While the show was faithful in many ways, there are some stark differences between George R.R. Martin’s fantasy book Fire & Blood and its TV adaptation, House of the Dragon. Changes are often necessary to create ensure that even book readers can be surprised throughout a TV show adaptation, or even just to fit the confines of a different medium. While Game of Thrones upset some audiences by straying from the books, House of the Dragon gambled with fresh changes as it worked to ensure the story succeeded on television.
When HBO’s Game of Thrones aired its finale on May 19, 2019, it was a huge TV event (even if many then took to the internet to announce their displeasure with the ending). Attempting to add a prequel show to such an established show could have been risky, especially after that ending. However, judging by its 8.5/10 on IMDb and almost 100% on Rotten Tomatoes for House of the Dragon season 1, creators Ryan Condal and George R. R. Martin certainly did a fantastic job. A part of this came down to some changes from Fire & Blood, and here are the biggest changes House of the Dragon made from the book.
5. Vaemond Velaryon’s Identity and How He Dies
In House of the Dragon, Ser Vaemond makes his first appearance in episode 3 “Second of His Name,” and is seen pleading with King Viserys to send help to defeat the Crabfeeder in the Stepstones. In episode 8 “The Lord of the Tides,” Vaemond’s older brother, Corlys Velaryon, is severely injured fighting in the Stepstones. Vaemond comes to King’s Landing to petition the King to name him heir and future Lord of the Tides. When things didn’t go his way, Vaemond chose to educate King Viserys on the laws that govern Driftmark’s heirship and succession. Baited by Daemon, Vaemond calls Rhaenyra a whore, but not before calling her sons bastards. With King Viserys demanding his tongue for such treason, Daemon faithfully strikes Vaemond from behind, severing his head from his body. However, Daemon chooses to let Vaemond keep his tongue in death.
Things played out a little differently in the book, as in Fire & Blood, Vaemond is Corlys’ nephew, not his younger brother. After Vaemond calls her sons bastards, Rhaenyra tells Daemon to kill Vaemond without Viserys getting involved. Although Vaemond’s head is still cut from his body, in the book it is then fed to Rhaenyra’s dragon, Syrax.
Having Vaemond as Corlys’ younger brother makes his claim to the role of Lord of the Tides feel more legitimate in House of the Dragon. Besides his selfish ambition, being the brother helps push the narrative that he cares for the strength of his family’s bloodline as Lord of Driftmark. The dramatic death and the actions that led to it help solidify King Viserys’ love for Rhaenyra in the TV show. Having Syrax feed on Vaemond’s corpse would go against Rhaenyra’s non-violent disposition that the show has come to rely on to an extent.
4. Otto Hightower Schemed In Public In The Book
In House of the Dragon season 1, it only takes a few episodes for it to become clear to the audience that Otto Hightower is desperate to have his daughter become Queen. However, he carefully plants her beside Viserys to comfort him as a friend after the death of his wife. Otto’s miscalculation leads to him trying to convince Viserys that Rhaenyra was no longer a virgin to put favor on his daughter instead. King Viserys ultimately strips him of his position as Hand of the King.
In Fire & Blood, Otto Hightower is not at all subtle about wanting to have his bloodline on the Iron Throne. Otto Hightower openly orchestrates and uses available opportunities to solidify Alicent’s position as a potential future Queen. King Viserys simply removes him as Hand of the King for his sheer audacity.
King Viserys may be considered a weakling, but he’s no fool. With Viserys’ love for Rhaenyra, he wouldn’t choose Alicent as Queen if he knew Otto Hightower was openly manipulating him. Otto’s subtleness makes seeing Viserys feel betrayed by his Hand more believable in House of the Dragon than it did in the pages of Fire & Blood.
3. Laenor Valaryon & Ser Qarl Correy’s Ending Was Very Different
In House of the Dragon, Rhaenyra and her uncle Daemon get physically intimate (in true Game of Thrones fashion). With Rhaenyra still married to Laenor Velaryon, she and Daemon cannot wed to strengthen the Targaryen bloodline. This leads them to hatch a plan to get rid of Laenor. However, Rhaenyra’s love for Laenor leads her to ensure he is not actually killed, so instead they fake his death. Ser Qarl Correy starts a fight, stages Laenor’s death, and burns his supposed corpse. At the end of House of the Dragon‘s episode “Driftmark,” Laenor Velaryon and Ser Qarl Correy are seen escaping to Essos to start a new life.
In Fire & Blood, there is no plan or happy ending for Laenor. Instead, Laenor just gets killed by Ser Qarl Correy. Ser Qarl Correy is jealous when Laenor gets a new male consort, and during a confrontation, Laenor and Correy get into a fight in the middle of a fair in Spicetown, where Laenor is killed.
As things gear up for The Great War, House Black and House Green need all the allies they can get. Daemon and Rhaenyra helping Laenor to live peacefully with his lover provide the Targaryens with an ally in Essos. Rather than simply killing the character, the House of the Dragon version of the book’s story leaves Laenor open for a future return.
2. Rhaenyra and Alicent’s Relationship Was Very Different
House of the Dragon begins by pushing the narrative that Rhaenyra and Alicent were best friends. They spend time together in their youth and Rhaenyra joins Alicent in praying to her mother. Their close relationship left some viewers speculating as to whether they might have romantic feelings for each other. The friendship only becomes complicated when Alicent’s marriage to Rhaenyra’s father causes a rift in their relationship.
In Fire & Blood, it was never conceivable that Rhaenyra and Alicent could be friends. The TV show changed the ages of the two characters, but in Fire & Blood they belonged to very different age groups. Alicent was 18 years old by the time of her marriage to King Viserys in the book. In comparison, Alicent’s was around 9. With an obvious 9-year age gap between them, they wouldn’t have been likely to be close friends, and at 18 years old, Alicent wasn’t so naïve not to know her father Otto’s plans to make her Queen.
For House of the Dragon, the showrunners clearly wanted a stronger cause for a rift between the pair. With Alicent’s marrying King Viserys being readas a betrayal, that rift was more natural and believable in the TV show than in the book. The move easily divides the audience to be on either Alicent’s or Rhaenyra’s side, and makes the whole thing more compelling.
1. The Death of King Viserys I Targaryen
A major focus of House of the Dragon season 1 was the decline of King Viserys I. Every major event centered around his ability (or lack thereof) to control things. With Viserys suffering from flesh-eating leprosy, it was somewhat surprising to see him still alive after the 10 years time jump in House of the Dragon episode 6. After losing his eye to the disease and his health failing, Viserys died slowly in the presence of Queen Alicent. Mistaking Queen Alicent for Princess Rhaenyra, King Viserys’ last words set the stage for events leading to The Great War.
In Fire & Blood, Viserys doesn’t suffer from long term flesh-eating leprosy. He does, however, get a fever after cutting his hand on the Iron Throne. The cut festered an infection, and it was feared the infection would kill King Viserys. Viserys recovered after two of his fingers were removed by Maester Gerardys. King Viserys death wasn’t as dramatic as it was portrayed in House of the Dragon. All that’s mentioned is that the King died during a nap in the Red Keep of King’s Landing. The only noteworthy event about his death is Queen Alicent refusing to make it public until a week after it had happened.
The King’s illness and misconstrued last words set the stage for The Great War. It makes the rivalry between House Green and House Black more convincing. A sudden nap death would leave questionable reasons why Queen Alicent would want to honor Viserys’ last words (or lack of it). With his last words, this singular act sets the stage for many events in House of the Dragon season 2.
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