Fair warning: I may be reaching a little bit with this one.
Still, this is Game of Thrones we’re talking about, and that means absolutely no potential clue is too small to write at length about.
This one popped up when I decided to read some of George R.R. Martin’s early short stories. The collection is called Dreamsongs, and the short story which jumped out at me is titled “The Ice Dragon”.
Being the dangerously obsessed Thrones fan that I am, I was hooked halfway into the first page:
Ice dragons. Winter children. “Old Laura”, who is clearly just a version of “Old Nan” in disguise. That’s already a lot of Game of Thrones references crammed into a relatively short block of text, right?
The thing is, though, “The Ice Dragon” was written back in 1979, a solid 17 years before the first book in Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series came out.
As Martin makes clear in his intro, it also features a mythical beast that he’s pretty sure he was the first to invent. The same beast that looks set to play a very big role in the final season of Game of Thrones.
The question is, what can we learn about the nature of ice dragons from Martin’s old short story? And is there anything that could serve as a potential clue to what the Night King’s ice dragon might do in Season 8?
Let’s break it down, passage by passage…
Comparing ice dragons
So first, a small caveat: the ice dragon in Martin’s short story is not necessarily the same type of beast as the one the Night King was cheerfully riding at the end of Season 7. They’re both ice dragons, of course, but the one in Game of Thrones is the transformed version of a regular dragon (Viserion), while the monster in “The Ice Dragon” appears to be naturally occurring.
Because of this, there’s one very clear — and important — early difference: Martin’s 1979 ice dragon is actually physically larger than the regular dragons he writes about. In Game of Thrones, however, the Night King’s dragon is just normal size.
So if these two dragons are fundamentally different, you may be wondering, why am I still banging on about them?
Well, having read the story, my feeling is that the clues may lie less in an exact dragon-to-dragon comparison, and more in the way Martin writes about ice dragons in general. His feelings towards them, the power they have, and what they represent in his stories. (Stick with me.)
So first of all, despite the ice dragon actually being the hero of Martin’s 1979 tale, it’s still pretty clear that the beast is meant to be feared. Its presence is “a sign of a long and bitter winter”, which definitely doesn’t bode well for Daenerys & Co. It’s also a monster with incredible destructive power. If the passage below is anything to go by, for instance, the Night King’s steed will have no problem doing some very serious damage to the occupants of Winterfell.
Okay, so given the way the Night King’s dragon lasered down The Wall at the end of Season 7, we kind of already knew how dangerous it could be. But Martin’s early short story reinforces this. Not only is the ice dragon symbolic of a long winter in his writing, it can also literally turn animals blue. It breaths “death into the world”.
In short, the northern families in Game of Thrones aren’t going to have a good time if they try and face off against it with their weedy human armies. They’d be better off fleeing south.
And as we get further into Martin’s 1979 short story, the ice dragon’s threat — and the threat it may hold for the main Game of Thrones protagonists — becomes even more bone-chillingly clear…
The ice dragon vs. regular dragons
If you don’t want to know how Martin’s short story ends, look away know.
As I mentioned earlier, the ice dragon is actually the hero of our 1979 story. It’s befriended by the story’s young protagonist early on, and it ultimately turns up to save the day when her home and family are attacked by three dragon-riding soldiers at the head of an invading army.
Instead of fleeing on the ice dragon’s back, the little girl steers it round into battle, where it faces off against the three summer dragons that have landed outside her family’s farm.
The ice dragon kills all three of them.
Think about that for a moment: one ice dragon vs. three regular dragons (which is now one more than our Westeros heroes have), and the ice dragon is the thing that comes out on top.
Okay, so admittedly there are some caveats. The three summer dragons are taken by surprise, for one, and it’s also pretty crucial to note that the ice dragon ultimately perishes in its efforts; it kills the last dragon rider with a final, icy breath as it lays dying on the ground.
But still. Just the fact that it manages to take out three summer dragons is surely something. Many people — myself included — were perhaps naively thinking that Daenerys’ two remaining dragons would be enough to bring down the Night King’s chilly beast in the final Thrones season. After all, fire beats ice, right?
Well, maybe not. In Martin’s universe, fire has the ability to melt ice. But ice has the ability to freeze and crack fire.
The biggest clue that “The Ice Dragon” gives us, therefore, is that nothing will be clear cut. The clash of fire and ice is going to be a messy one. There will likely be casualties on both sides.
In Martin’s short story, only one dragon rider survives: Adara, the hero of the tale. If I had to make a prediction, I’d say the final season of Thrones will mimic this. I think the dragons will kill each other off, and the Night King, plus whoever happens to be riding Rhaegal, will die in battle.
Only Daenerys will survive.