Game of Thrones Tinfoil Theories: Shocking Shockers That Will Shock You
by Jen Burd
June 21, 2014
*This article refers to the books as well as the television show. Major spoilers are marked in the section headings, but if you're halfway through the books and you're still invested in avoiding all spoilers, you might want to come back when you've finished the series.
Throughout the Song of Ice and Fire series, George R.R. Martin has described the world of Westeros in such fascinating detail that HBO actually employed a linguist to accurately depict the many distinct tongues glimpsed in the books. Martin's dexterous attention to detail, as well as the five-year gap between books, has prompted many readers to craft their own obsessive theories, lovingly referred to as "tinfoil hat theories" on message boards.
Most of them suffer from logical leaps that are not supported by the text, or inconsistencies with Martin's statements. Problematic theories also arise from supposed red herrings that, if true, would be inconsistent with Martin's writing style; George R.R. Martin respects his readers. The man does not mess around. Game of Thrones is not Lost.
And on that note, here are some of the best of the tinfoil hat theories.
Dragonglass is actually Dragon Poop (No Spoilers)
In A Storm of Swords (2000), the third book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, Samwell Tarly discovers that obsidian, also known as dragonglass, kills white walkers almost instantaneously. A mysterious volcanic rock produced by the Children of the Forest and found in large quantities at Dragonstone and Asshai, dragonglass is said to have rained from the Valyrian sky after the Doom. Obsidian is sharper than steel but more brittle, which makes it suitable for dagger blades.
George R.R. Martin's attention to detail is one of his greatest strengths as a writer, and his conspicuous exclusion of any mention of dragon excrement prompted one creative Reddit user to draw up a spectacular theory of dragonglass.
From the most mundane snatches of prose, u/The_Others_Take_Ya hypothesizes that dragons poop dragonglass. Dragons may be related to firewyrms—flightless, dragon-like creatures that are known for tunneling (it is known). Martin mentions firewyrms once in a A Clash of Kings and once in A Dance With Dragons. After a succession of mind-bogglingly detailed analyses from the books and from real world science, u/The_Others_Take_Ya determines that both firewyrms and dragons produce dragonglass when the digestion process mixes dirt and stone from burrowing with byproducts of dragon waste.
Though George R.R. Martin confirmed in an interview that dragonglass is obsidian, this theory is so hilarious and finely crafted that I personally hope Martin rethinks his position on obsidian, or at least throws in passage about how grumpkins and snarks poop Valyrian steel.
Varys is a Merling (No Spoilers)
Varys "The Spider," Kings Landing's Master of Whispers, is an enigmatic character and a major player in the game of thrones. His loyalty is as questionable as it is complicated. He is one of the only characters who professes to have the good of the general population, rather than entitlement (Stannis), personal gain (Cercei), or an individual sense of honor (Ned), at heart.
Varys's commitment to the realm is one possible explanation for his fence-straddling loyalties and constant betrayals, but some readers speculate that Varys has more stake in the War of the Five Kings than he lets on.
We can be reasonably certain of a few facts about Varys: he is fat and bald, and Varys is a eunuch. From this and this alone, Nightflyer, a poster on A Wiki of Ice and Fire concluded with unwavering certainty that Varys is a representative of a vast merling conspiracy to orchestrate events in Westeros and the other "land based kingdoms."
Nightflyer contends that Varys has been hiding in plain sight as an overweight eunuch, when he is in fact a merling, a fish-like creature, explaining his lack of external genitals. Though the book contains few references to merlings and no physical description, Nightflyer decides that merlings never stop growing, thus Varys's substantial size, and have naturally pointy teeth. Littlefinger, Illyrio Mapotis, and Ser Mandon Moore are also Merlings. Another user adds that Varys was castrated in Myr, a region with mermaid as its sigil, prompting the Nightflyer to add every Myrish character we've met so far to the list of secret merlings.
BONUS: Varys is a woman (SPOILERS)
The baffling appearance of the possible Aegon VI in A Dance with Dragons (2011) drove one Reddit user, u/kijipanda, to speculate that Varys is not a eunuch, but a woman in disguise and the mother of Aegon. Illyrio is the father. For the remainder of the thread, u/kijipanda stubbornly refers to Varys as "she."
Moral of the story: sometimes a eunuch is just a eunuch.
Benjen Stark is Daario Naharis (No Spoilers)
Benjen Stark, Eddard Stark's younger brother and First Ranger of the Night's Watch, has been missing since book one. If you're a show-watcher, you may remember Benjen discussing the Night's Watch with Jon Snow at the feast in Winterfell in the pilot episode. Benjen then goes looking for a missing ranger beyond the wall. He has yet to be heard from.
So where is Benjen? Readers have a hard time accepting that Benjen could really be dead, and there are good reasons to suspect otherwise. We haven't seen a body, or a shred of evidence to suggest that Benjen isn't still out there somewhere. And it seems like a very George R.R. Martin-esque move, losing an important character, waiting until you've almost forgotten about him, and then, twenty years after the first book's release, having him resurface in an unexpected place to change the game entirely.*
So where's Benjen Stark? In October 2012, Reddit user, u/JayisforJokes, provided fans with one of the most hilarious theories in the history of tinfoil hats: Benjen is Daario Naharis, the Tyroshi sellsword who swore allegiance to Daenerys Targaryen in book. Back in book one, Benjen realized that Winter is Coming! and fled the north in hopes of enlisting Dany and her dragons to fight the steadily approaching white walkers. Benjen enlists in the Stormcrows and rises to the highest rank in time for book three, A Storm of Swords. He meets Dany in Yunkai, cleverly disguised as a blue-haired mercenary, and swears his fealty to the Mother of Dragons.
The theory involves more than a few assumptions. To begin with, u/JayisforJokes assumes that Benjen, before the war started, wanted the Targaryens back on the throne, and that Benjen recognized in Dany, a 13-year-old child being sold to the leader of a nomadic warrior tribe, the potential to be queen of Westeros.
The best part of the Benjen-is-Daario theory is u/JayisforJokes's assertion that Benjen, in spite of his vow of celibacy, is sleeping with Daenerys because "if she is as hot as she sounds and Benjen wants to earn her trust why not? I definitely would in his situation." The knowledge that Daenerys Targaryen "sounds" hot enough for the OP lends credence to any and every theory.
BONUS: Everyone is an FM (SPOILERS)
The introduction of the Faceless Men, a Braavosi assassin cult, in A Feast for Crows (2005), has set the stage for speculation that nearly every character is secretly another character wearing someone else's face. Jaqen H'ghar is almost certainly a Faceless Man, but most of the others implicated are almost certainly not. Silly candidates for facelessness include, but are not limited to: Benjen/Daario, Syrio Forel, Missandei, Bronn, and Varys and all of his little birds.
*Another popular theory is that Benjen is Coldhands, a mysterious half-dead character who shepherds Sam and Gilly, then Bran, Hodor, and the Reed children, through the desolate land beyond the wall. However, this theory is all but precluded by Coldhands' absence from the show. If he were that important, he would be included in the show canon as well as the books. Some fans contest that Coldhands cannot be Benjen Stark because the Children of the Forest comment that Coldhands was killed "long ago" and the Children of the Forest have a relatively long view of time due to their long lifespans.
**Special thanks to Alexa Romanelli, the most dedicated fan I know.
by Jen Burd
@Skeptoid Media, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit