September 21, 2011

Daenerys X

Daenerys Targaryen (Artwork by Amoka)
Dany climbs down a stony hill which she dubbed "Dragonstone", since Drogon made his lair there. For days, she tried to live alongside the dragon, and she is pretty weak now. Since she saw a stream in the distance, she is now determined to follow it as long as it takes to reach the big river flowing to Meereen and thereby returning to her city. She was not able to control the dragon. Hungry and exposed to the cold nights of autumn, she walks the Dothraki Sea, drying up around her. While she walks, her mind wanders. She remembers her first journey through the grass as part of Drogo's khalasaar. Then she thinks of it breaking up after his death, og khal Pono, khal Jaqho and khal Mago making away with parts of the Dothraki. After that, she remembers the pit of Meereen, how she climbed on Drogon, enjoying the flight but unable to control the dragon. Hoping against hope, she longs for the rescue parties, imagining Daario finding her. She is convinced that the Yunkai'i are marching home by now, honoring the peace, and that Daario is safe.

At nightfall, she makes herself a bed of grass in the old ruins of a village. Falling asleep, she wonders who it was that poisoned her, whether it was Hizdahr or the Shavepate or the Green Grace. In the night, she has a vision of Qaithe talking to her from the stars, reminding her who she really is, and what. The next morning, ants are crawling over her and biting her. She gets up, shakes them off and walks again. She is hungry, and when she comes by some berries, she casts all caution aside and eats them. The rest of the day she spends retching green slime. That night, she dreams of Viserys, who blames her for his fate and calls her names.

On the following morning, her tighs are covered in blood. She is dizzy, not sure whether it's the turn of her moon blood, and presses on. In the grass, she imagines Jorah talking to her, chiding her for conquering Meereen instead of heeding his advice and to make for Westeros. When she sits beside the stream to drink, she suddenly hears someone and observes a Dothraki scout, who hasn't seen her yet. Suddenly, Drogon emerges and starts to hunt the rider. Dany, suddenly sure, calls him down, mounts him and chases the rider until they encounter a herde of his khalasaar, roasting a horse and then eating it together with Drogon. She then stands besides the dragon and waits. Hours later, khal Jagho shows up with his riders.

This chapter is one bitch. It pretty much sums up the style and mood of "A Dance with dragons", which is why it fits perfectly into the scheme here. I remember skipping through it on my first read, since I wanted to know what the heck was happening - it's the final chapter, after all! Still I have to force myself to read every sentence, failing sometimes. It's incredible how much stuff Martin hid in this chapter, like he did in the whole book. There is awfully much happening without it being explecitly mentioned, throughout the whole book, and you have to read it several times and really think while doing so to catch it all. So what's in here?

The obvious things first. Dany can't control the dragon, which makes for a nice contradiction of certain expections you would harbor: that she, after flying out of Meereen, got the old Targ-connection rolling and learned about the dragons in the intuitive way, for example. Instead, she's lost in the Dothraki sea, hungry, cold and dellusional. At the end of the chapter, she suddenly fits the pieces together, calls Drogon like she did nothing else all her life and steers him over to the Dothraki to take control of the khalasaar (presumably). Before this, she works off the guilt about her former decisions, notably letting Viserys be killed and discarding Jorah, by speaking to them as her own imagined friends.

So far, so good, but there's much more in the chapter, especially regarding the prophecies, and here it becomes real tricky. We have to recall the various prophecies first to see what actually happens here. That's the part where you, as a reader, need not only pay close attention but also have rich background in your head. Mirri Maz Dur prophecized that Drogo would be as he was when the sea got dry, the sun sets in the east and rises in the west, the mountains blow in the wind and when she will bear a living child. The first three things happened already, the fourth is at least possible: Quentyn - the "sun's son" of Qaithes prophecy - was killed in the east, thereby setting there, and he came from the west. The Dothraki Sea is drying up due to autumn, so this is fulfilled as well. And the pyramids were blown away by the dragons like leaves in the wind.

That leads to Dany's fertility. In this chapter, she miscarries. You missed it? Never mind, so did I. When Dany eats the poisoned berries and retches them, she accidentilly kills her child, since on the next morning, she has unusually heavy bleeding while not having had her menstruation for about three months. Of course, there are two ways to read this: first, she is now fertile again, can carry a child and it will only be a matter of time until the prophecy is fulfilled. Or, second, she is doomed to always lose her children, but can still conceive. Both is possible. Now, turning to the prophecies of the Undying, she definitely rides a mount to dread, as it was predicted, until she had ridden one to bed and to love already (Drogo, but also Daario). There were definitely fires lighted, which was also in their prophecy - the one for light back when she woke the dragons, and there was pretty much fire-lightening to death in the book. If she was enflamed to love for Daario is a question about how metaphorical you want to read them.

There certainly is even more I still missed in there, and I skimmed the Westeros.org boards before writing this particular chapter. Only swarm intelligence may be able to grasp everything Martin hid here, and that's why I say that the chapter sums up in a nutshell what this book is and how it is written. It certainly isn't what we expected, but it's a masterpiece in its own right. The worst thing, however, is that many references work only in connection with the chapters from "A Feast for Crows", and I'm sure that we all missed much of the stuff yet - I scraped the surface of it sometimes in this reread, but I came nowhere near the core. I understand now why it took Martin so long to write this stuff. It is very rewarding, and I'm determined for the next reread already.

As to side notes, we get two things. First, Dany mentions that the Valyrians controlled the dragons with magic horns and spells, which refers clearly to Victarion's horn. However, she can obviously control the dragons without that stuff (although the horn might be the key to get Rhaegal and Viserion back in line), which could indicate her role as Prince Who was Promised. Second, the seasons seem to reach the east only after Westeros. Since the Heart of Winter is located in Westeros, this makes sense. The Wall is a hinge of the world indeed.

25 comments:

  1. One thing - the Sun rising in the West could also be represented by Doran and the Dornish rising in rebellion against the Iron Throne - which they are clearly about to do.

    Especially with...
    TWOW SPOILERS
    TWOW SPOILERS
    TWOW SPOILERS
    ... what we learn in the Arianne chapter George read recently.
    /SPOILERS

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  2. Flipping heck. I just skimmed it, as I do with a lot of the Dany chapters, and assumed she'd caught the bloody flux from the refugees :-)

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  3. I think there are two ways to interpret Dany's arc in this book. The first views the arc in entirely practical terms. Under this interpretation, ADWD is about Dany not knowing how to rule, making a naive and foolish attempt for peace, and not knowing how to control her dragons. The revelations in the final chapter are about practicality -- the right course of action (going to Westeros, using the dragons), whereas previously she had been pursuing the "wrong" course of action (staying in Meereen, chaining the dragons). This seems to be Dany's own interpretation of events, and most readers share it. I personally do not believe this is what Martin intended here. Under this interpretation, if Meereen is just all about Dany being dumb and Dany having a practice run at ruling so she can mess up, her ADWD arc truly was a waste of time, and lacks any thematic depth.

    But my interpretation is quite different. I think Dany's embrace of "fire and blood" in this chapter is far more ominous, and that this symbolism-filled chapter portrays a crucial and dangerous psychological change in Dany. I think Dany's efforts to achieve peace were noble and indeed successful until Drogon broke the peace at the fighting pits. It is Dany herself who decided she hated the compromises and imperfections that were necessary for peace. Without knowing how the situation in Meereen has deteriorated since she left -- for all she knows, all parties are still happy with the peace (she thinks about the locusts but doesn't seem too concerned about them) -- she has decided that she compromised too much and was too concerned for innocent life, and that she should instead unleash "Fire and Blood."

    The visions all seem to lead her to this conclusion. She sees Viserys of all people chiding her, and he closes with: "If I'd had a dragon, I would have taught the world the meaning of our words." She finally forgets the name of the child Hazzea that Drogon killed, sadly telling herself "I will never have a little girl. I was the Mother of Dragons." She recalls Jorah's advice to leave Meereen (and have it collapse into chaos like Astapor), and now seems to think he was right. She says she wanted to plant trees and "Jorah" tells her "Dragons plant no trees." Her dreams of ending slavery seem to have taken a backseat, since she tells herself she has to go to Westeros (where there are no slaves). Instead, her thoughts are filled with vague, violent rhetoric about ruling and conquest. "Good Queen Daenerys" is gone.

    This all leads up to an actual literal embrace of fire and blood, when Dany cooks and eats the horse. Her final reflection before the khal arrives is a resolution to the "Hizdahr/unhappy compromise for peace" vs. "Daario/Red Wedding/taking what she wants through force" internal conflict she's been having throughout the book, when she thinks about how Hizdahr wouldn't eat the horse but Daario would laugh and sit down beside her. Most people ignore this line but I think its placement in the 4th to last sentence makes it crucial. I think Dany has been set up to do some very dark and violent stuff.

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  4. I don't think her dream of breaking the chains of slavery is over yet. She still has to take the ships west to Westeros (and Victarion plus a Volantene fleet that rebels might do that), and that means she might make a stop in Volantis. Volantis had intense foreshadowing for a massive slave revolt in this book, including the poignant comment by the woman who helped Tyrion and Jorah to head west, plus all the firebrand rhetoric from the priest of R'hllor.

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  5. I wasn't a big fan of the Dany story in this book, but I thought this chapter was amazing. (And I thought so even though I missed most of the prophecy tie-ins. I did catch that she was probably pregnant though.)

    I've seen a lot of comments from readers that said they skimmed or even completely skipped this chapter. If you did so, I really think you did yourself (and GRRM) a disservice. Apart from figuring out how events fit with prophecies, it contains some of the deepest character-based introspection GRRM has ever written. Maybe it doesn't advance the plot significantly, and maybe it's not what one might have wanted from Dany's story, but it's a brilliant piece of writing nonetheless.

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  6. And I think your interpretation is bollocks, pardon my french ahorwitt, this peace was always a false peace, filled with treachery and deceit at every corner with, preying on Dany's indecision. Nobody was truly happy with this peace, certainly not Dany's supporters anyway, and it made a mockery of everything she stood for at the onset. What kind of peace can be bought with such indignation I ask you? Barristen had the right of it in my mind, this "peace" would break sooner or later, all he did was pull the wool off of this wolf.

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  7. I'll second KrimzonStriker - the peace was a joke. In exchange for marrying Hizdahr and agreeing to let the Ghiscari run a giant slave market in sight of her city, she got . . .a temporary brief from hostilities? One that likely only happened because there was an assassination attempt against Daenerys afoot?

    The makes me really wish we could have seen Victarion's arrival and Barristan's attack in this book. What's likely going to happen to the Ghiscari forces besieging the cities will be . . . ugly.

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  8. Krimzon, your problems with the peace are that (1) the other side is full of "bad" people who you consider "treacherous", and (2) Dany didn't get everything she wanted. This describes the grievances on both sides of nearly every peace agreement throughout history. Extremists on each side in the Israel-Palestine conflict repeatedly use both of your arguments to argue against peace -- "the other side can't be trusted," and "we should've gotten a better deal!" (regardless of what the deal is, it can always be better). When these mindsets win out, the result is perpetual war and death for the common people.

    And that is your alternative: "peace is doomed, let's fight!" -- with no idea as to how a fight against the Harpy solves anything. (Dany could also leave, but she knows that would turn Meereen into Astapor.) There is no awesome badass solution to the Harpy problem that Dany somehow missed. The Harpy is a powerful homegrown insurgency that can't be beaten on the battlefield unless you're ready to burn down entire neighborhoods, and that will turn the population against you in addition to being a terrible act. The Harpy represents not just a few bad guys but an entire class that's a fixture of Meereenese society and won't disappear unless (A) Dany murders most or all of them by mass executions or burning down neighborhoods, or (B) Dany makes some political accommodation with them.

    So Dany made a peace deal. It was very far from perfect but it solidified several accomplishments and brought stability to the city and kept the people alive. Both sides distrusted the other, both sides resented the other for various reasons (Dany crucified 163 Meereenese nobles, conquered their city and let her forces brutally sack it, and destroyed their economy), both sides undoubtedly wished for a better deal -- but if Shavepate was the poisoner, only one side acted to break the peace. The "good" side.

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  9. Killing the families that are the likely Sons of the Harpies would be bloody, but it wouldn't result in the population turning against her. Most of the population used to be dominated by the people making up the Sons of the Harpies.

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  10. It was a compromise that went too far, gave away too much power, and would only embolden the Harpies even further that their method was right. This isn't some righteous or even strategic impass in an era which such civilized notions of reason hold any value like in modern Israel and Palestine, who at least in principle have agreed to a basic framework but simply refuse to compromise on details of personal interest. Dany has barely been in Meeren in a year for petes sake. You cannot reconcile such diametrically opposing forces, only stave it off for political jocking. Rather then peace what we got was a compromise that only put off the inevitable and gave strategic initiative and power to the enemy like the Munich Pact with Hitler, or the like the founding fathers did with the Civil War slavery at the birth of the United States. Total war and the utter destruction of their institution was what brought down Nazi Germany and the South, and allowed for a rebuilding process to occur. A more obvious example would be what happened with the Yunkai after Dany spared their city in the first place, and the same occurred here in Meeren.

    And I have no idea if Shavepate was the poisoner, nor do I ultimately think it truly matters, look at Hizdar, he was utterly weak and incapable, his real strength lied not in the Harpies but the threat of outside forces invading Meeren who were in essence only using him as a proxy anyway.

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  11. @Krimzon, @Brett -- I again ask what "total war and the utter destruction of their institution" would entail. Dany already defeated them on the battlefield, overthrew their government, and crucified 163 of them. Clearly that wasn't enough. The Harpy is not a problem simply because they have two or three guys in charge who are bad. The Harpy represents the interests of the entire class of Meereenese nobles. "Utter defeat" of the Harpy would not merely entail killing the Harpy's leaders, because more from the class will take their place. It does not entail beating them in a military vs. military conflict, because that's already happened. "Utter defeat" means wiping out that whole class of society including their wives and children, aka genocide. Or it entails the ruthless extermination of enough of them so that the others are cowered into submission. So let's stop pretending some imagined "tougher approach" would have fixed everything and let's be clear-eyed about what this "toughness" would entail.

    Krimzon, I do not see how your analysis of the Yunkai / Hizdahr situation is backed up by the book. Shavepate himself says the peace was real until the Yunkai'i commander was killed in the fighting pits. This was a peace that Hizdahr forged. Even after the commander died, Tyrion sees that the Yunkai'i are unsure what to do and that Yezzan was arguing strongly against war. I see absolutely no evidence that they are manipulating Hizdahr or using him as a proxy in any way.

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  12. I make no secret of what this toughness would entail in such a world, where treachery is mothers milk to most. And I think you go a little too far, a sizable portion of them would need to be wiped out, certainly their central leadership to prevent any attempt at organization because resources, infrastructure, and competent management skills are needed even in a grass-roots insurgency, to demonstrate the strength of Dany's resolve through the threat of genocide, and after that kind of devastation most will lose heart and take the way out.

    Oh not directly, I didn't mean to presume that much, but it clearly shows whose in charge of their relationship since both were quite obviously interdependent they were to get to their positions of strength. And we saw how weak Hizdar was, he would have given in to whatever demands they'd make no matter what the price, so the Yunkai will always be the ones to benefit with him in charge, and slowly they'd erode at everything Dany stood for overtime.

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  13. "I've seen a lot of comments from readers that said they skimmed or even completely skipped this chapter."

    Considering Dany is one of the main characters, I've never really liked her. It's more the setting for most of her chapters really. I prefer the more traditional western medieval world embodied by Westeros personally :)

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  14. Peace? There was no peace, just a brief ceasefire. The Volantis fleet is coming to burn Mereen no matter what the Yunkai commanders negotiated.

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  15. I have a problem with the concensus view of the "prophecy" here. First, I think that interpreting "mountains blowing like leaves in the wind" as pyramid brick burning and ashes scattered is a real reach. (About as lame as interpreting smoke and salt as steam and tears.) Mirri Maz Duur wasn't making a prophecy--she was stating her opinion that Drogo was gone for good. And if it was an accidental prophecy, it wasn't predicting conditions for Dany's pregnancy but for Drogo's return to health. So where's Drogo?

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  16. I am of the same opinion as sundevotee, Mirri Maz Duur's statements were not meant as prophecy, they were at the minimum an opinion. One that may not be so well based, after all she did not really know of what Danni was made off, perhaps she only learned that in the end. I could even think that she just wanted to hurt or scare Danni?

    What seems sure is that Danni appears to be pregnant, and that Mirri Maz Duur was full of it.

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  17. Seas dry, that's the dothraki sea going dry with winter, sun setting in east, that's Quentynfrom Sunspear dying in the east, mountains blowing in the wind, hmm maybe Ser Robert Strong, aka Gregor the Mountain, will weaken and be blown over. That's as far as I got: I can't keep track of all Dany's prophecies.

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  18. Mountains blowing in the wind could refer to the eyrie and therefore the vale of arryn.

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  19. Mountains blowing in the wind could refer to... the invention of the Dragatomic bomb by the faceless man using the hypothetical "egg" . All man(kind) must die . All hail the white walkers...

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    1. Jokes aside , I'm expecting Danny to "unite" all remaining Dothraki , wage war on the biggest slave city yet , get back and crush yunkai , astapor and "the greatest city that was and wont be" . And since she is near , an instructive trip to Ashai ( insert Ashai-undying here), where she learns that her birthright is plagued by undead .
      Danny needs to be the Mother to all if she hopes to win . A mother isn't always gentle , especially when the ghiscari scumm are involved .
      Thx for your time , I like this site .

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  20. She won't go there, since Martin stated that no characters will go to Asshai, so sorry to spoil your expectations ;)

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  21. The insights proffered here are quite interesting. I think Dany remains fertile. Maz Dur was only stating that Kahl Drogo is dead and never coming back. I agree that what she said was less prophecy than truth regarding Drogo.

    All discussions regarding 'peace deals' aside let's be clear: Dany has strong convictions and beliefs. She will NOT abandon Mereen as she did Astapor, (although this was done in the mistaken belief that what she left behind could stand on its own after such a short period of time).

    In order for her to go forward (to Westeros) she must go back (to Mereen) and correct her mistakes (primarily: not believing in herself (her dragons know who she is, but she did not completely embrace herself).

    Dany will go back to Mereen where several paths will converge for breaking the siege. 1) Tyrion and the Second Sons, 2) Victarion with the growing fleet of ships, Moqorro (Red Priest and notably the Right Hand of the High priest of R'hllor) and the horn, 3) Barristan Selmy's preparations for battle which include, plan to get Darrio, his plan to undermine Yunkai's siege with Missandei's plan and 4) Dany on dragonback and a growing Kahlasar.

    She will leave Mereen in better shape and in better hands when she leaves, she will move on Astapor and do the same BEFORE leaving for Westeros. Some time will have to pass before the trek to Westeros. In the meantime Varys will work to keep the seven kingdoms off balance (killing of Kevan Lannister) while Dany slowly progresses toward home.

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    1. Check out the Meereenese Blot, he made everything here more or less redundant^^

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  22. can anyone comment on why Dany's hands were burnt in the chapter when its been shown that she can withstand fire and hold hot coal without burning herself.

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  23. Well, I can't say that I was aware of much of that. It's been a year since I read the series, only once through, but the more I read online (and watch on the telly series), the more I want to re-read it. I have missed so much and not just because I can't remember; I literally missed it. Dany perhaps being pregnant? I only came across this now.

    I must say that your interpretation of all the prophecies are plausible. I think given I have only read the series once just goes to show that you cannot all the info in one hit. It was like that with the Harry Potter series, and this has far, far more going on and really, HP now seems rather basic by comparison. Looks like I'll be reading the series a few more times yet... ;-)

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