“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.