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TheoryLoop: Who will ride Daenerys' other dragons?

Welcome to TheoryLoop, a Looper series focused on exploring popular fan theories about your favorite TV shows and movies. From Game of Thrones to the next Star Wars movie and beyond, join me every week as I break down and explain fan theories for you and give my opinions on how likely they are to be true.

This week, we're going to take a look at the dragons of Daenerys Stormborn. While Dany has claimed Drogon as her own mount, no rider has ever ridden a different dragon while their current dragon still lived—which means we may soon see new riders join Daenerys on Drogon's siblings, Viserion and Rhaegal. Keep reading to learn more about the potential candidates, but fair warning: below the cut, this article contains spoilers for the entire Game of Thrones TV series as well as the A Song of Ice and Fire books.

The dragon has three heads

In the books, Daenerys has many visions in the House of the Undying in Qarth. One very important vision (which was left out of the show) reveals the basis of these dragonrider theories. Dany sees her brother Rhaegar, sitting by the birthing bed of his wife Elia as she nurses their son, Aegon. Rhaegar tells Elia that "there must be one more," and that "the dragon has three heads." Most readers assume this to mean Rhaegar knew he needed to have a third child, and that the Prince that was Promised must have two others helping him.

Over the years, many people have argued that dragonriders need to be Targaryens, or at least be closely related to them by blood. However, series author George R.R. Martin himself has said that's not necessarily true. At a book signing in 2000, he stated, "Three heads of the dragon... yes... but the third will not necessarily BE a Targaryen..." Additionally, we have several examples from history of baseborn individuals becoming dragonriders during the Dance of the Dragons. While these "dragon seeds" were assumed to have had Targaryen blood to some degree, there's no actual record proving that assumption. That being said, most noble Houses of Westeros have intermarried with the Targaryens in the past, and thus all members of those Houses today have at least a bit of Targaryen blood. So who might end up riding alongside Daenerys?

Jon Snow

Evidence: Almost since A Game of Thrones was published, fans have speculated about Jon's true parentage. They were vindicated in season six, when it was revealed that Jon really is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. This makes Jon a half-brother of Aegon and nephew to Daenerys. If Targaryen blood really does factor into successfully bonding with a dragon, Jon has the largest amount of it besides Daenerys herself. There's also the matter of book-Jon being a warg like Bran, giving him a greater affinity with animals. He's now the King of the North, and his path will almost certainly cross with Daenerys in the near future.

Verdict: Very likely true. Re-read GRRM's above statement from 2000: "the third will not necessarily be a Targaryen." This implies that the first and second riders will be Targaryens. Since we already know Daenerys is one of those riders, and that Jon is a Targaryen (even if he may be a bastard-born one), it seems to all but confirm Jon as a future rider. Personally, I feel that Jon will probably end up with Rhaegal (the green one), simply because he is the son of Rhaegar. Others think he'll be riding Viserion because his name is Snow, his direwolf Ghost is white, Jon represents ice, and Viserion's coloration is white/gold. Either way, I think it's pretty much a sure thing that Jon is going to end up a dragonrider.

Tyrion Lannister

Evidence: As with Jon's true parentage, fans have debated about Tyrion's real father for years. Some subtle hints from the books have suggested that Mad King Aerys was quite taken with Tywin's wife Joanna, and may have tried to seduce or even rape her at some point—making Tyrion a potential secret Targaryen and half-brother of Daenerys. Tywin himself has even questioned Tyrion's true paternity on more than one occasion. Tyrion grew up fascinated with dragons, and probably knows more about them than any other human on Planetos, except for maybe a Maester or two. He is familiar with designing saddles meant for unique purposes/riders. When he frees Daenerys' dragons from their chains under the pyramid of Meereen, he shows very little fear and the dragons don't kill him.

Verdict: Likely true, with caveats. I don't think that Tyrion is a secret Targaryen. If he were, I think it would cheapen his entire storyline with Tywin. It's much more poignant for Tywin to have hated and disowned the child that truly took the most from him, and then later be murdered by him. That being said, I do think that Tyrion is the most likely candidate for the third dragonrider. He's already the Hand of the Queen and he's on "speaking" terms with her dragons. GRRM made it clear that the third head of the dragon does not need to be a Targaryen, and Tyrion has more in common with Jon & Daenerys than you might think—more on that in the conclusion to this article!

Brandon Stark

Evidence: Most theories regarding Bran and dragons revolve around his ability to warg into creatures, references to him as the "winged wolf" in the books, and what the Three-Eyed Crow tells Bran: "You'll never walk again, but you will fly." Some fans believe this means Bran will eventually skinchange into one of Daenerys' dragons, or perhaps even physically ride one using a saddle like the one Tyrion designed for Bran's horse. There's even been some discussion over the years that "Ice Dragons" may exist, and that one could potentially be buried under the Wall. If that happens to be true, and those creatures are released by the Wall being destroyed, then perhaps Bran could control one of the Ice Dragons instead.

Verdict: It's a toss-up. Bran is the next most likely candidate after Tyrion, in my opinion. Personally, I lean towards the belief that the Three-Eyed Crow meant Bran would "fly" only in a metaphorical sense. After all, he also says Bran will never walk again, but Bran clearly does walk in his visions and while controlling Hodor, so I don't think he was talking about skinchanging. We don't even know if dragons can be skinchanged into, and GRRM has refused to answer that question when asked. We do know that dragons are considered nearly intelligent as men, and that skinchanging into a man should be impossible unless the subject is already mentally deficient. The Ice Dragon thing is a whole other bowl of worms, and I'm going to withhold my opinion until we see what happens when Bran crosses back south of the Wall.

Aegon Targaryen

Evidence: At the time of this writing, Aegon Targaryen is still a book-only character. In the books, it's revealed that Aegon—infant son of Rhaegar and Elia Martell—still lives. Varys claims he and Illyrio Mopatis arranged a swap of the true Aegon with a peasant's baby, who then died in Aegon's place during the sack of King's Landing. This "Aegon" has been living in hiding in Essos ever since, under an assumed name and the protection of Rhaegar's old friend, Jon Connington. If he's truly the real Aegon, that would make him Daenerys' trueborn nephew and the actual legitimate heir to the Iron Throne. His Targaryen blood could theoretically make him a strong contender as a dragonrider. Even Rhaegar himself thought his son Aegon would be the "Prince that was Promised."

Verdict: To date, Aegon and his storyline have been left out of the show. Since David Benioff and D.B. Weiss know how the story will end, I feel that his absence from the show through six seasons means his book storyline will ultimately end up being unimportant. Either he's a fake produced by Illyrio and Varys, or he'll end up dying soon in the books. Either way, we won't see him in the final two seasons, and he won't be a dragonrider.

Euron Greyjoy

Evidence: In the books, Euron shows up to the kingsmoot with a magical horn, one he claims can bind dragons to his will. This is how he wins the kingsmoot instead of Asha/Yara. Euron sends his brother Victarion (who isn't in the show) on a mission to meet Daenerys in Slaver's Bay, use the horn to steal her dragons, and bring her back as Euron's bride. In a sample chapter for The Winds of Winter, Victarion arrives in Meereen as the battle is beginning there.

Verdict: Probably not. The Dragonbinder horn has been left out of the show thus far, as has Victarion. Daenerys sets sail for Westeros with Yara and Theon at her side. As with Aegon, these changes probably mean the book storylines are dead ends. On the show, Euron is still out there somewhere—with a host of Ironborn who are pretty pissed at Yara. It's possible that Euron may whip out the Dragonbinder during the confrontation with Daenerys/Yara/Theon that will inevitably happen in the next season, but that remains to be seen. Even if he does possess the horn, we still don't know if it actually works as advertised.

Lord Varys

Evidence: Aerion "Brightflame" Targaryen, insane elder brother of Maester Aemon and King Aegon V, was exiled by his father to Lys in 209 AL, where GRRM says he may have fathered a few bastard children. While we don't know Varys' exact age, it's believed he is approximately 50 years old during A Dance with Dragons, putting his birth year around 250 AL. Varys was born a slave in Lys, and while he couldn't be the bastard of Aerion himself, he could be a descendant via any bastards Aerion fathered there. One of the best explanations I have found for Varys' potential Targaryen heritage is this post from the /r/ASoIaF subreddit three years ago. Unfortunately, the author has since deleted their account, so I couldn't contact them for a follow-up.

When Varys was sold as a child, a sorcerer paid Varys' former master an exorbitant amount, but discarded Varys once he castrated the boy and threw his genitals into a brazier. Kinvara's conversation with Varys in season six, and Varys' own recollection of the incident may suggest that the sorcerer was perhaps trying to use Varys' potential King's blood for a blood magic ritual like those performed by Melisandre.

Varys keeps his head shaved, perhaps to hide the color of his hair. Another character from the Ice and Fire world once did the same: Aerion Targaryen's younger brother, Aegon V—who was known by his nickname,"Egg." Here's how Varys is first described in the pages of A Game of Thrones: "The man who stepped through the door was plump, perfumed, powdered, and as hairless as an egg." Finally, his name sounds similar to many names in the Targaryen family tree: Varys – Aerys – Daenerys – Jaehaerys.

Verdict: Tinfoil of the finest quality. A lot of the evidence could just be coincidence, wishful thinking, or red herrings. The possibility that Varys may be of bastard Targaryen descent intrigues me, but I don't think there's enough evidence to prove it. If Varys is a secret Targaryen, it may explain his motivation for keeping King Aerys in power before Robert's Rebellion—even informing him of Rhaegar's potential plans to replace him—and for helping the infant Aegon escape Westeros and supporting Daenerys today. But Varys hates all things magical and seems positively terrified of dragons, so I seriously doubt he'd ever ride one.

Final Thoughts

Similar backstories link two of the candidates with Daenerys: Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister. Daenerys' mother died giving birth to her on Dragonstone. Daenerys was later reborn in fire, upon the pyre of Khal Drogo. Jon Snow's mother died giving birth to him in Dorne. Jon was later reborn in ice, under the shadow of the Wall. Tyrion's mother died giving birth to him at Casterly Rock. Tyrion was later reborn in the waters of Valyria, pulled from his death by Jorah Mormont.

Some have suggested this means all three are Targaryens, but as I mentioned previously, I think Tyrion being a Targaryen is nonsense. What I think it really means is that all three are "dragons," meaning the three heads of the Dragon: each born and reborn via the sacrifice of others and forged into something stronger during their rebirth. Each will become a head of the dragon, and ride their own dragon into battle—probably sooner rather than later!