Daenerys, mother of madness
Madness as referred to the Targaryens isn’t a way to describe them as silly or even to a temporary state of frenzy, but rather as the disease characterized by instability, lunacy, escaping reality with visions or other subterfuges, obsession, paranoia, narcissism, a heightened capacity to read people in order to manipulate them and many times doing that sexually or with violence, the inability to compromise long term or to recognize simple facts, transforming them into victories or losses, right or wrong, one thing or another, but those things always being the extreme opposites of one another. The mad Targaryens had many of those characteristics, oftentimes deeply intertwined with dragons, where some of them thought they were dragons, that they had to become dragons or that they had to bring back dragons. There are signs of madness in Princess Daenerys as far back as in a Game of Thrones. She goes back and forth on her opinions, can’t follow through with her words, rejects her victories unless they are absolute and brags about the other victories with an egotistic sense of pride, adding titles to her name as if those made her worthier, and always blaming others for her shortcomings. The last one, evidently, can also be simply her human condition, as many of our species do not appreciate the learning process and we can be defensive of our actions or go through moments of confusion where we don't know which path to take, but Daenerys's inner monologue is troubled. She spends a long time in a Game of Thrones defending the Dothraki and pointing out that they are her people now. She was accepted into their world and she made them her family more than any she had ever had. She learns their language, respects their religion, understands their celebrations, wishes to partake or be part of their culture, and she fiercely defends them against her brother with some back and forth hesitation between “he is the king” or “I am a Khaleesi”, which she uses depending on how the mood strikes, but after she learns the khalasar split while she was in labour, she shows a lot of who she is and a lot of her falsehood. She believes herself to be superior to the Dothraki and it is at that moment that she calls herself what she believes she is. Is she a princess or a Khaleesi after all? Oh, she is a Princleesi. Picking a side will never be her choice. Convenience dictates where she stands. She promises revenge by murder to the Dothraki because they acted as Dothraki do. They were "her people" and she couldn't accept them to do what a Khalasar does the moment that their actions removed her from a pedestal. She wanted them to do what she wanted them to do. Anything else was simply unacceptable. But that's not a reasonable request. <<"And I am Daenerys Stormborn, Daenerys of House Targaryen, of the blood of Aegon the Conqueror and Maegor the Cruel and Old Valyria before them. I am the dragon's daughter, and I swear to you, these men will die screaming...">> (“these men” by the way, are Drogo’s men.) It is interesting how she names Aegon and Maegor. It was just the first book, so the reader wasn’t entirely aware of what those names meant, but as we learn more about George Martin’s writing style, we understand his choice was deliberate. Aegon was a conqueror who murdered to get what he wanted. He was a good king and with good intentions who brought the kingdom together for reasons the reader is never privy to, but based on the writer, it is likely it was done because he saw something or understood something that was probably in his hands thanks to some prophecy or one of those Targaryen dreams. It is said the seven hells are filled with “good intentions”, but I am not necessarily one to go after the follies of faith. What I do know is that the complete destruction of Harrenhall, the war against King Durrandon and the continuous advances into Dorne show that Aegon’s conquest wasn’t for the faint of heart. Equally, there is a significant difference between wanting to conquer the countries uniting them into one, and completely annihilating not simply the enemy who defies you, but the enemy’s entire household, servants, women, children, animals, melting rocks and fighting using weapons that nobody else can have access to. It’s akin to Christopher Columbus and Pedro Alvarez-Cabral arriving in the new world with ships, cannons and diseases to fight, rape and mass murder the indigenous who were in essence, fighting with bows, arrows and rocks. If we are to “call a spade a spade”, then perhaps the consideration should be that Aegon was a conqueror, but also an unfair fighter who used what is equivalent to a nuclear bomb against enemies who were fighting with bows, arrows and rocks. As for her referring to Maegor, his name was Maegor the Cruel because that is exactly what he was. He usurped the throne from his nephew and murdered him, kept the next nephew in line for the throne as a hostage, forced his half-brother’s widow to marry him and when she escaped, he murdered his hostage nephew after torturing him for days. He got married, but as he and his wife couldn’t have children, he decided to marry another. Not instead, but as well. The church was against it, so he fought and burned all who defied him. He married another and another and another and another, back to back, to a total of six wives, several of those against their will, because they had had children before. He killed his own maesters, burned the men who built the Red Keep’s secret tunnels and buried their ashes under the castle as blood sacrifice. Daenerys could be the “blood of the dragon” with Aegon and Jaehaerys, that way she would highlight the capacity to fight when necessary, but also compassion instead of simply showing the two biggest murderers of her family which became a demonstration of what she would later become. She learns and reaches good conclusions, and she truly is compassionate, but she also holds on to people’s shortcomings and her ascent to power brought her to a place where she believes she must dictate the law and has no problems being judge, jury and executioner of any situation she faces. GRRM has said countless times through countless interviews that “The human heart in conflict with itself is the only thing worth writing about.” (That, by the way, is a sentence from William Faulkner), and in the case of Daenerys, her heart in conflict with itself is the make or break of her condition. Her brother Viserys had every indication of madness upon him since his childhood. When Robert's rebellion broke, the Targaryens made many mistakes, some of them irreparable. It’s easy to justify what the Mad King did. He was mad. Not so easy is to justify what queen Rhaella did when she decided to crown Viserys after Aerys death. In reality, Rhaella had absolutely no right to crown anyone. She was queen but had no regency rights and she definitely could NOT have crowned a boy who would have been passed up if a council had been held. With VIserys's tendencies, that coronation pushed him to the edge, and from then on, he believed he was king. Surely, you can argue that Rhaella didn’t know that there were other living Targaryens in the world, but that is both a lie and entirely irrelevant. Monarchy by conquest has always been a very fragile institution and all it takes to bring it to a crashing halt is one mistake. When a queen who didn’t even have the right to rest her royal rumpus on the throne imposed the next regent, she told a dissatisfied kingdom that the people’s wishes were irrelevant. Daenerys grew up with her brother who had attacks of insanity on a daily basis. He protected her, but he hurt her. He sold her, but he wanted her. He loved her but he attacked her. His head was truly a bag full of cats and I imagine that, for her, a little girl, it must have made things very complex indeed. How do you know where north is on your moral compass if you have been told your whole life that the needle off to the side was correct? So that excuse she can always have, and it is valid. The matter is not validity. The matter is that, at a certain point, the actions based on our upbringing can no longer be used as excuses. You can spend your whole life blaming your parents for whatever they didn't do based on your standards, or you can simply understand that it's in the past and choose to do what is. Daenerys can't choose and her chapters in ASOS and ADWD are the greatest proof of that. When she goes to Meereen, it gets worse. There are many readers who complain about the Meereen arc saying it's pointless, but that is the period with most depth. Daenerys's arc in Meereen is the best part of her whole story, the richest and the most complex. Sure, it doesn't have the beauty of the writing in AGOT or the anticipation and prophecies from ACOK, but it has depth and it is where we start to see Daenerys for who she is, but to see that, we have to let go of the underdog image we have of her the same way most of us let go of Jaime’s monster image when the time came to do so. Meereen’s story is similar to a Game of Thrones, but in Essos instead of Westeros. The Shavepate is Littlefinger, the poisoned locusts are Jon Arryn’s tears of Lys, the mistrust generated between Daenerys’s court and Hizdahr is the mistrust between the Starks towards the Lannisters through Lysa’s letter. The Shavepate is sloppier, but he is also more desperate than Littlefinger was. So when Daenerys arrives in Meereen she is guided by the crucified children. To make people pay for those deaths, she takes the exact number of highborn (163) and without knowing if they are innocent or guilty, evil or good, but judging simply by the fact that they weren't poor, she crucifies them, but that wasn’t justice, it was simply murder. If those actions were to be compared to what happened to Theon, it is worse than what Ramsey did. Theon was guilty of terrible things and he even admitted to them, but we can still see that what was done against him was both extreme and irrefutably wrong. Theon is destroyed, but he will have a chance to do what is right and redeem himself. How can a dead person who didn’t have anything to do with the crimes he is accused of redeem himself? On the same note, most of my own followers here living their current lives would be, by comparison, considered to be highborn and not slaves, seeing how “middle class” didn’t exist and any person reading the books must understand how they, the readers themselves, could be the ones crucified around that plaza. Long-live my well-known extreme poverty growing up in Flea Bottom and then living as a Hedge Knight. The same cannot be said of the knights who served by my side. <<She had them nailed to wooden posts around the plaza, each man pointing at the next. The anger was fierce and hot inside her when she gave the command; it made her feel like an avenging dragon. But later, when she passed the men dying on the posts, when she heard their moans and smelled their bowels and blood . . . Dany put the glass aside, frowning. It was just. It was. I did it for the children.>> That is Daenerys VI ASOS. The same chapter goes on like this: <<"The city bleeds. Dead men rot unburied in the streets, each pyramid is an armed camp, and the markets have neither food nor slaves for sale. And the poor children! King Cleaver's thugs have seized every highborn boy in Astapor to make new Unsullied for the trade, though it will be years before they are trained." The thing that surprised Dany most was how unsurprised she was.>> So, at first, she goes all fire and blood "for the children", and moments later she finds out that highborn children had been taken and castrated and tortured and killed and enslaved in a city she had "saved". Her very name was linked to what happened to them. What did she do? Squat. Her actions have no consistency and her morality is most definitely askew. She feels badly after she does her terrible deeds, but she keeps on doing them. Again, one of the characteristics that define madness is instability and the incapacity to see things for what they are. Dance goes on with this horrific exchange between her and the Shavepate: << “Three freedmen, murdered in their homes,” the Shavepate said. “A moneylender, a cobbler, and the harpist Rylona Rhee. They cut her fingers off before they killed her.” The queen flinched. Rylona Rhee had played the harp as sweetly as the Maiden. When she had been a slave in Yunkai, she had played for every highborn family in the city. In Meereen she had become a leader amongst the Yunkish freedmen, their voice in Dany’s councils. “We have no captives but this wineseller?” “None, this one grieves to confess. We beg your pardon.” Mercy, thought Dany. They will have the dragon’s mercy. “Skahaz, I have changed my mind. Question the man sharply.” “I could. Or I could question the daughters sharply whilst the father looks on. That will wring some names from him.” “Do as you think best, but bring me names.” Her fury was a fire in her belly.>> She agrees to the torturing of innocent children. How can that be ignored? In the books, Drogon theoretically kills a child. When she sees it, she locks her dragons, a symbolism of Daenerys attempting to be less of a Targaryen, followed by the thought: <<Mother of dragons, Daenerys thought. Mother of monsters. What have I unleashed upon the world? A queen I am, but my throne is made of burned bones, and it rests on quicksand… I am the blood of the dragon, she thought. If they are monsters, so am I.">> Her inner dialog shows that she believes her nature needs to be controlled and for that, she goes through a period of listening to her council, but if we compare that to the Targaryen madness, their madness is intertwined with dragons, they think they were dragons, that they had to become dragons or that they had to bring back dragons. We all can see those actions as acts of madness from everyone, but we justify hers because she was introduced under a sympathetic veil. << “Aegon the Conqueror brought fire and blood to Westeros, but afterward he gave them peace, prosperity, and justice. But all I have brought to Slaver’s Bay is death and ruin. I have been more khal than queen, smashing and plundering, then moving on.” …“You have brought freedom as well,” Missandei pointed out. “Freedom to starve?” asked Dany sharply. “Freedom to die? Am I a dragon, or a harpy?” Am I mad? Do I have the taint?>> That is her consideration – that she has the Targaryen taint of madness, but that doesn’t stop her from going on. She repeats the same three sentences time and again throughout her chapters: “I am the blood of the dragon.” which she uses when she wants to seem powerful or to ascertain her position; “If I look back I am lost”, which she uses when she is thinking about her next step and the things she must do; “I am only a young girl and know little of the ways of war, but...”, which she uses to mock or manipulate people into thinking she is innocent; Again, madness is often characterized by a heightened capacity to read people in order to manipulate them. <<“My fears were burned away the day I came forth from the fire. Only one thing frightens me now.” “And what is it that you fear, sweet queen? “I am only a foolish young girl.” Dany rose on her toes and kissed his cheek. “But not so foolish as to tell you that.”>> That is a conversation she has with Xaro Xhoan Daxos when he travels to Meereen to deal with her. Later she talks to Ser Barristan and he guesses that she only fears her dragons but her answer is: “Myself”. It seems that GRRM is preparing the fandom for the inevitable turn to madness coming her way. That theme follows her continuously. To ascertain the good behaviour of the highborn, which is normal for the time, she took two children of every family and kept them as hostages – those hostages were put to “use”, as they do in court, as squires or cupbearers, Lord Stark did that himself with Theon, and she does spare those children, which certainly keeps the attacks from the Harpy from happening, but when Reznak says the people are afraid for their children, she thinks "So am I". The symbolism of her chapters is incredibly powerful. Her relationship with Daario isn't just a distraction, she is disturbingly attracted to him, but if you reread their exchanges, every single time they are together he proposes an idea to break the peace, some bloody death or some revenge and the more he brings that forth, more she feels attracted to him. Evidently it isn't for us to read, it is for us to observe. She thinks she is the best person to rule the world, she recognizes the world has come to a violently bloody mess, but the only thing that makes her feel anything at all, is fire and blood. Eventually she sends him away (his propositions are terrible and tempting) and her mind goes: <<“He would make a monster of me,” she whispered, “a butcher queen.”>> The Brazen Beasts keep offering war and death and she fights her impulses - the caged dragons – and Ser Barristan tells her Rhaegar would have been proud of her, but in her head, she remembers Ser Jorah telling her that “Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly, Rhaegar fought honourably and Rhaegar died.” She fights hard for peace and she compromises - that is peace and our writer is a very witty man. He shows at length the consequence of wars but in Dance he also shows at length the consequence of peace. Peace is hard work and there are no victors there - to be certain, there are no victors at wars either, but the point remains, she saw the consequence of war when the Dothraki attacked the lamb people, but what eats her inside, is the cost of peace. <<I hate this, thought Daenerys Targaryen. How did this happen, that I am drinking and smiling with men I’d sooner flay? … This is peace, she told herself. This is what I wanted, what I worked for, this is why I married Hizdahr. So why does it taste so much like defeat??">> And then, by her wedding day, she had so much of that discomfort inside her, she starts to show the less subjective madness. She starts to be paranoid; everyone is an enemy, she fears the people on the streets as much as the high lords. She is a true mess, but as I pointed out before, madness is a disease characterized by paranoia. <<The tumblers who came next failed to move her either, even when they formed a human pyramid nine levels high, with a naked little girl on top. Is that meant to represent my pyramid? the queen wondered. Is the girl on top meant to be me? “…If Hizdahr’s peace should break, I want to be ready. I do not trust the slavers.” I do not trust my husband. “They will turn on us at the first sign of weakness.”>> She negotiated terms for peace and then when she sees them in action, she regrets them. Her wine tastes bitter with the discontentment she feels, but those were the terms she negotiated herself. She is completely unable to see a victory, because to her, those victories are not hers, Her dreams are of smoke and fire. Madness is characterized by the inability to recognize simple facts, transforming them into victories or losses, right or wrong, but those things always being extreme opposites of one another. She hates more than anything the fighting pits. Even if the men were free, she finds it barbaric and cruel, she is there with what she called her "floppy ears" watching a show she couldn't stomach. There was a woman who wanted to fight - Daenerys didn't want women fighting, but that woman, Barsena, argued that if a man could, then so could she. She is there in that box watching absolutely vile things wearing her tokar, which is a very important Meereenese symbol that must be kept on at all times when in front of the people. She refers to the tokar as her floppy ears regularly and she quietly watches the fight with her heart and stomach twisting, but her "floppy ears" stay on. When Barsena fights and dies, which was not the worst of all fights that day, or the most cruel or the most unfair fight, but definitely the symbol GRRM wanted to offer the reader, that is when Daenerys removes her tokar and Irri asks what she's doing to the reply: “Taking off my floppy ears.” The symbolism continues with Drogon arriving right then. The dragon within. She thinks they are both "fire made of flesh", she intertwines her person with a dragon, and she climbs Drogon to go be "reborn" in the Dothaki sea. She wishes to return, but Drogon doesn’t carry her because the symbolism is the only way to convey a message at that point and she isn’t supposed to return to peace, but rather to face the war and then, she starts to have visions. Madness is a disease characterized by instability, lunacy, escaping reality with visions or other subterfuges. She has in order, visions of Quaithe, Viserys, and then she talks to the grass and the grass talks back. That exchange is possibly the most important one in all Daenerys’s story. She spends her story thinking of two names: Eroeh, the girl in AGOT she thought she had saved and who the Dothraki killed regardless, which represented to her that not everything could be controlled by her. The other name she remembers all the time is Hazzea’s. Hazzea is the name of the girl whose charred bones are brought to her and she represents the death of innocent that must be prevented. Once Daenerys talks to the grass, she can’t remember Hazzea’s name. That is more than simply meaningful. It is possible to imagine that Quaithe would talk to Daenerys or at least the story suggests that it happened before – it is also possible that Daenerys was always seeing things that weren’t there. The one thing we know for certain is that Daenerys did not see Viserys. Viserys is dead, and his death isn’t one of those uncertain ones. He really died right before her eyes. Finally, talking to the grass? And then the grass replies? The conversation goes like this: << “I am the blood of the dragon,” she told the grass, aloud. “Once”, the grass whispered back, “until you chained your dragons in the dark”. “Drogon killed a little girl. Her name was … her name …” Dany could not recall the child’s name. That made her so sad that she would have cried if all her tears had not been burned away. “I will never have a little girl. I was the Mother of Dragons.” “Aye”, the grass said, “but you turned against your children”.>> The symbolism is strong there. She forgets the name of the girl who represents her battle against the loss of innocent lives. The conversation goes on and on until she “talks” to Ser Jorah (who isn’t with her) and he tells her to drop the nonsense, stop seeking things because others would seek those things and remember her words: ‘Fire and Blood’. She has to forget about Meereen, forget about Astapor, forget about the Lazareen, forget about Eroeh, forget about Hazzea, forget about innocent lives, forget about everything and be the dragon. It is the turn of her character into a darker one, because although she will continue doing absolutely horrifying things against her enemies, this time around, her enemies are not slavers and she isn’t fighting for a perceivably noble purpose. She is simply playing the game of thrones and if the story shows us one message again and again, that message is that every single person playing the game of thrones is ultimately wrong. The kingdom doesn’t need Targaryens or Stark or Baratheon or Lannisters or any such thing. That is why so many family lines come to an end, because they essentially don’t matter. What the kingdom needs is honour, honesty, compassion, equal opportunities, union, safety, justice, moral. stability, education, health, food, shelter. Those aren’t to be reached because one monarch has now and will always have power. He or she might be good today, but that isn’t guarantee that his or her children will be good as well. The ruler must have barriers, because if the only thing that holds him or her back is a council made of flatterers, then that ruler has no accountability. There’s no fair system without accountability and in a world where gods that control elements walk the land killing and adding dead people to their army, then it becomes quite evident that finding out whoever will sit on the Iron Throne is the ultimate most frivolous quest. The throne represents power, and as Lord Acton pointed out, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” All those whose aim is to sit the throne are somehow corrupted by it. As for the issue of madness, Daenerys is the only Targaryen in our story who shows all signs of madness: • Instability when she starts to go one way and takes a sudden turn to another without any reason to justify that. • Lunacy when she sees things that aren’t there, escaping reality with visions or other subterfuges; • Obsession, when she decides to stay in Meereen even though Meereen is not her home; • Paranoia when she sees enemies everywhere; • Narcissism when she adds title after title after title to her name so everyone she ever crosses knows who she is and what she did; • A heightened capacity to read people in order to manipulate them and many times doing that sexually or with violence, which she does using her three sentences, with her strategic nudity in front of non-Dothraki people and by killing highborn after highborn so they accept her rule; • The inability to compromise long term or to recognize simple facts, transforming them into victories or losses, right or wrong, one thing or another, but those things always being the extreme opposites of one another, when she sees slaves outside Meereen and loses her mind complaining, but she herself agreed to those terms and she only sees everything as a loss or when she convinces Drogo to cross the Narrow Sea to conquer the Iron Throne, and she has no problems with his speech of burning the Westerosi houses and raping the Westerosi women, but when she sees the Khalasar fighting the way they do, she has to save one woman, and then another and then another until she claims them all for herself. • And where she sees herself as a dragon followed by a long period of her being obsessed with bringing them back. She will continue doing what is right by some people: She’ll free slaves when they cross her path, she will keep the Unsullied by her side, she will protect her Khalasar, and she is sure to add her weapons of mass destruction to the fight against the Others, but Daenerys is belligerent and she is now after fighting for something not quite as noble. She’s only fighting for her own benefit. It’s not because the slavers were evil that what she offered them was justice. It is not because the Dothraki killed the girl she wished to protect that they were evil. It is not because her father was king that she has the right to the throne. And if seeing Daenerys for who she truly is comes with difficulties, then perhaps consider how her actions would be perceived if she were someone as detestable as Cersei.