George R.R. Martin‘s plan for the A Song of Ice and Fire series has changed drastically since he first wrote an outline for the books in 1993. Aside from some gruesome prospects (like Sansa actually having a baby with King Joffrey), one original storyline is often discussed among fans: Jon Snow and Arya Stark falling in love.
Not only did these two cousins (who think they’re half-siblings) have a tormented romance, but Tyrion Lannister was supposed to become part of a love triangle with them. By the time the books were actually written, and HBO adapted the series for Game of Thrones, this notion was tossed out the window. But it’s entertaining to look back at what might have been, even if this particular incest plot didn’t remain in Martin’s story.
Martin had quite the dramatic romance in store for Jon and Arya when he was first plotting out the Stark family dynamics.
Jon was always destined to be Lord Commander, but Martin wanted Arya to travel to the Wall along with her mother Catelyn and younger brother, Bran. After arriving at Castle Black, Arya would’ve discovered that she had feelings for Jon that extended beyond sibling love.
Here’s the excerpt from Martin’s original outline:
Wounded by Lannister riders, they will seek refuge at the Wall, but the men of the Night’s Watch give up their families when they take the black, and Jon and Benjen will not be able to help, to Jon’s anguish. It will lead to a bitter estrangement between Jon and Bran.
Arya will be more forgiving… until she realises, with terror, that she has fallen in love with Jon, who is not only her half-brother but a man of the Night’s Watch, sworn to celibacy.
Their passion will continue to torment Jon and Arya throughout the trilogy, until the secret of Jon’s true parentage is finally revealed in the last book.
Thanks to the television adaptation, we now have confirmation that Jon Snow’s parents are Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, making Arya and the other Stark children his cousins. But even as cousins, a romance between Arya and Jon seems completely out of character at this point.
Martin clearly pivoted when it came to their relationship, and mapped out Jon and Arya as bonded outcasts of the Stark clan instead of tormented lovers. And Jon Snow wasn’t the only main character Martin planned to connect romantically with Arya.
Her other suitor was going to be none other than Tyrion Lannister. “Exiled, Tyrion will change sides, making common cause with the surviving Starks to bring his brother down, and falling helplessly in love with Arya Stark while he’s at it,” Martin’s outline explained.
“His passion is, alas, un-reciprocated, but no less intense for that, and it will lead to a deadly rivalry between Tyrion and Jon Snow.”
Martin eventually opted to have a different Stark daughter enter a relationship with Tyrion, but the circumstances of his marriage to Sansa were not romantic whatsoever.
All in all, we’re glad the Stark incest was left off the table. Arya’s lone wolf character is interesting enough without including a major love interest (we’re counting Gendry as a minor subplot). As for Jon, he found himself in a sticky romance with his aunt, Daenerys Targaryen, instead. But how that shakes out is a question for another time.