Game of Thrones song

Brienne of Tarth’s faithful squire Podrick Payne sang a beautiful, haunting song during the most recent episode of Game of Thrones. The song, “Jenny of Oldstones,” was performed by Florence + The Machine over the show’s closing credits, and you can hear that performance in a video below.

But what do those lyrics have to do with the show, and what do they portend for our surviving heroes? Join us for a quick trip through the history of Westeros as we search for answers.

Game of Thrones Song

This isn’t the first time Florence + The Machine have been involved with Game of Thrones – the band’s “Seven Devils” played under a season 2 trailer, and showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss asked if the group could perform “The Rains of Castamere” for the end credits to one of our favorite episodes, “Blackwater,” but they had a scheduling conflict. (The National recorded it instead.)

The History of “Jenny of Oldstones”

In George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, this is a popular folk tune known as “Jenny’s Song.” To understand it, let’s take a step back and look at a few major characters who lived a couple of generations before the show begins.

Martin wrote prequel stories set 100 years before the books about “Dunk and Egg,” a wandering knight called Ser Duncan the Tall and his young boy squire nicknamed Egg – who is eventually revealed to be Aegon Targaryen, the eventual ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. When Egg grew up, he named one of his own sons, Prince Duncan, after his best friend, Ser Duncan the Tall. The story goes that the prince refused to marry his betrothed and instead married a woman named Jenny of Oldstones, much like Robb Stark and Talisa on the show. (The things we do for love, eh?)

Prince Duncan gave up his claim to the throne in order to marry Jenny, paving the way for his nephew and Daenerys’s father, the Mad King Aerys, to rule with an iron fist. But Duncan and Jenny’s love story ends tragically, leading to the creation of “Jenny’s Song.”

The Baratheons brought war against the Targaryens because Prince Duncan was betrothed to a Baratheon girl, and in order to try to quell the rebellion and re-establish peace in the realm, King Aegon V (aka Egg) became obsessed with the idea of bringing back dragons, who hadn’t been seen for hundreds of years. At a castle called Summerhall, King Aegon accidentally set a fire while trying to birth dragons out of wildfire. The fire ended up tearing through the building, killing Aegon, Ser Duncan the Tall, and Prince Duncan. It’s said that Jenny of Oldstones survived the flames…although with her lover dead in the fire, she was left as a tragic figure, dancing with ghosts of old lovers.

Here are the lyrics:

High in the halls of the kings who are gone
Jenny would dance with her ghosts.
The ones she had lost and the ones she had found.
And the ones who had loved her the most.
The ones who’d been gone for so very long
She couldn’t remember their names
They spun her around on the damp, cold stone
Spun away her sorrow and pain
And she never wanted to leave

Game of Thrones has shown us that terrible things can happen when characters push aside their responsibilities in favor of following their hearts. That’s what led to The Red Wedding. And even before the show began, Rhaegar and Lyanna’s secret relationship ended up causing Robert’s Rebellion, the conflict that set the entire show into motion. Will Jon and Dany learn any lessons from the story of Duncan and Jenny? Probably not, since they weren’t in the room when Pod sang it! That likely means that if one of them is going to make a sacrifice for love, the entire kingdom could be at risk…assuming both Jon and Dany survive the upcoming Battle of Winterfell, of course.

For even more details, including about how “Jenny’s Song” may have been written by Jon Snow’s father Rhaegar Targaryen, I encourage you to watch this excellent, in-depth video explainer:

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