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."

7 comments:

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.

ND said...

I have read the post! I like the symmetry of the theory! The link you provided does a good job of linking Dany to Ashara, but there really isn't much to then link Ashara and Aerys.

I've always thought that the daughter Ashara had was Ned's, as there is plenty of evidence to suggest they had a romance, at around the same time that Ashara's child would have been conceived (the Tourney at Harranhal):

A Storm of Swords - Bran II:

The crannogman saw a maid with laughing purple eyes dance with a white sword, a red snake, and the lord of griffins, and lastly with the quiet wolf . . . but only after the wild wolf spoke to her on behalf of a brother too shy to leave his bench.

A Storm of Swords - Arya VIII

He looked at her uncomfortably. "My aunt Allyria says Lady Ashara and your father fell in love at Harrenhal—"

"Aye, he told me. Lady Ashara Dayne. It's an old tale, that one. I heard it once at Winterfell, when I was no older than you are now." He took hold of her bridle firmly and turned her horse around. "I doubt there's any truth to it. But if there is, what of it? When Ned met this Dornish lady, his brother Brandon was still alive, and it was him betrothed to Lady Catelyn, so there's no stain on your father's honor. There's nought like a tourney to make the blood run hot, so maybe some words were whispered in a tent of a night, who can say? Words or kisses, maybe more, but where's the harm in that? Spring had come, or so they thought, and neither one of them was pledged."

Dance with Dragons - Kingbreaker

But Ashara's daughter had been stillborn, and his fair lady had thrown herself from a tower soon after, mad with grief for the child she had lost, and perhaps for the man who had dishonored her at Harrenhal as well. She died never knowing that Ser Barristan had loved her. How could she? He was a knight of the Kingsguard, sworn to celibacy. No good could have come from telling her his feelings. No good came from silence either. If I had unhorsed Rhaegar and crowned Ashara queen of love and beauty, might she have looked to me instead of Stark?


An interesting thing is the men she danced with at Harranhal: Arthur Dayne, Oberyn Martell, Jon Connington and Ned. Is this list significant in some way? Arthur and Ned are obvious, but Oberyn and Connington?

It's highly likely Ashara is Septa Lemore, so that would account for Connington. As for Oberyn, I can only assume he was the one who took Dany to the Watergardens. He then took her to Braavos later when he signed the Viserys/Arianne pact.

ND said...

I may have found another clue:

Game of Thrones - Daenerys I:
Daenerys said nothing. She had always assumed that she would wed Viserys when she came of age. For centuries the Targaryens had married brother to sister, since Aegon the Conqueror had taken his sisters to bride. The line must be kept pure, Viserys had told her a thousand times; theirs was the kingsblood, the golden blood of old Valyria, the blood of the dragon. Dragons did not mate with the beasts of the field, and Targaryens did not mingle their blood with that of lesser men. Yet now Viserys schemed to sell her to a stranger, a barbarian.

How much did Viserys know about Dany's origins? If he wanted the line to stay pure, why marry off the last living female Targaryen to Drogo? Why did he agree to marry Arianne Martel?

Why does Dany think the line is pure all the way back to Aegon the Conqueror, when this is clearly not the case? In her recent ancestry, there is Betha Blackwood, Dyanna Dayne, Mariah Martell and Larra Rogare. Even Rhaegar married outside the family.

Jeremy Johnson said...

Even though I'm not convinced about Ned + Ashara, I like the way you're thinking about these things. Allow be to add a few points of my own for clarification.

The Kingsguard are often referred to as "White Swords" so while Arthur is likely Ashara's dance partner, it could also be any of the others (except for Jaime, I think, who was sent to back to King's Landing). Hightower and Whent were likely involved in conspiratorial matters due to their presense at the Tower of Joy. Lewyn was the uncle of the princess, who Ashara was then in service to. Selmy was in love with Ashara. Just saying that we should be careful not to assume too quickly.

Barristan assumes that a Stark dishonored Ashara, but he assumes a great many things that are wrong. I would even say that he's reliably wrong.

Dany was probably not present when Oberyn made that pact about Viserys. When Quentyn presents the document to her, the lack of mention of her makes her feel strange. However, I would not be surprised if - later on - Oberyn poisoned Willam Dustin, who was caring for Dany at the Water Gardens, making him sick and giving him that smell Dany mentions. Then Oberyn may have delivered her to the cheesemonger. It may have even been the case that he was looking for someone who could pass as a Targ, and was unaware of her parentage!

I don't think we know that Viserys ever agreed to marrying Arianne. He and Dany may have simply been tools of the Martells, the cheesemonger, and other conspirators.

It's hard to say how much Viserys really knows about Dany. He is also someone who is reliably wrong. We are led to assume a great many things about their past together, but never actually told these things. At some point, did the cheesemonger present Dany to Viserys as his long lost sister, rescued from exile? Did a young Viserys lament over his lost mother and dream about some day meeting the child she carried but - unknown to him -
never actually delivered? Did he suspect, deep down, that Dany was not actually his sister but went along with the game for his benefit anyway?

ND said...

However, I would not be surprised if - later on - Oberyn poisoned Willam Dustin, who was caring for Dany at the Water Gardens, making him sick and giving him that smell Dany mentions.

I hope this isn't a typo and you actually think it was Willam Dustin and not Willem Darry who looked after Dany, because it's brilliant! It accounts for one more survivor of the Tower of Joy, since if he survived, he would have been present with Ned at Starfall for the birth of Ashara's child, and his body was never returned home so his whereabouts are unknown.

This only leaves the question of what happened to Willem Darry if Dany is really remembering the death of Willam Dustin?

Jeremy Johnson said...

That was definitely not a typo. You got it - it accounts for his horse being returned without his body. Darry was probably with Viserys while Dustin was with Daenerys. Remember how Daenerys describes his soft hands? Those are the hands of a lord, not a master-at-arms.

When Darry fled with Rhaella and Viserys, mother and babe probably both died shortly after. Later on, someone schemed to use Dany to replace the missing babe - a pretender to the throne, but a very convincing one. Half Targaryen, after all, if the theory is correct. Dustin protected her for a while at the water gardens, but was eventually found out. Oberyn/Doran are likely conspirators, as are Illyrio/Varys.