The 'A Song of Ice and Fire' Domain


House of the Dragon in Cornwall, Heraldic Confusion Ensues

Although we’re not generally planning to track details of filming of HBO’s House of the Dragon, a recent report from Cornwall Live caught our attention for a couple of reasons. One, we did not know that the famous Mont-Saint-Michel has a Cornish cousin in St. Michael’s Mount (apparently in close vicinity to Penzance harbor, of The Pirates of Penzance fame!) Secondly, and more to the point, one of the photos revealed what appears to be the show’s version of the heraldic arms of House Velaryon… and they don’t fit what George R. R. Martin confirmed to us over 20 years ago.

Click for full-sized image

This mail, from our first year of correspondence with GRRM, refers to the fact that he had been visiting Westeros.org to look at the heraldry we had been producing from the books and then from his own notes. Though my original mail to him is lost, from context I think I must have remarked that we took a guess that he meant an actual seahorse and not the mythical or sea-horse (confusingly, both are also known as hippocampus).

Of course, there can be several reasons for this.

The most obvious is simply that the show’s production designers or art department have mistaken the seahorse for the normal heraldic creature than what George intended. This reminds us of A Game of Thrones making the obvious mistake of having four-legged dragons when only two were intended, in part because heraldic dragons are indeed four-legged. This showed up in one of the earliest teasers and when I noted it to Bryan Cogman he explained they’d caught it already and would fix it. Which they did… until later seasons when for some reason the old, four-legged design started cropping up along the proper two-legged design. Oops! And for that matter, licensed artwork from Fantasy Flight Games, which in later days no longer really went through close approval from GRRM, has made the same mistake as shown at the Wiki of Ice and Fire.

Another possibility is that the show knows what GRRM intended but still prefers the heraldic animal and has gone with that instead. We think this a little strange, as presumably it’d be for aesthetic reasons on such a minor detail, but then stranger things have happened.

And a third possibility, of course, is that GRRM himself has changed his mind in the intervening years. However, Doug Wheatley’s depiction of Alyn Velaryon’s ship in Fire and Blood (Affiliate link) includes the proper, actual seahorse on the banner, a detail which we believe was passed by George and his team (including us, I suppose, but I can’t find us ever having need to remark on it either way). So we think this is less likely.