It’s taken a little while, but I think I have a more-or-less coherent alt-plot for s6 Meereen and surrounds! (Previous plots for the North, King’s Landing, and the Riverlands.) Next up, Arya, Bran, the Ironborn and Dorne, in one post.
I know that she spent her childhood in exile, impoverished, living on dreams and schemes, running from one city to the next, always fearful, never safe, friendless but for a brother who was by all accounts half-mad…a brother who sold her maidenhood to the Dothraki for the promise of an army. I know that somewhere upon the grass, her dragons hatched, and so did she. I know she is proud. How not? What else was left her but pride? I know she is strong. How not? The Dothraki despise weakness. If Daenerys had been weak, she would have perished with Viserys. I know she is fierce. Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen are proof enough of that. She has survived assassins and conspiracies and fell sorceries, grieved for a brother and a husband and a son, trod the cities of the slavers to dust beneath her dainty sandalled feet.
I ought to have a banner sewn, she thought as she led her tattered band up along Astapor’s meandering river.
She closed her eyes to imagine how it would look: all flowing black silk, and on it the red three-headed dragon of Targaryen, breathing golden flames.
Because Daenerys will inadvertently kill off thousands of innocent people when she takes Westeros.
I can’t support her because she also wants to destroy the houses of the lords who helped overthrow her mad/incompetent father, which is the majority of Westerosi nobility (including the Starks, Baratheons, Arryns, Lannisters, Tullys). She doesn’t know and doesn’t want to know why her father was usurped, so she just blindly thinks that the Rebellion was unprovoked, and that every house who aided Robert in the Rebellion are traitorous dogs.
I can never get super fan-girl excited when she gives a speech about “taking what is mine” and about conquering Westeros and all that. Cause Westeros isn’t hers. and at this point, it shouldn’t be. With her her dragons, and now her khalasar, she will lay waste to Westeros. Thousands will die, or become enslaved, or be raped, or burned alive, just so she can “take what is mine”.
The Dothraki believe in slavery, and we all know from Meereen and Astapor and Yunki what happens when slavery is suddenly abolished from an unprepared culture. Yes, slavery should be abolished, but if you go about it the wrong way, more problems arise. Like an uprising. Remember what happened when Daenerys stopped Drogo’s blood riders from raping a group of women? Drogo was challenged.
After conquering, the Dothraki take and plunder, meaning they will take gold and riches, tear down ancient castles, as well as take actual human beings to show their victory. They take women to rape as a reward, and slaves to show their prowess.
And her dragons are not trained, and they can never be fully tamed, so if you don’t think they’ll burn some people and animals alive, you’re deluded. Not only that, but they could probably burn crops and entire herds, and people would go hungry.
And just as a reminder, when Ned Stark was beheaded she was like “good”.
I can’t support Daenerys. How many innocent people would suffer for her to “take back what is “hers? If she doesn’t realize that that will likely happen, she’s an ignorant child who shouldn’t be queen, because she doesn’t see the consequences.
I get it. people die to conquer nations, innocent people die, but what Daenerys doesn’t seem to realize is that WILL happen if she takes Westeros. She, who is merciful, and kind, and hates slavery with a passion, will end up causing a great amount of suffering to achieve her goals.
i know that somewhere upon the grass, her dragons hatched, and so did she. i know she is proud. how not? what else was left her but pride? i know she is strong. how not? the dothraki despise weakness. if daenerys had been weak, she would have perished with viserys. i know she is fierce. astapor, yunkai and meereen are proof enough of that. she has survived assassins and conspiracies and fell sorceries, grieved for a brother and a husband and a son, trod the cities of the slavers to dust beneath her dainty sandalled feet.
In this mini-essay we’d like to explore how the bad faith on display throughout A Dance with Dragons has its origins in the accidental revolution that takes place in A Storm of Swords, much as the spiralling violence and social breakdown seen throughout Westeros in A Feast for Crows has its origins in the Riverlands War and Red Wedding. From the start the revolution was treacherous and autocratic and it is Daenerys’ failure to realize this that nearly brings about its undoing.
By the time Daenerys arrived in Slavers Bay, she had become well accustomed to treachery. She spent her childhood moving from place to place in fear of phantom assassins. While staying with Magister Illyrio she saw his manipulations and deceptions for what they were, but could do nothing about them. While touring the western market in Vaes Dothrak there was an attempt on her life. When she spared Mirri Maz Duur the magi killed her husband and unborn child. Her husband’s khalasar then disintegrated and she had to flee death or slavery at the hands of her husband’s former lieutenants. When she became a guest in the house of Xaro Xhoan Daxos he tried to swindle her out of a dragon. When she took up Pyat Pree on paying a visit to the House of the Undying she almost got eaten by vampire corpses. It’s actually remarkable how well adjusted she still is, all things considered, especially in light of the crippling insecurity of her father and brother. So it’s not surprising that she is quite willing to resort to treachery in the service of what she believes to be a good cause.
Shortly after meeting the Unsullied, Daenerys is scheming to forcefully liberate them from a combination of self-interest and empathy. The Good Masters in contrast openly desire Dany’s three dragons, but they do not simply have their Unsullied butcher Dany and her entourage and take the dragons for themselves, even though they could very easily do so (Dany having few friends, no protectors besides Magister Illyrio, and many enemies). Rather, the Masters negotiate a deal where they would give Dany ALL the city’s Unsullied, including the trainees, in exchange for ONE dragon (albeit the biggest one), three ships, and three holds of Jade Sea cargo. To the Masters it is a hard but fair bargain, but Dany operates in bad faith on multiple levels — she has less cargo then she claims, she has no intention of parting with her ships, Drogon will never behave, and she plans to use the Unsullied to massacre the Masters and sack the city. Un-translated insults aside, the Good Masters are all good faith — the Unsullied are handed over straight away and perform more or less as advertised. The Masters give Dany a translator so she can communicate with her new soldiers, offer some helpful advice, and even express interest in future business to the mutual benefit of both. Dany listens politely and then orders Drogon and her new Unsullied to kill them all. The Good Masters might have been too greedy and too complacent, but they were also too trusting.
Dany’s first three Storm of Swords chapters establish that the Ghiscari Masters are a merchant aristocracy with some scruples and honour for those they consider their social equivalents and customers. They might chauvinistically and misogynistically insult Dany behind her back, but they still bargain fairly with her, deliver the goods, and expect her to do the same. This ethic has obviously grown out of the Ghiscari culture of slave commerce and collective leadership — the slaves must be as advertised for buyers to come and pay worthwhile prices, and the slave owning class has to rule as one in order to produce said slaves. Honest inter-elite bargaining is the only praiseworthy aspect of an otherwise wretched regime of decadence fuelled by human misery, not unlike how hope was the only good thing in Pandora’s box of horrors, and it’s this honest bargaining that Dany uses to overthrow them.
Daenerys also displays plenty of bad faith outside Yunkai. While she never pledges or agrees to a truce and therefore avoids saying an outright lie, she lets her enemies believe she has pledged a truce by giving the sellswords wine and the length of the night to consider her offer, and then telling the Yunkish they have three days to release their slaves. She is clearly intending a deception by omission and even the savvy and cynical Ser Jorah is surprised when she orders preparations for a surprise attack:
““Ser Jorah,” she said, “summon my bloodriders.” Dany seated herself on a mound of cushions to await them, her dragons all about her. When they were assembled, she said, “An hour past midnight should be time enough.”
“Yes, Khaleesi,” said Rakharo. “Time for what?”
“To mount our attack.”
Ser Jorah Mormont scowled. “You told the sellswords –
“- that I wanted their answers on the morrow. I made no promises about tonight. The Stormcrows will be arguing about my offer. The Second Sons will be drunk on the wine I gave Mero. And the Yunkai’i believe they have three days. We will take them under cover of this darkness.”” (SoS Dany IV)
Again the Masters are too trusting, which gets them beaten. Later the Yunkish turn lemons to lemonade by portraying Dany, not unreasonably, as a breaker of truces.
Dany’s behavior towards Grazdan mo Eraz is less ambiguous in that it is a clear and indisputable violation of her word. She pledged him safe conduct and then she whimsically violates said pledge in a demonstration of power:
““I say, you are mad.”
“Am I?” Dany shrugged, and said, “Dracarys.”
The dragons answered. Rhaegal hissed and smoked, Viserion snapped, and Drogon spat swirling red-black flame. It touched the drape of Grazdan’s tokar, and the silk caught in half a heartbeat. Golden marks spilled across the carpets as the envoy stumbled over the chest, shouting curses and beating at his arm until Whitebeard flung a flagon of water over him to douse the flames.
“You swore I should have safe conduct!” the Yunkish envoy wailed.
“Do all the Yunkai’i whine so over a singed tokar? I shall buy you a new one… if you deliver up your slaves within three days. Elsewise, Drogon shall give you a warmer kiss.” She wrinkled her nose. “You’ve soiled yourself. Take your gold and go, and see that the Wise Masters hear my message.”” (DwD Dany IV)
Dany’s contempt is just plain remarkable. Dragon’s fire is not a toy:
““Drogon,” she sang out loudly, sweetly, all her fear forgotten. “Dracarys.”
The black dragon spread his wings and roared.
A lance of swirling dark flame took Kraznys full in the face. His eyes melted and ran down his cheeks, and the oil in his hair and beard burst so fiercely into fire that for an instant the slaver wore a burning crown twice as tall as his head. The sudden stench of charred meat overwhelmed even his perfume, and his wail seemed to drown all other sound.” (SoS Dany III)
For all of Dany’s playful confidence she really could have badly injured, or even killed, Grazdan mo Eraz. The envoy and his government have every right to be furious and believe they are dealing with a woman whose word means nothing.
Now Dany is not only treacherous, she is also a monarch. She identifies herself as a Queen and establishes a monarchy in Meereen. In doing so she replaces a system where decisions are made collectively amongst the elite with a new order, where decisions are instead made by a single all-powerful sovereign, albeit with the advice of her courtiers and subjects. This creates another front in the culture clash. If the Ghiscari Masters are honourable in dealings amongst their own class, they are obnoxious potentates when dealing with lesser citizens, and whimsical and sadistic tyrants when lording over their slaves. To them this is their right and due as the master class and they are jealous and resentful of their status. Dany’s revolution dramatically turns the tables on them. Now it is they who are subject to the arbitrary whims, orders and punishments of an unchecked sovereign:
““I want your leaders,” Dany told them. “Give them up, and the rest of you shall be spared.”
“How many?” one old woman had asked, sobbing. “How many must you have to spare us?”
“One hundred and sixty-three,” she answered.
She had them nailed to wooden posts around the plaza, each man pointing at the next.” (SoS Dany VI)
“Dany listened quietly, her face still. When he was done, she said, “What was the name of the old weaver?”
“The slave?” Grazdan shifted his weight, frowning. “She was … Elza, it might have been. Or Ella.
It was six years ago she died. I have owned so many slaves, Your Grace.”
“Let us say Elza. Here is our ruling. From the girls, you shall have nothing. It was Elza who taught them weaving, not you. From you, the girls shall have a new loom, the finest coin can buy. That is for forgetting the name of the old woman.”” (DwD Dany I)
This casual violence and contempt is akin to how the superior normally treat their inferiors; ergo Dany’s court is not what the Meereenese Master class considers a legitimate regime but rather a tyranny. As their new Queen is both treacherous and illegitimate there is no reason to deal honourably with her and therefore they never do.*
Naturally all future dealings in A Dance with Dragons between Queen Daenerys and the Ghiscari Masters of Meereen and Yunkai are overflowing with loathing and bad faith. Why should it be otherwise? False promises, sneak attacks, fatal omissions, and treachery made the revolution, so how could these not become the weapons of the counter-revolution? Yet, while the war is only beginning for the Masters, Dany desperately wants it to end. Having taken autocratic power dishonorably, the Dragon Queen desires to rule honorably and justly as a good ruler should. To do this she assumes good faith on the part of her adversaries, assuming they can be appeased. So she closes her eyes, disarms herself, and gives her enemies an in to effectively overthrow her in turn, which they quickly seize. As a result her allies and followers have to resort to treachery and martial power in order to save her regime. Dany’s story arc in A Dance with Dragons is the tale of how the Masters come very close to defeating her with her own weapons.
*rather they deal honourably with the magnificent Hizdahr zo Loraq, an iconic member of their class who shares their goals but also has a few of his own, namely keeping the throne and his monopoly ownership of the fighting pits. He might also be part of some scheme involving the dragons. Hizdahr of course is deceiving Dany.