If you believe the fan theories there are far more descendants of the dragon line running around Westeros, and they could hold the key to the end of season eight.
For most of Game of Thrones the series has been labouring under one salient truth: Daenerys is the last Targaryen left standing.
At first, it was her and her brother Viserys, the two living children of the mad King Aerys II, a dynasty whose reign spanning some three centuries ended during Robert Baratheon’s rebellion. Dany and her brother fled Westeros, shacked up with Khal Drogo and the rest, as they say, is history. It is Daenerys’ fervently held belief that she is the sole surviving member of her House that drives her claim for the Iron Throne.
She said as much to Jon Snow when they first met in season seven, and she said as much when she discussed her belief in her infertility with him. Daenerys believes that she is the last Targaryen in the world, and that her House is going to die with her.
But what if she isn’t the only Targaryen in Game of Thrones? What if there are several more secret Targaryens running around Westeros, some of them closer to Daenerys than she might think?
Jon Snow is a secret Targaryen
Let’s address the elephant in the room: Jon Snow is a Targaryen. In fact, not only is he a Targaryen but he’s the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark from their loving marriage that took place after Rhaegar annulled his relationship with Elia Martell.
Not a bastard and not Ned Stark’s son, Jon is in fact a Targaryen Prince and, as the eldest son of the Mad King’s eldest son, the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. And for those of you following this family tree along at home, he’s also Daenerys’ nephew. (Dany is Rhaegar’s younger sister.)
Once a fan theory, this is now canon after the series showed Samwell and Gilly uncovering confirmation of the annulment and revealed that Jon Snow’s real name is Aegon Targaryen. We knew it. We knew it from the first season, when Ned Stark refused to tell Jon the truth about his mother. We knew it in the seventh season when Jon petted one of Daenery’s dragons, who clearly recognised him as their father of sorts.
We all knew. It became the series’ ultimate fan theory, known among those who believed as “R+L = J” (Rhaegar + Lyanna = Jon). The only people who don’t know are Jon and Daenerys themselves. What a fun raven from Sam and Gilly that is going to be.
Tyrion Lannister is a secret Targaryen
For as long as the television series has been on screens, fans have speculated that Tyrion Lannister might be a secret Targaryen. Could he be the third person to complete the Targaryen trio who might mount Dany’s dragon children and ride them into battle? (This theory obviously predates the sad season seven death of Viserion and the dragon’s subsequent transformation into an ice monster. Yikes.)
There were little clues planted along the way. Tyrion’s father Tywin Lannister has always hated him and questioned his true parentage, even stating that he was “no son of mine”. Cersei and, at times, Jaime have both been antagonistic to their brother. Tyrion is described as having hair less Lannister gold and more Targaryen silver.
And in George RR Martin’s books the Mad King was always attracted to Joanna Lannister, making several odious and lewd comments about her and, on one occasion, her breasts. Could he have taken advantage of her and impregnated her, leading to the birth of Tyrion?
It’s a good theory, and there’s a chance that it could play out in the books. In the series, though, it appears that it might not come to pass now that Viserion has passed over into the dark (cold) side, as it mainly rested on the notion that a third dragon rider would be needed. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of secret Targaryens in Westeros.
Gendry is a secret Targaryen
Ah, Gendry. Is there a better man in Game of Thrones than this strong, oily, protective blacksmith, who’s good with an axe and even better with a set of oars?
The Flea Bottom smithy started off as a peripheral character before quickly moving into the realm of fan favourite, thanks to his relationship with Arya. As we go into the final season, with Gendry’s true parentage as the son of King Robert Baratheon I finally out in the open, Gendry is about to come into his own.
And part of that is a recognition of his Targaryen heritage. Unlike some of the other names on this list, Gendry’s Targaryen blood isn’t strong. But through his father Robert Baratheon, Gendry has a relation to House Targaryen, making him a second cousin to Daenerys and third cousin to Jon.
It all boils down to Robert’s grandmother, who was the Targaryen princess Rhaelle, whose son Steffon Baratheon was father to Robert (and Stannis and Renly). Rhaelle was the Mad King’s Aunt, which makes her Daenerys’ great Aunt. So, there you go. Gendry’s claim to the Iron Throne comes through not one but two dynastic bloodlines, both Targaryen and Baratheon.
It also hints at a potential fan theory that Gendry is going to help bring down the ice dragon Viserion, using a dragonglass warhammer. You can read all about that theory here.
Samwell Tarly is a secret Targaryen
The fans who believe that Sam is a secret Targaryen do so because it supports their theory that he might be Azor Ahai, or the Prince who was Promised, the person who is going to save the whole of Westeros. You can read that full – extremely compelling in our opinion – theory here.
But let’s drill into the Targaryen links to Sam for a second here. The theory posits that Sam is actually Aegon Targaryen, the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia Martell before that marriage was annulled and Rhaegar married Lyanna Stark.
But Aegon was killed by The Mountain, we hear you say. Well, yes, a young boy was killed by Aegon. But what if someone in Kings Landing who sympathised with the Targaryens – someone like Varys, for example – switched Aegon with another boy, smuggled him out of the city and over to a family to be fostered in secrecy and safety until such point that he could claim the crown that was his birthright? And what if that little boy grew up to be Samwell Tarly?
It would explain why Sam’s family are so awful to him and why he was sent to joint the Night’s Watch alongside Jon, who in this theory isn’t simply his best friend but his half-brother, too. Sam is not a true Tarly, and therefore his family don’t want anything to do with him. But if he is a Targaryen, this does complicate Daenerys’ claims to the Iron Throne, somewhat. Now she has two interloper nephews snatching at her heels.
Varys is a secret Targaryen
Varys is such a slippery little Kings Landing diplomat that it’s no wonder conspiracy theories about him swirl relentlessly. There’s the one that he’s been the puppet master in King Landing all along, orchestrating the move of Sam (another secret Targaryen) to the Tarlys to keep him safe from harm until he turns into the Prince who was Promised.
And maybe he himself is a secret Targaryen. Varys hails from Lys, a place that the famously promiscuous Aerion Targaryen, brother of King Aegon and Maester Aemon, also spent some time. Could he have fathered a bastard child during his time there who, over the course of a few generations, passes on the Targaryen genes to Varys?
The usual tell-tale Targaryen clues, which include the silvery blonde hair that the House is famous for, aren’t present in Varys as the man keeps his head shaved all year round. But Varys has been one of Daenerys’ most fervent supporters, and someone who has been helping her secure the Iron Throne for years.
On Game of Thrones, Varys has always maintained that he is driven not by a desire for power but by a desire for Westeros to be ruled by a stable leader with a good claim to the throne. But is he driven by blood in a way that we are yet to see play out on screen?
Potentially. When season eight premieres next month, we’ll know for sure.
Game of Thrones returns to HBO in the US on 14 April and Sky Atlantic and Now TV in the UK on 15 April.