Can Targaryens Burn Explained

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Can Targaryens Burn
Credit: HBO

House of the Dragon Episode 6 complicated a question almost as old as Game of Thrones itself; can Targaryens burn?

Game of Thrones seemed to suggest that true representatives of the ancient house cannot die by fire. House of the Dragon seems to suggest otherwise. So, is there any definitive answer to the riddle?

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Can Targaryens Die By Fire? Evidence So Far

Can Targaryens Burn 1
Credit: HBO

The idea that some Targaryens cannot burn first came up in the first season of Game of Thrones. 

When Viserys Targaryen, the eldest surviving Targaryen at the time and one of the contesters for the iron throne started making unreasonable demand of his then ally, khal Drogo, the khal devised a cruel and unusual punishment.

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Viserys was obsessed with what he deemed his rightful place in the Seven Kingdoms and wanted anyone to take his supposed crown seriously.
As it turned out, khal Drogo took the matter a bit too literally and decided to crown Viserys with burning, molten gold, killing him instantly.

Seeing her brother's demise, Daenerys said that "[Viserys] was no dragon" as "fire cannot kill a dragon."

Daenerys later seemingly proved this very statement, as she went into her husbands funeral pyre along with her three dragon eggs. From that fire she emerged unscathed with three hatched dragons.

This impressive feat gave fans the impression that true Targaryens cannot burn to death. As Daenerys was the last Targaryen, we never got to test that theory in GoT. As for Viserys, he died very early in the show and he was all but forgotten as other villains we loved to hate took up the screen time moving forward.

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In walks House of the Dragon which seems to take an equally mixed approach. Daemon seems to miraculously avoid burning early in Season 1, but his wife, Laena Velaryon (a dragon rider and a Targaryen from her mother's side) kills herself by ordering her dragon to burn her to avoid a more excruciating death.

So, what is the catch? Why do some Targaryens burn and some don't, and what makes a Targaryen a true dragon, immune to fire?

Related: House of the Dragon: Did Daenerys Know About The Song Of Ice and Fire?

Can Targaryens Burn Explained

Can Targaryens Burn 2
Credit: HBO
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While the Game of Thrones tv show might have made us think otherwise, Targaryens can in fact burn. The show hyped Daenerys' unburnt status on several occasions but even this ability was more toned down in the books. 

While Daenerys did, indeed, survive a pyre in the books, and she displayed a supernatural tolerance to heat, this did not mean that she couldn't suffer burns on other occasions. Moreover, her case was supposed to be one extraordinary and miraculous phenomenon, demonstrating her status as a prophesized savior.

The books never mention that no Targaryen has ever burned. When Daenerys thought that Viserys was "no dragon" this most likely expressed her own disillusionment about her brother, and it's meant to be read as metaphor rather than fact.

As dragon riders, Targaryens might have an uncanny proximity to fire that others don't but this doesn't mean that anyone other Daenerys can walk out of a pyre unscathed.

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In Daemon's case, he wasn't directly exposed to the flames, which is most likely while he was able to survive. Therefore, when Laena kills herself by fire, this doesn't mean she was a "lesser" Targaryen.

Rather, this confusion shows that GoT's overemphasis on Daenerys' unburnt status helped magnify and already existing misconception about what was meant to be a one-off miracle.