I wrote this guest post on Game of Thrones vs Discworld a while back but it ended up not getting used, but it’s too much fun not to share. So ask yourself: who is the REAL Mother of Dragons? (Warning: contains spoilers if you are not up to date with Game of Thrones).
Ah, these newcomers with their showy tricks, always trying to steal the thunder of the old guard. But while I enjoy seeing Dany make her play for the Iron Throne, for me there will only ever be one true Mother of Dragons – and she lives on the Discworld. So, allow me to present the case for Her Grace, Lady Sybil Deirdre Olgivanna Ramkin-Vimes, The Duchess of Ankh. Let’s see who is more deserving…
Few characters have such an inauspicious introduction as Sybil Ramkin. Although Terry Pratchett is never a cruel writer, there is something slightly mean about his initial portrayal of Sybil as the cliché of the sentimental, lonely fat girl who has subsumed her lack of romance into her pets – albeit, this being Discworld, her pets are dragons. Introduced as (literally) a sacrificial virgin in Guards! Guards! she soon however blossoms into something far more complex. Initially seen mainly through the prism of her relationship with Nightwatch copper Sam Vimes (a very different – yet oddly more effective – Night Watch than that of GoT: that zombie dragon wouldn’t have stood a chance against Captain Carrot), what emerges is a portrait of a woman who is kind, thoughtful, surprisingly tough and realistically nuanced. Daenerys, too, starts out as an innocent pawn – a girl bartered to a (seeming) savage to further the ambitions of a ruthless brother. Yeah, we know how well that went for him.
Winner: A tie.
Breaker of Chains?
Daenerys rejoices in her role as liberator but she rarely thinks through the consequences of her subjects’ liberation. Despite her capacity for kindness, she has bought thoroughly into her own hype: she is better than these people, and she deserves their adoration as her due. But for all her conviction that she is born to rule, she has initially no practical experience of how to do so, so often ends up causing as much damage as she tries to prevent. Such presumption may be necessary in one with ambitions to seize a bloodily contested throne, but it doesn’t make her particularly warm and cuddly (not that warm and cuddly are advisable qualities in Game of Thrones’ universe), and sometimes it doesn’t even make her smart.
Sybil, in contrast, is more than aware of the way social and political conventions work (in Snuff she gently remands her socialist husband for his clumsy attempts to ‘be one of the guys’ at her country estate, because she recognises that in his now exalted position, that’s not possible – the rich can only ever be tourists in the lives of the poor, and to pretend otherwise is simply patronising). Sybil does her bit in creating peace and promoting liberty – her presence helps avoid a major diplomatic incident in the Low Kingdom (where she saves the day with opera singing – take that, Dany!) and she helps the Gnomes receive political recognition so they are no longer treated as slaves, all without any of that messy death and torture business. But she also has an easy grace that allows her to get along with everyone – even Nobby Nobbs. Now that’s saying something.
Men at arms
While there’s something to be admired in the way Dany plays her legion of male admirers, her relationship with Jon Snow is at made icky by that whole ‘we’re related’ thing… And anyway, it can’t compare with a marriage where one partner darns the socks (even though she doesn’t have to) and the other pretends those socks are still wearable afterwards (even though he can afford new ones). Sam and Sybil are pretty much my favourite marriage in fiction – warm, loving, flawed and human, their relationship has built slowly over the series of books into a rock-solid coupling that is the beating heart of the Discworld series.
Winner: Sybil, by a country mile.
It’s easy to think it’s Dany without question – the whole heart-eating, fire-surviving, crucify-your-enemies thing providing a fairly easy win for the Khaleesi. But in her own unassuming way Sybil is just as fierce. A woman whose main character flaw is kindness and the willingness to see good in others even if she has to look really, really hard, she is nonetheless not to be messed with. She, like Dany, comes from a long line of warriors (and the steel-spined women left at home to tend the home fires while the men were off fighting). As someone who faces threats and danger with dignity and courage (and is a fierce momma bear if young son Sam is ever threatened), Sybil’s bravery is low key, but all the more impressive for that. While Dany wins this bout on force of numbers, in a one-to-one situation where the cause is just or innocents are in trouble, I’d put my money on Sybil.
Now, about those dragons
Dany’s babies might be dangerous weapons – though Sybil would have some very stern words about treating animals as such – but, frankly, they are not without their problems. Dany mythologises her pets so much she is blindsided when they behave as autonomous creatures, whereas nothing in Discworld survives such romanticising. In Ankh Morpork, dragons are badly designed windbags prone to exploding if they get over-excited, and while Sybil adores her scaly charges, she has that posh person ability to be utterly in love with her animals while maintaining an unsentimental pragmatism about their nature. Put it this way, with Sybil in charge nobody would be paying out compensation for chargrilled goat or dead peasants, and the Wall would probably be standing.
Sybil Ramkin appears in the following Terry Pratchett books – Guards! Guards!, Men At Arms, Feet of Clay, Jingo, The Fifth Element, Night Watch, Thud and Snuff. Daenerys Targaryen is in some wee TV show a few of you might have heard about.
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