[Re-Read] A Game of Thrones – Dany I


Summary:

Daenerys (Dany) and Viserys Targaryen, children of the Mad King Aerys Targaryen, are the last surviving members of House Targaryen. Their mother died giving birth to Dany and their father was killed by the Kingslayer. They lived in Braavos with Ser Willem Darry after their escape, until Darry passed away a few years later. The siblings were thus forced to wander from city to city so that the Usurper’s assassins would not find them. They currently live in Pentos under the roof of the magister Illyrio Mopatis. Dany is to be presented to Khal Drogo in the hopes that he asks for her hand in marriage. Viserys plans to sell Dany’s hand in marriage, in exchange for an army that Viserys could use to recapture his lost kingdom.

Commentary:
This chapter is lot more interesting after finishing A Dance with Dragons (ADWD). ADWD reveals the existence of two more Targaryens– Aegon ‘Targaryen’ and Brynden ‘Bloodraven’ Rivers are both revealed to still be alive. For the purposes of this chapter, only Aegon’s continued survival matters – his claim to the Iron Throne instantly trumps both Dany’s and Viserys’. As far as I can tell, Illyrio’s plan is to set up Dany and Viserys as the fall guys – their deaths would supposedly lull Robert into a state of complacency. After that the possibilities are almost infinite and they raise too many questions for me to deal with in this post itself – did the dastardly duo of Varys and Illyrio plan for both Dany and Viserys to die or just the latter? Did they know of Doran Martell’s plan to marry Arianne to Viserys (they must have right?) Would Arianne have assassinated Viserys for being a giant douche? We may never know. But yes, she would have.

What’s also interesting to note is that apparently newer versions of AGoT change the place Dany was raised from Braavos to Myr. I don’t know if that is all the important, but given that there’s possibly something a-cookin’ in Braavos, it might be an important retcon. This is all purely conjecture of course, and I’d rather not go full tinfoil in these posts (they’re long enough as is).

Coming back to Viserys, we can be fairly sure that the odds were heavily stacked against him surviving – Illyrio encouraged him to go (I believe) and you don’t ask an egoistic prick to ride with the Dothraki and expect him to live very long. The Dothraki, of course, make their first appearance in the series here. I waver regularly between being extremely annoyed and awestruck by the Dothraki, because on one hand – who doesn’t like badass horse-riding, suspiciously-Hun-like warriors? But on the other hand, the institutionalized murder, rape and pillage in their culture (also suspiciously like the Huns) isn’t something I find too appealing. Not because I’m squeamish or anything (this is a fictional world, after all) but more because I don’t understand how it’s tenable in the long run. Do the Dothraki plan on riding around on ponies for the rest of eternity? Scientific progress, for example doesn’t seem to be high on their list. Then again, Westeros doesn’t seem to have progressed much for the last 8000 years so clearly Martin doesn’t have any Dothraki Einstein hidden up his sleeve. Truth be told, their mindset of (pillaging, raping and murdering (hopefully in that order)) isn’t at all out of place in the vaguely medieval world Martin has created and would fall in line with what pre-medieval times in our own world were like.

I just noticed was that Drogo is actually in his late thirties. For some reason, I had assumed that he was just a bit older than Viserys. His age, I think, certainly contributes to Dany’s fear. I’m guessing it would be easier to hook up with someone closer to your own age than someone so much older. I’ve noticed that Dany has a thing for the bad-boys – she eventually comes to love Drogo’s rough and violent nature (which of course brings up a veritable storm of issues by itself, but let’s not get into that) and she’s all a bother over Daario much later on. That kind of bodes badly for the Dany x Jon ship, but no more than Jon’s ‘death’ at the end of ADWD and in any case, I find the whole ship sickening. Dany herself is not really very interesting here – apart from the fore-shadowing of her fiery transformation at the end of this book, all Dany does here is exposit and whimper. That means that only other characters of interest for now are Illyrio and Viserys. Viserys is a sad, pathetic man on many, many levels. His physical and mental abuse of Dany, as well as his general douchebaggery prevents him from ever becoming sympathetic to the reader despite how very sad his life has been. Think about it – cool elder brother dies, Dad dies, Mom dies, has to care for a little sister, caretaker dies, has to sell mother’s jewellery and is clearly showing the first few signs of madness. It’s amazing, then, how, despite that, Martin makes us want to kick him in the nuts. It’s mainly his cruelty and his sense of entitlement, I’d guess. Note that I didn’t mentioned any hired knives in the list of Viserys’ sorrows. This whole thing about the hired knives always confused me – did Robert actually hire any knives?  It would be very unlike Robert to either leave a Targaryen alive or to use a hired hand. Martin gives us several subtle clues about Viserys sorry state – for one, he has to borrow the sword he wears to Drogo’s manse. Also, the years of running and hiding and begging have hurt his pride irreparably and he takes his anger out on the person who he thinks will never desert him(and who he thus takes for granted) – Dany. I don’t know if Viserys ever suspects Illyrio’s motives, which is rather surprising because one would expect suspicion to come easily to someone who has spent his life running from ‘hired knives’. Instead, I think Viserys believes Illyrio because Illyrio tells him what he wants to hear. Viserys confuses obedience for loyalty when in truth the two are completely unrelated. Obedience usually follows loyalty, but that’s not set in stone, as Davos shows Stannis. On the other hand, as Bowen Marsh shows Jon Snow, obedience does not imply loyalty either. But this difference escapes Viserys altogether sometimes. Or perhaps he does understand but doesn’t want to acknowledge it? It would be interesting to know whether Viserys ever knew that his father was a sociopath. I’m sure someone must have told him that, or if not, he must have heard it in the winesinks and taverns. Did he dismiss this as propaganda and lies or has he deliberately blocked it out? Dany herself shows some reluctance to accept what her father was (if I remember it right) so perhaps it’s expecting too much for Viserys to know and accept it. Lastly, ADWD reveals to us (and to my surprise) that Viserys actually had the hots for Dany. I guess it’s consistent given that she’s later considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world (though I assumed that had something to with the dragons) and that Targaryens are into the whole keep it in the family thing, but it does put his whole nipple twisting thing in a new light. He’s more like his father than he first appears, apparently. I don’t how I could have not considered it to be sexual the first time I read it – I think I just assumed it was his way of bullying her, which it is – but it’s also a very sexual way of doing so.

Illyrio comes across on a first read as a bit of a slime-ball an opinion that later chapters only reinforce. I don’t know whether or not to believe the tale Illyrio tells us of his past in ADWD – that he was once a bravo etc, etc. I guess do believe it, since I can’t find anything wrong or inconsistent about it, but I’m not sure if I’m right. We are told here that his teeth are crooked, implying that the bravo story could be true. I’ve more or less given up trying to uncover Varys’ and Illrio’s true motivations – I can’t even be sure that the two of them are working towards the same ultimate goal.

A couple of Dany’s character traits are highlighted here – she shows some intelligence and a healthy suspicion when she questions Illyrio’s motives. I don’t consider Dany to be a good player of the Game (of Thrones) but I do appreciate that she’s at least self-aware enough (I think) to know that she doesn’t know. As opposed to say, Cersei who as of ADWD at least, has no fucking clue. I found the phrase ‘waking the dragon’ (forgotten it was there) to be at least slightly ironic given the book’s ending. Seeing the phrase again jogged my memory and I now recall Mel’s obsession with waking a (stone) dragon. Coincidence? I also had absolutely no idea that the red priests were mentioned this early in the story. I thought we first hear about them when we meet Thoros, but clearly that’s totally wrong.

That’s about all I have to say. I’ll end this with two questions for everyone – do you think that Illyrio knows of Sunspear’s plan to marry Arianne to Viserys and Quentyn to Dany? Am I the only one who finds it hilarious that Viserys plans to invade Westeros with 10000 Dothraki and in ADWD Aegon attacks Westeros with 10000 mercenaries?

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4 thoughts on “[Re-Read] A Game of Thrones – Dany I

  1. Viserys’ insecurity at losing someone he loves is manifesting here.
    I don’t think he was always insane… and that’s why Dany is confused, and willing to forgive him so readily. He’s been a big brother, a caretaker — someone in love with his little sister…

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    • I would agree with you, but there’s also a cruelty in Viserys that isn’t quite so new. Dany mentions this whole ‘waking the dragon’ thing like its an old thing and she seems more like she’s used to Viserys’ anger issues rather than frightened or concerned about their recent development.

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  2. I often wonder myself how Visery’s was when he was younger, the TV show seems to play up more of his tragic side than his wake the dragon prick side. Though how much of his insanity is down to blood and how much due to the environment he has grown in Esso’s and Westro’s is a matter of debate.

    It’s a testament overall in how Martin get’s his characters down, plus I like how we can understand why he ended up the way he did, but still hate his guts for being a prick we want to see suffer.

    Good writers know the difference of making a sympathetic backstory and making a villain sympathetic in general, Martin definitely in my eyes succeeded in taking a character like Visery’s whom in many writers hand’s would have been just the evil brother and made him more complex than that.

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    • I feel Viserys is somehow able to be unsympathetic despite having such a sympathetic backstory. I suspect it’s largely because Dany has been through a similarly difficult childhood and can provide a stark contrast to Viserys.

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