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


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In this chapter, the Battle of Blackwater Bay finally ends as Tyrion leads his tiny sortie out into the messy chaos that is the battlefield. I made the mistake of no recognizing that there were several other sorties being led by other commanders at the various other gates – so Tyrion’s miniscule force of fifty or so men do not represent the entirety of the city’s defence. A large portion of this chapter is ‘action’ and there isn’t too much for us to really think too hard about. The biggest take away for me from this chapter was considering, once again, how close Tyrion came to losing his life – by this point, the larger battle was secure since Tywin’s forces arrive sometime in the middle of the chapter, but that’s exactly when Tyrion’s life is endangered, fittingly enough.

 

Tyrion could spare no time for argument.

Let this be a lesson: not arguing with someone can literally save your life. Tyrion owes a great deal to Podrick’s intense sense of loyalty. The specifics of the battle that follows aren’t very clear to me but neither are they particularly interesting either. We see Tyrion get his second taste of ‘real’ battle as he charges through on his horse and leads the sortie that he organized two chapters ago. He ordered a wedge formation and tradition would dictate that Tyrion himself, as commander had to be at the tip of that wedge. The tip of the wedge would also be the first part of the formation into battle and it’s rather comical that the King’s Landing defence force is led by Tyrion, the untested dwarf; Podrick Payne, the bumbling squire and Ser Mandon Moore, the man so utterly uncharismatic that he could be not be trusted to lead a sortie over someone as universally mocked as Tyrion. I won’t spend too much time looking too closely at the battle itself but it seems that Stannis didn’t prepare for a counterattack strategy as basic as ‘rush out and hit anything within reach’. His ram was unprotected and even if he didn’t expect so many horses, it’s not like cavalry is this invincible type of army that an organized group of infantry cannot defeat. Either way, the idea here seems to be to indicate that the battle is going surprisingly Tyrion’s way at first.

Tyrion felt drunk.

Well that’s not a feeling he’s unaccustomed to. Martin seems to be making a point here about the intoxicating nature of battle. Tyrion is probably least martial of his family (including Cersei) but even a man like him could get caught up in the mindless bloodshed and violence of the whole thing. The fighting, surprisingly, empowers him – instead, of exacerbating the weakness that his height presents, somehow the battle seemed to even everything up. Tyrion might not be stronger or a better fighter than anyone but he felt like he was just because he was drunk on the adrenaline. We should also bear in mind that he has an easy run of things because his side is currently pressing their advantage. As always, Jaime describes it best in his description of the battle fever.

The gauntlet still had the knight’s hand in it. He flung it back. “Yield,” the man sobbed hopelessly, helplessly. Tyrion reeled away.

Yet, like any bad fever or extended drinking session (depending on which metaphor we’re going with), it can turn very sour very, very quickly. There is something nightmarish about Tyrion accepting a man’s plea for mercy only to receive a severed hand in a gauntlet. It’s the kind of thing that can sober you up from your battle fever instantly (oops, I think I crossed my metaphors). The fires raging alongside the wildfire paint the scene this vivid red and orange and green – it doesn’t really feel like real life so much as a series of never ending nightmares. A big part of that dream-like quality is the confusion; for a character like Tyrion, who always knows this chapter shows him being quite confused and disoriented – things like “He lost his knife and gained a broken spear, he could not have said how”, for example.

A naked man fell from the sky and landed on the deck, body bursting like a melon dropped from a tower.

This is very likely an Antler Man. Joffrey was given permission to toss the Antler Men (who, being lighter than boulders, travelled further) into the trebuchets and fling them to Stannis. At the truth is, a human body falling from that height can do a good amount of damage, melon-like or no. It’s not a particularly important fact, but I think it’s pretty funny that Martin decided to include it.

Ser Mandon was holding out his left hand, why … Was that why he reeled backward, or did he see the sword after all?

What a thing to notice in the middle of a pitched battle. It’s one of those minor, crazy coincidences that can change so much down the line. Between Tyrion’s decision to bring Podrick along and this, there were so many reasons why Tyrion should never have made it out of the Battle of Blackwater alive. The knock-on effect of Mandon Moore botching this would have been huge though and it’s just as well that he got it wrong. Having said that, Ser Moore did get a second change but instead of doing it quick and easy, he tried to do it clean and cut Tyrion’s head off. Podrick saves the day and with that, our live coverage of the Battle of Blackwater comes to an end. In the next chapter, Sansa will observe the battle ending and try to decide if she has the courage to make poor decisions. She will find out that she does not and in time, that will work out for her.

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