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Anthony Appleyard

Language used to give orders to dragons

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I saw somewhere that, when choosing a word to use to tell a dragon to breathe fire, when Daenerys was training Drogon and Rhaegal and Viserion, she chose the High Valyrian word "dracarys" (="dragon fire"), because it was a word not likely to be casually accidentally used by people near the dragon.

But that reason would not have applied in Valyria before the Doom, where many people commonly spoke High Valyrian.

Thus I suspect that in Valyria before the Doom, there was a set of commands, distinct from Valyrian and from all other languages spoken in the area, which were used only to command dragons.

Likely by the time that Daenerys reached the Dothraki Sea and got her 3 dragon eggs, the Targaryens in exile in Westeros, in the war for the throne after Jaehaerys I died, had lost so much of their Valyrian dragon-training lore that they had forgotten the old dragon-commanding words.

(Compare that in real-world India and southeast Asia, there is/was a set of commands used only to tell trained elephants what to do, e.g  "hmit!" = "lie down on your belly!".)

 

Edited by Anthony Appleyard

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I think it's definitely possible that the Valyrians during the peak of the Freehold and the Targaryens before Aegon I used different commands than Daenaerys does. I think since she's the last Targaryen (besides Jon) that she uses dracarys because that's what she knows, and there isn't dragonlore readily available for her to learn from. If you subscribe to the idea that the first dragonlords were from the Great Empire of the Dawn (like I do), then maybe they used a language to command dragons that wasn't Valyrian and taught this language to the Valyrians when they began to rise. 

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On 9/4/2019 at 5:48 AM, Anthony Appleyard said:

I saw somewhere that, when choosing a word to use to tell a dragon to breathe fire, when Daenerys was training Drogon and Rhaegal and Viserion, she chose the High Valyrian word "dracarys" (="dragon fire"), because it was a word not likely to be casually accidentally used by people near the dragon.

But that reason would not have applied in Valyria before the Doom, where many people commonly spoke High Valyrian.

Thus I suspect that in Valyria before the Doom, there was a set of commands, distinct from Valyrian and from all other languages spoken in the area, which were used only to command dragons.

Likely by the time that Daenerys reached the Dothraki Sea and got her 3 dragon eggs, the Targaryens in exile in Westeros, in the war for the throne after Jaehaerys I died, had lost so much of their Valyrian dragon-training lore that they had forgotten the old dragon-commanding words.

(Compare that in real-world India and southeast Asia, there is/was a set of commands used only to tell trained elephants what to do, e.g  "hmit!" = "lie down on your belly!".)

 

I love the question because I will never get tired of talking about her dragons.  Daenerys hatched her dragons long after the doom had consumed Old Valyria.  They don't know High Valyrian.  Dragons are not born knowing a language.  They learn language just as humans do.  The word is not so much a command as a signal.  Real life dogs pick up the meaning of human language.  Drogon would know the Common Tongue because that is the language spoken primarily in his presence.  Daenerys could have chosen another signal.  It doesn't have to be an audible signal but that is the easiest and can be sent from a distance.  A physical signal such as a touch would work too.  What commands the ancients used to talk to their dragons is not known to Drogon and his brothers because they don't understand High Valyrian.  They will have to learn the signals their mother chooses for them.  The language doesn't matter as long as its consistently used.  

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"as long as its consistently used" :: And as long as the command word is not also an ordinary language word likely to be casually used by coincidence by people around.

 

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It seems training dragons isn't that much different from training dogs - just a bit riskier to get wrong ;)

They will learn to respond to the trainer's signals, whatever language is used. I don't think there is really that much danger of them spitting fire if the word is spoken by a random stranger. Rhaegal and Viserion didn't quite get the point when Quentyn said 'Down!', did they?

I think Dany was being a bit overcautious on the one hand, and not very insightful on the other if you consider that the only time the High Valyrian word for dragonfire is likely to crop up in a conversation is when someone is chatting to her in High Valyrian (a courteous thing to do) about her 'children'.... 'and how does Your Grace protect against the dangers of dragonfire.... D'oh!!'

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GRRM's book about the Targaryen kings of Westeros says that sometimes, when a dragon-rider has died and is being cremated, his dragon lights the funeral pyre. But in such an instance, who commands the dragon to light the pyre?, since its master has just died.

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12 hours ago, Anthony Appleyard said:

GRRM's book about the Targaryen kings of Westeros says that sometimes, when a dragon-rider has died and is being cremated, his dragon lights the funeral pyre. But in such an instance, who commands the dragon to light the pyre?, since its master has just died.

Well, some readers speculate that dragonriders might 'second-life' into their mounts, in which case the rider can still give the command.

On the other hand, why assume that dragons have no agency or intelligence of their own? It's clear that Drogon does not always act according to Dany's desires, so I'd argue that a dragon is perfectly capable of igniting a pyre with no command needed.

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