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‘Game of Thrones’ book vs. series breakdown may support Jon Snow fandom theory

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There are two kinds of Game of Thrones fans.

There are those who are fanatic about the HBO series. The ones who can’t wait for the latest episode or who, if they happen to miss one, avoid all forms of social media and water cooler conversation in hopes of making it to the next night without any spoilers.

Then there are the fans who have also read the books. They don’t care about water cooler spoilers because they not only know what’s going to happen next, they’re in a unique position to postulate potential outcomes and theories that haven’t even been written.

Where the two intertwine – the book versus the series – is, it seems, quite intricate. Brilliantly, a fan named Joel Geddert compromised a nifty grid showing episodes of Game of Thrones on HBO on one axis and chapters from the different books in chronological order on another.

The grid then indicates in which episode of the series each book chapter was either adapted or indirectly adapted in the television series.

A quick glance at the chart shows the first book, A Game of Thrones, is pretty straightforward in its relevance on the first season of the TV series. The grid appears as a sort of step-ladder as the beginning, middle and end of the first book appropriately correspond in each.

The broad overview of all the books and all the TV seasons shows an overall similar trend, but a closer look shows how diverse the two stories really are.

By the time you get to the third book, A Storm of Swords, you see the book plot starting to spread itself over multiple seasons of the TV series. The one book makes a cameo in four of the five HBO seasons.

Still other outliers explain why book fandom lends to so much speculation about what will or will not happen in the series even if it hasn’t yet happened in the book. George R.R. Martin has proven to be a rather slow writer in comparison to the speed in which the television series has progressed.

For example, the plot lines from the first book only play a direct or indirect role, according to his data chart, in the first season of the TV series. And the second book is only brought up in the first season a handful of times.

But yet there is an out-of-place little dot from book one lingering awkwardly in Season 5. That blue dot on the chart tells a very interesting story.

Those who have read and loved the Song of Fire and Ice book series (they’d have to have loved it to get all the way through!) have a theory on one of the series’ main characters – Jon Snow – and two characters that have been mentioned in the TV series, but never actually introduced – Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen.

They call the theory “R+L=J” meaning Rhaegar + Lyanna = Jon Snow. The theory is that Jon Snow is not the bastard son of Ned Stark and an unknown whore, rather the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna. His resemblance to the Starks is tied to Lyanna and overshadows the typical Targaryen blonde hair and blue eyes.

If it’s true, it means Jon Snow is the heir apparent to the Iron Throne and puts a bit of a monkey wrench in a whole lot of plans.

To R+L=J-ers, it answers a lot of questions. For starters, why waste valuable screen time talking about Lyanna Stark in the first episode of the TV series? Already so much has to be cut from the books to make an on air adaptation feasible. Why bring up a non-existing character if she means nothing to the overall plot line?

This question becomes even more relevant when considering that following that one scene where King Robert Baratheon waxes nostalgic for his lost love she’s not really ever mentioned again.

Then she’s brought up in Season 5 in terms of her captor, Rhaegar Targaryen. Now both nonexistent characters have been thrust into living rooms worldwide and have stirred a theory some book fans thought may never pan out.

And the data tells that story in the form of a little blue dot all alone. An explanation of the Jon Snow theory on VOX points out several reasons why the theory is relevant, including the recent mention of Lyanna and Rhaegar and even suggests the TV series has already started moving Jon Snow toward the Iron Throne.

That writer also points out that because the theory has become widely known, it’s hard to tell whether George R.R. Martin ever intended the story to include Jon Snow as a Targaryen rather than Ned Stark’s bastard.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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