When Sam Tarly and Bran Stark revealed Jon Snow’s true heritage, Game of Thrones fans weren’t that surprised. After all, they’d worked out that big secret ages ago. What was a surprise, though, was Jon’s real name, Aegon Targaryen. Fans suspected that he’d really be named Jaehaerys or Aemon, and, besides, daddy Rhaegar already had a son named Aegon. The name seemed like it came out of nowhere, but a passage from the books might have cryptically foreshadowed Jon’s real identity.
The passage, which was pointed out by the great Thrones scholar BryndenBFish on Twitter, comes from the fifth book in George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, A Dance With Dragons, which came out in 2011. Jon Snow is recalling the words Maester Aemon Targaryen had told him to help him prepare to be the lord commander of the Night’s Watch. Unbeknownst to either of them, Aemon and Jon are related, as the old maester is Jon’s great-great-great-uncle. (In the HBO series, he’s just a great-great-uncle, as the showrunners removed a generation of Targaryens to streamline things a bit.)
Maester Aemon is telling Jon about his beloved brother, King Aegon the Unlikely, who went by the nickname “Egg” in his youth. (Aegon’s a popular name among Targaryens, understandably.) Here’s what Aemon says:
“Allow me to give my lord one last piece of counsel,” the old man had said, “the same counsel that I once gave my brother when we parted for the last time. He was three-and-thirty when the Great Council chose him to mount the Iron Throne. A man grown with sons of his own, yet in some ways still a boy. Egg had an innocence to him, a sweetness we all loved. Kill the boy within you, I told him the day I took ship for the Wall. It takes a man to rule. An Aegon, not an Egg. Kill the boy and let the man be born.” The old man felt Jon’s face. “You are half the age that Egg was, and your own burden is a crueler one, I fear. You will have little joy of your command, but I think you have the strength in you to do the things that must be done. Kill the boy, Jon Snow. Winter is almost upon us. Kill the boy and let the man be born.”
That bolded part — “It takes a man to rule. An Aegon, not an Egg” — could be a very subtle bit of foreshadowing on the famously sly Martin’s part about Jon’s real name, since he is indeed a ruler now.
There’s another passage from A Dance With Dragons that can also be interpreted as a hint to Jon’s real name and foreshadowed that he’ll eventually marry Daenerys. In the book, Dany is in Meereen thinking about ruling and the history of the Targaryen kings. There have been quite a few of them named Aegon, over the centuries, and Dany muses that she might have been betrothed to Rhaegar’s son with Elia Martel had Robert’s Rebellion not happened.
A crown should not sit easy on the head. One of her royal forebears had said that, once. Some Aegon, but which one? Five Aegons had ruled the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.
There would have been a sixth, but the Usurper’s dogs had murdered her brother’s son when he was still a babe at the breast. If he had lived, I might have married him.