Half the fun of Game of Thrones is the sheer level of engagement fans have. If you don’t have time to follow every minor plot point down a rabbit hole, don’t worry: chances are someone, somewhere has got you covered. Think something’s up with Hodor? Good news, there’s already a fan theory that he’s secretly the White Walker King. Jon’s real dad isn’t Ned Stark? Please, diligent fans have been saying that for years. Wondering if there’s a greater significance to that Tyrion scene with the dragons? There might be.
But the latest episode’s revelation that the mysterious High Sparrow used to be a wealthy man could actually tie into an improbable but intriguing fan theory: That he’s secretly Howland Reed. That guy who saved Ned at the Tower of Joy by stabbing Arthur Dayne in the back.
That gut wound looked mortal, but he’s still alive in the books. And if Baby Jon was born in that tower, presumably Howland knows about it.
The theory posits that the High Sparrow position allows Howland Reed to strike back at the Stark’s enemies. Loyal to the North, he joined the Faith to mingle with the smallfolk and sow the seeds of rebellion. He might not have intended to ascend their ranks as High Sparrow, but not that he’s there, he’s already humiliated Cersei and upset the Lannister powerhold on King’s Landing. If Jon is Rhaegar Targaryen’s son and therefore has a claim to the throne, Howland’s proximity to it would allow him to help Jon when the time comes.
It would be the ultimate long-con, which is why it’s improbable. Howland Reed has two — now one — living kids of his own in the form of Bran Stark’s pals Jojen and Meera. Why would he abandon them to instead play out an absurdly long-running scheme?
At any rate, even if Howland Reed is not the High Sparrow, as the only living person who knows of Jon’s true parentage, he’s an important character who has remained mysteriously off-screen and off-page in the present. He’ll likely be turning up sooner or later, whether or not it’s in a form that ties Jon’s story to King’s Landing.
It’s safe to say Howland Reed is a name you should remember in the wars to come.