Season 5 of Game of Thrones introduced us to High Sparrow, a Septon of the People who gets granted power by Queen Cersei Lannister, along with reinstating the Order of the Faith Militant, right before it bites back at her for her sins. Howland Reed, while absent in both the books and the show, has finally been seen in Bran’s flashback of the Tower of Joy, where he was the only survivor along with Ned Stark.
A popular fan theory that had been circulating is that these two individuals might be the same, all with one purpose in mind: Revenge.
Who Is Howland Reed?
Howland Reed is the Lord of Greywater Watch in the Neck, a muddy and swampy region that connect the North and the Riverlands. His allegiance is to the Starks of the North. Howland is also a very close friend of Ned Stark, and they were the only two survivors after the Battle at the Tower of Joy. That battle may be one of the key events in the entire storyline, and Howland Reed is the only man alive to have witnessed it.
The Reeds rule over the Crannogmen, a very reclusive and sneaky people that live in the swamps of the Neck . They are described as being of short stature with green eyes, most of them at least. They could have potentially been close with the Children of the Forest thousands of years ago, and could have mated with some, which would explain their short stature and particularly green eyes. Their specialty is in Sneak Attacks, hiding in and hitting from the shadows where their enemies can’t see them. This would make the entire theory discussed here a plausible one, given the mindset of Howland and his people.
The Faith Of The Seven Explained
The Faith Of The Seven is the most dominant Faith in Westeros, also known as “The New Gods”. Most of the land in Westeros, South of the Neck, worship Seven Gods (The Father, The Mother, The Maiden, The Warrior, The Smith, The Crone and The Stranger). They were most dominant before the Targaryen Dynasty took over Westeros. King Jaehaerys Targaryen disbanded the Faith Militant in order to maintain peace in Westeros.
The Faith and the Crown have been working together ever since as “The Two Pillars That Hold Up The World”. The leader of the Faith is the High Septon. There have been 2 in the series so far until High Sparrow came to lead them.
Why Would Howland Reed Become High Septon
For 2 valid reasons: to avenge his dear friend Ned Stark, betrayed and executed by the Lannisters, and to reveal Jon Snow’s parentage as the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, as well as his eventual claim to the Iron Throne. Such a motive is in line with the Crannogmen’s notoriety for being sneaky in their attacks.
In “A Feast For Crows”, High Sparrow actually condemns Ned Stark’s execution while talking with Cersei Lannister. He also refuses to anoint Tommen Baratheon. To gain power, and maybe move forward with his plan of vengeance if the case, he absolves the debt that the Crown owes the Faith in exchange for the reinstatement of the Faith Militant; trading long term gains, for short term immediate power.
High Sparrow And The Faith Militant Do Some Damage
Once in Power, the Faith Militant, under the orders of High Sparrow, clean Kings Landing of all the brothels, shops and temples of other faiths. They eventually arrest Margaery Tyrell, her brother Loras Tyrell (In the show), and Cersei Lannister in a political move to strike against both noble families.
The Power Of The Faith
The Faith acquires more power and influence in Kings Landing. The people, along with many nobles (like Lancel Lannister), other Hedge Knights and Sellswords eventually join them as their grasp becomes firmer in the Capital. The show might even have the Tyrells jump on board with them to go against Cersei and the rest of the Lannisters.
What Comes After…
Once the Lannisters have been eradicated (Tywin is dead, Cersei is losing her mind, Jaime is in Riverrun with most of the Lannister troops), High Sparrow could eventually make a move towards the Iron Throne and holding power. If he is Howland Reed, he could then use his position of influence to appoint Jon Snow, the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark whose birth he witnessed in the Tower of Joy, as the rightful heir to the throne…
What Hints Point To That Theory?
The Hints would have to come from the books. In “A Feast For Crows”, the 4th book in the series, High Sparrow is described as “Short, thin, and hair tied with a knot behind his head”. The Crannogmen encountered in the books, Howland Reed’s own children Jojen and Meera, are described in the exact same way; “Slight of build, Slender, and shorter than Bran”. Meera also has her hair tied with a knot behind her head. George R.R Martin is known to leave many hints like these in his writings, and cases like these are almost never mere coincidences.
What Hints Against That Theory?
This is a theory after all, so there must be clues to dismiss it. For one, this entire “Count of Monte Cristo-Esque” plan to plot revenge for an old friend, all the while the North is at War with the Boltons, the Freys and Stannis: wouldn’t Howland Reed stay North to protect his home and his people? Even more so, considering his two children are roaming Beyond the Wall and could very well both be dead for all he knows.
In any case, should there be a reveal with regards to Jon Snow’s parentage, this event is most likely to be covered through Bran’s storyline. His training with the Three Eyed Raven and his visions of the Past through the Weirwood trees would cover that reveal for the story.
As always, YouTuber Alt-Shift-X has created a video with more details pertaining to that fan theory. He goes in more details as to why this theory could and could not work: