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.
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.
Chronology of Houses that Inhabited Harrenhal
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.