According to Meera, the Knight of the Laughing Tree was, "short of stature, and clad in ill-fitting armor made up of bits and pieces" (III: 283). This limits the possibilities some what, as any one of average or greater height can be immediately ruled out. The mish-mash nature of the armor is not necessarily a clue; it might well indicate that the Knight was someone who had not expected to enter the tournament and thus had to scrounge armor, but it could be someone who purposefully scrounged armor to hide his identity.
Of the candidates, almost all of them are either known to be small or to be quite young. Eddard Stark has been considered, but he was 18 at Harrenhal and seems to have been of average height, which rules him out. The laughing weirwood on the Knight’s shield also seems unlike Ned, though it may be an attempt to throw off suspicion. Howland Reed has strong proponents, despite the clear references to the fact that he knew little of jousting, much less of riding horses. Those who support him as the Knight suggest that the green men of the Isle of Faces may have assisted him magically. In a similar vein, it’s been suggested that the Knight was in fact a green man, which cannot be refuted for lack of evidence.
Another candidate who has been put forward is Benjen Stark. We know he was present and that he was certainly young enough to be the right size. He also would have had training from an early age in horsemanship and jousting. The mish-mash armor would fit him as well, as he scrounged for pieces of equipment which was likely all too large for him. However, given Benjen’s storyline in the series and the way Jojen emphasized how it was strange that Eddard Stark never told this tale to his children (III: 279. 284), it seems difficult to imagine that this fits. In a similar vein, a young Sandor Clegane has been mentioned. Besides the same objection as with Benjen, it’s unclear that a young Sandor would have been small enough to be "short of stature". It would also be unlikely for him to settle on an image of a weirwood.
The final, and most popular, possibility is Lyanna Stark herself. She had already acted to defend Howland Reed (III: 281) with a notable fierceness. It’s been noted that she was a very skilled horsewoman (III: 193, V: 547), and previously Ned noted that she might have carried a sword if Lord Rickard had allowed it (I: 186). ASoS is also the novel where riding at rings—which was certainly done in preparation for learning how to joust—is a common pastime for young squires (III: 493). Put together, it has been suggested that Lyanna Stark was allowed to sharpen her horsemanship abilities by riding at rings, giving her at least preliminary training for jousting, which is more than Howland Reed ever had. The scrounged armor needs no explanation, though here some suggest that she had her brother Benjen assist her—primarily due to the notion that Benjen may have joined the Watch in part to escape his feelings of guilt over what transpired afterwards. While Lyanna-as-the-KoLT would require a great deal of luck to defeat three knights (even though their level of skill is unknown), it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility.
The main reason this theory is popular is that it would help to explain what is believed to have happened with Rhaegar. It’s explicitly stated that he was ordered by the king to find the Knight. Rhaegar may have done so, but admiring her courage and honor he kept her secret. This would also be an exceptionally good reason for why he crowned her the Queen of Love and Beauty as he did.
There are three main theories. One popular is that he is some random individual, possibly a member of the Night’s Watch who disappeared in a ranging. The fact that he calls Samwell “brother” (III: 536) seems to support the general idea, at least, that Coldhands was a member of the Watch. However, many find the unknown nature of this brother of the Watch to be a major strike against the theory. Another theory is that he might actually be the "last hero" (I: 203), which has interesting implications but many find too esoteric.
The most popular theory is that he is in fact Benjen Stark. It’s believed that he is now an agent for the children of the forest. Coldhands’ appearance—black hands like the wights that the Others make (III: 536)— may indicate that he was in fact turned into a wight by the Others, but that the children intervened and wrested him away from the control of Others. The chief strikes against this are that Samwell’s thoughts after leaving Bran with Coldhands do not suggest that Bran recognized his uncle, Leaf suggests to Bran that Coldhands died "long ago" (V: 175), and there is a description of his eyes being black in color (V: 69). This may be explained by the fact that he could look quite different from how he looked when alive, although the change in eyecolor to black (rather than, say, the icy blue of the wights, is inexplicable). This may instead give weight to the idea that he is in fact the last hero, or perhaps someone as yet unknown, whose identity may not even have any particular importance.
She is Jeyne Poole, friend to Sansa and daughter of Winterfell’s deceased steward (I: 58). After Littlefinger took her into his custody, her fate was unknown (I: 456). There was some concern that, given his ownership in brothels, that she was destined to become a prostitute. However, it seems Littlefinger was more devious, as he realized that with Arya Stark missing having a young girl roughly of an age with her and familiar with Winterfell and he North could prove useful. This appears to be confirmed by Cersei’s remarks where she states, "that she was actually some stewards whelp tricked up by Littlefinger." (IV: 248) A Dance with Dragons fully confirms this, and reveals that Littlefinger’s taking her into his custody did in fact include her being sexually victimized so as to better “please” her husband-to-be (V: 499).
Compare this description of the alchemist, "A young mans face, ordinary, with full cheeks and the shadow of a beard. A scar showed faintly on his right cheek. He had a hooked nose, and a mat of dense black hair that curled tightly around his ears," (IV: 15) with this one: "Jaqen passed a hand down his face from forehead to chin, and where it went he changed. His cheeks grew fuller, his eyes closer; his nose hooked, a scar appeared on his right cheek where no scar had been before. And when he shook his head, his long straight hair, half red and half white, dissolved away to reveal a cap of tight black curls." (II: 505)
It seems clear that the "alchemist" is Jaqen H’ghar (see 6.2.3 Who is Jaqen H’ghar) in his latest guise. After killing Pate, it seems obvious that he then takes on Pate’s form as we see at the end of the novel (IV: 684) to carry out whatever his purpose is in the Citadel.
Alleras is described as slight, but with surprising strength in his thing arms since he’s able to use his costly goldenheart longbow. His father is Dornish and he was raised in Dorne, as he speaks with a Dornish drawl, but his mother is a Summer Islander. (IV: 6) From her, Alleras has dark skin and dark hair described as a, "a cap of tight black curls that came to a widows peak above his big black eyes." (IV: 5, 678)
Finally, the name "Alleras" when spelled backwards is, "Sarella", the name of one of Prince Oberyn’s bastard daughters. The natural conclusion, then, is that Sarella has disguised herself as Alleras so that she could study at Oldtown. This is supported by Nymeria Sand’s remark that Obara, "hates that city as much as our little sister loves it," and then Doran’s remark to Areo Hotah when he asks if Sarella should be arrested with her half-sisters: "“Unless she returns to Dorne, thereҒs naught I can do about Sarella save pray that she shows more sense than her sisters. Leave her to her . . . game." (IV: 45)
First introduced in A Game of Thrones, the three-eyed crow has been a mysterious figure who opened Bran’s “third eye” to magic, and began him on a path that has led him from Winterfell to the lands beyond the Wall. When we are finally introduced to him, the first and most surprising thing we learn about him is the fact that he is not a child of the forest. Instead, this “pale lord in ebony finery” is a man, ancient and wizened, more a corpse than a live. Bound to a great weirwood, its roots having worked its way into and even through his body, he has waited for many years for Bran—or someone like Bran—to come, to save the world of men from the coming threat.
For those who’ve not read the Dunk & Egg stories, the answer as to who this may be may be mystifying. He reveals that he was once a brother of the Watch, that he had a brother he loved and one he despised, and—most importantly—that his name was Brynden, and that Bran’s great-uncle Brynden Tully may well have been named for him. Putting this all together, there’s a hint in A Feast for Crows as to who this is—a companion to Maester Aemon, when he first came to Wall, recently freed from the dungeons by King Aegon V the Unlikely to be able to take the black, and eventually rising to become Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch:
Brynden Rivers, known as Bloodraven, one of the Great Bastards of King Aegon IV the Unworthy. Born an albino and with a large red birthmark on his cheek that was immediately compared to the raven of his mother’s house of Blackwood, he grew to become one of the most feared figures in the Seven Kingdoms, helping to bring down the first Blackfyre Rebellion (and allegedly personally killing his brother, Daemon Blackfyre, as well as his sons), supposedly practicing sorcery, and becoming a feared master of spies who became Hand of the King and was said to command “a thousand eyes and one” (referring to his having only a single eye, having lost the other on the Redgrass Field to his half-brother Bittersteel. Many of the details of this splendid figure—Martin’s nod, in some ways, to Elric of Melnibone—have appeared in the “Dunk and Egg” novels, set almost a hundred years prior to the novels when Brynden was approaching the height of his power and influence, but Martin also provided some key details in a letter to Amok.
The story of how he came to leave his post as Lord Commander and find his way to the secret cavern of the children of the forest is one that hasn’t yet been told.
Bran’s visions appear to be going backwards in chronology, from more recent images to older ones, as the tree grows smaller and younger with each successive vision that Bran sees. In order:
Ser Barristan describes an infatuation of Rhaella’s from her youth, a knight of the stormlands:
It seems clear that this landed knight from the stormlands, a jouster skilled enough to win a tourney with a princess in attendance, who put away his lance and became very pious, is none other than Ser Bonifer Hasty, called Bonifer the Good. Jaime reflects in A Feast for Crows that:
It has been occasionally proposed that there is reason to doubt Tyrion Lannister’s paternity. Items such as his extremely pale blond hair, which stands in contrast to the golden blond of his family, have been made note of, as has Tyrion’s fascination with dragons. Some also note that his statement in A Storm of Swords suggests Tywin has doubts as to Tyrion’s paternity: “Men’s laws give you the right to bear my name and display my colors, since I cannot prove that you are not mine.” Finally, the prophecy of the dragon having “three heads” has been taken to mean that Tyrion is one of the three heads, and so a future dragon rider, necessitating his having Targaryen blood.
A Dance with Dragons does provide a thread of support for the theory that Tyrion is not Tywin’s. Barristan Selmy reports the following to Daenerys:
“Prince Aerys . . . as a youth, he was taken with a certain lady of Casterly Rock, a cousin of Tywin Lannister. When she and Tywin wed, your father drank too much wine at the wedding feast and was heard to say that it was a great pity that the lord’s right to the first night had been abolished. A drunken jape, no more, but Tywin Lannister was not a man to forget such words, or the . . . the liberties your father took during the bedding.”
The common speculation is that Aerys Targaryen raped or seduced Joanna Lannister at some point, leading to Tyrion’s birth and Joanna’s death, and this at least provides proof that Aerys was interested in Joanna. However, the objections are obvious. Why did Tywin continue to serve as Aerys’s Hand if he suspected this? So far as Tywin or anyone else ever indicates, his departure from the role of Hand and his fateful break from Aerys were the result of long-building tensions thanks to the king’s madness and his stealing away of Ser Jaime to serve in the Kingsguard. For that matter, why did he persist in trying to wed his daughter to Aerys’s heir, if he had cause to hate Aerys so much?
The response to this might be that Tywin suspects Tyrion’s paternity but does not have Aerys (or, perhaps, anyone) in mind as the culprit, or perhaps that he learned about this fact only long after the fact. The latter seems a weak counter, as it hand-waves the details and simply leaves a nebulous possibility that can’t be rejected but really has no evidence for it. The former, however, seems a better objection—though again, unprovable, especially now as Tywin is dead.
On a metatextual level, it seems as if there’s much greater force to having Tyrion in fact be Tywin’s son—and thereby maintain his status as a kinslayer, among other things—than to reveal that in fact he is a secret Targaryen bastard, especially as it seems the narrative has already provided not one, but two, secret Targaryen offspring (see the FAQ entries on Jon Snow and Young Griff).
A Dance with Dragons provided new information regarding Ashara Dayne, including the fact that according to Ser Barristan she gave birth to a stillborn daughter, and “shortly after” threw herself from a tower in Starfall, driven mad with grief. It’s probable that Barristan was not a personal witness to the birth (which must have happened in the course of the war, given her death shortly after at the war’s end) or the death (since that was at Starfall while Barristan was at King’s Landing), but was operating on such information he had received from others. So it’s possible that the report of a daughter could be entirely wrong.
Assuming it is not wrong, however, we have this other piece of information from Barristan: that her death may also have been “for the man who had dishonored her at Harrenhal as well,” and that he wondered that if he had won at the tourney at Harrenhal, would ” she have looked to [him] instead of Stark?” Clearly, Barristan believes it was a Stark that was the father of her child, and the obvious conclusion is that he’s referring to Eddard Stark…
Or is it so obvious? Because in this novel, we also learn of the proclivities of Brandon Stark, a man who had the “wolf blood” in him, making him quite a different kind of man from his brother. Lady Barbrey Dustin reveals that she was lover to Brandon in her youth, and that he was a man who was used to taking what he wanted, and the he loved the sight of “blood on his sword” (both literally and figuratively). Consider that Brandon was taller and handsomer than Eddard, that he was the best sword and lance of the brothers (SSM), that he wasn’t so shy that he needed to send someone to speak to Ashara and ask her to dance with him.
The common tale is that Eddard loved Ashara, and that she loved him. Even Edric repeats it, as that’s how it’s told in Starfall. But one could conceive a situation where Ashara dances with Eddard… and decides his older brother seems much more interesting, and Brandon—being the sort of man he was—ends up going to bed with her. Some have cried foul at this idea, that Brandon would never do such a thing to Eddard, but what has he done to Eddard? He attempted to help him with Ashara, and she simply seemed more interested in him than in Ned (according to this view). Unless one wants to remove all agency from Ashara, so that she’s helpless to make a choice that Eddard doesn’t permit, the possibility has to exist.
There’s no firm proof of this theory. But there is one thing that might be indicative: Barristan never seems to think of Eddard Stark in a negative way—indeed, he goes out of his way to defend him when Daenerys sees him only as one of Robert’s “dogs”— whereas he thinks of this “Stark” who “dishonored” Ashara, the woman he loved with all his heart, with an apparent unhappiness. Can that be reconciled? It seems unlikely, though not impossible. The evidence against? Everyone seems sure that Ashara and Eddard had a tryst, and some believe that led to his bastard son. But against that, one might note that if Brandon did sleep with her and get her with child, it was at a rather sensitive point in time, with his betrothal to Catelyn in place and his marriage not far from commencing. Could it be that Eddard took the blame for the idle gossipers, to avoid an embarrassment for the Starks and Tullys? One can imagine that that would fall within his character, while Barristan and some others within the royal circles—where Ashara had been a lady-in-waiting—might have known the truth of it.
In the end, there are no firm facts to determine the question one way or another, or even whether Ashara really did have a stillborn daughter. However, Barristan’s choice of words leaves open the possibility that Brandon Stark, not Eddard Stark, was the father of this alleged child.
Septa Lemore is a member of Griff’s company, brought from Westeros to teach Young Griff the doctrines of the Faith. However, Tyrion Lannister wonders about just who she is, as she’s an unorthodox septa, swimming nude and showing the stretch marks of someone who has carried a child. This has naturally led to speculation that “Lemore” may be an assumed identity. The most common suggestion is that Lemore is none other than Ashara Dayne, believed to have killed herself at the end of Robert’s rebellion.
The chief objection to this is Lemore’s age—said to be over 40—almost certainly does not fit, since in all likelihood Ashara Dayne was approximately the same age as Eddard Stark, give or take a year, and Ned was in his mid-thirties at the time of the novels. Besides that, Lemore’s eyes are never made any note of except in the general way in which Tyrion describes Lemore as more handsome than pretty. Ashara Dayne’s violet eyes were, on the other hand, quite famous, noted both in the story of the the Knight of the Laughing Tree and by Barristan Selmy. Short of Lemore using a glamor or some other art to hide her eye color, it seems very unlikely that her possession of violet eyes would have gone unremarked.
Feeling that Ashara Dayne is not a suitable candidate, the question is then, just who is she? One possibility is that she is, in fact, simply who she is: Septa Lemore, and that the only reason to doubt this is because Tyrion wonders. Another possibility that has been proposed is that she is in fact the mother of Tyene Sand, the daughter of Prince Oberyn Nymeros Martell by a septa he is said to have seduced. If this is the case, it would explain the signs of a past pregnancy, and would perhaps be the first indication of the Martells having had a part in the attempts to prepare Young Griff to unveil himself as Aegon. Contrary to that, however, are the clear signs that the Martells are utterly unaware of Young Griff and his alleged parentage, as well as the fact that Tyene’s mother was present in the Reach a decade or so ago.
This article doesn’t deal with unambiguous examples of homosexuality in the novels—such as Satin or Xaro Xhoan Daxos—but instead touches on those examples which are less than clear in the novels.
The first thing that should be noted is that "straight" is a modern notion. In pre-modern past, relations with members of the same gender were not necessarily seen as unusual as they were for much of the modern period. Homoeroticism may in fact be a better term for these sorts of relations, because they encompassed more than just sexual relations.
Given all the indications in the series, it seems safe to say that Renly Baratheon and Loras Tyrell were lovers. There are few who would argue otherwise, but GRRM has laid matters to rest by stating about them, “Yes, I did intend those characters to be gay” (SSM). It seems safe to say that Prince Oberyn and his paramour, Ellaria Sand, were "bisexual" in modern terms. Ser Lyn Corbray of the Vale was rumored to be "notoriously uninterested in the intimate charms of women" (I: 363), and rumors of pederasty are made explicit in A Feast for Crows.
There is a theory that Ser Brynden Tully, the Blackfish, may be homosexual. This may explain his repeated refusals to wed and Catelyn’s certainty that he never would (I: 659). Others say that this could as easily explained by his having a lost love (some go so far to suggest that he may have been in love with Minisa Tully (II: 363), Lord Hoster’s wife and mother of his children.) As to A Dance with Dragons, that novel introduces us to Jon Connington. Some readers began to suspect that his attachment to Rhaegar was more than simply admiration and friendship, and something more. This was confirmed by Martin at a signing, when he confirmed that he was homosexual.
Finally, Daenerys has been argued about following her sexual encounters with one of her handmaidens, Irri (III: 268, 815-816). While these encounters might described as clinical—Irri is providing physical stimulation, no more—Dany’s temptation at the sight of Irri’s breast does suggest at least some sensual feeling in this regards. While she is clearly predominantly heterosexual in orientation, she is just as clearly capable of being aroused by another woman.
GRRM has previously stated that Eddard was a competent swordsman. However, Brandon was the real swordsman in the family (SSC).