“No matter how far back Ned searched in the brittle yellowed pages, always he found the gold yielding before the coal.”
EDIT: I know about the new House of the Dragon ( #HoTD ) show that is coming to HBO and I know that the show-runners race changed Velaryons for their own (non-canon) reasons, and that is ok because the two worlds of lore have nothing to do with each other. Viewers should have expected that as the previous GoT show also race changed many characters. It’s what happens, no biggie, enjoy what you want. Also, as a reminder, this website is not about the show and show discussion is not encouraged./
What am I talking about here?
This isn’t a very long-winded concept, but I have taken a little time to give you a few quick jumps to the discussion topics:
Hair-do’s and dont’s…- What’s the jist of this?
GRRM is the God: his world, his rules. – seriously, real world scientific rules do not apply.
Targaryens mixes who look Targaryen yet have “identity issues” – the question and challenge of personal identity is huge in Martinworld, which includes A Song of Ice and Fire.
Hair-do’s and dont’s…
Hair color in A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF), as well as ALL of George RR Martin’s stories, is wildly important. From false colors, to honey-colored hues, to shades of white, grey, and silver, it is a clue not to be underestimated. There seems to be a formula that the first born child of a Targaryen+non-Targ mix parentage always physically favors the non-Targ parent, while the second born and subsequent children are a little more of a mix of both.
This is done for literary purposes; to be able to hide a certain child/ren in plain sight.
When I say Targaryen looks, obviously I mean Valyrian looks of the pale complexion, pale metallic hair in silver or gold, eyes in various shades of purple. As GRRM keeps telling readers inside and out of the story proper, being Valyrian is a race, not an ethnicity. Valyria is the ancestral home of House Targaryen, House Celtigar, and House Velaryon in addition to about forty other houses that practiced hierarchical incest (read here the why’s of it in Martinworld). If anything, knowing all of Martin’s works, I’d guess that Targaryens used the Velaryons as a type of ‘brood mare’ situation to continue to keep the bloodlines of Valyria “pure”. This was how it was done in GRRM’s story Bitterblooms.
Would George be so obvious about something he’s planted in the series when it comes to looks and lineage? Yes. When asked at a t 2015 Dayton, Ohio signing about Brienne being related to Duncan “Dunk” the Tall, George responded as so:
Asked if he’ll ever tell which character is Dunk’s descendent. Got a rather acerbic, “I gave a pretty strong hint in the new book,” to which I sheepishly replied “Yea, but I read it real fast, in three days.”” I told him I suspected Brienne but thought that she was too obvious and that he’d be more subtle than that and he said, “You think?” Coy bastard. -source
This in-person response was so very much like GRRM’s main character’s response in Nightflyers. When the suspicious crew of the Nightlfyer start to theorize about the origins of Royd eris, they concoct many fanatical theories, and Royd responds as so:
“I liked your guess about the gas giants,” Royd said. “Sadly, the truth is less dramatic. I am an ordinary Homo sapien in middle age. Sixty-eight standard, if you require precision. The hologram you see before you is the real Royd Eris, or was so some years ago. I am somewhat older now, but I use computer simulation to project a more youthful appearance to my guests.” –source
I first proposed this idea years ago on the Westeros.org forum. A common misconception about this theory I want to clear up right away is that Martin is using his own world genetics, not our real world genetics. This is a carryover idea from his SciFi specific preferences, just reformulated and simplified to fit a fantasy story setting. The other misconception some readers have is that this “formula” applies to all people of Westeros. Nope. Just the Targaryens, as the other families have their own simplified formula the author uses for symbolic, literary purposes.
A symbol is indeed the only possible expression of some invisible essence, a transparent lamp about a spiritual flame; while allegory is one of many possible representations of an embodied thing, or familiar principle, and belongs to fancy and not to imagination: the one is a revelation, the other an amusement.
Another reason for this non-real world genetic need in the literary world of ASOIAF is that Daenerys Targaryen is the first and the “ultimate” Targaryen, all of the rest from in-world history are just there to lead up to Dany. It is George’s reverse engineering of the ASOIAF world after he had already written Daenerys (firstly), then Viserys and other Targaryen mentions in the main (canon) books.
The physical looks and behaviors of Dany herself come from his character Cyrain of Lilith and Ash in his story The Glass Flower. There is also quite a bit, physical and archetypal, of Goldenboy from the story Starlady in Dany and Valyrians. Both of these character-types also have the proximity telepathy/mind control powers such as George planned (and kept) for Daenerys and the Targaryens. Pyrokenisis in the case of the Targaryens in general, and Pyro+mental persuasion for Dany as being able to “bend to her will” the people around her (per GRRM as he planned Dany from the beginning).
The World of Ice and Fire – The Reign of the Dragons: The Conquest
The Aegon who is known to history as Aegon the Conqueror and Aegon the Dragon was born on Dragonstone in 27 BC. He was the only son, and second child, of Aerion, Lord of Dragonstone, and Lady Valaena of House Velaryon, herself half-Targaryen on her mother’s side. Aegon had two trueborn siblings; an elder sister, Visenya, and a younger sister, Rhaenys. It had long been the custom amongst the dragonlords of Valyria to wed brother to sister, to keep the bloodlines pure, but Aegon took both his sisters to bride. By tradition, he was expected to wed only his older sister, Visenya; the inclusion of Rhaenys as a second wife was unusual, though not without precedent. It was said by some that Aegon wed Visenya out of duty and Rhaenys out of desire.
Also, pale and silver/gold with purple eyes is not the same as albino. Superficially they seem the same, but to readers who decode the details, they function quite differently from each other. Martin has many actual specified albino people across his 72+ works, Brynden Bloodraven Rivers as the first obvious ASOIAF example, but what he developed using his own ideas for his own world for Valyrians is for specific literary fantasy reasons.
I cannot say this enough, GRRM’s worlds follow his own “scientific” rules. Latitude and geography have little to do with the results we see in real life. Characters are the way GRRM needs them to be.
GRRM is the God: his world, his rules.
In the Baratheon mix, we always get coal before gold. I think it is the same for the first born to a Targaryen + Non-Targ baby. I was lucky enough to ask George about this theory and he pretty much said yes (as much as he says ‘yes’) in a tricky sorta way as he asked me the details on this theory and even reading my own note card that I had with me.
The book series has to rely on other genetic factors and methods of DNA testing that we do not use or rely upon in our own world (reality is such a silly place!). Therefore, GRRM has to somehow “show” that certain characters are related other than just by looks or swab testing. This is where personality comes in to play. Of course, there is always going to be that one exception thrown in there in attempt to throw things off, but exceptions are not the basis for reality and usually have their own reason why. I am aware that there may be a little crossover with symbolism, something I kinda expect as it’s par for the Martin course, but you have to continue to investigate why.
Speaking of Valyria… right from the start I wanted the Targaryens, and by extension the Valryians from whom they were descended, to be a race apart, with distinctive features that set them apart from the rest of Westeros, and helped explain their obsession with the purity of their blood. To do this, I made a conventional ‘high fantasy’ choice, and gave them silver-gold hair, purple and violet eyes, fine chiseled aristocratic features. That worked well enough, at least in the books (on the show, less so). –GRRM
The crux of this theory is simple:
- It seems as though the first born child to a mix of a Targaryen and non-Targaryen parents will conveniently always favor the non-Targaryen as far as physical looks, while the child may favor the Targ parent for personality and demeanor. Sometimes an exception child may have one Targ feature, but mostly they look non-typical-Targaryen.
- It is the subsequent children that most often take the Targaryen/Valyrian looks of skin color, hair color and eye color. This seems to occur mostly with just the second child, while the third child and others can vary.
- The typical Targaryen features are pale skin, silver, platinum, or gold hair and eyes in a variety of shades of purple, or light blue.
- TWOIAF/ Targaryen Kings: …aquiline nose, fine features, silver-white hair, and purple eyes that bespoke his own Valyrian heritage. Source link.
- TWOIAF/ Rise of Valyria: The great beauty of the Valyrians—with their hair of palest silver or gold and eyes in shades of purple not found amongst any other peoples of the world—is well-known, and often held up as proof that the Valyrians are not entirely of the same blood as other men. Source Link.
- Back to that NotABlog post about Valyrians being a race apart: “Speaking of Valyria… right from the start I wanted the Targaryens, and by extension the Valryians from whom they were descended, to be a race apart, with distinctive features that set them apart from the rest of Westeros, and helped explain their obsession with the purity of their blood. To do this, I made a conventional ‘high fantasy’ choice, and gave them silver-gold hair, purple and violet eyes, fine chiseled aristocratic features. That worked well enough, at least in the books (on the show, less so).”
- The current, Westerosi Targagryens are descended from Aerion Targaryen (son of Daemion) and Valaena Velaryon. The Velaryons as they are described as having the typical Valyrian looks; pale skin, pale hair, purple eyes. So in this case, it should have been Visenya who go the near indistinguishable Velaryon looks, and her personality is something else as well. All of the current Targaryens come from Rhaenys’ line, which means they carry the stronger Targaryen looks just by that “rule” (plus the incest- another genetic rule that George is ignoring for his fantasy world).
The Hedge Knight:
The meadow was a churning mass of people… Across the field, the viewing stand was filling up with highborn lords and ladies, a few rich townfolk, and a score of knights who had decided not to compete today. Of Prince Maekar he saw no sign, but he recognized Prince Baelor at Lord Ashford’s side. Sunlight flashed golden off the shoulder clasp that held his cloak and the slim coronet about his temples, but otherwise he dressed far more simply than most of the other lords. He does not look a Targaryen in truth, with that dark hair. Dunk said as much to Egg.
“It’s said he favors his mother,” the boy reminded him. “She was a Dornish princess.”
Targ+Non-Targ mixes who look like the non-Targaryen parent:
This list can be updated as new information is provided in comments below:
- Jon Snow (assuming RLJ)= Possible first born to a Stark mother, conveniently looks very Stark, but acts very Rhaegar. Note: Jon is said to have eyes so grey they look almost black while Rhaegar had dark indigo, almost black, eyes. If Rhaegar and Lyanna were to have had additional children then I assume they would look more traditional Targaryen, or at least a good half mix.
- Duncan “the small” Targaryen= First born son of Aegon 4 (egg) and Betha Blackwood, known for her dark hair and beauty.
- Baelor Breakspear= first born, Martell mother and he looked very Dornish with dark hair and eyes and more olivey skin.
- Aegor Rivers/Bittersteel= first/only born, took after his Bracken mother with dark hair and more medium complexion but still had the purple eyes.
- Nettles= First/only born, Dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin from the mother. A bastard of questionable history, I know, but again I look to the better historians to clarify.
- Little Rhaenys, daughter of Rhaegar= first born and looks like mother Elia Martell.
- Aegon (Young Griff?), as the subsequent child, has/had the traditional Targ looks that he kept hidden.
- ADWD Epilogue: The girl had been recognizably the Princess Rhaenys, but the boy … a faceless horror of bone and brain and gore, a few hanks of fair hair. None of us looked long. Tywin said that it was Prince Aegon, and we took him at his word.
- What George has to say about Rhaenys and baby Aegon: Q: Do you have any idea what Rhaenys and Aegon looked like? (Hair color, eye color, etc.) GRRM: Rhaenys looked more like a Martell, Aegon more a Targaryen. Source.
- Prince Valarr= First born of Baelor (above) and mother Jena Dondarrion. He looked very much like his Dornish-Targ father, though he was smaller and thinner. He had brown hair, with a streak of silver-gold running through it. He had blue eyes like his Dondarrion mother.
- Jacaerys, Lucerys and Joffery Velaryon= All three had brown hair and brown eyes even through the mother Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Laenor Velaryon each has the silver hair and purple eyes of Valyria. The boys were most likely the children of Harwin Strong… who has brown features.
- Rhaenys, daughter of Aemon= First/only child of a half-Valyrian/half-Baratheon mother and full-Targaryen father. Rhaenys was 3/4 Valyrian (Targ heritage) to begin with. Our only description of her is when she is older and her hair is described silver streaked with white. Could it be how dark blackish hair turns silver as one ages? Or is it silver as in Valyrian silver? Her personality is described as fierce and fearless.
- UPDATE 11/29/18: From Fire & Blood: “With Lord Corlys came his wife, Princess Rhaenys, five-and-fifty, her face lean and lined, her black hair streaked with white, yet fierce and fearless as she had been at two-and-twenty. “The Queen Who Never Was,” Mushroom calls her.”
Targaryen+Non-Targaryen any-born mixes who look like a Targaryen:
- *Aegon 2= First born and looked like his full-Targaryen father, Viserys 1, but did not have his personality at all. His mother was Alicent Hightower, who herself was not first born and her mother is unknown. Aegon 2 is a good example of the example flip I mentioned above. Identity Issue being she was one of the two in the Dance of Dragons civil war, the other being his cousin Rhaenyra. Part of identity issue could be the use of his own gold dragon sigil.
- ** So far, as of 4/15/16, Aegon 2 is the only first born Targaryen born to a non-Targ mother that looked like his paternal Targaryen side.
- *Rhaenyra Targaryen= NOT first born, but the only one to survive to adulthood. Looked Valyrian, however, her mother, Aemma Arryn, was the first born daughter to a Targ mother and a typical blonde/blue Arryn father. Identity Issue being she was one of the two in the Dance of Dragons civil war, the other being her cousin Aegon 2.
Speculated Targaryen mixes:
- Current Joanna Lannister children. Both look like the mother, however, either could be first born if fathered by Aerys and then Tywin (or vice versa) depending on your theory.
- Cersei and Jaime= Conveniently Look very Lannister from the mother with golden hair and green eyes from Lannister parent, yet the personalities of the twins are like two opposite sides of the same coin which is very Targ-like. This would be “normal” for the first born of a Tagaryen/ non-Targ mixture.
- Tyrion= possible Targ pale blonde hair (note; NOT the important metallic style required) and a black eye and possible misshapen physique details, but also conveniently Lannister traits of green eye and pale blonde hair. His mother is clearly not a Targaryen so these mixed up features can help hide his true parental maker… and carrying on the suspicions. The dark hair could possibly come from his Marbrand great-grandmother of First Men origin??? Most of Tyrion’s physical and personality description (if not all of it) comes straight from Martin’s story Under Siege.
Targaryens mixes who look Targaryen yet have “identity issues”, and by identity issues I mean something like not accepting current Targ rule, going against family norms, etc:
- Brynden Rivers/Bloodraven= Blackwood mother. Not a first born, but the only one of the three to have a description. Albino, white hair and skin and red eyes. Conveniently not either parent, but I am sure this is for other reasons. His personality was very much in line with his Targaryen father. He was a pro-Targ supporter through all of his questionable “mistings” and possible sorcery. Identitiy Issue, he was sent away from his family and royal duties before vanishing from the Night’s Watch. Also, he was legitimized as a Targaryen by his father, King Aegon IV, but chose to still keep his bastard “Rivers” name. Hmmm…. he rejected his fire identity in favor of hid rivers/water identity.
- While we are on the topic of Bloodraven, this is a character GRRM has developed and used many times over his own writing career. He may have a different name in each story, the archetype, the looks, the dialogue, the name, etc are all there. Discussed here with story quotes.
- *Rhaenyra Targaryen= listed above. Identity Issue being she was one of the two in the Dance of Dragons civil war, the other being her cousin Aegon 2.
- *Aegon 2= listed above. Identity Issue being she was one of the two in the Dance of Dragons civil war, the other being his cousin Rhaenyra. Part of identity issue could be the use of his own gold dragon sigil.
- ** So far, as of 4/15/16, Aegon 2 is the only first born Targaryen born to a non-Targ mother that looked like his paternal Targaryen side.
Other Targaryen mixes with no description:
- Aemma Arryn= Born to a full Targaryen mother and a blonde/blue Arryn father. Aemma’s description is not stated. She did give birth to Rhaenyra (listed above).
- Mya Rivers & Gwenys Rivers. Older sisters to Brynden Rivers/ Bloodraven. No descriptions given.
Original Westeros.org thread linked to here if you want to read more, including some feedback, because of course I could be wrong about much of this.
Want more GRRMspreading?
I have started a book club re-read for the older works of George R.R. Martin for purposes such as research, scholarship, and teaching. I own all copies of material that is used for this book club. If you have not yet read a story listed, please check with your local bookstore for your own reading material to purchase (Indie Bookstore Finder or Bookshop.org). The full list of GRRM stories outside of the A Song of Ice and Fire series that I have read can be found on this page here.
It takes a while to transcribe and then note each story for research purposes, even the really short ones, so this page will be quietly updated as each re-read is added. Make sure you subscribe for updates.
If there is a story in particular you would like to ask about, feel free to do so in comments below.
If you prefer to listen to a podcast that gives synopsis and analysis of stories written by George R.R. Martin, please consider the new group A Thousand Casts to accompany your ears. Twitter or Podbean.
- Override– A betrayal between brothers. We are introduced to the rather well adjusted, pacifist main character Kabaraijian who is eventually sold out by his coworker/brother for money. A blood betrayal in #ASOIAF terms.
- Nightflyers– Nightflyers is about a haunted ship in outerspace. This story is everything a reader would want from a GRRM story; high body count, psi-link mind control, whisperjewels, corpse handling, dragon-mother ships, the Night’s Watch ‘naval’ institution in space, and Jon and Val.
- Sandkings– Welcome to the disturbing tale of Simon Kress and his Sandkings. Early origins of Unsullied, Dothraki, Aerea Targaryen, and Dragon who mounts the world, set among a leader with a god complex. One of the “must read” George R.R. Martin stories.
- Bitterblooms– In the dead of deep winter, a young girl named Shawn has to find the mental courage to escape a red fiery witch. Prototyping Val, Stannis, and Arya along with the red witch Melisandre.
- The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr – Discarded Knights guards the gates as Sharra feels the Seven while searching for lost love. Many Sansa and Ashara Dayne prototyping here as well.
- …And Seven Times Never Kill Man– A look into a proto-Andal+Targaryen fiery world as the Jaenshi way of life is erased. But who is controlling these events? Black & Red Pyramids who merge with Bakkalon are on full display in this story.
- The Last Super Bowl– Football meets SciFi tech with plenty of ASOIAF carryover battle elements.
- Nobody Leaves New Pittsburg– first in the Corpse Handler trio, and sets a lot of tone for future ASOIAF thematics.
- Closing Time– A short story that shows many precursor themes for future GRRM stories, including skinchanging, Sneaky Pete’s, catastrophic long nights…
- The Glass Flower– a tale of how the drive for perfection creates mindlords and mental slavery.
- Run to Starlight– A tale of coexistence and morality set to a high stakes game of football.
- Remembering Melody– A ghost tale written by GRRM in 1981 that tells of long nights, bloodbaths, and pancakes.
- Fast-Friend transcribed and noted. Written in December 1973, this story is a precursor to skinchanging, Bran, Euron, Daenerys, and ways to scheme to reclaim lost love.
- The Steel Andal Invasion– A re-read of a partial section of The World of Ice and Fire text compared to the story …And Seven Times Never Kill Man. This has to do with both fire and ice Others in ASOIAF.
- A Song for Lya– A novella about a psi-link couple investigating a fiery ‘god’. Very much a trees vs fire motif, and one of GRRM’s best stories out there.
- For A Single Yesterday– A short story about learning from the past to rebuild the future.
- This Tower of Ashes– A story of how lost love, mother’s milk, and spiders don’t mix all too well.
- A Peripheral Affair (1973)– When a Terran scout ship on a routine patrol through the Periphery suddenly disappears, a battle-hungry admiral prepares to renew the border war.
- The Stone City– a have-not surviving while stranded on a corporate planet. Practically a GRRM autobiography in itself.
- Slide Show– a story of putting the stars before the children.
- Only Kids are Afraid of the Dark– rubies, fire, blood sacrifice, and Saagael- oh my!
- A Night at the Tarn House– a magical game of life and death played at an inn at a crossroads.
- Men of Greywater Station– Is it the trees, the fungus, or is the real danger humans?
- The Computer Cried Charge!– what are we fighting for and is it worth it?
- The Needle Men– the fiery hand wields itself again, only, why are we looking for men?
- Black and White and Red All Over– a partial take on a partial story.
- Fire & Blood excerpt; Alysanne in the north– not a full story, but transcribed and noted section of the book Fire & Blood, volume 1.
If you want to browse my own thoughts and speculations on the ASOIAF world using GRRM’s own work history, use the drop-down menu above for the most content, or click on the page that just shows recent posts -> Recent Posts Page.
Thank you for reading the jambles and jumbles of the Fattest Leech of Ice and Fire, by Gumbo!