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Damsel in Distress

Targaryen Madness is an Exaggeration

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The Targaryen madness is certainly an exaggeration. The truth is that the ordinary flaws that would go unnoticed in an average man can have terrible repercussions in an absolute monarch. Then you have to add to this that your political rivals will do their best to exaggerate your shortcomings.

The "madness" in the Targaryen family is perfectly comparable to many other royal families. If we look at their real world inspirations, in the Plantagenet dynasty we have Richard II (manic-depressive), Henry VI (had many mental breakdowns), and Richard III (accused to be a sadistic madman). Among the Roman emperors, Tiberius was paranoid and addicted to sex, Caligula had a severe personality disorder, and Nero was narcissistic, histrionic and pyromaniac. All this in less than 50 years.

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I hate to introduce a source external to the story but we also have to factor in Brynden Rivers.  His attempts to warn the family through visions may have driven them to madness.  Today, people who hear voices in their heads have access to medication.  Take that away and the poor person could get worse.  That's because there's a conflict with logic.  The person knows it's impossible to hear voices and yet they hear voices.  The clinician knows voices do not come from spirits and this person on the couch insists he's hearing voices.  The Targaryens hear these voices and never understood what bloodaven wanted them to do. 

That said, I count three nutters on that family chart.  Three from a family that size spread out over 300 years is a small price to pay to have dragons.

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Targaryen madness is primarily a device, targeted to influence Dany's view of her family and, basically, of herself. In that sense its "true" extent is of no consequence; what really matters is what Dany, and people around Dany (friends as well as antagonists), believe about it.

For all we know, Targaryen madness may be nothing but a manifestation of an hereditary thyroid disorder (at the worst cases, combined with too much and unchecked power and simply bad character); they couldn't possibly have the means to differentiate it from a mental illness. However, whatever it is, it's apparently enough to make Jaehaerys believe in the greatness/madness Targaryen "coin theory", and pass this notion to Dany via Barristan, accentuated by Aerys' legacy and her experience with Viserys. To give her some self doubt.

I personally believe that Dany's narrative will play with that "coin" and that Aegon's main purpose in the story is to push Dany into exploring the charm of the Dark Side - sorry, I mean the "madness". But, in the end, she will spin towards the "greatness", at least that will be, I believe, her final legacy as she will fulfill her heroic destiny.

The reason I believe that Jon is not going to be affected is, simply, because he has in store too many other issues to be affected by. Sure, maybe as a footnone in his story we may read that unfortunatelly, good king Jon/that oathbreaking bastard/whathaverhaveyou was later in his life hit by the taint, or see the illness passing to his descendants thus proving that he carried it, but personally I'm not at all into this, let's call it eugenics, argument.

 

ETA: in both Jon and Dany's case, it would be IMO utterly uninteresting if they were hit, while the story rolls, by some illness, out of their control, responsibility and accountability, that would impair their ability to respond emotionally and intellectually to the challenges they face. The choices they'll make must be theirs, and they must be able to own them.

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12 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

That is certainly true. However, nothing indicates that Dany has problems with her (prophetic) dreams. Daeron was just pretty much a weakling who could not cope with the stress that came with those dreams. Dany apparently can. And others could as well, like Daemon II Blackfyre and Maester Aemon. But Daeron might have been better off had he had a dragon.

Right, so I'm not saying that Dany shows signs of insanity, that she is insane, or that she certainly will go insane. I'm saying the OP's conclusion that Jon is more likely to go insane than Dany does not make sense based on the text. GRRM included elements within Dany's story that were indicators of madness for her predecessors. Between the two, Dany has more foreshadowing that she will go mad. GRRM chose not to weave those elements into Jon's story. It's still possible that either or neither will go insane, but I think basing one's prediction on who will on inconclusive family history when we have 5 books of text on the two individuals is illogical. That's literally all I'm trying to say. 

10 hours ago, Lady Blizzardborn said:

That's Daenys, not Daena. And you left out Daemon II Blackfyre. Those three are the only ones confirmed but that doesn't mean they are the only ones.

Not all Targs have dragon dreams, but the ones who do have true ones. Daenys wrote an entire book about her visions. TDtwP is quite possibly one of hers.

Given that Dany's instincts with regard to Drogo's funeral pyre were right on the money, it's not remotely surprising that she follows through on dreams and visions. If she had Melisandre's track record for misreading things, then it would be eyebrow raising.

Thanks for the correction, but the point still stands. Dany had no reason to believe based on her family's history that walking into the pyre was a good idea. 

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24 minutes ago, Alaynsa Starne said:

Right, so I'm not saying that Dany shows signs of insanity, that she is insane, or that she certainly will go insane. I'm saying the OP's conclusion that Jon is more likely to go insane than Dany does not make sense based on the text. GRRM included elements within Dany's story that were indicators of madness for her predecessors. Between the two, Dany has more foreshadowing that she will go mad. GRRM chose not to weave those elements into Jon's story. It's still possible that either or neither will go insane, but I think basing one's prediction on who will on inconclusive family history when we have 5 books of text on the two individuals is illogical. That's literally all I'm trying to say. 

Thanks for the correction, but the point still stands. Dany had no reason to believe based on her family's history that walking into the pyre was a good idea. 

I still believe the OP made a fair point.  If R+L=J is true as seems many fans of Jon would like it to be, it means he has just as good of a chance of going mad as any Targaryen.  The fact that his mother is a Stark affords him no immunity from the so-called madness. It certainly does not lessen his chances of going mad. The family tree speaks for itself, no Targaryen female has ever gone mad in the past.  The family tree graphic speaks louder than any foreshadowing can.  

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42 minutes ago, ShadowCat Rivers said:

Targaryen madness is primarily a device, targeted to influence Dany's view of her family and, basically, of herself. In that sense its "true" extent is of no consequence; what really matters is what Dany, and people around Dany (friends as well as antagonists), believe about it.

For all we know, Targaryen madness may be nothing but a manifestation of an hereditary thyroid disorder (at the worst cases, combined with too much and unchecked power and simply bad character); they couldn't possibly have the means to differentiate it from a mental illness. However, whatever it is, it's apparently enough to make Jaehaerys believe in the greatness/madness Targaryen "coin theory", and pass this notion to Dany via Barristan, accentuated by Aerys' legacy and her experience with Viserys. To give her some self doubt.

I personally believe that Dany's narrative will play with that "coin" and that Aegon's main purpose in the story is to push Dany into exploring the charm of the Dark Side - sorry, I mean the "madness". But, in the end, she will spin towards the "greatness", at least that will be, I believe, her final legacy as she will fulfill her heroic destiny.

The reason I believe that Jon is not going to be affected is, simply, because he has in store too many other issues to be affected by. Sure, maybe as a footnone in his story we may read that unfortunatelly, good king Jon/that oathbreaking bastard/whathaverhaveyou was later in his life hit by the taint, or see the illness passing to his descendants thus proving that he carried it, but personally I'm not at all into this, let's call it eugenics, argument.

 

ETA: in both Jon and Dany's case, it would be IMO utterly uninteresting if they were hit, while the story rolls, by some illness, out of their control, responsibility and accountability, that would impair their ability to respond emotionally and intellectually to the challenges they face. The choices they'll make must be theirs, and they must be able to own them.

Agree very much with this. Thank you, ShadowCat, well put.

I'd only add the idea I expressed earlier in this thread that "Targ madness" was also a political idea, a device used by lords, who didn't want the crown to have too much power. (Crown power = power away from lords)

 

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10 minutes ago, talvikorppi said:

Agree very much with this. Thank you, ShadowCat, well put.

I'd only add the idea I expressed earlier in this thread that "Targ madness" was also a political idea, a device used by lords, who didn't want the crown to have too much power. (Crown power = power away from lords)

 

Thank you!

Regarding the idea of "Targ madness" as a power check device, I don't see how this would work. Maybe some normal Targaryen monarch would self-check on his decisions and edicts in fear of being considered mad? Because, in the cases of the really problematic monarchs that have existed, we haven't seen the accusation of "madness" having any impact in their hold onto their rule, nor lords being able to overthrow / bypass anyone for madness before the last drop of Aerys, with the notable exception of Egg's "election" where madness was indeed an argument to exclude some contenders, but Egg's case was a very special one by all accounts.

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Wow. Good information on this thread. I am happy to read that other people know the Targaryen madness is a fake cop out by other people to try and weaken the Targaryen rule. There are "crazy" people everywhere. 

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8 minutes ago, Sea Dragon said:

Wow. Good information on this thread. I am happy to read that other people know the Targaryen madness is a fake cop out by other people to try and weaken the Targaryen rule. There are "crazy" people everywhere. 

I would really like to have this explained, as we have not seen anyone ever make use of this in all the "history" books we've had so far, or even try to. Like, no institutions/measures to watch over the kings in case of madness, no procedures to replace unfit or "unfit" kings, not even suggestions for such. What exactly is this attempt at weakening supposed to be about?

 

ETA - that people in these forums may suggest that Targaryens are unfit to rule because of madness does not count.

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12 minutes ago, ShadowCat Rivers said:

I would really like to have this explained, as we have not seen anyone ever make use of this in all the "history" books we've had so far, or even try to. Like, no institutions/measures to watch over the kings in case of madness, no procedures to replace unfit or "unfit" kings, not even suggestions for such. What exactly is this attempt at weakening supposed to be about?

 

ETA - that people in these forums may suggest that Targaryens are unfit to rule because of madness does not count.

Hi there. I don't think the Targaryens were mad the way we think of it. I think it was the dragon fire in their blood. Well, lots of people in the story call Aerys "mad', and they say other stuff like this, but most of the time it went unchecked because if you approached a "mad king" then he would have you killed. 

But every child knows that the Targaryens have always danced too close to madness. Your father was not the first. King Jaehaerys once told me that madness and greatness are two sides of the same coin. Every time a new Targaryen is born, he said, the gods toss the coin in the air and the world holds its breath to see how it will land."  

 

The Targaryens were all mad for fire.

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Madness afflicted the family but not nearly to the extent people believed. It happened to other families too.  Lysa and Catelyn went mad.  We excuse  Cat due to aggravating factors but if the potential was not there, it would not have happened regardless of the stress.  Murdering jingle bells is the act of a mad woman and clawing her face was madness.

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2 minutes ago, Sea Dragon said:

Hi there. I don't think the Targaryens were mad the way we think of it. I think it was the dragon fire in their blood. Well, lots of people in the story call Aerys "mad', and they say other stuff like this, but most of the time it went unchecked because if you approached a "mad king" then he would have you killed. 

But every child knows that the Targaryens have always danced too close to madness. Your father was not the first. King Jaehaerys once told me that madness and greatness are two sides of the same coin. Every time a new Targaryen is born, he said, the gods toss the coin in the air and the world holds its breath to see how it will land."  

 

The Targaryens were all mad for fire.

Hi, sorry if I did not make myself clear. I mean, how do you think the nobility used this Targaryen madness idea to weaken the Targaryen rule? That's the claim that I don't understand how you support it and I don't think there's much (if any) evidence for it in the books.

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Just now, ShadowCat Rivers said:

Hi, sorry if I did not make myself clear. I mean, how do you think the nobility used this Targaryen madness idea to weaken the Targaryen rule? That's the claim that I don't understand how you support it and I don't think there's much (if any) evidence for it in the books.

Hi there. I don't have any quotes ready at the moment and I have to get back to class soon, but I know the people in the north and different Baratheons had things against the Targaryens for difference reasons. I am still reading up on past history of some families, and it seems the Stormalnd people could have spread some of those rumors because of what they got angry with against the Targaryens in the past. Sorry, I do not remember some of the names, but there was a Stormalnd king that was turned down for marriage when he tried to offer his daughter to marry a Targaryen. And reading here I have seen that there were Blackfyre rebellions and the non Blackfyre supporting houses could have also spread some rumors. That is what I thought anyway. 

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4 minutes ago, Sea Dragon said:

Hi there. I don't think the Targaryens were mad the way we think of it. I think it was the dragon fire in their blood. Well, lots of people in the story call Aerys "mad', and they say other stuff like this, but most of the time it went unchecked because if you approached a "mad king" then he would have you killed. 

But every child knows that the Targaryens have always danced too close to madness. Your father was not the first. King Jaehaerys once told me that madness and greatness are two sides of the same coin. Every time a new Targaryen is born, he said, the gods toss the coin in the air and the world holds its breath to see how it will land."  

 

The Targaryens were all mad for fire.

The Targaryen bond with dragons is similar to the Starks bond with their wolf.  On that note, Lyanna and Arya had the wolf blood.  We could see a different form of madness in Arya.  Varamyr was more than a little unhinged.  Skinchanging can be damaging to the mind.  Rickon is an example.

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Just now, Moiraine Sedai said:

The Targaryen bond with dragons is similar to the Starks bond with their wolf.  On that note, Lyanna and Arya had the wolf blood.  We could see a different form of madness in Arya.  Varamyr was more than a little unhinged.  Skinchanging can be damaging to the mind.  Rickon is an example.

Wow. I agree with this pretty much that they are different forms of "madness". 

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9 minutes ago, ShadowCat Rivers said:

Hi, sorry if I did not make myself clear. I mean, how do you think the nobility used this Targaryen madness idea to weaken the Targaryen rule? That's the claim that I don't understand how you support it and I don't think there's much (if any) evidence for it in the books.

 

4 minutes ago, Sea Dragon said:

Hi there. I don't have any quotes ready at the moment and I have to get back to class soon, but I know the people in the north and different Baratheons had things against the Targaryens for difference reasons. I am still reading up on past history of some families, and it seems the Stormalnd people could have spread some of those rumors because of what they got angry with against the Targaryens in the past. Sorry, I do not remember some of the names, but there was a Stormalnd king that was turned down for marriage when he tried to offer his daughter to marry a Targaryen. And reading here I have seen that there were Blackfyre rebellions and the non Blackfyre supporting houses could have also spread some rumors. That is what I thought anyway. 

I don't think it was there to directly weaken the Targaryen rule but it is certainly one of the tools employed (perhaps started by the Maesters) to turn public opinion against the ruling family.  It's more PR than a direct attack but it was an attack nevertheless.  Robert bad mouthed the Targaryens.  Ned knew it was B/S and yet he let Robert and the public continue to believe that Rhaegar abducted his sister.  Ned didn't make any attempts to correct the lie because it served the Stark interest to be perceived as the good guys.  It's a PR war.

Was there a big difference between the destruction of the Reynes and the Tarbecks and madness?  It can depend on the person doing the judging.  For me, I think it was excessive in killing women, children, the elderly, and the workers for the sins of Lords Tarbeck and Reyne. Some may see it as due discipline to keep the lower lords in line.  Some may call Tywin mad, but not to his face and not in front of anyone who might snitch.  Why would we label Maegor mad and not Tywin?  Some of the bad PR had to have come from the Faith to turn people against the monarchy.

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3 minutes ago, Widowmaker 811 said:

I don't think it was there to directly weaken the Targaryen rule but it is certainly one of the tools employed (perhaps started by the Maesters) to turn public opinion against the ruling family.  It's more PR than a direct attack but it was an attack nevertheless.  Robert bad mouthed the Targaryens.  Ned knew it was B/S and yet he let Robert and the public continue to believe that Rhaegar abducted his sister.  Ned didn't make any attempts to correct the lie because it served the Stark interest to be perceived as the good guys.  It's a PR war.

Still, it was not related to the "madness" allegation and it was after they were overthrown, so not madness a political tool to weaken the Targaryen rule. I'm being very specific here: the madness or "madness", to one extent or another, had been a reality, yet we see nothing being done about this either to genuinly protect the realm against the possibility of a mad king or to use it as a political tool to weaken the king's authority. It was only used by a Targaryen (Bloodraven, a bastard but still a Targaryen) to promote another Targaryen, in order to protect (in the way Bloodraven thought it best) the Targaryen dynasty. Never seen (or noticed, to be fair) any other instance.

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9 hours ago, The hairy bear said:

The Targaryen madness is certainly an exaggeration. The truth is that the ordinary flaws that would go unnoticed in an average man can have terrible repercussions in an absolute monarch. Then you have to add to this that your political rivals will do their best to exaggerate your shortcomings.

The "madness" in the Targaryen family is perfectly comparable to many other royal families. If we look at their real world inspirations, in the Plantagenet dynasty we have Richard II (manic-depressive), Henry VI (had many mental breakdowns), and Richard III (accused to be a sadistic madman). Among the Roman emperors, Tiberius was paranoid and addicted to sex, Caligula had a severe personality disorder, and Nero was narcissistic, histrionic and pyromaniac. All this in less than 50 years.

I'd actually say that character/trope of 'the mad monarch' is actually devised that was often used in historiography, especially in ancient times. Rulers weren't called mad because they were actually suffering from symptoms we would today describe as mental illnesses (although some could certainly also have had such symptoms) but because they were extreme(ly bad), cruel, incompetent, had a scandalous private life, etc.

Chances are that rulers like Caligula were actually perfectly sane but actually just liked to have fun and to humiliate senators. A pretty interesting take on Caligula can be found here

In that light many of the Targaryens we would not consider to be clinically mad but extreme in one way or another could be seen as mad in this broad sense.

Among those would be monarchs like Maegor the Cruel (extreme cruelty), Aegon II and Rhaenyra (paranoia and cruelty), Daeron I (an extreme war), Baelor the Blessed (extreme piety and erratic decisions), Aegon IV (extreme sex life and extremely bad reign), Aerys I (extreme scholarly disposition), Aegon V (obsession with dragons), Aerys II (paranoia, cruelty, erratic behavior).

Rhaegel, Aerion, Daemon, Aemond, and Daeron the Drunk would suffer from the whole thing in a milder form. Daemon, Aerion, and Aemond show a tendency for (extreme) cruelty and Rhaegel and Daeron are at times not able to live a 'normal life' but since they never were forced to rule their 'madness' was not as relevant or publicly visible as the 'madness' of the rulers.

5 hours ago, Alaynsa Starne said:

Right, so I'm not saying that Dany shows signs of insanity, that she is insane, or that she certainly will go insane. I'm saying the OP's conclusion that Jon is more likely to go insane than Dany does not make sense based on the text. GRRM included elements within Dany's story that were indicators of madness for her predecessors. Between the two, Dany has more foreshadowing that she will go mad. GRRM chose not to weave those elements into Jon's story. It's still possible that either or neither will go insane, but I think basing one's prediction on who will on inconclusive family history when we have 5 books of text on the two individuals is illogical. That's literally all I'm trying to say. 

That is correct. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that no Targaryen character in the series we have met so far has been portrayed in a way to suggest he would be develop into a character as mad in the clinical sense as Aerys II was in his last years. Viserys III was a pitiful creature but neither Dany nor Aegon, Jon or Tyrion should ever sink to Aerys' level.

But there is, of course, a chance that a Targaryen character using extreme measures during a war to secure his or her power will be portrayed by his or her enemies as a cruel or mad tyrant. But this would then be political propaganda and not a medical diagnosis.

5 hours ago, Alaynsa Starne said:

Thanks for the correction, but the point still stands. Dany had no reason to believe based on her family's history that walking into the pyre was a good idea. 

There are actually hints in AGoT where she herself wonders whether she is still sane. It is somewhat subtle but it is there. And one can certainly wonder whether people like Aerion or Aerys II could actually have hatched dragon eggs in some blood magic ritual if they had done the right thing.

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3 hours ago, Widowmaker 811 said:

I still believe the OP made a fair point.  If R+L=J is true as seems many fans of Jon would like it to be, it means he has just as good of a chance of going mad as any Targaryen.  The fact that his mother is a Stark affords him no immunity from the so-called madness. It certainly does not lessen his chances of going mad. The family tree speaks for itself, no Targaryen female has ever gone mad in the past.  The family tree graphic speaks louder than any foreshadowing can.  

I'm not sure why you felt the need to emphasize that Jon's mother offers him no immunity from supposed Targ insanity as I have never made point to the contrary, nor alluded to anything remotely similar. I appreciate discussion, but if you reply to my comments, please make your points relevant to my arguments.

The conclusion of the OP is not that Jon has the same probablity of going mad as any Targaryen. It's that Jon specifically is more likely to go mad than Dany. This is what I am arguing against. If GRRM planned for Jon to go mad, why did he make the authorial choice to neglect to include elements of Targ madness in Jon's story, even though he not only included those elements in Dany's story, but increasingly indicated that things like dragondreams are bad signs? As I've said, I don't think Dany is mad, I don't think she necessarily will go mad, but the foreshadowing IS there. It isn't there for Jon. Hence the huge flaw in the OP's conclusion. Speculating that Westerosi genetics and Targ madness operates similarly to some real-world diseases is interesting, but it's just speculation, and the way Targ madness seems to appear only in men is not necessarily a conscious choice by the author. He may not have realized that he excluded women from whatever it is that Targ madness may have been. Ignoring the text in favor of speculation and nothing but is not solid theory, and it certainly does not provide anything logically sound.

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5 hours ago, ShadowCat Rivers said:

Thank you!

Regarding the idea of "Targ madness" as a power check device, I don't see how this would work. Maybe some normal Targaryen monarch would self-check on his decisions and edicts in fear of being considered mad? Because, in the cases of the really problematic monarchs that have existed, we haven't seen the accusation of "madness" having any impact in their hold onto their rule, nor lords being able to overthrow / bypass anyone for madness before the last drop of Aerys, with the notable exception of Egg's "election" where madness was indeed an argument to exclude some contenders, but Egg's case was a very special one by all accounts.

I freely admit I haven't amassed book quotes for this idea.

It was just a passing thought. Such talk would be tried or be under wraps, But the truth will out. Maybe should be explored (or probably has). It's just something that sprang to my mind. I was just thinking in the common sense way. Whispers, then open talk of the "madness" of the ruling family - and it was open talk, even back in Dunk&Egg's day - undermine the central monarchy.

Let's put it this way. The Targ kings were not universally loved by the lords or the smallfolk. Add a few whispers of "madness" and you can see how the central government (king) is undermined, letting local lords seem the "sane" alternative, the good ones who provide for the people etc. Whispers or royal family "madness" would tie the smallfolk even tighter to their lord, actually letting local lords keep their power, if they keep faith and provide.. And we're talking about power here, aren't we?

I guess my point is that the "Targ madness" story was propagated and spread by powerful lords, because these rumors worked for them. Weakened the central goverment = let high lords have power and influence.

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