeles.

But if I was only allowed to pick one band that embodies everything that is ‘Game of Thrones’, I’d have to go with stoner metal band The Sword.

Not only have they written a track inspired by ‘Game of Thrones’ titled ‘To Take the Black’ but if you look at the rest of their song titles, it would almost appear that they are attempting to name future episodes of the series.

From ‘Winter’s Wolves’ to ‘How Heavy this Axe’, it would appear that The Sword are auditioning for a role on ‘Game of Thrones’ with every song and album they release. That kind of dedication has to be recognized.

Return next week for the next edition of Send the Ravens where we answer your questions about ‘Game of Thrones’


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