Guest Post on Tower of the Hand: History Remixed

As many of you are no doubt aware, Dangerous Women has finally hit the bookshelves, containing George R.R Martin’s new short story about the infamous “Dance of the Dragons” which wracked all of Westeros and fatally weakened House Targaryen’s source of draconic power.

To celebrate this event, Tower of the Hand is doing a series of essays on “The Princess and the Queen,” and I have contributed with an article that looks at the similarities and differences between the Dance of the Dragons and its historical analogue, the English Civil War known as “the Anarchy.” (I’ve written a bit about the long-term impact of this civil war in my series on the Monarchy already, so you may want to read that first.)

Check it out at Tower of the Hand!

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22 thoughts on “Guest Post on Tower of the Hand: History Remixed

  1. Abbey Battle says:

    Maester Steven, having read part of ‘The Princess and the Queen’ I have conceived a burning desire to see Prince Aemond One-Eye, One-Track Mind hanged from the same tree as ‘Blood’ ‘Cheese’ and whatsoever lunatic instructed them in how best to exact The Black Queen’s vengeance for her slain son.

    I would also be interested in talking a bit about other events and the actors enacting them in the story itself, once some mutually agreed-upon period of time has passed (I dislike spoilers and would prefer to avoid spoiling the experience of any first-time readers), as well as those events only vaguely alluded to in the text or those that might be inferred from it.

    Would it be alright to post such thoughts here, as they occur to me, or would you prefer me to wait until you set up a specific thread for this topic?

  2. Abbey Battle says:

    I shall certainly save them for the appropriate thread! (although I cannot promise polish, since my train of thought tends to skip from track to track when not concerned with such essentials as breathing or eating).

  3. אפרים says:

    Is this a part of ‘dunk and egg’ short stories series?
    can anyone buy this and the dunk stories without buying a collection of other unrelated stories?

    • stevenattewell says:

      No, this is a separate short story GRRM wrote as part of a collection of short stories on the theme of “dangerous women.”

      At the moment, you have to buy the volume it’s in. I have read that they are going to collect the Dunk and Egg stories into one volume, but I don’t know when?

  4. Abbey Battle says:

    (A) It is not, instead being a brief history of the civil war known as ‘The Dance of the Dragons’ which took place long before any event mentioned in the Dunk and Egg novellas. In some ways it seems to be a preview for ‘The World of Ice and Fire’ (which I now await more eagerly than ever!).

    (B) Not yet, although I believe that arrangements for bringing the Dunk and Egg novellas together in one volume are under discussion.

  5. Abbey Battle says:

    While this thought was prompted by ‘The Princess and The Queen’ the shared difficulties of Lord Stannis and Aegon the Conqueror (overcome only by the latter) substantially remove it from any risk of spoilers:-

    Dragonstone is a wonderful fortress but a LOUSY power base, especially if you are a claimant seeking to claim the Seven Kingdoms entire; it’s resource poor, some way removed from any centre of power and cut off from the mainland to boot – communication is not an insuperable problem, especially in the days of Dragons, but it would be extremely difficult to influence the ebb and flow of political power across the Seven Kingdoms and nigh-impossible to raise any army worthy of the name, absent some outside sponsor or equally-unpredictable wildcard factor.

    Why then did the Targaryen Kings (and Robert Baratheon, at first) send their heirs to this hardbitten rock miles from anywhere except King’s Landing even AFTER The Dragons died?

    Was it because Dragonnstone was a good place for a novice sovereign lord to acquire experience of governance far removed from overly-influential or easily-offended powerful neighbours? (wielding power on a scale unlikely to rock the Seven Kingdoms to boot); was Dragonstone where Kings of Old sent their heirs when Daddy wanted to quit the waters through which he might steer the ship of state (or remove princely distractions to somewhere distant enough to allow peace and quiet, but close enough to make treachery unprofitable!); was Dragonstone simply seen as a bunker where the seed of The Targaryens might (in theory) be preserved against even the worst calamity or even as the base of a potential reconquest?

    I would be surprised if such thoughts had not occurred to you when contemplating more than just ‘The Princess and the Queen.’

    • stevenattewell says:

      1. When you have dragons, feudal levies are less important.

      2. Also, I think there’s something about the place itself. It may well be that Dragonstone is a volcanic island and there’s something about that that makes it good for dragons.

      3. After the death of the dragons, I think it was just tradition. And proximity to King’s Landing.

  6. Abbey Battle says:

    As ever Maester Steven you make cogent points, although I would dispute the first point; while dragons are the most fearsome predators in Westeros or anywhere else they care to roost even Aegon the Dragon badly needed feudal levies to HOLD the ground his dragons and those of his sisters claimed during the course of their conquest.

    If ‘The Princess and the Queen’ proves anything it’s that while the flying flamethrowers are unparalleled in their ability to kill your enemies, they can’t hold ground worth a d— without feudal levies to back them up; I’d also argue that a substantial conventional host makes it more likely that your dragon is going to live into old age:- Dragons are Double-TOUGH but far from invulnerable to the heaviest varieties of conventional arms or just a sufficiently large host, especially when they’re caught out alone and close to the deck.

    I suspect that I should do my best to quit before I go any further into Spoiler territory; I apologise if I have gone too far in that direction already.

    • stevenattewell says:

      Right, but Aegon proved that “first you get the dragons, then you get the levies.” Same thing happened during the Dance of the Dragons – Rhaenys was completely outnumbered until Daemon took Harrenhal with a single dragon.

  7. Abbey Battle says:

    An excellent point – the lord who commands his feudal levies cannot necessarily command dragons, but he who commands dragons can definitely compel those levies under duress.

    Unless those levies happen to be Dornish, perhaps …

  8. Abbey Battle says:

    By the way Maester Steven, Black or Green?

    (I can guess that you’ll answer TEAM SMALLFOLK because I’m tempted to say the same – although I’m more likely to say TEAM SMALL KINDNESSES in honour of The Grey Pilgrim, an individual the likes of whom Westeros desperately requires).

    • stevenattewell says:

      Definitely Team Smallfolk.

      And given the scale of devastation the dragons caused, I’m down with the Maester Conspiracy as well.

  9. Andrew says:

    It seems the blacks were so desperate to find riders for the remaining dragons that they didn’t even bother to do a pre-screening. They were pretty much handing some of their most valuable weapons to whoever could ride them. I guess that is one of the downsides of dragons, if there are more dragons than riders for the family, than the riderless dragons could possibly be claimed by people with their own ambitions.

    Neither of the two claimants were really qualified for the throne in my opinion. Daemon would have been the only upside to Rhaenyra as he was qualified for the IT given that he is recognized as the most competent commander and soldier in the family, the Blackfish of the Targaryens so to speak. He also had contacts on the greens’ council and in KL, and had many friends among the goldcloaks from having served as their commander. Without dragons, the one who controls the goldcloaks controls KL.

    • Daemon was also a psychopath who has people murder children in front of their mothers.

      • Andrew says:

        I know that, and haven’t forgotten that, but to be fair almost all the rest of the Targaryens ruling or vying for the IT at the time have done similar things like Aegon feeding his sister to his dragon in front of her son along with the Grand Maester later, and Aemond attacking his nephew who was an envoy and nearly killing his squire for bringing bad news. The kids seem to be okay for the most part is just the adults who are the problem.

      • Andrew says:

        I take Aemond losing his eye could have been a accident in the training yard when they were practicing a long time ago. He attacked an envoy who didn’t want to fight him, which is tantamount to declaring war. How did he think Rhaenyra and the blacks were going to respond to that?

        Losing a great nephew and stepson was what led to Daemon having one of Aegon’s children killed in the first place, not that that excuses Daemon anymore than losing an eye excuses Aemond.

        Neither side was the good side.

  10. Abbey Battle says:

    Indeed and I suspect both The Citadel and The Faith would agree with Team Smallfolk on this one; I would also like to note that I wouldn’t put Brynden Tully in charge of a kingdom is you bribed me with an infinity of treasure.

    He’s a mighty knight and a soldier with very few peers … but so was Robert Baratheon.

    I honestly admit that I’m a lot more sympathetic to Aegon the Second than I am to a majority of the most prominent Dramatis Personae in this story, much more so than I had expected given my awareness of what little information concerning his history was known prior to ‘The Princess and the Queen’ – although I must note that it is hard to speak with any degree of certainty concerning the precise circumstances of the historical events depicted in this short history, much less the motivations driving them and the history underpinning them, so I would suggest that it’s somewhat risky to ascribe traits to characters whom we have not actually ‘met’ GRR Martin-style.

    I admit that I’m waffling a bit, as ever, but to be honest I’m not sure how culpable Daemon Targaryen should be held to be concerning Blood and Cheese; to be honest there’s nothing more than circumstantial evidence linking him to that disgraceful incident, his known career does not otherwise produce evidence of the … theatrical cruelty required to plot this particular killing – and it WAS plotted in detail and with an exhaustive degree of inside knowledge which I would bet a dragon-pit of gold Daemon never came close to possessing during the Dance of Dragons.

    Quite bluntly I can’t be certain that Daemon would have flinched at the news of the killing, but I’d be surprised if the plan was his, no matter how carefully his hallmark was left with the employment of a former Goldcloak.

    I grant you this is hardly conclusive proof beyond an awareness that things are seldom as simple as they seem in Westeros nor even any substantial conviction behind my tentative conclusion that someone much closer to the Red Keep than Harrenhal must be held responsible for Blood and Cheese… and for raising the Dance of Dragons to new heights.

    I seem to be rambling, but that is at least in part because I’m still somewhat-vainly trying to discuss the tale without throwing out substantive spoilers to any reader patiently awaiting delivery of the latest chapter of Mr GRR Martin’s speculative history.

  11. Abbey Battle says:

    On a more succinctly-expressed and arguably less-controversial subject, I must say that your comparison of Aegon II seems apt if only due to the only illustration of the character bearing a considerable resemblance to that Princeling of Elsinore, but I’d argue that a comparison still more apt than that which you draw between The Third Aegon and Henry II of England would be between the former and Henry VII – a man who himself experienced a turbulent youth, then went on to quell that turbulence as King and somehow fail to gladden a single heart in the process.

    His calculated yet curiously fruitful marriage to Elizabeth of York might also bear a resemblance to Aegon’s mating with his Uncles daughter (albeit it did not turn into a miserable failure, but a slightly gloomy success); I can only hope his second marriage to a woman whom I suspect was mentioned as having a Pentoshi connection in ‘The Princess and the Queen’ was a more contented one.

  12. Andrew says:

    Does anyone think it was possible with the riches from the east the Sea Snake got, that he had engaged in some piracy in fighting on the Stepstones like Warwick the Kingmaker? If he and Daemon did that, then that would explain some of the Free Cities’ hatred of him.

  13. Abbey Battle says:

    I would say the odds are very much in favour of something very like that arrangement having occurred (and been sealed by a marriage alliance to boot); I suspect the savage species of diplomatic headache likely to ensue in the wake of such adventures would explain the antipathy of the Hightower Hand to Prince Daemon to boot!

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