Harrenhal Castle: The Curse of the Riverlands | Book Analysis (2023)

As the home to many great houses over centuries, Harrenhal has a rich history that spans the entirety of the formation of the political system of the seven kingdoms. Residing in the Riverlands, it is grand in size and has five massive towers obscured from view by monstrously huge walls. It has walls so thick it appears the castle got created by giants. With a size that tops Winterfell by three times, it became a popular site for hosting events, most notably, the great council of 101 AC. Though it is a sheer monstrosity in size, most of its elegance faded off as it got destroyed by Aegon the Conqueror.

Key Details about Harrenhal

  • Year Founded: 2 BC.
  • Location: Westeros, the Riverlands.
  • Named After: King Harren Hoare.
  • Founder: Harren the Black.
  • Current Lord in Charge: Petyr Baelish.
  • Religion: Faith of the Seven.
  • Governments that Previously Ruled: House Hoare, House Qoherys, House Towers, House Harroway, House Strong, House Lothson, House Whent, and House Slynt.
  • Towers of Harrenhal: Tower of Dread, Widow’s Tower, Wailing Tower, Tower of Ghosts, Kingspyre Tower.

Physical Description

Harrenhal is a colossal structure that towers every castle in the seven kingdoms when placed side by side, making it the largest castle in the seven kingdoms. It has a chamber room that is so large that it appears as though it got created for giants, and its stables can house more than a thousand horses. Its godswood is the largest in the realm, covering twenty acres. Though mighty in size and an architectural wonder to many, most of Harrenhal lies in decay and rot, as more than half of the castle’s space got abandoned after Aegon Targaryen’s destruction.

Harrenhal houses five great towers, the smallest being half the size of Winterfell’s tallest. Though they can barely be seen from outside the castle, as the walls cover most of it, they still are a marvel to behold. The towers lean to the side because the fire from Aegon’s dragon Balerion destroyed portions of the walls. After Aegon’s destruction of the castle, the old names of the towers got lost in history, and they got new ones, Tower of Dread, Widows Tower, Wailing Tower, Tower of Ghosts, and Kingspyre Tower.

On either side of the enormous castle are two gates, the primary and eastern gates. The walls of the main gates are so thick that to walk its length will entail passing more than a dozen murder holes. The second gate is smaller but still massive compared to most castle gates.

Other Features of the Castle

Besides towering walls and gigantic towers, there are many other impressive works of architectural design in Harrenhal’s houses. Some of them are:

  • The kitchen is so huge that they compare in size to Winterfell’s Great Hall.
  • The Hall of the Hundred Hearts is the Great Hall. It can house an entire army and has steps to two galleries.
  • A Bathhouse large enough to contain six to seven people at once.


Though a castle of magnificent size, Harrenhal has one of the darkest histories in the seven kingdoms and has passed through several noble houses. The great misfortunes it suffered over the years made people believe it was cursed.

(Video) Harrenhal's Curse (Game of Thrones Lore)

Chronology of Houses that Inhabited Harrenhal

House Hoare

Harrenhal got created by the extinct House Hoare, who at the time ruled the Iron Islands. Before its creation, the house placed its seat at a modest tower house at Fairmarket on the Blue Fork. After the death of Halleck Hoare, his son, Harren the Black, decided to build a castle so grand none other would measure in its magnitude and magnificence.

Set out to fulfill his dream, Harren took forty years to construct Harrenhal. Thousands got killed, and many froze while working on the construction. Weirwoods got destroyed, and many got used as support beams. After the completion of the fortress, Harren boasted about its invulnerability. However, Aegon’s arrival in Westeros changed everything as his dragon Balerion the Black Dread, roasted Harren alive within the walls of his castle with Dragonfire

House Qoherys

After Aegon’s destroyed the castle, he granted the remnant to Quenton Qoherys of House Qoherys. However, the house went extinct during Aenys I Targaryen’s rule when Lord Gorgan, Quenton’s son, got murdered for attending Harren the Red’s wedding and claiming the Lord’s right to the first night.

House Harroway

After Lord Gorgan’s death, Lord Lucas Harroway took charge of Harrenhal. During the Battle Beneath the God’s Eye, House Harroway helped to defeat Aeny’s son, Aegon. They later got wiped out by Maegor I Targaryen.

House Towers

Having the shortest occupancy span of any house at Harrenhal, House Towers was the next to gain control of Harrenhal after the destruction of Harroway. After destroying House Towers, Maegor the Cruel declared that the strongest of his knights would gain ownership of Harrenhal; this sparked a blood-drenching battle between twenty-three knights. In the end, an injured Ser Walton won and received the castle. However, he died two weeks after his victory.

(Video) The Curse of Harrenhal | The Legend of Harren The Black | Game of Thrones

House Strong

After House Towers, House Strong took control of Harrenhal. The house controlled the castle for two generations and supported Aegon II during the Dance with Dragons. However, Lord Lyonel Strong and his heir, Ser Harwin Strong, died in a mysterious fire secretly arrange by Larys Strong inside the castle; this sealed its position as a cursed place.

House Lothston

After Aegon III became king, he gave the castle to Ser Lucas Lothston. During the first Blackfyre Rebellion, Manfred Lothston sided with Daemon Blackfyre, and the second rebellion got suppressed by Danelle Lothston. However, the Lothstons went extinct after Danelle went mad.

House Whent

After aiding in the Lothston’s defeat, House Whent became the Lord of Harrenhal. In 281 AC, Lord Walter Whent hosted a tourney where Rhaegar Targaryen, Prince of Dragonstone, was crowned the champion. The tournament got famous for the appearance of the Knight of the Laughing Tree and the naming of Ser Jaime Lannister as member of the kingsguard to Aerys II Targaryen.

Relevance in A Song of Ice and Fire

A Game of Thrones

When Robert Baratheon dies, Lady Shella Whent of Harrenhal yields the castle to Lord Tywin Lannister. After killing Ned Stark and becoming the queen regent to King Joffrey, Cersei Lannister gives Harrenhal to Janos Slynt, Commander of the City Watch of King’s Landing.

A Clash of Kings

When Tyrion Lannister returns to King’s Landing as the acting Hand of the King during the War of the Five Kings, he removes maester Pycelle from the role of Grand Maester and sends Janos to the Night’s Watch. Captured by the mountain men, Arya Stark, Gendry, and Hot pie and taken to Harrenhal. In the castle, Arya meets Jaqen H’ghar, who tells her to give him the names of those she wishes were dead. She gives him Chiswyck and Weese but regrets not giving Tywin’s name first as he departs from the castle.

Some Northmen get brought into the castle as prisoners. With help from Arya and H’ghar, Harrenhal falls into Roose Bolton’s hands, a supporter of Robb Stark. She later flees after learning that Roose plans on handing the castle to Vargo Hoat as a reward.

(Video) 🧙 House Strong: The Lost Starks of the Riverlands | Fire and Blood theory

A Storm of Swords

While on the road to King’s Landing, Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister get captured by Vargo Hoat, and Jaime’s hands get cut off. He gets brought to Harrenhal and meets Roose, who realizes that Vargo has done a great folly. Roose hands Harrenhal to Vargo and leaves. Later, the castle gets retaken by Ser Gregor Clegane, and Vargo gets tortured to death. Meanwhile, Petyr Baelish becomes the Lord of the Castle but refuses to step foot in it, believing it is cursed.

A Feast for Crows

When he returns to King’s Laning, Jaime refuses an offer to be the Hand of the King and gets sent to the Riverlands by his sister. He travels to Harrenhal and learns of its vacant leadership position. He then appoints the leader of the Holy Hundred, Ser Bonifer Haster, as its castellan.

Harrenhal: A House of Mystery

Harrenhal is a house shrouded in mystery in George R. R. Martin’s world. The mighty castle’s attraction to disaster gave people the notion it has a curse. However, Harrenhal’s curse was never its attraction to death but its massive size.


Why was Harrenhal in House of the Dragon?

Harrenhal was part of the House of the Dragon because the Great Council of 101 AC got held in the castle. When Jaehaerys lost his heir, Baelon, the council got held to determine who the next king would be, and Viserys, Baelon’s son, got chosen over Rhaenys.

Why is Harrehal believed to be haunted?

Harrenhal is a haunted castle because most of its inhabitants have either gone extinct or suffered mysterious deaths.

How big is Harrenhal?

Harrenhal is thrice the size of Winterfell. Its tiniest tower is half the length of Winterfell’s tallest, and its kitchens are the size of the Great Hall of Winterfell. It’s godswood spans 20 acres and the main hall contains thirty-five hearths.

Was Petyr Baelish scared of Harrenhal?

Yes. After getting the castle, Petyr refused to reside in it because of how its previous owners faced mysterious misfortunes.

(Video) Everything about Harrenhal - livestream
(Video) 🧙 Harrenhal is 600% cursed | House of the Dragon


What is the significance of Harrenhal? ›

Harrenhal began as a symbol of a tyrant's hubris, a monument to an ever-expanding empire. Before it became a symbol of the power held by the greatest dynastic empire around, House Targaryen. During the War of the Five Kings, Tywin Lannister uses the castle as his base of operations for some time.

What ruined Harrenhal? ›

The burning of Harrenhal occurred during Aegon's Conquest. Aegon the Conqueror used his dragon, Balerion the Black Dread, to melt the towers of Harrenhal, which killed King Harren the Black and ended the black line.

Why is Harrenhal in House of the Dragon? ›

In fact, House of the Dragon's very first scene is set in Harrenhal. The immense castle serves as the venue for King Jaehaerys Targaryen's Great Council of 101 AC, in which the Seven Kingdoms' preference for primogeniture succession is established.

Why did everyone want Harrenhal? ›

Harrenhal was built by the Hoares to consolidate their power over the Riverlands. Basically they knew that they had enemies outside and within their region and they wanted somewhere formidable to hide up until reinforcements come from the iron islands. That use had long gone and Harrenhal is not fit for purpose.

Why did no one repair Harrenhal? ›

Harrenhal is a white elephant and would cost too much to rebuild ans even so, it would not be fully garrisoned due its colossal size.

Why did he burn Harrenhal? ›

Aegon the conqueror burned the entire castle of Harrenhal bringing the end to the black line and thereby ensuring that North (and others) bent the knee as well. Same goes for Tywin Lannister, he obliterated entire family lines and yet no one doubts their "state of mind".

What happened to House Strong in Harrenhal? ›

During the Hour of the Wolf, Larys was accused of betraying his king and he chose death over the Wall. He was executed by Lord Cregan Stark, Hand for Aegon III, thus ending House Strong in 131 AC. Possession of Harrenhal eventually went to House Lothston in 151 AC.

Why is Harrenhal not destroyed in House of the Dragon? ›

Indeed, it is said that a million men could have marched against Harrenhal and a million men would have been repulsed. Harrenhal was designed to withstand an attack by land, however, and dragons can fly.

Who is strong Lord of Harrenhal? ›

Lyonel Strong was the Lord of Harrenhal and the head of House Strong during the reign of King Viserys I Targaryen. He served as both master of laws and Hand of the King for Viserys. In the television adaptation House of the Dragon, Lyonel is portrayed by Gavin Spokes.

What is the history of Harrenhal? ›

Harrenhal, once the greatest castle in the Seven Kingdoms, was built ~300 years ago by the House of Hoare, which ruled the Iron Islands at the peak of their dominion and conquered the rest of the Riverlands.

Why did daemon laugh at the funeral? ›

It was clear that Leana and Laenor had a close relationship, and she likely would not appreciate her uncle choosing this moment to make a statement while her brother grieves. Daemon laughs at this moment because Vaemond is choosing this moment to guilt Rhaenyra for having children with Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr).

What is sigil of Harrenhal? ›

House Lothston of Harrenhal is an extinct noble house of the Riverlands. Their sigil was a black bat on a field divided bendwise, silver and gold.

Who controls Harrenhal? ›

At the beginning of the War of the Five Kings, Tywin Lannister gained control of Harrenhal, and then gave control of it to Amory Lorch. Lorch hosted the Brave Companions, led by Vargo Hoat, during the war. Arya Stark, with the help of Jaqen H'ghar, staged a revolt and forced Hoat to release his prisoners.

What family runs Harrenhal? ›

Known Lords of Harrenhal

Harrenhal was, in succession, ruled by Houses Hoare, Qoherys, Towers, Harroway, Strong, Lothston, Whent, Slynt, and Baelish.

Who inherits Harrenhal? ›

The victor was Ser Walton Towers, who was named Lord of Harrenhal but died of his wounds from the battle within a fortnight, after which his eldest son, Jordan, inherited the seat.

Did the Targaryens rule from Harrenhal? ›

House Targaryen of Harrenhal is a cadet branch of the ruling House Targaryen of King's Landing. It is ruled by Lord Aenar Targaryen. Though owing fealty to House Tully of Riverrun, the Targaryens of Harrenhal are rich and powerful on their own right.

What did Harrenhal look like before it was destroyed? ›

It's walls were so large as to be able to hold off any assault (by land) and it's tower were extremely high. It was not black as depicted in the show but a normal sandstone-like colour. It's layout was exactly the same as the burning did not shift positions of walls and towers.

Why was Janos Slynt given Harrenhal? ›

Following Lord Stark's arrest, Janos is named the new Lord of Harrenhal and head of House Slynt by King Joffrey, as a reward for his loyalty.

What did Larys do to Harrenhal? ›

Larys subsequently gathers prisoners from the Black Cells has their tongues cut out, using them to set a fire at Harrenhal in which both his father and brother are killed. He later informs Alicent of this, clearing a path for Otto Hightower to return as Hand, though Alicent is disturbed by Larys's actions.

Who killed everyone at Harrenhal House of the Dragon? ›

Larys Strong establishes himself as a dangerous political player in House of the Dragon episode 6 when he kills his family and cuts out the tongues of his prisoners-turned-assassins.

Who killed Harwin Strong? ›

Larys Strong orchestrated the burning of Harrenhal and the murder of Harwin Strong.

Why did Larys strong burn Harrenhal? ›

Larys Strong didn't just kill his father but also his brother, Ser Harwin Strong, by setting up a fire in the castle of Harranhal. He believes he did this to earn the favor of Queen Alicent, but even she was shocked by the reciprocating actions of Lord Larys.

Who killed the northerners at Harrenhal? ›

By the time Roose Bolton army arrives at Harrenhal, all of the Lannister garrison is dead, except for Ser Amory Lorch who is fed to a bear. A much more ruthless commander than Robb, Bolton then has several of those who collaborated with the occupation put to death, and their heads mounted on spikes.

Who burnt Harwin? ›

Lyonel decides that Harwin should return to Harrenhal which ends up sealing their fate. Upon arriving, Larys arranges for the castle to be set on fire which kills Lyonel and Harwin during the burning.

Who is the new Lord of Harrenhal? ›

During the early stages of the War of the Five Kings, Lady Shella Whent surrenders the castle to Lord Tywin Lannister. The new king, Joffrey I Baratheon, rises up Janos Slynt as the new Lord of Harrenhal, as thanks for his service in the arrest of Lord Eddard Stark.

Why is Alicent Hightower so powerful? ›

The power she inherits from her house allows her to play a major decision-making role in who inherits the Iron Throne and who controls the most power. Alicent Hightower has proved to be a central character in the show so far despite only being related to the main plot by marriage.

Who won the melee at Harrenhal? ›

Champion: Prince Rhaegar Targaryen.

Did Daemon ever love Rhaenyra? ›

That's right, during the Oct. 2 episode of House of the Dragon, Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy) and Daemon (Matt Smith) stopped fighting their feelings for one another and finally got together. However, this was more than just an illicit liaison, as Rhaenyra and Daemon got married at the end of the episode.

Who did Daemon loved the most? ›

Later, in episode seven, Daemon tells Rhaenyra that he and Laena were "happy enough" in their marriage. In that regard, there was far more love between Daemon and Laena than there ever was between him and Rhea, even if it wasn't entirely romantic.

Why did Daemon not sleep with his wife? ›

While House Of The Dragon episode 4 showed Daemon was able to seduce Rhaenyra by kissing and undressing her, he couldn't fulfill the act due to impotence.

Who helped Arya in Harrenhal? ›

Changing the Rules — In Game of Thrones Season 2, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and her friends are captured by the Lannister army and taken to Harrenhal. While there, Arya finds herself working as the cupbearer for none other than Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance).

Is Harrenhal a dragonstone? ›

Religion. Harrenhal, the largest castle in the Seven Kingdoms, was the seat of House Baelish of Harrenhal before their extinction, and has since been considered the property of House Baelish of Dragonstone.

Who haunts Harrenhal? ›

In the books, the Lord of Harrenhal, is Petyr Baelish, also known as Littlefinger.

Who was Lord of Harrenhal in Game of Thrones? ›

The title of Lord of Harrenhal is then awarded to Janos Slynt, commander of the City Watch of King's Landing, for his role in the betrayal and arrest of Eddard Stark. Thus, the newly created House Slynt displaces the nigh-extinct House Whent.

What family controls Harrenhal? ›

Harrenhal, once the greatest castle in the Seven Kingdoms, was built ~300 years ago by the House of Hoare, which ruled the Iron Islands at the peak of their dominion and conquered the rest of the Riverlands.

How did Littlefinger become Lord of Harrenhal? ›

Lord Petyr Baelish is named Lord of Harrenhal and Lord Paramount of the Trident by the Iron Throne, a reward for arranging the alliance between Houses Lannister and Tyrell and the betrothal of Margaery Tyrell to King Joffrey I Baratheon. Petyr replaces Lord Hoster Tully of Riverrun as liege lord of the riverlands.


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