8 ways House of the Dragon changed Rhaenyra Targaryen from the book

House of the Dragon Episode 10
House of the Dragon Episode 10 /
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Rarely does a TV show version of a character from a book manage to be as nuanced and compelling, but the showrunners of HBO’s House of the Dragon pulled it off with Rhaenyra Targaryen, who readers first got to know on the pages of George R.R. Martin’s book Fire & Blood.

To be fair, Martin gave HBO a lot of room to fill in details. Fire & Blood is a fictional history book “written by” Archmaester Gyldayn of the Citadel many decades after the Dance of the Dragons war is over. The book doesn’t have access to Rhaenyra’s mind. It summarizes the major events of Rhaenyra’s life as best as Gyladayn could reconstruct them based on other accounts. Also, he has to be mindful not to say anything too inflammatory lest he upset the powers that be of his time.

The book is cobbled together from the account of various individuals, some of which conflict with each other. House of the Dragon seems to give us a peek at what “really” happened.

Many fans claim that the show vastly improved on the bare-bones depictions of the book, turning Rhaenyra and others into more fleshed-out characters. Others think the character has been white-washed and made to seem more innocent and less petty than she’s painted in the books. Whatever team you’re on, it’s clear that changes were made from the source material. Let’s go over some of the most notable:

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

1. Rhaenyra was younger when her mother died

House of the Dragon begins 172 years before the birth of Daenerys Targaryen in 284 AC, which puts Aemma Arryn’s death year around 112 AC. The show doesn’t give us exact information about dates, but it’s clear they aged up Rhaenyra Targaryen from the book.

In Fire & Blood, it’s established that Rhaenyra is born in 97 AC, which makes her only 8 years old when her mother Aemma Arryn dies in childbirth. In House of the Dragon, when Aemma dies, Rhaenyra (played by Milly Alcock) is 14-15.

Rhaenyra being older in the show is important for her character. She’s old enough to understand that her mother died due to complications from childbirth, which explains why she’s so hesitant to become a mother herself as the years go on. Also, while it’s incredibly creepy that her uncle Daemon would flirt with her at 15, it’d be even weirder if she were younger.

Alicent Hightower, on the other hand, was aged down for the show. She is around 18 years old in the book when she marries King Viserys I and becomes the queen of Westeros. On House of the Dragon, she’s around Rhaenyra’s age. And speaking of Alicent…