Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Daenerys IV

 “Your brother should have bided his time in Pentosi. There is no place for him in a Khalasar….the Dothraki look on these things differently than we do in the west.”

Synopsis: Dany arrives in Vaes Dothrak, chats with Jorah about comparative cultural studies and warfare, and takes a belt to Viserys.

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.

Programming Note: With Dany IV, Race for the Iron Throne is officially HALFWAY through A Game of Thrones! Only took eight months of writing regularly. So at this rate, I should be done with the first book in November, and then move on to A Clash of Kings.

Political Analysis:

It’s quite refreshing to get back to Daenerys, since we haven’t been to Essos for 13 chapters and it’s a nice break from the almost unrelenting focus on Eddard’s investigation. And as with previous Dany chapters, there’s a lot to work with here: the political economy of Vaes Dothrak, a further examination of how cultural ignorance and bigotry versus assimilation underpins the transforming relationship between Viserys and Daenerys, and the different worlds of war of Westeros and Essos.

Vaes Dothrak is a fascinating location sketched out in just a few words. To begin with, it’s a city without walls on a continent of walled-city states, reminiscent of the famous Spartan boast that their hoplites were the walls of Sparta; in this case, the vastness of the Dothraki Sea and the fierceness of their khalasars are their defenses. However, it’s also a cultural statement: the Dothraki who value physical openness as truth and proof of courage divide the world into those who live their lives under the open sky and the “milk men in their stone tents” who practice deceit and concealment out of cowardice. It’s impressive how GRRM is able to imbue every detail of the Dothraki world with not just material but cultural significance, showing how the Dothraki beliefs structure their world. All of this comes before we even get into the religious significance of Vaes Dothrak as the spiritual capitol of the Dothraki world, the place where the “dosh khaleen” dwell to serve as the link between the mundane world and the supernatural, where the “warring khalasars put aside their feuds and shared meat and mead together…in this place, all Dothraki were one blood, one khalasar, one herd.” Vaes Dothrak is a place of peace, and a place of prophecy, where the Dothraki will some day unite as one.

hat tip to Tomasz Jedruszek

At the same time, the Dothraki are not “noble savages” distinguished from Westerosi decadence by superior moral virtue. Viserys’ sneering dismissal, that “all these savages know how to do is steal the things better men have built..and kill,” is based on his belief in racial and cultural superiority, but as Jorah points out, “[y]our brother had part of the truth…The Dothraki do not build…the buldings you see were made by slaves brought here from lands they’ve plundered, and they built each after the fashion of their peoples.” Vaes Dothrak is an imperial statement – the Dothraki are warriors who are a higher order of person than people who build and work the land and craft with their hands, who are fit only to be slaves; by forcing their slaves to carry the remnants of their destroyed homes, their destroyed gods, across thousands of miles of grasslands to be heaped as tribute before the Mother of Mountains, the Dothraki are proclaiming their right to rule the world.

Yet again, Vaes Dothrak has another purpose, as we can see from “the Eastern Market where the caravans from Yi Ti and Asshai and the Shadow lands came to trade.” For all that the Dothraki disdain city-dwellers and peaceful occupations, they are also a structural link in the economy of Essos. Only a nomadic warrior people of the Dothraki’s size could raid and conquer the thousands and thousands of slaves that serve as raw materials for the cities of Yunkai, Astapor, and Meereen, who “refine” the raw materials, training up the Unsullied and sorting out the skilled and the beautiful from the merely disposable, and then sold on to Volantis, Lys, Myr, and Tyrosh (although Braavos remains an anti-slave power, and has imposed its views on Pentos (and probably Lyrath as well). At the same time, the tributes the Dothraki recieve from the Free Cities of western Essos are easily transported across the Dothraki Sea to be exchanged for rare goods from far eastern lands, making Vaes Dothrak the land-bound equivalent of the great port cities of Volantis and Qarth.

Next, we return to the theme of cultural ignorance and bigotry. Viserys “stubborn ignorance” and his refusal to assimilate to this new place and its cultural is at the heart of this chapter: to begin with, it’s causing him to lose the respect of people he plans to lead into battle, who see him as the Sorefoot King and the Cart King, insults that he can’t even see. Next, we see the physical costs of his refusal to change: his “tunic was filthy. All the silk and heavy woolls that Viserys had worn out of Pentos were stained by hard travel and rotted by sweat,” and yet he refuses the Dothraki tunic, leggings, sandals and belt that are better suited to the climate and the culture he has to work in. Even worse, he has fundamentally misunderstood the exchange he’s made – the Dothraki are not a commercial culture where bargains are made and prices are defined in formal contracts; they are a gift culture, and Khal Drogo “will give Viserys a gift in return…in his own time. You do not demand a gift, not of a Khal.”

Finally and most significantly, Viserys’ ignorance causes a fatal break with his sister who has so committed to assimilation that she sees the Dothraki as her people. Despite all of the abuse she’s taken from him, Dany tries one last time to share the lessons she’s learned so that her brother might succeed at the head of a Dothraki army (even though Jorah Mormont is always on hand to remind her that “Viserys could not sweep a stable with ten thousand brooms” and to subtly suggest that someone else, “someone stronger” could take the Seven Kingdoms). When Viserys refuses her, insults her and the culture she’s adopted, Dany finds the strength to strike back, and strike back as only a khaleesi can, threatening to “summon my khos to drag you out. And pray Khal Drogo does not hear of this or he will cut open your belly and feed you your own entrails.”

A third theme introduced in this chapter is the different worlds of war. Here, Jorah Mormont is our cultural interpreter, someone who’s seen past his initial culture shock to recognize that the Dothraki are “better riders than any knight, utterly fearless, and their bows outrange ours…charging or retreating, it makes no matter.” While the armor and momentum of the knight offers a certain balancing factor if the Westerosi knight can get into melee range and avoid being drawn out and surrounded, the major problem is actually the lack of disciplined infantry who lack the discipline needed to withstand the psychological shock of “forty thousand screamers howling for blood” and the armor needed to protect themselves from Dothraki archers.” As we’ll see, the Dothraki are not invincible against disciplined infantry like the Unsullied, which is probably why the Varys/Illyrio Conspiracy includes the use of the combined-arms Golden Company, with its Essos-trained infantry combined with Westerosi knights and war elephant, as a backstop against the Dothraki deciding to stay in Westeros.

A side note: it’s interesting to see the contrast between the bloodriders whose loyalty is so strong that they will unquestioningly follow their khal “into the grave,” and the tarnished honor of the Kingsguard, filled with political appointees, Kingslayers, and would-be assassins. On the other hand, we’ll see later that the vaunted honor of the bloodriders isn’t exactly as strong as it would seem.

Historical Analysis:

So, given this question about Westerosi vs. Dothraki, we have to ask, how would medieval knights fare against the equivalent of Dothraki? On the one hand, at the Battle of Châlons, a mixed force of Roman, Visigoth, and Frankish soldiers, mostly cavalry, fought Attila’s Hunnic army to a standstill, using their heavier armor and superior discipline to break Attila’s cavalry charges with their own counter-charges.

On the other hand, when the Mongols came into contact with European knights in 1231, they achieved total victory at Legnica, where Subutai, Genghis Khan’s chief general, used the classic Mongol tactics of feigned retreat and feigned attack to completely disrupt the formations of German, Czech, and Polish knights, force them to charge, cut them off from behind, and slaughter them, thereby winning a crushing victory. Henry II of Silesia, Boleslav of Moravia, and virtually the entire army of 40,000 men died on the field. Likewise at Mohi, the forces of Hungary, the Teutonic Knights, and the Knights Templar, were surprised, driven back into their camp, and then attacked from their rear flank as they sallied forth, and finally hacked down in flight as the Mongols allowed a deliberate escape route to more easily slay fleeing enemies. Tens of thousands fell, leaving Hungary basically defenseless as King Bela IV and the nobility of Hungary fled. In the ensuing invasion, 15-25% of the population of Hungary died, exposed on the broad plains, but the castles of the nobility held.

 In the end, it was the castle, not the knight that prevented total Mongol victory. Bela IV embarked on a policy of fortification, encouraging his nobles to build castles and cities to build walls to keep out the Mongols. When the Mongols were forced to besiege his castles, they began to take enormous casualties as they could no longer use their traditional tactics, which relied on open spaces. That, plus the death of Ogedei Khan, ended the Mongol invasions of Europe.

So in the end, Jorah’s right.

As for Vaes Dothrak, it resembles nothing so much as Genghis Khan’s capitol of Karakorum. Initially it was a mobile yurt city, walls were eventually built, but with four gates facing the four cardinal directions from which the capitol recieved tribute and visitors from their vast empire. Like Vaes Dothrak, Karakorum contained a section for visiting merchants from Arabia and China, many different temples of every conceivable religion (Christian, muslim, pagan, etc.), and massive statues that came to symbolize the city.

What If?

Nothing really stands out as a potential hypothetical in this chapter. However, there should be some in next chapter.

Book vs. Show:

The Dothraki don’t fare that well in the HBO version – while the great stallion statues are quite impressive, I didn’t really feel a  connection between Drogo’s great hall and the merchant districts that Dany visits that you need to express the strange mix of cosmoplitanism and imperialism that makes Vaes Dothrak so interesting.

On the other hand, Dany’s line that “the next time you raise your hand to me will be the last time you have hands” is a much more impressive line than “pray Khal Drogo does not hear of this.” At this part in the books, Dany’s made her transition from being a Westerosi expat to being a convert to Dothraki culture, but she still thinks of her child as the “true dragon,” rather than herself. In the show, Dany’s defiance of Viserys is tied more to her changing self-image, and the link between seeing herself as a badass who’ll take matters into her own hands works better.

A rare moment where HBO is more feminist than the source material?


47 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Daenerys IV

  1. Carol says:

    “Nothing really stands out as a potential hypothetical in this chapter.”

    Well, Viserys could have accepted what Daenerys gave/said to him and started to adapt to Dothraki culture, eventually becoming accepted, a better man, and a true potential ruler instead of her.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA *ahem* Yeah, I suppose not.

  2. Sean C. says:

    Looking at the big map of Westeros, I’ve been trying to figure out where this hypothetical Dothraki invasion that Viserys and Daenarys want would try to put ashore (assuming, of course, that any storms they encountered while crossing the Narrow Sea left them with much choice in the matter, which, with wooden sailing ships, could never be counted on). Because looking at the map, I really don’t think there are a lot of good choices available. Proceeding from north to south:

    (1) The North is right out (to paraphrase Monty Python). The weather is probably the least hospitable to the Dothraki’s massed cavalry (and the Dothraki themselves), and while Viserys was the only one who seemed to have any fantasy of loyalist support, even he couldn’t imagine they’d find any in the North, the only kingdom that didn’t contribute as much as single Targaryen loyalist lord. Perhaps even worse, landing north of the Neck would essentially trap the Dothraki host in the North; if the southern kingdoms could put 200,000 men in the field between them, they could easily send 100,000 across to help Ned while leaving the remainder guarding the Kingsroad at the other end of the Neck (which, incidentally, it makes no sense for there not to be a Riverlands equivalent to Moat Cailin there on a permanent basis). The Dothraki could ride around, raise hell for a while, and then freeze to death when winter comes.

    (2) The Vale is likely no better. Similar lack of loyalists, and I can’t imagine a worse place to take the Dothraki host than a land of narrow mountain passes and mountaintop castles. And, much like the above, there’s basically only one way out of the Vale, which the other kingdoms could easily guard.

    (3) Then you get down to the Riverlands/Crownlands, which would be high-risk, high-reward. The risk being that, in an age of extremely limited distance communication, you’d be taking a fleet of hired cargo ships into one of the only areas where you’d have to actually worry about a high likelihood of naval intercept (which would for most of the continent probably be negligible, given the limited ability to rapidly coordinate movements). If they actually managed to sail right into the heart of the Seven Kingdoms and land without Stannis bringing the Royal Fleet down on them and sending all or most of the Dothraki transports to Davy Jones’ Locker, they’d be in a pretty good position to strike rapidly at King’s Landing and the surrounding areas before significant land forces could be mobilized, and there’s large, wide-open spaces with little to impede their freedom of movement.

    (4) The Stormlands, which is where Conington’s force landed fairly successfully, though under vastly different circumstances. Would also involve sailing into “Shipbreaker Bay” with a huge fleet, which seems like something to avoid.

    (5) Dorne seems like the most obvious place to aim for in a lot of ways, and the place where a sympathetic reception is most likely. At that point it would become a question of moving forces through the Prince’s Pass and/or the Stone Way before the Iron Throne forces try to seal them.

    • stevenattewell says:

      4. You don’t have to sail into Shipbreaker Bay. You could stand off the coast between Tarth and Massey’s Hook and boat your way into shore north of Storm’s End.

      5. Dorne’s a good start. However…

      6. What’s stopping you from sailing around Dorne and also landing in the Southern Reach?

      I think attack from several regions at once, once the civil war had distracted most of the military forces was the plan.

      • Sean C. says:

        6. Much like my concern about sailing into the teeth of the Royal Fleet, if you venture toward the Reach you run the risk of having to deal with Lord Redwyne (and, realistically, if they sail along the coast that far, there’ll have been alerts sent out that they’re coming).

        Multiple landings strikes me as a really bad idea. 40,000 horse is a formidable army together; cut into several pieces, much less so.

        • stevenattewell says:

          That’s why you’d wait for the Redwyne fleet to be engaged elsewhere first – hence why they were waiting for a civil war.

          Depends on how easily you can pick up more troops. If you can land the 10,000 men of the Golden Company in the Stormlands, punch out of Dorne with 25,000 new spears, and then show up in the southern Reach at the same time, you’ll spook houses into bending the knee, especially in the former Targaryen loyalist areas in the South.

      • Brett says:

        I think Dorne would be a bad idea. The interior is mostly desert with a few habitable river valleys and oasises, and most of the habitable stretches of coastline have castles. Supporting the Dothraki horse in that situation would be difficult, with so little grassland in the interior to feed them.

        I think it’s implied that sailing around the southern tip of Westeros from Oldtown to Dorne and vice versa is a bit treacherous. There were whirlpools and other risks mentioned in one of the Sam chapters in AFFC, and the Reader describes the Dornish southern coast as “400 leagues of whirlpools” and other conditions with “barely a safe landing anywhere”.

        • stevenattewell says:

          Tbat’s why you go with support from the Martells.

          Eh. At worst you break the ships down, rebuild them, and cross the Torentine.

      • Sean C. says:

        They weren’t waiting for a civil war, though. That’s Varys’ plan, but Viserys and Khal Drogo weren’t planning on that, they were contemplating immediate invasion.

        Realistically, I should add, assembling a fleet of the size necessary to transport 40,000 warriors across the Narrow Sea would not go unnoticed (even with Robert’s spymaster actually working for them, too many people would see that for it to possibly be covered up). They’d game out the most likely landing areas, and have Stannis, Lord Redwyne, and Lord Greyjoy out in force (the latter, while grumpy, I’m sure wouldn’t pass on the chance to kill things).

        The canny thing would also be to station signficant royalist forces in Dorne itself, as well, to “assist the Dornish”; Doran wouldn’t reasonably be able to refuse additional garrison troops.

      • stevenattewell says:

        Khal Drogo wasn’t about to go until Dany’s kid is born, and wasn’t particularly in a hurry until the assassin was sent. Viserys is a pawn at best.

        The key deciders here are Varys and Illyrio, because that’s the only way they’re getting the ships and crossing. And their plan was to wait for a civil war.

      • Sean C. says:

        I was referring to after the assassin (which, succeed or fail, would have had the same effect), when Drogo made immediate invasion the order of the day.

        • stevenattewell says:

          True. But by that point, civil war is in the offing, and it was going to take him a while to gather enough slaves to buy a fleet.

    • slybrarian says:

      For all that Dorne’s loyal to the Targaryens, I’d be hesitant to try to land there, because if something does go wrong you’ve suddenly got forty thousand screaming horsemen stuck in a desert. Meanwhile, given the love of epic fortifications the people of Westeros have, they’d be hard-pressed when attacking the centers of power of the other houses. I can only imagine what their reaction would be to seeing the Eyrie or Harrenhal.

  3. Protagoras says:

    Castles stopped the Mongols? Seems they lost their way badly after the death of Genghis Khan, then; siege warfare was one of his greatest strengths. Did those who came after him forget to bring their engineers with when they invaded Europe?

    Is there anybody in Essos or Westeros noted for siege warfare and military engineering? I guess Westeros has the wildfire, but it isn’t clear how usefully they can apply that to attacking a fortification.

    • stevenattewell says:

      Yes, they were. But there were failed Mongol invasions in Hungary post-1241 that bear this out.

      Westeros has more experience with siege warfare, I’d say. And wildfire will burn stone.

      • Chad says:

        Though the castles helped against some raids Post Ögedei Khan there really wasn’t a single unified Mongol army anymore after his death as the Empire split between different Khans and religion persuasions. It is the death of Ogedei Khan that really saved Europe and little else. The Mongols were systematically destroying Hungary and driving the people into the fortress and cities where they could then be destroyed one at a time. However Ogedei Khan died and then Subutai had to leave to select the next Khan instead of continuing on the campaign.

        If the Mongols had stayed intent on conquest of Western Europe the same fate that happened to Russian, Khwarezmids, and Chinese cities and forts would have happened to them. The combination of forced civilian human labor/ use of human shields/forced levies from conquered people and bombardment from trebuchets and cannons had never been seen before in Europe. It was like the Mongols had come down from the very top major sports league to a lesser league when they were fighting the Europeans.

      • stevenattewell says:

        You still had attacks, though.

      • John says:

        It’s probably worth noting, though, that the Poles and the Hungarians were hardly the cream of the crop as far as European military forces were considered. If they’d defeated Frederick II or St. Louis, it’d be more conclusive.

  4. I’m not sure I’d cite the Battle of Chalons as proof of anything – it ended up a bloody stalemate, and I hold with those who say the deciding factor was the heavy Frankish infantry. Certainly the Roman cavalry did not succeed in charging the Hunnic camp.

    The Mogols are better proof, though it has to be noted that Mohi was won not so much with the light cavalry as with the brilliant innovations of Subutai, and the Mongol talent for adopting certain practices as their own – Batu was being held fiercely at the bridge by the crossbows (whom he cleared with stone throwers, primarily a siege weapon) and then by the knights (indeed, much of his personal bodyguard was killed – his fierceness was what really held the Mongols there). What changed the balance was Subutai attacking from the rear, which was only possible due to the quick engineering that built the portable bridge he could cross on.
    It was this innovative approach that won the Mongols the battle. And they carried on this attitude elsewhere, adopting new tactics to augment where they were weak. They learned siege tactics from the Chinese, and then used those to defeat them. When those were not enough, they brought Muslim and Persian engineers to improve their weapons and skills, resulting in the defeat of the Song Dynasty. For that matter, not 17 years after Mohi, Hulagu Khan conquered Baghdad in ten days. 20 years earlier, in the conquest of Khwarizm, Tolui’s army was given an estimated 3,000 ballistae, 300 catapults, 700 mongonels to discharge pots filled with naphtha, 4,000 storming-ladders, and 2,500 sacks of earth for filling up moats. The Mongols were great at siege warfare – the campaign to Hungary simply wasn’t geared for it. But I doubt the Dothraki can adopt such tactics, or are even willing to change their traditional methods. Drogo leading them over the sea seemed challenge enough.

    • stevenattewell says:

      Chalons – well, I consider Attila the better equivalent to Khal Drogo. Larger point is that the Hunnic cavalry were not automatic victors.

      Yes, good point re the Mongols. As you point out though, the Dothraki are more Hunnic than Mongol.

  5. Grunt says:

    One problem with your analysis-Assuming that the Dothraki and the mongols are equal. They are not-the Dothraki are inferior in every way to the mongols (from their criminaly bad gear in general [mongols were armored, if only with padded light armor, but the dothraki hate armor on principle of “COWARD!” and go to battle practicaly naked] and for their role as light cavalry [curved swords? You again plate armor? please], Though their idea for the leader in combat [mongol commanders were not supposed to charge, unlike dothraki khals]
    to the fact that my metaphorical 5 years old brother is better in tactics than them [Qohor!])
    They are more like the classic barbarian horde, charging screaming from horizon to horizon painted blue. but with more horses,

  6. Julian says:

    Maybe I’m reaching, but Vaes Dothrak lacking walls could also be suggesting that Vaes Dothrak is boundless, i.e. the Dothraki may someday rule everything because they don’t reckon with normal national boundaries and are just biding their time until they’re strong enough to take you by force. I think it’s a weak connection that becomes a bit stronger on account of the Stallion that Mounts the World prophecy.

    • stevenattewell says:

      It’s not necessarily that it’s boundless. Remember, it’s supposed to house the whole of the Dothraki people before they go out to conquer the world.

  7. Abbey Battle says:

    The more I consider the sheer scale of the logistical nightmare one faces when planning to move an entire horde of Dothraki (AND their horses) across the Water from the Eastern Continent to the Western, as well as the strategic difficulties posed any commander seeking to implement them in Westeros (where the terrain is for the most part very, very different from that in which the Khalasars thrive) the more I wonder if the marriage of Princess Daenerys and the courting of Khal Drogo isn’t more of a shell game than a primary pillar of the Illyrio/Varys conspiracy.

    Put simply, I wonder if they’re using Daenerys marriage to Drogo to keep both the Beggar King and The Usurper too busy worrying about the Dothraki to pay attention to The Golden Company (which I’m more than willing to contend HAS to be the primary strike force in any pro-Targaryen invasion of Westeros, given it’s long practice in Westerosi warfare); moving a compact body of veteran sellswords is likely to be far more cost effective and practical than shifting an entire Tribe across the Narrow Sea.

    Put simply I suspect that the Devious Duo were planning to use Viserys as a distraction in the Free Cities, the Dothraki as a contingency and Daenerys as a plausible alternative candidate for the Iron Throne (should Aegon fall afoul of fate or be otherwise felled), kept at a relatively safe distance from Baratheon spies, in what would to Westerosi eyes appear to be obscurity.

    Either that or their courting of Dothraki support was a sign that even these practiced schemers can err on the side of over-ambition when it comes to scheming.

    • stevenattewell says:

      I don’t think it was a shell-game as much as it was a mix of bait and looking for cannon-fodder. They kept Viserys and Dany in front of Robert’s eyes so that he didn’t go looking for Aegon, and were probably planning to use the Dothraki as cannon-fodder to do the heavy lifting of the fighting before the Golden Company came over as liberators.

  8. Abbey Battle says:

    That seems at least somewhat more plausible, even if I do think it makes more sense to view The Dothraki more as a speculative investment on the part of the Diabolic Duo; after all, there’s no guarantee that the Khal would have deigned to come West absent the direct threat to Daenerys – which might explain Lord Varys acted as he did in the matter of arranging Robert’s Revenge.

    While I am absolutely in agreement that Lord Varys and Magister Illyrio would have loved a horde of Dothraki iron-fodder to drown the Armies subject to the Iron Throne, I would be astonished if they made the acquisition of such a horde THE central pillar of their strategy (unless they’re dreams are bigger than their store of common sense).

    I do, of course, agree with you entirely about the use of Khaleesi Daenerys and ‘King’ Viserys as a distraction.

    • stevenattewell says:

      I think the Khal would have come, but when was the key issue.

      And it wasn’t the central pillar. The horde would be the feint, the Golden Company the stiletto.

  9. Andrew says:

    DO you think its possible that the Andals adopted the stirrup from the Dothraki? In the real world, the invading hordes from Central Asia introduced the stirrup which helped to give knights their effectiveness on the battlefield as the stirrups made it harder to fall off a horse. The stirrup would give Andal horsemen an advantage over the first men if the First men didn’t have that innovation along with iron.

    • stevenattewell says:

      We don’t know how the stirrup was transferred in the world of Westeros and Essos. Personally, I think it was more the iron weapons.

  10. Michael J Barone says:

    Just some generic praise here. As a lead-up to the S3 premiere and to get back into the grooves of Westeros, I read all the political analyses for the GoT chapters. What a job. Bravo. I’m addicted, man. Keep em’ coming.

  11. Odon says:

    It’s interesting that King Robert raises the issue of siege warfare in the TV series, and points out that with the Dothraki raising havoc while the nobles hide inside their castles, the smallfolk (and no doubt those lesser Houses who can’t afford big castles) might well end up hailing Viserys as the new king just to end the bloodshed. So we have a political dimension that wasn’t available to the Mongols – a legitimate alternate ruler.

    • stevenattewell says:

      A good point, but there’s a couple of counteracting forces:
      1. The Dothraki are going to kill and enslave many many of the smallfolk. This tends not to engender political goodwill.
      2. The nobles can bring in significant numbers of the smallfolk into the castles, as they did in Hungary.

  12. […] see more of the Dothraki’s cultural imperialism and sense of manifest destiny. We’ve already seen a bit of this with the Dothraki custom of dragging the statues of foreign gods back to Vaes […]

  13. Roger_Raven says:

    Personaly I don’t think the Dothrakis are such a military threat to Westeros. First, to gather enough sailors disposed to carry a screaming horde to the West is problematic. I supose Drogo could simply ask for them to the Free Cities, but still problematic.

    Also, they would lack a war navy. If a competent admiral as Stannis founds them at sea, they would meet the drowned god.

    Let’s suppose they manage to land somewhere. But WHERE? Dorne’s coast is desertic. Even if the Martells joins Daenerys (most probable), how could they feed so many horses in a desert? If the Baratheons fortify the mountain passes in the Marches, the horde would be stoped and start starving.

    If not in Dorne, where? the Stormlands are bad terrain for cavalry, full of hills and woods. Also the stormlords would remain loyal. Landing in the Crownlands is impossible with Dragonstone in Baratheon’s hands. The Vale of Arryn is even worse than the Stormlands. And the North… Frozen horseflesh isn’t very tasty.

    Even if the Khalasar manages to land and establish a beach-head, I’m not sure the dothraki raider is so invencible. Gengis Khan army had rigid discipline, heavy cavalry, and learned to besiege castles. Even they were defeated by well-placed ambushes (look at Ain Jalut). Dothrakis are presented as savage fighters, more adapt at charging that at complex maneuvers. Also a man like Droggo wouldn’t refuse a duel against the Kingslayer or the Hound. And don’t forget Robert Baratheon, Ned Stark and Stannis are able commanders. Even Tywin would join them against the Targaryens.

    Westeros knights are impetuous, for sure, but we have never seen then mad charging as in the historical battle of Nicopolis. Their infantry is able to form defensive squares and schiltrons (as in the Blue Fork battle) and uses long pikes.

    Besieging a large city is a complex affair. Especialy if it can be supplied by sea. AFAIK, Dothraki don’t use even rams.

    SO, in my opinion if

    All these motives is why Varys and Illyrio thought of the Golden Company.

    • Bwbah says:

      I expect you under-sell the Dothraki; if they were as bad at warcraft as you say, the Free Cities seem unlikely to pay them their Danegeld. They have to have earned their reputation somehow. And savage doesn’t mean stupid.

      Second, from what we’ve seen of Westerosian navies, their naval technology is still at a point comparable to the navies of antiquity, which means warships are mostly just a way to get armies from place to place. Or something to stand on while they attack the men on other ships. The only decisive weapon you’ll likely find on these ships is a ram, and if you’re close enough to ram, you’re close enough to be boarded by the Dothraki cargo who are eager to let you know how much they appreciate you drowning their horses.

      And apparently the Westerosi cannot use their pikes effectively, whether it’s a cultural blind spot, lack of discipline, or whatever, because if they did pike formations would dominate the battlefield and heavy horse (such as knights) would be mostly useless. Light horse, such as Dothraki, on the other hand, would fare better as they’re far more able to catch a pike unit from an unexpected direction. And if they’ve got bows they can just murder the heck out of the pikes that have no way to catch them.

      • thatrabidpotato says:

        Westerosi ships are also armed with ranged weapons such as catapults. They’re specifically mentioned in the Blackwater. They are medieval warships.

        The simple fact is that the Dothraki are hilariously overrated as warriors. They do not wear armor of any kind, and their primary melee weapon cannot hope to pierce even mail, let alone plate. Based on that alone, a single knight could easily take on multiple Dothraki.

        The reason that Dothraki are able to terrorize Essos is that Essos, strangely enough, is far behind Westeros militarily. The Unsullied are considered the pinnacle of heavy infantry in Essos, yet they are very poorly equipped by the standards of Westeros. They fight like Greek hoplites, which is so archaic compared to a medieval army it’s hilarious.

  14. […] Dany IV (Vaes Dothrak as cultural artifact, how did the historical parallels for the Dothraki fare against knights?) […]

  15. […] the past, I briefly compared Vaes Dothrak to Genghis Khan’s capital city of Karakoroum. In this section, I’m going […]

  16. […] perverse is the social norm. The contrast to the simplicity (at least on the Dothraki Sea) and sharply divided gender roles of the Dothraki is quite […]

  17. milli says:

    i wouldn’t call them a total feminist though because it came at the cost of character building. In the books we get the sense and it totally makes sense that domestic violence victim who was raised to think from the day she could remember that men are more important and Viserys is important than her would suddenly realize exactly how powerful she is on her own right. It takes years if not decades.
    Show on the other with such small steps and with total sum of it is what it is today, shows us that she was violent and assertive and nothing else. The interiority as a victim of violence and oppression is absent. Co-incidently it is quite unfeminist that we know more about show!Ramsay Snow and his internal struggles than we know about Show!Dany. I don’t think most of the show only watchers even know why she knows so fluent a Valyrian when her possible teacher Viserys was 7 year old himself. Or exactly what was she up to before episode 1 of Illyrio’s manse.

  18. John says:

    Excellent on the Mongols, but one small mistake (no doubt a typo). The battles of Liegnitz and Mohi took place in 1241 not 1231

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