The dragons in Game of Thrones were monumentally powerful, and among them it seemed like Daenerys Targaryen’s Drogon was the biggest and baddest there was. But the history of A Song of Ice and Fire is clear that there is one dragon that’s even more powerful. Drogon’s accomplishments are mounting, but they still can’t hold a candle to Balerion the Black Dread.
It’s easy to see why Drogon gets all the hype in Game of Thrones. As the largest and most aggressive of Daenerys’ three dragons, Drogon has far greater consequence to the story than his siblings, Viserion and Rhaegal. Named for Daenerys’ fallen husband, Khal Drogo, Drogon is the only one of her dragons to resist her attempts at enclosure during her time in Essos, he rains fire on an important Lannister convoy that sees an army go down in flames, and even burns King’s Landing to the ground when Daenerys loses control. By the end of the series Drogon’s fire proves hot enough to even destroy the Iron Throne, but as impressive as that is, there is a dragon that is even more powerful: the one who made the Iron Throne in the first place.
Known as Balerion the Black Dread, the dragon was a crucial piece in Aegon’s conquest of Westeros that led to the unity of the Seven Kingdoms. He was said to be the largest of all the Targaryen dragons, with a shadow that covered entire towns as he flew above them and a maw that could swallow aurochs and mammoths whole. Serving Aegon as a mount, the Targaryen conqueror burned down fleets of ships, executed armies, and most famously laid waste to the massive fortress of Harrenhal. Harrenhal still suffers from dilapidation and melted stone from Balerion’s attack. Compared to what Drogon was seen doing to King’s Landing, that’s a whole other level.
Even still, Balerion went on to many other great achievements in A Song of Ice and Fire. There was his aforementioned creation of the Iron Throne, melting the swords of all those who submitted to his master together, but most notable to his devastating level of power was Balerion’s triumph over other dragons in combat. Following Aegon’s death Balerion went on to serve other Targaryen’s and during one spout among the family slayed the dragon Quicksilver. The greatest harm he ever suffered in his life was from a mysterious wound sustained after disappearing from Westeros and returning. The wound was said to be 9 feet long, still bleeding and smoking, but its source remains a mystery.
Whatever it was that happened to Balerion during his time away from Westeros, he was never so gravely injured again. In the end, the only thing powerful enough to take Balerion down was time itself, as the dragon eventually passed from old age. In the modern timeline that Game of Thrones picks up at, his massive skull sits in the dungeons of the Red Keep. Yet his legacy may live on in a different manner altogether, as his similarities to the modern Drogon lead some to believe that the newer dragon is actually a reincarnation of Balerion himself.
There are certainly plenty of parallels between the two dragons, with the show’s telling of one creating the Iron Throne and the other destroying it being the biggest among them. Daenerys’ journey to reunite Westeros, much as her ancestor Aegon originally had would make the reincarnation appropriate, but much like most of the magic in A Song of Ice and Fire it may simply never be explained and left to the realm of imagination and mystery.
Either way, the bare facts of Balerion’s time in Westeros make it clear that he has the most mythic reputation of any figure in the world’s expansive history. With HBO reaching into its well of prequels there may even be a chance for viewers to see Balerion’s devastating deeds first hand, and the prospect of seeing such an awesome sight could well be enough to overcome any hesitation fans may hold after feeling burned by Game of Thrones‘ final season.