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Daenerys Targaryen's Power Plays

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I have been and always will be a Daenerys admirer.  So looking back at her character development from thirteen-year-old bride to Khal Drogo to Queen of Meereen, (and by rights the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men), Most Beautiful Woman in the World, and Mother of Dragons;  I cannot help but be awed by her many power plays.  I know the big moments are what most of her other fans think about but she made a few subtle but important plays early in her rise to power that are also almost as impressive.  Winning the love of Khal Drogo and establishing herself as the Khaleesi is very impressive concerning she was very young and forced to adapt to a hard, nomadic culture.  I want to know your favorite Daenerys power play.  Do you have any more examples of her subtle but effective power moves?

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  1. At the gates of Meereen.  Dany sent Belwas to answer the challenge from Oznak.  
  2. Aggo, Jhogo, and Rakharo kept her khalasar together and they were her best scouts.
  3. "If I ignore this longer, my own people will think me weak"
  4. Without Daario, she had no hold on the Storm crows.
  5. "They are pissing on slaves to show how little they fear of us"
  6. "Tell Strong Belwas I have need of him"
  7. "Strong Belwas was a slave here in the fighting pits.  If this highborn Oznak should fall to such, the Great Masters will be shamed.  If Oznak wins it is poor victory for one so noble."
  8. Belwas was the man she could most easily spare.  

I loved Dany's thought process here.  I would be scared to face her troops on the battlefields.  This is subtle but totally badass move.  I loved it.

 

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She seems to be an excellent conqueror, but less effective as a ruler. Which ironically is the same problem Robert Baratheon had. Though the reasons for their failings were quite different. Dany is a young foreigner, implementing massive societal and cultural changes upon a people whereas Robert just didn't give a damn and left his councilors to bicker over the realm so long as his hobbies were funded. They say failure is an excellent teacher and Dany may well grasp the lessons of her failures in Mereen when and if she ever goes to Westeros. For another irony, Dany is likely to have the same problem in Westeros as she did in Mereen though. If she arrives at the head of slave soldiers, Dothraki and various sellswords she's just as likely to be labeled as a foreign invader again.

Probably her most epic "power move" to me was the transformation that led to her evolving from a scared girl into a woman that could do all these things. She had everything against her. From a tormentor in the form of her brother who literally sold her off, to being cast among the savages and having to adapt to a lifestyle she knew nothing about. From that she not only maintained her sanity and survived, but she thrived and won over the people around her. From the most powerful Khal ever, to her inner circle of Dothraki who were willing to break all tradition for her. She even won over the loyalty of a man who was sent to inform on her and literally had everything in hand for the return home he so craved.

She has the ability to inspire fear and love, though it seems to be her coming of age has been wrought with imbalance between the two.

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Most of her moves are epic.  For something on a smaller scale it's harder to find something better than coming out of the Palace of Dust after outsmarting the undying warlocks in Qarth.  Dany's pages made A Clash of Kings exciting for me. 

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In my opinion her most efficient political ploy is her fight to abolish slavery.

While at the same time causing enormous upheaval and bloodshed - it also provides her with a huge, h-u-g-e amount of loyal followers. And the ploy is even more effective (on her followers that is, if not on her enemies) because it is sincere. Because it actually is not a ploy at all.

It is who she is and she can't help it.

Someone who actually believes in something and does what she believes in to help people who have been hopeless and abused all their lives is very attractive to those people. Especially when she actually does change something.

And this 'ploy' which is no ploy attracts huge masses to her not just in Meereen or even Slaver's Bay but all over Essos. Of course this power also is a 'sword without a hilt' as Melisandre would say in that a revolutionary crowd is very hard to grasp and keep control over. But power it is nontheless. And on a continental scale.

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1 minute ago, Amris said:

In my opinion her most efficient political ploy is her fight to abolish slavery.

While at the same time causing enormous upheaval and bloodshed - it also provides her with a huge, h-u-g-e amount of loyal followers. And the ploy is even more effective (on her followers that is, if not on her enemies) because it is sincere. Because it actually is not a ploy at all.

It is who she is and she can't help it.

Someone who actually believes in something and does what she believes in to help people who have been hopeless and abused all their lives is very attractive to those people. Especially when she actually does change something.

And this 'ploy' which is no ploy attracts huge masses to her not just in Meereen or even Slaver's Bay but all over Essos. Of course this power also is a 'sword without a hilt' as Melisandre would say in that a revolutionary crowd is very hard to grasp and keep control over. But power it is nontheless. And on a continental scale.

I think you can expand on the bolded and take it further. She comes across this way because her treatment by Viserys and being sold as a child bride/sex slave makes the slaves' plight very personal for her.

Thing is, I'm not entirely sure Dany herself has fully made this connection yet that her anger over slavery is rooted in anger over her own past. As such, if and when she does realize this, she can really expand on her influence here if she can relate to the slaves directly on this personal level. She won't accomplish much as a liberator being only 1 person with 3 dragons and when the liberated aren't motivated to keep that liberty. She needs to motivate them to start an uprising and relating to them personally that she herself is uprising would be a good place to start. 

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17 minutes ago, Lollygag said:

Thing is, I'm not entirely sure Dany herself has fully made this connection yet that her anger over slavery is rooted in anger over her own past. As such, if and when she does realize this, she can really expand on her influence here if she can relate to the slaves directly on this personal level. She won't accomplish much as a liberator being only 1 person with 3 dragons and when the liberated aren't motivated to keep that liberty. She needs to motivate them to start an uprising and relating to them personally that she herself is uprising would be a good place to start. 

Good points. I think her motivating other slaves to rise up could be a contributing factor on how she could liberate Volantis. It's said that there is five slaves for every freedman living in Volantis. If she could inspire on uprising there it would be another impressive move towards defeating her enemies and ending the slave trade.

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41 minutes ago, Ralphis Baratheon said:

Good points. I think her motivating other slaves to rise up could be a contributing factor on how she could liberate Volantis. It's said that there is five slaves for every freedman living in Volantis. If she could inspire on uprising there it would be another impressive move towards defeating her enemies and ending the slave trade.

Ha! It was the slave-to-free ratios in some of the Free Cities which made me think Dany was headed this way. It'd be fun to see the recently captured Hardhome wildlings with their We Do Not Kneel ways play a part here, too. 

 

To the OP:

I’m really impressed by her in AGOT as yourself but I'll add her navigation of the HOTU. She's been more impressive for me when without her dragons. It’s too easy to fall back on the instant gratification of “dracarys” than to do all of that time-intensive labor that she excelled at in AGOT but who wouldn’t fall into that pattern despite their best efforts, especially a teenager. Before the dragons, she was starting to develop her own self-esteem after Viserys, but post-dragon, I think that process slowed and her dragons became her self-esteem instead. 

I think the over-reliance on her dragons and less reliance on herself is intentionally written so I’m hoping/expecting that this will turn around and we’ll see a more engaged Dany like we saw in AGOT later on in the story. Her last chapter in ADWD was the first chapter of hers that I enjoyed in a long time because I felt like she was a real character again. Her HOTU chapter also read like AGOT Dany, but then she was without her dragons through most of it and had to rely on herself.

Also, I’ve noticed that a lot of her better moves are rooted more in observation, psychology and intuition when she trusts herself to truly engage these qualities. We've yet to see, but her last ADWD chapter made me think that she's coming to realize that the real power is herself, and her dragons are just tools. Hopefully I'm right. 

 

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This may be obvious, but the two key things which gave Dany a leg up were the birth of her dragons, and her bringing the Unsullied over to her side and sacking Astapor. The former was pretty much out of her control, but the latter was almost entirely down to her out-playing her opponents. She went from essentially being a supplicant, a kind of Viserys with dragons, to the leader of one of the most powerful armies in the world. It also meant she ceased to be a puppet of shadowy figures and became a player in her own right.

Special mention to Jorah for suggesting the idea, but the execution was all Dany.

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12 hours ago, Mon ami said:

I have been and always will be a Daenerys admirer.  So looking back at her character development from thirteen-year-old bride to Khal Drogo to Queen of Meereen, (and by rights the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men), Most Beautiful Woman in the World, and Mother of Dragons;  I cannot help but be awed by her many power plays.  I know the big moments are what most of her other fans think about but she made a few subtle but important plays early in her rise to power that are also almost as impressive.  Winning the love of Khal Drogo and establishing herself as the Khaleesi is very impressive concerning she was very young and forced to adapt to a hard, nomadic culture.  I want to know your favorite Daenerys power play.  Do you have any more examples of her subtle but effective power moves?

I'm surprised no one ever mentions the horse heart.  She knew what needed to happen to impress the Dosh Khaleen and she did it.  It's a testament to her mental strength and force of will.  She won the DK to her side and she won the admiration of the Dothraki nation.  

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9 hours ago, Helena Kyle said:

Most of her moves are epic.  For something on a smaller scale it's harder to find something better than coming out of the Palace of Dust after outsmarting the undying warlocks in Qarth.  Dany's pages made A Clash of Kings exciting for me. 

Sticking to the same volume, my choice is taking her khalasar through the red waste and onto to VT to Qarth.  She knew she had to be strong for the sake of the khalasar and even for Ser Jorah.  That's admirable leadership.  I think she has natural leadership abilities.  Many females have this ability but unfortunately are taught to stand behind the men.  I would like to think there is a little bit of Daenerys in a lot of women just waiting for a chance to come out.

 

15 hours ago, Mon ami said:

I have been and always will be a Daenerys admirer.  So looking back at her character development from thirteen-year-old bride to Khal Drogo to Queen of Meereen, (and by rights the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men), Most Beautiful Woman in the World, and Mother of Dragons;  I cannot help but be awed by her many power plays.  I know the big moments are what most of her other fans think about but she made a few subtle but important plays early in her rise to power that are also almost as impressive.  Winning the love of Khal Drogo and establishing herself as the Khaleesi is very impressive concerning she was very young and forced to adapt to a hard, nomadic culture.  I want to know your favorite Daenerys power play.  Do you have any more examples of her subtle but effective power moves?

 

Edited by Widowmaker 811

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14 hours ago, Lord Lannister said:

If she arrives at the head of slave soldiers, Dothraki and various sellswords she's just as likely to be labeled as a foreign invader again.

What "slave soldiers"? Dany's first order was to free her Unsullied. She has no slaves, only free men and women.

You make an excellent point about learning to govern! As noted, Robert Baratheon never even tried; he just assumed the Iron Throne was all about his doing anything he wanted to do, kicked back, and had a good time (8 stones of it). Dany buckled down and decided she needed to use Meereen as a "Government 101" school before attempting Westeros. The sudden exit on Drogon cut short Daenerys's training, and her last scenes give (me) the suggestion that she's no longer going to put off the move to Westeros once she gets back. Blood and Fire! Depending on what happens to her next, this could go either way. However, the records show that Dany will do the smart, unexpected thing. It remains to be seen whether the rest of her people in Meereen will be able to hold what they have.

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To me the most impressive is her acquisition of the unsullied and the resulting sack of astapor.

She plays the slavers from the beginning, feigning weakness, stupidity and desperation. Pretending not to speak their language was quite clever, and allowed her to see the masters true nature and intentions.

She also managed to totally mask her own true endgame, keeping even her allies in the dark, this shows an inate understanding of the game and how to play it, and to me signifies her growth from piece to player.

The aftermath proves she still has much to learn, but at this point she had not yet decided to stay and rule in slavers bay, and with this victory she acquired an army and a presumably great amount of resources and gold.

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Lots of the one she mentioned are grand in scale, but my favourites are actually those where Dany makes a personal step forward. So I think I will go with either:

1) Leaving her brother in the Dothraki sea to walk behind the khalasar

2) Telling Viserys he has no right to wear braids because he has won no victories and hitting him with the belt.

Viserys is a tragic and complex character in his own right, and I have my sympathies for him, but it was wonderful to see Daenerys develop her independence from him

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I can write about this subject endlessly and never get tired.  Mine took place near the beginning of our story and got me hooked on Dany's story line.  Here it is for your enjoyment, the passage from Dany's wedding to Khal Drogo.

Quote

She was a young filly, spirited and splendid.  Dany knew just enough about horses to know that this was no ordinary animal.  There was something about her that took the breath away.  She was grey as the winter sea, with a mane like silver smoke.

Hesitantly she reached out and stroked the horse's neck, ran her fingers through the silver of her mane.  Khal Drogo said something in Dothraki and Magister Illyrio translated.  "Silver for the silver of your hair, the khal says."

"She's beautiful," Dany murmured.

"She is the pride of the khalasar," Illyrio said.  "Custom decrees that the khaleesi must ride a mount worthy of her place by the side of the khal."

Drogo stepped forward and put his hands on her waist.  He lifted her up as easily as if she were a child and set her on the thin Dothraki saddle, so much smaller than the ones she was used to.  Dany sat there uncertain for a moment.  No one told her about this part.  "What should I do?" she asked Illyrio.

It was Ser Jorah Mormont who answered.  "Take the reins and ride.  You need not go far."

Nervously Dany gathered the reins in her hands and slid her feet into the short stirrups.  She was only a fair rider; she had spent far more time traveling by ship and wagon and palanquin than by horseback.  Praying she would not fall off and disgrace herself, she gave the filly the lightest and most timid touch with her knees.

And for the first time in hours, she forgot to be afraid.  Or perhaps it was for the first time ever.

The silver-grey filly moved with a smooth and silken gait, and the crowd parted for her, every eye upon them.  Dany found herself moving faster than she had intended, yet somehow it was exciting rather than terrifying.  The horse broke into a trot, and she smiled.  Dothraki scrambled to clear a path.  The slightest pressure with her legs, the lightest touch on the reins, and the filly responded.  She sent it into a gallop, and now the Dothraki were hooting and laughing and shouting at her as they jumped out of her way.  As she turned to ride back, a firepit loomed ahead, directly in her path.  They were hemmed in on either side, with no room to stop.  A daring she had never known filled Daenerys then, and she gave the filly her head.

The silver horse leapt the flames as if she had wings.

When she pulled up before Magister Illyrio, she said, "Tell Khal Drogo that he has given me the wind."  The fat Pentoshi stroked his yellow beard as he repeated her words in Dothraki, and Dany saw her new husband smile for the first time.

What a beautiful moment, beautifully and lovingly written by George R. R. Martin.  What a lovely character he created in Daenerys Targaryen.  I know it's not exactly a "power play" but Dany's confidence with her filly literally gave her wings and this is the start of her blossoming. 

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9 hours ago, zandru said:

What "slave soldiers"? Dany's first order was to free her Unsullied. She has no slaves, only free men and women.

I doubt many in Westeros are going to make that distinction, which was the context in which that comment was made.

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Dany is witty and you only have to read her verbal exchange with Mero for proof.  The Titan's Bastard was vulgar and insulting.  I thought Dany held her own and used her wits to spar with the man.  We know how it ended.  She outplayed Mero and won the fight with little loss to her side. 

Mero:  I believe I fucked your twin sister in a pleasure house back home.  Or was it you?

Dany:  I think not.  I would remember a man of such magnificence, I have no doubt.

Mero:  Yes, that is so.  No woman has forgotten the Titan's Bastard.  What say you take those clothes off and come sit on my lap?  If you please me, I might bring the Second Sons over to your side.

Dany:  If you bring the Second Sons over to my side, I might not have you gelded.

Mero:  Little girl, another woman once tried to geld me with her teeth.  She has no teeth now, but my sword is as long and thick as ever.  Shall I take it out and show you?

Dany:  No need.  After my eunuchs cut it off, I can examine it at my leisure.  It is true that I am a young girl, and do not know the ways of war.  Explain to me how you propose to defeat ten thousand Unsullied with your five hundred.  Innocent as I am, these odds seem poor to me.

Mero:  The Second Sons have faced worse odds and won.

Dany:  The Second Sons have faced worse odds and run.  At Qohor, when the Three Thousand made their stand.  Do you deny it?

I really enjoyed that exchange.  Dany has a sharp mind and thinks fast on her feet to come up these verbal jabs.  She gave back just enough insults to get his interest up but not enough direct aggression to worry the man. 

Many of George Martin's best writings are in those Dany chapters. 

 

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18 hours ago, Back door hodor said:

To me the most impressive is her acquisition of the unsullied and the resulting sack of astapor.

She plays the slavers from the beginning, feigning weakness, stupidity and desperation. Pretending not to speak their language was quite clever, and allowed her to see the masters true nature and intentions.

She also managed to totally mask her own true endgame, keeping even her allies in the dark, this shows an inate understanding of the game and how to play it, and to me signifies her growth from piece to player.

The aftermath proves she still has much to learn, but at this point she had not yet decided to stay and rule in slavers bay, and with this victory she acquired an army and a presumably great amount of resources and gold.

This for me as well. A truly vertigo-inducing gamble. 

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On 2/2/2018 at 6:04 AM, Shouldve Taken The Black said:

This may be obvious, but the two key things which gave Dany a leg up were the birth of her dragons, and her bringing the Unsullied over to her side and sacking Astapor. The former was pretty much out of her control, but the latter was almost entirely down to her out-playing her opponents. She went from essentially being a supplicant, a kind of Viserys with dragons, to the leader of one of the most powerful armies in the world. It also meant she ceased to be a puppet of shadowy figures and became a player in her own right.

Special mention to Jorah for suggesting the idea, but the execution was all Dany.

I am of the opinion that Daenerys knew what she was doing when the dragons hatched.  It was no accident. 

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