“A lot of people read ‘A Feast For Crows’ and are perplexed. There’s hardly any Jon, there is no white walkers, there’s no Dany, there’s no dragons, there’s no Tyrion, there is no Stannis the mannis, there’s no ice and there’s no fire. Instead we get a story about some acolytes at the citadel, we follow Sam on a boat trip, we follow around Brienne, wandering. We follow Jaime, wandering, sad about his hand, we watch Cersei descend into madness and we follow around Arianne Martell on a seemingly pointless quest to put Myrcella on the throne. Now that quest was only stopped so that the Quentyn quest could go forward, but that one fails as well. So what’s the deal? Was that whole book pointless? No, it’s all part of the Dornish Master Plan.”
Except that it isn’t. I just narrated the intro to the popular “Dornish Master Plan” series of the youtuber and ASoIaF conspiracy master Preston Jacobs. Like everyone else he was rather baffled with Doran Martell, someone Tywin Lannister of all people considers a dangerous man. Yet all of his appearances mark his as weak and ineffective. Even in his supposed scheming. And so Preston has come up with a theory he calls the Dornish Master plan, a plan in which Doran Martell has meticulously schemed a lot of the plot points occuring in the book series in order to exact revenge and come out as number one. Oh, and he’s also preserving and trying to spread his Rhoynish culture towards the rest of Westeros. Preston’s theories require a lot of text from the books and he quotes many characters and what they say to back up his theories. But therein lies the biggest flaw of his theories: he relies on plot elements, not the themes of A Song of Ice and Fire.
But before I clarify, let me leave the links to his video series here. I’ve watched them, I find them enjoyable and I agree with several elements. And you will probably need to have at least some understanding of what he says before you can read my criticisms. Otherwise… Why are you here?
Here are the links:
Now let me invoke the wrath of the Preston fans. cracks knuckles
Analyze once said, ever the soul of wisdom that he is, that while Preston does provide interesting theories he tends to prioritise plot over character development. The theories generally explore what people are doing with a superficial explanation as to the why. Doran wants vengeance and to restore the Rhoynish empire, so he’s been scheming his entire life to make it happen. That is good for a story, but it isn’t George R.R. Martin’s style. After all, what is A Song of Ice and Fire? In a sense it’s a realistic representation of Lord of the Rings. Martin has said in an interview with the Rolling Stones that he specifically criticises Tolkien for just saying that Aragorn, because he’s a good man, ruled well. Being the student of history, Martin points out this isn’t a reality. “Ruling is hard”, he argues, and we need to know the details of how Aragorn ruled to determine if he ruled well during his reign.
A Song of Characters and Themes
Because of this A Song of Ice and Fire is a deconstruction of the High Fantasy genre Tolkien created. Martin takes specifical tropes ever so typical of that genre, and the medieval fantasy genre, and tries to realistically portray them. Honourable characters like Ned and Robb are inflexible and stubborn, clinging to stupid courses of actions because it’s “the right thing to do.” Ned will back up Stannis because he’s the rightful heir and gets killed because of Littlefinger’s actions. Robb respects the honour of a girl he had sex with and marries her, breaking an important marriage pact with the Freys. We all know how that ends. So there are no good heroes saving the day in this story.
But even the bad guys are deconstructed. Tywin is a brutal, horrible man who commits attrocities during war and is always looking to make his house stronger. However, he also turns out to be a competent ruler and administrator in peace time. Ramsay Bolton rules with fear and terror and unlike in the tv show that is presented as bad. He’s considered a wild dog, nobody likes him and nobody will mourn his death. His daddy Roose is even in trouble because Ramsay does what he wants, as Ramsay callously raping Arya/Jeyne is rallying the other Northern lords against the Boltons. Stannis got 3,000 men! from the Mountain clans who specifically want to rescue Eddard Stark’s daughter. An insignficant foe turns into someone who fields the same amount of men as the Boltons. All because Ramsay was being stupid evil.
I chose these examples in order to highlight the nuances and complexities of these characters. And to show a contrast with how Preston portrays Doran Martell. Preston plays the trope of the “chessmaster”, which TvTropes would argue Doran is, straight. George R.R. Martin, on the other hand, deconstructs it.
The prince of Sunspear is a schemer, who has been secretely planning the downfall of Tywin Lannister for the brutal murder of his sister and to restore the Targaryens back to power (to use them according to Preston). And so Preston argues that being the clever chessmaster he is Doran has his invisible hand in a lot of what goes on. But that’s the trope being played straight. It isn’t a deconstruction. It isn’t complex.
So how does one deconstruct the chessmaster type? Simple: one highlights the flaws and difficulties of being secretive, on making overly convoluted plans that rely on details you don’t necessarily know and on how presenting yourself to be one way can backfire immensely. Which Doran Martell knows intimately. He’s seen as weak in a feudal society where strength is everything. He intends to wed Arianne to Viserys without knowing how insane the Targaryen truly is and his hot-blooded family members constantly disrupt his plans. He only understands the value of communication after Arianne tries to crown Myrcella and he doesn’t know his son enough to know Quentyn never gives up, even if that is what his father wanted.
To Die or Not to Die? Stupid Question…
All of the Tyrion chapters in ASoS and the Dorne chapters highlight the flaws of making big plans for vengeance and what the cost of it is. After all, he loses his beloved brother and his beloved son, which I refuse to believe he planned for in any way, shape or form. Preston argues Oberyn had to draw a confession out of the Mountain, but I refuse to believe Doran ever wanted his brother to put himself into mortal danger. Now you could argue that these were unexpected consequences he didn’t plan for. And that’s exactly the point. Doran may have a plan, but he’s only human and he doesn’t know everything. Mistakes will be made in any plan and the consequences can spin out of your control.
And that’s really what Doran’s story is about. It’s about trying to demonstrate that a chessmaster needs to be more than just a schemer with a end goal in mind. Doran thinks about the future and the past, but he doesn’t seem capable of adapting to the current situation. The here and now. He doesn’t realise that if he stays silent (as a master planner is wont to do for fear of revealing his plans) his family members won’t know that he’s up to something and therefore act on their own accord. That’s why Arianne tries to crown Myrcella. That’s why Oberyn and Quentyn put themselves in mortal danger and pay the ultimate price. That’s why Doran spends a lot of his time trying to mitigate the damage that his family members cause. That’s why his original target, Tywin Lannister, dies before Doran has a chance to “strip him of all he held dear.” That’s why he is, indeed, weak in this game of thrones. That’s why such a person can’t survive in real life.
After all, Varys and Littlefinger are more succesful because they demonstrate that you need to communicate about what you’re doing. Especially if they’re your allies who have demonstrated they can be trusted and that they may have similar motivations and goals. Or that you can just buy them off. Martin demonstrates this with the Arianne chapters: at first she mocks her own father, even to his face, yet one emotional conversation between father and daughter was enough to make her loyal and respect her father more. Myrcella didn’t need to lose an ear.
And this is arguably the greatest flaw to the Preston Jacobs Dorne theory. It ignores the fundamental aspect that humans beings are flawed, emotional creatures who can never know everything and that therefore any plan they ever make will go awry.
Let’s Learn Some Science!
Sure, there are other mistakes Preston makes, but those are mostly details and ironically they rely on him only quoting specific sentences or pieces of dialogues. And while those are of course useful as pieces of evidence to back up his claims, it’s difficult to trust specific sentences in a novel series famous for its unreliable narrators who don’t know much about science. Of course, most of these are just details (like Tyrion being bankrupted by the Second Sons), but some of these details are glaring enough that they can destroy an entire theory. An example of this is found in the theory that Quentyn is still alive.
In his Quentyn is alive video Preston spends a lot of time explaining flammability in order to demonstrate that Quentyn wasn’t burned by dragon flame, but by a furnace wind. And I agree. The details Preston presents do lead me to come to that conclusion. But here’s the problem: being exposed to a furnace wind is lethal. It results in humans getting third degree burns, which you can get from putting a finger in water with a degree of 150°C. A furnace wind is much hotter than that. The hot oven Preston uses as a point of comparison is usually around 200°C. Quentyn was aflame, as Preston admits, so chances are he’ll have third degree burns everywhere. Even with today’s modern medical aid there is a 69% mortality rate from suffering such wounds. And that’s if you get aid immediately. Where did Gerris and Arch get a maester to help him out, exactly?
Don’t get me wrong, Preston’s theory also brings up a lot of good points. At its heart lies a connection between Qyburn and Doran Martell and I honestly believe the books provide some arguments that they are communicating. Though not necessarily via a glass candle. A raven could’ve alerted Doran Martell about the Mountain’s skull as well. I also believe that the prince of Dorne is up to something, more than simply marrying off one of his children to a Targaryen. He is, after all, still a chessmaster. Therefore I do hope Doran’s plan will unfold in the next book, but I also expect it to fail. Because at the heart of Martin’s writing style, as Preston will happily agree to, our beloved writer always tends to establish something and then break expectations. While the books don’t out right spell that Doran has a master plan enough details are given to make a reader assume Doran is up to something. So why not deconstruct that and make it seem that Doran’s story is ultimately a shaggy dog tale as well? Especially since Doran carries many secretive flaws that will most likely be his undoing?
Still, it’s an enjoyable theory and I would suggest you check out Preston’s videos if you haven’t already. Because he will most definitely give you something to think about and he’s definitely sold me on a few of the details. So go to his videos, grab some crisps and have yourself a merry time. I know I will!
- When Littlefinger Gets Littlefingered – Why the Baelish Death Scene Makes No Sense
- There Must Always be a Stark in Winterfell – The Paradoxical Thing About Stark Rule in Game of Thrones
- To Burn or Not to Burn – Why There is Power in King’s Blood
Copyright: The images used in this article are screenshots taken from the episodes of the show. We are allowed to use them under section 107 of the US Copyright Act of 1976. Game of Thrones is created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, belongs to HBO and was inspired by the book series “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin.