9

The job of the Maesters is to keep track and communicate about historical events throughout Westeros (among other things).

It would make sense that the infection of Stannis Baratheon's daughter by greyscale would have been communicated to the Citadel as the Maesters are also men of science and practice medicine.

Obviously, Shireen was cured from greyscale spreading through her entire body not thanks to the Maesters because they have no safe method to cure Greyscale.

This strikes me as odd though. There aren't that many things about Dragonstone except it is a damp stone castle sitting on Dragonglass.

The Maesters know very well that it is sitting on Dragonglass so how come they have an entire book on "How to peel a human in order to cure his disease."

I mean "I died from Greyscale after writing this but peeling the skin off is your best bet OK?" and nobody bothered to test Dragonglass or whatever was used on Shireen that would cure Greyscale?

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    I'm not sure why Dragonglass enters into this. – PoloHoleSet Jul 28 '17 at 16:12
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    @Martha - I'm getting a vibe that OP thinks maybe it was the use of a Dragonglass cutting tool/surgical instrument that was the reason why she was cured, but I didn't see anything that remotely suggested that was what happened, as opposed to it being caught very, very early on a very, very young subject. – PoloHoleSet Jul 28 '17 at 17:11
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    You lose a lot of detail by only watching the show. Although the show is only a corrupted recounting of the true events (the unreliability of historical narrative is a major theme of the series) and thus the internal reality may be different from the source, in the books it made clear that if greyscale is treated quickly its progress can be arrested, with higher probability of success with children. – DukeZhou Jul 28 '17 at 17:22
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    @DukeZhou: problem is, I can't stand (understatement alert!) GRRM's writing. The show is written by other people, so it's actually several orders of magnitude better than the books. (Damning with faint praise, I know, but still.) – Martha Jul 28 '17 at 17:48
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    @Obie haha. I agree in that "modern literary fiction" is itself a genre, and prior to modernism, all narrative was "genre". Possibly a point I was trying to make is that style is considered more important in "literary" fiction than in "genre" fiction. – DukeZhou Jul 28 '17 at 19:23
44

Its clear that the Maesters do know what cured Shireen.

From the Season 7 Episode 2 Stormborn, a conversation between Sam and the Archmaester:

SAM: Um Pardon, Archmaester. I met Stannis Baratheon's daughter at Castle Black. She had the greyscale as a baby and was cured.

EBROSE: No.

SAM: Isn't there some way...

EBROSE: Does this look like a baby to you?

SAM: No.

EBROSE: Have you studied the varying rates of greyscale progression in infants and fully grown men?

SAM: No.

EBROSE: Maester Cressen discovered Shireen Baratheon's affliction immediately. This is quite advanced. And beyond our skills, ser.

  • @Jarko Dubbeldam The way I interrupt it is that Stannis called every Maester until one of them found a way and was able to help her, and he (the maester) was only able to do so because she was an infant and they discovered the disease quickly. – madmada Jul 29 '17 at 13:47
  • That is the conclusion I made as well. However, I would find it weird that there is no mention whatsoever about what the actual cure was, neither in the books, nor in the series. Ebrose could have said that the cure only works during early stages of the disease, or Sam could've found a book where this was noted. I think the lack of such information would make it plausible that the maesters actually don't quite know what did it. – JAD Jul 29 '17 at 13:53
  • My guess is the writers trying not contradict anything has been mentioned in the earlier seasons, so, they're not giving any details more than what they have to. Just a simple "Yeah we know about Shireen but it was a different case in a different circumstance and it won't work here" – madmada Jul 29 '17 at 14:02
  • @JarkoDubbeldam: Saying "Its quite advanced and beyond our skills" is surely the same as saying "we can cure it in early stages". It might also require it to be an infant but to me the quotes are as good as saying the cure only works during the early stages of the disease. – Chris Jul 29 '17 at 15:59
6

While @madmada seems to have a point, it is somewhat contradicting to what was said earlier in the show. In season 5, while Stannis Baratheon and Shireen were at Castle Black, it is mentioned a couple of times.

GILLY (gently): What do you call it in the South, what happened to your face?

SHIREEN: Greyscale. What do you call it north of the Wall?

GILLY: I don't know. But two of my sisters had it. They both died. How did they cure you?

SHIREEN: I don't remember. I was a baby. Lots of people came and tried, I think. Whatever they did, it went away. What happened to your sisters?
Game of thrones, season 5, episode 2: the House of Black and White (emphasis mine)

This seems to imply that while Maester Cressen diagnosed quickly, he didn't have a ready cure. After all, many people have to come and try above all else.

Another quote from a later episode supports this:

STANNIS: When you were an infant, (Stands up and walks around his desk), the Dornish trailer landed on Dragonstone. His goods were junk except for one wooden doll. He'd even sewn a dress on it in the colors of our House. No doubt he'd heard of your birth, and assumed new fathers were easy targets. I still remember how you smiled when I put that doll in your cradle, (Shireen smiles), and you pressed it to your cheek. (Looks down. Shireen’s smile drops). By the time we burnt the doll, it was too late. (Walks to the table and adjusts the objects on it). I was told you would die. Or worse, the grayscale would go slow. (Turns to her). Let you grow just enough to know the world before taking it away from you. Everyone advised me to send you to the ruins of Valyria to live out your short life with the Stone men, before the sickness spread to the castle. I told them all to go to hell. (Shireen smiles). I called in every maester on this side of the world. Every healer, every apothecary. They stopped the disease and saved your life. Because you did not belong across the world with the bloody Stone men. (Walks towards her). You are the Princess Shireen of House Baratheon. And you are my daughter.
Game of thrones, season 5, episode 4: Sons of the Harpy (emphasis mine).

If Maester Cressen knew to cure it simply because he found it early in an infant, he wouldn't have needed the help of every maester on this side of the world, every healer and every apothecary, would he?

None of these quotes seem to show that they really know what actually helped. Or it is just not mentioned.

Maybe however, the distinction between Jorah's greyscale and Shireen's grayscale was that they found Shireen's way earlier, which gave them the time to actually try different things, whereas Jorah's situation is a lot less sunny.

However, I would find it weird that there is no mention whatsoever about what the actual cure was, neither in the books, nor in the series. Ebrose could have said that the cure only works during early stages of the disease, or Sam could've found a book where this was noted. I think the lack of such information would make it plausible that the maesters actually don't quite know what did it.

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    I think its quite plausible that most maesters don't know. I would imagine greyscale in children is pretty rare and I would imagine that not every maester knows every piece of information. I'd consider it like modern medicine where there are specialists in certain fields. Those who have studied it might be aware of the cure and it is possible that Cressen didn't and that is why more help was needed. – Chris Jul 29 '17 at 16:03
  • That was where my question was coming from. I did think that they did not just peel Shireen's face off like Jorrah. – Liquid Same Jul 31 '17 at 8:08
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    How I imagined it when reading the books and watching the show is that loads and loads of people came and try their own methods to try and cure it, getting kicked out by Stannis if it didn't help soon enough. However, when you have so many methods tried in a short period of time, it could be that the method that actually halted the disease was not the last cure tried. So it could be entirely possible that they just don't know what exactly cured it. – JAD Jul 31 '17 at 8:12
5

To expand the other answers with a quote from the books (emphasis mine).

The curse was oft seen in children, especially in damp, cold climes. The afflicted flesh stiffened, calcified, and cracked, though the dwarf had read that greyscale's progress could be stayed by limes, mustard poultices, and scalding-hot baths (the maesters said) or by prayer, sacrifice, and fasting (the septons insisted). Then the disease passed, leaving its young victims disfigured but alive.

So it seems that greyscale is not always mortal for children. Which can mean that maybe Shireen survived simply because of luck and not because of a certain treatment. Of course it may be different in the show.

  • A disease that spares children and kills men sounds weird but hey we have dragons and millennial beings of ice. – Liquid Same Jul 31 '17 at 8:45
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    There are diseases like that in real life. The measles come to mind. Children that get it have a far better survival rate than adults. – Dragoon Jul 31 '17 at 8:49
  • Right, completely forgot about that one. – Liquid Same Jul 31 '17 at 9:58
  • Tonsillitis would be another example where it is more serious in adults. Surgery to remove the tonsils is pretty minor for kids and is usually a somewhat positive experience because of the therapy of ice cream to sooth the throat, post surgery. Removing them for an adult is a much more physically traumatic/damaging endeavor. – PoloHoleSet Jul 31 '17 at 13:57
  • Many viral diseases are worse in adults than in children. Mumps. Chicken pox. Measles. It's also worth considering that if a certain percentage of children simply survive greyscale naturally, both the maesters and the septons may be simply providing placebos. (Compare with the many folk remedies for snakebite, where we now know that about a third of the time the snake doesn't have enough venom on tap to cause significant harm.) – arp Jan 29 '18 at 6:03

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