Daenerys Wouldn’t Have Burned King’s Landing If She Had Ever Seen A Statue Of Her Father

by Boobie

The penultimate episode of Game of Thrones included a poignant visual example of a quote often attributed to Mark Twain: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” As newly-Mad Queen Daenerys Targaryen laid waste to King’s Landing via Drogon, her lone remaining dragon, there were points during which his devastating orange flames set off smaller secondary explosions of green, presumably the wildfire stores planted by her father King Aeryss II Targaryen meant to fulfill of oft-repeated final words: “Burn them all.”

Dany’s sudden turn to madness was long foreshadowed if not entirely earned within the truncated arc of the show’s final two seasons. As Varys reminded viewers yet again prior to his death: “When a Targaryen is born, the gods toss a coin, and the world holds its breath.” However, a little self-awareness may have gone a long way toward curbing the Mother of Dragons’ worst instincts in the absence of recently-deceased advisers Jorah Mormont and Missandei of Naath cautioning mercy and restraint. Had she learned her family history in a compelling way, the wanton devastation that will likely be her ultimate undoing might have been avoided. The reason she didn’t is simple: she never saw a statue of her father.

Despite the grand lies Dany’s brother Viserys told her when the two were growing up, the realm of Westeros doesn’t seem to have been quietly drinking toasts to them two known remaining Taragryens and awaiting the day they returned to their rightful place upon the Iron Throne. To paraphrase Tyrion, to most of the people of the realm, it makes no difference who sits on that throne. Also despite those grand lies, Dany seems to have harbored no illusions about the monster her father was, or whether he earned the title of the Mad King. Even though she has long felt it to be her destiny that she rule Westeros, she is aware of the perception of her family and the danger she might pose, and as such she has attempted to act in a way counter to those fears and that narrative. Yet in the most important moment, the moment when the bells of surrender were ringing and the fork in the road between who she’d said she’d be and who she promised she wouldn’t presented itself, none of those lessons are able to overpower to seeing a physical structure reminding her of power and what she’d lost:

“[S]he sees the Red Keep, which is, to her, the home that her family built when they first came over to this country 300 years ago. It’s in that moment on the walls of King’s Landing, when she’s looking at that symbol of everything that was taken from her, when she makes the decision to make this personal.” — D.B. Weiss

History lessons are meaningless without physical manifestations of history to illustrate them. For example, slavery is the blackest mark on America’s storied history. The Civil War, the bloodiest war in that history, was fought in small part because of deep divides over that issue. Yet in the century and a half since that war ended, slavery has never been an issue again. Why? Because the people of the 19th century know what the people of the world of Game of Thrones don’t know: that building statues of bad people and letting them stand forever is the only way for anyone to really learn anything.

This, more than anything else, is evidence that Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen is more deserving of the Iron Thrones than his lover-aunt. The crypts of Winterfell were given a prominent place in the opening credits of this final season of Thrones. Those crypts hold not only the remains of generations of Starks, but statues. Simply by living in Winterfell for most of his life and visiting those crypts, Jon was able to absorb the wisdom of the ages. He was able to learn all of the best and worst things about every dead Stark by looking at their statues. By virtue of this, his knowledge of the history of the realm rivals even Bran’s.

Dany, meanwhile, grew up across the Narrow Sea, where the Targaryen name holds little sway, and where there were no statues of her ancestors from which to learn. Given the way the Targaryen dynasty ended, it’s unlikely that there are any statues of her father left in Westeros for her to visit and learn from. Is it any wonder, then, that when her worst instincts for destruction and power took over, there was no rational, historical impulse in her brain to tell her: this is what your father, and all the worst people in your family, would have done?

Imagine this alternate ending: Dany and Drogon land atop a building in King’s Landing, peasants fleeing in terror all around them. As the bells sound, Dany lays eyes on the Red Keep, and her eyes start to harden. Then, suddenly, a glimmer of bronze catches her eye. She looks and sees a large statue of Aerys II, sword held aloft, triumphant. There is no indication on this statue at all that he was mad, sadistic or cruel, that he is a man to be feared, because that’s not how statues work. Dany is overcome with a soul-deep knowledge of the weight of his actions, and knows in that instant that burning the city would make her just like him. She flies off as her soldiers accept the city’s surrender, and upon Cersei’s execution, takes the Iron Thrones, secure in the joy and admiration of the realm, and in the knowledge that she is not her father, that she has fulfilled her promise to free people from tyranny.

That’s not the ending we got, though, because there were no statues to help us get there. They say life imitates art; let’s hope that in America, we take the proper lessons from this piece of art and leaves our statues up, because otherwise, we could be looking at mass destruction caused by ignorance.




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Class Is Boring

Class Is Boring

Blog formerly at classisboring.tumblr.com

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