Daenerys enters Vaes Dothrak with Drogo, his bloodriders, Ser Jorah, Viserys, Aggo, Rakharo and her other khas at the head of the khalasar. Viserys, now universally mocked by the Dothraki after being forced to walk and ride in a cart, is getting very impatient to march on Westeros. Jorah tells Daenerys that Viserys should have remained in Pentos and that Dothraki see the world differently. Viserys sees Daenerys as the price for Drogo’s support, but Drogo sees her as a gift for which he will give a return gift in his own good time. Daenerys points out that Viserys will leave when he has his ten thousand, but Jorah retorts that Viserys is incompetent and could not prevail no matter the size of his army. Daenerys asks how the Dothraki would fare under a competent commander, and Jorah considers. Drogo has forty thousand warriors, as many as Rhaegar had at theTrident, however only a tenth of these were knights. Dothraki fighting from horseback with hit and run attacks would probably be able to defeat a western army in the field, but the Dothraki care little for siegecraft and would never be able to take a castle. As Irri and Jhiqui help Daenerys off her silver, Cohollo comes over and says that Drogo will ascend the Mother to offer a sacrifice. Daenerys has Doreah invite Viserys to dinner so that she can present him with gifts, fine Dothraki clothing. Viserys arrives and scorns her gifts and threatens her, so she hits him, and he leaves. She curls up with one of her dragon eggs and goes to sleep, confident that the child in her womb will one day be a king.
I feel especially verbose today, so I think today is as good a time as any to tackle the topic of Dothraki culture. This one of the more informative glimpses into the Dothraki culture that we get and I can’t remember Dany’s early storyline well enough to say whether or not it is indeed the most background we get on the Dothraki. The truth is that after this book, the Dothraki fade out of the story in a major way though they seem set to make a big comeback in TWoW (if that ever comes out). So, while I will judiciously avoid looking at some elements of their culture from a strictly modern perspective, it is nevertheless interesting to see that they are more fleshed out than a purely barbarian horde.
One of the interesting dynamics in Dothraki culture is that their women play an unusual role. I won’t say the idea of a group of crones ruling the young, violent and virile men is in any way a new one, but it is a recurring theme in ASOIAF where you often see these old women pulling strings from behind the scenes – Olena Tyrell (may god forgive me if I misspelled that) as well as the mafia-like lady that Jorah and Tyrion meet in ADWD are both good examples of this. The idea that there is something of ‘central authority’ in Dothraki culture also fascinates me. While the various Khals are in no way answerable to the Dosh Khaleen there is still some semblance of a neutral, central authority that can at least influence them. This rule of no weapons in the Vaes Dothrak and the enforced unity amongst clans here are good examples of this and overall great examples of fine world-buidling on Martin’s part. I do feel Martin’s world building does not get the credit it deserves for the simple reason (I suspect) that it feels too real. These cities and places and people that Martin has created from his imagination are so realistic that they don’t seem like fantastic places and people. That’s my take on it anyway, but for all I know I could be totally wrong and regardless of whether I am right or not, I think it’s interesting to consider whether this ‘too realistic to be fantasy’ idea works in Martin’s favour or against it.
Another concept from the Dothraki that I really liked was the whole concept of ‘blood of my blood’ or the bloodriders. In effect, they are little different from the Kingsguard – if anything they are simply a more extreme version of the former. There will come a day, certainly, when a bloodrider kills a Khal and that story will gain great notoriety but in truth it will be no different from the notoriety that Jaime gained when he killed Aerys. The exact name of Drogo’s bloodriders had escaped me and as far as I can remember they are hardly important beyond the events of this books but it seems interesting that a Khal’s friends are almost forced on him. These bloodriders are supposed to be Drogo’s closest friends, literally sharing blood (in the sense that they call each other blood of my blood) but they are a varied lot and I can’t help but wonder what happens when a Khal simply doesn’t like any of them. Like what if Drogo just found all of his three bloodriders annoying as hell? Does he get to switch them for new ones? What happens if the new ones don’t want to do it?
If I’m not misremembering the sequence of events, the end is fast approaching for Viserys and his quest for a golden crown. This chapter highlights the strange relationship that Viserys and Dany share. Dany continues to try her very hardest to integrate Viserys into her life but I think this is her last try. I feel that she is trying to save him out of loyalty for all that he has done for her in the past – he essentially raised her once Darry died and more than that I think she’s trying to bring him around to her way of thinking. Of course, it’s Viserys and that’s just not going to happen. In fact, on this read through I felt there was a great similarity but Viserys and some of the more spoilt Targaryen princes from the novellas – Aerion Brightflame comes to mind, as does Aemond Targaryen and Aegon II Targaryen. There’s plenty of unpleasant Targaryens to choose from and while Viserys isn’t full out mad, I would hesitate to call him fully sane. This chapter represents a big character development point for Dany simply because this is her first time outright standing up for herself. Her act of defiance her finally pushes Viserys past the edge and he realizes that for the first time in his life, he is well and truly alone – sure he has ‘friends’ in the Free Cities, but I don’t think even he is stupid enough to believe that and even if he does, they are a long way away. Jorah, his ‘sworn sword’ is very clearly in Dany’s camp as are the Dothraki, by and large. In his silly little head, he needs to press the issue and get his army as soon as possible and while that is actually kind of understandable, he totally lacks the charm and personality to do it in a less calamitous way. It bugs me though that even at this point, she still thinks of Viserys as King. Like this whole relationship reeks (heh) to me of Stockholm Syndrome though I know that some of you disagree with me. I feel that the show did a much better job of fleshing Viserys out than AGOT did and though we revisit Viserys’ character in ADWD (though in a roundabout way, via Dany’s subconscious) it feels out of place there. We never really get Viserys and everything we think about him is only really logical hypotheses. The show gave him agency and a more sympathetic backstory that somehow didn’t make him any more sympathetic as a character. Definitely one of the show’s stronger, more positive changes, in my opinion.
Let’s also talk a little bit about Jorah ‘Ser Friendzone’ Mormont. First of all, I’m actually surprised that Dany doesn’t call Jorah out on his slavery thing. I guess at this point she doesn’t have any issues with slavery since the Dothraki are repeatedly mentioned to be slaver who sell their foes at Slaver’s Bay and even in this chapter there are mentions of ‘an army of slaves’. Still, Jorah seems to have lost all perspective on his own actions because for some reasons he blames Ned for trying to carrying out his duty in punishing Jorah for selling poachers into slavery in a foreign country. Think about that for a second – a couple of starving men hunt animals they weren’t supposed and then Jorah decides that he can make use of their misfortune to make a little money to support his uppity Hightower wife and her ridiculous lifestyle and then tries sell them into slavery. To top all of that, Jorah turns around and blames Ned for this misfortune. Seriously, what the fuck Jorah. In any case though, his military advice to Dany here seems sound, though there are more issues with a Dothraki invasion of Westeros than just overcoming the Dothraki’s disdain for siege warfare. Again, the show did a good job of pointing out the otherside of this coin – sure Robert might want to 1v1 Drogo on the field and he might lose, but if he follows Tywin’s kind of advice and stays in his castle, how long will he last before the smallfolk flip to Dany?