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Genetics Problem in HOD


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Rhaenyra’s children have dark hair in HOTD because their father is Harwin of House Strong who is dark haired.  Ok so why then are King Viserys’ children with Alicent, who has dark hair, platinum blond?  Genes for dark hair tend to be dominate so Alicent’s children should be far more likely to be dark haired, unless she is heterozygous for dark hair genes.  Even then it should be 50:50 chance for a dark haired child.  Ned Stark loses his head because he figured the genetics of hair color out.  Someone overlooked some pretty simple genetics.

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I was just thinking the same thing, especially since we carry more or our mother’s genes than our fathers.

Genetically speaking, Alicent’s children are more likely to not have the white Targaryen hair, while Rhaenyra’s are. 

And if the Targaryen genetics are stronger, there’s even more reason Rhaenyra’s boys should be blonde.

So glad I’m not alone.

Edited by ShadowKitteh
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Well, actually Ned didn’t figure the genetics of hair color out at all. The genetics of hair color are quite complex. While Robert having three blonde children is less likely than having a dark-haired one it’s still very plausible form a genetic perspective.

As for Alicent the answer is simply luck. A 50% chance is not a 100% chance. You flip a coin three times, sometimes you land tails three times in a row. 

Edited by Tha_Prince_Ali
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On 9/28/2022 at 12:38 AM, Mendel said:

Rhaenyra’s children have dark hair in HOTD because their father is Harwin of House Strong who is dark haired.  Ok so why then are King Viserys’ children with Alicent, who has dark hair, platinum blond?  Genes for dark hair tend to be dominate so Alicent’s children should be far more likely to be dark haired, unless she is heterozygous for dark hair genes.  Even then it should be 50:50 chance for a dark haired child.  Ned Stark loses his head because he figured the genetics of hair color out.  Someone overlooked some pretty simple genetics.

Ned does not "figure out the genetics of hair colour". He figures out how they work in Westeros, which has very little to do with real world genetics, as GRRM has said.

Alicent's children are all blonde because the magical Targaryen look prevails in these instances, but not when dealing with the Strongs. House Targaryen would later intermarry with the Martells and the Blackwoods and this left no discernible influence in the line in terms of hair or skin colour.

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This is part of the reason why I inquired whether George ever gave a canonical description of Alicent and Otto Hightower.

It would make more sense if they were both fair(er)-haired, possibly having some Valyrian blood of their own as, perhaps, indicated by Alerie Hightower's silver hair and Lynesse Hightower's striking resemblance to Daenerys.

Such a thing could have easily happened by way of a Hightower taking a Lysene, Tyroshi, or Volantene noblewoman to wife - which is something powerful merchant lords like the Hightowers could have easily done occasionally, due to their international relations.

In fact, the Hightowers could have even intermarried with Valyrian merchant lords back before the Doom - not with dragonlords, one imagines, but other nobility.

When I watched the new episode with my mother she pointed out the silliness of Alicent's persistent complaints in light of the fact that none of her children we saw so far look even remotely like her.

For the show silver-gold Valyrian hair would have been too much for the Hightowers, of course, but I think for the book canon we shouldn't imagine Alicent and Otto as dark-haired.

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@Lord Varys

Not to mention if Alicent had fair hair and blue eyes Jaehaerys mistaking her for Saera would make more sense. The dude was senile, not blind.

EDIT: Alicent's problem is that Jace, Luke, and Joff don't look like either of their purported parents nor their purported grandparents.

Edited by The Grey Wolf Strikes Back
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23 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

When I watched the new episode with my mother she pointed out the silliness of Alicent's persistent complaints in light of the fact that none of her children we saw so far look even remotely like her.

The issue isn't that they don't look like their mother, it's that they look absolutely nothing like either of their supposed parents or any of their grandparents (that we know of).

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2 minutes ago, Colonel Green said:

The issue isn't that they don't look like their mother, it's that they look absolutely nothing like either of their supposed parents or any of their grandparents (that we know of).

No, in the show it is that they don't look Laenor while resembling Harwin. This is different from the book, of course, where it is never said that they looked like Harwin, simply that they didn't have Laenor's nose, hair, eyes. We don't know that Harwin Strong was brown-haired, brown-eyed, and pug-nosed in the book.

In the book the issue is that they look common, not Valyrian, not royal. Harwin Strong seems to be named as the real father by the Greens because he was Rhaenyra's constant companion, not because he resembled the boys. And that's the reason why in the book it isn't really clear who fathered the boys.

Viserys kind of raises the issue that they could look like a more distant ancestor with the horse story he tells Alicent, but nobody else seems to be thinking along those lines.

Alicent thinks she knows that Harwin is the father - and that everybody else knows this as well.

However, her complaints are about their looks, so it is indeed odd that she would dare talking like that while living no visible trace of herself in any of her children. Alicent could have had the high ground in this debate if she had had fair hair herself, but as things stand Rhaenyra or Viserys or anybody, really, could have told the obsessed queen that her children didn't look like her, either, and nobody was doubting her motherhood, so what the hell was she bitching about there?

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@Lord Varys

Aegon, Helaena, Aemond, and Daeron at least resemble their father, paternal grandfather, etc. Second, NO ONE is going to doubt the maternity of Alicent's children because 1) she gave birth to them! and 2) royal births were a semi-public, not private affair. There would have septons, maesters, midwives, and servants at minimum surrounding her throughout the labor process.

If anything, TODAY we're more likely to get maternity mix-ups due to hospitals handing people the wrong baby (among other things like chimerism), which is due in part to the fact medicine has become professionalized and bureaucratized whereas in the past childbirth mainly took place at home amongst one's community, with medicinal knowledge being passed down more as a tradition than as a science.

Edited by The Grey Wolf Strikes Back
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37 minutes ago, The Grey Wolf Strikes Back said:

@Lord Varys

Aegon, Helaena, Aemond, and Daeron at least resemble their father, paternal grandfather, etc. Second, NO ONE is going to doubt the maternity of Alicent's children because 1) she gave birth to them! and 2) royal births were a semi-public, not private affair. There would have septons, maesters, midwives, and servants at minimum surrounding her throughout the labor process.

Nobody would question the maternity of Alicent's children - the point is that Alicent argument is Rhaenyra's sons not looking like Laenor, so it would make sense to point out that her children not looking like her also doesn't mean they are not hers ... right?

It would be a nice and obvious way to divert attention from the issue, just as Viserys could also have pointed out that his mother did scarcely resemble either of her parents or grandparents, nor did any of her descendants so far inherit her mismatched eyes or common blond hair.

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Alysanne had blonde hair too, just a different shade. And as far as I know heterochromia is a random mutation just like Tyrion's dwarfism. Alicent focuses on them not resembling their father but its clear what's more damning is the fact they also don't resemble their mother either. Had only one of them (Jace, Luke, Joff) possessed silver-gold hair and purple eyes or even black hair the rumors would, at minimum, be much quieter but, to paraphrase Tyrion, then she wouldn't be Rhaenyra.

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26 minutes ago, The Grey Wolf Strikes Back said:

Alysanne had blonde hair too, just a different shade. And as far as I know heterochromia is a random mutation just like Tyrion's dwarfism. Alicent focuses on them not resembling their father but its clear what's more damning is the fact they also don't resemble their mother either. Had only one of them (Jace, Luke, Joff) possessed silver-gold hair and purple eyes or even black hair the rumors would, at minimum, be much quieter but, to paraphrase Tyrion, then she wouldn't be Rhaenyra.

I always assumed that Alysanne's honey blonde hair came from her grandmother who was a Massey. Since that Massey guy who hangs around with Stannis is described frequently as having "flaxen" hair. 

Medium brown hair is perfectly reasonable for boys with black-haired ancestors however. 

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3 minutes ago, Tha_Prince_Ali said:

I always assumed that Alysanne's honey blonde hair came from her grandmother who was a Massey. Since that Massey guy who hangs around with Stannis is described frequently as having "flaxen" hair. 

Medium brown hair is perfectly reasonable for boys with black-haired ancestors however. 

Yeah but when you say "ancestors" how far back are we talking because when I said black hair I was specifically thinking of Rhaenys' Baratheon blood, which is as recent as recent gets?

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52 minutes ago, The Grey Wolf Strikes Back said:

Alysanne had blonde hair too, just a different shade. And as far as I know heterochromia is a random mutation just like Tyrion's dwarfism. Alicent focuses on them not resembling their father but its clear what's more damning is the fact they also don't resemble their mother either. Had only one of them (Jace, Luke, Joff) possessed silver-gold hair and purple eyes or even black hair the rumors would, at minimum, be much quieter but, to paraphrase Tyrion, then she wouldn't be Rhaenyra.

And you assume that Alicent Hightower or the other Westerosi had this apparent knowledge of genetics?

That the boys apparently don't resemble their mother (which I'd doubt, since they could still have her hands, ears, etc.) is an issue that specifically doesn't come up.

In context it is noteworthy that it also doesn't come up with Cersei's children - folks assume or jump to the conclusion they are Jaime's children because they look like him. That they also look like Cersei and it shouldn't be *that* surprising that they look like her isn't an issue that comes up at all.

And it is not that many people know or care or talk about this thing. It is basically just Alicent and Criston Cole.

20 minutes ago, Tha_Prince_Ali said:

I always assumed that Alysanne's honey blonde hair came from her grandmother who was a Massey. Since that Massey guy who hangs around with Stannis is described frequently as having "flaxen" hair. 

It is just as likely that the Masseys have kind of Valyrian hair - Alarra Massey wouldn't have been the first Massey-Velaryon match considering the fact that the Velaryons were on Driftmark for 200 years ... and the Targaryens 100 years on Dragonstone. By the time of the Conquest the Masseys are so close to the Targaryens that they defy the Durrandons and are with them from the start.

But all we know about Alarra is that she was considered a great beauty - nothing about her hair color.

Edited by Lord Varys
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Last time I'm engaging in this topic because we really are talking in circles and there are other, much better things about the Dance to complain of.

Only Alicent and Cole are shown discussing it but how much does GRRM or Condal actually focus on the rest of the court or hell even the rest of Westeros' reaction to the shenanigans of the Blacks and the Greens? Oh, that's right. Zilch. Its an omission of detail we can fill in any which way to suit our fancy, especially since Westeros (unlike the real Middle Ages) has a decent and reliable communication system in the form of ravens.

Honestly, GRRM's refusal to expand Heirs of the Dragon by even as little as he did The Sons of the Dragon was, in my opinion, a major misfire.

As for genetics, my point was even back then people could logically infer from the fact that there are no other dwarves in House Lannister's lineage (so far as we know) or from the fact that none of Alyssa's descendants have heterochromia (again, so far as we know) that such things are a fluke, a one-off. If they didn't make this connection, even if only subconsciously, the smallfolk wouldn't have heralded Tyrion's birth as an omen from the Seven upon his lord father.

Furthermore, this use of logical deduction is how, for example, Jon Arryn came to the (correct) conclusion that Cersei's children were bastards. He observed that her children didn't resemble their purported father, then he looked into the appearance of children known to have been sired by the king, then he looked into the king's lineage to see if there were any historical patterns to be aware of and investigated the breeding of dogs (presumably for the breeding of specific traits). While this would not be enough in our world the reasoning and methodology behind Jon Arryn's investigation, given the knowledge and constraints of his time, are fairly sound.

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50 minutes ago, The Grey Wolf Strikes Back said:

Yeah but when you say "ancestors" how far back are we talking because when I said black hair I was specifically thinking of Rhaenys' Baratheon blood, which is as recent as recent gets?

Oh yeah, in real life two blondes could have brunette kids. Especially with a black haired granny in the mix. I don't want to delve too deep into actual genetics since this isn't that serious, but it helps to keep in mind what's actually happening at the cellular level. Think of it as melanin concentration rather than hair color. And instead of a binary value (Black/Blonde) think of it as a continuous value: 0-100% concentration. At 0% you get white, at 100% you get black. Shades of brown in between. Then understand that hair color is controlled by 120 genes of varying levels of contribution to the final product, rather than just one gene. The simple dominant/recessive dichotomy becomes more complicated. 

With ASOIAF it's difficult to say because Targaryan coloration doesn't exist in the real world and I have no idea what it derives from. We get weird stuff like black hair with white stripes. For all I know it's just spooky dragon magic and genes are only nominally involved. 

Edited by Tha_Prince_Ali
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@The Grey Wolf Strikes Back
 

Yeah I have my degree in Biology and I’m currently interviewing at MD schools. Generally speaking I try to keep RL genetics out of ASOIAF, but as you can imagine I do genuinely enjoy that stuff so it’s never far from my mind. 
 

It’s like all the medieval history guys trying to figure out how the hell the North survives 5-year winters. Or why Westeros is so dang big and has so few cultures/languages. 

 

You have fun rationalizing it and coming up with extra details. But in the end you say “because it’s cool!” and move on. 

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