Before dragons, the Targaryens had another animal symbol of royalty.
Warning: the following article contains spoilers for 'House of the Dragon' episode 3
In episode 3 of 'House of the Dragon', Rhaenyra Targaryen has to face it: her father Viserys is still all in on having a male heir, and he finally gets what he wants after marrying Alicent Hightower and having a son with her, named Aegon II.
Viserys throws a big celebration, but Rhaenyra is in no mood to join. Eventually, Viserys forces her to take part in a big hunt that is aimed to kill the so-called "White Hart" – an animal that was once considered a symbol of royalty among the Targaryens before dragons appeared.
However, when Rhaenyra realizes that her father is trying to set up her marriage – among other things – she goes ballistic and leaves on a horse, only to be chased by Ser Criston Cole who keeps her company in the woods.
And while Viserys' crew spots a normal deer that they believe to be the White Hart they are looking for, they violently kill it. Meanwhile, Rhaenyra – who has to defend herself from a wild hog and kill it when it attacks her – turns out to be the actual winner of the hunt, because the real White Hart approaches her itself. However, when Ser Criston readies his sword to kill it, Rhaenyra stops him and lets the animal go.
The scene has turned out to be very symbolic for 'House of the Dragon' fans, who ended up believing that White Hart's appearance indicated that Rhaenyra is the rightful heir because she was acknowledged by the former symbol of royalty.
Besides, the way Rhaenyra decided to treat the animal also garnered respect from fans.
"Rhaenyra could’ve had the white hart killed & shoved its antlers to everyone in the council to prove that she’s the chosen heir, favoured by the gods or whatever. BUT SHE DIDNT!! which says alot about her. She doesn’t need to show her worth, she knows it." - @acdkth
Her fate as the king's heir, however, is yet to be decided. In the books, Rhaenyra's fight for the throne did not end well; as it didn't for Viserys' newborn male heir. Just how exactly 'House of the Dragon' will handle that story remains to be seen.
The 'Game of Thrones' prequel is streaming on HBO Max. New episodes premiere every Sunday.