Transcript: I Come Not to Praise Rhaegar Targaryen

Merry Christmas Eve, kids!

I love Christmas. I love Christmas a lot – always have. I love decorating my little geeky tree, I love making house sigil snowflakes for my window, I love hanging with my family (my brother-in-law brings his Nintendo 64 on Christmas Eve and we play all kinds of Mario Kart and GoldenEye). It’s just a really nice, magical time for me.

But I also love you guys. Not in a sappy way, but I know that this blog, the Tumblr, the podcasts – none of that would mean much of anything if we didn’t have fans like you all reading, listening, commenting, and generally being awesome. It’s really awesome to be able to engage in the fandom as we do here at Wars and Politics, and I can say that the vast majority of interactions I’ve had with my work on here have been wonderfully positive and enhanced my experience of the series.

So I wanted to do something nice for you all – a little Christmas present, as it were (or a present for whatever holiday you celebrate – if nothing else, today is National Eggnog Day). For the past – eh, more time than you want to know – I’ve been transcribing our very first podcast episode, “I Come Not to Praise Rhaegar Targaryen”. If any of you have ever transcribed video or audio, you know how fun it can be, and I am by no means a professional at this. There were moments I could not for the life of me make out what was being said (even from me!), so I made a best guess; for a 90 minute podcast, I think I did a pretty good job. So if you’re hearing-impaired – if you’re a visual rather than an audio learner – if you want to read along like those books-on-tape we used to have in my library, where the book and the tape came in a cute little bag together – any reason at all, you’re welcome to enjoy this transcript.

I hope you all have a merry Christmas, and if you celebrate a different holiday, I hope you have a wonderful time as well. Enjoy the season and have a safe and happy 2016!

The Queen Regent (NFriel)


Nina (Nfriel)

Jeff (BryndenBFish)

Jim (SomethingLikeaLawyer)

Hamish (Militant_Penguin)

Jeff: So hello and welcome to the first ever joint recording for the Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire podcast, a podcast dedicated to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, with special emphasis to political, military, and pseudo-historical analysis of the series. My name is Jeff, otherwise known as BryndenBFish, and I’m joined by everyone else from the podcast team today, so we’re gonna go round the horn real quick and get everybody to introduce themselves, so the first person we’ll talk to is Nina, so Nina, go ahead and introduce yourself—

Nina: Hey everyone, blogosphere, I am Nina, but you may also know me as Nfriel, if you read the Twitter, excuse me, if you read the Reddit or the blog itself. I just finished my first series for the blog, called “The Dragon’s Ladies: The Queens of Rhaegar Targaryen”, loving it, loving writing for the blog, and happy to be here!

Jeff: Ok, so, you’re, you just finished your essay series, so what would be your favorite book in the whole series?

Nina: I really loved the new World of Ice and Fire, I think not only is the artwork gorgeous, but it’s so much great information and so much—not a lot of questions answered, but a lot of- more great questions given, which I find even more exciting.

Jeff: That’s-that’s a fair point. And who’s your favorite POV character?

Nina: Ah, favorite POV, um, gotta give it to Sansa, I love her. We-we have a mutual interest in fashion. [Laughs]

Jeff: [Laughs] Ok, and your least favorite POV character?

Nina: Ooh, Quentyn. Sorry, it’s Quentyn, he’s-he’s just super boring, I do not remember a darn thing that happens in his chapters, sorry.

Jeff: Ok, and then your favorite minor character.

Nina: Umm, I’m gonna have to give it to Alys Karstark on this one. She’s someone that’s, ah, always been super cool on reads of Dance with Dragons to me. She recognizes bad situations when she’s in them, figures out smart ways to get out of those situations, and then-best-one of the best quotes of A Dance with Dragons, marrying a guy that she doesn’t know, who doesn’t speak her language, and is from a totally different culture – manages to say “Let him be afraid of me.” That is a badass 16 year old.

Jeff: That is a pretty cool quote.

Nina: [Laughs]

Jeff: Um, and what are you drinking tonight, anything interesting?

Nina: I-I am drinking, um, Gatorade, which is mostly gone, but through, through a nice little straw, courtesy of my parents’ special delivery. [Laughs]

Jeff: Very nice. Ok, so next up we have Jim, so Jim, go ahead and introduce yourself.

Jim: Hi everyone, I am Jim, otherwise known as SomethingLikeaLawyer on Reddit and on Tower of the Hand. I’ve been on Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire for about 15, 16 months, and in addition to contributing on Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire I also contribute as a regular columnist to Tower of the Hand. In Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire I tend to specialize on writing about minor characters, especially political actors in the series—Hoster-Hoster Tully, Jon Arryn, and my latest essay was on Rickard Stark, and on Tower of the Hand right now I’m writing about the bad guys of-of the series. My column there is called “The Worst Men in Westeros”, and I’ve got columns on Craster and the slavers of Slavers’ Bay.

Jeff: Very nice. Ok so—what’s your favorite book in the series?

Jim: I have to say A Storm of Swords, there’s a lot of political action, and a lot of things that were being developed over the first—you know, the previous two books come to a head, and followed very closely by A Clash of Kings, because I really like the political-the political establishments that are-that are going on in that.

Jeff: Ok, and then who is your favorite POV character?

Jim: I have to say it’s my boy, the Onion Knight, Ser Davos Seaworth, he’s humble and—and that’s the thing I like the best actually. I wrote one time, “In a land where men’s egos have tiny capes and crowns of their own—”

Nina: [Laughs]

Jim: “Davos remains humble and honest, and fixed to his duty.”

Jeff: And the most romantic character, too.

Jim: I’d agree, yeah, I’d agree.

Jeff: I mean, he has the best relationship with his wife, obviously.

Jim: Oh, very much so. In “Davos IV”,  in A Dance with Dragons, when he’s in the Wolf’s Den, he’s writing to letters to his son and his wife, and I remember, it was a really striking quote I heard, when he said “I was a better smuggler than a knight, a better knight than a King’s Hand, and a better Hand than a husband. I love you, Marya.”

Nina: Awww.

Jeff: That’s an awesome quote. It’s one of—it’s one of those quotes that doesn’t get, like, tossed around a lot when people talk about their favorite quotes, but it’s up there for me, probably in the top 10 of the best quotes from, from a series of books that’s full of great quotes. Ok, so now you, got, you got your favorite POV character, who’s your least favorite POV character?

Jim: My least favorite POV character is Daenerys, and I know she’s a protagonist—

Nina: [snorts]

Jeff: And antagonist!

Jim: Well, everyone’s a hero in their own mind, isn’t that what—

Jeff: That’s true.

Jim: Isn’t that what George R.R. Martin said? But I, I find the action in her books to be quite dull, I find that she seems to have everything kind of break her way with little effort on her own part. Everything just kind of seems to kind of fall into her lap—I always made the joke that if Tywin Lannister or Robb Stark had three dragons fall into his lap, the war—the War of Five Kings would have been over in a heartbeat.

Jeff: Pretty much. Yeah, I think I agree with that, too. Ok, so now who is your favorite minor character in the series.

Jim: My favorite minor character is Lord Tytos Blackwood, and he’s got a very lovely set of chapters with Jaime in A Feast for Crows, and it’s just—he talks about, you know, being honorable, fighting even though he knows the cause is lost, and all he really wants is his son’s bones returned, and not to mention that in A Game of Thrones, he leads a—he sallies forth from Riverrun and hits the shield wall from behind—

Jeff: That’s true, yeah.

Jim: During the Battle of the Camps, and, when Catelyn needs to go to treat with Renly Baratheon, he says “Well, you need protection, so here’s my son, here is Lucas Blackwood”, and Lucas Blackwood becomes one of Robb Stark’s personal guard.

Nina: And he also has that kickass cloak.

Jeff: Ahh, that was gonna be my line!

Nina: [Laughs]

Jeff: You stole my line!

Nina: Well, you can’t have all the credit.

Jim: Well, she did—

Jeff: Damn you, Nina! Damn you!

Jim: Nina did say she had an interest in fashion, so, you have to—

Jeff: That’s true.

Jim: You can’t—can’t fault her for that.

Nina: I’m the girl!

Jeff: Well, even me, who’s the most unfashionable probably of all of us, like, I would wear that raven feather cloak everywhere I would go if I had the chance to, I mean, I would get weird looks, obviously, but still wear it, because it’s you—because it’s a statement.

Jim: Well, I would also say that you would get some weird looks, but most of those looks would be, like, “Man I want that cloak.”

Jeff: [Laughs]

Jim: You would be drinking their envy.

Jeff: Is it envy? Ok, cool. I’ll get right on that.

Nina: [Laughs] “Now I just need 500 ravens.”

Jeff: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly. That might be a little bit of an environmental violation. Ok, next up we have Hamish, so Hamish, go ahead and introduce yourself.

Hamish: Hi guys, I’m Hamish, I’m Militant_Penguin on Reddit, you’ve probably read a few of my essays and I just one out a couple weeks ago about the supposed case, well, the curious case of Domeric Bolton, where I made a few assertions that I don’t believe that Ramsay actually killed him. It was received pretty well, and I like all the feedback you gave me.  As for favorite book, I’m gonna go with A Dance with Dragons. I know it’s not everyone’s favorite because of the cliffhangers, but I really love the, like, northern storylines and how this is Stannis’ turning point and the reveal of Wyman Manderly’s greatest plot in the North. Favorite POV character, I’ll go with Jim, it’s got to be, it’s definitely got to be Davos, it’s always Davos. He’s just—he’s just so frickin humble and you—you can go back and think “I just can’t like anyone else, he’s just the best guy ever.” Least favorite POV character, same with Jim again, it’s got to be Daenerys. It’s just, I don’t enjoy the sense of entitlement that I get from her chapters, and the fact that just, a lot of her stuff just sort of swings her way. I like people who struggle to get what they have and who don’t just like, you know, walk into a fire which would have killed anyone else and emerge with three Apache gunships to take over the entire—

Jeff: [Laughs]

Hamish: The entirety of Essos and Slavers’ Bay. Favorite minor character, as I’m sure a lot of you gathered from my various essays and my flair, it’s got to be Wyman Manderly again. “Beneath the crust the tasty Frey”.

Jeff: [Laughs]

Hamish: So yeah, that’s me, and I’m happy to be here with the rest of you guys.

Jeff: And I’m Jeff, otherwise known as BryndenBFish, I-I think my latest essay was about Daenerys Targaryen who, apparently, two thirds of my compatriots here hate, but it’s about Daenerys—

Nina: Well, half, because we’re four.

Jeff: Well, but I mean, well, two-thirds of my compatriots. I’m not a compatriot. I’m outside of you guys. So, it’s two thirds.

Nina: Wait, I’m confused. [Laughs]

Jeff: I think I’m talking to a bunch of social studies majors here, essentially.

Nina: [Laughs]

Jim: I’m an engineer, believe it or not.

Jeff: And to be honest I was a history major in college.

Nina: Woo!

Hamish: Same. History and politics.

Jeff: So my latest essay was on Daenerys Targaryen in The Winds of Winter called “The Dragon’s Mercy: The Violent Future Path of Daenerys Targaryen: Part 3”, which is called “Blood for Blood”, and I have two more essays in that series left to go, and then I’ll be finished with Daenerys Targaryen and can focus on some other cool stuff. My favorite book in the series, is, like Hamish, it’s A Dance with Dragons. I think that the complexity, the moral complexity is borne out best in A Dance with Dragons, as well as it shows the consequences of the War of the Five Kings and Dany’s conquest of-of Slavers’ Bay and all these types of things, and plus, you also have a fantastic northern storyline, and you have great Asha chapters, of all things, in A Dance with Dragons. They’re the ones I’ve actually really been enjoying the most in my latest reread.  My favorite POV character is Jaime Lannister, I find that he is the most complex character, and I think that it’s a triumph of the literary world that George R.R. Martin was able to redeem a character that all of us thought was a complete asshole in A Game of Thrones, even in A Clash of Kings

Nina: Which, to be fair, he was. [Laughs]

Jeff: He was, and it kind of brings up kind of an interesting side discussion about whether George really intended Jaime to be an asshole throughout, and then decided at some point, when writing A Clash of Kings, or early in writing A Storm of Swords, like [different voice] “Hey, you know what? It would probably be good to have this guy to, you know, show some complexity and the human heart in conflict with itself.” [normal voice] I think that’s kind of what happened, to be honest—

Nina: That was a great George R.R. Martin impression, by the way.

Jeff: That was a terrible George R.R. Martin impression.

Nina: You just told that story so you could work in your George R.R. Martin impression, it’s fine, it’s fine, keep going.

Jeff: [Laughs] So-so my least favorite POV character is Arys Oakheart. I think he’s the most unnecessary POV character in the entirety of the series. I know that Nina completely disagrees, but he—

Nina: No, not “completely disagrees”, I defended him once, and now you’re like, “Yyou’re the most pro-Arys person on the face of the earth.”

Jeff: You are though! I don’t know a single person who’s, like, “My favorite character is—”

Nina: I’m trying to say, ok, devil’s advocate, what is the one good thing about him being a POV character?

Jeff: He’s essentially—yeah, I know what you’re saying, you’re saying that he’s the character that is an outsider going in so he represents the reader’s perspective in the series—

Nina: We’ve never seen Dorne, he’s a complete outsider to Dorne—ok, it’s not the least defensible thing I’ve ever heard. Could he have been folded into Arianne? Absolutely. He didn’t need his own POV. But—if you’re gonna defend him that’s how I would defend him. What can I say. I’m a proto-lawyer, what do you want from me?

Jeff: And my response to that would be that you know, they didn’t need an outsider coming in to Winterfell, they had Bran and Catelyn and Eddard and Jon and Sansa, all these characters in the northern storyline in A Game of Thrones, we didn’t need an outsider’s perspective going in. My favorite minor character—that’s kind of a tough question, to be honest, I don’t-I don’t know. Gosh, I don’t-I don’t know who my favorite minor character is.

Hamish: Does Stannis count as a minor character?

Nina: [Scoffing] No, Stannis is a major character.

Jeff: [Laughs] Stannis is a major character. Well, he’s not a POV character.

Hamish: What about the Blackfish? I feel like I just enraged half the subreddit by insulting their lord and master.

Jeff: You know, I am-I am BryndenBFish, and then I read Stefan Sasse’s essay on BryndenBFish, excuse me, on Brynden Blackfish, and, I-I kind of came to a little bit of a more grayer perspective—I like the Blackfish as a tactician, but I don’t know that he’s really that good, and I know those are fightin’ words for Jim.

Hamish: And fightin’ words for me, too.

Jeff: [Laughs] I guess-I guess if you had to really put it to the question I would say, um, who’s the-the dwarf who’s the historian from the, um, The Princess and the Queen and The Rogue Prince?

Nina and Jim: Mushroom!

Jeff: Mushroom! Yeah. Mushroom would probably be my favorite minor character, because he’s just the most hilarious historian. He’s just the most ribald, inappropriate, perverse, Tyrion Lannister-esque character, but he happened to write history, and write an insider’s account of the events of the-the Dance of the Dragons and on the rogue prince, Daemon Targaryen.  So, our topic tonight is on someone that’s very popular, or very well-known in the fandom, and that’s Rhaegar Targaryen. And the title of our podcast tonight is “I Come Not to Praise Rhaegar Targaryen”, which is kind of-probably a little bit different of a take than, than a lot of folks have on Rhaegar. Rhaegar’s a very popular character, a very romantic character, but as we were talking through the topic, we all kind of came and had a bit of a negative impression of-of Rhaegar. And to kind of illustrate that I thought it would be kind of a fun exercise to kind of give one-sentence impressions of Rhaegar Targaryen, and I’ll start myself.  I think that Rhaegar Targaryen was an interesting, albeit idealistic, fool, essentially, and one of the biggest ones of the entire series.

Jim: If I were to say one sentence, I would say he was a reckless egotist whose prophecy obsession nearly exterminated his house.

Jeff: That’s good.

Nina: Yeah, I kind of-kind of along the same vein as—Rhaegar to me is someone who is willing to risk everything—willing to gamble everything short-term on the long-term assumption that history will prove him right, and it ends up costing him-him and his house completely in the short term.

Hamish: I’d say that Rhaegar was unconsciously—well, he was consciously uncoupled from reality. He didn’t communicate well, he prophesied worse, and he didn’t see the reality for what it was. He was Chris Martin Targaryen.

Nina, Jeff, Jim: [Laughs]

Hamish: And you know, going off of that fact, I think if we—if this is what we think of Rhaegar, a lot of other people, within the series, think a lot differently from us.  A lot of people think, like, he was universally regarded as a paragon of virtue and nobility—everyone except for Robert, Robert Baratheon, and for good reason. Robert hated Rhaegar, and that hate drove him, that hate fueled war, that hate killed Rhaegar, that hate followed Robert right to the grave, and even—I was looking for this quote recently, it was like—eventually, when Robert’s on his deathbed, or near enough, he knows, he accepts that winning the crown wasn’t worth it, it was a hollow victory for him. He didn’t get what he wanted, he didn’t get Lyanna, and he-he realizes that Rhaegar ultimately won. It’s like—you see this, other than Robert though, he was the case of pure hatred. On like, a more—from an above-ground view, from other characters, POV and on the ground as well, we see that Rhaegar is generally well-regarded by a lot of people, despite the fact that he’s been dead for nearly twenty years. Although you see like—you see this in our own history, like, you regard dead people as decent people even if they were horrible people.

Jeff: John F. Kennedy would be the American example.

Hamish: Churchill would be the example in our—our example, as well. Like, he was obviously a war hero, but he was not a great person. But being dead and being a war hero sort of eclipses you, gives rose-colored glasses. But yeah, it’s like, the dead don’t have a voice, but the positives clearly speak for Rhaegar, even after he’s long gone.

Jim: And part of that is actually a nostalgic vibe that I’m really getting.  And we’ve actually experienced in-in our own history.  In-During World War I, there was a real sense of unity in America, and then after that, there was what was called the “lost generation”, it was a generation that was seemingly adrift, without purpose.  And Ernest Hemingway actually wrote-wrote a lot about that, The Sun Also Rises is just one I can pop off the top of my head.  When—the way I’m seeing it, is that the characters look around, and they see the world, and it’s terrible.  The finances in the realm are going to crap, there’s wars, there’s murder, but, 20 years ago, things were so much better.  The North, the Vale, the Riverlands, the Stormlands, they were all united in a sense of purpose.  Aerys Targaryen was a clear monster, and needed to be taken out.  There was a righteousness of that cause.  And there was a unity—everyone was behind Robert Baratheon as this single rival claimant, the one who was going to take the throne when he succeeded.  And now, there’s just, there’s nothing really like that, there’s no galvanizing purpose.  Now, I’m certain if they all knew about the invading Others and their zombie army, they would, that would certainly be a galvanizing purpose, but that’s what-what they have, and so Rhaegar, who doesn’t have this modern analog to this terrible time, is looked upon favorably because those times were looked upon more favorably.

Jeff: Yeah, but it’s not just-just that he’s looked at nostalgically—I mean he definitely is—but there’s also this really strong class distinction that also flows into it. You know, if you look at all our POVs in the entirety of the books, there’s not a single member of the smallfolk; you have Davos, but Davos is not really a member of the smallfolk, he’s been removed from that for 20-odd years or so at this point, or 15 years, rather, at the start of A Clash of Kings. And-and really, the smallfolk don’t have much of a voice in-in Westeros, so you know, you have, in that Arya chapter in A Storm of Swords where she’s wandering around, and one of the smallfolk says, “Oh, we—this would never have happened had-had the good king been there” and Arya says “You mean Robert?” and he says “No! Good King Aerys!”, you know [Laughs], kind of like, that’s the smallfolk perspective encapsulated in one thing, they don’t have much of a voice, and they’re probably not very informed to be honest, either.

Hamish: Although, you see that sort of bias even in nobility characters as well. You’ve got like Jorah Mormont, a guy who actively fought against Rhaegar and the Targaryen cause during Robert’s Rebellion, he’s got, like, an entirely neutral view of Rhaegar, like, well, ok, maybe not neutral, but he—basically talks about how Rhaegar was “the last dragon” and compares him greatly to Viserys, whom he calls “less than the shadow of a snake”.  To call a Targaryen a dragon, like a person—to equate a man with a beast that could conquer and forge nations is a hell of a compliment to pay to someone.  He says “Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly, Rhaegar fought honorably. And Rhaegar died.”

Jeff: Yeah, it’s really-really interesting like, kind of, the same way that, Jorah kind of idealizes Rhaegar in terms of his heroism, Jaime Lannister also does the same, but he also looks at him as, he kind of idealizes Rhaegar by contrasting him to Aerys II.  You know, Aerys was the murdering, raging psychopath, and Rhaegar wanted to call a council to unseat a tyrant.  And—but the other thing too is that Jaime’s perspective is badly colored by, by the fact that he was unable to protect Rhaegar’s children.  So he has that, a huge amount of guilt stemming from that.

Jim: The dream chapter, I think, makes it really plain, because you hear it. [Dramatic reading] Prince Rhaegar burned with a cold light, now white, now red, now dark. “I left my wife and children in your hands.” “I never thought he’d hurt them.” Jaime’s sword was burning less brightly now. “I was with the king . . .”

Jeff: That was an excellent reading.

Jim: Thank you.

Nina: 10 out of 10.

Jeff:  Very emotional.

Nina: But kind of going off the same thing that these soldiers are glorifying Rhaegar, Barristan is clearly also glorifying Rhaegar. He’s-he’s sort of in a similar position to Jorah in that they’re both kind of connecting to Daenerys by comparing her to this great lost hero of the Targaryen cause, which is Rhaegar.  But Barristan is also like Jaime, in that he’s comparing what could have been this great king, Rhaegar, to the not-great king, Aerys.  Which, I’ve talked about this before, Barristan is someone who clearly has-has blinders.  It’s not rose-colored glasses, he’s not totally blind to Aerys’ faults, but his whole identity is being a good Kingsguard, which means finding a good king to serve.  He had that under Jaehaerys, he has Aerys who’s just, he’s not a good king, and that’s pretty much where it ends. So, in Barristan’s mind, the Trident is-is such a-such a loss, because you lose what could have been this great king, a king that Barristan would have been proud to serve under.

Hamish: Although, you sort of, to contrast Barristan, a guy with blinders on, like, really positive blinders on, you have Ned Stark, a guy who has more reason to hate Rhaegar than anyone. If most of the fan theories are true, Rhaegar had practically destroyed Ned’s—largely destroyed Ned’s family.  Like, but he never thinks badly of him, he barely even considers him.  Well, but, then again, there is the chance that, Ned is not—he doesn’t want to think badly of Rhaegar because Rhaegar may ultimately be Jon’s father, and he doesn’t want to see Jon and think, “This guy is the son of the person who caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, including my dad, my brother, and my sister, and there’s only me and Brandon [sic] left.”  And you can see that’s completely different to what Barristan did.  Barristan is very overly complimentary toward Rhaegar where Ned didn’t even consider him, which is telling in and of itself.

Nina: Yeah, I’d say—I’d say that’s right, and I’d say the way Ned reacts is very similar to the way Doran reacts.  Both of them are viewing Rhaegar really not so much for who he was but for what he meant to their beloved dead sisters.  Ned is viewing him through Lyanna, Doran is viewing him through Elia, and while Doran never—he only gave a minimum amount of-of soldiers, to Robert’s Rebellion to help the Targaryens, he’s very very focused on avenging Elia and is very disturbed by her death and the deaths of her very young children.  So it’s—yeah, he’s someone that, his whole mission in life, he and Oberyn have worked for 15-plus years to make sure that the people who were responsible for Elia’s death meet the same brutal end that Elia met.

Hamish: Although, it’s like, like, how we sort of have the neutral view of Ned, we also have the even more extremely positive view of Jon Connington. Now Jon Connington is an interesting case study in what obsessive love looks like, and how dangerous it can be. Jon Connington feels incredibly guilty about Rhaegar’s death, he thinks he’s responsible because he failed to kill Robert Baratheon at the Battle of the Bells. You see him regard Rhaegar as like, “I rose too high, I loved too hard,  dared too much, I tried to grasp a star, overreached, and fell.” He wanted to be around Rhaegar as much as possible, he considers him something that lights up the sky, and you see this love has not paid off for Jon Connington in a great way for the majority of his life, he’s lived in exile, he talks about not failing-about failing the father but not wanting to fail the son. He just wants to live to see Aegon live, to make up for his own guilt about Rhaegar’s death. Because he’s dying, Jon Connington’s dying, and that’s all he cares about, he wants to die content, knowing that he saved the son of the man he loved.

Nina: Yeah, and that – and that love is really the powerful thing. JonCon is viewing him through a largely romantic light, in the same way that Cersei is. Cersei had believed since she was six years old that this was the guy she was going to marry, and Rhaegar, to her very young eyes, is the ideal of what a young girl could marry. He’s a great knight, he’s very soulful looking, he’s very gallant – he’s the epitome of chivalry, and it’s interesting that Cersei meets him when she-when he comes to the West when her father throws a tourney in 276, and she says, “When she had been presented to him, Cersei had almost drowned in the depths of his sad purple eyes. He has been wounded, she recalled thinking, but I will mend his hurt when we are wed. Next to Rhaegar, even her beautiful Jaime had seemed no more than a callow boy.” That’s HIGH praise from Cersei – if you’re comparing him to Jaime and he’s WAY outclassing Jaime? That’s high praise, and Cersei, when he dies, she never forgives Robert for killing him, and even goes so far as to throw honors and a fleet on Aurane Waters, a guy that she has zero reason to trust – considering he fought for Stannis – but she does because he looks like Rhaegar. She explicitly says, multiple times, he has the same silvery hair as Rhaegar, and that’s what makes her trust him.

Jeff: It’s kind of funny, you know-like, kind of an an aside, your point about Cersei’s idealization of Rhaegar is similar to Sansa-like, as you were saying that, I was thinking like “Man, that’s very similar to how Sansa regarded Joffrey very early on in A Game of Thrones.”

Nina: Oh, absolutely.

Jeff: And it’s hilarious, later on-to hear when-to hear Cersei’s thoughts about how “Sansa’s just an idiot, this idiot girl”, and-and when you realize, you know, Cersei and Sansa have-are very similar, or at least have very similar-

Nina: Oh absolutely, they’re both highborn women who love the system they’re in because it’s working for them and -Cersei’s kind of the-the dark path of what Sansa could-could go down. You could become Cersei.

Jeff: Yeah that’s true.

Hamish: I also think it’s quite weird when you think about how she regards Jaime as a callow boy in face of Rhaegar, when she talks about how her and Jaime were meant to be together, like they’re mirrors of each other, how much-She’s a twisted narcissist, and she still thinks the person who’s a perfect mirror image of her is not as good looking as another person, so it’s really weird when you think about that.

Jeff: Almost sounds like a podcast topic.

Nina: [laughs]

Jeff: So, Cersei’s father though, Tywin Lannister, and Rhaegar-it’s a really interest relationship, and it’s different from almost any other character in that Tywin Lannister – actually, it’s similar to one character in one respect. Tywin Lannister looks at Rhaegar Targaryen in relation to Aerys II, and he’s looking at it in a political sense. He sees that Aerys is the guy who just, basically, just shat all over House Lannister’s honor and the family honor that was theirs. But Rhaegar-Rhaegar could be that person that could restore the Lannisters to prominence. You know, Aerys, as Nina demonstrated in her essay today, you know, Aerys and Tywin had a good relationship for 5 years or so, but after they had their falling out and had a decline in their relationship over time, I think Aerys began to look to-excuse me, Tywin began to look to Rhaegar as the pivot for him to restore himself to power as well as to get rid of this guy who’s just like a total asshole to House Lannister. You know, there’s that famous quote from The World of Ice and Fire, the Defiance of Duskendale, where, you know, Tywin is there with his whole army outside of the walls, and Rhaegar is there as well, and he says “Oh, there’s the only true dragon I’ll ever serve” and you’re like “Come on, man!” I get it, you’re stuck with a bad situation, but if Aerys survives, that relationship is done at that point.

Nina: Well, if I can even add some context to that, the-the whole thing was-so at Duskendale, Aerys is-is the captive of the Darklyns, he’s in the Dun Fort, there’s no way you’re gonna get in-into Duskendale, and Tywin’s plan is basically “Well, we’re just going-if they don’t give up within a certain amount of time, we’re just going to go in guns ablazing and we’re just gonna raze the entire place.” And they say “Tywin, they will kill Aerys if you do that” and that’s when he says “It doesn’t really matter, because we have another dragon.” So, at that point, Tywin is like, “You know what, hands wiped with Aerys, like, I don’t care what happens to him, all of my political hopes are on this guy.”

Hamish: Actually you know what, when you think about, there’s actually something about [how] he makes the decision to send Barristan Selmy in, and when you consider that in the grander context of the Kingsguard, all the other Kingsguard you could easily claim are Rhaegar loyalists. You’ve got Hightower, Whent, who clearly had a role in planning the Tourney of Harrenhal, you’ve got Martell, who’s the uncle of Rhaegar’s own wife, and you’ve got Arthur Dayne, Rhaegar’s best friend, and one person you-Barristan, while he liked Rhaegar, was ultimately loyal to the king, and if he was sent into there and killed during the fighting, you’ve essentially opened up a space for another Rhaegar loyalist by essentially sacrificing a king loyalist.

Nina: Hmm. Interesting point,

Jeff: That’s an interesting point, yeah.

Jim: No, that is-that is a good point, wow, didn’t even think about that. But what’s really funny is that all of the people that are viewing Rhaegar view him in either political terms or they view him in personal terms, or romantic terms, or something like that. But what really defined Rhaegar himself was actually a fixation on the supernatural, this prophecy, this “prince that was promised” prophecy, and, you know, he was born at Summerhall, and we don’t know exactly what happened in the Tragedy of Summerhall, there’s a couple of very interesting theories, including one by Steven Attewell of Race for the Iron Throne fame where he was going to be sacrificed as a-in a blood magic ritual to restore dragons to the world, which is-it’s a fascinating theory-

Nina: [laughs]

Jeff: A dark theory is what it is [laughs]

Jim: It is a dark theory but that doesn’t-that-hey, sometimes the dark theory-

Nina: [laughs] When has that ever stopped George R.R. Martin!

Jeff: [laughs] I retract my point. No I don’t! It’s still a dark theory. It’s a plausible dark theory.

Jim: And then we have this very very interesting snippet from The World of Ice and Fire where it talks about “saved but for the valor of the Lord Commander”, and we don’t know exactly who was “saved but for the valor of the Lord Commander”, who at the time was Ser Duncan the Tall, but a-a baby isn’t gonna last long in a burning castle, so I would say maybe the person that he saved-that Duncan saved was actually Queen Rhaella and her infant Rhaegar. That-I think it makes perfect sense. But he was obsessed with Summerhall, he often went to the ruins and played his harp, and this prophecy fixation also lended to the actual “prince that was promised” prophecy, and the one thing I found is really interesting, is that first he believes he is the-the one who will fulfill this prophecy, he mentions that he has to-he will require sword and armor and must be a warrior, which makes me think that whoever this “prince that was promised” is, he needs to either perform some feat of arms or he has to be skilled in arms in some fashion. And then later when there’s that vision of Rhaegar and Elia with the infant Aegon, he says that he is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire. And, you know, so did that mean Rhaegar believed he was no longer the one who was going to fulfill it, or was simply – he was the second head of the dragon, and then, the future third would be the kid he would have with Lyanna? That’s possible. The thing that’s tantalizing is that we don’t actually ever see this prophecy. We don’t even know if it exists in a complete state, or if there are just snippets here and snippets there, filed away in some book somewhere. We don’t know, and that’s something that’s just fascinating, at least to me, because, how did he know that he was-was there some characteristic? Was there some deed that he had to fulfill? We don’t know this, and since there are many likely candidates for the prince that was promised that are being kicked around – Daenerys, Jon Snow – are we going to be able to find out who’s actually going to fulfill this prophecy, I mean certainly, that would be-

Nina: [laughs] I’m going to say “no”.

Jeff: Why not?

Jim: That would certainly turn the idea of “the chosen one” on its head and that’s-that’s something this series is pretty famous for.

Jeff: That’s true.

Nina: You know, if I can just throw in one thing that’s-I wrote about this a little bit in my essay series. Rhaegar is clearly obsessed with prophecy, which is-might be considered weird but, for the Targaryens, prophecy is sort of this-it’s this thing that they’ve always had and it’s actually been helpful to them on multiple occasions, they’ve-they’ve come to rely on it for the past several centuries, at least, if not going back farther in their Valyrian past. You have people like Daenys the Dreamer, who’s the daughter of the Targaryen who left the Freehold, she had a dream that prophesied “Valyria is going to be destroyed, we have to leave”, and it was, 12 years after they left, and she wrote down a whole book of prophecies that we see Rodrik Harlaw reading about, although it’s now considered lost, in A Feast for Crows. And then you have various Targaryens suffering-or being blessed by, depending on how you look at it-these “dragon dreams”, where they’re viewing dragons and, usually, standing for literal Targaryens. So you have Daeron the Drunken at the Tourney of Ashford who dreams about Ser Duncan slaying a dragon, and it turns out to be-well, not slaying, but standing over a dead dragon, turns out to be Baelor Breakspear, who collapses onto Ser Duncan as he dies.  You have Daemon II Blackfyre, who dreams about a dragon hatching at Whitewalls, ends up being young Prince Aegon, who ends up sort of foiling the Blackfyre conspiracy there. So it’s not so weird that the Targaryens would be obsessed with prophecy, but Rhaegar just takes it to – to a whole new level.

Jim: Absolutely.

Hamish: Just jumping in before Jim gets back to his point. When you brought up that thing about the whole sacrificing the infant Rhaegar to wake dragons, to bring them back, you know, it’s sort of a weird parallel with the Others, how they apparently use Craster’s children to add into their own numbers, which we’ve sort of seen semi-confirmed by the show.

Nina: Hmm.

Hamish: It’s sort of a weird parallel between the two, they both use children to increase their own power.

Jeff: I mean, Melisandre says in A Storm of Swords, you know, “The blood of the innocent is the most pure”, or :the greatest thing”, or-what’s that quote that she has-

Nina: It’s like “The blood of innocents is most pleasing to R’hllor” or something.

Jeff: And you’re like “Lady, you are such a psychopath”, or maybe she’s not a psychopath-

Nina: I mean, to be fair, why are you relying on Melisandre as an authority on anything? [laughs]

Jim: Well, she does know a lot of magic.

Jeff: She does know a lot of magic. But she’s also-I rely on her more to talk about the thematic side of it, of magic, how magic requires this kind of sacrifice of innocents, essentially, and in Rhaegar’s case, at Summerhall, if Rhaegar’s sacrificing theory is true. By the way, if you guys haven’t seen the history and lore videos that came out with Season 4, there is one about Rhaegar’s birth at Summerhall, in which, Egg looks practically demonic as he’s about looks like he’s about to sacrifice something over an altar. You have to look at the videos!

Nina: [laughs] I know what you’re talking about! I know what you’re talking about.

Jeff: So it’s, it’s potential evidence for it, but it also talks about you know, Rhaegar as an innocent, as a baby is essentially a sacrifice to magic to fulfill some prophecies – you know, objectively evil. But, you know, for the-the characters – whether it’s Egg, or Jaehaerys, or whoever it was that was behind it – for him, it was about the greater good, essentially, in bringing about magic or dragons to enact Aegon’s reforms for the smallfolk or to fight the Others if he had like some sort of prophetic vision or something like that.

Jim: Well certainly the greater good-I mean, if you have someone saving the world that is, pretty much the greatest good you could really find.

Nina: [laughs]

Jeff: Hey, what is one life against a million?

Hamish: Everything.

Jeff: Yeah, exactly, that’s what Davos says. Stannis is kind of like-

Hamish: He’s on the edge, basically.

Jeff: Essentially, yeah. Good tangent, guys. Good tangent.

Jim: Yeah, no, no, it’s always interesting to talk with you guys about this. But-so he’s obsessed with this prophecy, and it drives all of his actions, and he really loses-loses grounding with the actual physical world for the sake of the metaphysical and supernatural world. I mean, politically he doesn’t have very many friends at all, and if you’re the heir apparent you really should be cultivating good relationships, and other people would be trying to cultivate good relationships with you. I mean, you are going to wear the crown one day, and it’s always nice to have the man in charge as your friend. And really, only Arthur Dayne and I think Oswell Whent were really close to-to Rhaegar. And one person I know he particularly wasn’t close with was his father, Aerys.

Nina: Not so much.

Hamish: Which is such a shame though, if you think about it. I get the feeling that if Aerys was told, “You have to marry your sister”, a person he didn’t love in that way, for the sake of birthing this savior from their line, and then it turns out this kid is the most bookish-awesome kid of all time, in my opinion-

Jeff: [laughs]

Hamish: And like, you see – imagine the disappointment, like “Aw yes, I’m going to have this perfect warrior who will savior who will save the world. Oh god, my kid likes to read.”

Jeff, Nina: [laughs]

Hamish: When Rhaegar starts-he learns his arms, he becomes a knight, he’s a tourney champion, he’s skilled, he has-he takes on squires. I can imagine how proud Rhaegar would have been-not Rhaegar, how Aerys would have been-

Jeff: But when you establish those kind of initial impressions-you know, growing up, Rhaegar is kind of, his face is in a book all the time, Aerys is going to be like, you know, “What the fuck, man? I thought this guy was supposed to be the prince that was promised, and this guy can’t get himself out of a book.” You establish that for like 15 years, it’s hard to undo all that in a span of, what, 7 or 8 years before Rhaegar dies?

Nina: And the amount of disappointment that Aerys is facing because he’s-he’s been forced to marry this sister that he didn’t want to marry whatsoever, specifically so that they could have this kid.

Hamish: But I can imagine how proud he would have been, like saying, “Oh good, he’s starting to turn out like that. Woman from the woods promised my dad, so he can go suck it now.”

Jeff: [laughs]

Hamish: But then the Defiance of Duskendale, like, Aerys was already a bit testy in the head, if we’re all being honest with ourselves, he wasn’t exactly all there, if we go through history’s mad kings, he was a bit extreme. But then Duskendale happened, and he gets worse, and I imagine Tywin didn’t help this by saying “Oh we’ll just let him rot in there for six months and hope he gets killed and then we can have Rhaegar.” Imagine how annoyed, like, depressed you’d be, everyone hates you and wants you gone in favor of your more awesome son that you didn’t like for a while. And calling-having the better king right there, like, that’s gotta be disheartening, and like, divides you from your son. You see the madness, and you see Rhaegar possibly funding Harrenhal to call together a Great Council to maybe depose Aerys or force a regency or an abdication, he doesn’t-you don’t summon a council if you want to simply overthrow your dad. You hire assassins or you start a war. If you go out of your way for a council, you want to force your dad off the throne in the most peaceful way possible cause it’s-despite their strange relationship, at least on the part of Aerys-I can see-reading between the lines, I can see Rhaegar loved his dad. He clearly cared about him and didn’t want to hurt him but he knew he couldn’t be left in charge and had to be taken out of power, and he wanted to do it in the best way possible, and it was only ruined because Aerys was so paranoid.

Jeff: Well, do you guys think Rhaegar had like “southron ambitions”, or, excuse me, like political ambitions?

Jim: I’m not sure, but I do know there was another conspiracy, the Arryn-Stark-Tully-Baratheon conspiracy, the “southron ambitions” of Stefan Sasse fame, and that’s a famous theory and a famous conspiracy, but I can’t say that -that Rhaegar had southron ambitions because of how well he completely destroys  any chance that he could have of a political alliance. I think actually his goal was simply to get his father away because it’s ruining the realm and put himself into place so that he could actually get the realm together to actually face this supernatural, metaphysical threat so it’s-kind of southron ambitions, but I don’t think it’s actually from a political standpoint, I think it’s actually more from a metaphysical, supernatural, apocalyptic standpoint.

Hamish: It’s personal as well.

Jim: Certainly.

Hamish: It’s sort of like, he decided to save the realm. It could be personal as well in this metaphysical or supernatural, like, he doesn’t want to see his dad get killed, but he knows he can’t continue, so he wants to save the realm and save his father, so that’s another reason. It’s personal, it’s metaphysical, it’s-it’s sort of running parallel to southron ambitions, but they’re not crossing over at the right points.

Jim: Which is a shame, because they could have. Very easily.

Hamish: Tragic in its own way.

Jeff: Ok, let’s-no, they couldn’t have done it easily, I mean think about this. You have three major families that are conspiring against the king. Imagine this. Imagine they go and they’re like “Let’s see if we can get Rhaegar Targaryen in on this”. It’s like-they’re really rolling the dice there, like, you know, you want to kind of hit a soft landing. If they go up to Rhaegar like “Hey, would you like to kill your father and set you up as the king? Would that be cool? You want to be a kinslayer? We’ll do it for you, don’t worry, we got this, we’ll take care of it. You cool with that?” What if Rhaegar says no? I mean, they are fucked, you know, they are totally fucked.

Nina: “Oh, BTW, just a little light treason on the side.”

Jim: “A little light treason.”

Hamish: All of them-all they keep saying is “Ok, we won’t do it” and then winking out of nowhere.

Jeff: [laughs]

Jim: The grand Westerosi wink theory.

Nina: [laughs] “Well, we won’t do it again. Never heard of someone doing treason twice.”

Jeff: [laughs]

Nina: But no, what I was going to say earlier in terms of Rhaegar’s political ambitions is, on the one hand I kind of see him in sort of this George IV of Great Britain position, where his father is the king, his father is clearly going crazy, and he has this sort of, it’s a little dangerous because, well, now that he has brother Viserys that Aerys is very protective of, Aerys could easily say “You know what, I’m just going to name Viserys as my heir” and suddenly Rhaegar finds himself out of a job and possibly out of-out of  life. So, on the one hand, it’s a “Well, I gotta protect myself” sort of thing, “The more I can secure myself power now, the less likely my father- crazy father is going to try to depose me.” But on the other hand I wonder how much political [sic] he actually had, in the fact that we don’t really see him taking any action in what could have been his greatest political move, securing a wife for himself. It’s entirely, what I think, an Aerys mission to get a wife for Rhaegar, and maybe that’s his age, maybe it’s Aerys being crazy and controlling, but-Rhaegar, if he really wanted to, could have really pushed for something – a greater political scheme with a  marriage that we just really don’t see him doing. Instead you have Aerys who, has these sort of dual desires. On the one hand, he wants someone of Valyrian blood, and he’s not going to get that with Rhaella, and “Gee, thanks Jaehaerys’ generation that now we don’t have any other Targaryen lines that we can marry into.” But on the other hand, Aerys is very paranoid. He does not want a bride from a great Westerosi house, especially if that bride’s father happens to be named Tywin Lannister. You see-you see him sending Steffon Baratheon to the Free Cities where, not only are all the girls there Valyrian blooded, but Free City girls tend not to do so well merging culturally with the Westerosi. You have Lady Mellario, who ends up leaving Doran and leaving her children to go back to Norvos, you have Viserys II’s wife Larra Rogare, who goes back to Lys and abandons her children, and you have Lady Serala Darklyn from Myr who gets burned alive and people say that wasn’t enough punishment for her, even people who liked Lord Denys. So there’s  really a great tradition of, “Free Cities, you’re not going to have a lot of supporters in Westeros”. But, that turns out to be a failure, so – on more than one account – so Aerys has to look to the only place he can look, which is Dorne, which not only has a Targaryen lineage through Daeron II’s sister Daenerys, but is also the weakest of the Seven Kingdoms, which means, “If they’re going to rise against me, not going to be that much of a threat. We’ve got the Reach right next to them, they’re never gonna ally with them, and they’re also not going to put up much of a political or military threat to the crown.”

Jeff: But see, one of the problems is that you know, Rhaegar and Elia, or at least Rhaegar, didn’t necessarily-he had something else going on. He had the whole prophecy thing that Jim was talking about earlier – that he felt that maybe Elia wasn’t enough, especially after she was only able to bear two children, and then a number of stillbirths afterwards, and the doctors, or the maesters rather, had told her that you know, she couldn’t bear any more living children. And so Rhaegar thought “Well, I guess there must be another” type of thing, and that takes us to one of the most famous stories of the entirety of A Song of Ice and Fire, and that’s the Knight of the Laughing Tree.

Nina: Yeah, absolutely. Now, to clarify, the timeline is a little weird here. We’re pretty sure Aegon wasn’t born until after the Tourney of Harrenhal – think it’s just Rhaenys at this point – but, eh, it’s a little unclear. But even so, Rhaegar still clearly has on his mind, he has this probable vision of this dragon with three heads, he needs-he needs more children, and then there’s this whole – well, mystery knights are not uncommon to see at great tourneys, but they’re usually heroes who are disguised to do something great. So you have the story of, like, Prince Aemon the Dragonknight, who disguises himself as the Knight of Tears to win the crown for his sister rather than for the king’s mistress, and you have Barristan who unveils a mystery knight and it turns out to be this great outlaw Simon Toyne. So, they’re kind of expecting a mystery knight to show up at Harrenhal. What’s weird about this one is this mystery knight is short, not well-armed, wearing a northern device, which is very strange, because the North is not a place where jousting is very emphasized, takes on only three knights and then disappears. All of that is very weird behavior for a mystery knight, and what’s crazy, or what’s important to the story, is that Aerys sends Rhaegar out to go find – because of course, Aerys is crazy, he immediately thinks this is Ser Jaime Lannister, dismissed to protect Queen Rhaella and Prince Viserys, come back to mock him. So he sends Rhaegar out to find him. Rhaegar only comes back with the shield and says “Well, never found him.” More probable? He did find him, turned out to be Lyanna, who is someone from the North, who is an extraordinarily good rider, which is critically important for being a good jouster, who challenged the three knights whose squires bullied Howland Reed, and who has every reason to disappear because – well, she’s done, what’s she gonna do, enter the lists? And for Rhaegar, I think it’s this immediate clicking of, Lyanna is someone who is totally different than Elia. Elia is good and gentle, demure, a very good queen in the making. Lyanna is wild and fearless and willing to stand up for the innocent in the person of Howland, and will do something crazy and independent, like dress up as a knight and do something dangerous like joust, just to defend his honor. So, for Rhaegar, I think he immediately thought “Aha! Here is someone that I can find to bear another head of the dragon. This will be perfect. She will be the ice in this ‘song of ice and fire’.”

Jim: And not to mention that, this whole Knight of the Laughing Tree , this is a perfect romantic story. I mean, if you think about it, it’s a woman who is – you know, women are not supposed to joust – she disguises herself, she puts on a helm, and she takes the lance to fight and to avenge someone who has been grievously wronged, and then she disappears into the night, not looking for glory, only looking for doing what’s right. And then – so, I mean, Rhaegar just loves this. It’s perfect. And so part of me is also thinking, Eddard has a very famous quote to Robert where he said “You only saw the surface, you didn’t know the true steel underneath.” And he’s hinting that Robert was superficially attracted to Lyanna’s amazing beauty and not to the actual person that she was. And I’m thinking that this is actually an interesting parallel to Rhaegar, who could have been completely attracted to this romantic aspect of the Knight of the Laughing Tree, but didn’t really understand the-the complex and complicated person that Lyanna was underneath. So maybe that’s just one of – a strange way that these two men, one of whom absolutely despised the other, and through physical ways they could not be more different. I mean, Rhaegar is essentially the Prince Charming of story books: he’s tall, handsome, very beautiful –

Nina: A good knight and gallant and all that.

Jim: Very well educated, musical, all sorts of things, whereas Robert is this manly fantasy hero. He is the king on the front lines, essentially a one-man shock troop who could just destroy everything. He’s the first man on the walls in the battle of Gulltown, which is the first battle he’s ever been in, and he goes and duels in the Trident, and all of this stuff – so he’s another fantasy archetype. So these two conflicting archetypes might actually have more in common than you think.

Hamish: I thought-I thought it was quite funny. So basically Rhaegar is Prince Charming and Robert is Gaston.

Nina, Jim: [laughs]

Jeff: [laughing] Hey, that’s pretty good, man! I think that-you know, when they say – Ned thinks that Robert is muscled like a maiden’s fantasy type of thing, and you know, I think Robert would be aghast if someone drew a connection between him and Rhaegar, especially after he becomes the king. But I think it’s a really interesting idea that George plays with in the narrative. But I mean, it kind of all comes back to – to kind of draw it back to the Tourney of Harrenhal: why in the world, even if Rhaegar finds this romance in Lyanna Stark, why in the world does he crown Lyanna in front of the entirety of the realm?

Hamish: I think it’s-I think there’s probably a multitude of reasons for that. I think the sole one is, you see, like, you see the romanticism in Lyanna when she cries. She was a very free-spirited – she was a fighter and a very brazen woman by regular noble standards, but then you get this other side of her – this sweet, romantic side that cries when Rhaegar sings and plays his music. Maybe Rhaegar did it – Rhaegar finds her and says, “I need you for-to bear the third head of the dragon to help me save the world, and I’m willing to blow up-burn down the rules of nobility. Ignore my wife, ignore everyone I’m going to annoy essentially and incite anger from, despite the fact that there are already minor tensions in the realm, and I’m going to say you are the queen of love and beauty. WIll you help me save the world?”

Jeff: I mean, my reaction has always been like, “Holy shit, dude.” You just crowned the daughter of not just a random lord in the realm – let’s say he crowned the daughter of Lord Beesbury. Problematic enough, but not nearly as bad as crowning the daughter of the Lord Paramount of the North. Like, that is just –

Nina: No!

Jeff: Just, eons above, a total, just a no-go in medieval –

Hamish: Suicidal.

Jeff: It is suicidal, but it kind of goes back to, when we were talking in the original about our one-sentence things, and I said “He was kind of an idealistic idiot”, I think he was just kind of oblivious. He was just like – and I’m gonna use the voice I used when we were practicing this, the ‘Rhaegar surfer voice’, which is [Rhaegar voice] “What’s going on, bros? I mean like, I’m the crown prince, of course I can crown Lyanna Stark. Why is everybody getting upset with me? I don’t understand. What’s going on?”

Nina: [laughs] Yeah, always makes me laugh. Kind of the same thing for me though too, it’s-it is so much wrong, wrong, wrong with that choice. It’s not just a conflict of “Guy loves girl. Other guy loves the same girl girl. Guys get jealous over the girl.” Ok, that’s-that’s a petty rom-com, whatever. This is-these are your future lords bannermen, these are the people that are going to be supporting you, and in a highly feudal system like Westeros, you cannot afford to disrespect them like this, and this is is all kinds of disrespectful toward Lyanna. This is-this is “I am just going to completely single you out, as though I were claiming you as my mistress, in front of your brother, in front of your betrothed.” That is a sully on her honor, everyone recognizes it, and everyone would have been shocked.

Jeff: I wonder if Lyanna recognized it, actually, or if she was just kind of-so caught up in the moment that she just went along with it.

Nina: I think she-well, she’s 14 and she’s an idiot, so she probably was just caught up in the romantic fantasy of “Oh my gosh, this really handsome guy is giving me the honor” at what is supposed to be the greatest tourney ever and she’s the center of attention, I mean, that’s flattering – as a girl [laughs], that’s flattering to your ego.

Jim: And it’s funny because he also does it in front of his wife.

Nina: Yes!

Jim: Oh yeah, that’s great, it’s like, is there a possible way I could make even more people angry? Maybe I should just go and knock over a statue of the Drowned God while I’m at it.

Nina: [laughs]

Jim: Anger the Greyjoys.

Jeff: Does the Drowned God have –

Hamish: Fuck the Greyjoys.

Jeff: Yeah, fuck the Greyjoys.

Nina: Is there like a sacred fire of R’hllor I can stamp out too?

Jeff: [laughs]

Nina: But no, Jim brings up a really good point in that, this is so – would have been so weird to see from Rhaegar of all people because this is a complete abandonment of chivalry. This is throwing all rules of chivalry out the window, and there are very strict rules that – Rhaegar is someone who is considered the epitome of knightlihood would have known. You compare what he does to Barristan who, Rhaegar actually beat to win the crown. Barristan is thinking about the tourney years later and he says “Barristan Selmy would have made a different choice. Not the queen, who was not present. Nor Elia of Dorne, though she was good and gentle;  had she been chosen, much war and woe might have been avoided.” So, his thoughts first go to, “Who do I crown?” Ok, first go to the queen, as the highest-ranking woman of Westeros. She’s not there, you can’t crown her. Next think of Elia of Dorne, who is the- as Princess of Dragonstone, the second highest-ranking woman in the realm. Now, Barristan can get away with – he would have crowned Ashara Dayne, that’s ok, he’s a Kingsguard, and as a Kingsguard he’s ostensibly not supposed to have any romantic notions, so it would have been “Oh, I’m simply giving a testament to your beauty and your nobility.” That’s all cool. But the thing about the Queen of Love and Beauty’s crown is, it’s pretty much exclusively a romantic item. It is something that you give when you have a romantic interest in the woman you’re giving it to. You have Jorah, who gives it to his eventual wife, Lynesse Hightower. You have Bonifer Hasty, who gives it to Princess Rhaella when he was infatuated with her, and the only other time we have is Prince Aemon. Now, whatever relationship he had with Queen Naerys, it was enough to cast a lot of doubts on Daeron’s legitimacy, so there was clearly a romantic connection there. For Rhaegar to give this – to ignore his wife, who deserves it as both his wife and as the highest-ranking woman at the tourney – that is a slap in the face to both of them.

Hamish: Not even a slap in the face to just them. As Jeff said, that annoys and enrages everyone. It enrages the stormlands, Dorne, the North – just completely undermines the concept of the theory of southron ambitions. Rhaegar has made a grand gesture that has essentially screwed up everything, and he’s done it in front of the worst possible people. He’s done it in front of Brandon Stark, who’s known for having wolfsblood, and he’s done it to Robert Baratheon, whose essential nickname in modern times would be “the Hammer” for basically charging into battles and taking on 10 men at once, first on the walls at Gulltown, the guy who destroys Rhaegar in battle – a guy with no real – no real self-control on anything.  And he – not even this, when you think about it, when you think about Rickard, who’s Lyanna’s father, he has a stake in this as well. He’s thinking “Oh god, they’re gonna think she’s his mistress”, and as horrible as it is, women were a commodity back then, and they were prized if they were maidens. You seen this especially in the context of Lysa Tully; when she’s discovered to have – like, be pregnant with Littlefinger’s child and to have had a relationship with Littlefinger, she’s viewed by the Arryns as soiled, because she’s not as pure as a maiden should be. Rickard has to try to avert that, because Rhaegar is essentially saying – Rhaegar has announced to the world his intentions for Lyanna. So, it does scream something about Rhaegar’s entire priorities. If this was to be his – the host of the third head of the dragon, because there’s a very – that remains a very real possibility that’s what he saw women as, people to bear the children of prophecy, it really says something about his mental state, like “This vague prophecy that my sons and my children will be a part of is above everything else, it’s above petty feudal conflicts. I’m living in the future, I’m not living in the present where I’ve enraged half the country by acting like a silver-haired douchebag.”

Jeff: [laughs]

Jim: And that’s true, and the thing is, his fixation on the supernatural prophecy pretty much almost dooms his entire house. It is the thing, it is the Helen of Troy moment for Westeros, it is what kicks off a war. His decision at this point pretty much fans the flames of war, and it makes you wonder exactly what type of king might he have been. It’s strongly hinted that Rhaegar was the shadow patron of the Tourney of Harrenhal. The quote from The World of Ice and Fire is “If this If this tale be believed, ’twas Prince Rhaegar who urged Lord Walter to hold the tourney, using his lordship’s brother Ser Oswell as a gobetween. Rhaegar provided Whent with gold sufficient for splendid prizes in order to bring as many lords and knights to Harrenhal as possible. The prince, it is said, had no interest in the tourney as a tourney; his intent was to gather the great lords of the realm together in what amounted to an informal Great Council, in order to discuss ways and means of dealing with the madness of his father, King Aerys II, possibly by means of a regency or a forced abdication.” So if he actually brought this tourney together, and then just got caught up in this prophecy and completely destroyed it, think about what other political moves he would have to make as a king that would be completely sidelined by prophecy. I mentioned this in my Rickard Stark essay, the Westeros don’t really view prophecy as something that is reliable, and if he were to base maybe the decision to go to war with a foreign power, or economic and taxation policy on a prophecy, the man is going to be seen as completely nuts. He’s going to be seen as the Mad King Part II, just a different sort of madness. And as Nina mentioned earlier, this is not just some gossipy nobles, these are your lords bannermen. Lord Stark is the Warden of the North, House Baratheon is the closest house to King’s Landing. So if the stormlands are angry, they’re the ones that could cause problems for King’s Landing first. Both Robert Baratheon and one of Rickard Stark’s sons are very close to their guardians and ward, Jon Arryn, who is the Warden of the East. That’s two wardens. That’s half of the armies of Westeros, in theory, that are completely – that have reason to be against you for this. And if you went to a tourney for the sole point of winning them over –

Nina: Great job, dude.

Jim: You can’t really get much worse than that.

Jeff: [in Rhaegar voice] “What’s the problem, bros? The prophecy said that I was gonna, you know, ‘the dragon must have three heads’, that’s – that’s what I gotta do, bros.”

Jim: The crownlands are – are by far the weakest of the regions. The crownlands can’t really raise that many, especially since House Velaryon has kind of dwindled in economic and military power, so I mean, he has to have a good relationship with his bannermen. He has to. Because he depends on their levies for matters of war, and you can’t – just as Maegor the Cruel found out, he had the biggest dragon on the block, and he was a great warrior himself, but when King Jaehaerys was going to, had his rival armies, Maegor retreated to King’s Landing and was like “Alright, let’s bring the army … Where is everyone?” He found himself very alone, and then he ended up dying, either by the throne, or by committing suicide, or my personal favorite, which is one of the artisans that he had killed during – when he finished the Red Keep had actually survived and came back to kill him through one of the secret passages he knew about, or possibly one of – his son, intent on vengeance, which I mean I like that, kind of a cool story, but who knows.

Jeff: Kind of a Blood and Cheese, callback to “The Princess and the Queen”.

Nina: Little bit. But what you bring up with Maegor the Cruel also makes me think of, Rhaegar’s decision is completely idiotic in another way, in that, what does Rhaegar think is going to happen with him and Lyanna? He and Lyanna abscond not very long after the tourney is over, and basically disappear off the face of the earth. What does Rhaegar think is going to happen? Because if he marries her, well only two Targaryens ever had multiple wives: Aegon the Conqueror and Maegor the Cruel. Both of them had dragons, both of them had huge dragons, and that could back up pretty much anything they said. Aegon’s marriage was considered unusual  – even for his time, it wasn’t considered usual to take two wives, that was even considered a little unusual. And if you gonna take Maegor the Cruel as your example for anything, you’re already – you’ve already lost your argument. So the fact that Rhaegar doesn’t have any dragons, and really doesn’t have a way to back up a marriage with Lyanna, who’s not even a Faith follower, is really gonna cause problems. We-We’ve seen with King Tommen, the more the king starts to lose the support of the Faith, that can be really damaging to his power as king, because you are starting lose all of the Faith-believing public, and they can be very easily swayed by the right High Septon.  Even if Rhaegar doesn’t marry Lyanna, alright what, so you bring Lyanna back to King’s Landing with you as basically your mistress? Well now you’ve got a Blackfyre situation going, because you’ve got Elia, who is the mother of the legitimate heir Aegon, and then you’ve got Lyanna, who is the mother of another child by you. All it takes is a little bit of ambition on that child’s part, and all of the sudden they could have the potential backing of the North and whatever other allies the North had at that point – certainly the Tullys, the Baratheons and Arryns and well – and that could tear the realm apart, like it did with the Blackfyres. Rhaegar’s completely ignoring this possibility by running away with Lyanna, simply because he’s so entrenched in prophecy.

Jeff: Well not just that, there’s like something really, um, off about where Lyanna Stark disappears. In The World of Ice and Fire we find out where Lyanna Stark either absconds with Rhaegar or disappears, and it’s on – it’s by Harrenhal, with the implication that it’s on the way to the marriage between Brandon Stark and Catelyn Tully, essentially. Like, he chooses the worst possible place to do it at, he chooses it at another – in the location of another lord paramount. Again, there’s another major incident that occurs in the lands of someone  that is very powerful, maybe even overpowerful bannermen of King Aerys, essentially, and it’s to a major ceremonial event that’s going to join House Stark and House Tully together for the future.

Nina: And then not to mention, hides Lyanna in Dorne – his wife’s country. “Oh, Dornish, it’s totally cool if I keep my kept mistress here, right? You’re all good with – I’ve got your back, right? Still totally got your back, right?”

Jeff: [in Rhaegar voice] Totally.

Hamish: Although, basically the whole key concept of – maybe Rhaegar didn’t care about the whole noble blood thing cause I don’t think nobility makes you a hero in any way, it doesn’t make your blood special, as we see in a number of things. Being a bastard – a bastard can still be a hero. Rhaegar maybe wanted to marry Lyanna for Lyanna’s own sake cause Lyanna was the romantic, she may chosen to marry – have wanted the marriage because basically, what I mentioned before about the whole spoiling thing, and the fact that essentially she wouldn’t – she wouldn’t be a maiden anymore if she had a royal bastard or anything. So he may have married her so she wouldn’t have to go through life being treated as less than what she was. She would have a chance to have a good life after all this – the world has been saved and everything is all fixed and better. Because despite saving the world, nobility still stands, and no one in this world wants anyone’s leftovers, even if they were the prince’s leftovers, horrible as that sounds.

Jim: And then you go even further in the – in Robert’s Rebellion, after – we know what happens, Brandon Stark is very offended, goes down to King’s Landing, tells Rhaegar to come out and die, and then Aerys says “Oh, that’s treason”, throws them in jail and then murders both of them without trial. And then what does Rhaegar do, during this entire thing? Absolutely nothing. And that’s very damaging to him. By not doing anything, by remaining completely silent, he has essentially said “You know what? That’s – that’s cool, I’m okay with that.” He’s – Aerys violated every noble right that Rickard Stark enjoyed, and essentially that was – there was never going to be any coming back from that. Murdering the Lord Paramount and his heir without trial in an obviously fixed  trial by combat which mocks the Faith? You cannot just say “Yeah, that’s cool” or even say, “You know what, I’m going to stay out of this.” No, Rhaegar, you caused this. You have to say something!

Jeff, Nina: [laughs]

Jeff: Well, you know, it’s kind of – I’m sure an argument people would make would be that, “Well, Rhaegar couldn’t know what was going to happen”, but you know, that’s not necessarily true. There’s an amount of time between when Brandon Stark went to King’s Landing and when Rickard Stark showed up to account for his son, that Rhaegar almost certainly found out about what was – the goings-on at King’s Landing.

Nina: And even more than that, even after – alright, even assuming Rhaegar didn’t know what happened until after it happened, he was so far down in Dorne that no message was getting through, we don’t hear of him saying anything afterward either, coming back and saying “Hey dad, wasn’t super cool that you did that, I’m not on the side of that.” He doesn’t. He never says that. And that’s as much damaging.

Jeff: Well, come on, you have to be a little fair to him. He says to Jaime Lannister, [Rhaegar voice] “Jaime Lannister, changes will be made, bro.”

Nina: [laughs]

Jeff: That’d be a council.

Jim: Yeah, but that’s too little too late.

Nina: Yeah, Too little too late.

Hamish: You sort of see this, how the perception changes of – you know how Robert becomes the king that would be , he’s the king who leads from the front, he fights the way a king should fight according to Borrell from the Fingers, and he’s first on the wall at Gulltown. Robert looks and acts like a hero, he becomes the man that Rhaegar should’ve been. He’s the one who’s gonna die if he doesn’t win. He’s the hero. And – but Rhaegar, more and more, his absence makes him look like an absentee kidnapping rapist who doesn’t care. He’s got what he wants, and damn everyone else. The world will be saved even if it costs hundreds of thousands of lives.

Jeff: Again, brings up the whole “What is one life against a million?” Or I guess in this case, “What is a hundred thousand lives against one million lives?” I guess the equation kind of gets tossed out of whack. Cause then it kind of gets, what’s the ultimate end of Rhaegar Targaryen, it’s Robert’s Rebellion. His actions at Harrenhal and his actions thereafter – abducting Lyanna, or failing to leave a note –

Nina: [laughs]

Jeff: Okay, let’s just say, as an aside, Lyanna left willingly, which I do – I do believe. Why in the world did they not say, “Hey Brandon, sorry to leave, I’m going with Rhaegar. I’m doing it willingly. We’re in love. Hearts.”
Nina: “Love you lots”

Jeff: “Love you lots, Lyanna.”

Jim: “P.S. Thanks for teaching me how to joust so I could be the Knight of the Laughing Tree.”

Jeff: [laughs] Should have drawn, like, a weirwood tree as kind of a symbol at the very bottom. But that’s the thing, it’s just a total lack of communication on Rhaegar’s part, and Lyanna’s part as well, Lyanna’s not blameless in all this. But ultimately, what occurs is Robert’s Rebellion, which is one of the most destructive actions in the realm since the Blackfyre Rebellions. And you know – more than that, Rhaegar’s actions, from alienating the Stormlands, the Vale, the Riverlands, the North, and Dorne! Even fucking Dorne!

Nina: Probably didn’t help that you hid your mistress there. Just saying.

Jeff: It cost House Targaryen the war. You know, Dorne – go back to Dorne. You know, George, in a –  early on in a So Spake Martin, somebody asked him “Well, what’s going on with Dorne in Robert’s Rebellion?” And George R.R. Martin says, I’m not even gonna try to do the voice again, “Rhaegar had Dornish troops with him at the Trident, under the command of Prince Lewyn of the Kingsguard. However-” and this is important – “the Dornish did not support him as strongly as they might have, in part because of the anger at his treatment of Elia and in part because of Prince Doran’s innate caution.” And you look at as well, what’s the other house that we haven’t really mentioned? It’s the Reach. The Tyrells had a really large army, but they put in the bare minimum effort in order to be considered Targaryen loyalists. But you know, if things went badly, the Tyrells can say like “Hey, we just did the bare minimum, we weren’t really in favor of this guy, you know, honor dictated that we besiege Storm’s End”. But how attacks made it over the walls of Storm’s End? I don’t think a single one.  80,00 soldiers –

Nina: Yeah, all they did was fling stones against the walls. “Well, we tried …”

Jeff: “We tried!” And it call comes back to Rhaegar. He insults the North, the Stormlands, the Vale, the Riverlands, Dorne, and you know, his father had made an enemy of probably the most powerful man in the kingdom besides the king himself, and that’s Tywin Lannister.  So, it’s really only fitting that Rhaegar’s end comes – and I think The World of Ice and Fire has it best, he emerges out of, what does it say, the marches, from The World of Ice and Fire? Like he’s just been hanging out there, and he just kind of emerges, like oh – I can just imagine him coming out, like [Rhaegar voice] “Hey bros, what’s been going on since I’ve been gone? What’s happening?”

Nina: “Sup?”

Jeff: “Anything big? Civil war? Okay, well we’re gonna call a Great Council, Jaime Lannister, but then I’m gonna fight this big battle against Robert Baratheon.” And that’s pretty much the end of Rhaegar, when he marches up to the Trident and they have the great Battle of the Trident. It’s fairly evenly matched. Rhaegar’s army has more numbers on his side but Robert’s army is more veteran, they had fought in a number of battles coming up to that. And then Rhaegar’s ultimate end, for all of his follies, is to have his fucking chest caved in with a hammer, with Robert’s hammer. That’s the end of Rhaegar Targaryen, and I think it’s a fitting end for the amount of obliviousness and folly that kind of rolls into it.

Hamish: Basically the guys who broke people’s hearts also gets his heart crushed.

Nina: Awww. How very poetic. You have a singer’s soul, Hamish.

Jeff: That actually makes me feel a little sympathetic to Rhaegar, probably the first time I’ve ever felt sympathetic to Rhaegar, but that’s – that’s a good point.

Nina: Yeah, and I think, sort of, coming to a conclusion about Rhaegar. For me, he’s just such – disappointment. There’s so much disappointment, because Rhaegar should have been great. He’s clearly very intelligent. He clearly had martial ability – it’s not like he just walked up to Robert and immediately died, it was a fight, Robert was very gravely wounded afterward, it was a fight, he was a good knight, but, it’s this sort of Targaryen thing where they get obsessed on these ideas, and for Rhaegar, that obsession was with prophecy and fulfilling this prophecy. Kind of like I said at the beginning, he, like Jon, is someone who is very willing to gamble everything short-term because they know, long-term, history will prove them right. unfortunately, it doesn’t – it does matter, I guess, if there’s some sort of great cataclysmic event and Rhaegar’s actions were important and they mattered. But in the short-term, it costs him everything, and it costs other people everything, and that’s just sort of disappointing. Rhaegar, you should have known better, and instead, he’s blinded. He’s completely blinded. He throws the dice, and he loses.

Hamish: The way I see it, like, I mean, I referred to him as “Chris Martin Targaryen” at first, that was my opening sentence to describe him. I feel like I was completely wrong. He was the anti-Billy Joel. Rhaegar started the fire, and the fire burns.

Jeff: It’s been always burning since the world’s been turning. I think that Rhaegar Targaryen – I might feel sympathy, because of his ironic death now the way that Hamish put it, but I still look at Rhaegar as a disappointment. Yeah, he probably would’ve been a better king than Aerys II, but you know, I think that every German leader since Adolf Hitler has been a better leader since Adolf Hitler. You can’t really – there’s only one way, and that’s up, from Aerys Targaryen. Would Rhaegar have been like Jaehaerys, one of the best kings, best Targaryen kings? No. I think he probably would’ve’ been one of the worst targaryen kings had he come into power. That reliance on prophecy, the subversion of reason, and the obliviousness of your – of his words and actions would have been a disaster for Westeros, and it was a disaster for Westeros. I think looking at the – the cost of the war of Robert’s Rebellion, all the mistakes that kind of compiled into one, it’s tens of thousands of dead people, to include tens of thousands of likely dead civilians and innocent people who had nothing to do with Rhaegar Targaryen, who probably couldn’t identify him by voice, by sight or any of those things, but they died all the same because of this one guy’s oblivious foolishness and ultimate reliance on a faulty and likely mutable prophecy.

Jim: Absolutely. He’s a man that ultimately had a completely disregard for his own actions and the consequences of these actions. He just – it will be right because I do them and I am right sort of thing, and that’s completely dangerous in any person, but especially in a head of state, or the heir to a head of state. That is something that will lead to ruin, and i think I have a good quote to sum him up. And because we are – we have a war and politics site, I think a good quote to sum this up would be from the Battle of Mobile Bay: “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.”
Jeff: Very nice. So that’s our podcast today, it’s our first joint one, so obviously let us know how we can improve for the future. We appreciate any feedback. Do you think Rhaegar was the greatest thing to – did he walk on water? Was he better than sliced bread? Was he right?

Nina: Was he bigger than Jesus?

Jeff: Is he the Westeros Jesus? Let us know. Listen to us on Podbean, subscribe to us on the blog. Also give us any feedback on Reddit or Twitter or Facebook or any of the other sites we’re putting this one, we appreciate it. So this is Jeff, signing off saying, “Rhaegar, you damned fool.”

Nina: And this is Nina, signing off, saying, “Rhaegar, if you were alive, I would smack you.”

Jim: And this is Jim, signing off, saying, “Look at what your pride hath wrought, Rhaegar.”

Jeff: That’s good.

Hamish: And this is Hamish, signing off, saying, “That’s how the ruby-plated chestplate crumbles.”

Jeff: Alright guys, thanks for listening, take care.


Filed under ASOIAF Podcast

6 responses to “Transcript: I Come Not to Praise Rhaegar Targaryen

  1. I love reading and listening to all of you. Thanks so much for all the hard work, this is my favorite ASoIaF site.

    • Thanks so much!

      It really means a lot to get positive messages like this from our readers and listeners. A blog slash podcast is nothing without the people who read, listen, comment, and give feedback, like yourself. I’ll say for myself that it’s a pleasure to write the essays I do when the response is so much great conversation about a series we all love.

  2. brown ben romney

    Thanks for typing this up! I always prefer reading ASOIAF analysis to listening to it, and there’s a lot of great stuff in here!

  3. Really awesome analysis and opinions! Will finish the entire thing later. But really struck me that I am not the only one struck by Ser Davos’s personality! His loyal and humble really admirable.
    One of the regrets of a very busy life is not having too much time to go into the awesome. and indepth analysis of GOT and ASOIAF.

    Merry Christmas NFriel!! Really love the work you guyz are doing.

  4. Renegade

    Great stuff guys.

    Reading all the way in South Africa. Please keep them coming.

    I am going to admit to bias against the crown prince since both the first book and the first season of the series. Robert and his war hammer did all of us a favour!

  5. Eddy

    Great topic and conversation guys! It’s refreshing to hear someone who doesn’t worship the ground Rhaegar walks upon.

    P.S. Nice Farragut quote there, SomethingLikeALawyer.

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