Death is the Stranger, Arya Stark is not

Please note, it’s possible to enjoy the show and still be critical of it. It’s also possible to point out why something works in the books not out of a desire to have everything be exactly like the books, but to provide a contrast for where the adaptation might have failed. Adaptation is hard, but that doesn’t mean we can’t critique it. Besides, D&D are rich as fuck, so chill.


If Santa Claus could kill

Whether you still like her or not, it’s hard to argue that the popularity of Arya Stark has not taken a hit in season 7, at least within the core fandom. In a strange way, this shift in her character can largely be blamed on the show’s (understandable) exclusion of Lady Stoneheart, and their simultaneous attempt to give Arya the role that the books give to her undead mother

Arya was about my favorite character for the first 4 seasons of the show, yet as soon as she went to Braavos, my enjoyment of her story and my appreciation for her character began to dissolve. Yes, part of it could be the isolation of her character and the formulaic nature of her “assassin training” story arc, but if this were the case, she should have gotten better this season. Yet she actually gets much worse when she returns to Westeros and realizes the vengeance she desired.

I’d argue that the reason Arya was popular and enjoyable in the first place was never about how strong she was, or how good an assassin we expected her to become, but rather how the audience could identify with her feelings. She was the point of view for the death of Ned Stark (even on the show, so much of that scene was about Arya watching her father’s demise unfold). Later, her hopes of reunion are dashed at the Red Wedding (again, a big chunk of the tension of the Red Wedding is knowing Arya was minutes away from reuniting with her family). Arya is essentially placed at the center of two of the story’s biggest tragedies, and so we too felt her desire to exact vengeance upon the people who destroyed her family.

When Arya prayed for the chance to kill her enemies every night, the audience prayed with her. We wanted to see someone take down Walder Frey, King Joffrey, the Mountain, and Queen Cersei. We too wanted that revenge, and like Arya, we were ultimately powerless to do anything to affect it. The story is out of our hands too. Even when Arya is fortunate enough to knock off a few low level names off the list, the big names are still an impossibility. Arya’s prayer to the god of death functioned like a child’s wish list to the Santa Claus, and there was something really charming about that. Not because we expected she would actually complete the list, but because we felt her anger.

 

In a world without Zombie godmothers

There is a reason why the books have Catelyn reanimated into the walking terror that is Lady Stoneheart. It’s fitting that shortly after witnessing the climax of the Red Wedding, Arya has a wolf dream in which she (warged into Nymeria) pulls her mother’s corpse from the water and wishes for her to rise and hunt with the pack. And that’s basically what happens. Arya is an integral part of Catelyn’s resurrection as Lady Stoneheart, and when Beric passes his life over to her, Lady Stoneheart serves as the undead fairy godmother in Arya’s fairy tale of vengeance. While Nymeria and Needle are externalization’s of Arya’s soul and identity, Lady Stoneheart is as much an externalization of Arya’s desire for vengeance as she is a revenant of Catelyn.

The point of Lady Stoneheart is to show us how terrifying and indiscriminate vengeance can become, and hence her presence will be thematically integral to The Winds of Winter. That’s why we don’t get Lady Stoneheart’s point of view like we did Catelyn’s. She isn’t meant to be likable, or relatable, or heroic. Stoneheart is meant to be a monster, that grants Arya’s and the reader’s wishes, but makes us question whether we should have ever wished them in the first place. Despite the wickedness of the Red Wedding, and how righteous it is in theory to bring those responsible to justice the world is messy and vengeance is a nightmare in practice. Lady Stoneheart turns the Brotherhood Without Banners, which under Beric Dondarrion had been a rag tag team of knights, bandits, and kingsmen who served the good of the common folk, into an insurgency for Stark and Tully vengeance and restoration. Lady Stoneheart is an exploration of the collateral cost of vengeance upon the innocent.

Upon her return to Westeros, show Arya essentially becomes a less believable Lady Stoneheart without the core concept. Arya becomes a seemingly unstoppable force of vengeance that is able to sneak into the Twins, murder Walder Frey’s sons, bake them into pies, feed them to Walder Frey, kill Walder Frey, take his face, and then kill every single Frey guilty of the Red Wedding while sparring the innocent bystanders. What’s more she does this all by herself. Even the Lord of White Harbor couldn’t do that. Even Lady Stoneheart, the fairy godmother of death can’t pull that off. In the books Frey Pies was a fucking project. And though we can expect a counter Red Wedding, it too will be a team effort.

What’s worse, the showrunners artlessly throw in the line about how Arya only killed the Freys who were specifically involved in the Red Wedding, and none that weren’t involved, making it so that while Arya is actually more capable of exacting vengeance than LSH, she comes without the drawback of being devoid of mercy.

Like Lady Stoneheart, we don’t really get Arya’s point of view when she kills the guilty Freys. In trying to pull out a big “ta-da” moment for the downfall of old Walder, the showrunners actually end up giving us these scenes from the point of view of the Freys themselves. We don’t watch Arya plan, or sneak, or struggle to accomplish her goals, we have the death of the Freys sprung on us. It becomes about spectacle. It’s meant to be triumphant not terrible. By not showing us Arya’s struggle, the struggle ceases to matter. Like Stoneheart, Arya becomes a force of vengeance that is beyond the audience, and in being beyond the audience we can no longer relate to her in the same way we once did.

Hence why there are limits to the show’s consolidation of characters and plotlines.

 

Why you can’t make Aladdin into a Genie

While many argue that Arya has simply become like Jaqen, I’d argue that is neither fully true nor the point of Arya, nor a good idea. Arya was never supposed to be Jaqen. The whole point of Arya leaving the Faceless Men is that she keeps her identity, but also never becomes the grim reaper incarnate. It’s a trade off. That’s not to say it doesn’t make sense that Arya gained some skills, and learned a thing or two about being stealthy and manipulative, and even how to fight. But at least Braavos, Arya had to run away from the Waif and trick her into a fight where Arya would have the advantage. Unlike Jaqen, we still see Arya struggle.

The reason Jaqen was such a good presence in season 2 is because he was Arya’s mysterious kill genie. The audience was in the same position as Arya with respect to Jaqen. We don’t know how he does what he does, nor what goes through his mind. We only know that Jaqen is death, and death is a stranger. Even without the point of view structure of the books, the show cannot make Arya’s presence resemble Jaqen’s without committing to making her an enigma to the audience. Except the reason the audience became so attached to Arya in the first place wasn’t because she was the kill genie, but rather because she was Aladdin.

All of this leads up to Arya’s return to Winterfell in season 7, and her role in the shoddy Winterfell plot. The problems with the Winterfell plot could be a whole other essay. But in short, Littlefinger is in completely over his head with the super powered Starks, he is a political villain in a post politics story, Bran could seemingly end the conflict upon arrival, it all leads up to a cheap audience fake out without ever making clear at what point the Stark siblings began working together, we aren’t sure if Arya’s psychopathy is an act or a genuine display of murderous intent, it’s unclear what purpose it actually served if it had been an act, and Littlefinger is executed without evidence on a series of improvable accusations (yes they’re true, but the lack of evidence makes it borderline barbaric).

Yet despite all of the bad writing of the Winterfell plot, my empathy towards Sansa as a character is not suspended. Only of Arya. Even though Arya was perhaps my favorite character for four seasons of the show, while Sansa had been nowhere close to that, Sansa still feels believable, and I still feel that I’m watching her struggle and learn and grow as a person. It’s hard for me to say the same about Arya given what came before. It’s not clear whether Arya is still a point of view character like Sansa, Tyrion, Jon, Sam or Daenerys, or has she become an enigma like Bran? And though I’m hoping that the existential terror season 8 promises brings Arya back to being a character who’s struggle we can witness and relate to, the showrunners must choose.

Are we done watching Arya struggle? Has Arya become our kill genie, or is she still our Aladdin?

 

 

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Et tu Drogon? Three Treasons for the Mother of Dragons

This is an update to my previous post about Daenerys and the House of the Undying.

 

The Three She’d Never Suspect

While I’m fairly confident about most of the predictions I made, something about the three treasons didn’t feel right to me, so I decided to take another look…

“three treasons will you know… once for blood and once for gold and once for love…” – (Daenerys IV, ACOK)*

Understanding that the treasons happen in order, I anchored my logic in either Mirri or Illyrio. Because we know that there will be a Second Dance of the Dragons, we can assume that there is an Illyrio betrayal coming. To put it simply, if Mirri Maz Duur is the treason for blood, then Illyrio Mopatis would be the treason for love (betraying Dany for the love of fAegon). But if Mirri Maz Duur is not the treason for blood, then Illyrio can be either the treason for blood or love (fAegon being his son).

“The first traitor was surely Mirri Maz Duur, who had murdered Khal Drogo and their unborn son to avenge her people. Could Pyat Pree and Xaro Xhoan Daxos be the second and the third? She did not think so. What Pyat did was not for gold, and Xaro had never truly loved her.” – (Daenerys V, ACOK)

Daenerys thinks that Mirri is the first treason over and over. Her certainty of this fact points to her being incorrect. In fact, it’s not 100% clear that Mirri truly betrayed Dany at all. Did she kill Khal Drogo, or did she merely fail to save him? This is never actually confirmed by the books.

“The Undying of Qarth had told her she would be thrice betrayed. Mirri Maz Duur had been the first, Ser Jorah the second. Would Reznak be the third? The Shavepate? Daario? Or will it be someone I would never suspect, Ser Barristan or Grey Worm or Missandei?” – (Daenerys I, ADWD)

When Daenerys guesses Mirri and Jorah, it becomes clear that her judgement on the three treasons is not necessarily to be trusted. Jorah did not betray Dany for gold, but for a pardon. And since she’s wrong about Jorah, Martin’s writing style indicates that she is wrong about Mirri as well. Which makes sense because Illyrio being the third betrayal felt a bit anti-climactic.

So my guess was that Illyrio was the treason for blood, Tyrion for gold, and Daenerys for love.

Still, something doesn’t sit right about this.

The Mother of Dragons visions are all so significant to Dany’s arc. All such huge moments for her character. While Illyrio’s betrayal has huge consequences in that it sparks a Second Dance of the Dragons, it’s not a very personal betrayal to Dany. Daenerys doesn’t trust Illyrio from the beginning. So for him to be the third treason, or even the first… even if it leads to a war…  it doesn’t really impact Daenerys emotionally, so it doesn’t feel right.

But then again, Daenerys won’t likely trust Tyrion either in the books either.

“No. Hear me, Daenerys Targaryen. The glass candles are burning. Soon comes the pale mare, and after her the others. Kraken and dark flame, lion and griffin, the sun’s son and the mummer’s dragon. Trust none of them. Remember the Undying. Beware the perfumed seneschal.” – Quaithe (Daenerys II, ADWD)

While the books have taken Tyrion down a different road, Quaithe has already warned Daenerys not to trust Tyrion. And Tyrion has allied himself with the Second Sons, who have already turned cloak twice and display dubious loyalty to her. Which made me really start to reconsider all three treasons.

Then I looked at this passage again…

“The Undying of Qarth had told her she would be thrice betrayed. Mirri Maz Duur had been the first, Ser Jorah the second. Would Reznak be the third? The Shavepate? Daario? Or will it be someone I would never suspect, Ser Barristan or Grey Worm or Missandei?“- (Daenerys I, ADWD)

Martin has a particular writing style when he has characters interpret prophecies. Usually when they guess one thing, that thing turns out to be wrong. It’s almost like how announced plans don’t work out as announced. For example, shortly after the Red Wedding Jon dreams a bloody grey direwolf in the crypts and wonders if it’s Summer. But it’s not Summer, it’s Greywind. Melisandre is the same way (for example, she thinks the grey girl on the dying horse is Arya, but it’s Alys Karstark). She’ll see a vision, yet her interpretation is consistently wrong. It’s routine that POVs get prophecy wrong.

So I began to wonder. Dany doesn’t trust Illyrio. She won’t trust Tyrion. And she has already guessed Mirri, Jorah, Reznak, the Shavepate, Daario, Barristan, Grey Worm, and even Missandei… hasn’t she guessed all the closest people to her? has Dany already guessed all of her betrayers? Who’s betrayal could possibly be more devastating than Missandei? Are we waiting for Jon?

And then it hit me.

Daenerys has already considered the thought of being betrayed by the three people most loyal to her. But she never suspects her three children.

The treason for blood will be Rhaegal. The treason for gold will be Viserion. The treason for love will be Drogon.

 

When dragons fly the coop

 

Now, although I sense people will be very skeptical of this theory, I think you should really give it a chance. The three treasons are in a set with the three mounts and three fires, both hugely impactful moments for Daenerys as a person. Moments that shape who she will become. The funeral pyre, riding Drogon, etc. But something feels off about the three treasons being people she doesn’t trust like Illyrio or Tyrion.

It’s also important to note that aside from GRRM writing an explicit pattern of POV characters being wrong every time they try to interpret prophecy, and Daenerys guessing all the people closest to her except her dragons, there is also a precedent for characters being betrayed by the things closest to them.

Lastly, though the show has only recently given us the loss of a dragon through UnViserion, the dragons are Martin’s allegory for WMDs, and the thing about WMDs is that they don’t stay in the same persons hands. And since their birth, Quaithe has warned Daenerys of people coming to take her dragons away from her, or to try to use her for them. Though Dany on the show rides Drogon with two riderless backup dragons, the books will be different. Now that Dany can ride Drogon, Martin will have Daenerys lose her other two dragons to other riders. Euron is one, and Tyrion will be the other.

GRRM has confirmed that a Second Dance of the Dragons is coming. Which historically hints at dragons being scattered among all factions, not one conqueror with two three dragons against a Blackfyre pretender. I propose that ADOS will see Drogon at Dragonstone, Viserion headed for Casterly Rock, and Rhaegal at Oldtown.

From there, they dance.

 

ONCE FOR BLOOD

Rhaegal’s treason for blood will come when Rhaegal is bonded to Euron through the blood magic of Dragonbinder.

“Your brother did not sound the horn himself. Nor must you.” Moqorro pointed to the band of steel. “Here. ‘Blood for fire, fire for blood.’ Who blows the hellhorn matters not. The dragons will come to the horn’s master. You must claim the horn. With blood.“- (Victarion I, ADWD)

The Battle of Fire will conclude well before Daenerys gets back to Meereen in the books, but Victarion Greyjoy has brought Euron’s magic hellhorn to slavers bay with the intent of stealing a dragon for himself. And currently, Rhaegal was last seen flying over the Greyjoy fleet in the Battle of Fire, possibly drawn to the pork stores in Victarion’s ship. Victarion believes that when he blows the horn, a dragon will be his, and Rhaegal is the closest target.

“Victarion would have his due at last. I have the horn, and soon I will have the woman. A woman lovelier than the wife he made me kill . . .”

“Euron was a fool to give me this, it is a precious thing, and powerful. With this I’ll win the Seastone Chair, and then the Iron Throne. With this I’ll win the world.” – Victarion I, TWOW

Except Victarion is the fool. We see very clearly that he is being duped by both Euron and Moqorro at every step of the way, and yet he speaks with a degree of overconfidence that in Martin’s world utterly dooms a POV character. He will not have the Seastone chair, or Daenerys, nor will he ride a dragon. Before he tries to claim the dragon horn for himself, he allows the Euron’s mute “dusky woman” to draw his blood. We’ve been told over and over again, all of Euron’s gifts are poison. Victarion has made a terrible mistake. Victarion is doomed.

“As you command. Would you have me bleed you?

> “Victarion seized the dusky woman by the wrist and pulled her to him. “She will do it. Go pray to your red god. Light your fire, and tell me what you see.”

> Moqorro’s dark eyes seemed to shine. “I see dragons.” – Victarion I, TWOW

When Rhaegal is bound by Dragonbinder, he will be bound to the horn’s owner. The horn must be claimed by blood, and the horn’s owner has not changed. Rhaegal will be bound to Euron by blood magic. This is the treason for blood.

ONCE FOR GOLD

The show has radically transformed our expectations of Tyrion in TWOW.

What, o’ the queen’s little pets?” Brown Ben’s eyes crinkled in amusement. The grizzled captain of the Second Sons was a creature of the free companies, a mongrel with the blood of a dozen different peoples flowing through his veins, but he had always been fond of the dragons, and them of him.” – (Daenerys V, ADWD)

Tyrion Lannister has recently joined up with the Second Sons, a sellsword company led by the former Westermen Brown Ben Plumm, who has a strange affinity for dragons. And clearly they have an affinity for him.

> Her captains bowed and left her with her handmaids and her dragons. But as Brown Ben was leaving, Viserion spread his pale white wings and flapped lazily at his head. One of the wings buffeted the sellsword in his face. The white dragon landed awkwardly with one foot on the man’s head and one on his shoulder, shrieked, and flew off again. “He likes you, Ben,” said Dany.

“And well he might.” Brown Ben laughed. “I have me a drop of the dragon blood myself, you know.“- (Daenerys V, ASOS)

Ben doesn’t seem to be lying either. House Plumm is of the Westerlands, and Tyrion without even witnessing it guesses that the dragons liked Ben, as he has heard stories of Targaryen lineage in House Plum.

“I hear you’re twice a turncloak, Plumm. A man after mine own heart.” – (Tyrion XI, ADWD)

Brown Ben Plumm and the Second Sons have also shown dubious loyalty, starting off on the side of the slavers, the switching over to Daenerys, then switching back to the Yunkai’i when word got out that Daenerys could not control her dragons, and then defecting back to Daenerys at the end of Tyrion II, TWOW. Ben claims this to be a ploy, yet it’s more likely to be a combination of two things. First of all, wanting to be on the winning side. The other aspect of it is that sellswords, and particularly Brown Ben Plum, love gold. And Tyrion has offered them a whole lot of it. The gold of Casterly Rock to be precise, in the form of IOUs. After all, a Lannister always pays his debts.

This is where I’m proposing a massive divergence from the show.

Lets look at the facts. Tyrion, Ben, and the Second Sons have shown themselves to have no true loyalty to anyone but their own interests. It’s often been expected that Tyrion is going to use his information of fAegon to leverage his way into Daenerys’ inner circle by pointing out the Mummers Dragon as a Blackfyre pretender and exposing Illyrio’s treachery. But is that going to be enough to gain Daenerys’ trust? Tyrion is not only a Lannister, but Daenerys is warned by Quaithe *not to trust him.*

“There is blood between Targaryen and Lannister. Why would you support the cause of Queen Daenerys?”

For gold and glory,” the dwarf said cheerfully. “Oh, and hate. If you had ever met my sister, you would understand.” – (Tyrion III, ADWD)

What happens when Daenerys offers him neither gold nor glory nor vengeance? If Daenerys does not allow Tyrion into her inner circle, or if she refuses to allow Tyrion to go take back Casterly Rock… What will Tyrion and the Second Sons do? Tyrion has promised Brown Ben Plumm 100,000 gold dragons and a lordship (and that’s only what he promised the commander). And by his own admission, Tyrion’s whole purpose for joining Daenerys is gold and glory and hate. If he can’t get revenge on Cersei and take Casterly Rock, who’s to say that Tyrion and Ben are not going to turn cloak once more and try their luck with fAegon? And given wha the text has set up with Ben and Tyrion and their love of dragons, who’s to say they won’t take Viserion with them?

Tyrion taking Viserion is setup at the close of Tyrion’s TWOW sample chapter.

The white cyvasse dragon ended up at Tyrion’s feet. He scooped it off the carpet and wiped it on his sleeve, but some of the Yunkish blood had collected in the fine grooves of the carving, so the pale wood seemed veined with red. “All hail our beloved queen, Daenerys.” Be she alive or be she dead. He tossed the bloody dragon in the air, caught it, grinned. “We have always been the queen’s men,” announced Brown Ben Plumm. “Rejoining the Yunkai’i was just a plot.” – (Tyrion II, TWOW)

I propose that rather than sticking around as Dany’s advisor, the climax of Tyrion’s story in TWOW will be stealing Viserion with Brown Ben Plumm and defecting over to Aegon, hence giving the Aegon side a dragon for the Second Dance of the Dragons. The whole “Tyrion as Dany’s trusted advisor and conscience” thing feels like a change developed for the show to put together two major characters that need to get back to Westeros. But in the books, Tyrion and Dany will only intersect, they won’t share a common goal.

“Well, Tyrion and Dany will intersect, in a way, but for much of the book they’re still apart,” Martin said. “They both have quite large roles to play here. Tyrion has decided that he actually would like to live, for one thing, which he wasn’t entirely sure of during the last book, and he’s now working toward that end—if he can survive the battle that’s breaking out all around him. And Dany has embraced her heritage as a Targaryen and embraced the Targaryen words. So they’re both coming home.” – GRRM

This will set up Tyrion laying siege to Casterly Rock in the final book, making use of the experience he gained when Tywin put him in charge of the sewers of Casterly Rock (as we see in the show).

“Ah, if only the Tyrion in the books could fly, what mischief he will… ah… could… ah, never mind.” – GRRM

But the treason is not by Tyrion. Daenerys will never trust Tyrion. The treason is by Viserion.

Viserion the white and gold dragon, will leave Daenerys for gold. Tyrion is the gold.

 

ONCE OR LOVE

The final treason will be the treason for love. And since Rhaegal is the betrayal for blood, and Viserion is the betrayal for gold, it only makes sense that the final betrayal is the most precious of Dany’s children. The one she has bonded with to become it’s rider. Her very own mount to dread, Drogon.

For Daenerys there will be no treasons more personal, than those committed by her own children. And though Rhaegal and Viserion betray Dany to different riders, Drogon’s betrayal will be a bit more complicated. If he betrays her for love, then the love of who? the love of Dany herself? will it be jealousy for Daenerys taking the third mount (Drogon is her second mount of three)? What would make Drogon betray his mother? It’s honestly hard to say.

This is where I leave the rest to you, as this is where we get into endgame speculation that I’m not ready to make in this essay.

 

Why it kinda has to be this way

In a way, Dany’s three dragons as the three treasons is the only thing that makes sense. It provide Daenerys’ story with the three least expected, yet most impactful treasons she can possible have. It ties in with one of the most major plot shake ups of the novels, which is the fact that everyone wants the fire made power that Dany brought into the world, and she is eventually going to lose them.

But furthermore, if makes the prophecy read more consistently with the other sets. Daenerys suffers a lot more than three treasons. Mirri betrays her. Xaro betrays her. Pyat Pree betrays her. Jorah betrays her. The Second Sons betray her. Illyrio betrays her.  This makes the three treasons read differently than the other three. The three fires will certainly be the most personally significant fires that Daenerys lights. The three mounts will be the most significant three mounts Daenerys rides (and probably the only ones). Yet if the three treasons are just three out of many, then why is Jorah’s treason not on there? Jorah is her most trusted advisor. Is Jorah’s treason not more personally significant to her than Illyrio’s?  Than a hypothetical betrayal by Tyrion, who she is unlikely to trust? There has to be something special about the these three treasons to set them apart and place them on par with the accompanying prophecies.

Daenerys is told she will never have children of her own. And whether or not that is true, she comes to see her dragons as her three children. Yet at least two of them cannot stay with their mother forever. For the three treasons to be the most significant to Daenerys, not only in terms of consequence, but in terms of who commits the treason, her three dragons are the most personal possible treasons.

 

 

tldr; The Undying of Qarth tell Daenerys she will know three treasons. Rhaegal will be the treason for blood, Viserion will be the treason for gold, and Drogon will be the treason for love.

Fires, Mounts, and Treasons: Unraveling the Undying

I’ve seen several posts about the house of the Undying lately, and I wanted to take a deeper look, because I think there is a lot of shallow interpretation going on that places too much emphasis on Daenerys as a sex object. But if you really look at the House of the Undying, it actually lays out Daenerys’ entire story.

Now, when interpreting the House of the Undying visions we have to take two major things into account.

  1. Martin wrote the House of the Undying scene around 1998 when he was still planning a 5 year gap. There was going to be a time skip after Storm, where Dany spent 5 years ruling in Meereen, Jon spent 5 years as Lord Commander, Arya spent 5 years becoming a Faceless Man, Sansa spent 5 years as Alayne stone, Bran spent 5 years training with Bloodraven, and Tyrion spent 5 years… I dunno, drunk or something? anyways the plan was scrapped, and we got Feast and Dance.
  2. You have to read the visions together to understand how they are supposed to be read. Each set of three is in an intentional order, and the prophecies are for things that have come to pass as well as things that are yet to come.

So let’s get started and divide this into segments. I really just want to focus on the “Mother of Dragons” segment, because those are the ones that are structurally setup to be read as a unit, and are the most specific to Daenerys.

Mother of Dragons, Child of Three

“three fires must you light… one for life and one for death and one to love… three mounts must you ride… one to bed and one to dread and one to love… three treasons will you know… once for blood and once for gold and once for love…”

These are harder to predict than what follows because they aren’t accompanied by visions. It’s only after hearing these prophecies that Dany (not understanding) asks the Undying to *show her,* and we start getting visual representation of the prophecies. So, I’m going to come back to these.

This will make sense later.

Mother of Dragons, Daughter of Death

“Viserys screamed as the molten gold ran down his cheeks and filled his mouth. A tall lord with copper skin and silver-gold hair stood beneath the banner of a fiery stallion, a burning city behind him. Rubies flew like drops of blood from the chest of a dying prince, and he sank to his knees in the water and with his last breath murmured a woman’s name. . . . mother of dragons, daughter of death . . .”

The daughter of death set shows Viserys, Rhaego, and Rhaegar. Now one should wonder, why choose these three dead relatives in particular? Why not the Mad King? or her mother Rhaella? and why are they presented totally out of chronological order in which they died (2, 3, 1). Well because these three dead mean something in particular for Dany’s journey.

These visions are about legacy. These are the relatives who’s legacy she takes up, in this exact order.

“It all goes back and back, Tyrion thought, to our mothers and fathers and theirs before them. We are puppets dancing on the strings of those who came before us, and one day our own children will take up our strings and dance on in our steads.” – (Tyrion X, ASOS)

This is a major theme in the novels, and so these three visions are instrumental to understanding Dany’s story from beginning to end, and failure to understand these visions are why the fandom gets so much wrong about her.

    • The first vision is Viserys. Note that prior to Viserys death, the quest to build an army and take back the Seven Kingdoms was not Dany’s, but Viserys’. It’s a crucial fact, but we often forget this that at the beginning of the story Dany didn’t care about Viserys’ obsession, but just wanted to return to her childhood home. To the House with the Red door. But with the death of Viserys it becomes Daenerys who carries on the legacy of House Targaryen and begins to build an army. While Viserys was remembered a beggar king, in Qarth and Astapor Daenerys succeeds where Viserys failed, eventually leading up to her becoming Queen in Meereen.
    • The second vision is a hypothetical Rhaego, her deceased unborn child. Dany must become the Stallion that Mounts the World in Rhaego’s place. While the end of Storm saw Dany choose to rule and maintain peace in Meereen, the end of Dance sees Daenerys choose war and conquest, resolving to take up Fire and Blood. Now she will unite Dothraki under one Khalasar just like Rhaego was meant to. This is the part of Dany’s journey where she wages war and burns cities.
    •  

    • The third vision is of Rhaegar dying at the trident. This foreshadows Dany’s third act, in which she must succeed where Rhaegar failed, and take up the prophecy of the Prince that Was Promised; the savior of prophecy that Rhaegar believed himself to be, before trying to bring into the world as one of his children. The implications here are huge, and call into question: is Dany the prince that was promised, or is it her child? In either case, there is a sacrificial implication to the third vision. This is the final legacy Daenerys must take up, but she will not take it up until after the second.

The order of each set will continue to be intentional. The lies, the mounts, the treasons, the fires. All of them happen in the order they are given.

Mother of Dragons, Slayer of Lies

Glowing like sunset, a red sword was raised in the hand of a blue-eyed king who cast no shadow. A cloth dragon swayed on poles amidst a cheering crowd. From a smoking tower, a great stone beast took wing, breathing shadow fire. . . . mother of dragons, slayer of lies . . .

These are the lies that Dany will unveil and destroy. Note that this isn’t necessarily about killing these people, but rather about slaying the lies they represent.

    • The blue eyed king is Stannis, Melisandre’s Azor Ahai. The first lie is that King Stannis Baratheon is Azor Ahai reborn. He is not.
    • The cloth dragon is clearly fAegon, the mummers dragon. The lie is that King Aegon VI targaryen is the true son of Rhaegar and heir to the throne. He is not.
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    • The stone beast that takes wing is Euron, binding a dragon and flying from the smoking Hightower. The lie is that King Euron Greyjoy is god over the apocalypse. He is not.

Note that like the previous set, these visions are in order. Daenerys will accept the title of Azor Ahai reborn in Volantis. Particularly since the establishing of a time skip, I think there is no way we’re getting an actual war between Stannis and Daenerys. Dany will learn of fAegon’s illegitimacy in Pentos and dethrone him in the Second Dance of the Dragons at King’s Landing (or maybe Storms End). Just based on geography and basic narrative structure we must assume she will bring down Euron Crow’s Eye after that. Maybe at Oldtown but more likely at Harrenhal, in a dragon duel over the God’s Eye.

Mother of Dragons, Bride of Fire

Her silver was trotting through the grass, to a darkling stream beneath a sea of stars. A corpse stood at the prow of a ship, eyes bright in his dead face, grey lips smiling sadly. A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness. . . . mother of dragons, bride of fire . .

This set has been the most complicated by Hizdahr and the removal of the 5 year gap. Clearly Hizdahr is not the grey lip corpse on the prow of a ship, nor does it represent him. The simple answer is that Martin originally didn’t intend to have Daenerys marry a Meereenese noble, but decided to do so when he introduced the 5 year gap and had to showcase the complexities of Dany maintaining post slavery peace in Slavers Bay.

In any case, these visions are about marriages or betrothals.

    • The first vision obviously represents Khal Drogo. The silver is from him, and he is her sun and stars, and this is on the Dothraki sea. Not much to say here other than that these visions are not meant to be only in future tense, as Khal Drogo is in the past.
    • The second vision represents Euron. Definitely Euron. Not Victarion, not Hizdahr, not Aeron. Euron. You might be wondering why the figure is a corpse, or why he has two bright eyes, or why he’s smiling sadly. and there are two explanations for this. The first is that this was written around 1998, possibly before Martin had a clear picture of Euron. But the better explanation is that the corpse in the vision isn’t Euron, but represents Euron. Jon is not literally a blue winter rose growing from the wall, and Khal Drogo is not literally a horse. But those things represent those two characters. Similarly, the grey lip corpse on the prow of a ship *represents* Euron. Since this was written before the 5 year gap was scrapped, most likely what was going to happen was that Euron would have sent a representative to propose a marriage alliance with Daenerys (Victarion or Aeron), or that Euron himself would come to Meereen to propose a marriage alliance, offering to provide Dany with ships and attack the south in her name, asking for her hand in marriage if he helped her succeed. Even though it’s hard to imagine Dany marrying the terror from the Forsaken chapter, it’s pretty feasible to imagine Dany either marrying or betrothing herself to a toned down version of Euron if he carried himself more like Daario Naharis with political power and status worthy of a queen. Dany would have then arrived in Westeros and eventually encountered Euron again, seeing him for the true monster he is. She would then killed him, widowing herself and opening herself up for the third betrothal/marriage.
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    • The third vision obviously represents Jon. Blue winter rose. Wall of ice. RLJ. Note that again, *the visions are in order.* Jon is presented third and she will get to him third.

Bear in mind this wasn’t intended to be about suitors. Even without the 5 year gap, Dany has had more suitors than just these three men. Xaro proposes in Qarth, and Quentyn proposes in Meereen. This is about men Martin planned to have Dany betrothed to/marry…. before Martin decided to scrap the 5 year gap. That’s why Xaro and Quent aren’t on there. That’s why Hizdahr isn’t on here. Originally Dany was going to be betrothed to or marry 3 men. But then GRRM scrapped that 5 year gap.

Now that we understand that these sets of three are all (intended to be) in order, pertain to Dany’s hero’s journey, and are not exclusively about things yet to come, let’s get back to that first part!

Mother of Dragons, Child of Three: Reprise

“three fires must you light… one for life and one for death and one to love… three mounts must you ride… one to bed and one to dread and one to love… three treasons will you know… once for blood and once for gold and once for love…”

three fires must she light

Daenerys burns things all the time. But the three fires are key moments in her story.

    • The fire for life comes first. It’s the funeral pyre which gave life to her three dragons. This is a fire that brings gives life.
    • The fire for death hasn’t happened yet. But this will be a fire that brings death. I suspect it’s either Daenerys burning the Old Blood of Volantis in their Black Walls (mirroring Aegon the Conqueror roasting Harren the Black and his sons at Harrenhal), or Daenerys setting off the wildfire in King’s Landing and burning down the Red Keep in the Second Dance of the Dragons. Dany is definitely headed to Volantis in Winds, as the city is just waiting to name Dany Azor Ahai and have a massive slave revolt in her name. But then again, setting off a wildfire explosion might be more akin to lighting a single fire than burning the Old Blood in the inner city. We’ll have to see.
    • The fire to love, I’m not sure about. But it’s not a fire for love, but a fire *to love.* Martin intentionally changes out “for” with “to.” Why does Martin do this? is it just like “to love” as a toast? is the fire taking her toward love? or does she love the fire? I lean towards the third. Dany will love the third fire. My guess is that this is the very very end of Dany’s story.

three mounts must she ride.

This is not about a sex position people!

Frankly the reason I decided to make this post was because of how many people think this part is about fucking. This is more significant to Dany’s journey, and interpreting it as just being about sex doesn’t even make sense.

As per the rest of the visions, the mounts have to be in order, and they aren’t only future tense. But looking at this as carnal activity is redundant because one of them is to bed. That’s like having a mount to mount. Does that mean the mount to bed is the man she sleeps with mostly for physical reasons? so Daario? The other visions aren’t future tense, so what is Drogo? is he to bed? In Dany’s mind she loves Drogo? is he to love? but they’re in order. What about Hizdahr? wouldn’t he be to peace? Again, this was written before the scrapping of the timeskip. If Daario doesn’t count would this only count marriages if mount refers to carnal activity? And aren’t marriages covered in the bride of fire segment?

The simpler answer is that this was written before Martin scrapped the timeskip, and it’s not about cowgirl. It’s about riding actual mounts.

    • The mount to bed is the silver. In the books she rides this horse, jumps over some fire, impresses Drogo and then has sex with him. She rides the silver to bed. The moment she rides silver over the fire significant because it’s the first moment in the story in which Dany overcomes fear and begins to take control over her destiny.
    • The mount to dread is Drogon. Drogon is represents the return of Aegon the Conqueror’s Balerion the Black Dread. She learns to ride Drogon at the end of Dance, right before abandoning the peace and compromise that characterized her arc throughout ADWD. She has chosen Fire and Blood. Daenerys will ride Drogon to unite the Dothraki and become the Stallion Who Mounts the World. She is now taking up the legacy of Rhaego. She will now light the fire to death.
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    • The mount to love is… unclear. But based on the last two being literal mounts that she rides, it’s not sex with Jon. Regardless how you feel about Drogo, in her mind Dany loved him. If Dany falls in love with Jon he will not be her first love. So does the mount take her to love, or is mount the thing she will love? Since she didn’t bed the Silver and she likely won’t dread Drogon himself, it’s most likely that the mount to love will take her towards love. My guess is it takes her to light the last fire.

three treasons will she know

This one gets tricky. It’s important to note that these are not the only betrayals Daenerys will face. For example, Brown Ben Plum and the Second Sons betray her in Dance because he learns she cannot control her dragons, but this is neither for blood, gold, or love. But rather that these are three significant betrayals that Dany will suffer for these specific reasons.

“The Undying of Qarth had told her she would be thrice betrayed. Mirri Maz Duur had been the first, Ser Jorah the second. Would Reznak be the third? The Shavepate? Daario? Or will it be someone I would never suspect, Ser Barristan or Grey Worm or Missandei?” – (Daenerys I, ADWD)

It’s also important to recognize that Dany guesses the treasons herself. She guesses that Mirri Maz Duur was for blood, and Jorah was for gold. So she now awaits the third. If she’s right, then Illyrio is going to be the treason for love (he seems quite fond of Young Griff, who I believe to be Illyrio’s son). So we have this wrapped up right?

Except. . . Jorah wasn’t giving information to Varys for gold, but rather for a pardon. Which means she’s wrong about Jorah. And if she’s wrong about Jorah, she’s probably wrong about Mirri too. Which means we have to start from the beginning.

    • Once for blood. Is likely Illyrio. Though he likely loves his son, fAegon being his son makes his treason a treason for blood. Namely his own blood.

Why would you support the cause of Queen Daenerys?

For gold and glory,” the dwarf said cheerfully. “Oh, and hate. If you had ever met my sister, you would understand.” – (Tyrion VII, ADWD)

    • Once for gold. My best guess is that this one is Tyrion and the Second Sons. Quaithe has warned Daenerys not to trust Tyrion (the Lion). While the show has taken Tyrion down a vastly different route, in the books Tyrion’s purpose for siding with Daenerys is not a better world, but rather to reign vengeance upon Cersei. If Daenerys does not accept Tyrion into her inner circle or she does not offer him to take Casterly Rock in her name, and if she punishes the Second Sons for their dubious loyalty during ADWD, then Tyrion and Brown Ben Plum might steal a dragon and go take it themselves, perhaps joining back up with fAegon. After all, the whole purpose of going back over to Dany for the Second Sons was being offered the gold of Casterly Rock.
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    • Once for love. This one will come last. In the above passage, Daenerys considers the Shavepate, Daario, Barristan, Grey Worm, and Missandei. Martin’s writing style dictates that this means it will be none of them. So I have an unusual prediction. The treason for love will be committed by Daenerys herself. In her final act Daenerys will give up any ambitions of being queen or ruling Westeros, and instead sacrifice herself to save it.

 

The Many Titles of Daenerys Targaryen

In conclusion, the House of the Undying is not just crucial to understanding Daenerys, but when you read the Mother of Dragons visions as together it actually lays out the entire three acts of her story. From taking up the cause of Viserys the Beggar King and building herself a Queen’s army, to embracing Fire and Blood and becoming the Stallion Who Mounts the World in place of her stillborn son, to realizing her destiny and fulfilling the prophecy of the Prince Who Was Promised.

It’s so much more than the question of queen vs. conqueror. Daenerys Targaryen’s is a khaleesi and a queen. A conqueror and a savior. She is the Mother of Dragons, the Slayer of Lies, the Bride of Fire, the Breaker of Chains, and so much more. When we look at the impact of Daenerys Targaryen, we need only remember the very last line from GRRM’s concluding chapter in the Tuf Voyaging saga, Manna from Heaven.

“Her name was Tolly Mune. But in the histories, they call her all sorts of things.”

Bran is The Lord of Light

More specifically, the Three Eyed Raven is the Lord of Light.

Since I wrote my “Now I am become Death” series on resurrection, the Bran and Bloodraven = R’hllor theory has really caught on, as I think the show is getting closer and closer to making it clear.

In season 7’s “Beyond The Wall” there is yet another conversation between two resurrected characters about why they are alive, what is their purpose, and what the Lord of Light wants from them. This is a theme that is constantly being brought up around resurrected characters and followers of the Lord of Light. That the Lord has a purpose for them, but it’s unclear what that purpose is. Beric believes him and Jon to be soldiers in the Lord of Light’s war.

But in the inside the episode, DnD seemingly let something slip. They compare Benjen to Beric and Jon. They talk about him also waiting to find out what his purpose is. Except Benjen Coldhands wasn’t raised by a Red Priest. He was raised by the Children of the Forest.

This is significant because both the dead raised by the Children of the Forest and the dead raised by the Red Priests are trying to understand what their purpose is as soldiers in the Great War.

Meanwhile, Bran is not a soldier. Bran is not even truly human. Bran is not even Bran anymore. Bran is the Three Eyed Raven, the all seeing time traveling, nemesis of the Night King.

Essentially the show has given us two demi-gods. The Night King, and the Three Eyed Raven. One guides the living, and one guides the dead. The Night King is the Great Other, the Three Eyed Raven is the Lord of Light.

 

Now, some of you are skeptical because you believe I’m conflating different elements. But in the books this will be far more complex. Bran won’t exactly be the Lord of Light in the books. Magic in the books is more complicated, as it seems to be a force within nature that can be drawn upon in a variety of different ways in a multitude of traditions. The commonality is that in the show and the books Bran will be the force guiding the other characters in the third act of the story.