‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2 Rumored Change From Books Infuriates Fans

House of the Dragon Season 2 is nearly here which means leaks, rumors and wild speculation are filling social media. One rumor has fans furious – that a certain character from the book will not be included on the show, and her role in the story will be filled by another character we've already met. Read on for more but fair warning: there are spoilers below.

House of the Dragon has announced several new cast members for this season, including Abubakar Salim as Alyn of Hull. In George R.R. Martin's book Fire & Blood, we learned that Alyn is a "dragonseed" – a low-born person from Dragonstone or Driftmark with some amount of Valyrian ancestry. At this point in Westeros' history there are actually more dragons than dragon-riders available, and since Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy) and Daemon (Matt Smith) have control of Dragonstone and Driftmark, they invite anyone on the island to try and bond with the unclaimed dragons regardless of their birth, as long as they pledge to fight for Rhaenyra's cause if they're successful.

Several dragonseeds succeed and enter the war as dragon-riders, including Alyn of Hull and a young woman named Nettles. However, when casting announcements and trailers passed by without any sign of Nettles, fans began to fear she would not be included in the show at all. One trailer even showed Rhaenyra sitting down to dinner with the dragonseeds, and the only other character at the table was Rhaena Targaryen (Phoebe Campbell). this led fans to speculate that Baela would be claiming Nettles' dragon and taking over her role in the plot, which was an unpopular idea from the start.

This week, the social media fan account Wake the Dragon added fuel to the fire by claiming to have a leak from an inside source. They said that Rhaena will claim the dragon ridden by Nettles in the books. Commenters debated about whether to believe this post, noting times when this account has been correct in the past, among other factors. It's still a rumor right now, but one that is gaining a lot of traction online.

(Photo: Ollie Upton/HBO)

Nettles' Story

In Martin's book, Nettles enters the story at this time as a 16-year-old girl of mysterious origin – presumably a bastard born to a Targaryen or Velaryon father and a sex worker mother. She is described as "a small brown girl... black-haired, brown-eyed, brown-skinned, skinny, foul-mouthed, fearless... and the first and last rider of the dragon Sheepstealer."

While other dragonseeds approached the available dragons like domesticated animals and simply attempted to see if a magical bond spontanenously formed, Nettles was more pragmatic. She went after one of the wild dragons that had never had a rider, known by the locals as Sheepstealer. It lived in a cave on the island and off of the local herd animals – to the shepherds' dismay. Nettles simply began approaching the cave every morning to offer the dragon a freshly slaughtered sheep. Eventually, it came to trust her, and even to expect her gifts. Finally, she was able to climb on its back.

There's need to spoil the rest of Nettles' story as she went on to fight in the war, as her origin is the part that fans are angry to see changed. Many found it intriguing that a low-born person with no discernible Targaryen features such as silver hair or purple eyes could claim a dragon this way, and many theorized that she had no Valyrian ancestry whatsoever. They also found it her perspective important to the story later on, comping from a hard life with no royal privilege or education.

Rhaena's Story

The issue that most commenters seem to have with this change is that Rhaena is highborn while Nettles is low-born in the books, removing that aspect of the story altogether. That also means Rhaena's role in the war going forward will go unfulfilled, as she'll be busy riding Sheepstealer.

For those that need a Season 1 refresher, Rhaena and Baela (Bethany Antonia) are the twin daughters of Daemon and Laena Velaryon (Nanna Blondell). Both had a dragon egg placed in their cradle as infants, and Baela's hatched into Moondancer, who grew up with her. Rhaena's egg produced a sickly hatchling that died, leaving her heartbroken. However, in Episode 6 Laena assures Rhaena that it's not too late to bond with a dragon, as she bonded late in life with the oldest living dragon, Vhagar. After Laena's death, Rhaena is furious that Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) bonded with Vhagar before she got a chance to try.

At this point in the books, Rhaena still longs for her own dragon and continues to sleep with an egg in her bed every night. Eventually, it hatches into the dragon Morning, who is still too young to fly into war for the rest of the story. Rhaena remains in the Vale of Arryn for the rest of the war, but her time there as a socialite is not insignificant. Morning is also an important symbol, causing some to believe Rhaenyra's side are more "legitimate Targaryens" in general.


Commenters have complained that replacing Nettles with Rhaena has some unsavory connotations when it comes to race in this series. Wile Nettles is described as a person of color in the book, Rhaena is not. The Velaryon family was portrayed as Black in the TV show in an effort to increase diversity and set them apart from the Targaryens. To many fans it was a good change, especially since House Velaryon came from the multi-ethnic Valyrian empire, and still retained the silver-blonde hair and purple eyes. For others it was controversial, but mostly just because it was a change from the book.

Some fans feel that replacing Nettles with Rhaena betrays an unconscious bias, and ultimately just hurts diversity by removing one more person of color from this franchise. They argue that producers never would have thought of this replacement if Rhaena hadn't been cast as a Black person, and that she has little in common with Nettles due to her highborn background.

(Photo: Ollie Upton / HBO)

Just a Rumor

There are plenty of other nuances to this idea – many of which would require major spoilers for the rest of the series. However, It's worth remembering that this is still just a rumor with little evidence behind it. It's not at all impossible that HBO is withholding Nettles from marketing and casting announcements in order to preserve a big surprise – those can be much harder to come by now than they were when Game of Thrones' infamous "Red Wedding" aired in 2013. Issues like this have sometimes pushed fandom discourse outside the bounds of civility, and that's not worth it – certainly not before the season even airs.

House of the Dragon Season 2 premieres on Sunday, June 16 on HBO and Max. Season 1 is streaming on Max now. Martin's books are available in print, digital and audiobook formats.