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: Serwyn of The Mirror Shield

(Top illustration: Desperate Measures, by Velinov)

This essay will not explore mirror armor to conclude how a mirror works in aSoIaF, or unveil potential clues about the nature of the Others. Instead it will focus on a legendary hero Serwyn of the Mirror Shield and explain George’s likeliest real world sources for it, such as the “Princess and the Dragon” and the legend of Saint George. We will also use a few minor non-POV characters that are compared to Serwyn to establish Serwyn as a template. These include Joffrey, Byron Swann and Daario Naharis. With Byron Swann we will take the time to explore which dragon Ser Byron did attempt to kill. In the Sellsword versus Sworn Sword subection we will explore Varys’s riddle about power and show how George illustrated this psychological principle with Aegon convincing the Golden Company to go west with him.

Serwyn of the Mirror Shield

The Age of Heroes has several heroes, but we know only a little about them. One of the few we do know different tales about is Serwyn of the Mirror Shield. He remained so popular with the smallfolk, that singers made him a knight of the kingsguard, though he lived thousands of years before the Andals arrived, before Aegon conquered Westeros and created a kingsguard, and served the Kings of House Gardener instead. While maester Yandel fulminates at the sacrilege to history and fact, it serves George to have Serwyn be an anachronistic kingsguard nevertheless.  It turns Serwyn into a usable mirror or parallel to sworn guards or sworn shields with a mirror in the current timeline.

These are the three feats Serwyn is known for.

The way [Joffrey] had rescued her from Ser Ilyn and the Hound, why, it was almost like the songs, like the time Serwyn of the Mirror Shield saved the Princess Daeryssa from the giants, or Prince Aemon the Dragonknight championing Queen Naerys’s honor against evil Ser Morgil’s slanders (aGoT, Sansa I)

“Well, Hugor Hill, answer me this. How did Serwyn of the Mirror Shield slay the dragon Urrax?”
“He approached behind his shield. Urrax saw only his own reflection until Serwyn had plunged his spear through his eye.” (aDwD, Tyrion III)

Legend has it that during the Age of Heroes, Serwyn of the Mirror Shield slew the dragon Urrax by crouching behind a shield so polished that the beast saw only his own reflection. By this ruse, the hero crept close enough to drive a spear through the dragon’s eye, earning the name by which we know him still. (Fire and Blood – The Dying of the Dragons, Rhaenyra Triumphant)

When Dany told him how Serwyn of the Mirror Shield was haunted by the ghosts of all the knights he’d killed, Daario only laughed. “If the ones I killed come bother me, I will kill them all again.” He has a sellsword’s conscience, she realized then. That is to say, none at all.  (aDwD, Daenerys VII)

St George and the dragon
Saint George and the dragon

George borrows from real world myth here and the common “the princess and the dragon” quest motif. The eldest known version of this is that of Perseus saving princess Andromeda from being sacrificed to the sea dragon Cretus. He uses his mirroring shield to defeat the Gorgon Medusa, chop off her head and then petrify Cretus when he comes to fetch Andromeda. And then there is Jason of the Argonauts who puts the sleepless dragon to sleep to get at the golden fleece hanging in the tree with the help of the princess-sorceresss Medea. The dragon’s teeth turn into soldiers when strewn across the land.

Perseus and his many fairytale hero versions often end up marrying the princess, who in some way always helps the hero in achieving her rescue. They are not just passive captive damsels in distress, but allies. They cannot free themselves, but only they can get to the information the hero needs to perform a task, which frees the princess. They form a team of brain and brawn so to speak. In some versions an imposter attempts to claim to be the hero and thus the reward of the princess’s hand in marriage, but the actual hero manages to show evidence that the princess can use publically to identify her true hero.

The most famous version is that of Saint George and the dragon (11th century)*. At Selene in Lybia (some of the Perseus tale occurs there too), a venom-spewing dragon poisons the countryside. To prevent worse, the citizens of Selene offer the dragon sacrifices by lottery, and then the lot fell to the king’s daughter. Saint George happens to pass by just as the princess, dressed as bride, was about to be fed to the dragon. He charges and lances or spears the dragon, wounding it. Then the princess threw her girdle around the dragon’s neck, effectively leashing the beast who follows her meekly back to Selene. There Saint George consented to kill the dragon if the people agreed to become Christians and be baptized. They converted, and Saint George beheaded the dragon with his sword. The immense difference between its origin and the later derivated Saint George is that the latter does not necessarily marry the princess (sometimes he does): conversion of people to Christiniaty is the reward here. For those interesed, you can read a translation of the version from The Golden Legend manuscript.

* During the publication event of Fire and Blood on Novemer 19 2018, George mentioned the Saint George legend during the conversation with John Hodges.

The “princess and the dragon” motif conflates partially with another fairytale type: that of the Bear’s Son, and Jean de L’Ours (John the Bear) in particular. We will ignore the bear-related hero motifs and identifiers in this essay, but instead focus on the relevant elements that Bear’s Son and John the Bear variations have in common with the “princess and the dragon”. During his journeys and adventures, the hero acquires companions and settles at a castle, with each daily taking turns at doing the house management as the others go about their business outside the castle. The castle houses a nemesis who assaults the one left behind. It can be a dwarf, a giant, a demon or dragon. When it is the hero’s turn, he defeats his assailant, and discovers a well that leads underground and three captive princesses. His comrades, either by cowardice or malice, betray the hero by leaving him in the hole, and take the princesses to their father themselves, falsely claiming they are the rescuers. And thus the king betrothes the hero’s false friends to his daughters. The hero manages to get there before the wedding, go through some tests or show evidence that he was the true rescuer, often with the aid of the eldest and most beautiful princess. His false companions are exposed and punished (sometimes executed), and the hero gets to choose a bride amongst the three princesses.

So, in Serwyn’s story we recognize Perseus’ method in defeating Medusa who is conflated with Saint George’s dragon. We have a princess being saved from a giant, which is the most common adversary in the Jean de L’ours tales. And finally we have a good man who is haunted by those he killed, who may or may not have been trusted friends once.

George did not reveal information on Serwyn’s feats in the same manner as he does with Night’s King for example. All that we know about Night’s King, we know through storytelling – Old Nan’s to Bran or maester Yandel’s in tWoIaF. In contrast, tWoIaF says very little about Serwyn. Measter Yandel only mentions that he was one of the warrior heroes serving his Gardener king in the Reach, and beyond that points out that singers telling tales of Serwyn as Kingsguard is an anomaly, for Serwyn lived during the Age of Heroes, thousands of years before there were knights, let alone a Kingsguard. Instead of acquiring a tale about Serwyn, we get bits and peaces of information on Serwyn as the characters make present situational comparisons.

  • Bran and Dunk want to be knights like Serwyn (or other knights of legend and prowess fame).
  • Sansa compares Joffrey’s rescue of her from Sandor and Illyn Payne to Serwyn saving the princess from a giant.
  • Tyrion compares Selmy Barristan’s popularity to Serwyn’s.
  • Haldon inquires with Tyrion which historical character during the Dance of the Dragons aimed to kill a dragon the same way Serwyn did.
  • Dany compares Serwyn being haunted by those he killed to Daario’s sellsword mentality. The later will not leave a wink’s sleep over the men he killed.

Whenever Serwyn is mentioned or thought of, it is always in the context of a comparison. We can therefore conclude that Serwyn is not meant to be taken as a world-building historical character, but as an exemplary hero. And George is gently pushing us to seek a valid present-timeline comparison, just in a far more subtle way than Azor Ahai returned. By the end of aDwD, we have the necessary nuggets of information about Serwyn to sniff the character out. Spoiler! So far, only one characters actually matches – Jon Snow.

There are two ways to start a search for a Serwyn-match. We investigate the characters that …

  1. are compared to Serwyn in the text by present day characters.
  2. possess a mirror shield.

Most of these characters do not end up being  a Serwyn mirror. Some are frauds. A few come close (but no cigar), yet end up being a reverse or a bent mirror. Most of these do not even own a mirror shield. And yet, some of them still might acquire one in the last books (those that are still alive that is), so we do still need to investigate their chances. And where we can, we will propose an alternative. George made that easy for us, since he rarely compares a character to Serwyn alone: we get a string of historical characters, such as Prince Aemon the Dragonknight and Ser Ryam Redwyne.

Joffrey Baratheon’s One Good Deed

The first and easiest to exclude from being a mirror to Serwyn is Joffrey. He was not a hero, but a monster. He sadistically enjoyed getting people killed and maimed, so the chance that he was haunted by these are nill. The closest he ever got to dragon symbolism, let alone an actual dragon, was handing his dad’s dragonsteel dagger into the hands of a catspaw. He never owned a mirror shield. He was a prince and king and never a guard, let alone serving a descendant of a Gardener. Joffrey is not a Baratheon in truth, but the son of Lannister twincest. And while George inserted a tie to Garth Greenhand with the Lannisters to serve as a connection to foxes (see: Mirror Mirror – Swords, Foxes and Beauty), this tie as Lann the Clever as grandson of Garth is simultaneously shrouded in a “maybe” and a bastard context.

Now, I could argue he did not save a princess from a giant. Not in any literal sense. The incident that provoked Sansa into making the comparison was never life threatening. There was no actual giant (species) in sight (though Joffrey felt he saved her from giant Sandor Clegane). And Sansa was not an actual princess (at the time). However, George pointed out how prophecies can end up coming true in ways that are not always how readers expect it to happen.

[Laughs] Prophecies are, you know, a double edge sword. You have to handle them very carefully; I mean, they can add depth and interest to a book, but you don’t want to be too literal or too easy… In the Wars of the Roses, that you mentioned, there was one Lord who had been prophesied he would die beneath the walls of a certain castle and he was superstitious at that sort of walls, so he never came anyway near that castle. He stayed thousands of leagues away from that particular castle because of the prophecy. However, he was killed in the first battle of St. Paul de Vence and when they found him dead he was outside of an inn whose sign was the picture of that castle! [Laughs] So you know? That’s the way prophecies come true in unexpected ways. The more you try to avoid them, the more you are making them true, and I make a little fun with that. (Interview with Cedria’s News, October 2012)

There is no prophecy in the series about a “Serwyn Returned” as there is for Azor Ahai, but in-world characters only mentioning Serwyn as a comparative and propelling a man who died thousands of years ago into a more recent culture as a knight and Kingsguard suggests to the reader to look for a “Serwyn Returned”. And thus we should not treat the marking events “too literal”.

Joffrey saving Sansa, prompting her to make the comparison, is the one good thing we ever saw Joffrey do on page.

Leave her alone,” Joffrey said. He stood over her, beautiful in blue wool and black leather, his golden curls shining in the sun like a crown. He gave her his hand, drew her to her feet. “What is it, sweet lady? Why are you afraid? No one will hurt you. Put away your swords, all of you. The wolf is her little pet, that’s all.” He looked at Sandor Clegane. “And you, dog, away with you, you’re scaring my betrothed.”(aGoT, Sansa I)

Yes, we already knew how much of a coward, bully and little shit Joffrey was at Winterfell in Arya’s and Tyrion’s chapters, and thus the above scene was a superficial act. None of that takes away from Sansa’s feelings of terror. Those were very real to her.

[…] Sansa could not take her eyes off the third man. […] Slowly he turned his head. Lady growled. A terror as overwhelming as anything Sansa Stark had ever felt filled her suddenly. She stepped backward and bumped into someone.
Strong hands grasped her by the shoulders, and for a moment Sansa thought it was her father, but when she turned, it was the burned face of Sandor Clegane looking down at her, his mouth twisted in a terrible mockery of a smile. “You are shaking, girl,” he said, his voice rasping. “Do I frighten you so much?”
He did, and had since she had first laid eyes on the ruin that fire had made of his face, though it seemed to her now that he was not half so terrifying as the other. […] and Sansa realized that the two stranger knights were looking down on her and Lady, swords in their hands, and then she was frightened again, and ashamed. Tears filled her eyes. (aGoT, Sansa I)

Since her fear was a true feeling, so are her feelings of being rescued. This means that during an event that ties to Serwyn, we do not have to consider how deadly the threat was, but how much it was perceived as a threat by the princess.

Byron Swann and the dragon

Ser Byron Swann lived during the Dance of the Dragons and aimed to kill a dragon the same way that Serwyn did. We learn of this in aDwD, right after we were told that Serwyn killed a dragon and how.

Haldon was unimpressed. “Even Duck knows that tale. Can you tell me the name of the knight who tried the same ploy with Vhagar during the Dance of the Dragons?”
Tyrion grinned. “Ser Byron Swann. He was roasted for his troubleonly the dragon was Syrax, not Vhagar.”
“I fear that you’re mistaken. In The Dance of the Dragons, A True Telling, Maester Munkun writes—”
“—that it was Vhagar. Grand Maester Munkun errs. Ser Byron’s squire saw his master die, and wrote his daughter of the manner of it. His account says it was Syrax, Rhaenyra’s she-dragon, which makes more sense than Munken’s version. Swann was the son of a marcher lord, and Storm’s End was for Aegon. Vhagar was ridden by Prince Aemond, Aegon’s brother. Why should Swann want to slay her?” (aDwD, Tyrion III)

Obviously, Ser Byron Swann was not a successful mirror of Serwyn, since the dragon roasted him. And this tidbit is almost the sole thing we know of this Ser Byron. He is not mentioned in the short story The Princess and the Queen. But Fire and Blood, penned by Archmaester Gyldayn, gives us a slightly more extensive account.

That Ser Byron Swann, second son of the Lord of Stonehelm, had heard this tale we cannot doubt. Armed with spear and a shield of silvered steel and accompanied only by his squire, he set out to slay a dragon just as Serwyn did.
But here confusion arises, for Munkun says it was Vhagar that Swann meant to kill, to put an end to Prince Aemond’s raids … but it must be remembered that Munkun draws largely on Grand Maester Orwyle for his vresion of events, and Orwyle was in the dungeons when these things occurred. Mushroom, at the queen’s side in the Red Keep, says rather that it was Rhaenyra’s Syrax that Ser Byron approached. Septon Eustace does not note the incident at all in his own chronicle, but years later, in a letter, suggests this dragonslayer hoped to kill Sunfyre … but this is certainly mistaken, since Sunfyre’s whereabouts were unknown at this time. All three accounts agree that the ploy that won undying fame for Serwyn of the Mirror Shield brought only death for Ser Byron Swann. The dragon – whichever one it was – stirred at the knight’s approach and unleashed his fire, melting the mirrored shield and roasting the man crouched behind it. Ser Byron died screaming. (Fire and Blood – The Dying of the Dragons, Rhaenyra Triumphant)

Fire and Blood just seems to add more to the confusion. The timing of Prince Aemond raiding the Riverlands with Vhagar coincides with Syrax being chained in the stables of the Red Keep. From the moment Rhaenyra took King’s Landing and the attack on the Dragonpit, Syrax only had the freedom of the Red Keep’s yard. Syrax did not even land, until Prince Daemon Targaryen felt the city was secured. So, it could not have been Syrax. And if someone had been foolish enough to approach Syrax to kill her inside the Red Keep, as Mushroom basically suggests, then there would have been more witnesses to corroborate it at the time.

Tyrion cites a letter sent by Byron’s squire to his daughter. This is a supposed primary eye-witness account. But the only time for Ser Byron to have attempted to kill Syrax was when a mob of thousands attacked the dragonpit. Prince Joffrey Velaryon was foolish enough to unchain Syrax from the Red Keep’s yard and ride her himself to come to his own dragon’s aid. Syrax’s rider was Rhaenyra and Joffrey’s dragon was Tyraxes. Even though Syrax was familiar with Joffrey, she ended up throwing him off her back and he fell to his death in Flea Bottom. Likely attracted by the carnage at the dragonpit, Syrax arrived there riderless and unchained. By then all other dragons had been slaughtered. Despite her advantage of freedom, the mob managed to kill her. Various people claimed to have killed her, and it is impossible to determine who actually did. But we can safely conclude that there was a mob of people present, and Syrax arrived unexpectedly. None of this jives with Byron Swann “setting out” intent on killing Syrax, “only” taking his squire. The tale sounds more like a knight riding out by himself and his squire to confront a dragon in his (temporary) lair somewhere in the wilderness where there are no other witnesses. Both the multiple claims on who actually killed Syrax as well as the squire’s letter are examples that even primary sources may be untrustworthy – eye witnesses can lie.

If the squire lied to his daughter, then why did he? Tyrion’s arguments about Swann’s loyalties seem sound, except that we have an antecedent of House Swann dividing their loyalties when there are multiple claimants. Lord Swann’s heir Donnel backed Renly Baratheon and then fought for Stannis at the Blackwater, until he was captured and wounded. His younger brother Balon backed Joffrey Baratheon and became one of his kingsguard after the bread riots. Meanwhile Ravella Swann (Lady Smallwood) aids the Brotherhood without Banners. By dividing their allegiances, these marcher lords of the Red Watch seem to try and mimic the Night’s Watch neutrality, at least during the War of Five Kings (see also: The Trail of the Red Stallion – Sansa’s Tourneys). It is possible that Lord Swann and his heir were at Storm’s End to back the greens and Aegon II, while the younger son Ser Byron had joined the blacks and was fighting north of King’s Landing. This becomes more than likely when we also have the Black Swan ruling Lys in all but name, with Lyseni competing for her affection. Johanna Swann had been taken by Lyseni pirates decades before that, but her uncle, the then Lord Swann, refused to ransom her. Lys and thus Johanna Swann backed the Greens during the Dance of the Dragons. Add the ill feelings the Black Swan would have had toward House Swann, and the likelihood that at least some Ser Swann fought for the Blacks increases. If such was the case, Ser Byron could have tried to go after Vhagar or Sunfyre. Except, Byron failed and died. The rumors started to float about at a time smallfolk sentiment started to turn against Rhaenyra, Aemond and Vhagar had free reign in the Riverlands and Hightower had conquered most of the Reach. So, the squire’s motive to create a false eye-witness account would have served covering up Byron backing the Blacks*.

* This is likely one of the thematic reasons why Ser Byron Swann failed to be a Serwyn-come-again. Serwyn served a Gardener King, or well a ‘green man’.

The issue with Vhagar is that Prince-Regent Aemond Targaryen would unlikely have left Vhagar by himself while he scoured the Riverlands and it would have been folly to attempt to slay a dragon with a rider, unless he had a scorpion.This was not the manner in which Ser Byron Swann attempted to kill a dragon. Nor does riding out by himslef and just his squire, especially when nobody was able to predict where Vhagar and Aemond would appear.

So, that leaves us Sunfyre. He had been wounded and left at Rook’s Rest, north of Duskendale. Lord Mooton sent his bravest men to slay it. Both he and many of his unnamed men died in the attempt. The survivors fled. When Mooton’s brother arrived a fortnight later, he found the dead as well as Sunfyre gone. Eventually Sunfyre, unbeknowest to many, turned up on Dragonstone where Aegon II was hiding. The dragon made its lair at Dragonmont after killing the wild dragon Grey Ghost. But how long did Sunfyre linger at Rook’s Rest? And once he flew off, did he cross the bay to Dragonstone from Rook’s Rest directly? Or did the dragon journey and hide more north along Cracklaw Point first? The likeliest answer is that Byron may have been one of Mooton’s men (as their spear method alligns with Byron’s) or sought out Sunfyre on his own, while the dragon was still at Rook’s Rest or farther north along the coast, before Sunfyre finally flew off to Dragonmont. And since Sunfyre was Aegon II’s dragon, the squire would have even more motive to lie about Ser Byron’s target.

Of course the first name Byron is a peculiar choice by George. It instantly brings our historical 19th century Lord Byron to mind. He was a poet and one of the lead figures of the Romantic literary movement. It heavily hints that we ought to see Ser Byron Swann as a byronic hero, a variant of the romantic hero (see also Blue Eyed Wolf’s Shadrich, Morgarth and Byron) , and that the tale about him is full of poetic storytelling license. This puts the whole dragon quest and his method into question altogether and makes the claim an in-world fiction.

If Ser Byron did not even attempt to kill a dragon, then what purpose does he serve? For one, he served Tyrion by showing Haldon he does his source research, even if he got it wrong. Secondly, it helps George to emphasize that the legendary Serwyn serves as a template to compare current heroes against, and that we readers are to expect some byronic hero to be revealed in the upcoming dance of dragons between Dany, Aegon and/or Jon who aims to kill the other. And through George’s name choice we are given a hint of the personality of this Serwyn mirror.

As a romantic hero, it is someone who is set outside the structure of civilization, growing up or living estranged from his or her biological family. A romantic hero acts or is attractive like a force of nature almost, can be ruthless, and is a natural leader. He or she triumphs over theological and social conventions, is often prone to self-critical introspection and self-isolation, melancholic, and regrets his or her actions. The byronic variant is moody, cynical, proud, defiant, often miserable, but capable of strong deep affection.

Sellsword versus Sworn Sword

Dany’s citing of Serwyn highlights a personality trait that falls within the characteristics of the romantic hero.

When Dany told him how Serwyn of the Mirror Shield was haunted by the ghosts of all the knights he’d killed, Daario only laughed. “If the ones I killed come bother me, I will kill them all again.” He has a sellsword’s conscience, she realized then. That is to say, none at all.  (aDwD, Daenerys VII)

Serwyn is not just a chivalrous action hero who saves princesses and kills knights and dragons, but someone with a conscience. His morals do not solely reveal itself while the hero (or heroine) is given choices over which action to take, but also when they are alone; when they have to answer to no one but themselves, even long after those choices were made. In other words, it is someone with a high moral compass at all times.

This is why Dany contrasts it against a sellsword conscience. Let us examine what George means with a sellsword conscience: or rather what do sellswords want? Yoren says they follow the scent of blood or gold, which according to him smells the same in the end. This matches the example that Brown Ben Plumm relates to Dany.

[…] 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. […] (aDwD, Daenerys VIII)

Despite that man being rich enough to live the life of a lord for the rest of his days, he still sold his sword for the scent of blood. It smells the same, because he also followed the scent of gold and lined his vest with it. In the end the blood was his.

Initially, Tyrion thinks it’s just gold, but learns to his grief that titles and castles are also something sellswords want. For a long time gold does seem to be the scent Bronn follows.

Tyrion was a little drunk, and very tired. “Tell me, Bronn. If I told you to kill a babe . . . an infant girl, say, still at her mother’s breast . . . would you do it? Without question?”
“Without question? No.” The sellsword rubbed thumb and forefinger together. “I’d ask how much.” (aCoK, Tyrion II)

But then when Tyrion hopes to acquire Bronn as his champion against the Mountain, Bronn does not want gold anymore.  Tyrion has to outbid Cersei on castles to give, and he has none to give.

The sellsword knight wore a jerkin studded with silver and a heavy riding cloak, with a pair of fine-tooled leather gloves thrust through his swordbelt. One look at Bronn’s face gave Tyrion a queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. “It took you long enough.”
“The boy begged, or I wouldn’t have come at all. I am expected at Castle Stokeworth for supper.”
“Stokeworth?” Tyrion hopped from the bed. “And pray, what is there for you in Stokeworth?”
“A bride.” Bronn smiled like a wolf contemplating a lost lamb. “I’m to wed Lollys the day after next.” […] “And when she pops him out, I’ll get her big with mine.”
[…]
“Why are you here, then?”
Bronn shrugged. “You once told me that if anyone ever asked me to sell you out, you’d double the price.
Yes. “Is it two wives you want, or two castles?”
One of each would serve. But if you want me to kill Gregor Clegane for you, it had best be a damned big castle.”
[…] “I find myself woefully short of both castles and highborn maidens at the moment,” Tyrion admitted. “But I can offer you gold and gratitude, as before.”
I have gold. What can I buy with gratitude? (aSoS, Tyrion IX)

Vargo Hoat wanted a castle and bride as well. He hoped to acquire a ransom for Jaime from Tywin Lannister, but then send Jaime to Karstark anyway for Alys as a bride.

“I will thend it to hith lord father. I will tell him he muth pay one hundred thouthand dragonth, or we thall return the Kingthlayer to him pieth by pieth. And when we hath hith gold, we thall deliver Ther Jaime to Karthark, and collect a maiden too!” A roar of laughter went up from the Brave Companions.(aSoS, Jaime IV)

“Karhold is smaller and meaner than Harrenhal, but it lies well beyond the reach of the lion’s claws. Once wed to Alys Karstark, Hoat might be a lord in truth. If he could collect some gold from your father so much the better, but he would have delivered you to Lord Rickard no matter how much Lord Tywin paid. His price would be the maid, and safe refuge.” (aSoS, Jaime V)

Both Vargo Hoat and Bronn introduce another motive: survival. They and Plumm aim to survive, more than anything.

If he didn’t frighten me, I’d be a bloody fool.” Bronn gave a shrug. “Might be I could take him. Dance around him until he was so tired of hacking at me that he couldn’t lift his sword. Get him off his feet somehow. When they’re flat on their backs it don’t matter how tall they are. Even so, it’s chancy. One misstep and I’m dead. Why should I risk it? I like you well enough, ugly little whoreson that you are . . . but if I fight your battle, I lose either way. Either the Mountain spills my guts, or I kill him and lose Stokeworth. I sell my sword, I don’t give it away. I’m not your bloody brother.” (aSoS, Tyrion IX)

The sellsword [Plumm] was nearly as bad a player as the Yunkish lord had been, but his play was stolid and tenacious rather than bold. His opening arrays were different every time, yet all the same—conservative, defensive, passive. He does not play to win, Tyrion realized. He plays so as not to lose. (aDwD, Tyrion X)

“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. […] 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 …”
You saw me as defeated, Dany thought, and who am I to say that you were wrong? (aDwD, Daenerys VIII)

And this important lesson was what Varys tried to teach Tyrion once in aCoK, when he presented him with the riddle.

“May I leave you with a bit of a riddle, Lord Tyrion?” He did not wait for an answer. “In a room sit three great men, a king, a priest, and a rich man with his gold. Between them stands a sellsword, a little man of common birth and no great mind. Each of the great ones bids him slay the other two. ‘Do it,’ says the king, ‘for I am your lawful ruler.’ ‘Do it,’ says the priest, ‘for I command you in the names of the gods.’ ‘Do it,’ says the rich man, ‘and all this gold shall be yours.’ So tell me—who lives and who dies?” (aCoK, Tyrion I)

Shae thinks it will be the rich man. Tyrion opines it will depend on the sellsword. Both are wrong. It depends on the situation, on who the sellsword thinks will win.

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

So, when Pycelle argues that the sellsword Golden Company will fight for coin and with enough gold could be won over to fight on the Lannister-Tyrell side, he would be wrong. The Lannister-Tyrell coalition faces many issues in maintaining a united front: they lost credit with the Iron Bank, two oncoming trials of the queens, rebellion lurking in the Riverlands. Regardless, the Golden Company fights for coin in Essos only. In Westeros, they fight for lands lost, for home and for the man they want for a king.

And then Prince Aegon spoke. “Then put your hopes on me,” he said. “Daenerys is Prince Rhaegar’s sister, but I am Rhaegar’s son. I am the only dragon that you need.”
Griff put a black-gloved hand upon Prince Aegon’s shoulder. “Spoken boldly,” he said, “but think what you are saying.”
“I have,” the lad insisted. “Why should I go running to my aunt as if I were a beggar? My claim is better than her own. Let her come to me … in Westeros.”
Franklyn Flowers laughed. I like it. Sail west, not east. Leave the little queen to her olives and seat Prince Aegon upon the Iron Throne. The boy has stones, give him that.”
The captain-general looked as if someone had slapped his face. “Has the sun curdled your brains, Flowers? We need the girl. We need the marriage. If Daenerys accepts our princeling and takes him for her consort, the Seven Kingdoms will do the same. Without her, the lords will only mock his claim and brand him a fraud and a pretender. And how do you propose to get to Westeros? You heard Lysono. There are no ships to be had.” This man is afraid to fight, Griff realized. How could they have chosen him to take the Blackheart’s place? (aDwD, The Lost Lord)

In Jon Connington’s chapter of The Lost Lord we see this principle work excellently. Flowers is won over by Aegon’s boldness. For him it denotes power, much like Aegon the Conquerer, enough to argue the case. Harry Strickland is unconvinced and fears failure. He raises a practical issue that has little to do with the very fundamental choice put before them – no ships to be had. It is not so much the argument that is psychologically valuable here, but the fact that Harry appeals to Lysono Maar, inviting the Lyseni to join him and argue against Aegon’s proposal. That Strickland chooses Lysono for this is telling. The man’s home is Lys, not Westeros, and therefore his mind would not be clouded by sentimentality. It is the appeal of a sellsword-through-and-through to the only other one who is another sellsword-through-and-through.

Flowers brushes the minor issue aside.

No ships for Slaver’s Bay. Westeros is another matter. The east is closed to us, not the sea. The triarchs would be glad to see the back of us, I do not doubt. They might even help us arrange passage back to the Seven Kingdoms. No city wants an army on its doorstep.”
“He’s not wrong,” said Lysono Maar. (aDwD, The Lost Lord)

In answer to Harry’s appeal to the Lyseni, Lysono Maar signals both Harry and the rest of the Company that they should not regard him and Harry as a united front. Lysono’s particular phrase implies, “I’m not saying I ‘agree’ with Flowers on everything, yet. But I’m not disagreeing either. I’m open to be convinced of this.”

One of the Coles offers the first argument – Aegon will be a surprise and Westerosi can be expected to join them. There are two men who use Cole for their last name. They likely do speak for two. That would make it three sergeants who side with Aegon. The power balance is starting to lean over to Aegon.

“By now the lion surely has the dragon’s scent,” said one of the Coles, “but Cersei’s attentions will be fixed upon Meereen and this other queen. She knows nothing of our prince. Once we land and raise our banners, many and more will flock to join us.”
“Some,” allowed Homeless Harry, “not many. Rhaegar’s sister has dragons. Rhaegar’s son does not. We do not have the strength to take the realm without Daenerys and her army. Her Unsullied.”
“The first Aegon took Westeros without eunuchs,” said Lysono Maar. “Why shouldn’t the sixth Aegon do the same?”
The plan—” (aDwD, The Lost Lord)

One of the Coles arguing for Aegon’s proposal is enough for Lysono to join Aegon’s cause, despite the fact that Westeros is not his home. It is now four sergeants versus Homeless Harry. From hereon, Strickland will not be even allowed to finish a sentence anymore. Not only does he stand alone, he loses any status of authority when serjeants interrupt him. As a result Rivers joins those arguing for Aegon’s proposal, making a tally of five versus one.

“Which plan?” said Tristan Rivers. “The fat man’s plan? The one that changes every time the moon turns? First Viserys Targaryen was to join us with fifty thousand Dothraki screamers at his back. Then the Beggar King was dead, and it was to be the sister, a pliable young child queen who was on her way to Pentos with three new-hatched dragons. Instead the girl turns up on Slaver’s Bay and leaves a string of burning cities in her wake, and the fat man decides we should meet her by Volantis. Now that plan is in ruins as well.
“I have had enough of Illyrio’s plans. Robert Baratheon won the Iron Throne without the benefit of dragons. We can do the same. And if I am wrong and the realm does not rise for us, we can always retreat back across the narrow sea, as Bittersteel once did, and others after him.”
Strickland shook his head stubbornly. “The risk—”
“—is not what it was, now that Tywin Lannister is dead. The Seven Kingdoms will never be more ripe for conquest. Another boy king sits the Iron Throne, this one even younger than the last, and rebels are thick upon the ground as autumn leaves.”
“Even so,” said Strickland, “alone, we cannot hope to—”
Griff had heard enough of the captain-general’s cowardice. “We will not be alone. Dorne will join us, must join us. Prince Aegon is Elia’s son as well as Rhaegar’s.”
“That’s so,” the boy said, “and who is there left in Westeros to oppose us? A woman.” (aDwD, The Lost Lord)

All the passionate pro-arguments make short work of Harry’s protests. But it is not just this alone. Rivers reframes “the plan” as those not being the Golden Company’s or Harry’s, but Illyrio’s. Simultaneously, he paints Illyrio as fickle, a man who does not seem to be knowing what he is about. So, when Harry continues to cling to Illyrio’s latest plan, he comes off as Illyrio’s puppet on a string, while Illyrio himself has been ridiculed. Hence, Harry loses all status and his voice. And without a voice, he has no power.

When the sixth sergeant, Peake, joins, that number is enough for Rivers to declare the matter settled.

Laswell Peake rapped his knuckles on the table. “Even after a century, some of us still have friends in the Reach. The power of Highgarden may not be what Mace Tyrell imagines.”
“Prince Aegon,” said Tristan Rivers, “we are your men. Is this your wish, that we sail west instead of east?”
“It is,” Aegon replied eagerly. “If my aunt wants Meereen, she’s welcome to it. I will claim the Iron Throne by myself, with your swords and your allegiance. Move fast and strike hard, and we can win some easy victories before the Lannisters even know that we have landed. That will bring others to our cause.” (aDwD, The Lost Lord)

Aegon’s reply is a repeat of his opening statement and summation of the arguments, and is met with silent approval by Rivers.

Rivers was smiling in approval. Others traded thoughtful looks. (aDwD, The Lost Lord)

Some still seem hesitant, but are not confident enough to speak up. They await a few more voices and arguments to join.

Then Peake said, “I would sooner die in Westeros than on the demon road,” and Marq Mandrake chuckled and responded, “Me, I’d sooner live, win lands and some great castle,” and Franklyn Flowers slapped his sword hilt and said, “So long as I can kill some Fossoways, I’m for it.”
One by one, the men of the Golden Company rose, knelt, and laid their swords at the feet of his young prince. The last to do so was Homeless Harry Strickland, blistered feet and all. (aDwD, The Lost Lord)

Did you notice that Aegon never had to argue his case, but that others did it for him? If you ever participated or will participate in some leadership assessment weekend where you have to present a consensus on a certain survival dilemma, then it is this dynamic the observers are looking for. They look for the one who took initiative, who made the proposal and how, not the arguments. They watch whether others will “follow” the initiator and plead his or her case. So, it does not matter much that Aegon only spoke to propose and summarize. Both are exactly the key verbal actions a “leader” must do, albeit in a manner that make the swordsmen think, “I can follow this guy and will defend him to my death.”

Dany displayed such an attitude as well, when she met with the captains of the Stormcrows. Hence, Daario Naharis beheaded his two colleagues and made the Stormcrows follow her.

“Khaleesi,” he cried, “I bring gifts and glad tidings. The Stormcrows are yours.” A golden tooth gleamed in his mouth when he smiled. “And so is Daario Naharis!” […] Daario upended the sack, and the heads of Sallor the Bald and Prendahl na Ghezn spilled out upon her carpets. “My gifts to the dragon queen.” (aSoS, Daenerys IV)

While Dany constantly reminds herself that Daario is a sellsword, he never actually sold it. He swore his arakh to her.

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

Yes, Daario is extravagant and over-the-top charming. Only fools would not watch that man closely to see whether his actions match his words. And as it turns out, they do. Not only does he agree to be a hostage of the Yunkai for a peace he personally does not want. He leaves her his arakh, his stiletto and his gold.

“I will leave my girls with you,” her captain had said, handing her his sword belt and its gilded wantons. “Keep them safe for me, beloved. We would not want them making bloody mischief amongst the Yunkai’i.” (aDwD, Daenerys VIII)

He gave her his other “sword” as well (pun intended). Furthermore, he kills his own men when they suggested to him to turn his cloak and he expresses a deep resentment against Plumm for having turned his cloak to the Yunkai.

He shook his sleeve, spattering red droplets. “This blood is not mine. One of my serjeants said we should go over to the Yunkai’i, so I reached down his throat and pulled his heart out. I meant to bring it to you as a gift for my silver queen, but four of the Cats cut me off and came snarling and spitting after me. One almost caught me, so I threw the heart into his face.” […] “Ser Grandfather knows how to count. The Second Sons have gone over to the Yunkai’i.” Daario turned his head and spat. “That’s for Brown Ben Plumm. When next I see his ugly face I will open him from throat to groin and rip out his black heart.” (aDwD, Daenerys VI)

These are not the sentiments of a sellsword, but of a loyal sworn sword. In fact, his anger over Plumm’s betrayal reveals surprise, whereas an actual sellsword would expect it. This implies Daario has become a trusting man of those who join him.

“If it please Your Grace, we are all three knights.”
Dany glanced at Daario and saw anger flash across his face. He did not know. […] “Three liars,” Daario said darkly. “They deceived me.”  (aDwD, Daenerys VII)

Him giving into drinking and suicidal sorties as her marriage to Hizdahr approaches fit more with a desperate man affected by his emotions.

Daario had only grown wilder since her wedding. Her peace did not please him, her marriage pleased him less, and he had been furious at being deceived by the Dornishmen. When Prince Quentyn told them that the other Westerosi had come over to the Stormcrows at the command of the Tattered Prince, only the intercession of Grey Worm and his Unsullied prevented Daario from killing them all. The false deserters had been imprisoned safely in the bowels of the pyramid … but Daario’s rage continued to fester. (aDwD, Daenerys VIII)

Daario is not acting like a sellsword, but a sworn sword in love. Does this loyalty make him a moral man, however? It does not. Just like Jorah Mormont is an amoral man who does not think twice about child trafficking Lhazareen into slavery for rich pedophiles. He was a sellsword for years too, then swore it to Dany and in his heart is loyal to her. Though he proposes the Unsullied to please Dany’s scruples, Jorah’s own morals have remained unchanged so far.

Much of the innate moral compass in a person relies on their ability to empathize. Empathy is not just an on/off status, but varies on a spectrum. Pyschopaths have no empathy but for themselves. Narcissists can have a degree of empathy for siblings or children they consider to be a mirror of themselves. Then you have non disordered people with low empathy. Though often selfish and superficial, they can develop genuine feelings of love. Their empathy rarely extends beyond these loved ones – family and partner. Most mercenary hearts range across this low-end spectrum. At the other end, people can feel empathy with non loved ones, strangers, hypothetical cases, even enemies.

There is an intellectual cognitive compenent to morality, but when people lack or have low empathy, the higher there is a chance that they just do not care and will do wrong without losing sleep over it as long as they can get away with it. Jorah and Daario fall in this low empathy spectrum. They and most men of the Golden Company are the sellswords with a “heart of gold” but only for the very select few they love. Can they be Serwyn mirrors? No, they cannot, for clearly Serwyn had empathy for his opponents and enemies.

Serving a Gardener

A final aspect that requires some symbolic exploring is how Serwyn is said to have served under a Gardener King. Since he lived during the Age of Heroes, there is no actual requirement for a current Serwyn-mirror to be a knight. It suffices that he (or she) is a warrior and protector.

Of course, there is no House Gardener anymore, as Aegon the Conquerer’s Field of Fire finished that House. But theoretically speaking there are descendants of that house who still boast a tie to it, such as the Tyrells and the Florents. If George intends for us to recognize someone as a Serwyn-mirror who serves a Gardener descendant he is quite likely to let the reader know this, by inserting some reference to House Gardener within the text. For example Jon Snow declares he is at Princess Shireen’s service when he welcomes her to Castle Black. Meanwhile Axel Florent – Shireen’s uncle on her mother’s side – reminds Jon Snow, during the wedding feast between Alys and the Magnarr, that the Florents can boast a close tie to the Gardeners.

“Princess.” Jon inclined his head. Shireen was a homely child, made even uglier by the greyscale that had left her neck and part of her cheek stiff and grey and cracked. “My brothers and I are at your service,” he told the girl. (aDwD, Jon IX)

“Who better? We Florents have the blood of the old Gardener kings in our veins. Lady Melisandre could perform the rites, as she did for Lady Alys and the Magnar.” (aDwD, Jon X)

But the tie to a Gardener can also be expressed in a more symbolic way. While House Gardener may be extinct, the primordial figure Garth Greenhand allows us to symbolically widen whom a Serwyn-mirror may serve.

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The Green Man, by Lauren Raine

Some tales make him out to be High King of the First Men, leading them into Westeros. Some make him a god. Others claim he preceded the First Men. Not only is Garth portrayed as a “wanderer” here, but also as a mediator between giants and the childfren of the forest.

 Yet other tales would have us believe that he preceded the arrival of the First Men by thousands of years, making him not only the First Man in Westeros, but the only man, wandering the length and breadth of the land alone and treating with the giants and the children of the forest. (tWoIaF – The Reach: Garth of the Greenhand)

The quote says “treating with”, but since he was the sole man there would not have been any need to make treaties between himself and the giants, and himself and the children. The children refer to the giants as those who were once their bane and amongst the Free Folk there are legends of humans mediating between both species when they quarreled over a cave. At any rate, Garth here is protrayed as a diplomat, a peacemaker or going in peace.

The reference to a wanderer of the land reminds us of the wanderers in the sky. In the nightsky of Planetos, seven “stars” wander around. These are sacred to the Faith of the Seven. The word wanderer in Ancient Greek is planet. In ancient times, every celestial body that appeared to move independently from the “fixed” stars – seemingly wandering – was called a planet. If we apply this meaning of a god-like entity wandering the length and breadth of the land, then this tale simply refers to Planetos itself, or more precesily – the land. So, Garth the Greenhand is a representative symbolic figure of earth, nature and land – the realm. Hence, someone who serves the realm can be said to serve a Gardener.

That Garth is a symbolic representation of the land is further emphasized by his appearance as well as various names – Greenhair, the Green, recalling the real world Green Man.

Garth Greenhand, we call him, but in the oldest tales he is named Garth Greenhair, or simply Garth the Green. Some stories say he had green hands, green hair, or green skin overall. (A few even give him antlers, like a stag.) Others tell us that he dressed in green from head to foot, and certainly this is how he is most commonly depicted in paintings, tapestries, and sculptures. (tWoIaF – The Reach: Garth of the Greenhand)

So, his hair is green, his hands and even his skin. And just like the pagan real-world god Cernunnos, Garth at times has antlers like a stag. It also matches the tales of the Isle of Faces in the Gods Eye where the Green Men live.

“Finally the wise of both races prevailed, and the chiefs and heroes of the First Men met the greenseers and wood dancers amidst the weirwood groves of a small island in the great lake called Gods Eye. There they forged the Pact. The First Men were given the coastlands, the high plains and bright meadows, the mountains and bogs, but the deep woods were to remain forever the children’s, and no more weirwoods were to be put to the axe anywhere in the realm. So the gods might bear witness to the signing, every tree on the island was given a face, and afterward, the sacred order of green men was formed to keep watch over the Isle of Faces.” (aGoT, Bran VII)

Green Men would be gardeners, but also greenseers and wood dancers. According to Bran they might ride elk, which have antlers. Anyway, the Green Men are an expansion on Garth Greenhand, or suggests that Garth was one of the Green Men. And most importantly, it makes Serwyn who served House Gardener, not just a warrior serving his king of a certain bloodline, but serving the green men, the greenseers, weirwoods and Old Gods.

The island at the lake was named after the faces carved in weirwoods to seal a pact of peace between the First Men and the children of the forest. This parallels to Garth treating with or mediating between giants and children. Therefore, Serwyn was a servant of peace.

More likely, his sobriquet derived from his gifts as a gardener and a tiller of the soil—the one trait on which all the tales agree. “Garth made the corn ripen, the trees fruit, and the flowers bloom,” the singers tell us. (tWoIaF – The Reach: Garth of the Greenhand)

People who love to garden are said to have green hands. Garth’s primary name refers to this as does the color description of his hands. A gardener in the above means a ruler who focuses on farming, planting trees and corn – a farmer king or queen so to speak who provides for his people.

But we also get allusions to Garth’s darker god-side that match with pre-Christianized nature religions of human sacrifice as well as the pagan Oak and Holly King, a summer and winter king respectively. As one would die, the other would be born and rule two of the four seasons.

A few of the very oldest tales of Garth Greenhand present us with a considerably darker deity, one who demanded blood sacrifice from his worshippers to ensure a bountiful harvest. In some stories the green god dies every autumn when the trees lose their leaves, only to be reborn with the coming of spring. (tWoIaF – The Reach: Garth of the Greenhand)

It is a speculative neopagan version to symbolize the same tale such as the Rape of Persephone by Hades to explain the coming of winter (see Persephone of the Winterfell Crypts), but one involving festivities where a man was sacrificed as a type of re-enactment. Pentos has a sacrificial practice that alludes to the same principal.

In Pentos we have a prince, my friend. He presides at ball and feast and rides about the city in a palanquin of ivory and gold. Three heralds go before him with the golden scales of trade, the iron sword of war, and the silver scourge of justice. On the first day of each new year he must deflower the maid of the fields and the maid of the seas.” Illyrio leaned forward, elbows on the table. “Yet should a crop fail or a war be lost, we cut his throat to appease the gods and choose a new prince from amongst the forty families.”  (aDwD, Tyrion I)

Alexandre_Dainche_Renly_Baratheon
Renly Baratheon by Alexandre Dainche

During the series, we witness an interval of murders of green men or green boys and old greybeards. Young Renly in his green armor and antler is slain at the onset of autumn. This certainly re-enacts the autumn-death of Garth Greenhand, especially with Catelyn referring to Renly’s army and knights as knights of summer, or better yet green boys.*

Beside the entrance, the king’s armor stood sentry; a suit of forest-green plate, its fittings chased with gold, the helm crowned by a great rack of golden antlers. The steel was polished to such a high sheen that she could see her reflection in the breastplate, gazing back at her as if from the bottom of a deep green pond. The face of a drowned woman, Catelyn thought. (aCoK, Catelyn II)

The king stumbled into her arms, a sheet of blood creeping down the front of his armor, a dark red tide that drowned his green and gold. More candles guttered out. Renly tried to speak, but he was choking on his own blood. His legs collapsed, and only Brienne’s strength held him up. […] The shadow. Something dark and evil had happened here, she knew, something that she could not begin to understand. Renly never cast that shadow. Death came in that door and blew the life out of him as swift as the wind snuffed out his candles. (aCoK, Catelyn IV)

Did you notice that Renly Baratheon wears mirror armor? Catelyn sees a glimpse of her future in it.

Crowfood’s daughter set up Storm Gods and Garth as “green gods” with the Grey King of the Ironborn as a type of Holly King in The Grey King fought Garth the Greenhand. Rather than seeing them as historical figures, we (the three headed Ice Dragon) are more likely to regard Grey King and Greenhand as titles. The life of a greenseer such as Bloodraven is expanded, but not up to a thousand years. For the moment Bloodraven has lived 5 years longer than the genetical optimal maximum lifespan of 120 year. And he is on his last legs. A title is far more likely since for example human greenseers appear as an avatar in dreams that is different than their actual appearance. Thus there would have been several Grey Kings and several Greenhands, or rather several greybeards and several green boys. The green stag-horned Storm King aligns with Greenhand and is a variation of it. The underwater ruler of the dead is the Grey King. His land-locked variant is the King of Winter or presumably earlier Barrow King.

To make our point, while green man Renly is killed, the King of Winter Robb Stark keeps conquering land and winning battles, until he is killed as a guest by a very fertile old man (greybeard) and his castle taken by a grejoy, for ultimately Robb was still but a green boy when it came to politics. But then a greybeard Balon is murdered by a faceless man paid for by the fertile Euron “I am the storm” who is Balon’s brother. On and on it goes. You can believe this pattern is an echo pointing to an “original sin/event” or you can see it as “nature” (in overdrive). Regardless, Garth is a “summer king” who emerges as a green boy with spring, having overcome winter and death, but always remaining within the boundaries of nature’s cycle.

Garth is not only a gardener of the wild, but a farmer, “sowing his seeds” around, growing trees, orchards, fruits, providing for his people.

It was Garth who first taught men to farm, it is said. Before him, all men were hunters and gatherers, rootless wanderers forever in search of sustenance, until Garth gave them the gift of seed and showed them how to plant and sow, how to raise crops and reap the harvest. […] Where he walked, farms and villages and orchards sprouted up behind him. About his shoulders was slung a canvas bag, heavy with seed, which he scattered as he went along. As befits a god, his bag was inexhaustible; within were seeds for all the world’s trees and grains and fruits and flowers. (tWoIaF – The Reach: Garth of the Greenhand)

And with the allusion of his inexhaustible bag heavy with seed to scatter, we of course recognize the “fertility” gift in him as well. Not only does he represent fertile land, but children and fertile women.

Garth Greenhand brought the gift of fertility with him. Nor was it only the earth that he made fecund, for the legends tell us that he could make barren women fruitful with a touch—even crones whose moon blood no longer flowed. Maidens ripened in his presence, mothers brought forth twins or even triplets when he blessed them, young girls flowered at his smile. Lords and common men alike offered up their virgin daughters to him wherever he went, that their crops might ripen and their trees grow heavy with fruit. There was never a maid that he deflowered who did not deliver a strong son or fair daughter nine moons later, or so the stories say. (tWoIaF – The Reach: Garth of the Greenhand)

This fertility rounds back to Garth being father to all, and therefore all his descendants being kin, which ensured a peace (at least within the Reach), at a time where petty kingdoms sprouted like wildfire everywhere else, causing territorial wars amongst these petty kingdoms.

That Garth Greenhand had many children cannot be denied, given how many in the Reach claim descent from him. […] And yet there was a difference, in degree if not in kind, for almost all of the noble houses of the Reach shared a common ancestry, deriving as they did from Garth Greenhand and his many children. It was that kinship, many scholars have suggested, that gave House Gardener the primacy in the centuries that followed; no petty king could ever hope to rival the power of Highgarden, where Garth the Gardener’s descendants sat upon a living throne (the Oakenseat) that grew from an oak that Garth Greenhand himself had planted, and wore crowns of vines and flowers when at peace, and crowns of bronze thorns (later iron) when they rode to war. Others might style themselves kings, but the Gardeners were the unquestioned High Kings, and lesser monarchs did them honor, if not obeisance. (tWoIaF – The Reach: Garth of the Greenhand)

Though Garth and Gardeners are heavily tied to peace and prosperity, in the above we note they did go to war at times. This is not so surprising, since George RR Martin himself is mostly a pacifist, but he feels there are certain situations where war is necessary and justified, such as WW II.

You know: Back then it was said then that most draft boards, and all the draft boards were local, would not give you a CO (Conciencious Objector) status if you only objected to Vietnam. They would only give it to you if you were a complete Pacifists and objected to All wars. And I was NOT a complete Pacifist you know. The the big question they would always ask you is would you have fought in World War II against the Nazi’s. Well YES I would have fought in World War II against the Nazi’s. But the Vietcong were not the Nazi’s and uh I didn’t think America had any business in Vietnam and so forth. So I was objecting that Particular war. […] I still think the Vietnam war was a terrible idea for America, but I STILL would have fought against the Nazi’s. (GRRM on war and pacifism)

So, when George frames the historical Gardeners and Garth the Greenhand as peacemakers and proponents of peace, he is unlikely to make them bend-over-backwards-pacifists-who-would-rather-lay-down-to-die-than-fight.

Not only is the peace insured through kinship, but also through adaptation and embracing the new without setting aside the old. Highgarden’s sept celebrates both the Andal Seven and the pagan Garth Greenhand, while they also maintain a godswood with three entangled weirwoods.

The gods, both old and new, are well served in Highgarden. The splendor of the castle sept, with its rows of stained-glass windows celebrating the Seven and the ubiquitous Garth Greenhand, is rivaled only by that of the Great Sept of Baelor in King’s Landing and the Starry Sept of Oldtown. And Highgarden’s lush green godswood is almost as renowned, for in the place of a single heart tree it boasts three towering, graceful, ancient weirwoods whose limbs have grown so entangled over the centuries that they appear to be almost a single tree with three trunks, reaching for each other above a tranquil pool. Legend has it these trees, known in the Reach as the Three Singers, were planted by Garth Greenhand himself. (tWoIaF – The Reach: Garth of the Greenhand)

With peace, unity, bountiful harvests and prosperity also comes culture – music, high arts, song, poetry, … And thus here we find the stories of heroes who are pure, honorable.

The greatest champions, men as pure and honorable and virtuous as they were skilled at arms, were honored with invitations to join the Order of the Green Hand. (tWoIaF – The Reach: Garth of the Greenhand)

Can it then be doubted that Serwyn was one of the Order of the Green Hand?

Since George refers to himself as a gardening writer, more than an architectural author, and Serwyn likely is an amalgam of real world fairytales and legends, the Serwyn-mirror character may take up the gauntlet of tasks (mediating, peace making, planting) that otherwise the Gardener superior would do.

Conclusion – tl;tr

In order to investigate characters and in how much they resemble the legendary hero Serwyn of the Mirror Shield the following is required:

  • The use or own a mirror shield or armor.
  • Saving a princess from a “giant”. The threat may be real or imagined, as long as the princess is fearful of the giant or the saviour considers the giant’s threat real.
  • Slaying of a “dragon” that is staring or was staring at its own reflection. The dragon may possibly lose an eye.
  • Serve a Gardener. This “Gardener” may be someone claiming descendance to the Gardeners, but also someone who is a peacemaker, conciliator, greenseer, a green man.
  • Associations with weirwoods, planting trees, harvest and/or summer.
  • It is someone highly moral, haunted by nightmares about those they killed.
  • Rather a sworn sword or shield than a sellsword. This may be a knight, kingsguard, but certainly a warrior.
  • Byronic and/or romantic hero or heroine.

Because GRRM likely based Serwyn on the fairytale type “The princess and the dragon” and a “Bear’s son” we should be looking out for the following potential elements:

  • Castle setting.
  • Three princesses, singers, or sisters requiring saving, and/or betrothed to pretender saviours.
  • A beautiful, smart princess who has her own agency and helps.
  • False friends who betray and abandon the hero.
  • A well that leads underground.
  • A nemesis that is not necessarily a dragon, but a (small) giant, dwarf or demon.

The other source we can expect George to weave into it are those of St. George’s legend. So we have to watch out for the following elements:

  • chains, a net or girdle to bind an animal
  • a dragon
  • poison
  • sacrifice and death of sheep, children, men and women due to war, disease or plagues
  • destroyed, infertile lands
  • poisoned wells or lands
  • conversions of religion

These elements do not necessarily have to appear in the arc of the Serwyn-like character, but should appear in a dragon’s arc.

Since George loves to play around with themes, we may see reversals not can we rule out a female Serwyn.

While we have already examined Joffrey and Byron Swann in this essay, as small examples, on how you can search for a potential Serwyn in the present day events, the others require far more in depth examination, and thus are examined in stand alone essay.

  • Bran Stark (Part 1) – Serwyn Reversed: Bran is the first POV to mention Serwyn, wanting to be like him. So, he is the first in depth character where we examine Serwyn and “princess and the dragon” motifs.
  • Dany (Part 1) – Slaying of Saint George’s Dragon: Tyrion compares Selmy to Serwyn and Selmy seems to fit Serwyn when he saves Dany from Mero. Dany is both princess and dragon, so we should expect to see Serwyn or Saint George allusions in her chapters. In this essay we examine the first five chapters of Dany’s full arc where GRRM sets up a conflict between seemingly Dany as princess and Viserys as dragon. But once he is slain, Dany reveals Viserys was not the dragon.