No Cartoon Villain: Euron Greyjoy in George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire”

It seems quite incongruous for there to be a Euron in “A Song of Ice and Fire”. After all, George R. R. Martin does not do pure evil. Ever. There is always a backstory. There is always an understandable motivation. One does not agree with the villains, but one sees the motivation, the perspective, and recognizes it as a kind of genuine humanity. But, Euron does not seem to fit this at all. When he was young, he killed his greyscale infected half-brother, Harlon, by closing his nostrils, suffocating him, and another half-brother, Robin, who was sickly and mentally limited. Either before, after, or during those murders, he molested his brothers Urri and Aeron. After having sex with his brother, Victarion’s, salt wife, Balon, the eldest and Lord Paramount of the Iron Isles, banishes him. Suspiciously soon after Balon’s suspicious death from falling off of a bridge or the bridge collapsing, Euron returns on board his ship, The Silence, which is crewed by mutes (Euron has had their tongues removed.), has its deck painted red to obscure the blood, and a sail that emphasizes his nickname, Crow’s Eye, as well as his affiliation with that harbinger of death and trickery.

 

Once he connives his way into being crowned king at the kingsmoot, Euron embarks on a bizarre campaign of pillaging, raping, and killing with the ultimate goal of the Ironborn feasting to their fill before the night. He intends to get dragons, marry the dragon queen, and conquer Westeros all the time talking about death, flying by leaping from a tall tower, and becoming god as he mocks all gods and belief. He is presently torturing his brother, Aeron, and has his visibly pregnant lover, Falia Flowers, lashed to the front of the ship with her tongue newly torn out. Euron is not only a sadistic, sociopath, but seemingly a cartoonish villain of Nazi or Bolshevik level proportions. How can this be?

 

Although it is not within our purview to put Euron on the proverbial couch and psychologically analyze him, it is incumbent on us to try to understand Euron as an actual person. After all, Martin does not do cartoon villainy. There must be something more than pure evil. As it should, the analysis should start with Euron’s murder of his two ailing, innocent, vulnerable cousins. This is most foul on the face of it. But, there is more to it than that simple, initial impression, as Preston Jacobs theorized in his Forsaken analysis videos on You Tube. His cousins were suffering, dejected, and doomed. In other words, they were not his victims, but the recipients of his charity. How do we know this? It is because Euron has told us so himself in the Forsaken chapter. Euron was answering his cousins’ prayers for mercy. Those prayers, in some ways, have haunted him leading him to make recurring references to them.

 

Mercy killing is one of the recurring plots in “A Song of Ice and Fire” and matches the debate about euthanasia among American Roman Catholics, of which Martin was one. On the one hand, there is holiness in suffering, martyrdom, being like Jesus who suffered for humanity. On the other hand, Church doctrine recognizes that death can be a gift – just like it is for the Faceless Men – for it leads to a better place, heaven. But one may be asking how a greyscale victim and a simple-minded person, both of whom cannot speak, reached Euron to communicate, or pray, that they wished to die, that is, were silent.

 

Although the blogger Madeinmyr has done a fascinating job analyzing Euron (See https://madeinmyr.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/a-black-eye-shining-with-malice-thoughts-concerning-eurons-black-magic-and-potential-dark-powers/), it is worth our while to add to that picture. The first sign that something is special about Euron is his heterochromia – one eye is sky blue, the other black, which he covers with an eye patch. There are several characters in “A Song of Ice and Fire” with that condition, Shiera Seastar and Tyrion Lannister most notably, and they all have a connection with the magical world. (Tyrion’s is largely latent, but it is still there.) Second, Euron is constantly associating himself with crows and a crow’s third eye. It seems highly likely his dream of flying (The Reaver chapter, AFFC) contained the three-eyed crow that visited Bran, which wanted Bran to open his third eye.

 

Although YouTube video channel Order of the Greenhand has persuasively argued that Bloodraven is not the three-eyed crow, that Jojen, Bran, and Euron appear to have all received dreams involving the three-eyed crow makes it reasonable to conclude that they all share psychic abilities. It is not a far off leap, as it were, to suspect Euron also has skinchanging powers or, at least, has the talent for entering into others’ minds, hearing their thoughts, placing himself into others’ consciousness. It would explain, for instance, how he is able to coordinate a crew of mutes at sea, enter into Aeron’s head in the Forsaken chapter, and how he might be surveilling Victarion through the Dusky Woman. Furthermore, it might also be how he is entering Daenerys’ thoughts, her sex dreams notably, particularly the one where a blue, cold Hizdahr with Euron’s blue, bruised lips puts his cold penis into her. Euron’s Shade of the Evening usage might explain all of this. He is opening his third eye through drug use just as Daenerys had visions drinking it before entering the House of the Undying.

 

But, a key clue to understanding how Martin has crafted Euron’s character may lie in another of his characters – the mother from “Nightflyers”. Spoiler alert. The rest of this analysis reveals key plot points from that story. Royd Eris is the putative captain of the eponymous ship, Nightflyer, but his secret is that his Mother’s self is part of the ship’s computer system. Furthermore, the computer system also has her telekinetic power. On her home planet of Vess, she was institutionalized for her gift, tortured into not using it, and developed into a sociopath and a misanthrope. (Dreamsongs, I, “Nightflyers”, 603) She was born different, ostracized, and driven insane by societal prejudice. Euron’s psycho-pathology appears to be along similar lines.

 

Tortured by his gift – the ability to sense and be inside other people, a skinchanger, Euron answered the “prayers” of his suffering half-brothers. He sought comfort, like Sweetrobin seeking out Sansa, from the voices by molesting Urri and Aeron. His contact with the three-eyed crow has driven him to obsession with death. He does not love dragons for the power they wield. He loves them because they bring death. He is not a Valyria lover because he wants an empire, but because they were consumed in the Doom – mass death. He is not a sadist, but someone who is in love with death. He resembles what the three eyed crow serves and represents – a death cult, in other words, the weirwoods and the Children of the Forest. (See Order of the Greenhand, YouTube.)

 

In conclusion, while Euron is a monstrous person, he is still a person. Martin has written him that way so that we may view what Hannah Arendt called “the banality of evil”. Anything that makes him more or less is a misinterpretation of his true nature.

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