We shouldn’t have to tell you but, just in case, read with care for this article is long and full of spoilers.
No matter what house you identify with most from our beloved HBO series Game of Thrones, we all know and appreciate the strong significance of the Targaryens. The family’s history is one of the most important in all of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire universe: the family once held the throne and, with the help of dragons that stayed loyal to the family’s bravest fighters, ruled in tyranny and brought chaos to Westeros before being overthrown by a union of houses that have since fought each other fervently.
Despite the family’s significance and deep historical roots, we have only actually met a few Targaryens (that outright claim the family name, that is): Maester Aemon Targaryen, a maester to the night’s watch who renounced his claim to the throne decades ago; Viserys Targaryen, who was killed by Khal Drogo; and, of course, Daenerys Targaryen, the Khaleesi we have all come to know and adore.
As much as you think you know about the Targaryen’s, we’d be willing to guess there are some tiny tidbits you weren’t aware of. There’s no shame in that! George R. R. Martin has created a very elaborate and confusing world for these characters to live in. It’s hard to keep track of all the intricacies and details, especially if you watch the show but don’t also read his books. Get your daily dose of Game of Thrones knowledge: here are 15 facts you didn’t know about the Targaryen house!
15. There Have Been 11 Aegon Targaryen’s
Do you find yourself getting confused whenever an Aegon Targaryen is talked about? “That’s Rhaegar Targaryen’s son, right? But wait… didn’t Maester Aemon say Aegon was his brother? But that doesn’t make sense, then he’d be ancient! WHAT IS GOING ON?!”
Don’t worry: you haven’t gone crazy and you’re certainly not the only one of us scrathching their heads. According to George R. R. Martin’s history of houses, there have been ELEVEN Aegon Targaryens. There are plenty that are likely mentioned in the history books that stock Sam Tarly’s library, but the ones that are most important to know about are Aegon V, former king and father of the Mad King (Aerys Targaryen), and Aegon VI, son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia Martel who was killed brutally by The Mountain in the sack of King’s Landing. Sure, there are plenty more Aegon Targaryens to speak of but these two are likely the only that you should know about to keep up with the ever-complicated plot.
14. Daenerys’ Official Title is Ridiculously Long
When we first met Daenerys, she was simply the sweet and innocent Dany that was being sold into marriage for an army. If you know anything at all about the show now, you know that she is neither sweet nor innocent and that she has quite a title trailing after her name. She has been acquiring titles literally since the day she was born (where do you think she got the name “Stormborn” from?) and they’ve gotten more elaborate as time has gone on.
If Daenerys were being introduced in a formal or political setting, she would not be referred to simply as Daenerys Targaryen. Instead, you’d better take a bathroom break before her name is announced or you’d be stuck for a while. Daenerys’ full and official title is “Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, first of her name, The Unburnt, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons.”
13. Daenerys Was Not the First of Her Name
“Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, first of her name, The Unburnt, yada yada yada…”
But hang on a second: our Khaleesi was not actually the first Targaryen to be named Daenerys! As evidenced by the fact that we can’t count on our hands the number of Aegon Targaryen’s have come and gone, this house is certainly fond of passing down family names and Daenerys is certainly no exception. Her name was actually an inheritance of her distant ancestor, Princess Daenerys Targaryen, daughter to King Aegon IV and his sister-wife Naerys.
So why does Daenerys call herself the first of her name? It’s all politics. Part of it is that she is the first Daenerys ever fit to sit the throne – instead of being a Princess Daenerys, she should be the first Queen Daenerys. If you aren’t persuaded by that reasoning, she’s also the first Daenerys Stormborn, a weaker but still valid argument.
12. Incest Was Not Only Accepted in the Targaryen House, But Expected
Incest is nothing new in the Game of Thrones universe. The characters most popular for their incestuous inclinations are not Targaryens, but Lannisters. Jaime and Cersei Lannister, the twins of the Red Keep, claim to have been in love with each other since they were merely children. However, though they’ve had three children together and continued a romantic relationship all their adult lives, they’ve always had to keep their love a secret from a kingdom that shames and shuns incestuous people. Jaime frequently argues that they shouldn’t have to, since the Targaryens were always so open about their incestuous lifestyles.
Jaime’s right: the Targaryens were all about incest. In fact, it was expected that, to keep the family’s blood line “pure,” Targaryen’s would only reproduce with each other unless they were married into other families for political purposes. Even Viserys expected Daenerys to sire his child, before selling her to Khal Drogo and have his scalp melted off.
11. The 3-Headed Dragon On The Targaryen Sigil Is A Symbol, Nothing More
There seems to be some confusion surrounding the Targaryen sigil. The family’s banner portrays a red three-headed dragon. While dragons have always been associated with the family, just as strongly as dire wolves came to be associated with the Stark house, the dragons didn’t have multiple heads. The design of the three-headed dragon was inspired by the three dragons used to conquer all of Westeros used by Aegon Targaryen (the first of the eleven) and his two sisters, Visenya and Rhaenys. Instead of three dragons flying separately on their banner, they chose to have the three heads sprouting from the same body to signify the strength that comes from the unity of the Targaryen household.
10. The Targaryens Never Recorded Their Dragon Training Secrets
Aegon the Conqueror and his two sisters were unbeatable in battle because of their three dragons. You may ask yourself, “why didn’t anyone else try to use dragons to fight back?” The answer to that is simple: there were no other dragons. All other dragons were killed in a catastrophic volcanic eruption known as the Doom of Valyria. One of the only Valyrian families to survive were the Targaryen’s, who escaped to the island of Dragonstone with their three dragons.
When Daenerys’ dragon eggs hatched, she was thrilled that she had the iconic three dragons of the Targaryen household back. However, she was at a significant disadvantage. The older Targaryens, the ones who conquered Westeros, had the benefit of growing up around dragons and learning to train them through centuries of trial and error. Training a dragon was like learning to ride a bike: there was no manual. Your parents would teach you and help you figure it out. No one has seen dragons in generations, let alone passed down secrets of training them, and Daenerys’ family never thought to record their secrets of dragon taming and riding. That’s why she has no idea what she’s doing with these vicious beasts.
9. Daenerys Actually Spends Much Of The Series Bald
In George R. R. Martin‘s renowned books, things go a bit differently than they do on HBO’s highly rated show. Remember the end of season one, when Daenerys burns Khal Drogo’s body on a funeral pyre and walks into that fire with her dragon eggs? She stays in the fire until it entirely burns out and, when it does, we see Daenerys with her clothes all burnt away with three baby dragons crawling over her. The same event happens in the books, but George R. R. Martin was a bit more realistic about the effects of fire than HBO writers.
In the books, when Daenerys’ clothes are burnt away, so is her hair. Think about it and that makes total sense: sure, she’s the mother of dragons and cannot be killed by fire, but that doesn’t mean it leaves her wholly uneffected. Hair still burns! While Emilia Clarke might not have been crazy about the idea of shaving her head for the role, it would’ve been really cool if we got to have a pixie cut Khaleesi!
8. The Sand Snakes Are Related To The Targaryens
It was awesome when Oberyn Martell was introduced. We were all rooting for him to get his just revenge on The Mountain for what he did to Oberyn’s sister, Elia, and her children. When things ended up not working out for Oberyn, we were excited we at least got the opportunity to meet some of his children. The impressive fighter trained three of his oldest daughters extensively in combat: Obara, Nymeria, and Tyene, who got themselves into a heap of trouble in recent seasons.
Interestingly enough, these Sand Snakes are related to Daenerys! They’re aunt was Elia Martel, wife of Rhaegar Targaryen. Rhaegar Targaryen was one of Daenerys’ fallen older brothers who died in the siege of the red keep. Though it’s a bit of a distant relationship, it makes Daenerys one of the few surviving family members that might have cared for the Martel girls, had they sought her help.
7. The Targaryens Have Purple Eyes
In the books, that is. While the Targaryen’s were insistent on incestuous relationships for a lot of reasons, one of them was to preserve for generations the iconic Targaryen looks: pale blonde hair and purple eyes. If you look at the casting choices for Targaryen characters as well as sketches of what Targaryen characters would look like, they all look fairly uniform.
So why doesn’t Daenerys have purple eyes on the HBO show? It seems like an easy enough effect to add to the character, doesn’t it? The answer is incredibly simple! Producers originally intended for Daenerys to have purple eyes and asked Emilia Clarke to wear colored contact lenses. However, the lenses were horribly uncomfortable for the actress and interfered with her acting. While it was a bit of a disappointment, producers decided it wouldn’t make a huge difference if the Targaryens were known for the characteristic blue eyes (Emilia’s natural eye color) instead of purple.
6. A Targaryen Finished Construction Of The Red Keep
The Red Keep is home to not only the King of the Andals and the First Men, but also to the king’s family and his court. It is the pivotal ruling ground that presides over the seven kingdoms. Most images of King’s Landing prominently feature the Red Keep – since it’s a massive structure and the only one to tower high over the peasants of King’s Landing, it’s kind of hard to miss.
The Red Keep was designed and built by the Targaryen house when they held reign over the Andals and First Men. Construction on the Red Keep, which holds countless secret passages and hidden treasures, was completed under the rule of Maegor Targaryen (for whom the holdfast is named). However, Maegor didn’t trust that the castle’s secrets were adequately safe with the number of laborers working on the keep and had them all executed to protect the keep’s many secrets.
5. The Baratheon Line Comes From Targaryens
Sure, the Targaryens were all about incest and “keeping it in the family,” but that doesn’t mean there weren’t indiscretions occasionally committed (and remember, marriages were occasionally forged outside of the Targaryen house for the purposes of political alliances). So how are the Targaryens related to the Baratheons?
There are two different answers to that question. Long ago, Aegon the Conqueror’s bastard brother Orys married the daughter of the Storm King Argilac the Arrogant and forged the House Baratheon from his victory over the king. So truly, all Baratheons are distantly Targaryen. However, Robert Baratheon used a stronger genetic claim to the throne to justify his siege of King’s Landing. His father was Steffon Baratheon, who in turn was the son of Ormund Baratheon and Rhaelle Targaryen. Thus, Robert was grandson to a Targaryen and had some legal claim to the throne (though, arguably less of a claim than Stannis Baratheon or Daenerys Targaryen).
4. Grand Maester Pycelle Was First Appointed To The Small Council By Aegon V
We all know that Grand Maester Pycelle was older than dirt. He is practically living proof that dragons once roamed the skies. Though Pycelle isn’t exactly a wise font of knowledge (or rather, if he is, he’s an easily manipulative and conniving old fart), he’s certainly got the experience behind him to impress anyone looking at his resume.
Yes, Maester Pycelle was originally appointed to the small council by the Targaryen king, Aegon the V (a.k.a., Aegon the Unlikely). That means that Grand Maester Pycelle has served on the small council under kings: Aegon (V) the Unlikely, Aerys II (The Mad King), Robert Baratheon, and Joffrey Baratheon. He was dismissed from the small council at the beginning of Tommen Baratheon’s reign by Cersei Lannister, when he was informally replaced by Maester Qyburn (though officially Qyburn is the new Master of Whispers, replacing Varys), a much more pliable and curious maester that was actually expelled from the order of maesters for illegal human experimentation.
3. Daenerys Is Only A Teenager Throughout The Series
Daenerys, our beloved Khaleesi and kick-ass Queen wannabe, is not truly as she seems. Though she is played by Emilia Clarke, a 30-year-old actress, she’s not nearly as old as she seems. In the show, through her rapid maturing, sex appeal, and vigorous pursuit of the Iron Throne, we get the impression that perhaps Daenerys is 20, 25 – tops. Actually, in George R. R. Martin’s fantastical universe, she’s only a teenager. Viserys sells her to Khal Drogo when she is only 13 years old, and she’s still very young as she’s come to rule over several cities.
Why didn’t they make her appear her true age in the show? Well, think about it: Daenerys is put into a lot of hyper-sexual situations. It’s not appropriate (or legal) to have a teenage actress portray a lot of the traumatic things Daenerys has had to endure. Many of the young characters in Game of Thrones have been made to look older: Jon Snow is fourteen; Robb Stark was only fourteen; Sansa Stark was only eleven.
2. “Targaryen Madness” May Be Genetic; Or A Side Effect Of Incest
Of course, the most commonly discussed Targaryen is Daenerys. After her, everyone likes to talk about The Mad King, also known as Aerys II Targaryen: the king that began his reign so benevolently and eventually terrorizing the people of King’s Landing and caused a rebellion that would forever change the seven kingdoms. He was erratic and had a seemingly insatiable blood lust. Jaime Lannister, who is infamous for killing the Mad King, confided to Lady Brienne of Tarth that the Mad King wanted every last person in King’s Landing murdered and burned alive just so that if anyone were to usurp him, they’d have no kingdom left to rule.
It’s wondered why Aerys went crazy. Perhaps it was because of a curse inflicted upon the house by the Gods for the crime of incest; or perhaps it was simply the biological repercussions of incest. Whatever the reasoning, many Targaryens seem to be born with the trait of “madness,” better characterized by radical neuroticism, violent and angry outbursts, and a lack of impulse control.
1. Daenerys May Not Be The Last Targaryen
If you don’t appreciate fan theories, now may be the time to stop reading. If you do, read on…
Daenerys is the last Targaryen that has been ousted and lives proudly boasting her name and blood right. However, that doesn’t mean she’s the last surviving Targaryen. The fan theory ‘R + L = J’ postulates that, since an affair would be so out of character for Ned Stark, perhaps Jon Snow’s true mother is Ned’s sister Lyanna Stark, who died in the siege of King’s Landing. Fans theorize that, before she died, she gave birth to a Targaryen son of Rhaegar Targaryen and that Ned sheltered Jon to keep him safe.
Another theory exists suggesting that Tyrion Lannister is actually a Targaryen as well. Not only is he somehow able to train dragons, but fans theorize that his father Tywin hated him because his true father was Aerys Targaryen. It’s believed that Joanna, Tywin’s wife, had a secret (though possibly forced) sexual relationship with The Mad King that eventually led to her pregnancy with Tyrion. Since Joanna died giving birth to Tyrion, it would explain why Tywin seems to truly loathe Tyrion’s entire existence.
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