Why the White Hart on "House of the Dragon" Is So Significant

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Historically, royal hunts haven't exactly gone well in the universe of "Game of Thrones." After all, it was on a hunt that Robert Baratheon was killed thanks, in part, to a scheme set in motion by his wife, Cersei Lannister, which set off a chain reaction of years of war and death. When a royal hunt in pursuit of a mythical, maybe magical creature commences on "House of the Dragon," the results are less deadly but no less meaningful.

What Is the White Hart?

The white hart is said to be a symbol of royalty, dating back centuries to the time before the Targaryen conquest of Westeros.

The sighting of the white hart, or stag, is suggested by some (particularly Otto Hightower) to be a sign from the gods. As it appears during the nameday celebrations for young Aegon, Viserys's son with Otto's daughter Alicent, Otto suggests to the king that it's a sign that the gods favor the idea of Aegon sitting on the Iron Throne (rather than Princess Rhaenyra).

What Does Viserys's Failure to Hunt the White Hart Mean?

What actually happens during the hunt, however, has just as much significance — if not more — than the mere presence of this mythic creature. Viserys fails to hunt and kill the white stag. Instead, his men capture an ordinary stag and tie it up for the king to finish off using a spear given to him as a gift by House Lannister. Unfortunately, a drunken Viserys cannot even do this part right, failing to kill the stag with one blow and having to strike it repeatedly, leading to a gruesome and painful death rather than a "noble" one.

Symbolically, the failure of the white-hart hunt seems to represent Viserys's situation as a king. Unable to fulfill his important royal duties, like making decisions for the realm or standing firm on the question of succession, he doesn't receive the blessing of the gods. Instead, he's handed an easy win on a silver platter, and his grief and indecision turn even that into a disaster.

Rhaenyra Finding the White Hart's Significance, Explained

More importantly still, a member of the royal family does find the white hart — but it's not Viserys. It's Rhaenyra, who had previously snuck off with her personal knight, Ser Criston Cole, for a hunt of her own. The princess and knight come across the white hart following a bloody battle with a boar that tried to attack them. Instead of killing it or allowing Criston to kill it, however, Rhaenyra stops Criston from drawing his sword and lets the hart go. In doing so, she's demonstrating her own worthiness and her respect for the land and its traditions.

But while the magic and the land might recognize what she's doing, the humans who run it won't. Without a "trophy" to bring back and prove herself, her claim on the throne remains contested, and House Targaryen continues barreling toward a civil war.

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