A Dance with Dragons
A Dance of Dragons sees Dany’s first taste of ruling in Meereen as she battles to carve her identity as Queen. It is clear that Dany has no interest in Meereen and its people once she has freed them. It is spite, stubbornness and a desire to prove herself that keep Dany here, playing as Queen in a city whose customs she does not know and does not appreciate: ‘I must don my floppy ears and become their Queen again’, ‘A crown should not sit easy on the head’. Dany is losing herself, which is reflected in her inability to control her dragons (who she subsequently locks up). She finds ruling to be boring and has little patience for her subjects:
‘You would think they might be happier, Dany thought. They have what they came for. Is there no way to please these people?’
This comes in spite of that fact that Dany has once again failed to implement policies to support the city. Dany has instead become somewhat of a white saviour symbol, and this is jarring for many readers who up until this point surely rooted for Dany to rule the Iron Throne. This is why I love GRRM, every single character is flawed and dimensional and real- our alliances and wishes as readers change frequently and at no point can I pin point exactly what will happen. It is when Daenerys challenges the cities customs, particularly banning fighting pits that she encounters deep hatred. She is kind and- I’m sure anyone now would say- right, but she is politically inexperienced. This backlash heightens Dany’s loneliness and uncertainty, as she begins to realise that her faith- her dragons- can bring her power, but not good leadership. She experiences imposter syndrome and a self-loathing which cannot be tamed by faith in her dragons.
‘Mother of dragons. 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. Without dragons, how could she hope to hold Meereen, much less win back Westeros? I am the blood of the dragon, she thought. If they are monsters, so am I’.
I love the parallels to Jon at this point, in his own feelings of grief, doubt and isolation. I’d love to go more into them as a pair but it’s just so hard to get a good grasp on everything in these books because GRRM has written so, so much to be analysed! We really do start to see parallels to Jon and Daenerys story and experiences in the later books, and I think GRRM is beginning to show how Jon’s upbringing and influences have grounded him and primed him to potentially rule in contrast to Dany- he has become a remarkable leader. (Also, parallels to the connection to their animals and own wellbeing).
Dany becomes increasingly worn by this backlash, and dilutes her own morals as she begins to listen to her subjects: ‘It was blood the Meereenese yearned to see’. ‘If this is truly what my people wish, do I have the right to deny them? It was their city before it was mine, and it is their own lives they wish to squander’. Her doubt is worsened by her interactions with Xaro, who acts to develop Dany’s character. She is beginning to accept that she must change her ideals and leadership, but still lacks the knowledge and cannot find the place for the gentle ideals she upholds in the barbaric world she is part of. Xaro has disillusioned Dany and shattered the identity that she has been striving to achieve:
‘He was too eloquent for her. Dany had no answer for him, only the raw feeling in her belly. ‘Slavery is not the same as rain,’ she insisted. ‘I have been rained on and I have been sold. It is not the same. No man wants to be owned.’
‘A poor city that was once rich. A hungry city that once was fat. A bloody city that once was peaceful.’ ‘His accusations stung. There was too much truth in them.’
Daenerys is defensive and uncertain. At this point, there is significant foreshadowing and dramatic irony should Dany take the path of the show and die at the end:
‘You will only bring it destruction, as you did Astapor’. ‘Do not close your eyes to your peril, Daenerys… ‘Have you forgotten? I have dragons.’ ‘That would make me very sad, my sweet delight… for young and strong as you now seem, you shall not live long. Not here’. ‘You have grown suspicious, Danerys. Always. ‘I have grown wise, Xaro’. ‘I am no butcher Queen’.
Marriage and proposal
There is definite growth in Dany’s character as she stops running for the first time and faces her doubts. Her decision to marry Hizdahr Zo Loraq marks Daenerys choice to rule seriously and show her respect for the customs and interests of Meereen’s people. It is in this dutiful marriage that Dany becomes truly disenchanted, similarly to Sansa and Cersei: ‘it may be that this is the best end we can hope for’. This is possibly the first time Dany has acted from duty rather than impulsion (of her own free will, not the will of Viserys) and here Dany’s actions are similar to choices Jon would make. I also enjoyed the contrast in Dany’s selfless decisions to Cersei’s current refusal to remarry (although I 100% would do a Cersei). Dany is also learning- as have Sansa and Cersei- to use her beauty and perception as youthful/naïve to give her an advantage where she can. This is essential due to the sexism in this world .There are some nice Cersei parallels/contrasts throughout this book, particularly how Dany deals with the plague that infects her people in contrast to Cersei shutting out and hating the subjects of Kings Landing. Still, even this decision reflects Dany’s overall flaws; she decides to feed the dying despite knowing that she does not have enough resources for the healthy. This shows the contrast between Dany’s kind nature and actions, and her often poor judgement. Her fatal flaw is her desire to fix her wrongs only after it’s too late and has the potential to cause more harm.
Despite her sense of duty, Dany’s decision to marry is an unpopular one, particularly to Selmy, who tries to appeal to Dany by telling her that she is unwanted in Meereen but anxiously awaited in Westeros. The fact that Dany will not be convinced even after being compared to Rhaegar marks how lost she is at this point in time: ‘Prince Rhaegar’s sister has come home at last’. ‘If they love me so much, they will wait for me.’
It is at this point that Quentyn offers a marriage and alliance to Dorne. This is an exceptional opportunity, which Selmy tries to emphasise, but which highlights how stubborn and scared Dany is. She chooses to marry Hixdahr despite being told that the Dornish alliance is the key to ruling Westeros. Daenerys is at this point plagued by prophecy and mistrust:
‘Sometimes there is truth in dreams… The sun’s son. A shiver went through her. ‘Shadows and whispers.’ What else had Quaithe said? The pale mare and the sun’s son. There was a lion in it too, and a dragon. Or am I the dragon?… Dreams and prophecies. Why must they always be in riddles? I hate this. Oh leave me, Ser. Tomorrow is my wedding day.’
Selmy keeps trying, but she’s exhausted, defeated and in denial as to the significance of this opportunity. ‘One day I shall return to Westeros to claim my father’s throne, and look to Dorne for help… I may die before I see my seven Kingdoms. Westeros may be swallowed by waves. Come. It’s time I wed.’ Dany marries, yet admits to herself that she feels restless and overwhelmed. She is left full of regrets, having sacrificed so much to be stubborn.
I’ll also briefly (hopefully) mention here that Dany is significantly influenced by Daario at this point, whom she believes she is in love with. Daario manipulates and promotes Dany’s more impatient and ruthless qualities, and uses this influence to oppose Selmy’s council. Dany has never allowed herself to grieve Drogo, and compares Daario’s relationship to her marriage: ‘Daario had helped her to remember. ‘I was dead and he brought me back to life. I was asleep and he woke me.’ Selmy is frustrated by the careless way Daenerys acts around Daario (we forget she is so young) and dismays the influence Daario holds. This is evident when Dany suggests Selmy help her to find someone to ‘remove’ Brown Ben, a direction with which Selmy is very uncomfortable and Dany is uncharacteristically callous . ‘You are too honest and too honourable’. This could be interesting foreshadowing for the relationship she will have with Jon and the contrasting views of opinion and action, leading to her downfall. Daenerys then asks that Quentyn accompany her to see the dragons: . ‘A flicker of doubt passed across the long, solemn face of Barristan Selmy. ‘As you command.’ Dany’s lack of trust is deepening and those around her are losing their grip on her actions. Dany listens to what Hizdahr says and compromises her own morals more as time goes on and she gets more tired. However, there is a scene in which she does at least forbid dwarves fighting without consent. I believe this is here to foreshadow how she might treat Tyrion.
Drogon and prophecy
‘When the sun rises in the west and sets in the east,’ she said sadly. ‘When the seas go dry and mountains blow in the wind like leaves. When my womb quickens again, and I bear a living child. Then you will return, my sun-and-stars, and not before’.
When Dany is finally reunited with and carried away by Drogon, she finally begins to grieve, relearn who she is and accept her nature. Drogon marks Daenery’s sense of self and helps her to remember: ‘He is fire made flesh, she thought, and so am I’.
She feels physically ill and is burned following this journey, but Dany feels free and content: ‘Dany knew the lure of home’. She is hesitant at first, but gives in to Drogon and trusts him ‘On Drogon’s back she felt whole’. Drogon attempts to revisit Dragonstone, but seems to accept that Dany is not yet ready for this. He brings her back to Dothraki lands, and reminds her of the hope that she felt there:
‘Not since those half remembered days in Braavos when she lived in the house with the red door had she been as happy’.
I love this chapter so much and the way Drogon helps to reunite Dany with her identity. We feel as exhausted with and as Dany by this point and crave this point for her. She finally takes the time to delve into her psyche and remember what has brought her to this moment, abandoning her mantra ‘if I look back I am lost’. During this time, Dany dreams of Viserys, seeing and accepting the dualities of truth; she loves him, she recognises his terrible nature. Daenerys grieves the chaining of her dragon, and grieves the loss of Jorah. It is through a vision of Jorah that Dany decides it is time to look forward to Westeros. She again accepts that she is both angry at Jorah and ready to accept him back in her council:
‘Your War is in Westeros, I told you’. ‘Lost because you lingered in a place you were never meant to be, murmured Ser Jorah, softly as the wind. ‘alone because you sent me from your side’. ‘You are a queen, her bear said. In westeros’.
‘I was tired, Jorah. I was weary of War. I wanted to rest, to laugh, to plant trees and seem them grow. I am only a young girl’. ‘No. you are the blood of the dragon.’
This (Hamlet, Lion King, Jesus/God type exchange) solidifies Dany’s change, and let’s her move forward. She hears the bells of Kahl Drogo, smiles and recalls the prophecy. It is at this point that we leave Dany- hopefully for now and not forever (pls let Winds of Winter appear) and the Khalasar who have found her.
This was an absolute ramble for no reason other than I love these books with all my heart and wanted to revisit them. I have so much more to say and there’s so much I’ve missed. I’d love to read any comments you have and any of your own theories or perspectives. Thank you so much for reading this!
I really don’t have the energy at this point to analyse fully haha, but my true love is mythology and I wanted to mention just a wee bit of the Greek myth references I’ve noticed- I’ve done a whole blog post on this before 😊. Again, I’ll have missed loads and would love to read your comments. I think Daenerys is intentional named (by GRRM) after Arys, due to the fact that character names often parallel their influences and personality- others are Arya/Artemis, Cersei/Circe etc. Dany was born of destruction and brings War wherever she goes. She- and Targaryen’s in general- is a symbol of the War and conquering.
I also think Dany parallels Aeneas and the Aeneid, but I would have to do a lot more research on this subject (I read this book a good few years ago now and don’t know how much of it I took in!). From what I have noticed: Dany’s protection from fire and disease parallel Aeneas protection given by the Gods throughout his journey. It is also similar to Jesus’s miracles, and the death of the pale mare in the Dany plague chapter definitely has some religious and mythological symbolism that I can’t fully remember. ‘The comet mocks my hopes, she thought, lifting her eyes to where it scored the sky. Have I crossed half the world and seen the birth of dragons only to die with them in this hard hot desert?’- religious symbols, doubt they are for her, doubts herself, feels fear. Similar to religious prophets.
Dany’s reasoning and purpose are also similar to my memory of Aeneas’; she strives to find love and peace yet battles between these personal wants and a desire to rule and immortalise her name- led by prophecy, destiny and family legacy. She wants to match Rhaegar (and Aegon the conqueror) as Aeneas tries to match the feats of the Trojan heroes and his Goddess mother Aphrodite.
The epiphany Hamlet vibes last chapter also reminded me of religious symbolism that I can’t place just now because my mind is frazzeled, and the epiphany’s that he has throughout his journey. Also, significance of the underworld!! (Really wish I had the energy to research all this properly!). Also, if I can one day be bothered, I’m definitely going to look at what the end of the Aeneid can tell us about Dany’s possible future, because I’m sure we still have a significant amount of time before Winds of Winter, never mind A Dream of Spring. I’m just going to end here with one more quote, which I have taken to mean we will see her and Jon meet sometime in the future:
‘Off in the distance, a wolf howled. The sound made her feel sad and lonely’.