Panel from Con of Thrones featuring Watchers on the Wall feature writer Patrick Sponaugle, author Ian Thomas Malone, Professor Priscilla Walton, and myself talking about the morality and ethics that exist beyond the Wall. Skinchangers, cannibals, tribal wars, trade through the Wall among Other topics.
The Dance of the Dragons is the first major civil war for a post-Targaryen Conquest united Westeros. And… it was pretty damn ugly.
In one corner, you had the Greens, so named for Alicent Hightower, second wife of King Viserys I and mother of future claimant Aegon II, wearing a green gown to a tourney in 111 AC. Alicent and her father, who was Viserys’ on and off again Hand of the King, were not bashful about pushing for Aegon’s claim to the Iron Throne, a claim based on the laws of Westeros as confirmed in the Great Council 101 AC, that held that neither a woman nor a man who’s claim descended through a female line could inherit the Iron Throne before an eldest male heir.
In the other corner, you had the Blacks. Rhaenyra Targaryen, first born daughter of Viserys and for much of his reign his only child, elevated to Crown Princess of Dragonstone and heir in order to push back the claims of Viserys’ brother and Rhaenyra’s later lover and husband (and uncle!) Daemon, the Rogue Prince. Her claim was based on the proclamation of the King, and the fact that she was trained for the role since she was a young girl.
Prior to the Dance, both Rhaenyra and Aegon were fairly reasonable people. Rhaenyra demonstrated a questionable level of selfishness by prioritising her personal pleasure and love affair with Ser Harwin Strong over her thoroughly unsuitable marriage to cousin and former claimant for the Iron Throne, Laenor Velaryon, but had undoubtably received years of training in how to rule and had the connections with the nobility to be a decent Queen Regnant. Aegon II seems to have been a fine young man, albeit a little bit under the influence of his grandfather and mother, as you’d expect for a young man in his late teens.
But by the end of the war, both Rhaenyra and Aegon were bitter, twisted, cruel, capricious and vicious people, who you wouldn’t want to rule over a piss up in a brewery, let alone a civil war devastated kingdom.
So who was the rightful claimant?
Who was the better candidate for the Iron Throne?
What could or should have Viserys done to avoid this inevitable conflict?
What was the legacy of the Dance, and does it have any relevance to our current situation in ASOIAF? (Yes. It does.)
And… how many Romeo + Juliet gifs can I put into a blog about historical Westeros?
There’s an impression amongst some in the ASOIAF fandom that House Targaryen has a history of polygamy, and that Westeros permitted this. Ergo, Rhaegar could TOTALLY take Lyanna Stark as a second wife and thus Jon Snow is legitimate.
As I’ve ranted elsewhere, Jon does not need to be legitimate. There’s just no need to tie ourselves up in knots to find a way for Jon Snow to be Jon Targaryen. Or Jaehaerys or Aemon or Visenya/Viserys or whatever Targaryen. The world will be saved by a bastard son of House Stark… and that’s fine.
But the need for a legitimate Jon, and this idea that House Targaryen was super special and never, ever subject to the social norms, customs and laws of Westeros when they conquered and took on the role of the defender of the Faith seems to perpetuate throughout the fandom. This post is about breaking down how and why we can be reasonably sure that the Targaryens took on the laws and lores of their new Seven Kingdoms. And, bonus…. polygamy was never “common” in Valyria. It was just a thing that happened.
This came up in twitter discussions the other day.
The reign of Aerys II, the Mad King, was so toxic that it was headed for a bad end, no matter what happened. Rhaegar running off with Lyanna Stark pissed off a lot of people, but it was not technically the cause of Robert’s Rebellion – the King abrogating his duty to his subjects by roasting Lord Rickard and Brandon Stark alive in a poor excuse for a trial by combat, that was the thing that made the Rebellion kick off.
So… was that kind of mistake by Aerys inevitable? Was he so psychotic, so blinded by greed and narcissism and paranoia that he would inevitably cross the line and make it legitimate for his noble lords to rebel against his rule? We know that Rhaegar had hoped to stage a coup d’état to oust his father.
Rhaegar had put his hand on Jaime’s shoulder. “When this battle’s done I mean to call a council. Changes will be made. I meant to do it long ago, but . . . well, it does no good to speak of roads not taken. We shall talk when I return.”
AFFC, Jaime I
But does this mean that some kind of rebellious end to Aerys’ reign was certain?
Maybe, maybe not.
It is difficult to see how Aerys’ reign could have been sustained much longer, although it is also not clear that if Rhaegar did attempt a coup d’état if that would be strongly supported by the feudal lords. What is even less clear is if Jon Arryn’s plans for a non-Targaryen regime were something he was actively working towards, or something that he simply quietly ruminated over to himself.
So in a fashion befitting a lawyer, my answer to the title question is “it depends….”
What’s the hold up with The Winds of Winter?
This is a question on, more or less, every ASOIAF fan’s lips at some stage in the past seven years (yes. SEVEN.) Is GRRM past it, too old, no longer interested in Westeros, over it, put off by the show getting ahead of him, procrastinating, or any of the other millions of pejorative ideas thrown at him by ‘fans’?
Or …. maybe it’s just REALLY HARD for him to get every character and every various plot that has been set up over the first five books into the right locations for the final war for humanity?
Because there are a lot of unfinished plot threads. Some are pretty minor, like whether or not Edric Storm will be pulled out like a bunny in a hat by someone claiming the Iron Throne to be legitimised and be the father of the next generation of Baratheons. Some are pretty major, like how the hell is Sansa going to get out from under Littlefinger’s increasingly Weinstein-esque manipulation?
Not going to lie: I just spent far too long responding to a post on /r/asoiaf, and I feel like I should justify it by copying/pasting it into a blog post…. not that any of this is going to help me in Wednesday’s exam…
This line of thought was partly prompted by BryndenBFish’s post on /r/asoiaf earlier today about the extremely likely possibility that ASOIAF is going to be eight books all up, not seven as GRRM keeps insisting (and that, in all likelihood, GRRM’s reluctance to accept this is part of the editing/writing stumbling block!)
That post then prompted another post, where a user put forward their idea about what might happen in TWOW. It was… interesting. Started well, veered into fanfic about halfway through. To be fair, mine probably does as well. Everyone’s does – except for GRRM, and he’s the only one who really knows what’s going on, isn’t it?!
Knights are an essential part of Southron culture in Westeros. Associated with Andal culture and the Faith, these warriors take vows not just of martial strength and skill, but of chivalry and honour.
But many of the knights that we meet in Westeros tend to place more weight on their skills with a lance or sword, than on their code of honour or chivalry. All too often, the honour that they’re concerned with is social status and prestige, rather than remembering to do all those things they vowed to do, like defend the innocent and vulnerable.
But what makes a knight a knight?
YES, I’m a Book Snob who thinks the Books Are Better Than The Show. But I also genuinely really do like Game of Thrones. The first 3-4 seasons are fantastic, even with the changes they made from text to screen. But then… things started to get a bit wonky. Jaime inexplicably went to Dorne, where Ellaria Sand was merged with Arianne Martell to produce a vengeance driven woman who seized power by killing her paramour’s brother, and the Sand Sneks went from interesting but over the top characters to caricatures of the Erotic Exotic, with cringe-inducing lines about liking the “bad pussy.”
The show is still doing epic, amazing MOMENTS that make us go WOAH NO WAY SO COOL. The Field of Fire? Holy crap. That was awesome.
But then… there’s the lack of logical consequences. No Dany, you don’t guarantee that the nobles of Westeros will follow you if you burn every Randyl Tarly that says no. You imprison them and take their heir as a hostage/ward to be your page until they say yes. No Cersei, you don’t just crown yourself Queen because your son died without an heir and because you want to… and you blew up all the nobles that would have been able to tell you to piss off in the Sept of Baelor. Not every major lord in Westeros was at Loras’ trial and confession. Only the ones who had speaking parts on the show thus far. There should have been an opposition to Cersei’s coronation – hell, even if it was just two lines of Random Unnamed Nobles hurrying to the Throne room saying “I don’t like this, but what can we do against the Mad Queen who blew up our most sacred institution?” GIVE US SOME LOGICAL CONSEQUENCES FOR THESE MAJOR ACTION SET PIECES DAMMIT.
The worst offender this season is a doozy. Gilly, who has mastered reading (good on you girl!) while Sam’s been cleaning poopy chamber pots, found a reference in a Septon’s diary (not just some average run of the mill septon who was hanging around Rhaegar’s entourage… but the ACTUAL HIGH SEPTON. The Westerosi Pope. And no one thought to read his memoirs before???) to a rather convenient annulment. This is a major problem, and actually doesn’t solve anything – it just introduces more pointless and unnecessary drama. The concerning thing is that the show runners seem to think that the audience loves it and it answers questions about Jon and his role in the future Westeros. This blog is all the reasons why, in my considered legal opinion, that this totally ridiculous, complete and utter bullshit actually creates more problems than it “fixes.”