September 16, 2011

The Dragontamer

Quentyn Martell (Copyright by FFG)
Quentyn can't sleep. He is restless before the task before him, pacing the room. He tries to convince himself of what he is doing. To test himself, he holds his hand over a candle flame, but it burns him like it's supposed to be. Gerris wakes at his calamity, telling him that he should calm down, preferrably by fucking a woman. Quentyn is appalled, but Gerris drives home the point that he is no experience with women and that Daenerys needs a man. Besides, he makes the point that she is married anyway, but Quentyn tries to argue that she doesn't love Hizdahr, a claim he knows is of no relevance, which Gerris confirms. Quentyn thinks about his father, Doran, who rued the love marriage he made for years and years. He thinks about their plan, calling it an adventure with him as hero in the center, mourns the death of his three companions and goes back to bed full of regrets.

The following night, they mask themselves as Brazen Beasts. Pretty Meris told them the password of the day, and they can enter the pyramid without interference. Inside, they meet with Meris and other Windblown, who have brought two big carts full of meat and chains to prepare the dragons to leave. After a short exchange, they go down to the pit. The guards in front of the door there clearly have another password, as they attack the moment Quentyn calls their own. The ensuing fight is won by the Windblown easily enough, but Quentyn escaped death only by a hair since he is terrified to the bone once the slaughter commences.

Since the conspirators don't have door keys, they break down the door to the dragon pit. Great hit welcomes them, and anxiously they go inside. Rhaegal sits there, his chains broken. Quentyn nearly retches, but he tries to control Rhaegal when he remembers that Viserion isn't to be seen. He looks up and realizes that the other dragon dug a whole in the pyramid's foundations to sleep in, and then the dragon is already descending. All he can do it to croak an order to feed the dragons, but after Viserion roasts and devours the first sheep, a Windblown crossbowmen shoots a barrel and is killed for it. Quentyn tries to diesengage the situation and evolving panic, leashes at Viserion and repeatedly calling him. Suddenly, Rhaegal lands behind him, and the next second Quentyn is set ablaze.

And thus ends the Martell prince. Quentyn's journey was a fool's quest, and he was a bit like a male counterpart of Sansa, the head filled with stories and songs and convinced that believing and hoping would make it so. This was not the case, however. Instead, Quentyn's story arc is the demonation of the classic knight's quest, countering it with every step. In the end, he didn't tame the dragon; he was devoured by it, and all the naivity died with it. From the beginning, Quentyn was not shaped for it.

He was a very solid, very grounded person, without big ambitiones. In this very chapter he states that he would rather go back, kiss the Drinkwater twins, marry the Yronwood girl, conduct some tourneys, meet his mother and read some books. He is in this for all the wrong reasons: the thinks he is weak (which he is) and that he is not a fierce man (which is right) and that he would disappoint his father when he gave up (which he would). However, all of this is a negative emotion, he is in for fear of failure and desperately thinks it necessary to prove his worth. That is something that wouldn't occur to Aryanne; she is certain of it. That Quentyn thinks that Dany gave him a quest when she showed him the dragons or that he tries his Targaryen blood with a candle tells everything about how his mind works; he is lost entirely in his own imaginations.

Quentyn is not a bad person or necessarily a stupid one, too. He just isn't made for the kind of action he is in. Aryanne was the one that should have done this mission, and he should have stayed behind and helped his father to manage his complicated conspiracy structure. It was the random chance of birth, both in sex as in order of the two children that determined who had to perform which task. Cersei would have seen her point proven by it once more do doubt. We can see Quentyn's intellectual capabilities and the abilities as a ruler when he reflects upon marriage and duty. He understands, like Aryanne doesn't, that emotion has to stay behind reason when one rules. He knows the full implications of ruling, the dangers and the hardships of it. He knows nothing of life. With Aryanne, it's the exact opposite.

7 comments:

  1. This was one of my favorite chapters upon re-read.

    Quentyn's whole arc is tragic, but what makes the culmination of his story particularly tragic is that after failure upon failure, he comes so close to pulling success from defeat. What he does in the dragonpit is incredibly heroic if foolhardy, and in the moment right before Rhaegal roasts him, he finds his courage and nearly forces Viserion to submit (compare what he does to Dany striking Drogon across the face with the whip before the latter submits). But it's not to be.

    I'll give GRRM his credit on this chapter, too. You don't know right up until the end that Quentyn is going to fail - all we know about his effort before the chapter begins is the report at the end of the Ser Barristan chapter that the dragons are loose.

    Good point about the knight's quest. In a simpler, more traditional epic fantasy story, Quentyn would be the hero.

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  2. That all said about Quentyn, which I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment on, I do think Arianne is starting to learn now that she feels she has the trust and confidence of her father finally.

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  3. I had to laugh at myself after reading this chapter, especially the second time. How did I let myself fall for this "dragon quest" plotline? GRRM has proven time and again that he is blowing up all typical fantasy conventions. And I'm not even a guy who has read a lot of fantasy. Yet, there I was anxiously if Quentyn could win his dragons - and his damsel in distress and capture his dragons. I'm an idiot. Long live GRRM!

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  4. Do not sell Quentyn so short. I believe his role is not yet done in the series. He is an incredibly determined character. I will admit that he is incredibly scared of failing, both to his father and his kingdom; however, that is the motivation and determination that drives him. That motivation is not necessarily better than anybody else's: revenge, gain, and glory (hold righteousness).

    The previous chapter reveled that the dragons were released. Yes. He may remain in shock in the arena; or, he may be riding one (unlikely). Might he be rewarded by the dragon queen or perhaps he be even more looked down on (it could go either way) by her.

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  5. Unfortunately, he's dead in the next chapter. :)

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