S is for A Song of Ice and Fire
Moving on at a more sedate pace for the sake of my own sanity, up next in the April 2017 AtoZ Challenge, let’s take a look at some of the ancient dragons of George R.R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire.
I’ve shared a lot of Game of Thrones artwork in the past, as I’m a big fan of the both the books and television series, even if author George R.R. Martin has chosen to go with wyvern-type dragons instead of the more traditional four legs/two wings type of dragons I prefer. But because of the TV series, a lot of people only get to see Danyeres Stormborn and her three dragons from the present-day story line.
Today I’m going to focus on three earlier dragons, pictured above in this amazing Targaryen Window by Spanish deviantartist Isabel, posting as guad — the historical Targaryen Conquerors: Visenya, Aegon and Rhaenys Targaryen with their dragons Vhagar, Balerion, and Meraxes.
As described by the Game of Thrones Wiki:
Five thousand years [before the series], men of the Valyrian Freehold learned how to master and ride dragons as beasts of war, and used them to forge an empire that stretched across most of the continent of Essos, dominating almost half of the Known World.
Four hundred years before the War of the Five Kings [the modern storyline], the entire Valyrian empire and almost all of its dragons were destroyed in a single day, during a cataclysmic volcanic eruption known as the Doom of Valyria.
One Valyrian noble family, the Targaryens, survived the Doom on the distant island outpost of Dragonstone in the Narrow Sea — along with the last surviving Valyrian dragons.
One hundred years later, Aegon I Targaryen and his [sister-wives Visenya and Rhaenys] used the last three surviving dragons in the world to conquer and unify the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.
For generations, the dragon-kings ruled over much of Westeros — but the dragons eventually died out after nearly a century and a half, and the species was subsequently considered to be extinct…
I found a lot of great artwork featuring these early dragons and their riders, so let’s take a look, shall we? As I describe the scenes, I’ve used a lot of links to the Wiki of Ice and Fire from westeros.org, so just click to learn more.
First up, this is an amazing take on the burning of Harrenhal titled Balerion the Black, created by German professional artist Hannah Böving, posting as benu-h. Read the description below — I think Hannah has captured the battle quite well! See her really fantastic gallery for more.
When the sun had gone down, Aegon flew Balerion high above Harrenhal, before plunging down [and] burning the castle beneath him. All that was flammable, both supplies and [men], caught fire within the castle, while Harrenhal’s stone towers cracked and melted. The [men] outside observed that the towers glowed and melted like candles. — From the Wiki of Ice and Fire
Here is another interpretation of Balerion, The Black Dread, showing just how massive this dragon was, compared to his rider beside him — possibly Aegon, but the artist doesn’t indicate for sure. This is by American professional artist Tommy Scott. There is speculation that Danyeres’ own black dragon Drogon could grow to Balerion’s size, but the TV show might not have the budget to show that. Check out Tommy’s epic gallery for more ASOIAF art.
Balerion was the largest of all the Targaryen dragons. His fire was as black as his scales, his wingspan so vast that entire towns would fall under his shadow when he passed overhead. His teeth were as long as swords, and his jaws were large enough to swallow an aurochs whole, or even one of the hairy mammoths that are said to roam the cold wastes beyond the Port of Ibben. — From the Wiki of Ice and Fire
Up next is an image of Aegon’s younger sister-wife Rhaenys and Meraxes, her dragon, by Philippino deviantartist Darcy Recolizado, posting as charrendark. While the Wiki of Ice and Fire describes Meraxes as having silver scales (and she’s gold in the window image above), a painting of the Death of Meraxes by Chase Stone for the book The World of Ice and Fire (which was too sad to share) also shows her as red. Check out more of Darcy’s great fanart in his gallery.
Up next is another illustration for The World of Ice and Fire of Aegon’s other sister-wife Visenya on her dragon Vhagar by U.K. professional artist John McCambridge. John captions it, “After the Arryn fleet defeated the Targaryen fleet in the battle of Gulltown [during the War of Conquest, Visenya] had Vhagar burn the Arryn Ships.” See more of John’s fantasy art in his gallery.
While poor Rhaenys and her dragon Meraxes were killed together during the War of Conquest, the other two dragons, Balerion and Vhagar, both outlived the Conquest and their original riders. Balerion succumbed to old age at around two hundred years old.
Last surviving Vhagar eventually grew nearly as large as the black dragon had been, and was claimed by Prince Aemond during the Dance of the Dragons — described in the The Princess and the Queen, a novella by George R.R. Martin published as part of a multi-author anthology called Dangerous Women.
The Wiki of Ice and Fire calls the the story “the history of the civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons as written by Archmaester Gyldayn of the Citadel of Oldtown.” It’s just one of the supplemental works George R.R. Martin has published revealing more of the backstory of his world to tide over fans while we await the sixth book of the main series. These final two artists have each brought to life a scene from The Princess and the Queen.
Here is Dance of the Dragons by deviantartist rubendevela, depicting the Battle Above the Gods Eye between Prince Aemond Targaryen on Vhagar and Prince Daemon Targaryen on Caraxes, the red dragon known as the Blood Wyrm. You can’t really tell from this perspective, but Vhagar was twice the size of the Blood Wyrm at this battle. See more of rubendevela’s great art in his gallery.
And finally, this one is just called Targaryen by American deviantartist Joe Harty, posting as Sir-Heartsalot, depicting the end of that same battle. The “Gods Eye” is the largest lake in the Seven Kingdoms, near Harrenhal, and the four combatants were killed together as they crashed into the lake. Read the whole description of the battle at the Wiki of Ice and Fire, and check out Joe’s caption below. You can see more of his distinct art style in his awesome gallery.
George R. R. Martin knows how to write a dragon battle let me tell you. Dragon battles. For all those people who are like “when are the draaaaagons coming” in A Song of Ice and Fire, this story will definitely quench your dragon thirst. Alls I’m gonna say is, I did not think dragons would be ripping each other’s heads off so much.
So, that’s it for “S” in the AtoZ Challenge. I do plan on completing the series, I assure you, just not before April is over with now. I hope you’ll come back as I finish out the rest of the letters over the next few weeks, posting at least one per week, and more often if I can. I’ll also have a reflection post, even though I won’t be completely finished with the challenge yet.
Thanks for reading — I can’t wait to catch up on what everyone else has been doing for the challenge! Take care, and stay creative!
Targaryen Window by guad
Balerion the Black by Hannah Böving, posting as benu-h
Balerion, The Black Dread by Tommy Scott
Rhaenys and Meraxes by Darcy Recolizado, posting as charrendark
Visenya on her dragon Vhagar by John McCambridge
Dance of the Dragons by rubendevela
Targaryen by Joe Harty, posting as Sir-Heartsalot