In the past couple of weeks, n00bs who haven’t been reading A Song of Ice and Fire (and talking about it on Internet forums) since 1997 took notice of a certain fan theory called “R+L=J.” Its thesis — that Jon Snow is actually Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen’s kid, not Ned Stark’s — is so well-supported that the theory’s about as controversial as saying Tyrion’s your favorite character. But as we pointed out a few months ago, “R + L = J” is just a tip of the speculative iceberg. An iceberg that’s also home to YouTube user Preston Jacobs, whose theories are among the most comprehensive I’ve seen to date. They’re also completely addictive, and also a little bit batshit.
Like “R + L = J,” Jacobs’ theories are based almost entirely on evidence from the books, which gives them limited appeal to those who’ve only watched the show. Fear not: I’m a book fan, and Jacobs’ analysis goes so deep it’s enough to make even an experienced-ish fan like me feel like I’ve effectively never read them. 99.9 percent of us are thus working from an equally blank slate, which explains why the non-book-reader friend who introduced me to Jacobs’ videos found them absorbing enough to watch four times in a row. The spoiler-averse, however, should read no further if they’ve yet to finish A Dance with Dragons.
We’ll begin with “The Locusts of Meereen,” the only one of Jacobs’ videos to stand on its own. (We’ll eventually work our way up to “The Dornish Master Plan,” which clocks in at 40 minutes and appears in four separate installments.) As readers may recall and show watchers will eventually find out, Dany’s already disastrous rule in Meereen goes to hell in a hand basket at the end of ADwD. Someone tries to poison her arena-side snack of locusts, Drogon swoops in, and Dany rides off, leaving Ser Barristan the futile task of holding together a city-state even less stable than it was before its conqueror peaced out.
“Exceeeept,” Jacobs tells us, “That’s not really what happens. In fact, the entire narrative of Meereen changes once one asks one simple question.” Jacobs really knows how to reel in an audience. Anyway, the all-important question is: “Who poisoned the honeyed locusts?”
Jacobs starts small, shooting down the obvious candidate — Dany’s Meereenese husband, Hizdahr zo Loraq — for lack of motive. Then he launches into a complex analysis of the Sons of the Harpy, the anti-Dany terrorist group that pops up after she takes over Meereen, and the religious/political loyalties of the Meereenese people. And then he says Dany wasn’t the intended poison victim at all; it was her bodyguard Strong Belwas, a character so minor he’s written out of the TV show altogether. And Belwas’ would-be killers are the family of some dude he killed back in book three. Who are also responsible for getting Drogon to come back to Meereen by getting the dragon “addicted to pork” and leaving a pig-scented trail leading him straight to Dany. This is fandom gone totally off the rails, and it is awesome.
That was a lot, wasn’t it? Let’s move on to “The Pink Letter Mystery,” in which Jon Snow receives a letter from Winterfell claiming Stannis died in an attempt to retake the castle. It’s supposedly from Ramsay Snow Bolton, who claims to have a whole bunch of hostages but doesn’t send Jon any of their flayed skin. Sounds like a CONSPIRACY!!!!
Anyway, Jacobs thinks the “Pink Letter” was actually sent by Mance Rayder, who’s currently undercover at Winterfell posing as a bard, as a coded message to his second-in-command Tormund, who says he’s illiterate, but actually isn’t! In fact, Tormund isn’t just some endearingly brutish wildling dude who likes to brag about killing giants. He’s in charge of summoning the giants, or rather bringing docile actual giants to the Wall so they can be possessed by the super-angry spirits of the Children of the Forest (the people Bran’s currently hanging out with underneath a tree), who Mance will kick into action with a magic horn he’s looking for in the crypts beneath Winterfell. And then the wildlings and their magical midget-possessed giant friends will take over Castle Black and wreak havoc on an unsuspecting Westeros.
You may be skeptical about this, but so is Jacobs: “I’m probably wrong about half of this stuff,” he says in the third video’s epilogue.
Summing up all 40 minutes of “The Dornish Master Plan” is probably more trouble than it’s worth, so I’m leaving the videos themselves above for your viewing pleasure. Suffice it to say that Oberyn dying was just a minor hiccup in his older brother’s master plan to ruin the Lannisters’ lives with political manipulation and DRAGONS.
Obviously Jacobs’ theories are a bit… intense, but his commitment to deciphering George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic is impressive. Every video involves exact quotes and page numbers from multiple books, picking up on the repetition of seemingly unremarkable phrases and even single words. There are even helpful graphics, like the tables explaining how the Sons of the Harpy have changed their tactics over time. And not everything he comes up with is easily dismissed: my friend thought his argument that Mance wrote the Pink Letter was persuasive, and so do I.
In short, I can make fun of this stuff all I want, but these videos are still entertaining and thought-provoking enough that I spent over an hour watching every second of them, and then wrote 900 words on them. Happy Summer Internet!