House of the Dragon takes place more than 172 years before Game of Thrones, but it is very much in the same world. Westeros looks just as epic. Dragons are alive and well. They also speak Valyrian, the language of Westeros royalty. Milly Alcock had to learn it to play Rhaenyra Targaryan.
Alcock was a guest on the House of the Dragon podcast for episode 3, “Second of His Name.” She told the hosts about learning High Valyrian for scenes in the show. New episodes of House of the Dragon premiere Sundays on HBO Max.
The ‘Game of Thrones’ books invented High Valyrian
Before Game of Thrones was on HBO, George R.R. Martin wrote the books. He conceived of the new language they speak in the kingdoms of Westeros. However, the Valyrian passages Martin wrote wouldn’t be enough for the show.
Enter David J. Petersen. In order to script full scenes in High Valyrian, Game of Thrones hired Petersen to turn Martin’s writing into a full language. Now you can take courses in High Valyrian via Duolingo and people speak it just like Klingon or Quenya from Lord of the Rings.
Milly Alcock learned Valyrian for her ‘House of the Dragon’ scenes
Rhaenyra has some House of the Dragon scenes in Valyrian. While she did not have time to get fluent in the language, Alcock did learn to form the words and speak it.
“[It was] actually really fun,” Alcock said on the House of the Dragon podcast. “It was just kind of like learning another song in another language basically. I would learn the scene in English and then I would have it printed out on a sheet. They would have it phonetically and then they would have an audio recording and then I would just say it so it became muscle memory. So I didn’t have to think about what I was saying. It was just like my mouth was on autopilot basically.”
Milly Alcock still got some High Valyrian wrong on ‘House of the Dragon’
Alcock may sound like a High Valyrian expert on the show, but she admits she often gets the language wrong. She said sometimes she forgets the words and starts mumbling gibberish, and has to confer with the dialect coach. Other times, she can’t shake old lines she memorized from previous House of the Dragon episodes.
“Or, or, or I would find myself saying old lines in High Valyrian because my mouth would know the patterns,” Alcock said. “So if they were too similar, I would just find myself saying the wrong line because they would start similarly and then I would go back and then Miguel [Sapochnik] would be like, ‘Milly, that was episode 2.’ I’d be like, ‘Oh sh** sorry, my bad.’”