Balerion

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Balerion
Aegon on Balerion.jpg
Aegon the Conqueror rides atop Balerion, as depicted by Jordi Gonzalez Escamilla in The World of Ice & Fire.

Alias The Black Dread
Allegiance Aegon I Targaryen
Maegor I Targaryen
Aerea Targaryen
Viserys I Targaryen
Born In or ~several years before 126 BC[1][N 1], at Valyria
Died In 94 AC
Book(s) 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)
The Winds of Winter (mentioned)
Balerion in the War of Conquest ©HBO.

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.[2] Other known riders of Balerion were King Maegor I Targaryen,[3][4] Princess Aerea Targaryen[5] and King Viserys I Targaryen.[6][7]

Balerion died of old age[8] in 94 AC[6][7] during the reign of King Jaehaerys I Targaryen, around two hundred years old.[9]

Appearance

See also: Images of Balerion

Balerion's scales[2] and wings[10][11][12] were black, as was the fire he breathed.[2] Balerion's great gouts of black flame,[12] when he was in the fullness of his power, could melt steel and stone,[13] and fuse sand into glass.[14]

Balerion was the largest of all the Targaryen dragons since Aegon's Conquest. His wingspan was so large that his shadow could engulf entire towns when he passed overhead.[2] 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.[15] By 93 AC, Balerion had finally stopped growing. He had grown sluggish and heavy and was difficult to rouse. When Prince Viserys Targaryen claimed the dragon that year, the dragons struggled to take air. Prince Viserys believed the dragon no longer had the strength to fly from King's Landing to Dragonstone.[16]

Balerion was willful, and not a beast to trifle with.[17]

History

Origin

Balerion was named after the ancient god of the Valyrian Freehold.[2] 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.[18][11] After the other four of Aenar's dragons died, Balerion became the last creature to have seen the Freehold in its prime.

Aegon the Conqueror

Balerion was eventually claimed by Lord Aegon Targaryen, some time before he married his sisters Visenya and Rhaenys.[11] 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.[18][19]

Balerion and workers help forge the Iron Throne, as depicted by Donato Giancola.

Afterwards, Aegon turned his attention to conquering the Seven Kingdoms, during which he flew on Balerion. Aegon descended on Lords Mooton and Darklyn, killing both of them during Aegon's first test. Next, Aegon took Balerion to Harrenhal, where King Harren Hoare took refuge in his formidable fortress. When Hoare had not yielded by sunset, he 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.[11]

Aegon next rode Balerion in the Field of Fire, besides his sisters on Vhagar and Meraxes. Between the three dragons, four thousand men were burned to death, including King Mern IX Gardener, resulting in Targaryen victory.[15][11] When Aegon learned that King Torrhen Stark had crossed the Neck and was leading an army into the riverlands, he raced ahead of his army on Balerion to meet the threat. When the Targaryen host was encamped at one side of the Trident and the northern horst on the other side, Torrhen's bastard brother Brandon Snow offered to assassinate the sleeping dragons. Recalling the destruction the three dragons had caused on the Field of Fire, Torrhen instead submitted to Aegon.[11]

According to song, at the end of the war Balerion helped to forge the Iron Throne by melting the swords of Aegon's fallen enemies.[20]

Aegon later flew Balerion into battle during the First Dornish War, burning every Dornish stronghold (except Sunspear) at least once during the years of the Dragon's Wroth.[21]

Maegor I

King Maegor I Targaryen and Balerion burn the Sept of Remembrance, by Jordi Gonzalez for The World of Ice & Fire.

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.[4][3]

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 in the burning of 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.[22] After Maegor's death, Balerion returned to Dragonstone, where he made his lair.[17]

Princess Aerea

Balerion was claimed as a dragon by Princess Aerea Targaryen in late 54 AC. They disappeared and went missing for more than a year. King Jaehaerys I Targaryen sent expeditions to try and locate Balerion and the young princess, and the master of coin, Rego Draz, offered a reward for any information on their whereabouts, but none came forward that were credible. Balerion was the largest living dragon in the world, but there were no sightings of the dragon anywhere. Septon Barth believed that the lack of sightings suggested that Balerion was no longer in Westeros.[5]

Balerion returned to King's Landing in 56 AC, descending into the courtyard of the Red Keep with Aerea barely clinging to him. The princess was severely ill, and died soon after. Barth's accounts describe wounds and half-healed scars on Balerion. The dragon bore a huge jagged rent down his left side, almost nine feet long, and fresh blood still dripped from the wound, hot and smoking. Barth speculated that, when Aerea claimed Balerion, she was unable to bend the dragon to her will, and instead the dragon had taken her to the place he had been born, Valyria. Shortly thereafter, Balerion became the first dragon to be housed in the Dragonpit, where he was guarded by the Dragonkeepers.[17]

Further life

Balerion remained at the Dragonpit. Young Prince Baelon Targaryen smacked Balerion on his snout the first time the boy entered the Dragonpit.[17] When Princess Alyssa Targaryen came to the Dragonpit to claim a dragon of her own in 75 AC, the Dragonkeepers persuaded her not to try and claim Balerion, insisting that the dragon had become old and slow, suggesting to her that she would much more prefer a faster dragon.[16]

The last rider of Balerion was Prince Viserys Targaryen, who entered the Dragonpit to claim the dragon in 93 AC. Balerion was hard to rouse, and struggled when Viserys urged him into the sky. They flew around King's Landing three times, although Viserys later confided to his father that he had originally intended to fly Balerion to Dragonstone. However, fearing the dragon lacked the strength to do so, Viserys had opted otherwise.[16]

Balerion died in 94 AC,[7][6] less than a year after Viserys claimed him as his mount.[16]

Legacy

Arya Stark encounters the skull of Balerion the Black Dread, by Justin Sweet for The World of Ice & Fire.

Along with eighteen[15] other Targaryen dragon skulls, Balerion's skull hung on a wall in the Red Keep's throne room.[23][24] 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.[15] In 298 AC, Arya Stark encountered the dragon skulls while passing through the Red Keep cellars.[25][26]

In 299 AC, Daenerys Targaryen had the three ships sent to her by Illyrio Mopatis renamed Vhagar, Meraxes, and Balerion, to tell the world that the dragons had returned.[27]

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.[28]

Known riders

Quotes

The Conqueror's son had claimed a dragon at last, and none other than the Black Dread, the greatest of them all.[4]

His fire was as black as his scales, his wings so vast that whole towns were swallowed up in their shadow when he passed overhead.[2]

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.[9]

The last living creature in all the world who saw Valyria in its glory.[17]

—Writings of Septon Barth

Notes

  1. 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

References

  1. See the Balerion calculation
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 12, Daenerys I.
  3. 3.0 3.1 The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aenys I.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 The Sons of the Dragon.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Fire & Blood, Birth, Death and Betrayal Under King Jaehaerys I.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Jaehaerys I.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 The Rogue Prince.
  8. Not a Blog: The Rogues are Coming (March 12, 2014), Reply to question (March 12, 2014)
  9. 9.0 9.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 8, Daenerys I.
  10. Fire & Blood, Aegon's Conquest.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 The World of Ice & Fire, The Reign of the Dragons: The Conquest.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Fire & Blood, The Sons of the Dragon.
  13. The Princess and the Queen.
  14. Fire & Blood, Reign of the Dragon - The Wars of Aegon I.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 13, Tyrion II.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 Fire & Blood, The Long Reign - Jaehaerys and Alysanne: Policy, Progeny, and Pain.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 Fire & Blood, Jaehaerys and Alysanne - Their Triumphs and Tragedies.
  18. 18.0 18.1 The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Doom of Valyria.
  19. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 14, Tyrion IV.
  20. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 43, Eddard XI.
  21. The World of Ice & Fire, Dorne: Dorne Against the Dragon.
  22. The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Maegor I.
  23. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 3, Daenerys I.
  24. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 12, Eddard II.
  25. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 32, Arya III.
  26. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 50, Arya IV.
  27. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 63, Daenerys V.
  28. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 5, Samwell I.