George R.R. Martin thinks Game of Thrones dragons should be the new standard design for the mythical beast, finding large, bulky dragons to be impractical.
Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin has strong feelings on many subjects, from Jon Snow to the New York Jets, but according to the recently released House of the Dragon Blu-ray, the scribe thinks most shows get dragons all wrong. Cinemablend reported on an interview, included as part of the special features, in which Martin runs down all the ways other shows botch their depiction of dragons. For an author that spent thousands of pages wringing every last drop of pain and misery out of the Stark family, he sure does want large flying reptiles treated with respect.
In describing how other, non-Game of Thrones shows get dragons wrong, George R.R. Martin says “You see some of these dragons in some of these shows, and they’ve got like little bitty wings and they’re big fat things. They would never get off the ground. The aerial dynamics just don’t work. They have to have very large wings and a relatively slender kind of serpentine body, a long tail, a long neck. They’re more like pterodactyl dinosaurs.”
Game of Thrones only had three dragons during its entire run, and as all three were siblings, they looked a lot alike. House of the Dragon takes place before the dragons were slaughtered, during a time when the Targaryens ruled Westeros and each of their houses had multiple dragon riders. As a result, the dragons of the HBO prequel series are majestic beasts, each with unique coloring, scale pattern, wingspan, and personality.
George R.R. Martin on dragon designs: “You see some of these dragons in some of these shows, and they’ve got like little bitty wings and they’re big fat things. They would never get off the ground. The aerial dynamics just don’t work. They have to have very large wings and a relatively slender kind of serpentine body, a long tail, a long neck. They’re more like pterodactyl dinosaurs.”
While all of the dragons have the same basic design as explained by George R.R. Martin, they vary greatly in size, speed, and strength. The largest dragon of all has already passed by the time of the show, though the head of Balerion the Black makes an appearance. The legendary steed of Aegon the Conqueror has a slightly smaller sister, Vhagar, tamed by Leana Targaryen (Phia Saban) and later by Aemond (Ewan Mitchell). As impressive as Vhagar and the others are, the spectacle is only possible thanks to the incredible work done by the special effects department at HBO; other shows do not have the Game of Thrones‘ budget, which matched that of a movie for each individual episode.
For example, the Disney film Pete’s Dragon from 2016 has a relatively good-looking dragon, albeit one that is furry instead of scaly. However, the dragon still has small, bat-like wings and a thick, muscular body, resembling a draft horse more than a snake. Game of Thrones dragons are all much more slender than the fuzzy, green, friendly beast.
The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug featured one of the most famous dragons in fiction, Smaug, who in the novels has four legs but in the movie only has two thick back legs. The new design was influenced by Benedict Cumberbatch’s motion capture performance, contradicting the first Hobbit film, which wanted the exact type of large, bulky dragon George R.R. Martin absolutely despises. Given how detailed the Game of Thrones novels have been, it is no surprise that the very, very slow writer behind them has put a lot of thought into how dragons would operate within the laws of physics.
The realm of animation can get away with a vast array of different dragon designs, as evidenced by the phenomenal How to Train Your Dragon film, compared to a more realistic show, even one with dire wolves and ice zombies, which can not get away with that. Game Of Thrones will continue to influence popular culture, through the spinoff House of the Dragon, an upcoming Jon Snow series, and maybe, eventually, more novels. House of the Dragon will return to HBO in 2024, but the first season’s Blu-Ray is now available to purchase.