Why the Song of Ice and Fire prophecy is a big part of House of the Dragon

Last night, I had a dream…and I foresaw you having questions about the Song of Ice and Fire prophecy on House of the Dragon. See what I did there? Also known as Aegon's Dream and/or the Prince That Was Promised prophecy, it was a big part of Game of Thrones theorising and it became a BFD for these characters thanks to a slip of the tongue. What does it mean? Why does it matter? A lot... but also not a lot.

Still, keep an eye out for characters talking about Aegon's Dream on House of the Dragon season 2 - like the all important scene between Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy) and Alicent (Oliva Cooke) in episode three, when they realise Alicent may have misunderstood what King Viserys had actually said to her on his deathbed. It will come up again, and the who-knows-what-when of it all does seem to be important.

In episode 8 of House of the Dragon season 1, Old Man King Viserys accidentally tells Queen Alicent about the prophecy on the Catspaw dagger that was supposed to be For Heir Eyes Only. (He was seconds from death and rambling a lot. It happens.)

To make matters worse, Viserys thought he was talking to his daughter, the only person he'd told about the prophecy. He says, “I think it’s you,” meaning that he thinks Rhaenyra is literally the Prince That Was Promised; but Alicent assumes he's talking about their son Aegon. I'm not even sure that she clocked it was a prophecy at all. She just thinks Viserys was expressing a final wish for Aegon to succeed him.

A quick refresher

Here’s the wording of the prophecy as written on the dagger:

“From my blood come the prince that was promised and his will be the song of ice and fire.”

We learned on House of the Dragon that this prophecy is the foundation of the divine right of the Targaryen dynasty. It has been passed on from heir to heir along with the belief that a Targaryen must sit on the Iron Throne if they are to survive the prophesied Long Night (the arrival of the White Walkers that we see on Game of Thrones).

That’s why Viserys told the Sea Snake that Laenor and Rhaenyra’s kids could have the surname Velaryon only until one of them was crowned king or queen, at which point they’d have to be renamed Targaryen. It has also, we can only presume, strengthened the belief within House Targaryen over the years that they need to do as much incest as humanly possible. Neat!

Eventually, over a century after House of the Dragon and even when House Targaryen no longer ruled the Seven Kingdoms, the people in Essos and Westeros started referring to the prophecy and the Prince That Was Promised as the reincarnation of a legendary hero named Azor Azai. So that means that at some point, Aegon's Dream became common knowledge and those myths got conflated. On Game of Thrones, there were many candidates for Azor Azai reborn, depending on who you talked to, including: Stannis Baratheon, Daenerys Targaryen (many thought her older brother/Jon Snow’s father Rhaegar was the Prince That Was Promised before his death), and Jon himself.

Why is this important on House of the Dragon though?

Why is it a big deal that Alicent (a) knows about the prophecy and (b) thinks that Vis was talking to her? Her family, House Hightower, was already planning on using her sons to usurp the throne, but now she really feels as if they are entitled to it - although as revealed in episode three, she doesn't actually realise it's a prophecy at all.

She truly believes that Viserys, after insisting Rhaenyra is his heir, changed his mind on his deathbed. It gives her a personal reason to fight for herself and her children in King’s Landing and get them on the Iron Throne no matter what cost. (However, don’t forget that Rhaenyra also has a son named Aegon Targaryen now, so it’s confusing for everyone involved, including us.)

otto and alicent
HBO / Sky

But there’s some dramatic irony to the situation

We’ve all, I presume, seen the final season of Game of Thrones, right? Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow, neé Aegon Targaryen AS WELL, were leading the charge against the horrors in the North, and their union could be considered a song of ice (Jon) and fire (Dany). So it could be either or both of them — but only if some elements of the prophecy as Viserys understands it are incorrect.

To complicate matters further, we know that it’s technically not a Targaryen who was on the pointy chair when the White Walkers were defeated. That was Cersei Lannister, y'all! And it was a Stark, the legend Arya herself, who defeated the Night King with the very Catspaw dagger that the prophecy was written on.

I guess what I'm asking is this: how are we supposed to take the wording of the prophecy as seriously as the characters on House of the Dragon do when we know it’s not really that important? Like honestly, truly, not even a little bit relevant. Is that just supposed to be the tragic truth of Westeros history? They fought so many wars over nothing? Yeesh.

matt smith and emma d'arcy in house of the dragon
Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

There’s also the issue of timing

We know that it’s not relevant for more than a century, even with all the time jumps. Winter is literally not coming for Rhaenyra or Alicent or any of their children. At least, not like that. The stakes seem pretty low, IMHO. If the succession fight becomes about keeping a Targaryen on the throne to fend off the White Walkers, it literally does not matter which "team" wins. Alicent and Viserys’s kids have exactly as much Targaryen blood as Rhaenyra and Laenor Harwin’s do. The “purest” Targ kids, gross, at the moment are the ones that Rhaenyra has with Daemon.

You can’t make me believe that the conflict about who should rule Westeros after King Vis has to do with anything other than patriarchy. Personally, I would pay more attention to Helaena Targaryen, who has been mumbling little prophecies left and right while playing with bugs. Her visions seem more relevant to the events of House of the Dragon. And hate to be that guy, but news flash (and spoiler alert): Daenerys and Jon are the descendants of Rhaenyra Targaryen, not Alicent Hightower. Pack it up, Miss Thing! You’ve already lost the war!

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