Here’s why the Targaryen’s coat of arms depict a three-headed dragon as symbol:
There are many things that the coat of arms is referencing, all at the same time.
The Targaryens conquered Westeros with the aid of three dragons, each depicted by a head on the coat’s symbol.
There were also three Targaryen siblings that led the forces, and they are also represented by the dragon heads.
So if you want to learn all about why a three-headed dragon is on the Targaryen’s coat of arms, then this article is for you.
Let’s jump right into it!
What Is a Targaryen?
The fact that you’re even reading this suggests that you might already know what a Targaryen is, but for those who are late to the party, let’s talk about Game of Thrones.
It’s one of the most popular TV series of all time, and it’s based on the book series known as A Song of Fire and Ice, written by George R. R. Martin.
Now, there are a few things I need to go over before we can really get into the meat and potatoes of this discussion.
First, the Game of Thrones TV series has concluded, but the book series is not done yet.
What that means is that there is a major opportunity for spoilers in this discussion.
The coat of arms itself isn’t the most pivotal plot point in the storyline, but it ties to important characters and events.
So, if you’re not totally caught up on both the TV show and the books, then consider this your official spoiler warning.
The second thing we need to talk about is how the books and the TV show differ from each other.
While the show started off as a very faithful adaptation, it eventually outpaced the books.
Because of that, it had to diverge.
Fortunately, that divergence doesn’t apply to the coat of arms itself.
When I take you through the symbolism and meaning behind the coat of arms, I won’t have to differentiate between the two adaptations.
They’re the same in this regard.
What Is the Coat of Arms in Game of Thrones?
Now that we have a little bit of background covered, we can talk more about the coat of arms itself.
The story takes place in a fictional medieval/fantasy setting, and as such, the major houses have their own coats of arms.
The coat of arms is a symbol that appears on flags, shields, and other places, and it lets people know which house is being represented.
In all, there are a lot of different coats of arms in the storyline, but one of the most important is the Targaryen coat.
In the beginning of the story, the Targaryens were recently deposed as the rulers of Westeros—a country made of seven distinct kingdoms.
It turns out that the Targaryens were the first to unite the kingdoms (by conquering most of them), and as such, they ruled over the region for many generations.
At the beginning of Game of Thrones, the last two Targaryens are on the run as exiles, and one of the major storylines follows Daenerys as she amasses power and once again conquers the lands.
The reason I’m taking you through all of this is that the Targaryens are major players in the past and present of the main storyline, and their coat of arms is important as a result of that.
The coat itself is easy to spot.
In most incarnations, it features a red dragon on a black background.
The dragon has three distinct heads, and the body, heads, and tail of the dragon fill a circle in the center of the symbol.
Why Does the Targaryen Coat of Arms Have a Three-Headed Dragon? (4 Causes)
That should be enough background for everything.
From here, we can get into the symbolism behind the coat.
Why is it designed that way?
The true answer is that it’s what George R. R. Martin came up with.
Sure, there is symbolism, and there are storyline reasons behind the design, but all of that is secondary.
Really, this is something that the author envisioned, and that’s why it is the way it is.
But, I’ll take you deeper than this most obvious explanation.
In the next few sections, I’ll explain the fictional history behind the coat of arms.
Then, I’ll discuss the most prominent symbols and meanings hidden within the design.
#1 Aegon Targaryen
Ok. This whole thing starts with Aegon Targaryen.
He is the dude who actually conquered Westeros and the kingdoms within, uniting the entire area.
This is a major plot point that happened long before the main story begins, and here’s the gist.
The seven kingdoms were in constant conflict, and none could gain permanent supremacy over the others.
Then, Aegon shows up.
He, his two sisters, and their three dragons put together a massive army and an incredibly powerful military.
Over a long campaign, they brought six of the kingdoms to heel.
This was the unifying event that turned the competing kingdoms into a united country, and it was won through many battles and much bloodshed.
For those who are curious, the one kingdom that they didn’t conquer was Dorne.
Anyway, Aegon established a central government that he then ruled, and he started the Targaryen dynasty.
His progeny ruled for many generations until eventually, the kingdoms united against the Mad King and deposed him.
It was after that point that the Game of Thrones story began.
All of this is to say that Aegon was the one who designed the coat of arms.
It was his brainchild, and he based it on the things he found most important in his life and on his conquest.
#2 The Literal Dragons
The first thing to discuss is the dragons.
Part of the reason Aegon was able to conquer the lands was that he commanded three dragons in battle.
If you’ve watched the TV show, then you’ve seen how powerful the dragons are in the later seasons.
The dragons are massive, can fly, and breathe fire.
In the face of their immense power, armies were scattered, and the individual kingdoms of Westeros really didn’t have a chance of winning.
So, Aegon put a reference to his beloved dragons in the coat of arms.
Rather than having three distinct dragons, he chose a single dragon with three heads.
This may have represented how he thought of them, not as individuals but as a three-part component of his power.
It’s hard to say for sure, but the house of Targaryen was henceforth known as the house of dragons, and the dragons remained an important symbol and reminder of their power for many years to come.
Ultimately, Daenerys revives the house, and she also references the power of the dragons again and again.
It’s safe to say that the literal dragons being represented by the coat of arms were integral to everything.
#3 The Siblings
But, there’s more than just the literal being depicted by this coat of arms.
If you have watched the first season or read the first book, you might know that the Targaryens often refer to themselves as dragons.
Dany’s brother often talks about provoking the dragon (in reference to himself).
The Targaryens closely identify with the dragons that are tied to their heritage and family power, and a lot of this ties back to Aegon and his sisters.
As I said before, there were three siblings who conquered Westeros in the beginning.
Aegon was the only male and leader of the three, but he valued his sisters and their contributions along the way.
In true Game of Thrones fashion, the three had a questionable relationship, to say the least.
Suffice it for me to call it a close relationship.
The point is that Aegon did not see himself as a lone conqueror.
He saw himself as the leader of his house, and the other essential members of the house were his sisters, Visenya and Rhaenys.
So, the three heads of the dragon are symbolizing the three essential persons in the family.
There is a head for each of the three siblings, all of them being referred to as dragons (which became normal among Targaryens).
The last major symbol is arguably the most important.
When Aegon conquered Westeros, he had military superiority.
He could have razed the other kingdoms and built a single nation from his own family.
Instead, he chose to keep the other kingdoms intact.
His vision was a unified country, even if it still had distinct components.
The various kingdoms could have their own heads, but they would still be part of the family of the dragon.
Similarly, Aegon thrived in the sense of unity within his own family.
The three-headed dragon isn’t just expressing his value for his sisters.
It’s also suggesting that the three are one, acting together in true unity.
And, it applies to the dragons themselves.
While each dragon was its own creature, it was their unity with the Targaryens that gave them their greatest power.
The unity between people and dragons led to the world Aegon envisioned.
The idea of unity shows up many times across the series, and the way the various kingdoms often reject unity is what typically leads to their downfall.
When the kingdoms united to depose the Targaryens, they succeeded.
Immediately after that, they betrayed each other again and again, and that left them vulnerable for Daenerys to conquer the continent all over again.
Unity was a central theme throughout, and it was clearly visible in the coat of arms.