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[SPOILERS] Illnesses fit for a Targaryen to die

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What should a Targaryen die of, naturally?

What did Aenar die of, and Targaryens Aenar to before Aegon I?

We know the first natural deaths of Targaryens in Westeros:

Aegon I - heart attack

Aenys - some acute indigestion

Visenya - some prolonged illness in her 70s that caused her to grow haggard before dying.

Why is shivers too "common" for a Targaryen? Aenar died, and so did his descendants till Aerion. So what were the properly divine mortal illnesses they had had?

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Baelon sounds like a burst appendix.

Daella died of childbed fever, a decidedly-mortal cause of death. This arises from bacterial infection rather than viruses.

Maegelle died of greyscale, but I suppose that seems somewhat magical.

Laena Velaryon, a dragonrider, also died of childbed fever.

Baelor the Blessed starved himself to death.

Viserys I seems to have died of a heart attack.

Aegon IV is said to have died of a pox, though his mistress is said to have been a sorceress so maybe she had something to do with it.

The Great Spring Sickness carried off Daeron II, Valarr, and Matarys. But I suspect George will reveal it was a return of the Shivers.

Daeron the Drunken is also said to have died of a pox he got from a prostitute, but that's uncertain history from a non-historian. 

Edited by Ran

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I think the Shivers is 'a magical sickness', comparable to greyscale which, overall, might be just Garin's curse running amok. A 'magical pathogen' the dying dragonlords could and did spread and it has never left the world since then. That could also help explain why greyscale victims are still sent to Chroyane, and why people easily get infected there (Connington didn't actually touch any of the stone men as far as we saw).

Now, the Shivers I think is a plague created by the Others/the Heart of Winter - who have sent it the past at least once - who sent it down into the Seven Kingdoms as a direct reaction to Alysanne and Silverwing's visit at the Wall. That was a provocation which triggered a reaction.

If that is true (it is certainly no coincidence that George made the chronology this way: Alysanne visits the Wall > cruel winter and the Shivers hit the land) then the death of Princess Daenerys isn't all that surprising. It might even be that a main goal of the Shivers thing was to hit those dragonriders who visited the Wall.

The maesters/people don't seem to differentiate between magical and common sicknesses, but it seems clear and is striking that various Targaryens have reportedly not been ill throughout their entire lives - even more striking is that George decided that Daenerys should not have a dragon while she was hit by the Shivers, and that giving her a dragon came too late. That all could have made a difference on a 'magical level'. Their parents were not hit, after all.

And the Shivers is a very curious illness playing as much with the ice and fire thing as the Winter Fever later does. Both of them don't seem to be 'normal sicknesses' if you ask me.

Taking that into account, the idea that Targaryens are immune to common infectious diseases doesn't sound too unlikely to me.

Aegon I died of a stroke, Visenya may have simply died of old age (it is not uncommon that people in old age lose a lot of weight due to a lot of reasons none of which may have something to do with infectious diseases), just as Maester Aemon clearly did, Aenys may have been poisoned (or he may have died of food poisoning ;-)), Rhaena basically of unknown causes, Jaehaerys and Alysanne basically seem to be dying of old age (especially apparent in Alysanne with the maladies that tortured her years before she died), Baelon very likely died of a burst appendix, Vaegon is described as sickly and all but those might be issues he was born with (as Aerys I and Jaehaerys II later also seem to be), Daella and Alyssa died in childbirth - something the Targaryens cannot prevent -, and Maegelle of grayscale, Viserys I was either poisoned or simply enjoyed his life too much and got himself a ton of preventable issues (his symptoms are pretty precise - can anybody figure out what he may have had aside from being overweight), and afterwards things get muddier because we don't get really the full story.

If Aegon III really died of tuberculosis then this would be the first confirmed case of a Targaryen dying of a 'common infectious disease'.

And what little we know of the Great Spring Sickness allows us to attach 'the magic label' there, too, considering that it was also so bad that it really killed healthy and strong people within a day, too. That's just not something normal diseases do in the real world - and even the bloody flux as described in ADwD doesn't kill that quickly.

Not sure whether the Great Spring Sickness will be another Shivers or just something along those line. The Winter Fever wasn't exactly the same, either, but very similar to it in its eeriness and the way it killed.

This is very significant in relation to TWoW.

Many (myself included) have expected a greyscale/grey plague pandemic based on both Connington and Shireen and what we learned of the illness, but FaB greatly increased the likelihood that winter will also bring another Shivers or Winter Fever on the Seven Kingdoms, and this would really cause a massive chaos shuffle things around in ways we cannot really imagine right now - especially if I am right and the Others might have something to do with both those plagues (and the Great Spring Sickness as well).

Here are the descriptions of the symptoms of the Shivers and the Winter Fever for comparison.

The Shivers:

Quote

The marks of the disease were well-known. It began simply enough, with a chill. Victims would complain of being cold, throw a fresh log on the fire, huddle under a blanket or a pile of furs. Some would call for hot soup, mulled wine, or, against all reason, beer. Neither blankets nor soups could stay the progress of the pestilence. Soon the shivering would begin; mild at first, a trembling, a shudder, but inexorably growing worse. Gooseprickles would march up and down the victim’s limbs like conquering armies. By then the afflicted would be shivering so violently that their teeth would chatter, and their hands and feet would begin to convulse and twitch. When the victim’s lips turned blue and he began to cough up blood, the end was nigh. Once the first chill was felt, the course of the Shivers was swift. Death could come within a day, and no more than one victim in every five recovered.

The Winter Fever:

Quote

The first sign of the disease was a red flush of the face, easily mistaken for the bright red cheeks that many men exhibit after exposure to the frosty air of a cold winter’s day. But fever followed, slight at first, but rising, ever rising. Bleeding did not help, nor garlic, nor any of the various potions, poultices, and tinctures that were tried. Packing the afflicted in tubs of snow and icy water seemed to slow the course of the fever, but did not halt it, those maesters who grappled with the disease soon found. By the second day the victim would begin to shiver violently and complain of being cold, though he might feel burning hot to the touch. On the third day came delirium and bloody sweats. By the fourth day the man was dead…or on the path to recovery, should the fever break. Only one man in four survived the Winter Fever. Not since the Shivers ravaged Westeros during the reign of Jaehaerys I had such a terrible pestilence been seen in the Seven Kingdoms.

I've marked the common symptoms. The course of the two sicknesses is different, but there are similarities.

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The Shivers are said to predate Alysanne, having first come to Westeros a century earlier, and cities and ports always seemed to be the first or hardest hit, leading to the idea it came from across the Narrow Sea.

I don't think it has anything to do with the Others, because of this.

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33 minutes ago, Ran said:

The Shivers are said to predate Alysanne, having first come to Westeros a century earlier, and cities and ports always seemed to be the first or hardest hit, leading to the idea it came from across the Narrow Sea.

I don't think it has anything to do with the Others, because of this.

Trade is going on anywhere, even beyond the Wall. And ships are faster than people, so it would be much more effective to spread it via ships.

If that's how it got to the harbor cities, anyway. Those are just theories. If it were the whaler from Ibben (Winter Fever) or some Pentoshi (Shivers) then either of them could have had dealings with at Eastwatch or farther north before they came to KL/the Three Sisters.

And note that there is no report about a Shivers epidemic in Pentos around the time it hits KL. And it goes straight for the Blackwater Bay area.

That it (or a variation) has appeared before doesn't mean it is not magical in nature, or the Others can't have anything to do with it. They have issues with humanity for a pretty long time.

A crucial factor to trigger the Winter Fever could be the Dance and the sudden (and perhaps noticeable) lack of dragons in the south.

I know that's all correlation and not causation at this point, but it is fun to speculate along those lines.

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11 hours ago, Jaak said:

 

Aenys - some acute indigestion

 

more likely the Maester at Dragonstone was poisoning him at first, because Visenya took control of his medicine / health and he got better.

he was making awful decisions or not doing anything while everything was getting worse.

 

So, Visenya probably finished him off or let him die so Maegor could press his claim

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15 hours ago, Ran said:

The Great Spring Sickness carried off Daeron II, Valarr, and Matarys. But I suspect George will reveal it was a return of the Shivers.

There is no description for the Great Spring Sickness, right? That septon in Sworn Sword merely said that victims would die within a day and four out of ten died, but never said what they looked like.

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27 minutes ago, Alyssa of House Arryn said:

There is no description for the Great Spring Sickness, right? That septon in Sworn Sword merely said that victims would die within a day and four out of ten died, but never said what they looked like.

Right. Which leaves the door open for it to be the Shivers or something else allegedly unnatural.

The fact that Targaryens suffer infection means they're vulnerable to bacteria, anyways, which explains the childbed fevers and Viserys I almost dying due to his infected fingers. It could also explain the "pox" that killed Daeron the Drunken, as most STDs are bacterial...


And here's what seems to be a natural _viral_ illness affecting a Targaryen, although in his case he survived: Maekar with his pox-scars, a reference to some form of measles or chickenpox.

I think the Targaryens are not immune to illness at all. Just luck leading most to avoid it and perhaps a heightened rather than absolute level of immunity, combined with the maesters having imperfect knowledge about the whole process of illness (they clearly don't know about bacteria and viruses directly) and so they're separating things out based on faulty categories. If you can die due to a bacterially infected wound, you can die to a bacterial infection, period.

 

Edited by Ran

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18 minutes ago, Ran said:

I think the Targaryens are not immune to illness at all. Just luck leading most to avoid it and perhaps a heightened rather than absolute level of immunity

Yeah I think Targs with their super-genes could still be said to have a higher resistance to disease (or certain diseases) as tendencies without it having to be a blanket immunity.  The surprise emphasized when Daenerys does get the shivers suggests that they do seem to be significantly healthier/more resistant than the average person.

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At ages 27, 25 and 22, Visenya, Aegon and Rhaenys were orphans with no indication of how long Aerion had been dead, which was the case by definition. Nor is Valaena Velaryon mentioned as around by Conquest (though she was only half Targaryen - but then Aegon, Visenya and Rhaenys were 3/4).

Disqualifying an appreciable fraction of all common causes of death would have effects on life expectancy even if other "divine" illnesses are still allowed to cause eventual death, as was the case with Aegon and Visenya. But the enumeration of "common diseases" goes:

Quote

Targaryens did not die of pox or the bloody flux, they were not afflicted with redspots or brownleg or the shaking sickness, they would not succumb to wormbone or clotted lung or sourgut or any of the myriad pestilences and contagions

Clotted lung... wormbone... sourgut... Is Aenys´ indigestion disqualified from "myriad pestilences"?

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3 hours ago, Ran said:

I think the Targaryens are not immune to illness at all. Just luck leading most to avoid it and perhaps a heightened rather than absolute level of immunity

What i found interesting is that Jaehaerys suddenly decided that Daenaerys needed a dragon when she got sick, combined with the story's of Targaryen children getting healthier when they get a dragon like for instance Aenys did, there is a suggestion there that the bond between dragon and rider is beneficial to health. Which in turn would imply that a rider somehow draws strength from his/her dragon.

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15 minutes ago, direpupy said:

What i found interesting is that Jaehaerys suddenly decided that Daenaerys needed a dragon when she got sick, combined with the story's of Targaryen children getting healthier when they get a dragon like for instance Aenys did, there is a suggestion there that the bond between dragon and rider is beneficial to health. Which in turn would imply that a rider somehow draws strength from his/her dragon.

Yeah, that would fit with my old idea that Targaryen madness/issues manifest less often/strongly if they have dragons than when they lack them - especially those issues/dreams/desires connected to dragons as depicted by Maekar's sons and Aerys II.

One sees this, in a sense, reinforced with both Aenys and Rhaena improving after they got their dragons.

And it could have similar effects on their actual physical health as such, too.

In the end this immunity/resilience is attributed to 'the blood of the dragon' - which implies heat and fire burning away a sickness, so perhaps such things are strengthened when a dragon is around.

In that context I'd also like to mention that Alysanne's high rate of successful births might also be related to Dragonstone and the closeness of the Dragonmount and its heat after she went there in seclusion during every pregnancy after the birth of Daenerys. From Aemon onwards she always went to the island, and it seems she and Jaehaerys and the other siblings as well as Aenys and Maegor, too, were all born there.

Edited by Lord Varys

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10 hours ago, Ran said:

Right. Which leaves the door open for it to be the Shivers or something else allegedly unnatural.

The fact that Targaryens suffer infection means they're vulnerable to bacteria, anyways, which explains the childbed fevers and Viserys I almost dying due to his infected fingers. It could also explain the "pox" that killed Daeron the Drunken, as most STDs are bacterial...


And here's what seems to be a natural _viral_ illness affecting a Targaryen, although in his case he survived: Maekar with his pox-scars, a reference to some form of measles or chickenpox.

I think the Targaryens are not immune to illness at all. Just luck leading most to avoid it and perhaps a heightened rather than absolute level of immunity, combined with the maesters having imperfect knowledge about the whole process of illness (they clearly don't know about bacteria and viruses directly) and so they're separating things out based on faulty categories. If you can die due to a bacterially infected wound, you can die to a bacterial infection, period.

 

Targaryens have a tendency to hype up their special-ness only for them to be brought back down to earth as the mortals they are

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Rereading the reference going back to the days of Aenar the Exile about this supposed immunity to disease one assumes there must have some cases of prominent Targaryens who remained untouched by sickness and disease while people around them died like flies. Without that, such a strange idea would have never become *public knowledge*. I mean, pretty much no one just develops the delusion that a particular family is immune to all diseases. And it is quite clear that this was not part of the Doctrine of Exceptionalism propaganda. It was included there, but existed prior to that as *lore*.

And if one counts the named victims of the Shivers then a considerable number of Targaryen descendants either don't catch the illness at all or survive it.

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In regards to Targaryen Super-Genes, I think the reason for sickness is twofold:

  1. The decline of magic is resulting in a decrease in potency of Targaryen blood. Without their inherent in-universe mary-sue blood functioning properly and overwriting their biology, the mundane genetic effects of inbreeding are beginning to function as normal, which is to say, they're just a bunch of mousy blondes with weaker than normal immune systems
  2. The Targs inbreeding may have been to preserve their Dragonlord genes, but they show no actual set breeding program or trait selection post Conquest. They've been hemorrhaging arcane knowledge ever since Visenya died and thus can't properly maintain their bloodline immunity by whatever rituals or breeding first led to Valyrian blood in the first place. Without a set goal in mind, their incest is less a matter of preserving traits and more a matter of their inherent vanity.
Edited by HamSandLich

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From Aenar to Aerion, page 4 lists 11 named Targaryens:

  1. Aenar
  2. Gaemon
  3. Daenys
  4. Aegon
  5. Elaena
  6. Maegon
  7. Aerys
  8. Aelyx
  9. Baelon
  10. Daemion
  11. Aerion

Plus unnamed "wives" and "siblings" of Aenar. The unnamed mothers may have been outsiders like Valaena Velaryon, or also Targaryens. Plus at least one more sibling - the unnamed younger daughter of Gaemon (and Daenys, therefore sister of Aegon and Elaena) who wed a minor lord and whose heir showed up at Great Council.

Absolute minimum of 16 people. All of them died of something.

Now, what could being blessed with good health mean?

Alysanne was a wreck early on. Age 57 dismounted Silverwing in pain and tears and never rode again. Difficulty climbing stairs. Age 59 fell and broke "hip" - did recover unlike many elders who get stuck to bed and die soon, but did need a cane. Got hard of hearing. Died of "wasting illness" age 64.

Jaehaerys lasted longer - degraded after age 67. Often in bed aftewards, losing his wits as well - died age 69.

Aegon was less active after age 60, sent Aenys on progresses, but no mention of being a cripple before his heart attack age 64.

Visenya died age 73, having grown haggard for months before that - but at age 72, she was still fit to fly a dragon in war.

For an elder in decent health, see Sea Snake. Age 79, he might not have been up to had-to-hand fighting, but he was climbing a stair without help of an attendant or a cane. Nor any sign of loss of wits.

As I stressed before, Visenya was an orphan of 27 by start of Conquest. Daemion could have been under 70 then. By definition, neither Daemion nor Aerion were alive. Even if Aerion had been an old bachelor, he could have fathered Visenya at 45 and still have been 72 at Conquest.

Whatever the divine causes of death were, they allowed Aegon to be a young lord, rather than a middle-aged heir of a healthy elder, in the fashion of ser Stevron.

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On 11/25/2018 at 11:17 PM, Lord Varys said:

 Without that, such a strange idea would have never become *public knowledge*. I mean, pretty much no one just develops the delusion that a particular family is immune to all diseases.

We also have Aegon III sitting with the victims of the Winter fever, but not catching it himself.

OTOH, Martin messed up with making Targaryens resistant to "bloody flux" but susceptible to "childbed fever", even when they are dragonriders, i.e. are supposed to have increased resistence from their aready heightened base, even though both are bacterial infections, for the most part. Not to mention that since the maesters understand basic principles of aseptics and antiseptics - i.e. wash hands, boil bandages and instruments and treat them with alcohol, childbed fever should be much rarer in Westeros than it was in Europe iRL prior to 20th century - and than GRRM portrays it as being. Maybe he shouldn't be quite as eager to kill female characters early and mainly in conjunction with childbirth! There are so many other ways to die!

But, frankly, there was no reason to think that little princess Daenaerys was particularly pure-blooded, as Velaryons either never shared Targaryen resistance or lost it by extensive intermarriage with the Westerosi. Velaryons died like flies during the Shivers epidemic and little Dany's late grandma was a Velaryon. I do wonder how Velaryons managed to retain their Valyrian-ish looks into the series proper, BTW, since they apparently didn't practice incest, nor did they extensively intermarry with Valyrian descendants from the Free Cities, as I thought that they might have been doing.

I'd say from evidence so far that other than the gaffe with the childbed fever, Targaryens mostly tend to naturally die from stroke, heart attack, cancer, etc. to all of which they may be more susceptible than average, due to inbreeding. Even Aegon III's alleged "consumption" may turn out to be something that could very well be a lung cancer.

It might be significant that during the Spring sickness, other than Daereon II, who was old, only the non-Targ looking 2 grandsons of his died. Maybe they missed on resistance  genes, as well as on traditional appearance due to 2 non-Targ marriages in succession that produced them. In fact, it is a decent explanation for how Targaryens managed to retain their looks for as long as they did if those with the looks had more chance to survive epidemics.  

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Yeah, Aegon III is a strong point in favor of the idea that certain Targaryens do have a heightened resilience against such diseases. And he has very prominent Valyrian looks.

I think chances are not that bad that the first Daenerys wouldn't have succumbed to the Shivers if she had had a dragon. Perhaps this tendency to survive illnesses is stronger if you are a dragonrider, just as your overall health and sanity as a Targaryen is better if 'your blood' can bond with a dragon.

We already had this kind of trait with Aenys in TSoD who got better and finally started to thrive after he was given Quicksilver as a very young child, and FaB reinforces this with Rhaena, I think, who seems to have been very much like her father as a young child - mentally that is, shy and all, not sickly - and came out of that once she had Dreamfyre. One could also argue that Jaehaerys and Alysanne turning out as well and stable and healthy and strong as they turned out to be was connected to them having dragons from a very early age.

The Velaryons don't have as much Targaryen blood as we once thought, especially not those in the mid-1st century. But Daemon Velaryon - who may have had a Targaryen great-grandmother (if my idea that Valaena and the first Daemon were siblings is correct) - survived. That one son and three daughters were taken makes still a much better statistic than what happened to the Celtigars or the Stauntons or the Tullys. The Baratheons are also more resilient, with Rogar not catching it and Boremund and Jocelyn (who got their new infusion of Targaryen blood from Alyssa) caught it but survived. The only Baratheon to die was Ronnal and the wives likely didn't have Targaryen blood.

The point about childbed fever thing is pretty good. There are other ways for women to die during a pregnancy than just an infection. Especially with Daella there could have been another complication, although in her case a death in childbirth also helps the overall story and has some plot significance. Alyssa Targaryen was just laziness if you ask me, as are Aemma Arryn and Laena Velaryon. Alyssa Velaryon at least had a proper back story.

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4 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Yeah, Aegon III is a strong point in favor of the idea that certain Targaryens do have a heightened resilience against such diseases. And he has very prominent Valyrian looks.

But didn't Aegon III eventually die of some illness? He's far from an example of an immune Targ. Daeron II too was of Valyrian descend (his most recent non-Valyrian ancestor that we know of being Rodrik Arryn, his great-great-great-grandfather), but that did not prevent him from dying during the Great Spring Sickness. 

Edited by Alyssa of House Arryn

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