Spoilers for Game of Thrones, all of it.
Everybody loves a good conspiracy theory and Game of Thrones is certainly no stranger to conniving plots. Not only is GoT full of schemers and planners, but GoT fans are pretty good at concocting theories and schemes as well. One of the most well-known and widely believed is the theory that Jon Snow’s parents were actually Lyanna (Ned’s sister) and Rhaegar Targaryen. Jon would then be Daenerys’ nephew and further complicate an already complicated geopolitical situation. The answer to that riddle could be coming soon as last week’s episode gave us a brief prelude to the Tower of Joy which Lyanna is heard screaming from. While we anxiously await how that theory unwinds, we have also seen the beginnings of another theory unfold, the Grand Northern Conspiracy.
The Grand Northern Conspiracy (GNC) was brought to my attention by my good friends and fellow GoT fans, Grand Maester Meaddog and Bran the Los Angelian, but was actually first published a couple years ago on Reddit. It was originally created as a book theory and can be read in full here. The full theory is extremely nuanced and will take a while to read but I encourage all GoT fans to check it out. Book readers will recognize far more of the characters mentioned, as well as some of the events mentioned. Show watchers may not recognize everybody/thing but will recognize enough to piece together the gist. That gist is that since the Red Wedding, there has been an underground movement to return control of the North to a Stark. As season six unfolds the threads of this theory are starting to intertwine.
Before we break down the evidence for the theory, it’s important to keep in mind the context of this theory. One of the most alluring things about season six was that the show finally outpaced the book, meaning everybody was on the same page in terms of the story. Like most good book series, though, George R.R. Martin has likely sewn many of the seeds for the future story in the earlier books. A slight nod to something here and a well-placed clue there can eventually foreshadow quite a bit. That’s what this theory is, a guess on future events based on evidence from the book. Not only is the evidence solid, but now the show seems to be heading down the same path. Here are five pieces of evidence from the show which suggest the GNC accurately depicts the near fate of the North.
A Stark is needed to legitimize rule in the North.
The Starks have ruled the North for thousands of years. During this time the Starks were predominantly loved which has been born out throughout the series. The primary reason Roose Bolton wanted the Sansa-Ramsay marriage was to return the Stark name to Winterfell and legitimize the Bolton claim to control of the North. When Sansa escaped from Winterfell, the loss of the Stark name was enough that Roose was willing to exclude Ramsay from his birthright because he did not have a legitimate claim. This indicates that the families of the North are still loyal to the Starks, and would support a Stark if one should come to claim Winterfell from the Boltons.
The Umbers seem like unlikely oathbreakers
In the episode three, Smalljon Umber comes to Winterfell to present Ramsay with a couple presents: Osha and Rickon Stark. Smalljon’s father Greatjon was one of Robb Stark’s most loyal followers and staunch Stark supporter. Though Smalljon intimates in his conversation with Ramsay that he didn’t have a great relationship with his father, it seems unlikely that he would completely betray his family’s loyalty to the Starks. After all, Osha and Rickon were sent to the Umber house for protection. There’s also the question as to whether his father is actually dead. To this point in the series we haven’t seen Greatjon die. Could this be a ruse to get Ramsay to trust Smalljon since no one would believe Greatjon would betray the Starks? Another interesting aspect to Smalljon’s brief appearance was that he talked about Jon potentially leading the Wildling army against Winterfell. Smalljon is posturing like he wants to be part of Ramsay’s military command against Jon. What a great place for someone planning a coup.
Jon Snow is coming home
At the end of episode three Jon gives his Lord Commander’s cloak to Eddison Tollett and leaves the Wall. Just as there was no doubt whether or not Jon would stay dead, there is almost no doubt Jon is heading out for Winterfell. Only twice did Jon consider leaving the Wall, when Ned died (before he took his vows) and when Robb died (after the vows). One of the primary foundations of the GNC is concerned with Robb naming Jon as successor for Winterfell. This occurred pretty explicitly in the book when he tell Catelyn he wishes Jon to be king of Winterfell should he die. Though less certainl in the show, it’s possible that Robb would have also given this information to his council, including Greatjon as well as other families. If this was known among the families of the North, then they will certainly unify behind Jon as Robb’s successor and Ned’s son. If Jon was able to reconcile the majority of the Night’s Watch with bringing the Wildlings inside the Wall, he can surely convince any hesitant Northern families as well.
Unification of the North
It’s hard to guess what Ramsay’s plan will be for Rickon. First off, Rickon has been gone since season three. It seems unlikely that a Stark family supporter would show up with him right as Ramsay takes over as Warden of the North (more on that in a second.) The likely idea would be for Ramsay to use Rickon like another Reek who can serve as a puppet figurehead to gain support. If the GNC is correct, this can’t happen. The assumption would be that Smalljon would need to be sure of Rickon’s safety in some capacity. Keep in mind that most people in the North still believe Bran and Rickon are dead. When Rickon shows up alive in Ramsay’s custody it will very likely serve to bolster Stark support, especially once Sansa’s escape becomes widely known and she starts unifying support herself. Between Rickon, Sansa, and Jon, the Stark name will be spread throughout the North and all Stark supporters will come to oust Ramsay.
Ramsay is an idiot.
When Ramsay led his cohort of an army while taking over the North he didn’t exactly garner any support or respect. Roose had to talk him down from taking an army to attack the Night’s Watch for goodness sake. When it comes to leading, Ramsay doesn’t know what he’s doing. Even in killing his father, he couldn’t come up with a convincing enough lie to mask what really happened. When Smalljon arrives, he calls out Ramsay for killing his dad almost immediately. Roose was not liked, but he was respected as not being a fool and someone who could sniff out a plot. So it’s no wonder that Smalljon would show up with Rickon (who he’s had at his home for three seasons) right after Ramsay takes over. Ramsay is not only a weaker leader, but he can also be manipulated through his emotions. The biggest potential drawback to the GCN in terms of show evidence is Smalljon proving Rickon’s identity by producing Shaggywolf’s head. This drawback may also serve as one of the proofs for this piece of evidence. If Smalljon produced the head of a large wolf or even another dire wolf (unlikely), how would Ramsay know the difference? Ramsay could easily be convinced that it’s a dire wolf and would then play right into Smalljon’s hands. Because Ramsay is less of a challenge than Roose, the timing seems right for an overthrow.
Is the North uniting to return the Starks to Winterfell? Sound off in the comments below!