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10 Popular Game of Thrones Fan Theories

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Helen Sloan/HBO/Facebook

George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire book series and its television counterpart, HBO's Game of Thrones, boast some of the most rabid fans on the Internet, who have pooled their collective knowledge of both the books and the TV show to come up with some fascinating theories about what's really going down in the land of Westeros.

Note: This article and the links contained within it do contain spoilers for the show (up through the conclusion of season four) as well as for the books. Proceed with caution.

1. THE MAD KING WASN'T IMAGINING THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST HIM.

What if the “Mad King” Aerys Targaryen's belief that there was a massive conspiracy to overthrow him wasn't so off-base after all? One theory, originally posted on the Tower of the Hand website by Stefan Sasse, argues that, before his death, Ned Stark's father Rickard was masterminding a plot to overthrow the Targaryen family. This theory is supported by some pretty strong textual evidence, according to Sasse:

There are several great lords, all knowing each other better than usual because they fought together in the War of the Ninepenny Kings a few years prior. Jon Arryn, Steffon Baratheon, Rickard Stark, Hoster Tully, and Tywin Lannister are all war buddies. With the exception of the latter, they seem to have taken kind of a friendship out of this war. At least this would explain why they sent each other wards: Eddard and Robert both went to the Eyrie for fostering. Robert was in love [with] Lyanna [Stark] and talks of a betrothal were conducted. And Hoster wanted to wed his daughters to the heirs of Winterfell and Casterly Rock, respectively.

These kinds of relationships are "highly unusual," according to Sasse, who goes on to theorize that “if we look into the relations of the great houses under normal circumstances, they rarely marry each other. In fact, they normally marry with their own bannermen.” He believes that there are only two reasons to arrange such a marriage: to broker peace or to seal a military alliance. Based on these alliances, it’s highly likely that there really was an alliance to overthrow King Aerys.

2. JON SNOW IS A TARGARYEN.

Also known as “R + L = J,” this is one of the most widely circulated fan theories, and has even managed to get some mainstream press in outlets like Slate. The premise states that Jon Snow is not the bastard son of Ned Stark, but the child of Rhaegar Targaryen and Ned’s sister, Lyanna. When Ned arrives at the Tower of Joy during Robert’s Rebellion, he finds his sister in what is described as a “bed of blood,” a phrase commonly associated with childbirth. Lyanna dies shortly afterward, but not before uttering her final words, “Promise me, Ned.”

Fans believe that Lyanna died from complications after giving birth to Jon and asked Ned to raise the boy as his own. Fans also point out that, in the books, both Jon and Lyanna are frequently represented by blue winter roses. Not only that, but Arya and Jon look very much alike (so much so that at one point, Sansa believes that Arya is a bastard like Jon), and Arya is said to resemble Lyanna. If this theory is true, this would mean that Jon is Daenerys’ nephew and therefore the true heir to the Iron Throne.

3. JON SNOW IS A TWIN, AND WE'VE ALREADY MET HIS SISTER.

For this theory, not only is Jon Snow the son of Ned's sister Lyanna, but she gave birth to twins, and the promise Ned made was to keep both of these children safe. This likely meant splitting them up (for safety, but also because returning home to Winterfell with a story for Catelyn about two bastard infants would not have gone well), and one of the twins would need to be with someone Ned trusted implicitly.

Before he got to Lyanna on her deathbed, Ned and six of his companions had to battle three Kingsguardmen to enter; of that battle, only Ned and Howland Reed survived. Howland has been an unseen character in the series, but we've met his children—Jojen and Meera Reed, who helped Bran Stark on his journey to find the three-eyed raven. However, with this theory, Meera becomes the twin daughter born to Lyanna, whom Howland took to Greywater Watch to raise, far away from her brother Jon Snow.

The evidence presented for this theory includes Jon and Meera both being the same age (they're listed as having been born in 283 AC—the same year Lyanna died); having similar looks (both having dark hair and a slim build, though this side-by-side of the television series actors is crazy-convincing); and the twist having a historical precedent in the mythology of Romulus and Remus—something GRRM is well-known for. Plus, Romulus and Remus were raised by a she-wolf, which could easily draw comparisons to the Stark direwolves.

4. TYRION LANNISTER IS A TARGARYEN.

Some fans believe that Tyrion might not be a Lannister after all, but the son of the Mad King Aerys Targaryen. In A Dance With Dragons, Ser Barristan Selmy tells Daenerys that the Mad King had lusted after Joanna Lannister, Tyrion's mother, for years:

Prince Aerys ... as a youth, he was taken with [Joanna]. 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 ... liberties your father took during the bedding.

Tyrion also displays some typical Targaryen qualities: his pale blonde hair more closely resembles the Targaryens' silver hair than the Lannisters' gold, and he is fascinated by dragons. Also, Tyrion's eyes are two different colors, which some suspect is a nod to his mixed heritage. Some fans argue that this theory takes away from Tyrion’s complicated relationship with Tywin, but if Tyrion really is a Targaryen, then he could be one of the “Three Heads of the Dragon” along with Daenerys and Jon.

5. JAMIE LANNISTER'S DYSLEXIA MIGHT COME IN HANDY. 

One of the defining moments in Jaime’s character arc—and the catalyst for his redemption story—is losing his hand, which viewers witnessed in Game of Thrones’ third season. Up until that moment, Jaime had always been defined as a master swordsman, causing him to lose his identity along with his hand. However, some fans are confident that Jaime will once again become one of the world's great fighters. In both the series and the books, it’s mentioned that Jaime had great difficulty in school and it’s heavily implied that he is dyslexic. It’s believed that people with dyslexia also have a natural tendency for ambidexterity, leading some fans to speculate that Jaime will become a great left-handed swordsman.

6. OBERYN MARTELL POISONED TYWIN.

It’s widely believed that Prince Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper of Dorne, poisoned Tywin before his death in the season four finale. According to a theory originally posted by Sean Collins on BoiledLeather, Martell had the means, motive, and opportunity to poison Tywin. In the third book, A Storm of Swords, Martell is described as a master of poisons: “Who knows more of poison than the Red Viper of Dorne, after all?” and he tells Tyrion, ominously, “Your father may not live forever.” When Tyrion confronts his father in the season four finale, Tywin is hunched over the toilet, which Collins points to as proof he has been poisoned with Widow’s Blood, which the book describes as shutting “down a man’s bladder and bowels, until he drowns in his own poisons.”

7. THEON MURDERED HIS OWN CHILD.

In season two, shortly after taking Winterfell, Theon murders two children and passes the bodies off as Bran and Rickon Stark. In the fifth book, A Dance With Dragons, Theon thinks about how he had slept with the murdered boys’ mother: “Theon did not want to think about their mother. He had known the miller’s wife for years, had even bedded her. Big heavy breasts with wide dark nipples, a sweet mouth, a merry laugh.” Because Theon would have only been 12 when the first child was born, many fans think that the younger of the two boys was actually Theon’s child, making him a kinslayer. This would also explain Theon’s bad luck since taking Winterfell, as the gods are likely punishing him for his crime.

8. ROOSE BOLTON IS IMMORTAL.

Known as “Bolt-On,” a theory originally posted by Reddit user maj312 argues that Roose Bolton, the man most famous for stabbing Robb Stark, is actually an immortal face thief. “How he achieved this, I’m not sure,” maj312 writes: 

One theory that I like is that the Bolton line began when the Night’s King and an Other had a half human child. That child grew to an adult, but then ceased to age. How could this strange creature continue its existence while living in the world of men? It must pretend. It must be cautious. It must look to live and die and give birth to heirs, like men do. And when it has lived 50 or 60 years, not long enough for its unlined face and dark hair to draw too much attention, it flays a son with pale, pale eyes, and assumes his identity.

According to this theory, Roose was the one who killed Domeric because Domeric had the wrong eye color. But Ramsay was spared because of his blue eyes, and is going to be killed and skinned later.

9. TYWIN LOVES PROSTITUTES.

In the first book, A Game of Thrones, Tyrion asks Varys, ”How is it a brothel happens to have a secret entrance?” to which Varys replies, “The tunnel was dug for another King’s hand, whose honor would not allow him to enter such a house openly.” Many fans believe that Varys is referring to Tywin Lannister. In the third book, A Storm of Swords (and in the show’s season four finale), Shae, a whore—and, for a while, Tyrion’s lady friend—is found in Tywin’s bed. Fans believe this to be proof that Tywin harbors a secret appreciation for prostitutes, which he has kept hidden from the rest of Westeros. This also explains why Tywin resents Tyrion so much, as Tywin sees many of his own flaws in his son.

10. DRAGONGLASS IS DRAGON POOP.

In the show’s second season, Samwell Tarly finds a stash of Dragonglass weapons, which can be used to kill White Walkers. (In the books, it’s Jon Snow who discovers the dragonglass arrowheads, beyond the Wall at the Fist of the First Man.) But where did these weapons come from? Many fans believe Dragonglass is simply obsidian, but a theory from Reddit user The_Others_Take_Ya argues that these weapons are actually frozen clumps of dragon poop. While burrowing through the ground, dragons consume large amounts of sand which, according to the theory, heats up and forms into glass within the dragon’s fiery stomach. “What happens when you combine silica/quartz sand with heat? GLASS,” the theorist explains. “So I think they poop molten glass that solidifies and hardens and said glass is their byproduct, filled with the magical substance that gives them the ability to belch fire. Once they’ve 'eliminated' the waste from their system, the molten glass hardens and cools outside of their warm bodies.”

This piece originally ran in April 2015.

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9 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Hollywood Body Doubles
Hugh Jackman and his Real Steel body double, Taris Tyler
Hugh Jackman and his Real Steel body double, Taris Tyler
Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

When you see the back of an actor’s head in a movie, it may not be the actor you think it is. In addition to stunt performers, most movies employ body doubles (or photo doubles) with a passing resemblance to the principal actors. While some body doubles are brought on set for specific skills—like helping an actor pass as a professional athlete—the job can often involve just being a body, whether that means being nude on camera, having photogenic hands, or appearing in place of actors who can’t be on set for some reason. Here are nine secrets of the job:

1. THEY MIGHT ONLY BE MODELING ONE BODY PART.

Body double Danielle Sepulveres has played the hands of other actors in plenty of roles in her career, on TV and in beauty commercials featuring close-up shots of her holding moisturizer or makeup. She’s drizzled dressing on salad in place of Brooke Shields. She regularly slides files across tables, makes lists, and pours wine in the place of actresses on The Good Wife. (She has also played Jill Flint's butt on the show.) “I knew only glimpses of my hands might make it into a shot, or part of my shoulder along with a wisp of hair,” she wrote of one of her jobs in Good Housekeeping in 2016. But she overheard the director complaining that her wrists looked “vastly different” than those of the principal actress in the movie, 2015’s Mania Days. “Luckily, I didn't get fired in spite of my wrists, but I wouldn't have been surprised had it happened.”

2. THEY’RE NOT JUST THERE TO SHOW THEIR BUTTS.

Yes, body doubles are often brought in if an actor doesn’t want to bare it all on camera. But they are hired for other reasons, too. For one thing, union rules mandate the actors get 12 hours off between when they leave set for the day and their next call time, so if the shoots are running long, the crew might employ someone else to stand in. Other times, it's a matter of particular talents. Most actors may be able to sing, dance, and cry on camera, but few also have the athletic skills to allow them to pass as a sports legend. In Battle of the Sexes (2017), Emma Stone plays Billie Jean King, one of the best tennis players of all time. To realistically represent King’s skills on the court, the movie makers brought in tennis doubles to play in place of Stone and her co-star, Steve Carell. Stone’s double was chosen for her playing style, which resembled King’s, and worked with King on-set to perfect her imitation. The effort was, according to The Wall Street Journal, a huge success. “Not only is the tennis believable, it’s a meticulous representation of the type of tennis played in that era: serve and volley, chipping and charging to the net, touch volleys and soft hands.”

3. ACTORS CAN GET TOUCHY ABOUT WHO PLAYS THEM.

When you are tasked with choosing a celebrity doppelgänger, you’ve got to keep egos in mind. “The choice reflects on the principal actor,” DeeDee Ricketts, the casting director for Titanic, told Vanity Fair in 2016. “We have to take into consideration that they can’t be too thin, or more beautiful, or too heavy, or too old, or else the principal actor will think, That’s how they see me?” Actors often get to give input on who will be their double, and sometimes have final approval rights written into their contracts. When she was being considered for the job of Janet Leigh's body double in Psycho's iconic shower scene, model and Playboy covergirl Marli Renfro had to strip down for both Alfred Hitchcock and Leigh herself so that they could make sure her body looked enough like Leigh's, as Renfro recently revealed at a Brooklyn screening of the documentary 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene. In the case of nude scenes, actors might even have final approval on what physical moves their doubles are allowed to make.

4. THEY MIGHT NEVER MEET THEIR DOUBLE ...

If you’re working as an actor’s double, by definition, you’re not going to have scenes with them, and so some body doubles never meet the stars they’re pretending to be. Danish actor Elvira Friis, who worked as a body double for Charlotte Gainsbourg (and her character’s younger self, played by Stacy Martin) during the racier scenes of Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac (2013), never met the actor. “The closest I got to Charlotte Gainsbourg was that I was wearing her dress,” Friis told The Wall Street Journal.

5. OR THEY MIGHT SPEND A LOT OF TIME WITH THE PEOPLE THEY'RE PORTRAYING.

But how much time an actor spends with their doppelgänger really depends on the role. Some actors spend plenty of time with their doubles on set helping them get into the role. In What Happened to Monday (2017), Noomi Rapace plays the roles of seven identical sisters, making body doubles a necessity on set. Rapace helped direct her doubles during filming, “as they needed to know how the star would play the scene for each character so that it would sync up when she performed the part herself,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. Game of Thrones star Lena Headey (who plays Cersei) worked closely with her double Rebecca Van Cleave for a nude scene in the show’s fifth season finale. Headey walked Van Cleave through her character’s thinking and movements for each shot. Then, Headey did the same performance herself, wearing a beige dress that could later be edited out. In the final product, Headey’s facial expressions were merged with Van Cleave’s nude body.

6. THEY DON’T ALWAYS LOOK EXACTLY LIKE THEIR COUNTERPARTS.

Because body doubles are often only seen from the back or side, they may not look quite as much like their acting counterpart as you’d think. Brett Baker, who worked as Leonardo DiCaprio’s body double for Titanic, is several inches shorter than DiCaprio and seven years older. From the front, you wouldn’t peg him as a Jack Dawson lookalike. But with the same clothes and haircut, shot from above and behind, he passed easily as DiCaprio. Once Leo’s closeups were done, according to Vanity Fair, Baker was often brought in to stand opposite Kate Winslet as she played through her half of the scene. In some cases, he didn’t make it into the final shot at all, but still had to be on set for those 14-hour days.

7. THESE DAYS, THEY GET A BOOST FROM CGI.

With the help of technology, filmmakers can put their leading actor’s face on a body double’s torso, so they don’t have to limit their body doubles to just back-of-the-head or partial shots. This allows them to seamlessly meld both the main actor and the body double’s performances in post-production. That can allow directors to get exactly the scene they want in shows like Orphan Black, which features Tatiana Maslany playing multiple roles, or in cases where actors don't want to get totally naked on-camera. In rare cases, it can also be used to bring actors back from the dead. When Paul Walker died in a car crash midway through filming Furious 7 (2015), the filmmakers used his brothers and another actor as body doubles, superimposing computer-generated images of Walker’s face on their performances. Around 260 shots featuring Walker’s doubles appeared in the final cut.

8. IF AN ACTOR CAN’T ALTER THEIR WEIGHT FOR A ROLE, A BODY DOUBLE CAN FILL IN.

When Matt Damon was filming The Martian (2015), he wanted to lose 30 to 40 pounds to portray astronaut Mark Watney after he had been surviving on meager rations for years. But the filming schedule made that impossible, so a body double had to be brought in for some shots. “I was going to lose a bunch of weight in the third act of the movie, then put the weight back on,” Damon told Maclean’s. However, as the schedule shook out, they filmed the NASA interiors in Hungary, then immediately went to Jordan, which doubled as the Red Planet for the film’s purposes, and shot all the exterior shots from the beginning, middle, and end of the movie, with no time for Damon to lose a significant amount of weight. The skinny body double isn’t on screen for long. “It was, like, two shots,” Damon describes. (Still, fans noticed.)

9. SOMETIMES THEY NEVER MAKE IT IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA AT ALL.

When it comes to nude scenes, sometimes body doubles are hired but never used. Veteran body double Laura Grady was cast as Robin Wright’s lookalike for State of Play (2009), but didn’t shoot a single scene. “I just sat in my trailer, ready to go, and then at the end, [Wright] decided to do her own scenes,” Grady told Vulture in 2014. “That happens sometimes. Sometimes they just get a body double because they think they might need one, and then all of a sudden the actress is comfortable and she’s like, ‘No, I’ll just do it.’ Or they change a scene and they don’t make it as risqué.” Don’t worry, though—the double still gets paid.

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Bob Ross’s Happy Little Menagerie Is Getting the Funko Treatment, Too
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Back in August, the pop culture-loving toy fiends at Funko introduced a happy little Pop! Vinyl figurine of beloved painter/television icon Bob Ross, decked out in his trademark jeans and button-down shirt with a painter’s palette in his hand and his legendary perm (which he hated) atop his tiny little vinyl head. This Joy of Painting-themed addition to the Funko lineup proved to be an instant hit, so the company added a couple of additional toys to its roster—this time incorporating members of Ross’s happy little menagerie of pets, who were almost as integral to the long-running series as the painter himself.


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If you’re looking to score one of these toys before Christmas, it’s going to have to be a limited edition one—and it’s going to cost you. In collaboration with Target, Funko paired Ross with his favorite pocket squirrel, Pea Pod, which will set you back about $40. For just a few dollars more, you can opt to have the happy accident-prone painter come with Hoot the owl.


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On Friday, December 8, the company will release a Funko two-pack that includes Ross with a paintbrush and Ross with an adorable little raccoon.


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If you’d prefer to save a few dollars, and are willing to wait out the holiday season, you can pre-order Ross with just the raccoon for delivery around December 29.

So many happy little options, so little time.

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