The Dragon's Path by Daniel AbrahamSo like everyone else on the planet, I’m watching HBO’s Game of Thrones. Unlike most people, I’m not bitorrenting a pirated copy. I’m going over to a friend’s house. How’s that for old school?

It’s a different experience for me than for most folks, though, because I’m also in the middle of adapting Game of Thrones to a visual medium. I’m writing the comic book scripts for Bantam and Dynamite. The license they bought was for the original book, not the HBO show, so I haven’t spoken to anyone in Holywood about the decisions they made, what to cut what to keep in. I’m on my own for that, and seeing the decisions they made has been fascinating. (What about Bran’s dreams? Where’s the three-eyed crow?)

One thing that struck me particularly, though, is the wedding night of Daenerys Targaryen. It’s a wildly problematic scene in a number of ways, and the problems and solutions about how to deal with it pretty much run the gamut.

In the original book, Daenerys is a thirteen-year-old girl given by her brother to a foreign warlord. It’s a political marriage meant to cement an alliance in preparation for war, and as such, boy howdy, does it have a lot of historical precedent. We’ve seen Dany as a victim and a child, lost and powerless, through the whole book. We’ve seen the wedding – which is violent and strange and frightening. Then the time comes, and Dany is taken off from her family and the people she knows with a huge, strong man who has the acknowledged right to have sex with her whether she wants it or not.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. MartinIn the book, George is setting us up. We’re expecting, essentially, child-rape. What we get is very different. Dany’s new husband takes her to a beautiful place, spends a great deal of time with her. She brushes his hair. He helps her to feel comfortable with her nakedness. There’s foreplay. There’s a lot of it. And when the marriage is finally consummated, it is explicitly with Dany’s consent.

So that’s surprising and oddly humane. At least compared with what we thought was going to happen.

Now let’s switch over to us poor adapters. Like I said, I haven’t talked to my confreres in Hollywood, so anything I say about them and their process is speculation. Mine, I can talk about.

The first problem is we’re putting up pictures of a thirteen-year-old girl having sex. You start there, and your second problem almost doesn’t matter. Let’s see . . . Child pornography. Definition. Visual depiction of a person under the age of 18 engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Felony. Check.

For a great stretch of history and even now in many parts of the world, a thirteen-year-old girl is marriageable. Juliet Capulet was thirteen when she ran off with Romeo. We can have long conversations about human evolution and sexuality and the ways in which childhood is a recent invention, and it won’t matter a bit.

Emilia Clarke is about a decade older than Daenerys. In the comic book, Dany is at least 18 years old so that we don’t have anything professional to talk to Comic Book Legal Defense Fund guys about.

So already, and unmistakably, the folks and HBO and I have turned aside from the intent of the original. A thirteen-year-old is different than someone five or ten years older. The Dany we’re working with isn’t a lost child growing to maturity in the way that George’s was because she’ s not a child to start with. The constraint of law is upon it, and as a parent, I’m fine with that.

So the second problem. Time and foreplay.

My thoughts on GAME OF THRONES

HBO had less than a minute to cover the wedding scene. A minute is a freaking long time in television. Me? I had three pages. That’s about ten percent of an issue that had a lot of plot to cover, and if I could have given it more time and space, I would have, but it just wasn’t there.

George had the challenge of convincing the reader that Dany could give consent in a situation where, really, if she withheld it, it wasn’t going to matter. And he did it because he could take us into her mind, walk us through her experience, and take the time she needed to take the reader to an unexpected place that was both uncomfortable and humane. In the comic and the TV show, we literally didn’t have time or space to do that. I had a little more than they did, and I did my best to give Dany and her khal that moment, as imperfect as my translation might have been.

HBO? Let’s be straight. They had him rape her.

Constraint changes stories. Different media have different constraints, and some things that aren’t possible in one medium become possible in another. This is that case. What George did in that scene, we couldn’t match. Not me, not HBO. We did something else, and hopefully in ways that don’t do too much violence to the story. But my Dany and HBO’s Dany can never be George’s.

I write a lot of books myself, and I have to say, as frustrating as it is to be an adapter, it reassures me to be reminded that there are always going to be some things the book does better.

Written by Daniel Abraham

Daniel Abraham

Once upon a time, there was a writer who wrote novels under three names — well, two and a half, really. Daniel Abraham wrote epic fantasy set other worlds, MLN Hanover wrote urban fantasy set in something very like our world, and James S. A. Corey wrote science fiction set well into the future. In the real world, he was Daniel Abraham, except that James S. A. Corey was written with a partner named Ty Franck.     @abrahamhanover

  • Stefan (Civilian-Reader) May 13, 2011 at 7:19 am

    Excellent post! When’s the comic adaptation due out? Looking forward to reading that.
    Really must read “Game of Thrones” – I’ve only seen two of the episodes of the HBO series and I am enjoying it. Someone told me it was the “monochrome edition”, while the novel was the “technicolour edition”, infinitely more enjoyable and satisfying. Do people agree?

  • Locusmortis May 13, 2011 at 8:07 am

    I recall a post on another message board regarding the Khal/Dany scene in the first HBO episode saying something like “Geez it was a lot less rape-y in the book”.

    In the comic it should be possible to indicate the passage of time through the shading and colouring used by the artist, with deeper shadows and darker colours progressively being used throughout the scene.

    Also I guess you could use narration boxes perhaps, like in the old Savage Sword of Conan magazines by Roy Thomas…but I guess that technique has sort of fallen out of fashion these days.

  • Elio M. García, Jr. May 13, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    You know, I never really thought of the conundrum of Daenerys’s age and representing it in the visual medium of comics, where it could be labelled child pornography.

    My immediate reaction is, of course, unhappiness at it. But that’s the world we live in.

    My further reaction, after some thought, is that I’d much rather have had a 13-going-on-14 Dany who is never depicted nude or in a sexual situation (see her ride off with Drogo, see her lead Drogo out of the tent, fade to black). Her growth from a child to an adult is more important than her sexual awakening; that’s just one facet of her arc, not the whole shebang.

    But that’s the approach I would have preferred, and obviously there are pros and cons to it, so I respect that you had to make some sort of call on the subject.

  • Leah May 13, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    The relationship between Dani and the Khal has been one of my huge issues with the HBO series. Actually, over the course of four episodes, we haven’t really seen much of the Khal at all, nor experienced much character development for him. But I feel like there are ways that scene could have been handled less ham-handedly to indicate the attraction he has for Dani and, if nothing else, at least his respect for a precious possession. I was left with a bad taste in my mouth.

  • Aaron Lariviere May 13, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    I was under the impression Martin regretted the way he had originally written Dany and Drogo’s relationship. Something about romanticizing what, in actuality, would have been hugely traumatic and not cute n’ cuddly at all. I figured HBO took the opportunity to save some screentime AND go where Martin wanted to go in hindsight. I could, of course, be completely wrong.

  • Ludwig Van May 14, 2011 at 1:20 am

    Aaron Lariviere
    I was under the impression Martin regretted the way he had originally written Dany and Drogo’s relationship. Something about romanticizing what, in actuality, would have been hugely traumatic and not cute n’ cuddly at all. I figured HBO took the opportunity to save some screentime AND go where Martin wanted to go in hindsight. I could, of course, be completely wrong.

    You are.

  • […] Comment: The Three Wedding Nights of Daenerys Targaryen by Daniel Abraham, posted by A Dribble of Ink […]

  • SLQ May 15, 2011 at 6:46 am

    The idea that 13 was ever normal for marriage is a modern myth. In medieval times, the average age for first time marriage for women in Italy was 17; in France it was16; and in England and Germany 18 was the average age. (Source: “Medieval Households” by David Herlihy, Harvard University Press, 1985).

    It is true that the average age a women starts her period is 12.5 years… in the United States now. The first time we have real data on the “average” time a women started her period was 1860, and the average time then was 16.5 years old. Girls did not normally start their periods at the age of 13 in Medieval times.

    When Romeo and Juliet was written, the average age an English women got married was late teens/early adulthood. Juliet is Italian though – she’s not English. She’s foreign. Exotic. “Other”. Juliet being so young is a representation of that otherness, and was based on English notions about the Italian girls being precocious, not on real factual information.

    I heard someone else point out that Marie Antoinette was married at 14. She was. However, she had her first child at 21, at a time when no birth control was available. For Upper class marriages, this is typical. Young girls were married for alliance before they started their periods. In those cases, the girls did not start having children right away, they would wait until they were older.

    It is true, in upper classes, that women were generally married when they came of age, and men were generally married when they were financially ready. However, women did not “come of age” until much later in those times.

  • ginmar April 26, 2012 at 4:25 am

    In regard to Marie Antoinette, the marriage was not consummated for a number of years because the Dauphin had a physical abnormality that prevented erections. She was still a virgin for several years, and the lack of an heir might have been a factor in rising hostility to her.

  • sd June 2, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    You reside in New Mexico correct? Then your comic books had nothing to worry about legally.

  • Mona Malmedal (@Namo_Skathi) November 20, 2012 at 11:34 am

    I recently finished the first book in the series, after having watched the first 2 seasons of the series, and the way they made a passionate love scene into rape really bothers me. I don’t find age to be a problem here as this is a fictional world where age and time is different than in the real world. It is quite obvious that Jon and Robb are much older than the number they are given on paper, at least that is the way i choose to see it. I realise they need to make adaptions and leave some things out etc. and tell things in different way as it is a different medium…but to me it is wrong to change the story so dramatically, and they should have found a better way to depict the scene instead of just having her raped like that….

  • N. Vaz June 12, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Both in the book and in the series what happens is RAPE. The only difference between both is how the rape is. represented. In the series its not a “romantic” version. Dani is young and scared. She doesn’t have a choice, either to marry or to have sex. In the end it will not matter if she says no.