The following post is of a speculative nature. Spoilers are contained within. Reader discretion is advised. Some of these realizations I had on my own, and some of these I've read other people hash out in comments and wikipedia articles across the internet. These are very commonly held theories. If I get any facts wrong, please correct me in the comments. Is everyone who worries about spoilers and theories gone now? Nope? Need to do a few more lines of text so that Google + doesn't put spoilers in the preview? Okay, we can do that.
So, for my Mother's Day special, I thought I'd talk about the most elusive mother in the Game of Thrones franchise: Jon Snow's mother. Ned Stark, bless his heart, promised to tell Jon about his mother next time he saw him, and then promptly died in King's Landing, never seeing his alleged bastard again.
Jon Snow was conceived during Robert's Rebellion, and Ned brought him home afterward, never having told his wife who his mother was. We assume he was brought home from Dorne, and that was likely where Jon was born, but that doesn't necessarily mean his mother was Dornish.
Wylla, the name Ned gives Robert Baratheon, would be too easy. If that had been the truth, Ned could have just told Jon that name in that moment. She was of no consequence. There would have been nothing to stop him. I don't think of Ned as a man who embarrasses easily. He's a stoic silent type, sure, but I don't believe it's because he's so ashamed of his sins that he can't talk to his own son about them.
A more interesting theory is Ashara Dayne. The reason I sat down to write this blog post today is that something Oberyn Martell said on the show a few weeks ago kind of set off some alarm bells in my head. "We don't despise them in Dorne," Prince Oberyn said. His paramour Ellaria Sand is a bastard. He has eight bastard daughters. Ashara Dayne was from Dorne, and the Daynes were a family of consequence. If Jon Snow were a Dornish bastard, Ned would never have taken him from Dorne, because Dornish customs would have given him some advantages he wouldn't have in the other six kingdoms. Being a bastard is not considered a dishonor there, even though it's colored that way through Westerosi eyes. Ashara allegedly had a stillborn girl at around this time, which would make the times match up with Jon's birth, but even this could have been completely made up, and even if it weren't, there were many other potential fathers for her child at Harrenhal. Why would they make up a dead daughter to hide a relationship with Jon Snow? Even with the circumstances of Ashara's death by suicide following the death of her brother and of Elia Martell, Jon would have been better off with the remaining Daynes, and Ned was pragmatic enough to see that. And while we're on the topic of Elia Martell, here's an interesting thing to note: Ashara was close to Princess Elia. She was her handmaiden, they spent a lot of time together. Ashara's brother was a member of the King's Guard, serving Rhaegar Targaryen to his last breath. They were well connected to the royal family, and probably knew a lot more about what was going on than Ned did.
The most persuasive theory remains that Lyanna Stark is Jon Snow's mother. The best evidence for me is Ned's continuous remembrances of his sister pleading with him to promise her something. Ned doesn't even dare to think about what that something was, least the readers hear his thoughts and tell Robert Baratheon the truth. Rhaegar Targaryen famously spirited away Ned Stark's sister, and that was King Robert's motive for Robert's Rebellion, as she was promised to Robert, and he was infatuated with her. Rhaegar Targaryen's interest seemed to begin at the tournament at Harrenhal, where Lyanna is crowned the Queen of Love and Beauty, and she at the least was moved by his musical skill. Later, she was taken away the the Tower of Joy, where she was inevitably found soaked in blood in bed, begging Ned for something. Oh, what could it be?
Elia, Rhaegar Tagaryen's wife, had just been raped and murdered for her marriage to Rhaegar Targaryen. Her children had been slaughtered like animals by the Mountain. I agree with the general impression that the thing Lyanna Stark begged for was Jon's life. If Robert Baratheon knew Jon Snow was Rhaegar Targaryen's son, he would be in danger, because he was a potential heir to the throne. It would make sense that Eddard Stark wouldn't want to talk to Robert about Jon. It would make sense that Ned would lie to Robert to protect Jon. Wylla was an easy name to give, she was a lowborn woman of little consequence, much like the mothers of Robert's bastards. Wylla may have even been Jon's wet nurse, it would make sense for Ned to name her. It would even have made sense for Wylla to lie about Jon to others, because if she were his wet nurse she might have gotten attached to him and wanted him to live. Wylla may have been present at the tower of Joy, she may have known the truth about him and been part of the conspiracy.
I also believe that Elia Martell was in on the conspiracy, partly because of Daenyrs Targaryen's visions in the house of the undying. Elia could have no more than two children, and Rhaegar believed his children were part of a prophecy that he believed required one more child. Metaphorically speaking, the dragon must have three heads. I believe Elia was aware of his intention of having another child, and knowing the Dornish view on bastards and the behavior displayed by her brother, Oberyn Martell, I believe she supported Rhaegar's decision.