Westerosi History
John MacMillan as Ser Laenor Velaryon

Laenor's "Death" In HOTD Is A Big Departure From The Book

No, you're not misremembering Fire & Blood.

Ollie Upton/HBO

House of the Dragon is technically based on George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood, a fictional history text written by Archmaester Gyldayn. The archmaester was shown early on to be an unreliable narrator, but readers still take his main points as fact. Until now, the show has mostly done the same, only deviating in small ways that a historian could not have known about. But House of the Dragon’s depiction of Laenor’s “death” is a major deviation from the books, the first of its kind.

Warning: Spoilers for House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 7 follow. When the series time jumped ahead in Episode 6, Laenor and Rhaenyra had been married for a decade, while her uncle, Daemon, and his sister, Laena, also married and had two children. In the Fire & Blood novel, Daemon’s marriages all disintegrated at very timely points. His wife in the Eyrie turned up dead just as Rhaenyra was being forced to wed Laenor. His second wife, Laena, was said to have died after giving birth, but the timing, and Daemon’s reputation, make it a little suspect. Like his first wife, who died after being “thrown from her horse,” it’s unclear in the book whether Laena died of natural causes or had a little help from her dear ol’ husband.

The series departed from the book with Laena’s death in Episode 6, showing she definitively decided to end her own life rather than be subjected to a caesarian section. She still died the same way Fire and Blood claimed, after complications from childbirth, but definitively disproved any speculation that Daemon was at fault.

However, Laenor’s “death” is far different. In the Fire & Blood history, his death happened in the town square in broad daylight, in Spicetown, far from his family. He was slain during an argument with Ser Qarl Correy, who, it was suggested, was jealous of Laenor’s other lovers.

Ollie Upton/HBO

That’s not how it goes down in House of the Dragon. Instead, Laenor had a change of heart. After failing to give Rhaenyra children for a decade, he decided to stay home and be a good husband and father. Unfortunately, he decided this just as Rhaenyra decided she was done with the pretense of marriage now that Daemon had become single again.

The series went all in on showing that Qarl’s killing of Laenor was bought and paid for by Daemon and done at the behest of Rhaenyra. Daemon even knocked out the guards at the Driftmark palace to ensure Qarl could off Laenor with little disturbance — which he appeared to do in the castle’s main hall — so that everyone could see he did it. It left Daemon and Rhaenyra free to marry, and from the looks of it, they finally found the happiness Viserys so foolishly refused them before.

But all was not as it seemed. Laenor’s body (which conveniently was burned in the hall’s fireplace before anyone could see it) wasn’t Laenor after all. Fans saw at the very end of the ep what really happened to Laenor: As Qarl waited at the beach, a figure joined him to sail to Essos, and although he may not have been recognizable without his signature platinum hair, it was Laenor.

Ollie Upton/HBO

For those pro-Rhaenyra, who believe she loved Laenor in her own special way, his escape looks like proof that she and Daemon were never planning to murder him after all. Daemon’s conversation with Qarl was a misdirect; his murder of the guard was so Laenor and Qarl had a body to throw in the fire and no one to witness Laenor’s escape. In this interpretation, Rhaenyra and Daemon helped Laenor fake his death to live the life he wanted — and to free up the two Targaryens to marry each other, of course.

However, Laenor’s face as he and Qarl headed towards their ship could throw that charitable interpretation into question. It was dark, but Laenor didn’t look like a man freed from his invisible prison; he looked angry. It could suggest Rhaenyra and Daemon did mean to have him murdered, and it was Qarl who cleverly realized he could have his gold and his man too, helping Laenor escape to somewhere safe (and far from Targaryen reach). By that interpretation, Laenor is now a loose end, ready to come back to haunt Rhaenyra and Daemon, probably at the worst possible time.

Either way you look at it, this plot point is a major deviation from the book, making it clear the fictional historian who “wrote” Fire & Blood didn’t know *everything* about the Targaryen family after all.

House of the Dragon Season 1 continues with new episodes every Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO and HBO Max.