Even if you are a hardcore fan of the "A Song of Ice and Fire" book series and "Game of Thrones," you probably don't know what Lyanna did during the Tourney of Harrenhal in 281 AC. If you keep reading, you will realize why Eddard's sister was known as the She-Wolf and who was the Knight of the Laughing Tree.

The Tourney at Harrenhal

The tourney was held in 281 AC and was the greatest of its time. During the opening ceremonies, the fifteen-year-old Jaime Lannister was admitted into the Kingsguard. Almost all the greatest knights of the Seven Kingdoms were there, including the Starks (Eddard was eighteen-year-old at the time).

The crannogman

Most of what we know about the Knight of the Laughing Tree comes from a story Meera Reed tells Bran in the book series. Keep in mind that Jojen, on this occasion, expects Bran to have heard this story a hundred times from Eddard, but Bran denies any knowledge of it.

Let's get back to what happened in 281 AC. A crannogman who was probably Howland Reed attended the great tourney at Harrenhal. According to the tale, the crannogman was bullied by three young squires, who mocked him and beat him. Guess who found out what was going on? Lyanna Stark. Lyanna roared "That's my father's man you're kicking" and beat off the bullies with a tourney sword.

The She-Wolf cleaned the crannogman's wounds in her tent, then introduced him to Brandon, Eddard, and Benjen Stark.

A few hours later, Lyanna persuaded the man (who is probably Howland Reed) to attend the feast celebrating the tourney's beginning. That night, the crannogman drank at the Starks' table and Rhaegar Targaryen, who was a talented musician and poet, performed such a wonderful song that made Lyanna Stark, the "wolf-maid," weep.

(Shortly after, poor Benjen teased the She-Wolf for her tears, and the She-Wolf showered him with wine as revenge).

During the feast, both Lyanna and the crannogman saw the cruel squires and discovered which knights were they serving. Lyanna told her brothers what happened, and Benjen offered the crannogman a horse to challenge the knights, but the crannogman was afraid of losing and bringing shame to his people.

The Knight of the Laughing Tree

On the second day of the tourney, a mystery knight with a mismatched armor appeared. On his shield the picture of a laughing weirwood tree. The Knight of the Laughing Tree challenged the knights who were served by the bullying squires and defeated them all, winning custody over the losers' horses and armors. When the losers asked the knight to ransom back their belongings, the mystery knight stated that they ought to teach their squires honor, and the defeated warriors agreed with the terms.

Please consider the following elements:

  • The mystery knight was short of height.
  • His sigil was a weirwood tree, which suggests a connection to the North (and Winterfell).
  • Jojen and Meera were surprised that Bran had never heard the tale of this knight before.
  • The Knight of the Laughing Tree was one of the few persons who knew what happened to the bullied crannogman.

All things considered, it's very likely that Lyanna was the mystery knight.

The Mad King finds a new enemy

Aerys II Targaryen, the Mad King, suddenly became certain that the knight was his enemy. Therefore he ordered his son and heir Rhaegar Targaryen to search for the disappeared knight. Apparently, Rhaegar only found the knight's shield, but according to a popular theory, he may actually have found the knight (the brave and beautiful Lyanna). What happened at the tournament shortly after, apparently confirms this hypothesis.

Rhaegar and Lyanna's love story

Rhaegar was a champion of the joust of the Tourney at Harrenhal, and ultimately he chose Lyanna Stark as the queen of love and beauty, placing a crown of winter roses in her lap. Obviously, this was scandalous, as Rhaegar was married to Elia Martell and Lyanna was betrothed to Robert Baratheon.

We cannot be 100% sure that The Knight of the Laughing Tree was Lyanna, but it looks very plausible. If this is the truth, Lyanna's bravery in defending Howland Reed and then defeating the three knights is what led to her first meeting with Rhaegar Targaryen. The meeting that marks the beginning of Lyanna and Rhaegar's love story, the event that provides Robert Baratheon a reason to grab his Warhammer and declare war on the Targaryens.