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Who Is Viserys Targaryen I on ‘House of the Dragon’?

House of the Dragon King Viserys Targaryen

King Viserys Targaryen I on HBO’s House of the Dragon is an interesting adaptational change from the book it is based on, Fire & Blood. Not all of it is bad and some changes might be Word of God information coming from the author of the book series, George R.R. Martin, but it is interesting to look at.

House of the Dragon Episode 1-3 Spoilers

Show Viserys:

As played by Paddy Considine, the character of Viserys is quite haunted and tormented by his lack of a son as heir and the weight of continuing the (at this time) brief Targaryen reign as the family’s fifth king. Throughout these first three episodes, we see that Viserys is getting sicker and sicker. Cuts on his body from the Iron Throne have gotten infected—some to the point where he has to stick his hand into a bowl of maggots in order to keep it from being cut off.

We also are told that he is a dragon dreamer and has had prophetic dreams about his child sitting on the Iron Throne, as he tells his first wife Aemma in the pilot: “The dream. It was clearer than a memory. Our son was born wearing Aegon’s iron crown, when I heard the sound of thundering hooves splintering shields, and ringing swords. And I placed our son upon the Iron Throne, as the bells of the Grand Sept tolled, and all the dragons roared as one.”

He brings up his dreams again in the third episode with his second wife, Alicent, as he drunkenly questions his own vision of an heir ruling. In general, we see Viserys as a King already in decline both in health and happiness. Despite having a son, a wife, and a female heir, there is little joy because he feels unfit to rule. His brother walks over him overall, his daughter can’t be tamed, and the truth is that the true ruler of his country is the Hand of the King, Otto Hightower.

We did not see it often in Game of Thrones, but the Iron Throne was made to be intentionally uncomfortable to sit in. It cut at Joffery in the books, and Maegor I Targaryen died with a spike from one of the swords from the throne going through the back of his neck. In many ways, this is meant to show the difficulty of ruling, and in this case, Viserys is suffering heavily because he does not have the temperament for making tough decisions.

Book Viserys:

In George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood, the conflict we see (and will continue to see) in the show is made up of roughly eight chapters starting with “Heirs of the Dragon” and ending with “Aftermath-The Hour of the Wolf.” It starts by explaining that King Jaehaerys I Targaryen and his wife had fourteen children—four of whom lived the adulthood and had heirs. He even had an “heir and spare.” Everything changed when Jaehaerys’ son, Prince Aemon, was killed in battle in 92 AC (Aegon’s Conquest). This left Prince Baelon elevated from spare to heir. Except, Prince Aemon had a child: his daughter, Rhaenys. We know from the prologue monologue from House of the Dragon episode one that eventually the succession crisis came down to Rhaenys and her cousin, Prince Baelon’s son, Viserys.

Among the first to dissent against this was Jaehaerys’s wife, who was called Alysanne.

Good Queen Alysanne, who had helped her husband rule the Seven Kingdoms for many years, and now saw her son’s daughter being passed over because of her sex. “A ruler needs a good head and a true heart,” she famously told the king. “A cock is not essential. If Your Grace truly believes that women lack the wit to rule, plainly you have no further need of me.” And thus Queen Alysanne departed King’s Landing and flew to Dragonstone on her dragon Silverwing. She and King Jaehaerys remained apart for two years, the period of estrangement recorded in the histories as the Second Quarrel.

Martin, George R. R.. Fire & Blood (The Targaryen Dynasty: The House of the Dragon) (pp. 341-342). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Viserys becomes King at twenty-six years old and his wife, Aemma, was only eleven when she married Viserys. It is not really explored in the show itself, because everyone is aged in a way that will highlight the difference in generations. Aemma had Rhaenyra at fifteen, and died at twenty-three.

“There were more dragons than ever before as well, and several of the she-dragons were regularly producing clutches of eggs. Not all of these eggs hatched, but many did, and it became customary for the fathers and mothers of newborn princelings to place a dragon’s egg in their cradles, following a tradition that Princess Rhaena had begun many years before; the children so blessed invariably bonded with the hatchlings to become dragonriders.

Viserys I Targaryen had a generous, amiable nature, and was well loved by his lords and smallfolk alike. The reign of the Young King, as the commons called him upon his ascent, was peaceful and prosperous. His Grace’s open-handedness was legendary, and the Red Keep became a place of song and splendor. King Viserys and Queen Aemma hosted many a feast and tourney, and lavished gold, offices, and honors on their favorites.

Martin, George R. R.. Fire & Blood (The Targaryen Dynasty: The House of the Dragon) (pp. 353-354). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The reign of book Viserys is marked largely by joy, and a lot of massive parties. Viserys was always quick to have an event and with his successful marriage to Alicent, he was able to celebrate each heir he sired. Viserys I spent the rest of his reign trying to keep peace between his wife and daughter, both of whom he loved deeply. The merriment of his court continued, save for that tension. By the time Viserys died at forty-three, he was described as “stout” and suffering from “gout, aching joints, back pain, and a tightness in the chest that came and went and oft left him red-faced and short of breath.”

Book Viserys’ temperament is in very sharp contrast to the TV show Viserys, who is plagued by illness, dark visions, and withering under the weight of being king.

(image: Amok, HBO)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.