Game of Thrones: 8 Targaryens You Need to Know

By AT&T Digital Media Productions editorial team

Targaryens

In the Game of Thrones universe, no Great House has had more influence over Westerosi culture and politics than the Targaryens. The sole survivors of the Doom of Valyria, these silver-haired dragonlords founded the greatest dynasty Westeros had ever seen, all while besieged by infighting, rebellion, and more than one case of madness. Here are a few of the more noteworthy Targaryens to leave their mark on the Seven Kingdoms.

Aegon I

Who he is: About 300 years before the events in Game of Thrones, Aegon and his sister (!) wives (!!) flew in on dragonback from a rocky island in the Narrow Sea, and the world was never the same. Aegon & Co. transformed Westeros from a collection of petty kingdoms into a realm unified by fire and blood. One noteworthy victory came against King Harren Hoare, who spent decades constructing Harrenhal—by any measure the largest fortress ever built. On the very day the castle was finished, Aegon swooped in on Balerion the Black Dread and burned it to the ground, roasting Harren and his sons inside.

Why he matters: There would be no Westeros as we know it without Aegon, First of his Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm.

Daenys I

Who she is: Not to be confused with Daenerys, Daenys the Dreamer had a prophetic dream of the destruction of Valyria 12 years before the Doom. Her father Aenar trusted in her vision and moved the family (and their dragons) to a small island off the eastern coast of Westeros. That was lucky!

Why she matters: House Targaryen wouldn’t exist without her. Had she not convinced her father of their certain death, the Valyrian cataclysm would have wiped out the Targaryens along with every other noble family.

Maegor I

Who he is: Maegor kicked off his reign with a bang, beheading the Grand Maester who questioned his claim. (He would later execute two more Grand Maesters for good measure.) Maegor completed the construction of the Red Keep, then had the builders executed to protect its secrets. But it’s his bloody war against the Faith Militant, fought in part over his polygamy, that would define his legacy.

Why he matters: In response to Maegor’s tyranny, a number of reforms were enacted that weakened the power of the Faith. The Faith Militant was disbanded, and septons no longer conducted trials. Over 250 years later, these reforms would be overturned, with disastrous consequences in King’s Landing.

three_eyed_raven

Is the Three-Eyed Raven a secret Targaryen?

Brynden Rivers

Who he is: One of the legitimized “Great Bastards” of King Aegon IV, the man called “Bloodraven” was rumored to be a sorcerer who ruled the realm with whispers and magic. Wizard or not, he served many years as Hand of the King, presiding over a spy network that would make Varys jealous. A capable warrior, he defended the throne during the internecine conflict known as the Blackfyre Rebellion. After he executed a Blackfyre pretender, he took the black, rising to Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch before mysteriously disappearing north of the Wall.

Why he matters: While Game of Thrones has never confirmed it, it’s tacitly understood by many fans that Bloodraven became the Three-Eyed Raven. Brynden was alleged to have supernatural proclivities and was last seen in wildling country dressed all in black. It’s anybody’s guess whether his silver hair was a result of old age or dragonblood.

 

Maester_Aemon

Maester Aemon could have been king, but chose a life of servitude free of political entanglements.

Maester Aemon

Who he is: The King Who Never Was, Aemon gave up a chance at the Iron Throne for a life of servitude at the Wall. He served as a maester to the Night's Watch at for so long that most of the Seven Kingdoms had forgotten about his Targaryen blood entirely until Jon Snow realized the truth.

Why he matters: He’s Maester Aemon! In addition to mentoring Jon and Sam, among thousands of other Night’s Watch brothers, he’s one of only three Targaryens to grace Game of Thrones on-screen.

 

Daenerys

Daenerys’ ancestor Aegon V was obsessed with hatching dragon eggs to reinforce Targaryen might.

Aegon V

Who he is: The man who inherited the throne that Aemon renounced, “Egg” had an eventful reign that ended in tragedy. Though beloved by the smallfolk for his humane reforms, Aegon the Unlikely faced an uprising from the lords of Westeros over their diminished power. Convinced that dragons were the only way to solidify his power, Aegon attempted to hatch them in a ceremony involving wildfire at the royal retreat of Summerhall. Instead, the palace erupted in flame, killing Aegon and nearly snuffing out House Targaryen.

Why he matters: In attempting to restore Targaryen power, Aegon very nearly ended it, proving that dragon-hatching is not like roasting a chicken. He also paved the way for the man who would preside over the end of the Targaryen dynasty...

 

The_Mad_King

“Burn them all!”

Aerys II

Who he is: The “Mad King” didn’t start out that way. As a younger king, Aerys II was a charmer, and with his friend Tywin Lannister as Hand of the King, he brought peace and prosperity to the Seven Kingdoms. But this being Game of Thrones, it wasn’t meant to last. Aerys descended into insanity, due in part to whispers that Tywin was the real ruler of Westeros. As his paranoia and cruelty grew out of control, he came to love burning people alive with wildfire, including Ned Stark’s father Rickard. The Mad King got what was coming to him when Jaime Lannister, a member of Aerys’ Kingsguard, stabbed him in the back to put an end to Robert's Rebellion.

Why he matters: In addition to those great “burn them all!” visions Bran had in the Three Eyed Raven’s cave, Aerys’ madness shaped many characters’ paths, none more so than the Kingslayer Jaime Lannister. His legacy still looms large over his daughter Daenerys. It’s said that every time a Targaryen is born, the gods flip a coin. Will Daenerys -- never afraid to unleash a little fire and blood -- give in to her father’s madness in the quest to reclaim his throne?

Rhaegar

Who he is: Poet, dreamer, warrior...kidnapper? Prince Rhaegar is absolutely central to the dramatic action of Game of Thrones. About two decades before the events of Season 1, Rhaegar ran off with Lyanna Stark, who caught his eye at the great Tourney of Harrenhal. Lyanna’s betrothed Robert Baratheon got a little upset, and within a year, Rhaegar met the business end of Robert’s warhammer at the Trident. But Rhaegar’s legacy lives on, as viewers discovered in last season’s finale that Jon Snow is the product of his tryst with Lyanna. R+L = J confirmed!

Why he matters: In addition to kickstarting the series’ larger plot, as Jon’s recently confirmed father, Rhaegar is a major player in one of its key mysteries. Jon’s parentage is so important that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss supposedly earned George R.R. Martin’s blessing to adapt his books for television by guessing it correctly. Rhaegar also serves as a reminder that in Game of Thrones, you win or you die. Everyone who knew him agreed he would have made a great king. But as Jorah Mormont matter-of-factly told his sister Daenerys: “Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly. And Rhaegar died.”

Will a new Targaryen dynasty be forged in Season 7 of Game of Thrones? Tune in to HBO starting July 16 to find out.