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Daenerys and Drogon in Daznak's Pit - by Marc Simonetti ©

Dragons are magical creatures, which existed on the continents of Westeros and Essos, and up until recently were considered to have been extinct for over one hundred and fifty years. The only remaining traces of the dragons were skeletal remains and dragon eggs which were thought to have turned to stone, until Daenerys Targaryen managed to hatch three of these dragon eggs.

Dragon skulls in the Red Keep cellars


Daenerys and Drogon TV Series
See also: Images of Dragons

Dragons are scaled, reptilian creatures, with two legs and two wings.[1][2] They use their wings as forelegs like bats, though some A Song of Ice and Fire artwork shows them with four legs and a detached pair of wings. They have sharp teeth and claws, leathery wings and long necks and tails, with spiny crests running down their backs. As hatchlings, they are around the size of a cat, but continue growing and can reach sizes large enough to swallow a mammoth whole. The polished skulls of the Targaryen dragons look like glittering onyx, and their teeth like curved daggers of black diamond. Their bones are black due to their high iron content. Dragonbone is a highly sought after crafting material.[3]

A dragon's scales are largely but not entirely impervious to flame; they protect the more vulnerable flesh and musculature beneath. As a dragon ages, its scales thicken and grow harder, affording even more protection, even as its flames burn hotter. Whereas the flames of a hatchling can set straw aflame, the flames of Balerion and Vhagar at their prime melted steel and stone.[4]


The hatchling dragons, Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion from the TV Series

Great heat emanates from dragons' bodies, to the point that they steam during cold nights. They breathe extremely hot flame which they use to cook their meat before eating it.[5] A dragon's scales are mostly, though not entirely, impervious to fire, protecting the more vulnerable flesh and muscles underneath. This "sort of" makes dragons immune to fire,[6] though, younger dragons are damaged by fire more easily than older dragons, as the scales of a dragon grow thicker and harden when the dragon ages. At the same time, as the dragon grows older, its flames become hotter and fiercer. Where a hatchling's flame can set straw aflame, dragons, like Balerion and Vhagar in the fullness of their power, could (and did) melt steel and stone.[4] It is said that dragons are fire made flesh.[7]

Dragons are capable of forming strong attachments to humans who raise them. They have a reasonably high level of animal intelligence, and can be trained to serve as battlemounts and receive vocal commands. Dragons are said to be capricious in nature.[8] Dragons bend easier to their rider's will after they have been fed and their stomach full.[4] Dragons have to be trained, to keep them from laying waste to everything around them.[9]

Dragons grow throughout their lives, but it is unknown how long they can live or how large they can grow. The largest and oldest Targaryen dragon, Balerion, lived about 200 years and could swallow an aurochs whole, or even one of the hairy mammoths, but dragons raised in captivity and enclosed spaces are thought to be smaller than their wild brethren.[10] As dragons grow so do their appetites.

Dragons are believed to be intrinsically tied to magic and the seasons of the world. Since dragons became extinct from Westeros, the power of magic dwindled and winters grew colder.

Tales of ice dragons with cold breath were told in Winterfell by Old Nan. It is undetermined if such dragons are entirely fictional.[11]

Dragon Riders

Aegon the Conqueror upon Balerion, the Black Dread by Jordi Gonzalez ©.

Dragons will not simply allow anyone to mount them. They seem to be very selective of who they allow become their rider. The rider having Valyrian heritage might be a factor. Once a dragon bonds with a rider, that dragon will not allow anyone else to mount it while its rider lives, though dragons will allow new riders once their previous rider is deceased. No rider though has ever ridden a different dragon while his/her current dragon was alive.[12]

Their seems to be a special bond between a dragon and its rider. A dragon might to be able to sense when its current rider is in distress or has died. This is implied in the case of the dragon Dreamfyre, who, despite being locked and chained in the Dragonpit, sensed when her rider Helaena Targaryen committed suicide in Maegor's Holdfast.[4] At the moment of Helaena's death Dreamfyre rose suddenly with a roar that shook the Dragonpit and snapped two of the chains that bound her.[4]


Barth, Munkun and Thomax hold markedly divergent views on the mating habits of dragons.[13] Dragons lay large, scaled eggs to reproduce.[14] Over the eons un-hatched eggs can become fossilized.

Dragons have no fixed gender differentiation - according to Maester Aemon dragons are “but now one and now the other, as changeable as flame” presumably meaning that they are able to change from one sex to the other for whatever reason. This knowledge was later lost, with many maesters doubting that was true.

It is incredibly difficult to determine the sex of a dragon, because like common reptiles they have no external sex organs. There also appears to be no notable sexual dimorphism in dragons, such as that the females of some animal species tend to be bigger than males, and vice versa. Towards the end of her life, Vhagar (believed to be female) grew to be almost as large as Balerion (believed to be male).

Maester Yandel's commentary in The World of Ice and Fire indicates that he personally believed a dragon to be female if it had laid eggs. He took the fact that Vermax was never observed laying eggs as proof that it must have been male.[15]

Female dragons, such as Syrax, are referred to as a she-dragon.[16] Meleys was also called "the Red Queen", and Tessarion "the Blue Queen", possibly indicating their sex. Syrax was noted to have laid multiple clutches of eggs.[4]

Vhagar, Meraxes, Syrax, Meleys, Tessarion, Dreamfyre, and Silverwing are referred to as females in historical works. Even the younger dragons, Moondancer and Shrykos, are referred to with feminine pronouns. The last Targaryen dragon that died during the reign of King Aegon III, has also been referred to as female, presumably because it left behind several eggs. Balerion, Vermithor, Sunfyre, Seasmoke, Sheepstealer, Grey Ghost, the Cannibal, and Stormcloud are all referred to as male. The assumed genders of Quicksilver, Morghul, and Shrykos are not apparent. Caraxes has been referred to as both male and female.[4][17] According to Maester Aemon, dragons can change sex.


Ancient dragons

Dragon fire engulfs a soldier. © FFG

Dragons are native to the continent of Essos. Daenerys recalls hearing that the first dragons had come from the east, from the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai and the islands of the Jade Sea.[18] The Ancient Valyrians themselves believed that the dragons originated from the Fourteen Flames. Regardless of their origin, dragons populated most of the known world in ages past, as ancient dragon bones have been found as far North as Ib and even in the jungles of Sothoryos.[19]

Dragons were discovered some five thousand years ago by the Valyrians in the Fourteen Flames, a ring of volcanoes on the Valyrian peninsula. The Valyrians mastered the art of raising dragons and used them as weapons of war to carve out a massive empire. After the Doom of Valyria, the only dragons known to have survived were five dragons on Dragonstone. The dragons belonged Targaryens who had brought them from Valyria when they went into exile. Four of the dragons brought from Valyria eventually died on Dragonstone, leaving only Balerion. However, the other dragons left eggs behind, and from these hatched and Vhagar and Meraxes.[20]

The Targaryen dragons

The Targaryens used Balerion, Vhagar, and Meraxes to conquer and forge the Seven Kingdoms.

The Targaryens continued to use their dragons in military conflicts. Dragons were used in the First Dornish War, which caused the death of Meraxes in 10 AC.[21]

Balerion make short work of Aegon Targaryen and Quicksilver during the Battle Beneath the Gods Eye, as depicted by Michael Komarck in The World of Ice and Fire

Dragon fought dragon in the Battle Beneath the Gods Eye, resulting in the death of the dragon Quicksilver in 43 AC.[22]

Over the course of one hundred and fifty years the Targaryens rode their dragons as a symbol of their power. King Jaehaerys I Targaryen took six dragons with him to the North to visit the Warden of the North. These included Jaerhaerys on Vermithor, Alysanne on Silverwing, and four other, currently unknown dragons.[23]

Balerion finally died of old age in 94 AC, late in the reign of Jaehaerys I.[17][24] Jaehaerys's grandson and eventual successor Viserys I was Balerion's rider at the time of its death.[17][25] This left Vhagar as the largest living dragon: by 129 AC, she was approaching Balerion's size.[4]

Many dragons were hatched after the Conquest. By 129 AC, on the eve of the civil war between Rhaenyra and Aegon II, there were twenty living dragons.[4] The largest and oldest dragons were Vhagar, Vermithor, Silverwing, Dreamfyre, Meleys, Caraxes, and Syrax. Younger dragons still large enough to be ridden to war were Seasmoke, Sunfyre, Tessarion, Vermax, Arrax, Tyraxes, and Moondancer. Stormcloud, Morghul, and Shrykos were hatchlings not yet big enough to ride. There were also three "wild" dragons living on Dragonstone which had never been successfully claimed by any rider: Grey Ghost, Sheepstealer, and the Cannibal. Sheepstealer hatched when Jaehaerys I was still young, and the Cannibal was even older (none knew for certain when it had hatched), and thus they were also quite large by the time of the Dance, while Grey Ghost was a younger and smaller beast. Not every hatchling lived to maturity, however, as seen with Rhaena of Pentos, whose hatchling only lived a matter of hours.[4]

Extinction and revival

By the end of the reign of King Viserys I Targaryen, twenty dragons were alive. The majority of these died during the war called the Dance of the Dragons, which began in 129 AC and would last until mid 131 AC.[4][26] Archmaester Marwyn, however, holds that the Order of Maesters, with their secret goal to suppress magic, was responsible for the extinction of dragons.[27]

By the end of the Dance in 131 AC, only four dragons remained alive: Sheepstealer, the Cannibal and Silverwing, who had been born years before the war, and the dragon Morning, which had hatched during the war itself.[26] There were still many dragon eggs left, after the war, and at least one of those hatched. The last dragon was a stunted, sick and misshapen thing, and died young, in 153 AC, during the reign of King Aegon III Targaryen, the Dragonbane.[28][29] She had been a green female, small with withered wings. She laid a clutch of five eggs,[30] which never hatched.[31]

The Targaryens also had a collection of nineteen dragons skulls of various sizes and ages that they displayed on the walls of the throne room in the Red Keep. Some of these were thousands of years old.[3]

After their extinction, the only remnants of dragons that remained were their skulls[3] and the eggs, some of which were petrified.[30][32][33] The eggs were highly valuable, for their beauty and exotic nature.[34] According to Ser Arlan of Pennytree, the summers became shorter after the last dragon died, and the winters longer and crueler.[31]

Many futile attempts were made to hatch dragons from the dragon eggs that remained. Aegon III Targaryen, known as the Dragonbane, had nine mages cross the narrow sea to use their magics in attempt to hatch eggs.[29] The pious King Baelor I Targaryen attempted to hatch his egg by praying over it.[32] The Tragedy of Summerhall resulted from the attempt of King Aegon V Targaryen.[35] The art of taming and commanding dragons enough to ride is considered lost, aside from a few exceedingly rare books.[Citation Needed]

According to George R. R. Martin,

There are no more dragons known to exist... but this is a medieval period, and large parts of the world are still terra incognita, so there are always tales of dragon sightings in far off mysterious places. The maesters tend to discount those.


Ultimately, Daenerys Targaryen managed to hatch three dragons in her husband's funeral pyre when she stepped into the fire while they lay inside it. With Daenerys's exchange of life for life, the first three dragons in over a hundred years were born.

According to legend, a dragon may be tamed by sounding a dragon horn.[36]

Daenerys Targaryen's Dragons

Historical Dragons

Dragons in flight – by Tomasz Jedruszek]. © Fantasy Flight Games
A House Targaryen dragon is unleashed on the battlefield – by Tomasz Jedruszek. © Fantasy Flight Games
Three dragons destroy a castle. by Tomasz Jedruszek. © Fantasy Flight Games

Of unknown or uncertain chronology:

  • Urrax (according to legend slain by Serwyn and probably mythological, as it would have existed centuries before the arrival of the Targaryens)
  • Terrax the dragon of Jaenara Belaerys who at some point spent three years exploring Sothoryos

Known Dragon Eggs

Dragon Eggs TV Series
Main article: Dragon egg
  • Aegon V's egg - white and green swirls[30]
  • Aemon Targaryen's egg - known to exist,[30] but so far undescribed
  • Aerion Targaryen's egg - gold and silver, with veins of fiery colors [30]
  • Ambrose Butterwell's egg - red, with golden flecks and black whorls [30]
  • Euron Greyjoy's egg - Euron claimed he threw it into the sea. [43]
  • {hatched} Drogon’s egg - black as the midnight sea, alive with scarlet ripples and swirls
  • {hatched} Rhaegal’s egg - deep green, with burnished bronze flecks
  • {hatched} Viserion's egg - colored pale cream, streaked with gold

Books and Scrolls about dragons


Daenerys Targaryen, the Unburnt - by Michael Komarck ©
Dragons are fire made flesh, and fire is power.[7]


The grief and glory of my house.[44]

Aemon Targaryen

Once man has seen a dragon in flight, let him stay at home and tend his garden in content, for this wide world has seen no greater wonder. [13]
Tyrion Lannister on the Shy Maid, remembering what someone had written once.

Death comes out of a dragon's mouth, but death does not go in that way.[45]
– Septon Barth

We shall not pretend to any understanding of the bond between dragon and dragonrider; wiser heads have pondered that mystery for centuries. We do know however, that dragons are not horses, to be ridden by any man who throws a saddle on their back.[4]
- Archmaester Gyldayn

...it was said that even Aegon the Conquerer never dared mount Vhagar or Meraxes, nor did his sisters mount Balerion the Black Dread. Dragons live longer than men, some for hundreds of years, so Balerion had other riders after Aegon died...but no rider ever flew two dragons.[12]
- Daenerys Targaryen to Quentyn Martell

Who can know the heart of a dragon?[4]
- Archmaester Gyldayn

Behind the Scenes

The writer Phyllis Eisenstein convinced George R. R. Martin to add dragons to A Game of Thrones. Martin dedicated A Storm of Swords to Eisenstein.[46]

See Also

References and Notes

  1. So Spake Martin: Comic-Con (NEW YORK CITY, NY) (February 25, 2007)
  2. Not a Blog: Dany and the Dragons (July 9, 2013)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 13, Tyrion II.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 4.18 4.19 4.20 4.21 4.22 4.23 4.24 4.25 4.26 4.27 4.28 4.29 4.30 4.31 4.32 4.33 The Princess and the Queen.
  5. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 12, Daenerys I.
  6. "Interview with the Dragon" Copyright © 2003 Robert Shaw.
  7. 7.0 7.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 27, Daenerys II.
  8. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 5, Tyrion II.
  9. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 40, Daenerys III.
  10. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 8, Daenerys I.
  11. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 35, Jon VII.
  12. 12.0 12.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 50, Daenerys VIII.
  13. 13.0 13.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 14, Tyrion IV.
  14. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 35, Samwell IV.
  15. The World of Ice and Fire, The North: Winterfell.
  16. 16.0 16.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 8, Tyrion III.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 17.5 17.6 The Rogue Prince.
  18. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 23, Daenerys III.
  19. 19.0 19.1 So Spake Martin: Dragons in Westeros (December 11, 1999)
  20. The World of Ice and Fire, The Reign of the Dragons: The Conquest.
  21. The World of Ice and Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon I.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 The World of Ice and Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Maegor I.
  23. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 41, Jon V.
  24. 24.0 24.1 The World of Ice and Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Jaehaerys I.
  25. Not a Blog: The Rogues Are Coming... (Comment March 12, 2014)
  26. 26.0 26.1 The World of Ice and Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Viserys I.
  27. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 45, Samwell V.
  28. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 22, Arya II.
  29. 29.0 29.1 The World of Ice and Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon III.
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 30.3 30.4 30.5 The Mystery Knight.
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 The Hedge Knight.
  32. 32.0 32.1 The World of Ice and Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Baelor I.
  33. The World of Ice and Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aerys II.
  34. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 46, Daenerys V.
  35. The World of Ice and Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon V.
  36. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 19, The Drowned Man.
  37. The World of Ice and Fire, Dorne: Dorne Against the Dragons.
  38. Morghul is said to have been a young dragon during 130 AC
  39. The World of Ice and Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon II.
  40. Shrykos is said to have been a young dragon during 130 AC
  41. Sunfyre is said to have been young during 120 AC
  42. It was Rhaenyra who named the dragon, and the dragon was still a young dragon upon Rhaenyra becoming her rider in 104AC
  43. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 29, The Reaver.
  44. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 26, Samwell III.
  45. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 66, Tyrion XII.
  46. George R.R. Martin: The Rolling Stone Interview

External links

  • Dragon - Wikipedia article on the real-world mythological creature.

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