The Targaryen and Stark family trees can be a little complicated on Game of Thrones. Just how are Jon Snow and Daenerys related again and who has the best claim to the Iron Throne? Is Daenerys really Jon Snow’s aunt? Read on to learn more about their complicated family tree.
The Stark family tree and the Targaryen family tree don’t mix that often. The Starks have been in the North as far back as anyone can remember, descended from the First Men. (If you recall, the Night King was a First Man whom the Children of the Forest stabbed in the heart with dragonglass, turning him into the Night King and the creator of the White Walkers and the wights.)
The Targaryens, meanwhile, are an offshoot of the Valyrians and the only branch to survive the Doom of Valyria because they were at Dragonstone, not Valyria, when the mysterious doom happened. While the Targaryens have a special bond with dragons, the Starks have a bond with direwolves, which means both family trees have magic in them. Jon Snow, as part Targaryen and part Stark, could theoretically be stronger in the “magic” arena, and perhaps this is why Melisandre was able to resurrect him, and why he has a bond with a direwolf and a dragon.
So just how are they all related?
First, Rhaegar is Daenerys’ older brother, killed before she was born so she has no memories of him. (The brother we saw in earlier seasons, whom Khal Drogo killed, was Viserys, who was Rhaegar’s younger brother.)
Rhaegar, Viserys, and Daenerys are the children of the Mad King Aerys. Their mother is Rhaella Targaryen. Daenerys had always heard that her brother Rhaegar was kind (unlike Viserys). Barristan Selmy told Dany that Rhaegar used to disguise himself as a minstrel and play in King’s Landing. He usually gave the money he made to other minstrels or orphans. He said that despite Rhaegar’s history, he actually never liked killing and preferred singing. So the story about his kidnapping Lyanna Stark seemed very strange.
Lyanna Stark is Ned’s sister and the betrothed of Robert Baratheon. Robert loved her, as did Rhaegar. But Lyanna was in love with Rhaegar, not Robert, and ultimately went away with Rhaegar in secret. They were secretly married after Rhaegar annulled his other marriage. Rhaegar had been married to Elia Martell, Oberyn’s sister, and had two children with her (one who was also named Aegon, but not to be confused with Jon Snow’s real name.) Elia and his two children were killed by The Mountain.
Rhaegar was killed in “Robert’s Rebellion” by Robert Baratheon himself, during a battle called the Battle of the Trident. Just before this, Rhaegar took Lyanna to the Tower of Joy, where she gave birth to Jon. After Ned found her dying in the Tower, she gave Jon to Ned and he swore to protect his nephew. She told him that Rob would kill the baby if he knew. (Another hint of Jon’s parentage is that the King’s Guard was protecting Lyanna and her baby, and the guards only protect royalty.) This was all revealed in Bran’s vision of the battle at the Tower of Joy.
A note about Rhaegar’s death… In the books, Rhaegar was wearing rubies when he died, which led some to believe that someone else was glamoured to look like Rhaegar and he survived (a la Melisandre’s ruby glamour spell.) However, the show has never mentioned this, so for the TV series this theory is DOA.
Here’s a look at the family tree of Jon Snow:
In short, Rhaegar Targaryen (Daenerys’ older brother) and Lyanna Stark (Ned Stark’s sister) are Jon Snow’s parents. His true name is Aegon Targaryen. This makes Daenerys his aunt by blood.
Daenerys was more disturbed by Jon’s claim to the Iron Throne than how closely they are related. Targaryens tend to prefer marrying other Targaryens so they can preserve the bloodline. Their blood is thought to give them magic, such as the ability to ride dragons, so they typically try to stay pure. So marrying a relative wouldn’t be strange to her. However, since Jon is Mad King Aerys’ grandson (and the rightful heir’s son), he would have a stronger claim to the throne as a male than Daenerys.
Here’s another family tree:
When Daenerys saw Jon ride the dragon Rhaegal, she probably already suspected that he had Targaryen blood. This is also why many fans thought Tyrion would be revealed to be a Targaryen too — the dragons responded positively to him and let him touch them. Sadly, it looks like Tyrion’s roots will not be explored in the series, as his connection to the dragons hasn’t been brought up in recent seasons.