Finally back and we are heading to the Free Cities, as both Elena and I have wedding invites to cash in. She’s new, I’m the re-reader. We are rereading George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones and getting our POV on.
If you forgot about us last week, go get that hit of Jon Snow you need first and come back!
On to Dany’s wedding!
A Game of Thrones Chapter by Chapter Read and React
Even though this is another Dany chapter, I feel like I got more out of it about her brother than I did about her. Perhaps this is symptomatic of his place in her life and her psyche: by virtue of their relationship (older brother to younger sister, prince and princess alone in the world) and his precarious personality (what will set him off or offend him next?!), she has had no choice except to pay more attention to what Viserys thinks and wants than what she does. So Dany “thought” as much about Viserys’s reactions to the wedding festivities as she did her own, and there were also some rather scathing indictments from a reader’s perspective about him, as well.
The latter first. Basically, all possible derangement aside, Viserys is a dick. Straight up sadistic little asshole. The reason I say this is his attitude toward his sister as she faces marriage to someone with whom she can’t communicate via language and who comes from a culture that seems barbaric and animalistic to her. Her brother’s response is basically “let him do anything he wants to you” without much regard to her fear or her pain (I’m ignoring her desires because they would not be consulted in any average household in this world, so this isn’t about what she wants or doesn’t want but rather more fundamental issues).
I saw nothing implied either by word or compliment or reassurance that Viserys gave a damn what happened to her, so long as she didn’t displease Drogo and lose him his army. This means he is either the kind of man who would treat his wife own brutally and expects every other man does, too, thus every woman must cope, or so entirely self-interested that he does not care if that is how this “barbarian” deals with his sister—barbarically.
As for his reactions to the seating arrangements, I wonder what happens when Viserys continues to be held second in consequence to his sister now that she has married the Dothraki’s leader? How long will his pride accept honor but not respect?
I found myself wondering what, exactly, Drogo is after with this alliance. Did he agree to it because he perhaps wants to claim an empire for himself? He’s now married into the “rightful” family, and it’s his army that will be doing the war-winning…seems unlikely that he leads the army to victory and then lets someone else sit on the throne, all the gold he can eat or not. I mean, if it’s his empire then he has the spoils anyway. So did Viserys miscalculate?
It am also curious to see how he does with waiting. Illyrio’s point that he’s waited his whole life, therefore a few more months or years make no difference doesn’t seem likely to placate him for long. I look forward to watching him seethe and chafe at the “in their own time” pace of the Dothraki.
So speaking of the Dothraki: I’m assuming they’re like Ghenghis Khan and his Mongols. Not North American horsemen, certainly, not with that indifference to life. And the Mongols did have a grand empire, so perhaps Viserys really had better watch out, if Martin draws analogs in events as well as cultures.
I was quite happy to discover that even barbarian kings aren’t lacking in basic human decency. I think Dany’s better off with Khal Drogo than with her brother. One thing I couldn’t tell, even from re-reading the early parts of the chapter, is if Drogo treated her differently because of how she handled the horse? She did make him smile by taking a daring ride and making a poetic assessment of the animal—“you have given me the wind”—but did that matter in how he dealt with her later, or would he have been as considerate and perhaps tender even if she had been more timid on her first ride?
One last thing that stood out to me in this chapter was Dany’s dream at the beginning. Was it prophetic or symbolic? Clearly in the dream she’s pregnant (felt thick and ungainly, blood covering her thighs after her brother beats her). Is that something that will come to pass, or is the image of her fecundity with that line being uttered connected to her being given dragon eggs?
Does “you woke the dragon” take on a literal significance at some point? I’m not sure I’m willing to take at face value the judgment that the eggs have “turned to stone”—just a guess, of course, but I’m guessing neither paleontology nor zoology are particular strong suits of the scholars in this time? Yeah…
– Readers, if leaving a comment for Elena please direct (@Elena) them at her – and lead your comments with your messages for her. Thanks!
–Do not read on if you have not read the series through A Feast for Crows and some A Dance with Dragons chapters and want to avoid spoilers–
Martin loves ceremony and pageantry—events–and this is perhaps our most obvious one thus far, though we’ve already had smaller examples in the royal family’s arrival to Winterfell and Ned’s opening chapter execution of Night’s Watchmen. Weddings are prominent in this series and we have been exposed to an arrangement of one previously – two marriages, two sides, neither couple will be a couple for long and the interesting yet unlikely comparison for me has always been Joff and Drogo. Both “Kings”, one had the look and supposed pedigree of an ideal King and was everything but. Drogo is described as a barbarian, a savage, but shows more care and tenderness here than Joff ever has and one just feels that if any man had reason to roar due to his life’s feats and accomplishments, it would be Khal Drogo.
So complete is Drogo’s actual quality that (and I may be mistaken) one never feels that he cares about what Elena proposes above as a possibility: Dany’s claim. Sure, we are talking relative to the setting (he’s a slaver), but all-in-all Khal Drogo is probably as swell a guy a gal can ask for in the warlord type – the whole physical specimen, rich, alpha-male, who gives massages and bears gifts that are our world’s version of a Mclaren Mercedes slr thing seems to translate to all ages and fictional worlds.
It’s even more apparent when you consider how many husbands in this series are apparently inadequate (Stannis has to be difficult, Robert’s a whore, Doran’s wife is out of the damn country, Ned keeps secrets about bastards, Tarly threatens to skin his son, Frey is Hef-ing it out, Mace is a probable high-end, rich man’s doofus). Robb, of course, is a good guy who ends up losing everything because he’s a Stark.
Illyrio waved a languid hand in the air, rings glittering on his fat fingers. “I have told you, all is settled. Trust me. The khal has promised you a crown, and you shall have it.”
We re-readers just love that, don’t we?
Viserys is, of a course, a first class idiot. Even in the face of potential allies he’s simply an ass. The first major step to what he actually wants–his only lifelong dream– and he begins his masterful plan of getting himself rubbed out. To some it may seem plainly obvious and without stake, the death of Viserys is actually a great set-up because it puts readers in a safe place where people like Viserys die and people like Bran do not. People like Ned do not.
We kind of like Mormont, right? Martin will make us question that next chapter, fueled by some good old fashioned reader’s love of Ned. It may be my own aforementioned focus on books, but here we have Jorah giving Dany a book:
Ser Jorah Mormont apologized for his gift. “It is a small thing, my princess, but all a poor exile could afford,” he said as he laid a small stack of old books before her. They were histories and songs of the Seven Kingdoms, she saw, written in the Common Tongue. She thanked him with all her heart.
The gift is nestled in with the gift of servants, the aforementioned car, and Dragon Eggs and her reaction allows the act to not seem out of place and in a way itself establishes the difference between her and her brother, of her and Joff. We will later see a book given to Joffrey by Tyrion and there is this whole idea and theme throughout the series that if people would read just a little more there might be more than a handful of people trying to move worlds to stop the supernatural apocalypse (who among other things, apparently make it very cold).
I know I’m going to draw some psychologists—armchair or otherwise– but what’s easily lost because of the weight of Viserys’ presence and words is that Dany is hot. In general, Targaryens are hot and Viserys is even noted as such (by Dany).
I’ve heard of the mythical hot girl that doesn’t know she’s hot but I’ve never actually met (an honest) one and it always struck me as odd that nobody made a move on Dany throughout their travels and offer her legitimate place or station–hell, anything above an entry level job. Sure, I can see Viserys being in the way, but he’s easily enough to remove and even more so when he was younger. At the end of the day she IS the girl that’s wedding a powerful man.
This leads to the question of why Drogo, a man who could have almost anyone he set his eyes on, would want to marry Dany and pay extravagantly to have done so. Sure, there is a novelty to Dany, but would such a reason play a major role at such an expense to Drogo? Well, readers are use to “such people” being extravagantly superstitious (even when the people calling them as such are equally are or more so) and it seems likely that Illyrio had some knowledge of The Stallion Who Mounts the World and was able to manipulate events.
I don’t have a hard time believing the unassisted plight of the Targaryen siblings, but it seems odd one of the extravagantly wealthy wouldn’t have just taken them into their household, though I understand they are not quite as unique in the Free Cities as they are in Westeros. After all, it’s what Illyrio eventually did do but maybe Viserys is just that unlikable.
Illyrio has been busting my balls on this segment because at some point we have to tackle him, though even the chance of a whole picture doesn’t offer itself until A Feast for Crows or the released A Dance with Dragons chapter(s) when we get something (anything!) from Doran, though I did already point out the presence of the brother of Archon of Tyrosh at Dany’s wedding (something I want to see in the background of the HBO show).
This is going to be real loose, but I’m sending out general thoughts for everyone to haggle over (this is also going to seem tedious, but bear with me). We are going to knock out the basics here so we don’t have to deal with them again minus reacting to direct scenes, or if Elena sniffs something out.
It is interesting, however, that Illyrio is essentially a non-participant for the new reader though not too shocking because for those used to marginal fantasy he’d be a bit player who exists to move the plot for the main characters. He does do that here, but in reality he’s also probably one of 3-4 people we’d most like to beat over the head and question (or vice versa).
If we are to assume a Targaryen restoration is relevant to Illyrio (let’s forget Varys for the moment), the question becomes why, as the easy money is simply killing or capturing Viserys and Dany and carting them or their bodies off to King’s Landing for what I’m sure he could negotiate beyond a simple reward, namely favorable trading scenarios.
For sure, that is not equal to being the person who the crown of a nation is indebted to for installing (think about that for a moment even from the perspective of our world—that’s HUGE even for the largest of corporations) a regime.
Some will bring up Illyrio’s thoughts regarding Westeros but that doesn’t stop him from making a fortune off the Dorathki, and our own history is full of opportune men and women who made ungodly sums of money off those they themselves consider barbarians or slaves. Many of these same people never needed to make another dime in their lives, it’s just their nature, measuring stick, lifestyle or indeed their own “game”. Illyrio’s motivations can be as clear as anybody’s in this series: greed. Everything we hear and indeed know of his physical description and apparel would describe somebody who frequently indulges in substantially more than he or anyone else “needs”.
I don’t think that at this point why is that important, as he has thus far (at least outwardly) profited from his exposure to the Targaryen pair. One could note the Dragon Eggs as an expense, but we don’t even know of what or if he even payed for them, though their presence themselves possibly reveal an ulterior motive or an extreme and creative assurance for the facilitation of the expansion of his aforementioned greed.
The Dorne/Viserys connection revealed in A Feast For Crows is always interesting to view in this re-read simply because none of the possible theories are without what seem to be at least slightly illogical leaps and generally anything latent and Targaryen tends to stir emotions. If we can assume that Doran was not lying to his daughter, she was – years ago – promised to Viserys, but it is the language he used that is of most interest to me,”the pact was sealed in secret”.
It sounds so official, in a manner that could only be done by Viserys himself or somebody who had the authority to negotiate such a pact with Dorne– Doran is not a bit player. Doran wrote to his son – Quentyn – and told him it was his plan for him to rule Dorne after him, expressing other plans for his daughter even then, namely the throne.
In Feast she was 23 years old and Doran expresses he meant to tell her when she came of age (which Arianne noted was 7 years ago), so this is something Doran worked out before any relations that Viserys or Dany had with Illyrio (that we and possibly they even know of), though the plan was still in play up to Viserys’ death. What’s odd is that Doran’s words seem up to that point still reflect that it was a good plan. Viserys’ knowledge of this pact is up for debate, those claiming he was kept in the dark clearly having a lot of easily understandable truths going for them that even a new reader can see. Viserys is clearly not anyone’s optimal choice to be anything.
Those around him recognize his shortcomings and he doesn’t come off as anybody anyone could trust, much less put any faith in at all. If Robert Baratheon embodied all the qualities needed to take a throne by force, Viserys is clearly lacking in them or any other visible alternate route. It’s pretty clear it would be wise for Viserys to know nothing, but if that is the case it would also seem redundant that he is not the one you’d want to risk your entire house, family and hopes on either. So what we are left with is that Doran either does not care that Viserys is a chump and possibly crazy (and old enough to where it’s not simple youthful idiocracy) or that he does not know.
Neither sits well with me unless Doran is being purposefully misinformed, which also does not seem to fit. We know that Dorne has unique ties with the Free Cities not shared by the other houses of Westeros, from Doran’s own wife, Oberyn’s own days there and that he has sent Quentyn there. When he learns of the fate of Viserys, we presume he sends Quentyn to Dany. I wonder if Drogo himself did not pass, what would Doran than do? Would he put his people behind a coup that doesn’t stand to give him a piece of the throne? Is “Aegon” in play?
Quentyn’s a direction itself may remove the idea of his (Doran’s) knowledge of a possible true Aegon being alive (one that isn’t Jon Snow) and using Viserys and Dany as in-plain-site red herrings, though I think more than any idea thrown out there, Doran’s knowledge of such (and Ned’s) fits better than any other theory I’ve read or reasoned on my own (though I’m sure people will correct me!)
I’ve talked about Ned’s children sensitivity which stems or is made a major issue by what he see’s happen during the Lannister sack. The gravity of Lyanna’s words to Ned indicate to me that Aegon was there, simply because I don’t believe she would have to make Ned promise to protect or care for HER child, no matter who the father was (and we know by some of Ned’s own thoughts, he either doesn’t seem excessively bothered by Rhaegar or he’s one forgiving dude).
I’m not sure why he’d feel guilty of protecting his sister’s child under any circumstance and indeed it would seem more like a classic point of Ned righteousness, not a point of guilt. There is also a clear statement made by the Kingsguard at the Tower of Joy, namely that they don’t give a shit if Ned is a good guy and won’t kill our King, you will not usurp him –they don’t run, which clearly Ned wanted and would probably have allowed them to do (he offered the same to Cerseii because I think, again, he didn’t want the Lannister children’s blood on his hands).
Remember, Ned was there with all of his boys which also presents the opportunity that there wasn’t a consensus between Ned’s own faction and what had to be done. Did Howland Reed help Ned protect his and Lyanna’s secret from his own men as well?
Rather than allow the capture of Aegon, the Kingsguard fought for who was their King. Viserys was not the King, Rhaegar’s heir is and instead of giving Ned some “special circumstance” speech in the pre-throwdown chat they reaffirmed that they are the Kingsguard. What do they do with among their last words?
They mock both Jaime and Robert – the false brother and usurper. I hope I’m not being soft in the head about this but I kind of buy Ned’s view of this scene, and he honors them and their memory afterwards. Martin continually offers us gray, but I like this idea that the white cloaks – for a moment – were just that. There were good men in Aerys’ reign, and Selmy served with them – in a way Barristan follows his brother’s footsteps when he himself is dismissed. Ned questions the The Kingsguard and they don’t blink, they are where they are supposed to be. Maybe.
Back to Doran. If he had this knowledge, I always wonder why he wouldn’t plot to wed Arianne to an Aegon or Dany (later) to him, maintaining the bloodline. Also, why would Oberyn plot to put Viserys on the throne (though clearly an Aegon was too young to rally behind—perhaps that very fact stopped him).
Dany obviously becomes extremely significant later due to her own accomplishments and the dragons, so what we have is a possible Doran/Illyrio/Varys understanding, but it seems likely that the latter two are withholding information from Doran. Plus, one wonders who brokered the deal that took place several years ago. Darry is the first guess, but is he truly in a position to do so? If it was Illyrio, then that confirms that his relationship with Viserys and Dany goes back much further (again, whether they know it or not) and probably also confirms that he chooses not to tell Doran everything (like Viserys being a twit).
That Doran presumably then sends Quentyn to Dany seems to indicate he knows nothing of a similar tact to be used by a “Young Griff”. Which brings me to the likelihood of Jon Connington being “Old Griff”, a thought I happen to believe (and most seem too). I’m not so sure that (one of) Rhaegar’s best friends would raise a farce claiming his dead friend’s heritage.
True, we know nothing of the man, but my thought on the Mummer’s Dragon prophecy has always been that simply meant the it would be the one Varys would present, which is just as likely to be the real deal as not. Varys and Illyrio having this ultimate card explains a certain carelessness with Viserys and gives them ultimate options and flexibility as it pertains to Dorne. What’s also possible regarding Doran’s knowledge of an Aegon is that he knows he’s a fake, which is why he wouldn’t seek a marriage out for his daughter, but would use him in a coming invasion.
Speaking of Viserys, I think I’m in the camp that he was never told, but from the reading (this one thus far) a part of me can see the pathetic character who held back the one secret that was the source of his ego, pride, and ambition. If you view Viserys as a man who thinks he has the allegiance of Dorne already, his actions and mannerisms here actually become slightly more understandable and his questions to Illyrio are like him seeking confirmation of his “secret”.
It also explains some of the nonchalance of Illyrio’s responses, a fake wink to Viserys, but not so much to draw attention, making Viserys think it’s something only they should share. Like I said, I don’t believe Viserys knew but it doesn’t feel completely unnatural if you try it on. It also explains why he doesn’t envision marrying Dany himself, as Dany herself suggests she thought would be the natural course of action.
I’m not sure I’ve heard or seen any evidence to suggest Viserys didn’t know, excluding that no reader would want to trust him with any information, much less one of this gravity. Admittedly that single bit of observation is so compelling it’s difficult to argue against with true conviction.
Illyrio’s motivations in general should be something we think on, though for Elena, Martin has offered a perfectly reasonable “He had collected a fortune in horses and slaves for his part in selling her to Khal Drogo.” The possible split in the Vary/Illyrio and Doran union and information may be one of motivation.
I don’t pick up any motivation from Doran excluding an understandable desire for vengeance. He doesn’t to me seem like he’s on board with the prophecy and greater picture of the Others, a subject we know that Illyrio and Varys seem to be well aware of. It also doesn’t feel like Doran is holding Dorne back for an impending defense of a Northern alien invasion. One possible angle dismisses my thought (or will), being the presence of Alleras (Sarella, the Sand Snake) in Oldtown. While Dorne, by Doran’s own admission is perhaps the weakest of the great houses, they are still a coup for Varys and Illyrio to pocket on their side for almost next to nothing.
Why deal with all of this now? We have to at some point and I just wanted to lay out some groundwork of my thought process when reintroducing myself to the book/series so we can have this to reference when we talk about it again later.
These Dany chapters take on a much more significant stature to a re-reader because more than anyone, Dany is our link to the previous status-quo and the remnant of an element regarding the Targaryens themselves that I think will be a separate article here at G-Mash. When I read this chapter it’s everything about our A Feast for Crows revelations, which is kind of like seeing play out this concept that Kelly Link once mentioned when I interviewed her some years ago: the idea of a story existing and morphing on subsequent reads.
As a fresh chapter – for Elena – this is not a stilted chapter, and still exists as a great introduction, which later morphs into something to be examined because of occurrences 3 books later. I think Link was talking about something slightly different, but I liken this to being a time traveler, and like any time travel story, just because we come from the future it doesn’t mean we know everything (or anything). It doesn’t all quite fit—it rarely ever does – but the transformation of these initial Dany chapters are a terrific compliment to others that are glories I just want to re-read re-live.
The end of the chapter is perhaps the longest scene leading up to a fingering in the history of speculative fiction. I recall some talk about unnecessary sexual moments, and I hope this wasn’t considered one of them. It’s the definition of not very fantastic, because I’d like to think eight out of every ten guys in history were at some point rubbing or massaging a girl in some cocoa butter plot to see how far they could test the leg and lower back.
As an aside, Martin is an avid fan of history and many of his names reflect that and he’s also peppered his share of nods to works of fantasy—neither I think has anything to do with my own, personal experience in this case. When I read this before I was already an avid reader and reasonably well read in Middle-Earth lore, so to me the name Drogo always meant Frodo Baggins’ father and I remember initially thinking, shit, Dany’s going to give birth to the damn ringbearer! That didn’t happen and the kid wouldn’t mount the world or travel to Mount Doom.
I’m sure there are multiples holes, inaccuracies and contradictions in the above, let’s have fun with it! Even better, somebody just give me all of the answers.
Next up: Ned and Robert try to outdumb each other!