Choose your fighter: The undead, zombified Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, or his younger brother, the scarred and eternally pissed-off Sandor “The Hound” Clegane. As Game of Thrones marches towards its final season, hype for “Cleganebowl” is reaching a fever pitch, especially in the wake of a new Entertainment Weekly cover that depicts the Clegane Brothers knowingly crossing their swords.
But just where did the term “Cleganebowl” come from? And for those not quite tuned into what my buds call “Gee-Oh-Tee,” just what is Cleganebowl all about?
Unsheathe your blades and armor up. Here’s your refresher on Cleganebowl.
Brothers of Destruction
“Cleganebowl” is a fan theory unlike many others. While fan theories tend to involve picking apart tiny little nuggets that hint toward a greater picture, Cleganebowl is just an things fans are expecting to happen: Gregor Clegane and Sandor Clegane, the two meanest fighters in all of Westeros, are gonna fight. They pretty much have to, right?
To be honest, Cleganebowl is kind of a weak misnomer. Given the physicality of what a showdown between two vengeful brothers could be, a more appropriate name would be something like “Clegane Clash” or “CleganeMania.” (Yes, I’ve got tickets to WrestleMania 35 this year, and I am very excited.)
That said, “Cleganebowl” has been both a meme and a theory ever since 2013, when it was named as such in a post on the message forum 4chan, the internet’s equivalent of dingy dive bar bathroom graffiti. Back on March 20, 2013, an anonymous user came up with the name “Cleganebowl” in a post that hyped up the idea of the two brothers officially fighting each other.
The anonymous user’s message is recreated below:
“Robert Strong = Undead Mountain
The Faith’s Champion = The newly repentant Hound
Valonquar = The “little brother” who will kill Cersei
The Hound = Valonquar
The post also included a link to a YouTube video that has since been deleted.
Let’s dissect the post for non-Westerosi literate.
As it lays out, the theory is that Gregor/the Mountain (reanimated as a Frankenstein’s monster) becomes “Robert Strong,” who is Cersei’s personal bodyguard gifted to her by the scheming ex-maester, Qyburn. Back in 2013, this was just a theory, as the books never made clear if Ser Robert Strong is in fact the new identity of the undead Mountain. The fifth season of the series, which aired in 2015, confirmed this theory to be true, though it never explicitly names the Mountain “Ser Robert Strong.” Instead, Gregor simply becomes an undead bodyguard after his fight with Oberyn Martell.
Moving on, the post further posits that Sandor/the Hound will be selected by the Faith of the Seven to represent them in a trial-by-combat against Cersei, who is likely to be accused of orchestrating mass murder simply to evade a doomed trial. You can throw some cold water on this burning theory, as the Faith were all but wiped out — along with much of Westeros. Cersei may be Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, but there’s only like, three of them left with any significant power.
Furthermore, the theory says the show (and hopefully, eventually, the book) will fulfill the “Valonquar” prophecy, in that a “little brother” will kill Cersei Lannister. This prophecy was foretold to Cersei by the fortune teller Maggy, in the fourth Game of Thrones book, A Feast for Crows but was bizarrely left out (at least explicitly) in the TV series.
Cleganebowl almost happened in the most recent season of Game of Thrones. For a moment in the Season 7 finale, the two brothers reunite, staring down each other after so much has happened to them.
“You’re even fucking uglier than I am now,” the Hound memorably told his brother. “You know who’s coming for you. You’ve always known.”
They didn’t fight. But no fights were supposed to happen in that fateful meeting between Cersei and Daenerys, where Jon Snow pleaded to put aside all differences and unite against the White Walkers.
That’s still the main event, but, as is standard in all showdowns, there’s gotta be an undercard fight. So there’s no reason to think Cleganebowl still can’t happen either before (or after) humanity goes toe-to-toe with the Night King and his undead army.
After all, the original parameters of “Cleganbowl” may no longer work in the context of Game of Thrones Season 8, but there’s clearly still no love lost between the Hound and the Mountain.
Game of Thrones Season 8 premieres April 14, 2019.