In this week’s Send the Ravens column where we answer your ‘Game of Thrones’ questions we address ‘A Dance of Dragons’, why Stannis did what he did and much more….
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Questions? Ask on Twitter @DamonMartin
This week’s episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ titled ‘The Dance of Dragons’ featured a lot of significant story to the future of many key characters while also mentioning the civil war that precipitated the name of this week’s ninth episode of season five.
‘The Dance of Dragons’ was mentioned a couple of times this episode by Shireen Baratheon as she read ‘The Dance of Dragons: A True Telling’ written by Grand Maester Munkun (although some of his accounts are disputed).
Shireen mentioned the broad strokes of the story about the greatest civil war in Westeros history pitting Targaryen against Targaryen with the Iron Throne as the grand prize.
Without too many historical details, the short version goes like this — King Viserys I was married to his cousin Queen Aemma of House Arryn and they had a daughter named Rhaenyra. Viserys loved his daughter very much and after failed attempts to birth a male heir, the king decided that Rhaenyra would be the person to succeed him on the throne after his death.
He groomed her from a young age for the job of becoming queen, but after his first wife died, King Viserys took up with another wife — Lady Alicent Hightower (who was the daughter of his Hand of the King, Otto Hightower) and she gave him a son named Aegon before having a daughter (who Aegon eventually married) and another son. While Viserys still intended to put his daughter on the throne upon his death, Alicent had other plans and she had many on the Great Council on her side as well because they always saw a male birthright outweighing that of a female.
So when King Viserys finally passed away, it didn’t take long for Lady Alicent, her father and her son Aegon to declare that he should be king. Of course, Rhaenyra, who had been groomed for years to take over when her father died, believed otherwise.
Before long the two siblings were declaring civil war and what resulted was the bloodiest battle in Westeros history as the two Targaryens fought for nearly three years over which one would eventually rule the realm.
During this war, both Aegon and his sister Rhaenyra had plenty of dragons by their sides, but this bloody skirmish resulted in the death of most of those creatures as they fought each other numerous times over those years. There was also an infamous moment at the Dragonpit in King’s Landing when four of Rhaenyra’s dragons were slain after the people formed a mob believing that the scaly creatures were demons. While hundreds of people were killed in the battle, so were the dragons, which once again diminished the total number of the winged-creatures still alive when this war was over.
The Dance of Dragons finally came to a close after Rhaenyra’s husband (and uncle) Daemon died and she was forced out of King’s Landing before retreating back to her natural home at Dragonstone. When she arrived, Rhaenyra found that her half-brother Aegon had been ushered here during the war for safe keeping after suffering injuries in a battle. No one thought to look for him there considering this was Rhaenyra’s stronghold before she left to rule at King’s Landing.
When she arrived, Aegon had his sister Rhaenyra fed to his dragon, her son taken hostage and he would go onto sit on the Iron Throne.
His rule would only last for a few months, however, as a loyalist to his sister would give him a cup of wine laced with poison and he dropped dead as well. When it was all said and done, Rhaenyra’s son Aegon III ended up as the male heir with the most right to take the throne and he became king.
‘The Dance of Dragons’ was a war for the ages because it sent House Targaryen into upheaval but it also accounted for the loss of most of the dragons left in the world, which is why they eventually dwindled and faded into extinction. Well at least until now that is.
With that said, let’s get to your questions this week.
@DamonMartin please explain why that guy burned his own daughter. I mean what the hell bro
— Chris/Nashville_MMA (@Nashville_MMA) June 8, 2015
Well there’s a lot that goes into Stannis and his belief structure, but it all flows back to his relationship with the red priestess, Melisandre, who is a follower of R’hllor aka The Lord of Light. Worshippers of The Lord of Light are traditionally from Essos (the other continent across the Narrow Sea where Braavos and many of the other free cities are), but the religion has spread to some parts of Westeros including with Melisandre as well as Thoros of Myr, who we met a couple of seasons back as part of the Brotherhood without Banners.
Remember, the gang that held Arya and captured The Hound and he demanded a trial by combat and fought the guy with the flaming sword? Those folks worshipped the Lord of Light and when The Hound cut Ser Beric down, it was Thoros of Myr who brought him back. It’s one of the ‘powers’ of the true priests and priestesses of R’hllor that they are actually able to bring someone back to life once they are dead.
Anyways, R’hllor is a singular god of light and fire while his enemy is The Great Other, who brings ice and darkness. Followers of R’hllor often times believe they see visions inside the flames of a fire and fire is very powerful. Occasionally, R’hllor followers believe the Lord of Light requires sacrifice to appease him and the greater the sacrifice, the greater the reward.
So Melisandre believes part of her ‘gift’ is receiving these visions in the flames and she has a keen sense to detect king’s blood in men and women. Remember, the greater the sacrifice, the greater the reward. When she siphoned off some of Gendry’s blood a couple of seasons ago via leeches and burned them, Melisandre believes she helped cause the deaths to the usurper kings Joffrey Baratheon, Robb Stark and Balon Greyjoy. The reality is there’s no direct correlation to Joffrey or Robb’s death to her power and as far as we know on the show, Balon Greyjoy is still alive.
But again, she saw visions in her flames and the only way she could help Stannis win the war was to make an even greater sacrifice using king’s blood and since there were no other bastard children around, the only person available was his own daughter Shireen. Melisandre believes by sacrificing Shireen to R’hllor that the Lord of Light will reward Stannis and help him win the war and take the throne.
One last thing — why does Melisandre believe in Stannis so much?
Because she believes he’s the second coming of Azor Ahai — a great warrior from the earliest days of the known universe who helped stop the White Walkers from taking over the world by spreading darkness and death. Part of the prophecy of R’hllor is that Azor Ahai will rise again to defeat another evil threat that will try to bring darkness over the world once again. She believes Stannis is the second coming of Azor Ahai, thus her devotion to his cause.
— Michael (@TheLandshark18) June 9, 2015
The Sons of the Harpy are believed to be soldiers and members of the most powerful families from Meereen and other former slave cities such as Yunkai and Astapor, who Daenerys freed when she crashed the party in Slaver’s Bay and outlawed the practice far and wide.
Most of these ‘royal’ families of Slaver’s Bay have been there for hundreds of years so they are ingrained with tons of people loyal to them as well. Daenerys had the support of the slaves, who far outnumbered the masters and the wealthiest people in those cities, but it’s not like they are warriors either. The masters and rich folks from Meereen still have hundreds upon hundreds of supporters and while they may not be trained assassins, they know how to wage a shadow war where they solidify their positions by attacking in large numbers while having the biggest advantages over their opponents. Just like when they killed Ser Barristan Selmy — he was a far greater warrior than any of them could ever hope to be, but when you’re fighting one on twenty, eventually the numbers get to be too much.
So when the Sons of the Harpy staged the set up at the Great Games in the latest episode, they positioned themselves to have the greatest number of people in one place to ensure Daenerys would not make it out of there alive. It’s also why you saw so many of the gold masks in the bleacher seats directly behind Dany, because they knew that would be the quickest and easiest way to get to her once the mayhem began. They likely paid off everybody else in the stadium to help them to assist closing Dany and her guards inside so they would have a free shot at killing her even if it meant dozens of them had to die.
What they didn’t account for, of course, was a big ass dragon coming down from the sky and raining fire all over their party!
Don’t think of it as much that Daenerys left Tyrion, Jorah, Missandei, Dario and the rest of her Unsullied behind, but more that she saw one of her ‘children’ in trouble and wanted to save him after he saved her. Drogon sensed that his mother was in peril so he swooped down to stop the Sons of the Harpy from hurting her, but as dragons go he’s still only a few years old so he’s a baby by most comparisons.
As dragons get older, their scales grow thicker and they end up being massively huge creatures, hundreds of feet long and wide. Drogon is barely a toddler by comparison so he’s not able to withstand attacks from spears and other weapons over a short period of time. Seeing that Drogon was going to stay right where he was until Dany was safe, she decided to mount him and ride off into the sky.
My other assumption about this escape is the fact that the dragon did burn up a ton of the Sons of the Harpy people still in the arena, so I’m guessing Dario, Jorah and the remaining Unsullied could probably clean them up without losing their own lives along the way.
That’s a good question and earlier in the season when the Unsullied went up against the Sons of the Harpy in enclosed spaces like alleyways and tight corners, they didn’t have much room to use their spears and long weapons, which are meant for the battlefield, not fighting inside of cities.
The Unsullied are mostly used to fight in formation as a group in large numbers. History says 3,000 Unsullied held back a charge from 25,000 Dothraki at the Battle of Qohor, which happened about 400 years before the War of the Five Kings. When the battle was finished only about 600 Unsullied remained, but they had killed over 12,000 Dothraki soldiers before the Khal finally conceded and pulled back his troops.
Inside the fighting pit, the few Unsullied that were with Daenerys killed a whole bunch of the Sons of the Harpy, but again the numbers were too great and they didn’t exactly have a garrison of men with them. If the Unsullied were in force — say 200 or 300 together — the Sons of the Harpy would have no chance whatsoever. But considering Daenerys only had a few of them with her when she entered the fighting pits, the overwhelming odds in favor of the Sons of the Harpy were just too many and they eventually overtook them.
It’s season finale time this week on ‘Game of Thrones’ so make sure to get your questions in after the show airs at 9pm ET on Sunday night for a final edition of ‘Send the Raves’ for ‘Game of Thrones’ season 5.