WANTED: DRAGON TRAINER
“…and for the first time in hundreds of years, the night came alive with the music of dragons.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
Last time, I confessed my addiction to Game of Thrones and love of dragons in the Day of the Dragon post. But the dragons are inextricably entwined with their mother, Daenerys Targaryen. For me, Daenerys is one of the most compelling and complex figures in epic fantasy and on television. As with all great figures, she is multi-layered.
Her journey is a hero’s journey, triggered by and tinged with aspects unique to a woman (oppression, discrimination and abuse by men) and encompassing two of the three faces of a triple goddess – maiden and mother. Daenerys travels from innocence to experience. From one who is outwardly submissive and meek to a leader of many.
She is someone who claims her power over and over, learning and growing stronger in spirit, mind and emotion with every step in the march towards the Iron Throne. While her endgame is always at the top of her thoughts and actions, Daenerys is amazingly aware of her journey, as well. As with all journeys, her is littered with trials and setbacks, but she learns and treks on.
Here’s the thing: Daenerys never imagined her what her life would be beyond the all-encompassing prison of her brother. Her inner dragon slept, while her brother – the self-proclaimed dragon – raged about, proclaiming his worthiness. A pretender. It took an unexpected – and unwanted – incident to set Dany on her course – and to awaken her dragon.
*While Daenerys keeps her sight on the ultimate goal of Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, what is YOUR goal (or goals – it’s always great to have more than one)? Do you have one? If not, why? What is YOUR dragon? It could be anything: your strength or power – or your weakness, something against which you feel must be fought?*
“She made herself stronger by fighting with the wind.”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
Daenerys’ journey starts with the Machiavellian arranged marriage her brother Viserys orchestrates with the Dothraki’s leader, Khal Drogo (to provide him a built-in army so Viserys can retake the Iron Throne). Upon meeting Drogo, however, we see that spark of defiance and self as she meets the Khal’s gaze, unbroken. At her wedding, she receives a box with three gorgeous stones – really petrified dragon eggs. She is married to the Khal, becoming Khaleesi to the Khalasar.
She adapts, learning the language, the customs, the people. And she both trains AND tames Khal Drogo. When the Khal dies (a simplistic description), Daenerys wants to die, as well. She walks into the funeral pyre with her three dragon eggs. As a true dragon, fire does not hurt or kill Daenerys. Rather, she emerges from the ashes unscathed and reborn. Hatched anew, she walks from the remnants of the fire, naked as she was on her first birth – along with three baby dragons wrapped around her.
What a powerful, eternal, symbolic visual.
“...if you dance with dragons, you must expect to burn.”
George R.R. Martin, The Mystery Knight
Over and over, we see Daenerys reborn, regroup, reform, and reinvent herself. She adapts and changes, doing what is right for her ultimate quest (regaining the Iron Throne), but what is right for the people in the lands she conquers on her march to King’s Landing.
*Like Daenerys, we all must reinvent ourselves or realign our thoughts. How have you done this in the past? The act of reinventing ourselves is powerful, growing in strength each time we do it. Is there a current situation in which you’d like to reorganize or regroup? If so, what steps are necessary to do that?*
“A dragon's heart burns fiercely, even in the face of evil.”
― S.G. Rogers, Jon Hansen and the Dragon Clan of Yden
Daenrys has a gentle heart, a Queen who desires respect and to be feared as a leader, but who also wants to be loved. A person who, says Jorah Mormont, “can and should rule.” How does she deal with her enemies, with those she conquers? How will she ultimately rule?
She observes and assesses the situation, asking questions and soliciting information. Dany gathers facts as well as opinions. She’s a careful planner, but when she acts? Swiftly and fiercely, with mercy shown only towards those who have shown mercy to others.
She abhors subjugation – especially women and children. And torture, murder for the amusement of the rulers of the kingdom? Outrage burns hot, and Daenerys – on her march to conquer – also avenges unjust deaths.
*How do YOU deal with problematic situations and people? Do you speak without thinking or having all the facts? Do you say or do things you regret later? Sometimes, the things we do or say in the heat of a moment are irreparable.*
"They say dragons never truly die. No matter how many times you kill them."
― S.G. Rogers, Jon Hansen and the Dragon Clan of Yden
No, dragons never die. They hide or disappear - for a while. Then they come roaring back, often at the most inconvenient of times. Or they sink sharp claws into your back and ride around, a scaly, heavy and dangerous passenger digging into your heart, mind or soul. No matter what you do, you can’t rid yourself of the dragon. And sometimes they turn on you, destroying you from within. This is why you train yourself and your dragon, and not slay them. As humans, it seems our DNA is programmed to kill those things which annoy, hurt or chase us, literally, figuratively or both.
*Our dragons train us, too. To grow or shrink. To become what we were meant to be or dwindle into oblivion. What can we learn from these ferocious fighters and from the Mother of Dragons?*
"He who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself,
and if you gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into you."
- Friedrich Nietzsche
To slay or to save, that is the question.
In western mythology and tales, men slay dragons to save the women, usually princesses or virgins (or, usually, interchangeable). Typical female archetypes, considered to be the “coveted” default in fairytales as well as in the culture at large. At the outset of GoT, Daenerys was both. An exiled princess and sheltered virgin who was forced into becoming part of the world. By becoming an active participant in the world and as a mistress of her own life, she changes herself, others and the world around her.
*How do you affect and influence others around you? As you change yourself, do you see a change in others? Or, rather, is it your own perception that has changed*
The only person who saves Daenerys thus far is Dany herself.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t need anyone to slay a dragon for me, and I certainly don’t need to be saved by anyone from anything. This has always irritated me with fairytales, folklore and film, for as long as I can remember – and why I love Daenerys. She is known as Stormborn, but she is reborn in fire, literally and figuratively, over and over.
Rising from that fire, she is not only the Phoenix, but a mother of power, a mother of the wild, the Mother of Dragons. She dies to her old self, but from the fire is a regenerator, and she is reborn. She is awakened. She reclaims herself. She needs no man to do that.
What we need is to train and transform those dragons – our own dragons. The inner dragons made manifest into the outer world. Ride the coat tails of someone else? No thanks. Ride the lightning like a Valkyrie? Maybe. But I’d rather ride a dragon of my own making.
“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also If I am to be whole” ― C.G. Jung
Beauty and the Beast reminds me a great deal of Daenerys and her interactions with so many her life: her brother, Khal Drogo, her dragons, and others.
In the story of Beauty and the Beast, the Beast is the Prince inner self made manifest, and Beauty transforms him with love.
What if, though, the Beast is really the other part of Beauty? The dark side to the light? The part she needs to claim and reclaim to be whole?
Think about this:
All those times knights in medieval tales slay the dragons and save the princess? What if they’re slaying the wild and untamed side of these women. By “saving” the “virtuous” woman, the knight saves his idea of the “ideal” woman. The princess then feels indebted to the prince, always in his thrall and under his control.
What if the princess could not and would not be harmed by the dragon? What if the DRAGON is saving the princess from the knight/prince and a safe life and a world full of mundane? What if the dragon provides adventure to the princess, soaring to new heights, breaking her free of invisible chains imposed on her by her lineage and out of the dungeon of imposed social mores?
What if the dragon is a woman’s wild side? Like the wolf (also prominent in Game of Thrones), wildness knows no boundaries. It can only be subjugated and cast aside for so long, before it rises to its full power.
*What is YOUR wild side? What do you dream about at night or during the day?*
“You were wild once. Don’t let them tame you.”
Daenerys is the mistress, the commander. Both dragons and followers adore her, await her orders. But, the dragons, like Khaleesi, are wild. When the wildness in each of them slams head to head, the scenario may not end well. You can’t control the wild. You can’t tame the primal. Daenerys comes to that realization as her baby dragons are now adolescents.
And what of us? Even if it’s not actual dragons, the most ferocious enemy tends to be our selves. But you CAN train what you think can’t be trained. The thing is, it’s work. HARD work. Unfortunately people tend to shun hard work. If something gets too hard they hide or run. These days, people want easy and instant.
Don’t let that be you.
“We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
--Walt Kelly, Pogo
Yes, we are our own worst enemies. Instead of listening to our gut instincts, we listen to others who we believe know us better than we know ourselves, who we believe know what’s better for us than we do. Why on earth, above and below, would we do that? But we do. To know yourself is the first step onto your path.
“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it's not your path.
Your own path you make with every step you take. That's why it's your path.”
― Joseph Campbell
Daenerys doesn’t know her path. Not exactly, even though she knows what her goal, her eventuality will be. To rule on the Iron Throne. She solicits advice from her closest advisors, seasoned men and warriors, and considers everything carefully.
But in the end, she follows her gut and her heart – her instincts. She must be careful, however, that she does not turn into the very thing she abhors: a ruthless, bloodthirsty ruler who cares nothing for her subjects or for the world around her.
Does she makes mistakes? Absolutely.
Does she own them? Definitely.
Daenerys owns her flaws, her insecurities and her mistakes. She doesn’t pass blame or fault for decisions which were her own onto anyone else. That’s not to say, however, she doesn’t blame people. She most certainly does. She blames the ruling class for the terrible treatment and condition of subjects and of a particular kingdom. One of the milestones on her way to the throne is to liberate the downtrodden, showing them a better way of life. In them, she sees herself.
In the end, Danerys Stormborn, the Khaleesi, owns every part of her life. Through her own experience, she teaches others. With courage and compassion, with wisdom and wit, she grabs the reins of herself and jumps onto the backs of her dragons – not as tamer, but as trainer and mother, as keeper of the wild and ferocious. She is the mistress of her destiny.
Here’s to discovering and training your dragons!
**all pictures property and courtesy of HBO