Sore Is the Ass That Sits the Iron Throne – What “Fire & Blood” Says About Leadership


Analyze still asleep when his guest arrives for a good morning hug.

What makes a good leader the goodest? As the fearless leader of “Analytical Madness” I know it is important to stand tall in the face of adversity. To present a strict, yet loveable, a stoic, yet relatable, a vulnerable, yet truly unflinching image. But that’s really hard when an inconsiderate asshole refuses to die properly and instead hurts your poor little toes. So, in these times of great hardship, I thought I would take inspiration from one of the greatest leaders, heroes, a truly strong man, who’s muscle mass is likely only exceeded by his handsomeness: Archmaester Gyldayn. So let’s buckle our swordbelts, tilt our crowns sideways in that really cool way and leave our Sams behind so we can learn what leadership is all about by taking a detailed look at George R.R. Martin’s “Fire & Blood.”

Maddy: “So tell me, sage king…”

Analyze: “Sage warrior king.”

Maddy: “…what is thine verdict, mine glorious Analyze?”

Oh yeah babeh!

Just look at precious Gyldayn’s eyes, if that isn’t flirting I don’t know what is.

Analyze: “Well Maddius, my main verdict is that most assuredly Archmaester Gyldayn is the way, the truth and the life.”

Maddy: “Everybody loves somebody sometiiiiime.”

Analyze: “He has a great many fantastic insights about the personality of…”

Maddy: “Everybody falls in love somehoooooow.”

Analyze: “A ruler and concepts like legitimacy. He really…”

Maddy: “Something in your ki-“

Analyze: “Will you shut your mouth!?”

Maddy: “-ss. I’m done.”

Too Legitimate To Quitimate

Analyze: “Thank Gyldayn. So as I was saying, legitimacy is very important to a ruler. Do you know what that is, Maddius?”

Maddy: “Well de-“

Analyze: “Of course you don’t. Legitimacy is to what extent the authority of a ruler is accepted.”

Maddy: “Which is most easily accomplished by knowing which end of your sword to stick people with.”

Analyze: “I-“

Maddy: “It’s the pointy end.”

Analyze wants you all to know he'd like to test this out on Maddy.

Here Jon teaches us rule number 1: To stick them with the pointy end.

Analyze: “Yes, very insightful. But you might find it difficult to rule over millions who want you dead. I think the sexiest man in the world makes it quite clear that it’s better to avoid that in the first place and get people on board. Like through religion. Aenys I lost the approval of the High Septon and was denounced by him and, as a result, we got the uprising of the Faith Militant.”

Maddy: “After daddy had spent all that time trying to get along with the faithful. He was even wise enough to specifically convert to the Faith of the Seven and get annoyed by the High Septon…”

Analyze: “Annointed?”

Maddy: “That too. All to increase his legitimacy after burning thousands of people alive on the Field of Fire.”

Analyze: “Too bad Larra Rogare didn’t learn that lesson. Maybe then the palace coup of Aegon III could’ve been averted. In the real world Catherine the Great actually made perfect use of this as well. When she became wife to the future Russian Tsar, she converted to Eastern Orthodoxy and showed her devotion and the people loved her for it. Loved her a little too much for her poor husband, actually.”

Maddy: “Which is ironically one of the reasons the people of King’s Landing despised her. They thought that, much like our beloved Catherine did, Larra was planning to grab power.”

Jaehaerys hit dat.

Jaehaerys getting away with marrying his sister due to proper use of propaganda.

Analyze: “That’s the thing, isn’t it? When you have legitimacy people want you to rule and so you can get away with that shit. Jaehaerys got away with marrying his sister, while his siblings did not because his father Aenys did not have seven speakers, mostly septons and septas, spreading the doctrine of exceptionalism to boost his legitimacy attribute by 100 points.”

Maddy: “I take offense to that, good sir. The name of Jaehaerys’ wife is Alysanne, you sexist pig. She was the one to help add 50 of those points to his legitimacy, as she helped him rule and spent a lot of time uniting the realm through weddings.”

Analyze: “Then again, weddings didn’t work out very well for Queen Victoria from our world. She did her best to plan weddings between her descendants and royal families all over Europe. Yet this was followed by a little tiff, you might have heard of it, called World War I.”

Maddy: “To be fair, the old, yucky apple of your eye also goes into great detail about how weddings are the perfect tool of propaganda to unite the realm. Two people being openly married serves to greatly bolster legitimacy. This is best demonstrated with Aegon III and Jaehaera’s very public wedding after Westerosi War 5000. Aegon’s regents specifically wanted those two halves of the family to marry to symbolise the union of the greens and the blacks.”

Analyze: “Not only that, but the commoners love to gawk at the ‘hundreds of knights on caparisoned palfreys’ riding by and during the War of the White Cloaks that followed the Golden Wedding of Rogar Baratheon and Alyssa Velaryon they picked favourite contenders and were quite happy to cheer for them.”

Maddy: “You sound like the fair maiden Sansa Stark. Wide-eyed, loving the magical nature of it all. The tourneys, the splintered lances, the gay men giving you roses and winking…” *wink*

Analyze: “Well, I’m only saying that since these joyous times would be remembered for many years to come, I can only imagine people remembering the singing ‘Keg o’ Ale’ will be of comfort to them when their lords are taxing them so much they can barely eat as they try to till their vast lands. And it’s more people spreading word of your gloriousness, more bards singing of it. Way more memorable than any of your precious Alysanne’s weddings.”

Maddy: “Mayhaps, but Alysanne was far better a propagandist than Rogar and Alyssa combined. Weddings were just one of her weapons. Her lovable charm, petite frame and cute smile were others. They were so powerful that our Targaryen Eleanor of Aquitaine managed to improve relationships with the notoriously cold Alaric Stark, a person from a completely foreign culture. If you read the rest of the book your sweet archmaester wrote you’ll find it’s a bit difficult for people from different cultures to live together as equals.”

Analyze: “It’s a blockade pointed out more than once. One reason the Rogare’s social climbing was not accepted is pointed out by the manliest of maesters, because they were Lysene and not Westerosi lords. If they’d been Westerosi lords, he states, they would’ve probably been admired for it.”

Maddy: “Admired for all the stabbing, the prostitution, marrying above your station, eating exotic foods and hoarding lots and lots and lots of money! Truly admirable qualities for any ruler.”

Analyze: “They certainly didn’t do Stilicho any favours. He was the power behind the throne for real-life emperor of Honorius, as I’m sure even the inebriated of peasants know, and he also happened to be barbarian scum.”

Maddy: “Hey, they weren’t barbarians! They were vandals.”

Analyze: “Yes, much better. He married his daughter off to the emperor and became a consul. A barbarian rising so high in the Roman ranks was not appreciated by many. And the Archmaester brilliantly reflects that in his tome with the Lysene spring.”

Maddy: “The previous Essosi people with Valyrian roots didn’t have that problem. When Aegon landed he had this little thing called a dragon to smoothe things out.”

Significant Symbols Skillfully & Simply Spelled Out

Analyze: “As Maegor demonstrates, having been kicked out for this reason, pure unadulterated violence is not always sufficient for rulling. Aegon was a wee bit smarter about using symbols for this purpose. He adopted heraldry, for example.

Maddy wrote that one.

The dragon sigil Aegon Targaryen adopted after conquering the Seven Kingdoms in an attempt to integrate himself in the culture of Westeros. A fine example of the perfect immigrant, this one.

Maddy: “Also a dragon!”

Analyze: “Heraldry wasn’t a big thing in Valyria, yet showed the Westerosi savages he was one of them. Which is another thing the book highlights. The power of symbolism to help bestow that much needed legitimacy.”

Maddy: “And the dragons themselves became a symbol of power and legitimacy as well. The Targaryens who could hatch and ride a dragon, like Rhaenyra, were destined for greatness. Some kind of greatness, at the very least.

Analyze: “Great at losing!”

Maddy: “Those who didn’t, like Vaegon “the Dragonless” Targaryen, are considered a historic footnote even by your beloved archmaester.”

Analyze: “And damn right he is! Rhaenyra actually tried to use this to her advantage by making the argument that since her children, who some thought might have been fathered by Harwin ‘the naughtiest’ Strong instead of her husband, managed to hatch dragons they were legitimate. Of course, the symbols get in the way too sometimes. If they’d had more than 77 dragon guards maybe they would’ve been able to hold off the mobs that attacked the dragon pit.”

Maddy: “But Analyze-chan, that’s symbolism as well, of the highest divine order!”

Analyze: “And, may I ask, septon Maddius, WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN?!”

High Septon: “My child, the Seven in…”

Analyze: “Why did you change your na-“

High Septon: “The Seven in their wroth cursed house Targaryen and retracted their divine diviness from the dragonlords. The good and noble archmaester Gyldayn dictated that the Crone had rejected the Lysene spring during Aegon III’s childhood. The Warrior demonstrated his strength when he felled the foul dragon of Leana Velaryon. The Mother in her everlasting kindness gave strength to the members of the secret siege to torture Thaddeus Rowan into madness, in order to bring about the downfall of the cursed fools of house Targaryen. All these events, these omens were seen by the good people of Westeros as a symbol of the Seven who are One rejecting the dragonlords.”

Analyze: “And that’s what happens when your religious symbolism game is not on point. Then again, the obviously corrupt and vile High Septons of the Seven Kingdoms make that mistake too.”

High Septon: “How dare you blaspheme against his High Holiness! I’ll have you whipped in the-“

Maddy: “You won’t harm my dearest Analyze-chan! Begone!”

It has been proven by notable psychology students that anueryisms are often provoked by bad writing.

This is an aneurysm. This is what an aneurysm looks like.

Analyze: “This is an aneurysm. This is what an aneurysm feels like.”

Maddy: “But Analyze-chan, symbols are for the symbol-minded.”

Analyze: “Simple-minded? Like Napoleon? One of the most brilliant minds of the last few centuries? He clearly saw the importance of symbolism. Instead of being crowned by the pope he made the powerful statement of crowning himself before everyone, consolidating his power on himself.”

Maddy: “But did he have dragons?”

Analyze: “He had fire-belching cannons and a well-trained army called the Old Guard, a symbol to motivate his troops on the field and driving them deeply into victory.”

Maddy: “… But did he have dragons?”

Analyze:”… No, he did not have dragons. You see Maddius, dragons… DO NOT FUCKING EXIST!”

Step 1: Don’t Be An Asshole

Maddy: “Good, because that’s completely irrelevant. You see Analyze, dragons don’t plant trees. They burn stuff down and that’s not a good basis to rule on. The good Maester Gyldayn all but states that a good ruler needs a pleasant disposition, beautiful looks and stellar diplomatic skills.”

Analyze: “Well, Gyldayn can be wrong too… sometimes. Personally, I prefer the burning.”

Maegor probably thought it was just a scratch.

Maegor Targaryen dying a mysterious death. Very mysterious. All the sharp things are a coincidence.

Maddy: “You see, that’s what got Maegor in trouble. He was the damndest little rascal who was hot-blooded and started a war with the faith to get his way and marry whomever he wanted. A cruel man, with no friends in court who tried to rule through fear and violence. He died mysteriously without anyone ever mourning him. In fact, Jaehaerys used him as an example on how not to rule.”

Analyze: “His brother Aenys isn’t much better though. Maegor was cruel and rash, but Aenys was always indecisive. He wasn’t even decisive enough to send people to crush the rebellions of Red Harren, Jonos Arryn, etc. It’s much like Louis XVI who could have averted some of the troubles that lead to the revolution where he lost his head, if only he’d put his foot down and let a financial minister push through the necessary reforms. Instead he fired each one he appointed because of backlash from the nobles. I think George made Maegor and Aenys specifically to explore both extremes of personality and show how neither would make for a fit ruler.”

Maddy: “Much like how he made Jaehaerys to represent what a good ruler is all about. A man who prefers to settle things peacefully, but have his dragons as a threat in case things go wrong. A man who thinks before he speaks, but always takes decisive action. A man who spent a lot of time administering the realm and the rest of his time travelling everywhere to speak to people personally.”

Analyze: “Everybody loves somebody sometiiiiime.”

Maddy: “Sounds like a looooooooot of work, if you ask me. I’d rather take a nap.”

Analyze: “Another one we can check off, rulers should not be lazy assholes.”

Maddy: “But they should be sociable and always happy to talk to their subjects. That’s why Jaehaerys and especially Alysanne were so beloved by their subjects.”

Analyze: “And, unlike Aegon, Jaehaerys didn’t pointlessly continue a war he couldn’t possibly win. That’s another thing the book points out. You have to be strong and willful, but you can’t be too stubborn and inflexible either.”

Maddy: “Being too stubborn cost Aegon his dragon and favourite wife. He was always bound to lose the first Dornish war, but because he just wanted to annex Dorne he revealed that his dragons can be killed and eventually had to sign a peace treaty to stop all the attempts on his life.”

Analyze: “Luckily he had his beloved wife. Murderous, but beloved.”

If you got this, good boy.

Visenya Targaryen doing her best Slim Pickens impression.

Maddy: “Well, at least Visenya was well-respected because she was an axellent warrior who protected her dear brother.”

Analyze: “Her axellent brother.”

Maddy: “Because as we all know the most important feature of any ruler is the ability to fight well and be willing to go to war.”

Analyze: “I think Martin really shows a duality there. On the one hand it’s clearly necessary that a ruler protect his subjects, another reason why Aenys became hated is because those rebellions he was too indecisive to put down threatened his people, but Martin also shows the downsides of that.”

Maddy: “The downside of what, Analyze-chan?”

Analyze: “Of this willingness to go to war and swing your big steel dick around. The Dance of the Dragons shows the costs of that war. Most symbolically through Sunfyre who is described at the start as the most beautiful dragon around, but by the end as a disgusting wyrm wriggling through the mud. Even Aegon II himself is permanently disfigured by it.”

Maddy: “And dies very soon after winning the Dance because he went too far with his love for war. Everything about ruling seems to be a balancing act. You need to be a little bit of everything to be beloved, because otherwise the mob will scream for your blood and guillotine your ass into oblivion.”

Analyze: “It rather reminds me of the Rudyard Kipling poem ‘If.'”

Maddy: “What is that, Analyze-chan?”

Analyze: “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too;”

Maddy: “Ana-“

Analyze: ” If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,”

Maddy: “Yes, I think I ge-“

Analyze: “Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise. That sort a’ shite.”

Maddy: “But isn’t that what I said?”

Analyze: “But I said it eloquently, you uncultured swine.”

Maddy: “Sounds like plagiarism, Analyze-jukeisha.”

Analyze: “It’s not plagiarism, it’s an homage.”

Maddy: “What’s the difference?”

Analyze: “It’s French, so it’s fine. On top of that the poem contains the wonderful line ‘If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,’ which I think pertains to another important point made in the book: You have to be in touch, not just with what the powerful want, but also with what your people want. What they think.”

Alea Iacta Est… Right Down the Drain

Maddy: “Especially if what they think is ‘kill the king and take all of his lands.’ “

Analyze: “I was thinking more along the lines of if there are rumours floating around the street about how ‘you’re being influenced by a foreign power or a bad advisor or something like that.'”

Maddy: “Oh don’t worry about that. You see, the people don’t care about your influences.”

Analyze: “Tell that to Lotho the one-handed….”

Maddy: “What they really care about is what’s around them. The wells they drink from, the grain they harvest, the bandits raping their women. If you set up a good infrastructure, make sure they have access to food and water, hang all the evil men and make sure that your realm is nicely connected, the people will leave you all alone. Jaehaerys knew this. That’s why he became so obsessed with his roads.”

Analyze: “You can put in all that wonderful effort and it means nothing if people tarnish your accomplishments with rumours. You can be a great administrator, but if people become convinced you’re an adulterous whore or a murderer, your rule’s not gonna be very stable.”

You can say what you want about schemers, but they sure do get ahead in life.

Kill the schemers and you get rid of the manipulations. But you risk the chance of looking like a tyrant.

Maddy: “Just hang the people who spread the rumours. Nobody will miss them. In a military society like Westeros men who fight with words are considered cowards and vile charlatans. Just ask Larys Strong and Varys.”

Analyze: “Most of the time it’s pretty vague who spread the rumours though. Can’t go around hanging everyone, that’s what Maegor did. And the most beloved of Roman emperors, Commodus. You know, that guy from ‘Gladiator.'”

Maddy: “Oh yes, he was a delightful chap. Always going into the arena to fight and putting on a spectacle for his beloved subjects. Whom, being the inclusive sort, he lovingly included.”

Analyze: “He also murdered the people close to him seemingly at random and ‘lovingly’ included a bunch of people on a list of people he was going to have assassinated. His mistress found said list and had him a little strangled in the bath by his wrestling instructor. The last thing you want to do is turn all the power players against you. Much smarter to balance their competing interests, whenever they don’t conflict. Which is something that George makes a point of showing happens often, and if you manage that you’re already in a very good place.”

Maddy: “Which can be destroyed immediately by sheer bad luck. You can spend all your time meticulously manipulating your enemies against each other only to have something insignificant unite everyone against you. Like physical appearance. Rhaenyra sure didn’t enjoy the fact that everyone thought her children were bastards because they had brown hair and eyes instead of the Valyrian white and purple.”

Analyze: “Or Tyland Lannister who was distrusted and disliked, despite showing some clever subtle scheming abilities and overall being a competent ruler, simply because his face was scarred and he chose to cover that by wearing a ‘nefarious’ hood. Or, on the other hand, someone can be bolstered by them such as by appearing on a big fucking dragon, like when Aegon did his rounds. And it’s not even just about physical appearance. Aegon III and his regents didn’t want Aegon to go meet Alyn at the docks after he returned just so they could have an emotional moment.”

Unwin Peake-a-boo, Here to Scheme on You

Maddy: “They wanted to spread the propaganda of Aegon being good friends with the ever more popular Alyn ‘Oakenfist’ Velaryon. Problem was, Aegon’s regents didn’t always have their ward’s best interest in mind. Peake…”

Analyze: “That peakes my interest, sir.”

Maddy: “…is the best example, who tried to sabotage the meeting entirely because he had a huge rivalry with Alyn.”

Unwin Peekaboo is peeking in on YOU.

Unwin Peake: a good example of why older man teaching the king to rule sounds great in theory, but doesn’t work if the regents are ambitious.

Analyze: “And he also sabotaged Aegon’s education. In theory the idea of a council of older men instructing the nubile young king might seem nice, but the reality was that people like Unwin exist. And instead of encouraging the king those times he abandoned his passivity and wanted to take an active hand, such as by filling the kingsguard slot and appointing a hand or coming to council meetings, he discouraged him. Simply because he wanted to be the one to wield the power to restore his house to glory.”

Maddy: “And he almost succeeded because none of the other ‘good’ regents were capable of stopping him. The supposed good ruler, Thaddeus Rowan, just got captured, tortured until he was broken and then used by, the presumably Peake agent, Marston Waters to manipulate Aegon III during the Secret Siege.”

Analyze: “I’d say poor Aegon III, but he really shouldn’t ever have let that happen. I mean, what kind of man would let himself be locked into his own house? What kind of ruler would let others take over their realm? What kind of… let’s just say it, fucking just plain idiot, would ever let himself be blockaded.”

Maddy: “A person who’s thoughtful yet decisive, wants to settle things peacefully yet is willing to fight for what’s right, who thinks of the needs of the many yet never loses the support of the few, who can force men to their knees yet lift them up if they surrender, who’s kind yet with a stern right hand and who above all wears a nice black suit.”

Analyze: “Pfff, guy sounds like a fucking joke to me.”

Maddy: “As he does to me, dear Analyze-chan. As he does to me. And that’s what I love about him.”

Narrator: “Dearest audience, we’d just like to remind you all that we do not approve of beating the audience over the head with ye ol’ hammer o’ foreshadowing, but we decided to do it anyways because we’re a bunch of talentless hacks. Sweet dreams, and don’t let Maddius bite you.”

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Copyright: Several of the images in this article are from the book “Fire & Blood” written by George R.R. Martin and with illusions from Doug Wheatley. Several other images are from the book “The World of Ice & Fire” written by George R.R. Martin in collaboration with Elio M. Garcia Jr. and Linda Antonsson are taken among these “King Jaehaerys I and Good Queen Alysanne with their son, Prince Aemon” by Magali Villeneuve, “Maegor I, Dead upon the Iron Throne” by Michael Komarck, “Visenya and Vhagar burning the Arryn fleet” by John McCambridge and, as featured image, “The Iron Throne” by Marc Simonetti. The image of Arya with Needle is a screenshot taken from the second episode of the show “Game of Thrones.” 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.

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