Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Daenerys VII

“Princess…you have a gentle heart, but you do not understand. This is how it has always been.”

Synopsis: Khal Drogo and his khalasar sack a Lhazarene village in the process of being sacked by a different khalasar to raid slaves for their trip across the ocean, and Khal Drogo slays Khal Ogo and Khal Fogo to do it. Dany insists that his wound be treated by Mirri Maz Duur.

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:

It’s interesting that so many fans of ASOIAF were frustrated by Daenerys’ plotline in A Dance With Dragons, given how much of its seems to be prefigured in this chapter. The return of the rightful heir to the throne, a fantasy trope older than Ivanhoe and Tolkein and so often made out to be a relatively bloodless affair in which the evil usurper and some presumably evil guards dies, here brings abut the slaughter of innocent Lhazarene and raiding Dothraki alike.

And for those who argue that Dany is not responsible for what’s happening here, it is explicitly stated by Daenerys herself that “this is the price of the Iron Throne.” It is not even the case that the Lhazarene are “collateral damage” in an otherwise justified war for the throne. The Lhazarene are paying for the ships that will take Dany’s army across the sea: “I’ve told the khal he ought to make for Meereen..they’ll pay a better price than he’d get from a slaving caravan. Illyrio writes that they had a plague last year, so the brothels are paying double for healthy young girls, and triple for boys under ten. If enough children survive the journey, the gold will buy us all the ships we need, and hire men to sail them.”

While I would argue that George R.R Martin’s pacifist critique of war is tempered by his understanding of both the romantic allure of warfare and the realities of geopolitics, there is little ambiguity in this moment: “this is the way of war. These women are our slaves now to do with as we please.” This is not simply war as we have seen it at the Green Fork or even in the Riverlands; this is systematized war on a defenseless people to produce slaves for the Essosi economy that Jorah, Drogo, Illyrio, and Dany intend to make use of. Pay attention tot he description of the Unsullied Daenerys liberated in Astapor, or the slaves freed at Yunkai or Meereen – there as Lhazarene faces in those crowds and Dothraki put them there. The next time you see a gifset on Tumblr that seeks to equate Dany with an imperialist ignorant of Ghiscari culture, remember that the Lhazarenes aren’t part of that culture.

Moreover, this is slavery explicitly justified by Dothraki racism: “they were herders of sheep and eaters of vegetables, and Khal Drogo said they belonged south of the river bend. The grass of the Dothraki sea was not meant for sheep…The Lamb Men lay with sheep it is known…does the horse breed with the sheep?” If you recall from earlier, the Dothraki believe they have a manifest destiny to rule over the lesser peoples of Essos; here we see this manifest destiny in action, and it’s just as ugly as any imperialist conception from our own history. And as I’ll discuss later, this attitude has more than a few historic parallels.

Manifest Destiny by Carises Horn

Dany’s reaction to this organized human misery is quite instructive; she “hardened her heart” against murder and slavery, but when she is faced with the reality of the sexual slavery of children, something that comes far too close to her own situation sans-Stockholm Syndrome, she can’t help herself: “make them stop….I want no rape.” Her moral reaction, however driven by selfish motives, nevertheless serves to move Dany away from her position as an assimilated Dothraki to becoming once again Rhaegar’s sister. And yet, what often gets overlooked is that Daenerys’ actions immediately lead to violence because she has broken with Dothraki custom: “Johqo’s arakh flashed, and the man went tumbling from his shoulders. Laugher turned to curses as the horsemen reached for weapons…the readers looked at her with cold black eyes.” The seeds of Mago and Jhaqo’s defection, which will undo all of Dany’s humanitarian hopes, are sewn here. All of this happens because Dany cannot see the impossibility of the romantic vision that “if your warriors would mount these women, let them take them gently and keep them for wives.” For her own sanity, Dany has willingly forgotten that she herself was a slave and that the Dothraki are not figures out of a romance novel.

It’s not an accident that her attempt to sanitize Dothraki culture is immeidately followed up by one of her most fateful decisions in A Game of Thrones: to have her husband healed by Mirri Maz Duur. Dany knows that this goes against taboo, that to the Dothraki “a maegi was a woman who lay with demons and practiced the blackest of sorceries, a vile thing, evil and soulless, who came to men  in the dark of night and sucked life and strength from their bodies.” It was bad enough when Dany was suggesting that Dothraki and Lamb Men were symbolically equals, but this decision will completely undo her position and kill her husband.

On that topic, it’s really quite clear that Mirri Maz Duur plans to take revenge from the outset: “The Great Shepherd sent me to earth to heal his lambs,” she says and immediately Qotho denies her statement of spiritual equality with a slap and the statement that “we are no sheep.” The next time that she says “the Great Shepherd guards the flock,” she’s not referring to Khal Drogo. To be clear, Mirri Maz Dur had motive, means, and opportunity to kill Khal Drogo and Rhaego.

Historical Analysis:

The relationship between the Dothraki and the Lhazarene echoes a persistent trend in Eurasian history and pre-history in which nomadic horse-riding peoples warred against and (mostly) conquered settled agricultural peoples. The ancient Scythians, who conquered a territory from the Black Sea to the Caucuses and beyond into Central Asia from the 7th century B.C into the 2nd century A.D when they were largely defeated by the Goths, successfully held off the Persian Emperor Darius the Great through a series of guerrilla campaigns, fought a series of (unsuccessful) wars against Phillip II and Alexander of Macedon, and warred against Mithridates the Great for control of the Crimea.

credit to Angus McBride 

Their wealth ultimately came from their control of the slave trade that stretched from the basins of the Danube and the Don south down to the Black Sea to Greek ports, and it’s for this reason that Scythians are often depicted as carrying both bows (given the natural combination of horse cavalry and archery) and whips – much like the Dothraki. In his history, Herodotus describes the Scythians triumphing over a slave revolt as follows:

“…by fighting against them we deplete both our forces and the number of our slaves. Let us drop our spears and bows and take up whips. Seeing us weapon in hand, they imagined that they were our equals…but when they see us with whips instead of weapons they will understand that they are only our slaves, and will not be able to resist us.”

A similarly antagonism between horse nomads and settled farmers equally describes the relationship between the Mongols and the Slavic peoples from the invasion of 1223, which brought down Kievan Rus’, through to the rise of Moscow through a complicated series of wars and diplomatic alliances against the various Khanates in the 13th and 14th centuries, to the victories of Ivan III and Ivan the Terrible in the 15th century that broke the power of the Khanates. While the legend of the “Tartar yoke” owes more to tsarist propaganda than historical evidence, the Mongol invasion of 1223 reduced the Russian population by 500,000 (or 6.6% of the total).

Likewise, much of the history of China could be described as a series of wars between the various empires of the river basins and various horse-riding nomadic tribes: the Xirong (the Chinese name for these people, which literally means “western warlike peoples) who bedeviled the Zhou Dynasty in the 10th through 8th century B.C.E and many of the warring states before being defeated by the Qin in the 4th century; the Xiong-nu who warred with the Han in the 2nd century B.C.E and whose defeat allowed for the completion of the Silk Road; the Wu Hu who brought on “the throwing of China into disorder by the five barbarian tribes” in the 4th century; the Mongols, who conquered China in the 13th century C.E; and the Manchu, who built the Qing dynasty that ruled China for almost three hundred years before being overthrown.

In general, if you’re thinking that GRRM is being particularly brutal, he’s probably cribbing from history.

What If?

  • Drogo gets healed by the eunuch men? Granted, there’s still a possibility that Drogo still would have died of infection, but Dany would probably still turned to Mirri Maz Dur to save her “sun-and-stars,” which leads us back to the OTL. But let’s say a simple cauterization and stitching works, and Drogo heals from his wounds. In this scenario, Dany visits Slaver’s Bay not as a conqueror and a liberator but as a buyer and seller. Given the approximately 500 miles from the Lhazarene village to Slaver’s Bay, she’d arrive in Meereen around the time that Drogo dies in OTL, some nineteen days from now. Given a week for the selling of people and the buying and provisioning of a fleet, and the distance between Meereen and Westeros on a mostly coastal route taking one safely around Valyria, Dany might have arrived in Westeros as early as Tyrion’s arrival in King’s Landing as Hand of the King. Most likely landing in Dorne, what would have happened there is unclear. 40,000 Dothraki are a mighty force, but not enough to take on the roughly 400,000 soldiers of Westeros and succeed…but enough to bloody all participants sufficiently that when Aegon and the Golden Company arrive and defeat the foreign invader, no one’s left to dispute his claim to the Iron Throne.

Book vs. Show:

The major difference between the book and the show is that Qotho outright challenges Drogo over the issue, leading to an epic duel between the two. This scene, invented at the behest of Jason Momoa, is one of those great examples of the difference between media: in the book, we can read easily about how great a warrior Khal Drogo was without ever having to see it on the page, because our imaginations are used to filling in the details. In a visual medium like television, however, the audience expects to be shown rather than told about these kind of things, and it gives a great sendoff for a character who, let’s face it, doesn’t really accomplish much despite being quite important for Dany’s development as a character.

So I’ll just leave this here:

72 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Daenerys VII

  1. bryndenbfish says:

    Good post. I’ve been of a divided mind on what GRRM had in mind for Daenerys in AGOT. As a character whose arc is moving towards the epic confrontation with the Great Masters at Astapor/Yunkai/Meereen, it’s strange to me that at this juncture, Dany is all right with slavery as long as it serves her purposes (in her mind: the greater good). But by ASOS, she has a reversal and considers slavery, especially of children to be a moral evil.

    I’m not saying that characters in ASOIAF don’t grow and evolve, but I think that it’s kind of a weird transition of Dany from AGOT to Dany of ASOS. She sees a lot of the same evil of slavery against the Lhazareen, but it’s only when Kraznys is especially… crass in his description of what occurs with the Unsullied does Dany seem to recognize the evil of slavery. This being after she sees the sack of the Lhazareen village and what happened to the Lhazareen. It’s not… sorry to say… a completely convincing character evolution. Thoughts?

    • Julian says:

      Dany is Drogo’s khaleesi during the sack of the Lhazareen village, so she’s probably operating under several cognitive biases (loyalty to Drogo, wanting to understand him, wanting to justify her love for him) that are gone by the time she learns about the Unsullied. Also, between the sack and the Unsullied (to use an infelicitous locution) Dany has experienced the loss of Drogo, her pilgrimage through the Red Waste, and the birth of her dragons. Being on the relatively short end of the stick for a while might have resurrected her sympathies for the enslaved.

      • That’s also true. The other thing we have to consider is how much the House of the Undying rocked her world – after Qarth, Dany doesn’t just think of herself as the rightful Targ with the dragons, she’s now someone with a Destiny with a capital D. Which has to be a massive source of justification for doing exactly what you want to do.

      • Andrew says:

        1)To add to what you said, after the HotU, with all the plot gifts Dany has been getting, she is going to take/has taken them as a sign that the gods have chosen her to be Queen of Westeros and that it is her destiny to sit the IT. That is until Jon’s heritage is finally revealed and confirmed, at which point Dany will be brought crashing back down to earth.

        2)Dany has plenty of sympathy towards children, to the point that she has a mass execution of Great Masters for nailing children to signs, and she even refuses to kill her child hostages in Meereen. That is her red line. I think towards the end of her arc, especially with all the wars (Second Dance of Dragons), and Thoros’s comment that “war makes monsters of us all,” she will might consciously decide to cross that line. I think I know who that child would be that she would choose to cross the line with if you’re interested to hear.

        3) Dany, having never known a mother, may have a soft spot for older women as matronly figures, something the Green Grace AKA The Harpy exploits later on.

      • Well, honestly, the major difference is that by ASOS, Dany can do so much more (dragons!) and she knows it. Even in ACOK, she has various moments where she reflects on how much she’s feel she’s grown up and grown into her ambitions (and yes, destiny). As SA pointed out, at this point, she still thinks of her son as the eventual leader and not herself, whereas by ASOS, Dany knows she can not only lead but fundamentally change societies herself.

        Her sympathies for the downtrodden– or rather, her identification with them– have been there since her very first chapter– in particular, there’s a moment where she recognizes the servants in Pentos as slaves and when she looks in the mirror, she sees a golden collar.

    • I find it more compelling – I think we have to start from the mindset that Dany begins AGOT as a victim of abuse who is sold into sexual slavery, spends much of the novel going through Stockholm Syndrome, culture shock, and paradoxically developing a sense of herself as independent from her brother. So she’s been set up from the beginning to be the Breaker of Chains.

      And if we look at this chapter, it’s clear that she’s not all right with slavery, but is trying to convince herself that it is for the greater good in the same way that she rationalizes her relationship with Khal Drogo, but her basic emphatic conscience is screaming at her that it’s not. And the moment she connects her situation with theirs, she can’t keep going with “the greater good.”

    • I don’t see that she has a reversal on the issue at all. The text, which of course reflects Dany’s point of view, fixates quite closely on the brutalities that befell the civilians, contrasted with images of surprising desensitization to violence (“small girls, pulling arrows from the corpses to fill their baskets”). In reaction, Dany has to attempt to separate herself, and her instinctive reaction to identify with these people are who being victimized in a way that is familiar to her as someone who has been sold and a victim of sexual violence:

      “I am the blood of the dragon, Daenerys Targaryen reminded herself as she turned her face away. She pressed her lips together and hardened her heart and rode
      on toward the gate.”

      And, as SA points out, she has to do this not only to justify the cost of her own goals, but because she has assimilated into Dothraki culture and has come to identify with the Dothraki. And then there’s her love for Drogo, and the pressure to take on his values. So she has multiple reasons, psychological and practical, to want to turn a blind eye. But of course, she can’t, because her empathy for and identification with the victimized party wins out.

      Really, the same thing happens with Astapor– where she is horrified, tries to justify it to herself, and ultimately ends up trying ameliorate the situation. Only she’s learned the lesson by then that changes don’t work in fits and bursts (the price she and the khalasar pays for her act of mercy doesn’t at all balance, probably, with the good she did)– when societal evils like slavery are so entrenched, the only option is major overhaul. (And, though I haven’t thought through this point– it’s critical to mobilize the population you’re trying to help rather than take a noblesse oblige perspective on it.)

      (And by the way, I don’t see the story as Dany “realizing the evils of slavery” at all. It’s never so abstract for her. She never, as far as I remember, thinks anything like, “well, slavery is immoral because it infringes upon the basic human rights of individuals, etc…” She thinks, instead, about the people she sees, and empathizes with their suffering. For her, it’s more about identifying with the victimized masses than about trying to follow an abstract moral code. It’s emotional and personal– which would also explain why some practical issues escape her notice.)

      • darrylzero says:

        Agreed on all points. I’d add — now, this is kind of obvious but is crucially important and mostly unmarked upon so far — she’s like 14 at this point. I’m willing to give her a bit of latitude for having trouble reconciling all this shit.

  2. Abbey Battle says:

    Apropos of nothing – is it just me or is Mr Iain Glenn always going to seem a more appropriate casting choice for Ser Barristan Selmy than Ser Jorah Mormont?

    Also Conan of Cimmeria Vs Khal Drogo – arm wrestling, drinking bout, DUEL TO THE DEATH or the sort of measuring contest Khaleesi Daenerys would eagerly demand to be made a judge of?

    • Hard to say because I really like Ian McElhinney as Barristan, but we haven’t see him fight *at all* so I wonder if he can carry off the stage combat.

      Hmmm…given that both of them are Jason Momoa, I think it’s a win-win situation. Incidentally, the Conan movie was incredibly disappointing – Momoa can do a good Conan, but the script and direction was awful.

      • Abbey Battle says:

        In all honesty I’m not sure The Cimmerian would not be more at home in a TV series than on the Big Screen, if only because TV is more likely to let him get back to his roots as the sort of character who walks into a standard Fantasy Epic, grabs a chicken from the buffet, scoffs it all through the standard exposition – possibly flicking chicken bones from the peanut gallery – then charges out to kill the local Dark Lord anyway because CROM that Princess is the type a fighting man wants to keep grateful.

        I leave the outcome of all this peculiarly-violent ingratiation to your imagination.

        I should take this opportunity to say that I admire your analysis as ever Maester Steven … and have!

      • I agree – if you properly did the stories of R.E Howard, a semi-serial out-of-order Conan show could be really, really good.

  3. John says:

    Love your analysis.

    I wanted to ask you a hypothetical about your hypothetical. If the Dothraki land in Westeros around the time Tyrion becomes hand (or slightly later), could they really not gain the iron throne? (I’m referring here to strictly conquering King’s Landing, not all of Westeros).

    By this point in time, the lords in the North and Riverlands have declared their independence, the Iron Islands are planning their independence, and the Lannister army is penned up in Harrenhall.

    Who is there (besides Stannis, who views it as his duty as king to protect the realm) who is going to fight for “Westeros”? (And depending how early the Dothraki arrive, there’s a chance that Stannis may never get a hold of the largest part of his eventual army). There may be half a million potential soldiers in Westeros, but if the Dothraki arrive in the middle of a civil war, I wonder which King/Lord would want to potentially sacrifice their forces to be the first to meet the Dothraki in pitched battle.

    I do agree that had the Dothraki landed in Westeros while Robert, Ned, Tywin, Stannis, et. al. were still alive and cooperating (at least to some degree), the Dothraki invasion would have been stopped.

    I also wonder how the Dothraki army would do in a strange land against the different armies of Westeros.

    • I think the chance that a foreign invasion unites the country is pretty good. In fact, I think that’s what Varys was counting on.

      Westeros has at the time around 150-160k in the field when they land, that’s a lot to fight through. Especially when the Dothraki aren’t used to rivers, hill country/mountains, or castles. And they don’t fight intelligently against infantry.

      • Julian says:

        Also, what about logistics? I understand the Dothraki might be able to live off the fat of the land (if there was any fat on the land, depending on what the season was when they arrived) for some time, but the lords of Westeros are probably clever enough, once united, to retreat backwards from where the Dothraki make landfall, burning the fields as they go. Wouldn’t the Dothraki starve quickly without supply lines?

      • Sean C. says:

        Realistically I think the Dothraki would ravage the countryside and scare the shit out of the peasants for a while (though if they land in Dorne, all the rest of the country has to do is order its soldiers to garrison the mouthes of the Prince’s Pass and the Boneway and deny the Dothraki their primary advantage, mobility), before getting defeated. So long as the most disciplined Westerosi infantry are put in front, they shouldn’t have that big a problem with the Dothraki, who are basically screaming savages who charge around without armour or any meaningful tactics. Surround your archers with pikemen and have your armoured horse ready to flank and you should be fine, as long as the infantry doesn’t break.*

        I would also question whether the whole Dornish/Dothraki alliance would actually work in practice. The Dothraki have no history of playing well with others that we’re aware of, and it’s easy to imagine the Dornish quickly getting sick of them if they’re in Dorne for any length of time.

        * Bernard Cornell’s “The Winter King”, one the better ‘historical King Arthur’ novels, features Arthur as the leader of armoured cavalry whose signature move is mass charging their enemies, who are generally peasant levies who have never seen the massive war horses that Arthur’s men ride, and thus panic and run away. But then in the climactic battle, the enemy king’s shield wall doesn’t break, rendering Arthur’s cavalry completely impotent.

      • zonaria says:

        On the other hand, the Dothraki have at least some idea of what to expect, having faced Westerosi-type mercenaries in battle before. The defenders of Westeros will never have encountered a nomadic cavalry army before.

      • Sean C. says:

        The sheer number of Dothraki horse warriors would be imposing (though, as I said, if the lords guarding the Dornish Marches act swiftly enough, they’d be bottled up in the passes through the Marches, which would essentially eliminate that as an advantage), but the Dothraki have never exhibited any meaningful sense of tactics (the Battle of Qohor being typical), and don’t even wear armour.

      • zonaria says:

        Indeed, one would hope they would learn from their mistakes.

  4. The whole plan with the Dothraki invading Westeros makes no sense to me – I just have to assume Illyrio/ Varys are sending Viserys and Daenerys off to die and pinning all their hopes on Aegon. I don’t get why they wouldn’t think to marry Dany and Aegon though? I guess they could see that Viserys was crazy and didn’t think of Dany as being important. But why give Dany the dragon eggs? Obviously Illyrio didn’t expect them to actually hatch, but it seems like a waste to give them to Dany – if nothing else, they are priceless artefacts.

    As much as I have some problems with the show’s depiction of the Dothraki (although Jason Momoa was good casting for Drogo), I like that they made it explicit that they were raping and pillaging because of Dany. Maybe I have bad reader comprehension, but I didn’t pick up on this the first time I read it, I guess because I was so sympathetic to Dany and pissed off at Mirri Maz Duur on her behalf. Thinking about it now though, I can totally see where she’s coming from, and there is an understandable naive arrogance from Dany that she expects loyalty from people she thinks she’s ‘saved’.

    • I think the plan was for the two of them to act as decoys/bargaining chips for Dorne and to pull in the Dothraki to act as the bad cop so that Aegon could be the good cop.

      As for the dragon eggs, given how they seem to function in Mystery Knight, I think the idea was to act as a spotlight on them as opposed to Aegon.

    • David Hunt says:

      As to the eggs,

      If we can believe Illyrio (a real stretch, I’ll grant) about him not expecting Dany to survive among the Dothraki, I’d wager that he thought he could get the eggs back. He could gift Drogo with some fine horses, weapons, and other items a real practical value and “mention” how beautiful he found the eggs/. Drogo would likely make a gift of them in return.

      Or maybe he figured he’d steal them outright. Just because Varys is no longer working with him doesn’t mean he no longer employs thieves to steal valuable information. He might hire a thief (through cut-outs) to just steal them.

  5. drevney says:

    It should be noted that Daenerys killed by her action her loved one. Is Drogo her ‘Nissa Nissa’ ?

    Azor Ahai kill his loved one at the end of his Hero’s Journey , and this is only that beginning for Danerys, so maybe not.

  6. MightyIsobel says:

    While I agree with you that Mirri Maz Duur is out for revenge from the moment Dany begins paying attention to her, I want to take her at her word about her skills and ethics as a healer. I think she’s sincere in her belief in the Great Shepherd, and that she is constrained by a Lhazarene Hippocratic Oath in his name, if you will, to care for all of his sheep.

    If MMD intends to use her professional skills as a healer, then Dany’s inclination to trust her was based on her accurate reading of MMD’s religious faith; Dany’s mistake, in that case, is failing to think through the healer’s ultimate loyalties. If, on the other hand, MMD is planning to kill her patients by medical malpractice from the get-go, then Dany appears that much more foolish and a poor judge of character for trusting her at all.

    I think MMD’s plan, in Dany VII, is to get into Khal Drogo’s household by healing him, and to use that access to wreak some kind of vengeance from within (slaughtering his prize stallion while he watches, perhaps?). Which is what she does, taking advantage of every opportunity Dany gives her, while also keeping her healer’s oaths to her god.

    But we only get the relationship between Dany and MMD from Dany’s POV, so this reading of MMD requires taking Dany’s narration as rather more unreliable than your analysis typically does. I would willingly concede that.

    • I don’t think we can take her at her word. If MMD wants revenge, and she outright says she does, what better way than to poison Drogo?

      • Anna says:

        I have no doubt she’d love to see him die (who wouldn’t in her place) but that doesn’t mean she’s willing to betray the ethical imprative of the healer to heal the sick no matter who they are (her people’s idea of it appears to be comparable to ours).

        We cannot know for certain, off course, as we are limited to Dany’s perpective, but my impression has always been that she treated Drogo to the best of her ability. Her position as healer seems very importnat to her, making her hate the Dothraki all the more for slaughtering the people she’d worked to heal. I think Drogo’s wound got infected because he disobayed her instructions, removing the poultice early and self-medicating. It doesn’t seem as though there were any signs of infection, like fever, before this (itching is pretty common with healing wounds). When she saw him for the second time his condition was beyond the help of a doctor and Dany asked her for magical help. We have no reason to believe that the practitioners of (decidedly sinister) blood magic operate under an ethical imerative similar to the one governing physicians. Then she siezed her chance to take revenge.

  7. Petyr Patter says:

    Mirri makes a special poultice for Drogo, and tells him the following:

    1. Don’t take the poulitce off, though it will burn.
    2. Don’t drink alcohol.
    3. Don’t quaff milk of the poppy.

    Well, Drogo…

    1. Quaffs milk of the poppy.
    2. Drinks alochol.
    3. Tears off the poultice.
    4. Replaces it with a “mud” poultice.

    It does seem like Drogo brought Drogo to his death bed, not Mirri. Which makes a lot of sense if one believe Mirri is not a betrayer. She gives Dany exactly what she asks for… and Dany’s justifies her buyer’s remorse later by claiming Mirri betrayed her. That is not to say Mirri didn’t have her own motives, but she lawyers out of “treason.”

    • If Mirri doesn’t bring Drogo to his death bed, she has no way of getting Dany to make the blood magic sacrifice and destroy the child of prophecy.

      Means, motive, opportunity.

      • MightyIsobel says:

        Well, MMD could conceivably get close enough to Dany’s newborn to murder him if Dany trusted her to deliver the baby. She might even be able to make it look like a childbirth accident, especially if Dany consented to some hocus-pocus magic rituals that mask the sound and sight of the birth.

        One way to win Dany’s trust and get that opportunity would be… to heal Khal Drogo.

      • MightyIsobel says:

        Curses! Your Occam’s Razor slashes right through my beloved tinfoil!

    • I think when Dany says she betrayed her, she means MMD wasn’t upfront about the blood magic deal. Again, technically, MMD didn’t lie…but effectively? Yeah. It was misleading.

  8. Ari says:

    I’m with Petyr Patter. Mirri really does explicitly tell Drogo what to do and the book takes pains to explicitly tell us that Drogo disregarded that advice. It’s like if your doctor told you to take this penicillin and keep the wound dry and instead you took honey and kept the wound moist. You can’t exactly blame the doctor at that point. I agree that she certainly have motive/method/opportunity, but the text seems to really lay out that her initial efforts were intended to help (I was going to say “in good faith” but that seems a little too far). Proof is that by disregarding the wound gets worse. As a doc I can totally appreciate lack of patient cooperation 🙂

    • But normally, are you trying to murder your patient and his unborn child out of revenge for your entire village?

      • ajay says:

        “But normally, are you trying to murder your patient and his unborn child out of revenge for your entire village?”

        Well, he is NOW because OBAMACARE DEATH PANELS.

        • You do one political piece, and the floodgates burst open…

          • Kellie says:

            I’m rather new to this party, I only “discovered” you a week or more ago and have been reading diligently in my free time and I have enjoyed both your analysis and the comments thoroughly, that said…I often get about 1/2 way through the comments and, anxious to get on with it, scroll to the link for the next analysis. This time I am glad I made it this far down, however, because (for an off-topic comment) the Dr./Death Panels duo of comments won the internet tonight, I really needed that irreverence tonight! Thanks for doing this, I’ve read all of the books four or five times now and I am amazed by how much I *missed* or didn’t pick up and find it in your comments, really brings a new depth to the whole ordeal!

          • Glad you liked it!

  9. Adam says:

    Since this seems to be the main topic of the comments:

    I’m not convinced that MMD had any specific long-term revenge plan. I think there’s a good case to be made that while she certainly had a reason for substantial animus, she legitimately did give good or at least passable medical care to Drogo, only to have him completely disregard all her instructions. At that point her survival was pretty much entirely dependent on staying in Dany’s good graces, and I don’t know that she was basically suicidal at that point. As far as I can tell there’s only circumstantial evidence that she had motive (so do lots of people who are falsely accused) and quasi-confessed after the fact (so did Tyrion to Jaime). What if Drogo’s wound really was fairly serious and he essentially went without medical care by taking off the poultice? Wounds festered and killed people all the time in that society.

    As far as the unborn child – it seems to me like a logical reading is that that was only possible with Dany and the birth happening in the tent in range of the blood magic and the evil spirits dancing around or whatnot. But MMD had no idea Dany was about to go into labor or was going to be in the tent that night and she’d made no effort to convince her to come in – in fact she specifically warns her and everyone not to be in the tent because of the potential danger. Why would she have any idea Dany, presumably highly interested in her baby’s safety, would risk that? And what would possibly have caused her to walk in other than an unanticipated labor caused by being pushed to the ground?

    It makes sense to me that upon finding Drogo on the verge of death, she realizes she’s screwed regardless, and she volunteers the ritual because she sees an opportunity to at least get a little revenge by rendering him a vegetable instead of letting him die. But I think that’s all she had in mind. As Jorah points out, the overwhelmingly likely outcome of Drogo either dying or being rendered incapable of ruling is that one of the rival Khals would kill Dany’s baby and send her to the crones. The child was almost certainly never going to be any threat to anyone. But then Dany walks in out of nowhere, the blood magic kills the fetus/baby, and hey, two birds for the price of one. Of course, MMD is doomed regardless, there’s no safe haven for her with anyone, so she does a Tyrion-like fatalistic brag about having intended all of it, but I’m not sure I believe her.

    • I’ll discuss this more in the next Dany chapter, but I’ve always interpreted her comments post the ceremony as saying that the baby’s sacrifice was always part of the deal/plan. In which case, she needed Drogo to be on death’s door in order to get Dany to make the deal.

      • Adam says:

        Yeah, I’d be interested to read your take on that. In my view it’s definitely open to interpretation – she certainly makes the claim after the fact that that was part of the plan the whole time, but I’m not convinced there’s evidence Dany had any idea she was making any deal other than the life of Drogo’s horse (or that MMD did until Dany walks in the tent), and at the point she’s told that, she’s in an incredibly delicate and desperate emotional state from just losing the only two people she cared about (possible PTSD even) and just nods her head and rationalizes her loss. A post-hoc improvisational explanation by MMD seems plausible as a kind of salt in the wound. The chain of events that gets Dany into the tent is really extraordinarily unlikely and I don’t think we can justifiably claim MMD had anything to do with them unless we’re just going with “blood magic causes all sorts of unlikely unrelated plot happenings in the furtherance of the caster’s plan”, which, meh. We’re talking things like “every single Dothraki midwife refuses a command to help their queen going into childbirth”, and I don’t think there’s any indication blood magic extends to spontaneously inducing labor telepathically (and what was MMD’s plan if Dany didn’t happen to go into labor that night, if she was gunning for the baby?). Sometimes lucky coincidences are just lucky coincidences.

    • Tim Wolfe says:

      I happen to agree with you completely here! In turn, I’d like to offer a similar “logical reading” of what happened next, during MMD’s ritual.

      As you say, Danaerys wants to stay in the tent for the blood magic; MMD insists that she leave. So even assuming MMD is thinking about payback (and not just getting through a dangerous ritual) that vengeance is clearly not aimed at the baby. At most her intentions are to set up the Drogo-vegetable convo where she gets to say, “this is what life is worth, when all the rest is gone.” I think too many people take her “Tyrion-like fatalistic brag” (as you very aptly put it) at face value, as if she’s a criminal mastermind and not just retconning her collateral damage. She takes credit for the dead baby without knowing what it means.

      Because here’s what I’d add to your excellent summation: in Dany’s dream she becomes a dragon. When she wakes and touches the eggs, they are not stony but hot to her touch, and she feels movement inside them. (Jorah doesn’t, but he also perceived the spirits in the tent as mere flickers of shadow; he’s apparently not a guy who’s at all sensitive to magic.) When Dany awakes delirious afterward, all she can think about are her eggs. Drogo and the baby – previously her only priorities – are afterthoughts. We’ve seen the evolution of her idée fixe all along (which Steven covers well in Daenerys IX) but this is a whole new level of fixation, apparently as a result of being unable to stop Jorah from carrying her into the blood-magic death-tent to give birth (she actually tries to tell him *no* when she sees what’s going on in there, but he can’t see it and she can’t speak).

      So what happened in there? MMD may have studied blood magic in Asshai, but of course she hasn’t encountered dragons or Targaryen/Valyrian magic in action before – nobody presently alive has. She was just doing an innocent little only-death-pays-for-life blood magic ritual in the tent when they drag this girl back in to give birth… but in that tent, it is a very different birth. The life she gives is her son, and for the price of the last living Targaryen – blood of the dragon, king’s blood – the dead stone eggs are brought back to life. It is a magic that, as I read it, nobody intended (or would have chosen had they known – as Melisandre says later about failed attempts to revive dragons, “none were willing to pay the price”).

      And only Dany halfway works out what has happened. MMD knows her magic must have killed the baby, and as you say brags that it was something she intended. When Dany makes the pyre – whether a final ritual to wake the dragons from stone completely, or simply to give the already-woken dragons the strength to hatch (I wish we knew more about “normal” dragon hatching) – MMD assumes at first she’s hamfistedly trying to revive Drogo again, and makes a variety of derogatory comments.

      She hears Dany calling for her dragon eggs to place in the pyre, yet when she’s bound to the pyre she is still full of bravado, until Daenerys speaks the language of blood magic back to her. Then Mirri’s face turns from “contempt” to fear and understanding. I think she may actually have worked out, at the end, what Dany was actually doing – and maybe even what the baby’s magical death had really meant.

      That’s my take on it, anyway.

  10. […] I get into the thematic heart of this chapter, I do want to back up my earlier arguments regarding Mirri Maz Dur’s complicity in the murder of Drogo. The godswife appears in the […]

  11. […] had ridden that way…”Khal Pono will kill you. He was the first to abandon Drogo.” Dany’s challenge to Dothraki culture has made the Dothraki her enemies; her late (and somewhat self-interested) turn in that direction […]

  12. Scott Trotter says:

    I agree with the view that Mirri Maz Duur had motive, means and opportunity to want to kill Drogo, but I don’t believe that she actually did. I think that Drogo doomed himself by ignoring her instructions. The main reason why I believe this is that I think that GRRM would have given us a more solid clue that would lead the reader to that conclusion; having her say or do something during her ministrations of Drogo that would raise Dany’s or one of the other attendee’s suspicion.

    (Hey, I’m less than a year away from catching up with you!)

    • Why would he give a more solid clue than he did with Bran’s attempted assassination?

      • The attempt on Bran’s life was exactly what it appeared to be. What this appears to be is a patient ignoring the healer’s instructions. There’s no evidence to contradict .

        • I think there’s plenty of evidence to contradict – Mirri Maz Duur explicitly states she’s the agent of the Shepherd and the Shepherd would revenge himself against the Dothraki, and then later she says she wanted to make sure the Stallion That Mounts the World wouldn’t live.

          • Scott Trotter says:

            How having now read the final 2 Dany chapters, I didn’t see any evidence that Mirri Maz Duur poisoned Khal Drogo. She certainly takes advantage of the opportunity that presents itself later when Dany initiates the conversation about magic. Even then, she covers her ass pretty well. Just following master’s orders. Not her fault if master fails to ask who’s life would be lost.

            No matter, the end result is the same.

          • Scott Trotter says:

            I have seen the evidence that you refer to, and it all relates to the Blood Magic incident in which Khal Drogo is “saved” at Rhaego’s expense. And I agree, Mirri Maz Duur is guilty as charged. She got the opportunity for a little pay-back, and she took it. But, none of the evidence that you cite has anything to do with her healing of Drogo, which took place 10 days earlier.

            The argument you’re making is that because there is evidence she is guilty of Crime B, she must also be guilty of Crime A, even though Crime A doesn’t appear to be a crime at all. It’s a logical fallacy.

          • Crime B doesn’t happen without Crime A – and MMD has means motive and opportunity in each case.

          • Scott Trotter says:

            Except that Crime A doesn’t have to be a crime in order for Crime B to take place, it could easily be Patient-Didn’t-Follow-Directions A.

            Anyway, clearly I’m not going to convince you, so time to move on. Truce?

          • If your intent is to cause Crime B to take place, and the “hand of the Great Shepherd” is very very intent on that, you make Crime A happen.

            Otherwise, it’s too chancy.

  13. […] to cross the Narrow Sea and put her (or at least her son) on the Iron Throne by force, and was willing to accept mass enslavement as the cost of that (up to a point). In the wake of the disastrous repercussions of her actions, […]

  14. Gonzalo says:

    In the show, the one who challenges Drogo is not Qotho but Mago

  15. blacky says:

    Drogo getting medicine from a recently conquered slave never seemed probable to me. Isn’t that asking for trouble?

    Horse Lords have no healers? Am I wrong to think that warrior cultures would have medicine men?

  16. blacky says:

    Thanks for getting back to me and as always: thanks for your awesome work. Making history fun is an impressive accomplishment.

  17. […] treason was Mirri Maz Duur, who killed Dany’s baby and Khal Drogo in retribution for the attack on her village. This raises a somewhat uncomfortable question – can a slave striking back against the […]

  18. Thank you for all of your analyses, I started reading them a year ago and they are really useful (especially when time goes by, and you forget things, and you wonder or make hypotheses).
    I would like to thank you especially for stating this, and I quote: “[…] this is systematized war on a defenseless people to produce slaves for the Essosi economy that Jorah, Drogo, Illyrio, and Dany intend to make use of.”. I have read things about this passage that made me wonder how wide functional illiteracy must be…it was clear to me from the first time I read it that all the involved characters are aware of what is going on here. Jorah has received explicit instructions from Illyrio in order to maximise the profit (he says it quite clearly), Drogo is just doing what he usually does (waging war and selling slaves and items his khalasar captured during war), Dany is ready to accept that this attack and the resulting war booty will bring her nearer to her invasion of Westeros.
    About Mirri Maz Duur…I admit I first watched Season 1 and then read AGOT. In the show, it seems like they want to make it clear that the maegi conspired to kill Drogo from the beginning, but this might just be one of many simplifications they went for. In the book, it looks like – as many here wrote – it is Drogo that decides not to follow her instruction and probably causes his own death. I really wouldn’t know what to think of this. Book!Jorah understands Mirri had learnt some healing from a maester of the Citadel….I suppose we will discover more about what transpired in these last Dany chapters in AGOT as soon as we read more about the Citadel in the next books. It seems to me that we still don’t know enough about the rules of magic on Planetos, not to mention that apparently there are so many different types of magic. Or maybe the explanation is just that in Martin’s world magic is an anarchist force, as opposed to military and political forces and processes? Who knows.

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