So to preface this topic: Book and show canon may diverge on this character. This post will be book canon, although it doesn’t ruin, or really go against anything on the show. Primarily the Three-Eyed Raven on the show doesn’t really have a backstory or a given name, but he does in the books.Some of you may have seen this when I was posting on Imgur.
This is the Three-Eyed Raven, also called Bloodraven. His real name, however, is Brynden Rivers. This man is our destination, but we must go on a small journey to reach him.
This is Aegon IV
His nickname? Aegon the Unworthy. In his youth, Aegon was handsome and filled with vigorous energy. He lusted after the throne which passed to him after the suspicious death of his father from a sudden illness. Aegon married his sister, Naerys, although she desperately wanted to be with their brother, Aemon, instead. It’s said she cried during the bedding ceremony with Aegon.
Aegon was one of the worst kings the realm had ever seen. He chose his court not for someone’s worth, but based on how much they amused or flattered him. The women of his court did just that. You thought Robert was bad? Meet Aegon, the man who had nine mistresses. And those are just the ones he ‘truly loved’. He claimed he’d slept with over 900 women. 900. His sister wife was not present in the list of the women he had loved in his life.
He did have legitimate children with his wife, but he probably had countless bastards across the realm. There is a category for the important ones. The great bastards, aka those born to him from noblewomen. Aegon had three great bastard sons.
1. Daemon Waters
2. Brynden Rivers (three-eyed raven for the forgetful)
3. Aegor Rivers.
Brynden and Aegor hated each other since a young age for many reasons. It also didn’t help that they desired the same woman. Shiera Seastar (also a great bastard), who although never married, was Brynden’s lover. Aegon’s last act before dying was legitimizing all the bastards. ALL OF THEM. No, not just the great bastards, the baseborn ones too. Every single one. It only truly mattered to the great bastards though.
This is Blackfyre
The Targaryen family sword. Valyrian steel. Brought down through the generations all the way from Aegon the Conqueror. Daeron, Aegon’s trueborn son, should have been the next to wield this sword as he was next in line of succession, even with the legitimization of the bastards. But Aegon the Unworthy handed the ancestral sword, not to his trueborn son and next in line. No. He handed it to Daemon Waters. This combined with the legitimization meant fire and blood for five generations.
This is the Blackfyre Rebellion
But back up a step for a second. So Daeron becomes king. He brings in totally new management. Scholarly and learned men, very capable of helping him rule the realm. He brought in Maesters. He really cleaned the place up. He married Myriah, a Dornish princess. Sounds good and jolly right? No.
People got very mad at Daeron for doing all these things. They thought he was letting Dorne and external influences in too much, he was too soft and learned, had never been really tested with a sword in his hand. These are the medieval times. Books = bad. Sword = good. And who had the sword? Oh yeah Daemon Waters, not King Daeron.
This is almost a recipe for disaster, just needs one more ingredient. Hey, remember when Aegon married his sister and she didn’t want to and cried? And remember the fact that she loved her OTHER brother? You know where this is going. We’ve been there through Jamie and Cersei. Same scenario. King Daeron may not be Aegon’s trueborn son after all. He may not be Aegon’s son AT ALL. But we know Daemon is. A la Stannis and Joffrey. History repeats itself, not exactly but the same concepts.
Introducing the Blackfyre Rebellion. We can boil down this complicated political and martial scenario and simplify it: Daemon was more fit to be king than his (maybe?) half brother, so why shouldn’t he? This is the basic thought behind the whole thing, of course it was very complicated, but that’s the idea.
This is Daemon Blackfyre
Daemon took the surname of Blackfyre for his house, of course in reference to the sword. Since he was a bastard, he reversed the Targaryen arm colors to a black dragon on red background. Upon Aegon’s death and the legitimization, nothing happened at first. Daemon wasn’t rushing out the door to start a rebellion. This was a slow cooker. A twelve year slow cooker.
Included in his father’s will and enforced by Daeron, Daemon agreed to marry a woman he did not love. A tale as old as time. Daeron gave them land and they had seven sons together. By all means and measurements Daemon had settled down, had a castle, and was making a successful family. So the question that arises is why?
We most likely find the answer in a woman named Daenerys, yes different Daenerys. Daemon loved Daenerys, but he married another woman and she married another man, as Daeron knew where violence failed, marriage was the answer. Daenerys was married to a Dornish prince to help heal relations.
Daemon was surrounded by people who whispered in his ear for 12 long years as he watched his true love marry, age, and grow farther and farther from him. All the while Aegor and others whispered. Daeron isn’t even Aegon’s. You were legitimized, you should sit the throne. By all means you have more right. Daenerys waits for you to take it. To take her away from her misery. Aegor only whispered of rebellion, we can assume, because of Shiera Seastar.
Daemon Blackfyre after 12 years claims the Iron Throne is his by right and leads a rebellion against King Daeron.
This is Brynden Rivers
Still with me? No? Get your shit together. Ok let’s continue.
Brynden was an albino with pale, milk colored skin, white hair, and blood red eyes. A birthmark on his face was the root of the nickname ‘Bloodraven’. As it looked kind of like a raven drawn in blood. Brynden was a strong warrior and carried the valyrian steel sword Dark Sister into battle, but he preferred using his bow above all else.
When it came time to draw lines in the sand, Brynden sided with King Daeron, against his two bastard born brothers. Daemon of course and Aegor.
“Bittersteel[Aegor] and Bloodraven both loved Shiera Seastar, and the Seven Kingdoms bled.”
During the war, Bloodraven lost an eye to Aegor during the Battle of the Redgrass Field. During the battle, his company of archers gained a ridge and rained arrows down upon Daemon Blackfyre, killing him. Thus ended the first Blackfyre rebellion. Summed up and over in just a few lines, but don’t be fooled. This was the Westeros civil war. It was extremely costly and tore the land asunder.
King Daeron went on to rule for 25 years. His rule saw peace and plenty for the land. He died during a wave of sicknesses that swept the realm.
Brynden goes on to be hand of the king for Daeron’s successor. A good one at that. He managed to squash the second Blackfyre Rebellion. The third saw the second duel between Aegor and Bloodraven. Brynden won and managed to keep hold of his remaining eye at the same time. Aegor was sent to the Wall, but escaped to Essos. Again short and sweet, but not really. Many, many lives were lost during the Blackfyre rebellions. It was a rift that even today, is felt in Westeros.
Eventually there came a point where there was no natural successor to the iron throne when the King dies. Brynden, who was still the hand, called a grand council to decide who would take the throne. A Blackfyre descendant wrote to Brynden saying he wanted to put forth his claim. Yeah, Blackfyre’s still thought they had a legitimate claim to the throne. Brynden had no love for the Blackfyre’s (obviously), but said yes and promised he would have safe passage to King’s Landing. Upon arriving though, Brynden killed the Blackfyre and probably prevented even more bloodshed at the hands of the Blackfyre family. Probably.
The council went on and the new King’s first act was to arrest Bloodraven for what he had done, and he was sent to the Wall. Coincidentally, Maester Aemon, was with the group that Bloodraven was in. They traveled to the Wall together, Brynden in chains.
Brynden did well at the Wall like he did everywhere else. So good, in fact, he became Lord Commander. He had many good years as LC before disappearing on a ranging mission north of the Wall. Brynden Rivers was dead and gone from the world.
The Three-Eyed Crow was just getting started
It’s crow in the books, and raven in the show. Get used to it.
“There have always been Targaryens who dreamed of things to come, since long before the Conquest.” – Brynden Rivers on his way to Castle Black.
“How many eyes does Lord Bloodraven have? The riddle ran. A thousand eyes, and one. Some claimed the King’s Hand was a student of the dark arts who could change his face, put on the likeness of a one-eyed dog, even turn into a mist. Packs of gaunt gray wolves hunted down his foes, men said, and carrion crows spied for him and whispered secrets in his ear. Most of the tales were only tales, but no one could doubt that Bloodraven had informers everywhere”
Bran falls from a tower and dreams of the three-eyed raven who tells him he can teach Bran to fly.
“A face took shape within the hearth. Stannis? She thought, for just a moment . . . but no, these were not his features. A wooden face, corpse white. Was this the enemy? A thousand red eyes floated in the rising flames. He sees me. Beside him, a boy with a wolf’s face threw back his head and howled.” From a Melisandre vision.
Jojen meets Bran and tells him he can find the three-eyed crow beyond the wall, so they set out.
Passing it down
You know the story from here. Bran and co. find Bloodraven and Bran learns from him. Bloodraven was a greenseer and warg and watched the world past, present, and future with a thousand eyes and one. In fact he was the last greenseer. While with Bran, he’s around 125 years old, living unnaturally long life by attaching himself to the weirwood tree and hanging on to his weak flesh in order to teach Bran. He’s now deceased in the show, but his importance and teachings live on through Bran.
“You will never walk again, Bran… but you will fly.”
“I have my own ghosts, Bran. A brother that I loved, a brother that I hated, a woman that I desired. Through the trees, I see them still, but no word of mine has ever reached them. The past remains the past. We can learn from it, but we cannot change it.”
He tells Bran he can’t change the past, but he can learn from it. So can we. Brynden Rivers cared about the Seven Kingdoms. He always did what he thought was right to protect them, even getting sent to the Wall as punishment for those actions. I believe he was a watchful protector of the kingdom and probably had a hand in quite a few things. We see the scope of what they are capable of with ‘hold the door’.
Brynden Rivers has a long and complicated past, but a cool one. Nothing is black and white, especially Brynden Rivers. His motivations are sometimes questionable as are his methods. He killed an innocent man. That’s a fact, but was it because he saw some horrible glimpse of the future or because he wanted to see all Blackfyre’s burn in seven hells?
Did he side with King Daeron because it was the right thing to do, or because of his deep hatred for Aegor? I believe he lived with constantly conflicting feelings and motivations, but one thing is fairly consistent. He spent his life devoted to the protection of the realm, even rising to Lord Commander after his imprisonment and exile to the Wall. Then when, by all rights he should die, he doesn’t. He joins the children of the forest and continues protecting the realm and ensuring someone else will be able to when he’s gone. I believe this man prevented a LOT of death and destruction, and although his methods were questionable, they were effective. This man was Varys before Varys was even born.
I thought show watchers might like a glimpse into his past as the show didn’t really touch on it. Brynden is one of my favorite characters.
As always, thank you for reading! All information comes form The World of Ice and Fire, the Dunk and Egg novellas, and The ASOIAF series.