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Alyn Oakenfist

The many political mistakes of Daenaerys Targaryen

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1 hour ago, Alyn Oakenfist said:

I think you're exaggerating. Sure LoTR has a lot more historical details then people give it credit for, but it doesn't come close to ASOIAF. Sure ASOIAF's feudal and societal structure is deeply flawed, and is more based on how people think the middle ages were as opposed too how they actually were, but it's still a structure. LoTR by compression doesn't have any such complexity

Complexity =/= realism. ASoIaF is cynical, but while many mistake that for realism, matter of the fact is that Martin has flushed realism down the drain. In a society as cynical as Westerosi one, feudal society is literally impossible. Yes, lords were often assholes IRL - but they were honourable assholes, for the most part, much closer to Ned Stark than to Roose Bolton. You know how Roose Bolton was based on Vlad Tepes? Well, Vlad was actually not a bad ruler - he could act as a monster, yes, but his violence was for the most part either a) made up or b) aimed at political and military opponents (specifically, Boyars, Germans and Turks). Somebody like Roose Bolton, let alone Ramsay Bolton, would not have lasted long in actual Middle Ages. George Martin based ASoIaF on popular history, but popular history consists mostly of propaganda whose entire purpose was to blacken the legacy of people whom writers of history did not like - precisely because reputation mattered. We see this with Nero, Diocletian, Vlad Dracul, Jagellons...

George Martin has also incredibly simplified the politics of a medieval state. Gondor actually has a somewhat realistic political system that is based on the middle Byzantine system, though we don't see much of it. Westeros? Martin provides lot more details than Tolkien, but what we see is... a mess. We have a feudal system where lords are basically Our Glorious God Emperors and everybody follows them. Where are kings using middling and small nobility to balance out influence of large magnates? Any war against the throne should have had many nobles siding with the throne from the outset - neither Renly, Stannis nor Robb should have been able to call all their strength, and would probably have had to crush internal opposition before marching against external enemies, or at least leave somebody to watch their backs. Even when campaigning against Ottomans, John Hunyadi had to secure himself against internal enemies first - that is just how feudal politics work. And we are talking about a civil war here, not an invasion of masses of infidels. Where are the major cities? Thanks to their walls and economic power, a city was a) incredibly important and b) incredibly difficult to deal with. A major city was typically a feudal overlord in its own right, able to negotiate on the same level as magnates. Yet there are no independent cities in Westeros, no free royal cities, no urban leagues akin to Hanseatic League. Where are trade corporations? We don't see a justice system either - Westerosi judicial system would have been ridiculed by any medieval peasant for how simple and stupid it is. Lords and King could and did dole out justice, yes - but that was an equivalent to the appeal to the High Court today. Courts of law did exist, and law did exist - yet in Westeros lords are free to judge as they want. What about queens and noblewomen? They were in reality much more powerful than what Martin writes them as having been.

Westeros is not a feudal society. It is modern society given a feudal veneer, with a several progressive/feminist misconceptions about history tacked on for a good measure. Tolkien was a medieval scholar and he knew what he was talking about; Martin came into ASoIaF from writing science fiction. Because of this, getting into Lord of the Rings requires a time to get used to a) Tolkien's mentality and b) very medieval mentality of characters in the setting; plus the fact that Lord of the Rings is an epic, rather than a modern-style novel. ASoIaF on the other hand is immediately relatable* - which likely contributed to its popularity.

* I am personally an exception largely because I am such a history nerd that historical people actually are easier to understand for me than modern-day people are. But I find that most people I have talked to on the 'Net misunderstand Tolkien's work, for several reasons I won't delve in here.

By comparison, Lord of the Rings is indeed a more simple story - but that is only true if you ignore everything other than Lord of the Rings itself. Silmarillion is incredibly complex, and is basically Tolkien's equivalent of ASoIaF. We see exactly how depraved humans (and elves) can be in that story, and it has characters that are easily as complex as Martin's, if not more so (not that such characters do not exist in LotR itself, but they are rare - Denethor, basically, and that's it unless you get into Appendices). But in general, Tolkien wrote history and mythology whereas Martin writes large-scale soap opera. So despite the thousand-so characters I just wrote, two cannot really be directly compared.

Edited by Aldarion

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3 hours ago, Aldarion said:

a) Tolkien's mentality and b) very medieval mentality of characters in the setting; plus the fact that Lord of the Rings is an epic, rather than a modern-style novel. ASoIaF on the other hand is immediately relatable* - which likely contributed to its popularity.

LOTR is so much more beautiful to me because it captures the medieval sensibility in an imaginary world. Tolkien understood the "archaic" and how to convey it. It's immersive because it's so different from our own world.

I'd also like to add a quote from GRRM that really made me see the difference between the two authors:

GRRM: "I would love to become more familiar with Spanish history. Can you recommend any good English language popular histories? I stress 'popular.' I am not looking for academic tomes about changing patterns of land use, but anecdotal history rich in details of battles, betrayals, love affairs, murders, and similar juicy stuff." (x)

Tolkien was an academic and he absolutely would read other academics to understand a historical period. He wouldn't start reading the History Channel Novelization Of. Especially for Latin America -- and GRRM wants a popular history of it?? He'd likely end up getting a version of history that was racist or misrepresented.

Edited by Rose of Red Lake

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27 minutes ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

LOTR is so much more beautiful to me because it captures the medieval sensibility in an imaginary world. Tolkien understood the "archaic" and how to convey it. It's immersive because it's so different from our own world.

I'd also like to add a quote from GRRM that really made me see the difference between the two authors:

GRRM: "I would love to become more familiar with Spanish history. Can you recommend any good English language popular histories? I stress 'popular.' I am not looking for academic tomes about changing patterns of land use, but anecdotal history rich in details of battles, betrayals, love affairs, murders, and similar juicy stuff." (x)

Tolkien was an academic and he absolutely would read other academics to understand a historical period. He wouldn't start reading the History Channel Novelization Of. Especially for Latin America -- and GRRM wants a popular history of it?? He'd likely end up getting a version of history that was racist or misrepresented.

Was he referring to Latin America or Spain?

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6 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Complexity =/= realism. ASoIaF is cynical, but while many mistake that for realism, matter of the fact is that Martin has flushed realism down the drain. In a society as cynical as Westerosi one, feudal society is literally impossible. Yes, lords were often assholes IRL - but they were honourable assholes, for the most part, much closer to Ned Stark than to Roose Bolton. You know how Roose Bolton was based on Vlad Tepes? Well, Vlad was actually not a bad ruler - he could act as a monster, yes, but his violence was for the most part either a) made up or b) aimed at political and military opponents (specifically, Boyars, Germans and Turks). Somebody like Roose Bolton, let alone Ramsay Bolton, would not have lasted long in actual Middle Ages. George Martin based ASoIaF on popular history, but popular history consists mostly of propaganda whose entire purpose was to blacken the legacy of people whom writers of history did not like - precisely because reputation mattered. We see this with Nero, Diocletian, Vlad Dracul, Jagellons...

George Martin has also incredibly simplified the politics of a medieval state. Gondor actually has a somewhat realistic political system that is based on the middle Byzantine system, though we don't see much of it. Westeros? Martin provides lot more details than Tolkien, but what we see is... a mess. We have a feudal system where lords are basically Our Glorious God Emperors and everybody follows them. Where are kings using middling and small nobility to balance out influence of large magnates? Any war against the throne should have had many nobles siding with the throne from the outset - neither Renly, Stannis nor Robb should have been able to call all their strength, and would probably have had to crush internal opposition before marching against external enemies, or at least leave somebody to watch their backs. Even when campaigning against Ottomans, John Hunyadi had to secure himself against internal enemies first - that is just how feudal politics work. And we are talking about a civil war here, not an invasion of masses of infidels. Where are the major cities? Thanks to their walls and economic power, a city was a) incredibly important and b) incredibly difficult to deal with. A major city was typically a feudal overlord in its own right, able to negotiate on the same level as magnates. Yet there are no independent cities in Westeros, no free royal cities, no urban leagues akin to Hanseatic League. Where are trade corporations? We don't see a justice system either - Westerosi judicial system would have been ridiculed by any medieval peasant for how simple and stupid it is. Lords and King could and did dole out justice, yes - but that was an equivalent to the appeal to the High Court today. Courts of law did exist, and law did exist - yet in Westeros lords are free to judge as they want. What about queens and noblewomen? They were in reality much more powerful than what Martin writes them as having been.

Westeros is not a feudal society. It is modern society given a feudal veneer, with a several progressive/feminist misconceptions about history tacked on for a good measure. Tolkien was a medieval scholar and he knew what he was talking about; Martin came into ASoIaF from writing science fiction. Because of this, getting into Lord of the Rings requires a time to get used to a) Tolkien's mentality and b) very medieval mentality of characters in the setting; plus the fact that Lord of the Rings is an epic, rather than a modern-style novel. ASoIaF on the other hand is immediately relatable* - which likely contributed to its popularity.

* I am personally an exception largely because I am such a history nerd that historical people actually are easier to understand for me than modern-day people are. But I find that most people I have talked to on the 'Net misunderstand Tolkien's work, for several reasons I won't delve in here.

By comparison, Lord of the Rings is indeed a more simple story - but that is only true if you ignore everything other than Lord of the Rings itself. Silmarillion is incredibly complex, and is basically Tolkien's equivalent of ASoIaF. We see exactly how depraved humans (and elves) can be in that story, and it has characters that are easily as complex as Martin's, if not more so (not that such characters do not exist in LotR itself, but they are rare - Denethor, basically, and that's it unless you get into Appendices). But in general, Tolkien wrote history and mythology whereas Martin writes large-scale soap opera. So despite the thousand-so characters I just wrote, two cannot really be directly compared.

You have to read between the lines to an extent, with Tolkien, but there is some grim stuff there.  When you think about it, it’s quite plain what Treebeard means by the “black evil” of blending the races of orcs and men, without needing a graphic account of the rape of captive women at Isengard.  Sam stumbles upon “a dreadful place of feast and slaughter”, which is enough to demonstrate the orcs’ love of cannibalising their prisoners.  The orcs’ casual reference to “stripping” a prisoner meaning the removal of hair, teeth, nails shows the horrific fate in store for anyone captured by Sauron’s armies and so forth.

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6 hours ago, Aldarion said:

George Martin has also incredibly simplified the politics of a medieval state. Gondor actually has a somewhat realistic political system that is based on the middle Byzantine system, though we don't see much of it.

And that's my point, we don't see it. GRRM, for all his faults, actually shows us feudal power structures and such, even though they're not very good. LoTR, at best implies them.

6 hours ago, Aldarion said:

ou know how Roose Bolton was based on Vlad Tepes? Well, Vlad was actually not a bad ruler - he could act as a monster, yes, but his violence was for the most part either a) made up or b) aimed at political and military opponents (specifically, Boyars, Germans and Turks).

I mean, I don't really see the difference. Sure both employed a very horrific method of execution (flaying vs impaling), but as you pointed out Vlad used it against either foreign enemies, or the the boyars, who were actually worse than foreign enemies. But other than that there really is no similarity between the two, especially seeing the many reforms Vlad did as well as his concentrated anti Ottoman effort.

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3 hours ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

LOTR is so much more beautiful to me because it captures the medieval sensibility in an imaginary world. Tolkien understood the "archaic" and how to convey it. It's immersive because it's so different from our own world.

I'd also like to add a quote from GRRM that really made me see the difference between the two authors:

GRRM: "I would love to become more familiar with Spanish history. Can you recommend any good English language popular histories? I stress 'popular.' I am not looking for academic tomes about changing patterns of land use, but anecdotal history rich in details of battles, betrayals, love affairs, murders, and similar juicy stuff." (x)

Tolkien was an academic and he absolutely would read other academics to understand a historical period. He wouldn't start reading the History Channel Novelization Of. Especially for Latin America -- and GRRM wants a popular history of it?? He'd likely end up getting a version of history that was racist or misrepresented.

Agreed. ASoIaF is based on the popular history, and it shows: honourless lords, peasant conscripts, completely unworkable societies... if any of Martin's societies was populated with real people, it would have collapsed in a month. Which is why it is difficult to debate what character made what political mistake, as experience of real world may or may not translate into Planetos.

52 minutes ago, SeanF said:

You have to read between the lines to an extent, with Tolkien, but there is some grim stuff there.  When you think about it, it’s quite plain what Treebeard means by the “black evil” of blending the races of orcs and men, without needing a graphic account of the rape of captive women at Isengard.  Sam stumbles upon “a dreadful place of feast and slaughter”, which is enough to demonstrate the orcs’ love of cannibalising their prisoners.  The orcs’ casual reference to “stripping” a prisoner meaning the removal of hair, teeth, nails shows the horrific fate in store for anyone captured by Sauron’s armies and so forth.

Indeed. It is in fact one of things which makes Tolkien's writing style so effective: rather than overwhelming people with descriptions, he provides what is necessary and then leaves reader's imagination to fill in the rest - oftentimes deliberately witholding the details. A particularly good example is the whole sequence in Moria: we never see the whole kingdom, we never learn what actually happened the during the Balrog's first visit and of the second we get only glimpses. Even during the third encounter - one with the Fellowship - Balrog remains cloaked in shadow, so we never truly get a measure of it. It remains a mystery. Likewise, all the ruins which litter the North speak of great kingdoms, massive wars and long history... but we again get only snippets of the history of what happened there (well, until you delve into Appendices and rest of the Legendarium, but even they don't fill in everything).

20 minutes ago, Alyn Oakenfist said:

And that's my point, we don't see it. GRRM, for all his faults, actually shows us feudal power structures and such, even though they're not very good. LoTR, at best implies them.

As I described above: Tolkien shows what is necessary, and leaves enough of the rest that we can fill it in ourselves. This is actually good thing - not just for people studying the work (who thus have endless topics to debate) but for readers as well, because it forces them to think and thus leads to better immersion. Meanwhile, with Martin, I actually have trouble remaining focused on his writing because he provides too much detail. Historian in me might appreciate all the detail, but a reader in me just wants to find a nearest wall to relieve some headache.

Of course, it is possible that Tolkien overestimated knowledge of his audience (I wouldn't have been able to identify politico-military structures of Gondor if not for my knowledge of Byzantine Empire), but I think it again boils down to "do not describe it unless it is necessary".

20 minutes ago, Alyn Oakenfist said:

I mean, I don't really see the difference. Sure both employed a very horrific method of execution (flaying vs impaling), but as you pointed out Vlad used it against either foreign enemies, or the the boyars, who were actually worse than foreign enemies. But other than that there really is no similarity between the two, especially seeing the many reforms Vlad did as well as his concentrated anti Ottoman effort.

I think that too may come down to Martin focusing on popular history, and then exaggerating it for dramatic effect.

Edited by Aldarion

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4 minutes ago, Aldarion said:

As I described above: Tolkien shows what is necessary, and leaves enough of the rest that we can fill it in ourselves. This is actually good thing - not just for people studying the work (who thus have endless topics to debate) but for readers as well, because it forces them to think and thus leads to better immersion. Meanwhile, with Martin, I actually have trouble remaining focused on his writing because he provides too much detail.

That would be fine, if Tolkien's prose wasn't obscenely dense, and his descriptions mind numbingly boring. Like between learning just how the trees of near the Ent council place look, or learning how Gondor functions, I know which I'd prefer

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5 hours ago, Aldarion said:

 

I think that too may come down to Martin focusing on popular history, and then exaggerating it for dramatic effect.

In terms of popular history, I think Martin draws heavily on Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror;  The Calamitous Fourteenth Century.

The War of the Five Kings resembles the most brutal phases of the Hundred Years War, in the marches dividing English France, from Royal France. The Lannisters' strategy is basically murder, arson, and rape on a vast scale.  The Northern/Tully forces are slightly more restrained, but only slightly.

As for the military standards of Essos, well......there aren't any. The slavers and sellswords are about as brutal as the Assyrians.

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2 hours ago, SeanF said:

In terms of popular history, I think Martin draws heavily on Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror;  The Calamitous Fourteenth Century.

The War of the Five Kings resembles the most brutal phases of the Hundred Years War, in the marches dividing English France, from Royal France. The Lannisters' strategy is basically murder, arson, and rape on a vast scale.  The Northern/Tully forces are slightly more restrained, but only slightly.

As for the military standards of Essos, well......there aren't any. The slavers and sellswords are about as brutal as the Assyrians.

Agreed.

7 hours ago, Alyn Oakenfist said:

That would be fine, if Tolkien's prose wasn't obscenely dense, and his descriptions mind numbingly boring. Like between learning just how the trees of near the Ent council place look, or learning how Gondor functions, I know which I'd prefer

I find Tolkien's prose much easier to handle than Martin's. But then again my favourite literature is Warren Treadgold's Byzantium and Its Army, so...

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30 minutes ago, Aldarion said:

But then again my favourite literature is Warren Treadgold's Byzantium and Its Army, so...

Good God, have you tried The Eye of Argon for some light, quality prose?

Jokes aside, I think I mah be biased as I was a lot younger when J first read LOTR as opposed to ASOIAF(middle school vs high school)

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3 hours ago, Alyn Oakenfist said:

Good God, have you tried The Eye of Argon for some light, quality prose?

Jokes aside, I think I mah be biased as I was a lot younger when J first read LOTR as opposed to ASOIAF(middle school vs high school)

I first read Lord of the Rings when I was 10 or so. I read Harry Potter not much later, and I remember that I noticed I was just a bit younger than Harry in the first book.

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4 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Agreed.

I find Tolkien's prose much easier to handle than Martin's. But then again my favourite literature is Warren Treadgold's Byzantium and Its Army, so...

The war doesn’t actually resemble the Wars of the Roses.  The battles in that war could be brutal, and marked by mass executions afterwards, and towns were sometimes sacked, but neither side sought to devastate the country.

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On 2/15/2021 at 4:17 AM, Alyn Oakenfist said:

but the fact that Ned, Jon and Hoster went along with it and crowned Robert never fully made sense

Why do you think that Ned Stark went along with it?

My understanding of the text (namely Ned's reaction to both the Sack and the murders of the royal family in the Red Keep and his argument with Robert) leads me to draw the conclusion that Ned was not "going along with it." Ned Stark was consistent about how he felt about Robert's Targaryen grudge from the aftermath to the Sack to his last chapter in the Black Cells.

Was Ned even at Robert's coronation or wedding? He left for Storm's End and then for the Tower of Joy and then for Starfall before returning to King's Landing and then eventually Winterfell.

On 11/28/2020 at 2:56 PM, Aldarion said:

He did usurp the kings who ruled the independent kingdoms before his coming. After all, if taking a throne by force is usurpation, how is overthrowing legitimate dynasties by force (or threat of force) any better?

Fact that he is not presented as an usurper doesn't mean he isn't one.

Aegon the Conqueror isn't an usurper. He is a conqueror who has made himself high king.

Aegon didn't cast down Torrhen Stark so that he claim Winterfell as his own seat and call himself the King in the North. He made Torrhen Stark to submit to him as his king.

Basically, Aegon's Conquest made Aegon the king of kings and the overlord of lords. He added another layer of nobility on top and put himself and his family at the top.

Take the Vale for example: the Hardyngs are vassals of the Waynwoods who are vassals of the Arryns who have now become vassals of the Targaryens. The Arryns are still the overlords of the Vale; it's just that the Targaryens are overlords of the Arryns.

The Targaryens - as overlords of the Arryns and rulers of all Westeros south of the Wall - unites the Arryns with the Starks, the Lannisters, the Martells, etc. to create a unified Westeros. Just like the Arryns - as overlords of the Waynwoods and rulers of the Vale - unites the Waynwoods with the Royces, the Corbrays and the Belmores to create a unified Vale.

I thought this was made clear when the new nation Aegon built was called the Seven Kingdoms.

The Romans did this when they allowed certain regions (i.e. Judaea) to keep their own kings and rulers so long as those kings and rulers swore and kept fealty to Rome. It's part of the reason why Jesus Christ was such a divisive figure and why he was ultimately executed: he was calling himself a king and deliberately expressing that his allegiance was only to God and that Rome was inconsequential.

GRRM made a mistake though. He should've been calling Aegon and everyone else who followed him as the one who sits the Iron Throne as "the Emperor" instead of the king and "Lord of the Seven Kingdoms." The Seven Kingdoms of Westeros is actually an empire, not a kingdom.

2 hours ago, SeanF said:

The war doesn’t actually resemble the Wars of the Roses.  The battles in that war could be brutal, and marked by mass executions afterwards, and towns were sometimes sacked, but neither side sought to devastate the country.

ASOIAF is more fantastical than historical.

So, the villains of ASOIAF are expressly more evil than the "villains" of the Wars of the Roses. The Lannisters and the Greyjoys (but especially the Lannisters) are clearly the villains of the series with what their actions during the Defiance of Duskendale, Robert's Rebellion including and up to the wedding of Cersei Lannister and Robert Baratheon and then during the main series.

Stannis, Roose, Randyll Tarly, the Tyrells, the Martells (even Oberyn) and those of their ilk are more akin to the "villains" of the Wars of the Roses. Littlefinger, the Lannsiters, the Greyjoys, Ramsay, the Mountain and arguably Varys are beyond that.

Edited by BlackLightning

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2 minutes ago, BlackLightning said:

So, the villains of ASOIAF are expressly more evil than the "villains" of the Wars of the Roses. The Lannisters and the Greyjoys (but especially the Lannisters) are clearly the villains of the series with what their actions during the Defiance of Duskendale, Robert's Rebellion including and up to the wedding of Cersei Lannister and Robert Baratheon and then during the main series.

Stannis, Roose, Randyll Tarly, and those of their ilk are more akin to the villains of the Wars of the Roses. Littlefinger, the Lannsiters, the Greyjoys, Ramsay and arguably Varys are beyond that.

I mean Henry VII is pretty similar to Tywin in terms of both fucked up shit and treating his family as disposable assets.

Also the Kingmaker was a pretty ambitious douche.

But yeah, that's as far as it goes. Varys, Littlefinger, Balon, Roose and all the other monsters of ASOIAF wouldn't last a minute in the War of the Roses before they were executed for their crimes and for being a liability to their side.

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On 11/21/2020 at 9:09 AM, SeanF said:

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

I'm sorry but wait.

Correct me if I'm wrong: but are the Volantenes on the side of the Yunkish and the Qartheen? Isn't the Volantene armada on its way to Meereen to destroy Daenerys Targaryen's system?

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48 minutes ago, BlackLightning said:

I'm sorry but wait.

Correct me if I'm wrong: but are the Volantenes on the side of the Yunkish and the Qartheen? Isn't the Volantene armada on its way to Meereen to destroy Daenerys Targaryen's system?

Yes.  But, I think that knowledge would have shown her that peace was an impossibility, and at the same time, that there were alternatives to making peace.  

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1 hour ago, Alyn Oakenfist said:

I mean Henry VII is pretty similar to Tywin in terms of both fucked up shit and treating his family as disposable assets.

Also the Kingmaker was a pretty ambitious douche.

But yeah, that's as far as it goes. Varys, Littlefinger, Balon, Roose and all the other monsters of ASOIAF wouldn't last a minute in the War of the Roses before they were executed for their crimes and for being a liability to their side.

Henry VII was a far milder leader than Tywin.

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6 minutes ago, SeanF said:

Henry VII was a far milder leader than Tywin

I mean I personally subscribe to the idea that it was him who killed the princes, as they weren't his blood and were a far greater threat to him than to Richard, which is pretty similar to Tywin, don't you think?

Though even in that you are kinda right that he was milder than Tywin, though let's face it not by much. However it is also true that Henry VII was pretty much the worst, while Tywin is very far from the worst in Westeros.

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7 minutes ago, SeanF said:

Yes.  But, I think that knowledge would have shown her that peace was an impossibility, and at the same time, that there were alternatives to making peace.  

Well, as she has come to conclusion separate and apart from knowledge of the Volantene fleet, it makes me understand that it was the natural conclusion of both Dany's arc on a meta level and her train of thought within the story.

1 minute ago, Alyn Oakenfist said:

I mean I personally subscribe to the idea that it was him who killed the princes, as they weren't his blood and were a far greater threat to him than to Richard, which is pretty similar to Tywin, don't you think?

Though even in that you are kinda right that he was milder than Tywin, though let's face it not by much. However it is also true that Henry VII was pretty much the worst, while Tywin is very far from the worst in Westeros.

Tywin is not the worst in Westeros but he definitely has a seat at the table.

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