Guest Podcast Appearance: “The Princess and the Queen” on BLAH!

Ok folks, if you’ve been looking for a discussion of George R.R Martin’s newest short story covering the “Dance of the Dragons,” here’s the place.  Sean T. Collins and Stefan Sasse of the Boiled Leather Audio Hour invited me on their program to discuss the short story/preview of the forthcoming “GRRMarrillion.” A solid hour of analysis, speculation, and debate about history, the politics and warfare of dragons, the Maester Conspiracy, Great Councils, and so much more!

Check it out!

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21 thoughts on “Guest Podcast Appearance: “The Princess and the Queen” on BLAH!

  1. Abbey Battle says:

    Maester Steven, I have finished listening to this Podcast and found it interesting.

    I would particularly like to note that I share the itch to read The World of Ice and Fire, but suspect that I enjoy the ‘Found History’ format even more than you did; I have long been of the opinion that GRR Martins work is easier to swallow if one regards it more as a Speculative History of some fantasy universe than any kind of classic-traditional Fantasy Epic – also that I feel more sympathy for the Dragons than they may perhaps reserve; they are after all roughly as intelligent as a smart parrot – perhaps pity is a better word for my feelings upon reading The Battle of the Dragonpit, upon seeing these relatively dumb, extremely dangerous flying riding-beats done to death for the choices of their riders.

    Yes, pity is definitely a better word because I feel a great deal more sympathy for the Dragonslayers than the poor, dumb, hellishly dangerous half-wyverns of Westeros (ahem, that’s my DnD trained, Tolkien-honed sensibilities talking but I digress); one must admit that reading the scene where what sounds suspiciously like a DnD-dogpile of dragon slayers brought down Queen Rhaenaras she-dragon still gave me an overpowering impulse to punch the air, despite the tragedy that preceded it.

    Now while I listed to the podcast with interest I must admit that I was a little relieved to discover that what interested me most about the History was only mentioned in passing:- The UNTOLD History.

    -Just what was Lord Strong, Master of Whispers getting up to during the course of his mysterious disappearance?

    -Just which way did The Red Kraken jump in the end? What were his Ironborn getting up to on the West Coast?

    -Could the Velaryon influence in the land and their fleet, not to mention Daemon Targaryen’s experience as a fighting dragon-rider derive from a private war over the Stepstones with the Three Sisters Triumvirate, brought to a fairly successful conclusion (whosoever controls the Stepstones effectively has his hand on the windpipe of North-South trade between Essos and Westeros).

    -What were the opening moves of the Westerland/Rivermen trial by combat?

    -What was Ser Criston Cole’s motivation for helping to unleash all this carnage?

    -Were the Baratheons and House Arryn content to mostly sit out the major battles or did they take a more active part in the War?

    -Just what were the Dornish up to while the Neighbours murdered one another?

    -Was the ransom of Viserys Targaryen the straw that broke the compact between The ‘Three Sisters’ after the Battle of the Gullet was fought to a bloody conclusion?

    I have theories, but would like to have your permission before posting them (I am also very interested in hearing your opinions).

  2. illrede says:

    I think the Lannisters manage to survive faring badly in multiple civil wars by ultimately being on the winning side when it came time to settle the new political situation. More or less a “how is it that Italy did so well from the Austro-Prussian War” case.

    For the joining the Blacks or Greens question, I can only continue to marvel at GRRM’s verisimilitude. I was mentally referencing the Spanish Civil war, where a man could go under arms to defend a fairly inoffensive democratically elected government, and at the end of things be faced with a stark choice to continue to fight to establish a Stalinist regime or lose to a merciless dictatorship. I’m with Maidenpool, I guess.

    • That’s a good point.

      Spanish Civil War…eh. There’s not enough involvement from outside, and ideology isn’t really a factor in the Dance of the Dragons. Although I’d agree that Tumbleton does have a somewhat Guernica feel to it.

      • illrede says:

        Meaning the situation at the outset can have very little to do with the ultimate shape of the conflict, and well meaning people can be caught in the gears; that things just are not that cut and dry sometimes.

  3. Sean C. says:

    I think the future of House Velaryon is partially explained within this novella. Their holdings on Driftmark get ravaged, and from the account given by the maester a number of places on the island never really recover (and huge chunks of accumulated wealth get carried off).

    Regarding the discussion of dogs that don’t bark in the novel, I think there’s a pretty obvious answer to that: this story was originally 80,000 words long, and was carved down to 30,000, and no matter how good an editor Gardner Dozois might be, you cannot cut out over 60% of the text without leaving scars. Hence, you have repeated references to seemingly important people who don’t do anything, major events that must have happened offscreen without ever being described, etc.

    Regarding the dragons’ existence, it’s a very sharp double-edged sword, I think. The Dance was a catastrophe. The preceding 80 years, from the death of Maegor to the crowning of Aegon II, were the most peaceable and prosperous in the whole history of Westeros. Jaehaerys I and Viserys I presided over a largely unified (save Dorne, and even there there was no war) continent, with the king’s peace backed by dragonfire, and essentially unimpeachable. An even better version of the “Five Good Emperors” period in the history of Rome.

    Speaking of which, Viserys I really was the Marcus Aurelius in that scenario. I have to wonder if his faculties were in considerable decline toward the end, or if he really was just blind to what was going on, but after making a pretty progressive/controversial choice as his heir, he seems to have done basically nothing to secure this idea. Pretty much the entire government on his death was in the hands of people opposed to his chosen successor, and his own Master of Ships states that he never even had to swear an oath to that effect; the exception being gallant old Lord Beesbury (a Hightower bannerman, ironically), who was a legacy of Jaehaerys, so no real points for that choice. Though the line about Ser Otto having served “three kings” as Hand seems to imply that Jaehaerys appointed him too, in which case, wow, they really had institutional stability in the old days.

    • The other thing is that House Velayron’s Valyrian status no longer counts when it’s not useful for riding dragons, which is another blow to their power.

      Regarding Viserys I, I think he did as much as can be done – short of abdicating in his lifetime, although I would agree about the government at the time of his death. Having the lords of the realm swear an oath of succession is really the most you can do for an event that’s going to happen after you die.

  4. Thiox says:

    Just curious, when you were speaking about the maester conspiracy, were you suggesting that the mad prophet in kings landing was an agent of the citadel?

  5. Steve, I can’t wait to hear what you think of our episode covering this. Brendan is just so MAD throughout most of it.

  6. I think the fact that everyone didn’t fall into line once Aegon II “won” is enough to say that legitimacy matters. If having dragons was all that mattered Aegon III would never have been Aegon III.

  7. Robar says:

    On the Velaryon issue: I agree that much of the house’s power died with the dragons, but their strength in the second half of the second century onwards cannot be underestimated. Ser Addam Velaryon’s brother Alyn of Hull has been confirmed to be the same person as Admiral Oakenfist, Lord Alyn Velaryon, who pretty much engineered the Young Dragon’s conquest of Dorne and sacked Plankytown and half of the country while the armies were away fighting Daeron in the Red Mountains. Lord Alyn’s leadership and nickname most likely point at him being an important player in King’s Landing politics, either as Master of Ships or even Hand of the King. We know he had enough power and prestige to sire bastards with a Targaryen princess and not be harmed in any way.

    I think House Velaryon’s decline is much more linked to the third century – perhaps it could have involved horrible leadership and the loss of their fleet at the War of the Ninepenny Kings, maybe even a renewed sack of Driftmark. This, in addition to the death of the dragons, gradually melted away the Velaryon power. When Robert rebelled, I assume Lord Velaryon was one of those iron loyalists such as the Conningtons and Darrys and suffered the same fate; once a major house, like the Darrys, their power was severely restricted. I don’t know how, since islands are hard to partition, but maybe Lord Velaryon’s title of Lord of the Tides has more to it than it seems. I could see Houses Celtigar, Sunglass and Bar Emmon having been sworn to them in the pre-rebellion scenario. Remember, the Velaryons came before the Targaryens left Valyria, as Driftmark is by far the largest island of Blackwater Bay. Only when Aenar the Exile riding Balerion the Black Dread came to Dragonstone that they swore fealty. Jon Arryn could have reorganized all of this, making Velaryon’s bannermen and their fleets owing direct fealty to Stannis instead of being sworn to a notorious Targaryen loyalist.

    I was also quite intrigued by the fact that the Redwyne fleet was not accounted for at all, Lord Corlys Velaryon having been stated to command the second largest fleet of Westeros, seconded only by the Red Kraken. It must be a newer development; we are told of a Redwyne Hand of the King, Ser Ryam of the Kingsguard, who is said to have been a terrible hand, although he was the Arthur Dayne of his age. Maybe he wasn’t so honourable after all, having used his power to favour his own house. Anyway, we know that the Redwynes were powerful enough in around 250 AL for Olenna to be considered a worthy match to a Targaryen prince, likely Duncan the Small, Prince of Dragonstone.

    • I would agree on the iron loyalist thing – with so much Targaryen blood, the Baratheons were unlikely to treat them well. And we can see that in ACOK, they’re down to a whole four ships, far below their previous fleets.

      Yeah, the naval history is weird – the Redwynes don’t show up, the Red Kraken is a no-show, etc.

  8. Abbey Battle says:

    It becomes less strange if one suspects that the Ironborn surrendered once again to their ancient instinct to take advantage of each and every greenland war by raiding all parties impartially, even if the Lord Reaper of Pyke actually picked a side and stuck with it for once (for if the Ironborn can be depended upon to do anything, it’s to play their part as a wildcard in the Game of Thrones).

    This would explain why the Lord of the Arbor kept his ships close to home (he may even have been making a ‘Frey play’ for his own advantage); another possible explanation is that support for The Black Queen in the Shield Islands left the Arbor fleet obliged to stand guard over the Mander in order to ensure that the Sea Serpent did not turn the river into a back door through which he might pass to stab the largest single enemy army in it’s collective back (or worse still join up with Black Forces in the Reach).

  9. Abbey Battle says:

    As far as I can work things out this is simply a product of Supreme Maester Martin being obliged to trim his account of the Dance of Dragons into a more personal history of the rivalries that split the Royal Family at the heart of the conflict, precipitating and defining the War that followed on from them:- at a guess the piratical (or privateer) activities of Lord Greyjoy on the West Coast (which would have almost certainly defined and redefined the strategic picture there depending on which way his tentacles slithered) were simply irrelevant to the personal rivalries of the Dragons Black and Green on a personal level (which more or less seems to be the focus of ‘The Princess and the Queen’).

    I would think it likely, however, that House Greyjoy either sided with the Greens or remained neutral in their favour (which would explain why House Lannister was able to send a serious force into the Trident-lands and why House Stark mysteriously failed to send anything more than a task-force from The North DESPITE enjoying what seems to have been the fulsome support of House Frey, implying that Lord Stark may have thought his domain vulnerable to an attack from the sea – most likely from the Iron Islands, given those Wardens of the East Coast House Manderly were freed to operate far from their customary vigil rather than kept close to home).

  10. […] itself is a prequel to “The Princess and the Queen.” For my thoughts on that piece, see here. Spoilers under the […]

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