When it comes to the world of A Song of Ice & Fire, the one thing that we do know is that Balerion the Black Dread is often talked about in superlatives as he was regarded as the greatest among all of the different dragons in the history of the known world. He was also the oldest known dragon. But one dragon that has always been shrouded in mystery in terms of his age and origins is the Cannibal. So, was Balerion really the oldest dragon in history, or was the Cannibal older?
There is a good chance that the Cannibal was older, as there weren’t any clear answers in relation to how old he was and where he came from. And even if the Cannibal wasn’t born before Balerion, he would have actually exceeded the Black Dread’s age if he lived for a very long time after the Dance of the Dragons.
As the Cannibal was one of the four dragons that survived the Dance of the Dragons and disappeared from the sight of the people, it is possible that he lived for a very long time to the point that he exceeded Balerion’s age. Nevertheless, because there are no official accounts of the Cannibal’s origins, Balerion is still the oldest dragon. That said, let’s look at whether or not Balerion was the oldest dragon in history.
Was Balerion The Oldest Dragon?
The power of the dragons is said to be the greatest power in the world (except if you ask King Viserys) because of the fact that they are capable of destruction at levels far beyond imagination. In fact, Aegon the Conqueror used the strength of only three dragons to conquer the entire continent of Westeros, as there was nothing that the different lords and kings of the continent could do against these beasts. Of course, we’ve seen the power of the dragons both in Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon.
Out of all of the dragons that are often talked about in reverence in the history of A Song of Ice & Fire, Balerion the Black Dread is often placed on a pedestal much higher than the other dragons. That’s because Balerion was the largest of the three dragons that Aegon brought to Westeros when he conquered the continent. On top of that, Balerion was so huge and fearsome that his flames were said to be black and that he was large enough to cover entire towns when he was flying over them.
Balerion was also the last to see the glory of Old Valyria with its eyes. That’s because he was born in Valyria during the time when House Targaryen still resided in that empire. But when Aenys the Dreamer dreamt of the Doom of Valyria, House Targaryen retreated to Dragonstone. And Balerion was one of the five dragons that the Targaryens brought from Valyria to Dragonstone.
As such, Balerion the Dread lived 114 years before the events of Aegon’s Conquest. That means that by the time when Aegon conquered Westeros, Balerion was already more than a hundred years old and had already grown to become the largest dragon in the known world at that time. He continued to live long after Aegon’s Conquest, as he died in 94 AC (After Conquest). At the time of Balerion’s death, he was at least 208 years old.
No other dragon in recorded history has ever reached 200 years old. The closest was Vhagar, who was also the second-largest dragon in recorded history. Vhagar lived close to 200 years old and was the only dragon that was close to Balerion’s size. She could have reached Balerion’s age had she not died during the events of the Dance of the Dragons.
Meanwhile, in Balerion’s case, he died of old age as he was the only dragon in recorded history to ever die from natural causes. That is why he was indeed the oldest dragon in known history. But we are talking about known history here.
That means that there is a possibility that there is at least one dragon out there that could have reached an age that exceeded the Black Dread’s own age. After all, the maesters and the historians didn’t know everything. And this leads us to the Cannibal, who was the most mysterious dragon that lived during the time of the Dance of the Dragons.
Was The Cannibal Older Than Balerion?
The Cannibal was one of the three wild dragons that lived in Dragonstone during the time of the Dance of the Dragons. He was also able to live a life of complete freedom because he never lived in the dragonpit and had lived almost his entire life as a true wild dragon that roamed Dragonstone and hunted and ate naturally. Of course, the Cannibal was named such because he was known to eat dragon eggs and smaller dragons, regardless of whether they were adults or juveniles.
But the problem with the Cannibal is that hardly anyone knows anything about this dragon, as there are no clear records that indicate just how old and big this dragon was. The stories regarding the origins of the Cannibal are shrouded in mystery and were often disputed among the different maesters and historians. There is also the fact that they don’t even know where he came from.
However, the fact is that the Cannibal was so much bigger than Sheepstealer, who was said to be born not earlier than 34 AC. As such, Sheepstealer was already close to a hundred years old during the time of the Dance of the Dragons.
The Cannibal, however, was so much bigger than Sheepstealer, who was already a large dragon during its time. That means that the Cannibal must have been a lot older than Sheepstealer as well. Nevertheless, the accounts regarding the Cannibal’s origin and age are quite questionable.
There are those that claim that the Cannibal had been born on Dragonstone before the Targaryens even settled there in 114 BC (Before Conquest). And the reason why they believe this to be true is that he was so antagonistic against the Targaryen dragons, and it is suggested that he must have come from another dragon lineage.
As such, the Cannibal could have been born in Dragonstone by some of the dragons that were brought there by the earlier Valyrian settlers on the island. He must have been born to wild dragons as well, and that’s why the Cannibal was basically impossible for anyone to claim or mount, as he might have come from a long lineage of wild dragons that were never receptive to anyone who wanted to mount them.
So, if the Cannibal was indeed born before the Targaryens brought Balerion and the other dragons to Dragonstone, then it is possible that this cannibalistic dragon was already at least 35 years older than Balerion during the events of the Dance of the Dragons. Nevertheless, we can neither refute this theory because the records related to the Cannibal’s origins and birth are still quite mysterious.
But even if the Cannibal wasn’t older than Balerion during the time of the Dance of the Dragons, he might have lived long enough to become the oldest dragon of all time. That’s because the Cannibal disappeared right after the Targaryen civil war, as no one knows what happened to him. As such, the Cannibal might have left Westeros altogether and may have settled in a place that’s far from the sight of the Westerosi people. And because dragons don’t have a definite lifespan, the Cannibal could have lived to become older than Balerion ever was.