Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Daenerys X

danyx

“As Daenerys Targaryen rose to her feet, her black hissed, pale smoke venting from its mouth and nostrils. The other two pulled away from her breasts and added their voices to the call, translucent wings unfolding and stirring the air, and for the first time in hundreds of years, the night came alive with the music of dragons.”

Synopsis: Daenerys Targaryen attempts amateur blood magic…and succeeds.

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:

Well, here we are at last, at the end of A Game of Thrones, and at the end of the world Westeros and Essos have lived in for a hundred and fifty years and which once lasted for 3,000 years before Valyria existed, a world without dragons. First of all, I’d like to announce my forthcoming e-book, Race for the Iron Throne: History and Politics of A Game of Thrones, which will be launching on amazon.com on April 6th. If you’ve enjoyed the commentary I’ve supplied for two years now and would like to help Race for the Iron Throne keep on going, please buy a copy, tell your friends, and help spread the word. Second, I’ll be doing a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” for r/asoiaf on the week of April 13th. If you’d like to go on a no-holds-barred geekfest about A Song of Ice and Fire, especially on the later books that I might be a while in getting to, drop by r/asoiaf and ask a couple questions.

I’ll be promoting both of these again later, so don’t worry, I won’t let you forget. On with the program!

Blood Magic

The starring event in Dany X is the waking of 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 Duur that “it is not enough to kill a horse…by itself, the blood is nothing. You do not have the words to make a spell, nor the wisdom to find them…loose me from these bonds and I will help you.” Accepting this at face value is problematic – to begin with, since Daenerys clearly succeeds in awakening fossilized dragon eggs, it’s not the case that the right spell is necessary (unless we assume that for some reason Mirri Maz Duur used her song while being burned to death to wake the dragons, which I strongly doubt). Second, we have to consider that the maegi is confused about Dany’s objective here – when she says “it is not enough to kill a horse,” this suggests that she thinks Daenerys is trying for Round 2 with Drogo; the same rules may not apply to waking dragon eggs that apply to raising humans from the dead. Third, her plea (and offer) to Dany suggests that she’s lying to try to convince her not to go through with the ritual, and thus save her own life.

If we assume for the moment that Mirri Maz Duur is lying here – that the blood itself is important on its own, more so than any magical incantations; this is supported by Daenerys’ actions here and Beric Dondarrion’s actions later. Alternatively, as suggested above, it may be that a ritual to wake dragon eggs has different rules than a ritual to bring the dead back to life. Then again, it may also be the case that, just as living dragons are foci that enhance magic around them, that dragon eggs act as a focus or a catalyst for magic and this explains why Dany was able to cast the spell without training. This would explain why mages might answer Aegon III’s call for help, or why a Myrish wizard would be interested in waking Euron’s dragon egg, or what went wrong at Summerhall, or why dragon eggs might be sold in Asshai.

However, we also get a second statement on blood magic when Dany has Mirri Maz Duur bound to the pyre: “it is not your screams I want, only your life. I remember what you told me. Only death can pay for life.”…as she stepped away, Dany saw that the contempt was gone from the maegi’s flat black eyes; in its place was something that might have been fear.” This change in Mirri’s attitude further suggests that the words aren’t necessary for magic to work – perhaps spells work to refine and focus magic whereas Dany here relies on the magic equivalent of brute force. But clearly, lifeforce itself is powerful – which makes me somewhat skeptical of S. Alexander’s underlying assumption in the otherwise intriguing “Grand Unified Theory of Magic in Westeros.” If only a death can pay for life, I don’t think Drogo on the pyre or Dany’s child in the womb count – both are already dead before Dany’s ritual starts, and we have to be careful to separate the requirements and effects of MMD’s ritual (which clearly used up Rhaego’s life essence) from the later ritual.

Finally, we have the question of blood and fire – as Dany thinks to herself as she walks into the fire, “she was the blood of the dragon, and the fire was in her. She had sensed the truth of it long ago…but the brazier and not been hot enough.” It’s possible that what was missing from earlier Targaryen attempts to wake dragons is the combinaation of fire with blood magic; we know that Summerhall involved “sorcery, fire” but there’s no mention of blood sacrifices (as opposed to people being murdered ordinarily), Aegon III tried magic but not fire, and Aerion fire but not magic. We also have to considered that there literally is magic in Daenerys’ blood – prophecy and the ability to bond with a dragon, although clearly fire immunity is not included (as opposed to a high degree of tolerance for heat). It’s perhaps the case that a Targaryen trying to do blood magic untutored can succeed where others would fail.

There is also the question of whether what we’re seeing in this chapter is one ritual or two. As we’ve learned from the Princess and the Queen, the process of bonding a dragon is a difficult and highly risky one, and no one ever is able to bond with more than one dragon. And yet Daenerys has managed to bond three dragons (although it’s not clear she could ride Viserion and/or Rhaegal). Given that the chapter combines imagery of birth and marriage repeatedly, it’s possible that what we have here is two rituals – one to waken the eggs and other to bind them to her.

I don’t have much proof for this besides the fact that, contrary to what I had remembered, the dragons awoke before Dany had fully entered the fire: “she heard a crack, the sound of shattering stone. The platform of wood and brush began to shift and collapse in upon itself…and something else came crashing down, bouncing and rolling, to land at her feet; a chunk of curved rock, pale and veined with gold, broken and smoking. The roaring filled the world, yet dimely through the firefall Dany heard women shriek and children cry out in wonder. Only death can pay for life.” Daenerysstepped forward into the firestorm, calling to her children,” after the first two eggs had cracked, suggesting that the ritual had already worked and that the eggs had hatched and the dragons were alive. This “calling” seems to have both protected Daenerys from the fire, and literally bonded them to her as her children, as they appear to make an exception to their cooked-meat-only diet to drink in her mother’s milk, from the source as it were. 

Ultimately, I think this chapter leaves us with more questions than answers – but luckily we get more data in ACOK and ASOS.

The Last Temptation of Daenerys Targaryen

Given that this chapter literally involves the death and rebirth of a messianic figure (especially given how she’s received by the slave population in Essos in ASOS and ADWD), it’s appropriate that in this chapter we see Jorah repeatedly offer Daenerys options to abandon her destiny and live a normal life instead: “I have nothing to offer you but exile, but I beg you, hear me. Let Khal Drogo go…I promise you, no man shall take you to Vaes Dothrak unless you wish to go…Come east with me. Yi Ti, Qarth, the Jade Sea, Asshai by the Shadow. We will see all the wonders yet unseen, and drink what wines the gods see fit to serve us…Drogo will have no use for dragon’s eggs in the night lands. Better to sell them in Asshai. Sell one and we can buy a ship to take us back to the Free Cities. Sell all three and you will be a wealthy woman all your days.” What’s interesting is that Jorah is offering two highly contrasting scenarios – one in which Jorah is appealing to Dany’s interest in exploring the far east of Essos, and another in which Jorah offers comfort and safety in the Free Cities, the equivalent of her red door (more on this in the What If? section later).

Moreover, Dany’s offer to the three warriors of her khas and their threefold rejection has a ceremonial quality that reminds me of Peter’s threefold denial in the New Testament: in each case, she says “to you I give…that was my bride gift, and ask your oath, that wou will live and die as blood of my blood, riding at my side to keep me safe from harm,” and in each case she is refused in terms that reinforce that Daenerys is once again violating taboo. Jhogo states that “this is not done. It would shame me to be bloodrider to a woman,” Aggo refuses saying “I cannot say these words. Only a man can lead a khalasar,” and even Rakharo offers only to make her a dosh khaleen.

Because what Daenerys proposes her is a total inversion and transformation of Dothraki society on every level. To begin with, she proposes that a slave society eliminate all distinctions of bondage – “I see the faces of slaves. I Free you. Take off your collars. Go if you wish, no one shall harm you. If you stay, it will be as brothers and sisters, husbands and wives.” It is this last that is the most radical – Daenerys is not merely manumitting her slaves, but states outright that slaves and freeborn Dothraki will now be equal in her new khalasar, striking at the heart of the Dothraki economy and social hierarchy. At the same time, she also proposes a revolution in gender, with her proposals stating that there will be a female khal, that brave warriors will serve as bloodriders to a woman, that a woman might have the right to name kos, and that khaleesis will have agency over their life course after the death of their khals.

Dany rejects all three offers she receives and stays true to her destiny. Her three warriors will become the first bloodriders of a new khalasar, and Jorah shall recieve instead Valyrian steel sword from the breath of her dragons (which might well be the missing ingredient) and a place in her Queensguard. As a true messianic figure does, Daenerys Targaryen does not adopt the roles of the old world, but creates a new.

Historical Analysis:

Generally speaking, it’s a bit hard to find historical parallels to mystical events of this kind – so we’ll have to look to folklore and myth instead. The iconography of Dany’s rebirth resembles nothing so much as a reverse mirror-image of the birth of Venus from the sea foam on the shores of Cyprus. In the legends, Venus was born in a similarly violent and disruptive event: the god of time and prosperity Cronus castrating his father Uranus (the sky) at the behest of his mother Rhea (the earth). This Freudian inversion of father and son is a moment of mystical generation: from the blood of Uranus came the nymphs of the ash-tree who would give birth to mankind, the race of giants who would war against the gods themselves, and the Furies, those ancient forces of vengeance and punishment. But from the white sea-foam that rose up from where the testicles fell into the sea, came forth Aphrodite, the positive force of love, fertility, and luck.

danybirth

In both that case and this we have this interesting combination of the elemental (fire and water) and the primal (murder and castration), producing both beauty and terror in the same act. It’s not surprising, therefore, that Daenerys’ birthing of the dragons has produced religious upheaval in Essos, beginning first among the members of her khalasar who now have no objections to being led by a female khal.

In real world terms, however, we don’t have an example of an event that changed our world in the same way that Daenerys’ ritual has changed her world, until July 16th, 1945 with the Trinity nuclear test in New Mexico. Robert J. Oppenheimer, the head of the Manhattan Project, was a bit of a poetic soul and chose the name of the Trinity test from John Dunne’s poetry. Before the Trinity test, a small but respected fraction of the scientific community speculated that an atomic chain reaction could ignite the atmosphere, as a “”new force [was] loosed on the Earth.” After the Trinity test, we lived in the Atomic Age, in which war was transformed from an activity that produced death on a mass scale but in a contained region, to something that could wipe out all life on earth, even without the very skies being set on fire.

What If?

I genuinely don’t think there actually are hypotheticals here; everything in Daenerys’ life has been leading her up to this moment. However, for the sake of argument, let’s ask what happens if Dany had taken up these options with or without dragons:

  • Goes East with Jorah? This gets us to the knotty question of Jorah’s loyalty (or lack thereof) to Varys and Illyrio – Jorah’s first offer here seems to go absolutely against the interests of his supposed patrons, who repeatedly attempt to get Dany to come west where they can exert influence over them – more on this later. If Dany goes to “Yi Ti, Qarth, the Jade Sea, Asshai by the Shadow,” it may well be that she learns blood magic and is able to wake the dragon eggs after all, but her advent in the west would be delayed by the distance of several thousand miles. Moreover, Westeros would be dealing with a Witch Queen who had never led a crusade to end slavery nor learned some harsh lessons in the difficulties of rulership.
  • Goes West with Jorah? In this version where Jorah remains loyal to Varys and Illyrio, the conspiratorial duo hit the ultimate in fluke draws with the sudden emergence of dragons. My guess is that Illyrio introduces her to her “nephew” then and there, and makes damn sure that the marriage goes through early on, before Dany’s mature dragons raise her beyond influence. When the dragons are of size, the Golden Company lands in the Stormlands as in OTL, except this time with a King and Queen and three dragons. And all of Westeros will tremble.
  • Goes to Vaes Dothrak? This is the least likely of some least likely scenarios, but…if Dany arrives in Vaes Dothrak with dragons, the one thing the Dothraki historically feared, all bets are off. Maybe all three get strangled to death, maybe she becomes the Great Khaleesi of the Dothraki, and a horde of hundreds of thousands begins burning its way across Essos to construct an empire the likes of which even Valyria had never seen.

Book vs. Show:

I have almost no complaints about how this was done in Season 1, Episode 10 of Game of Thrones. The showrunners, the actors, and the visual effects artists produced something we really had never seen on television before and proved that this could be more than a medieval setting soap opera – a genuinely believable fantasy show on television.

My one complaint is that, by leaving out Eroeh and Jhaqo and Mago, the show has kind of dropped the Dothraki as a major plot element that seems to be a major part of Daenerys’ plot in The Winds of Winter. But we’ll have to wait and see where GRRM goes with that.

115 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Daenerys X

  1. thepissedoffpundit says:

    Excellent ending point. Favorite part has to be the drawing of parallels between the awakening of dragons and the start of the Atomic Age. Makes sense, too, since dragons are to Westeros what atomic/nuclear weapons are to ours. That was very spot on. Good job. Gald you pulled through. Looking forward to ACOK, and I’ll keep my eye out for your book.

  2. Carol says:

    You may wish to put up a NSFW (not safe for work) warning due to that second picture of Dany. Breasts are scary. *rolls eyes*

  3. Fernando says:

    I have to congratulate you, Steven, on a project done so well and with such ceaseless determination. Almost two years ago I wrote on your Facebook page saying that this is “instantly one of the essential resources” for ASOIAF and that has more than borne itself out to be true. Whatever else you do in your very productive life to come–congratulations also on your doctorate work!–please, please keep doing this. I will always read it.

  4. JT says:

    Great job (both on the chapter and the book)! I love your writing and the level of detail you’re able to suss out.

    I think GRRM deliberately wants to make the details of magic in his universe fairly opaque, both to the readers and the characters. It’s this powerful force, but nobody is quite sure exactly how to harness it (look at Melisandre’s chapter in ADWD – we learn she’s quite good at some things, but she’s aware that her powers aren’t as great as she projects them to be). One of the characters even makes a magic is like a sword without a hilt analogy in the books, which seems fairly apt.

    This chapter is an interesting pivot point for the series – it’s where magic is really introduced into the series and the amount of traditional fantasy in the books starts to get ratcheted up. Next book, we have Melisandre and the shadow babies, the Warlocks of Qarth and we start to get different prophecies. Eventually we’ll have dead characters getting resurrected (Beric and Catelyn, maybe Jon?), Moqorro’s unfailing prophecies and the fake burning of Mance.

  5. I think for a lot of people, this is the point where the series truly becomes fantasy. I know before that we’ve seen some white walkers, but those events seemed to get forgotten about or sort of fade into the background. But the dragons awakening is one of the seminal moments of the series, where you realize that this is indeed a fantasy saga. And it happens at a point where it seems like all is lost for Dany, which is a bit of a theme in the series; like Stannis being seemingly finished at the Blackwater, Jamie when his hand is cut off, Tyrion at the end of ASOS, etc.

    • I agree – and I think that’s a key point of GRRM’s romanticism – he makes the lows lower so that when there’s a turnaround or a tragedy, it feels earned.

      • Winnie says:

        I’m hoping that means we’re about to see Arya AND Sansa rebound in a BIG way…

        • JT says:

          Unfortunately, that means Cersei might also be due for big rebound!

          The character I’d like to see get some rebound is Theon. Talk about being brought low. A death with some sort of dignity (which looks where he’s headed) would be a nice capper for him at this point. His first few chapters in ADWD read like a script from a discarded Saw movie sequel.

          • Winnie says:

            Seriously. I think Theon will ultimately end up sacrificing himself as an act of atonement, to either assist in fighting the Bolton’s…or the Others.

  6. Sean C. says:

    Congratulations on finishing. This has been an impressive feat of blogging, ranking alongside Fred Clark’s work with “Left Behind” (though I suspect doing this sort of analysis with a good book would be more rewarding).

  7. Andrew says:

    1)I don’t know if the dragons were bonded to Dany the way Aegon and his sisters were to theirs. I think it is imprinting at this point, especially since the hatchlings don’t have a (literal) mother dragon around.

    2)Good point, that it took a combination of both words of House Targaryen: Fire and blood, to hatch the dragon eggs. I think it goes with what Mirri said, only death can pay for life. The higher the level of magic, the higher the price.

    3)Dany is becoming an agent of change, I agree, and change requires destruction as Shelley wrote.

    4)As for her going to Vaes Dothrak, I think the Dothraki will come face to face with Drogon in TWoW. Drogon is already preying on the horses of Jhaqo’s khalasar as shown in Dany’s POV in ADwD, and the patches of burned grass mean that he has been doing it for a while. The horses are probably his primary source of food at the moment, and the khalasar also has herds of sheep and goats. If the khalasar leaves it would make sense for Drogon to follow them. He could have likely near exhausted the supply of game near his cave, a possible reason why he returned to Meereen.

    A good conclusion to the AGoT analysis.

    • 1. They obey her commands to an extent, and at least one of them will let her ride it.

      4. I think Jhogo’s going to die screaming.

      • Andrew says:

        1. One dragon lets her ride him, and obeying her commands could still be due to her being their mother and caregiver.

        4. I know that. Jhoqo will likely die in Vaes Dothrak when he brings Dany back to be a dosh khaleen or to be tried by the dosh khaleen. It will be when Drogon flies in to “rescue” Dany like Ungregor does for Cersei in her trial.

  8. Winnie says:

    Steve-firstly congratulations on completing AGOT-it’s been a deep pleasure on my part reading this, and a great triumph on yours. Now Onward to ACOK!!!

    Secondly, I’m now wondering what the heck Illyrio and Varys are gonna *do* now that Dany *has* dragons, and is clearly well beyond the point of just giving one up, (along with her army) to fAegon and marrying him. I mean it may never have occurred to Aegon that Dany would refuse him, but Illryio must have been worried about the prospect. Now, with Aegon going on ahead to Westeros its looking to shape up for Dance of the Dragons 2.0-what can Illyrio and Varys do about *that*?!?

    I also always thought, that LF’s comment to Sansa about “the war of three Queens,” seemed to refer to reports about Dany…but again what in LF’s schemes/plots can survive the arrival of Dany and her living, fire-breathing WMDS?!?

    As you say, the dragons are a bona fide game changer..and its not clear how ANY of the players in Westeros right now can deal with them. Even Tywin would have been at a total loss. I mean at least with the way everyone, (except Stannis-bless him!) ignores the Others, you have the excuse that few people south of the Wall even know about the problem,…or believe in them, but dragons are a recorded phenomenon, and reports from Essos have been pretty consistent. You would at least think that Varys would understand what that truly meant.

    • JT says:

      We’re assuming (which I’m sure will happen, but hasn’t yet) that Dany can learn to harness her dragons ala Aegon et al. To use Steven’s analogy right now, she might have discovered nuclear fission, but she hasn’t weaponized it yet.

      At the end of ADWD Barristan thinks that the dragons will show up for the battle, but they’ll just indiscriminately fry and eat both Dany’s army and the slaver’s army.

      • Andrew says:

        With Barristan’s thoughts, the dragons are, as Dalla described magic, swords without hilts.

        Dragons can be useful in battle, but they currently have no sure way to control them at least until Victarion arrives with the horn. Even the power to supposedly control dragons is costly, but as Dany’s forebears knew that she later learned, the riders don’t have to be the ones to pay it.

        Victarion may not have Valyrian blood, but the horn may possibly allow him to cheat that rule. It could be akin to Varamyr’s warging, the snow bear hated him, but he could still in a way, enslave her, through his skinchanging, a forced bond so to speak.

        • Winnie says:

          I just don’t see a complete buffoon, like Victarion getting any dragons.

          • I agree. I think Victarion is being set up as a patsy by Moqorro.

          • Andrew says:

            I think Moqorro saw Victarion’s death in the flames, and is likely just biding his time and waiting for it to happen.

          • Either waiting or preparing to make it happen.

            As we’ve seen, Red Priests have no compunction about giving their god a helping hand.

          • Andrew says:

            From what I read, Moqorro described seeing the black kraken on a sea of blood, the exact same description Jorah gave the Dothraki Sea. Victarion may go into the Dothraki Sea to find Dany as he wants to get her and go before the Volantene fleet arrives. I think Dany will be the one to kill Victarion, using Drogon.

          • David Hunt says:

            Steven,

            Re: the Red Priests “helping” things along. It was my impression that the predictions that the Red Priest get from their fires were not of some unalterable future, such a Jojen believes his Green Dreams to be, but more of a “if no one with foreknowledge changes things, events will go this way.” I use as my reference one of Mellisandre’s chapters where we learn that the first thing she does when she reads the flames is to look for dangers to her, personally, and that she’s better at finding those threats than anything else. I got the impression that she’s seen herself killed by assassins and whatnot quite a bit (I can think of two specific cases) and always turned matters to her advantage. Davos managing to spirit Edric Storm out of Dragonstone right under her nose is a good indicator that what she sees is malleable, subject to major interpretation, or (my personal guess) both.

    • Thanks!

      Well, I think they’re scrambling a bit. Certainly, they didn’t expect Tyrion to screw them over by getting Aegon to sail west rather than east.

      • Winnie says:

        Well it wasn’t *just* Tyrion-Dany failed to show in Volantis…but yeah, good point. I think they also underestimate how unruly Dany might be…though, *Tyrion* of course sees it a mile off.

    • John says:

      I always thought Littlefinger’s “three queens” were Sansa, Cersei, and Margaery.

      • That was my interpretation as well. I don’t think Littlefinger is aware of Daenerys at all.

        • David Hunt says:

          Littlefinger was on the Small Council and was part of the debate on whether to assassinate Dany. However, I think you could very well be correct that his knowledge of event subsequent to Joffrey’s wedding could much more limited. He no longer has access to the intelligence reports that Council gets.

          OTOH, although I’d agree that LF’s priorities as regards to spying are definitely in Westeros, I’d be surprised if he had no information sources in Essos. I’d think that he have at least heard rumors. I’d just argue that those rumors would lead him to conclude that Dany was setting down roots in Slaver’s Bay.

        • Sean C. says:

          In Sansa’s final chapter in AFFC he tells her that the Merling King has returned to Gulltown from Essos with “interesting news” (I think that’s the quote; I don’t have my books with me where I live currently), which seems like it must refer to Dany’s activities. Nothing else happening in Essos at that point in the series would seem like ‘talk of the town’ material.

          • Winnie says:

            Good catch, Sean. But again, if he’s hearing reports of Dany, then he has to have heard about the dragons…and LF has to realize that even the Eyrie can’t withstand Drogo.

          • Wat Barleycorn says:

            I disagree that Dany is the only news in Essos. The Iron Bank is in Braavos, and I’m sure Petyr would have instructed the captain to learn all he could of their activities. Littlefinger might have found out that the Iron Bank was throwing in with Stannis and gotten an update on Stannis’ activities.

          • John says:

            The Golden Company’s activities might also be cause for comment.

          • Sean C. says:

            The news of the Golden Company breaking its contract and heading to Volantis is widely known at the start of the book, so I don’t think it would be news to Littlefinger at the end of it. And I doubt it would be news of them heading to Westeros, which wouldn’t be that widespread, or else somebody in KL would have heard of it prior to their arrival.

            I considered the Iron Bank thing, but I doubt that’s something talked about a lot on the docks.

      • Sean C. says:

        Littlefinger talks about the “three queens” in a way that makes them seem distinct from his own plans, as if the three queens will wreck more stuff while he and Sansa get ready to act.

        • Mathyoucough says:

          Yeah the third queen he refers to is Myrcella, I think, who Littlefinger is canny enough to predict will be crowned by Dorne.

          • Winnie says:

            That does seem more plausible…he might well have sources in Dorne-but as Sean notes, LF was talking about reports from *Essos* which would indicate Dany…its all very strange.

          • Lady Bird says:

            I think Melisandre is the 3rd queen. Her followers are referred to as “Queens men”

  9. Futureen says:

    Great work. Are you going to do the rest of ASOIAF books analysis?

  10. Hardy says:

    Congratulations to and thx a lot for your great work on this site and uncounting side projects.

    Of course will I buy the ebook (and hopefully thousands and tens of thousands of other fans of your work too (Sorry for the many “of”s ;-)).

    Additionaly I would buy and would like it even more a hardcover or a paperpack version of it,because excellent works in literature belong on a shelf in a reading room / library despite the era of the internet (any chance of that in the future?).

    Really looking forward to the great essays, which we can expect of you in the next years and which ease a lot of “pain” we’re “suffering” during the long wait(s) for the next installment(s) of the main series of ASOIAF.

    Keep the good work rolling and do a little party with your friends / family to celebrate this milestone of yours!

    Greetings from Germany, Hardy.

  11. Petyr Patter says:

    So, this is the chapter where Danaerys immolates an innocent rape victim and gets her Cinderella wish fulfilled. Yeah, I interpret it differently. I won’t bring up the arguments that Mirri gave Drogo sound medical advice which he ignored again. Just know I’m sure that Mirri did NOT poison Drogo.

    Mirri was complicit in the ritual that kept Drogo alive, but Danaerys ordered her, a slave, to do so. Meaning, Danaerys has to bear some (or most) of that guilt. Instead, we have seen Danaerys continue to believe Mirri was her first betrayer.

    Which brings us to the funeral pyre. The details are definitely opaque, but at this point it seems like Danaerys gave up nothing of value. She punished the woman who “betrayed” (by doing what Danaerys commanded), and got three reload-able and ride-able weapons of mass destruction. There has to be more to the ritual than just “fire and blood.” Is Martin writing Danaerys as a Cinderella character who the supernatural just looks out for because she had a tough life so far?

    I pointed this out last chapter in the comments, but Danaerys waking “dragons from stone” mirrors Melissandre’s visions quite nicely. However, those visions require a “king’s blood,” which means Khal Drogo has to be the stand in for the king. The fact he didn’t die in the fire simply means dying by flame is less important than being killed then offered up. We do know that Mirri SANG during this ritual. Why? To save herself? Surviving the fire means the remaining Dothraki kill or abandon her. Her home was destroyed in a combination of the Salt Pans, the Red Wedding, and Harrenhall war crime. She has nowhere to go, nothing to live for.

    There is a good chance we’ll never know, but I believe Mirri got one last laugh. She sang her words/spell again, because she realized there was one last “move” available to her. She gave Danaerys her dragons, but “fate” for “fate.” Rhogo the “Stallion to Mount the World” was never alive so Drogo didn’t die. Danaerys Targaryen was given three dragons to forge an empire, but the Dothraki sea is dying in a drought. Coincidence? Quite possibly. Yet, here we find something worth 3 dragons: a nation, its people, and their way of life. Plus, it would also give Mirri a motivation for participating in the rebirth of dragons, a greater revenge then she thought possible.

    When I read this chapter in the ’90s, it pretty much ruined Danaerys’s character for me. Perhaps ruined isn’t the right word. I simply stopped seeing her as a “good guy.” Sure, she’ll free slave later on and remains a young girl despite her life’s accomplishments. Yet, there is no line she won’t cross if she thinks she is on the side of “right.” And often times, “right” is her side.

    PS) This is obviously my opinion and there is certainly room for other interpretations, but I’m sticking to this one.

    • JT says:

      I’m pretty sure the Dothraki sea drying out is due to the arrival of winter in Essos.

    • I’ve already shown my evidence as to why that’s not the case.

      But that motivation for MMD makes no sense for me.

    • Johnny Desperado says:

      “Danaerys immolates an innocent rape victim and gets her Cinderella wish fulfilled”
      You maybe onto something, or on something. If the Meereense Blot is to be believed Dany’s destiny is Fire and Blood and this is the first fulfillment. What if the blood is that of the innocent folks?

    • John says:

      It is pretty clear that Mirri Maz Duur poisoned Drogo. Even if she didn’t, look, Dany thought that the ritual to keep Drogo alive involved killing a horse and getting a whole Drogo back. Mirri Maz Duur absolutely knew that it would involve killing Dany’s unborn child (she makes this perfectly clear in her comments to Dany) and that what would be returned would only be a hollow shell of Drogo. She could have made this clear to Dany, but she didn’t. If she had, obviously Dany wouldn’t have done the ritual. I don’t see how she can possibly be portrayed as blameless here, or even how we can possibly cast Dany as bearing more than a very small share of the blame.

      • Yeah, Mirri Maz Duur could be called many things – an avenger of her people, certainly – but not innocent.

      • Petyr Patter says:

        Read again. Not Danaerys’s after action report when she puts all the blame on Mirri (and Mirri does not deny it), but the actual chapter when the ritual was agreed upon.

        It was Danaerys who first said “magic” to Mirri, not the other way around. Mirri told her there was a spell, but that it was “hard” and “death would be cleaner.” Danaerys still ordered her to cast it.

        Mirri never says the word “horse” until after Danaerys commands her to attempt the spell. She asked one question regarding “only death can pay for life” — “mine”? When told “no,” she said do it. Only then did Mirri call for the horse. That death could have been anyone. Irri? Mirri herself? Podrick Payne? Danaerys decided that Khal Drogo was more important. She should at least have asked “whose death?” She does not. This is willful ignorance territory here. Mirri didn’t tell her, but Danaerys is quite intentionally not asking.

        At this point, Mirri does so, because “you do not ask a slave, you command.” Indeed, her final words of acquiescence are “As you speak, so shall it be done.” Probably because, “I wash my hands” was already taken by Pontius Pilot.

        How do we not blame Danaerys for this? Afterwords, Danaerys claims “if she knew,” she wouldn’t have agreed. Could Mirri have talked Danaerys out of it? I don’t think so. Danaerys’s personality is impulsive and based around immediate satisfaction. She was so focused on saving Drogo that NOTHING was going to stop her, like everyone around her telling her it was a bad idea… including Mirri.

        Stepping back, Mirri gave sound medical advice, which was promptly ignored by a guy who proceed to put mud in his wound (LITERALLY), and got an infection. Why readers claim “poison” instead of “mud” is another question. Mirri was then blamed for this infection by Qotho, who beat her and said her punishment should be a gang rape by men and dogs followed by having her entrails eaten by weasels. When Danaerys stops him, he says he will obey only as long as Drogo lives (and thus Danaerys is Khaleisi). Meaning Mirri is looking at a fate worse than death followed by death the moment Drogo dies.

        Under these condition, Mirri agrees to a spell. How do we blame Mirri?

        • Why should we discount Mirri Maz Duur’s all-but-confession?

          And your description is way off:

          “No,” she pleaded. “Save him and I will free you, I swear it. You must know a way..some magic, some…”

          “Mirri sat back on her heels and studied Daenerys through eyes as black as night. “There is a spell.” Her voice was quiet, scarely more than a whisper. “But it is hard, lady, and dark. Some would say death is cleaner. I learned the way in Asshai, and paid dear for the lesson. My teacher was a bloodmage from the Shadow Lands.”

          “Dany went cold all over. “Then you truly are a maegi…”

          “Am I?” Mirri Maz Duur smiled. “Only a maegi can save your rider now, Silver Lady.”

          “Is there no other way?”

          “No other.”…

          “Do it,” Dany blurted…”Save him.”

          “There is a price.”

          —————————————————————————–

          This is not a terrified woman acquiescing to a master’s command; Dany is clearly bargaining with her from the outset. This is a calm, calculating woman, acting from a position of superior knowledge, who is playing Daenerys for a sucker.

          Look at the shape of the conversation – Daenerys admits desperation and signals that she’d be willing to do anything, and Mirri comes back at her by saying that magic is the only way in order to undercut her warning about it being hard and dark, then Dany commits, THEN Mirri Maz Duur mentions the price only afterwards, but then minimizes the price by assuring her it’s not Dany’s life and then calls for the horse which she knows isn’t needed for the ritual (classic misdirection).

          These are classic sales tactics, making use of cognitive dissonance: you get someone committed to a proposition (I will save Drogo), then you introduce a following proposition that gets them further hooked (only magic can save Drogo), then once they’ve made that leap, you bring in some hidden complication knowing that the person will decide on their own accord to accept the complication in order to remain in accord with the original proposition.

          It’s the same way that back in the day, a door-to-door encylopedia salesman would start by asking a parent if they cared about their children’s education, then got them to agree that they’d absolutely help their kid get the best head start on their education with supplemental materials, then introduce the idea of buying an encylopedia at a low, low rate, then sprung the requirement to buy the whole set, because by that point the person is so invested in the idea that saying no means you don’t care about your kid.

  12. John W says:

    Will your book be hard copy or Kindle?

  13. Congratz on finishing! Aegon is her nephew though, not her brother.

  14. David Hunt says:

    Not much to say other that that I had forgotten that the eggs were hatching prior to Dany walking into the fire.

    Congratulations on making it through AGOT. If you can maintain a breakneck pace of a chapter review per week, that means that you’ll finish ACOK by….carry the two…wow. I’m really glad you enjoy this.

    • Thanks!

      ACOK is going to be fun; it’s slightly shorter than AGOT in terms of numbers of chapters.
      ASOS is the longest in terms of chapters.
      AFFC is the shortest, almost half as long as the others.

      • David Hunt says:

        As a sorta segue — the prologue to ACOK deals with the attempt by Dragonstone’s maester to prevent the rise of the Red God –i listened to your boiled leather prophecy thing last night. I finid it interesting that the church of the Seven is the only major religion without some sort of verifiable miracle/magic associated in the books. You brought up the possibility of it being a false religion due to this distinction. I was just thinking about it, and I wondered if the Maesters might have something to do with that

        There’s a goodly amount of circumstantial evidence that they’re trying to keep magic out of Westeros and both the Citidel and the Starry Sept were in Oldtown. The Maesters could have been influencing the Church for thousands of years. Maybe they found was to wipe out the knowledge of how to invoke the Seven for magical effects as part of the Maester Conspiracy.

        How’s that for a crazy thought? I know that it’s almost certainly nonsense, but it I thought it was interesting nonsense.

        • Winnie says:

          Possibly, David. But there is still some spiritual value to the Faith of the Seven…not in the way its practiced by the High Sparrow, but both Davos and Sansa take great comfort in prayers to figures like the Mother and the Crone. And there’s so much Seven style imagery in the books, that I think it has to mean *something*.

        • It’s possible, but I don’t think we know enough to be sure. For example, the maesters only overpowered the alchemists within the last several centuries, and the Faith of the Seven is ~6,000 years old; we don’t know how long the maesters have exercised their current level of influence, whether they were always anti-magic or whether that was an outgrowth of the Dance of the Dragons, etc.

          • Lady Bird says:

            The scene where Catelyn prays in a simple sept before she sees Renly die seems to show some power of the seven. It almost reminds me of a vision quest scene. She’s sick with grief and hunger and opens her mind to the seven, even seeing Cersei as a mother. She prays for Bran’s protection (he is safe), for Arya & Sansa to have courage and to be guarded in their innocence (they both have great courage in their actions and both remain innocent virgins so far), for herself to have justice and the strength and wisdoms to use and see it (Lady Stoneheart is certainly seeking justice), and last for Robb to be kept strong and shielded in battle (he wins all his battles, too bad she didn’t pray to keep him safe at a wedding).

          • I dunno, it’s a bit abstract. How do you distinguish courage et al. from the gods from that which comes from within?

  15. JT says:

    I’m really excited for the next chapter (prologue of ACOK from Maester Cressen’s point of view). I think it’s some of the finest writing in the entire series – you get a great look into the back stories of Stannis and Renly (plus Davos, Selyse and Melisandre) and understand what makes Stannis tick. The characters (Stannis especially, but also Davos and Selyse) really jump off the pages and are very fully formed.

    • David Hunt says:

      I’d argue that what makes Stannis tick has changed a bit as the books have progressed. At the start of ACOK, he’s mostly concerned with taking the Iron Throne because it’s his Right. Getting into ASOS, he’s more concerned about taking the Throne, because it’s his Duty to the Kingdom. Of all the claimants to the Throne, as they currently exist, I think Stannis would make the best ruler. Unfortunately, I don’t think Stannis is going to survive the series. Whenever we get a view of him by another character, I get the impression that he’s been virtually used up creating the Shadow Assassins. I don’t think Mellissandre expects him tto actually survive saving the World to rule as King

      • I agree. It reminds me a lot about Dubois’ comment about Lincoln, that his best quality was his ability to change, to learn, and to grow:

        “Lincoln is to me the most human and lovable. And I love him not because he was perfect but because he was not and yet triumphed. The world is full of illegitimate children. The world is full of folk whose taste was educated in the gutter. The world is full of people born hating and despising their fellows. To these I love to say: See this man. He was one of you and yet he became Abraham Lincoln…

        But personally I revere him the more because up out of his contradictions and inconsistencies he fought his way to the pinnacles of earth and his fight was within as well as without. I care more for Lincoln’s great toe than for the whole body of the perfect George Washington, of spotless ancestry, who “never told a lie” and never did anything else interesting.

        No! I do not love evil as evil; I do not retail foul gossip about either the living or the dead; but I glory in that crucified humanity that can push itself up out of the mud of a miserable, dirty ancestry; who despite the clinging smirch of low tastes and shifty political methods, rose to be a great and good man and the noblest friend of the slave.”

        Stannis in the beginning of A Clash of Kings would make a terrible King. Stannis at the end of A Storm of Swords is the best candidate for the job.

        • Winnie says:

          Well said! I’m looking forward to the moment on the show, when Stannis really becomes a great leader-and the savior of the NW.

  16. Chris says:

    Congrats on finishing your analysis of GoT! Looking forward to ACOK. 🙂

  17. scarlett45 says:

    Thank you so much for yet another post. I will most certainly be buying your ebook. I can’t wait until you start ACOK!

  18. priddy says:

    Dear Steven,

    congratulations for finishing the book. I have enjoyed every chapter analysis.

    I hope you don’t mind, but I would like to know your thoughts on a subject that doesn’t have anything to do with the present chapter. You have written about the Varys/Illyrio conspiracy, but what do you think Illyrio has to gain from all of this? The motives that Varys gives to Kevan Lannister at the end of ADWD seem genuine (Why lie to a dead man). However, in the way that Martin has portrayed him so far, Illyrio doesn’t appear as an altruistic character, which would suggest that he wants to win something for himself by restoring the Targaryen dynasty in Westeros. The logical motives would be power and wealth, but Illyrio is already a powerful merchant in Pentos, who seems quite content with his life. So if there is some personal gain in this endavour, it has to be something only the king of Westeros can give him.
    Care to speculate?

    • Winnie says:

      There’s been speculation that Illyrio might have Blackfyre ancestry-that could play a role.

    • John says:

      Illyrio gets his son on the throne of Westeros.

    • Regardless of whether the Blackfyre theory is correct, Illyrio’s had the raising of Aegon from an early age. That offers an enormous amount of influence.

      Alternatively, this may be payback for his old friend/lover helping him ascend to the rank of Magister in the first place.

  19. Maddy says:

    Congrats! Can’t wait to see your thought on ACOK – maybe the most ‘political’ of the series so far.

  20. axrendale says:

    I have to add my voice to all the others saying ‘congratulations’, most heartily.

    This has been a truly monumental undertaking on your part, and it has been enriching to read and follow almost every step of the way.

    Kudos, and looking forward to your future writing!

  21. Abbey Battle says:

    Maester Steven, please accept my most fulsome and hearty compliments upon this concluding chapter of your analysis and the completion of ‘A Game of Thrones’ – I must confess that if I could write anything half as good as this, I would be twice as pleased with my own writing as I am at the moment!

    Please accept my best wishes and I hope that you enjoy the best of luck as you work through ‘A Clash of Kings’ and the succeeding volumes in the series.

  22. Abbey Battle says:

    If I might insert a post-scriptum; do you intend to factor ‘The Princess and the Queen’ into any future analysis or base any articles upon that entry in the series? (perhaps one comparing and contrasting Princess Rhaenyra with Daenarys Stormborn in terms of their struggle to climb the Iron Throne).

  23. williamrd says:

    Just a quick addition to the chorus. Since discovering your website (via LGM, actually), I have been reading (devouring) each chapter as it came. Something to keep me going while waiting for the next volume (What is the over/under on you catching up with GRRM?). You deserve a break, but please not for too long.

    • I will catch up…eventually.

      It took me 2 years to finish the first book, but OTHO I was also writing my dissertations which slowed me down (I didn’t write for 4 months straight, one time).

      So I don’t know what my writing speed will be like going forward – depends on what kind of job I land.

  24. Ivan T. W. says:

    I have to admit that these posts are some of my favorite reading on the internet. I’ll buy the eBook for sure, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the material. Been showing the show to my mother in law, and last night, in the early going of season 3, my wife leans over and asks me, “What does Attewell say the Unsullied are supposed to represent?” So you apparently have fans, or curious parties, even outside of this blog.

  25. Wat Barleycorn says:

    After speed-reading the Princess & the Queen, I’ve got this really crazy theory that being born on Dragonstone, not being born a Targaryen, is the key to bonding (and waking) dragons.

    When I was reading tP&tQ, I could not figure out what Rhaenyra was doing off on Dragonstone super-pregnant, while her father was dying and the question of who would succeed him was coming to a head. And all the Targaryens returning to Dragonstone to give birth? What kind of tradition is that? Heavily pregnant women don’t like to travel. And then I remembered Davos and the kindly man’s faceless men origin story to Arya and I was like, volcanic Dragonstone with its heated dungeons sure sounds a heck of a lot like the hot mines of Valyria…maybe those Targaryens are there for a very good reason. One they might not even be consciously aware of…

    It felt to me that the point of Nettles and her non-Valyrian appearance was to argue against Targaryen blood as dragon blood. The Targaryens, of course, want to perpetuate the myth that only they can control dragons–and they want to believe this myth, too! So they create the rationalization of dragonseeds.

    Overall, it just doesn’t feel consistent to me with the rest of GRRM’s writing challenging the tropes of high fantasy that “race of chosen people with magic blood” would be one he didn’t up-end. Or maybe he’s upending it and I’m just missing it.

    At the end of the day, I concede it’s an obviously crazy theory because the dragon needs three heads and the only other person who might have been born on Dragonstone is Shireen. I don’t see her as a dragonrider, and I don’t see Jon not being one (in spite of apparently being dead). But I still feel a need to voice it on the off-chance I’m right and can look like a genius in 2037 when A Dream of Spring finally comes out.

    • Winnie says:

      Actually, I’ve thought before that Shireen might be a dragonrider-she’s part Targaryen through her great-grandmother, and she did have a dream about a dragon coming for her. Shireen was frightened thinking the dragon wanted to eat her, but maybe she misunderstood its intentions.

      Also while its difficult to extrapolate from the show, they are portraying Shireen in a very likable and spunky light…and they have her reading about dragons…perhaps they’re setting something up?!?

      • S. Duff says:

        I think the third head of the dragon (if that is where we’re going) is Stannis. He’s got Targaeryen blood, and he deserves to be a dragon king more than anyone. My reasoning is based on how the dragons reacted to Dany trying to restrain them. Drogon flew off – just like Dany ran away from Meereen in aDwD. Viserion went quietly but dug himself into the walls – Jon went to the Watch willingly and entrenched himself there as LC. Rhaegal fought tooth and nail and burned Quentyn when he tried to tame him – Stannis keeps fighting for the throne no matter what and kills those try to stop him.

        It’s just as crazy a theory as the rest of them, though.

      • Roger says:

        Perhaps Melysande’s dream about “Dragon awakening from the stone” refered to Shireen and her “stone” (Greyscaled) face? 🙂

        • Lady Bird says:

          After reading the World book along with the P&Q I’m more convinced then ever that Tyrion is Aerys’s son and will be the 3rd dragon rider. All those Targs that had malformed babies some with tails (It was rumored Tyrion was born with one but Tywin had it cut off).

  26. Roger says:

    It’s been great having your well-thought articles every week

  27. Leee says:

    Interesting that you reference The Last Temptation of Christ, where Judas is Jesus’ most devoted disciple, and the former’s mix of love and betrayal maps onto Jorah pretty neatly. (Although Satan is the one who tempts Jesus to pursue another life — perhaps a further bit of foreshadowing for Jorah? Probably not, but an interesting thought to pursue.)

  28. Steve, congratulations on the journey! I rarely ever comment but I’ve been following thia blog since the very first post and you never dropped the ball! Looking forward to your book 🙂

  29. madsbrynnum says:

    I haven’t read this chapter in years, but I always figured that part of Dany’s sacrifice was herself. That she survived is not a proof that she didn’t make the sacrifice – much like in the story of Abraham.

  30. SpaceSquid says:

    Hurrah. Book one done. Excellent job all round, Doctor. Good luck in the job hunt. Getting hold of academic employment is a hideous, hideous business, but I wish you all the best with it.

  31. Scott Trotter says:

    One thing that always disappoints me about HBO is that even with their relative freedom to show what they like, they always shy away from any really challenging imagery. They show us plenty of unnecessary boobs and butts and fake blowjobs, but they won’t show the dragons nursing from Dany in this scene (hope they aren’t teething yet). Or when Tyrion comes to arrest Pycelle and he pisses all over himself and everyone else when Shagga comes at him with an axe. I’ll bet that would have people talking over the water cooler.

  32. […] As we’ll see repeated later, GRRM’s worldbuilding is moving very quickly here, as he strives to make the culture of Qarth come to life despite the short time he has to spend here, hammering on similar themes until they take on the status of cultural commonalities. As with Volantis, there is a strong emphasis on ostentation and opulence – everything in Qarth is huge and made out of multiple precious – but there’s  an unpleasant aftertaste of an unhealthy fixation with past glories that are fading. Here, the ostentation of the Pureborn’s chairs is all about competitive display (it’s a room with a thousand thrones because each of the Pureborn refuse to recognize anyone else being more important than themselves), with no one really taking pleasure in the things themselves, or indeed in what should be an awe-inspiring sight. […]

  33. […] among the fandom is that the first fire references the bonfire Dany set to birth the dragons. Again, a bit self-explanatory, and it’s not really surprising that it was included in this […]

  34. […] is a bold statement that not only is Daenerys Targaryen a Dothraki but a khal. (Another moment of flipping gender-signalling that might foreshadow how she relates with the horselords in TWOW) And if Dany has given up on a […]

  35. […] have privileged the King’s Landing/Battle of Blackwater arc) or with Dany (as was the case in AGOT), or with Arya who began the novel, but with […]

  36. […] blood has any kind of power, so this is entirely new to us. (Although maybe Mirri Maz Duur being burned in the pyre?) Being ecumenical about it seems to be part of the purpose – hence the Seven, R’hllor, […]

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