Who'll Be the Three Dragon Riders on 'Game of Thrones'?
As the series draws to a close, prophecies will be fulfilled.
From the history of Westeros, we know the lethality of the Targaryen bond with dragons. Since the magic creatures went dormant and reemerged in the final episode of season one, we've borne witness to the growth of the only three dragons in the known world. Drogon, Viserion, and Rhaegal have been raised and trained by Daenerys Stormborn since season one. Now, with the show heading for the finish line (13 episodes left!), their mettle is about to be tested in ways no dragons have been. Daenerys will mount Drogon, as she has before, but who will fly by her side? Rhaegar's prophecy in the books says “the dragon has three heads.”
Before we get to that all-important question, it's important to understand the history of dragon riding in the Targaryen family. About 5000 years before the present day in Westeros, the men of the Valyrian Freehold began an empire after they tamed the beasts to fight in war. But, millennia later, 400 years before the War of the Five Kings that began the series, the Doom of Valyria ended that empire and turned all Valyrian life to ash, including dragons. All but one. One family, the Targaryens, survived the Doom by sheltering themselves at Dragonstone, an island outpost. The Targaryen dragons survived as well.
A century later, Aegon Targaryen and his sisters rode the last three dragons in the world in a final battle to unite the seven kingdoms and conquer Westeros for good. The Targaryen line endured, but the dragons died off one by one until only Vhagar was left. After 181 years of life, the last dragon passed away.
That brings us to season one of the show where Daenerys is given three "petrified" dragon eggs from the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai as a wedding gift. They break open when Dany takes them into the flames of Khal Drogo's funeral pyre. Season by season, we've waited patiently as the dragons have grown, and now, although they're still young, their scales still not fully hardened, it's time for the dragons to go to war.
The question of who will ride Viserion and Rhaegal at Dany's side is one of the most compelling for fans of the series. After season six's Tower of Joy revelation that Jon Snow is actually the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, the newly-minted King in the North seems like an obvious selection. He and Daenerys haven't met yet, but the stars are aligned for them. Jon is a leader of men and the arguable protagonist of the show, but the only real evidence supporting his claim to a dragon saddle is the fact he's a Targaryen. Let me explain why that should be enough.
After the Doom of Valyria, the Targaryen family was split into two factions that eventually went to war over the Iron Throne. This civil war was called The Dance of Dragons and it's mentioned numerous times on the show (most prominently by Princess Shireen who's reading about the war before she's executed by her father and Melisandre). It's important to read your Westeros history because, before the Dance of Dragons, the family was scrambling to find dragon riders for the war to come. The Targaryens were split into two factions, rivals to succeed King Viserys I. The arguments for succession pitted Viserys' chosen heir, his daughter Rhaenyra, against his new wife, Alicent Hightower, who wanted the line to go through one of her four sons with Viserys.
What's important is the fact both sides had dragons. Rhaenyra's side had so many, they needed more riders for them. Her son, Prince Jace, promised land and titles to any "dragonseed" who could mount and ride a dragon which led to every potential Targaryen bastard on Dragonstone trying their hand. Many were killed in the attempts and just as many were burned and eaten. But the important takeaway here is that Jace sought out Targaryen bastards for the task. This leads us to believe only someone with dragon's blood can ride. Also, the dragonseed who were successful spent time to train their dragons. A teenage boy named Nettles managed to tame mighty Sheepstealer by giving him a freshly-killed sheep every day. In the books, Quentyn Martell tries to hop onboard Viserion but gets roasted by Rhaegal in the process.
So where does that leave us? Knowing all of the above, these will be the three riders come season (probably) eight. The war against the Night King and the army of the dead likely won't happen until then and that's when the dragons will most be needed.
1. Drogon - Rider: Daenerys Targaryen
She's already done it multiple times. The Mother of Dragons is the most likely hero for the real war to come because of her three babies. An obvious choice. The world of men will need dragonfire to defeat the White Walkers.
2. Rhaegal - Rider: Jon Snow
Jon Targaryen née Snow is the other obvious selection to ride a winged beast in the coming seasons. As I've already mentioned he's got the bloodline to get close. All he'll have to do is train Rheagal, and Jon already has a track record of taming mythical beasts. Ghost has proven to be the greatest of the direwolves thus far. Let's just hope he doesn't get jealous. Maybe Jon can make a sidecar for him so he can ride too, tongue in the air. Why Rhaegal for Jon? Well, the dragon was named for Jon's father.
3. Viserion - Rider: Tyrion Lannister
The colors match up nicely. The red and gold of House Lannister and the red and gold scales of Viserion seem to make he and Tyrion the perfect match. But there's more: Tyrion's lineage has long been questioned due to his appearance (blond hair that looked white when he was younger and two mismatched eyes, suggesting different lineages) and his dreams about dragons:
"He was in the midst of it, dealing death with an axe as big as he was, fighting side by side with Barristan the Bold and Bittersteel as dragons wheeled across the sky above them." - 'A Dance with Dragons'
Plus Aerys Targaryen, The Mad King, had an eye for Tyrion's mother, Joanna, and one could speculate the Lannister family hatred of Tyrion originated with his conception. If Aerys raped Joanna and Tyrion was the product of that crime, it would certainly explain a lot. Tywin Lannister was always grumbling that Tyrion was "no son of mine." Maybe he's not. Maybe he's not a Lannister at all. Tyrion has already proven capable of getting close to the dragons when he unshackled Viserion and Rhaegal in the Meereen dungeons. Perhaps A + J = T, and the show will give us flashbacks of Joanna Lannister next year.