So, I guess my thought on the whole “Younger More Beautiful Queen” thing is as follows.
The main argument against it being Dany is that Dany’s too obvious. And my response to that is…to whom? Because to the reader–sure. It’s an obvious choice. Dany is described as being extremely beautiful, she is currently a queen, she’s got ambitions for the Iron Throne. Definitely all things that point towards her being Cersei’s Younger More Beautiful Queen. Yeah. Pretty straightforward.
But I don’t see that as being a strong argument against it. If anything, I think the argument that Dany is too obvious is one that deals with an incomplete assessment–specifically that the prophecy is for the reader, rather than for Cersei Lannister.
Because to Cersei Lannister, the obvious choice is Margaery–she’s married Renly, she’s married Joffrey, she’s married Tommen. It’s clear that she’s younger, she’s a queen, and people are constantly describing her as beautiful. To me, Margaery is the choice that is “too obvious” because that’s who Cersei thinks it is
And, I think these quotes are interesting:
If sometimes I have mistaken a warning for a prophecy or a prophecy for a warning, the fault lies in the reader, not the book. (Melisandre, Davos V, ASOS)
“Born amidst salt and smoke, beneath a bleeding star. I know the prophecy.” Marwyn turned his head and spat a gob of red phlegm onto the floor. “Not that I would trust it. Gorghan of Old Ghis once wrote that a prophecy is like a treacherous woman. She takes your member in her mouth, and you moan with the pleasure of it and think, how sweet, how fine, how good this is … and then her teeth snap shut and your moans turn to screams. That is the nature of prophecy, said Gorghan. Prophecy will bite your prick off every time.” He chewed a bit. “Still …” (Marwyn, Samwell V, AFFC)
To me, GRRM reads as though he’s playing with prophecy not as a “this is how things will happen” but rather as a “look at the effect that foreknowledge can have and the way it can mislead.” He does this with other prophecies as well–look also at how increasingly people are convinced that Dany fulfills the ancient Valyrian prophecy because of a mistranslation; look at what Stannis’ being “prophesied” as the Lord’s chosen influences him to do.
Cersei’s paranoia is the important effect of her having heard Maggy’s prophecy, not the fact of the Younger More Beautiful Queen. Cersei’s paranoia, which leads to her misrule and her alienating herself from her family because she sees ill-intent and usurpation everywhere. Cersei’s fault, as Melisandre puts it, is “in the reader, not the book,” and Cersei’s book doesn’t even begin to acknowledge the potential for Dany to be the Younger More Beautiful Queen. It may be clear to the reader–but it’s not clear to Cersei. We may be the readers, but we are secondary to Cersei’s experience.