Aegon the Conqueror knew his conquest would not be simple as he cast his gaze westward. There were 7 distinct kingdoms in Westeros, all of which had a long history on the continent and delicate border relations.
The Targaryens, on the other hand, were foreigners who controlled just one stone fortress on Dragonstone, a small number of soldiers between them and their vassals, and a feeble navy thanks to House Velaryon, yet they managed to unify at least six of the seven Kingdoms under their rule in just two years. By now, we are well aware that their dragons had a significant role in that.
Balerion, the Black Dread, received his nickname at the burning of Harrenhal, and Meraxes met what is believed to have been her rider Queen Rhaenys’ death about ten years after the Conquest. However, the third dragon among the Conquerors Three’s mounts would not only play a role in the formation of Westeros but would also come dangerously close to doing so on numerous occasions.
As a matter of fact, we would contend that Queen Visenya and her Vhagar were more “Valyrian” in their quest for power than any other Targaryen before, and the magnificent she-dragon will play a significant role throughout House of the Dragon. But why do we say that specifically? This is Vhagar’s Origins – Explored, and you are about to find out for yourself. Oh, and there will be a LOT of them, so consider this your spoiler alert.
Etymology, Birthplace and Early Years
You already know that the Valyrians have a pattern when it comes to naming their dragons if you have watched our genesis movies for Balerion and Meraxes, which you should watch after this one. Because we do not know anything about the dragonlords’ religion, there is no way to actually confirm that the majority of their dragons are named after Valyrian gods. It became simpler to tell which Targaryen had more “blood of the dragon” than the others as the Targaryens took control of Westeros and their dragon names began to sound very “Westerosi.”
Both Vhagar and the fiery Targaryens had a tendency to name their dragons after Valyrian deities. She was given the name of a Valyrian god. It is hard to say exactly when she was born. When Lord Aenar Targaryen sold all of his property in the Lands of Always Summer and Valyria, he brought 5 dragons with him to Dragonstone, but only one of them lived for a very long time.
Balerion, the Black Dread, would be that dragon, but since he was a male, it has been hypothesized that Aenar also brought another dragon to Dragonstone who was a she-dragon, and it was from her clutch that the dragons of the Conquerors were born. Vhagar is only said to have been born “during the Century of Blood”, so there is no exact date of birth, so to speak, but based on the fact that she is said to have been the smallest of the Conquerors’ dragons, we can safely put her birthday somewhere near the middle of the Century of Blood; 50 years before the Conquest seems accurate, given facts you will understand at the end of this video.
But that is not to say that Vhagar wasn’t a truly massive beast in her own right; she was said to have been able to eat horses whole and by the time she had gained a few good years of growth, she had begun approaching Balerion in size. So Vhagar was a relatively young dragon all things said, and her birthplace was- as you might have guessed already- Dragonstone. Not much is known about her early years except for the fact that she- like Meraxes- might have mated with Balerion and laid clutches of eggs inside the Dragonmont, and that she was said to be exceedingly beautiful.
George R. R. Martin revealed last year that Vhagar’s colouring was “bronze, with greenish-blue highlights and bright green eyes”. This description matches the dragon you see taking off from Dragonstone in the new Fire Will Reign and In The Weeks Ahead trailers for House of the Dragon, but other than that, the only thing we know of Vhagar’s early years is the fact that she was claimed by Visenya Targayen- the eldest child of Lord Aerion Targaryen (pronounce: Air-Eon) and eldest sister of the future High King of All Westeros.
After proving her worth as a dragonrider following her claiming Vhagar, Visenya married her younger brother Aegon- according to Valyrian custom- and is reported to have flown with her brother to the Citadel of Oldtown and the Arbor upon dragonback. She helped him set the stage for his Conquest of Westeros, and it was Vhagar whose dragonflame would be loosed upon Westerosi lords first, not Balerion’s.
The First Flame of Aegon’s Conquest – Vhagar’s Role in Unifying Westeros
After landing at the mouth of the Blackwater Rush, Aegon began construction on a Fort that would serve as his base of operations for the rest of his conquest. His sisters, meanwhile, would go on to assure the submission of the nearby castles of Rosby and Stokeworth. While Rhaenys was able to secure a more or less bloodless surrender, Visenya faced opposition from House Stokeworth. They had positioned crossbowmen all across their rooftops and they were loosing bolts relentlessly at the dragon in the sky.
But though Vhagar was the smallest of the Conquering Dragons, she was a dragon still, and Visenya used her flames to burn the rooftops of Stokeworth, thereby ensuring their submission. It is a custom in George R. R. Martin’s books that the flames of a dragon match their colouring, so we can imagine Castle Stokeworth looking like a giant candle of wildfire after Vhagar set her wick aflame. After Aegon had succeeded in defeating Houses Mooton and Darklyn during his First Test, he had enough supporters in the crownlands to make a stake to kingship over all of Westeros.
At the Aegonfort, Queen Visenya crowned her brother with a circlet of Valyrian steel studded with rubies, while her sister Rhaenys declared him King of All Westeros. It can be assumed that Vhagar was present during both of Aegon’s coronations, this having been the first one. After the ceremony was concluded, Aegon split his forces into three once again and set out to extend his claim: he sent his sister-wife Rhaenys and his best friend/sworn shield/bastard brother Orys Baratheon to conquer the lands of the Storm King Argillac Durrandon.
Aegon took Balerion and some of his newly-acquired lords to Harrenhal to face King Harren the Black. And Visenya was put in charge of a naval assault on Gulltown, which would mark the Targaryens’ first attempt at conquering the Vale of Arryn alongside Daemon Velaryon- the royal commander of Aegon’s fleets. The Targaryen and the Arryn Fleets- the latter of which was augmented by a dozen Braavosi warships met in the battle in the waters off Gulltown and the would-be rulers of Westeros actually lost the fight.
The makeshift Arryn fleet was able to take out a third of the Targaryen fleet, while capturing nearly as many and leaving them incapable of mounting a naval counterassault; that was until Visenya rode in on Vhagar and put the entire Arryn Fleet to the torch. Though technically Aegon’s offensive had resulted in a stalemate, the Vale remained in the hands of the Arryns, and would not come over to the Targaryens for a while. Visenya, having lost the Battle, decided to turn her attention to nearby Crackclaw Point and descended upon the bogs and the pines of the region.
Having heard of Aegon’s burning of Harrenhal- and obviously fearing Vhagar, who had just brought them a dragonqueen on her back- the noble houses of Crackclaw Point peacefully surrendered to her. Because they gave up their swords willingly and with grace, Visenya made the noble houses of Crackclaw Point direct adherents to the Iron Throne, and from then on, the region has been known to birth “good dragon men” according to Dick Crabb. Their assignments complete, the Conquerors Three met at the central location of the Stoney Sept upon their dragons and massed their armies to partake in the only battle during the conquest that saw Vhagar in action alongside Balerion and Meraxes.
King Loren Lannister and King Merne Gardener had amassed over 50,000 swords to challenge the Dragon King’s Conquest, but men in armours made of steel could never hope to stand up to dragonflame. Vhagar’s emerald-bronze breath sent nearly 4,000 men to their graves and wounded an additional 10,000 when combined with the damage that Balerion and Meraxes did as well. King Merne Gardener’s entire line was burnt on the Field that day as well.
After assuring the fealty of the last King in the North Torrhen Stark at the Inn of the Kneeling Man, Visenya completed the conquest she had left unfinished at sea. The Vale had fortified all of their ground defences in anticipation of a Targaryen assault, with every way-castle at the Eyrie having their numbers tripled. Instead, Visenya flew Vhagar over all of the Vale’s defences and landed in the middle of the courtyard of the Eyrie. There she encountered the boy King Ronnel Arryn, and negotiated the Vale’s surrender with his mother Sharra.
The legends say that Ronnel Arryn stepped on Vhagar’s back as a King, flew around the Eyrie thrice, and when he stepped down, he was not a King anymore, but a mere High Lord. So Vhagar had assisted with Aegon’s conquest not just through force but also sheer presence; the sight of her carrying Queen Visenya on dragonback became a symbol for reinforcing Targaryen rule, and after Aegon’s second coronation at Oldtown, Vhagar and Visenya would often be found ruling at the Aegonfort in the Conqueror’s stead. The mighty she-dragon’s flames helped knit together 6 Kingdoms into one, but she would not get involved with the 7th until tragedy would strike at the heart of her rider.
Vhagar’s Role in Visenya’s Vengeance: The Wrath of the Dragon Queen and her Fiery Mount
In 4 AC, King Aegon the First launched an invasion into Dorne, the only kingdom that had remained defiant of the Iron Throne’s jurisdiction during Aegon’s Conquest. He and Rhaenys took charge of the bulk of the offensive while Visenya remained at the Aegonfort ruling over her brother’s kingdom. Vhagar was rather inactive in terms of combat during these years, but that changed in 10 AC, when Queen Rhaenys and Meraxes died at the Hellholt thanks to a scorpion that pierced the dragon’s eye. This death affected Aegon and Visenya more than anyone could have imagined, and in their mirth, they unleashed the true fury of a Valyrian dragonlord onto the sands of Dorne.
Dorne has nearly one score castles, keeps and towns within its borders; all of them, with the exception of Sunspear and its shadow city, were burnt multiple times from 11 AC to 13 AC during a period known as The Dragon’s Wroth. Balerion and Vhagar would be frequent visitors of the red sands of Dorne, as they would burn the seats of every house twice over, with their flames affecting Hellholt so furiously that the sand around the keep started fusing into glass.
The pair brought Fire & Blood to a region that was already known to be so scalding hot that lost travellers would simply disappear into the red dunes. After Rhaenys’ death, Aegon and Visenya grew apart and Vhagar was being started to be seen as more of a threat than a deterrent. In 13 AC, when Princess Meria Martell died and her son Prince Nymor sued the Iron Throne for peace, he brought Meraxes’ skull with him.
Visenya was enraged by the sight of her sister’s dragon’s skull but Aegon, instead of exacting bloody retribution, decided to make a peace with the Dornish. Visenya raised her son Maegor by herself at Dragonstone and towards the end of Aegon’s life, was put in charge of overseeing the construction of the Red Keep. In 37 AC, King Aegon Targaryen, the first of his name, died whilst playing with his grandchildren at Dragonstone.
Vhagar lighted his funeral pyre; one of the highest honours that could have been interred upon any dragon during their lifetime. However, following the Conqueror’s passing, his family fell into disarray. Aenys Targaryen, Aegon’s successor, was a weak-willed King who often quarrelled with his aunt Visenya. Vhagar was seen making several trips to King’s Landing and Dragonstone during the early years of his reign, but she became “confined” to Dragonstone after Aenys proclaimed his own son Aegon as his heir, removing Visenya’s son Maegor from the matter of succession.
The singers say that when Visenya departed King’s Landing for Dragonstone, Vhagar’s crossing of the moon turned the latter blood red for but a moment, signalling the slaughter that was about to commence. King Aenys Targaryen passed away in the midst of rebellion from the Faith Militant and some of the newly-united Seven Kingdoms. To bind together the rifts that had occurred in Westerosi politics, Visenya chose to take the Valyrian route and mounted Vhagar to bring her son Maegor back home from exile.
Once Maegor had been crowned as the third High King of Westeros on Dragonstone, he returned to King’s Landing with his mother and their dragons, and it’s said that the sight of Balerion and Vhagar started a riot in King’s Landing that day. Vhagar would not only be crucial in transporting Visenya on her many missions to secure her son’s claim to the throne, she would also become a vessel of expression for the Queen’s Fury.
The Faith of the Seven had accepted Aegon’s rule without questioning his marriages or his adherence to the faith’s doctrines because they knew he wielded absolute power. Aegon had Balerion, and his sister had their own dragons, and when you are given the choice between life or death by dragonflame, best choose to live than die a horrible death. But the infamous saying that the son is not the father, unfortunately, rang very true in the case of Aegon’s successor Aenys, and the Faith of the Seven slowly began chipping away at Targaryen rule by denouncing them as abominations and sinners in the eyes of the Gods.
Visenya took great exception to this because- being Valyrian- the Targaryens had long held the belief that the maxims of regular men did not apply to them. She had even performed polygamous wedding ceremonies for her son Maegor in the old, Valyrian fashion, which further spat in the face of the Faith and the general ideologies of the Seven Kingdoms. And when most of them rose up in rebellion against Aenys first and Maegor second, she decided that it was time to show them how dragons truly preferred dealing with dissent.
Following Maegor’s recovery from a rather harrowing Trial of Seven, mother and son set about teaching the Seven’s adherents a fiery lesson. While Maegor burnt the Sept of Remembrance atop Rhaenys’ Hill with Balerion’s Black Breath, Visenya flew Vhagar into the lands that had once helped her brother win his right to kingship. Many of the defenders of the Faith of the Seven came from houses that belonged to the Riverlands and the Westerlands.
While Maegor went after the latter, Visenya decided to teach the pious lords of the former a brutal lesson in just how easily their lines can be ended. In a single night, riding atop Vhagar’s back, Visenya burned the seats of House Blanetree, House Terrick, House Deddings, House Lychester and House Wayn, but it would not be these burnings that earned Vhagar the styling of the Terror of the Trident.
We’re going to talk about that in a bit. After burning the seats of every lord that was heavily invested in the Faith of the Seven, Visenya turned Vhagar towards Oldtown to accomplish the very thing she had suggested to King Aenys when signs of the Faith’s Uprising first began showing; burning the Starry Sept which was the historical centre of the Faith in Westeros. Luckily for the citizens of Oldtown, they would not have to endure the black-and-bronzed flames of Balerion and Vhagar because the new High Septon would end up accepting Maegor’s rule and his marriages, thus placating the royal dragons and their dragons.
Vhagar’s flames would have burnt much more of Westeros had her rider survived for longer. Though Queen Visenya had fought in Maegor’s war against the Faith as recently as 43 AC, by the time 44 AC came around, she had become extremely weak. Her hold over her hostages- Dowager Queen Alyssa Velaryon and her children Jaehaerys and Alysanne was already slipping, and when she died, it broke completely. Vhagar would spend the next 29 years without a rider, residing first at the Dragonmont and then at the Dragonpit in King’s Landing following its completion during the reign of King Jaehaerys.
Though Vhagar had brought the Seven Kingdoms together alongside Balerion and Meraxes, she had also inflicted the most damage upon those lands through the actions of a grief-stricken and embittered Queen Visenya. Staying out of the public eye for 29 years was perhaps the best thing for her image because the people of the Riverlands were unlikely to forget the destruction Vhagar left in her wake; but little did either party know that Vhagar’s ultimate fate would end up being tied to that very region, and would also play out in a fashion that will be all-too-familiar for her.
The Spare Heir’s Mount and How Vhagar Became the Most-Important Targaryen Dragon
After 29 years without a rider, Vhagar was claimed in 73 AC by Prince Baelon Targaryen and she recovered some of that same spirit that she had when the Conqueror and his sisters still roamed the skies. Prince Baelon and Vhagar, alongside his elder brother Aemon and his dragon Caraxes as well as his sister/lover Alyssa and her dragon Meleys, would often be seen flying through the skies over Blackwater Bay, cutting a figure that was rather reminiscent of the founders of Westeros.
During these years, Vhagar came to be regarded as one of the largest Targaryen dragons, easily rivalling Vermithor the Bronze Fury in size and outclassing him in terms of sheer battle experience. During King Jaehaerys’ reign, the Dornish prince Morion Martell decided to launch the Fourth Dornish War by invading the Stormlands via Cape Wrath. He spent an entire year gathering the requisite resources and men needed for the large-scale assault, confident that his plans will work, but friends of the Iron Throne betrayed his plans to King Jaehaerys and he immediately enacted what has to be the most-impressive and terrifying military strategy in Westerosi history.
Only twice have three dragons ever entered a major battlefield together, and left it in one piece; Vhagar was in both of them. The first was the Field of Fire, where she burned men on a field of grass alongside Balerion and Meraxes; the second, was the Fourth Dornish War where Vhagar, Vermithor and Caraxes burned Prince Morion’s entire fleet without even losing a single person from their side.
The completely one-sided affair is also known as the War of the Hundred Candles, in remembrance of all the ships that lit up like so many wicks when the Targaryen dragons descended upon them. Prince Morion himself was killed during the conflict, and Dorne would never launch such an audacious assault ever again. When Baelon the Brave returned to King’s Landing upon Vhagar’s back and flanked by his father and brother, all three were cheered as if they’d just won the Westerosi Superbowl; because the trio had managed to end an invasion entirely within less than a day and without losing even a single soldier, a boast not even Aegon the Conqueror could make.
A decade after burning a fleet for peace, Vhagar burnt another fleet with Prince Baelon on her back, though this time it would be out of grief and a sense of Vengeance; yet again. In the year 92 AC, following a brutal civil war in their hometown of Myr, a few Myrish exiles invaded and conqueror half of the Isle of Tarth.
In response, King Jaehaerys sent his royal fleet- commanded by Lord Corlys Verlayon (pronounce: Caur-Liss)- and his son and heir Aemon to sort out the problem. But a stray bolt ended up taking Prince Aemon’s life, causing Jaehaerys to name Baelon his new heir. Baelon had loved and worshipped his elder brother, often being considered inseparable from Aemon during their early years; the loss of Aemon hurt him deeply and he flew Vhagar to exact Valyrian justice from the exiled men of the Free Cities.
Mounted atop his bronze monstrosity, Baelon burnt every last ship on Tarth’s eastern shoreline to prevent the Myrish from escaping, then landed Vhagar on the coast and fought off the stragglers with Dark Sister as Lord Tarth descended upon them from the west, sandwiching them between soldiers and Vhagar. When he returned to King’s Landing victorious, Baelon was hailed as The Brave by the commonfolk, but he would tell his mother later that he killed a thousand men and none of their deaths could ever fill the hole his brother’s death had left inside of him.
A decade after avenging Aemon, Baelon would die as well, which is what would force Jaehaerys to call for the Great Council in 101 AC. By this point, Vhagar was easily the most-important dragon in the possession of the Targaryens. She had seen more warfare than any of the younger dragons combined, and was still growing in size despite her advancing age. In 94 AC- 7 years before the Great Council- Balerion passed away due to old age, which left Vhagar as the only survivor from Aegon the Conqueror’s age. By the time King Viserys the First ascended to the Iron Throne, Vhagar had grown as large as Balerion had been during the Conquest, and was presumably roosting back at the Dragonmont because her next rider would not exactly spend her time at King’s Landing; well, not all of it, anyway.
How Vhagar Will Shape the Strategy of Both Sides During House of the Dragon
While we did not see Vhagar in the first episode, we are confident that her introduction to the series cannot be far behind partly because we’ve already seen her next rider on-screen. The mighty Vhagar will be claimed as a mount by none other than Lady Laena Velaryon, the baby daughter of Princess Rhaenys Targaryen aka the Queen Who Never Was. And yes, we will most likely see Vhagar and Laena show off their respective regal beauties for more than a few seconds as Season 1 continues to progress at an insane pace.
But that isn’t the only reason why Vhagar is key to the story. Recall that by the time we reach the events of House of the Dragon, Vhagar has easily lived for over a century and is said to be approaching Balerion in terms of her size. She can most-likely swallow aurochs’ without flinching, and that is a frankly scary thought. Lady Laena has always been said to have a rather fiery disposition according to Fire & Blood, but never a violent one.
She’s a free spirit and love flying, yes, but her thirst for adventure chases adrenaline not blood. That would be the onus of her husband-to-be, and the future rider of Vhagar, and no, they are not mutually exclusive. Readers of Fire & Blood will know we are intentionally skirting mentioning just who this future rider is going to be, but for those who are just following the TV show, here’s a hint; one of the extended trailers for House of the Dragon actually briefly shows the scene where Vhagar gets claimed for the last time in her life.
Let us know if you found it in the comments below. And yes, we did say last, because as we know from Game of Thrones, Vhagar’s skull is amongst those found in the Red Keep after all the Targaryen dragons ended up being burnt out of existence. How it gets there is exactly what House of the Dragon’s latter half will focus on, because while Vhagar might seem timid upon introduction when compared to, say, Caraxes, she will pick up her murderous ways once the Dance is in full swing.
As we’ve mentioned already, her size itself makes her such a massive threat that whichever side is on her opposition cannot ignore her when drawing up their battle plans, even if they wanted to. Vhagar will also repeat many of the things she did during her time as Visenya’s mount in House of the Dragon, as you will find out just why she came to be regarded at the Terror of the Trident. Vhagar will also be involved in multiple dragon fights, and you will come to find out in rather spectacular fashion exactly why the only thing that can tear apart the House of the Dragon is they themselves.
The Legacy of Vhagar
At the time of her death, Vhagar was one hundred and eighty one years old, around half a century shy of Balerion’s age, and the oldest living dragon in Westerosi memory given the fact that out of the first century and a half of Targaryen rule, Vhagar’s presence was felt for 130 of those years. She had served as a deterrent and a weapon, reminding people of the King’s Peace with her body and enforcing the King’s Rule with her flames when the situation called for it.
Though many in the Seven Kingdoms had been directly affected by Vhagar’s dragonflame, all would come to remember her as one of the markers of a better and simpler time; when men were honourable, women were fertile, and dragons ruled the skies. Ryan Condol and Miguel Sapochnik have promised us 17 separate dragons over the course of the series, which was just renewed for Season 2, but if we’re being honest with you, Vhagar is the one we’re most-excited to see. Not only did she survive a hundred different battles and travelled across the known world with her many riders, she is also the literal difference-maker between the two warring sides in the Dance of the Dragons; and we cannot wait to hear her roar, no pun intended.