Game of Thrones should have made Jon Snow’s real name Aemon Targaryen, not Aegon. The Jon Snow real name arc and his parentage was one of the biggest points of discussion and theorizing across Game of Thrones’ entire run (and the first five A Song of Ice and Fire books beforehand). However, while fans were convinced that R+L=J, meaning Jon’s parents are Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, what was less clear was what his real name would be revealed as.
He is a Targaryen, so obviously, Jon wasn’t going to be his actual name, but rather one given to him by Ned Stark in order to better disguise his real identity. There wouldn’t be much point giving him the bastard surname Snow if you then call him Jaehaerys or Daeron, after all. R+L=J was confirmed during the Game of Thrones season 6 finale, “The Winds of Winter”, but Jon’s name remained a mystery for another season, before being revealed during the season 7 finale, “The Dragon and the Wolf”.
There, as Bran Stark looked into the past and saw that Rhaegar and Lyanna were actually married, making Jon the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, the Jon Snow real name arc revealed that Jon Snow’s true name is Aegon Targaryen. It wasn’t the most surprising choice – there’s no Targaryen name more famous, nor more commonplace among the Targaryen Kings of old – but it was a confusing one, especially to fans of the books. Therefore Aemon Targaryen would’ve been a better fit. With House of the Dragon revealing even more about the ancestral Targaryen line, there’s no better time to look back and explore why Jon Snow was given the wrong Targaryen name.
Jon Snow Being Called Aegon Targaryen Makes No Sense
When the Jon Snow real name debacle came to an end, he was revealed as Aegon Targaryen, not Aemon Targaryen, and it sounded almost obvious. Of course, he’s named after Aegon the Conqueror and so many other Targaryen Kings – it’s the Targaryen name. There’s just one catch: Rhaegar already had a son called Aegon. Before marrying Lyanna, Rhaegar had two children with Elia Martell, both of whom were infamously murdered by The Mountain during the Sack of King’s Landing at the end of Robert’s Rebellion. This has already been confirmed as show canon too — Thoros of Myr discusses Prince Aegon and Princess Rhaenys during season 3’s “And Now His Watch Is Ended.” So, it can’t just be hand-waved away as Rhaegar’s first son having a different name in the show.
So why would Rhaegar give both of his children the name Aegon? There are a few different theories. One is that Lyanna chose the name upon her deathbed, wanting to give him a true Targaryen name that she assumed Rhaegar would approve of. But she’d have been aware of the other Aegon, so it still doesn’t fully explain why she’d be giving her son the same name as his half-brother. Then, there’s the possibility that Rhaegar himself chose this name because of his obsession with The Prince That Was Promised prophecy. If he believed that this Prince had to be called Aegon, he’d ask Lyanna to also name their child Aegon despite already having one son of the same name.
The trouble is the show does nothing to suggest it’s the case, and it feels like stretching out a theory as a cover-up for what feels more like a mistake. It could even be a nod to the Aegon/Young Griff storyline from the books that they cut from the show, but again there’s little to support that. Instead, we’re left with Rhaegar having two sons called Aegon, with no explanation of why they have the same name. It feels like the showrunners kind of forgot about the first Aegon Targaryen.
Why Jon Should’ve Been Called Aemon Targaryen Instead
When Jon’s parentage was revealed in “The Winds of Winter”, we see Lyanna whisper his name to Ned, but don’t get to hear what she told him. This led to a lot of debate and attempts at lip-reading, with popular options for Jon’s real name ranging from Aegon to Aerys. However, the best choice would’ve been for Jon Snow to be called Aemon Targaryen. It’s another familiar name to viewers, but this time Jon would’ve shared a name with his great-great-uncle, rather than his half-brother. And it’s their connection that helps make Aemon such a fitting name for Jon.
In the Game of Thrones series finale, “The Iron Throne”, Jon echoes Maester Aemon’s words about love being the death of duty. It wasn’t even the first time in the final season that Jon had echoed the Night’s Watch’s Maester, with his speech after The Battle of Winterfell also repeating words previously spoken by Aemon. This showed just how much of an impact Aemon had upon Jon. While their time together was relatively brief, they had a clear fondness for each other, with Aemon becoming like a father figure to Jon at Castle Black. There are parallels in their story too: both were considered the rightful heir to the Iron Throne at some point but ended up in the Night’s Watch instead. Aemon died not knowing that Jon was a Targaryen, so it would be a sweet tribute to his legacy for Jon to then be named after him. Aemon told Jon to “kill the boy, and let the man be born”, and it’d be fitting to think of the boy as being Jon Snow, and the man being Aemon Targaryen.
Maester Aemon was also known to have been close to Rhaegar, with the pair frequently exchanging letters, so Rhaegar himself would’ve had cause to honor him. But it goes further than just this particular Aemon, which is another recurring name in Westeros history. Before Maester Aemon, there was Aemon the Dragonknight. A legendary figure, Aemon the Dragonknight is said to have been the noblest knight and one of the finest swordsmen to have ever walked the Seven Kingdoms. The younger brother of another Aegon — who went on to become King Aegon IV Targaryen — he pledged his life from a young age to the Kingsguard, giving up any chance of having a family for his vows, and rising to the rank of Lord Commander, all while wielding a Valyrian steel sword. It all sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it?
Even before both of these was another Aemon, the son of King Jaehaerys I (considered one of the greatest Targaryen Kings, and another to whom Jon is often compared), and his wife, Alysanne. He, too, had an older brother named Aegon, who died as an infant. The connection to Maester Aemon alone is enough, but there are various parallels within the text that would make Aemon such a fitting name for Jon Snow, especially as a combination of the Maester and the Dragonknight.
Jon Snow’s Real Name Might Be Aemon Targaryen In The Books
It’s important to note that Game of Thrones has revealed Jon’s true parentage and his real Targaryen name, but no such event has happened yet in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, where Jon is still currently dead after the Night’s Watch mutiny against him. Of course, he will return at some point in The Winds of Winter, should it ever be released, and, of course, his parents will be Rhaegar and Lyanna. But will his name be Aegon? It’s not impossible, but it is, like Aegon V Targaryen, unlikely.
Game of Thrones just about got away with making Jon’s real name Aegon because there isn’t another Aegon still around to confuse him with. It still doesn’t make sense, but at least there aren’t two Aegon Targaryens walking around the GoT location of Westeros at the same time. It’s a very different matter in the books, where Rhaegar’s first son is allegedly still alive and ready to claim the Iron Throne for himself. Even if he is, as suspected, a pretender, it still means that someone going by the name Aegon is going to have a major storyline in at least the next book, and will be up against Daenerys as well. Add this to the fact that Martin tends to be more careful about these things, and that it’s odd for Rhaegar to have two children named Aegon, and it’s more likely that he’d choose to give Jon a different name to avoid any such confusion.
As already established, there’s plenty of reason to give Jon the name Aemon in both the show and the books. These parallels all come from George R.R. Martin’s books, and given how much care he often puts into choosing names, they aren’t just a coincidence. The books, however, can have a final, even better reason to have him called Aemon. In Game of Thrones season 8, Jon Snow is sent back to the Night’s Watch as punishment for killing Dany. In the books, while the endpoint is likely to be similar, it’s possible Jon will have more agency in that ending, whereby he chooses the Night’s Watch over the crown, much like Aemon before him. It’s an ending that cements Jon’s status as a Stark of the North but keeps the Targaryen part of him alive as well.
House of the Dragon Is Making Jon’s Targaryen Name Mean Something
Whether he used the name Aegon or Aemon, House of the Dragon has finally made Jon’s lineage count in the story through a hidden inscription on the Catspaw dagger — the same dagger with which Arya killed the Night King. The Valyrian steel dagger was reintroduced to the small screen while in the possession of King Viserys as he brought it to his daughter Rhaenyra. In their meeting, Viserys tells her of Aegon’s dream, and later in the series, he shows her a secret inscription on the dagger that directly alludes to The Prince that was Promised and A Song of Ice and Fire.
The show is ultimately Targaryen-focused, bringing Aegon’s dream to the forefront of the series in the very beginning. Aegon may have been the prophecy’s first proponent in Westeros, but the Catspaw dagger, like all Valyrian steel blades, would have been forged before the Targaryens conquered Westeros. If so, it connects Jon to something deeper, larger, and tied to the fate of the world as a whole. While it seems like the prophecy wasn’t practically fulfilled with Bran sitting on the Iron Throne and the Night King’s defeat by Arya, it at least was in a technical sense, since two Targaryens sat on the Iron Throne before Dany was killed and Jon rejoined the Night’s Watch. Then, peace was restored by a Targaryen since Jon had to murder Dany for her actions.
The House of the Dragon prophecy makes Game of Thrones‘ The Prince that was Promised and A Song of Ice and Fire a journey to reclaiming the truth about the White Walkers. The prophecy would’ve been lost once Jamie Lannister killed King Aerys II and his dagger fell into the hands of Petyr Baelish. This places a whole new spin on Game of Thrones and Jon Snow’s journey. It was initially presented that the prophecy was simply a tool used by the disciples of the Lord of Light. However, House of the Dragon proved that the prophecy was passed down through the Targaryen line, and Jon’s lineage was something more than just an adage from a cult. It’s unclear if the Jon Snow spinoff series will add further depth to HotD‘s Song of Ice and Fire prophecy. However, the new series added more weight to Jon Snow’s storyline in Game of Thrones and his Targaryen name.