On Tuesday, HBO announced that the Game of Thrones spinoff House of the Dragon was going straight to series, and fans are dying for more details. The show is based on George R. R. Martin's writings outside of the main series of A Song of Ice and Fire and is set in the past. For everything we know about this period, there are many more questions to be answered.
House of the Dragon is based on Martin's most recent book, Fire and Blood, which was released last fall. The book is a fictional history of House Targaryen's reign of Westeros, told from the perspective of a narrator called Archmaester Gyldayn. As such, the story is full of odd quirks and contextual mysteries rather than the clarity of an omniscient third-person narrator.
Fire and Blood covers a period of about 150 years, so fans were confused as to what House of the Dragon would even focus in on and who the main characters might be. However, Martin offered some help on Wednesday, when he posted about the show on his blog. He encouraged fans to revisit two of his old novellas -- The Princess and the Queen and The Rogue Prince.
These novellas covered the Targaryen civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons, also from Gyldayn's perspective. They were eventually absorbed into Fire and Blood and expanded there, so Martin has all but told us that House of the Dragon will be about this epic war.
That narrows down the time and events of the new show, but there are plenty more mysteries to consider. His writings leave many rumors unconfirmed, conclusions open-ended and mysteries alive, just as real history does. In the context of a show, however, these events will be more straightforward, and our answers will be more concrete.
In preparation for House of the Dragon, fans are revisiting Fire and Blood to see which questions may finally get answered on screen. Here are some of the top contenders.
The Seed is 'Strong'
"The Blacks" by Enife (Altered by me to more accurately depict Rhaenys, Jacaerys, Lucerys and Joffrey) from r/ImaginaryWesteros
The Dance of the Dragon is, essentially, a war for a succession between Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Prince Aegon. It began because King Viserys named his only daughter, Rhaenyra, as his heir, but then remarried and had more children. After his death, his new wife fought for the claim of her eldest son, King Aegon, saying that the male heir came first.
Part of the queen's argument rested on salacious rumors about Rhaenyra. The princess was said to have a sexual relationship with her Kingsguard knight Harwin Strong, and the queen argued that Rhaenyr'as children were bastards, born with Strong blood rather than that of Rhaenyra's husband, a distant Targaryen cousin.
To borrow a phrase from the main series, "the seed is Strong." However, these rumors are never confirmed, and in Martin's writing it is hard to tell whether they are part of the queen's smear campaign or based in fact. Perhaps House of the Dragon will give us a better idea of whether Rhaenyra's sons, Jacaerys, Lucerys and Joffrey belong to House Targaryen or House Strong.
The Pact of Ice and Fire
House of the Dragon will not be all blonde-haired dragon-riders, as the whole continent takes part in the war. Game of Thrones fans will be glad to hear that House Stark plays a notable role, with a massive army making its slow way down to the lower kingdoms. Along the way, there is an interesting episode that may get more attention on screen than it did on the page.
House Stark is swayed to join the side of Rhaenyra Targaryen thanks to a visit from her son, Jacaerys. Jace becomes fast friends with the current lord of Winterfell, Cregan Stark, according to Fire and Blood, and we are told they spend weeks hanging out together.
During his stay at Winterfell, Jace is said to make an agreement with Cregan called the Pact of Ice and Fire, in which he promises his firstborn daughter will marry Cregan's heir, Rickon Stark, thus binding his house to that of the royal family. This pact is never fulfilled, and many fans think its echoes are felt later in the main series.
However, less reliable accounts from this time tell us that Jace found his love in Winterfell. He supposedly had a secret wedding with Cregan's bastard sister, Sara Snow, in front of the Weirwood tree. If this alleged secret wedding was consummated, as we are told, there may be some dragon-riding blood in House Stark after all.
Meanwhile, one more rumor from this time states that Jace's dragon, Vermax, laid a clutch of dragon eggs in the crypts beneath Winterfell. This tidbit had intrigued fans, though most are still unsure what to make of it, or how it may pertain to the series down the road. We may have to wait for the final two books to get a real idea.
Nettles and Sheepstealer
The Dance of the Dragons is a particularly epic part of Martin's history because it is the only war in Westeros that features dragon-on-dragon fighting. As such, dragon-riders were the key to power, and as the war got going, the Targaryens began looking for more riders to mount every available dragon.
They turned to the local smallfolk, many of whom descended from Targaryen bastards with some amount of dragon-riding blood in their veins. It was announced that anyone who could mount a dragon and fight for Princess Rhaenyra would be made a noble, regardless of their birth. Many people died attempting to mount one of the un-bonded dragons, but a few succeeded -- including a teenage girl named Nettles.
Nettles was dark-skinned with curly hair, meaning she had very little Targaryen blood, if any. She had determination, however, and she set her sights on the meanest wild dragon alive: Sheepstealer. We are told that she brought the dragon a freshly slaughtered sheep each morning at its lair, until she finally earned its trust. She went on to become a fierce warrior.
Nettles raises a lot of questions for fans that cannot be answered in the context of Fire and Blood. Does her mastery of Sheepstealer mean that Valyrian ancestry is not really necessary to be a dragon-rider, or does it mean that you need so little that you may not look like a Targaryen at all? We are told throughout the series that dragons are not like other animals, yet does Nettles' story tell us that there is some simple way of taming a dragon without the mysterious magic we see elsewhere?
There is also the possibility that Nettles did use magic, and it simply did not make it into Archmaester Gyldayn's account. Either way, House of the Dragon will most likely answer this question in a way that the books could not, and fans cannot way to see how.
No matter when House of the Dragon starts, we're going to see Vhagar, who lived from pre-conquest to 130... which means HER COLOR WILL BE REVEALED AT LAST.
(We have literally asked GRRM this before and the closest he's committed to is "pale").— History of Westeros (@WesterosHistory) October 31, 2019
Another dragon question that die-hard fans have been curious about is the color of Vhagar, one of the most iconic dragons in this early part of the series. Vhagar is originally the mount of Queen Visenya during the conquest, and goes on to participate in many Westerosi wars up to the Dance of the Dragon. In all that time, however, the color of Vhagar's scales is never specified.
This is odd, considering the descriptions of other dragons in the series. We know that Balerion the Black Dread, for instance, is black and red, looking almost exactly like Daenerys' Drogon. It may be a small detail in the grand scheme of things, but when Vhagar flies into the frame for the first time, many fans will rejoice.
Because of its academic style, it tends to ignore low-born characters, including Alys Rivers, the mysterious witch character from the Dance of the Dragons. Throughout the story, Alys seems to cast spells, see visions and enthrall other characters, including members of House Targaryen, turning the tides of war toward her interests.
Alys first appears at Harenhal, where she is believed to be a woods-witch. Some even say she is much older than she appears, like Melisandre in the main series.
Alys finds herself in a sexual relationship with Prince Aemond Targaryen fighting on the side of the Greens, and the prince acts erratically when he is in her presence. Hopefully, there will be more time to explore Alys and the nature of her powers -- if she really has any -- in House of the Dragon.
Nettles and Prince Daemon
Daemon Targaryen, the Prince of the City, with his gold cloaks by Marc Simonetti from r/ImaginaryWesteros
As mentioned above, Nettles and Sheepstealer fight on the side of Rhaenyra Targaryen, and try to match dragonfire with dragonfire. As the fighting picks up, Nettles is paired with Prince Daemon Targaryen, and the two go out looking for rival dragons to take down.
It is rumored that the two develop a romantic relationship in their travels, though this is never reliably confirmed. This would add yet another layer of complication for both characters, especially given their huge age difference. While Nettles is around 16, Prince Daemon is in his 40s at the time of the war.
Nettles and Daemon's Fate
After the war, neither Nettles nor Daemon is ever seen again. Daemon is presumed dead after the Battle over the God's Eye, but while the body of his dragon is found, his never is. There are rumors that he ran off to live out his days with Nettles, but again, we will not know for sure until the show gets there.
Meanwhile, Nettles turns her back on Rhaenyra after the princess orders her killed, due to the actions of some of the other low-born dragon-riders. Nettles escapes, and she and Sheepstealer fly off into the Mountains of the Moon. They are later seen living in a cave near the Vale of Arryn. It is even implied that Nettles is worshipped by the clan of wildlings called the Burned Men, who later become vassals of Tyrion in the main series.
We may find out that Nettles and Daemon both lived out their days in these mountains, although it is worth noting that it will not be until later in the series. The Dance of the Dragons is a long story, and hopefully House of the Dragon will build the dramatic tension for quite some time, just as its predecessor did.
Septon Barth's Writings on Dragons
If you haven't had the chance, there's a story about Aerea Targaryen in FIRE AND BLOOD which might hint at what's going on with Victarion's arm. Please enjoy this family-friendly image of Aerea in the meantime. pic.twitter.com/SBXCOxitHK— BryndenBFish (@BryndenBFish) July 3, 2019
Finally, many fans are holding out hope that House of the Dragon will give us a glimpse of Septon Barth, or perhaps at least his writings on dragons. The Septon is one of the most popular characters from early Westerosi history, and was the hand of King Jaehaerys I.
Barth wrote a book called Dragons, Wyrms, and Wyverns: Their Unnatural History, which Tyrion is always searching for in the main series. Most copies of the book were destroyed during the reign of King Baelor the Blessed, but thankfully, the Dance of the Dragon falls between Barth's writing and that purge.
Barth's book may also be the best chance we have of learning more about the most horrifying story in Fire and Blood: the death of Aerea Targaryen. The young princess fled King's Landing on the back of her dragon and was missing for over a year. When she returned, Barth tried to treat her for fiery, snake-like parasites living under her skin, but he failed. This is a chapter fans are dying to know more about, and while it predated the Dance of the Dragons, many are hoping to hear more about it as soon as possible.
Check back here at PopCulture.com for updates on House of the Dragon as they are made available.