“Dragons... the grief and glory of my house, they were.” – Aemon Targaryen
As the maester of Castle Black correctly noted, entire dynasties and civilizations in the Game of Thrones universe rose and fell on the backs of dragons. Their mysterious and august powers lifted some families to prominence, and burned others to smoldering ash. As you’d expect of George R. R. Martin and Game of Thrones, dragons have a long and complex history that exists far beyond the reaches of the television show.
Their influence in the realm stretches far back beyond any of the dynasties that currently feud for the Iron Throne. However, despite their long and influential reign, their extinction 150 years before the events of Game of Thrones means that dragons remain shrouded in mystery.
One thing any fan of the books or TV show knows for sure? With Daenerys setting up camp at Dragonstone and dragons returning to Westeros for the first time in over a century, dragons are set to make an indelible mark on the Seven Kingdoms once again. To prepare for the dragon onslaught, let's take a look at some dragon facts and figures. Tyrion Lannister would love to get his hands on this.
And, of course, SPOILERS AHEAD for the entire extended Game of Thrones universe.
Hatching A Dragon Requires "Fire And Blood"
Hatching a dragon egg is not for the faint of heart. The dragon-wrangling Targaryens have the steps to the process right in their house words: fire and blood. Hatching a dragon requires a certain degree of magic not usually available in "modern" Westeros. One must place the egg in a fire, along with another living creature. Daenerys Targaryen did just that when she placed her dragon’s eggs in Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre, along with the screaming witch Mirri Max Duur. Daenerys walked into the pyre, and came out with three baby dragons.
As we can see with Daenerys' scaly children, dragons are roughly the size of cats when first hatched. They seem to form a bond with whomever they first see upon hatching and imprint with them for life.
Dragons Do, In Fact, Have Weaknesses
It may be hard to kill a dragon, but it’s not impossible. There are, in fact, a few things that can bring down a full-grown dragon. According to Tyrion Lannister, the most vulnerable part of a dragon is its eye. If an enemy can send an arrow or other sharp object deep enough into a dragon’s eye - perhaps propelled by a giant crossbow - it will puncture the brain and kill the dragon.
Dragon-on-dragon combat can also result in death. As a dragon matures, its scales become stronger and tougher. This means a more mature dragon might be able to bite and claw its way through the scales of a younger, weaker dragon. Dragons are also not immune to poison or sustained punctures by sharp objects, such as arrows and spears.
Because of their strength and relative impenetrability, dragons have always been considered a precious resource. They are also expensive to care for and train, and it can be immeasurably harmful to military strategy if they die. For all these reasons, leaders are cautious about deploying them. Despite his access to three powerful dragons, Aegon the Conqueror utilized all of his beasts at once in only one battle – the one that cemented his claim on Westeros – the aptly named Field of Fire.
Dragons Breathe Fire By Combining Volatile Chemicals
Fire-breathing is by far a dragon’s most famous (or infamous, depending on your allegiance) attribute. It's commonly accepted that dragons expel fire by ejecting two flammable chemicals from tubes in their throats. These chemicals react with one another, and form a jet of dragon fire.
A dragon’s scales protect it from fire and, as a dragon gets older, the scales get stronger and more fire-retardant. As a dragon matures, its fire also becomes more powerful and deadly, able to melt stone and, in some cases, steel.
Dragons Can Be Trained, But Never Tamed
Throughout their known history, dragons have proven to be an intelligent, but temperamental species. They respond to vocal commands, allow riders to mount them, and can form strong emotional bonds with said rider. In fact, dragons maintain an allegiance to the same rider as long as that person is alive.
During that time, the dragon seems to forge a magical connection with their rider, sensing when he or she is in danger. Upon their rider’s death, a dragon will usually allow another rider to claim them. Perhaps because of their long history with dragons, or because of some unknown genetic marker, those with Valyrian blood (like Daenerys Targaryen) usually have an easier time interacting with them. It's interesting, then, that Tyrion Lannister was able to touch one. This fact, along with other evidence, has led some to conclude Tyrion is a secret Targaryen.