- Warning: Spoilers ahead for season one, episode one of HBO’s “House of the Dragon.”
- The pilot episode ended with an interesting reveal about Aegon Targaryen’s prophetic dream.
- “House of the Dragon” cocreator Ryan Condal says it changed the writers’ thinking about the Targaryens.
HBO’s first “Game of Thrones” prequel series “House of the Dragon” begins with a fascinating revelation about why the Targaryen family conquered Westeros. This detail is an interesting tone-setting moment for the prequel and how it will connect to the different story canons of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series and the “Game of Thrones” TV show cocreated by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
While it may just be a fun piece of historical detail that can inform fan theories, the prophecy outlined in “The Heirs of the Dragon” episode is sure to intrigue anyone who wonders how dramatically different the TV show’s finale was from author George R.R. Martin’s current book story plans.
One last warning: Spoilers ahead for season one, episode one of “House of the Dragon.”
‘House of the Dragon’ cocreator Ryan Condal says the prophecy Aegon the Conqueror had about the White Walkers was a detail that came from George R.R. Martin
In Martin’s novels and other histories like “Fire and Blood” (the main book upon which “House of the Dragon” is based), there is no mention of Aegon the Conqueror having a dream about the coming threat from the North.
But in the final minutes of the “House of the Dragon” premiere, King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine) tells his heir and daughter Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) that there’s been a secret passed down from every ruler in their family since Aegon’s time.
“Aegon foresaw the end of the world of men,” Viserys said. “‘Tis to begin with a terrible winter, gusting out of the distant North.”
He continued: “Aegon saw absolute darkness riding on those winds, and whatever dwells within will destroy the world of the living. When this great winter comes, Rhaenyra, all of Westeros must stand against it. And if the world of men is to survive, a Targaryen must be seated on the Iron Throne. A king or queen strong enough to unite the realm against the cold and the dark. Aegon called his dream ‘The Song of Ice and Fire.'”
While speaking with Insider, Popsugar, and Metacritic during a press junket, “House of the Dragon” cocreator Ryan Condal explained how this scene was based on new information Martin gave him during the early writing process. Martin said Aegon was a “dreamer” — a name for Targaryens who had prophetic dreams.
“That was the detail that George actually gave us early in the story break — the idea that Aegon the Conqueror was himself a dreamer and that’s what motivated the conquest,” Condal said. “Which he mentioned casually in conversation, as he often does with huge pieces of information like that.”
We’ll explain in a bit why this prophecy is such a big piece of information, but first let’s dive into how Condal’s perspective on the Targaryens shifted and how the prophecy was “spun” for the TV show.
“It really changed our thinking of the way we saw the Targaryen reign and what it was all about,” Condal said. “The fact that Aegon had this knowledge — or perceived that he had this knowledge, because it is just a dream, you don’t know whether it’s going to come true — but that he pursued the Conquest thinking that this was an imminent problem.”
He continued: “The dramatic irony of this, is that we know with the remove of 300 years, that it takes quite some time for this prophecy to come true.”
Prophecy is fickle in Martin’s world, as well as in Benioff and Weiss’ “Game of Thrones” adaptation. Visions are not a guaranteed glimpse into the future — they’re unpredictable pieces of magical insight that some people put more faith in than others. As explained in Martin’s “Fire and Blood” book, a young Targaryen had a dream about the Doom of Valyria that did come true. Her foresight saved the Targaryens from extinction and led them to Dragonstone/Westeros.
That’s why kings like Viserys believe strongly in their dreams about heirs or prophesied extinction.
“We took George’s idea and spun it dramatically for ‘House of the Dragon,'” Condal said. “This idea that at some point in Aegon’s life as he got older, he must have realized the White Walkers weren’t coming for dinner during his lifetime.”
“Then we decided that if he believed in this enough to conquer Westeros, he surely would have believed in it enough to pass the idea on,” Condal said. “So we had this become the legacy that the Targaryens have and they pass it from king to heir as a reminder that the Iron Throne is a privilege and it’s a duty and a responsibility.”
He continued: “You have to improve the kingdom and make it stronger and more united and not use it as a pursuit for selfish game. We’ll see how that hangs on as our story develops.”
The episode ended with Viserys’ formal declaration of Rhaenyra as his heir to the Iron Throne, requiring the lords of Westeros to come and swear fealty to her succession.
But as anyone who watched “Game of Thrones” knows, there was no Targaryen near the Iron Throne when Aegon’s prophecy actually comes true (more than 175 years later, according to the two shows’ timelines).
Since there wasn’t a Targaryen on the Iron Throne when the White Walkers were defeated in ‘Game of Thrones,’ what does that mean for Martin’s upcoming book story?
OK, now let’s ruminate a little bit on what this means for Martin’s overall story and our understanding of Benioff and Weiss’ story choices in the later seasons of “Game of Thrones.”
“House of the Dragon” tells us this Aegon prophecy was nicknamed the “Song of Ice and Fire,” which is a phrase found in a dream Daenerys Targaryen had about her brother Rhaegar (who is Jon Snow’s father). This prophecy has overlapping details with other legends in Westeros and Essos, including “Azor Ahai” and ‘The Last Hero” and “The Prince (or Princess) that Was Promised.”
There was plenty of evidence in both the books and the show that this foreseen hero would be either Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen, both of whom wound up fighting against the White Walkers in order for humanity to survive in Westeros.
But in Benioff and Weiss’ version of the story, Arya Stark was the one who dealt the final blow to the White Walkers by killing the Night King (a character who does not exist in Martin’s books so far). All this happened while Cersei Lannister was seated on the Iron Throne, refusing to send help for the battle.
We know that Martin had no direct input on the final four seasons of “Game of Thrones.” He stopped writing scripts for the show, citing a need to focus on writing the sixth novel in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, “The Winds of Winter.” Martin is still working on this book, which means we have no confirmation yet if any of the events in the final season of “Game of Thrones” will match with his canonical story.
“Prophecies are, you know, a double edge sword,” Martin said in an interview with Adrias News in 2012. “You have to handle them very carefully; I mean, they can add depth and interest to a book, but you don’t want to be too literal or too easy.”
So we know the show didn’t fulfill this prophecy perfectly. But was it unfulfilled in “Game of Thrones” because Martin just hadn’t told Benioff and Weiss that detail yet, or because the the showrunners decided to make a big departure from Martin’s plan when it comes to the various players who claim the Iron Throne?
Or will the prophecy be similarly subverted in the book version of the story, and fans just have to wait to see if and when “The Winds of the Winter” will be published?
Either way, fans have lots to chew on as we wait for the next episode of “House of the Dragon” and see how those hangups affect House Targaryen in this new adaptation.