Who Is Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones?

By James T. Cains

Daenerys Targaryen is one of the only two surviving heirs to House Targaryen, which once ruled the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros before Robert Baratheon deposed Daenerys’s father, King Aerys II Targaryen. When Game of Thrones begins, Daenerys and Viserys, her older brother, live as exiles on the continent of Essos, across the Narrow Sea. Viserys is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, and in an attempt to gain an army to retake the throne, he sells Daenerys to the Dothraki tribal leader, Khol Drogo, when she is only 15 years old. At first, Daenerys is timid and submissive, doing what her brother says. However, after marrying Drogo, falling in love with him, and finding her place among the Dothraki people, Daenerys begins to find her inner strength to stand up to her brother.

Daenerys marries Khal Drogo

On her wedding day, Daenerys receives the priceless present of three dragon eggs that are thought to have turned to stone. Also, Jorah Mormont, a former knight from Westeros who has been exiled to Essos, joins the service of Viserys, but soon begins acting as Daenerys’s advisor. After the wedding, the Dothraki tribe marches east for several months, over which time Daenerys learns to speak Dothraki and becomes a strong presence in the tribe. She also becomes pregnant with Drogo’s child.

Viserys grows more impatient over the fact that Drogo hasn’t given him the support of his army. He also grows angrier at Daenerys’s support within the tribe and her refusal to obey him. He threatens to take Daenerys back from Drogo unless Drogo gives him the army he needs to retake the Iron Throne. Drogo decides to give Viserys the crown that he so desperately desires, in the form of molten gold poured over Viserys’s head, which kills him. This leaves Daenerys as the sole remaining heir to House Targaryen and, as she see it, the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.

Meanwhile, news of Daenerys’s marriage and pregnancy reaches King Robert in Westeros, and Robert orders her assassination. Daenerys survives the attempt with the help of Jorah. Drogo is enraged by the attempt on his wife’s life and vows to lead his army across the Narrow Sea and conquer Westeros. However, Drogo sustains a chest wound in combat. Daenerys refuses to give up on Drogo and employs a magician to try to save him, much to the disliking of the rest of the tribe, most of which leaves them. At the same time, Daenerys gives birth, but the child is stillborn and deformed. Drogo’s life is saved by magic, but he is in a coma. Stricken by grief, Daenerys releases Drogo by smothering him with a pillow.

Daenerys constructs a funeral pyre for Drogo and places her three dragon eggs on it. After she lights the fire, she gives an impassioned speech to her followers that they may leave if they choose, but if they stay, she will lead them to a great destiny. Then she steps into the fire. The next morning, Jorah discovers that Daenerys survived the fire. She sits in the center of the smoldering pyre with three baby dragons clinging to her. Jorah and the others kneel before her, proclaiming her queen and the “Mother of Dragons.”

Daenerys: Queen and Mother of Dragons

Daenerys leads her followers east across the desert, enduring much hardship. At Qarth, she survives another assassination attempt initiated by King Joffrey in Westeros, plus an attempt to steal her dragons. She manages to get the dragons back and to get her hands on a ship, which takes them to Slaver’s Bay. At the slave city of Astapor, she acquires a slave army called the Unsullied, which she ends up freeing, because she doesn’t believe in slavery. The Unsullied army chooses to stay with her of its own free will to serve as the main force that she will use to retake the Iron Throne. As the number of her followers grows, Daenerys becomes more confident as a leader. She decides to free all the slave cities of Slaver’s Bay.

She moves onto the Yunkai and Meereen and frees the slaves that inhabit those cities, expanding her kingdom and gathering more followers. In Meereen, she also takes control of the Meereen navy, which brings her a step closer to retaking Westeros. However, events start to turn against Daenerys, as she realizes how difficult it is to rule as queen.

Jorah, who has become Daenerys’s chief advisor and confidant, professes his love for her; however, she doesn’t feel the same way — or at least she won’t admit it. This makes it all the more difficult when Jorah is revealed to be a spy for King’s Landing; he’d been the one who informed King Robert of Daenerys’s pregnancy, which led to the first assassination attempt. Jorah said he gave up spying after that, but Daenerys realizes that she can’t trust him and is deeply hurt by his betrayal. However, Daenerys can’t bring herself to have Jorah executed; instead, she orders him banished from her sight forever.

Later, a shepherd comes before Daenerys with a wrapped bundle of charred bones and says that a “winged shadow” came and incinerated his three-year-old daughter. The bones are the child’s remains. Daenerys is horrified, because she knows that her largest dragon, which she has had trouble controlling, did this. Daenerys realizes that she can no longer control her dragons and, in tears, she chains the other two dragons in the catacombs beneath Meereen. Her largest dragon remains at large. Daenerys knows that if she can’t control her dragons, then she won’t be able to use them to retake the Iron Throne.

See our full list of Game of Thrones characters for information on other main characters.