Small Council: Who are the three heads of the dragon?


We had so much fun talking about various Game of Thrones fan theories last week that we’re doubling down and devoting this week’s discussion to one of the most intriguing. During A Clash of Kings, Daenerys Targaryen has a vision of her brother Rhaegar while in the House of the Undying. He says, among other things, that “The dragon has three heads.” Fans have interpreted this to mean that Dany’s three dragons will need three riders. Who will they be? Theories, speculation, and far-flung ideas are welcome. BEWARE SPOILERS

DAN: Three dragons means three riders. Makes sense, right? Apart from any mystical visions involved, it’s just logical to assume that there will eventually be three different people who ride Daenerys’ three different dragons. After all, that’s what happened during Aegon Targaryen’s invasion of Westeros, when Aegon and his two sisters rode Balerion, Vhaghar, and Meraxes into battle. Dany is learning how to ride Drogon, but if she wants to reenact her ancestors’ success, she’ll need two other riders at her side.

Or will she? One of the strengths of George R.R. Martin’s books is that they take turns we don’t expect. The characters we think will lead the story end up dead (e.g. Ned and Robb Stark), while the villains of the piece are developed to the point where they become protagonists in their own right, if not quite full-fledged good guys (e.g. Jaime and Cersei Lannister). It’s impossible to know for sure, but I can see Martin serving up some similar twists when it finally comes time for Daenerys to mount up and cross the Narrow Sea.

For example, what if one of her dragons dies? In the books, there are a lot of opportunities for that to happen coming up, and if it does, Dany will have less need of extra riders. Worse, what if an enemy manages to get control of one of Dany’s dragons and pits it against her? (Keep in mind a certain horn being brought into Meereen toward the end of A Dance with Dragons.) Depending on how things play out, Dany may have to invade Westeros with only two dragons, or one, or none. That wouldn’t tidily fulfill Dany’s vision from A Clash of Kings, but it would be in keeping with the messy narrative George R.R. Martin has constructed thus far.

Granted, as we head into the endgame, both in the books and on the show, the rules may change. Martin has gleefully tossed convention to the wind during the first and second acts of his tale, but he may give us a little more of what we want in Act 3. Then again, until we know for sure, I’m hoping to be surprised.

CAMERON: Assuming the prophecy comes true, I’m of the opinion it will be Dany, Tyrion, and Jorah riding the dragons. There’s some significance in that all three of them are exiles of Westeros returning to reclaim it for themselves (not necessarily in terms of political power, but personal power). But you’re right, Dan—prophecy is bunk in Martin’s world, and it’s quite likely that this scene is only important for its symbolic resonance, not its foreshadowing of future events. It’d be cool to be wrong, though.

RAZOR: When trying to solve the riddle of the three heads of the dragon, one must assume that Daenerys—as the only confirmed living Targaryen—will be the first. As far as numbers two and three go, I have my best guesses…but that’s all they are at this point. I believe that second head lies with Jon Snow. My reasoning is simple, and for one to buy into the Jon Snow-as-a-head-of-a-dragon theory, one must subscribe to the theory that he is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. There are many clues throughout the books and show that point to Jon’s true lineage, and for the purposes of this theory, I’ll list a few from Dany’s visions in the House of the Undying in Qarth from A Clash of Kings:

  • A man who looked like her deceased brother Viserys, but taller and with darker eyes, who says to a woman nursing a baby, “Aegon…What better name for a king…He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.” When the man’s eyes meet Dany’s, he says either to her or the woman with the baby, “There must be one more…The dragon has three heads.” He then picks up a silver harp and begins to play.

The popular interpretation of this vision is that the Viserys look-alike is in fact Rhaegar Targaryen, due to the fact that he picks up a silver harp (Rhaegar’s favorite instrument) and begins to play. The question remains: Is the baby referred to as Aegon actually Jon? Could the woman nursing the infant be Lyanna Stark? Many people believe that the woman is Elia of Dorne—Prince Rhaegar’s wife—and the infant is the Aegon whose head was dashed against a wall when Tywin Lannister’s army sacked King’s Landing at the end of Robert’s Rebellion. Another clue from Dany’s visions may hold the answer:

  • A blue flower growing from a chink in a wall of ice.

How does this tie into the theory that Jon is the second head of the dragon? Throughout A Song of Ice and Fire, an oft-mentioned fact about Lyanna Stark is that she loved blue winter roses. In fact, during the Tourney at Harrenhal, Rhaegar rode past his own wife—Elia of Dorne—and crowned Lyanna Stark the Queen of Love and Beauty with a garland made of blue winter roses. When Eddard Stark has his fever dreams about the Tower of Joy during A Game of Thrones, he remembers a storm of rose petals blowing across a blood-streaked sky, as blue as the eyes of death.

I believe the woman in Dany’s vision from Qarth is in fact Lyanna Stark, and the baby referred to as Aegon is Jon Snow. Jon is the second head of the dragon…but who is the third? Does one have to be a Targaryen to ride dragons? No—during the Dance of Dragons, when Targaryen fought Targaryen, many dragonriders were chosen who were not members of the Targaryen family, and they were called Dragonseeds:

  • Hugh Hammer: A blacksmith’s bastard, he bonded with the dragon Vermithor.
  • Ulf the White: A man-at-arms, he bonded with the dragon Silverwing.
  • Addam of Hull: He bonded with the dragon Seasmoke. He was later legitimized as Addam Velaryon (old family from Valyria who came to Dragonstone with the Targaryens) and made heir to Driftmark.
  • Nettles: A girl of sixteen who was brave beyond measure. She bonded with the dragon Sheepstealer by feeding it sheep each morning.

I explain all this in order to make the point that one does not necessarily have to be born of Targaryen blood in order to ride a dragon. So, using that logic, I believe the third head of the dragon will be Young Griff, also known as False Aegon.

In A Dance with Dragons, we are introduced to a father and son named Griff and Young Griff. Magister Illyrio sends Tyrion to meet them. The Griffs travel the Rhoyne aboard a ship called the Shy Maid, with their companions Haldon Halfmaester (who instructs Young Griff in history, math, and languages), Septa Lemore (a supposed former Septa from Westeros who instructs Young Griff in the ways of the Seven), and Ser Rolly Duckfield (Young Griff’s master-at-arms).

It is later revealed that Young Griff is actually Aegon Targaryen, whom Varys swapped with another infant before the sack of King’s Landing and secreted away across the Narrow Sea. Griff is revealed to be Lord Jon Connington, an exiled former Hand of the King to Aerys Targaryen, who loved Rhaegar Targaryen dearly. I believe Young Griff to be the Mummer’s Dragon from Dany’s vision in the House of the Undying:

  • A cloth dragon amidst a cheering crowd.

Dany is also warned by the mysterious Quaithe to beware the Mummer’s Dragon: “The glass candles are burning. Soon comes the pale mare, and after her the others. Kraken and dark flame, lion and griffin, the sun’s son and the mummer’s dragon. Trust none of them. Remember the Undying. Beware the perfumed seneschal.

As we learned at the end of Dance of Dragons, the Griffs have revealed themselves to the Golden Company (a company of sellswords founded by the Great Bastard, Aegor Rivers, also known as Bittersteel) and they have begun False Aegon’s conquest of Westeros. Now, while I believe Young Griff to be a false Targaryen, I also believe him to have Valyrian (through his mother, who I believe was Illyrio’s wife). Therefore, when Daenerys lands in Westeros with her three dragons, ready to conquer the Seven Kingdoms, Young Griff will present himself to her as a Targaryen, and he will be brought before the dragons—Drogon, Viserion, and Rhaegal—to prove his lineage. The dragons will accept him because of his Valyrian blood, and he will become the third head of the dragon.

Blue-haired Young Griff aboard the Shy Maid–by © FFG

ANI: I’m with Razor on this one. Dany, Jon Snow, and Aegon, whether or not he’s false aside. My reasoning for it: gender swap.

As Dan noted above, during the original Targaryen conquest of Westeros, Aegon Targaryen rode the lead dragon while his two sisters, Rhaenys and Visenya, rode the secondary dragons. He ruled, and they became his wives. As Dan also notes, Martin has been big into the subversion of tropes, which is what leads him to think that perhaps Dany’s vision will be subverted somehow.

But although it is the second decade of the 21st century, we have not come as far in women’s rights as one might think. Studio heads still make stupid remarks on a regular basis about how women can’t open movies, for instance. Marvel continually bumps back its first movie headline by a female superhero in favor of ones starring white males, until it now sits in the “safety zone” of a March release.

Having a woman be the rider of the head dragon (remember, since Drogon was not locked up, he has been able to grow larger in the way the other two haven’t) while the men ride the secondary dragons is still trope subversion. That’s especially true if it means that the male riders (both of whom would be Dany’s nephews, if they truly are Rhaegar’s sons, and half-brothers to each other to boot) are subject to Dany’s whims, as Aegon’s sisters were to his whims during the original conquest.

As for marrying Aunt to Nephew, perhaps the Targaryens could consider it a brand new tradition? A Union and a Song of Ice and Fire.

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