Fire and blood. Dany’s arc in A Dance with Dragons ends with her recognition that dragons plant no trees and that her words are “fire and blood” – not just as the house words of her dynasty, but as her personal motto validating her rediscovered turn towards the mother of dragons and a violent vision of prophecy.
In The Winds of Winter, that recognition and acknowledgement of her true self will morph into action. Early through her Winds of Winter arc, she’ll bring her mother of dragons persona and vengeance to Khal Jhaqo & the Dothraki. But after she unites a giant khalasar by fire and blood, she’ll turn her dragon’s mercy to Meereen. Nor will her full wrath end at the pyramids of Meereen. Instead, I believe that the city will be a mere stepping stone to the full expression of the dragon’s mercy.
Aiding Daenerys in her conquest will be new advisers and groups whose personalities and aims look to keep Daenerys’ footing firmly tied to her identity as the mother of dragons.
Editor’s Note: This essay contains spoilers for The Winds of Winter. As it’s been a while since I’ve covered Daenerys in The Winds of Winter, I’d encourage you all to read part 1 and part 2 if you’d like to refresh on my ideas on Dany’s torn conception of motherhood, struggles with prophecy/magic and predicting her early Dothraki arc in The Winds of Winter. Finally, I’ll hope to have an audio recording of this essay soon! Follow us on twitter to find out the latest on when that will occur!
The Meereen Daenerys returns to will not be the relatively peaceful (even with the tensions bubbling just below the surface) city she ruled as queen. Meereen will have gotten its own share of fire and blood from the great battle there opening The Winds of Winter, as well as from her two other dragon children. Moreover, from this great conflict will emerge three people (or, to be more specific, two individuals and one group of people) all seeking to win Daenerys’ favor. Each of them will tug her in a direction that the mhysa queen willing to sacrifice on behalf of peace in A Dance with Dragons would never have adopted – toward violence, magic, and the fiery faith of R’hllor.
But it would be a mistake to assert that Dany’s actions and impact will come solely at behest of the designs of others. Daenerys will make fateful, violent decisions based on her perceptions of injustice in the city of Meereen, and it won’t simply be the guilty who will suffer from them. Much as it was in with the crucifixion of Great Masters and the torture of the wineseller’s daughters, innocent and guilty alike will suffer from the dragon’s mercy in Meereen.
The impact of these choices will further Daenerys’ transformation in The Winds of Winter, from a planter of trees to a reborn dragon.
Spoiler Warning & Forward: This essay contains minor spoilers for The Winds of Winter. I invite you to follow us on wordpress, facebook & twitter
In terms of mysteries in A Song of Ice and Fire, there are major ones that exist (e.g. Jon’s parentage, the true identity of Aegon VI, who wrote the Pink Letter etc), middling mysteries (e.g. Who is the Hooded Man in Winterfell?) and minor ones (What happened to Weasel?) However, there are a handful of mysteries that belie categorization. One of the more interesting ones is how Stannis Baratheon discovered the parentage of Cersei’s children. It seems like a question with a relatively straightforward answer. He figured it out on his own.
But did he actually figure this out on his own? Or did he come across this information in a different way? In part 1 of the Agents of Chaos series, we puzzled out the identity of Taena Merryweather as an agent of Varys’. In part 2, we shift our focus from Varys to Littlefinger, but our focus will be on his methods of spreading chaos, and I’ll make a plausible case that Littlefinger was responsible for Stannis discovering the parentage of Cersei’s children with a bonus section of who Littlefinger’s unwitting agents might possibly be.
Editor’s Note: This essay contains very minor spoilers for The Winds of Winter. Here’s the audio recording!
Daenerys Targaryen will make a momentous return in The Winds of Winter, but her return will be not be the stuff of triumph that many fans expect. Many fans believe that Dany will return to Meereen, collect her army and sail for Westeros. But all signs point to George RR Martin defying fan-expectations and following a different course. What course might that be? Only George and his editors know for certain, but I believe a careful reading of the first five books of A Song of Ice and Fire coupled with information collected from interviews and the sample chapters from The Winds of Winter give broad strokes on Dany’s future themes and plot points.
Recently, when asked about The Winds of Winter, George RR Martin offered this nugget:
“Well, Tyrion and Dany will intersect, in a way, but for much of the book they’re still apart. They both have quite large roles to play here. Tyrion has decided that he actually would like to live, for one thing, which he wasn’t entirely sure of during the last book, and he’s now working toward that end—if he can survive the battle that’s breaking out all around him. And Dany has embraced her heritage as a Targaryen and embraced the Targaryen words. So they’re both coming home.” – EW Shelf Life, June 26, 2014
From this very small but significant quote, I surmise the following:
Dany’s will spend a significant amount of time apart from any of the characters tied into the Meereenese Knot.
The long-awaited intersection between Tyrion & Dany will take place towards the middle to late portion of The Winds of Winter.
Daenerys will eventually make her way to Westeros…
… But not before Dany spends the majority if not the entirety, of her Winds of Winter arc in Essos.
Wait, Essos!? How could George RR Martin inflict us with another pointless, meaningless character arc in Essos? Isn’t it time that Daenerys triumphantly return to Westeros where she’ll defeat the Others with her dragons, marry Jon Snow and reclaim her father’s crown from the hated Lannisters? Well, maybe, but I don’t think that’s how GRRM will structure Dany’s storyline at least in TWOW.
In these essays, I want to show that Dany’s extended stay in Essos is congruent with how Dany’s arc was developed in the first five books, and how her arc will be tied to how George RR Martin’s writes plot-tension that encapsulates triumph, tragedy and realism.
But more important than the plot-points is the thematic impulse behind Dany’s future in The Winds of Winter. As GRRM (quoting Falkner) likes to put it: “The human heart in conflict with itself is the only thing worth writing about.”
Dany’s future in The Winds of Winter will be tied to her past, routed through dangerous, fickle prophecy, drenched in warfare but most importantly, bound to internal, human struggle. Continue reading →
The war that Daenerys had tried to hard to avoid was coming to Meereen. Her flight from Daznak’s Pit would be the ostensible first blow for the war between Meereen and Yunkai. Indeed her departure atop Drogon will be the last I’ll write about Daenerys’ actions for a while. In previous installments I hope I’ve shown in previous installations that war was unavoidable due to both the political situation within and without Meereen as well as the struggle between war and peace within Daenerys herself. Needless to say, the last chapters from A Dance with Dragons rapidly advance the plot and the characters within the Meereenese Knot towards war.
This essay will use material from A Dance with Dragons to illuminate events within and without Meereen that propelled the city to war. I’ll write at length about the Skahaz/Barristan conspiracy within Meereen, the Yunkish dithering on the eve of war, the last leg of the Iron Fleet’s journey to the shores of Meereen
However, in part 5 (the next part of this series), I’ll be using material fromthe sample chapters of The Winds of Winter. In this, I’ll re-visit and revise the factions on the eve of war, the battle plans of Barristan, Victarion and the Great Masters of Yunkai, and I’ll conclude just moments prior to the battle itself. In part 5, I’ll use the sample chapters to write on the battle itself, analyze the tactics and strategies involved and do some lengthy speculation on what George RR Martin has yet to reveal on the battle and predict the outcomes of the battle, who will lie dead in the field and what this will mean for the various interweaving plotlines of the Meereenese Knot.
“Their names shall be graven on the Gates of Fate amongst the other valiant fallen.” (ADWD, Daenerys II)
Events inside and outside of Meereen were quickly coming to a head. Within the walls, Dany’s peace overture through a marriage offer to Hizdahr zo Loraq would meet with surprising success while Yunkai’s armies finally linked-up with its navy and began to encircle the beleaguered city. Peace hung on an extremely unstable balance. But while Dany may have been keen on peace, there were factors both internal within her and external which would force the hand of war.
This will be the last part devoid of spoilers from The Winds of Winter. So, if you’re avoiding spoilers, you’ll be good to go here. In this section, I’ll talk about the voyage of the Iron Fleet, the unstable peace in Meereen, Yunkai’s siege lines (as well as the introduction of Tyrion Lannister in Meereen) and then finally close out with the return of Drogon and the first shatterings of the peace in Meereen.
Administrative note: I’ve decided to expand this analysis out to 5 parts. Originally, there were significant spoilers from The Winds of Winter in this post, but I’ve opted to cut them to parts 4 and 5.
“I cannot fight two enemies, one within and one without. If I am to hold Meereen, I must have the city behind me. The whole city.” (ADWD, Daenerys V)
With Astapor fallen, Yunkai’s armies would turn their gaze north to Meereen. But Yunkai’s armies would not be all that would arrive outside of Meereen’s walls. New factors and faces would make their appearance in and around Meereen. Alliances would be tested, cloaks would be turned, peace would be attempted and then discarded and finally battle lines would be drawn.
In part 1, I introduced the various factions for the upcoming Battle of Fire and started to go into detail on the myriad social, political, economic and military factors in Meereen, the rise of the Ironborn, Yunkai’s resurgence and Astapor’s decline and fall. In part 2, I’ll continue analyzing and summarizing relevant sections from A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. I’ll go into some detail on the situation in Meereen, the Ironborn invasion of the Shield Islands and Daenerys’ attempts at establishing an internal peace in Meereen.
Originally, I had planned to have this be a 3-parter and then a 4-parter, but the writing for part 2 evolved into something far too long to contain in a single part. In lieu of that, I’ve opted to cut much of part 2 into part 3. The reason for doing so is that the complexity of Meereen’s political situation coupled with the other major characters and their plotlines on their way to Meereen pushed the writing to over 10K words. So, my hope is that this part helps narrow the focus a little.