There's A Really Creepy Reason Why The Targaryens Are The Only Surviving Valyrian Family

by Charlotte Ahlin
Helen Sloan, courtesy of HBO

Viewers of HBO's Game of Thrones and readers of Maester George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire can both tell you a few key facts about the members of House Targaryen: they're blonde, they're intense, and they like their dragons. Their mascot is a three headed dragon and their family motto is the ominous Fire and blood. They ruled over Westeros for a long, long time, until Dany's big brother hooked up with the Stark kids' cool aunt and started a whole dang war. Where we are now in the books and the show, our only remaining *official* Targaryen is Daenerys. She's determined to take back her daddy's throne with the help of her three dragon babies and her general lack of long-term planning.

There's (maybe) another surviving Targaryen kid in the mix if you're reading the books, but Dany's our main girl. And of course, Jon Snow will most likely find out that he is the not-so-secret child of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, making him the "rightful" heir to the Iron Throne and a Stark-Targaryen to boot.

But... where exactly did these hot blonde dragon folks come from? And why are they the only ones who seem to get along with those giant fire-breathing lizards? Here's a brief history of House Targaryen, and why they're still kicking around.

Back in the olden days, you see, before the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros were even a little bit united, there was a city called Valyria. This city was situated on a peninsula in Essos, in the Fantasyworld version of the Mediterranean Sea. Valyria started out as a minor civilization full of chill, platinum blonde, purple-eyed shepherds. But then, according to legend, those shepherds discovered dragons lurking around in their local ring of volcanoes. And you don't just discover dragons and then go back to herding sheep. The Valyrians learned to tame these dragons with magic and train them as weapons of war (because I guess all shepherds are carrying around a lot of pent up aggression?). Valyria soon grew into a powerful city-state, expanding into the vast, violent empire of the Valyrian Freehold.

Think Ancient Rome, but with dragons.

The Valyrian Freehold ruled over most of Western Essos, building roads (and presumably aqueducts) and terrifying their citizens from dragon-back. Instead of having a single emperor, though, Valyria was ruled by a whole bunch of noble, dragon-owning houses, constantly vying with each other for power. House Targaryen was a minor, relatively unimportant one of these houses.

So when the young girl Daenys Targaryen started having creepy nightmares about all of Valyria going up in flames, the other dragonlord families didn't really care. Lucky for house Targaryen, though, Daenys' dad trusted her visions. He packed up his kids and his dragons and moved to Dragonstone in the Narrow Sea, the western-most outpost of the Valyrian Freehold.

The Targaryens hung out there for 12 years looking super paranoid, while all the other dragonlords stayed in Valyria and lived it up. But then a mysterious cataclysm known as the Doom of Valyria destroyed the Valyrian peninsula and all the Valyrians with it. It might have been a massive volcanic eruption, or some kind of magic nonsense, or perhaps a second moon crashing into the Earth — Maester Martin has left that part intentionally vague.

What we do know, though, is that House Targaryen was the only dragon-owning family to survive (and Daenys was probably pretty smug about that).

The Valyrian Freehold quickly unraveled with no dragons to keep people in check, and Essos dissolved into the confusing Century of Blood. Meanwhile, the Targaryens just kind of... hung out for a century on Dragonstone, marrying their siblings and lying low while everyone else was fighting.

Finally, one Aegon Targaryen and his two sister wives, Rhaenys and Visenya, got bored of island living. So they hopped on their dragons and conquered Westeros (well... most of Westeros).

The Targaryen's forcibly united all Seven Kingdoms except for Dorne, killing any ruling houses who refused to bend the knee to them. They founded King's Landing, and forged the Iron Throne out of the blades of their conquered enemies. So... yes, those of Targaryen blood do have the rightful claim to the Iron Throne... but also the Targaryens didn't actually have any claim whatsoever on the continent of Westeros, besides their ability to kill everyone they didn't like with dragon fire?

The Targaryens have a long bloody history as the rulers of Westeros. They had civil wars and rebelled against each other. They killed each other's dragons and then locked the surviving dragons up until all the dragons died out. They then tried to bring back the dragons using wacko fire magic, and burned themselves up in the process (because no, Targaryens are not actually fireproof — Dany's fire-walk was a one time, special magic circumstances thing).

So by the time lil' Daenerys was born, the Targaryens were down to their last few family members... and now it's just Daenerys, Jon, and maybe Fake Aegon with the blue hair.

These dragon-friendly kids are almost certainly going to be our final contenders for the Iron Throne. But, when you look at where the Targaryens came from... should the Iron Throne really exist at all? Do the Targaryens really have more rights to rule over Westeros than anyone else? And if Dany wants to "break the wheel" and Jon wants to help the poor wildlings... maybe, just maybe, it's time that the continent isn't ruled by someone whose governing strategy can be summed up in the words "fire and blood."