Game of Thrones should have made Jon Snow's real name Aemon Targaryen, not Aegon. Jon Snow’s true parentage was one of the biggest points of discussion and theorizing across Game of Thrones’ entire run (and the first five A Song of Ice and Fire books beforehand). However, while fans were convinced that R+L=J, meaning Jon’s parents are Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, what was less clear was what his real name would be revealed as.
He is a Targaryen, so obviously, Jon wasn’t going to be his actual name, but rather one given to him by Ned Stark in order to better disguise his real identity. There wouldn’t be much point giving him the bastard surname Snow if you then call him Jaehaerys or Daeron, after all. R+L=J was confirmed during the Game of Thrones season 6 finale, “The Winds of Winter”, but Jon’s name remained a mystery for another season, before being revealed during the season 7 finale, “The Dragon and the Wolf”.
There, as Bran Stark looked into the past and saw that Rhaegar and Lyanna were actually married, making Jon the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, it was also revealed that his real name is Aegon Targaryen. It wasn’t the most surprising choice - there’s no Targaryen name more famous, nor more commonplace among the Targaryen Kings of old - but it was a confusing one, especially to fans of the books.
Jon Snow Being Called Aegon Targaryen Makes No Sense
When Jon’s name was revealed as Aegon Targaryen, it sounded almost obvious. Of course he’s named after Aegon the Conqueror and so many other Targaryen Kings, what else would it be? It’s the Targaryen name. There’s just one catch: Rhaegar already had a son called Aegon. Before marrying Lyanna, Rhaegar had two children with Elia Martell, both of whom were infamously murdered by The Mountain during the Sack of King’s Landing at the end of Robert’s Rebellion. This has already been confirmed to be show canon too - Thoros of Myr discusses Prince Aegon and Princess Rhaenys, during season 3’s "And Now His Watch Is Ended" - so it can’t just be hand-waved away as Rhaegar’s first son having a different name in the show.
So why would Rhaegar name both of his children Aegon? There are a few different theories. One is that Lyanna chose the name upon her deathbed, wanting to give him a true Targaryen name that she assumed Rhaegar would approve of. But she’d have been aware of the other Aegon, so it still doesn’t fully explain why she’d be giving her son the same name as his half-brother. Then there’s the possibility that Rhaegar himself chose this name, because of his obsession with The Prince That Was Promised prophecy. If he believed that this Prince had to be called Aegon, then he’d ask Lyanna to name their child it too, despite already having one son of the same name.
The trouble with that is the show does nothing to suggest it’s the case, and it’s stretching to a theory to cover for what feels more like a mistake. It could even be a nod to the Aegon/Young Griff storyline from the books that they cut from the show, but again there’s little to support that. Instead, we’re left with Rhaegar having two sons called Aegon, with no explanation of why they have the same name. It feels like the showrunners kind of forgot about the first Aegon Targaryen.
Why Jon Should’ve Been Called Aemon Targaryen Instead
When Jon’s parentage was revealed in “The Winds of Winter”, we see Lyanna whisper his name to Ned, but don’t get to hear what she told him. This led to a lot of debate and attempts at lip-reading, with popular options for Jon's real name ranging from Aegon to Aerys. However, the best choice would’ve been for Jon Snow to be called Aemon Targaryen. It’s another familiar name to viewers, but this time Jon would’ve shared a name with his great-great-uncle, rather than his half-brother. And it’s their connection that helps make Aemon such a fitting name for Jon.
In the Game of Thrones series finale, “The Iron Throne”, Jon echoes Maester Aemon’s words about love being the death of duty. It wasn’t even the first time in the final season that Jon had echoed the Night’s Watch’s Maester, with his speech after The Battle of Winterfell also repeating words previously spoken by Aemon. This showed just how much of an impact Aemon had upon Jon. While their time together was relatively brief, they had a clear fondness for each other, with Aemon becoming like a father figure to Jon at Castle Black. There are parallels in their story too: both were considered the rightful heir to the Iron Throne at some point, but ended up in the Night’s Watch instead. Aemon died not knowing that Jon was a Targaryen, so it would be a sweet tribute to his legacy for Jon to then be named after him. Aemon told Jon to “kill the boy, and let the man be born”, and it’d be fitting to think of the boy as being Jon Snow, and the man being Aemon Targaryen.
Maester Aemon was also known to have been close to Rhaegar, with the pair frequently exchanging letters, so Rhaegar himself would’ve had cause to honor him. But it goes further than just this particular Aemon, which is another recurring name in Westeros history. Before Maester Aemon, there was Aemon the Dragonknight. A legendary figure, Aemon the Dragonknight is said to have been the noblest knight and one of the finest swordsmen to have ever walked the Seven Kingdoms. The younger brother of another Aegon - who went on to become King Aegon IV Targaryen - he pledged his life from a young age to the Kingsguard, giving up any chance of having a family for his vows, and rising to the rank of Lord Commander, all while wielding a Valyrian steel sword. It all sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it?
Even before both of these was another Aemon, the son of King Jaehaerys I (considered one of the greatest Targaryen Kings, and another to whom Jon is often compared) and his wife, Alysanne. He too had an older brother named Aegon, who died as an infant. The connection to Maester Aemon alone is enough, but there are various parallels within the text that would make Aemon such a fitting name for Jon Snow, especially as a combination of the Maester and the Dragonknight.
Jon Snow’s Real Name Might Be Aemon Targaryen In The Books
It's important to note that Game of Thrones has revealed Jon’s true parentage and his real name, but no such event has happened yet in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, where Jon is still currently dead after the Night’s Watch mutiny against him. Of course, he will return at some point in The Winds of Winter, should it ever be released, and, of course, his parents will be Rhaegar and Lyanna. But will his name be Aegon? It’s not impossible, but it is, like Aegon V Targaryen, unlikely.
Game of Thrones just about got away with making Jon’s real name Aegon because there isn’t another Aegon still around to confuse him with. It still doesn’t make sense, but at least there aren’t two Aegon Targaryens walking around Westeros at the same time. It’s a very different matter in the books, where Rhaegar’s first son is allegedly still alive and ready to claim the Iron Throne for himself. Even if he is, as suspected, a pretender, it still means that someone going by the name Aegon is going to have a major storyline in at least the next book, and will be up against Daenerys as well. Add this to the fact that Martin tends to be more careful about these things, and that it’s odd for Rhaegar to have two children named Aegon, and it’s more likely that he’d choose to give Jon a different name to avoid any such confusion.
As already established, there’s plenty of reason to give Jon the name Aemon in both show and books. These parallels all come from Martin himself, and given how much care he often puts into choosing names, they aren’t just a coincidence. The books, however, can have a final, even better reason to have him called Aemon. In Game of Thrones season 8, Jon Snow, after killing Dany, is sent back to the Night’s Watch as punishment. In the books, while the endpoint is likely to be similar, it’s possible Jon will have more agency in that ending, whereby he chooses the Night’s Watch over the crown, much like Aemon before him. It’s an ending that cements Jon’s status as a Stark of the North, but keeps the Targaryen part of him alive as well.