Son, brother, father, prince, visionary, rapist, hero, martyr, madman. Rhaegar Targaryen was called many things before his death.
But how much do the people of Westeros really know about the Prince of Dragonstone? What can Rhaegar’s many visions and prophecies tell us about modern affairs in Game of Thrones?
Part I: The Dragon Prince
Rhaegar Targaryen was born to Aerys II Targaryen and Aerys’s sister-wife Rhaella on the same day as (and perhaps in the same place as) The Tragedy of Summerhall in 259 AC. Already, Rhaegar was shrouded in mystery. Because we still have only very limited knowledge about what took place at Summerhall, we can’t say much about Rhaegar’s birthday except for the fact that many died that day, most prominent among them King Aegon V, better known as Egg in the Tales of Dunk and Egg.
We can, however, ask some questions about the Tragedy at Summerhall. For instance, why did it happen? It’s a common theory that it was an attempt by the Targaryens to bring back dragons (the last of which died during the reign of Aegon III) but somehow that didn’t work out and Summerhall burned down instead. We have no idea how they were attempting to revive the ancient creatures, but its clear whatever they did, didn’t work. But what could that mean in regards to Rhaegar? Was he the dragon that they were trying to revive? Only he turned out as a human instead of a real, y’know, dragon? If that’s so that would give more meaning to his cognomen “The Last Dragon.” As Jorah tells Daenerys, Rhaegar’s sister, in A Game of Thrones:
Your brother Rhaegar was the last dragon, and he died on the Trident. Viserys is less than the shadow of a snake.”
So maybe Rhaegar was actually part-dragon. This wouldn’t be totally out of line with what we can expect from the Targaryens. Some believe that because of their Valyrian blood and other genetic qualities the Targaryens are actually closer to gods than to men. Perhaps Rhaegar knew that he was better than other men, but we’ll get back to that later. For right now, let’s take a look at the young prince’s childhood.
I could tell you about Rhaegar as a young boy, but I think Barristan would do a better job. Here’s a quote from when he was still under the disguise of Arstan Whitebeard (used in the books but not in the television series) and he and Daenerys were on the ship to Astapor.
As a young boy, the Prince of Dragonstone was bookish to a fault. He was reading so early that men said Queen Rhaella must have swallowed some books and a candle whilst he was in her womb. Rhaegar took no interest in the play of other children. The maesters were awed by his wits, but his father’s knights would jest sourly that Baelor the Blessed had been born again. Until one day Prince Rhaegar found something in his scrolls that changed him. No one knows what it might have been, only that the boy suddenly appeared early one morning in the yard as the knights were donning their steel. He walked up to Ser Willem Darry, the master-at-arms, and said, ‘I will require a sword and armor. It seems I must be a warrior.’”
There is little debate over what Rhaegar read in his scrolls. It is pretty clear that he read something that had to do with R’hllor, and more specifically Azor Ahai, the legendary hero that is to be born again.
I think that Rhaegar believed that he was Azor Ahai, and what he read in his scrolls is similar to what Melisandre has said several times throughout the series.
When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone.”
Most just assume that the red star is the same comet that Daenerys thinks is her bleeding star. The darkness gathering could be symbolic for a number of things: His father, King Aerys II Targaryen’s madness, perhaps? Or maybe the coming rebellion against his family? Maybe the darkness gathers after his death with the rising of the Others that we are witnessing right now in A Song of Ice and Fire? That part of the prophecy is still up to debate, but there are a couple of possibilities:
Born amidst salt and smoke? It’s been said that the smoke represents the fires at the Tragedy of Summerhall and the salt the tears shed for those who perished in the flames. Now the waking of dragons out of stone has caused me the most grief of any part of the prophecy so far. There are so many possibilities for what the dragon could symbolize. Maybe my theory about Rhaegar being part-dragon was true and that the dragon seed was passed down to his children, who were also dragons.
Maybe, if the R+L=J theory is true and Jon Snow is Rhaegar’s own son (see my article on other kids who may have Targaryen parents) then waking dragons out of stone is symbolic for bringing back the Targaryen family after they were decimated by Robert Baratheon. This last part of the theory is still up in the air and I really don’t know for sure what it will mean in the end.
Need to brush up on your reading? All five novels are now available in one boxed set: George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones 5-Book Boxed Set (Song of Ice and Fire series): A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons.
Check out Part II: Lightbringer.