Although there were some substantial alterations from what readers may be familiar with from George R. R. Martin’s Fire & Blood, the first episode of “House of the Dragon” debuted to widespread critical praise. As something of a prologue to Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, Fire & Blood was published in 2018. From Aegon the Conqueror’s conquest and the creation of the Seven Kingdoms through the Dance of Dragons and the start of Targaryen rule’s demise, the book narrates the history of the Targaryen family in Westeros.
Only a few months after Fire & Blood’s publication, in 2018, George R. R. Martin hinted at the possibility of a Game of Thrones spinoff based on the book. Martin served as co-creator and executive producer of “House of the Dragon,” which was ordered straight to series on HBO a year after it was first announced by showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik. The second half of Fire & Blood, which starts with the coronation of Jaehaerys Targaryen’s heir, served as the inspiration for “House of the Dragon.” As with any adaptation, there were going to be some differences between the book and the play.
These expectations are met in “House of the Dragon,” which has a number of alterations from George R. R. Martin’s original novel. While the fundamental components of the plot have not changed, several adjustments have been made to better match the structure of a TV show. Additionally, although some characters—such as Matt Smith’s Daemon Targaryen or Paddy Considine’s King Viserys—are comparable to their book counterparts, some alterations were made to others in order to change the dynamics of the characters. Here are some of the greatest modifications from Fire & Blood that “House of the Dragon” episode 1 made.
The Great Council and Rhaenys Targaryen
The Great Council, a meeting of over a thousand lords from all around the realm to discuss Jaehaerys Targaryen’s heir following the unexpected deaths of his two sons, opens “House of the Dragon.” The discussions in the book lasted thirteen days, and a total of fourteen claims to the throne were heard. Nine first claims were swiftly rejected because of their weaker legitimacy as throne claims. Archmaester Vaegon, Princess Rhaenys (the king’s granddaughter), and her daughter Laena were likewise disregarded when there were just five claims left. This left Prince Viserys, Jaehaerys’ grandson and Rhaenys’ cousin, and Laenor Velaryon as the two leading contenders. Prince Viserys was finally chosen as the heir to the Iron Throne.
However, when it came to Princess Rhaenys, things went a little bit differently in “House of the Dragon.” The television program mentions the fourteen candidates for the Iron Throne, but it also specifies that Viserys and Rhaenys—rather than Rhaenys’ son Laenor—were the only two still in the running. Laenor isn’t even mentioned or shown in the first scene since “House of the Dragon” chose to portray Rhaenys as the candidate who lost out on the Iron Throne rather than her cousin. This is perhaps because the focus of the series is on how women aren’t viewed as Westeros’ rulers, but rather as kings’ instruments for producing sons and carrying on their lineage. Rhaenys will probably play a significant role in what happens next given that “House of the Dragon” episode 1 concluded with Princess Rhaenyra being named Viserys’ heir and her banishment during the Great Council.
Jaehaerys’ presence in “House of the Dragon” is another minor modification made to the Great Council. In the events described in the novel, Jaehaerys remained in Kings Landing throughout the Council. Asserting that Jaehaerys is aware of the Council’s significance in preventing a Targaryen civil war and that the only challenge to Targaryen rule comes from inside the titular house of the dragon itself, “House of the Dragon,” nevertheless, heavily emphasizes Jaehaerys.
The ages of Rhaenyra and Alicent Hightower are comparable.
Alicent Hightower, who is portrayed by Emily Carey in “House of the Dragon” episode 1, is the daughter of Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King. She is also revealed to be very close to Milly Alcock’s character Rhaenyra Targaryen; the two are practically inseparable in the first episode. Given the proximity of Alicent’s and Rhaenyra’s fathers and the age difference between the two young women, this makes logical.
However, this is different from Fire & Blood, particularly in regards to Alicent. Rhaenyra is not born until 97AC, nine years after Alicent, according to the book. Given that Alicent and Rhaenyra in “House of the Dragon” are quite similar in age, the adjustment was probably intended to make their friendship more understandable. Alicent and Rhaenyra will be recast later in “House of the Dragon,” as shown by the show’s trailers, and their relationship will deteriorate during the Dance of Dragons. The two will be closer in age, which will further deepen their early bond and make the consequences of their relationship more significant when Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke take over the roles.
An Introduction by Criston Cole
Fire & Blood features Criston Cole, a House Cole-born knight who later served as Viserys’s Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Criston Cole is played by Paddy Considine. Cole is first introduced in the book at a tournament honoring King Viserys’ accession to the Iron Throne. By defeating Daemon Targaryen in the tournament, he attracts the attention of the royal court. Cole is still presented at a tournament in “House of the Dragon,” although this time the festivities are for the birth of Viserys’ heir rather than for his accession to the Iron Throne. Even though it occurs later in his life than it does in Fire & Blood, Criston nonetheless unhorses Daemon and then defeats him in battle in “House of the Dragon.” This alteration may have been done to bring Cole’s age closer to that of Alicent and Rhaenyra since the novel suggests that Cole and the latter may have feelings for one another.
The spotlight on Aemma Arryn
The first episode of “House of the Dragon” introduces Aemma Arryn as King Viserys’ wife and the expectant mother of the man’s legal successor. While Arryn’s presence in the narrative—she passes away while giving birth to her son—remains the same in both formats, “House of the Dragon” gives her a bit more spotlight outside of Aemma’s birth scene than Fire & Blood did. The former only briefly discusses Aemma’s pregnancy and death, whereas “House of the Dragon” shows some of her final moments. These scenes do a lot to not only establish the themes of the program for the future, but also humanize her character and increase the effect of her passing.
Rhaenyra tells her mother early in “House of the Dragon” episode 1 that she aspires to be a knight, and Aemma cautions Rhaenyra about the status of women in Westerosi politics. She tells her daughter that a woman’s only role is that of a “royal womb,” which heightens the gravity of the episode’s conclusion and Rhaenyra’s coronation in “House of the Dragon.” She also gains a lot more sympathy when it is revealed that several of her children have died as a result of having five births in twice as many years. It is a tragic scenario that highlights Aemma’s commitment, honor, and caring for her spouse by showing how hard she works to carry her husband’s heir.
Ice and Fire in Aegon the Conqueror’s Dream
The part that was entirely new for the program and wasn’t in the book at all is arguably the biggest alteration “House of the Dragon” episode 1 made to its inspiration. In “House of the Dragon,” Viserys reveals that Aegon the Conqueror’s early conquest of Westeros was inspired by a dream. Aegon saw the Long Night, in which the army of the dead will travel and obliterate the human race, coming from the North of Westeros in his dream, which he named A Song of Ice and Fire (the title of Martin’s Game of Thrones books). Aegon was of the opinion that a Targaryen would have to rule Westeros from the Iron Throne in order to defeat the menace and conquer the Seven Kingdoms.
This has a clear connection to the Game of Thrones prequel series “House of the Dragon” and is brand-new information because Martin hasn’t previously mentioned it in any of his books. Since Martin is a co-creator of the show and included this significant revelation about the overarching story of Westeros and the Seven Kingdoms in episode 1 of “House of the Dragon,” this is the biggest change made thus far and practically proves that this dream will also become canon with Martin’s books.
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