Jon Snow is the moral center of HBO’s Game of Thrones, and his power comes from his dual nature as both a dragon and a wolf.
The Kit Harington character is both ice and fire, a Stark and a Targaryen. He embodies the core values and deeper messages at the heart of the story. Support ScreenPrism on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/user?u=7792695
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Jon Snow is the unlikely hero of Game of Thrones – unlikely because he’s too heroic.
When we first started watching the show, we probably expected the honorable Jon
to fall victim to his own noble antics.
The show is all about subverting tropes like the pure-hearted hero,
and we saw how Westeros answered honor from other characters.
Yet over time Jon has become the enduring moral compass of the story
as well as a more complex and interesting hero than we first thought.
“This isn’t about living in harmony.
It’s just about living.”
Spoilers are coming beyond this point.
If we look closer, his nuances as a character can be tied to the revelation that he is,
in fact, both a Stark and a Targaryen.
His true name is Aegon Targaryen.
We learned this long before he does, and many of us suspected it long before that.
“You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
Jon doesn’t immediately strike us as “Targaryen”
“Where are my dragons?”
But actually the core Targaryen qualities are very much a part of him.
When Jon speaks forgiving words to Theon Greyjoy,
we get the sense that he’s also talking about himself, without yet knowing it.
“You don’t need to choose.
You’re a Greyjoy, and you’re a Stark.”
He, too, doesn’t have to choose between his two natures.
Jon’s power and nuance comes from this unique blend of the Stark and Targaryen in him.
He is the center of Game of Thrones,
and his character reveals the values and messages that are the heart of the whole story.
“We’re all on the same side.”
“How can we be?”
“We’re all breathing.”
As a bastard, Jon has always felt like an outsider in the Stark household.
“I’m not a Stark.”
He was close to Robb and Arya,
but notably distant from Catelyn and Sansa.
“I was awful, just admit it.”
“[Laughs] You were occasionally awful.
I’m sure I can’t have been great fun always sulking in the corner while the rest of you
Catelyn hated Jon because she believed him to be her husband’s bastard.
“I want you to leave.”
And Ned never told his wife the truth, that Jon was in fact his nephew,
son of his sister Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen.
Jon was constantly reminded of his illegitimate status as a child.
“You’re Ned Stark’s bastard, aren’t you?”
So this set him apart, preparing him for the loneliness of the later burdens he takes on
as an adult.
Given this childhood, Jon developed a solemn and brooding personality.
“You look a lot better brooding than I do.”
And he also came of age without any pretenses to power and glory.
Jon never expected to be more than a bastard in the rigid social hierarchy of his world.
His highest ambition was to devote himself to the Night’s Watch and make something
valuable of his life through service.
“I’m ready to swear your oath.”
“You don’t understand what you’d be giving up.”
But however much he felt different or less than the siblings he grew up with,
Jon’s lived experience still makes him above all a Stark,
shaped by the man he believed to be his father, Ned Stark.
“You are a Stark.
You may not have my name, but you have my blood.”
Jon has inherited Ned’s sense of honor.
He upholds the value of truthfulness,
“I am true to my word, or I try to be.
That is why I cannot give you what you asked.”
even this is very politically inconvenient.
“Have you ever considered learning how to lie ever now and then?
Just a bit?”
He’s fiercely loyal to both House Stark and the Night’s Watch, always putting his
even if that means leaving behind Ygritte,
“I know I love you.
I know you love me.
But I have to go home now!”
facing her on the battlefield and watching his lover die in his arms.
“You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
He’s courageous and selfless, leading his troops into battle and constantly putting
himself in danger.
He believes in justice, and swings the blade himself, again like his father.
He’s also caring, compassionate and forgiving,
“Do you forgive me?”
“There’s nothing to forgive.”
“Alright, alright, I forgive you.”
All of these quintessentially Stark qualities make Jon the obvious successor to the late
Ned and Robb.
“The North remembers!”
and they elect Jon King because he is a Stark through and through.
“I put my trust in you, a stranger, because I knew it was the best chance for my people,
for all our people.”
The season 6 finale confirmed the long-standing fan theory “R+L=J.”
The end of season 7 went even further to reveal that Rhaegar’s earlier marriage was annulled.
So Jon is not a bastard, but the legitimate heir to the Targaryen line and the Iron Throne.
Jon Snow — or Aegon Targaryen — has yet to show his Targaryen heritage in obvious
He’s been spared the Targaryen madness and the Targaryen looks like the platinum hair.
But he seems to have a connection to dragons and might end up riding one,
putting him on equal footing with his nemesis, the Night King.
And his almost immediate, instinctive love for Daenerys
“I’ve noticed you staring at her good heart.”
seems to signal a deeper connection to this Targaryen nature within himself.
So their attraction and merging symbolizes that Jon is a Targaryen,
even though he hasn’t really faced this part of himself much yet.
So let’s look at few of the deeper qualities that we’ve identified in the Targaryens
in past videos,
and see if we observe them in Jon.
Strong, unstoppable will – check.
Inner vitality – check.
Mythic power – Jon does come back from the dead – so that’s a check.
Action – check.
Passion – check.
Will to survive – check.
And being a born leader – check.
The Targaryens are all about power.
Their ancestor Aegon the Conqueror forged the symbol of power in Westeros,
the Iron Throne, in dragon fire from his enemies’ swords.
So Targaryen blood is pretty much equated with power itself.
The Targaryen identity is consumed with navigating how to hold and use power,
the question of its boundaries, and the best and right way to rule.
A key part of Jon’s destiny is that he doesn’t know he’s a Targaryen,
and likewise, he doesn’t actually seek or seem to like having power.
“I never wanted it.
I never asked for it.”
Nonetheless, power comes to him.
“The King in the North!”
“King in the North!”
“The King in the North!”
He becomes King in the North against his own wishes, and now he’s the Targaryen heir,
which is somewhat inconvenient and not likely to please him
given his relationship with Dany and his discomfort with power.
Jon doesn’t expect or want to be a leader, but he also can’t help that he is,
just as he can’t resist that he is also a Targaryen, which makes him a born ruler.
I don’t need your permission.
I am a king.”
So — as the title “A Song of Ice and Fire” tells us — Jon Snow will not have to choose.
He’s ice, and he’s fire.
He’s a Targaryen, and he’s a Stark.
And it’s precisely this union of Stark and Targaryen characteristics
that’s exactly what’s needed to lead Westeros through troubling times.
“The people who follow you know that you made something impossible happen.
Maybe that helps them believe that you can make other impossible things happen.
Build a world that’s different from the shit one they’ve always known.”
The Season 7 Finale is titled “The Dragon and the Wolf,” which has two meanings.
We finally get the romantic union of Jon and Daenerys, the White Wolf and the Mother of
But we also learn in even more definitive terms
that Jon is equal parts Dragon and Wolf, so the title refers to his identity as well.
“I transcribed the High Septon’s diary.
He annulled Rhaegar’s marriage to Elia.”
In his own way, Jon is a dragon, too.
If we look back, his story isn’t worlds away from Dany’s.
He begins as a bastard, never thinking he will have a high-profile life.
She begins in exile, hardly imagining that she’s going to be vying to rule all of Westeros.
She’s far away from King’s Landing, gets married off to a Dothraki,
and believes that on the off chance a Targaryen could return to power
it would be her brother, Viserys.
But — like Jon — she adapts to the cards she’s dealt,
finds the opportunity in every seemingly hopeless situation,
and grows stronger with each obstacle.
Jon has survived even death itself,
and we can see from Dany’s questions about his scars
“Taking a knife in the heart for his people?”
that this intrigues and attracts her to her fellow dragon.
When Viserys dies, Dany says “He was no dragon.”
To her, being a true dragon means that you are strong enough to survive fire — not just
in the literal sense,
but in the broader sense of life’s fires as well.
And Jon and Dany both have emerged stronger from the fires in their lives.
And they’ve also grappled with the Targaryen question of how to rule.
“You are a dragon.
Be a dragon.”
Dany tries to become an enlightened ruler, freeing slaves and vowing to serve her people.
Jon repeatedly sacrifices his safety for his people and always does what he believes is
best for them,
even when they don’t understand or approve of the actions he takes to serve them.
“I trust the eyes of an honest man more than I trust what everybody knows.”
The rarely black-and-white Westeros needs a moral center,
“When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything.”
an inspiring figure.
The audience may painfully used to the grey zone and cynical tone of most storylines,
but we still yearn for someone we can genuinely root for.
For the characters within Westeros, Jon is also a moral guide.
Like us, they sometime find him too stupidly heroic.
“Heroes do stupid things and they die.
Even this Jon Snow.
They all try to outdo each other.”
And yet they love him and respect him for that.
More importantly, they’re inspired to serve his cause.
Despite being a man of honor and a “basically good” character,
Jon actually shows an exception ability to adapt.
He forms an alliance with the free folk, bends the knee to Daenerys Targaryen,
and even strikes a bargain with Cersei Lannister.
His adaptability might be why he hasn’t encountered death like his father and brother.
Jon only ever adapts so far though.
His evolving strategy reflects his growing awareness of the bigger fight and the greatest
So he’s ever unyielding in his determination to help his people survive,
but he becomes flexible, assessing each situation and updating what he knows.
Now that Jon knows that the White Walkers require everyone’s immediate and undivided
Jon is the bulwark against Westeros’ primary existential threat.
He won’t get bogged down in smaller fights or squabbling for power
because he keeps his eye on the big game – and this makes him a visionary.
“But if you use them to melt castles and burn cities, you’re not different.”
He embodies the ultimate message of the story: you must adapt to survive in a brutal, morally
but don’t let that make forget what’s most important and what you truly hold dear.
George R.R. Martin has said that William Faulkner is one of his great inspirations,
and especially Faulkner’s assertion that “the human heart in conflict with the self
was the only thing worth writing about.”
It seems at times from the outside like Jon is a straightforward noble hero,
“You’ve always known what was right.”
“That might seem that way from the outside, but I promise you it’s not true.”
Jon always has to balance his instinctive sense of honor with the painful awareness
that too much of that honor is likely to get him and others murdered.
He has regrets, makes difficult decisions and has to live with the consequences.
Within him, the inner Stark will have to reconcile with the Targaryen.
But ultimately, the union of the two is the source of his great power.
“There is only one war that matters.
The Great War…and it is here.”
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