Throughout Daenerys Targaryen’s rise to power Game of Thrones, the ghost of her father, the Mad King Aerys, looms large. Over the course of the series, as Daenerys experiences setbacks and successes in her quest for the Iron Throne, many characters, from Barristan Selmy to Tyrion Lannister to Varys to Jon Snow, wonder whether she will ultimately achieve greatness or succumb to her genetic predisposition. craze. of her line.
Similarly, House of the Dragon uses the memory of a previous king known for his brutality and cruelty to inform the characterization of one of his central characters, the Demon Prince. The repeated invocations of King Maegor the Cruel in relation to Daemon throughout the series are not accidental. But who exactly was Maegor the Cruel, and what is the show trying to say about Daemon by creating this link between the two?
Abomination on the Iron Throne
Maegor the Cruel was the son of Aegon the Conqueror and the third Targaryen ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. Like his descendant Daemon, he was a second son, with his older half-brother Aenys, heir to Aegon’s throne. Where Aenys dabbled in cerebral pursuits, Maegor was more of a jackass. When he turned 13, his mother Visenia gave him her Valyrian steel sword Dark Sister, and he was knighted by his father at the age of 16, making him the youngest knight in the realm at the time.
Despite their different motivations, Aenys and Maegor got along quite well. When Aegon died, Aenys declared to his brother, “We will rule this kingdom together, you and I,” but in practice, only Aenys was crowned. Maegor helped his brother (brutally) put down several rebellions and was named the Hand of the King. However, the brothers fought over a marriage. After 13 childless years with Ceryse Hightower, Maegor decided to take a second wife, an act that so offended the faith of the seven and so upset the common folk that King Aenys gave him an ultimatum: Put aside his second wife or go into exile. . Maegor chose exile.
He returned when Aenys died suddenly, but instead of bending the knee to Aenys’s heir, Maegor’s nephew Aegon, Maegor claimed the Iron Throne for himself. Eventually, Aegon began to gather strength to press his claim, prompting Maegor to meet him in battle at Balerion the Black Dread—the greatest of the Targaryen dragons in Westeros. He killed his kin (and the true heir to the Iron Throne), giving him the moniker ‘Maegor the Cruel’, as well as a black mark as a Kinslayer, believed to be one of the most cursed and dishonorable things one could do in Westeros is.
Maegor’s conflict with the church and his capacity for cruelty escalated when he took a third wife, sparking a religious rebellion led by the Warrior’s Sons and the Faith Militant (the military arms of the church). The rebellion ended when Maegor used dragon fire to burn the Sept of Remembrance and all within it. He then ordered the construction of the Dragonpit where the church once stood. In other construction-based horrors, Maegor celebrated the completion of the Red Keep by holding a massive three-day feast for all who worked on its construction. when the feast was over, he executed all the workers to ensure that he would be the only one with full knowledge of the many hidden chambers and secret passages.
Maegor’s reign of six years and 66 days ended when his gruesome and mysterious death began one of the great urban legends of the Seven Kingdoms. It ended as it was, soaked in blood.
Maegor is reborn
Just like the Mad King looks over Daenerys the whole time Game of ThronesMaegor is seen as an ally of the Daemon Prince, in obvious and subtle ways, throughout House of the Dragon. In episode 1, Otto Hightower openly warns that naming Daemon’s heir risks giving the realm another Maegor the Cruel. Much of that sentiment stems from Otto running his own long game to gain control of the line of succession, but there are kernels of truth underpinning the comparison that help it resonate.
Like Maegor, Daemon is a second son, and like Maegor, his claim to the throne is usurped by his brother’s child. Both had Dark Sister. Both achieved military fame and glory fighting the pirates at the Stepstones. Both are considered warriors compared to their more biblical brethren. Both were banished by their royal brothers for their transgressions. But despite Otto’s claims, Maegor remains more of a worst-case scenario for Daemon evolution than a reflection of who he is when House of the Dragon it begins
By episode 2, however, Daemon seemingly leans into the comparison for his own purposes: Exiled from court, squatting on Dragonstone, desperate for his brother’s attention, he steals a dragon egg for his unborn child through a woman who announces that he intends to marry. — despite the fact that he is already married to another woman. While it is the dragon’s egg that ultimately lights the spark under Viserys, Daemon’s (ultimately false) declaration of his intention to take a second wife immediately calls to mind Maegor’s history with polygamy and how his desire marrying and remarrying led to significant struggles. with the church and terrible bloodshed throughout the kingdom. The clash at Dragonstone represents Daemon at arguably his most Maegor.
While House of the Dragon reinforces the Maegor/Daemon comparison — the Dragonstone confrontation is almost entirely a creation of the series, adding intense drama and cinematic appeal to what is a quick takedown Fire & Blood — Showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik finally pick up on what George RR Martin testified, as the parallels between Maegor and Daemon come from the text of the book itself. Just like the contributors, Martin clearly wants readers to keep Maegor in mind as they read about Daemon (and his readers Fire & Blood you know the Maegor/Daemon jobs aren’t done yet), to worry along with Otto Hightower and the rest of the realm that Daemon leans too far in this comparison.
Fortunately, Rhaenyra is able to defuse the situation in episode 2 – and Daemon proves to be better than his great-uncle when he’s not hitting on his niece, the person who towers above him in the line of succession. In Episode 4, Daemon returns to court and mends things with Viserys, only to be thrown out again after he was almost caught hooking up with Rhaenyra (important to note: one of Maegor’s six wives was his niece). But Daemon Targaryen’s story isn’t over, and Maegor’s ghost will continue to haunt him as he moves deeper into the Dance of the Dragons.
Just like the narrative tension created by the question of which way Daenerys’ coin will land, House of the Dragon invokes the memory of the cruelest Targaryen ruler to tease out the worst-case scenario for Daemon’s character arc.