Guest Post at Tower of the Hand: Laboratory of Politics, Part VI: Civil War and Reconstruction in Slaver’s Bay

And it’s finally here! The final essay in the Laboratory of Politics series, this time re-assessing the city-states of Astapor, Yunkai, and Meereen, and Daenerys’ crusade against slavery.

As stated before, this essay is the last published essay that will appear in Analyzing a World of Ice and Fire: Kings, Hands, and City-States,” a forthcoming collection of my Tower of the Hand essay series on the politics of the Westerosi monarchy, the politics of the various Hands of the King, and the politics of the many city-states of Essos. “Analyzing” also includes two brand-new, never-before seen essays on the King on the Iron Throne and the Hand of the King. And for the first time, this Race for the Iron Throne book will be an actual physical, printed and bound book!


138 thoughts on “Guest Post at Tower of the Hand: Laboratory of Politics, Part VI: Civil War and Reconstruction in Slaver’s Bay

  1. KrimzonStriker says:

    Great work as always, and points I’d argued on the fandom boards on multiple occasions in years past as people tried to judge this based on modern day parallels, that peace and compromise were the wrong solution for Slavers Bay where two diametrically opposing institutions simply could not coexist, and that the total dissolution of the old order, an old order by any measurable that was not worth preserving, was necessary before Dany could truly rebuild. I felt the same way after reading about American Reconstruction, and its political consequences persisted well after it was over and even into the present.

    That said I’d like to make one caveat. I wouldn’t say that Dany’s failed YET, between Barritstan’s actions, snippets from TWoW, and Dany running into her old Khal I feel that her revolution may have only just begun and that she has at least learned her lesson. And woah be on those who fail to to recognize it.

    • Grant says:

      Maybe not, but she’s suffered through a lot of setbacks and stumbling points that allowed her enemies to reestablish themselves. And though it’s not very likely to appear in the story, her system has a serious flaw. A lot of her power is centered around her. If she died would all of her leading supporters continue to focus on her political agenda? Some might, but others like Barristan might just let their talents be wasted.

      • KrimzonStriker says:

        Life is all about suffering setbacks and stumbling points, learning as we go along. Some we may never recover from, but from those we do we can emerge stronger and wiser and do better by them. If that is what Dany learns then ultimately it will be worth it. On the one hand you have a point about how much power is centered on her right now, on the other hand we DO get to see her followers in action without her in a microcosm moment, Many and more believe she is dead after going off with Drogon or at least have their doubts/fears if she still lives in any event. As such they only have her memory and what they think her agenda is to carry forward. For now at least Barristan and the others are still being proactive about it and actually doing what Dany herself should have done from the outset. That says something at least as to whether this movement can survive after she’s gone, so let’s wait and see if it will last. .

    • Thanks! Glad you liked it.

      And I agree; the final outcome in Slaver’s Bay is unknown.

      • Brett says:

        Victarion’s fleet seemed to be about to hit Mereen’s enemies in that TWoW Tyrion chapter, so I suspect it won’t be good. Having their forces and some of their elite slaughtered might weaken the hold of the Masters in Yunkai and New Ghis enough for slave revolts to topple them.

        I assume Victarion has something appropriately horrifying to do to anyone he captures in the coming battle.

  2. g2-8d5bfb486491c668d925e122ccdb2bc9 says:

    I am instantly suspicious of your article, as it fits my own biases too completely. Including the shout out to TNC.

  3. artihcus022 says:

    Interesting on the whole. But vis a vis meereenese blot what about the argument that the slaver’s bay arc is about dany deciding she favors violence over peace? That she will embrace her dragon heritage and get things done.

    And who, according to you, poisoned the locusts?

    • I think Dany deciding violence over peace is part of it, and it’s certainly why Dany will reject Aegon’s offer of alliance in favor of a dance of the dragons. However, I think what I’m trying to get at here is that a straightforward peace=good, violence=bad misses the context of power dynamics that can make peace bad and violent upheaval good.

      And honestly, I’m not convinced that Hizdahr/the Sons didn’t poison the locusts. Consider the following:

      1. Belwas started showing symptoms because he was wolfing them down by the handful. I think had Dany eaten “a few,” as Hizdahr suggests, the effect would have been much more natural and gradual.

      2. While it’s true that the peace has given the Sons most of what they want, it still leaves Dany in charge. If Dany marries Hizdahr and then dies of natural causes, Hizdahr can gradually assume sole power without anyone being the wiser, and get the Sons ALL of what they want.

      3. “when we’ve seen poison strategically deployed in this series, the poisoner has always lined up a patsy” – this isn’t true. Oberyn, the wineseller, Cressen, etc. There’s plenty of cases in which there is no patsy. If the poison would have worked gradually, no patsy is needed because enough time would have passed to separate out what she ate from what happened to her.

      • KrimzonStriker says:

        Sorry to butt in but this talk about Aegon has had me wondering for awhile. I personally don’t think Dany will marry him either, though that’ll be because Arianne will likely work her way into the mix I feel. But I wanted your opinion on the whole Blackfyre conspiracy theory. Cause while it sounds good on the surface, when I dig into the details too many things don’t make sense to me. Mostly cause, what’s the point? Hiding it from the Golden Company who were originally formed to put a Blackfyre on the throne? As a way to persuade Dany, whose house is in exile alongside theirs so the mutual benefits of joining together still exists regardless? To convince Westeros when Aegon’s identity was ALWAYS going to be under dispute and divisive regardless if he was a Targaryean or Blackfyre? And when the risk if the false-hood is discovered is so high? I also have doubts that he’s just a commoner, as well, because of the attempted marriage with Dany and to claim a dragon on his part. The blood of the dragon, noble blood and not just the cosmetics of valyrian features, is almost hammered in as a prerequisite to tame them and even then the risk of being killed is extremely high, something I don’t see Illyrio or Varys willing to consent too, much less actively plan for, if they thought Aegon had no chance at all of making it happen.

        • Well, I think there’s a double-swap that happened. (

          And keep in mind, Blackfyres are Targaryens, genetically, from both the male and female line.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            And why I tend to veer away from Aegon at least being a common born boy because of those genetics. I do feel Varys did try/want Rhaegar to take over though, but by and large it seems Rhaegar was very reluctant to do so. So to me Varys was simply trying to provoke Rhaegar into it by piting Aerys against him until that all went to hell with Lyanna. There were still 4 years or so in between Duskendale and when Aegon was born with all the rumors of conspiracy being whispered in the mean time. Your theory works mildly better, because part of me is still asking about the point of the deception now that House Targaryean is just as exiled/vilified as the Blackfyres. There’s no political advantage to putting this charade up in my mind versus the risk of discovery. Even the succession laws work in Aegon’ s favor under that circumstance with Viserys gone, as he’d still be the only known male descendant stemming directly from House Targaryean even if it is a cadet branch. Admittedly you’ve probably provided the only logical reason for doing it, to trick Varys on Illyrios part, because in your theory he’d be the only obstacle to just installing him as a Blackfyre straight up. Otherwise it gets too convoluted and redundant in my view. A double switch though… I need more evidence that Illyrio and Varys are that far apart in the conspiracy for me to commit, they’ve been joined at the hip for decades.

      • Space Oddity says:

        Joining in on the Shavepate defense–the problem with the Blot’s conspiracy theories involving the man–well, one of the problems–is that it all seems to presuppose a lot of Littlefinger/Varys level genius scheming going on. Whereas I’d say what we see in Mereen suggests the Harpy and her followers–and yes, it’s almost certainly the Green Grace–aren’t really THAT bright, when you get down to it, just vicious and self-righteous scumbags willing to aim low and exploit kindness, while telling themselves how clever and bwave this proves they are. Their plottings seem obvious and short-sighted because they generally ARE–the Green Grace clearly doesn’t realize, for example, that their “alies” outside the wall might still think plundering Mereen is a good idea even if her cousin is now the “king”, partially because after Astapor, some of them have acquired a taste for that sort of thing.

        • I think that’s a good point – there’s a lot more sloppy, short-sighted conspiracies than genius conspiracies in ASOIAF.

          • There’s also the simple fact that if it were the Shavepate trying to fake an assassination to get Dany into a vengeance mode, poison is pretty risky.

            With poison it might actually work and then you’ve got Hizdar in charge (which, is effectively what happens anyway). If the Shavepate wanted to fake an assassination to force Dany’s hand, the best route would be to get some inept wannabe SotH to leap at her from a crowd, he’d be quickly dispatched by any number of the elite warriors at her side, thus creating a scare without her ever actually being at risk.

          • Space Oddity says:

            Yep. To my mind, the two theories seem to run a)–Shavepate, who demonstrates throughout that he’s one of the smarter Ghiscari, decides to attempt the most convoluted intentionally failed assassination attempts of all time, “because”, or b) Hizdhar, a man who regularly demonstrates he’s the Green Grace’s boy toy who’s wandered way out of his depth with these political shenanigans, blundered his job in the hit, and wound up painting a trail to himself that said ‘In on the assassination attempt’ to anybody who cared to look at it because he’s.. the Green Grace’s boy toy who’s wandered way out of his depth with these political shenanigans.

          • A good point Anders. If I was the Shavepate and disloyal to Dany, why not fake attacks by the Sons of the Harpy and break the peace before the marriage?

          • Thank you! And if we combine comments/observations made by various people; the argument is basically that the Shavepate is smart enough to engineer an assassination that will completely deflect all suspicions away from him…yet he’s dumb enough to choose a strategy which is ill timed (post wedding), very difficult to control (poison that could be consumed by anyone, or no one), and even if it succeeded would garner little benefit to the Shavepate’s goals (Hizdahr would be in charge with no moderating Dany).Huh?

            Versus, the theory of Hizdahr being the organizer which amounts to getting your new wife to have a bit of a snack and just make sure you don’t have any. THAT”S IT! From that side, it’s actually a fiendishly simple assassination plan.

      • David says:

        Have been waiting for this essay ever since I followed up with David Blight’s Civil War & Reconstruction at your recommendation, Steven. Entirely worth the wait.

        One point on which I remain confused: why does there seem to be such a consensus within the scholarly fandom that Dany & FAegon will come to blows so quickly? The narrative that Tyrion gives FAegon over the cyvasse table (i.e. that Dany is a rescuer, that she would react positively to news that Rhaegar’s son is still alive) seemed rather persuasive to me.

        I could easily see *future* friction between them, particularly if FAegon’s personal approach to Dany or general approach to policymaking doesn’t align with her agency as an empowered queen with a human-rights focus. But I’m not clear how “Rhaegar’s son is still alive” is supposed to directly translate in Dany’s mind to “he’s a threat to my claim and must be removed.” She’s not Rhaenyra; marrying FAegon and co-ruling with him is a viable solution to the inheritance problem.

        A repeat of the Dance of the Dragons would be tragic insofar as all wars are tragic. FAegon dying of grayscale, inflicted by the very man sworn to put him on the Iron Throne as a service to the memory of the prince he loved, is *personally* tragic, and that suggests a more compelling story to me.

        • There’s a couple things:

          1. We have prophecy of a second Dance of the Dragons.
          2. Dany’s prophecy of the mummer’s dragon and the slayer of lies.
          3. Dany’s increasing militancy at the end of ADWD.
          4. Also, remember Tyrion is lying to Aegon, trying to disrupt Illyrio’s plans.

          • Andrew says:

            Also, GRRM himself said there would be a second Dance of Dragons.

          • David says:

            I’ll grant 1-3, though I think these speak more to “*will* Dany & FAegon fight?” and less to “*why* will Dany & FAegon fight, when their initial stances would seem to point them towards an alliance?” (I’m generally on board with “Quaithe & Barth are right about everything eventually” school of analysis.)

            #4 makes me side-eye a little bit, though. I buy that Tyrion isn’t committed to Varys/Illyrio, but “out for his own ends” =/= “actively trying to derail their plans.” If Tyrion is trying to throw FAegon & Co. under the bus, why does he hope JonCon recognizes the threat posed by Benerro’s one-true-Targaryen prophecy?

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            That fourth point has me a little confused. Manipulate for his own ends maybe on Tyrion’ s part, but outright disrupt/sabatoge seems a bit much. At that moment Tyrion was attached to Aegon and company, if he hadn’t gotten taken by Jorah Tyrion would have gone with the rest of the Golden Company instead. Plus I got the impression Tyrion does like the boy.

          • Grant says:

            I’m sure that the prophecy will play out somehow, but I caution against trying to read too much into it because by narrative design* prophecies tend to be tricky things and with the ASOIAF ones we see a lot of people certain of how the story will turn out even though they’re drawing different conclusions from others.

            This is just me personally, I know that I’m not the most thorough fan of the books or the most incisive on what Martin’s said, but I try to look at the situation without the prophecies and then as an addition, view the situation through the different possible interpretations. I imagine that at least one or two of them are right, but which ones I’m not sure.

            *And that’s something with a long tradition going back at least thousands of years to the Greeks.

          • So here’s my thinking about Tyrion – I think Tyrion’s still a bit muddled and self-destructive at this point, and he doesn’t like Illyrio at all. So I think what he does to prevent Aegon from linking up with Dany is meant to undermine Illyrio.

            I’ll get into this more with ADWD, but had Aegon kept marching east, I think he would have been in a good position to lift the siege before Dany is married to anyone. And unlike Quentyn, Aegon’s got a lot more dragonblood in him, and is likely to succeed where Quentyn failed in bonding a dragon.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            Tyrion doesn’t like Illyrio, but as I said he DOES seem to genuinely like Aegon from what I can tell, he put his life on the line to save him didn’t he? As I pointed out Tyrion’s advice at that time would have also sent him to Westeros as well had it not been for Jorah, so I can’t see him actively SABOTAGING the plan even as he tries to modify it. As for the march, the reasons for why it wasn’t ever going to to happen were pretty evident, Plus Hizdar was already married to Dany who then proceeded to fly away. Very complicated tangle to unweave while she isn’t even there, who knows how Dany’s followers would have reacted to it, much less her. I’m still not convinced Dany, no matter what she says, will ever claim the Iron Throne. She might return to Westeros but her effect in Essos lends me to think she’ll stay there to see her emancipation process through.

        • Grant says:

          I’d say that really we can’t predict what interaction Dany and Aegon will have at this time. There’s too much unknown about what will happen to them in the next book, what resources they’ll have, what positions they’ll be in (not like that!), what they’ll need to acquire and whether or not Aegon is even genuine.

          As for Tyrion, he seems to suggest later on in his thoughts that it was bait to make Aegon make a move, even though in my opinion Tyrion did make at least some good arguments* for why Aegon should risk it.

          *Though the one about why Dany would come to Westeros to save Aegon was in my opinion the weakest, whether Tyrion knew it or not.

      • Andrew says:

        2. If they wanted to poison her, I doubt they would have done it in front of everyone at Daznak’s Pit. Dany dies by poison in public that would cause an uproar in Meereen among Dany’s supporters who make up the majority of Meereen and still control the Unsullied. If they wanted to poison her, they would have at least waited until she was alone in the Great Pyramid away from public eyes, and then say she became ill or something like that.

        3. Except the wineseller gave Dany the wine himself, saying he had a special vintage for her, and there was no one who could have predicted she would visit that stand. We saw Cressen try to poison Melisandre in his own POV, so that is made clear. However, in poisoning cases where it isn’t clear who poisoned the figure in question, the first ones blamed are a patsies. One shouldn’t make the mistake of assuming there are only two factions at royal court: pro-Dany and anti-Dany. The conflict in AGoT in KL seemed like Stark vs Lannister, when there were also the factions of Varys, Olenna and Littlefinger with their own agendas. The Shavepate would have been working towards his own ends. He was losing his new-gained power under Hizdahr, and he is most likely out for his own advancement. The locusts seem like an act of desperation. Had she been poisoned in public, he would blame it on the Great and Wise Masters, and likely rally her supporters to attack the Yunkai’i and the Great Masters.

        • 2. That assumes the poisoning is instant. I don’t think it was intended to be, because you’re not supposed to eat huge fistfuls of the things. If Dany gets sick and dies over a period of weeks, no uproar.

          3. Killing Dany doesn’t necessarily get Shavepate any power – in fact, it removes the only check on the guy who absolutely hates him.

          • Andrew says:

            2. Maybe, but it could also have been intended for Hizdahr as well.

            3. Not if exactly right after she dies he says Hizdhar and the Harpy did it. The Unsullied and Dany’s supporters would be absolutely convinced, and wanting to avenge her. He would kill off the Wise Masters in Meereen, and then attack the leaderless Yunkish camps outside Meereen.

          • 2. It could be. But Hizdahr could have also Mithridates himself. And there’s the fact that he offers the wasps to her with such intensity.

            3. By that point, it’s weeks and months later. It’s possible by that point the Volantenes have already sacked the city.

          • Andrew says:

            2. I highly doubt it. If he wanted to poison her, I think he would have learned what her favorite foods are and kept it in the box to guarantee that she eats it. The idea he did it screams red herring to me. It goes against GRRM’s style of toying with expectations.

            3. Not if he expected it to kill her (and possibly Hizdhar) much more quickly than that. I don’t know if he knows poisons or how much she would eat. It sounds clumsy.

          • 2. Not every poisoning can work that way – sometimes, you need a food that can mask a particular taste or odor.

            3. But the same logic that cuts against it being Hizdahr cuts against it being Shavepate – there’s no way for either of them to know for sure whether she’d eat the locusts. But if the issue is how much, I think that points back to the few vs. handful thing – if the poison’s dosage is based on just a few handfuls, that would explain why Belwas has an instant reaction.

          • Space Oddity says:

            And again–it’s assuming the Harpies are master plotters, when from what we see, the Green Grace and Hizdhar apparently think that their ‘Put us in power, and we’ll bring all the good old days back, step by step, only our family will possess absolute authority now,” plan is going to keep running indefinitely once Dany’s out of the picture, when it turns out they can’t even control their fellow slaver allies from outside the city. I suspect that “King” Hizdhar’s rule was going to hit a lot internal road bumps in the near future even if Shavepate and Barristan hadn’t arrested him.

          • In this whole debate over “Who Poisoned the Locusts?”, I understand the idea that the Shavepate may have ulterior motives and could conceivably choose a sacrifices-for-the-greater-good mindset.

            But I just don’t get the argument that Hizdahr is an honest negotiator. Every argument he makes towards conciliation involves his allies moderating their physical violence if Dany’s allies moderate their No Slavery Policy. “I hate this street violence as much as anyone else, but maybe if you let my buddies own just a couple of slaves, they wouldn’t feel compelled to murder. Can’t we meet halfway?”

          • Allenips says:

            I agree that the dose of poison, or just the poison in the locusts, would likely be intended to subtly kill in SMALL doses. If Dany or Belwas had only had a few then the poison wouldn’t irritate their digestive system and would slowly kill them and likely make them look as if they’ve come down with an illness, heck the Pale Mare. BUT, because Belwas ate the whole bowl of locusts, and therefore took too large of a dose, his body had an immediate reaction to reject the poison, which besides his immense size, saved him from dying. There. Done. It was Hizdahr zo Lorraq, who had the weak defense of its dishonorable to do such a thing, hence he didn’t do it.

          • That’s my thinking.

          • Andrew says:

            2. Hizdahr is too obvious, and the impression is that it is him and the Harpy which goes the opposite way of what GRRM usually does. He builds impressions to pull the rug out from under the reader, exmaples include the impression of : Ned going to be spared, Oberyn having won the trial by combat after spearing Gregor, the Battle of the Blackwater was going to be lost for the Lannisters, Jon being Ned’s son, Aegon being Rhaegar’s son, Jaime killed Aerys simply to aid his father’s victory, and Arya was killed in her last POV in AGoT. If the impression is that it is Hizdahr, then he is likely innocent.

            3. It still doesn’t rule out the Shavepate. He had few channels, and this poisoning attempt looked desperate. Either way the Shavepate could put it on the slavers. We must remember this is a multi-party atmosphere.

          • Space Oddity says:

            2. No, that is simply not true. Sometimes, Martin does make it the obvious one. Hell, the “twist” in this case would be that GiGi is our evil mastermind, and Hizdahr is her out of his depths himbo puppet. Which has essentially become the R+L=J of Dance of Dragons.

            3. So, Shavepate is so desperate that he MUST resort… to what would be an expensive attempt that would require a great deal of effort on his part, with no guarantee of getting him what he wanted, and a good chance of backfiring, and he can’t simply hire some down-on-his luck Ghis to pick up a sword, charge at Dany while claiming to be a Son of the Harpy, and then hastily dispose of him, because…

            Well, because.

            As I note, the Shavepate conspiracy theories are one of the Blot’s many weak points…

          • Andrew says:

            2. Alright Space Oddity, name to me when it actually was the obvious one in a “murder mystery” in the series. So far, the first people accused in the poisoning of Jon Arryn and Joffrey are actually innocent. GRRM has a habit of intentionally misleading readers. The problem with your theory is that the reader already suspects Hizdahr has ties to the Harpy and is led to believe he is involved with the poisoning. Besides, there is the element of irony that GRRM uses often, in that Barristan ends up leading a coup against his king, an innocent man, on behalf of the real poisoner much like Robert ends up killing an innocent man and Lyanna’s husband, Rhaegar, along with Ned killing men who were only trying to protect his nephew, and were kept at the Tower of Joy to protect Lyanna.

            3. Not so, the Shavepate had something to lose with Hizdahr coming to power. He was low on options, and need I bring up Bowen Marsh with regards to Jon’s assassination attempt that looked desperate. He needed to do it in a way that couldn’t be led back to him. It is convenient that he knows so much about the attempt. The Brazen Beasts were also guarding Dany’s box. I think the mistake you and Steven are making is separating the people of Meereen into two groups: pro-Dany and anti-Dany. The reader wouldn’t suspect the Shavepate, and GRRM has a habit of misleading readers.

          • Meereenese Liberation Front says:

            But, Andrew, your argument relies exclusively on some metatextual speculation, and that’s always extremely hard to discuss. It’s like watching a whodunnit-series on TV and, after half the episode, you’re sure of who the murderer is just because he’s the only guy who hasn’t been suspected yet. It might work for CSI, but it’s not really helpful when trying to analyze the internal logic of a story.

            So, yeah, GRRM loves a twist, so maybe Hizdahr really didn’t poison the locusts, and it could have been anyone, from GiGi and Reznak (beware … and so on) to Hazzea’s father or Random Meereenese Noble Nr. 13. But GRRM also loves consistent story-telling, and that’s what a lot of fan-theories tend to overlook (R+L can’t equal J because that’s so … obvious!). Shavepate as Meereen’s very own Petyr Baelish, who, with the counterrevolution at the doorstep, tries to take out the Mother of Dragons because, hey, he’s an evil genius and might just climb some ladders amidst the chaos, doesn’t really make sense to me. And, since you’re asking for examples “when it actually was the obvious one in a ‘murder mystery’ in the series” – what about Robert’s death? Everybody suspected Cersei had a hand in it, and lo and behold!, Cersei did indeed have a hand in it. And if anything, she’s still more clever than Hizdahr.

          • Andrew says:

            Not saying the Shavepate being an evil genius, that is a straw man argument. R+L=J doesn’t fit in this analogy since no one explicitly says Jon is Rhaegar and Lyanna’s son. Robert’s death is not a good example given it was a boar that killed Robert not poison.

          • It killed him due to being drugged.

        • David Hunt says:

          I’ve got another argument for the “it was Hizdahr” view. I’ve read above people saying that he could have poisoned her in the pyramid, but I think that’s precisely wrong. Dany has a vast amount more control over the daily running of the pyramid than her husband. She’s almost certainly got her own cooks that came with her who know how to prepare dishes from beyond Slavers’ Bay that she likes. I’d also be surprised if she hadn’t gone out of her way to fill staff vacancies with freed men and women likely to be loyal to the Breaker of Chains. Hizdahr may have control over who’s preparing his own food, but getting poison into her’s is likely a very risky proposition. However, he owns the fighting pit and orchestrated virtually everything that was happening there. It may have been his best opportunity to get her short of trying to strangle her when they’re in bed. And he wouldn’t survive that act by even a full day. Dany’s followers might fall apart into factions if it were confirmed that she was dead, but only after wreaking bloody vengeance on her killer.

          Hizdahr, in the Fighting Pit, with the locusts.

  4. Space Oddity says:

    Which is why those of us who don’t like the Mereenese Blot theory REALLY don’t like it at all–it involves, among other things, turning a bunch of scummy villains who kill women for not losing court cases into guys who have a point, and insisting that the guy who keeps saying that the crimes of this guilty land can only be washed out in blood into the REAL evil mastermind.

    And I’ll add most of us are way too familiar with the last one, so it really galls.

    • This.

      To be certain, the Shavepate is not Dr. King. And there is evidence that some innocent bystanders have been caught in the crossfire. No argument can excuse that.

      But, at the same time, no one can argue that the SotH are coming from some moral high ground. And whatever debates we can have about the methods of the Shavepate and his Brazen Beasts, ideologically they are 100% anti-slavery.

      Two sides. Both using violence, but one pro-slavery the other anti-slavery. You nicely utilized a John Brown quote, here’s another in a similar vein: “Our objective is complete freedom, justice and equality by any means necessary.”

    • Space Oddity says:

      I used the John Brown quote for a reason–Shavepate maybe Longstreet–or just a lesser scalawag–in background, but in GRR Martin’s historical mix’n’match, he seems more like a John Brown in ideology. Reading his comments on the great families, and yeah, there’s a dose of class envy there–but there’s a lot of genuine outrage that just gives the impression of a man who, from his point of view, has had to choke down sewage most of his life, and now sees a chance to break through to the surface.

    • John Brown is a good analogy. Let’s be clear, the Shavepate is not a good person. He’s a torturer and a murderer consumed with resentment. But he’s also someone who’s genuinely opposed to slavery, opposed to the Old Masters, and who is on the side of the freedmen, although in a self-interested way.

      Revolutionaries are rarely innocents. But that doesn’t make revolutions unnecessary or immoral.

      • MightyIsobel says:

        While Daenerys as a public figure resembles Father Abraham for the freedmen, her political vision is basically John Brown’s, without all that written constitution stuff he worked out in advance.

      • Iñigo says:

        He is genuinely opposed to the masters, but I haven’t read anywhere that he is comepletely against slavery.

        • David Hunt says:

          The Shavepate is Dany’s most loyal Meereenese follower. He’s thrown in with her so totally that he has no fallback position if she goes down. So whether he personally opposed slavery before, he’s totally against it because that’s Dany’s policy.

        • I think if you’re going for a wholesale rejection of the Great Master’s culture, slavery is so integral to that that you have to. Also, half of his men are freedmen who would face re-enslavement.

  5. Carolyn says:

    I really liked your post at the tower of the hand. I just wanted to add one point:

    I think that a major reason why peace between Dany and the Yunkaii was impossible was Dany’s inconsistent and for outsiders probably erratic behaviour during her whole campaign.
    One of Dany’s major mistakes in the whole Slaver’s Bay campaign is that she acts completely different in similar situations. Let’s look for instance at the way she treated the three cities she defeated:

    -in Astapor she killed all tokar-wearing males aged 12 and older and therefore wiped out the whole ruling class of Astapor (not just the 6 Masters creating the Unsullied or the 100 slave-traders, but since it is stated in the books that the walls were red with blood (or something like that) when she left, probably even some freedmen got killed.
    Then she left three men in charge, took all the Unsullied and left never to return.

    -in Yunkaii she just ordered the Masters to let the slaves leave, but the whole power-structure and the vast majority of the wealth of Yunkaii was still intact. Seeing that Victarion Greyjoy intercepts a shipment of pleasure slaves on his way to Meereen the Masters of Yunkaii were able to go to business as usual pretty quickly.

    -in Meereen she kills 163 Masters and frees the slaves, but leaves the wealth of the Masters intact and even marries a Master in the end.

    If I were a member of the ruling class of Yunkaii, I would be quite worried, because I would not know, what Dany’s goals or her next steps were, since she has not shown a consistent approach to the Masters of the different cities and even her record as a slavery-abolitionist is quite sketchy. IMO Dany is utterly unpredictable for every political actor in Slaver’s Bay.

    Dany also has dragons, which are the equivalent to WMDs in Planetos. Since the dragons are getting stronger with time, the threat these animals pose will get bigger.

    Finally, Dany has a really bad record when it comes to upholding treaties, deals etc.
    It starts when she attacks the Masters in Astapor after they have sold her their whole army. Then it goes on in Yunkaii, when her dragon sets the tokar of an envoy on fire (which is attributed to her since she had some measure of control over them) and then attacks during a cease-fire. In the eyes of the Yunkaii Dany’s credibility as a negotiator in good faith probably is close to zero, so every treaty they make with her has a really high chance of being broken.

    Combined we have a ruler who
    -has weapons of mass-destruction
    -is utterly unpredictable
    -can not be trusted to uphold her word

    IMO, the reluctance of the Yunkaii to make peace with Dany partly stems from Dany’s own behaviour.

    • Grant says:

      Her ambivalence probably does hurt her cause, but I think it’s more the fact that she hurt them enough to make them hate her but not enough to destroy their power.

      And before the accusations of bias against Dany fly, I really would like to see her character end the series in firm control of the region and with slavery gone. It’s just that many lives would have been saved and the situation far less dangerous if she’d gotten that crash course in politics before she had the dragons and army.

    • Space Oddity says:

      Yeah. Or–and here’s just a crazy thought–all that stuff the Yunkaish say is just self-justifying bullshit that they use to blacken her name, which, while it may have a portion of the truth mixed in, has next to nothing to do with why they’re waging a war against a woman who’s decided their sick and twisted slave industry has got to stop.

      Again, just a crazy thought.

    • KrimzonStriker says:

      I have little faith tht Yunkai ever wanted to make peace. They hated/wanted revenge against Dany and feared the example she was setting as much as her dragons. It isn’t just Dany personally, it’s simply a fundamental difference in ideology that cannot coexist within the same sphere. Consider that despite the marriage with Hizdar they still had their armies out and guaranteed their mercenaries loot eventually. Dany’s only real mistake was not destroying them completely, otherwise she’d compromise her core principles and make her unacceptable to her own followers/power base in the process.

      • Carolyn says:

        I actually think it is an interesting question, whether the Yunkaii would have left Dany alone, if Dany had told them they could do as they please in Yunkaii and they had trust her word on it.

        By the time the Yunkaii went to her to negotiate in ADWD their peace offering was a sham, since
        -they did everything they could to enrage Dany (slave-market directly outside of Meereen)
        -they had already promised the riches of Meereen to the Volantene.

        But by that time Dany had already
        -“stolen” her army from the Astapori (at least that’s what all slave-masters would think about it)
        -attacked during a cease-fire
        -attacked an envoy

        The Yunkaii are not a militaristic society like for instance Westeros. They know that they have no idea of warfare and that their own armies are a joke. Furthermore they know that sellsword-companies (at least all companies sans the Golden Company) are notoriously unreliable and shift the first time they think their adversary has a higher chance of winning. They also know, that Dany’s dragons can do a lot of damage in battle (Astapor). Additionally, bringing foreign power to SB (New Ghis, Volantis, etc. ) also endangers them, since these powers could attack Yunkaii in order to get more loot.

        IMO, the Yunkaii (and all slave-masters of SB) are cravens deep in their heart. I think there was a real chance that the peace could have worked if the Yunkaii had been confident in Dany’s sincerity.

        • The fact that the Yunkai re-militarized the moment Dany left suggests there wasn’t.

          • Carolyn says:

            True, but by that time Dany had already done those things that made her an untrustworthy opponent (stealing the Unsullied in Astapor, attacking during a cease-fire, her dragon setting the tokar of an envoy on fire)

        • KrimzonStriker says:

          The only way they COULD be confident in Dany’s sincerity is if she had re-instituted slavery though. You’re right, they are craven, but there fear comes from what Dany represents as much as her own person. Even if Dany abided by the peace you have only to look at Volantis to see the effect she’s having, and her example is right next door in this instance. If they ever hoped to reestablish the slaving economy they couldn’t do it with an emancipator right next door, Even if it wasn’t today it would have come to blows eventually. Pentos learned that the hard way with Braavos. And unlike Pentos they don’t have the carrying trade to make up for it even with indentured servants which is more of a domestic economic matter then anything on their part, not the export market as it is for slavers bay.

          • Carolyn says:

            But Pentos did not abolish slavery, because the Pentoshi slaves revolted because they had a city without slavery in the neighbourhood. Pentos abolished slavery because they lost a war against Braavos and abolishing slavery was one of the things the winner imposed on them. Additionally, this ban on slavery seem to be poorly supervised by the Pentoshi authorites. Look for instance at Magister Illyrio: Even Robert Baratheon knows, that this man has Unsullied as a household-guard, he gets a “fortune in slaves and horses” (Dany) from Drogo for brokering the marriage and his guests (Dany and Tyrion) see at a glance, that his workers are slaves and still he has no problem with Pentoshi authorities?
            To me, it rather seems that the Pentoshi are paying lip-service to the Braavosi, but do not really do anything to keep the slave-trade out of their city.

            Additionally, it is interesting to note how passive the slaves in SB and the Free Cities are: The slaves in Volantis are WAITING for Dany to free them despite being an overwhelming majority and the people in Astapor also are waiting for Dany to save them from Cleon and later the Yunkaii.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            But as I said, they don’t EXPORT slaves, that would be a clear violation that would destroy even the lip-service they pay to Braavos. They employ ‘indentured servants’ but once again all the examples show them for domestic services, exporting them and their contracts would be a clear violation. That’s not the reality/ same comparison with Yunkai and Slavers Bay who operate on an export slaving market more then anything.

            Well no, they did side with Cleon (mostly cause there wasn’t a choice) and it was Cleon that asked Dany for help. But in any event the slaves actual mentality is not what’s important in this equation, it’s the slavers themselves and in Volantis at least the tension and fear within their black walls is palpable, so imagine what must be hanging over Yunkai’s heads in that respect after being humiliated as they were. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not right now, the POSSIBILITY of it being true is all it would take to set those slaves off, whether it be Dany or something else, now that they know it’s possible. And the slave masters are only too well aware of that if Volantis is once again any judge, such that they need to crush Dany and show it isn’t possible anymore to their slave population. A slaving economy with that large a population disparity is built on a house of cards that WILL fall once the spark is set and when it does war and violence are inevitable. You either need to reinforce the system or abolish it completely, their is no middle ground for them to exist within the same sphere.

          • David Hunt says:


            Yes, the slaves of Volantis are waiting for Dany. Volantis has had a population that is highly majority slaves (80%?) for centuries and they’ve still managed to keep the social order intact. I don’t know what the precise measures they’ve got in place to prevent and/or put down slave revolts are, but I can guarantee that they’re there and ready to be put into action at a moment’s notice. Any society that has that ratio of slaves to free people lives in constant fear/vigilance of a slave revolt. The ones that aren’t ready for the revolution fall to it. The slaves are waiting for Dany, because they figure that’s when the revolt will have the best chance.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            David Hunter

            Except the Volantis built slavery TOO well into their society. If they weren’t so dependent on their slaves for even their military I might agree with you, like if they had the vigilance and separation of the Spartans with a sufficiently armed and trained group of freemen. But slavery weaves itself into every fundamental aspect of Volantis life and economy, they’re too dependent on slavery to be properly prepared against it. Thus in my mind what keeps the slaves down is merely the thought that they can’t succeed, not the reality.

    • That’s a good point. From the outside, Dany is rather terrifyingly unpredictable.

      • Carolyn says:

        I think Dany is not only unpredictable from the OUTSIDE, she also is unpredictable from the INSIDE, since she constantly changes her plans during her whole stay in Slaver’s Bay and never really decides, whether she wants to spend her life fighting slavery or trying to regain the throne of Westeros (for which she also lacks an heir and thanks to her alleged infertility has no means of providing).

        • KrimzonStriker says:

          As much as she’s done people still need to remember Dany is still a young girl, having grown in the shadow of an abusive household. If she’s indecisive then it’s only natural, experience will solve that should she survive.

          • Carolyn says:

            Then she should have realised that the Slaver’s Bay campaign was way over her head before she freed the Unsullied.
            The problem I have with Dany not realising what a major and difficult undertaking the fight against slavery in Slaver’s Bay would be, is that she had people as trusted advisers at that time who could have told her how difficult it would be, if she had asked them before sacking Astapor.
            Take for instance Jorah Mormont: Jorah has lived in the Free Cities for quite some time at the start of ASOS. He knows a lot about the slave-trade and where to buy and sell special slaves. This can be seen when he advises Dany to sell the Lhazareen boys into sexual slavery as they are a rare commodity at the moment and to buy Unsullied in Slaver’s Bay, as they are well-trained and will only rape and plunder if their commander tells them to do so.
            Having lived most of his time in exile in Volantis, the city with the biggest slave-population in the Free CIties, and having personal experience with Tyroshi slavers (he sold them some of his poachers), Jorah knows how the slave-trade connects different cities and different regions. If Dany had asked him, what would happen if she tried to eradicate the slave-trade in Slaver’s Bay, Jorah would have told her that since all slave-economies are inter-connected, she would face opposition from a lot of regional slaving-powers. The fact that she is surprised, when the forces of Quarth and New Ghis appear on her doorstep, tells me, that she did not ask him before her campaign in Slaver’s Bay.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            Jorah could have voiced up any time as well, she’s listened to his counsel on a number of occasions before and he’s always voiced his opinion when he felt it necessary. Before it didn’t matter, she wasn’t planning on settling in the region prior to Jorah’s exile anyway, the main plan was to gather the necessary resources to sail back to Westeros, any gathered slaving opposition would have only seen fire and ruin in their wake. Plus for all his hard-earned experience economics is not Jorah’s strong suit given how he got into trouble because of debt. Militarily it was never WAY over her head, her forces are superior in almost every aspect at the height of her power thanks to those same Unsullied she freed. None of the slaving powers have the army to stand against her beyond the fickle sell-swords, whose loyalty is tenuous as Yunkai learned and will learn again. Politically is where it gets bogged down as she tried to reform it on a cultural level with half-measures.

  6. Thank you thank you thank you.

    Maybe I won’t have to hear “peace is a pearl beyond price” given as evidence anymore. Reinstating slavery is not peace and Dany’s regime could never coexist with slavers nearby.

    • I’m already pulling quotes from a historical site, why not one more:
      “When a person places the proper value on freedom, there is nothing under the sun that he will not do to acquire that freedom. Whenever you hear a man saying he wants freedom, but in the next breath he is going to tell you what he won’t do to get it, or what he doesn’t believe in doing in order to get it, he doesn’t believe in freedom. A man who believes in freedom will do anything under the sun to acquire…or preserve his freedom.”

      • Grant says:

        I prefer to view politics of these things less in the morality and more in terms of what you desire along with what you realistically must do to get what you want and how realistic your desire is in the first place.

        Now with Dany that’s fortunately fairly simple. She’s made it clear that she seriously wants slavery gone and she’s willing to go to war for that. It’s also fortunate because we don’t have to insert 21st century morality in it, it’s already there (at least the view that slavery is unacceptable and should not be tolerated is there).

        So for Dany’s desire to end slavery in the city-states in her lifetime, she does have to go to war. Additionally, as the article nicely laid out, she can’t just go to a place, use force to tell the slaves they’re free and then march off. She needs to guarantee that force is available to keep her desired system intact and even if she’s forced to co-opt some of the old elite (something of a Thermidor if you will) she needs to foster a new elite while removing the power of the old to fight back.

    • Space Oddity says:

      Every time that duplicitous garbage speech gets an approving nod from a reader, the gate of hell opens.

      You know, reading this essay the Green Grace suddenly clicked to me. Yeah, she plays at being a wise priestess, but she really isn’t–hell, as Steven pointed out the Ghiscari don’t even worship their actual gods anymore, but a reconstructed version of said pantheon based on the echoes of myths thousands of years old. What the Green Grace is a fantasy universe transplanted aging Southern Belle, complete with the young gentleman cousin she’s probably schtupping on the side, all about fine manners, stately behavior and “the graces” creating a superficially pleasant woman who has no problem with seeing her “inferiors” ground into blood beneath her.

      But the Blot fans are certain she is wise and good. And that uppity Shavepate–he’s the bad guy!

      • I like the Tennessee Williams comparison.

        • Space Oddity says:

          Yeah, I tend to see Viviane Leigh in full Blanche Dubois mode in my head when I read her lines these days. Just try reading “Peace is a pearl without price” in that voice. The fit is eerie.

          And may I presume you share my suspicions that Galazza Galare’s relationship with Hizdhar is… less than wholesome?

          • They’re clearly working together. More than that…I need to re-read ADWD.

          • Space Oddity says:

            For me it’s Gigi’s overwhelming concern for her puppet’s safety, in a situation where most puppetmasters would be signing Hizdhar off as a loss. Which, as I’ve a filthy mind, leads me to suspect she’s tapping that, or close to it. (And yeah, she’s damned old, but as Hizdhar proves in DwD, he’s got no objections with using sex to advance himself.)

      • MightyIsobel says:

        “What the Green Grace is a fantasy universe transplanted aging Southern Belle, complete with the young gentleman cousin she’s probably schtupping on the side, all about fine manners, stately behavior and “the graces” creating a superficially pleasant woman who has no problem with seeing her “inferiors” ground into blood beneath her.”

        Wow, I like the way you think!

        • Space Oddity says:

          Thank you. I do try. (And frankly, even though I freely admit I could be wrong, her interest in Hizdahr seems a tad too proprietary to be healthy to my mind.)

  7. Brett says:

    That was an excellent essay. Do you think there was ever a possibility of major land reform and justice in the South post-war, or it was closed off even if Lincoln survived? From what I’ve read, it sounds like even the Republicans (including Lincoln) were not supporting “40 acres and a mule”, although the Freedman’s Bureau did distribute land (before being stopped by Johnson, naturally).

    I assume that Daenerys is going to come back that way, if only to get her dragons. Maybe she’ll slaughter what remains of the Yunkai, assuming the city doesn’t get toppled by a slave revolt after losing so much of its money and soldiers in the siege.

    • I think there was a possibility – after all, the Second Confiscation Act did pass, a lot of land was also taken for paying taxes, a Southern Homesteading Act did pass, etc. But you would have needed land to be given on easier terms (payment after first harvest, for example), and credit for acquiring seeds and tools, and you would have needed much better harvests than the South unfortunately got, a lot of which wiped out many of the freedmen who did get their hands on land.

      Had Lincoln survived, I think he would have moderated on land. Wholescale confiscations unlikely, but I think the Sea Islands and Davis Bend would have survived, and he probably would have been pro-Homesteading at the least. Johnson was the main problem.

    • OTL says:

      You’ve got to remember that this was at the peak of liberal economics were it was held that high taxes and/or confiscation of property were considered economically harmful and morally wrong.

      Remember that the only state ever established by slave rebellion (Haiti) HAD TO PAY COMPENSATION TO THEIR FORMER OWNERS IN FRANCE!!

  8. TheMyrishLensCrofters says:

    There is another aspect to Slaver’s Bay that is problematic. The area is not economically or strategically viable. Slaver’s Bay needs to be deslaved and depopulated to complete Dany’s revolution.

    Slavery drove the economy, the soil was known to be infertile, and trade and manufacturing would probably not make up for the loss of slavery. The remaining freedmen are doomed to impoverishment in this desolate region. Imagine if Saudi Arabia suddenly stopped producing oil.

    Secondly, without slavery, the slave cities cease to be useful to the Dothraki. The cities don’t have the walls of Qarth or the strength of the Free Cities. Weakened by division and turmoil, conquest and destruction would be inevitable for Slaver’s Bay.

    Conclusion: Freeing the slaves was not enough, they would also need to be resettled somewhere “safe”.

    • The soil isn’t infertile – there are large-scale farms up the river and along the hills that Daenerys liberates after the city. And olive trees apparently grow quite well.

      And the cities do have big walls. And many thousands of Unsullied.

      • Space Oddity says:

        Yep. Honestly, for all the Ghis nobles whine that ‘no, really, we’ve got to keep this beast going, because it’s all we’ve got’, we see plenty of hints that Slaver’s Bay could do well for itself on trade and industries that aren’t pure evil. But the slave trade business is easier, and in the short term, more lucrative.

        (In the long term–well, in the long term, the entire Dothraki/Slaver’s Bay system is one of your optimized predator situations where eventually something happens to mess it up–in this case it was a certain young woman with the blood of the dragon–and then the whole thing collapses on itself. Because as the smarter Ironborn could tell you–it never lasts, and when it ends, you are usually fucked.)

        • And one other thing I just thought of – if there’s a lot of copper in the hills, there may be concentrations of iron and gold. So mining might be another route, although it’ll take some investment to find the stuff and get the mines open.

          • Space Oddity says:

            One of the many things that I was thinking about. Everything we get quietly suggests that the Ghis are sitting on a small fortune of resources–and maybe even not a small fortune–if they’d just put in the elbow grease to try and get it. But that would be hard, and their super slave trade was easy. Until of course, it wasn’t.

      • zonaria says:

        Olive-growing areas tend to be rocky and arid, because the olive tree is one of the few economically useful plants that can tolerate the conditions. Agree with the rest of this discussion, though.

        • That’s true, but we’re told that “Your Grace has planted beans and grapes and wheat. Your Dothraki have harried the slaves from the hills and struck the shackles from their slaves. They are planting too, and will bringing their crops to Meereen to market.”

  9. Abbey Battle says:

    To those who for some ill-considered reason defend the right of the New Ghiscari to defend slavery as an integral part of their cultural inheritance I can only repeat here the words of the most apt reply to such thinking:-

    “This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pyre. But my nation also has a custom – when men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all follow our national customs.”

    Sometimes even Victorian Imperialists can talk good sound sense when it comes to inter-cultural relations, especially when one of those cultures practices slavery and the other does not!

    • See, I don’t think you need to go there at all.

      The slaves aren’t part of New Ghiscari culture. The way I see it, the New Ghiscari are cultural imperialists, the only difference is that they bring their victims in rather than conquering outward.

      • Abbey Battle says:

        Perhaps not, but it has to be said that while it is genuinely arguable that all cultures are equally deserving of dignity not all customs deserve to be perpetuated into yet another generation – like Human Sacrifice, Misogyny (Institutionalised or otherwise) and of course The Slave Trade.

        I would also like to suggest that Slaves ARE in fact part of New Ghiscari culture (a term I am admittedly generalising to include all The Masters of Slavers Bay), The Culture of New Ghiscar isn’t really anything the Slaves want any part of.

        New Ghiscari lands, riches and other equally-realisable assets on the other hand would doubtless be very welcome!

        By the way Maester Steven, please allow me to congratulate you on a particularly well-thought-out and impeccably constructed essay! (I suspect that we would quibble on many things were we to hold an actual conversation, but our attitudes to slavery seems extremely compatible).

  10. Punning Pundit says:

    Something that just occurred to me:
    Historical, slavery tends to fall along two lines:
    The first is what I’ll call the Athens/Rome model, in which slavery is a fate which can befall anyone, and is a class distinction, but has much more in common with serfdom than what we Americans tend to think of as slavery.
    The second is the American/Spartan system, in which slavery is something you’re born into, die as, and is passed down to one’s children. In these systems, slaves have no rights, and ownership of the body tends to be absolute.
    (In Sparta, (as i understand it) it was the State that collectively owned slaves. And the famous armies of Sparta existed to keep the slaves in line.)

    What’s weird to me is the way Slaver’s Bay seems to both create slaves (of the destitute, etc) and also to create slaves by virtue (heh) of birth. In other words, it seems like a melding of the worst aspects of both versions of slavery. I’m not sure what to make of that, but it seems worth mentioning.

    • You’re right, it’s a mashup.

    • MightyIsobel says:

      I find this melding aspect deeply troubling, in light of the U.S. slave powers’ affection for the argument that slavery was a fine thing because the ancient Romans did it in their best of all possible republics (while ignoring that Roman nobles valued manumission as a status symbol and as a way to build their clientele).

      It doesn’t help when most of the named freedmen we meet in Slaver’s Bay are artisans, body servants, and entertainers (including the pit fighters). It’s a cosmopolitan picture of slavery, and not at all reflective of the vast majority of the lived experience of chattel slaves in the U.S. south and in the West Indies..

      What may balance that picture is the thousands of agricultural and mining workers who are mentioned in the periphery, and the industrialization of the production of the Unsullied that Steven brilliantly explored. But the unskilled workers of Meereen have very little voice in the text, and are most memorably represented by Hizzea’s father, whose complaint to Dany has nothing to do with economic exploitation.

      It is weird indeed.

      • Well, that’s the tone of the entire series. We get glimpses of the huddled masses in many chapters of the books, but we never see smallfolk from a smallfolk perspective. At best we see the people from the perspective of a highborn person or in the case of Davos a person born at the bottom who now stands next to the seat of power.

        Now, is this an oversight on the part of GRRM? Or, is this a super deep commentary on fantasy tropes, where there are tons of little stories about the common people, but they’re all extras in someone else’s epic tale?

        • MIghtyIsobel says:

          There’s a bit in Elizabeth Bear’s _Eternal Sky_ trilogy, an epic fantasy featuring a Silk Road setting, where a party of main characters (they happen to be mostly women) are hanging out in a city in the West, and this huge red-headed dude with an über-sword wearing a bear pelt or somesuch passes by, and the adventurers are like: Yup, I bet that guy has some stories to tell, but we’ll never hear them. And they don’t.

          That’s a way to comment on whose stories get told in fantasy.

          • Abbey Battle says:

            I must say that the idea of a series of Fantasy Tales – I can never decide if they ought to be short stories, novels or comic strips* – focussing on the little explored corners of Fantasy Fiction in the same way that ASTRO CITY (a Series I heartily recommend to any readers with a fondness for a good story and ‘Cape-and-Cowl Comics’) zeroes in on a series of Worms-eye views that allows us to see a classic Superhero setting from the perspective of the sort of individuals who usually feature in Comic Books as background or supporting characters at best.

            . . .

            I admit to having worked out ideas for this sort of story, but I hope to be a writer someday so I’ll probably limit myself to saying that I’m pondering what a ‘Downton Abbey’ type story set in a Medieval Castle (or something very like) might involve.

            Amongst other things!

            I must further admit that I’ve been mightily tempted to pick your brains, Maester Steven concerning this idea and other questions that continually vex me because my own knowledge is broad enough to allow me to ask them, but too shallow to allow me to answer them in any detail – I have to date been restrained by the good sense that allows me to recognise that you are a very busy man and that our acquaintance is very slight.

            Still, if you’re ever looking for something a little novel with which to pass the time, please do contact me on Reddit and I’ll see if I can tempt you into helping me flesh out a Fantasy Setting which gives the lower and middling degrees of pre-modern society a chance to shine for once! (not to mention take a look at those Aristocrats OTHER than the Adventurous or the Intriguing – not every Feudal Aristocrat was a Stark or a Lannister after all, although I doubt any were a Crawley alas).

          • Abbey – I’m a little overstretched at present. But it sounds interesting.

      • OTL says:

        Most slaves in the Americas were actually in Brazil.

  11. Punning Pundit says:

    Speaking of slavery, and slave wars, what’s the over/under on Braavos taking up their historic anti-slavery mission and becoming an unexpected, but powerful, source of allies for the abolishionits? Seems like that would neatly solve Dany’s problem of needing to keep her forces concentrated, but also needing to leave a military behind to ensure civil government continues without her Unsullied.

    • It’s quite possible. Especially if Volantis falls, Braavos has a lot more room to maneuver.

      • artihcus022 says:

        Well there’s that line where Tycho Nestoris tells Jon Snow that they are worried about dragons rising in the East, “We don’t jape of dragons in Braavos”, so I don’t think they and Mother of Dragons will be immediate friends at all. After all history is full of people with otherwise similar platforms going to war on core issues even allying with their opposite number.

        One of my predictions is that in the course of the coming books, Braavos will be destroyed as a sacrifice for the greater good, an echo of the Faceless Men sacrificing Valyria and Hardhome causing the First Doom. It would certainly put a bitterness to what GRRM calls his “Bittersweet ending” and it would definitely put the fantasy element into a darker phase. The dragons are compared to nuclear weapons and the ultimate metaphor for that is destroying a city. It’s definitely built up with Daenerys growing up in Braavos in the house with the red door, her spiritual idea of home which she can never return to. Whether it’s her or some other dragon rider who makes that call, I don’t know but I can certainly feel the story is going there.

    • OTL says:

      I certainly think the Bravossi navy will come into play to transport Dany’s soldier to Westeros.

  12. MightyIsobel says:

    An interesting read, leading to some fine discussion. I hope that it makes it onto the Must-Read Analysis lists in the fandom.

    As I reread Dany’s ADWD chapters, I’m struck by how clarifying the connections you have drawn are. Finding the Klan and scalawags in the Meereenese factions really cuts through all of Dany’s Harzoo-related confusion about what is happening around her. It’s certainly a far stronger reading than some of the norse mythology and whatnot theories that get kicked around.

    On the other hand, GRRM says that he is not intentionally writing political allegory, and that he “hate[s]” it when people say This is That.

    Still, he speculates that “some critic could study” his “influences,” and I think you have proved the point. What else can we make of a story line that strikes so many readers as being about something other than what it is about?

    • Space Oddity says:

      Iraq was low-hanging fruit, and the Green Grace’s pretty little lies sound nice. (Which of course was the point. The Green Grace is utter foulness wrapped up to look nice and classy. The fact that people are buying her lines without looking at the context–or buying them, then rearranging the context in their minds to make her right–is rather disturbing, to my mind.)

    • Thanks, glad you liked it!

      I think we can make of it that people come to a text with their own lives and experiences and react accordingly. If ASOIAF had come out in the 1970s, I’m guessing people would have seen Vietnam allegories. If it had come out in the 1870s, people would have seen Civil War allegories.

  13. Meereenese Liberation Front says:

    Thank you, Steven! That is such a brilliant essay, and it really needed to be written.

  14. OTL says:

    Excellent essay and what a strange response from Feldman. Apparently Dany has a “desire for violent justice [which] can in fact be counterproductive and lead to a great cost in innocent life.” How one can be an innocent slaver is beyond me. It seems like victim blaming and moral short sightedness but whatever…

    What’s the source for 83% of the population being freed slaves? Does this vary from city to city? Or urban and rural areas? Is it the same in all the Free Cities (excluding Bravos, of course) I’ve always considered it unrealistic for an insurgency to function with this limited support. You say that it is very rare for slaves to be the majority in history. And this is why, perhaps, another reason why reconstruction failed in the south of the USA; whites tended to be a majority. Can we imagine the KKK or the Confederacy without the “cracka”? to carry out the actual violence?

    Your right, Dany should have confiscated all the slavers property (as all wealth is generated by labour). This would have cut the legs out from any counter-revouloution. The former slavers would have no power or influence. And they would be in a minority. Most I imagine would leave Slavers Bay and become refugees in the Free Cities. As for jobs, who knows? It would be a bit like White Emigres after the Russian Revolution. They survived but where in no position to agitate for counter-revouloution.

    Anyway as usual Martin hasn’t fully thought out whether his “world” is feudal or capitalist, or somewhere in between. And that has problems here…

    • The source for the cite is: “It is said that in Volantis, there are five slaves for every free man – a disproportion of numbers matched only by the ancient Ghiscari cities of Slaver’s Bay.” (WOIAF)

      5/6 = 83%

      In the rest of the Free Cities, it’s more like 3/4, or 75%.

      • OTL says:

        I see. The sons of the Harpy are probably more for the plot than realism then.

        Do you think that Dany’s new “fire and blood” stance will make her double down on abolitionism or lead her to abandon the slaves to their fate as Westeros is now more important?

        • Space Oddity says:

          To be fair, the Sons of the Harpy have fortresses to hide out in, and a Dany who just keeps refusing to go at them. If the Sons keep pushing their luck–it’s not going to end well for them.

          Which is exactly what they deserve.

        • It’s not that unrealistic. There was a lot of Klan and other white terrorist activity in the Black Belt where whites were in the minority, precisely because terrorism allows a small group of people to try to coerce the behavior of a large group of people.

          Probably first one, then the other.

  15. OTL says:

    A good analogy might be Haiti whose former (en)slaved population (because no one is born a slave) had to fight off their former owners, then the armies of France, Britain and Spain (and then pay a massive bribe to France to never invade again). At the time Haiti was no economic backwater but the centre of the extremely profitable sugar trade. The Slavers and their armies knew they had to make an example of Haiti for the rest. (source – the Black Jacobins/wikipedia)

    The former slaves of Haiti are an inspiration to all free people everywhere in my opinion.

  16. Meereenese Liberation Front says:

    To add to the praise some thoughts of my own …

    1) The one thing in Meereen that doesn’t quite fit the Civil War analogy are the Qartheen, Dothraki and Volantese intervention armies that come in to restore the old order. (In case of the Confederates, they were, as far as I know, pretty isolated; not the least because, just for example, the British dock workers boycotted their trade ships, at dire cost to their own economical well-being). OTL beat me in mentioning the Haitian revolution: It works especially well as a case study, I think, not only because it was the most successful slave revolt ever, but also because the powers that were set aside all internal quarrels and, amidst the great Napoleonic wars, decided collectively to drown the slaves’ political triumph in blood and economical desaster.
    Additionally, one could also point to the example of the Russian Revolution. Now, that analogy might carry only so far, because, amongst other things, the October uprising really went for the redistribution of wealth and power that Daenerys shies away from. But the Whites, at least, had a lot in common with the Sons of the Harpy and their foreign allies (a counterrevolutionary force with a penchant for xenophobia and pogroms); and the peace of Brest-Litovsk uncannily resembles the one Dany is forced into with Yunkai. At the end, the Reds might have won, but the revolution was in steady retreat, and the Whites had the last laugh: The country was starving, the infrastructure was destroyed, and instead of workers controlling the factories, peasants controlling the land, Stalin and the GPU controlled everything and everybody. One can easily imagine Meereen going the same way.

    2) The way »culture« has become some sort of holy cow is baffling and, frankly, pretty bizarre. Some years back, I read an academic, peer-reviewed essay on Buffy the Vampire Slayer that explained, in the most elaborate and fashionable terms, how Buffy and her suprematist friends always viciously force the vampires to ‘abandon their culture’ or ‘become othered’. (Because, if those vampires just happen to love torture and indiscriminate slaughter, who are we to judge?) It pops up in my mind every time I have to read about how Dany shouldn’t have tried »to replace the local culture with one better suited to her own preferences« (ghostlovesinger on the TOTH-thread – because, if those slavers just happen to love slavery, torture and mutilation, who are we to judge?). If that kind of thinking were refrained to literary criticism, one could dismiss it as weird, but harmless, but of course it’s not; rather, the literary criticism functions as a kind of test rehearsal for geopolitics, and that’s where the weirdness becomes disturbing. Stoning, honor killings, female genitale mutilation – just about every atrocity imaginable can be claimed as part of a cultural heritage; and suddenly liberals and leftists advocate abroad what they claim to despise at home: If those Third-Worlders just happen to love religious oppression, who are we to judge? It’s reactionary and condescending and just terribly immoral.
    For this reason, I think you are a bit too defensive about the whole ‘culture’-issue. Yes, Dany is ethnically Essosi and many of the slaves are not; but if they were and she wasn’t, what of it? If slavery had truly been an authentic part of a thousand years old Ghiscari tradition, shouldn’t it have been abolished just the same? Ghettos, just for example, had been an integral part of European urban culture for centuries – until Napoleon came and blew them open; and I, for one, am quite happy the emperor showed not the slightest consideration for this age-old artifact, but rather imposed his Code Civil on every foreign nation he conquered.

    • “1) The one thing in Meereen that doesn’t quite fit the Civil War analogy are the Qartheen, Dothraki and Volantese intervention armies that come in to restore the old order.”

      I think the Klan is the proper analogy here.

      “Ghettos, just for example, had been an integral part of European urban culture for centuries – until Napoleon came and blew them open; and I, for one, am quite happy the emperor showed not the slightest consideration for this age-old artifact, but rather imposed his Code Civil on every foreign nation he conquered.”

      The Muslims in the Parisian Banlieue’s would like to know exactly when these ghettos were destroyed, and how they came to be rebuilt.

      • Meereenese Liberation Front says:

        „I think the Klan is the proper analogy here.“

        Not really. The Klansmen weren’t soldiers of a foreign government, sent abroad on their counterrevolutionary mission. They resemble the Sons of the Harpy, not the Volantene fleet.

        „The Muslims in the Parisian Banlieue’s would like to know exactly when these ghettos were destroyed, and how they came to be rebuilt.“

        The ghettos were enclosed city quarters to which the Jews were legally confined. They were an intricate part of a system of legal discrimination that also included extra taxation, exclusion from most trades and professions, humiliating clothing rules etc., and they made the Jewish communities an easily visible target for the periodical pogroms. Nothing of that is remotely comparable to the situation of the Muslims in France today.
        The banlieues, on the other hand, were built to keep the unruly working classes out of the inner cities (a communist mayor in Paris? Mon Dieu!). After the Golden Age of Fordism, the worse the bargaining position for the working classes became, the worse the living conditions in the banlieues got. Nowadays, for several reasons (racism being a major, but not the only one), a large chunk of the inhabitants tend to be migrants from the former French colonies, i.e. the Maghreb and parts of Subsaharan Africa. A significant amount of these might in turn be categorized as Muslims; but the trend to identify oneself as such – and not, say, as beur, as (pied-) noir, as atheist, or simply as proletarian – is a rather recent one; other parts of the migrant communities, for example the women’s group Ni putes ni soumises, don’t find that to be a very promising idea. So the situation in the banlieues has got a lot to do with class and with race, but very little with religion.

        I know it’s a bit en vogue to claim ‘the Muslims’ to be the ‘Jews of today’. But whenever I take a look at the statistics of antisemitic hate crimes in Europe, I can’t help the feeling that most of the time, the ‘Jews of today’ are still simply the Jews.

    • ad says:

      At the end, the Reds might have won, but the revolution was in steady retreat, and the Whites had the last laugh

      You have a very strange idea about what the last laugh looks like. The revolutionaries did, in fact, stay in power for the next 70 odd years. Every communist country turned into a despotic tyranny for reasons inherent in the system. It didn’t matter what the counter-revolutionaries did because they were generally dead or in concentration camps by that point.

      • Meereenese Liberation Front says:

        Well, the ‘last laugh’ (or, better, the dreadful irony) would be the fact that no ruler in history has murdered more communists than Stalin…

        Yes, there had always been some severe flaws inherent in Bolshevism (many of which, incidentally, were pointed out by other revolutionaries, from Anton Pannekoek to Paul Mattick). But even if the Russian Revolution really was headed for nothing than disaster from the outset, the Whites did everything they could to speed them along: In the earlyyears of the revolution, nearly every ugly decision and development – the ban on factions and the ‘militarization of labor’, the transformation of the Red Army from a democratic into a highly autocratic institution and the reenlistment of Tsarist officer, the reinstatement of the death penalty and the Secret Police, the ever-growing atmosphere of paranoia – were more or less directly linked to the Civil War. One could even argue that the Whites directly aided the Red cause: Countless supporters of the Mensheviks, the socialist-revolutionaries or the anarchists made common cause with the Bolsheviks as the only viable alternative to the counterrevolutionary terror. – This blog might not be the best forum to discuss all the issues, but I would highly recommend Sheila Fitzpatrick’s ‘Russian Revolution’ or Simon Birani’s ‘Russian Revolution in Retreat’.

        As to the question if despotic tyranny is inherent to an overthrow of capitalism: It might, or it might not. Two hundred years ago, most political theorists would have said the same about liberal democracy – the first few attempts in that direction, from Savonarola to Robespierre, sure weren’t all that pretty.

    • 1. Actually, there is a historical parallel. The British and French governments came pretty close to intervening in the American Civil War, out of both geopolitical motives and because of Britain’s dependency on Southern cotton at the time. That they didn’t has a lot to do with those dock workers – and wouldn’t you know it, the working class of Volantis thinks Dany’s a messiah.

      2. Not wanting to get into the whole debate, but I always think that if you can disprove someone on their own terms it’s a stronger argument than if you and they are fighting over which terms to use. I know enough about post-colonial theory to use it in this instance.

  17. Andrew says:

    1. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation helped, since it made the war not just about succession but slavery. If the British and French intervened, they would be helping to preserve the institution of slavery, and neither governments wanted to risk their citizens’ ire by being seen as supporting slavery.

    Otherwise, I would love for you to elaborate on geopolitical motives. My guesses are a split Union damages the Monroe Doctrine, and France was looking to set up a friendly puppet government in Mexico.

    • Yep, that was the impact of the Proclamation.

      So France’s main thing was Mexico, and probably Mexico as a springboard for other Caribbean adventures.

      Britain’s issue was, in addition to cotton, a belief that a divided U.S would make Canada much more secure, especially when you had people like Seward talking openly about trying to grab Canada.

      • Andrew says:

        Seward should have known it was tried half a century ago, and failed in the War of 1812. Most people think of Vietnam as the US’s first defeat, but some historians point to the War of 1812 as the first American lost war since one of the objectives was to conquer Canada, and given that, Canada won the war.

  18. […] Obviously, GRRM will complicate this Robin Hood vs. the Sheriff of Nottingham story – no resistance movement is morally spotless – but our sympathies are clearly meant to be on one side and not the […]

  19. […] nor had any of the old men telling stories in taverns or the priests of the Drowned God. Like the Masters of Slaver’s Bay, Dalton Greyjoy’s Old Way was a modern invention used to cloak robbery, theft, rape, murder, and […]

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