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“Viserys was Mad Aerys’s son, just so. Daenerys… Daenerys is quite different. The frightened child who sheltered in my manse died on the Dothraki sea, and was reborn in blood and fire. This dragon queen who wears her name is a true Targaryen.” (ADWD, Tyrion II)
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Spoiler Warning: Part 2 of my essay series The Dragon’s Mercy: The Violent Future of Daenerys Targaryen picks up where we last left Daenerys Targaryen at the end of A Dance with Dragons. Originally, I intended this to be a 2-part series, but I estimated that the writing for part 2 would be close to 13,000 words. So, in lieu of a very long read, I’ve decided to make this essay series into 3 parts. While much in these last two parts will be speculative and based on clues and foreshadowing from the first five books of A Song of Ice and Fire, I will need to delve into some of The Winds of Winter sample material and interviews that Martin has given about The Winds of Winter. As such, this essay and recording contain both major and minor spoilers for The Winds of Winter.
Early in A Dance with Dragons, Daenerys abandons her violent, mother of dragons persona and embraces a peaceful conception of motherhood known as the mhysa. But within the space of one chapter of this embrace, Dany is confronted with a scene of such personal violence that it challenges her new-found peaceful desires. In ADWD, Daenerys II, reports reach Daenerys that 9 Unsullied soldiers have been killed by the Sons of the Harpy outside of a wineshop. Mossandor, the brother of Missandei, is among those dead from the ambush. The murder of the Unsullied shocks Dany, but equally upsetting is that the perpetrators escaped custody. Instead, the Unsullied took the owner of the wineshop where the attack occurred into custody for questioning. Likely to ensure thoroughness in their investigation, the Unsullied also take the wineseller’s daughters into custody as well.
Mossador. Dany made a fist. Missandei and her brothers had been taken from their home on Naath by raiders from the Basilisk Isles and sold into slavery in Astapor. Young as she was, Missandei had shown such a gift for tongues that the Good Masters had made a scribe of her. Mossador and Marselen had not been so fortunate. They had been gelded and made into Unsullied. “Have any of the murderers been captured?”
“Your servants have arrested the owner of the wineshop and his daughters. They plead their ignorance and beg for mercy.” (ADWD, Daenerys II)
With the witnesses appealing to the mhysa, Daenerys is left in a bit of a quandry. She suspects the wineseller of some sort of complicity in the act or at least knowing more than he’s let on, but what could she do to retrieve that information? Simply questioning the wineseller or his daughters might not net the results needed to identify the perpetrators. But torturing the wineseller might extract the information. It might be morally nebulous or even wrong, but it could lead to a more peaceful Meereen in the long-term. Dany, for her part, is skeptical of the wineseller’s declaration of innocence, but at the same time, she’s unwilling to take on the mother of dragons mantle.
They all plead ignorance and beg for mercy. “Give them to the Shavepate. Skahaz, keep each apart from the others and put them to the question.”
“It will be done, Your Worship. Would you have me question them sweetly, or sharply?”
“Sweetly, to begin. Hear what tales they tell and what names they give you. It may be they had no part in this.” (ADWD, Daenerys II)
Dany’s statement gives the impression that while the death of the Unsullied and Mossador angers Daenerys, their deaths as soldiers, as an Unsullied made some sort of cosmic sense. Like the Joker put it in A Dark Knight, “If tomorrow I tell the press that like a gang banger, will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics.” Though the news is bad, it’s not bad enough to push Dany towards conflict between her two conceptions of motherhood. So, by ordering an ethical interrogation of the wineseller and his daughters, Dany’s shows that her mother of dragons instinct is tempered by her sense of cosmic justice.
But when Skahaz mo Kandaq reports on other murders, ones that don’t make any cosmic sense, Dany is dumbfounded.
She hesitated. “Nine, the noble Reznak said. Who else?”
“Three freedmen, murdered in their homes,” the Shavepate said. “A moneylender, a cobbler, and the harpist Rylona Rhee. They cut her fingers off before they killed her.”
The queen flinched. Rylona Rhee had played the harp as sweetly as the Maiden. When she had been a slave in Yunkai, she had played for every highborn family in the city. In Meereen she had become a leader amongst the Yunkish freedmen, their voice in Dany’s councils. “We have no captives but this wineseller?”
“None, this one grieves to confess. We beg your pardon.” (ADWD, Daenerys II)
When Daenerys flinches, it’s a tell on George RR Martin’s part that he’s about to turn the tables on the reader. Just prior to this moment, we’re lulled into feeling that Dany will do the right thing, that she will hold firm to her mhysa identity. But when Dany flinches, it’s demonstrating that her moral firmness in the matter is a bit less solid than thought. The deaths of the Unsullied were tragic and horrific, but they could be processed mentally, because soldiers dying, while tragic, is more cosmically understandable. But when innocents die unnecessarily or when they are murdered, Daenerys Targaryen’s mhysa side gives way to the mother of dragons. When innocent slave children were cruelly crucified against the mileposts to Meereen, Daenerys let her vengeful Mother of Dragons persona rage. The Mother of Dragons exacted her vengeance in the form of crucifying 163 Meereenese Great Masters, without determining their guilt or innocence in the deaths of innocents.
Here, when confronted with a very personal loss, one that defies any cosmic sense, Dany turns once again to the mother of dragons.
Mercy, thought Dany. They will have the dragon’s mercy. “Skahaz, I have changed my mind. Question the man sharply.”
“I could. Or I could question the daughters sharply whilst the father looks on. That will wring some names from him.”
“Do as you think best, but bring me names.” Her fury was a fire in her belly. (ADWD, Daenerys II)
The dragon’s mercy can be broadly defined as Daenerys fulfilling her emotional need to visit vengeance upon those who have harmed innocents. But before you agree that this is good or even admirable, the dragon’s mercy has parameters that go beyond the mere protection of innocents. Torturing the wineseller could perhaps be justified in a moral sense, but torturing his daughters while their father looks on? That’s less justifiable. It’s these moral and pragmatic shortcuts to achieve her ends and fulfill a personal emotional need that define the dragon’s mercy. But it’s these shortcuts that have villainous overtones. Do heroes allow innocents to be tortured? It’s a question that Martin at least seems to want us to ask.
So, when at the end of A Dance with Dragons, Daenerys re-embraces her mother of dragons identity, she’s also inherently embracing a mindset of the dragon’s mercy too. Worse, she’s wrapped her avenging dragon persona in a prophetic vision of destiny. Gone are the days when Dany made peace with her enemies. Gone still further is the willingness to make compromises to safeguard innocents. Instead, in The Winds of Winter, we will find that Daenerys Targaryen will bring the dragon’s mercy to Essos. Meereenese, Yunkish, Volantene and Pentoshi will feel the heat of the dragon’s mercy as Daenerys Targaryen burns her way across Essos. But first, she will bring fire and blood to the Dothraki.
Dead Man Riding: The Fiery Future of Khal Jhaqo
That was how Khal Jhaqo found her, when half a hundred mounted warriors emerged from the drifting smoke. (ADWD, Daenerys X)
When we last left Daenerys, she had made her final break from her mhysa identity and embraced a fire and blood mentality wrapped in prophetic vision of destiny. But Dany’s last chapter in A Dance with Dragons doesn’t end there. Instead, GRRM pushes the narrative forward just a little further. After her conversation with the swaying grass, Daenerys emerges from her vision quest to the reality around her.
Stuck in the Dothraki sea with only the occasional presence of Drogon to keep her company, Dany’s immediate future is uncertain. But then a Dotraki scout emerges out of the tall grass in front of Dany. Hidden by the tall grass, Dany’s presence goes unnoticed. But when the scout departs, Daenerys begins shouting after the rider. This causes Drogon to fly to Dany’s presence. After tellingly echoing Qaithe’s “to go forward, you must go back” prophecy, she mounts Drogon to chase after the Dothraki scout. While on intercept course, Drogon & Dany fly over a herd of horses with about 20 Dothraki riders among them. Drogon & Dany then descend down on an unmounted horse; there, in another highly symbolic measure, Drogon lights the horse on fire and then he and Dany eat the horse. The chapter concludes with Khal Jhaqo and 50 warriors from his khalasar finding Dany and Drogon.
So, before we move into what I suspect will immediately transpire after Khal Jhaqo’s discovery of Daenerys, who is this Khal Jhaqo fellow? Is this someone that we’ve met previously? It sure is. Khal Jhaqo was a ko, that is a subordinate commader of Khal Drogo’s. When Khal Drogo fell from his horse and appeared all but dead, Ko Jhaqo took on the mantle of khal and claimed 20,000 of Drogo’s riders.
“The Dothraki follow only the strong,” Ser Jorah said. “I am sorry, my princess. There was no way to hold them. Ko Pono left first, naming himself Khal Pono, and many followed him. Jhaqo was not long to do the same. (AGOT, Daenerys IX)
Among Khal Jhaqo’s new bloodriders was a nasty horseman by the name of Mago. Mago is first introduced to the reader during the Dothraki attack of the Lhazarene. In that chapter, Daenerys saves a few of the Lhazarene people from being claimed by the Dothraki. Among some of those claimed were captives of a bloodrider known as Mago. Dany’s action infuriates Mago; specifically, one of the captives that Dany claims is a slave girl named Eroeh, and this slave girl was someone that Mago hoped to rape.
“This one is Mago, who rides in the khas of Ko Jhaqo. He says the khaleesi has taken his spoils, a daughter of the lambs who was his to mount.” (AGOT, Daenerys VII)
Mago attempted to take back Eroeh, but his atempt was thwarted by Drogo, but when Khal Drogo and Dany fell into comas, Mago seized on the opportunity.
“They took Khal Drogo’s herds, Khaleesi,” Rakharo said. “We were too few to stop them. It is the right of the strong to take from the weak. They took many slaves as well, the khal’s and yours, yet they left some few.”
“Eroeh?” asked Dany, remembering the frightened child she had saved outside the city of the Lamb Men.
“Mago seized her, who is Khal Jhaqo’s bloodrider now,” said Jhogo. “He mounted her high and low and gave her to his khal, and Jhaqo gave her to his other bloodriders. They were six. When they were done with her, they cut her throat.” (AGOT, Daenerys IX)
The gangrape and murder of Eroeh enrages Daenerys. Though powerless at the end of A Game of Thrones, Daenerys swears bloody vengeance on Jhaqo and Mago.
“Khaleesi, “ the handmaid Irri explained, as if to a child, “Jhaqo is a khal now, with twenty thousand riders at his back.”
She lifted her head. “And I am Daenerys Stormhorn, Daenerys of House Targaryen, of the blood of Aegon the Conqueror and Maegor the Cruel and old Valyria before them. I am the dragon’s daughter, and I swear to you, these men will die screaming. (AGOT, Daenerys IX)
It is Eroeh all over again.”
Brown Ben Plumm was puzzled. “Who is Eroeh?”
“A girl I thought I’d saved from rape and torment. All I did was make it worse for her in the end. And all I did in Astapor was make ten thousand Eroehs.” (ADWD, Daenerys IV)
And in Dany’s last chapter in A Dance with Dragons, she thinks about Mago & Jhaqo. As she wanders across the Dothraki Sea, she reflects back to Mago & Jhaqo. Tellingly, this occurs just before Dany has her dramatic vision of destiny & her encounter with the Dothraki.
Ko Jhaqo named himself Khal Jhaqo and rode off with even more. Mago, his bloodrider, raped and murdered Eroeh, a girl Daenerys had once saved from him. Only the birth of her dragons amidst the fire and smoke of Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre had spared Dany herself from being dragged back to Vaes Dothrak to live out the remainder of her days amongst the crones of the dosh khaleen. (ADWD, Daenerys X)
As such, Dany’s memory of Jhaqo & Mago is very fresh when she has her prophetic reckoning with fire and blood. It’s not coincidental after Dany’s vision that she ecounters Khal Jhaqo’s khalasar. And that’s how Dany’s last chapter ends.
Now, moving past A Dance with Dragons territory and into speculation territory, it’s important note something very symbolic at the end of Dany’s last chapter in A Dance with Dragons. Right at the very end, Drogon & Dany descend on an unmounted horse where Drogon proceeds to light the horse on fire and then eats the horsemeat with Dany. Now, GRRM sometimes likes to hit his readers over the head with sigil and animal symbolism (Think the direwolf skewered by the stag in A Game of Thrones for example). Here, George is practically telegraphing what’s going to occur after Dany and Drogon’s fateful encounter with the Khal Jhaqo’s khalasar.
First, while the 20 Dothraki scouts may have run from Daenerys and Drogon initially, they went for help and came back in force. With now 50 Dotraki confronting Dany, it’s clear that they mean business and hope that greater numbers will give them a chance against Daenerys and a dragon. But will numbers actually matter? Probably not. This is how I imagine that Dany’s first chapter will open in The Winds of Winter: Either in the moment or in recollection, Dany will make a play at taking Khal Jhaqo’s khalasar from him. And how would she accomplish this? Well, remember Jorah Mormont’s estimation of the Dothraki:
“The Dothraki follow only the strong.” (AGOT, Daenerys IX)
Given that Khal Jhaqo seized a sizeable part of Khal Drogo’s khalasar by demonstrating his strength, Dany seizing back that part or all of Jhaqo’s khalasar makes poetic sense here. And so I imagine that some sort of confrontation between Daenerys and Khal Jhaqo will take place either in the Dothraki Sea or in a place we’ll get to in a moment. And how well would even the best Dothraki warrior do against dragonfire? Poorly.
But if Dany & Drogon start her campaign of fire and blood by killing Khal Jhaqo, what about the fate of Mago the bloodrider? In the HBO series Game of Thrones, Mago is killed by Khal Drogo after the Lhazarene Battle. But we know that Mago is one of Jhaqo’s bloodriders in A Song of Ice and Fire. So, in a rare revelation about The Winds of Winter, GRRM said something interesting about Mago in an interview shortly after A Dance with Dragons published.
“So Mago is not dead in the books. And, in fact, he’s going to be a recurring character in Winds of Winter. He’s a particularly nasty bloodrider to one of the other Khals that’s broken away after Drogo dies.” – Entertainment Weekly Interview with George RR Martin, July 12, 2011
I interpret this to mean that Mago will survive the initial encounter with Daenerys, and that he will take some of Jhaqo’s old khalasar with him. And given that he’ll be a recurring character in The Winds of Winter, I think that Mago will play the role of antagonist to Dany throughout her fire and blood campaign in Essos.
But if Dany has seized part of a khalasar, would she return to Meereen or would she attempt something more drastic?
The Mother of Mountains
“To go forward, you must go back.” (ASOS, Daenerys II)
The obvious play here would be to have Daenerys make her way back to Meereen with Drogon and a partial khalasar. However, if we look at Dany’s mental state, we know that she’s rejected the Meereenese as her children. And while she may wish to return to Meereen in order to re-unite with Daario, the urgency to return to Meereen is likely not as it once was. Even more so, Dany’s mystical encounter with Qaithe in her final chapter and her new vision of prophetic destiny will likely push her temporarily from the Harpy’s City. Instead, I think that Dany’s repetition of Qaithe’s “to go forward, I must go back” mantra prior to mounting Drogon in her last chapter is a tell that Martin is planning to have Dany return to a place in her history, that place being Vaes Dothrak.
In a brief window into The Winds of Winter, George RR Martin, while not confirming that he was writing about Vaes Dothrak, gave some broad hints as to what he was writing in mid-2012:
WINDS OF WINTER. Yes, I’m working on that too. At the moment, I am writing about the Dothraki. More than that, I sayeth not, you know I don’t like to talk about this stuff. – GRRM, Notablog, May 12, 2012
Vaes Dothrak and the Dothraki people represent many things to Dany. It’s where she came into her own power. More importantly, given her new prophetic vision of destiny, Vaes Dothrak provides a fitting place for Dany to return to. As Dany is taking on this new mystical mantle, Dany will likely start to re-examine some of the prophecies that were spoken to her back in A Game of Thrones. Remember the stallion that mounts the world prophecy that was given to Dany’s unborn child? Will Dany start to believe that this prophecy wasn’t meant for Rhaego; that it was meant for her?
And what of Qaithe’s prophecies? Will her cryptic words impact Dany’s travels?
“To go north, you must go south. To reach the west, you must go east. To go forward you must go back, and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow.”
Just as an aside: this prophecy by Qaithe is one that many fans interpret to mean something about Dany going to Asshai, but while GRRM may have thought to send Daenerys to Asshai early in writing A Song of Ice and Fire, I’m fairly confident that that she won’t make her way to Asshai in the last two books based on two things that Martin has said on the matter.
Interviewer: … Do you have any plans for the other characters to visit some of the other areas you haven’t explored yet, such as Valyria or Asshai?
GRRM: … Actually Asshai’s another question; it’s kind of at the other end of the world. I’m not sure if we’ll actually ever go to Asshai. You may learn more about it through Melisandre or other people remembering it or talking about it. – Interview with GRRM prior to publication of ADWD
Question: Will we see Asshai?]
GRRM: Only in flasback and memory, if at all. – So Spake Martin, July 27, 2008
Moving beyond Qaithe, there’s also the issue of Dany’s visions from the House of the Undying. While prophecy in ASOIAF turns the hearer towards shortcuts and morally gray actions, the prophecies and visions that Daenerys experienced in the House of the Undying are probably the truest glimpses into the future. A prominent part of the House of the Undying vision references a nearby terrain feature of Vaes Dothrak.
Beneath the Mother of Mountains, a line of naked crones crept from a great lake and knelt shivering before her, their grey heads bowed. (ACOK, Daenerys IV)
This lesser-cited portion of the House of the Undying prophecy is something that sticks out after a few re-reads. Has any of this been fulfilled previously? Likely not. So, what does it mean? First, a few points. The Mother of Mountains is the most prominent terrain features in and around Vaes Dothrak and the endless flat grassland of the Dothraki Sea.The Mother of Mountains also has spiritual significance to the Dothraki people. Now, turning away from the mountain, the crones referenced here are a likely reference to the Dosh Khaleen — that is the widowed khaleesis of dead khals. Their significance in the story was felt early when they prophesied that Dany’s child would be the stallion that would mount the world. Later, Dany’s turn to Mirri Maaz Durr to save Khal Drogo’s life was at least partially motivated by her unwillingness to join the Dosh Khaleen.
Returning to the vision from the House of the Undying, it’s important to note again that the subjects of prophecy and vision oft-times misinterpret the visions and prophecies that they experience. So, are the line of naked crones shivering from the coldness of the lake that they had emerged from? Maybe, but the lake doesn’t have any special significance to Daenerys. While cold might be a reason for shivering, a more intriguing possibility is that it isn’t water that is making the dosh khaleen shiver. Rather, it’s fear that is causing the crones to shiver or more accurately shake with fright.
A Targaryen Queen mounted on a dragon demanding pledges of fealty would be a terrifying sight to behold. The vision’s reference of the crones “kneeling with their grey heads bowed” likely references some sort of homage that the dosh khaleen are giving to Daenerys Targaryen.
But outside of the thematic purposes, if Martin was writing about the Dothraki and Vaes Dothrak, what plot purpose would returning to Vaes Dothrak serve for Dany’s arc? First, it could serve as the confrontation point between Daenerys and Jhaqo or Daenerys and Mago. If Dany doesn’t kill Jhaqo or Mago on the Dothraki Sea, Vaes Dothrak would make for a dramatic confrontation. Moreover, if the final confrontation between these two Dothraki and Daenerys occurs in Vaes Dothrak and a certain dragon is involved in the confrontation, it could serve as a callback to events from A Game of Thrones. Dothraki traditions about the shedding of blood are resolute.
The Dothraki esteem Vaes Dothrak as the holiest of cities. No blood may be shed there. (TWOIAF, The Dothraki)
But Khal Drogo found a way to circumvent this with Viserys. Recall how Viserys was killed in Vaes Dothrak and not a drop of blood was shed. It’s possible that Daenerys will both uphold and subvert this time-honored Dothraki tradition and use dragon fire to kill Jhaqo & Mago within Vaes Dothrak — that is if either aren’t killed out in the Dothraki Sea.
Moreover, this event or any number of events could serve as a focal point for Daenerys to unite the Dothraki into a great khalasar. The World of Ice and Fire makes two interesting notes regarding the future of the Dothraki. The first is an admission that the Dothraki will unite.
Wiser men know that it is only a matter of time until the khalasars unite again under some great khal and turn west once more in search of new conquests. (TWOIAF, The Dothraki)
The second reference in The World of Ice and Fire takes a look at the prophecies surrounding the Dothraki.
One day all the khalasars shall gather together once more beneath the banners of the great khal who will conquer all, the “stallion who mounts the world.” (TWOIAF, The Dothraki)
Dany’s return to Vaes Dothrak would serve as the impetus for the grand unification of the Dothraki under a singular leader. The city serves as the central location for bringing the Dothraki together under the khal of khals or in the case of Daenerys, the khaleesi of khals.
The Thematic Impulse for Dany’s Coming Dothraki Arc
When we take a step back from the thematic and plot-purposes and get a 10,000 foot view of why George RR Martin would take us back to the Dothraki, some interesting meta themes emerge. Dany’s return to Vaes Dothrak may make sense to drive Dany’s plot and character arc forward, but there are other issues that will likely come into play. As a people group, the Dothraki have a less-than-stellar reputation among the people of Essos. The World of Ice and fire sums up the prevailing view of the Dothraki nicely.
The Dothraki remain nomads still, a savage and wild people who prefer tents to palaces. (TWOIAF, The Dothraki)
And though it would be unfair to castigate the Dothraki completely, their reputation for savagery is not unwarranted. No one who has read the description of the Dothraki sack of the Lhazarene town in A Game of Thrones comes away marveling at the human rights record of the Dothraki. Instead, George intends us to react with horror to the scenes of murder and rape. So, it would seem that Dothraki culture in and of itself was intentionally designed by George RR Martin to be foreign to us living in modernity. We can’t sympathize with brutal military conquest and the mass human trafficking that flows from these conquests. Moreover, even outside of their brutal military methods and tactics, the Dothraki as a people group are utterly alien to our cultural mores and customs. But interestingly, GRRM almost seems to regret that the Dothraki seem so one-dimensional
Charlie Jane Anders: People complain that the Dothraki are this one-dimensional barbarian society.
George RR Martin: I haven’t had a Dothraki viewpoint character though. – io9 Interview with GRRM, 7/23/2013
But if Martin might regret the lack of a Dothraki POV character, it doesn’t mean that he won’t use their one-dimensional nature to manipulate readers. If Daenerys were to confront the Dothraki atop Drogon, most readers would be hard-pressed to summon much sympathy for the Dothraki. This becomes even more true when GRRM inevitably brings us the confrontation between Daenerys and Mago/Jhaqo. Both men represent the pinnacle of Dothraki culture. And both represent the evils inherent in Dothraki culture.
Interestingly, I think that GRRM is setting this up to be another moment similar to what occurred in Astapor in A Storm of Swords. There, Daenerys, confronted by the horrors of the slave culture in Astapor, betrayed the Wise Masters of Astapor and brought fire and blood to them and their ilk. And in that dracarys moment, we, as readers, cheered Dany’s actions. As readers, we loved seeing some cosmic justice dealt to these tokar-wearing slavers. In the case of Astapor, it’s hard to really argue against Dany’s actions to violently end the reign of the Wise Masters (Though some have made the point that Dany’s breach of contract was egregious). That being said, the cost in human lives in Astapor was enough that Dany’s actions were regarded as a sack thereafter.
And so, any punitive or military actions that Dany takes with the Dothraki will likely be cheered by fans. But given the subtext of Dany’s new-found Targaryen and prophetic identities, George will likely be inviting readers to evaluate her actions against her prophetic and mother of dragons identities. Moreover, there’s a subtle change that will likely be at work. Dany’s actions in Astapor were motivated by her desire to safeguard innocents, those who became her children. When the Unsullied joined her thereafter; it was a significant windfall to her humanitarian impulses, but securing the Unsullied was not her primary motivation in letting fire and blood reign down on Astapor. But will Dany be motivated by humanitarian reasons with regard to the Dothraki? Or will her actions be motivated by a desire to secure a khalasar and larger army to take the throne of Westeros back from her enemies? For that matter, will there be any innocents to safeguard in Vaes Dothrak? Or will any innocents shake with fear and bow their heads in submission to Daenerys?
These potential shifts are subtle but of great import.
A current running through these potential future event is that of Dany’s new status as a villain. But is she? In an interview with Charlie Jane Anders of io9, GRRM gave a thoughtful response to the question of evil.
Are there any characters that you’ve kind of fallen out of love with, that you just don’t, you know, get excited about any more?
I still love all the characters. Even some of them who aren’t very lovable. At least the viewpoint characters. When I’m writing in the viewpoint of one of these characters, I’m really inside their skin. So, you trying to see the world through their eyes to understand why they do the things they do. And we all have, even characters who are thought of to be bad guys, who are bad guys, in some objective sense, don’t think of themselves as bad guys.
That’s a comic book kind of thing, where the Red Skull gets up in the morning [and asks] “What evil can I do today?” Real people don’t think that way. We all think we’re heroes, we all think we’re good guys. We have our rationalizations when we do bad things. “Well, I had no choice,” or “It’s the best of several bad alternatives,” or “No it was actually good because God told me so,” or “I had to do it for my family.” We all have rationalizations for why we do shitty things or selfish things or cruel things. So when I’m writing from the viewpoint of one of my characters who has done these things, I try to have that in my head. – io9 Interview with GRRM, 7/23/2013
Dany’s future turn as a villain will not be one where she’ll contemplate what evil she can do. Almost assuredly, Daenerys will continue to view herself as the hero in her own story. But to the reader, Dany’s turn to villainy will be one where Dany rationalizes her moral compromises away from a perspective of fulling destiny. The Dothraki may be a people whose warlike and slaving ways warrant some sort of cosmic justice in the form of dragonfire, but will Dany’s actions be done from a perspective of justice, divorced from human emotion? Or will they be tied intrinsically to her new prophetic, mother of dragons desire to exact vengeance on those who have wronged her? It’s my estimation that Dany’s rebirth into fire and blood will continue into the Dothraki Sea.
If Dany can secure a great khalasar at Vaes Dothrak and eliminate Khal Jhaqo & Mago, her power will be great and terrible indeed. But it will only be phase 1 of Winds of Winter arc. Phase 2 can only take her to one place: to the city that is not her home, to a people she rejected as her children, to the war that she fought so hard to forestall and to a fiery red god that will give her new purpose and destiny.
Thanks for reading! Part 3 will continue our examination of Dany’s coming arc in The Winds of Winter. Please follow us on twitter, like us on facebook or subscribe to our podcast on podbean or itunes in order to stay up to date with all the latest and greatest from all of us here!