Viserys Targaryen III, Beggar King
|World of Westeros - People|
|Thursday, 20 May 2010 01:50|
He lay on the ground, sucking in air noisily, red-faced and sobbing. He was a pitiful thing. He had always been a pitiful thing. Why had she never seen that before?
— A Game of Thrones
Some people are born failures, some achieve failure, and some have failure thrust upon them. Viserys is an extraordinary compound of all three. The murder of Rhaegar’s children left Viserys the heir to the Iron Throne, though as a child of eight, he had no way of defending his claim. He was forced to flee and has been running ever since. Viserys sustains a healthy paranoia about the pursuit of his enemies. Perhaps he is right to do so. With their violet eyes and silver hair, he and his sister Daenerys are all too obviously descended from the royal blood of Old Valyria. It is impossible to disguise the children of the Dragon.
Unfortunately, along with his distinctive colouring, Viserys inherits a less salubrious characteristic of his family. The Targaryen tradition has always been to marry brother to sister, a breeding habit that may preserve lilac eyes and platinum hair, but does nothing to enhance mental stability. Viserys is the product of many centuries’ close inbreeding, and his wild rages and high nervous laughter bode ill for his house.
Viserys can neither make practical plans nor put them into action. Entirely subsidised by Magister Illyrio of Pentos, Viserys demands to be treated deferentially but has no power to command such respect. He wants to be honoured for what he is rather than what he does, because he does nothing. Without money or arms, his situation smacks more of the vagrant than the monarch, and the guttersnipes of Pentos speak too true when they call him the Beggar King.
Fortunately for Viserys, Illyrio is patient as well as shrewd. Seeing the potential usefulness of the last Targaryens, it is his idea to marry Daenerys to Khal Drogo, the leader of a mighty Dothraki khalasar, in exchange for the use of the Khal’s troops in the retaking of Westeros, and the promise of a golden crown. Viserys’s enthusiastic response to the idea reveals a lot about him. There is something odd about the way Viserys lets Illyrio broker this deal without getting more involved in it. It is his crown and country after all, his over-riding passion, but he never works at making it real. His idea seems to be a vague assumption that someone else will do everything and give him the crown, which he will then keep because it is his right.
Even coming from a culture used to arranged marriages, Viserys is remarkably ready to give his sister to a complete stranger. A lot of this comes down to Viserys’s attitude towards Daenerys. He has always resented her because of the death of their mother. Conversely, he also sees her as his possession, his wife if he wishes it, his commodity if need be, but most of all, his slave. Deeply inadequate as an heir to his house, Viserys seems only able to command his sister. “Waking the wrath of the Dragon” is Viserys’s own delusional phrase for bullying his sister, a little boy tormenting an even smaller girl. He never considers whether Daenerys will be respected or even well treated. On a subconscious level, this is the last thing he wants,
Viserys misjudges the situation, though. To have his sister used by Khal Drogo would be acceptable, but he is not prepared to see her become a real queen: confident, happy, and central as he waits on the sidelines. He keeps trying to make her ashamed of her status, trying to remind her of her “true” self rather than her new self. In her old life, he was special; in the new life he is not, so the old is good and the new is bad. His sense of ego is so fragile that the only way he can maintain it is through disdain of all around him.
Viserys decides the Dothraki are savages, and so he learns neither their language nor their customs. He feels frustrated because Khal Drogo has not yet gone to war for him, but both Illyrio and Jorah Mormont tell him that the Dothraki, while trustworthy, do things in their own time. He grows increasingly impatient at the delay, though his rages are never directed at Khal Drogo; for all his fury, Viserys lacks physical courage. Instead, he tries unsuccessfully to take it out on his sister. Each of these confrontations brings Viserys closer to ruin. First, he is reduced to walking — a great insult among the Dothraki riders. He is then seated in a cart, a status that is even more ignominious to the Dothraki. By the time Viserys commits the final mistakes of brandishing a steel blade in the holy city where such things are forbidden and threatening Daenerys and her unborn child with it, his hosts are more than sick of him. Even Daenerys finds little more than pity in her heart for him when they “crown” him with a cooking pot full of boiling gold.