Game of Thrones Theorycrafting: Is Tyrion Lannister actually a Targaryen?

Image: Game of Thrones/HBO
Image: Game of Thrones/HBO /


During Game of Thrones Episode 602 “Home,” Tyrion acquaints himself with two of Daenerys’ dragons, the ones locked up in the catacombs, and unchains them. Instead of roasting Tyrion, Rhaegal and Viserion seemingly take to him. The question is why? Was it a coincidence? Did they sense he was there to help them, as Tyrion implied? Or is there more to it?

One fan theory holds that Tyrion is actually the illegitimate son of Aerys “The Mad King” Targaryen, which offers another explanation for why the dragons like him. Is there anything to it? Let’s take a look at some of the possible clues.

Razor's Rant, Game of Thrones, If I look back I am lost
Razor's Rant, Game of Thrones, If I look back I am lost /

Joanna Lannister and Aerys II “The Mad King” Targaryen:

In the A Song of Ice and Fire series, it’s said that even once Tywin and Joanna Lannister married, Aerys was still infatuated with her. In reference to Joanna, he drunkenly joked about how it was a pity that the tradition of first night, which allowed the king to sleep with new brides, was banned. Ser Barristan Selmy also seemed to corroborate that Aerys took unwanted liberties with Joanna during her bedding ceremony. Aerys’ continued lust for Joanna was a constant source of friction between he and Tywin. It’s possible that, at some point after Tywin and Joanna married, Aerys got his way and bedded Joanna Lannister, whether be force, blackmail, or otherwise. Might Tyrion have been the result of that union?

According to those who knew Tywin and Joanna well, the only time Tywin smiled was when Joanna was present. And when Joanna died giving birth to Tyrion, the best part of Tywin died with her. In spite of Joanna’s death, if Tywin’s love for her was so great, why did he hate Tyrion? His eldest son Jaime is a member of the Kingsguard and cannot marry, meaning that Tyrion is the only one who can legitimately carry on Tywin’s branch of House Lannister. Tywin continually refuses to consider Tyrion his heir, which seems odd given his focus on family and legacy. In A Storm of Swords, Tywin rebukes Tyrion by telling him:

"Men’s laws give you the right to bear my name and display my colors, since I cannot prove that you are not mine. To teach my humility, the gods have condemned me to watch you waddle about wearing that proud lion that was my father’s sigil and his father’s before him. But neither gods nor men shall compel me to turn Casterly Rock into your whorehouse."

Tywin wants to be respected, and doesn’t think having a dwarf for a son is respectable. He’s also nursing an irrational grudge against Tyrion for killing his mother in childhood. But this could also be an acknowledgment by Tywin that Tyrion is not, in fact, his son.

Tyrion’s appearance:

Tyrion’s appearance may also provide some hints that he’s actually a Targaryen. The Targaryens are famed for their silver hair and purple eyes. In the books, Tyrion’s hair color is described as a mixture of pale blond hair that’s almost white (it’s more dirty blonde on the show). His eyes are also mismatched: one green and the other black. Tyrion’s appearance contrasts with that of Jaime and Cersei, who have classic Lannister looks: green eyes and golden blonde hair. Siblings obviously don’t always look alike, but Joanna and Tywin were first cousins, so how did Tyrion end up with a black eye and whitish hair?

Tyrion Lannister
Tyrion Lannister /

Tyrion and Tywin:

In addition to Tywin’s insinuations that Tyrion isn’t his son, he continually lobs insults at him. During A Storm of Swords, Tywin doesn’t hold back. He tells Tyrion, “You are an ill-made, devious, disobedient, spiteful little creature full of envy, lust, and low cunning.”

The “ill-made” crack is especially noteworthy. On the surface, it’s another insult about Tyrion being a dwarf, but it could also be an insinuation that Tyrion was the product of an unwanted relationship between Aerys and Joanna—literally, he was made in the wrong way. Since Tyrion’s birth resulted in Joanna’s death, it’s a double whammy for Tywin.

Tywin’s resentment of Tyrion is similar to Catelyn Stark’s feelings towards Jon Snow. In A Feast for Crows Tywin’s sister Genna tells Jaime, “I once said to your father that Tyrion is Tywin’s son, not you. He would not speak to me for half a year.” Genna was likely referring to the fact that Tyrion’s intellect is similar to Tywin’s, but obviously likening them to each other infuriated Tywin. Catelyn Stark hated Jon Snow because he was living proof that her husband had been with another woman. Did Tywin hate Tyrion because he was a reminder that his beloved wife had been with another man?

Tywin’s hatred of Tyrion’s womanizing is also curious. In Westeros, it doesn’t seem uncommon for nobles to visit a brothel or two (as we see at the end of A Storm of Swords, even Tywin met with whores). But if Tyrion is Aerys’ son, he likely inherited this trait from the Mad King, something Tywin would hate to reminded of.

In addition to denying that Tyrion is his son, Tywin is itching to dispose of him. Whether it’s assigning him to the vanguard in the Battle of the Green Fork or sentencing him to death for King Joffrey’s murder, he wants him out of the picture. Finally, before Tyrion kills Tywin, he admits that he always wanted Tyrion dead, and his dying words are a denial that Tyrion is his son. Another interesting parallel is that if Tyrion is a Targaryen, this means he and Jaime each killed the other’s father.

tywin_and_tyrion /

Tyrion’s fascination with dragons:

There are other clues about Tyrion’s true lineage. Like many other Targaryens, he has an affinity for fire and dragons, which is mentioned throughout the books and the show. Particularly of note is a conversation with Jon in A Game of Thrones. Tyrion says:

"When I was your age, I used to dream of having a dragon of my own. Oh, yes. Even a stunted, twisted, ugly little boy can look down over the world when he’s seated on a dragon’s back. I used to start fires in the bowels of Casterly Rock and stare at the flames for hours, pretending they were dragon fire. Sometimes I’d imagine my father burning. At other times, my sister. Don’t look at me that way, bastard. I know your secret. You’ve dreamt the same kind of dreams."

During A Dance with Dragons, Tyrion crosses paths with the red priest Moqorro. Like Melisandre, Moqorro can see the future in the flames, though his predictions are markedly more accurate than hers. He tells Tyrion he sees, “Dragons old and young, true and false, bright and dark. And you. A small man with a big shadow, snarling in the midst of it all.” The dragon is the sigil of House Targaryen. What’s most interesting to me about that passage is that Moqorro is speaking only of dragons and associates Tyrion with them.

Will Tyrion ever fulfill his dream of riding a dragon? It’s said that dragons are very selective about who they’ll allow to ride them, and having Valyrian blood may be a factor. In the books, there’s a character named Brown Ben Plumm who claims to have a little Targaryen blood in him. Rhaegal and Viserion are particularly friendly with Ben, a fact he attributes to his distant Targaryen lineage. Now that we’ve seen Rhaegal and Viserion be friendly with Tyrion, something similar may be going on.

In A Game of Thrones, Tyrion gives Bran the schematics for a specially designed saddle, like his own, that will allow Bran to ride a horse despite his disability. This detail may seem inconsequential, but I believe Tyrion will eventually utilize his own specially designed saddle once again, but to ride a dragon instead of a horse.

Tyrion and dragon
Tyrion and dragon /


In A Storm of Swords, Dany thinks to herself, “The dragon has three heads. There are two men in the world who I can trust, if I can find them. I will not be alone then. We will be three against the world, like Aegon and his sisters.” With the Tower of Joy scenes coming up in this week’s episode, hopefully we’ll finally get confirmation of Jon Snow’s lineage. If Jon is the second head of the dragon, could Tyrion be the third?