Game of Thrones is back with its prequel series House of the Dragon. And of course it opened with sweeping shots of a blonde riding her dragon. The creators promise us lots of dragon content but for now let’s ponder the most pressing question. What does Princess Rhaenyra smell like after riding her golden steed Syrax? And what does a dragon smell like? Do dragons smell like other things you ride, like a horse? Syrax does wear a saddle, so maybe the smells of leather and oil mix with animal and fire scents. Or maybe the king and queen got a whiff of the clouds. Are Targaryens better at picking up the scent of a dragon? Let’s dive in to the possibilities of what a dragon might smell like on House of the Dragon!
What Could a Game of Thrones Dragon Smell Like?
When you’re riding a dragon, you’re exposed to parts of the atmosphere you wouldn’t usually be. Earth’s ozone, or trioxygen, smells like burnt electricity or chlorine, depending on who you ask. Outer space also has a smell, described by various astronauts as gunpowder, burned cookies, raspberries, and rum. NASA devised a formula to simulate the smell of space. Recently, a Kickstarter perfume called Eau de Space was released based on this combination. When astronauts return from a spacewalk, they smell of space. So maybe it follows that when a dragon drops you off after a ride, you smell of the air you flew through.
An exhibit at the Field Museum in Chicago lets visitors smell Sue the T. rex’s breath. Scientists determined rotting flesh as the likely smell. They diluted it down enough so that paying customers wouldn’t gag. Apparently the team also considered hyena poop as the closest smell to T. rex fecal matter because both species eat animal bones as well as flesh. It’s possible our House of the Dragon dragons could smell something like this.
Bats, with their leathery wings, certainly cut the same profile as dragons. Some species have a wingspan of five feet. The strongest smell associated with bats is urine. It’s often the most telling sign that you have an infestation in your attic or are entering a cave they call home. Amorous male bats rub urine and “other secretions” over their bodies to attract females. One bat researcher, however, describes different species as smelling like burnt oranges, fungus, and even corn tortillas, which doesn’t sound all that bad.
Their eight-foot size is nothing compared to Westeros’s favorite pets, but Komodo dragons are the closest living animal. So what do Komodo dragons smell like? “Reptiles do not have sweat glands,” says Kim Gray, curator of herpetology & ichthyology at the San Diego Zoo. “They do scent mark, as all monitor lizards can, and are territorial. But we humans, with our relatively poor sense of smell, can’t detect anything really.” Perhaps the Targaryen’s sense of smell zeroes in on subtle dragon scents. Considering their important bonds, this would make sense.
As for their breath, Komodo dragons ambush deer and other prey, but also feast on dead or dying animals. Though they eat them raw instead of cooking them the way George R.R. Martin’s dragons do. “Perhaps dragons simply smell like their food items, so depending on what they are eating…hopefully not humans?” says Gray. “Galapagos marine iguanas smell like seaweed a bit, obviously that is their main diet and the older animals even have algae growing on them. So Godzilla or a water dragon would smell like seaweed. Being a bit of a D&D nerd myself, one might debate they smell like ash and burnt coals if it is a fire breathing sort.”
Grilled meat and campfire is probably the most logical guess for what dragons smell like. The ability to cook your food using fiery breath certainly comes in handy if you refuse to eat raw meat. But we also know barbecuing gives off certain smells. And those linger on whoever is at the grill. That smokey smell permeates your hair and whatever clothes you were wearing. Some of those smells are delicious. But anyone who’s accidentally singed their arm hair or cooked sweet meats knows there can also be some funkiness mixed in. Depending on each dragon’s favorite foods, a mix of ash and that burning smell is likely.
With all the questions House of the Dragon already put forward in episode one, I doubt there will be any canonical information about what Syrax and other dragons smell like. But that’s why you count on Nerdist for these types of thought experiments. We can’t be the only ones wondering about what a dragon smells like.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.