Game of Thrones: How All The Targaryen Dragons Died (Before Daenerys)

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The main reason why only three dragons remain in Game of Thrones is the event in Westerosi history known as the Dance of the Dragons, the Targaryen civil war due to begin in House of the Dragon season 2. During the Dance of the Dragons in George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood novel, the dragonriders of House Targaryen fight among themselves for the Iron Throne and kill off most of their dragons in the process, as foreshadowed when Vhagar — the dragon ridden by Aemond Targaryen — kills Arrax and Lucerys Belaryon in House of the Dragon season 1. Arrax is the only dragon who died in a season that featured over a hundred deaths, but he will certainly not be the last. Although House of the Dragon season 2 will most likely focus on how the dragons died, it could also answer where the rest of the dragons are in GoT.

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Either way, every dragon in House of the Dragon — either just mentioned or revealed onscreen — is headed for a grim fate. The show is mostly faithful to Fire & Blood, which reveals many of the brutal details of why only three dragons remain in Game of Thrones. To those who’ve read Martin’s novel on House Targaryen history, perhaps the most highly anticipated draconic fight is the duel between Aemond and Daemon Targaryen and their respective dragons, Vhagar and Caraxes. Apart from the fact that all four perish in the fight, it also occurs at The God’s Eye, the most important location in the history of ancient Westeros. Moreover, out of the approximately 20 dragons that exist in Westeros during the Dance of the Dragons, the four that survived or were largely uninvolved in the Targaryen civil war are all either missing or presumed dead by the Game of Thrones timeline. Though Targaryen hubris during the Dance of the Dragons was mostly how the dragons died in GoT, there are other factors to their near extinction. Here’s why there aren’t any dragons at the start of Game of Thrones.

Related: Why The Iron Throne Is Bigger & Has Way More Swords In House Of The Dragon


Why The Westeros Dragons Are Almost Extinct

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Until and during the Dance of the Dragons, most of the winged beasts were kept confined within the Dragonpit at King’s Landing. Although the Targaryens wanting somewhere to house them is somewhat understandable given their immense power, keeping them caged stunted the dragons’ growth, resulting in each generation becoming smaller, weaker, and less likely to survive. As Tyrion Lannister noted, “the last dragons were no larger than cats.” This largely holds true with what’s known of the very last dragon, who died during the reign of King Aegon III Targaryen in 153 AC, giving him the nickname “Dragonbane.” Add in so few surviving dragons, and those that did live mostly disappearing, then it also stands to reason that there simply weren’t enough dragons left for mating. Why only three dragons remain in Game of Thrones is still a mystery though. Even with reduced numbers, the stronger dragons ridden by the Targaryen in House of the Dragon are formidable beasts with incredibly long lives — it’s a little hard to believe they all simply died out.

A possible reason for the dragons dying out in Game of Thrones lies with the Maesters of the Citadel, and their apparent attempts to snuff out magic from the world. In the fourth of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books, A Feast for Crows, Archmaester Marwyn tells Samwell Tarly: “Who do you think killed all the dragons the last time around? Gallant dragonslayers armed with swords? The world the Citadel is building has no place in it for sorcery or prophecy or glass candles, much less for dragons.” Although it’s not confirmed that the Maesters destroyed the dragons in Game of Thrones, their steadfast support of cold hard logic naturally makes them opposed to magic and fantastical creatures. Given how magic itself seemed to disappear from the world, that few dragon eggs were hatched after the Dance (despite plenty of attempts), and that magic’s return coincided with that of the dragons, then it is plausible the Maesters had a hand in how the dragons died in GoT.

What the Maesters’ exact methods would’ve been — or how they would’ve known where the rest of the dragons are in Game of Thrones — are unknown, but they could have developed a poison to radically stunt growth and/or prevent hatchlings, or even altered the birthing or fertilization of eggs in some other way. As House of the Dragon revealed, the Maesters did have a hand in killing off members of the Targaryen family tree, and whether they actually intended to save Aemma Arryn and Baelon Targaryen remains up for debate. In any case, if the Maesters had the knowledge and willingness to use their skills to save or kill members of the royal family, it certainly wouldn’t be beyond them to dabble in draconic genetics for the Citadel’s own goals.

Next: Full Explanation Of Aegon’s Dream & How It Retcons Game Of Thrones

House of the Dragon is streaming on HBO Max.

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