How “A Dance With Dragons” Is Helping Me Find Myself

[Spoilers, Spoilers, SPOILERS!]

I’m only 24, and life has been okay. But this summer, the same way that Tyrion hears the thrumm of the crossbow, I find myself Googling the word asystole.

I love Game of Thrones. I am a self-proclaimed secret Targ, zealous “QUEENINDANORF” fanatic, and sleuth for all things behind-the-scenes of the HBO show. However, I have to admit I haven’t read all the books. I burned through them until I lost my bookmark somewhere in Storm of Swords, put it down for ages, never to remember my place — and instead binged on internet spoilers.

Thanks to my diet of Wikipedia, /r/asoiaf & /r/gameofthrones, I have pretty well educated myself on everything that happens. But I have been meaning to finish out the books and truly flesh in the plot points.

When my mom was in the hospital, I needed some bedside reading. I ended up grabbing A Dance With Dragons, curiously. I’m not sure what made me want to start from the end and work backwards, but I couldn’t be more glad that I did.

The general temperature towards A Dance With Dragons (“ADWD” for the rest of this post) seems to run cool. I’m aware of the Meereenese Knot, a fan-given term for the tangled plotlines that must converge on Daenerys in Meereen. It does feel like a lot of characters are treading water, but their struggles really helped give me strength as I adjust to a new normal without my mother. Here’s why.

SPOILERS after the break.

Daenerys Targaryen

The girl vs. the queen.

In Meereen, Dany struggles to maintain the kingdom she’s taken by fire and blood. She seeks balance in the weight of her rule — saving sacked cities far away, stabilising where she is, while keeping the vision of Westeros in her head. I empathize with Dany and her situation, and how she attempts to navigate through it.

Home is my Meereen. I’m living with my dad, surrounded by my mom’s clothes, stacks of mail, personal belongings, and it feels like my “city” is burning. Everywhere I look, there’s something of my mom’s to make a decision about. I am struggling to stay afloat, emotionally.

There’s no bloody flux, war, or Sons of the Harpy at home — but I do feel the weight from day to day. Home is no longer home, it’s someplace that feels foreign to me, now. A tangled mess that I can’t seem to leave.

My Westeros is my lifelong desire to get out, get up, get anywhere and write, perform, entertain, produce — the things I went to school for, the things I knew from a young age that I was destined to do. Finding my way somewhere that I can do what I want to do, what fulfills me.

I have enough creative friends who are also in the same boat to understand this is not an uncommon feeling.

Dany finds herself embroiled in the politics of one place (saving Essos, ending slave trade) while the absolution of her birthright hangs in the future. Similarly, the more sick my mom got, the more I felt like I needed to be at home. Dreams of the future, of achieving and doing seemed so far away. And here I am.

I appreciate Dany’s POV chapters. I appreciate her outward poise, but the challenge in her mind — the girl vs the queen. It affects the things she says and does, and adjusts her priorities. Thinking of her poise and determination actually helped me have the strength to deliver the eulogy at my mom’s funeral.

An entire continent mobilizes in answer to Dany’s conflict. That helps give me perspective to the way that I feel. I don’t know what the future is for the Dragon Queen, but her path in ADWD helps give me something to identify with in my own life.

Tyrion Lannister

The thrumm of the crossbow. | “Wherever whores go.”

Tyrion murdered his father, strangled his lover, ostracised his brother, and is wanted dead by his sister for a crime he did not commit. He is miles away from anything and everyone he has known, thrust into a new identity, and keeps poison mushrooms in the toe of his boot, ready for a quick end. I did not expect to be so deeply affected by the Imp’s descent. I also did not expect to identify with him so strongly.

I’m only 24, and life has been pretty okay. But this summer, it really has felt like the rug has been pulled out from under me. The same way that Tyrion hears the thrumm of the crossbow, I find myself Googling the word asystole.

On the day that my mom died, my boyfriend told me he didn’t love me anymore. It seems a silly thing to pair with, emotionally. In a year I won’t feel as badly about the guy as my parent. But losing two people who I was so used to reaching out to really sent me spinning. The one-two punch of Shae’s betrayal, along with the naked truth of Tywin’s hatred (“wherever whores go”) puts Tyrion in a place, mentally, that I can identify with.

Something I find particularly profound about Tyrion’s journey, is that he is dragged across the places in Essos that he read about, or dreamed to see as a child. The show-only scene where he meets Dany’s dragons is a real standout. So far from home, he’s lost everything, forced into a new identity — but he is having these experiences and seeing these places that would never before have been possible. The collision of those worlds is something that I find very striking.

I have grown up a lot this summer, even if that means feeling broken down. I appreciate the opportunities of growth and change that I have been given, even if they were a bit invasive. Tyrion traveling through the land of his childhood wonder even in the midst of so much turmoil helps me be able to look for the good in everything that’s happening.

Although Dany and Tyrion are the major characters who I feel through, I also wanted to mention both Jon Snow, and Jaime Lannister.

Jon spends the entirety of ADWD slowly and carefully trodding upon the toes of everyone around him for what he believes is right. I appreciate his POV chapters that show the weight of command, and how he deals with the clown fiesta that is maintaining order at the Wall.

As I have not read A Feast For Crows yet, it is hard for me to know where exactly Jaime’s chapters picked up. But his mannerisms show the weight and bitterness that Cersei has caused him.

The girl vs the queen, the thrumm of the crossbow, “For the Watch”, and Moonboy for all I know — all key struggles or phrases of main characters in this book that really stayed with me.

I have never put down a book, and then felt like I wanted to pick it up later so that I can see how someone deals with the situation they’re in.

Not even necessarily to see how something was solved, or to see that everything gets better. In a way, it’s just nice to see conflict laid out on such a grand scale, but affecting an individual so minutely.

It isn’t a perfect metaphor, but I am thankful for the gift of literature, and the odd strength that it can provide.