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The many political mistakes of Daenaerys Targaryen

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6 hours ago, SeanF said:

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.

Um...Gilligan said that everyone on the show except Walt Jr. gets corrupted.

Lord Varys argued that the Iron Throne has no symbolism, that it’s just a big chair, that Dany doesn’t want. 

Are ya’ll okay? 
 

 

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11 minutes ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

Lord Varys argued that the Iron Throne has no symbolism, that it’s just a big chair, that Dany doesn’t want.

I don't say she doesn't want it, I say she isn't obsessed with it. And I say unlike any of the other pretenders she has many other options what she could if she were not to get that throne or if it were getting tedious taking/keeping it.

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1 hour ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

Um...Gilligan said that everyone on the show except Walt Jr. gets corrupted.

At the end of the show,Walter recognizes that from the begining it was greed that drove him only he wasn't capable to admit it until then.

Skyler White:
Walter, if I have to hear one more f***ing time that you did it for the family...

Walter White:
I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And... I was really... I was alive.

I will leave you an interesting quote here by Robert A.Caro

"We're taught Lord Acton's axiom: all power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. I believed that when I started these books, but I don't believe it's always true any more. Power doesn't always corrupt. Power can cleanse. What I believe is always true about power is that power always reveals. When you have enough power to do what you always wanted to do, then you see what the guy always wanted to do."

"When a man is climbing, trying to persuade others to give him power, concealment is necessary. ... But as a man obtains more power, camouflage becomes less necessary."

Edited by Dracul's Daughter

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3 hours ago, Dracul's Daughter said:

At the end of the show,Walter recognizes that from the begining it was greed that drove him only he wasn't capable to admit it until then.

Skyler White:
Walter, if I have to hear one more f***ing time that you did it for the family...

Walter White:
I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And... I was really... I was alive.

I will leave you an interesting quote here by Robert A.Caro

"We're taught Lord Acton's axiom: all power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. I believed that when I started these books, but I don't believe it's always true any more. Power doesn't always corrupt. Power can cleanse. What I believe is always true about power is that power always reveals. When you have enough power to do what you always wanted to do, then you see what the guy always wanted to do."

"When a man is climbing, trying to persuade others to give him power, concealment is necessary. ... But as a man obtains more power, camouflage becomes less necessary."

Gilligan says that if Walter had decided to take Elliot and Gretchen's money (and not cook meth) it would be a very short show. Meaning if he had made one decision to reject power, the outcome would have been completely different. Power may reveal, but it also has a causation effect. 

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3 hours ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

Gilligan says that if Walter had decided to take Elliot and Gretchen's money (and not cook meth) it would be a very short show. Meaning if he had made one decision to reject power, the outcome would have been completely different. Power may reveal, but it also has a causation effect. 

I think that “power corrupts” better describes Kim Wexler, in Better Call Saul, than it does Walter.

The problem with the “power corrupts” theory is that it’s an argument for the complete avoidance of public life. I think it’s more accurate to say that power might corrupt.

I think one could argue that power attracts people with flawed personalities, in the same way that jobs that involve close contact with children attract child molesters.  But many people who wield power are neither flawed nor corrupted, just as many who work with children pose no danger.

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12 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

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.

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.

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).

Yes, I don’t think Tolkien could have accepted that some sentient beings are irredeemable (and tied himself in knots over the orcs).

 

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9 hours ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

Gilligan says that if Walter had decided to take Elliot and Gretchen's money (and not cook meth) it would be a very short show. Meaning if he had made one decision to reject power, the outcome would have been completely different. Power may reveal, but it also has a causation effect. 

So no one should wield power?:huh:

Edited by Dracul's Daughter

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5 hours ago, SeanF said:

I think that “power corrupts” better describes Kim Wexler, in Better Call Saul, than it does Walter.

The problem with the “power corrupts” theory is that it’s an argument for the complete avoidance of public life. I think it’s more accurate to say that power might corrupt.

I think one could argue that power attracts people with flawed personalities, in the same way that jobs that involve close contact with children attract child molesters.  But many people who wield power are neither flawed nor corrupted, just as many who work with children pose no danger.

My problem with "power corrupts" is that it kinda takes resposability away from the person who wronged : "I was a nice person but the power corrupted me.The power is to blame.".I think most probably that person was always not as nice as he/she pretended to or he/she didn't got the chance to reveal himself/herself.

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On 11/21/2020 at 6:08 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

 

At which point said rightful king ceased to be the rightful king.

On 11/21/2020 at 6:08 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

 

That simply doesn't work that way. Read Lord of the Rings again; and Unfinished Tales and History of Middle Earth if that is not enough: Sauron cannot send images. He can influence control over Palantir, and maybe force lesser minds (which Denethor is not) to incorrectly interpret things they have seen. But everything Denethor has seen in Palantir is true: he does not see details which would allow him to correctly interpret things, but nothing he does see is fake. He does not see that Fleet of Umbar is crewed by Gondorian troops, for example, but the fleet itself is real. Look at the text - you have a collection of quotes refering to that here:

http://www.henneth-annun.net/events_view.cfm?evid=929

I will just note the most important:

'Pride and despair!' he cried. 'Didst thou think that the eyes of the White Tower were blind? Nay, I have seen more than thou knowest, Grey Fool. For thy hope is but ignorance. Go then and labour in healing! Go forth and fight! Vanity. For a little space you may triumph on the field, for a day. But against the Power that now arises there is no victory. To this City only the first finger of its hand has yet been stretched. All the East is moving. And even now the wind of thy hope cheats thee and wafts up Anduin a fleet with black sails. The West has failed. It is time for all to depart who would not be slaves.'
 

'Though the Stewards deemed that it was a secret kept only by themselves, long ago I guessed that here in the White Tower, one at least of the Seven Seeing Stones was preserved. In the days of his wisdom Denethor did not presume to use it,1 nor to challenge Sauron, knowing the limits of his own strength. But his wisdom failed; and I fear that as the peril of his realm grew he looked in the Stone and was deceived: far too often, I guess, since Boromir departed. He was too great to be subdued to the will of the Dark Power, he saw nonetheless only those things which that Power permitted him to see. The knowledge which he obtained was, doubtless, often of service to him; yet the vision of the great might of Mordor that was shown to him fed the despair of his heart until it overthrew his mind.'
 

'The Stones of Seeing do not lie, and not even the Lord of Barad-dûr can make them do so. He can, maybe, by his will choose what things shall be seen by weaker minds, or cause them to mistake the meaning of what they see. Nonetheless it cannot be doubted that when Denethor saw great forces arrayed against him in Mordor, and more still being gathered, he saw that which truly is.
 

The Stones of Seeing do not lie, and not even the Lord of Barad-dur can make them do so. 

And it is not clear that Sauron ever actually entered Denethor's mind. He certainly was not able to dominate and corrupt Denethor the way he did with Saruman; Denethor resisted him. But he was nevertheless driven to despair by his knowledge of Sauron's might and his lack of faith into supernatural. Denethor continued to resist, but he saw resistance as futile, and only did it because it was his duty. And this meant that, when it seemed both of his sons had died, he simply broke.

But he was never "corrupted", in a sense that Sauron succeeded in changing his very nature; nor did he ever "consort" with Sauron. Denethor was, however, demoralized.

And how in seven hells did you get "It doesn't matter that he only allows him to coerce him into depression and suicide or if he actively joins him.". That is just ridiculous. Denethor who was coerced into depression and suicide left behind a state with capable leaders (Imrahil), highly professional army, and fully willing to resist. Had he actively joined Sauron, he would have been another Saruman: he might not have been able to coerce rest of Gondor into joining Sauron (after all, captains of the provinces had wide authority and might well have resisted such ridiculous orders - we simply don't know), but he certainly would have told him of the quest of the One Ring (which he was fully aware of), and that alone would have been enough to doom the Free Peoples; it was Sauron's conviction that One Ring is with Aragorn that allowed Frodo to reach Sammath Naur.

On 11/21/2020 at 6:08 PM, 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.

It can be said that he is a deserter. But he never joined Sauron. And he only broke when he had nothing to live for, or so it seemed to him: his son was dying, and Gondor was about to get conquered.

He was simply too reliant on logic.

On 11/21/2020 at 6:08 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

 

No, they are not mutually exclusive. Evil men at least are still capable of free will. We see that time and again. Theirs is the case of GIGO (garbage in, garbage out): they are evil because evil is all they know. But when given good treatment - Dunlendings after Helm's Deep, for example - they are capable of reformation.

Orcs however are a more complex case. They clearly have some free will (see Shagrat and Gorbag discussing how they will "settle down with a few good lads") but are also driven by Sauron's own will (as seen from the Battle at the Black Gate, where loss of will which had "given them direction" causes collapse of the whole host and leads to them "milling about as headless ants" - not exact quotes).  At any rate, I do not think "free will" is a binary 0/1 system; people today don't have a completely free will either.

On 11/21/2020 at 6:08 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

If what you wrote is the case, Targaryens would have been overthrown and Westeros fallen apart as a political entity the moment their dragons had died out. They had, after all, usurped the original dynasties of Seven Kingdoms.

Fact that not everybody agrees does not mean that dynasty is illegitimate (which would suggest that not majority agrees). And if dynastic principle is so important, then Targaryens themselves are illegitimate as well.

On 11/21/2020 at 6:08 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

Who doesn't? Robert merely states that he is not happy being a king, but clearly sees himself as a rightful king. Joffrey bases his claim of legitimacy on that of Robert, as does Stannis.

And your second paragraph would mean that legitimacy is determined by popular acceptance, not by dynastic ties.

On 11/21/2020 at 6:08 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

 

I never said she had a plan. I said she had a desire. And her visions in the desert show that desire is still there, or had been reawakened by Quaithe.

On 11/21/2020 at 6:08 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

 

So she is not getting visions from Quaithe?

On 11/21/2020 at 6:08 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

Tyrells were promised that Margaery will be the queen. Yes, Renly may have used the Tyrells: but by the time Stannis decides to declare himself, Renly has already declared himself a king, and no longer can withdraw that declaration even assuming he wanted to.

And you clearly don't understand why I compare the Iron Throne to the One Ring: narratively, both of these represent power and obsession with power. Westeros is being ruined by people pursuing power, which is no different from potential civil war over the One Ring.

On 11/21/2020 at 6:08 PM, Lord Varys said:

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

 

It certainly did give Renly ideas. And maybe Stannis also considered his rebellion more justifiable seeing how Robert was successful in his own.

On 11/21/2020 at 6:08 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

 

It is actually his own reasoning.

On 11/21/2020 at 6:08 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

 

And why not? Ruling is a two-way street.

On 11/21/2020 at 6:08 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

I know some good authors who never revealed some of the mysteries.

And the point of Aegon is that his impact will be determined in large part by who people believe he is.

On 11/21/2020 at 6:08 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

 

Chair which symbolizes power. If you don't think that is corrupting, you clearly don't understand human psyche.

On 11/21/2020 at 6:08 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

Ring actually is a person / a being. It is literally part of Sauron's soul, and has its own will. As a result, anything done with the One Ring will, in the end, be turned to evil.

On 11/21/2020 at 6:08 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

 

That is true. But my point is that Ring represents the corrupting influence of power, but one which is magically enhanced. Not that it is what Ring is. Tolkien was actually quite clear on that point:

"You can make the Ring into an allegory of our own time, if you like: and allegory of the inevitable fate that waits for all attempts to defeat evil power by power" (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, 1995, p. 121.)

"Power is an ominous and sinister word in all these tales" (p. 152.)

"The story is cast in terms of a good side, and a bad side, beauty against ruthless ugliness, tyranny against kingship, moderated freedom with consent against compulsion that has long lost any object save mere power, and so on" (pp. 178-179.)

"In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to the wholly evil will as is possible. He had gone the way of all tyrants: beginning well, at least on the level that while desiring to order all things according to his own wisdom he still at first considered the (economic) well-being of other inhabitants of Earth. But he went further than human tyrants in pride and the lust for domination, being in origin an immortal (angelic) spirit" (p. 243.)

"Of course my story is not an allegory of Atomic power, but of Power (exerted for domination)" (p. 246.)

On 11/21/2020 at 6:08 PM, 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 was not talking about Stalin. I was talking about Communists in general. He was hardly the only mass murderer on that list, and in fact vast majority of Communist states were tyrannical.

Killing people is only correct when they are a threat. Not when you want to get rid of them for the sake of the better world. First, every life has a value. Second, you have no guarantee that you will be able to build a better world. In fact, attempts at building a utopia typically result in creation of a hellhole.

On 11/21/2020 at 6:08 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

As I have pointed out, Throne of Gondor is sanctified by God, meaning that usurper will be immoral by default. Usurpation being a heinous crime is result of the nature of sacral kingship - but it also means that a moral person will hardly contemplate such a thing. However, there were legitimate rulers who were evil - Ar-Gimilzor was flat-out evil. And in such cases, Tolkien is hardly against disobeying or resisting said ruler, though she stops short of overthrowing them. Aragorn is a sacral king, but not just because of his inheritance - it is also because he acts as such. In fact, Tolkien has a stark contrast between a lawful king, which also includes king fulfilling his duties, and a tyrant. Looking beyond Numenorean kings, we have nature of kingship in Rohan as well as elven societies, which is significantly different from Gondor. Tolkien does not believe that "monarchy bad, democracy good" as many modern (and rather shallow, both intellectually and spiritually) authors believe; rather, his dichtonomy is between freedom and authoritharianism, between consent and enslavement. Any government that intrudes into personal freedoms is by definition tyrannical; rather, main guiding principle of government should be subsidiarity and accountability. As a result, citizens have moral duty to resist immoral order: Eomer is lauded for his resistance against orders of corrupted Theoden, and likewise Beregond is lauded (and rewarded) for his resistance against orders of almost-equally corrupted Denethor.

As for Westeros, lack of sacral element in Westerosi kings, as limited as it would be, ought to have resulted in a rather unstable society. Original sacral kingship has, under Christianity, eventually developed into "divine right of kings" which is a theory of both rights and obligations of a monarch. In other words, king is blessed by God, but this blessing requires king to fulfill certain obligations; thus king can be overthrown if it is judged that he has failed in fulfilling said obligations (which are, essentially, moral standards).

Unlike Martin, Tolkien's kings govern within the frame of traditional law:

‘A Numenorean king was monarch, with the power of unquestioned decision in debate; but he governed the realm with the frame of ancient law, of which he was administrator (and interpreter) but not maker.’

(Letters, No. 244)

In other words, king is not an absolute ruler. This is situation similar to Byzantine Empire where emperor did not have legal limitations on his power, but limitations still existed in form of a) sacral obligations and b) custom - or in other words, customary law.

Going back to differentiation between a king and a tyrant, this is how Tolkien frames it:

"Power is an ominous and sinister word in all these tales" (p. 152.)

"The story is cast in terms of a good side, and a bad side, beauty against ruthless ugliness, tyranny against kingship, moderated freedom with consent against compulsion that has long lost any object save mere power, and so on" (pp. 178-179.)

"In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to the wholly evil will as is possible. He had gone the way of all tyrants: beginning well, at least on the level that while desiring to order all things according to his own wisdom he still at first considered the (economic) well-being of other inhabitants of Earth. But he went further than human tyrants in pride and the lust for domination, being in origin an immortal (angelic) spirit" (p. 243.)

"Of course my story is not an allegory of Atomic power, but of Power (exerted for domination)" (p. 246.)

"My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) - or to 'unconstitutional' Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word state (in any sense other than the inanimate realm of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remained obstinate!" (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, 1995, p. 63.)

Tolkien also promotes the idea of radical subsidiary: government intervenes only as much as necessary, and no more than that. Tolkien's ideal ruler, ironically, is Smaug: lazing in his lair and leaving his "subjects" to live their lives in peace. Elessar also seems to follow the same model of governance. What differentiates them is their own character: Smaug is only concerned about himself, and when he lives his lair, it is to visit destruction upon his "subjects". Elessar however leaves his "lair" when his people and lands are threatened, that is when he needs to fulfill his duties as defender of the realm. Another difference is that Smaug imposed himself against the will of the people, whereas Aragorn's coronation follows the Byzantine tradition of acclamation. While Aragorn does have dynastic legitimacy, he is still effectively "elected" or "confirmed" by the people, and his rule depends upon his subjects' goodwill. Bloodline is important for legitimacy, but it alone is not enough.

In the end, Tolkien's ideal state is not absolute monarchy, but rather the Byzantine model of participative monarchy: with a monarch who wields his power with consent of the people, and is also responsible and accountable to those same people. From this it naturally follows that a ruler who disregards his duties, "turns bad", can be disobeyed - or, if he is bad enough, even rebelled against; though Tolkien would certainly see peaceful resistance as morally superior to an armed rebellion. We see this in Numenor: when kings of Numenor became corrupt and fell under influence of Morgoth's spirit, the Faithful did not rebel. They sequestrated themselves in their own enclaves, and eventually emigrated to what would become kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor. But even rebellion can be justified if stakes are high enough: Beregond rebelled against Denethor's orders, and even spilled blood on the holy ground, which is sacrilege. Yet Aragorn - who is Tolkien's ideal ruler - pardoned and even rewarded him, because Beregond's sacrilege was a consequence of his view of duty: he was saving life of somebody to whom he was beholden to.

Regarding Ar-Pharazon, it is not merely his usurpation which points him out as a monster he is: it is also the manner in which it is done. He stole the throne from personal ambition, not out of a sense of duty; he did it by commiting incest (in a society which explicitly did not allow such); marriage was done against Miriel's will; and by all appearances, he excluded her from rule. And main reasons why Pharazon is considered the tyrant are his pride, and his will to dominate (but of course, these characteristics cannot be separated from the acts listed).

Elves however fall outside the models listed. Elven leaders are monarchs, but they - even more than kings of Gondor and Rohan - depend on feedback of their subjects and refuse to impose their will by force. Such a thing does happen in Silmarillion, but they evidently learn from it in a way that short-lived races cannot.

On 11/21/2020 at 12:36 PM, 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.

Agreed.

Edited by Aldarion

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18 hours ago, Dracul's Daughter said:

I will leave you an interesting quote here by Robert A.Caro

"We're taught Lord Acton's axiom: all power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. I believed that when I started these books, but I don't believe it's always true any more. Power doesn't always corrupt. Power can cleanse. What I believe is always true about power is that power always reveals. When you have enough power to do what you always wanted to do, then you see what the guy always wanted to do."

"When a man is climbing, trying to persuade others to give him power, concealment is necessary. ... But as a man obtains more power, camouflage becomes less necessary."

You know when a GOT fan pulls out that particular quote that you found another Lindsay Ellis fan.

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10 hours ago, SeanF said:

I think that “power corrupts” better describes Kim Wexler, in Better Call Saul, than it does Walter.

The problem with the “power corrupts” theory is that it’s an argument for the complete avoidance of public life. I think it’s more accurate to say that power might corrupt.

I think one could argue that power attracts people with flawed personalities, in the same way that jobs that involve close contact with children attract child molesters.  But many people who wield power are neither flawed nor corrupted, just as many who work with children pose no danger.

 

Alright I can not sit by while people discuss Breaking Bad, especially Walt's ark. In Walt's case I don't think power really corrupted or revealed him. more of a mix.

 

His very first scene has his working out depressed starring at a plaque for the Nobel prize. We get from the very beginning that Walt is an unfulfilled genius. We continue to see it throughout the show, and in "Buy Out" (yes I know the episodes name) we see that his unfulfilled genius especially in relation to Gretchen and Elliott was the driving force all along. He isn't in it for the power, the money or anything else, he's there to prove and show himself. And we get further confirmation at the end. It is Gretchen and Elliott trying to make him look irrelevant that drives him to finally act at the end of "Granite State" (the penultimate episode) and in his discussion with Skylar at the end Walt acknowledges he did it for himself. Power for Walter was always a means to an end, a way for him to prove himself and his genius in his twisted mind. It wasn't power that corrupted or revealed him, it was him deciding he'd had enough. Power is a drug for him true, but it's nothing compared to the drug he truly craves but never quite receives, recognition.

Anyways, those are my 2 cents

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1 hour ago, Aldarion said:
At which point said rightful king ceased to be the rightful king.

But that is not how legitimacy works on governmental level in general, and especially not when we talk about royal dynasties.

A coup or usurpation or even a conquest have to be expected by all the parties involved being legitimate. All intentions to take something back or to topple the new regime have to cease for violence and treason and conquest to breed order and legitimacy.

That is why I gave you the Dornish examples. One could also think of the Blackfyres whose pretensions only died when they were eradicated ... and they never had any real legitmacy on their side, being a succession of failures from start to finish.

Aegon's Conquest worked because, in the end, the great houses made their peace with the new regimes. The Targaryen reign had nothing to do with dragons by the time the dragons disappeared and everything with inherited legitimacy and the consensus of the governed who agreed that the Targaryens were their rightful rulers.

Robert's Rebellion wasn't a universal deposition of a Mad King - Aerys II had followers. They lost the war for the time being, but losing it didn't make them Baratheon friends or sycophants. Robert's grip on the throne is very weak, he is completely depended on his Lannister in-laws, his foster father, and his old buddy Ned to keep the ship afloat.

And when he dies then neither the Baratheon dynasty nor the royal court can agree who should succeed King Robert. That is shipwreck, not a working royal dynasty.

1 hour ago, Aldarion said:

That simply doesn't work that way. Read Lord of the Rings again; and Unfinished Tales and History of Middle Earth if that is not enough: Sauron cannot send images. He can influence control over Palantir, and maybe force lesser minds (which Denethor is not) to incorrectly interpret things they have seen. But everything Denethor has seen in Palantir is true: he does not see details which would allow him to correctly interpret things, but nothing he does see is fake. He does not see that Fleet of Umbar is crewed by Gondorian troops, for example, but the fleet itself is real. Look at the text - you have a collection of quotes refering to that here

Oh, I know very much how a palantír works ... but where the hell did I say Denethor joined Sauron? I said he betrayed the West by trying to kill himself and his son. He is not a traitor by active collusion with the enemy, but a traitor by becoming defeatist, by becoming a deserter.

And of course he consorted with Sauron. He talked to him via the Anor stone like Saruman and Pippin and Aragorn did with the Orthanc stone. I know that this doesn't mean 'talk' - it is based on an exchange of thoughts via the stone, so consorting is a rather poignant way to express that. I never said Sauron was mind-controlling him, just that he actively deceived him. Giving a moron the rope to hang himself with doesn't make the outcome better or exonerate the moron. Denethor should have known that Sauron would find a way to deceive him. In his pride he didn't, and that was his undoing.

And keep in mind that the man was rotten beneath at the core. He preferred to cling to power even if Sauron could be defeated, to him there was no difference to live under the heel of Sauron or the heel of Aragorn. That is his very own justification for his suicide when Gandalf confronts him ... and this definitely has nothing to do with Sauron and everything with there being an Aragorn.

1 hour ago, Aldarion said:

And it is not clear that Sauron ever actually entered Denethor's mind. He certainly was not able to dominate and corrupt Denethor the way he did with Saruman; Denethor resisted him. But he was nevertheless driven to despair by his knowledge of Sauron's might and his lack of faith into supernatural. Denethor continued to resist, but he saw resistance as futile, and only did it because it was his duty. And this meant that, when it seemed both of his sons had died, he simply broke.

Denethor knew Faramir wasn't dead. He wanted him to die with him like many people killing themselves want to take their family with them ... especially since in his pride he did not want himself or any of his sons to become servants of Aragorn.

1 hour ago, Aldarion said:

But he was never "corrupted", in a sense that Sauron succeeded in changing his very nature; nor did he ever "consort" with Sauron. Denethor was, however, demoralized.

His nature was the problem.

1 hour ago, Aldarion said:

And how in seven hells did you get "It doesn't matter that he only allows him to coerce him into depression and suicide or if he actively joins him.". That is just ridiculous. Denethor who was coerced into depression and suicide left behind a state with capable leaders (Imrahil), highly professional army, and fully willing to resist. Had he actively joined Sauron, he would have been another Saruman: he might not have been able to coerce rest of Gondor into joining Sauron (after all, captains of the provinces had wide authority and might well have resisted such ridiculous orders - we simply don't know), but he certainly would have told him of the quest of the One Ring (which he was fully aware of), and that alone would have been enough to doom the Free Peoples; it was Sauron's conviction that One Ring is with Aragorn that allowed Frodo to reach Sammath Naur.

I mean on the moral level. Both means that the people failed. Of course Saruman is a worse traitor, but the difference is only one of degree, not principle. There can only be resistance to the enemy. The test of faith is not whether you join Sauron or kill yourself, but whether you actively resist Sauron. And Denethor failed that test in the end. His treason comes very late, but it comes, and now he burns in hell if Eru Ilúvatar is the Christian god.

1 hour ago, Aldarion said:

It can be said that he is a deserter. But he never joined Sauron. And he only broke when he had nothing to live for, or so it seemed to him: his son was dying, and Gondor was about to get conquered.

He was simply too reliant on logic.

He had an angelic being there telling him what's going on. A man who was with god just a couple of weeks ago. He should have known better, especially considering the amount of cosmological knowledge he must have absorbed as a member of Dúnedain ruling class.

1 hour ago, Aldarion said:

No, they are not mutually exclusive. Evil men at least are still capable of free will. We see that time and again. Theirs is the case of GIGO (garbage in, garbage out): they are evil because evil is all they know. But when given good treatment - Dunlendings after Helm's Deep, for example - they are capable of reformation.

That is after the Dark Lord and his lieutenants are gone ... and they are defeated and now under the yoke of the new regime. There is a difference between Sauron/Morgoth standing right there, and there voice just being a whisper in your mind.

And of course free will is a joke if you are Túrin Turambar and the curse of the devil is upon you. Everything you do will then be twisted into evil. And the weird conclusion of that story - which was never abandoned, apparently - that Túrin is rewarded for his suffering by returning from death and becoming the champion of the good guys in the Dagor Dagorath to slay Morgoth himself sort of hammers this home. This man was so tormented by evil - and the good guys were so impotent during his lifetime - that there has to be some reward/payback in the afterlife.

1 hour ago, Aldarion said:

Orcs however are a more complex case. They clearly have some free will (see Shagrat and Gorbag discussing how they will "settle down with a few good lads") but are also driven by Sauron's own will (as seen from the Battle at the Black Gate, where loss of will which had "given them direction" causes collapse of the whole host and leads to them "milling about as headless ants" - not exact quotes).  At any rate, I do not think "free will" is a binary 0/1 system; people today don't have a completely free will either.

Of course they are not robots, but free will in theological context means whether you are capable of choosing freely between good and evil, sin and virtue, and so on. That the Orcs clearly cannot do, which means they are no responsible for being evil because being evil is their nature.

And I'd also say that men and elves living among 'the Shadow', i.e. in the dominion of the Dark Lords cannot do that. It is different for them since they are not Orcs, of course, but they are under Morgoth's power.

For elves and men the ruin of Beleriand shows that very much. Whatever they do, evil will in the end, and Nargothrond and Doriath and Gondolin are all destroyed, not matter what people do.

1 hour ago, Aldarion said:

If what you wrote is the case, Targaryens would have been overthrown and Westeros fallen apart as a political entity the moment their dragons had died out. They had, after all, usurped the original dynasties of Seven Kingdoms.

But those folks accepted them as kings and had done so for generations by the time the dragons died. I mean, don't you get it that Robert Baratheon is not the Targaryen kings from Aegon I to Aegon III? He is just one usurper ruling badly for 15 short years.

Of course, royal legitimacy in a non-fairy-tale setting is based on violence and conquest originally ... but the kind of thing that makes monarchy stable is that it turns into a hereditary system and thus power is inherited, not stolen. This is why English kingship was weakened by the two usurpations that took place (the depositions of Edward II and Richard II) as well as the usurpations during the Wars of the Roses. If pretty much any guy with royal blood (or even some who just pretend to have royal blood) can be kings, then the system is about to collapse.

Robert dealt the monarchy a similar blow - which we see unfold in Balon's Rebellion. The point there is not that Robert crushes this rebellion, but that Balon dared to rebel in the first place - and for no reason but the wish to be a king himself. One can argue that the Blackfyres also damaged the monarchy earlier ... but when push comes to shove then the Targaryens are the kings the Westerosi want back. They are the ones that have a chance to be universally accepted.

That is why we do get the 'hidden prince' trope with not just one but two Targaryen princes, and not Baratheon princes. Nobody is going to start a popular movement with one of Robert's bastards or some guy pretending to be Robert's secret half-brother or other such nonsense. Because those people don't have the standing as the Targaryens, especially not as a house which is accepted everywhere in Westeros 'as the royal house'.

The Targaryens are the monarchs everybody accepted in the end, even the Northmen, the Ironborn, and the Dornishmen. But the Baratheons cannot say that they conquered the Seven Kingdoms the way the Targaryens did with Aegon the Conqueror.

1 hour ago, Aldarion said:

Who doesn't? Robert merely states that he is not happy being a king, but clearly sees himself as a rightful king. Joffrey bases his claim of legitimacy on that of Robert, as does Stannis.

Robert is a usurper, knows he is a usurper, and tells us that people still call him usurper. People who seize the crown on the battlefield when there are other, more rightful heirs around, never can shake that. Henry IV had to deal with that problem throughout his reign (and Edward III only never had the problem because he was his father's rightful heir and successor), the Yorkist kings had the same problem (the big issue in the Wars of the Roses that Richard of York and eventually Edward IV steal the throne from Henry VI's rightful heir - his son Edward), Richard III has the same problem on multiple fronts, and it continues with Henry VII's victory over Richard III. The Tudors are haunted by the way they seized the throne well into the reign of Henry VIII. In a sense, the entire divorce issue raises from the fact that Henry VIII having only a female and a bastard heir ... when there are still multiple Plantagenets around in England who have better claims to the English throne than any Tudor.

1 hour ago, Aldarion said:

And your second paragraph would mean that legitimacy is determined by popular acceptance, not by dynastic ties.

People in such a world think in dynastic categories. And dynasty need time to develop. One guy stealing a throne isn't a dynasty. He is a dayfly king. And in a very real sense Robert failed at creating a dynasty by failing to father legitimate heirs.

1 hour ago, Aldarion said:
Tyrells were promised that Margaery will be the queen. Yes, Renly may have used the Tyrells: but by the time Stannis decides to declare himself, Renly has already declared himself a king, and no longer can withdraw that declaration even assuming he wanted to.
 
And you clearly don't understand why I compare the Iron Throne to the One Ring: narratively, both of these represent power and obsession with power. Westeros is being ruined by people pursuing power, which is no different from potential civil war over the One Ring.

Renly wanted to make Margaery Robert's queen, before he decided to marry her himself. We have no idea whether Mace and Tyrells who are not named Loras also wanted to do that.

Renly represents the kind of kingship you seem to think the Westerosi people want - king is the guy who has the most support or has good chance to win a battle. But that is not how hereditary kingship works.

The Iron Throne does not represent 'obsession with power' but order in a united kingdom and the legitimate power flowing from the guy in charge. The One Ring actually represents a magical rebellion/usurpation against the divine order of things. Keep in mind that the Rings of Power were made because the elves were rebelling against the divine order by searching unnatural/forbidden means to preserve themselves and their works from fading.

Sauron uses his ring to usurp a good chunk of the power of the Elder King. That is why he is a tyrant. Tolkien's concept of kingship is very simple. You either are a divine kings - like Manwe, Ingwe, and Thingol in a sense - divinely installed kings (the Númenórean and Dúnedain kings of Middle-earth and Númenor), or kings and chieftains chosen by their people (the earlier tribes of men, etc.).

All evil kings/leaders are usurpers. Morgoth is a usurper, Sauron is a usurper, Pharazôn is a usurper, Maeglin is a would-be usurper, even Saruman is a usurper and fails at what he does because he tries to be a ruler of men and because he thinks he can use the palantír like one of the 'rightful owners'.

In fact, this ridiculous concept is also what helps Aragorn to gain his advantage over Sauron in the palantír fight as well as Denethor his advantage as he has 'licence to use'the property of the kings as their steward'. Why Saruman using the palantír he was given by the stewards doesn't have such an advantage isn't clear.

1 hour ago, Aldarion said:
Chair which symbolizes power. If you don't think that is corrupting, you clearly don't understand human psyche.
 
Ring actually is a person / a being. It is literally part of Sauron's soul, and has its own will. As a result, anything done with the One Ring will, in the end, be turned to evil.

Then can you point us to any passages where the Iron Throne is ever described as corrupting anyone in a meaningful sense.

I mean, the quotes we do have amply underline that the throne symbolize legitimate power and people believe that the throne itself can reject unworthy rulers, e.g. people believing the throne may be some kind of impartial arbiter or judge about who is worthy or unworthy to sit it.

Examples for this would include the Iron Throne allegedly killing Maegor the Cruel (presumably to punish him for being an unworthy/false king), Viserys I injuring himself on the throne possibly being 'the throne's comment' to the king's decree that his grandsons weren't bastards, Queen Rhaenyra allegedly cutting herself on the throne being 'a sign' that the throne rejected her, Aerys II cutting himself on the throne being a sign he was an unworthy/poor king, and King Joffrey cutting himself on the throne being immediately used by Stannis' loyalists in the room as a sign that 'the throne rejects him'.

There is nowhere anything in this story about central rule as per the Iron Throne being something bad, nor is there any sign that formally good people were corrupted by the throne once they took possession of it. Nor does anybody ever connect the ambitions of various pretenders to the Iron Throne specially, especially not them jumping off the deep end.

1 hour ago, Aldarion said:

That is true. But my point is that Ring represents the corrupting influence of power, but one which is magically enhanced. Not that it is what Ring is. Tolkien was actually quite clear on that point:

"You can make the Ring into an allegory of our own time, if you like: and allegory of the inevitable fate that waits for all attempts to defeat evil power by power" (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, 1995, p. 121.)

"Power is an ominous and sinister word in all these tales" (p. 152.)

"The story is cast in terms of a good side, and a bad side, beauty against ruthless ugliness, tyranny against kingship, moderated freedom with consent against compulsion that has long lost any object save mere power, and so on" (pp. 178-179.)

"In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to the wholly evil will as is possible. He had gone the way of all tyrants: beginning well, at least on the level that while desiring to order all things according to his own wisdom he still at first considered the (economic) well-being of other inhabitants of Earth. But he went further than human tyrants in pride and the lust for domination, being in origin an immortal (angelic) spirit" (p. 243.)

"Of course my story is not an allegory of Atomic power, but of Power (exerted for domination)" (p. 246.)

Those quote highlight the kind of thing I laid out with Sauron usurping power he is not allowed to have (but can still somehow get through black magic because the rules of Ea apparently suck).

However, I just noticed another internal contradiction in there. If Sauron wasn't completely evil - and he wasn't, having started as a good Maia under Aule - then his ring cannot be completely evil, either. And then how is it that thing cannot possibly be used for good. It cannot have to do with Sauron's substance bound in there - because that is not completely evil. One would have to argue that the methodology of the Rings of Power is inherently wrong/wrong ... but that is also a stupid concept if you ask me.

It cannot be inherently bad to use an instrument to defeat the devil if you don't use it to do evil things, i.e. using the Ring to enslave people would be bad, but if you used it to not enslave people and instead free Sauron's slaves then, well, there wouldn't be nothing wrong with that.

1 hour ago, Aldarion said:

Killing people is only correct when they are a threat. Not when you want to get rid of them for the sake of the better world. First, every life has a value. Second, you have no guarantee that you will be able to build a better world. In fact, attempts at building a utopia typically result in creation of a hellhole.

That depends. When people and their existence are a threat to a greater number of people - say, because they consume or destroy too many resources so that not all people can have the life they deserve - and they do not only not give up they stuff they want to keep or actively fight against you then there is no problem with them being put down.

That is how revolutions work. And there is nothing wrong with that.

1 hour ago, Aldarion said:

As I have pointed out, Throne of Gondor is sanctified by God, meaning that usurper will be immoral by default. Usurpation being a heinous crime is result of the nature of sacral kingship - but it also means that a moral person will hardly contemplate such a thing. However, there were legitimate rulers who were evil - Ar-Gimilzor was flat-out evil. And in such cases, Tolkien is hardly against disobeying or resisting said ruler, though she stops short of overthrowing them. Aragorn is a sacral king, but not just because of his inheritance - it is also because he acts as such. In fact, Tolkien has a stark contrast between a lawful king, which also includes king fulfilling his duties, and a tyrant. Looking beyond Numenorean kings, we have nature of kingship in Rohan as well as elven societies, which is significantly different from Gondor. Tolkien does not believe that "monarchy bad, democracy good" as many modern (and rather shallow, both intellectually and spiritually) authors believe; rather, his dichtonomy is between freedom and authoritharianism, between consent and enslavement. Any government that intrudes into personal freedoms is by definition tyrannical; rather, main guiding principle of government should be subsidiarity and accountability. As a result, citizens have moral duty to resist immoral order: Eomer is lauded for his resistance against orders of corrupted Theoden, and likewise Beregond is lauded (and rewarded) for his resistance against orders of almost-equally corrupted Denethor.

Kings are tyrants by default because they rule without the consent of the governed nor at their behest nor are they responsible to them. Especially not in a divine monarchy framework.

The problem with a character like Aragorn is that he actually advocates divine kingship because he is a king without any flaw. And the fact that his kingship is legitimized - especially in the novel without all the baggage where you don't really understand who and what Gandalf is - essentially only by his magical bloodline, the signs and portents that come with it, and the almost magical authority that comes with being specimen born from the most noble, most highborn stock of Elros Tar-Minyatur makes him actually justify divine kingship as a concept.

Compare that to ASoIaF where magical bloodlines and royal dynasties do not only produce Aragorn-like specimen. Whereas in Westeros we have - in the main series - nobles and royals aplenty who are horrible and unworthy and incompetent people, this kind of thing doesn't exist in LotR. Even somebody like Gríma isn't a bad person as such, he is ensnared and hypnotized by Saruman's evil voice. And while Denethor as flaws as I pointed out, he is still a noble man, if impeccable birth and gravitas, courageous, manly, long-lived, and all the other qualities that come with being Dúnedain.

And all that aside - if a king claims a throne by right of blood and divine will, then this has nothing to do with him being good at his job. He can only be king after he has become king, so whether he is good or bad remains to be seen. You have to go to the appendix to check whether Aragorn was a good king or not, it is not the topic of the novel proper.

And to be perfectly clear - up to Ar-Pharazôn all Númenórean kings were rightful and proper kings and nobody ever tried to depose them. People had issues with their policies, but nobody tried to topple them. Even Pharazôn the Usurper was never challenged by another pretender as far as we know.

Tolkien is there very much in line with the Christian ideology to submit to your masters and betters ... unles and only in the question of religion. Which both the staying in contact with Eressea as well as the Meneltarma ritual are all about. But a heretical king still remains the king. Even more so in a world where the king is also the only priest and his subjects cannot take that role from him.

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On 11/17/2020 at 8:44 AM, Alyn Oakenfist said:

So people often bring out Jon's fuck ups, and sure he has a few, but he also has a lot more moments of genuine political savvy, and he only gets killed because he doesn't expect the would be traitors to believe in their cause as much as he does and be prepared to die for it. Dany on the other hand, while she does have a good mind for acquiring power is useless in absolutely wielding it. So let's start her journey with power from the gates of Astapor in ASOS to her departure from Meeren in ADWD.

- So Dany starts off by quite cleverly sacking Astapor and taking command of the Unsullied. While quite bloody it is done well. However she leaves the city completely exposed. Astapor had relied on the Unsuallied and freemen to act as defensive and offensive forces. Now the trained freemen are dead and the Unsullied are gone. Astapor is sitting with it's britches down both from internal unrest and outside threats, just waiting to sieze/sack it. And guess what that's exactly what happens.

- Up next she again proves to have a good military mind and easily defeats the Yunkish. And then she just leaves them. Sure they release the slaves (without weapons), but there's nothing preventing them from taking up slavery again after Dany returns, and guess what, that's exactly what they do, like on second 2. She doesn't even leave a small garrison, or take hostages, it's idiotic. Say what you will about Jon and the wildlings, at least he knew to take precautions and hostages.

- And so Dany finally arrives in Meeren. In what is already a cliché, she quite easily takes the city showing yet again genuine skill at conquering. However then there's the crucified masters incident. I know, I know she wanted retribution, but all that succeeded in getting was making sure that the masters would never forget or forgive. A better way would have been to have trials and invite the masters themselves to single out the worst of them, thus creating a rupture between them showing those who would change and those who wouldn't, creating a good carrot and stick approach that could give peace with some of the masters. But no, it's vengeance time.

- Now after the crucifixions there is not a single chance that the masters will ever make peace in truth. However she just leaves them  be with all their power and influence. In a single potent double whammy Dany has just created a powerful determined enemy that will not stop until either her or it's defeat.

- And then as if the problems in the city aren't big enough, she issues a blanket pardon for everything that happened in the Sack and before. Now the core reason here is sound, you can't prosecute everybody for what they did, otherwise you'd rule a city of dead men. However to parallel Nazi Germany, not all SS members were tried and shot, even thought they deserved it, however the Nuremberg trials still did happen. And Dany should have done the same, openly prosecute the worst of the worst, both the worst slaves that committed horrifying acts of murder and rape in the sack and the worst masters, thought this part would have fit best with a trial for the crucifixions. Instead what this does is make sure that both sides feel incredible resentment towards the other with no closure or justice in sight and so the tension keeps on adding.

- Next comes Dany's stupidest decision, and that's saying a lot. She allows the former slaves, particularly highly trained and educated slaves to sell themselves back into slavery. This eliminated highly skilled workforce crucial to rebuilding and administering the city. How is she supposed to administer it without scribes, accountants, and so on and so forth? Also, skilled workforce is one great way to rebuild a post slavery economy and she just throws that out the window. All this is also extremely morally compromising and makes her seem as a hypocrite.

- She also doesn't allow the fighting pits to reopen. Why? Fighting slaves have no intrinsic economic or administrative value. If they want to throw their lives away, let them. It's not like the skilled slaves she does allow to throw their lives away. All she does is cut off a source of revenue and makes herself unpopular.

- Following this up Xaro come visiting offering ships in exchange for leaving. Dany who has shown a perfect capability of using deception somehow doesn't tell Xaro sure and then sizes the ships and preferably throw him to the waves. Instead she diplomatically refuses, allowing him to set up a blockade. Smart.

- She does do a smart thing in establishing non Unsullied city guards, so I'll give her that.

- Next when the Harpies start attacking she doesn't retaliate against the former masters, at all. Like not even discrete daggers in the dark, or anything, she just let's them be to continue attacking. Dany were do yo think the Sons of the Harpy have their funds?

- Then she agrees to the deal with Hizdahr. Dany how on Earth do you think he's stopping the attacks? The Shavepate was right on this, when the attacks stopped by magic, he should have started torturing Hizdahr until he spilled the beans on who is in the Harpy and deal with them. Even if she didn't want that, she shouldn't under any circumstances marry someone clearly connected to the harpy. It makes Hizdahr her de facto heir, and leaves her horribly exposed to assassination attempts by the now dormant Harpy. Which is exactly what happens.

- When the enemy starts blockading the city she then does the sensible thing and unleash the dragons, burning them. Scratch that, she's too afraid of them, because of their past. Granted it's a legit fear, but I don't see why she should fear for the lives of the enemy ships.

- And finally Dany's cacophony of a rule comes crashing down at Daznak's Pit where her incapacity to bridge old enmities or destroy her enemies results in her barely surviving and all her work sitting on a knife's edge, with her former enemies controlling the city through Hizdahr and only the Shavepate and Barristan's coup managing to bring the city back under control.

Her rule of Meeren is an incredible disaster. She starts out with the most disciplined and professional army in the world, and the love and adoration of the mases, with her enemies completely on her knees, and the 3 superweapons of the world in her possession, and yet she still fucks it up.

So yeah, great conqueror, terrible ruler.

 

That’s a false comparison.

Jon and Rob inherits an existing institution. Dany starts from scratch. Compare setting up your own business to calling it in as a CEO of a company you bought shares in. The latter can just keep ticking over even if an idiots in charge. The former is a much taller order.

You seem to be under a false impression about what being a ruler is. Which, to be fair, I think George subscribed to this view as well. That being a good ruler means being some kind of savant level intellect who can do everything. George does heap praise on that type of character at every opportunity and belittle their exclusion. But a rulers job is to set the agenda, to be the face of the state, handle the court and public relations. Then delegate to the various departments, functionaries and yes, as George likes to beat us over the head with, technical experts. There’s no reason Dany can’t do this. Do you think Catherine the Great did everything in Russia?

Now, despite point 1 and the author himself not getting this as evidenced by King Bran. Dany should not have had any issues with this. The scenario is that you have this impossibly beautiful warrior queen blessed with three dragons who has defeated all set before her. If you’re an out of work book-keeper or jeweller or lawyer the dollar signs should be spinning in your eyes. Why wouldn’t those “technical experts” flock to her court? Why would Dany be randomly and ridiculously dependent on the previous regime (which retcon btw since it was clearly dismantled at end of ASOS) for this kind of support? You mention all the skilled slaves leaving. Well Dany can’t exactly force them and George completely ignores the concept that people might have a stake and vested interest in seeing Dany succeed. You know, because being re-enslaved or executed isn’t incentive enough; with the added bonus of getting an early seat at the table of the girl with all the dragons.

The entire scenario George presents is dumb. You would never have three cities built around training slaves. They would have farms, mines and workshops at which they were put to work. The excuse that Mereen has always been a desolate land is a cheap cop out and so unrealistic that it crosses into contrived. So you can’t hold it against Dany for wrecking an economy based on slavery. Even the South could continue to farm after the civil war.

- She wasn’t Queen of Astapor and left a council to rule it. A local strongman takes over because reasons. His army actually did pretty well all considered. Plus, he was relying on Dany coming with the Unsullied which she could have done. Plus it makes no sense for half the world to invade this extremely remote, difficult to access and inhospitable land. Apparently getting into it is far easier than leaving.

- Well Yunkai should have been bankrupted after losing all of its slaves and warchest. They have to pay for those slaves you know. It wasn’t because...reasons.

- Yunkai shouldn’t be a threat and shouldn’t be so stupid to attack Dany. Dragons. Army. Bad idea. 

- Nobody has given trials in this series. George has written a world in which the rule of law is nonexistent. Dany does not have the easy option of hand waving a few bureaucrats to handle the red tape. I mean we must sort out the paperwork for all these executions and I am sure the slavers would appreciate the formalities. They wouldn’t just deny the courts authority. Plus, she is not a signatory to the Geneva Convention and the principles you have to table to level that accusation do not exist in this world. 

- Why would there be “skilled slaves” in societies George tells us emphatically only train soldiers, pit fighters and sex slaves? I don’t think this is a scenario that can be taken seriously. Why would skilled slaves not want a salary, status and power in a free society? I think very little of George but I like to think he’s not such a reactionary to go there. 

- Because it’s an evil blood sport that’s  repugnant and disgusting. Why should she indulge a barbaric practice encouraged by a disgraced and downcast gaggle of nobles? 

- Xaro did not provide her enough ships. Dany would have taken up the offer otherwise. In fact she would have left if George hadn’t put a Demon Road with 50 percent attrition as the only way out of Slavers Bay. But then again, George is writing against the character.

- The Harpies should not be a threat. George completely ignores the presence of a million freed slaves who would probably object to being murdered. Dany should have no say in the matter. They would start murdering the masters and riots should ensue. They don’t either because reasons and well that would make things easy for Dany. Her wilful people kill the undesirable element in her city. In fact in Storm it never made sense that most of them survived and were herded into the city square to be spared invasion the first place. Never mind have all their property, titles and jobs restored. I suspect George in Winds wants Dany to explicitly order them to be wiped out in this manner. 

- Because George is making the ham fisted point that you shouldn’t have two extremes. So he demonised Danys appeasement in Dance and he’s going rivers demonise Dany going Fire and Blood in Winds. It’s all about that lovely nebulous middle ground. Personally I think that’s a trite and patronising argument. But there it is. I don’t think George is Considering this as a thought experiment on how this would all work out. He’s starting with that premise and building a world around it. So Dany has been set up as the character of extremes. 

- Well actually the joke is that Dany had already won through peace and got cold feet. She had achieved a peace and was about to be joined by a deluge of allies in the form of Vic, Tyrion and potentially the Volantine Fleet. Plus Marywn, Moqorro and all those “experts” you said she was lacking to make this gig work. Which would have swung the pendulum back in her direction. She’d have been too powerful to challenge (if she wasn’t already) and that would have been that. The slavers would have fizzled away, probably bankrupted by raising that stupidly huge army and fleet so far from home. For what was essentially a bluff. Instead, that old chestnut of being soooo impatient plays out and Dany made a hasty decision to embrace fire and blood. Tyrion saying that the slavers never wanted war and were always scared of Dany was utter rubbish. I couldn’t believe George would be that crass. But yeah apparently just wait and all your problems will go away. 

In all seriousness though. Dany has these doubts herself and she says them to Jorahs shade. How she’s still just a little girl and doesn’t know the way. So you’re really just adding a bit of rhetoric to the characters own view of herself that she’s a Dragon and not meant for planting trees. I just think that’s a false premise because nobody, especially not somebody like that, would need to carry the weight of the world alone. You should be able to play to your strengths and let others fill in the blanks. 

 

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10 hours ago, Tyrion1991 said:

 

That’s a false comparison.

Jon and Rob inherits an existing institution. Dany starts from scratch. Compare setting up your own business to calling it in as a CEO of a company you bought shares in. The latter can just keep ticking over even if an idiots in charge. The former is a much taller order.

You seem to be under a false impression about what being a ruler is. Which, to be fair, I think George subscribed to this view as well. That being a good ruler means being some kind of savant level intellect who can do everything. George does heap praise on that type of character at every opportunity and belittle their exclusion. But a rulers job is to set the agenda, to be the face of the state, handle the court and public relations. Then delegate to the various departments, functionaries and yes, as George likes to beat us over the head with, technical experts. There’s no reason Dany can’t do this. Do you think Catherine the Great did everything in Russia?

Now, despite point 1 and the author himself not getting this as evidenced by King Bran. Dany should not have had any issues with this. The scenario is that you have this impossibly beautiful warrior queen blessed with three dragons who has defeated all set before her. If you’re an out of work book-keeper or jeweller or lawyer the dollar signs should be spinning in your eyes. Why wouldn’t those “technical experts” flock to her court? Why would Dany be randomly and ridiculously dependent on the previous regime (which retcon btw since it was clearly dismantled at end of ASOS) for this kind of support? You mention all the skilled slaves leaving. Well Dany can’t exactly force them and George completely ignores the concept that people might have a stake and vested interest in seeing Dany succeed. You know, because being re-enslaved or executed isn’t incentive enough; with the added bonus of getting an early seat at the table of the girl with all the dragons.

The entire scenario George presents is dumb. You would never have three cities built around training slaves. They would have farms, mines and workshops at which they were put to work. The excuse that Mereen has always been a desolate land is a cheap cop out and so unrealistic that it crosses into contrived. So you can’t hold it against Dany for wrecking an economy based on slavery. Even the South could continue to farm after the civil war.

- She wasn’t Queen of Astapor and left a council to rule it. A local strongman takes over because reasons. His army actually did pretty well all considered. Plus, he was relying on Dany coming with the Unsullied which she could have done. Plus it makes no sense for half the world to invade this extremely remote, difficult to access and inhospitable land. Apparently getting into it is far easier than leaving.

- Well Yunkai should have been bankrupted after losing all of its slaves and warchest. They have to pay for those slaves you know. It wasn’t because...reasons.

- Yunkai shouldn’t be a threat and shouldn’t be so stupid to attack Dany. Dragons. Army. Bad idea. 

- Nobody has given trials in this series. George has written a world in which the rule of law is nonexistent. Dany does not have the easy option of hand waving a few bureaucrats to handle the red tape. I mean we must sort out the paperwork for all these executions and I am sure the slavers would appreciate the formalities. They wouldn’t just deny the courts authority. Plus, she is not a signatory to the Geneva Convention and the principles you have to table to level that accusation do not exist in this world. 

- Why would there be “skilled slaves” in societies George tells us emphatically only train soldiers, pit fighters and sex slaves? I don’t think this is a scenario that can be taken seriously. Why would skilled slaves not want a salary, status and power in a free society? I think very little of George but I like to think he’s not such a reactionary to go there. 

- Because it’s an evil blood sport that’s  repugnant and disgusting. Why should she indulge a barbaric practice encouraged by a disgraced and downcast gaggle of nobles? 

- Xaro did not provide her enough ships. Dany would have taken up the offer otherwise. In fact she would have left if George hadn’t put a Demon Road with 50 percent attrition as the only way out of Slavers Bay. But then again, George is writing against the character.

- The Harpies should not be a threat. George completely ignores the presence of a million freed slaves who would probably object to being murdered. Dany should have no say in the matter. They would start murdering the masters and riots should ensue. They don’t either because reasons and well that would make things easy for Dany. Her wilful people kill the undesirable element in her city. In fact in Storm it never made sense that most of them survived and were herded into the city square to be spared invasion the first place. Never mind have all their property, titles and jobs restored. I suspect George in Winds wants Dany to explicitly order them to be wiped out in this manner. 

- Because George is making the ham fisted point that you shouldn’t have two extremes. So he demonised Danys appeasement in Dance and he’s going rivers demonise Dany going Fire and Blood in Winds. It’s all about that lovely nebulous middle ground. Personally I think that’s a trite and patronising argument. But there it is. I don’t think George is Considering this as a thought experiment on how this would all work out. He’s starting with that premise and building a world around it. So Dany has been set up as the character of extremes. 

- Well actually the joke is that Dany had already won through peace and got cold feet. She had achieved a peace and was about to be joined by a deluge of allies in the form of Vic, Tyrion and potentially the Volantine Fleet. Plus Marywn, Moqorro and all those “experts” you said she was lacking to make this gig work. Which would have swung the pendulum back in her direction. She’d have been too powerful to challenge (if she wasn’t already) and that would have been that. The slavers would have fizzled away, probably bankrupted by raising that stupidly huge army and fleet so far from home. For what was essentially a bluff. Instead, that old chestnut of being soooo impatient plays out and Dany made a hasty decision to embrace fire and blood. Tyrion saying that the slavers never wanted war and were always scared of Dany was utter rubbish. I couldn’t believe George would be that crass. But yeah apparently just wait and all your problems will go away. 

In all seriousness though. Dany has these doubts herself and she says them to Jorahs shade. How she’s still just a little girl and doesn’t know the way. So you’re really just adding a bit of rhetoric to the characters own view of herself that she’s a Dragon and not meant for planting trees. I just think that’s a false premise because nobody, especially not somebody like that, would need to carry the weight of the world alone. You should be able to play to your strengths and let others fill in the blanks. 

 

Very good post.

I would like to add that I don't think GRRM is mentally able to have a beautiful warrior queen blessed with 3 dragons succeed in the end. I think being beautiful AND successful is just too much for him. Not to mention 3 dragons ontop of it. Many readers are the same. They somehow feel threatened by the thought of a successful person being also good looking. That's not allowed. Taboo.

Notice for instance how for GRRM Tyrion's being a small person wasn't enough handicap to allow him into his world. He couldn't be small and good looking (like Peter Dinklage). No, in the books he had to me small AND ugly. That's not enough either: he also had to be disfigured. And not just any old disfigurement: no, he had to lose is nose and get an awful scar right through is face. As if he wasn't handicapped enough from the start.

And then Bran. If we believe the rumor that Bran will be king in the end I can't fail to notice that GRRM had to cripple him first. I don't think a non-crippled or non-ugly person would be allowed to win in GRRM's story.

Brienne is the same. What a cool character she could be basically. The operative word being could. But again GRRM had do overdo it with the amount of handicaps. Brienne is a woman who has the already huge problem that in a patriarchal world her interest lies in a 'manly' profession, being a fighter, wanting to be a knight. What a giant amount of story lies in this difficulty alone! But is this handicap enough? Not for GRRM. Ontop of her already huge problem of not fitting into the mysogynitic society she lives in she also has to be ugly and a brute. And that's still not enough. Like Tyrion she has to be disfigured on her way. And only after all that be finally allowed some success in the end (I hope, for so far GRRM heaped failure upon failure for her).

Now we have good-looking fighters too. The sand-snakes. But do we really believe they will come out ontop in the end? I don't. They look good ergo they'll fail. I think it's as easy as that.

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39 minutes ago, Amris said:

Very good post.

I would like to add that I don't think GRRM is mentally able to have a beautiful warrior queen blessed with 3 dragons succeed in the end. I think being beautiful AND successful is just too much for him. Not to mention 3 dragons ontop of it. Many readers are the same. They somehow feel threatened by the thought of a successful person being also good looking. That's not allowed. Taboo.

Notice for instance how for GRRM Tyrion's being a small person wasn't enough handicap to allow him into his world. He couldn't be small and good looking (like Peter Dinklage). No, in the books he had to me small AND ugly. That's not enough either: he also had to be disfigured. And not just any old disfigurement: no, he had to lose is nose and get an awful scar right through is face. As if he wasn't handicapped enough from the start.

And then Bran. If we believe the rumor that Bran will be king in the end I can't fail to notice that GRRM had to cripple him first. I don't think a non-crippled or non-ugly person would be allowed to win in GRRM's story.

Brienne is the same. What a cool character she could be basically. The operative word being could. But again GRRM had do overdo it with the amount of handicaps. Brienne is a woman who has the already huge problem that in a patriarchal world her interest lies in a 'manly' profession, being a fighter, wanting to be a knight. What a giant amount of story lies in this difficulty alone! But is this handicap enough? Not for GRRM. Ontop of her already huge problem of not fitting into the mysogynitic society she lives in she also has to be ugly and a brute. And that's still not enough. Like Tyrion she has to be disfigured on her way. And only after all that be finally allowed some success in the end (I hope, for so far GRRM heaped failure upon failure for her).

Now we have good-looking fighters too. The sand-snakes. But do we really believe they will come out ontop in the end? I don't. They look good ergo they'll fail. I think it's as easy as that.

I don't think you are right, but let me explain why.

Here we can talk about suffering phisically and mentally. The thing is, suffeing mentally can be caused because you're ugly, injured or maimed, or anything like that. What I want to say with this: Once you are phisically harmed, it affects your mental health too. Of course you can hurt someone without ever touching him, but: 

Why do you feel sorry for Brienne? Not because she's ugly, but because of the mental bullying she receives.

Why do you feel sorry for Tyrion? Not because he's a dwarf and has no nose, but because literally noone loves him. You feel sorry for him because he mentally suffers.

Now there's Jon. He got stabbed several times. If he ever comes back from the death, he will still be a pretty guy. But the man will have a mental breakdown because of the assasination. What do you think, what will someone tell him when sees him suffering? "Don't worry, you may died, but you're still a fuckboy." Will this help him? I dunt think so.

Dany suffered mentally a lot. No, no, I'm not saying she's over the trouble, the worst is about to come in TWOW, but looking good does not mean you're succesful and you live a balanced life wih no problems.

Mental damage is what counts, I think. Of course, phisical harm can be a reason for mental damage.

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@Tyrion1991Like you, I think in real life, the Meereenese freedmen would have formed loyalist terror groups in response to the Sons of the Harpy, and taken the war to the freeborn.

In truth, I think the slaver class ought to have been overthrown long ago in the East, because they were stupid enough to arm their slaves.  The Tiger Soldiers and Unsullied would have become like the Mamelukes and Janissaries.

Edited by SeanF

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On 11/23/2020 at 12:41 AM, Lord Varys said:

But that is not how legitimacy works on governmental level in general, and especially not when we talk about royal dynasties.

A coup or usurpation or even a conquest have to be expected by all the parties involved being legitimate. All intentions to take something back or to topple the new regime have to cease for violence and treason and conquest to breed order and legitimacy.

That is why I gave you the Dornish examples. One could also think of the Blackfyres whose pretensions only died when they were eradicated ... and they never had any real legitmacy on their side, being a succession of failures from start to finish.

Aegon's Conquest worked because, in the end, the great houses made their peace with the new regimes. The Targaryen reign had nothing to do with dragons by the time the dragons disappeared and everything with inherited legitimacy and the consensus of the governed who agreed that the Targaryens were their rightful rulers.

Robert's Rebellion wasn't a universal deposition of a Mad King - Aerys II had followers. They lost the war for the time being, but losing it didn't make them Baratheon friends or sycophants. Robert's grip on the throne is very weak, he is completely depended on his Lannister in-laws, his foster father, and his old buddy Ned to keep the ship afloat.

And when he dies then neither the Baratheon dynasty nor the royal court can agree who should succeed King Robert. That is shipwreck, not a working royal dynasty.

Legitimacy is defined by acceptance*. What you are talking about is legality, which is defined by law. Legally, and if succession is strictly through primogentirue, Viserys was the heir to the Iron Throne. But Targaryens lost their legitimacy when they became unpopular enough to be overthrown, and if law allows possession to determine ownership, then they have also lost their legality after X years in the exile. Considering Robert's view, and how some still call him Usurper, that does not appear to be the case, however. Thus Targaryens may be legally rulers of Westeros, but are illegitimate in that role - unless they can achieve acceptance again.

* See definition: Legitimacy is a psychological property of an authority, institution, or social arrangement that leads those connected to it to believe that it is appropriate, proper, and just.

On 11/23/2020 at 12:41 AM, Lord Varys said:

Oh, I know very much how a palantír works ... but where the hell did I say Denethor joined Sauron? I said he betrayed the West by trying to kill himself and his son. He is not a traitor by active collusion with the enemy, but a traitor by becoming defeatist, by becoming a deserter.

And of course he consorted with Sauron. He talked to him via the Anor stone like Saruman and Pippin and Aragorn did with the Orthanc stone. I know that this doesn't mean 'talk' - it is based on an exchange of thoughts via the stone, so consorting is a rather poignant way to express that. I never said Sauron was mind-controlling him, just that he actively deceived him. Giving a moron the rope to hang himself with doesn't make the outcome better or exonerate the moron. Denethor should have known that Sauron would find a way to deceive him. In his pride he didn't, and that was his undoing.

And keep in mind that the man was rotten beneath at the core. He preferred to cling to power even if Sauron could be defeated, to him there was no difference to live under the heel of Sauron or the heel of Aragorn. That is his very own justification for his suicide when Gandalf confronts him ... and this definitely has nothing to do with Sauron and everything with there being an Aragorn.

You did say it:

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.

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.

To consort:

(kənˈsɔːt  )

1. (intransitive; usually foll by with)
to keep company (with undesirable people); associate
2. (intransitive)
to agree or harmonize
3. (transitive) rare
to combine or unite

Combined with the first statement of the two I cited, it implies that what you meant is the secon meaning (bolded one): to agree or harmonize. And yes, it does matter whether Denethor actively joins the Dark Lord: Denethor who had actively joined Sauron will have revealed to him the quest to destroy the One Ring, will have actively sabotaged Gondor's defences - meaning that there wouldn't have been Gondor left to save by the time Aragorn got there. He would have helped Sauron subjugate Rohan. But he did none of that: unlike Saruman, who joined Sauron (while at the same time hoping to double-cross him), Denethor never even contemplated such a move. 

Denethor was not a moron. He made good use of the stone: Palantir actually allowed him knowledge, much of which he seems to have put to good use. And as Gandalf says: everything he saw in the Stone was true. He correctly recognized that Sauron cannot be beaten by conventional means, and that unconventional (and only possible) solution was, in fact, a Hail Mary pass.

Aragorn's existence definitely affects Denethor, but it is not the root cause of his despair. This is the first thing he says before his suicide: For thy hope is but ignorance. Go then and labour in healing! Go forth and fight! Vanity. For a little space you may triumph on the field, for a day. But against the Power that now arises there is no victory. To this City only the first finger of its hand had yet been stretched. All the East is moving. And even now the wind of thy hope cheats thee and wafts up Anduin a fleet with black sails. The West has failed. It is time for all to depart who would not be slaves.".

Knowledge of Aragorn did not cause Denethor's despair; knowledge of Sauron's strength and then Faramir's wounding did. What knowing of Aragorn did do was to make Denethor mistrustful of Gandalf, and thus less receptive of his advice - and also of Pippin's attempts to give him some hope.

On 11/23/2020 at 12:41 AM, Lord Varys said:

Denethor knew Faramir wasn't dead. He wanted him to die with him like many people killing themselves want to take their family with them ... especially since in his pride he did not want himself or any of his sons to become servants of Aragorn.

 

He believed Faramir was going to die anyway. And he would have, if Aragorn had not arrived in time.

On 11/23/2020 at 12:41 AM, Lord Varys said:

His nature was the problem.

 

It was. But Sauron had no direct influence there; it was Denethor himself which was the root cause of his own problems.

On 11/23/2020 at 12:41 AM, Lord Varys said:

I mean on the moral level. Both means that the people failed. Of course Saruman is a worse traitor, but the difference is only one of degree, not principle. There can only be resistance to the enemy. The test of faith is not whether you join Sauron or kill yourself, but whether you actively resist Sauron. And Denethor failed that test in the end. His treason comes very late, but it comes, and now he burns in hell if Eru Ilúvatar is the Christian god.

 

There is difference on the moral level as well - that is, in the principle of the matter. What Denethor did was evil, but Denethor himself was not evil. Saruman, however, became evil in his very nature. Nor were their actions the same: Denethor eventually abandoned his duty and ended up sowing discord inside the city, but that was still on small scale. Overall ability of Gondor to defend itself was actually unaffected except at the very end, when Denethor's stupidity ended up removing Gandalf from the field of battle. But Denethor as a strategic commander remained very capable up until Faramir's wounding, and he matched Sauron as well as he could, considering the resources he had. In fact, as a military commander I would say he might have been superior to Theoden. That, of course, did not avail him when he surrendered to despair: it does not matter how capable you are if you have lost the will to fight. Which is what I would say is the moral of Denethor's story: to never surrender but to keep fighting; as Galadriel points out, you never know what the future holds, even with the help of a magic mirror.

On 11/23/2020 at 12:41 AM, Lord Varys said:

Oh, I know very much how a palantír works ... but where the hell did I say Denethor joined Sauron? I said he betrayed the West by trying to kill himself and his son. He is not a traitor by active collusion with the enemy, but a traitor by becoming defeatist, by becoming a deserter.

And of course he consorted with Sauron. He talked to him via the Anor stone like Saruman and Pippin and Aragorn did with the Orthanc stone. I know that this doesn't mean 'talk' - it is based on an exchange of thoughts via the stone, so consorting is a rather poignant way to express that. I never said Sauron was mind-controlling him, just that he actively deceived him. Giving a moron the rope to hang himself with doesn't make the outcome better or exonerate the moron. Denethor should have known that Sauron would find a way to deceive him. In his pride he didn't, and that was his undoing.

And keep in mind that the man was rotten beneath at the core. He preferred to cling to power even if Sauron could be defeated, to him there was no difference to live under the heel of Sauron or the heel of Aragorn. That is his very own justification for his suicide when Gandalf confronts him ... and this definitely has nothing to do with Sauron and everything with there being an Aragorn.

That is true, though I am not certain he was aware of Gandalf's nature. Might be it was said in UT or Silm. Faramir cites Gandalf's statement which makes the indication of his true nature ("Olorin I was in my youth in the West that was forgotten"), but it is not clear whether Denethor was aware of that, or if he was, whether he had made the connection.

On 11/23/2020 at 12:41 AM, Lord Varys said:

That is after the Dark Lord and his lieutenants are gone ... and they are defeated and now under the yoke of the new regime. There is a difference between Sauron/Morgoth standing right there, and there voice just being a whisper in your mind.

And of course free will is a joke if you are Túrin Turambar and the curse of the devil is upon you. Everything you do will then be twisted into evil. And the weird conclusion of that story - which was never abandoned, apparently - that Túrin is rewarded for his suffering by returning from death and becoming the champion of the good guys in the Dagor Dagorath to slay Morgoth himself sort of hammers this home. This man was so tormented by evil - and the good guys were so impotent during his lifetime - that there has to be some reward/payback in the afterlife.

Yes, will can be broken and dominated: we see this with Turin, and also with Nienor. But while we know orcs are driven by Sauron's will, it is not ever indicated so for evil men: what we do know is that they see Sauron as a god.

 

I lost rest of the reply and can't be arsed to retype basically couple of hours of work, so...

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Continued...

On 11/23/2020 at 12:41 AM, Lord Varys said:

Of course they are not robots, but free will in theological context means whether you are capable of choosing freely between good and evil, sin and virtue, and so on. That the Orcs clearly cannot do, which means they are no responsible for being evil because being evil is their nature.

And I'd also say that men and elves living among 'the Shadow', i.e. in the dominion of the Dark Lords cannot do that. It is different for them since they are not Orcs, of course, but they are under Morgoth's power.

For elves and men the ruin of Beleriand shows that very much. Whatever they do, evil will in the end, and Nargothrond and Doriath and Gondolin are all destroyed, not matter what people do.

They are not under Dark Lord's power the same way orcs are. After Sauron was defeated, the orcs scattered. But many of the men continued to resist and follow Sauron's will even long after he was defeated. They saw him as a God, or something close to that, and fought for him out of their own free will.

But they were still, practically, enslaved.

On 11/23/2020 at 12:41 AM, Lord Varys said:

But those folks accepted them as kings and had done so for generations by the time the dragons died. I mean, don't you get it that Robert Baratheon is not the Targaryen kings from Aegon I to Aegon III? He is just one usurper ruling badly for 15 short years.

Of course, royal legitimacy in a non-fairy-tale setting is based on violence and conquest originally ... but the kind of thing that makes monarchy stable is that it turns into a hereditary system and thus power is inherited, not stolen. This is why English kingship was weakened by the two usurpations that took place (the depositions of Edward II and Richard II) as well as the usurpations during the Wars of the Roses. If pretty much any guy with royal blood (or even some who just pretend to have royal blood) can be kings, then the system is about to collapse.

Robert dealt the monarchy a similar blow - which we see unfold in Balon's Rebellion. The point there is not that Robert crushes this rebellion, but that Balon dared to rebel in the first place - and for no reason but the wish to be a king himself. One can argue that the Blackfyres also damaged the monarchy earlier ... but when push comes to shove then the Targaryens are the kings the Westerosi want back. They are the ones that have a chance to be universally accepted.

That is why we do get the 'hidden prince' trope with not just one but two Targaryen princes, and not Baratheon princes. Nobody is going to start a popular movement with one of Robert's bastards or some guy pretending to be Robert's secret half-brother or other such nonsense. Because those people don't have the standing as the Targaryens, especially not as a house which is accepted everywhere in Westeros 'as the royal house'.

The Targaryens are the monarchs everybody accepted in the end, even the Northmen, the Ironborn, and the Dornishmen. But the Baratheons cannot say that they conquered the Seven Kingdoms the way the Targaryens did with Aegon the Conqueror.

And do we know how many people accepted Robert and how many didn't? His support must have been reasonably widespread, among nobility at least, considering how he managed to overthrow Targaryens. Of course, that was comparing him to Aerys, and he might well have squandered a lot of that support in the meantime. But he was clearly chosen legitimately, and was thus a legitimate king.

On 11/23/2020 at 12:41 AM, Lord Varys said:

Robert is a usurper, knows he is a usurper, and tells us that people still call him usurper. People who seize the crown on the battlefield when there are other, more rightful heirs around, never can shake that. Henry IV had to deal with that problem throughout his reign (and Edward III only never had the problem because he was his father's rightful heir and successor), the Yorkist kings had the same problem (the big issue in the Wars of the Roses that Richard of York and eventually Edward IV steal the throne from Henry VI's rightful heir - his son Edward), Richard III has the same problem on multiple fronts, and it continues with Henry VII's victory over Richard III. The Tudors are haunted by the way they seized the throne well into the reign of Henry VIII. In a sense, the entire divorce issue raises from the fact that Henry VIII having only a female and a bastard heir ... when there are still multiple Plantagenets around in England who have better claims to the English throne than any Tudor.

 

 

On 11/23/2020 at 12:41 AM, Lord Varys said:

But those folks accepted them as kings and had done so for generations by the time the dragons died. I mean, don't you get it that Robert Baratheon is not the Targaryen kings from Aegon I to Aegon III? He is just one usurper ruling badly for 15 short years.

Of course, royal legitimacy in a non-fairy-tale setting is based on violence and conquest originally ... but the kind of thing that makes monarchy stable is that it turns into a hereditary system and thus power is inherited, not stolen. This is why English kingship was weakened by the two usurpations that took place (the depositions of Edward II and Richard II) as well as the usurpations during the Wars of the Roses. If pretty much any guy with royal blood (or even some who just pretend to have royal blood) can be kings, then the system is about to collapse.

Robert dealt the monarchy a similar blow - which we see unfold in Balon's Rebellion. The point there is not that Robert crushes this rebellion, but that Balon dared to rebel in the first place - and for no reason but the wish to be a king himself. One can argue that the Blackfyres also damaged the monarchy earlier ... but when push comes to shove then the Targaryens are the kings the Westerosi want back. They are the ones that have a chance to be universally accepted.

That is why we do get the 'hidden prince' trope with not just one but two Targaryen princes, and not Baratheon princes. Nobody is going to start a popular movement with one of Robert's bastards or some guy pretending to be Robert's secret half-brother or other such nonsense. Because those people don't have the standing as the Targaryens, especially not as a house which is accepted everywhere in Westeros 'as the royal house'.

The Targaryens are the monarchs everybody accepted in the end, even the Northmen, the Ironborn, and the Dornishmen. But the Baratheons cannot say that they conquered the Seven Kingdoms the way the Targaryens did with Aegon the Conqueror.

Right.

On 11/23/2020 at 12:41 AM, Lord Varys said:

Renly wanted to make Margaery Robert's queen, before he decided to marry her himself. We have no idea whether Mace and Tyrells who are not named Loras also wanted to do that.

Renly represents the kind of kingship you seem to think the Westerosi people want - king is the guy who has the most support or has good chance to win a battle. But that is not how hereditary kingship works.

The Iron Throne does not represent 'obsession with power' but order in a united kingdom and the legitimate power flowing from the guy in charge. The One Ring actually represents a magical rebellion/usurpation against the divine order of things. Keep in mind that the Rings of Power were made because the elves were rebelling against the divine order by searching unnatural/forbidden means to preserve themselves and their works from fading.

Sauron uses his ring to usurp a good chunk of the power of the Elder King. That is why he is a tyrant. Tolkien's concept of kingship is very simple. You either are a divine kings - like Manwe, Ingwe, and Thingol in a sense - divinely installed kings (the Númenórean and Dúnedain kings of Middle-earth and Númenor), or kings and chieftains chosen by their people (the earlier tribes of men, etc.).

All evil kings/leaders are usurpers. Morgoth is a usurper, Sauron is a usurper, Pharazôn is a usurper, Maeglin is a would-be usurper, even Saruman is a usurper and fails at what he does because he tries to be a ruler of men and because he thinks he can use the palantír like one of the 'rightful owners'.

In fact, this ridiculous concept is also what helps Aragorn to gain his advantage over Sauron in the palantír fight as well as Denethor his advantage as he has 'licence to use'the property of the kings as their steward'. Why Saruman using the palantír he was given by the stewards doesn't have such an advantage isn't clear.

Fact that Renly had so much support despite not being in the line for throne legally shows that Westerosi people do indeed want such kind of kingship.

Yes, Iron Throne does represent obsession with power. It is a consequence of a conquest, of violent and completely unnecessary acquisition of power on the part of Aegon the Conqueror. He melted together the swords of defeated enemies in order to symbolize his conquest, power and dominance over those he had conquered.

One Ring is the same. Rebellion / usurpation against the divine order of things was in both cases (Morgoth and Sauron) a consequence of their wish for power to order things in a way they wanted. Sauron especially started out as what you consider an ideal ruler: a person who wants to use his power to achieve order and make life better for everyone. But good intent did not last long; and as always, such concentration of power eventually turned bad and was used to enslave everyone. Sauron is not the tyrant because of the One Ring; rather, he made One Ring because he became a tyrant. You are completely confusing the cause and consequence in order to fit the story to your preconcieved ideas. Yes, usurpation is bad; but it was merely a tool to achieve a goal.

And no, not all evil kings in Tolkien are usurpers; that is just ridiculous. In fact, majority of evil kings are not usurpers. Usurpation is used to show that person in question had gone beyond the pale (being a form of conquest, it is automatically evil), but there are many other ways to be evil. Again, you are confusing the cause and consequence. Ar-Gimilzor was a legitimate king yet he was flat-out evil, hardly better than Ar-Pharazon after him even if he wasn't as extreme in his actions.

RE: Palantir, it is not a ridiculous concept. Legitimacy as well as legality is important in Tolkien, and Kings of Gondor and Arnor were legal owners of Palantiri as the same were gifted to Amandil, Lord of Andunie. Palantiri are, essentially, family property of the royal house of Arnor and Gondor. Thus only kings of Arnor and Gondor are legal owners of Palantirs, and they as well as people authorized by them have the right to use a palantir. Saruman was only given keys to Orthanc. He was not an appointed guardian of Palantir, and thus had no legal right to use it.

You are essentially complaining that thumbprint lock opening a door only for person with valid thumbprint is a ridiculous concept.

On 11/23/2020 at 12:41 AM, Lord Varys said:

Then can you point us to any passages where the Iron Throne is ever described as corrupting anyone in a meaningful sense.

I mean, the quotes we do have amply underline that the throne symbolize legitimate power and people believe that the throne itself can reject unworthy rulers, e.g. people believing the throne may be some kind of impartial arbiter or judge about who is worthy or unworthy to sit it.

Examples for this would include the Iron Throne allegedly killing Maegor the Cruel (presumably to punish him for being an unworthy/false king), Viserys I injuring himself on the throne possibly being 'the throne's comment' to the king's decree that his grandsons weren't bastards, Queen Rhaenyra allegedly cutting herself on the throne being 'a sign' that the throne rejected her, Aerys II cutting himself on the throne being a sign he was an unworthy/poor king, and King Joffrey cutting himself on the throne being immediately used by Stannis' loyalists in the room as a sign that 'the throne rejects him'.

There is nowhere anything in this story about central rule as per the Iron Throne being something bad, nor is there any sign that formally good people were corrupted by the throne once they took possession of it. Nor does anybody ever connect the ambitions of various pretenders to the Iron Throne specially, especially not them jumping off the deep end.

There are no such passages. There are, however, five books about it. Stannis kills Renly, Renly plans on killing Stannis, Robert murders kids, Viserys sells his own sister...

On 11/23/2020 at 12:41 AM, Lord Varys said:

Those quote highlight the kind of thing I laid out with Sauron usurping power he is not allowed to have (but can still somehow get through black magic because the rules of Ea apparently suck).

However, I just noticed another internal contradiction in there. If Sauron wasn't completely evil - and he wasn't, having started as a good Maia under Aule - then his ring cannot be completely evil, either. And then how is it that thing cannot possibly be used for good. It cannot have to do with Sauron's substance bound in there - because that is not completely evil. One would have to argue that the methodology of the Rings of Power is inherently wrong/wrong ... but that is also a stupid concept if you ask me.

It cannot be inherently bad to use an instrument to defeat the devil if you don't use it to do evil things, i.e. using the Ring to enslave people would be bad, but if you used it to not enslave people and instead free Sauron's slaves then, well, there wouldn't be nothing wrong with that.

Nothing was completely evil in the beginning. And nothing ever is completely evil. That does not mean that it is necessarily capable of producing anything good. Evil, in the end, is a choice. More than that, One Ring has a will of its own. And a living being can never be completely subjugated. As a result, anything that is done with One Ring will turn to evil eventually. In addition to that, wishing for absolute power - or even power greater than one's own inherent power - is by and in itself, corrupting. Since there is no reason for someone to use One Ring for long time except to gain power, this automatically means that any person using the One Ring - no matter how good - is open to its corruption.

Again, One Ring has a will of its own. You cannot not do evil with it, because even if you do good, the Ring itself will find a way to turn everything you have done to evil.

On 11/23/2020 at 12:41 AM, Lord Varys said:

That depends. When people and their existence are a threat to a greater number of people - say, because they consume or destroy too many resources so that not all people can have the life they deserve - and they do not only not give up they stuff they want to keep or actively fight against you then there is no problem with them being put down.

That is how revolutions work. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Revolutions by themselves are wrong. The only question is whether the alternative is less or more wrong than revolution, and that can only be decided on a case-by-case basis.

On 11/23/2020 at 12:41 AM, Lord Varys said:

Kings are tyrants by default because they rule without the consent of the governed nor at their behest nor are they responsible to them. Especially not in a divine monarchy framework.

The problem with a character like Aragorn is that he actually advocates divine kingship because he is a king without any flaw. And the fact that his kingship is legitimized - especially in the novel without all the baggage where you don't really understand who and what Gandalf is - essentially only by his magical bloodline, the signs and portents that come with it, and the almost magical authority that comes with being specimen born from the most noble, most highborn stock of Elros Tar-Minyatur makes him actually justify divine kingship as a concept.

Compare that to ASoIaF where magical bloodlines and royal dynasties do not only produce Aragorn-like specimen. Whereas in Westeros we have - in the main series - nobles and royals aplenty who are horrible and unworthy and incompetent people, this kind of thing doesn't exist in LotR. Even somebody like Gríma isn't a bad person as such, he is ensnared and hypnotized by Saruman's evil voice. And while Denethor as flaws as I pointed out, he is still a noble man, if impeccable birth and gravitas, courageous, manly, long-lived, and all the other qualities that come with being Dúnedain.

And all that aside - if a king claims a throne by right of blood and divine will, then this has nothing to do with him being good at his job. He can only be king after he has become king, so whether he is good or bad remains to be seen. You have to go to the appendix to check whether Aragorn was a good king or not, it is not the topic of the novel proper.

And to be perfectly clear - up to Ar-Pharazôn all Númenórean kings were rightful and proper kings and nobody ever tried to depose them. People had issues with their policies, but nobody tried to topple them. Even Pharazôn the Usurper was never challenged by another pretender as far as we know.

Tolkien is there very much in line with the Christian ideology to submit to your masters and betters ... unles and only in the question of religion. Which both the staying in contact with Eressea as well as the Meneltarma ritual are all about. But a heretical king still remains the king. Even more so in a world where the king is also the only priest and his subjects cannot take that role from him.

Nope. Try reading on historical monarchies - king actually ruling without consent of the people was extremely uncommon, and only started happening in force at the same time that state apparatus developed enough to make an absolute monarchy possible. But in a "classical" monarchy, some form of widespread consent was always required. As for tyranny - every government is tyrannical, by virtue of being a government.

Aragorn's kingship is not legitimized "only by his magical bloodline", because otherwise he would have sought the throne long before. But he didn't - he saved Gondor first, and then became a king. And remember that Gondorians could have easily rejected him: they rejected Arvedui, centuries ago, despite his bloodline, and chose a candidate whose line was less closely related to both kings of Numenor and to actual line of kings of Gondor (his Queen, Firiel, was a daughter of King of Gondor). Further, you need to look at the actual coronation scene:

http://www.henneth-annun.net/events_view.cfm?evid=48

Then Faramir stood up and spoke in a clear voice: 'Men of Gondor hear now the Steward of this Realm! Behold! one has come to claim the kingship again at last. Here is Aragorn son of Arathorn, chieftain of the Dúnedain of Arnor, Captain of the Host of the West, bearer of the Star of the North, wielder of the Sword Reforged, victorious in battle, whose hands bring healing, the Elfstone, Elessar of the line of Valandil, Isildur's son, Elendil's son of Númenor. Shall he be king and enter into the City and dwell there?'

And all the host and all the people cried yea with one voice....

That is a formality, maybe, but a formality which speaks a lot about how Gondorians actually perceive kingship: king is not a dictator, he has to be accepted by the people in order to rule. In fact, this situation is extremely similar to Byzantine tradition of acclamation, though Tolkien failed to follow it through to its logical conclusion.

Yes, a crowned and annointed king should be obeyed. But that obedience is not absolute: I will again refer you to the case of Beregond, who disobeyed Denethor (who, as a ruling Steward, had all powers of a king).

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On 11/24/2020 at 1:08 PM, Amris said:

I would like to add that I don't think GRRM is mentally able to have a beautiful warrior queen blessed with 3 dragons succeed in the end. I think being beautiful AND successful is just too much for him. Not to mention 3 dragons ontop of it. Many readers are the same. They somehow feel threatened by the thought of a successful person being also good looking. That's not allowed. Taboo.

Daenerys has one dragon, not three. She can ride but one and she has mounted Drogon now. Viserion and Rhaegal will go to other people and they might support her ... or turn against her, try to make themselves into kings, etc. Dragons are power, not little girls with fair hair.

And of course it is to be expected that Dany won't remain beautiful forever. I expected her to become disfigured or crippled in ADwD, and I think chances are pretty high that something like that will happen eventually.

20 hours ago, Aldarion said:
Legitimacy is defined by acceptance*. What you are talking about is legality, which is defined by law. Legally, and if succession is strictly through primogentirue, Viserys was the heir to the Iron Throne. But Targaryens lost their legitimacy when they became unpopular enough to be overthrown, and if law allows possession to determine ownership, then they have also lost their legality after X years in the exile. Considering Robert's view, and how some still call him Usurper, that does not appear to be the case, however. Thus Targaryens may be legally rulers of Westeros, but are illegitimate in that role - unless they can achieve acceptance again.

* See definition: Legitimacy is a psychological property of an authority, institution, or social arrangement that leads those connected to it to believe that it is appropriate, proper, and just.

The deposition of a king doesn't depose a dynasty, especially not if the same dynasty does the usurpation. I mean, don't you get it? Robert's claim, his success, goes back to him being a Targaryen descendant ... just as Henry Bolingbroke and Richard II both had the same royal grandfather (Edward III), like the Lancasters and Yorks were two branches of the same family.

The Baratheons aren't a new dynasty, they are the same dynasty as the Targaryens ... and since Robert's legal claim to kingship is based on his royal blood he cannot be king and claim Viserys III or Daenerys can't - because they have the same blood. And nobody ever did, since there is no indication that the Baratheon regime even tried to disinherit or attaint the Targaryens in exile.

This is stuff you want to believe, not something that's actually in the text.

Overthrowing a king isn't the same as overthrowing a dynasty. I mean, take rise of Henry IV ... they passed over Richard II's presumptive heir from the elder line of Lionel of Antwerp ... but that didn't prevent the Yorkists later to use that claim to cast down and eventually kill Henry IV grandson Henry VI.

And for the hundredth time - nobody says that Viserys III was the factual sitting king while Robert was on the throne. But he was the rightful king, like Aegon the Uncrowned or Rhaenyra, etc. - the chosen heir of the last king.

There is nothing rightful about King Robert. He came into his throne by treason and butchery (I mean the Sack there). Deposing the Mad King is one thing, torching the line of succession and murdering innocents to put a corrupt moron on the throne another.

The Baratheon dynasty could, perhaps, have a shot to establish themselves as the rightful kings/dynasty if they have produced more than one proper monarch ... and said monarchs had also done something to make themselves as immortal as the Young Dragon or the Conqueror.

Robert is already a dead man walking and poor excuse for a king in the beginning of AGoT. He doesn't even look kingly, as Jon notes.

20 hours ago, Aldarion said:

You did say it:

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.

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.

To consort:

(kənˈsɔːt  )

1. (intransitive; usually foll by with)
to keep company (with undesirable people); associate
2. (intransitive)
to agree or harmonize
3. (transitive) rare
to combine or unite

To be clear, I meant keeping company there. Denethor used the palantír and whenever he looked east he kept mental company with Sauron. There was interaction there.

20 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Combined with the first statement of the two I cited, it implies that what you meant is the secon meaning (bolded one): to agree or harmonize. And yes, it does matter whether Denethor actively joins the Dark Lord: Denethor who had actively joined Sauron will have revealed to him the quest to destroy the One Ring, will have actively sabotaged Gondor's defences - meaning that there wouldn't have been Gondor left to save by the time Aragorn got there. He would have helped Sauron subjugate Rohan. But he did none of that: unlike Saruman, who joined Sauron (while at the same time hoping to double-cross him), Denethor never even contemplated such a move. 

Not if you just ask whether Denethor is burning in hell now. He killed himself which means hell in a Christian context, and he tried to murder his own son, which is also a heinous crime. That he could have harmed even more people is clear, but we have to count him among the condemned, not the saved people.

I mean, this is a Catholic writing about a suicide.

20 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Denethor was not a moron. He made good use of the stone: Palantir actually allowed him knowledge, much of which he seems to have put to good use. And as Gandalf says: everything he saw in the Stone was true. He correctly recognized that Sauron cannot be beaten by conventional means, and that unconventional (and only possible) solution was, in fact, a Hail Mary pass.

Which shows his weakness. As a man from the West he should have believed in victory no matter what, knowing about what his forebears all accomplished from Beren and Tuor and Eärendil to Elendil and his sons. This is a world of demons and angels, not one where you should pretend they don't exist - or that only the demons are real.

His mistake was to misinterpret what he saw - which he wouldn't have if he hadn't used the stone to look east. Sauron still destroyed him, and his stupidity was to not see this. To not consider that the Dark Lord might be smarter than he was, that he would pick the images he saw to break him.

20 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Aragorn's existence definitely affects Denethor, but it is not the root cause of his despair. This is the first thing he says before his suicide: For thy hope is but ignorance. Go then and labour in healing! Go forth and fight! Vanity. For a little space you may triumph on the field, for a day. But against the Power that now arises there is no victory. To this City only the first finger of its hand had yet been stretched. All the East is moving. And even now the wind of thy hope cheats thee and wafts up Anduin a fleet with black sails. The West has failed. It is time for all to depart who would not be slaves.".

Knowledge of Aragorn did not cause Denethor's despair; knowledge of Sauron's strength and then Faramir's wounding did. What knowing of Aragorn did do was to make Denethor mistrustful of Gandalf, and thus less receptive of his advice - and also of Pippin's attempts to give him some hope.

But he is dead wrong there. Sauron's entire power is built on sand, he himself ensured he would be destroyed by making the Ring. And Denethor should have known that after he learned of the plan to destroy it ... especially in combination with the knowledge he had about the fact that the good guys get divine help.

I mean, how stupid must that guy be to tell an angel who just came back from death and god himself that there is no hope? That is presumption and hubris. Denethor knows who and what Gandalf is.

20 hours ago, Aldarion said:

He believed Faramir was going to die anyway. And he would have, if Aragorn had not arrived in time.

Still no excuse for murder. And, no, they should have been able to hold Minas Tirith even without Aragorn. Éowyn and Merry dealt with the Witch-king, and Gandalf would have kept the enemy out of the city even after the gate was broken.

Without Aragorn victory may have been more costly and would have involved more magic than it did, but Gandalf wasn't at Minas Tirith to allow the city to fall. He was sent back by Eru to ensure Sauron's downfall, and he would have seen to it that this happened. It was the divine plan that Sauron would fail.

20 hours ago, Aldarion said:

It was. But Sauron had no direct influence there; it was Denethor himself which was the root cause of his own problems.

But Sauron apparently exploited it. He actively played Denethor by coercing him into depression. If you go back and read the book you notice the change in Denethor when he last consorts with the Dark Lord. He is completely broken then ... and that's no coincidence.

20 hours ago, Aldarion said:

There is difference on the moral level as well - that is, in the principle of the matter. What Denethor did was evil, but Denethor himself was not evil. Saruman, however, became evil in his very nature. Nor were their actions the same: Denethor eventually abandoned his duty and ended up sowing discord inside the city, but that was still on small scale. Overall ability of Gondor to defend itself was actually unaffected except at the very end, when Denethor's stupidity ended up removing Gandalf from the field of battle. But Denethor as a strategic commander remained very capable up until Faramir's wounding, and he matched Sauron as well as he could, considering the resources he had. In fact, as a military commander I would say he might have been superior to Theoden. That, of course, did not avail him when he surrendered to despair: it does not matter how capable you are if you have lost the will to fight. Which is what I would say is the moral of Denethor's story: to never surrender but to keep fighting; as Galadriel points out, you never know what the future holds, even with the help of a magic mirror.

Of course, Saruman's posthumous punishment is likely much worse than Denethor's. But both would end up in hell for what they did, assuming the idea is that there is eternal punishment for fallen Maiar (we have no idea). But Denethor won't join Eru Ilúvatar in the afterlife.

I mean, you do recall that he even tainted the Anor stone which later always showed his burning hands unless you had the strength of will to get beyond that. You can interpret this as a glimpse of Denethor's ultimate fate in the afterlife ... and it definitely also symbolizes that he died an unrepentant sinner.

20 hours ago, Aldarion said:

That is true, though I am not certain he was aware of Gandalf's nature. Might be it was said in UT or Silm. Faramir cites Gandalf's statement which makes the indication of his true nature ("Olorin I was in my youth in the West that was forgotten"), but it is not clear whether Denethor was aware of that, or if he was, whether he had made the connection.

Of course he knew. Denethor and Faramir very much alike in character and intelligence, and you don't need to be a genius to know that those Istari are immortal but not Elves. So what the hell are they? Even the Red Book's appendices spill out what they are, and that's edited and written mostly by Hobbits.

20 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Yes, will can be broken and dominated: we see this with Turin, and also with Nienor. But while we know orcs are driven by Sauron's will, it is not ever indicated so for evil men: what we do know is that they see Sauron as a god.

They have good reason to believe that Sauron is a god. If the devil showed up right now and showed his divine powers we would all worship and submit to him if no other power of equal or greater might showed up to counter him.

Which is why Denethor's failing is actually very significant. He knew the truth, he is talking to an angel, and he still abandoned all hope and destroyed himself and tried to destroy the future of his house. He is a guy who, within the framework of the story, truly does know the difference between good and evil and sin and virtue. You cannot say the same of any man growing up under the shadow of Sauron - at Barad-dûr itself, say, or in Mordor, or in a land completely under the dominion of Sauron's followers. Morals, culture, religion, etc. would all be dominated by 'Sauronism', and people could not know that there might be another way. Even more so if we assume that the taint Melkor put on everything grows stronger if you are in the presence/under the power of a Dark Lord.

3 hours ago, Aldarion said:

They are not under Dark Lord's power the same way orcs are. After Sauron was defeated, the orcs scattered. But many of the men continued to resist and follow Sauron's will even long after he was defeated. They saw him as a God, or something close to that, and fought for him out of their own free will.

I didn't say it is exactly the same thing. But then, who knows - I mean, Orcs are a different race, so perhaps people just think men are better than they are because they want to believe it? I mean, even Gandalf's seems to have no issues with eradicating Orcs completely - he defends Gollum not being an orc and just an enemy ... but he never says that the Orcs have a right to live, no?

The point just is that the chances that you have 'free will' in the sense that theological signficant if you live under the shadow of Morgoth or Sauron - be you Orc or Man or even Elf - is not exactly well-founded within the framework of the story.

That your view might change after the Dark Lord is vanquished is another matter entirely. My point is about the people living and dying while the Dark Lords are around.

3 hours ago, Aldarion said:

And do we know how many people accepted Robert and how many didn't? His support must have been reasonably widespread, among nobility at least, considering how he managed to overthrow Targaryens. Of course, that was comparing him to Aerys, and he might well have squandered a lot of that support in the meantime. But he was clearly chosen legitimately, and was thus a legitimate king.

Again, it is breaking the rules of dynastic succession to place some guy on the throne when the throne belongs to others. Even people like Robb know that - he wants to kill Joff but has no intention to harm Tommen or Myrcella, stating that Tommen has to follow Joffrey as his heir, and not one of the uncles.

This is the core principle of that world ... and breaking it means whoever steals the throne cannot say he is the rightful king. Might still be a king, though, if he wears a crown.

It is the same with Maegor - that guy also was never the rightful king, never mind that he ruled for six years.

3 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Fact that Renly had so much support despite not being in the line for throne legally shows that Westerosi people do indeed want such kind of kingship.

It shows how damaged the dynasty is, and even the concept of kingship as such. But you still need royal blood to want to be king. So far nobody supported the bid of some guy for the Iron Throne. It may come to that in the future, though.

I mean, if you want to, you can also pretend that half of Westeros or so were more or less happy with Robert as their king. There were no great calamities, a lot of entertainment in the capital, and the guy knew how to party. But it is a fake peace, fake tranquility as we well know. Everybody was sharpening their knives, from Dorne to beyond the Wall, and in Essos as well.

And the way the Baratheons fucked things up after Robert's death will only strengthen the desire for the good old days, i.e. the Targaryen days. We see this happening with even Aerys II being idolized by the common people.

And this kind of thing works because the Targaryens are a myth, larger than life, the magical dynasty. They are King Arthur at Avalon or Friedrich II beneath the Trifels. They will come back when the people need them, and when they come back then everything will be fine again. It won't, in the story, but people will still believe that it will. That is the entire point of the Aegon story.

The story is not going to be that Aegon or Dany or Jon will have to prove that they should be kings ... instead people will want them to be kings because of who they are and from they are supposedly descended from. And they are (descended from) Targaryens.

3 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Yes, Iron Throne does represent obsession with power. It is a consequence of a conquest, of violent and completely unnecessary acquisition of power on the part of Aegon the Conqueror. He melted together the swords of defeated enemies in order to symbolize his conquest, power and dominance over those he had conquered.

There you show that you don't seem to understand that the Conquest of Aegon the Conqueror wasn't 'unnecessary'. Or, perhaps it was, but it wasn't bad. Very few people died in that war, and afterwards things got better for all the Targaryen subjects. The Wars of the Conquest are surprisingly bloodless (save the Dornish War, of course).

If the Iron Throne symbolizes something then most likely (1) the transformation of war and conquest into justice by means of transforming weapons of war into a throne, and then (2) by having a throne made from weapons the danger of being a king is made painstakingly explicit. If you are not cautious you cut yourself - making it clear that your decisions affect yourself as much as others and can have dire consequences. That much is made clear as early as Ned's stint on the throne and the whole 'a king should never rest easy' thing.

3 hours ago, Aldarion said:

One Ring is the same. Rebellion / usurpation against the divine order of things was in both cases (Morgoth and Sauron) a consequence of their wish for power to order things in a way they wanted. Sauron especially started out as what you consider an ideal ruler: a person who wants to use his power to achieve order and make life better for everyone. But good intent did not last long; and as always, such concentration of power eventually turned bad and was used to enslave everyone. Sauron is not the tyrant because of the One Ring; rather, he made One Ring because he became a tyrant. You are completely confusing the cause and consequence in order to fit the story to your preconcieved ideas. Yes, usurpation is bad; but it was merely a tool to achieve a goal.

Problem here is - Aegon the Conqueror is not presented as a usurper, and neither is the Iron Throne presented as a tyrant's chair.

3 hours ago, Aldarion said:

And no, not all evil kings in Tolkien are usurpers; that is just ridiculous. In fact, majority of evil kings are not usurpers. Usurpation is used to show that person in question had gone beyond the pale (being a form of conquest, it is automatically evil), but there are many other ways to be evil. Again, you are confusing the cause and consequence. Ar-Gimilzor was a legitimate king yet he was flat-out evil, hardly better than Ar-Pharazon after him even if he wasn't as extreme in his actions.

Oh, well, I like to think that Aldarion's change of the succession law was bad (women should not rule and did not rule in Gondor or Arnor) so all the kings of Númenor descended from Ancalime were not *really* the rightful kings, including all those who later fucked things up. It went against the natural order of things.

But the overall point is that the entire Númenor thing is also an attempted usurpation thing - the people crave powers they are not supposed to have, they want to be immortal and, eventually, they want to be the Lords of the West (which Tolkien hits us on the head with by means of Adûnakhôr's royal name). But I'd not describe Gimilzôr as evil - he was a bad king and perhaps even somewhat of a tyrant, but the point the Númenóreans go down the path of no return is with Pharazôn ... and, to be precise, with Sauron turning them into devil-worshippers. And perhaps even that could have been forgiven if they had repented, put down Sauron, and not tried to conquer Valinor. We don't know.

3 hours ago, Aldarion said:

RE: Palantir, it is not a ridiculous concept. Legitimacy as well as legality is important in Tolkien, and Kings of Gondor and Arnor were legal owners of Palantiri as the same were gifted to Amandil, Lord of Andunie. Palantiri are, essentially, family property of the royal house of Arnor and Gondor. Thus only kings of Arnor and Gondor are legal owners of Palantirs, and they as well as people authorized by them have the right to use a palantir. Saruman was only given keys to Orthanc. He was not an appointed guardian of Palantir, and thus had no legal right to use it.

I know that, but such a concept of property is just silly, especially if it stretches through millennia. Aragorn having a claim to anything is just a joke, after 1,000 years.

The point here is that Tolkien's concept of 'property' and 'kingship' is infinitely stronger than that of Martin - where I say people still recall the Targaryens are the true kings two decades after Aerys II was deposed, and not a thousands years later.

Tolkien's world is one of idealized divine kingship.

3 hours ago, Aldarion said:

You are essentially complaining that thumbprint lock opening a door only for person with valid thumbprint is a ridiculous concept.

Not really, considering there is no basis for this palantír property concept. The stones weren't even made by Númenóreans. Their true owners are the Noldor who made them. I mean, sure, they gave them away, but so did the stewards when they gave the key of Orthanc to Saruman. He was 'the rightful owner' then the same way Denethor was as a representative/servant of the kings. Yet somehow there is a difference there.

3 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Nothing was completely evil in the beginning. And nothing ever is completely evil. That does not mean that it is necessarily capable of producing anything good. Evil, in the end, is a choice. More than that, One Ring has a will of its own. And a living being can never be completely subjugated. As a result, anything that is done with One Ring will turn to evil eventually. In addition to that, wishing for absolute power - or even power greater than one's own inherent power - is by and in itself, corrupting. Since there is no reason for someone to use One Ring for long time except to gain power, this automatically means that any person using the One Ring - no matter how good - is open to its corruption.

Do you see that this kind of concept has nothing to do with the Iron Throne ... because nobody ever says anything about the power of the Iron Throne being corrupt or evil or something the people having it are not entitled to.

3 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Again, One Ring has a will of its own. You cannot not do evil with it, because even if you do good, the Ring itself will find a way to turn everything you have done to evil.

Well, and what if Sauron had repented and decided to be a good little tin soldier in Aule's hosts after he made the One Ring? Sauron isn't completely evil nor beyond redemption in principle. Any person more powerful than Sauron himself - as well as Sauron himself if he changed his mind - should be able to break the power of the Ring or even change what it does.

3 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Revolutions by themselves are wrong. The only question is whether the alternative is less or more wrong than revolution, and that can only be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Thankfully people still do revolutions ;-).

3 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Nope. Try reading on historical monarchies - king actually ruling without consent of the people was extremely uncommon, and only started happening in force at the same time that state apparatus developed enough to make an absolute monarchy possible. But in a "classical" monarchy, some form of widespread consent was always required. As for tyranny - every government is tyrannical, by virtue of being a government.

Every monarchy is by 'consent of the people' - an absolute monarchy also needs soldiers and bureaucrats, etc. which are ... people governed by it. In fact, the amount of people Louis XIV had to get on board for his regime was likely higher than William the Conqueror needed in England.

The difference there is about the class structure of the society - does the king have to rely on a strong nobility or does he have a standing army and bureaucracy drawn from the commoners?

Ideologically, most monarchy were always absolutist. The English, French, your Byzantines, they were all absolutists. Couldn't enforce all aspects of that, but they always viewed themselves as such.

3 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Aragorn's kingship is not legitimized "only by his magical bloodline", because otherwise he would have sought the throne long before. But he didn't - he saved Gondor first, and then became a king. And remember that Gondorians could have easily rejected him: they rejected Arvedui, centuries ago, despite his bloodline, and chose a candidate whose line was less closely related to both kings of Numenor and to actual line of kings of Gondor (his Queen, Firiel, was a daughter of King of Gondor). Further, you need to look at the actual coronation scene:

The reason Aragorn is king and not, say, Gandalf - the actual leader of the alliance against Sauron, and the man keeping the resistance alive and rekindling hope in the good guys - is that Aragorn has royal blood, nothing else. All Aragorn is he is because of his blood. It is what gives him healing hands, it is what gives him long life and insight and strength of will. Those are all gifts given to him by his royal birth. All Aragorn does he only can do because of who he is by right of birth and blood - that's why he can walk the paths of the dead, can command the dead, and can force them to fulfill their vows. Only Isildur's heir could do that. He just goes through the motions, if you will.

And where do you get the ridiculous assumption that Aragorn would have made an attempt sooner? We are never told why he waited ... but it seems that he did wait because he didn't bother taking over a kingdom which might be destroyed by Sauron, anyway. And which he himself could help to destroy by causing a civil war to try and take the throne.

Gondor lost its king because they crowned a false king in Earnil II. The rightful king was Arvedui, he should have been king, there was even a prophecy that things could get better if he became king. Some people in Gondor thought they knew better and they paid the price for that by losing their kings for good. You can interpret that as divine punishment, like the dying of the white tree, both in Minas Tirith and in Númenor.

3 hours ago, Aldarion said:

That is a formality, maybe, but a formality which speaks a lot about how Gondorians actually perceive kingship: king is not a dictator, he has to be accepted by the people in order to rule. In fact, this situation is extremely similar to Byzantine tradition of acclamation, though Tolkien failed to follow it through to its logical conclusion.

I think you know that dictators can also stage such scenes. And the will of the people pales in light of the eagle of Manwe declaring much earlier that the king has come again and will live among the people of Minas Tirith all the days of their lives.

People are at best ratifying the divine will here, they are not shaping history.

3 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Yes, a crowned and annointed king should be obeyed. But that obedience is not absolute: I will again refer you to the case of Beregond, who disobeyed Denethor (who, as a ruling Steward, had all powers of a king).

Nobody ever said that obedience to any king is absolute, neither witih Tolkien nor Martin (although I'd say that obedience to the Elder King would be absolute in Arda). Of course there are things you can differ - like when you have a heretic as king or steward (which Denethor was when he decided to kill himself - he even says that he is following the example of the 'heathen kings of old').

But a heretical king is still the king, and it is not your place to depose him. Even Gandalf has no right to depose Denethor as steward.

And in Beregond's case you should keep in mind he was still punished for his transgression. It was a veiled reward, of course, but still came in the disguise of punishment ... which tells you something there.

Generally, Tolkien and Martin both have a medieval concept of monarchy - where laws are not really made, but collected and interpreted but you rarely introduce something completely new. And that also extends to absolutist kings in early modern times. They did not think they could do what they wanted, but rather rule without being confined by other groups. But the concept of kingship of, say, Louis XIV wasn't all that far apart from the concept of Philip the Fair or the monarchistic ideology of the popes from the 11th century onwards.

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