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Alyn Oakenfist

The many political mistakes of Daenaerys Targaryen

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She is how old in Dance? 15? 16?

And she's been learning on the go. She hasn't been tought how to rule or how to to wise politics or how to free slave cities and then pacify them.

All that considered she did amazingly well. I wouldn't have been able to do any of that at all at that age.

And yes, she did make mistakes. Who doesn't though? And as a teenager?

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2 hours ago, SeanF said:

Seneca's extortion is considered one of the prime causes of Boudicca's revolt.

Yeah, but it is also sort of remarkable that the guy is still some kind of great person because of his writing ... when one would realistically expect that he and 'the monster' would have likely talked about his writings ... and they wouldn't have affected the policies of either of them.

Meaning that basically Nero's means were essentially the means the ruling class used in general ... some of them ended up being vilified, while others were not vilified - and others still became ideal rulers.

Nero's entire take on presenting himself as a public artists was likely a rather great propaganda move to win the love of the common people, both in Rome and his beloved Greece. The senatorial class viewed this as grotesque and distasteful, but for the common people it must be great if the emperor is effectively one of them, making fun of himself by pretending to an actor or a gladiator.

2 hours ago, SeanF said:

Some nobles may be heroes, but as you say, they are part of the problem.  There is no evidence at all that life was better for the Smallfolk when the Vale, Stormlands etc. were independent kingdoms, any more than life would be better for the English if we revived Mercia, East Anglia etc. as independent kingdoms.  In essence, Westeros is England writ large. 

In fact, we do have evidence that it was much worse before the Conquest, especially for the smallfolk, with there being constant war between the kingdoms and - and that, I think, was a rather big revelation in FaB - there being no King's Peace before the Conquest, either. There may have been kings in the Seven Kingdoms back then, but they couldn't really enforce a peace in their lands. Lords did what they wanted before the Conquest, fighting private wars, exploting their smallfolk, and, one assumes, even defying their kings with impunity (the reason that there are still Boltons today must mean the Starks never truly had the power to attaint or eradicate the bloodline).

It took the dragons to enforce a rule of law that demanded that the lords, for the most part, turn to the king to settle disputes.

And, yes, England dissolving into independent kingdoms again is the best example there. Westeros is pretty much one country with one culture and only slightly aberrations in the vicinity. It is more a united country than the US are today ... and even there the idea of this or that state seceding again from the union is just silly. This is not the kind of nationalistic message that is sent here.

And both for the Northmen/Riverlanders as well as the Ironborn the whole secession thing is something certain members of the noble class push - it is not representative of a collective interest of the majority of the people of those places.

If it were then we would have a real enmity between north and south in Westeros (and east and west, too). Not to mention no threat to all people - or, the very strong indication that the Others can only be stopped by 'the good secessionist guys' - or perhaps even better still, there would be a plot underlining that secession was necessary if they want to defeat the Others.

Instead, it was established as early AGoT that Robb Stark was one of the greatest morons in this story for marching south, not north. And it is Stannis, not Robb or Bran or Jon Snow who comes to the rescue of the Wall.

And to be clear, there are good highborn people in Westeros - but if look at the likes of Jaime, Tyrion, Catelyn, Sansa, Arya, even really truly good people like Brienne - then very few of them even try to see the big picture. Even Jon Snow dreams about destroying the Lannisters after he knows about the Others ... but whether Jaime gets some kind of redemption or Arya stops murdering people won't really have any bearing on the larger plot.

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53 minutes ago, Amris said:

She is how old in Dance? 15? 16?

And she's been learning on the go. She hasn't been tought how to rule or how to to wise politics or how to free slave cities and then pacify them.

All that considered she did amazingly well. I wouldn't have been able to do any of that at all at that age.

And yes, she did make mistakes. Who doesn't though? And as a teenager?

I'd normally agree, until you remember that everybody is way too young and way too advanced mentally. Sansa is 13, Jon is 17, Tyrion is I think 24, Young Griff is 18, and so on and so forth. So given the company, being a teen isn't really an excuse.

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6 minutes ago, Alyn Oakenfist said:

I'd normally agree, until you remember that everybody is way too young and way too advanced mentally. Sansa is 13, Jon is 17, Tyrion is I think 24, Young Griff is 18, and so on and so forth. So given the company, being a teen isn't really an excuse.

I think the best comparison is with great leaders as young men and women, all of whom had their share of cock ups.

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19 hours ago, Amris said:

She is how old in Dance? 15? 16?

And she's been learning on the go. She hasn't been tought how to rule or how to to wise politics or how to free slave cities and then pacify them.

All that considered she did amazingly well. I wouldn't have been able to do any of that at all at that age.

And yes, she did make mistakes. Who doesn't though? And as a teenager?

Call some stats geek and he'd say xx% of the characters are below 18

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On 11/19/2020 at 6:23 PM, Lord Varys said:

Stannis doesn't have 'more right' to anything - be the comparison Aegon or Euron or Daenerys. Joffrey/Tommen Baratheon are the crowned and anointed monarchs of the Seven Kingdoms, making Stannis the pretender and would-be usurper ... and his defeat in battle reinforced the fact that, he, Stannis is the wrong and Joff/Tommen are in the right.

Dany's belief her family should get back what's their right isn't different in the slightest from Stannis' delusion that he should be king ... or Bran's wish to take back Winterfell from Lord Ramsay, Asha's wish to oust Euron, Edmure's ambition to get back Riverrun, and so on.

I don't think Dany's desire to murder nobles is as great as Stannis' - who already dreamed to create lords of his own choosing while stuck on Dragonstone. Go, reread Theon 1. It shows in detail how shitty Stannis treats even the men closest to him firsthand.

Westeros is a world where kingship is still very personal. You have to be a likable guy to properly rule, to be able to inspire loyalty and keep your lords sweet. If you cannot do that you will fail.

Daenerys is infinitely better in that department than Stannis ... as the many men she draw to her cause by charisma, negotiation, etc. do testify. She will have support in that department even in Westeros.

Stannis is the direct relative of the previous king. He is in the line of succession. Aegon, Euron and Daenerys are not in the line of succession at all. Hence, they have no right to the throne... meaning that yes, Stannis' "delusion" is significantly different from Daenerys' belief she should be on the throne, as it does have legal backing (provided his accusations could be proven). Daenerys meanwhile is no different from that of any other conqueror.

Yes, Daenerys is more likeable. But that is about the only advantage she has over Stannis.

On 11/19/2020 at 6:23 PM, Lord Varys said:

That is a rather simplistic view of things, even by the author himself. The Iron Throne does indeed not matter if there is a danger to the entire world. Of course, this is also a story about relationships and emotional conflicts and motivations, etc. ... which it why it is not as simplistic good vs. evil like Tolkien's writing. A character like Arya would just be an utter monster in Tolkien's works. But she isn't in ASoIaF, no?

The difference with Tolkien and Martin is that the Others aren't the only conflict - whereas with Tolkien everything is always about the Dark Lord.

First, the Iron Throne may not matter logically if there is a danger to the entire world, but it still matters narratively.

Second, calling Tolkien's writing "simplistic good vs evil" shows that you have no clue about Tolkien and his writing. Go read Silmarillion, or even just Denethor chapters of Lord of the Rings, and you can see how a great person can still cause much evil, despite best intentions. Nor is everything always about the Dark Lord - in Silmarillion, Elves pretty much screwed themselves over even without help from Morgoth. Elvish kinslaying was helped by Morgoth, but it was caused by the pride and hubris, and it continued even in Middle Earth. The entirety of Akallabeth shows how a good choice and a necessary action may still lead you down the road of destruction if you are not careful.

On 11/19/2020 at 6:23 PM, Lord Varys said:

That is a rather simplistic view of things, even by the author himself. The Iron Throne does indeed not matter if there is a danger to the entire world. Of course, this is also a story about relationships and emotional conflicts and motivations, etc. ... which it why it is not as simplistic good vs. evil like Tolkien's writing. A character like Arya would just be an utter monster in Tolkien's works. But she isn't in ASoIaF, no?

The difference with Tolkien and Martin is that the Others aren't the only conflict - whereas with Tolkien everything is always about the Dark Lord.

I don't doubt that she will reach that conclusion eventually. The series is, after all, called A Song of Ice and Fire. But how many people will die before that happens?

On 11/19/2020 at 6:23 PM, Lord Varys said:

This is a monarchistic world. People will always believe that the original dynasty are the ones who are the rightful kings. Even the Baratheon fan boys know that in their hearts. It is just that part of the readership don't seem to get that. Just as the Northmen want the Starks back, the Westermen would want the Lannisters back if they were ousted (or the Vale the Arryns), Westeros as a whole wants the dragons back if the option is on the table.

Viserys could have been a lackwit cripple, and there would have still been some lords rising in his name if he had shown up. Doesn't mean he would have won a war, but there would have been a war.

I think this kind of thing is best portrayed in the first season of Rome, where Caesar really beats up Vorenus when he allows Pompey to leave. And that is still republic Rome - a society so steeped in medieval monarchism would as Westeros is not just going to collective with the newcoming usurpers.

The Baratheons would have to fear a Targaryen restoration even a hundred years after the Rebellion.

No, that is not how it works in a "monarchistic world". Premise that people will always believe that the original dynasty are the ones who are rightful kings is ridiculous. If that were the case, no open rebellion would have any chance of succeeding, and there would be no hope of replacing a dynasty except through assassination. Yet it did happen. Therefore, people will not always believe that "the original dynasty are the ones who are rightful kings".

And Stark argument is not a good one - North is clearly different from the rest of the realm. Plus, Targaryens do not have the roots in Westeros.

Some people may believe that. But not the people in general.

On 11/19/2020 at 6:23 PM, Lord Varys said:

She realizes that Viserys couldn't do the job. She tries to use Rhaego to do it for them, the family. And to clear, with Viserys being childless so far, Dany and her unborn child are his heirs. But she expects that Viserys will fail even if/when Drogo gives him his army, meaning the job will eventually fall to her son.

But again - the bottom line here is that Dany is just sort of Viserys' echo there. She has no connection to Westeros, no personal stakes in getting even because people she knew and loved where killed there. It is all just a story to her. Back in AGoT a rather important story because it is the only one she ever knew.

But she isn't a little girl anymore, she came into her own now, and the Targaryen legacy in Westeros is pretty much in the background now. She has dragons now and can do what she wants ... and she does that. She has conquered other places Politically, Westeros is going to be the least interesting option to her. She would have to move her armies there instead of using them to build an empire where they are.

Aegon the Conqueror didn't live in Vaes Dothrak or the Red Waste when he mounted Balerion. And he didn't move them to the far ends of the world to conquer places there ... he just attacked his immediate neighbors.

Daenerys as a character obsessed with Westeros or the Iron Throne isn't a particularly likely scenario with that backstory.

Possibly. It would not be a natural development, but that is why those visions she receives are important. She is being influenced from the outside.

On 11/19/2020 at 6:23 PM, Lord Varys said:

She realizes that Viserys couldn't do the job. She tries to use Rhaego to do it for them, the family. And to clear, with Viserys being childless so far, Dany and her unborn child are his heirs. But she expects that Viserys will fail even if/when Drogo gives him his army, meaning the job will eventually fall to her son.

But again - the bottom line here is that Dany is just sort of Viserys' echo there. She has no connection to Westeros, no personal stakes in getting even because people she knew and loved where killed there. It is all just a story to her. Back in AGoT a rather important story because it is the only one she ever knew.

But she isn't a little girl anymore, she came into her own now, and the Targaryen legacy in Westeros is pretty much in the background now. She has dragons now and can do what she wants ... and she does that. She has conquered other places Politically, Westeros is going to be the least interesting option to her. She would have to move her armies there instead of using them to build an empire where they are.

Aegon the Conqueror didn't live in Vaes Dothrak or the Red Waste when he mounted Balerion. And he didn't move them to the far ends of the world to conquer places there ... he just attacked his immediate neighbors.

Daenerys as a character obsessed with Westeros or the Iron Throne isn't a particularly likely scenario with that backstory.

He did it to gain the Throne. Renly was going to kill Stannis to gain the Throne. And that between brothers who while not particularly close also were not strangers, and in a society which sees kinslaying as one of the worst crimes. So how do you think they were not corrupted? Corruption does not need to be metaphysical or magical to be real: power alone is enough to corrupt. Fact that Gollum was corrupted with help of magic does not mean he is fundamentally different from Stannis and Renly.

On 11/19/2020 at 6:23 PM, Lord Varys said:

Stannis hasn't given up the throne. He still wants it very much and sees saving the world as a ploy to gain that chair. He isn't better than any of his rivals in that sense. And Daenerys won't be worse than him if she comes to Westeros to defeat the Others and do what she has to succeed at that.

If Dany is Azor Ahai - or whoever that is - then even burning your own daughter might turn out to be the right thing to do. For Stannis it won't, because he is a fake.

Stannis is trying to achieve the both, yes. But his initial decision to go to the Wall was taken with no prospect of it helping him to gain the Throne, and was, if memory serves me, in fact opposed by some of his men for that very reason.

On 11/19/2020 at 6:23 PM, Lord Varys said:

If Aegon attacks her then him being 'family' wouldn't be all that important. She doesn't know him, didn't grow up with him, and if he doesn't give her any other choice then ... so what? Not to mention that chances are very low that Dany is going to kill Aegon personally or that he'll die at her command. He is more likely to die in battle or end up as Euron's Reek if you ask me.

And of course Aegon's true identity and background will be revealed to the world. That's what secrets are for - to be revealed when the time is right. Daenerys most likely needs sufficient evidence that Aegon isn't the real deal to even consider challenging his claim.

Personally, I think that some sort of misunderstanding is most likely. But fact that she doesn't know him doesn't mean it will not affect her.

And not all secrets get revealed. As for Daenerys needing sufficient evidence to consider challenging his claim... not necessarily. Stannis definitely didn't need much.

On 11/19/2020 at 6:23 PM, Lord Varys said:

George isn't of the view that people inheriting power or crowns are better because they don't want said power. That is why all his royal and noble families have good and bad rulers - because hereditary systems do not favor the people best suited for a role, but just caper to the whims of the hereditary system.

And the idea that a person not coveting power would be a great ruler is just nonsense. In Westeros that would mean that Hot Pie or Davos or Areo would be great kings ... but they wouldn't, because they have neither the personality nor ability nor talent to rule in such a world.

Personal rule is hard - you have to want to do it, and you have to prepare for it. A king like Jaehaerys I was no accident of history. The man had to prepare himself for this role, as did Alysanne. That is the entire point of the story of their early reign.

In the books you also see that with Robb - he eventually cracked under the pressure, but he could only get as far as did because he prepared himself for it. Bran and Rickon couldn't have done what he did because nobody ever groomed them for rule.

Oh, I do agree with that. With caveat that nonhereditary systems favour people who are most ambitious and best poised to take power. Which may be a good or a bad thing, depending on what they are like as people, and how prepared they are.

On 11/19/2020 at 6:23 PM, Lord Varys said:

As per Tolkien's letters Gandalf could defeat Sauron using the Ring. And he wouldn't become a Sauron 2.0 doing that, but rather a Gandalf version of a Dark Lord - another type of dictatorship. Just as Galadriel would turn into the worst thing of all - an irresistable femme fatale.

And of course Aragorn actively pursued power. He didn't wage a war to conquer Minas Tirith and seize his throne, but he still wanted said throne and eventually took it.

It is rather funny how people can so misread ASoIaF as to view noble pricks bickering for a place at the sun or seceding from the central power as heroes or as being the downtrodden people. They are not. They are part of the problem of the entire system.

Gandalf may have been able to defeat Sauron - but only if he subverted One Ring to his will. But by doing so, he would have gotten corrupted by the Ring. And Gandalf would have been worse than Sauron: he was in fact wiser than Sauron, and he knew the free peoples of Middle Earth: minds and hearts both.

I do not think "chilling in the North" constitutes "actively pursuing power". Yes, Aragorn did want the throne, and he did pursue the power when the time was right, but he only did so at the point when he could secure willing acceptance by people of Gondor. That is an important point.

On 11/19/2020 at 4:10 PM, SeanF said:

Aragorn would never have fought - so long as Sauron remained undefeated.  But afterwards. had Denethor or Boromir remained alive and defied him?  I think Elrond would very much have expected him to do so, if he wished to marry Arwen. 

We've no reason to believe from the narrative that Eldacar was wrong to lead an army to Gondor to regain his throne, Nor that the dwarves were wrong to fight to reclaim their lost realms.

Maybe. But Aragorn always prioritized defeat of Sauron over potential pursuit of the throne.

As for Eldacar, he was not wrong to lead an army to regain his throne, true. But remember that he was ousted by force, and Castamir had proven a rather cruel dictator. If you look at Tolkien's notion of kingship in more detail, you will notice that kingship is a right, but also a duty: people do in fact have the right to reject a king who forgoes his duty (though it is still not a decision to be made lightly). This is especially obvious in Silmarillion with several Elven monarchs, but it is also apparent in many other places as well.

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2 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Stannis is the direct relative of the previous king. He is in the line of succession. Aegon, Euron and Daenerys are not in the line of succession at all. Hence, they have no right to the throne... meaning that yes, Stannis' "delusion" is significantly different from Daenerys' belief she should be on the throne, as it does have legal backing (provided his accusations could be proven). Daenerys meanwhile is no different from that of any other conqueror.

They are both fighting usurpers ... or would, if Dany ever gets to Westeros and faces some of Robert's relations there.

And it is silly to claim the Targaryens no longer have a claim to the throne. Nobody in the books thinks they have no claims. Nobody ever says 'Wait a minute, those dragonspawn abominations cannot lay claim to the Iron Throne of Westeros because they have been ousted.'

Daenerys and Aegon and Viserys and any Targaryen can count on being invited by, urged by, supported by the lords of the Seven Kingdoms because they do represent the rightful royal dynasty. Robert and his family are usurpers.

2 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Yes, Daenerys is more likeable. But that is about the only advantage she has over Stannis.

She also has dragons - a symbol of both legitimacy, kingship, power, and the messiah of that prophecy people are obsessed with. All Stannis has is fake magic sword ... if Ramsay is lying.

2 hours ago, Aldarion said:

First, the Iron Throne may not matter logically if there is a danger to the entire world, but it still matters narratively.

It doesn't matter more in that capacity than the high seat of Winterfell or the Seastone Chair. A lot of seats of power are contested

2 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Second, calling Tolkien's writing "simplistic good vs evil" shows that you have no clue about Tolkien and his writing. Go read Silmarillion, or even just Denethor chapters of Lord of the Rings, and you can see how a great person can still cause much evil, despite best intentions. Nor is everything always about the Dark Lord - in Silmarillion, Elves pretty much screwed themselves over even without help from Morgoth. Elvish kinslaying was helped by Morgoth, but it was caused by the pride and hubris, and it continued even in Middle Earth. The entirety of Akallabeth shows how a good choice and a necessary action may still lead you down the road of destruction if you are not careful.

Denethor isn't a good person. He is proud and self-serving and allows himself to be deceived by the devil. He isn't as a bad as Saruman, of course, but he isn't a good person. And he fails because he consorts with the Dark Lord.

And all evil in the Silmarillion goes straight back to Melkor, both because he marred Arda itself and thus caused all beings in there to be susceptible to corruption ... but also because he poisoned them personally. The kin-strife is caused directly by Melkor because Feanor listens to him when he explains to the Noldor how to make weapons. Even the core problem of Finwe's bigamy - which is the root of all evil in Valinor - goes back to Arda Marred. Miriel wouldn't have died if Melkor hadn't marred the substance of the world which weakened her to the point that the birth of her great son consumed her.

And the Akallabêth is just a rehash of the Atlantis story ... seasoned with another version of an original sin story. Sauron is the snake tempting the people in the worldly paradise. They wouldn't have gone as bad as they did if no devil had shown up. And all their previous evil deeds all go again back to Arda Marred.

2 hours ago, Aldarion said:

No, that is not how it works in a "monarchistic world". Premise that people will always believe that the original dynasty are the ones who are rightful kings is ridiculous. If that were the case, no open rebellion would have any chance of succeeding, and there would be no hope of replacing a dynasty except through assassination. Yet it did happen. Therefore, people will not always believe that "the original dynasty are the ones who are rightful kings".

That they think they are the rightful royal house is the reason why they do get support. Just as Viserys and Dany themselves believe they are entitled to Westeros - and Bran thinks Winterfell belongs to him - the people in that world share such beliefs. Doesn't mean all will support them ... but even if you asked Robert or Joffrey who was the rightful king of Westeros they would likely point to Viserys III rather than themselves. They would also say that it doesn't really matter who the rightful king is, of course, but they would concede that Robert stole the throne.

You can topple a king even if you believe he was rightfully crowned and installed. Those things aren't mutually exclusive. And the problem is not so much about deposing a king but to lend legitimacy to his usurping successor.

Bottom line is - both in the real world and in Westeros the fact that you are a member of an overthrown or exiled noble/royal family means that your chances to regain what you lost eventually are not that bad ... infinitely better than that a newcomer with no royal/noble background seize the same amount of power.

2 hours ago, Aldarion said:

And Stark argument is not a good one - North is clearly different from the rest of the realm. Plus, Targaryens do not have the roots in Westeros.

The Targaryens made Westeros into what it is today. Their roots go very deep even if they are relative newcomers. You don't need a thousand year history to be established. A few centuries work just as well.

And honestly, I see no difference between the Starks and the Northmen or the Lannisters/West or Arryns/Vale. Their hold over their people seems to be, perhaps, even greater than that of the Starks ... with there not being as quarrelsome bannermen in the Vale or the West than we do see in the North. The Starks are both loved and hated by their vassals, whereas it seems nobody in the Vale despises the Arryns ... and the Lannisters as this gigantic family clan completely own their lands.

2 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Some people may believe that. But not the people in general.

Of course I'm not talking about all the people. But do point me to the passages where the average people point towards the Baratheons as the rightful rulers of Westeros ... and then contrast that with the passages where arbitrary people talk about the Targaryens.

2 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Possibly. It would not be a natural development, but that is why those visions she receives are important. She is being influenced from the outside.

Of course, she has to learn what her destiny is. If she was obsessed with power and the Iron Throne then she would already have that internal motivation and have dreams about sitting on that chair like Cersei. But she doesn't.

2 hours ago, Aldarion said:

He did it to gain the Throne. Renly was going to kill Stannis to gain the Throne. And that between brothers who while not particularly close also were not strangers, and in a society which sees kinslaying as one of the worst crimes. So how do you think they were not corrupted? Corruption does not need to be metaphysical or magical to be real: power alone is enough to corrupt. Fact that Gollum was corrupted with help of magic does not mean he is fundamentally different from Stannis and Renly.

Stannis wanted to kill Renly to gain his army. Renly only wanted to kill/defeat Stannis after Stannis decided to besiege his castle ... which was an act of war.

But neither of them was corrupted by a desire for the Iron Throne. They are just not great people, especially Stannis.

2 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Stannis is trying to achieve the both, yes. But his initial decision to go to the Wall was taken with no prospect of it helping him to gain the Throne, and was, if memory serves me, in fact opposed by some of his men for that very reason.

Nope, Davos told Stannis that if he wanted to be a king he should better defend his kingdoms. And as Stannis explains later at the Wall he came to do what a king should do ... with the hope that this would cause his people to see him as the rightful king. It is a propaganda ploy to gain sympathy and support ... doesn't mean it didn't also profit the people at the Wall and the North, but it wasn't done simply because it was the right thing.

If it was that, then Lord Stannis could have come to the Wall, postponing the question as to who should sit the throne until wildlings and Others are dealt with. But he didn't do that, no?

2 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Personally, I think that some sort of misunderstanding is most likely. But fact that she doesn't know him doesn't mean it will not affect her.

Oh, a misunderstanding cannot cause a proper war. Somebody must want this to get bloody. And since these two don't have the baggage of Rhaenyra and Aegon II - and they still could overcome all their differences by marrying each other - we need serious bad blood there or there won't be a war.

Because even if they didn't like each other very much if they ever met ... Dany married fucking Hizdahr. She could also marry a gorgeous young guy in her own age. And considering Targaryen marriage policies in the past it wouldn't even be an obstacle if both of them were (still) married to other people by the time they meet.

2 hours ago, Aldarion said:

And not all secrets get revealed. As for Daenerys needing sufficient evidence to consider challenging his claim... not necessarily. Stannis definitely didn't need much.

Most/all of the relevant secrets in the books will be revealed before the end. Anything else would be bad writing. Especially in relation to the plot-relevant mysteries.

2 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Oh, I do agree with that. With caveat that nonhereditary systems favour people who are most ambitious and best poised to take power. Which may be a good or a bad thing, depending on what they are like as people, and how prepared they are.

Well, then this is the end of this idea that the Iron Throne has anything to do with the One Ring.

2 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Gandalf may have been able to defeat Sauron - but only if he subverted One Ring to his will. But by doing so, he would have gotten corrupted by the Ring. And Gandalf would have been worse than Sauron: he was in fact wiser than Sauron, and he knew the free peoples of Middle Earth: minds and hearts both.

Sure, the idea is that Gandalf would have been corrupted as well, but he would have been a different type of Dark Lord considering he is a different person which a different character and different interests than Sauron.

But this is actually a ridiculous concept if you think about it - this idea that magical artificats which are tools can make you evil against your will. You have to want to harm or hurt people to do it (accidents, etc. aside) ... so if Gandalf doesn't want to be evil he wouldn't become evil even if he wielded a magical ring.

ASoIaF isn't a story how all the people sitting on a certain throne - or wielding royal powers - are corrupted by that. If power corrupts them it has to do with their actual character flaws.

2 hours ago, Aldarion said:

I do not think "chilling in the North" constitutes "actively pursuing power". Yes, Aragorn did want the throne, and he did pursue the power when the time was right, but he only did so at the point when he could secure willing acceptance by people of Gondor. That is an important point.

He was lucky the author killed Denethor. If he had lived, he would have been forced to spill at least some blood.

2 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Maybe. But Aragorn always prioritized defeat of Sauron over potential pursuit of the throne.

As for Eldacar, he was not wrong to lead an army to regain his throne, true. But remember that he was ousted by force, and Castamir had proven a rather cruel dictator. If you look at Tolkien's notion of kingship in more detail, you will notice that kingship is a right, but also a duty: people do in fact have the right to reject a king who forgoes his duty (though it is still not a decision to be made lightly). This is especially obvious in Silmarillion with several Elven monarchs, but it is also apparent in many other places as well.

So it is okay for Eldacar to fight a civil war to regain his throne but not for the Targaryens to get back what was taken from them?

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On 11/19/2020 at 8:25 PM, Amris said:

 

And she's been learning on the go. She hasn't been tought how to rule or how to to wise politics or how to free slave cities and then pacify them.

Reading this, I release there is no eduction for what she is doing. If she had been taught the subjects a Westerosi  noble (male) youth learns; an education like  Robb & Jon or Rhaegar or YG in exile received, she would have been taught to command in war and rule within an existing system. Nobody gets an education into how to entirely break down a system of government and rebuild it from the ground up.

Even Aegon the Conqueror's education would have been standard 'how to rule in the way that is already established'. He would have been taught to rule Dragonstone in the manner Targs had for the previous century, as well as the feudal custom of his Westerosi neighbours - which we know he studied in further detail before his invasion. When he 'created' the 7 kingdoms he did not replace the existing feudal system, rather he added a new layer where previously sovereign Houses paid homage to him. New laws were administered within a largely pre-existing framework.

 

Returning to Dany, her biggest mistake is that she is trying to rule Meereen and clearly hates the place (at least, that is my impression from my latest re-read).

She has largely destroyed the previous Meerenese system of rule, and I can't fault her in that, built in misery as it was. But perhaps because she has never lived within or been properly educated on a stable system of rule that she does not find abhorrent, and has not built a systematic administration.

She spends her time at court hearing petitions, and usually making rulings on individual cases. She doesn't delegate this as she has no-one she trusts to make the rulings in her place. I think her instincts are typically good, but her rule is too reactive, so that all problems keep coming to her, rather than building policy where she only intercedes at final and highest authority.

One example of her building policy is with the sheep bones. She has been getting more frequent petitions saying that the dragons had eaten livestock, and eventually gave a ruling that every claimant would be paid, so long as they were willing to swear a holy oath in the temple. She effectively created a law that could be administered without her ongoing input, but this seems to be the exception to her typically ruling on individual cases.

 

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5 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

They are both fighting usurpers ... or would, if Dany ever gets to Westeros and faces some of Robert's relations there.

And it is silly to claim the Targaryens no longer have a claim to the throne. Nobody in the books thinks they have no claims. Nobody ever says 'Wait a minute, those dragonspawn abominations cannot lay claim to the Iron Throne of Westeros because they have been ousted.'

Daenerys and Aegon and Viserys and any Targaryen can count on being invited by, urged by, supported by the lords of the Seven Kingdoms because they do represent the rightful royal dynasty. Robert and his family are usurpers.

 

He was lucky the author killed Denethor. If he had lived, he would have been forced to spill at least some blood.

So it is okay for Eldacar to fight a civil war to regain his throne but not for the Targaryens to get back what was taken from them?

Continuing the comparison with English history, I think Daenerys has as much entitlement to claim the throne as say, Henry Bolingbroke, Henry Tudor, or Charles Stuart (the future Charles II) had. Their supporters (like the supporters of the Targaryens) would have thought they had every right to bid for the throne. 

In-universe, there's nothing that suggests that her claim is wrong, but the claims of Stannis, fAegon, Renly, or Robb Stark (in his case, to carve out an independent kingdom) are right.

Had Denethor lived (and I think that Tolkien at one stage intended this, and that there should be a succession conflict) I'm pretty certain that the author would have portrayed Aragorn as the rightful king fighting for what was rightfully his.

WRT Eldacar, Aragorn, or the dwarven leaders, I think Tolkien viewed it as entirely natural that in a medieval sort of world that leaders would fight to regain lost lands and lost thrones. Indeed, we're told that Aragorn and Eomer fought to regain Gondor's lost territories to the East and South.

Edited by SeanF

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31 minutes ago, SeanF said:

Continuing the comparison with English history, I think Daenerys has as much entitlement to claim the throne as say, Henry Bolingbroke, Henry Tudor, or Charles Stuart (the future Charles II) had. Their supporters (like the supporters of the Targaryens) would have thought they had every right to bid for the throne.

Yeah, Charles II is a good example - the Jacobites would be similar (although less successful examples). Henry Tudor is very good, too - there you see that under the right circumstances even a guy whose claim is literally paper-thin can lead a movement if the king he topples is a usurper out of a line of usurpers who antagonized his people enough.

And if you think about that then a Henry Tudor-like Targaryen - the descendant of some obscure bastard - could easily enough have cast down Robert's grandsons. Or even an alleged Targaryen descendant/kinsman because that is the kind of narrative that could serve as a figurehead against an unpopular king. Just as Henry VII had to deal with a string of such pretenders.

However, I'd compare the Baratheon dynasty more to the Lancaster kings - they usurped the throne, too, but Henry IV wasn't exactly safe on his throne. Henry V did much to resolve the problem and his son inherited a safe throne ... but when this king turned out to be completely incapable to do his job people started to remember that Lancasters were usurpers and that Richard of York had the better claim.

The difference with Westeros is that the Baratheons stole the throne with a sack and a couple of ugly murders, never did anything productive or glorious after they took the throne (unlike Henry V) and did everything in their power to undermine themselves with internal squabbles.

A Targaryen restoration should be as easy - or even more easy - than the short restoration of Henry VI during the reign of Edward IV.

31 minutes ago, SeanF said:

In-universe, there's nothing that suggests that her claim is wrong, but the claims of Stannis, fAegon, Renly, or Robb Stark (in his case, to carve out an independent kingdom) are right.

Yes, nobody ever says that - instead we have multiple characters from all classes acknowledging the fact that the Targaryens are the rightful kings - starting with the old man in the Riverlands, the gang toasting Dany in Oldtown, the mummers in KL, etc.

And while Dany's claim was only discussed in the Epilogue, people didn't dismiss Viserys' claim back in AGoT. Ned thought they could defeat him, he and Robert didn't say he couldn't possibly claim the throne ... or wouldn't have any support. Neither Dany's nor Aegon's claims are dismissed as invalid in the sense that nobody would join them. Mace dismisses Dany because she is allegedly mad, not because she has no claim. And Kevan makes it clear that her having dragons and being Aerys II's confirmed daughter makes her a severe threat.

In relation to Aegon it is also rather significant that nobody says or assumes that Aegon would or must fail because he invaded the old heartlands of House Baratheon. If not even Robert's old friends and bannermen are expected to throw Aegon back into the sea, then who do we expect would do this? George briefly mentions that Jon thinks it would have been hard/impossible to pull this off with Robert and Renly being there, but that is then just personal loyalty. If the Stormlanders were Baratheon men through and through they could also rally their forces to attack Aegon now, without a Baratheon leading them.

31 minutes ago, SeanF said:

Had Denethor lived (and I think that Tolkien at one stage intended this, and that there should be a succession conflict) I'm pretty certain that the author would have portrayed Aragorn as the rightful king fighting for what was rightfully his.

It is not just that, it is also that the author has signs and portents and angelic beings and the eagles of Manwe trumpet who the hell is the rightful king. Aragorn is basically a king who is installed and anointed by the creator of the universe himself ... meaning he is a position where he can afford to do little or nothing considering everything will go as he wants it, anyway, no matter what he does (only after Sauron is dealt with, of course, but there was a deus ex machina for that, too ;-)).

Insofar as entitlement and obsession with a special royal bloodlines, Aragorn is much worse than Daenerys (or any person in George's works). Dany doesn't tell everybody she first meets who her father was and what great guys her ancestors living 3,000 years ago were.

The Targaryens produce good and bad apples, like the other families, too. But Aragorn has no flaws, nor do most, if not all, of his direct ancestors.

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9 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

They are both fighting usurpers ... or would, if Dany ever gets to Westeros and faces some of Robert's relations there.

And it is silly to claim the Targaryens no longer have a claim to the throne. Nobody in the books thinks they have no claims. Nobody ever says 'Wait a minute, those dragonspawn abominations cannot lay claim to the Iron Throne of Westeros because they have been ousted.'

Daenerys and Aegon and Viserys and any Targaryen can count on being invited by, urged by, supported by the lords of the Seven Kingdoms because they do represent the rightful royal dynasty. Robert and his family are usurpers.

Targaryens ceased to be the rightful royal dynasty the moment they were evicted in the Rebellion. Ultimately, the rule of a king is not based on bloodline, but on consent - bloodline is there simply to make transit of power less chaotic and painful. Targaryen claim to the throne is only valid if there are enough people in the Seven Kingdoms supporting said claim.

9 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

She also has dragons - a symbol of both legitimacy, kingship, power, and the messiah of that prophecy people are obsessed with. All Stannis has is fake magic sword ... if Ramsay is lying.

 

I was talking specifically about her as a ruler, not about taking the throne.

9 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

They are both fighting usurpers ... or would, if Dany ever gets to Westeros and faces some of Robert's relations there.

And it is silly to claim the Targaryens no longer have a claim to the throne. Nobody in the books thinks they have no claims. Nobody ever says 'Wait a minute, those dragonspawn abominations cannot lay claim to the Iron Throne of Westeros because they have been ousted.'

Daenerys and Aegon and Viserys and any Targaryen can count on being invited by, urged by, supported by the lords of the Seven Kingdoms because they do represent the rightful royal dynasty. Robert and his family are usurpers.

Except not that hotly, and without impact on Westeros as a whole. The Iron Throne is Martin's One Ring equivalent.

9 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Denethor isn't a good person. He is proud and self-serving and allows himself to be deceived by the devil. He isn't as a bad as Saruman, of course, but he isn't a good person. And he fails because he consorts with the Dark Lord.

And all evil in the Silmarillion goes straight back to Melkor, both because he marred Arda itself and thus caused all beings in there to be susceptible to corruption ... but also because he poisoned them personally. The kin-strife is caused directly by Melkor because Feanor listens to him when he explains to the Noldor how to make weapons. Even the core problem of Finwe's bigamy - which is the root of all evil in Valinor - goes back to Arda Marred. Miriel wouldn't have died if Melkor hadn't marred the substance of the world which weakened her to the point that the birth of her great son consumed her.

And the Akallabêth is just a rehash of the Atlantis story ... seasoned with another version of an original sin story. Sauron is the snake tempting the people in the worldly paradise. They wouldn't have gone as bad as they did if no devil had shown up. And all their previous evil deeds all go again back to Arda Marred.

Denethor is not a good person, per se, but he is not a bad person either. He is proud and self-serving, but he is also dutiful, and his pride is not just in himself but in Gondor as well. He is deceived by Sauron, but never submits to him (unlike Saruman, who is not just deceived but overpowered by Sauron and becomes his servant).

And "consorts with the Dark Lord"? Have you even read the books at all? Denethor never submits to Sauron or "consorts" with him. Sauron was never able to overpower Denethor's will in the way he did Saruman's, nor to induce him to betray the Free Peoples. Denethor continues to resist Sauron with all his might. What Sauron did manage to do was to make Denethor's already present flaws even more pronounced: his pride, his obsessions, and his despair. But Denethor's pride was in Gondor, first and foremost; and his despair came from his belief that opposing Sauron without One Ring is doomed to failure. And he was correct about that, as Gandalf himself acknowledged: there was no hope for beating Sauron, militarily, without the One Ring. Even then, it was not actually Denethor who proposes using One Ring immediately - it is Boromir. Denethor himself seems to be at least aware of the dangers of using the Ring, and thus proposes to lock it into the vault and not use it unless Gondor is in danger of imminent defeat. He fails to look beyond Gondor, and overlooks the danger that One Ring would pose to him even locked up, but neither is really surprising: he is a governor, not an angelic emissary or even just a philosopher.

Evil in Silmarillion does originate from Melkor, due to his marring of Arda - first during the Song of Ainur, and then by literally possessing it. But even so, Tolkien also has a massive theme of free will: yes, evil is there, but we are free to accept or to reject it. Feanor and his sons were free to give up Silmarils: but they did not, and so were doomed to failure. Feanor was free to listen or to reject Melkor: but he allowed Melkor to poison his mind. Melkor is the literal Devil, and source of all evil; but that does not mean free will does not matter and that resistance is useless.

10 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

That they think they are the rightful royal house is the reason why they do get support. Just as Viserys and Dany themselves believe they are entitled to Westeros - and Bran thinks Winterfell belongs to him - the people in that world share such beliefs. Doesn't mean all will support them ... but even if you asked Robert or Joffrey who was the rightful king of Westeros they would likely point to Viserys III rather than themselves. They would also say that it doesn't really matter who the rightful king is, of course, but they would concede that Robert stole the throne.

You can topple a king even if you believe he was rightfully crowned and installed. Those things aren't mutually exclusive. And the problem is not so much about deposing a king but to lend legitimacy to his usurping successor.

Bottom line is - both in the real world and in Westeros the fact that you are a member of an overthrown or exiled noble/royal family means that your chances to regain what you lost eventually are not that bad ... infinitely better than that a newcomer with no royal/noble background seize the same amount of power.

No, Robert would point to himself. He took the throne by right of conquest, and reason why that was possible was because he had enough support among other lords to both take the Throne and ensure legitimacy of his rule afterwards. A successful usurper is typically legitimate.

10 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Of course I'm not talking about all the people. But do point me to the passages where the average people point towards the Baratheons as the rightful rulers of Westeros ... and then contrast that with the passages where arbitrary people talk about the Targaryens.

 

Or maybe they don't feel the need to talk about Baratheons as the rightful rulers because it is an established fact, whereas Targaryen supporters are louder as Targaryens are in the exile? Fact that a group is loud doesn't mean its ideas are widespread.

10 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

That they think they are the rightful royal house is the reason why they do get support. Just as Viserys and Dany themselves believe they are entitled to Westeros - and Bran thinks Winterfell belongs to him - the people in that world share such beliefs. Doesn't mean all will support them ... but even if you asked Robert or Joffrey who was the rightful king of Westeros they would likely point to Viserys III rather than themselves. They would also say that it doesn't really matter who the rightful king is, of course, but they would concede that Robert stole the throne.

You can topple a king even if you believe he was rightfully crowned and installed. Those things aren't mutually exclusive. And the problem is not so much about deposing a king but to lend legitimacy to his usurping successor.

Bottom line is - both in the real world and in Westeros the fact that you are a member of an overthrown or exiled noble/royal family means that your chances to regain what you lost eventually are not that bad ... infinitely better than that a newcomer with no royal/noble background seize the same amount of power.

Except she does, especially in the first books before she becomes focused on Mereen. But that desire is still there.

Quote
"This Iron Throne you speak of sounds monstrous cold and hard. I cannot bear the thought of jagged barbs cutting your sweet skin." The jewels in Xaro's nose gave him the aspect of some strange glittery bird. His long, elegant fingers waved dismissal. "Let this be your kingdom, most exquisite of queens, and let me be your king. I will give you a throne of gold, if you like. When Qarth begins to pall, we can journey round Yi Ti and search for the dreaming city of the poets, to sip the wine of wisdom from a dead man's skull."
"I mean to sail to Westeros, and drink the wine of vengeance from the skull of the Usurper." She scratched Rhaegal under one eye
Quote

"I need clever men about me if I am to win the Iron Throne."

Quote

"Yet I must have some army," Dany said. "The boy Joffrey will not give me the Iron Throne for asking politely."
"When the day comes that you raise your banners, half of Westeros will be with you," Whitebeard promised.

Quote

As they rode past the stakes and pits that surrounded the eunuch encampment, Dany could hear Grey Worm and his sergeants running one company through a series of drills with shield, shortsword, and heavy spear. Another company was bathing in the sea, clad only in white linen breechclouts. The eunuchs were very clean, she had noticed. Some of her sellswords smelled as if they had not washed or changed their clothes since her father lost the Iron Throne, but the Unsullied bathed each evening, even if they'd marched all day. When no water was available they cleansed themselves with sand, the Dothraki way.

Now, it is true that she is not obsessed with the Iron Throne the way, say, Stannis is. But she has that witch in her head, so...

10 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Stannis wanted to kill Renly to gain his army. Renly only wanted to kill/defeat Stannis after Stannis decided to besiege his castle ... which was an act of war.

But neither of them was corrupted by a desire for the Iron Throne. They are just not great people, especially Stannis.

They both were corrupted, although it is true that it is not only that. You will recall that Stannis offered Renly rather good terms: if Renly supported Stannis (as was his duty as a younger brother), then Stannis would acknowledge Renly as his heir until Stannis had a son (which would be never). But Renly was locked into refusing, both by his pride but also by Tyrell ambition: I am not certain they would have settled for Renly becoming a king some years in the future. But still, neither really made an effort. Stannis first hid on Dragonstone and then beseiged Storm's End without even trying to talk to Renly beforehand. Renly for his part did not even try to talk to Stannis and figure out what he thinks or wants, but simply went and declared himself a king when he saw that Stannis had locked himself in Dragonstone.

If neither of them was corrupted by desire, then they would not have done any of the above: especially since, as you pointed out before, neither had hard proof of Joffrey's illegitimacy.

10 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Nope, Davos told Stannis that if he wanted to be a king he should better defend his kingdoms. And as Stannis explains later at the Wall he came to do what a king should do ... with the hope that this would cause his people to see him as the rightful king. It is a propaganda ploy to gain sympathy and support ... doesn't mean it didn't also profit the people at the Wall and the North, but it wasn't done simply because it was the right thing.

If it was that, then Lord Stannis could have come to the Wall, postponing the question as to who should sit the throne until wildlings and Others are dealt with. But he didn't do that, no?

No, he could not have. If he had postponed the claim to the Throne, he would have had to abandon it altogether. And I am not denying the propaganda value of what he did, but it seems clear to me that it wasn't simply due to propaganda: that he genuinely decided to do what he saw as his duty.

10 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Oh, a misunderstanding cannot cause a proper war. Somebody must want this to get bloody. And since these two don't have the baggage of Rhaenyra and Aegon II - and they still could overcome all their differences by marrying each other - we need serious bad blood there or there won't be a war.

Because even if they didn't like each other very much if they ever met ... Dany married fucking Hizdahr. She could also marry a gorgeous young guy in her own age. And considering Targaryen marriage policies in the past it wouldn't even be an obstacle if both of them were (still) married to other people by the time they meet.

Do you want me to list all the wars, in history and fiction, that were caused by misunderstanding? Yes, it is true that somebody must want it to get bloody... but reasons for that want can be a myriad: a perceived threat is enough, it does not need to be real. And person who wants it does not need to be either Aegon or Daenerys; both of them can concievably get locked into a certain course of action by the people around them. If somebody tried to kill Daenerys (she made quite a few enemies) and it was interpreted as an attempt from Aegon's side; or if the reverse happened; then one or both of them could be pushed into declaring war even if they do not actually want to do it, or even if they genuinely believe that the other side is genuinely innocent. Or if Jon Connington was driven insane by greyscale and did something stupid: again, Daenerys could be pushed into attacking regardless of hew own desires.

10 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Most/all of the relevant secrets in the books will be revealed before the end. Anything else would be bad writing. Especially in relation to the plot-relevant mysteries.

 

1) Why would it be bad writing?

2) People do not need to be alive for secrets relating to them to be revealed.

10 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Oh, a misunderstanding cannot cause a proper war. Somebody must want this to get bloody. And since these two don't have the baggage of Rhaenyra and Aegon II - and they still could overcome all their differences by marrying each other - we need serious bad blood there or there won't be a war.

Because even if they didn't like each other very much if they ever met ... Dany married fucking Hizdahr. She could also marry a gorgeous young guy in her own age. And considering Targaryen marriage policies in the past it wouldn't even be an obstacle if both of them were (still) married to other people by the time they meet.

Except it does. It represents power, One Ring is Sauron's power; both thus represent a prospect of power, of control, of rule and dominance. The difference is that One Ring is magically corrupting, whereas the Iron Throne is mundane, and only brings out things which are already present in the person.

10 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Sure, the idea is that Gandalf would have been corrupted as well, but he would have been a different type of Dark Lord considering he is a different person which a different character and different interests than Sauron.

But this is actually a ridiculous concept if you think about it - this idea that magical artificats which are tools can make you evil against your will. You have to want to harm or hurt people to do it (accidents, etc. aside) ... so if Gandalf doesn't want to be evil he wouldn't become evil even if he wielded a magical ring.

ASoIaF isn't a story how all the people sitting on a certain throne - or wielding royal powers - are corrupted by that. If power corrupts them it has to do with their actual character flaws.

Actually, it is not a ridiculous concept: the One Ring represents temptation, one that is strenghtened by magic. But One Ring still needs something to work with. It needs a preexisting darkness within human heart, to take it, warp it and employ it for its own purposes. A person without said darkness cannot be dominated by the Ring because it does not have anything to work with: look how Ring failed to affect at all Tom Bombadil, who is a spirit of the nature and "his own master". Or again, how it failed to affect Sam, because he lacked any kind of desire or evil that Ring could exploit in any meaningful manner.

This is the way power in general works: as person gains power and becomes less accountable, so does the temptation to utilize said power for selfish needs grow. There is reason why monarchies started falling apart with the era of absolute monarchies: a Byzantine Emperor or a traditional king would have been in public eye, and if anything more accountable than modern-day politicians who use the complex and rather opaque nature of modern state apparatus to play "pass the buck".

And concept that people can become evil against their will is not ridiculous either. One Ring actually represents that as well: you can start meaning well, taking power to make the world a better place. But power alone can change a person, and good ideas and good meanings can easily become something evil. Like how Communists started wanting to build a better society and ended up murdering tens of millions. Yes, it is true that person has to have character flaws; but all people have character flaws, so that caveat is not something which really matters, as it is a rule with no exceptions.

11 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Sure, the idea is that Gandalf would have been corrupted as well, but he would have been a different type of Dark Lord considering he is a different person which a different character and different interests than Sauron.

But this is actually a ridiculous concept if you think about it - this idea that magical artificats which are tools can make you evil against your will. You have to want to harm or hurt people to do it (accidents, etc. aside) ... so if Gandalf doesn't want to be evil he wouldn't become evil even if he wielded a magical ring.

ASoIaF isn't a story how all the people sitting on a certain throne - or wielding royal powers - are corrupted by that. If power corrupts them it has to do with their actual character flaws.

True. But that never happened, so we do not know how he would have reacted in such conditions.

11 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

So it is okay for Eldacar to fight a civil war to regain his throne but not for the Targaryens to get back what was taken from them?

Eldacar was in right because Castamir turned out to be a tyrant. If Castamir had somehow become a good ruler, Eldacar would have been in the wrong, or at least not have any more right to the throne than Castamir. But considering that throne of Gondor is basically sanctified by God, there was little hope of a usurper turning out alright, unlike in real life or Westeros. Conversely, Aerys II was overthrown because he was a tyrant, and Targaryens were thus replaced by Baratheons. Fact that Aerys was removed means that Iron Throne passed away from Targaryens, and is thus not theirs anymore. Whoever takes the Throne has the right to it if it is done with sufficient support from the people being ruled.

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43 minutes ago, Aldarion said:

 

Eldacar was in right because Castamir turned out to be a tyrant. If Castamir had somehow become a good ruler, Eldacar would have been in the wrong, or at least not have any more right to the throne than Castamir. But considering that throne of Gondor is basically sanctified by God, there was little hope of a usurper turning out alright, unlike in real life or Westeros. Conversely, Aerys II was overthrown because he was a tyrant, and Targaryens were thus replaced by Baratheons. Fact that Aerys was removed means that Iron Throne passed away from Targaryens, and is thus not theirs anymore. Whoever takes the Throne has the right to it if it is done with sufficient support from the people being ruled.

The Targaryens are entitled to bid for it.  What Robert seized by force, can be taken back by force.  Robert was neither a good man, nor a good ruler, nor was Joffrey, nor Cersei.  Tommen might turn out decent if he was given the chance, but he won't be given the chance.  

Tolkien would have taken the view that the murder of Elia and her children, and the aftermath, irrevocably tainted Robert's reign.  If Robert had punished their murders and had proved to be a just and decent ruler, then I think it would be much harder to justify fighting to regain the throne from him.

Edited by SeanF

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15 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Daenerys and Aegon and Viserys and any Targaryen can count on being invited by, urged by, supported by the lords of the Seven Kingdoms because they do represent the rightful royal dynasty. Robert and his family are usurpers.

The Blackfyres counted on it too, they were invited by and urged and supported by the lords of the Seven Kingdoms, i'm  assuming that it was because they did represent the rightful royal dynasty. Daeron 2 and his descendants, which funny enough includes the Baratheons, are usurpers.

Or suddenly your rationalization doesn't work anymore??

In Aegon's case it can work because the Lannister regime is in shambles, yet the Golden Company would have waited for a millenia if needed for Dany to abandon Mereen had Tywin lived, no one was going to go against Tywin  for Aegon and his golden company, not even his alledged uncle. And ofc there is a reason why the Martells signed a secret pact with the Targlings and then spent a decade looking for a sign in the stars to act and... 

So long the usurper's coalition remained the strongest, no one would fight a lost cause.

 

 

15 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

. but even if you asked Robert or Joffrey who was the rightful king of Westeros they would likely point to Viserys III rather than themselves.

I'm sure that's what you would like to think. 

 

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People will always believe that the original dynasty are the ones who are the rightful kings. 

Who is people??

 

Quote

Even the Baratheon fan boys know that in their hearts.

Ned and Robb certainly beg to disagree.

 

 

10 hours ago, SeanF said:

In-universe, there's nothing that suggests that her claim is wrong, but the claims of Stannis, fAegon, Renly, or Robb Stark (in his case, to carve out an independent kingdom) are right.

I don't think that Martin care about the legitimacy near as much as the fans of one or another family do. Those who have the power to seize it, seize it.

 

 

 

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Targaryens ceased to be the rightful royal dynasty the moment they were evicted in the Rebellion. Ultimately, the rule of a king is not based on bloodline, but on consent - bloodline is there simply to make transit of power less chaotic and painful. Targaryen claim to the throne is only valid if there are enough people in the Seven Kingdoms supporting said claim.

Whereas i do agree here, i doubt that the Targs would have the same trouble being acepted again after the war of the 5 kings... than say at the beginning of Agot.

But yes, rule of Kings is always based on acceptance. The moment people start ignoring this, we simply enter in the Tyranny area.

 

 

15 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Of course I'm not talking about all the people. But do point me to the passages where the average people point towards the Baratheons as the rightful rulers of Westeros ... and then contrast that with the passages where arbitrary people talk about the Targaryens.

In the Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, those who claimed that Daemon and his line were the legitimate rulers far outshined those who believed the Targs were.

 

Hell, there were people who left flowers on the Redgrass field, as a public sign of respect and mourning!! Which sounds as treasonous to me. Bloodraven needed to turn the continent into a police state for fear of these talks. 

And the reason Whitewalls was destroyed was because Bloodraven didn't want it to become yet another  pilgrimage place for the Black Dragon supporters. 

 

So... Were we all wrong all along based on your logic??

 

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

They both were corrupted, although it is true that it is not only that.

I don't think they were corrupted at all, their position had changed,  crowning one self is a very big step and it's not easy to turn back from it. Stannis is as entitled as always and has always has issues with Stannnis.

 

 

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

They both were corrupted, although it is true that it is not only that.

It's desire or distrust between brothers?? It's not normal than neither reached out the other, which implies that at the end of the day they would not put their fate in their brother's hands... even when they expected the other to do so.

Renly's bid had little to do with legitimacy and more to the fact that he did not trust nor could allow the Lannisters being in power and his path got narrowed.

 

 

4 hours ago, SeanF said:

The Targaryens are entitled to bid for it.  What Robert seized by force, can be taken back by force.  Robert was neither a good man, nor a good ruler, nor was Joffrey, nor Cersei.  Tommen might turn out decent if he was given the chance, but he won't be given the chance.  

The Blackfyre remained a pain in the ass for god's knows how many time, I do not know why the Targs wouldn't  be the same.

 

 

4 hours ago, SeanF said:

 If Robert had punished their murders and had proved to be a just and decent ruler, then I think it would be much harder to justify fighting to regain the throne from him.

For whom?? The readers?? or the characters??

The characters would not have cared one bit and i very much doubt the readers would either, especially if for some, it all comes down to have been in power for x years.

 

Back to the topic at hand,  I do think that Dany made many mistakes but i do think many of  those are greatly exaggerated.

Edited by frenin

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3 minutes ago, frenin said:
 

But yes, rule of Kings is always based on acceptance. The moment people start ignoring this, we simply enter in the Tyranny area.

People don't want to feel that they're ruled solely by force.  Hence, the need to show that you have a respectable claim to the throne.  That can be based on descent from a previous king, or the will of a previous king, or support from a large majority of the lords.  

That said, force has to be a big part of it. A king is surrounded by great lords who would pounce on weakness.  The position of a queen regnant is even more perilous, as many husbands will assume that they should be the one in charge.

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12 minutes ago, frenin said:
Back to the topic at hand,  I do think that Dany made many mistakes but i do think many of  those are greatly exaggerated.

One advantage we have as readers is that we know much more than any of the characters.

Had Daenerys known that the Volantene armada was on its way, Volantis was on the brink of revolution, and the Iron Fleet was on its way, no doubt her decisions would have been very different.

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14 minutes ago, SeanF said:

People don't want to feel that they're ruled solely by force.  Hence, the need to show that you have a respectable claim to the throne.  That can be based on descent from a previous king, or the will of a previous king, or support from a large majority of the lords.  

That said, force has to be a big part of it. A king is surrounded by great lords who would pounce on weakness.  The position of a queen regnant is even more perilous, as many husbands will assume that they should be the one in charge.

I def agree with this take. what i disagree with is with the arrogant notion that Houses have an eternal grip on a position of power based on the fact they have had it for a long time, no matter what the will of the majority of Lords said or felt, this a medieval world after all.

This is especially absurd when you have in mind that the kings are entirely reliant of his vassals.

 

 

 

 

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4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Targaryens ceased to be the rightful royal dynasty the moment they were evicted in the Rebellion. Ultimately, the rule of a king is not based on bloodline, but on consent - bloodline is there simply to make transit of power less chaotic and painful. Targaryen claim to the throne is only valid if there are enough people in the Seven Kingdoms supporting said claim.

Again, tell us where George R. R. Martin actually states that. The idea here is that the usurper Robert Baratheon drove the rightful king into exile. And no king after Robert is actually legitimate in any sense - Joff/Tommen are not Baratheons at all, Stannis isn't accepted by any significant as king, and half the Realm doesn't really care about the Baratheons anymore.

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Except not that hotly, and without impact on Westeros as a whole. The Iron Throne is Martin's One Ring equivalent.

Denethor is not a good person, per se, but he is not a bad person either. He is proud and self-serving, but he is also dutiful, and his pride is not just in himself but in Gondor as well. He is deceived by Sauron, but never submits to him (unlike Saruman, who is not just deceived but overpowered by Sauron and becomes his servant).

Denethor uses the palantír and interacts with Sauron and images sent by Sauron in this manner. He is corrupted by allowing the Dark Lord to enter his mind. It doesn't matter that he only allows him to coerce him into depression and suicide or if he actively joins him.

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

And "consorts with the Dark Lord"? Have you even read the books at all? Denethor never submits to Sauron or "consorts" with him. Sauron was never able to overpower Denethor's will in the way he did Saruman's, nor to induce him to betray the Free Peoples. Denethor continues to resist Sauron with all his might. What Sauron did manage to do was to make Denethor's already present flaws even more pronounced: his pride, his obsessions, and his despair. But Denethor's pride was in Gondor, first and foremost; and his despair came from his belief that opposing Sauron without One Ring is doomed to failure. And he was correct about that, as Gandalf himself acknowledged: there was no hope for beating Sauron, militarily, without the One Ring. Even then, it was not actually Denethor who proposes using One Ring immediately - it is Boromir. Denethor himself seems to be at least aware of the dangers of using the Ring, and thus proposes to lock it into the vault and not use it unless Gondor is in danger of imminent defeat. He fails to look beyond Gondor, and overlooks the danger that One Ring would pose to him even locked up, but neither is really surprising: he is a governor, not an angelic emissary or even just a philosopher.

Denethor becomes an enemy of the West when he decides to abandon his people in the hour of their greatest need, choosing death over hope. And he becomes even worse when he also wants to kill his son.

Denethor is an utter failure because he cannot believe - as proper good people do - that the Ring can and will be destroyed and Sauron along with it. Faramir and Aragorn and all the other good people could believe that, too.

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Evil in Silmarillion does originate from Melkor, due to his marring of Arda - first during the Song of Ainur, and then by literally possessing it. But even so, Tolkien also has a massive theme of free will: yes, evil is there, but we are free to accept or to reject it. Feanor and his sons were free to give up Silmarils: but they did not, and so were doomed to failure. Feanor was free to listen or to reject Melkor: but he allowed Melkor to poison his mind. Melkor is the literal Devil, and source of all evil; but that does not mean free will does not matter and that resistance is useless.

Those things actually are mutually exclusive, which is why Tolkien's metaphysical stuff doesn't really work. If you have really free will there is no voice of the devil in your head all the time. This things breaks especially down with the Orcs who are effectively born evil/as Melkor's slaves because he twisted them into his creatures. Their free will is a joke - just as the free will of men and elves living directly under Melkor's (and later Sauron's) rule.

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

No, Robert would point to himself. He took the throne by right of conquest, and reason why that was possible was because he had enough support among other lords to both take the Throne and ensure legitimacy of his rule afterwards. A successful usurper is typically legitimate.

No, he is not. A usurper is never legitimate, especially not in monarchistic setting were bloodlines and the proper line of succession count. They always stole the throne, meaning the throne can be stolen back by the rightful king or his heirs ... or just by somebody else who wants it.

That kind of thing is what Robert tells us with the War of the Five Kings. Robert is a usurper - like Edward IV - and after his death the throne is up for anyone to grab - Stannis and Renly both reflecting Richard III - just as Robert himself always feared the Targaryens would retake what he had stolen.

And this also extends to conquest - Dorne was effectively conquered twice by the Targaryens - but the Dornishmen didn't accept and regained their freedom. The Riverlanders were never happy under the yoke of the Stormlanders or Ironborn. And even Aegon Targaryen winning a couple of battles doesn't mean his subjects were all fine with being conquered. There was still a danger that people would take their freedom back. That's why there were rebellions after Aegon's death.

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Or maybe they don't feel the need to talk about Baratheons as the rightful rulers because it is an established fact, whereas Targaryen supporters are louder as Targaryens are in the exile? Fact that a group is loud doesn't mean its ideas are widespread.

But not even the Baratheons themselves say they are the rightful royal dynasty. Even Stannis doesn't say that. He talks about being Robert's rightful heir, but he never addresses the question whether Robert was the rightful king.

Robert was a king who was tentatively accepted, but neither of his brothers or children can even say he has a majority of the people behind him.

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Except she does, especially in the first books before she becomes focused on Mereen. But that desire is still there.

Those are rather selectively chosen quotes - Westeros is the only plan she has while she is stuck in Qarth but before she ends up in Slaver's Bay she really has no proper plan what she wants to do.

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Now, it is true that she is not obsessed with the Iron Throne the way, say, Stannis is. But she has that witch in her head, so...

That isn't a witch, she just wants back what is her family's. And she obliged to avenge the crimes done to her parents and family. That is what the nobility do.

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

They both were corrupted, although it is true that it is not only that. You will recall that Stannis offered Renly rather good terms: if Renly supported Stannis (as was his duty as a younger brother), then Stannis would acknowledge Renly as his heir until Stannis had a son (which would be never). But Renly was locked into refusing, both by his pride but also by Tyrell ambition: I am not certain they would have settled for Renly becoming a king some years in the future. But still, neither really made an effort. Stannis first hid on Dragonstone and then beseiged Storm's End without even trying to talk to Renly beforehand. Renly for his part did not even try to talk to Stannis and figure out what he thinks or wants, but simply went and declared himself a king when he saw that Stannis had locked himself in Dragonstone.

Renly wants the throne and uses the Tyrells, not the other way around. And neither of them is seduced by the Iron Throne but by the mere fact that their brother is a king and they want to follow in his footsteps.

Twisting this thing around to the throne as even resembling the One Ring in any kind is a violation of the text. Especially if you want it to be that non-Iron Throne kingship is somehow better. Walder Frey and Roose Bolton don't want the Iron Throne but are clearly ambitious and evil. Littlefinger might also never intend to sit the throne, either, etc.

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

If neither of them was corrupted by desire, then they would not have done any of the above: especially since, as you pointed out before, neither had hard proof of Joffrey's illegitimacy.

Perhaps they inherited evil from Robert, who, as a usurper, committed the ultimate sin and took power for himself he was not entitled to ;-)?

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

No, he could not have. If he had postponed the claim to the Throne, he would have had to abandon it altogether. And I am not denying the propaganda value of what he did, but it seems clear to me that it wasn't simply due to propaganda: that he genuinely decided to do what he saw as his duty.

That's just something you make up. Aegon also wants the throne but doesn't call himself king yet. Stannis could have conceded that it was unclear who was the king when he showed up at the Wall.

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Do you want me to list all the wars, in history and fiction, that were caused by misunderstanding? Yes, it is true that somebody must want it to get bloody... but reasons for that want can be a myriad: a perceived threat is enough, it does not need to be real. And person who wants it does not need to be either Aegon or Daenerys; both of them can concievably get locked into a certain course of action by the people around them. If somebody tried to kill Daenerys (she made quite a few enemies) and it was interpreted as an attempt from Aegon's side; or if the reverse happened; then one or both of them could be pushed into declaring war even if they do not actually want to do it, or even if they genuinely believe that the other side is genuinely innocent. Or if Jon Connington was driven insane by greyscale and did something stupid: again, Daenerys could be pushed into attacking regardless of hew own desires.

Daenerys is not going to pushed into anything against her own desire. If she were attacked by Aegon's people, yes, that could give pretext for a war, but a war doesn't have to escalate or they could enter into negotiations after one side one or lost a battle.

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

1) Why would it be bad writing?

Because good authors don't introduce mysteries and then refuse to resolve them. Granted, Aegon/DAny must not know who he actually is for the mystery to be revealed to the readers, but we can also expect Tommen/Myrcella to learn about their parents before the end if they live this long.

And the Aegon mystery is something Daenerys might resolve before she even gets to Westeros because the boy was made there. There are people who know who Aegon is in Essos. Not just Yandry and Ysilla.

But Aegon is going to be a fake for his entire career, anyway. He cannot prove that he is Rhaegar's son because people know Rhaegar's son is dead. He has to convince people that what they know is false, and that is likely not going to work with a majority of the people.

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Except it does. It represents power, One Ring is Sauron's power; both thus represent a prospect of power, of control, of rule and dominance. The difference is that One Ring is magically corrupting, whereas the Iron Throne is mundane, and only brings out things which are already present in the person.

The Iron Throne is no temptation of any kind, it is just a chair. And it doesn't even invite or entice people to claim it because in the world of Westeros only people with royal blood vie for the Iron Throne - and not all ambitious (highborn) people.

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Actually, it is not a ridiculous concept: the One Ring represents temptation, one that is strenghtened by magic. But One Ring still needs something to work with. It needs a preexisting darkness within human heart, to take it, warp it and employ it for its own purposes. A person without said darkness cannot be dominated by the Ring because it does not have anything to work with: look how Ring failed to affect at all Tom Bombadil, who is a spirit of the nature and "his own master". Or again, how it failed to affect Sam, because he lacked any kind of desire or evil that Ring could exploit in any meaningful manner.

The Ring did affect Sam, he just didn't wear it long to be affected strongly. Frodo is not weaker or 'darker' than Sam yet he completely succumbed to the Ring in the end because he wore it longer - and he carried it into the Sammath Naur where nobody can resist its power.

And to be sure, that Ring isn't a person or being. It is a tool - which is part of the reason why the concept as such is flawed. Tools cannot corrupt good people if they what they are doing. If Manwe took the Ring to be a better Elder King he should succeed at that because being the Elder King doesn't mean dominating or enslaving people.

You have to want to be a shitty person to be one.

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

This is the way power in general works: as person gains power and becomes less accountable, so does the temptation to utilize said power for selfish needs grow. There is reason why monarchies started falling apart with the era of absolute monarchies: a Byzantine Emperor or a traditional king would have been in public eye, and if anything more accountable than modern-day politicians who use the complex and rather opaque nature of modern state apparatus to play "pass the buck".

Of course, power can corrupt you, but the Ring also corrupts and twists people who don't have or don't want any power whatsoever. Just look at Gollum but also Frodo or Bilbo.

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

And concept that people can become evil against their will is not ridiculous either. One Ring actually represents that as well: you can start meaning well, taking power to make the world a better place. But power alone can change a person, and good ideas and good meanings can easily become something evil. Like how Communists started wanting to build a better society and ended up murdering tens of millions. Yes, it is true that person has to have character flaws; but all people have character flaws, so that caveat is not something which really matters, as it is a rule with no exceptions.

I daresay that Stalin never wanted to build a better world considering his background and upbringing ;-). This narrative of people starting well-meaning and then turning into tyrants is a literary trope that was already old when Suetonius and Tacitus used it for their histories of the Roman emperors.

The idea that killing people is wrong in principle when you want to better the world is also inherently flawed. People usually praise, say, World War II for stopping the Nazis, but killing a lot of people in a revolution might be necessary, too, and could just as well have great benefits in the future.

4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Eldacar was in right because Castamir turned out to be a tyrant. If Castamir had somehow become a good ruler, Eldacar would have been in the wrong, or at least not have any more right to the throne than Castamir. But considering that throne of Gondor is basically sanctified by God, there was little hope of a usurper turning out alright, unlike in real life or Westeros. Conversely, Aerys II was overthrown because he was a tyrant, and Targaryens were thus replaced by Baratheons. Fact that Aerys was removed means that Iron Throne passed away from Targaryens, and is thus not theirs anymore. Whoever takes the Throne has the right to it if it is done with sufficient support from the people being ruled.

Please, Tolkien makes it perfectly clear with Manwe-Melkor that usurpation is a heinous crime and by itself. Melkor effectively ousted Manwe and the Valar as rightful rulers of Arda in the early days ... yet this was never a positive thing regardless whether Melkor was a good or bad ruler. In fact, his sin is even coveting something that he is not entitled to as it is up to Eru to name his representative in Arda. Melkor is evil because he tries to take something that isn't his - and that is what every (would-be) usurper does.

You also have that thing with Pharazôn's usurpation marking him for the monster that he was, just as Castamir was marked as an evil person by being introduced as a usurper - even more so considering the reasons why he usurped.

Usurpers are never a good thing in a world based on Christianity, where kingship is in the end a reflection of the divine order and god's chosen kings are kings by right of birth and blood, not kings popular decree or because they take what they covet by force (i.e. steal it).

You also have that whole thing reinforced with the Steward thing. Denethor and his predecessors are only legitimate rulers insofar as they act as stewards. They are not kings, never were, never can be, which is why even the thought of them acting as kings or wanting to be kings is the vilest of treasons.

5 hours ago, SeanF said:

The Targaryens are entitled to bid for it.  What Robert seized by force, can be taken back by force.  Robert was neither a good man, nor a good ruler, nor was Joffrey, nor Cersei.  Tommen might turn out decent if he was given the chance, but he won't be given the chance.  

Tolkien would have taken the view that the murder of Elia and her children, and the aftermath, irrevocably tainted Robert's reign.  If Robert had punished their murders and had proved to be a just and decent ruler, then I think it would be much harder to justify fighting to regain the throne from him.

Yeah, there is no difference between Dany and Aragorn in this regard. Arvedui was cheated out of his right to rule Gondor by the old guard back then, but that didn't erase Aragorn's claim ... just as Robert cannot take erase the claims of the Targaryens.

Gondor even fell and the royal bloodline there died out - if one can count Earnil II and Earnur as proper kings. This is the kind of symbolism that illustrates that tricking the rightful heir out of his birthright has dire consequences.

Tolkien also has symbolism showing how people lose their right to rule, of course. Feanor's vow and the kin-strife both discredited him and his sons ... but then, in a very real sense the only real king of the Eldar is Ingwe and in Beleriand, perhaps, Thingol. Everything else is pretension ;-).

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25 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

 

Denethor becomes an enemy of the West when he decides to abandon his people in the hour of their greatest need, choosing death over hope. And he becomes even worse when he also wants to kill his son.

Denethor is an utter failure because he cannot believe - as proper good people do - that the Ring can and will be destroyed and Sauron along with it. Faramir and Aragorn and all the other good people could believe that, too.

 

Although it's straying off topic, I think Denethor's failure was two-fold, in Tolkien's eyes.  He abandoned faith in God,  but even in despair, he failed to act as a just pagan should - who accepts that defeat is no refutation, that it is honourable to die fighting for what is right, even if you have no faith left in God.

But, it's hard not to have sympathy with Denethor.

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4 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

 

 

I daresay that Stalin never wanted to build a better world considering his background and upbringing ;-). This narrative of people starting well-meaning and then turning into tyrants is a literary trope that was already old when Suetonius and Tacitus used it for their histories of the Roman emperors.

The idea that killing people is wrong in principle when you want to better the world is also inherently flawed. People usually praise, say, World War II for stopping the Nazis, but killing a lot of people in a revolution might be necessary, too, and could just as well have great benefits in the future.

 

I think there were communists who wished to build a better world, but not many of them among the senior leadership.  With people like Stalin, Yagoda, Beria, Yezhov, Kaganovich, power revealed what type of men they were, rather than corrupting them.  Likewise, the Nazis.  Hitler & Co, were never men who began well, before being corrupted.  They were corrupt from the start. 

I think that some people can be led by stages into doing terrible things, that they would not once have contemplated doing.  Especially, during the course of war and revolution. Faced with the kind of total war that existed on the Eastern Front from 1941-45, or Spain from  1808 - 14, I think it's quite easy to imagine oneself resorting to total cruelty against the enemy.  In fact, given the nature of the war against Sauron, I would be amazed if Gondorian and Rohirric lords on the frontiers did not do so.

But, I think Tolkien was wrong that "nothing is evil in the beginning". Some people are.  If you're ever watched Breaking Bad, Walter was rotten from the start.  He was not corrupted by power.

Edited by SeanF

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3 hours ago, SeanF said:

Although it's straying off topic, I think Denethor's failure was two-fold, in Tolkien's eyes.  He abandoned faith in God,  but even in despair, he failed to act as a just pagan should - who accepts that defeat is no refutation, that it is honourable to die fighting for what is right, even if you have no faith left in God.

But, it's hard not to have sympathy with Denethor.

Oh, he is sympathetic because he has his own mind. Just like Saruman is - he knows about and defends the scientific method against Gandalf's mindless dogmatism. The good guys are usually Tolkien's least interesting characters, especially those who know stuff.

But, yes, as per Tolkien's set of values Denethor was, in the end, completely lost. He became a heretic or atheist and he couldn't even bring himself to do the right thing by fighting the good fight until the end. And considering his bloodline, nobility, and knowledge his fall is much deeper than, say, Théoden's who also sought death in battle ... but still fought the good fight.

2 hours ago, SeanF said:

I think there were communists who wished to build a better world, but not many of them among the senior leadership.  With people like Stalin, Yagoda, Beria, Yezhov, Kaganovich, power revealed what type of men they were, rather than corrupting them.  Likewise, the Nazis.  Hitler & Co, were never men who began well, before being corrupted.  They were corrupt from the start.

I don't much about the intricacies there, but at least the entire Russian thing was deeply flawed from the beginning. Stalin was basically a psychopath trained at inflighting violence from childhood on, not to mention the authoritarian thinking he would have absorbed from training to be an Orthodox priest.

And Lenin also has an elitist Bourgeous background - all forward progressive thinking back in the 19th century was steeped in hierarchal thinking and structures, considering most - if not all - intellectuals came from highly privileged classes. Even if they took up the socialist cause, they could not (easily) shed the skin of being better than the rabble.

If you were imagine a broad socialist/communist movement today, things would look different.

And then there is the whole war thing to consider - if you try to build a better world in the middle of war turned civil war (Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc.) situation then you first have to survive before you can make things better.

2 hours ago, SeanF said:

I think that some people can be led by stages into doing terrible things, that they would not once have contemplated doing.  Especially, during the course of war and revolution.  But, I think Tolkien was wrong that "nothing is evil in the beginning". Some people are.  If you're ever watched Breaking Bad, Walter was rotten from the start.  He was not corrupted by power.

Tolkien has the classical view that god didn't want evil, so originally everything must have been great. But people were always fallen and evil since original sin is effectively older than man's fall in Arda (although man also gets his own downfall in the background).

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