Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Daenerys IV, ACOK

“I don’t…I don’t understand….Help me. Show me.”

Synopsis: Dany goes to the House of the Undying to open the doors of perception, maybe play some prog rock.

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:

I have to admit that I come to this chapter with a little bit of trepidation. Dany IV looms very large in the ASOIAF fandom; there’s a reason why it ranks at the top of Tower of the Hand’s narrative rankings of A Clash of Kings, and why probably more has been written about this chapter than any other.

Another reason why I’m somewhat trepidatious is that, after preparing for this essay, is that Dany IV is maddening to try to put into some rational structure. As a lifelong fantasy genre fan, I’m quite familiar and comfortable with prophecy, but in Dany IV, George R.R Martin throws the normal rules of narrative clarity out the window and plunging headlong into full-on 1960s psychedelica with the brio of someone who lived through it. Thus, while throughout the chapter one can see GRRM setting up a Rule of Three structure and then immediately diverging from it, as if deliberately taunting me.

Arriving at the House of the Undying

When I said back in Dany I that Daenerys’ story in ACOK is a prophet narrative, it was this chapter that I had in mind, because there is nothing as prophetic than going to a place where the barriers between the physical and spiritual worlds become thin, having a series of visions, and going through a gauntlet of temptation on the road to enlightenment.

And appropriately for such an experience, and right on the heels of Arya’s fairytale adventure, the whole thing starts off with a dreamlike air, as it becomes impossible to tell reality from illusion:

“In this city of splendors, Dany had expected the House of the Undying Ones to be the most splendid of all, but she emerged from her palanquin to behold a grey and ancient ruin.

Long and low, without towers or windows, it coiled like a stone serpent through a grove of black-barked trees whose inky blue leaves made the stuff of the sorcerous drink the Qartheen called shade of the evening…”

When you look at that description, it’s almost impossible to square it with the way the House of the Undying is represented on the show, in official artwork, or indeed in most fan artwork. Almost all of them display the House as a great tower; the decision to not show the House as described in the books is pretty universal. And the reason for that is that the House is deliberately visually indistinct and uninteresting – a long bungalow without any windows is basically a grey box, more the suggestion of a building than real architecture. There’s method in GRRM’s madness, though; the House is boring because it’s meant to be the Pledge to the Prestige of the interior. GRRM is showing us a single-story building without windows so that when Dany gets inside and finds long staircases and windows a plenty we get the idea that we’re seeing something impossible.

This scene also introduces the topic of shade of the evening, a lovely little hallucinogen that will be rampaging through Dany’s bloodstream throughout this chapter:

“…a slender crystal glass filled with a thick blue liquid: shade of the evening, the wine of warlocks. “Take and drink,” urged Pyat Pree.

“Will it turn my lips blue?”

“One flute will serve only to unstop your ears and dissolve the caul from off your eyes, so that you may hear and see the truths that will be laid before you.”

Dany raised the glass to her lips. The first sip tasted like ink and spoiled meat, foul, but when she swallowed it seemed to come to life within her. She could feel tendrils spreading through her chest, like fingers of fire coiling around her heart, and on her tongue was a taste like honey and anise and cream, like mother’s milk and Drogo’s seed, like red meat and hot blood and molten gold. It was all the tastes she had ever known, and none of them . . . and then the glass was empty.

(Before I get into what this stuff does, I’d just like to point out that GRRM includes among Dany’s favorite tastes mother’s milk and Drogo’s seed, really letting his freak flag fly there.) As I’ll discuss in more detail in the Historical Analysis section, hallucinogens were a key component of the shamanic/prophetic tradition from the American Southwest to the Indian subcontinent, so it’s entirely appropriate here. At the same time, it’s worth asking about how much of what Dany experiences in the House of the Undying is real or just in her head as she’s tripping. (By the way, the fact that Euron drinks this stuff on the regular is another reason why I don’t think he’s a secret mastermind; he’s lucky he can function at all) Then again, when you’re talking about illusion magic, it’s hard to tell the difference.

At the same time, the drugs do explain why the bizarre dream logic built into the rules of the House of the Undying pass by with almost no comment:

“Queen Daenerys must enter alone, or not at all…should she turn away now, the doors of wisdom shall be closed to her forevermore…”

“The front way leads in, but never out again. Heed my words, my queen. The House of the Undying Ones was not made for mortal men. If you value your soul, take care and do just as I tell you…”

“When you enter, you will find yourself in a room with four doors: the one you have come through and three others. Take the door to your right. Each time, the door to your right. If you should come upon a stairwell, climb. Never go down, and never take any door but the first door to your right…Leaving and coming, it is the same. Always up. Always the door to your right. Other doors may open to you. Within, you will see many things that disturb you. Visions of loveliness and visions of horror, wonders and terrors. Sights and sounds of days gone by and days to come and days that never were. Dwellers and servitors may speak to you as you go. Answer or ignore them as you choose, but enter no room until you reach the audience chamber.”

Simply put, these rules don’t make sense. If you keep turning to the right, you should end up turning in a circle, but somehow inside the House, this turns into forward motion. Likewise, you can’t have stairs to a second story of a building that doesn’t have one. Finally, there’s no way that Dany never goes backward but ends up at the same door she entered from. But the rules aren’t really about literal truth, as much as they’re setting up a fairy-tale situation in which the hero’s perception (can they tell which is the right door?) and willpower (can you stick to the rules in a crisis?) will be tested.

So let’s talk about the visions. I’m going to take it slow, because as I said there’s some weird stuff going on with structure going on and it’s really easy to get oneself twisted up. So let me start with my hypothesis: in Dany IV, GRRM has set up a quasi-Dickensian structure of the present, past, and future, each of which involves a set of visions and a temptation. Although, as I’ll explain, GRRM is constantly screwing with the reader, messing with the patterns.

The Visions of the Present

We’ll start with the section that I call the Visions of the Present, or perhaps more accurately Visions of the Near-Future (again, GRRM screwing with the structure). Here, things inside the House are relatively normal, with Dany looking into rooms as per Pyat Pree’s rules. And these two visions are relatively straightforward:

In one room, a beautiful woman sprawled naked on the floor while four little men crawled over her. They had rattish pointed faces and tiny pink hands, like the servitor who had brought her the glass of shade. One was pumping between her thighs. Another savaged her breasts, worrying at the nipples with his wet red mouth, tearing and chewing.

Farther on she came upon a feast of corpses. Savagely slaughtered, the feasters lay strewn across overturned chairs and hacked trestle tables, asprawl in pools of congealing blood. Some had lost limbs, even heads. Severed hands clutched bloody cups, wooden spoons, roast fowl, heels of bread. In a throne above them sat a dead man with the head of a wolf. He wore an iron crown and held a leg of lamb in one hand as a king might hold a scepter, and his eyes followed Dany with mute appeal.

As many many people have explained, the first vision is an allegory for the War of Five Kings – with the four presently surviving kings depicted as predatory dwarves (another running theme in this chapter; note that Dany picks up the shade of the evening from what may or may not be a statue of a dwarf) and Westeros itself depicted as a woman being raped. This is actually quite similar to 18th and 19th century political cartoons, which often personified nations as women – I’m especially thinking of jingoistic British political cartoons from the Crimean War, which depicted Turkey as a beautiful woman about to be ravished by the Russian bear. The second vision is also straight-forward: this is the first depiction of the Red Wedding in A Song of Ice and Fire.

However, the simplicity of these visions still leaves us with some unanswered questions. Why start with these particular images? With the first vision, it’s possible that Dany is meant to end the War of Five Kings by restoring a monopoly on violence with her three dragons, which would fit in with her “mother of dragons” moniker emphasized later in the chapter. But the second is more confusing. Why does Robb Stark look to Daenerys Targaryen, who hates House Stark for their participation in Robert’s Rebellion, for justice for the Red Wedding? If Dany is meant to set right that most infamous of crimes, it’s hard to see any signs of that in A Storm of Swords or A Dance With Dragons. On the other hand, it’s possible that GRRM is simply taking the opportunity to begin the process of outward ripples of the Red Wedding cascading through the minds of every clairvoyant in Westeros (as well Theon for some reason).

At the same time, we can also see GRRM undermining the pattern once again – after a series of visions dealing with the present/near-future, the temptation in this section is entirely about the past:

It is the house with the red door, the house in Braavos. No sooner had she thought it than old Ser Willem came into the room, leaning heavily on his stick. “Little princess, there you are,” he said in his gruff kind voice. “Come,” he said, “come to me, my lady, you’re home now, you’re safe now.” His big wrinkled hand reached for her, soft as old leather, and Dany wanted to take it and hold it and kiss it, she wanted that as much as she had ever wanted anything. Her foot edged forward, and then she thought, He’s dead, he’s dead, the sweet old bear, he died a long time ago. She backed away and ran.

As we’ve seen before, to Dany the house with the red door represents the loss of security and safety, so here’s she’s being offered a second chance at an ordinary childhood, with Refusal of the Call personified in the figure of Ser Willem Darry. What’s odd and unsettling is that, while Pyat Pree had said that “dwellers and servitors may speak to you as you go. Answer or ignore them as you choose,” he presented it as fairly benign. But here the illusion of Ser Willem Darry is trying to tempt Dany off the path in violation of the rules, which suggests that the “dwellers and servitors” are actually hostile forces and that Pyat Pree and the Warlocks (another great band name, by the way) are looking to trap Dany by enchantment.

The Visions of the Past

We proceed from there to the Visions of the Past, where Dany is brought face-to-face with the gamut of House Targaryen’s recent past, and the reasons why their dynasty fell so ignominiously:

Upon a towering barbed throne sat an old man in rich robes, an old man with dark eyes and long silver-grey hair. “Let him be king over charred bones and cooked meat,” he said to a man below him. “Let him be the king of ashes.” Drogon shrieked, his claws digging through silk and skin, but the king on his throne never heard, and Dany moved on.

Viserys, was her first thought the next time she paused, but a second glance told her otherwise. The man had her brother’s hair, but he was taller, and his eyes were a dark indigo rather than lilac. “Aegon,” he said to a woman nursing a newborn babe in a great wooden bed. “What better name for a king?”

“…He has a song,” the man replied. “He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.” He looked up when he said it and his eyes met Dany’s, and it seemed as if he saw her standing there beyond the door. “There must be one more,” he said, though whether he was speaking to her or the woman in the bed she could not say. “The dragon has three heads.” He went to the window seat, picked up a harp, and ran his fingers lightly over its silvery strings. Sweet sadness filled the room as man and wife and babe faded like the morning mist, only the music lingering behind to speed her on her way.

Again, these visions are fairly easy to deduce – the first is King Aerys at the very moment that he orders the immolation of King’s Landing, representing the sadistic madness that brought Rickard and Brandon Stark to their deaths; the second is Prince Rhaegar at the birth of his son, which incidentally gives us the first instance of a link between Rhaegar’s actions and the prophecy of the Prince That Was Promised, which is sadly the spark that will set the kingdom ablaze. This moment is interesting, because while in ASOS and ADWD Dany has carefully tiptoed around the question of what motivated her father and brother in conversation with Ser Barristan, she’s never really confronted the visceral reality of what her family did. If Dany can bring herself to remember and accept what she saw here, it may go a long way toward moving past pointless reprisals when she lands on Westeros’ shores.

However, there’s also a larger question of why Dany is shown these particular visions. I’ve already given a hypothesis for the Aerys vision – to knock loose some of Viserys’ propaganda so that she can let bygones be bygones – but why GRRM chose this particular moment in Rhaegar’s life is more interesting. To begin with, I think it’s meant to tee up the “dragon has three heads” prophecy so that when it comes up later in the chapter we’re paying attention. Secondly, I think it’s meant to prime Dany with regards to Jon Snow. One of the things that comes up frequently in discussions of how R+L=J is actually going to play out in ASOIAF is who’s going to believe any revelation that Ned Stark’s bastard is actually the son of Rhaegar Targaryen (let alone that he could possibly be a trueborn Targaryen). But if you think about it for a second, Jon Snow probably only needs to convince one person – the one indisputable, dragon-riding Targaryen, Daenerys Targaryen. And Dany is one of the only people alive (especially after the death of Aemon Targaryen) who knows that Rhaegar was looking for a male child who would have the qualities of both ice and fire.

This section also has the longest, and (in my opinion) most interesting, temptation, although once again GRRM screws with the pattern. Before Dany gets to her temptation, she first has to race the extinguishing torches down the hall – very reminiscent of a Dr. Who episode there – and get past a fake Pyat Pree (another case of “dwellers” deliberately misleading supplicants). Moreover, she also has to demonstrate her understanding of the rules, by realizing that “the first door on the right…is the last door on the left.” But after all that:

Finally the stair opened. To her right, a set of wide wooden doors had been thrown open. They were fashioned of ebony and weirwood, the black and white grains swirling and twisting in strange interwoven patterns. They were very beautiful, yet somehow frightening. The blood of the dragon must not be afraid. Dany said a quick prayer, begging the Warrior for courage and the Dothraki horse god for strength. She masde herself walk forward.

Beyond the doors was a great hall…shafts of sunlight slanted through windows of stained glass, and the air was alive with the most beautiful music she had ever heard.

To begin with, we should notice that, whereas previously the visions and temptations have all been to the left and thus forewarned against, here a temptation is coming very definitely from the right, another sign that the Warlocks are not exactly trustworthy. And if you weren’t already on edge, the room that Dany emerges into is impossible – inside a single-story building without windows, shaded by the black trees whose leaves make up the active ingredient in the shade of the evening, we suddenly have a great hall filled with sunlight.

Equally importantly, GRRM is also raising the question about whether what Dany is seeing here is true or false by making an allusion to classical Greek and Roman mythology. From Homer’s Odyssey through Virgil’s Aeneid, dreams and visions were said to come up from Hades through one of two gates, one of ivory and one of horn; contrary to expectations, false visions came through the gates of polished ivory, whereas true visions came through the more humble gates of horn. And in a building which so far has been resolutely shabby and decrepit, to suddenly emerge into a room of visual delight should be off-putting. Likewise, there’s something not quite right about the room’s inhabitants:

a…splendor of wizards. Some wore sumptuous robes of ermine, ruby velvet, and cloth of gold. Others fancied elaborate armor studded with gemstones, or tall pointed hats speckled with stars. There were women among them, dressed in gowns of surpassing loveliness…

A kingly man in rich robes rose when he saw her, and smiled. “Daenerys of House Targaryen, be welcome. Come and share the food of forever. We are the Undying of Qarth.”

“Long have we awaited you,” said a woman beside him, clad in rose and silver. The breast she had left bare in the Qartheen fashion was as perfect as a breast could be.

“We knew you were to come to us,” the wizard king said. “A thousand years ago we knew, and have been waiting all this time. We sent the comet to show you the way.”

“We have knowledge to share with you,” said a warrior in shining emerald armor, “and magic weapons to arm you with. You have passed every trial. Now come and sit with us, and all your questions shall be answered.”

She took a step forward. But then Drogon leapt from her shoulder. He flew to the top of the ebony-and-weirwood door, perched there, and began to bite at the carved wood. 

“A willful beast,” laughed a handsome young man. “Shall we teach you the secret speech of dragonkind? Come, come.”

In this illusion, perhaps of how the Undying want others to see them, or how they once appeared, or how they want to appear, the adjectives are as lush and overpowering as Qarth itself – sumptuous, kingly, perfect, handsome – and the visual descriptions are once again a riot of precious metals and gems and sensuality. This is as close as ASOIAF will ever get to your traditional high fantasy, complete with wizards in pointy hats (and what a lovely phrasing, a splendor of wizards), and it’s an instant suggestion that something is very wrong. The Undying offer Dany actual magical weapons; they offer secret knowledge and answers to all her questions; they offer the gift of immortality. This is all straight out of the Hero’s Journey playbook, but GRRM presents it as a sinister temptation, as a set of cheat codes that allows the hero to coast through their challenges without having to demonstrate any inward quality that makes them worthy of being the Chosen One.

But the most interesting temptation of them all is “the secret speech of dragonkind,” because that’s what Dany ultimately needs the most. Throughout the rest of the series, Dany will struggle (and in ADWD, ultimately fail) to control her dragons. And while from a thematic perspective that has to do with the inherently destructive nature of her draconic conqueror heritage and her unwillingness to accept that part of her identity, from a plot perspective it’s also because she’s an untrained amateur. Whatever lore or training that House Targaryen rescued from the Doom of Valyria that allowed them to continue the tradition of dragon-riding for another 150-odd years, that seems either to have been lost when the dragons died (which might make sense, giving the emphasis on a psychic bond between rider and dragon), or simply wasn’t passed on to Viserys and Daenerys when they were evacuated to Dragonstone and then again to Essos.

Thus, when Dany rejects this temptation in favor of keeping true to the rules, there really is a sense that this is a genuine sacrifice.

The Visions of the Future

Once Daenerys passes through the true door, which is notably “splintery and plain” in contrast with the opulence of the gates of horn and ivory, she is confronted with the very ugly reality of the Undying:

Above it floated a human heart, swollen and blue with corruption, yet still alive. It beat, a deep ponderous throb of sound, and each pulse sent out a wash of indigo light. The figures around the table were no more than blue shadows. As Dany walked to the empty chair at the foot of the table, they did not stir, nor speak, nor turn to face her. There was no sound but the slow, deep beat of the rotting heart…

Through the indigo murk, she could make out the wizened features of the Undying One to her right, an old old man, wrinkled and hairless. His flesh was a ripe violet-blue, his lips and nails bluer still, so dark they were almost black. Even the whites of his eyes were blue. They stared unseeing at the ancient woman on the opposite side of the table, whose gown of pale silk had rotted on her body. One withered breast was left bare in the Qartheen manner, to show a pointed blue nipple hard as leather.

Peel away the glamour and the enchantment (ever notice how many words for beauty also mean magic?), and we see the truth of the Undying, as if GRRM is standing on a box with a megaphone and shouting “this is what magic really looks like!” The pursuit of knowledge and power at perilous cost to the soundness of mind and body (to say nothing of soul), Tithonius’ trap of eternal life without eternal youth, an entire cabal of vampires in hibernation.

And now that Dany has pierced through this veil and seen the truth – which is after all the central mission of all shamans and prophets – she finally gets access to genuine prophecy of the future, and everything goes completely insane:

…mother of dragons… came a voice, part whisper and part moan…dragons…dragons…dragons… other voices echoed in the gloom. Some were male and some female. One spoke with the timbre of a child. The floating heart pulsed from dimness to darkness. It was hard to summon the will to speak, to recall the words she had practiced so assiduously. “I am Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.” Do they hear me? Why don’t they move? She sat, folding her hands in her lap. “Grant me your counsel, and speak to me with the wisdom of those who have conquered death.”

“I come for the gift of truth…in the long hall, the things I saw, were they true visions or lies? Past things, or things to come? What did they mean?”

“…mother of dragons…child of three…three heads has the dragon…three heads has the dragon…the ghost chorus yammered inside her skull with never a lip moving, never a breath stirring the still blue air…mother of dragons…child of storm…The whispers became a swirling song…three fires must you light…one for life and one for death and one to love…Her own heart was beating in unison to the one that floated before her, blue and corrupt…three mounts must you ride…one to bed and one to dread and one to love…The voices were growing louder, she realized, and it seemed her heart was slowing, and even her breath…three treasons will you know… once for blood and once for gold and once for love…”

This section, the Prophecies of Three, is prophecy without interpretation and very little structure. There is little better evidence of GRRM screwing with threefold structure than here – on the one hand, you have the three fires, three mounts, and three treasons which fit the pattern, but then the child/mother references don’t have a third component (which would normally be either widow or crone). Even within them there’s inconsistency – Dany is described as a “child of three,” a “child of storm,” and later a “daughter of death,” but as a mother only of dragons. In a similar case of inconsistency, the refrain of the “three heads has the dragons” refers to the prophecy of the Prince That Was Promised, whereas the rest of these prophecies refer only to Dany.

So enough of structure, let’s start breaking down the content for meaning. First, some definitions on the various terms that get thrown around:

  • mother of dragons” – this one’s pretty self-explanatory; Dany is the mother-figure to Drogon, Viserion, and Rhaegal. It might also be a reference to Dany’s supposed infertility, the idea that the dragons are the only children she’ll ever have, but I’m skeptical.
  • child of storm” – again, this one’s pretty easy. Daenerys Targaryen is also known as Daenerys Stormborn for being born during the great storm around Dragonstone that shattered the royal navy yet allowed Ser Willem Darry to sneak his ship through Stannis’ blockade.
  • child of three” – this one’s a bit more ambiguous. I don’t think it’s a reference to an unknown third parent other than her mother Rhaella and King Aerys – gods know we’ve got way too many secret parent theories going on already, and come on, Ser Bonifer Hasty? Rather, given how the previous label is more symbolic than literal (no, Dany was not fathered by the storm god in some weird Zeussian disguise), I think it’s a way of calling Dany a child of prophecy, given the importance of threes in the prophecies that surround her.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s discuss the three fires, the three mounts, and the three treasons, the real meat of this section:

  • three fires must you light…one for life and one for death and one to love” –
    • Consensus 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 section.
    • The second fire seems to be a bit more up for debate – some people think it refers to Drogon burning the House of the Undying at the end of the chapter; this would fit the past, present, future pattern running through the chapter. On the other hand, Dany doesn’t really actually give an order to burn the HOTU as we’ll see in a minute. Another possibility is the second fire refers to her giving the “DRACARYS!” command at the Sack of Astapor, which certainly lead to the death of many thousands.
    • The third is most interesting, because it breaks the pattern of “for” in favor of “to,” (another case of GRRM screwing with threes!) and because “love” is the common denominator in these prophecies. A lot of people think this has something to do with Jon Snow. It could be a reference to Jon’s resurrection – although I’m a bit skeptical that Dany gets to the North before Jon’s revived. It could be a symbolic “fire” as feelings of love are often compared to a fire in the heart, but the other two fires seem pretty literal. My hunch, based on the fact that she’s lighting a fire “to” (which suggests a salute to someone) and my own thinking about what’s likely to happen with Jon and Dany, is that it may well be Jon’s funeral pyre, an honor done from one Targaryen to another. After all, there’s nothing that says love has to mean romantic, or that it can’t be a tragic love…
  • three mounts must you ride…one to bed and one to dread and one to love…”
    • The fandom seems split on whether the first is her silver, which Dany rode to the consummation of her marriage to Drogo, or Drogo himself, when Dany introduces the great khal to the cowgirl position. I must say I lean somewhat to the former. If we look at the rest of these prophecies (the previous section on fires for example), GRRM tends to the literal and uses symbolism in a pretty straightforward fashion. Moreover, Dany’s silver is symbolic beyond just her initial ride – it symbolizes her marriage to Drogo and her connection to the Dothraki culture in general, something she’s brought with her all the way from Pentos to Meereen, where it becomes such a symbol of her reign that Ser Barristan rides it in the Battle of Fire.
    • For that reason, I don’t think the second refers to a future husband or lover of Dany’s, whether it’s Daario or Hizdahr, or Victarion (pssh, no), or Euron (naaaah). Rather, it seems clear to me that this refers to Drogon,  especially as Drogon becomes associated with Balerion the Black Dread, and the way Dany’s ride on his back at the climax of ADWD was so central both to her solution to her identity issues and so plot-crucial in terms of putting her back in the mix with the Dothraki. At the end of the day, is Dany’s second marriage really going to be more important than her becoming the first Targaryen dragonrider in a hundred-and-fifty-odd years? I don’t think so.
    • The third gets a bit more difficult. Many people think this is Jon, although given the logic above I don’t think it refers to him directly. If it refers to a means of transport, as the previous two mounts have, one possibility is that it’s the ship that brings her to Westeros, and thus eventually to Jon Snow. Or, according to Aziz from History of Westeros Podcast, it’s a Ferrari. That’s right folks, you heard it here first!
  • three treasons will you know… once for blood and once for gold and once for love
    • Again, there seems to be pretty wide consensus that the first treason was Mirri Maz Duur, who killed Dany’s baby and Khal Drogo in retribution for the attack on her village. This raises a somewhat uncomfortable question – can a slave striking back against the slavers who murdered her people, enslaved the survivors, and violated her own person, truly be said to be committing treason against a woman who claimed to own her? Wouldn’t we otherwise call this an act of revenge?
    • The second betrayal is more contested, with some people thinking it was fulfilled by Jorah continuing to report on Dany after pledging to be her bloodrider at the birth of the dragons, and others pointing to Brown Ben Plumm switching over to Meereen’s side, as both are pretty clear cases of self-interested behavior, even if Jorah wants a pardon and Brown Ben Plumm is way more motivated by survival. There’s merits and demerits to both options – at the end of the day, Jorah was passing on reports to someone who was ultimately hoping to put her family if not her person back on the Iron Throne and who ensured that she would remain safe (for a given value of safe) from the Usurper; Brown Ben Plumm tried his level best to get Dany to use her dragons before changing sides. Ultimately, I think the identity is less important than the way in which this particular prophecy works on Dany, making her paranoid and tempting her to probe people for potential disloyalty, in ways that make the prophecy something of a self-fulfilling one.
    • The third betrayal is probably one we have yet to experience. The difficulty here is the ambiguity in this one is how we define love – I could see either Daario or Jorah or someone else betraying Daenerys out of a sense of jealousy or possessiveness that they describe as love; but that’s not quite the same thing. And given the people Dany has around her, it’s hard to see who would betray Dany to save someone they loved who was in danger (which is one way to interpret a betrayal out of love). I could see some sort of Judas-in-Jesus-Christ-Superstar scenario in which one of Dany’s more devoted followers, maybe Grey Worm or maybe Ser Barristan or maybe the Shavepate, betrays her for selling out her ideals, but if that was the case I think Grey Worm and Shavepate would have done it already. My hunch is that it could be Ser Barristan, if Dany’s return to Meereen at the back of an army of Dothraki and in full Laurence of Arabia “no prisoners!” mode convinces him that she’s gone full Aerys, who makes the wrenching call to try to save her from herself.

Needless to say, Dany finds all of this as difficult to understand as we do. Unfortunately for her, when she rather understandably asks for clarification, the Undying of Qarth attempt to roofie her with an intoxicating rush of prophecies. To be fair to these horrible vampiric warlocks, these prophecies to seem to elaborate on some of the identity prophecies in the original Prophecies of Three paragraph. So for clarity’s sake I’m going to separate these into Daughter of Death, Slayer of Lies, and Bride of Fire sections:

Viserys screamed as the molten gold ran down his cheeks and filled his mouth. A tall lord with copper skin and silver-gold hair stood beneath the banner of a fiery stallion, a burning city behind him. Rubies flew like drops of blood from the chest of a dying prince, and he sank to his knees in the water and with his last breath murmured a woman’s name. . . . mother of dragons, daughter of death . . .

Especially in this chapter, but it’s hardly the only time, we think of Dany as a Chosen One, a world-historical Woman of Destiny. But here for the first time we really consider what the costs of that are, in this case the deaths of every male in her family in order to clear the way for Dany to become *the* Dragon, the scion of House Targaryen. The death of Viserys, however cathartic in the moment, is nonetheless an awful death meted out to a rather pathetic figure. The death of Rhaegar is there both because the loss at the Trident led directly to Rhaella fleeing to Dragonstone and the Sack of King’s Landing, but also because it ties directly back to his earlier appearance and suggests a connection between his obsession with prophecy and his obsession with Lyanna Stark. But the appearance of Rhaego, the idea that Dany could not have become who she has become if she had continued to sublimate her ambitions in her son, and thus that his death was her liberation, is what really stings. (Not really sure what to think of the gender politics of that idea, tbh)

Glowing like sunset, a red sword was raised in the hand of a blue-eyed king who cast no shadow. A cloth dragon swayed on poles amidst a cheering crowd. From a smoking tower, a great stone beast took wing, breathing shadow fire. . . . mother of dragons, slayer of lies . . .

Here’s where we move from past to future, where Dany seems to be destined to confront false claimants to her position, although it’s not entirely clear whether that’s her position as the rightful monarch of Westeros or as Azor Ahai Reborn, or both. The first figure here is clearly Stannis Baratheon, complete with his glamoured “Lightbringer” and bearing the scars of the life energy he’s given away; as I’ve speculated, I believe that Stannis will be brought to a moment of tragic realization, even as he carries out the work of Azor Ahai in rallying humanity to stand against the Army of the Dead. From this prophecy, it seems that Dany will be instrumental in this process.

The second figure here is, as has become clear in ADWD, Aegon VI. Here, the metonymic “cloth dragon” stands both for the ersatz “mummer’s dragon,” which may refer either to Aegon’s false origins or to Varys’ role in creating him, and for the banners of House Targaryen being raised in Westeros once again. It’s this latter meaning, along with the invocation of a cheering crowd, that makes me absolutely confident that Aegon VI’s downfall will come only after he takes the Iron Throne from King Tommen, as this clearly indicates a triumph or at the very least a popular upheaval in support of a Targaryen restoration, signs of which have already been seen in AFFC.

The third figure seems to be referring to the dragon woken from stone that becomes part of Melisandre’s purposes for Stannis in A Storm of Swords. Again, we see GRRM breaking with the pattern here – the previous two instances have both dealt with false kings, so it’s jarring for the third to be focused either on a priestess who’s never claimed royal status or on the birth of dragons; alternatively, if it’s focusing on both kings as falsely identified forces of prophecy (since Aegon was thought by Rhaegar to be one of the three heads of the dragon), this would seem to be pointing to Stannis as incorrectly trying to wake dragons from stone, which means we have three images referring to two subjects, which would break the pattern of threes.

Her silver was trotting through the grass, to a darkling stream beneath a sea of stars. A corpse stood at the prow of a ship, eyes bright in his dead face, grey lips smiling sadly. A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness. . . . mother of dragons, bride of fire . . .

Here’s we have three prophecies that seem to refer to the three mounts section above – once again, the figure of Dany’s silver returns as a symbol of her past and over her marriage. While the “grey lips smiling sadly” have led some to speculate that Dany will marry a Greyjoy, the fact that Victarion the obvious patsy may indeed have died down in the hold of his ship only to be brought back to life by Moqorro for his own purposes suggests instead to me that he is key to her destiny as the rider of Drogon, as the second mount prophecy refers to. After all, Dany has only just completed her first flight as a dragonrider, what she needs training on next is how to use a dragon actively in combat, which would probably be the result if a certain dull-witted Ironborn attempted to kidnap her dragons via a magic horn. The third image, however, as we’ll see in Jon VI, is a deliberate reference to Jon Snow as the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, given the crucial role of blue flowers in both the legend of Bael the Bard and the Tourney at Harrenhal. I’m not the first to think that the fact that the flower is growing from “a chink in a wall of ice,” suggests that Jon will come to learn of his heritage during or shortly after his death, as his body rests in an ice cell inside the Wall, ready to come back to life (or is that un-life?).

And finally, we’ve come to the last of the sections of prophecy, as things come to a climactic conclusion:

Faster and faster the visions came, one after the other, until it seemed as if the very air had come alive. Shadows whirled and danced inside a tent, boneless and terrible. A little girl ran barefoot toward a big house with a red door. Mirri Maz Duur shrieked in the flames, a dragon bursting from her brow. Behind a silver horse the bloody corpse of a naked man bounced and dragged. A white lion ran through grass taller than a man. Beneath the Mother of Mountains, a line of naked crones crept from a great lake and knelt shivering before her, their grey heads bowed. Ten thousand slaves lifted bloodstained hands as she raced by on her silver, riding like the wind. “Mother!” they cried. “Mother, mother!” They were reaching for her, touching her, tugging at her cloak, the hem of her skirt, her foot, her leg, her breast. They wanted her, needed her, the fire, the life, and Dany gasped and opened her arms to give herself to them . . .

I have to say, I find the selection of imagery here very confusing; it’s an odd mish-mash of past and future all the way from Dany’s childhood to her reconnection with the Dothraki in TWOW, and a strange mixture of critically important events (the birth of the dragons, Dany liberating Yunkai) and rather unimportant events (the dragging of the wineseller, the white lion that Drogo killed for Dany). Indeed, aside from inadvertently telling us that Dany will liberate the slaves of Old Ghis and will be recognized as the Stallion Who Mounts the World – both of which have unpleasant implications – it’s quite possible that these illusions don’t have an intended meaning, rather being used by the Undying to distract their prey as their primary hunting technique.

Drogon the Burninator

Luckily for Dany, despite Pyat Pree saying that she should come “alone or not at all,” she’s got Drogon by her side. Throughout the chapter, Drogon has played a subtly important role, keeping her on the correct path and helping her to see through illusions. Here he protects his mother in dramatic fashion:

But then black wings buffeted her round the head, and a scream of fury cut the indigo air, and suddenly the visions were gone, ripped away, and Dany’s gasp turned to horror. The Undying were all around her, blue and cold, whispering as they reached for her, pulling, stroking, tugging at her clothes, touching her with their dry cold hands, twining their fingers through her hair. All the strength had left her limbs. She could not move. Even her heart had ceased to beat. She felt a hand on her bare breast, twisting her nipple. Teeth found the soft skin of her throat. A mouth descended on one eye, licking, sucking, biting . . .

Then indigo turned to orange, and whispers turned to screams. Her heart was pounding, racing, the hands and mouths were gone, heat washed over her skin, and Dany blinked at a sudden glare. Perched above her, the dragon spread his wings and tore at the terrible dark heart, ripping the rotten flesh to ribbons, and when his head snapped forward, fire flew from his open jaws, bright and hot. She could hear the shrieks of the Undying as they burned, their high thin papery voices crying out in tongues long dead. Their flesh was crumbling parchment, their bones dry wood soaked in tallow. They danced as the flames consumed them; they staggered and writhed and spun and raised blazing hands on high, their fingers bright as torches.

Before I jump into the analysis, can I just say that the imagery of the mouth on the eye is really squicky? First things first, one of the things that I find quite curious is why, if Dany’s immunity to fire is a one-time-only deal, she shows no burns and indeed no injuries of any kind from being set on by a mob of vampire mummy wizards. This might suggest that, to some extent, this too might be more in Dany’s head or more metaphorical than real, although the fact that the House gets burned to the ground suggests otherwise. Second, I think it’s interesting how Drogon acts as Dany’s draconic heritage, and that might just as practical as it is symbolic – after all, for a descendant of Old Valyria, her connection to dragons is at the same time her connection to sorcery itself.

And with that, Dany leaves the House of the Undying…and I kind of wish GRRM had ended her ACOK arc there. But that’s a story for next time.

Historical Analysis:

So as I said above, hallucinogens (or in this context “entheogens“) have traditionally played a huge role in the shamanic and prophetic traditions, not only as a means of divination but also as an agent used in rituals of healing or coming of age. Americans are probably most familiar with the buds of the peyote cactus, which contain mescaline, or psilocybin mushrooms, which were originally used by tribes in Central America and then migrated north from what is now Mexico, becoming especially prominent in the American Southwest.

In the European tradition, things are a bit trickier to pin down as many of the traditional prophetic or shamanic practices have been lost. We think that the Dacians brought cannabis with them when they invaded Greece from Central Asia. The Elusians and other Greek mystery cults used a drink called Kykeon to induce visions, which was supposedly made up of water, barley, and other substance, which has led some to think that kykeon’s active ingredient was ergot fungus in the barley producing an LSD-like effect. But the biggest mystery is what precisely induced the visions that the oracle at Delphi used to induce visions – with some leaning to the priestess’ fits being a side effect of the natural gas vent that the oracle sat above to hear the breath of Apollo, and others arguing that the Pythia (who had been fasting for a month before giving an audience, remember) was eating and burning leaves of nerium oleander, and that the toxic plant caused the priestess’ seizures and hallucinations.

But by far the most tantalyzing mystery of lost prophetic tradition is soma. Mentioned in the Vedas and in the writings of Zoroaster as a ritual drink consumed by the Indo-Iranians (the original and actual Aryans), soma was a liquid extracted from an unknown plant, that when consumed had some pretty intense effects:

We have drunk Soma and become immortal; we have attained the light, the Gods discovered.
Now what may foeman’s malice do to harm us? What, O Immortal, mortal man’s deception?

(Rigveda (8.48.3)

What precisely this plant was, that gave both Hindus and Zoroastrians a main line to the divine, is entirely unknown. Unfortunately the source texts tend to be entirely metaphorical in describing the plant soma was supposed to come from, so candidates range from the fly-agaric mushroom (rich in ephedrine), peganum harmala (which is used as a entheogen in South America while also appearing in Iran as a plant used in incense), Ephedra plants (which are used by some Zoroastrian communities in Iran today), or the old standbys cannibis sativa or psilocybin mushrooms.

What If?

So there’s not a lot of room for hypotheticals in this chapter. At the end of the day, Dany’s story requires her to move on from here otherwise it just stops. But what if Dany does succumb? Well, in addition to the likelihood that Westeros will fall to the White Walkers, a lot changes. First, the crusade in Slaver’s Bay never happens, which in turn means that Volantis doesn’t switch from elephant to tiger, undoing a huge amount of upheaval in Essos that has ramifications for Westeros in terms of access to credit, access to mercenaries, etc. Second, it’s likely that the Golden Company doesn’t march east to Volantis, which means it could land in Westeros sooner or at the very least that Varys and Illyrio’s plans don’t get disrupted by Tyrion. Third, it changes a lot of people’s travel plans – Ser Barristan has nowhere to go, Quentyn Martell gets to stay home (poor kid), Tyrion has to relocate to Dorne and gets marginally less drunk on the voyage, etc.

Book vs. Show:

Famously, when Benioff and Weiss sought to adapt this scene for HBO’s Game of Thrones, while keeping to the overall themes of Dany IV – Daenerys enters the House of the Undying, sees visions, faces temptations, and is saved by her dragon – they jettisoned the original visions. Instead, Dany follows the sound of her draconic children to a ruined throne room in King’s Landing:

This works both as a potential prophecy of what may be coming with winter to Westeros – possibly if Dany doesn’t arrive, possibly even if she does – and as a temptation, the idea that if Dany actually touches the Iron Throne as she leans forward to do, she will sit down on it and never be able to stand up again. Luckily, the sound of her dragons distracts her and instead she finds herself north of the Wall:


Again this works as a potential prophecy of where Dany needs to go instead, given the utility of her dragons in fighting the White Walkers, and as a temptation once Dany encounters an impossibly-alive Khal Drogo and the similarly-impossible Rhaego:


Now, here’s where I’m going to take a controversial stand and say that, on balance, I think this was a good decision. Given the different nature of the two media, it’s easier to disguise some things on paper than one can on screen – while readers debated whether this vision meant Robb Stark was going to die when ACOK came out, there was just enough room for debate that the fandom as a whole couldn’t be certain (a good deal of denial helps). But when you see that the king in question is wearing Robb Stark’s armor, the audience knows exactly what’s going to happen. Thus, for the same reason that the show hasn’t really bothered with the whole Ser Barristan disguise that’s going to come up in the next Dany chapter, a bunch of the prophecies here would have been far too spoilery.

At the same time, I think a bunch of these prophecies fell pray to editorial decisions made in Season 1. Given the decision not to do the Tower of Joy sequence (which given that they’re filming it for Season 6 is a bit jarring), and to leave most of the stories about Bael the Bard and the Tourney at Harrenhal out, the audience really wouldn’t have had the context clues necessary to make sense of a lot of the visions they were seeing.

Finally, I think there might be a benefit to trying to go light on the prophecies. As we’ve seen with the tv show Lost, the danger to any mystery plot in serial entertainment is that the audience can become utterly consumed by trying to figure out the mystery and lose interest in anything else, and then get pissed off when the creators don’t follow through with the solution or if they don’t like the solution. I would rather have an audience for HBO’s Game of Thrones that was emotionally invested in the Red Wedding and Tyrion’s trial than an audience that wasn’t engaging with the material beyond an intellectual puzzle game.


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98 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Daenerys IV, ACOK

  1. nfriel says:

    I’ve always tied together all the visions Daenerys gets before the real Undying as trying to divert her, either disheartening her or preventing her from getting to the Undying. The woman Westeros shows her that the realm has been ravaged by pretender kings and won’t want another; the feast of corpses shows that old presumptions (either, with Robb, guest right and the law against kinglsaying, or for Daenerys, the “right” of Targaryens to rule) no longer hold sway in Westeros; Ser Willem and the red door show tempt Daenerys to giving up her royal claims for a simple life; King Aerys shows the poor legacy of the Targaryens; Rhaegar shows that Aegon, not Daenerys, was not the prophesied hero; and the false Undying try to trap Daenerys by being exactly what she thinks they should be – beautiful wizards who will answer all her questions. Definitely lends a sinister air to the House of the Undying, though what its larger mission would be with this, I don’t know.

    Apparently I’m the only one who feels like the visions directly reflect the three, well, “things” Daenerys will do or experience. [shrug]

    Good job.

  2. Winnie says:

    Another great analysis Steve. It may sound blasphemous but I also sometimes wonder, if one reason the series is taking so long is that Martin may have changed his mind about some of the prophesized details to take place and is now trying to get around them. Like maybe he boxed himself in a bit and that could be another reason the show didn’t include some of this.

    Congrats on hitting seven grand by the way.

    • Thanks!

      No, I don’t think he has changed his mind. In fact, one of the things I think he’s been very good about is making the decision not to change his mind after people sussed out what some of the prophecies mean, on the grounds that pulling the rug from under the reader pisses everyone off for the sake of preserving a twist, whereas sticking to the original plan, while less surprising for some, is more satisfying for everyone.

      • Winnie says:

        Fair enough. Maybe “changed his mind” isn’t the right way to put it, so much as the story itself is perhaps evolving differently than what he originally envisioned. Like the “Mereenese knot,” and there are so many prophecies…like the suggestion that Dany would be facing not only fAegon but Euron as well, but how could fAegon and Euron BOTH be occupying Westeros at the same time?!?

        • West coast, east coast?

          • Andrew says:

            Well, I think at least one of Euron and the Dornish will sack Oldtown (one of the Sand Snakes was itching for it IIRC) plus it’s likely that the Greyjoys will raid the Reach and quite possible they pull a Theon and sack Highgarden. Really don’t see the purpose to them otherwise; they really serve as a plot device to snipe royal capitals… whether he does more beyond that is questionable, I think he’s likely to be a catspaw for the warlocks.

            Aegon meanwhile is all but guaranteed to take KL. I do think Cersei will at least attempt to burn the city down (whether she succeeds and how well is another matter) and I also think Sansa is possibly going to get tied up with Aegon, perhaps as a possible suitor. I just have difficulty seeing all the pieces come together- Dany needs to get to Vaes Dothrak, unite the Dothraki, march back to Mereen to find a convenient fleet or three before sailing west with a quick stop to sack Volantis on the way. Is Victarion a plot device or a red herring- will the horn work or not?

  3. Iñigo says:

    Could the stone beast that breathes shadowfire refer to Euron riding a manipulated Rhaegal? It’s weird, but the other two prophecies in that section refer to legitimate kings from other dinasties (Baratheon and Blackfire) and Euron was legitimated by a Kingsmoot, so he is the king of the Iron islands; the other two are the false Azor ahai and the false son of Rhaegar, when the real one in bath cases is Jon. Euron being the “false” rider of Rhaegal would fill the pattern.

    • Winnie says:

      I don’t think any Greyjoy is gonna ride a dragon under any circumstances. The stone dragon relates somehow to Shireen’s demise.

      • Captain Splendid says:

        I really hope not as I’m not a big fan of the “Greyscale plague erupts via Shireen/Patchface” theory as it overloads the narrative happening at the wall.

        • I am also not a fan of that theory. It screams over-egging the pudding.

          • Grant says:

            Doesn’t mean he won’t. For theories like that, I prefer to just sit back and see what happens.

        • Winnie says:

          I wasn’t thinking greyscale. I was thinking that since we KNOW Mel and Stannis eventually sacrifice Shireen it might be because Mel wants to “wake the dragon beneath Winterfell,” little realizing her vision in fact relates to Jon.

          • Captain Splendid says:

            I’m also pretty non-plussed at the idea of a literal stone dragon just stewing underneath Winterfell, ready to be called up to do things that we already have a multitude of characters (and actual dragons!) for.

    • I just don’t see anything pointing to that. Euron’s not associate with stone, shadows, or towers. I’m pretty sure this one is Melisandre awakening a false dragon at Winterfell.

      • lylebot says:

        But why “beast” instead of “dragon”? Since we’re seeing it from Dany’s POV and she knows what dragons look like, wouldn’t she think “stone dragon” rather than “stone beast” if that’s what it is?

        For me it evokes Jon Connington, the soon-to-be stone griffin taking flight from Griffin’s Roost. But I have trouble fitting that with “slayer of lies”.

        • Eh, that seems too lowball.

          As for why not dragon, it could be that it “came out wrong” when Mel summons it.

          • Space Oddity says:

            Ehh, I’m not sure, Steve–the other two symbolize rivals and pretenders.The stone beast might just stand for a person–Mel, perhaps?–rather than a thing…

          • Andrew says:

            Well, Space Oddity, the puppet dragon, or mummer’s dragon vision stands for Aegon, so it could be argued the stone dragon stands for someone as well.

            I think it is Jon akin to Dunk and Egg where a dragon in prophecy stands for a Targaryen. The stone could be akin to Sansa’s alias “Alayne Stone,” Rickon hiding on Skagos which means “stone” in the Old Tongue and Arya hiding Needle which represents her identity, under a stone in the stairs. With Starks, stone relates to hiding identities, so it could be a hidden Targaryen.

            It makes since, Dany would be the only person Jon needs to convince of his identity as a Targaryen, and slay the lie of him being Ned’s bastard.

            Euron won’t ride Rhaegal given the drahgonhorn has been sabotaged, and out of Euron’s possession.

        • Funny, I also thought “Connington” when going through the audiobooks.

      • Winnie says:

        And in the process sacrificing poor Shireen no doubt. Such a shame a sweet child burns because Mel’s too stubborn to admit she’s been backing the wrong horse for AA despite practically being hit over the head with it.

    • Jaqen says:

      I think the stone beast refers to Bran leaving the burnt out tower of Winterfell. We know he is the winged wolf in chains (from Jojens green dream), but we also know that he is learning to see with his third eye. This means that he can leave Winterfell and break his chains. The breathing of shadow fire can easily refer to Brans powers as the three eyed raven.

      • Mar says:

        Yes I also interpreted this stone dragon as the dragon Bran as Summer sees flying from a smoking Winterfel (smoking tower?). The dragon though is not Bran, is Bloodraven. He’s a Targ,thus a dragon,and a lie. This profecy is not about three kings,is about three lies. I find odd that two out of three refers to Stannis. Instead, maybe convolutedy but thematically adecuate, the third lie that Dany will slay is that Bloodraven (and the children of the forest) are helpful forces. As the original folklore says,this magical beings deep in the lone forest have blue and orange moral. So, lies: Melisandre, Illiryo/Varys, and Blooraven’s

  4. Chinoiserie says:

    The black trees with blue leaves from witch the shade of the evening is made is nice counterpart to the wierwood trees that I actually did not notice until recently, wish they had been in the show. I would like if Euron had his warlocks in season 6 to tie up the Quarth storyline.

    The red wedding vision is there most likely because GRRM could not resist not putting it there. However I feel Dany could have also been Robb’s last hope to survive. If she had sailed with her unsullied immediately to Westeros (maybe to Dorne) after Astapor she might have been in time to change the chain of events leading to red wedding. This does not mean she should have done this but it was an option for her to change events of the future. And I believe that Dany mainly hates the usurper´s dogs such as Ned Stark personally, not their houses as a whole.

    • Winnie says:

      I’m more inclined to go with the first theory-Martin was intent on having the Red Wedding happen and he couldn’t resist foreshadowing it.

    • Good point about the weirwood trees.

    • Andrew says:

      We see Bran eat a paste with weirwood seeds with tastes starting to Vary lie shade of the evening. On top of that we have Bloodraven in place of the Undying, a pale skeleton with skin living beyond his natural lifespan.

      It makes me wonder if the Green Men are a weirwood version of the Undying?

    • Salvation122 says:

      There’s a fair bit of textual evidence to support the notion that prophecy in ASOIAF is immutable. I can’t think of a single one that hasn’t come true (save the Valonqar) despite attempts to avert them.

  5. Chris says:

    “Three treasons will you know” — I don’t think it matters whether what Mirri Maz Duur did was technically treason or revenge. What matters is that Dany experiences it as a treason.

  6. Lann says:

    With regards MMD’s actions I think if it felt like a betrayal to the object of the prophecy i.e. Dany it is technically correct for the Undying to call it a treason.

  7. priddy says:

    Thanks for another chapter analysis, Steve. I agree that the show had to greatly simplify the vision scenes. What worked in the books, would have been confusing on tv.
    My greatest critique is that the writers prepared the viewers for an encounter with the Undying Ones, and then all we got was a duplicating Pyat Pree. The actor Ian Hanmore did a good job, but he can’t compare to a horrific horde of vampiric zombie-wizards.
    Another thing that I would have done, if I had directed the scene, is that I would have had Daenerys encounter visions of Arya, Jon, Tyrion and Bran. Why? Well, first it would emphasize to the viewers the significance these characters have for the greater plot and hint, that they will eventually meet (which Tyrion and Dany did in Season 5). Secondly, the show could have used the chance to inform the audience that Jon Snow might be the son of Rhaegar Targaryen.

    • Thanks!

      I actually liked Pyat Pree and I liked the visions, it’s more that everything up until that point had sucked so no one cared.

      • Winnie says:

        Yeah, I liked the visions too, but the rest of Qarth bored me to death.

        Don’t know about you, but I’m quite looking forward to all the flashbacks/weirwood visions we’re likely to get in Season 6.

      • priddy says:

        Oh, I had nothing against Pyat Pree. Indeed, despite what one might say about how the show adapted Dany’s storyline in Qarth, it doesn’t get, at least in my opinion, enough credit, for how it set up this character. Pyat first appears at the party held in Daenery’s honor and seemingly creates a double of himself. It is unsettling, because it comes out of nowhere, but notice the subtlety. Neither Dany, nor in a Meta-Sense the viewer, can be sure, if they have just wittnessed a genuine act of magic, or just a clever parlor trick. After all, true sorcerey is very rare in the world of Westeros, and observe Pyat’s actions: he gathers the attention of the guests, gives Dany a jewel and tells her to focus on it, and ta-dah – behold his clone. This reminds more of a stage magician, than of Gandalf. (In hindsight, I’m certain he used the mother of dragons to somehow “tricker” the power of the gemstone.)
        I think that gives the assasination of the Thirteen a whole level of existential horror, beyond the mere physical savagery of the act, when there is no more doubt that Pyat’s powers are real. Wittnessing a murder is bad enough, but just like with Renly’s death, seeing it done through a violation of the natural laws is terrifying as hell and makes you question your sanity. Again the show deserves credit for the finesse: no lightning from the fingertips, no turning into a huge snake, but simple polylocation, and praise to Hanmore’s acting for pulling it off.
        More’s the pity, that the writers drop the ball after this much build-up and have Pyat killed in a rather anti-climactic way. It doesn’t make sense to me why Dany’s dragons should be able to burn the wizard to death, if he was able to survive being stabbed by Jorah Mormont’s sword two episodes earlier.

    • Chinoiserie says:

      I think it is interesting that the show has foreshadowed twice the destruction of Red Keep with this vision of Dany’s and one from Bran in season 4. People have been speculating the burning of King’s Landing from books as well but there is no visions about it from anyone. So it is interesting that the show is doing its own foreshadowing a bit and even if it will not happen literary it works. And Dany meeting Drogo and Rhaego again was one of the most emotional moments in her storyline so that worked great as well and the Wall imaginary was important as well.

  8. Keith B says:

    The “treason for love” doesn’t have to mean love of Daenerys. Possibly Illyrio betrays her for love of Aegon.

    The corpse in the prow of the ship might be Jon Connington. The grey lips would be the greyscale.

    • Yeah, Connington is the other go-to there.

    • Andrew says:

      If Barristan lives long enough and the Ashara=Septa Lemore Theory holds true that could come into play.

      Or as a crackpot a dragon!warg Arya betrays Dany for Jon Snow. Or Tyrion turns cloak for Jaime.

      I thought it interesting that Quaithe’s prophecies warned against both Quentyn and Tyrion- the former of whom was intending to offer alliance, the latter likewise. Yet Quentyn’s arrival and demise spells strife with Dorne if unwitting… the Imp’s alliance might likewise turn out poorly for Dany’s cause.

  9. Winnie says:

    BTW, I take it Steve that you think Jon/Dany will happen? Not sure I fancy the idea (for the Targ incest and other reasons) but I can see how it might make sense. Certainly deals away some of the stickier dynastic issues.

    And I agree that the person Jon has to convince most of his paternity is probably Dany…but I suspect his real trump card will be a unusual affinity with the dragons in particular Rhaegal thus proving his Valyrian heritage.

    • It might happen, it might not. Love takes many forms, after all. Both Jon and Dany might like having kin.

    • thatrabidpotato says:

      I’ve always thought Jon will be paired with Viserion, White dragon=Snow and all that.

      I won’t say who I think gets Rhaegal, it ventures too deeply into the realms of crackpot.

      • David Hunt says:

        I think most people predict Jon on Rhaegal because R+L=J says that Rhaegar was his father. To be honest, until i re-read things recently, I had convinced myself that Rhaegal was the white dragon to make both those speculations align

  10. humbatumba says:

    First off: Great analysis, I really enjoy your essays 😀

    I, too, think the “stone beast taking wing breathing shadow fire” refers to the stone dragon Melisandre wants to raise and that I am 100% sure Shireen will end up being sacrificed for.

    What I am two minds about is how literal the “slayer of lies” part is (and I feel fairly certain that GRRM intentionally left himself some leeway there). Like, I feel fairly certain that she will literally kill Aegon, but Stannis/false Azor Ahai and the stone beast I am not so sure about.

    1) If sacrificing Shireen does indeed create a stone dragon (controlled by Melisandre with her shadow binding techniques, I assume), then I think said dragon will be false in the sense that it might looks impressive but that its “shadow fire” can’t actually hurt people or is ineffective at causing damage.

    It would be like Lightbringer – an empty glamour, a lie easily slain by Daenerys’ “true” dragons. This would require Stannis to either clash with her somewhere in the North or Stannis making another attempt on King’s Landing.

    In this scenario, Daenerys ends up killing both Stannis and his stone dragon.


    2) The lie of Stannis being Azor Ahai and the lie waking a dragon from stone are being slain in a metaphorical sense – Stannis when Aemon declares his Lightbringer false, and the lie of waking dragons from stone will be slain when Shireen is sacrificed, and it simply ending up not doing anything at all. Other than leaving Shireen dead and Stannis a broken man.

    There is even some arguable foreshadowing that the failure to wake dragons from stone by killing a child with king’s blood will cause the falling out of Melisandre and Stannis (“Is there no other way? Swear it on your life, for you will die screaming by inches if you lie.”).

    That would also be a way to slay the lie – Dany succeeds at raising dragons from stone, Stannis doesn’t.

    This would simultaneously reinforce that Stannis is not Azor Ahai, and cause Melisandre to abandon him (because I feel pretty certain that Stannis would make good on his threat otherwise).

    Depending on the context of where and when it happens, I can see Stannis potentionally either committing suicide-by-battle or just straight up killing himself (with the vision of a king being consumed by a crown of fire maybe turning out more literal than one would assume).

    (English isn’t my first language, so I hope what wrote makes some sense, and apologize if it doesn’t. And I also hope this comment doesn’t pop-up four times because wordpress was behaving wonky.)

    • winnief says:

      Epic post and it sounds disturbingly plausible to me. D&D I think decided to accelerate and get that plot line out of the way, (so no Stannis at WF but leave that to be another Hero moment for Jon) or screwing around with the stone dragon prophecy like will happen in the books. (Especially if that requires expensive CGI.) But the core arguably is that Stannis burns Shireen because Mel believes it will help him as AA and only in the aftermath does Mel realize her mistake and leave…at which point Stannis is more than ready to die in battle.

      Sadly it doesn’t look like we’ll ever get Dany vs. Stannis just like we got stiffed out of Dany vs. Tywin. At this point by the time she does get to Westeros every worthy *human* adversary will be gone. (No I don’t consider fAegon especially interesting and apparently the show runners agreed.)

    • Andrew says:

      I don’t think the stone dragon refers to the stone dragon Melisandre is trying to wake, but a metaphorical one.

      Look at the first and third prophecy trios, and you will find each vision/prophecy deals with a single person. The first one deals with Viserys, Rhaego and Rhaegar. The third deals with Drogo, the second one I’m unsure about, maybe Tyrion, and the third deals with Jon. No person is mentioned twice in each trio. Therefore, in “slayer of lies” it would be redundant to mention Stannis again, and out of sync with the scheme being used. Is he that dangerous or formidable Dany needs to be informed twice about him?

      Also, look at the first and third trios again, and look at the last lines of each:

      “Rubies flew like drops of blood from the chest of a dying prince, and he sank to his knees in the water and with his last breath murmured a woman’s name”

      “A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness.”

      The former is Rhaegar whispering Lyanna’s name, and the latter is Jon on the Wall with the blue rose referencing his parents’ relationship. Thus, it can determined that the last vision of each trio relates to Jon somehow.

      In the trio of “slayer of lies,” each lie is tied to a claim for the Iron Throne, and have a significant political impact. Aegon being Rhaegar’s son ties to to his claim, and it destroys the cause for his large following. Stannis’s status as Azor Ahai ties to his claim to the Iron Throne, and the Queensmen are fervently devoted to Stannis out of the belief he is Azor Ahai. The third vision of the stone dragon has to tie to someone’s claim to the Iron Throne, and it also must be a king, or someone of royal lineage. Stannis has already been mentioned so it can’t be him. In the case of a literal stone dragon, where is the lie in that? If you that it is the lie of it not being a real dragon, I think that would already be obvious, and wouldn’t need pointing out. The lie being revealed has to have a significant political impact when it is unveiled, something a stone dragon can’t live up to. As to the lie of Shireen just being killed with no dragon is a lie that doesn’t get slain by Dany as she doesn’t figure into it. The lie of Stannis not being Azor Ahai has already been mentioned, and I don’t know why she would need to slay that lie twice.

      I actually think Melsiandre will awake a kind of uce dragon in a reference to the Ice Dragon by GRRM. The story has a girl with little warmth or emotion sacrificing her ice dragon in a fight against three prince on fire dragons from the south to save her father. In this case it would be reversed with a stoic, cold father sacrificing his daughter for an ice dragon against three fire dragons from the south.

      • winnief says:

        And instead of waking a literal ice dragon it revives Jon.

        • Andrew says:

          I think Melisandre would be more likely to sacrifice Gerrick Kingsblood in that instance given kingsblood is the ingredient in her spells, which is literally Gerrick’s last name. I don’t think it would be to wake a dragon, but something else.

          The dragon for Stannis wouldn’t be until ADoS.

    • Steven Xue says:

      Good call on Stannis being the Murmur’s Dragon. I’ve always seen Stannis as the ‘anti-Daenerys’. Thoughout the books I can’t help but feel he’s been trying while unwittingly to steal Dany’s mantle, both as the heir to the Iron Throne and as the savior of the world.

      For starters Dragonstone. While the island fortress was always the seat of House Targaryen, while Dany was in exile Stannis had been ruling the most significant Targaryen seat next to the Iron Throne even though historically it wasn’t his family’s seat. While Viserys was still alive she was still recognized by Targaryen loyalists as the Princess of Dragonstone.

      And when it comes to their birthrights, both are gunning for the Iron Throne as the ‘rightful heir’. Dany because she’s the daughter of the deposed king while Stannis is the brother of the usurper. And lets not forget how they both have supporters from R’hllor claiming they are the messiah of this religion.

      Well from what we’ve seen, Dany clearly is the messiah. She literally walked into a burning pyre and came out unscathed with three baby dragons while Stannis took part in some random ritual that didn’t really have any affect on him whatsoever, tried and failed and probably will still fail to wake a dragon from stone. I personally believe that Dany’s title as the “slayer of lies” is directed against Stannis. She is destined to slay the lie of Stannis Baratheon.

  11. Nick S says:

    Amazing analysis, as always!
    One thing I realized is another way that GRRM screwed with the Rule of Three (if your interpretations are correct, which I think they are.) The third “for love” prophecy, about betrayal, has nothing to do with Jon while the other two do.
    Something that’s always bothered me about this chapter, and something I’d love to get your opinion on, is that the prophecies clearly state that Dany has a lot left unfinished, so why do the Undying think they can get away with draining her life? Do they not have access to these prophecies as well, or do they just think they’re strong enough to break fate?

    • winnief says:

      One other subversion of the rule of three is the three dragon riders…two of them Dany and Jon are Targaryen children but the third one Tyrion is not. (Sorry A+J=T fans!) I think the biggest reason people hold that theory is to explain how Tyrion could be the third rider but I think it will be warging or Tyrion’s own knowledge of dragons. Ultimately Tyrion has to be Tywin’s son for that tragedy tonwork

  12. CapnAndy says:

    There’s an aspect to the visions Dany sees in the show that you missed, and that makes me think you’re wrong about Jon’s eventual fate. The throne room is ruined and winter has come to King’s Landing, yes… but Snow sits on the Iron Throne.

  13. Pyat Pree says:

    In the TV show version, Dany comes to the destroyed throne room but does not touch the IT which has already been claimed by the snow. Snow, Ned!

    That means by the time Dany finishes the Second Dance of Dragons (symbolized by Dany coming inches close to the ultimate objective i.e. the IT); Jon might have made R+L=J public and even proclaimed to be the true king. Or even if Jon does not claim to be the true king, people following him might start to see him as one because of his efforts in leading the war against the Others.

    Then, Dany goes North, following the sound of her “children”. Without seeing anything or anyone, she enters the tent and sees her dead. Remember, Dany was dragged into the tent before the stillbirth of Rhaego, which nearly killed her.

    The interpretation is very clear. Dany will die from childbirth in the North.

    • winnief says:

      That sounds very plausible. I always had a theory (based on nothing I admit) that Dany will have a living child most likely a daughter who will be raised by Jon and whoever he weds.

      • Andrew says:

        I think she will have a girl too. I think the girl would be a reference to Shiera Seastar if Tyrion is the father,. Shiera had mismatched green and blue eyes, and the girl would inherit mismatched eyes from Tyrion with a Lannister green and a Targaryen deep blue. Like Shiera she would also have silver-gold hair from her Targaryen side and be a bookworm, something she would get from her father. She would be Lady to the wealthiest seat in Westeros, and coupled with being cousin to the king, be the most desired bachelorette in Westeros.

        • winnief says:

          Very possibly. In fact such a bacherlorette might even marry the King himself. Even in the show where the mines ran out the Westernlands and the Rock are still quite an inheritance and for it to pass to the child of Tywin’s most hated child would be quite the irony.

  14. David Hunt says:

    Great essay!

    However, you listed hardly anything radically different from things that I’d figured out for myself. You’re supposed to have this stuff figured out and predict exactly what’s going to happen even in books that haven’t been written yet! /Crackpot

    More seriously, this was a great read. Although I’d reached mostly the same conclusions that you had regarding Dany’s visions, you were more in depth than I’d looked at it. For instance, I hadn’t noticed the subtle breaking in the patterns of the 3×3 prophecies, plus you looked at a more than just that stuff.

    I’d never even considered the idea of the mount she rode “to bed” was the Silver instead of Drogo himself. In fact, I still can’t say I’m convinced. Before I read this essay, I’d acknowledge the weakness of how the Drogo version requires a different interpretation of the the “mounts must you ride” but I’m going to seize on your observation of how the language shifts inside the prophecy’s wording and use that as an escape clause. Perhaps even more importantly, if you read the Dany’s thoughts when she finally rides Drogon out of the Pit, I can’t come up with a better description of the language than “orgasmic.” So I’m going to stay with my First Mount is Drogo theory.

    I flip flop in my opinion of how much of the events in the HOTU was real, how much was “real,” and how much was hallucinations brought about by the shade of the evening. I’m highly confident in the predictive power of her visions. We have enough stuff that we can look back on as a check of accuracy to show that we’re seeing true visions of the future. However, at this time I don’t think that the Undying actually had any power to predict the future. I think that they used their powers to cause Dany’s drugged mind to see the future and fed her back what they were learning form her.

    I was going to make the argument that if the Undying had any prophetic powers that they would never had let her in the building, given how she brought about their doom, but maybe that’s not sufficient. Maybe they were blind to their own nemesis or maybe they don’t determine who warlocks like Pyat Pree allow to make the attempt to reach them. They don’t strike me as the type of people that would keep assistants for very long, what with the whole vampiric soul sucking thing they’ve got going on, so lines of communication with the warlocks might be a tad limited. This could explain their (Rule of) three attempt to get Dany to stray from the path that leads to them.

    • Chinoiserie says:

      I feel that if mounts to ride literary means men it is a bit… I do not know what would be the right world, unappealing maybe. And it is not very poetic or symmetric since I would not say that both Daario and Hizdarh would be counted.

  15. Ser Biffy Clegane says:

    Lately, I’m a little consumed by the various times that someone has thought the word “dragon” in their prophesy meant dragon, only to find out meant Tagaryn. Showing us actual dragons would be a clever way to get close readers to kick at that football one last time.

    In that case, “mother of dragons” would presumably mean that Dany will be the progenitor of a renewed line of Tagaryns, and “Stone Dragon” obviously refers to Shagga, who is a secret Targ byblow through Nettles. (Or Shireen, I guess, but Shagga on a dragon would be so simultaneously absurd and awesome that I’m hoping the show does it.)

  16. Sean C. says:

    You can divide the casual readers from the hardcore ones by assessing how they rate this chapter. People who weren’t fixating on trying to analyze all these details would not place this nearly as high.

    Minor note, the quote included in this article of Dany describing old Willem Darry as the “sweet old bear” was kind of interesting, since “bear” is a descriptor she often uses for Jorah (granted, his sigil is a bear, but given all the animal symbolism in GRRM’s novel I doubt he uses words like that randomly). Not the association Jorah would want, of course.

  17. I think a lot of prophecies are phrased (in true GRRM style) to have two or more interpretations. Here’s my more thought out example:

    “three mounts must you ride…one to bed and one to dread and one to love…”

    This prophecy isn’t referring to just her rides or her romantic partners, but instead it’s referring to how different stages of her life are being represented by *both* her rides & romantic partners.
    One to Bed: This is both her Silver AND Drogo, which together represent her assimilation into Dothraki culture.
    One to Dread:This is both Drogon AND Hizdar, which together represent her reassertion as the last Targaryean (both a dragonrider and a royal who marries for politics)
    One to Love: Who knows the ride and the lover, but I’m guess that they will ultimately represent her assumption of (all or part) of the Azor Ahai role.

    Mostly my point is that I think that by the story’s end, GRRM will have successfully structured events to the point that one will be able to argue these (and other) prophecies numerous ways.

    My other main evidence of this is: “A tall lord with copper skin and silver-gold hair stood beneath the banner of a fiery stallion, a burning city behind him.”

    So clearly the crones of Vaes Dothrak were in tune with a vision of a possible future, but that one was of course diverted…except Dany herself is fulfilling the destiny originally predicted for her son.

    So GRRM is effectively telling us that in this world ALL prophecy will come to pass, but that there are a multitude of ways that it COULD come to pass.

  18. Andrew says:

    Another good chapter analysis.

    1. We disagree on the stone dragon, and I guess we will wait and see in ADoS.

    2. As to the crones coming out of the lake, I agree it has to do with any being declared the StMtW. If Dany uses Drogon in Vaes Dothrak to do that, then a lake would be the ideal place to shelter during a dragon attack.

    2a. Personally, I think a girl as the StmtW makes more sense than a guy. The Dothraki culture is centered around horses. Those who know horses know that it is not a stallion, but a mare who leads the herd. So it makes perfect sense in that regard for Dany to be the Stallion that mounts the World or rather Mare that Mounts the World.

    3. I think the treason for love will be Tyrion. I think Jaime will be captured in battle, and Dany will give him a trial for murdering her father, and then condemned to death. Jaime would mention Aerys’s wildifre plan, and Tyrion would vouch for him mentioning that in preparation for the BoBW, pyromancers found hidden caches of wildfire buried beneath King’s Landing from her father’s reign. That is beside the point, I think the situation would be a reverse of what it was in ASoS in that now it is Jaime awaiting execution for regicide, and it is Tyrion who helps him escape.

    4. My theory for the treason for gold is that Brown Ben Plumm could betray Dany by defecting to the Golden Company for the promise of Casterly Rock, only to be poisoned by the Martells akin to Ulf the White.

  19. Steven Xue says:

    This is by far my favorite chapter yet. Nice catch on the dwarves raping the woman being a 19th century caricature of the Westeros in the turmoil it was in because of the WO5K. I’ve seen a few of them but never made the distinction of what this HOTU vision meant until now. I actually thought at one point it that the four dwarves were Tyrion (at least one of them) gang raping Cersei. That sometime in the future Tyrion will get revenge on his sister by getting a gang of dwarves similar to himself to brutally rape his sister (perhaps even taking part in the act himself).

  20. James says:

    Been looking forward to this one for a while.

    I personally always thought that the flight of the stone beast could refer to a mass outbreak of Greyscale, although couldn’t begin to nail down the significance of the smoking tower.

    Also, something about how Viserys was represented in Danaerys’ fever dream in the Dothraki Sea was quite jarring to me, so much so that I’m starting to wonder if the treasons mentioned are actually ones that she would commit.

  21. James says:

    Been looking forward to this one for a while, great essay.

    I think the flight of the stone beast is a metaphor for a mass Greyscale outbreak, especially as HBO have also had a main character contract it. Couldn’t say how the smoking tower would fit in though.

    Also, there was something really jarring about Viserys in Dany’s fever dream in the Dothraki sea at the end of Dance, so much so that I’m beginning to wonder if the three treasons will turn out to be ones that she carries out.

  22. […] the last three weeks, I’ve been running a Kickstarter to try to raise funds to let me spend some time writing exclusively about A Song of Ice and Fire, […]

  23. Space Oddity says:

    You know an interesting fictional predecessor to the House of the Undying occurred to me–in Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar series, which frequently focuses on his world of Newhon’s oldest, biggest, most decadent city, the eternal Gods of Lankhmar (always to be distinguished from the transient Gods IN Lankhmar) are the mummified ancestors of the people, who rest in unadorned squat black temple with a bell tower, and wake when there’s a threat to the city–or one of those aforementioned Gods in Lankhmar’s worshipers are getting uppity…

  24. Brian says:

    Regarding whether MMD’s actions count as treason: it could be considered “petty treason”, i.e. a servant/slave harming their master.

  25. Janine says:

    I thought the treason for gold refered to Viserys – he sold Dany and got a pot of gold.
    The treason for blood was Rhaegar (the blood being Lyannas…)

    • How is Rhaegar a case of treason against Dany?

      • Ser Biffy Clegane says:

        I hadn’t thought of it before, but “three treasons shall you know” doesn’t necessarily mean that the treasons are against her.

        I don’t expect it to happen, but it would be very elegant for Dany to look back at the end and realize she had COMMITTED three treasons, one for blood, one for gold, and one for love. If so, the sack of Astopor would be one for sure…

      • Janine says:

        Not quite against Dany alone, but against the family per se. He became aware of the problems Aerys caused (as king and as a human being – just ask Rhaella) and after the first tenantive steps to mend the kingdom he run of with Lyanna and the situation got even worse.

        He gets points if he was trying to fulfil a prophesy, but it would have been better he learned to walk before he started running – but of course, all of this is in the past…

  26. Paulina says:

    Hi! I really admire your work here!
    Can I ask what is your conclusion to the whole prophet narrative? I’ve been working on this chapter as well for my fantasy literature class and I argued that Dany actually was given the answer she was looking for – should she become a conqueror?
    The Undying Ones called her “mother of dragons… child of three…” (Martin 1998, 665). She did not understand at first, but it was obvious that they referred to her glorious ancestors; Aegon the Conqueror of House Targaryen and his two sisters-wives, Rhaenys and Visenya; the three legendary dragon riders, who conquered Westeros with the aid of their famous dragons: Balerion, Vhagar and Meraxes. The Undying Ones basically called Daenerys a daughter of conquerors, which could be interpreted as an answer for the question that was troubling her for such a long time.
    Do you agree that she actually understood that message, as she immediately went to conquer cities? If not, what kind of enlightment did she gain as a prophet? Or was it only paranoia?
    Sorry if I made mistakes here, English is my second language 🙂

  27. […] at the Tower of Joy were the same flowers. Similarly, the blue rose figures in Dany’s vision at the House of the Undying and will show up again in Theon’s nightmares. Likewise, the story of a charming singer who […]

  28. […] of course, is seeing Robb Stark bearing the wounds of the Red Wedding – although unlike in Dany’s visions he’s got his own head. This is just straight-up prophecy, as if the event is throwing […]

  29. […] Having survived the ordeal of the desert, passed the test of worldly temptation, and undergone a dream quest in the House of the Undying, she now….dickers around a bit with Xaro Xhoan Daxos, gets in her own head a bit, survives an […]

  30. […] main event of this, the first set of visions from the shade of the evening we’ve had since Dany IV of ACOK.  And the Euron we meet in this vision is eschatologically […]

  31. […] The third one is a mystery, and I really like the interpretation of Steven Attwell: […]

  32. […] small for the most part to do anything on their own (save for Drogon’s intervention at the HOTU). Now that the dragons are growing, they are starting to become real characters like the […]

  33. […] and the “chains” language doesn’t link back to either Theon’s or Dany’s visions so we don’t necessarily associate this prophecy with those because of the lack […]

  34. […] (in both senses of the word) among the population of King’s Landing so as to fulfill the prophecy of the “mummer’s dragon.” However, this section raises the question as to what the rest of Varys’ intentions were […]

  35. […] Given how often Dany’s storyline has intersected with issues of consent and sexuality in uncomfortable ways, it’s gratifying to see her lay out the reasons why Jorah’s attention is unwanted – their age difference (she’s 15, he’s 45), their difference in social status (there’s the premodern sensibility to throw you for a loop), but most importantly because Jorah touched her without her consent and wants to keep doing so despite being told not to, which goes against the precepts of both chivalric romance and #MeToo. Moreover, unfortunately for any Dany/Jorah shippers out there (and based on a quick search of An Archive of Our Own, they are out there), Dany just doesn’t find him attractive. (Incidentally, I wonder if Dany’s “younger and more comely” mystery man is a specific callback to her three mounts…) […]

  36. […] story that he’s been writing, going back to the thread of R+L=J that he’s left dangling since Dany fled the House of the Undying and Theon had a […]

  37. […] In so far as authorial intent matters, however, it’s worth noting that Melisandre’s lists of opposites overlaps pretty thoroughly with the list from Bran II – night and day, love and hate, ice and fire –  which is something of a clue that the red priestess is wrong, not so much about a conflict between life and death, but about the prophecy of the prince who was promised being about opposition rather than synthesis. […]

  38. […] As I discussed at the beginning of this essay, the phrase “if I look back I am lost” has undergone something of a process of memetic mutation. At the moment the thought passes through her head, Dany is a terrified underdog who feels “small and insignificant,” with less than a hundred soldiers up against the whole of Astapor. Despite this numerical disadvantage, she’s already made the bargain at the beginning of the chapter, and thus has no choice but to forge ahead. This feeling of trepidation explains why she chooses to “put the oldest and weakest on the inside of the column” as if the khalasar were traveling through dangerous wilderness, but also why she shifts from her earlier Qartheen gown, which is meant to allure and distract, to her Dothraki garb. Not only does this earlier identity give Dany a sense of connection to her still-tiny khalasar, but it also gives a tangible connection to the last time she triumphed over a seemingly superior foe. […]

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