In the Game of Thrones spin-off, the lord played by Steve Toussaint descends from a Valyrian lineage as old as the Targaryens.
Since the first trailer for House of the Dragon was revealed, a black character has ignited the ire of many purists (and racists) in George RR Martin’s literary saga. They immediately thought the Game of Thrones spin-off set 172 years before the birth of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) made a mistake casting an African-American actor.
The attacks came mainly because the book “Fogo & Sangue” (2018), on which the new series is based, bets on the theme of incestuous relationships to preserve the family tree of the Targaryens. Of course, the debauchery practiced by some members of that house, like Daemon’s (Matt Smith) with other women outside of his marriage, brought dishonor to his blood.
However, the criticism falls apart when it is remembered that the character played by Steve Toussaint is not a Targaryen, but a Velaryon. This is Lord Corlys Velaryon, also known as the Sea Serpent. Descended from a Valyrian lineage as old as the Targaryens, he is considered the finest sailor the Seven Kingdoms has ever seen, as brilliant as he is restless, as adventurous as he is ambitious.
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Finally, he joins the Targaryen clan by marrying Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best), who is often called “The Queen That Never Was”. Early on in the first episode of House of the Dragon, he appears during the appointment of Viserys (Paddy Considine) as heir to the Iron Throne and later follows as part of the Small Council.
The choice to represent him as black was made because Martin’s work never describes the color of his skin. Furthermore, when the young author began to define who was who in Westeros, he supposedly saw the Velaryons as silver-haired blacks.
That’s what one of the showrunners of House of the DragonRyan Condal, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. He explained that he talked to Martin about the issue of representation and that he decided to go back to the original idea of showing the Velaryons as dark adventurers who came out of Old Valyria (in Essos) to conquer Westeros.
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“It was really important for me and Miguel Sapochnik to create something that wasn’t just a bunch of white people on screen anymore,” Condal admitted. “We wanted to find a way to put diversity into the show, but we didn’t want to do it in a way that felt like an afterthought or, worse, tokenism.”
Thus, the insults hurled at Corlys Velaryon and his interpreter are more prejudiced than accurate – which is no surprise, unfortunately.
What can be said, based on the novels, is that House Velaryon has spent more than a century navigating the world. Using common sense, it can be deduced that its evolution took place from the exploitation of other peoples. They met so many people around the world that perhaps their lineage became one of the first multiracials in Westeros. In that sense, bringing in a Black Sea Serpent is a very interesting interpretation of the holes and clues left by Martin.