Game of Thrones has renewed our love for dragons. When the title ‘Mother of Dragons’ is whispered among GOT fans, they are talking about Khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen.
The real owner to this title is Delphyne, though there are inspirations taken from this figure from Greek Mythology. Daenerys Targaryen and Delphyne look very different from one another, with Delphyne described as a massive half woman, half dragon entity. Her story crosses the path of more familiar entities such as Zeus, Apollo, and even the Oracles.
The Real Mother of Dragons: Delphyne’s Story
At some point in her tale, Delphyne fell in love with the King of Monsters, and later gave birth to all monsters and dragons of the world. There is a tragic romance about the original mother of dragons, much like our beloved Khaleesi, but her story faded from modern listings of Greek Mythology. What follows is a combination of resources from all over, and my own speculations on her story…
‘Delphyne’ and ‘Delphinus’ were words developed during the late roman language timeframe, but the root word ‘delphys’ (meaning ‘womb’) was created in Ancient Greek. Even the alternate version, Delphine, dates to the 14th century, and means a ‘woman from Delphi,’ but sources older than this point become mangled or disappear altogether. Much of the ancient context and uses for this root word is overlaid with references to dolphins and their current Latin genus name of ‘delphinidae’, making research a disaster at best.
Both Delphyne and her lover, Typhon, were described as human on the top half of their bodies, with the bottom half of a dragon or serpent.
Delphyne has also been labeled as ‘drakaina’, a feminine form of ‘drakon’, which later gave birth to the modern term of ‘dragon.’
In later artwork, the human half was replaced with a more dragon-like creature and look with fangs, wings, and an animalistic head. There are examples of this shift with artwork featuring Apollo versus Typhon, sometimes labelled Python, on vases, statues, and even artwork in the centuries long after the Romans fell.
Delphyne is consistently marked as the ‘Mother of Dragons’ in several places, but unlike Typhon, she is not found in pottery or artwork. Despite it all, there is a chain of events which are mentioned in a wide variety of areas. Snippets from stories of other titans and gods, or translated books like ‘Argonautica’, can be pieced together to give some insight to who Delphyne was and her story.
Here’s my rendition of a more complete telling of who the ‘mother of dragons’ was, and brief account of her journey.
Delphyne, Daughter of Gaea
The intriguing part is how several sources indicate Delphyne is a daughter of Gaea, the mother to all the major titans, yet she is not listed among her siblings. You will not find her next to any of her sisters or brothers in the family trees and flow charts tracking the breakdown of the godly family, which makes up the foundation of Greek Mythology. Instead, you get snippets here and there of her name being mentioned, dropped in obscure places stretching between Greek and Roman tales. For example, in the Hymn of Phoebe, her maternal sister, it is sung of her son Apollo’s feat:
“…once beneath the rocky ridge of Parnassus he slew with his bow the monster Delphyne…” – ARGONAUTICA BOOK 2, TRANSLATED BY R. C. SEATON
Delphyne was born from Gaea, mother of earth, to serve as the womb for all the creatures of the world. From lore on Gaea, the mother of all titans, it becomes clear she and her son Kronus grew jealous of the creation of mankind. Delphyne was gifted to Kronus, perhaps as a means of torturing mankind, no one will ever know.
Kronus was not satisfied with his mother’s gift, or decided it best to give Delphyne to his son, Zeus. We are now on a more familiar name and entity, the god who led the Olympians and was famous for his lightning. Zeus took care of Delphyne as a sort of pet, but I believe she may have inspired the later tales of the Gorgons, including the famous Medusa.
At some point, Zeus enraged is grandmother Gaea and, before he knew it, she had sculpted a creature from the Earth itself to come for him:
“The one seemed to be a monstrous son of baleful Typhoeus or of Earth herself, such as she brought forth aforetime, in her wrath against Zeus…” – ARGONAUTICA BOOK 2, TRANSLATED BY R. C. SEATON
The tale goes that Typhon came and stole the sinews of Zeus and took them to Mt. Parnassus in hopes of gaining or perhaps stealing his power. It was Delphyne who came to Zeus’ rescue, battling Typhon and reclaiming Zeus’ sinews. She protected the god until he recovered. It is here that things fade or jump around. What can be assumed is she came under fire from Gaea for intervening (which never bodes well for anyone in the other stories involving Gaea), so Zeus gave Delphyne away.
It seems sad, to think she was handed off again to Zeus’ Aunt Phoebe, who gave Delphyne her final home.
The Mother of Dragons and the Titaness
Being the Titaness who established the Sibyls, or Oracles, Phoebe gave Delphyne the task of protecting of the Oracle on Mt. Parnassus. There seems to be some interesting overlap when you compare different stories and snippets which mention Delphyne. At this point, some imply she was chained to the mountain, cared for by the Nymphs who named the great ancient city Delphi in her honor.
Even more intriguing is the implication that Typhon joined her in her task, and Mt. Parnassus became the origin point where all monsters and dragons came into the world.
Their official titles ‘of Mother of Dragons’ and ‘Father of Monsters’ were established.
Soon, Phoebe’s son Apollo came to Mt. Parnassus and it is here that we find a weird mixture. It is only in one mentioning that it is Delphyne whom Apollo slays. Artwork and several other sources show he killed Typhon (or Python). Depictions of Typhon flip from a half-man version on older vases, to a fully-fledged dragon in later paintings.
Oddly enough, the Oracles here on the mountain worshiped Apollo at this point.
This seems accurate when you consider the mountain, the sibyls, and even the guardian dragons, on were all owned by Apollo’s mother, Phoebe, depending on which sources you chase to the one slither of information left behind.
It is never clear as to why Apollo came to the mountain, other than to seek counsel of the oracle. Nor does it make sense why he needed to fight his way to a temple devoted to him and founded by his mother, who by all accounts adored him.
Regardless, Apollo came and brought an end to the ‘mother of dragons’, without a doubt at least killed her lover.
Perhaps she is still on Mt. Parnassus, alone and forgotten. It’s a tragic ending to the less-than-glamorous life she had endured. There area a lot of similarities to the Khaleesi’s own tragic origins.
The question is, will the King of Arcadia and sigil of the wolf, Apollo, make his debut on ‘Game of Thrones’ and slay the Mother of Dragons, like the Greek influence suggests?
- The Dictionary of Mythology by J.A.Coleman
- Giants, Monsters, & Dragons by Carol Rose
- Etymology of Delphine – https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Delphine
- Argonautica Book 2, translated by RC Seaton – http://www.theoi.com/Text/ApolloniusRhodius2.html
- Python – http://www.theoi.com/Ther/DrakainaPython.html
- Encyclopedia of Beasts and Monsters in Myth, Legend, & Folklore by Theresa Bane
- GOT Wiki: Daenerys Targaryen – http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Daenerys_Targaryen
- Echidna – Delphyne Wiki – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echidna_(mythology)#Delphyne
- Drakaina – Delphyne Greek – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drakaina_(mythology)
- Typhon – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhon
- Delphyne – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delphyne
- Drakones – http://www.theoi.com/Ther/DrakonesTroiades.html
- Titanides – http://www.theoi.com/Titan/Titanides.html
- Nymphai Korykai – http://www.theoi.com/Nymphe/NymphaiKorykiai.html
Valerie Willis is the author of The Cedric Series, a high-rated Paranormal Fantasy Romance Series featuring an anti-hero dragged away from the revenge he seeks on his maker by love and the onset of a larger threat. Valerie’s work is inspired by a melting pot of mythology, folklores, history, topped off with a healthy dose of foreshadowing.