Jon Snow (character)

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Jon Snow
A Song of Ice and Fire character
Jon Snow-Kit Harington.jpg
Kit Harington as Jon Snow
First appearance Novel:
A Game of Thrones (1996)
"Winter Is Coming" (2011)
Created by George R. R. Martin
Portrayed by Kit Harington
Game of Thrones
Aliases Lord Snow
Gender Male
Title Lord Commander of
the Night's Watch
Family House Stark
Significant other(s) Ygritte
Relatives Eddard Stark (father)
Robb Stark (half-brother)
Sansa Stark (half-sister)
Arya Stark (half-sister)
Bran Stark (half-brother)
Rickon Stark (half-brother)
Nationality Westerosi

Jon Snow is a fictional character in the A Song of Ice and Fire series of high fantasy novels by American author George R. R. Martin, and its television adaptation Game of Thrones. He is a prominent point of view character in the novels, and has been called one of the author's "finest creations" and most popular characters by The New York Times.[1][2]

Introduced in 1996's A Game of Thrones, Jon is the illegitimate son of Eddard Stark, the honorable lord of Winterfell, an ancient fortress in the North of the fictional kingdom of Westeros. He subsequently appeared in Martin's A Clash of Kings (1998) and A Storm of Swords (2000). Jon was one of a few prominent characters that were not included in 2005's A Feast for Crows,[3][4] but returned in the next novel A Dance with Dragons (2011).[2][3][5] The character's presence in the forthcoming volume The Winds of Winter is uncertain.[6]

Jon is portrayed by Kit Harington on the HBO series Game of Thrones. In 2012, Harington was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor on Television for the role.[7] He and the rest of the cast were nominated for Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series in 2011 and 2014.[8][9][10]

Character description[edit]

In A Game of Thrones (1996), Jon Snow is the 14-year-old bastard son of Eddard "Ned" Stark, lord of Winterfell,[11][12] and half-brother to Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran and Rickon. Described as having strong Stark features with a lean build, long face, dark hair and grey eyes,[13] he has the surname "Snow" — customary for illegitimate children in the North — and is resented by Stark's wife Catelyn as a reminder of Ned's affair.[12] Jon is the same age as Robb and enjoys a warm relationship with his siblings, particularly the tomboy Arya, who resembles Jon and, like him, does not feel like she fits in. Ned treats Jon as much like his other children as propriety and his honor will allow; still, as somewhat of an outsider, Jon has learned to be independent and to fend for himself when necessary.[11] Jon idolizes his father, but is wounded by Ned's refusal to identify his mother.[14] At the beginning of the story, Jon adopts the albino direwolf he names Ghost; he later finds that at times he can "inhabit" the wolf and share its experiences.[12][13][14]

Jon Snow tries to live with honor, while knowing that honor often gets his family members murdered.

—David Benioff and
D. B. Weiss

David Orr of The New York Times describes Jon as "a complex, thoughtful and basically good character."[1] Ned Stark teaches all his children about leadership, selflessness, duty and honor, and though Jon is a bastard — and therefore expected by some of the nobility to behave less than honorably — he cannot help but follow his father's example. This becomes more difficult as Jon faces challenges to his identity as a man, a Stark and a brother of the Night's Watch. David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the creators and executive producers of the television adaptation of the series, note that "Jon Snow tries to live with honor, while knowing that honor often gets his family members murdered."[15] They explain that he is one of several characters in the series who must "face hard truths about the world they live in, and adapt themselves to those truths. The struggle many of them face is how to do that without losing their grip on who they are."[15]


Jon is a prominent point of view character in the novels, and David Orr of The New York Times called him one of Martin's "finest creations."[1] Jon is introduced as the 14-year-old bastard son of a Northern lord who, realizing he is an outsider in his own family, decides to accept the honorable duty of serving in the Night's Watch. But as much as he is a second-class Stark at home, initially his fellow recruits and brothers of the Watch set him apart as privileged and aloof. Jon adapts, soon proving himself to be wise, compassionate and a natural leader. Over the course of the series, Jon's loyalty to the Watch and its vows, his family and even Westeros itself are tested as he becomes embroiled in the efforts of the wildlings from Beyond the Wall to force their way back into the Seven Kingdoms. He lives among them as a spy for the Watch, sympathetic to their cause and becoming romantically involved with the tenacious Ygritte, but ultimately betraying them to defend The Wall. Later, as the newest Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, he pursues an alliance with the wildlings.[11][12][13][16]

Several reviews of 2011's A Dance with Dragons noted the return to the narrative of Jon, Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister, the three popular characters whom fans had missed most from the previous volume, A Feast for Crows.[2][3][4][5][17] These "favorites" had last been featured 11 years before in Martin's A Storm of Swords.[18] In A Dance with Dragons, Jon's leadership of the Night's Watch is complicated by several unprecedented challenges, including a wildling alliance, the demands of would-be-king Stannis Baratheon and the conflicting factions developing within the Watch itself.[4][18][19] The New York Times notes that "Jon’s leadership is the best hope of Westeros, so naturally he’s in imminent danger throughout A Dance With Dragons."[1] James Hibberd of Entertainment Weekly called Jon's final chapter in A Dance with Dragons "a harsh chapter in terms of fan expectations. You go from this total high of Jon giving this rousing speech about going after the evil Ramsay Bolton, to this utter low of his men turning against him."[6] Jon's presence in the forthcoming volume The Winds of Winter is uncertain.[6]

The identity of Jon's mother has created much speculation among readers of the series, and guessing her identity was actually the test Martin gave Benioff and Weiss when they approached him in March 2006 about adapting his novels into a TV series.[20][21][22] The popular fan theory, based on anecdotal evidence in the texts, is that Jon is actually the son of Ned's sister Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen.[20][23][24][25]


A Game of Thrones[edit]

Jon Snow is first introduced in A Game of Thrones (1996), as he and his five siblings adopt six orphaned direwolf cubs. As Ned Stark's illegitimate son, Jon is not permitted to sit at the table with the rest of the family during King Robert Baratheon's visit to Winterfell. Ned and his daughters accompany Robert back to King's Landing, Ned promising to discuss with Jon the identity of his mother when he returns. A sullen Jon is befriended by the dwarf Tyrion Lannister, a fellow outsider and the only Lannister who is not openly condescending to the Starks. Inspired by Ned's brother Benjen Stark, Jon travels north to the Wall to join the Night's Watch, a sworn brotherhood of men who protect the northern border of Westeros from threats such as wildlings, the free people who live Beyond the Wall. Once there, Jon finds much of the once-mighty Watch made up of conscripted criminals, and the rest either men resentful of his noble upbringing and battle skills, or minor nobles who sneer at his bastard status. Thanks to his castle upbringing, Jon is an accomplished fighter; he initially acts aloof toward his fellow recruits, taking pleasure in beating them with ease. After a senior member of the Watch tells him he is coming across to the other recruits as arrogant and a bully, Jon corrects his attitude and starts helping them train, befriending a great many of them. His independence and his compassion for the recruits immediately invite the ire of the harsh master-at-arms Alliser Thorne, who sees Jon as a threat to his authority. Thorne repeatedly refers to him as "the Bastard", and eventually mocks him with the nickname "Lord Snow" — a moniker that sticks. Befriending the intelligent but hopeless-in-combat lordling Samwell "Sam" Tarly, Jon hopes that his own combat skills will earn him assignment to the Rangers, the military arm of the Watch. He is disappointed to instead be made steward to Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, until he learns that he is being groomed for command. Jon saves Mormont from a wight (a corpse resurrected by the predatory Others), and as a reward the Lord Commander gives Jon his Valyrian steel sword Longclaw, the ancestral blade of House Mormont. When word of his father's execution reaches Jon, he attempts to join his half-brother Robb against the Lannisters; his comrades prevent him from leaving (and thereby deserting), and Jon is persuaded by Mormont to honor his vows and remain loyal to the Watch.[11][14]

A Clash of Kings[edit]

In 1998's A Clash of Kings, Lord Commander Mormont leads a party of Night's Watch rangers beyond the Wall to investigate the disappearance of Jon's uncle Benjen's own group of rangers months before. They also seek to locate the forces of Mance Rayder, a deserter from the Night's Watch who now styles himself "the King-Beyond-the-Wall" and has been mobilizing the disparate wildling factions. From their camp at an ancient hill-top ruin known as the Fist of the First Men, Mormont sends Jon to the Skirling Pass with a scouting party led by Qhorin Halfhand. On the journey, Jon is able to see through his direwolf Ghost's eyes an immense horde of wildlings, giants and mammoths on the move. With their group hunted by wildling warriors and facing certain defeat, Qhorin commands Jon to infiltrate the wildlings and learn their plans. When they are captured, Jon follows orders and disavows the Watch; the wildlings demand that he fight Qhorin to join them. With Qhorin's silent consent, Jon kills him with the aid of Ghost.[12][26]

A Storm of Swords[edit]

In A Storm of Swords (2000), Mormont and his detachment of the Night's Watch are attacked at the Fist by the Others and their undead wights, suffering heavy casualties. Some of the survivors later mutiny and kill Mormont. Meanwhile, Jon has been grudgingly accepted by the wildlings and learns that Mance is leading them toward the Wall to force their way back into Westeros and escape the Others. Accompanying Mance are several skinchangers, men and women who can inhabit the bodies of beasts; Jon's relationship with Ghost identifies him as a warg, a skinchanger tuned to wolves. Jon finds himself torn between his admiration for Mance and his cause, and Jon's sworn duty to keep the wildlings on their side of the Wall. Things are further complicated as Jon begins a sexual relationship with the fierce wildling woman Ygritte, breaking his vows but trying to convince himself it is part of his ruse. After scaling the Wall and infiltrating the Northlands with a party that includes Ygritte and Tormund Giantsbane, Jon deserts them to warn the Watch. He helps defend Castle Black against the wildlings' initial attacks, and when he receives command of the Wall, he successfully holds it against Mance's much larger force for several days, despite his lack of men and weapons. To Jon's dismay, Ygritte is killed in the fighting. When reinforcements arrive, Jon is arrested for desertion by Thorne and Janos Slynt. Jon explains his instructions from Qhorin to a disbelieving Thorne; to prove himself, Jon is sent to kill Mance under the pretense of parley. As Jon is talking with Mance in the wildling camp, the surviving army of Stannis Baratheon arrives. With his brother Robert dead and believing Robert's children with Cersei Lannister to be illegitimate, Stannis has declared himself King of Westeros. Mance is captured and his forces subdued; Jon and the Night's Watch formally recognize Stannis as king, but maintain their neutrality in the war at large. In need of the support of the Northern Lords, Stannis offers to legitimize Jon and declare him Lord of Winterfell if he will align the North with Stannis. As much as Jon realizes he had always secretly wanted this, he now knows that he does not need to feel like more of a Stark to be whole, and that he has found his purpose with the Watch. Just then, Sam's machinations and Jon's own popularity lead to Jon being voted 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch in a landslide.[2][4][16][27]

A Dance with Dragons[edit]

Jon plays no active role in 2005's A Feast for Crows, but it is revealed that he has sent Sam away with the Watch's Maester Aemon and Mance's newborn son to protect them from Stannis' advisor Melisandre, a priestess of R'hllor. The "Red Woman" Melisandre is known to use "king's blood" for her sorcery; Aemon is a Targaryen and was once in the line of royal succession, and the baby is the son of the "King Beyond the Wall." In A Dance With Dragons (2011), Jon attempts to negotiate an alliance with the wildlings against the Others, manage the growing unrest within the Night's Watch and deflect Stannis' attempts to use the Watch and its assets in his war for the Iron Throne. Jon allows wildlings to settle on lands owned by the Night's Watch, accepts some of them into the brotherhood and has others reopen and defend some of the Watch's unoccupied castles along the Wall. Already agitated by these unprecedented developments under Jon's leadership, a group of officers — led by Slynt — openly defies Jon's orders that they garrison one of the abandoned forts. Jon warns Slynt that the consequence for refusing a direct order is death; when Slynt refuses again, Jon executes the man himself with his Valyrian sword Longclaw. Jon learns that Ramsay Bolton is marrying Jon's sister Arya to claim Winterfell for the Boltons, and Melisandre helps him send Mance to rescue her — though everyone is unaware that the Boltons have substituted Jeyne Poole for the missing Arya.[1][2][4][18][19][28] Stannis marches on Winterfell; at the Wall, Jon later receives a letter from Ramsey claiming that Stannis has been defeated, Mance is a prisoner and "Arya" has escaped:

Your false king is dead, bastard. He and all his host were smashed in seven days of battle. I have his magic sword. Tell his red whore. Your false king’s friends are dead. Their heads upon the walls of Winterfell. Come see them, bastard. Your false king lied, and so did you. You told the world you burned the King-Beyond-the-Wall. Instead you sent him to Winterfell to steal my bride from me. I will have my bride back. If you want Mance Rayder back, come and get him. I have him in a cage for all the north to see, proof of your lies. The cage is cold, but I have made him a warm cloak from the skins of the six whores who came with him to Winterfell. I want my bride back. I want the false king’s queen. I want his daughter and his red witch. I want his wildling princess. I want his little prince, the wildling babe. And I want my Reek. Send them to me, bastard, and I will not trouble you or your black crows. Keep them from me, and I will cut out your bastard’s heart and eat it.
Ramsay Bolton
Trueborn Lord of Winterfell

Jon decides to meet Ramsay's threat in person, and asks for volunteers to join him, of which he soon has many. "No man can ever say I made my brothers break their vows," Jon thinks. "If this is oathbreaking, the crime is mine and mine alone." But his decision causes great discontent within the Watch's upper leadership; shortly thereafter Jon is stabbed repeatedly by Bowen Marsh and other black brothers, who attack in tears while muttering "for the Watch."[1][2][4][19][28]

Jon's presence in the forthcoming volume The Winds of Winter is uncertain; when asked by Entertainment Weekly "Why did you kill Jon Snow?", author Martin responded "Oh, you think he’s dead, do you?"[6]

TV adaptation[edit]

Martin told Rolling Stone in 2014 that some early inquiries he received about adapting A Song of Ice and Fire suggested identifying the story's "important character" and focusing on that individual plot line: Jon and Daenerys Targaryen being the two most popular choices.[29] Martin was not interested in sacrificing so much of the overall story.[29] When the pilot for the HBO adaptation went into production years later, one of the first roles cast was Jon, with Kit Harington announced in the role in July 2009.[30][31]

As the series premiered, TV Guide called Harington a "soulful heartthrob" whose Jon is idolized by his younger siblings and who "seeks purpose" by joining the Night's Watch.[32] Creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss later noted that Jon "tries to live with honor, while knowing that honor often gets his family members murdered."[15] They explained that he is one of several characters in the series who must "face hard truths about the world they live in, and adapt themselves to those truths. The struggle many of them face is how to do that without losing their grip on who they are."[15] Matt Fowler of IGN wrote in 2013 that while Jon and Daenerys' storylines in Seasons 1 and 2 "felt very separate" from the rest of the series' plot, for the first time in Season 3, "Jon's entire situation felt incorporated into the larger picture."[33] Fowler also added that Jon's "oath-breaking romance with Ygritte added a lot of heat to the story."[33]

In 2012, Harington was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor on Television for the role.[7] He and the rest of the cast were nominated for Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series in 2011 and 2014.[8][9][10]

Family tree of House Stark[edit]

Robb I


  1. ^ a b c d e f Orr, David (August 12, 2011). "Dragons Ascendant: George R. R. Martin and the Rise of Fantasy". The New York Times. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Jennings, Dana (July 14, 2011). "A Dance with Dragons Review: In a Fantasyland of Liars, Trust No One, and Keep Your Dragon Close". The New York Times. Retrieved July 20, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c Brown, Rachael (July 11, 2011). "George R.R. Martin on Sex, Fantasy, and A Dance With Dragons". The Atlantic. Retrieved July 16, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Wagner, Thomas M. (2011). "Review: A Dance with Dragons (2011)". Retrieved July 24, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Hibberd, James (March 3, 2011). "Huge Game of Thrones news: Dance With Dragons publication date revealed!". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 15, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d Hibberd, James (July 21, 2011). "George R.R. Martin on Dance With Dragons shocking twist". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 16, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "Nominations for the 38th Annual Saturn Awards". Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films. February 29, 2012. Retrieved February 29, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b "The 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards". Screen Actors Guild. January 29, 2012. Retrieved June 7, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b "SAG Awards Nominations: 12 Years A Slave And Breaking Bad Lead Way". PMC. December 11, 2013. Retrieved December 11, 2013. 
  10. ^ a b "SAG Awards: Lone Survivor, Game Of Thrones Win Stunt Honors". PMC. January 18, 2014. Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  11. ^ a b c d "A Game of Thrones: Analysis of Jon Snow". SparkNotes. Retrieved August 4, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c d e "A Clash of Kings: Analysis of Jon Snow". SparkNotes. Retrieved August 4, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c "Character profile for Jon Snow". Goodreads. Retrieved August 3, 2014. 
  14. ^ a b c Martin, George R. R. (1996). A Game of Thrones. 
  15. ^ a b c d Hibberd, James (June 15, 2014). "Game of Thrones showrunners on those season 4 finale twists". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  16. ^ a b "A Storm of Swords: Analysis of Jon Snow". SparkNotes. Retrieved August 4, 2014. 
  17. ^ Hibberd, James (July 22, 2011). "The Fantasy King". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 16, 2014. 
  18. ^ a b c Poniewozik, James (July 12, 2011). "The Problems of Power: George R.R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons". Time. Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  19. ^ a b c Hutley, Krist (2011). "Reviews: A Dance with Dragons". Booklist. Retrieved July 25, 2014. 
  20. ^ a b Guillaume, Jenna (July 16, 2014). "This Game Of Thrones Fan Theory Will Blow Your Mind". BuzzFeed. Retrieved July 17, 2014. 
  21. ^ Radish, Christina (2013). "Producers David Benioff, Dan Weiss & George R.R. Martin Talk Game of Thrones Season 3 and 4, Martin’s Cameo, the End of the Series, and More". Retrieved August 3, 2014. 
  22. ^ Fleming, Michael (January 16, 2007). "HBO turns Fire into fantasy series". Variety. Archived from the original on May 16, 2012. Retrieved July 11, 2014. 
  23. ^ Pallotta, Frank (July 17, 2014). "Fans Have A Crazy Game Of Thrones Theory About Jon Snow's True Parentage". Business Insider. Retrieved August 3, 2014. 
  24. ^ Schaefer, Megan (August 1, 2014). "Game Of Thrones Spoilers: Who Is Jon Snow’s Mother? Kit Harington Teases A Pretty Crazy Theory". International Business Times. Retrieved August 3, 2014. 
  25. ^ "R+L=J: who are Jon Snow's parents?". July 12, 2014. Retrieved August 1, 2014. 
  26. ^ Martin, George R. R. (1998). A Clash of Kings. 
  27. ^ Martin, George R. R. (2000). A Storm of Swords. 
  28. ^ a b Martin, George R. R. (2011). A Dance with Dragons. 
  29. ^ a b Gilmore, Mikal (April 23, 2014). "George R.R. Martin: The Rolling Stone Interview". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 4, 2014. 
  30. ^ Kit, Borysm; Andreeva, Nellie (July 19, 2009). "Sean Bean to ascend to Thrones". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 14, 2014. 
  31. ^ Martin, George R.R. (July 19, 2009). "Not A Blog: A Casting We Will Go". Retrieved July 20, 2009. 
  32. ^ Roush, Matt (April 15, 2011). "Roush Review: Grim Thrones Is a Crowning Achievement". TV Guide. Retrieved July 11, 2014. 
  33. ^ a b Fowler, Matt (June 17, 2013). "Game of Thrones: Season 3 Review". IGN. Retrieved August 5, 2014. 

External links[edit]