Helen Sloan/HBO/Facebook
Helen Sloan/HBO/Facebook

10 Popular Game of Thrones Fan Theories

Helen Sloan/HBO/Facebook
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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.

Pop Culture
Mister Rogers Is Now a Funko Pop! and It’s Such a Good Feeling, a Very Good Feeling

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood for fans of Mister Rogers, as Funko has announced that, just in time for the 50th anniversary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the kindest soul to ever grace a television screen will be honored with a series of Funko toys, some of them limited-edition versions.

The news broke at the New York Toy Fair, where the pop culture-loving toy company revealed a new Pop Funko! in Fred Rogers’s likeness—he’ll be holding onto the Neighborhood Trolley—plus a Mister Rogers Pop! keychain and a SuperCute Plush.

In addition to the standard Pop! figurine, there will also be a Funko Shop exclusive version, in which everyone’s favorite neighbor will be wearing a special blue sweater. Barnes & Noble will also carry its own special edition, which will see Fred wearing a red cardigan and holding a King Friday puppet instead of the Neighborhood Trolley.


Barnes & Noble's special edition Mister Rogers Funko Pop!

Mister Rogers’s seemingly endless supply of colored cardigans was an integral part of the show, and a sweet tribute to his mom (who knitted all of them). But don’t go running out to snatch up the whole collection just yet; Funko won’t release these sure-to-sell-out items until June 1, but you can pre-order your Pop! on Amazon right now.

job secrets
14 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Hollywood Food Stylists

Hollywood food stylists are little short of magicians—only instead of pulling rabbits out of hats, they’re turning piles of mashed potatoes into ice cream sundaes. Indeed, making food (or food-like products) appear photogenic and appetizing onscreen is a job for a true illusionist. Mental Floss spoke to a few food stylists working in TV, film, and commercials—from Game of Thrones to Taco Bell—to bring you the tricks of their magical trade.


While food stylists are well-versed in the old-school swap tricks—using a pint of white glue to impersonate a glass of milk, for example—those are being phased out. Now, directors want actors to interact with their food, and high-definition camera lenses have made the fake stuff much more obvious. Plastic food props only appear in the background of scenes today, where they're less visible and susceptible to scrutiny.

“I only deal with real food,” says Chris Oliver, who has styled food for movies including Gone Girl (2014) and TV shows such as Seinfeld and Big Little Lies. “You also have to think about how a character would cook something or put a plate together. Realistic food is not all beautiful and perfect. I make ugly food and burnt food, too.”

There’s a trend in commercial food styling to present dishes that are less-than-perfect, too. Shellie Anderson, who styles food ads for clients including Burger King and Ragù, says it’s the consumers who are demanding food look more realistic and therefore more approachable.

“People are tired of seeing something in a TV commercial and then ordering it in a restaurant and it doesn't look the same,” she says. “You don’t want it to look staged anymore. You want a burger to look like the cheese naturally dripped off and landed on the plate.”


Bowl of strawberry ice cream

If a food stylist needs one sprig of parsley for a shoot, they’ll often order 10 bunches. They never know what the condition of the parsley is going to be when it arrives from the produce vendor, or if the shoot is going to require more than they originally planned for. Carving a turkey in a scene? That may require two dozen birds if an actor keeps flubbing his line.

“It really depends on how much of a story point the food is and how important the scene is for the director,” Oliver says.

Food stylists usually have relationships with produce vendors, who can look for products with the specific size, shape, and color that stylists need. No bruises or dents, and no frozen lettuce! But stylists can hide those things if they have to.

Ice cream is infamously hard to keep intact because it melts so quickly. Food stylists have been known to replace the scoops with dollops of meringue, which don’t melt, or butter rolled in sugar. Oliver makes her sundaes the day before and sticks them in the freezer, spoons and straws and all. If they freeze rock hard overnight, they can last a few hours on set the next day before being replaced with another sundae lined up in the deep-freeze. Anderson sprays her ice cream with cold spray, an aerosol can of super-chilled gas used for cooling electronics.


On film and TV shoots, there are rarely leftovers. In fact, good food stylists often compete with the caterers: Actors usually have to eat the food during their scenes, and the crew finishes off the scraps. While shooting a Chinese New Year scene for the show Fresh Off the Boat recently, actress Lucille Soong told Oliver, who was styling that episode, that she was going to skip lunch because she wanted to enjoy eating her food on camera. “That was pretty freaking flattering!” Oliver says.

Because Oliver works on multiple TV shows in a single day, if an item doesn’t get used on set and never comes out of her cooler, she can just take it back to her shop and recycle it for use on another show. If something can’t be used again, she’ll take it home and make salsa or jam. “When it gets really old, I'll just stick it in vodka,” she says.

Commercial shoots tend to have more unused food. Anderson says anything that’s still edible will be given to a food pantry. “I once donated an entire swordfish when we did a commercial for a fish restaurant,” she says. “We never even used it. So I kept it on ice and took it to a men's homeless shelter. They were thrilled to have it.”


Another reason food stylists swap out on-camera food so much is because of safety concerns—hot and cold foods need to be kept at certain temperatures that may not be practical on-set. Sushi-grade tuna may be replaced with watermelon, for example, because the fish spoils so easily.

Oliver requires all of her employees to have a food handler’s license. She also only works out of commercial kitchens (including the one on her fully-equipped food styling truck). But not every food styling team does; some prepare food in their homes. “The reason that I get so much work is that everybody knows I'm a chef and I have a real kitchen,” Oliver says. “People trust my food. I’ve done a bunch of movies with Reese [Witherspoon] because she knows that if I’m on set, the food is safe to eat.”


woman styling food

While there are a few well-known male food stylists, for the most part the key food stylists in the U.S. are women. (Both of Anderson’s daughters are food stylists, too.) The reason for this dates back decades.

Before food styling became its own career in the 1990s, it was up to network employees with home economics degrees (almost always women) to cook on-camera food. Then props departments became responsible. “But props guys can’t even make spaghetti,” Oliver says, laughing. So according to her, these guys would go home and ask their girlfriends or wives to make whatever food was required for the next day’s scene. “Eventually they would just hire their girlfriends or wives to do it; keep the money in the family,” she says. “I know five food stylists who at one time were in relationships with prop masters.”

Also in the 1990s, networks began making more multi-camera TV shows. A lot more food began appearing on screen, and actors openly discussed their dietary restrictions. They were vegan, sugar-free, and low-carb all of a sudden. Oliver trained at the Culinary Institute of America and had worked in restaurants and catering jobs before stumbling into this career. “Because I was a chef, and I understood how food works, I knew how to feed people and make food last on set,” she says. “And I could charge anything I wanted to.”

To get a job as a food stylist today, it helps to know someone already in the industry and have a culinary background. Everyone starts as an intern, and then may be able to work their way up to being an assistant and then a stylist. “Not everybody can be a food stylist,” Anderson says. “You have to be able to cook, but you still have to be creative. And you have to be able to work fast and under pressure.”


Now that movies and TV shows are frequently filmed all over the world, instead of just on sets in Los Angeles, food stylists can be based anywhere. There is a concentration of stylists who live in Vancouver, British Columbia, for example, because that's where many shows are now filmed. Labor laws also often require production crews to hire locally, so residing outside of L.A. can be a real advantage.

Some commercial food stylists, like Anderson, are flown in for shoots. “Food stylists can make or break a commercial,” she says. “And if you have trouble and you don't know what you're doing, it can be a real problem for production.” This is especially true on out-of-the-country shoots, when stylists don't have the resources that they’re used to. So clients who know her and her skill level, such as Taco Bell, will fly her to wherever they're filming.


hand styling pancakes

Food stylists use a mix of back-of-the-house kitchen lingo and film jargon. Some examples: The “hero” is the food that is written into the script, is being shot, and must appear in front of the actor. “Bite and smile” is when an actor takes a bite of food and pretends to like it. “All day” is the total number of items needed; if they needed five turkeys on a set, they would say “five all day.”


Food stylists usually specialize in different media: film, TV, commercials, or print editorial. Stylists often prefer one over the other. Print editorial is shot in a controlled studio and tends to have more leeway for creativity. Commercials are tied to a brand’s specifications. Film and TV shoots on location are in unpredictable settings and can be physically demanding. But everyone tends to work long, 12- to 14-hour days. For commercials, it can often take three days to shoot one 30-second spot.

When working on a movie or TV show, the actors’ demands usually take precedence over the food needs. After working on one film, Anderson had had enough and dedicated herself to commercial work. “When I do commercials, the food is the star,” she says. “So [the directors] want to make sure I have everything I need. On a movie, they could care less about you.”


Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford, Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter on Hannibal

Sometimes food stylists are expected to create sci-fi props—what would a person eat in the year 3000?—or fantasy items that they have no experience with. While working on the TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Oliver made gooey, edible slime from her imagination. “I also had to roll with the [actors’] different dietary needs,” she says. “I had to be able to make vegan slime, sugar-free slime, gluten-free slime, gelatin-free slime … Slime, any way you want it.”

Oliver also has to make items that you don’t really want to put in your mouth. While filming the TV show Big Little Lies, she made green-colored vomit for actress Reese Witherspoon of cucumbers and parsley. She says it was tasty, like green gazpacho. For a war film, she had to make 400 pounds of “dirt” for a group of prisoners of war to eat. She got Pakistani soil shipped to California so she could match it exactly. (Her recipe: ground-up Oreos and graham crackers, mixed with brown sugar and white sugar.)

Janice Poon, the food stylist behind the cannibal-centric TV show Hannibal, had a more challenging obstacle: how to make dishes that resembled human flesh. She refused to do research on cannibalism websites, she told, but she studied a lot of anatomy books. “I’m just like Dr. Frankenstein,” Poon said. “I’m always stitching things, exchanging, putting one kind of meat on a different bone, patching stuff together. ... The key is to let the viewer’s imagination do more of your work.” She transformed veal shanks into human legs, and used prosciutto slices to mimic slivers of a human arm.


When shooting, stylists need to be prepared for anything. They carry tools including tweezers, scissors, paint brushes, knives, offset spatulas, wet wipes, syringes, rulers, Q-tips, and spritz bottles.

“Think about your kitchen: all of your mixing bowls and utensils … I have that times 10 in my kit,” Anderson says. She also has a torch on hand for quick-cooking burgers and cold spray for extending the life of ice cream. Other stylists may have glycerin for adding shine or Kitchen Bouquet sauce for adding color. Poon often uses a white ceramic knife so she can see what she's doing on dark sets and work more quietly, so as not to disturb the acting process.

Food stylists sometimes work in erratic environments. Oliver brings her own 17-foot, cab-over truck to shoots. “It has a lift gate and everything's on wheels, so I can take everything out and have a kitchen in the middle of the desert, if I want,” she says. Inside, she has a full commercial kitchen: a six-burner stove, refrigerator, microwave, grill, freezer, prep tables, storage, TV, and a generator.


When production starts, the prop team sends memos to actors or their reps asking about food allergies and dietary restrictions. As trained chefs, most food stylists are happy to accommodate such limitations, cooking convincing swap-outs. “I find out what they will eat and make it happen,” Oliver says.

For example, Poon once made a convincing vegan “raw meat” on Hannibal using only grains. “I made lamb tongues out of bulgur and water,” Poon told “It’s like making a Lebanese kibbeh. You mix cracked wheat with water and it makes a kind of mush that holds together. The texture is a little 'nubbly,' so I added a pink food coloring, made little tongues out of kibbeh dough, steamed them up, and they were my little lambs’ tongues.”

Sometimes a director changes his or her mind at the last minute, and what was supposed to be a spaghetti dinner, for example, is now a breakfast spread. So the food stylist will squish down the meatballs and turn them into sausage patties. In an interview with NPR, food stylist Melissa McSorley recalled a time when a movie director suddenly decided to cut open a birthday cake she had made. The problem: It wasn’t real.

“So we had to cut the cake that was made out of Styrofoam, and I had to use a saw in order to do it because none of my knives could get through it,” McSorley said. “And then we had to layer in cake so it did look like it was real and then we had to send people scurrying to many markets to find white layer cake so it looked like people in the background could be actually be eating the cake.”


Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, David Bradley in Game of Thrones

Professional actors will often pick at the food in front of them, but not eat it because they know their scenes are going to require a lot of takes; they could be eating birthday cake for eight hours straight. Others dive right in. For a scene in The Guilt Trip (2012), actress Barbra Streisand had to pretend she was in a steak-eating contest. Oliver says they went through more than 300 pounds of meat for that scene’s three-day shoot and Streisand was totally game.

“But there’s a part towards the end where she has to eat really quickly and do a line without, you know, choking and dying,” Oliver says. “So I switched out the steak with seared watermelon. She took one bite and it sort of dissolved in her mouth, so she could do her line. If you watch it, and you really listen, you can hear the crunch of the watermelon.”

Sometimes, though, the spit bucket is the only option. In season one of Game of Thrones, the character Daenerys Targaryen had to eat a whole horse heart. But the actress who plays her, Emilia Clarke, actually had to eat 28. They were made of solidified jam, which tasted like “bleach and raw pasta,” she told The Mirror. “It was very helpful to be given something so truly disgusting to eat, so there wasn’t much acting required. Fortunately, they gave me a spit bucket because I was vomiting in it quite often.”


Food stylists who work on multiple projects at a time, like Oliver, can’t always stick around to see how their food will be used. They may later find out that a gorgeous spread was relegated to the background, or worse. For a scene in Seinfeld, Oliver was once asked to prepare a perfect, glistening turkey. “Later I was home watching the episode and they had put the turkey on Kramer!” she says. “I was literally crying I was laughing so hard. Never in a million years did I think my turkey was going to end up with a guy’s head.”


Food stylist preparing vegetables

You’d think that being around food all day would make food stylists tired of making things look nice. But most food stylists love to cook, and on the days they aren’t working, they love to throw parties. “People always expect to have beautiful food,” Anderson says. “And I don't disappoint.”


More from mental floss studios