Who Is Nymeria? The House Of The Dragon Legend Explained

This article contains spoilers for the first episode of "House of the Dragon."

In the premiere episode of the "Game of Thrones" prequel series "House of the Dragon," young Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) and her friend, Lady Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey), study the histories of their world together beneath the heart tree in the Godswood of King's Landing. Alicent thinks Rhaenyra hasn't been paying attention, but she quickly impresses her friend by reciting the story they were discussing, complete with all of the details. She recounts the tale of Nymeria, a warrior princess of the Rhoynar who helped found the nation that became Dorne. If the name sounds familiar, that's because Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) named her direwolf after the historic heroine. But who is Princess Nymeria, and why does she so inspire the young girls of Westeros? 

In the guide to writer George R. R. Martin's world, "The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones," the story of Nymeria is told in full, and her legacy could be foreshadowing for Rhaenyra and Alicent's own futures. Let's take a look at this ancient badass who inspires everyone from a dragon-riding princess to a girl with no name, and learn why she matters to "House of the Dragon."

A determined leader

Rhaenyra recites the basics of the story from memory, and even tears the page in the book so Alicent might remember their conversation about the powerful princess:

"Princess Nymeria led her Rhoynar across the Narrow Sea on 10,000 ships to flee their Valyrian pursuers. She took Lord Mors Martell of Dorne to husband, and burned her own fleet at Sunspear to show her people that they were finished running." 

The Rhoynish Wars happened in the land of Essos, long before the events of "House of the Dragon." The wars were led by the Valyrian dragon-riders who wanted to take all of that continent for their own, forcing the people who lived along the rivers of Essos to flee. Nymeria was a princess who ruled the river city of Ny Sar before the Rhoyne were overthrown by the Valyrians. She loaded up everyone from the city who would join her on a massive fleet of ships and they escaped Essos by sailing down the rivers and out to sea. While the exact number and quality of ships is up for debate, they were still an undisputedly massive fleet. 

Nymeria and her people sailed around and tried to settle on some of the many islands of the world, but eventually ended up in Dorne, on the southern tip of Westeros. She married Lord Mors Martell and the two of them set out to conquer the entirety of Dorne and unite it under the fledgling House Martell. Once married, Nymeria burned the remainder of her fleet — and the rest, as they say, is history.

Beloved by strong-minded girls

The reason that girls like Arya Stark and Rhaenyra Targaryen look up to Nymeria as a point of inspiration is because she did it all without catering or bowing to any man. She ruled as a warrior queen, leading armies and saving her people from the rule of Valyrian dragonlords. Eventually the Valyrians would descend upon Westeros and claim it as their own, too, forcing Nymeria's descendants under the yoke of Targaryen rule, but for a time, the society built by the Rhoyne and the Dornish was completely free. 

In "House of the Dragon" and "Game of Thrones," Dorne is by far the most progressive place in all of Westeros. Women are treated as equals, bastard children are given the same rights as children born to married parents, and homosexuality isn't condemned. It's a paradise compared to the brutal patriarchy of the rest of the continent, and that's in large part because of Nymeria's reign. She was forced to flee her homeland and made a better place of where she eventually landed, clearing away warlords and uniting Dorne under a family that cares for everyone, even the smallfolk. Nymeria is what Daenerys Targaryen tried to be on "Game of Thrones" — but Targaryens aren't exactly known for their big hearts or progressive political policies. 

There are plans for a spin-off series all about Nymeria, aptly titled "10,000 Ships" and written by "The Good Wife" scribe Amanda Segel, but with the numerous "Game of Thrones" spin-offs in development, there's no telling when (or if) we'll get to see those adventures brought to life on the small screen. 

New episodes of "House of the Dragon" premiere Sundays on HBO and HBO Max.