Some Burning Questions About the Giant Dragon Fight in ‘HotD’
8 mins read

Some Burning Questions About the Giant Dragon Fight in ‘HotD’

Some Burning Questions About the Giant Dragon Fight in ‘HotD’

Photo: Theo Whiteman/Theo Whiteman

There are spoilers below. House of the Dragon episode “Red Dragon and Gold”.

Dragons on House of the Dragon are myths that have become deadly, gigantic creatures of fear and wonder that I can’t wait to see every time they appear on screen. (Especially now that the show has good lighting!) Me too, despite my dragon claw and orb necklace and worn copy of Patricia C. Wrede’s book Dealing with dragons that I was a wimp when I was young, I can’t say I fully understand how HotDdragons work. And this week’s “Red Dragon and Gold” didn’t exactly help!

Yes, we spent some time in the dragon pit in the first season and now we’ve seen the lasting damage the dragon Balerion has done to Harrenhal. Yes, HotDcast and crew keep referring to dragons as nuclear weapons, which is an effective indicator of the level of threat they pose to the Seven Kingdoms. And yes, if you watched Game of Thronesyou probably start the series already having some knowledge of what Drogon, Viserion, and Rhaegal were up to before Daenerys forgot one of her children and left him exposed to scorpion fire, then had another killed in the North and resurrected by the Night King.

But HotD you shouldn’t rely on it HE GET viewers to fill in the gaps in their own worldbuilding, and it wouldn’t hurt for the show to do a little more explaining of the dragons on their own terms. With that in mind, I have a few questions inspired by watching Meleys, Vhagar, and Sunfyre attack each other at Rook’s Rest. Rest in peace Meleys, and maybe Sunfyre too? Vhagar, you need to stop killing other dragons!

Photo: HBO

Before Vhagar came along, I thought Meleys and Sunfyre might actually Both survive this battle. Meleys’s massive claws tearing Sunfyre apart really hurt, but Sunfyre could still fly well enough to meet Meleys in the sky again. I don’t think it’s because Aegon is really good at war (Rhaenys and Meleys are seasoned veterans, while this is Aegon and Sunfyre’s first rodeo), but because Rhaenys’s order to “attack” didn’t yet order Meleys to kill. Vhagar’s entry into the fight changed the balance and increased the damage output, but part of this huge advantage comes from Vhagar being bigger than any other living dragon. (How does she keep pulling off sneak attacks? I don’t get it!)

Putting Vhagar aside in this hypothetical, I wonder if Sunfyre’s blood, because it’s so hot (see next question), would immediately burn him and allow him to keep going, flying, and fighting. We know dragons are immune to each other’s fire, but would they also survive any physical trauma that doesn’t involve being bitten to pieces like Vhagar did to Arrax and Meleys? I’d like to know, to predict how the other dragon battles will go, and keep my blood pressure in check.

Photo: HBO

During the battle at Rook’s Rest, we see Sunfyre, wounded by Meleys’ claws, showering the men on the battlefield below with blood that burns and smokes them on contact. But how hot is dragon blood? The same temperature as their fire? Hot enough to burn, or hot enough to kill? HotD has not yet given us such detailed information on dragon biology, although some details can be found in George R. R. Martin’s book A Dance with Dragons this may help. In one chapter, when Daenerys tries to stop an attack on an increasingly savage Drogon, she sees “smoke rising from the wound” where someone is spearing him, and “his blood also smoked where it dripped to the ground.” Dragons are literally made of fire is part of Targaryen legend; after all, there’s a reason their household words are “fire and blood,” and why Targaryens having “dragon’s blood” means they can survive fire. Another bit of the novel, this time from Game of Throneson Dany: “She opened her arms to the fire, embraced it, let it consume her whole, let it cleanse her and harden her and scrub her clean. She felt her flesh burn and blacken and peel, she felt her blood boil and steam, and yet she felt no pain.” All of which sounds pretty great, unless you’re Aegon and your brother tries to kill you and causes your armor to melt against your skin. That’s just rude.

Photo: HBO

I don’t mean this question to be rude or to offend dragons, who are intelligent, sensitive, and wild creatures with distinct personalities. Which is why I’m curious if there’s a way to find out how they feel about this whole war. They’re potentially an extended family like the Targaryens/Velaryons/Hightowers, since there are hints throughout the text that Fire and Blood that some of these dragons are related: Rhaenyra’s dragon Syrax and Daemon’s dragon Caraxes may have mated, and Rhaenyra’s sons’ dragons Vermax, Arrax, and Tyraxes are probably Syrax’s children. In typical adaptation style, HotD didn’t include all of these details, but he confirmed a few: When Rhaenyra finds the body parts of Lucerys and Arrax in “A Son for a Son,” Syrax appears to mourn with her, screaming at the sky while Rhaenyra cries.

So: With all this potential familial interdependence, do the dragons feel conflicted about the war, like some of their riders? Given the human family’s disagreements and bickering, is it really that far-fetched to think that dragons might have their own opinions? Are they capable of self-awareness, self-reflection, and self-determination, or are they just spontaneous beasts whose natural instincts override their human masters as they please, like when Vhagar disobeyed Aemond to go after Lucerys and Arrax? I’m not saying I want an episode from a dragon’s perspective, but I don’t NO saying that, too.

Photo: HBO

We know that Aemond solidified his cousins’ hatred of him when he secretly bonded with Vhagar after the death of her previous rider Laena, mother of Baela and Rhaena. Very sneaky move! But it raised a question I’ve been thinking about ever since, and which was renewed after “The Burning Mill”: Do dragons who bond with a dragonrider sense when that rider dies, and if so, how long do they have to grieve before accepting a new rider? Does each dragon grieve differently, or is there a standard period of time? (Dragons are essentially serial monogamists, that’s my understanding.) And can a dragon be depressed if its dragonrider isn’t dead, but is simply… absent? That last question was inspired by Mysaria’s comment to Rhaenyra about her ex-husband Laenor’s dragon, Seasmoke, and how lonely he seems. Is Seasmoke worried because Laenor is actually Is dead, or because he abandoned Seasmoke when he left the Velaryon family and Driftmark, and Seasmoke senses it? The show has been deliberately vague about whether Laenor is alive or dead, but given that Corlys’ illegitimate sons are featured so heavily in this second season, it seems like we might get an answer soon — and potentially a new rider for Seasmoke.

The answer is that it’s really cool. I figured it out myself!