When Daenerys Targaryen went zooming around the sky last week torching Lannisters and Tarlys, some Game of Thrones had a question or two about the Dragon Queen’s strategies. Would it have made more sense for her to bring all three dragons instead of her Dothraki riders if a show of force and intimidation was her end goal. But some have pointed out that with Daenerys perhaps only able to entirely control Drogon (though she handled her other two dragons pretty capably in the Battle of Meereen), she can’t risk using all three in battle. Will she ever get some help riding those dragons? All signs point to yes. But those riders will need a particular set of skills. Still there are three clear candidates for Daenerys’s remaining two dragons and new footage from this week’s episode, “Eastwatch” hints that we might finally get an answer.
Why is dragon-riding such a big deal? Way back in the day, the Targaryen’s mastered the art of dragon-riding allegedly using a combination of practice and sorcery. There’s seemingly no sorcery involved in Daenerys’s dragon-riding; she and Drogon are just that bonded. And dragon-riding—like forging Valyrian steel—is considered a lost art, and an extremely effective method of warfare. Targaryen dragon riders are the ones who first united the seven kingdoms and, as we discovered back in Season 5, Dany’s dragonfire may be the only hope the realms of men have against the Night’s King.
Can anyone ride a dragon? No, not at all. It’s not easy to tame a dragon. In the books, a character named Quentyn Martell tried to follow Daenerys’s lead and take control of one of her other dragons, Viserion, but gets torched by the third dragon, Rhaegal, for his trouble. Martell was written out of the show but fans were very worried that Tyrion might meet the same fate when he approached Viserion and Rhaegal last season.
But Tyrion got out of that interaction unscathed. The dragons seemed intrigued by Daenerys’s Hand but not immediately charmed. As for Jon, well this is all the dragons have given him by way of attention so far.
So will Dany be the only dragon rider? Most assuredly not. There’s a prophetic dream sequence in the books that has Daenerys’s dead brother (and Jon’s father) Rhaegar saying “the dragon has three heads.” This is commonly accepted (with encouragement from Martin) to mean that there will be three dragon riders in A Song of Ice and Fire. Readers have long suspected those dragon riders will be at least partially Targaryen. But they may be wrong.
But isn’t Dany the last Targaryen? (R.I.P. Maester Aemon) Ah, no. Hadn’t you heard? The Westeros of the books is lousy with secret Targaryens. There’s a book-only character named Aegon (who we suspect to be a fraud) claiming to be Dany’s nephew, there’s Jon Snow (surely you’ve heard of R+L=J, and, of course, Tyrion himself. I personally don’t believe Tyrion is a secret Targeryen, but when he was alive Tywin was forever going on about Tyrion not really being a Lannister. That’s why most people believe Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, and Daenerys Targaryen are the three fabled dragon riders of A Song of Ice and Fire.
No Other Possibilities? I have to say, I’m unconvinced by Tyrion’s encounter with Rhaegal and Viserion in Season 6. That just didn’t look like natural dragon/rider bonding to me. (And I would know???) My new favorite candidate for dragon-rider has nothing at all to do with secret Targaryens. Book readers have long wondered if perhaps Bran Stark might fulfill the Three-Eyed Raven’s prophecy (“you’ll never walk but you will fly”) by warging into one of Daenerys’s dragons. In the trailer for this week’s episode we see Bran projecting himself into a flock of birds in order to spy on the Night King. Now just imagine a much bigger bird with the ability to blast the Night King with fire and you’ll have a sense of what we might see in Season 8.
In the meantime, let’s keep a close eye on what happens when Jon and Drogon come face-to-face in Season 7, Episode 5: “Eastwatch.”
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