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People considered dragons to be magical creatures in ASOIAF (and their existence linked with the power of magic), but I don't see why. Why are they considered magical? Aren't they just another creature that exists in this world?

Are direwolves also considered magical? What about other creatures, like unicorns or manticores? What makes a creature magical? They can breathe fire, sure, but so can the Wyrms in the Fourteen Fires, and people don't seem to link them to magic.

Dragons live and bleed and breed and die just like all other creatures, there doesn't seem to be anything magical about them.

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“so can the Wyrms in the Fourteen Fires, and people don't seem to link them to magic” — does anyone actually say “Firewyrms aren’t magic”, or are they just not mentioned with reference to magic? It sounds like Firewyrms have a lower profile than dragons, given that they’ve only ever toasted a few slaves, unlike dragons who flew over Westeros and destroyed a few armies and castles. –  Paul D. Waite Jul 30 at 6:49
    
If dragons are not magic, how do you explain their continuous defiance of physical laws? (which seem to be relatively similar to ours) –  user24620 Jul 31 at 2:38

6 Answers 6

At the risk of stating the obvious: Dragons fly and breathe fire.

The largest bird of prey in our world is the Eurasian vulture, weighing up to 14 kg. Assuming the weight of a fully grown dragon is similar to an elephant, dragons weigh about 5500 kg, or nearly 400 times more than a vulture. The people of Westeros may not understand the details of aerodynamics, weight/lift ratios, and so on which make a flying dragon impossible, but they can recognise that dragon flight is something totally outside of normal experience and therefore supernatural.

Breathing fire -- to the extent of melting an entire castle at Harrenhal -- also cannot be done by any natural creature. It is simply not possible for it to generate enough energy, or for its digestive tract to withstand the heat. Again, the people may not understand the physics involved, but they can see this is something exceptional.

Whether a dragon is really magical, or the laws of physics just work differently in ASOIAF, is beside the point. Think about a volcano -- we know these have natural causes, but a volcanic eruption is so destructive that pre-industrial people quite understandably thought it was magic or the anger of the gods.

Direwolves do not do any of this. A direwolf is simply a very large normal wolf; in fact, it is based on an extinct species from the real world.

Manticores appear a few times in the books (thanks to ssell for pointing that out) but they do not seem to have any capabilities beyond what we would consider natural. They are just large and dangerous animals, with a potent venom which Oberyn uses to coat his spear.

As for unicorns, we have not seen a living example in the books. It may be that these are purely mythical creatures in Westeros, just as they are here.

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Pigeons fly, the bombardier beetle fires boiling liquid and a fire breathing creature could certainly exist in the real world through an even more intense chemical reaction (hopefully not for a while though!) –  user20310 Jul 30 at 9:10
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Seriously? If you find a pigeon the size of an elephant which can fly and melt buildings with its fiery breath, I think the newspapers will want to know. –  Royal Canadian Bandit Jul 30 at 10:06
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@user20310 Things don't scale linearly. If you scale the same creature upwards, it's mass will grow faster than it's muscle and bone strength. That's simple geometry. The fact that a dragonfly can hover in air doesn't mean an eagle could do the same thing. –  Luaan Jul 30 at 11:47
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Nitpicking about "As for unicorns, manticores, and so on", we actually do see manticores several times throughout the books. They are sold in Vaes Dothrak, Arstan Whitebeard saves Daenerys from one in Qarth, and Oberyn Martell coats his spear with their venom. –  ssell Jul 30 at 15:25
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In addition to these observations, dragons are also highly associated with things that are obviously magic. For instance, they observed dragons to die out when magic died out. There is also (the probably erroneous) belief that dragons create dragonglass, which is one of the few things that can kill whitewalkers, which are clearly magical. –  Kai Jul 30 at 19:35

Being considered magical is not the same thing as actually being magical. For example, here's some of the things that were considered about elephants from a real medieval bestiary:

Between elephants and dragons is everlasting fighting, for the dragon with his tail bindeth and spanneth the elephant, and the elephant with his foot and with his nose throweth down the dragon, and the dragon bindeth and spanneth the elephant's legs, and maketh him fall, but the dragon buyeth it full sore: for while he slayeth the elephant, the elephant falleth upon him and slayeth him. Also the elephant seeing the dragon upon a tree, busieth him to break the tree to smite the dragon, and the dragon leapeth upon the elephant, and busieth him to bite him between the nostrils, and assaileth the elephant's eyen, and maketh him blind sometime, and leapeth upon him sometime behind, and biteth him and sucketh his blood.

All absolute nonsense of course, but the important point is that at one time at least one person thought this was real. So hence we can also say that people think dragons are magical, but whether they actually are or not may be an entirely different thing.

The Wiki of Ice and Fire article on Dragons notes the following:

Dragons are believed to be intrinsically tied to magic and the seasons of the world. Since dragons became extinct from Westeros, the power of magic dwindled and winters grew colder.

Correlation is not the same as causation, and I'm not aware of any evidence that directly links the disappearance of dragons with the dwindling of magic or seasonal changes.

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Nothing in that bestiary about whether they're stronger or weaker than Terminators however... –  Darth Satan Jul 30 at 9:44
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There is the additional correlation that magic started getting stronger again once dragons reentered the world. –  sevvack Jul 30 at 19:06

Dragons are considered magical in a Song of Ice and Fire because their coming and going causes real, actual magic to come and go as well.

You will notice at the beginning of the series (in Book 1) there is relatively little magic. Almost no magic or miracles are performed throughout the entire book. There are no resurrections or shadow monsters.

However, as soon as Danaerys gives birth to dragons, all sorts of magic begins popping up. Many characters say that suddenly their magical ability increases. This is especially true for red priests and wizards like Melisandre.

  • Melisandre can now cast powerful glamours
  • The red priest is able to revive Berric Dondarion and others
  • The pyromancers make more and more powerful wildfire

Finally, the Obsidian Candles, which are run on magic power, don't work at all until the dragons appear at which point they suddenly start, effectively indicating that "magic has returned."

In conclusion, dragons seem to actually channel magic from another world into the world of Westeros, just by being around. The reason for this is unknown but it seems related to the fall of old Valyria.

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From Darth Satan's answer: "Correlation is not the same as causation, and I'm not aware of any evidence that directly links the disappearance of dragons with the dwindling of magic or seasonal changes." –  Andres F. Jul 30 at 16:12
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That is to say: it's true both events (the coming of the dragons and the increase of magic) happened roughly at the same time, but maybe there is a third hidden event driving both. Note it's not even true that magic didn't exist while dragons were absent. Westerosi link dragons to the increased potency of magic, but that's speculation on their part :) –  Andres F. Jul 30 at 16:14
    
@AndresF. There is also the case of the comet which appeared exactly at the same time as the dragons. It seems like the birthing of the dragons was a long and complicated series of steps, so it seems unlikely that one would directly proceed the other while there is a third cause. –  itcouldevenbeaboat Jul 30 at 16:28

Here are several factors which could have led to their magical reputation:

  • Dragons could be bent to the will of their riders. I don't think it is really known whether there is something particular about dragons which made this easier, or if the magic of binding (through horns etc) was focused on dragons because of the obvious benefits of doing so
  • Dragons could be hatched from seemingly dead eggs that could be centuries old. As with binding, are dragons the cause or beneficiary of this kind of magic?
  • Dragon fire was used to forge Valyrian steel and dragonglass, both of which may be fatal to the others
  • Daenerys' dragons killed the Undying Ones in Qarth
  • Similarly, dragonfire defeated the water spouts of the Rhoynar, suggesting it is more powerful than water magic
  • The alchemists' claim their magic has been more effective since the return of the dragons, though we can only say this is a correlation, not a causal relation
  • They may have originally come from Asshai. 'nuff said!

In general where there are dragons more magical fun happens. But the books do not definitively explain why this is.

I'm not sure if the direwolves are called magical, but they are more strongly associated with warging than other animals. I'm not aware of them, or any other animals, being associated with any type of magic other than warging.

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To expand on the "breathing fire is inherently magic" point I'm going to throw out some "conservation of energy" arguments.

200 gallons of fuel is enough to power a "flame tank"'s weapon for 32 seconds. These things are designed to destroy other vehicles, not entire fortresses/cities such as Harrenhal, so we can pretty safely assume an adult dragon can throw out more fire than this.

Regardless, the young Dragons seen in the TV show demonstrate capabilities roughly equal to this.

200 gallons of gasoline contains 116,090 BTU of energy (apologies for the use of crazy units). This is a total of 23 Million BTU

A single cow contains 750 kg of cow.

Cow has an energy density of just over 10 000 kJ/kg, which is also 10 000 BTU/kg = 7.5 Million BTU/cow

This would mean for each time a Dragon breathes for 32 seconds, they must eat just over 3 entire cows. This is in addition to the regular amount of food they would require.

This is, however, an underestimate. Throw in the fact that the Carnot limit of approximately 70% means that a non magical dragon cannot extract all 7.5 M BTU, and cows would likely be smaller in Essos than with modern farming practices and we could easily round that up to 5-6 cows eaten per 32 seconds of dragon breath.

It's actually a little more plausible than I had first imagined.

I'll leave the aerodynamics maths to someone who knows it better than I, but spoiler alert, it would require a preposterous amount of force for a dragon to fly.

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Haha yeah that's actually believable, I would assume they eat plenty of cows, and they don't actually use their fire breath that often, at least not yet. –  Stephen Bly Jul 31 at 4:36
    
"A single cow contains 750 kg of cow." is my favorite math statement ever. –  Andrew Jul 31 at 16:23

Do we need a more in depth answer than "because Dragons are magical"

Truthfully, Lets assume for the sake of argument that dragons are/were real. We say things are magical all the time that are in truth just beautiful, mysterious or uncommon. Common examples that come to mind:

  • Grand Canyon (hole in the ground)
  • rainbows (light refracting through moisture)
  • Love (emotion)
  • Music (sound with tone and rhythm)
  • Northern Lights (sun's charged particles interacting with earth's magnetic field)

SO...Ancient World understanding of the universe + anything beautiful, mysterious or uncommon = magic

Just my personally (not very deep) opinion

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