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Mithras

Death in Childbirth and Dany’s Choice

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Part 1: Did Dany sacrifice Rhaego in order to save Drogo?

I start with this important question. Did Dany willingly and selfishly sacrifice her baby for the blood magic ritual so that her husband could live and take her home? Yes? No?

There is no definite answer because Dany avoids facing this question ever since. Is it because she fears the answer? Where does “If I look back I am lost” originate from? What do you think the darkness that chases Dany in her fever dream represents? What about Dany/Rhaegar associations and Quaithe’s role?

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A Game of Thrones - Daenerys VIII

“He will be gone by morning.”

Her words were a knife through Dany’s breast. What had she ever done to make the gods so cruel? She had finally found a safe place, had finally tasted love and hope. She was finally going home. And now to lose it all… “No,” she pleaded. “Save him, and I will free you, I swear it. You must know a way…some magic, some…”

Mirri Maz Duur sat back on her heels and studied Daenerys through eyes as black as night. “There is a spell.” Her voice was quiet, scarcely more than a whisper. “But it is hard, lady, and dark. Some would say that death is cleaner. I learned the way in Asshai, and paid dear for the lesson. My teacher was a bloodmage from the Shadow Lands.”

Dany went cold all over. “Then you truly are a maegi…”

“Am I?” Mirri Maz Duur smiled. “Only a maegi can save your rider now, Silver Lady.”

“Is there no other way?”

“No other.”

Khal Drogo gave a shuddering gasp.

“Do it,” Dany blurted. She must not be afraid; she was the blood of the dragon. “Save him.”

“There is a price,” the godswife warned her.

“You’ll have gold, horses, whatever you like.”

“It is not a matter of gold or horses. This is bloodmagic, lady. Only death may pay for life.”

“Death?” Dany wrapped her arms around herself protectively, rocked back and forth on her heels. “My death?” She told herself she would die for him, if she must. She was the blood of the dragon, she would not be afraid. Her brother Rhaegar had died for the woman he loved.

“No,” Mirri Maz Duur promised. “Not your death, Khaleesi.”

Dany trembled with relief. “Do it.”

The maegi nodded solemnly. “As you speak, so it shall be done. Call your servants.”

Only a horse, Dany thought. If she could buy Drogo’s life with the death of a horse, she would pay a thousand times over.

 

Did MMD trick Dany or did Dany leave certain things out in her POV (by which I mean GRRM used his authorial choice to blank out certain train of thought from Dany’s POV)?

This is not as alien as you might think. For example, in Dany’s HotU visions, the text says that Rhaegar died with a woman’s name on his lips. GRRM did not want to write Lyanna for some reason but confirmed in the App that it was her name. Or another example from Dany. Remember the exchange with Kraznys. Dany had made her plans to kill the slavers but she was pretending the whole time and not giving away her real thoughts. GRRM did not want Dany to reveal her plan to the readers before the climactic dracarys moment.

I think Dany’s culpability in Rhaego’s fate is complicated. The truth is probably somewhere in between. Dany is not completely guilty but she is also not completely innocent. In fact, even if her guilt might not as big as MMD’s, Dany is still making and feeling her share of guilt far greater than it actually is and that is what matters for her. After all, she is the mother whereas MMD was just a stranger. While making the deal with MMD, Dany did not pay attention to or willfully ignored certain glaring signs. She tried to convince herself that the horse should be enough. After the disaster, she was so terrified of her own share of guilt that she mentally locked this away and coined that “If I look back I am lost” catchphrase. Because admitting that she selfishly sacrificed her baby for bloodmagic would indeed destroy her at that point of the story and she knows it in her subconscious.

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A Game of Thrones - Daenerys IX

Wings shadowed her fever dreams.

“You don’t want to wake the dragon, do you!”

She was walking down a long hall beneath high stone arches. She could not look behind her, must not look behind her. There was a door ahead of her, tiny with distance, but even from afar, she saw that it was painted red. She walked faster, and her bare feet left bloody footprints on the stone.

“You don’t want to wake the dragon, do you!” 

She saw sunlight on the Dothraki sea, the living plain, rich with the smells of earth and death. Wind stirred the grasses, and they rippled like water. Drogo held her in strong arms, and his hand stroked her sex and opened her and woke that sweet wetness that was his alone, and the stars smiled down on them, stars in a daylight sky. “Home,” she whispered as he entered her and filled her with his seed, but suddenly the stars were gone, and across the blue sky swept the great wings, and the world took flame.

“…don’t want to wake the dragon, do you!”

Ser Jorah’s face was drawn and sorrowful. “Rhaegar was the last dragon,” he told her. He warmed translucent hands over a glowing brazier where stone eggs smouldered red as coals. One moment he was there and the next he was fading, his flesh colorless, less substantial than the wind. “The last dragon,” he whispered, thin as a wisp, and was gone. She felt the dark behind her, and the red door seemed farther away than ever.

“…don’t want to wake the dragon, do you!”

Viserys stood before her, screaming. “The dragon does not beg, slut. You do not command the dragon. I am the dragon, and I will be crowned.” The molten gold trickled down his face like wax, burning deep channels in his flesh. “I am the dragon and I will be crowned!” he shrieked, and his fingers snapped like snakes, biting at her nipples, pinching, twisting, even as his eyes burst and ran like jelly down seared and blackened cheeks.

“…don’t want to wake the dragon…”

The red door was so far ahead of her, and she could feel the icy breath behind, sweeping up on her. If it caught her she would die a death that was more than death, howling forever alone in the darkness. She began to run.

“…don’t want to wake the dragon…”

She could feel the heat inside her, a terrible burning in her womb. Her son was tall and proud, with Drogo’s copper skin and her own silver-gold hair, violet eyes shaped like almonds. And he smiled for her and began to lift his hand toward hers, but when he opened his mouth the fire poured out. She saw his heart burning through his chest, and in an instant he was gone, consumed like a moth by a candle, turned to ash. She wept for her child, the promise of a sweet mouth on her breast, but her tears turned to steam as they touched her skin.

“…want to wake the dragon…”

Ghosts lined the hallway, dressed in the faded raiment of kings. In their hands were swords of pale fire. They had hair of silver and hair of gold and hair of platinum white, and their eyes were opal and amethyst, tourmaline and jade. “Faster,” they cried, “faster, faster.” She raced, her feet melting the stone wherever they touched. “Faster!” the ghosts cried as one, and she screamed and threw herself forward. A great knife of pain ripped down her back, and she felt her skin tear open and smelled the stench of burning blood and saw the shadow of wings. And Daenerys Targaryen flew.

“…wake the dragon…”

The door loomed before her, the red door, so close, so close, the hall was a blur around her, the cold receding behind. And now the stone was gone and she flew across the Dothraki sea, high and higher, the green rippling beneath, and all that lived and breathed fled in terror from the shadow of her wings. She could smell home, she could see it, there, just beyond that door, green fields and great stone houses and arms to keep her warm, there. She threw open the door.

“…the dragon…”

And saw her brother Rhaegar, mounted on a stallion as black as his armor. Fire glimmered red through the narrow eye slit of his helm. “The last dragon,” Ser Jorah’s voice whispered faintly. “The last, the last.” Dany lifted his polished black visor. The face within was her own.

After that, for a long time, there was only the pain, the fire within her, and the whisperings of stars.

She woke to the taste of ashes.

 

There is a lot to unpack in this dream, which is why I quoted it fully. This fever dream took place after that disaster and before Dany recovered her consciousness. She was not aware of her stillbirth yet but her body and her subconscious was. This is important for understanding this dream.

Dany was racing towards the red door (representing her objective – which is her father’s kingdom, which she associates with her happy childhood’s home, which Drogo was going to give her etc.) and at the same time running away from the darkness with its cold, icy breath at her back. We can already see the origin of “If I look back I am lost” right from the start (“She could not look behind her, must not look behind her”).

I think the darkness that is chasing Dany in this dream; one which she still does not have the courage to face yet; is her sense of guilt in the death of Rhaego. She is terrified of it. Let us move a little forward in this chapter to see the proof:

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“Monstrous,” Mirri Maz Duur finished for him. The knight was a powerful man, yet Dany understood in that moment that the maegi was stronger, and crueler, and infinitely more dangerous. “Twisted. I drew him forth myself. He was scaled like a lizard, blind, with the stub of a tail and small leather wings like the wings of a bat. When I touched him, the flesh sloughed off the bone, and inside he was full of graveworms and the stink of corruption. He had been dead for years.”
Darkness, Dany thought. The terrible darkness sweeping up behind to devour her. If she looked back she was lost. “My son was alive and strong when Ser Jorah carried me into this tent,” she said. “I could feel him kicking, fighting to be born.”

“That may be as it may be,” answered Mirri Maz Duur, “yet the creature that came forth from your womb was as I said. Death was in that tent, Khaleesi.”

“Only shadows,” Ser Jorah husked, but Dany could hear the doubt in his voice. “I saw, maegi. I saw you, alone, dancing with the shadows.”

“The grave casts long shadows, Iron Lord,” Mirri said. “Long and dark, and in the end no light can hold them back.”

Ser Jorah had killed her son, Dany knew. He had done what he did for love and loyalty, yet he had carried her into a place no living man should go and fed her baby to the darkness. He knew it too; the grey face, the hollow eyes, the limp. “The shadows have touched you too, Ser Jorah,” she told him. The knight made no reply. Dany turned to the godswife. “You warned me that only death could pay for life. I thought you meant the horse.”

“No,” Mirri Maz Duur said. “That was a lie you told yourself. You knew the price.”

Had she? Had she? If I look back I am lost.

“You knew,” Dany said when they were gone. She ached, inside and out, but her fury gave her strength. “You knew what I was buying, and you knew the price, and yet you let me pay it.”

“It was wrong of them to burn my temple,” the heavy, flat-nosed woman said placidly. “That angered the Great Shepherd.”

“This was no god’s work,” Dany said coldly. If I look back I am lost. “You cheated me. You murdered my child within me.”

“The stallion who mounts the world will burn no cities now. His khalasar shall trample no nations into dust.”

 

What is more interesting is that Dany was still lying to herself as a natural and understandable psychological defense mechanism with that “Ser Jorah had killed her son, Dany knew...” part and later with that “You cheated me. You murdered my child within me.” part. She convinced herself that it was the fault of others: Ser Jorah, MMD, anyone other than Dany. When MMD told her that she was lying to herself and she knew the price all along, Dany completed the “If I look back I am lost” defense mechanism and started using it thereafter whenever she faced an inconvenient truth. This whole thing is textbook Cognitive Dissonance. 

One interesting tidbit about the fever dream is that the famous “You don’t want to wake the dragon, do you!” line of Viserys fades throughout the dream and reflects the part which it precedes. “…want to wake the dragon…” matches with the death of Rhaego, as if Dany wanted to wake the dragon (i.e. to acquire power) and sacrificed Rhaego for it. One might draw a similarity to her earlier dreams where she was empowered by the burning of Viserys.

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A Game of Thrones - Daenerys II

Yet that night she dreamt of one. Viserys was hitting her, hurting her. She was naked, clumsy with fear. She ran from him, but her body seemed thick and ungainly. He struck her again. She stumbled and fell. “You woke the dragon,” he screamed as he kicked her. “You woke the dragon, you woke the dragon.” Her thighs were slick with blood. She closed her eyes and whimpered. As if in answer, there was a hideous lipping sound and the crackling of some great fire. When she looked again, Viserys was gone, great columns of flame rose all around, and in the midst of them was the dragon. It turned its great head slowly. When its molten eyes found hers, she woke, shaking and covered with a fine sheen of sweat. She had never been so afraid…

A Game of Thrones - Daenerys III

Yet when she slept that night, she dreamt the dragon dream again. Viserys was not in it this time. There was only her and the dragon. Its scales were black as night, wet and slick with blood. Her blood, Dany sensed. Its eyes were pools of molten magma, and when it opened its mouth, the flame came roaring out in a hot jet. She could hear it singing to her. She opened her arms to the fire, embraced it, let it swallow her whole, let it cleanse her and temper her and scour her clean. She could feel her flesh sear and blacken and slough away, could feel her blood boil and turn to steam, and yet there was no pain. She felt strong and new and fierce.

And the next day, strangely, she did not seem to hurt quite so much.

 

While being abused by Viserys, Dany made a wish and then gave birth to a dragon that killed/ate Viserys, which made her strong. Reading the dream in this order means Dany was completely innocent in the death of her abuser and the empowerment (in the form of a literal dragon) that came with the death of Viserys was a not premeditated. Then, why did she feel guilt for the death of Viserys which surfaced up after so much time in her final chapter of ADwD? What about Dany completely writing off Viserys in her mind even before his death?

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A Game of Thrones - Daenerys IV

When her son sat the Iron Throne, she would see that he had bloodriders of his own to protect him against treachery in his Kingsguard.

 

When Dany had this thought, Viserys was still very much alive. Perhaps we should read the dream in a different order which explains Dany’s buried sense of guilt and forms a parallel with the case of Rhaego as well. Accordingly, Dany wished to kill/sacrifice Viserys in the first place and then gave birth to a dragon as a result of his death. The deaths of her family members (first Viserys and later Rhaego); for which Dany feels a certain share of guilt; ended up empowering Dany. One can even draw a tangent from here to the daughter of death triplet from the House of the Undying, which entails three visions about the deaths of Viserys, Rhaego and Rhaegar, matching with the three fires Dany must light for life, for death and to love.

Returning to the fever dream, “wake the dragon” matches with Dany growing wings and flying. Next comes “the dragon” which matches with the part where Dany flies and all that live and breathe flee in terror from the shadow of her wings, suggesting the fulfillment of the Stallion That Mounts the World prophecy (and it does not seem like a good thing!). This is where she almost reaches her objective but at the final moment, after opening the final door, she sees Rhaegar as armored for his last battle (where he died as we know) and she realizes that she became Rhaegar, which is a clever way of telegraphing her death by GRRM. This is why he has been associating Dany with Rhaegar in these and the following dream which will come later. She will die at the final moment before reaching her goal, or in other words, the darkness at her back will reach out to her eventually.

Another interesting tidbit from this fever dream which took place while Dany was recovering from stillbirth is that it comes in AGoT which is full of hints about Lyanna and the childbirth fever that killed her.

Yet another tidbit is the mention of “the whisperings of stars”. We can’t tell it from AGoT but starting with ACoK, we will see that this is a clue for the presence of Quaithe as she is using her glass candle to project visions to Dany. For example in ADwD, Dany sees Quaithe in a vision with a mask "made of starlight".

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A Storm of Swords - Daenerys III

That night she dreamt that she was Rhaegar, riding to the Trident. But she was mounted on a dragon, not a horse. When she saw the Usurper’s rebel host across the river they were armored all in ice, but she bathed them in dragonfire and they melted away like dew and turned the Trident into a torrent. Some small part of her knew that she was dreaming, but another part exulted. This is how it was meant to be. The other was a nightmare, and I have only now awakened.

 

This dream actually follows the fever dream which ended with Dany being equated to Rhaegar at what seems to be the end of her story. The Trident dream above makes the telegraphing of Dany’s death clearer. People are very quick to interpret this dream literally and relate it to the Others. But I don't think that is the case. The darkness, the icy breath that chased Dany in the first dream was about Dany’s culpability in the death of Rhaego.

As for this Trident dream, Dany knows that this is not supposed to be (and that she is dreaming) while she is seeing it. In truth, Rhaegar lost this battle and died. Someone (cough Quaithe cough) is playing with the outcome and twisting the facts! Truth be told, Dany needed to be lied about victory at this moment because this was the night before that fateful day at Astapor. She was going to trick the slavers and take Astapor. She spent the whole night making plans. She rolled the dice for her life. She needed someone to tell her that it will be OK.

To conclude Part 1:

Dany is not completely innocent in the deaths of Viserys and Rhaego (and even Drogo for that matter); or at least that is how she feels. She is burying all this stuff deep into her subconscious. When the story is ready, when she is ready, she will “look back” and confront all this guilt surfacing up. The realization of the full extent of her guilt in the death of Rhaego will prove essential in her final choice.

Part 2: A Tale of Two Daenerys Targaryens

In this part, I will be delving into the stories of the historical Daenerys Targaryens. The gist of the argument is that one does not simply create a historical Targaryen named Daenerys in ASOIAF, which means GRRM wants to draw attention to certain hints towards the current Daenerys.

Before Fire & Blood, Daenerys Targaryen (daughter of Aegon IV) was the First Daenerys and her story was revealed in a very important context that speaks to the present story. In Fire & Blood, we saw that GRRM changed the Targaryen family tree and created another Daenerys Targaryen (daughter of Jaehaerys I) who became the new First Daenerys and her story in my opinion is meant to be an even more direct parallel to Dany.

The First First Daenerys

Let us first look at the lesson to be earned from the Water Gardens by Doran’s words:

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A Dance with Dragons - The Watcher

“The Water Gardens are my favorite place in this world, ser. One of my ancestors had them built to please his Targaryen bride and free her from the dust and heat of Sunspear. Daenerys was her name. She was sister to King Daeron the Good, and it was her marriage that made Dorne part of the Seven Kingdoms. The whole realm knew that the girl loved Daeron’s bastard brother Daemon Blackfyre, and was loved by him in turn, but the king was wise enough to see that the good of thousands must come before the desires of two, even if those two were dear to him. It was Daenerys who filled the gardens with laughing children. Her own children at the start, but later the sons and daughters of lords and landed knights were brought in to be companions to the boys and girls of princely blood. And one summer’s day when it was scorching hot, she took pity on the children of her grooms and cooks and serving men and invited them to use the pools and fountains too, a tradition that has endured till this day.”

“I told the story to Ser Balon, but not all of it. As the children splashed in the pools, Daenerys watched from amongst the orange trees, and a realization came to her. She could not tell the highborn from the low. Naked, they were only children. All innocent, all vulnerable, all deserving of long life, love, protection. ‘There is your realm,’ she told her son and heir, ‘remember them, in everything you do.’ My own mother said those same words to me when I was old enough to leave the pools. It is an easy thing for a prince to call the spears, but in the end the children pay the price. For their sake, the wise prince will wage no war without good cause, nor any war he cannot hope to win.”

 

Indeed, children suffer the most in any war. Doran is continuing his legacy and trying to teach the lesson he learned from his mother to the next generation of leaders that will rule Dorne after him. But the thing is, the next generation is awful and they don’t have the capacity to learn this valuable lesson. Sand Snakes are violent and hypocritical. They first expressed their desire to kill Tommen and several other Lannisters for revenge. Then in this chapter Doran told them that Cersei had made secret plans to kill Trystane (which objectively came after the mutilation of Myrcella). This put them in a shock. They called it “monstrous” and pointed that Trystane is an innocent boy. The sheer hypocrisy is mind boggling. Do you really believe that these people are capable of understanding what Doran was trying to tell them? Arianne is not that much better than Sandsnakes.

That being said, the most important lesson to be learned from the First Dance of Dragons is this: it takes two to tango. That will be the case for the upcoming Dance of Dragons as well. We won’t have Arianne/fAegon as the dream couple against the evil conqueror Dany; or the evil couple Arianne/fAegon against the savior Dany. Both sides will get their fair share of escalation and atrocities as it happened in the first Dance.

The point of this section is to show that the legacy of the First Daenerys will go into ashes in the upcoming civil war between Dany and Dorne. The First Daenerys (at least in the popular imagination) sacrificed love and personal desires for peace. She realized the importance of protecting all the children, the destructiveness of wars and not waging any war without just cause. The next generation of Dornish leadership will fail at that lesson and Dany will be the one to destroy the Water Gardens and the legacy of her first namesake along with it. This is the parallel and foreshadowing GRRM intended with the First Daenerys backstory which he revealed in ADwD (i.e. the book where he intended to and was supposed to set up the civil war between Dany and fAegon/Dorne).

The Second First Daenerys

As mentioned before, GRRM created another Daenerys Targaryen in Fire & Blood as the daughter of Jaehaerys I.

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From the wiki:

She was a happy child, endlessly curious and utterly fearless, a delight to all who knew her. Daenerys was a lively, laughing child. She was often mud-spattered and grass-stained. She was seen as “the darling of the realm”, and considered a great beauty.

Queen Alysanne believed that Daenerys, as the eldest of their three living children, should be the king’s heir and first in line to the throne. King Jaehaerys, however, regarded Prince Aemon as his heir since the day he had been born. Though Alysanne would voice her displeasure about this to the king, reminding him that Daenerys was older and should therefore be queen, Jaehaerys would reply telling her that Daenerys would become queen after she married Aemon, and rule the kingdoms by his side. According to Grand Maester Benifer, the king’s response would not entirely please Alysanne.

 

It is not hard to see that GRRM made this Dany as the perfect, sympathetic princess, only to raise the stakes of the tragedy of her untimely death (resembling a sacrificial lamb in a way). We also see that her gender was the root of some problems. Alysanne argued that Dany should be the first in line because she was the eldest. Jaehaerys argued that her little brother Aemon was the first in line based on standard male-preference primogeniture. It is also interesting that the marriage of Dany and Aemon by which she could still be the queen did not entirely please Alysanne because that would still mean she lost the argument.

Readers are supposed to draw parallels and understand why a marriage between the two sides of the upcoming Dance of Dragons will not be considered as a solution. This namesake of Dany, had she lived, had a significant claim which was likely to be passed over and this would likely have been the cause of the First Quarrel.

However, the most important thing about this Second First Daenerys is her death. She was one of the victims of a plague known as the Shivers. During an especially cruel winter with widespread famine (which looks like the forecast for TWoW/ADoS), this plague hit Westeros. The course of the Shivers is remarkably swift: death can come within a day of the onset of the first chill. First the afflicted will get a chill, then shivering that gets progressively worse, until it is so bad that the teeth chatter and the arms and legs convulse uncontrollably. When the end is near, the lips turn blue and the victim begins to cough up blood. Old and young are most vulnerable, though even men in the prime of life can wake up healthy one morning and be struck dead by the next. In the winter of 59 and 60 AC, no more than one in five of those who caught the Shivers ever recovered.

Because Dany was “the darling of the realm”, her death from the Shivers was most tragic. She died a day and a half after she had first complained of feeling cold. Furthermore, her death from the Shivers struck at the very heart of the Doctrine of Exceptionalism that Jaehaerys had created to validate his marriage to his sister. The popular misconception that “the blood of the dragon does not get sick” (which persisted up until Viserys and Dany) was rooted in the campaign of Jaehaerys to establish this Doctrine of Exceptionalism. This is a symbolic way of saying that the Targaryens are not exceptional and they are not entitled to greatness just because they are Targaryens.

To conclude Part 2:

With the first and especially the second historical Daenerys Targaryen, GRRM intended the readers to draw certain parallels to the current one. GRRM created this extra Daenerys for a reason. If the whole point of her backstory is not to be related to the current Dany, then GRRM could have easily found another Targaryen name for this tragic princess. The tragic (and understandably anticlimactic) death of the Second First Daenerys from the Shivers (as what looks like a direct contradiction to the Doctrine of Exceptionalism) should be a final warning to the readers to reevaluate their expectations about Dany’s endgame.

Part 3: Dany’s Choice

Now, let us address the “understandably anticlimactic” ending for Dany. How the following quora question is framed perfectly encapsulates this reaction to the theory of Dany’s death in childbirth:

Why do many people assume Daenerys will die in childbirth, even though childbirth is a rather inglorious and unheroic death for a character as strong and developed as her? Doesn't childbirth seem like a dull way to write off such a grand character?

And below is Kelsey’s answer (who made similar arguments as Apple Martini here) which saves me from covering a lot of things that I had to in this post:

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I’m … really … leery of calling dying in childbirth “inglorious and unheroic.” Only people with female reproductive anatomy (edited to, I hope, be more inclusive) can die in childbirth, obviously — no cis man will ever get this specific “inglorious and unheroic” exit. It essentially places a negative value judgment on a manner of death that for many women in the past (and in the story of ASOIAF/GoT) was inescapable — rather than lament the lack of appropriate medical care such women suffered through, you instead wave off their deaths as “unheroic.” And it essentially tells women that a major way for them to die — historically, the major way, and still the major way in many places — renders them “less than” men in their manner of death. I mean, fuck that, right?

I think it’s inaccurate to portray dying in childbirth as lacking in merit. GRRM in ASOIAF compares women and childbirth with men and battle, not to take away from women’s hardship or demean their sacrifice, but to put it into a context recognizable to this feudal society. The Spartans afforded headstones and marked graves to precisely two types of people in their society. One type was men who had fallen in battle.

The second type?

Women who died in childbirth.

I can definitely see where Dany dying in childbirth might feel anticlimactic, given that she would have (likely) come very, very close to attaining the Iron Throne before she did it. But I find it quite gross to refer to dying in childbirth as an “inferior” cause of death, as if a woman might have avoided it by being “better” somehow — I hate to break it to you, but childbirth has in our long history killed many a “strong and developed” woman. Surviving childbirth doesn’t make a woman inherently “better,” and dying in childbirth is not a ding against her mental or moral fortitude. It might feel abrupt for Dany to die in childbirth, or disappointing, but to take it as a knock against her as a character is … well, it’s ridiculous. That’s not how it works.

Having said all of that, I do also wince at the idea of Dany being reduced to her uterus in the endgame (and that can be true whether she dies giving birth or not, if she’s gone through all of this just to have a baby whose plot subsumes hers), but in that case I expect more to be done around it or for it to be subverted in some way.

Having said that, as anticlimactic as it might be, I think it can also hammer home the point that Dany is only human at the end of the day and even someone like her can die for what may be a mundane or unglamorous (but not unheroic) reason. In the real world, not every charmed figure stays charmed forever, even collossal figures die prematurely (e.g. Alexander the Great), even the greatest of all time can be defeated eventually (e.g. Hannibal), and just wanting something really badly, even coming really close to getting it, might not be enough. In that case it’s not so much how she dies, but that she dies — her death at the cusp of achieving what she wants is actually much more in line with GRRM’s ethos in terms of power and agency than her winning it all would be.

 

Had to redact certain parts related to the show.

I believe Dany will die giving birth to a baby in the books. This will involve a choice by her and it will be the culmination of Dany’s (real or perceived) sense of guilt in the death of Rhaego.

“Back to square one” is a powerful way to tell a story if handled well. I don’t mean that the same story at the beginning will be repeated at the end without any point. Rather the characters will find themselves in a similar situation to a key moment in their past. They will be put on a similar test and after their growth throughout their journey; it will be interesting to see how they will react this time. For example, Jaime might find himself once again in a position to make a choice when a mad monarch tries to burn King’s Landing. Jon might find himself at the opposite side of the table when the Wall falls and Jon is forced to lead the survivors to southern kingdoms. In that case, he will be wearing the shoes and the mantle of Mance Rayder against a new Jon and a new Stannis in the south. Same perspective with a different angle.

As for Dany, she might find herself in a dilemma where she has to choose between her baby and her crown. Truth be told, those were her options back in AGoT. Drogo was on the move towards conquering Westeros and fulfilling her wish before he got wounded. Dany had the choice to let Drogo die (and her ambition to retake Westeros with him), flee as Jorah told and try to save her baby. Instead, she chose Drogo and she is still not ready to face whether this choice also involved the willing sacrifice of Rhaego. In the future, if GRRM makes Dany pregnant again and lures her to a choice between her baby and her crown (where she cannot have both), the connection with Rhaego will be very important as in coming to full circle. What will Dany choose this time?

There is also the possible savior aspect in a situation like this. Dany might fully embrace the savior narrative preached by the Red Temple by the end. If GRRM lures Dany to a choice between her baby and her savior claim, whom will Dany choose to save? Will she sacrifice herself to save her baby or will she sacrifice her baby to save the world based on the belief that she is the prophesized savior and she should survive to save everyone (except her baby)?

I don’t want to get much into the “plot mechanics” of how GRRM can build this dilemma. There are not many clues to go and GRRM can freely fill the blanks. The important point is the thematic sense. This should be the ultimate character challenge to Dany and she should be presented with a choice. She should make the decision to sacrifice herself and save her baby in order to come to a full circle and tie her arc in a bittersweet tone. Her realization of the extent of her culpability in Rhaego’s death will prove essential in this decision making process.

A possible way to establish this dilemma is C-section. In the medieval setting, C-section is lethal and it always involves a choice. This is where Dany’s choice comes in to the story. Either they cut the mother open and save the baby or they save the mother by dismembering the baby and pulling it out piece by piece. GRRM planted a similar precedent in Fire & Blood with the last pregnancy of Alyssa Velaryon. GRRM can easily build more direct precedents in the next book. After all, does anyone know with absolute certainty what is going on in the Bloody Isle?

Quote

 

A Feast for Crows - Samwell V

At the Weeping Dock, Sam watched two acolytes help an old man into a boat for the short voyage to the Bloody Isle. A young mother climbed in after him, a babe not much older than Gilly’s squalling in her arms.

 

We should not be surprised if GRRM sends Sam to the Bloody Isle in TWoW where he studies a C-section procedure as the mother is presented with a choice; to save herself by sacrificing her baby or to sacrifice herself to save her baby.

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Interesting take. I agree that there is an intentional false record of events from Dany's POV in her accounts. The question she asks herself about knowing the cost "Did I??" suggests that she did but suppressed it. Mirri seems to have dropped the veil at that point and is seeing into Dany's soul. I wonder if Mirri had intended to sacrifice Dany's baby, but since it was a stillborn, full resurrection wasn't possible, which explains Drogo's state. If so, Mirri isnt to blame, but took the blame anyway to spite Dany, like Tyrion falsely confessed to killing Joffrey. It's certainly a murky scenario and I'm skeptical of Dany's account.

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I don't try to talk about endings anymore, especially referring to Dany. It's too bad because I like her :(

If so I just hope it's not a Jon Snow son, I never liked the romantic parallels between them. That on the show was horrible, I hope it doesn't happen.

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3 hours ago, Mithras said:

I think Dany’s culpability in Rhaego’s fate is complicated. The truth is probably somewhere in between. Dany is not completely guilty but she is also not completely innocent.

I agree with this. 

3 hours ago, Mithras said:

After all, she is the mother whereas MMD was just a stranger. While making the deal with MMD, Dany did not pay attention to or willfully ignored certain glaring signs. She tried to convince herself that the horse should be enough. After the disaster, she was so terrified of her own share of guilt that she mentally locked this away and coined that “If I look back I am lost” catchphrase. Because admitting that she selfishly sacrificed her baby for bloodmagic would indeed destroy her at that point of the story and she knows it in her subconscious.

 

3 hours ago, Mithras said:

What is more interesting is that Dany was still lying to herself as a natural and understandable psychological defense mechanism with that “Ser Jorah had killed her son, Dany knew...” part and later with that “You cheated me. You murdered my child within me.” part. She convinced herself that it was the fault of others: Ser Jorah, MMD, anyone other than Dany. When MMD told her that she was lying to herself and she knew the price all along, Dany completed the “If I look back I am lost” defense mechanism and started using it thereafter whenever she faced an inconvenient truth. This whole thing is textbook Cognitive Dissonance. 

So, I have a little different take on this than you. I agree she may have ignored some signs, willfully or no but I don't think she knew from the beginning that it was Rhaego's life she would be sacrificing. She truly believes, initially that it was the horse. Now, should she have believed that? Maybe, maybe not. On one hand she really doesn't have any reason to not believe what MMD says, MMD doesn't say it's the horses life that is paying for Drogo's, Dany assumes that but MMD does give her reason to believe it. Paraphrasing: "Only death pays for life" "My life? ok do it" "No, not your life... Bring me his horse" - so while Mirri doesn't specifically say the horse pays for Drogo's life, she does imply it & again, Dany doesn't really have any reason to not believe her. On the other hand Dany certainly could have questioned Mirri & dug deeper into the situation. I think the reason she didn't is two fold: 1. She is having a traumatic experience & worried about losing her husband so she probably isn't thinking very clear. 2. I don't think it truly matters to Dany what the price is, she is willing to pay it. 

I don't think Dany is lying to herself here, not wholly. IIRC (& I may not) Didn't Jorah kill the child as a mercy because the child was a twisted, disfigured thing that wasn't going to live anyway? And while Dany could have questioned Mirri & attempted to get the whole truth prior to the ceremony or seance or whatever Mirri did, Mirri could have let her know it was going to be Rhaego's life to pay for Drogo's, (If it really even did - I'm not so sure but that's another discussion) so Mirri did cheat her & Jorah did kill her child. "You murdered my child within me" isn't completely true because it can't be true that MMD murdered the child within her & that Jorah killed the baby after it came out but if what happened to Rhaego was a result of Mirri's ritual then Mirri brought about the necessity to put the child down once it came out & thus is guilty of murder. I also think Dany is using this as a defense mechanism though. I think a mother, knowing that they agreed to something that brought about the death of their child - even if that isn't what they wanted, or isn't what they agreed to, is going to feel guilt. She is blaming other people as a defense mechanism, but those other people are to be blamed if that makes sense? In a nut shell I think both things are true: What Dany says is not a lie but is also a defense mechanism. 

At any rate, like I said I think no matter the price she would have paid it. 

3 hours ago, Mithras said:

One interesting tidbit about the fever dream is that the famous “You don’t want to wake the dragon, do you!” line of Viserys fades throughout the dream and reflects the part which it precedes. “…want to wake the dragon…” matches with the death of Rhaego, as if Dany wanted to wake the dragon (i.e. to acquire power) and sacrificed Rhaego for it. One might draw a similarity to her earlier dreams where she was empowered by the burning of Viserys.

Again, I have a similar but different take here. I do think the the waking of the dragon dream correlates with Rhaego's death but I don't think it was a conscious decision on Dany's part - That she "wanted to wake the dragon & sacrificed Rhaego for it" I take it more as, Rhaego's sacrifice allowed the waking of the dragon. We will probably see a much darker Daenerys in days to come but I don't think, at this point at least & maybe ever, would she willingly, purposefully, & consciously sacrifice her child to hatch dragon eggs. I think in an ideal world Daenerys preferred to have Drogo & Rhaego alive & well much more than she ever desired dragons. The dragons were almost a conciliation of sorts. She did get the dragons because of the loss of her loved ones but that wasn't her wish. I think the guilt derives from realizing that the dragons are a result of the death of Drogo & Rhaego, even though it was not what she intended to do. 

 

4 hours ago, Mithras said:

While being abused by Viserys, Dany made a wish and then gave birth to a dragon that killed/ate Viserys, which made her strong.

I don't know if you can conclude she made a wish here. It just says she whimpered. That is a visceral response to being hurt & probably was nothing coherent. 

4 hours ago, Mithras said:

Reading the dream in this order means Dany was completely innocent in the death of her abuser and the empowerment (in the form of a literal dragon) that came with the death of Viserys was a not premeditated. Then, why did she feel guilt for the death of Viserys which surfaced up after so much time in her final chapter of ADwD? What about Dany completely writing off Viserys in her mind even before his death?

Viserys's may be premeditated on a subconscious level but I don't think she actively set out to kill him. I don't read this as she is completely innocent in the death of her abuser either. I read it as much simpler than that: He is abusing her, her own dragon wakes, & puts an end to the abuse. She feels guilty because no matter what else he is, he is her brother. I, personally, think he got what was coming to him but if it were my brother I understand my feelings would be much more complicated than that. I think it's pretty natural to feel some guilt even though it was his own actions that ultimately caused his death because it was done in defense of her. I don't recall her completely writing him off before that. I remember her coming to the conclusion he is no dragon & starting to see him for what he really is but even on the day of his death she tries to talk him into sitting with her, putting the sword away, etc - showing whether or not she thought she had completely written him off, she hadn't truly. 

 

4 hours ago, Mithras said:

When Dany had this thought, Viserys was still very much alive.

This is definitely interesting. Why would Daenerys think her son will sit the IT at this point? Is it because Rhaego would be Viserys's heir? 

 

I don't have time to read the rest right now but I will return later. Nice post, very interesting. 

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2 hours ago, Lyanna<3Rhaegar said:

This is definitely interesting. Why would Daenerys think her son will sit the IT at this point? Is it because Rhaego would be Viserys's heir?

I don't think so, it is more likely that at this point she thinks he would be unable to regain the kingdom, he could kill himself trying (as was the case) or if by chance he could not stay in power for long.

She is that sister who thinks her older brother is the best player on the team, until watching a game, he wants to be the team captain, but she knows that if he is the captain they will not win the championship.

If in the future he was still alive, would she want to get him out of the game? Who knows 

I took that as a wrong but innocent thought on her part at that moment.

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I'm not convinced that MMD was responsible for Rhaego's condition. 
Dany may have already begun the process of feeding his soul into the green egg. 

Quote

Irri fetched the egg with the deep green shell, bronze flecks shining amid its scales as she turned it in her small hands. Dany curled up on her side, pulling the sandsilk cloak across her and cradling the egg in the hollow between her swollen belly and small, tender breasts. She liked to hold them. They were so beautiful, and sometimes just being close to them made her feel stronger, braver, as if somehow she were drawing strength from the stone dragons locked inside.

She was lying there, holding the egg, when she felt the child move within her … as if he were reaching out, brother to brother, blood to blood. "You are the dragon," Dany whispered to him, "the true dragon. I know it. I know it." And she smiled, and went to sleep dreaming of home.

With Rhaego being reborn as Rhaegal, lines like this would seem to be incorrect. 

Quote

“The stallion who mounts the world will burn no cities now. His khalasar shall trample no nations into dust.”

Which may suggest that MMD only partially knew what she was talking about or was lying.

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15 minutes ago, Narsil4 said:

I'm not convinced that MMD was responsible for Rhaego's condition. 
Dany may have already begun the process of feeding his soul into the green egg. 

With Rhaego being reborn as Rhaegal, lines like this would seem to be incorrect. 

Which may suggest that MMD only partially knew what she was talking about or was lying.

Yeah, this is what I think too. I think Mirri is lying & that Rhaego's death is likely either a result of Jorah carrying Dany into the tent when Mirri is doing her thing or a result of whatever happens to some Targ babies. 

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51 minutes ago, TedBear said:

I don't think so, it is more likely that at this point she thinks he would be unable to regain the kingdom, he could kill himself trying (as was the case) or if by chance he could not stay in power for long.

She is that sister who thinks her older brother is the best player on the team, until watching a game, he wants to be the team captain, but she knows that if he is the captain they will not win the championship.

If in the future he was still alive, would she want to get him out of the game? Who knows 

I took that as a wrong but innocent thought on her part at that moment.

I gotcha, that makes sense. 

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Posted (edited)

One of the things most valued by women is the ability to bear children. George Martin loves to take away from a person something that make them who they are.  It's something biological rather than material. Like Theon and Varys losing their balls.  Which is losing their manhood.  Something just about all men cherish and enjoy.  It is a part of being a man.  And so it is a part of being a woman to have the ability to bear children.  Varys lost his balls and gained extraordinary abilities.  Daenerys lost her ability to bear children and that truly made her a dragon.  As we know, dragons are gender neutral.  They can change their gender.  In a symbolic sense, Daenerys lost the ability to have children, she lost a part of what made her a female.  In exchange, she was given the three dragons and great power to reshape the world.  It doesn't make sense for her to die from childbirth.  

Edited by Dothraki Khal

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22 hours ago, Lyanna<3Rhaegar said:

or a result of whatever happens to some Targ babies. 

Yea, I'd agree. It seems likely that putting the eggs in the cribs stems from the same ritual. Though they perhaps didn't totally remember why they needed to do that and missed the rest of the steps.

16 hours ago, Dothraki Khal said:

In a symbolic sense, Daenerys lost the ability to have children, she lost a part of what made her a female.

I think Drogo returned soon after as Drogon, so she might not actually be permanently sterile.
If what was said was actually true, but said in a way for MMD to mess with Dany. 

Through some tinfoily connections Dany seems to be tied to Sphinx symbolism. 
One of the implications of being females pretending to be male and perhaps also the reverse. 

So I have to wonder what that might imply for Dany especially if being sterile isn't an issue for her. 

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Posted (edited)
On 1/2/2020 at 7:35 AM, Mithras said:

I start with this important question. Did Dany willingly and selfishly sacrifice her baby for the blood magic ritual so that her husband could live and take her home? Yes? No?

Rhaego was murdered by the evil Mirri Maz Duur.  The lives of the three kings (Rhaego, Viserys, and Drogo) were what bought the dragons for Daenerys.  The withering of the womb and the deaths of Mirri were part of the payment.  Rhaego was murdered but the gods are not picky. Whether sacrificed or murdered, a princeling was dead.  Manner of death matters not.  

Your "article," Mithras, come across as a desperate attempt to smear Daenerys Targaryen.  She is the leading hero in this story.  She might be harsh for modern day standards but she is the best leader among those in positions of power. 

Edited by Finley McLeod

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Finley McLeod said:

Rhaego was murdered by the evil Mirri Maz Duur. 

So, the only poor, downtrodden slaves who are worth saving are the ones who don’t displease the mother of dragons. I see now... 

Quote

The lives of the three kings (Rhaego, Viserys, and Drogo) were what bought the dragons for Daenerys.  The withering of the womb and the deaths of Mirri were part of the payment.  Rhaego was murdered but the gods are not picky. Whether sacrificed or murdered, a princeling was dead.  Manner of death matters not.  

If king’s - or kings’ - blood is required, then it does matter that Rhaego was never a king, because he died before Drogo. 

Two kings to wake the dragon. The father first and then the son, so both die kings.

ETA: And Viserys, a king? All I have for that is :rofl:

Edited by kissdbyfire

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1 hour ago, kissdbyfire said:

So, the only poor, downtrodden slaves who are worth saving are the ones who don’t displease the mother of dragons. I see now... 

If king’s - or kings’ - blood is required, then it does matter that Rhaego was never a king, because he died before Drogo. 

Two kings to wake the dragon. The father first and then the son, so both die kings.

ETA: And Viserys, a king? All I have for that is :rofl:

I mean, Viserys would have as much Kings Blood as Edric Storm did or possibly even Jon Snow has......

 

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26 minutes ago, OberynBlackfyre said:

I mean, Viserys would have as much Kings Blood as Edric Storm did or possibly even Jon Snow has......

 

Right but it says 2 kings to wake the dragon. Viserys was never King. 

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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, Lyanna<3Rhaegar said:

Right but it says 2 kings to wake the dragon. Viserys was never King. 

Oh on that I agree. But I never thought that Viserys was necessarily a part of THIS ritual. He had died like weeks before any of this. 
 

And I don’t think Rhaego has anything to do with it either other than providing a “soul”. Rhaeg’s soul for one dragon, Drogos for one dragon, and MMD’s soul for the last dragon. 
Kings blood was provided by Drogo as he was the only one who had actually been named a “king” 

Sorcerers blood by MMD. 
 

tehcnically Rhaego was simply there because there was three eggs and each life = one dragon. 
 

 

but ultimately the ceremony could have been conducted with only the body of Drogo and the life of MMD if they were trying to wake a SINGLE dragon egg

Edited by OberynBlackfyre

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46 minutes ago, OberynBlackfyre said:

Oh on that I agree. But I never thought that Viserys was necessarily a part of THIS ritual. He had died like weeks before any of this. 
 

And I don’t think Rhaego has anything to do with it either other than providing a “soul”. Rhaeg’s soul for one dragon, Drogos for one dragon, and MMD’s soul for the last dragon. 
Kings blood was provided by Drogo as he was the only one who had actually been named a “king” 

Sorcerers blood by MMD. 
 

tehcnically Rhaego was simply there because there was three eggs and each life = one dragon. 
 

 

but ultimately the ceremony could have been conducted with only the body of Drogo and the life of MMD if they were trying to wake a SINGLE dragon egg

I suppose we don't know for sure yet, maybe ever. But Mel says it takes two Kings, first the father then the son to wake the dragon. 

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27 minutes ago, Lyanna<3Rhaegar said:

I suppose we don't know for sure yet, maybe ever. But Mel says it takes two Kings, first the father then the son to wake the dragon. 

I maybe that’s true however from what I remember, they had burned Rhaego before Daenerys had even found out about Drogo being catatonic.  So Rhaego wasn’t burned on the pyre that culminated in the dragons hatching. 
 

 

Also Mel might be talking about something altogether different. It’s been shown that her understanding of prophecy is.....confused at best. 

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Posted (edited)
37 minutes ago, OberynBlackfyre said:

I maybe that’s true however from what I remember, they had burned Rhaego before Daenerys had even found out about Drogo being catatonic.  So Rhaego wasn’t burned on the pyre that culminated in the dragons hatching. 
 

 

Also Mel might be talking about something altogether different. It’s been shown that her understanding of prophecy is.....confused at best. 

For sure & Mel is tricksy so you just never know. 

I don't think her it's necessary in her version for both Kings to be burned in the same fire but the father is supposed to go first & even if we say Drogo was technically dead prior to Dany smothering him he didn't die via fire. Idk if that is necessary either because Mel never specifically says the father must be burned alive & then the son but she sure is hell bent on burning people alive. 

At any rate if Mel is trying to hatch dragon eggs clearly Dany has the right of it & Melisandre is confused or mistaken because Dany did hatch dragons. 

Edited by Lyanna<3Rhaegar

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14 hours ago, Finley McLeod said:

Rhaego was murdered by the evil Mirri Maz Duur.  The lives of the three kings (Rhaego, Viserys, and Drogo) were what bought the dragons for Daenerys.  The withering of the womb and the deaths of Mirri were part of the payment.  Rhaego was murdered but the gods are not picky. Whether sacrificed or murdered, a princeling was dead.  Manner of death matters not.  

Your "article," Mithras, come across as a desperate attempt to smear Daenerys Targaryen.  She is the leading hero in this story.  She might be harsh for modern day standards but she is the best leader among those in positions of power. 

What MMD does is best described as 'malicious compliance'.  She did the job she was asked to do even though she knew Daenerys wouldn't like the result.  She did warn Daenerys about the consequences, although without exactly saying what would happen, perhaps she didn't know.  As a captured slave, she did what she was supposed to do and followed instructions.

Daenerys is desperate at that point and doesn't want to think about the consequences, she is relieved when it seems that only a horse's death is needed, so she was definitely thinking it could be something worse.  She was in charge and should be responsible for the result.  When Daenerys thinks back, she puts the blame on to MMD, probably to deflect her own feelings of guilt.

Daenerys is a hero, but heros make mistakes and have low points, otherwise they don't have very interesting stories.

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44 minutes ago, Bob0 said:

What MMD does is best described as 'malicious compliance'.  She did the job she was asked to do even though she knew Daenerys wouldn't like the result.  She did warn Daenerys about the consequences, although without exactly saying what would happen, perhaps she didn't know.  As a captured slave, she did what she was supposed to do and followed instructions

She takes credit for it. I don't have the quotes in front of me but she certainly implies she knew what would happen & did it with out telling Dany of the consequences to avenge the burning & pillaging of her village. 

46 minutes ago, Bob0 said:

Daenerys is desperate at that point and doesn't want to think about the consequences, she is relieved when it seems that only a horse's death is needed, so she was definitely thinking it could be something worse.  She was in charge and should be responsible for the result.  When Daenerys thinks back, she puts the blame on to MMD, probably to deflect her own feelings of guilt.

I agree with most of this but I don't think you can lay all of the blame at Daenerys' feet. She was in charge & asked MMD to do something but what was done is not what she asked. It can be argued that MMD was justified in what she did (I do not agree) but that still doesn't make it all Danny's fault. 

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