Originally betrothed to her brother, then traded in marriage to a Dothraki warrior by said betrothed brother, Daenerys Targaryen started off in a bad place for someone born to the only family that allows women to truly rule the Seven Kingdoms. Then again, she is Daenerys Stormborn.
Daenerys, or Dany, as author George R.R. Martin likes to call her, is one of the multiple characters laying claim to the Iron Throne, and the only woman. Her family, House Targaryen, is the only house to allow women to rule. It also likes its brothers and sisters to marry each other. No one’s perfect. Dany avoids marrying her brother, Viserys, though not for modernly righteous reasons. Viserys, as the son in the family, has a claim before his sister (again, this is not a feminist Utopia by any stretch), so uses her as trade to gain what he needs to win back the throne. He marries Dany off to Khal Drogo, a warrior with a huge army. You’ve heard this story before, though possibly without the incest.
SPOILER ALERT: As sometimes happens in exile, Viserys meets an untimely death, as does the khal, leaving Dany as the (potential) queen.
As commander of a rather ragged band, Dany is taking the long way back to Westeros. Her character has been traveling through literally another part of the world. While this part seems to technically allow a woman to run the show, they don’t always like it, and they don’t make it easy. Fortunately Dany has a few dragons with her, so that helps. What makes her character truly intriguing though, is how her youth meets her wisdom, and how this plays out in her decision-making. At one point, when she still queen (or rather khaleesi) to Drogo (the khal), her people win a battle and the men take their bounty, which includes raping the women on the losing side. Dany doesn’t allow this, and takes the women under her protection. Her new law doesn’t go over well with the men who were looking forward to their plunder, but they do obey. Later on, this comes back to her when she is left alone, with these women who have nowhere else to go, and isn’t sure how she will care for them.
Dany is learning as she goes, yet remains a product of her upbringing. She is just as willing to kill and conquer as any man, but does seem to take issue with certain aspects of “business as usual.” Granted, she’s in another part of the world, continually encountering other cultures, so this could also be seen as a form of cultural bias. That said, she is erring on the side of more people being free. Like all those vying for the throne, her choices always weigh themselves in favor of her winning, knowing that this will result in a lot of death. Not terribly feminist. Then again, she will be doing it with an army of freed slaves.
Will Daenerys continue to make up the rules where she can and attempt to rule with a little more heart, or will she fall into the traps of kings before her, and be seduced by power to the point of winning at any cost? The beauty of Martin’s world is that it doesn’t leave you with a clear path to the answer.
For more on my thoughts on feminism and A Song of Ice and Fire, check out my post for Spike the Water Cooler.
*photo from wallpaperstock.net