Tyrion is reading in the library, but is distracted by the constant howling of a wolf. Tyrion decides he is done for the evening and wakes Septon Chayle, who has fallen asleep atop a book on the life of Grand Maester Aethelmure. He gives the books and scrolls he was reading back into the care of the septon and warns him to be careful as some of them are quite rare, including Ayrmidon’s Engines of War.
Outside, men are drilling in the yard, and Tyrion hears Sandor comment on how he wishes Bran would just die, as he has been unconscious for several days since his fall. Tyrion comes over and tells Joffrey that he should pay his respects to Lord Eddard, but Joffrey does not see the point, so Tyrion slaps him and cows him into doing so. Tyrion proceeds to the guest house, where Cersei, Jaime, Tommen, and Myrcella are having breakfast. Cersei has always disliked Tyrion, while Jaime is the one person who has consistently shown him kindness since childhood.
King Robert has not been sleeping, and has been at Lord Eddard’s side since Bran’s fall. Tyrion breaks the news that Maester Luwin thinks that if Bran were going to die, he would have already done so. Tommen and Myrcella are overjoyed, but Cersei and Jaime do not seem pleased. Tyrion explains that it has been four days since the fall with little change, which makes death less likely. Myrcella asks if Bran will get better, and Tyrion explains that his back was broken and his legs shattered in the fall and that he will never walk again even if he wakes up. Bran’s wolf1 has been howling under his window nonstop since the fall, and when Maester Luwin closed the window, Bran seemed to weaken until it was opened again.2 Tyrion states that he intends to go north to see the Wall. Returning the conversation to Bran, Jaime says that he would not want to live a cripple and prefers a clean death.3 Tyrion, on the other hand, hopes the boy does wake up, because he thinks Bran may have an interesting story to tell.
I remember being a little surprised on my first read through that we got a look inside Tyrion’s head at all. It came to me as something of a relief that we would get a point-of-view chapter from a character who was closer (physically, not emotionally) to the heart of things. It wasn’t clear at the time whether or not Tyrion was a villain (I have long since stopped even attempting to categorize characters in this series as good or bad) though it was obvious that he was a decent man at heart.
A Song of Ice and Fire stands out as a deconstruction of the fantasy genre in several aspects – however, Martin shares his fellow authors’ love for outcasts and misfits. The idea of protagonists being outsiders or newcomers to a mysterious new world is a familiar one, not just in the fantasy genre, but in fiction as a whole. All three of the primary protagonists in the ASOIAF are outsiders, misfits and unwelcome; Jon Snow is mistrusted first in the Night’s Watch, then later with the Wildlings and then once again when he rejoins the Night’s Watch (we know how that ended). Dany is hardly a good fit among the Dothraki initially and even after the birth of her dragons, she stands out among the rest of the cultures she visits, especially (and disastrously) the Meereneese and Astapori, as an invader. Tyrion, of course, as can be expected and is quickly demonstrated here, stands out both because of his parentage and his deformity.
I feel it was important that the fundamental conflict (you know, of nice guy versus utter ass) between Tyrion and Joffrey was established so early on. It not only helped to introduce the reader to the tension between Tyrion and his family but also serves as a prelude to what is to come in ACoK. We also get an introduction to Tyrion’s greatest strength (in my opinion at least) – his observational skills and basic intellect. Sure, reading those books and burning the midnight oil gave him the aura of a learned man, but I felt that it was his sharp eyes during the breakfast that defines his character. It is wholly possible for someone to be highly intelligent but totally oblivious but Tyrion is sharp enough that his mind is always applied to the matter at hand.
Aside from that, I’m curious as to what exactly the Hound’s angle here is. Clearly, he bears no fondness towards Tyrion, who by all means holds nothing but contempt for the Hound, but I didn’t get the sense that the Hound held Joff in any high regard either. Sure, one could say that the Hound was just sucking up, but that doesn’t really seem right – maybe he just disliked Tyrion that much? Also, this should go without saying, but I still greatly enjoyed Tyrion bitch slapping Joffrey and how utterly incapable of responding Joffrey was. While the Hound is dead right – Joff will certainly remember the insult and it won’t do Tyrion any favours down the line, it is was still immensely satisfying from the reader’s perspective for someone to put that brat in his place. Unfortunately it doesn’t last very long, but as they say, it’s the thought that counts – indeed, this incident earned Tyrion some serious brownie points from the readership.
The other thing I’m not still clear on is whether or not Tyrion knows about Cersei’s and Jaime’s dirty little secret at this point. I initially thought that he figured it out only in ACoK after some insinuation from the Littlefinger or Varys, but I can’t remember if that’s the case and certainly, his words here are ambiguous. For one thing, Tyrion idol worships Jaime (who I recently discovered is considerably older than him) and would forgive any number of faults. Well, not literally any number of faults as we discover latter in the series, but this is a pretty big fault to cover up though it would do Tyrion himself absolutely no good to reveal that he knows the secret even if he does.
This was a short chapter so there isn’t much more that I want to comment on, really. Well, except this: so Ned and Robert are supposed to be bros right? Why would Tyrion assume that Robert would still command Ned to go down South with him while his son’s life hangs in the balance? Picture this convo:
Ned: Dude, shit just got real. Kid’s dying and shit. I’ma have to bail on the trip.
Robert: Dude…fuck that. I got mad pussy for ya down South. Let’s ride.
Ned: ….Ok. Let’s ride.
It doesn’t seem in character with Ned – he loves his family, remember? And even if you make the argument that death is familiar thing to people in this setting, and especially so up North, it still means that Ned is cold as ice for leaving his wife (who as we find out soon has reacted marvelously to this development) and his inexperienced eldest son to man the castle all because Robert is too lazy and incompetent to do it himself. Not cool, bro. Not cool.
(On a more serious note, I do appreciate that Robert has spent time with Ned since the fall. I just found it strange that he would still ‘command’ him to go down South, though perhaps Tyrion doesn’t actually know and is just guessing instead)