History of Thrones: The Chilling Legend of Ice Dragons

Warning: This post contains major spoilers and theories related to this week’s episode of Game of Thrones, so if those leave you feeling cold you best not leave the warmth of this introduction

You can find our past entries in our History of Thrones series here.

Ice Dragons. Huh. That…that wasn’t supposed to happen. Now what in seven bloody hells are we supposed to do?

Because despite the incredibly complex history of Westeros, there is absolutely no precedent for a dragon dying and being raised by the Night King. There’s no legend or myth about that ever happening—anywhere. Dragons either weren’t around during the first Long Night, or they played no role in that war.

We are truly in uncharted territory here, which means we need to look for clues wherever we can find them. And the only thing that might tell us what happens now are the old tales of ice dragons.

Ice dragons might be a myth; there is no tangible proof they have ever existed. If there is any truth to the lore though, they are as destructive as their fiery counterparts. So here’s everything we know—and some things we might know—about ice dragons.


Despite five dense novels from George R.R. Martin, there is very little talk of ice dragons in them. However, it is noteworthy that almost all of them come from the fifth and most recent novel, A Dance With Dragons.

The first mention of literal ice dragons comes in the third novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Storm of Swords. Jon Snow thinks of them while walking through a tunnel in the Wall.

The ice pressed close around them, and he could feel the cold seeping into his bones, the weight of the Wall above his head. It felt like walking down the gullet of an ice dragon.

That’s it for mentions of literal ice dragons through the first four novels (we’ll explain why we keep saying literal), which makes the three mentions of them in A Dance With Dragons feel monumental. Just like the first reference, these all come from Jon point-of-view chapters.

The wind was gusting, cold as the breath of the ice dragon in the tales Old Nan had told when Jon was a boy.

The road beneath the Wall was as dark and cold as the belly of an ice dragon and as twisty as a serpent.

The snowfall was light today, a thin scattering of flakes dancing in the air, but the wind was blowing in from the east along the Wall, cold as the breath of the ice dragon in the tales Old Nan used to tell.

By mentioning that Jon learned about ice dragons as a kid from the stories of Old Nan it makes the idea of them retroactive, a part of Westerosi lore and Jon’s childhood the same way those crazy, totally-not-true stories about the Night King were. These could just be colorful metaphors from George R.R. Martin, which would also have the added benefit of misdirecting lunatics (:raises hand:) who often obsess over nothing. Or maybe not.


It’s hard not to consider ice dragons are real and will eventually play a role in the story when there is a tantalizing passage about them in the companion book The World of Ice and Fire, the compendium history “written” by Maester Yandel for Tommen Baratheon. Throughout the book Yandel is extremely skeptical about stories of magic, and tales of mythical monsters and heroes, many of which we as viewers and reader now know are real. That’s why Yandel’s dismissal of ice dragons being real in the section on the Shivering Sea doesn’t carry much weight.

The Shivering Sea is made up of the cold waters east of upper Westeros, north of the continent of Essos, with the “vast frozen wilderness of ice and snow” known as the White Waste to its north. The Shivering Sea, whose true size is unknown, is a perilous place for sailors (you definitely don’t want to visit Cannibal Bay). The few who have traveled to its northern reaches and managed to return tell dark tales of what they’ve seen there, including reports of “queer lights shimmering in the sky” and “pale blue mists that move across the waters, mists so cold that any ship they pass over is frozen.”

But the greatest myth of the Shivering Sea are the legends of the ice dragons that soar over its skies. They are said to be made of actual ice, with crystal, pale blue eyes and translucent wings, and are “many times larger” than even the dragons of Valyria. Like the fire-breathing beasts we know, they are said to be able to bring about a swift death, since ice dragons “supposedly breathe cold, a chill so terrible that it can freeze a man solid in half a heartbeat,” Ice and fire are two sides of the same coin.

Maester Yandel writes that “sailors from half a hundred nations” have reported seeing ice dragons, but he remains unconvinced, especially because ice dragons “supposedly melt when slain,” so “no actual proof of their existence has ever been found.”

Considering the legends say you can see the night stars through the translucent body of an ice dragon, they could be as hard to spot flying in the sky as they are if they are reduced to a puddle when they die.


We need to separate talk of literal ice dragons in the books because they also mention a constellation of stars that are known as the Ice Dragon.

Found in the northern skies of Westeros, the constellation is referenced in the second and third novels, A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords, as well as in the second Dunk and Egg novella, The Sworn Sword.

The Ice Dragon’s “blue eye” points north, and its tail points south. Osha tells Bran he’ll reach the Wall by looking for the eye, which Bran remembers later when he is lost. Sam looks for the Ice Dragon’s tail when he and Gilly are trying to make it south back to the Wall. The night before Jon climbs the Wall with the wildlings, he looks to the sky and thinks how he and the Ice Dragon are old friends.

An obvious connection exists between the constellation, with its “blue eye,” and the legends of literal ice dragons, but it’s unknown which came first.

(Both ice dragons and the Ice Dragon are also referenced in Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series.)


Long before he even had the idea for A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin released a children’s book titled The Ice Dragon, about an unusual young girl named Adara who has a special connection to an ice dragon.

Martin has said that despite the claims of some publishers, the story is not in the same universe as A Song of Ice and Fire—but there are many parallels between it, the world of Game of Thrones, and the legends of ice dragons.

The book has fire-breathing dragons, but they are much smaller than the ice dragon. While it is described as being blue-like in appearance, Adara can see the night sky through it. Her ice dragon also breathes a cold that forms ice, killing animals in an instant. “The ice dragon breathed death into the world; death and quiet and cold.” (This might sound crazy, but this is a sweet kids’ story.)

It’s not clear if the cold brings the ice dragon, or if the ice dragon brings the cold (just like no one is sure if the White Walkers bring the cold or vice versa). Every year an ice dragon was spotted the winters were colder and the spring shorter.

What is clear is that you can ride an ice dragon , because Adara mounted it. Which she did while her ice dragon killed three fire-breathing dragons who attacked her home. However the ice dragon gave his life to save hers, and all that was left of him was….dramatic drum roll…..a pond, which is really just a big puddle.


One popular fan theory says that there is a dragon locked inside the Wall itself, one that will be released if it ever falls. But if that is true why was it locked up? To keep men safe from its destructive powers? Or because the existence of the White Walkers made it a potential weapon in any future Great War?

Is it possible a real ice dragon isn’t something to be feared at all though? Was it possibly put there to one day be used as a weapon for men if the protection of the Wall failed them?

Or is it possible there is no literal icy opposite to the fire-breathing dragons of Daenerys? Could the ice dragon be something else? Say like the son of a Stark (ice) and a Targaryen (dragon)? Jon Snow is the only character in the novels who keeps thinking about ice dragons. Is that because he is the Ice Dragon?

We have no idea. We’re not even sure if a dead, fire-breathing dragon raised by the Night King is anything like an ice dragon. But we’re in uncharted waters now, with no other historical equivalent to look at.

But something tells us that whether or not the Night King has recruited an ice dragon, or just reanimated a regular dead dragon into his army, it’s bad news for the living.

What do you think? What happens now? Give us your predictions, no matter how chilling, in our comments below.

Images: HBO

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