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House of the Dragon is missing its source material’s most fun character

Justice for Mushroom

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The royal family in House of the Dragon, gathered around Jaehaerys on the throne Photo: Ollie Upton/HBO

Fire & Blood, the Game of Thrones prequel that HBO’s new series House of the Dragon is based on, is positioned as an in-universe history book. Much like our own histories, multiple sources are important. Fire & Blood features several different accounts of the events of the Dance of the Dragons. But House of the Dragon melds these accounts into one single timeline, showing the real history of events. It’s a smart decision for an already complicated show, but it also eliminates Fire & Blood’s funniest character in the process.

The book can essentially be divided into two halves: The first is about the history of the Targaryen family around the time they came to Westeros, while the second half is about their civil war, called the Dance of the Dragons. The first part of the book is told very straightforwardly, but the second half divides the narrative between three accounts: Septon Eustace, Grand Maester Munkun, and Mushroom the fool.

Olivia Cooke as “Alicent Hightower” and Rhys Ifans as “Otto Hightower” in House of the Dragon Photo: Ollie Upton/HBO

Mushroom is described in Fire & Blood as “a three-foot-tall dwarf possessed of an enormous head.” He was the court fool of the Targaryens during the Dance of the Dragons and, according to himself and others, was well liked by both sides and thought too “simple” to repeat the sensitive information he heard — a clear mistake by all involved. These facts lent him an interesting perspective on the events of the war, recalling conversations from some of the most important moments firsthand, which he recorded in The Testimony of Mushroom.

While Eustace and Munkun’s histories are frequently more accurate, they often err on the side of decency and present a clean and chaste version of history, two things that history often isn’t. Mushroom, on the other hand, prefers the most salacious version of all events, even if he has to invent the more sordid details himself. However, according to Archmaester Gyldayn (the in-universe author of Fire & Blood), Mushroom’s debaucherous tales are occasionally a more accurate look at the events of the time, even if they have to be dealt with skeptically.

Alicent Hightower played by Olivia Cooke in HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon Image: HBO

This interplay between the three accounts and the frequently ridiculous stories of Mushroom provides much of the humor in Fire & Blood’s history and is one of the best parts of the book. But it isn’t present in House of the Dragon. This shouldn’t come as much of a shock; after all, the series is already pretty complicated, and introducing three different (unreliable) narrators would only make that problem worse.

Instead, showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik, along with series author George R.R. Martin, have assembled a singular timeline for the show that presents the events of the Dance of the Dragons as they actually happened, to help keep things simple. Which means that Mushroom’s account still has an important role to play.

“As fun as that Rashomon style of storytelling is, we kind of left that to the book, and decided to, instead, try to define what we thought the objective truth of this actual history was, as we saw it,” Condal said in an interview with Polygon. “Certain historians are right, and certain historians are wrong. Sometimes they all get it right. Sometimes they all get it wrong — sometimes Mushroom’s even right, by chance. And I think that was the fun of the adaptation is getting to really interplay with the book as a companion piece.”

Emma D’Arcy as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen in House of the Dragon Photo: Ollie Upton/HBO

Condal says that he thinks the book and the series will complement each other, each adding deeper and more interesting nuances to the other. In the show’s first episode alone, we witness a critical conversation between Rhaenyra and King Viserys that we couldn’t see in the book because the two were alone in the Red Keep. Condal also says that having a true version represented in the show helps give both the book and the show an added theme of how history can change based on who is recording it.

Even if he won’t be a character in the show, or at least won’t be narrator, Fire & Blood readers can rest assured knowing that House of the Dragon will bring bits and pieces of Mushroom’s testimony into its timeline. And who knows, maybe the fool will be right more often than Grand Maester Gyldayn gave him credit for.

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