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House of the Dragon: Balerion the Black Dread explained

House Targaryen appears to be at its most powerful during House of the Dragon but they don't have the strongest dragon Balerion the Black Dread any more.

Balerion the Black Dread explained

Who was Balerion the Black Dread? House of the Dragon has taken us back to Westeros, and it feels good to be back. This isn’t the war-torn kingdom we know and love, though. This new TV series is set 172 years before the Mad King was overthrown and the coming of the White Walkers.

The fantasy series is set during the reign of King Viserys Targaryen when the House of the Dragon was at the height of its power with ten adult dragons under their control. Still, threats lurk in the shadows, and the ancient Valyrian house is wracked with internal problems, not least of all Viserys’ brother Daemon Targaryen who appears to covet the Iron Throne for himself.

Viserys himself seems aware of his family’s issues and is determined to keep the Targaryen family on the throw to protect the world from an ancient apocalyptic prophecy. During the final moments of the first episode, Viserys confesses this secret to his daughter in front of the skull of Balerion the Black Dread. But who was this mighty dragon?

Who was Balerion the Black Dread?

Balerion was the personal dragon of Aegon Targaryen, the man who conquered Westeros. Aegon the Conqueror used the power of Balerion (along with Vhagar and Meraxes) to forge the Seven Kingdoms into one cohesive country (well, all of them except Dorne). It was Balerion who broke the Iron Island’s hold on the Riverlands when he destroyed Harrenhal.

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When Aegon crowned himself king of Westeros, it was Balerion who helped forge the Iron Throne using his firey breath to melt the swords that make up the land’s spikiest chair.  After Aegon died, Balerion was claimed by Maegor the Cruel and used to kill his nephew Prince Aegon.

As Balerion grew older, he began to slow down, and he was wounded while on an adventure with Princess Aerea Targaryen. Eventually, the dragon was housed in the newly constructed Dragon Pit and was only ever ridden again by King Viserys Targaryen.

House of the Dragon: Balerion the Black Dread explained

How did Balerion die?

Balerion dies of old age at 200 years old. His massive skull was displayed in the Red Keep as a reminder of Balerion’s size and the Targaryen’s power.

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Despite passing away before the events of Game of Thrones, Balerion is kind of reborn in the form of Daenerys’ dragon Drogon who’s frequently compared to the Black Dread.

House of the Dragon: Balerion the Black Dread explained

How big was Balerion?

Known as the Black Dread, Balerion was a deep ebony color and the largest of all known Targaryen dragons, although Vhagar rivaled him in size towards the end of her life —and we all saw how big she was compared to Arrax

The dragon’s wings were said to be so big that they could cover entire towns in shadow, with teeth the size of swords and jaws so large they could swallow a cow whole.

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To put it into context, Balerion was probably roughly the same size as a jumbo jet with a larger wingspan, which makes Meleys, Syrax, and Carexes look tiny in comparison.

If you love House of the Dragon and fantasy, you’ll want to check out our list of the best House of the Dragon characters and our guide explaining the Game of Thrones dragons.

We also have guides to Alicent HightowerSer Criston Cole, Otto Hightower, and Rhaenyra Targaryen, four of the most important people in the land.

If that’s not enough, we have an article all about House of the Dragon season 2; we’ve looked into the chances of HBO greenlighting Game of Thrones season 9; and done a deep dive into the history of Daenerys Targaryen. Finally, be sure to check out our guide explaining where the Game of Thrones cast is now.

Our sister site Wargamer also has a guide to the best Game of Thrones board games if you want to play this deadly political game for yourself.