Why Rhaenyra’s Mother Aemma Didn’t Ride A Dragon (Despite Being Targaryen)
HOTD’s Queen Aemma Arryn was actually half-Targaryen, but she never rode a dragon like her daughter Rhaenyra or husband Viserys – here’s why.
WARNING! This article contains SPOILERS for George R.R. Martin’s book Fire & Blood!
Rhaenyra’s mother Aemma Arryn was half-Targaryen in House of the Dragon, but unlike her daughter and husband, never rode or claimed a dragon. The ability to ride a dragon is a crucial aspect of proving one’s Targaryen legitimacy in House of the Dragon, as nearly every character with significant Targaryen blood, including figures like Laenor Velaryon, is bonded with one of the creatures in the series. However, there are a few notable exceptions, such as King Viserys’ first wife and Rhaenyra Targaryen’s mother, the late silver-haired Aemma Arryn.
While her heritage isn’t explored in House of the Dragon, Aemma’s Targaryen background is revealed in George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood book. Aemma’s husband King Viserys I Targaryen was her first cousin, with both being the grandchildren of King Jaehaerys I Targaryen. Rhaenyra’s mother was Jaehaerys’ daughter Daella Targaryen, who married Rodrik Arryn and died shortly after giving birth to Aemma. While most of Aemma’s Targaryen cousins became dragonriders, Fire & Blood fails to disclose whether a dragon egg was placed in her cradle. Still, despite the fact that her husband and daughter were remarkable dragonriders, Aemma never claimed, rode, or tried to hatch one of the creatures before her death in House of the Dragon.
Aemma Arryn Wasn’t Raised Around Dragons (& Her Mother Was Afraid Of Them)
Unlike Viserys and Rhaenyra, Aemma wasn’t raised around dragons, so she likely never felt the need to ride one. Being raised in the Vale without her mother to instill more Targaryen values, Aemma wouldn’t have truly begun embracing this culture until she was a teenager and married Viserys, the future heir to the Iron Throne. She also wouldn’t have had many visits from her grandparents King Jaehaerys and Queen Alysanne Targaryen due to the remoteness of the Vale, so there wouldn’t have been anyone to properly teach her to ride dragons, master them, and care for them.
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Additionally, Aemma Arryn’s mother Daella Targaryen was notable for being timid and particularly afraid of dragons. Since Daella didn’t ride dragons, she wouldn’t have made it a priority for Aemma to receive a dragon egg and become a rider herself. While Aemma was only an infant when her mother died, it seems she inherited Daella’s hesitancy to trust such creatures, as Aemma dislikes when Rhaenyra rides Syrax in House of the Dragon’s pilot. Perhaps Aemma also shared Viserys’ belief that controlling dragons was an illusion, so she feared what could happen while riding and taming them.
Why Aemma’s Targaryen Background Is Still Important To HOTD’s Story
Aemma may not have shared an affinity for dragonriding like other members of House Targaryen’s family tree, but sharing their blood is still important for Rhaenyra’s story and House of the Dragon’s future. House of the Dragon will continue to see Rhaenyra and Aegon battling to prove which of them is the Targaryen worthiest of the Iron Throne, with Rhaenyra’s mother giving her even more legitimacy. Due to her mother and father, Rhaenyra is three-quarters Targaryen, whereas Alicent’s son Aegon is only half.
Still, Aemma’s half-Arryn status will have an even greater impact on Rhaenyra Targaryen’s success in House of the Dragon season 2. Lady Jeyne Arryn pledges her loyalty to Queen Rhaenyra in part due to Aemma’s Arryn blood, with Aemma’s kindness likely also leading the Vale to be more trustworthy of Targaryens. The book that inspired House of the Dragon even reveals that Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen’s sigil will include the moon-and-falcon symbol of House Arryn, proving how important her mother’s legacy is to her cause.
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