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"It wasn't just Aegon riding his dragon, it was Rhaenys and Visenya, too...Rhaenys rode Meraxes, Visenya rode Vhagar."
Arya Stark[src]

Vhagar is the dragon who was ridden by Visenya Targaryen during the War of Conquest.[1][2] Although during this time she was the smallest of the trio that included Balerion and Meraxes, Vhagar was still large enough to swallow a horse whole, and her flames can melt armor.[3][4] A hundred years later, during the reign of Viserys I Targaryen, she is the largest of all known living dragons.

Biography

Background

Vhagar was flown by Aegon's sister-wife Visenya during the War of Conquest. She was one of the three dragons present at the Field of Fire, the decisive battle of the conquest that ensured Targaryen mastery of the Seven Kingdoms.

Vhagar casts her shadow over the Eyrie.

Nonetheless, House Arryn thought that the Vale could still resist Targaryen domination by hiding behind the impregnable Mountains of the Moon along their borders, and fortifying the mountain passes beyond any hope of attack. Similar to how Aegon had dealt with Harrenhal, Visenya simply flew Vhagar directly over the mountains, and came to rest in the courtyard of the Arryn's own castle, the Eyrie. At the time, the King of the Mountain and the Vale was only a small boy, Ronnel Arryn, whose mother Sharra was acting as his regent. Visenya did not need to burn the Eyrie as Aegon had burned Harrenhal: her display of force with Vhagar and easily befriending Ronnel was enough to convince the Arryns to surrender. Young Ronnel did ask one condition for his surrender: in return, Visenya would give him a ride around the Eyrie atop her dragon. The Vale surrendered, and true to her word, Visenya gave Ronnel a ride atop Vhagar.[5]

Game of Thrones

Season 1

Vhagar is one of the dragons mentioned by Viserys as he baths with Doreah in Vaes Dothrak.[1]

Season 2

While Arya is in the service of Tywin in Harrenhal, she mentions that Vhagar was one of the three dragons used in the War of Conquest, ridden by Visenya Targaryen.[2]

Season 3

While incarcerated and learning to read, Davos has trouble reading Vhagar's name.[4]

Season 5

Shireen is reading The Dance of Dragons, A True Telling and retells the story of Ser Byron to Davos, which they share a laugh over.[6]

In the books

This particular section contains MAJOR spoilers for House of the Dragon. Anyone wishing to avoid spoilers for the upcoming prequel series should not click [Expand].

Visenya continued to ride Vhagar to war during the Faith Militant uprising, burning out rebel castles in the Riverlands as once she had burned out castles in Dorne (even though Visenya was over 70 years old at the time). Visenya eventually died late in Maegor's reign: her riders during the next 60 or so years, if any, are unknown.

Vhagar remained riderless for many years following Visenya's death, lairing first in the yards of Dragonstone and later in the Dragonpit of King's Landing. It was during the reign of King Jaehaerys I, when his and Good Queen Alysanne's children produced an abundance of Targaryens to claim the remaining dragons, that Vhagar finally gained a new rider in the King's second son, Prince Baelon. Baelon would ride Vhagar into battle during the Fourth Dornish War, alongside his father (astride Vermithor) and his elder brother Prince Aemon (astride Caraxes). Later, after Aemon was killed on Tarth by Myrish pirates, Baelon exacted a terrible vengeance for his beloved brother's death by unleashing Vhagar's fury on them. Baelon was made the Prince of Dragonstone and the Hand of the King for his exploits during the war on Tarth, but died several years later of a burst belly, leaving Vhagar riderless yet again. Later during the Old King's reign, Balerion died of old age, making Vhagar the oldest and largest of the Targaryen dragons.

Laena Velaryon, daughter of Lord Corlys Velaryon and Princess Rhaenys Targaryen and wife to Prince Daemon Targaryen, rode Vhagar during the reign of Viserys I Targaryen. Laena eventually died in childbirth and not long after, Vhagar accepted Prince Aemond Targaryen as her rider.

After Meraxes and then Balerion died, Vhagar was the last of the original three Targaryen dragons. Meraxes died fighting in Dorne, while Balerion later died of old age (nearly forty years before the Dance of the Dragons). Vhagar was the mother of several of the second-generation Targaryen dragons, but exactly which ones have not yet been specified

Vhagar was ridden by Aemond Targaryen during the Dance of the Dragons, the civil war between Aegon II and Rhaenyra Targaryen. Aemond sided with his brother Aegon II. Vhagar was the greatest and most powerful living dragon during the Dance, by that time grown nearly as big as Balerion was during the War of Conquest, and she was one of the major advantages possessed by Aegon II's faction. In one of the opening moves of the war, Aemond rode Vhagar to attack and kill Rhaenyra's son Lucerys at Storm's End, while he was riding the young dragon Arrax - Vhagar killed both with little difficulty. At the Battle of Rook's Rest, Aegon II's forced laid a trap for Rhaenys Targaryen and her dragon Meleys (not the original Rhaenys, but her grandson Jaehaerys I's granddaughter). After Rhaenys arrived, she was ambushed by Aemond riding Vhagar and Aegon II riding Sunfyre. While Sunfyre was badly wounded, the great dragon Meleys was killed. Afterwards, Aemond used Vhagar to burn out vast swaths of the Riverlands, which had sided with Rhaenyra. Nonetheless, Vhagar and Aemond were eventually killed during the Dance, in a great duel with Prince Daemon Targaryen and his dragon Caraxes at Harrenhal.

Grand Maester Munkun's historical account claims that Ser Byron Swann attempted to sneak up on and kill Vhagar by hiding behind a mirrored shield - which is mentioned in Season 5 of the TV series. In the novels, Swann used this tactic in imitation of the legendary tale in which Serwyn of the Mirror Shield snuck up on and killed the dragon Urrax by hiding behind a polished shield, so the dragon only saw its reflection (it isn't clear if Serwyn and Urrax ever really existed). The TV episode didn't have time to explain this in more context, but at one point Tyrion remarks that Munkun's account was inaccurate on this point: Balon Swann actually tried to sneak up on Rhaenyra's dragon Syrax, not Vhagar. House Swann was sworn to the Baratheons, who declared for Aegon II, so as Tyrion pointed out, it wouldn't make sense for Swann to try to kill the greatest dragon belonging to Aegon II's faction, ridden by Aegon II's own brother. Either way, of course, the result was the same: the legendary trick didn't actually work and the dragon killed Swann (whether because real dragons can actually recognize their own reflection, or because the dragon could obviously tell that there was a man behind it, is unclear).

Vhagar fought in more major Westerosi wars than any other Targaryen dragon: the War of Conquest, the Faith Militant uprising, and the Dance of the Dragons. Meraxes only fought in the War of Conquest. Balerion did fight in the Faith Militant uprising (ridden by Visenya's own son Maegor after Aegon died), but he died before the Dance of the Dragons - though Balerion did fight in previous wars outside of Westeros, such as the "Century of Blood" in the Free Cities.

Despite being one of the more famous dragons in the story, mentioned since the first novel, Vhagar's coloration went unrevealed for 25 years. Of the three original Targaryen dragons, Balerion was stated to be black with red highlights, while Meraxes's color (silver) wasn't revealed until The World of Ice and Fire was published in 2014. This became a point of contention among fans, repeatedly pressing George R.R. Martin about it in Q&A, but he would only respond that he hadn't decided yet and kept putting it off. Vhagar's color was finally revealed in the official 2021 A Song of Ice and Fire calendar: artist Sam Hogg had to make an illustration of Vhagar, and asked for direct clarification from Martin's team, who responded that Vhagar was "bronze, with greenish blue highlights, and green eyes".[7]

In homage to Vhagar, Daenerys Targaryen renames one of the ships Illyrio Mopatis sent her after him.

See also

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things"
  2. 2.0 2.1 "A Man Without Honor"
  3. "The Complete Guide to Westeros: Field of Fire - House Targaryen" featurette
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Second Sons"
  5. "The Vale"
  6. "The Dance of Dragons"
  7. Artist Sam Hogg on Vhagar color, January 16, 2021
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