King Viserys's Injury in “House of the Dragon” May Have Deeper Meaning, According to the Book


As “House of the Dragon” sets up the years-long conflict that will tear House Targaryen apart, there are already hints that the royal house is struggling to keep it together. The king, Viserys I, finds himself dealing with a nasty injury, and it could symbolize what’s to come.

King Viserys’s Injury

At the end of the first episode, Viserys cuts his hand on one of the sharp edges of the Iron Throne (remember, the throne is literally made up of a thousand swords of those conquered during Aegon I Targaryen’s conquest of Westeros). By the time the second episode rolls around, it’s clear that the medicine of the day isn’t doing enough to help him. His hand is infected, and the maesters try some fairly gross treatments to save his fingers, which are clearly decaying.

The Symbolism of King Viserys’s Injury

The symbolism of Viserys being cut by his throne would seem fairly straightforward. In George R.R. Martin’s books, the people of Westeros have a superstition about the Iron Throne: it reputedly can “judge” those who sit on it without being truly worthy. It also is reportedly constructed as it is, with so many sharp edges, as a symbol of the caution required to be a monarch. Sitting on the throne is a delicate task that requires caution and forethought to avoid injury; it is intended as a symbolic warning against impulsivity in all matters of state.

The implication of his injury, by those standards, is that Viserys is being judged and found wanting. This seems especially true seeing as the injury happens after he makes the decision to let his wife, Aemma, die a painful and gruesome death, all in hopes of getting a living son from her. As the injury worsens, it can also be read as a judgment on Viserys failing to think things through; instead of focusing his efforts on his living heir, Rhaenyra, he’s listening to manipulative advice from his various council members to remarry.

What Happens to King Viserys in the Books?

In the books, Viserys is not the Targaryen king best known for being injured on the Iron Throne. That belongs to two other kings: his ancestor, Maegor, and his distant descendant, Aerys II. Maegor, known as “The Cruel” for his brutal reign, was found dead on the throne, having apparently bled out, and rumours swirled that the throne itself had killed him for his violence and unworthiness. Centuries later, the last Targaryen king, Aerys II (aka the “Mad King,” Daenerys’s father), was nicknamed “King Scab” for constantly having half-healed wounds from cutting himself on the throne, especially as his madness worsened.

The “Dance of the Dragons” civil war is kicked off by the succession crisis following Viserys’s death, and with his injury, it seems like “House of the Dragon” is already preparing us for his mortality. In the book “Fire and Blood,” however, Viserys actually is the rare Targaryen to die a very peaceful death, but it remains to be seen if the TV version will keep that plot point or make it more dramatic.

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