Dragons are massive, flying reptiles that can breathe fire. They are rumoured to have a strong connection to magic, which seems to be proven true when magic begins to return to the world after the birth of the first three in over two hundred years. Dragons possess awesome and devastating power, capable of laying waste to armies and burning entire cities to ashes. Men who were able to tame and ride dragons as beasts of war used them in battle and to forge vast empires across the continents of Essos and Westeros. The greatest of these empires was the Valyrian Freehold forged by the Valyrian dragon lords.
Aegon I Targaryen and his sisters used the last three surviving dragons in the world to conquer and unify the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. For generations, the dragon-kings ruled over much of Westeros – but the dragons eventually died out after nearly a century and a half, and the species was subsequently considered to be extinct.
At the same time that the War of the Five Kings began in Westeros, Daenerys Targaryen was in possession of three petrified dragons eggs. They were given to her as a wedding gift, beautiful to look upon and valuable beyond comprehension, but otherwise useless. However, in a shocking display of old magic, Daenerys miraculously hatched the eggs and for the first time in generations dragons filled the skies.
Dragons have long serpentine bodies, with proportionately long necks and tails. Their bodies have four limbs: two short back legs and two large wings as forelimbs, a body-plan similar to a bat. In later generations, after the dragons went extinct, physical descriptions of dragons became so confused in memory that artwork sometimes depicted them as having six limbs – two wings growing out of their backs in addition to four legs – but this is inaccurate, at least in Westeros a legend. The teeth and claws of adult dragons are as long and sharp as swords.
Dragons are covered in scales, as well as spines that run down their backs from head to tail. Particularly large ridges of horns frame the edges of their faces, running along the back of the skull and along the jawline, which grow bigger as they mature. Adult dragons possess two sets of frills that run along the backs of their necks and spine, two along the sides of their necks and another two centred closer to the backbone, for a total of four frills. These are formed from webbing that grows between longer spines. When dragons are agitated (or simply excited), they raise and flare these frills – similar to how a furry animal like a cat will raise the hackles on its back when agitated (or a feathered animal such as a goose will puff up its feathers), in an attempt to appear bigger so as to intimidate its enemies.
Dragons are also shown to have a variety of calls, from shrieking roars to low growls or hisses. They can even squeal.
Dragons are obligate carnivores, with diets consisting entirely of meat. Dragons need to roast their prey with their fire-breath before consuming it – the only animals apart from humans who prefer cooked meat. Dragons can eat almost any kind of meat, anything from sheep to fish. Historical dragons ridden as beasts of war were known to eat fallen horses and even men on the battlefield. Fully grown dragons could swallow a live horse whole.
The scale colour of dragons is highly variable, and historical dragons ranged in colour from black to silver, red, gold, and even blue. Some dragons were one solid colour throughout, but more often, they tend to have one primary colour for most of their body, with highlights in a secondary colour along their spinal crests, horns, and wing membranes. Confirmed markings observed so far include:
- Black with red markings
- Green with bronze markings
- Cream with gold markings
In addition to the various scales hues observed between specimens, dragons also displayed eyes colour variations. Dragons being reptiles, they had vertical slit pupils with large coloured irises. Drogon and Rhaegal have red eyes while their brother, Viserion, had green eyes before becoming a Wight.
Probably the most famous attribute of dragons is their ability to breathe fire. Dragon flame can turn flesh to ash, melt steel, and crack stone. Older dragons can produce more intense flame for longer duration. The bodies of dragons are also very resistant to fire, particularly their own flames, which will not damage their own mouths as they expel them. Some believe that in many ways dragons are fire, fire given form as flesh: it is said that “fire cannot kill a dragon”.
Dragons seem to produce their fire-breath by expelling chemicals out of two tubes either side of their mouths: when these volatile substances combine, they undergo an intense reaction which bursts into a directed jet of fire. Later in the series this idea seemed to be abandoned. There are several shots where fire is seen emanating from the dragon’s throats not out of the tubes in their mouth. During the Battle of Winterfell, flames leak from the neck of the undead Viserion after he suffers injuries from his brother Rhaegal.
Like most reptiles, dragons lay clutches of eggs. Dragon eggs are roughly the size of a human child’s head, and as heavy as stone, so they need to be carried with two hands. The outer shell is covered in scales, with vastly different colour patterns between eggs, usually matching the colour of the dragon inside. Dragon eggs are notoriously difficult to hatch, though they can maintain the spark of life inside of them for decades if not centuries. The secret key to hatching the eggs seems to involve some form of blood magic: as the house words of the Targaryens hint, it requires “fire and blood”. To hatch them, dragon eggs must be burned in roaring flames, with which another creature is simultaneously being burned alive – a life in exchange for a life. In the wild this might just be a prey animal that the parent dragon kills, but human sacrifice will do the trick quite nicely, particularly if there is more than one egg to hatch.
The exact details of dragon reproduction fell out of living memory in the nearly two centuries since they died out. Several conflicting theories and rumours have been circulated, some less grounded in fact than others. It is unclear if the mother guarded eggs she had laid, or simply left them to hatch and fend for themselves, or if the father aided the mother in caring for them. Dragons were apparently relatively solitary creatures, though it is unknown if any hierarchical relationships formed within groups of dragons.
Dragons, like birds, tend to imprint on whoever is present when they hatch, regarding that person as their parent.
Newly hatched dragons are about the size of a small cat, but they grow very rapidly, reaching the size of a small dog in about one year, and the size of a small pony in only three or four years. It is unknown at what age dragons reach reproductive maturity. Dragons never stop growing as long as they live, and they can live for centuries, though many died in combat before reaching such an age. The largest Targaryen dragon, Balerion the Black Dread, lived for nearly two centuries and had a skull the size of a carriage.
However, if dragons are chained or confined into an enclosed space for long periods of time it can hinder their growth and their overall size. Rhaegal and Viserion who hatched at the same time than Drogon were considerably smaller than their sibling, around half his size after being locked under Meereen’s great pyramid for almost two years at an early stage of their development.
When dragons hatch, they do have horns around their faces and along their spines, but they are still quite small and relatively rounded. Their horns grow increasingly longer and sharper as they mature, quickly making the dragon appear more dangerous and menacing to prey or other dragons. The four lines of webbed frills along a dragon’s spine only grow to a prominent size after they are about a year old. The bigger the dragon is, the bigger its appetite.
When a dragon reaches adolescence, roughly when they are the size of a pony, they tend to be rebellious to a degree, much like how human teenagers are, even snarling at their imprinted parent. However, as they mature, this trait disappears.
Training and riding
Dragons cannot be truly “tamed”, but they can be bonded with and trained. The Valyrians rode dragons for millennia. Aegon I Targaryen and his sister-wives, who descended from Old Valyria, used the last three dragons in the world to conquer and unify the Seven Kingdoms.
Dragons are fairly intelligent animals, and like a horse or a dog, they can be trained by their rider to respond to basic voice commands. Tyrion Lannister claims that dragons are intelligent, much more so than most people and will quickly recognise friend from foe. If they are not trained they will quickly lay waste to anything around them. The key to training dragons is making sure they are well fed, a dragon with a full stomach is more obedient.
Since they cannot be truly tamed, dragons can be very dangerous even to their riders. However, they can form very strong bonds with their riders and will show affection and trust towards them. They will even nuzzle their riders, hoping to be petted.
Daenerys Targaryen has trained her three dragons to respond to vocal commands in her mother tongue of High Valyrian. She often uses the command “Dracarys”, to which her dragons respond by instantly breathing fire and burning anything in their path.
The first known dragons were mentioned to have their lairs in the Fourteen Fires, a chain of volcanoes across the neck of the Valyrian Peninsula. The Valyrians, then peaceful shepherds, tamed the dragons with magic, even learned how to master and ride them as beasts of war. Thus they began expanding their influence from the Peninsula to the rest of their continent. The dragons gave the decisive victory in the Ghiscari Wars during which the Old Ghis is burned to ashed by dragon fire, and the ever-expanding Valyrian Freehold replaced the Ghiscari Empire as the dominant culture of Essos. The Rhoynar under Nymeria fled to Dorne having no chance against the Valyrian dragons.
Four hundred years before the War of the Five Kings, the entire Valyrian empire was destroyed in a single day, during a cataclysmic volcanic eruption known as the Doom of Valyria. Most dragons, still lairing in the volcanoes, were killed outright. One Valyrian noble family, the Targaryens, survived the Doom on the distant island outpost of Dragon stone in the Narrow Sea – along with the last surviving Valyrian dragons.
The last surviving dragons in the world were possessed by House Targaryen, the last Valyrians after the Cataclysm, who used them to conquer and unify the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros three hundred years before the War of the Five Kings. Most of the Targaryen dragons died in a civil strife known as Dance of the Dragons about a century and a half later, and after that, the only dragons the Targaryens had were the size of cats. Soon after the civil war ended, the last Targaryen dragons died, and the species was considered to be extinct throughout the world.
In the series the dragon species is established as having been extinct for many years. The only thing left of the race are petrified dragon eggs, which are used as decoration, and the bones which are used for weapon crafting. According to one legend, dragons originated from a second moon that hatched when it drifted too close to the sun. This is mostly dismissed as a simple myth.
They remain the sigil of House Targaryen, who were known to have a special affinity with the creatures. Even Daenerys Targaryen who knows nothing of her true heritage feels a connection with the relics of the ancient animals. She appears to feel a connection with the eggs; causing her to develop a curiosity about the race and the possibility that there may still be living dragons.
Daenerys is given three petrified dragon eggs as a gift for her wedding to Khal Drogo. The three eggs are black, green, and gold.
Daenerys begins caring for the eggs as they become richer in colour. She keeps them in a chest surrounded by candles, day and night as she is drawn to them.
Arya stumbles upon the massive skull of one of the Targaryen dragons while chasing a cat in the vaults. She hides in the mouth of the skull and overhears the plotting of Illyrio and Varys.
Daenerys continues to experiment with her eggs. She briefly places one of the eggs into a fire pit in an attempt to hatch it, but the egg remains unhatched. She removes the egg from the fire with her bare hands, but remains unhurt.
Daenerys Targaryen places the eggs on the funeral pyre of her husband after smothering him with a pillow. She also straps the witch Mirri Maz Duur to the pyre. She then lights the pyre, and walks into it, with all her followers believing her to have burned alive. In the morning however, she is found with three dragons, a green dragon in her arms, a black dragon clinging on her shoulder and a white-peach coloured dragon clinging on her leg. A moment later, the black dragon screeches and flaps his wings.
Daenerys tries unsuccessfully to feed her dragons raw meat, unsure of what she is doing wrong. Later, in Qarth, she realises that they will only eat cooked meat. She coaxes them into recognising the Valyrian command, “Dracarys,” to breathe fire, so they can cook their own food.
During her stay in Qarth, word of the dragons’ return begins to travel to other parts of Essos; the rumours are eventually picked up by Varys, who mentions them to Tyrion Lannister. Tyrion is more concerned with the impending Battle of the Blackwater than with newly hatched dragons on the other side of the world.
The dragons are later stolen by the warlocks of Qarth and hidden in the House of the Undying. The warlocks and Xaro Xhoan Daxos carry out a coup to seize control of the city in the wake of the theft. Pyat Pree invites Daenerys to come to the House of the Undying and be reunited with her ‘babies’.
Once Daenerys is inside the citadel she is enthralled by two specific illusions: the Iron Throne room with a destroyed roof and snow falling in and the illusion of her dead husband and child. The sound of the crying dragons pulls Daenerys out of the temptation to stay in either illusion. Continuing her search for her dragons she finds them all chained beside each other, and they scream with excitement when she nears them. Daenerys goes to them, only to find herself chained as well. With her arms stretched to either side of her she becomes a captive. However with a bit of a twisted smile, Daenerys speaks the High Valyrian word for fire, and Drogon first answers her call, but isn’t very effective by himself. However, both Rhaegal and Viserion then join in, setting Pyat Pree ablaze.
Daenerys arrives with her dragons in Slaver’s Bay, hoping to acquire an army of Unsullied. With nothing else to pay the slave-masters, she offers them her largest dragon, Drogon, in exchange for all eight thousand of their Unsullied soldiers. However, the deal is a ruse; after slave master Kraznys mo Nakloz gives her the whip signifying ownership of the Unsullied army, the dragon remains loyal to her. Revealing to everyone that she speaks Valyrian fluently, she orders her new army to slay all of the slave-masters within the city. Daenerys then commands Drogon to attack Kraznys; the slave master is consumed in a powerful jet of Drogon’s fire-breath. Drogon and the other dragons then provide air support for the Unsullied as they sack Astapor, burning more of the slave-masters and their personal guards. Afterwards, Daenerys’s new army triumphantly leaves Astapor marching in formation, with her three dragons flying above.
When Daenerys besieges Yunkai next, she keeps her three dragons in her tent when she receives the Yunkish ambassador Razdal mo Eraz, in order to intimidate him. At one point she casually throws a piece of meat to them and they playfully fight over it, much to Razdal’s consternation. Daenerys ultimately rejects Razdal’s offer to leave Yunkai alone in exchange for a gift of gold, but chooses to keep the gold anyway. When Razdal’s slaves attempt to retrieve it the dragons scare them away. After Razdal threatens Daenerys the dragons grew more agitated; Daenerys points out that he had threatened their “mother”, and while she had promised him safe passage as an ambassador, her dragons did not. Razdal leaves in frustration.
Daenerys ultimately decides not to risk endangering her young dragons again by deploying them against Yunkai, but sends in an infiltration mission consisting of Daario Naharis, Jorah Mormont, and the Unsullied commander Grey Worm. After fighting their way through the city they free the slaves and start a general uprising. When the Yunkish leaders surrender and allow their two hundred thousand slaves to leave the city, they are received by Daenerys and her army as her dragons circle overhead.
During her journey to Meereen, Daenerys’s dragons have grown larger than they were before, feasting on a dead sheep. While scuffling over the carcass, Daenerys attempted to calm Drogon down, but the black dragon snapped at his mother due to his state in a feeding frenzy. Jorah then reminded Daenerys that dragons can never be tamed, not even by their own mother.
After Daenerys claimed Meereen as its queen, Drogon continues to hunt for their food independently, burning and killing livestock of farmers that live around the Meereenese region. Seeing that her children have grown wild and reckless, Daenerys decided to lock two of her three dragons, Viserion and Rhaegal, within the Great Pyramid, while the third and largest one, Drogon, was nowhere to be found.
Daenerys visits Rhaegal and Viserion after not seeing them for weeks. She soon sees they have grown larger and more aggressive than they were before. Realising that her own children have turned against her, Daenerys has no choice but to keep her distance from them. When Ser Barristan Selmy was murdered by the Sons of the Harpy, Daenerys feed one of the Great Masters to her dragons to make an example of what happens when someone defies her rule.
When the Sons of the Harpy attempted to assassinate Daenerys during the Great Games at the Daznak’s Pit, Drogon flew in to protect his mother. Despite being injured, the black dragon managed to kill many Sons of the Harpy by tearing some with his teeth, crushing others under his feet and burning the rest with his flames. Daenerys then mounts him, speaks a single word to him “valahd” and he takes flight, making Daenerys the first dragon rider in over a century.
At the Great Pyramid in Meereen, Tyrion, Varys, Grey Worm and Missandei discuss the two remaining dragons locked beneath their feet. Grey Worm reports the dragons aren’t eating, Tyrion proclaims it’s because Dragons don’t do well in captivity. He talks of their intelligence and how the Targaryens raised and locked up their dragons, leading to their extinction. He and Varys visit the dragons, claiming he’s a friend of their mother, and releases them from their collars.
When the Red Priestess Kinvara comes to Meereen from Volantis, she notes to Tyrion and Varys that Daenerys’s dragons are gifts from the Lord of Light, and they can burn the sins for those who have lack of faith in the Targaryen queen.
While Daenerys’s khalasar are riding to Meereen, she reunites with Drogon, who has grown about double in size. She rode on his back to further demonstrate her leadership strength to the Dothraki. Afterward, Drogon flies Daenerys back to Meereen, which is being attacked by the Masters.
When Daenerys refuses to surrender Meereen to the Masters, Drogon lands right by her side before allowing her to ride on his back. After the pair take flight, Rhaegal and Viserion break out of the Great Pyramid to join their mother and brother in burning a few of the Masters’ ships with dragon fire.
After the Second Siege of Meereen was won and the war over the Liberation of Slaver’s Bay ended, the three Dragons fly west alongside Daenerys’s newly acquired armada towards Westeros.
Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion fly ahead of their mother as she lands on Dragon stone. They investigate the island as Daenerys enters and secures the castle.
After meeting with the lords of Westeros, Queen Cersei ventures into the vaults with Qyburn to see his “solution” for dealing with Daenerys’s dragons. They pass several smaller dragon skulls before reaching the largest skull in the vaults, that of Balerion the Black Dread (King Aegon the Conqueror’s dragon). Qyburn directs Cersei to a ballista (named a “scorpion”) and reassures her that they can hurt dragons having heard about the spears that pierced Drogon’s hide in Meereen. Cersei tests the ballista on the skull of Balerion and is pleased when the bolt pierces the massive, hard skull.
For the first time, Daenerys rides the full-grown Drogon into battle at the Battle of the Goldroad. Also, Qyburn’s scorpion is used for the first time, by Bronn, and is proven to pierce the hide of a dragon. However, Bronn only manages to shoot Drogon’s shoulder, and doesn’t do enough significant damage to mortally wound him.
The dragons accompany Daenerys as they attempt to rescue Jon Snow from the White Walkers and the army of the dead at the Wight Hunt beyond the Wall. Rhaegal and Viserion burn and destroy hundreds of wights while Jon and his party mount Drogon with Daenerys. Not long after they arrive, however, the Night King is given an ice spear by another one of his Walker lieutenants, who then hurls it at Viserion, piercing straight through his neck in a fiery and bloody blast, fatally wounding him. The helpless dragon shrieks in agony as he drops like a stone, crashing through the frozen lake and sinking beneath the surface.
Later, the White Walkers have their wights haul Viserion’s body out of the frozen lake, after which the Night King reanimates the corpse of the fallen dragon. With Viserion as his mount, the Night King leads his army to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea and breaches the wall by having Viserion destroy a large section of it with fire, allowing his army to pass into the Seven Kingdoms.
Drogon and Rhaegal accompany their mother on their journey to Winterfell. Their presence both awe and terrify the Northmen. The two dragons don’t really like the North and have not been eating a lot since their arrival. Rhaegal allows Jon to ride him as they fly together alongside Daenerys and Drogon.
When the army of the dead arrives at Winterfell, Jon and Daenerys fly the dragons and order them to burn as many wights as possible in the Battle of Winterfell. They then give chase before battling the Night King and the undead Viserion. Both dragons sustain injuries throughout the battle, but they manage to survive.
With the Night King and his army destroyed, the dragons fly back to Dragon stone as Daenerys resume her campaign to take the Iron Throne. Upon arriving on the island, Euron and his Iron Fleet ambushes them with scorpion bolts, hitting Rhaegal three times before killing him, leaving Drogon the only living dragon in the world.
Daenerys utilises Drogon effectively in the Battle of King’s Landing by burning ships, scorpions, people, and buildings, turning the city into a massive inferno and allowing Daenerys to win her war. When Jon reluctantly assassinates Daenerys, Drogon is overwhelmed with anguish. Drogon then proceeds to burn the Iron Throne until it is nothing but a puddle of molten slag. When he is finished, he carries Daenerys’s lifeless body in his talons before flying off across the Narrow Sea, never to be seen again.