Untangling the Meereenese Knot, Part II: The Peace Was Real

Many readers so dislike Meereen because Dany’s efforts there seem clearly frustrating, doomed, and pointless, ending in failure. And this reaction is perfectly understandable, because that’s what practically every Westerosi character in the book ends up thinking, including Dany! They all conclude that the peace effort was pointless, Dany was naive and got taken advantage of, and that things always had to end in war, so why did we waste so many chapters leading up to the inevitable?

But a closer look at the Meereenese events gives me quite a different impression. To actually understand what unfolded there, we need to take a closer look at the specifics of Dany’s enemies, their interests, and their actions — rather than viewing them as an undifferentiated mass of evil men with weird names. We also need to correct for the bias of the unreliable narrator by looking closely at the harder facts in the text.

My take is that Dany’s overall course of action in Meereen was moral, correct, admirable, and effective — that the peace she created was real, albeit fragile, like most peaces are. That, up to the moment Drogon returned to the fighting pits, her rule in Meereen was headed toward success, and that neither of her two main enemies, the Harpy and the Yunkai’i, planned to break the peace.

Many readers who think the peace was doomed point to the poisoned locusts as the main “proof” of this. Hey, her enemies were plotting to kill her all along! But if the locusts are the work of the Shavepate, as I argued in Part I, then this implies just the opposite — the attempt was made because Dany’s peace was so successful, not because it was foolish and doomed.

How Dany won over the Harpy

What do we know about the Harpy? As ADWD opens, we learn the Sons of the Harpy are an insurgency that brutally murders Dany’s men or those freed Meereenese who collaborate with her. In Dany’s first four chapters, the murders escalate, even after she takes many noble children hostage. When Dany offers to marry Hizdahr if he can give her 90 days without a killing, the killings immediately stop. When Barristan deposes Hizdahr, the killings immediately restart, with a vengeance. Those are our only hard facts, but they suggest several points:

  • The Harpy violence is not “grassroots,” it is centrally planned and directed — that’s the only way the killings can stop so completely and start so quickly
  • Because of who they target, we know the Harpy represents the interests of the Meereenese nobles. In fact, I’m just going to use “Harpy” pretty much interchangeably with “nobles,” since the insurgency could not be so successful without very broad support among the nobles.
  • The Harpy is unable to match the strength of Dany’s forces in open battle — instead they must rely on acting from the shadows.
  • The immediate stoppage of the killings implies that the Harpy can take calculated rational actions.

There are some arguments that the Green Grace, the old priestess who continuously visits Dany’s court to urge her to make an accommodation with the nobles, is The Harpy, or at least a leading figure in the Harpy movement. At the very least, she is able to channel Harpy thinking quite well. It is she who suggests that a Dany/Hizdahr marriage is needed for peace — the deal that stops all Harpy killings immediately.

The Harpy does some truly terrible things to Dany’s people — rape, torture, mutilation. However, it’s a very important point that despite this savagery they appear to be rational, controlled, and interest-based, rather than jihadist or driven purely by extremism. That implies that they can, theoretically, be dealt with — if their interests are adequately addressed.

What are the Harpy’s motivations? Well, Dany has just destroyed their whole way of life, for one thing. But also, recall the first thing Dany did when she made it to Meereen:

“How many?” one old woman had asked, sobbing. “How many must you have to spare us?”

“One hundred and sixty-three,” she answered.

She had them nailed to wooden posts around the plaza, each man pointing at the next. The anger was fierce and hot inside her when she gave the command; it made her feel like an avenging dragon. But later, when she passed the men dying on the posts, when she heard their moans and smelled their bowels and blood . . .

Dany put the glass aside, frowning. It was just. It was. I did it for the children. (ASOS DANY VI)

The savagery of the Harpy attacks is likely motivated in many cases by vengeance for their own executed relatives. This was also their first impression of Dany. So they likely started off viewing her as a wholly unreasonable foreign dragon bitch conqueror bent on their utter destruction. Thus, the violent insurgency. They thought they’d be totally screwed unless Dany decided to leave Meereen.

Yet in Dany’s fourth chapter, the Green Grace suddenly suggests that if Dany marry the noble Hizdahr zo Loraq, a peace is possible. What’s changed since the initial rounds of Harpy savagery? One important change was Xaro’s visit — Dany refused his offer to leave Meereen, Qarth declared war, and a blockade was set up. The escalation of the outside threat could have led the nobles, fearing the loss of their lives and wealth in another destructive war and sack of the city, to come to the table. Hizdahr makes comments to Dany implying that he takes this very seriously:

“Meereen cannot endure another war, Your Radiance… Qarth is a city of merchants, and they love the clink of silver coins, the gleam of yellow gold. When you smashed the slave trade, the blow was felt from Westeros to Asshai. Qarth depends upon its slaves. So too Tolos, New Ghis, Lys, Tyrosh, Volantis … the list is long, my queen.” (ADWD DANY IV)

But perhaps the more important change is Dany’s own actions. Since the initial brutal Harpy killings, Dany chained her dragons, and has refused to kill her child hostages. When the Green Grace visits to propose the marriage, Dany’s mercy toward the child hostages is one of the first things she mentions:

“More freedmen died last night, or so I have been told.”

“Three.” Saying it left a bitter taste in her mouth. “The cowards broke in on some weavers, freedwomen who had done no harm to anyone. All they did was make beautiful things. I have a tapestry they gave me hanging over my bed. The Sons of the Harpy broke their loom and raped them before slitting their throats.”

“This we have heard. And yet Your Radiance has found the courage to answer butchery with mercy. You have not harmed any of the noble children you hold as hostage.”…

…”The Shavepate would feed them to your dragons, it is said. A life for a life. For every Brazen Beast cut down, he would have a child die.”

…:These murders are not their doing,” Dany told the Green Grace, feebly. “I am no butcher queen.”

“And for that Meereen gives thanks,” said Galazza Galare. (ADWD DANY IV)

Dany is often criticized by readers for her refusal to make good on her threat and kill the child hostages, which supposedly showed weakness. But, in actuality, Dany’s mercy towards the hostages — combined with the “bad cop” threat of the lurking Shavepate — seems to be precisely what made a peace deal possible. It changed the nobles’ view of Dany and made them realize she was someone they could work with.

So Dany agrees to marry Hizdahr if he can arrange for 90 days without a peace, he is seen visiting various pyramids where the nobles live, and he delivers. The killings stop immediately and they do not start again until the deal is broken by Barristan and Hizdahr is deposed. Slavery remains banned in Meereen. So — if the poisoned locusts are Shavepate’s work — it sure looks to me like the Harpy did nothing at all to break the peace deal that was agreed to.

Of course the Harpy didn’t suddenly become pure of heart. They still loathe Dany and, in a perfect world, would prefer she leave Meereen or die — and Dany loathes them right back. Yes, the peace remains fragile. Sure, it’s possible they could betray Dany or seek to break the peace later on — just like any party to any peace deal in history could potentially change their mind later, as Barristan did in launching his coup. And Dany paid a tough price for peace in giving the detestable former slavers a share in power — but the nobles have also made huge concessions in recognizing her rule and keeping the slavery ban. That’s what peace through political compromise is all about — no side gets everything it wants.

Overall, and contrary to the impressions of most readers, it appears that the Harpy/nobles genuinely did seek a peace with Dany, did nothing to break the peace, and there’s no evidence that they had any plans to do so. Considering that, Dany’s successful resolution to the Meereen insurgency is not a failure at all — it’s quite an amazing accomplishment, that very likely would have held if not for Dany’s departure from the city and Barristan’s coup.

Why the Yunkish Agreed to Peace

Dany agreed to two peaces in Meereen, and the second was with the city of Yunkai. Many readers come away thinking that the Yunkish were obviously treacherous, mocking and taking advantage of naive Dany, and planning to betray her at the first opportunity. So to evaluate whether this peace was real or phony, we again need to zero in on the hard facts about who leads Yunkai, and their interests.

” Hizdahr’s peace—”

“—is a sham. Not at first, no. The Yunkai’i were afraid of our queen, of her Unsullied, of her dragons. This land has known dragons before. Yurkhaz zo Yunzak had read his histories, he knew. Hizdahr as well. Why not a peace? Daenerys wanted it, they could see that. Wanted it too much. She should have marched to Astapor.” Skahaz moved closer. “That was before. The pit changed all. Daenerys gone, Yurkhaz dead. In place of one old lion, a pack of jackals. Bloodbeard … that one has no taste for peace. And there is more. Worse. Volantis has launched its fleet against us.” (ADWD BARRISTAN I)

I’ve cited this speech from Shavepate as being misleading overall, but it’s worth zeroing in on what he says about Yunkai in particular, because it falls into the category of an “argument against interest.” First, he gives us some of our only specific information about the Yunkish leader Yurkhaz, who commanded their forces throughout the book before dying in the chaos at the fighting pits. Dany’s own impressions upon briefly meeting Yurkhaz are that he is old, repulsive, pathetic, and unimpressive. But Shavepate speaks of him with respect, calling him an “old lion,” and saying he “read his histories” — which is significant because it implies he’s not merely a slimeball evil treacherous slaver. Second, Shavepate admits that the Yunkish did genuinely agree to a peace, fearing open combat against Dany’s forces, until Yurkhaz’s death in the fighting pits (and the subsequent launching of the Volantene fleet). I wouldn’t merely take Shavepate’s word on this, but what he’s says here is basically consistent with the hints of Yunkish thinking we glean from other POVs, as I’ll outline.

Some background on Yunkai: Back in ASOS, Dany defeated a Yunkish army and freed all the Yunkish slaves, but left the slaver ruling class of the city behind (rather than having them all killed, as she did in Astapor). After she left, the Yunkish immediately started slaving again, and gathering allies and hiring sellswords for an attack on Dany and Meereen. By the time of Quentyn’s first chapter, Yunkai has hired three sellsword companies, won the support of New Ghis, and is seeking the far more potentially valuable support of Volantis. Dany appears to inspire existential terror in the Yunkish, who spread lurid tales about her evil far and wide, mostly fictional but some with elements of truth (they particularly seize on an incident in ASOS where Dany had her dragons burn the tokar of a Yunkish envoy, to put a scare into him).

The new Yunkish host first marches for a war with Astapor. It’s not clear exactly how it came about, but Dany places the blame for this war on Cleon, the new king of Astapor:

“the armies of the Yunkai’i descend on Astapor. I beg you, come south with all your strength!”

“I warned your king that this war of his was folly,” Dany reminded him. “He would not listen.”

“Great Cleon sought only to strike down the vile slavers of Yunkai.” (ADWD DANY III)

Though the Yunkish (with their sellswords and legions from New Ghis) are victorious over the already-collapsing Astapor, it’s considered more of a slaughter than an actual battle. They then begin marching toward Meereen. But the Yunkish are famed for training bedslaves, not warriors, and  the Yunkish host is considered remarkably unimpressive by Quentyn and his fellow Windblown sellswords (so much so that the Tattered Prince quickly begins to consider defecting). So it’s clear that any war with Dany would not be an easy win for Yunkai, which backs up Shavepate’s later comments that Yurkhaz feared fighting Dany and her dragons.

Are there any prospects for peace? The Yunkish slavers are fighting for their very existence and way of life. So the potential peace deal, as laid out by Hizdahr, is quite simple —  Dany must pledge to allow the slave trade to continue in Yunkai and all over Essos.

“When you smashed the slave trade, the blow was felt from Westeros to Asshai. Qarth depends upon its slaves. So too Tolos, New Ghis, Lys, Tyrosh, Volantis … the list is long, my queen.”

“Let them come. In me they shall find a sterner foe than Cleon. I would sooner perish fighting than return my children to bondage.”

“There may be another choice. The Yunkai’i can be persuaded to allow all your freedmen to remain free, I believe, if Your Worship will agree that the Yellow City may trade and train slaves unmolested from this day forth. No more blood need flow.”

“Save for the blood of those slaves that the Yunkai’i will trade and train,” Dany said, but she recognized the truth in his words even so. It may be that is the best end we can hope for. (ADWD DANY IV)

As the Yunkish march toward Meereen, and as various other slave powers continue the blockade, Dany sends Hizdahr to negotiate peace on these terms. They agree on this basic deal, but because the Yunkish do not trust Dany, they demand that the more trustworthy Hizdahr be granted a share of power:

“I want no war with Yunkai. How many times must I say it? What promises do they require?”

“Ah, there is the thorn in the bower, my queen,” said Hizdahr zo Loraq. “Sad to say, Yunkai has no faith in your promises. They keep plucking the same string on the harp, about some envoy that your dragons set on fire.”

“Only his tokar was burned,” said Dany scornfully. “Be that as it may, they do not trust you. The men of New Ghis feel the same. Words are wind, as you yourself have so oft said. No words of yours will secure this peace for Meereen. Your foes require deeds. They would see us wed, and they would see me crowned as king, to rule beside you.” (ADWD DANY VI)

So Dany weds Hizdahr, agrees to permit the slave trade to resume beyond Meereen’s walls, and Hizdahr negotiates the peace deal with the Yunkish. And thus Dany’s second peace is made. Of course, it is immediately scuttled by the disaster in the fighting pits and their leader Yurkhaz’s death in the chaos, but that’s hardly the fault of the Yunkish, is it? We get a brief glimpse into Yunkish thinking about the peace deal in a Tyrion chapter that shows they actually took it quite seriously. Even after Yurkhaz ” perished cruelly whilst a guest of Meereen” — surely a good enough pretext for breaking the peace — and after the launch of the Volantene fleet is known, the most important Yunkish lord wants to honor the peace:

“Have the Yunkishmen chosen a new commander?” “The council of masters has been unable to agree. Yezzan zo Qaggaz had the most support…” (ADWD QUENTYN III)

… Tyrion had soon learned that Yezzan stood foremost amongst those Yunkish lords who favored honoring the peace with Meereen. Most of the others were only biding their time, waiting for the armies of Volantis to arrive. A few wanted to assault the city immediately, lest the Volantenes rob them of their glory and the best part of the plunder. Yezzan would have no part of that. Nor would he consent to returning Meereen’s hostages by way of trebuchet, as the sellsword Bloodbeard had proposed. (ADWD TYRION X)

But Yezzan of course quickly dies of the flux. At this point, after the events of the pit, and with the two most reasonable Yunkish lords dead, and the huge reinforcements now known to be coming from Volantis, war may be inevitable. But the idea that the Yunkish all along were simply taking advantage of Dany’s naivete, laughing at her, and plotting treacheries simply is not supported by the text. Like the Harpy, they appear to have genuinely sought a peace, and reached it.

Was war with the Yunkish certain anyway, because of the launch of the Volantene fleet? Tyrion does observe that, after the death of Yurkhaz, “most” Yunkish lords are merely biding their time and waiting for the fleet. If Yurkhaz had certain knowledge that the Volantenes were soon going to come, this would certainly place the peace deal in a very different light. But there’s no evidence that he knew that. If this were the case, and Yurkhaz was always plotting a double-cross, wouldn’t Yezzan have been totally on board with this plan rather than favoring “honoring the peace with Meereen” after the pits?   It’s also possible that — if not for the disaster in the fighting pits — the Dany/Hizdahr regime would have been able to negotiate peace with Volantis as well, promising again to allow the slave trade to continue. The Volantenes are likely not eager for their nice, fancy fleet to face dragonfire, after all.


So, for both the Harpy and the Yunkish, it seems that the supposedly one-dimensional, obviously treacherous, villainous slavers are actually rational actors, able to agree on a mutually beneficial peace. In both cases, the peace deals agreed upon are not scuttled by any actions from the slavers. The Harpy peace is ruined by Barristan’s coup, and the Yunkish peace is ruined by the Drogon-caused disaster at the fighting pits.

So why does Dany herself see things so differently? Upon achieving the twin peaces, why does she feel an overwhelming sense of defeat and dismay? That is, after all, why most readers are so negative about the peaces. To understand Dany’s reaction, we need to take a closer look at what GRRM is doing with her character arc in ADWD. And one reason I think it’s so important that the peaces are real, is that this makes Dany’s arc a lot more interesting.

Next: How Dany chose to sacrifice everything to pursue peace — and then changed her mind.


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35 responses to “Untangling the Meereenese Knot, Part II: The Peace Was Real

  1. Me.

    “Ah, there is the thorn in the bower, my queen,” said Hizdahr zo Loraq. “Sad to say, Yunkai has no faith in your promises. They keep plucking the same string on the harp, about some envoy that your dragons set on fire.” ADWD Dany VI

    Do you think the reference to a harp by Hizdahr is some type of hint as to a connection between the Yunkai and The Harpy?

    Great analysis! I’m looking forward to the rest.

  2. Richard

    I wonder, could you discuss Dany’s decision with regards to the use of wineseller’s daughter for the purposes of her father’s interrogation?

  3. SerCountryFriedSteak

    Boring! (Sorry to start with snark, when you’ve obviously spent a lot of time & energy … and written great essays)

    But your essays can not fix the true problem with Meereen. It’s not engaging. It’s boring.

    I like complex systems (I watched The Wire, ha), but one of the thing which The Wire did was to make the characters interesting. Do you believe that the Green Grace, Hizdahr or Shavepate are more interesting characters now than the first time you read of them? I don’t.

    You’re explaining with a great “No, what Martin really has going on is…” flair, but that doesn’t make it suddenly a great read or great writing or great plotting or great characters.

    • Well, I actually haven’t made that case yet! These first two parts have been devoted to clearing up misconceptions about the basic facts of the Meereen situation. In the next part, which focuses on Dany’s internal conflict and transformation, I will explain why I find it such a great and fascinating plotline. The drama that matters takes place inside Dany’s head.

    • Robb

      Just because something was difficult to understand and was full of intentionally confusing characters your mind doesn’t understand doesn’t make it boring. I’m loving these essays!

  4. gustavo

    I agree with most of the this article, as well the previous.

    However, I still think that Hizdar and the Harpy would have a motive to murder Dany.

    For Meerense nobles, the marrige betewen Dany and Hizdhar was important because it woulg give then the means to influence the ruling of the city.

    Besides, the legal heir of Dany would be Hizdhar, so If they had Dany Killed the would rule themselves through Hizdar,as rightful king.

    However, if Hizdhar was actually tring to poison Dany, I dont think he would poison her himself in front of a lot of witenesses

  5. keep up the great work. an engaging read. 🙂 thanks

  6. This is a really good analysis. I always had the impression that Hizdar made an awfully convenient poisoner, especially since Dany’s not known for being culinarily adventurous and it would make way more sense to poison something she regularly eats, like figs. I think there’s still some mystery about who really did it, but the above breakdown of why the peace was real is very convincing. Again, I always had the impression that things broke down due to intractable circumstances rather than specific evil-ness on anyone’s part, but I didn’t realize how well the details all click. Looking forward to reading the next post!

  7. Lance

    Hm…I must admit I had a more conventional ‘this is kind of boring and Dany is a bad leader’ kind of reaction…but your arguments have preetty much convinced me…I always did wonder about the Shavepate. And I definitely think that Martin likes to fuck with us through the third person limited structure…and I agree where I think you are going vis-a-vis the entirety of Dany’s arc…interesting stuff. I’m going to look on this with new eyes now…

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  9. Andrew

    An excellent article, I enjoyed. I just have one nitpick: the hostages. Dany not killing off the hostages is akin to Ryman Frey threatening to hang Edmure everyday at the Siege of Riverrun, as Jaime says, “Only a fool makes threats he’s not prepared to carry out.” If she didn’t want to kill children she should have chosen older, adult hostages. The result is that the killings of the Sons of the Harpy failed to stop.

    • Would the Harpy killings have stopped if Dany started murdering noble children chosen effectively at random? Or would they have gotten worse than ever before?

      The only thing that actually *did* stop the Harpy killings was the peace deal / marriage alliance with Hizdahr, brokered by the Green Grace. Would such an alliance have been possible if Dany was known to be a murderer of children? Note that the Green Grace proposes the deal after praising Dany’s mercy toward the hostages.

      • Andrew

        We can’t know since it wasn’t put into practice. The truth remains that if Dany wasnt intent on executing her hostages, she shouldn’t have gotten them in the first place. The marriage alliance would likely have been offered anyway even if she hadn’t taken the child hostages and refused to kill them.

        The GG knew that Dany wanted peace, Dany wasn’t going to leave or die anytime soon, and finally, Dany was desperate. Hizdahr as king would have been the most practical solution to the problem that is Dany.

    • I think, that this written out similiarity in situations occurring to Ryman Frey and Daenerys Stormborn is George RR Martins way to tell us, that there are no easy decisions. A tactical advice that makes perfect sense in a situation to which Jaime Lannister has to react, is in no way the right advice in every similiar situation. I also love Martins prose for pointing out moral dilemmas as this. Nothing is easy.

    • bob

      when it comes to noble children the rules in asoiaf (or at least westerose) are different imo. kids, like the stark girls, are taken as tokens but never actually threatened with death to achieve a goal. even jaime himself was taken as a hostage to be a bargaining chip, and not saying “do this or he dies” it was “give us this and you can have him back”. could be totally wrong…but noble hostages seem like theyre never intended to be killed, or even threatened with it. dany didnt grow up in westerose but maybe she still has those values, or maybe she just has a “soft spot” for kids (i.e isnt a terrible person).

  10. CDM

    Awesome post. Truly amazing. I doubt I could have seen all that by myself, and now everything makes sense, I understand far better than before what the characters think, and why they do what they do.
    It’s pretty awesome how Dany managed her two peaces. Can’t wait for your next post!

  11. Interesting reads so far! Looking forward to Part IV.

    I don’t see a way to contact you here, wondering if you could send me an email (amin AT podcastoficeandfire DOT COM). Thanks.

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  13. I think you’re explanation is quite clever, one of the main reasons people hate Dany’s actions in Meereen are related with the chaining of her dragons, we, the readers, forget the dragons of Dany are not pets, they’re actually murder machines… the closer thing to an atomic threat in that land, even when we think they’re cool and awesome, if the dragons were here in our earth, we surely would want them dead or locked up at least,

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  15. Andrew

    Yurkhaz’s death also wasn’t a good pretext for breaking the peace. Yurkhaz wasn’t killed by Drogon or any Meereenese hands, but at the feet of Yunkish friends, relatives and servants who crushed him in their rush to get out.

    • That’s a little too clever, I think. Yurkhaz was promised safety in Meereen (that’s why hostages were exchanged), and then Dany’s dragon attacked the fighting pits. Of course it was an accident, but it was still her dragon causing the chaos that ended up killing the person whose safety she had guaranteed.

      • Andrew

        Drogon didn’t start attacking everyone until he was attacked. Barzena was pretty much dead by the time he started eating, and he seemed to be mining his own business as he ate. Things went to hell when Harghaz stabbed him with a spear and the rest of the men in the pit attacked him. What did they expect when they started throwing spears and shooting crossbow bolts at him? Like any other animal, if he feels threatened he will be inclined to defend himself.

      • Look, my point was that in Drogon’s behavior the Yunkish had a perfectly good *pretext* for breaking the peace — that is, if they wanted something they could *point to* to justify breaking the peace, to their own people, to make Dany look bad, they had it. Sure, there are arguments that Dany is being unfairly blamed, but the reality is, when a dragon shows up and ruins the peace ceremony, most people will hold the mother of dragons responsible. Dany’s people could argue “Hey, it was all Harghaz’s fault” all they want, but at the end of the day the Yunkish are the ones with a dead commander and they’re the ones who need to be convinced.

        For people naturally disposed to give Dany and Drogon the benefit of the doubt, your explanation makes perfect sense. From the Yunkish perspective, they had been promised a peaceful peace ceremony, but then Dany’s pet monster blew into the fighting pits and started feasting on human flesh, which naturally led to terror and chaos, attempts at self-defense, and the death of their commander.

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  18. Snackbarian

    so ser barristan can not cope with that all. he ruined the peace with the harpy. but not with yunkai. yunkai was besieging the city even during the peace. it seems reasonable that a third party – like the shavepates – have a great interest in the poisoning of someone big – BUT MAYBE it wasnt meant to be dany, or not dany alone, but several high rank people, including hizdahr? yes skahaz is a bit of petyr baelish, but less lucky it seems, or less sophisticated.

    do you believe the attack by sir barristan is insignificant to the total plot? I think it may be significant (a symbolical victory over the forces of slavery). however in the end its not about the iron throne or political power, its about saving the world from the others. Im a supporter of the theory that danny is the azor ahai, her sword being the dragon.

    in any way, Im looking forward for bloodbaths and even more for the battle as will be depicted in the TV series – unless the world is covered by the blanket of nuclear winter by then (let us pray to the lord of light that it will not).


  19. Dragon

    It was a mistaken to leave noble alive at all. When you (1) know who your enemies are and (2) where they live and (3) they are raping and killing your people and (4) you have DRAGONS… It is completely ridiculous that they continued to live. They should have all been dragon food on day 1 of her rule. You can’t compromise with snakes like the Ghiscari.

  20. 1. great points, adam

    2. i don’t get what’s wrong with Daario’s “Green Wedding”. kill all the slavers, you have no enemies in your city. she already massacred two cities, she already had enemies, the city-states were already conspiring. i don’t know the demographics, but let’s say 50% slaves, 40% poor meereenese, 10% slaver meereenese.

    if she redistributed the slaver’s wealth to the meereenese people as reward, and if she had the power of dragons and unsullied as threat of punishment, wouldn’t she be much safer?

    • Mike Heywood

      And the fact that she balks at outright massacres of her enemies is what sets her apart from the likes of Tywin Lannister.

      But if you want practical reasons why not, consider this: The “Green Wedding” plan you’re defending would turn everyone else in Essos against her, with only the possible exception of Braavos (if their animosity towards slavers overrode their animosity towards murderers and dragons). Even with dragons, she couldn’t defeat that big a force coming for her. And there would be no negotiating with them. That requires that each party trust that the other won’t kill them at the table, and Daenerys would shatter that trust if she did go through with the massacre. So it’s a spectacularly bad idea.

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  23. Cameron Herrington

    This essay series is illuminating and interesting, but I fundamentally have real problems with the notion that the peace is 1. real, and 2. in and of itself worthwhile.

    I’d encourage everyone to read Steven Attewell’s essay: A Laboratory of Politics Part VI, which focuses on the politics of Slaver’s Bay.


    He explains better than I ever could, and his citations from the text have more context in my opinion:

    Re the peace being real:

    “a peace that re-reestablishes Yunkai and Astapor as slave cities, allows Yunkai to open a slave market outside Meereen’s walls (after Dany has herself permitted people to sell themselves back into slavery), allows the Yunkish to own slaves in Meereen, and critically restores the Great Masters to political domination of Meereen. Just as was the case in Reconstruction, the objective is to restore power of the master over the slave as much as possible…Even after the offer has been made and accepted, the Yunkish keep all of their military forces in place.”

    “And the Volantenes haven’t arrived yet (nor have the Dothraki khalasar that the Yunkish have also been reaching out to) – and the peace doesn’t give the Volantenes what they want. As discussed in the last part of Laboratory of Politics, the Yunkish offered the Volantenes the chance to sack Meereen, and a peace deal hardly gives them that. I see no reason why the “Dany/Hizdahr regime would have been able to negotiate peace with Volantis as well”11 – the Volantenes just uprooted their entire political order and went to huge expense to mobilize for war, the entire city is dreaming of empire and riches, they’re not going to turn around just because the Yunkish say so.”

    Regarding any notion that peace in Slaver’s Bay, (or allowing the institution of chattel slavery to continue to exist) is a good thing:

    “If the price of peace with Yunkai was to accept the restoration of slavery in Yunkai and Astapor, and the re-establishment of the slave trade across Slaver’s Bay, then in a very real sense it’s not peace at all. The slaves of Yunkai and Astapor, in their thousands and tens of thousands, will continue to experience not only the “perpetual existential violence” of being a slave, but the very physical violence of being mutilated, raped, and murdered on a yearly basis – as Dany acknowledges. I cannot see how one can argue that peace of this nature is preferable to war without privileging the lives of the Yunkish and Meereenese nobles who might die in this war over the lives of the slaves who will suffer in peace for who knows how many more thousands of years.”

    In conclusion, KILL THE MASTERS!!!!

  24. I take exception to one conclusion in this article which perhaps seems unconnected but is very much connected to the wider real-world parallels of the Mereen plotline – “However, it’s a very important point that despite this savagery they appear to be rational, controlled, and interest-based, rather than jihadist or driven purely by extremism.”
    It’s often portrayed that Islamic Extremists act without self-interest – they do not. As my ‘National Security’ professor responded to one student’s exclamation that “They’d have to be crazy to do what they do” – “They’re not crazy, they’re rational people who have – to them – good reasons for doing what they do and a strategy connected to why they do it.” The so-called ‘An Bar Awakening’ in which General Patreaus managed to get the Sunni militants to pacify and police THEMSELVES by offering them resources and support proves that what we know as Islamic Extremism or Jihadism – separate from the truly radical sects of Islam like Wahhabism or Sufism – is mostly motivated by immediate, tangible self-interest. To mistake that Islamic Extremists (sans the truly radical and self-defeating ones like Daesh – which was its own unique beast) are savage without interest or goal is to make the same mistake about the Harpy – and they are very much linked thematically, as I pointed out in my prior comment on your last article.

    I bring this up, so that I might share an anecdote given to me by a buddy who worked security on convoys during and immediately after the Invasion of Iraq and help put into focus the importance of the parallel between the two forces. When his unit pulled into Baghdad, it was bedlam. At first jubilant, victorious, but quickly devolving into looting and come nightfall gunfire lit the streets as electricity failed and crime and personal vendetta spawned a bloodletting of which the US forces were largely unable – and to be perfectly honest, unwilling – to quell. This happened for weeks and weeks but the morning after the first day a man in a suit presented himself to my buddy’s unit commander – he was apparently a doctor and prominent in the community and offered himself up as a guide and a translator for the unit during their stay in the area. The CO saw this as a boon – the confusion of the city those first few nights being outside of an infantryman’s wheelhouse, understandably – and so went on a tour of the community with this man. Over the next few days he gave them tons of insight into the social, economic, political, religious make-up of the community and of Iraq in general. He helped them navigate the communication hurtles during their tasks in the city and was generally very helpful and informative. One day he disappeared.

    It turned out that he wasn’t just feeding information BACK to the insurgency, he was leading his own cell. There’s your ‘Green Grace’ – never mistake the goals or intentions of a self-proclaimed Jihadi. My buddy’s story wasn’t a singular occurrence. It happened elsewhere, even famously-so, recounted in Evan Wright’s ‘Generation Kill’ and the resultant HBO series. Maybe GRRM read it or saw the series – maybe he came across other accounts elsewhere. Perhaps he didn’t, but if you understand the war in Iraq you will understand the Mereen sub-plot, as one undoubtedly informed the other. To contrast one by comparing it to the other is a misstep that will mislead you. They’re the same thing. There’s a wealth of understanding when you view it through this lens, but to do so successfully you have to understand both the fiction and the reality.

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