Sunday, December 8, 2013

Reflections on 'A Dance with Dragons': Part 2

CAUTION: This blog post contains SPOILERS! Do not read unless you have read all five Game of Thrones books!!

In continuation of yesterday’s post, it’s Dany’s turn. The writings at The Meereenese Blot, again, have radically changed the way I view her. After the initial read of Book 5, I was left with the impression that she was an ineffective ruler, perhaps not the ruler to unite Westeros after all. However, the theory mentioned above convinced me that the peace she labored and sacrificed for was indeed real, and that she succeeded in a difficult situation where most would have failed.

However, there is one scene that prevents me from wholly embracing the theory: the scene of Hizdahr’s questioning by Barristan. Although we know that Barristan is better with a sword than with schemes, I was very convinced by his interrogation. When Barristan asks Hizdahr if he is the Harpy, his wine cup slips through his fingers, a gesture that appears to betray nervousness. Further, when queried about the locusts, Hizdahr immediately pins it on Quentyn, a supposition which seems pretty unlikely at this point, instead of declaring his innocence up front, which I would have expected if he was indeed innocent. He also does not have an answer for Barristan when Barristan asks why the Sons of the Harpy ceased the killings (Martin 968). I would expect an innocent man to deny the claim, or even to give names of some of the Harpy members to try and convince Barristan.

After my re-read, that scene convinced me pretty heavily that Hizdahr had poisoned the locusts, and that it was quite possible that he was the Harpy. So while I very much appreciated the insight at The Meereenese Blot, this scene is a stumbling block to my entire acceptance, and I would be very interested to see what you have to say in response to this particular scene.

Also, though I was fairly convinced by the idea that Dany has embraced her darker impulses for “fire and blood”, and that Martin is setting her up to reveal a darker side of her character, I just have a hard time accepting it. I’ve fallen in love with Dany as a tenderhearted girl out to rid the world of slavery, yet at the same time I know that is not the whole of her character. Her parting fever visions at the end of Book 5 revealed the hidden depths of her character, especially the one of Viserys. Viserys impacted so much of Dany’s worldview, and often she remembers ideas he passed down to her without questioning them whatsoever (such as viewing Ned Stark as one of the Usurper’s dogs…when in reality Ned refused to be Hand if it meant he had to have a part in Dany’s death). Viserys imparted the tenet of fire and blood, as well as the insatiable need to reconquer the Iron Throne. Dany has walked a difficult road, and I would be disheartened to see her turn down a path of evil, although I wouldn't put it past Martin.

Bran is another one of my favorite characters, but I’m leery of his current plotline. Many believe that the tree carcass who is teaching him is Bloodraven, a theory which I hold to be true, and I certainly don’t trust Bloodraven. His advice to Bran is “Darkness will make you strong” (Martin 493). On the reread, I noticed several warning signs that I missed the first time around, mainly found in the description of Bloodraven. He is described in sinister language, as a “ghastly statue” and “grisly talking corpse” (499) and when he tells Bran it is time, “icy fingers” (500) crawl up Bran’s spine. Bran privately wonders if this is all he will ever live for, and thinks that he doesn’t want to marry a tree (501) when he is given the weirwood paste to eat. The last image of Bran is him tasting the blood of a man killed before the heart tree.

What purpose does this power to look out of trees serve? Bloodraven himself states, “The past remains the past. We can learn from it, but we cannot change it” (Martin 503). It seems as though Bran is to become one of the old gods, but he cannot concretely effect change. The only instance I observed of change coming from the weirwoods is when Theon hears, or thinks he hears, his name whispered in Winterfell’s godswood. It helps him remember who he is as he saves Jeyne Poole. However, there seem to be just as many instances where the old gods do not seem to hear or are incapable of assistance. Yes, Bran can see and learn from the past and the presence, but what purpose does this knowledge serve? Perhaps Martin will make that clear in later books, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Can anyone else think of a time when the gods of the North brought about change?

As all of you are, I’m dying for The Winds of Winter! I’d also really love to sit down with Martin over a breakfast burrito when the series is complete and talk about A Song of Ice and Fire for hours.

Image via HD Wallpaper


  1. The Old gods sent the direwolves to the Stark family

    1. I'm inclined to agree with you, but I'm wondering how the old gods would have sent would they compel Jon to find the wolves? I definitely do think that the direwolves were sent divinely; I'm just curious as to the means.

  2. Hi, thanks so much for the very kind words!

    In the interrogation, Barristan conflates the questions of "Are you the Harpy" and "Were you the poisoner?" In my view, Hizdahr *is* close to the Harpy leadership -- he visited their pyramids and got them to accept the peace deal. (In fact, that was the value he brought to the marriage alliance -- he could pacify the Harpy and bring peace to the city.) But, that doesn't mean the Harpy is the poisoner. That would explain Hizdahr's defensiveness and freakout -- he really *is* guilty of one thing Barristan asks about, but not the actual crime Barristan is supposedly investigating.

    I don't see why Hizdahr's blaming Quentyn is a less believable reaction than Hizdahr simply denying his own involvement. Hizdahr said he discussed it with Reznak and they think the Dornish did it. Is it plausible? Well, as Hizdahr said, in his mind, the Dornish are strange foreigners who worship snakes and are known for poisoning people.