Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for the book Fire & Blood by George R. R. Martin.
The Big Picture
- House of The Dragon is generous with its depiction of dragons, showcasing their majestic and terrifying qualities, so far the show has shown off dragons like Vhagar, Syrax, and Caraxes.
- Wild dragons are a rare category that have not yet been introduced in the show yet, but they play a crucial role in the books.
- The Cannibal, the most terrifying dragon, exhibits cannibalistic tendencies, adding a primeval evil and repulsive element to its character.
HBO’s House of The Dragon has been more than generous with its depiction of dragons, providing us with the glimpses of about a dozen or so dragons, all of them fleshed out with distinguished looks and traits. And if the second season intends to remain loyal to its source material, we’ll probably be gifted with even more dragons. And dragons are definitely a gift from the show. Majestic, mythical creatures, digitally manifested from our most ancient fantasies. As awe-inspiring as the creatures might be, though, they are also incredibly terrifying. Their time-hardened scales, fuming nostrils, and razor-sharp fangs make dragons a beast to be admired from afar. And though House of the Dragon has introduced us to its biggest dragon, Vhagar, we have yet to meet the show’s most terrifying dragon, which is a wild dragon named Cannibal.
What Are the Wild Dragons in Dance of the Dragon?
Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon have introduced us to a large variety of dragons, differing in scale and temperament. But there is one category of dragon we are yet to witness on screen, and that’s the wild dragons. As the name suggests, a wild dragon is essentially a dragon who has reached adulthood without ever forming a bond with a rider. They live their lives in the wild, unbeholden to any commands from humans and unwilling to form a bond with them. In the world of Westeros, wild dragons are much rarer than the castle dragons we’re familiar with since most of the Targaryen kids bond with the dragon hatchlings as babies, and thus the dragons become receptive to human bond.
The precise reason why some dragons don’t bond with humans and turn wild is up for speculation, but the mere existence of such creatures suggests that not all dragons are meant to be ridden. Though they are yet to be mentioned in the show, an attempt to tame and use these dragons is a crucial storyline in the books, and will most likely be integrated in the second season. In the beginning of Dance of the Dragons, there are three wild dragons roaming around Dragonstone: Sheepstealer, Grey Ghost and Cannibal. Sheepstealer got his name for his love for mutton which often tempted him to steal sheep from around Dragonstone to Driftmark. Grey Ghost was a small, slender dragon with a gray-white skin allowing him to hide within the clouds and mist. And finally, Cannibal was a large black-scaled dragon with mystical green eyes who was known to consume the flesh of his own kind.
Who Is the Cannibal?
While all dragons are monstrous and terrifying to look at, there are a few that inspire as much fear as The Cannibal. In the books, Prince Jacaerys called upon all the dragonseeds (Targaryen and Velaryon bastards and their descendants) to tame the wild dragons and help them win the war against the Greens. In response, many dragon seeds came forward, volunteering to attempt to tame Sheepstealer and Grey Ghost, but none were brave, or rather foolish enough to enter the Cannibal’s lair, since prior to the Dance of the Dragon, the Cannibal’s liar was already littered with bones of those who attempted to ride him.
The Cannibal’s precise age is unknown, but it’s reported that he’s much older and larger than the other wild dragons. Sheepstealer hatched out from his egg when King Jaehaerys I was still very young, which would make Sheepstealer at least 80, if not older. Since the Cannibal is older than Sheepstealer, he would probably be nearing 100, making him older than most of the dragons alive during the Dance. While dragons are known to be hostile creatures in general, the Cannibal was a different kind of beast altogether. His aggression towards humans, while hostile, was understandable given his feral nature. But what sets him disturbingly apart from the rest of the dragons in House of the Dragon is the fact that he was known to consume his own kind, devouring dead dragons, stalking those younger than him, and even feasting on newborn dragon babies and dragon eggs.
What Makes the Cannibal the Most Terrifying Dragon?
It’s one thing to lash out in anger and kill a fellow dragon, but the Cannibal’s actions imply that he actually enjoys feeding on the members of his species. And there’s a different dimension of horror to be found in such a concept of cannibalism. It feels primevally evil and repulsive. And it feels unsettlingly deranged as you can’t help but wonder the disturbing level of detachment someone needs from its species to eat its own kind. The dragon’s cannibalistic tendencies make the Cannibal feel like a foe you wouldn’t ever want to meet on the battlefield.
There’s very little that’s known about the Cannibal since men who came close to him never survived long to tell the tale. The Cannibal was seen scarcely before or during the Targaryen civil war, and after the Dance ended he disappeared entirely. This knowledge gap combined with the Cannibal’s unexplainable behavior created a weighty vacuum around which strange tales often spin and orbit. One such legend within the lore claims that the Cannibal lived in Dragonstone before Aegon the Conqueror and his dragons first arrived in Westeros, and that the Cannibal belonged to a different lineage of dragons than that of Aegon’s. This goes on to explain why the Cannibal was unable to bond with Targaryens and was hostile to other dragons because he never belonged to their family. While the theory hammers down the Cannibal’s erratic behavior into a neatly explainable box, it hasn’t been confirmed yet. And most maesters doubt the theory since the Cannibal had to be at least 240 years old to justify the claim, which is older than any dragon we’ve seen in the Song of Ice and Fire.
Nevertheless, since the Cannibal’s death was never confirmed, and his body never found, some believe he’s still alive and wreaking havoc elsewhere. But that doesn’t matter because the Cannibal is more powerful as a metaphor than he is as a character, with its black scales and green eyes representing the two opposing factions of the war. The Targaryen civil war weakened the house from within as family fought one another to death. When the war finally ended, it left the house weaker than ever before, eventually setting stage for their downfall later in the future. And it’s this cannibalistic nature of house Targaryen that’s represented so elegantly by the terrifying dragon. So, it’s befitting that the Cannibal disappeared after the Dance, since the civil war resulted in the death of almost all the original members of the family, there was no one left to cannibalize.
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