The Biggest Changes To The Book In House Of The Dragon Season 1
WARNING! This article contains SPOILERS for House of the Dragon episode 10 and George R. R. Martin’s Fire & BloodHouse of the Dragon season 1 featured several major changes from the source material, George R. R. Martin’s book Fire & Blood. Arguably the most daunting challenge the showrunners faced with House of the Dragon was successfully layering nearly 30 years’ worth of events from the book into one season of television. The show’s first season was filled with time jumps, new actors, and an array of changes from the book. Although not all of these changes were effective, given the nature of the book as more of a historical recounting of the realm’s events, certain embellishments were necessary and would never be universally praised. The book is not all-encompassing, nor definitively accurate considering the different sets of narrators. House of the Dragon season 1 capitalized on this opportunity to provide further nuance and depth to the book’s events, as it brought interesting twists to the Fire & Blood lore.
The element of unreliable narration from the book was not something that could persist in House of the Dragon, as the showrunners looked to put their own stamp on George R. R. Martin’s classic work. Given that House of the Dragon is a de facto prequel to Game of Thrones, it was logical to expect showrunners to incorporate additional connective elements between the two series. Showrunners Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal routinely consulted with George R. R. Martin during House of the Dragon’s production, with the author credited as an executive producer of the series. While it remains to be seen what other events from Martin’s Fire & Blood will be altered with the show’s future seasons, here are the biggest changes from the book in House of the Dragon season 1.
Debatably the most impactful change from the Fire & Blood book was Viserys’ revelation of Aegon’s dream. Viserys named Rhaenyra heir to the Iron Throne, and with that title came the knowledge of Aegon the Conqueror’s prophecy. The gist of the prophecy is that a Targaryen must be on the throne to unite the realm in combatting a dark enemy from the north. Viserys stated that, « This secret, it’s been passed from king to heir since Aegon’s time. » The secret was physically preserved through the Valyrian steel catspaw dagger, the same one that Arya would later use to kill the Knight King. While this was a clear allusion to Game of Thrones’ White Walkers, Aegon doesn’t know about them in the books.
Ultimately, Aegon’s motivations for the conquest of Westeros are different in the books. The dagger (and its associated link to Aegon’s dream) functions as both a conduit of relevance for the story of Game of Thrones, and a possible tie-in to George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels. While calling back to Game of Thrones season 8 is certainly a curious choice, Aegon’s dream could turn up again in Martin’s (allegedly) forthcoming novels The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring. Cleverly named « The Song of Ice & Fire, » the version of Aegon’s dream from House of the Dragon is similar to the « Prince that was Promised » prophecy from Martin’s novels. With co-showrunner Ryan Condal having claimed that the insertion of Aegon’s dream was Martin’s idea, expect the relevancy of Aegon’s House of the Dragon retcon to persist.
Laenor Velaryon endured a key change in House of the Dragon season 1 compared to his character in the book. In the show, Rhaenyra and Daemon plotted to fake Laenor’s death, allowing him to escape with Ser Qarl Correy to Essos. This was an overt change from the books, as Laenor is slain in Spicetown at the hands of Ser Qarl in Fire & Blood. Although Ser Qarl’s motive was ambiguous thanks to the differences in perspective, Laenor met his end by the sword of his former lover in the books, as opposed to ominously rowing away with him in House of the Dragon.
This alteration presents a compelling opportunity for further development of Laenor’s character in the show. Such a drastic change in House of the Dragon suggests that the showrunners aren’t finished telling Laenor’s story, meaning that a return could be plausible. Additionally, there’s the issue of Laenor’s dragon Seasmoke. In the book, Seasmoke is claimed by Addam of Hull, one of Laenor’s rumored illegitimate children.
Speaking of forgotten children and lost dragons, another significant change from the Fire & Blood book in House of the Dragon dealt with Daeron Targaryen. In the book, Daeron was the fourth child and youngest son of Viserys and Alicent. A dragon rider like his siblings, Daeron rode the vibrant blue she-dragon Tessarion.
While the character was omitted from House of the Dragon season 1, Daeron hasn’t been forgotten. In the opening title sequence, Alicent’s bloodline exhibited four connected streams, indicating her four children. Each of the four children was represented by sigils, with Daeron’s shown as a cup. This subtle inclusion indicated that Daeron’s origins remained consistent with his story in the book, as he squired and served as cupbearer for Lord Ormund Hightower in Oldtown. Martin also addressed concern over Daeron being missing in a blog post, as he stated that the showrunners simply didn’t have enough time to incorporate him into House of the Dragon season 1.
In House of the Dragon season 1, episode 8, Alicent and Rhaenyra reached a seemingly cordial peace agreement, with Alicent even expressing a desire to see Rhaenyra more often. The fact that Alicent forgave Rhaenyra in the show was a substantial difference from the portrayal of their relationship in the book, where Alicent was much more cunning and even wished for Rhaenyra’s death in childbirth. This change was consistent with other narrative choices from House of the Dragon season 1, as the showrunners attempted to paint a more muddied picture of morality between the greens and blacks.
The greens are repeatedly depicted as the more villainous faction compared to the blacks in the books. In the show, the playing field was leveled considerably through a sympathetic portrayal of Alicent’s younger character. In addition, Alicent’s misunderstanding of Viserys’ final words and the reveal that the men of the Green Council had conspired behind her back in their plans for Aegon’s coronation both contribute to further sympathy towards Alicent. Alicent was openly hostile towards Rhaenyra and the blacks in the books, whereas House of the Dragon season 1 has altered this relationship significantly.
In the episode that contained arguably the largest number of changes from Fire & Blood, the conclusion of House of the Dragon episode 9 saw Rhaenys make a grand entrance on her dragon Meleys. This halfhearted display of nonviolence did not occur in the book but aided in layering further depth to Rhaenys’ character in the show. Rhaenys’ Dragonpit confrontation with Meleys served as a message to Alicent and the greens as if to say « we are better than this. » Rhaenys could have easily slain the greens, but she instead elected to display a show of pacificism, as she also felt that the Targaryen civil war wasn’t her battle to finish.
However, there was a certain duality in Rhaenys’ decision, as her actions greatly contributed to the set-up of another pivotal event from the books that involved the smallfolk of King’s Landing, The Storming of the Dragonpit. Rhaenys’ public display of nonviolence against the nobility was futile, as she slew scores of innocent common folk in the process. Overall though, this was a welcome change, as it added a defiant edge to Rhaenys’ character that wasn’t as prevalent in the book.
The final impactful change from the books in House of the Dragon season 1 was Aemond Targaryen’s involvement in Lucerys Velaryon’s death. In Fire & Blood, Aemond and his dragon Vhagar willingly killed Lucerys and his dragon Arrax. In the show, Lucerys and Aemond seemingly both lost control of their dragons. Arrax provoked Vhagar with dragon fire after disobeying Lucerys, which lead to Vhagar attacking against the wishes of Aemond. While Aemond was undoubtedly asking for trouble by chasing after Lucerys, his lack of murderous intent was evident.
While this inclusion could relate back to Viserys’ line about the uncontrollable nature of dragons, it’s more likely the continuation of a recurring theme with most of the key changes. Ultimately, House of the Dragon’s unlikeable characters are relatively faithful to their depictions in the book. The situation at Storms’ End functioned as a microcosm of what makes the show and the book so compelling, that they both force viewers to pick sides between violent and corrupt politicians, to the point where the lines between « good » and « evil » are near-constantly blurred. Whether Aemond consciously chose to kill Lucerys is irrelevant, as he was already chasing him with a weapon of mass destruction. The fact that Lucerys’ death was portrayed as an accident contributed to the morally ambiguous nature of Aemond’s character, an element that can be further explored in House of the Dragon season 2.