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


a-clash-of-kings

Summary

It is quite literally the eve of war but despite that the Lannister siblings in King’s Landing decide that this is as good a time as any to antagonize each other. It’s not really a matter of who started it since you could argue that they are both at fault but as we will see, either of them could have stopped it long before things got personal and nasty. The events of this chapter have far reaching consequences, especially in the next book when Tyrion’s words come back to haunt him in a major way (when do they not, right?) It’s a somewhat uncomfortable note on which to go to war, but it’s not like Cersei and Tyrion were ever on the best of terms to begin with.

“Gods be good,” he said softly. “Both of them?”

Tyrion’s sympathy for the deaths of the Stark boys is one of the things that earns him instant brownie points from the reader. In the bigger picture, this isn’t something that comes up all that often in discussions of why Tyrion is a good guy and all that, but it is a point in his favour regardless. Unlike both his siblings, Tyrion understands just how terrible war really is – Cersei flat out doesn’t get it while Jaime, on the other hand, sort of thrives off of it. Of Bran and Rickon are not really dead but since Tyrion never finds that out, his reaction here is as genuine as it gets.

 

“He was a child. I could have frightened him into silence.”

This is a funny tune to be singing after freaking out at the time. Jaime throwing Bran out of the window wasn’t really because Cersei told him to; technically speaking, Cersei never told Jaime to kill Bran but she heavily implied it. Looking back at it though, it’s extremely clear that Jaime and Cersei would never have been comfortable leaving someone who was aware of what they were up to, alive. Jaime’s decision would have been the best for the two of them had Bran actually died, because Cersei’s ‘frighten him into silence’ tactic would only have worked so long as Cersei had some hold over Bran directly. Had Bran remained in Winterfell, there was no way someone Bran had met only once in his life could have maintained any kind of mental pressure over him.

“For years, I was convinced I had no truer friend at court, but now . . .”

It’s interesting to think that at some point, Cersei was like Tyrion, alone at court, friendless, surrounded by all these cold, unfamiliar face; Stannis, Renly, Littlefinger, Lon Arryn and of course, Robert himself. Varys (and Littlefinger too, when he got there) would have obviously tried his very best to ingratiate himself to her, just so that he could get an additional inside ear in the castle. The story of how Cersei discovered this and how she reacted might not see the light of day but would probably make for fascinating reading.

“He’s thirteen, Tyrion.”

This works both ways – yes, he is thirteen and should not be sent to the forefront of a battle. Yes, he is thirteen and no one should be looking to him for commands in the middle of a battle. Yes, he is thirteen and it does make some of Tyrion’s treatment of him a little questionable, specifically kicking him in the stomach and hitting him in general. Now, having said all that, if you’re old enough to command a man killed, you’re old enough to die yourself. If you’re old enough to order and enjoy torture then you don’t get to claim youth as an excuse for not risking similar things yourself. As for Cersei, you can’t prop Joffrey as an authority figure, especially in a society like this one, but then mollycoddle him when shit gets real, especially not when one of his rivals is a boy slightly older than him who is everything Joffrey is not.

“I love all sorts of tarts.”

“Oh, I’ve known that a long while.”

Well, Tyrion set himself up for that one. Given that Cersei had already had Alayaya kidnapped before confronting Tyrion, you have to wonder if she would have meekly turned her over had Tyrion acquiesced about Sandor Clegane guarding Joffrey. Probably not. This would mean that she had already decided that she needed to rein Tyrion in fully prior to anything Tyrion said or did at the dinner that night; it would mean that the reason for her unhappiness, the final straw that made her realize that Tyrion needed to be controlled was not, in fact, Clegane reassignment, but instead Tommen’s ‘capture’, which we will get into, very shortly.

“Gods be good, Cersei, they’re my own blood! What sort of man do you take me for?”

On the surface of things, it’s somewhat ridiculous to think that Tommen is any less safe in Tyrion’s care than in that of Boros Blount. Cersei acknowledges, fully, that Ser Boros is pretty much useless but she is less than certain of Tyrion’s motives, as she makes very clear here. That, of course, is a direct consequence of the prophecy that she heard as a young girl and it is what makes her suspicious of every single move Tyrion makes. It’s weird though, because apart from Joffrey, Tyrion has never shown anything but kindness to Tommen and Myrcella. I guess this is a sign that Cersei sees her younger brother as nothing more than the archetypical villainous uncle, sneaking around and plotting evil things – seen from the right angle, Tyrion might even be a human version of Scar from The Lion King!

“Bruises heal,” said Cersei in a bored tone.

Well, she would know all about bruises healing, wouldn’t she? It’s sad that enduring  pain and misery doesn’t necessarily make you more sympathetic to others’ pain and misery.

His tone was calm, flat, uncaring; he’d reached for his father’s voice, and found it. “Whatever happens to her happens to Tommen as well, and that includes the beatings and rapes.” If she thinks me such a monster, I’ll play the part for her.

He could have walked away from it, you know. He could have just smirked a little on the inside and played the part of a man cornered and no one would have been the wiser. He even says so himself. There is a need in Tyrion, one that Martin has quite insightfully portrayed, to always show how clever he is, to demonstrate his value to a world that has never acknowledged it. It’s his own little form of defiance; it’s him saying ‘no, just because I was born a dwarf doesn’t mean that I can’t be smart too’. Unfortunately, it is also the leading cause of his character’s tragedy. He was clearly successful in emulating his father because Cersei doesn’t even really think about calling his bluff and why would she anyway? Tyrion has just confirmed every one of her worst fears about him and honestly, there isn’t ‘playing the part’ and then there’s threatening to rape your own nephew. What kind of man do you take me for, indeed.

“A day will come when you think yourself safe and happy, and suddenly your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth, and you’ll know the debt is paid.”

And there we have it. These are the lines that will come back to haunt Tyrion in the courtroom a long time from now in very different circumstances. There will be a new Hand, a new King, a new Queen but this is a moment straight from Cersei’s most feared nightmares.  It is the proof she needs that she has been right all along in hating Tyrion and that he is a problem that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

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4 thoughts on “[Re-Read] A Clash of Kings – Tyrion XII

  1. I think there’s something rather raw or… maybe honest of Martin’s writing when he points out, with characters like Cersei, that suffering doesn’t automatically ennoble you to the suffering of others. Sometimes it just grinds your conscience.

    In Cersei’s case, put simplified, it made her distance herself from “weak” victims and be hard and sharp all over, continuing the cycle of abuse and victimizing. If not, she’d have to accept she herself is “weak” and a Lannister, a lioness, concede to that? Never. 😦

    I think there’s something of the fact that Tyrion just dominates Cersei and lets out a rather ugly part of him… by invoking his father. Tyrion might have some differences, but when Genna said he was Tywin’s son, it’s times like this that make me think he truly could be Tywin’s ilk, that the sympathetic dwarf could turn into the Great Lion of the Rock himself, writ small.

    Thank goodness he’s on the ‘decent’ side.

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    • I like your points on Cersei, I think there’s also a sense that “I was strong enough to overcome my situation and rise up, therefore the fact that you can’t, means that you’re inferior”. It’s a troubling kind of emotional logic, but one that resists in the real world too unfortunately.

      What strikes me about Tyrion’s ominous words is how (intentionally) out of character they are. Tyrion actually loves his younger niece and nephew and even treats Joffrey far better than the little shit deserves but he just gets caught up in the moment and it comes back to bite him in the ass later. It’s all very tragic, really.

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      • Indeed, if Cersei’s Lannister upbringing made her unsympathetic to the suffering of others, her marriage with King Robert cemented it. Just goes to show how the cycle goes on when one doesn’t cherry-pick the characters that ‘overcome’ their abuse. It is troubling emotional logic, but its depiction here is a ‘make you think’ kind of troubling.

        Funny you should mention Cersei’s frightening Bran to silence claim. I do have some Jaime thoughts on it, some things about it that troubled me, but I’ll save them for the next Catelyn chapter when Catelyn and Jaime discuss the incident (and, truly, what a return for Jaime after being absent in-person for the entirety of A Clash of Kings).

        Here? I definitely think Cersei was blowing smoke out of her ass and trying to defect blame.

        She likely freaked out, Jaime pushed Bran off, she went with the flow and agreed with Jaime that was a viable choice, ruminated over it a bit and then started blaming Jaime to defect her own responsibility in the incident. Cersei had hindsight to work with, she hadn’t done the deed itself, though shared being complicit in it, so she went with the easiest way to assuage her own guilt: blame the one who actually did it.

        I think there’s also an element of do wrong right in Cersei’s blame. If you’re going to push the kid who saw us fucking from a window, what’s the point if it doesn’t kill him?

        Though… I kind of wonder why she didn’t just ask Jaime to kill Bran, straight-up. Strictly panic? I mean, the Robert’s bastards’ incident, coupled with the Mycah incident, shows she has no qualms about ordering child deaths in general. He is a great lord’s son and a higher class of child, true, but isn’t that all the more damaging? If Bran had told Ned, it changes everything for the worse for the Lannisters. Ned wouldn’t be investigating through blind alleys with Littlefinger, he’d just be building up a case for royal treason. In the end, Bran was always going to be pushed off that window. It was just a question of whether he’d survive or not. 😦

        Yeah, he does love his niece and nephew and, strangely enough, Tyrion’s probably the only one in King’s Landing right now who was somewhat trying to teach Joffrey, the little shit he is, more about statesmanship and rule than ‘being bold’ like with that King Aerys II history lesson from the Sansa incident. I mean, he wasn’t great at it, but everyone else, except for Cersei, just seemed content with plotting around his dreadful moments and seeing him as a sort of puppet king. Which is actually kind of sad if Joffrey wasn’t a total dripping bag of excretion.

        And, to a certain point… I kind of want to shake Tyrion here upon re-reading. Sure, it was awesome to read someone stick it to Cersei after the hostage stunt she pulls here. He was also a ‘temporary’ Hand of the King. His power was derived from his father. Yes, he can make these threats and have them bite now that he’s in a position of power, but that only lasts as long as he keep the power that his father will gladly take away once he comes back (though Tywin is the more experience administer, admittedly). And even then, he threatened to rape his nephew. Tywin was never going to let that slide and Cersei… well, with Cersei, this was going to burn him like wildfire.

        And… yes, he could have walked away from it. Become the bigger man here. Not made his threats and lived to have the last laugh in secret.

        …But he wouldn’t be Tyrion if he did. *sighs*

        Also, I would read the HELL out of that prequel just for Cersei/Stannis, Cersei/Varys and Varys/Stannis interactions.

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        • It would be interesting, especially, to see the Cersei/Varys interaction and what exactly happened that made her realize that he wasn’t her friend.

          I think you broke Cersei’s reaction down perfectly. She’s a great example of a character who you can understand but despite that, can’t come to like. Same with Viserys and even Theon, to a lesser degree.

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