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This Is How Daenerys Targaryen Is Different In The Game Of Thrones Books

Daenerys Targaryen has it all — until she doesn't. The dragon-riding khaleesi, played by actor Emilia Clarke, quickly became one of the most popular characters on "Game of Thrones." Season 1 sees a timid and docile Daenerys marry Khal Drogo due to her cruel brother's machinations. As the series progresses, however, Daenerys' arc becomes a story of empowerment: She raises dragons, conquers cities, and eventually makes the grand voyage back to Westeros in Season 6's final episode, "The Winds of Winter."

Like most other characters in the celebrated HBO series, Daenerys differs greatly from her depiction in the books. Author George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series features a sprawling, vibrant world full of colorful characters. Early seasons of the show remain mostly faithful to the source material, but many details have to be left out to fit the story onto the small screen. As the series winds on, the chasm between book-Daenerys and show-Daenerys grows wider.

Daenerys' ending in "Game of Thrones" has proved to be controversial. Many fans and critics have panned the heroine's rapid transformation into a crazed villain, to say nothing of her death at the hands of Jon Snow. Could Daenerys meet a different fate in the books? Considering the many differences that exist between the novels and the HBO series, anything is possible. We're here to break down how Daenerys Targaryen is different in the books, from her murky childhood to the visions that might portend her future.

Daenerys marries Drogo at 13

If you think Daenerys' relationship with Drogo is weird on the show, it's nothing compared to their bond in the books. Dany is 13 when she is forcibly wed to Khal Drogo in "A Game of Thrones," and turns 14 while pregnant. The marriage is arranged by Magister Illyrio Mopatis, a wealthy merchant from Pentos, and Dany's older brother, Viserys Targaryen. Daenerys is essentially sold to Khal Drogo in exchange for a Dothraki army, which Viserys hopes to use to invade Westeros and take back the Iron Throne.

In the HBO series, Dany is around 17 at the start of Season 1. Aging up her character helps, though it doesn't change the creepy, non-consensual circumstances of her marriage to Drogo. Knowing how young she is in the source material makes her story that much more tragic: Like Jon Snow and the children of House Stark, Daenerys is a child, victimized by circumstances beyond her control. But she doesn't stay a victim for long: Within three books, the child queen is hatching dragons, sacking cities, and abolishing slavery. Daenerys might be young, but she exhibits strength and prowess that other characters twice her age lack.

Daenerys goes bald in the second book

Season 1 of "Game Of Thrones" and the first book end similarly: Daenerys emerges unscathed from Khal Drogo's funeral pyre, holding three newly-hatched dragons. Daenerys' unique bond with her dragon eggs is teased throughout the first book. She has mysterious dreams about dragons that change and empower her, and the eggs become a source of strength for her as she grows. When her "children" finally emerge, it's a triumphant moment.

The show omits one of the books' key details involving the dragons' birth, however: The pyre burns away Daenerys' long, silvery hair, leaving her bald for most of the second book, "A Clash Of Kings." To protect her scalp, Daenerys wears the skin of a white lion as a hood while journeying through the desolate Red Waste. She is later given an ornate three-headed dragon crown to wear in Qarth by the Tourmaline Brotherhood.

This isn't the only time Daenerys' hair is burnt away in the books. When the Targaryen queen reunites with her wayward dragon, Drogon, in "A Dance With Dragons," the dragon initially attacks her. He burns her hair in the chaos, leaving Daenerys bald once more. Season 5's "The Dance of the Dragons" features a similar scene between Daenerys and Drogon, though the dragon is much tamer and Daenerys' hair survives the fire once again.

Daenerys has different visions in the House of the Undying

Qarth is something of a placeholder for Daenerys, acting as a bridge between her past with the Dothraki and her future in Slaver's Bay. Her time here is brief, even in the books: "A Clash of Kings" only devotes five chapters to Daenerys' time in this engimatic city. You likely remember Qarth's House of the Undying, however — aka, the weird tower full of warlocks Daenerys visits. Season 2's "Valar Morghulis" loosely adapts this experience: Daenerys ventures into the tower to retrieve her dragons from Pyat Pree, and sees illusions of the destroyed Red Keep and Khal Drogo with their son, Rhaego.

In the books, Daenerys has a different experience in the House of the Undying. Her visions there comprise one of the most important scenes in the entire series, in fact, containing enough symbolism to keep fans speculating since the book's 1998 release. The Mother of Dragons goes willingly into the fortress with baby Drogon on her shoulder, and drinks a psychedelic substance called "shade of the evening," which triggers a series of trippy visions. Daenerys sees her brother Rhaegar and his son Aegon, memories from her childhood, the deaths of her brothers, and numerous prophetic glimpses of her future. Daenerys is eventually attacked by the spectral and ravenous Undying Ones, but is saved by Drogon, who burns the entire place to the ground.

Daenerys has a very different relationship with her handmaiden Irri

"Game Of Thrones" isn't exactly shy when it comes to sex scenes. The HBO show did, after all, inspire the term "sexposition." But believe it or not, the series shows surprising restraint when it comes to adapting certain R-rated scenes from the books. 

In "A Storm Of Swords," Daenerys has a brief moment of passion with Irri, her handmaiden. Irri's fate is significantly different in the HBO series: Played by actor Amrita Acharia, Irri is killed in Season 2's "The Old Gods and the New" while Daenerys is in Qarth. Irri's death is a devastating blow for Daenerys, motivating her to kill Doreah (Roxanne McKee) and Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anozie) by sealing them in a vault.

Irri's character is still alive in the books, and currently searching for Daenerys, who was last seen flying from Meereen on Drogon. Though Daenerys enjoys their tryst, she soon feels guilty for taking advantage of her handmaiden. In contrast, HBO's "Game Of Thrones" omits Irri's sexual relationship with Daenerys entirely — though Season 1's "The Kingsroad" does include a liaison between Daenerys and Doreah.

Daenerys' childhood home

In the books, Daenerys frequently longs to return to "the house with the red door," referring to her childhood home in Braavos. Shortly after Daenerys was born on Dragonstone, she and Viserys were whisked to Braavos by Targaryen loyalist Ser Willem Darry. The surviving Targaryen siblings lived quite happily with Darry in the comfortable house with the vivid red door. However, when Darry grew ill and died, Daenerys and Viserys were thrown out of the house by the servants and left to wander the Free Cities in exile.

The house with the red door isn't mentioned in the show, despite being an important symbol that motivates Daenerys throughout the books. The HBO series begins Daenerys and Viserys' journey in Illyrio Mopatis' manse in Pentos. Few details are given about their lives before that moment until Season 7, when the Targaryen queen tells Jon Snow, "I was born at Dragonstone. Not that I can remember it. We fled before Robert's assassins could find us ... I spent my life in foreign lands."

Daenerys' home in Braavos symbolizes the childhood that was taken away from her, as well as her continuous search for home. Everywhere she goes — Vaes Dothrak, Qarth, Meereen — Daenerys is reminded that she is an outsider. This fuels her belief that Westeros is her true home. Daenerys doesn't just want to reclaim the Seven Kingdoms for power's sake — she wants to restore her family's legacy and return home at last.

There's another Targaryen contender to the Iron Throne

One of the show's biggest deviations from the books is the erasure of Young Griff, aka Aegon Targaryen. Nope, not Jon Snow — there's another Aegon in "A Song Of Ice And Fire." 

The character is introduced in the fifth book, "A Dance With Dragons." After fleeing King's Landing, Tyrion travels to Essos and meets Young Griff, a mysterious young man travelling aboard a poleboat in search of Daenerys. Though Young Griff claims to be the son of a common sellsword, Tyrion quickly deduces who the boy really is and what he wants with Daenerys. Supposedly, Young Griff is secretly Aegon Targaryen, the surviving son of Prince Rhaegar and Elia Martell. Aegon has spent his life in hiding with Rhaegar's best friend, Jon Connington, who poses as his father. Now, the two men are journeying to Volantis so that Aegon might marry Daenerys — who, at the moment, has no idea that he exists.

All isn't what it seems with Aegon, however. Rhaegar's son is believed to be dead, having been murdered as a baby along with his mother and sister. Varys and Illyrio Mopatis claim that the infant Aegon was swapped with a common baby who died in his place, but they likely have ulterior motives. Many fans remain skeptical that Aegon (dubbed "Faegon," as in "Fake Aegon") is who he says he is, but the truth is still a mystery.

Mhysa, not Mad Queen

Fans of Daenerys are unlikely to have forgotten Season 8's "The Bells." Two episodes after defending Winterfell from the Night King's army, Daenerys makes a rapid descent into villainy. Daenerys doesn't just go for Cersei in the Red Keep — she spends a significant amount of time mowing down innocent civilians and destroying King's Landing with dragonfire. This massacre solidifies her quick jump from Mhysa to Mad Queen.

The HBO series ramps up Daenerys' penchant for violence throughout most of its run. But many scenes depicting Daenerys' more bloodthirsty tendencies don't appear in the books. In Season 2's "Garden of Bones," for example, Daenerys threatens Qarth with bloody vengeance should they deny her entry. This doesn't happen in "A Clash of Kings:" Instead, Daenerys is invited to Qarth after momentarily settling in the abandoned city of Vaes Tolorro.

Season 5 also significantly differs from the books when it comes to foreshadowing Mad Queen Daenerys. In the show, Daenerys feeds (potentially innocent) men to her dragons after the death of Ser Barristan Selmy. In contrast, Daenerys of the books ignores her council's advice to set the dragons loose on her enemies and resolves to bring peace to Meereen by other means. Time will tell if the Targaryen queen will meet a similar fate in the books.

Reuniting with the Dothraki

"A Dance With Dragons," the most recently-published installment of Martin's series, ends with a dire predicament for Daenerys Targaryen. After flying away from Meereen on Drogon, the dragon brings her to his lair on a cliff in the grassy Dothraki sea. Daenerys wanders away on her own after it becomes clear that Drogon won't take her back to the city, and follows a nearby stream on her journey back to Meereen. Soon enough, however, she is captured by the Dothraki.

Dany is similarly apprehended in the show, but "A Dance With Dragons" takes the stranded queen on a different kind of journey first. Before Khal Jhaqo happens upon her, Daenerys falls violently ill. Hallucinating, she sees visions of Viserys, who blames her for his death, as well as Ser Jorah Mormont and Quaithe, a mysterious shadowbinder from Asshai.

Daenerys' vision quest in the Dothraki sea encourages her to "remember who [she is]" and embrace the "blood of the dragon." This acceptance allows her to take control of Drogon, who is by her side when she confronts the Dothraki. Will the books follow in Season 6's steps from this point in Daenerys' story? Fans will just have to wait until "The Winds Of Winter" hits the shelves.

Volantis is waiting for Daenerys

"Game Of Thrones" gives fans a glimpse of Volantis, the oldest of the Free Cities, in Season 5. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hill) visit the metropolis on their way to Meereen, noting its enormous slave population and the Red Priestesses preaching that Daenerys is the Lord of Light's champion. Viewers return to Volantis briefly in Season 6 when Theon (Alfie Allen) and Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) pause there on their voyage to Meereen. In time, Tyrion and Varys discover that Volantis' elite is secretly funding the Sons of the Harpy alongside the leaders of Astapor and Yunkai. Those three cities attempt to retake Meereen from Daenerys, but their plan blows up in their face — literally — when the Mother of Dragons returns to the city atop Drogon.

Volantis looks set to play a bigger role in Daenerys' arc in "The Winds Of Winter." In "A Dance With Dragons," Tyrion meets an influential ex-slave known as the widow of the waterfront, who tells him to send a message to Daenerys: Volantis needs her. The slaves are ready to revolt and waiting for the Breaker of Chains to arrive, dragons blazing. Readers might just witness Daenerys burning Volantis in the next book as part of her anti-slavery campaign, before the Targaryen queen finally heads to Westeros.

Daenerys might not be who she thinks she is

"A Song Of Ice And Fire" fans have had plenty of time to piece together wild speculation. There's a theory for pretty much every character in the series, at this point. The most common theory (proved right on the show) regards Jon Snow secretly being the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. "Secret Targaryen" theories are quite popular, in fact: According to certain fans, everyone from Tyrion to Varys is a candidate.

In contrast, one popular theory speculates that Daenerys — the only legitimate Targaryen left after Viserys' death — isn't the daughter of Aerys and Rhaella after all. Throughout the books, Daenerys reminisces about the house with the red door in Braavos and the lemon tree that grew outside her window. Sample chapters from "The Winds Of Winter" highlight that lemons aren't native to Braavos, however. Thus, some fans believe Daenerys' childhood home was really in Dorne, the southernmost kingdom in Westeros, where Jon Snow was born in the Tower of Joy. From this point, speculation ranges: Daenerys might be Rhaegar's daughter, a bastard from Dragonstone, or even Jon's twin sister. As if the aunt-nephew incest wasn't weird enough!

Lots of people are traveling to Meereen to find Daenerys

A lot of people are traveling to meet Daenerys in "A Dance With Dragons." As Season 5 of the show depicts, Tyrion is one of them. Other important book characters are omitted, however, such as Young Griff, Victarion Greyjoy, Quentyn Martell, and Marwyn the Mage.

Victarion Greyjoy is the brother of Euron, a fiendish pirate lord who wants to seduce Daenerys and steal her dragons. Victarion intends to beat his brother to the punch, and sets sail with a Valyrian horn called Dragonbinder, said to control dragons. Quentyn Martell, a Dornish prince, proposes to Daenerys in order to secure an alliance. Meanwhile, Marwyn, an archmaester of the Citadel, is making his own way to Meereen to warn Daenerys about the White Walkers beyond the Wall.

Erasing minor characters like Victarion, Quentyn, and Aegon has a butterfly effect on Daenerys' story in the show. Without Dragonbinder, Euron Greyjoy is more cartoonishly evil than conniving, and his defeat of Rhaegal in Season 8's "The Last Of The Starks" ends up being underwhelming. Removing Aegon drastically alters Daenerys' conquest of Westeros, swapping a potential showdown between Daenerys and Aegon for a war with Cersei Lannister. Marwyn's absence is more forgivable, given Daenerys' eventual discovery of the White Walkers. Still, his absence is felt.

Daenerys isn't fireproof

Season 6's "Book of the Stranger" departs from book canon by establishing Daenerys' immunity to fire. The Mother of Dragons sets the Dosh Khaleen's temple in Vaes Dothrak ablaze, burning the khals alive. To solidify her new status as the unquestioned leader of the Dothraki, Daenerys emerges from the fire utterly unburnt, causing everyone to bow in awe.

This mimics the unforgettable Season 1 scene in which Daenerys survives the fire with her baby dragons. According to George R.R. Martin, however, Daenerys surviving the fire has less to do with Targaryens being fireproof and more with a fluke of fate. In a 1998 interview, Martin clarified, "TARGARYENS ARE NOT IMMUNE TO FIRE! The birth of Dany's dragons was unique ... She is called The Unburnt because she walked into the flames and lived." When asked if Daenerys could repeat this feat, Martin answered, "Probably not."

It's unclear why the show writers made Daenerys fireproof. In the end, it's one of many details the series changes, erases, and adjusts, in the process of telling its own tale. Could these divergences in Daenerys' story lead to a different ending in the books? "Game Of Thrones" fans will just have to wait and see.