|Alias||The Black Dread|
Aegon I Targaryen|
Maegor I Targaryen
* Princess Aerea Targaryen
Viserys I Targaryen
|Born||In or ~several years before 126 BC[N 1], at Valyria|
|Died||In 94 AC|
The World of Ice & Fire (mentioned)|
Fire & Blood (mentioned)
The Sons of the Dragon (mentioned)
The Rogue Prince (mentioned)
The Princess and the Queen (mentioned)
A Game of Thrones (mentioned)
A Clash of Kings (mentioned)
A Feast for Crows (mentioned)
A Dance with Dragons (mentioned)
Balerion, called the Black Dread, was a dragon of House Targaryen. He was ridden by King Aegon I Targaryen during his Conquest, alongside his sister Queen Visenya's Vhagar, and his sister Queen Rhaenys's Meraxes. Other known riders of Balerion were King Maegor I Targaryen and King Viserys I Targaryen.
- See also: Images of Balerion
Balerion was the largest of all the Targaryen dragons. His fire was as black as his scales, his wingspan so vast that entire towns would fall under his shadow when he passed overhead. His teeth were as long as swords, and his jaws were large enough to swallow an aurochs whole, or even one of the hairy mammoths that are said to roam the cold wastes beyond the Port of Ibben.
Balerion was named after the ancient god of the Valyrian Freehold. He was born in Valyria, and was one of the five dragons Aenar Targaryen brought with him when he fled to Dragonstone to survive the Doom of Valyria.
At some point, Lord Aegon Targaryen claimed Balerion. Aegon first rode Balerion, demonstrating that he was a dragonrider, some time before he married his sisters Visenya and Rhaenys. Aegon became involved in the wars in the Disputed Lands when Pentos and Tyrosh approached him, inviting him to join a grand alliance against Volantis, and he chose to heed their call. Mounting Balerion, he flew east to meet the Prince of Pentos and the magisters of the Free City, then flew to Lys in time to set ablaze a Volantene fleet trying to take the city.
Aegon the Conqueror
Aegon then turned west, to conquer the Seven Kingdoms. The first true test of Aegon's War of Conquest came from Lords Mooton and Darklyn, who had joined forces to push the invaders out. Orys Baratheon rode out to meet them, while Aegon, riding Balerion, descended on them from above. Both lords were killed in the battle.
Aegon then crossed the Blackwater to meet King Harren Hoare at Harrenhal. King Harren the Black took refuge in the formidable fortress of Harrenhal. Aegon gave him till sunset to surrender, but he did not yield. Aegon took Balerion high up and descended inside the castle walls, and put the castle to flame. Balerion's dragonfire burned so hot that the towers of Harrenhal went up like candles, melting and twisting into the shapes they retain to this day. King Harren and his sons all perished, ending the line of House Hoare.
Balerion was also deployed in the battle that became known as the Field of Fire, the only time in history that all three of the fabled Targaryen dragons took to the sky at the same time. Between Vhagar, Meraxes, and Balerion, four thousand men were burned to death. King Mern IX Gardener died, and with him House Gardener. The army was broken, and Aegon was victorious.
Aegon then headed to Highgarden, which yielded without a fight. When he heard word of King Torrhen Stark and the northmen marching south, he flew to meet them, calling his sisters and all bannermen to join him. Torrhen submitted the north to the rule of the Targaryens. Afterwards, Aegon headed south for the submission of Oldtown.
After Aegon's death, Balerion was claimed by his son Prince Maegor, who had long coveted his father's mount, and had not claimed another dragon because he considered all others unworthy. After Jonos Arryn imprisoned his brother Lord Ronnel and declared himself independent of the Iron Throne, Maegor rode the Black Dread to the Vale and put down his rebellion.
When Maegor was exiled to Pentos as punishment for his polygamous marriage, he took Balerion with him. After his brother King Aenys I died, Maegor flew back to Westeros on Balerion to claim the Iron Throne. In his reign as king, Maegor used Balerion to destroy the Sept of Remembrance, and in many other battles against the Faith Militant. In the Battle Beneath the Gods Eye, Maegor used Balerion to kill his nephew Prince Aegon and his dragon Quicksilver. After Maegor's death, Balerion returned to Dragonstone where he made his lair. 
Princess Aerea Targaryen disappeared from Dragonstone in 54 AC, it was discovered Balerion was gone too. It was known that Princess Aerea was miserable on Dragonstone and desired to leave, she even begged Queen Alysanne to take her to King's Landing with her, but Aerea's estranged mother forbid her from leaving the Island. Many suspect the wilful young girl decided to become a dragonrider so she could flee the Isle and go wherever she wished, but her mother was a dragon rider too, who rode Dreamfyre. Aerea feared her mother could force her to return, unless the Dragon she rode was stronger and more powerful than Dreamfyre, thus she choose to make Balerion her mount. 
Rhaena upon discovering her daughter missing flew Dreamfyre all over Westeros, but no trace of them was found. It was reasoned she must have fled to Essos. Jaehaerys I Targaryen sent expeditions to try and locate his niece. The Master of Coin, Rego Draz offered a reward for any information on her whereabouts, but none came forward that was credible. Many were puzzled by the lack of sightings, for Balerion was the largest living dragon in the World.
Balerion returned to King's Landing in 56 AC, descending into the courtyard of the Red Keep with the sickly and afflicted Princess Aerea barely clinging to him. At first no one recognised her, she was stick thin, what clothes left on her where nothing more than charred rags. Her hair a tangled mess, her eyes bloody, she trembled as she tried to take a step and could barely speak and only got a few words out before collapsing. The Princess was carried to Maester Benifer by Ser Lucamore Strong, Septon Barth aided the maester in trying to help the girl, but they're efforts failed.
Septon Barth believes that when Aerea became Balerion's rider, she lacked the iron will of Aegon or Maegor and could not control Balerion. Instead of asking where Aerea had taken Balerion, the question where Balerion took Aerea should have been asked. Barth believes Balerion returned to where he was born, Valyria. Balerion was the only Dragon living to have been born in Valyria before the Doom came , and was believed to have gone back to his birth place. Aerea was powerless to control him. Princess Aerea was infected by an insidious parasitic wrym while there. When she returned, it was if she was burning from within, she died in agony. Barth who witnessed her death was haunted by what the girl went through. 
Barth though was even more horrified when he noted Balerion bore scars he previously did not have, the dragon also had a huge jagged rent down his left side almost nine feet long, fresh blood still dripped from the wound, hot and smoking. Barth ponders what could have done that to a dragon as large and powerful as Balerion. After learning all this information from Barth, King Jaehaerys had Balerion secured in the Dragonpit and placed under guard. Jaehaerys also learning of his nieces fate and the "horrors" that infected her, declared that attempting to sail to Valyria was a crime punishable by death, and any ship that even "claimed" to have travelled to Valyrian Islands or that sailed the Smoking Sea was forbidden to dock in any port in Westeros. 
Along with eighteen other Targaryen dragon skulls, Balerion's skull hung on a wall in the Red Keep's throne room. After Robert's Rebellion, King Robert I Baratheon had the skulls removed from the throne room, and stored them in a dank cellar. In 284 AC, when Tyrion Lannister visited the capital for the wedding of his sister Cersei to Robert, he observed the skulls in the cellar, including Balerion's. In 298 AC, Arya Stark encountered the dragon skulls while passing through the Red Keep cellars.
There is a rather nice picture of Balerion the Black Dread, done in colored inks, in the book Dragonkin, Being a History of House Targaryen from Exile to Apotheosis, with a Consideration of the Life and Death of Dragons, written by Maester Thomax.
Balerion the Black Dread was two hundred years old when he died during the reign of Jaehaerys the Conciliator. He was so large he could swallow an aurochs whole. A dragon never stops growing, Your Grace, so long as he has food and freedom.
- While Balerion's exact age at the time of his death cannot be established, Barristan Selmy's estimation of two hundred years compared to the two hundred and twenty year minimum, implies Balerion was reasonably young upon arrival on Dragonstone
- See the Balerion calculation
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 12, Daenerys I.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aenys I.
- The Sons of the Dragon.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Jaehaerys I.
- The Rogue Prince.
- Not a Blog: The Rogues are Coming (March 12, 2014), Reply to question (March 12, 2014)
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 8, Daenerys I.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 13, Tyrion II.
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- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 5, Samwell I.