House of the Dragon: Why is Harrenhal Cursed, Explained

Image Credit: Ollie Upton/HBO

The world of Westeros is full of magic and unexplainable things, just as much as it has been rife with politics and violence. In HBO’s ‘House of the Dragon,’ the continent is plunged into a bitter war as Rhaenyra Targaryen and her half-brother, Aegon, claim the Iron Throne for themselves. Both sides benefit from some key figures who know how to win the war; for Rhaenyra, it is her uncle-husband, Daemon. Strategically speaking, the castle of Harrenhal is a key location to ensure one’s victory, and Daemon decides to take hold of the place to amass armies but is shocked by the ruin of the place. But that’s not the only thing that should worry him about the castle, whose castles are rumored to be cursed. BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD

Harrenhal was Cursed from the Beginning

Image Credit: Ollie Upton/HBO

In the elaborate world that George R.R. Martin has created in his ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’, a lengthy history of Harrenhal dictates that it is a cursed place. The string of such accursed events begins even before the arrival of Targaryens and their fire-breathing dragons and focuses on the inner politics of Westeros, specifically the area surrounding the Riverlands. Our focus, however, is on Harren Hoare laying the foundation for the biggest castle on the entire continent.

Harren Hoare, aka Harren the Black, recognized the strategic advantage of the central location of Riverlands and its surrounding areas in Westeros. The place was also suitable for extensive agriculture, and having all of it in the palm of his hand meant more power than Harren or any other lord in Westeros had ever seen. To equal that power, Harren decided to build a castle about thrice the size of the castle in Winterfell, which would be an impenetrable fortress, giving Harren a stronghold over the entire region. This was the intention behind making the castle of Harrenhal, but it’s what went into making it that caused all the trouble.

Before Harren or any other lords arrived in Westeros, the house of weirwood trees and the Children of Forest had lived there for thousands of years. But then men arrived, things changed, and as a general pact, it was agreed upon that weirwood trees would be held sacred and not destroyed. This pact stood for a long time until Harren came into power. He laughed in the face of the Old Gods, and the sheer act of hubris made him cut down the weirwood trees to use them as rafters for his castle. On top of that, the castle stood facing the Isle of Faces, which still housed the weirwood trees.

Image Credit: Ollie Upton/HBO

It took forty years to build the castle, and during that time, Harren emptied the coffers of the regions around Harrenhal, forcing thousands of enslaved people to work on it day and night. Blood is said to have mixed with the castle’s bricks, which is enough to cast an evil aura around the place. The validity of this was confirmed as soon as the work on the castle was finished and Harren moved into it with his family.

What Harrenhal’s Curse Means for Daemon

As soon as Harrenhal was open for business, it met its ruin. On the day it was finished, Aegon the Conqueror landed in Westeros with his dragon, Balerion, accompanied by his sister-wives, Visenya and Rhaenys, who had their own dragons. Instead of bending the knee, Harren put his castle’s defenses to the test but forgot that they had never factored in dragons when it came to protecting the place from attack. Aegon burned the whole place down, burying Harren and his entire family with it. Since then, the place has been in constant disrepair, and it remains so, no matter who controls it.

Image Credit: Ollie Upton/HBO

In the history of Harrenhal, whoever has been made castellan of the place has met a brutal end. The most recent example in ‘House of the Dragon’ is Lyonel and Harwin Strong, both of whom were burned to death in a place known for being damp all year. While the cause of their deaths may be Larys, it does nothing to argue against the curse. This is why Daemon taking over the place also has severe ramifications for his future, though rest assured, there is still time for him to meet his end, as predicted by Alys Rivers.

Daemon had heard of the curse before, but he was never the one to pay heed to such things, which he called a midwife’s tale to scare children. Only after he arrives there and is haunted by disturbing dreams does he start to wonder about the truth, but even then, that does nothing to distract him from his purpose: raising an army in Rhaenyra’s name and marching on King’s Landing. He will eventually do that, though there’s still time for the TV show to catch up to that storyline. He will leave Harrenhal, but as predicted, he will return there to meet his end. In doing so, he will get his name down on the list of the long line of people who fell to the curse of Harrenhal. Interestingly, this also means that whoever comes next should prepare themselves for an eventual end because the curse spares no one.

Read More: House of the Dragon: Is Ulf Related to Targaryens? Is He a Dragonseed?