Who knew about Jon Snow, and when did they know it? Other than the answers of “Most Book Readers,” “probably around the time they hit Book 3 and the story of the Year of the False Spring,” the truth is, outside of Ned in the beginning and Bran now on screen, very few have a clue. That’s not to say that there aren’t people who know the truth about Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, and how the sad lie that Robert Baratheon forced into history because he couldn’t face the truth about his life choice is just that. But just because people who look at history with one eye to the fact that it’s written by the winners, and another to the the parts left out doesn’t mean they put together that the “bastard son” Ned brought home at the end of the war, with the strong Stark features and coloring, was in fact his nephew, and a Targaryen.
So who did know, other than Ned, and a couple of handmaidens in the Dornish mountains? Some think Littlefinger suspects, and that may be true, but suspecting isn’t knowing, and it’s not like he has a tree wizard friend to take him time traveling around for proof. Other than that, the list seems to be slim pickings. Up until Bran, none of the Starks suspected a thing–even Catelyn. The Lannisters never guessed, or they’d have had him done in as fast as Robert would have and with less emotion about it. Clearly, Daenerys Targaryen has no idea that a male heir of her family line (and a rival for the throne) is running around.
But are there other Targaryens who could have known? Did Maester Aemon know for instance? A new meme floating around points to clues he might have.
Now I will admit, prior to seeing this, it never occurred to me that this beautiful speech lined up so well against the reveal of Jon’s birth in the finale, and kudos to those who so quickly put two and two together. But the chances of Maester Aemon having clue one about Jon’s true birth are pretty slim After all, Aemon had already been up at the wall for generations before Robert’s rebellion. As we discussed in our history series last year, Aemon chose to take the black way back in 233 AC, after his brother Aegon (the “Egg” of the Tales of Dunk and Egg), in order to avoid being used in a coup against his brother by those who wanted power. To place that in context with Jon’s birth, Robert’s Rebellion happened in 282 AC, nearly 50 years later. And though Aemon grieved for the loss of his family in the war as the Rebellion successfully concluded, he knew his oaths were more important than running down south and swinging a sword around, only to get himself killed for naught and honor. So how could he have known? If there had been whispers loud enough about Jon for him to hear, tucked away at the Wall, they would have been heard first by Robert, Cersei and all the rest, and Jon would not know be alive to rule as King in the North.
No, that meme simply shows how the show loves their themes and the writers smart foreshadowing of reveals far down the line. As for if Aemon ever knew that the bastard squire that Lord Mormont took on, even as he took that bastard’s best bud Samwell Tarly under his own wing, was actually his great-great grand nephew? Chances are, he never did.