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"The Unsullied"
Eunuchs in Combat? A Fellow Fantasy Writer Wonders about Emasculation in A Game of Thrones

I was thinking about subscribing to Game of Thrones for some cheap entertainment, and got to watching clips on Youtube. I've only watched the first Season and half of the 2nd, and only read the first book, so most of the series is pretty unknown to me.

Anyway I was watching some clips about the dragon queens army "The Unsullied" when I hear that they're Eunuchs. I am aghast. An army of eunuchs? Are they really supposed to be a highly trained band of sellswords? Capable of slaughter? I get that Mr Martin's world is a total fantasy with dragons and walking dead, but... an army of eunuchs just ruins it for me. What the hell is a beardless fat man with no sex drive going to do a man with all of his testosterone???

I remember reading about how the ottomans had both slave soldiers and eunuchs, (Often captured Christian boys) but never did I read anything about mixing the two. I don't suppose you have?

I've suddenly come across my own answer to my query about eunuchs, though the example I have is fictional rather than historical.

Jack Vances "The Languages of Pao" posits a far flung, space faring humanity. One such isolated world, the titular Pao, has a world-ruling emperor attended to by a corps of eunuch bodyguards These are surgically and hormonally enhanced to be 8 foot tall, violet hued, artificially adrenalized sexless freaks. One specimen, when asked if he would like to be modified to be fertile again, angrily denounces the idea as the return of weakness. While reading I imagined them to wear a breathing/needler harness (Ala Batman's Bane) that provides just the right chemical cocktail to turn them into bulldozing juggernauts; however later in the book the entire corps of eunuchs is pitted against a rebelling warrior caste and is slaughtered to a... well not a man. To a freak I guess.


Game of Thrones

Historically, eunuchs were employed in some military capacity, but never as grunt soldiers, to my knowledge. There was a very successful early Byzantine general who was an eunuch. His name begins with an N, I think, who supplanted Belesarius, who he may have had a hand in disposing of. Both were excellent generals. The leaders of the Chinese Star Fleets of the early 1400s were ambitious eunuchs. However, although Westeros and the world it is set in was based on history and British skullduggery, many of the elements that disturb you and I and other serious fantasy and science fiction readers I am acquainted with are the products of focus groups!

George R. R. Martin, who I borrowed from stylistically early in my fiction writing, was not going to have dragons. He was a vampire cultist of the Anne Rice school, whose early content readers encouraged him—talked him into—putting dragons in the story line.

Next, he waited ten years to write the final book, with his finger in the pop culture wind to see which way it was blowing, before putting out the concluding novel.

The HBO producers went even further in the direction he charted.

This took an excellent story that bordered on Arthurian and Shakespearean with deft modern twists and turned it into a focus group study in medieval fantasy soap opera. The end product:

1. Denies masculine heroism totally, maiming, humiliating and killing all the most virtuous heroes. The only masculine hero capable of growth is Jamie Lannister, who only becomes a reflective and sympathetic character after loosing his right hand.

2. Heroines, good and evil, dominate the story.

3. Modern homosexual and Euro-African mixed race characters are inserted counter to the logic of the setting to broaden reader and viewer appeal.

4. The less traditionally masculine a hero is the better he does, with the story keying on the execution of the best man in Westeros, Edard Stark, demonstrating the futility of masculine action, with his sons suffering the same fate in the chronological order of their traditional nature, with a bastard lasting longer than the successor and finally the daughters and crippled son being the final hope for redemption, the crippled son written to appeal to the sedentary sissy male viewer of our age.

5. White walkers are vampire-zombie hybrids, the ultimate enemy, making this effort a mainstream linkage from Rice to the Walking Dead.

Overall, Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice is the most brilliant piece of commercial writing ever committed to paper.

Martin is a genius.

The Problem with Eunuchs in Combat

1. Loss of manpower due to the 20-90% fatality rate of the procedure, as practiced historically on eunuchs of color, as the large black penis was more feared than the testicles, would reduce the numbers of the soldiers and increase their cost.

2. Loss of testosterone causes weight gain—making for very poor infantry and unmountable cavalry—contrary to the thin, petite men depicted as black eunuchs in Game of Thrones.

3. Eunuchs are only good combatants in limited, stationary positions, such as guarding a harem, gate, or door.

That said, the Janissaries were effective slave soldiers because they were uncastrated homosexuals and had very tight—all puns accepted—unit cohesion.

Realistically you have, in a purely corrupt system as depicted by Martin, eunuchs running the government and secret police and pack-oriented homos at the point of the military sword.

Of Lions and Men

Add Comment
ShepAugust 2, 2017 8:21 PM UTC

Mattias Tannhauser was a Janissary. Can't see him batting for the other team.
JAugust 2, 2017 4:36 PM UTC

James, here is an intereting video where Mcgregor spars with the man that played the Mountain in Gam of Thrones. You can really see how quickly the huge miscular man gets tired, compared to Mcgregor dancing around him with near impunity.

This made the point to me that the episode of the show where the Mountain is nearly defeated by a much smaller and more nimble man was actually quite realistic.
responds:August 2, 2017 6:04 PM UTC

Strong men are easily tired unless they are very relaxed, beyond the norm.
JoeBAugust 2, 2017 7:18 AM UTC

Here's another bit of perversion in Martin's GoT's world.

Not one balanced and happy heterosexual marriage.
Sam J.August 1, 2017 11:58 PM UTC

Game of Thrones makes me cringe at times with it's over the top bloody, slutty story but with all of it's myriad of sub-plots...I'm afraid I'm hooked on the show just as bad as some housewife is hooked on General Hospital. It's shameful but there it is.

I download it on I2P with it's anonymous torrent program.
CluedAugust 1, 2017 6:19 PM UTC

Woah. The Janissaries were Homos? What are your sources for that I've never come across it.