Despite its reputation for shocking surprises, Game of Thrones is a very logical series. Every “unpredictable” twist and turn always leads the audience to the ultimate conclusion with a teasing trail of breadcrumbs. For this reason, the series’ fan theories, no matter how ludicrous, are often backed up with at least a little bit of evidence.
One of the wildest theories that has yet to bear fruit is the idea that a dragon is sleeping under Winterfell. While seemingly impossible on its face, there are a lot of breadcrumbs of evidence to explore. But is there really any chance we see this mythical dragon in the show’s final season? We’ve taken a look at all the evidence to see whether or not one of the most outlandish (but still possible) Game of Thrones fan theories could come true.
First, we need to understand Winterfell’s background and history. The ancestral home of the Starks lies in the furthest north reaches of Westeros, some 600 miles from the Wall. The North is rarely seen without snow, except in the deepest months of the summer. The castle helps buffer its inhabitants from the extreme temperatures thanks to the hot springs that lie in and around the grounds. While at first these were just pools of water, the Starks later built structures to help conduct the heat into specific buildings of the castle. These hot springs are the linchpin piece of evidence for a potential Winterfell dragon.
The book The World of Ice and Fire — a history of Westeros by George R.R. Martin, in character as Maester Yandel — explains that these springs are “heated by the furnace of the world.” The furnace of the world is probably the Game of Thrones way of saying they’re similar to our geothermically heated hot springs. But the only other two places Yandel mentions that are heated like this are the Fourteen Flames — in Valyria — and the smoking mountain of Dragonstone, two other ancient dragon habitats.
If that weren’t enough, The World of Ice and Fire also mentions that the townsfolk that live around Winterfell insist that the castle’s pools are heated by the breath of a great dragon that lies under the castle. So, at the very least you could say that this fan theory is supported in-universe by some of Westeros’ superstitious inhabitants. How did a dragon get there? According to Yandel, Mushroom — a fool who served the Targaryens long ago — used to tell a story about how the dragon Vermax left a clutch of eggs deep inside the Winterfell crypts.
Yandel dismisses both the claims of the smallfolk around Winterfell and the stories of Mushroom as complete fiction. While they aren’t too unreasonable to dismiss, it’s still possible to poke our own holes. How would a dragon hatched from Vermax’s eggs survive in the crypts? We’ve watched Danearys’ dragons grow throughout the series; they eat a lot, and there isn’t a lot of food in a crypt.
The lack of food and extremely tight spaces in the Winterfell crypts make the idea that Vermax’s eggs hatched and grew into a dragon under Winterfell seem pretty unlikely. But it doesn’t necessarily count out the entire theory.
Perhaps, when Bran the Builder supposedly built Winterfell at the end of the Long Night, he did so in a spot he knew had a frozen dragon under the ice. Maybe Bran the Builder did this not only to keep his descendants warm, but also because its magic could one day protect them from the return of the White Walkers. Sure, it’s quite a stretch, but it’s an explanation nonetheless.
This theory would also need to be bolstered by another popular fan theory to work. In order to free that dragon from the ice, Bran (the current, not the Builder) would need to warg into that dragon.
One of the biggest theories to emerge over the last few years, the idea that Bran could warg into a dragon would fit pretty nicely with the idea of a dragon under Winterfell. With Jon likely riding a dragon at some point this season, and Dany obviously leading the charge, the addition of a third living dragon (read: not an undead dragon) would nicely complete the idea of “dragon has three heads.” This phrase is an ancient Targaryen saying that relates to the three-headed dragon of their house crest and suggests that Targaryens are at their greatest strength when three stand together. The best example of this in Westerosi history is when Aegon the Conqueror took Westeros by force with the help of his sisters Rhaenys and Visenya.
While this would provide a semi-compelling explanation for a dragon under Winterfell, it doesn’t seem particularly likely. For one thing it would be a monumental task to explain all of this in the show. For another, if Bran were to warg into a dragon, it seems more likely that he would use one of the living dragons, or even the undead Visarion, rather than introducing an entirely new dragon. So, while there is at least a little evidence for a dragon sleeping below Winterfell, it seems most likely that this dragon will always remain just a theory.