Unless you’re a regular Game of Thrones viewer, or a seasoned reader of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, the phrase “Grand Maester Conspiracy” might sound like misspelled gobbledygook. However, Westeros-heads (Thronies? Whatever mulls your wine) will no doubt recognize that, of the many, many Game of Thrones fan theories out there on the Internet, the Grand Maester Conspiracy is among the most prominent and solidly researched. The Conspiracy itself was discovered by fans, is hinted at by certain characters in the show, and is relatively fleshed out in the books. Despite the seeming triviality of the maesters in GoT, the Grand Maester Conspiracy may hold answers to some of the biggest questions of the past, present, and future of Westeros.
What really happened to the dragons, after all? They apparently disappeared, along with most magic, from Westeros for generations before Daenerys Targaryen hatched her trio. Where did the magic go, and why is it back? Is somebody running a campaign against magic? Few groups in Westeros have the continuity, the organization, and the influence to pull off such a plot, but the maesters are definitely one of them.
Maesters are the ultimate academics in the world of Westeros. An ancient order, the maesters train at the Citadel in Oldtown until they are ready for dispatch, after which they serve the various lords and ladies in the castles of Westeros. During their training process, maesters forge links on chains of servitude that hang around their necks, with each link denoting a new area of expertise.
Maesters play a number of important roles, including provision of education, healing, advising, and communicating. There’s a maester in every castle of any importance in Westeros, and some of the more notable members include Maester Luwin, the caretaker of the Stark children, and Grand Maester Pycelle, who served the ruler in King’s Landing directly for over 40 years.
The general thrust of the Grand Maester Conspiracy is that the maesters hate magic, and want the world to be free of it. Why might that be? For one, magic is, by its very nature, anti-academic. Magic cannot be fully understood, measured, or controlled, unlike the other areas of expertise the maesters concern themselves with.
The maesters derive their influence from being able to advise on every possible subject, so having a powerful force out there that can’t be explained or controlled undercuts their very purpose. Maesters dislike magic so much, in fact, one of their initiation ceremonies involves spending a night with a supposedly magic “glass candle,” trying to get it to light on fire. The lesson is supposed to be that magic doesn’t work and should be ignored, but lately the candles have been working again.
One of the major roles of the Order of the Maesters is the preservation of history. Literacy isn’t incredibly common in Westeros, but every maester is taught how to read and write, meaning they’re often the only ones available when it comes to recording world events. The maesters have built up an extensive library at the Citadel, and that means they’re all too familiar with the death and destruction caused by magic, and particularly dragons, in the past. There’s good historical precedent for magic being a bad thing, and maesters are very good at recognizing patterns.
One of the greatest mysteries in Game of Thrones lore happened long before the series actually started. When the audience is introduced to Westeros, dragons have been dead for generations, and the trio born to Daenerys Targaryen are the first that anyone living has seen. The history books tell us that, after arriving in Westeros, Targaryen dragons started to shrink in average size with each new generation.
After a brutal Targaryen civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons, most of the fire-breathing beasts were wiped out, and any born after that point came out stunted and short-lived. Many speculate the dragons were poisoned in some way, and who better to do that than the maesters, experts on all kinds of poisons. For the record, maesters blamed the stunted growth on the practice of keeping dragons indoors, but Daenerys’s dragons seem to disprove that. What were they making excuses for?