House of the Dragon: Who is Alys Rivers?

Jessica Cullen
Gayle Rankin as Alys Rivers in House of the Dragon

House of the Dragon’s newest episode introduces a mysterious woman who may play a big part in Daemon’s stay – so, who is Alys Rivers?

House of the Dragon Season 2 Episode 3 finally takes Daemon to Harrenhal. It’s not only a tactical move for the upcoming war, but also finally gives House of the Dragon viewers a glimpse into the long-awaited Harrenhal curse.

As Dameon starts to be plagued by horrifying visions, a woman makes herself known. She doesn’t just appear in his dreams, but also around the castle, too. This is Alys Rivers – a very real woman with a much bigger history than one might assume.

Here’s everything you need to know about Alys Rivers, including her story from the book House of the Dragon is based on and who plays her in the TV show. (Warning: book spoilers and potential show spoilers ahead!)

Who is Alys Rivers?

Alys Rivers was a bastard of House Strong and a wet nurse at Harrenhal, who was widely considered to be a witch.

Her witch status came from her unique abilities, as she could apparently see the future through visions. During Daemon’s stay in Harrenhal, she also became his bedmate.

Alys Rivers in the books explained

Alys appears by mention in Fire & Blood, The Rise of the Dragon, and The Princess and the Queen.

She’s described as having long black hair, and appeared younger than her actual age (which is said to have come from her bathing in maiden’s blood). She would have been around 40 by the events of Dance of the Dragons.

It’s unconfirmed, but in the books Alys is said to have been sired by Lord Lyonel Strong. Her actual occupation and status changes depends on who’s telling the story. Grand Maester Munkun claimed Alys had an interest in potions, Eustace claimed she was a woods witch, while Mushroom said she was a wet nurse for Harwin and Larys Strong.

When the Greens retook Harrenhal, Aemond took Alys as a bedmate, and she even later fell pregnant with (supposedly) his child. Some accounts claim that she tried to entice Criston Cole with potions, too, but not everyone thinks this is true.

She and Aemond continued their relationship until he left her during the Battle Above Gods Eye, a dragon-based fight which Alys watched from the Harrenhal tower.

Gayle Rankin as Alys Rivers in House of the Dragon

She would then rule Harrenhal, dubbed as the “Witch Queen”. In 132 AC, Ser Tyland Lannister tasked his Kingsguard Ser Regis Groves, and Ser Damon Darry, to take back the castle. When they tried, they found Alys there, claiming to be Aegon’s widow (though it’s never confirmed if they were married).

She presented them with her child, who she claimed to be the true heir to the Iron Throne. Alys was accused of not only killing Regis Groves (some say his head exploded!), but also of holding a dozen captives for torture.

One messenger was released from the castle, but Alys warned him he would die if anyone laughed at his story. When he shared his account, an onlooker laughed, and it’s said that the man choked to death on the spot. Some even claimed they’d seen fingerprints on his throat as he did.

Plans were made to return to Harrenhal with a larger army, but this plot was halted by the Winter Fever in 133 AC. As such, it’s unclear what happened to Alys.

Alys Rivers in House of the Dragon explained

Alys Rivers first appears in House of the Dragon Season 2, when Daemon takes Harrenhal.

It all takes place in Season 2 Episode 3, when Daemon arrives at the castle. Lord Strong immediately surrenders and pledges loyalty to Rhaenyra Targaryen.

Alys can be seen in the background during Daemon’s conversation with Strong, and appears again when he’s having his visions. After seeing a young Rhaenyra, he suddenly finds himself on the outerskirts of Harrenhal. This is where Alys appears and tells him that he’s going to die there. Spooky.

Who plays Alys Rivers?

In House of the Dragon, Alys Rivers is played by Gayle Rankin.

She’s a Scottish actress with credits in Law & Order: SVU, The Greatest Showman, GLOW, and Perry Mason.

That’s Alys! For more, check out our guides to Ulf the White, Hugh Hammer, and Alyn of Hull. We’ve also got a guide to when the new episode of House of the Dragon is out. Or, check out our House of the Dragon Season 2 review.