Warning: Spoilers ahead for "House of the Dragon" through season one, episode seven.
HBO's new adaptation of "Fire and Blood" gives fans a birds' eye view of major deaths in Targaryen history.
Characters like Laenor and Lady Rhea had their mysterious deaths explained in a new ways on the show.
For those who don't know, "Fire and Blood" is a historical fiction book — a summary of the reign of House Targaryen without much detail or characterizations of people.
For many events, multiple accounts of what happened are offered by the fictional historians. This means the TV writers hired for HBO's adaptation had a lot more leeway with the story. Any accounts may have been uninformed or biased, but now "House of the Dragon" is able to create a consistent canon of events.
So let's take a closer look at some of the major deaths in "House of the Dragon" so far, and how they compare to the details found in "Fire and Blood."
Queen Aemma's final moments of life were made more brutal by Viserys' choice to have her get a C-section without telling her.
In the show: Director Miguel Sapochnik says the scene of Aemma's death was designed to show how King Viserys "effectively murdered" his wife. When she goes into labor, her baby is facing the wrong direction and the maesters can't get it to turn. This means Aemma will certainly die, but there's a small chance they can save the baby by cutting it out of her. The maester offers the choice to Viserys, who picks the surgery without consulting Aemma or telling her what's about to happen. Instead, she's dragged down on the bed and restrained while the maester cuts her open. She bleeds to death quickly as the baby is "born."
In the book: "Fire and Blood" provides no details or context to Aemma's death, and doesn't mention Viserys being a part of the labor and delivery process at all:
"Queen Aemma was brought to bed in Maegor's Holdfast and died whilst giving birth to the son that Viserys Targaryen had desired for so long. The boy (named Baelon, after the king's father) survived her only by a day, leaving king and court bereft."
Rhea Royce's death in the book was regarded as a "hunting accident" instead of cold-blooded murder.
In the show: Daemon sneaks up on Rhea during a hunting trip, and scares her horse so she's thrown from it. Paralyzed from the neck down and unable to fight back, Rhea threw insults at Daemon until he picked up a rock and used it to bash her skull in.
In the book: In "Fire and Blood," Martin's fictional historical account of the incident says Rhea's death was "a tragic mishap" and makes no mention of Daemon's possible involvement:
"The 'bronze bitch' of Runestone, Lady Rhea Royce, fell from her horse whilst hawking and cracked her skull upon a stone. She lingered for nine days before finally feeling well enough to leave her bed…only to collapse and die within an hour of rising."
Joffrey was killed by Criston Cole in both the show and the book, but in "Fire and Blood" the death happens under the guise of a tourney instead of brutal murder.
In the show: Joffrey Lonmouth, Laenor's friend and lover, outs himself to Ser Criston Cole as the future king consort's boyfriend. Cole, infuriated by the exposure of his own secret tryst with Rhaenyra, lashes out and beats Joffrey to death in the middle of the wedding welcome feast.
In the book: "Fire and Blood" says Joffrey was killed during a tourney where Criston had been "fighting in a black fury" against all his opponents. Joffrey's relationship to Laenor isn't mentioned as a possible motivation behind the death:
"Cole's favorite weapon was the morningstar, and the blows he rained down on Ser Laenor's champion cracked his helm and left him senseless in the mud. Borne bloody from the field, Ser Joffrey died without recovering consciousness six days later."
Harwin and Lyonel Strong die in a fire at Harrenhal in both the show and the book, but the reason behind the fire was only revealed in "House of the Dragon."
In the show: Larys Strong, a sneaky man who wants leverage on Queen Alicent, kills his older brother Harwin and father Lyonel in one of the show's most egregious acts of kinslaying yet. Larys finds some miscreants in the dark prison cells of King's Landing, and sends them to Harrenhal so they can start the fire and take out the Strong family leaders in one swoop.
In the book:
"Shortly after their arrival, a fire broke out in the tower where they were sleeping, and both father and son were killed, along with three of their retainers and a dozen servants. The cause of the fire was never determined. Some put it down to simple mischance, whilst others muttered that Black Harren's seat was cursed and brought only doom to any man who held it.
Many suspected the blaze was set intentionally. Mushroom suggests that the Sea Snake was behind it, as an act of vengeance against the man who had cuckolded his son. Septon Eustace, more plausibly, suspects Prince Daemon, removing a rival for Princess Rhaenyra's affections. Others have put forth the notion that Larys Clubfoot might have been responsible; with his father and elder brother dead, Larys Strong became the Lord of Harrenhal.
The most disturbing possibility was advanced by none other than Grand Maester Mellos, who muses that the king himself might have given the command. If Viserys had come to accept that the rumors about the parentage of Rhaenyra's children were true, he might well have wished to remove the man who had dishonored his daughter, lest he somehow reveal the bastardy of her sons. Were that so, Lyonel Strong's death was an unfortunate accident, for his lordship's decision to see his son back to Harrenhal had been unforeseen."
Like Aemma, the logistics around Laena Velaryon's death aren't detailed in the books beyond "childbirth." But the show had her take her death into her own hands with her dragon, Vhagar.
In the show: Just like Aemma, Laena finds herself in labor and unable to deliver her baby — putting her on a path towards certain death with a medieval C-section as a tiny shot at helping the baby survive. But Laena decides to die a dragonriders' death, and takes herself outside to her dragon Vhagar. Laena orders the she-dragon to burn her to death.
In the book: Laena succeeds in giving birth, but the baby died shortly afterwards and then she came down with something called "childbed fever":
"During her final hour, it is said, Lady Laena rose from her bed, pushed away the septas praying over her, and made her way from her room, intent on reaching Vhagar that she might fly one last time before she died. Her strength failed her on the tower steps, however, and it was there she collapsed and died."
In the books, Qarl is said to have murdered Laenor for unclear motivations. The show changed it so that Laenor actually secretly faked his own death with Rhaenyra's blessing.
In the show: Daemon kills a castle servant, and then Laenor and Qarl stage a sword fight in the main hall at High Tide castle. After another servant runs to get help, Daemon presumably helped Laenor dress the body of the dead servant in his own clothes and burn the face beyond recognition. Qarl and Laenor sneak away to Essos with Daemon's help, leaving the realm to gossip about the untimely attack.
In the book: Laenor's death happened out in public in the book, and rumors spread saying it was an act of passionate jealousy or maybe Daemon's murder plot, but no evidence was ever collected:
"Ser Laenor Velaryon, husband to the Princess Rhaenyra and the putative father of her children, was slain whilst attending a fair in Spicetown, stabbed to death by his friend and companion Ser Qarl Correy. The two men had been quarreling loudly before blades were drawn, merchants at the fair told Lord Velaryon when he came to collect his son's body. Correy had fled by then, wounding several men who tried to hinder him. Some claimed a ship had been waiting for him offshore. He was never seen again."
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