ASoIaF vs. GoT, Fourteenth: Princess Arianne and the Bad Pussy

Wars of ASOIAF reblogged a very helpful post by Poor Quentyn regarding the Dornish subplot in Feast Dance (aka Books 4 and 5 of ASOIAF).  I will confess that the Dorne area is basically my weakest point in understanding the series, though possibly tied with the Greyjoy uncles’ shenanigans. I barely remember Arianne’s chapters, she didn’t make much of an impression on me, but I remember what happened to Myrcella due to her machinations and I remember a bit of Doran dealing with the Snakes later in the book. Poor Quentyn tells us the important parts:

Arianne and Tyene are BFFs as well as cousins, so it’s fair to assume they came up with this idea together, but they have very different motivations in doing so. As she says, Tyene wants to crown Myrcella in order to provoke a war with the Iron Throne, because she believes that the proper reaction to her father’s death is to get thousands of other people killed, and she is hideously eager to make that happen; there’s no hint of genuine grief in her, just pure bloodlust. (Sorry, Sand Snake stans, but Tyene is a terrible person. So are Obara and Lady Nym: the former callously exploits Oberyn’s death to advocate for her pre-existing, blatantly unrelated desire to massacre the residents of Oldtown, and the latter is positively gleeful at the prospect of butchering innocent children. I had to laugh at the galling hypocrisy of their condemnation of Cersei for plotting to murder Trystane. This trio is not a cool comic-book squad of underdog badasses. They are villains, full stop. Vengeance isn’t always a moral gray area, as it is with Arya’s list, which at least is motivated by her fierce devotion to justice. Sometimes vengeance is just evil, just an excuse for violent people to inflict misery on others.)

Arianne, by contrast, is driven by her understandable resentment of her father. As revealed in “The Soiled Knight,” she is under the impression that Doran plans to disinherit her in favor of Quentyn. Of course, she is wrong about that; Doran intended Quent to become the next Prince of Dorne because he had arranged for Arianne to become King Viserys III’s Queen. But that misconception is Doran’s fault, not Arianne’s. Given the distant, dismissive way he has treated her of late, it was perfectly reasonable for Arianne to conclude from Doran’s letter to Quent that the former was going to kick her out of the corridors of power altogether. She had no way of knowing about the Targaryen restoration plan, because Doran did not trust or respect Arianne enough to tell her, and he just assumed she would meekly accept (what appeared for all the world like) the loss of her birthright. This is on Doran; to his credit, by the time we get to “The Princess in the Tower,” he knows it. Sadly, he’s yet to realize that he did even worse by Quent…but he will by the end of The Winds of Winter.

Anywho, while Arianne is well aware that kidnapping and crowning Myrcella will bring the Lannisters and Tyrells down on Dorne, sparking a war is secondary to and in support of her primary motivation. Arianne wants to use the authority and gendered symbolism of a Queen Myrcella to pre-empt what she thinks is Doran and Quentyn’s plan to shove her aside. Myrcella clearly idolizes Arianne; the former would happily confirm the latter as Princess of Dorne once Arianne “retires” Doran to the Water Gardens.

Okay, so, basically, there’s less of a role for Ellaria Sand in the books, while Prince Doran has three children, the eldest of whom is his daughter Arianne, who is hatching this hare-brained scheme to put Queen Cersei’s remaining children in direct competition for the rulership of the Seven Kingdoms. I still think Arianne is the Stupidest Noblewoman in Westeros, I still think this plan was utter bullshit from the start, but Arianne’s stupidity was arguably within the range of normal stupidity for Westerosi royals and high nobles. And she wasn’t alone. The Sand Snakes were involved, and they just couldn’t fucking wait for another war that Westeros didn’t need.

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So here’s a major difference between books and show, which is that they’ve cut out Prince Doran’s misguided but ultimately not-despicable daughter in favor of Ellaria and the Snakes’ thirst for vengeance, they’ve cut out the middleman of putting a crown on Myrcella and gone straight for the golden shroud. Whereas Tyene and Arianne wanted to name Queen Myrcella of the Seven Kingdoms, which they knew would provoke a war, and which they knew (even if they wouldn’t admit it in as many words) would surely get Myrcella killed, the Ellaria and Sand Snakes of the show skip straight to dismembering and killing Myrcella to provoke a war with the Throne.

Furthermore, the scheme didn’t pan out; someone told Prince Doran what was happening, he sent his goon squad to retrieve Arianne and Myrcella, and in the fighting that ensued, Kingsguard knight Ser Arys Oakheart (also Arianne’s lover) was killed and Myrcella lost an ear. She’s still alive so far! But not unscathed, and when Cersei finds out about that—which she surely does!—she is not the least bit amused. So then Arianne is left to wonder which of her peeps leaked the plot to her father. Poor Quentyn speculates:

While we’re on this subject…who was it that betrayed Arianne’s confidences to Doran? To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter; GRRM is making the existential point that Arianne is was too trusting to make this kind of gambit work, regardless of who it was that sold her out.

Arianne raised a tear-streaked face. “How could he know?” she asked the captain. “I was so careful. How could he know?”

“Someone told.” Hotah shrugged. “Someone always tells.”

Still, I don’t think it was Garin, Drey, or Spotted Sylva. Maybe I’m missing something (let me know!) but I don’t see a hint that any of them has anything but love for and loyalty to Arianne. Indeed, they’re such thinly drawn characters (the three-headed weak spot of “The Queenmaker,” IMO) that there really wouldn’t be any oomph to the reveal.

So I think it was Tyene. We never learn why Doran released the three eldest Sand Snakes from their brief imprisonment; in fact, Areo Hotah (who is far more intelligent and insightful than his “camera that rides” reputation would suggest) hangs a lampshade on this mystery:

Doran Martell was the wisest of princes, and it was not the place of his captain of guards to question his decisions, but Areo Hotah did wonder why he had chosen to release the ladies Obara, Nymeria, and Tyene from their lonely cells in the Spear Tower.

Which means Tyene was perfectly happy to start a war, didn’t mind that she was putting Myrcella in mortal danger, was also putting her cousin Trystane in mortal danger come to think of it, and then she sold out her cousin Arianne to get herself and half-sisters out of jail. There are these colorful little touches that made it to the show:

The prince left it to Ricasso, his blind seneschal, to rise and propose the toast. “Lords and ladies, let us all now drink to Tommen, the First of His Name, King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, and Lord of the Seven Kingdoms.” … Tyene declined Ricasso’s toast with a murmur and Lady Nym with a flick of a hand. Obara let them fill her cup to the brim, then upended it to spill the red wine on the floor.

On the show it was Ellaria who spilled her wine, but still, they got that from the book.

By mixing up the Dorne subplot they way they did (badly executed as it was), Game of Thrones handled the Queenmaker subplot, and showed us Jaime’s desire to be a parent to his children, and also managed Myrcella’s death ahead of schedule. Which suggests Myrcella doesn’t have much of a role to play in the remaining books (I suspect she won’t survive The Winds of Winter), and that the Sand Snakes aren’t finished making trouble for the Seven Kingdoms.

How much do the Martells have to contribute to the overall plot? That much, I’m not entirely sure. We’ll see something of them in Season 6, and we’ll see more of them in TWoW, but either way, the Dorne subplot of Season 5 was not something D&D made up all by themselves. They took material from the books, and they streamlined it for TV.