LemUncloak(ed): The True Identity of Lem Lemoncloak

Lem by Amok

Lem by Amok

Who among us hasn’t wondered at the true identity of the charming Lem Lemoncloak? One of the leaders of the Brotherhood without Banners, Lem appears on the page with no true name and no history, although we have names and stories for many of his fellows, including several of far less significance to the narrative. Some time ago a chance combination of musings inspired by the questions of fellow posters at westeros.org led me to connect Lem with another character whose name is mentioned but once and who is alluded to on only one other occasion. What would lead one to connect Lem with Ser Richard Lonmouth, erstwhile squire and companion of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen? To be honest, at first it was nothing more than the colour of his cloak combined with the conviction that the knight of skull and kisses is meant to be significant. But it turns out that there are quite a few textual hints that support the connection. While I initially laid this theory out on my own, much credit must be given to posters at westeros who picked up this cracked pot and ran with it. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that with their help, this pot will now hold water.

In ASoS chapter 43, the Ghost of High Heart demands payment for her news:

“A skin of wine for my dreams, and for my news a kiss from the great oaf in the yellow cloak…His mouth will taste of lemons and mine of bones

Earlier, the GoHH was consulted regarding Lord Beric’s whereabouts. At that meeting, the little woman who speaks of everyone in terms of their sigils and representations of their Houses, had this exchange with Lem:

“Dreams,” grumbled Lem Lemoncloak, “what good are dreams? Fish women and drowned crows. I had a dream myself last night. I was kissing this tavern wench I used to know. Are you going to pay me for that, old woman?”

“The wench is dead,” the woman hissed. “Only worms may kiss her now.” ASoS, chapter 17

With the bard Tom o’ Sevens the connecting reference at both meetings is a song. For Lem … kisses.

The arms of House Lonmouth have been described as “quartered of six: red lips strewn on yellow, yellow skulls strewn on black.” It was the connection of kisses, skulls (bones) and yellow with Lem which provided the “aha!” But the connections do not end there.

When Arya first meets him, she thinks he has the look of a soldier:

The man beside him stood a good foot taller, and had the look of a soldier. A longsword and dirk hung from his studded leather belt, rows of overlapping steel rings were sewn onto his shirt, and his head was covered by a black iron half-helm shaped like a cone. He had bad teeth and a bushy brown beard, but it was his hooded yellow cloak that drew the eye. Thick and heavy, and stained here with grass and there with blood, frayed along the bottom and patched with deerskin on the right shoulder, the greatcloak gave the big man the look of some huge yellow bird. ASoS, chapter 13

From lack of direct reference, it appears that he was not one of the original company that set out from King’s Landing with Lord Beric, but one of those who joined the Brotherhood in the Riverlands. Yet he does make a possibly revealing comment in this exchange:

Anguy the Archer said, “We’re king’s men.”

Arya frowned. “Which king?”

“King Robert,” said Lem, in his yellow cloak. ASoS, chapter 13

How to explain a large man loyal to Robert who has the look of a soldier, wears a distinctive yellow cloak and was living in the Riverlands prior to Lord Beric’s mission? Let’s take a look at the bare facts of Richard Lonmouth. We know that he was once Prince Rhaegar’s squire and companion:

Myles Mooton was Prince Rhaegar’s squire, and Richard Lonmouth after him. When they won their spurs, he knighted them himself, and they remained his close companions. ASoS, chapter 8

We also know that House Lonmouth was a stormlands house, and that Ser Richard was a one-time drinking companion to the Lord of the Stormlands, Robert Baratheon:

The storm lord drank down the knight of skulls and kisses in a wine-cup war. ASoS, chapter 24

Knowing Robert’s reputation as a prodigious drinker, Ser Richard must have been of a similar bent, to engage him so. Lem is a large man also known to enjoy his drink:

Lem Lemoncloak pushed forward. He and Greenbeard were the only men there tall enough to look the Hound in the eye. ASoS, chapter 34

“You must have been drunk, or asleep.”

“Us? Drunk?”  Tom drank a long draught of ale. “Never.” ASoS, chapter 13

We are never told which side Ser Richard joined Robert’s Rebellion on.  Myles Mooton fought for the Targaryens and was killed at Stoney Sept by Robert Baratheon himself. Even the last we hear of Lonmouth doesn’t give a clear indication. Following the appearance of the Knight of the Laughing Tree at the Harrenhal tourney:

That night at the great castle, the storm lord and the knight of skulls and kisses each swore they would unmask him, and the king himself urged men to challenge him, declaring that the face behind the helm was no friend of his … The king was wroth and even sent his son the dragon prince to seek the man, but all they ever found was his painted shield. ASoS, chapter 24

Here we have no clear indication of which House he would side with: that of his friend and mentor Rhaegar Targaryen or that of his drinking buddy and overlord Robert Baratheon. But perhaps the words of House Lonmouth might be a hint that Ser Richard did indeed take a side.

The Choice is Yours

In his role of hangman for the Brotherhood, Lem is carrying out sentences based on a choice. In the case of Merret Frey, Lem gives the choice to Lady Stoneheart:

“She don’t speak,” said the big man in the yellow cloak. “You bloody bastards cut her throat too deep for that. But she remembers.” He turned to the dead woman and said. “What do you say, m’lady? Was he part of it?” ASoS, Epilogue

At Brienne’s “trial” the choice is given by the northman, while the sentence is carried out by Lem:

The northman said, “She says that you must choose. Take the sword and slay the Kingslayer, or be hanged for a betrayer. The sword or the noose, she says. Choose, she says. Choose.” AFfC, chapter 42

Lem is involved in choices being offered by the BwB, while there is also enough evidence to speculate he has made other fateful choices in his past. While “choice” can be seen as a major theme of ASoIaF, the fact that it is prominently featured in the house words of a minor house seems almost like a flag saying “look closely here”! Looking closely in this case has certainly led to some interesting theorizing.

Treading into speculative territory with the theme of choice, I’m going to suggest that Richard chose his overlord, Robert Baratheon and fought on his behalf during the Rebellion.  Just after Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie are taken in by the BwB the company arrives at the Inn of the Kneeling Man. Here the young people are given ale by the innkeeper’s wife because she has no milk or clean water to offer:

“…the river water tastes of war, with all the dead men drifting downstream. If I served you a cup of soup full of dead flies, would you drink it?”

“Arry would,” said Hot Pie. “I mean, Squab.”

“So would Lem,” offered Anguy with a sly smile. ASoS, chapter 13

Why would Anguy say such a thing? Could it be that Lem once drifted in the river with the dead? Much later the Elder Brother on the Quiet Isle tells Brienne his story of being left for dead in the river after the Battle of the Trident, and washing up downriver, alive and reborn to a new life. Could something similar have happened to Lem?

Later, Lem reveals some local knowledge that just might indicate he was in the area as these events occurred:

“Lord Lychester’s sons died in Robert’s Rebellion,” grumbled Lem. “Some on one side, some on t’other. He’s not been right in the head since.” ASoS, chapter 17

And finally at the Peach, the brothel in Stoney Sept where Robert may have taken refuge before the battle, Tansy has this to say to Lem:

“…Lem is that you? Still wearing the same ratty cloak are you? I know why you never wash it, I do. You’re afraid all the piss will wash out and we’ll see you’re really a knight o’ the Kingsguard!” ASoS, chapter 29

If Lem is Richard Lonmouth, he might have been present at Stoney Sept with Robert and be known to Tansy from that event.  If she had knowledge of him being a knight in service to the man who went on to become the king, it might well explain her “Kingsguard” joke. But why vanish from the page then? Speculation brings us back to AFfC, and Brienne’s POV. In chapter 25 Septon Meribald describes to Brienne, Pod and Ser Hyle the inner turmoil of the broken man.

“…even a man who has survived a hundred fights can break in his hundred-and-first. Brothers watch their brothers die, fathers lose their sons, friends see their friends trying to hold their entrails in after they’ve been gutted by an axe … They take a wound, and when that’s half-healed they take another … And one day they look around and realize all their friends and kin are gone … And the knights come down on them, faceless men clad all in steel, and the iron thunder of their charge seems to fill the world … And the man breaks.”

Meribald makes it clear that anyone can break, at any time. Every man has his limit and it’s just possible Ser Richard reached it in the aftermath of the Trident.  Two references make me believe this could be what happened to Lem:

“Bugger that,” said Lem Lemoncloak. “He’s our god too, and you owe us for your bloody lives. And what’s false about him? Might be your Smith can mend a broken sword, but can he heal a broken man?” ASoS, chapter 39

“You are not the only one with wounds, Lady Brienne. Some of my brothers were good men when this began…” AFfC, chapter 42

I’ve already suggested that Anguy’s “sly” comment may indicate that Lem went into the river with the dead at one time. Let’s suppose that Richard Lonmouth went into the river after the Battle of the Trident, as the Elder Brother did. If he was fished out and nursed back to health by some kind soul, it would have been some time before he was able to get news of what had happened in the battle and afterwards. Would he have been devastated to know that his friend the Prince had been killed by his overlord? Would the guilt of his choice have weighed heavily on him? Certainly that would be enough to cause a break. But I think there’s even more at play here. I’m speculating that Ser Richard chose the winning side, so why wouldn’t he have emerged at some point to claim his reward from his overlord and new King? Assuming Lem is Ser Richard, I think the explanation behind his abiding hatred of Lannisters might be the final piece of the puzzle. We don’t for sure know why Lem hates Lannisters so much, or if Richard Lonmouth was ever married. But we do know that Lem Lemoncloak was married, and had a child:

“I want my wife and daughter back,” said the Hound. “Can your father give me that?” AFfC, chapter 42

Going right on assuming Lem and Richard are one and the same, I will posit that Richard Lonmouth’s family was in King’s Landing during the Rebellion. Perhaps his wife came from a loyalist family, perhaps they thought it would be a safe place to retreat to. But we know that when the Lannisters sacked the city there was no mercy for anyone, from the royal family down to the poorest smallfolk. Could his wife and daughter have been among the casualties? It might explain his need to hang “lions” and judging by his comment, his association of them with that act. Finally, Lannisters being the new good-family of his former overlord might make it once and for all impossible to come forward and publicly serve Robert.

Because a revelation of this sort would require a narrative purpose, we return to the Tourney of Harrenhal and the knight of skulls and kisses vow to unmask the knight of the laughing tree (whom most of us assume to be Lyanna Stark.) We know that GRRM uses thematic parallels frequently in his narrative. We also know that Arya Stark bears a resemblance to her aunt:

“Lyanna might have carried a sword, if my lord father had allowed it. You remind me of her sometimes. You even look like her.” AGoT, chapter 22

Looking at some of the interactions between Arya and Lem, one incident in particular stands out. When Arya learns that she is in truth the prisoner of the BwB, she attempts to flee:

…when she glanced back over her shoulder four of them were coming after her, Anguy and Harwin and Greenbeard racing side by side with Lem farther back, his big yellow cloak flapping behind him as he rode. ASoS, chapter 17

It’s easy enough to imagine a similar scene with Lyanna pursued over similar ground by a group including Ser Richard Lonmouth.  Later, almost like a sly nod to this possibility Tom sings to Arya:

Tom winked at her as he sang:

And how she smiled and how she laughed,

the maiden of the tree.

She spun away and said to him,

No featherbed for me.

I’ll wear a gown of golden leaves,

And bind my hair with grass.

But you can be my forest love,

and me your forest lass.

ASoS, chapter 17

Here then we arrive at a possible narrative purpose for Lem being Richard Lonmouth. He might be able to shed light of Rhaegar and Lyanna’s first interaction, the reason Rhaegar crowned Lyanna QoLaB and possibly (if he remained in the Prince’s confidence) events that came after. At the very least he would be one of the few attendees of the Harrenhal tourney who is still alive.  This would place him in the same category as the elusive Howland Reed of One Who Knows Much and More.

In conclusion, Ser Richard Lonmouth, whose house colours are black and yellow, is never mentioned after his cameo at the Tourney of Harrenhal. During the Wot5K an outlaw of no known name or history appears in the Riverlands wearing a distinctive yellow cloak of heavy (and most likely at one time, expensive) cloth. In his arc, Lem is associated with kisses and choices, both known motifs of House Lonmouth. Based on these associations, a connection between the two can be made. Close reading further allows us to enter into some speculation to fill in the details of the intervening years. Finally, as to the significance of this theory, if he was a part of the search for the knight of the laughing tree, and some revelation was made, Ser Richard could be possessed of interesting insight into the story of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark.

Addendum, December 2014:

With new information now available from TWoIaF, the Supreme Court of Westeros taking up the case, and E09 of Radio Westeros presenting the theory in audio format, the time seems right for a short addendum. TWoIaF tells us that Ser Richard Lonmouth was among Rhaegar’s supporters at court when there was an obvious divide between Rhaegar and Aerys:

Prince Rhaegar’s support came from the younger men at court, including Lord Jon Connington, Ser Myles Mooton of Maidenpool, and Ser Richard Lonmouth. The Dornishmen who had come to court with the Princess Elia were in the prince’s confidence as well, particularly Prince Lewyn Martell, Elia’s uncle and a Sworn Brother of the Kingsguard. But the most formidable of all Rhaegar’s friends and allies in King’s Landing was surely Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning.

Since this description comes during a discussion of court politics and conspiration around the time of the Tourney of Harrenhal, the implication seems to be that Lonmouth supported regime change. Next from TWoIaF is the strong hint that Lonmouth accompanied Rhaegar into the Riverlands on that fateful mission that resulted in the disappearance of Lyanna Stark:

With the coming of the new year, the crown prince had taken to the road with half a dozen of his closest friends and confidants, on a journey that would ultimately lead him back to the riverlands, not ten leagues from Harrenhal . . . where Rhaegar would once again come face-to-face with Lyanna Stark of Winterfell, and with her light a fire that would consume his house and kin and all those he loved—and half the realm besides.

Let’s revisit Ser Barristan’s information: “Myles Mooton was Prince Rhaegar’s squire, and Richard Lonmouth after him. When they won their spurs, he knighted them himself, and they remained his close companions” With that in mind, combined with the information in TWoIaF, we can surmise that the half dozen companions were most likely Arthur Dayne and Oswell Whent (as previously revealed in the WoIaF app) Mooton and Lonmouth (both identified as close companions of the Prince on more than one occasion) and possibly Connington and Prince Lewyn Martell, whom TWoIaF indicates were also strong supporters of Rhaegar.

Given the outcome of the Rhaegar and Lyanna situation, with Aerys executing Rickard and Brandon Stark and calling for the heads of two of his Lords Paramount, we propose that Richard Lonmouth chose Robert in the Rebellion in order to effect that regime change it was earlier implied he supported. Remember that quite early on Rhaegar was well out of things and the Rebellion was technically against Aerys, aimed at removing an increasingly mad tyrant from power. Rhaegar’s eventual involvement– no doubt out of a sense of duty to his House and perhaps an effort to safeguard his children in King’s Landing– would play right into the themes of choice and the broken man that were identified earlier.

For the record it doesn’t seem like we’ll have to wait too long to put this theory to the test. Last we saw of the Riverlands in ADwD, one person who likely knew Richard Lonmouth was on a collision course with Lem Lemoncloak and is a strong candidate for a reveal. When Jaime Lannister resurfaces he may find himself in for a surprise reunion with someone from his past.