Around 25 kilometers from the center of Madrid, in Parla, the Fernández de Vega Sánchez family is getting ready to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones way past midnight on May 13. When the episode is over, Sheila, the mother, laughs and looks at the youngest member of the family. “If I’d known, I wouldn’t have called you Daenerys,” she says.
Sheila Sánchez is referring to the dreadful decision one of the main characters in the show takes; a character she has named her daughter after. “Daenerys is bad now,” she says. “She has lost it, the same as her father, the mad king.”
Xavier Prat, father of Arya
A dedicated fan of the series, Sheila, 37, chose the name almost five years ago when she was pregnant. Daenerys was her favorite character in the series. Both she and her husband Alberto, 38, have read the books by George R. R. Martin and now watch the series with their first-born Adhan, eight, a name inspired by the Muslim call to prayer. “When we told our families [about Daenerys], they were surprised,” says Sheila. “We had to repeat it several times to my grandmother, but now they love it. My brother and my friends actually started watching the show afterwards out of curiosity.”
Since Game of Thrones started to air in Spain in 2011, fan figures have soared as have the number of people calling their children after its characters. The names Daenerys and Arya are among those that have official statistics. According to the National Institute of Statistics (INE), in 2017, there were 57 Daenerys and 279 Aryas, aged 2.2 years and 2.4 years, respectively. Most of them are located in Madrid and Barcelona. The previous year, it was 41 and 201, respectively. The INE picks up on any names given to more than 20 children, which is why if there are any Brans or Tyrions around, they haven’t shown up yet.
The choice of Daenerys for her daughter even gave Sheila an amusing anecdote after giving birth. “I had a C-section and there were two young surgeons operating,” she says. “When she was born, they asked me what she would be called and when I told them Daenerys, they came back with, ‘Daenerys Stormborn, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea…’” This is how Daenerys is wont to introduce herself, and Sheila’s daughter now knows the longer version of her name off by heart and repeats it when she sees the character on screen.
Daenerys Fernández de Vega Sánchez is a model for a number of children’s clothes’ brands. Her father is from Toledo and her mother is Basque. At four-and-a-half, she goes to a bilingual school and acts surprised when her teachers pronounce her name with an English accent.
Sheila, who works at a veterinary hospital, says that a lot of pet owners have called their animals after characters on the show too. “We have a lot of dogs called Sansa, some called Khaleesi and also a few Tyrions,” she says.
Meanwhile, in Barcelona, the Stevens Higuero family has also decided to call their youngest daughter Daenerys. Although they are not avid fans of the show, they chose the name because they thought it was strong and had personality. The mother, Rosa María, 29, works in a bakery and her husband Hans, 26, installs fiber optic cables. When it came to naming their children, they agreed they would decide on one name each. They have two girls and two boys. The smallest, who is nine months old, is named Daenerys Samantha Stevens Higuero
The Game of Thrones Stark banner hangs on one of the walls of Estefi Egea and Juan Antonio Gamero’s living room in Moratalaz, Madrid. Their favorite character belongs to the Stark family and they have called their daughter Arya, after her. At age two, Arya Gamero Egea likes nothing better than hugging her husky, Alfa. The dog is similar to the white wolves that belong to the Starks in the show. But the dog became part of the family before Game of Thrones was aired in Spain and there is no copycat naming going on there. Arya’s parents have read the books though, and they look over the seasons before watching the latest episode. Not only that, they actually get up every Monday at 3am to watch the next episode before going to work, to avoid spoilers. “We are very happy to have chosen the name we did,” says Egea. “Arya has become one of the heroines.”
After reading the books and watching the series, Xavier Prat, from Vilanova del Vallés in Barcelona, was determined that his daughter would be named Arya. Prat, 40, a marketing director currently in search of work, doesn’t believe his daughter, now 22 months old, will have trouble at school on account of her name. “More or less everyone knows the series and it’s a character with personality and leadership qualities,” he says. “I hope I can watch the series one day with her and she’ll like it as much as I do.”
English version by Heather Galloway.