I’m reading The Iliad for Intro to Greek Civ right now, and I couldn’t help but to notice how much Paris and Helen’s narrative parallels that of Rhaegar and Lyanna’s. I’m counting on GRRM to give a “reliable” (or at least as reliable as can be) recount of whether or not they were actually in love eventually, but for now, a lot of this post’s parallels drawn to The Iliad are based on my interpretations and speculations of what went down between the R+L.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story of the Trojan War:
It began when Paris, a prince of Troy, abducted Helen, the most beautiful mortal woman and wife of Menelaus of Sparta, and carried her across the Aegean Sea to Troy. Soon after, Agamemnon (Menelaus’ brother and King of Sparta) led an army to besiege the city of Troy, beginning the ten-year-long conflict known as the Trojan War. (x)
It’s interesting to note that because the Trojan Cycle (stories about the Trojan War) is one of the most celebrated stories for the Greeks, the accounts of whether or not Helen went willingly with Paris varies with each version of the story - much like whether or not Lyanna went willingly with Rhaegar depends on whose account of the story you’re hearing. While I don’t think Helen had much of a say in the matter (it’s unclear how much was due to divine intervention and fate, although there is strong evidence that Helen blames herself for the strife), I think Lyanna chose to go with Rhaegar—and why wouldn’t she? He was handsome and well-loved and could play music that made her cry, and more importantly, he was her escape from marrying an unfaithful Robert who didn’t see past her pretty face.
But do I think she loved him? No. I don’t think she could really love him in the end, not when she realizes that his actions sparked the start of the rebellion and caused the death of her father and brother. It was so selfish of Rhaegar to steal her away from her home so he could fulfill a prophecy with complete disregard for the lives lost in the war, and I think that once Lyanna realizes this, she is filled with sorrow and regret.
In the Iliad, set during the ninth year of the war, Helen makes it clear that she hates Paris for stealing her away from her home, but at the same time, she is also filled with regret for her part in causing the war as well.
As for Rhaegar, I think he really did love Lyanna, at least as much as he could ever love anyone. Yes, he was obsessed with fulfilling the destiny of the prince that was promised, but I think he cared for Lyanna more than he cared for Elia: at least he left her roses and three members of the Kingsguard to protect her when he left her, whereas he had left next to nothing but his mad father in King’s Landing for Elia and his two children (!) when he stole away with Lyanna.
His final duel with Robert echoes that of Paris’ duel with Menelaus: both fight valiantly, both fight nobly, both fight honorably, and in the end, both were fated to lose to the original suitor of the woman they had stolen. Although Paris is ultimately saved from dying at Menelaus’ hands by Aphrodite in Book 3 of the Iliad, the outcome of the battle remains the same: both Troy and the Targaryen dynasty were doomed and things were never going to be the same again.