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James Steller

Rhaegar: How do you feel about him?

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He’s probably one of the most divisive figures in all of GRRM’s world. I’ve heard so many different opinions about whether or not Rhaegar was a positive or negative figure. Obviously, we don’t know all the details about him yet, so it’s tough to say either way. But based on the info thus far, what’s your opinion? Was Rhaegar a heroic figure? A villain? Would he have been a good king?

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I think he had visions. I think as a child his visions and research lead him to believe he would need to die to save the world. I think as he grew he came to believe it was not him who had to die but his children, and three of them.

Given I think he had literal visions (the same as Stannis does) of such things I don't know that I can judge too harshly, what would I do if I had visions going on in my head telling me that if I didn't act then the world would end? It isn't really something one can relate to.

So I'll say he's a tragic character born into terrible circumstances.

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As a person, Rhaegar seemed like a decent enough man, and he was certainly going to be a better king than his dad. It's telling that Robert Baratheon is the only one who has a completely negative view of Rhaegar; everyone else either feels mixed or positive about him. He wouldn't have been so fondly recalled if he didn't have some genuine promise. He was capable as a military figure, he made beautiful music, he was polite and dignified, he probably could have been one of the best kings that screwed up dynasty has ever had. 

But I think there was something wrong with him, on a personal level. He seemed very inwardly focused and insensitive to other people's feelings. He didn't notice or care that Jon Connington was clearly in love with him, he seemed to not care about the feelings of his wife, since all he was so obsessed over the three-headed dragon prophecy. He also should have taken action much sooner where his dad's paranoia was concerned. Maybe not a coup, obviously, but at least Daeron was making power moves during Aegon IV's move so that he was impossible to disown and remove. 

It depends on what GRRM does with the prophecy angle, and whether it's legitimate or whether Rhaegar was overrating the prophecy's importance. When that truth comes out, we'll have a better way to judge Rhaegar's actions and whether it was all worth it in the end.

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4 minutes ago, chrisdaw said:

Given I think he had literal visions (the same as Stannis does) of such things I don't know that I can judge too harshly, what would I do if I had visions going on in my head telling me that if I didn't act then the world would end? It isn't really something one can relate to.

Find a shrink? Take prozac or an antipsychotic? :D

Joking aside, I don’t think I can judge Rhaegar w/o more info. But given what little we do know, I think he was overall an honourable man and not a villain. 

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1 minute ago, Canon Claude said:

As a person, Rhaegar seemed like a decent enough man, and he was certainly going to be a better king than his dad. It's telling that Robert Baratheon is the only one who has a completely negative view of Rhaegar; everyone else either feels mixed or positive about him. He wouldn't have been so fondly recalled if he didn't have some genuine promise. He was capable as a military figure, he made beautiful music, he was polite and dignified, he probably could have been one of the best kings that screwed up dynasty has ever had. 

But I think there was something wrong with him, on a personal level. He seemed very inwardly focused and insensitive to other people's feelings. He didn't notice or care that Jon Connington was clearly in love with him, he seemed to not care about the feelings of his wife, since all he was so obsessed over the three-headed dragon prophecy. He also should have taken action much sooner where his dad's paranoia was concerned. Maybe not a coup, obviously, but at least Daeron was making power moves during Aegon IV's move so that he was impossible to disown and remove. 

It depends on what GRRM does with the prophecy angle, and whether it's legitimate or whether Rhaegar was overrating the prophecy's importance. When that truth comes out, we'll have a better way to judge Rhaegar's actions and whether it was all worth it in the end.

I don't know what's worse; the people oblivious of Rhaegar's flaws, or the ones who can just move past them and praise him anyway.

I'll give you this, Claude, you're spot on about Rhaegar having issues, though I'm not personally sure whether it's due to his being on the spectrum as you speculated, or whether he was just a special kind of mad Targaryen. But he was not a well person. 

Honestly, I'd be furious if GRRM tries to make this an "everything happened for a reason" sort of story. Like we have to breathe a sigh of relief that everything, positive and negative, happened exactly as it was supposed to go. Because that robs the accountability from all the characters and would sour the concept of agency in this world. And that also means I have to look at Rhaegar, a man who wasn't as villainous as Aerys or Tywin, but was deeply destructive due to ignorance, single-mindedness, obsession, and simple cluelessness. He blundered his way through dealing with his crazy dad, and was happy to forget about it all so he could shack up with a side girl that he apparently loved. I don't even think much of that romance, genuine or not. It was a deeply selfish act on the both of them that led to how much suffering and death. 

In terms of getting people killed, for whatever reason, Rhaegar's body count is higher than most, so whether he's malicious or not, he's not a good man, and would have been a different kind of mad king than his dad, but dangerous nonetheless.

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1 minute ago, Floki of the Ironborn said:

I don't know what's worse; the people oblivious of Rhaegar's flaws, or the ones who can just move past them and praise him anyway.

I'll give you this, Claude, you're spot on about Rhaegar having issues, though I'm not personally sure whether it's due to his being on the spectrum as you speculated, or whether he was just a special kind of mad Targaryen. But he was not a well person. 

Honestly, I'd be furious if GRRM tries to make this an "everything happened for a reason" sort of story. Like we have to breathe a sigh of relief that everything, positive and negative, happened exactly as it was supposed to go. Because that robs the accountability from all the characters and would sour the concept of agency in this world. And that also means I have to look at Rhaegar, a man who wasn't as villainous as Aerys or Tywin, but was deeply destructive due to ignorance, single-mindedness, obsession, and simple cluelessness. He blundered his way through dealing with his crazy dad, and was happy to forget about it all so he could shack up with a side girl that he apparently loved. I don't even think much of that romance, genuine or not. It was a deeply selfish act on the both of them that led to how much suffering and death. 

In terms of getting people killed, for whatever reason, Rhaegar's body count is higher than most, so whether he's malicious or not, he's not a good man, and would have been a different kind of mad king than his dad, but dangerous nonetheless.

Much as you clearly hate Rhaegar, it's a bit of a tall order to pin an entire war on his and possibly Lyanna's actions. I mean, isn't that robbing all the other characters of agency? Much like you were hoping GRRM doesn't do with his overall series?

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Just now, Canon Claude said:

Much as you clearly hate Rhaegar, it's a bit of a tall order to pin an entire war on his and possibly Lyanna's actions. I mean, isn't that robbing all the other characters of agency? Much like you were hoping GRRM doesn't do with his overall series?

Duly noted, but it's not quite the same. Lyanna and Rhaegar's little love story, if that's what it was, was a catalyst for a lot of people making bad choices. And yes, I'm big enough to blame Brandon Stark and Aerys Targaryen equally for their stupid and impulsive actions. But I don't post praise for them either. 

As for Rhaegar, I don't claim he's the grand instigator of everything like a Machiavellian sorcerer, he was definitely not thinking of anything but his own desires and goals. And as I said, it was his actions which triggered a very sensitive situation, which he knew full well was sensitive, and he clearly didn't care enough. Like a guy who throws a lit cigarette over his shoulder as he's walking away from a leaking oil pipe next to a city of people, good and bad alike.

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36 minutes ago, Canon Claude said:

As a person, Rhaegar seemed like a decent enough man, and he was certainly going to be a better king than his dad. It's telling that Robert Baratheon is the only one who has a completely negative view of Rhaegar; everyone else either feels mixed or positive about him.

I wouldn't say people thinking positively about him is that great a commendation.

Dany and Viserys - Makes sense, he was their brother who was killed by the evil "Usurper"

Barristan - Basically grew up raising him

Cersei - Wanted to bang him

Jon Con - Also wanted to bang him

Ned - Thinks offhandedly that Rhaegar probably didn't visit brothels often. Note he doesn't think of Aerys unfavorably either, so not that great a selling point

Bran also thinks Rhaegar raped Lyanna. Where did he hear that from? This implies at least some sections of the population believe this version of events.

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3 minutes ago, Peach King said:

 

Bran also thinks Rhaegar raped Lyanna. Where did he hear that from? This implies at least some sections of the population believe this version of events.

I forgot that about Bran. And yes, if the King believes it, then the minstrels will make songs about it to please him, sure. So it would make sense that the commoners eat that story up and it carrying to Bran's ears, because he certainly didn't hear that from his mother and father; neither of them were those kinds of parents to talk to him about topics like that.

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1 hour ago, Canon Claude said:

He was capable as a military figure

What does this exactly mean??

 

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1 minute ago, frenin said:

What does this exactly mean??

 

Forgive me, I was being vague. I was referring to the fact that Rhaegar was clearly well-trained in martial pursuits such as riding, hunting, and jousting. He commanded a lot of respect from the greatest warriors of his day (Arthur Dayne, Barristan Selmy, Jaime Lannister, Gerold Hightower), and that says a lot in Rhaegar's favour as both a warrior and a leader. 

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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, Canon Claude said:

Forgive me, I was being vague. I was referring to the fact that Rhaegar was clearly well-trained in martial pursuits such as riding, hunting, and jousting. He commanded a lot of respect from the greatest warriors of his day (Arthur Dayne, Barristan Selmy, Jaime Lannister, Gerold Hightower), and that says a lot in Rhaegar's favour as both a warrior and a leader. 

Oh, well now i understand it.

Well, I don't really see that he commanded that much respect as warrior the only times people bring up his skills is as a way of flattering Dany, but he certainly was a very good one and had iron tones in his voice, which implies a very imposing persona.

Edited by frenin

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Keep in mind I could be completely wrong(probably am), but I've always thought of Rhaegar as a broken human being. He was born while Summerhall and many of his relatives were turning to ash, witnessed his father abuse his mother in many different ways, with the worst being the rape, while everyone around him pretending it's ok or nothing can be done about it. He was born into royalty so that already twists your logic and messes with your perception, but also born out of incest from a dynasty of incest practitioners, and if that isn't enough his father inherited the typical targ attitude of we're special and I'm great no matter what. These things combined like that and spread out over time made Rhaegar into what i interpret him as. 

I believe he had trouble with empathy and of understanding people beyond surface level. It seems to me he embodies the charming sociopath stereotype that is kinda based in reality, with him doing what he thinks he should do based on what society tells him is good. He uses societies rules as a guidebook to read off when his charm and observational skills fail him, and tries to be the best of what his guidebook tells him is good.  When he found that damn prophecy suddenly everything made since to him, why everyone is so confusing and why he feels different to everybody else; 'he's special and destined for great things like saving the world'. I interpret alot of his behavior as him not feeling what others say he should and struggling to understand other peoples lives and fails to see them as fully autonomous. To him it's like everyone is puppets in a big show moving around and acting out scenes but not real, not like him, not special. To him the prophesy explains all this to him, because now he knows life to be a play, a story, a song, in which he is the main character doing the good thing so all the other characters can live, and that will make him good and right like he's supposed to be. It makes his condition righteous and justifies whatever he has to do so that he can fulfill his destiny.

Then he meets Lyanna, who's different but that makes sense right? Rhaegar is different so why wouldn't she be too? Oh more of the prophesy suddenly makes sense now doesn't it? Ice and fire, Stark and Targaryen. They are meant to be, to make a special person who can save everyone. Cue obsession to make more of his life make sense to him by wooing the person who is also different. He has paid attention to the people around him all his life so he knows how to act and blend, and knows that many maidens like certain things so he will do those things with Lyanna. Offer her things that she would like, such as the freedom from her betrothed. It's okay he doesn't need the guidebook anymore, they're special and important to the song, so what does it matter what others will say and do? They were made for this. 

 

Oh suddenly everyone is angry and there's war everywhere. Oh why is Lyanna crying and wanting to go home? Doesn't she know how important they are? Our babe is going to do be a queen and a hero unlike any before her. I've told her this but she just cries harder and flinches from my touch, and looks at me with so much horror and confusion. I can fix this. I can make her understand. First i have to win this war and i will win, it is my destiny, then i will overthrow my father and make everything the way it is meant to be. 

 

Basically if you didn't catch my meaning, my opinion of Rhaegar is complicated. I see him as a mixture of broken child, quiet arrogance, and hero complex. If he never found or heard a peep of that prophecy he might have been a decent king, certainly better than his father. He would always struggle just like most people with 'empathy disorders', but I don't see him being straight up evil or cruel and callous. He would be the king that would try very hard to be perfect and make everyone happy because those are the rules he built for himself out what people say is good, but eventually I think people would realize just how little he understands and how little of himself there even is. The prophesy is basically his kryptonite.         

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I don't think there is that great a difference between Rhaegar and his father. Sure, Rhaegar looked much better and seems to have been smarter, but like his father Rhaegar wasn't mentally well. He was suffering from depression throughout his entire life, and if that had worsened as the years progressed he could have grown into an adequate to bad king, not the great guy his fanboys thought he would be. He could have turned into a king as well-loved and popular as Aegon III.

Rhaegar is styled as 'the last dragon' and 'last hope of House Targaryen' kind of guy because his father had clearly lost it in the end - and also because he is idealized by friend and foe alike after his early death.

In the leadership and military department he seems to have been all style and no substance. He lost the one battle he fought in and got himself killed in that one, too. He never sat on the Small Council, never served as Hand, never ruled in a meaningful capacity outside Dragonstone when he took the island as his seat. He reminds one of Prince Valarr and the second Daemon Blackfyre - a guy people think and hope will turn out well but who doesn't really deliver when pushed. We see that with the war which clearly was triggered and not stopped by Rhaegar as much as by many of the other players. That much we can say without having many details.

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1 minute ago, Lord Varys said:

 He reminds one of Prince Valarr and the second Daemon Blackfyre - a guy people think and hope will turn out well but who doesn't really deliver when pushed. We see that with the war which clearly was triggered and not stopped by Rhaegar as much as by many of the other players. That much we can say without having many details.

Valarr Targaryen never had a chance like Rhaegar did, Valarr died way too soon. 

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2 minutes ago, Floki of the Ironborn said:

Valarr Targaryen never had a chance like Rhaegar did, Valarr died way too soon. 

I meant that Rhaegar was looked at by many people in the Realm the same way those sycophants and yes-men looked at Valarr at Ashford. They wanted him to look good because he was the eldest son of the king's heir, they wanted to win his favor, etc. Of course the analogy doesn't fit perfectly since Rhaegar himself was a pretty good knight, unlike Valarr, but I'd still say that people took the few good traits Rhaegar and used them to imagine/paint him as a perfect prince. And that's not what he was.

I'd assume that if Aerys II had multiple sons close in age to Rhaegar, his eldest son wouldn't have looked that good if the younger sons had been good Targaryens lacking Rhaegar's not-so-great-qualities.

But in comparison to young a child and an increasingly erratic father who never cared much about tourneys and martial prowess Rhaegar would have been pretty decent. Compared to his uncles Duncan and Daeron Rhaegar would have likely been not particularly impressive, though.

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3 hours ago, Canon Claude said:

As a person, Rhaegar seemed like a decent enough man, and he was certainly going to be a better king than his dad. It's telling that Robert Baratheon is the only one who has a completely negative view of Rhaegar; everyone else either feels mixed or positive about him. He wouldn't have been so fondly recalled if he didn't have some genuine promise. He was capable as a military figure, he made beautiful music, he was polite and dignified, he probably could have been one of the best kings that screwed up dynasty has ever had. 

But I think there was something wrong with him, on a personal level. He seemed very inwardly focused and insensitive to other people's feelings. He didn't notice or care that Jon Connington was clearly in love with him, he seemed to not care about the feelings of his wife, since all he was so obsessed over the three-headed dragon prophecy. He also should have taken action much sooner where his dad's paranoia was concerned. Maybe not a coup, obviously, but at least Daeron was making power moves during Aegon IV's move so that he was impossible to disown and remove. 

It depends on what GRRM does with the prophecy angle, and whether it's legitimate or whether Rhaegar was overrating the prophecy's importance. When that truth comes out, we'll have a better way to judge Rhaegar's actions and whether it was all worth it in the end.

I like most of what you are saying.  I do take exception with your suggestion of making a power move against King Aerys II.  The only things he can do which will get approval from me are:  (a) do his best to support the heir chosen by his father, Prince Viserys, (b) stay away from politics and just keep on writing songs (c) join the NW.

Rhaegar failed the people of Westeros.  He should have kicked Lyanna out of the door.  It matters not how she came to be at the tower of sorrow.  He should have sent her back to her family even if it meant she will be unhappy for the rest of her life.  That is what a prince of the kingdom should do.  I do not think he would have been a good king.  He was too irresponsible.  Viserys would have been better.  Most anyone with a drop of conscience and responsibility could do better as the king.  Viserys took care of his little sister and raised her while living in the mean streets of the Free Cities.  No matter what you think of Viserys, that was quite an accomplishment.  Rhaegar has not done anything even close to that kind of achievement.  Sure, he can unseat people from their horses and sing sad songs.  That does not sound useful to me. 

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, James Steller said:

He’s probably one of the most divisive figures in all of GRRM’s world. I’ve heard so many different opinions about whether or not Rhaegar was a positive or negative figure. Obviously, we don’t know all the details about him yet, so it’s tough to say either way. But based on the info thus far, what’s your opinion? Was Rhaegar a heroic figure? A villain? Would he have been a good king?

I will start with I love Dunk & Egg and I genuinely hope that their deaths weren’t in vain. That being said I do think it is significant that they died the day Rhaegar was born. I think Rhaegar was or is interested in not only being king but being a good king. I do think he was or is very interested in prophecy and that’s how Lyanna Stark came into the picture. I think Elia respected Rhaegar and Elia was from Dorne where relationships are more open. I think Rhaegar being with another woman was blown out of proportion. I think Rhaegar kidnapping Lyanna was propaganda that they used to justify Robert usurping the thrown. They also use Roberts lineage on his grandmothers side as further justification. So I wonder if Robert knew that Tywin was going to sack the city. I guess I don’t think Rhaegar was a bad guy at all in fact I think the good guys lost at the Trident. Maybe there are no good guys in war but like I said most of the negative we read about Rhaegar is just propaganda. Now is he heroic I couldn’t say because his time is supposedly cut short before he can do anything in a heroic manner. I will say currently the story has him painted as the villain but I just don’t see it. I’m not sure if he would be a good king I’d say it’s more likely then unlikely who knows maybe we’ll find out in the final two books. 

Edited by DanielBasich

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I believe Martin has purposely not given readers enough info to really judge Rhaegar yet.  So, for now, I'll just say that "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions" sums up my feelings quite well about Rhaegar.

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