Category Archives: ASOIAF Political Analysis

Dances with Wolves: Analyzing the Martial Language of Sansa’s Story

Today, we are joined by a very special guest glass_table_girl for an analysis of Sansa Stark and how she has used courtesy to survive so far, and how she’s weaponizing it for the future. – BryndenBFish

Introduction

in_the_gardens_of_eyrie_by_bubug-d6j8w82In the gardens of Eyrie by bubug

Every fan can recite the trademark phrases from Sansa’s storyline, such as “courtesy is a lady’s armor” or “women’s weapons.”

Despite these metaphors, Sansa’s storyline through the lens of fighting and warfare goes unexplored, and ignores motifs that contrast with other characters to highlight the themes in both Sansa’s storyline and the progression of her character.

tl;dr: Sansa’s storyline is defined in language that equates her learning to warfare. Throughout her story, she accumulates an arsenal while playing defense, pivoting to an offensive position in her first TWOW chapter with the act of “dancing,” which the books establish to be a metaphor for violence or fighting. By framing Sansa’s education in martial language, the story establishes her learning as becoming a warrior—in a different sense.

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Blood of the Conqueror, Part 6: Friends in the Reach

This essay contains spoilers for The Winds of Winter

Introduction

Tarly

Storm’s End had fallen to Aegon, and with that “impregnable” coastal fortress, the young dragon now held the most strategically and symbolically important foothold in the south of Westeros. However great this victory was though, Aegon’s situation was tenuous. The Golden Company was scattered across the Stormlands, Narrow Sea and Stepstones, and a Tyrell army was descending on Storm’s End. Though secure for the moment behind the massive curtain walls of Storm’s End, Aegon, Jon Connington and the Golden Company’s hope for long-term success did not reside at Storm’s End. Their only shot at victory lay in defeating the Tyrells marching for them and developing alliances and local support in Westeros. The bitter history of the Blackfyre Rebellions had proved as much.

The Blackfyre pretenders’ inability to garner widespread support after the First Blackfyre Rebellion had led to their repeated failures. In that first rebellion, Daemon I Blackfyre and Aegor “Bittersteel” Rivers leveraged the grievances and ambitions of secondary noble houses into a broad political and military coalition. In particular, Daemon and Bittersteel brought disaffected nobles from the Reach, Dorne and Westerlands under the black dragon banner against their regional and royal overlords. Though the First Blackfyre Rebellion was ultimately unsuccessful, the coalition that the first Blackfyre pretenders assembled was instrumental to their near-success. Failed subsequent Blackfyre rebellions, like the Fourth (which had barely stumbled past its landing at Massey’s Hook) and the Fifth (which had never even reached mainland Westeros) had proved to the Golden Company that without widespread organic support, Westeros could – and would – cast them off.

The Westeros upon which Aegon and his company landed, though, was much more favorably inclined to the young dragon’s particular foreign invasion than that of his Blackfyre forebears. The mood in Westeros had turned hostile towards the ruling class long before Aegon and his band of sellsword adventurers arrived; the Lannister-Tyrell alliance, which had been Westeros’ dominant political and military power since the Battle of the Blackwater, was crumbling. Better still for the would-be king, internal dissent against Lord Mace Tyrell was growing among some of his lords bannermen.

The taking of  Storm’s End had provided a foundation for Westerosi nobles to take notice of the young dragon, but Aegon desperately needed their homage and swords along with their notice. If it were to press Aegon’s claim to the Iron Throne, the Golden Company would have to do more than win the allegiance of its surviving Blackfyre allies. The Reach had proved fertile ground for Daemon I Blackfyre and Bittersteel when they rose against the Iron Throne. The Blackfyres’ ideological (and biological) successors would now turn to the Reach once again.

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The Ravenry: Week of 2/22/2016

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Happy Leap Day, readers!

As you may or may not know, Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire has its own Tumblr page (as well as its own Twitter and Facebook pages).  Even more excitingly,  we here at the blog have partnered with ASOIAF University to answer questions about A Song of Ice and Fire.  We – that is, SomethingLikeaLawyer and I – take the text-based questions submitted to us, write up thoughtful, text-based answers, and publish these answers on the Tumblr.

A very busy week at Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire Headquarters. I can’t say enough times how legitimately amazing at military discussions the Hand is, and it’s proven true this week, with considerations on Dornish spear and curved sword usage. He also did a wonderful job talking about Robert’s Rebellion, and why it really benefited no noble house to support Aerys II in Robert’s Rebellion. Also very excitingly, the Hand published his first essay of 2016 – a military analysis of Euron Greyjoy! I also published an essay this week – the next piece in Heirs in the Shadows, The Plowman at the Gates, and talked a little about possible words for House Ryswell and Maekar’s comparatively large family against his dynastic unimportance.

Without further ado, here’s The Ravenry for the Week of February 22:

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One Black Eye and Ten Long Legs: A Military Analysis of Euron Greyjoy

Euron Greyjoy looks out from the bow of a longship, by Allan Douglas

A while back, I wrote some meta where I explained that Euron Greyjoy was a poor strategist, cavalier toward long-term strategy and sustainability, coupled with his partial madness. In response, MadeinMyr criticized my essay, writing a response testifying to Euron’s strategic merits. A careful analysis of Euron and those surrounding him, and comparison to real-world examples of military commanders in similar situation, will show that Euron is nothing of the sort and that Euron falls short of that lofty perch.

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The Ravenry: Week of 1/4/16

As you may or may not know, Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire has its own Tumblr page (as well as its own Twitter and Facebook pages).  Even more excitingly,  we here at the blog have partnered with ASOIAF University to answer questions about A Song of Ice and Fire.  We – that is, NFriel and I – take the text-based questions submitted to us, write up thoughtful, text-based answers, and publish these answers on the Tumblr. It was a long and productive week, this first full one of the new year, and we’ve started it off right, citing both Harry Potter and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in our analysis this week. Plenty of alternate universe hypotheticals and the Queen Regent had both guns blazing in shooting down theories.

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The Three Heads of The Dragon: Kings, Pretenders, and the Ladies of Fire: The Dragon Who Burned – Aerion ‘Brightflame’ Targaryen

 

Artwork by Mathia Arkoniel

Introduction

Hello again readers. Today I present you with the final entry in the Three Heads of the Dragon series, Aerion ‘Brightflame’ Targaryen. Prince Aerion Targaryen, also known as Aerion the Monstrous or Aerion Brightflame, born the second son to King Maekar Targaryen, may not be a pretender in the most traditional sense, he still had a role to play under the banner of the pretenders of House Targaryen.

Aerion was an unusual character in the Targaryen dynasty and had distinct ties with both the central kings, princes, and contemporaries of the dynasty, and the various pretenders seeking to oust them. He was a precursor to the Mad King Aerys, he was the despised monster of the family, an enemy of Ser Duncan the Tall, the likely murderer of Haegon Blackfyre, and the drinker of wildfire. Aerion Brightflame was the dragon who burned and his actions still affect Westeros to this day.

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The Ravenry: Week of 12/7/2015

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Welcome back one again!

As you may or may not know, Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire has its own Tumblr page (as well as its own Twitter and Facebook pages).  Even more excitingly,  we here at the blog have partnered with ASOIAF University to answer questions about A Song of Ice and Fire.  We – that is, NFriel and I – take the text-based questions submitted to us, write up thoughtful text-based answers, and publish these answers on the Tumblr.

So every Monday we present to you The Ravenry.  We collect the questions we’ve answered during the previous week over on the Tumblr in post form, with a brief description of each, and publish it here, and link that post on Twitter and Facebook as well. Lot of at-length questions and responses, with some lengthy meta on Barristan Selmy, Euron Greyjoy, Dragonstone as a holding, three certain pies, a new theory on why Jaehaerys bypassed Rhaenys the Queen-Who-Never-Was, and a 1,500 word piece on why Robert’s Rebellion and Renly’s Rebellion were different beasts.

Without further ado, here’s The Ravenry for the week of December 7:

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An End to an Era: A Political Analysis of Aerys II Targaryen

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King Aerys II, The Mad King by Amok

Introduction

During the reign of King Jaehaerys II, the Blackfyre threat finally ended (as best as anyone could determine). The troubles that Aegon IV had begun came to a decisive close, and Westeros could finally move on from the past and look to the future. Yet it would only be a short time later that the King would complain of shortness of breath, and die soon after, leaving the Iron Throne to his only son, Aerys.

Aerys was called “the Mad King”, but how mad is a mad king? What was the method behind his madness? And why, if he were so insane, did it take a generation for someone to overthrow him? Did he ever have a chance to rule well? The curtain was about to fall on the Targaryen dynasty, but there were still twenty-one years between the death of Jaehaerys II and the end of the dragon kings. How could a dynasty that had weathered so many problems finally find Robert’s Rebellion as the straw that broke the camel’s back?

Welcome to the penultimate installment of The Three Heads of the Dragon essay series, the first multi-author essays for Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire charting the rise and fall of House Targaryen, from fiery beginnings to bloody end. We have finally reached the end of House Targaryen; the dragon kings have their last fiery gasp here, with Aerys II.

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The Three Heads of The Dragon: Kings, Pretenders, and the Ladies of Fire: Heirs to the Great Black Dragon and the Man Clothed In the Bittersteel

Introduction

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Artwork by Mark Simonetti

Hello again readers. Today I present you with my penultimate entry in the Three Heads of the Dragon series, Aegor ‘Bittersteel’ Rivers. Though not a pretender to the throne, Bittersteel played a central role in the Blackfyre Rebellions that plagued Westeros for decades. He was the left hand of Daemon Blackfyre, and he and his Golden Company would become the sword, armor, and shield of Daemon’s offspring. While the Blackfyre name might be on the name of the war, in many ways it was Bittersteel’s war to wage, and no examination of Targaryen royal pretenders would be complete without the man who drove them.

Aegor Rivers was a bastard born of the adulterous union of King Aegon IV ‘The Unworthy’ Targaryen and Lady Barba Bracken of the Riverlands. Though she was favoured by Aegon IV’s palette for a while, this would not be enough for Barba. When Queen Naerys was rendered infirm after a difficult pregnancy, Barba openly boasted of her desire to replace the Unworthy’s loathed sister-queen. Yet when Naerys recovered her health, Aegon’s favor was insufficient to protect Barba, for soon enough she would find herself exiled from Aegon’s court at the behest of Queen Naerys’s greatest two champions; Crown Prince Daeron II Targaryen and Aemon the Dragonknight. So it would be that the young Aegor would be raised away from the capitol and his father, and grew up in Stone Hedge, the seat of House Bracken.

Not only was he cast out and away from the delights of courtly life and his father’s company, Aegor would have to deal with a dishonour to his mother and her house when Aegon IV replaced Barba Bracken with Melissa Blackwood, a daughter of a house with whom the Bracken’s had been feuding with since time immemorial. Melissa would then go onto give birth to another bastard of Aegon’s, the albino Brynden ‘Bloodraven’ Rivers as well as two other bastard children.

To add more to Aegor’s already-impressive feelings of resentment and anger was the fact that though Aegon IV’s appetites would lead to him continually throwing away mistresses, Brynden Rivers and Melissa Blackwood would still be allowed to remain at court in spite of this, largely due to the popularity of Melissa Blackwood at court.

This is where the young Aegor’s rage and bitterness would begin to form. He was exiled, his mother was dishonoured, he was replaced by what he saw as a lesser freak, and neither his replacement nor his replacement’s mother were cast out by Prince Daeron and Prince Aemon like Aegor and his mother were. Aegor seethed at the perceived unfairness, at his exile for something he didn’t do. Making matters worse, when Aegor was but six, King Aegon found his new lover, Aegor’s aunt Bethany, abed with Terrence Toyne of the Kingsguard, and had both Bethany and her father executed, killing any chance of Aegor being welcomed back at court. Herself having lost a father and sister as well as royal favor, Barba Bracken would no doubt do little to curb her son’s rage during his youth at Stone Hedge.

Thus, in a bed of adultery, betrayal, and bloodshed, the start of Aegor’s lifelong vendetta against both the Targaryens and Bloodraven would begin and Bittersteel would carry that bile with him almost from the cradle to the grave.

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Reform and Reforming Reform: A Political Analysis of Aegon V and Jaehaerys II

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Aegon the Unlikely, by Amok

The death of King Maekar in the Peake Uprising left a peculiar kind of succession crisis in its wake.  The Iron Throne did not lack for claimants; rather, all of the remaining claimants had their own unique imperfections. The late king’s eldest son, Daeron ‘the Drunken’, had predeceased his father, dying from a pox caught by a whore. His only legitimate child, Vaella, was sweet and good-natured, but simple-minded as well as a minor; worse still, the male-only law established by the Great Council of 101 AC and proven in the Dance of Dragons dismissed her claim immediately  The heir to the Throne based on the Targaryen ‘male-only’ succession was the infant Maegor Targaryen, only legitimate son of Maekar’s second son, Aerion Brightflame (the notorious prince had also predeceased his father, drinking wildfire in a drunken attempt to prove he was a dragon). Though only a year old, the baby prince son was suspected of inheriting Aerion’s monstrous nature and insanity, and promised a long regency regardless. Maekar’s two younger sons, Aemon and Aegon, both had flaws in their claims as well. Aemon, the elder, was a chained maester, sworn in service to the Citadel and that oath forbid from holding lands or titles; the other, Aegon, spent half his life wandering Westeros in the service of a hedge knight, and was considered ill-prepared for the burdens of leadership. In the end, however, Maester Aemon refused the quiet offer of the throne, and the Great Council’s vote was made for it.

Thus Aegon Targaryen, fourth son of a fourth son, ascended the Iron Throne as Aegon the Unlikely. Chronologically, this is the first king that the readers are exposed to in-depth, showcasing his strengths, his weaknesses, and his maturation as he squires for Dunk of Flea Bottom, hedge knight and lovable dolt of Westeros. Aegon would rule for twenty-six years, until the disaster at Summerhall, and would see combat against the Blackfyres once as a prince and once as a king. His reign would be one of trouble, constantly putting down minor unrest and revolts, and marked as unpopular by the nobility. Why was the deuteragonist of Dunk and Egg so poorly received as king? Why did his reforms barely outlive him? What does Aegon V’s reign mean from a political and literary sense? And who exactly was Jaehaerys II Targaryen, the three-year king that followed after? What made Barristan Selmy respect him so much in a land that despised personal weakness in men?

Welcome to the next installment of The Three Heads of the Dragon essay series, the first multi-author essays for Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire charting the rise and fall of House Targaryen, from fiery beginnings to bloody end. This will be the penultimate essay for the kings’ portion, as there are only three kings left in Westeros. Aegon V and Jaehaerys II are the next two, and their efforts are marked by war and unrest. Yet neither the kingdom nor the dynasty would fall under their watch, and the two would guide the ship of state as best they could for almost thirty years.

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