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I have seen that a lot of the names in the Targaryen family tree contain 'ae'

Some examples:

  • Aegon, Aemon
  • Aenys, Rhaenys
  • Maegor
  • Aerys, Jahaerys
  • Maekar
  • Daenerys, Daena
  • Aerion, Daeron
  • Rhaegar, Rhaelle, Rhaella

etc..

Has Martin given an explanation for this or is it a coincidence?

  • no in universe explanation so it could be a coincidence or it could be that the ae in a name in old valyria denoted royalty – severa Feb 13 '14 at 22:46
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    Pure speculation: perhaps "ae" corresponds to a single letter in their language, one that appears at least as commonly in names as "e" does in English. Out-of-universe: It provides an easy way to make such names recognizable to the reader. – Keith Thompson Feb 13 '14 at 23:41
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    Interesting to note that Viserys could've easily been "Visaerys", but that the missing ae pattern could serve to highlight how he is unworthy of his Targ birthright. – nnnn Jun 9 '14 at 14:25
  • But one could say that Viserys is still worthy because he has the -rys to the end of his name like a lot of his family. – Pobrecita Jun 13 '14 at 21:17
  • I always thought this has to do with Martin being a Tolkien fan. And Targaryen family line resembles Elves in many ways. He even mentioned his books will hava a bittersweet ending, like in Tolkien's work. – apollo Mar 23 '16 at 9:56
16

The Targaryens are Valyrians, and all those mentioned names are Valyrian names. Other Valyrian houses (such as House Velaryon) use those names as well. So it stands to reason that the vowel "ae" is a vowel that is used a lot in Valyrian naming conventions. But other than speculation, no canon references exist on the exact reason.

  • Just a viewer of the series, in the books does he use "æ" or "ae" character? – GlassGhost Jun 9 '14 at 15:03
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    @GlassGhost if I remember correctly, he uses "ae" – Shevliaskovic Jun 9 '14 at 16:55
22

To further expand upon the consensus that there is currently no greater meaning to the use of ae other than that it sounds good:

Question 1: Philological. The names of the Targaryen dynasty have a rather peculiar sounding to them comparing to the other Westeros names. Are these names of Valyrian origin? If so, do they have some specific meaning? Do the "ae" sounds simply occur frequently in Valyrian language, or do these syllables mean something? Also, does the "rys" syllable mean something (as in Viserys, Daenerys)? It reminds me somewhat of the Celtic "rig" (Latinized "rix"), meaning "king".

Tolkien was a philologist, and an Oxford don, and could spend decades laboriously inventing Elvish in all its detail. I, alas, am only a hardworking SF and fantasy novel [sic], and I don't have his gift for languages. That is to say, I have not actually created a Valyrian language. The best I could do was try to sketch in each of the chief tongues of my imaginary world in broad strokes, and give them each their characteristic sounds and spellings.

-George R.R. Martin, July 22 2001

2

It's only speculation, but it seems very likely to me that the Targaryens are (at least partially) inspired by Vikings. My arguments start out rather vague, but hear me out!

The names may be inspired by the Viking gods, the Aesir/Æsir/Aser. As one comment mentioned, ae/æ is indeed a single letter in Danish, and as far as I know, the sound of it entered English around the time when Denmark ruled England, during which time Danish (or "Old Norse") had a major impact on English, including syntax changes and a huge amount of nouns entering the language, mostly related to travel, working and living. In English, the a and e tend to be split up on either side of a consonant, such as in words like cave, make, or fake. While those particular words do not derive from Danish as far as I know ("cake" does, though), the ae sound is exactly the same as the æ in Danish and, to my knowledge, comes from there.

George R. R. Martin certainly did a lot of research in European medieval history and surely must've read a bit about the Aesir as well as other European gods as inspiration for magic in his world. In fact, the Targaryens' relationship to dragons is very likely to come from Vikings as well. Vikings are most famous for their ties to dragons through their ships, whose ends had carved dragon heads, leading to the word dragon being a synonym for ship/boat and later sail. Monks surviving the attack on Lindisfarne, one of the earliest Viking raids, wrote stories about the attack which had a huge impact on how all of Europe would view the Vikings as heartless brutes in the future, even though the monks may have been exaggerating their stories a bit - indeed those stories claim that the viking raiders were commanding DRAGONS! Not just the ships, but the real, flying, fire-breathing ones. (Yeah right, monks)

Recap: They have dragons and their gods are the Aesir. Also, they are notorious for their blonde hair. I rest my case.

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    Welcome to SFF.SE! This answer would be greatly improved if you could provide some evidence that George R. R. Martin was inspired by the Vikings when naming the Targaryens. Speculative answers are not particularly useful. Please see the help center for more information. – Null Mar 23 '16 at 5:54

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