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Anthony Appleyard

Targaryens marrying sisters

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Aegon I married his sisters, likely because they were born on Dragonstone. But before the Doom, for Valyrian dragonlords to keep dragon-riding blood pure, they could marry a member of any other of the many other dragonlord families that were on Valyria.

And Valyria had so many dragons (e.g. once, 300 dragons were used against the Rhoyne people) that there was room for plenty genetic variation, to avoid inbreeding, before the Doom.

 

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6 hours ago, Anthony Appleyard said:

Aegon I married his sisters, likely because they were born on Dragonstone. But before the Doom, for Valyrian dragonlords to keep dragon-riding blood pure, they could marry a member of any other of the many other dragonlord families that were on Valyria.

And Valyria had so many dragons (e.g. once, 300 dragons were used against the Rhoyne people) that there was room for plenty genetic variation, to avoid inbreeding, before the Doom.

It has been confirmed that the dragonlords and other families in Old Valyria already practiced sibling incest there. It was the ideal. They did not want to avoid it. If there were no sisters available, you turned to aunts, nieces, or cousins (and brotherless girls to uncles, nephews, and cousins).

Considering that the ideal wouldn't have been possible in any case, it seems quite clear that many of those cousins would have been from other dragonlord families, meaning that the kind of thing we see with the many Targaryen-Velaryon marriages in FaB often happened between two dragonlord families back in Old Valyria.

If you were an only child and lacked any aunts, nieces, or cousins you could marry you might probably turn to very distant cousins from a Valyrian bloodline your great-great-great-great-grandparents may or may not have intermarried with.

Instances where the Valyrian elites intermarried with complete outsiders would have likely been very rare - we know that a Valyrian dragonlord married a Yi Tish emperor, so it was not unheard of. I could also see a Valyrian dragonlord intermarrying with a Qartheen royal family (before the Pureborn started to rule Qarth collectively), and, perhaps, also between the Sarnori elite and the rulers of the Rhoynar (back when Valyria was still on the rise).

But considering the importance of the incest marriage policy we can expect that you would have become a pariah if you decided to marry not only below your station but also an outsider with lesser/common blood.

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23 hours ago, Anthony Appleyard said:

And Valyria had so many dragons (e.g. once, 300 dragons were used against the Rhoyne people) that there was room for plenty genetic variation, to avoid inbreeding, before the Doom.

It's debatable whether the Valyrians are even susceptible to this kind of danger.  There is a strong implication that the special connection between the Valyrians and dragons comes from interbreeding; in other words, the Valyrians seemed to have been extremely adept geneticists, even if they used magic rather than science.  Certainly dragons seem to be some sort of hybrid wyvern/firedrake; it's not inconceivable that the magical nature of their "science" has allowed them to mitigate the impacts of inbreeding.  Certainly you'd see a real impact over thousands of years that goes beyond mere phenotype differences like purple eyes and pale hair.

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On 9/30/2019 at 7:55 PM, Lord Varys said:

It has been confirmed that the dragonlords and other families in Old Valyria already practiced sibling incest there. It was the ideal. They did not want to avoid it. If there were no sisters available, you turned to aunts, nieces, or cousins (and brotherless girls to uncles, nephews, and cousins).

Considering that the ideal wouldn't have been possible in any case, it seems quite clear that many of those cousins would have been from other dragonlord families, meaning that the kind of thing we see with the many Targaryen-Velaryon marriages in FaB often happened between two dragonlord families back in Old Valyria.

If you were an only child and lacked any aunts, nieces, or cousins you could marry you might probably turn to very distant cousins from a Valyrian bloodline your great-great-great-great-grandparents may or may not have intermarried with.

Instances where the Valyrian elites intermarried with complete outsiders would have likely been very rare - we know that a Valyrian dragonlord married a Yi Tish emperor, so it was not unheard of. I could also see a Valyrian dragonlord intermarrying with a Qartheen royal family (before the Pureborn started to rule Qarth collectively), and, perhaps, also between the Sarnori elite and the rulers of the Rhoynar (back when Valyria was still on the rise).

But considering the importance of the incest marriage policy we can expect that you would have become a pariah if you decided to marry not only below your station but also an outsider with lesser/common blood.

Yes, I think the theory that incest was practiced in the Freehold so that dragon-riding genes stayed in the family holds merit. The dragon lord families of the Freehold likely practiced this in order to keep the dragon riding genes/abilities within their families, since they didn't want the power falling into the hands of other ambitious families (remember, the dragon lord families often fought savage, subtle struggles for power). I asked a question about this same topic on r/asoiaf, and that was the explanation I got, which makes sense in the context of ASOIAF, since incest and low genetic diversity don't seem to have the same deleterious effects they do in our world. As for dragons being hybrid creations of the Valyrians, I think it is an interesting idea, though I am not entirely sure it is well supported by the text. I hold to the theory that the GEOTD were the first dragon lords and so may have either become the Valyrians, or taught them to control already existing dragons from the 14 Flames with sorcery. Of course, we will have to wait and see for sure, though this is plausible to me. 

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1 hour ago, The Ghost Beyond the Wall said:

Yes, I think the theory that incest was practiced in the Freehold so that dragon-riding genes stayed in the family holds merit. The dragon lord families of the Freehold likely practiced this in order to keep the dragon riding genes/abilities within their families, since they didn't want the power falling into the hands of other ambitious families (remember, the dragon lord families often fought savage, subtle struggles for power).

Both that and the desire to keep their own 'dragonriding potential' strong - assuming there was a risk in losing that if 'the blood of the dragon' got too diluted (which is hinted at but at this point not conclusively proven).

1 hour ago, The Ghost Beyond the Wall said:

I asked a question about this same topic on r/asoiaf, and that was the explanation I got, which makes sense in the context of ASOIAF, since incest and low genetic diversity don't seem to have the same deleterious effects they do in our world.

Even if it did - the Valyrians/Targaryens practiced incest of millennia. That way, most if not all the 'problematic traits' could or would have bred out. One assumes that children who were barely viable either died early or did not procreate themselves. If you create a new dog race via inbreeding, you don't allow those with the non-desirable traits to procreate. The Valyrians basically bred themselves.

1 hour ago, The Ghost Beyond the Wall said:

As for dragons being hybrid creations of the Valyrians, I think it is an interesting idea, though I am not entirely sure it is well supported by the text. I hold to the theory that the GEOTD were the first dragon lords and so may have either become the Valyrians, or taught them to control already existing dragons from the 14 Flames with sorcery. Of course, we will have to wait and see for sure, though this is plausible to me. 

There might have been dragons and sorcerers who had contact with dragons back in Asshai, but there is no indication that either them or the Yi Tish were ever dragonlords. The Valyrians were the first and only known civilization who used the dragons as military weapons.

I also doubt the dragons were artificially created. Bred to be larger and more effective, yes, but I doubt the Valyrian were already powerful sorcerers tampering with species on a magical level while they did not yet have the dragons on which their society was founded on.

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The real danger if in-breeding is the accumulation of harmful recessive genes. If you've already genetically engineered such genes out of your breeding stock, this danger is greatly reduced (only new mutations could accumulate, and such skillful genetic engineers could well have created an answer to that as well....)

Even so there's clearly something that is not well with Targaryen heredity, as seen with Maegor's monsters and so on.

 

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1 hour ago, Rufus Snow said:

The real danger if in-breeding is the accumulation of harmful recessive genes. If you've already genetically engineered such genes out of your breeding stock, this danger is greatly reduced (only new mutations could accumulate, and such skillful genetic engineers could well have created an answer to that as well....)

Well, my idea is that the long history of incest may have already outbred many of the harmful recessive genes. They did it for millennia before they even came to Westeros, meaning that many of the issues that pile up after the first couple of successive brother-sister incest would have long beyond them. They clearly freed themselves from the problems of hereditary diseases, fertility problems, etc.

But it is quite clear that they did not get rid of all problematic traits, especially not such that deal that lead to problematic character traits.

1 hour ago, Rufus Snow said:

Even so there's clearly something that is not well with Targaryen heredity, as seen with Maegor's monsters and so on.

Well, with Tyanna claiming she poisoned all his children in the womb that's not really clear. And one has to keep in mind that Visenya was already in her forties when Maegor was born (and Aegon around forty when he was born), so any issues he may have had could be due to his parents being no longer young people when they conceived him.

In addition, there is also the whole 'blood of the dragon' issue. If the dragonlords actually have such blood than all the dragon freak stuff may have more to do with that than the incest.

Many of the 'less desirable' later Targaryens weren't that inbred yet still had freakish traits. Jaehaerys II has that crippled left arm, Jaehaerys and Jaehaera were damaged as well, as was Daeron the Drunk's daughter Vaella. Even a madman like Aerion Brightflame wasn't particularly inbred despite having very prominent Valyrian features.

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5 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Both that and the desire to keep their own 'dragonriding potential' strong - assuming there was a risk in losing that if 'the blood of the dragon' got too diluted (which is hinted at but at this point not conclusively proven).

Even if it did - the Valyrians/Targaryens practiced incest of millennia. That way, most if not all the 'problematic traits' could or would have bred out. One assumes that children who were barely viable either died early or did not procreate themselves. If you create a new dog race via inbreeding, you don't allow those with the non-desirable traits to procreate. The Valyrians basically bred themselves.

There might have been dragons and sorcerers who had contact with dragons back in Asshai, but there is no indication that either them or the Yi Tish were ever dragonlords. The Valyrians were the first and only known civilization who used the dragons as military weapons.

I also doubt the dragons were artificially created. Bred to be larger and more effective, yes, but I doubt the Valyrian were already powerful sorcerers tampering with species on a magical level while they did not yet have the dragons on which their society was founded on.

Right, but maybe the GEOTD didn't use the dragons they had solely as weapons. I am mainly going off a theory I read on Reddit from Lucifer Means light bringer about the topic that I found plausible. Seeing as how the Five Forts and black stone base of the Hightower predate Valyria, it's likely that there was a civilization of dragon lords before them. It makes sense that since Bran saw dragons stirring in the Shadow in AGOT, that the dragons could have originated from there, and maybe it became a "shadow" after the GEOTD fell. Plus, stone being shaped in such a manner as the examples I mention seems like it can have only been completed by dragon fire and sorcery. That's just my opinion oc, but I think the theory holds a lot of promise and sounds plausible. As to the dragons, I think they are naturally drawn to and originate in areas of heat and volcanic activity, and the Valyrians may have enhanced them somehow with magic when they tamed them. 

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On 9/30/2019 at 12:55 PM, Anthony Appleyard said:

Aegon I married his sisters, likely because they were born on Dragonstone. But before the Doom, for Valyrian dragonlords to keep dragon-riding blood pure, they could marry a member of any other of the many other dragonlord families that were on Valyria.

And Valyria had so many dragons (e.g. once, 300 dragons were used against the Rhoyne people) that there was room for plenty genetic variation, to avoid inbreeding, before the Doom.

 

Sibling incest was the norm among the ruling families of Valyria.  There was no reason to avoid it.  It made sense for them to continue the practice.  The dragons were bonded to the bloodline.  They don't want another family to have any chance of bonding the family dragons.  The person marrying into the family always carry feelings for their old family and that can cause issues of trust.  Look at the many examples:  Cat to the Tullys, Cersei to the Lannisters, and Jon Snow to the Starks.  The Baratheons never knew but they can never truly trust Cersei.  Jon's feelings for the Starks kept him from being loyal to the NW and his duties.  There are less issues of trust if both bride and groom are from the same family because there will be conflicts of interests.  Sibling marriage and incest make a great deal of sense. 

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2 hours ago, The Ghost Beyond the Wall said:

Right, but maybe the GEOTD didn't use the dragons they had solely as weapons. I am mainly going off a theory I read on Reddit from Lucifer Means light bringer about the topic that I found plausible. Seeing as how the Five Forts and black stone base of the Hightower predate Valyria, it's likely that there was a civilization of dragon lords before them. It makes sense that since Bran saw dragons stirring in the Shadow in AGOT, that the dragons could have originated from there, and maybe it became a "shadow" after the GEOTD fell. Plus, stone being shaped in such a manner as the examples I mention seems like it can have only been completed by dragon fire and sorcery. That's just my opinion oc, but I think the theory holds a lot of promise and sounds plausible. As to the dragons, I think they are naturally drawn to and originate in areas of heat and volcanic activity, and the Valyrians may have enhanced them somehow with magic when they tamed them. 

Oh, I know that theory. The problem is that it has little going for it since there is no evidence the Yi Tish or Asshai'i ever controlled dragons in some form.

And while there are some parallels between the ancient black stone which is similar to later Valyrian works (but no way near as fancy) there is really no internal reason to believe that whatever ancient civilization that created those structures must have had dragons. Could very well be that they had other magical means to accomplish things like that.

Not everything is or must be thought as being interconnected. And it seems very odd that nobody mentions any dragons in the stories about the Golden Empire of the Dawn despite the fact that quite a lot about that is known in the west...

2 hours ago, Victor Newman said:

Sibling incest was the norm among the ruling families of Valyria.  There was no reason to avoid it.  It made sense for them to continue the practice.  The dragons were bonded to the bloodline.  They don't want another family to have any chance of bonding the family dragons.  The person marrying into the family always carry feelings for their old family and that can cause issues of trust.  Look at the many examples:  Cat to the Tullys, Cersei to the Lannisters, and Jon Snow to the Starks.  The Baratheons never knew but they can never truly trust Cersei.  Jon's feelings for the Starks kept him from being loyal to the NW and his duties.  There are less issues of trust if both bride and groom are from the same family because there will be conflicts of interests.  Sibling marriage and incest make a great deal of sense. 

FaB essentially shuts down the speculation that a particular dragonlord family is bonded to a particular dragon bloodline. Both Rhaena and Jaehaerys I believe the Volantene triarchs could become dragonlords if they acquired dragon hatchlings from the three dragon eggs Elissa stole from the Targaryens.

It certainly makes sense to not spread genetic potential to bond with dragons too far - because that would inevitably increase rivalry and infighting in Valyria itself as well as potentially endanger the city if people who potentially could become dragonlords stole some dragons and allied themselves with foreigners who wanted to bring down or conquer Valyria.

In fact, perhaps originally there was only one dragonlord family which started many cadet branches before the incest marriage policy developed and took root. One imagines that at times the last scions of impoverished dragonlord families ended up intermarrying with lesser Valyrians, eventually creating new dragonlord families this way - not to mention that illegitimate children of dragonlords or the descendants of spare daughters who ended up marrying rich merchant upstarts could also have eventually become dragonlords.

But even when the incest thing was in place there would have been the occasional arranged marriage between the dragonlord houses to cement or seal a political alliance. I mean, we hear that there were times when Valyria was run by a single family (although that didn't happen often) - one imagines that such dominant families needed close ties to their allies to keep their rivals in check. Vice versa, during the times when Valyria was dominated by coalition involving more than just one family one imagines that they also were under considerable pressure to build strong alliances.

But then - perhaps marriages didn't figure all that much into the alliances made by the Valyrian elites. Or they divorced as easily and quickly as the Romans did.

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