House of the Dragon’s story will be told “very differently” from Fire & Blood

House of the Dragon. Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO
House of the Dragon. Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO /

Deep breaths everyone: we’re less than two weeks away from the premiere of House of the Dragon, HBO’s first Game of Thrones successor series! The upcoming prequel will take us back in time to an earlier era of Westeros when the Targaryens were at the height of their power and dragons ruled the skies over King’s Landing. House of the Dragon is about a civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons, and things will get bloody.

Unlike Game of ThronesHouse of the Dragon is not based on a traditional novel. Instead, it draws from George R.R. Martin’s book Fire & Blood, which is a “fake history” book that draws on several conflicting accounts to convey an in-world historian’s opinion of what could have occurred during the Dance. It’s a lot of fun, with each of the accounts being colored by the opinions of the person recording it. Some of those opinions, like those of the dwarf court jester Mushroom, tend to be quite colorful.

However, the idea of bringing multiple conflicting accounts to life on screen was a weird proposition. House of the Dragon will show a more concrete version of events…and those events may differ somewhat from the book. “We’re taking more of the approach [of] playing with the history as it was written. Essentially, saying that this is the objective truth that happened,” showrunner Ryan Condal told IGN.

"The fun of this show is that it plays as a bit of a companion piece to the history book. It communicates with the history book. In a sense that, some things will line up. Other things will be told very differently. But the idea is that, in the end, the events are the same. It’s just the ‘why’ and ‘how’ they happened that changes as you see the actual history."

House of the Dragon will “surprise the audience if they have read the book”

In Fire & Blood, multiple conflicting historical accounts about the Dance of the Dragons are being sifted through by a character named Archmaester Gyldayn, a historian who is trying to write the definitive tome of Targaryen history. The fact that the book contains various records with varying levels of dubiousness is one of the funnest things about it, but it was deemed too potentially complicated for television audiences.

“Most of those historical accounts that [Fire & Blood’s fictional writer] Archmaester Gyldayn was sifting through, at least two of them weren’t really around at the time. Or at least weren’t present as the events were happening. [Court jester] Mushroom was, if you believe Mushroom, but one was written after the fact. And then, Gyldayn certainly lived long after [the Targaryens] did,” Condal explained.

"We’re taking the approach that history in its telling changes the story. Because the historian only ever knows so much about what happened, which is why primary sources and eyewitness accounts are so important. But we didn’t have all of that in this. Certain events will play out in ways that surprise the audience if they have read the book. Given their understanding of the underpinning history."

Why House of the Dragon did away with Fire & Blood’s conflicting sources

As for why the idea of the conflicting accounts was removed from the show, author George R.R. Martin shed a bit more light on that in Hollywood Spotlight’s huge new issue “The Complete Guide to House of the Dragon” (on sale at newsstands now). In it, Martin reveals that at one point the team considered incorporating Archmaester Gyldayn and the conflicting sources he was sifting through.

The author describes how the show would have used Gyldayn’s academic investigations as a framing story that would appear at the beginning of episodes before the scene shifted to whatever events he was researching, similar to the 1970’s BBC series I, Claudius. But in the end, Martin says that approach was scrapped over concerns that it might be “too complicated” for viewers:

"So we did consider framing House of the Dragon. We considered making Archmaester Gyldayn a character, and having him work with a young apprentice writing Fire & Blood. We’d see him shuffling between these various drafts. They would say, “Well, here’s this version,” and we could go into that. And then, “Oh, but no, here’s this other version. Mushroom’s version,” and we go into that. It was felt that it might be too complicated. So ultimately, we decided no, we would do it straight, and pick and choose among three or four versions, or maybe even combine a couple of versions, to come up with a new version."

While the Mushroom stans might be sad that he and Archmaester Gyldayn most likely won’t be appearing in House of the Dragon, it sounds like the approach the show ended up taking allowed them to dig much deeper into the characters and emotional arcs behind the Dance. Co-showrunner Miguel Sapochnik, who also helmed some of Game of Thrones’ biggest episodes, is of the opinion that working off a book like Fire & Blood that didn’t outline everything precisely was a huge advantage. “I think it was a gift,” he told IGN, “because it gave us stuff to do. To think through not the, ‘What they did,’ but how they did it and why they did it. I think it was a blessing, really.”

House of the Dragon premieres August 21 on HBO and HBO Max, at which point we’ll see what “really” happened during the Dance.

Next. House of the Dragon will explore “a nuanced conversation [about] misogyny”. dark

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