Game of Thrones is a complicated world full of complicated family dynamics and relationships. Who’s related to who and how?
While there are plenty of Lannisters, Starks and Baratheons on the HBO series (well, not that many Starks nowadays), the Targaryen lineage might be a tad confusing since there are only two members still alive.
However, since they once ruled the Seven Kingdoms and held the Iron Throne, let’s look at the family history of the Targaryens to better understand what Daenerys is fighting for.
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains detailed information from the Game of Thrones books, but only on the past history of characters from the TV show.
Aemon and His Brothers
Before Robert Baratheon took the Iron Throne, the Targaryens ruled the Seven Kingdoms for many centuries. The oldest living Targaryen on Game of Thrones is Maester Aemon, the blind, 100-year-old man at the Night’s Watch who serves as a mentor to Samwell Tarly.
Aemon had two brothers. His older brother, Aerion, died when he drank wildfire in hopes that it would turn him into a dragon. When their father died, Aemon’s younger brother, Aegon, became the king. The Iron Throne should’ve passed to Aemon, but he gave it up to become a maester, joining the Night’s Watch to avoid any potential conflicts.
The Reign of Aegon V
King Aegon V had three children: sons Duncan and Aerys and a daughter named Rhaella. Aegon and his eldest son, Duncan, both died in a fire at their family’s palace in Summerhall that may have been caused by an attempt to hatch a dragon egg. Following the death, Aerys became the king and married his sister, Rhaella.
The Mad King
King Aerys II, often referred to as the Mad King, had three children with his sister/wife: Rhaegar, Viserys and Daenerys. Yes, just like Joffrey, Dany is the product of sibling incest. The Targaryens were close with the Lannisters, with Tywin serving as the Hand of the King and Jaime in the Kingsguard.
The eldest son, Rhaegar, married Elia Martell, the sister of Oberyn, and they had two young children, a girl named Rhaenys and a boy named Aegon. However, Rhaegar kidnapped Ned Stark’s sister, Lyanna, who was betrothed to Robert Baratheon at the time. He took her to Dorne and she eventually died, though the reason for the abduction and the circumstances of her death are unknown. That act initiated Robert’s Rebellion, when the houses of Baratheon, Stark, Arryn and Tully joined forces to defeat the Targaryens.
It’s worth noting that a popular theory among fans of the books is that during Lyanna’s kidnapping, Rhaegar impregnated her and she gave birth to Jon Snow before she died, thus making him Ned’s nephew, not his bastard son. It would also mean he is Daenerys’ nephew and the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. However, this is all speculation, but if it turns out to be true, it would mean Jon Snow is technically a part of the Targaryen family.
Robert Baratheon killed Rhaegar in single combat and then led the charge against King’s Landing. Late in the conflict, the Lannisters decided to turn on the Targaryens and join Robert’s Rebellion. Tywin led his forces to sack King’s Landing, having the Mountain murder Rhaegar’s wife, Elia, and their two infant children (an act that Oberyn tried to avenge during Tyrion’s Trial by Combat). Meanwhile, Jaime became the Kingslayer by murdering King Aerys II. After that, Robert took the Iron Throne and married Cersei to solidify his alliance with the Lannisters.
During this conflict, King Aerys’ pregnant wife Rhaella and her young son Viserys were taken away back to Dragonstone, which at the time was the home of the Targaryens. Rhaella gave birth to Daenerys during a big storm (hence her nickname Stormborn), but Rhaella died shortly after that. An ally of the Targaryens then took the two young children, Viserys and Daenerys, across the Narrow Sea to Pentos, where their journey on the TV show began. Viserys planned to take back the Iron Throne by making an alliance with the Dothraki, forcing his sister to marry Khal Drogo, but he was killed in season 1. Robert’s brother Stannis then took Dragonstone to be his home.
The Living Targaryens
That brings us to the present on the TV show, with only two Targaryens still around. Daenerys is in Meereen, gathering forces so she can retake the Iron Throne for her family, while her father’s uncle, Aemon, is at the Night’s Watch. Dany’s three dragons are named after the important men in her life, her husband (Drogon) and her two brothers (Rhaegal and Viserion).
That’s everything you need to know (and some stuff you probably don’t) to fully appreciate and enjoy Game of Thrones. The fifth season premieres on HBO on Sunday, April 12 at 9pm.
(Image courtesy of HBO)