Chapter-By-Chapter Analysis – Daenerys I

“And perhaps the dragon did remember, but Dany could not. She had never seen this land her brother talked of, Casterly Rock and the Eyrie, Highgarden and the Vale of Arryn, Dorne and the Isle of Faces, they were just words to her.”

“They are your people and they love you well,” Magister Illyrio said amiably. “In holdfasts all across the realm, men lift secret toasts to your health while women sew dragon banners and hide them against the day of your return from across the water”…Dany had no agents, no way of knowing what anyone was doing or thinking across the narrow sea, but she mistrusted Illyrio’s sweet words.”

Synopsis: Daenerys Targaryen receives a gift from Magister Illyrio at the hands of her brother Viserys Targaryen, who advises and warns her on her presentation before Khal Drogo of the Dothraki. As Daenerys, Viserys, and Illyrio go to meet her bridegroom-to-be, they discuss the loyalties of Westerosi folk both great and small. In the wedding party, they encounter Ser Jorah Mormont, the exiled lord of Bear Island. The bride and groom meet for the first time.

SPOILER WARNING: This chapter analysis, and all following, will contain spoilers for all Song of Ice and Fire novels and Game of Thrones episodes. Caveat lector.

Political Analysis:

Many observers talk about Daenerys undergoing a hero’s journey in A Game of Thrones, from a terrified, abused little girl into a khaleesi and the Mother of Dragons, and they’re right. But politically, we see some very early signs of Daenerys being something much more – especially in comparison to her brother.

In this chapter, Viserys Targaryen is very much introduced as a romantic, monarchist exile, weaving “his web of dream,” obsessed with the day  when “we will have it back… the jewels and the silks, Dragonstone and King’s Landing, the Iron Throne and the Seven Kingdoms, all they have taken from us.” (And how typical that when Viserys speaks of Westeros, he always speaks of things, not people) As a result, he believes all of the lies that Illyrio Mopatis pours into his ear – because he wants to believe them, because they fit into the drama he’s constructed in his head about the way his life is going to happen. By contrast, Daenerys Targaryen is essentially a second generation immigrant – and a political realist. Her home is “the big house with the red door” where she had “a lemon tree outside her window,” and that is the restitution she initially wants – to have her childhood back. Because she knows she doesn’t know anything about the Seven Kingdoms, because these places are just names to her, she has a more calculating approach. She doesn’t trust Illyrio’s descriptions of Westeros on the grounds of her experience of Essos, because Illyrio reminds her of the faithful servants who stole their money and left them destitute, because she listens to “talk in the streets” that Illyrio sells his friends like commodities, and because in her world, no gift is given without a price.

It’s in this decision, to trust one’s own experience over one’s dreams, that we begin to see why Daenerys and not her brother is the true dragon, that it is the traumatized 13 year old who can see the mocking smiles that her manic depressive brother cannot. And as we learn later, one of the horrifying ironies is that the world Viserys has constructed of the noble exiles in flight from the hired daggers of the evil usurper is a paranoid illusion – Jon Arryn had called off the assassins long ago, and Robert Baratheon had spent decades interested in other matters. Had Viserys not schemed to make himself a military threat to King Robert, he might well have lived a long and peaceful life in Essos or seen the fruition of Illyrio and Vary’s great scheme. It was only when he made himself into a threat that the dream he had lived was summoned into reality.

Another political theme that’s set up in this chapter is how conflicting perspectives shape our understanding – in this case, our understanding of Robert’s Rebellion. After being introduced to Lord Eddard Stark as a noble and honorable man, and to the rebellion as the act of a courageous man defending the lives of the wards he had sworn to protect, we see Stark as “the Usurper’s dog” and party to the murder of children in the sack of King’s Kanding. We will later see how Robert interprets the actions of Rhaegar, but here they are seen as the romantic efforts of a man “dying for the sake of the woman he loved.” What we believe, who we believe depends on who we trust, which side we’re on. For all that Viserys is a romantic fool who for some strange reason thinks that the Greyjoys might welcome his return, he’s not totally wrong – the Martells really do “burn to avenge Elia and her children” and, as we learn so much later, are genuine Targaryen loyalists. The Darrys lost much when they went down fighting to the last for the Targaryens and might well welcome a chance for revenge; the Redwynes are unlikely to move with both heirs in King’s Landing but Viserys has no way of knowing that. The Tyrells are more mercenary and have their own plans in the works, but they are the most powerful house that’s on the outside looking into the halls of power.

What Martin is showing us here – even through Viserys’ rose-tinted glasses – is that no civil war is ever over, no civil war is ever won.

A third theme we can explore here is the Targaryen practice of marrying brother to sister, to keep the line pure. This (supposed) Valyrian custom was imported by the Targaryens upon their arrival on Westeros, although apparently no one not of the Targaryens outside of Cersei Lannister actually has ever adopted it. Why the Valyrians actually practiced incestuous marriage, let alone polygamous incestuous marriage is unexplained and fairly inexplicable; the Valyrian Freehold was a Republic, not a monarchy, so there was no dynastic purpose, no royal blood to keep pure. The only explanation is that it might have something to do with the sorcery of dragons, since the Valryian Freehold’s empire and the Targaryen dynasty both rested on the ability to control dragons reliably.

However, as a method of avoiding political conflict by keeping legitimacy in the family, as it were, it was a miserable failure. No less than four political crises – the revolt of the Faith Militant, the Dance of Dragons, the possible murder of Baelor I, and the Blackfyre Rebellion – can be linked to incest. Directly following the death of Aegon the Conqueror, the Faith Militant rose against Aenys I as the practice of incest is a sin in the eyes of the Seven. This revolt lasted ten years, brought down Aenys I, outlasted Maegor the Cruel, and nearly ended the Targaryen dynasty in its first generation. While the Dance of Dragons wasn’t directly prompted as much by incest as by conflict between egalitarian primogeniture and male succession, the fallout from the Dance with Dragons, where Aegon III married his cousin which resulted in two sons and three daughters, had huge long-term consequences.

When Baelor I refused to consummate his incestuous marriage, it created a political crisis of succession, where the children of his sister Elaena (who had married her cousin), the child of Daena (supposedly by Aegon IV), and his uncle Viserys all had claims to power – and may well have led to his death as a way of resolving the crisis. The Blackfyre Rebellion was doubly the result of incest. Daemon Blackfyre, despite having been born a bastard, could claim legitimacy, not merely from his natural father Aegon IV, but also from his mother Daena Targaryen and through her, from Aegon III. Moreover, Daemon’s claim could be bolstered by the rumor that his rival, Daeron II, was actually the child of Queen Naerys and Aemon the Dragonknight. At the same time, Daemon’s motives for claiming the throne supposedly include his love for his half-sister Daenerys.

It’s quite likely that even had Viserys not married Daenerys to Khal Drogo that the custom would have failed – Viserys ultimately was trapped between his feelings of fraternal love, incestuous love (hinted at in Game of Thrones and confirmed in Dance With Dragons), and his hatred for his sister: “her mother had died birthing her, and for that her brother Viserys had never forgiven her.” In this way, Viserys actually mirrors Cersei Lannister, that great admirer of Targaryen traditions – like her, Viserys hates a sibling for having caused the death of their mother and desires a sibling carnally, but in his case they’re the same person.

A final political theme is the question of what exactly Illyrio is doing with the marriage to Khal Drogo, and how it fits in with his and Varys’ overarching conspiracy. Clearly, he’s the originating force of the marriage, and he gets his finder’s fee for making it happen; he seems to be acting as Viserys’ handler, although he doesn’t try very hard to keep Viserys close at hand in Pentos after the wedding (this is perhaps due to Viserys’ superfluity, given that they have a personally-trained Targaryen male in hand). When we see him later in Arya III, he seems to be preparing a Dothraki invasion that he wants to time with the birth of Daenerys’ son, although it’s probably not the case (as Robert Baratheon thinks) that he’s waiting for the next generation to act. Given his gifts to Dany of the dragon eggs and bed slaves, he seems to want the marriage to work. At the same time, however, we learn from Dance of Dragons that “I did not think Daenerys would survive for long amongst the horselords” – so what was the purpose? Was it merely an attempt to bolster the military forces open to Illyrio and Varys, adding the horde of Khal Drogo to the Golden Company, so that Aegon VI will have an additional 40,000 men behind him? If so, why did Varys deliberately botch her murder, since we know he can assassinate with precision? Why complicate matters by adding Rhaego to the line of succession, or was Rhaego supposed to be a backup if Aegon VI died in the process of conquering Westeros?

A few things seem probable – to begin with, Varys and Illyrio made no effort to hide Viserys and Daenerys from Robert Baratheon in comparison to their intense efforts to keep Aegon’s identity a secret; indeed, they didn’t offer even financial support between the death of Willem Darry and the arrival of the siblings at Illyrio’s doorstep, although that might have been deliberate neglect in order to make Viserys desperate enough to wed his intended bride to win an army. Although they knew through Varys that Jon Arryn had forestalled any assassination attempts, it’s probable that they intended Viserys and Daenerys to act as decoys – why look for the supposedly deceased Aegon when there are two Targaryen pretenders right in front of you? It’s also clear from Dance of Dragons that an enormous amount of effort went into Aegon’s training and that Varys intended him to be the main Targaryen claimant. In the end, I think we’re going to have to wait for the Winds of Winter to fully map out a conspiracy that by this point has collapsed into so many contingency plans and adaptations to unforeseen events that its original shape is very hard to understand.

Historical Analysis:

Despite the seemingly obvious drawbacks of hemophilia, porphyria, and flipper babies, royal incest was a historical phenomenon in many cultures. The Pharoahs of Egypt most closely resemble the Targaryen pattern, although they tended to stick to half-brother/half-sister marriages until the Ptolmys, who went in for direct brother-to-sister marriages. The Incas and the royal house of Hawaii also went in for brother-sister marriages. In medieval Europe, direct incest was both illegal and condemned by the Church, with the bizarre case of Jean V of Armagnac the only case I could find of a brother-sister marriage.

The danger of this practice can be seen in the case of the House of Hapsburg, in both its Austrian and Spanish lines was well-known for “consanguineous marriage,” including one marriage of an uncle to a niece. Even avoiding direct incest of brothers and sisters or fathers and daughters, they still succeeded in increasing the inbreeding coefficient tenfold to the point of parent-child and brother-sister levels. This lead to recurrent problems with deformity, infertility/importance, mental disorders and retardation, and other genetic abnormalities.

Given these problems, it’s surprising the Targaryens lasted as long as they did with so few obviously deformed offspring, given how brother-sister marriage increases the risks of genetic disorders beyond the levels associated with marrying first cousins. It’s possible that, like some royal houses engaged in direct incest, they practiced infanticide to weed out obvious cases of maladaptive traits. This might explain how so many Targaryens are described as having been beautiful (although part of that may be the association between Targaryen traits like silver hair and purple eyes with power and therefore beauty) – although they clearly missed a spot when it came to Maelys the Monstrous. Their track record when it comes to weeding out less obvious conditions that might have affected the mind is less good (although it’s hard to separate nature vs. nurture in these circumstances): Maegor the Cruel, Aerion Brightflame, Rhaegel Targaryen, Mad King Aerys II, the list is hardly inspiring.

The marriage between Daenerys and Khal Drogo brings up an interesting historical point – it’s probable that the Dothraki are patterned not off the Mongols, but rather the Huns, and Khal Drogo himself on that most famous Hun, Attila, and Daenerys off of the Roman princess Honoria. In 450 AD, the willful and infamous lady Honoria, sister to the weak Emperor Valentinian III, sent a plea for help to Attila in overcoming her brother, and offered in exchange her hand in marriage – and half of Gaul. At the time, Attila was one of the greatest warlords in the known world, extracting tribune from Constantinople, laying waste to the Balkans, and smashing Roman armies. To win Honoria’s hand and secure her position, Attila invaded Gaul, capturing Metz, Rheims, and Paris – before being defeated at the Battle of Châlons. When Valentinian III denied him his bride, Attila invaded Italy and practically burnt it to the ground – the city of Venice was founded out in the lagoon by refugees trying to get away from his horsemen. So like Khal Drogo, Attila would lay kingdoms to waste for the sake of his bride – and like Drogo, Attila would die no warriors death, but from a most minor injury – he suffered a massive nosebleed while intoxicated, and choked to death on his own blood.

What If?

I see three possible what ifs emerging out of this chapter:

  • What if Viserys had succeeded in his effort to deflower his sister the night before her marriage? Besides the likelihood that Drogo would have called the wedding off, it’s quite possible that Rhaego might have been born even more deformed than he was – interestingly, the only example I can find of an obviously deformed Targaryen baby. However, Illyrio had foreseen this possibility and put guards outside her door that night – lest “Viserys might have undone years of planning.” This last phrase is tantalizing; clearly Daenerys was an integral part of their planning, yet Illyrio was expecting her to die on the Dothraki plain and her son seems far less crucial given the existence of Aegon VI. Indeed, had Daenerys been groomed as a perfect Targaryen queen, why not save her for Aegon?
  • What if Khal Drogo had turned Daenerys down? Here we have a hypothetical that only brings up further questions about this conspiracy – why did Varys and Illyrio want a Dothraki khal and his khalassar, given how unlikely it would be that the Khal would have taken orders from Jon Connington or Aegon? Did they want cannon fodder for a failed invasion meant to draw away attention from the real threat, like one of Varys’ mummers tricks?
  • What if Viserys and Daenerys were assassinated before they arrived at Pentos? This, I think, is actually one of the least consequential hypotheticals for Varys and Illyrio – they would have lost their decoys, but the core of their plan would have been intact. However, just as with the second hypothetical, we have some enormous consequences for the larger plot – with no Drogo, no Rhaego, and thus no dragons. Robert Baratheon’s desire to extirpate the Targaryen line might have brought about the downfall of the world, depending on how crucial those dragons are to stopping the Others. Even leaving aside the larger metaphysics, it’s possible that Eddard Stark becomes so disillusioned with Robert, coming hard on the heels of the murder of Elia and her children, that he flat-out refuses the Handship.

Book vs. TV Show:

The show plays this chapter fairly straight, although they shift the meeting of Drogo and Daenerys to have Drogo on his horse – which I think is an improvement, actually. One interesting little change is that the phrase “a man should be able to do what he likes with his chattel” is shifted from Illyrio the slave-trader to Viserys, which emphasizes Viserys lack of empathy for anyone but himself, and also his unfamiliarity with Westeros. Westerosi peasants are not chattel, insofar as much as they have the right to appeal for the King’s justice – which suggests they have a legal status above that of property.

61 thoughts on “Chapter-By-Chapter Analysis – Daenerys I

  1. Zach Z. says:

    Just wanted to let you know I am highly enjoying these and hope you keep it up, as my understanding of medieval history is pretty basic and I very much enjoy the history lessons comparing this world with ours along with your overall unique analysis you bring to ASoIaF…

    • stevenattewell says:

      Glad you liked it. If you could Like the Facebook page, that would be a big help.

      • Kevin Moore says:

        I also love this – I liked it one Facebook – to the person below, the graphics problem goes away if you slightly widen your browser window – but my main comment is – my god – I’ve read the books twice and watch the show and am dumbfounded at the shallow understanding of the big picture I had until starting to read this site. Have you read other materials to help you get this command over the events that occurred before the first volume?

  2. William Crafts says:

    I liked your write up as well. I don’t know if anyone else is having this problem but the map of westeros in the background obscures much of your paragraphs, leaving only a small section at the bottom (maybe 3 or 4 lines) that I can read. Just wanted to give you a heads up

    • stevenattewell says:

      I’ve been wrestling with format since Day 1. The problem doesn’t occur on full screen or in default size windows. I’ll keep tinkering with it until it stops.

  3. Cory Lee Hill says:

    Good piece but a couple of notes: Viserys II is only ever listed as Aegon III brother in th Appendix of AGoT, in all other Sources he is his younger brother. Given that his Son Aemon is said to have fought in the conquest of Dorne it certainly makes more sense, since Daeron was only 15 when the conquest began and isn’t likely to have a younger brother with a son old enough to fight. Also it has been said both that Aegon III married a cousin and a Velaryon of Driftmark, the cousin Baelor’s sister Elaena had the bastards with, the were never married, was Alyn Velaryon her brother Daeron’s master of Ships. It does appear that Aegon III children were younger than his brother’s, ther mutuall grandson Daemon was the same age as Viserys II grandson Baelor Breakspear. If Aegon III married a cousin to end the war and then she died and he remarried to a Valaryon, it could account for why his children were younger than his brother’s

    • stevenattewell says:

      Viserys II was most likely the younger son of Aegon III, given the Targaryen’s usual pattern of primogeniture. I’m going off’s wiki page, since it’s collated with their “GRRM Speaks” database.

      • Cory Lee Hill says:

        Their Wiki page lists him as Aegon’s brother. The text of ASoS also says brother. The only time I can remember it ever saying son is the Appendix of AGoT which says Aegon III’s fourth son. Have you ever been to It contains the background info that GRRM sent to the Russian arist Amok for his Targaryen portrait series. The site is in Spanish but the descriptions are Martin’s original text.

      • stevenattewell says:

        Whoops. I meant brother. I’ll fix that.

  4. Cory Lee Hill says:

    Sorry I meant Viserys II is only ever listed as Aegon III’s Son in the AGoT Appendix

  5. Cory Lee Hill says:

    Also, Malleus Blackfyre had a conjoined fetus hanging of his head. When Jon Cottington sees the guilded skull in ADwD he refers to it as Malleus and his unnamed brother. There’s your deformed Targaryen

    • stevenattewell says:

      I think you mean Maelys Blackfyre, aka Maelys the Monstrous – I mention him. It’s just surprising how rare that is, given the extreme nature of the incest we’re talking about. Which suggests that perhaps the Blackfyres didn’t practice the infanticide that the Targaryens probably did.

  6. Cory Lee Hill says:

    I keep finding errors in what I myself posted, Baelor Breakspear is Viserys II great-grandson and was the same age as Viserys II and Aegon III’s mutual grandson Daemon Blackfyre.

  7. […] have to point you to this post on royal inbreeding in A Song of Ice and Fire. They reference my post on the Habsburgs. Well done! […]

  8. […] genetic load I have to point you to this post on royal inbreeding in A Song of Ice and Fire. They reference my post on the Habsburgs. Well done! […]

  9. theoedmands says:

    Excellent blog! I look forward to reading more in the future. Your comparison of Daenerys’ betrothal with Honoria is apt, as the similarities of Drogo and Attila are clear. However, a closer connection might be the marriage of Honoria’s mother Galla Placidia to the Gothic king Athaulf in 414 with helped to bring about the eventual alliance between Goths and Romans in late antiquity. At the time, Galla Placidia was the younger sister to the weak and ineffectual emperor Honorius and her marriage did much to pacify the dangerous Goths who were rampaging through Italy at that time. Honoria’s offer of marriage to Attila, however, is unclear. She definitely asked him for help and he interpreted that as an invitation to marriage and with that an invasion of the Western Roman Empire but she ultimately was safely wed to a fellow Roman. Galla Placidia on the other hand did in fact wed Athaulf and lived with the Goths for a few years until her husband’s death at which point she returned to Italy, remarried, saw her son to the throne, and became one of the strongest and longest lasting power brokers in the late Roman Empire.
    I agree with you’re comparison of the Dothraki to the Huns, which I rarely hear but seems like a closer match than the Mongols. The Romans of late antiquity had to come to terms with the increased connection with the barbarian world beyond their borders in all of its variety and they no longer had the option of keeping those groups of people isolated from their “civilized” society. GRRM is definitely tapping into that in the Daenerys storyline. Essos is a vast continent with many diverse and antagonistic cultures and the Free Cities on its western edge has the culture that’s the most similar to the relative monoculture that is Westeros. Daenerys is used as a politically expedient pawn in her marriage to Drogo just like those Roman princesses were used when the Romans ultimately realized that they could no longer shut out those alien tribes on their borders and they were often forced to wed their sisters and daughters to these barbarian kings in order to maintain what little control they had left over their dwindling empire.

    • stevenattewell says:

      It was a hard pick, ultimately I went with Attila because I really liked the similarity to Drogo’s death, since Athaulf was murdered, whereas both Attila and Drogo die of what would normally be really minor injuries.

      I also think the relationship between the Dothraki and the Free Cities is fairly similar to that with the Huns and other tribes of that era, since the Free Cities buy off the various khals (and I’m guessing bribe them to attack rival cities), unlike with the Mongols who really were out to conquer and were quite good at forming permanent governments in settled regions. The Dothraki have no interest in ruling the people of the stone huts.

      • Victoria says:

        Very interesting series of articles. Wasn’t aware of Honoria but Dany reminds me of Theodora Komnene/ Despina Khatun, which would fit with the Mongol influence.

  10. […] genetic load 14 I have to point you to this post on royal inbreeding in A Song of Ice and Fire. They reference my post on the Habsburgs. Well done! […]

  11. dasylirion says:

    I may be forgetting a development from ADWD, but … how does the secret promising of Arianne Martell to Viserys fit with the decoy theory? If the eventual goal is an Aegon VI-led counter-revolution, a Dornish alliance built on Viserys would be extremely tenuous. Aegon has the better claim, but it seems unlikely Viserys would be content in a supporting role as his nephew got the glory and the throne.

    Perhaps Arianne was intended for Aegon all along, but Varys and Illyrio didn’t want Doran Martell to know Aegon was alive until just before he revealed himself. In that case, Viserys was a convenient, easily discarded placeholder to keep Arianne from marrying anyone else. It seems awfully risky to bet everything on Viserys dying and Arianne not marrying anyone else in the interim, though I suppose assassinating Viserys when the time came wouldn’t be too difficult. That said, there’s no evidence Varys or Illyrio contacted Doran after Viserys died to urge him to keep Arianne single (wink wink).

    Unless perhaps the original message to Doran was something like, “when the time comes, marry your daughter to the Targaryen prince,” and he just assumed the offer died with Viserys because, obviously, he didn’t know Aegon existed.

    Regardless, I’m really enjoying the blog 🙂

    • stevenattewell says:

      Thanks! Glad you liked it. It’s possible that they had planned to trot out Aegon as a better catch for Arianne (given her spoiler chapter in Winds of Winter, the Martells certainly seem open to that), or maybe they wanted to bring the Martells in and leave Aegon’s hand up for grabs for another Great House.

      So I think your second paragraph is right. On the other hand, one big question is – before they hatched on the Dothraki connection, did they intend an Aegon/Daenerys match before the eggs hatched? What was Daenerys’ role going to be re: the Martells? A wife for Quentyn – we saw how well that worked out. Or perhaps a bargaining chip to bring another Great House on-side; Wilas Tyrell would possibly flip Highgarden.

      • dasylirion says:

        It does seem as though Dany could have brought a lot more value in a potential husband than a foreign general whose army is both hundreds of miles away from Westeros and skittish about boat trips. It’s just that nothing fit quite perfectly – Tyrell were loyalists during Robert’s Rebellion but have serious trouble coexisting with the Dornish; Lannister would happily hitch their wagon to Aegon’s rising star but for the sticky position that would put their current monarch in (though perhaps Tywin would be tempted to save Casterly Rock from Tyrion by marrying him to Dany and letting them hold Dragonstone). The Greyjoys bring the least baggage, but also perhaps the most limited military force.

        As much as I’d love to believe everything’s going according to Varys and Illyrio’s 20-year master plan, realistically the political situation has too many moving parts for them to be doing much more than playing whack-a-mole with each new problem as it arises. I suspect they were waiting for an ideal match to suggest itself when Viserys proved himself to be a libidinous turd, and suddenly they needed to get what they could for Dany before she lost her maidenhead and most of her political value.

        • stevenattewell says:

          Yeah…I don’t quite get why Varys/Illyrio thought the Dothraki match was so critical.

          As for the Tyrells, not only are they not friendly with the Dornish, but they were never huge loyalists – Mace Tyrell was very careful to sit down and besiege Storm’s End rather than get into the real fighting in the Crownlands (he’s sort of the Targaryen equivalent of the Freys).

          The Lannisters are out of the question – after killing Aerys II, Elia, and the children, they know they’re persona non grata with the Targaryens and they’re married to the Baratheons.

          The Greyjoys – why should they care? The Targaryens ended their empire in the Riverlands.

  12. […] the Varys/Illyrio Conspiracy, especially regarding the timing, which allows us to refine our model from before. While trying to unruffle Viserys’ feathers (scales?) over the Dothraki tradition of waiting […]

  13. Baddah416 says:

    Amazing job!
    I have a question though, in the ‘What If’ part, the first question – What if Viserys had succeeded in his effort to deflower his sister the night before her marriage? – Viserys got her married to Khal Drogo in the first book, and I don’t remember that her brother attempted deflower her. Viserys kind of hated/loved her, I believe. Even when he knew that he was supposed to marry her, I don’t think he was interested in her after all.

  14. Evan says:

    Hi there! I’m really enjoying your political/social examinations of the chapters so far, and I admit, it’s making me rethink the books themselves enough to maybe reread them.

    Anyways, I did have a theory on why there are less-obvious deformities within the Targaryen line: Magic. While it’s an easy handwave, it’s entirely possible that there’s enough latent magic in the blood of the Targaryens to ensure that the ethereal, unworldly beauty of Old Valyria stays just that by preventing deformities and the like, or at least ensures that the Targaryens fall to the social norm of very attractive.

    Also, I’ve always figured that Rhaego emerged deformed due to Mirri Maz Duur’s blood rites, and not because of anything in Dany’s (or Drogo’s) genes.

    • stevenattewell says:

      The problem with the magic thesis is that Maelys the Monstrous suggests that physical deformities are definitely out there in the gene pool.

      I still think infanticide is the most likely scenario.

      • Not necessarily. Primo, Maelys wasn’t necessary the fruit of incest. We don’t know if exiled Blackfyres practiced incest in Targaryen way, we don’t know in fact if they have such possibility. Secundo, Maelys deformity seems to be result of chimerisation or maybe some really nasty version of Syam twins, rather than genetic deformity.

  15. Hi Steven, much like the other posters here I’m really enjoying your analysis of A Game of Thrones, thank you for taking the time to do it. I would like to ask about Aegon however, specifically do you think that he is the real Aegon, son of Rhaegar? The reason I ask is because of Quaithe’s warning in A Dance With Dragons: “Soon comes the pale mare,
    and after her the others. Kraken and dark flame, lion and griffin, the sun’s son and the mummer’s dragon.” I think this is Quaithe trying to tell Daenerys that Jon Connington’s “Aegon” is probably the Westeros equivalent to Perkin Warbeck. If he was a real Targaryen, would she describe him as “a mummer’s dragon”? This might explain why having Daenerys marry Drogo is important: their son would clearly be a legitimate Targaryen with a strong army behind him if their plans with “Aegon” failed. Once Daenerys had produced a son (or more likely 2 or 3), she would be surplus to requirements.

    • stevenattewell says:

      I’m honestly equivocal about Aegon. I think there’s some evidence on either side.

      Evidence for Blackfyre:
      * Illyrio’s wife’s appearance was very Targ-like.
      * the redacted sword reference
      * there’s a strong association between mummery and falsehood, and Dany is supposed to be the slayer of lies

      Evidence for Targaryen:
      * Varys says he smuggled out the kid to a dying man he had no reason to lie to.
      * Varys has been shown to act in this fashion before with Gendry, and attempted to do the same thing for Eddard.

      It’s possible that both sides of the story are true: Varys smuggled out Aegon, and then Illyrio swapped out Aegon for his kid.

      • Andrew says:

        The story of Varys exchanging Aegon with boy bought with Arbor gold brings to mind something mentioned in Sansa’s chapter: Lies and Arbor gold. If we follow the War of the Roses reference, if you compare Aegon to Henry VII, who uses the sigil of red dragon of the ancient Welsh he claimed descent from to win Wales, the political influence of Dorne whom Aegon is trying to win displaying the red dragon sigil; one must remember he was descended from the Lancasters through House Beaufort on his mother’s side, a house descended from a bastard of House Lancaster. The only house I can think descended from a bastard of House Targaryen is House Blackfyre.

        There are also clues to Aegon’s identity for one to see. He dyes his hair to hide his silver-gold color like Daemon II Blackfyre dyed his in “The Mystery Knight.” Although, I do think he does truly believe himself to be who he says he is. A young child couldn’t be trusted with such a big secret, and the lie worked better if even he believed it. Daemon II was supported by Lord Butterwell referred to as “the lord of milk” while Aegon is supported by Illyrio referred to as the “lord of cheese.”

        Finally, GRRM hinted there will be a second Dance of Dragons, which will likely be between Dany and Aegon. I don’t think Dany would fight against her supposed brother’s son unless she had a good reason.

        • stevenattewell says:

          That’s a good point, but I think we’d be headed for a civil war regardless of whether he’s a Targaryen or a Blackfyre. At this point, Dany’s not going to be taking prisoners.

  16. Quixim says:

    Also of note: The deformity in Dany’s baby is almost assuredly a result of the magic surrounding her birth, and not a mundane reason – there’s no possibility that a baby that deformed would have developed in her womb unnoticed

    • stevenattewell says:

      Well, the graveworms certainly. But the scaly skin and rudimentary wings? She is of the blood of the dragon, yanno.

      • One interesting theory I read on Quora (thus, it is not mine, but after reading it I strongly agree) is that Rhaego emerging deformed could be the swap of life between the eggs and the fetus. The eggs were actually dead before Mirri Maz Duur’s blood rites, but they were alive again due to absorbing Rhaego’s life, then the pyre would only hatch them. That would explain the scaly skin and rudimentary wings…

  17. […] Game of Thrones – Daenerys I (Daenerys meets her future husband, conflicting historical memories of Robert’s Rebellion) […]

  18. Steven says:

    One of the questions that bothers me about Daenerys’ first marriage is why Khal Drogo agreed to it? There are obvious, simple, human reasons. She is described as a beautiful young woman, and there definitely is an element of exoticism, but what practical reasons are there for him? As far as I can remember, aside from Daenerys insisting the Dothraki marry the women they attack I’m not sure we get any insight into Dothraki wedding customs. The foreign marriage of this nature seems distinctly unusual.

    We focus reasonably on what Illyrio and Varys intended, but what did Drogo envision getting out of this arrangement?

    • stevenattewell says:

      No idea, but if I had to guess, I’d say that part of the “stallion who mounts the world” prophecy was that the mother would be a foreign princess or something.

  19. […] and not have to deal with nasty recessive alleles popping up. As I’ve discussed before, royal incest in history tended to go hand-in-hand with infanticide – given the importance of […]

  20. Tim says:

    Having just stumbled upon this blog I am greatly enjoying the more in depth reading of the chapters juxtaposed with the parallels with early European history and look forward to reading more. It’s just a pity that it will be so long before you reach the POV characters I enjoy the most, the Lannister twins.

    One question I would have is the extent that GRRM had pre planned the developments with Young Griff at this stage in his writing. We are four chapters in on the first novel of the series and 15 years before a Dance With Dragons, when the existence of Young Griff is revealed. Is it not more likely that the inconsistencies that have to be worked round in the Varys/Illyrio master plan are a result of the author having not fully committed to this aspect of the story. Martin admits the story has evolved through the years so the “plot holes” regarding the approach towards the Exiled Targaryens are simply the result of the author not having the information himself.

    It seems that these books have been read and reread so thoroughly for every nugget of information that we start to overlook the fallibility of the author, especially 4 chapters into to his magnum opus.

  21. twibble67 says:

    I really love this site, I enjoy learning more about history and looking at it through an “A Song of Ice and Fire” lens truly is a fun way of doing so. But I have to say, while I may be wrong in my interpretation, I can’t really agree with your overwhelmingly positive characterization of Daenerys as a whole. If anything, I think as Daenerys has acquired more power and bravado, she’s gotten more and more like Viserys. Her councilors are unable to give her the truth on her family’s legacy for fear of her reaction, she repeats mantras in her head to assure herself she’s doing the right thing rather than seriously consider the effect she has on the world around her, she burns for revenge on everyone who was on the Baratheon side of the conflict even though, as you’ve admitted, it’s more shocking that there was anyone who fought on the Targaryen side at all, and “fire and blood” is really no different than “might makes right”. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, but I think Daenerys’ success may not ultimately be a good thing.

    • Well, partly I haven’t gotten to the part where she gets power, but I’ve critiqued her actions pretty substantially in Laboratory Part VI and in the forthcoming Hymn for Spring book.

      • twibble67 says:

        Ah, I haven’t read all of Laboratory of Politics yet, so I guess I was getting ahead of myself. Don’t get me wrong, I think you’ve offered up some of the better defenses for certain characters that get unfairly maligned by the fans, like the Starks, but I just think the “coin flip” between madness and greatness hasn’t totally been decided for Daenerys yet. And the way GRRM’s described TWoW, it’s looking like she may be going all in on the “burn and kill everything I don’t like” philosophy.

  22. […] the tricky question of the nature of Westerosi feudalism: if the smallfolk of Westeros are chattel, as Viserys claims they are, then Tywin’s actions are perfectly legal. As the Hand of the King who has declared the […]

  23. Sean says:

    “depending on how crucial those dragons are to stopping the Others.”

    I always thought that the Others are coming because the dragons are an existential threat to them.

    • the Others started to move south (see, e.g. Prologue) well before the return of the dragons… so I do not think that the dragons could be the cause of the return of the Others…

  24. […] we’ve seen before, to Dany the house with the red door represents the loss of security and safety, so here’s she’s being offered a second chance at an ordinary childhood, with Refusal […]

  25. OutsiderSubtype says:

    One thing I didn’t see mentioned in the article, possibly because it’s obvious: the “across the water” phrase Illyrio uses evokes Jacobitism and the “king across the water” of British history. To the knowledgeable reader this is further evidence that Illyrio is mocking Viserys, and that his cause is as hopeless as the Jacobites’ was.

  26. You’re ability to weave in historical figures and events in unparalleled. I have very limited knowledge of this save the basics so I’m learning something with each essay I read.

  27. […] the outside world. And what she gets from the outside world is essentially a condensed version of Viserys’ life experience: she gets laughed off in disbelief, she gets refused both for pragmatic and bigoted reasons, and […]

  28. David Remer says:

    Great blog, but was wondering if you’re going to tackle the strange aging of the younger characters. It always threw me when reading these great books just how young these various protagonists/antagonists are, and how much they must endure at seemingly unrealistic ages.

  29. […] Illyrio Mopatis, but so has Daenerys Targaryen, and Illyrio himself treats laws banning slavery as more of a suggestion. And indeed, Salladhor Saan’s argument here is that the ironclad distinction between law and […]

  30. […] the cabal have heard of the “beggar king,” the feint at her crown is a pretty dirty hardball tactic aimed at getting Dany to sell one of her […]

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