Wait, Theon was named for a Stark? I thought the Greyjoys and the Starks were mortal enemies so why would Balon name his son after one of his enemies? And I don't get the connection between Jon's name and Ned going far to protect Jon. I thought this was only about Ned naming his adoptive son in honor of his foster father.
Wait, Theon was named for a Stark?
No, he wasn’t. There’s no way Balon Greyjoy deliberately named his son after a Stark, especially not one credited by rebelling ironborn forces from Bear Island and Cape Kraken. I don’t think Balon was even aware of Theon Stark when he chose his son’s name, considering that the Hungry Wolf ruled thousands of years ago and Balon wasn’t exactly known for being a scholar to know his history. If he had been, he’d have avoided that name because not only was it the name of a reputed Stark who rebelled both Andals and ironborn from the North, but it was also the name of a Greyjoy who was only known for being defeated. King Theon III Greyjoy of the Iron Islands was one of those whose reign witnessed the decline of ironborn power to the point of setting the defeated ironborn to hard labor after King Theon was defeated when he sailed against the houses that stopped paying tribute.
But I don’t think Balon thought of any of that - or knew any of that - when he chose his son’s name. I don’t think he gave any consideration to historical figures (and I generally don’t recall any indication that the Iron Islands were keen on using namesakes?) The name just had the same sound as those used on the Iron Islands. Balon, Maron, Euron, Victarion, Aeron – they all have that -on sound so Theon falls right in line with them.
(Edit: theonivgreyjoy pointed out that both the Ironborn and the Northerners are descendants of the First Men so it’s not unusual to find common names between the two regions. Theon’s older brother was named Rodrick, which is also a popular Northern name.)
However, Theon thinks he was named after the Hungry Wolf. As we have virtually no evidence that supports that, the context of the scene where Theon Stark is mentioned provides the explanation. Theon stark was brought up when Theon was leading Barbrey Dustin to the crypts of Winterfell prompting a conversation about how they both wanted to be a part of the Stark family, which is why they both turned on them when denied.
Theon desired to be a Stark so much that he convinced himself that he was named after one. It’s a made up connection in Theon’s head born out of desperation to belong to the Starks. It probably started when he was a kid, hearing about the heroic acts of a Stark that shared his name and creating an illusion about being named after him that by the time he was a grown up, it had become a fact to him. It’s a narrative indication of just how desperate Theon was to be a Stark that even a flimsy connection such as this one meant something to him, continued to mean something to him that he held onto it even when he was adamantly insisting that he was Reek.
And I don’t get the connection between Jon’s name and Ned going far to protect Jon. I thought this was only about Ned naming his adoptive son in honor of his foster father.
Well, for a guy that is so connected to so many characters and whose death started the events that led to the War of the Five Kings, Jon Arryn remains one of the characters that we don’t know all that much about in proportion to the thousands of pages of narrative we have. But one thing that we do know of him - perhaps his most memorable act in the whole series - is that he was the one who really started Robert’s Rebellion when he raised his banners to protect Ned and Robert when the Mad King wanted their heads.
Jon Arryn raised his banners for Ned, his foster son. He hid and smuggled him from the Vale to the North to raise the Northern banners, when a blood thirsty and paranoid monarch fearing usurpation brutally killed Ned’s father and brother and demanded Ned’s own head.
Then we have our Jon, Ned’s adopted son, hidden for years in Winterfell to protect him from a vengeful Robert who viewed all Targaryens as a threat to his throne, who killed Jon’s biological father, sanctioned the brutal murders of his brother and sister and would have wanted Jon’s head if he had known of his existence. I’ll give you two guesses to what Ned would have done had Robert found out about Jon and gone after him.