A conversation between King Viserys and his daughter Rhaenyra summed up the sadness of the Targaryen lineage quite well, even if it maybe hadn’t been meant to. Rhaenyra says to her father, “Everyone says Targaryens are closer to gods than to men but they say that because of our dragons. Without them, we’re just like everyone else.” And just like any other man, Viserys is subject to the weaknesses of being human. King Viserys suffers from a mysterious disease that slowly shortens his lifespan in the Game of Thrones spin-off series, House of the Dragon.
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House of the Dragon is the latest adventure into the world of Game of Thrones, set about 200 years before the events of the original series, and still within the magical world of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. As the title suggests, the series follows the unfortunate events that led to the fall of the once-great and threatening Targaryen Dynasty, as Game of Thrones fans will know that there are very few Targaryens left.
Of course, there cannot be a dynasty without a king, and so far the man sitting on the Iron Throne and ruling over Westeros is King Viserys Targaryen.
House of the Dragon‘s King Viserys is a character that is immediately introduced as a king who has faced plenty of pressure during his reign. Right at the start, he was forced to choose between the life of his beloved wife or the life of his unborn child, only to lose both of them anyway. After finding a new queen, the king made a series of decisions that his subjects found questionable at best.
First, King Viserys banished his younger brother Daemon, then named his daughter as his heir, and defended his decision despite his wife having birthed him a son, Prince Aegon. Later, he had to deal with the difficult task of finding his rebellious daughter a suitable suitor, all while dealing with the typical political problems that come with having the throne all to yourself.
On top of all this, it was revealed in episode 1 of House of the Dragon that King Viserys is plagued by a mysterious illness or disease that only worsens over time, slowly stripping him of his vitality and only made worse by the stresses that he has had to deal with throughout the series.
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During a conversation with EW for the Game of Thrones podcast West of Westeros, the actor behind King Viserys, Paddy Considine, revealed the nature of the mysterious disease his character suffers from, and hinted at the meaning behind why he suffers.
“He’s actually suffering from a form of leprosy. His body is deteriorating, his bones are deteriorating. He is not actually old. He’s still a young man in there. He’s just, unfortunately, got this thing that’s taken over his body. It becomes a metaphor for being king, and the stress and strain that it puts on you, and what it does to you physically, what it does to you mentally.”
Leprosy, now known as Hansen’s disease is curable with modern medicine, but in the ages of King Viserys’ time, people would not have known how to deal with it. As a result, little could be done to help Viserys other than to treat the slow-healing lesions produced by the condition, maybe use poultices to help with the pain and to try and make his stay in this world as non-invasive as possible.
George R.R. Martin has always implied that King Viserys was a good man, but wasn’t prepared for the pressures of ruling the Iron Throne. Unfortunately, the future is not looking bright for this plagued king. The removal of the mystery of what he suffers allows the true message of his unfortunate situation to come through. It takes a lot out of you to be a ruler, and from the events of Game of Thrones, we know the difficult fate that befalls anyone pursuing the Iron Throne.
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Tell us, what do you think King Viserys’ mysterious disease in House of the Dragon is?