by: Geoffrey Golia
Across the Margin’s Game of Thrones Guru breaks down “Book of The Stranger,” but not before triumphing in his foresight…
By way of a preamble, all I can say is that I fucking called that shit.
ATM: So, let’s start with the end. It was refreshing to see the “damsel in distress” turn out to be anything but. Dany sure as hell doesn’t need saving, and is now poised to stir things up…and maybe finally head West. But I have to ask, are all Dothraki structures that flammable? That fire spread like the floor was coated in gasoline! And more importantly, can you tell us more about Dany’s powers? She “mothers” dragons and apparently cannot be burned. Is there anything else?
G.G.: As absolutely satisfying as Dany’s total immolation of the Dothraki patriarchy was, it was even more satisfying for me because I – in a rare feat – predicted just such an event last week; the fate of those Khals was rather similar to the fate of the Qartheen Warlocks in the House of the Undying (particularly the television show’s version of the events). In this way, Dany lives up to her House’s words, “Fire and Blood”, as well as the strong indication that her role is to unite various dispossessed people to potentially create a Novus Ordo Secularum. It’s good to see Dany acting decisively and with conviction. For a while now, she has been an unsure ruler, pulled in one direction or another. Hopefully, part of her re-emerging assertiveness will be a bold policy of smashing all systems of male-domination and misogyny.
As for Dothraki architecture, my inclination is yes, they are very, very flammable. Aside from whatever accelerant was in those urns, most of the structures of Vaes Dothrak are made of wood, grass, and straw. And, I mean, they’re the Dothraki, so they’re going to have a lot of furs and skins and body oils and hair treatments, so it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. The whole city is clearly a fire hazard, but much like my ignorance of Dothraki jurisprudence, I’m also unaware of any specific policies they have related to building or occupational safety. It’s almost like a Libertarian paradise when you think about it …
Dany isn’t called “the Unburnt” for no nothing, but I can’t say whether this is something that is a power that is always present or just occurs during times of great need. The one power she has in the show that she definitely doesn’t have in the books is that her hair doesn’t ever seem to burn. In the books, those gorgeous silver locks of hers burn along with her clothes. It’s typical of GOT’s show-runners to have Emilia Clarke’s clothes burn off but not her hair.
ATM: Sansa’s fiery call to arms was ever so apparent, inspiring Jon to quit his pouting and do what must be done: take back Winterfell from that asshole Ramsay. We can’t help feeling hopeful, which always seems to be mistake when dealing with GoT/ASOIAF. But could we possibly be steering towards a happy ending? Is there an underlying ray of hope anywhere in the books? Or is it all set up for more pain and disappointment?
G.G.: Let’s stay on the topic of Sansa for a second because it could have easily been overshadowed by Dany’s pyromaniacal devastation of the Khals. For those of us who really enjoy Sansa’s story arc, and see great things in her (ahem, Queen in the North), her growth (in both the books and the show), her ability to critically reflect on her actions, her open-mindedness regarding Jon’s role in the family, and her conviction that she is responsible for the fate of her House and her remaining siblings, these scenes were a clear vindication and something, frankly, that we all just needed.
With these books and this show, there are no happy endings. There are moments of relief, repose, and happiness, but don’t get it twisted: George R. R. Martin is channeling Darwin in creating a world that is “red in tooth and claw,” and without the benefits of religious reformation, modern technology, representative democracy, and heavily regulated capitalism, the World of Ice and Fire will be, as Thomas Hobbes once stated, “poor, nasty, brutish, and short”, even for the ruling class…if there is a ruling class by the end of the series.
For the readers and viewers, there are, as I mentioned above, moments of satisfaction. I fully expect Northern justice to catch up to Ramsay. But I want to say something about violence and retribution here for a second: Real life is so nuanced, and if we really examine human behavior in the social environment, with some exceptions, it is impossible to feel good about the murder or dismemberment of “a villain.” In literature and media, however, characters like Ramsay, or the Khals, or Lord Frey represent evil or, sometimes, amorality which, I believe, represents that which is ugly in ourselves. We can sacrifice these characters, and sometimes satisfyingly so, because they, hopefully, force us to dispossess or sublimate those parts of ourselves. This is something that I think is important to keep in mind as I so brazenly make light of the impending murder of Ramsay Bolton. I mean, afterall, he killed Tonks!
ATM: Does Yara have a shot at being elected leader of the Ironborn? Theon’s endorsement is akin to a Sarah Palin endorsement, we figure. How does the Kingsmoot decide who becomes their next leader?
G.G.: Since we’re discussing women this week, there’s no way to explore that topic without also mentioning the rampant misogyny in the World of Ice and Fire (with a few obscure, book-centric exceptions…ahem, the Summer Islanders). While the presence of male-dominated oppression is characteristic of the fictionalized medieval/pre-modern societies that George R. R. Martin has created, they are more a reflection of the implicit and explicit sexism that women face today. And while the show-runners clearly and deliberately touched on the issue of motherhood on Mother’s Day a few weeks back, I can’t help but think about Yara (and Dany and Sansa) in the context of the current Presidential election.
So, with Balon Greyjoy’s death at the hands of his brother, Euron “the Crow’s Eye,”,Aeron “the Damphair” (also a Greyjoy sibling) has called a Kingsmoot…or, as Yara (Asha, in the books) would call it, a Queensmoot. Here is where book readers still have an advantage over Unsullied, as the Kingsmoot has already happened in Book Four, A Feast for Crows. Now, I don’t want to spoil this one for the Unsullied because it will most likely be presented on the show next Sunday, however, with Theon present, we may see a departure from the book’s narrative. With all that said, let me give you a little history lesson.
The Kingsmoot is an ancient Ironborn tradition dating back thousands of years, which reflected a nascent form of democratic process by which the Ironborn would elect a king. The establishment and ascent of House Greyiron resulted in an end to the practice (Urron Greyiron attacked the last Kingsmoot and slaughtered all his rivals), and a form of hereditary monarchy was established that lasted until the Andal invasion. House Greyiron was eventually supplanted by House Hoare, who met their end at Harrenhal with the coming of the Targaryens. With the Ironborn subject to the overlordship of the Targaryens, House Greyjoy, which had produced a number of kings elected by Kingsmoot in the old days, rose to become Lords of the Iron Isles. That is until Balon Greyjoy rose in rebellion twice, once after Robert’s Rebellion and a second time during the War of the Five Kings. With King’s Landing unable to hold the Iron Isles, the Ironborn are once again searching for a king.
The Kingsmoot is basically a kind of caucus where any ship captain, along with his supporters, seek to persuade those gathered to vote for him (or, in Yara’s case, her). The event takes place on Old Wyk, on Nagga’s Hill, overlooking Nagga’s Cradle, and underneath Nagga’s ribs – the giant, fossilized remains of an ancient sea creature. This is interesting because the Ironborn are not known as a loquacious people, and tend to communicate with violence. Nevertheless, who the Ironborn choose can say a lot about the current zeitgeist on the isles and speaks to the aspirations and values of those gathered. Yes, that usually involves physical and sexual violence on the inhabitants of Western Westeros; but while Yara holds a lot of antisocial beliefs, I think it’s clear that her platform is more progressive than Euron’s, who, while being a well-traveled and experience sea captain, probably has rather small hands.
ATM: We realize this is a bit off topic, but where the eff is Bronn?
G.G.: I would say Bronn is busy making sweet, sweet love to Lollys Stokeworth while killing those who conspire against him…but I just remember that in the television show, their betrothal has been called off. Bron ends up in Dorne with Jamie Lannister, where the sexual tension between Bronn and the Sand Snakes is palpable (what happens in Dorne, stays in Dorne, unless you’re poisoned).
As for Bronn’s current location in the show, I really don’t know. I’d be curious to hear what the readers think!