The Lands of Ice and Fire are a perilous place. Staying alive till the end of the day can be a bit tricky. If you had the choice, which mythical creature would you want by your side? A bunch of cuddly pups aka the Furry Fang Brigade, or three scaly Eggs-On-Legs double decker flame throwers? A similar question was put to Game of Thrones cast members. Most answered Direwolf. Today I’ll be weighing up the pros and cons of Fur Versus Scales. You can read my conclusion at the end.
The Cute Factor.
Cuddling is an important part of pet owning. You need to bond with the new addition to the family. Show the love and ye shall receive – in theory. All baby creatures are cute and cuddly (well, nearly all, baby jellies are not that cute. Cuddles should be avoided at all costs). Singing baby dragons barbecuing an afternoon snack are cute, baby direwolves following you around the castle are super cute.
But we are long past the cute baby stage. A cuddled adolescent dragon is unlikely to reciprocate your gesture of affection. A pat on the snout may be tolerated if you’re lucky. You could be rewarded with a singed eyebrow or two – and that’s the best scenario. And if you banish dragons to a dark damp dungeon aka the Naughty Dragon Corner, run for the hills and don’t look back. Dragons harbour grudges.
Young adult direwolves seem the better cuddle option. They are obviously devoted to their allotted Stark counterparts, then there’s the whole “okay warging now” – “sure come on in” thing. Direwolves are hospitable fellows.
The problem with cute and cuddly is this: Cute doesn’t seem to be a familiar concept to the Sons of the Harpy and doesn’t really help if push comes to shove. They wouldn’t look at the Stark pups for example and say “Ahh, how cute are you? Okay, we won’t stab you in the heart and slaughter your human”. And cuddly wouldn’t cut an ice cube with the Army of the Dead.
An essential ingredient in any successful animal human relationship is living through the night. Which pet would you prefer as a sleepover buddy? A dragon who could very possibly “creme brulée” your arse before you had your morning coffee – and all because you turned over in your sleep once too often?
Or a direwolf with a face like this curled up on your toes and who cares if he hogs the best part of the bed?
Saving Your Bacon.
Let’s look at what we know to date.
Direwolves are loyal to a fault. We could say they have all the qualities and then some of a really good guard dog. So what have Direwolves done until now?
Ghost sniffed out a Wight in Jeor Mormont’s quarters at Castle Black and rescued Samwell Tarly twice [Wight, nasty raper Night’s Watch brothers]. He exacted his revenge on Rast, one of the mutineers at Craster’s Keep and killed a Wildling when Mance Rayder attacked the Wall. In HBO’s Season 6 most recent promo video, he ferociously guards the fallen body of his beloved Jon Snow.
Summer killed a would-be assassin sent to murder Bran. He lay on Bran’s bed for weeks after his topple from the Broken Tower. He confronted Jojen at the first meeting between Jojen and Bran and saved Bran from a wight near the Weirwood tree of the Three-eyed raven. Summer and Shaggydog, Rickon’s direwolf, attacked and killed Wildlings when Jon Snow was making his escape as the rest hid in a disused windmill.
Grey Wind, Robb Stark’s direwolf, has an impressive resumé. He snipped two of Greatjon Umber’s fingers when Greatjon threatened Robb, intimidated Jaimie Lannister, and killed a dozen men and horses at the Battle of the Whispering Wood. He frightened horses and killed several sentries in the Lannister camp at the Battle of Oxcross. The murder of Robb and Grey Wind at the infamous Red Wedding is one of the saddest events on the show.
Lady, Sansa’s direwolf, was sacrificed in Season 1 to keep the Lannister Stark peace. Arya sent Nymeria away to save her from the same fate. Nymeria was last seen by Ghost in the Riverlands, running free and singing under the moon with her wolf pack.
Toasty Roasty Dragon Deeds – the Good, the Bad and the Terrible. Dragons are spectacular, beautiful, primaeval. Think Tyrannosaurus Rex with wings. Hobbies include eating, flesh shredding, torching and generally creating havoc. Although they have a special connection with their human, they are not above dousing said human with dragonfire when the fancy takes them. No longer itsy bitsy babies to coo over on a summer’s day in Qarth, dragons do not discriminate between a dish of human or goat for their Sunday lunch.
Dragons are awe-inspiring. I can honestly say that the one and only time I have ever stood up and screamed at a screen was when Drogon appeared above Daznak’s Pit and saved Daenerys.
Dragons are good at crowd control. According to the Washington Post’s brilliant Infographic, the not yet fully grown Drogon chalked up twenty kills at the Great Games of Meereen [Season 5] and is now part of the elite Deadliest Killers gang alongside Wun Wun, Bronn, Daario Naharis and Tormund Giantsbane.
Yes, mistakes will be made [Cersei on Imp Hunting] – Drogon offed a few unsuspecting Unsullied and citizens of Meereen during the melee. Although unfortunate, this is not surprising. It would be unreasonable to expect [Dragon Speak] “Excuse me sir, can you move a bit to the left? I’m about to BBQ this Harpy Guy”. And Unsullied habitually get in harm’s way, as do all robotic tin soldiers possessing exemplary marching skills. To date, the Unsullied have revealed few of the formidable fight techniques initially promised. They may need a refresher course at the School of No Balls and a Dirty Tricks seminar from street smart Daario and Bronn.
Dragons can fly and they take passengers. Swoop in, terrify the bejeebers out of everyone, melt some White Walkers, mass-burn a few thousand blue-eyed zombies and flap away tout de suite. Then celebrate with a Proper Northern Drink or crack open a barrel of Dornish wine.
Training day came early for Daenerys’ babies. Although little bigger than nesting chicks, doting baby dragon teamwork paid off [Warlock Pyat Pree roasted] at the House of the Undying. The good thing with dragons is that they grow by leaps and bounds. Drogon is the size of a small dog when he incinerates Master Kraznys at the Sack of Astapor [Season 3]. He along with Rhaegal and Viserion continue to protect their mother, screeching and lunging at the first sign of threat. The potential of Dragons as highly effective war machines is revealed.
Drogon has always been the largest and most aggressive of our deadly trio. It is said he is the reincarnation of Balerion the Black Dread, mighty steed of Aegon the Conqueror. By Season 4 all three dragons have grown remarkedly and terribleness reveals its’ ugly head. Drogon threatens Daenerys for interfering with his lunch. Then he tragically kills the goatherder’s daughter. In a heartbreaking scene, Rhaegal and Viserion are punished for Drogon’s crime, chained up and left in the Catacombs of Meereen.
This act created two very angry children who want to burn their mother [bad dragon], and in unprompted fashion, dragon fire, rip and devour [awesome, terrible] the head of a Great Family of Meereen. Although Drogon redeems himself by saving the day at the Great Games, the dragons are pretty much out of control.
Time to put an ad for a Warging Dragon Whisperer in the Essos Sunday Times and Weirwood Gazette.
Season 6 is just a few days away [Yay!]. To quickly recap on positive and negative aspects:
Direwolves: Loyal, reliable, good set of teeth, do well in battle and one to one combat. Still cute and pattable, sleepovers welcome.
Dragons: Loyalty is on pay-as-you-go basis, air born, fire breathing, do well in battle and one to one combat. No longer cute, patting is risky, sleepovers should be pre-approved, fireman suits recommended.
Ghost and Summer are still around [Castle Black, Land of Always Winter]. Shaggydog must be with Rickon. Nymeria is the unknown factor. Reports for Season 6 speak of dragons doubled in size. Drogon is on the loose, loitering around in the Dothraki Sea and hopefully in close proximity to Daenerys. I have to assume Rhaegal and Viserion are freed or escape from their prison. If you pit three dragons against four direwolves, the dragons will undoubtedly win. If Nymeria turns up with a pack of a few thousand wolves, the outcome would be more evenly balanced but perhaps not enough. The same ratio of success may apply to war scenarios, be it against the Boltons, Sons of the Harpy or the Army of the Dead. When Aegon the Conqueror invaded and conquered Westeros, he had the smaller army but he had three dragons.
Winter is Coming my friends and we’re in for a helluva battle – we need all the help we can get. In the real world, I would opt for a direwolf. But as everything is played out in the Lands of Ice and Fire, and although I would like to have both, I must answer my own question and choose one. At the risk of being incinerated by my own pets, I Choose Dragons!