The Lore of Old Valyria Is Essential to Understanding 'House of the Dragon'

Jamie Lerner - Author

Aug. 29 2022, Published 11:02 a.m. ET

Paddy Considine, Nova Mosé-Foueillis in 'HOTD'
Source: HBO

Two episodes into House of the Dragon, we’re already digging deep into Game of Thrones lore. At one point, King Viserys refers to the Targaryens’ Valerian roots, explaining that they have the “blood of Old Valyria.” But what exactly does that mean?

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This isn’t the first time Game of Thrones fans have heard of Valyria. In the original series, Daenerys Targaryen mentions her Valyrian roots as well. And of course, we can’t forget about the importance of Valyrian steel. Plus, we know that Steve Toussaint’s character, nicknamed the Sea Snake, is named Lord Corlys Velaryon. So what exactly is Old Valyria and how does it relate to House Velaryon and the rest of the universe?

Paddy Considine, Eve Best, Steve Toussaint in 'HOTD'
Source: HBO
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Old Valyria was an all-powerful empire long before the events of ‘House of the Dragon.’

In House of the Dragon, we learn a bit more about Valyria, which is now known as Old Valyria. Basically, it’s a 5,000-year-old empire that ruled all of the continent of Essos. Filled with 14 volcanoes and many more dragons, as well as a highly advanced civilization, the people of Valyria rose up in power in ancient times to conquer much of the world, not unlike the real-life Roman Empire.

Many Game of Thrones fans might remember the power of Valyrian steel. This is steel forged during the Valyrian Freehold, of which the methods have since been lost. Some stories claim that the steel was forged with magic spells and dragon fire, but there’s no way to confirm this. The unique steel is one of the few things with the power to kill White Walkers, and Arya actually used a small dagger made of Valyrian steel to kill the Night King and end the war.

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Valyrian steel dagger in 'Game of Thrones'
Source: HBO

House Targaryen was actually a mid or low-level house in comparison to some of the other houses of Old Valyria. While most families were dragonriders, other houses (now extinct) controlled their dragons with sorcery and spells. Eventually, however, Old Valyria fell to the Doom of Valyria, which was referenced in a poem recited by Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones as “the Doom.”

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The Doom of Valyria was basically a cataclysmic natural disaster, in which all 14 of Valyria’s volcanoes exploded. This burst the land into separate islands, killing all its inhabitants in the process. All the ancient architecture, and even many of the dragons, fell to the Doom of Valyria.

Only two families survived. The first was the Targaryens, who escaped to Dragonstone, just next to Westeros, thanks to Daenys’s prophecy that Valyria would fall to destruction. The other survivors? House Velaryon.

House Velaryon left Valyria before the Doom of Valyria, and survived through to ‘House of the Dragon.’

Although House Velaryon also survived the Doom of Valyria, House Targaryen remains the only surviving dragon-riding family. This is because House Velaryon was full of seafarers. And although they were strong allies to the Targaryens, they left Valyria of their own accord long before the Doom of Valyria. They settled in Driftmark, also off the coast of Westeros.

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So, it’s no surprise that when the Targaryens took the Iron Throne, House Velaryon was situated closely next to them. Their alignment goes back so many centuries, that House Velaryon’s command of the sea and seafaring power is often associated with the Targaryen rule. Not only that, but Corlys Velaryon’s many travels brought House Velaryon the most wealth in the Seven Kingdoms.

Steve Toussaint, Graham McTavish, Emily Carey in 'HOTD'
Source: HBO
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Corlys even constructed a new seat for the Velaryons that was less damp and crowded called High Tide, which is where he ruled. Despite his wealth and power, there’s a reason we haven’t heard much about House Velaryon until now. Sadly, the Velaryon lineage was distorted through marriage and a lack of male heirs.

In Game of Thrones, there are descendants of House Velaryon in House Targaryen (unsurprisingly) and House Baratheon. And in House of the Dragon, both the Targaryens and Velaryons speak a language known as High Valyrian, a near-dead language that survived the Doom of Valyria.

New episodes of House of the Dragon air every Sunday at 9 p.m. EST on HBO, and can be streamed on HBO Max.

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