Bran Stark theories: what Bran's visions mean for the ending of Game of Thrones season 8

Amy Blumsom
Bran's visions could tell us a lot about how Game of Thrones will end - HBO
Bran's visions could tell us a lot about how Game of Thrones will end - HBO

Note: this piece contains multiple spoilers concerning the plot of Game of Thrones seasons 1-8 

Of all the Game of Thrones storylines, Bran Stark’s has been the most sedentary – and that’s not just because he can’t actually walk. He has spent most of the show being dragged across an icy wasteland, hugging old trees. Sometimes, though, these mystical old roots have born fruitful visions that may well determine the outcome of the show

Through Bran, we’ve learned that Jon is the legitimate son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryenhow Hodor got his name, and, most in season eight, episode two, that the Night King's main objective is “endless night” – and that the chilling villain has left his mark on Bran, so that the Stark son / Three-Eyed Raven / memory of the current world essentially acts as a GPS tracker for his human enemies. As well as that, he has also shared brief visions of the Mad King, and Daenerys flying over King’s Landing.

In season seven, and armed with a handful of groundbreaking revelations, Bran (played by Isaac Hempstead Wright) reunited with his siblings at Winterfell. He has already been instrumental in exposing Littlefinger’s duplicitous attempts to drive Sansa and Arya apart. It’s clear that this ponderous plot line is going to finally prove fruitful, and give the Starks an advantage over their enemies.

There are many Bran Stark theories bubbling around in anticipation of how season eight (and his massively creeping snow-lurking) will end, so here is your guide to navigate them.

Bran will build the Wall

According to Stark family legend, an ancestor called Bran the Builder raised the Wall years ago to protect the realm from the White Walkers. Could this Bran actually be the same as our Three-Eyed Raven? We need only be reminded of poor Hodor’s fate to realise that Bran can influence the past, and one theory is that Bran will use this ability to build the wall.

Hodor - Credit: HBO
Bran changed history when he warged into Hodor in the now infamous Hold the Door episode Credit: HBO

In the very first book, Old Nan offers to tell Bran the story of Bran the Builder and the construction of the wall. She is always insisting that this tale was his favourite. Except it never was. Bran wonders if he is confusing her with another Bran – perhaps his uncle and namesake, Brandon. “She had lived so long, Mother had told him once, that all the Brandon Starks had become one person in her head.”

There’s a telling line in George RR Martin’s literature, when Bran tells Old Nan that he hates her “stupid stories” she retorts: “No, my little lord, not mine. The stories are before me and after me, before you too.” So, perhaps Bran is operating within a closed timeloop, and is destined to make sure all events that we’ve seen happening in the show, actually take place by travelling back in time.

It’s also possible that the Three-Eyed Raven put in place measures to ensure the young Bran was well aware of the story of Bran the builder, in order to make sure he would know how and when to build the wall.

Some choose to take this theory one step further, and think that the current-day Bran Stark might be every single Brandon Stark throughout history, including his uncle. This would mean Bran could make sure events pan out exactly in an order to help in the Great War against the White Walkers. Bran the Builder, can he fix it? Possibly.

Bran will send King Aerys Mad

Daenerys’ father has gone down in infamy as one of the worst kings of Westeros. Known for his erratic and cruel behaviour in his old age, Aerys descended into paranoid obsession with wildfire. The final straw for his loyal kingsguard Jaime Lannister was when he kept repeating “burn them all”, an apparent order to incinerate the people of Kings’ Landing.

Back in season six, we had our first glimpse of the Mad King through one of Bran’s visions. In it, he was sitting on the Iron Throne, barking “burn them all” repeatedly. We also saw Jaime approaching with a sword, indicating this was just before the assassination of Aerys.

Aerys II - Credit: HBO
Aerys the Mad King Credit: HBO

Aerys's madness played a huge role in Bran's family history. After his Aunt Lyanna eloped with Aerys's son, Rhaegar Targaryen, Bran's Uncle Brandon rode to King's Landing to ask Aerys to return her. Bran's grandfather Rickard was then summoned to King's Landing, and Aerys sentenced both Brandon and Rickard to death. They chose trial by combat, but Aerys chose fire as his champion and burned Rickard in a suit of armour while Brandon was strangled attempting to rescue his father.

This prompted Ned Stark and his friend Robert Baratheon (who was engaged to Lyanna) to go to war and overthrow the ruling Targaryens.

It has always been assumed that Aerys’ madness was down to years of Targaryen inbreeding, but maybe Bran had a role to play in his downfall. We’ve already seen Bran warg into Hodor, and one highly plausible theory is that Bran will do the same with Aerys. If so, perhaps Bran shows the Mad King the White Walkers and the need to destroy them with fire. This explains why the Mad King shouted “burn them all” repeatedly in his final hours.

Bran is actually the Night King 

Game of Thrones is rife with antagonists, but the Night King is, well, king of them all. One theory goes that the Night King is actually good-guy Bran.

One of Bran’s visions showed the Night King being created when the Children of the Forest plunged a dragonglass blade into the heart of a man. The intention was to use this super-soldier in their war against the invading First Men, but, as we know, things went badly wrong. Eventually, the Children of the Forest and the First Men banded together to face down the White Walkers.

Bran Night King - Credit: HBO
Bran and the Night King Credit: HBO

The theory goes that Bran warged into the man who would become the Night King (just like he did to Hodor), in the hope of preventing him from ever being transformed by the Children of the Forest, but failed.

The supporting evidence for this theory is that the Night King could see Bran during one his visions, and then touch and mark him. In every other vision, he has been invisible to all other characters. Other fans also say that Bran and the Night King dress similarly, and have similar face shapes. This last one seems more like chance than anything.

It would be unwise to put all your eggs in this basket though. If Bran is the Night King, it doesn’t make sense that he’d want to turn all of the dead into ice zombies and invade Westeros.

Assuming for one moment, though, that this is true, maybe the White walkers aren’t so bad after all? One reddit user has theorised that the Night King wants to put himself out of his misery by killing himself (aka, Bran). This would explain why the army of the dead turned around and went back north when the Night King marked Bran. Now that Bran has shared the Night King's true intentions, it's still difficult to see how this one stands up. 

Bran makes sure everyone knows Jon's true parentage

A short while after confirming Jon's parentage to Samwell Tarly, he encouraged the misguided Stark's friend to reveal all.

As we saw in season 7, Rhaegar and Lyanna were secretly married before having baby Aegon (aka Jon). This is a far cry from the traditional narrative that Westeros was fed by King Robert Baratheon’s regime. According to most people, Lyanna was kidnapped and raped by the Targaryen Prince.

Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark married in secret - Credit: HBO
Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark married in secret Credit: HBO

The true parentage of Jon Snow has been ripe for fan theorising since the show began, but this revelation suggests that he is actually the true heir to the Iron Throne. Now that Jon knows the truth, we have to wonder how Jon might react and the influence it might have on the course of the show. Not to mention, Daenerys won’t be best pleased to discover that there is a rival Targaryen claimant to what she sees as her throne.

Some fans think that this entire vision is in fact a red herring, with Bran jumping to premature conclusions. In the books, another character, Young Griff, claims to be Aegon, son of Rhaegar Targaryen and his first wife, Elia Martell. Varys supposedly smuggled baby Aegon out of the Red Keep and replaced him with another child, before the Mountain smashed the innocent little mite’s head in. So, fans think that this could be the real Aegon Targaryen, and that Jon’s mother was actually a character called Ashara Dayne. There’s also talk of Young Griff making an appearance in the new season.

The idea of another Targaryen claimant appearing seems a little too fanciful, though. Besides, introducing this idea with only five episodes to go would really over-complicate matters.

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