Dany (Part II) – Saint George’s True Dragon

(Top illustration:A dragon herself, by Rossdraws)

In Dany Part I – The Slaying of Saint George’s Dragon, I started out with analysing Dany’s first five chapters of aGoT through the conventional lens to establish how much George alludes to the legend of Saint George and the Dragon. On the surface, GRRM manages to reenact the legend across three chapters with the killing of the dragon. Except that dragon turned out not to be a dragon after all, just a cruel small-minded and abusive man claiming wrongly to be a dragon. Certainly the knight in the chapters is no true knight. Meanwhile, we could sense in that essay already that Dany did not truly match this “helpless princess” image of the legend. Most of the time, the re-enactment only “works” because some characters refer to her as princess, despite the fact she is neither behaving or dressed like a princess. And it becomes more and more a struggle to attain, when we simultaneously pick apart details and double layers of every other character, events or items used, but ignore the many layers of Dany and insist as seeing her only as a “princess in distress”. And yet the allusions and evolution of the story fits the Saint George legend, step by step. GRRM is too experienced a writer to do this merely for window dressing. The issue is that George deceived us: Dany is the true (last) dragon!

By itself that is a statement that makes readers (both fans as well as sceptics) fist pump. But I do not just mean this in the same way like a fan of a sport’s team would shout “Go dragons!”. When I say Dany is the true dragon, I mean that Dany is like a dragon soul trapped in a human body. This essay will show you that Dany’s arc does not start out with a princess, but a dragon egg dreaming to be born and grow up in the wilderness. That she hatches during her wedding amidst salt and smoke when gifted with dragonbone, whipping tail, flashing teeth and silver-smoke wings. From the Dothraki Sea until Qarth she is a hatchling, learning to use her tail, teeth and claws to defend herself. She is a draken from Astapor until Meereen who’s grown a belly,  with now larger teeth and claws and of course deadly firepower. That Dany is a full grown adult dragon-queen who can make Drogon bow to her and the two become one. I will show you that Dany being a dragon is the reason why she thrives and grows in the Dothraki Sea. Along the way, I will discuss the prophecies to argue that in High Valyrian there is no word for prince or princess, but that is the common tongue translation of the Valyrian word for dragon. And yes, I will discuss Dany’s dragon dreams, and point out the two crucial aspects on how Dany managed to hatch them.

Whether you are a fan or a critic of Dany, I hope you will love this essay for all what I will point out to be evidence of Dany as dragon throughout her arc, for making you look at certain scenes and attributes through a dragon lens. It is plain impossible to discuss every scene, but with the examples from this essay, you will discover many more scenes with the dragon jumping from the page yourself.

The Dreamtime (aGoT, Daenerys I)

Aprilis420_targaryen_dany_viserys_Dragon
Daenerys and Viserys Targaryen, by Aprilis420
A Captive Dragon

Imagine that you are a dragon in an egg, waiting for that moment until you can hatch. Perhaps you are an old reincarnated soul. Perhaps your dragon soul came into being when your mother laid you as an egg.

A princess, Dany thought. She had forgotten what that was like. Perhaps she had never really known. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

It does not matter. All that matters is the moment you are born, where you are born, when you are born. And until then you dream, a captive in your shell.

When he was gone, Dany went to her window and looked out wistfully on the waters of the bay. The square brick towers of Pentos were black silhouettes outlined against the setting sun. ( aGoT, Daenerys I)

The fires are lit. And the red priests sing.

Dany could hear the singing of the red priests as they lit their night fires and the shouts of ragged children playing games beyond the walls of the estate.

What would you as a dragon dream of during your dreamtime? Would you dream this?

For a moment she wished she could be out there with them, barefoot and breathless and dressed in tatters, with no past and no future and no feast to attend at Khal Drogo’s manse. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

I quoted both paragraphs in the first essay as well to illustrate how much Dany feels like a captive. I deliberately glossed over certain details then, to now highlight them. I did not make you pause at the mention of the red priests lighting fires and singing. I did not dwell on the weird paradox of a princess wishing to play beyond walls, barefoot and in tatters. Nor did I then show you how much that wish or dream compared to the moment when Dany sets first foot in the grasses of the Dothraki Sea.

The air was rich with the scents of earth and grass, mixed with the smell of horseflesh and Dany’s sweat and the oil in her hair. Dothraki smells. They seemed to belong here. Dany breathed it all in, laughing. She had a sudden urge to feel the ground beneath her, to curl her toes in that thick black soil. Swinging down from her saddle, she let the silver graze while she pulled off her high boots. […] Dany did not need to look. She was barefoot, with oiled hair, wearing Dothraki riding leathers and a painted vest given her as a bride gift. She looked as though she belonged here. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

When Viserys confronts Dany in the Dothraki Sea, her wish of the first chapter has just come true. Why is that relevant? Well, what happens to dragons kept in captivity? What does a dragon require to grow large and keep growing?

“[…] A dragon never stops growing, Your Grace, so long as he has food and freedom.” […]
Freedom?” asked Dany, curious. “What do you mean?”
“In King’s Landing, your ancestors raised an immense domed castle for their dragons. The Dragonpit, it is called. It still stands atop the Hill of Rhaenys, though all in ruins now. That was where the royal dragons dwelt in days of yore, and a cavernous dwelling it was, with iron doors so wide that thirty knights could ride through them abreast. Yet even so, it was noted that none of the pit dragons ever reached the size of their ancestors. The maesters say it was because of the walls around them, and the great dome above their heads.”
“If walls could keep us small, peasants would all be tiny and kings as large as giants,” said Ser Jorah. “I’ve seen huge men born in hovels, and dwarfs who dwelt in castles.” (aSoS, Daenerys I)

They need freedom. Walls keep them small. Jorah’s side comment actually hints at the double meaning of what George is telling the reader: Jorah applies it physically to humans, but we ought to apply it metaphorically onto human dragons. So, in aGoT, Dany I, we do not have a captive princess, but a captive, chained, walled-in dragon wishing for the life of a wild dragon.

Together, the three quotes of what Dany wishes for, her dream coming true in the Dothraki Sea, and Selmy’s revelation about the dragonpit make clear why the Dothraki Sea, the Dothraki people and their way of life are such a match for Dany. The Dothraki Sea is as far beyond the walls as one can be. Not even Vaes Dothrak, the sole city of the Dothraki, has walls.

Vaes Dothrak was at once the largest city and the smallest that she had ever known. She thought it must be ten times as large as Pentos, a vastness without walls or limits, its broad windswept streets paved in grass and mud and carpeted with wildflowers. In the Free Cities of the west, towers and manses and hovels and bridges and shops and halls all crowded in on one another, but Vaes Dothrak sprawled languorously, baking in the warm sun, ancient, arrogant, and empty. (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

Nor is it any coincidence that Drogon makes his castle (lair) in the Dothraki Sea and takes Dany there to remind her what it is to be free, to remind her who she is.

Remember who you are, Daenerys,” the stars whispered in a woman’s voice. “The dragons know. Do you?” (aDwD, Daenerys X)

This mirrors Viserys’s words trying to tell her she forgot who she was, during their confrontation in the Dothraki Sea. Except during aDwD, Dany locked up two of her dragons, fed on fruit and lambs, wore tokars that limited her movement, and forgot what it was like to be a dragon.

But we are straying ahead. I will often have to, as I must use Dany’s eggs and dragons to illustrate the dragon nature of Dany that George hints at. So, let us return to the dreamtime (chapter 1).

Egg or Hatchling
dragon in egg_blye dragon demon
Dragon in Egg, by Blue Dragon Demon

Is Dany an as of yet unborn dragon in an egg, or a captive newborn hatchling?

Each evenfall as the khalasar set out, she would choose a dragon to ride upon her shoulder. Irri and Jhiqui carried the others in a cage of woven wood slung between their mounts, and rode close behind her, so Dany was never out of their sight. It was the only way to keep them quiescent. (aCoK, Daenerys I)

A shell is as much a prison as a cage or chain are. Of course a shell or cage are necessary to protect the defenceless unborn or toddler dragon inside. Whatever your interpretation does not matter in relation to what follows in later chapters, but I myself lean towards an as of unborn dragon soul inside an egg.

For example take the bathing scene.

They filled her bath with hot water brought up from the kitchen and scented it with fragrant oils. The girl pulled the rough cotton tunic over Dany’s head and helped her into the tub. The water was scalding hot, but Daenerys did not flinch or cry out. She liked the heat. It made her feel clean. Besides, her brother had often told her that it was never too hot for a Targaryen. “Ours is the house of the dragon,” he would say. “The fire is in our blood.” (aGoT, Daenerys I)

It compares to the information we are given about the eggs.

She touched one, the largest of the three, running her hand lightly over the shell. […] The stone felt strangely warm beneath her fingers … or was she still dreaming? […] As she let the door flap close behind her, Dany saw a finger of dusty red light reach out to touch her dragon’s eggs across the tent. For an instant a thousand droplets of scarlet flame swam before her eyes. She blinked, and they were gone. […] She put her palm against the black egg, fingers spread gently across the curve of the shell. The stone was warm. Almost hot. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Was it madness that seized her then, born of fear? Or some strange wisdom buried in her blood? Dany could not have said. She heard her own voice saying, “Ser Jorah, light the brazier.” […] Cradling the egg with both hands, she carried it to the fire and pushed it down amongst the burning coals. The black scales seemed to glow as they drank the heat. Flames licked against the stone with small red tongues. Dany placed the other two eggs beside the black one in the fire. As she stepped back from the brazier, the breath trembled in her throat. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

When heated by the sun or fire, the eggs like the heat and they give off heat. Just like Dany loves a scalding hot bath, while resenting being sold.

Viserys selling off Dany also compares to selling dragon eggs, a far more easier feat than selling a hatchling let alone a draken.

Yet now Viserys schemed to sell her to a stranger, a barbarian. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

For a moment Dany was so shocked she had no words. “My eggs … but they’re mine, Magister Illyrio gave them to me, a bride gift, why would Viserys want … they’re only stones …”
“The same could be said of rubies and diamonds and fire opals, Princess … and dragon’s eggs are rarer by far. Those traders he’s been drinking with would sell their own manhoods for even one of those stones, and with all three Viserys could buy as many sellswords as he might need.” (aGoT, Daenerys V)

They crowded around Kraznys and the dragon, shouting advice. Though the Astapori yanked and tugged, Drogon would not budge off the litter. Smoke rose grey from his open jaws, and his long neck curled and straightened as he snapped at the slaver’s face. It is time to cross the Trident, Dany thought, as she wheeled and rode her silver back. Her bloodriders moved in close around her. “You are in difficulty,” she observed.
He will not come,” Kraznys said.
“There is a reason. A dragon is no slave.” (aSoS, Daenerys III)

Notice too how it is not a parallel between the selling, but what Viserys believes he bought by selling Dany and what he hopes to buy by selling Dany’s three dragon eggs – an army. Dany too bought an army, without selling, because her draken would not let himself be sold. And she knew he would not.

Finally, towards the end of the chapter, Dany is announced at Drogo’s manse as Daenerys Stormborn, Princess of Dragonstone. I ask you: what else is a dragonstone but a dragon egg?

She lifted it delicately, expecting that it would be made of some fine porcelain or delicate enamel, or even blown glass, but it was much heavier than that, as if it were all of solid stone. The surface of the shell was covered with tiny scales, and as she turned the egg between her fingers, they shimmered like polished metal in the light of the setting sun. One egg was a deep green, with burnished bronze flecks that came and went depending on how Dany turned it. Another was pale cream streaked with gold. The last was black, as black as a midnight sea, yet alive with scarlet ripples and swirls. “What are they?” she asked, her voice hushed and full of wonder.
Dragon’s eggs, from the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai,” said Magister Illyrio. “The eons have turned them to stone, yet still they burn bright with beauty.” (aGoT, Daenerys II)

Birthing Song

Twice singing is featured in the first chapter. First there is the singing of the red priests as Dany dreams of being a free dragon playing in the wilderness.

The square brick towers of Pentos were black silhouettes outlined against the setting sun. Dany could hear the singing of the red priests as they lit their night fires […] ( aGoT, Daenerys I)

And then there is the eunuch who SINGS Dany’s announcement at Drogo’s mansion.

Inside the manse, the air was heavy with the scent of spices, pinchfire and sweet lemon and cinnamon. They were escorted across the entry hall, where a mosaic of colored glass depicted the Doom of Valyria. Oil burned in black iron lanterns all along the walls. Beneath an arch of twining stone leaves, a eunuch sang their coming. “Viserys of the House Targaryen, the Third of his Name,” he called in a high, sweet voice, “King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm. His sister, Daenerys Stormborn, Princess of Dragonstone. His honorable host, Illyrio Mopatis, Magister of the Free City of Pentos.” (aGoT, Daenerys I)

Firstly, notice that the singing is precluded by the black-red color scheme of House Targaryen and the color scheme of the dragon Drogon, which is eventually the dragon that Dany unifies with in a way by the end of aDwD. After all a sunset and a depiction of the Doom would look blood and fiery red. The scent of spices at the manse replaces the nightfires of the red priests, because in GRRM-lingo spices = fire. For example his short story A Song For Lya of 1974 has people and Shkeen voluntarily sacrifice themselves to a giant red fungus in a process where they first put a minor sized part of the fungus on their skull in a ceremony called joining. Over time the fungus grows and survives on their body, until eventually one such Joined individual goes to the caves where the humongous fungus resides and simply walks into the blob of jelly to be consumed there. Early in the story, the protagonist meets such a volunteer who hands him a spiced meatroll.

The meatroll was still in my hand, its crust burning my fingers. “Should I eat this?” I asked Lya.
She took a bite out of hers. “Why not? We had them last night in the restaurant, right? And I’m sure Valcarenghi would’ve warned us if the native food was poisonous.”
That made sense, so I lifted the roll to my mouth and took a bite as I walked. It was hot, and also hot, and it wasn’t a bit like the meatrolls we’d sampled the previous night. Those had been golden, flaky things, seasoned gently with orangespice from Baldur. The Shkeen version was crunchy, and the meat inside dripped grease and burned my mouth. (Dreamsongs Part 1, A Song For Lya; transcription and observations by the Fattest Leech)

While the eunuch announces Visery and Illyrio along with Dany, she is the sole one directly tied to the word dragon here (twice actually – see later) via being of Dragonstone, or coming from a dragon egg.

Take note that the announcer at the manse is a eunuch. Being emasculated, eunuchs are considered genderless. Dragons too are considered genderless, because nobody can ever be sure whether they are male or female, until one lays a clutch of those dragonstones. Meanwhile Septon Barth and maester Aemon believe that dragons can change their gender with need.

Maester Aemon: “Dragons are neither male nor female, Barth saw the truth of that, but now one and now the other, as changeable as flame.” (aFfC, Samwell IV)

Much later in aGoT we learn of a thing called birthing song.

“Before,” Dany said to the ugly Lhazareen woman, “I heard you speak of birthing songs …”
“I know every secret of the bloody bed, Silver Lady, nor have I ever lost a babe,” Mirri Maz Duur replied. (aGoT, Daenerys VII)

And as MMD burns, she sings during the birthing event of the dragons from the three dragon stones.

Mirri Maz Duur began to sing in a shrill, ululating voice. The flames whirled and writhed, racing each other up the platform. The dusk shimmered as the air itself seemed to liquefy from the heat. Dany heard logs spit and crack. The fires swept over Mirri Maz Duur. Her song grew louder, shriller … then she gasped, again and again, and her song became a shuddering wail, thin and high and full of agony. (aGoT, Daenerys X)

As the Fattest Leech has pointed out in Waking the Last Dragon, on twitter and westeros.org posts, Mirri Maz Duur’s song should be interpreted as a birthing song. If Mirri’s singing symbolizes the birthing of the beasty-dragons at the end of aGoT, then the eunuch singing Daenerys’s entrance on the stage of Drogo’s manse, symbolizes the birth of dragon Daenerys.

So, Dany’s first chapter is structured with red priests lighting the fires and singing a birthing song to kick-off the hatching. She then gets a scalding hot bath to promote the hatching. And as the eunuch sings his announcement of Dany, she is about to hatch.

The Dragon that was Promised

No, this is not a section where I will show evidence of Dany being the Prince that was Promised or Azor Ahai come again. This section is about the word for prince and princess in High Valyrian, or rather that there is no word for prince and princess in High Valyrian. Instead I propose the High Valyrian title for a dragonrider is dragon.

There is no direct confirmation of this yet, but maester Aemon’s words to Samwell heavily suggest this.

“No one ever looked for a girl,” he said. “It was a prince that was promised, not a princess. […] What fools we were, who thought ourselves so wise! The error crept in from the translation. Dragons are neither male nor female, Barth saw the truth of that, but now one and now the other, as changeable as flame. The language misled us all for a thousand years. […].” (aFfC, Samwell IV)

From these sentences, we can deduce several facts about the prophecy and its title.

  1. The prince that was promised was translated from another language.
  2. The original word in the other language means dragon, but was translated into prince.
  3. Even in the original language the word dragon was misleading, as that specific word is genderless, since dragons are considered genderless. And for thousand years the promised hero was presumed to be male.

The question now becomes which language was the other language. It is either the language of Asshai or High Valyrian. We know the word or name for the hero in the language of Asshai is Azor Ahai (come again). Does that mean dragon? Possible. Not known. We do not know the actual word for dragon in High Valyrian, except that the word for dragonfire is dracarys. But we can exclude there being a word for prince or princess in High Valyrian: Old Valyria had neither king nor emperor, and therefore no princes or princesses.

Valyria at the zenith of its power was neither a kingdom nor an empire… or at least it had neither a king nor an emperor. It was more akin to the old Roman Republic, I suppose. In theory, the franchise included all “free holders,” that is freeborn landowners. Of course in practice wealthy, highborn, and sorcerously powerful families came to dominate. (SSM – SF, Targaryens, Valyria, Sansa, Martells, and more; June 26 2001)

Or I must say it more nuanced. If Valyrian has a word for prince or princess, it would be a loan-word from another language, not an original Valyrian word.

“Wait a minute, SSR!” I hear you thinking. “Are you sure that AA = tPtwP?” Well, there is sufficient evidence in the books to determine that the prophecies contain the same elements and that one is a translation of the other.

We first learn of the prophecy of Azor Ahai come again via Melisandre in aCoK, Davos.

Melisandre: “In ancient books of Asshai it is written that there will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world. In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him.” (aCoK, Davos I)

Melisandre: “It is written in prophecy as well. When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone. (aSoS, Davos III)

According to the above the prophecy about Azor Ahai come again includes several signs:

  • a red star bleeding,
  • cold darkness coming
  • warrior
  • will draw from fire a burning sword, Lightbringer
  • born again amidst smoke and salt
  • to wake dragons out of stone

The vision of Rhaegar in the HotU mentions the prophecy of the prince that was promised to Elia Martell, believing his son Aegon to be this prince.

“He has a song,” the man replied. “He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.” He looked up when he said it and his eyes met Dany’s, and it seemed as if he saw her standing there beyond the door. (aCoK, Daenerys IV)

Maester Aemon later reveals to Samwell that Rhaegar believed his son Aegon was tPtwP: a comet was seen above King’s Landing on the night Aegon was conceived.

[…] but later he became persuaded that it was his own son who fulfilled the prophecy, for a comet had been seen above King’s Landing on the night Aegon was conceived, and Rhaegar was certain the bleeding star had to be a comet. (aFfC, Samwell IV)

Note that Rhaegar referred to the wording of the bleeding star.

Maester Aemon believed Rhaegar was tPtwP, because he was born during the tragedy of Summerhall, amidst smoke (from the fire) and salt (from tears).

Rhaegar, I thought . . . the smoke was from the fire that devoured Summerhall on the day of his birth, the salt from the tears shed for those who died. He shared my belief when he was young, […] (aFfC, Samwell IV)

And Selmy tells Dany that when Rhaegar started out bookish, but one day came out as a young boy wanting to be trained into becoming a warrior, as he believed he was supposed to become one.

Barristan Selmy: “As a young boy, the Prince of Dragonstone was bookish to a fault. He was reading so early that men said Queen Rhaella must have swallowed some books and a candle whilst he was in her womb. Rhaegar took no interest in the play of other children. The maesters were awed by his wits, but his father’s knights would jest sourly that Baelor the Blessed had been born again. Until one day Prince Rhaegar found something in his scrolls that changed him. No one knows what it might have been, only that the boy suddenly appeared early one morning in the yard as the knights were donning their steel. He walked up to Ser Willem Darry, the master-at-arms, and said, ‘I will require sword and armor. It seems I must be a warrior.‘” (aSoS, Daenerys I)

Evidently, Selmy does not know what it was that made Rhaegar believe this, but maester Aemon does.

And upon learning about Dany, maester Aemon ends up believing she is tPtwP, for she too was born amidst salt and smoke, and hatched dragons.

“Daenerys is the one, born amidst salt and smoke. The dragons prove it.” (aFfC, Samwell IV)

The mystery knight confirms that even as a boy, Aegon V (aka Egg) knew of the prophecy involving the return of dragons, because his uncle King Aerys I read it in the books or scrolls he read. Aerys is the likely rediscoverer of the prophecy in modern times.

Egg lowered his voice. “Someday the dragons will return. My brother Daeron’s dreamed of it, and King Aerys read it in a prophecy. Maybe it will be my egg that hatches. That would be splendid.” (The Mystery Knight)

All of Maekar I’s sons dreamed of it: Aerion Brightflame, Daeron, Aemon and Aegon V. And not once, or twice, but throughout their life. Maester Aemon describes his dream to Samwell.

“I see [dragons] in my dreams, Sam. I see a red star bleeding in the sky. I still remember red. I see their shadows on the snow, hear the crack of leathern wings, feel their hot breath. My brothers dreamed of dragons too, and the dreams killed them, every one.” (aFfC, Samwell III)

A word of caution on interpreting this dream – dragons in dragon dreams may represent a person with Targaryen blood as much as an actual beastly dragon. In the Mystery Knight, Daemon II Blackfyre dreams of a dragon hatching from an egg at Whitewalls, and it turns out to be Egg coming out to be Aegon Targaryen.

“A dragon will hatch? A living dragon? What, here?”
“I dreamed it. This pale white castle, you, a dragon bursting from an egg, I dreamed it all, just as I once dreamed of my brothers lying dead. They were twelve and I was only seven, so they laughed at me, and died. I am two-and-twenty now, and I trust my dreams.” Dunk was remembering another tourney, remembering how he had walked through the soft spring rains with another princeling. I dreamed of you and a dead dragon, Egg’s brother Daeron said to him. A great beast, huge, with wings so large, they could cover this meadow. It had fallen on top of you, but you were alive and the dragon was dead. And so he was, poor Baelor. Dreams were a treacherous ground on which to build. “As you say, m’lord,” he told the Fiddler. (The Mystery Knight)

Regardless, even those who dream and know the dragons they see are not necessarily beastly dragons, but kindred with dragon blood, still can come to believe it is about beastly dragons after all, if they have the dreams enough, certainly the generations after the last beastly dragon died and no egg hatched anymore. And if those dreams such as Aemon’s include red bleeding stars, we can see how the Targaryens since King Aerys I came to believe in the prophecies written down such as in the Jade Compendium. The last years of Aegon V’s reign were focused on uncovering ancient lore to hatch dragons. These would be the same years when Aegon V’s son Duncan’s wife Jenny of Oldstones brought a woods witch (possibly the Ghost of High Heart) who prophesied that tPtwP would be born of the line of Aerys and Rhaella Targaryen.

Barristan Selmy: “Your grandsire commanded it. A woods witch had told him that the prince was promised would be born of their [Aerys’s and Rhaella’s] line.” (aDwD, Daenerys IV)

Jaehaerys, son of Aegon V, wanted his son and daughter to be wed, even though they had no specific liking for one another. Aegon V was agaiinst incestuous marriages. He had promised his own children to sons and daughters of other lords of Westeros, and Jaehaerys only managed to wed his sister in secret. And yet, Aegon V allowed Jaeharys to arrange the marriage between Aerys and Rhaella.

Aegon V’s focus may not have been so much on promoting the birth of tPtwP as it was on hatching dragons. And yet, the return of dragons seemed tied to the coming of the promised hero.

Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone. (aSoS, Davos III)

While the prophecy line does not explicitly state that the birth of the hero and the return of dragons will occur simultaneously, it is not abnormal that those who believe in the prophecy would expect it to be a simultaneous event. It could be read as the birth of the hero will trigger the return of dragons. And while some readers presume Rhaegar’s birth was triggered because of Rhaella’s distress during the unfolding of the tragedy, Aegon V’s actions point to the birth to be expected around this time.

In the fateful year 259 AC, the king summoned many of those closest to him to Summerhall, his favorite castle, there to celebrate the impending birth of his first great-grandchild, a boy later named Rhaegar, to his grandson Aerys and granddaughter Rhaella, the children of Prince Jaehaerys. (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Aegon V)

Not only did Aegon V invite those closest to him to celebrate the coming birth of Rhaegar. He also had seven dragon eggs brought and gathered in the palace of Summerhall. At the time these Targaryens were presumed to be alive before the tragic took place: Aegon V, his children Duncan, Jaehaerys, Shaera, and his grandchildren Aerys and Rhaella, with Rhaegar about to be born. His youngest son Daeron had died in 251 AC. We do not know when his youngest daughter Rhaelle died, but she was wed to Ormund Baratheon and Aegon V would have been unlikely willing to gift a dragon to the wife of the son of the Lord Baratheon who had attempted to rebel against Aegon V. So, we have seven eggs and six Targaryens with one expected to be born, and believed at the time to be this prophesied hero. It seems very much that Aegon V attempted to use the expected moment of Rhaegar’s birth to hatch seven dragons in order to gift all of his family hatchling dragons.

Marc_Simonetti_The_fire_at_the_summer_palace
The Fire at the Summer Palace, by Marc Simonetti

Finally, maester Aemon links tPtwP to the war for the dawn.

But all of them seemed surprised to hear Maester Aemon murmur, “It is the war for the dawn you speak of, my lady. But where is the prince that was promised?”

So, according to Aemon, Rhaegar and Aegon V’s efforts at Summerhall the Prince that was Promised prophecy includes the following elements:

  • a bleeding star
  • the war for the dawn
  • warrior
  • born amidst smoke and salt
  • hatching dragons
  • the song of ice and fire
  • born of the line of Aerys II and Rhaella Targaryen

This all compares to the Azor Ahai prophecy. The sole thing that is missing is the magical sword Lightbringer. And the last two elements of the list came from seers or poets who added to the tPtwP prophecy.

While yes, one could argue that the Targaryens may have glued tPtwP prophecy onto what they found about the Azor Ahai prophecy, we should not dismiss the fact that Aemon explicitly dreamed of a red bleeding star in his dragon dreams, as well as dragons in the snow. So, while we might be sceptic of Melisandre believing the prophecies about Azor Ahai and tPtwP are one and the same. Aemon’s agreement with this assumption lends credibility to it.

So, we have two primary sources for tPtwP so far – dragon dreams and the woods witch. Maester Aemon also confirms the use of secondary sources tied to the Asshai Azor Ahai prophecy with asking Samwell to fetch the Jade Compendium and leaving it for Jon.

[Sam] had to get down on his knees to gather up the books he’d dropped. I should not have brought so many, he told himself as he brushed the dirt off Colloquo Votar’s Jade Compendium, a thick volume of tales and legends from the east that Maester Aemon had commanded him to find. The book appeared undamaged. Maester Thomax’s Dragonkin,
[…]
“Lord Snow,” Maester Aemon called, “I left a book for you in my chambers. The Jade Compendium. It was written by the Volantene adventurer Colloquo Votar, who traveled to the east and visited all the lands of the Jade Sea. There is a passage you may find of interest. I’ve told Clydas to mark it for you.” (aFfC, Samwell I)

But since the prophecy is five thousand years old and maester Yandel claims the Rhllorists spread it westward from Asshai, it is unlikely that the prophecy passed by the ears of the Valyrians.

It is also written that there are annals in Asshai of such a darkness, and of a hero who fought against it with a red sword. His deeds are said to have been performed before the rise of Valyria, in the earliest age when Old Ghis was first forming its empire. This legend has spread west from Asshai, and the followers of R’hllor claim that this hero was named Azor Ahai, and prophesy his return. (tWoIaF – Ancient History: the Long Night)

Ignoring readers’ timeline debates, we can conclude that this would mean the prophecy was written down between one to three millenia after the Long Night. In Essos, Old Ghis rose after the Long Night. As they enslaved the people they conquered and expanded their empire, the Valyrians at the peninsula began to tame dragons that roamed amidst the Fourteen Flames. Valyria and Old Ghis warred five times, after which the Valyrians conquered Old Ghis and enslaved them. Valyria began to expand its conquest and military influence westward, until eventually the Andals migrated across the Narrow Sea to escape Valyria’s hunger for slaves and land. The Andals landed in Westeros depending on sources and Long Night timing you use either 6000 AC, 4000 AC or 2000 AC. Commonly 4000 AC is accepted. This means that the prophecy about AA or tPtwP was written around the time Valyria defeated Old Ghis, and High Valyrian became the standard language in Essos.

Meanwhile the World Book informs us of opposing claims regarding the origin of dragons:

  • The Valyrians claimed the dragons sprang forth as the children of the Fourteen Flames. The issue with the Valyrian claim is that dragons existed outside of Valyria and this since before the rise of Valyria. Dragonbones have been found in Westeros, in Ib. There are legends predating Old Valyria about dragonslayers in Westeros, such as a Hightower and of course Serwyn. Wild dragons lived already on the island of Dragonstone prior to the Targaryens moved there, and they were the sole dragonriding family of Valyria settling in Westeros. Of course,  the Valyrian claim may have been made in good faith. It is possible that an isolated Valyria (in the beginning at least) would not know of Ib or Westeros or Asshai and therefore not of the existence of dragons there.
  • There is the Qartheen claim dragons were born from the second moon coming too close to the sun, leading to speculations of a cataclysmic event about meteors hitting Planetos and causing the Long Night (such as LmL’s), or even continental drift (Ser Jaemes).
  • Ancient Asshai texts claim that dragons came from the Shadow. That a lost civilisation or people learned to tame them in the Shadow and then brought them to Valyria, teaching the Valyrians the arts. More, Asshai claims that even now there still are dragons in the Shadow. We do know at least, via Bran’s vision during his coma, before waking up, that dragons indeed still stir there.

In Asshai, the tales are many and confused, but certain texts—all impossibly ancient—claim that dragons first came from the Shadow, a place where all of our learning fails us. These Asshai’i histories say that a people so ancient they had no name first tamed dragons in the Shadow and brought them to Valyria, teaching the Valyrians their arts before departing from the annals. Yet if men in the Shadow had tamed dragons first, why did they not conquer as the Valyrians did? (tWoIaF – Ancient History: The Rise of Valyria)

[Bran] lifted his eyes and saw clear across the narrow sea, to the Free Cities and the green Dothraki sea and beyond, to Vaes Dothrak under its mountain, to the fabled lands of the Jade Sea, to Asshai by the Shadow, where dragons stirred beneath the sunrise. 

While a hypothesis such as Ser Jaemes’s that a cataclysm broke the proto-Essos continent and sent Asshai, Dorne and Oldtown to drift away from what became the Valyrian peninsula could explain the opposing claims of where dragons first appeared, it would not necessarily explain how Valyrians learned to tame the dragons, especially since there are thousand to three thousand years between Valyria rising and the Long Night. There certainly are structures on Planetos in Asshai, Yi Ti, Lorath and Oldtown that predate Old Valyria and even Asshai’s knowledge, suggesting that there was an earlier advanced civilisation. So, let us for a moment entertain the notion that the Asshai claim that a people taught the Valyrians is true.

Maester Yandel’s critical question to downplay the Asshai claim is based on the assumption that anyone who knows how to tame dragons (or any civilisation) will want to conquer other people. We can dismiss the truth of that assumption based on real world history. While many civilisations would and did conquer and colonise others once they have the military means for it, some have not. Ancient dynastic China for example did not colonize for centuries on end, despite the fact they had superior armies and technologies. And despite all the alleged necromancing happening at Asshai, and shadowbinders being the most sinister, for thousands of years shadowbinders never have shown any interest to conquer anyone. In a way, Asshai is the magical university, like Oldtown is the anti-magical university – more interested in learning, experimenting and teaching, than conquering the world.

The question here should not be, “If this is true, then why did they not conquer Valyria?”, but

  • “Why would they have wanted to gift dragons to Valyrians and teach the Valyrians how to tame the dragons?”,
  • as well as “Why the Valyrians and not the Ghiscari?”

There might be several answers, but a likely candidate is that prophecy drove these people of the Shadow to teach the Valyrians. If prophecy drove Aegon V to try to hatch seven eggs at the birth celebration of Rhaegar, it could certainly drive people and seers to teach Valyrians how to tame and hatch dragon eggs. We have plenty of people in the present of the novels who can accurately predict and see events to come –

  • Melisandre, Thoros and Benerro by looking into flames
  • Ghost of High Heart, the woods witch, Jojen and Bran in green dreams
  • Targaryens via dragon dreams
  • Moonsingers

If they can do this now, there is no reason to doubt this could not have been done five thousand years ago. What is exceptional is that they could see thousands of years ahead in time. But they may not necessarily have known that themselves: only that at some point in the future these events would coalesce. And just like the woods witch could see from which specific Targaryens tPtwP would be born, there could have been seers who may have seen which type of people, the promised hero would be born from, namely Valyrians.

  • If they were ancient shadowbinders, they may have seen the Valyrian looking Aerys and Rhaella in their visions and how they were dragonless, or may have seen that the promised hero would have Valyrian blood, and so they went in search of a people having those looks and stumbling upon them in the Valyrian peninsula. Note: I do not claim the seer saw AA as having Valyrian features, simply that one day AA would be born again from a people looking like Valyrians. This would explain why they picked the Valyrians and not for example Ghiscari.
  • If they were an ancient lost people who knew how to tame dragons, they themselves might have had dragon dreams and even have been proto-Valyrians in appearance, who settled at the peninsula because the Fourteen Flames would guarantee a good environment to hatch eggs. Genetic drift in an isolated peninsula did the rest. The move would be then similar to Daenys the Dreamer Targaryen having foreseen the Doom and, upon her urging, the Targaryens moving to the island of Dragonstone where they ended up spreading their dragonriding genes with the Velaryons and amongst bastards. The lost people became Valyrians in a sense, as so many migrated historical people, explaining how they ended up being “lost”. The volcanoes would explain the choice of the location to resettle over say Old Ghis.

Noteworthy is that both origin claims regarding Asshai – dragons and the prophecy of Azor Ahai –  somehow seem to go hand in hand. Even within the prophecy itself, dragons and the legend come together. This is true even with Aegon V’s efforts. He had people journey to Asshai to look for texts and knowledge on how to breed dragons.

The last years of Aegon’s reign were consumed by a search for ancient lore about the dragon breeding of Valyria, and it was said that Aegon commissioned journeys to places as far away as Asshai-by-the-Shadow with the hopes of finding texts and knowledge that had not been preserved in Westeros. (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Aegon V)

Aegon V at least seems to have put credence in the claim of Asshai.

The next question would be, “Did the Valyrians know of the prophecy, and specifically that it would be someone of Valyrian blood?” In order to try to answer this question, we must investigate whether the Valyrian society, their focus, social structure fits that of a people believing in the prophecy. Characters or people who know and believe a prophecy can respond in three ways:

  • they promote events to happen, such as:
    • Aegon V’s Summerhall actions
    • Rhaegar training for warrior
    • Daemon II Blackfyre coming to the Whitehall tourney in the Mystery Knight
    • Aerion Brightflame drinking wildfire
    • Melisandre’s Lightbringer theater, trying to make the dragon statues of Dragonstone become real
  • they aim to prevent a prophecy from occuring, such as:
    • Cersei Lannister trying to prevent the Valonqar prophecy from happening, but actually thereby likely ensuring it by making so many enemies;
    • and Melisandre trying to prevent Stannis from losing the battle for King’s Landing by getting Renly killed with shadow magic, except Garlan wears Renly’s armor in alliance with Tywin and routing Stannis’s forces because of it.
  • they accept it as inevitable and take actions to profit or survive:
    • Daenys the Dreamer and her family move to Dragonstone
    • The Brotherhood Without Banners

The World Book informs us that according to Septon Barth, the Valyrians had a prophecy that the gold of Casterly Rock would destroy them.

The wealth of the westerlands was matched, in ancient times, with the hunger of the Freehold of Valyria for precious metals, yet there seems no evidence that the dragonlords ever made contact with the lords of the Rock, Casterly or Lannister. Septon Barth speculated on the matter, referring to a Valyrian text that has since been lost, suggesting that the Freehold’s sorcerers foretold that the gold of Casterly Rock would destroy them. (tWoIaF – The Westerlands)

The cursed gold of Casterly Rock

The Casterlys nor the Lannisters destroyed Old Valyria, but the Lannister gold did play a part in destroying the Targaryen dynasty. Jaime killed Aerys II while wearing his golden (well gilded) armor with his gilded sword, sat on the Iron Throne, with a helmet in the shape of a lion’s head.

“I cannot answer for the gods, Your Grace … only for what I found when I rode into the throne room that day,” Ned said. “Aerys was dead on the floor, drowned in his own blood. His dragon skulls stared down from the walls. Lannister’s men were everywhere. Jaime wore the white cloak of the Kingsguard over his golden armor. I can see him still. Even his sword was gilded. He was seated on the Iron Throne, high above his knights, wearing a helm fashioned in the shape of a lion’s head. How he glittered!” (aGoT, Eddard II)

Jaime Lannister having killed Aerys 2
Ser Jaime Lannister slays King Aerys II Targaryen – by artist Michael Komarck

It is a very evocative image that Ned Stark describes here, with enough identifications there for sorcerers of Old Valyria to warn against dealing with the rulers of Casterly Rock if they saw this event as a prophesying vision. How else could Valyrians have attempted to prevent such a vision to come true? They could for example avoid having a singular Valyrian amongst them being king or emperors, despite their strong oppressive empirical tendencies. George compares Old Valyria to the Roman Republic. But Rome first was a kingdom, then a republic for less than five centuries, and eventually an empire with an emperor. Given the various dictatorial tendencies surfacing amongst almost each generation of Targaryens since Aegon conquered Westeros, even if it meant in-fighting with kindred who also rode dragons, it is hard to believe that no dragonrider amongst them never had dictatorial hopes, nor the personality to proclaim himself king or emperor in the four thousand years that followed after the Rise of Valyria. George is prone to the realism of such figures existing, trying and often succeeding in grabbing power. But a prophecy involving a Valyrian looking king would be murdered by Casterly Rock gold and the lords of Casterly Rock would seize (seemingly) the throne might have helped in this, especially when the surroundings and that king himself shows a decline of Valyrian culture – nineteen dragon skulls but no living one, an unkept madman, swords melded into a throne, inferior architecture.

jaime lannister on the throne 2
The kingslayer, by Martina Cecilia

So, that is an example on how we can relate a curious aspect of Old Valyria to prophecy related behavior – in the above case, to avoid a prophecy of coming true in particular.

It follows that if a society behaves to prevent a certain foresight vision of coming about, they would also behave to help a prophecy along, like Melisandre attempts both. They are most famous as a scourge across Essos, conquering the whole continent and enslaving many various people. But what prompted them to do this? They did not make slaves to sell them and grow rich on coin with it. They used them to mine the Fourteen Flames.

The Valyrians learned one deplorable thing from the Ghiscari: slavery. The Ghiscari whom they conquered were the first to be thus enslaved, but not the last. The burning mountains of the Fourteen Flames were rich with ore, and the Valyrians hungered for it: copper and tin for the bronze of their weapons and monuments; later iron for the steel of their legendary blades; and always gold and silver to pay for it all. […] None can say how many perished, toiling in the Valyrian mines, but the number was so large as to surely defy comprehension. As Valyria grew, its need for ore increased, which led to ever more conquests to keep the mines stocked with slaves. The Valyrians expanded in all directions, stretching out east beyond the Ghiscari cities and west to the very shores of Essos, where even the Ghiscari had not made inroads. (tWoIaF – Ancient History: Valyria’s Children)

With the destruction of the Rhoynar, Valyria soon achieved complete domination of the western half of Essos, from the narrow sea to Slaver’s Bay, and from the Summer Sea to the Shivering Sea. Slaves poured into the Freehold and were quickly dispatched beneath the Fourteen Flames to mine the precious gold and silver the freeholders loved so well. (tWoIaF – Ancient History: The Doom of Valyria)

Mining for ore so extensively to maintain rule over an empire thatt large makes sense at first glance, well for an empire without dragons. But Valyria had several families with enough dragons for any of their major kindred. While they may have needed defense or standing armies to make sure the Freeholds remained suppressed, dragons and their riders could surely conquer cities swifter than armies could. Their mining seems weirdly excessive, while they had WMDs.

Initially they forged bronze swords, but eventually managed to forge steel and what is more magical Valyrian Steel.

The properties of Valyrian steel are well-known, and are the result of both folding iron many times to balance and remove impurities, and the use of spellsor at least arts we do not know—to give unnatural strength to the resulting steel. Those arts are now lost, though the smiths of Qohor claim to still know magics for reworking Valyriansteel without losing its strength or unsurpassed ability to hold an edge. The Valyrian steel blades that remain in the world might number in the thousands, but in the Seven Kingdoms there are only 227 such weapons according to Archmaester Thurgood’s Inventories, some of which have since been lost or have disappeared from the annals of history. (tWoIaF – Ancient History: Valyria’s Children)

Even now, after the Doom, their magically crafted Valyrian Steel, remains a sought after legacy. While I do suspect the “magic” is actually using Valyrian dragonrider bone coal to carbonize the steel enough with extra iron (from the dragonrider’s bones), and why Valyrian practice the burning of their dead, it cannot be denied that the Valyrians had highly specialised armorers experimenting with techniques and apparently spells.

To me the combo of excessive mining and forging “magical” swords sounds like a society striving to forge a new Lightbringer sword themselves. 

And finally there are the Rh’llorists. Their religion is that of a dualistic fire god, Rh’llor or Lord of Light versus the Great Other, or Soul of Ice. This is not a Valyrian religion in origin, since the Valyrians had a pantheon of gods they named their dragons after, such as Balerion, Meraxes, Vhagar and Syrax. Or rather, perhaps their dragons were their gods. Beyond that they tolerated other religions and promoted this tolerance and did not seem to care what religion the commoners or slaves followed. They even allowed certain religions to set up a Freehold away from the peninsula to practice their religion away from others, such as Norvos and Lorath. However, a people riding dragons and having their capital amidst fourteen volcanoes would logically attract Rh’llorists. Believing in the prophecy of Azor Ahai they would have expected such a hero to be born there. They may have temples in every city of Essos, but the largest one after the Doom is at Volantis, the last city where Volantene nobility claims the most noble blood surviving from Old Valyria. Nor would they have been silent about their beliefs. One of their features is their habbit to clamor about Azor Ahai whenever they can. They might be the source on how Valyrians would have learned of the prophecy, if not their own dragon dreams, sorcerers or teachers did.

So, while none of these are confirming evidence, we do see a society that seems to act and make choices in support of the prophecy, or in an effort to bring it about. They would have had multiple sources for the prophecy – their own dragon dreams, the potential teachers from Asshai and the Red Priests. And the main written material on the prophecy would have been written in High Valyrian, which was the main language from Pentos to Asshai.

Since they had no kings, they also would not have had princes nor princesses. Any such title would have been a loan word from a people in Essos they destroyed and enslaved, and not something they would have applied to themselves if they believed the prophesied hero would be born amongst them. Prince is a word that the Targaryens adopted from the Common Tongue of Westeros after Aegon I conquered Westeros and proclaimed himself King of all Westeros. So, what would old Valyrians have called themselves in High Valyrian to distinguish themselves from the Valyrian smallfolk and non-dragonriding nobility? What do Targaryens call themselves? Dragons! In High Valyrian the prophecy of tPtwP would be the Dragon that was Promised.

Some readers erronously claim that none of the High Valyrian words have no gender. This leads to plenty of speculations on the High Valyrian word Valonqar being a female character, a little sister, instead of little brother. But there is no evidence for that whatsoever. The quote by Aemon regarding the translation mistake solely arguments that dragons are considered as genderless! And thus that the word dragon is genderless. Since Aemon mentions the genderless dragons directly after his proclamation that the error crept in the translation, this implies that the High Valyrian word dragon was translated to the Common Tongue prince, after Aegon’s conquest, for the simple reason that any dragons left were Targaryens, and the Targaryens of significance were princes. And of course the presumption that the Dragon that was Promised would be male would precede the Targaryen dynasty amongst Valyrians, because the legendary Azor Ahai is supposed to be male.

So, the prophecy title should actually be the Dragon that was Promised. We know this Dragon must have Targaryen blood, and that the dragons has three heads.

“There must be one more,” [Rhaegar] said, though whether he was speaking to her [Dany] or the woman in the bed she could not say. “The dragon has three heads.” (aCoK, Daenerys IV)

The prophecy therefore is the three-headed Dragon that was Promised. Hence, I personally believe that Azor Ahai is a triad of people with Targaryen blood: Dany, Aegon and Jon. Each of them will fulfill part of the prophecy literally, and the rest metaphorically. For example,

  • Aegon was conceived when a red bleeding star (comet) streaked the sky,
  • Dany hatched dragons from petrified eggs,
  • and then Jon would wield the sword Lightbringer.

It does not mean that they will not fulfill the other requirements, but will do so metaphorically. Dany cannot be said to have been born beneath the comet, but she did have a type of rebirth experience. When Jon survives/returns from the assassination attempt, he will have been reborn metaphorically beneath a red bleeding star, or the ripped and bleeding Patrek of King’s Mountain who wears a blue star on his chest. When Dany rides Drogon and has him burn stuff on her command, she wields a type of Lightbringer. In the case of Aegon he might end up waking the dragon within Dany, and thus in Viserys’s meaning, etc…

Anyhow, since the word princess/prince is a translation from the High Valyrian word for dragon, whenever someone calls Dany princess, we should read this as her understanding it to mean dragon, for Valyrian is the language she is actually most familiar with. You will see how correcting this “translation error” throughout the text from the get go makes the underlying meaning more clear, or will fit better with her behavior and choices in later events, once she has hatched, than the image we have in our head when we read the word princess in Dany’s chapters.

I will show you with the quotes from her first chapter in aGoT,

“A gift from the Magister Illyrio,” Viserys said, smiling. Her brother was in a high mood tonight. “The color will bring out the violet in your eyes. And you shall have gold as well, and jewels of all sorts. Illyrio has promised. Tonight you must look like a princess.”
A [dragon], Dany thought. She had forgotten what that was like. Perhaps she had never really known. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

I did not translate Viserys’s use of the word princess here, because the dress-up reveals that Viserys means princess in the classic way. By translating the word princess into dragon here, we can see how it stirs her soul, and to the prophecy about the Dragon to be born again, but not sure anymore how it feels to hatch into a human body once more.

“Now you look all a princess,” the girl said breathlessly when they were done. Dany glanced at her image in the silvered looking glass that Illyrio had so thoughtfully provided. A [dragon], she thought, but she remembered what the girl had said, how Khal Drogo was so rich even his slaves wore golden collars. She felt a sudden chill, and gooseflesh pimpled her bare arms. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

The dresser means princess in the conventional way of course, but when we translate Dany’s use of the word in thought to dragon, we now can compare her fear of being sold and ending up a chained and enslaved dragon.

Finally, when we translate princess into dragon when the eunuch sings her announcement, we fully have the fitting birthing song of a dragon about to be born from a stone egg.

Beneath an arch of twining stone leaves, a eunuch sang their coming. “Viserys of the House Targaryen, the Third of his Name,” he called in a high, sweet voice, “King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm. His sister, Daenerys Stormborn, [Dragon] of Dragonstone. His honorable host, Illyrio Mopatis, Magister of the Free City of Pentos.” (aGoT, Daenerys I)

The Hatching of Dany the Dragon (aGoT, Daenerys II)

Hah, you likely expected I would analyse Dany’s dragon dream in the Dreamtime section! No, because Dany’s dreams do not occur until just before she actually hatches, at her wedding. First, I will show you why I regard her wedding as Dany’s actual hatching.

There are various names for the stages of growth for dragons. A hatchling is a newly born to young dragon that cannot yet survive or hunt on its own. Dany’s dragons are hatchlings up until the end of aCoK.

The dragons were no larger than the scrawny cats she had once seen skulking along the walls of Magister Illyrio’s estate in Pentos . . . until they unfolded their wings. (aCoK, Daenerys I)

Dany has been to places. She visited all the Free Cities. There would be scrawny cats in Tyrosh, Myr, Braavos and Volantis too. And yet, Dany specifically thinks of Illyrio’s estate in Pentos, or rather the outside of the estate’s walls. George therefore refers to the wedding chapter of Dany, that takes place outside of Pentosi walls and where Dany also unfolds her wings for the first time.

Daenerys Targaryen wed Khal Drogo with fear and barbaric splendor in a field beyond the walls of Pentos, for the Dothraki believed that all things of importance in a man’s life must be done beneath the open sky. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

The Bride Gifts

George describes Dany’s dragons in aCoK as neck, tail and wing, with their wings the most notable feature, including the dragonbones in them.

Their [wing] span was three times their length, each wing a delicate fan of translucent skin, gorgeously colored, stretched taut between long thin bones. When you looked hard, you could see that most of their body was neck, tail, and wing. (aCoK, Daenerys I)

At Dany’s wedding, she is gifted with tail, teeth, dragonbone and wings.

The khal’s bloodriders offered her the traditional three weapons, and splendid weapons they were. Haggo gave her a great leather whip with a silver handle, Cohollo a magnificent arakh chased in gold, and Qotho a double-curved dragonbone bow taller than she was. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

In other words, I’m saying here that a whip acts like Dany’s dragon tail; that arakhs are her teeth, while the the bows are her dragonbones and the arrows shot from it are her firepower. I will show you with quotes from later chapters in subsections, but first I simply wish to give you an overall picture, before I show you the many quotes for each weapon to plead my case.

You might argue, Dany is not meant to carry or even wield these weapons personally, and instead she has to pass the gifts onto her husband. This is true, for now. Regardless of that argument, they are initially given to her and not Drogo directly. More, after Drogo’s death, Dany claims these specific gifts as hers, and her khas do not protest against her keeping them.

On the platform they piled Khal Drogo’s treasures: his great tent, his painted vests, his saddles and harness, the whip his father had given him when he came to manhood, the arakh he had used to slay Khal Ogo and his son, a mighty dragonbone bow. Aggo would have added the weapons Drogo’s bloodriders had given Dany for bride gifts as well, but she forbade it. “Those are mine,” she told him, “and I mean to keep them.” (aGoT, Daenerys X)

Finally, her silver serves for her wings.

She was a young filly, spirited and splendid. Dany knew just enough about horses to know that this was no ordinary animal. There was something about her that took the breath away. She was grey as the winter sea, with a mane like silver smoke. Hesitantly she reached out and stroked the horse’s neck, ran her fingers through the silver of her mane. Khal Drogo said something in Dothraki and Magister Illyrio translated. “Silver for the silver of your hair, the khal says.” (aGoT, Daenerys II)

This becomes quite clear during Dany’s first ride on her silver then and there. Dany unfolds her wings in that ride.

Smirtouille_The_Silver_Steed
Dany’s Silver, by Smirtouille

The silver-grey filly moved with a smooth and silken gait, and the crowd parted for her, every eye upon them. Dany found herself moving faster than she had intended, yet somehow it was exciting rather than terrifying. The horse broke into a trot, and she smiled. Dothraki scrambled to clear a path. The slightest pressure with her legs, the lightest touch on the reins, and the filly responded. She sent it into a gallop, and now the Dothraki were hooting and laughing and shouting at her as they jumped out of her way. As she turned to ride back, a firepit loomed ahead, directly in her path. They were hemmed in on either side, with no room to stop. A daring she had never known filled Daenerys then, and she gave the filly her head. The silver horse leapt the flames as if she had wings. When she pulled up before Magister Illyrio, she said, “Tell Khal Drogo that he has given me the wind.” (aGoT, Daenerys II)

While Illyrio and Visery considered Dany but a fearful, furtive thing, her true joy for adventure and excitement reveals itself during her first ride on her silver. Anyone who has ever ridden horse and enjoyed it knows how exciting it can be, especially the moment the horse alters from trot into gallop, and the sensation is certainly worthy to wax poetic about wings and wind. By itself horseriding does not make a dragon’s wings. Arya is a fan of horseriding for example, but she is no dragon.Nor does she Arya jump across a firepit or leap the flames on horseback. Within the context of fire and flames, the mention of wings implies dragon wings, silver dragon wings in this case.

Remember how I argued earlier that princess = dragon? This becomes quite evident when we have Dany telling us in the third chapter that she first felt like a princess since riding her silver.

The descent was steep and rocky, but Dany rode fearlessly, and the joy and the danger of it were a song in her heart. All her life Viserys had told her she was a princess, but not until she rode her silver had Daenerys Targaryen ever felt like one. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

That quote without the preceding descent of a steep and rocky slope, taken out of the context with what Dany is actually wearing or how she rides her silver the first time, might make you insist that she is a princess on a horse, rather than a dragon with silver invisible wings. The word princess is so strongly connotated to certain looks and behaviour, that we easily imagine Dany riding stately on her silver in her wedding dress, like the left image, or the way the show portrayed it.

Dany on her silver first ride_ by qini and VeronicaVJones
Danaerys on her silver, by Qini (left) and Veronica V. Jones (right)

While a beautiful image that matches our preconceptoins on how a princess rides a horse, this is a false image. Unlike the show, the books tell us of a daring young woman jumping the flames of a firepit in her wedding dress, like the right image by Veronica V. Jones. How jarring it is to our expectations is evidenced by the scene that was filmed for the disastrous pilot with Dany riding her silver with brevity. As a consequence, the original wedding scene was rewritten to fit it more to the viewer’s mental expectation. Sure, it does not fit the image we have in our head, but perhaps we should abandon that picture and adjust it to what actually happened. The left erronous mental image is that of a classic princess. The right is that of a princess where princess means dragon.

“All her life Viserys had told her she was a [dragon], but not until she rode her silver had Daenerys Targaryen ever felt like one.”

This becomes an even more fitting image, in the context of Dany descending the steep and rocky slope into the grasses of the Dothraki Sea in her leather khaleesi garb, such as her painted vest.

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Daenerys Targaryen and her three dragons, by John Picacio

Unfortunately, the fanart that depicts a non-pregnant, Dany just on her silver in khaleesi garb (without her dragons added to it) is almost non-existent. Because the word princess does not jive in the fan’s mind with what is actually happening, the majority of fanart superimposes the stereotype of the princess image and behavior onto the horseriding. So, for those who love to draft fanart of just Dany on her silver – please abandon the classic princess image.

She was barefoot, with oiled hair, wearing Dothraki riding leathers and a painted vest given her as a bride gift. She looked as though she belonged here. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Oiled, leathery and a painted vest. Together the khaleesi costume make for a hatchling’s leathery smooth skin and scales.

Dany marveled at the smoothness of their scales, […] (aCoK, Daenerys I)

Born amidst salt and smoke

Now, how do I know the wedding ceremony during the gifting is the actual hatching scene? First, we have Dany’s salty tears.

Dany had never felt so alone as she did seated in the midst of that vast horde. Her brother had told her to smile, and so she smiled until her face ached and the tears came unbidden to her eyes. She did her best to hide them, knowing how angry Viserys would be if he saw her crying, terrified of how Khal Drogo might react. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

Then look at the description of her silver again.

She was grey as the winter sea, with a mane like silver smoke. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

The sea is also salt water, but more interestingly her silver looks like smoke. We have our combo of salt and smoke! So, the gifting at the wedding is a rebirth scene of Dany into the prophesied dragon, albeit a hatchling! After all, her silver is a filly, not a mare yet.

“What about the eggs!” you ask? “You skipped the eggs! Do they not signal that at least she is already a dragon at fertile age?”

Magister Illyrio murmured a command, and four burly slaves hurried forward, bearing between them a great cedar chest bound in bronze. When she opened it, she found piles of the finest velvets and damasks the Free Cities could produce … and resting on top, nestled in the soft cloth, three huge eggs. Dany gasped. They were the most beautiful things she had ever seen, each different than the others, patterned in such rich colors that at first she thought they were crusted with jewels, and so large it took both of her hands to hold one. She lifted it delicately, expecting that it would be made of some fine porcelain or delicate enamel, or even blown glass, but it was much heavier than that, as if it were all of solid stone. The surface of the shell was covered with tiny scales, and as she turned the egg between her fingers, they shimmered like polished metal in the light of the setting sun. One egg was a deep green, with burnished bronze flecks that came and went depending on how Dany turned it. Another was pale cream streaked with gold. The last was black, as black as a midnight sea, yet alive with scarlet ripples and swirls. […] “Dragon’s eggs, from the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai,” said Magister Illyrio. “The eons have turned them to stone, yet still they burn bright with beauty.” (aGoT, Daenerys II)

No, the eggs being gifted in Dany’s scene being reborn as a dragon is not a contradiction. Women and female animals are born with their eggs intact already. They are all already there, waiting until menarch and they start to ripen. This even means that a woman pregnant of the foetus of her daughter already carries half of the genetic material of her grandchildren within her, via that daughter.

Together with the salty tears and silver-smoke manes of her silver, the egg gift is the completed image of “born again amidst salt and smoke to wake dragons from stone”, since Dany is reborn as dragon with dragon eggs amidst salty tears and smokey manes.

This hatching event of Dany herself is why George has Dany recite to herself that she is the blood of the dragon over and over in this chapter, but not her first chapter.

So she sat in her wedding silks, nursing a cup of honeyed wine, afraid to eat, talking silently to herself. I am blood of the dragon, she told herself. I am Daenerys Stormborn, [Dragon] of Dragonstone, of the blood and seed of Aegon the Conqueror. […] I am the blood of the dragon, she told herself again. […] “I am the blood of the dragon,” she whispered aloud as she followed, trying to keep her courage up. “I am the blood of the dragon. I am the blood of the dragon.” The dragon was never afraid. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

It is like George is hammering it into our minds – Dany is a dragon!

Dany’s Dragon Dreams

Now, we finally can discuss her dream. Readers and the wiki of ice and fire, claim the dreams that Dany has in chapter two and three are prophetic in nature about hatching the eggs by the end of the novel, or the eggs instructing or influencing Dany. I think this interpretation overlooks certain issues and oversimplifies it. As prophetic dream it fails to show Dany hatching three dragons. And certainly the first dream is problematic as the eggs instructing her, since she does not even have received the eggs then.

  • The first dream is included in the wedding chapter, which is a rebirthing event of Dany into a dragon.
  • The second chapter is not even chronologically written. It starts with telling us that it is her wedding day, that it takes place outside the city walls, then goes back in time to reveal to us she had the dragon dream, and then jumps ahead again to the wedding events. This especially points out that the dream by itself has meaning to the wedding/rebirth chapter.
  • dragons in dreams often tend to represent a Targaryen

There are no more dragons, Dany thought, staring at her brother, though she did not dare say it aloud. Yet that night she dreamt of one. Viserys was hitting her, hurting her. She was naked, clumsy with fear. She ran from him, but her body seemed thick and ungainly. He struck her again. She stumbled and fell. “You woke the dragon,” he screamed as he kicked her. “You woke the dragon, you woke the dragon.” Her thighs were slick with blood. She closed her eyes and whimpered. As if in answer, there was a hideous ripping sound and the crackling of some great fire. When she looked again, Viserys was gone, great columns of flame rose all around, and in the midst of them was the dragon. It turned its great head slowly. When its molten eyes found hers, she woke, shaking and covered with a fine sheen of sweat. She had never been so afraid … (aGoT, Daenerys II)

Fire_Made_Flesh_by_Jake_Murray
Fire Made Flesh, by Jake Murray

On the one hand we have Dany being portrayed here as pregnant and birthing a dragon from her body. Especially this is what seems to imply that Dany will birth a beastly dragon. Since she does eventually ends up hatching dragons from her eggs, people stop looking for any other meaning, and wave off inconsistencies as dream-weirdness they can make head nor tail off.

The dream weirdness is as weird as having a human girl of thirteen go through a rebirth into a dragon at her wedding. In other words, once we recognize that Dany hatches into a dragon at her wedding ceremony, we realize that the dragon Dany births in the dream is herself – a dragon in spirit. And that explains Viserys’s disappearance. Once wed and reborn into a hatched dragon, Dany will have already gained freedom from her brother. So, yes, it is a prophetic dream, because she has it before the wedding ceremony, but it does not prophesy Dany hatching the three eggs at the end of the novel.

Which brings me to her second dream a chapter later.

Yet when she slept that night, she dreamt the dragon dream again. Viserys was not in it this time. There was only her and the dragon. Its scales were black as night, wet and slick with blood. Her blood, Dany sensed. Its eyes were pools of molten magma, and when it opened its mouth, the flame came roaring out in a hot jet. She could hear it singing to her. She opened her arms to the fire, embraced it, let it swallow her whole, let it cleanse her and temper her and scour her clean. She could feel her flesh sear and blacken and slough away, could feel her blood boil and turn to steam, and yet there was no pain. She felt strong and new and fierce. And the next day, strangely, she did not seem to hurt quite so much. It was as if the gods had heard her and taken pity. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

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Dragon Dream, by Underdog Mike

Since we understand that Dany has long hatched into a dragon, while Viserys is not a true dragon, it is only logical her second dream does not feature him anymore.

She dreams this dream on the long journey to the Dothraki Sea, somewhere between Pentos and Norvos. The physical ordeal of riding horse every day for a full day, along with the impersonal and rough sexual relation with Drogo she has on top of it takes her to the brink of despair. It is not unusual for a person to have a spiritual experience when they reach the pit … You either discover your resilience or … you don’t. This dream directly acts like Dany finding her resilience. The day after this dream, her body hurt less. Her continued strengtening and enjoyment of the lands and environments she crosses, including the Dothraki Sea, follows from this dream.

Visually we get hints that the dragon in this dream is the same one as the first dream. It is still slick with Dany’s blood after birthing it in her first dream. The text emphasises it is her blood, and not just the blood sticking to the dragon. As a stand alone sentence, it implies that the dragon = her blood. In other words the dragon is Dany herself. It is black-red, because Dany has the blood of the Targaryen dragon.

Some readers think that because the black-and-scarlet dragon egg is warm to the touch the next morning, that it might have been the dragon dreaming inside the egg communicating with her, supporting her, instructing her.

She touched one [of  the dragon eggs], the largest of the three, running her hand lightly over the shell. Black-and-scarlet, she thought, like the dragon in my dream. The stone felt strangely warm beneath her fingers … or was she still dreaming? She pulled her hand back nervously. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

But since we have details linking the dragon in her second dream to the first and Dany dreamt the first before being given the eggs that is a problematic interpretation. So, how did the egg end up feeling warm?

The rebirth event at her wedding is of importance here. I already pointed out that females are born with all of their eggs in their ovaries. They are not manufactured during their lifetime. A female’s eggs only need to ripen. Magically, the gift of the dragon eggs at Dany’s wedding – which was a rebirth event of Dany as a dragon – are like Dany’s ovary eggs. So, when the dream-dragon enflames Dany, by extension so are her ovary eggs, which are her dragon eggs. Since the dream-dragon is Dany herself, she heated her own body while dreaming, and that is why the dragon eggs are warm to the touch the next day.

This interpretation we can test to later egg-related events. For example, when Dany gets emotionally fired up, or hot and bothered, then the dragon eggs would feel warm as well. In her third chapter we have Dany’s first confrontation with Viserys. While it is not explicitly stated that she feels rage or anger in that scene, her instinctive response follows from a righteous rage of being assaulted and she is angry enough to want to teach Viserys a lesson by taking his horse away. Moreover, Jorah referencing Dany as child several times also enflames her. She is so hot and bothered by the events of the day, she races faster and faster. And thus when she arrives back at her tent with the khalasar, she finds the eggs warm once more.

“I am no child,” she told him fiercely. Her heels pressed into the sides of her mount, rousing the silver to a gallop. Faster and faster she raced, leaving Jorah and Irri and the others far behind, the warm wind in her hair and the setting sun red on her face. By the time she reached the khalasar, it was dusk. […] As she let the door flap close behind her, Dany saw a finger of dusty red light reach out to touch her dragon’s eggs across the tent. For an instant a thousand droplets of scarlet flame swam before her eyes. She blinked, and they were gone. […] She put her palm against the black egg, fingers spread gently across the curve of the shell. The stone was warm. Almost hot. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Notice that the droplets of scarlet flame swimming before her eyes fits with the wordplay of rage and anger. We say that enraged people see blood or red before their eyes. You may even have experienced this sensation during a debate yourself.  Except, you are not a dragon and have no dragon eggs.

Meanwhile, after the assassination attempt, Dany aims to hatch the dragon eggs by heating them in a brazier. But this method does nothing.

The Usurper has woken the dragon now, she told herself … and her eyes went to the dragon’s eggs resting in their nest of dark velvet. The shifting lamplight limned their stony scales, and shimmering motes of jade and scarlet and gold swam in the air around them, like courtiers around a king. Was it madness that seized her then, born of fear? Or some strange wisdom buried in her blood? Dany could not have said. She heard her own voice saying, “Ser Jorah, light the brazier.” […] When the coals were afire, Dany sent Ser Jorah from her. She had to be alone to do what she must do. This is madness, she told herself as she lifted the black-and-scarlet egg from the velvet. It will only crack and burn, and it’s so beautiful, Ser Jorah will call me a fool if I ruin it, and yet, and yet … Cradling the egg with both hands, she carried it to the fire and pushed it down amongst the burning coals. The black scales seemed to glow as they drank the heat. Flames licked against the stone with small red tongues. Dany placed the other two eggs beside the black one in the fire. As she stepped back from the brazier, the breath trembled in her throat. She watched until the coals had turned to ashes. Drifting sparks floated up and out of the smokehole. Heat shimmered in waves around the dragon’s eggs. And that was all. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

And then Dany succeeds by the end of aGoT. While it is by no means the sole reason that the dragon eggs hatch, one of the crucial features is that Dany steps close enough to the raging pyre that it burns off her hair.

She had sensed the truth of it long ago, Dany thought as she took a step closer to the conflagration, but the brazier had not been hot enough. The flames writhed before her like the women who had danced at her wedding, whirling and singing and spinning their yellow and orange and crimson veils, fearsome to behold, yet lovely, so lovely, alive with heat. Dany opened her arms to them, her skin flushed and glowing. This is a wedding, too, she thought. […] Another step, and Dany could feel the heat of the sand on the soles of her feet, even through her sandals. Sweat ran down her thighs and between her breasts and in rivulets over her cheeks, where tears had once run. […] Her vest had begun to smolder, so Dany shrugged it off and let it fall to the ground. The painted leather burst into sudden flame as she skipped closer to the fire, her breasts bare to the blaze, streams of milk flowing from her red and swollen nipples. Now, she thought, now, and for an instant she glimpsed Khal Drogo before her, mounted on his smoky stallion, a flaming lash in his hand. He smiled, and the whip snaked down at the pyre, hissing. She heard a crack, the sound of shattering stone. (aGoT, Daenerys X)

dany_mother of dragons
Daenerys the Unburned, by Michael Kormack

Dany thinks initially that the amount of heat makes the difference, but we know that even Summerhall’s wildfire was not enough. So, while a big fire may be important, it is not crucial for success. We do see that when fully Dany joins the fire and heat, when she lets it wash over her, like in the second dream, the eggs finally hatch, amidst the salt of Dany’s sweat and the smoke of the pyre.

Not so incidentally, Dany refers to her successful hatching attempt as a wedding, even though it is far from a wedding. So, George points the reader to the wedding chapter and understand what happened there: Dany hatched as a Targaryen dragon during her wedding, and so the hatching event of the dragons is referred to as a wedding. Does that mean dragons can only be hatched during weddings? No, of course not. It simply means that both Dany’s wedding and the pyre include a hatching of a dragon. Does that mean that Drogo is a crucial component here? Not as Drogo necessarily, nor as husband.

What else do Danny’s wedding and the burial have in common? A dragonbone bow, arakh and whip are laid on the pyre. These are Drogo’s in the burial case.

On the platform they piled Khal Drogo’s treasures: his great tent, his painted vests, his saddles and harness, the whip his father had given him when he came to manhood, the arakh he had used to slay Khal Ogo and his son, a mighty dragonbone bow. (aGoT, Daenerys X)

And then there is one more commonality – the dead. The hint that dragons hatch via the dead or dying is given through the bloodflies.

Dany watched the flies. They were as large as bees, gross, purplish, glistening. The Dothraki called them bloodflies. They lived in marshes and stagnant pools, sucked blood from man and horse alike, and laid their eggs in the dead and dying. (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

Bloodflies combine the concept of blood and flying. And they have a purplish color. While fire is not part of these concepts, it does fit with a Targaryen dragon, who cannot truly breathe fire personally. And their eggs hatch in the dead or dying.

During Dany’s wedding Dothraki are dropping like flies (pun intended).

Magister Illyrio had warned Dany about this too. “A Dothraki wedding without at least three deaths is deemed a dull affair,” he had said. Her wedding must have been especially blessed; before the day was over, a dozen men had died. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

And how many dead do we have before the hatching of the dragons in Dany’s last chapter in aGoT? Dany’s khas Quaro; Drogo’s kos Qotho, Cohollo and Haggo; Dany’s child Rhaego, her slave Eroeh, her husband Drogo, his red stallion and finally Mirri Maz Duur. Together they make 8-9. And where does Dany place the eggs? Strewn about Drogo’s body.

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Drogo’s burial, by Magali Villeneuve

She climbed the pyre herself to place the eggs around her sun-and-stars. The black beside his heart, under his arm. The green beside his head, his braid coiled around it. The cream-and-gold down between his legs. (aGoT, Daenerys X)

She suffocated Drogo with a pillow herself, to hatch, like a purple bloodfly does.

Dany compares cinders from the pyre to newborn fireflies.

Huge orange gouts of fire unfurled their banners in that hellish wind, the logs hissing and cracking, glowing cinders rising on the smoke to float away into the dark like so many newborn fireflies. (aGoT, Daenerys X)

Though named differently by Dany during the burial pyre as fireflies, it is clear that GRRM is referring to an anology of hatched bloodflies. Because next, Dany compares flames to the women dancing at her wedding. It were those dancing women the Dothraki fought and killed one another over during her wedding.

The flames writhed before her like the women who had danced at her wedding, whirling and singing and spinning their yellow and orange and crimson veils, fearsome to behold, yet lovely, so lovely, alive with heat. (aGoT, Daenerys X)

So, the recipe during Dany’s wedding to hatch Dany’s dragon blood is the recipe we see reappear at the end of the first novel when the eggs truly hatch (an event that Dany compares to a wedding), that and Dany’s own body heat. The recipe seems to be:

  • at least 3 dead
  • the gift of dragonbone with the bow, a symbolical dragontail with the whip and teeth with the arakh
  • a horse for wings
  • extreme heat
  • a hatched female Targaryen stepping in that extreme heat and surviving it

Now, I am not claiming that every hatching of a dragon egg requires this recipe. Wild dragons managed to be born without any Targaryen’s help. Plenty of Targaryen dragon eggs hatched without such rituals. Before the Targaryen dragons died out, female beastly dragons who managed to produce their own firepower and therefore heat would have been enough. The sole she-dragon who failed at hatching the clutch of eggs would have been the last dragon. Why she could not, I will explain in the third essay.

The Dragon that Mounts the World

While I have provided evidence how GRRM points out that Dany’s silver functions as Dany’s wings, I have only so far claimed that the other Dothraki weapons stand for other dragon parts of the body without providing textual evidence or hints for this. In this section I will select certain scenes to show you that indeed Dany has her own tail, teeth, claws, firepower and even belly. These features of a dragon are not only present at her wedding, but persist and grow over time. After all, a dragon starts out as a hatchling, then becomes a draken, next a full grown dragon, and in Dany’s case one so sizable it can mount the world.

The Wingspan

Initially, Dany starts out with a filly, perfect for a hatchling, but Dany’s silver grows in time into a mare as Dany herself matures.

She called her people together and mounted her silver mare. (aCoK, Daenerys I)

The Dothraki would esteem her all the more for a few bells in her hair. She chimed as she mounted her silver mare, and again with every stride, but neither Ser Jorah nor her bloodriders made mention of it. (aCoK, Daenerys V)

As you notice, Dany’s silver is only called a mare from a Clash of Kings onwards. Dany’s dragons may only be hatchlings then, but Dany is a draken by then. It is not just her silver growing into a mare that signifies Dany’s growth as dragon. Her khas are blood of her blood, and therefore a “bodily” extension of Dany.

The men of her khas came up behind [Jorah]. Jhogo was the first to lay his arakh at her feet. “Blood of my blood,” he murmured, pushing his face to the smoking earth. “Blood of my blood,” she heard Aggo echo. “Blood of my blood,” Rakharo shouted. (aGoT, Daenerys X)

No, Dany thought. I have four. The rest are women, old sick men, and boys whose hair has never been braided. (aCoK, Daenerys I)

“Make way, you Milk Men, make way for the Mother of Dragons,” Jhogo cried, and the Qartheen moved aside, though perhaps the oxen had more to do with that than his voice. Through the swaying draperies, Dany caught glimpses of him astride his grey stallion. From time to time he gave one of the oxen a flick with the silver-handled whip she had given him. Aggo guarded on her other side, while Rakharo rode behind the procession, watching the faces in the crowd for any sign of danger. (aCoK, Daenerys III)

And as you notice, Jhogo is said to ride a grey stallion, while wielding the silver-handed whip. Both the grey and silver are a visual extension of Dany’s silver. And since Dany sends her khas in all directions, they represent the four wind directions and are a first step to that dragon mounting the world.

By the end of aCoK though, Dany counts a khalasar of hundred, beyond her khas, and three ships that Illyrio sent her.

Joy bloomed in her heart, but Dany kept it from her face. “I have three dragons,” she said, “and more than a hundred in my khalasar, with all their goods and horses.”
“It is no matter,” boomed Belwas. “We take all. The fat man hires three ships for his little silverhair queen.”
[…]
Three heads has the dragon, Dany thought, wondering. “I shall tell my people to make ready to depart at once. But the ships that bring me home must bear different names.” […] “Vhagar,” Daenerys told him. “Meraxes. And Balerion. Paint the names on their hulls in golden letters three feet high, Arstan. I want every man who sees them to know the dragons are returned.” (aCoK, Daenerys V)

In other words, I’m saying that the people guarding her, fighting for her represent part of her dragon body, while the horses and vessels carrying them are the wings. Although this should be nuanced. A ship serves as Dany’s wings as long as it has sails. And there is but one ship  that has sails – Balerion.

[…], two of the ships that Magister Illyrio had sent after her were trading galleys, with two hundred oars apiece and crews of strong-armed oarsmen to row them. But the great cog Balerion was a song of a different key; a ponderous broad-beamed sow of a ship with immense holds and huge sails, but helpless in a calm. (aSoS, Daenerys I)

The ship with sails, is compared to Balerion and a sow. Balerion is a black dragon, like the dragon in Dany’s second dream. A sow is a noun used to indicate a female animal.

The captain appeared at her elbow. “Would that this Balerion could soar as her namesake did, Your Grace,” he said in bastard Valyrian heavily flavored with accents of Pentos. “Then we should not need to row, nor tow, nor pray for wind.” (aSoS, Daenerys I)

So, Dany’s dragon size at the start of aSoS is that of the cog.

Dany referenced the three heads of the dragon in connection to the ships. Since, other two ships have no sails, this implies there are two wingless dragons. If they are wingless, this likely implies unhatched dragons. Notice too that Dany’s song has a different key than these two.

Initially, Dany aims to sail for Pentos, but ends up becalmed. Even though the galleys can pull the cog it goes only creepily slow. This is comparable to Dany trying to use Drogon’s wings to return to Meereen from the Dothraki Sea in her last chapter of aDwD, but Drogon refusing to do so.

The wood and the canvas had served her well enough so far, but the fickle wind had turned traitor. For six days and six nights they had been becalmed, and now a seventh day had come, and still no breath of air to fill their sails. (aSoS, Daenerys I)

She would sooner have returned to Meereen on dragon’s wings, to be sure. But that was a desire Drogon did not seem to share. (aDwD, Daenerys X)

Dany persists to return to Meereen from the Dothraki Sea on her own two feet, a slow going venture, as much as the two galleys attempt to pull the heavy Balerion.

Vhagar and Meraxes had let out lines to tow her, but it made for painfully slow going. (aSoS, Daenerys I)

As she walked, she tapped her thigh with the pitmaster’s whip. That, and the rags on her back, were all she had taken from Meereen. (aDwD, Daenerys X)

Only when she starts to contemplate the danger in pursuing the route for Pentos in aSoS does the wind pick up again.

Magister Illyrio had sent him to guard her, or so Belwas claimed, and it was true that she needed guarding. The Usurper on his Iron Throne had offered land and lordship to any man who killed her. One attempt had been made already, with a cup of poisoned wine. The closer she came to Westeros, the more likely another attack became. […] In time, the dragons would be her most formidable guardians, just as they had been for Aegon the Conqueror and his sisters three hundred years ago. Just now, though, they brought her more danger than protection. In all the world there were but three living dragons, and those were hers; they were a wonder, and a terror, and beyond price.
She was pondering her next words when she felt a cool breath on the back of her neck, and a loose strand of her silver-gold hair stirred against her brow. Above, the canvas creaked and moved, and suddenly a great cry went up from all over Balerion. “Wind!” the sailors shouted. “The wind returns, the wind!” Dany looked up to where the great cog’s sails rippled and belled as the lines thrummed and tightened and sang the sweet song they had missed so for six long days. (aSoS, Daenerys I)

Of course, once she conquers Slaver’s Bay overland, she has to exchange the ship back for horses to represent her wings.

Poor Groleo. He still grieved for his ship, she knew. If a war galley could ram another ship, why not a gate? That had been her thought when she commanded the captains to drive their ships ashore. Their masts had become her battering rams, and swarms of freedmen had torn their hulls apart to build mantlets, turtles, catapults, and ladders. The sellswords had given each ram a bawdy name, and it had been the mainmast of Meraxes—formerly Joso’s Prank—that had broken the eastern gate. Joso’s Cock, they called it. The fighting had raged bitter and bloody for most of a day and well into the night before the wood began to splinter and Meraxes’ iron figurehead, a laughing jester’s face, came crashing through. (aSoS, Daenerys VI)

Notice however, Dany does not do this before reaching Meereen. While she still keeps her sail-wings after Astapor, despite enlarging her army tremendously with the Unsullied. The Unsullied,  however, have no horses. It is with the addition of the sellswords that Dany has gained a sizable amount of horses to replace the size of the wings Balerion’s sail represents.

The loss of the sail-wings also precludes Dany’s decision to “clip her wings” by remaining within the walls of Meereen, living in a pyramid, wearing a tokar that restricts even her freedom in movement when walking.

She watched Viserion climb in widening circles until he was lost to sight beyond the muddy waters of the Skahazadhan. Only then did Dany go back inside the pyramid, where Irri and Jhiqui were waiting to brush the tangles from her hair and garb her as befit the Queen of Meereen, in a Ghiscari tokar. The garment was a clumsy thing, a long loose shapeless sheet that had to be wound around her hips and under an arm and over a shoulder, its dangling fringes carefully layered and displayed. Wound too loose, it was like to fall off; wound too tight, it would tangle, trip, and bind. Even wound properly, the tokar required its wearer to hold it in place with the left hand. Walking in a tokar demanded small, mincing steps and exquisite balance, lest one tread upon those heavy trailing fringes. (aDwD, Daenerys I)

The loss of freedom is palbable from the start in aDwD, contrasted with her longingly watching her dragons fly off. It is a parallel to Dany once longing to play beyond the walls in rags in her first chapter of aGoT, except this time Dany chose to do this for all the right reasons.

It is not enough. Next, she locks Viserion and Rhaegal into a pyramid if she wants to prevent innocent people ending up as their meal.

At her command, one produced an iron key. The door opened, hinges shrieking. Daenerys Targaryen stepped into the hot heart of darkness and stopped at the lip of a deep pit. Forty feet below, her dragons raised their heads. Four eyes burned through the shadows—two of molten gold and two of bronze.[…] Viserion’s claws scrabbled against the stones, and the huge chains rattled as he tried to make his way to her again. When he could not, he gave a roar, twisted his head back as far as he was able, and spat golden flame at the wall behind him. […] He had been the first chained up. Daenerys had led him to the pit herself and shut him up inside with several oxen. Once he had gorged himself he grew drowsy. They had chained him whilst he slept. Rhaegal had been harder. Perhaps he could hear his brother raging in the pit, despite the walls of brick and stone between them. In the end, they had to cover him with a net of heavy iron chain as he basked on her terrace, and he fought so fiercely that it had taken three days to carry him down the servants’ steps, twisting and snapping. Six men had been burned in the struggle. (aDwD, Daenerys II)

Ultimately this is the reason why the Second Sons go over to the Yunkai.

She rides her silver once to parade through the camp of the refugees from Astapor. Likewise most of the horse of her armies are kept within the city.

“Even so,” the old knight said, “I would feel better if Your Grace would return to the city.” The many-colored brick walls of Meereen were half a mile back. “The bloody flux has been the bane of every army since the Dawn Age. Let us distribute the food, Your Grace.”
“On the morrow. I am here now. I want to see.” She put her heels into her silver. The others trotted after her. Jhogo rode before her, Aggo and Rakharo just behind, long Dothraki whips in hand to keep away the sick and dying. Ser Barristan was at her right, mounted on a dapple grey. To her left was Symon Stripeback of the Free Brothers and Marselen of the Mother’s Men. Three score soldiers followed close behind the captains, to protect the food wagons. Mounted men all, Dothraki and Brazen Beasts and freedmen, they were united only by their distaste for this duty. (aDwD, Daenerys VI)

At Meereen, Dany is still a dragon with wings, but shrinking and losing her freedom and enjoyment in flying. As proud as a reader can be for Dany to try this, for all the right reasons, it is likewise deeply frustrating to read her so stifled with only a meagre compromize and a poisoning attempt as a result. And yet, this can be called a successful peace, until Drogon visits Daznak’s Pit.

Above them all the dragon turned, dark against the sun. His scales were black, his eyes and horns and spinal plates blood red. Ever the largest of her three, in the wild Drogon had grown larger still. His wings stretched twenty feet from tip to tip, black as jet. He flapped them once as he swept back above the sands, and the sound was like a clap of thunder. The boar raised his head, snorting … and flame engulfed him, black fire shot with red. Dany felt the wash of heat thirty feet away. The beast’s dying scream sounded almost human. Drogon landed on the carcass and sank his claws into the smoking flesh. As he began to feed, he made no distinction between Barsena and the boar.
Oh, gods,” moaned Reznak, “he’s eating her!” The seneschal covered his mouth. Strong Belwas was retching noisily. A queer look passed across Hizdahr zo Loraq’s long, pale face—part fear, part lust, part rapture. He licked his lips. Dany could see the Pahls streaming up the steps, clutching their tokars and tripping over the fringes in their haste to be away. Others followed. Some ran, shoving at one another. More stayed in their seats.
One man took it on himself to be a hero. He was one of the spearmen sent out to drive the boar back to his pen. Perhaps he was drunk, or mad. Perhaps he had loved Barsena Blackhair from afar or had heard some whisper of the girl Hazzea. Perhaps he was just some common man who wanted bards to sing of him. He darted forward, his boar spear in his hands. Red sand kicked up beneath his heels, and shouts rang out from the seats. Drogon raised his head, blood dripping from his teeth. The hero leapt onto his back and drove the iron spearpoint down at the base of the dragon’s long scaled neck. Dany and Drogon screamed as one.
The hero leaned into his spear, using his weight to twist the point in deeper. Drogon arched upward with a hiss of pain. His tail lashed sideways. She watched his head crane around at the end of that long serpentine neck, saw his black wings unfold. The dragonslayer lost his footing and went tumbling to the sand. He was trying to struggle back to his feet when the dragon’s teeth closed hard around his forearm. “No” was all the man had time to shout. Drogon wrenched his arm from his shoulder and tossed it aside as a dog might toss a rodent in a rat pit.
“Kill it,” Hizdahr zo Loraq shouted to the other spearmen. “Kill the beast!” (aDwD, Daenerys IX)

It is only logical that her people wish to have Drogon killed. He hunted their sheep, a little girl, is attracted by the blood at Daznak’s pit and both humans and animal are meat to him. He has grown too big and is as close to a wild dragon as can be. Would Drogon ever tolerate being put away safely in a dragonpit, whenever Dany cannot fly him? Ultimately, this scene puts a choice forward – Dany can be the human queen of Meereen or a queen-dragon (adult she-dragons are sometimes referred to as queens, such as Princess Rhaenys’s dragon Meleys, the Red Queen). Dany cannot be the first without killing the later.

And this should be recognized: Dany will have to do clip her wings and therefore freedom if she wishes to rule Westeros. Like the Targaryens before her, she will have to lock up the dragons again. Drogon would be attracted to a melee at a tourney as much as he would to Daznak’s Pit with freedmen fighting one another or animals.

Even if villains like the Boltons and Freys are cleared off the gaming board, Cersei disarmed and removed to Casterly Rock before Dany’s arrival, she will have to rebuild Westeros with

  • children of families she perceives as her family’s enemies
  • former allies who have moved on and chose to side with Aegon VI
  • Lords and Ladies who do care about their smallfolk but are apprehensive of a dragonriding conquerer in alliance with Dothraki hordes and a giant fleet of Ironborn, after Euron’s pillaging of the Reach
  • the other two dragons in order to have a family to back her.

If it was tedious and difficult to dispense justice for all in one city, then it is even more so for an entire continent. The Houses ensure regional justice and therefore she cannot easily rid herself of them, nor their power. Even on the back of a dragon it is too large a continent, especially if you are the sole dragonrider, to fly hither and thither to play judge wherever needed. And if a peasant has to journey from say the North to King’s Landing to lay their grievances at her dainty feet this threatens the expediency of justice. Nor can she replace these Houses with any of her allies (Ironborn and Dothraki) who will be culturally rejected by both nobles and smallfolk alike, and for good and understandable reasons.

I am NOT saying that Dany is incapable of clipping her own dragon wings. She proved in Meereen that she can, despite rebellion and an assassination attempt. Rebellion and assassination attempts is to be expected, for both selfish as well as righteous reasons, regardless of who rules. A bad crop, a religious fanatic becoming popular, an epidemic… Even with good leaders making the best of it, these are events promoting rebellious feelings and resentment. What I AM saying is that it will not be a process that will be less frustrating and painful to Dany the Dragon, just because it is Westeros. More, it would be tedious and frustrating for anyone. The difference between say Dany or Aegon VI would be that the latter may not have this innate need to roam the wilderness, in rags, away from walls, free to hunt whatever game is about as much as Dany does. In Daznak’s Pit we see what it ultimately would cost her to maintain peace and protect her city – not just the life of Drogon, but her own dragon spirit, if not ultimately her life. Who would wish that on her? Nor can anyone who cares about Westeros wish it to turn into a continental sized Astapor, just so she sits the Iron Throne?

In Daznak’s Pit, Dany chooses to save Drogon and earns herself true beastly dragon wings.

Then all of that had faded, the sounds dwindling, the people shrinking, the spears and arrows falling back beneath them as Drogon clawed his way into the sky. Up and up and up he’d borne her, high above the pyramids and pits, his wings outstretched to catch the warm air rising from the city’s sun baked bricks. If I fall and die, it will still have been worth it, she had thought. North they flew, beyond the river, Drogon gliding on torn and tattered wings through clouds that whipped by like the banners of some ghostly army. Dany glimpsed the shores of Slaver’s Bay and the old Valyrian road that ran beside it through sand and desolation until it vanished in the west. The road home. Then there was nothing beneath them but grass rippling in the wind. (aDwD, Daenerys X)

First_Flight_by_Jake_Murray
First Flight, by Jake Murray

But Dany’s growth of wings will not stop with Drogon’s wings. After all, if the sail of Balerion the ship represents Dany’s wings at the start of aSoS, what does a fleet of Kraken sails flying dragon banners on Dany’s side represent?

Victarion sets sails from the Shields with ninety-three sails.At the Stepstones, he catches a fat merchant cog, and three more cogs, a galleas and galley, bringing the number to ninety-nine ships, but only ninety-eight sails (I’m discounting the galley). But the storms after the Stepstones wreck part of the fleet to forty-five. He did take nine more prizes, making it a total of fifty-four. These ships are cogs, fishing boats and slavers (presumably galleys). None of them are warships. So, Victarion’s fleet shrinking reflects Dany’s clipping of her wings while she stays in Meereen, and instead of continuing to conquer decides to plant trees. Victarion sails from the Island of Cedars with fifty-three ships, leaving one behind to inform lagging ships where he sailed off to. Along the way, he captures more ships, totalling sixty-one. Since at least one of them is a galley, we have to round it to a maximum of sixty sails. But we can expect the numbers of sails to increase from the Winds of Winter onwards.

Victarion Greyjoy turned back toward the prow, his gaze sweeping across his fleet. Longships filled the sea, sails furled and oars shipped, floating at anchor or run up on the pale sand shore. (aDwD, The Iron Suitor)

Of note specifically is the cog the Noble Lady.

The Noble Lady was a tub of a ship, as fat and wallowing as the noble ladies of the green lands.Her holds were huge, and Victarion packed them with armed men. With her would sail the other, lesser prizes that the Iron Fleet had taken on its long voyage to Slaver’s Bay, a lubberly assortment of cogs, great cogs,carracks, and trading galleys salted here and there with fishing boats. (tWoW excerpt, Victarion I)

It may not bemore opposite a physical description to Dany’s human form, but a dragon is not dainty except as hatchling.

Likewise, as Victarion is about to join Dany’s forces at Meereen with his fleet, so do the Windblown (2000 mounted horses) of the Tattered Prince after Barristan Selmy agrees to the deal to acquire Pentos for them.

DiegoGisbertLlorens_tattered_princeII
The Tattered Prince, by Diego Gisbert Llorens

The name alone of the company ties them to dragons and wings, or if you will sailing ships, which I pointed out represent dragons at sea. Remember that Dany complimented Drogo after he gifted her the silver filly, by saying he had given her “the wind”. And then there is the name of the Tattered Prince. Rags and tatters remind us of Dany’s dragon wish to play barefoot in rags outside the walls of Pentos – to be wild – as well as her appearance by the end of aDwD.

Even the commander of the Windblown kept his true name to himself. […] The Windblown went back thirty years, and had known but one commander, the soft-spoken, sad-eyed Pentoshi nobleman called the Tattered Prince. His hair and mail were silver-grey, but his ragged cloak was made of twists of cloth of many colors, blue and grey and purple, red and gold and green, magenta and vermilion and cerulean, all faded by the sun. When the Tattered Prince was three-and-twenty, as Dick Straw told the story, the magisters of Pentos had chosen him to be their new prince, hours after beheading their old prince. Instead he’d buckled on a sword, mounted his favorite horse, and fled to the Disputed Lands, never to return. (aDwD, The Windblown)

Dany’s clothes were hardly more than rags, and offered little in the way of warmth. One of her sandals had slipped off during her wild flight from Meereen and she had left the other up by Drogon’s cave, preferring to go barefoot rather than half-shod. Her tokar and veils she had abandoned in the pit, and her linen undertunic had never been made to withstand the hot days and cold nights of the Dothraki sea. Sweat and grass and dirt had stained it, and Dany had torn a strip off the hem to make a bandage for her shin. I must look a ragged thing, and starved, she thought, but if the days stay warm, I will not freeze. (aDwD, Daenerys X)

The Tattered Prince was a man who left Pentos after being selected their ceremonial prince, with the potential to be sacrificed. And of course, in High Valyrian we could translate the title Tattered Prince into the Tattered Dragon.

There have been numerous proposals regarding the identity of the Tattered Prince through the years, since aDwD was published, many of them involving parallels to Targaryens. Some readers propose he has some Targaryen ancestry, like Brown Ben Plumm does, others identify him as a tangential unnaccounted non-Targaryen historical character based on Targaryen historical ties and stories. At the very least these proposals over the years show that readers pick up on dragon-related ties to this figure. And I do think that is because George wrote him to be compared to a dragon on a meta-level at least.

In the yellow candlelight his silver-grey hair seemed almost golden, though the pouches underneath his eyes were etched as large as saddlebags. […] “My ragged raiment?” The Pentoshi gave a shrug. “A poor thing … yet those tatters fill my foes with fear, and on the battlefield the sight of my rags blowing in the wind emboldens my men more than any banner. […] Tattered and twisty, what a rogue I am.” (aDwD, The Spurned Suitor)

His tattered cloak has a similar impact as a dragon’s wings. In fact, Drogon’s wings were tattered and torn in part at Daznak’s Pit.

North they flew, beyond the river, Drogon gliding on torn and tattered wings through clouds that whipped by like the banners of some ghostly army. (aDwD, Daenerys X)

Initially the Windblown fight alongside the side of the Yunkai, at least at Astapor, but the Tattered Prince sends Quentyn and his friends into Meereen to offer Dany a deal, so the Tattered Prince and Windblown can join her side.

“Your Grace. We set the woman Meris free, as you commanded. Before she went, she asked to speak with you. I met with her instead. She claims this Tattered Prince meant to bring the Windblown over to your cause from the beginning. That he sent her here to treat with you secretly, but the Dornishmen unmasked them and betrayed them before she could make her own approach.” […] “The Tattered Prince will want more than coin, Your Grace. Meris says that he wants Pentos.” […] “He would be willing to wait, the woman Meris suggested. Until we march for Westeros.” (aDwD, Daenerys IX)

At the time, Dany rejects the offer, since she regards Illyrio as an ally and benefactor. Later, when Dany is still lost to Meereen at the Dothraki Sea, Selmy agrees to the deal with the Tattered Prince in return for the Windblown rescuing the hostages such as Daario in Yunkai’s camp.

“What did Prince Quentyn promise the Tattered Prince in return for all this help?” He got no answer. Ser Gerris looked at Ser Archibald. Ser Archibald looked at his hands, the floor, the door. “Pentos,” said Ser Barristan. “He promised him Pentos. Say it. No words of yours can help or harm Prince Quentyn now.”
“Aye,” said Ser Archibald unhappily. “It was Pentos. They made marks on a paper, the two of them.”
There is a chance here. “We still have Windblown in the dungeons. Those feigned deserters.” […] “I mean to send them back to the Tattered Prince. And you with them. You will be two amongst thousands. Your presence in the Yunkish camps should pass unnoticed. I want you to deliver a message to the Tattered Prince. Tell him that I sent you, that I speak with the queen’s voice. Tell him that we’ll pay his price if he delivers us our hostages, unharmed and whole.” (aDwD, The Queen’s Hand)

In the ninth chapter of aDwD, we may imagine Dany would not be pleased whatsoever with Selmy for making such an agreement with the Tattered Prince on her behalf. The tattered and ragged Dany on Drogon’s back who realized the locusts were poisoned might consider it at least out of necessity. Once she learns from Tyrion that Illyrio had Aegon taken care of for over a decade (with guard, halfmaester and fallen septa) and got the Golden Company for him, Dany is unlikely to still have issues with gifting Pentos to the Tattered Prince. Illyrio had her married off to a horselord for an uncertain army like the Dothraki for her now dead brother. They never had any guards before being taken in, no maester, no septa. The discrepancies would make Dany – already more suspicous against betrayal and treason – not think kindly of Illyrio anymore, even perhaps eager to destroy Pentos. So, in that sense the Tattered Prince ensures the rest of Dany’s dragon body will already prepare to take Pentos mentally, while she is absent.

Through Quentyn’s failed plan, the Tattered Prince is also responsible for freeing Viserion and Rhaegal from their captivity.

This is not the sole sellsword company allied to Dany. There are the Second Sons too. Initially they are led by the Braavosi Mero, nicknamed the Titan’s Bastard. The Second Sons are hired by Yunkai to defend the city against Dany’s army in aSoS. She invites him for parlay, but he goes no further than to agree to mull Dany’s proposal over a casket of wine. That night, Dany has her men attack the companies and Mero “flees”. Brown Ben Plumm is chosen to lead the Second Sons after this. And of him we know he has at least one drop of Targaryen dragon blood, if not two.

But as Brown Ben was leaving, Viserion spread his pale white wings and flapped lazily at his head. One of the wings buffeted the sellsword in his face. The white dragon landed awkwardly with one foot on the man’s head and one on his shoulder, shrieked, and flew off again. “He likes you, Ben,” said Dany.
“And well he might.” Brown Ben laughed. “I have me a drop of the dragon blood myself, you know.” […] “Well,” said Brown Ben, “there was some old Plumm in the Sunset Kingdoms who wed a dragon princess. My grandmama told me the tale. He lived in King Aegon’s day.” (aSoS, Daenerys V)

And we learn of this as Viserion pointedly and repeatedly flaps his wings into Brown Benn’s face. It is as if Viserion is indicating here – this guy here represents dragon’s wings. And now we can even sympathize with Brown Benn for deciding to leave Dany’s side at Meereen after she locked her dragons in chains in one of the pyramids. It would have been to him as if he had been chained and wingclipped himself. Ben effectively remains neutral when Selmy performs his sortie in the excerpts of tWoW, playing cyvasse with Tyrion instead and ignoring the Yunkai orders. But once Viserion and Rhaegal are flying free, and the Tattered “Dragon” has turned his cloak to Dany’s side, so does Brown Ben.

And then finally we have the Stormcrows, led by Daario Naharys, of 500 horse. With the Stormcrows we already have a wing anology, not to mention the storm-tie to Daenerys Stormborn. Birds may not be dragons, but twice we have a bird analogy to a dragon. The latest is the most obvious one:

Thrice that day she caught sight of Drogon. Once he was so far off that he might have been an eagle, slipping in and out of distant clouds, but Dany knew the look of him by now, even when he was no more than a speck. (aDwD, Daenerys X)

The first time is in Dany’s third chapter of aGoT. When she decides to explore the Dothraki Sea by herself, ordering Jorah to command those riding with her to remain behind, she notices a falcon circling above her.

The sky was a deep blue, and high above them a hunting hawk circled. The grass sea swayed and sighed with each breath of wind, the air was warm on her face, and Dany felt at peace. She would not let Viserys spoil it. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

In the bear-stuff (see the bear and maiden fair essays), George uses birds as spirit companions of bear characters. He may not have restricted to bears alone, but to dragon characters as well. With black bears of the Night’s Watch the ravens are vegetarians, since black bears are vegetarian. The nature of a dragon is that of a hunter, a predator, and thus we get birds that hunt here. This is exemplified in the ending of Dany’s last chapter of aDwD, after she abandons any mental concept of being a queen of Meereen and commits to hunting horsemeat (and perhaps scout).

Dany leapt onto [Drogon’s] back. She stank of blood and sweat and fear, but none of that mattered. “To go forward I must go back,” she said. Her bare legs tightened around the dragon’s neck. She kicked him, and Drogon threw himself into the sky. Her whip was gone, so she used her hands and feet and turned him north by east, the way the scout had gone. Drogon went willingly enough; perhaps he smelled the rider’s fear. (aDwD, Daenerys X)

She ends up eating charred horsemeat alongside Drogon like an animal, on the same spot where it died, surrounded by burning grass.

The carcass was too heavy for [Drogon] to bear back to his lair, so Drogon consumed his kill there, tearing at the charred flesh as the grasses burned around them, the air thick with drifting smoke and the smell of burnt horsehair. Dany, starved, slid off his back and ate with him, ripping chunks of smoking meat from the dead horse with bare, burned hands. (aDwD, Daenerys X)

And so yes, the Stormcrows certainly may represent wings of Dany the Dragon, as well as her spirit. While I take Old Nan’s words about crows being liars and how it is used amongst the fandom with a grain of salt for a man who forgot the many names he once had, the choice of the name Stormcrows by George is no accident here. No, I do not mean to say that Dany has the spirit of a liar, though she does use deception and lies as a war tactic at Astapor and Yunkai. What I mean is that it implies that the leader of the Stormcrows is not who he claims to be – just a Tyroshi. If Ben Plumm is a dragon, and the Tattered Prince at the very least symbolically a Tattered Dragon, then so must be Daario Naharis. Who or which line is still up for speculation. Personally, I believe Daario to be the Blackfyre descendant in the novels, over Aegon (see House Blackfyre and Lady Blizzardborn’s case on it.). And thus Daario’s “nature” or “spirit” is Dany’s dragon-nature too, which is a sellsword nature over that of a Serwyn-nature. Hence a part of her wingspan is made up from three sellsword companies at the beginning of tWoW.

If in thought we add the Dothraki brought to heel to Dany and Drogon, and see all of her army spread across the land, the fleet sail across the sees, all the way to Pentos, we can see how Dany becomes the Dragon that Mounts the World. After all, a stallion or mare are but the wings of a dragon.

The Whipping Tail
Sara_Biddle_Harpy's_ScourgeII
The Harpy’s Scourge, by Sara Biddle

A dragon is not solely wings. Especially with hatchlings their tail is noticeable as well. Flying away or whipping a threat with their tail is all they can do in the beginning. Their teeth and claws are but tiny needles, and they have no firepower yet. And so it is too with Dany after she hatched at her wedding to Khal Drogo. She has wings with her silver and a tail in Jhogo’s whip. Let that just be the sole weapon used against Viserys during Dany’s confrontation with him at the Dothraki Sea.

Crack. The whip made a sound like thunder. The coil took Viserys around the throat and yanked him backward. He went sprawling in the grass, stunned and choking. […] Her brother was on his knees, his fingers digging under the leather coils, crying incoherently, struggling for breath. The whip was tight around his windpipe. […] Jhogo gave a pull on the whip, yanking Viserys around like a puppet on a string. He went sprawling again, freed from the leather embrace, a thin line of blood under his chin where the whip had cut deep. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Notice the mention of leather coils, and how the scene becomes the image of a dragon tail catching prey or attacker, or simply used to hold on.

The cream-colored dragon sunk sharp black claws into the lion’s mane and coiled its tail around her arm, while Ser Jorah took his accustomed place by her side. (aCoK, Daenerys I)

In Part I – The Slaying Saint George’s Dragon, I argued Jhogo’s whip was an extension of a girdle in Dany’s third chapter of aGoT. In the other two confrontations between Dany and Viserys in the consecutive chapters, we have only belts and no whip anymore. The reason George used belts in the other scenes was to explicitly have pinpointers to the re-enactment of the Saint George legend. In the scene in the Dothraki Sea, however, the whip serves two purposes:

  • as an extension of a girdle,
  • but also to reflect Dany’s physical dragon features. In that scene Dany compares visibly best to a young dragon of tail, wings and bones in the wilderness.

In Part I, I also argued that since Jhogo is one of her khas, and later on her ko (blood of my blood), Jhogo’s whip is actually Dany’s whip or girdle.

She turned to the three young warriors of her khas. “Jhogo, to you I give the silver-handled whip that was my bride gift, and name you ko, and ask your oath, that you will live and die as blood of my blood, riding at my side to keep me safe from harm.” (aGoT, Daenerys X)

However as an extension, we must see not just the whip, but Jhogo as a functioning part of Dany’s dragon body. Jhogo himself functions as Dany’s tail here, like the sellsword commanders and their companies on horseback represent her wingspan.

The next scene that involves Dany’s tail is the capture of the wine seller after he betrays himself to be false.

The wineseller shrugged, reached for the cup … and grabbed the cask instead, flinging it at her with both hands. Ser Jorah bulled into her, knocking her out of the way. The cask bounced off his shoulder and smashed open on the ground. Dany stumbled and lost her feet. “No,” she screamed, thrusting her hands out to break her fall … and Doreah caught her by the arm and wrenched her backward, so she landed on her legs and not her belly. The trader vaulted over the stall, darting between Aggo and Rakharo. Quaro reached for an arakh that was not there as the blond man slammed him aside. He raced down the aisle. Dany heard the snap of Jhogo’s whip, saw the leather lick out and coil around the wineseller’s leg. The man sprawled face first in the dirt. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

Notice that while several men try to capture the wine seller, the sole one who is successful is Jhogo with his whip. Why the others fail in capturing him, we will explore in later sections, but basically this is because they all represent a dragon body part that hatchling Dany has not yet under control or is underdeveloped. All she has at this point are her wings and tail.

When Jhogo whipped the tail during the confrontation with Viserys at the Dothraki Sea, this was an instinctive reaction of which Dany had little control over, except to let him go in the end, not unlike Dany’s later dragon hatchlings lash their tails in anger.

Across the tent, Rhaegal unfolded green wings to flap and flutter a half foot before thumping to the carpet. When he landed, his tail lashed back and forth in fury, and he raised his head and screamed. (aCoK, Daenerys I)

But by the time, Jorah hints that the wine seller may have the intention to poison Dany, she has more control over her tail.

Jhogo reached for the whip coiled at his belt, but Dany stopped him with a light touch on the arm. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

The end of the chapter dispells any notion that Jhogo and the whip are a seperate entity from Dany: the captive is chained to Dany’s silver (her wings).

Khal Drogo led [the khalasar] on his great red stallion, with Daenerys beside him on her silver. The wineseller hurried behind them, naked, on foot, chained at throat and wrists. His chains were fastened to the halter of Dany’s silver. As she rode, he ran after her, barefoot and stumbling. No harm would come to him … so long as he kept up. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

As a princess, Dany rides the would-be assassin out of the city to his death by a secure girdle. As a dragon, she flies off with the wineseller forced to hang on to her tail.

As we have had before, in this chapter too, we see references to the Saint George legend as well as Dany acting like a true dragon, albeit a hatchling. This seems odd, since Viserys is dead already. But when we focus on the description of the wineseller, we discover hints to regard him as a ghost of Voserys.

He was a small man, slender and handsome, his flaxen hair curled and perfumed after the fashion of Lys. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

The combination of being handsome, flaxen hair and smells of Lys implies he is meant to be seen as a shadow of Viserys. While Volantis claims to have preserved Valyrian nobility after the Doom, it is in Lys that the Valyrian features are the most prevalent.

The Lyseni themselves are beautiful as well, for here more than anywhere else in the known world the old Valyrian bloodlines still run strong. […] The Lyseni are also great breeders of slaves, mating beauty with beauty in hopes of producing ever more refined and lovely courtesans and bedslaves. The blood of Valyria still runs strong in Lys, where even the smallfolk oft boast pale skin, silver-gold hair, and the purple, lilac, and pale blue eyes of the dragonlords of old. (tWoIaF – The Free Cities: The Quarrelsome Daughters: Myr, Lys and Tyrosh)

In other words, Lys is full of common men and women who may look like dragonlords of old, but none of them are “dragons”. And so, when Dany decides that Viserys is not a dragon at the end of her fifth chapter in aGoT, she determines he is no more different than a Lyseni: Valyrian looks, but no dragonrider blood. Notice how the world book mentions lilac eyes amongst the Lyseni. In the novels only two Valyrian looking men have lilac eyes: Viserys and the Lyseni spymaster of the Golden Company Lysono Maar.

The spymaster was new to Griff, a Lyseni named Lysono Maar, with lilac eyes and white-gold hair and lips that would have been the envy of a whore. (aDwD, The Lost Lord (Jon Connington I))

[…] Arianne’s company was met by a column of sellswords down from Griffin’s Roost, led by the most exotic creature that the princess had ever laid her eyes on, with painted fingernails and gemstones sparkling in his ears. Lysono Maar spoke the Common Tongue very well. “I have the honor to be the eyes and ears of the Golden Company, princess.”
You look…” She hesitated.[…] “…like a Targaryen,” Arianne insisted. His eyes were a pale lilac, his hair a waterfall of white and gold. All the same, something about him made her skin crawl. Was this what Viserys looked like? she found herself wondering. If so perhaps it is a good thing he is dead. (tWoW excerpt, Arianne II)

Lysono Maar may look like a Targaryen, like Viserys, but he is no dragon. He is just a man, as was Viserys.

George did not give us the color of eyes of the wine merchant. It does not matter. The Lyseni perfume links the merchant in a similar manner to Viserys as George does with Lysono Maar with the lilac eyes, just less explicitly as GRRM does in Arianne’s excerpt of tWoW.

“Tell me,” she commanded as she lowered herself onto her cushions. “Was it the Usurper?”
“Yes.” The knight drew out a folded parchment. “A letter to Viserys, from Magister Illyrio. Robert Baratheon offers lands and lordships for your death, or your brother’s.
My brother?” Her sob was half a laugh. “He does not know yet, does he? The Usurper owes Drogo a lordship.” This time her laugh was half a sob. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

Important here is that as I showed in Part 1 of Dany’s essays related to Serwyn and Saint George is that now we have four chapters that allude to the Saint George legend, in which Dany is the actual dragon, each time trumping Viserys or a reminder/ghost/shadow of him. Only in two of those chaptures, the whip is specifically featured, rather than the belt. And now that we know the whip is not just a stand-in girdle, but a dragon’s tail, we have to look what else these particular whip-chapters have in common.  The answer is that in both chapters Dany manages to convert someone’s mind to do what she wishes.

  • In the Dothraki Sea, the capture of Viserys with Dany’s tail converts Jorah enough to obey Dany’s command over that of Viserys, despite the fact he swore his sword to Viserys. And while Jorah may not swear his sword to Dany until the end of aGoT, and he continues to spy on Dany until Qarth, he does as she commands when it comes to Viserys afterwards.
  • In the sixth chapter, Dany converts Jorah to get Drogo to agree into taking the Iron Throne, even though Viserys is dead.

Many readers remember the chapter structure as Dany fails at convincing Drogo to take the Iron Throne for their unborn son, but Drogo changes his mind after the assassination attempt. At best, some remember that Jorah said something that helped Drogo in changing his mind. Most readers forget though that Dany attempts to recruit Jorah for this goal.

Let us go through the chapter’s structure. It starts with Drogo dismissing Dany’s efforts to convince him to take the Iron Throne.

The khal’s mouth twisted in a frown beneath the droop of his long mustachio. “The stallion who mounts the world has no need of iron chairs.” (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

This is how the dialogue begins for the reader, but it is evident there was a dialogue before Drogo’s rejection of the idea. Except we get to read the end of a love-making scene. So, Dany first introduced the idea to Drogo, then they made love, and Dany and Drogo continued the discussion after.

Nor was it the first time that Dany brought up the subject.

“In the Free Cities, there are ships by the thousand,” Dany told him, as she had told him before. “Wooden horses with a hundred legs, that fly across the sea on wings full of wind.” (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

Though Drogo decrees the subject closed and Dany predends to acquiesce, she has no such intention.

Khal Drogo did not want to hear it. “We will speak no more of wooden horses and iron chairs.” He dropped the cloth and began to dress. “This day I will go to the grass and hunt, woman wife,” he announced as he shrugged into a painted vest and buckled on a wide belt with heavy medallions of silver, gold, and bronze.
Yes, my sun-and-stars,” Dany said. Drogo would take his bloodriders and ride in search of hrakkar, the great white lion of the plains. If they returned triumphant, her lord husband’s joy would be fierce, and he might be willing to hear her out. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

She intends to bring it up again the moment he returns from his hunt and feels triumphant and joyful.

From these paragraphs we glean the following:

  • Initially, she tried to convince Drogo with rational arguments;
  • when that failed, she aimed to use love-making to bring Drogo into an emotional state where he would overcome his objections. (this is not uncommon in relations).
  • That failed as well, but she has no intention of giving up, and hopes Drogo’s emotional state after a successful hunt will do the trick.

So, the chapter sets Dany up as using Drogo’s emotional state to get her wish granted. All she requires is the right opportunity that would make Drogo vulnerable to making a decision based on emotions rather than rationale.

Dany also comes to the realisation that she cannot convince Drogo by herself alone. And so, she attempts to recruit Jorah to help her in this.

As Doreah combed out her hair, she sent Jhiqui to find Ser Jorah Mormont. The knight came at once. He wore horsehair leggings and painted vest, like a rider. Coarse black hair covered his thick chest and muscular arms. “My princess. How may I serve you?”
You must talk to my lord husband,” Dany said. “Drogo says the stallion who mounts the world will have all the lands of the earth to rule, and no need to cross the poison water. He talks of leading his khalasar east after Rhaego is born, to plunder the lands around the Jade Sea.”
The knight looked thoughtful. “The khal has never seen the Seven Kingdoms,” he said. “They are nothing to him. If he thinks of them at all, no doubt he thinks of islands, a few small cities clinging to rocks in the manner of Lorath or Lys, surrounded by stormy seas. The riches of the east must seem a more tempting prospect.”
“But he must ride west,” Dany said, despairing. “Please, help me make him understand.” […]
“The Dothraki do things in their own time, for their own reasons,” the knight answered. “Have patience, Princess. Do not make your brother’s mistake. We will go home, I promise you.” (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

Jorah does not acquiesce here. Not yet. At this point, he is still hoping to get news from Illyrio about Robert’s potential pardon of him. Perhaps he believes Robert Baratheon is the easiest and safest bet to get back home to Bear Island and be Lord Mormont again. And with Viserys dead, it is doubtful he feared for Dany’s life. So, during the above conversation it is in Jorah’s self-interest to not change Drogo’s mind. But after the assassination attempt, after the whip snapped (again), Jorah does exactly what she asked of him.

Drogo returns in a good mood from his successful hunt, feeling invincible, as Dany had hoped earlier that day.

Cohollo was leading a packhorse behind him, with the carcass of a great white lion slung across its back. Above, the stars were coming out. The khal laughed as he swung down off his stallion and showed her the scars on his leg where the hrakkar had raked him through his leggings. “I shall make you a cloak of its skin, moon of my life,” he swore. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

While he feels invincible, Dany informs Drogo of the events at the market.

When Dany told him what had happened at the market, all laughter stopped, and Khal Drogo grew very quiet.

Remember, that her third chapter in aGoT already establishes as Dany having the legal power over life and death over anyone who threatens her, when Jhogo asked her whether he should kill Viserys for her (see Dany I). And that she also covered for Viserys twice about informing her husband about a threat to her life. So, Dany does not reveal the poisoning attempt to just see the poisoner punished, but to steer Drogo into an emotional state against Robert Baratheon – namely anger.

Meanwhile, Jorah’s argument is the deal breaker. He claims that more assassins will come.

This poisoner was the first,” Ser Jorah Mormont warned him, “but he will not be the last. Men will risk much for a lordship.” (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

Jorah implies that executing the assassin will not suffice; there will be more until either Robert gets the news that Dany is dead or until Robert is dead. He knew very well that this argument would make a proud khal – who feels himself invincible, who loves his wife, who is looking forward to his son being born – decide to invade Westeros and try and take the throne of Robert Baratheon. Jorah knew this, because he’s been smitten with a woman himself and made foolish choices for her – he won a tourney for her; he got himself into debt for her; he sold poachers into slavery for her; he fled into exile for her.

Now, Drogo’s first decision – the wine seller’s fate, horse gifts for Jhogo and Jorah – would have happened whether Jorah spoke up or not.

Drogo was silent for a time. Finally he said, “This seller of poisons ran from the moon of my life. Better he should run after her. So he will. Jhogo, Jorah the Andal, to each of you I say, choose any horse you wish from my herds, and it is yours. Any horse save my red and the silver that was my bride gift to the moon of my life. I make this gift to you for what you did. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

Drogo would not however have decided to try and invade Westeros without Jorah’s argument.

“And to Rhaego son of Drogo, the stallion who will mount the world, to him I also pledge a gift. To him I will give this iron chair his mother’s father sat in. I will give him Seven Kingdoms. I, Drogo, khal, will do this thing.” His voice rose, and he lifted his fist to the sky. “I will take my khalasar west to where the world ends, and ride the wooden horses across the black salt water as no khal has done before. I will kill the men in the iron suits and tear down their stone houses. I will rape their women, take their children as slaves, and bring their broken gods back to Vaes Dothrak to bow down beneath the Mother of Mountains. This I vow, I, Drogo son of Bharbo. This I swear before the Mother of Mountains, as the stars look down in witness.” (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

And Jorah would not have made the argument without Dany’s request earlier that day.

Since this chapter ends with Dany personally dragging the shadow of her brother (a prince) in the form of the wine seller out of the city Vaes Dothrak, girdled to her wings, we thus have a sinister turn-around of the Saint George legend. In this version, the true dragon starts to convert the citizens slowly but surely into following her wishes.

Such as her khas, as I brought up earlier. She gives them her bride gifts, declaring them to be her kos, before the hatching of her dragon eggs. Initially they refuse, insisting they will accompany her back to Vaes Dothrak as her khas. But after the hatching of the dragon eggs, they accept their new role as khas. Plotwise of course, it is the hatching event and her surviving the fire that alters their mind. But visually, the dragon eggs hatch just after the image of the whip of flame lashes out.

Now, she thought, now, and for an instant she glimpsed Khal Drogo before her, mounted on his smoky stallion, a flaming lash in his hand. He smiled, and the whip snaked down at the pyre, hissing. She heard a crack, the sound of shattering stone. (aGoT, Daenerys X)

Crack. The whip made a sound like thunder. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

And her tail is stronger here, for she announces she is a woman now, instead of a child.

You will be my khalasar,” she told them. “I see the faces of slaves. I free you. Take off your collars. Go if you wish, no one shall harm you. If you stay, it will be as brothers and sisters, husbands and wives.” The black eyes watched her, wary, expressionless. “I see the children, women, the wrinkled faces of the aged. I was a child yesterday. Today I am a woman. Tomorrow I will be old. To each of you I say, give me your hands and your hearts, and there will always be a place for you.” (aGoT, Daenerys X)

Much later in Dany’s arc, several significant events include a whip, growing in size and sound, as she claims people for herself, such as the Harpy’s Scourge.

Dany handed the slaver the end of Drogon’s chain. In return he presented her with the whip. The handle was black dragonbone, elaborately carved and inlaid with gold. Nine long thin leather lashes trailed from it, each one tipped by a gilded claw. The gold pommel was a woman’s head, with pointed ivory teeth. “The harpy’s fingers,” Kraznys named the scourge.
Dany turned the whip in her hand. Such a light thing, to bear such weight. “Is it done, then? Do they belong to me?
“It is done,” he agreed, giving the chain a sharp pull to bring Drogon down from the litter.
Dany mounted her silver. She could feel her heart thumping in her chest. […] She stood in her stirrups and raised the harpy’s fingers above her head for all the Unsullied to see. “IT IS DONE!” she cried at the top of her lungs. “YOU ARE MINE!” She gave the mare her heels and galloped along the first rank, holding the fingers high. “YOU ARE THE DRAGON’S NOW! YOU’RE BOUGHT AND PAID FOR! IT IS DONE! IT IS DONE!” (aSoS, Daenerys II)

A handle of dragonbone, several lashes bound together, each tipped with a claw and the pommel a woman’s head with pointy teeth. The scourge symbolizes every she-dragon attribute. A picture says so much more than thousand words, now that you know her silver are her wings and the whip her tail.

SaraWintersDaenerys
Daenerys (on her wings and tail in hand), by Sara Winters.

Yes, Dany tosses it aside after lashing Kraznys’s face with it and having Drogon set him aflame. And yes, Dany gives the Unsullied their freedom. But she first claimed them to be the dragon’s with her tail, and if whips are a dragon’s tail, then what are lances? Teeth? Claws? For a moment she held the Harpy’s Scourge and made the Unsullied part of her dragon-body, before she told them they were free. The teeth and claws of a dragon cannot practically choose to go their own way from the rest of its body.

And then finally, Dany uses a whip to cow Drogon at the pit.

She scrabbled in the sand, pushing against the pitmaster’s corpse, and her fingers brushed against the handle of his whip. Touching it made her feel braver. The leather was warm, alive. Drogon roared again, the sound so loud that she almost dropped the whip. His teeth snapped at her. Dany hit him. “No,” she screamed, swinging the lash with all the strength that she had in her. The dragon jerked his head back. “No,” she screamed again. “NO!” The barbs raked along his snout. Drogon rose, his wings covering her in shadow. Dany swung the lash at his scaled belly, back and forth until her arm began to ache. His long serpentine neck bent like an archer’s bow. With a hisssssss, he spat black fire down at her. Dany darted underneath the flames, swinging the whip and shouting, “No, no, no. Get DOWN!” His answering roar was full of fear and fury, full of pain. His wings beat once, twice … and folded. The dragon gave one last hiss and stretched out flat upon his belly. (aDwD, Daenerys IX)

Like the wings, the whips also grow and mature in size. First we had Jhogo’s single whip, then we have the Harpy’s Scourge. Finally, the whip at the pit has barbs on it, just like an adult dragon’s tail has spikes on it. By cowing Drogon with her own barbed tail, Dany makes him hers.

Marc_Simonetti_mother_and_son
Mother and Son, by Marc Simonetti
Teeth, claws and firepower

If the whip is Dany’s tail and her silver her hatchling wings, then what are her teeth, claws and firepower? Well, George has swords named as teeth and claws.

[Joffrey] drew his sword and showed it to her; a longsword adroitly shrunken to suit a boy of twelve, gleaming blue steel, castle-forged and double-edged, with a leather grip and a lion’s-head pommel in gold. Sansa exclaimed over it admiringly, and Joffrey looked pleased. “I call it Lion’s Tooth,” he said. (aGoT, Sansa I)

Longclaw is an apt name.” Jon tried a practice cut. He was clumsy and uncomfortable with his left hand, yet even so the steel seemed to flow through the air, as if it had a will of its own. “Wolves have claws, as much as bears.” (aGoT, Jon VIII)

And so do dragons, Jon!

We thus can deduce that arakhs represent the teeth, as their shape can be likened most to teeth.

The teeth [of the dragon skulls] were long, curving knives of black diamond. (aGoT, Tyrion II)

[Dany] heard a shout, saw a shove, and in the blink of an eye the arakhs were out, long razor-sharp blades, half sword and half scythe. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

drogosarakh-jbcasacop
Drogo’s arakh, by JB Casacop

Meanwhile Jorah’s prior Valyrian sword was Longclaw. He might not fight with that particular sword anymore, but we can still regard his swordfighting as an extension of a claw – a dragonclaw.

Finally, a dragon has firepower at some point. While by the end of aCoK actual dragonfire is used in protection of Dany in the House of the Undying, she also had dragonfire in another form – namely, arrows from bows.

However, in their early hatchling stages, dragons mostly have to rely on their wings and tail to protect themselves from coming to harm. Initially, their teeth and claws are nothing but tiny black needles.

Initially, solely steam will rise from their nostrils. Others have to char the meat for Dany’s hatchlings.

Such little things, she thought as she fed them by hand. Or rather, tried to feed them, for the dragons would not eat. They would hiss and spit at each bloody morsel of horsemeat, steam rising from their nostrils, yet they would not take the food . . . until Dany recalled something Viserys had told her when they were children. Only dragons and men eat cooked meat, he had said. When she had her handmaids char the horsemeat black, the dragons ripped at it eagerly, their heads striking like snakes. So long as the meat was seared, they gulped down several times their own weight every day, and at last began to grow larger and tronger. (aCoK, Daenerys I)

With this we get the reference of Dany taking steam baths.

They filled her bath with hot water brought up from the kitchen and scented it with fragrant oils. The girl pulled the rough cotton tunic over Dany’s head and helped her into the tub. The water was scalding hot, but Daenerys did not flinch or cry out. She liked the heat. It made her feel clean. Besides, her brother had often told her that it was never too hot for a Targaryen. “Ours is the house of the dragon,” he would say. “The fire is in our blood.” (aGoT, Daenerys I)

She commanded her handmaids to prepare her a bath. Doreah built a fire outside the tent, while Irri and Jhiqui fetched the big copper tub—another bride gift—from the packhorses and carried water from the pool. When the bath was steaming, Irri helped her into it and climbed in after her. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

“Jhiqui, a bath, please,” she commanded, to wash the dust of travel from her skin and soak her weary bones. It was pleasant to know that they would linger here for a while, that she would not need to climb back on her silver on the morrow. The water was scalding hot, as she liked it. (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

In the first chapter then, Dany is the egg heating up, while in the third and fourth chapter we have the picture of Dany steaming, but not yet producing flame. In the sixth chapter and after she orders fires being built – but does not do so herself, not until the pyre – when she sets it aflame after taking a hot steaming bath.

Her bath was scalding hot when Irri helped her into the tub, but Dany did not flinch or cry aloud. She liked the heat. It made her feel clean. Jhiqui had scented the water with the oils she had found in the market in Vaes Dothrak; the steam rose moist and fragrant. […] Dany took the torch from Aggo’s hand and thrust it between the logs. The oil took the fire at once, the brush and dried grass a heartbeat later. Tiny flames went darting up the wood like swift red mice, skating over the oil and leaping from bark to branch to leaf. A rising heat puffed at her face, soft and sudden as a lover’s breath, but in seconds it had grown too hot to bear. (aGoT, Daenerys X)

It takes almost a whole novel (aCoK), before Dany’s hatchlings can produce flame of their own and use their claws and teeths to rip at a living enemy.

Drogon’s long neck snaked out and he opened his mouth to scream, steam rising from between his teeth. […] Then indigo turned to orange, and whispers turned to screams. […] Perched above her, the dragon spread his wings and tore at the terrible dark heart, ripping the rotten flesh to ribbons, and when his head snapped forward, fire flew from his open jaws, bright and hot. She could hear the shrieks of the Undying as they burned, their high thin papery voices crying out in tongues long dead. Their flesh was crumbling parchment, their bones dry wood soaked in tallow. They danced as the flames consumed them; they staggered and writhed and spun and raised blazing hands on high, their fingers bright as torches. (aCoK, Daenerys IV)

Dany in the House of the Undying Mike S Miller
Dany in the House of the Undying, by Mike S. Miller

Hence, if my proposal to regard Dany’s human guards and their weapons as a part of her dragon’s body is correct, we should not see those guards being able to use the arakhs, swords and bows successfully towards the end of aGoT, almost a complete novel after she was hatched at her wedding.

Remember the scene where Jhogo captures the wine seller? All but Jhogo of her khas failed at stopping him.

The trader vaulted over the stall, darting between Aggo and Rakharo. Quaro reached for an arakh that was not there as the blond man slammed him aside. He raced down the aisle. Dany heard the snap of Jhogo’s whip, saw the leather lick out and coil around the wineseller’s leg. The man sprawled face first in the dirt. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

Neither Aggo or Rhakaro have time to respond. Solely Quaro makes the attempt, but finds his arakh missing. Aggo’s weapon is the bow, Rakharo’s and Quaro’s are the arakhs. In-world, they cannot carry their weapons, because in Vaes Dothrak it is forbidden to draw blood. But in the meta-layer, the absence of their weapons works since a hatchling’s teeth and claws are nothing but tiny black needles.

But when we turn towards the fighting scenes during Mirri Maz Dur working her ritual to save Drogo from death, Dany has grown as dragon, and therefore is able to use her “teeth”, “claws” and “firepower” in unison to defend herself from physical harm.

Drogo’s kos arrive at the scene and want to stop the ritual. A fight breaks out between Drogo’s kos and Dany’s khas plus Jorah. Now, if we regard Dany’s khas and Jorah as her teeth, claws and firepower, then we can regard Drogo’s blood-of-his-blood as his teeth and claws. I do not claim here that we ought to regard Drogon as a dragon too, but we certainly can view him (and his people) as a fiery predator. And while Dany is nearly a drake (half-grown dragon), Drogo is a grown predator. Dothraki have a predatory culture after all, even hunting other predators (such as the white lion or attacking and enslaving other khalasars). Meanwhile many readers have grown more convinced that Danny or Drogon will end up being “the stallion that mounts the world”, which is a Dothraki prophecy, and long time viewed by them as a prophecy of their own. George might describe the Dothraki as dragonlike if we were to ask him, in the same vein that Jon Snow considers giants to be bearlike.

This take also implies we should regard the fighting between Dany’s khas and and Drogo’s kos not just as a battle between Dany and her husband’s close-minded bodyguards, but as a battle of wills between Dany and Drogo themselves.

This must not be,” Qotho thundered. She had not seen the bloodrider return. Haggo and Cohollo were with him. (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

It would mean that while at death’s door, Drogo is an unwilling patient to Mirri treating him.

Now let us inspect the fighting scene itself.

You will die, maegi,” Qotho promised, “but the other must die first.” He drew his arakh and made for the tent. “No,” she shouted, “you mustn’t.” She caught him by the shoulder, but Qotho shoved her aside. Dany fell to her knees, crossing her arms over her belly to protect the child within. “Stop him,” she commanded her khas, “kill him.” (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

Upon, Dany’s command, Quaro reaches for the handle of his whip. This is Dany using her tail.

Rakharo and Quaro stood beside the tent flap. Quaro took a step forward, reaching for the handle of his whip, but Qotho spun graceful as a dancer, the curved arakh rising. It caught Quaro low under the arm, the bright sharp steel biting up through leather and skin, through muscle and rib bone. Blood fountained as the young rider reeled backward, gasping. (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

A hatchling’s tail alone is no match against a predator’s mature teeth. And so, Drogo’s teeth rips or chews off the tip of Dany’s tail here. And chopped off bodyparts die off.

The Dothraki were shouting, Mirri Maz Duur wailing inside the tent like nothing human, Quaro pleading for water as he died. (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

At this point Jorah jumps in to take on Qotho.

Qotho wrenched the blade free. “Horselord,” Ser Jorah Mormont called. “Try me.” His longsword slid from its scabbard. (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

Jorah here acts as Dany’s claws, while his chainmail represents Dany’s now tougher dragon skin around the limbs and throat.

The knight was clad in chainmail, with gauntlets and greaves of lobstered steel and a heavy gorget around his throat, but he had not thought to don his helm. (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

Jorah is an accomplished and experienced fighter. He fought in Robert’s Rebellion for Ned Stark, was one of the first men who broke through the defences of the Greyjoys at Pyke during their rebellion, and a longtime sellsword in Essos. And yet, despite this George has him written as a fighter who nearly lost against Qotho.

Qotho danced backward, arakh whirling around his head in a shining blur, flickering out like lightning as the knight came on in a rush. Ser Jorah parried as best he could, but the slashes came so fast that it seemed to Dany that Qotho had four arakhs and as many arms. She heard the crunch of sword on mail, saw sparks fly as the long curved blade glanced off a gauntlet. Suddenly it was Mormont stumbling backward, and Qotho leaping to the attack. The left side of the knight’s face ran red with blood, and a cut to the hip opened a gash in his mail and left him limping. Qotho screamed taunts at him, calling him a craven, a milk man, a eunuch in an iron suit. “You die now!” he promised, arakh shivering through the red twilight. […] The curved blade slipped past the straight one and bit deep into the knight’s hip where the mail gaped open. Mormont grunted, stumbled. […] Qotho shrieked triumph, but his arakh had found bone, and for half a heartbeat it caught. It was enough. Ser Jorah brought his longsword down with all the strength left him, through flesh and muscle and bone, and Qotho’s forearm dangled loose, flopping on a thin cord of skin and sinew. The knight’s next cut was at the Dothraki’s ear, so savage that Qotho’s face seemed almost to explode. (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

That he makes Jorah end up being wounded that severely seems to make little sense with regards his swordskill and experience. It does make far more sense if he is Dany’s juvenile legs and claws.

Notice how Qotho’s arakh is associated with verbs such as slashing and biting. This matches with the idea of the arakh as teeth. If Qotho and his arakh represent Drogo’s teeth they would slash and bite in a fight with another animal. Meanwhile the image of the four arms imagery and the verb leaping matches with Qotho acting like a four legged predator. Or rather, Drogo is the four legged predator and Qotho is one of the limbs in the fight. We do not have the same imagery for Jorah, because George’s dragons do not have four legs – they have only two legs with the wings being the other two limbs.

Next, pay attention to the wounds. Jorah is cut at the face, but despite him not wearing a helm that cut is never life threatening. Instead Qotho manages to deal two cuts to the hip. The first is severe enough to cause Jorah to limp. The second time it is deep enough to hit the hip bone. Claws are attached to the legs of a dragon, and thus it makes sense for Qotho to majorly wound Jorah at the location where legs are attached to the body. This is further emphasized with Dany not being able to walk or stand by herself during this scene, and Jorah literally being her legs to carry her to Mirri when she goes into labor.

An arm went under her waist, and then Ser Jorah was lifting her off her feet. […] She was being carried. Her eyes opened to gaze up at a flat dead sky, black and bleak and starless. Please, no. The sound of Mirri Maz Duur’s voice grew louder, until it filled the world. The shapes! she screamed. The dancers! Ser Jorah carried her inside the tent. (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

In contrast, Jorah’s most destructive harm to Qotho is to the face, where the teeth are. Jorah also cut off Qotho’s arm: by slaying Qotho, Jorah has taken down one of Drogo’s four limbs.

After Jorah slays Qotho, the fight continues between Rakharo and Haggo. Both use the arakh. And then Jhogo’s whip comes into play. So these are teeth clashing with teeth, until the dragon tail destabilizes the other. Teeth and (remaining) tail were used in unison.

Rakharo was fighting Haggo, arakh dancing with arakh until Jhogo’s whip cracked, loud as thunder, the lash coiling around Haggo’s throat. A yank, and the bloodrider stumbled backward, losing his feet and his sword. Rakharo sprang forward, howling, swinging his arakh down with both hands through the top of Haggo’s head. The point caught between his eyes, red and quivering. (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

Once more, the head is injured, where the teeth are. And Drogo’s sole defense left is Cohollo and his khalasar body: blunt stones and Cohollo’s tiny claw as a knife.

She tried to crawl toward the tent, but Cohollo caught her. Fingers in her hair, he pulled her head back and she felt the cold touch of his knife at her throat. “My baby,” she screamed, and perhaps the gods heard, for as quick as that, Cohollo was dead. Aggo’s arrow took him under the arm, to pierce his lungs and heart. (aGoT, Daenerys IX)

The last limb is taken down with Dany’s first firebolt.

Aggo_by_Cloudninja9
Aggo, by Cloudninja9

So, why the lungs and heart then? It was Drogo’s heart that had blackened that kicked off Dany pleading for Mirri to use magic to save Drogo.

When they were alone, Ser Jorah drew his dagger. Deftly, with a delicacy surprising in such a big man, he began to scrape away the black leaves and dried blue mud from Drogo’s chest. The plaster had caked hard as the mud walls of the Lamb Men, and like those walls it cracked easily. Ser Jorah broke the dry mud with his knife, pried the chunks from the flesh, peeled off the leaves one by one. A foul, sweet smell rose from the wound, so thick it almost choked her. The leaves were crusted with blood and pus, Drogo’s breast black and glistening with corruption. (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

Drogo fought through his kos from that happening to save his soul. But Dany the dragon won that battle once Cohollo goes down. It kills Drogo’s last resistence, his last breath and soul, only to be a healed shell of a body. In a way, Dany the dragon shred and charred Drogo’s heart.  This chapter links to her eating the raw horse heart in Vaes Dothrak and is analogous to Drogon’s later destruction of the rotten indigo “black” heart of the Undying. George makes sure in the relevant ritual chapter that “this is the same”!

“This is bloodmagic,” he said. “It is forbidden.”
“I am khaleesi, and I say it is not forbidden. In Vaes Dothrak, Khal Drogo slew a stallion and I ate his heart, to give our son strength and courage. This is the same. The same.” (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

Though the heart of the stallion in Dany’s fifth chapter was raw, its blood looks black to Dany.

The heart was steaming in the cool evening air when Khal Drogo set it before her, raw and bloody. […] The stallion’s blood looked black in the flickering orange glare of the torches that ringed the high chalk walls of the pit. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

How Dany as a dragon managed to eat and  keep the raw horse heart down, and what the recurrence of this image means we will explore in part III.

Similar analysis of the fighting scene outside the tent during Mirri’s ritual can be done for Dany’s khas and Jorah acting on command to stop the rapes of some of the Lamb women in her seventh chapter. Jhogo uses the arakh to behead a rapist, Jorah claws another while Aggo finishes him with an arrow, aka firebolt.

The rapers laughed at him. One man shouted back. Jhogo’s arakh flashed, and the man’s head went tumbling from his shoulders. Laughter turned to curses as the horsemen reached for weapons, but by then Quaro and Aggo and Rakharo were there. She saw Aggo point across the road to where she sat upon her silver. […] All the while the man atop the lamb girl continued to plunge in and out of her, so intent on his pleasure that he seemed unaware of what was going on around him. Ser Jorah dismounted and wrenched him off with a mailed hand. The Dothraki went sprawling in the mud, bounced up with a knife in hand, and died with Aggo’s arrow through his throat. (aGoT, Daenerys VII)

I have shown in the prior sections how Dany’s wingspan and tail grew in aSoS. This is true for her teeth, claws and firepower. With the grown tail the Harpy’s fingers she claims the Unsullied – 8000 fully trained plus those still in training. This whip features pointy teeth on the woman’s head as pommel and nine claws at each end of the “fingers”.  So, this alone suggests that we ought to see the Unsullied as Dany’s extra teeth and claws.

The weapons of the Unsullied are short spears and swords.

“All the world knows that the Unsullied are masters of spear and shield and shortsword.” […] “They begin their training at five. Every day they train from dawn to dusk, until they have mastered the shortsword, the shield, and the three spears. […]” (aSoS, Daenerys II)

Swords certainly can be either teeth or claws. But then there are also the spears. They can function in two ways – held to stab orthrown. In other words, the spears can act like teeth or claws when used to stab, but function as firepower when thrown. In the later case, they are just large and long arrows. Their shields can be seen as a dragon’s hardened scales.

Unsullied Phalanx by Lincoln Renall
Unsullied Phalanx, by Lincoln Renall

That we are about to see a new set of teeth, claws and firepower, before Dany acquires the Unsullied, is illustrated by Dany noticing Rhakaro and Aggo sharpening the arakh and fitting a new string to the dragonbone bow respectively.

Outside her door she found Aggo fitting a new string to his bow by the light of a swinging oil lamp. Rakharo sat crosslegged on the deck beside him, sharpening his arakh with a whetstone. (aSoS, Daenerys III)

Think of baby animals that start out with milk teeth, but over time these are replaced with larger and stronger ones when they are juveniles, or the vocal chords of boys altering so their voice drops.

In the above quote you can notice how the bow is associated to fire as it is Aggo who is said to work by the light of an oil lamp. This brings us to Dany’s increased dragonfire power. First, her dragons’ fire is hers to command.

She took a chunk of salt pork out of the bowl in her lap and held it up for her dragons to see. All three of them eyed it hungrily. Rhaegal spread green wings and stirred the air, and Viserion’s neck swayed back and forth like a long pale snake’s as he followed the movement of her hand. “Drogon,” Dany said softly, “dracarys.” And she tossed the pork in the air. Drogon moved quicker than a striking cobra. Flame roared from his mouth, orange and scarlet and black, searing the meat before it began to fall. (aSoS, Daenerys I)

The Fall of Astapor is heralded by her double attack on Kraznys. First she slashes his face with the Harpy’s fingers and then orders Drogon to set him aflame.

“There is a reason. A dragon is no slave.” And Dany swept the lash down as hard as she could across the slaver’s face. Kraznys screamed and staggered back, the blood running red down his cheeks into his perfumed beard. The harpy’s fingers had torn his features half to pieces with one slash, but she did not pause to contemplate the ruin. “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. (aSoS, Daenerys III)

Notice how GRRM compares the flame to a lance, which is an alternative word for spear, or a particular type of spear.

Shortly after, she commands the Unsullied to attack, and does so by using the dracarys command, a command they echo.

“Unsullied!” Dany galloped before them, her silver-gold braid flying behind her, her bell chiming with every stride. “Slay the Good Masters, slay the soldiers, slay every man who wears a tokar or holds a whip, but harm no child under twelve, and strike the chains off every slave you see.” She raised the harpy’s fingers in the air . . . and then she flung the scourge aside. “Freedom!” she sang out. “Dracarys! Dracarys!
Dracarys!” they shouted back, the sweetest word she’d ever heard. “Dracarys! Dracarys!” And all around them slavers ran and sobbed and begged and died, and the dusty air was filled with spears and fire. (aSoS, Daenerys III)

But Astapor is not won solely with the Unsullied. After Dany let Drogon loose on Kraznys en before she orders the Unsullied to attack with her Dracarys-command, we see all of her dragons in action along with Jhogo and his whip, Rakhara using both arakh and bow, and Aggo shooting down many slavers in tokars.

Then the Plaza of Punishment blew apart into blood and chaos. The Good Masters were shrieking, stumbling, shoving one another aside and tripping over the fringes of their tokars in their haste. Drogon flew almost lazily at Kraznys, black wings beating. As he gave the slaver another taste of fire, Irri and Jhiqui unchained Viserion and Rhaegal, and suddenly there were three dragons in the air. When Dany turned to look, a third of Astapor’s proud demon-horned warriors were fighting to stay atop their terrified mounts, and another third were fleeing in a bright blaze of shiny copper. One man kept his saddle long enough to draw a sword, but Jhogo’s whip coiled about his neck and cut off his shout. Another lost a hand to Rakharo’s arakh and rode off reeling and spurting blood. Aggo sat calmly notching arrows to his bowstring and sending them at tokars. Silver, gold, or plain, he cared nothing for the fringe. Strong Belwas had his arakh out as well, and he spun it as he charged.
“Spears!” Dany heard one Astapori shout. It was Grazdan, old Grazdan in his tokar heavy with pearls. “Unsullied! Defend us, stop them, defend your masters! Spears! Swords!” When Rakharo put an arrow through his mouth, the slaves holding his sedan chair broke and ran, dumping him unceremoniously on the ground. The old man crawled to the first rank of eunuchs, his blood pooling on the bricks. (aSoS, Daenerys III)

We notice that there is more emphasis on people being killed by arrows in the above scene.

So, we can conclude that just like Dany’s khas combined are tail, teeth and firepower on wings, the Unsullied are a combo of teeth, claws and firepower and tougher scales. And as eunuchs they have the genderlesness aspect of dragons.

Of course the sellswords in the sellsword companies that join Dany after Yunkai wield swords, bows and arakhs, and thus also add to these dragon features. Daario Naharis is of interest here, since we learn early on that he has two beloved blades – an arakh and a stiletto.

He stood with his hands crossed at the wrists, his palms resting on the pommels of his blades; a curving Dothraki arakh on his left hip, a Myrish stiletto on his right. Their hilts were a matched pair of golden women, naked and wanton. (aSoS, Daenerys IV)

While one may question the sincerity of the Myrish stiletto (Myrish objects are often tied to a liar or deceiver, similar to someone offering Arbor Gold), it is the Dothraki arakh that Daario uses to swear his allegiance to Dany.

In a blink, Daario’s arakh was free of its sheath. His submission was as outrageous as the rest of him, a great swoop that brought his face down to her toes. “My sword is yours. My life is yours. My love is yours. My blood, my body, my songs, you own them all. I live and die at your command, fair queen.” (aSoS, Daenerys IV)

One of Daario’s (many) visual features is his golden tooth. So, it is safe to say that the arakh and Daario’s teeth are Dany’s. And when he goes over to Yunkai as voluntarily hostage, he leaves his arakh teeth and stiletto with Dany.

The expected addition of all of the Dothraki united in The Winds of Winter will only enlargen her teeth, tail and firepower.

The Belly

So far, I skipped Strong Belwas and Selmy. It is time to specify Belwas’s role. In short, he is Dany’s dragon belly. Unlike beautiful human females aged between 14 to 16, real dragons grow a belly. And the larger and older they get, the bigger the belly.

The brass was polished to a high sheen. Dany could see her face in it . . . and when Ser Jorah angled it to the right, she could see behind her. “I see a fat brown man and an older man with a staff. Which is it?” […] The old man had the look of Westeros about him, and the brown-skinned one must weigh twenty stone. […] The brown man was near as wide as he’d looked in the platter, with a gleaming bald head and the smooth cheeks of a eunuch. A long curving arakh was thrust through the sweat-stained yellow silk of his bellyband. Above the silk, he was naked but for an absurdly tiny iron-studded vest. Old scars crisscrossed his tree-trunk arms, huge chest, and massive belly, pale against his nut-brown skin. […] The huge brown eunuch swaggered forward, sheathing his arakh. “I am Belwas. Strong Belwas they name me in the fighting pits of Meereen. Never did I lose.” He slapped his belly, covered with scars. “I let each man cut me once, before I kill him. Count the cuts and you will know how many Strong Belwas has slain.” […] “From Meereen I am sold to Qohor, and then to Pentos and the fat man with sweet stink in his hair. He it was who send Strong Belwas back across the sea, and old Whitebeard to serve him.” (aCoK, Daenerys V)

Belwas_by_David_Sondered_FFG
Belwas, by David Sondered for Fantasy Flight Games

Belwas seems an amusing sidekick, some comic relief with Arstan as Selmy the more significant aid to Dany. From the get go his usability is put into question.

Strong Belwas was an ex-slave, bred and trained in the fighting pits of Meereen. Magister Illyrio had sent him to guard her, or so Belwas claimed, and it was true that she needed guarding. […] Ser Jorah saved me from the poisoner, and Arstan Whitebeard from the manticore. Perhaps Strong Belwas will save me from the next. He was huge enough, with arms like small trees and a great curved arakh so sharp he might have shaved with it, in the unlikely event of hair sprouting on those smooth brown cheeks. Yet he was childlike as well. As a protector, he leaves much to be desired. (aSoS, Daenerys I)

We might suspect him to be an extra dragon tooth, because of his arakh, but the fact he is gap-toothed actually belies this. It is a contradiction to his arakh. In aSoS, his greatest action on page is defeating and killing Oznak zo Pahl. Meereen sends out Oznak to challenge Dany to send a champion. It is nothing but a PR stunt by Meereen to demoralize Dany’s army with insults. It has no actual combat strategy, since even if Dany’s champion wins, Meereen will not surrender to her. Hence, Dany elects to send Belwas, because she believes his potential death against Oznak would cost her the least.

“Strong Belwas was a slave here in the fighting pits. If this highborn Oznak should fall to such the Great Masters will be shamed, while if he wins . . . well, it is a poor victory for one so noble, one that Meereen can take no pride in.” And unlike Ser Jorah, Daario, Brown Ben, and her three bloodriders, the eunuch did not lead troops, plan battles, or give her counsel. He does nothing but eat and boast and bellow at Arstan. Belwas was the man she could most easily spare. And it was time she learned what sort of protector Magister Illyrio had sent her. (aSoS, Daenerys V)

George spends a lot of  writing on this scene, relatively to the weight its outcome has – Belwas wins, but Dany’s army still has to conquer the city by night. It is as Jorah says to Dany, “Putting up a show“.

“A victory without meaning,” Ser Jorah cautioned. “We will not win Meereen by killing its defenders one at a time.” (aSoS, Daenerys V)

His best war act though is off-page in aSoS: he sets the pit-fighter slaves free to help overtake Meereen from within.

They took some wrong turnings, but once they found the surface Strong Belwas led them to the nearest fighting pit, where they surprised a few guards and struck the chains off the slaves. Within an hour, half the fighting slaves in Meereen had risen. (aSoS, Daenerys VI)

George also “tips” us off that it will not be Belwas’s arakh that will ultimately matter to Dany, before he faces Meereen’s champion Oznak.

The aged squire honed Belwas’s arakh every evening and rubbed it down with bright red oil. (aSoS, Daenerys V)

George uses red to alert the reader that this is not the person or thing to bet on. Those who ride red stallions, like Drogo, or have red hair, like Ygritte, will end up dead or disappearing for example. (See the Trail of the Red Stallion)Red is different from Arbor Gold though in that often these people are sincere in their intentions, sometimes protagonists who are good people in George’s prior writing.

Another example that is far more useful for Belwas’s arakh being rubbed in bright red oil is the dragon Meleys, who had two dragonriders – Alyssa Targaryen and her niece Rhaenys Targaryen. Both were in line to be queen of Westeros. Alyssa was Jaehaerys I’s daughter wed to her brother Baelon Targaryen who was the second in line male to the Iron Throne in case the Old King died. When their elder brother Aemon Targaryen died, Baelon became the expected future king and his sister-wife the future queen of course. But she died giving birth to her third son before such a thing could happen. Meanwhile Rhaenys was the granddaughter of the Old King Jaehaerys I and the sole child of Aemon Targaryen. Her father’s death had caused some friction on whether her uncle Baelon or she were Jaehaerys’s heir, as it was not made explicit at the time that the Targaryen dynasty would prefer male heirs over female heirs, and thus an uncle would inherit before a daughter. With Jaehaerys still alive he had the freedom to appoint his son Baelon as heir. But then Baelon died before Jaehaerys. Rhaenys had given Jaehaerys a great-grandson in Laenor Velaryon, while Baelon and Alyssa had gifted Jaehaerys with two grandsons, Viserys and Daemon Targaryen. Hence, Rhaenys and Viserys were in the competing running to be Jaehaerys’s heir in the great council of 101 AC. The council chose Viserys and Rhaenys became known as the queen-who-never-was. And here is the tidbit about the dragon Meleys – she was nicknamed the Red Queen.

So, on the one hand Belwas would not be able to deceive someone even if he tried. And his skill with the arakh is proven to be considerable in the actual duel between Oznak and Belwas.

Oznak leapt clear of his horse and managed to draw his sword before Strong Belwas was on him. Steel sang against steel, too fast and furious for Dany to follow the blows. It could not have been a dozen heartbeats before Belwas’s chest was awash in blood from a slice below his breasts, and Oznak zo Pahl had an arakh planted right between his ram’s horns. The eunuch wrenched the blade loose and parted the hero’s head from his body with three savage blows to the neck. He held it up high for the Meereenese to see, then flung it toward the city gates and let it bounce and roll across the sand. (aSoS, Daenerys V)

Then why does George warn the reader not to bet on Belwas’s arakh by having it being taken care of daily with red oil? Well, early on Dany speculated that Belwas’s arakh might one day save her. So, it seems that George warns us that saving Dany with his arakh is not the answer or Belwas’s use or role.

George does not reveal Belwas’s use until the near end of aDwD, when Belwas saved Dany, unwittingly, from a third poisoning attempt when he ate all the locusts at Daznak’s Pit.

Hizdahr had stocked their box with flagons of chilled wine and sweetwater, with figs, dates, melons, and pomegranates, with pecans and peppers and a big bowl of honeyed locusts. Strong Belwas bellowed, “Locusts!” as he seized the bowl and began to crunch them by the handful. […] He had finished all the honeyed locusts. He gave a belch and took a swig of wine. […] “Strong Belwas ate too many locusts.” There was a queasy look on Belwas’s broad brown face. “Strong Belwas needs milk.” […] Strong Belwas gave a moan, stumbled from his seat, and fell to his knees. […] Strong Belwas was retching noisily. […] Strong Belwas was still vomiting. (aDwD, Daenerys IX)

“That day at Daznak’s Pit, some of the food in the royal box was poisoned. It was only chance that Strong Belwas ate it all. The Blue Graces say that only his size and freakish strength have saved him, but it was a near thing. He may yet die.” (aDwD, the Discarded Knight)

Belwas even manages to survive it.

Last to come, Strong Belwas lumbered into the hall. The eunuch had looked death in the face, so near he might have kissed her on the lips. It had marked him. He looked to have lost two stone of weight, and the dark brown skin that had once stretched tight across a massive chest and belly, crossed by a hundred faded scars, now hung on him in loose folds, sagging and wobbling, like a robe cut three sizes too large. His step had slowed as well, and seemed a bit uncertain. […] “Whitebeard.” Belwas smiled. “Where is liver and onions? Strong Belwas is not so strong as before, he must eat, get big again. They made Strong Belwas sick. Someone must die.” (aDwD, The Queen’s Hand)

It was Belwas’s belly that saved him and Dany. George tipped us from the get go, every time he had Belwas eat and slap his belly, and with the name of one of the ships that Dany visits at the Qartheen harbor, before Belwas enters in the sight of Dany’s mirror. The captain has no liking to Dothraki, while Belwas mocks them after Selmy saves Dany from the manticore.

The owner of Lord Faro’s Belly would risk dragons, but not Dothraki. “I’ll have no such godless savages in my Belly, I’ll not.” (aCoK, Daenerys V)

Notice too how the owner’s name is Faro, which seems a reference to fire: faro in Italian and Spanish means lighthouse, and a lighthouse on Planetos would use fire for a beacon.

Aegon_on_Balerion by Jordi Gonzalez
Aegon the Conquerer on Balerion, the Black Dread, by Jordi Gonzalez

Belwas’s belly matches the depiction of an adult dragon, including the scars. The belly tends to be the most vulnerable area of an animal, and would be so too with dragon hatchlings the size of a cat. It therefore tends to be often targeted by a predator. But as a dragon grows larger and older, its scales thicken, including around the belly area. While some spears and other arms could pierce the scales of an adult dragon around the belly area, it would only enrage them.

We know not of any adult dragon having been successfully killed that way. Take for instance the four dragons in the dragonpit that were killed by the mob that attacked them the night that Rhaenyra was forced to flee King’s  Landing after her disastrous reign. The dragon Shrykos of about seven years old was the first to die, through repeated axe blows to the head. Morghul was of the same age and killed by a spear in the eye. Tyraxes was thirteen. It is claimed he was killed by several blows while entangled in a web of steel chains that limited his movement. Dreamfyre was ninety eight years old. She had managed to tear herself free from her chains and flew to the top of the dome of the dragonpit to rain dragonfire on the mob, thereby exposing her belly. Here we are told …

Even at the apex of the dome, the dragon was within easy reach of archer and crossbowman, and arrows and quarrels flew at Dreamfyre wherever she went, at such close range that some few even punched through her scales. (Fire and Blood, The Dying of the Dragons – Rhaenyra Overthrown)

But none of these managed to kill Dreamfyre. As with Morghul, Dreamfyre was killed with a crossbow bolt into her eye.

And so it is with Belwas. His belly and chest have been nicked and slashed by any opponent he faced in the pit and Oznak, but never was this a mortal wound. Instead it allowed him to get close enough to kill his opponent in the meantime.

One of the consequences to Belwas being Dany’s dragon belly is that now you may wonder what the significance is of Dany having had a pregnant belly as a hatchling in aGoT. Of course, her pregnancy is a crucial plot arc in aGoT for the human Dany, but yes it is entirely possible that it visually was meant to signify Dany as a hatchling starting to grow its initial dragon belly. Too much of a stretch? How about this scene?

[Viserys] laid the point of his sword between Daenerys’s breasts and slid it downward, over the curve of her belly. “I want what I came for,” he told her. “I want the crown he promised me. He bought you, but he never paid for you. Tell him I want what I bargained for, or I’m taking you back. You and the eggs both. He can keep his bloody foal. I’ll cut the bastard out and leave it for him.” The sword point pushed through her silks and pricked at her navel. Viserys was weeping, she saw; weeping and laughing, both at the same time, this man who had once been her brother. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

Viserys did not just threaten Dany verbally. He pricked her belly with his sword point. George crafted Belwas’s scars on his belly after this scene. And like it means death to Belwas’s opponents, it meant death here too for Viserys.

Distantly, as from far away, Dany heard her handmaid Jhiqui sobbing in fear, pleading that she dared not translate, that the khal would bind her and drag her behind his horse all the way up the Mother of Mountains. She put her arm around the girl. “Don’t be afraid,” she said. “I shall tell him.” (aGoT, Daenerys V)

And there is another commonality between pregnant Danny and Belwas: Jorah’s clumsiness causing Dany to fall and nearly hurting her belly.

The wineseller shrugged, reached for the cup … and grabbed the cask instead, flinging it at her with both hands. Ser Jorah bulled into her, knocking her out of the way. The cask bounced off his shoulder and smashed open on the ground. Dany stumbled and lost her feet. “No,” she screamed, thrusting her hands out to break her fall … and Doreah caught her by the arm and wrenched her backward, so she landed on her legs and not her belly. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

Ser Jorah slammed past her, and Dany stumbled to one knee. She heard the hiss again. The old man drove the butt of his staff into the ground, Aggo came riding through an eggseller’s stall and vaulted from his saddle, Jhogo’s whip cracked overhead, Ser Jorah slammed the eunuch over the head with the brass platter, sailors and whores and merchants were fleeing or shouting or both . . .

Dany tending to stumble and “lose her feet” likely has to do with Jorah being or acting as Dany’s legs in those moments. However, it also twice endangers her belly. And while one may argue that in the second scene Dany has not yet claimed Belwas officially, had no idea yet who or what he is, notice how just before Jorah bangs the platter onto the eunuch’s head, Jhogo cracked his whip, signaling an acquisition to Dany’s dragon body.

So, why is there an absence of a belly in aCoK, or after Dany’s flight on Drogon? In both periods, Dany goes through a near starvation period in the red waste and again in the Dothraki Sea.

There was little forage in the red waste, and less water. It was a sere and desolate land of low hills and barren windswept plains. The rivers they crossed were dry as dead men’s bones. Their mounts subsisted on the tough brown devilgrass that grew in clumps at the base of rocks and dead trees. […] The deeper they rode into the waste, the smaller the pools became, while the distance between them grew. […] Wine gave out first, and soon thereafter the clotted mare’s milk the horselords loved better than mead. Then their stores of flatbread and dried meat were exhausted as well. Their hunters found no game, and only the flesh of their dead horses filled their bellies. […] Dany hungered and thirsted with the rest of them. The milk in her breasts dried up, her nipples cracked and bled, and the flesh fell away from her day by day until she was lean and hard as a stick, […] (aCoK, Daenerys I)

Hers had been a lonely sojourn, and for most of it she had been hurt and hungry … yet despite it all she had been strangely happy here. A few aches, an empty belly, chills by night […] She was hungry too. One morning she had found some wild onions growing halfway down the south slope, and later that same day a leafy reddish vegetable that might have been some queer sort of cabbage. Whatever it was, it had not made her sick. Aside from that, and one fish that she had caught in the spring-fed pool outside of Drogon’s cave, she had survived as best she could on the dragon’s leavings, on burned bones and chunks of smoking meat, half-charred and half-raw. She needed more, she knew. […] She had no other drink but the morning dew that glistened on the tall grass, and no food at all unless she cared to eat the grass. I could try eating ants. The little yellow ones were too small to provide much in the way of nourishment, but there were red ants in the grass, and those were bigger. (aDwD, Daenerys X)

It takes a while before enough reserve is rebuilt to form a belly while still growing, and Dany managed that by the end of aCoK, when Belwas steps into her mirrow view.

That Dany sees Belwas (and Selmy) in the bronze mirroring platter is of importance in relation to the Serwyn tale – no, I did not forget about Serwyn or Saint George. There are several instances where Dany looks into a mirror.

Dany glanced at her image in the silvered looking glass that Illyrio had so thoughtfully provided. A princess, she thought, but she remembered what the girl had said, how Khal Drogo was so rich even his slaves wore golden collars. She felt a sudden chill, and gooseflesh pimpled her bare arms. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

The brass was polished to a high sheen. Dany could see her face in it . . . and when Ser Jorah angled it to the right, she could see behind her. “I see a fat brown man and an older man with a staff. Which is it?”
[…]
“Ten, Khaleesi, because you are so lovely. Use it for a looking glass. Only brass this fine could capture such beauty.” (aCoK, Daenerys V)

When she was dressed, Missandei brought her a polished silver glass so she could see how she looked. Dany stared at herself in silence. Is this the face of a conqueror? So far as she could tell, she still looked like a little girl. (aSoS, Daenerys VI)

In the smoldering red pits of Drogon’s eyes, Dany saw her own reflection. How small she looked, how weak and frail and scared. (aDwD, Daenerys IX)

Notice that in all instances she sees her own reflection, looks at herself. In the Serwyn legend a mirror shield is used to distract a dragon by having it stare at its own reflection. And this is what happens here, each time: Dany looks into the mirror and stares at her own dragon reflection. I have argued how princess ought to be translated into dragon in relation to Targaryens. In the third instance, Dany has conquered and given in to her violent dragon instincts, but recognizes her humanity and ends up giving into it to try and rule Meereen. The last reflection is in the eyes of a dragon, matching the soul dragon in her dragon dreams. Eyes are said to be the mirror of the soul. Whether Drogon’s soul is that of a fearful, frail little human girl or the Dany’s soul is that of a black-red dragon, or even both at once I will leave as a thought to ponder. But certainly within the context of Serwyn’s mirror shield it visualizes Dany staring at a dragon through a mirror. And so, it is likewise with the brass platter: Dany sees herself and then Belwas and Selmy. In all three other instances after Dany sees her own reflection she ponders about a part of herself that she sees. Why would Belwas and Selmy be an exception to this? On the contrary, Dany seeing Belwas and Selmy while looking into a mirror would mean they are a part of her dragon body, an extension of her, not a separate duo of individuals she is spying on.

Conclusion or tl;tr

This concludes the second essay in the Dany series in relation to the legend of Saint George and the Dragon. We cannot but conclude that she is the true dragon in the story. In her very first chapter she is like a dragon still in the egg about to hatch. She hatches during her wedding ceremony, between salt tears and jumping a firepit on a smoking silver horse. She is gifted dragonbone, a bow without firepower (not until later), arakh teeth, a whip of a tail and her silver for wings. Out in the Dothraki Sea, the wilderness, free from walls and ceilings, Dany grows and with her whipping tail acquires Jorah to become her advizing claw and legs. Her dragon size is not just restricted to the size of her actual dragons or Drogon once she becomes his rider. The more she grows, the bigger her wings become with the addition of shipsails and sellsword companies, as well as teeth, claws and firepower in the form of the Unsullied. With the expectation that the Windblown, Victarion’s fleet and all the Dothraki will end up joining her, she will become a dragon large enough to cover a continent and ocean, and thus a Dragon that can mount the world.

I have argued that we should translate the word princess and prince into dragon based on a deeper inspection of the history of the prophecy known as The Prince that was Promised and Azor Ahai returned. I do believe that the commonalities between both prophecies lean towards them being about the same person(s). I suggested that the seeming contradicting claims and a maester’s objections about the origin of the dragons being the shadowlands of Asshai may be resolved via:

  • the people of the shadow (with Valyrian features) migrating to the Valyrian peninsula with dragons and dragon eggs after some cataclysm that made the hinterland of Asshai barren and degenerative, in search of a perfect volcanic area and led by prophetic dragon dreams. Once there they spread their genes amongst the local people where the features now referred to as Valyrian became a dominant phenotype in a few centuries through genetic drift at an isolated location, as happened at Lys, Dragonstone, potentially Oldtown, the island of the Daynes and seems to have been happening the past century at Sapphire Isle.
  • Or through shadowbinders who had prophetic visions  that made them believe that Azor Ahai returned would be born someday from a dragonriding descendent of the then dragonless sheepherders living at the Valyrian peninsula. And that the desire of the shadowbinders to make the prophecy come about motivated them to bring eggs and knowledge about rearing dragons to the Valyrian peninsula.

Whichever actually happened, my point is that prophecy was a major motivation and that the Azor Ahai legend and prophecy was known to the dragonriding families at Valyria. Over time this knowledge may have been lost after the Doom, but before the Doom their extensive mining that required them to enslave a whole continent as big as Essos from Ghis to Pentos and development of Valyrian steel suggests they tried to make their own magical Lightbringer. That the Valyrians could be led by belief in prophecy as a society is suggested by a prophecy about the gold of Casterly Rock possibly being their ending. Despite their lust of gold, the Valyrians stayed away from Westeros and certainly Casterly Rock. Prophecies are of course annoying pesky things, and it turns out that Jaime of Casterly Rock in golden armor killed the last dynastic Targaryen king (with Valyrian features) on the Iron Throne. Ironically, this event may have been the potential prophetic vision some Valyrian wizard saw centuries or millenia before the Doom, and might be a reason why the rising empire of Valyria chose to never have a king or emperor. Regardless of the reason why they had no kings or emperors, the Valyrian language would only have a loan word for such a leader, not an actual Valyrian original word for it. So, the Azor Ahai prophecy was called the Dragon that was Promised amongst them. When this prophecy resurfaces centuries after the Doom both in old scrolls at Dragonstone and via dragon dreams amongst the generation of Maekar and Aegon V, the Targaryens who were kings and princes translated it into the Prince that was Promised, since princes were often nicknamed dragon. I will go even further than that. Since actual female dragons sometimes were nicknamed queen as well as lady all the titles Dany is addressed with (see Part I) can be translated into dragon.

I argued that the inconsistencies regarding Dany’s dragon dreams are best resolved by regarding the dragon in the dreams as her personal dragon spirit within, rather than Drogon in his egg. And while Dany and consequentionally the reader is led to believe that it is extreme heat that will help hatch dragon eggs, as did Aegon V before her did, I point out that her second dragon dream and the actual hatching event in her last chapter of aGoT point out that it was Dany who needed to be heated. Since the eggs are gifted to her at her wedding ceremony and she herself was hatched as a dragon during that ceremony, she is born a female with her eggs in her ovaries in readiness, and her own body heat incubates the eggs. Aside from Dany’s body heat being crucial, so are the dead. Her own wedding, where she herself hatched as dragon, included several people dying during the festivities. And of course the hatching of the dragons at the end of aGoT is also preceded by many deaths. What we learn on how the purple bloodflies hatch their eggs – place them in the dead or dying – reveals that it is the second necessity. I must stress I consider this transferring incubation heat from Dany to the eggs and the many deaths as necessary only after the demise of the dragons more than hundred fifty years ago and all that was left were petrified dragon eggs.

Dany has plenty of “saviors”, but as I have shown they are also her dragon claws, teeth, belly and tail. And she claims them all via the cracking of a whip. If these men are body parts of Dany’s dragon body, can we then still regard them as saviors? It seems more correct to say then that as a dragon Dany saves herself. “Ah, but you left out Selmy Barristan!” you might protest. Yes, I did, so far. I am only keeping the best for last.

In the third essay I will cover certain recurring cycles and events in Dany’s arc: the repetitive looking into a mirror, her switch between green dragon and black-red dragon, the black heart devouring or destroying, the poisoning attempts. And more importantly we will investigate what this implies for Dany’s arc that is still to be published, since we will see her look at her own reflection again, switch colors and far more heart eating.

Dany (Part I) – Slaying Saint George’s Dragon

(Top Illustration: Viserys Crowned, by fanpo)

In Mirror Mirror – Serwyn of the Mirror Shield I summarized the in-world feats of the historical hero Serwyn and showed in quotes that whenever he is mentioned he serves as an example to compare a character with. I outlined how this suggests that we must be on the look-out for a hero or heroine who does indeed compare to him; that his feats and legends are a blueprint to help us find him. I used that blueprint to strike off Joffrey and Byron Swann from that list, more as examples on how this works, since most readers would not consider them as Serwyns reborn.

The first character who mentions Serwyn and wants to be like him, is Bran. In Bran Stark (Part 1) – Serwyn Reversed I provided the evidence that in aCoK, Bran IV we have one scene that does match Serwyn’s feat of saving a princess from a giant, except that there it was all in reverse – a giant saved a sworn shield from the wrath of a prince. The same chapter also includes a reference scene to one of the real world legends that can be seen as an inspiration on which George models Serwyn: Saint George and the dragon, which is one of the many legends that falls in the general category of the “princess and the dragon” myths, legends and fairytales.

But Bran Stark is not the sole character comparatively tied to Serwyn. Tyrion compares Serwyn to Selmy Barristan.

“Ser Barristan was the Lord Commander of Robert Baratheon’s Kingsguard,” Tyrion reminded her pointedly. “He and Jaime are the only survivors of Aerys Targaryen’s seven. The smallfolk talk of him in the same way they talk of Serwyn of the Mirror Shield and Prince Aemon the Dragonknight. What do you imagine they’ll think when they see Barristan the Bold riding beside Robb Stark or Stannis Baratheon?” (aCoK, Tyrion I)

A History of Westeros episode of late May 2020 delved into Serwyn, proposing Selmy to be the answer we are looking for (also going into Joffrey and Byron Swann and the paradox and mystery which dragon he aimed to kill as I did in Mirror Mirror – Serwyn of the Mirror Shield). Perhaps. We shall see. I do not consider the answer to be that easily pinpointed. We might make Sansa’s mistake if we only go by first appearances. For example, the princess Selmy saves and fights for is also a dragon, and not just one who happened to be a dragon but the “mother of dragons”. If we can eliminate Byron Swann from the Serwyn-candidate list because he got killed by a dragon, then surely we must do the same for the runner up who fights on the dragon’s side. We cannot research Selmy or any other man tripping over their feet to be Dany’s hero, without investigating Dany herself. So, ultimately this essay series is not as much about Serwyn, but about Dany, as princess, as khaleesi, as dragon and what it means to be a dragon.

But I am getting ahead of myself. This first essay of Dany’s series in relation to the Serwyn legend is not about Dany as dragon. In this essay, I will take the traditional approach, looking for a captive princess in distress and appearing to be in need of saving from a giant. And we uncover Dany as such in her very first chapter of aGoT. Except, even on this we are fooled. It is not the giant she needs to be saved from, but a dragon. A princess versus a dragon is not a Serwyn legend, but the Saint George legend. In what follows I analyse the first five chapters of Dany in aGoT.

CHAPTER 1 – Role Playing

When I analyse scenes for motifs or legends I tend to be careful to extend the scene role of a character beyond that scene. But since Dany was born a princess, born of the blood of the dragon; since she continues to use the titles she picks up throughout her arc; since the Serwyn and Saint George scenes are so numerous throughout her story, Dany taking a role goes way beyond a mere scene. Across her arc, Dany takes on several roles: princess, Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons, Mhysa, Queen, … And with every role comes a particular costume or dress. It is almost as if Dany is cos-playing within the novels.

Take for instance, Dany being a princess. It is one of the first things we ever learn about Dany – that she is a princess.

They were escorted across the entry hall, where a mosaic of colored glass depicted the Doom of Valyria. Oil burned in black iron lanterns all along the walls. Beneath an arch of twining stone leaves, a eunuch sang their coming. “Viserys of the House Targaryen, the Third of his Name,” he called in a high, sweet voice, “King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm. His sister, Daenerys Stormborn, Princess of Dragonstone. […]” (aGoT, Daenerys I)

This is important since Serwyn’s famous feats is saving a princess from a giant, and in the Saint George legend the saint saves a princess from a dragon. But the same chapter starts with Dany not knowing what it is like to be a princess.

“A gift from the Magister Illyrio,” Viserys said, smiling. Her brother was in a high mood tonight. “The color will bring out the violet in your eyes. And you shall have gold as well, and jewels of all sorts. Illyrio has promised. Tonight you must look like a princess.” A princess, Dany thought. She had forgotten what that was like. Perhaps she had never really known. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

In fact, the first chapter is written akin to the process of an actor showing up in the morning of an extra the morning of a shoot, and learns upon arrival what their part will be in the scene that will be performed at Drogo’s manse. In acting terms, Dany has no speaking part in her own POV! She speaks 47 words in total for the whole of it, 8 lines in total, mostly off-stage comments.

In the above paragraph, it is as if after some initial assessment the background casting director, Viserys, decides Dany will have the role of the princess, who only has to smile and stand straight to show off her breasts some more on stage. After her role is decided on, she’s ushered to the wardrobe department, and left in the skilled hands of the dressers, costumers and make-up artists to make her look the part.

They dressed her in the wisps that Magister Illyrio had sent up, and then the gown, a deep plum silk to bring out the violet in her eyes. The girl slid the gilded sandals onto her feet, while the old woman fixed the tiara in her hair, and slid golden bracelets crusted with amethysts around her wrists. […] “Now you look all a princess,” the girl said breathlessly when they were done. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

dany_princess
Looking like a princess, “Daenerys Targaryen” by /u/arenzio

Note on chosen illustrations: there is a lot of beautiful artwork, both inspired on the TV-series as well as the books. Rather than conforming to the image we are used to by now (Emilia Clarke), I selected imagery of Dany that matches both her age and book description for the chapter in question. The above illustration of Dany has the violet eyes, light eyebrows to match her hair, and actually looks like a 14-year old, and adds the details of what she wore in her first chapter – a torc and tiara. To the artist – my compliments, you managed to capture a real looking 13-year-old Dany who wears all the right princess symbols, but equally makes us uncomfortable since she lacks sexual appeal at this stage, and does not seem to feel like a princess yet.

Before she gets to be in the scene, the stage manager Illyrio must approve her appearance. The background casting director Viserys is not entirely convinced, but the stage manager is.

Her brother was waiting in the cool of the entry hall, seated on the edge of the pool, his hand trailing in the water. He rose when she appeared and looked her over critically. “Stand there,” he told her. “Turn around. Yes. Good. You look …”
Regal,” Magister Illyrio said, stepping through an archway. […] “May the Lord of Light shower you with blessings on this most fortunate day, Princess Daenerys,” the magister said as he took her hand. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

Upon the arrival at the manse, the cameras start to roll and Dany is announced to be a princess before she steps on stage where she has five lines, the maximum number of lines to have no larger part than a bit part. She even produces cinematic tears.

Dressing the part is something that returns several times in Dany’s arc. It is the concept of what Brown Ben Plumm refers to as floppy ears.

“You must excuse me, ser. The petitioners will soon be at my gates. I must don my floppy ears and become their queen again.[…]”
[…]
Brown Ben Plumm, the captain of the Second Sons, had put it more succinctly. “Man wants to be the king o’ the rabbits, he best wear a pair o’ floppy ears.” (aDwD, Daenerys I)

In Qarth we see Dany done another pair of floppy ears – the ears to play the savage (khaleesi) part.

She was breaking her fast on a bowl of cold shrimp-and-persimmon soup when Irri brought her a Qartheen gown, an airy confection of ivory samite patterned with seed pearls. “Take it away,” Dany said. “The docks are no place for lady’s finery.”
If the Milk Men thought her such a savage, she would dress the part for them. When she went to the stables, she wore faded sandsilk pants and woven grass sandals. Her small breasts moved freely beneath a painted Dothraki vest, and a curved dagger hung from her medallion belt. Jhiqui had braided her hair Dothraki fashion, and fastened a silver bell to the end of the braid. (aCoK, Daenerys V)

In other words, even though she was born a princess and recognized as such by the reader and other in-world characters no matter what floppy ears she wears, for Dany her princess-identity is a role or part that she becomes after change of clothes. The same is true for her identity as khaleesi or queen of Meereen. She gathers the costumes and roles, the same way as her titles in truth.

This has several implications when we will be assessing her role in a potential Serwyn-related scene:

  • we will have to check the clothing she wears in that scene,
  • but also how other characters address her, revealing how they perceive her.

Her role depends both on who she truly is, which part she dressed for, but just as well on the eye of the beholder. Even if Dany may perceive herself to play one part in a scene, such as a savage khaleesi for example, her wannabe-savior may address her as princess at the time, revealing his vision of her, which drives and motivates his actions. It is therefore no coincidence that Illyrio refers to Dany as a vision.

“She is a vision, Your Grace, a vision,” he told her brother. “Drogo will be enraptured.” (aGoT, Daenerys I)

This is commonly read to mean a pretty picture, or a sight to behold. However, the word vision is also a wordplay on the meaning of an illusion. A vision is the type of illusion that the one having it very much wants to believe in as true or as coming true. So, we should always keep it in the back of our mind that while Dany plays one role, the saviors want their illusion of her to be a true one even if it is another role than the one she is playing.

You will see that in each and every scene where Dany is “saved”, George juxtaposes her cos-play costume to that of the saviors’ vision of her, and at times includes several saviors all at once who each perceive her differently, or even regularly switch in the title they endow her with. In short, since Dany’s role or identity as princess, khaleesi or queen is a big mess, maybe she is none of those. However, ultimately the Serwyn and Saint George related scenes can be our guide in unraveling her true identity beneath the costumes, and therefore her true role.

CHAPTER 2 – Wedded to a Giant

This will be our trial run in analysing a potential Serwyn-related situation. According to Sansa, Serwyn of the Mirror Shield saved the princess from giants. So, we need a captive princess who feels threatened by a giant and seems to be in need of saving.

Dany’s first chapter sets up her need to be saved from being sold as bride to a barbarian.

The girl scrubbed her back and her feet and told her how lucky she was. “Drogo is so rich that even his slaves wear golden collars. A hundred thousand men ride in his khalasar, and his palace in Vaes Dothrak has two hundred rooms and doors of solid silver.” There was more like that, so much more, what a handsome man the khal was, so tall and fierce, fearless in battle, the best rider ever to mount a horse, a demon archer. Daenerys said nothing. She had always assumed that she would wed Viserys when she came of age. For centuries the Targaryens had married brother to sister, since Aegon the Conqueror had taken his sisters to bride. The line must be kept pure, Viserys had told her a thousand times; theirs was the kingsblood, the golden blood of old Valyria, the blood of the dragon. Dragons did not mate with the beasts of the field, and Targaryens did not mingle their blood with that of lesser men. Yet now Viserys schemed to sell her to a stranger, a barbarian. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

Now, let us revisit that princess-dressing scene:

The girl slid the gilded sandals onto her feet, while the old woman fixed the tiara in her hair, and slid golden bracelets crusted with amethysts around her wrists. Last of all came the collar, a heavy golden torc emblazoned with ancient Valyrian glyphs.

“Now you look all a princess,” the girl said breathlessly when they were done. Dany glanced at her image in the silvered looking glass that Illyrio had so thoughtfully provided. A princess, she thought, but she remembered what the girl had said, how Khal Drogo was so rich even his slaves wore golden collars. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

In Bran’s Serwyn Reversed essay I argued how the chains that maesters wear around their neck are a sign that their minds are enslaved. In that essay I also discuss Osha, a wildling kept as a prisoner. She is chained in manackles around wrists and feet. George features the same concept in Dany’s torc and bracelets. They are a sign that she feels like a prisoner. They may look like jewelry, but are nothing more than a beautified slave collar or a prisoner’s manackles in Dany’s mind.

Are there any more imprisonment symbols? Well, Drogo’s manse has nine towers, high walls, and so when Dany and her brother move into his manse, she becomes a princess imprisoned in a tower.

The nine-towered manse of Khal Drogo sat beside the waters of the bay, its high brick walls overgrown with pale ivy. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

The khal had joined his khalasar, his estate given over to Daenerys and her brother until the wedding. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

Notice too, the added detail of a tower overgrown with ivy, reminding us of the typical imagery of a fairytale tower where the princess is kept a prisoner or asleep for years. In fact, all of Pentos has towers and thus serves as a prison to Dany as she wistfully “looks out of a window” to the sea for freedom.

When he was gone, Dany went to her window and looked out wistfully on the waters of the bay. The square brick towers of Pentos were black silhouettes outlined against the setting sun. Dany could hear the singing of the red priests as they lit their night fires and the shouts of ragged children playing games beyond the walls of the estate. For a moment she wished she could be out there with them, barefoot and breathless and dressed in tatters, with no past and no future and no feast to attend at Khal Drogo’s manse. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

So, now we have a captive princess imprisoned in a tower.

Khal Drogo – the slave owner – is to be her husband, and he towers a head over anyone else, a hulking giant.

Khal Drogo was a head taller than the tallest man in the room, yet somehow light on his feet, as graceful as the panther in Illyrio’s menagerie. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

Most of all, she was afraid of what would happen tonight under the stars, when her brother gave her up to the hulking giant who sat drinking beside her with a face as still and cruel as a bronze mask. […]He put his finger under her chin and lifted her head, so she was looking up into his eyes. Drogo towered over her as he towered over everyone. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

There we have our giant. More, Dany’s POV makes clear that she is terrified of him. He scares her more than her abusive brother.

Dany looked at Khal Drogo. His face was hard and cruel, his eyes as cold and dark as onyx. Her brother hurt her sometimes, when she woke the dragon, but he did not frighten her the way this man frightened her. “I don’t want to be his queen,” she heard herself say in a small, thin voice. “Please, please, Viserys, I don’t want to, I want to go home.”

Clearly, we have an imprisoned princess in need of saving from a giant, no? Do we have a knight at hand? Oh, yes, a true knight!

Illyrio whispered to them. “Those three are Drogo’s bloodriders, there,” he said. “By the pillar is Khal Moro, with his son Rhogoro. The man with the green beard is brother to the Archon of Tyrosh, and the man behind him is Ser Jorah Mormont.”
The last name caught Daenerys. “A knight?”
No less.” Illyrio smiled through his beard. “Anointed with the seven oils by the High Septon himself.” (aGoT, Daenerys I)

Well, Sandor Clegane has something to say about the anointment by the High Septon and how little it proves true knighthood. His brother was anointed too and is no true knight. Neither is Ser Jorah, alas.

“What is he doing here?” [Dany] blurted.
“The Usurper wanted his head,” Illyrio told them. “Some trifling affront. He sold some poachers to a Tyroshi slaver instead of giving them to the Night’s Watch. Absurd law. A man should be able to do as he likes with his own chattel.” (aGoT, Daenerys I)

We can forgive Dany of not realizing then that is a sign against Jorah. She herself does not question slavery yet, despite the fact that she feels she is being sold like a slave to Khal Drogo. Anyway, Dany’s sudden interest in Ser Jorah at least suggests that on a certain level Dany hopes that Jorah might be a Serwyn saving an imprisoned princess from a giant. But for this no-true-knight Dany cannot be wedded off to Khal Drogo soon enough:

“Best we get Princess Daenerys wedded quickly before [the Dothraki] hand half the wealth of Pentos away to sellswords and bravos,” Ser Jorah Mormont jested. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

Notice too, how Jorah mentions the fear that Pentos will hand its wealth to sellswords and bravos, an ironic phrase when the exiled Jorah sold his sword for years and magister Illyrio was once a bravo.

On top of that, Jorah swears his sword to her brother, the one who abuses and sells her to the giant.

The exile had offered her brother his sword the night Dany had been sold to Khal Drogo; Viserys had accepted eagerly. Mormont had been their constant companion ever since. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

So, no, Jorah is at the very least not a Serwyn character here. Jorah may hope to become a Serwyn for her. But at this point though, he does not even make a tiny effort for it. And it needs to be asked: can a man be said to be a Serwyn when he only saves the princess when he lusts after her, but would not otherwise?

In the end, Dany does not need saving from her hulking giant. And instead of enslavement, Dany finds freedom from the abuse of her brother.

So, what was the point then of this Serwyn-situation? Well, perhaps it was written this way to look beyond titles, to scratch off the surface and discover what is there. Let us go through the dressing quote, once more.

The girl slid the gilded sandals onto her feet, while the old woman fixed the tiara in her hair, and slid golden bracelets crusted with amethysts around her wrists. Last of all came the collar, a heavy golden torc emblazoned with ancient Valyrian glyphs.

Dany is not Drogo’s slave. She is Viserys’s captive. Even when she moves into Drogo’s manse until the wedding, with its nine towers, she is Viserys’s captive there, since Drogo moved out to join his khalasar.

The khal had joined his khalasar, his estate given over to Daenerys and her brother until the wedding. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

And what does Viserys claim himself to be? The dragon.

CHAPTER 3 to 5 – Khaleesi and the Dragon

Viserys refers to himself as the dragon and his abusive rage “waking the dragon”.

His anger was a terrible thing when roused. Viserys called it “waking the dragon.” […] His fingers brushed lightly over her budding breasts and tightened on a nipple. “You will not fail me tonight. If you do, it will go hard for you. You don’t want to wake the dragon, do you?” His fingers twisted her, the pinch cruelly hard through the rough fabric of her tunic. “Do you?” he repeated.
[…]
“Our land,” he called it. The words were like a prayer with him. If he said them enough, the gods were sure to hear. “Ours by blood right, taken from us by treachery, but ours still, ours forever. You do not steal from the dragon, oh, no. The dragon remembers.” […] “Oh, yes,” Viserys said darkly. “He has tried, Illyrio, I promise you that. His hired knives follow us everywhere. I am the last dragon, and he will not sleep easy while I live.” (aGoT, Daenerys I)

Viserys bristled. “Guard your tongue, Mormont, or I’ll have it out. I am no lesser man, I am the rightful Lord of the Seven Kingdoms. The dragon does not beg.” (aGoT, Daenerys II)

Another legend of Serwyn is the claim that he killed a dragon using his mirroring shield. Although there is no specific mention of saving a princess, George got his inspiration for this from the legend of Saint George and the Dragon and the legendary heroes such as Perseus who were his predecessor. (See more on this in Mirror Mirror – Serwyn of the Mirror Shield). There are various versions of the legend, with the most famous one coming from The Golden Legend or Lives of the Saints. The manuscript is a collection of hagiographies (biographies of saints) mostly written down by Jacobus de Varagine around 1259 – 1266. Saint George himself is believed to have been a Roman soldier and member of the Praetorian Guard in the 3rd century. He refused to kill Christians, since he was a Christian himself. When he refused to renounce his faith, he was put to death in 303, and thus an early accepted martyr since the 4th century already and gaining fame in the 5th. It is not until the 11th century that the slaying of a dragon gets added to this martyr’s lifestory.

The legend is not only told as it was written down by Jacobus the Varagine. Even to this day, the legend is regularly reenacted in locations all over the world and that for centuries. In order to keep the peace and please important families within the local community, such reenactments ended up having processions where everyone of some importance of the place got to have a costume role, beside the lead role of the saint, the monster or devil and the damsel to be rescued. Hence the oral legend traditions surrounding a reenactment often include the claim that Saint George came upon the princess being led towards the dragon’s cave in a procession before he intervened and killed the dragon. For example here:

When [Saint George] drew near he saw a little procession of women, headed by a beautiful girl dressed in pure Arabian silk.

Well, that is exactly what Illyrio calls the journey to Vaes Dothrak – a procession.

“He will have the girl first, and after they are wed he must make his procession across the plains and present her to the dosh khaleen at Vaes Dothrak.[…]”

And it is in the three consecutive chapters, of this procession to Vaes Dothrak, inside the cavernous dwelling of Vaes Dothrak and with all Dothraki present inside the city that Viserys and Dany end up in a confrontation with each other. In each chapter, Viserys reiterates his claim to being the dragon, while other characters address Dany with princess, my lady and Khaleesi respectively. Each time Viserys assaults her and threatens to do severe harm. And each time Viserys is kept from doing his worst with the help of a belt or girdle.

Especially this is one of the interesting details that points to GRRM having made sure to allude to the Golden Legend version of Saint George and the Dragon. In that version, Saint George wounds the dragon to protect the princess and then has her use her girdle or belt to bind the dragon and lead him back to her city, where the dragon is eventually slain. The girdling was also discussed in the essay Bran I – Serwyn reversed.

He struck him with his spear, injuring him severely. Then he said to the maid, “Tie your belt around the dragon’s neck, and be not afraid.”
When she had done so the dragon followed her meekly. She led him into the city, and the people fled in fear.
Saint George said to them, “Doubt not. Believe in God and Jesus Christ, and be baptized, and I shall slay the dragon.” (Saint George and the Dragon, The Golden Legend or Lives of Saints)

In the Dothraki Sea

The first confrontation occurs in the Dothraki Sea, when Dany wishes to explore the grass environment by herself and orders Ser Jorah to tell her retinue to remain where they are.

Dany realized that she did not want to listen to any of her brother’s complaints right now. The day was too perfect. The sky was a deep blue, and high above them a hunting hawk circled. The grass sea swayed and sighed with each breath of wind, the air was warm on her face, and Dany felt at peace. She would not let Viserys spoil it.
“Wait here,” Dany told Ser Jorah. “Tell them all to stay. Tell them I command it.” (aGoT, Daenerys III)

But before long, Viserys disobeyes the order, resenting being commanded by the sister who has been his prisoner until but shortly.

Viserys came upon her as sudden as a summer storm, his horse rearing beneath him as he reined up too hard. “You dare!” he screamed at her. “You give commands to me? To me?” He vaulted off the horse, stumbling as he landed. His face was flushed as he struggled back to his feet. He grabbed her, shook her. “Have you forgotten who you are? Look at you. Look at you!” […] He was still screaming. “You do not command the dragon. Do you understand? I am the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, I will not hear orders from some horselord’s slut, do you hear me?” His hand went under her vest, his fingers digging painfully into her breast. “Do you hear me?” (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Viserys clearly claims to be the dragon in this scene and assaults Dany as he has done all of his life, as if she still is his possession.

What role does Dany have in this scene? On the one hand, she wears the costume of a khaleesi.

Dany did not need to look. She was barefoot, with oiled hair, wearing Dothraki riding leathers and a painted vest given her as a bride gift. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

dany_khaleesi_10
Daenerys Targaryen, by Find Mirror

On the other hand, Viserys is clearly treating her as if she is his captive princess still.

He grabbed her, shook her. “Have you forgotten who you are? Look at you. Look at you!” (aGoT, Daenerys III)

To him she is and foremostly remains the Targaryen princess who is his possession. Even if she may have forgotten that, “the dragon remembers”. And actually, Dany feels like a princess as well, even if she does not look like one.

All her life Viserys had told her she was a princess, but not until she rode her silver had Daenerys Targaryen ever felt like one. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

And we learn of Dany feeling like one, in between her command to Ser Jorah and Viserys storming at her.

Since Dany has gained freedom in her status as khaleesi, she instinctively pushes him away, but through conditioning resulting of the years of abuse, the “captive princess” role is ready to resurface immediately after.

Dany shoved him away, hard.
Viserys stared at her, his lilac eyes incredulous. She had never defied him. Never fought back. Rage twisted his features. He would hurt her now, and badly, she knew that. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Never having been stopped before by Dany or anyone else, Viserys is not solely shocked but enraged. And we cannot but accept Dany’s assumption that Viserys is ready to trash her completely. Before Viserys can do so, Jhogo of Dany’s khas intervenes with his whip.

Crack.
The whip made a sound like thunder. The coil took Viserys around the throat and yanked him backward. He went sprawling in the grass, stunned and choking. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

The whip coils “around the throat” like a girdle or belt. Guess where Jhogo usually wears it?

Jhogo reached for the whip coiled at his belt, […] (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

Since Jhogo wears the whip at his belt, just like Meera wears her net there, the whip is an extension of his belt. If in Bran I – Serwyn reserved, I identified Meera’s net catching Summer as a type of girdling action, then Jhogo girdled Viserys the self-proclaimed dragon. More, Jhogo wounded him with the whip.

Jhogo gave a pull on the whip, yanking Viserys around like a puppet on a string. He went sprawling again, freed from the leather embrace, a thin line of blood under his chin where the whip had cut deep. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Nex, Jhogo asks whether Dany wants to have the dragon killed.

The one with the whip, young Jhogo, rasped a question. Dany did not understand his words, but by then Irri was there, and Ser Jorah, and the rest of her khas. “Jhogo asks if you would have him dead, Khaleesi,” Irri said. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

We thus have Jhogo acting like Saint George. Since he is one of her khas, akin to a queensguard, this also makes him a Serwyn.

At least at this point, Dany stops anyone from killing or harming the dragon.

“No,” Dany replied. “No.”
Jhogo understood that. One of the others barked out a comment, and the Dothraki laughed. Irri told her, “Quaro thinks you should take an ear to teach him respect.”
Her brother was on his knees, his fingers digging under the leather coils, crying incoherently, struggling for breath. The whip was tight around his windpipe.
“Tell them I do not wish him harmed,” Dany said. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Instead, Dany decides and commands that “the dragon” must walk behind them back to the khalasar.

He lay on the ground, sucking in air noisily, red-faced and sobbing. He was a pitiful thing. He had always been a pitiful thing. Why had she never seen that before? There was a hollow place inside her where her fear had been.
Take his horse,” Dany commanded Ser Jorah. Viserys gaped at her. He could not believe what he was hearing; nor could Dany quite believe what she was saying. Yet the words came. “Let my brother walk behind us back to the khalasar.” Among the Dothraki, the man who does not ride was no man at all, the lowest of the low, without honor or pride. “Let everyone see him as he is.” (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Meanwhile, the khalasar is likened to a city.

The khalasar was like a city on the march, […] (aGoT, Daenerys III)

So, in a sense we have a girdled dragon being led back to the city. Even if Jhogo released Viserys from his whip’s grip, the wounds around Viserys’s neck are a reminder of the girdling.

This confrontation is also important, since Jorah betrays his sworn sword to Viserys and switches allegiance to Dany by executing her command. It is however, not a true knight’s decision as much as it is a sellsword one. First of all, Jorah did not intervene at the height of the confrontation, despite knowing that Viserys was livid and stormed off to teach Dany that she could not command him. After all, Jorah tried to tell him what would happen if he disobeyed.

“I warned him what would happen, my lady,” Ser Jorah Mormont said. “I told him to stay on the ridge, as you commanded.” (aGoT, Daenerys III)

And then there is Jorah’s choice after Dany commanded him to take Viserys’s horse and Viserys counters it with the order to hurt Dany and kill Jhogo and other Dothraki warriors there present.

“No!” Viserys screamed. He turned to Ser Jorah, pleading in the Common Tongue with words the horsemen would not understand. “Hit her, Mormont. Hurt her. Your king commands it. Kill these Dothraki dogs and teach her.”
The exile knight looked from Dany to her brother; she barefoot, with dirt between her toes and oil in her hair, he with his silks and steel. Dany could see the decision on his face. “He shall walk, Khaleesi,” he said. He took her brother’s horse in hand while Dany remounted her silver. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Sure, Viserys’s command is morally wrong, but Jorah’s choice to ignore Viserys’s wish therefore is not necessarily motivated by morality. The command is also suicidal and it is evident who has the most power in that confrontation. After all, Jorah swore his sword to Viserys to dupe him into trusting Jorah, so he could spy on both Viserys and Dany and earn himself a pardon from Robert Baratheon.

“Ser Jorah is now in Pentos, anxious to earn a royal pardon that would allow him to return from exile,” Robert explained. “Lord Varys makes good use of him.” (aGoT, Eddard II)

And Jorah also sent a message to warn Illyrio and Varys that Dany was with child.

“Ser Jorah would not dare deceive me,” Varys said with a sly smile. “Rely on it, my lord. The princess is with child.” (aGoT, Eddard VIII)

And since Dany only finds herself with child at the end of the third chapter, weeks after the day of the confrontation, we know that Jorah has not yet altered his main interest during the confrontation:

They were on the far side of the Dothraki sea when Jhiqui brushed the soft swell of Dany’s stomach with her fingers and said, “Khaleesi, you are with child.” (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Jorah’s decision is that of a sellsword who chooses the winning side, the side that will help him survive.

Varys smiled. “Here, then. Power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less.” (aCoK, Tyrion II)

“Now that’s a harsh way o’ putting it, if you don’t mind me saying.” Brown Ben scratched at his speckled grey-and-white whiskers. “We went over to the winning side, is all. Same as we done before. It weren’t all me, neither. I put it to my men.”
“So they betrayed me, is that what you are saying? Why? Did I mistreat the Second Sons? Did I cheat you on your pay?”
“Never that,” said Brown Ben, “but it’s not all about the coin, Your High-and-Mightiness. I learned that a long time back, at my first battle. Morning after the fight, I was rooting through the dead, looking for the odd bit o’ plunder, as it were. Came upon this one corpse, some axeman had taken his whole arm off at the shoulder. He was covered with flies, all crusty with dried blood, might be why no one else had touched him, but under them he wore this studded jerkin, looked to be good leather. I figured it might fit me well enough, so I chased away the flies and cut it off him. The damn thing was heavier than it had any right to be, though. Under the lining, he’d sewn a fortune in coin. Gold, Your Worship, sweet yellow gold. Enough for any man to live like a lord for the rest o’ his days. But what good did it do him? There he was with all his coin, lying in the blood and mud with his fucking arm cut off. And that’s the lesson, see? Silver’s sweet and gold’s our mother, but once you’re dead they’re worth less than that last shit you take as you lie dying. I told you once, there are old sellswords and there are bold sellswords, but there are no old bold sellswords. My boys didn’t care to die, that’s all, and when I told them that you couldn’t unleash them dragons against the Yunkishmen, well …” (aDwD, Daenerys VIII)

Why does he want to survive and earn himself a pardon?

“What do you pray for, Ser Jorah?” she asked him.
Home,” he said. His voice was thick with longing. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

He wants to be able to go home to Bear Island as Lord Mormont.

Further evidence that Jorah Mormont regards Dany as the more powerful is in the way he addresses Dany. Jorah addresses Dany with several different titles and words. He calls her child, girl, khaleesi, a queen, my lady and Daenerys. But we can discern a pattern in when he addresses her with any of these. He addresses her as child and girl when acting as a type of tutor:

“You ought to see it when it blooms, all dark red flowers from horizon to horizon, like a sea of blood. Come the dry season, and the world turns the color of old bronze. And this is only hranna, child. […]”
[…]
Jorah laughed. “Where else should he go? If he cannot find the khalasar, the khalasar will most surely find him. It is hard to drown in the Dothraki sea, child.”
[…]
“He could not lead an army even if my lord husband gave him one,” Dany said. “He has no coin and the only knight who follows him reviles him as less than a snake. The Dothraki make mock of his weakness. He will never take us home.”
Wise child.” The knight smiled.
I am no child,” she told him fiercely. Her heels pressed into the sides of her mount, rousing the silver to a gallop. Faster and faster she raced, leaving Jorah and Irri and the others far behind, the warm wind in her hair and the setting sun red on her face. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Despite Dany’s denial of still being a child, her public sexual life under the open sky for everyone to see that same evening, and her pregnancy, Ser Jorah will continue to refer to her as child, until she birthed the stillborn Rhaego. Since Ser Jorah says it so often, this is likely his personal perception of Dany until she wakes after the stillbirth.

When Dany sounds insecure about her brother’s reaction or expresses a form of loyalty to Viserys, while Jorah is bitter, he addresses her as girl.

“I hit him,” she said, wonder in her voice. Now that it was over, it seemed like some strange dream that she had dreamed. “Ser Jorah, do you think … he’ll be so angry when he gets back …” She shivered. “I woke the dragon, didn’t I?”
Ser Jorah snorted. “Can you wake the dead, girl? Your brother Rhaegar was the last dragon, and he died on the Trident. Viserys is less than the shadow of a snake.”
His blunt words startled her. It seemed as though all the things she had always believed were suddenly called into question. “You … you swore him your sword …”
“That I did, girl,” Ser Jorah said. “And if your brother is the shadow of a snake, what does that make his servants?” His voice was bitter. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Jorah calls her khaleesi, when she commands him.

That thought gave Dany the shivers. “I don’t want to talk about that now,” she said. “It’s so beautiful here, I don’t want to think about everything dying.”
“As you will, Khaleesi,” Ser Jorah said respectfully.
[…]
“He shall walk, Khaleesi,” he said. He took her brother’s horse in hand while Dany remounted her silver. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

He compares her to a queen once, while addressing her as Daenerys.

“You are learning to talk like a queen, Daenerys.
“Not a queen,” said Dany. “A khaleesi.” (aGoT, Daenerys III)

And finally, he addresses her as my lady, in front of her brother, before Dany commanded him to take Viserys’s horse and Jorah made his sellsword choice to perceived power. He likely did so to still appear the sworn sword to Viserys and avoid upsetting him more. But then Dany gave a direct order to Ser Jorah as khaleesi, and forced him to choose.

“I warned him what would happen, my lady,” Ser Jorah Mormont said. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Now, why are Jorah’s various ways of addressing Dany important? Because of the feeling this chapter is supposed to invoke with the reader – Dany’s self-empowerment. It is one of the features of her arc that make so many readers fan of her. Readers start to root for her from this chapter onwards. The strange thing is that in discussions of later events in aGoT, I see the same fans argue that Dany is in fact powerless as khaleesi. Some argue that Dany was lucky to have such a husband as she had in Khal Drogo; that she only has as much power as Khal Drogo allows her to have. But can Dany be self-empowered and a powerless lucky girl at the same time?

Khal Drogo ignored her when they rode, even as he had ignored her during their wedding, and spent his evenings drinking with his warriors and bloodriders, racing his prize horses, watching women dance and men die. Dany had no place in these parts of his life. She was left to sup alone, or with Ser Jorah and her brother, and afterward to cry herself to sleep. Yet every night, some time before the dawn, Drogo would come to her tent and wake her in the dark, to ride her as relentlessly as he rode his stallion. […] Khal Drogo came to her only after the sun went down, but her handmaids fed her and bathed her and slept by the door of her tent, Drogo’s bloodriders and the men of her khas were never far, and her brother was an unwelcome shadow, day and night. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

  • We learn explicitly that Khal Drogo is far away doing his own thing, except at night, near dawn. She thus lives mostly independently from Drogo.
  • As khaleesi, Dany is the instant judge over the incident with the power to decide over life and death, without conferring with her husband. Technically this is more power than any wife of lord of king in Westeros.
  • GRRM could have written Jhogo to use the whip, while Viserys grabbed her breast. But he wrote it, so that Dany had a chance to start to defend herself first, by pushing Viserys away.
  • Dany may have been silent about her opinions on Viserys in the first two chapters, but she thought them nevertheless. The sole difference is that in this chapter she voices them aloud.

So, certainly this chapter and incident was written to display Dany as self-empowered.

Varys argued that power is a thing of perception, not something static. Nor is it physical alone. In psychological terms, power is equated to taking initiative. Someone who does not express their wish, follows along meekly or gladly, does not take initiative and is therefore powerless. When someone expresses their wish, gives advice, decides or acts independently from others they are empowered. This may vary for the same person from situation to situation. But then you also have people who are fine with being followers, while others are naturally prone to take initiative as soon as they have the room to do so. This is one of the main aspects observers watch for in an assessment exercise for a position or job where someone has to lead a team or group of people. Who speaks up first, not necessarily with a solution, but a proposal on how to organize the brainstorm, discussion, etc.? Who dares to interject a discussion going nowhere, make a proposal and somehow manages it in such a way that someone else convinces the rest of the proposal? Who verbalizes the conclusion and consensus? People who do this naturally are strong influential initiative takers and therefore powerful, and all they require is the mental room to do so. The journey as khaleesi thus far gave Dany the mental room to take initiative and therefore become powerful.

Why does he give us so much?” she asked. “What does he want from us?” For nigh on half a year, they had lived in the magister’s house, eating his food, pampered by his servants. Dany was thirteen, old enough to know that such gifts seldom come without their price, here in the free city of Pentos.
“Illyrio is no fool,” Viserys said. He was a gaunt young man with nervous hands and a feverish look in his pale lilac eyes. “The magister knows that I will not forget my friends when I come into my throne.”
Dany said nothing. Magister Illyrio was a dealer in spices, gemstones, dragonbone, and other, less savory things. He had friends in all of the Nine Free Cities, it was said, and even beyond, in Vaes Dothrak and the fabled lands beside the Jade Sea. It was also said that he’d never had a friend he wouldn’t cheerfully sell for the right price. Dany listened to the talk in the streets, and she heard these things, but she knew better than to question her brother when he wove his webs of dream. […] His fingers toyed with the hilt of his borrowed blade, though Dany knew he had never used a sword in earnest. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

Viserys bristled. “Guard your tongue, Mormont, or I’ll have it out. I am no lesser man, I am the rightful Lord of the Seven Kingdoms. The dragon does not beg.”
Ser Jorah lowered his eyes respectfully. Illyrio smiled enigmatically and tore a wing from the duck. Honey and grease ran over his fingers and dripped down into his beard as he nibbled at the tender meat. There are no more dragons, Dany thought, staring at her brother, though she did not dare say it aloud. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

When it comes to psychological and relational dynamics on the Rose of Leary (yes Leary who is most famous for his experimental testing of LSD), we have a powerless cynical anti-relation from Dany to Illyrio and a powerless torpedo anti-relation to the pathological and dictatorial Viserys. In such relations, once Dany gains the freedom to take initiative and thus become empowered, her behavior will become either aggressive or rivaling to Viserys. It is called a torpedo, because the one with the power initially never saw it coming, assuming erronously she is a natural meek follower.

It shows that Dany is meek out of survival choice. Viserys’s kingdom and power never extended beyond his sister, a child younger than thirteen with noone to defend her physically against his abuse. In such a situation, Dany is only physically powerless. Because Viserys’s sense of being a king depends entirely on Dany acting like a king’s subject, she in actuality has the power of placating his feelings or denying him. Dany believes Viserys resents her, because their mother died birthing her, but it is far more likely this is because he resents the inherent power of denial she has. And in her third chapter that is exactly what she does publically: deny his manhood and his kingship. By then Dany realizes she is inherently stronger and more empowered than Viserys.

He lay on the ground, sucking in air noisily, red-faced and sobbing. He was a pitiful thing. He had always been a pitiful thing. Why had she never seen that before? There was a hollow place inside her where her fear had been. “Take his horse,” Dany commanded Ser Jorah. Viserys gaped at her. He could not believe what he was hearing; nor could Dany quite believe what she was saying. Yet the words came. “Let my brother walk behind us back to the khalasar.” Among the Dothraki, the man who does not ride was no man at all, the lowest of the low, without honor or pride. “Let everyone see him as he is.
[…]
“My brother will never take back the Seven Kingdoms,” Dany said. She had known that for a long time, she realized. She had known it all her life. Only she had never let herself say the words, even in a whisper, but now she said them for Jorah Mormont and all the world to hear. […] “He could not lead an army even if my lord husband gave him one,” Dany said. “He has no coin and the only knight who follows him reviles him as less than a snake. The Dothraki make mock of his weakness. He will never take us home.” (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Now, let us imagine that Dany was wed to a man with judicial power in Tyrosh, Braavos, or Westeros. She would be the mistress of the household, including the guards. Would Viserys have been allowed to behave like that in the home of his brother-in-law? Of course not. Would Dany have had the mental room to take initiative in that situation and become empowered? She would have the same freedom and room as say Catelyn Tully. This is why we have Jorah address her with various titles such as queen, my lady and khaleesi.

Only if her husband was a Ramsay, Gregor Clegane, Craster, Aerys II, or Joffrey would Dany have remained powerless. While George writes about some serious abusive sickos in the novels, they are still an exception, not the rule. And it was not mere luck that the Khal she would wed would be an open-minded man. Drogo was picked by Illyrio to be Dany’s husband, since Illyrio needed a Khal with an interest for other cultures and the potential to be persuaded to overcome the fear of crossing the Narrow Sea.

So, let us put this “she was powerless/lucky” idea to rest. All of Dany’s arc revolves around her coming into her own natural power as well as influencing other characters of her wishes and opinions since her first ride on her silver, and how that power and following expands.

Bakkalon the Pale Child

Jorah and others referring to Dany as child does not indicate a view of her being powerless, since George incorporated Bakkalon the Pale Child into the aSoIaF world. This is a warrior god first mentioned in his short story And Seven Times Never Kill a Man (one of my favourites), who renounced farming and hammered plowshares into swords to rebel against Hrangan minds who make people their mindslaves. Dany is a pale child. She influences slaves into throwing away their tools and take up arms instead. Various symbols and characters surrounding Dany point towards Bakkalon as well. William Darry’s house sigil is a man with plows. The Lhazarene are farmers and peaceful, but also easy targets. The former Lhazarene slave, the Red Lamb, goes into training to be Selmy’s squire in aDwD and says the following,

“I am not afraid. Should I die, I will go before the Great Shepherd of Lhazar, break his crook across my knee, and say to him, “Why did you make your people lambs, when the world is full of wolves?” Then I will spit into his eye.” (tWoW, Barristan I)

Where And Seven Times Never Kill a Man tells what becomes of the cult following this god centuries later, Dany’s story seems to tell a tale of how such a child comes into being and gains a cult following. For more on this godhead and the short story and how it relates to Dany, I refer to the Fattest Leech’s essays on both:

In the Cave

The next confrontation between Dany and the dragon Viserys occurs in her “room” of Drogo’s “palace” within Vaes Dothrak. Some versions of the legend of Saint George and the Dragon have the killing or girdling occur within the dragon’s lair, a cave. Dany describes Drogo’s palace as cavernous and her room a hollow hill.

Dany smiled as she recalled Magister Illyrio’s slave girl and her talk of a palace with two hundred rooms and doors of solid silver. The “palace” was a cavernous wooden feasting hall, its rough-hewn timbered walls rising forty feet, its roof sewn silk, a vast billowing tent that could be raised to keep out the rare rains, or lowered to admit the endless sky.  […] Doreah led her to the hollow hill that had been prepared for her and her khal. It was cool and dim within, like a tent made of earth. (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

Thus the setting befits the reenactment of the legend. We also get the dragon-princess references.

“They are my people now,” Dany said. “You should not call them savages, brother.”
The dragon speaks as he likes,” Viserys said … in the Common Tongue. He glanced over his shoulder at Aggo and Rakharo, riding behind them, and favored them with a mocking smile. “See, the savages lack the wit to understand the speech of civilized men.” A moss-eaten stone monolith loomed over the road, fifty feet tall. Viserys gazed at it with boredom in his eyes. “How long must we linger amidst these ruins before Drogo gives me my army? I grow tired of waiting.”
The princess must be presented to the dosh khaleen …” (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

We know these references are related to the confrontation, because the conversation between Viserys, Jorah and Dany includes Dany’s observation how all of Viserys’s clothes are worn and dusty.

“The crones, yes,” her brother interrupted, “and there’s to be some mummer’s show of a prophecy for the whelp in her belly, you told me. What is that to me? I’m tired of eating horsemeat and I’m sick of the stink of these savages.” He sniffed at the wide, floppy sleeve of his tunic, where it was his custom to keep a sachet. It could not have helped much. The tunic was filthy. All the silk and heavy wools that Viserys had worn out of Pentos were stained by hard travel and rotted from sweat.
Ser Jorah Mormont said, “The Western Market will have food more to your taste, Your Grace. The traders from the Free Cities come there to sell their wares. The khal will honor his promise in his own time.”
“He had better,” Viserys said grimly. “I was promised a crown, and I mean to have it. The dragon is not mocked.” Spying an obscene likeness of a woman with six breasts and a ferret’s head, he rode off to inspect it more closely. (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

The actual confrontation between the two of them occurs when Dany invited him to her hollow hill to gift him new clothes that she had made for him on the journey to fit in better amongst the Dothraki.

“I will give my brother his gifts tonight,” she decided as Jhiqui was washing her hair. “He should look a king in the sacred city. Doreah, run and find him and invite him to sup with me.” (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

Before we visit the scene of confrontation itself, let us examine the way Jorah addresses Dany, once Viserys wanders off and leaves them by themselves. Initially, Jorah addresses her as khaleesi.

Ser Jorah grunted. “Yes, Khaleesi, but … the Dothraki look on these things differently than we do in the west. I have told [Viserys] as much, as Illyrio told him, but your brother does not listen. The horselords are no traders. Viserys thinks he sold you, and now he wants his price. Yet Khal Drogo would say he had you as a gift. He will give Viserys a gift in return, yes … in his own time. You do not demand a gift, not of a khal. You do not demand anything of a khal.” (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

But once she asks whether Westeros could be conquered with the Dothraki if someone stronger than Viserys led such an army, Jorah begins to address her as princess or my lady, the titles that would be used in Westeros.

Ser Jorah’s face grew thoughtful as their horses trod together down the godsway. “When I first went into exile, I looked at the Dothraki and saw half-naked barbarians, as wild as their horses. If you had asked me then, Princess, I should have told you that a thousand good knights would have no trouble putting to flight a hundred times as many Dothraki.”
[…]
“Now,” the knight said, “I am less certain. They are better riders than any knight, utterly fearless, and their bows outrange ours. In the Seven Kingdoms, most archers fight on foot, from behind a shieldwall or a barricade of sharpened stakes. The Dothraki fire from horseback, charging or retreating, it makes no matter, they are full as deadly … and there are so many of them, my lady. Your lord husband alone counts forty thousand mounted warriors in his khalasar.”
[…]
“Mind you, Princess, if the lords of the Seven Kingdoms have the wit the gods gave a goose, it will never come to that. The riders have no taste for siegecraft. I doubt they could take even the weakest castle in the Seven Kingdoms, but if Robert Baratheon were fool enough to give them battle …” (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

Here, Jorah uses the address princess where before he used child to explain or tutor her. He does not use it in a sense where he seems to think her weak-hearted, or a captive, but simply uninformed and requesting for that information.

And already upon arrival Viserys acts the threat.

She was arranging the last of his gifts—a sandsilk cloak, green as grass, with a pale grey border that would bring out the silver in his hair—when Viserys arrived, dragging Doreah by the arm. Her eye was red where he’d hit her. “How dare you send this whore to give me commands,” he said. He shoved the handmaid roughly to the carpet. […] “No one commands the dragon,” Viserys snarled. “I am your king! I should have sent you back her head!” (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

I wish to point out the color of the cloak here – green. Green (combined with grey) is hystorically the color of peace that George uses in his color codes, since his very earliest writing, even as a teen already, whereas black and red are demonic or monstrous colors. The earliest published story of George revealing this pattern is Only Kids are Afraid in the Dark. And in Dreamsongs I, George prefaces this story and others with background information in the making and writing of these stories that is titled Color Codes. Red by itself just means either wrong or erronous – false messenger, false path, or someone well meaning who ends up dead (see also Trail of the Red Stallion essays). George has never deviated from these color codes: not in aSoIaF scenes, nor in the stories of A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. And how fitting is it for Dany to be inspired to offer peace while inside a hollow hill.

The green cloak here symbolizes Dany’s peace offer to her brother Viserys, after she publically humiliated him. She hopes to rebuild his reputation for the better amongst the Dothraki and acknowledge to him and to others that he is the King of the Seven Kingdoms. Basically, she hopes that if he wears Dothraki floppy ears, he will regain status, and perhaps even discovers the same self-empowerment that she feels with hers. However, while a peace offering is the set-up of the confrontation scene. Instead the dragon arrives aggressive.

The Lysene girl quailed, but Dany calmed her with a touch. “Don’t be afraid, he won’t hurt you. Sweet brother, please, forgive her, the girl misspoke herself, I told her to ask you to sup with me, if it pleases Your Grace.” She took him by the hand and drew him across the room. “Look. These are for you.” […] “New raiment. I had it made for you.” Dany smiled shyly.
He looked at her and sneered. “Dothraki rags. Do you presume to dress me now?”
“Please … you’ll be cooler and more comfortable, and I thought … maybe if you dressed like them, the Dothraki …” Dany did not know how to say it without waking his dragon.
“Next you’ll want to braid my hair.”
“I’d never …” Why was he always so cruel? She had only wanted to help.You have no right to a braid, you have won no victories yet.” (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

Dany exercises patience, placating respectful language. While Viserys seems to regard this behavior as weakness, her opening sentence to Doreah that she should not fear Viserys makes clear that Dany offers peace not out of fear, but because she believes it is the right thing to do, even if she does not believe that Viserys can lead an army. But she meets with nothing but resistance and paranoid pathology. Unfortunately pathologies cannot be truly placated. Green and grey may symbolize peace, but not the kind of the Lhazarene. Instead it is peace from a strength position, allowing for self-defense against uninvited aggression. While her initial patience for peace deflects the threat, eventually she responds with verbal aggression by denying him the right to a braid.

It was the wrong thing to say. Fury shone from his lilac eyes, yet he dared not strike her, not with her handmaids watching and the warriors of her khas outside. Viserys picked up the cloak and sniffed at it. “This stinks of manure. Perhaps I shall use it as a horse blanket.”
“I had Doreah sew it specially for you,” she told him, wounded. “These are garments fit for a khal.”
“I am the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, not some grass-stained savage with bells in his hair,” Viserys spat back at her. He grabbed her arm. “You forget yourself, slut. Do you think that big belly will protect you if you wake the dragon?
His fingers dug into her arm painfully and for an instant Dany felt like a child again, quailing in the face of his rage. She reached out with her other hand and grabbed the first thing she touched, the belt she’d hoped to give him, a heavy chain of ornate bronze medallions. She swung it with all her strength. (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

Dany erronously believes that Viserys would not dare strike her anymore, but he grabs her and hurts her, enough to wake the conditioned fear of the captive princess. And yet, it cannot drown out her self-empowerment, and she defends herself with…. a belt! The belt is a chain. She had hoped to gift it, but now she belts “the dragon” with it, even wounding him.

It caught him full in the face. Viserys let go of her. Blood ran down his cheek where the edge of one of the medallions had sliced it open. “You are the one who forgets himself,” Dany said to him. “Didn’t you learn anything that day in the grass? Leave me now, before I summon my khas to drag you out. And pray that Khal Drogo does not hear of this, or he will cut open your belly and feed you your own entrails.” (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

The important aspect of this confrontation is that Dany is entirely alone, except for Doreah as helpless witness. Dany saves herself here without any help or support of anyone. There is NO Serwyn figure whatsoever present or coming to her aid. Her khas is outside and stays outside. Her husband is off climbing the Mother of Mountains and will not come down before dawn.

“Khaleesi,” Cohollo said to her, in Dothraki. “Drogo, who is blood of my blood, commands me to tell you that he must ascend the Mother of Mountains this night, to sacrifice to the gods for his safe return.” Only men were allowed to set foot on the Mother, Dany knew. The khal’s bloodriders would go with him, and return at dawn. (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

The fact that Dany faces Viserys physically by herself, further highlights how self-empowered she is.

Another feature of the overall narrative regarding the Saint George and the Dragon legend is the detail on how Viserys journeyed to Vaes Dothrak: in a cart.

After the day in the grass when she had left him to walk back to the khalasar, the Dothraki had laughingly called him Khal Rhae Mhar, the Sorefoot King. Khal Drogo had offered him a place in a cart the next day, and Viserys had accepted. In his stubborn ignorance, he had not even known he was being mocked; the carts were for eunuchs, cripples, women giving birth, the very young and the very old. That won him yet another name: Khal Rhaggat, the Cart King. (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

In relation to the outcome of the previous chapter, we thus had a girdled dragon carted meekly at the back of the line towards the princess’s city, Vaes Dothrak. As Ser Jorah pointed out in the previous chapter – the Dothraki Sea is her new home now.

“I pray for home too,” she told him, believing it.
Ser Jorah laughed. “Look around you then, Khaleesi.” (aGoT, Daenerys III)

In the legend, the dragon trails the princess back to her city, where he eventually will be killed, if the citizens agree to be converted. Here it is done by cart at the back of the marching city, or procession. Meanwhile it is Dany who is converted to the acknowledgment that

  • her brother is no worthy king and will not be able to lead an army (in Daenerys III)
  • she cannot have a healthy, normal relationship with her brother (in Daenerys IV)

Hence, she had to make her peace offer in this chapter from her self-empowered position, in a way hoping to convert Viserys so that he comes to value and trust what he could achieve, before being able to let go of this hope. The peace offer completely derailed, she belted him aggressively, binding him once more to his fate. Meanwhile the green peace-cloak ending up bloodied.

Gabrielle_Portal_Dragon_EggIII
Dany with the green sandcloak and dragon egg, by Gabrielle Portal

Drops of his blood had spattered the beautiful [green] sandsilk cloak. Dany clutched the soft cloth to her cheek and sat cross-legged on her sleeping mats. […] “I’m not hungry,” Dany said sadly. She was suddenly very tired. “Share the food among yourselves, and send some to Ser Jorah, if you would.” After a moment she added, “Please, bring me one of the dragon’s eggs.” Irri fetched the egg with the deep green shell, bronze flecks shining amid its scales as she turned it in her small hands. Dany curled up on her side, pulling the sandsilk cloak across her and cradling the egg in the hollow between her swollen belly and small, tender breasts. (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

Notice how Irri brought Dany the green dragon egg, and thus the peaceful color once more. As Dany curls up beneath the peace-cloak and the peace-egg, she mourns her failed relation with her brother, but is rewarded with the movement of Rhaego and a new family bond replacing the toxic one with her brother.

She was lying there, holding the egg, when she felt the child move within her … as if he were reaching out, brother to brother, blood to blood. “You are the dragon,” Dany whispered to him, “the true dragon. I know it. I know it.” And she smiled, and went to sleep dreaming of home. (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

Killing the dragon

We now come to the final chapter of Dany’s arc with Viserys, in which he ends up slain, inside the city. The slaying of the dragon in the legend of Saint George in some versions occurs after a procession of the princess accompanied by the older women to the location where she is supposed to be sacrificed to the dragon.

A procession followed them out onto the godsway, the broad grassy road that ran through the heart of Vaes Dothrak, from the horse gate to the Mother of Mountains. The crones of the dosh khaleen came first, with their eunuchs and slaves. Some supported themselves with tall carved staffs as they struggled along on ancient, shaking legs, while others walked as proud as any horselord. Each of the old women had been a khaleesi once. When their lord husbands died and a new khal took his place at the front of his riders, with a new khaleesi mounted beside him, they were sent here, to reign over the vast Dothraki nation. Even the mightiest of khals bowed to the wisdom and authority of the dosh khaleen. […] Behind the wise women came the others; Khal Ogo and his son, the khalakka Fogo, Khal Jommo and his wives, the chief men of Drogo’s khalasar, Dany’s handmaids, the khal’s servants and slaves, and more. Bells rang and drums beat a stately cadence as they marched along the godsway. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

At the feast, Dany invites Jorah to sit with her, where he addresses her as khaleesi and princess, until Doreah points out to my lady that a drunk Viserys has arrived.

Mormont came at once, and went to one knee before her. “Khaleesi,” he said, “I am yours to command.”
She patted the stuffed horsehide cushion beside her. “Sit and talk with me.”
[…]
Ser Jorah wiped the grease off his mouth with the back of his hand and leaned close over the table. “He had planned to take your dragon’s eggs, until I warned him that I’d cut off his hand if he so much as touched them.”
For a moment Dany was so shocked she had no words. “My eggs … but they’re mine, Magister Illyrio gave them to me, a bride gift, why would Viserys want … they’re only stones …”
“The same could be said of rubies and diamonds and fire opals, Princess … and dragon’s eggs are rarer by far. Those traders he’s been drinking with would sell their own manhoods for even one of those stones, and with all three Viserys could buy as many sellswords as he might need.”
[…]
Suddenly Doreah was tugging at her elbow. “My lady,” the handmaid whispered urgently, “your brother …”
Dany looked down the length of the long, roofless hall and there he was, striding toward her. From the lurch in his step, she could tell at once that Viserys had found his wine … and something that passed for courage. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

The dragon arrives in the Targaryen dragon attire, placing himself next to the firepits spitting flames ten feet high in search of Dany specifically. Even if Viserys cannot breathe fire, GRRM is trying to evoke the image of a fire breathing predator searching for his intended victim, the princess.

He was wearing his scarlet silks, soiled and travel-stained. His cloak and gloves were black velvet, faded from the sun. His boots were dry and cracked, his silver-blond hair matted and tangled. A longsword swung from his belt in a leather scabbard.[…] “Where is my sister?” Viserys shouted, his voice thick with wine. “I’ve come for her feast. How dare you presume to eat without me? No one eats before the king. Where is she? The whore can’t hide from the dragon.” He stopped beside the largest of the three firepits, peering around at the faces of the Dothraki. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

Dany sent Jorah to stop the dragon, therefore pushing him into a Saint George role.

A sense of dread closed around her heart. “Go to him,” she commanded Ser Jorah. “Stop him. Bring him here. Tell him he can have the dragon’s eggs if that is what he wants.”
The knight rose swiftly to his feet. […] Ser Jorah went to him swiftly, whispered something in his ear, and took him by the arm, but Viserys wrenched free. “Keep your hands off me! No one touches the dragon without leave.” (aGoT, Daenerys V)

Except Jorah fails at his attempts of stopping the dragon. As the men shout at each other, this scene is accompanied by a thunderous roar and when Viserys speaks he hisses.

Ser Jorah was standing beside Viserys, screaming in his ear, but the roar in the hall was so thunderous that Dany could not hear what he was saying. Her brother shouted back and the two men grappled, until Mormont knocked Viserys bodily to the floor. Her brother drew his sword. The bared steel shone a fearful red in the glare from the firepits. “Keep away from me!” Viserys hissed. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

This is as dragonesque as Viserys can manage.

Dothraki were shrieking at him from all sides, screaming vile curses. Dany gave a wordless cry of terror. She knew what a drawn sword meant here, even if her brother did not. Her voice made Viserys turn his head, and he saw her for the first time. “There she is,” he said, smiling. He stalked toward her, slashing at the air as if to cut a path through a wall of enemies, though no one tried to bar his way. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

To us readers, none of the Dothraki, nor Dany are afraid OF Viserys. Dany is afraid FOR what will befall Viserys. But to the delusional drunk Viserys – who appears like a dragon, slashing the sword as if it were a tail, stalking towards his intended victim – the shrieking and cry of terror must have sounded as if he was scaring the living daylights out of them and making an actual threatening impression.

He laid the point of his sword between Daenerys’s breasts and slid it downward, over the curve of her belly. “I want what I came for,” he told her. “I want the crown he promised me. He bought you, but he never paid for you. Tell him I want what I bargained for, or I’m taking you back. You and the eggs both. He can keep his bloody foal. I’ll cut the bastard out and leave it for him.” The sword point pushed through her silks and pricked at her navel. Viserys was weeping, she saw; weeping and laughing, both at the same time, this man who had once been her brother. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

And with this threat and action, Viserys sealed his fate. He convinced Dany that there is no saving her brother from his own suicidal behavior; that he is a dead man walking. And so it is she, who translates the self-condemning threat of the dragon to her husband.

Distantly, as from far away, Dany heard her handmaid Jhiqui sobbing in fear, pleading that she dared not translate, that the khal would bind her and drag her behind his horse all the way up the Mother of Mountains. She put her arm around the girl. “Don’t be afraid,” she said. “I shall tell him.” (aGoT, Daenerys V)

Now, it is clear that Dany dissociates here emotionally in the scene, the moment she thinks of Viserys as the “man who was once her brother”. This is sometimes used as an argument by some to push their opinion that Dany is a psychopath. To this I disagree. Dissociating from a traumatic, horrific event you know is coming is not abnormal for an emotional empathic human being. We are all capable of this natural emotionally protective mental trick. The difference between a pathology and normality is not that a certain specific behaviour or emotional repsonse of someone with a pathology is abnormal. It is that someone with a pathology is incapable of displaying a variation or spectrum of behaviours and/or emotional responses. We all dissociate in rare situations. A psychopath dissociates all the time.

GRRM made sure to include a retrospective emotion of Dany in what follows.

Viserys smiled and lowered his sword. That was the saddest thing, the thing that tore at her afterward … the way he smiled. “That was all I wanted,” he said. “What was promised.” (aGoT, Daenerys V)

Someone with a pathology such as a psychopath would not feel torn afterward.

I will however point out that up to some level, George wrote Dany to be complicit in the execution of Viserys, in part being responsible, by the simple fact that she:

  • volunteered to translate Viserys’ threat, knowing it would be the death of him
  • she made no effort to warn him of the ruse

If Dany had wanted to save him, as she had done before, she could have tried as she tried mere minutes before, but refrained to do so. Let me be clear: I am only making an analytical observation, and not a moral condemnation. Yes, Viserys would have been killed without Dany’s translation. There were five thousand witnesses who saw him draw the sword and threaten Drogo’s wife and her unborn child with it, even if they did not understand the actual words. The point is that Dany chose to act in a manner that she became part of it. I do not condemn it, because Viserys was unsalvageable. He was so far gone he had become an actual threat, and Dany has the right to safeguard her life and that of her child.

It is, however, analytically important that Dany becomes one of the few directly responsible to Viserys’ fate, because of the Saint George legend, and this for two reasons.

First, in the Golden Legend version, the princess attempts to dissuade Saint George from saving her from the dragon twice.

When she was there Saint George passed by, and seeing the lady, he asked her what she was doing there.
She said, “Go your way, fair young man, lest you perish as well.”
Then he said, “Tell me why you are weeping.”
When she saw that he insisted on knowing, she told him how she had been delivered to the dragon.
Then Saint George said, “Fair daughter, doubt not, for I shall help you in the name of Jesus Christ.”
She said, “For God’s sake, good knight, go your way, for you cannot save me.”
While they were thus talking together the dragon appeared and came running toward them. Saint George, who was on his horse, drew his sword, made the sign of the cross, then rode swiftly toward the dragon. He struck him with his spear, injuring him severely. (Saint George and the Dragon, The Golden Legend or Lives of Saints)

Dany twice confronted Viserys before without imploring Drogo to protect her from Viserys. Instead she even used every bed trick Doreah taught her to persuade Drogo to allow Viserys to ride into Vaes Dothrak on horseback in the time between her third and fourth chapter. But with the third confrontation, Drogo is present and becomes the personal killer of Viserys and Dany volunteered to be part of it.

Secondly, the actual killing of the dragon in the legend is related to a conversion. After the princess leads the dragon into the city with her girdle or belt, Saint George promises to slay the dragon, but only if the citizens convert.

Saint George said to them, “Doubt not. Believe in God and Jesus Christ, and be baptized, and I shall slay the dragon.” Then the king and all his people were baptized, whereupon Saint George killed the dragon and cut off his head. (Saint George and the Dragon, The Golden Legend or Lives of Saints)

Take note that the conversion is a requisite and performed before the slaying of the dragon. Now, of course in this scene, none of the five thousand Dothraki are converted, but Dany is. She converts to Dothraki law, belief and authority over the regal authority of her brother that she still insisted on during her conversation with Jorah earlier.

Dany had not known, had not even suspected. “Then … he should have them. He does not need to steal them. He had only to ask. He is my brother … and my true king.” […] “You do not understand, ser,” she said. “My mother died giving me birth, and my father and my brother Rhaegar even before that. I would never have known so much as their names if Viserys had not been there to tell me. He was the only one left. The only one. He is all I have.”
“Once,” said Ser Jorah. “No longer, Khaleesi. You belong to the Dothraki now. In your womb rides the stallion who mounts the world.” (aGoT, Daenerys V)

While she intended to gift the dragon eggs to Viserys before he made his threat, because she recognizes him as her true king, Dany converts after his threat completely and sees herself as belonging to the Dothraki, as subtly indicated when Drogo joins her after he decrees Viserys’s fate and Dany slides her arm around him.

When the sun of her life [Drogo] reached her, Dany slid an arm around his waist. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

Dany here is signaling to Drogo that she is fine with what he plans to do to her brother. So, while Jhogo took up the Saint George role in the first confrontation, Dany took the role in the second confrontation protecting herself and Doreah, in this scene Drogo takes the Saint George part. And it starts with a feign.

It had grown so silent in the hall that she could hear the bells in Khal Drogo’s hair, chiming softly with each step he took. His bloodriders followed him, like three copper shadows. Daenerys had gone cold all over. “He says you shall have a splendid golden crown that men shall tremble to behold.” (aGoT, Daenerys V)

Drogo seems to accede to Viserys’s demand, and once Viserys hears it, he lowers his sword, not realizing yet this specific crown will be the death of him. When Serwyn fights the dragon he uses his mirror shield to distract the dragon with its own reflection, before striking. Drogo and Dany here use a feign to distract Viserys before striking.

The khal said a word, and his bloodriders leapt forward. Qotho seized the man who had been her brother by the arms. Haggo shattered his wrist with a single, sharp twist of his huge hands. Cohollo pulled the sword from his limp fingers. Even now Viserys did not understand. “No,” he shouted, “you cannot touch me, I am the dragon, the dragon, and I will be crowned!” (aGoT, Daenerys V)

And what does Drogo slay the dragon with? A BELT!

Khal Drogo unfastened his belt. The medallions were pure gold, massive and ornate, each one as large as a man’s hand. […] Drogo tossed in the belt and watched without expression as the medallions turned red and began to lose their shape. […] When the gold was half-melted and starting to run, Drogo reached into the flames, snatched out the pot. “Crown!” he roared. “Here. A crown for Cart King!” And upended the pot over the head of the man who had been her brother. The sound Viserys Targaryen made when that hideous iron helmet covered his face was like nothing human. His feet hammered a frantic beat against the dirt floor, slowed, stopped. Thick globs of molten gold dripped down onto his chest, setting the scarlet silk to smoldering … yet no drop of blood was spilled. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

That was the end of the last dragon, while the converted princess watched.

Ser Jorah had made his way to Dany’s side. He put a hand on her shoulder. “Turn away, my princess, I beg you.”
“No.” She folded her arms across the swell of her belly, protectively. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

GOTCHA – Not a True Dragon

So, our Saint George legend re-enactment that spanned three chapters has come to its conclusion and ticks all the boxes, several times. Except … Viserys turns out not to be a dragon!

He was no dragon, Dany thought, curiously calm. Fire cannot kill a dragon. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

GRRM has been pulling the wool over our eyes, and he warned us through Dany’s thoughts and Jorah’s words since the very moment he set up the anology to the Saint George legend that Viserys was not the dragon.

Viserys bristled. “Guard your tongue, Mormont, or I’ll have it out. I am no lesser man, I am the rightful Lord of the Seven Kingdoms. The dragon does not beg.” […] There are no more dragons, Dany thought, staring at her brother, though she did not dare say it aloud. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

“I hit him,” she said, wonder in her voice. Now that it was over, it seemed like some strange dream that she had dreamed. “Ser Jorah, do you think … he’ll be so angry when he gets back …” She shivered. “I woke the dragon, didn’t I?”
Ser Jorah snorted. “Can you wake the dead, girl? Your brother Rhaegar was the last dragon, and he died on the Trident. Viserys is less than the shadow of a snake.” (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Well, perhaps Viserys was a dragon. He was of the blood of the dragon. But the last Targaryen dragon that died was no bigger than a dog, a mastiff.

There were nineteen [dragon] skulls. The oldest was more than three thousand years old; the youngest a mere century and a half. The most recent were also the smallest; a matched pair no bigger than mastiff’s skulls, and oddly misshapen, all that remained of the last two hatchlings born on Dragonstone. They were the last of the Targaryen dragons, perhaps the last dragons anywhere, and they had not lived very long. (aGoT, Tyrion II)

Viserys began to scream the high, wordless scream of the coward facing death. He kicked and twisted, whimpered like a dog and wept like a child, but the Dothraki held him tight between them. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

In a way, Viserys matches one of these last two hatchlings. There is the comparison to being like a dog. And then Viserys’s skull ends up misshapen by his crown belt. There is one caveat in this comparison to the last hatchlings that Tyrion thinks of: they were born on Dragonstone and Viserys was born in King’s Landing. I will come back to this in the later essays on Dany in relation to the Serwyn and Saint George legend.

Conclusion

For now the main question rising in your mind ought to be: WTF, why does George spend setting up and re-enacting the legend of Saint George and the dragon across Dany’s first five chapters so elaborately and then the slain dragon turns out not to be a dragon. More, our supposed helpless princess in need of saving, seems to be able to save herself quite well and is not helpless at all anymore. And what to make of Dany feeling like a princess for the first time when she rides her silver, in the chapter where she wears Dothraki garb and plays with her toes in the mud of the Dothraki Sea? The answer to these issues is that Dany was the dragon all along, and if that is true then the legend was turned on its head: the dragon got the prince slain and the citizens sacrificed the prince for the she-dragon. The evidence that GRRM piles up from early on that Dany is the true dragon of Saint George’s legend will be discussed in Dany II: Saint George’s True Dragon.

Mirror Mirror – Brass Alchemism

(top illustration: Aegon and Quicksilver dying during the Battle Beneath the Gods Eye, by Michael Komarck, in tWoIaF)

The Brass Platter

The mirror we will discuss is a brass platter that Dany and Jorah pick up from a brass merchant stall on a quay in Qarth to spy on two men following them. It is important that a mirror is used for more than self-inspection, but to survey the environment instead.

As they made their way toward the next quay, Ser Jorah laid a hand against the small of her back. “Your Grace. You are being followed. No, do not turn.” He guided her gently toward a brass-seller’s booth. “This is a noble work, my queen,” he proclaimed loudly, lifting a large platter for her inspection. “See how it shines in the sun?”
The brass was polished to a high sheen. Dany could see her face in it . . . and when Ser Jorah angled it to the right, she could see behind her. “I see a fat brown man and an older man with a staff. Which is it?”
“Both of them,” Ser Jorah said. […] The ripples in the brass stretched the strangers queerly, making one man seem long and gaunt, the other immensely squat and broad. (aCoK, Daenerys V)

Later on, Jorah uses the platter as a type of shield, by banging it on Belwas’s head, when he erronously thinks Belwas and Selmy mean to attack Dany.

[…] Ser Jorah slammed the eunuch over the head with the brass platter […] Ser Jorah had shouldered his way to her side, holding the brass platter awkwardly under his arm. Belwas’s hard head had left it badly bent. (aCoK, Daenerys V)

The Way of Quicksilver to Valyrian Steel

We chose this mirror first, because it links to a particular mention of material that The Fattest Leech already connected to mirrors in 2018 – quicksilver.

The surface of the mirrors seemed to ripple and bulge, like a wave cresting on some quicksilver sea. (Skin Trade)

I make a fist, a familiar gesture, and in my hand a mirror takes shape from the iron of my will and the quicksilver of my desire. (The Glass Flower)

In the chapter that features the brass platter, Quicksilver is one of the ships that Jorah and Dany boarded to negotiate shipping costs.

The two brothers who captained the sister ships Quicksilver and Greyhound seemed sympathetic and invited them into the cabin for a glass of Arbor red. They were so courteous that Dany was hopeful for a time, but in the end the price they asked was far beyond her means, and might have been beyond Xaro’s. […] “They have been following us since we left Quicksilver.” (aCoK, Daenerys V)

Quicksilver is another name for the chemical element mercury and has the symbol Hg, from the old name hydrargyrum. The latter translates to silver water: it is liquid at room temperature like water and shiny like silver. Several faulty supernatural beliefs held their sway about mercury in ancient times. In Asia and the Middle East it was regarded as having curative powers, even that of rendering someone immortal. The first emperor of China drank a jade-mercury given to him by Qin alchemists all with the aim to acquire eternal life, only to die of liver failure, mercury poisoning and brain death. The second Tulunid emperor of Egypt (Muslim) floated on an airbed in a mercury filled pool to fall asleep on its vapors. The Mayans and people of Teotihuacan also filled chambers beneath temples and ball courts with pools of mercury. Finally, alchemists regarded mercury the First Matter from which all other metals were formed. In Sanskrit the word for alchemy is Rasavatam, which means “the way of mercury”. Mercury was the Roman god of speed and mobility. It is also referenced in the naming of the mercurial temperament: quick, intelligent, unpredictably changeable in mood. That George implies this meaning of quick* is supported by the fact that the sister ship of Quicksilver is called Greyhound, which is a dog bred for its speed and (ab)used to race for people’s gambling entertainment (apart from being a mode of bus transport).

* In Dutch mercury is called ‘kwik’ which you pronounce exactly as the English word ‘quick’. And fast, flexible physique is referred to as ‘kwiek’ (an elongated pronunciation of the English ‘ui’ vowel).

The mercurial reference seems to sum up Dany’s temperament, especially in aCoK. There she had little patience, wanted to be gifted a fleet and army to retake the Iron Throne ASAP. There is nothing realistic about a young woman expecting such costly things from a city who have no ties or affinity with her, all to conquer a realm half a world away, just because her father was once a king there. And if she had rushed to Westeros as she intended initially, it would have likely cost her own life, for she had no accumen for court intrigue, no military experience and dragons only the size of dogs. In this way, George is “reflecting” Dany’s growth in an alchemistic way. Her growth follows the “way of mercury”.

George uses the same name Quicksilver in the background stories of the series one more time. The dragon of Aegon The Conquerer’s eldest son Aenys I was called Quicksilver. When Aenys died, his son Aegon the Uncrowned got to be the dragonrider of Quicksilver. Both died in the Battle Beneath the Gods Eye against his usurping uncle Maegor the Cruel on Balerion.

In 43 AC, his nephew, Prince Aegon, attempted to win back the throne that by law should have been his, in what came to be known as the great Battle Beneath the Gods Eye. Aegon died in that battle, leaving behind his wife and sister Rhaena, and their two twin daughters; his dragon, Quicksilver, was lost as well. (tWoIaF, The Targaryen Kings: Maegor I)

The Gods Eye is likened several times in smith and metal terms: as a sheet of beaten or hammered copper.

The sun was low in the west by the time they saw the lake, its waters glimmering red and gold, bright as a sheet of beaten copper. (The Mystery Knight)

The setting sun made the tranquil surface of the water shimmer like a sheet of beaten copper. It was the biggest lake she had ever seen, with no hint of a far shore. (aCoK, Arya IV)

Gods Eye was a sheet of sun-hammered blue that filled half the world. (aCoK, Arya V)

So, via Quicksilver’s death “beneath” the “copper sheet”, George links mercury to metal work.

For alchemists, the higher metals were not just the more “pure” (gold), but also those that required higher temperatures to melt and thus were more difficult for smiths to forge. The first alloy smiths could forge was bronze (copper with tin). In aGoT, Bronze is heavily featured amongst the Dothraki as medaillon belts, Drogo’s bronze mask of a face, the bronze horse statues at Vaes Dothrak.

Men and women alike wore painted leather vests over bare chests and horsehair leggings cinched by bronze medallion belts, and the warriors greased their long braids with fat from the rendering pits. […] Most of all, she was afraid of what would happen tonight under the stars, when her brother gave her up to the hulking giant who sat drinking beside her with a face as still and cruel as a bronze mask. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

The Horse Gate of Vaes Dothrak was made of two gigantic bronze stallions, rearing, their hooves meeting a hundred feet above the roadway to form a pointed arch. Dany could not have said why the city needed a gate when it had no walls … and no buildings that she could see. Yet there it stood, immense and beautiful, the great horses framing the distant purple mountain beyond. The bronze stallions threw long shadows across the waving grasses as Khal Drogo led the khalasar under their hooves and down the godsway, his bloodriders beside him. Dany followed on her silver, escorted by Ser Jorah Mormont and her brother Viserys, mounted once more.

Dany laid out the clothing she’d had made to her brother’s measure: a tunic and leggings of crisp white linen, leather sandals that laced up to the knee, a bronze medallion belt, a leather vest painted with fire-breathing dragons. The Dothraki would respect him more if he looked less a beggar, she hoped, and perhaps he would forgive her for shaming him that day in the grass. […] She reached out with her other hand and grabbed the first thing she touched, the belt she’d hoped to give him, a heavy chain of ornate bronze medallions. She swung it with all her strength. (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

Khal Drogo stood over her as she ate, his face as hard as a bronze shield. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

“This day I will go to the grass and hunt, woman wife,” he announced as he shrugged into a painted vest and buckled on a wide belt with heavy medallions of silver, gold, and bronze. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

Mirri Maz Duur chanted words in a tongue that Dany did not know, and a knife appeared in her hand. Dany never saw where it came from. It looked old; hammered red bronze, leaf-shaped, its blade covered with ancient glyphs. (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

As she adapts more to her husband’s culture, Dany starts to bronze. Notice how initially, Dany thinks of Drogo’s face as a bronze mask, but later as a bronze shield. She starts to appreciate the hard quality of the bronze as a material. Silver is beautiful, but less useful to be used in war as armor, shield or sword.But when MMD begins her magic to physically save Drogo from sepsis, the bronze is featured with unknown words and writing that Dany does not yet know. She maesters it intuitively when she burns Drogo, Rhaego and MMD to birth her dragons.

The bronze mastering “arc” continues in aCoK. In Vaes Tolorro, where Dany and her khalasar shelter from the Red Waste, children follow a trail of bronze coins. At Qarth she passes under a bronze arch. Both times the bronze is linked to snakes in the same sentence or image. Snakes can be a metaphor for dragons, but in this case it would mean an unfinished dragon, still growing. It is not until the House of the Undying that Dany is ready to move on to the next stage, for to linger in the bronze formation stage of the dragon can only mean the death of dragons.

Children wandered the twisty alleys and found old bronze coins and bits of purple glass and stone flagons with handles carved like snakes.(aCoK, Daenerys I)

All the colors that had been missing from Vaes Tolorro had found their way to Qarth; buildings crowded about her fantastical as a fever dream in shades of rose, violet, and umber. She passed under a bronze arch fashioned in the likeness of two snakes mating, their scales delicate flakes of jade, obsidian, and lapis lazuli. (aCoK, Daenerys II)

Finally a great pair of bronze doors appeared to her left, grander than the rest. They swung open as she neared, and she had to stop and look. Beyond loomed a cavernous stone hall, the largest she had ever seen. The skulls of dead dragons looked down from its walls. Upon a towering barbed throne sat an old man in rich robes, an old man with dark eyes and long silver-grey hair. “Let him be king over charred bones and cooked meat,” he said to a man below him. “Let him be the king of ashes.” Drogon shrieked, his claws digging through silk and skin, but the king on his throne never heard, and Dany moved on.  (aCoK, Daenerys IV)

And by the end of aCoK, she is ready to be master (or maester) of bronze, and acquires herself a bronze capped army, the Unsullied, early on in aSoS.

After bronze comes brass (copper with zinc) in temperature. It is only introduced in the last chapter of aCoK, right after George dropped the quicksilver mention. And yes, it heralds a new growth and a new arc for Dany – that of conquering slaver’s bay, culminating in her reign over Meereen where her city guards, the Brazen beasts, wear brass masks.

Skahaz mo Kandaq had given her the new watch she had asked for, made up in equal numbers of freedmen and shavepate Meereenese. They walked the streets both day and night, in dark hoods and brazen masks. (aDwD, Daenerys II)

The Shavepate was accompanied by two of his Brazen Beasts. One wore a hawk mask, the other the likeness of a jackal. Only their eyes could be seen behind the brass. (aDwD, Daenerys V)

It is also in this arc that Daario appears: he wears brass medallions.

Ser Jorah Mormont returned an hour later, accompanied by three captains of the Stormcrows. They wore black feathers on their polished helms, and claimed to be all equal in honor and authority. Dany studied them as Irri and Jhiqui poured the wine. Prendahl na Ghezn was a thickset Ghiscari with a broad face and dark hair going grey; Sallor the Bald had a twisting scar across his pale Qartheen cheek; and Daario Naharis was flamboyant even for a Tyroshi. His beard was cut into three prongs and dyed blue, the same color as his eyes and the curly hair that fell to his collar. His pointed mustachios were painted gold. His clothes were all shades of yellow; a foam of Myrish lace the color of butter spilled from his collar and cuffs, his doublet was sewn with brass medallions in the shape of dandelions, and ornamental goldwork crawled up his high leather boots to his thighs. Gloves of soft yellow suede were tucked into a belt of gilded rings, and his fingernails were enameled blue. (aSoS, Daenerys IV)

If before Dany bronzed, she becomes brazen, as in bold as brass, in aSoS. And thus it becomes clear that the brass-phase is an intermediary one, a step towards the gold.

The masters of gold are the Lannisters, and Tyrion Lannister joining Dany’s faction heralds the start of the gold phase, while Young Griff – whom many of us expect to end up in opposing war with Dany – has the Golden Company for his loyal army. It is doubtful the alchemist growth ends with gold. On Planetos the most precious metal is not gold, but Valyrian steel. George has Donal Noye, the smith at the Night’s Watch, compare the Baratheon brothers to certain metal qualities as well.

The armorer considered that a moment. “Robert was the true steel. Stannis is pure iron, black and hard and strong, yes, but brittle, the way iron gets. He’ll break before he bends. And Renly, that one, he’s copper, bright and shiny, pretty to look at but not worth all that much at the end of the day.” (aCoK, Jon I)

But if Robert was the true steel, then there ought to be at least one character who is true Valyrian Steel. While in Dany’s arc we have this alchemistic ma(e)stering of metals reminiscint to maesters “forging” their chainlinks, in Jon’s we have a heavy allusion to him being “forged” and “reforged” as a sword over time. Jon does not need to “master” each metal like Dany. Jon has a clear allusion of being the Valyrian Steel being reforged as he lives behind the forge in the armory at Castle Black. He is a “sword in the darkness” since he made his vows to be a brother of the Night’s Watch. And he earned a Valyrian Steel sword towards the end of aGoT.

Meanwhile Young Griff is already gifted the gold rank, but may very well end up as dragonlord-bonecoal to forge a new Valyrian Steel sword, and thus we dare to propose that Aegon will literally end up as a physical Valyrian Steel sword. (Also see further discussion on this idea on “the secret to Valyrian Steel” on Westeros.org)

Shield and Spyglass

Okay, we’ve discussed at length about metal – quicksilver and brass – in Dany’s overall arc. With that out of the way, we will now focus on the mirror function specifically. From the moment Dany notices Belwas and Selmy in the brass platter used as a rearview mirror, the question that dominates the discussion between Jorah and her is whether they mean her harm or not.

For Jorah, [Dany] lowered her voice and spoke in the Common Tongue. “They may not mean me ill. Men have looked at women since time began, perhaps it is no more than that.” […] she studied the reflections. The old man had the look of Westeros about him, and the brown-skinned one must weigh twenty stone. The Usurper offered a lordship to the man who kills me, and these two are far from home. Or could they be creatures of the warlocks, meant to take me unawares? […] Only fools would stare so openly if they meant me harm. All the same, it might be prudent to head back toward Jhogo and Aggo. “The old man does not wear a sword,” she said to Jorah in the Common Tongue as she drew him away.
Ser Jorah said, “A hardwood staff can crack a skull as well as any mace.” (aCoK, Daenerys V)

Before long, Dany will learn both are allies. Selmy saves her life from the manticore that was handed to her by one of the Sorrowful Men hired by the warlocks, in revenge of her destroying the Undying.

A Qartheen stepped into her path. “Mother of Dragons, for you.” He knelt and thrust a jewel box into her face. […] Dany caught a glimpse of a malign black face, almost human, and an arched tail dripping venom . . . and then the box flew from her hand in pieces, turning end over end. Sudden pain twisted her fingers. […] Ser Jorah slammed past her, and Dany stumbled to one knee. She heard the hiss again. The old man drove the butt of his staff into the ground, […]
“Your Grace, a thousand pardons.” The old man knelt. “It’s dead. Did I break your hand?” (aCoK, Daenerys V)

Though Selmy is not truthful about his identity at this point, he is a true ally. The same is true for the gruff Belwas. Jorah throws shade at both men in aSoS, planting seeds of doubts, but both men prove their loyalty time and time again. Much later, Strong Belwas ends up unwittingly saving Dany from the poisoned locusts by eating them all himself. Nor does Selmy try to make less of his initial disguise. Even when everybody else believes Dany to be dead after she flew off on Drogon, Selmy keeps believing and is reluctant to go against Dany’s prior wishes. When he does so, it is under the belief that Hizdahr attempted to poison Dany. While I see Selmy ending up dead because he trusts men like Shakaz, I think the chances are nill that either Selmy or Belwas will defect from Dany’s side to another. Meanwhile, the same scene featuring the mirror exposes Dany’s mortal enemies to be the warlocks of the Undying.

Bactericide Properties

It seems all we can conclude about quicksilver, brass and a platter used as a rearview mirror to spy on people has been covered. However, much of the scene preceding the assassination attempt lingers a great deal on the haggling of the brass merchant. It certainly serves comical entertainment for the reader, but it has a symbolical clue too.

“A most excellent brass, great lady,” the merchant exclaimed. “Bright as the sun! And for the Mother of Dragons, only thirty honors.”
The platter was worth no more than three. “Where are my guards?” Dany declared. “This man is trying to rob me!” […]
The brass-seller ignored their whispers. “Thirty? Did I say thirty? Such a fool I am. The price is twenty honors.”
“All the brass in this booth is not worth twenty honors,” Dany told him […]
“Ten, Khaleesi, because you are so lovely. Use it for a looking glass. Only brass this fine could capture such beauty.”
“It might serve to carry nightsoil. If you threw it away, I might pick it up, so long as I did not need to stoop. But pay for it?” Dany shoved the platter back into his hands. “Worms have crawled up your nose and eaten your wits.”
“Eight honors,” he cried. “My wives will beat me and call me fool, but I am a helpless child in your hands. Come, eight, that is less than it is worth.”
What do I need with dull brass when Xaro Xhoan Daxos feeds me off plates of gold?” […]
“Four! I know you want it!” He danced in front of them, scampering backward as he thrust the platter at their faces. […] “Two honors! Two! Two!” The merchant was panting heavily from the effort of running backward.
Pay him before he kills himself,” Dany told Ser Jorah, wondering what she was going to do with a huge brass platter. (aCoK, Daenerys V)

As a shield on the wrong head, the platter seemed to serve little at all once bought. And yet, the brass platter changes ownership right before the Sorrowful Man hands Dany the jewelry box with the manticore inside. Maybe there is more to this platter? Well, the interesting aspect about brass in particular is that it has bactericide properties. It kills bacteria within minutes to hours after contant (over 99% kill rate, including antibiotic resistant bacteria). If it is therefore used as coating on a surface, it prevents biofouling. The latter is a problem especially in the marine business: bacteria settle on a surface, followed by algae, barnacles, plants, worms, … Now that sounds an interesting tidbit and ironic in light of Dany haggling over the platter’s use to carry nightsoil, but it becomes a viable choice by George when we see how the brass merchant got embroiled in the manticore events.

[…] and then the box flew from her hand in pieces, turning end over end. Sudden pain twisted her fingers. As she cried out and clutched her hand, the brass merchant let out a shriek, a woman screamed, and suddenly the Qartheen were shouting and pushing each other aside. […] The brass merchant was still rolling on the ground. She went to him and helped him to his feet. “Were you stung?
No, good lady,” he said, shaking, “or else I would be dead. But it touched me, aieeee, when it fell from the box it landed on my arm.” He had soiled himself, she saw, and no wonder.(aCoK, Daenerys V)

Selmy knocked the jewelry box with the manticore out of Dany’s hands, not yet killing it. Only after the manticore lands on the brass merchant’s arm, Selmy manages to kill it by crushing it with his staff. It is quite peculiar that George has an insect killed after it touches a person who handles brass all day but does not sting it, and after Dany became the official owner of the platter. And obviously the merchant “fouled” himself in his fear for the manticore.

And so in light of that it becomes suspicious that much later, George has Dany’s Meereenese city guards wear brass masks in the shape of animals, almost as if the city guard is biofouling itself, lowering the brass’s ability to kill bacteria and insects. But we will leave our examination of the brass platter here. The Brazen Beasts will be discussed as we examine the camouflaging aspects of armor.

House Blackfyre

The elephant in the room for a series of essays on the rag-tag members of Aegon’s team is House Blackfyre. Just the history of House Blackfyre is an essay all by itself. So, that is what this essay is for – the historical story of House Blackfyre, based on the information from the World Book, the Dunk & Egg stories and aSoIaF series. And I recommend Lost Melnibonian’s thread the Blackfyre where he has compiled sources in chronological order of publication. With all things Blackfyre compiled some mysteries and certain consistencies come to the forefront. The answers to these are my personal speculation (in italics) based on the scant evidence and hints there are.

  • Prelude to Daemon Blackfyre (135 – 172 AC): Aegon IV’s life in chronological order that leads up to Daemon’s birth. Theory proposal that in 161 AC a near scandal situation developed, and that as a result of it Baelor locked his sisters up and sent Aegon on an officious exile to Braavos without end date to keep him away from Naerys, Baelor’s sisters and his own son.
  • Founding of House Blackfyre (172 – 182 AC): Summary of King Aegon IV’s reign leading to the founding of House Blackfyre, and Daemon’s children by Rohanne of Tyrosh. Proposes that Aegon’s hatred for Dorne and Baelor the Blessed compelled him to keep the sword Blackfyre out of his grandson Baelor’s hands and therefore gave it to Daemon.
  • The First Blackfyre Rebellion (196 AC): Summary of the rebellion and its result. Proposes that Daemon Blackfyre and Bittersteel came into evidence that convinced them that Daeron the Good was not the son of King Aegon IV.
  • House Blackfyre in Tyrosh (196 – 211 AC): Speculation on what life would have been like for Rohanne and her children, the likeliest marriage agreements made for Daemon’s daughters, and Bittersteel’s activities as a sellsword. Proposes that Daario Naharis at least ought to be considered as a possible descendant through the female line of House Blackfyre.
  • The Second Blackfyre Rebellion (211 AC): Proposes that Bittersteel did work and supported Daemon II’s claim, carrying the sword Blackfyre with him to gather exiled lords to the Blackfyre cause. Lord Gormond Peake used Bittersteel’s absence from Tyrosh to start a rebellion with Daemon II on his own terms. Speculates that the homosexual Daemon II had no issue, but neither did his younger brothers yet.
  • Court of King’s Landing: Kiera, Daemon II and freak-deaths (197 – 222 AC): Highlights the strangeness of Valarr and Daeron the Drunken having been wed to Kiera of Tyrosh, suspicious freak-deaths of heirs, Aerion Brightflame’s exile and what he was up to in Essos, while Daemon II was a hostage in King’s Landing.
  • The Golden Company (since 212 AC): About Free Companies, size, reputation, discipline, and the claim that the Golden Company sacked Qohor.
  • The Third Blackfyre Rebellion (219 AC): summary of the events and the proposal that Aerion Brightflame slew Haegon Blackfyre after he surrendered Blackfyre.
  • Jumpîng the Line (233 AC): Points out that Aenys Blackfyre tried to sneak ahead of his already crowned nephew Daemon III when writing his claim to the Grand Council called after the death of Maekar I killed in a rebellion by House Peake. This establishes a pattern that when House Peake is involved, it is against or without Bittersteel’s support.
  • The Fourth Blackfyre Rebellion (236 AC): summary of the rebellion, the speculation that more Blackfyres than Daemon III died then, and what Bittersteel left as legacy after he died.
  • The Last Blackfyres (after 258 AC): a closer look at Maelys “the Monstrous” Blackfyre and his cousin Daemon Blackfyre and my theory that Maelys is one of Daemon I’s youngest unnamed sons. I assess the implications of Maelys Blackfyre having sacked Tyrosh for Blackfyre descendants of the female line.
  • Literary Purpose: why I think George has constructed the history of House Blackfyre.

The Prelude to Daemon Blackfyre (135 – 172 AC)

Daemon Blackfyre’s father, King Aegon IV Targaryen, was not in the line of succession for the Iron Throne when he was born in 135 AC. His uncle King Aegon III was a boy of fifteen, struggling with his regents. With his second wife, Daenaera Valeryon, King Aegon III had two sons and three daughters. Both sons became kings: Daeron The Young Dragon (b. in 143 AC) who conquered Dorne, and Baelor the Blessed (b. in 144 AC) who built the Great Sept in King’s Landing. Aegon’s father served as Hand to his brother and his nephews.

Prince Aegon’s brother Aemon was born a year after him (136 AC), while their sister Naerys was born in 138 AC. They nearly all grew up without a mother, as Larra Rogare packed her bags in 139 AC and returned to Lys, where she died in 145 AC. Even as a child and youth, Aegon gave his father great trouble. In 149 AC, he lost his virginity to twenty-four year old Lady Falene Stokeworth. The affair went unnoticed for two years, until in 151 AC a kingsguard found them abed. Prince Viserys married Falena to his master-at-arms Lucas Lothston and persuaded his brother, King Aegon III to name Lothson Lord of Harrenhal, making Aegon a frequent visitor at Harrenhal until 153 AC.

Prince Aemon and Princess Naerys were good children and fond of each other’s company. Naerys was so pious she could have been a septa. Perhaps hoping that marriage to such a sister would settle Aegon down, Prince Viserys wed Naerys to Aegon in 153 AC. Singers sing how Aemon and Naerys wept during the wedding ceremony. Histories say that Aemon and Aegon quarreled at the feast, and that Naerys wept during the bedding. Aemon joined the kingsguard that same year. After giving Aegon a son in Daeron, with great difficulty, towards the end of that year, Naerys had done her duty to him as wife and begged to live as sister and brother without sharing a bed. Neither two desired or loved one another and the maester had warned Naerys that another pregnancy might kill her. But Aegon refused.

Prince Viserys’s hope was for naught. Near Fairmarktet in 155 AC, Prince Aegon’s horse threw a shoe and his wandering lusty eye fell on the wife of the local blacksmith – Megette. He bought her for seven dragons and, wary of his father, installed her in a house of King’s Landing. He “wed” her in a secret ceremony with a mummer playing the septon. Prince Aegon had four daughters with her in four years, until Viserys put an end to it in 159 AC. The Hand sent Megette back to her husband and gave the daughters to the Faith.

Crown Prince Daeron became king at the age of fourteen in 157 AC. Despite advice against it, King Daeron I had his mind set on conquering Dorne. While Prince Viserys led King’s Landing as Hand, young King Daeron,  his cousin Aemon the Dragonknight and Prince Aegon conquered Dorne overland and Alyn Velaryon by sea. By 158 AC, the Prince of Dorne and two score Dornish lords had bent the knee to King Daeron and handed hostages over. Prince Aegon escorted the hostages to King’s Landing, keeping one for himself in his own chambers – Lady Cassella Vaith.

King Daeron’s eldest sister Daena, born in 145 AC, was Prince Aegon’s female counterpart – wilfull and wild. She grew up into a beauty fast. Apparently, Prince Viserys had not yet learned from his mistake with his own children, and Daena was wed to her pious brother Baelor in 160 AC. Baelor refused to bed her though.

After Sunspear’s surrender, the Targaryens finally rulled all of Westeros south of the Wall… for a fortnight. King Daeron I had left Lyonel Tyrell to oversee Dorne, but he was killed in a trap and this sparked an uprising. In the following three years, King Daeron I lost 50,000 men as he tried to hold it. And when he met the enemy under a peace banner in 161 AC, the Young Dragon was murdered and Aemon “the Dragonknight” captured and imprisoned by House Wyl. All the Dornish hostages in King’s Landing were to be killed, and Prince Aegon bored with his “hostage” returned Cassella to her place with the other prisoners. Fourteen hostages awaited their execution in the dungeons. But Daeron’s younger brother, King Baelor, pardoned them all, ignoring the outcry against it by his council and people, and took them back to Dorne and Sunspear.

He negotiated a peace with the Prince of Dorne. Both agreed that Prince Viserys’s only grandson, and thus Prince Aegon’s only son, would wed Maron Martell’s sister Mariah when both were of age. Next, he walked to House Wyl in the Boneway to retrieve Aemon from his cage. In the succesful attempt, Baelor was bitten a dozen times by snakes, and a naked Aemon carried a comatose king to Blackhaven of House Dondarrion, where Baelor needed half a year to recover before he could journey to King’s Landing. There he sent Prince Aegon to Braavos on a diplomatic mission, for in the same year, Princess Naerys had almost died in the childbirth of stillborn twins. He had the High Septon annull his marriage to his sister-wife Daena, swore the celibacy vows of a septon, and locked his three sisters away in the Maidenvault to ensure their virtue.

After 161 AC, we know little of Prince Aegon’s life, except that he had a ten year long affair with Bellegere Otherys. No more pregnancies are mentioned for Princess Naerys until 172 AC. Meanwhile, as King Baelor had agreed with the Prince of Dorne, Prince Aegon’s son Daeron was wed to Mariah Martell. Their first son was born in 170 AC, and named after the King, Baelor. Daena “the Defiant” escaped the Maidenvault three times, disguised as a servant or one of the smallfolk. According to an SSM to the illustrator Amoka, Three Maidens in the Tower, she escaped once through “the connivance of her cousin, Prince Aegon”. And towards the end of 170 AC, she gave to birth a child she named Daemon, refusing to give up the name of the father.

However, one of those natural children came from a woman not accounted his mistress: Princess Daena, the Defiant. Daemon was the name Daena gave to this child, […]. Daemon Waters was his full name when he was born in 170 AC. At that time, Daena refused to name the father, but even then Aegon’s involvement was suspected. (tWoIaF, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon IV)

King Baelor went into a fasting fit, living on water and minimal bread, as he had done for a month when Naerys’s life was in peril in 161 AC. On the 41st day of his fasting in 171 AC he collapsed and died.

It is unclear how long Prince Aegon was away on this diplomatic mission to Braavos. While it is mentioned that the Black Pearl sailed on different ports in those ten years, and had a lover in each port, the mysterious absence of records of other mistresses until 170 AC for Prince Aegon seems more than odd. After all, at some point he had a wife and two mistresses all at once. Perhaps wrongly, we assume that Prince Aegon was in King’s Landing for most of the years between 161 and 170 AC, because Daena ended up birthing his bastard son Daemon Waters. But what if Prince Aegon was presumed and supposed to be in Braavos?

When did Aegon help Daena the Defiant escape? Was it in 170 AC, when Daena ended up pregnant by him, meeting Aegon incognito outside of the Red Keep? Still, Aegon might also have gotten into the Maidenvault, via the tunnels. What if Baelor first locked up his sisters, fearing for their virtue with Prince Aegon around, and Aegon helped Daena escape in 161 AC? If Baelor could not even protect his sisters from his lecherous cousin Aegon, after locking them away, King Baelor would have had no other recourse but to send him abroad. Naerys’s near escape from death during childbirth would have been the straw on a camel’s back. It would explain, why Baelor fasted for a month – not only to pray that Naerys would live, but that his sister Daena would not end up scandalously pregnant in 161 AC already. A mission to Braavos without an end date would also keep the father away from having an immoral influence on his son Daeron. It was never officially declared an exile, to save face for Aegon’s father Viserys.

The last scenario would explain Baelor’s choices and actions in 161 AC, how Aegon is only known to have a Braavosi mistress for a decade, and no stories of Naerys lingering near death after failed deliveries for eleven years. Prince Aegon would have taken it very personal, because it was personal – his only son promised and wed to a Dornish princess after her fellow Dornishmen murdered King Daeron I, being sent away from Westeros altogether, his beautiful cousins locked away, and his father not standing up to it. And the year that Aegon’s own son fathers a half Dornish son with Dornish features on Mariah Martell, Prince Aegon begets Daena with a child like a big “Fuck you!” to King Baelor.

Whatever the series of events were both in 161 AC and 170 AC, if on the one hand Daena’s bastard caused Baelor’s death and set Daena and her sisters free from the vault, it also sabotaged her claim to the Iron Throne. Having lived in isolation for a decade the three sisters had no powerful allies to back their claim to the Iron Throne. Daena the Defiant had proved herself wild, unmanageable and wanton. And if one wants to dismiss the claim of the eldest sister, one can hardly make her younger sister, Queen of Westeros. So, the precedent of the Great Council of 101 was cited as was the Dance of the Dragons, and Baelor’s uncle Prince Viserys was crowned King Viserys II. It would be the father of Daena’s bastard son who would reap the benefits, for he now was heir to the Iron Throne, Prince of Dragonstone, having to fear no rival, as his younger brother Aemon was a kingsguard. Just imagine how it would have stung when Daena Targaryen was permitted to be in male company again, only to have Prince Aegon become entranced with one of her ladies in waiting, sixteen-year-old Barba Bracken.

In 172 AC, King Viserys II died under suspicious circumstances, from a sudden illness. His eldest son, Prince Aegon was crowned King Aegon IV. It is more than possible that Aegon was behind the death of his own father. If he was a resident in Braavos for such a long time, Aegon certainly knew how to request a death from the Faceless Men. The Tears of Lys could have caused the sudden illness of King Viserys II. Free from restraint, or so he thought, King Aegon IV appoints Lord Bracken as his Hand and takes Lady Barba openly as his mistress. Queen Naerys was to perform her wifely duty again, and she gave birth to fraternal twins. While the son died, the daughter Daenerys survived, but Naerys lingered near death, yet again. Not a fortnight after, Barba gave birth to a bastard son Aegor Rivers, and Barba’s father talked openly of King Aegon IV wedding Lady Barba. Queen Naerys recovered, however, and both Crown Prince Daeron and the Dragonknight forced Aegon to send his mistress and bastard son away. Aemon would again prove an opponent against Aegon’s intentions for one of his mistresses, when he jousts as a mystery knight “The Knight of Tears” at a tourney in which King Aegon IV had forbidden his brother to ride. Winning the tourney, Aemon crowned his sister Naerys “Queen of Love and Beauty”, preventing Aegon to crown his mistress as such. So, King Aegon IV soon learned even kings meet with opposition.

Founding of House Blackfyre (182 AC)

Aegon’s bastard son Daemon Waters was born in 170 AC, the same year that Mariah Martell birthed Aegon’s grandson Baelor Targaryen. The first had nothing but Targaryen blood in his veins, the other was half Dornish. Daemon looked all Targaryen too: silver hair, purple eyes. Baelor looked all Dornish: dark hair and dark eyes. And yet, the first was a bastard, the second was destined to be king. And if initially, King Aegon IV could not blame his son, Crown Prince Daeron, for King Baelor wedding Dearon to Mariah Martell, he would soon learn that Daeron sympathized with Dorne.

In 174 AC, Aegon IV was set on launching an unprovoked war against Dorne. Where his personal enemy, Baelor had brokered peace and forgiven Dorne’s uprising and murder of King Daeron I, King Aegon IV wanted to finish what King Daeron I had started, and likely avenge his murder too. Crown Prince Daeron strongly opposed it, basically “supporting the enemy”. Really, when maester Yandel starts to speculate on cause and effect, he seems to put the cart before the horse, by claiming that Aegon sought war with Dorne to make Daeron powerless. Despite, Daeron’s protests, King Aegon IV went on ahead, building a huge fleet and “wood-and-iron” dragons that could shoot wildfire. But the fleet was lost in a storm and the “dragons” burned in the Kingswood, long before they could reach the Boneway, along with hundreds of men.

With the king and crown prince quarreling over Dorne, Aegon threatened to name one of his bastards heir, instead of Dearon. It is around this time that, seemingly out of nowhere, after twenty one years of marriage, Ser Morgil Hastwyck accused Queen Naerys of adultery and treason. Kaeth’s Lives of Four Kings claims that Aegon IV himself had instigated Ser Morgil to accuse Naerys, linking it to the quarrel between father and son over Dorne. King Aegon denied it at the time, but Lord Bracken had already planted the seed for the idea of getting rid of Naerys. Accusing Queen Naerys of adultery would solve King Aegon’s issues:

  • The freedom to wed a wife of his own choice.
  • No more pious bleating
  • Disown his son who opposes him politically and his mistresses
  • Disown his half-Dornish grandson and deprive Dorne of having a Queen of Westeros.
  • Be rid of the Lord Commander of the kingsguard, his own brother, Aemon “the Dragonknight”.

The Dragonknight championed for Queen Naerys in the trial by combat and slew Ser Morgil. The plan had failed. To make matter worse, Aegon’s own mistress, Lady Melissa Blackwood, was friends with Queen Naerys, Aemon and Daeron in the five years she lived at court from 172 to 177 AC.

Not accusations ended the life of Aegon’s siblings, but duty. Lady Barba and her father had groomed the younger Bethany Bracken to catch Aegon’s eye when the king visited his bastard son Aegor Rivers, later to be known as Bittersteel. The plan worked and Aegon took Bethany as his mistress and sent Missy Blackwood and her three children (one of them Brynden “Bloodraven” Rivers) by him back to Blackhaven. Not enjoying his embraces, Bethany turned to a knight of the Kingsguard, Ser Terrence Toyne. After fiding them abed in 178 AC; King Aegon IV had both of them executed (and Bethany’s father). In revenge, Toyne’s brothers attempted to assassinate Aegon. The Dragonknight died saving his brother’s unworthy life. And the year after, Queen Naerys died in childbirth, along with the child.

Daeron fathered three more sons on Mariah Martell. These three might have appeased King Aegon IV some – they had light silvery hair and purple eyes at least. Still the promising grandson, Baelor, would have remained a Dornish thorn in Aegon’s eye. Baelor was smart, generous, fair and proved to have an aptitude for swords and the lists, as much as Daemon Waters seemed to be a promising warrior in the making. It is as if Aegon used Daemon as a competitor against Baelor, rather than Daeron.

Raised at the Red Keep, this handsome youth was given the instruction of the wisest maesters and the best masters-at-arms at court, including Ser Quentyn Ball, the fiery knight called Fireball. (tWoIaF, the Targaryen Kings: Aegon IV)

blackfyre_by_velvet_engine
by Velvet Engine

In 182 AC, Daemon won a squire’s tourney, a victory that Aegon IV used to dub Daemon Waters a knight, though Daemon was only twelve. Hence Daemon is on record as the youngest boy ever knighted. The king knighted Daemon with Aegon the Conquerer’s sword Blackfyre, the ancestral Targaryen sword of Valyrian steel that was handed from king to the next king. King Aegon IV went even a step further then. He legitimized Daemon and gave him the sword of kings. Hence, Daemon changed his name from Waters to Blackfyre, after the sword, and thus the Targaryen Cadet branch, House Blackfyre, was born.

King Aegon knighted Daemon in his twelfth year when he won a squires’ tourney (thereby making him the youngest knight ever made in the time of the Targaryens, surpassing Maegor I) and shocked his court, kin, and council by bestowing upon him the sword of Aegon the Conqueror, Blackfyre, as well as lands and other honors. Daemon took the name Blackfyre thereafter. (tWoIaF, the Targaryen Kings: Aegon IV)

For his sigil, Daemon reversed the colors of House Targaryen – a three-headed black dragon on a red field. The words of House Blackfyre are at present unknown!!!1 The Blackfyre lands with the right to build a castle were situated along the Blackwater Rush. Beyond that, Aegon IV arranged a betrothal for Daemon to Rohanne, the daughter of the Archon of Tyrosh.

Despite Aemon’s and Naerys’s deaths in service of him, Aegon IV referred to Daeron’s alleged illegitimacy in less than veiled terms, often threatening to disinherit him, and choose Daemon as heir instead. Though Aegon IV never actually disowned Daeron. While Yandel and others speculate over the reason why King Aegon IV did not disown Daeron, I will speculate why King Aegon IV threatened to disown Daeron. The simplest reason is pure selfishness, as a type of blackmail, reminding Daeron not to oppose the king with each new mistress or whatever other selfish thing he planned. He started the rumors that led to the accusation against his sister-wife Queen Naerys mainly for the same reason. While Daeron argued over plenty of things with the king, he does not seem to have bothered in meddling with his father’s mistresses anymore after Queen Naerys’s death. I do not think King Aegon IV believed his own allegations against Naerys. His ego would not allow the actual possibility that his wife and brother made a cuckold of him. Ultimately, King Aegon IV never disowned Daeron, because he never really had any intention of doing so. It was simply a threat to keep Dearon on a leash.

Why then did he give the sword Blackfyre to Daemon? The answer to that would be Baelor Targaryen, named after that “wretched” king Baelor who “exiled” Aegon to Braavos for years. By gifting it to Daemon, he kept it out of Baelor’s half Dornish hands. King Aegon IV could hardly give the Conquerer’s sword away to a bastard, hence he legitimized Daemon. Vanity and hatred for Dorne was the motivator, where Aegon IV did not so much favor Daemon over Daeron, but Daemon over Baelor.

Three years after Aegon IV’s death, Baelor proved his tourney prowess at the age of seventeen over Daemon Blackfyre at the 187 AC wedding tourney of Princess Daenerys Targaryen to the Prince of Dorne, Maron Martell, by winning it. This is how Baelor earned himself the nickname “Breakspear”. No doubt, King Aegon IV would have rolled over in his grave (if he ever would have had one – Targaryen burrial is burning the remains on a pyre).

Daeron II made sure the betrothal of Daemon and Rohanne was honored. Daemon married Rohanne at the age of 14 in 184 AC.

[Dearon II] paid the dowry that Aegon had promised to the Archon of Tyrosh, thereby seeing his half brother Daemon Blackfyre wed to Rohanne of Tyrosh as Aegon had desired, for all that Ser Daemon was only four-and-ten. […] (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Daeron II)

Daemon Blackfyre and Rohanne of Tyrosh had seven sons and at least two daughters. Their eldest children were twin sons, Aemon and Aegon, born in the same year of their marriage. The twins died in the Battle of Redgrass Field towards the end 196 AC, at age twelve. The third son, Daemon II, claimed he was only seven when he and his family fled to Tyrosh after the battle, and was twenty two during the events of the Mystery Knight in 211 AC. So, he was born in 189 AC. Four more younger sons were born between 190 and 196 AC, before the First Blackfyre Rebellion: Haegon, Aenys and two unnamed sons. Calla Blackfyre was the eldest of the daughters, at some point old enough to arrange a betrothal. As there is a gap of five years in age between the firstborn twins and Daemon II, she and at least one sister would have been born between 185 AC and 189 AC.

This gives us these estimated birth dates for Daemon’s children:

  • b. 184 AC: the twins Aegon and Aemon Blackfyre
  • b. 185/187 AC: Calla Blackfyre
  • b. 186/188 AC: at least one more daughter
  • b. 189 AC: Daemon II Blackfyre
  • b. 190/193 AC: Haegon I Blackfyre
  • b. 191/194 AC: Aenys Blackfyre
  • b. 192/196 AC: two more unnamed sons, and it cannot be ruled out they were twins

The First Blackfyre Rebellion (196 AC)

King Daeron II tried to preserve the peace as best as he could, with his legitimized half-brothers, the lords and Dorne. But many sycophants had profited from Aegon’s unworthy rule and others thirsted for war with Dorne. They had no use of a diplomatic king such as Dearon II “the Good”, let alone one who had such close peaceful ties with Dorne. They wanted a warrior king, like Daemon Blackfyre who sported all of the Valyrian looks, over-romanticising the love between Daeron’s sister Daenerys and Daemon Blackfyre and thus her political marriage to the Prince of Dorne, Maron Martell, as an insult and slight to Daemon. For years they hoped to move Daemon Blackfyre into rebellion. One of them was the Great Bastard, Aegor “Bittsersteel” Rivers, two years younger than Daemon Blackfyre. After agreeing to wed his eldest daughter Calla to Bittersteel, Daemon finally planned his coup towards the end of 195 AC.

Whatever the case may be, Aegor Rivers soon began to press Daemon Blackfyre to proclaim for the throne, and all the more so after Daemon agreed to wed his eldest daughter, Calla, to Aegor. (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Daeron II)

King Daeron II discovered Daemon’s intentions and sent the Kingsguard to arrest him, but Daemon fled the Red Keep. Daemon’s backers ended up accusing King Daeron of acting against Daemon out of fear, while others repeated the rumor that Daeron was Falseborn. Eearly 196 AC, the rebels declared Daeron the bastard and Daemon the trueborn son of Daena and Aegon. The war was fought in the Vale, the westerlands, the riverlands and elsewhere. It all ended at Redgrass Field near the end of 196 AC, where Daemon and his eldest sons, the twins Aegon and Aemon (age 12) died, Bittersteel dueled Bloodraven, and Baelor Breakspear smashed the rearguard of the rebel army against his brother Maekar’s shieldwall. Baelor’s hammer and anvil tactic earned him the position of Hand of the King.

“Daemon was the Warrior himself that day. No man could stand before him. He broke Lord Arryn’s van to pieces and slew the Knight of Ninestars and Wild Wyl Waynwood before coming up against Ser Gwayne Corbray of the Kingsguard. For near an hour they danced together on their horses, wheeling and circling and slashing as men died all around them. It’s said that whenever Blackfyre and Lady Forlorn clashed, you could hear the sound for a league around. It was half a song and half a scream, they say. But when at last the Lady faltered, Blackfyre clove through Ser Gwayne’s helm and left him blind and bleeding. Daemon dismounted to see that his fallen foe was not trampled, and commanded Redtusk to carry him back to the maesters in the rear. And there was his mortal error, for the Raven’s Teeth had gained the top of Weeping Ridge, and Bloodraven saw his half brother’s royal standard three hundred yards away, and Daemon and his sons beneath it. He slew Aegon first, the elder of the twins, for he knew that Daemon would never leave the boy whilst warmth lingered in his body, though white shafts fell like rain. Nor did he, though seven arrows pierced him, driven as much by sorcery as by Bloodraven’s bow. Young Aemon took up Blackfyre when the blade slipped from his dying father’s fingers, so Bloodraven slew him, too, the younger of the twins. Thus perished the black dragon and his sons.” (The Sworn Sword)

Maester Yandel speculates on the possible reasons that finally prompted Daemon I Blackfyre to rebel:

  • Love for Daenerys Targaryen and his resentment of her being wed to the Prince of Dorne, though the rebellion did not take place until eight years after her marriage, and both Daenerys and Daemon seemed to have happy and fruitful marriages.
  • Bittersteel filling Daemon’s mind with poison, citing Bittersteel’s rivalry and hatred for Brynden “Bloodraven” Rivers over Shiera Seastar. The actual evidence we have about Bittersteel’s character is that he very much respects the feudal Westerosi rules of succession and is immensely loyal to House Blackfyre throughout his life.  

The one option that Yandel never utters, but the most logical one is that Daemon came to actually believe that Daeron II Targaryen was Aemon’s son, because he and Bittersteel came into evidence of a reliable witness account. Naerys’s piousness and Aemon’s heroism does not mean there was not a moment of weakness, shortly after Naerys’s marriage to their elder brother Aegon while Aemon attempted to comfort her, before he became a kingsguard. The one-time might have prompted Aemon to become a kingsguard. No matter how pious and dutiful either two were, they were human. Aegon IV hit on the truth by accident, one that he himself did not believe. It is not as if the result of a trial by combat is actual evidence of innocense. If Daeron II was the Dragonknight’s son, it does not make Daemon I Blackfyre any less bastardborn, but he at least would have been Aegon IV’s son, and King Aegon IV legitimized him.

Of course maester Yandel can never actually propose this option, since Robert Baratheon’s grandmother is a Targaryen descendant of Daeron the Good. Yandel has an agenda and his life to protect. But we as readers can consider the possibilities he must censure: that despite rumors Daemon Blackfyre remained unconvinced and unmoved for years, until he and Aegor Rivers came into evidence that convinced them that Daeron the Good was not Aegon IV’s son. The selfish motives of the sycophant lords of Aegon IV and Aegon IV himself, the war motives of Marcher Lords such as House Peake, the goodness of Daeron as king, the piousness of Naerys and the heroism of the Dragonknight, the enmity between Aegor Rivers and Brynden Rivers are nothing more than a lot of trees to obscure the forest – that there was truth in the accusation of Naerys and that House Blackfyre and Bittersteel were convinced of this, just like Stannis Baratheon believes that Cersei’s children on the Iron Throne are not Robert’s children, but Jaime’s. In the case of Cersei’s children, we know that Stannis is correct.  

House Blackfyre in Tyrosh (196 – 211 AC)

Daemon’s widow Rohanne fled with her surviving children and Bittersteel to Tyrosh.

[…]Daemon Blackfyre’s surviving sons fled to Tyrosh, their mother’s home, and with them went Bittersteel. (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Daeron II)

We know almost next to nothing about their lives in Tyrosh until 211 AC when Daemon II attempts to start a Second Blackfyre Rebellion. This is of course, because maester Yandel is not writing a history for House Blackfyre in Tyrosh. He writes a history that is relevant for Westeros about the Targaryen kings and what problems and threats House Targyaren had to overcome. For fifteen years, history and the aSoIaF series remains silent about House Blackfyre and Bittersteel, except for three slight mentions that “Bittersteel gathered exiled lords and knights” with which he formed the Golden Company in 212 AC, after the Second Blackfyre Rebellion failed.

No matter how throwaway, obscure and little these tidbits are, they give crucial information about House Blackfyre living as refugees and exiles in Tyrosh and what Aegor Rivers aimed to accomplish. These lead to a conclusion that actually contradicts the in-world conclusion by Yandel in the World Book and characters in the Mystery Knight about the Second Blackfyre Rebellion.

The first concrete tidbit of information is that Daemon’s widow, Rohanne of Tyrosh, was the daughter of the Archon. The position of an archon is not a hereditary function transferred from father to son, though it may be a function for life. It would require lobbying, not unlike what we see in our modern political system. It is not totally the same, as only a conclave of the wealthiest and noblest elects the Archon amongst themselves. So, it requires blood, wealth, promises and marriage ties to get to the top of the Tyroshi power pyramid. And since it is not hereditary, an Archon and his family would spread their wealth and marriage ties in order to remain influential withinthe conclave. As Tyrosh is not a kingdom with extensive lands to farm, but a city, the nobility’s wealth would be funneled into and be dependent on merchant business, ships, and trade, like we see with Illyrio, a magister of Pentos.

We do not know whether Rohanne’s father was still Archon in 196-197 AC. Doran Martell though confirms that the Archon of Tyrosh in 300 AC is still the same Archon that Viserys and Dany resided with, as Arianne was supposed to serve as cupbearer there. And after the Tyrant of Tyrosh, a self-crowned merchant prince, was killed, the previous Archon was reinstalled into power. So, Rohanne’s father likely still was the Archon. Even if not, Rohanne would still have one of the wealthiest and noblest families of Tyrosh to seek shelter with, nor would they turn her out since she and her children were kin (unlike Dany and Viserys).

Daemon I Blackfyre agreed to wed Calla Blackfyre to Aegor Rivers, aka a betrothal. Calla could not have been born before 185 AC and therefore would only have been eleven at the most when her family fled Westeros, younger even at the time that Daemon agreed for Bittersteel to become his brother-in-law, before the rebellion. Therefore the marriage would have happened in Tyrosh. Though, no source confirms that Bittersteel actually married Calla or had children with her, Aegor Rivers was tied to House Blackfyre and its cause for the rest of his exiled life. He lived, fought and died for that family from 196 AC until 241 AC. It would require suspension of disbelief for Bittersteel remaining this loyal to a family if Rohanne broke the marriage agreement. Furthermore, House Blackfyre needed a male Westorsi kingmaker figure to lead the family. A man like Bittersteel would think for House Blackfyre and would have prevented another Tyroshi adult patriarch from using Daemon’s children completely for their own personal Tyroshi interests. So, we can conclude that Aegor Rivers became part of the Blackfyre family through marriage with Calla Blackfyre.

George has refrained of bedding any character in the series before the year they turn thirteen. The earliest possible year for Calla would be 198 AC. Veering into the imaginative, we can see how such a wedding of the Archon’s granddaughter to Aegor Rivers was the excellent feast to invite important families and make introductions, and/or for Rohanne’s father to give Calla (and thus House Blackfyre) a mansion for a wedding gift, thereby making House Blackfyre established residents of Tyrosh. Amongst these introductions would have been promising cousins or sons or daughters of wealthy contacts or allies withinthe conclave as possible groom or bride for Daemon’s others daughters and surviving sons, respectively.  f course, these introductions would serve the interests of Rohanne’s father or family more than House Blackfyre. Fundamentally, House Blackfyre’s aim is to return to Westeros and claim the Iron Throne, not getting a son to be elected as Archon or settle a political feud between two families. Even if Rohanne’s own father was obviously interested in gaining some foothold into royalty in Westeros, this would be more of an extra expansion on the side. The main political and financial roots of Rohanne’s family are invested in Tyrosh, not Westeros.

Daemon’s daughters are the easiest to give up for that purpose. Rohanne and Bittersteel can ask dowries for them. House Blackfyre gain family ties with other noble families in Tyrosh, or strengthen the tie with Rohanne’s own family. And Rohanne’s Tyroshi family is happy too, as their own political and business interests are served. Meanwhile Tyroshi merchant princes and ambitious nobelmen hoping to be Archon one day would find “princesses” with Valyrian dragonlord blood in their veins most interesting, if not for themselves, their sons or brothers.

Alternatively House Blackfyre could have married Daemon’s other daugther(s) to exiled lords who fled along with them, but that would not advance the family’s survival in Tyrosh. The assets of both House Blackfyre as well as those exiled lords are land and castles in Westeros. As exiles in Tyrosh they have no access to them and thus have no material assets at all. They are noble or royal beggers. Aside from Aegor Rivers himself, we never hear of any exiled lord or knight who remains attached to House Blackfyre in Essos. And thus I think it unlikely that beside Calla, another daughter was wed to landless exiled lords.

It would not be impossible for a family brought up amongst Targaryens to consider marrying one of the daughters to a younger brother. But then they would lose out on making allies, either in Tyrosh or Westeros. Lord Bloodraven’s remark to Duncan the Tall in the Mystery Knight about the possibility that if he were to kill Daemon II either his younger brothers or even his sisters could be used by Bittersteel to rally a rebellion behind (see the Second Blackfyre Rebellion section), suggests that the sisters were not wed to their younger brothers. But I could be wrong, and if Daemon had three daughters George can go with Calla married to the exiled knight Aegor “Bittersteel” Rivers, another married to a Tyroshi merchant prince and a third married to a younger brother.

The earliest speculative year that the second eldest daughter could have been wed at thirteen would be 199 AC, but Rohanne and Aegor Rivers may both have wanted to wait a few years for them to find eligible and worthy grooms. So, they likely were wed out in the first five years after 200 AC.

We are also told by Illyrio that House Blackfyre only went extinct in the male line.

Illyrio brushed away the objection as if it were a fly. “Black or red, a dragon is still a dragon. “When Maelys the Monstrous died upon the Stepstones, it was the end of the male line of House Blackfyre.” (aDwD, Tyrion II)

In other words, there still are descendants of House Blackfyre through the female line. None of them would carry the name Blackfyre, but they would have the blood. While the “female line” can cover Blackfyre issue from any daughter, granddaughter, great-granddaughter, certainly some of those may be descendants of both Daemon I Blackfyre and Aegor “Bittersteel” Rivers through Calla Blackfyre, whose children would also marry into the Tyroshi nobility, for after all Calla and her children never returned to Westeros. The same is true for Calla’s sister(s) and their children.

Thus Tyroshi characters with a Tyroshi last name and deep blue eyes that seem purple in certain circumstances in the present timeline of the series are of particular interest. Only those born to nobility or wealthy long-standing middle class families have an actual family name. Commoners and slaves do not, not in Westeros (unless acknowledged bastards, which is rare for bastards born on commoners), nor in Essos. Daario Naharis is such a character². His Tyroshi last name tells us that he is noble born and his eyes appear purple when he changes his attire and dye from indigo blue to purple. So,  he is certainly a character under consideration of being a descendant of Daemon I Blackfyre through a daughter, a granddaughter or great-granddaughter wed to a man of the Naharis family, sometime roughly between 200 AC and 270 AC.  

What about Daemon’s sons? Since the intent was to make one of them king of the Iron Throne, House Blackfyre would require the support of houses in Westeros both to rebel, gain and keep a throne. I expect that at least the first decade it would be prudent to wait and hold off on betrothals for the sons, especially since the wife of one of Daemon’s sons could end up being Queen of Westeros. And since Bloodraven does not take sons of Daemon II or his younger brothers into account in the Mystery Knight, it seems as if Daemon I’s sons neither married nor fathered children yet by 211 AC.

Another pressing issue would have been funding. Rohanne’s family may help out with gifting a mansion, providing staff (slaves), but family help would only go so far in educating, clothing, and feeding a household, keeping (exiled) supporters close or interested, especially when one has royal pretensions. Take for instance Daemon II’s jewelry and attire –

[John the Fiddler] was the sort of name a hedge knight might choose, but Dunk had never seen any hedge knight garbed or armed or mounted in such splendor. The knight of the golden hedge, he thought.[…] His white silk doublet had lagged sleeves lined with red satin, so long their points drooped down past his knees. A heavy silver chain looped across his chest, studded with huge dark amethysts whose color matched his eyes. That chain is worth as much as everything I own, Dunk thought. […] The Fiddler smelled of oranges and limes, with a hint of some strange eastern spice beneath. Nutmeg, perhaps. Dunk could not have said. What did he know of nutmeg?  […] Dunk could only stand and watch as the Fiddler’s big black trotted onto the field in a swirl of blue silk and golden swords and fiddles. His breastplate was enameled blue as well, as were his poleyns, couter, greaves, and gorget. The ringmail underneath was gilded. (The Mystery Knight)

That requires money. Even the most generous amongst wealthy families do not let a refugee family as large as Rohann’s live on their dime for fifteen to sixteen years, not for free. And certainly the exiled Blackfyre supporters were forced to sell their swords.

Those followers of the Black Dragon who survived the battle yet refused to bend the knee fled across the narrow sea, among them Daemon’s younger sons, Bittersteel, and hundreds of landless lords and knights who soon found themselves forced to sell their swords to eat. (aDwD, Tyrion II)

While Maynard Plumm and Ser Eustace Osgrey refer to Bittersteel as plotting with Daemon’s sons in Tyrosh, in 210 and 211 AC, Inkpots of the Second Sons has this to say –

Inkpots to Tyrion: “Aegor Rivers served a year with us, before he left to found the Golden Company. Bittersteel, you call him.” (aDwD, Tyrion XII)

Like other exiled, landless lords, Bittersteel eventually ended up selling his sword. Even Yandel knows this.

Many famous names from the Seven Kingdoms have served in the Second Sons at one time or another. Prince Oberyn Martell rode with them before founding his own company; Rodrik Stark, the Wandering Wolf, was counted one of them as well. The most famous Second Son was Ser Aegor Rivers, that bastard son of King Aegon IV known to history as Bittersteel, who fought with them in the first years of his exile before forming the Golden Company […] (tWoIaF – The Three Quarrelsome Daughters)

Notice how Yandel says “years” while Inkpots explains it was only a year. Of the two, I am inclined to consider Inkpots a better and more precise source than Yandel. And we should, imo, take “first years of exile” as a broad stroke in comparison to Bittersteel’s forty five years of exile, not as a reference to the first years of the first phase of exile up to the second rebellion. In fact, I interprete the year of selling his sword to the Second Sons as being more towards the end of that first phase of exile than at the start, either 210 or 211 AC.

Money was not the sole reason for Aegor Rivers joining the Second Sons. Initially the lords and knights that fled to Essos with Rohanne and Bittersteel might have lingered, but they were forced to sell their sword to eat. Some joined the Second Sons, the Ragged Standard, the Maiden’s Men. And Aegor Rivers saw the swords, the forces he hoped to use to put Daemon’s son on the throne less and less, some dying for merchant wars in the Disputed Lands, and divided across several Free Companies.

Some joined the Ragged Standard, some the Second Sons or Maiden’s Men. Bittersteel saw the strength of House Blackfyre scattering to the four winds […] (aDwD, Tyrion II)

It seems that Bittersteel hoped to reconnect with those scattered sellswords, see whether fighting alongside them might bring them back to House Blackfyre.

We can conclude in general that Rohanne took care of her children, while Aegor Rivers played house for several years with Calla Blackfyre, helped to raise Daemon’s sons as their uncle and brother-in-law, kept tabs on Westeros, and started to prepare for the future in a military sense, by selling his sword to the Second Sons. Meanwhile the surviving children grew up into marriagable teens and early tweens.

The Second Blackfyre Rebellion (211 AC)

The lords who had not gone into exile with Rohanne and Bittersteel, but bent the knee to Daeron II, had surrendered sons and daughters as hostages to ensure their good conduct and loyalty. Crown Prince Baelor “Breakspear” Targaryen was Hand and popular for he was known as one of the best warriors, but also just and generous. Baelor had two sons, Valarr and Matarys, with Valarr also showing promise in popularity, and interestingly enough also wed to a noblewoman of Tyrosh, named Kiera. Until 209 AC, Daeron II and the realm could not be more sure that Breakspear would be king after him and that the Targaryen line would continue either through Valarr or Matarys. But then a Trial by Seven at the Tourney of Ashford cost the life of the Crown Prince and later in the same year, the Great Spring Sickness took the lives of Daeron II, Prince Valarr and Matarys. Valarr had no heirs: both of Valarr’s sons on Kiera of Tyrosh were stillborn. Neither a diplomat, nor a warrior became king of Westeros, but a man who was preoccupied with books about prophecy and higher mysteries, Daeron’s second son, Aerys I. Like Baelor the Blessed, King Aerys I did not care about fathering offspring. Though he refused to set his cousin-wife Aelinor Penrose aside, he never bedded her. The best and seemingly only decision of importance that Aerys I ever made in order to safeguard his dynasty was to appoint Brynden “Bloodraven” Rivers as Hand.

In such a climate, Lord Gormon Peake contacts Daemon II Blackfyre in Tyrosh and smuggles or lures him across the narrow sea, back to Westeros, in the hope to kick off a second Blackfyre Rebellion in 211 AC at a wedding tourney at Whitewalls. But Bloodraven knows of the plan and the lords and knights grow increasingly doubtful, as they realize that Bittersteel is not involved, that Daemon does not have the sword Blackfyre with him and that Daemon the Younger might look the knightly part but is far from a skilled one. Towards the end, most men doubt whether he is even Daemon’s son.

In the Mystery Knight, one of the important points repeated several times by the conspiritors at the Wedding Tourney of Whitewalls is how Bittersteel is not involved and how Daemon II does not carry Blackfyre with him.

Dunk heard footfalls on the steps, the scrape of boots on stone. “…beggar’s feast you’ve laid before us Without Bittersteel…”
“Bittersteel be buggered,” insisted a familiar voice [Gormond Peake]. “No bastard can be trusted, not even him. A few victories will bring him over the water fast enough.” […]
[…] Lord Butterwell: “Frey and I harbored doubts about Lord Peake’s pretender since the beginning. He does not bear the sword! If he were his father’s son, Bittersteel would have armed him with Blackfyre.[…]” (the Mystery Knight)

Yandel and the Citadel discuss and speculate why Bittersteel did not support Daemon II.

That Daemon the Younger dreamed of becoming king is well-known, as is the fact that Bittersteel did not support him in his effort to claim the throne. But why Bittersteel supported the father but refused the son remains a question that is sometimes argued over in the halls of the Citadel. Many will claim that Young Daemon and Lord Gormon could not convince Bittersteel that their plan was sound, and truth be told, it seems a fair argument; Peake was blind to reason in his thirst for revenge and the recovery of his seats, and Daemon was convinced that he would succeed no matter the odds. Yet others suggest that Bittersteel was a hard man who had little use for anything beyond war and mistrusted Daemon’s dreams and his love of music and fine things. And others still raise an eyebrow at Daemon’s close relationship to the young Lord Cockshaw, and suggest that this would have troubled Aegor Rivers enough to deny the young man his aid. (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Aerys I)

I question whether it was actually a “fact” that Bittersteel did not support Daemon II. There is a distinction between Bittersteel not supporting Daemon the Younger, Bittersteel not being present and therefore unable to support the plan. Inkpots’ revelation of Bittersteel serving the Second Sons for a year before he founded the Golden Company (in 212 AC), provides us with the simplest answer to explain Bittersteel’s absence in the plot – If Bittersteel was not in Tyrosh at the time, but serving the Second Sons, then Lord Peake and Daemon II acted without Bittersteel’s knowledge. Then Peake’s plot with Daemon II was hatched and executed behind Bittersteel’s back, while he was away trying to earn money and making military contacts for Daemon II. Certainly Gormon Peake’s reply to Thomas Heddle about Bittersteel befits that of a man who does not want others to delve too deep in Bittersteel’s absence. If Peake went behind Bittersteel’s back, naturally he would not want Thomas Heddle and others moan about “but Bittersteel!”

Daemon II is shown to be a charming dreamer, more than a warrior. He has the looks, can ride a horse and hold a lance. Even if his skills are not worthy of praise and Lord Peake has to bribe the opponents to lose the jousts against “John the Fiddler”, Daemon the Younger still had basic martial and jousting training.

John the Fiddler paid the older man no mind. “I would love to cross swords with you, ser. I’ve tried men of many lands and races, but never one your size. Was your father large as well?” (The Mystery Knight)

Daemon was seven years old when he fled with his mother to Tyrosh. It would have fallen to Bittersteel to hire or instruct Daemon the Younger. The quote does indicate that Aegor Rivers tried to have Daemon taught in arms and war, insofar Daemon actually would have wanted to practice, instead of dreaming of songs and stories and big knights to “cross swords” with (wink wink at the double entrendre in the above quote for a gay character).

While Bittersteel would have realized that Daemon II is not one to lead an army himself, this does not mean that Bittersteel believed him an unsuitable pretender, not if Bittersteel could be Daemon’s Hand for example.

Furthermore, we have explicit evidence that Bittersteel never tried to upjump a younger brother or nephew before Daemon. Aegor Rivers respected the line of succession and did not crown a new Blackfyre pretender before Daemon II was dead. Bloodraven counts on this when he explains to Duncan why he will not kill Daemon the Younger.

[Bloodraven] is marking down the men to die, Dunk realized. “My lord,” he said, “we saw the heads outside. Is that… will the Fiddler… Daemon… will you have his head as well?”
Lord Bloodraven looked up from his parchment. “That is for King Aerys to decide… but Daemon has four younger brothers, and sisters as well. Should I be so foolish as to remove his pretty head, his mother will mourn, his friends will curse me for a kinslayer, and Bittersteel will crown his brother Haegon. Dead, young Daemon is a hero. Alive, he is an obstacle in my half brother’s path. He can hardly make a third Blackfyre king whilst the second remains so inconveniently alive. Besides, such a noble captive will be an ornament to our court, and a living testament to the mercy and benevolence of His Grace King Aerys.” (The Mystery Knight)

Bloodraven certainly implies that Bittersteel crowned Daemon II himself, before Peake believed himself to be a better kingmaker than Bittersteel. And he already hinted to Duncan as Maynard Plumm that Peake was acting to make Daemon II king for his own ends, with Daemon as a puppet, far earlier.

Maynard Plumm (aka glamored Bloodraven): “You would be surprised to know how many lords prefer their kings brave and stupid. Daemon is young and dashing, and looks good on a horse.” (The Mystery Knight)

While maesters of the Citadel might argue that Bittersteel would roll his eyes at Daemon the Younger having dragon dreams, because the majority of the maesters consider prophetic dreams preposterous, I doubt that Bittersteel himself would have shrugged them away or considered them nonsense. For all we know, Daemon’s dragon dreams might have prompted Bittersteel to go into the service of the Second Sons with the aim to start gathering knights and lords.

My proposal presents a scenario where Bittersteel ironically tried to prepare for a new rebellion for the lead pretender he had, King Daemon II Blackfyre, rather than the heir he wished for. It is just that while Bittersteel worked for this, away from Tyrosh, Lord Peake messed up Bittersteel’s efforts for Daemon II.

So, why did Daemon not have the sword with him then? Imagine that more than ten years after you last rebelled and fled Wester, you attempt to recruit exiled knights and lords across the Free Cities, all serving in different free companies. How would you test their loyalty and convince them, without dragging Daemon the Younger himself along in order to avoid the dreamer ends up killing himself? Carrying the sword Blackfyre would be of extreme help in this. It would certainly serve better than introducing them to Daemon the Younger.

From Bloodraven’s words about there being four younger brothers and even sisters that Bittersteel could crown and how killing Daemon II would grieve Rohanne, we can infer several things. First, Rohanne of Tyrosh is still alive in 211 AC, so are all of his younger brothers and at least two of his (older) sisters. Secondly, Daemon the Younger had no legitimate sons. If Daemon II had any children, they were either illigitemate, stillborn, or daughters. However, since Bloodraven makes a mention of sisters, but not daughters in relation to Daemon II, this suggests that Daemon II had no children whatsoever. This would not be all that surprising, with the many hints of Daemon’s homosexuality. We do not ever see Daemon II charm any woman in the Mystery Knight, while he does not lack charm and looks. He uses that charm only for lords and hedge knights. Certainly in the Mystery Knight, Alyn Cockshaw is possessive of Daemon II and twice plans to have Dunk murdered, because Daemon the Younger shows too much attention to Duncan.  From Renly Baratheon we can extrapolate how Daemon the Younger would only have married out of necessity to produce an heir after he already had won the Iron Throne he was so certain he would win.

Bloodraven makes no mention of nephews to Daemon. While nephews would never come before their fathers, they would come before Daemon’s sisters. Hence any sons born to the younger brothers of Daemon the Younger were not born yet before 211 AC.

Court of King’s Landing: Kiera, Daemon II and freak-deaths (197 – 222 AC)

Bloodraven seems to want to spare Rohanne the grief of losing yet another son. We could interprete that as Brynden Rivers being merely sympathetic to Rohanne, but the story where he shoots one of the twins, before Daemon and then finally the other twin son at Redgrass Field makes me doubts such an interpretation. He speaks euphemistically about the more machiavellistic reasons not wishing to incite Rohanne’s Tyroshi family any more than they might already be. The oddity of Kiera of Tyrosh further strengthens my suspicion.

George has remained very close mouthed about Kiera – that is, her name is not mentioned except in the appendix of the Targaryen lineage of the World Book. Without the lineage Valarr’s wife who had two stillborn sons would remain unnamed. Without the lineage the mother of Daeron’s daughter, Vaella would remain unnamed. Baelor Breakspear’s son Valarr was wed to this Kiera of Tyrosh. We have no actual confirmation of Valarr’s age, but we know he is the eldest son of Baelor Breakspear. Hence, we can predict that Prince Valarr was not born before 183 AC. That is the earliest year when Baelor (born in 170 AC) would have turned thirteen.

Baelor’s wife is Jenna Dondarrion, the daughter of a Marcher Lord. This gives us some information to estimate the earliest possible date of a marriage between a Prince with a Dornish mother and a daughter of a longtime enemy of Dorne. Especially, when we remember that House Dondarrion guested Baelor the Blessed for half a year to recover from the snake bites. This match seems something Daeron II would do, rather than Aegon IV. It seems unlikely that Aegon IV would give his half Dornish-grandson such a strategical house just North of the Boneway for an ally through marriage. But aside from rewarding House Dondrarrion in helping to save Baelor the Blessed’s life, Daeron could have used it to balance out the marriage of his sister Daenerys to the Prince of Dorne in 187 AC : a Marcher Lord gets the Crown Prince for a son-in-law, while the Prince of Dorne gets the King as brother-in-law. Since Daeron II was not king before 184 AC, then Baelor not-yet-Breakspear would not have married Jenna Dondarrion before 184 AC, and thus Valarr could not have been born before 184 AC.

The earliest possible date for Prince Valarr to marry Kiera of Tyrosh was 196-197 AC, either during the First Blackfyre Rebellion or a year later, after House Blackfyre had fled to Tyrosh. Because of the rules of taking part in the Tourney of Ashford, we know that Prince Valarr (who was champion for Lord Ashford’s daughter) was at least sixteen in 209 AC. The Wiki speculates that Vallar was at least eighteen, since his father could fit in his armor, and men physically reach full maturity at eighteen. So, Valarr was born at the latest in 191 AC, and then the marriage to Kiera of Tyrosh would have taken place in 204 AC at the earliest. We do know that since Valarr died in 209 AC of the Great Spring Sickness, and that Kiera of Tyrosh had given birth to two stillborn sons, the last possible marriage year would have been 208 AC. Whichever precise year Valarr and Kiera married, it falls right smack in the time period that House Targaryen and Bloodraven were nervous about Bittersteel plotting with Daemon’s sons in Tyrosh and House Blackfyre building a network of marriage alliances there.

We do not know how Kiera of Tyrosh related to Rohanne of Tyrosh: a daughter of a rivaling political family or Tyroshi kin. But the least we can say is that it must be meaningful that another Tyroshi noblewomen was married to a likely Targaryen heir, after Rohanne, while Rohanne’s children are plotting in Tyrosh. It becomes all the more suspicious, and possibly mercenary, when Kiera of Tyrosh does not return home after Valarr’s death.

After Valarr, Kiera of Tyrosh is wedded to Daeron “the Drunken” Targaren, eldest son of Maekar. This is rather eye-brow raising given the fact that she has already proven to have had difficulty in delivering a healthy, living child. Again, we do not know when Kiera of Tyrosh married Daeron, but we have confirmation that she gave birth to a daughter Vaella, sweet but simple-minded, in 222 AC. No stillbirths are mentioned with Daeron prior to 222 AC. It almost appears as if Kiera of Tyrosh was not wedded to Daeron the Drunken until 221 AC, the year that Aerys I died and Daeron’s father Maekar I became king. With a possible gap between marriages of twelve years, I almost wonder whether Kiera was kept in in King’s Landing all those years as an officious hostage to prevent the political powers in Tyrosh from uniting all behind House Blackfyre. As a recompensation, Tyrosh would get a Queen of Westeros, regardless of the evidence that she had trouble birthing heirs.

Another possibility for the hypothetical twelve year gap was that they wanted to keep the option open for Aerys I to wed Kiera of Tyrosh. As soon as Aerys I became king, his small council proposed for him to set aside his wife Aelinor Penrose and take another.

Wed to Aelinor Penrose, he never showed an interest in getting her with child, and rumor had it that he had even failed to consummate the marriage. His small council, at their wits’ ends, hoped it was simply some dislike of her that moved him, and thus they urged him to put her aside to take another wife. But he would not hear of it. (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Aerys I)

He never fathered an heir. Aelinor Penrose presumably died a maid. Meanwhile, Aerys had to appoint a new heir several times, because they kept dying before him. His younger brother, next in line, was Rhaegel (who ran around mad and naked in court), but choked to death on a lamprey pie in 215 AC. Rhaegel’s son, Aelor, died in 217 in some grotesque incident by the hand his twin sister-wife, Aelora. She went mad with grief over it, and eventually took her own life, after an attack by the Rat, the Hawk and the Pig at a masked ball.

His brother Rhaegel, third son of Daeron the Good, had predeceased him, choking to death upon a lamprey pie in 215 AC during a feast. Rhaegel’s son, Aelor, then became the new Prince of Dragonstone and heir to the throne, only to die two years after, slain in a grotesque mishap by the hand of his own twin sister and wife, Aelora, under circumstances that left her mad with grief. (Sadly, Aelora eventually took her own life after being attacked at a masked ball by three men known to history as the Rat, the Hawk, and the Pig.)  (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Aerys I)

Especially with Rhaegel and Aelor one starts to wonder whether there was an assassin operating. Was it the Strangler in a cup of wine instead of lamprie pie that killed Rhaegel?

Margaery Tyrell began to sob, and Tyrion heard her mother Lady Alerie saying, “He choked, sweetling. He choked on the pie. It was naught to do with you. He choked. We all saw.” (aSoS, Tyrion VIII)

And that grotesque incident where a a twin-wife killed her beloved twin-husband and afterwards is mad with grief sounds like someone had her eat a roast seasoned with basilisk blood.

The waif put the tears to one side and opened a fat stone jar. “This paste is spiced with basilisk blood. It will give cooked flesh a savory smell, but if eaten it produces violent madness, in beasts as well as men. A mouse will attack a lion after a taste of basilisk blood.” (aFfC, Cat of the Canals)

Was Aelora pregnant? An assault could cause her to miscarry. And rape by three thugs would throw doubt on the paternity of such a hypoethetical child. Yes, this is a highly speculative serial murder and assassination scenario, but given the Purple Wedding and the Waif’s words about basilisk poison not that farfetched. The question would then be: who was behind these rapidly consecutive deaths?

  • Kiera of Tyrosh or her family, all in order to get her be queen.
  • Daemon II who was a hostage in King’s Landing and wears a silver chain with dark purple amethysts.
  • Another prince who due to dragon dreams believed he would be king one day, like Aerion Brightflame.
  • Bittersteel.
  • A supporter of House Blackfyre acting on his own (like House Peake has done before)

I do not plan to solve a murder mystery that may not even be a murder mystery. But I will give some initial reflections regarding those hypothetical organizers. Hiring Faceless Men and thugs to assassinate Targaryens does not seem like anything that Bittersteel would approve, let alone organize. He seems a man who wants to win the throne by conquering Westeros, not poison.

A secret Blackfyre supporter in Westeros might be less scrupulous though. Aerys I and Maekar were estranged, after Aerys I made Bloodraven his Hand. Maekar took this as an insult and brooded in Summerhall. Aerys I would be politically at his weakest with Rhaegel and Rhaegel’s children gone with Maekar in Summerhall, the eldest nephew a drunk, the other temporarily exiled by his own father, the third learning for maester and the fourth being no more princely than a peasant is. And yet, why stop at Aelora?

Unless the organizer himself ends up dead. Daemon II Blackfyre‘s estimated death would be either 218 AC or early 219 AC, because in 219 AC Bittersteel crowns Daemon’s younger brother Haegon. Even if he seems a buffoon on the one hand, and his disguise is a poor one, he is not dirty of deception or trying to get innocent people executed. All his opponents at the tourney are bribed to lose when they joust against John the Fiddler and Ser Glendon Ball is accused of stealing a dragon egg, with the evidence only being a painted stone put in his bag. While Lord Gormond Peake is proven to be behind this and Dunk leaves room for Daemon to be innocent of it, in the end Daemon does not have the painted dragon egg fetched and jousts against Ser Glendon Ball to prove that Glendon is guilty. How far Daemon himself is willing to go into deception and actually has little honor is left ambiguous. And of course we have that glaring silver necklace with dark purple amethysts around his neck. It should not be fully ignored that the freak-accidents coincide with his captitivy in King’s Landing, if only because he might have had dragon dreams that the organizer or murderer may have used as a guide to bring it about.

Aerion Brightflame Targaryen certainly has the cruelty to plot murder and assassination. Egg tells Duncan in the Hedge Knight how Aerion once entered Aegon’s room, held a knife to Egg’s private parts and threatened to make him a eunuch. He believed in dragon dreams insofar he thought he would turn into a dragon if he drank a cup of wildfire. And it is claimed he meddled in dark arts. Except we do not know whether he was even in Westeros at the time. Maekar sent Aerion to Lys in 209 AC for the trouble he had caused at the Tourney of Ashford.  But we do not know when he returned, except that he was present during the Third Blackfyre Rebellion in 219 AC. In answer to a question, George answered

Lastly, (iv), well, Aerion Brightfire did not stay in Lys all his life, only a few years. He may have fathered a few bastards there, […] (SSM, Many Questions, october 14, 1998)

However, Inkpots of the Second Sons reveals that Aerion was not always in Lys and served with them, like Bittersteel.

“The Bright Prince, Aerion Targaryen, he was a Second Son.” (aDwD, Tyrion XII)

Curiously, Yandel does not mention him as one of the members of the Second Sons, either because he does not know, or left it out. I would say that serving with the Second Sons ought to be added to the “few years” in Lys. Now while interpreting the use of “a few” and “several” is highly speculative, we do tend to use “few” in relation to roughly indicate two, maximally three years, while “several” for example is used to indicate more than two, either three or four. Why would it matter? Because it is not impossible for George to write Bittersteel and Brightflame serving the Second Sons at the same time. Not that would have anything to do with a murder plot of his uncles and cousins, of course. Nor is it unusual for princes and Westerosi traveling in Essos to join a Free Company. It almost sounds like one of those touristy things to do. At any regard, it does show that Aerion travelered around in Essos, possibly fought alongside Bittersteel, or against him after Bittersteel founded the Golden Company, that he sold his sword for cash, and still might have made it back to King’s Landing by 215 AC.

That Kiera of Tyrosh was married twice to a crown prince while House Blackfyre is sheltering in Tyrosh is no coincidence either. And if she was already married to Daeron during Aerys’s reign, she was one of those who seemed about to reap the benefits of those deaths. 

Anyway, with that I end the interlude of eyebrow raising “coincidences” for this time period between the Second and Third Blackfyre Rebellion that raise more questions than answers.

The Golden Company (since 212 AC)

The year after Daemon’s failed attempt at starting a second rebellion, Aegor Rivers founded his Golden Company in 212 AC.

In Essos, Bittersteel gathered exiled lords and knights, and their descendants, to him. He formed the Golden Company in 212 AC, and soon established it as the foremost free company of the Disputed Lands. “Beneath the gold, the bitter steel” became their battle cry, renowned across Essos. (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Daeron II)

Their battle cry is “Beneath the gold, the bitter steel,” but their motto is “Our word is as good as gold.” The latter refers to their reputation of never haven broken a contract, not until 300 AC, when they broke their contract with Myr in order to honor the one writ in blood with Illyrio for Aegon.

Most free companies are born in the Disputed Lands that lie between Tyrosh, Myr and Lys. At present there are two score (aka forty) free companies.

The Disputed Lands has been the birthplace of more of these so-called free companies than any other place in the known world, beginning during the Century of Blood. Even today, there are twoscore free companies in the region; when not employed by the three quarrelsome daughters, the sellswords oft seek to carve out conquests of their own.(tWoIaF – The Three Quarrelsome Daughters: Myr, Lys and Tyrosh)

However, many of those would be low in numbers and nothing more than rabble out for loot. In an interview George explained it thus:

Hal9000: I presume the mounted mercenaries from the eastern continent aren’t as heavily armored as the Westerosi knights? What about their skills and discipline compared to the Westerosi knights?

George: It varies. Some of the sellsword companies are very disciplined, and some are nothing but rabble joined together in search of loot. At one end there would be the Golden Company, at the other the Brave Companions. The Second Sons and the Stormcrows are in the middle. (SSM Military Questions, June 21, 2001)

The Brave Companions, aka the Bloody Mummers, for example are a Free Company of around 100 men. Jaime’s escort of Walton Steelshank of two hundred men outnumbers the Brave Companions two to one. The Brave Companions lost members during the fight with Ser Amory’s men inside Harrenhal, some to Nymeria’s pack, and some more to the Brotherhood Without Banners before Jaime’s escort. That still accounts for a loss of little over a score of men, not hundreds, let alone thousands. Most of those forty Free Companies would be comparable to the Bloody Mummers – in numbers and poor discipline.

While Ben Plumm’s Second Sons is one of the oldest companies and falls on the middle side of discipline it allegedly has only five hundred men under contract. Daario’s Stormcrows are of similar size, all ahorse. I should add that the Second Sons at one time may have had double their present number. The former commander of the Second Sons prior to Ben Plumm, Mero, caused the Second Sons to have such a bad reputation (comparable to the Brave Companions) that the Free Cities did not even want to hire the Second Sons anymore. Companies that are not hired mean loss of revenue for a sellsword. The last few years, the Second Sons would have had a low number of recruits, while every sellsword who had finished their contract would leave and seek another more profitable company to join. 

We have no known numers for historical companies such as the Bright Banners, Stormbreakers or the Company of the Rose, but presumably are at best the same in size. The Company of the Rose for example was founded by Northerners who chose exile over bending the knee to Aegon the Conquerer three hundred years ago, including female warriors. It is unlikely that Torrhen Stark lost even thousands of warriors to self-chosen exile, or that the North keeps losing a significant drain of northerners to Essos afterwards.  

Next up in size are the Long Lances who comprize eight hundred riders. But even with those numbers they seem poor in discipline, as the Stormcrows defeat them in a night raid. The Stormcrows lose only nine of their own, while gaining twelve recruits out of them. tWoW spoiler: the Mereneese company, the Mother’s Men, formed by freedmen (former slaves) and commanded by Marselen (Missandei’s Unsullied brother) break through their defense like a “rotten stick”.

In comparison the Windblown, commanded by the Tattered Prince, are a large company: they have 2000 horse and foot. The Company of the Cat, commanded by Bloodbeard, is even larger with their 3000 members. The Windblow and Company of the Cat can be called an actual army, albeit a small one. The largest of them all and the most disciplined is the Golden Company, having 10,000 men, which is a full, proper professional army. 500 of those are knights, each with three horses, and as many squires, each with one horses, making for two thousand horses. Then they have a 1000 archers. A third of those are crossbowmen, another third uses double curved bows of the east, and a final third use Westerosi long bows, and then there is another set of fifty Summer Islanders with goldenheart bows (the best bows in Planetos). And then there are the elephants. Did I mention the elephants? They are very important! The elephants I mean.

In discussions about army size, you might see debaters downplay the Golden Company as only having 10,000 men. Minus the knights, the squires and the archers, they have 8000 infantry. In numbers, the armies of the Tyrells and Lannisters should be able to crush them. However, large numbers of the infantry with the Tyrells and Lannisters are levied peasants who were shoved a poorly made sword or lance in their hands. The Lannister levies’ experience is mostly that of killing peasants, the Battle of the Green Fork, Blackwater Bay and an alleged storming of Dragonstone. The Tyrell levies only fought at Blackwater Bay, except for Tarly’s troops who fought at Duskendale. The men with the Golden Company are battle hardened commoners who joined the company because they already learned they were good at it, and at least in tWoW they are fighting to conquer a home, not for money or loot. Here are George’s general words about Westerosi armies, followed with those of recruits of Companies.

Hal9000: What is the general composition of the Westerosi armies? My impression is that the knights or mounted men represent the back-bone of their armies.
George: They are certainly the most feared component, yes.
Hal9000: What is the relative composition of archers (or horse-archers), infantry and cavalry?
George: Infantry outnumbered cavalry by a considerable margin, but for the most part we are talking about feudal levies and peasant militia, with little discipline and less training. Although some lords do better than others. Tywin Lannister’s infantry was notoriously well disciplined, and the City Watch of Lannisport is well trained as well… much better than their counterparts in Oldtown and King’s Landing. (SSM Military Questions, June 21, 2001)

George: Sellswords are mercenaries. They may or may not be mounted, but whether ahorse or afoot they fight for wages. Most tend to be experienced professional soldiers. You don’t have a lot of green young sellswords — some, sure, but not many. It’s a profession a man tends to chose after he’s tasted a few battles and learned that he’s good at fighting. (SSM Mercenaries, May 13, 2000)

According to the app of tWoIaF one of the first feats of the Golden Company was the sack of Qohor. Allegedly Qohor had hired them, but had broken its contract, and Bittersteel retaliated by sacking Qohor. But then we have the story of the Three Thousand (as Jorah Mormont tells it to Daenerys).

“It was four hundred years ago or more, when the Dothraki first rode out of the east, sacking and burning every town and city in their path. The khal who led them was named Temmo. His khalasar was not so big as Drogo’s, but it was big enough. Fifty thousand, at the least. Half of them braided warriors with bells ringing in their hair.
“The Qohorik knew he was coming. They strengthened their walls, doubled the size of their own guard, and hired two free companies besides, the Bright Banners and the Second Sons. And almost as an afterthought, they sent a man to Astapor to buy three thousand Unsullied. It was a long march back to Qohor, however, and as they approached they saw the smoke and dust and heard the distant din of battle.
“By the time the Unsullied reached the city the sun had set. Crows and wolves were feasting beneath the walls on what remained of the Qohorik heavy horse. The Bright Banners and Second Sons had fled, as sellswords are wont to do in the face of hopeless odds. With dark falling, the Dothraki had retired to their own camps to drink and dance and feast, but none doubted that they would return on the morrow to smash the city gates, storm the walls, and rape, loot, and slave as they pleased.
“Eighteen times the Dothraki charged, and broke themselves on those shields and spears like waves on a rocky shore. Thrice Temmo sent his archers wheeling past and arrows fell like rain upon the Three Thousand, but the Unsullied merely lifted their shields above their heads until the squall had passed. In the end only six hundred of them remained . . . but more than twelve thousand Dothraki lay dead upon that field, including Khal Temmo, his bloodriders, his kos, and all his sons. On the morning of the fourth day, the new khal led the survivors past the city gates in a stately procession. One by one, each man cut off his braid and threw it down before the feet of the Three Thousand.
“Since that day, the city guard of Qohor has been made up solely of Unsullied, every one of whom carries a tall spear from which hangs a braid of human hair. […] (aSoS, Daenerys I)

Maester Yandel adds Qohor might contract a free company during times of peril and they also pay off a regular visiting Dothraki khal.

If Qohor contracted the Golden Company not long after 212 AC, then that implies it were times of peril. Possibly the threat (likely Dothraki) was bought of with gifts and thus the Golden Company thanked for showing up but not getting paid. That the Golden Company managed to sack the city while it is permanently defended by Unsullied suggests that Bittersteel found a strategy to combat and defeat the Unsullied, without using the time consuming method of the Harpy’s Sons in Mereen. This certainly would have cemented their reputation from the get go, as the App claims. Still, it is curious that this remarkable and exceptional sacking of Qohor is never mentioned by characters in the series, nor by maester Yandel in the World Book. Either this is a fact that George does not want us to know yet, or it is equally possible that he might end up altering the name of the Free City that got sacked, to Norvos perhaps.

Regardless of the story that the Golden Company sacked Qohor, Bittersteel’s company certainly gained a reputation in the next seven years, quickly attracting more exile knights and lords. To this day in Planetos, it is the first company sought after by those who can afford them.

The Third Blackfyre Rebellion (219 AC)

As Bloodraven had predicted, Bittersteel did not crown Daemon’s brother Haegon Blackfyre, not while Daemon the Younger still lived as hostage in King’s Landing. But by 219 AC Daemon II has died (likely 218 or 219 AC), and Bittersteel crowns Heagon I (26-29) in Tyrosh. This is a surprising young age. Daemon II was in the prime of his life, and life as a royal hostage living at a court that wanted to keep him alive would. Especially since he loved poetry and singing songs more than anything else. So, he had a freak-accident like the Targaryen predecessors, or was either murdered or executed (and not necessarily by a Targaryen supporter).

After crowning Haegon, Bittersteel and Haegon launch a third rebellion. We hardly know anything about this rebellion at present: not where or how long. We know more about Bittersteel’s escape afterwards than the Third Rebellion itself.

In 219 AC, Haegon Blackfyre and Bittersteel launched the Third Blackfyre Rebellion. Of the deeds done then, both good and ill—of the leadership of Maekar, the actions of Aerion Brightflame, the courage of Maekar’s youngest son, and the second duel between Bloodraven and Bittersteel—we know well. The pretender Haegon I Blackfyre died in the aftermath of battle, slain treacherously after he had given up his sword, but Ser Aegor Rivers, Bittersteel, was taken alive and returned to the Red Keep in chains. Many still insist that if he had been put to the sword then and there, as Prince Aerion and Bloodraven urged, it might have meant an early end to the Blackfyre ambitions. But that was not to be. Though Bittersteel was tried and found guilty of high treason, King Aerys spared his life, instead commanding that he be sent to the Wall to live out his days as a man of the Night’s Watch. That proved a foolish mercy, for the Blackfyres still had many friends at court, some of them only too willing to play the informer. The ship carrying Bittersteel and a dozen other captives was taken in the narrow sea on the way to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, and Aegor Rivers was freed and returned to the Golden Company. (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Aerys I)

So, after the battle was over and lost for House Blackfyre, Haegon Blackfyre surrendered, but was treacherlously killed, while Bittersteel was captured alive after a duel with Bloodraven and sent to the Wall. But Bittersteel managed to escape and returned to Tyrosh and the Golden Company that also seemed to have largely survived the battle. Prince Maekar led the Targaryen army against Haegon and Bittersteel, Egg (by then 19) showed courage, and Aerion’s “actions” are “well known”, but not necessarily heroic deed. Yandel wrote in general “deeds done, for good and ill”. In fact most “deeds” cited and specified are those we can count as “good” ones:

  • Maekar leading the Targaryen army and defeating the Third Blackfyre Rebellion.
  • Aegon’s couragiousness.
  • Bloodraven defeating Bittersteel in a duel that ended in his live capture and leaving it up to a trial and Aerys I to decide his fate (though arguing for his execution).

That leaves only Aerion’s actions as the possible deeds for ill. Aerion had to earn his nickname “the Monstrous” somehow, no? It sounds like one of those actions was slaying unarmed Haegon Blackfyre after he surrendered his sword. Speaking of a sword, since Bittersteel did fight alongside Haegon in complete support of him and dueled with Bloodraven, just as he did in the First Blackfyre Rebellion with Daemon I, can there be any doubt that Haegon Blackfyre fought with the sword Blackfyre and that Haegon surrendered it? It thus appears that Blackfyre got “lost” there and then.

After his escape, Aegor Rivers crowned Haegon’s eldest son Daemon III (born in exile) before the year was out.

Before the year was out, he crowned Haegon’s eldest son as King Daemon III Blackfyre in Tyrosh, and resumed his plotting against the king who had spared him. (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Aerys I)

Take note that House Blackfyre still resides and operates from Tyrosh. Then notice that Bittersteel crowned Haegon’s son, Daemon III, and not Haegon’s younger brother Aenys. Bittersteel respected normal inheritance laws for House Blackfyre:

  1. No heir can be crowned before the previous head of House Blackfyre is dead
  2. Sons come before uncles.
  3. daughters and sisters come last.

And since Daemon III Blackfyre was Haegon’s eldest son, Haegon Blackfyre had at least fathered one other son by 219 AC.

Bittersteel does not launch a Fourth Rebellion with the crowned Daemon III Blackfyre until 236 AC. This is a gap of seventeen years. These might be some of the reasons why Aegor Rivers waits this long:

  • Even with a weak king such as Aerys I, Bloodraven proves too strong an opponent as Hand.
  • Aerys I, Bloodraven and Maekar formed a united front after all.
  • The political support of House Blackfyre in Westeros is shattered after two failures during Aerys I
  • Daemon III is still a child at the time.

Jumping the Line (233 AC)

In Westeros, King Aerys I dies in 221 AC. His last remaining and youngest brother Maekar I became king instead. In 222 AC the Crown Prince Daeron the Drunken becomes the father of Vaella. Allegedly Daeron died of the pox some time later that he caught from a whore. Aerion Brightflame’s son Maegor was born in 232 AC, but Aerion the Monstrous died in the same year when he drank a cup of wildfire believing he would turn into a dragon. Then in 233 AC, House Peake rebelled and King Maekar I Targaryen died in the storming of Starpike, as a rock fell and crushed his helm. Maekar’s death caused a succession crisis. Who was to be king or queen? Simple minded Vaella of 11 years old, Baby Maegor and son of a monster like Aerion, maester Aemon, or the peasant prince Aegon? In order to avoid war, Bloodraven called a Great Council to decide the matter. In response to this, Haegon’s younger brother, Aenys Blackfyre, writes a letter from Tyrosh to put his claim forward.

Even as the Great Council was debating, however, another claimant appeared in King’s Landing: none other than Aenys Blackfyre, the fifth of the Black Dragon’s seven sons. When the Great Council had first been announced, Aenys had written from exile in Tyrosh, putting forward his case in the hope that his words might win him the Iron Throne that his forebears had thrice failed to win with their swords. Bloodraven, the King’s Hand, had responded by offering him a safe conduct, so the pretender might come to King’s Landing and present his claim in person. Unwisely, Aenys accepted. Yet hardly had he entered the city when the gold cloaks seized hold of him and dragged him to the Red Keep, where his head was struck off forthwith and presented to the lords of the Great Council, as a warning to any who might still have Blackfyre sympathies. (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Maekar I)

Bloodraven’s actions in this are regularly discussed and debated. But I would like to remind the reader that Bittersteel crowned Haegon’s eldest son Daemon III Blackfyre as king in 219 AC already. So, had Daemon III and his brother(s) died by 233 AC? No! Daemon III leads the Fourth Rebellion three years later in 236 AC. So, what did Aenys think he was doing when he wrote to the Great Council? If any Blackfyre ought to petition with the Great Council for consideration to be king in a feudal society, it ought to have been Daemon III Blackfyre, NOT Aenys Blackfyre. Aenys was not solely a pretender in the eyes of the Targaryens. He had no first claim even in the eyes of Bittersteel or House Blackfyre. He sneakily tried to jump ahead in line of his nephews. It seems a strange distinction I make for a family of pretenders trying to wrestle the throne away from the Targaryens. But if House Blackfyre and Bittersteel truly believed Daeron II was not King Aegon IV’s son, then it was their duty to rebel in their eyes, as much as it is Stannis’s duty. Then House Blackfyre and Bittersteel were acting according to feudal honor, except for Aenys. He was nothing more than an opportunist, without any feudal honor or family loyalty.

Is it any coincidence then that House Peake is somehow involved in the events leading up to Aenys making his claim? House Peake and Aenys may not have been plotting actively as Lord Gormond and Daemon II did, but at the very least House Peake likely hoped to create a climate to convince one member of House Blackfyre to cross the narrow sea. That goal worked, resulting in the death of King Maekar, a Targaryen succession crisis and a Blackfyre pretender making a claim, except it was the wrong Blackfyre. It seems that George is setting up a meta-parallel that when House Peake is involved, it is without Bittersteel’s approval. And this meta-parallel might have serious consequences for theories that propose Varys’s Aegon is a Blackfyre descendant: we have three exiled Peakes fighting for Aegon.

  1. First we have a true crowned Blackfyre, but house Peake opportunistically tried to be kingmaker behind Bittersteel’s back, and everyone else ended up believing Daemon II was fake.
  2. The second time, house Peake rebels first, but the wrong Blackfyre who is neither crowned nor in line to be crowned makes his claim.
  3. The third time, members of house Peake fight alongside an alleged Targaryen claimant, but we have hints he is the son of a Lyseni bedslave and a Pentosi cheesemonger, and Moqorro mentions a “fake dragon” surrounding Tyrion.

This is getting progressively worse over time. So, when a Peake says they have “friends in the Reach,” it should make us cringe about Aegon’s identity as possibly not even being a Blackfyre.

Laswell Peake rapped his knuckles on the table. “Even after a century, some of us still have friends in the Reach.” (aDwD, The Lost Lord, aka JonCon I)

Would the consideration and eventual dismissal of Aenys Blackfyre’s claim by the Great Council have resolved the Blackfyre issue once and for all? No, Aenys did not have first Blackfyre claim. It would not have dismissed any potential claim of the crowned King Daemon III Blackfyre, nor his brothers, nor his children’s. Not then, nor the future. Nor did Aenys have value as a hostage. He was a traitor to his own house. In two ways, Brynden Rivers did House Blackfyre a favor: he killed an opportunistic traitor and as a result of his actions Bloodraven ceased to be Hand and Protector of the Realm.

Because, Aenys was not the head of House Blackfyre and we lack any comment about his potential family life, other than that he lived in Tyrosh, we cannot make a definite conclusion regarding his marriage status, nor any children he might have had. We have no confirmation in this regard, nor do we have hints that Aenys (39-42 old) died a bachelor without issue. But his murder and the dismissal of the claim of Kiera’s daughter Vaella indicate that by this time either Aenys’s mother Rohanne or her father have died. The political threat of Tyroshi nobility siding with the Blackfyre cause seems to have waned.

The Fourth Blackfyre Rebellion (236 AC)

Westeros suffered under a long winter from 130 AC to 135 AC, while lords grew to dislike “peasant” King Aegon V for meddling in their affairs, even before he was king, and then reducing their rights and privileges in favor of the common folk. Meanwhile, Bloodraven had been sent to the Wall. If there ever was a time ripe to rally support and hope for success for the Blackfyre cause, it would have been at the end of that winter. And so, King Daemon III Blackfyre and Bittersteel led the Golden Company in a fourth attempt to seize the throne in 236 AC.

In 236 AC, as a cruel six-year-long winter drew to a close, the Fourth Blackfyre Rebellion saw the self-styled King Daemon III Blackfyre, son of Haegon and grandson of Daemon I, cross the narrow sea with Bittersteel and the Golden Company at his back, in a fresh attempt to seize the Iron Throne. The invaders landed on Massey’s Hook, south of Blackwater Bay, but few rallied to their banners. King Aegon V himself rode out to meet them, with his three sons by his side. In the Battle of Wendwater Bridge, the Blackfyres suffered a shattering defeat, and Daemon III was slain by the Kingsguard knight Ser Duncan the Tall, the hedge knight for whom “Egg” had served as a squire. (tWoIaF – the Targaryen Kings: Aegon V)

It ended far more quickly than the pretender might have wished, at the Battle of Wendwater Bridge. Afterward, the corpses of the Black Dragon’s slain choked the Wendwater and sent it overflowing its banks. The royalists, in turn, lost fewer than a hundred men…but amongst them was Ser Tion Lannister, heir to Casterly Rock. (tWoIaF – The Westerlands: House Lannister Under the Dragons)

But they failed once again. Daemon III died fighting Duncan the Tall. As ever, Bittersteel escaped and lived for another five years, to die fighting in the Disputed Lands in 241 AC.

Bittersteel eluded capture and escaped once again, only to emerge a few years later in the Disputed Lands, fighting with his sellswords in a meaningful skirmish between Tyrosh and Myr. Ser Aegor Rivers was sixtynine years of age when he fell, and it is said he died as he had lived, with a sword in his hand and defiance upon his lips. Yet his legacy would live on in the Golden Company and the Blackfyre line he had served and protected. (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Aegon V)

If Aegor Rivers crowned anyone in Tyrosh, we have not been told. If he did not crown anyone, it was not because there was no male heir as the mention of the last Daemon Blackfyre and Maelys “the Monstrous” Blackfyre seventeen years later prove. There certainly is the possibility that several Blackfyres died at Wendwater Bridge, not just Daemon III. Yandel phrases the defeat as “shattering” and the river choked with bodies. An uncle, his brother(s) and perhaps even an eldest son could have fought along and died there. Perhaps Bittersteel did not consider the male heirs worthy of any crowning, such as Maelys. Maybe Bittersteel recognized that it would not happen in his lifetime and simply refused to crown someone when he could not be at their side. It is however certain that Aegor Rivers never actually gave up on the dream that one day the Golden Company and House Blackfyre would succeed.  Aegor Rivers commanded the Golden Company to carry his golden skull back across the narrow sea when they would retake Westeros.

All the skulls were grinning, even Bittersteel’s on the tall pike in the center. What does he have to grin about? He died defeated and alone, a broken man in an alien land. On his deathbed, Ser Aegor Rivers had famously commanded his men to boil the flesh from his skull, dip it in gold, and carry it before them when they crossed the sea to retake Westeros. His successors had followed his example. (aDwD, The Lost Lord, aka JonCon I)

The Last Blackfyres

Sometime, before 258 AC, only two male Blackfyres remain with unspecified ties: the last Daemon Blackfyre and Maelys “the Monstrous” Blackfyre. Maelys challenges his cousin Daemon for command over the Golden Company and kills him.  Then in 258 AC, Maelys forms the Band of Nine with eight other exiles and outlaws, promising each other they will help each of them carve out a kingdom. Prince of the Dragonflies, Duncan, dubbed them the Ninepenny Kings.

In 258 AC on Essos, another challenge rose to Aegon’s reign, when nine outlaws, exiles, pirates, and sellsword captains met in the Disputed Lands beneath the Tree of Crowns to form an unholy alliance. The Band of Nine swore their oath of mutual aid and support in carving out kingdoms for each of their members. Amongst them was the last Blackfyre, Maelys the Monstrous, who had command of the Golden Company, and the kingdom they pledged to win for him was the Seven Kingdoms. Prince Duncan, when told of the pact, famously remarked that crowns were being sold nine a penny; thereafter the Band of Nine became known as the Ninepenny Kings in Westeros. (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Aegon V)

In the same year that 259 AC Aegon V and others died in the tragedy of Summerhall and his last remaining son Jaehaerys became king, Maelys helps an ambitious merchant prince Alequo Adaris in taking Tyrosh, that city that House Blackfyre had called home from 196 AC until at least 233 AC. Tyrosh would have been the sole home the second, third and even fourth generation of House Blackfyre, whether still having that name or not, had ever known. The Ninepenny Kings sacked it and installed Alequo as Tyrant King. Next, they seized the Stepstones for their base to conquer Westeros for Maelys.

The tragedy of Summerhall brought Jaehaerys, the Second of His Name, to the Iron Throne in 259 AC. Scarcely had he donned the crown than the Seven Kingdoms found themselves plunged into war, for the Ninepenny Kings had taken and sacked the Free City of Tyrosh and seized the Stepstones; from there, they stood poised to attack Westeros. Jaehaerys had known that the Band of Nine meant to win the Seven Kingdoms for Maelys the Monstrous, who had declared himself King Maelys I Blackfyre, […] (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Jaehaerys II)

Instead of waiting for the Ninepenny Kings to launch an invasion in Westeros, King Jaehaerys II sent armies to defeat them on their self-chosen turf in 260 AC. They warred across islands and channels for close to a year. But it was the young knight Barristan Selmy who killed Maelys in single combat.

[…] In 260 AC, his lordship landed Targaryen armies upon three of the Stepstones, and the War of the Ninepenny Kings turned bloody. Battle raged across the islands and the channels between for most of that year. […] Hightower and his men were hard-pressed for a time, but as the war hung in the balance, a young knight named Ser Barristan Selmy slew Maelys in single combat, winning undying renown and deciding the issue in a stroke, for the remainder of the Ninepenny Kings had little or no interest in Westeros and soon fell back to their own domains. Maelys the Monstrous was the fifth and last of the Blackfyre Pretenders; with his death, the curse that Aegon the Unworthy had inflicted on the Seven Kingdoms by giving his sword to his bastard son was finally ended. (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Jaejaerys II)

Offcially, House Blackfyre ended with Maelys. But Illyrio Mopatis specifies that Maelys was the last Blackfyre of the male line. This means that with his death, so died the name Blackfyre, not necessarily the men, women, boys and girls who had Blackfyre blood running through their veins. They simply did not have the Blackfyre name, because their closest ancestor named Blackfyre was their mother, or grandmother.

Because we get no specifix textual ties to previous Blackfyres other than their names, most people do not go further than assume that Maelys is a grandson of Daemon I Blackfyre via either Haegon, Aenys or the last two unnamed sons, and that the relationship between Maelys and the Last Daemon is a type of cousin relationship. However, while we may have no direct textual confirmation for Maelys, we have something else – an illustration of Maelys in the duel against Selmy.

Maelys_Selmy
Maelys Blackfyre fights Barristan Selmy during the War of the Ninepenny Kings, as depicted by Jose Daniel Cabrera Pena in tWoIaF

maelys_the_monstrous_woiaf_8931

The illustrations in the World Book or those of the illustrated novels are approved by George or made using George’s  guidelines about the character. So, I ask you, how old does Maelys look to you? To the right is an enlargement of Maelys alone, for readers who do not own the World Book.

Maelys is an old man with wrinkles. He looks he could be a grandfather. Considering that he still has a heavy frame with a broad chest, Maelys is younger than seventy. If I say I see a man who is over fifty, I am being optimistically generous, taking a hard life as well as weathering of sand and sun into consideration for appearing older than he might be. Maelys died in 260 AC. That would mean he was born at the latest in 209 AC. But any of Daemon I’s grandsons who carries the name Blackfyre was born after 211 AC. So, Maelys is not a grandson, but one of Daemon’s last unnamed sons, who would be between 64 to 68 in 260 AC. The last name carrying male Blackfyre was also the last living son of Daemon I Blackfyre. Since, Maelys killed his cousin (and perhaps others) this makes Maelys not just the last surviving male Blackfyre in 260 AC, but the man who destroyed and killed House Blackfyre: a kinslayer and usurper. If the destroyer of House Blackfyre was indeed Daemon I’s last son, it becomes cruelly poetic. Daemon I founds House Blackfyre, while his last (youngest) son ensures it goes extinct, as if everything and everyone between the beginning and the end hardly mattered. 

There is his nickname, “the Monstrous”. But even his first name is a phonetical hint. If you were to pronounce Maelys and ask someone who would not know you were uttering a name to write it down, they would write malice. Maelyis is just malice spelled differently. Then there is his parastic twin, sprouting from his neck as a second head.

Captain of the Golden Company, named for his grotesquely huge torso and arms, fearsome strength, and savage nature. A second head grew from his neck, no bigger than a fist.

Fraternal twins (non-identical) are the result of a woman’s ovaries releasing two eggs around the same time, and thus two eggs are fertilized by a sperm each. While they are conceived and born simultaneously, genetically they are no closer than siblings born apart in time, across various pregnancies. How over-active ovaries are is regulated by a woman’s hormones, and thus the chance of birthing fraternal twins is genetically dependent – and this is important – on the mother (not the father!). No amount of genetic make-up of men can increase the chance of their wives giving birth to twins. All a man can do is pass the genes onto a daughter who, as a result, is more pre-disposed at having fraternal twins. So, if a mother has given birth to fraternal twins once, there is a higher chance that she might have another set of fraternal twins afterwards than a woman who has never birthed twins.

A chimera twin is created from a basic fraternal twin situation when the two zygotes conjoin. A zygote is a fertilized egg, a cell, traveling down the tubes into the womb and has not yet nestled. It is only in the earliest stages of division, not yet even increased in size – a pre-embyrionic stage. So, basicaly the cells of what could have been two persons gets clumped together, like two colors of plasticine (that do not mix) lumped together to mold one figure out of it. The baby born has for example one eye with cells with genes dictating that the eye color ought to be green, while the cells of the other eye have another genetic code dictating it ought to produce another color. Same thing with cells in the scalp to produce hair color. People theorize for example that Tyrion is a chimera twin. Joanna has already birthed paternal twins, and Tyrion seems a mish-mash (not a mix) of different genetic material – bi-colored hair and bi-colored eyes.

Unlike with fraternal twins, there is no factual genetic predisposition for giving birth to identical twins. It is mere random chance. However, since there is an erronous belief that twinning is genetically predisposed in general, we cannot rule out that George made this mistake. With identical twins you start out with one sperm having joined with one egg, like a normal pregnancy. The zygote starts to divide and travels to the womb, nestles, but sometime later in the embryonic stage, the clump of cells dividing end up splitting, so that you have two clumps of embryos that develop furhter and are born as identical twins, who are near identical genetic copies of the same gender.  Rohanne’s firsborn twin sons Aemon and Aegon could be identical twins, as they at least are both male.

If an embryo splits after day 12 of fertilization, there is a risk that they do not completely separate, resulting in conjoined twins. Sometimes one of the conjoined twins ceases to develop and dies, while the other develops in full – parasitic twins. The underdeveloped twin is called the parasite, whereas the twin who developed completely is the autosite, who has all the vitals to survive on his own. Since a vital phoetus will try to get as much oxygen, nutrients and space for development in utero, the underdeveloped parasite may end up being partially reabsorbed, resulting in a vanishing twin. Conjoined twins and parasitic twins are ALWAYS identical twins³, with a parasitic twin being a special type of conjoined twins. The description we have for Maelys is typical for a parasitic twin (NOT a chimeric twin). Since it appears that we have two set of identical twins, this furthers the (scientifically erronous) idea that Rohanne is the likeliest mother of Maelys.

It would be completely unfair to blame the surviving half of a conjoined twin of the death and underdevelopment of the other in real life. But as feudal societies go, without much scientific insight, of course Maelys is regarded as a “kinslayer in utero”. Do you think Maelys was treated better than Tyrion, because his last name was Blackfyre? No, if anything he would have been treated worse, with the constant reminder of the parasite twin sticking out his neck. Even his own mother would have recoiled from him. No father or brother would agree to wed their daughter or sister to such one. It would not be Westeros or King’s Landing making mock of him, but the Tyroshi, from the highest born to the street urchins. Maelys grew up in Tyrosh, since he was a suckling baby or a crawling toddler, hating his family and the city that welcomed them, but not him. What histories tell us he was involved in – slaying his own cousin and sacking Tyrosh – is the obvious result of the inevitable hatred. Maelys did not simply kill his cousin with a sword. He twisted and tore his cousin’s head off with his hands.

He won command of the Golden Company by fighting his cousin, Daemon Blackfyre, for it, killing his cousin’s destrier with a single punch and then twisting Daemon’s head until it was torn from his shoulders. (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Jaehaerys II)

Ouch! The hatred is deep.

Speaking of heads. Usually, the lead male of the family is called, “the family head,” or “the head of the family”. There would be no reason to challenge the Last Daemon for command of the Golden Company if Maelys was already ahead in line. Hence, Daemon Blackfyre would be ahead of Maelys, according to the inheritance order that Bittersteel followed. And nobody gives the same name to two of their sons, not even the Freys. We can exclude the last Daemon Blackfyre from being a grandson of Daemon I, because these would not be Maelys’s cousins, but nephews. Hence, the last Daemon Blackfyre is either a grandson of Haegon, Aenys or the other unnamed brother.

In order for the Last Daemon to be the Captain General of a professional army such as the Golden Company, he would have been an experienced fighter in his twenties, not a mere boy or teen, especially if it required a man like Maelys to battle him for command over it. Theoretically one can argue that the Last Daemon may have died years before Maelys formed the Band of Nine in 258 AC. However, with Maelys kinslaying the Last Daemon in order to get command, and thus usurping him, it seems unlikely that Maelys wasted too much time. Time was ticking for a man looking that old already. Maelys’s actions leave a “last chance for a rogue” impression. So, I lean towards the Last Daemon dying in 257 or 258 AC.

Haegon’s line

  • Daemon III: born between 211 & 218 AC, died in 236 AC
    • sons of Daemon III: born between (earliest) 224 and 236 AC.
      • 4th rebellion: max 12
      • Bittersteel’s death: between 5 and 17
      • Maelys’s challenge (latest 258 AC): between 22 to 34
  • brother(s) of Daemon III: born between 212 & 219 AC.
    • (cannot be named Daemon)
      • 4th rebellion: between 17 and 24
      • Bittersteel’s death: between 22 and 29.
    • his sons: born earliest 225 AC.
      • 4th rebellion: max 11
      • Bittersteel’s death: max 16
      • Maelys’s challenge: max 33

Aenys’s line

  • sons: born between 211 & 233 AC
    • (would be nephew, not cousin to Maelys)
      • 4th rebellion: between 3 and 25
      • Bittersteel’s death: between 8 and 30
    • grandsons: born earliest 224 AC
      • 4th rebellion: max 12
      • Bittersteel’s death: max 17
      • Maelys’s challenge: max 34

The line of the penultimate unnamed son of Daemon I would be similar as Aenys’s.

I do propose that there was at least another Blackfyre, before the Last Daemon, who commanded the Golden Company after Bittersteel’s death. This would not necessarily have to be the first in line of sucession, but a Blackfyre who could be seen as the steward, much like Aegor Rivers was to House Blackfyre. The following line in the World Book gives that impression. 

After Bittersteel, the company was led by descendants of Daemon Blackfyre until the last of them, Maelys the Monstrous, was slain in the Stepstones.  (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Daeron II)

Technically the last Daemon Blackfyre and Maelys Blackfyre are enough to warrant the use of the word “descendants”. But by specificying “until the last of them” it strongly suggests there were at least two descendants who led the Golden Company prior to Maelys.

For Westeros, Maelys Blackfyre and the Golden Company sacking Tyrosh has little to no meaning. Of course for House Blackfyre this is immense. Maelys sacking Tyrosh, home to House Blackfyre for so long, is huge. It closes a door on House Blackfyre as much as tearing the head off the Last Daemon off. It is revenge, rejection and goodbye all rolled into one. And if in Tyrosh they speak ill of the Tyrant Alequo Adaris, the name Blackfyre would equally be synonymous to an enemy in the eyes of the Tyroshi. If there even had been another living male Blackfyre relative of Maelys in Tyrosh after the sacking, he would have needed to alter his name or flee the City. And basically because of this many readers assume or suppose, that any Blackfyre descendant, whether they still had the name or not, were hunted, enslaved and sold or purged from Tyrosh.

I strongly disagree with this, however. Calla Blackfyre’s first children, sons and daughters, would have been born fifty to sixty years before the sack. None of them would have had the Blackfyre name. They would have married into the noble and wealthy families of Tyrosh. Calla’s and Bittersteel’s first grandchild could have been born somewhere around 215 AC, their great-grandchild by 230 AC, and so on. By 260 AC a 5th generation of descendants of Calla Blackfyre could be born, with each of them carrying a different noble Tyroshi name.

There is an enormous difference between Tyroshi despising the name Blackfyre and Tyroshi effectively killing or  enslaving their own kin (male or female) or in-laws simply because the mother, grandmother or great-grandmother of that kin had the name Blackfyre. For instance, at present in the series, the name Frey may be the most reviled name. Before long the saying will be “the only good Frey is a dead Frey.” But do you think House Vance will kill or sell off Marianne, Walder and Patrek Vance, just because they had a Frey mother? Will Anya Waynwood or anyone of her household kill her ward Cynthea Frey? What about Robert, Walder and Jon Brax? Many readers think Olyvar Frey is the ward of Rosby. If he claims Rosby and takes the name Rosby in order to be Lord of Rosby will people kill him? If Roslin Frey births a son to Edmure Tully, will they slay her and her child in its cradle? Of course not. People can hate a name and any stranger bearing the name. But they will not hate their children, wives, husbands, parent, grandparent, cousins, uncles or aunts, let alone betray them. These are people they know personally to be innocent of wrongdoing.

The threat to such descendants are not the Tyroshi, but Maelys himself. He could fear another challenger with Blackfyre blood, though not the name. Certainly sacking a city can be used as a cover-up for a purge to hunt down kin. Maelys would not have been able to know them all, however, and several could have escaped his notice, just not many.

After the sack of Tyrosh and the defeat of Maelys and the Ninepenny Kings at Steptones, Alequo Adaris remained the king tyrant of Tyrosh for six more years.

Half a year of hard fighting remained before the Stepstones and the Disputed Lands were freed from the remaining Band of Nine, and it would be six years before Alequo Adarys, the Tyrant of Tyrosh, was poisoned by his queen and the Archon of Tyrosh was restored. For the Seven Kingdoms, it had been a grand victory, though not without cost in lives or suffering. (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Jaehaerys I)

Alequo’s significance can be manifold. On the one hand the Tyrant of Tyrosh and his seven year reign would add fuel to the hatred for the name Blackfyre. Secondly, he could have been a cousin or nephew of Maelys, a son of one of Maelys’s sisters or one of his nieces, or an in-law wedded to one of Maelys’s cousins. If so, then Alequo would have had as much interest in holding a purge of Blackfyre descendants like himself (or his wife), and many years to do it. Thirdly, any of the surviving descendants could have been involved in his downfall. This would have resulted in the restored Archon forgiving the surviving descendants.

So, while I overall agree that the sack of Tyrosh by Maelis and the tiranny of Alequo would have greatly decimated the number of non-name-carrying Blackfyre descendants, I disagree with the belief that they would not be tied to Tyrosh anymore.

Finally, to me the far more subtextual break for Blackfyre descendants is the one with the Golden Company, founded by Bittersteel for House Blackfyre. But they betrayed Bittersteel and House Blackfyre when they flocked to a Blackfyre who slew his own kin ahead in line of him. They too sacked Tyrosh, and would have been an instrument to purge those descendants who had the blood, but not the name. Imagine if you will, a great-great-great grandson of Calla Blackfyre and Aegor Rivers and the stories he would have been raised with – of his fierce ancestor Bittersteel who founded the famous Golden Company and put his whole life in service of House Blackfyre, about Calla’s noble mother and her father the Archon, how Tyrosh had welcomed them, about the valiant Blackfyre pretenders and the treacherous ones, and finally Maelys the Monstrous who destroyed his own house, stole the Golden Company and turned against Tyrosh. What chance is there that such a descendant would have anything to do with the Golden Company? Almost none.

Literary purpose

At the heart of the story and feud between House Targaryen and House Blackfyre lies the same issue of Stannis Baratheon rebelling against Joffrey and Tommen Baratheon. The entire series of political conflicts in aGoT kick off with the queen-consort having an affair, cuckolding the king, effectively putting children on the throne that are not the king’s, and willing to murder children, the king and an honest man who is not even without empathy. Everything surrounding this cuckolding and affair is set-up to make us angry and disgusted by it: twin-incest, attempt to murder an innocent child, a child-heir who is a monster and a coward, and on top of it, Cersei is narcissistic and power-hungry who does not actually love her children, and a strict set of feudal inheritance rules. And according to those rules, Stannis should be king, and Shyreen after him.

Meanwhile we are introduced to a series of bastards: Jon Snow, Gendry, Mya Stone, Joffrey, Tommen, Myrcella, Edric Storm, and Bella, the Sand Snakes, Boodraven, Ramsay, and so many more. Some do not know they are bastardborn. Others believe they are bastardborn, but actually may be trueborn. Sansa is trueborn, but has to survive by taking on the identity of a girl who is bastardborn. Some of the bastards are utter villains and monsters, but so are several trueborn characters. Others are heroes, but so are several trueborn characters. Many are just trying to survive. And then slowly, from aSoS onwards, George starts to introduce the concept of descendants whose ancestry is actually a line that exists thanks to their bastard ancestor. There is Ben Plumm who is a descendant of Viserys Plumm, whose true father was not a Plumm, but Aegon IV Targaryen. Ygritte tells Jon Snow the story of how House Stark’s lineage was saved because a daughter Stark birthed a bastard fathered by Bael the Bard. The first Baratheon, Orys, was allegedly a bastard. And then House Blackfyre is mentioned and becomes an integral part of the Dunk & Egg stories, and the Targaryen history in the World Book.

As my first parts pointed out  – the prelude, the founding of House Blacfkyre and the First Rebellion – we get a similar kick-off as in aGoT: a queen who likely did cuckold her king once and one of the king’s legitimized bastards rebelling after he is convinced that the king has no feudal right to be king. Except this time, the queen is a dutiful woman who is not out to gain power, nor would she have intended to cuckold him. She would have simply given in, when young and heartsick, to her true love that one-time. On top of it, her son was one of the best kings in the Targaryen history, a truly good person, with diplomatic skills, achieving with it what no other king has done – bringing Dorne into the Seven Kingdoms peacefully and without losing it. Nor is there evidence that Daemon I Blackfyre or Bittersteel were evil people, acting out of hunger for power. They rebelled, because they believed that by the feudal rules of their society, Daeron the Good had no right to the throne.

If Daeron II was indeed a bastard, this has a consequence that his descendants are actually a bastard line, as much as House Blackfyre, House Plumm, House Stark and House Baratheon. That in fact there are no characters who are more true heirs with more right to a throne and rule of a whole continent on account of their birth than the known bastards. Recognizing this, was Aegon IV so morally wrong then when he legitimized all his bastards, no matter if he did it as a joke or a “fuck you” to feudal society? 

His last act before his death, all accounts agree, was to set out his will. And in it, he left the bitterest poison the realm ever knew: he legitimized all of his natural children, from the most baseborn to the Great Bastards—the sons and daughters born to him by women of noble birth. Scores of his natural children had never been acknowledged; Aegon’s dying declaration meant naught to them. For his acknowledged bastards, however, it meant a great deal. And for the realm, it meant blood and fire for five generations. (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Aegon IV)

Purely from the ethical view of human rights, this may in fact have been the only responsible decision that Aegon IV ever made in his life – differentiating people based on whether they were born in wedlock or not, to a noblewoman or a tavern wench is wrong. Aegon IV did not start those wars. The lords and houses clinging to feudal rules did.

The result is that George first traps us readers into supporting characters (whether it is Stannis or Dany or anyone else you want to pick) who have the most right to rule according to the feudal rules of the order in which someone is born, on the right side of the blanket, where the fraudulent bastard is a monster and the challenger is either a just person or an emancipating liberator. Then he completely deconstructs the validity of those rules by giving us heroic bastards and trueborn monsters, good kings who are actually bastards, and horrific kings, princes and pretenders you do not want anywhere near a throne. And on top of that he makes everyone either bastardborn or a descendant of a bastard line, so that in the end we readers will completely abandon the feudal rules of legitimacy, birth order and gender, and judge a character for the good or ill they do, exactly as we would judge a character in our own modern world. And yes that means that Aenys Blackfyre should not be judged until we know more of him. He was a traitor to his own nephew Daemon III according to feudal rules, but he was also a peaceful and trusting man, and may have made a better king than Daeron the Good for all we know. Daemon III and Bittersteel had a chance in 233 AC to write their own letter, but preferred to go on a full scale war invasion three years later, while the realm still needed to recover from a long winter. And clearly Aenys was nowhere near the monster that Maelys was.

And I think that the main role of whomever will be revealed to be a Blackfyre descendant in the present timeline of the series will be for Daenerys Stormborn to question her assumptions of legitimacy based on a name and ancestry. It is perhaps one of the first things that Jorah Mormont brings up…

“He is still the true king. He is …”
Jorah pulled up his horse and looked at her. “Truth now. Would you want to see Viserys sit a throne?”
Dany thought about that. “He would not be a very good king, would he?”
“There have been worse … but not many.” The knight gave his heels to his mount and started off again.
Dany rode close beside him. “Still,” she said, “the common people are waiting for him. Magister Illyrio says they are sewing dragon banners and praying for Viserys to return from across the narrow sea to free them.”
The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends,” Ser Jorah told her. “It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace.” He gave a shrug. “They never are.”
Dany rode along quietly for a time, working his words like a puzzle box. It went against everything that Viserys had ever told her to think that the people could care so little whether a true king or a usurper reigned over them. Yet the more she thought on Jorah’s words, the more they rang of truth. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

 George will not let us forget that “women are important too”, nor that they do not merrit a throne any more just for being a woman, or Targaryen, or the blood of the dragon. Dany will have to earn the throne, because she wants to serve the common people and make sure they are left in peace, able to discern when it is time to defend with fire and blood and when to conquer hearts and minds.

Notes

  1. You may have seen it claimed that the words of House Blackfyre are the reversal of the Targaryen words. That instead of “Fire and Blood” the words of House Blackfyre are “Blood and Fire”. There is however no source whatsoever that confirms this, and Dany herself mixes up the order of the words: “Blood and fire, thought Dany. The words of House Targaryen.” (aSoS, Daenerys II). The claim that the words of House Blackfyre are “Blood and Fire” instead of the Targaryen “Fire and Blood” is but a fan theory without any hint or evidence backing it up.
  2. Putting aside the joke that Daario’s “hidden identities” have become, suggesting Daario to have dragon related ancestry is not a “hidden identity”. It is the equivalent of Tyrion revealing to Ben Plumm that he has two drops of dragon blood in his veins. Daario Naharis would still be Daario Naharis, just as Brown Ben Plumm is still Brown Ben Plumm. The sole difference between Ben Plumm and Daario Naharis is that the first is upfront to Dany about his drop of dragon blood, whereas Daario is not. If he is a descendant of House Blackfyre through the female line, then obviously Daario would have a most logical reason to stay quiet about it. “Hey, I have dragon blood too, because my grandmother was a Blackfyre,” is not something you would want to say to a Targaryen who has three dragons and is not afraid of telling them to burn you to a crisp. Lady Blizzardborn made a nice compilation of quotes for Daario as Blackfyre descendant.
  3. Unless you have the very rare chimera, splitting incompletely again more than twelve days after the zygotes clumped together.

A Bear’s Kiss – Jorah and Dany

As Lords of the Forest and identified as the major spirit of nature and wilderness, bears are often seen as incredibly sexually potent animals, and women had to look and eat at a captured bear through rings and stay at a distance as a form of guard. They even had to use those guards against the hunters, even if it was their husband, because the hunters would have assimilated some of that overpowering sexual potency.

In aSoIaF the ‘bear and fair maiden’ song becomes hokum in the last two stanzas, alluding to the sexual impact a bear can have on a maiden or young woman. And then there are also bear characters who are attracted to young women.

I will show in this essay how a kiss from a bear character or even hearing the song may influence a single young woman of a sexual age: it (re)awakens that woman’s sexuality.

Jorah and his swan maiden

Jorah Mormont is one of the earliest bear characters we are introduced to. As a Mormont his blazon is a black bear on green field of trees. And he looks like a big, burly, shaggy bear.

The knight smiled. Ser Jorah was not a handsome man. He had a neck and shoulders like a bull, and coarse black hair covered his arms and chest so thickly that there was none left for his head. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

On his dark green surcoat, the bear of House Mormont stood on its hind legs, black and fierce. Jorah looked no less ferocious as he scowled at the crowd that filled the bazaar. ” (aCoK, Daenerys II)

Ser Jorah watched with a frown on his blunt honest face. Mormont was big and burly, strong of jaw and thick of shoulder. Not a handsome man by any means,… (aSoS, Daenerys I)

In relation to the “bear and fair maiden song” it is quite interesting that Jorah is a knight. In the song the maiden comments she wanted a knight, not a bear. But Jorah is both.  In fact, his knightly feature is the first aspect we are introduced to about him, and what captures Daenerys curiosity and interest.

Illyrio whispered to them. “Those three are Drogo’s bloodriders, there,” he said. “By the pillar is Khal Moro, with his son Rhogoro. The man with the green beard is brother to the Archon of Tyrosh, and the man behind him is Ser Jorah Mormont.”
The last name caught Daenerys. “A knight?” (aGoT, Daenerys I)

Only, as she looks closer does she notice his Mormont bear sigil. That and Bear Island are the sole references in the first book to his bearness. In fact, apart from this quote and one where she thinks of Bear Island, she only refers to him as a knight, never a bear in aGoT, then only once or twice in aCoK, but more and more in aSoS.

Dany found herself looking at the knight curiously. He was an older man, past forty and balding, but still strong and fit. Instead of silks and cottons, he wore wool and leather. His tunic was a dark green, embroidered with the likeness of a black bear standing on two legs. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

His background story starts with him as Lord of Bear Island and how a Northerner and follower of the Old Gods managed to get knighted.

Ser Jorah nodded. “By then my father had taken the black, so I was Lord of Bear Island in my own right….When Robert’s stonethrowers opened a breach in King Balon’s wall, a priest from Myr was the first man through, but I was not far behind. For that I won my knighthood. (aCoK, Daenerys I)

But most importantly he chases his swan maidens. In the Volundarkvida (The Lay of Volundr, aka Wayland) of the Norse Poetic Edda, the legend of Wayland the Smith starts  with Wayland and his two brothers coming across three swan maidens bathing. Each brother marries one swan maiden. But after seven years they yearn to fly free again, and after nine years of marriage they depart. While Wayland remains at home, trusting his wife will one day fly back to him, one brother travels east, the other south in search for their wives.

Jorah’s background story includes how he was immediately smitten with southern Lady Lynesse Hightower. No, she is not a supernatural being, but she is from the South where swans fly off to in winter and Jorah ascribes to her the status of a goddess, the Maide made flesh., as well as a great beauty.

His face grew very still. “Her name was Lynesse.” …[snip]…”Very beautiful.” Ser Jorah lifted his eyes from her shoulder to her face. “The first time I beheld her, I thought she was a goddess come to earth, the Maid herself made flesh….” (aCoK, Daenerys I)

Though he never expected her to give him his favor, she does so. He wins the tournament and crowns her queen of love and beauty. That same night he asks her father Lord Leyton Hightower for her hand in marriage and again is surprised when Lord Hightower consents. The swan maiden and her father thus voluntarily consent to his attention and marriage. We could wonder what Lynesse had been thinking. Did Lynesse only see him as a knight (and Lord on top of it) like Daenerys does originally? Was she blind to him being a bear?

“To celebrate his victory, Robert ordained that a tourney should be held outside Lannisport. It was there I saw Lynesse, a maid half my age. She had come up from Oldtown with her father to see her brothers joust. I could not take my eyes off her. In a fit of madness, I begged her favor to wear in the tourney, never dreaming she would grant my request, yet she did.
“I fight as well as any man, Khaleesi, but I have never been a tourney knight. Yet with Lynesse’s favor knotted round my arm, I was a different man. I won joust after joust….[snip]… I crowned Lynesse queen of love and beauty, and that very night went to her father and asked for her hand. I was drunk, as much on glory as on wine. By rights I should have gotten a contemptuous refusal, but Lord Leyton accepted my offer. We were married there in Lannisport, and for a fortnight I was the happiest man in the wide world.” (aCoK, Daenerys I)

He whisks his southern goddess to the remote Bear Island. Jorah’s a a bear, a lord of forest and wilderness, not a prince of a palace. His riches are game, not actual jewelry and fancy clothing. As is typical for a swan maiden motif, she grew fast unhappy at his bear-home.

“A fortnight was how long it took us to sail from Lannisport back to Bear Island. My home was a great disappointment to Lynesse. It was too cold, too damp, too far away, my castle no more than a wooden longhall. We had no masques, no mummer shows, no balls or fairs. Seasons might pass without a singer ever coming to play for us, and there’s not a goldsmith on the island. Even meals became a trial. My cook knew little beyond his roasts and stews, and Lynesse soon lost her taste for fish and venison.
“I lived for her smiles, so I sent all the way to Oldtown for a new cook, and brought a harper from Lannisport. Goldsmiths, jewelers, dressmakers, whatever she wanted I found for her, but it was never enough.”(aCoK, Daenerys I)

Trying to hold on to her, he sells paochers as slaves and eventually flees his home together with his swan-wife, leaving behind his ancestral Valyrian sword Longclaw, south and east to Lys. In this way he combines both Wayland’s brothers where one goes south and the other east in pursuit of their swan wives, and fails like them in keeping or finding her. Lynesse is permanently lost to him.

“…When I heard that Eddard Stark was coming to Bear Island, I was so lost to honor that rather than stay and face his judgment, I took her with me into exile. Nothing mattered but our love, I told myself. We fled to Lys, where I sold my ship for gold to keep us.”… [snip]…”In half a year my gold was gone, and I was obliged to take service as a sellsword. While I was fighting Braavosi on the Rhoyne, Lynesse moved into the manse of a merchant prince named Tregar Ormollen. They say she is his chief concubine now, and even his wife goes in fear of her.” (aCoK, Daenerys I)

Jorah’s story with Lynesse is a reversal of the ‘bear and maiden song’. Lynesse does not resist him beforehand and instead goes willingly with someone she sees as a knight, instead of a bear. And he does not get to keep her.

Though he has no special sword to give anymore, he becomes a metaphorical sword giver – first as a sellsword, and later as sworn sword to Viserys, but in actuality acting as Daenerys’ sworn sword. In her he finds a new swan maiden to chase. He quickly falls for Dany because she reminds him of his lost swan-wife.

Daenerys and her bear

Originally, Daenerys only regards Jorah as a knight in aGoT and in aCoK, except once. And when she does refer to him as her bear, she refers to herself as his cub. She thus mainly sees him as a protector and fatherlike mentor, rather than a romantic bear, most likely because the other man she referred to as a bear in her life prior to this was a (grand)father-figure Ser Willem Darry, who by the way has no other bear connection except for Dany referring to him as such.

My great bear, Dany thought. I am his queen, but I will always be his cub as well, and he will always guard me. (aCoK, Daenerys II)

She knows though that Jorah does not just regard her as his Queen or a child. He sees her in a romantic light.

She gave him leave to go, but as he was lifting the flap of her tent, she could not stop herself calling after him with one last question. “What did she look like, your Lady Lynesse?”
Ser Jorah smiled sadly. “Why, she looked a bit like you, Daenerys.” He bowed low. “Sleep well, my queen.”
Dany shivered, and pulled the lionskin tight about her. She looked like me. It explained much that she had not truly understood. He wants me, she realized. He loves me as he loved her, not as a knight loves his queen but as a man loves a woman. She tried to imagine herself in Ser Jorah’s arms, kissing him, pleasuring him, letting him enter her. It was no good. When she closed her eyes, his face kept changing into Drogo’s. (aCoK, Daenerys I)

In Vaes Tolorro, Daenerys comes to realize that Jorah desires her. Still, their relation remains that of a knight and counselor to his Queen, until the very first chapter of aSoS after they have left Qarth. Jorah enters her room at night to speak in private with her. She is naked and only has a blanket to cover herself. Though she knows he has feelings for her, she trusts him, sends her handmaidens away, invites him to sit on her bed, and talks with him, holding the blanket up.

When he convinces her to order the captain to make course for Astapor to acquire her own army instead of becoming dependent on Illyrio Mopatis in Pentos, she jumps out of the bed, completely naked, in search for sandsilk trousers, and then he puts his arms around her waist, kisses her, professes his love and proposes marriage to her.

“Oh,” was all Dany had time to say as he pulled her close and pressed his lips down on hers. He smelled of sweat and salt and leather, and the iron studs on his jerkin dug into her naked breasts as he crushed her hard against him. One hand held her by the shoulder while the other slid down her spine to the small of her back, and her mouth opened for his tongue, though she never told it to. His beard is scratchy, she thought, but his mouth is sweet. The Dothraki wore no beards, only long mustaches, and only Khal Drogo had ever kissed her before. He should not be doing this. I am his queen, not his woman.
It was a long kiss, though how long Dany could not have said. When it ended, Ser Jorah let go of her, and she took a quick step backward. “You . . . you should not have . . .”
“I should not have waited so long,” he finished for her. “I should have kissed you in Qarth, in Vaes Tolorro. I should have kissed you in the red waste, every night and every day. You were made to be kissed, often and well.” His eyes were on her breasts. (aSoS, Daenerys I)

Ser Jorah acts presumtuous as Dany innocently let her guard down, exposing herself physically and emotionally to his sexual bear desires. What follows from it is transference of the bear’s spiritual sexual prowess to Dany and her own sexuality is awakened by it. While she makes sure to never be without a chaperone anymore in his presence, she experiences a growing hunger for a man, a hunger she longs to satisfy a chapter later. It is not simply a man’s kiss that awakens her sexual feelings; it’s a bear’s kiss.

What Dany wanted she could not begin to say, but Jorah’s kiss had woken something in her, something that had been sleeping since Khal Drogo died. Lying abed in her narrow bunk, she found herself wondering how it would be to have a man squeezed in beside her in place of her handmaid, and the thought was more exciting than it should have been. Sometimes she would close her eyes and dream of him, but it was never Jorah Mormont she dreamed of; her lover was always younger and more comely, though his face remained a shifting shadow. (aSoS, Daenerys II)

The mourning process can differ, but in the case of the loss of a beloved partner with whom there is a strong affectionate bond, there naturally can be a loss of libido for a certain period. When she first realizes that Jorah wants her, early on in her widowhood, she tries to imagine  what it would be like to be affectionate with a man, but she cannot imagine anyone but Drogo. Months have passed by the time they board the ship. After Jorah’s kiss her sexuality re-awakens, but without a particular man in mind, without being in love, without being attracted to someone. After her orgasm, she realizes that her sexuality is alive again, though Drogo is dead, where before her sexual desires and need belonged to him alone, instead of herself.

The next day, it all seemed a dream. And what did Ser Jorah have to do with it, if anything? It is Drogo I want, my sun-and-stars, Dany reminded herself. Not Irri, and not Ser Jorah, only Drogo. Drogo was dead, though. She’d thought these feelings had died with him there in the red waste, but one treacherous kiss had somehow brought them back to life. He should never have kissed me. He presumed too much, and I permitted it. It must never happen again. She set her mouth grimly and gave her head a shake, and the bell in her braid chimed softly. (aSoS, Daenerys II)

Once sexual desires are alive again, they eventually do tend to seek an object. And as Daenerys has a liking of dangerous bad boys, Daario Naharis soon becomes that object, despite his flamboyant dress that is almost comical. She grows to desire him, and eventually takes him as a lover.

Dany tried to imagine what it would be like if she allowed Daario to kiss her, the way Jorah had kissed her on the ship. The thought was exciting and disturbing, both at once. It is too great a risk. The Tyroshi sellsword was not a good man, no one needed to tell her that. Under the smiles and the jests he was dangerous, even cruel. Sallor and Prendahl had woken one morning as his partners; that very night he’d given her their heads. Khal Drogo could be cruel as well, and there was never a man more dangerous. She had come to love him all the same. Could I love Daario? What would it mean, if I took him into my bed? (aSoS, Daenerys V)

Here, starts Dany’s arc in learning whether sexual desire for a man also implies whether she loves that man or can grow to love him. And eventually we get the dichotomy of Dany having a sexual affair with Daario and what seems more like an addictive crush on him and her marriage to Hizdar she does not desire at all. She may be in love with Daario, but is that the same as loving him? After all, what is there to love about Daario? Aside from physical attraction, the sex, his swagger, and his professed devotion? Daario is like dark chocolate – it tastes sweet and gives an addictive hormone rush, but it does not truly nourish.

I would also like to point out that after the bear’s kiss, from the next chapter on, Dany immediately begins to refer to him as a bear in her mind, more and more. Simultaneously, she starts to question whether he is a knight. It is a repeat of Lynesse’s realization that Jorah is a bear instead of a knight.

“You have. You’ve displeased me greatly, ser. If you were my true knight, you would never have brought me to this vile sty.” If you were my true knight, you would never have kissed me, or looked at my breasts the way you did, or . . . (aSoS, Daenerys II)

Eventually, as Jorah exposes Arstan the squire to be Ser Barristan Selmy of the kingsguard, so does Selmy expose Jorah to have been an informant on Dany for Varys.

“Are all the knights of Westeros so false as you two? Get out, before my dragons roast you both. What does roast liar smell like? As foul as Brown Ben’s sewers? Go!” (aSoS, Daenerys V)

… My gallant knights of Westeros, an informer and a turncloak. My brother would have hanged you both… (aSoS, Daenerys VI)

Though Dany despairs whether true knights exist yet, it is those she wishes to find and looks for. She chooses a sellsword over a lustful bear, and an old true knight over a proud bear. The failing knight and bear is banished. But once she has sent Jorah away, she misses his counsel more and more, while slowly she grows tired of granfather-knight’s counsel.

Ser Jorah would not turn his eyes away. He loved me as a woman, where Ser Barristan loves me only as his queen. Mormont had been an informer, reporting to her enemies in Westeros, yet he had given her good counsel too.(aDwD, Daenerys III)

Afterward, Ser Barristan told her that her brother Rhaegar would have been proud of her. Dany remembered the words Ser Jorah had spoken at Astapor: Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly, Rhaegar fought honorably. And Rhaegar died…. [snip]… She missed Ser Jorah Mormont too. He lied to me, informed on me, but he loved me too, and he always gave good counsel. (aDwD, Daenerys V)

And while she grows wary of Selmy, she also refuses the marriage proposal of the Prince of Dorne and knight Quentyn Martell. Dany is therefore starting to turn away from knights for the first time in aDwD. She does not steer away from these knights, because they are false ones, but because what is wise also comes with a great amount of self-denial and is not as exciting, but boring.

And eventually in the final chapter, while she’s aisling and sick, wandering in the Dothraki Sea, Ser Jorah’s spirit seems to remind her of his counsel. By then she even names him ‘my old sweet bear’.

Meereen would always be the Harpy’s city, and Daenerys could not be a harpy.
Never, said the grass, in the gruff tones of Jorah Mormont. You were warned, Your Grace. Let this city be, I said. Your war is in Westeros, I told you… [snip]… Lost, because you lingered, in a place that you were never meant to be, murmured Ser Jorah, as softly as the wind. Alone, because you sent me from your side…[snip]…I gave you good counsel. Save your spears and swords for the Seven Kingdoms, I told you. Leave Meereen to the Meereenese and go west, I said. You would not listen… [snip]… You are a queen, her bear said. In Westeros…[snip]…No. You are the blood of the dragon. The whispering was growing fainter, as if Ser Jorah were falling farther behind. Dragons plant no trees. Remember that. Remember who you are, what you were made to be. Remember your words.
Fire and Blood,” Daenerys told the swaying grass. (aDwD, Daenerys X)

So, for Daenerys, twice Jorah has spiritual bear impact. His kiss re-awakens her sexuality, not for him but in general without an object. And then finally he reconnects her with her identity of the dragon and her purpose – to claim the throne in Westeros.

A bound bear

Through Tyrion’s point of view we learn how the bear fairs. And it goes from low to worse. Tyrion meets him in a whorehouse in Selhorys with a whore in his lap with Valyrian features, and thus features like Daenerys.

In the corner of the room, a man sat in a pool of shadow, with a whore squirming on his lap…[snip]… She was younger than the others, slim and pretty, with long silvery hair. Lyseni, at a guess … but the man whose lap she filled was from the Seven Kingdoms. Burly and broad-shouldered, forty if he was a day, and maybe older. Half his head was bald, but coarse stubble covered his cheeks and chin, and hair grew thickly down his arms, sprouting even from his knuckles. (aDwD, Tyrion VI)

While both Daenerys and Tyrion believe Jorah aims to return home, regain his lordship, instead he still chases the favor of a swan maiden, and sails for Meereen with Tyrion as his captive. Along the way, they are taken as slaves. The description of the bound Jorah, reminds us of the greatly feared, dangerous bear whose revenge and physical danger the hunters fear. Here, Jorah becomes like captured Wayland. To those who do not treat a bear with the respect he’s due, but instead aim to extort him, keep him captive, the bear is a dangerous, vengeful demon.

… The knight was naked but for a breechclout, his back raw from the whip, his face so swollen as to be almost unrecognizable. Chains bound his wrists and ankles. A little taste of the meal he cooked for me, Tyrion thought, yet he found that he could take no pleasure from the big knight’s miseries.
Even in chains, Mormont looked dangerous, a hulking brute with big, thick arms and sloped shoulders. All that coarse dark hair on his chest made him look more beast than man. Both his eyes were blackened, two dark pits in that grotesquely swollen face. Upon one cheek he bore a brand: a demon’s mask. (aDwD, Tyrion X)

But the bear is truly fethered and bound, not so much by chains as he is by the news of Daenerys’ marriage to Hizdar. It is like an echo of Waylan being denied the bride he’s supposed to deserve.

Mormont paid no mind to the mongrel crowd; his eyes were fixed beyond the siege lines, on the distant city with its ancient walls of many-colored brick. Tyrion could read that look as easy as a book: so near and yet so distant. The poor wretch had returned too late. Daenerys Targaryen was wed, the guards on the pens had told them, laughing. … [snip]…The knight did not struggle. All the fight went out of him when he heard that his queen had wed, Tyrion realized. One whispered word had done what fists and whips and clubs could not; it had broken him. I should have let the crone have him. He’s going to be as useful as nipples on a breastplate. (aDwD, Tyrion X)

There are several references to the song, both to the hunting half as well as the interaction with the maiden. When the slavers ‘hunting’ for slaves boarded their ship, Jorah killed three. Inside Yezzan’s tent is a boy with twisted, hair “goat legs”. And Tyrion convinces Nurse and Yezzan to buy Jorah on an idea for an act, where the bear would end up being hit in the balls, reminding us of Wayland being ‘hamstringed’ (a euphemism on emasculated)

Tyrion pointed. “That one is part of our show. The bear and the maiden fair. Jorah is the bear, Penny is the maiden, I am the brave knight who rescues her. I dance about and hit him in the balls. Very funny.”  (aDwD, Tyrion X)

Of course, there are several reversals here. Three slave hunters got killed, and it is supposed to be the bear who saves the maiden from the knight. It is a grotesquerie of the song and the proper hunting ritual. And as the legend of Wayland the Smith tells us, such grotesquerie never ends well for his captors. The bear’s owner, Yezzan dies of the pale mare, and the bear flees with Tyrion and Penny to the Second Sons. Since Brown Ben Plumm prefers the winning side,  he will turn his coat again to fight for Meereen. As soon as the bear is a free sellsword again, armed up and with the prospect to fight for his queen, he recovers quickly from his captivity.

The beast

The-constellation-of-the-Great-and-Little-Bear-Dragon-Gira
Ursa and Draco constellations: as if the bear cub transforms into a dragon

Regularly, the song of the “bear and the maiden fair” is explained as being nothing more than a different version of the “beauty and the beast”. I have tried to show you that the song is way more than that alone. But if we apply this concept of the beast to Dany and Jorah, we perhaps should wonder who is the beast? The dragon may be the most beautiful woman on Planetos, as some characters claim, but some of her instinctive “blood of the dragon” decisions are arguably monstrous. And ultimately she is unable to make the political compromize necessary to preserve the peace she so desperately wanted. As empowering and exhilerating as it is to witness Dany coming to herself and remember that she is of the blood of the dragon and wish her to embark for Westeros, it is also that same blood that propelled her onto a journey of unleashing her wroth in ways that left a trail of blood and fire and ruin she cannot look back on or she would be lost. What alliances has she refused on account of her blood, so that only Dothraki hordes and Ironborn reavers are left to her as Westerosi allies?

And what of Jorah? The proud Jorah who never truly recants his misdeeds and makes excuses for his choices, while speaking poison of those who attempted to uphold the law. He would have Dany restore his lordship of Bear Island, while he squandered it so thoughtlessly, so selfishly, so cowardly and his aunt and cousins were forced to compromize their own reputation with some shady lie for taking bears as lovers, so that at least House Mormont remains House Mormont. Yes, he is true to her for love. But love can be so fickle and it does not make him a true knight. He is ultimately a man driven by his own impulses and desires, with little regard for the price others pay so he can have what he wants.

The story of the “beauty and the beast” is about a maiden or unwed beauty who teaches the beast to appreciate inner beauty over outside beauty, to have compassion and put others before his own wants, to sacrifice his needs and desires for others. But Dany’s and Jorah’s story seems to do the opposite. In the end, we have a beauty of a beast in Daenerys and a hairy beast in Jorah who inspire each other to follow their impulses over reaching for their higher self. Where Jorah’s early belief in her helped her to become strong, a Khaleesi which ultimately led to the birth of her three dragons, it is as Jorah’s spirit guidance leads to the birth of her own dragon. Instead of a bear cub, she becomes a dragon. And we are left with a dragon and a bear, instead of a beauty and a man.*

Conclusion (tl;tr)

Through Daenerys’s eyes and experiences we learn that a bear character can have several influences on an unwed woman – awaken her sexuality through a kiss as well as be a spiritual counseling guide to the path of connecting with the primal identity. On the other hand, we also see a story emerge where the beauty does not inspire the beast to become a better man, but the beast inspires the beauty to find and follow the primal beast within.

Finally, Jorah’s personal story introduces us to the application of a male bear character chasing a swan maiden and how it is his ruin, as well as how captivity breaks a bear’s spirit and will.

*In our own skies, we have two Bear constellations – Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. In between them is the tail of Draco’s constellation (Latin for dragon), and Draco almost completely surrounds Ursa Minor.