Assumption: R+L=J. (It is always the case with me, but more than regular for this one.)
This is motivated by this post in r/freefolk (Warning to non-freefolkers: Tread carefully, because ere be all sort of spoilers and leaks, without spoilertags), which suggested that Jon looks like Aegon I Targaryen. The OP was comparing the above images (seeing them side-by-side, I can’t but help more and more appreciate G-Girl95), and I posted a long-ish comment. Thought that I’d post it in an organized fashion here.
Most readers assume Jon to be a carbon-copy of young Ned Stark, and they have good reason to do so.
Jon’s eyes were a grey so dark they seemed almost black, but there was little they did not see. He was of an age with Robb, but they did not look alike. Jon was slender where Robb was muscular, dark where Robb was fair, graceful and quick where his half brother was strong and fast. Bran I, AGOT
Jon was never out of sight, and as he grew, he looked more like Ned than any of the trueborn sons she bore him. Catelyn II, AGOT
Jon had their father’s face, as she did. Arya I, AGOT
He had the Stark face if not the name: long, solemn, guarded, a face that gave nothing away. Whoever his mother had been, she had left little of herself in her son. Tyrion II, AGOT
Riding through the rainy night, Ned saw Jon Snow’s face in front of him, so like a younger version of his own. Eddard IX, AGOT
And that’s just the first book.
“Who’s this one now?” Craster said before Jon could go. “He has the look of a Stark.” Jon III, ACOK
Arya was the only one to show much of Ned in her features. And Jon Snow, but he was never mine. Catelyn VI, ACOK
“Jon looks like me, even though he’s bastard-born.” Arya VIII, ASOS
Stannis snorted. “I know Janos Slynt. And I knew Ned Stark as well. Your father was no friend of mine, but only a fool would doubt his honor or his honesty. You have his look.” Jon XI, ASOS
It was Lord Snow who faced him now, grey eyes as hard as ice. Samwell I, AFFC
The flames crackled softly, and in their crackling she heard the whispered name Jon Snow. His long face floated before her, limned in tongues of red and orange, appearing and disappearing again, a shadow half-seen behind a fluttering curtain. Melisandre, ADWD
Other than this, what I could find was his height was probably average, given his comparison to Joffrey (Lannisters are generally tall, and Joffrey resembles Jaime) and Grenn (nicknamed ‘Aurochs’).
He[Joffrey] was twelve, younger than Jon or Robb, but taller than either, to Jon’s vast dismay. Jon I, AGOT
Grenn was sixteen and a head taller than Jon. Jon III, AGOT
There might be more if I did a more thorough search. But already we have five mentions in the first book and six in the remaining books, relating Jon’s appearance to that of traditional Stark/Northern. There are a large number of misguided “fans” who had refuted R+L=J solely on the basis that Jon did not have silver hair or purple eyes. But what can really be inferred about Jon’s looks?
- Coloring: Dark (dark/brown hair)
- Eye color: Deep gray
- Face: Long
- Build: Slender
- Height: Not tall for his age, unlike Joffrey. Probably average. [Could get taller, since he was only fourteen at the time of meeting Joffrey or Grenn]
These are the only physical aspects of Jon that we know. The first three are definitely Stark traits, and just these constitute his ‘Stark look’, as far as readers are concerned. I do not doubt that Jon resembles Ned through Lyanna, hence his resemblance with Arya, but that does not necessarily mean that his real appearance was a complete opposite of what Tyrion thought (“Whoever his mother had been, she had left little of herself in her son”). We do not have enough information to conclude that Jon does not resemble Rhaegar in any way – let it be external appearance, abilities, or character. One could argue, based on Tyrion’s comment, that all of Jon’s features must have looked like Ned’s for Tyrion to make that comment, but all Tyrion actually makes mention of is what everyone else notices – Jon’s long solemn face.
It so happens that, there exist many other features which could be remarked upon to emphasize the similarity between a parent and his/her child. Here is a list of some such features, unknown in the case of Jon, and therefore having a finite possibility of being inherited from Rhaegar or the Targaryen side. (Quotes about Rhaegar listed in the end)
- Slender build – Viserys was described as gaunt by Dany, but that could be due to all his hardships. But Targaryens in general do not seem to turn out to be muscular.
- Face – We know it is long, but is it also narrow? Cersei says Aurane’s face is too narrow to be like Rhaegar, but this may suggest that Rhaegar’s face was somewhat narrow. Does Jon have a thin face?
- Eyes – We know the color, but are his eyes narrow? Too far apart? Thick eyebrows or light? Are Jon’s eyes big or small? Does he have thick eyelashes? Did Rhaegar?
- Nose – Is it flat, straight, pinched, thin or aquiline? Is it like Ned’s or Rhaegar’s or Viserys’s?
- Cheekbones – High? prominent or not? how do they compare with Starks and Targaryens?
- Voice – Soft? Ringing? Deep? Coarse? Does Jon have the ‘iron tones of Rhaegar’ that Jaime would identify?
- Gait/antics – Does Jon have a special way of walking that can be identified as similar to Rhaegar’s, or Ned’s or Brandon’s? Does Jon fights in some typical way that would remind Jon Connington or Ser Barristan of Rhaegar? (These things could be inherited). There are no less than 35 mentions of Arya biting/chewing her lips, but only one each of Robb and Jon doing it and twice for Sansa.
Above given are all unknowns related to Jon Snow. It is entirely possible that in none of the seven listed categories does Jon resemble Rhaegar in the slightest sense, but the point I’m making is that we don’t know it, either way.
Then why do they matter? Because, if someone who is familiar with Targaryens but having no idea about ‘the Stark look’ should meet Jon in the future books, they may spot some similarities. (I say this from personal experience of my mother’s friends/family saying I look like my mother, when I actually resemble my father more.)
So far, the people who have met both Rhaegar and Jon are Ned, Benjen, Yoren, Jaime, Robert, Cersei, and probably also Alliser Thorne, Jaremy Rykker, Stannis Baratheon (less chance there), Aemon Targaryen (even less chance, but Aemon knew other Targaryens really well to know the Targ look. Considering he was blind by the time Jon came to the Wall, I will add that Aemon may also have know the Targ voice, if there is one),..
All of them, with the exception of Jaime and Cersei, has spent more time around one Stark or other (Ned in case of Robert, Benjen for Alliser and Jaremy) to connect Jon to Rhaegar rather than Ned. Jaime and Cersei are also first introduced to Ned and Benjen, then get a passing chance to observe Jon Snow, the bastard of Winterfell. Not surprising that they didn’t see in Jon anything more than Tyrion did. Because people see what they expect to see. This is probably another reason for Ned to keep Jon in Winterfell (in addition to the safety) – in Winterfell, standing next to Ned, no one is going to suspect that Jon is not Ned’s son. But Ned leaves Winterfell and Jon leaves to the Wall – where Benjen Stark has lived for nearly as long as Jon was alive. The wildlings, Craster, Stannis – all the people Jon met after leaving home also had no reason to doubt Jon’s origins.
Take an imaginary scenario – take Daenerys for example – who only know Ned as the hard-faced lord who was the usurper’s dog but nothing really about how he looks; but grew up with Viserys – if she meets Jon without being told who he was, would she observe that Jon resembled Viserys or Rhaegar (from her visions/dreams), or would she not? We don’t know. It is not impossible. Or take Jon Connington, who knew Ned Stark well enough (Battle of Bells), but spends most the life dreaming/brooding/reminciecsing about Rhaegar, what would his impression of Jon be? I am curious.
There are other skills and qualities that Jon have and Rhaegar had (like determination, efficiency, resourcefulness, kindness, chivalry, etc.), but they have been analyzed already and are too subjective and verbose to include in this discussion, so I’m leaving them out for now.
Quotes about Rhaegar Targaryen’s looks:
Viserys, was her first thought the next time she paused, but a second glance told her otherwise. The man had her brother’s hair, but he was taller, and his eyes were a dark indigo rather than lilac. Daenerys IV, ACOK. [About Viserys: He was a gaunt young man with nervous hands and a feverish look in his pale lilac eyes. Daenerys I, AGOT]
And beside them, crowned in mist and grief with his long hair streaming behind him, rode Rhaegar Targaryen, Prince of Dragonstone and rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Jaime VI, ASOS
On the floor he’d found a scuffed mosaic of the three-headed dragon of House Targaryen done in tiles of black and red. I know you, Kingslayer, the beast seemed to be saying. I have been here all the time, waiting for you to come to me. And it seemed to Jaime that he knew that voice, the iron tones that had once belonged to Rhaegar, Prince of Dragonstone. Jaime I, AFFC.
It was not the first time the queen had made note of Waters, a lean young man with grey-green eyes and long silver-gold hair. The first time she had seen him, for half a heartbeat she had almost thought Rhaegar Targaryen had returned from the ashes. It is his hair, she told herself. He is not half as comely as Rhaegar was. His face is too narrow, and he has that cleft in his chin. Cersei III, AFFC.
Many a night she had watched Prince Rhaegar in the hall, playing his silver-stringed harp with those long, elegant fingers of his. Had any man ever been so beautiful? Cersei V, AFFC
Next to Rhaegar, even her beautiful Jaime had seemed no more than a callow boy. Cersei V, AFFC
“Your Grace is kind,” said Waters with a smile. A wicked smile, the queen thought. Aurane did not resemble Prince Rhaegar as much as she had thought. Cersei VIII, AFFC
His silvery hair was blowing in the wind, and his eyes were a deep purple, darker than this boy’s. The Griffin Reborn, ADWD