House of the Dragon: 5 things to know about the Targaryen family

House of the Dragon promo image (Image via HBO Max)
House of the Dragon promo image (Image via HBO Max)

The Targaryens are arguably the most interesting family in the Game of Thrones universe.

While the eponymous show garnered huge viewership for many reasons - characters, storylines, gory visuals, unpredictable twists - it was the Dragons that enjoyed unparalleled popularity across all eight seasons. The mystical, fire-breathing creatures belonged to the Valyrian family that ruled Westeros before its inevitable doom was brought about by Aerys II aka the Mad King.

The upcoming prequel House of the Dragon, releasing on August 21, 2022, will dive deep into the history of the Targaryens.

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The series is set in Westeros, almost 200 years before Game of Thrones takes place. The show focuses on the growing rift inside the most powerful family in the Seven Kingdoms as they try to pick a legitimate heir to the throne.

But before you watch the show, here are a few things about the Targaryens that you must know to understand their legacy.


Last surviving Valyrian family, conquering Westeros and more: Things you need to know about the Targaryens

1) Escaped the Doom of Valyria

The Old City of Valyria was an influential country, home to magical treasures like Valyrian Steel and Dragons. It was inhabited by 40 influential dragonlord families, including the Targaryens.

Legend says that Lord Aenys Targaryen's daughter, Daenys the Dreamer, had a prophetic dream about the destruction of Old Valyria. After learning about what was to come, Lord Aenys quickly decided to escape to the small island of Dragonstone in Blackwater Bay, along with his family and five dragons.

Twelve years later, the prophecy came true in 114 BC (before conquest) with massive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions engulfing the rich city of Old Valyria, making the Targaryens the only surviving Valyrian family.


2) United the Seven Kingdoms

Following the Doom of Valyria, the Targaryens lived at Dragonstone for a long time before they ventured out to King's Landing in Westeros. Aegon I was always interested in the west and so in 2 BC, Aegon, along with his sister-wives, Rhaenys and Visenya, set out on a conquest to unify and rule the Seven Kingdoms in the vast continent of Westeros.

The three dragonlords were aided by their mighty dragons - Balerion, Meraxes and Vhagar. The ensuing campaign lasted for two years, with six kingdoms yielding to Aegon the Conqueror. The only exception was the Martells of Dorne, who became part of the Seven Kingdoms much later, only through a matrimonial alliance.


3) Mired in incestuous relationships

As bizarre as it might sound, for the longest time, the Targaryens practiced incest. They believed in keeping their bloodlines pure and thus preferred marrying amongst themselves. Uncles married nieces, fathers married daughters, and brothers married sisters. It was a common, Valyrian practice that they kept alive even after coming to Westeros and converting to the Faith of the Seven.

Aegon the Conqueror had married his two sisters, Rhaenys and Visenya, to preserve the magic in their blood. Daenarys's parents, King Aerys and Queen Rhaella were also siblings.

This incest is regarded as the reason behind the dragon family's unusual appearance with purple eyes and silver tresses. Even their extreme madness is attributed to their incestual relationships. In A Storm of Swords, which is the third book in the epic fantasy novel series that inspired Game of Thrones, author George R.R. Martin writes:

"Madness and greatness are two sides of the same coin. Every time a new Targaryen is born, he said, the gods toss the coin in the air and the world holds its breath to see how it will land."

4) Only one Targaryen Queen in 300 years

Princess Rhaenyra in House of the Dragon (image via Twitter/HouseoftheDragon)
Princess Rhaenyra in House of the Dragon (image via Twitter/HouseoftheDragon)

If we discount Daenarys' brief reign, then before her, the only Targaryen Princess who became a Queen, however briefly, was Rhaenyra Targaryen, who will also be seen in the upcoming show, House of the Dragon.

Despite the Targaryen's long reign spanning close to three centuries, the throne always remained with kings - 17 of them to be precise. Before Rhaenyra, the only other time when the Iron Throne could have had a Queen was when Princess Rhaenys was born. She was Aemon's firstborn child and naturally the heir to the throne. However, her claim to the throne was contested because she was a woman.

When King Jaehaerys I called upon the Great Council at Harrenhal to choose a legitimate heir to the Iron Throne, the council denied Rhaenys' claims to the throne and made her cousin, Viserys I, the King of the Seven Kingdoms. This incident earned Rhaenys the distinction of being remembered as "The Queen who never was."


5) A thousand swords for The Iron Throne

The Iron Throne (Image via IMDb)
The Iron Throne (Image via IMDb)

The most coveted seat in Westeros' history is the Iron Throne: A seat which marked the beginning of the end. The Iron Throne caused gory rebellions, betrayals and turned families against each other. And if this wasn't enough, it even made a great lover like Jon Snow stab his beloved Danny in the back.

This powerful seat was erected by Aegon I when he successfully conquered six out of the seven independent kingdoms in Westeros. After establishing his rule, he commissioned the Iron Throne which was to be built with a 1000 swords, all belonging to the enemies who had yielded their kingdoms to him. In a sense, the throne is symbolic of the Targaryen line's victory and prosperity.

To forge the throne, Aegon the Conqueror made his dragon Balerion (also known as the Black Dread) melt the blades of a thousand swords with his fiery breath. These blades were then welded together by Blacksmiths to create the final outcome.


House of the Dragon is releasing on August 21, 2022. It will consist of ten episodes that will air weekly, only on HBO Max.

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Edited by Upasya Bhowal