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)
Kingdom The North
The Wall

Jon Snow is a fictional character in the A Song of Ice and Fire series of 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]

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 and with Ned's wife Catelyn despising him, Jon has always felt removed from the rest of the Stark family. He resolves to join the Night's Watch, as his status as a bastard prevents him from holding lands or marrying into a good family. At The Wall, Jon begins his training, easily defeating the other trainees in sparring contests. The other recruits resent his aura of superiority, but he makes amends by helping them master swordplay. He also befriends Samwell Tarly, a cowardly lordling who, despite being helpless with weapons, displays an aptitude for book learning. Jon's 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. Jon gains the notice of the Lord Commander, Jeor Mormont, who names Jon his personal squire and grooms Jon for command. After learning of his father's execution, Jon resolves to desert the Night's Watch and join his half brother Robb, but the other recruits convince Jon to remain loyal to his Night's Watch vows. The next night, Jon saves Mormont's life by killing an undead wight. Mormont then orders a Great Ranging beyond the Wall to learn more of this new threat.[11][14]

A Clash of Kings[edit]

In 1998's A Clash of Kings, Mormont leads a party of Night's Watch rangers beyond the Wall to investigate the disappearance of Jon's uncle Benjen, assess the intentions of the wildling leader Mance Rayder and learn more of the threat posed by the Others. Jon is sent out with a scouting party led by Qhorin Halfhand. On the journey, Jon comes upon a wildling lookout and takes the warrior girl Ygritte captive; though told to kill her, Jon lets her escape. Jon and Qhorin are subsequently captured by the wildlings. Qhorin, who faces certain execution at Mance's hands, commands Jon to infiltrate the wildlings and learn their plans, at any cost. Jon pretends to disavow the Night's Watch, and the wildlings force him to fight Qhorin to the death to earn their trust. With Qhorin's silent consent, Jon kills him with the aid of Ghost.[12][26]

A Storm of Swords[edit]

As A Storm of Swords (2000) begins, Jon has gained the trust of the wildlings by killing Qhorin, and marches with their host. He learns that Mance intends to breach the Wall and march south to escape the Others, crushing the Night's Watch if necessary. Jon finds himself torn between his growing love for Ygritte and his vows of celibacy. After climbing over The Wall with Ygritte and Tormund Giantsbane, Jon deserts them to warn the Watch of the impending attack. He helps defend Castle Black against the wildlings' initial attacks despite his lack of men and weapons. Ygritte is killed in the fighting, leaving Jon stricken.

When the battle is won, Jon is arrested for desertion by Thorne and Janos Slynt, but is freed after convincing the judges of his loyalty. Still suspicious, Thorne orders that Jon be sent to kill Mance under the pretense of parley, but Jon's task is interrupted by the arrival of Stannis Baratheon's army. Stannis offers to legitimize Jon and declare him Lord of Winterfell if he will align the North with Stannis. Though greatly tempted at the prospect of becoming a true Stark, Jon again chooses to remain loyal to his Night's Watch vows. With the help of Samwell Tarly, Jon is elected to the position of Lord Commander by acclamation.[2][4][16][27]

A Feast for Crows[edit]

In 2005's A Feast for Crows, Jon sends Sam away from Castle Black with the Watch's Maester Aemon and Mance's newborn son to protect them from Melisandre's fires. He also gives Sam the specific mission of travelling to the Citadel in Oldtown to become a maester, so that he may better understand the threat of the White Walkers and eventually succeed Maester Aemon.

A Dance with Dragons[edit]

In A Dance with Dragons (2011), after sending Sam away to the Citadel to become a Maester, Jon successfully negotiates the peaceful surrender of the remains of Mance's army and promises to settle the wildlings in sparsely populated regions of The North. He also allows wildlings to join the Watch and man its abandoned castles along the Wall. Many members of the Night's Watch dislike the idea of welcoming their ancient enemies though the Wall and into their ranks. Throughout the novel, Jon attempts to juggle the integration of the wildlings, growing unrest within the Night's Watch, and Stannis' attempts to use the Watch in his war for the Iron Throne, while maintaining the Watch's strict political neutrality. Already agitated by these unprecedented developments, a group of officers led by Slynt openly defies Jon's orders. Jon warns Slynt that the consequence for refusing a direct order is death; when Slynt refuses again, Jon executes the man himself.

Jon learns that Ramsay Bolton is marrying Jon's sister Arya to claim Winterfell for the Boltons, and, unaware that the bride is actually Jeyne Poole, sends Mance to rescue her while Stannis marches on Winterfell. Jon later receives a letter from Ramsay claiming that Stannis has been defeated and Mance is a prisoner, and declaring that unless he receives hostages, he will march on the Wall and kill Jon. Jon decides to hunt down and kill Ramsay himself, and manages to rally numerous wildlings to join him in his march on Winterfell, but he is stabbed by some of his Night's Watch brothers who oppose his decision. The novel ends with his fate unknown.[1][2][4][18][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]

Family tree of House Stark[edit]

Robb I

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]


  1. ^ a b c d e 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 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 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 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. ^ 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]