‘House of the Dragon’: What It Takes to Be a Dragonrider

House of the Dragon will be the first Game of Thrones spinoff to hit HBO. And unlike the original series, this prequel is going to have a lot of dragons and dragonriders. Set approximately three centuries before GoT, House of the Dragon is about a civil war in House Targaryen known as the Dance of the Dragons — the event that causes dragons to go extinct. 

One of the main dragonriders in the series is Doctor Who alum Matt Smith. He stars as Daemon Targaryen, rider of Caraxes the Blood Wyrm. What does it take to be a dragonrider like Daemon? Here’s what we know from George R. R. Martin’s books.

House of the Dragon official key art
Image Courtesy: HBO

Who are dragonriders in ‘House of the Dragon’?

In Martin’s novel Fire & Blood — which House of the Dragon is based on — a dragonrider is someone who is able to bond with and mount a dragon. Dragons will only bond to one rider at a time, and only Valyrians are able to do this. Since the only surviving house of the Valyrian dragonlords was House Targaryen, they were the last known dragonriders.

The only exception to this rule was the Night King in Game of Thrones, who was able to ride Viserion when he reanimated his corpse and enslaved him as an ice dragon.

Fans will recall that Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) became the first dragonrider in centuries when she mounted Drogon in season 5 of Game of Thrones. Then at the end of the series, the only living Targaryen — Jon Snow (Kit Harington) — was able to ride Rhaegal.

In House of the Dragon, the dragons are at the height of their numbers. Which means fans will get the chance to see a lot of Daenerys and Jon’s ancestors mount their dragons.

“I’m looking forward to the dragons, obviously I love the dragons. And we had three of them in Game of Thrones, but now we have like 17 of them,” Martin said on the Stuff Dreams are Made Of podcast.

What does it take to be a dragonrider?

In the history of the world that Martin created in his novels, the Valyrian Freehold in Essos was ruled by dragonlord families who used magic to tame dragons and exert power over them. One of those families was the Targaryens, who were the only ones to survive a mysterious event known as the Doom of Valyria.

This event wiped out the city, including every person and dragon in it. The only exception being the Targaryens — who managed to survive because they moved with five dragons to Dragonstone just before the event occurred. 

Not everyone of Valyrian ancestry can ride a dragon in ‘House of the Dragon’

With the Targaryens being the last of the dragonriders, they put an emphasis on keeping their lineage “pure” because they believe this gives them the ability to control dragons. As a result, there’s a lot of incest in the family. In House of the Dragon, there will be a relationship between an uncle and niece.

Despite the attempts to keep the lineage “pure,” not everyone of Valyrian ancestry can ride a dragon. Two other Valyrian families — House Velaryon and House Celtigar — are not inherently dragonlords. But because Velaryons sometimes marry Targaryens, there are some dragonriders with the last name Velaryon.

House of the Dragon premieres Sunday, August 21 on HBO.

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