Targaryenism: Conquest Legacy in House of the Dragon- Part 2

Targaryenism: Conquest Legacy in House of the Dragon- Part 2

The best moment in season one of House of the Dragon was when eleven year old Aemond Targaryen claims Vhagar- the largest dragon in the world- as his own. When a dragon rider dies, it can be claimed by another. Laena Velaryon was the previous owner, and it was expected that her daughter Baela would claim it.

Aemond sneaks out at night and boldly approaches the gigantic ancient dragon. With a deep and authoritative voice he commands the dragon in Old Valyrian to obey him. He climbs on Vhagar’s back and takes a ride in the moonlight. When he lands his relatives on the other side of the family try to gang up on him 4 vs 1 and he beats them all to a pulp, but gets his eye cut out in the fray.

Do not morn me mother. It was a fair exchange. I may have lost an eye, but I gained a dragon.

It’s a controversial sequence. The Velaryons are played by two black girls. Blonde haired Aemond uses courage and craftiness to gain the most powerful weapon in the world to his side. He steals a dragon from a black girl, beats her up, her sister and their two simps, and it’s seen as a heroic moment. It’s amazing that the show was willing to do this. Arguably the best scene in the entire franchise.

Ewen Mitchell, the actor playing Aemond as an adult, describes his character this way:

They say that when a Targaryen is born the gods flip a coin. One side is greatness and the other side is madness. And I think Aemond thinks himself as the pinnacle of that Targaryenism. The crescendo of it. In a show full of morally compromised grey characters I wanted to introduce a character who was completely painted black. So long as he’s seen as this indestructible horror-like figure he’ll ascend to this legendary status.

Aemond is described as the most Targaryen Targaryen. He disciplines himself, studies history and politics, and becomes a fearsome swordsman and warrior. He laments that his slacker older brother is chosen to be king and not him. He replaces his eye with a sparkling blue sapphire.

In the last episode we see him flying on Vhagar in the storm while chasing Lucerys for fun. You hear his mad laughter against the rolls of thunder as he effortlessly soars above. He loses himself in the madness and becomes a beast of prey. Something playful quickly turns into violence and war. This is one of the few instances where we see that dragons riders are not in total control of their dragons. “Dragons are not slaves.” says Daenerys in Game of Thrones. Martin is giving us a clue into the secret nature of the dragons.

Audacity of the Noble Races

What Martin identifies in “Targaryenism” is essentially equivalent to what Nietzsche calls the “Dionysian”. The Targaryen/ Dionysian explores the intersections of madness, genius, and greatness and how they have a basis in an underlying lust, ego, or will to power.

From The Genealogy of Morals, the blonde beast type

demonstrate in relation to each other such resourceful consideration, self-control, refinement, loyalty, pride, and friendship—to the outside… these men are not much better than beasts of prey turned loose…. In the wilderness they make up for the tension which a long fenced-in confinement within the peace of the community brings about. They go back to the innocent conscience of a beast of prey, as joyful monsters, who perhaps walk away from a dreadful sequence of murder, arson, rape, and torture with an exhilaration and spiritual equilibrium, as if they had merely pulled off a student prank…


At the bottom of all these noble races we cannot fail to recognize the beast of prey, the blond beast splendidly roaming around in its lust for loot and victory. This hidden basis from time to time needs to be discharged: the beast must come out again, must go back into the wilderness once more,—Roman, Arab, German, Japanese nobility, Homeric heroes, Scandinavian Vikings—in this need they are all alike. It is the noble races that left behind the concept of the “barbarian” in all their tracks, wherever they went.


A consciousness of and even a pride in this fact still reveals itself in their highest culture (for example, when Pericles says to his Athenians, in that famous funeral speech, “our audacity has broken a way through to every land and sea, putting up permanent memorials to itself for good and ill”). This “audacity” of the noble races, mad, absurd, and sudden in the way it expresses itself… their indifference to and contempt for safety, body, life, comfort, their fearsome cheerfulness and the depth of their joy in all destruction, in all the physical pleasures of victory and cruelty—all this was summed up for those who suffered from such audacity in the image of the “barbarian,” of the “evil enemy,” of something like the “Goth” or “Vandal.”


The deep, icy mistrust which the German evokes, as soon as he comes to power, once more again today—is still an after-effect of that unforgettable terror with which for centuries Europe confronted the rage of the blond Germanic beast.

Hesiod… didn’t know what to do with the contradiction presented to him by the marvelous but, at the same time, so horrifying and violent world of Homer, other than to make two cultural ages out of one and then place one after the other—first the Age of Heroes and Demigods from Troy and Thebes, just as that world remained in the memories of the noble families who had their own ancestors in it, and then the Age of Iron as that same world appeared to the descendants of the downtrodden, exploited, ill treated, and those carried off and sold—an age of iron, as mentioned: hard, cold, cruel, empty of feeling and scruples, with everything crushed and covered with blood.


…These people carrying instincts of oppression and of a lust for revenge, the descendants of all European and non-European slavery, of all pre-Aryan populations in particular—they represent the regression of mankind!

A mad, absurd, egoistic audacity is at the heart of the noble races that justify and elevate mankind. The age of great heroic demigods was also the age of cruelty and poverty for some. This is symbolized in the dragon monster itself. The dragons are not “evil”- but they are predators. Their destruction is an expression of their excess strength. They literally soar above everyone from a lofty position.

From Will To Power:

Man is a combination of the beast and the super-beast; higher man a combination of the monster and the superman: these opposites belong to each other. With every degree of a man’s growth towards greatness and loftiness, he also grows downwards into the depths and into the terrible: we should not desire the one without the other;—or, better still: the more fundamentally we desire the one, the more completely we shall achieve the other.

The word “Dionysian” expresses: a constraint to unity, a soaring above personality, the common-place, society, reality, and above the abyss of the ephemeral, the passionately painful sensation of superabundance, in darker, fuller, and more fluctuating conditions; an ecstatic saying of yea to the collective character of existence, as that which remains the same, and equally mighty and blissful throughout all change, the great pantheistic sympathy with pleasure and pain, which declares even the most terrible and most questionable qualities of existence good, and sanctifies them; the eternal will to procreation, to fruitfulness, and to recurrence; the feeling of unity in regard to the necessity of creating and annihilating.

Daemon Targaryen, Aemond’s foil in House of the Dragon, also exemplifies this. In the first episode he wreaks havoc on the criminal underworld of Kings Landing- chopping off hands of thieves, cutting off rapist genitals, and killing murders- just for the fun of it and to get the attention of his brother, the king. He’s an extremely impulsive character constantly defying his brothers orders, almost getting himself executed.

As Matt Smith, the actor playing Daemon, points out- “The only true loyalty he’s got is to his dragon.” He sleeps with and marries his niece, and swears to uphold her claim to the throne, but chokes her out in a moment of anger. He is pure passion and courage. In episode 3 he leads a heroic victory over the pirate king in the Stepstones, almost getting himself killed. But it seems like the whole campaign was driven by Daemons need to one-up his brother.

Aegon II is also a Dionysian figure. He gets drunk, sleeps with the servant girls, and literally hides from his responsibilities. He’s much more relatable than Aemond, but still has the lust for power and glory that could make him into a great king. He goes from fearing power to fully embracing it and being willing to wage war.

Pains of Childbirth

In the original Game of Thrones series Daenerys Targaryen was one of the best characters. Her family is wiped out and she’s forced to live in exile as a sex slave to an Eastern warlord. But she remembers that she has the blood of the dragon. She uses her beauty, intellect, and courage to rise as the conqueror of the East and the mother of Dragons. In once scene she eats an entire raw horse heart to impress the Dothraki horde. Covered in blood, she pushes through the stomach pain and devours the heart like a lioness in the wild.

“The prince is riding. I have heard the thunder of his hooves. Swift as the wind he rides. His enemies will cower before him… And their wives will weep tears of blood.” She’s going to have a boy.


“The stallion who mounts the world. The stallion is the Khal of Khals. He shall unite the people into a single Khalasar. All the people of the world will be his herd”.

— Jorah Mormont

She rises up and declares “A Prince rides inside me! And he shall be called Rhaegol!” Daenerys becomes the queen of the horde and is worshiped like a goddess. She travels throughout the east, conquering ancient civilizations like Alexander the Great or Dionysus in India.

Her role as a bearer of children is significant. Daenerys as a character was thoroughly destroyed by the writers and by popular culture. She became a feminist figure and slave revolutionary- Queen of the brown underclass. It’s likely that Martin had a more Targaryenist vision of her in mind.

We still don’t know how her story actually ends. In a way, she got one of the better endings of any character from the Game of Thrones show. She obliterated Kings Landing, massacred her enemies, and instated a totalitarian occupation- contradicting the liberal moral arc they were building for her. At least she died like a true Targaryen by the end of the show.

Martin doesn’t shy away from the pain of childbirth in his series. Rhaenyra’s mother and Daemons wife both die from childbirth and Rhaenyra’s daughter died while she was pregnant. Many writers and viewers have complained about the frequency of this theme.

“The trouble is that we’ve now seen three Dragon birth scenes, and they are all shaped by pain, helplessness, fear, violence, and someone else exerting power over the birthing person’s agency”

seethes a moron from Vulture.

“While it’s true that pregnancy can involve complications, it’s questionable why a show that sees two powerful women glistening at its forefront needs to feature quite so many confronting depictions of female pain”

another from Cosmopolitan complains.

“This construction voids the mother’s role in childbirth, ceding it to a patriarchal medical establishment.”

whines a Jew from the New York Times.

The House of the Dragon showrunner Ryan Condel explains the secnes this way:

I think we realized in the domino-ing of events that happened in the final episode, one aspect was linking the horrific birth that goes terribly wrong in the pilot with another horrific birth that goes wrong in the finale. It’s mother and daughter. It’s the daughter of the woman who died in the pilot now having this very difficult birth. That was always her fear, birth is a battlefield and now Rhaenyra finds herself at war and this is her going through her own battle. She’s having a miscarriage, She knows she’s not far enough along in her term that she’s going to have a viable infant. It’s medieval times. There is no premature baby unit in the maester’s hospital. It’s a nice piece of symmetry that we did not see at the outset.

For women in the ancient and medieval world, childbirth was the real battlefield. Rhenerya doesn’t become a badass girlboss that needs to jump on her dragon and slay the patriarchy. She remains a likable character who finds her strenght in the domain of women.

Martin captures the tension of this biological reality, which is uncomfortable to leftist feminist journalists. They desperately want their characters to be modernist moralizers but this can’t be done without removing a definitive aspect of aristocratic European life.

From Twilight of the Idols: 

To the Greeks, the symbol of sex was the most venerated of symbols, the really deep significance of all the piety of antiquity. All the details of the act of procreation, pregnancy and birth gave rise to the loftiest and most solemn feelings. In the doctrine of mysteries, pain was pronounced holy: the “pains of childbirth” sanctify pain in general,—all becoming and all growth, everything that guarantees the future involves pain…. In order that there may be eternal joy in creating, in order that the will to life may say Yea to itself in all eternity, the “pains of childbirth” must also be eternal.

Super European

House Targaryen is descended from the 5000 year old ancient civilization of Valyria. Old Valyria ruled vast parts of the eastern continent. They were much more advanced then Westeros in terms of technology, infrastructure, magic, culture and politics- taking on an almost mythological status among the Westerosis.

After the Doom of Valyria the civilization was completely wiped out, leaving academics in Westeros to try and uncover its ancient mysteries, much like medieval Europeans trying to uncover the lost world of ancient Greece and Rome. The men of the west look eastward and see what they can become. This young peninsula-continent begins to become a crucible of war where new noble castes are forced to rise and develop.

New, more ancient forms of magic are discovered in the ice in the far North- something maybe even stronger than dragon magic. Something that could conquer the whole world. Looking at our own history we see that we are hyperboreans-

Beyond the North, beyond the ice, beyond death—our life, our happiness…. We have discovered that happiness; we know the way; we got our knowledge of it from thousands of years in the labyrinth.

Our hardware developed in ice age conditions and eventually created the Aryan conquers of India and Egypt. Like Aemond, Europeans have the opportunity to find the Targaryen within themselves.

To rediscover the South in oneself, and to stretch a clear, glittering, and mysterious southern sky above one; to reconquer the southern healthiness and concealed power of the soul, once more for oneself; to increase the compass of one’s soul step by step, and to become more supernational, more European, more super-European, more Oriental, and finally more Hellenic—for Hellenism was, as a matter of fact, the first great union and synthesis of everything Oriental, and precisely on that account, the beginning of the European soul, the discovery of our “new world”:—he who lives under such imperatives, who knows what he may not encounter some day? Possibly—a new dawn!

Hellenism, Targaryenism, Dionysianism- this combination of Northern biology with the world conquering power of the orient is what Nietzsche identified as the formula for the greatest aspects of Europe and the key to Europe’s future.

As King Viserys points out in the show, some Targaryens are “dreamers” who can see the future. It was a dream that caused them to first move west to Dragonstone and escape the Doom. Martin revealed a new major clue about his mythology in season 1. The “Song of Ice and Fire” was a dream that Aegon had of the coming white walkers from the North. He believed it was his mission to conquor Westeros to save the whole world from the coming winter. The stallion who mounts the world.

“Do you believe that Westeros can be another Valyria, your grace?” Alicent asks in episode 2.

The fact that this story is still not complete makes it even more of a mystery. In the mystery of the Song of Ice and Fire lies the mystery of our own European future. For now, the mythology transcends George R.R. Martin. The events in House of the Dragon are one small part of this larger story, but through characters like Aemond much more will be revealed about the nature of Targaryanism.

Viserys: Will I be remembered as a good king, Lyonel?


Lord Strong: Your Grace?


Viserys: What will they say of me when the histories are written? I have neither fought nor conquered, nor suffered any great defeat.


Lord Strong: Some might call that good fortune.


Viserys: It hardly makes a good song, does it? To be sung at feasts in a hundred years… five hundred.


Lord Strong: You have carried King Jaehaerys’ legacy. And kept the realm strong.


( sighs )


Lord Strong: Is it not better to live in peace than to have songs sung after you are dead?


Viserys: Perhaps. But there is a part of me wishes I’d been tested. I often think that in the crucible, I may have been forged a different man.


Lord Strong: Many that are tested, only wish to have been spared it.


Viserys: Another lord might assure me that I would rise like Aegon the Conqueror given the chance.


Lord Strong: Your Grace, that is…


Viserys: You’re right. You’re right as always. It is perhaps best not to know…


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