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Aldarion

George Martin and idea of kingship

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Reason why I find Daenerys and Aegon so interesting is that they seem to represent not just parallel but opposing characters, but also parallel but opposing ideas of kingship. They also represent major part of Martin's "discussion" on what builds a good ruler. So if one looks at George Martin's contrast between Aegon VI (Young Griff) and Daenerys Targaryen, it seems to imply that misery builds a character, and that the best ruler is one who had experienced hardship in life and can emphasize with the common people.

There are several problems with that idea, and I do not think it is Martin's (whole) intent. First, empathy alone does not make for a good ruler - and having too much of it can prove devastating not just to the ruler, but to the people he/she/it is ruling. Road to hell is full of good intentions, and unless one can differentiate between good good intentions and bad good intentions, ruin is unavidable. And doing that requires the ability to step back and put empathy (and other emotions) under key and lock, at least until ideas can be evaluated.

Second, misery does not necessarily build a character. It can indeed build a person, but it may also break them. And even if person is not broken, cracks will be there, and unless healed may lead to the breakdown further down the line. This happened to Viserys, and may yet happen to Daenerys as well. Daenerys indeed was not pampered, and she did learn from her experiences in the streets; but while experience did indeed help develop her character, we are yet to see the end point of her development. It may all come tumbling down.

Third, experiencing life of lower classes is not necessarily good preparation for ruling (this applies to Aegon and Daenerys both). While it is good for a ruler to not be completely out of touch with how his subjects live, a good ruler does not need to know how to skin a deer, kill a boar (looking at you, Bobby B), or survive as a beggar. He (or she) does however need to know administration, politics, history, and also know how to deal with people and balance their wishes and desires.

In fact, many good rulers got raised in isolation - but they had education. Matthias Corvinus ended up in prison in 1457. at age 13, and was crowned a king a year later in 1458. While he was at first under care of Michail Szilagy, Matthias was hard-headed and headstrong, and Szilagy soon left Budim and let Matthias rule. Matthias managed to maintain himself by relying on lower nobility, and was possibly best ruler in history of Hungarian-Croatian kingdom. Another good ruler, Basil II, was orphaned as a child but remained at court under tutelage (and co-emperorship) of older, more experienced emperors - Nikephoros II. Phokas and John I. Tzimiskes - after death of his father, Romanos II (who died at age 25). On the flip side, Basil II excluded Constantine VIII from power, and as a result his brother became an irresponsible asshole and immediately proceeded to start running the Empire into the ground. Here, both Aegon and Daenerys were excluded from power for a long time - decisions made for them - before suddenly gaining it.

However, it is not at all certain that GRRM will actually go down the "misery builds a character" road. In fact, Daenerys' act seems to have taken a much darker turn. It seems likely that Young Griff will actually prove to be a capable ruler he was trained to be - possibly by relying on his advisors - but his lack of experience will doom him just as Daenerys' lack of training may well doom her efforts to rule. Moreover, both of them will be doomed by their character flaws. Aegon seems more than a little self-centered, and he abandons any idea of trying to help Daenerys as soon as he gets a shot at the Iron Throne (though there were other concerns as well). Daenerys is an idealist, which means that she disregards reality which leads to frustration by the slow progress of changes in Mereen.

Overall, as much as I like YG, count me in a Stannis the Mannis camp as well. He too is far from ideal, but he actually does have both knowledge and experience required for ruling. Problem is his personality, and presence of Melisandre. Assuming that he has had time to gain experience as a Hand, Davos Seaworth might actually be the best candidate for the Iron Throne - but nobody would support him, least of all himself. But my favourite option is (resurrected) Jon Snow, who actually seems to combine characteristics of Young Griff and Daenerys both: like Young Griff, he has education as well as training for leading people (first through being raised at Winterfell, then by being Lord Commander's apprentice), and like Daenerys, he has actual experience in doing so and did not grow up in isolation. But we are yet to see him "ruling" post-resurrection (if he gets resurrected, though that seems likely).

In the end, I do not think it will be discovered whether Young Griff is truly son of Rhaegar or not, because it goes against the point of his character. Well, actually, both are possible. Because the Iron Throne was created by power, and claim on it is laid by power - whether that power comes from the dragons (Aegon I, Daenerys) or belief of the people in ruler's right to rule (Robert, Joffrey, Tommen, Aegon VI). Everyone can have a claim to the throne in right circumstances. I do believe he will turn out to be a good ruler - but Daenerys will burn him because she is so focused on dynastic legitimacy (and she may also see a mummer as a personal insult) that she will not consider the alternatives. But in doing so, she will end up alienating the populace of Seven Kingdoms, and will face a situation similar to Mereen - dragons may be enough to lay a claim on the throne, but will not be enough to actually rule. Because legitimacy ultimately comes from those being ruled.

P.S. The reason I like YG is precisely the reason why he will likely die: he is not a hero of the story. My favourite characters had always been supporting characters: Gandalf, Denethor and Faramir in Lord of the Rings, Murtagh in Eragon, Stannis, Barristan and Samwell in A Song of Ice and Fire. Yet heroes of these stories are Frodo and Sam (LotR), Eragon (Eragon), and Jon Snow and Daenerys (ASoIaF). I have also always liked likely doomed characters, that is, characters who are likely to die in the course of the story (e.g. Sirious Black, Severus Snape - and both expectations came true). So yeah. Definitely not good for my nerves.

P.P.S. You can argue on whether Young Griff's education is actually well tailored for a ruler. But that is not the point, necessarily: point is that him and Daenerys present the opposing ideals of a ruler, while Jon Snow may represent the union of these opposites.

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Jaeharys was an elitist  and  misogynist, he certainly placed a very high wall insofar as nobility and  commoners were concerned, he was born with that mindset and  yet he gave Westeros 50 years of peace and  plenty. He died in his bed.

 

Aegon 5 grew amongst the commoners and  the nobility despised him for that and  even when he granted or more accurately, tried to grant the commoners more rights He spent his 25 years of rule fighting his vassals because his policies were too  much for them, the few vassals who supported him were spurned by his idiotics, bar Daeron, selfish and  ungrateful kids, which only led  to more deaths, treason and  war, at the end, cornered, the man almost wiped out his line by trying to rebirth dragons which would make him a truly absolutist.

 

Jaeharys is the best King Westeros, bar the Reach because Garth Goldenhand is straight up outta this world, ever had even with his many and  glaring faults, Aegon 5 is s failure however.

Hardship does help to be nearer those you rule for but it's not enough, you're very much right.

Edited by frenin

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Martin is saying that the purpose of a good King/Queen is to protect and serve their people.  Anything else, and there is no easy answer or guarantee of success, no way for a potential ruler to point to the example of a previously successful monarch, emulate them, and still expect to get the same results. There are too many different dynamics each time, and understanding and making the right decisions will always be hard.

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At this point there is no indication whatsoever what kind of king Prince Aegon might be. We don't know anything about what he wants to do as king or what his priorities would be.

Your character background is irrelevant for the job - it is what you want to do as king.

At this point Daenerys certainly has found a cause and a people whose lives she wants to better - the slaves (and even, to a point, her other Meereenese subjects).

Jon Snow has not the slightest inclination to become king, nor does he has a vision what he would do if he were to be king. His concept of kingship - if he was one - would be shaped by Northern concepts of that - which might cause quite a few problems if he were to transport them down to KL were he ever in the position to make a claim there.

The Starks - and Jon specifically - cannot really delegate. They want to do everything themselves and make solitary decisions, taking council only with themselves (Jon's deal with the Iron Bank, Robb's marriage, Ned's decision to talk to Cersei and later to make Stannis king, etc.).

To succeed as king in this world - and to change policies of the culture to the better (if that's even possible in this world) you have to lead a movement, you cannot just be a solitary guy, or even just the head of a powerful family.

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1 hour ago, Lluewhyn said:

Martin is saying that the purpose of a good King/Queen is to protect and serve their people.  Anything else, and there is no easy answer or guarantee of success, no way for a potential ruler to point to the example of a previously successful monarch, emulate them, and still expect to get the same results. There are too many different dynamics each time, and understanding and making the right decisions will always be hard.

I don't agree with this.

So far the two best rulers of Westeros as they were presented were Jaeharys and Tywin, their time ruling was present as peaceful and prosperous. Jaeharys seems to fits your description, but Tywin is the complete oposite to it, and anothe example is Edmure, he tried to serve and protect his people but he only made one blunder after the other and doomed them all.

GRRM seems to adopt that the best ruler is the most pragmatic, when he talked about the Carter presidency for example he seems to imply that Carter was a very decent and well intentioned man but not fit for the job.

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4 hours ago, frenin said:

Jaeharys is the best King Westeros, bar the Reach because Garth Goldenhand is straight up outta this world, ever had even with his many and  glaring faults, Aegon 5 is s failure however.

Do you mean Garth Greenhand? 

I think Jaehaerys owes his success to Septon Barth. At least Jaehaerys knew that he needed to listen to him. The other Targaryens are usually listening to prophecy, the voices in their head, or their idiotic family members.

I think GRRM prefers kings who don't start wars or who reconcile after war.

Knowing and studying history, understanding people's points of view, and being a good steward of the land/environment seem like primary requirements for a good king. 

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I'm probably wrong, but I kind of feel that YG is a repeat history of Robb.

Prodigy son of (or claim to be) a great man, raised to rule, honest, well intentioned, loyal, that is inexperienced, will be underastimated at the start by his enemies, gains several victories, gets delusional with his own sucess, strugle to keep his own sucess in check and fails miserable in the end for being to self centered and not matured enough and for the people on his camp having their own agenda (Jon Connington for YG, Theon/Catelyn/Roose for Robb).

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36 minutes ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

Do you mean Garth Greenhand? 

Don't you dare  disrespecting Goldenhand.

 

Greatest of all the Gardeners was King Garth VII, the Goldenhand, a giant in both war and peace.
As a boy, he turned back the Dornish when King Ferris Fowler led ten thousand men through the Wide Way (as the Prince’s Pass was then called), intent on conquest. Soon after, he turned his attention to the sea and drove the last ironmen from their strongholds on the Shield Islands. Thereafter he resettled the islands with his fiercest fighters, granting them special dispensations for the purpose of turning them into a first defense against the ironborn, should they return. This proved a great success, and to this day the men of the Four Shields pride themselves on defending the mouth of the Mander and the heart of the Reach against any and all seaborne foes. In his last and greatest war, Garth VII faced an alliance between the Storm King and the King of the Rock, intent on carving up the Reach between them, but he defeated them both, then with cunning words sowed such discord between them that they turned on one another with great slaughter at the Battle of Three Armies. In the aftermath he married his daughters to their heirs and signed a pact with  each, fixing the borders between the three kingdoms.
Yet even that paled before his greatest accomplishment: three-quarters of a century of peace. Garth Goldenhand became King of the Reach at the age of twelve and died upon the Oakenseat when he was ninety-three, still sound of wits (if frail of body). During the eighty-one years of his reign, the Reach was at war for less than ten. Generations of boys were born and grew to manhood, sired children of their own, and died without ever knowing what it was to grasp a spear and shield and march away to war.
And with this long peace came an unprecedented prosperity. The Golden Reign, as this time came to be known, was when the Reach truly flowered.
Yet all golden ages end, and so it was in the Reach. Garth Goldenhand passed from this world. A great-grandson followed him upon the Oakenseat, then gave way to his own sons.

 

The man puts every King, including Jaeharys, to shame.

 

 

36 minutes ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

I think Jaehaerys owes his success to Septon Barth. At least Jaehaerys knew that he needed to listen to him. The other Targaryens are usually listening to prophecy, the voices in their head, or their idiotic family members.

Surrounding yourself with competent people who are great in the matters  you are not and  listening to them is what makes one great.

 

Edited by frenin

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10 minutes ago, frenin said:

Don't you dare  disrespecting Goldenhand.

Too many Garths :laugh:

But yeah another example of a king avoiding war - Westeros desperately needs that. 

13 minutes ago, frenin said:

Surrounding yourself with competent people who are great in the matters  you are not and  listening to them is what makes one great.

In matters of state, yes.

But he didn't listen to his wife. I'm guessing he basically raped her. I'm sick of this "good king/bad person" conceit that the author is obsessed with.  

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19 minutes ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

But he didn't listen to his wife. I'm guessing he basically raped her. I'm sick of this "good king/bad person" conceit that the author is obsessed with.  

Tbf it's pretty true to life. A lot (even most) of the great rulers/conquerors/generals etc of history were not fabulous people, morally speaking. 

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Just now, aromaticanalysis said:

Tbf it's pretty true to life. A lot (even most) of the great rulers/conquerors/generals etc of history were not fabulous people, morally speaking. 

That point doesn't have much relevance in the Trump era though.

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1 minute ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

That point doesn't have much relevance in the Trump era though.

Err ... I don't quite follow? Though there's a GRRM quote to the effect that Trump is neither a good ruler nor a good person.

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1 hour ago, Arthur Peres said:

I don't agree with this.

So far the two best rulers of Westeros as they were presented were Jaeharys and Tywin, their time ruling was present as peaceful and prosperous. Jaeharys seems to fits your description, but Tywin is the complete oposite to it, and anothe example is Edmure, he tried to serve and protect his people but he only made one blunder after the other and doomed them all.

GRRM seems to adopt that the best ruler is the most pragmatic, when he talked about the Carter presidency for example he seems to imply that Carter was a very decent and well intentioned man but not fit for the job.

To me, Daenerys is the best option.  Aegon was rash and that will get him killed.  Jon Snow is easily the worst choice.  A breaker of rules is not going to do well as the maker or enforcer of rules.  He’s too wild.  He completely botched that drama with Mance and Slynt.  He can’t even manage a few.  No way he can manage the many.

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43 minutes ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

But he didn't listen to his wife. I'm guessing he basically raped her. I'm sick of this "good king/bad person" conceit that the author is obsessed with.  

Well there is also the bad person/bad king... like Aegon IV, Aerys II, Maegor and Joffrey Lol.

 

15 minutes ago, Widowmaker 811 said:

To me, Daenerys is the best option.  Aegon was rash and that will get him killed.  Jon Snow is easily the worst choice.  A breaker of rules is not going to do well as the maker or enforcer of rules.  He’s too wild.  He completely botched that drama with Mance and Slynt.  He can’t even manage a few.  No way he can manage the many.

I don't know why you quoted me here, but I don't see Daenerys any better as ruler than Jon... they're both unreliable teenagers dealing with a imposible situation and failing miserable at it.

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21 minutes ago, aromaticanalysis said:

Err ... I don't quite follow? Though there's a GRRM quote to the effect that Trump is neither a good ruler nor a good person.

Yeah, that's what I mean - it's kind of hard to imagine how a bad person can make still make good rational policies at the moment. GRRM is now having to clarify his statements and talk about exceptions to his points.

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23 minutes ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

 Yeah, that's what I mean - it's kind of hard to imagine how a bad person can make still make good rational policies at the moment. GRRM is now having to clarify his statements and talk about exceptions to his points.

Well, just because Trump happens to be a singularly terrible president doesn't mean 'bad' people can't make 'good' leaders in general. There are plenty of examples from history, and not just from the medieval era - Thomas Jefferson is actually the first person who comes to mind for me.

Edited by aromaticanalysis

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5 hours ago, Lluewhyn said:

Martin is saying that the purpose of a good King/Queen is to protect and serve their people.  Anything else, and there is no easy answer or guarantee of success, no way for a potential ruler to point to the example of a previously successful monarch, emulate them, and still expect to get the same results. There are too many different dynamics each time, and understanding and making the right decisions will always be hard.

That I cannot agree with. In fact, Tywin was noted as having been one of best administrators / rulers of Westeros (during his tenure as a Hand), despite despising the commoners. Same for Jaehaerys.

4 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

At this point there is no indication whatsoever what kind of king Prince Aegon might be. We don't know anything about what he wants to do as king or what his priorities would be.

Your character background is irrelevant for the job - it is what you want to do as king.

At this point Daenerys certainly has found a cause and a people whose lives she wants to better - the slaves (and even, to a point, her other Meereenese subjects).

Jon Snow has not the slightest inclination to become king, nor does he has a vision what he would do if he were to be king. His concept of kingship - if he was one - would be shaped by Northern concepts of that - which might cause quite a few problems if he were to transport them down to KL were he ever in the position to make a claim there.

The Starks - and Jon specifically - cannot really delegate. They want to do everything themselves and make solitary decisions, taking council only with themselves (Jon's deal with the Iron Bank, Robb's marriage, Ned's decision to talk to Cersei and later to make Stannis king, etc.).

To succeed as king in this world - and to change policies of the culture to the better (if that's even possible in this world) you have to lead a movement, you cannot just be a solitary guy, or even just the head of a powerful family.

That is true... but my point about him was less that Aegon will necessarily be a good king, than that his upbringing does not necessarily mean he will be bad / incompetent king.

Character background is not irrelevant as it influences the decisions made.

Yes, Daenerys has found something worth fighting for - but I fear that she has set herself the goals too high, and may start making rash decisions in attempt to reach them. In particular, her dreams in steppe ("You are a dragon" - I think it was a vision of Jorah, when she is having diarrhe) are rather troubling.

I do agree about the Starks. They really act less like kings or even lords of a province, than they do as lords of a castle or landed knights.

3 hours ago, Arthur Peres said:

I'm probably wrong, but I kind of feel that YG is a repeat history of Robb.

Prodigy son of (or claim to be) a great man, raised to rule, honest, well intentioned, loyal, that is inexperienced, will be underastimated at the start by his enemies, gains several victories, gets delusional with his own sucess, strugle to keep his own sucess in check and fails miserable in the end for being to self centered and not matured enough and for the people on his camp having their own agenda (Jon Connington for YG, Theon/Catelyn/Roose for Robb).

Most likely, yes. And there are further similarities: many of Robb's victories were thanks to Brynden Tully, and many of Aegon's victories will be thanks to Jon Connington.

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1 hour ago, aromaticanalysis said:

Well, just because Trump happens to be a singularly terrible president doesn't mean 'bad' people can't make 'good' leaders in general. There are plenty of examples from history, and not just from the medieval era - Thomas Jefferson is actually the first person who comes to mind for me.

I'm just saying that at this point, his negative example of Jimmy Carter is looking pretty good right about now. :D

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Bad people have been good rulers, like Octavian, Philip the Fair, Peter the Great, Baibars etc. 

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3 hours ago, Arthur Peres said:

I'm probably wrong, but I kind of feel that YG is a repeat history of Robb.

Prodigy son of (or claim to be) a great man, raised to rule, honest, well intentioned, loyal, that is inexperienced, will be underastimated at the start by his enemies, gains several victories, gets delusional with his own sucess, strugle to keep his own sucess in check and fails miserable in the end for being to self centered and not matured enough and for the people on his camp having their own agenda (Jon Connington for YG, Theon/Catelyn/Roose for Robb).

Aegon would be boring if he were Robb 2.0. He might actually be a success who doesn't fail at all but his cast down by brute force (if he is cast down at all). That would be much more interesting story - as would be the idea that he grows into a vain and self-involved and cruel king, emulating his alleged paternal grandfather or Aegon IV.

After all, Aegon clearly is not the story of the piece - he still has time and opportunity to become a villain. Could be a more interesting story than him just being a moron like Robb.

And George really likes to give one those reversals of fortune in a fortnight or couple of months. Aegon could be a guy who cheered by a crowd at the beginning of a book and cast down as Aegon the Abominable at the end.

2 hours ago, Aldarion said:

That I cannot agree with. In fact, Tywin was noted as having been one of best administrators / rulers of Westeros (during his tenure as a Hand), despite despising the commoners. Same for Jaehaerys.

Tywin also did pretty good things for the commoners by restoring/keeping order and ensuring laws are kept (that stuff about him preventing bakers from fooling their customers springs to mind).

Of course he also killed thousands of Kingslanders during a brutal sack, so he isn't exactly a success in the end.

Tywin will go down as one of the worst lords/Hands in history thanks to his role in the War of the Five Kings. That's going to blacken his reputation for all time.

2 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Most likely, yes. And there are further similarities: many of Robb's victories were thanks to Brynden Tully, and many of Aegon's victories will be thanks to Jon Connington.

There are hints Aegon is going to push Connington further and further into the background. He ignored him an entire hour after coming to Griffin's Roost, and only approved of his plan because he liked it. Once he has taken Storm's End - the castle that has never been taken before - he might be even less inclined to listen to him, especially after Arianne has arrived.

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