When first we met MMD, she had a simpering attitude towards Dany whose sincerity I could not judge. Now, after a number of days of ill treatment at the hands of the Dothraki (Dany didn’t think to keep MMD in her own train where she could see how she was treated?) her antipathy is clear, and she’s no longer afraid enough of further punishment to modulate her tone (maybe she doesn’t think things can get much worse). I doubt her original prescription for Drogo was actually poisonous (since he didn’t follow it anyway, it can hardly be blamed for his current condition), but she’s willing to mislead Dany by omission.
Of course, Dany is willing to be misled. I’ve always found her naivete here a little unbelievable, though not completely so if taken in context. She’s so focused on the present situation that she’s not thinking about the future: she “tells herself” that she would die, presumably killing her unborn child as well and thus, so far as she knows, ending the Targaryen line forever, to save Drogo. And she’s still unable to see that the people she “saves” may not consider themselves helped, or be grateful. (I think she’s still working on that lesson as the end of ADwD, although she’s much closer to getting it by then.)
What would have happened if Dany and Jorah had gone to Asshai? If they had taken the dragon eggs, would someone there know how to hatch them?
Through the walls of the tent Dany glimpses “the shadow of a great wolf, and another like a man wreathed in flames.” Something Stark-related, and something R’hllor-related? But presumably Jorah and the others do not see anything particularly paranormal, or they would not think to take her into the tent. Is Dany the only one who can see the apparitions? If so, is it because MMD “aimed” them at Dany, or because of some inherent quality of Dany? Or are the apparitions all in Dany’s own mind?
Note that it’s been nearly a year since Tyrion had sex. The TV show’s introduction of his character seemed off to me for exactly this reason: the books show him not as a guy who constantly sleeps with lots of random prostitutes (at once!), but as a fairly strict serial monogamist. I think the only time we’ll see him have sex with a woman who isn’t his “girlfriend” is in ADwD, and he doesn’t exactly enjoy that.
For me, the battle scenes in fantasy novels are generally the boring stuff I have to get through, but this chapter’s is about as good as they meant. Tyrion’s rallying speech, and later taking out of the knight … classic. And I can hear the sounds of the Lannister trumpets. (And it’s interesting that, if I’m remembering the later books correctly, pretty much all the real battle scenes are from the POV of Tyrion, e.g., someone on the “bad” side.)
- “Ser Kevan seldom ‘had a thought’ that Lord Tywin had not had first.” I don’t think that’s exactly fair.
- Another awesome line: “Black Ears did not eat with Stone Crows, Stone Crows did not eat with Moon Brothers, and no one ate with Burned Men.”
- Shae is introduced: “slim, dark-haired, no more than eighteen,” little over five feet tall. I do like the “men call me … often” line.
- But more importantly, Podrick Payne is introduced!
- Shagga and Conn are sweet.
- Tywin’s withholding of battle plans from Tyrion parallels Robb’s later treatment of Edmure.
I guess this is the Chapter of the Rapes, although they are not depicted approvingly, and are hard to call “gratuitous” as the occasion for Dany’s development as a humanitarian and leader. Whether using rape as a tool of character development is that good of an idea is another discussion. But I appreciate that the rapes are not glamorized or fetishized, as seems to happen in much ostensibly feminist fiction I read lately: Martin never lets his readers have their disapproval cake while eating lasciviously-lingered-over play-by-play rape details.
And just when we thought there wasn’t enough male-on-male rape in the books: “the brothels are paying double for healthy young girls, and triple for boys under ten.”
Elsewhere in this chapter:
- What is known? “The Lamb Men lay with sheep.”
- How many times can this chapter mention Mirri Maz Duur’s plumpness, flat-nosed-ness, and middle-aged-ness? At least four. It appears to be impossible to mention her at all without hitting on the above characteristics. This tic seems too obvious not to be deliberate, but what could its purpose be?
- Does Mirri intend, from the start, to harm Drogo, Dany and/or The Fetus That Mounts The World? I find it impossible to tell (and I like that ambiguity).
- “Dany felt she could trust [Mirri Maz Duur]; she had saved her from … her rapers, after all.” A bit heavy-handed there, but once again an effective reminder that “saving” the downtrodden doesn’t always have the effect the privileged intend.
Aemon, as part of his highly ambivalent advice to Jon (at times it almost seems like he wants Jon to desert, or wishes he had deserted himself):
Love is the bane of honor, the death of duty.
Is this true? There have been cases where romantic love did trump honor: Jaime, Rhaegar, and ADwD-stage Daenerys, for example. Familial love has arguably helped lead people like Catelyn and Cersei astray. But characters like Arya and Davos seem to have been strengthened by familial love. And it’s not clear how far we should stretch the concept of love here.
Aemon also asks whether Jon’s purported father would choose love over honor. We know he eventually does (falsely confessing to treason in the belief that doing so will save Sansa and Arya). But it’s hard to see that as a “dishonorable” decision under any reasonable system of morality: under the circumstances his refusal to confess could do nothing to correct the wrong of Joffrey’s inheritance, so why not confess in order to save innocent lives?
Elsewhere in this chapter:
- “Jon did not understand … what [his dream of burning a Wight Eddard] might mean.” You and me both, brother.
- Jon’s new master-at-arms is a relative of Brienne’s!
- They sell garnets is Mole’s Town? Makes it sound like a rather bigger, fancier place than I’d have thought.
Here comes some backstory about the tournament at Harrenhall:
- Ned was eighteen.
- Brandon was present.
- Robert fought well (if “berserk”ly) in the melee.
- Jaime was inducted into the Kingsguard.
- Rhaegar won the joust, and gave his favor to Lyanna instead of his wife.
Elsewhere in this chapter:
- Two more mentions of the titular phrase: Ned once again repeating Cersei’s words in his head; and Varys, in a populist usage reminiscent of Jorah’s.
- Ned still dwells on how he “failed” Robert. Come on, Ned, has it never yet occurred to you that it’s the other way around?
- The “scarecrow” of a gaoler (the one that isn’t Varys) reminds me of a passage I just heard in the audiobook of Roger Zelazny’s The Hand of Oberon: Zelazny puts himself in the book as a cadaverous, novel-writing dungeon guard. I doubt GRRM could be mistaken for a scarecrow, though.
- “Catelyn held [Cersei’s] brother; [Cersei] dare not kill [Ned] or the Imp’s life would be forfeit as well.” Really, would Cersei care about Tyrion’s life? (Not according to Varys a few paragraphs later.)
- “There is no creature on earth half so terrifying as a truly just man.” I dunno, Stannis (the subject of this little speech) hasn’t been all that terrifying. Daenerys has perpetrated some (mostly unintentional) terror in the name of justice. But the most terrifying characters so far (Gregor, Ramsay et al.) have nothing to do with justice.
- “…or he could bring you Sansa’s head.” Gorgeous, chilling writing.