Dragons are by far the most beloved and recognized creatures in fantasy. Thanks to their very nebulous definition, nearly every culture around has at least one creature that can be considered a dragon. In modern times, the most recognized dragons on television come from HBO’s series based on the works of George R. R. Martin, Game of Thrones and its prequel, House of the Dragon.
In Martin’s works, dragons are massive beasts of a vaguely magical nature that are best known as the war mounts of the Valyrian Empire and the Targaryen kings of Westeros. Following a Targaryen civil war called The Dance of the Dragons, they went extinct but returned when Daenerys Targaryen (Emelia Clarke) hatched three eggs with blood magic. With season two of House of the Dragon coming this summer, and the Year of the Dragon upon us, it’s as good a time as any to look back on the best dragons the show has given thus far before watching the war that will end them.
Riders: Princess Rhaena Targaryen, Queen Helaena Targaryen
One of the few adult-sized dragons on the side of Aegon II (Ty Tennant and Tom Clynn-Carney), Dreamfyre has been with House Targaryen since the reign of its third king, Maegor the Cruel. She was originally ridden by Maegor’s niece and queen, Princess Rhaena, but spent most of her life on the other side of Westeros during her rider’s self-imposed exile. When Rhaena died, Dreamfyre remained riderless until she bonded with Helaena Targaryen (Evie Allen and Phia Saban), Aegon II’s sister and queen.
While Dreamfyre hasn’t done much in the show yet, she has had a lot of impact on the lore of Westeros. The egg that Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) stole to get his brother’s attention was laid by Dreamfyre, and there are theories that she laid the eggs that would eventually hatch Daenerys’ three dragons. Though Helaena doesn’t ride her too often, they still have a bond, and should Dreamfyre be roused, her age and size make her a formidable opponent.
- Release Date
- August 21, 2022
- Ryan J. Condal, George R.R. Martin
Rider: Jon Snow
The second largest of Daenerys’ dragons, Rhaegal, was named after her eldest brother, Prince Rhaegar (Wilfred Scolding), who died fighting Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) at the Battle of the Trident. Identified by his green and bronze scales, Rhaegal is very much the middle child of the family, though he’s closer to his younger brother Viseryon than his elder, Drogon. In preparation for the battle against the Night King (Richard Brake and Vladimir Furdik), Daenerys allows Jon Snow (Kitt Harrington) to ride him.
Rhaegal is easily the most forgettable of the three dragons from Game of Thrones. Everything he does is in the companionship of a second or third dragon, which leaves him with few chances to do much. His actions in season eight sadly continue this trend: he is taken out of the Battle of Winterfell fairly quickly, and then gets killed in the next episode because Daenerys infamously “kind of forgot about the Iron Fleet“.
Rider: Princess Alyssa Targaryen, Princess Rhaenys Targaryen
Known as the Red Queen, Meleys was one of the oldest of the Targaryen’s second generation of dragons, born from their original three. She was originally ridden by Jaehaerys I’s (Michael Carter) daughter, Alyssa, before being claimed by the king’s eldest grandchild, Princess Rhaenys (Emily Best). Though she hasn’t seen battle, Meleys’ size more than makes up for this.
Meleys hasn’t had a lot of screentime yet, but what she does have has been memorable. She has one of the most striking designs of the adult dragons thus far, with her blood-red scales and the ring of spines around her head. She is also one of the dragons that pairs the best with her rider: she and Rhaenys are both older, dignified women who might not have partaken in many battles, but there is a great strength to them that should not be underestimated.
Rider: King Jaehaerys I Targaryen.
Called the Bronze Fury, Vermithor was the personal mount of King Jaehaerys I. Born early among the second-generation dragons, he mated with the dragon Silverwing, who was the dragon of Jahaerys’ queen, Alysanne. Following the death of the old king, Vermithor lived on Dragonstone without a rider and became more vicious and temperamental with age.
By the time of the Dance of the Dragon, Vermithor is over a hundred years old and is the second-largest dragon in Westeros under Vhagar. As the war between the blacks and the green becomes inevitable, Daemon descends into Vermithor’s lair and sings a song in Valyrian to prepare him for war. This introduction is the perfect way to introduce the Bronze Fury as the old, majestic, and powerful force that he is, which is perfect to get everyone excited about seeing him in action in season 2.
Rider: Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen
A gorgeous golden-green dragon, Syrax, was chosen as the mount of Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock and Emma D’Arcy). Despite her size, Syrax is another dragon who has not seen battle, and rarely even goes out to hunt. However, she has accompanied Rhaenyra on numerous important missions, from stopping Daemon from selling a dragon egg to asserting Rhaenyra’s position as Queen of Westeros.
As Rhaenyra gets older and has to focus more on her duties as a ruler, Syrax appears more and more infrequently. Nevertheless, they maintain a good connection, to the point where Syrax can feel her labour pains, and lays eggs of her own, giving the two a bond through motherhood. Her design is also quite beautiful, with a more rounded face than the other dragons, which makes her look fierce but also more matronly.
Rider: The Night King
The smallest of Daenerys’ dragons, Viserion, is perhaps the most beautiful to look at, with gold and cream-colored scales. Named after her hot-tempered brother, Viserys (Harry Lloyd), he is perhaps the calmest of the three, though he is still able to turn violent if necessary. While rescuing Jon Snow and his team, who had gone north of the wall to collect a wight, Viserion is struck down by the Night King, who reanimates his corpse as his mount.
Much like Rhaegar, Viserion didn’t have much to define him during Game of Thrones’ early seasons, but his death and resurrection offered something interesting and unique in the show’s final seasons. For the first time, Daenerys wasn’t the only power to have a dragon, and his fire was used to bring down the wall and allow the Night King to invade. Plus, seeing Viserion in battle as a wight was rather gruesome: unhindered by fear or pain, he fights ferociously and without care to his being, even after getting half of his face ripped off.
Riders: King Aegon I “The Conquerer” Targaryen, King Maegor “the Cruel” Targaryen, Princess Area Targaryen, and King Viserys I Targaryen
The oldest of all the Targaryen dragons, Balerion is the only dragon known to Westeros who had seen the Valyrian Empire before its destruction. By the time Aegon I was ready to unite Westeros under his rulership, Balerion had grown to a formidable size, earning him the nickname “The Black Dread”. When he died during the reign of King Jaehaerys I, he was over two hundred years old.
Although Balerion died long before both shows aired, his legacy is still felt by the world. His fire melted the swords of Aegon’s enemies into the much coveted Iron Throne, and he alone destroyed Harrenhal, Westeros’ most formidable fortress, which has since become a cursed ruin prone to tragedy. Even his skull has incredible thematic relevance as a reminder of the potential power of dragons and the sad reality that everything must end eventually.
Riders: Queen Visenya Targaryen, Prince Baelon Targaryen, Laena Velaryon, Prince Aemond Targaryen
During Aegon’s conquest, Vhagar was initially the smallest of the three dragons ridden by Aegon I and his sister wives. However, she was no less formidable in battle and fought in dozens of wars across Westeros. By the time of the Dance of the Dragons, Vhagar was the largest and oldest of the Targaryen dragons, matching the size of Balerion during the conquest.
Vhagar’s advanced age has done little to slow down her combat effectiveness. Though she didn’t get many chances to show her effectiveness in combat in season 1, the ending chase between her and the much younger Arrax gave a taste of the destruction that she will bring in season 2. The CGI animators do a phenomenal job of capturing her size and power, especially when she flies alongside her fellow dragons.
Riders: Prince Aemon Targaryen, Prince Daemon Targaryen
From a young age, Caraxes was considered a vicious and cunning dragon, which earned him the title of Blood Wyrm. He was initially claimed by Jaehaerys I’s eldest son and Rhaenys’ father, Prince Aemon, until he was killed fighting against Dorne. He was later claimed by Aemon’s nephew, Daemon, who rode him into many battles, giving Caraxes enough combat experience to rival Vhagar.
House of the Dragon went all out in depicting the Blood Wyrm, giving him a unique design with a long, serpentine neck and wing membranes on his legs. His personality is also a good reflection of Daemon’s: he is wild, fierce, and always ready for a fight. He’s also rather protective of his rider, being quick to get him away from a battle when he’s injured.
Rider: Queen Daenerys Targaryen
The first and largest of Daenerys’ dragons, Drogon, is named after her first husband, the Dothraki Khal, Drogo (Jason Momoa). Befitting his red and black coloring, he is the dragon who develops the strongest bond with Daenerys. It’s a rocky relationship with lots of moments of abandonment, but he eventually calms down enough to let her ride him into battle.
Drogon is the most iconic dragon from Game of Thrones, thanks in no small part to getting the most screentime. In many ways, he embodies everything Martin wanted from his dragons: a destructive and magical force that can never fully be tamed and reflects the irresponsible ways man tries to harness nature to their will. His rocky relationship with Daenerys was also very interesting in the early seasons regarding how much control she had over him, only for it to sadly be discarded in the show’s final seasons.
Game Of Thrones
- Release Date
- April 17, 2011
- David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
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