- Whether Young Griff is really Aegon Targaryen is one of the biggest mysteries for The Winds of Winter, even though Game of Thrones cut the character.
- Varys insists that Young Griff is Aegon Targaryen, Tyrion Lannister also deduces his true identity, and George R.R. Martin has hinted he could be alive, so it's possible he is the real deal.
- There are also clues suggesting Young Griff may be a fake, including warnings from prophecies, though what matters most is what the people of Westeros are willing to believe.
Whether or not Young Griff is really Aegon Targaryen is one of the biggest questions for The Winds of Winter, despite Game of Thrones avoiding the matter completely. George R.R. Martin pulled off a major twist in his fifth A Song of Ice and Fire book, A Dance with Dragons, with the reveal that Aegon Targaryen, firstborn son of Rhaegar Targaryen, was actually still alive. Not only that, but he had trained his whole life to be King, and was now returning to Westeros with a great army behind him. The catch? It’s unclear whether he’s genuine.
Alas, there was no room in Game of Thrones’ cast of characters for Young Griff/Aegon Targaryen. That was likely to streamline the plot, and avoid confusion when it came to revealing Rhaegar’s secret second son, none other than Jon Snow (who even got the Aegon Targaryen name). Game of Thrones’ ending, indeed its entire story, would’ve been changed by including Young Griff, so it’s easy to see why it avoided it. However, The Winds of Winter doesn’t have that same option, so will have to settle the debate one way or another.
Why Young Griff Really Could Be Aegon Targaryen
As it stands, there’s no concrete evidence that Young Griff isn’t Aegon Targaryen, which is opposed to the presentation of facts that he is. This actually starts with Martin himself who, when asked if Rhaegar and Elia Martel’s children were truly dead, pointedly responded: “All I have to say is that there is absolutely no doubt that little Princess Rhaenys was dragged from beneath her father's bed and slain.” [via So Spake Martin]
Then there is Varys’ insistence that Young Griff is Aegon Targaryen. Of course, he could be lying, since it’s all part of his and Illyrio Mopatis’ plan, but what’s notable is that he tells this to Kevan Lannister… right before killing him. It’s entirely just between them, with no way for Kevan to survive, and thus Varys has no reason to lie when he reveals Aegon is alive and has been prepared for rule ever since Robert’s Rebellion. It’s possible Varys is just keeping up pretenses at all times, the lie being so good because he lives it, but there’s also little reason not to take that at face value.
It’s also worth noting that the only other person to deduce Young Griff is Aegon is Tyrion Lannister, who figures it out while traveling with him. Tyrion is one of Martin’s favorite characters and often shown to be among the smartest and shrewdest. It’s not impossible that he has been completely fooled, of course, but it would be surprising for him to have got it so very wrong. Aegon could not be identified after the Mountain killed him, a clear contrast to his sister, Rhaenys, so there’s at the very least supposed to be a real chance this is actually him.
Clues That Young Griff Is Actually A Fake
Aside from anything else, the arrival of Aegon Targaryen, a prince long thought dead, five books deep into A Song of Ice and Fire is reason enough alone to at least be skeptical. That Game of Thrones cut Young Griff too, while not conclusive (the show clearly had its own ideas), does suggest that he won’t be as important to the endgame, which would fit with him being a fake Aegon (or “fAegon”). The baby switch plot, meanwhile, is also quite far-fetched, given the lengths Varys would’ve had to go to, and the near-impossible knowledge he’d have needed (such as knowing Aegon would be left unrecognizable).
There are also some hints in Daenerys Targaryen’s story that Aegon is a fake. She is told to beware the “mummer’s dragon” by Quaithe, which implies either Aegon himself is pretending to be the dragon, or is the dragon belonging to a mummer (an actor, which Varys used to be), or both. In the House of the Undying, Dany hears of a “cloth dragon,” which could also refer to Aegon being a fake, and learns under a series of prophecies titled “slayer of lies” (itself telling) that she must defeat pretenders to her throne.
That all builds a compelling (if not conclusive) case. There’s also the matter of Jon Snow: it’s all but certain that the R+L=J theory will come true in the books, much like it did in Game of Thrones. With Jon Snow’s true parentage to be revealed, then, it would be a little silly to have another son of Rhaegar revealed, and rob that story of its power. But having Young Groff be the inverse of Jon makes sense: the boy from nothing, who likely really is a bastard, raised believing he is the rightful Targaryen heir makes for a great mirror to Jon Snow, and is a far more logical story choice.
If Young Griff Isn’t Aegon Targaryen, Who Is He?
Outside of actually being Aegon Targaryen, the most commonly held belief is that Young Griff is a Blackfyre. This was a cadet branch of House Targaryen, founded by a bastard of King Aegon IV, although it’s long thought to be extinct by Game of Thrones’ timeline. Since Young Griff does have Valyrian features, then him having some Targaryen ancestry makes sense, and being a secret Blackfyre is probably the neatest fit.
It would also explain why the Golden Company works for him: they were founded by another of Aegon IV’s bastards, and fought in a number of rebellions against the Targaryens. The Golden Company rejected Viserys Targaryen, so choosing to support Aegon lends more credence to him being a Blackfyre. The Blackfyres were said to have gone extinct in the male line, so it’s possible they continued down through a female line to the boy who’d become “Aegon”.
If not a Blackfyre, then there are other options for Young Griff. One is him being the son of Illyrio, which would explain why he and Varys are so invested in putting him on the Iron Throne. Illyrio once had a wife with Valyrian features, so it’s plausible Young Griff could be his, and he certainly has the means to give him the life and training of a would-be King. Failing that, of course, Young Griff could just be nobody, but a random boy with a trace of Valyrian blood and the right features, plucked from obscurity as a pawn in Varys and Illyrio’s scheme.
Will It Actually Matter If Young Griff Is The Real Aegon Targaryen Or Not?
Although there’s a big question over Young Griff’s true identity, there is, surprisingly, a question of whether it will ultimately matter. As Varys notes, “power resides where men believe it resides.” If Young Griff looks like Aegon, acts like Aegon, and no one can prove he’s not Aegon, then he has a great chance of taking the Iron Throne, and making the people love him while doing so. That will inevitably set up a clash with Daenerys - perhaps even a second Dance of the Dragons - which, given Dany is a far more important character, he’s likely to lose.
Young Griff will then be a device for Dany’s arc: her arriving in Westeros to claim her birthright, only to learn another Targaryen got there before her, could be what inspires the same “Mad Queen” turn seen in Game of Thrones season 8. The truth may well be revealed about Young Griff either way, but pretender or no may not matter as much as what people believe, and what happens between him and Daenerys in The Winds of Winter.