Even before the series has begun, House of the Dragon is making several changes from the book. The prequel series begins approximately 200 years before Game of Thrones’ timeline, which will depict the events surrounding the Dance of the Dragons, House Targaryen’s monumental civil war. Following the death of King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine), the realm will be split between the “greens” and “blacks,” with the former supporting the claim of Viserys’ eldest son Aegon II Targaryen and the latter upholding the ascension of Viserys’ eldest child and declared heir Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy).
House of the Dragon is based on author George R.R. Martin’s book Fire & Blood, a historical account of House Targaryen’s family line and reign in Westeros. As a largely informational book compared to a narrative drive of Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon has a major advantage in terms of how it adapts Fire & Blood’s story. Many of Fire & Blood’s most dramatic plot points are subject to rumor and interpretation, with the book giving no clear confirmation of whether the sources can be trusted as completely accurate. On the other hand, Game of Thrones’ books were meant to be interpreted as written, as the narrative details and twists have great importance on the characters’ storylines. This is where HBO’s Game of Thrones created problems with book readers, as the series surpassed Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire around season 4.
The changes made by House of the Dragon won’t be quite as dramatic as Game of Thrones considering the less concrete nature of Fire & Blood’s history, but which side of the rumors the series chooses to make fact will be of great importance. There are apt to be many more book changes once House of the Dragon premieres, but the trailers and announcements by HBO already signal numerous adjustments. From physical appearances to prolonged survivals, House of the Dragon’s early book changes give the series a highly compelling start.
Rhaenys Targaryen Has More Targaryen Features Than Baratheon
One of the most important characters in House of the Dragon will be Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best), also known as the Queen Who Never Was. As the daughter of King Jaehaerys I’s older son Aemon, she should have been the first in the line of succession, but was passed over as heir on account of her sex. Instead, the Great Council of 101 AC put the vote between her son, Laenor Velaryon, and King Jaeharys’ eldest grandson, Viserys Targaryen, with the latter eventually being named successor. Rhaenys Targaryen being passed over as heir will be incredibly important for her cousin Rhaenyra Targaryen’s claim to the Iron Throne, who she will ardently support in the Dance of the Dragons.
However, House of the Dragon makes a few notable changes to Rhaenys’ character from the book, which may have important connections to her being passed over as heir. In Fire & Blood, Rhaenys Targaryen is described as having the black hair of the historic House Baratheon, which she inherited from her mother Jocelyn Baratheon. In House of the Dragon, Rhaenys has the silver hair of the Targaryens, which may have been playing into the support for why she should have been chosen as heir, as the council likely would have been more apt to choose a successor with the signature Targaryen traits. Additionally, the promotional materials for House of the Dragon label her as “Rhaenys Velaryon,” though she was never referred to by this name in the book. This House of the Dragon change could become an important plot point in terms of the council seeing Rhaenys as more loyal to the Velaryons than Targaryens, where they would also perhaps like to see a ruler embracing the Targaryen family tree’s surname.
House Velaryon Isn’t Pale Like The Targaryens
House of the Dragon has also changed the physical appearance of House Velaryon compared to the book. In George R.R. Martin’s books, the Velaryons are described as having pale skin, silver hair, and purple eyes, sharing the Valyrian blood and physical traits of House Targaryen. In House of the Dragon, House Velaryon has dark skin, but still has the described silver hair. However, this isn’t a massive change, as the Velaryons are still apt to have Valyrian blood that will allow them to be skilled dragonriders.
On the other hand, this book change may actually confirm a major twist for Iron Throne heir Rhaenyra Targaryen and Laenor Velaryon, as their three sons were rumored to have been fathered by her sworn shield, Harwin Strong. Laenor was rumored to have been gay in Fire & Blood, so paired with the notion that none of their sons looked like Laenor or Rhaenyra, the realm had come to accept that Harwin was their true father. Since Harry Collett, who plays their son Jacaerys Targaryen, is pale with black hair, this casting seems to confirm that the children are, in fact, Strongs rather than Velaryons.
King Viserys Is More “Tragic”
One optimistic book change for House of the Dragon was teased by Goerge R.R. Martin, who commented that the HBO series’ version of King Viserys I Targaryen is an improvement of his own. Martin revealed that House of the Dragon’s Viserys has a “tragic majesty” than his own character ever achieved, which is apt to increase audience investment in the character before his death. Viserys’ death is what kicks off the Dance of the Dragons, so it makes sense to give the character more importance and depth beforehand in the series, which wasn’t necessarily the case in the book.
Ser Harrold Westerling’s Death Is Changed
Following House of the Dragon’s trailers, one of the first noted inconsistencies with the book was Ser Harrold Westerling’s lifespan. In the book, Harrold, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard died in 112 AC of old age, which was still very early in the reign of King Viserys Targaryen. The character didn’t have a very big role in Fire & Blood, but this seems to be changing in House of the Dragon. Portrayed by The Hobbit’s Graham McTavish, the books’ Harrold Westerling would have died two years before the marriage between young Rhaenyra Targaryen and Laenor Velaryon, but the trailer shows him in events from House of the Dragon that take place after the time jump and adult actor changes. As such, it seems Harrold survives until at least around 120 AC when Laenor dies, which gives the character an extended role in the series. After Harrold’s death, he’ll be succeeded as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard by Criston Cole.
Corlys & Vaemond Velaryon’s Relationship Is Changed
Another change that House of the Dragon has made from the book is the familial relationship between Corlys (Steve Toussaint) and Vaemond Velaryon. In the book, Vaemond was Corlys’ nephew, and thus a bit further removed from the fight for succession to Driftmark, whereas he’s Corlys’ younger brother in House of the Dragon. After Laenor and Laena die in House of the Dragon, the heirs to Driftmark will be Laenor’s three sons with Rhaenyra (who are all but confirmed to be fathered by Harwin Strong) and Laena’s two daughters with Deamon Targaryen. As Corlys’ brother, Vaemond will arguably become more important as he vies to become the successor to Driftmark due to his being the “legitimate” male heir.
Alicent Hightower Uses A Valyrian Steel Dagger
One of the most shocking moments in House of the Dragon’s trailer reveals the adult Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) lunging at her stepdaughter Rhaenyra Targaryen with an important Valyrian steel dagger. Not only is this a valuable Valryian weapon, but it also appears to be the same catspaw dagger used in the assassination attempt on Bran Stark in Game of Thrones. Fire & Blood never described a moment in which Alicent physically attacked Rhaenyra, not to mention with a Valyrian steel dagger of such importance. The dagger has had a prominent focus in House of the Dragon’s trailers, suggesting the weapon will be seen in more than just the scene between Alicent and Rhaenyra. It’s been suggested that Alicent is angrily attacking Rhaenyra after her son Aemond loses an eye in a fight with Rhaenyra’s son Lucerys, as Alicent had unsuccessfully demanded that Lucerys lose an eye in return.
The Iron Throne Is Still Much Smaller In HOTD
While Game of Thrones made plenty of changes from George R.R. Martin’s books, one of the series’ biggest criticisms was its depiction of the Iron Throne. In the books, the Iron Throne was a massive structure that stood 40 feet high with chaotic placements of swords that were known to cut many who dared to sit on it. Game of Thrones’ Iron Throne was quite different, as a much smaller structure that isn’t half as menacing. House of the Dragon is a much more faithful depiction of the books’ Iron Throne than Game of Thrones, but it still doesn’t stack up to the height and terror of the seat. Rather, House of the Dragon’s Iron Throne adds more melted swords on the stairs leading up to the seat, suggesting future kings or leaders had removed them before Game of Thrones’ timeline.
A Tourney Is Held At House Tarly’s Horn Hill
House of the Dragon’s trailer depicts the characters at a large tourney held at Horn Hill, the seat of House Tarly (the family of Game of Thrones’ Samwell Tarly). However, the Targaryens never attended any such event in Fire & Blood, suggesting this tourney is either a new creation for House of the Dragon or the series is changing where the books’ tourneys were held. The Tourney of 111 AC celebrating the fifth wedding anniversary of King Viserys and Alicent Hightower took place at King’s Landing, while the Tourney of 104 AC celebrating Viserys’ ascension was held at Maidenpool, so Horn Hill could be replacing Maidenpool in the latter.