Howland Reed Isn't In The 'Game Of Thrones' Show Yet, But He's Crucial To The Plot Of The Books

Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

As we all anxiously await the long-delayed arrival of The Winds of Winter and Season 9 of the Game of Thrones TV show, there's one question on everyone's mind: where is Howland Reed?

...well, OK, we might have a few other questions, like "Who's going to win the Iron Throne?" or "What do the White Walkers want?" or "Were they serious with that awkward Jon and Dany sex scene?"

But Archmaester George R.R. Martin has promised us that Howland Reed is going to show up at some point, and he might hold the key to the entire fate of Westeros when he does.

Allow me to explain:

Howland Reed was Ned Stark's BFF back in the day. He backed up Ned at the Tower of Joy, when Ned attempted to rescue his sister, Lyanna. He's also the father of Meera and Jojen Reed, who went with Bran on that road trip to help him turn into a tree. He's actually already appeared on the show, in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo in one of Bran's trippy tree flashbacks.

It's uncertain whether or not the Reeds will reappear on the show: Jojen is dead on the show, though still alive in the books, and Meera seemed pretty pissed off at Bran's new tripped out attitude last time we saw her.

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In the books, though, there are a lot of hints dropped about the mysterious Howland. We get a whole long story from the Reed kids about the time their dad went to a jousting tournament with Ned and his siblings, and got picked on for being a shrimpy, frog-eating crannogman. Lyanna Stark defended him.

Later, a mystery knight entered the lists and beat up all of Howland's bullies, defending his honor but never revealing their own identity. Lil' Bran assumes that this mystery knight must have been Howland himself, because Bran has grown up under the patriarchy, but Meera's story heavily insinuates that the knight was in fact Lyanna in disguise.

Prince Rhaegar was sent to search for the mysterious "Knight of the Laughing Tree," and presumably he and Lyanna met and maybe even hit it off. After all, Meera's story also included a throwaway moment of young Lyanna admiring sadboy Rhaegar's skills on the Westeros equivalent of the acoustic guitar.

By the end of the tournament, Rhaegar had crowned Lyanna Queen of Love and Beauty, awkwardly passing over his own wife and lowkey starting Robert's Rebellion, since Lyanna herself was engaged to professional jock Robert Baratheon.

So Howland Reed is probably the reason that angsty, sensitive Rhaegar first fell for ferocious, justice-minded Lyanna.

In fact, Howland might have been on a mission to get those two crazy kids together in the first place. Before heading to that fateful tourney, Howland went to kick it on the Isle of Faces, an island of weirwood trees believed to be sacred to the Old Gods, and populated by all-knowning Greenseers. We know that Howland's son, Jojen, can see the future. Could Howland have had a Greenseer vision on that island? Did he realize that Rhaegar and Lyana, fire and ice, had to come together in order to save the realm?

Whether or not he set out to play matchmaker to Rhaegar and Lyanna, Howland might be the last person alive who knows about their son, the equally angsty "bastard" Jon Snow.

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Howland was at the Tower of Joy, after all, where Ned went to try and save his sister Lyanna. Howland would have definitely noticed if Ned came out of his dead sister's room with a lil' baby Jon Snow. And since Ned took his secret to the grave, and magic tree boy Bran is still way up north where no one can here him scream, it's going to be up to Howland to reveal Jon's true identity in the books.

There are a lot of theories about what Howland's been up to, especially since it seems kind of weird that he would send his two kids on a death mission to teach Bran tree magic, and stay behind in his swamp castle by himself. But wherever he is and whatever he's doing, it seems like it's about time that Howland shows his little crannogman face, and explains how Westeros got itself into this mess.