If you're a "Game of Thrones" fan, you probably know what R+L=J is. (If you don't, please, catch yourself up.) But have you heard about A+J=T? Maybe not. It's a lesser-known theory, and it's a controversial one, because it basically says that this guy:
Is not the son of this guy:
Instead, A+J=T posits that Tyrion Lannister's true father is the Mad King Aerys Targaryen. That's right: There's a theory that the blood of the dragons courses through Tyrion's veins, and that this is his real (half) sweet sister:
The theory goes that King Aerys, famous for philandering with women behind his wife's back, coveted Tywin Lannister's wife Joanna. The books make this clear, emphasizing that Aerys got pretty handsy with Joanna on the night of her wedding to Tywin. There are other points in the theory, and they're well summarized here:
Again, it's not a popular theory. Many fans believe that it undercuts the Tyrion-Tywin story, while others think it's just one Targaryen too many. Even Alt Shift X, the man behind the video (as well as the helpful video spelling out the R+L=J theory), admits that Aerys being Tyrion's father isn't the most ironclad theory in the world of "Ice and Fire."
Enter "The World of Ice and Fire."
Told from the perspective of Maester Yendel of the Citadel, George R.R. Martin's new book dives deep into the history of the Seven Kingdoms and countries far abroad. "The World of Ice and Fire" features heavily detailed chapters about each of the Targaryen kings, Aerys included — and there's a heavy emphasis on his relationship with Tywin and Joanna Lannister.
The chapter confirms that Aerys was a hound with women. There's a sidebar focused on "the scurrilous rumor that Joanna Lannister gave up her maidenhead to Prince Aerys the night of his father's coronation and enjoyed a brief reign as his paramour." Before marrying Tywin, Joanna served Aerys' wife and sister (ew) Rhaella as her handmaiden.
Maester Yendel writes:
"Though she turned a blind eye to most of the king's infidelities, the queen did not approve of his 'turning my ladies into his whores.' (Joanna Lannister was not the first lady to be dismissed abruptly from Her Grace's service, nor was she the last.)"
Yendel adds the rumors "can safely be discounted," because "Tywin Lannister would scarce have taken his cousin to wife if that had been true." But the rumors were at least powerful enough for Rhaella to dismiss Joanna from her service.
In time, Joanna leaves King's Landing for Casterly Rock, the great Lannister castle, and in 266 AC, she gives birth to Cersei and Jaime:
(They were probably less creepy/incesty as babies. Probably.)
Aerys reacts to the news poorly, as he and his own wife have had trouble conceiving, and he notes that he "appear[s] to have married the wrong woman." He then tells Tywin to bring the children to court when they're old enough — "And bring their mother, too, for it has been too long since I gazed upon that fair face."
Pretty fixated on Joanna, isn't he?
Joanna doesn't see Aerys again until some point in 272 AC, when she returns to King's Landing for the first time in years, accompanied by six-year-old Cersei and Jaime. Aerys body-shames Joanna for all the court to see, enraging Tywin; the relationship between the King and the Hand had been fraying for years, but this insult causes Tywin to offer up his resignation. Aerys refuses him.
And here's where Tyrion comes in.
It's 273 AC when Joanna dies in Casterly Rock while giving birth to "a malformed, dwarfish babe born with stunted legs, an oversized head, and mismatched, demonic eyes (some reports also suggested he had a tail, which was lopped off at his lord father's command)." Upon hearing the news, Aerys famously mourned Joanna and mocked Tywin with the same breath: "The gods cannot abide such arrogance. They have plucked a fair flower from his hand and given him a monster in her place, to teach him some humility at last."
So, a few things here. There's no mention of how many months pass between when Joanna attends Aerys in court in 272 AC, and when she gives birth to Tyrion in 273 AC. But the timing could be perfect for Aerys to have impregnated Joanna.
There's also "The Telltale Tail" to consider. Tyrion was supposedly born with a tail, which might just be a grotesque rumor about the poor child... but it might be something else, too. It's consistent with the description of another grisly Targaryen childbirth.
Somewhere near the year 129 AC, Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen gives birth to "a monster: a stillborn girl, twisted and malformed, with a … stubby, scaled tail." Or so she's described in the history books. Even if the tail tales are tall tales, do these details exist without a purpose? Is it something we're supposed to keep an eye on?
And that speaks to the biggest point of all. Why does the Aerys chapter go to such great lengths to chronicle the Mad King's attraction to Joanna, and rumors about their relationship, if the rumors aren't true? Is it just to stress the growing divide between Aerys and Tywin, leading to Aerys' eventual downfall? Or is it because Aerys' relationship with Joanna is responsible for one of the biggest upcoming twists in the entire "Ice and Fire" saga?
"The dragon has three heads." We've seen and heard this prophecy over and over again throughout this story. There are three dragons. Will we see three dragon-riders? One of these riders is obvious:
Many people agree that Jon Snow, son of Rhaegar Targaryen, is the second:
But who is the third? Could it be Tyrion? If "Thrones" has a central character, he's the one, right alongside Jon and Dany. What if he has something else in common with them: fire and blood?
There's something else, too. In a Reddit AMA, "World of Ice and Fire" co-authors Elio M. García Jr. and Linda Antonsson said of their book:
"If there's one specific thing we think fans will find particularly interesting, it's probably the account of the reign of Aerys II, the Mad King ...
"There's a great deal of information concerning Tywin Lannister and his friendship -- and then his falling out -- with Aerys, with some implications on matters concerning Tywin's children, and Aerys's children for that matter."
Tywin's children, and Aerys' children. Hmm. Interesting.
This theory is admittedly out there. The jury's out on how it strengthens or weakens the story, especially the relationship between Tyrion and Tywin. Nevertheless, it's a theory worth paying attention to, thanks to new information revealed in "The World of Ice and Fire."
Is Tyrion Lannister a secret Targaryen? Maybe, maybe not. But if he is, this crazy story just got crazier.