Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Daenerys IX

“Look to your khal and see what life is worth, when all the rest is gone.”

Synopsis: Daenerys wakes up from the ordeal of childbirth to find that her child is a stillborn monstrosity, her husband a living corpse, and the khalasar she needs to retake the Seven Kingdoms is scattered. And yet Daenerys does not break – already her mind has turned to the occult legacy of House Targaryen. She says goodbye to Drogo.

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:

Dany IX, despite being a penultimate chapter to the fiery climax of Daenerys’ story arc, is actually a much more interesting chapter in retrospective than it is on a first read. It becomes even more so since the under-appreciated final Daenerys chapter of A Dance With Dragons, which demonstrates that when you think George R.R Martin’s plots have jumped the rails, there is always a plan.

The Case Against Mirri Maz Dur

Before 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 chapter in a way she never has before – “Dany understood in that moment that the maegi was stronger, and crueler, and infinitely more vicious.” Right off the bat, she announces that Rhaego “was scaled like a lizard, blind,w ith the stub of a tail and small leather wings like the wings of a bat. When I touched him, the flesh sloughed off the bone, and inside he was full of graveworms and the stink of corruption. He had been done for years.” Magic has slain Daenerys’ child in the womb.

Now, some have argued that this was caused by Jorah bringing Daenerys into the tent during Mirri Maz Duur’s spell when he wasn’t supposed to. However, the maegi’s comment just a bit later complicates this. While she sets forth that the tent was dangerous, she also denies that the spell was supposed to be the exchange of the life of Drogo’s horse for Drogo’s extended life: “no, that was a lie you told yourself. You knew the price.” In other words, the plan always had been for Mirri Maz Duur’s spell to kill Rhaego and transmute Drogo into a mindless husk – and in order to do that, Drogo had to be brought to the point where he was on death’s door so that Dany would agree to make the exchange. The death of Drogo was necessary for the whole of her plan to be successful, and she had the means, motive, and opportunity to poison Khal Drogo to the point where she could gain the consent to kill Dany and his’ child and violate his body against Dothraki taboo.

Indeed, she almost says as much when Dany accuses her of “murder[ing] my child within me.” The maegi replies: “it was wrong of them to burn my temple…that angered the Great Shepard…the stallion who mounts the world will burn no cities now. His khalasar shall trample no nations into dust.” In other words, we have a confession in all but name to the murder of Dany’s child – but the mention of the burning of her temple, the destruction of her village of her people, and her own rape have nothing to do with Dany’s unborn child. Those events happened because the khalasar of Khal Drogo came to her village – and thus her motive points directly to Khal Drogo as much as it does to a preemptive defense against the Stallion Who Mounts the World. In addition, we should pay attention to her claim that the Great Shepherd was responsible for this – as we saw in Dany VII, Mirri Maz Duur clearly sees herself as the hand of god (“the Great Shepherd sent me to earth to heal his lambs,”) and said from the outset that “the Great Shepherd guards the flock” at a time when Khal Drogo posed a clear and present danger to the other villages of the Lhazarene.

Once again, I say: means, motive, opportunity.

Daenerys the Unburnt – by Lii-chan

Waking the Dragon

In the very beginning of this chapter, Daenerys has a vision which stretches from her childhood through to her marriage, the death of her brother, including meeting her son: “her son was tall and proud, with Drogo’s copper skin and her own silver-gold hair…when he opened his mouth the fire poured out. She saw his heart burning through his chest, and in an instant he was gone…she wept for her child…but her tears turned to steam as they touched her skin.” It’s a rather startling move for GRRM to frame the death of Dany’s son as a moment where she is choosing to sacrifice her son’s life in favor of her own, choosing to become the dragon rather than birth him as Daenerys spiritually replaces her brother Rhaegar as a dragon in fact as well as in sigil. Note how the recurring phrase shifts from Viserys’ threatening “you don’t want to wake the dragon, do you?” to the negative “don’t want to wake the dragon” to the affirmative “want to wake the dragon” to the imperative “wake the dragon.”

It’s in this moment, wrapped in a prophetic dream that comes as much from her Targaryen blood heritage as it does from Mirri Maz Duur’s blood magic, that Dany arrives at the plan to hatch her eggs, thus why “they found her on the carpet, crawling toward her dragon egg.” Well before she’s reminded that “only death can pay for life,” Daenerys already knows that she can bring them to life at the cost of someone else’s. Which lends itself to an interesting question about blood magic: how much do you need to know what you’re doing? Clearly Mirri Maz Duur has had some training, and so too have the three R’hllorite priests (Thoros, Melisandre, and Moqorro), and presumably the follower of the Old Gods that Bran witnessed through the treenet did as well, but Dany didn’t, nor did Beric Dondarrion, and it worked for them. So it’s possible that all that blood magic requires is willpower and death – which leads to an interesting question: would the Mad King’s exit plan actually have worked, birthing a dragon from nothing?

Speaking of Targaryen madness, one of the things that the Princess and the Queen has revealed is that deformed dragon-babies run in the family – which reduces Mirri Maz Duur’s involvement to the graveworms thing, although it could be argued that the spell brought out latent tendencies already existing in the blood, as it were. Which makes a lot more sense to me than the idea that the Targaryens could engage in that steady a practice of very close incest (brother-sister rather than cousin-cousin) 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 the “Targaryen look” as a sign of semi-religious awe and legitimacy, I would imagine this would be doubly true for the ruling House of Westeros.

The Wages of Taboo

On an entirely different track, Dany IX also shows the consequences of Dany’s desperate attempt to save her husband. Where once Drogo’s khalasar was an entire world unto itself and a geopolitical force to be reckoned with, now “a count might show a hundred people, no more. Where the other forty thousand had made their camp, only the wind and dust lived now.”  Unlike the people of Westeros, for whom the land structures their identity and lives, to the Dothraki the nation is the people.

For a micro-second, Dany tried to use the memory of Drogo to hold back the tide of Dothraki culture – the commandment that “it is the right of the strong to take from the weak.” It failed completely, and the old pattern reasserted itself quickly, as “Ko Pono left left first, naming himself Khal Pono, and many followed him. Jhaqo was not long to do the same….there are a dozen new khalasars on the Dothraki sea, where once there was only Drogo’s.” And for all that G.R.R.M has been criticized for making the Dothraki a supposedly one-dimensional picture, there is a deep cultural logic at work: a nomadic society where property is only what one can carry doesn’t think about succession in the same way that a settled agricultural society does; the division and multiplication of khalasars ensures that population pressures don’t over-tax the Dothraki Sea beyond the capacity of khals to keep their people fed; the interplay of kos, khas, and khal offer incentives for loyalty  to keep the chain of command intact and the hope of advancement to keep khalasars from breaking off all the time instead of at punctuated, culturally-mediated occasions; at the same time, the fear of a khalasar’s destruction and the reality of inter-khalasar warfare is mediated by the religious promise of Vaes Dothrak, that come the time of prophecy, the Dothraki will all be one.

Likewise, the revenge of Mago and Jhaqo is an assertion of Dothraki culture and tradition against a foreign interloper – Mago symbolically reasserts both his own position and the proper order of Dothraki gendered hierarchy by brutalizing the child the khal’s foreign wife “stole” from him. Likewise, Jhaqo strengthens his position as a newly-forged khal by offering “restitution” to his man who he could not protect when he was Ko Jhaqo (which must have hurt his standing within the khalasar) – and in return gains a loyal bloodrider.

Moreover, GRRM clearly invests more importance in this incident than people had thought for a long time, because of all the khalasars that Daenerys finds herself among in her misunderstood final chapters of A Dance With Dragons, it is the same khalasar that she promised “by the Mother of the Mountains and the Womb of the World” that “before I am done with them, Mago and Ko Jhaqo will plead for the mercy they showed Eroeh.”  At this very moment, Dany coins her mantra “if I look back I am lost” – and yet, she has “gone back to go forwards.”

Credit to Feliche.

The Prophecy

Now we come to Mirri Maz Duur’s prophecy – one of the few prophecies that made it from the book to the show, by the way, and one of the most frequently misunderstood. The “object” of the prophecy isn’t the return of Dany’s fertility, or the birth of her child – those are signs of the prophecy’s fulfillment. The object is the return of Drogo “as he was.”

Now, I agree with those who argue that there are clear signs that the prophecy is being fulfilled: the Martells have risen up in the west while Quentyn Martell died in Meereen, the Dothraki Sea is drying out, and the great pyramids of Meereen have been “blowing in the wind” of Dany’s dragons’ breath. Likewise, I think that *part* of the prophecy has come true with regards to Dany – I think she underwent a miscarriage on the Dothraki Sea at the end of A Dance With Dragons, and is now capable of bearing a child. However, the prophecy requires that “your womb quickens again, and you bear a living child” – and Dany hasn’t yet given birth to a living child.

As to what it means for Drogo to come back, I’m not sure. I doubt it refers to his literal resurrection; his body is clearly burnt to ashes and I don’t think the Khal’s actual return would have much dramatic purpose at this point. It could refer to Drogo returning as her “sun and stars” – so perhaps the prophecy suggests that Dany’s next child would be the reincarnation of Drogo or be named after Drogo in the same way that Drogon was. A third option is that the prophecy might be referring to Daenerys’ death – that Drogo will return to her in the sense that the two of them are united in the afterlife (certainly, the show’s version of Dany’s visions in the House of the Undying points in this direction).

Historical Analysis:

One of the strange things about modern social and cultural politics is how often people assume that birth control and family planning came into existence around 1960, whether they think of them as a liberating force or the source of cultural and moral decline. However, one of the things one learns as a historian is that human beings are startlingly similar over huge gaps in time, in terms of the things they worry about, the things they strive for, and the difficulties they struggle with. As far as family planning goes, it’s one of the closest things to a historical constant I’ve ever seen, with the major differences being what kinds of technologies are available, and how the physical and cultural environment creates relatively stable patterns of incentives.

Pretty much at any time and place one can name, humans have sought to modulate their fertility for various reasons – and quite often, they’ve turned to infanticide to do, regardless of cultural and religious taboos around death and childbirth. By comparing both the spacing between births and especially patterns of gender wherever records of childbirth can be found, demographic historians have uncovered an entire world of human activity that’s almost never written about directly.

In Medieval and Early Modern England, for example, trends shifted from roughly equal births of men and women in the 13th century to a dramatic shift to male births around the time of the Black Death until well into the 15th century – suggesting that families were responding to shortages in the labor market and trying to make sure that they had enough male children to work the farm and inherit the estate. In the 17th century, infanticide was common among young female servants who lacked the capacity to start a family and whose labor was necessary in weaving, dairy production, and other agricultural labor markets, and the practice of women being secluded from men but accompanied by other women during “lying-in” sometimes resulted in communal verdicts of “stillbirths” and other times in prosecutions for murder, depending on a number of different factors.

As a number of historians have found, medieval and early modern Europe practiced infanticide regularly, despite the Catholic Church placing enormous social taboos against it starting at the end of the 4th century A.D – with some historians describing it as halfway between a discretely sanctioned social practice and a crime. For example in Medieval and Early Modern Belgium, infanticide was legally considered not merely murder but witchcraft, and punished by burning, legal torture, or being drowned in a river. However, in the Early Modern period, the courts shifted to treating many cases as accidental deaths and ordering lesser punishments. Likewise, in England, various legal loopholes were created in the 17th century to modulate verdicts against single women (especially those who might otherwise become a drain on the poor relief system).

This practice was not confined to Europe. In Han China, for example, we have scattered evidence that infant abandonment was considered illegal – but exceptions were made in law for children born with deformities, and trends in law went back and forth between those who saw abandonment as murder and those who saw it as an unpleasant necessity for families who could not support another child. In early modern Japan, there’s strong evidence that peasant families deliberately limited family size in order to better reap the benefits of economic growth and rising incomes; keeping family size under control allowed for more income per capita within the household, prevented either dowries or inheritances from over-taxing the family’s estate, both of which were powerful economic motives. In the period between 1600-1870, Japan managed to drop its population 8 million people below previous historical trends, and the results were a marked improvement in standards of living. However, as historians have noted, it wasn’t just about economics – in Japan, married couples seem to have selected for gender balance within the family, but only after the second baby. 

The larger point to all of this is – if you ever think that a social or cultural custom is brand-new, it probably is a very old custom being experienced in a different way due to a change in technology or environment or institutions.

What If?

While I try to consider most hypothetical scenarios, I try to keep them within the bounds of consistent character motivations and personalities – and I don’t see any way that Dany doesn’t make the decision to euthanize Drogo and have Mirri Maz Duur burnt to death. Everything in her story up to this point, everything in her personality, all of her motivations, is leading her to this point.

Some things may well be destined to happen.

Book vs. Show:

The show played this one pretty straight, so I don’t have much to say. My only complaint is that I felt the lack of a visibly huge khalasar earlier in Season 1 did make the reveal of their disappearance a bit disappointing as you couldn’t seethe difference that much.

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70 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Daenerys IX

  1. A lot of people criticize Dany for her apparent embrace of Dothraki culture after this event, but seem to fail to realize that she has vowed to destroy the Dothraki, in essence, with her comments about Mago and Jhaqo. At least she seems inclined to destroy the bad parts of Dothraki culture, bad in her eyes, to the extent that she has the ability to do so.

    • Destroy, I don’t think so. I think Dany is the Stallion Who Mounts the World.

      • Petyr Patter says:

        My own interpretation is Rhaego was to be “the Stallion who Mounts the World.” However, the blood magic literally changed his fate. Rhaego “was never” alive, and instead Danaerys got her Khal Drogo back alive. This is why Rhaego, or a vision of him, appears again in the House of the Undying. He would have been the greatest Khal of all Dothraki. All Danaerys had to do was let Drogo die, and flee somewhere safe. Perhaps Vaes Dothrak, where he could learn to be a Dothraki warrior.

        However, the deal wasn’t a total loss for Danaerys (my theory, again). If we accept that a Khal is a kind of king, Danaerys just sacrificed him to a fire to “wake Dragons from stone.” Yes, Melissandre misinterpreted her vision. Dragons have already been woken from stone, and Danaerys was the benefactor. The timing appears off, but that might be less important than intent. Mel’s words that “none were willing to pay the price” mirrors Danaery’s own “the price is to high” and “show me what I have paid for.”

        I suspect we will learn more about that ritual, and it has had additional consequences. Because Mirri SINGS during the pyre, and so I belief she was a willingly participant in the dragons’ rebirth. Why? I don’t know, but it would be very fitting for Martin to give her one last vengeful laugh.

        • Hmm. Interesting analogy hadn’t thought of it.

          I don’t think Mirri’s singing was part of the ritual – I think it was a failed attempt at a protective spell. After all, fire doesn’t harm Melisandre.

      • Andrew says:

        I don’t think Dany is AA, but a red herring for AA. GRRM doesn’t have the subject/person of prophecies completely revealed in the text until after the said events occur. Besides, GRRM said: “Prophecies are, you know, a double edge sword. You have to handle them very carefully; I mean, they can add depth and interest to a book, but you don’t want to be too literal or too easy.”

        Dany fulfilling the prophecy in the way you describe would be too literal. In Dunk and Egg, the dragons in prophecies refer to Targaryens, so the dragons being woken could refer to a Targaryen. Stones in ASOIAF have been used to refer to hiding things like Sansa’s alias “Alayne Stone,” Rickon hiding on Skagos which means “stone” in the Old Tongue, and Arya hiding Needle under a stone step. Waking a stone dragon could refer to the revealing of a hidden Targaryen: Jon’s.

        However, I do think Dany is the Stallion that Mounts the World.

  2. priddy says:

    Interessting theories about the words of Mirri Maz Duur, but maybe one is reading to much into it. I never understood Mirri Maz Duur’s answer to Dany’s question, when would Drogo be his old self again, as an actual prophecy, but as a very cynical and cruel way of saying “Never, oh, and your infertile now!”

    Thanks for reminding us of the unresolved issues between Dany and Khal Jhaqo. The cliffhanger at the end of ADWD now becomes even more dramatic.

  3. Winnief says:

    Yeah, I think Dany will have a child by the end of the series, (your guess is good as mine to who the baby daddy will be) then die afterward. That kid then could marry Jon’s progeny, (after Jon’s true ancestry is discovered.)

    I think Dany is the Stallion, (she’s certainly burning Cities,) and quite possibly the PTWP as well…but I don’t think she’s destined to hold the IT-at least not for very long.

  4. MightyIsobel says:

    Ah, Dany chooses to become the dragon, and sacrifices her son to do it. I like this interpretation very much.

    Have you read Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, who writes about primate infanticide behaviors?

    * * *

    Hooray, more MMD!

    As discussed in Dany VII, I prefer to take MMD at her word that she considers herself primarily a healer, and that her faith in the Great Shepherd requires her to give competent medical care. I believe that she avenges the destruction of her village without poisoning Drogo (in spite of having the means, motive, and opportunity to do so).

    I think that in this chapter, she is lying to Daenerys about her responsibility for the unforeseeable accidents that happened to Rhaego.

    It reveals something about Daenerys’s character that she is ready to believe, with no evidence but MMD’s word, that…

    1. The best explanation for Rhaego’s birth defect / death is MMD’s magic (not genetics), and

    2. Dany’s decision to save Drogo’s life has epic, world-changing consequences (it’s not just the end of a causal chain that started with a battlefield mishap).

    I think it’s more interesting to read MMD aiming to drive Dany to Targaryen madness with her lies, than to read MMD as setting up a complicated medical/magical procedure that depends on precisely timing Drogo’s collapse from sepsis with Dany going into labor. So in this scenario MMD was right that Dany would believe her, but she was wrong about which side of the coin Dany would land on.

    *crinkle crinkle*

    • Sean C. says:

      Thing is, there’s really no reason that Dany should be the primary object of Mirri’s revenge. Drogo is the man who sacked her village. And how much would Mirri even know of “Targaryen madness”?

      • I doubt she’d heard of it at all – the Targaryens have only been a big deal for 300 years, and even then that’s thousands of miles away.

      • MightyIsobel says:

        There’s MMD, with Drogo in a vegetative state blasphemously covered in his prize stallion’s blood. Mischief Managed, Mission Accomplished. This khalasar is over.

        Then, miraculously, the Khaleesi enters the Tent of Creepy Blood Magic and delivers a fetus/stillbirth with a catastrophic birth defect, remembering nothing because her family’s guiding spirit was talking to her the whole time. Whole new doors of tinfoily opportunity open.

        MMD was trained by a maester, possibly Archmaester Marwyn, who is kind of into dragons. He certainly knew about the Targaryens.

    • I have not read on primate infanticide, but I’m not surprised.

      1. Genetics aren’t something anyone knows about, since Jon Arryn never got to publish. I doubt Viserys told her about the bad side of the family.

      2. It does, though. Dragons are reborn.

  5. JT says:

    I would argue that by the time Beric resurrects Catelyn Tully, he’s had *some* training… the procedure he performs on Cat has been performed on him multiple times! (I believe he tells Arya 6 or 7 during their encounter, plus who knows how many more times afterwards)

  6. Andrew says:

    Another good job, Steven.

    1) I agree that Drogo being “as he was” means Dany and Drogo being together in the afterlife. GRRM himself said he doesn’t do complete resurrections. Dany has to give birth to a living child for this final prophecy to be fulfilled, and that is why I believe it points to Dany dying from the complications of childbirth.

    As to the father of Dany’s living child, what are your thoughts? My best guess by looking at the clues is Tyrion.

    2) As to the dragon stillbirths, the Valyrians claim to have dragon blood, and my question is how they supposedly obtained it. I don’t see any guy deciding to mate with a dragon. Could the magic of the region of Valyria have affected them akin to like magic of the north and Old Gods affected the wildlings and First Men with skinchanging and greenseeing, or could it have resulted from magically bonding with dragons?

    • 1. Dunno who. Tyrion or Jon, probably.

      2. I think Valyrian magic is its’ own thing, not related to any other form of magic, and we don’t know the rules yet.

      • Andrew says:

        I don’t think it’s Jon, who follows the Old Gods and rode with the wildlings, and likely shares theirs views against incest. I don’t think Jon and Dany will have enough time to consummate a relationship between the time they meet and Dany’s death. I think the clues point more towards Jon and Val.

        I think for Dany and Tyrion it will be a girl., but Jon will be the one raising the kid with both parents dead.

        Now time for a crazy crackpot theory if you don’t mind:

        I think Shiera Seastar is foreshadowing for their daughter.

        -Shiera’s mother was the last of her line of an impoverished Valyrian noble house, and died giving birth to her/Dany is (supposedly) the last of her line of a formerly impoverished Valyrian noble house

        -Shiera’s father knew many women and whores, having one mistress and her lover killed. Aegon IV was also brother to Naerys and Aemon the Dragonknight, the historical parallel for Jaime and Cersei, Tyrion’s siblings. Tyrion knew many women, and he killed his mistress, Shae and the man who slept with her, Tywin.

        -Shiera had mismatched green and deep blue eyes/ Tyrion and Dany’s daughter could inherit Tyrion’s mismatched eyes, with one eye being the Lannister green like Tyrion’s and one eye being a deep blue from her Targaryen side.

        At this very moment, Dany coins her mantra “if I look back I am lost” – and yet, she has “gone back to go forwards.”

        On another note, I like this observation, Dany keeps telling herself to not look back, mainly I think, because of the trauma of the past. When she says this I think it is because she is lost in a sense. She has some difficulty learning from the past with this mantra, not to say she hasn’t learned anything from the past.

      • Sean C. says:

        I have a very hard time imagining that Dany is going to have a child with Tyrion.

    • zonaria says:

      >>I don’t see any guy deciding to mate with a dragon

      I wouldn’t be so sure, there are a few Targaryens who were quite mad enough…

    • Winnief says:

      Tyrion *is* a possibility, (so is Jon, though it squicks me out and I wonder if they could meet in time,) but I wonder if Darkstar might be heading Dany’s way instead, or even Dany and a Tyrell brother.

      One thing against Tyrion, is that to put it bluntly, Dany likes pretty boys…and Tyrion is…not. On the other hand, Tyrion could be Dany’s ‘third mount’-the one she rides to cross the Narrow Sea and take Westeros. Also Tyrion being named Dany’s consort gets both him and Sansa out of the Tyrion/Sansa marriage.

      • Andrew says:

        Jaime is the most shallow person we know when we first meet him had we neglected to mention Cersei, and now we see him falling for Brienne who is described as ugly. Sansa was a bit similar in that regards, and now she is falling for Sandor Clegane. If Jaime can learn to love someone like Brienne then I think Dany could learn to love Tyrion.

        If Tyrion is Dany’s consort, that will be one reason why lords side with Aegon. They think with Dany as queen, Tyrion would be the one actually ruling them like Otto Hightower said regarding Rhaenrya’s consort, Daemon.

        I think Aegon’s group might even use her marriage to Tyrion as proof that Dany is mad. Who in the right mind would marry an ugly dwarf like Tyrion? Mean, I know, but the people opposing Dany will use anything they can find.

        • I think Aegon gets support from the Crownlands because A. he’s a Targaryen, B. he’s much better than a clearly crazy Cersei at the head of a cursed House Lannister, C. Varys reveals the truth about Tommen, D. he’s got a successful professional army.

      • David says:

        Do you believe Aegon to be who he believes he is?

      • Andrew says:

        I think we can count out Duskendale and the clans of Crackclaw Point supporting Aegon given they supported Rhaenrya in the second Dance of Dragons. Also, if Dany lands in the Vale, then Crackclaw Point and Duskendale are just across the Bay of Crabs. Dragons (literal) can be very persuasive, and if Dany sends out ravens from Dragonstone declaring Aegon a fake, it helps her claim that Aegon has the backing of the Golden Company and wields Blackfyre, given both have been associated with House Blackfyre.

        • That doesn’t make sense – Rhaenrya’s son married Aegon III’s daughter. All Targaryens, both Blackfyre or non, descend from both sides of the Dance of the Dragons.

          IF you’re referring to the gender issue, I think you have to take into account the influence of the Great Council, Viserys I’s will, and the oath they swore. Those factors don’t exist in this case.

      • Sean C. says:

        Jaehaera died delivering a stillborn baby, so Aegon II had no grandchildren. The Targaryen royal line is descended from Viserys II, anyway, not Aegon III and either of his wives. There are no legitimate descendants of Aegon II anywhere.

        Dany landing in the Vale I’ve seen speculated a number of times, but that really makes no sense geographically.

      • Andrew says:

        All the children of Aegon III were through his Velaryon wife, and even so, it is Viserys II’s line that the main branch of House Targaryen is descended from. The Blackfyres are the ones descended from Aegon III

        Aegon is the Aegon II parallel while Dany is the Rhaenyra parallel. If there is going to be a second Dance of Dragons, it will undoubtedly be between those two: both are claimants with descent from House Targaryen. Dany will likely put it out that Aegon isn’t who he says he is, and that technically makes her the public heir to the IT if Aegon is a Blackfyre. I say public because Jon’s heritage is still not public knowledge.

        @Sean C

        Invading the Vale is difficult by land, but not by sea as the Andals proved. The Vale makes a good place to start an invasion given it is vulnerable from attack by sea, and yet the Mountains of the Moon and the Bloody Gate protect it from counterattack from KL and Aegon.

        • Invading the Vale would also mean potentially being bottled up in the mountain pass out of the Vale, and invading a territory hostile to the Targaryens.

          If Dany’s landing anywhere, she’d either land in Dorne or (more likely) go straight for King’s Landing.

          • Andrew says:

            The problem with Dorne is that if they declare for Aegon with Arianne married to him, Dany risks being caught in hostile enemy territory with no friends nearby. The second Dance of Dragons would be wrapped up pretty quickly.

            It makes sense to land somewhere that has not declared. Connington and the GC managed to take the stormlands with less than 10,000 men, and it was an area also hostile to the Targaryens. I think Dany and Tyrion could do the same with larger army than Connington’s and three dragons. Besides, Tyrion would likely tell her to get the Vale she must win over Robert Arryn. Giving him a dragonride like Visenya did Ronnel, could appeal to his desire to be the Winged Knight. Dany is good with children for the most part. That is without mentioning Tyrion is itching to pay his debt back to the Vale.

            Also, KL still has a large army present, and I think Tyrion would advise Dany to land somewhere where she can gather more swords to fight Aegon.

          • That’s plausible, but at the end of the day, Dany’s got her dragons and a massive army, and is tired of the incremental route. She’s going for KL.

          • Andrew says:

            Forget I already replied.

      • Sean C. says:

        Dany is presumably going to be sailing out of Slaver’s Bay, through the Gulf of Grief, possibly stopping in Volantis, then along the Disputed Lands, etc. to the Stepstones, at which point she turns north to enter the Narrow Sea. The Vale is way the hell up from even there (and the Iron Fleet suffered serious issues going even that far), and it really doesn’t make much sense to me that she’d prioritize sailing that far up.

        Besides which, any military advantage gained by the Vale’s defensive perimeter would, you would think, be more than compensated for by having to face the only fresh troops left in the Seven Kingdoms, and in a place where there’d be no expectation of finding Targaryen loyalists.

      • Andrew says:

        Fresh troops are another reason why she should go there. Landing in the Stormlands or Dorne would bring the risk of landing in enemy area. Tyrion is also still itching to pay his debt to the Vale for Lysa’s treatment of him. Tyrion is a skilled politician, and dragons can prove to be very persuasive.

      • Sean C. says:

        Lysa’s dead, and I think word about that would have gotten out by then. I doubt that Dany’s campaign is going to be built around Tyrion’s vendetta against a dead woman.

        Moreover, if not landing in an “enemy area” is the overriding concern, then the Vale is the biggest place to avoid, seeing as it would contain nothing but enemies, and the freshest enemies they could encounter, rather than weary ones that they’re likely to find everywhere else.

      • Andrew says:

        The problem with Dorne is that it brings the risk of landing in enemy territory if they side with Aegon with Arianne married to him. KL will be occupied by an enemy army, and Dany will want to gather support among the lords first. She will want to gather strength to deal with Aegon who will have a large army by the time Dany lands. She will want to deal with Aegon first, then the Lannisters, so no one disputes the identity of the Targaryen claimant.

        The mountain passes of the Vale are occupied by the mountain clans whom Tyrion has good relations with. Besides, Dany is good with children, and can give Robert a dragonride like Visenya did Ronnel Arryn. It would appeal to Robert’s desire to be like the Winged Knight who could fly on a giant falcon. Tyrion can also offer Yohn Royce, the most powerful Arryn bannerman, justice for his son Robar’s death; something Royce knows he can’t get under the Tyrell-Lannister regime.

        The Vale lords have little reason to love the Lannisters after the RW, and dragons are good tools for recruitment. If Dany wins Robert, then the Vale lords would be bound to follow Dany after him.

        I also think eventually, Shadrich will send a letter to KL about Sansa’s whereabouts, and they will send men to bring her to KL for trial. Dany and Tyrion can promise Robert to bring Sansa back. Cersei does have an anti-Midas touch, and her decision to send men to seize Sansa will end up digging her deeper into the hole like all her other decisions.

        • I don’t think Dany will give a damn about army sizes – she’s got three full-size dragons, and a big army of her own. I think she’s out of patience and is going to come rolling into King’s Landing.

          Robert Arryn won’t be alive, and there’s a good chance the Vale’s army will have already declared by the time she gets there.

      • Sean C. says:

        No way is Sansa being brought back to King’s Landing “for trial” or whatever. The Vale is her stage to mature as a political actor. There’d be zero logic in dragging her to King’s Landing so that she can be a bargaining chip again.

      • Andrew says:

        You have to remember that Tyrion is going to be advising her, and he may advise her to take a different course.

        Aegon had three dragons that were much older and larger than Dany’s, and even he knew he would need more than dragons and an army, he needed to recruit lords into his army. Dany won’t take the IT without some semblance of support amongst the lords. I wouldn’t call her dragons fully-sized, but currently still juveniles, although still deadly.

        I don’t see any clues pointing to Robert Arryn dying, either. The impression given off by Robert is that his days are numbered, so that is an indicator he will live. GRRM tends to create impressions just to pull the rug out from under the reader. LF announced his big plan explicitly so the chances are it won’t succeed. Aegon is a long way away from the Vale.

        I am not bragging, but I am considered to be somewhat of an expert on foreshadowing in the ASOIAF forums.

        “There has been no king in the Vale for three hundred years,” Petyr Baelish pointed out.
        “The dragons came,” Lord Nestor agreed.

        “Tyrion was a king’s name before the dragons came”

        I think this points to Tyrion landing in the Vale with Dany. Besides, I think the Vale supporting Rhaenyra is foreshadowing for the Vale supporting Dany. The stormlands are fighting on Aegon’s side like they on Aegon II’s so I think the Vale may fight on Dany’s side. The Vale is ruled by a woman at the time as well in TPatQ.

      • Sean C. says:

        That’s a pretty big reach as far as foreshadowing goes.

        • Andrew says:

          “the dragons came” is the only used in two places and in the same book. Tyrion wants to repay his debt to the Vale, and he takes on the alias of an ancient Andal king, where the Andals landed in the Vale originally.

  7. Brett says:

    As far as family planning goes, it’s one of the closest things to a historical constant I’ve ever seen, with the major differences being what kinds of technologies are available, and how the physical and cultural environment creates relatively stable patterns of incentives.

    Now there’s a fascinating historical counterfactual there. I wonder what human societal development would be like if, from the earliest days of agriculture, there was some readily available and cultivable contraceptive or abortifacaent “herb”/plant/etc that worked the vast majority of the time it was taken. As is, human beings tried just about everything – and turned to infanticide when that wasn’t available or didn’t work.

    • ajay says:

      I wonder what human societal development would be like if, from the earliest days of agriculture, there was some readily available and cultivable contraceptive or abortifacaent “herb”/plant/etc that worked the vast majority of the time it was taken.

      Google “silphium”.

      • Brett says:

        I’d read about that. The downside of Silphium was apparently that it was difficult to cultivate (or uncultivable) and only grew within a narrow area. I was thinking of something more universal, that could be cultivated in a wide range of areas with comparative ease.

  8. Abbey Battle says:

    Is it just me or the does the try idea of ‘Genghis Khan with DRAGONS’ leave anyone with a cold chill racing down their spine and a vague hope that ‘The Stallion who mounts the World’ remains forever in the domain of ‘Never-Was’ prophecies?

    • Andrew says:

      No, you have a right to be disturbed at the thought. The Stallion that Mounts the World is not a prophesied savior to bring peace to the world or save it from a mounting threat, but to bring death and destruction with a united khalasar. Dany’s wilderness sabbatical has ended with her taking in “dragons plant no trees” and embracing her house words “fire and blood.” She has largely reduced or abandoned her concern about innocents being harmed in favor of using dragonpower to achieve her own ends.

      The Stallion that Mounts the World fits Dany well as it goes with her nicknames “Stormborn” and “child of storm” in that she creates a storm or chaos wherever she goes, intentionally or unintentionally.

  9. JT says:

    It would be a very GRRM-esque thing to have Dany return to Westeros, claim the Iron Throne and repel the Others, but die without having any children – thus likely plunging the realm into another civil war about succession as the series ends.

    Not saying that’s what will happen, but man that would be bittersweet.

    • Winnief says:

      I don’t see any ‘sweet’ part about it…but once Jon’s heritage becomes known he’s another claimant, and even if Dany didn’t accept Jon before herself, she’d be willing to make him her heir-or possibly the guardian to her child.

    • Andrew says:

      I think the bittersweet part for Dany would be that her family regains the IT, but she doesn’t get to sit it since Jon is the rightful heir.

      I don’t see her dealing with the Others, but Jon doing that. Jon will of course be king over a ruined realm with not one region untouched by war.

  10. Roger says:

    While I think Dothrakis are a well-built culture and Drogo was a good character (his speach about razing Westeros was spectacular), I don’t feel any simpathy for them. They have some virtues, but it’s a people who lives by slaving peaceful people, and enjoy war and brutality. I don’t see why meereenese must be hated and dothraki must be admired. Drogo was a terrible man, not very different from the Mountain. And also I don’t understand why the lamb people in ADWD allied with Dany. She is the widow of Drogo, who sacked their cities, and has many dothrakis at her service.

  11. Abbey Battle says:

    With the sole exception that I don’t think Khal Drogo is quite as … empty as The Mountain that Rides you do make an excellent point; Dothraki seem to make useful allies and truly terrible neighbours.

  12. zonaria says:

    Enjoyed the discussion on the different approaches of Tolkein and Martin on recent blogs. As we are about to lose Khal Drogo, I have to note the contrast between the Dothraki Khal and his LOTR namesake, possibly the book’s most inoffensive character. As a well-publicised Tolkein fan this must surely have been deliberate on GRRM’s part:

    “‘A decent respectable hobbit was Mr. Drogo Baggins; there was never much to tell of him, till he was drownded.'”

    “‘I will take my khalasar west to where the world ends, and ride the wooden horses across the black salt water as no khal has done before. I will kill the men in the iron suits and tear down their stone houses. I will rape their women, take their children as slaves, and bring their broken gods back to Vaes Dothrak to bow down beneath the Mother of Mountains. This I vow, I, Drogo son of Bharbo.'”

  13. Chuck says:

    Could Drogo have been reborn in ADWD – but as her new mount/love, Drogon? Her turn to “Fire and Blood” at the end of ADWD could be interpreted as taking her Dragons as her spouses.

  14. Wat Barleycorn says:

    I think it’s also important to note that MMD was right when she called out Dany on the price she paid. Dany KNEW that price, and she was willing to sacrifice Rhaego for Drogo–for power.

    It’s not that she was a power-hungry monster, really. I mean, in part it is. But really, it’s a mix of birthright and also the fact that she knew what it was to be powerless. In her mind, flight was not an option. She’d only ever been safe as khaleesi. If she were no longer khaleesi she would be hunted, her dragon eggs would go the way of her brother’s crown and she would condemn Rhaego to be exploited and sold as a slave as she was.

    But if she sacrificed Rhaego? She would save Drogo, save herself, and save Rhaego’s brothers and sisters that she would one day bear. And she would save Rhaego, too, from the life she’d lived.

    In your examination of birthrates and infanticide, you do the same thing GRRM does in this passage–deconstruct the way we romanticize motherhood. Dany is Mhysa, but only because she sacrificed her child. This isn’t exactly how we idealize mothers.

    What I find especially fascinating is that when MMD reveals the deal was a lie and Dany realizes she has lost everything because of the choices she has made, she doesn’t roll over and die. She takes this total, unmitigated catastrophe of her own making and uses it to wake dragons. In her situation, this is what I’d want to do, and it’s certainly what I’d want my son or daughter to do. But I find myself worrying about what it says about her much more after the end of ADWD than I did when she was in Mereen.

  15. […] the dragon eggs, and yet the ceremony itself – and what it tells us (or doesn’t) about how blood magic works – is incredibly opaque and contradictory. To begin with, we have the testimony of Mirri Maz […]

  16. […] there seems to be pretty wide consensus that the first 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 […]

  17. […] back to Dany III of AGOT and the Dothraki version of the apocalypse, and may extend forward through Mirri Maz Duur’s prophecy and the state of the Dothraki sea in Dany’s last chapter in […]

  18. Irving Washington says:

    When Mirri Maz Duur is giving Dany her CV as it were she mentions – along with her visit to Asshai that “A maester from the Sunset Lands opened a body for me and showed me all the secrets that hide beneath the skin.” Is she referring to Marwyn or Qyburn? And if it was the latter does that mean he “opened the body of the living” as he bragged to Jamie?

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