Two episodes into House of the Dragon and we’ve already met our series antagonist—well, in some ways that would be antihero, Daemon Targaryen, but also—an orc-looking pirate/general who feeds poor merchants to flesh-eating crabs.
The “Crabfeeder” is introduced as the ire of Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussant), commander of Westeros’ largest Navy. During both the first and second episodes, Corlys complains to the small council about the Crabfeeder’s hostilities in the Stepstones, a cluster of islands south of King’s Landing and necessary for trade into the capital. Corlys believes the Crabfeeder is waging open war against his navy, disrupting shipping lanes and threatening to destabilize Westeros.
King Viserys (Paddy Considine) assures Corlys he’s already sent envoys to the Free Cities—a group of independent states believed to be financing the Crabfeeder—but Corlys isn’t satisfied. Like a war-hungry defense department, Corlys will settle only for military conquest, despite the council’s advice that such a conflict would provoke the Free Cities.
The Crabfeeder represents an important thorn in the side of Westeros this season; Viserys’ reaction to the hostility immediately creates a schism in the small council, with Corlys and Daemon (and, to an extent, Rhaenyra) on the side of military action, and Hightower (Rhys Ifans) and the King on the side of caution; this schism is also reflected in the unspoken bid for the Throne, with Hightower opposing Daemon.
Which is to say that the Crabfeeder is an important early character.
And he isn’t just an invention of the show.
Craghas Drahar (Craghas “Crabfeeder”) appears in a few of author George R.R. Martin’s works, including Fire & Blood, the primary source material for the series.
He is an admiral for the “Triarchy,” an alliance of the Free Cities which took control of the Stepstones several years before Viserys’ coronation. Since then, the crown has tolerated the Triarchy’s control of the territory, paying them a tax for using the territory’s shipping lanes. In Martin’s book, tension mounts when Drahar raises the toll price, inciting Corlys to seek military action.
In the series, Drahar is overreaching through acts of outright hostility and theft.
Maybe a war over tolls isn’t the kind of sexy conflict starter HBO wants to run with.
Still, we’d watch the hell out of some Westeros toll lane drama.
Until then, we find ourselves on the edge of inevitable war with the Stepstones.
Joshua St Clair is an editorial assistant at Men’s Health Magazine.