Warning: contains spoilers for the Game of Thrones finale (AND ONE PLOT DETAIL FROM THE HOUSE OF THE DRAGON OPENER.)
He didn’t eat her. According to the Game of Thrones showrunners speaking on the Season 8 finale disc commentary, Drogon did not tenderly pick up Dany’s corpse and fly away with it so he could – as some fans have theorised – tuck in to a tasty snack en route to Volantis. “Drogon’s not going to eat you,” David Benioff protested at the suggestion. “He’s not a cat.”
A dragon would apparently balk at eating the corpse of its mother, which Benioff suggests means that they’re more ethical creatures than cats (then again, so are most serial killers). So if Drogon didn’t fly Dany away to eat her, what was his plan?
A scene in the opening episode of Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon suggests a likely answer. In House of the Dragon episode ‘The Heirs of the Dragon’, the royal family gathers on a King’s Landing clifftop to say goodbye to a loved one. The body is wrapped in a shroud and at the decisive moment, a Targaryen utters the famous High Valyrian instruction “Dracarys” (meaning “dragonfire”).
That’s the cue for golden dragon Syrax to descend from her perch and breathe fire on the corpse, lighting its funeral pyre. Fittingly for a House whose words are “Fire and Blood”, the Targaryens favour cremation rather than burial for their ancestors (a practical tradition in the Seven Kingdoms, where – as we’ve seen – magic exists that can raise the dead and convert them into warriors of a blue-eyed zombie army).
In Game of Thrones, we saw Daenerys roast her enemies alive using the “Dracarys” instruction – memorably the slave master Kraznys mo Nakloz in Season 3, Episode 4, after he underestimated both her appetite for vengeance and her ability to speak High Valyrian. Dany’s first “Dracarys” victim of course, was Pyat Pree, the Quarth warlock who was keeping her baby dragons hostage in the House of the Undying. He also underestimated Dany and the bond she shared with her children.
A “Dracarys” execution was one of the surer signs that Daenerys Targaryen shared more in common than was once thought with her bloodthirsty and cruel father the Mad King Aerys. In the aftermath of the Battle of Goldroad, in which Dany had defeated the Lannisters, she gathered the survivors and forced them to kneel to her – an old Targaryen favourite. When two men – Lord Randall and Rickon Tarly, the respective father and brother of Samwell Tarly – refused to capitulate, Dany issued the command and they were both burned alive by dragon fire. Lord Varys, the master of whispers whose conscience got the better of him, suffered the same fate, despite having secretly been pulling strings for decades to install Dany on the Iron Throne.
The above were all vengeful acts of war, but the House of the Dragon “dracarys” scene shows the Targaryens practising their family rites at a time of relative peace. It gives us a decent idea of what Drogon did with Dany’s body after he melted the Iron Throne and flew away from King’s Landing. As theorised by Samwell Tarly in the finale, the dragon flew her to Volantis, where she’d grown up in exile after the death of her father, and cremated her body in line with family tradition. Sort of sweet, really?
House of the Dragon airs on Sundays at 9pm on HBO in the US and on Mondays at 2am and 9pm on Sky Atlantic and NOW in the UK.