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A Deep Dive Into Whether Targaryens Can Survive Dragon Fire




Warning: This post contains spoilers for Episode 4 of House of the Dragon Season 2.

The fourth episode of House of the Dragon Season 2 gave us our first proper dragon battle. (No offense, Luke, but you didn't put up much of a fight against Aemond.) "A Dance of Dragons" is a thrilling episode, but it also raises a number of questions about how, exactly, Targaryens and their dragons can iNFLict harm on one another.

During the Battle of Rook's Rest, Rhaenys' dragon Meleys, who is on the older side, faces off against King Aegon's Sunfyre and Aemond's massive Vhagar. We rarely see dragons clawing at each other. Daenerys' dragons on Game of Thrones were united in their purpose, and while Aemond's dragon chased Luke's dragon last season, they didn't really skirmish. Characters are ordering, "Dracarys," which translates to "dragon fire" in high Valyrian, left and right. The dragons obey and belch fire on various troops, castles, and, of course, each other.

Both Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney) and Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) burn Rhaenys (Eve Best) during the battle, but she seems fine, if a little blackened—until she plummets to her death. But it was the fall that did her in, not the fire. Aegon, on the other hand, is set ablaze by his own brother, Aemond, in a move that's not just rude but treasonous. Aegon looks flambéed by the end of the episode, and it's unclear if he has survived the attack.

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  • Can Targaryens Survive Dragon Fire?

All of this scorching raises a big question: Can Targaryens survive dragon fire or not? Those who watched Game of Thrones may recall that the show implied that the family (or, at least, Daenerys) was flame retardant. But as Daenerys' forebears battle it out, they're inflicting some serious burns on one another. Let's investigate.

Daenerys claims, "Fire cannot kill a dragon"

Game of Thrones
Emilia Clarke in a scene from Season 5 of Game of ThronesHBO

Let's rewind way back to Season 1 of Game of Thrones. In that season, two Targaryens were put to the test. First, Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) poured liquid gold over the head of Viserys III (Harry Lloyd), the loathsome brother of Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). It's a particularly grotesque death. Daenerys' response? "He was no dragon. Fire cannot kill a dragon."

Daenerys later proves her point when, in the Season 1 finale, she walks into fire with her dragon eggs and emerges with her three adorable baby dragons, earning the moniker "The Unburnt." The implication, at least in the show, is that "true" Targaryens can survive fire and that Viserys was unworthy of his title.

Read More: Breaking Down the Complex Targaryen Family Tree on House of the Dragon

In Season 6, she walks through fire again, emerging from a burning building without a mark on her. (In Season 1, her clothes burn off, and in Season 6, her clothes are untouched by the flames, but we can chalk that up to contract renegotiations for Emilia Clarke between seasons, rather than some magical properties of Daenerys' clothes.)

But George R.R. Martin says Daenerys is the exception

Jon and Daenerys talk in season 8 episode 2
Jon and Daenerys have a telling conversation in season 8 episode 2HBO/Helen Sloan

The Game of Thrones show seems to have strayed from the books on this matter, or at least it didn't spend time giving a full explanation to audiences. During an online Q&A in 1999, A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin said that it is a "common misconception" that Targaryens can survive fire. He apparently felt very strongly about this, using all caps to make his point.

TARGARYENS ARE NOT IMMUNE TO FIRE! The birth of Dany’s dragons was unique, magical, wondrous, a miracle. She is called The Unburnt because she walked into the flames and lived. But her brother sure as hell wasn’t immune to that molten gold.

Later in the books, Daenerys seems to know that she is not immune to dragon fire. When Daenerys' dragon Drogon helps her escape from the fighting pit in Meereen, Daenerys thinks, "If I run from him, he will burn me and devour me." She does get a bit scalded by Drogon on that scene. Later, she realizes, "Her skin was pink and tender, and a pale milky fluid was leaking from her cracked palms, but her burns were healing." Daenerys never gets burnt by Drogon in the show, making a clean escape from the pits.

Read More: Who Lived and Who Died After That Massive House of the Dragon Battle

There are numerous examples of Targaryens getting burnt in the books. Maester Aemon's older brother Aerion Brightflame drank a cup of wildfire to prove that he was "a dragon in human form" and died as a result. (Ouch.) King Aegon V and Prince Duncan, both Targaryens, died in a fire that came to be known as the Tragedy at Summerhall. Even Jon Snow, another Targaryen, burns his hand when he tosses some burning drapes onto a wight in Castle Black.

Jon flexed his bandaged fingers to show him. He had burned himself more badly than he knew throwing the flaming drapes, and his right hand was swathed in silk halfway to the elbow. At the time he’d felt nothing; the agony had come after. His cracked red skin oozed fluid, and fearsome blood blisters rose between his fingers, big as roaches.

In the show, Daenerys either thought all Targaryens could survive fire, was wrong, and lucked out or else the series changed the parameters of the magic surrounding Targaryens. If Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had some inkling that Dany would eventually become the Mad Queen, maybe they threw in the line to hint at her growing self-confidence (or ego). Her self-belief helps her raise an army and take King's Landing—though it also dooms her to the role of Queen of the Ashes.

Laena dies by flame in House of the Dragon

Nanna Blondell as Laena Velaryon in 'House of the Dragon' Season 1, Episode 6.
Nanna Blondell as Laena Velaryon in House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 6.Ollie Upton—HBO

House of the Dragon is hewing closer to George R.R. Martin's books than Game of Thrones when it comes to the question of burning Targaryens. Our first clue that Targaryens are not immune to dragon fire comes in Season 1, Episode 6 when Laena Velaryon, Rhaenys Targaryen's daughter, realizes she's doomed to die in labor. She takes her fate into her own hands and walks in front of her dragon, Vhagar, and says, "Dracarys," burning herself alive.

Read More: Why There’s So Much Pregnancy Trauma on TV and Podcasts Right Now

This scene was a show invention. The writers clearly wanted to underline the point that for women on the show, "the childbed is our battlefield," as articulated by Rhaenyra's mother AeMMA in the first episode. But the death-by-fire scene communicates another message: Targaryens on this show are not immune to flames.

House of the Dragons' contradictions on whether Targaryens are fireproof

Emma D'Arcy and Matt Smith in the Game of Thrones prequel House of DragonHBO Max

Despite the Leana scene, House of the Dragon has been somewhat unclear on the point of which firey encounters will result in injury or death. In Season 1, for instance, Daemon is hit by a flaming arrow during the War for the Stepstones. When he returns from the fight, he bears a scar on his neck from the injury. That said, he also flies through an aerial fireball that season but doesn't seem hurt at all.

Similarly, Rhaenys looks relatively unharmed after flying through flames in the Battle of Rook's Rest. The show's creators might argue that neither Daemon nor Rhaenys were directly burned in these fights. They simply ducked as fire flew around them.

Read More: A Guide to All the Dragons on House of the Dragon

Rhaenys probably could have killed Aegon and Aemond in Season 1

Eve Best as Rhaenys Targaryen in House of the DragonOllie Upton—HBO

In one of the most controversial scenes in House of the Dragon to date, Rhaenys frees her dragon, Meleys, during the coronation of King Aegon II. Meleys busts through the floor of Dragonpit and faces down the Greens. But instead of burning Aegon, Alicent, Aemond and the rest of her enemies alive, Rhaenys chooses to fly off without doing any damage—well, save the scores of innocent common folk she murdered when she destroyed the floor of the dragon pit in the first place.

Some argued that if Targaryens are immune to dragon fire, Rhaenys couldn't have done much damage to the clan. Sure, she might have killed Alicent and Otto Hightower and Ser Criston Cole (that would have been worth it!). But she wouldn't have killed Aegon or Aemond.

Turns out, that's not the case. Even in the unlikely scenario that either Aegon or Aemond is a super-powered Targaryen like Daenerys, Rhaenys likely would have taken out at least some of her enemies. Rhaenys missed her chance to end the war right there and then. As we saw in Season 2, Episode 4, she suffered the consequences of her inaction later when Aemond took her life in the Battle of Rook's Rest.