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House of the Dragon: why did Laena Velaryon burn herself alive?

House of the Dragon has never shied away from killing characters but Laena Velaryon's decision to burn herself alive was one of the saddest deaths we've seen

Laena Velaryon in House of the Dragon

Why did Laena Velaryon burn herself alive? Game of Thrones never shied away from a brutal death. The fantasy series positively revelled in over-the-top violence, and some of our favourite Game of Thrones characters met some pretty hideous ends.

Who’ll ever forget Oberyn Martell having his head popped like an overripe melon? Or  Joffrey Baratheon turning purple as he choked on poisoned wine. Well, House of the Dragon, a prequel series to Game of Thrones, is no slouch either. In the last episode alone, Ser Criston Cole dashed Joffrey Lonmouth’s brains against the floor of the Red Keep.

However, we’ve never had a death quite as sad as Laena Velaryon in House of the Dragon, episode 6. Poor Laena died in dragon fire, deliberately asking her personal dragon Vhagar to burn her alive. But why? Why did Laena Velaryon burn herself alive?

Why did Laena Velaryon burn herself alive?

Laena Velaryon burned herself alive so she wouldn’t die a slow death in the agony of childbirth. Let us explain. You see, Laena was giving birth to Daemon Targaryen’s third child the night she died.

Unfortunately, the birth was a difficult one, and the baby could not be safely delivered. With the physicians unable to help the mother or child, Laena went outside, found Vhagar and demanded the confused beast burn her.

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Earlier in the episode, Laena said she wanted to die a true dragonrider’s death, not in some Pentos palace, so her decision to take her own life likely stems from a belief that those with the blood of old Valyria deserve a more spectacular death than passing away from a failed pregnancy.

How is Laena Velaryon’s death different to the book?

In the book, Laena simply dies in childbirth, with the baby passing away soon after. You can see why the TV series would make this change as it gives the character a little more agency and differentiates it from Aemma Arryn’s death.

If you want to know more about the dragons of Westeros, we have a guide to Balerion the Black Dread, the most powerful drake to ever soar over the Seven Kingdoms, or you can read our House of the dragon cast breakdown.