Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion XIII, ACOK


“They say I’m half a man…what does that make the lot of you?”

Synopsis: Tyrion observes his works and doesn’t quite despair before rushing off to the defense of the King’s Gate, where Sandor is refusing to lead another sortie against Stannis’ landing parties. Tyrion steps into the breach.

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.

Political Analysis:

Picking up almost exactly from where Davos III left off, here we see George R.R Martin taking our sympathies and spinning them around like a top. After all, we just saw what amounts to a Westerosi war crime (and certainly, if Stannis had won the war, Tyrion might well have been put on trial for it), and here we are put into the head of the architect of that atrocity, and by the end of the chapter we’re cheering for him

A Half Victory for the Halfman

GRRM starts the chapter with a truly cinematic shot, sweeping the camera of Tyrion’s eyes from the walls of King’s Landing down to the river and all the way along the banks, then pulling back to the sky:

Motionless as a gargoyle, Tyrion Lannister hunched on one knee atop a merlon. Beyond the Mud Gate and the desolation that had once been the fishmarket and wharves, the river itself seemed to have taken fire. Half of Stannis’s fleet was ablaze, along with most of Joffrey’s. The kiss of wildfire turned proud ships into funeral pyres and men into living torches. The air was full of smoke and arrows and screams.

Downstream, commoners and highborn captains alike could see the hot green death swirling toward their rafts and carracks and ferries, borne on the current of the Blackwater. The long white oars of the Myrish galleys flashed like the legs of maddened centipedes as they fought to come about, but it was no good. The centipedes had no place to run.

A dozen great fires raged under the city walls, where casks of burning pitch had exploded, but the wildfire reduced them to no more than candles in a burning house, their orange and scarlet pennons fluttering insignificantly against the jade holocaust. The low clouds caught the color of the burning river and roofed the sky in shades of shifting green, eerily beautiful. A terrible beauty. Like dragonfire. Tyrion wondered if Aegon the Conqueror had felt like this as he flew above his Field of Fire.

This should be Tyrion’s big moment – after all, he’s the one whose tactical genius turned an entire river into a “jade holocaust,” virtually impossible to cross and thoroughly wrecking Stannis’ plans – and he does get a little moment to compare himself to Aegon the Conqueror. (And certainly, when you consider the scale of the devastation that Tyrion has caused, we haven’t really seen anything like this since the Dance of the Dragons) At the same time, the mingling of the human horror and the “terrible beauty” speaks to GRRM’s complicated perspective on war. While ultimately GRRM leans to the horror more than the beauty, there’s an essentially honesty of approach here that explains better why human beings would seek out war, rather than assuming an inherently good human nature that only turns to war when corrupted by outside forces.

Speaking of the cost of Tyrion’s actions, both to the enemy and to his own forces, Tyrion would be completely unsympathetic if he stopped at glorying in his Big (Anti)Hero Moment. So instead, Tyrion has to grapple with what he’s done:

it was a half victory. It will not be enough.

…Do you hear them shrieking, Stannis? Do you see them burning? This is your work as much as mine. Somewhere in that seething mass of men south of the Blackwater, Stannis was watching too, Tyrion knew. He’d never had his brother Robert’s thirst for battle. He would command from the rear, from the reserve, much as Lord Tywin Lannister was wont to do. 

…there no other way. If we had not come forth to meet them, Stannis would have sensed the trap. An arrow could be aimed, and a spear, even the stone from a catapult, but wildfire had a will of its own. Once loosed, it was beyond the control of mere men. “It could not be helped,” he told his nephew. “Our fleet was doomed in any case.”

I didn’t say he successfully grappled with it. (But given how many d20 rolls that involves, who can blame him?) To be fair, Tyrion does recognize the practical limits of his actions – half of Stannis’ fleet remains, which means that ships will still land on the north bank even if the bulk of Stannis’ army can only be drip-fed across the river.

And even that limited victory has come at a terrible price, the destruction of his own navy and the thousands of sailors and marines who crewed those ships. There is a terrifying pragmatism and strategic brilliance in the way that Tyrion has turned his weakness (that his fleet is outnumbered 4:1 and would be crushed in a standup fight) into a strength, performing the medieval equivalent of calling in an artillery strike on your own position when it’s in danger of being overrun. that is reminiscent of no one so much as Tywin Lannister. But unlike Tywin, Tyrion’s basic humanity means that he feels guilty for what he’s done and projects that guilt onto Stannis. “Look at what you made me do” isn’t the most mature moral reaction, but it still points to a basic understanding that it is wrong to murder essentially helpless people.

The Antler Men

Another thing that brings up qualms about whether Tyrion’s victory is worth it is the fact that he’s doing this on behalf of someone who could only be described as a monster:

Joff had the Antler Men trussed up naked in the square below, antlers nailed to their heads. When they’d been brought before the Iron Throne for justice, he had promised to send them to Stannis. A man was not as heavy as a boulder or a cask of burning pitch, and could be thrown a deal farther. Some of the gold cloaks had been wagering on whether the traitors would fly all the way across the Blackwater.

This is the kind of baroque sadism that is the province of the worst kinds of tyrants and despots, and one gets the sense especially in this moment that, even though Joffrey is supposed to be only a distant relative of Aerys II or Maegor the Cruel (and in fact shares none of their blood), he is their kindred spirit indeed. And this raises in the minds of the reader an important question: do we want Tyrion to win, if winning means that someone completely unfit to be king retains the Iron Throne? Is it a mercy to save King’s Landing from a sack if it means the Defiance of Duskendale is repeated again and again when Joffrey full comes of age and/or Tywin dies?

And so our sympathies turn once again.

The Landings Continue

Speaking of half a victory, Tyrion now learns that some of the survivors of his wildfire bomb have landed on the north bank, and thus we see how much of half of a victory this is:

Even so, some were getting away. A river’s current was a tricky thing, and the wildfire was not spreading as evenly as he had hoped. The main channel was all aflame, but a good many of the Myrmen had made for the south bank and looked to escape unscathed, and at least eight ships had landed under the city walls. Landed or wrecked, but it comes to the same thing, they’ve put men ashore. Worse, a good part of the south wing of the enemy’s first two battle lines had been well upstream of the inferno when the hulks went up. Stannis would be left with thirty or forty galleys, at a guess; more than enough to bring his whole host across, once they had regained their courage.

Again, this points to how GRRM is carefully calibrating his threats – eight ships is enough that the danger feels urgent and real, but not so much that it’s unmanageable for his forces to deal with; the 30-40 galleys that remain represent the long-term threat that keeps the tempo ratcheting up. And the calibration leads to a very specific problem that Tyrion has to deal with, a whack-a-mole situation in which he has the numbers to respond to a landing party, but where he has to defeat every landing party because one left unattended can cost him the battle:

No sooner was Joff off than a runner came panting up the steps. “My lord, hurry!” He threw himself to one knee. “They’ve landed men on the tourney grounds, hundreds! They’re bringing a ram up to the King’s Gate.”

Tyrion cursed and made for the steps with a rolling waddle. Podrick Payne waited below with their horses. They galloped off down River Row, Pod and Ser Mandon Moore coming hard behind him. The shuttered houses were steeped in green shadow, but there was no traffic to get in their way; Tyrion had commanded that the street be kept clear, so the defenders could move quickly from one gate to the next. Even so, by the time they reached the King’s Gate, he could hear a booming crash of wood on wood that told him the battering ram had been brought into play. The groaning of the great hinges sounded like the moans of a dying giant. The gatehouse square was littered with the wounded, but he saw lines of horses as well, not all of them hurt, and sellswords and gold cloaks enough to form a strong column. “Form up,” he shouted as he leapt to the ground. The gate moved under the impact of another blow.

Now, there’s a certain problem about geography here – given that the tourney grounds are significantly up-river of the city, the ships that landed there must have been in some of the first couple of lines of Stannis’ army but those ships don’t seem to have been transport ships according to Davos III, and the surviving ships in those lines are all from the south wing and more likely to land on the south bank than the north bank. But besides that one issues, the first thing we see in the response to this landing is the critical importance of leadership in this stage of the battle. Given his limited manpower and that he has to spread it out across a wide swathe of the city, Tyrion has to carefully gauge which assault is the most dangerous and move his resources accordingly. At the same time, though, since information only moves at human land speed, a huge amount of responsibility falls to the local commanders at each gate, as we see when that leadership breaks down:

“Who commands here? You’re going out.”

“No.” A shadow detached itself from the shadow of the wall, to become a tall man in dark grey armor. Sandor Clegane wrenched off his helm with both hands and let it fall to the ground. The steel was scorched and dented, the left ear of the snarling hound sheared off. A gash above one eye had sent a wash of blood down across the Hound’s old burn scars, masking half his face.

“Yes.” Tyrion faced him.

Clegane’s breath came ragged. “Bugger that. And you.”

A sellsword stepped up beside him. “We been out. Three times. Half our men are killed or hurt. Wildfire bursting all around us, horses screaming like men and men like horses—”

…The blood on Clegane’s face glistened red, but his eyes showed white. He drew his longsword. He is afraid, Tyrion realized, shocked. The Hound is frightened. He tried to explain their need…

“I’ve lost half my men. Horse as well. I’m not taking more into the fire…”

“The King’s Hand commands you.”

“Bugger the King’s Hand.” Where the Hound’s face was not sticky with blood, it was pale as milk. “Someone bring me a drink.” A gold cloak officer handed him a cup. Clegane took a swallow, spit it out, flung the cup away. “Water? Fuck your water. Bring me wine.”

This is the moment where the Hound breaks, and it’s hard to say whether it’s the fire or the fighting that was the straw that broke the camel’s back, in no small part because GRRM has the wound that Clegane’s taken mimic the wound that his brother gave him. There’s a symbolic equation, therefore, between the horrific, inescapable, but also private and intimate violence done by one child to another and the experience of the men who’ve born the battle. And that’s the thing that’s often forgotten about the Battle of Blackwater on the Lannister side, that there is a vast gulf in experience between the men up on the walls manning the siege engines in relative safety and the men in the sortie battles who have to leave the protection of the city walls again and again and endure the hellish environment that their own commander has created.

But back to Sandor, who treats as equal horrors the loss of half of his men and horses and the fire itself. It’s interesting how much GRRM underplays the moment where he refuses a direct order. The Hound’s insubordination happens, but Tyrion doesn’t particularly press the point (certainly not to the point of threatening charges) and he stays around, drinking and kibitzing in a state of nervous exhaustion. Unlike in the show, where his “fuck the Kingsguard. Fuck the city. Fuck the king” speech is an open and quite political statement of resignation, Sandor’s motives here don’t seem to be related to his feelings about the Lannister regime. Rather, it comes across as if a man who’s previously has made much of his love of killing simply has had his fill of murder. At the same time, I think the fact that Sandor has taken a wound is significant; a big part of Sandor’s former bravado was based on a sense of his own invulnerability (in this way, Sandor is quite similar to Jaime), and both the existence and location of his wound, coupled with the fire, is a rude reminder that he is no safer now than when he was a child.

Regardless of why Sandor is refusing to obey orders, this creates a massive problem for Tyrion. As we’ve discussed before, the quality of Tyrions’ soldiers is not great, and while a lot of that has to do with their lack of experience, the role of talented and experienced small-unit commanders and NCOs is absolutely crucial in whether inexperienced soldiers will function effectively in combat:

He is dead on his feet. Tyrion could see it now. The wound, the fire…he’s done, I need to find someone else, but who? Ser Mandon? He looked at the men and knew it would not do. Clegane’s fear had shaken them. Without a leader, they would refuse as well, and Ser Mandon…a dangerous man, Jaime said, yes, but not a man other men would follow.

This is madness, he thought, but sooner madness than defeat. Defeat is death and shame. “Very well, I’ll lead the sortie.”

If he thought that would shame the Hound back to valor, he was wrong. Clegane only laughed. “You?”

…Only a handful had responded to his command, no more than twenty. They sat their horses with eyes as white as the Hound’s. He looked contemptuously at the others, the knights and sellswords who had ridden with Clegane. “They say I’m half a man,” he said. “What does that make the lot of you?”

That shamed them well enough. A knight mounted, helmetless, and rode to join the others. A pair of sellswords followed. Then more. The King’s Gate shuddered again. In a few moments the size of Tyrion’s command had doubled. He had them trapped. If I fight, they must do the same, or they are less than dwarfs.

“You won’t hear me shout out Joffrey’s name,” he told them. “You won’t hear me yell for Casterly Rock either. This is your city Stannis means to sack, and that’s your gate he’s bringing down. So come with me and kill the son of a bitch!” Tyrion unsheathed his axe, wheeled the stallion around, and trotted toward the sally port. He thought they were following, but never dared to look.

Tyrion’s key problem, the thing that makes him step outside of his normal political sphere and return to the battlefield for the first time in nine months, is that he’s got a shallow bench. After years of Cersei’s cronyism, the ranks of the Lannister regime are made up of men like Mandon Moore and Meryn Trant, hired for their loyalty to House Lannister generally and Cersei specifically and their willingness to carry out immoral orders, and even if they’re skilled swords themselves none of them are gifted in command.

And so Tyrion throws himself into the breach in order to prevent a literal breach in the walls, heading the absolute opposite direction from Sandor (although its interesting how both men end up in much the same place mentally and emotionally). The fact that he does so is almost less interesting than why and how he does it. With the former, Tyrion is eerily reminiscent of Tywin; for very different reasons, both men fear public humiliation at an existential level and are willing to go to any lengths to avoid it. With the latter, however, Tyrion does two things that his father never could. First, he turns his weakness into a weapon – while Tywin rules by sheer force of personality, Tyrion knows that the way society sees him means he has to find other methods, so instead he latches on to that very bigotry as a point of leverage to make people do what he wants. Second, he looks outside of himself to appeal to larger principles; Tywin doesn’t believe in anything beyond House Lannister’s legacy, but Tyrion knows that the men he’s leading don’t give a damn about that. What they care about is their own lives and the people in them, and really for the first time in the entire book, Tyrion is able to reach out to people and explain why his strategy will save them.

Crucially, GRRM doesn’t have Tyrion’s big speech here land the same way it would do in the movies or it did do in the show. Sandor Clegane isn’t swayed by the speech, and while some men join Tyrion (which now that I think about it is an interesting mirror for Theon’s upcoming speech), most do not. And Tyrion’s thinking – “He thought they were following, but never dared to look.” – is self-depricating to the point of gallows humor, another one of GRRM’s existential protagonists who’s attempting a feat beyond them, not because they know it’s going to work but because they believe it to be the right thing to do.

Historical Analysis:

The next siege of Constantinople that I’ll talk about is the Fourth Crusade of 1202-4, which works as something of a reverse mirror image of the Battle of Blackwater. As with the War of Five Kings, the Fourth Crusade ultimately emerged out of a conflict within a larger cultural and political entity known then as “Christendom.” The religious side of it is really too complex to explain, involving both institutional rivalries between the Patriarchy of Constantinople and the Papal See in Rome and how various Byzantine Emperors and Constantinian Patriarchs dealt with the monophysite crisis. The short version is that the recently elected Pope Innocent III viewed the loss of Jerusalem as a punishment from God for the sins of Christendom, and that the reform needed to redeem these sins was the restoration of Papal authority in the face of both secular rulers and heretics and pagans (by which he meant the Cathar movement in Europe, the Muslim Caliphate in the Holy Land, and the Patriarch in Constantinople).

The political side has to do with the legacy of Byzantine foreign and economic policy. Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, who ruled from 1081-1118, is best known for being the Byzantine Emperor who asked the Pope for aid against the Turks and got the First Crusade instead. For more on this, I highly recommend Extra History’s very entertaining series on this momentous event:

But one of the things that Emperor Alexios also had to deal with in his reign, which complicates the often simplified picture of West vs. East, was the problem of Norman invaders. Around the same time that William of Normandy was making himself King of England, other Norman noblemen had sought power in Southern Italy, Sicily, and Northern Africa, often acting as both mercenaries and conquerors (shades of the Andals there). And this (along with the fact that Southern Italy, Sicily, and North Africa had been Byzantine territory) brought them into conflict with the Byzantines as they tried the same policy. For example, Roussel de Bailleul, who was working for the Emperor Romanus IV as a mercenary leading 3,000 Norman knights against the Seljuk Turks, decided that he would like to be King of Asia Minor, with Ankara as his capitol. Alexios Komnenos, then a Byzantine general and soon to become Emperor, was dispatched to defeat him, so even before he became emperor, he had a thing about Normans trying to slice off bits of Byzantine territory for their own.

In order to keep the Normans in check, Alexios made an alliance with the Venetians for their military support against the Normans led by Robert Guiscard and Bohemund, who were trying to take Byzantium’s territories in the Balkans. The strategy worked and Alexios was able to retake much of the Balkans, but the Venetians were not about to help their former colonial masters  for nothing. What they wanted was a commercial treaty that opened up the Empire’s Aegean and Black Sea territories to Venice, and they got it. This proved to be a double-edged sword – the Venetian fleets proved vital to Byzantine naval success on more than one occasion, but their merchants absolutely slaughtered Byzantine competition, which led to a sharp decline in the economy and critically, tax revenue.

When his son John II Komnenos came to power in 1118, he abrogated the Venetian treaties in a bid to restore Byzantine commerce and finances, which led to a naval war with the Venetians that he lost, and those treaties were then reinstated. Manuel Komnenos, who was Emperor during the Second Crusade, succeeded in alienating both the Venetians and the Normans before being absolutely routed by the Turks. Following Manuel’s children’s overthrow, many of the woes of the Byzantines were blamed on the Venetians, many of whom lived in Byzantine territory, and anti-Venetian riots broke out in Constantinople in 1182. The following year, the new Emperor Andronikos Komnenos won much acclaim from the Byzantines when he seized all Venetian property in the city and had the owners jailed or exiled. And the Emperor Alexios III had sided with Pisa and Genoa as his commercial and naval allies against Venice. So by the time that the Fourth Crusade rolled around in 1202, the Venetians had some major reasons to want the Byzantines dealt with.

And so when Innocent III declared a Fourth Crusade to retake the Holy Land, the Venetians worked out a contract with the Crusaders, led by Count Baldwin of Flanders, Count Louis of Blois, and the Marquess Boniface of Monferrat, to transport and feed 33,500 men and 4,000 horses for 85,000 marks in gold and half of the spoils of war. This was an enormous and expensive undertaking, with all of Venice mobilized to transport such an army…and the Crusaders didn’t have the cash to pay them back.

And just when the bill came due, Alexios Angelos, the son of Emperor Isaac II who the current Emperor Alexios III had overthrown, arrived asking for support in reclaiming his birthright, with Boniface of Monferrat acting as his patron. And so as the Fourth Crusade’s ships stood at anchor in the harbor of Corfu, Doge Enrico Dandelo made the hard sell to the pope’s envoy, Baldwin of Flanders, and Louis of Blois: the Crusaders could pay Venice back with Byzantine gold, the new Emperor would pay for the actual Crusading and would acknowledge Innocent III’s supremacy, ending the schism between the Roman and Greek Churches with a resounding victory for the Pope. And all that Venice was asking for was lots of Byzantium’s cash and all of Byzantium’s territories in the Aegean and the Black Sea.

Thus, a Crusade that was supposed to retake Jerusalem by first conquering Egypt and cutting off the Abbuyid Caliphate from reinforcements and resupply from that critical region, took a detour.

The Crusaders landed in Anatolia in late June of 1203, and marched up the Asiatic coast to make camp across the water from Constantinople. Alexius III offered to pay and supply the Crusaders if they agreed to leave his territory and, you know, go crusade against the Muslims. The Crusaders replied that they would only leave if Alexius III abdicated to Alexios Angelos. When the Emperor refused, the Crusaders boarded the Venetian ships, which pushed past the Byzantine navy (which Alexius III had badly neglected, according to chroniclers) and landed north of the city.

150 horse-transports hit the beach, allowing 4,500 knights to charge up the beaches and seize the vital town of Galata, where the Tower of Galata guarded the boom chain’s northern anchor. While the town surrendered without a fight, the Venetians rolled their ships up onto the shore to act as mobile siege engines against the Tower’s defenders, who held out bravely against the Crusader knights until they were forced to retreat. The boom chain was severed, and the Venetian fleet sailed into the Golden Horn, ready to assault the city from its vulnerable northern side. (See Stannis? Ya should have attacked the tower on the south bank!)

The assault on the walls of Constantinople could now take place, and we’re about to meet potential historical parallels in the case of Andrew of Urboise and/or Peter of Amiens. But that’s a story for another chapter…

What If?

As the plot begins to concentrate down to a single point, there’s really only one crucial hypothetical here:

  • Sandor hadn’t cracked? This one has some huge knock-on effects.
    • Firstly, Tyrion doesn’t have to lead the sortie and remains in overall control of the battle. On a personal level, this means that he doesn’t get wounded, which means that rather than Cersei having the chance to rewrite history with her father, he has an opportunity to give his own accounting for his time in office. (It also probably slows down Tyrion’s drive to monsterhood, as his mutilation )As only the acting Hand, he was never going to keep that post when Tywin comes back, and we know that Tywin was never going to give Tyrion Casterly Rock. But I could see a scenario where Tyrion’s reward for holding King’s Landing is the command of the Lannister army, and the chance to win himself a seat of power by right of conquest. (Maybe that’s why Tyrion was supposed to burn Winterfell in the Ur-Text?) On a military level, this probably also means that the Goldcloaks don’t break when Joffrey leaves, because they can see the Hand of the King still there leading them, which also changes how Tyrion’s leadership is viewed retroactively.
    • Secondly, this also means that both Mandon Moore and Sandor Clegane remain in the Kingsguard, which means that there isn’t a space for Loras Tyrell to join the Kingsguard, and for Boros Blount to be re-appointed by Tywin. (Which, by the way, is a decision that I’ve never understood why GRRM had him make, given his lack of action in the series)  It also means that both men are present in King’s Landing for the Purple Wedding. With Mandon Moore, this would be a good opportunity to find out who he’s working for – more on which in next Tyrion chapter. But with Sandor, this means that he’s present when Sansa actually flees the capitol. I’ll bet you dragons to donuts that Sandor Clegane goes after her like a literal bloodhound, which might mean that he’s around to “rescue Alayne Stone,” or possibly come across Brienne of Tarth when she goes looking for a certain redhead. It also means that Sandor’s bad reputation, as both a coward and the Beast of Saltpans, doesn’t happen.

Book vs. Show:

It’s kind of impossible to critique this scene in “Blackwater,” for two main reasons. Firstly, the episode is directed by someone with a keen visual sense and acted by actors who are very much aware that this is their big moment where they get to stand out from the ensemble and take the spotlight for a change. And secondly, it’s written by George R.R Martin himself, so the usual questions about adaptation and divergent authorial intent aren’t there.

So the fact that Sandor’s defection gets politicized into a rejection of the Lannisters themselves and Tyrion’s big speech is greeted with a roaring chorus of “HALF-MAN! HALF-MAN!” can’t be dismissed lightly. In the first case, I think there’s something that was missing in the books – given how much Sandor’s self-conception as the Hound is tied up in the iconography of his House as loyalty embodied, his desertion has to reckon with this (and it kind of doesn’t in Sansa VII). Given everything he’s witnessed as a sworn sword of the Lannisters, given the orders he’s had to obey, a recognition that the king he’s sworn to serve and who he’s protected for years is fundamentally unworthy of him is a huge declaration of independence and I like that it’s given that moment.

In the second, this is a necessity of the changing mediums. It is simply not practical for the show to have the same cavalry riding to the rescue moment from the beginning of Tyrion XIV, where he looks over his shoulder to see the men charging after him shouting his monicker, both for budgetary reasons and the notoriously fractious nature of horses. But at the same time, I don’t think that even a cut away and then back would have the same impact that a chapter break does in terms of setting up the uncertainty and the reveal.

So two cheers for TV!


41 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion XIII, ACOK

  1. Sean C. says:

    Interesting to ask what would have been done has there not been a Kibgsguard spot for Loras. Given Tywin’s previous statement that giving a spot to Clegane was a waste, possibly he could remove him on the grounds that he wasn’t a knight. If not, that has knock-on effects with the Tyrells, in the sense that Mace’s contingency to protect Margaery (which actually aggravates the danger) has been neutered.

    As far as how the Hound’s continued presence would affect things after Sansa’s escape, I agree he’s go looking (whether on the pretext of hunting for her or just going AWOL). We don’t really know how or when he’ll re-enter the plot or Sansa’s life, so how that changes things can’t really be assessed. He doesn’t have any more of an idea where to look than anyone else, though.

    • Andrew says:

      I think Sandor currently thinks Sansa escaped to somewhere safe, and will stay on the Quiet Isle. However, if she is revealed to be in a bad situation, like, being brought back to King’s Landing, I think he would leave to aid her.

    • It would be hard to take the spot away from Clegane if he’s distinguished himself at the Battle of Blackwater.

  2. Roger says:

    Westeros is in some aspects less cruel than our own middle ages. Even in the XVII Century Europe it was common to have criminals suffering heavy tortures with red irons and axes before final death. Joffrey is a sadist, yeah. But not more crueler than them.

    All Tyrion’s fans should remember he sent to a certain and burning death all of his fleet to make his trap. And he never, ever felt remorse. Well, just a second. He is really Tywin’s son.
    Feeling guilty doesn’t mean anything if you don’t show it by compensating the victims. Some sailors survived the ordeal, but Tyrion didn’t give them a single copper. So his guilt isn’t worth a rat’s ass. Septon Utt feeled terribly guilty after killing a small boy and asked to be flogged. But that didn’t change anything.

    Another What if is… What if the Imp had burned King’s Landing? The pyromancers had never managed so much wildfire. The explosion could have afected the city perfectly. Or perhaps a sudden wind could have bring it to the walls, were there where more wildfire with the artillery.
    “He thought they were following, but never dared to look.” Not low self-esteem. It’s fear. Fear to lose courage if only a few men are following him.

    • Keith B says:

      I had the impression that he didn’t dare to look back for fear that the men following him would think he lacked self-confidence.

    • David Hunt says:

      Roger, I agree that this chapter gives a look at how far Tyrion will go to win and it’s not a pretty sight in the least. I have a few disagreements with your examples.

      First, a minor nitpick at most from a moral point of view, although it’s important strategically. I don’t think Tyrion destroyed ALL of the Royal Fleet. Davos notes the absence of several of the Fleets strongest ships in the naval battle before the fire ships go boom. I’m pretty sure that those ships were held back and Tyrion used what he considered the minimum number that he needed to put up a convincing fight and draw in Stannis’ fleet.

      As to regret, and recompense of the survivors. you’re correct that Tyrion gives them nothing, but he’s not in any position to do so. He’s unconscious and almost dead when the honors and rewards for the battle are being handed out by Tywin and Mace. When he wakes up, he’s been removed entirely from power and couldn’t do squat for them, and even when he’s Master of Coin, he can’t do anything. The Crown is broke and the rewards have already been determined and distributed by the Hand.

      As to Septon Utt, he’s a terrible comparison. Utt made a big show of “expressing regret” but I don’t believe it for a second. It’s all part of his routine. I think I’ve blocked out the details, so I can’t recall his specifics, but I’d guess that his “regrets” for succumbing to temptation is a way of him placing blame on the boys. They were the ones temping him, after all. Plus, I don’t think the flogging had anything to do him wanting to be punished. I think he got off on it.

      Overall, Tyrion might be a war criminal for what he did here, but I’m not sure how the people of Westeros would see it. At least his weapon was aimed solely at military men as opposed to World War II bomber crews, Tywin’s burning of the Riverlands, or virtually any act taking place within 100 yards of Gregor Clegane.

      • Keith B says:

        The ships Davos doesn’t see are King Robert’s Hammer, Lionstar, and Lady Lyanna. They were three of the four ships used to escort Myrcella to Dorne, but Davos doesn’t know that.

      • Roger says:

        As Keith B. said, the best ships are in Dorne. And thanks to Tyrion the royal fleet is crippled that they need to rely on the Redwyne ships to attack Dragonstone. And Cersei has to build new ships urgently.
        As Master of Coin you can do many things. Fiscal exemptions, for example. And he still can use Lannister money. And it’s not just that he is unable. He doesn’t event think about it. In the victory ceremony the surviving captains are rewarded by Tywin. But AFAIK the family of the dead get no coin.
        And remember he thought of giving the jousting dwarfs a sack of silver. So he isn’t penniless.
        I’m not saying Tyrion is like Utt. I’m just saying the Imp’s regretts are as useless as the mad septon’s one. As meaningless. And Tyrion first thoughts weren’t “is my fault” but: “Stannis is responsable too”. Which is illogical: Stannis couldn’t know he was sending his men to certain death.
        About war crimes don’t forget Tyrion gave steel armor and steel weapons to the Moon clans, so they could ravage smallfolk, kidnap women and burn villages in Arryn’s land. When Littlefinger told him about it, he secretly smiled. So the Imp is no saint.
        And when some Riverlands lord came to the court to protest about his lands being sacked, his smallfolk killed and his wife raped, he shrugged and said “I think thats called war”.

    • I think the thing about Joffrey is that he gets into it too much. Judicial torture was normal, but the King was never there because associating the king with mortality was forbidden.

      Well, if the Imp burns King’s Landing, everyone inside the city is dead. Everyone outside loses, no matter which side they’re on.

  3. Andrew says:

    1. Joffrey nailing antlers to their heads reminds me of Vlad the Impaler nailing men’s turbans to their heads when refusing to remove them.

    2. “An arrow could be aimed, and a spear, even the stone from a catapult, but wildfire had a will of its own.”

    No better summation of using magic as a weapon in this book. While traditional weapons can be aimed and be used in a controlled manner, magic like wildfire, is uncontrolled and can be as dangerous to the side that employs it as it is to the enemy.

    3. Another point to make is Sandor was appointed by Cersei to the Kingsguard. By refusing to lead a sortie he is violating his duty. The worst part, Sandor is arguably the best man she appointed to the Kingsguard.

  4. Keith B says:

    “We just saw what amounts to a Westerosi war crime.”

    How is it a war crime? He’s defending a civilian population, and his targets are strictly military. That some are his own troops is simply a necessity. It’s quite different from Tywin in the Riverlands, who is deliberately attacking non-combatants without a real military objective.

    “Do we want Tyrion to win, if winning means that someone completely unfit to be king retains the Iron Throne?”

    I sure don’t. On a personal level he’s a nasty piece of work, at least as bad as Stannis; and the side he’s fighting for is legally wrong and morally evil. You might as well wish that Robert E. Lee had won the Battle of Gettysburg, or Erwin Rommel at El Alamein.

    • Grant says:

      I’m not so sure that deliberately targeting your own men to destroy an enemy is acceptable (going on basis of generally accepted rules today), but it’s not relevant either because I don’t think there are any real legal restrictions on what an army can and can’t do in Westeros during war. There may be political ones, but I don’t think there’s any rule against the use of fire or even wildfire. We haven’t seen many mentions of binding decisions made on the use of weapons or tactics. So war crimes would be a tricky thing to establish in the Westeros sense.

      Now Stannis might very well have put Tyrion on trial had he won, arguing that the use of wildfire is an abominable thing to do, aided by linking it to Aerys (though R’hllorism saying that the use of fire is evil would be amusing), but Stannis would have been creating a law and applying to acts committed before it was law.

      • David Hunt says:

        He might have tried him for the act if he truly thought it was a crime as opposed to a horrific but effective tactic. I can’t really comment as there are so many things that he and virtually every other lord have no problem with that I think are abominable. However, if he didn’t think so, he’d have left that off the charge list as Treason was going to be at the top of that list, no matter what.

    • I discuss this in the Tumblr. You can have war crimes that only involve soldiers.

  5. Keith B says:

    “Following Manuel’s overthrow…” Um, Manuel wasn’t overthrown. He continued as Emperor for about four years after losing the battle, then died.

  6. winnief says:

    Thanks for another brilliant analysis Steve. While the more understated approach worked on the page there’s no doubt the higher drama worked better for the screen. Very interesting to consider how the Hound sticking around could have influenced events to come.

    You put a lot of emphasis on the notion that Tyrion would have fared better in the aftermath of Blackwater if he hadn’t been injured. That may be true but sometimes I think Tywin’s hatred for his younger son is so blinding he would have refused him credit anyway. After all if Tywin talked to anyone besides Cersei he’d have learned the truth… (other people were well aware) and it doesn’t take long in ASOS for Tywin to realize that Cersei’s been misleading him for years and that Joffrey is absolutely horrible.

    And WORD to how much Blackwater plays with your sympathies. You honestly don’t know who to root for there…especially with the White Walker question at play.

    • Grant says:

      Tyrion was out for a period of time which allowed Cersei to maneuver without him to counter her and very few people actually liked Tyrion. In fact, the only one that I can think of who might respect Tyrion enough and not be in Cersei’s pocket would be Varys, the man doing his best to bring down the Lannisters. Plus Tyrion’s actions were generally ‘un-knightly’, using wildfire and sending disliked hill tribes to fight a guerrilla war (everyone else was definitely happy to see those tribes sent off even after they helped win the battle) which only a few were willing to actually praise.

      Tywin’s prejudices were blatant, but from the fact that he was ever willing to make Tyrion a temporary Hand I think what really ruined Tyrion was that he wasn’t able to meet his father in the crucial early hours.

      • David Hunt says:

        Yeah, Tyrion’s inability to make his case to his father ensured his political downfall. Tywin’s prejudices against him are intense, but he sent him to King’s Landing in the first place, so I think Tywin does respect Tyrion’s intelligence even if his hatred of him prevents him from admitting it. If Tyrion had been able to report to Tywin when he entered the Red Keep, he might have been able to prevent Cercei from shaping the narrative, but no one was going to go against that narrative but him. The ONLY person in the city that I can think who could make a case for Tyrion’s value, yet doesn’t hate him and/or have an agenda that works against Tyrion’s interests is Balon Swann. And let’s face it, while Balon is Kingsguard, he’s a rookie and his father is clearly playing both sides making his loyalties suspect. Plus I doubt that Tywin would care for the opinion of any of the then serving KG besides (maybe) Jaime.

        Everyone else of any note in the city is, at best, totally indifferent to him. Pycelle, Littlefinger and Cercei are his bitter enemies. Who else was in King’s Landing whose opinion Tywin would give a second’s thought? Hmm. I’ve just thought of the High Septon who might feel some personal loyalty to Tryion, but he’s strikes me as someone who would fall in line behind the new power structure in a New York minute. Plus my impression of him is that he’s the type of person who Tywin tell THEM what their opinion is going to be.

    • Chinoiserie says:

      The main instance we see Tywin’s hatred for Tyrion is the chapter where they meet again. While undoutably Tywin does hate Tyrion I do not think that Tywin had ever disliked him as much as he did in that chapter, even Tyrion was suprised how hostile Tywin was. But it was Tywin hearing that Tyrion had made threaths against his family that seemed to anger him the most, and Cersei could report this in any case. Mayhaps Tyrion could have tried to defend himself however under different circumstances.

      Early in the post there was a mention that Joffrey was related to Maegor and Aerys I. Did I misunderstand that somehow?

      • David Hunt says:

        If his official biography were correct, this would be true as Robert was a descendant of Aegon V. I don’t know the Lannister family tree well enough to say definitively, but I’m not aware of any point where they married into the Targaryans, so I’m guessing that it was referencing his official relationship through Robert.

  7. artihcus022 says:

    I find it interesting that Contantinople was famous at its height for being impregnable and is known today all over for the fact that it did fall and that the city is now known by the superior name of Istanbul.

    Is there any historical parallel between Blackwater and the final siege of 1452?

  8. Steven Xue says:

    Despite their similarities Tywin and Tyrion are somewhat different when it comes to motivating their men. Unlike Tyrion, Tywin would of threatened Sandor and if he continued to refuse to fight had him summarily executed then and there. Also while Tyrion has been able to appeal to the desire of the soldiers to protect their families and their city, you could bet all the gold in Casterly Rock that Tywin would have put on his sternest face and threatened to kill anyone and their families if they refused to go out there and fight.

  9. given how much Sandor’s self-conception as the Hound is tied up in the iconography of his House as loyalty embodied, his desertion has to reckon with this (and it kind of doesn’t in Sansa VII)

    What do you think he’s doing in Sansa VII? “I could keep you safe… They’re all afraid of me. No one would hurt you again, or I’d kill them.” He’s attempting to switch loyalties from the Lannisters to Sansa. But he’s too drunk and triggered to do so coherently (or without scaring the heck out of Sansa), and fucks it all up. You can see him attempting this loyalty switch again in ASOS, when he tells Arya that Robb needs him, even if he doesn’t realize it yet. (Whereas it’s actually Sandor that needs the Starks, for his dogged loyalty to have a worthy master.) But unfortunately, as you know, Red Wedding.

    As for the show vs book, that difference is based in how GRRM was writing Sandor at the start of ASOS, deliberately keeping his motives mysterious and his loyalties a secret. Arya even believes he’s taking her back to King’s Landing, until he tells her otherwise, and that’s where you get the “bugger the king” scene. (Until that point all you know is that Sandor hates Tyrion, not what he thinks of Joffrey and Cersei et al.) But tv and books have different priorities in expressing secondary character motivations, so GRRM removed this mystery and moved Sandor’s declaration here, and it works exceptionally well, I will say that.

    Oh, btw, someone asked me a while back if there was anything that could have been done right to re-motivate Sandor, and all I could say was that Tyrion and Mandon Moore were probably the worst possible combination to give the order.

    Do you have a what if for if Sandor’s own suggestion had been followed? Opening the gates and letting Stannis’s men rush in to be killed? Or do you think that wouldn’t have had any good effect at all? (Though it probably at least would have prevented Tyrion’s fateful adventure on the bridge of boats, but Moore probably would have taken a slice at him wherever he was.)

    • I get that, I meant more that Sandor in Sansa VII doesn’t really talk about the Lannisters and the past but rather talks about Sansa in the future. I’d like to have had a moment where he makes an assessment of his life as a sworn sword of House Lannister and the things he did and saw.

      I don’t have a what if for that scenario. The problem is that letting them in puts the forces on even footing, and it doesn’t do anything about the Mud Gate. A sortie maintains the mounted advantage and the ability to roll up flanks all the way along the northern bank.

  10. thatrabidpotato says:

    The show doesn’t get any more inspiring than this. Tyrion’s speech is so damn good, and honestly, that’s how it should have gone in the books. The last piece this series is missing to truly become the greatest work of fiction of all time is some inspiring/triumphant moments. It has everything else.

    Honestly, I have no problem with Tyrion sacrificing the royal fleet, none. You do what it takes to win, or else you lose. Defeat is never an acceptable alternative. And I find the whole “war crimes” thing to be rather overblown in the best of times, but against enemy forces, armed and in the field against you? These aren’t civilians. They are not innocent bystanders, they are out to kill you. You have to kill them first, by any means necessary. That is the very essence of war.

    • Grant says:

      Defeat can be acceptable depending on what’s at stake and what you would have to do to win, the Battle of Blackwater just isn’t one of them. But if, say, you’re guarding a remote fort and the only way to compel a besieging force to withdraw is to execute members of a ruler’s family that you have captive, you’re going to have a hard time arguing in a court that it was wartime necessity.

      As for the question of war crimes, just look at the very well documented things humans will do to prisoners of war and unarmed civilians during a conflict and tell me that they aren’t crimes.

      Of course all this is written on the assumption we’re speaking on war crimes with 21st century laws and rules. If we’re speaking at about the time roughly equivalent to ASOIAF, things were more flexible (though not nonexistent).

  11. Brian says:

    I’m really enjoying the entire Blackwater series, and I’m glad you were able to do it.

    One question, though, with Constantinople: My understanding was that 1182 was the Massacre of the Latins, and that it wound up with tens of thousands dead plus a few thousand survivors sold to the Turks…was it really that bad or is this just largely Catholic/ Latin propaganda?

    • Roger says:

      Wikipedia said that most of the Latin community previously fled (and they talk about 60.000 people). The rest was massacred. The emperor agreed to pay a compensation. But it must be noted in 1204 there were still Latins living in the city (one of them saved a Byzantine chronist).

    • Thanks!

      The Byzantine sources also say that it was pretty big, although how much of it was dead vs. expelled vs. sold is probably up for debate.

  12. Roger says:

    Steven, you could add the reason the Venetians controled comerce in the Empire is becouse Alexios gave them total tax exemption. In exchange the Venetian fleet helped fight the Normans.

  13. […] is in almost no danger here – he’s sitting out the battle, amusing himself by torturing helpless civilians, and capable of nothing more than presenting the image of a king. And this is as close as Joffrey […]

  14. […] it all starts so well, as Tyrion’s crazy gamble from last chapter pays off. With a full sortie party behind him, Tyrion acts decisely to stop the landing landing […]

  15. […] Tyrion XIII, I chided our protagonist for trying to offload his culpability for the devastation that the […]

  16. […] or a combatant who can’t see the whole battle from their own part of the battle, or from the battlements of a castle under siege and at the same time from the ships besieging them. Here, GRRM really gives himself leave to […]

  17. […] between the two of them – however sympathetic we might find Tyrion as an individual, he is directly complicit in keeping Joffrey in a position of power over […]

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