House Targaryen’s History May Hold the Best Kept ‘GoT’ Secret
A wise man (me) once said in order to predict what will happen in the final season of Game of Thrones, we must take a step back and try to better understand the past. Well, there’s no family in Westeros with a longer and more telling story than House Targaryen. We’ve scratched the surface of the dragon-wielding family’s lore but there’s so much more to unpack. Let’s explore why the Targaryens (other than Daenerys and Jon) matter.
A Brief History of the Targaryens
Thousands of years prior to the show’s time frame, the Targaryens were a family that lived in Old Valyria. In this ancient city, dragons were basically cars—everyone had them and everyone who was Valyrian had “dragon blood” in their veins, so to speak.
But their dragon prowess isn’t all that makes Targaryens special. Like Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), they have the ability to see the future in their dreams. While Jojen’s ability makes him a “greenseer” and Bran is the Three Eyed Raven, the Targaryens’ prophetic dreams are called “Dragon Dreams.”
It all started when the daughter of Lord Aenar Targaryen, had a “Dragon Dream” that Valyria was going to be destroyed. Her dad trusted her and decided to move his entire family to Dragonstone, the castle that Dany (Emilia Clarke) landed at in season seven. Of course, Lord Aenar’s daughter was proven correct when Valyria was destroyed a short while later and everyone there died. Because of the prophetic dreams of Lord Aenar’s daughter, the Targaryens became the only family from Valyria to survive what is now called “The Doom of Valyria.”
Fast-forward a few hundred years and Aegon “The Conqueror” Targaryen decided he wasn’t content just being the Lord of Dragonstone—he wanted to rule all of Westeros. So, he and his sisters flew their dragons over and united all seven of the separate kingdoms under the new Targaryen monarchy. Thus the Iron Throne was created. The Targaryens passed the Iron Throne down from generation to generation for the next 300-ish years, until Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy), Ned Stark (Sean Bean) and Jon Arryn (John Standing) led a group of rebels against them and overthrew their dynasty.
Which brings us to…
‘The Prince That Was Promised’
Last season we heard Melisandre (Carice van Houten) tell Daenerys Targaryen about a certain prophecy of a “Prince (or Princess) That Was Promised.” This is an ancient prophecy that has been floating around for a long time, the basic idea of it being that there will be a hero who will “deliver the world from the darkness.” This hero will “have a song…of ice and fire.”
As GoT legend has it, about 70 years before the start of the show, a witch traveled to King’s Landing to see the king. This witch claimed she could see the future in her dreams, just like the “Dragon Dreamer” who saved House Targaryen nearly a thousand years earlier. She told the king that the “Prince That Was Promised” would be born from his daughter, Rhaella, and his son, Aerys (aka The Mad King). The king then married his two children to one another in the hope of fulfilling the prophecy.
Two Targaryens, One Prophecy Obsession
Prince Rhaegar Targaryen became the Mad King’s oldest son, and thus stood to inherit the Iron Throne when he died. As a young child, Rhaegar was shy and spent all his time in the libraries reading. In the third GoT book, titled A Storm of Swords, Barristan Selmy tells Daenerys that Rhaegar eventually read a scroll that “changed him” and made him believe he should become a warrior. But he’s not the only Targaryen with a penchant for reading.
Maester Aemon, the Mad King’s great uncle and Rhaegar’s great-great uncle, was alive when the aforementioned witch came to court to tell the king about the “Prince That Was Promised” prophecy and he developed a deep fascination with it. Since his father was the king’s fourth son and he was the third son in his own family, he’d never succeed the Iron Throne. So his grandpa, the king, sent him to the Citadel to become a Maester (aka the most avid readers of them all).
So why is this important? Because Daeron Targaryen was a known “Dragon Dreamer.” Aemon had a fascination with the “Prince that Was Promised” prophecy, and maybe he saw his older brother’s dreams as a way to hopefully uncover clues about the future of the world and its savior.
Now here’s where it all comes full circle
I think that Rhaegar Targaryen found Maester Aemon’s notes–Aemon’s transcriptions of his older brother’s dreams—in those ancient scrolls. We know from the books that Rhaegar reached out to his great-great Uncle Aemon, who at this point had become Maester of the Night’s Watch. My guess is he did this in order to learn more about the prophecy.
From there, Aemon and Rhaegar began corresponding frequently and formed a deep kinship. Aemon, like Rhaegar, believed Rhaegar was the “Prince That Was Promised.” But I think that both Aemon and Rhaegar misinterpreted the “Dragon Dreams” of Daeron, thinking that the “darkness” the hero would save them from was Robert’s Rebellion. Lo and behold, neither were correct.
On his deathbed in the books, Samwell Tarly recalls this of Maester Aemon’s last words:
“Rhaegar, I thought… What fools we were, who thought ourselves so wise! The error crept in from the translation… He spoke of dreams and never named the dreamer... He said the sphinx was the riddle, not the riddler, whatever that meant. He asked [Sam] to read for him from a book by Septon Barth, whose writings had been burned during the reign of Baelor the Blessed. Once he woke up weeping. ‘The dragon must have three heads,’ he wailed…”
As you can see, Aemon rants about “dreams” but never named the “dreamer.” This dreamer has to be his older brother Daeron and he must have mucked up the “translation” of his dreams. He also says, “the sphinx is the riddle” which I think means he hadn’t realized until then that the “Prince That Was Promised” was going to have to be half Targaryen and half another house (as opposed to being a full-breed Targaryen like Rhaegar), just like a sphinx is half lion, half man.
He also mentions a book by Septon Barth (a man who wrote extensively about dragons) that Sam assumes doesn’t exist anymore. This is probably a book about the prophecy that Aemon read while at the Citadel, one that Sam could seek out when he gets there. And then finally he says “the dragon must have three heads.” This is a phrase that Rhaegar also says repeatedly throughout the books, and is in many ways the reason we assume he sought out Lyanna Stark to have a third child. The only two people known to have said this are Rhaegar and Maester Aemon, which leads me to think that this was something Aemon heard in one of his brother Daeron’s dreams.
It’s worth noting that if the three heads of the dragon prove to be Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, and Tyrion Lannister (who as I’ve mentioned previously, could very well be a Targaryen) , all three of them were the third-born child, all three of them killed their mothers during childbirth, and all three of them played a role in the death of people they loved (Ygritte, Khal Drogo, Shae).
A Major Mistake
It seems very apparent from this scene on Maester Aemon’s deathbed that he regrets having steered Rhaegar wrong over the years, having led Rhaegar to believe that the prophecy and the dreams he interpreted of his older brother Daeron were about him. But why does Aemon feel so guilty? Because his misinterpretation of those dreams is what caused Rhaegar’s death.
Rhaegar Targaryen died on the field of battle at the Trident. People never really understood why Rhaegar rode so fearlessly into combat at the Trident. From a military strategy perspective it didn’t really make any sense, but Rhaegar was proceeding into battle with no fear whatsoever, like a man who thought it impossible for himself to die.I think he read something Aemon had written that predicted that the “Prince That Was Promised” would lead his army into battle at the Trident and save the world from the darkness.
Thinking this to be that battle at the Trident, and thinking himself to be the “Prince That Was Promised,” Rhaegar thought that the future had already been written. He thought that the prophecy would protect him. He was wrong. Robert Baratheon ended up murdering Rhaegar that day at the Trident. And it was in that moment that Maester Aemon realized he had led his beloved great-great-nephew to his grave.
So who’s the real “Prince That Was Promised?” We have a theory.