If nothing else, HBO’s Game of Thrones spin-off House of Dragons seems to have overtaken Selling Sunset as the blondest show currently on television. The series very well could have stolen the name of Bob Dylan’s album Blonde on Blonde if all the inter-towhead drama of its first episodes are any indication of what’s to come.
But there was something a little distracting (if not disturbing) about so many people with the same basic hairstyle (some of which seemed to be the result of some questionable wig work) trotting around. Some of the actors are clearly better suited to pull off this particular shade than others. Matt Smith, who made a handsome enough Dr. Who, is rendered nearly Hapsburgian by his all-blonde makeover (though, considering the Hapsburgs were an actually incest-happy royal line, it does make a certain amount of sense).
We guess it was bound to happen when you tell a story about the early generations of House Targaryen, but it also feels like the kind of styling choice a production would never make if it weren’t encumbered by George R.R. Martin’s pre-existing lore. Still, we had some questions: like, are we doomed to 5 or 6 more seasons of an increasing number of random blonde people showing up? Is it even possible for a Targaryen to be brunette? Does bleach exist in Westeros? We decided to take a hair-focused dip back into GoT myth, which ended up serving as a helpful reminder for casual fans about things we may have forgotten.
It All Started With Daenerys (and Emilia Clarke)
Daenerys Targaryen was very obviously presented as a major character early on in the series, one who viewers are led to believe could very well be the story’s “Chosen One.” Similar to Harry Potter and his scar or, frankly, Luke and Anakin Skywalker’s own dirty blonde hair, it made sense to give her a distinctive physical trait only shared by her family to set her apart.
In the books, Targaryens are actually described as having lilac eyes with hair so blonde it was actually silver. Producers of the television series felt like an actual silver-blonde wig didn’t translate well on screen, and made actress Emilia Clarke look a bit washed out. So, instead, they chose a shade of very light blonde hair that suited her in particular. Now, half of the House of Dragons cast has to walk around with the Emilia-flattering shade. Those purple eyes were also nixed for similar reasons.
But Why Are All Targaryens Blonde in the Actual Story?
Remember how we said a close examination of the Targaryen’s hair may jolt back some memories you forgot from Game of Thrones? Well, here we go.
The Targaryen family is not native to Westeros. Ethnically, they’re from the Valyrian Peninsula of Essos. All Valyrians were said to be strikingly beautiful, with hair colors ranging from silver to gold and eyes of deep lavender to blue. At one point, there were multiple families with dragons and they came to conquer most of the known world. Then there was the mysterious “Doom,” where the homeland was wiped out and the only family to survive with dragons were the Targaryens. With their last three dragons, they decided to conquer Westeros for a nice change of scenery. And that’s why the Targaryen’s features are so distinct compared to the rest of Westeros.
Do Other Families Have That Blonde Hair and Valyrian Blood?
Yes! While neither House Velaryon nor House Celtigar retained their dragons, they came over to Westeros with the Targaryens as vassal houses and (at least, at the time of House of the Dragon) retained their Valyrian features. Characters from both houses appeared in the original A Song of Fire & Ice books, but none of them made it onto the television series (though one is mentioned briefly). So Lord Corlys Velaryon, the Lord of Tides and husband to Princess “Queen Who Never Was” Rhaenys, is the first Velaryon we meet in the HBO version of events. There’s no Celtigar in the first episodes and we may not meet any in the first season, but it’s possible members of that House will pop up should we get future seasons.
So, If Someone Is Blonde, Does That Mean They Have Valyrian Blood?
Obviously, Dany wasn’t the only blonde in the original series, and there were some fan theories that any character with lighter locks, like Brienne of Tarth or members of the Lannister family, may be revealed to be secret Targaryens. In actuality though, the strawberry blonde Lannisters are distinctly proud of their Andal bloodline (Andals being one of the three-major ethnic groups who inhabited Westeros before the Targayren invasion), while Brienne’s family also descends from Andals who intermarried with the First Men. So it turns out, non-Targaryen blonde hair is rare but not uncommon.
Do Brunette Targaryans Exist?
Yeah. You remember that whole thing about Jon Snow’s real identity, right?
Genetically, Martin treats the Targaryens hair as a regressive trait (much like, well, non-magical blonde hair). So, if a Targaryen marries (or mates) outside of Valyrian bloodline, it’s likely the offspring will sport the coloring of the other family. Hence why Jon looks more like the Stark family.
Martin’s wider fictional world also includes some marital-children Targaryens who lacked the family’s distinctive features. While the family was known for its incestuous ways, there were times in their history where they were more open to marrying from other families. (Some fans think Martin only did so to provide precedent for Jon’s features.)
However, if Prince Daemon’s hijinks in the brothels are any indication, while Targaryens tend to officially marry within Valyrian blood, they’re not above having affairs outside of marriage. So there could be any number of half-Targaryens walking around out there with darker locks. The decidedly non-blonde King Robert Baratheon’s bloodline, for example, is said to have extended from a Targaryen king’s secret half-brother.
It’s also worth noting that it is possible for Valyrians, whose genetic makeup includes some non-Valyrian blood, to remain pale and blonde.
Why Do They All Have Half-Ponys Though?
We guess that was just the style. Martin’s books don’t place any sacred or traditional emphasis on the family maintaining longer hair and braids, and indeed he’s mentioned short-hair Targaryens at times.
Why Do All the House of the Dragon Targaryens Have Blonde Eyebrows, While Daenerys and Her Brother Had Darker Ones?
Perhaps the biggest stylistic difference between Daenerys’s looks and those of the generation of Targaryens in the spin-off are the eyebrows. Dany and her late brother Viserys had that sort of Agyness Deyn look, where their striking blonde hair is offset by deeper-shaded brows. The elder Viserys, Daemon, Rhaenyra, and others, meanwhile, have blonder brows.
This could be a simple stylistic choice made by two separate production teams—but there could be some in-world justification too.
While the TV show suggests the Targaryens almost always married within the family (hence the mental illness of Dany’s father), Martin’s books later clarified that the Targaryens actually would intermingle a bit more in later generations. While Dany’s parents were siblings, her grandmother was established as Betha Blackwood, a non-Valyrian woman from the riverlands with dark hair. So, it’s possible Dany’s darker eyebrows are an expression of her mixed bloodline.
That being said, a few of these HOTD cast members might look better if their makeup artist was allowed to use a tube of Benefit Gimme Brow every now and then.