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thewolfofStarfall

The Dothraki & the "historical accuracy" of GRRM's world

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Disclaimer: The general consensus is that the Dothraki are inspired from the Mongols, but I'm under the general impression that culture is partly inspired by Native American/Aborigine cultures 

There are some viewers who regard the portrayal of the Dothraki as a racist/orientalist trope that is apart of Daenerys's "white savior" story arc. The counter argument to this sentiment is that the Dothraki's savagery is not unique from the atrocities committed in the European based Westeros i.e.,Tywin Lannister and his soldiers have committed the same acts the Dothraki glorify. There are the Ironborn present in this saga, whose culture and religion, akin to the Dothraki revolves around pillaging and sexual violence.  In addition, there are the wildings who are depicted as savages. Some would argue all of this makes everything "equal" between the white and non white characters depicted, and sends the message the Westerosi lords are almost "worse" because they are hypocrites who view themselves as "civilized". Although, I think this reasoning is on the right track, I'm not sure if its entirely correct.

IMO, the Dothraki's savagery is distinct from mainstream Westerosi society. The Dothraki culture is founded on the worship of killing, rape, and destruction. They commit evil acts for the sake of it and "profit". Whereas, many of the horrors occurring in Westeros are due to the power struggle that is "the game of thrones". The ruthless characters like Tywin have a pragmatic motive behind their acts; for Tywin its the Lannister legacy (of coarse there's also pointless sadists like Ramsey). Also, there  are no redeeming characters depicted among the Dothraki. Although, depraved characters like Tywin, Cersei,Walder Frey, Roose Bolton, as well the sadistic like Joffrey, Ramsay, and Gregor are present in Westeros, these characters do not necessarily represent the average Westerosi, which would technically be the small folk. Moreover, there are ethical characters like Ned Stark, Jon Snow, Ser Davos, Brienne of Tarth, and Beric Dondarion and the  The Brotherhood Without Banners. Ned Stark indirectly founded this brotherhood which is against the feudal system that brutalizes the smallfolk. There seems to be no dissent among the Dothraki about their reprehensible acts. 

All of this becomes an issue, when you consider the real world parallels GRRM tries to make. The objectionable content such as sexual violence is defended based on the principle of "historical accuracy". However, if the Dothraki are truly based on the Mongols or any Native American culture, then their depiction is utterly inaccurate. The Mongols were an advanced society. I'm not a expert on them, but apparently Mongol women had a better role than other East Asian cultures. The Native Americans had many societies were women held a highly respected role, and many were matrilinieal. This all plays a factor to how Dany's "relationship" with Khal Drogo was depicted.  It would of been interesting to have Daenerys go into the culture that her depraved brother had sold her into, to then quickly to realize these so called "savages" aren't the way the "civilized" world depicts them. That she actually has a a better role as a female, then she would have back in Westeros. This is a much better alternative to the romanticized rape story depicted in AGOT. I'll actually post a video that goes into this later.    

My ultimate question is why are the Dothraki depicted as depraved savages whose culture revolves around destruction, when their real life counterparts were nothing close to this? What do you guys think?

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3 hours ago, thewolfofStarfall said:

My ultimate question is why are the Dothraki depicted as depraved savages whose culture revolves around destruction, when their life counterparts were nothing close to this? What do you guys think?

This is actually a good question because Martin being a history buff means he ought to have known better.

I would say the reason why the Dothraki are depicted as savages is, ultimatelu, so that we will not cry them, or pity them. For, if they cross the Narrow Sea, they will all die.

Alternatively, George simply found it cooler that way. ;)

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Honestly, you're not the first nor will you be the last probably, to point out the problems with the way GRRM has depicted the Dothraki (as well as Slaver's Bay, the Ironborn, and Essos/Sothoryos in general for that matter), which, IMO, TWOIAF only made worse in the case of the Dothraki.

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They're basically an amalgamation of a lot of cultures and a very superficial representation of steppe warrior nomads.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it just makes real life comparisons pretty pointless. 

To be honest most of the Essosi cultures feel pretty shallow and superficial, drawing from various IRL cultures that GRRM just added for flavour. Essos never really felt very developed to me in this regard an add on to the more in depth feudal culture of Westeros, kind of an afterthought. 

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5 hours ago, thewolfofStarfall said:

My ultimate question is why are the Dothraki depicted as depraved savages whose culture revolves around destruction, when their real life counterparts were nothing close to this? What do you guys think?

GRRM wanted it to be that way for his story.  He may have drawn inspiration from different cultures and could have cherry picked only the bad things but he felt it would help the narrative the most.

Also, things weren't so PC back in the 90s

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6 hours ago, thewolfofStarfall said:

IMO, the Dothraki's savagery is distinct from mainstream Westerosi society. The Dothraki culture is founded on the worship of killing, rape, and destruction. They commit evil acts for the sake of it and "profit". Whereas, many of the horrors occurring in Westeros are due to the power struggle that is "the game of thrones". The ruthless characters like Tywin have a pragmatic motive behind their acts; for Tywin its the Lannister legacy (of coarse there's also pointless sadists like Ramsey). Also, there  are no redeeming characters depicted among the Dothraki. Although, depraved characters like Tywin, Cersei,Walder Frey, Roose Bolton, as well the sadistic like Joffrey, Ramsay, and Gregor are present in Westeros, these characters do not necessarily represent the average Westerosi, which would technically be the small folk. Moreover, there are ethical characters like Ned Stark, Jon Snow, Ser Davos, Brienne of Tarth, and Beric Dondarion and the  The Brotherhood Without Banners. Ned Stark indirectly founded this brotherhood which is against the feudal system that brutalizes the smallfolk. There seems to be no dissent among the Dothraki about their reprehensible acts. 

The Westerosi seem to acknowledge that a lot of these things happen in war - committed by soldiers recruited from the smallfolk no less. Many condemn the practice, but don't seem to bother trying to stem it at all. The big difference to me is that the Dothraki are willing to own up to it and just live life constantly at war.

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7 hours ago, thewolfofStarfall said:

My ultimate question is why are the Dothraki depicted as depraved savages whose culture revolves around destruction, when their real life counterparts were nothing close to this? What do you guys think?

Because you don't know anything about the Mongols or other Steppe cultures; Dothraki are nothing like Aborigines.  You should read more about them then come to a conclusion, not come to a conclusion then wonder why nothing makes sense. Stating Mongols were very advanced because of an obscure reference to their women doesn't refute that nearly a quarter of Asia is descended from Genghis Khan (wonder where Khal comes from) thanks to rape. You should read up on the population of Persia pre Mongols and post Mongols.  You need to read about how the Mongols lived in Yurts and relied on the conquered for doctors and engineers.  The Mongols didn't build cities, the sacked them.

2 hours ago, Winter prince said:

GRRM wanted it to be that way for his story.  He may have drawn inspiration from different cultures and could have cherry picked only the bad things but he felt it would help the narrative the most.

Also, things weren't so PC back in the 90s

Exactly, you guys need to realize PC culture has gotten to the point of it literally not being PC by telling the truth about history.  It's not PC to say anything negative about any culture that isn't Western European; it's gotten so bad people think cultures like the Mongolians were peace loving nomads who contributed to a better world.  All cultures kill, but not all build libraries and fill them with new ideas.

Here's a not very PC link:  Mongols weren't the peace lovers you thought they were

More lies about Mongols in Europe  This once contains spoilers to what will happen to the Dothraki when/if they reach Westeros.

 

GRRM has a very metropolitan Essos developing many different languages from Valyrian yet has all of Westeros speak the same comprehensible language despite it being very agrarian based. Different languages and accent develop because of isolation and GRRM has the opposite happening for both.

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11 hours ago, thewolfofStarfall said:

My ultimate question is why are the Dothraki depicted as depraved savages whose culture revolves around destruction, when their real life counterparts were nothing close to this? What do you guys think?

Because inspired by, doesn't mean they will identical, this is a pointless question. Unless you're implying that GRRM is racist in someway which would be even more stupid.

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6 hours ago, NorthernXY said:

This is a total strawman. Nobody in this thread called Mongols "peace lovers" or anything like that.

The Mongols were extremely destructive and ruthless. But in terms of technologies, social customs, social structure, etc., they were light years ahead of the Dothraki who are extremely primitive.

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5 hours ago, NorthernXY said:

Exactly, you guys need to realize PC culture has gotten to the point of it literally not being PC by telling the truth about history.  It's not PC to say anything negative about any culture that isn't Western European;

What?!

Lemme get it straight. You claim that it's "not PC" to "say negative things" about cultures such as the discussed Mongols. And in the very same post, you invoke two articles documenting the Mongol warmongering, taken from the fuken' Wikipedia (so as mainstream as it gets). Sorry, but when you support your Proudly Politically Incorrect point with content from mainstream media, then you yourself invalidate your complaint about the Big Bad Mean Political Correctness.

“Logic!" said the Professor half to himself. "Why don't they teach logic at these schools?"

5 hours ago, NorthernXY said:

it's gotten so bad people think cultures like the Mongolians were peace loving nomads who contributed to a better world.

What?!

Nobody here called the Mongols "peace-loving nomads", you pulled that strawman out of - I won't even dare to guess, where.

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13 hours ago, thewolfofStarfall said:

Disclaimer: The general consensus is that the Dothraki are inspired from the Mongols, but I'm under the general impression that culture is partly inspired by Native American/Aborigine cultures

GRRM actually has clarified on that:

The Dothraki were actually fashioned as an amalgam of a number of steppe and plains cultures... Mongols and Huns, certainly, but also Alans, Sioux, Cheyenne, and various other Amerindian tribes... seasoned with a dash of pure fantasy. So any resemblance to Arabs or Turks is coincidental. Well, except to the extent that the Turks were also originally horsemen of the steppes, not unlike the Alans, Huns, and the rest.

And yest, they are kind of cartoonish savages. The Slavers Bay is just as bad, if not worse. Essos is where Martin's world building is at its weakest.

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There are no Dothraki POV characters. To everyone we ever see them through, they are exotic foreigners - and we don't even see them from a broad swath of foreign perspectives, we only see the perspective of elites, who only very selectively get to know Dothraki (mostly elites), from a very privileged position in Dothraki society as well as their own.

It should not be that surprising that the conclusions the POV characters, and then us, come to - what they see, what they think, what we see, what we think - are similar to the sorts of conclusions that European and American elite culture, without the benefit of actually personally knowing many of these people at all and mostly coming into contact with them through wars and wartime atrocities, came to believe about the various steppe cultures the Dothraki are based on.

If the complaint is that the portrayal of the Dothraki is dishonest, then a portrayal of Westerosi encountering the Dothraki that didn't involve an uncomfortable and provocative fixation on their "savagery" would also be dishonest.

A main point of the Dothraki is that they are exotic - they're about how people emotionally connect with exotic things - both drawn to love them and hate them - and what sorts of conclusions or choices to make about them. Some of this is framed by the narration, but Martin also beefs them up a bit to drive this home - the story of Daenerys and Drogo is out of a romance novel, so of course it doesn't ring true, even if it can speak to some people's deeper impulses in a true way. It's a form, of course, of misunderstanding, rather than understanding.

Yes, somewhere in there are the "real Dothraki," whom we never get to know. And it's not fair that we never get to know them. And that kind of unfairness leads to entrenched political and economic problems in the real world. But so much of these entrenched political and economic problems only seem easy to fix if we can extract subjectivity and look at them objectively, which is an unsufficiently robust way to consider the human experience, and as big a part as any of what the stories are about.

Contrast Dany and Drogo with, say, Sansa and Joffrey, the analogous relationship of a young girl left alone to be married to a king. One is the horror story that becomes the romance novel, one is the romance novel that becomes the horror story.

That it is the Dothraki that are the exotic foreigners does reflect and speak to prejudices in our own culture - one could imagine a call in this day and age to write "Moon of My Life" - the evens of Game of Thrones entirely from the perspective of people of color. It is fair to say that this would be a different book.

But if you think about a conflict between, say, the Dothraki and the Faith Militant, it's poetic, tragic and sublime that people would hate and fear the force that is actually coming to liberate them in favor of the one that oppresses them. It resonates. And it probably won't be the only time that happens. For all its depth and familiarity, as you mentioned, Westerosi culture is awfully abusive to people.

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6 hours ago, Nocturne said:

Because inspired by, doesn't mean they will identical, this is a pointless question. Unless you're implying that GRRM is racist in someway which would be even more stupid.

LMAO. Anything remotely questioning this series is either "pointless", "stupid", or "PC" to some people on this author worshipping forum. Very advanced argument btw. If a culture created by GRRM is said to be inspired by a real life culture, I would expect it to have actual paralells and lacking in the tropes you guys praise Martin for subverting. Why is it the content people may find offensive is justified because "that's how it was back then", but when people point  out inconsistenties like this is, the immediate reaction is,  "are you accusing GRMM of being racist or something?!?!! Political correctness is taking over the world!" No where in this post did I imply Martin was racist. 

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11 hours ago, NorthernXY said:

Because you don't know anything about the Mongols or other Ste

Quote

 

ppe cultures; Dothraki are nothing like Aborigines.  You should read more about them then come to a conclusion, not come to a conclusion then wonder why nothing makes sense. Stating Mongols were very advanced because of an obscure reference to their women doesn't refute that nearly a quarter of Asia is descended from Genghis Khan (wonder where Khal comes from) thanks to rape. You should read up on the population of Persia pre Mongols and post Mongols.  You need to read about how the Mongols lived in Yurts and relied on the conquered for doctors and engineers.  The Mongols didn't build cities, the sacked them.

Exactly, you guys need to realize PC culture has gotten to the point of it literally not being PC by telling the truth about history.  It's not PC to say anything negative about any culture that isn't Western European; it's gotten so bad people think cultures like the Mongolians were peace loving nomads who contributed to a better world.  All cultures kill, but not all build libraries and fill them with new ideas.

Here's a not very PC link:  Mongols weren't the peace lovers you thought they were

More lies about Mongols in Europe  This once contains spoilers to what will happen to the Dothraki when/if they reach Westeros.

 

GRRM has a very metropolitan Essos developing many different languages from Valyrian yet has all of Westeros speak the same comprehensible language despite it being very agrarian based. Different languages and accent develop because of isolation and GRRM has the opposite happening for both.

Basically everything @David Selig and @Ferocious Veldt Roarer said. Never said the Mongols were peace loving nomads, I'm not sure where you got that from.  However, I really don't have to that much research to come to the conclusion that the Mongols were not the primitive idiots portrayed by the Dothraki. Same thing when it comes to the Ironborm and their reali life "counter part" the Vikings. 

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13 hours ago, Michael Mertyns said:

The Westerosi seem to acknowledge that a lot of these things happen in war - committed by soldiers recruited from the smallfolk no less. Many condemn the practice, but don't seem to bother trying to stem it at all The big difference to me is that the Dothraki are willing to own up to it and just live life constantly at war.

I'm not clear on what you're saying. Are  you saying the Dorhraki approach to their own abhorrent behavior is "better" then the Westerosi approach? That their more open about it or something? I would actually say the Brotherhood without Banners is an attempt to combat the horrors  that afflict the smallfolk because during wartime. 

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1 hour ago, thewolfofStarfall said:

LMAO. Anything remotely questioning this series is either "pointless", "stupid", or "PC" to some people on this author worshipping forum. Very advanced argument btw. If a culture created by GRRM is said to be inspired by a real life culture, I would expect it to have actual paralells and lacking in the tropes you guys praise Martin for subverting. Why is it the content people may find offensive is justified because "that's how it was back then", but when people point  out inconsistenties like this is, the immediate reaction is,  "are you accusing GRMM of being racist or something?!?!! Political correctness is taking over the world!" No where in this post did I imply Martin was racist. 

I think it's pretty realistic to say that if the Dothraki were created in 2016 they would probably be a different culture than they were when published in 1996.  Especially if GRRM knew the sort of microscope this stuff would be put under.  I also think that it would be really hard to write a fantasy story without some tropes.

To sum things up though I think @GyantSpyder nailed it

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13 hours ago, NorthernXY said:

Because you don't know anything about the Mongols or other Steppe cultures; Dothraki are nothing like Aborigines.  You should read more about them then come to a conclusion, not come to a conclusion then wonder why nothing makes sense. Stating Mongols were very advanced because of an obscure reference to their women doesn't refute that nearly a quarter of Asia is descended from Genghis Khan (wonder where Khal comes from) thanks to rape. You should read up on the population of Persia pre Mongols and post Mongols.  You need to read about how the Mongols lived in Yurts and relied on the conquered for doctors and engineers.  The Mongols didn't build cities, the sacked them.

Exactly, you guys need to realize PC culture has gotten to the point of it literally not being PC by telling the truth about history.  It's not PC to say anything negative about any culture that isn't Western European; it's gotten so bad people think cultures like the Mongolians were peace loving nomads who contributed to a better world.  All cultures kill, but not all build libraries and fill them with new ideas.

Here's a not very PC link:  Mongols weren't the peace lovers you thought they were

More lies about Mongols in Europe  This once contains spoilers to what will happen to the Dothraki when/if they reach Westeros.

 

GRRM has a very metropolitan Essos developing many different languages from Valyrian yet has all of Westeros speak the same comprehensible language despite it being very agrarian based. Different languages and accent develop because of isolation and GRRM has the opposite happening for both.

That's not the point. Nobody said Mongols were peace loving hippies. They were some of the most ruthless conquerors the world has ever seen. 

The thing is, Dothraki are barely conquerors. They're ravagers, destroyers. The Mongols built dynasties and empires on the back of the foes they subdued or destroyed; the Mughals in India, the various dynasties in China, governments such as Tamerlane's in central Asia. They were often proponents of commerce and religious liberties; they were hardly angels, but no one was in their time. Dothraki show up, raze cities, sell the survivors into slavery, then go back to Vaes Dothrak with statues and continue living in huts and waiting until the next time they can kill each other or go raze cities. That's literally all they do, and the world book only reinforced that. They barely feel like a culture to me. Martin mostly built them up the requisite badass dudes on horses, because Asia had badass dudes on horses. Whereas in a fraction of the time, I feel he built Braavos as not-Venice quite well, and also did a decent job as Volantis which is mostly not-Constantinople.

It's also a poor aspect of world building that a culture fielding only light horsemen who disdain almost any and all technology, manage to be a military terror in a medieval world. The Mongols fielded heavy cavalry, infantry, and were all too happy to use terror tactics, navies and siege engines to further their conquests. Even the Turks and Huns before them weren't much less developped than their foes. Dothraki fight like Native Americans that barely even know what a ship is, yet somehow can besiege walled cities with ports. It all makes little sense from my perspective.

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2 hours ago, thewolfofStarfall said:

I'm not clear on what you're saying. Are  you saying the Dorhraki approach to their own abhorrent behavior is "better" then the Westerosi approach? That their more open about it or something? I would actually say the Brotherhood without Banners is an attempt to combat the horrors  that afflict the smallfolk because during wartime. 

The BwB is largely an exception. I'm not trying to say that the Dothraki are better because they own up to their behavior, only that they do acknowledge it. The BwB without banners absolutely have the right of things, or at least they did before the whole "He who fights monsters..." thing.

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The portrayal of the Dothraki is inaccurate compared to real life steppe nomads in the sense that they are a lot less technologically and socially advanced than they were, and are honestly just very stupid in general. 

In terms of general brutality however, they are not unrealistic at all. One could actually argue that the Mongols were worse than the Dothraki in a lot of ways; in that the Dothraki at least seem content to sell most of their defeated enemies into slavery whereas the Mongols often resorted to wholesale genocides. Iran might not even have returned to pre-Mongol invasions population levels until as late as the 1950's for example. 

It is true that Mongols did found dynasties and new empires in a sense, but these were often created a long time after the initial invasions by people that had changed a lot from their nomadic horsemen days . Both the Mughals and Timurids are of pretty debatable "Mongolness" for example. They did claim descent from Genghis Khan and all but in terms of language, religion and general culture they were heavily (or even predominantly) Turkic and Persian rather than Mongol, and their main religion was Islam rather than Tengriism.

When it comes to the period of the actual Mongol invasions, they were to a large degree really about pure destruction and slaughter. 

Another things is that while Mongol women may well have had quite a lot of rights, is important to remember the very important distinction between "Mongol women" and "Women encountered by Mongols". Them treating their own women a certain way doesn't at all mean that they extended that treatment to foreigners. Norse women also had quite strong standings in their respective societies for example, but this didn't mean that Vikings held the women of defeated Irish, Slavs or Anglo Saxons in particularly high regard. 

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16 hours ago, thewolfofStarfall said:

LMAO. Anything remotely questioning this series is either "pointless", "stupid", or "PC" to some people on this author worshipping forum. Very advanced argument btw. If a culture created by GRRM is said to be inspired by a real life culture, I would expect it to have actual paralells and lacking in the tropes you guys praise Martin for subverting. Why is it the content people may find offensive is justified because "that's how it was back then", but when people point  out inconsistenties like this is, the immediate reaction is,  "are you accusing GRMM of being racist or something?!?!! Political correctness is taking over the world!" No where in this post did I imply Martin was racist. 

When i said that inspired != identical i meant exactly that. Here's an example: let's say i wanted to make a compendium of shite posts, i could read yours, get inspired, but not match them word for word. See the difference?

Also if you don't want to get offended when reading A song of ice and fire, next time just don't. Read something disney related.

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