Here’s What Changes ‘House of the Dragon’ Made to George R. R. Martin’s Book Already

·6 min read
Photo credit: Ollie Upton / HBO - HBO
Photo credit: Ollie Upton / HBO - HBO

How likely is it that book readers are going to spoil House of the Dragon, the prequel to Game of Thrones that's pulling in ridiculous numbers on HBO? Given that the book it's based on is actually finished, likely! But maybe you don't care. Maybe you're the type of person who reads the Wikipedia page before going to see horror movies, flips to the end of the book to see how it ends, and knew about the Red Wedding before the first season of Game of Thrones because you looked it up or begged someone who had read the books to tell you what happens to all those crazy Starks. Here's how House of the Dragon compares to the book it's based on. Things are a little different this time.

As you see in the familiar-ish opening credits of the show, House of the Dragon is based on a book called Fire & Blood. Loads of folks have read George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series but fewer, I would imagine, got into Fire & Blood—the fictional history book published by Martin in 2017 that covers decades of Targaryen rule.

If you wanted to borrow the book and get spoiled on what's going to happen on House of the Dragon that's pretty easy, because the years that we see portrayed on the show are only a few chapters in Fire & Blood. The events of the series premiere are summarized in a paragraph, basically.

Be warned: because reading Fire & Blood is basically like doing AP Westeros homework it can get pretty boring. There are some fun passages but it's not a super fun read overall. So, just to make it easy, here are some of the key differences between the book and show so far.

The ages in House of the Dragon are a lil' bit different.

As was the case with Game of Thrones, the characters on the show are not the same age as they are in the book. For example, in the book Alicent is 18 when she marries the 29-year-old King Viserys, and his daughter Princess Rhaenyra is about eight or nine. In the show, Rhaenyra and Alicent are both about 15 and Viserys, played by the 48 year old actor Paddy Considine, is older as well.

So are some of the relationships.

One of the most revealing differences, but not necessarily changes, between the book and the show is that Alicent Hightower and her future stepdaughter were friends in court. The book only talks about how they became rivals later in life. As you may have read on a bumper sticker, well-behaved women rarely make history, so like... of course the book wouldn't include the part about them being besties.

A big reveal happened in episode 1.

At the end of the premiere, just before Viserys names Rhaenyra as his official heir to the Iron Throne, the King tells his daughter a secret that has been passed on from one Targaryen to another for centuries. He says that Aegon the Conquerer, the more of less founder of Westeros, had a dream that a terrible winter would come and that the only way to defeat it was with a Westeros united under a Targaryen on the throne. Viserys then says that Aegon called his dream "a song of ice and fire." Did you point at the screen like that Leo meme when he said that? A Song Of Ice and Fire is the title of Martin's series! Now we know, officially, what it means! That's not in any of the books, but it did come from Martin himself, according to an interview with the showrunners, per Insider.

One character likely won't show up

In the book, there is a dwarf called Mushroom (which feels offensive, especially given that this book was published in 2017) who served as a fool during the reign of King Viserys I Targaryen and a few subsequent Targaryen regents. According to the book, the nobles at court thought that Mushroom seemed less intelligent than he actually was, which made it easy for him to be unsuspecting and learn everyone's secrets. After Tyrion Lannister and Peter Dinklage's performance changed how people with dwarfism are viewed on screen, particularly in fantasy, it would feel like a step backwards to introduce a new dwarf character who's the butt of jokes. It's 2022!

But while we likely won't see him on the show, Mushroom's POV is important to the book, because...

The book has an unreliable narrator.

The book is by George R. R. Martin IRL, obviously, but the title page adds a fun narrative convention by saying that Martin is simply transcribing a text "by" Archmaester Gyldayn of the Citadel of Oldtown. You may remember the Citadel from Game of Thrones; it's where Samwell Tarly goes to study when he decides to become a maester. In the book, Gyldayn as the narrator makes a few editorial comments. He specifies that some things are just rumors. Mushroom is one of his sources. So that means that not everything in Fire & Blood is necessarily "true," so to speak. Gyldayn and Mushroom and the other fictional historians who contributed accounts to the book could have gotten the facts wrong. Like anyone in the A Song of Ice and Fire universe, these are human beings with opinions and loyalties that are anything but objective.

Because the book has an unreliable narrator, small changes from the text to the show are way easier to justify and not necessarily going "against" canon. For example, in episode 2, we learn that Daemon's lover Mysaria (the woman whose accent was... a choice) can't get pregnant because she "ensured long ago that [she] would never be threatened with childbirth," even though Daemon had already announced to a lot of people that she was carrying his child. In Fire & Blood, Gyldayn writes that Mysaria actually was pregnant and had a miscarriage at sea when Daemon was forced to send her away. Maybe that will happen later—or maybe that's not a change, and Daemon just let people believe a lie so successfully that it ended up in the history book.

In that way, even though we ultimately know how the story of House of the Dragon ends, the show has a lot more freedom to play around with the narrative. They can include other families and other perspectives to the names and dates that are more set in stone, and really flesh out this world.

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