The Dance of the Dragons Would Never Even Have Begun If This Old Fella Were Alive

In one way, it’s great that we’re able to see an epic Battle Royale of dragons fighting dragons in House of the Dragon. But in another, it is a little sad because there’s one legendary dragon missing from the action: Balerian The Black Dread!

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Sounds like the stage name of some iconic WWE star, doesn’t it? Well, Balerian is pretty much that guy.

Who was Balerion and why was he called “The Black Dread”?

Balerian is the biggest dragon to ever be seen on Westeros, and no dragon has ever come close, not even Daenerys Targaryen’s.

Named after one of the god of Old Valyria, Balerion had black scales and wings, long sword-like sharp teeth, and even the fire he spewed was black, with occasional red swirls, possibly the reason why he was named ‘Black Dread’. Once full grown, his shadow would cover entire villages when he fly past them overhead. It was said that he could swallow large mammals, like mammoths, whole. 

Apparently, Balerion’s fire could melt steel and stone, and in one song about Aegon’s Conquest, it is claimed that it was Balerion’s fire that melted the swords of his enemies to forge the Iron Throne. His fire could also transform sand into glass, also known as dragon glass or obsidian (the weapons that could kill white walkers!)

How many riders did Balerion have?

Balerion the Black Dread in 'House of the Dragon'

Balerion was one of five dragons that Aenar Targaryen brought over from Old Valyria to Dragonstone when the Targaryens escaped. While the other four died, Balerion was the only one who survived and was therefore the only remnant of Valyria. 

It is unclear when exactly Balerian hatched in the books. However, in House of the Dragon, there’s a book in season 1 episode 2 about the history of House Targaryen that mentions that Daenys the Dreamer (who dreamt of the Doom of Valyria) had claimed Balerian when he was young, the night before she had the dream. Going by that, Aegon the Conqueror was then the first in canon, (and second in the show’s history) to have claimed Balerion as his mount. 

Aegon I rode Balerion to several victories in conquest of Westeros, and oft times, his mere presence was enough to deter his enemies into submission. Balerion had three more rides after Aegon—Maegor the Cruel (son of Aegon the conqueror), Aerea Targaryen (daughter of Maegor’s nephew Aegon), Baelon Targaryen (father of Viserys and Daemon), and finally Viserys Targaryen.

Is Balerion alive in House of the Dragon?

A woman looks at the skull of a massive dragon in "Game of Thrones"

Well, no! By the time Viserys claimed Balerion, he had become rather old and tired, and Viserys thought the dragon couldn’t even make it to Dragonstone in a flight. He just rode him a couple of times around King’s Landing when he claimed the dragon. A year later, Balerion died of old age. He had lived some 200 years! So Viserys was actually the last Targaryen to have ridden Balerion of Old Valyria.

But, Balerian has been with us in spirit, both in House of the Dragon and Game of Thrones.

You remember seeing the giant imposing skull of a dragon in the tunnels underneath the Red Keep, surrounded by hundreds of lit candles? Well, that’s Balerion’s skull, preserved there along with some 20 other Targaryen dragon skulls. Currently in full display, by the time the Targaryen reign ends with Aerys II (the mad king) and its GoT time, the skulls are moved further underground.

Had Balerion the Black Dread been alive and healthy, the war would’ve probably not begun at all, because who would dare go against the creature, who had once melted the entire stone of the castle Harrenhal?

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Jinal Bhatt
Jinal Bhatt (She/Her) is a staff writer for The Mary Sue. An editor, writer, film and culture critic with 7+ years of experience, she writes primarily about entertainment, pop culture trends, and women in film, but she’s got range. Jinal is the former Associate Editor for Hauterrfly, and Senior Features Writer for Mashable India. When not working, she’s fangirling over her favourite films and shows, gushing over fictional men, cruising through her neverending watchlist, trying to finish that book on her bedside, and fighting relentless urges to rewatch Supernatural.