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Spoilers! (do I have to even say that here?)

I recently rewatched the episode of Game of Thrones where Daenerys is in Astapor. She makes the deal with the master slaver guy, where she trades him one of her dragons for 8,000 of his very tough slaves. I immediately thought this was stupid for two reasons:

  1. Why would he think the dragon would immediately obey him rather than her? Maybe he doesn't quite believe the 'Mother of Dragons' lore, but it's still basically a pet at the very least. This one isn't as bad though, as...
  2. Why would he possibly think she wouldn't betray him and use her freshly bought slaves to take back her dragon? He just traded her literally all his slaves and he has not been kind to her so far. He has motivation to not go back on the deal -- he's running a business, basically... but she has no reason not to.

I guess you could argue that he was blinded by greed, but I think that would be poor writing -- he's in a vicious trade, I can't imagine he would've survived long thinking so naively.

Does anyone have a good explanation?

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He hasn't been kind to her so far, and she knows he hasn't been kind to her so far, but I don't think he knows that she knows. At the time he makes the deal he still thinks she doesn't speak the language, right? –  MartianInvader Jul 11 at 22:20

3 Answers 3

It is mentioned in the books, I think by Ser Jorah, that the slave cities do not have big armies to defend themselves, because they do not have to. They buy off the dothraki, and they are integral partners in the slave trade, which no one wants to do without. Attacking Astapor would be starting a war against all the slave cities, which no doubt would be considered foolish and suicidal.

Also, Dany had not shown any aggression before that, staying for quite a while in Qarth. She is probably considered young and naive and harmless. At least in the books. In the TV-show, she is quite aggressive in Qarth, and I believe she kills Xaro? So actually the TV-show makes less sense in that regard.

Though I agree, it was foolish of him. The same way it was foolish of Ned Stark not to immediately secure control over the City Watch in King's Landing. And clever of Tyrion to do so, by getting rid of Janos Slynt and replacing him with Ser Jacelyn Bywater. It is a theme often used by GRRM in the books.

I'm not sure this qualifies as a "good" explanation, but one thing is for certain, and that is that this scene where she takes her vengeance on the Good Masters of Astapor and frees the slaves is one of the most satisfying in the books. :)

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Also, they assumed she couldn't speak to her slave army directly and would have to go through a translator. So in their thoughts Daenerys would be unable to order the slaves to turn on their former masters straight away. –  Nick May 7 at 8:41
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@Nick That's a good point, although they did give her Missandei, the child interpreter. –  TLP May 7 at 12:52
    
@TLP I recall the books saying that the slave cities don't have big armies, but I was shocked that the slaver gave up all 8,000 Unsullied (including the all the trainees). Wouldn't this not only leave them vulnerable to attack but also give them 0 slaves to trade for years and years to come? –  Rob Sobers Jun 25 at 15:12
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@RobSobers I believe the slavers commented on that, and one of them said Gold in my pocket now is better than gold in my pocket later. Presumably they have other slaves than unsullied to sell. –  TLP Jun 25 at 15:20
    
@TLP Ah, I do recall that quote now, when he was telling Dany, who promised him riches once she conquered Westeros, of another outstanding offer he had for many of the Unsullied. Thanks! –  Rob Sobers Jun 25 at 15:24

A combination of two things I think:

Hubris

The slavers have been in power for so long that they have forgotten that they are not all powerful immortals. Years of holding the power of life and death over countless slaves and reigning over a city that not even the might Dothraki were able to sack have lead the masters of Astapor into a false sense of security. In all the years since the Unsullied were first trained, no one had owned enough of them to be a threat to Astapor.

And who was this Daenyeres Stormborn anyway? Just a penniless barbarian who happened to have the good fortune of owning the last three dragons. Surely such as she was no match to the mighty masters of Astapor!

Greed

Here in front of them were the last three dragons of legend. Creatures that no one in living memory has ever seen. And the prospect of owning one of them blinded them to everything else. Think of the power they would hold over all nations!

How would they contain the dragon? How would they protect their city without the Unsullied? All these questions seemed so far away in front of such a salivating prize such as owning a dragon.

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Perhaps they also on some level never considered that their Unsullied would turn against them. –  TLP Mar 21 at 8:46
    
@TLP - That too –  System Down Mar 21 at 13:48
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I like this answer. The problem with answering the question is the asker implicitly assumes that all GoT characters should be intelligent and rational in their decision-making all of the time. Far from being sloppy writing, I think it's actually a good thing that the characters can be inconsistent, leading to incidents like this. Because real people make critical errors too. –  The Giant of Lannister Mar 21 at 19:02
    
@TheGiantofLannister - Really good point, and that goes along with the theme in ASOIAF of portraying complex characters, who are just about never black-and-white, clear-cut good or evil. I hadn't thought of it in terms of "characters can make stupid mistakes too". Nice one. –  Leo King Jun 5 at 11:02
    
Also, its not just any dragon. It was Drogon, the largest and fiercest of the three. –  ssell Jul 11 at 17:45

I think the downfall of the slavers was because their own arrogance and sense of entitlement blinded them: they call themselves Good Masters, and think there is nothing wrong with slavery. They also know why Dany wants the Unsullied - to conquer Westeros - why would she stay in Slavers Bay when she has what she wants? I think it is pretty clear from the books that the ruling caste in Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen are a vicious and foolish people, corrupted by their own positions of privilege - the description of the self indulgent Yunkai generals being a good example. Also the dragon is the symbol of Valryia, who used them to conquer all of Slaver's Bay, so possessing a dragon means possessing power.

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