[Re-Read] A Clash of Kings – Tyrion IX


Summary:

a-clash-of-kings

Tyrion watches from King Robert’s Hammer as Myrcella bids farewell to Joffrey and Tommen on Seaswift. Rob’s Hammer will be the lead ship in her escort that will also include Lionstar, Bold Wind, and Lady Lyanna. Once Myrcella has reached Braavos, Doran will move his banners north in a feint to make the Marcher lords and Stannis uneasy. He refuses to actually give battle unless Dorne is attacked. The Braavosi will see Myrcella the rest of the way to Dorne. Tyrion feels that Stannis would not risk the wrath of the most powerful of the Free Cities just to seize Myrcella and that she will be safer that way. Ser Arys is going with Myrcella as a sworn shield. The High Septon blesses Myrcella, and then the ships prepare to sail. Bronn escorts Tyrion off the ship and to Cersei, who is attended by Lancel. Lancel has informed Tyrion that Cersei has engaged the services of a hedge knight named Osmund Kettleblack and his brothers Osney and Osfryd to hire a force of sellswords for her to counter Tyrion. Bronn is paying the three brothers to charm her and make promises to her but never actually deliver. As the ships disappear from sight, Cersei orders the party back to the Red Keep. Ser Jacelyn leads the way, with Ser Balon and Ser Aron carrying the king’s banners behind him. Joffrey and Sansa come next, flanked by Sandor and Ser Mandon; followed by Tommen and Ser Preston; then Cersei, Lancel, Ser Meryn, Ser Boros, and Tyrion; then the High Septon. Behind him is a stream of courtiers, including Ser Horas, Lady Tanda, Lollys, Lord Gyles and Jalabhar Xho.

The crowd is sullen on either side as they pass by. At one point, a woman steps out in front of the party with her dead baby. She starts calling Cersei a brotherfucker, and someone throws dung at Joffrey. Furious, he calls upon Sandor to find the culprit. The crowd gets restless and starts taunting. Soon, they are shouting for bread and surging forward. Tyrion gallops through the crowd and makes it back to the castle. Joffrey also makes it, as do Bronn, Ser Mandon, Cersei, Tommen, Ser Lancel, Ser Meryn, Ser Boros, Ser Balon, Ser Horas, Tanda, Lord Gyles, and Jalabhar. Furious with Joffrey, Tyrion hits him and kicks him for his stupidity. Sansa is not in the castle. Tyrion demands that the Kingsguard go back and find her, as Jaime is as good as dead if she is harmed. He insults Ser Boros, who nearly attacks him, when Sandor rides in with Sansa. She has minor wounds, and Maester Frenken comes forward to tend to her. Sandor says that Ser Aron was held down by four men who took turns hitting his head with a cobblestone. Someone yells that Flea Bottom is on fire. Tyrion orders Bronn to take as many men as necessary to guard the water wagons and make sure the fire is put out; Flea Bottom is expendable, but the fire must not be allowed to spread beyond that area. He tells Sandor to go too, and he grudgingly agrees. Tyrion sees fear in his eyes for an instant and realizes that Sandor is absolutely terrified of fire. He tells Ser Meryn, Ser Boros and Ser Mandon to each take a herald in a different direction and tell people to return to their homes. Ser Meryn refuses, but Cersei lambastes him and forces compliance. Tyrion next wakes Shagga and orders him to guard Shae.

By nightfall, the fires are out and most of the mobs dispersed. Ser Jacelyn comes to Tyrion and gives the final tally. The High Septon was ripped apart by the mob, while Ser Preston was hacked and stabbed to death, and Ser Aron had his head bashed in. Lollys was gang raped, and both Tyrek and the High Septon’s crown are missing. Nine gold cloaks were killed and over forty wounded. Tyrion orders Tyrek found immediately, as he is the son of Tyrion’s late uncle Tygett, who was always kind to him. Ser Jacelyn warns that the whole city is turning against the Lannisters in general and Tyrion in particular. They do not blame Joffrey for their ills, as he is only a boy, but rather his councilors. Tyrion is misshapen and ugly, and many of his acts, such as dismissing Janos and Pycelle from the small council are rumored to have sinister motives. Tyrion is disheartened that despite all the good he has tried to do he is so reviled. After Ser Jacelyn leaves, Tyrion has Podrick summon Bronn and Varys. Bronn suggests killing Joffrey so the more pliable Tommen will ascend to the throne, but Tyrion refuses to contemplate the murder of his own kin. The three men get down to the business of trying to recover from the mess of the riot.

Source

Commentary:

King’s Landing has never seemed a more frightening place than it does this chapter. Between the general gross income inequality, starvation and the abuse that the ruling class puts them through, it’s amazing that these riots aren’t yearly events. The factors contributing to the riots have been mentioned several times in past chapters. Food is scarce, the city is overcrowded and the people’s faith in their government, for whatever that’s worth, is at an all-time low. Anyone who’s been reading this series of posts knows that I consider King’s Landing to be one of the absolute worst places in Westeros and this chapter is a perfect example of why. Apart from that, we see some of the characters in the adrenaline enhanced grips of pure terror as they escape the mob and we see aspects of their personalities that don’t usually surface in their calmer moments.

Another fortnight, Stannis, that’s all I require. Another fortnight and it will be done.

This really rams home just how haphazard Tyrion’s defence of King’s Landing really was. While Tyrion does deserve a good deal of credit for being as innovative as he was in defending the cities despite the odds, luck certainly was on his side. Had Penrose not decided to stonewall Stannis, had Stannis moved just a little faster, even by a day or two, the outcome of the series would have been vastly different. Wars in ASOIAF are very much like wars in real life in that regard at least; the smallest of divergences and lead to entirely different results.

I’m well fed and ugly, and they are starving.

“Yes, and I am a monster besides, hideous and misshapen, never forget that.”

It wasn’t until I started doing this re-read that I noticed just how badly Tyrion’s twisted self-perception permeates all of his thoughts. To an extent, he isn’t wrong in thinking that his looks are part of a reason why people despise him. Westerosi society is hardly the most rational and open-minded in their thinking and to an extent, being an ugly, deformed dwarf will definitely not be a point in Tyrion’s favour. Tyrion, however, never stops to consider that he doesn’t treat people nearly as fairly or nicely as he likes to believe and that might have more to do with others’ dislike of him.

Cersei had managed to buy herself three hollow drums; they would make all the fierce booming sounds she required, but there was nothing inside.

I would be instantly suspicious of anyone pretending to be a double agent. Or, actually, being a double agent, as the case might be. The Kettleblack brothers are a fairly uninteresting lot but they play a disproportionately large role in the series. I can’t remember off-hand whether the brothers are actually loyal to either Tyrion or Cersei at the moment but I do know that they worked closely with Littlefinger in the past. I wonder how amusing Tyrion would find the situation if he knew that the Kettleblacks were taking Littlefinger’s money and that Baelish was just sitting around smugly watching Tyrion be smug.

“Be quiet, or I’ll have Ser Meryn give you a mortal wound,” Joffrey told his betrothed.

I know that this is a real threat on his part and that it really isn’t funny given how incredibly abusive Joffrey is towards Sansa, but this line just made me laugh a little when I pictured the scene and how young everyone in it is. It gets markedly less amusing when you consider that Joffrey would have had absolutely no compunctions about setting Meryn Trant on Sansa for mouthing off. In any case, the characters walk through the crowd sounds incredibly frightening. Watching that many people watching you in silence, knowing that they are full of resentment and probably hate you is one of those moments of absolute anxiety. Every natural instinct would tell you to make a run for it but the second you do that, it’s going to be the spark that sets the crowd off and that’s the last thing you want to do.

The coin bounced off the child and rolled away, under the legs of the gold cloaks and into the crowd, where a dozen men began to fight for it.

This particular line sums up how fucked up the situation in King’s Landing is at the moment. Let’s break it down, shall we? First of all, the way Joffrey dismissively toss a silver stag (note that that wasn’t his first thought; Sansa talked him into it) is indicative of the way the leadership thinks of the people they rule. They don’t actually care about them; they just want them out of the way where they don’t have to think about them. The coin bouncing off the dead baby is a reminder not only of how terrible the starvation situation in the city has become when a mother can’t feed her own child but also of the uselessness of money at this point. The silver stag won’t fix the mother’s problem despite what Joffrey thinks but yet, it is valuable because of the food it can buy and so the rest of the masses fight over it. It’s interesting that the spark that ignites the mob doesn’t really come from Joffrey himself but instead comes from Cersei. What was it about Cersei’s remark that set the mother off? Perhaps it was hearing the faux pity in her voice, as she (Cersei) sat in comfort surrounded by her still living children. It doesn’t matter where the spark came from of course, because the second the first insult was hurled, the fury of the mob was bound to unleash because there was no way that Joffrey would have had the sense to back down from even a fight like that.

In a heartbeat, a thousand voices took up the chant. King Joffrey and King Robb and King Stannis were forgotten, and King Bread ruled alone.

The line speaks for itself – political allegiances mean nothing in the face of starvation. The common people would fight for whoever fed them and kept them safe. That is probably why, more than any other reason, that the Tyrells received such a warmer reception than the Baratheons and Lannisters ever did.

Then he shoved him with both hands and knocked him sprawling. “You blind bloody fool.”

So, as readers, our first instinct is to cheer for Tyrion and jeer at Joffrey. Both are understandable reactions – Tyrion is the one righteously putting Joffrey in his place while Joffrey is the spoiled, sheltered psychopath who essentially tossed fuel into the fire. After you get over the initial reaction though, read the passage a little more carefully. Joffrey is a vicious piece of work yes, but he is also only twelve or thirteen years old. Tyrion slapping and kicking him around is an odd thing to be cheering not matter how extreme the circumstances. Think of what this scene looks like to others; a grown man, the boy’s very own uncle in fact, is kicking and hitting him after the child was clearly reeling from a traumatic event. It’s not the truth, not really, but it is a valid way of interpreting the scene. It’s little misalignments in how events are perceived, like this, that cause Tyrion a lifetime’s worth of misery in later books.

“Never saw her.” The Hound glanced around the yard, scowling. “Where’s my horse? If anything’s happened to that horse, someone’s going to pay.”

In all of this, I love how Sandor is the one least affected. The others are rattled and shaken to the bone but to Sandor it’s just business as usual. He went out, killing a couple of people here and there, but his top priority is obviously his horse. Bronn is pretty unaffected as well and I wonder if this is the difference between seasoned, veteran fighters and those who haven’t experienced violence up close and personal in a long while, if at all. Think about it; of all the characters present here, the Kingsguard and the court officials (including Tyrion and Cersei) are the ones most shaken. It can’t be coincidence that they also happen to be the ones who rarely see battle. Likewise, the clansmen seem incredibly calm and unstressed by this entire turn of events; Shagga especially.

 No, he could not even think it. Joffrey was his own blood, and Jaime’s son as much as Cersei’s.

The foreshadowing here is incredible, especially given how much simpler Tyrion’s life would be if he did actually take Bronn’s advice and have Joffrey assassinated. I’m not sure how much it would serve, because Cersei would still instantly suspect him though maybe with his guardsmen and sell-swords, Tyrion could resist arrest for a time. It would certainly have been a more even legal battle than what transpires in the next book.

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