[Re-Read] A Clash of Kings – Tyrion X


Summary:

a-clash-of-kings

Tyrion meets with Lancel in the sept and is informed that Cersei is having Lord Gyles take Tommen to Rosby in disguise to keep him away from the mob and Tyrion. After the meeting, Tyrion gives Bronn a letter for Ser Jacelyn telling him to take fifty men to scout the roseroad. It is a cover; he tells Bronn the real orders, which are to lie in wait for Lord Gyles’s party, seize Tommen, and take him on to Rosby so he will be safe and in Tyrion’s control. Tyrion rides with Bronn part of the way and then on toward Chataya’s. The streets are empty due to a new extended curfew, of which the punishment for violation is death. While the curfew has helped keep the mobs in check and cut down on murders, the people hate Tyrion for it. He becomes impatient and decides to go directly to Shae’s manse. When he arrives, he hears singing. As he enters, the singer introduces himself as Symon Silver Tongue. He recognizes Tyrion, and Tyrion threatens him so he will not tell anyone of Shae. He goes upstairs with Shae and says she may keep the singer, but he must be kept under close watch. They have sex and Tyrion goes outside.

Varys, dressed as a filthy beggar, comes to see Tyrion. Shae is able to recognize him, which shocks both the eunuch and Tyrion. Varys reports that Cortnay Penrose is dead and Storm’s End now belongs to Stannis. Tyrion tells Varys he will ride back to the castle with him. He tells Shae that he wants to move her there too, disguised as a scullion, but Shae does not like that idea one bit. Tyrion is fearful for her safety and does his best to convince her, even telling her about his previous marriage to Tysha, and she finally accepts. On the way back to the castle, Tyrion tells Varys about his plan for Shae, but Varys thinks there would be too many questions and suggests an alternative. Lollys’s servant has been filching her jewels; if Varys were to tell Lady Tanda that would create an opening for Shae, conveniently close should Tyrion have need of her. Tyrion replies that she would not be able to visit him at the Tower of the Hand unseen, and Varys reveals that there is a secret access to Tyrion’s chambers. The conversation returns to Ser Cortnay. It is reported that he threw himself off a tower, but Varys does not think that makes any sense. He tells Tyrion he believes it was magic. Tyrion scoffs at the idea, so Varys tells him about his childhood.

Varys had been an orphan boy with a traveling folly that performed in all the Free Cities and also in King’s Landing and Oldtown. One time when the troupe was in Myr, a man made an offer for Varys that his master could not refuse. The man cut off Varys’s manly parts and used them as part of a spell. Varys, drugged and in pain, heard a vocal answer from whatever the man had conjured. He has hated magic and all those who practice it ever since. Afterwards, he was thrown out on the street and became a thief, eventually one of the best in Myr. Varys warns that Lord Tywin may be trapped between enemies. Oakheart and Rowan forces have been spotted north of the Mander, while Randyll Tarly has taken Renly’s stores at Bitterbridge and put many to the sword, mostly Florents. Lord Caswell has locked himself in his castle. Tyrion relishes the irony that he is the only one standing between Stannis and chaos.

Source

Commentary:

The riots in King’s Landing have subsided for now, but the situation in the city continues to be dire. The whole thing is taking its toll on Tyrion, who is doing his very best to deal with the strain that the ever-evolving political situation is exerting on him. Shae is his stress relieving drug and without even realizing it fully, Tyrion has become entirely dependent on her. I’m becoming increasingly aware on this read through of just how dubious and question some of Tyrion’s thoughts and actions are. I don’t know if I’m being unreasonably harsh on him but I definitely think he is a great example of a character who is ‘good’ without being particularly nice.

“Lord Gyles is too sickly to run and too craven to fight. He’ll command his castellan to open the gates. Once inside the walls, Bywater is to expel the garrison and hold Tommen there safe. Ask him how he likes the sound of Lord Bywater.”

Are these the actions of a man who has the realm’s best intentions at heart? Does it really matter whose hands Tommen is in, at this point in the proceedings? Tyrion’s actions have two consequences that he somehow didn’t foresee (and it’s absurd that he didn’t foresee them, honestly): first, it will further lower public opinion of him and second, it will change the dynamics of his relationship with Cersei, perhaps forever. Tyrion’s public image is pretty much beyond repair and so it is tempting to think that that effect isn’t particularly important but when you’re leading the city’s defence, you want the people you’re leading to not think you’re an evil, twisted demon monkey. People don’t generally tend to follow demon monkeys. The effect on Cersei’s perception of Tyrion is very much the more serious of the two though. Prior to his ‘abduction’ of Tommen, Cersei’s antagonism was somewhat muted in that she restricted it to watching over him and nagging instead of outright trying to murder him. The second he demonstrated, in her eyes anyway, that he was willing and able to hurt her children, her passive antagonism vanished and he became the valonqar she feared so much. What really bugs me about this particular episode is how needless it is. Tommen is no more secure under Bywater’s protection than he was under Lord Gyles’, if we’re being honest. Sure, Gyles turned him over quick but if Stannis rode at Bywater with a few hundred men, Bywater might die before surrendering Tommen but in both cases Tommen would be surrendered. Tyrion achieves nothing by this power play and in fact, loses a great deal.

He was sick of caution.

We can see a gradual, if subtle, breakdown in Tyrion’s mental faculties. In the beginning of his time in King’s Landing, he was full of energy and life. He loved the politics and the mind games and why not? He was pretty good at them. However, as the situation in the city deteriorated and war became an increasingly real threat, we can see Tyrion’s fuse shorten and his actions become much more reflexive, in comparison to his otherwise more methodical way of thinking. It’s sad to think that the fulfillment Tyrion felt in his early days at court were the last he ever experiences thus far in the story. Coming back to the quote above, it’s entirely possible, even likely, that Cersei discovered Tyrion’s connection to Chattaya via his lack of caution on such nights.

“On that much we agree. Good night to you.”

This quote, taken out of context, is rather meaningless. Yes, Tyrion was rude to this bard. So what? Well, I’m trying to build the case that most of what Tyrion says is either mean-spirited or just rude and impudent. They say Stannis lacks charm but Tyrion doesn’t use his too often either. It is easy to excuse Tyrion each time because the person he is talking to deserves it, or he is kidding, or he was just in a bad mood. At the end of the day, however, it all forms this impression of Tyrion (in the other characters’ eyes) as rude and disrespectful.

Storm’s End was strong, it should have been able to hold out for half a year or more . . . time enough for his father to finish with Robb Stark.

In light of our ongoing discussions regarding the timing of the assault on King’s Landing, it’s interesting that even the two weeks that Stannis delayed were a short time by Tyrion’s measure. Of course, Tyrion would rather not have to defend King’s Landing at all, so that might be why he is dismayed that Stannis wasted just two weeks. It’s interesting that Tyrion assumes that Robb’s defeat is a given – has he fallen into the same trap of underestimating Robb because of his age and inexperience? If so, I would love to see Tyrion’s own battle commanding resume and have him explain how it qualifies him to defend the capital. I suspect Tyrion would be the first one to admit that he should not be anywhere near King’s Landing when Stannis arrives.

“I could give you sons, I know I could . . . and I vow I’d never shame you.”

This is some depressing foreshadowing. Throughout this chapter is pretty obvious, to the point that even lovestruck Tyrion notes, that at the end of the day, Shae is pretty much a typical whore. She says everything she needs to in order to keep Tyrion invested, knowing very well that her own income and lifestyle depends on it. It doesn’t show as much when Tyrion doesn’t try to resist her but when they disagree, she resorts to the typical tricks and that’s when even Tyrion notices that she is similar to Dancy, who is essentially a representative of whores in this context. Tyrion knows deep down inside that Shae doesn’t truly love him, but increasingly that voice of reason is becoming softer and softer. He has gone from knowing Shae doesn’t love him to not wanting to believe it.

“I can scheme with any man in the Seven Kingdoms, but the gods have not equipped me to face Jaime with swords in hand”

Funny how all of this works out, isn’t it? Had Tyrion killed Cersei, he would have been much happier and he wouldn’t have had to worry about one-hand Jaime either. Still, the text doesn’t really state which reason stays Tyrion’s hand; is he afraid of the gods or his brother?

“You told me you ran off because your father made you his whore,”

I don’t think I ever knew that Shae was a victim of sexual abuse though given the era the story is set in, I can’t really say I’m surprised. The revelation is basically brushed off as a joke, oddly enough. Given how little attention is paid to sexual violence in this society, I guess that makes sense.

He slapped her. Not hard, but hard enough.

Wow, we’ve gone from kicking bratty teens to outright domestic abuse. The former was somewhat justifiable and certainly understandable – even though I can’t condone beating on a thirteen year old child, it’s literally impossible to not want to kick Joffrey at any given point in time. This, however, is very different. Tyrion lashing out is only partially because of anger at Shae ‘mocking’ him (which it didn’t seem like she was). It was more a release of pent-up frustration and anxiety than anything else. That doesn’t make it better; in fact, that makes it worse. He regrets it instantly, but given how low his character falls in ADWD, it’s a good indication of his emotional instability.

“The voice from the flames. Was it a god, a demon, some conjurer’s trick? I could not tell you, and I know all the tricks.”

Varys’ tale of his cutting is when I first began really liking his character. Before, he was just this insufferable know-it-all, but with this story, we get to see where he came from and how he got to where he is today. The bit about the sorcerer is every bit as harrowing as Tyrion believes Varys wants him to think it is but it is also a tale that seems tailor made to keep Tyrion from believing. It’s an indication that the magics we have encountered so far are not the only types and that Varys has a vested interest in not seeing Stannis win. Does that motivation stretch beyond this one upcoming battle? Could it explain why Varys does what he does? Probably not, but it is one of the few genuine pieces of information we have on the character and that is rare enough in itself.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s