Skulls of the Targaryen dragons
The skulls of the Targaryen dragons are stored in the cellars of the Red Keep. Prior to Robert's Rebellion, House Targaryen decorated the walls of the Red Keep's throne room with the skulls of their dragons.
There are nineteen skulls, of various sizes. Some of the skulls belong to known dragons, but the identities of most of the dragon skulls are unknown. It is possible that some of the oldest dragon skulls may have been brought to Westeros by the Targaryens from Valyria, when they fled prior to the Doom; alternatively, it is possible some skulls could have originated from Westeros prior to the arrival of the Targaryens, since George R. R. Martin has said that there were once dragons all over.
Made of dragonbone, the skulls are black as onyx, polished smooth, and are cold and hard to the touch. The dragons' teeth look like long, curving knives of black diamond, and are very sharp. The skulls of Balerion, Vhagar, and Meraxes are the largest, and the smallest are that of two hatchlings who died a century and a half before the present.
The skulls used to hang in long rows on the walls of the throne room of the Red Keep. The cellar room they are currently stored in is dank, and dark and cavernous. There is a row of long narrow windows set high in the cellar wall, which provide some light during the day. The cellar is near the dungeons, and is a way to access one of the secret passages in the Red Keep.
Known dragon skulls
- Balerion's skull, the largest skull of the nineteen
- Vhagar's skull, recovered from the bottom of the Gods Eye
- Meraxes's skull, returned from her death at Hellholt
- skulls belonging to the last two hatchlings born on Dragonstone, no bigger than a mastiff dog's skull, possibly including that of the last dragon
- an unidentified skull, over three thousand years old
- possibly Arrax's skull, as his head and neck washed up beneath the cliffs below Storm's End
- possibly Caraxes's skull, as he died in front of the walls of Harrenhal
- possibly Dreamfyre's skull, as she died in the Storming of the Dragonpit
- possibly Meleys's skull, since it was taken to King's Landing after her death in the Battle at Rook's Rest
- possibly Moondancer's skull, as she died in the Fall of Dragonstone
- possibly Morghul's skull, as he died in the Storming of the Dragonpit
- possibly Seasmoke's skull, as he died in the Second Battle of Tumbleton
- possibly Shrykos's skull, as she died in the Storming of the Dragonpit
- possibly Sunfyre's skull, as the dragon was beloved of King Aegon II Targaryen, and died at Dragonstone
- possibly Syrax's skull, as she died in the Storming of the Dragonpit
- possibly Tessarion's skull, as she died in the Second Battle of Tumbleton
- possibly Tyraxes's skull, as he died in the Storming of the Dragonpit
- possibly Vermithor's skull, as he died in the Second Battle of Tumbleton
Some of the unidentified skulls could also be from the four other dragons Aenar Targaryen brought from Valyria together with Balerion, or from the unspecified dragons hatched after Aegon's Conquest, or from the dragons that remained after the Dance of the Dragons whose fates are currently unknown (Morning and Silverwing).[N 1]
Around 268 AC, Lord Steffon Baratheon first took his young son, Stannis, to court at King's Landing, along with his eldest son, Robert. The children were greatly impressed by the fearsome dragon skulls on the walls of the throne room.
In 283 AC, during the Sack of King's Landing, the Kingsguard Ser Jaime Lannister slew King Aerys II Targaryen in the throne room beneath the empty eyes of the dragon skulls. Lord Eddard Stark arrived a short time later, riding down the length of the hall beneath the rows of dragon skulls, to find the Kingslayer seated on the Iron Throne.
After the fall of House Targaryen in Robert's Rebellion, King Robert I Baratheon took down the dragon skulls from the walls of the throne room, but could not condone their destruction. The skulls were stored in a cellar in the Red Keep, and Robert decorated the walls of the throne room with banners and tapestries instead.
In 284 AC, when Tyrion Lannister visited King's Landing for the first time, for his sister Cersei's wedding to King Robert, he sought out the storage cellar of the dragon skulls. Tyrion found the skulls impressive, frightening, and beautiful, and sensed that they liked the fire of the torch he shone on them. He also felt like the skulls' empty eyes were watching him.
A Game of Thrones
Lord Eddard Stark explains to King Robert Baratheon why he is distrustful of Ser Jaime Lannister. He tells Robert how he arrived at the Red Keep and rode though the hall of the Iron Throne, watched by the dragon skulls on the walls, and found Jaime seated on the throne, with King Aerys II Targaryen slain on its steps.
When Arya Stark is mistaken for a smallfolk boy while chasing cats in the Red Keep, and is chased herself by red cloaks, she escapes through a low narrow window into a dark cellar. After her eyes adjust to the gloom, she finds the dragon skulls all around her. Initially she is afraid, but she soon overcomes her fear, and makes her way over to touch one of the "monsters". She can tell it is bone and that it is dead, but has a feeling that something is there that does not love her. When one of the skulls' sharp teeth catches at her clothing, Arya flees from the room, leaping through Balerion's skull to reach the door. From there, Arya makes her way through one of the secret passages of the Red Keep, overhears a conversation between Varys and Illyrio Mopatis, and finds the exit in King's Landing through a sewer, far from the castle. When Arya tries to tell her father, Eddard Stark, about the conversation she overheard, she mentions the "monsters" and how one man called the other a wizard, and Eddard dismisses the story as mummery.
During the arrest of Eddard Stark and the massacre of his men, Arya escapes the Red Keep by fleeing to the cellar of the dragon skulls to access the secret passage. She carries a candle, and in the light recognizes the "monsters" as dragons. They do not frighten her this time.
A Clash of Kings
A Storm of Swords
Arstan Whitebeard tells Daenerys Targaryen that he served for a time in King's Landing, and walked beneath the dragon skulls that looked down from the walls of King Aerys II Targaryen's throne room. Dany tells him that her brother Viserys talked about those skulls, saying that the Usurper took them down and hid them away, as Robert could not bear them looking down on him upon his stolen throne.
When considering the possibility that dragons could be reborn, Stannis Baratheon recalls the time that his father Steffon first took him to court, along with his brother Robert, and they saw the dragon skulls in the Red Keep.
The morning of King Joffrey Baratheon's wedding to Margaery Tyrell, Tyrion Lannister and his mistress Shae have a rendezvous in the cellar amongst the dragon skulls. They play monsters-and-maidens in the dark, before Shae allows herself to be caught.
I rode the length of the hall in silence, between the long rows of dragon skulls. It felt as though they were watching me, somehow.
He had expected to find them impressive, perhaps even frightening. He had not thought to find them beautiful. Yet they were. As black as onyx, polished smooth, so the bone seemed to shimmer in the light of his torch. They liked the fire, he sensed. He'd thrust the torch into the mouth of one of the larger skulls and made the shadows leap and dance on the wall behind him. The teeth were long, curving knives of black diamond. The flame of the torch was nothing to them; they had bathed in the heat of far greater fires. When he had moved away, Tyrion could have sworn that the beast's empty eye sockets had watched him go.
It's dead. It's just a skull, it can’t hurt me.
This time the monsters did not frighten her. They seemed almost old friends.—thoughts of Arya Stark
Finally a great pair of bronze doors appeared to her left, grander than the rest. They swung open as she neared, and she had to stop and look. Beyond loomed a cavernous stone hall, the largest she had ever seen. The skulls of dead dragons looked down from its walls.
Beneath the empty eyes of the skulls, Jaime hauled the last dragon king bodily off the steps, squealing like a pig and smelling like a privy. A single slash across his throat was all it took to end it.—thoughts of Jaime Lannister
It would be a wondrous thing to see stone come to life. And to mount a dragon... I remember the first time my father took me to court, Robert had to hold my hand. I could not have been older than four, which would have made him five or six. We agreed afterward that the king had been as noble as the dragons were fearsome. Years later, our father told us that Aerys had cut himself on the throne that morning, so his Hand had taken his place. It was Tywin Lannister who'd so impressed us. Robert took the skulls down when he donned the crown, but he could not bear to have them destroyed.
A vague light was leaking through the row of long narrow windows set high in the cellar wall. The skulls of the Targaryen dragons were emerging from the darkness around them, black amidst grey.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 13, Tyrion II.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 12, Eddard II.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 48, Daenerys IV.
- So Spake Martin: Dragons in Westeros (December 11, 1999)
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 32, Arya III.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 58, Tyrion VII.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 50, Arya IV.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - Rhaenyra Triumphant.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Dorne: Dorne Against the Dragons.
- Fire & Blood, Reign of the Dragon - The Wars of King Aegon I.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - A Son for a Son.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - Rhaenyra Overthrown.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - The Red Dragon and the Gold.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - The Short, Sad Reign of Aegon II.
- Fire & Blood, Aegon's Conquest.
- Fire & Blood, The Lysene Spring and the End of Regency.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 54, Davos V.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 11, Jaime II.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 8, Daenerys I.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 70, Tyrion X.