Friday, August 4, 2017

Daenerys - A Most Unreliable Narrator

   One of the tricks that George R. R. Martin uses to surprise his readers is the concept of the unreliable narrator.  For example, think of your first impressions of Rhaegar Targaryen.  At the very beginning of the very first book, Robert Baratheon describes the man as a rapist and a monster.  Many will take Robert's tale for granted until much later in the series when other characters like Jon Connington and Barristan Selmy reveal that Rhaegar was not, in fact, a monster.  However, by this time it is too late for the reader to pay close attention to the fact that Eddard Stark never acknowledged Robert's description of Rhaegar, and even seemed to hold a quite different opinion of the man.  All but the most attentive readers will have missed this clue to unraveling what really may have happened in the past.  First impressions are lasting impressions, and George has used this trick of unreliable first impressions to great effect.

   This brings me to Daenerys.  What many don't realize until it's too late is that Daenerys is an extremely unreliable narrator.  By the time the reader has enough clues to understand this, he has already recorded her musings into his perceived history of events.  He has forgotten that the only significant account of the flight to and from Dragonstone came from Daenerys, and it is now locked into his head as historical fact.

   How unreliable is Daenerys?  Let's put things into perspective.  Daenerys was not even born until Willem Darry supposedly fled with her and Viserys from Dragonstone.  Therefore, everything she knows up to and including this event must come from others.  Who is her primary source for this information?  Viserys.

   I shouldn't need to explain that Viserys is delusional - unable to even recognize the reality in front of his own two eyes.  On top of that, however, we can demonstrate that his memory of history is often imagined.  Consider a couple of examples:

   Viserys believes that the Usurper's hired knives were chasing them all across Essos, but Robert explains, "I should have had them both killed years ago, when it was easy to get at them, but Jon was as bad as you. More fool I, I listened to him."

   Daenerys reveals that "Viserys had told her stories of the tourneys he had witnessed in the Seven Kingdoms, but Dany had never seen a joust herself."  Yet, Viserys was not allowed to attend tournaments due to Aerys's fear of attempts on his life.  Viserys was not even allowed to attend the tourney held in honor of his own birth!

   At this point, we should be questioning all the things that Daenerys believes about her past.  All. The. Things.

"His blunt words startled her. It seemed as though all the things she had always believed were suddenly called into question."

   In truth, you wouldn't even need tinfoil to question if she is the sister of Viserys!

"Daenerys... Remember who you are."


ND said...

You're not wrong! So much about Dany's back story seems off because of how she remembers it.

Are you familiar with the Lemon Tree theory? Dany remembers growing up in a house in Braavos with a red door and a lemon tree outside the window. GRRM connects lemons to Dorne on three occasions, and on another suggests they don't grow in Braavos.

If Dany is remembering growing up near a lemon tree, is it more likely that she grew up in Dorne?

From Game of Thrones, Daenerys I:

That was when they lived in Braavos, in the big house with the red door. Dany had her own room there, with a lemon tree outside her window.

All that Daenerys wanted back was the big house with the red door, the lemon tree outside her window, the childhood she had never known.

Storm of Swords, Arya II:

"Lemons. And where would we get lemons? Does this look like Dorne to you, you freckled fool? Why don't you hop out back to the lemon trees and pick us a bushel, and some nice olives and pomegranates too."

A Feast For Crows - Queenmaker:

Beyond a line of stony hills the grass grew greener and more lush, and there were lemon orchards watered by a spider's web of old canals.

Winds of Winter - Mercy:

"Seven hells, this place is damp," she heard her guard complain. "I'm chilled to the bones. Where are the bloody orange trees? I always heard there were orange trees in the Free Cities. Lemons and limes. Pomegranates."

Winds of Winter - Alayne I:

Sweetrobin loved lemon cakes too, but only after she told him that they were her favorites. The cake had required every lemon in the Vale, but Petyr had promised that he would send to Dorne for more.

Jeremy Johnson said...

Hey ND! Good to hear from you again!

I'm definitely familiar with the lemon tree theory. It's interesting to see how some people with apparent brain damage will dismiss this abundance of evidence because of a single line from a Sam chapter in AFFC:

Trees did not grow on Braavos, save in the courts and gardens of the mighty.

They seem to think that the entire theory rests on the claim that it is physically impossible for any tree to ever grow in Braavos, ever. Of course, no such claim is actually made. The rest of the readers with IQs higher than rocks simply look at the wealth of information specific to lemon trees and recognize that George is trying to tell us something.

Have you seen my post about how Tyrion, Dany, and Jon are all Dragonseed of Aerys? In it, I linked to a cool theory about the Dany growing up in the Water Gardens. It goes well with your comment.

I am attempting to reconstruct a set of events that explain how all this could have happened with the facts we know from reliable sources. Demonstrating the unreliability of Dany is an important requirement for that narrative.