If you've ever gotten a weird vibe from Daenerys and her dragons on Game of Thrones, there's actually a good reason for it. There's a Game of Thrones fact about Dany's dragons that you can never unknown once you hear it, so you should probably inhale deeply and put down your mug of ale before you find out what it is. Sound designer Paula Fairfield revealed to WNYC Radiolab that in order to heighten the relationship between Daenerys and her favorite dragon, they manipulated the sounds of tortoises, uh, making more tortoises. Doing it like they do on the Discovery Channel. OK, fine, no more euphemisms: Drogon's dragon sounds are created by altering the noises tortoises make when they're having sex. Yep. That's the big secret. Tortoise sex noises are the basis for the Drogon growls, coos, and purrs.
As Fairfield explained in the Radiolab episode, Khaleesi's special pet is Drogon, the largest and most fearsome of her dragon-children and named for the viciously hot Khal Drogo. Fairfield wanted to honor that relationship. She did not want to do so subtly. If Fairfield had allowed things to go entirely her way, in fact, Drogon would noticeably survey his fiery human-mom's physical attributes on screen. OK, to be blunt, Drogon would be checking Dany out — in a sexual manner. Nothing overt would occur between the two, but given the nature of her relationship with her husband, Dany's affection for Drogon (and vice versa) would be marked by both actual sexual noises and visual evidence. Yeah.
It's hard to un-know a Game of Thrones fact like this, but it's also kind of awesome. It's nice to know that the realistic-seeming animal noises from Drogon aren't something that a computer could just whip up. The inspiration might be a little spooky, as is the concept of a bunch of sound effects creators gathering around to watch a nature special, but it does add another animalistic layer to the world of Westeros. Fairfield has long been a sound designer, mixer, and editor, so her creativity here is unsurprising. She does seem really into her idea, though, which is as bizarre as it is amusing.
Here's how Fairfield described her sound editing process to WNYC Radiolab:
"I have sounds I might choose simply by certain personality traits that I might want to push forward. So in the case of Drogon... Drogon is like her lover. He’s whistling at her all the time, he’s looking at her butt and going, 'ooh baby.' [We use the sound of] two giant tortoises mating [for that]. The groan of the male actually became — with some work and adjustments — the basis for Drogon’s purr with her. The funny thing about the purr with Drogon was watching people watch [the show] and giggling when they heard it, but not really knowing why. To me, it’s because it had that essence — that kind of sensual, sexual essence."
Fairfield's use of the phrase "a sensual, sexual essence" to describe the relationship between Khaleesi and Drogon is not one fans will be able to shake for some time. It makes sense, though, right? They do share a special connection, and one Daenerys does not appear to have with Viserion or Rhaegal. It's interesting, to say the least.
So, it turns out that the Mother of Dragons shares a deeper connection with her progeny than fans ever realized. While Fairfield makes a conscious effort to incorporate aspects of turtle sex into Drogon's guttural groans, it's unclear if as much effort goes into recreating the vocalizations of Viserion and Rhaegal. Given the veteran sound editor's explanation, it would make sense if she kept those noises unique to Drogon, which would help further differentiate him from his siblings. Either way, fans know they'll never be able to watch a Daenerys and Drogon scene the same way again.