If you’re obsessed with the history of Westeros like I am, the best day of the year–aside from Game Of Thrones Sundays–is the home release of the past season. That’s because the most exciting feature on the show’s Blu-ray is always the animated Histories and Lore section, which explores the historical significance of important figures and events from A World of Ice and Fire. But this year HBO has outdone themselves, because in addition to their normal collection of short videos, they have also included a gorgeous short film exploring the conquests of Westeros.
Conquest & Rebellion: An Animated History of the Seven Kingdoms is an 11-chapter 45-minute short that primarily covers Aegon’s Conquest, but ends with the war that ended House Targaryen’s nearly 300-year dynasty, Robert’s Rebellion. It is narrated by Viserys (Daenerys’s brother who died in season one but doesn’t seem to know that), Varys, Euron Greyjoy, Jaime Lannister, Sansa Stark, and Petyr Baelish. You can still watch the first chapter, but the entire short isn’t “officially” available online.
It’s designed both for fans of Game of Thrones who aren’t as well-versed in the show’s backstory, as well as lunatics like myself who can name all of the Targaryen kings far better than he can name U.S. presidents. So after watching it a couple of times (so far) here are some of the highlights that stood out.
VARYS DISMISSES THE PROPHECY RESPONSIBLE FOR SAVING HOUSE TARGARYEN
The only reason the Targaryens survived the Doom of Valyria was because they had moved to Dragonstone 12 years prior. That cataclysmic event wiped out every other dragonlord in the world, but they were safely on the Valyrian Freehold’s westernmost point. The story is Lord Aenar Targaryen’s daughter had a prophetic dream about the coming Doom, which caused him to abandon the city.
But in his narration, Viserys dismisses this idea, and says more likely something happened at court to make Aenar flee his enemies. Characters on the show consistently ignore prophecies or ancient stories only for them to prove true, so it’s telling even someone as proud and arrogant as Viserys scoffs at these tall tales. It often seems like the more people wave their hands at amazing tales the more often they prove correct.
It’s also amazing he calls his ancestor Maegor the Cruel, one of the worst, most brutal Targaryen kings ever, “Maegor the Wise,” while also scolding his other ancestors Rhaenyra and the Blackfyres for daring to fight for their family’s crown.
DRAGONSTONE CASTLE TIMELINE DISCREPANCY
Viserys also says his family built the great castle at Dragonstone, but this doesn’t seem to be consistent with the known timeline. Dragonstone, the island, had been the westernmost outpost of Valyria for two hundred years before Aenar moved his family there, and Dragonstone, the castle, was already built when he got there. Either Viserys is mistaken here, not being specific enough (maybe they made it grander), or the show’s Dragonstone and the book’s have different pasts.
WHAT REALLY CAUSED AEGON TO INVADE WESTEROS
Aegon invaded Westeros after the Storm King of House Durrandon, Argilac the Arrogant, cut off the hands of Aegon’s envoy, but was this the reason he attacked, or merely the excuse he was waiting for? Aegon had recently seen how powerful his dragons could be in war when he joined with some of the Free Cities in Essos. Did Argilac’s actions anger him so much he decided to conquer Westeros, or was Aegon going to do it anyway?
HOUSE TARGARYEN’S WORDS “FIRE AND BLOOD” WERE A WARNING FROM AEGON
According to this short, Aegon chose his House words after he landed in Westeros. “Fire and blood” is ominous enough, but knowing they were chosen by Aegon himself as the first warning to the kings of the Seven Kingdom make them even more intimidating.
THE IRON ISLANDS WERE ONCE FAR MORE POWERFUL
The Greyjoys and their constant desire to rule more land in Westeros sometimes seems like a kingdom-sized case of a Napoleon complex. But it was only a few hundred years earlier when Harren the Black, King of the Iron Islands, ruled a kingdom that stretched all the way to the Trident and threatened to overrun the Storm Lands too. Not to mention it was Harren who built the massive Harrenhal. No wonder the Iron Islands seem to have never been able to accept what they were left with after Aegon’s Conquest.
HARRENHAL IS FAR GRANDER THAN A TV BUDGET CAN EVER SHOW
This short shows a number of legendary places in Westeros, but the one place that stands out the most is the amazing, huge Harrenhal. We’ve seen it on the show, but it has never captured just how massive it really is. That’s why if HBO is going to do more than one spin-off series they should make one of them animated. It’s a lot cheaper to build an animated Harrenhal than a real one, and it would allow us to see all the amazing places and costumes from the books, which are often fiscally impossible to recreate on a live-action show.
DRAGONS DON’T CARE ABOUT ARMY SIZE, SO BEND THE KNEE
Aegon’s forces were outnumbered in almost every battle, but it didn’t matter because even one dragon (let alone three like at the Field of Fire) is the great equalizer. Those who refused to recognize the power of fire turned flesh were wiped out, like Argilac Durrandon, Harren Hoare, and Mern Gardener.
If Daenerys ever decided to fully unleash her dragons without concern for life or property, no one would be able to stand up to her. That’s also why it’s so terrifying the Night King has his own dragon now.
THE SHOW ROBBED US OF THE MAD KING’S BEARD
Every animated history short shows the Mad King with his crazy long white beard and long nails, and yet for some reason in Bran’s visions the show portrayed him clean shaven. Shame. Shame. Shame.
ROBERT WASN’T LOYAL TO LYANNA WHILE WAGING A WAR FOR HER
No one comments on it, but during the segment about the time Robert had to hide from the Targaryen forces during his Rebellion, he is seen with a woman. His entire war was about getting back the “kidnapped” Lyanna Stark, who he was betrothed to. But she never thought he would be able to stay loyal to her (in part because he already had one bastard), and it looks like she was right since he wasn’t even loyal to her while waging a war over her.
Robert’s Rebellion Was Not A Guaranteed Name
It was the senior Jon Arryn who led the rebellion at first, after the Mad King demanded he send him the heads of his wards Ned and Robert. And Ned was the one who entered King’s Landing after the Lannisters had sacked it, not Robert. If either Jon Arryn or Ned had wanted to rule the Realm, Robert’s Rebellion could have been named for a different conqueror.
RHAEGAR WAS SLOW TO REACT BECAUSE HE WAS WITH LYANNA
We now know he was with his wife who was pregnant, but Rhaegar was still slow to go to war, which was possibly a big factor in Robert winning. Rhaegar was a great warrior who was beloved, an early appearance in the battle might have gone a long way to rallying his troops to victory.
JAIME MOCKS NED FOR BEING ANTI-KID MURDER
Despite how much easier it made Robert’s life, Ned was aghast at the killing of Elia Martell and her children. In his narration Jaime, usually a pragmatist about how awful the world really is, says Ned “hiked up his skirts” and demanded the guilty pay for their crimes. But while he was ashamed at his relief, Robert knew the murder of those innocents was a good thing for him. This had huge consequences though that are still felt to this day, because this is the reason Ned kept Jon Snow’s true identity a secret. Lyanna and Rhaegar’s son would never have been allowed to live.
Considering how Jaime felt about the death of Rhaegar’s children that day, it will be something to see him possibly stand by his son Jon Snow now. Now that will be a story Westerosi historians tell for a long time. As long as the White Walkers don’t win.
What was your favorite part of this short? What new things did you learn? What events and people do you want to learn even more about? Share them with us in the comments below.