[Re-Read] A Storm of Swords – Tyrion I


ASoS

This post has spoilers for George RR Martin’s fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, including fan theories and speculation. If you do not wish for certain information regarding future plot points from this series or other related series to be revealed to you, you might want to consider not reading any further.

Rejoice! It’s the first Tyrion chapter of the book! This chapter bears a lot of similarities with Tyrion’s final chapter in Clash; in fact, you could be forgiven for confusing the two. The way I see it, the only purpose of Tyrion’s last chapter in Clash was to show the reader that he survived his encounter with Mandon Moore and ease their nerves. Effectively, this chapter is part political damage report – detailing all the losses Tyrion has incurred in the process of winning the battle – and part an introduction to the incredibly warped dynamic between Tyrion and Tywin. We haven’t seen these two master administrators interact since A Game of Thrones, but even then, we got a very short glimpse, compared to this frosty animosity presented in this chapter. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not the biggest Tyrion fan. As much as I appreciate the character’s wit and competence, I find that he is not quite as sympathetic as his chapters and internal self-perception would have us believe. This chapter will illustrate some great examples of how Tyrion is shafted by society, his family and himself.

Cersei was behind Ser Mandon’s attempt to kill him, he knew that in his gut.

Ah, but is his gut right? We’ve discussed this before, but it would seem that Littlefinger is more likely to have set Mandon Moore on Tyrion than Cersei. This isn’t to say that Cersei couldn’t have done it and Tyrion’s certainty here could just be Martin’s way of telling the reader that it was, in fact, Cersei. Either way,  the importance thing is that Tyrion believes that Cersei ordered the attack and acts accordingly. It’s a sign of how incredibly poor the siblings’ relationship is that an attempted assassination doesn’t make it any worse than it already is. If there was ever a moment that we could pinpoint as the definitive point in the series where a reconciliation became impossible, it was when Tyrion threatened Tommen. Cersei can put up with a fair amount of shit (ok, not really, but relatively speaking) but the second you threaten her children, she turns into this incredibly vicious and ruthless mama bear. It’s one of her somewhat redeeming qualities, or so I’m told. In any case, the damage has already been done in Clash and nothing that happens in Storm is going to fix it.

“They say Bywater was blistering them good and almost had’ em ready to turn when someone put an arrow through his neck.”

Bywater’s fate reminds me pretty strongly of Jeor Mormont’s, later in this book. Bywater’s death is yet another example of what happens to good honourable men in this series. Bywater came by his post through Tyrion supplanting Slynt, true, but he did the best he could in a bad situation. His replacement, Addam Marbrand, is Tywin’s man through and through and not particularly likely to be bought by Tyrion though he seems amiable enough in this chapter. I believe the point here is that Tywin is sort of disarming Tyrion by taking away his toys but not at the cost of the realm. That is to say, he’s finding capable, competent replacements. This is in sharp contrast to Cersei’s time in power where she will essentially dismiss or execute large sections of her personnel for suspected loyalty to Tyrion and hire spineless sycophants in their place.

“How can I scourge an eight-year-old boy?”

We learn later that Tyrion that the Black Ears and the other tribes people have either been run off or had their contract prematurely ended. It’s not just another blow to Tyrion’s ability to assert his authority; it’s also another point in favour of Tywin and the Tyrell’s image of being the true saviours of King’s Landing. After all, they got rid of the hated oppressors, sorted out the Goldcloaks and removed the demon monkey from power. You have think from Tywin’s perspective a little here – he gave Tyrion a job, yes, and Tyrion did the job more or less satisfactorily but from a conventional Westerosi standpoint, Tyrion’s rule was unorthodox. It was characterised by going strongly against the establishment (Slynt), bringing in barbarians to rule the civilised populace and undermining the established nobles (Cersei). True, I don’t know what exactly Tywin expected Tyrion to do after just throwing him in the deep end, but I can understand some degree of resentment at having to fix all of his son’s extraordinary measures. Perhaps I’m being too kind to Tywin; it seems that even if Tyrion had handled his confrontation with his father even a little better, the reaction and end result would have been much the same because in the end, Tywin simply despises his youngest son and that’s not something Tyrion will ever be able to overcome, no matter what he accomplishes.

Would Tyrion have done it? On one hand, there’s no doubting that Tyrion loves his nephew but it’s also pretty clear that Tyrion, if pushed enough, is not above stooping to the lowest level to hold on to his authority. Had he remained Hand of the King, would he have had an eight year old viciously whipped just to call his sister’s bluff? We learn later that it wasn’t Cersei, but Tywin, who had ordered Yaya whipped (or at least this is what Tyrion firmly believes) although I don’t know much that changes things from Tyrion’s point of view. He is comfortable going up against his sister – I can’t see him relishing a political fight with his father, especially when most of Tyrion’s political power comes from Tywin’s titles and authority. The fact that Tyrion asks himself if he could through with it bothers me a little because it tells me that in the right kind of situation, if he were pushed enough, he would and I don’t know if that’s something I’m totally ok with.

Is this what triumph tastes like?

Not much of an observation, but Tyrion’s fortunes wane just as the war turns in his favour. He wins the Battle of Blackwater and is able to hold Stannis off long enough for Tywin to come through and repel the attack on King’s Landing itself but it’s almost like he had to sacrifice everything but his life in order to secure those victories. He has lost what little political capital he had; he lost his allies; the new power in King’s Landing, Tywin Lannister, hates him; and worst of all, Tyrion has been effectively lost all his decision making power. He began Clash as Hand of the King, but he begins Storm in small dungeon, recovering from a nasty wound, all but forgotten.

After all his planning, after the sortie and the bridge of ships, after getting his face slashed in two, Tyrion had been eclipsed by a dead man.

Bitter a pill as this might be to swallow, this should really come as no surprise to Tyrion. The men loved Renly and, though a large portion of them moved over to Stannis after Renly’s death, it’s quite clear that they did so out of fear and in the confusion of the moment. Their true allegiances never really changed and the appearance of ‘Renly’ on the battlefield demonstrated that. In contrast, Tyrion has been almost universally despised since the beginning – the few people who fought for him, did so out of a sense of shame rather than because of the force of his charisma. The other thing I don’t really like here is how whiny and bitter Tyrion comes across. He certainly has reason, but it seems a little petulant for him to expect the masses to appreciate the hard-work behind the scenes that goes into planning a battle – he should know better than that.

They spit on me, and buy drinks for the Tyrells

Yes, Tyrion, they do. It might be because they associate you with everything bad that has happened to them in the last few months – under your administration, the city was shut to trade, there was widespread famine, civil unrest and a totalitarian regime that included private citizens being removed from their homes, charged for treason and then catapulted by trebuchets into an enemy army. The Tyrells, on the other hand, literally saved the city and are bringing in food. I know not all of that is on you, but some of it certainly is, and even if it doesn’t seem fair, no drinks for you; just spit.

“Some battles are won with swords and spears, others with quills and ravens. Spare me these coy reproaches, Tyrion. I visited your sickbed as often as Maester Ballabar would allow it, when you seemed like to die.”

So, a few things here: one, clearly, the machinations towards the Red Wedding are already in motion. I would be interested to know who set the wheels in motion – I’m assuming that it was Tywin but I only have a rough timeline in mind. The way I figure it goes is this: first, Robb fucks up and marries Jeyne Westerling. This, naturally, pisses of the Freys and they leave his army, their alliance broken. Tywin notices this fracture in the Northern army (who wouldn’t?) and reaches out to Frey. The Freys, being led by the Late Walder Frey, decided to wait and see which way the war was going and what Tywin had to offer. With Tywin’s victory at King’s Landing, the Freys knew who to back and they were in. I’m pretty sure they had spoken to Roose Bolton before about Robb’s questionable leadership and thus, the great conspiracy was complete. The other thing is that it’s important to note throughout the rest of this scene that Tyrion is feverish, wearing the equivalent of a hospital gown and has a festering wound on his face. If Tywin’s put down seems cruel, that’s because it is cruel – but also because Tyrion’s case is far from compelling, especially when presented in his current state. Lastly, it struck me as odd that Tywin would visit Tyrion. It almost seems like…he cares? True, it’s Tywin saying it but I don’t get the impression that he’s lying and while you could argue that it’s still pretty shitty of Tywin not to visit Tyrion as he was recovering, I would like to you remind you that this is Tywin Lannister we are speaking of – he was never a nominee for Best Father, and it’s been well established that he hates Tyrion for real.

“Most people seem to feel that it was my attack on Lord Stannis’s flank that turned the tide of battle. Lords Tyrell, Rowan, Redwyne, and Tarly fought nobly as well, and I’m told it was your sister Cersei who set the pyromancers to making the wildfire that destroyed the Baratheon fleet.”

I guess it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that Cersei took credit for the wildfire thing, especially since she did sort of start it before Tyrion sort of commandeered it. Tywin, probably deserves a decent chunk of the commendation for arriving in time to nearly end Stannis’ hopes for the crown once and for all. In the bigger scheme of things, although Tyrion’s chain and recruiting efforts certainly helped hold things together for a while, the impact of the contributions isn’t that great either. I’m not trying to marginalize Tyrion, but he’s acting like he won the war single-handedly and wants to be rewarded accordingly, while Tywin seems to be more aware of how various individuals each did their own part. In the end, I sort of agree with Tywin’s statement that Tyrion did his job and maybe a little more. The Hand of the King comes with an enormous amount of power and that means many responsibilities – sure, it wouldn’t kill Tywin to pat his son on the back if that’s what he needs but refer to my point above about Tywin and the Best Father award.

Later, he would reflect that he should have taken a second, and then a third.

This is an interesting break from the narrative style – Martin essentially does a quick step away from the limited third person, to the omniscient third person perspective. It’s not particularly jarring or anything but it’s a definite, momentary change in the style.

“The day Jaime put on that white cloak, he gave up his claim to Casterly Rock, but never once have you acknowledged it.”

I would suspect that the reason that Tywin never once suspected it was because he never really believed that Jaime would stick to being a member of the Kingsguard for the rest of his life. I think Tywin probably thought that Jaime would have given up the Kingsguard position out of boredom at some point but that even if he didn’t, having Cersei tied so closely to the King, Tywin could exert some influence and have Jaime honourably discharged. The TV show gives some insight into this as well, though it depends on how seriously one wants to take HBO’s take on such things given the disastrous last season: we see Tywin use Tyrion’s trial as leverage to get Jaime to renounce his position as the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. The implication, of course, is that Tywin never acknowledged that Jaime had given up his rights because he never truly believed that Jaime would stay in the Kingsguard permanently.

“To save a whore’s virtue, you threatened your own House, your own kin? Is that the way of it?”

Well, when you put it that way, Tyrion doesn’t have much of a case, now does he? Given especially how important family is to Tywin – not loving his family, of course, just respecting the concept and the name – this news must have been particularly upsetting to Tywin. In addition, given Tyrion’s sordid past with ‘whore’s’, Tywin must have been even more outraged. He probably sees some of his own father’s weaknesses in Tyrion – whether its in Tyrion’s inability to take things seriously (on the surface of things, at least) or his penchant getting emotionally involved with whores and wanted to stamp it out but emotional abuse probably isn’t the best way to go about doing that.

“The next one I find in your bed, I’ll hang.”

‘And by hang, I actually mean, bang.’ If I had to pick, I would say that hypocrisy is the number one reason most fans dislike Tywin Lannister. Between that and his mistreatment of Tyrion, it is altogether too easy to ignore that this man is a master manipulator, a veteran general and a great administrator. As fans of the Starks in general, you can’t help but root for Tywin’s downfall but by Feast, you’re almost forced to acknowledge, that the realm has lost one of its most capable leaders and is the worse for that loss.

So, that brings us to the end of Tyrion’s first chapter. I got caught up a lot in the smaller details and so this post ended being longer than I intended. A Storm of Swords is considered the best book in the series (so far, at least) mostly because so many characters hit their high points in this book – but Tyrion isn’t one of them. Tyrion’s high point was in Clash where he was the effective ruler of King’s Landing but that is not to say that he won’t have some amazing chapters in Storm – we have yet to see the Martells, Tyrion’s trial and his fall into darkness.

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