What’s the history of the dragons and how they became extinct?

I noticed in an episode I watched last night Tywin says:

When I was Hand of the King under your father's predecessor, the skulls of all the Targaryen dragons were kept in this room. And the skull of the last of them was right here. It was the size of an apple.


4 Answers 4


Spoilers for the books, of course:

Each generation of dragons became smaller, sicklier and less able to reproduce, until they eventually died out. There are strong hints that this is related to the disappearance of magic from the world at the same time, and that the rebirth of dragons has been correlated (it's unclear which way the causal relationship goes) with the return of magic.

  • 3
    The archmaester plot to destroy dragons and magic (involving Jaqen H'ghar and Marwyn) is likely to be rather interesting.
    – TLP
    Mar 5, 2014 at 15:18
  • That possible plot is possibly the main reason I can't wait for the next book to drop. The show is really fun to watch, but the sheer depth the books take in terms of character plotlines and concurrent events is staggering.
    – user74421
    Aug 31, 2017 at 1:23

In the books it is mentioned several times that dragons do not grow as large when they are kept in captivity. Mike gives a good example of this in his answer. Also:

Drogon is the largest of the three living dragons. Although I believe he was always the largest dragon, it is worth noting that in Meereen he was roaming free instead of being locked up under one of the pyramids.

As to their extinction, Marwyn hints in AFFC that:

The Citadel was behind the death of the last dragons and that they have been actively trying to build a world bereft of magic

All that said, it is still not explained whether:

The disappearance of magic caused the dragons to die, or if it was the other way around.

  • I believe it was explained by Hallayne the Pyromancer to Tyrion, "Magic begun to go out of the world with death of the last dragon". To be sure they were talking about Fire-magic, not other forms of magic which were evidently powerful even after death of dragons.
    – Aegon
    Jun 3, 2016 at 6:23
  • @Aegon - What other forms of magic are you referring to? Do you have examples? It is a common theme throughout the books that magic is becoming more powerful as the series continues. Jun 3, 2016 at 13:40
  • That would be the magic of Others, CotF and other such supernatural things beyond the narrow sea.
    – Aegon
    Jun 3, 2016 at 16:14
  • Fire magic is becoming stronger with dragons coming back. e.g. the fire "magician" Daenerys saw who could now climb a rope of fire into sky, Pyromancers noticing that their spells were working better. Melisandre however felt that her spells worked better on the wall.
    – Aegon
    Jun 3, 2016 at 16:16

It would also be good to point out that a lot of them died during the Dance of Dragons (Not the 5th book of the series -- which was called A Dance With Dragons-- , but the civil war that happened during the Targaryen rule). This civil war was on GRRM's novella The Princess and The Queen, or, The Blacks and The Greens, part of the Anthology Dangerous Women.

The dragons that died during the civil war were:

There weren't many of them to begin with, and as you can see, quite a lot perished on that civil war (129 - 131 AC)


Most dragons, and Valyrians, perished during the Doom of Valyria. Those that survived were those residing on Dragonstone: House Targaryen. Originally a minor house of the Valyrian Freehold, the Targaryens suddenly found themselves the only survivors of their race and masters of the three remaining dragons:

  • Balerion the Black Dread
  • Vhagar
  • Meraxes

The last dragon of House Targaryen (and supposedly in the world) died approximately 150 years before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire. Most of the dragons died in combat (with the majority coming from the Targaryen civil war called the Dance of Dragons). Each successive generation of dragons was smaller, sicklier, and shorter-lived than the previous.

It is believed that the deaths of the dragons coincided with magic leaving the world. There is also evidence that (AFFC spoiler)

the Citadel

was behind the death and demise of the last dragons.

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