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The Dance of Dragons (Histories & Lore)

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"The Dance of the Dragons" is part of the Histories & Lore, a special feature in the Blu-ray of Season 5 of Game of Thrones.

SynopsisEdit

SummaryEdit

The successionEdit

After Viserys I died, Aegon II seized the throne ahead of Rhaenyra. The great lords of the realm began to proclaim for one side or the other.

The death of childrenEdit

When Rhaenyra's son Lucerys arrived at Storm's End he found Aegon II's brother Aemond already there. Lord Baratheon rejected the young prince's offer of siding with Rhaenyra, and shouted at him to leave. As he departed during a storm over the bay on his young dragon, Arrax, Aemond followed on his massive dragon, Vhagar, and killed them both.

In retaliation, Rhaenyra and her husband Daemon hired two assassins, Blood and Cheese, who killed Aegon II's eldest son and heir in the Red Keep in front of his mother, even though he was only a small boy. Queen Helaena went mad with grief.

Rook's RestEdit

Growing impatient, Aegon II marched against Rhaenyra's supporters at Rook's Rest. Rhaenys arrived on Meleys to lift the siege but it was a trap; she was killed by Vhagar and Sunfyre, but not before crippling both Sunfyre and Aegon II.

The Battle of the GulletEdit

Rhaenyra sent her youngest two sons on a ship to the Free Cities for their protection, but while in the Narrow Sea they were intercepted by an enemy fleet. Aegon III managed to fly back to Dragonstone on his dying dragon Stormcloud, but his younger brother was lost. Rhaenyra's eldest son and heir, Jacaerys, flew out on his dragon, Vermax, to try to save him but was killed in the battle

The DragonseedsEdit

After losing so many dragons, Rhaenyra decided to replenish her forces: six currently riderless dragons lived on Dragonstone, and it was thought that only those of the Targaryen bloodline could successfully bond with them. Therefore a call was put out for any Targaryen bastards on the island to try to claim them; dozens died, but four succeeded.

The Fall of King's LandingEdit

Aemond was a hot-head and decided to lead the main army away from King's Landing to attack Rhaenyra's main army on the mainland which had seized Harrenhal. When he and Criston Cole arrived, however, the castle was empty - Rhaenyra's army had withdrawn, and they had walked right into a trap. Daemon flew his dragon Caraxes around their army over Gods Eye lake and linked back up with Rhaenyra riding Syrax along with her army, who rapidly captured the now-defenseless capital city.

Queen Mother Alicent Hightower was taken captive, but Aegon II had fled. Rhaenyra sat the Iron Throne as her father once had.

Two betrayalsEdit

The main pro-Aegon II army from the Reach finally marched north and approached King's Landing. Rhaenyra sent two dragonseeds to intercept them at Tumbleton, but they switched sides in the middle of the battle.

The Storming of the DragonpitEdit

Fearing the approaching Green army and the dragons of the Two Betrayers, riots broke out in King's Landing which killed all five dragons present, forcing Rhaenyra to fleet back to Dragonstone after her third son, Joffrey, also died.

The Fall of DragonstoneEdit

When Rhaenyra arrived back on Dragonstone with her only remaining son, her escorts were killed, and she was surprised to be brought before Aegon II, who had secretly seized the castle. His dragon Sunfyre was crippled and dying. Rhaenyra remained defiant, but Aegon II fed her to his dragon while her son Aegon watched.

AftermathEdit

Even so, Aegon II only lived another six months before he was poisoned by his own men and the war ended. Many other battles were fought and by the end, almost all of the dragons were dead. Rhaenyra's surviving son was married to Aegon II's surviving daughter to reunite the branches of their shattered family. Westeros was left devastated and the Targaryens were never as powerful or as feared again. Within a generation the last of the dragons died out.

AppearancesEdit

CharactersEdit

Noble HousesEdit

InstitutionsEdit

LocationsEdit

EventsEdit

TitlesEdit

DragonsEdit

Dragons belonging to Aegon II's faction:

Dragons belonging to Rhaenyra's faction:

MiscellaneousEdit

AdaptationEdit

As the featurette is only 20 minutes long, it understandably only gives a concise overview of the most important events which occurred during the Dance of the Dragons - though it is a very accurate overview of the events it does cover. Many major subplots and character groups are not mentioned at all, however - the story of the civil war could easily sustain an entire live-action prequel project. It also only covers the first three quarters of the war (which lasted two years) ending with Rhaenyra's death, only briefly explaining that Aegon II died six months later.

To put this in perspective, in terms of the main Game of Thrones TV series it would be roughly comparable to making a 20 minute summary video attempting to recap the entire narrative of the first three seasons, which as a result focused purely on the main Stark-Lannister military conflict (with major figures such as Eddard, Robb, Tywin, and Cersei), then ending with the Red Wedding and not explaining how the war progressed after that. At the same time this would also completely omit all of the other subplots: Jon Snow and the Wall, Daenerys in Essos, the Greyjoys, the Tyrells, Arya Stark in the Riverlands, and the storylines of both Baratheon brothers (including the Battle of the Blackwater).

Some of the other subplots from the wider Dance of the Dragons which were condensed in this featurette include:

  • Daemon Targaryen had two daughters from a previous marriage, Baela and Rhaena. Both of them are major characters and dragonriders (though their dragons are too young to ride to war at the beginning of the story).
  • It is mentioned that Aegon II's faction controlled four dragons: his own, his brother Aemond's, and his wife's. It makes no mention that Aegon II and Aemond actually had a younger brother, a young teenager named Daeron the Daring. Daeron rode the younger dragon Tessarion in campaigns in the Reach, and became a valiant hero in the war.
  • While the Stormlands surprisingly sided with Aegon II, the Reach was torn in half by the civil war: while Aegon II's family House Hightower dominates the southern half of the Reach, the northern half (including House Tarly) grew wary of them and sided with Rhaenyra. This led to an extended campaign as the main Hightower army (along with Daeron and Tessarion) slowly fought its way across southern Westeros from Oldtown to approach King's Landing.
  • The video mostly focuses on the eastern theater of the war: the actions of the Starks, Tullys, and Lannisters are barely alluded to, when they actually formed an entire separate central theater of the war, primarily in the Riverlands. This culminates in the Battle by the Lakeshore, stated to be the largest and bloodiest land battle of the entire war.
  • The ironborn subplot is not mentioned at all, which formed an entire western theater to the war. Aegon II had assumed the Greyjoys would side with him, but Dalton Greyjoy - the Red Kraken - stabbed the Greens in the back by siding against him and ravaging the coasts of the Westerlands and the Reach while their armies were away to the east fighting Rhaenyra's forces.
  • It is only briefly shown that an enemy fleet attacked the ship carrying Rhaenyra's younger sons across the Narrow Sea - this is also a larger subplot in which the Greens allied with the "Kingdom of the Three Daughters" (an alliance of Lys, Myr, and Tyrosh) as a counter-balance against the power of the Velaryon fleet. The resulting Battle of the Gullet was actually stated to be one of the largest naval battles in recorded history, involving the entire Velaryon fleet, and the dragonseeds riding into battle.

A few other points from the main narrative are only quickly glossed over:

  • It is said that Rhaenyra's dragon Syrax dropped her son Joffrey, but not that Syrax ultimately died fighting off thousands of rioters on the ground at the ruins of the Dragonpit. The next scene simply transitions to Rhaenyra fleeing King's Landing without a dragon.
  • It isn't clearly explained that King's Landing fell so quickly to Rhaenyra and Daemon not only because its army was gone, but because of the City Watch. Daemon actually used to be the commander of the Gold Cloaks for years; a visible part of the history book presented on screen even recounts that Daemon created the Gold Cloaks as they were later known, training them as a formal police force and giving them their signature Gold Cloaks. When Daemon appeared in the sky above the city, the Gold Cloaks mutinied en masse, killed the few Green officers still in the city, and threw the city's gates wide open to Rhaenyra's army.
  • It isn't explained how Aegon II's younger son Maelor died. At the end of the video Aegon II's daughter is simply presented as his only surviving child. In the novellas, it is said that when King's Landing fell one of his Kingsguard attempted to flee with Maelor back to Oldtown, but he was intercepted by an angry pro-Rhaenyra mob at Bitterbridge who tore the three year old Maelor limb from limb in their fury.
  • The subplot of how Aegon II ultimately ended up on Dragonstone and managed to seize Rhaenyra's home castle is left totally unexplained. Nor is it clearly explained why Sunfyre was now dying months after its fight with Meleys (it got into a fight with another Black dragon).

NotesEdit

  • The point in the video when it is said that Aegon II didn't even want to be king is actually an in-universe piece of propaganda - all other sources agree that he was a self-entitled grasper who always felt the throne was rightfully his: his mother Alicent was the true ringleader of his faction, but he still eagerly went along with it (not unlike Cersei and Joffrey). Much like the novels, however, this part of the video is presented as Viserys III's biased POV narration, so he might just be mistaken (by the same logic, other Histories & Lore videos that Viserys III narrated back in Season 1 contained a number of intentional inaccuracies due to his biased perspective).
    • As George R.R. Martin explained, when he wrote the first prequel novella about the Dance of the Dragons it was for an omnibus hardcover collecting short stories from a dozen writers, and to make the novella fit within length constraints, the editor cut out several phrases here and there which were assumed to be extraneous - when they were actually vital clues about the narrative. The novella is framed as an in-universe history book which at times has to sort out rival accounts written by different survivors from both sides of the war - specifically, Grand Maester Munkun's pro-Rhaenyra book about the Dance, and Septon Eustace's pro-Aegon II book about the Dance. Therefore, in Martin's original draft he prefaced this anecdote with the text "According to Septon Eustace's account, Aegon II was surprised and didn't even want to seize the throne" - which was meant to strongly hint that this story was just a lie that Aegon II's supporters circulated (much as a pro-Joffrey book commissioned by the Lannisters might say "Joffrey didn't even want to be king but he had to save the realm from Ned Stark's attempt at a treasonous coup"). The short story collection's editor, however, didn't realize that these short prefaces were actually important, so they were cut for space - resulting in just the phrase "Aegon II didn't want to be king" simply presented as a statement of fact.
  • The number of dragons stated to be alive at the beginning of the Dance is incorrect. Viserys III's exact words are: "Before the war, House Targaryen counted eighteen dragons. By the end we had two." In the novels, there were actually twenty living dragons at the beginning of the Dance, and only four were alive at the end (only three from the beginning of the war, as a fourth hatched near the end of it). This statement about the number of dragons after the Dance is broadly true in a sense: the last of the dragons died out a little over twenty years after the Dance ended, at which point it was said that the very last dragons were two stunted creatures not much bigger than dogs. It isn't clear if either of these two was also alive at the end of the Dance (the three that lived through the whole war were large adults). The statement that there were eighteen living dragons at the beginning of the Dance, however, isn't even internally consistent with the video, regardless of the novels.
    • In the books, at the start of the Dance there was 1 very large dragon (Vhagar, last of the original Targaryen dragons), 8 large dragons, 8 medium-to-small dragons, and 3 hatchlings too small to ride, for a total of twenty. The featurette itself later directly states that Aegon II's faction only had four dragons - in the novels this is true, they had four battle-ready dragons, but also too hatchlings who were bonded to Aegon II's children. The video later refers to the three large dragons initially possessed by Rhaenyra's faction, by name: Meleys, Caraxes, and Syrax. It also states that her three eldest sons each had dragons (and refers to Vermax and Arrax by name). It is then stated that there were also six "wild", unclaimed dragons living on Dragonstone island - a total of 12 held by Rhaenyra. The third hatchling was Stormcloud, the young dragon who flew Rhaenyra's younger son back to Dragonstone to evade capture but died of his injuries (Stormcloud's name also appears in on-screen text). The result is that the video directly refers to 13 dragons in Rhaenyra's possession, and 4 in Aegon II's possession, for a total of 17 - not 18. The two hatchlings that Aegon II possessed do appear visually, as they were two of the four dragons killed in the Storming of the Dragonpit (Morgul and Shrykos). Counting these additional two dragons brings the count up to 19, not 18. Only one of the twenty dragons from the novels isn't referred to in one way or another: Moondancer, a young dragon which belonged to Daemon's daughter from a previous marriage. None of the ways one could potentially count the dragons that appear in the video add up to 18, so this is probably just a dialogue error.
    • Another possibility is that, strictly speaking, while there were twenty "living dragons" at the start of the Dance, the Targaryens didn't exactly "possess" the six "wild" dragons living on Dragonstone at the beginning of the war - and of these, as the video does state, only four of them were later claimed by Targaryen bastards. Even in the novels, two of the wild dragons - Grey Ghost and the Cannibal - never had riders during their lifetimes. So it is possible that the count of "18" was intended to refer to "dragons with riders".
  • The video states that the Lord of Harrenhal surrendered the castle of Daemon. The prequel novella states it was the castellan of Harrenhal, Ser Simon Strong. The Lord of Harrenhal, Larys Strong, is the Master of Whisperers in the small council of both Viserys I and Aegon II.
  • The video says that Daemon stabbed his sword down through Aemond's one remaining eye. The prequel novella actually explicitly states that he drove his sword through Aemond's blind eye, the empty socket he put a sapphire in. Daemon specifically attacked Aemond from what he knew to be his nephew's blind side so he would be slower to react to it.
  • Due to time limitations, the video doesn't have room to explain the very convoluted Targaryen familial relationships in the Dance due to their incestuous marriages and even remarriages. "Rhaenys, the Queen Who Never Was" is alternatively described in the video as both "the old king's sister" and "Rhaenyra's former mother by law" (from her first marriage). In the novellas, Rhaenys was actually the first cousin of King Viserys I, Rhaenyra's father.
    • Rhaenys in the novellas was Viserys I's cousin, the daughter of King Jaehaerys I's firstborn son Aemon, who died in 92 AC fighting against Myrish pirates. Viserys I's father was Baelon, Aemon's younger brother who Jaehaerys I named as his heir instead of Rhaenys, hence the name she got from the smallfolk: "The Queen Who Never Was". Both Daemon and Rhaenyra were previously married, to the daughter and son (respectively) of Corlys Velaryon, Rhaenys's husband - which is what makes Rhaenys the mother-in-law of Rhaenyra. Both of Rhaenys's children later died, however, after which Rhaenyra and her uncle Daemon remarried to each other and had several more children.
    • It remains unclear if this was an intentional change or just a dialogue error due to the convoluted Targaryen family tree at the time of the Dance.
  • The video says that Rhaenyra sent her "two youngest sons" across the Narrow Sea for their protection - Aegon III and Viserys II - only for "her youngest son" to return to Dragonstone on his dying dragon, bringing news that their ship had been ambushed by an enemy fleet. The prequel novella specifies that it was actually her second youngest who flew back, Aegon III on his dragon Stormcloud, while it was Viserys II - the youngest of her five sons - who was lost and presumed dead.
  • The video depicts all three of Rhaenyra's eldest sons as having classic Targaryen features of silver/platinum blonde hair and purple eyes, but a second prequel novellas about the Dance, The Rogue Prince, specified that none of them had the classic Targaryen/Valyrian ethnic features. All three of her sons by her first husband - Rhaenys's son Laenor Velaryon - had brown hair and eyes and pug noses, and looked nothing like what is expected of a Targaryen. This led the Greens, Aemond most of all, to allege that they assuredly must be bastards produced out of wedlock in sexual trysts Rhaenyra had (though their paternity was somewhat irrelevant given that in this case their mother was the heir to the throne, and she had undeniably given birth to each of them). Laenor was widely known to be homosexual and many doubted he ever successfully consummated his marriage with his bride. Rhaenyra's defenders pointed out that unlike in past generations of the family, Rhaenyra's mother had been half-Arryn, so her three sons might have just taken after that side of their family. Whatever the case, Rhaenyra's subsequent two sons with Daemon did have classic Targaryen features.
  • George R.R. Martin came up with the names for Rhaenyra's sons much later than the first novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and his choice of the name "Joffrey" for the third one might have been an attempt to explain why King Robert and Queen Cersei would later choose a name for their son which didn't resemble any past king's name or any name from their respective families - retroactively establishing that Joffrey Baratheon may have been named after Joffrey Velaryon. Joffrey Baratheon, narrating a segment of the video in-character, even seems to take pride in the fact that he shares a name with a Targaryen prince. Joffrey Velaryon himself was by all accounts a brave young boy, but the fact that he was named "Joffrey" was actually seen as a sign of shame by some: the reason he didn't have a Valyrian-style name was because his father Laenor named him after one of his secret homosexual lovers, which some saw as a tactless admission of a matter others preferred he'd keep secret.
    S5 Rhaenyra Iron Throne quartered heraldry

    Rhaenyra's faction's heraldry appears in stylized form in a book: the Targaryen red dragon sigil, quartered with the Arryn falcon-and-moon sigil and the Velaryon seahorse sigil.

  • The video clearly states that Aegon II's personal sigil, which became the Heraldry carried as his faction's war banners, was the Targaryen dragon sigil colored gold instead of red (for his golden dragon, Sunfyre) - but it doesn't directly state what Rhaenyra's sigil was. On closer inspection, however, it actually does subtly appear on-screen, albeit in a heavily stylized form. Rhaenyra's heraldry used the normal Targaryen red dragon sigil, but quartered with House Arryn's falcon-and-moon sigil (for her mother) and House Velaryon's seahorse sigil (for her first husband and primary supporters) - "quartered" with three sigils like this means that when facing it, the upper left and lower right were the Targaryen sigil, the upper right was the Arryn sigil, and the lower left was the Velaryon sigil. When Rhaenyra sits on the Iron Throne for the first time in the video, the narration shifts so the camera views an in-universe history book with simplified artwork of the event: notice that Rhaenyra's sigil is cut in half in order to frame either side of the image of her on the throne: a dragon and a seahorse on the left, a dragon and a falcon on the right.
  • All of the narrators for this featurette, except for Catelyn Tully, are actually descendants of Rhaenyra (though not Aegon II - his daughter later died and Rhaenyra's son remarried):
    • Viserys III Targaryen is Daenerys's older brother, and both of them are direct descendants of Rhaenyra through the surviving Targaryen line.
    • House Martell joined with the Iron Throne through marriage-alliance with the Targaryens only one century before the War of the Five Kings. Indeed, before the prequel novellas were released, the World sourcebook co-authors described Daemon Targaryen as in many ways "a Targaryen version of Oberyn Martell". Like Oberyn, Daemon was also rather openly bisexual, known for his sexual exploits, and a dangerous and aggressive warrior. Out-of-universe, of course, Oberyn Martell was actually written as a character first, years before Martin invented Daemon and the other details about the Dance of the Dragons - so while in the video Oberyn is talking about his famous predecessor Daemon Targaryen, out of universe, Oberyn was actually Daemon's predecessor as a character.
    • More recently than the Martells, House Baratheon intermarried with the Targaryens as well. In the novels, King Robert Baratheon's paternal grandmother was a younger Targaryen daughter (Rhaelle Targaryen, herself the daughter of King Aegon V Targaryen, and thus the niece of Maester Aemon). The TV continuity has condensed the exact relationships somewhat through an unclear method (a past video said that Robert had Targaryen blood on his mother's side, not his grandmother) - but the point stands that TV-Robert still used his blood relationship with the main Targaryen line as a pretext for his right to claim the Iron Throne. Given their shared parentage, Robert's younger brother Stannis also had some Targaryen blood, and thus so did Shireen.

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