So the sixth episode of Game of Thrones just aired, and while I enjoyed it very much, I couldn't help but be bewildered at why things had to come to the extreme end they escalated to — the threatening of her unborn child — before Daenerys finally abandoned her arrogant brother Viserys to his fate. I mean, from what's been revealed so far, in every single facet Viserys has not shown even once a hint of brotherly love towards his sister; every one of his dealings about her affairs has been a cold plotting to have himself one day assume the throne. Regular brothers and sisters don't act like that towards one another, I shouldn't think.

So, I was wondering: In the books, is anything revealed about the prior relationship the two had, and why such a rift would have developed between them? And indeed, if such a rift existed, why would she follow him at all and marry into a kingdom whose people she initially hated? I really don't mind being spoiled; I have no plans as yet to read the books on my own.

  • 18
    If you are interested in the story, I do recommend the books, there is SO much left out in the tv series, not so much from the main plot, but incidentals, back stories and (I guess unnecessary) character development. It's a good show, but an awesome, much better, read.
    – johnc
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 22:42
  • Also, Dany was very young and had no other choice.
    – Möoz
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 4:00

8 Answers 8


Much of the back story is made clear in the books. Viserys has always been arrogant and cruel toward his sister. Some of it is probably hereditary. The Targaryens had a long "tradition" of marrying brother to sister, which accounts for their distinctive hair and eye color, and occasional cases of madness. Viserys's father Aerys Targaryen was called the "Mad King" and for very good reasons. He was obsessed with fire, he abused his wife, and he burned Ned Stark's father and brother alive.

So you have a boy whose father was a king and a paranoid schizophrenic, who is a product of a long history of incest, who lost his parents at a young age, and who is raised by strangers on the stories about how he is really the rightful king of a vast kingdom, and how that kingdom was stolen from him. Oh, and unlike Daenerys, he is not very bright. Also, Viserys is resentful that he does not get to marry Daenerys himself, as is the custom of his family.

On the other hand Daenerys puts up with him until the very end for the same reason children put up with abusive parents. She was born after her father was killed by Jaime Lannister, and her mother died in childbirth. Viserys is the only family she has, and the only family she has ever known.

And, yes, you do have to keep in mind that all the children are older in the series than in the books. In the book Dany is only 13 when she is married to Khal Drogo.

Also, do not forget that much of what is "regular" today was not at all regular during the medieval times.

  • 11
    "Also, do not forget that much of what is "regular" today was not at all regular during the medieval times." And vice-versa.
    – Möoz
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 4:01
  • 7
    I don't think Viserys was always cruel. I seem to remember Dany saying that he was once kind, but losing their home and selling their mother's crown turned Viserys to hate.
    – Lou
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 13:51
  • 6
    "the same reason children put up with abusive parents" and abusive spouses the same. There's a codependency that builds up, and people make irrational decisions as a result. I actually thought this relationship, heartbreaking as it is, is incredibly realistic.
    – Paul
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 12:47

The Targaryens lost the throne and were killed when Daenerys and Viserys were very young. Note that many of the child characters were aged up in the transition from book to movie. Daenerys and her brother had to fend for themselves from the start, wandering through villages and trying to find people to take them in who were sympathetic to their cause. Daenerys followed her brother partially out of childish naivete, but also because she didn't really have much choice. She definitely feared him, always trying to avoid 'waking the dragon'. But she also held out hope that he'd make good on his promises and bring them back to home and glory.

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    Also, in Westeros, much like historical Medieval Europe, it is safe to say that woman are looked at, by most male nobility, as little more than pawns to use in their quest for power.
    – Ryan
    Commented May 23, 2011 at 13:36
  • 8
    From what I remembered, Daenerys considered "the house with the red door" that they lived in for a while after escaping the Seven Kingdoms to be her true home, and had no interest in going to the Seven Kingdoms at all (until after the attempt on her life).
    – Beofett
    Commented May 23, 2011 at 13:38

None of the answers actually deal with Daenerys's fond memories of Viserys which is understandable because most of that information was not released when this question was asked or answered (A Dance With Dragons only came out in July 2011).

Relationship of Viserys and Daenerys

Viserys bore a great burden on his shoulders since his father died. He was no more than a child of 8 and he had the responsibility to restore an almost three hundred years old dynasty to its rightful place. The task is even more huge if you consider the Valyrian noble background of Targaryens which goes back to at least 5,000 years. To make matters even worse, he was born out of incest of parents who themselves were born out of centuries of incest. He inherited the notorious Targaryen madness unlike his siblings.

After his death, Daenerys misses him. From ASOS Chapter VIII:

Viserys had been stupid and vicious, she had come to realize, yet sometimes she missed him all the same. Not the cruel weak man he had become by the end, but the brother who had sometimes let her creep into his bed, the boy who told her tales of the Seven Kingdoms, and talked of how much better their lives would be once he claimed his crown.

This shows that before Viserys went insane, he was kind to her.

As children, without a doubt Viserys showed kindness to Dany as any elder brother would have done. But years of mockery and failures made him a bitter man who could channel his anger on no one except the little sister he had protected until then.

When they hit the bottom and became completely pennyless, Viserys, though getting sicker and sicker, used to reassure her:

“We will have it all back someday, sweet sister,” he would promise her. Sometimes his hands shook when he talked about it. “The jewels and the silks, Dragonstone and King’s Landing, the Iron Throne and the Seven Kingdoms, all they have taken from us, we will have it back.”

We can establish that destruction of their relationship began after Viserys was forced to sell Queen Rhaella's crown in order to avoid starvation.

From ASOS Chapter 27:

When Viserys sold their mother's crown, the last joy had gone from him

Daenerys did not help either. As Daenerys was his heir, naturally he would have expected greater ambition from her in order to do things that needed to done. While on a voyage, Daenerys talked about how amazing it would be to be a sailor. While that was of course an innocent childish comment, It must have felt like a whip to him. He screamed at her that she was blood of the dragon, not some smelly fish.

Daenerys eventually came to understand why he became what he was. From ACOK chapter 40:

I have become the most splendid beggar in the world, but a beggar all the same. She hated it, as her brother must have. All those years of running from city to city one step ahead of the Usurper's knives, pleading for help from archons and princes and magisters, buying our food with flattery. He must have known how they mocked him. Small wonder he turned so angry and bitter. In the end it had driven him mad. It will do the same to me if I let it.

Later Daenerys has another hallucination about him which was basically her own subconscious chiding her. From ADWD Chapter 71:

"You are dead,” Dany said.

Murdered. Though his lips never moved, somehow she could hear his voice, whispering in her ear. You never mourned me, sister. It is hard to die unmourned.

I loved you once.

Once, he said, so bitterly it made her shudder. You were supposed to be my wife, to bear me children with silver hair and purple eyes, to keep the blood of the dragon pure. I took care of you. I taught you who you were. I fed you. I sold our mother’s crown to keep you fed.

“You hurt me. You frightened me.”

Only when you woke the dragon. I loved you.

“You sold me. You betrayed me.”

No. You were the betrayer. You turned against me, against your own blood.

“You could have had your crown,” Dany told him. “My sun-and-stars would have won it for you if only you had waited.”


I did wait. For my crown, for my throne, for you. All those years, and all I ever got was a pot of molten gold.

Why though?

Daenerys had always been a shy, timid girl who obviously loved her brother before he went mad. She remained the shy timid girl until Drogo's love gave her confidence and all the weakness was burned from her at Drogo's pyre. That timid girl did what her brother wanted because he was her King and she wanted to see Three headed dragon flying atop the Red Keep once again, just as much as Viserys did. She was also scared of Viserys and his moods. Which is why she did what she was told but not before getting scared and begging Viserys to let her go back.

This man frightened her. “I don’t want to be his queen,” she heard herself say in a small, thin voice. “Please, please, Viserys, I don’t want to, I want to go home.”

Daenerys did not hate the Dothraki as you assume. She considered them Barbarians and was afraid of their violent reputation.

Yet, he was the only family she had. She explained it to Ser Jorah in AGOT Chapter 46:

My mother died giving me birth, and my father and my brother Rhaegar even before that. I would never have known so much as their names if Viserys had not been there to tell me. He was the only one left. The only one. He is all I have

She did consider him her true King until Ser Jorah convinced her otherwise after he attempted to steal her dragon eggs:

Dany had not known, had not even suspected. “Then... he should have them. He does not need to steal them. He had only to ask. He is my brother... and my true king.

Not to mention she came to fear Viserys when she was in his power as he used to hurt her after he lost all sanity. From AGOT, in Dany's own thoughts:

She knew better than to question her brother when he wove his webs of dream. His anger was a terrible thing when roused. Viserys called it “waking the dragon.”

And also the event when Viserys brought Dany a dress. From AGOT:

"You don’t want to wake the dragon, do you?” His fingers twisted her, the pinch cruelly hard through the rough fabric of her tunic.

“Do you?” he repeated.

“No,” Dany said meekly.


Viserys did what he could to feed and protect Daenerys until he went mad. Without him to teach her what she was, she would have probably ended in some Lysene pillowhouse or would have been forced to become a Courtesan in Braavos when their servants took over their house after death of Ser Willem (the man who ferried them out of Dragonstone to escape Robert's iron clutches).

As evident from Dany's thoughts, he was not always the weak and cruel man as we see him in first book/first episode. He was her brother once, the brother she loved and the brother who loved her back. But sadly he was mad which is not really his own fault. In his own mad way, he started to resent her for death of their mother, for Robert's rebellion and for everything. She became the cause of everything wrong that happened to him in his mind. No doubt he hated himself for becoming the Beggar King which only accelerated his descent into the realm of madness.


From what I remember, Dany mentions that her brother had been kind to her in the beginning, and only spiraled into madness as the years passed by.

  • 1
    I think the psychology of it is not ASOIF-specific at all; more of a classic emotional abuse situation. Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 17:08

In the book at the least, in the beginning Viserys is shown to express some kindness to his sister, if only because of his ploy, because he wanted her to marry Khal Drogo so bad. He gets her a beautiful dress and speaks endearingly.

So much so in fact that yours truly had been left with a good initial impression of him, even though he says "you don't want to wake the dragon, do you?" shortly thereafter. It also gives out the impression of incestous feelings early on, in the way he treats and touches her, as the others have said, because they had always been meant to marry each other, and the book mentions Dany had fully expected it during all her childhood.

"Waking the dragon", though, quickly shows to be not just emotional uncontrolled furies, where brotherly love and care could still exist underneath, but ill-natured threats resulting in really cold and cruel bolts or rage from Viserys towards Dany.

This is more in terms to your second question, giving some background from the book that the series may or may not give. As to your first question, the others have said well. It's all she's got (before Drogo), the only family she's ever known, and she nurtures increasingly dim hopes he may be able to take them home (or anywhere better, for that matter). This is shown later on as Ser Jorah Mormont mocks him and expresses his disregard for him to Dany, and she then has a hard time accepting, to herself, Viserys as the failure he is--the "beggar king"--even though she knows deep that it's clear as day.


Part of your question makes a supposition that is not necessarily true. You stated that real brothers and sisters don't behave like this. We hope in a WESTERN CIVILIZED WORLD this is true, but is it? Not always...and not true for the rest of the world either. Very sad, but siblings do abuse one another!


There are mentions that the siblings were perhaps closer to each other as children than later. Particularly Daenerys reminisces later of a time when Viserys let her sleep next to him and comforted her during a storm, when they were small children living together in exile. She regrets the loss of the young boy he once was.
People also do in real life stick with abusive family members and partners, so it seems quite plausible that Daenerys would do as her brother says and want to please him even if he is a tosser.


The series also hints that the two have incestuous feelings towards one another. There is one scene where Daenerys is getting ready for her wedding and Viserys takes her dress off and touches her breast, telling her "You have a woman's body now", but Daenerys does not seem particularly uncomfortable so maybe she is used to this. Also, I think the reason that Viserys is so mean to her is not only to keep her in line and scared of him, but also because his father treated his mother that way. I think he does love Daenerys but he feels as if he owns her.

  • 1
    She is used to this. In fact, she expects it. The Targaryens, like the ancient Egyptians, practiced incestuous marriage to keep their bloodline pure. Dany grew up expecting to marry her brother, though I doubt she had any feelings for him other than brotherly and thought of it as just doing her duty. Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 23:06

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