Tower of the Hand

Like father, like son

Tags: ADWD, Essay
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Aug 25, 2020, 5:00 AM ET
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Arguably the biggest mistake Rhaegar Targaryen made in his life, ever, was the way he treated the prophecy he knew to be true. I have written extensively in the past about prophecies and their role in the narrative, but only recently it clicked for me in how Rhaegar's role ties in to the narrative arcs of the story proper. So, at some point reading dusty scrolls, Rhaegar Targaryen stumbled upon the prophecy of the Prince That Was Promised and, for some reason, concluded that he was said Prince. Knowing that the dragon has to have three heads, that his wife Elia couldn't bear another child and that he needed Ice for the proverbial Fire he already possessed, he singled out Lyanna Stark to provide the missing puzzle piece.

Artist: Felicia CanoArtist: Felicia Cano

It is yet unclear how willingly Lyanna went with Rhaegar and how willingly she stayed. If Robert's version of events bears true (which is unlikely, given Ned's recollections or lack thereof), this would make Rhaegar into a monster, but we'll have to wait and see whether we'll get more information on that count. Anyway, Lyanna bore Rhaegar a son, but Robert short-circuited that particular strain of prophecy, and the whole thing lay dormant for a quarter decade.

But Rhaegar's biggest mistake wasn't so much the abduction itself (although that was pretty stupid, given that it foreseeably started a civil war) as the mindset that triggered it: his belief that as the bearer of prophecy, knowing of the unspeakable danger coming from the north and threatening to envelop the whole of mankind, would justify all means. If this is the wrong idea is a discussion for another time; it served, however, to confide in almost no one, and thereby alienating people left and right in following the one true purpose: stopping the invasion of the Others. It's arguably hard to communicate that you've dreamed of an invasion by ice zombies, but completely disregarding any PR and alliance building was Rhaegar's true mistake. Frankly, it is surprising that so many people fought for the Targaryens after all.

Fast forward to the present. Jon knows there's an apocalyptic danger coming from the north. Ice zombies, would you believe it. He knows his course of integrating the wildlings is the right one. And he doesn't give a shit what anybody else thinks, leaving the PR and alliance building departments unstaffed. Like his dad, he's totally taken by surprise when his decisions, uncommunicated and breaking all customs without any explanation of discernible reason spark a civil war - a civil war that takes his life, despite him being singled out to stand against the Others.

Only in Jon's case, his life will be prolonged a bit by other forces, because he's wearing the plot armor that Rhaegar, genre-savvy as he was, thought he was wearing. Jon didn't think he had it, it just didn't occur to him that this was a possible outcome. Their mistakes were the same. Two minds that erred as one.

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