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.

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.

Bear ancestry

A stab at me, Asha thought, but let it be. “You are wed.”
No. My children were fathered by a bear.” Alysane smiled. Her teeth were crooked, but there was something ingratiating about that smile. “Mormont women are skinchangers. We turn into bears and find mates in the woods. Everyone knows.” (aDwD, The King’s Prize)

The Mormont Women

House Mormont has their seat on Bear Island that lacks resources. Living and surviving on an island with such poor resources, we could imagine how there might come about a sacred bear belief at Bear Island, exactly because it is teeming with bears. Various subarctic regions the world round – where bear encounters were normal – share similar bear folklore, from the Germanic area to Siberia, Japan and Northern Native America. It is no surprise then that a northern subarctic island, teeming with bears and woods, where people rely on fishing and hunting for survival would feature similar folklore.

“My home . . . you must understand that to understand the rest. Bear Island is beautiful, but remote. Imagine old gnarled oaks and tall pines, flowering thornbushes, grey stones bearded with moss, little creeks running icy down steep hillsides. The hall of the Mormonts is built of huge logs and surrounded by an earthen palisade. Aside from a few crofters, my people live along the coasts and fish the seas. The island lies far to the north, and our winters are more terrible than you can imagine, Khaleesi. … Bear Island is rich in bears and trees, and poor in aught else.(aCoK, Daenerys I)

The Mormont blazon is a black bear over a green wood. They have an acenstral Valyrian Steel bastard sword called “Longclaw”. The gate of the hall has a carving of a woman in a bearskin with a child in one arm suckling at her breast and a battleaxe in the other. Lord Commander, Jeor Mormont was called the “old bear”. Dany refers to the son, Jorah Mormon as “bear”. Maege Mormont is called the “she-bear”, and her heir – after Dacey is killed at the Red Wedding – Alysane Mormont is called the “young she-bear”. Both Maege and Alysane are unwed and have children they claim to have been fathered by bears, and they claim the women are skinchangers.

We can easily recognize that Mormont women portray themselves as a female version of Tolkien’s Beorn (skinchanging bear and warrior women). Metaphorically women are armed against all the potentially violent forces of the island, or as they are “bears” they are “warriors” just as well. The Mormonts fit the subarctic folklore of the nature of bears (skinchangers, woods, magical sword, bears for fathers of their children). They even match the biological rearing patterns and lifestyle of solitary bears where males mate but remain functional bachelors, while the females rear their cubs by themselves. Though Jorah and Jeor were married at one time, they lead a bachelor’s life in the books: Jeor as Lorc Commander with the celibate Night’s Watch and Jorah who is widowed from his first wife and living separated from his second. Meanwhile the women certainly had lovers, but are bachelorettes in  life.

But is there truth in Alysane’s claim? Or is it just a bunch of lies? And if so, why did they use this lie at least two generations in a row?

It is completely possible that Mormont women are skinchangers to bears, just as the Starks are wargs to wolves. aDwD’s prologue featuring Varamyr at least shows us that some people can bond and skinchange a bear, though not without danger and difficulty.

Varamyr Sixskins was a name men feared. He rode to battle on the back of a snow bear thirteen feet tall, kept three wolves and a shadowcat in thrall, and sat at the right hand of Mance Rayder. It was Mance who brought me to this place. I should not have listened. I should have slipped inside my bear and torn him to pieces… [snip]… Varamyr had lost control of his other beasts in the agony of the eagle’s death. His shadowcat had raced into the woods, whilst his snow bear turned her claws on those around her, ripping apart four men before falling to a spear. She would have slain Varamyr had he come within her reach. The bear hated him, had raged each time he wore her skin or climbed upon her back… His shadowcat used to fight him wildly, and the snow bear had gone half-mad for a time, snapping at trees and rocks and empty air, but this was worse. (aDwD, prologue)

Varamyr has more affinity with wolves, like his mentor Hagon, and warging seems more common. But he was strong enough to skinchange into other animals as well. It is hinted that Bran can skinchange ravens because of this and shown to us that Arya skinchanges cats at will in Braavos aside from Nymeria when she dreams. Still, just as there are people with an affinity to wolves, other people have an affinity to a boar, eagle, goat or a bear. Notice too, that Varamyr skinchanges a she-bear, and that it are the Mormont women alone who claim to be skinchangers.

“There’s a carving on our gate,” said Dacey. “A woman in a bearskin, with a child in one arm suckling at her breast. In the other hand she holds a battleaxe. She’s no proper lady, that one, but I always loved her.” (aSoS, Catelyn V)

The improper carving of a woman in a bearskin at the gate of the Mormont hall reveals that the claim of Mormont women being skinchangers is an old one. The allusion of her being improper and a child suckling at her breast indicates the lady of the carving is naked, except for the bearskin. In legends, a naked character with a bearskin usually does imply the character has the nature of a bear.

But the claim that human children were fathered by a bear while they had skinchanged into bears themselves is far stranger. Skinchanging in folklore means physically changing into an animal. In aSoIaF it means being able to enter and control the mind of an animal, not actually changing shape. When Bran eats the prey that Summer hunted, while he’s warging Summer, Bran feels like he has just eaten, but Bran’s stomach remains empty.

Jojen shook his head. “No. Best stay, and eat. With your own mouth. A warg cannot live on what his beast consumes.” (aSoS, Bran I)

If a skinchanger’s stomach does not get filled by his animal eating, then surely a skinchanger will not get pregnant by his bonded animal copulating with another animal. So, Maege’s daughters and Alysane’s children having been fathered by a bear through skinchanging is an impossibility, and therefore certainly a lie.

What George seems to feature in the Mormont women is something akin to the totemic bear-wedding and ancestry, where the hunted bear’s bride gets to keep the bearksin of her totemic groom. The improper lady of the carving seems to be the ancestral mother of the Mormonts, while her child would be the first Lord Mormont, the offspring of a totemic bear-maiden wedding.

That the Mormonts who are said to be so poor when it comes to material wealth own a Valyrian bastard sword “Longclaw” seems to fit with the Wayland the Smith legend. In the legend, Wayland gives the princess his magical sword and she becomes the mother of the totemic ancestral Wayland-bear bloodline. And of course the name alone of the sword suggests a tie with a bear.

Longclaw also gives us an answer to the necessity of the skinchanging lie – it’s a bastard sword. Both the bastard sword Longclaw and the improper lady of the carving suggests House Mormont was a bastard line. Normally, the child of an unwed woman would be regarded a bastard, who has no right to inherit his family’s name , land and hall. And yet, none of Maege Mormont’s daughters are regarded as bastards, nor are Alysane’s children.

Mormont snorted. “My sister is said to have taken a bear for her lover. I’d believe that before I’d believe one fifteen feet tall. (aCoK, Jon I)

There is no mention of Maege’s husband. Instead she claims, to her brother, that she took a bear for a lover. Alysane explicitly claims she is unwed to Asha Greyjoy and that her son and daughter were fathered by a bear. A bear being the father of their children I already established to be an obvious lie, even if they can skinchange.

She-bears, aye,” said Lady Maege. “We have needed to be. In olden days the ironmen would come raiding in their longboats, or wildlings from the Frozen Shore. The men would be off fishing, like as not. The wives they left behind had to defend themselves and their children, or else be carried off.” (aSoS, Catelyn V)

While Maege explains to Catelyn how the women of Bear Island learned to defend themselves and their children against the raids of ironment and wildlings, while the men were out on sea fishing, some readers have gone to this extreme vision that the men of Bear Island are stay-at-home fathers protected by their women. Jeor, Jorah and the men Alysane takes with her to fight at Deepwood Motte are evidence enough that such an interpretation goes overboard. The women of Bear Island took to arms to defend themselves and their children, not their husbands.

If they are neither widowed, nor wed, then why don’t they marry? At least their children would not be bastards, and then there is no need to lie about a bear being the father of their children. The answer is the preservation of the Mormont name and bloodline. One of the duties of a noble House is to have heirs and carry on the name. And House Mormont was recently in trouble in that regard. Jeor had only one child, only one son, Jorah. And Jorah failed to produce an heir with both his wives. His first Glover wife could not bear him any childen and died after her 3rd miscarriage after nearly 10 years of marriage.

“Still, the island suited me well enough, and I never lacked for women. I had my share of fishwives and crofter’s daughters, before and after I was wed. I married young, to a bride of my father’s choosing, a Glover of Deepwood Motte. Ten years we were wed, or near enough as makes no matter. She was a plain-faced woman, but not unkind. I suppose I came to love her after a fashion, though our relations were dutiful rather than passionate. Three times she miscarried while trying to give me an heir. The last time she never recovered. She died not long after.” (aCoK, Daenerys I)

And there is no mention of Jorah having any children with Lynesse Hightower, whom he married nine years before the start of events in aGoT. Jorah has been in exile for five years in 298 AC of aGoT, which means he fled Westeros with Lynesse in 293 AC, and his marriage did not last longer than four or five years since they married after the Tourney of Lannisport (celebration of the victory against the Ironborn rebellion) in 289 AC. While Jorah had plenty of marriage offers as Lord Mormont, since his father had joined the Night’s Watch by the time he was a widower, the Greyjoy rebellion prevented Jorah from making any decision, so it seems he was not long a widower before he met Lynesse. Jorah notes he is thrice Dany’s age in 299 AC, when she is fifteen, and so Jorah was Jeor’s only living son for what seems to be forty-five years (born around 254 AC).

Maege is Jeor’s sole sister. Her eldest daughter was Dacey Mormont. Alysane is the second eldest and almost of an age with Asha Greyjoy. Asha is twenty-four and remarks Alysane started young if she has a daughter of nine. Indeed if Alysane is anywhere between twenty-three or twenty-six this means she had her first child between fourteen and sixteen in 291 AC. Dacey seems to have no husband either and while theoretically Dacey could have been born a decade before Alysane, Catelyn’s thoughts about her suggest that Dacey must be years younger than Catelyn and not yet thirty during the Red Wedding. So, Dacey was probably born between 271-275 AC.

Taking a rough timeline into account, Maege started having children when Jorah, the heir of House Mormont, was between sixteen and twenty one, and her brother Lord Jeor Mormont was above his forties. It seemed that Jeor was unlikely to produce other children of his own. With just one male heir to an island that has a rough history of being beset by ironborn and wildlings, Jorah and Maege seemed to have been the sole members of the House to carry on the name. And as the years rolled by with Jorah unable to have an heir of his own, the preservation of House Mormont fell completely on Maege. At the very least she attempted to beget a male heir, for she had five daughters – Lyanna Mormont is the youngest, born in 290 AC.

But there is an issue with Maege’s children being the branch to preserve their dynasty on Bear Island. Normally, children get the name of their father and a son of a noble House equal to or higher than that of his wife’s tends to be more than a consort. That is exactly what many of Stannis’s southern knights are after when they appear in the Northern territory. What the Boltons attempt to do when they proclaim Jeyne Poole to be Arya Stark and wed her to the legitimized Ramsay Bolton. It is what Robb Stark fears and Tywin and Tyrion hope for when Tyrion is wed to Sansa Stark – the usurpation of a noble house and seat through marriage – and exactly the reason why Robb creates a will to appoint his heir and bar Sansa from inheriting Winterfell.

Take note that Alysane chooses to disclose Asha Greyjoy this, not long after Justin Massey attempts to charm Asha constantly. To Catelyn and most likely Robb’s bannermen, Maege and Dacey remain mute about absent husbands and fathers, only hinting at it by mentioning the lady of the carving. Since Maege’s daughters all carry the name Mormont, instead of Snow, the others most likely simply assume there must have been some lowborn husband. But Alysane talks of it explicitly, to a warrior woman who is a historical enemy of hers.

“He wants you,” said the She-Bear, after his third visit….[snip]…
“He wants my lands,” Asha replied. “He wants the Iron Islands.” She knew the signs. She had seen the same before in other suitors. Massey’s own ancestral holdings, far to the south, were lost to him, so he must needs make an advantageous marriage or resign himself to being no more than a knight of the king’s household. Stannis had frustrated Ser Justin’s hopes of marrying the wildling princess that Asha had heard so much of, so now he had set his sights on her. No doubt he dreamed of putting her in the Seastone Chair on Pyke and ruling through her, as her lord and master. (aDwD, The King’s Prize)

If Maege got herself a noble husband of a strong noble house in the North, when Jorah was still young and unwed and there was still a chance that he could get an heir, there was no way she could make it a condition that her husband would forfeit passing on his name to their children. And what were her chances in demanding him to waiver being Lord Whateverhisname of an island that has no other riches than game and wood? Maege could only enforce that if she wed a noble of far lower birth than herself or a commoner. In the South that would be manageable with a knightly house, but the North has no knights, and therefore no knightly houses. The problem for Maege was that she was not sure enough yet that her possible children would end up having to continue House Mormont, but that the risk for that to happen was big enough. Maege risked her reputation by not marrying at all, took an anonymous lover and claimed the father of her children is a totemic bear. In this way, she repeated what House Mormont’s improper ancestral mother did. So, it may be impproper and shady, but not being queens of King’s Landing or princesses of Dorne, this seems the only possible solution to their lineage issues.

And we see Alysane picking up Maege’s torch at the time it becomes almost certain that Jorah will father no heir, not even with his second wife, and is getting into financial trouble. The year after Lyanna Mormont is born, Alysane’s first child is born, two years before Jorah flees Westeros, while she is still very young.

“Do you have brothers?” Asha asked her keeper.
“Sisters,” Alysane Mormont replied, gruff as ever. “Five, we were. All girls. Lyanna is back on Bear Island. Lyra and Jory are with our mother. Dacey was murdered.”
“The Red Wedding.”
“Aye.” Alysane stared at Asha for a moment. “I have a son. He’s only two. My daughter’s nine.”
“You started young.”
Too young. But better that than wait too late.” (aDwD, The King’s Prize)

Not until 298 AC does Alysane have her second child, a son, a male heir, explaining why Alysane remained at Bear Island at the start of the war. While Dacey, the unmarried heir, takes the most chances, being one of Robb’s close battle companions.

It is sometimes argued that Alysane lies to Asha about having a husband to protect him from the Ironborn. But that is a very odd claim to make. Why would Alysane protect the knowledge on the identity of her husband more than the knowledge of her children, including the only male heir, and the whereabouts of her sisters?  If she would lie about being married to protect her husband from being captured by Ironborn in a raid, would she then not also deny having children at all? Would she then not remain mute about her youngest sister of ten commanding Bear Island for the moment? And if she were widowed, there is even less reason to lie about it.

No, Alysane is passing along vital lineage information to Asha – the ruling Mormonts are all women, with only one male heir, her own son who is a toddler of two, and the only reason I can fathom Alysane telling Asha this is presenting a way for Asha to keep the Iron Islands for herself. At the time, Asha does not yet realize it, not believing anyone will ever be able to take the Iron Islands away from Euron, but with Masey hoping to have Asha as a prize and either Theon dead or unable to have an heir in the future, the continuation of House Greyjoy will fall on Asha. There is even a chance she might be pregnant already, having been unable to drink the abortive tea due to her capture at Deepwood Motte, the same night she shared her bed with her lover Qarl the Maid, a thrall’s grandson. She herself already goes by the nickname “the Kraken’s daughter”. It seems George wrote this totemic ancestry tale of the Momont women in Asha Greyjoy’s arc as a checkhov’s gun for her to remember and apply in her own tale, once she finds herself with child – she could claim she is a skinchanger and that a kraken fathered her child.

After Jorah flees and becomes an exile, Meage becomes ruler of House Mormont. She has five daughters, with Dacey as heir, and certainly within marriagable age, and yet she too seems to remain single, despite her elegance and looking pretty.

When she wore a dress in place of a hauberk, Lady Maege’s eldest daughter was quite pretty; tall and willowy, with a shy smile that made her long face light up. It was pleasant to see that she could be as graceful on the dance floor as in the training yard. (aSoS, Catelyn VII)

You would think, that normally, some second son would be interested in marrying the heir of Bear Island. If Justin Masey can see past Asha Greyjoy’s attire, then surely some other Lord’s son could see an opportunity in Dacey Mormont. Nor does Dacey appear to have any children. It seems that Dacey opted out of marriage and children, and that Alysane volunteered in maintaining the bloodline in the same manner her mother Maege did. And perhaps not so coincidentally, she has her mother’s looks too.

Catelyn had grown fond of Lady Maege and her eldest daughter, Dacey; they were more understanding than most in the matter of Jaime Lannister, she had found. The daughter was tall and lean, the mother short and stout, but they dressed alike in mail and leather, with the black bear of House Mormont on shield and surcoat. (aSoS, Catelyn V)

Her proper name was Alysane of House Mormont, but she wore the other name as easily as she wore her mail. Short, chunky, muscular, the heir to Bear Island had big thighs, big breasts, and big hands ridged with callus. Even in sleep she wore ringmail under her furs, boiled leather under that, and an old sheepskin under the leather, turned inside out for warmth. All those layers made her look almost as wide as she was tall. And ferocious. Sometimes it was hard for Asha Greyjoy to remember that she and the She-Bear were almost of an age. (aDwD, The King’s Prize)

In conclusion, it seems that Meage, Dacey and Alysane all made some sacrifice to ensure the continuation of their house. None of them married, thereby preventing any man from usurping their home seat, and two of them risked their reptuation by having bastards with lovers but keeping those children legitimate through the claim of a totemic bear. In that sense, Dacey’s comment about the lady of the carving is also a sign of recognition to her mother – improper it may be, but they love her nonetheless.

Personal commentary: I hope Lyanna Mormont writes as strong a letter to Daenerys as she did to Stannis, if Dany were to ever decide to make Jorah Lord over Bear Island again. He cannot be blamed for remaining childless, but to squander away his home and his house’s name, while his aunt and cousins sacrificed the possibility of a respectable marriage to ensure house Mormont would remain house Mormont. 

Many have wondered why a House would simply give away a 500 year old Valyrian sword away. Jorah abandons Bear Island and the ancestral Longclaw. Instead of keeping it, Maege sends it to Jeor at the Wall, where Jeor gives it to Jon. It is another indication that Maege seems to consider the ancestral totemic bear bloodline from which she and Jeor are descendants finished. The bloodline only continues now through the female line with a new totemic bear. It is still House Mormont, but a new “bear” as ancestral father.

Wayland’s sword was given to his princess for his bloodline, but at some point in the legends ends up in the hands of the hero Sigurd’s foster-father. His foster-father gifts the sword to Sigurd who slays the dragon Fafnir with it. Fafnir used to be a dwarf, but after killing his father and betraying his brother for a hoard of gold and treasure, he gained the form of a dragon guarding his hoard. At Castle Black, Jeor Mormont becomes Jon’s emotional foster-father. On top of that he is a bear character who can gift a precious sword to a hero after a test. And it is hard not to think how befitting Fafnir’s tale sounds of Tyrion with Casterly Rock as the hoard. But that is for another essay.

Conclusion (tl;tr)

At least for the last two generations, the Mormont women seem to establish a new totemic bear ancestry in order to avoid usurpation of their house and seat through marriage. Regardless of their ability to skinchange (which is uncertain), GRRM brings the Mormont bloodline as well as the Mormont warrior women, their offspring and the bear-lovers within a social, acceptable matrlinieal context. They do this out of necessity, the same way the Bear Island women took to arms out of necessity.

The improper lady of the carving at their gate as well as the ancestral Valyrian sword Longclaw suggest that the Mormont bloodline is actually a bastard bloodline since the beginning, but that people and other houses allow for it with the claim that a bear is their male ancestor.

This type of cultural practice to prevent other houses of taking a female heir to wife to usurp their seat in the way the Lannister and Boltons attempt to do with House Stark and Winterfell, and Orys Baratheon did with Storm’s End of the Durrandons, was most likely featured in Asha Greyjoy’s arc so that the Kraken’s daughter can do something similar by claiming a kraken as a father of the child of her lowborn lover.

Note: Tormund as husband and father to bears will be handled in a bear essay of Jon’s arc.