Analysis of “Sons of the Dragon”

credit to Amok

Our long wait for more George R.R Martin content – it’s been a year and four months since we got “The Forsaken” – has ended, as we now have “Sons of the Dragon,” an unexpurgated version of the reigns of King Aenys and King Maegor.

Now that the withdrawal shakes have faded, what new information do we get about their reigns?

Overall Impressions:

I have something of a mixed feeling about this particular short story. I was initially not that interested, both because these particular years aren’t my favorite period of Westerosi history and because I felt we’d already gotten a pretty full account in the WOIAF, so I thought this essay wouldn’t really add anything new. That particular concern has been pretty solidly answered – there’s a wealth of new material in this short story, and it really does add to our understanding of the period.

On the other hand, not everything new is that good. I’ll get into this more when I begin to move through the text, but apparently this short story is the un-edited first draft that GRRM wrote and not the edited (and abdridged) version that went into WOIAF, and it shows. Names change, plot threads get dropped and various plot holes emerge, and other kinds of continuity errors emerge (and given my own mistakes in the High Spider, I’m hardly one to judge too harshly), but beyond these issues there’s a larger issue that an editor should have brought up: namely that the story get a bit same-y and repetitive and could have really used some tightening up to prove smoother narrative arcs.

Royal Childhoods:

This section is mostly concerned with establishing the sharp distinctions between Aenys and Maegor – the former sickly but charismatic, the latter ridiculously physically robust but unpopular – but there’s plenty to talk about.

For one thing, one of the things that “Sons” does which WOIAF didn’t was to ironically establush Aenys as daddy’s favorite and Maegor as loved only by his mother – I liked the touch of Maegor being given Dark Sister by his mother, although that sets up an unfortunate overshadowing when he gets Blackfyre in a bit – which is an interesting subversion from the way that we usually gender these things. (I was surprised that Aenys was made a passable warrior in this draft, since that cuts across themes in a way that doesn’t really payoff)

One thing I didn’t like as much was how heavy-handed this section was about Maegor’s psychopathy. Going back to the Joffrey well of having the young prince “butcher one of the castle cats” was doubly strange to me, because why have “this tale…a calumny devised by his enemies many years later” if it was open fact that Maegor stabbed a horse to death for kicking him, and then “slashed half the face off the stable-boy who came running at the beast’s screams”? If it’s public knowledge that Maegor was murdering animals and people from an early age, why go to the effort of inventing slanders?

One thing that this section did nicely was to really build up the idea of how unstable Aegon’s Conquest was on religious grounds and how widely incest was abominated.*(Speaking as the writer of the life of the High Spider, I actually laughed out loud when I read that “there was a single god with seven faces” – clearly the High Spider’s work outlived him!) For example, we learn that “many amongst the Most Devout” wanted the High Septon to come out against Aegon I and opposed his decision to anoint the Targaryen Conqueror. It certainly makes it more credible that a religious rebellion would inevitably boil up if for twenty six years “the question of incestuous marriage remained, simmering below the courties like poison.”

* This may be me reading more into it than is on the page, but I thought it was interesting that “the doctrines of the Faith, handed down through centuries from Andalos itself, condemned the Valyrian marriage customs” seems to suggest that the Andal taboo was something of a reaction to the Valryians themselves. Although notably the taboo seems limited to direct relations, with cousins and uncle/aunt-niece/nephew marriages left out, which is a much, much narrower taboo than the medieval Catholic Church.

Another nice bit of of worlbuilding that I quite liked was the new information that Aegon the Conqueror had “exempt[ed] its wealth and property from taxation,” which makes the Faith move that much closer to the medieval Catholic Church in prosperity if not in political power.

Other small details:

  • Interesting running theme in this section about fertility vs. strength in arms, foreshadowing Maegor’s all-consuming problem later on.
  • I loved the inclusion of Sargoso Saan, yet another illustrious piratical relative of our own good friend Salladhor.
  • Blackfyre being burned with Aegon and yet not burning is a nice visual.

The Reign of King Aenys (yes, go ahead and snigger):

While I liked the theme of a class divergence in public opinion, with the smallfolk liking Aenys (at first) and the nobility preferring Maegor, the bit with Blackfyre didn’t work for me. It was too close a foreshadowing to Daemon Blackfyre and frankly doesn’t really make sense in-universe; why would Visenya make that big a deal about the sword when Aegon the Conqueror himself pressed Blackfyre into Aenys’ hands? Seems a poor argument to rest one’s case on.

The revolts against Aenys were some of my favorite additions to the text, as they really added political context from many different angles: in addition to the idea of the scars of the War of Conquest, you have a nice parallel to Aegon V with the knights and lords bemoaning their lost liberty to “slash their way to riches and glory…to tax their smallfolk or kill their enemies.” This gives the sense that there were two distinct revolts against Aenys: one by the nobility and one by the smallfolk.

To get into more detail:

  • While the additional fatshaming of Lord Gargon Qoherys is really not needed, GRRM, I did like the fleshing out of the story of Harren the Red: the outraged father being the one to betray Gargon the Guest, the ongoing theme of animals eating humans in Harrenhal fits nicely with ASOS/AFFC, etc. Also, I liked the inclusion of the origins of House Brune here.
  • We get a wealth of new information about the Vulture King, which ties in his “rebellion” in with the Dornish Wars, as he “called on all true Dornishmen to avenge the evils visited on Dorne by the Targaryens.” Especially with the information that Deria Martell was “playing a double game” by denouncing him publicly but sending him arms and trained men, it definitely gives a sense of the Dragon’s Wroth backfiring on them even unto the next generation. (Not as much a fan of the No-Nose Dondarrion; that’s going to the same well a bit much for me.) And his downfall of trying to attack Stonehelm and Nightsong at the same time, as well as the nature of “Savage” Sam Tarly’s trap and his meting out of vengeance worked really well.
  • Still no new info about the great council…sigh.
  • We don’t get much new information about the Vale here, although it is interesting to see the Royces once again acting as the Loyal Opposition…and given that the current line of Arryns has Royce blood in them, that fits quite well.

The revolt of the Faith Militant is also given a huge amount of new material, some of which I’ve talked about before and some of which I’ll touch on in a bit.  I would like to know more about the “Valyrian rite” (although the “wed by blood and fire” betrays GRRM’s overmuch love for sticking his house words into places where they don’t work) of Maegor’s second marriage, and I found it somewhat surprising that the Faith Militant didn’t try to prevent the marriage of Aegon and Rhaena given that they would seize the capitol very shortly; I especially liked the detail of them taking over the worksite of the Red Keep.

The Reign of King Maegor:

We finally get the identities of the participants of Maegor’s Trial by Seven: Ser Damon Morrigen, Ser Lyle Bracken (hey, a good Bracken for once!), Ser Harys Hopre, Ser Aegon Ambrose (ironically named if so), Ser Dickon Flowers (another highborn Reach bastard in the Warrior’s Sons!), and a Septon Knight on one side, and Dick Bean, Ser Bramm of Blackhull, Ser Rayford Storby, Ser Guy Lothston (again, with the fate hate, GRRM?), and Ser Lucifer Massey on the other. And I could see why GRRM cut the details on the fight (the forty pies, the swapping hands, and so on are pretty OTT) .

After Maegor’s duel, we get the expanded info on the Revolt of the Faithful: in addition to learning that the Warrior’s Sons had a chapter in Oldtown, Lannisport, Gulltown, and Stony Sept (another of the High Spider’s works!) we learn about Ser Horys Hill (who’s a bit new), Wat the Hewer (who’s not, although what happens to him is quite new and grisly), the Fighting Fool, and so on.*

* incidentally, this is where I get a bit annoyed with the pacing, because having the section on the Poor Fellows before the Great Fork and then another section after, and then again after the Godseye contributes to the same-y feel of some of this. (Ditto, it feels like Maegor outlaws the Faith Militant once before Bitterbridge, a second time after his third marriage, and then again after he takes Oldtown.) Some consolidation would have worked wonders.

But coming back to stuff I liked not as much: having Maegor cut off the head of Grand Maester Gawen is quite shocking; when he cuts off the head of Grand Maester Myres, it’s less shocking and leads to a gradual process of de-sensitization where GRRM has to keep upping the stakes of atrocities, especially when he kills the third one. You start to wonder after a while why anyone bothered sending new ones, or why in hell Alyssa would ever agree to come back to the Red Keep from Driftmark when the king is murdering people left, right, and center. (Also, while we’re on the issue of slander…if it’s open fact that Alys Harroway jumped into bed with Maegor and Tyanna, why bother making stuff up with the Black Brides?)

I especially liked the Year of Three Queens, which brings with it a bunch of new Faith Militant desperadoes – Ragged Silas, Septon Moon (who I really liked, especially when he gets crowned as High Septon and starts giving Jon Ball-like speeches in front of thousands…I would really like it if he became High Septon in fact at some future point), Ser Joffrey “Red Dog” Doggett and his blessing by the High Septon, and Poxy Jeyne Poore (another favorite). I especially liked the bit with the Red Dog sending out his men in the guise of hedge knights to assassinate Maegor’s cronies.

My one dislike is that I felt that Visenya and Maegor burning the Reach and the Westerlands felt A. a bit too similar to the Dance of the Dragons, and B. not well-edited (since a bunch of the Houses aren’t from the right regions). I will say that the description of Maegor’s march on Oldtown, with the full version of the city’s preparations and the High Septon’s assassination, was a real improvement and put me in mind of the High Spider quite a bit. The additional info of Ceryse Hightower being given her “rights, incomes, and privileges” really makes it seem like the Hightowers cut a deal to whack the High Septon and deliver the votes for the new one.

The Battle of the Godseye is another improvement. We learn a lot more about Prince Aegon’s supporters (although not how his dragon got to him from King’s Landing…): he was supported by the Tarbeckes, Pipers, Rootes, Vances, Charltons, Freys (a rare example of a daring Frey), Paeges, Parrens, Westerlings, Corbrays, Dustins (a rare case of Northern political activity), and a Connington, whereas Maegor was backed by the Harroways, Tullys, Rowans, Merryweathers, and Caswells. (I did like Alyssa conniving with the Baratheons, Arryns, Starks, and Lannisters.) The description of the encirclement of Prince Aegon’s army was particularly well done. (Btw, I noticed a continuing theme of lethal Corbrays…)

The downfall of House Harroway is turned into Anne Boleyn on steroids, with Alys being accused of incest with her father, a list of twenty men put to the torture, her father flung from the roof of the Tower of the Hand, his male king thown into the moat around Maegor’s Holdfast, and then Harrenhal and Lord Harroway’s town purged as well. Interesting that even after the melee, Harrenhal’s “domains were much diminished, as the king granted Lord Harroway’s Town to Lord Alton Butterwell, and the rest of the Harroway holdings to Lord Domand Darry.” (To still be the richest fief in ASOIAF, they must have gotten some back since, since we know the Butterwells have their fall.)

Moving on to 45 AC, Ceryse’s death is gruesomely expanded on, although I still wonder why the need for the slander. The setpiece of the death of Poxy Jeyne was quite good, although again the back-and-forth is a bit annoying.

Moving on to 46 AC, I liked the addition of the council’s advice that led to the Black Brides, although the bit of business with Rhaena and her daughter was a bit unlikely. Likewise, I don’t get the need for the legends around the Black Brides. The bit about “his privy parts were poisoned, his seed full of worms” was a nice addition, though.

The fall of Maegor has some nice additions – Ser Joffrey Doggett as Lord Tully’s guest, Septon Moon’s march on Oldtown, a possible Dornish invasion, etc. Jaehaerys being given Dark Sister and Blackfyre seems a bit superfluous as with before.

Finally, six years and sixty-six days…oh, GRRM.

 

 

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57 thoughts on “Analysis of “Sons of the Dragon”

  1. Sean C. says:

    The handling of the dragons in this story makes little sense. By far the biggest issue: there’s no explanation at all for how Prince Aegon ended up with Quicksilver, seeing as he was in the Westerlands when Aegon died and Quicksilver was on Dragonstone with Aenys I.

    But then there are other problems, like, why did neither Prince Aegon or Prince Viserys have dragons when Jaehaerys and Alysanne did? The story makes a big to-do about Rhaena not being able to hide Dreamfyre (and thus needing to send her daughters into hiding), but Jaehaerys and Alysanne are able to hide their dragons at Storm’s End for years with no problem?

    • Murc says:

      It seems like… how to put this.

      Sons of the Dragon ain’t bad. It ain’t amazing, there’s interesting stuff there, but it’s merely okay.

      But it is… very, very unpolished. You can’t say that about The Rogue Prince or The Princess and the Queen; they might have parts that are bad or don’t make a lot of sense but they very clearly had a bunch of editorial passes. Ditto TWOIAF. And of course the Dunk and Egg stories have at least as much time and care put into them as the mainline novels do.

      This is the first thing by GRRM I’ve ever read that felt like it was released for largely mercenary reasons. It really feels like his old friend and colleague Gardner Dozois asked George if he could help a guy out by goosing his latest anthology, and George said “okay, sure, take this manuscript” and that was that.

    • Yeah, that was a weird excuse wrt to Rhaena.

    • Abbey Battle says:

      I agree that the sage of Quicksilver deserves a few more verses, but I would also like to suggest some personal speculation regarding the latter two points:-

      – The most obvious explanation for Jaehaerys & Alysanne being able to conceal their dragons where their elder sister could not is that Vermithor & Silverwing had not yet attained their full size and were therefore somewhat easier to hide (the fact that Lord Robar Baratheon was actively assisting those two with all his power, while the Lord of the West appears to have left Princess Rhaena to fend for herself would make flying under the radar of the King’s Raven much more difficult for her).

      – It is far from impossible that, like his Uncle Maegor, Aegon the Uncrowned had been angling to inherit the Black Dread upon the Conqueror’s Death: having been cheated of this ambition he may well have continued to see any lesser dragon as beneath his dignity or simply taken his own sweet time about picking out a possible replacement (he was, after all, a very young man who, so far as he knew, would have plenty of time left in which to do so).

      As for Prince Viserys (and this might also apply to Prince Aegon) it is far from impossible that he had been given a Dragon’s Egg that did not hatch or been cheated of his chance at a hatchling by some depredation of The Cannibal (who would probably have been active at this time) or otherwise seen his hatchling die young (dragons being potent, but not immortal): concerning Prince Viserys it should also be noted that if he were still Dragon-less for any reason at the time of his Uncle’s “acquisition” of the crown then it is a near-certainty that Maegor the Cruel would have denied him a chance to acquire one (in the interests of preventing his new squire from becoming a genuine threat).

      Now I will once again admit this is all purely speculative, but I hope that these suggestions will seem possible and even plausible!

      • Abbey Battle says:

        Please read “regarding the issue of the dragon-less princes and the inability of Princess Rhaena to hide her dragon” for “latter two points” (for this reply was posted a little further down the page than I had hoped).

  2. artihcus022 says:

    I was thinking of avoiding Sons of the Dragon and reading this confirms it. GRRM said he’s releasing Fire and Blood Vol. 1 next year, so that will fix this and the rest…so why bother.

    To me Daemon Rogue Prince >>> Maegor as far as interesting psychopathic Targaryens go. And Aerys Mad King was also a good take on the Evil Overlord whereas Maegor is just confusing…he’s big, brutish, dumb, kills puppies, is some kind of Momma’s Boy and is a great warrior. He’s a nothing character.

    • I would say it’s still worth reading. Maybe wait for F+B V1 to read it.

      • Gonzalo says:

        Essentially, Maegor is what Joffrey would’ve grown into, even more so than Aerys

        • Murc says:

          This actually seems unkind to Maegor a bit.

          Maegor was at least good at fighting and was a decent-to-good military tactician. When he was Joffrey’s age he was winning tourneys and besting grown men.

          Joffrey doesn’t even jump over that admittedly very low bar. He has the strategic and tactical sense of a bag of turnips, and the most dangerous thing he ever killed with his sword was a book.

          • Abbey Battle says:

            I tend to agree – in fact I would argue that Maegor the Cruel is at the rough diamond stage of literary development as a character; he is a man who would seem to couple a complete lack of proportion to a strange sense of Justice (hence his resentment of “Maegor the Cruel” as a nickname and the appalling punishment he inflicts on his enemies or those he merely suspects have transgressed against him).

            In fact I rather think that the inherent crudity of the character works for him: he is very much the Big King Ape, with a Jungle Beasts sense of Justice and overpowering appetites (hence rumours of his indefatigable sexual prowess and catlike cruelty to those that cross him) yet finds his status as Alpha Male consistently undercut by his own fertility problems and apparent inability to win over the Community of the Realm through sheer force of personality (perhaps he senses his own clumsiness as a Political Actor and resents the awareness that he is no more than the rough sketch of a Warrior King compared to his Almighty Father … or surpassingly-puissant Mother).

            Basically I see him as a thug attempting to play the King and deeply resenting his failures to achieve True Majesty – not least because he gets a deep and abiding thrill out of his own brutality.

  3. Andrew says:

    1. A lot of the Faith’s Rebellion seemed to be smallfolk based akin to the Brotherhood without Banners, especially with the religious undertone.

    2. Tyanna has a strong Varys vibe: spymaster, connection to Pentoshi magister, rats (relatives to mice) and spiders as informants, and sorcery.

    3. As a couple, Tyanna and Maegor deserved each other.

    4. The High Septon’s opposition to Maegor’s second wife wasn’t purely on religious grounds, his niece was being phased out.

    • 1. A lot but not all.

      2. Varys hates sorcery tho.

      3. True.

      4. True.

      • Andrew says:

        2. Is he? He doesn’t sound like the guy who would give away any details like that from his past that could potentially be used against him. The story does sound authentic, but we must remember that his resume includes serving for years as a mummer, a skill he apparently mastered. He always gives away enough of the truth without giving away the whole story.

  4. LadyKnitsALot says:

    if Maegor was killing animals and people at a young age, before his severe head injury, that puts a major dent in my theory that his bad behaviour was a result of brain trauma and not mental illness/”madness”

    • Murc says:

      To be fair, all of these Targaryens were inbred as balls, and my understanding is that the kind of genetic problems caused by excessive inbreeding don’t just manifest physically; they can also take the form of mental illnesses of various sorts.

      • blugeagua says:

        Not all the Targaryen’s during the dynasty were inbred marriages. MANY of them married outside their family into other noble houses.

      • LadyKnitsALot says:

        Which is absolutely true (in real world genetics) and is the accepted narrative in-universe (inbred Targs went crazy) but… The only really crazy Targs towards the end, when they were SUPER inbred are Aerys II and Viserys – the latter is arguably just as much nurture (or lack of) as nature.

    • And the zombie theory too.

    • Steven Xue says:

      I think it’s more a combination of nature and nurture rather than suffering trauma to the head that messed him up. Maegor’s life and the way he was groomed to become king is very similar to that of Joffrey.

      Both Maegor and Joffrey were born sociopaths who never got the love and affection they desired from their fathers, which made them closer and easier to be influenced by their mothers. Said mothers by the way weren’t the most stellar role models as they did nothing to curb their sons’ cruelty and excesses and actually encouraged them to be as horrible as they can to their subjects, because in their minds that’s what made their sons ‘strong rulers’.

  5. Brett says:

    Gargon the Guest confirmed something for me. Prima Noctis was a myth in real medieval history, and I have a hard time believing it would actually be a thing in Westeros versus an excuse for lords/knights to collect a tax on marriages. The fact that Gargon got a nickname and bad reputation for actually trying to exercise those rights might be proof of that.

    • Well, Gargon kind of overdid it, but yeah I could see the tax thing as the norm.

      • Brett says:

        Especially since there is a real-life medieval version of the marriage tax (at least in England): Merchet. IIRC There was also a financial penalty for marrying someone from outside the manor domain.

    • Sean C. says:

      It depends on what you mean by “the norm”. Probably most lords are too busy to regularly travel around their domains having sex with attractive peasant women on their wedding nights, so Gargon could have stood out to his peasants for being atypically zealous in that regard.

      But Archmaester Gyldayn’s writing in The Princess and the Queen about the prevalence of Targaryen-descended bastards amongst the peasants of Dragonstone, and how supposedly being bedded by the godly Targaryens as opposed to regular nobles caused the lower classes to view the First Night differently on Dragonstone compared to the rest of Westeros, makes it sound like it was a right that was regularly exercised in the course of history.

  6. Hedrigal says:

    Its interesting that as written, Maegor is often just somewhat less indecisive than his half brother.

  7. Murc says:

    For one thing, one of the things that “Sons” does which WOIAF didn’t was to ironically establush Aenys as daddy’s favorite and Maegor as loved only by his mother

    To be fair, Aenys more or less lucked into that position by default. Aegon might or might not have liked Maegor more if he’d spent more time with the boy, but Aenys was Aegon’s heir, and Aegon treated him as such and more to the point demonstrated to the lords of Westeros that his firstborn son was going to succeed him, and that he, the Conqueror, was a responsible monarch who was grooming said firstborn son to be a good, skilled ruler.

    I was surprised that Aenys was made a passable warrior in this draft, since that cuts across themes in a way that doesn’t really payoff

    I think Martin wanted to establish that Aenys cared enough presenting the proper image of a monarch to at least go through the motions.

    He’s touched on those themes many times before; the aristocracy of Westeros will absolutely accept a warrior-king, but they really do not seem to like philosopher-kings at all. (Interesting that both Aenys’ were in that mold.) If you want their respect and loyalty you’d better be able to strap on a sword and at least not embarrass yourself.

    It may also be him signaling to his readers “Aenys was a good dude who took his responsibilities seriously; he was a poor king but it wasn’t for a lack of courage or of intellect.”

    For example, we learn that “many amongst the Most Devout” wanted the High Septon to come out against Aegon I and opposed his decision to anoint the Targaryen Conqueror.

    One imagines that many of these Most Devout never stared down the fiery gullets of Vhagar, Meraxes, and Balerion.

    The Reign of King Aenys (yes, go ahead and snigger):

    I pronounce his name “Ennis.” Along with Egan, Erin (or Aaron), and Emmon.

    This doesn’t make Anus, Eygon, and Eymon (Erin/Aaron stays the same) wrong, but given the choice I go with the sound that’s closer to “eh” than to “ey.”

    Still no new info about the great council…sigh.

    It sounds like this great council didn’t actually happen; Aenys just proposed it is all. As such there literally wouldn’t be any information to be had, yes?

    I really liked that they slipped in an interesting precursor to Jaehaerys the Conciliators ultimate deal with the Faith; the High Septon telling people in the wake of Maegor conquering Oldtown that “the Iron Throne will protect the Faith, we don’t NEED a Faith Militant.” Jaehaerys took the politically expedient lie promulgated in service of his uncle not murdering people with Balerion and turned it into the basis for an ongoing peaceful settlement based on reciprocal responsibility. He was a canny one, that Jaehaerys.

    The Baratheons seemed to go through a lot of lords very quickly. Either that or Orys had a bunch of sons and then grandsons.

    The most interesting part of the text for me is something that, ironically, might be a type or an editing mistake.

    Aenys explicitly took the throne as “King of the Andals and the First Men.” But Maegor and Jaehaerys took it as “King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men,” the formulation we’re all familiar with.

    And that’s super interesting to me. Was Aenys leaving it off a gesture of reconciliation towards Dorne, meant to be a recognition that he was not the sovereign of the Rhoynish people because the Conquest never took hold there? Similarly, was Maegor and Jaehaerys adding it back a re-affirmation that House Targaryen regarded itself as the ultimate power in all of Westeros, and if the Dornish didn’t like that, well, they’d finish the job one day, see if they didn’t. I can see Maegor doing that, but it seems very big-mouthed for Jaehaerys.

    • 1. True, but I got the sense that Aegon didn’t much like Visenya and that carried over to his kid.

      2. Maybe.

      3. Hey, the Hightower High Septon was ready to go down swinging in the army of the lords, so maybe not…

      4. I mean, he’s made plenty dick joke names, so why not?

      5. I get that it didn’t happen, I’m just trying to figure out where he got the idea/name from.

      6. No, I think the name thing is just sloppiness.

      • Ioseff says:

        King Dick-on would be a clearer joke to get. Aenys insinuation with Anus is just outright insulting. It is meant to see Aenys as homosexual just for having a good heart? And I will never see the name Aenys the same ever again, will I?

  8. Grant says:

    Have to say, I honestly always mentally pronounced it as “Ae-neese”. It never occurred to me that there might be a different way to pronounce Aenys. Maybe it’s because it’s two syllables, with Viserys I mentally pronounced it like an “is” at the end.

  9. thatrabidpotato says:

    So, I shouldn’t bother chasing this one down, is that what I’m hearing? Shame.
    What’s the end bit about 666 days? Is there any news of Winds?

  10. Ioseff says:

    “Finally, six years and sixty-six days…oh, GRRM.”

    And six years, six months and six days would not have been eviler?

    Maester Steven, please answer something. Does Stannis obsession with incest simmer from Aerys? He did not call Tommen a monster exactly, but “another monster in the making”, but if he knows of history, he knows Aegon IV was not bred with incest, hell, it wasn’t bred with Westerosi blood, Viserys II was the only Westerosi and he passed years in Essos, married an Essosi, saved Westeros and then… bred Aegon IV. Is it simply because incest has more chances of it being bad? The best kings, Jaehaerys I, Daeron II, were bred from Sibling Incest, Maekar I and Viserys II came from a degree of blood relation considered incest by medieval standards, yet these four were the better kings. Is Stannis simply too much obsessed with what Aerys forced them to do that he will have no qualms about calling anything incestuous an abomination even if the very kingship of Westeros comes from it?

    And about the hate fate, rare Frey bravery, I’ll just add that this is the collective power of a group erasing the individuality. This means that Freys, I assume, have won their history through being sly and astute, but Stevron Frey was an example that indeed collective duties does not erase individuality, even if you work for the group. It is meant to show there are tragedies of people not being capable of being out of it, but look, some do, so their examples are well remembered.

    • I don’t think Stannis’ attitudes towards incest are consequentialist. Indeed, I would argue a lot of Stannis’ attitudes aren’t consequentalist.

      • Ioseff says:

        But fundamentalist, isn’t it? I just try to understand why Stannis believes sibling incest to be a sin more terrible than Robert raping Cersei. Jaime and Cersei relationship is a very screwed up thing, but Jaime did not rape Cersei, for all their twisted “no but yes take me here” attitude what Jaime and Cersei did together can never be compared to Robert raping her.

        Like, marital rape, even if not a concept in Westeros, is something you would think would occur to Stannis sooner or later. Stannis is a fundamentalist of good, isn’t it?

        • Hedrigal says:

          Stannis has plenty of misogyny baked into his upbringing and likely believes that marital rape is the right of the husband. We’ve already repeatedly seen that respecting women is one of his weak points.

        • Murc says:

          Stannis is a fundamentalist of good, isn’t it?

          Stannis tortures people, dude.

          Stannis tries to bring peace, justice, and order to Westeros insofar as he is able to, and act in an upright manner.

          But he has a strong streak of utilitarianism in him. That’s not the same thing as being a “fundamentalist of good.” He’s also a product of his time and culture.

          If you expect Stannis to be, or evolve into, some kind of Paladin, you’re going to be very disappointed. That’s not him. That’s never been him.

          • Ioseff says:

            Hanging Theon from a wall is torturing? I’d dare say it is for good measure. He did not torture the Karstark soldiers because there was no need for it.

            Well, sorry for that, sorry that I believe if someone who gelds his own men for raping THEIR ENEMIES, then maybe there is a kind of paladin. Isn’t supposed the series to have character development and that Stannis is one of the people and secondary characters who is having it?

          • Murc says:

            Hanging Theon from a wall is torturing?

            Yes. It absolutely is. Hanging someone up from their arms like a slab of meat is 100% torture. It’s actually a very vicious form of torture that can maim or disfigure people for life; the human body was not made to hang up like that. In Theon’s state it could very well actually kill him, which, admittedly, Stannis likely doesn’t give a shit about since he’s already planning to execute him.

            I’d dare say it is for good measure.

            What… sort of good measure? So that Theon, the mutilated, malnourished wreck of a man doesn’t overpower his guards and escape into the howling blizzard?

            sorry that I believe if someone who gelds his own men for raping THEIR ENEMIES, then maybe there is a kind of paladin.

            Stannis doing things that are unambiguously good sometimes doesn’t mean he’ll turn into someone who has some kind of magical sense telling him what the good thing to do all the time is. Remember, this man is an adherent of a religion that practices straight-up human sacrifice.

            Isn’t supposed the series to have character development and that Stannis is one of the people and secondary characters who is having it?

            Yes?

            I mean, this is true, but Stannis has already had a bunch of character development and will likely have more, but that doesn’t mean he’ll evolve into some all-good person.

          • Ioseff says:

            Straight-up human sacrifice… yet Stannis sacrifices are only of people already meant to die. He adapts it quite well given the situation. Also… I have the feeling the people in the Riverlands is adopting it as well, the smallfolk specially. What good is the Seven after all? Give people already meant to die to R’hllor and R’hllor is happy, if you do like the Valyrians, though, then it’s evil ambition, and it backfires horribly. Remember that this Red God is also the god of the Bravoosi, born from escaped slaves, this is the religion of the slaves of Volantis and many other places ( I think)

            Yes, I know hanging can stretch you bad if you hang like dead meat though never expected it to be torture unless for a very long period. GRRM doesn’t bother to describe it, however, except simply saying he is hanging and if there was a mention of stretching (I think there was one) it was not as far as I remember a painful one, or not very painful, and certainly did not think to pass out from the pain. And this man killed children. You don’t trust him. Also might be he keeps him like that due precisely for the northern lords to see that he will indeed punish him severely so that they don’t start suspecting that Stannis might forgive him for his crimes. No, there is no mention of Stannis intending to do so, but there is mention of Stannis wanting them to not doubt him. Do you really think any other northern lord would treat him any less bad? (except Roose because he essentially owns him his position?) Might be they’d have him hanged TO THE OUTSIDE until he dies of cold. So please, let’s just keep in mind Stannis is in a very precarious position and even though he plans to fake his death, he still is very much aware the plan can fail and he can indeed die.

            And it’s not so much religion as he believes THERE IS SOMEONE AFTER ALL WHO GIVES A SHIT. The capital letters are only to make the point, I don’t know how to make it otherwise, no yelling or anything. We should be very acquainted to Stannis’ reason for religiosity is that you’re not doing to work hard for someone who allows your parents drowned within your sight. The Red God gets sacrifices, he makes you a nice trip. If the sacrifices are of innocent peoples, that’s on the sacrificer, not on the Red God. This does sound, albeit complex, in at least a mildly paladin way.

    • Sean C. says:

      Jaehaerys I wasn’t born of incest (his parents were cousins), though obviously there was a lot of incest in his family tree.

  11. fjallstrom says:

    “wed by blood and fire” gives me the image of sacrificing a goat and then going for a barbecue while you’re at it.

    I haven’t read the story, so I might be way off.

  12. KrimzonStriker says:

    Hmm? I always thought it was Harrenhall’s upkeep that diminished the value of its actual fief, that it was such a drain on resources it rendered the other lands value since you’d need a Kingdom’s worth to maintain it. Hence why the Whents’ were so easily deposed from the castle (also feel like that might be fallout from the drain of the Tourney of Harrenhall though)

  13. Joe Lee says:

    “We finally get the identities of the participants of Maegor’s Trial by Seven: Ser Damon Morrigen, Ser Lyle Bracken (hey, a good Bracken for once!), Ser Harys Hopre, Ser Aegon Ambrose (ironically named if so), Ser Dickon Flowers (another highborn Reach bastard in the Warrior’s Sons!), and a Septon Knight on one side, and Dick Bean, Ser Bramm of Blackhull, Ser Rayford Storby, Ser Guy Lothston (again, with the fate hate, GRRM?), and Ser Lucifer Massey on the other.”

    Is that Harys Hopre or Harys Horpe? If the latter, I find it a little amusing that Massey and Horpe were fighting almost three centuries earlier.

  14. Abbey Battle says:

    Maester Steven, I have been very happy to read your thoughts on THE SONS OF THE DRAGON (and must admit that it was only when you pointed out that this was a Rough Draft that I was moved to admit how much of a work-in-progress this piece was) but must admit that I may well have enjoyed it a fair bit more than you did.

    I admit this may be due to my being a cheerful philistine without much inclination to Literary Criticism, but I did genuinely like the piece (although imagining Maegor the Cruel as an Arnold Schwarzenegger character trying to work out why killing EVERYONE hasn’t worked out for him this time might have helped).

    If I might offer some speculative answers to one or two questions you raised in the reading (possibly with a few counter-points thrown in for good measure):-

    – It is possible that the tale of Unlucky the Cat may well have been cooked up not as a way of painting Maegor as EVIL from the start, but rather as a way of undercutting his reputation as as a BAD Mother from the start: killing a horse for daring to kick him, then carving up a stableboy attempting to object to this “Rough Justice” makes Young Maegor look Fearsome, but describing his first kill as a singularly unfortunate feline makes this particular Son of the Dragon “look even more of a pussy than the cat” to coin a phrase.

    One finds it easy to imagine many stories describing Maegor as Evil and Pathetic in equal measure would be cooked up by those looking to bolster their comrades and undermine the aura of danger that clung to him like dried blood (easier to march and conspire against “Maegor the Cat-Killer” than “Maegor the Cruel”).

    – My guess is that Queen Visenya made a Big Deal out of Blackfyre because King Aenys effectively handed her a very sharp argument that suited her apparent goal of ensuring that her son Prince Maegor held the reigns of Power in the Seven Kingdoms (possibly as either King or Hand, but with a preference towards the former dignity): if King Aenys felt himself less worthy of their fathers sword than his Brother, then how could he be fit to sit the Iron Throne? (which could be just as dangerous and required equally deft handling).

    I would also suggest that prefiguring the gift of Blackfyre to Sir Daemon of that Ilk also makes sense as an element of world-building, for we have heard a great deal about what made the Blacks side with “The King who bore The Sword” but little enough about what arguments upheld King Daeron the Good: the fact that King Aenys bestowed Blackfyre on Maegor the Cruel would have seriously undercut* the symbolism of Aegon the Unworthy’s gift to his favourite son in the minds of many made aware of the parallels between these two events (if only by throwing into doubt the Fourth Aegon’s judgment through association with King Aenys the Ill-Considered).

    *Please pardon the pun, but the point remains valid.

    – On a related point … alright, I’ll stop now … following on from the idea above, one has to wonder how Queen Visenya felt about her own son’s eagerness to forsake Dark Sister, her own sword and special gift to him? (that must have smarted more than a little, especially given the apparently-distinguished use to which he had previously put it).

    – In all fairness “wed by fire and blood” makes a lot of sense if one assumes that the ceremony revolves around purification by fire (metaphorical) and the joining together of two bloodlines (quite literally, probably through the same sort of mingling of fluids seen in certain rituals of Blood-brotherhood): one would also like to suggest that Fire & Blood appear to have been consuming interests of the Old Freehold even outside the ranks of the Targaryens.

    – My guess is that the Faith Militant were under orders to let the wedding of Princess Rhaena and Prince Aegon to go forward uninterrupted but not undisputed (or without an implicit warning and a threat to those attending the service) simply so that the actions of the Faithful would be seen as a Just Punishment rather than an unseemly riot: having not only been warned against his transgressions but been seen to defy those warnings King Aenys allows the High Septon to neatly line up all his political ducks in a row (especially since the right Royal Naif even went so far as to send a LETTER insisting that he’d never been in the wrong in the first place), turning a confrontation between King and High Priest into an issue of Native Traditions Vs Foreign Disrespect for same.

    – Being aware that you have some knowledge of Mr Bernard Cornwell’s oeuvre (and knowing as I do that Mr GRR Martin has some fondness for them himself) I am SHOCKED that you didn’t mention what may have been a little homage to same in the person of Dick Bean (“Dick” for Richard Sharpe, “Bean” for the actor who so ably portrayed the former in televised adaptations of the novels from which he sprang).

    Not disappointed, since it MIGHT be a coincidence, but still a little Shocked!

    – I agree that mentions of the Faith Militant get a bit repetitious, but given the ongoing struggle with that Institution was the defining feature of King Maegor’s brief & brutal reign (not to mention something of an obsession on his part) it seems quite necessary to consistently emphasise its importance, though I agree this might have been done more succinctly.

    Having said that it DOES seem appropriate to King Maegor’s character that he would keep beating his subjects over the head with the fact that Stars & Swords are outlawed again and yet again (brute persistence seems to have been his favourite approach to more than one aspect of his kingship).

    – It is far from impossible that The Citadel kept sending one Grand Maester after another because King Maegor kept asking for them and made it very, Very dangerous for the Archmaesters to consider refusing on the grounds that he kept killing them (Maegor the Cruel would appear to have been very jealous of his Royal Perquisites and would have resented the implication he could not do with them as he pleased).

    As for why Queen Alyssa came back to Court from her home island despite all the bloodshed … well I’d say it’s crystal clear that she did not do so by choice, not with Queen Visenya and Vhagar burning with fury in the back garden.

    – “Why bother making up stuff about the Black Brides?” (Why because one man with three wives is the stuff of Fantasy and people LOVE sharing the product of their most feverish imaginings, as the Internet will never cease to remind us).

    – I will bet a star to a stag that Septon Moon and an ongoing disagreement with the “High Lickspittle” was a major part of the reason Septon Barth was sent to negotiate at Oldtown (though I would be ASTONISHED if the former ended up High Septon, given he seems to lack any inclination to Royalism; my bet would be on a third party candidate being raised up to replace the latter in exchange for Serious Protection promised to the same).

    – My guess is that Aemond One-Eye modelled his strategy during the Dance of the Dragons on Maegor the Cruel; it would certainly fit his character!

    – My personal theory is that Queen Visenya reached out to the Hightowers through Patrice Hightower (for the Dark Sister is reported to have visited Oldtown in her youth, her son married into the family and there is at least some evidence of a mutual interest in the Higher Mysteries on the part of these two ladies: it is not impossible that they were correspondents and possibly even friends), although I don’t like Sir Morgan Hightower for the role of First Murderer (my guess is that he helped ensure the guards were looking in the wrong direction, but went no further than that).

    From what I can put together it seems very likely that the High Septon who defied House Targaryen so indomitably was the son of a Hightower Lord of Oldtown mentioned as having taken Holy Orders at about the time that Aegon the Dragon was planning (and conducting) his Conquest: this would make any attack on him by Sir Morgan an act of kinslaying so my theory is that the Hightowers preferred to hire a professional rather than risk an attack of conscience on the part of their Warrior’s Son.

    – By the way, I’ve thought it before but I’ll note it here for consideration: the High Septon who came within an ace of becoming the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms is DEFINITELY a Charlton Heston character, for who else could better portray a man who disregards Dragons as a mere Imp of Satan and not the Serpent Himself? (that the High Septon in question is large, physically-powerful, dominating and LOUD only strengthens the impression!).

    – For some strange reason I enjoy imagining Ceryse Hightower’s relationship with King Maegor as strangely vanilla domesticity: while Alys Harroway and Taena of the Tower scheme together and plot against each other in the throes of rivalry passionate on more than one level, Queen Ceryse just wishes that the King would eat better and stop turning the Good Carpets into a mire …

    – One more point that I would like to raise for consideration is my conviction that Lord Corbray, young Connington and the Bastard of Barrowton were almost certainly being used as deniable proxies by their respective feudal overlords: given the Vale, the old Kingdom of the Storm and The North were all in communication with Queen Alyssa, it seems likely their Lords & Masters would fail to open a back door to reach the ear of her son (just on the off-chance he ever came into his Kingdom).

    – Maester Steven, may I please suggest you may have misread the text a little vis-a-vis Lord Harroway’s role in his daughters downfall? My understanding is that he was accused of acting as procurer, rather than performing any grotesquely-intimate act of “Kingmaking” in his own person (put another way he was her pimp, but not her gigolo).

    – In all fairness the Wedding of the Black Brides is exactly the sort of scandal that inspires feverish imaginings and thereby generates Legends that endure until they acquire almost the dignity of History (or at least become too juicy to NOT be mentioned): small surprise that a Maester might raise the issue, if only to attract a few of the less ascetic sort of readers!

    – In all fairness having Jaehaerys “upgrade” from Dark Sister to Blackfyre makes perfect sense as History (though on a literary level it IS redundant): how better to sell the Young Prince as a True King than by showing him bear The Conqueror’s blade with noble restraint? (not to mention allowing the son to inherit and be seen to treasure what his father so casually gave away with such brutal consequences – although this might be somewhat stretching a point).

    Maester Steven, please allow me to conclude by complimenting you again on your powers of analysis and condole with you on what appears to be a mutual lust for FIRE & BLOOD – may we both read it sooner than later!

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