Well, now that Game of Thrones’s fifth season has a release date, I figured it was time to revisit the book series and talk about another theory. I mean, hey, it’s going to be a few more years until the sixth book comes out, and maybe another decade before the seventh, so at this point, yeah, discussing theories is about all we can do to pass the time.
So let’s discuss my favorite A Song of Ice and Fire theory. Though it is by no means popular among the fanbase, there is a theory that King Aerys II Targaryen and Joanna Lannister, not Joanna and Tywin, are Cersei and Jaime’s real parents. This theory, commonly shortened to A+J=C&J, is one I desperately hope to be true. This is, however, probably not a popular opinion, since from what I can tell, most book readers hate it.
Spoilers for ASOIAF and a trigger warning for rape and sexual assault after the jump.
According to the A+J=C&J theory, King Aerys II at some point raped Tywin’s wife, Joanna Lannister. Then Joanna passed the children she had by Aerys off as being Tywin’s. We discover in A Dance with Dragons that Aerys always lusted after Joanna, and during her wedding to Tywin, Aerys complained that the first night was no longer law. “The first night” stated that a king could lawfully have sex with a lord’s wife before the lord could. However, despite this law’s revocation, we learn from Ser Barristan Selmy that Aerys still took “liberties” during the bedding ceremony. In this particular incident, “liberties” could mean a great deal of things, and like many fans, I don’t believe that Aerys raped her during the night of her wedding. It would have been near impossible to get away with without Tywin knowing the full extent of the violation. Instead I am more willing to believe that he raped her at a later date.
It’s also entirely possible that Aerys’s lust for Joanna ended up being one of the reasons he and Tywin had a falling out. We know the two of them used to be really good friends, until Aerys’s paranoia and unstable behavior drove a wedge between the two. So it’s not much of a stretch to believe that Aerys’s actions toward Joanna further fueled the divide. However, as we know very little about Joanna and her relationship to Aerys, it’s also entirely possible that she consented to him. We do learn that there are rumors that she willingly gave Aerys her maidenhood during King Jaehaerys II Targaryen’s coronation.
There are numerous incidents in the books to support the theory that not all the Lannister children are Tywin’s—and as I said, it simply makes more sense to me for Jaime and Cersei to be Aerys’s bastards and for Tyrion to be Tywin’s only true child. To start off, I love the idea that Tyrion, the child Tywin didn’t want or love, the child he actively went out of his way to torment and belittle, was his only true son, while the two kids he was… less disappointed in are the children of his hated rival. It also adds to all the parallels between Jaime and Tyrion. For example, like Jaime, Tyrion saves all of King’s Landing, but he still ends up hated and distrusted. If it turns out that Jaime is Aerys’s son, we end up with another parallel—they both killed their fathers.
Barring that, the books have already gone out of their way to make the Lannister twins fit the Targaryen mold. Not only were the Targaryens infamous for incestuous relationships, which more than likely contributed to their poor mental health, something else they were infamous for, the people of Westeros have a saying: whenever a Targaryen is born, the gods flip a coin. One side is madness, and the other side is greatness. Between Jaime and Cersei, Cersei’s mental health is clearly deteriorating. She doesn’t trust anyone, imagines slights where there aren’t any, and is so caught up in her power struggle over the Iron Throne that she drives away what friends she does have. Jaime, meanwhile, has gone out of his way to help Brienne on her quest to find and protect Sansa, reevaluated certain beliefs he used to follow, ended battles through negotiations instead of violence, and actually wants to keep his vows to Catelyn Stark. While he is still no angel—he did push a child out a window—at this point in the books, it looks as though he’s headed for “greatness”, while Cersei is headed for “madness”. On top of all that, we learn during one of Jaime’s chapters that Cersei has a love for wildfire, something else the Targaryens were known for, when she burns down the Tower of the Hand. Other characters, such as Tyrion, have also compared Cersei to wildfire:
Their father [Tywin] had been as relentless and implacable as a glacier, where Cersei was all wildfire, especially when thwarted.
However, probably the biggest selling point for this theory comes during a dream in Jaime’s seventh chapter in A Feast for Crows. In it, he speaks to a woman. Though her identity is never stated, she is highly implied to be his mother.
“Who are you?” He had to hear her say it.
“The question is, who are you?”
“This is a dream.”
“Is it?” She smiled sadly. “Count your hands, child.”
One. One hand, clasped tight around the sword hilt. Only one. “In my dreams I always have two hands.” He raised his right arm and stared uncomprehending at the ugliness of his stump.
“We all dream of what we cannot have. Tywin dreamed that his son would be a great knight, that his daughter would be a queen. He dreamed they would be so strong and brave and beautiful that no one would ever laugh at them.”
“I am a knight,” he told her, “and Cersei is a queen.”
A tear rolled down her cheek.
To me, that passage comes across as his mother saying that he and Cersei are not Tywin’s children. To start off, she calls Tywin by name, instead of saying something like “your father”, which may well be nitpicking on my part, but she also implies that Tywin never had a son who was a knight, nor a daughter who was a queen. And of course, this is hardly the only passage that potentially foreshadows the twins’ real parentage. A few chapters earlier, we get this from their aunt:
“Jaime,” [Genna] said, tugging on his ear, “sweetling, I have known you since you were a babe at Joanna’s breast. You smile like Gerion and fight like Tyg, and there’s some Kevan in you, else you would not wear that cloak… but Tyrion is Tywin’s son, not you. I said so once to your father’s face, and he would not speak to me for half a year. Men are such thundering great fools. Even the sort who come along once in a thousand years.”
I don’t think that this passage implies that Genna knows Aerys is the twins’ real father; I think that she was just making an observation that Tyrion is more like Tywin than Jaime is. However, Tywin’s anger is notable. It’s entirely possible that Tywin knows the truth and simply refuses to acknowledge it, and so what Genna said struck a nerve. Tywin is, after all, the one person in the Seven Kingdoms who did not readily believe that his children were incestuous when everyone else found out the truth. So I find it perfectly within his character to adamantly deny that his golden children are not really his, even if it’s staring him in the face. And these are hardly the only passages out there. At one point in A Clash of Kings at Renly’s camp, someone mistakenly refers to Jaime as a “kinslayer”, and Renly has to correct the person to say “kingslayer”.
I desperately hope this theory is true, because for starters, not only do I think that it would add more depth to the Lannister children and their relationship with Tywin, I also think it adds a sense of irony to the story as well. Robert rebelled against the Iron Throne and overthrew the Targaryens, wanted to wipe their family from existence, and instead ended up marrying a Targaryen bastard, who then had Targaryen children with her brother. And if Cersei and Joffrey are any indication, mental illness is a real concern for their family. However, at this point in time, this is still just a theory, and it’s just as plausible or implausible as any other theory about this series. But if it does turn out to be false, I’ll be rather disappointed.