House of the Dragon Anthology: What Other Targaryen Stories Could Be Explored
There’s now talk that House of the Dragon could become an anthology. So what other tales from the Targaryen Dynasty could continue the series?
The civil war that the maesters of Oldtown refer to as “the Dance of the Dragons” is the basis for HBO’s House of the Dragon. However, House of the Dragon is not only about this one civil war. Or at least it may not be forever. Such was the implication from House of the Dragon showrunner Ryan Condal’s latest interview with westeros.org. While speaking with the website about his Game of Thrones spinoff, which is now rushing toward its season 1 endgame, Condal was asked point blank if he would be interested in continuing this story beyond the tale of Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and her fraying relationship with the children of Alicent Hightower.
“I love Westeros, I love George’s world,” Condal said. “I would love to be involved with it, as long as he and HBO will have me. It’s hard to think about where things could go. The show is called House of the Dragon, it’s not called ‘The Dance of the Dragons.’ It’s about the Targaryen dynasty in all of its forms, it’s about the Targaryen house, really, and I think there’s many fascinating periods to be told there.”
In other words, it’s on the table for House of the Dragon to expand into an anthology series after its current narrative arc is finished (which the series’ talent previously suggested would last for three or four seasons).
So after the Dance is finished, and the true totality of this bloody Targaryen civil war is felt… where could House of the Dragon go next?
The Reigns of Daeron and Baelor Targaryen
Perhaps the most obvious way to continue House of the Dragon is by doing one of their fancy time jumps, but this time moving a couple of generations down the road. Without spoiling the events of House of the Dragon, Daeron is the grandson of at least one important character in the current series (look it up at your own risk, if you be unsullied). Dareon will also go on to be the first king to come of age in a realm where the might of Targaryen power is in question.
In other words, it would be a chance to continue the story chronologically while feeling the full consequences of House of the Dragon’s impending war. Condal seems to be entertaining the notion as well since he also said the following during his interview with westeros.org:
“I think now we’re telling the story of this large civil war that happens when both sides have dragons, and I think it’d be fascinating to also explore a time when Targaryens are still in power but don’t have any dragons. How do they then threaten their enemies, and how would the whole strategy of war change. There are a lot of places to go.”
Dareon’s tenure offers that because the dragons began to die out during his predecessor’s reign, and this young strapping boy king becomes the first Targaryen in several generations to decide to take the Dornish on straight ahead and finally subsume Done into the Seven Kingdoms. His own (eventual) successor, Baelor the Blessed, is also a fascinating and fanatical figure in the lore of George R.R. Martin. Baelor’s the man who built the Great Sept of Baelor (hence the name of the spot where Ned Stark lost his head), but he also had a messiah complex and marched across the desert on foot.
It’s all very intriguing for “A Song of Ice and Fire” nerds… but is it as visually thrilling as the dragon-on-dragon warfare we seem poised to watch in subsequent seasons of House of the Dragon? If not, there is always…
The Blackfyre Rebellions
Many fans of Martin’s books seem eager to watch House of the Dragon move on from the relatively recent aftermath of the Dance of the Dragons and pick up nearly a full century later with the Blackfyre rebellions. For here is not one, not two, but a whole series of little civil wars between Targaryens and Backfyres, the trueborn children and bastards of King Aegon IV Targaryen.
The full reasons for this multi-generational conflict are too intricate to write out here, but suffice to say that Aegon IV, aka Aegon the Unworthy, is the closest Westeros came to having its own Henry VIII. A corpulent, lecherous man who wallowed in a luxurious bed, Aegon IV then made a mess when he died on it by legitimizing all of his bastards. For context, he had only two legitimate children by his wife who survived infancy while he had at least 13 bastards who all now had claims on the line of succession—including one Daemon Blackfyre.
Named after the infamous Prince Daemon Targaryen of yore (you might have heard of him?), Daemon Blackfyre was a bastard who changed his name to Blackfyre after his father bequeathed him Aegon the Conqueror’s Valyrian steel sword, Blackfyre, instead of to the king’s own legitimate son, Dareon. So when Aegon IV finally kicked the bucket, the newly legitimized Daemon became quite popular among Aegon’s other newly royal bastard children, as well as lords who preferred the swaggering Daemon over his more scholarly half-brother Dareon.
What followed wasn’t a single war, however, but a relentless decades-long cacophony of them where Blackfyre supporters constantly found new champions and heirs to challenge Targaryen rule. There’s a lot to like here if you wanted a show of similar temperament to House of the Dragon in its current form.
However, we think the similarities are so great that even though these wars occur after all the dragons have died out, it will feel fairly repetitive after the War of the Five Kings on Game of Thrones and then the Dance of the Dragons. Additionally, unlike House of the Dragon in its current form, Martin has yet to flesh out the Blackfyre rebellions with as much detail as he has the Dance of the Dragons. Aye, Fire & Blood on which HotD is based ends about a decade after the events of Dance of the Dragons are concluded, with a promise that Martin will reveal more secrets about future generations in the Targaryen family with a second volume of Fire & Blood. As you might’ve guessed though, that second volume currently remains unpublished.
This problem also would extend to the age of Dareon I Targaryen and Baelor the Blessed, however a bigger obstacle for the Blackfyre rebellions becoming the basis for a sequel to House of the Dragon is that subsequent rebellions after Aegon IV’s death are also the backdrops for Martin’s Tales of Dunk and Egg novellas, which HBO is currently developing into a whole other series under the working title of Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.
Ergo, we strongly suspect the Blackfyre rebellions will be left to that series to explore from the point-of-view of a lowly hedge knight and his precocious squire.
Aegon the Conqueror’s Conquest
Due to the lack of detailed source material from the above eras of the Targaryen dynasty, mayhaps HBO and Condal would elect to go back to the beginning, at least of Targaryen rule in Westeros and the top of Fire & Blood’s epic tome: the Conquest.
The story of how Aegon earned the moniker of “the Conqueror” alongside his sister wives Visenya and Rhaenys is the stuff of legend, and a tale so oft repeated in fragments during both Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon that even the most casual fans should know the basics: Aegon rolls up on Westeros with three dragons and flattens all those who oppose them with fire and blood: there’s the Field of Fire and the death of King Mern Gardener; the evisceration of Harrenhal and the end of Harren Hoare’s line; and the submission of King Torhren Stark, aka the King Who Knelt.
It’s been told and retold in all Game of Thrones media… and it’s for that reason we don’t honestly think this need ever become a television series. There’s no excitement and no real dramatic tension or surprise in Aegon lighting Westeros up like a half-melted candle. It’d offer an excuse for lots of dragon CGI spectacle, but even in Fire & Blood, Aegon and his sisters are largely written about in a tone of mythical, unknowable awe. We don’t really understand these three people, nor do I think a whole television series about them being contented as an incestuous throuple will be well-embraced.
Maegor the Cruel Rises
But if Aegon the Conqueror would make for a poor excuse for drama, wait until you get a look at the hot mess that was his son by Visenya, Maegor the Usurper, aka Maegor the Cruel.
As it turns out, having children by two wives, who are also your sisters, can lead to all sorts of little problems when you live in a feudal patriarchal society ruled by succession. For example, Aegon the Conqueror intended his firstborn son by Rhaenys, sweet Aenys, to be his heir and successor. And Aenys was. For a time. But when Aenys proved himself to be a weak and unpopular king and then had the bright idea of marrying his own son, Aegon, to his daughter Rhaella, things went sideways fast.
Back in the first century of Targaryen rule, smallfolk and the Sept (Church) still took a dim view on incest between the dragonlords, hoping to convince the Targaryens that Aegon and his sister-wives were a one-off. When a weak king pulled the same stunt with his prince and princess, civil war fermented simply from Westeros’ fanatical and (at the time) militarized religious powers. Meanwhile Maegor and his mother Visenya used this tension to fill a void by declaring Maegor king before Aenys’ son, Aegon, could be crowned.
What followed was a Gothic horror story filled with epic battles between dragons, even more epic duels between the Kingsguard and champions of warrior-monk guilds, and finally the wicked King Maegor, who ruled like the legend of Vlad Tepes, right down to taking three brides during the “Black Wedding.” It’d make for good, if again fairly familiar television.
Good King Jaehaerys Targaryen
If you noticed a trend in the above entries, it’s that they’re ticking a lot of the same boxes as House of the Dragon: competing Targaryen claims, political intrigue, war, and lots of mass death (usually by dragonfire).
So perhaps the most interesting way to keep this fresh is to explore the long, relatively happy reign of “Old” King Jaehaerys I Targaryen. We say old because, like a certain real-world monarch who recently passed, he presided over Westeros for nearly 60 years of peace and prosperity, and we even briefly saw him during his final years in House of the Dragon’s prologue as the reluctant monarch who presides over the Great Council of Harrenhal. There the lords of Westeros decided which of his grandchildren shall be his heir since Jaehaerys outlived all of his sons.
However, just because Westeros did not experience a major civil war during Jaehaerys’ reign does not make it a boring subject matter. On the contrary, it’s one of the most well-explored eras in Fire & Blood, with Martin seemingly giddy to be writing about a king who built roads instead of burned them. For starters, Jaehaerys’ reign did not begin peacefully. In fact, a series about Maegor could be used as the springboard into Jaehaerys’ reign, as Jaehaerys was only a boy when he and his mother fled Maegor the Cruel in the night, taking shelter at Storm’s End and rallying the Baratheons, seemingly forever, to the Targaryens’ cause.
The amount of political subterfuge and manipulation that occurred from the beginning of Jaehaerys’ reign when, in his regency, he fought a diplomatic struggle with his own mother and Hand over the right to wed this sister, on through to how as king he struggled against the soft-power of the Starry Sept and the North, could make for some fascinating (if sometimes gross) melodrama.
More importantly, Jaehaerys’ reign was so peaceful it allowed the Targaryens to flourish outside of King’s Landing, and would open House of the Dragon up, allowing it to paint with a larger palette, similar to Game of Thrones.
There is Good Queen Alysanne, Jaehaerys’ wife whose journeys to the North were so profound that it melted even an old Stark lord’s heart and made her the hero of the Night’s Watch; there’s Rhaella, Jaehaerys’ older sister and the Queen in the West, and her own melodrama with her daughters and life in exile as a queer woman in love with her husband’s sister, Elissa Farman; Elissa, meanwhile, opens House of the Dragon up to one of the greatest legends in Westerosi history, the theft of three dragon eggs and the Sun-Chaser’s mysterious voyage into the Sunset Sea. After all, Elissa is the woman Arya Stark came to model herself after.
This is also the era that brought about Gothic murder mysteries on Dragonstone, tales of pandemic(!) and plague when “the Shivers” came to Westeros, and even something of pure Lovecraftian terror when one poor Targaryen princess stole Balerion the Black Dread and flew to Old Valyria. What she brought back is so twisted that it could rival the chestburster scene in Alien.
And if you liked the drama between King Viserys (Paddy Considine) and Milly Alcock’s young Rhaenyra on House of the Dragon, just wait until you meet Jaehaerys’ five daughters! This would have the sweep and generational heft of The Crown. But with dragons.
This would be a great TV show.
Why Limit Yourself to Westeros?
In the complete inverse of pulling from the finished volume of Fire & Blood is the prospect of doing a series set before any era Martin has written extensively about. There’s the possibility of doing a series based on the Targaryens’ house in the days before the Doom, back when Old Valyria still ruled the world.
It’d be risky offering answers to questions Martin has thus far left purely to the imagination: What was the might of Valyria actually like when countless dragons ruled the skies? How advanced was this great, lost civilization? And where did their blood magic powers really come from… and how did they abuse them so badly as to invite the Doom?
There’s much and more to unpack here that could lead to a series that begins in grandeur and ends in outright apocalyptic body horror. We’d also get the chance to see where the Targaryens stood in this landscape, because legend has it that they were a minor family back when Valyria ruled supreme….
I also feel compelled to acknowledge some fans would love a prequel series set during the reign of King Aerys II, aka the Mad King. However, this will probably never happen. You know the whole story. This war and its aftermath was the backbone of Game of Thrones, right down to the late-in-the-series revelations about Jon Snow’s true parentage and birth. You’ve already seen some of the most pivotal moments in flashbacks, and much like “the Clone Wars” in Star Wars, the finer details are likely better left to the imagination than a decade(s)-later prequel.