Even though Dragon House takes place two centuries before the events of game of thronesthe series alluded to events from the past that took place much earlier in the timeline of George RR Martinthe fictional universe of. During the first season, the focus is on the legacy of Aegon I Targaryen, the legendary conqueror who united six of the seven kingdoms and established the Targaryens as the primary source of power in Westeros. However, there is a story that even predates Aegon with the legacy of the ruined city of Valyria in Essos.
We have seen and heard many reminders of the great empire of the Valyrian Freehold. Devil (Matt Smith) and Rhaenyra (Emma d’Arcy) are married in an ancient Valyrian ceremony, the strength of Valyrian steel has meaning, and the dragons we see in the series are descended from ancestors of ancient Valyria. There was a time when Valyria was the dominant civilization in the A song of ice and fire universe, and the Targaryens seek to honor his legacy by forming a similar stronghold on Westeros.
While Old Valyria is referred to in the series as an idealized society, it is clear from Martin’s sources that it was not the perfect civilization that some Targaryens claim. Ancient Valyria was a site of incest, torture, dark magic, and slaughter. The ancient dynasties that stood in Valyria clashed in a race for power that was its own “game of thrones.” Ancient Valyria’s legacy of fate is eerily similar to the events we know will occur by the end of Dragon House. The Targaryens are caught in a civil war that will devastate their home and deprive it of its dragons.
The Fate of Ancient Valyria
Ironically, the Targaryens only claimed their position of power thanks to Valyria’s demise. Even though Valyria reigned supreme for over 5,000 years, she was wiped out in an apocalyptic event known as “The Doom Of Valyria”. After Daenys Targaryen had a vision of Valyria’s destruction, she informed her father Aenar of her enigmatic “dragon dream”. The Targaryens then moved to Dragonstone. It was a good decision. Years later, Valyria was engulfed in the destruction of the Fourteen Flames, a chain of volcanoes, which filled the air with volcanic ash and boiled many dragons alive.
One of the most critical scenes of the first season is a moment in the second episode, “The Rogue Prince”, where King Viserys I (Paddy Considine) reflects on the destruction of Valyria. With a model of Old Valyria in the background, Viserys tells a young Rhaneyra (Milly Alcock) about how a pack of dragons and a massive fleet were powerless to stop Valyria’s Doom. It’s clear that Viserys lives in the shadow of Old Valyria’s failures and feels equally powerless to stop the inevitable from happening. Like Daenys, Viserys is also haunted by “dragon dreams” that prophesy a change in the status quo.
This is actually not the first time we’ve heard of Old Valyria. In game of thrones‘ fifth season, Tyrion Lannister (Pierre Dinklage) and Jorah Mormont (John Glen) navigate through the remains of ancient Valyria, which tests Quaithe (Laura Pradelska) theory that anyone who ventures within sight of the massacre will be cursed. Similar to Rhaenyra, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) claims his claim to the Iron Throne on his Valyrian heritage.
The Legacy of Ancient Valyria
Even though Viserys talks about the importance of remembering ancient Valyria, he ignores the lessons its destruction left behind. It is believed in some circles that Valyria was destroyed due to the anger of the gods at the sins of society. Although there was no religious explanation for the crisis (considered by most to be a simple natural disaster), some believe that the Valyrian cities had disrupted the supposed magical spells that kept the Fourteen Flames at bay. The dragon lords had become so obsessed with mutual domination that they ignored the magic that literally kept their civilization afloat.
To Viserys’ credit, he at least tried to keep his family from repeating the indulgences of the past. Viserys attempts to quell the greedy ambition within his house, and he specifically berates Daemon for wreaking havoc on the innocent civilians of King’s Landing. Including continuing the tradition of family members intermarrying to strengthen the magical blood of Valyrian, he also tried to honor the legacy of ancient Valyria by uniting House Targaryen and House Velaryon. If the two ancient dynasties of Valyrians can make peace with each other, they can avoid the fate that cursed their ancestors. No mention of House Celtigar though. Unfortunately, Viserys’ health is fading in his old age and he is more focused on the legacy than anything else.
Blood magic in old Valyria
It is implied in Martin’s text that the subversion of natural resources by the dragonlords in ancient Valyria contributed to its demise. The practice of blood magic and dark arts has turned men into beasts and created some of the monsters we see in Westeros. While magic wasn’t practiced often, if at all, in Westeros, it was incredibly common in Valyria, a magic rooted in fire and blood. Many of their customs are rooted in fire and blood, for we know that Valyrian weddings share this commonality. Things like dragon glass candles could allow people to see at great distances and talk to people, like a magical FaceTime, and even spy on people’s thoughts. As much as the dragons were part of Valyria’s conquest of the world, so was their magic and sorcery.
Of course, that also means they’ve done some twisted things, like blood mages forcing women and animal slaves to have sex to create monstrous creatures. Some believe the Targaryens have dragon blood in a very literal sense due to one of these matings. Some secrets of ancient Valyria are lost forever, including ancient spells and the formula for creating Valyrian steel. At the time of the start of game of thrones, it seems that much of that Valyrian magic has faded. But there are those who theorize that it was either the return of magic that hatched Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) eggs or her hatched eggs that brought magic back into the world.
Dragon House is effective because it resembles an inhabited universe. Even though this is a prequel, it still feels like there’s a story that extends way before the events of the show. It wouldn’t work to do a prequel series on the Doom of Valyria itself, because ultimately we don’t need an explanation for every nuance of the universe. It’s more interesting if Old Valyria is only mentioned in vague terms as the characters reflect on the secrets of the past. And considering all the dark experiences, of slavery, of the mass slaughter by colonialism, it could be quite a dark story actually.
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Was ancient Valyria really as big as the Targaryens claim? – CNET
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