Less than 20 days to go and social media will only get more intense about the new HBO Max series, House of the Dragon. So this post is for beginners who haven’t read the books or even seen Game of Thrones. Basics of the basics!
Shall we begin? Ah yes, there is no way to avoid spoilers.
Westeros: where it all happens
A long time ago, some 200 years before the plot of House of the Dragon (and more than 300 before Game of Thrones), the Targaryens, a powerful family that lived in a land called Valyria, invaded the continent and dominated it with ease because they had three dragons that helped to win the battles.
The Targaryens form a peculiar house. In addition to dominating and bonding with dragons, they intermarry (to maintain the purity of the bloodline), with rare exceptions here and there. This is important to know as there is no incest in their vocabulary.
The continent of Westeros is divided into Seven Regions (or Kingdoms) which are ruled by the Targaryens. The city of King’s Landing became the capital as it was where Aegon the Conqueror began to attack. But before conquering the Seven Kingdoms, the Targaryens made the island of Dragonsgtone their base. So, by tradition, the King lives in King’s Landing and his heir, Dragonstone.
There will be quotes for each kingdom/region and how they are organized, but if you know where the capital is and the relevance of Dragonstone, you will be ok to start following the story.
The Houses of Westeros
Each family forms a House, with its coats of arms and mottos, which they usually repeat. In Game of Thrones, which is about 100 years after House of the Dragon, the families that mattered were: Starks, Baratheon, Lannisters, Tyrrels, Targaryen, Tully, Martell, Greyjoy, Bolton, Baelish, Mormont and Tarly, among others. . The most important, however, were 4: Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons and Targaryens.
In House of the Dragon there will be others, although those that appear in Game of Thrones already exist and participate in the story. They will be: Targaryen, Hightower, Velaryon, Strong and Lannister.
The main conflicts will be between Houses Targaryen, Hightower and Velarion because they are linked by marriages.
The timeline and the relevance of the period known as The Dance of the Dragons
The history of the Targaryens is dominated by the house motto: Fire and Blood. And, unsurprisingly, after so much incest there are riots between some heirs that it’s reputed that sanity in a Targaryen is a matter of luck.
The trajectory is marked by remarkable conflicts: the Conquest, War of Dorne, etc. In the series, we will follow four of them, as they are the bloodiest of all: The Great Council of Harrenhal, The Conquest of Stepstones, The Year of the Red Spring and The Dance of the Dragons. From the images, we know that we will have the first three events in the first season. Dance of the Dragons should be the subject of the second and third (perhaps a fourth) season.
The Great Council of Harrenhal
It’s the theme of the 1st episode. During the reign of Jaehaerys I, his firstborn, Aemon, dies and so he must choose a new successor. Aemon had only one daughter, Rhaenys, whom everyone saw as the best choice, but Jaehaerys decides that the succession doesn’t just follow hereditary order. Only applies if you are a man. In this way, Rhaenys is passed over by her uncle, Baelon, who has two children: Viserys and Daemon. A seed of discord has already been planted.
However, just 9 years later, Baelon also dies before his father and once again King Jaehaerys I needs to name a new heir. Rhaenys argues that her son, Laenor Velaryon, should be chosen, as an option to the snub she received for being a woman years before. But the undecided King convenes the first Great Council, at Harrenhal, so that the lords of Westeros can decide with him between Rhaenys’ son and Prince Baelon’s eldest son, Prince Viserys.
Perhaps because Laenor is still a child or just because they preferred to follow the order, most votes go to Viserys I. Rhaenys, the Queen that never was, once again loses.
Viserys I ascends the Throne, but as all his sons have died, he has only one girl, Rhaenyra, whom he loves dearly. His wife, Aemma, dies in childbirth with the last boy the couple fathered, so by recent logic, Viserys’ arrogant and ambitious brother Daemon considers himself next in line. But the surprise comes.
The Conquest of Stepstones
Daemon is determined to have his crown, so he teams up with Lord Corlys Velaryon (Rhaenys’ husband and Laenor’s father) to conquer the Stepstones. This conflict ended up involving the lands of Triarchy and Dorne and upon winning, Daemon calls himself “King of Stepstones” and the Narrow Sea. But upon marrying his cousin-niece, Laena Velaryon (who was passed over by Viserys), he cedes his crown to his brother. To everyone’s surprise, Viserys once again summons all the houses of Westeros to officiate Rhaenyra as his successor, doing what his grandfather had not done years before. All accept and swear allegiance to the future Queen (Daemon was visibly irritated by the decision).
Viserys I, perhaps in a conciliatory gesture with Rhaenys, marries Rhaenrya to Laenor (we saw footage of the wedding party in the trailer), with which the princess moves to Dragonstone. She has three children with Laenor (Jacaerys, Lucaerys and Joffrey), but all three look nothing like their father, in fact more like Ser Harwin Strong generating the rumors that they are bastards and that Laenor is actually gay. For obvious reasons, as this could cost Rhaenyra’s position as successor, gossip is denied. But persist…
And there’s one more wedding in Westeros. A year after losing Aemma, Viserys I remarries, but instead of choosing his cousin-niece Laena Velaryon (who later marries Daemon), he marries Alicent Hightower, daughter of Otto Hightower, former Hand of the King. Otto is Daemon’s sworn enemy, and the connection of the three houses becomes even more confusing.
From his union with Alicent, Viserys has four more children: three boys (Aegon, Aemond and Daeron) and a girl (Helaena). He sees Alicent and Rhaenyra’s relationship deteriorate out of jealousy and envy, especially when Alicent insists on changing the order of succession so that her son, Aegon II, takes precedence over her stepdaughter, but the King refuses. The stepmother’s hatred is transferred to the children and Viserys’ heirs openly dislike each other, much to the monarch’s grief and violence in Westeros.
The Year of the Red Spring
It was a tragic year in Viserys I’s reign marked by four great deaths. The brothers Laena and Laenor Velaryon die (Laena in childbirth and Laenor is murdered by his alleged lover), leaving Rhaenyra and Daemon coincidentally and timely widowed.
As family animosity grows, Prince Aemond Targaryen loses his eye in a fight with his nephew, Prince Lucerys Velaryon (who, in turn, was seeking revenge for Aemond’s attack on his brother, Joffrey). Alicent attacks Rhaenyra in front of everyone (as we saw in the trailer), dispelling any doubts that the kingdom isn’t divided. As was already done, those who support Rhaenyra wear black and those who are on Alicent’s side, green.
To close out the year, a great fire at Harrenhal claims the lives of Lord Lyonel Strong, Hand of the King, and his heir, Ser Harwin. Bound by their resentment of the Hightowers, the Rhaenyra and Daemon marry and have three children, naming the first also Aegon, to further anger Alicent.
The Dance of the Dragons
It will be later in the series, but worth mentioning. It is the first major civil war in the history of the Seven Kingdoms, and the bloodiest of all.
When Viserys I dies, Alicent hides the news for seven days, uniting her faction to crown Aegon II as King. When Rhaenyra is informed that her father has died and her brother has usurped the throne, she loses the baby she was expecting, growing even angrier at her enemies. She declares herself Queen in Dragonstone and the two brothers begin to literally battle for the Iron Throne. As everyone has their dragons, the fight covers sea, sky and land, always with many victims.
The Velaryons at first unite with Rhaenyra, but this changes over time. Many Targaryens and dragons die and the result is unexpected. I’ll stop here so I don’t recount TOO MANY spoilers.
The confusion of repeated names and genealogy
One of the things that George R.R. Martin uses with mastery is the tradition of Kings and Queens having the same names, always in honor of a predecessor. Also, the names can often be very similar. There’s no way, you have to memorize it yourself. It will get easier.
“Dangerous” liaisons: understanding kinship
In an incestuous setting, it is very difficult to keep in mind the degree of kinship between the Targaryens, but it is important. With the exception of Rhaenyra’s children, who were never recognized as bastards, I will exclude heirs out of wedlock.
• Viserys I, Daemon and Rhaenys. The three are grandsons of Jaehaerys.
• Rhaenyra Targaryen, Laenor and Laena Velarion.
• Jacaerys Velarion, Lucaerys Velarion, Joffrey Velarion are cousins of Baela and Rhaena Targaryen.
• Rhaenyra is Daemon’s niece.
• Jacaerys Velarion, Lucaerys Velarion, Joffrey Velarion, Aegon III Targaryen, Viserys II Targaryen, and Visenya Targaryen are nephews of Aemond, Aegon II, Helaena, and Daeron.
• Aemond, Aegon, Helaena, Daeron, Jacaerys, Lucaerys, and Joffrey are Daemon’s nephews.
• Rhaenys is married to Corlys Velarion
• Rhaenerys married her (2nd degree) cousin, Laenor Velarion.
• Later, Rhaenerys marries her uncle, Daemon Targaryen
• Daemon marries his cousin-niece, Laena Velarion. Then, his niece, Rhaenerys.
• Viserys I marries Alicent Hightower
• Aegon II marries his sister, Helaena Targaryen (and has 3 children)
(I’ll spare you the lovers)
I will again map the relationships between cousins, brothers, nephews, uncles and third parties. For now the map can help! I expect!