The Story Behind Dragonstone, and Why It's Key to the 'Thrones' Saga
It took seven seasons, but Daenerys Targaryen has finally landed in Westeros.
The premiere of Game of Thrones Season 7 ended with Dany’s triumphant – and silent – return to the continent her ancestors ruled for centuries, and the castle where she was born. This is her first time seeing Dragonstone -- but it isn’t ours. The castle was a major setting in Season 2, though it was often shrouded in darkness, its most intricate features lost in the shadows. In “Dragonstone,” we get our first fully lit look at the magnificent castle, including the dragon heads that mark its entrance, an enormous throne room, and a better glimpse at the tabletop map of Westeros that will be key in Dany and Tyrion’s conquest strategies.
It’s a grand re-introduction, but what, exactly, is the significance of this castle? Why would Dany choose it as her first stop and why is the moment so moving for her? Here’s a look at the history of the castle, its connection to the Targaryens, and what might happen there this season.
If the walls of Dragonstone could talk...
Dragonstone is a castle on a volcanic island of the same name near the entrance of Blackwater Bay. It was built by the Valaryians to resemble a dragon, and, as described in George R.R. Martin's books, was covered in stone gargoyles. The first Targaryen to inhabit Dragonstone was Aenar, who brought his family there after his daughter, Daenys, prophesied the Doom of Valyria, a mysterious and cataclysmic event that destroyed the Valyrian Freehold.
The Targaryens, having survived the Doom, continued to live on Dragonstone for years, until eventually Aegon the Conqueror invaded the mainland, kicking off a series of battles that resulted in the creation of the Iron Throne and the start of the Targaryen dynasty. Even after Aegon's Conquest and the creation of King's Landing and the Red Keep, Dragonstone remained in the family, with Aegon himself spending a lot of time there. The painted table that Dany runs her hands over in the premiere was used by Aegon to map out his conquest, and is in the room where he later died.
Dragonstone was eventually home to Rhaegar Targaryen, Daenerys' brother – and possibly Jon Snow's father. He lived there with his wife, Elia, and their children, while his father, Aerys II, served as king. Rhaegar later ran away with Lyanna Stark, kickstarting Robert's Rebellion, a war that would claim his life. After his death, Aerys sent his pregnant wife and their younger son, Viserys, to Dragonstone to escape the war waging in King's Landing. There, in the middle of a raging storm that would wipe out their fleet, she gave birth to Daenerys – hence the "Danerys Stormborn" of her title.
We've been to Dragonstone before
After winning the rebellion and the title of king, Robert Baratheon sent his brother, Stannis, to assault Dragonstone and take the castle, which he did. (The Targaryen children were smuggled to Essos for their safety.) Stannis remained at Dragonstone with his family, which is where we're introduced to it in Season 2. It remains a setting for some major events: The painted map is where Stannis and Melisandre conceive the shadow baby that kills Renly, and the dungeons are where Shireen teaches Davos to read.
Why did Daenerys go there first?
Yes, Dragonstone is her family home and the place of her birth, but it's also a smart place for Dany to begin her conquest, geographically speaking. The island is at the mouth of the Blackwater Bay, which leads directly into King's Landing. Stannis successfully infiltrated the city from Dragonstone in the Battle of the Blackwater – a battle that Tyrion planned and fought in. Now that Tyrion is Dany's hand, he can use what he learned from that battle and adapt it to their needs.
After Stannis's death, the castle was abandoned, which also makes it an easy place to regroup and plan, as opposed to an immediate invasion. It will be a neat parallel to watch Dany strategize with the table that her ancestor, Aegon, used for his own conquest.
Dragonstone's role in the end of Game of Thrones
Probably a lot. First, we got the powerful moment of Dany silently touching the sand and walking the halls of the home she's always longed for but never known. This is a big moment for her, the culmination of all she's sacrificed and lost, the first tangible step towards re-establishing her dynasty.
But apart from the emotional stuff, we also learn in the premiere – from book-thief Sam, in maester-training at the Citadel – that Dragonstone is a treasure trove of dragonglass, a material known for killing White Walkers. Sam immediately writes to tell Jon, and considering how hell-bent the newly crowned King in the North is about destroying the Night King and his army, there's a pretty good chance that a trip to Dragonstone is in order. Is this how Jon and Daenerys will finally meet?