If there’s one thing Game of Thrones fans love, whether they’ve been reading the books for decades or just recently caught up with the TV series, it’s theorising about who is or isn’t a secret Targaryen.
Well we’ll give them this – they got it right ONCE when it was first mooted that Jon Snow (Kit Harington) might have the blood of the dragon in him – but now they can’t stop chasing that rush, with no character safe from accusations of Targaryen lineage in their ruthless quest for fan theory glory.
Over the years we’ve seen fans desperately plugging the idea that Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) is the mystery “third head of the dragon” foretold in the series, or Meera Reed (Ellie Kempner, mainly because she looks a bit like Kit Harington), or Melisandre, or Jamie and Cersei, or Varys, or Hot Pie – and so far, we’ve been far from convinced.
But now, a new theory aims to propose another secret Targaryen that we’ve never seriously considered before – Sam Tarly, the part-time maester and full time Slayer played by John Bradley in the HBO series, and who redditor MrSilenceT thinks might be the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia Martell (Daenerys’ deceased brother and sister-in-law, fact fans).
In both the books and the TV series, Rhaegar and Elia’s children were said to be killed by The Mountain, a fact that you may remember poor old Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) getting annoyed about pre-squishing in season four. However, this theory posits that not only was one of the children smuggled away, but they were concealed within the family of Targaryen loyalists – House Tarly.
The reasoning? Well, the theory argues that Sam’s personality reflects descriptions of both Rhaegar and Elia, with the former’s “love for books and songs” and the latter’s “gentle heart and sweet wit” both firmly present within the character. Meanwhile, he has little in common with official father Randyll Tarly (James Faulkner), a warlike man who disapproves of Sam’s academic interests.
This theory could also explain why Randyll ending up disinheriting Sam, forcing him to renounce his birthright and join the Night’s Watch in favour of his younger brother Dickon. As Randyll said at the time: “You have given me no cause to disown you, but neither would I allow you to inherit the land and title that should be Dickon’s.”
With their particular phrasing, could these be the words of a man who’s merely making sure a blood relative inherits the Tarly lands?
And if Sam WAS such a Targaryen, maybe he could also be the reincarnation of legendary hero Azhor Ahai, foretold to be the person to save Westeros from darkness and currently hypothesised to be either Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) or Jon in the TV series.
The reddit thread goes on to posit that book author George RR Martin’s own interest in Sam’s character (and an interview where he suggested he’d most like to play him if he was in the series) could also point towards the theory being true. The academic, bookish Sam isn’t a million miles away from celebrated author Martin – so who’s to say he couldn’t have planned a little wish-fulfilment, letting the hero who saves everyone be a man of words like himself instead of a warrior?
“Sam, aka George RR Martin, is destined to lead mankind in its war against darkness (ignorance) by wielding a sword known as Lightbringer (the book of A Song Of Ice And Fire),” the theory concludes, including a popular idea that Sam will go on to pen the history of Game of Thrones events after the series concludes.
So could this be the game-changing twist the series has been building up to?
Well, probably not. There’s not too much hard evidence to suggest Sam’s Targaryen background in either the book or series (even less than characters like Tyrion, to be honest), and even if this theory was true it’s largely focused on how the characters exist in author George RR Martin’s source novels, so might not directly affect the TV adaptation.
Of course, it’s technically possible – even with Jon being revealed as a rightful heir to the throne called Aegon, Rhaegar’s other children could have been smuggled away – and a vision experienced by Daenerys of Rhaegar saying “The Dragon has three heads” certainly lends itself to the revelation that a third Targaryen after Daenerys and Jon has yet to be revealed.
But we have our doubts about whether Sam is truly the Prince That Was Promised. And you know what that means – yet more endless speculating about secret Targaryens for months to come.