Daenerys Targaryen

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Daenerys Targaryen
A Song of Ice and Fire character
Daenerys Targaryen with Dragon-Emilia Clarke.jpg
Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen
First appearance Novel:
A Game of Thrones (1996)
"Winter Is Coming" (2011)
Video game:
"The Sword in the Darkness" (2015)
Created by George R. R. Martin
Portrayed by Emilia Clarke
Game of Thrones
  • Daenerys Stormborn
  • Khaleesi
  • Dany
  • The Unburnt
  • Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and of the First Men
  • Queen of Meereen
  • Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea
  • Breaker of Chains
  • Mother of Dragons
Family House Targaryen
Spouse(s) Khal Drogo
Hizdahr zo Loraq
Significant other(s) Daario Naharis
Children Rhaego (stillborn)
Kingdom The Crownlands

Daenerys Targaryen (also referred to as Dany or Daenerys Stormborn) is a fictional character in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels, as well as the television adaptation, Game of Thrones. In the novels, she is a prominent point of view character. The New York Times has referred to Daenerys as one of the author's finest creations and most popular characters.[1][2]

Introduced in 1996's A Game of Thrones, Daenerys (along with her older brother, Viserys) is one of the last confirmed members of House Targaryen who, until fifteen years before the events of the first novel, ruled on the Iron Throne for nearly three hundred years. She subsequently appeared in Martin's A Clash of Kings (1998) and A Storm of Swords (2000). Daenerys was one of a few prominent characters not included in 2005's A Feast for Crows, but returned in the next novel A Dance with Dragons (2011).[3][4]

In the story, Daenerys is a young woman in her early teens living in Essos across the narrow sea. Knowing no other life than one of exile, she remains dependent on her abusive older brother, Viserys. The timid and meek girl finds herself betrothed to Dothraki horse lord, Khal Drogo, to ensure Viserys gains an army to return to Westeros and take back the Iron Throne. Despite this, her brother loses the ability to control her as Daenerys finds herself adapting to life with the khalasar and emerges as a strong, confident and courageous woman. She becomes the heir of the Targaryen dynasty after her brother's death and plans to reclaim the Iron Throne herself, seeing it as her birthright. A pregnant Daenerys loses her husband and child while retaining members of the Dothraki at her side. When she climbs on top of Drogo's funeral pyre with the dragon eggs gifted at her wedding, she awakes unharmed with three hatched dragons. Over time, she struggles to maintain the control of her dragons who become dangerous. Later, she becomes determined to bring justice as a conqueror as she leads a military campaign to bring an end to slavery in Slaver's Bay, liberating the occupied cities of Yunkai, Astapor and Meereen with an army of Unsullied. Despite her strong moral compass, she is capable of dealing ruthlessly with her enemies, particularly the slave masters.

Emilia Clarke received Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her performance as Daenerys in the HBO series in 2013[5] and 2015.[6] She has earned numerous nominations and accolades for her portrayal.

Character description[edit]

Daenerys Targaryen is the daughter of King Aerys II Targaryen (also referred to as The Mad King) and his sister-wife Rhaella, and is one of the last survivors of House Targaryen.[7][8] She serves as the third-person narrator of thirty-one chapters throughout A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, and A Dance with Dragons. She is the only monarch or claimant of such given point of view chapters in the novels.[9] Thirteen years before the events of the series, she was born in the midst of a storm, earning her the nickname 'Stormborn'. Shortly thereafter, Daenerys and her brother Viserys fled to Braavos; Rhaella had died in childbirth. They spent the following years wandering the Free Cities.[7]

Casting and development[edit]

The role of Daenerys was originally played by Tamzin Merchant in the pilot, but the first episode was re-shot with Emilia Clarke.[10] Clarke, in reflection of the character's evolution in the television series, stated: "Throughout the season she’s had an insane transformation from someone who barely even spoke and timidly did everything her brother said into a mother of dragons and a queen of armies and a killer of slave masters. She’s a very Joan of Arc-style character."[11]


A blue, scale-covered dress worn by Daenerys in the TV series Game of Thrones
A coat of arms showing a red three-headed dragon on a black field over a scroll reading "Fire and Blood."
Coat of arms of House Targaryen

A Game of Thrones[edit]

In A Game of Thrones (1996), Daenerys is forced to marry Khal Drogo, a Dothraki warlord, in exchange for Drogo providing an army to her brother Viserys Targaryen.[7] At that time, Daenerys befriends Jorah Mormont, an exiled Westerosi knight and is given three petrified dragon eggs as a wedding gift. Though initially terrified of Drogo, Daenaerys grew to love him and began to take to Dothraki customs, finding strength and determination for the first time, which leads her to stand up to Viserys' attempts to bully her into coercing Drogo. After Drogo kills Viserys for threatening his wife, Daenerys sees herself as the heir to the Targaryen dynasty, and responsible for reclaiming the throne for her family. Shortly thereafter Drogo is wounded in a fight, and the cut festers. Drogo's warriors abandon him shortly after. Daenerys recruits a witch to save Drogo, but the witch betrays her, killing Daenerys' unborn child and leaving Drogo in a catatonic state. Daenerys does not want her husband to suffer any longer and smothers Drogo. She climbs on top of Drogo's funeral pyre with her three dragon eggs, and awakes unharmed with three hatched dragons.

A Clash of Kings[edit]

Leading the remnants of Drogo's khalasar through the Red Waste, Daenerys arrives in the city of Qarth. There she begins appealing the rulers of the city for aid in reclaiming the Iron Throne, though she meets little success. She eventually accepts an invitation from a group of warlocks to discover her future. At their tower, Daenerys sees several visions and learns that the Warlocks intend to keep her prisoner, but she escapes after Drogon sets fire to the Undying. Before departing, she is nearly assassinated but is saved by Arstan Whitebeard, who arrives with three ships as a gift.

A Storm of Swords[edit]

Seeking an army, she sails to Astapor in Slaver's Bay to purchase an army of 'Unsullied' slave soldiers, in exchange for a dragon; but betrays the slavers and uses the Unsullied to sack the city. She later conquers the city of Yunkai, and gains the service of Darrio Naharis, who commands a large mercenary company. As she marches on the Meereen, she learns that one of her companions is actually Barristan Selmy, a knight of the Robert the Usurper's Kingsguard, and that Jorah had previously spied on her. Disgusted, she sends the pair on a suicide mission to capture Meereen. When the mission is successful, Barristan asks to be forgiven for his deception, but Jorah refuses to ask forgiveness so she exiles him. Unwilling to abandon the slaves she freed back into bondage, Dany decides to stay in Meereen.

A Dance with Dragons[edit]

Throughout A Dance with Dragons (2011), Daenerys struggles to maintain order in the city in the face of growing unrest as well as the chaos she left behind in the other cities she conquered. Furthermore, Yunkai has rebelled and is gathering forces to besiege Meereen. When Drogon kills a child, Daenerys feels compelled to chain her dragons Rhaegal and Viserion, but Drogon escapes. Her advisers suggest she marry Hizdahr zo Loraq to bring peace and she agrees, but also takes Daario as a lover. Hizdahr successfully negotiates an end to the violence, so she marries him. At her wedding feast, the blood and noise of the fighting pits attract Drogon, who is immediately attacked; Daenerys' attempt to control her dragon fails initially but she eventually flies off with him. After several days in Drogon's lair, she falls ill after eating some berries and begins to hallucinate. She is later found by Khal Jhaqo, formerly a captain of her Khalasar who betrayed her former husband.

Family tree of House Targaryen[edit]


Emilia Clarke was relatively unknown before her role as Daenerys in Game of Thrones.[12]

Rolling Stone ranked Daenerys Targaryen at No. 1 on a list of "Top 40 Game of Thrones Characters", calling her story a "non-stop confrontation with complex ideas about sex, war, gender, race, politics and morality".[12] Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe called her scenes "mesmerizing".[13] The website Mashable recognized her as one of the five most popular characters on the series,[14] while The Daily Beast referred to her as the "closest thing the series has to a protagonist".[15]

Emilia Clarke's performance has garnered critical acclaim. Her acting, as she closed Daenerys's arc initiated in the first episode from a frightened girl to an empowered woman, was praised. Gilbert said that "Clarke doesn't have a lot of emotional variety to work with as Daenerys, aside from fierce determination, and yet she is riveting."[13] On his review for "A Golden Crown," Todd VanDerWerff for The A.V. Club commented on the difficulty of adapting such an evolution from page to screen, but concluded that "Clarke [...] more than seal[s] the deal here.[16] IGN's Matt Fowler also praised Clarke and noted that Daenerys' choice to watch Viserys die was "powerful" and an important shift in her character.[17] Time's reviewer James Poniewozik complimented Daenerys's storyline,[18] while other reviewers complimented Clarke's acting.[19][20] Clarke's performance, and the character's final scene, in "Baelor" was praised,[21] and the final scene of the season received widespread acclaim.

Kate Arthur of the website BuzzFeed criticized the character's story line in the television show's second season, stating that she was too "weak-seeming". Arthur, however, praised the character's "purpose coupled with humanity and even some humor" during the third season, opining that Clarke was "eating the screen alive as a result".[22] Nate Hopper of Esquire magazine, when speaking of the television series, argued that the character did not face enough conflict, characterizing her conquering of cities as "cut and dry", stating that "She needs to be emancipated from her own easy, comfortable, mundane victory."[23]


  1. ^ Orr, David (August 12, 2011). "Dragons Ascendant: George R. R. Martin and the Rise of Fantasy". The New York Times. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  2. ^ Jennings, Dana (July 14, 2011). "A Dance with Dragons Review: In a Fantasyland of Liars, Trust No One, and Keep Your Dragon Close". The New York Times. Retrieved July 20, 2014. 
  3. ^ Brown, Rachael (July 11, 2011). "George R.R. Martin on Sex, Fantasy, and A Dance With Dragons". theatlantic.com. Retrieved 2012-02-02. 
  4. ^ Leonard, Andrew (July 10, 2011). "Return of the new fantasy king: A Dance With Dragons". salon.com. Retrieved 2012-02-02. 
  5. ^ "Emmy Nominees Full List: Breaking Bad, Homeland, Downton Abbey Dominate 2013 Awards". The Huffington Post. July 18, 2013. Retrieved July 10, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Emmy Award Nominations: Full List of 2015 Emmy Nominees". Variety. July 16, 2015. Retrieved July 16, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c A Game of Thrones, Chapter 3: Daenerys I.
  8. ^ A Game of Thrones, Appendix.
  9. ^ "Caught in a Robb Romance". Rolling Stone. 
  10. ^ "George R. R. Martin talks 'Game of Thrones' as the HBO show's 'Daenerys' departs". Chicago Tribune. April 29, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Emmys 2013: 'Thrones' star Emilia Clarke reacts -- in Dothraki?". Los Angeles Times. 
  12. ^ a b "Top 40 'Game of Thrones' Characters, Ranked". Rolling Stone. Jann Wenner. March 31, 2014. Retrieved September 24, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Gilbert, Matthew (March 28, 2013). "Fantasy gets real on ‘Game of Thrones’". The Boston Globe. John W. Henry. Retrieved September 21, 2014. 
  14. ^ Erickson, Christine (June 12, 2014). "Ranking the Most Popular Characters in 'Game of Thrones'". Mashable. Mashable.com. Retrieved September 24, 2014. 
  15. ^ Romano, Andrew (April 2, 2014). "Will Season 4 Make ‘Game of Thrones’ the Best Fantasy Show Ever?". The Daily Beast. The Newsweek Daily Beast Company. Retrieved September 21, 2014. 
  16. ^ VanDerWerff, Todd. "A Golden Crown" (for experts)". A.V. Club. Archived from the original on 24 May 2011. Retrieved May 24, 2011. 
  17. ^ Fowler, Matt. "Game of Thrones: "A Golden Crown" Review". IGN. Retrieved May 22, 2011. 
  18. ^ Poniewozik, James (May 30, 2011). "Game of Thrones Watch: Boared to Death". Time. Retrieved June 3, 2011. 
  19. ^ AOL. "WHAT TO WATCH". AOL.com. 
  20. ^ "You Win Or You Die". The A.V. Club. 
  21. ^ AOL. "WHAT TO WATCH". AOL.com. 
  22. ^ Arthur, Kate (April 18, 2013). "9 Ways "Game Of Thrones" Is Actually Feminist". BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed Inc. Retrieved September 21, 2014. 
  23. ^ Hopper, Nate (June 10, 2013). "Queen of Drag-Ons". Esquire. Hearst Magazines. Retrieved September 21, 2014. 

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