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Game of Thrones season 6: Dany's fire immunity, explained

Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

Spoilers follow for Game of Thrones season six, episode four, "Book of the Stranger."

The conclusion of "Book of the Stranger," this Sunday's episode of Game of Thrones, was a fiery one.

As Dothraki leaders gathered to decide what to do with our hero Daenerys Targaryen — who's spent the entire sixth season so far in their captivity — Dany finally made her escape.

But she employed a rather risky strategy to do so, setting fire to the temple that she and the Dothraki khals were both in.

Not to worry, though: While Dany's captors were roasted alive, Dany herself emerged from the flames unscathed, much like she did when her dragons were born in the first place, all the way back in season one.

It seems that, in the TV show, Dany is completely and reliably immune from fire. However, in George R.R. Martin's source novels, the situation appears to be different. Interestingly and unusually, in this case, the show has decided to play up a magic-related element from the books, rather than watering it down.

In the books, Dany's resistance to fire seems to have been a one-time thing

Dany emerges from the flames with three new baby dragons and a full head of hair at the conclusion of Game of Thrones' first season.

At the end of the first book in the series, A Game of Thrones, Dany walks into Khal Drogo's funeral pyre and emerges unharmed with three newly hatched dragons, just like we saw on the TV show. (Well, almost — her hair burned off in the books, but the show didn't want to make Emilia Clarke go bald.) There is quite obviously magic at play, and Dany accordingly adopts "The Unburnt" as one of her many honorific titles.

Yet in various interviews and discussions with fans since then, Martin has attempted to dispel what he has called the "common misconception" that Targaryens are immune to fire. Years ago, he described what happened to Dany as "unique, magical, wondrous, a miracle," but said it "probably" wouldn't happen to her again, and stressed that many other Targaryens have burnt to death.

And in the books since, it hasn't really been tested a second time — at least not explicitly. There is one ambiguous scene in A Dance with Dragons, in which Dany is described as darting underneath her dragon's flames without being seriously injured:

Drogon rose, his wings covering her in shadow. Dany swung the lash at his scaled belly, back and forth until her arm began to ache. His long serpentine neck bent like an archer's bow. With a hisssssss, he spat black fire down at her. Dany darted underneath the flames, swinging the whip and shouting, "No, no, no. Get DOWN!"

Dany later reflects that the flames didn't hurt her in this instance. But she admits that her memories of what happened were "a haze," and the text isn't clear about whether the flames actually hit her, which has led fans to debate whether she survived because of magic or simple luck.

The show, in contrast, has repeatedly demonstrated Dany's fire immunity

Dany, in the final episode of Game of Thrones' second season. (Don't think too hard about why her clothes are fireproof some times but not other times.)

On the show, things are far more unambiguous — Dany has demonstrated complete immunity to fire three times (in addition to demonstrating resistance to hot water, and being able to pick up a dragon eggs despite it being in a burning flame, both back in season one).

The first such event was when her dragons were born at the end of season one, in a scene that played like the moment was described in the books. But in an altered plot line for season two, Game of Thrones had Dany's dragons save her from the perilous House of the Undying by blowing fire straight through her, and killing her captor. That's the scene depicted in the photo above.

And now we have the scene with the Dothraki in "Book of the Stranger." Since Dany's storyline on the show has advanced beyond her storyline in Martin's books, it's certainly possible that what happened with the Dothraki is a faithful adaptation of a scene in The Winds of Winter that we just haven't seen yet, rather than a change.

But I'm skeptical. The last time we saw Dany in the books, she was in a similar position to where she was at the end of season five — encountering a horde of Dothraki, far away from Meereen.

However, there was one key difference: When the Dothraki show up in the books, Dany's enormous dragon is not MIA — he's right by her side. It's hard to imagine her being taken captive in that scenario. But, should Martin ever finish The Winds of Winter, we will see!

Updated with more examples.

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