Why ‘Game of Thrones’ Book Fans Are Freaking Out About the Tower of Joy

Danielle Ryan
Game of Thrones TV
Game of Thrones TV

(Note: This article discusses events from the A Song of Ice and Fire novels that have not yet occurred in the Game of Thrones TV show. While there have been some divergences from the novels, and this season will actually be moving ahead of the books, there could still definitely be some spoilers ahead.)


The season 6 Game of Thrones trailer debuted yesterday, opening with a shot of Jon Snow lying bloody in the snow. The trailer then jumps around to various settings and plot points, though a few of them seem to be flashbacks. One flashback in particular has book fans buzzing.

Around the 1:15 mark in the trailer, there is a battle between soldiers in House Stark regalia and soldiers from House Targaryen. In the show’s current timeline, the Starks are scattered to the wind and Daenerys is the only surviving Targaryen, so this has to be a flashback to the battle at what book fans know as the Tower of Joy.

So why does this matter, and why are book fans rubbing their hands together maniacally? Let’s take a look.

What is the Tower of Joy?

From The World of Ice and Fire, Justin Sweet
From The World of Ice and Fire, Justin Sweet

Prior to the events on Game of Thrones, there was a war between the reigning Targaryens and Robert Baratheon and his allies. Known as “Robert’s Rebellion,” the whole affair started when Prince Rhaegar Targaryen won at jousting and proclaimed Lyanna Stark the queen of love and beauty by placing a garland of blue roses upon her lap. In doing this, he offended his own wife, Princess Elia of Dorne. It also started a feud with Robert Baratheon, who had long been betrothed to Lyanna and was, by all accounts, very taken with her.

Unfortunately, so was Rhaegar. He kidnapped Lyanna from the riverlands near Harrenhal and took her back with him to the Tower of Joy in the Red Mountains of Dorne. The Lords of Winterfell demanded justice, and so Rhaegar’s insane father King Aerys had Lord Rickard Stark and his heir, Brandon Stark, burned alive. He also ordered that Jon Arryn of the Vale execute young Eddard (Ned) Stark and Robert Baratheon. Arryn refused, and the war began.

Baratheon killed Rhaegar in battle at the Trident. Stark was present at the Sack of King’s Landing, in which Tywin Lannister defeated many of the remaining Targaryens and young Kingsguard Jaime Lannister killed mad King Aerys, becoming the “Kingslayer.”

Robert was too badly injured to carry on, so he sent Eddard in his stead. Eddard then rode to the Tower of Joy and found a few remaining Targaryen loyalists guarding the tower. Only Ned and one of his bannermen survived the battle, and Ned found Lyanna inside dying.

Game of Thrones - Tower of Joy

Eddard describes the moments in which he found his beloved sister in a dream-like state in chapter 39 of A Game of Thrones:

Promise me, Ned, his sister had wept from her bed of blood. She had loved the scent of winter roses.”

Ned took his sister’s remains back to Winterfell and had her buried in the tombs beneath the castle — an honor usually reserved only for the kings and lords of Winterfell.

Sansa Littlefinger Lyanna Game of Thrones

Why are book readers freaking out?

Ned’s promise to Lyanna is a clue in one of the biggest Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire mysteries: Jon Snow’s parentage. For years, fans have been theorizing that Snow is actually the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, making him a possible heir to the throne.

Robert Baratheon described Rhaegar raping Lyanna shortly after kidnapping her at Harrenhal, which would make it possible for her to have an infant at the time of Ned’s battle at the Tower of Joy. But most fans believe the books insinuate that Lyanna was secretly in love with Rhaegar, and ran away with him. Her death in a “bed of blood” was likely  from giving birth to their love child, Jon Snow.

The little infant was brought back to Winterfell as Ned’s bastard to protect him from his true heritage and from Targaryen enemies, particularly his friend Robert. Ned never really discusses Snow’s mother at all, and is vague throughout the book and show about his parentage. It’s likely he never even told his wife, Catelyn, the truth about Jon Snow.

Jon Snow

If Jon Snow is in fact the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, he is the child of ice and fire, and would likely be the person prophesied to rule over Westeros by the likes of Melisandre, the Red Priestess. After his apparent death last season (and at the end of A Dance with Dragons), his parentage could mean that he will be reborn in some way.

The bringer of light in Melisandre’s religion must be reborn. Danerys was “reborn” in the flames of Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre, and Beric Dondarrion has come back from the dead five times. If Jon Snow is resurrected as well, it leaves open the question: Who will sit on the Iron Throne in the end?

Where can I learn more about the Tower of Joy?

The Game of Thrones Wiki and the A Song of Ice and Fire Wiki are going to be good sources of information. Beyond that, you can read the A Song of Ice and Fire series or pick up the coffee table faux-history book, The World of Ice and Fire.


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Danielle Ryan
A cinephile before she could walk, Danielle comes to Fandom by way of CNN, CHUD.com, and Paste Magazine. She loves controversial cinema (especially horror) and good cinematography; her dislikes include romantic comedies and people's knees.
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