[Re-Read] A Clash of Kings – Tyrion I


Summary:

a-clash-of-kings

Tyrion, flanked by Bronn and Timett, is being denied access to the small council chamber by Ser Mandon. Tyrion finally blusters his way through. Cersei is meeting with Varys, Petyr, Pycelle, and Janos. Tyrion presents a letter from Lord Tywin naming Tyrion Hand of the King until such time as Tywin can assume the role himself. Cersei is angry and claims the appointment is invalid, but Tyrion points out there is little she can do about it. He asks the council members to give him some time alone with Cersei. On his way out Lord Petyr asks Tyrion if he needs quarters prepared, and Tyrion says he will stay in the Tower of the Hand. Petyr is surprised, given what happened to Jon and Eddard, the last two Hands, and Tyrion tells him that the Hand before them died in the sack of King’s Landing, the Hand before him was burned alive, and the two before him died as penniless exiles. Lord Tywin was the last Hand to leave with his life and property intact.

When the others leave, Cersei rounds on him furiously. She threatens to name the letter a forgery and throw Tyrion in the dungeon, but Tyrion tells her that he can get Jaime back. Tyrion asks her about recent events. Joffrey had been told to pardon Eddard, but took it upon himself to give the mob a show. Lord Janos was promised Harrenhal by Petyr in return for siding with the Lannisters. Ser Barristan was dismissed because Joffrey wanted to blame someone for Robert’s death, and Varys suggested Barristan. Tyrion asks her what the smallfolk will think if they see the legendary Barristan riding with another king, and she admits that was something she did not consider. Tyrion says this is why she needs help. She reluctantly agrees, but only if he shares all his plans with her. He agrees, though he has no intention of doing any such thing. Tyrion then asks her who murdered Lord Jon, and Cersei says she does not know. She does reveal that she helped Robert to his hunting accident by having Lancel keep him well supplied with wine three times as potent as Robert was used to. Tyrion takes his leave.

Timett has wandered off, and Tyrion orders Bronn to arrange quarters for the clansmen. Tyrion leaves the Red Keep with an escort of Lannister house guards under the command of the captain of the queen’s guard, Vylarr. On the way out, he orders the heads of the Stark household taken down from the walls. The streets of King’s Landing have grown restless. No food is getting into the city because of the war in the riverlands and Highgarden’s declaration for Renly has closed the roads to the south and west. Cersei has tripled the size of the City Watch, put thousands of craftsmen to work strengthening the city’s defenses, and ordered the Alchemists’ Guild to produce ten thousand jars of wildfire. Lord Petyr is providing the coin to pay for all this by levying a tax on all those who would enter the city. Tyrion returns to his inn, where Shae, Chella, and a large number of Black Ears are waiting for him. He is surprised to discover that Varys is there as well. He leaves shortly, but not before he makes it clear that Tyrion will not be able to hide anything from him. Tyrion takes Shae upstairs and has sex with her. He dare not bring her to the Red Keep because his father forbade it, but he plans to find a house for her in the city. After they have made love, Shae asks what he plans to do in King’s Landing, and he answers that he will do justice.

Source

Commentary:

Despite being very early in the book, this is perhaps one of my favourite Tyrion chapters. It’s essentially him just laying down the lay on a bunch of totally unsuspecting King’s Landing politicians, his own dear sister included. I think part of what really struck me about this chapter, the first time I read it at least, was the extremely stark (no pun intended) difference between Tyrion’s first time meeting the Small Council and Ned’s own first meeting. Of course, the circumstances were very different – Robert was Joffrey no more than Tyrion is Ned yet, there is enough of a parallel between the two that we can actually compare their methods and the results.

A small, but significant, detail is the difference in the Small Council’s own approach towards the two Hands. In Ned’s case, they had the jump on him – one way or another, they knew when he reached the city, they knew about what had happened on the Kingsroad and most importantly, they ‘summoned’ him or rather, requested his presence. Those details say a lot about the power of the Hand vis-à-vis the Small Council and clearly in Ned’s case, they had the advantage on him. Ned was an outsider no matter how you looked at it; his closest tie to King’s Landing was through Robert and Robert was non-entity at best as a ruler and an active hindrance at worst. I should also mention that the Small Council itself was slightly different; Ned had something of a kindred spirit in Selmy and a potential ally in Renly if he played his cards right. Of course, being Ned, he didn’t even realize that he was even holding those cards until the game ended.

In comparison though, let’s look at Tyrion and his time in King’s Landing. Like Ned, Tyrion has to deal with a totally useless King but even on his best days, Joffrey is a much bigger obstacle to proper rule than Robert on his worst. Worse, unlike Ned, Tyrion does not have a mandate from the King which means that he and Joffrey will regularly be at loggerheads over the right course of action, which while entertaining for us as readers, does erode Tyrion’s own political powerbase. Yet, Tyrion does bring some advantages of his own – he is familiar with King’s Landing (and the value of that familiarity cannot be overstated) which means that by extension he is also familiar with the natures of the various politicians like Littlefinger, Varys and Pycelle. Furthermore, given his blood relation to Joffrey, Cersei and especially Tywin, Tyrion is offered some degree of protection from Joffrey’s wanton cruelty though not nearly as much as he’d like. It also gives him rank over above what his position as Hand offers him – in other words, his authority is not just as Hand of the King (which unsurprisingly enough, means nothing to most major Lords and Ladies) but especially as Tywin Lannister’s son and a child of the Rock. People know not to fuck with him simply because they know that Tywin will stand for no slights to the house name. All this is offset by Tyrion’s Small council being considerably more hostile than what Ned had to face – Cersei’s presence on the Small Council puts instantly at odds with Tyrion since as Queen Regent she automatically resents his presence as a competing source of authority (look at me, getting all sociological in this bitch). Anyway, I didn’t intend for this discussion to get so long and now that I think about it, it might make more sense to talk about this at the end of Tyrion’s tenure as Hand. In any case, the idea was not to decide once and for all who the better Hand was because I think it’s obviously Tyrion but rather to compare the kind of crap they both had to endure from a terrible, corrupt system.

Now, back to the chapter, itself we have Tyrion taking the initiative (and a few oversized tribesmen) to go meet the Council before they know what’s going on. I suspect that the lack of the Council’s knowledge might be because the gates have been closed and with them, the Council’s various sources of information have been shut out too.

Yet if he let the man turn him away, where was his authority?

See, it’s thinking like this that differentiates Tyrion from Ned. I don’t think anyone would actually have stood in Ned’s way though – say what you will about the man, he was a proven warrior and Tyrion, well, is not. It might be because of that that Tyrion is always so painfully conscious of his social status (his authority and the respect he commands) and hence him taking active steps to safeguard it.

And whose fault is that, Lord Janos?

Well, I’m going to go with either Littlefinger or you, Cersei. The man was pretty incompetent from the beginning, I don’t know why you thought promoting him to major Lord would have changed that.

Whatever curse may linger over the Tower of the Hand, I pray I’m small enough to escape its notice.

Tyrion always does this self-deprecating thing but I can’t help but wonder if it does more harm than good. In my opinion, comments like those remind these others (other big people, I should mention) that he is no threat and just a little, twisted man. He seemed to invoke that false sense of security intentionally so as to avoid their open hostility and make it easier to spring his traps yet at the same time I wonder if it doesn’t make life much harder until the time for trap-springing arrives.

Varys suggested Ser Barristan.

Of course, he did. I had forgotten that it was Varys idea to dismiss Selmy and now that I think about it, it’s a brilliant move. I don’t know whether he planned for Selmy to go to Dany but given the way Selmy felt about the Targaryens, it wouldn’t have been too much to think that he would have gone to either Aegon or Dany in due time. Well played, Varys, well played.

I am your brother, you know.

This is oddly touching and if Cersei were one prophecy short, I think it might have been an effective partnership. Alas…

She slapped him.

Well, that lasted for all of ten seconds.

Tyrion had rather liked Robert Baratheon, great blustering oaf that he was . . . doubtless in part because his sister loathed him so.

This actually very accurately sums up my own feelings towards the man, may he rest in peace.

“Fresh rats,” he cried loudly, “fresh rats.” Doubtless fresh rats were to be preferred to old stale rotten rats.

Ah King’s Landing, never change. On a more serious note, I like how quickly the war has its effects on the capital. By their very nature, capitals are always susceptible to starvation since they tend to be the administrative centres of nations rather than the agricultural. Still, with both of the Seven Kingdoms’ agricultural centres in war with the capital there is no way for King’s Landing to hold out for long, which does make me wonder how long a time period this book covers since I know that the starvation of King’s Landing essentially ends with the Battle of Blackwater Bay.

I also really like Tyrion’s interpretation of Varys words and the implied threats beneath them. Yet, I wonder if he isn’t overthinking it a little. Perhaps Varys was making a little bit of a threat though Tyrion jumps to the worst conclusion right away. It isn’t unreasonable for him to do so, yet it does seem a little hasty.

“The rich man lives. Doesn’t he?”

I think it’s very telling that that is Shae’s answer. She is primarily motivated by wealth and her answer reveals this. It’s also interesting and a little depressing that Tyrion realizes his own folly in falling in love with Shae but he can’t help himself and the deeper he goes, the harder it is to pull out.

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