“During all the terrible long years of his childhood, only Jaime had ever shown him the smallest measure of affection or respect, and for that Tyrion was willing to forgive him most everything.”
Synopsis: Tyrion spends a long night reading, slaps Joffrey around a bit to work up an appetite for breakfast, where he spends time verbally fencing with his brother Jaime and sister Cersei, and chows down on good Northern fare and some food for thought.
SPOILER WARNING: This chapter analysis, and all following, will contain spoilers for all Song of Ice and Fire novels and Game of Thrones episodes. Caveat lector.
It’s an interesting bit of foreshadowing that the first we actually see of Tyrion from his own eyes is him reading Armydion’s Engines of War, an early sign of Tyrion’s application of his formidable intellect to military subjects. He might even have read something about the uses of boom chains in that book. Between that, his book on changing seasons, and his later book on the properties, we have the portrait of a polymath autodidact – which brings up the question of why Tywin never dealt with his hated son by sending him off to the Citadel to become a maester, which might have suited the both of them. Most likely, Aerys II making Jaime a member of the Kingsguard forced Tywin to keep his only heir close to hand rather than losing him to the Maester’s oath of celibacy.
While there’s not much official politics in this chapter, we do get a very clear insight into Tyrion as a political observer, and the internal politics of the Lannister family. Our immediate impression is that Tyrion is very observant, capable of forming conclusions about the character of his contemporaries that others cannot: unlike the rest of his family, he can tell that his nephew Joffrey is not merely stupid, petulant, and vain, but also sadistic, cowardly, and totally unsuited to his future estate, a tyrant waiting to happen. Similarly, he sees behind Myrcella’s fair features to see that she’s basically a good person, unlike her mother’s spiteful character. In regards to his older siblings, Tyrion can tell from a momentary glance that they had something to do with Bran’s fall – and despite the abuse he’s endured from his family, Tyrion understands his own interests well enough to say nothing and support the House of Lannister (while still maintaining an interest in what actually happened). Ironically, Tyrion is most like Tywin in that he stands for the House of Lannister rather than its individual members; while he’s closest to Jaime, he’s not blind to the man’s flaws and he’s willing to forgive him “most anything” but not everything.
We also see from this chapter how dangerous Cersei and Jaime’s actions were – if Bran woke up and remembered what he saw (which I’m a bit tired of waiting to happen, to be honest), they’re stranded in Winterfell, far from the heart of Lannister power, and they’ve committed a gross breach of the sacred rule of guest right (whether this actually results in punishment from the gods is a good question for debate.
Finding a good historical parallel for Tyrion is a bit difficult in that George R.R Martin has infused his favorite character with such a unique personality, and that he’s brought in several influences from different historical periods. The best I can come up with is that Tyrion resembles a mix of Claudius and Richard III. Like Tyrion, Claudius was born with disabilities (a limp, stutter, and slight deafness) that led to his family ostracizing him, yet who turned out to be a talented administrator, especially when it came to expanding the Empire (he conquered Britain, Thrace, and Judea among other nations), public works (two major aquaducts and the port of Ostia being some of the most prominent), and judicial matters. Similarly, Richard III was depicted by Tudor propagandists as having a hunchback and withered arm and leg as outward signs of his inward corruption, whereas in reality he was a quite conscientious monarch, who promoted economic development in the North of England and who created legal reforms on behalf of the poor, including the first courts where the destitute could be heard and the practice of bail. In both men, we see how disability either genuine or invented could be used to either protect oneself, in the case of Claudius, who survived all of his murderous family by pretending to be dimwitted, or to injure someone’s reputation, as in the case of Richard III.
Disability studies is a huge subfield within Medieval history, and a very contentious one at that, but one thing we can say about the period that George R.R Martin drew most of his influences from is that they tended (although it wasn’t universal by any means and there are many complexities) to view disabilities as a sign of sin, a judgement of God on the body. Hence the move by Tudor propagandists to turn Richard III having broken his shoulder as a young man into a hunchback with withered limbs. We can see the same thing with Tyrion – part of Tywin’s hatred stems from the circumstances of Tyrion’s birth and the death of Joanna Lannister, but it equally stems from Tywin seeing Tyrion as a mark of dishonor on Tywin’s House and Tywin personally. And as we’ll see later, this unfortunately limits Tyrion’s political effectiveness, since it becomes very easy to propagandize Tyrion into a murdering imp rather than the man who saved King’s Landing.
The other thing we see from this chapter and from history is that the combination of family and power that you find in monarchy has a profound and often harmful effect on people. Tyrion’s upbringing is quite traumatic, but his historical counterparts could boast equally horrific experiences: Claudius’ father was possibly murdered at the behest of his uncle Tiberius, his mother called him a monster and plainly hated him, he witnessed the paranoid Tiberius conduct wave after wave of executions, he barely survived the incestuous murderous insanity of his nephew Caligula who used him as the Roman equivalent of a Medieval fool, and on and on (really, read Robert Graves, it’s quite impressive). Richard III’s father and eldest brother died in the Wars of the Roses, his foster father the Earl of Warwick betrayed his brother Edward IV, and his middle brother George of Clarence betrayed Edward and Richard repeatedly and was executed for treason (although not in a but of wine as the legend goes).
I see only one major hypothetical here – what if Bran had died as a result of his fall? As I’ve said, it’s a bit hard to know what would have happened, given how incomplete Bran’s mystical storyline is. What we do know is that it would have forestalled Joffrey’s assassination attempt, which would have meant that Catelyn would not have left for King’s Landing, which means that Tyrion doesn’t get arrested at the Inn of the Crossroads. This likely delays the outbreak of Stark-Lannister hostilities since there’s no longer a pretext for Tywin to begin raiding the Riverlands or for Eddard Stark to be attacked by Jaime Lannisters.
As I’ll discuss later, this last event not happening might have had huge consequences for the plot.
TV vs. Book:
There’s really only two major changes here. The first, interestingly, is that Tyrion’s more rakish side is emphasized by having us first encounter him through his eyes in a brothel and then again waking up in the kennels, while his intellectual side is shunted to his later scene with Jon Snow – I suppose it’s a change that makes sense, given Peter Dinklage’s wonderful comedic talents, and that it avoids a repetition in that later scene, but I would have liked a bit of foreshadowing of what he’s going to do with his knowledge of engines of war (maybe this could happen in the second season?). The other is that the role of the direwolves keeping Bran alive is made more subliminal and suggestive in the later scene in which Robb opens the windows so that Bran can hear the howling of wolves. I don’t really have much to say about that other than the obvious fact that it’s better to show, not tell, especially in visual mediums.