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Who Wins The Dance Of The Dragons? It’s Complicated


WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Fire & Blood.


Summary

  • The Targaryen Civil War, also known as the Dance of the Dragons, is a pivotal event in the history of Westeros.
  • The Greens, led by Alicent and her father, Ser Otto Hightower, supported the claim of Alicent’s son, Aegon II, to the Iron Throne.
  • The Blacks, led by Rhaenyra and her uncle/husband, Daemon Targaryen, fought for Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne.


HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon dives into the story of one of the most devastating wars in Westeros’ history, but the answer to who wins the “Dance of the Dragons” is not so simple. Whereas Game of Thrones covered the main A Song of Ice and Fire books, House of the Dragon covers a specific portion of George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood book. An in-universe history book on the history of House Targaryen in Westeros, Fire & Blood includes several unreliable narrators and leaves some things open for interpretation.

House of the Dragon starts with the crowning of Viserys Targaryen and goes on to set up all the characters that would participate in the Dance of the Dragons. The House of the Dragon cast went through a couple of changes so that the show could cover the entirety of the conflict, from Rhaenyra becoming Viserys’ heir as a child to the war between the Greens and the Blacks. The Greens believe that Rhaenyra does not hold a claim to the throne, rather, Viserys’ firstborn son Aegon does, The Blacks, on the other hand, support Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne.



Greens vs. Blacks: The Targaryen Civil War’s Factions Explained

Alicent And Rhaenyra Each Hold Powerful Allies And Key Advantages In The War

Image by Debanjana Chowdhury

Though Princess Rhaenyra and Alicent Hightower were good friends when they were young, years before the Dance of the Dragons begins, their relationship sours when King Viserys Targaryen chooses Alicent to be his next queen. Viserys and Alicent have four children together, including three sons. Once the king’s clear successor, Rhaenyra now had the “competition” of Aegon II, Viserys’ firstborn son. Between the whispers of Otto Hightower and the troubled relationship with Rhaenyra and her side of the family, Alicent becomes a major player in this rising conflict and eventually supports her son’s claim to the throne.


The two factions become known as the Greens and the Blacks when Queen Alicent attends a tourney in a Hightower green dress while Rhaenyra wears the traditional Targaryen black and red. Rhaenyra first marries Ser Laenor Velaryon and has three children with him (although both Fire & Blood and House of the Dragon make it clear that Harwin Strong is the real father). Following Laenor’s death, which House of the Dragon changed to a scheme for him to escape, Rhaenyra marries her uncle, Daemon Targaryen. As soon as Viserys dies, the war for his succession begins.

Aegon II’s Biggest Supporters & Lineage In House Of The Dragon

Rhaenyra’s Biggest Supporters & Lineage In House of the Dragon

Alicent Hightower

Daemon Targaryen

Otto Hightower

Corlys Velaryon

Aemond Targaryen

Rhaenys Targaryen

Helaena Targaryen

Jacaeyrs Velaryon

Daeron Targaryen

Lucerys Velaryon

Ser Criston Cole

Joffrey Velaryon

Jaehaerys Targaryen

Aegon Targaryen

Jaehaera Targaryen

Viserys Targaryen


Important figures of Queen Alicent’s Green faction include her father and Hand of the King, Ser Otto Hightower, her children Aegon, Aemond, Helaena, and Daeron, Ser Criston Cole, and many of the richest and most powerful houses of Westeros. They represent the status quo that bars women from the throne, though Alicent is motivated primarily by ambition for her children and her firm belief that Rhaenyra’s children are bastards unworthy of the crown rather than any real passion for gender politics. House of the Dragon also adds the Aegon’s Song of Ice and Fire dream confusion to Alicent’s decision.


Rhaenyra’s Black faction in the Dance of the Dragons includes Prince Daemon, the Sea Snake Lord Corlys Velaryon, the Queen Who Never Was and Corlys’ wife Rhaenys Targaryen, Rhaenyra’s children from her first marriage, Jacaerys, Lucerys, and Joffrey, and her children from her marriage with Daemon, Aegon the Younger and Viserys. Rhaenyra’s side has an initial advantage because they hold Dragonstone and therefore have more dragons and dragonriders than the Greens. However, the Greens have the Royal Treasury and all the vestiges of King’s Landing — including the Iron Throne.

Rhaenyra & Aegon II Both Die During The Dance Of The Dragons

Heavy Losses On Both Sides Make The Eventual Victory Bittersweet

Aegon and Rhaenyra in House of the Dragon season 2
Custom image by Debanjana Chowdhury

The Dance of the Dragons results in the deaths of nearly all the Targaryen dragons, as well as Prince Daemon, Queen Rhaenyra, Lady Rhaenys, Queen Helaena and her children, Aemond, Daeron, and all three of Rhaenyra’s children from her first marriage. King Aegon II effectively wins the war when he has Rhaenyra burned and eaten by his dragon, Sunfyre, in Dragonstone. Before that, Rhaenyra did succeed at taking King’s Landing and sat on the Iron Throne for six months, but her short reign was a disaster. The war was still happening in Westeros and King’s Landing was in chaos.


Main Characters Who Survive The Dance Of The Dragons

Title/Role

Lord Corlys Velaryon

Head of House Velaryon, one of Aegon III’s regents.

Aegon III

Aegon II’s successor as king.

Viserys II

Succeeds Aegon III’s sons as king.

Lord Cregan Stark

Head of House Stark, Hand of the King.

Baela Targaryen

Marries Alyn Velaryon and eventually returns to Driftmark.

Rhaena Targaryen

Lived in Dragonstone, lost a husband, and then married Garmund Hightower.

Rhaenyra has to flee from King’s Landing but falls into a trap set up by Aegon in Dragonstone. Still, Aegon has been badly maimed throughout the war, and Rhaenyra’s death does not stop the advance of her reinforcements from the North led by Lord Cregan Stark. Aegon is advised to surrender, but the king does not listen. His advisors then take matters into their own hands by poisoning the feeble and bitter King Aegon II in his own litter, leaving Rhaenyra and Daemon’s son, Aegon the Younger (now King Aegon III) as the undisputed leader of Westeros.


Aegon III Becomes King Of Westeros (Is That A Win For Rhaenyra?)

The Conflict Almost Destroyed Everyone Involved

Aegon the Young in House of the Dragon

Aegon III is only ten years old when he ascends the Iron Throne after the Dance of the Dragons. He has been severely traumatized by the war, the loss of his family, and watching his mother be burned and eaten by a dragon in front of his very eyes. He is crowned by Corlys Velaryon. Aegon III’s only remaining sibling, Viserys II, was seemingly lost during the Dance of the Dragons, though he eventually returned.

Only four dragons survived the Dance: Sheepstealer, Silverwing, Morning, and Cannibal.


Rhaenyra’s bloodline technically won out, as all of Alicent’s children and grandchildren perished in the Dance. Though Aegon III is initially married to King Aegon II and Queen Helaena’s daughter, Jaehaerya, theoretically uniting what is left of the two factions, Jaehaerya dies tragically only two years later — either by suicide or murder. She and Aegon were too young to have children, and Jaehaerya represents the end of Queen Alicent’s ill-fated bloodline. Neither Rhaenyra nor Aegon II truly won the war, but the former’s lineage lasted longer through Aegon III and Viserys II.

Related

House Of The Dragon Timeline Confirmed & Explained

House of the Dragon is set before Game of Thrones, but time jumps left some confused about how long it will cover. Here’s the HotD timeline explained.


Ruling reclusively for 26 years, King Aegon III becomes known by monikers such as “the Broken King” and “Aegon the Unlucky,” as well as “the Dragonbane” due to the last Targaryen dragon dying during his reign. Aegon eventually perishes of consumption at the age of 36 but leaves the Targaryen legacy to his two sons, three daughters, and his brother. Aegon III’s sons both die without male heirs, with Viserys II sitting on the Iron Throne after them.

The Dance of the Dragons is also disastrous for the Targaryen dynasty, particularly regarding the deaths of so many dragons.


Both Rhaenyra and Alicent meet disastrous ends paved by the broken bodies of their dead loved ones and dragons. Alicent spends the last years of her life confined to her chambers and riddled with grief, whereas Rhaenyra sees her reign fall apart before it even begins and is later betrayed and cruelly killed. The Dance of the Dragons is also disastrous for the Targaryen dynasty, particularly regarding the deaths of so many dragons. This is part of the reason why the Targaryens were not as powerful during Robert Baratheon’s revolution.

How HOTD’s Dance Of The Dragons Is Different To The Book

House Of The Dragon Makes Some Big Changes To The Book

House of the Dragon has made several changes to the book, from the timeline of the show to characters that were not included. The series also plays with the unreliable narrator aspect of Fire & Blood, as the in-universe history book itself admits several times that its sources are conflicting and might not be telling the whole truth. For example, whereas Fire & Blood establishes that Laenor Velaryon died before Rhaenyra married Daemon, the character survived in House of the Dragon and simply faked his death with the help of his wife. Other major differences include:


  • Aegon’s Song of Ice and Fire dream is the reason he conquered Westeros.
  • Alicent is younger in the show and is around the same age as Rhaenyra.
  • The absence of Mushroom the fool.
  • Lucerys Velaryons’ death is framed as an accident on the show.
  • The absence of Daenor Targaryen
  • House of the Dragon does not include Aegon Helaena’s youngest son, Maelor, which also leads to changes in the Blood and Cheese scene.
  • Alicent and Criston Cole have a romantic relationship on the show.

Perhaps the biggest House of the Dragon change from the book is the relationship between Alicent and Rhaenyra, both before and after the war stars. Alicent and Rhaenyra’s friendship is more important on the show than in the book. The series frames the Dance of the Dragon as the fallout between two best friends who are robbed of their futures because of the men around them. In a way, House of the Dragon’s Dance of the Dragon is more of an Alicent vs. Rhaenyra conflict, whereas in the book it is framed as a war between Aegon II and Rhaenyra.


  • House of the Dragon

    Seasons:
    2

    Release Date:
    2022-08-21

    Story By:
    George R.R. Martin

    Showrunner:
    Ryan Condal

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