The Secret History Of Dragons In 'Game Of Thrones' (And How To Slay Them)

“Dragons... the grief and glory of my house, they were.” - Aemon Targaryen

As the maester of Castle Black correctly notes, entire dynasties and civilizations in the Game of Thrones universe have risen and fallen on the backs of dragons. Their mysterious and august powers have lifted some families to prominence and reduced 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. Despite their long and influential reign, however, their extinction 150 years before the events of Game of Thrones means dragons remain shrouded in mystery.

One thing any fan of the books or TV show knows for sure? With dragons back in Westeros for the first time in over a century, these mythical beasts are set to make an indelible mark on the Seven Kingdoms once again. To prepare for the onslaught, let's take a look at some dragon facts and figures - Tyrion Lannister would love to get his hands on these.

And, of course, SPOILERS AHEAD for the entire extended Game of Thrones universe.

Photo: Courtesy of HBO

  • Hatching A Dragon Requires 'Fire And Blood'

    Hatching A Dragon Requires 'Fire And Blood'
    Photo: Courtesy of HBO

    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. And 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 does just this when she sets her dragon eggs in Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre, along with the witch Mirri Maz Duur. Daenerys walks into the pyre and comes out with three baby dragons.

    As we can see with Daenerys's 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 on them for life.

  • Dragons Do, In Fact, Have Weaknesses

    Dragons Do, In Fact, Have Weaknesses
    Photo: Courtesy of HBO

    It may be hard to take out 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 eyes are the most vulnerable part of a dragon. If an enemy can send an arrow or any other sharp object deep enough into a dragon’s eye - perhaps propelled by a giant bow - it will puncture the brain and eliminate the dragon.

    Dragon-on-dragon combat also works. 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 devastating to an army if they lose one of these rare beasts. For all these reasons, leaders are cautious about deploying them. Despite his access to three powerful dragons, Aegon the Conqueror only utilized all of his charges at once in a single battle: the one that cemented his claim over Westeros - the aptly named Field of Fire.

  • Dragons Breathe Fire By Combining Volatile Chemicals

    Dragons Breathe Fire By Combining Volatile Chemicals
    Photo: Courtesy of HBO

    Breathing fire is by far a dragon’s most famous attribute. In the world of Game of Thrones, 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-resistant. As a dragon matures, its fire also becomes more powerful, able to melt stone and sometimes even steel.

  • Dragons Can Be Trained - But Never Tamed

    Dragons Can Be Trained - But Never Tamed
    Photo: Courtesy of HBO

    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 people. 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 they're in danger. Upon their rider’s passing, 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 heritage (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.

  • According To Legends, Westeros Has Been Home To Many Different Types Of Dragons

    According To Legends, Westeros Has Been Home To Many Different Types Of Dragons
    Photo: Courtesy of HBO

    While dragons are the most famous mythological beasts in the Game of Thrones books and show, they are far from the only ones. Reports of dragon-like creatures have popped up throughout history, across Westeros and beyond.

    On the Iron Islands, an infamous sea dragon called the Nagga fell at the hands of the Grey King. Roaming the Shivering Sea and the White Waste, mythical ice dragons freeze their enemies by breathing ice rather than fire. In Sothoryos, wyverns resemble dragons in their reptilian biology and their ability to fly.

    Unlike dragons, these other creatures exist only in mythology and lore. For now, anyway. 

  • The Ancient City Of Asshai May Hold Secrets About The History Of Dragons

    The Ancient City Of Asshai May Hold Secrets About The History Of Dragons
    Photo: Helen Sloan/Courtesy of HBO

    Many believe dragons originated in the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai, one of the strangest and most enigmatic places in the known world. Daenerys’s dragon eggs, a gift from Illyrio Mopatis before her wedding, come from the Shadow Lands. Dragonbone and dragonglass have both been imported from Asshai as well. 

    It seems to be an exotic, magical place, and the Shadow Lands beyond are even more mysterious. Some of Asshai’s most powerful citizens include Melisandre and the shadowbinders.