What would you call something that only brings death and destruction to its beholders- “Cursed?” The Castle of Harrenhal shares the same sinister moniker as it has seen more deaths than births, more suffering than celebrations. “House of the Dragon” Episode 6 shows Sir Harwin Strong and Lord Lyonel as the castle’s latest victims. How did “The Castle of Harrenhal” earn such a sinister moniker? Let’s dig deep into the history of Harrenhal to learn more.
The History of Harrenhal
Harrenhal is the biggest and also the most cursed castle in all of the Seven Kingdoms. The castle sits northwest of King’s Landing and south of the River Trident. According to the source material, the castle can never be infiltrated. There are five enormous towers, massive curtain walls, as well as extremely sturdy fortifications and chambers designed at a size more suitable for titans than humans. The Halls of Harrenhal are even bigger than those of the Red Keep. Owing to uncertainty about attendance, the King selected it as the site of the Great Council of 101 AC, needing a chamber large enough to accommodate at least 500 nobles and their companions; however, almost a thousand people showed up there. The fort’s grounds are thrice as huge as Winterfell’s, and its structures are astronomically more enormous than anything. Its facilities rival those of Winterfell, and its barns can hold tens of thousands of steeds.
The ancestors of King Harren Hoare began building the fortress, and it took around half a century to get completed. While working on the construction of the fortress, scores of slaves perished bound in their chains and shackles. When winter came, men shivered, and when summer came, they baked. The rafters and columns of this structure were made from weir wood, which existed for centuries before being chopped down. After it was completed, King Harren granted it his own moniker, and it became known as the Harrenhal in his honor. Harren’s grandfather saw it as a means of strengthening their grip over the Riverlands. Harren said the fortress was impossible to conquer once construction was finished. Ironically, Aegon I Targaryen, also known as Aegon the Conqueror, stormed Westeros on exactly the same night; the “final brick was getting placed.” Aegon mounting Black Dread completely obliterated the castle. The highest structure, which later became renowned as the Kingspyre, was where the Harrens were burned to death. The dragon’s flames consumed every single member of the household. The outcome was the blackened, scorched, burned wreckage of a fortress.
The Curse of Harrenhal
Although the fortress was once renowned for its grandeur, it has fallen into ruin after being abandoned for generations after Aegon’s conquest. Once Aegon was in control of the fortress, he granted it to House Qoherys. Houses like Harroway, Towers, Lothston, and Strong became its following masters, but they, too, suffered the same fate as House Harren. None of the people who seized control of the burned-out fortress survived for very long. Many lives were lost during the height of Harrenhal, and many speculate that Harren Hoare had used human blood in the mortar. No good can come from a castle with human blood on its ramparts. It is said that the entire castle, and notably the Tower of Ghosts, is cursed. Avid Game of Thrones fans will recall the stories and creepy legends of Harrenhal. Legend has it that Mad Lady Lothston used a huge bat to steal kids to put in her kettle. Some people think that Black Harren, as well as his children’s spirits, may be seen roaming the hallways, their shadows surrounded by the fires that had destroyed them. The legend also talks about the slaves that one day went missing and was never found.
The castle didn’t spare anyone. Lord Lucas Harroway, the castle lord, suffered a tragic death during the reign of Maegor the Cruel. Ser Walton Towers succeeded in the position after he impressed Maegor Targaryen with his combat skills, but nevertheless, he succumbed to his injuries just a month later. Forget other houses; the Castle of Harrenhal has also spilled Targaryen’s blood. Queen Rhaena was sent to Harrenhal on Jaehaerys I Targaryen’s orders and later breathed her last in the fortress. When Rhaena passed away in the year 73 AC, Jaehaerys had her body cremated and her ashes buried in the fortress. Later, the castle was bestowed on House Strong during King Viserys’ reign and burned both Harwin and Lord Lyonel to death. Some called it bad luck, but it was really Larys Strong who had ordered their death, not the notorious ghost who lurks behind the walls. Even without the supposed curse, Harrenhal has a terrible reputation. You might recall Jaime Lannister saying that the castle endured more tragedy in its short lifespan than Casterly Rock did in its 3000 years.
In the “Game of Thrones” timeline, Harrenhal was under the protection of Shella Whent, the only surviving member of Whent family. After Tywin Lannister’s invasion, he took the throne for himself and later gave it to Janos Slynt. Afterward, Tyrion Lannister dethroned Slynt and banished him to the watch, whence he met his end for defying Jon Snow’s commands. The castle was then passed on to Amory Lorch. Following Lorch’s death, Roose Bolton took control of the fortress and later faced death at the hands of his vile son, once again proving the curse. The castles had many lords after that, including the likes of Gregor Clegane and Lord Petry Baelish. Lord Baelish, aka Littlefinger, was awarded the castle during King Joffrey’s reign. Even someone as intelligent and cunning as Petryl Baelish was unable to escape the curse. His throat was slit open by Arya Stark after his plans with the Lannisters to murder Eddard Stark became known to the Stark children.
Why Is The Castle of Harrenhal Important In ‘House of the Dragon’?
Believe it or not, Harrenhal has a much bigger role to play than mercilessly killing its inhabitants. According to the books, the castle will become an important stronghold of Rhaenyra’s Blacks. When the Targaryen civil war broke out, Daemon rode his Dragon Caraxes to Harrenhal and annihilated the forces of Ser Simon Strong. To avoid both damage and death, Simon surrendered, and Daemon gained control of the fortress. The Rogue Prince utilized it as a launchpad for assaults on the surrounding region by the Blacks. The green armies, headed by Aemond Targaryen and Ser Criston Cole, discovered the huge fortress deserted upon their arrival. As for Simon and his family, they fell victim to Aemond’s rage. Later, both Targaryen Princes found each other in battle over God’s eye. The battle was fierce and claimed the lives of both Aemond and Daemon, along with their respective beasts, Vhagar and Caraxes.