Let’s forget about The Greens vs. The Blacks for a moment and focus our attention on the House of the Dragon show vs. its book Fire and Blood. In just 8 episodes, the series has taken creative liberty to expand on its source material and flesh out its characters. Here are some differences (and similarities) spotted so far!
HBO’s hit House of the Dragon is based on the book Fire and Blood, written by George R.R. Martin, the author of the original Game of Thrones book series. The novel reads like a history textbook of House Targaryen — told through different accounts of unreliable narrators — spanning decades and multiple kings, providing more context for the world of Westeros. The TV show only covers a portion of the book, starting with the chapter “Heirs of the Dragon: A Question of Succession” and going through the “Dance of Dragons” civil war in the section “The Dying of the Dragons.” As many adaptations do, there have been some changes from the source material, but truly the show has been able to evolve more from the text (particularly of the younger years from season one) and produce an enhancing narrative that helps fill in some of the gaps from the book. Here is some comparison of the story we have seen unfold thus far.
Rhaenyra & Alicent’s Friendship
Though the two leading ladies’ friendship is long gone after multiple time jumps, Rhaenyra and Alicent’s younger selves are bursting with care and understanding for one another. Any inclination towards being best friends is nowhere to be found in the book, as Alicent is initially 17, nearly 10 years older than Rhaenyra. Rather, the show makes them the same age and shows a more developed background for context, a smart move that helps to establish layers to the pair’s conflicts instead of just saying they don’t like each other. Their affection for each other in the show makes Alicent’s engagement with King Viserys I more impactful and shocking for Rhaenyra, as well as the audience. Meanwhile, in the book, she’s at peace with their marriage at first. For the show version, it’s not until Rhaenyra’s wedding to Laenor Velaryon that Alicent officially makes her an enemy, presenting herself in her infamous green dress. This comes after she discovers the truth about Rhaenyra’s sexual acts. Alicent’s book counterpart had her falling out much earlier, in fact pushing for a marriage between her eldest son Aegon II (age six) and Rhaenyra (age 16), which Viserys turned down.
The Question of Rhaenyra’s Virginity
After a failed seduction by Daemon in episode four, Rhaenyra returns to her bedroom riled up, turning her attention towards Ser Criston Cole of the Kingsguard (and Rhaenyra’s personal sword). The early episodes offer many glimpses of their attraction for each other, which is finally consummated after Rhaenyra is encouraged to be freer. While Daemon and Rhaenyra share a fiery makeout scene with some moves toward second base, he ends up ditching her, thus never going anywhere. There’s a more definitive answer to questions surrounding Rhaenyra’s virginity (which causes a large stir) in the show, whereas the book offers multiple accounts to explain the falling out with Daemon and what happened with Rhaenyra. Originally, Rhaenyra and Criston never actually have sex. Instead, two rumors come alive: one, that Rhaenyra tried seducing Criston but he turned her down due to his knight vows; two, Criston secretly confessed his love for her in the bedroom, but she turned down his plead to marry (this happens in some form in the show, but after they have already done the deed). As for Daemon, the account closest to the show depicts him secretly taking Rhaenyra out of the city to show her how to pleasure a man, all in the hopes of using the lessons with Criston. Other versions have Daemon fully seducing Rhaenyra, being caught sleeping with her before she turned 16, and Viserys’ subsequent refusal for them to marry; Rhaenyra initially losing her virginity with Ser Harwin Strong (which comes later in the show); or simply that the two brothers had a quarrel. Either way, Viserys sends his brother into exile, which is ultimately the same decision reached in the show. Both the book and the show mark this event as a turning point regarding Rhaenyra’s betrothal, her image as the future heir, and the legitimacy that comes from her first three children later on.
Rhaenyra & Laenor’s Wedding
At Rhaenyra and Laenor Velayron’s wedding in episode five, Criston was still reeling from Rhaenyra’s dismissal of the pair running away to Essos together due to her sworn duty. When the marriage is proposed and accepted by the couple out of political strategy, Criston is boiling. But it’s not until he’s approached by Laenor’s gay lover Joffrey Lonmouth that the volatility of his temper comes out. In the show, Rhaenyra insists Criston continues his affair with her on the side, but it’s Joffrey’s later echoing that sends him over the edge, brutally beating Joffrey to a pulp in the middle of the first feast. The hectic insecurity pushes Viserys to have Rhaenyra and Laenor marry right there that night instead of the planned week-long wedding events. On the flip side, the book has Criston attack Joffrey during the wedding tourney, cracking his helm and rendering him unconscious for six days before finally passing. His death was more of a slow burn under more “reasonable” methods, as opposed to the sheer quick brutality House of the Dragon portrays. Viserys is displeased in both mediums, but also in both is Alicent’s approval of Criston’s hardened ways, becoming her personal sworn sword. However, the book never has the TV scene of Alicent stopping Criston’s suicide attempt after he kills Joffrey. Knowing more of the fleshed-out origins between Rhaenyra and Criston make for an, even more, indulging set up of their divide, as he becomes Team Green.
Unfortunate Events of Episode 6
Taking place after the 10 year time jump, the sixth episode cuts back and forth between Daemon’s life with Laena Velayron in Pentos, and Rhaenyra’s after she just gives birth to her third son with Laenor at King’s Landing. At this time in the book, Rhaenyra had already taken up Dragonstone before even marrying, so being in proximity to Daemon and Laena allowed the two couples to be close, with Rhaenyra and Laena having a strong friendship that is not seen in the show. While the show had Laena’s life end by her own volition during a troubling childbirth — begging her dragon Vhagar to burn her, a true dragonrider’s death — the book presents it differently. Instead, she actually does give birth, only to a deformed son that died an hour after, causing Laena immense grief and childbed fever. After three days of being sick, she dies attempting to reach Vhagar for one more flight, collapsing to her death with Daemon left to take her body back to her bed. Unlike the separation in the show, Rhaenyra was present to console Daemon at the time of her death. Moving on toward happenings at King’s Landing is the rumbling of Rhaenyra’s sons’ true father. Though it’s gossiped about with no concrete evidence in the book, the series makes their lineage obvious and confirms their paternity to be that of Harwin Strong’s, with the addition of eldest son Jacaerys more or less knowing the truth. The book has Harwin accompany Rhaenyra to Dragonstone, but his TV counterpart doesn’t make it that far. Instead, the episode shows him and his father Lyonel return to rule over Harrenhal after a fight broke out between Harwin and Criston, exposing him as Rhaenyra’s true baby daddy. While Lyonel and his heir’s deaths happen in the same vein — in a fire at Harrenhal — it didn’t happen until later on in the book, after other events yet to be seen. Theories are thrown around, from being blamed on the curse of Harrenhal to suspects like Daemon and Laenor’s father Corlys. However, the show matches up with a different theory, the culprit being Harwin’s younger brother Larys, who is promoted in the Strong succession line and inches himself closer to the ties of Alicent. This specification makes sense in the direction of the plot, as Larys wants to do anything to get in Alicent’s good graces and align himself with the Greens. Sneaky Larys gives the inklings of Game of Thrones’ mischievous Little Finger.
After Laena’s funeral in Episode 7, Rhaenyra proposes marriage to Daemon to strengthen her claim for the throne. Daemon reminds her that the only way to do so is for Laenor to be dead, and the pair seemingly plans his assassination, involving his lover Qarl to do the deed. Qarl confronts Laenor at the Hall of High Tide and the two engage in a sword fight. Upon the arrival of Rhaenys and Corlys, Laenor’s parents, they find a dead body burned to a crisp in the fireplace, presumed to be their son. The twist comes in the last seconds of the episode when Qarl escapes on a rowboat with someone in a black cloak who reveals himself to be Laenor with his hair completely gone. This is a major shift from the book, which keeps Laenor officially dead for good. Qarl still kills him, but at a public fair in Spicetown away from his family, as a result of an argument. In the novel’s typical fashion, there are a couple of pondering theories as to why, including jealousy. However, what most aligns with the events of the show is the rumor that Daemon paid Qarl off to free Rhaenyra from their marriage. Further, Daemon had offered Qarl an escape by boat after it was done but instead had him murdered and dumped his body into the sea. With far more depressing roots, the show took the liberty of going down a more “positive” route, having the couple escape off into the seas alive and well together. Whether Rhaenyra and Daemon were in on the fakeout death or Qarl saved him at the last minute on his own, at least the two are going far away from the lands of Westeros and away from the Targaryen throne. Yet with the loose, open end to Laenor’s character, it’s unclear if he’ll make a return during the civil war, but for his sake, hopefully, he doesn’t.