Young Griff never appeared in Game of Thrones, but his presumed identity as Aegon Targaryen may finally be put to rest in The Winds of Winter.
The Season 7 finale of Game of Thrones revealed a long-hidden truth: Jon Snow was not the bastard son of Ned Stark. Rather, he was the child of Rhaegar Targaryen and Ned’s sister, Lyanna Stark, who were secretly married. Presumably, Jon was the real Aegon Targaryen, rightful heir to the Iron Throne and Daenerys Targaryen’s biological nephew. (Whoops!) But what Game of Thrones left out was that there was already an "Aegon Targaryen" in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.
In the books, the son of Rhaegar and Elia Martell (the deceased and oft-referenced sister of Dorn’s Prince Oberyn), Aegon is believed to be dead. Enter Young Griff, a mysterious character who claims to be Aegon in Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" books.
The Life and Death of Aegon Targaryen
Elia Martell was Rhaegar’s first wife. They had two children together, a daughter named Rhaenys and a son Aegon. She was brutally murdered by Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane during Robert’s Rebellion, a revolt that resulted in the end of the Targaryen reign in Westeros and the death of most of the Targaryan family.
In A Feast for Crows, it’s revealed that Rhaegar saw a comet in King’s Landing on the night Aegon was conceived, which led him to believe that he was the Prince That Was Promised, a prophesied leader who would save the world from looming darkness. The comet represented the “bleeding star” aspect of the prophecy, though Maester Aemon didn’t seem to be as sure as Rhaegar was that Aegon was the Prince That Was Promised.
At the time of Robert’s Rebellion, Aegon was still a baby and he (along with Elia and Rahegar) was held hostage at King’s Landing by King Aerys II (aka, the Mad King) to keep the Dornish loyal to the Targaryen cause. Rhaegar died in battle, leaving behind his vulnerable family. Jaime Lannister ultimately killed King Aerys II, but he kept Aegon and his family alive.
However, Gregor Clegane found the trio and killed Aegon right in front of his mother before he raped Elia and ended her life. With Aegon dead, chaos ensued, all hope to restore the Targaryens to power was dashed, and the prophecy of the Prince That Was Promised was left unfulfilled.
Or so we thought...
The Rise of Young Griff
The story of Aegon’s death was no secret, spreading across Westeros and causing a rift between House Martell and House Lannister. Regardless of the upheaval it created, there was no doubt that Aegon and his family were actually dead. Aegon became a relic of a past life, fuel for the Dornish’s hatred for the Lannisters, and a whisper of what could have been.
It wasn’t until A Dance with Dragons that Young Griff entered the picture. Tyrion Lannister encountered Griff aboard the Shy Maid, which was headed to Volantis to meet Daenerys and provide her with more troops and ships. Tyrion quickly deduced that Young Griff was actually Aegon, hiding in plain sight. According to Young Griff’s story to Tyrion, the baby that was killed during Robert’s Rebellion wasn’t Aegon at all. He was swapped with another child and taken far away from King’s Landing.
“Aegon has been shaped for rule before he could walk. He has been trained in arms, as befits a knight to be, but that was not the end of his education. ...Tommen has been taught that kingship is his right. Aegon knows kingship is his duty, that a king must put his people first, and live and rule for them.” —A Dance with Dragons
Weirdly enough, the only thing Tyrion was skeptical about was Griff’s plan to marry Daenerys and rule Westeros together. Tyrion believed Aegon had a greater claim to the throne and didn’t need to marry Daenerys at all.
This sounds somewhat familiar, right? After all, Jon Snow, who was confirmed to be Aegon in Game of Thrones, seemed to find his match with Daenerys and it was assumed that he could just marry her and share the throne after it was revealed they were related. More on that later.
And so, under Tyrion’s guidance, Young Griff heads back to Westeros, knowingly introduced as Aegon VI. The Golden Company, a group of sellswords, swore fealty to him and his cause to take the Iron Throne. It’s not long before the news of Aegon’s alleged survival reaches King’s Landing.
Will the real Aegon please stand up?
Young Griff might be parading around as Aegon, but most fans aren’t buying what he’s selling. He's often referred to as fAegon (short for "fake Aegon") in discussions online and between "A Song of Ice and Fire" readers.
In fact, there’s speculation that he’s not Aegon at all, but a member of House Blackfyre — an offshoot of House Targaryen founded by Daemon Blackfyre, the legitimized bastard of King Aegon IV — pretending to be a Targaryen. Why else would Young Griff want to marry Daenerys?
What’s more, the Blackfyre crest was that of a three-headed dragon. That harkens back to Daenerys’ vision in The House of the Undying, where she overhears Rhaegar say, “There must be one more. The dragon has three heads.”
Of course, that leads right back to Jon Snow, the Aegon of Game of Thrones. In George R.R. Martin’s books, it’s already established that Rhaegar abandoned Elia shortly after Aegon’s birth and left with Lyanna Stark. However, while the author has yet to reveal if their union produced an heir, we know that Jon was born near the end of Robert’s Rebellion, and it’s really not hard to do the math.
All that said, The Winds of Winter may finally reveal the true identity of Aegon. Will it be Jon Snow or Young Griff? It’s a safe bet that it’s the former. It’s incredibly hard to believe that Young Griff is anything more than an Aegon imposter, considering the suspicious way he popped back into the story. But even if he is really Aegon, the idea that there’s “one more” could still mean that Jon is also a contender for the Iron Throne.
If you recall, Maester Aemon wasn’t all that convinced that baby Aegon was the Prince That Was Promised, and it’s possible that Rhaegar eventually came to believe that too. Perhaps that’s why he ran off with Lyanna, knowing that Elia could no longer bear children. It’s even possible Rhaegar named both sons Aegon, just in case only one turned out to be the Prince That Was Promised.
Of course, Jon Snow is still dead in The Winds of Winter and it’s unclear whether he’ll be resurrected by Melisandre at all. Knowing how much the world of A Song of Ice and Fire relies on prophecy, it’s possible he will be brought back just in time to be revealed as the real Aegon Targaryen. Maybe he’ll even fight Young Griff for the throne if he’s unwilling to drop his claim.
How Martin will proceed with Aegon’s story remains to be seen, but he’s certainly planted enough seeds of doubt to create confusion. That can only last for so long though, and The Winds of Winter should finally put the mystery of Aegon’s identity to rest.