[Warning: this story contains spoilers for A Song of Ice and Fire, the fantasy novel series on which Game of Thrones is based.]
“He never felt the fourth knife. Only the cold….”
Those words have haunted A Song of Ice and Fire readers ever since the final Jon Snow chapter of A Dance With Dragons, the fifth and still most recently published novel in George R.R. Martin’s planned seven-book saga. Sure, Game of Thrones viewers have already seen Lord Snow return from passing through death’s door on the show, and while he’s likely to return as well in written form, it’s still unclear when, how or why.
It’s even unclear what form Jon will take when Martin’s next novel, The Winds of Winter, eventually comes to light. There are those who believe Jon transferred his consciousness into his direwolf Ghost shortly before succumbing to that fourth knife from his traitorous brothers in black; earlier in the same novel, someone observes that Snow’s gifts as a warg are far more powerful than Jon understands. Clearly, the show went a different way, with Melisandre (Carice van Houten) responsible for breathing fire back into Jon’s lungs. But even if we assume that the book’s Jon will return in his same mortal vessel, it won’t be without some serious scars.
Consider the first wound Jon sustains in the novel, as Martin writes: “When Wick Whittlestick slashed at his throat, the word turned into a grunt. Jon twisted from the knife, just enough so it barely grazed his skin. He cut me. When he put his hand to the side of his neck, blood welled between his fingers.” Moments later, another member of the Night’s Watch “punched Jon in the belly,” leaving his dagger exactly “where he had buried it.” A beat later, someone stabs Jon “between the shoulder blades.” Then comes the fourth knife, which he does not feel; its entry point is left to the reader’s imagination, as are all of the knives that presumably came afterward.
Compare the book’s violent realities and even worse possibilities with how Jon died on the show, stabbed multiple times in the chest, and nowhere else — fatal wounds to be sure, but not so grisly that Kit Harington would be unrecognizable when his character conquered death just two episodes later. Whenever Jon returns in the books (if he returns at all, which was already a good bet even before the show tipped off the likely outcome), he’s not going to be in such pretty condition, what with the neck wound and all the other presumed carnage wreaked upon his body. The resurrected Jon Snow is going to be worse for wear — and the wounds could extend beyond his physical form as well, if two other resurrected characters in Ice and Fire lore are any indication.
One of those characters already exists on the show in all of his post-death glory: Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer), the Lightning Lord and co-founder of the Brotherhood Without Banners, not to mention the MVP of the season-seven trailer. Through six seasons of Game of Thrones, Beric has died six times, brought back to life each time by Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye).
“Every time I come back,” Beric tells Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) in season three, “I’m a bit less. Pieces of you get chipped away.”
In the books, Beric’s point is punctuated through the aftermath of his final death — a self-sacrifice that paves the way for a new resurrection: Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley). By now, most Thrones fans, book fans and non-readers alike, have heard the words “Lady Stoneheart.” For those who haven’t, it refers to Catelyn, who is revived a few days after the Red Wedding, courtesy of Beric bestowing his last breath of life upon her. After the Lightning Lord’s seventh and final death, Catelyn takes over the Brotherhood, and uses the organization to wreak vengeance upon all of the Freys, Lannisters and other Red Wedding associates they can find. She barely speaks, thanks to the deep throat gash she sustained at the time of her death. When she does speak, she voices deep and quiet fury toward her enemies, with no room for mercy, no possibility of forgiveness. She is exactly as Beric describes of himself, but to an extreme: more than “a bit less” of the woman she once was, more than a few pieces chipped away.
Which brings us back to Jon. The show’s version of the character has more or less moved on from his visit to the great beyond. The book’s version stands to be a bit more physically traumatized by the experience, certainly, and potentially on an existential level as well — and right now, the show has a way of getting the two Jon Snows on the same page.
So far, Lady Stoneheart has not appeared on Game of Thrones. It’s unlikely she ever will. In all likelihood, she was kept away from the show so as not to tip off Jon Snow’s eventual death and resurrection. But Beric very much remains on the show, last seen heading north with Thoros, the Hound (Rory McCann) and the rest of the Brotherhood in order to join their cause against the White Walkers. The latest trailer for season seven shows Beric and his men have reached their destination, joining Jon in a snowy battle against the undead, flaming sword firmly in tow. Even though Catelyn no longer exists in the world of Thrones, there’s still the lingering possibility of Beric laying down his own life in order to save a fallen comrade — someone like, say, Jon Snow. If one trip to “the darkness,” as Beric calls it, wasn’t enough to permanently change Jon, then certainly a second visit would do the trick, getting him onto the darker track that’s likely in store for the book’s version of the character.
Perhaps it’s a wild shot in the dark, but on the off chance it’s not, we’re planting the flag now: Jon Snow died once before, and he’ll die again in season seven, brought back to life once more, this time through Beric’s final sacrifice. We didn’t see Lady Stoneheart on the show…but Lord Snowheart? That could be another story entirely.
Watch the video below for everything you need to know about Jon Snow heading into season seven.
Game of Thrones returns July 16.