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Meet The Dragons That Give House Targaryen Its Banner

5 Minute Read
Apr 26 2024

A lot is made of dragons in the HBO shows – but there’s not much about where they come from or how House Targaryen obtains and trains them.

The tradition of raising and training dragons and dragon-riding came from the Valyrian Freeholds in ancient times when the beasts were plentiful. Dragons were used as weapons of war to help create their massive empire thousands of years before Aegon the Conqueror used them during his crusade to take Westeros.

The bones of one of those huge dragons were found by bloodriders dispatched by Daenerys to find the sea (in A Clash of Kings):

“Rakharo was the first to return. Due south the red waste stretched on and on, he reported, until it ended on a bleak shore beside the poison water. Between here and there lay only swirling sand, wind-scoured rocks, and plants bristly with sharp thorns. He had passed the bones of a dragon, he swore, so immense that he had ridden his horse through its great black jaws. Other than that, he had seen nothing.”

The Valyrian Empire

The Dragons and the Bees

The dragons of this universe have four limbs – their forelimbs are built into their wings like bats. Their scale color has no bearing on their character. Otherwise, they have the diet and characteristics of most dragons found in fantasy. Their size is stunted in captivity, and they can become huge in the wild, where they lived in cliff caves. As they age, their scales become stronger, their fire hotter, and their threat larger.

House Targaryen Aegon the Conqueror on Balerion
Aegon the Conqueror on Balerion by Jordi Gonzalez, via The World of Ice and Fire

The Targaryens claimed that dragons were born from a ring of volcanoes on the Valyrian peninsula called the Fourteen Flames. Barth (a Septon and historian) wrote a tome on the creatures. He posited that dragons were made by Valyrian bloodmages.

While the house and its ancestors were known for training, they didn’t know how the beasts actually reproduce. It was assumed that females produce eggs and males don’t, so they were gendered that way. Some of those involved in the process claimed that the creatures are gender fluid and reproduce at will. They’re dragons; they can do what they want.

House Targaryen did know how to hatch eggs, however. And they had plenty of money to keep them fed.

During the reign of Aegon the Conqueror, it became a custom to place a dragon’s egg in the cradle of newborn princes to bond the two. That bond will hopefully lead to the prince being a dragonrider, but it’s not guaranteed. Having Valyrian blood and chilling with an egg as a child doesn’t always lead to someone being a dragonrider. That’s up to the dragon.

House Targaryen Syrax and Rhaenyra
Syrax and Rhaenyra via HBO

The Dragons of House Targaryen

When Ancient Valyria was consumed by a volcano (The Doom), dragons were almost wiped out. The only survivors were five House Targaryen dragons residing on Dragonstone, which were moved there when the house left the Freehold. Four of those dragons died in the next century, leaving the giant Balerion and some eggs to keep the line going.


Balerion, aka the Black Dread, was the largest of the Targaryen dragons. His shadow blanketed entire towns, and his teeth were as long as swords with huge jaws to match. His first rider was King Aegon I Targaryen during the Conquest. After his victory, Aegon I used Balerion’s black fire to forge the Iron Throne. He also rode the beast across the newly founded Seven Kingdoms to keep everyone in line.

Balerion died at 200, and his black skull (due to the high amount of iron in his bones) was enshrined in the Red Keep. King Viserys I Targaryen was his last rider.

House Targaryen Balerion skull
Photograph by Ollie Upton, via HBO

OtherTargaryen Dragons

Vhagar and Meraxes came from the eggs brought to Dragonstone. They were the dragons of Queens Visenya and Rhaenys—King Aegon I Targaryen’s sister wives—who rode them during the conquest. At the start of Aegon’s takeover, the pair were sent to take and secure the nearest castles. Both were integral in the joining and conquest of the Seven Kingdoms.

Meraxes was an essential tool for getting House Stark to kneel to the new king diplomatically. Queen Rhaenys then tried to take Dorne in the same manner, which failed. Both the dragon and the queen were killed later during the first Dornish war. The dragon’s head was taken back to the Red Keep, and the rest of the bones were left behind. Their deaths resulted in her spouses burning Dornish strongholds to the ground.

via HBO

Vhagar was the dragon of Queen Visenya. Both survived the Conquest and the First Dornish War. The dragon provided the fire for Aegon I’s funeral pyre. After Visenya died, Vhagar went without a rider for nearly thirty years. Prince Baelon the Brave proved worthy to ride her, and they fought in battles for House Targaryen up until his death of old age.


Dragons in The House of the Dragon

Vhagar is still around during the Dance of the Dragons when the show takes place. Laena Velaryon – only daughter of Lord Corlys Velaryon and Princess Rhaenys Targaryen – claimed her when she was twelve. You can see her riding (alongside her mother) to King’s Landing for her cousin’s wedding in the latest episode.

So far, we’ve seen the following:

  • Vhagar ridden by Laena Velaryon
  • Meleys ridden by Rhaenys Targaryen
  • Caraxes (seen below) ridden by Daemon Targaryen
  • Syrax ridden by Rhaenyra Targaryen

I’m sure we’ll be seeing plenty of them in the upcoming season. Any dragon that was old enough and big enough to fight was used in the civil war.

House Targaryen caraxes
via HBOMax

The civil war that will be fought in Season Two of the show, as the Greens and the Blacks take to the skies.

Author: Mars Garrett
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