“Fire and Blood.”
It’s safe to say that the Targaryens have done more to influence the history of Westeros than any other noble house before or since. Conquering Westeros with their mastery of dragons, the Targaryens united the seven kingdoms under the Iron Throne in King’s Landing. They started a line of kings which ended with Aerys II, better known as the Mad King. But what do we know about the kings before Aerys? What do we know about those Targaryens who didn’t become king? And what does it mean for the future of the Iron Throne? Here are 43 fiery facts about House Targaryen.
43. You Have a Certain Look
As with other families in the world of Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire, family members of House Targaryen tend to pass down familiar physical traits. In this family’s case, they tend to have silver or white-blond hair, with eyes that are either deep blue, violet, or completely purple. Talk about a piercing gaze!
42. Another Targaryen??
Aside from Daenerys Targaryen, the books also introduce another surprise Targaryen. He is proclaimed to be Aegon, the dead son of Prince Rhaegar, though the book fans are deeply divided on whether he’s really a Targaryen or not. Some theories insist that he’s actually a Blackfyre. Keep writing and tell us, George R.R. Martin!
41. A Dragon by Any Other Name
The Targaryen sigil is a red three-headed dragon on a black cloth. However, members of House Blackfyre would reverse these colors to differentiate themselves as an off-branch of House Targaryen—more on them later.
40. Looks Can Be Deceiving
Despite the Targaryen look being silvery-white hair with purple eyes, it’s worth pointing out that they aren’t the only ones who have purple eyes in Westeros. House Velaryon, a traditional ally of House Targaryen, had a lot of Valyrian heritage, and continues to pass on those traits down the family line. Unrelated to the Valyrians is House Dayne in Dorne, whose members include the legendary warrior Ser Arthur Dayne. His sister, Ashara, famously had purple eyes despite being completely unrelated to the Targaryens or any other Valyrian family.
39. The End of a Long Rebellion
The last of the Blackfyre Pretenders, as they were called, were defeated in the War of the Ninepenny Kings. King Jaehaerys II Targaryen sent forces to the Stepstones to defeat the Band of Nine, whose leaders included Maelys Blackfyre, also known as Maelys the Monstrous. This was because Maelys was a huge man who actually had a malformed second head growing out of his neck! He was killed in battle by none other than Ser Barristan Selmy, the knight who eventually joined Daenerys Targaryen, the last of her line, in her own exile.
38. And it Burns, Burns, Burns!
Contrary to what the show Game of Thrones shows, Targaryens are not immune to fire. They display some resistance to it, but many Targaryens have died from being burned alive. In the book, Daenerys does survive the inferno which spawns her three dragons, but it’s treated as a miracle. Also, her hair burns away completely in the process, while in the show, it’s miraculously intact—we assume that nobody wanted Emilia Clarke to shave her head.
One reason for their recurring physical appearance, as well as perhaps the reason for the frequent madness in their minds, the Targaryens have almost always practiced incest amongst themselves. Brothers and sisters have been wedded to produce pure “blood of the dragon,” since they see themselves as an elite family above the others. Some have disliked this tradition and tried to marry outside of their family.
36. Let’s Build a New Empire!
The continent of Westeros was conquered by Aegon the Conqueror and his two sister-wives, Rhaenys and Visenya. All three of them rode dragons into war, and they gathered the armies of those whom they conquered. Some of Westeros’ seven kingdoms wisely surrendered to avoid bloodshed, such as the North, while others were defeated in battle, such as the Westerlands and the Reach.
35. Defiant Dorne
The only one of the Seven Kingdoms which resisted Aegon the Conqueror’s military campaigns was Dorne. They continued to be an independent kingdom for more than a hundred years into the Targaryen dynasty, resisting a huge invasion by King Daeron I Targaryen. Ultimately, it was the combined efforts of King Baelor Targaryen and King Daemon II “the Good” who brought Dorne peacefully under the authority of the Iron Throne.
34. A Mighty Dynasty
Starting from Aegon the Conqueror and ending with Aerys the Mad King, seventeen members of House Targaryen have been Kings of Westeros, while one woman ruled briefly as Queen of Westeros.
33. House Halloween
Even beyond physical traits, Targaryens tend to also dress the same when it comes to war. According to the books by George R.R. Martin, the Targaryens tend to dress in black armor which is decorated with shades of gold. To be fair, they’re warrior-kings, so we can’t blame them for being a little flamboyant for combat.
32. Bond Between Man and Beast
Because of the long lives of dragons compared to their human riders, several generations of Targaryens have been known to ride the same dragon as they died. However, dragons almost never take more than one rider at a time, or sometimes they refuse to take another rider after one of their masters dies.
31. Recurring Names
Of the Targaryen kings, five of them have been named Aegon, two were named Viserys, two were named Aerys, two were named Daeron, and two were named Jaehaerys. The others were named Baelor, Maekar, Aenys, and Maegor.
30. Insane Ancestors
Examples of mad Targaryens include King Maegor I (known as Maegor the Cruel), King Baelor I (also known as Baelor the Blessed), Prince Rhaegel, Prince Aerion, King Aerys II (the Mad King), and his second son, Prince Viserys.
29. Ashes to Ashes
According to the traditions of House Targaryen, especially their bonds with dragons and their house motto, members of the family who die are cremated rather than buried.
28. We Need Better Bodyguards
During the first Dornish War, Aegon the Conqueror was nearly killed by an assassin. In response, he established the Kingsguard, which comprised of seven of the best knights in Westeros who agreed to serve the royal family and protect them with their lives.
27. Deadly Throne
The Iron Throne has actually been responsible for the death of a Targaryen king. By the end of his short reign, Maegor the Cruel had made so many enemies that it seemed most of the Seven Kingdoms rallied behind Prince Jaehaerys to put him on the Iron Throne instead of Maegor. After Maegor summoned his few supporters, he spent the night brooding on the Iron Throne. He was found the next morning with his wrists cut on the throne’s blades. It remains unknown whether Maegor deliberately killed himself or whether some magic in the Iron Throne caused it to deliberately kill him.
26. A Glutton in Every Sense
Aegon IV (known as Aegon the Unworthy) was one of the worst Targaryen kings in the history of their dynasty. He was ruled completely by his own lusts and desires, pursuing them with single-mindedness and cruel carelessness for anyone else’s concerns. He filled his royal court with men who lived to flatter him, and he arranged for beautiful women to be on hand whenever he was in the mood. Regardless of their social standing, race, or age, Aegon IV was only concerned about satisfying himself. By the end of his life, Aegon IV claimed to have slept with over 900 women. He’s like GoT’s own Gene Simmons.
25. Change of Faith
Before the Doom of Valyria, the Targaryens worshipped the Valyrian gods. However, by the time Aegon the Conqueror entered the picture, the Targaryens had adopted the Faith of the Seven, not necessarily out of devotion, but as a wise political move.
24. Island Home
Traditionally, the Targaryens’ original home of Dragonstone was ruled by the heir to the Iron Throne. This was such an established system that a theory which maintains that Robert Baratheon gave Dragonstone to his brother Stannis because at the time, Stannis was his heir. Whether Robert would have given Dragonstone to Joffrey is a question we’ll never get the answer to.
23. Our Best Blades
Some noble houses are lucky enough to have a sword made out of rare Valyrian Steel. House Targaryen had two such swords. One is the longsword Dark Sister, originally wielded by Visenya Targaryen, and the other is the hand-and-a-half longsword Blackfyre, originally wielded by Aegon the Conqueror. Both swords have had various owners across the years.
22. Searching for the Swords
Both Blackfyre and Dark Sister have been lost to history. Dark Sister’s last known owner was Brynden Rivers, better known as Bloodraven. Despite being just an illegitimate son of Aegon IV, he was entrusted with Dark Sister, which came in handy during the Blackfyre Rebellion. Meanwhile, the sword Blackfyre was lost to the Blackfyre family, who took the sword with them into exile.
21. Bickering Sons
As you can imagine, a king who sleeps with more than 900 women would make plenty of illegitimate kids, and Aegon IV was no exception. One of his more well-known bastard children, sired with his cousin, Daena Targaryen, was Daemon Waters (Waters is the surname for any bastard children born in the Crownlands, just like Snow in the North). Daemon was a renowned warrior and received Aegon’s favor to the point where he gave Daemon his knighthood at 13 years old and also gave him the sword Blackfyre as his own. This caused strife between those who supported Daemon and those who favored Aegon IV’s trueborn son, Daeron.
20. One Crown Fits All?
One thing that the Targaryen kings occasionally did during the Targaryen Dynasty was change up the crowns they wore. Kings would either design a new crown for themselves, or they would take up the crown of a former king for whatever reason. For example, Aegon the Conqueror’s Valyrian steel crown with large rubies was also worn by Maegor, Aegon II, and Daeron I, while Aegon III’s thin band of gold was worn by Viserys II and Aegon V. The real outlier was Baelor the Blessed, who wore a crown made of vines and leaves—you can guess why his crown wasn’t worn by anyone else.
19. Let’s Dance
One of the worst moments in the history of House Targaryen was the Dance of the Dragons. With the death of King Viserys I Targaryen, there was a rift between his oldest child, a daughter named Rhaenyra, and his younger son, Aegon. Each insisted that they were the rightful successor to Viserys, leading to a serious divide within the extended Targaryen family known as the Dance of the Dragons. Rhaenyra and Aegon both sat on the Iron Throne at different times during the conflict, making Rhaenyra the only woman to rule as Queen of the Iron Throne.
18. The Death of the Dragons
Viserys I had ruled over the height of House Targaryen’s power, with more dragons being alive than at any other point in their history. But then the Dance of the Dragons wiped out most of those dragons, along with nearly the entire family of House Targaryen. Aegon II had Rhaenyra fed to his dragon but was later poisoned by his allies when the war continued to turn against him. Rhaenyra’s surviving son, also named Aegon, became King Aegon III, and during his reign, the last of the dragons died—though Aegon III was only too pleased by the death of the creatures which had devoured his mother before his eyes.
17. The Blackfyre Rebellion
Daeron II became king after his father, Aegon IV had died, but he also had to deal with his bastard half-siblings, who had all been legitimized before Aegon IV died. This included Daemon Waters, who was now known as Daemon Blackfyre, since he held the famous sword Blackfyre. A movement began to put Daemon on the throne rather than Daeron, as he was by far the better warrior—maybe the best that House Targaryen ever produced. Eventually this led to open rebellion, with Daemon Blackfyre leading armies to take the Iron Throne for himself.
16. The Egg or the Dragon?
Although the dragons eventually died out, their eggs were still around. However, none of them hatched, despite several attempts by the Targaryens and others to bring dragons back. That changed when Daenerys Targaryen came along and used a ritual and miracle to birth three dragons.
15. Misery Loves Company
Daemon Blackfyre would eventually be killed at the Battle of the Redgrass Field, along with his eldest sons. However, his half-brother, Aegor “Bittersteel” Rivers led the survivors of the Blackfyre Rebellion, along with Daemon’s five surviving sons, into exile across the sea. In order to keep the Blackfyre supporters united in exile, Bittersteel founded the Golden Company, an elite mercenary group who rose to prominence as the most powerful mercenary company in Essos.
14. Falling Over Like Dominoes
The Targaryens had to defeat four Blackfyre Rebellions in total, each one easier to defeat than the last. One Blackfyre leader after another were either killed, imprisoned, or executed.
13. The Throne of Damocles
At first glance, you might be surprised that the Targaryens, who designed and built such marvelous structures on Dragonstone, were content to sit on an Iron Throne that was so uncomfortable to sit on. However, Aegon the Conqueror intentionally went with this design, insisting that a king should never sit comfortably on his throne.
12. Before He was Mad
Aerys the Mad King didn’t start out mad. He was initially a bright, handsome young man with huge ambitions for Westeros. Admittedly, he had trouble committing to these ambitions, but he only started losing his grip when his children kept being miscarried or else dying in infancy. He became obsessed with the fear that someone was cursing his children with dark magic. Not only that, he became very jealous of Tywin Lannister, his Hand of the King, who was ruling the realm more effectively than Aerys could ever manage.
11. That’s What You Get for Being a Contrarian
This jealousy of Tywin and growing suspicions caused Aerys to ride to the walled town of Duskendale when an issue arose. Aerys personally went out to deal with it when he was advised by Tywin not to go. Aerys was captured and held prisoner for six months while he languished in the dungeons. Eventually, he was released by Ser Barristan Selmy in a covert operation, but the damage was done. Aerys descended further and further into madness until one of his own kingsguard (none other than Jaime Lannister) buried a sword into his back during Robert’s Rebellion.
10. Vote on Your Next King!
With the death of King Maekar Targaryen, a succession crisis arose to the point that a Great Council was held by Brynden Rivers, Lord Bloodraven to decide who would be the next king. Several claimants were considered, such as Maekar’s sons Aemon and Aegon Targaryen. However, Aemon had already become a maester, only to join the Night’s Watch to avoid being used as a rival claimant again. Surprisingly, one of the Blackfyre boys, named Aenys, offered to come peacefully to Westeros and pitch his claim to the Great Council to consider. Bloodraven agreed to accept him as a guest to King’s Landing, but immediately had Aenys executed upon his arrival and threw his severed head onto the table as a blunt message. Aegon was chosen as Aegon V Targaryen.
9. A Truly Just King
The man who became Aegon V is actually Egg from the Dunk & Egg stories, written by George R.R. Martin as slightly lighter story material than the regular books. Aegon V had spent much of his youth traveling the realm, so he understood better than any other nobleman how the ordinary people lived. He also had a highly developed sense of order and justice. This was so prominent in him that when he was crowned Aegon V, the first thing he did was have Bloodraven arrested for the murder of Aenys Blackfyre, his former rival to the throne. Aegon V charged that Bloodraven had broken the word of the Iron Throne when he lured Aenys Blackfyre to Westeros with false promises of safe conduct.
8. Whatever Happened to Bloodraven?
Bloodraven argued that he’d sacrificed honor for the good of the realm, but he was forced to choose life in the Night’s Watch or else be executed. Bloodraven eventually became Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch before disappearing north of the Wall, where he eventually appears in the main storyline as the Three Eyed Raven.
7. Fire and Blood
Many fans love the strong-willed and powerful Mother of Dragons, but a darker, more violent side has led George R. R. Martin to hint that she may not actually be a true hero in A Song of Ice and Fire. In fact, she has a lot in common with the Mad King, Aerys Targaryen. Dany has shown a capacity to be violent and merciless, especially to those who oppose or defy her. Examples of this include burning the witch named Durr, who had killed Khal Drogo and Dany’s unborn son; crucifying 163 Great masters of Mereen; scorching the khals, who had abused her in Vaes Dothrak; and even threatening to incinerate members of her own council.
If Dany too-closely abides by the creed of “fire and blood,” her character could take a villainous turn. This has led many fans to theorize that Jon Snow, not Daenerys Targaryen, will be the true hero of the series. We’re still rooting for Dany, but it remains to be seen which side of the coin landed when she was born.
6. Red Feast for the Red Keep
The Iron Throne rests in the Red Keep. This massive building began construction during the reign of Aegon I, but it wasn’t completed until the reign of his second son, Maegor the Cruel. In fact, the conclusion of the building’s construction was a chance for Maegor to turn a good thing into something horrible. While the Red Keep was still being built, Maegor arranged for secret passages to be built underneath the dungeons of the Red Keep. To keep those passages a secret, Maegor massacred all of the builders who worked on the structure—at the very feast which was being held in their honor. Looks like Walder Frey got his inspiration from the Targaryen kings!
5. Targaryen Insanity
One of the main traits of House Targaryen is their propensity for either greatness or madness. According to the traditions, these two are seen as opposite sides of the same coin, and whenever a Targaryen is born, the gods flip the coin to see which side will turn up.
4. That was Lucky!
As powerful as the Targaryens were, they were actually a minor house of the Valyrian Freehold. At one point, Aenar Targaryen’s daughter, Daenys, dreamed that something terrible was coming to Valyria. Aenar took his daughter’s prophecy seriously, and uprooted his entirely family, dragons included, to a small island off of Westeros which later got the name Dragonstone. Twelve years after Aenar left, the Doom of Valyria destroyed their vast city, wiping out the dragons except for the ones who survived on Dragonstone. To this day, the ruins of Valyria are said to be cursed and dangerous.
3. The Targaryen Romeo and Juliet
Only one member of House Targaryen has actually served in the Kingsguard. Aemon Targaryen, also known as “the Dragonknight,” was one of the greatest warriors in the history of Westeros. He was also desperately in love with his sister, Naerys, but Naerys was promised to their older brother, who became King Aegon IV Targaryen. To make things worse for them both, Aegon the Unworthy was one of the cruelest kings in the history of House Targaryen and treated them both very badly. Despite his brother’s behavior, the Dragonknight continued to faithfully uphold his vows. Eventually, Aemon died while protecting the king from a number of his enemies. Naerys was devastated by her brother’s death and died in childbirth soon after.
2. Would You Call That a Dragonfly Effect?
As Aegon IV became older, fatter, and more slavish to his desires, more and more nobles looked to his heir, Daeron, to eventually replace him. Unlike Aegon, Daeron was modest, intelligent, and considerate, all of which got on his father’s nerves. Aegon and Daeron fought many times, with Aegon even claiming that Daeron was the son of Naerys and Aemon the Dragonknight—both of whom were dead by this point, so they couldn’t object. Despite this claim, Aegon didn’t dare disinherit Daeron, as he ultimately knew that the realm would have descended into civil war if he did that. However, as he lay dying on his deathbed, he ordered that all of his bastard children be legitimized. It was his final, spiteful act, and it caused threats to House Targaryen for five generations.
1. A Tragic End for a Good Man
As for Aegon V, he eventually became obsessed with resurrecting the dragons, so he could effectively bring about the reforms he wanted to implement to Westerosi society. At the Targaryen castle of Summerhall, he gathered several close friends and family members to witness a ritual to resurrect the dragons. Unfortunately, it ended in disaster. Aegon V, his eldest son, and his old friend Ser Duncan died in a horrific fire which destroyed Summerhall. Coincidentally, while all this destruction was happening, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen—yes, that Rhaegar—was born nearby.