Warning: SPOILERS for House of the Dragon season episode 6 AND Fire & Blood ahead.House of the Dragon episode six visits the cursed Harrenhal, a castle that also appeared in Game of Thrones. Harrenhal is the largest castle in the seven kingdoms and has been the home to many prominent houses. Due to many of those houses meeting their untimely demise, the castle is said to be cursed. The House of the Dragon episode 6 sees the castle claim the lives of Lyonel Strong and his heir, Ser Harwin Strong.
The legendary castle, Harrenhal, was constructed under the reign of King Harren of House Hoare to be the greatest fortress in the Seven Kingdoms. Unfortunately for Harren, he did not account for Targaryens and their dragons. Aegon the Conqueror, riding his dragon Balerion, burned Harren alive in his tower along with a good portion of the castle. The burning of Harrenhal would be the first of a series of unfortunate events to befall the castle and its inhabitants.
After Aegon the Conqueror seized control of the castle, each house it was bestowed upon met a terrible end. The castle Harrenhal was too big and expensive to upkeep, directly and indirectly leading to the fall of multiple powerful houses. By the events of House of the Dragon, the castle is the seat of House Strong, and the curse is already known to many. To perpetuate the curse, Larys Strong had his father and brother killed by hiring a group of criminals to set fire to the castle and used Harrenal’s cursed reputation to explain his actions.
Harrenhal’s curse in House of the Dragon is a combination of superstition and facts. Several houses have gone extinct that inhabited the large structure, but mainly due to the constant warring in the Seven Kingdoms. Many characters have used the castle’s reputation to justify heinous acts like Larys Strong did. After Aegon’s conquest, Harrenhal was given to House Qoherys, whose line ended after Gargon the Guest was taken from the castle and castrated. The extinction of House Qoherys saw Harrenhal transferred to House Harroway, who were systematically killed by king Maegor of House Targaryen. The end of the Harroway family began the talk of the curse.
Not all inhabitants of the large castle met grizzly deaths. The Black Bride Rhaena Targaryen spent her last years in the castle, and no misfortune fell upon her or House Targaryen. However, Maegor Towers, who also lived at Harrenhal at the time, died without heirs, ending his family line. While many of the lords of Harrenhal do end up dying, many do not die within the confines of the castle, which questions the validity of the curse.
In Game of Thrones, Harrenhal’s reputation is fully established, and many characters note the curse throughout the series. As in the past, it passes through many hands and sees a disturbing number of deaths, keeping the alleged curse alive. Briefly held by Janos Slynt, Harrenhal becomes the base of operations for Tywin Lannister. Many are held prisoner in the stronghold, most notably Arya Stark. After Tywin’s abandonment of the fortress, it falls into the hands of the Northern army and is overseen by Roose Bolton. Bolton and his underling Locke keep Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth prisoner for a while until the two are able to escape.
The castle is once again abandoned, though it is transferred to another house. Petyr Baelish, the last member of House Baelish, is granted Harrenhal by king Joffrey. Baelish, also known as Littlefinger, never actually inhabits the castle but becomes an unfortunate continuation of the curse. The Villainous Littlefinger is executed for his crimes in fanning the flames of the War of the Five Kings, thus seeing the downfall of another house that had held custody of the cursed castle Harrenhal.
By the end of Game of Thrones, Harrenhal is once again uninhabited. The deaths of many established houses give credence to the curse, but George R.R. Martin’s world is filled with death and destruction. Harrenhal symbolizes a larger point about how war and greed consume men. As for House of the Dragon, episode 6 won’t be the last time audiences see Harrenhal as the large fortress plays a role in the Dance of the Dragons.
New episodes of House of the Dragon release Sundays on HBO/HBO Max.