A Song of Ice and Fire is a gripping work of fantasy, but it’s also full of mysteries. Moreover, it’s a series that generates a lot of deep thought and questions. In today’s podcast, we try our best Melisandre impression and look into our fires to give you all the answers to questions you’ve been asking for months now. Thank you so much for all of your questions. Some of the questions we answer are on the topics of:
Aegon and whether his true identity actually matters.
Whether Tyrek Lannister is alive
A potential live-video youtube Q/A
The Others and whether the War for the Dawn was resolved peacefully
As a bonus, we are taking question full time now. We didn’t totally get through all of your questions this time, but we’re taking your questions from here on out, and we’ll incorporate them into our episodes going forward! So, submit your questions to us below, and we’ll be happy to answer any and all questions (eventually!).
You can listen to us here, but please feel free to listen/subscribe at the following spots:
Don’t want to read 5000+ words of text, listen below to me reading it!
“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)
Foreward : First and foremost, I want to take a moment to thank all of you reading this. When I started the blog back in September 2013, I never expected it to take off, but I’m touched and incredibly grateful for everyone’s support. As of this writing, there have been 789,000 visits to the blog, 233 subscribers on wordpress alone (not counting Twitter, Facebook and our brand new itunes podcast!), 559 comments and tons of shares. So, thank you so much for your support and love. We return your love and support.
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.