Tuesday, June 17, 2014

India's Bandit Empress: The Real Life Daenerys Targaryen

The Internet is obsessed with Daenerys Targaryen.  Over the last two years, hundreds of baby girls have become her namesake, while her television portrayal by Emilia Clarke spawns countless memes, think pieces and cosplay outfits.  Whether being considered as a feminist icon or simply a paragon of satisfying narrative payoff, the Mother of Dragons’ slow progression from helpless slave to conquering warlord make her an understandably irresistible figure.  But she has nothing on the real life violence and vengeance enacted by the Bandit Queen of India, Phoolan Devi.

The parallels between these two women are striking, and one would suspect that George R.R. Martin was influenced in his creation of Daenerys, if Phoolan’s story hadn't been popularized in the west years after the fictional queen’s creation.  Even given Martin’s noted refusal to reward good and punish evil within his fictional universe, however, Phoolan’s story is both more tragic and marked by more personal vengeance than any possible fictional descendant.