Daenerys Targaryen

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Daenerys Targaryen
A Song of Ice and Fire character
Game of Thrones
Daenerys Targaryen with Dragon-Emilia Clarke.jpg
Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in the television adaptation Game of Thrones
First appearance
Last appearance
Created byGeorge R. R. Martin
Portrayed byEmilia Clarke
(Game of Thrones)
Voiced byEmilia Clarke (video game)
  • Daenerys Stormborn
  • Dany
  • Khaleesi
  • Mhysa
  • The Silver Queen
  • Silver Lady
  • Dragonmother
  • The Dragon Queen
  • The Queen Across the Water
  • Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men (claimant)
  • Protector of the Realm (claimant)
  • Queen of Meereen
  • Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea
  • Mother of Dragons
  • The Unburnt
  • Breaker of Chains
  • Lady of Dragonstone
FamilyHouse Targaryen
Significant other(s)
ChildrenRhaego (stillborn)
KingdomThe Crownlands

Daenerys Targaryen 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, where she is portrayed by English actress Emilia Clarke. In the novels, she is a prominent point of view character. She is one of the most popular characters in the series, and The New York Times cites her as one of the author's finest creations.[2][3]

Introduced in 1996's A Game of Thrones, Daenerys is one of the last two surviving members (along with her older brother, Viserys) of House Targaryen, who, until fourteen years before the events of the first novel, had ruled Westeros from the Iron Throne for nearly three hundred years. She subsequently appeared in 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).[4][5]

In the story, Daenerys is a young woman in her early teens living in Essos. Knowing no other life than one of exile, she remains dependent on her abusive older brother, Viserys. She is forced to marry Dothraki horselord Khal Drogo in exchange for an army for Viserys, who is to return to Westeros and recapture the Iron Throne. 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, but soon helps hatch three dragons from their eggs, which regard her as their mother, providing her with a tactical advantage and prestige. Over time, she struggles to maintain control of her dragons. She also acquires an army with which she conquers the cities of Yunkai, Astapor and Meereen, determined to end slavery and injustice there. Despite her strong moral compass, she is capable of dealing ruthlessly with her enemies, particularly the slave masters. After establishing herself as a powerful and relentless ruler, she sails for her homeland of Westeros, bent on reclaiming the Seven Kingdoms.

Well received by critics and fans alike, 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, 2015, and 2016. She has also earned many other 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 Queen Rhaella, and is one of the last survivors of House Targaryen.[6][7] 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 to a throne given point of view chapters in the novels.[8] Thirteen years before the events of the series (sixteen in the television series), after her father and eldest brother Rhaegar were killed during Robert's Rebellion, Daenerys was born in the midst of a great storm, earning her the nickname "Stormborn". Rhaella died in childbirth and Daenerys was whisked away to Braavos with her older brother Viserys by the Master of Arms of the Red Keep, Ser Willem Darry. Darry died when Daenerys was five and she and Viserys spent the following years wandering the Free Cities.[6] By the beginning of A Game of Thrones, Daenerys has been a guest of Illyrio Mopatis in Pentos for half a year. Game of Thrones creators D. B. Weiss and David Benioff described Daenerys as a combination of Joan of Arc, Lawrence of Arabia, and Napoleon.[9]


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 sold off by her brother Viserys and Illyrio Mopatis to marry Khal Drogo, a Dothraki warlord, in exchange for an army for Viserys.[6] 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, the marriage turns out to be a happy one, and Daenerys grew to love him and began to take to Dothraki customs, finding strength and determination for the first time. This leads her to stand up to Viserys's attempts to bully her into coercing Drogo. After Drogo kills Viserys by pouring molten gold atop his head 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. With Drogo ill, his warriors mutiny and abandon him. In desperation, Daenerys recruits an enslaved Lhazareen priestess, Mirri Maz Duur, to save Drogo with blood magic. However, despite being saved by Daenerys from being raped by the tribe's warriors, the priestess betrays her trust, and the magic ritual leads to the stillbirth of Daenerys's unborn child and leaves Drogo in a catatonic state. Daenerys does not want her husband to suffer any longer, and euthanizes him with a pillow. She burns the priestess in Drogo's funeral pyre and climbs into the flame with her three dragon eggs. When the pyre dies out the following morning, Daenerys emerges alive and unburnt from the ashes 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 to the rulers of the city for aid in reclaiming the Iron Throne, and meets little success. She eventually accepts an invitation from a group of warlocks to discover her future. At the warlocks temple, the House of the Undying, Daenerys drinks a magical potion, and enters the temple. Inside, she sees several visions and manages to resist the temptations. When she enters the final hall and meets the really Undyings, she is told prophecies about her destiny as the "child of three" who will experience "three fires must you light", "three mounts must you ride" and "three treasons will you know", as well as being the "daughter of death", the "slayer of lies" and the "bride of fire". When the Undyings attack her and intend to hold her prisoner, her dragon Drogon kills the Undying Ones and burns down the whole temple, allowing Daenerys to escape. Before departing Qarth, Daenerys is nearly assassinated with a venomous manticore but is saved by Arstan Whitebeard, who is sent by Illyrio Morpatis along with the eunuch ex-gladiator called Strong Belwas and three ships as a gift to take Daenerys back to Pentos.

A Storm of Swords[edit]

Seeking an army, Daenerys sails to Astapor in Slaver's Bay to purchase an army of 'Unsullied' slave soldiers, in exchange for a dragon; but she betrays the slavers and uses the Unsullied to sack the city. She later conquers the city of Yunkai and gains the service of Daario Naharis, who commands a large mercenary company. As she marches on Meereen, she learns that one of her companions is actually Barristan Selmy, a knight of Robert the Usurper's Kingsguard, and that Jorah had spied on her earlier. 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 Daenerys banishes him. Unwilling to abandon the slaves she freed, fearing they would return to 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's 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 late husband.

Family tree of House Targaryen[edit]

TV adaptation[edit]

Casting and development[edit]

Martin said that the character was aged in the television series because of child pornography regulations.[10] Tamzin Merchant played Daenerys in the original pilot, but the first episode was re-shot with Emilia Clarke in the role.[11] Weiss and Benioff said, "Emilia was the only person we saw—and we saw hundreds—who could carry the full range that Daenerys required".[9] 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."[12] Clarke said she accepts acting nude if "a nude scene forwards a story or is shot in a way that adds insight into characters".[13] She added that "sometimes explicit scenes are required and make sense for the characters/story, as they do in Westeros" and that she can discuss with a director how to make a gratuitously nude scene more subtle.[13] Clarke, however, has used a body double in past cameo appearances, particularly Rosie Mac in season 5.[13]

In October 2014, Clarke and several other key cast members, all contracted for six seasons of the series, renegotiated their deals to include a potential seventh season and salary increases for seasons five, six, and seven.[14][15] The Hollywood Reporter called the raises "huge", noting that the deal would make the performers "among the highest-paid actors on cable TV".[14] Deadline Hollywood put the number for season five at "close to $300,000 an episode" for each actor,[15] and The Hollywood Reporter wrote in June 2016 that the performers would each be paid "upward of $500,000 per episode" for seasons seven and the potential eight.[16] In 2017, Clarke became one of the highest paid actors on television and earned £2 million per episode for the show.[17][18]


Season 1[edit]

Daenerys Targaryen is introduced as the exiled princess of the Targaryen dynasty. Also called "Stormborn", she and her brother Viserys were smuggled to Essos during the end of Robert's Rebellion. For most of her life, she has been under the care of Viserys, whom she fears, as he is abusive to her whenever she displeases him.

Viserys marries Daenerys to the powerful Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo in exchange for his military support in an invasion of Westeros, making Daenerys a Khaleesi, a queen of the Dothraki. During the wedding, exiled knight Ser Jorah Mormont pledges his loyalty to Daenerys, and her benefactor Ilyrio Mopatis gifts her three petrified dragon eggs. Daenerys is at first afraid of her new husband, but after learning the Dothraki language, she begins to understand him and genuinely falls in love with him after learning Drogo is a smart leader and a kind man. After embracing the Dothraki culture, she becomes stronger and rebels against her brother. She later becomes pregnant with Drogo's son, who is prophesied by the Dothraki to be the "Stallion Who Mounts the World". Viserys grows jealous of Daenerys's popularity and becomes infuriated with Drogo's lack of urgency in launching an invasion, prompting him to threaten to cut Daenerys's unborn son from her womb. Drogo responds by killing Viserys with molten gold, to which Daenerys declares that he was no dragon, because fire cannot kill a dragon.

After an unsuccessful assassination attempt on behalf of Robert Baratheon, Drogo vows to Daenerys that he will conquer the Seven Kingdoms for her and their unborn son. However, during their journey Drogo becomes comatose due to an infected wound incurred during a fight with one of his men. Daenerys is forced to seek the help of healer Mirri Maz Duur to save his life using blood magic. Mirri tricks Daenerys by using her unborn son's life as a sacrifice to heal Drogo but leave him in a permanent catatonic state, forcing Daenerys to end her husband's life. Daenerys punishes Mirri by having her tied to Drogo's funeral pyre. She also lays the three dragon eggs onto Drogo's body and steps into the fire herself. At daybreak, after the fire is burned down, Daenerys emerges with three baby dragons, whom she names Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion.

Season 2[edit]

A blue, scale-covered dress worn by Daenerys in the TV series Game of Thrones

Daenerys and the remnants of Drogo's khalasar wander the Red Waste before being accepted into the city of Qarth. She is hosted by merchant Xaro Xhoan Daxos, a member of Qarth's ruling council the Thirteen. Daenerys tries to appeal to the Thirteen to support her invasion of Westeros, without success. She returns to Xaro's manse to find half of her men and servants killed and her dragons gone. Meeting with the Thirteen again to ask for their help in retrieving her dragons, the warlock Pyat Pree claims responsibility and declares that her dragons are being kept in his temple, the House of the Undying. Daenerys travels to the temple, but Pree's magic separates her from Jorah and leaves her chained with her dragon. Daenerys orders her dragons to immolate Pree. Daenerys then confronts Xaro, who had conspired with Pree and Daenerys's servant Doreah to seize control of Qarth. Daenerys has Xaro and Doreah sealed in Xaro's vault, and has her remaining loyalists raid his manse, using the funds to buy a ship.

Season 3[edit]

Daenerys travels to Astapor, a city in Slaver's Bay. As she arrives, the warlocks of Qarth attempt to assassinate her, but are thwarted by Ser Barristan Selmy, who was Kingsguard to Aerys Targaryen; Daenerys accepts him into her service. Daenerys negotiates with Astapori slaver Kraznys mo Nakloz to purchase an army of Unsullied, elite eunuch soldiers, in exchange for Drogon, also obtaining the services of Kraznys's translator Missandei. Upon the completion of the transaction, she has Drogon burn Kraznys alive and orders the Unsullied to sack the city, kill Astapor's masters and free its slaves. Daenerys and her army then march on the neighbouring slave city of Yunkai, who hire the sellsword company the Second Sons to defend the city. The commanders of the Second Sons order their lieutenant, Daario Naharis, to kill Daenerys; however, he is smitten by her beauty and instead brings her the heads of his superiors, pledging the Second Sons' allegiance. Daario, Jorah, and the Unsullied commander Grey Worm infiltrate Yunkai, opening the gates for the Targaryen army to conquer the city. Daenerys is received by Yunkai's freed slaves, who hail her as their "mhysa" (mother).

Season 4[edit]

Daenerys marches on the last city in Slaver's Bay, Meereen, and seizes control of the city by instigating a slave revolt. She decides to execute 163 Meereenese masters as "justice" for 163 slave children crucified on the road to Meereen. After becoming aware that her council in Astapor has been overthrown and that Yunkai has reverted to slavery, Daenerys decides to stay in Meereen to practice ruling. She also begins a sexual relationship with Daario. After discovering that Jorah was previously spying on her on House Baratheon's behalf, she is enraged and orders him exiled from the city. Daenerys is later horrified to discover that Drogon has killed a farmer's child; although Drogon is unable to be captured, she has Rhaegal and Viserion locked up in Meereen's catacombs.

Season 5[edit]

Daenerys faces a new threat to her rule in the form of the Sons of the Harpy, a resistance movement made of agitated former masters. Her popularity with the freedmen also begins to wane after she publicly executes one of her councillors, Mossador, for killing a captive Son. After the Sons kill Ser Barristan, Daenerys decides that she will attempt to restore peace by reopening Meereen's fighting pits and taking the Meereenese noble Hizdhar zo Loraq as her husband. While attending a gladiator demonstration, she is confronted by Jorah, who has brought her the fugitive Tyrion Lannister to appease her. Daenerys accepts Tyrion onto her council, but orders Jorah exiled again.

At the reopening of the fighting pits, Jorah saves Daenerys's life by killing a Son of the Harpy trying to assassinate her. The Sons then launch a massive attack, killing Hizdhar and many other Meereenese noblemen and freedmen. As the Sons corner Daenerys and her councillors, Drogon appears and kills or scares off most of the Sons. As the Unsullied begin to overwhelm the Sons, some begin throwing spears at Drogon, prompting Daenerys to climb onto his back and order him to fly away. Drogon eventually leaves her in the Dothraki Sea, where she is captured by a khalasar.

Season 6[edit]

Daenerys is taken to Khal Moro, the leader of the Dothraki horde. Learning that she is the widow of Khal Drogo, Moro tells her she must live out her days among the widows of the Dosh Khaleen in Vaes Dothrak. Once there, Daenerys is told that she is to be judged by the khals for defying tradition and going out into the world following Drogo's death. During the meeting with the khals, Daenerys declares that only she has enough ambition to lead the Dothraki; when the outraged khals threaten to gang-rape her, Daenerys sets fire to the temple, killing everyone inside but emerging unscathed. Awed, the Dothraki accept her as their Khaleesi. After discovering that Jorah, who had followed her to Vaes Dothrak with Daario, is infected with the terminal disease greyscale, Daenerys orders him to find a cure and return to her services, before marching on Meereen with Drogon, Daario and the Dothraki.

Daenerys returns to Meereen to find it under siege by the joint fleets of Yunkai, Astapor, and Volantis, who have reneged on an agreement with Tyrion to free their slaves and are trying to reclaim the city. Daenerys deploys all three of her dragons, burning most of the slaver fleet and seizing the ships that survive. The slavers agree to surrender. Soon after, Theon and Yara Greyjoy arrive to offer the Iron Fleet in exchange for Daenerys giving the Iron Islands their independence and installing Yara as queen of the Iron Islands over their uncle Euron, who had been planning to marry Daenerys. Daenerys agrees to Theon and Yara's alliance. Varys, meanwhile, secures the support of Ellaria Sand and Olenna Tyrell, who have lost family members to the Lannisters and want vengeance. Daenerys leaves Daario and the Second Sons in Meereen to keep the peace, and sets sail for Westeros at last.[19]

Season 7[edit]

Daenerys arrives at the island fortress of Dragonstone, the ancient Targaryen stronghold once held by the late Stannis Baratheon, and finds it abandoned. She sends the Unsullied to take Casterly Rock, and her Greyjoy fleet, along with ships from Dorne, to blockade King's Landing. The Lannister forces, however, have left Casterly Rock and seized Highgarden and its wealth, and Euron Greyjoy overcomes Yara Greyjoy's ships. In an effort to gain allies, Daenerys summons the newly named King in the North, Jon Snow, to pledge his fealty to her. Jon refuses, insisting that the White Walkers and their wight army present a more immediate threat than the Lannisters. Receiving word of Highgarden's fall, Daenerys leads Drogon and the Dothraki to decimate the Lannister caravan. Drogon is injured by a ballista designed specifically to wound dragons, but Daenerys is victorious. The remaining forces submit to her after she commands the dragon to roast a resistant Randyll and Dickon Tarly alive.

Jon and a cured Jorah lead an expedition beyond the Wall to capture a wight, which they will use to convince Cersei Lannister, the self-declared Queen of Westeros, that the threat is real. They are saved from the army of the dead by Daenerys and her dragons, but the Night King kills Viserion with an ice spear. A distraught Daenerys vows to Jon that she will help fight the White Walkers, and Jon accepts her as his queen. The pair and their retainers bring a wight to King's Landing to convince Cersei of the threat beyond the Wall. Cersei ultimately agrees to a truce, and to aid in the fight against the undead army, while secretly plotting to betray them. Jon and Daenerys finally succumb to their growing feelings for each other and have sex, neither aware that Jon is her nephew, a fact recently uncovered by Jon's friend Sam and brother Bran. Neither of them are aware that the Night King has revived Viserion as wight, and breaches the Wall with dragonfire.



Emilia Clarke was relatively unknown before her role as Daenerys in Game of Thrones.[20]

Daenerys is one of the most popular characters of the book series.[3] The New York Times called Daenerys, together with Tyrion Lannister and Jon Snow, one of Martin's "finest creations".[2] 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".[20] Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe called her scenes "mesmerizing".[21] Salon's Andrew Leonard, in his review of A Dance with Dragons, called Daenerys one of the series' three strongest characters, and bemoaned her lack of inclusion in A Feast for Crows.[5] The website Mashable recognized her as one of the five most popular characters on the series,[22] while The Daily Beast referred to her as the "closest thing the series has to a protagonist".[23]

Emilia Clarke's acting performance, as she closed Daenerys's arc in the first episode from a frightened girl to an empowered woman, was widely 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."[21] In 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.[24] IGN's Matt Fowler also praised Clarke and noted that Daenerys's choice to watch Viserys die was "powerful" and an important shift in her character.[25] Time's reviewer James Poniewozik complimented Daenerys's storyline,[26] while other reviewers complimented Clarke's acting.[27][28] Clarke's performance, and the character's final scene, in "Baelor" was praised,[29] 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". However, Arthur 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".[30] 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."[31]

Recognition and awards[edit]

From the beginning, Clarke's performance has been acclaimed by critics. She received an EWwy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama in 2011,[32] as well as a Scream Award for Breakout Performance by a Female. She also earned a Gracie Allen Award for Outstanding Female Rising Star in a Drama Series or Special in 2012,[33] and a SFX Award for Best Actress in 2013.[34]

Clarke received Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2013, 2015, and 2016.[35][36][37] She was also nominated for a Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for the role in 2013 and 2016.[38][39] Other nominations include the Golden Nymph Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series in 2012,[40] the Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film in 2013, the People's Choice Award for Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Actress in 2014, 2016 and 2017,[41][42] the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress on Television in 2015,[43] the Gold Derby TV Award for Best Drama Supporting Actress in 2013 and 2014,[44][45] and the MTV Movie & TV Award for Best Actor In A Show in 2017.[46] IGN also nominated Clarke for Best TV Actress in 2011.[47]


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  30. ^ Arthur, Kate (April 18, 2013). "9 Ways "Game Of Thrones" Is Actually Feminist". BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed Inc. Retrieved September 21, 2014.
  31. ^ Hopper, Nate (June 10, 2013). "Queen of Drag-Ons". Esquire. Hearst Magazines. Retrieved September 21, 2014.
  32. ^ Darq (September 17, 2011). "The 2011 EWwy Award Winners Announced (EW.com Awards)". spoilertv.com.
  33. ^ "2012 Gracie Awards Winners". Archived from the original on 2015-04-17.
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  40. ^ "Nominees of the 52nd Festival de Television de Monte-Carlo".
  41. ^ "NOMINEES & WINNERS 2016". People's Choice Awards. November 3, 2015. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
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