Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion III, ASOS

“Too many strange faces, Tyrion thought, too many new players. The game changed while I lay rotting in my bed, and no one will tell me the rules.”

Synopsis: Tyrion attends a Small Council meeting and finds out he’s engaged. Mazeltov?

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:

Tyrion III is a really important chapter, although that doesn’t make it any easier to talk about, because it includes so many important topics: the new political status quo on the Small Council, how the new Tyrell/Lannister regime plans to end the War of Five Kings, the news of Dorne’s imminent arrival to King’s Landing politics, the division of the spoils from the Battle of Blackwater, both Littlefinger and Varys’ making various plays, Cersei and Tyrion being forced into unwanted political marriages, and the setup of the Red Wedding from the Lannister point-of-view. That’s a lot to cover and put into some sort of coherent linear order.

So here we go!

The New Game

Since this chapter is structured around a Small Council meeting, it’s only appropriate to start with the central metaphor of the chapter:

Lord Tywin’s chain of hands made a golden glitter against the deep wine velvet of his tunic. The Lords Tyrell, Redwyne, and Rowan gathered round him as he entered. He greeted each in turn, spoke a quiet word to Varys, kissed the High Septon’s ring and Cersei’s cheek, clasped the hand of Grand Maester Pycelle, and seated himself in the king’s place at the head of the long table, between his daughter and his brother.

Tyrion had claimed Pycelle’s old place at the foot, propped up by cushions so he could gaze down the length of the table. Dispossessed, Pycelle had moved up next to Cersei, about as far from the dwarf as he could get without claiming the king’s seat. The Grand Maester was a shambling skeleton, leaning heavily on a twisted cane and shaking as he walked, a few white hairs sprouting from his long chicken’s neck in place of his once-luxuriant white beard. Tyrion gazed at him without remorse.

The others had to scramble for seats: Lord Mace Tyrell, a heavy, robust man with curling brown hair and a spade-shaped beard well salted with white; Paxter Redwyne of the Arbor, stoop-shouldered and thin, his bald head fringed by tufts of orange hair; Mathis Rowan, Lord of Goldengrove, clean-shaven, stout, and sweating; the High Septon, a frail man with wispy white chin hair. Too many strange faces, Tyrion thought, too many new players. The game changed while I lay rotting in my bed, and no one will tell me the rules.

As powerful a metaphor as the game of musical chairs is for the broader scramble for influence in the new regime, in some ways this is actually something of a false revelation: many of these dispositions in land (Littlefinger’s grant of Harrenhal, for example) were either explicitly or implicitly revealed in Sansa VIII of ACOK; and Tyrion learned about Pycelle’s return and saw the newfound prominence of the Tyrells in his most recent chapter.

However, there’s a difference between knowing something on an intellectual level and really comprehending it, between knowing Pycelle’s back and seeing how psychologically dependent he’s become, between knowing the Tyrells are in town and dealing with how smug Mace is and how sycophantic and self-interested Lord Redwyne are. And so Tyrion’s reactions have to be filtered through his emotional state, how discombobulated Tyrion feels about how the world has changed since he was injured (a feeling I can corroborate personally). Throughout the chapter, Tyrion reacts to pretty much everything that happens with a mix of resentment driven by grievance (seems a bit Stannis-esque there) and uncertainty (due to feeling rusty and disempowered) to everything that happens in this chapter:

Oh, the lords had been courteous enough, though he could tell how uncomfortable it made them to look at him. “That chain of yours, that was cunning,” Mace Tyrell had said in a jolly tone, and Lord Redwyne nodded and said, “Quite so, quite so, my lord of Highgarden speaks for all of us,” and very cheerfully too.

Tell it to the people of this city, Tyrion thought bitterly. Tell it to the bloody singers, with their songs of Renly’s ghost.

While Mace and Paxter are being a bit high-handed here, they’re probably making a genuine effort to try to get along with their soon-to-be in-law. (Although to be fair to Tyrion, Lord Tyrell and Lord Redwyne are in rare form this chapter as a smug glad-hander and his hype-man, although Redwyne is marginally more focused on the business of government than his boss.) However, Tyrion’s not in a mood to accept praise (he reacts the same way to Kevan, so it’s not just a personal dislike of the Reacherlords) – he wants to complain, to fight, to try to get someone to acknowledge the smouldering rage right below the surface.

Tyrion’s emotionally-inflected read of the situation aside, it is true that threre’s a new political dynamic in Tyrion III because this is the first time that he (and the readers) have seen Tywin and Kevan together in action since the end of AGOT:

Ser Kevan was his brother’s vanguard in council, Tyrion knew from long experience; he never had a thought that Lord Tywin had not had first. It has all been settled beforehand, he concluded, and this discussion’s no more than show.

Not only does this passage demonstrate that, unlike Sansa in Season 7, Tywin and Kevan Lannister understand the importance of having pre-meetings to set the agenda and count their votes ahead of time, but it also works as a synecdoche for the whole chapter. Tyrion can see that Tywin (and Kevan) already set up the Littlefinger/Lysa Arryn match, but he can’t see Tywin’s broader designs for the War of Five Kings and the political settlement of the entire continent afterwards, let alone the horrible means he intends to use to achieve these ends.

Speaking of which…

The War of Five Kings: Duskendale and Beyond

The first piece of business before the Small Council is wrapping up the War of FIve Kings, where we see Tywin and his new allies dealing with the aftermath of the Battle of Duskendale:

The eunuch smiled a silken smile. “I have such delicious tidings for you all, my lords. Yesterday at dawn our brave Lord Randyll caught Robett Glover outside Duskendale and trapped him against the sea. Losses were heavy on both sides, but in the end our loyal men prevailed. Ser Helman Tallhart is reported dead, with a thousand others. Robett Glover leads the survivors back toward Harrenhal in bloody disarray, little dreaming he will find valiant Ser Gregor and his stalwarts athwart his path.”

This dispatch from the field is effectively the punchline to Tyrion I‘s setup, but it’s also a good example of the phenomena I just discussed: not only have the decisions that the council makes been predetermined, but so too have the outcome of battles. While Tyrion and first time readers don’t know it yet, this was always going to be the outcome of the Battle of Duskendale, which on a re-read appears to be a mere shaping operation for the Red Wedding itself. And while Tywin will later claim that he kept the Red Wedding to a chosen few, Varys’ emphasis on the “brave” Lord Randyll and the “valiant” Ser Gregor suggests that the spymaster is very well aware of how much of a setup the battle was.

And this setup goes beyond just the battle of Duskendale. In the wake of Robb’s western gambit having failed, the Lannisters are preparing to renew their offensive in the Riverlands. However, here again we see their plans as revolving around the Red Wedding:

“He has run back to Riverrun with his plunder, abandoning the castles he took in the west,” announced Lord Tywin. “Our cousin Ser Daven is reforming the remnants of his late father’s army at Lannisport. When they are ready he shall join Ser Forley Prester at the Golden Tooth. As soon as the Stark boy starts north, Ser Forley and Ser Daven will descend on Riverrun.”

“You are certain Lord Stark means to go north?” Lord Rowan asked. “Even with the ironmen at Moat Cailin?”

Mace Tyrell spoke up. “Is there anything as pointless as a king without a kingdom? No, it’s plain, the boy must abandon the riverlands, join his forces to Roose Bolton’s once more, and throw all his strength against Moat Cailin. That is what I would do.”

Tyrion had to bite his tongue at that. Robb Stark had won more battles in a year than the Lord of Highgarden had in twenty. Tyrell’s reputation rested on one indecisive victory over Robert Baratheon at Ashford, in a battle largely won by Lord Tarly’s van before the main host had even arrived. The siege of Storm’s End, where Mace Tyrell actually did hold the command, had dragged on a year to no result, and after the Trident was fought, the Lord of Highgarden had meekly dipped his banners to Eddard Stark.

Take for example the plan to put together a new Lannister army on the western front under the command of Daven Lannister, using the survivors of Oxcross and the garrison of the Golden Tooth, and having them put Riverrun under siege (which sets up Jaime Lannister’s plotline in AFFC and beyond, while we’re talking about setups and predestination). This small force would be completely wiped out if they tried an assault while Robb’s full army was in the area; even Edmure Tully’s forces alone outnumber them ten to one. Thus, the siege only makes sense if you know ahead of time that Robb and Edmure will go to the Twins and then be captured, taking both the Northern and Riverlander forces out of the picture and leaving only a small garrison to defend the castle.

So to a significant extent, the Lannister strategy is founded not on martial ability but a combination of underhanded scheming and GRRM’s thumb firmly on the scales of fortune. Which makes Mace Tyrell’s self-satisfied comment that “the boy must abandon the riverlands…That is what I would do” feel so unfair. He’s right, but the only reason the smug armchair general is right is that, totally unbeknownst to him, Tywin’s working with Walder Frey behind the scenes. And so Tyrion (acting somewhat as an audience surrogate) builds on his resentment of the new players outwards to a strange almost pro-Stark stance that here makes him defensive towards Robb Stark’s military record (almost from a romantic sentiment) and which will flare up again when his marriage to Sansa comes up later in the chapter.

This aspect of Tyrion’s character has always puzzled me, because A. Tyrion’s ambivalence about the Starks has never stopped him from dealing with them in bad faith when it could help his family, so it’s hard to say what impact it has on the story exactly, and B. I wonder whether this is an artifact left over from the Ur-Text when Tyrion was supposed to fall in love with Arya and yet burn Winterfell, and that’s where his internal conflict on the Starks vs. Lannisters would go.

The War of Five Kings: The Diplomatic Genius of Balon Greyjoy

Speaking of setting up AFFC’s story arcs, the next item on the Small Council’s agenda is dealing with Balon Greyjoy’s diplomatic accompaniment to his grand military scheme:

Ser Kevan Lannister cleared his throat. “As regards the Starks…Balon Greyjoy, who now styles himself King of the Isles and the North, has written to us offering terms of alliance.”

“He ought to be offering fealty,” snapped Cersei. “By what right does he call himself king?”

“By right of conquest,” Lord Tywin said. “King Balon has strangler’s fingers round the Neck. Robb Stark’s heirs are dead, Winterfell is fallen, and the ironmen hold Moat Cailin, Deepwood Motte, and most of the Stony Shore. King Balon’s longships command the sunset sea, and are well placed to menace Lannisport, Fair Isle, and even Highgarden, should we provoke him.”

“And if we accept this alliance?” inquired Lord Mathis Rowan. “What terms does he propose?”

“That we recognize his kingship and grant him everything north of the Neck.”

Lord Redwyne laughed. “What is there north of the Neck that any sane man would want? If Greyjoy will trade swords and sails for stone and snow, I say do it, and count ourselves lucky.”

First of all, this passage gives a great encapsulation of how much pure, blind luck has played in Balon’s situation: of the “conquests” Tywin points to, only the capture of Moat Cailin, Deepwood Motte, and the Stony Shore were actually Balon’s idea; the more politically consequential events, as we saw in the previous sections, had nothing to do with him. Second, it’s noteworthy to see how differently the Westermen and the Reachermen see the North: to Tywin, the North is an existential threat that cannot be allowed to have humiliated the Lannisters and survived; to Lord Redwyne, the North is a howling wilderness not worth the life of an Arbor oarsman, to paraphrase Bismark. Third, we see an interesting sign of emerging divisions within House Lannister, between Cersei’s insistence on the outward forms of royal authority and Tywin’s chilly focus on the cold realities of military realpolitik.

More consequentially, we also see how completely mishandled Balon Greyjoy’s political strategy is, because while Paxter Redwyne thinks trading the North for Balon Greyjoy’s fleet is a good deal, Tywin Lannister’s calculus is hard to disagree with:

Lord Redwyne pinched at his nose. “May we return to the matter of the Greyjoy alliance? In my view, there is much to be said for it. Greyjoy’s longships will augment my own fleet and give us sufficient strength at sea to assault Dragonstone and end Stannis Baratheon’s pretensions.”

“King Balon’s longships are occupied for the nonce,” Lord Tywin said politely, “as are we. Greyjoy demands half the kingdom as the price of alliance, but what will he do to earn it? Fight the Starks? He is doing that already. Why should we pay for what he has given us for free? The best thing to do about our lord of Pyke is nothing, in my view. Granted enough time, a better option may well present itself. One that does not require the king to give up half his kingdom.”

Compared to Roose Bolton and Walder Frey, who’ll win many concessions from Tywin in exchange for their aid against Robb Stark, Balon Greyjoy inexplicably waited until now to send his demands, allowing Tywin to maintain diplomatic silence without losing any of the benefits of what Balon “has given us for free.” At the same time, it’s not clear to me how much of this is posture rather than policy; after all, in private Tywin suggests marrying Cersei to Balon, although he does say that “such a match would commit us to an alliance with the Iron Islands, and I am still uncertain whether that would be our wisest course.” Although again, this could be a ploy to get Cersei to agree to a marriage with Willas Tyrell by offering the aged lord Balon as a less pleasing alternative.

So what then is the “better option” Tywin speaks of? My guess is that Tywin is thinking of his much more firm alliance with Roose Bolton (and in turn his plans to have Roose fight the Ironborn for him) and his plans to win Winterfell for House Lannister through marriage to Sansa Stark, although it’s obviously not politick to mention it yet in front of the Tyrells.

The War of Five Kings: The Aftermath

The third piece of business before the Small Council, and the onle thing that truly unites everyone in the room (although even here there is hidden division, given the case of Sansa’s hand in marriage), is dividing up the spoils of war:

“The fruits of victory await division.”

“What could be sweeter?” said Littlefinger, who had already swallowed his own fruit, Harrenhal.

Each lord had his own demands; this castle and that village, tracts of lands, a small river, a forest, the wardship of certain minors left fatherless by the battle. Fortunately, these fruits were plentiful, and there were orphans and castles for all. Varys had lists. Forty-seven lesser lordlings and six hundred nineteen knights had lost their lives beneath the fiery heart of Stannis and his Lord of Light, along with several thousand common men-at-arms. Traitors all, their heirs were disinherited, their lands and castles granted to those who had proved more loyal.

Highgarden reaped the richest harvest. Tyrion eyed Mace Tyrell’s broad belly and thought, He has a prodigious appetite, this one. Tyrell demanded the lands and castles of Lord Alester Florent, his own bannerman, who’d had the singular ill judgment to back first Renly and then Stannis. Lord Tywin was pleased to oblige. Brightwater Keep and all its lands and incomes were granted to Lord Tyrell’s second son, Ser Garlan, transforming him into a great lord in the blink of an eye. His elder brother, of course, stood to inherit Highgarden itself.

Lesser tracts were granted to Lord Rowan, and set aside for Lord Tarly, Lady Oakheart, Lord Hightower, and other worthies not present. Lord Redwyne asked only for thirty years’ remission of the taxes that Littlefinger and his wine factors had levied on certain of the Arbor’s finest vintages. When that was granted, he pronounced himself well satisfied…

If we want to understand how feudal politics is shifting here, we could do worse than to closely examine this passage. As was the case with the Wars of the Roses, we see the seductive allure of total medieval warfare – getting to actually redistribute land through death and treason charges – undermining the normal social taboos against interfering with the inheritance of fiefdoms. As a result, we see the monarchy gaining in political influence as the lords of the Reach fall over themselves to curry favor in order to gain honors.

Image result for medieval total war II

What’s less immediately obvious is how much this opens up the social hierarchy to change. On the one hand, we see “Brightwater Keep and all its lands and incomes were granted to Lord Tyrell’s second son, Ser Garlan, transforming him into a great lord in the blink of an eye,” a case of undeniable upward social mobility for the workhorse second son of House Tyrell. (Incidentally, Brightwater Keep is something of a paradox to me, because the Florents are described as having barely any men to begin with, and now after Blackwater, somehow they’ll be able to hold off Garlan’s army? It makes me wonder whether their preturnatural defense is due to GRRM needing Garlan to still be in the field in range to save the day when Euron comes calling, or to cut the Tyrell strength in half so that Aegon’s victory over Mace Tyrell is plausible.) On the other, we see the families of “forty-seven lesser lordlings and six hundred nineteen knights” made homeless, a case of sharp downward mobility that underscores the all-or-nothing stakes of every battle.

At the same time, however, none of these trends are unambiguous. While dispossessing Stannis’ followers rewards the new members of the regime for their self-interested service, it counter-intuitively strengthens the loyalty of Stannis’ surviving men: as with the Golden Company, having lost everything in a failed drive for the Iron Throne now means that their only hope of regaining their heritage is through a last-chance power drive. At the same time, while every lord gets something, not all benefit equally, and it may well be that the division of the spoils provokes envy and resentment – Lord Tarly, for example, might well be offended that Dickon’s claim to Brightwater Keep through his Florent mother was overlooked. Moreover, we can see that the values of the warrior caste are beginning to warp: in addition to the parvenu Lord Baelish showing that military service is no longer the sole route to power, we see Paxter Redwyne (perhaps a sycophant but no man’s fool) preferring tax benefits for House Redwyne LLC than far-flung fiefdoms, because some of us are looking ahead to the early-modern era.

Finally, it’s important to note that this is a limited settlement that doesn’t extend to the Riverlands (because Tywin doesn’t want to show his hand there), the North and the Iron Islands (ditto), and the Vale (because he doesn’t have good options there), and that all of this is a deal on paper only…it remains to be seen whether this coalition has the power and (more importantly) the coordination to bring to pass.

The Dornish Arrive

The fragility of this new political order is seen immediately once a new element is introduced to the mix. Here the news arrives that House Martell of Dorne have sent a party to King’s Landing, not just to attend the upcoming wedding of King Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell, but to join the government:

“…we have had a raven from Sunspear. Three hundred Dornishmen are riding toward King’s Landing as we speak, and hope to arrive before the wedding.”

“How do they come?” asked Mace Tyrell gruffly. “They have not asked leave to cross my lands.” His thick neck had turned a dark red, Tyrion noted. Dornishmen and Highgardeners had never had great love for one another; over the centuries, they had fought border wars beyond count, and raided back and forth across mountains and marches even when at peace. The enmity had waned a bit after Dorne had become part of the Seven Kingdoms…until the Dornish prince they called the Red Viper had crippled the young heir of Highgarden in a tourney. This could be ticklish, the dwarf thought, waiting to see how his father would handle it.

“Prince Doran comes at my son’s invitation,” Lord Tywin said calmly, “not only to join in our celebration, but to claim his seat on this council, and the justice Robert denied him for the murder of his sister Elia and her children.”

Tyrion watched the faces of the Lords Tyrell, Redwyne, and Rowan, wondering if any of the three would be bold enough to say, “But Lord Tywin, wasn’t it you who presented the bodies to Robert, all wrapped up in Lannister cloaks?” None of them did, but it was there on their faces all the same. Redwyne does not give a fig, he thought, but Rowan looks fit to gag.

At the mere mention of the Dornish, Mace Tyrell turns red and has to be calmed down, which shows how Tywin is trying to build a political coalition here out of elements who really hate each other, never an easy task. Incidentally, one of the things that I find a bit strange is how GRRM characterizes Tyrell/Martell relations here. After all, feelings were running high enough after the integration of Dorne into the realm to push most of the Reach into the arms of the Blackfyres. This may be a case of Early Installment Weirdness although GRRM had clearly thought of the Blackfyres by ASOS. That being said, I can see how an incident like Willas’ injury could intensify emotions, given how a similar incident between Otho Bracken and Quentyn Blackwood at the King’s Landing Tourney of 206 AC.

Another weakness in the foundations of the new regime is the heavy hand of history, namely the fact that Tywin Lannister, the man who ordered the sack of King’s Landing and the murder of most of the royal family, is getting into bed with the two most prominent Targaryen loyalists. We haven’t yet found out that the Martells’ motivation for participation is solely to bring down the regime as revenge for the murder of Elia and her children, but here we see that the Reachermen aren’t too happy about it either. Now, Paxter Redwyne is a man who clearly has nothing but rose in his veins, but Mathis Rowan’s reaction does open up the possibility that he might not be reliable when Aegon VI Targaryen makes his way to Storm’s End.

File:Aegon Targaryen Diego Gisbert LlorensIIII.png

credit to Diego Gisbert Llorens 

Once again, therefore, the tag-team of Kevan and Tywin have to spring into action to smooth ruffled feathers (leaves? petals?) by trying to get to change the way that the component parts of his new edifice perceive themselves:

“When the king is wed to your Margaery and Myrcella to Prince Trystane, we shall all be one great House,” Ser Kevan reminded Mace Tyrell. “The enmities of the past should remain there, would you not agree, my lord?”

“This is my daughter’s wedding—”

“—and my grandson’s,” said Lord Tywin firmly. “No place for old quarrels, surely?”

“I have no quarrel with Doran Martell,” insisted Lord Tyrell, though his tone was more than a little grudging. “If he wishes to cross the Reach in peace, he need only ask my leave.”

This “one great House” isn’t quite “a dynasty that will last for a thousand years,” but it is a nice encapsulation of how Tywin sees his new system working; given his historic problems with sharing power with non-Lannisters, the solution is to bring the whole coalition into the family, augmenting the bonds of self-interest with those of blood. Unfortunately for those who think of Tywin as an political genius, this is a total pipedream. At this very wedding which is supposed to cement his alliance system, the Tyrells will assassinate the groom and the Martells will use the attempt as a ploy to re-ligitate the murder of Elia Martell and bring the whole edifice crashing down.

Tywin’s Domestic Policy

Beyond these matters of grand policy, we also get something of a sense of what this new Lannister regime looks like by how they handle more minor issues. Take for example the case of what to do about those goldcloaks who broke and ran when Joffrey abandoned the walls of King’s Landing:

“Tywin,” Ser Kevan said, before Lord Tywin could vent his obvious displeasure, “some of the gold cloaks who deserted during the battle have drifted back to barracks, thinking to take up duty once again. Ser Addam wishes to know what to do with them.”

“They might have endangered Joff with their cowardice,” Cersei said at once. “I want them put to death.”

Varys sighed. “They have surely earned death, Your Grace, none can deny it. And yet, perhaps we might be wiser to send them to the Night’s Watch. We have had disturbing messages from the Wall of late. Of wildlings astir . . .”

Lord Tywin ignored that. “The deserters serve us best as a lesson. Break their knees with hammers. They will not run again. Nor will any man who sees them begging in the streets.” He glanced down the table to see if any of the other lords disagreed.

Tyrion remembered his own visit to the Wall, and the crabs he’d shared with old Lord Mormont and his officers. He remembered the Old Bear’s fears as well. “Perhaps we might break the knees of a few to make our point. Those who killed Ser Jacelyn, say. The rest we can send to Marsh. The Watch is grievously under strength. If the Wall should fail . . .”

“. . . the wildlings will flood the north,” his father finished, “and the Starks and Greyjoys will have another enemy to contend with. They no longer wish to be subject to the Iron Throne, it would seem, so by what right do they look to the Iron Throne for aid? King Robb and King Balon both claim the north. Let them defend it, if they can. And if not, this Mance Rayder might even prove a useful ally.”

While Tywin comes across as more reasonable than Cersei, whose penchant for wanting to cut the throats of the smallfolk is evident well before Joffrey’s death supposedly destabilized her, his reaction undercuts his reputation for brutal pragmatism. As Tyrion points out, it doesn’t serve any pragmatic end to systematically brutalize hundreds if not thousands of men, when exemplary punishment of a few could benefit the realm much more. It’s almost as if Tywin’s actions are more motivated by his feeling that the goldcloaks’ loss of nerve has tarnished, however minorly, his victory at Blackwater, than any considerations of Machiavellian theory.

Varys and Tyrion’s combined opposition – perhaps motivated by Varys’ utilitarianism or his desire to cultivate a dissident Lannister – further calls into question Tywin Lannister’s reputation as a capable administrator. When given a clear case of a threat to the realm as a whole in the form of Mance Rayder’s invasion, Tywin’s mind goes first to personal advantage, that “the Starks and Greyjoys will have another enemy to contend with.” So little does Tywin care for the good of the realm (and so narrow his understanding that he thinks Mance Rayder can be kept the North’s problem or even made an ally; further proof, by the way, that Tywin was planning to betray Roose), that he’s willing to let the North go to the wall because “they no longer wish to be subject to the Iron Throne.” The contrast to Stannis’ decision at the end of ASOS to save the North in order to earn their support could not be sharper.

Two Conspirators At Work

Here we pass on from Tywin’s governance (however briefly) to discuss the actions of Littlefinger and Varys. Starting with the former, in the wake of his death in Season 7 of Game of Thrones, much has been made as to whether the show poorly portrayed him. And while I would agree with The Dragon Demands that Littlefinger is far more planful than he appeared in Seasons 5-7, I do have to disagree with both him and GRRM as to whether Littlefinger is well-liked and trusted. Take for example, how the reveal of Littlefinger’s plan to marry Lysa Arryn comes across:

“I have other tasks in mind for Tyrion. I believe Lord Petyr may hold the key to the Eyrie.”

“Oh, I do,” said Littlefinger, “I have it here between my legs.” There was mischief in his grey-green eyes. “My lords, with your leave, I propose to travel to the Vale and there woo and win Lady Lysa Arryn. Once I am her consort, I shall deliver you the Vale of Arryn without a drop of blood being spilled.”

Lord Rowan looked doubtful. “Would Lady Lysa have you?”

“She’s had me a few times before, Lord Mathis, and voiced no complaints.”

“Bedding,” said Cersei, “is not wedding.”

“To be sure. It would not have been fitting for a daughter of Riverrun to marry one so far below her.” Littlefinger spread his hands. “Now, though . . . a match between the Lady of the Eyrie and the Lord of Harrenhal is not so unthinkable, is it?”

Tyrion noted the look that passed between Paxter Redwyne and Mace Tyrell. 

This is not a case of Littlefinger being funny and well-liked; no one’s laughing at his jokes or being charmed by him. Lord Rowan and Queen Cersei openly doubt him, Paxter Redwyne and Mace Tyrell are quietly skeptical, because cracking dick jokes in the Small Council and bragging about sleeping with noble ladies is gross and wildly inappropriate – part of his constant obsession with his childhood spent with the Tully sisters that undercuts his plans more than once and will likely be his downfall. Rather, Littlefinger’s power in this scene is that he’s useful for dirty jobs: he can “deliver you the Vale of Arryn without a drop of blood being spilled,” and the Small Council doesn’t want a war with the Vale (hence Mace’s condescending rejection of Tyrion’s proposals). Because Littlefinger makes himself indispensible, he can get away with his inappropriate behavior – what the Psychopathic Personality Index calls “impulsive nonconformity” – and he clearly gets a thrill out of making other people put up with his breaches of court etiquette as a minor power play.

However, this chapter shows us that Littlefinger’s position has shifted somewhat, because he is no longer the littlest lord in the kingdom, but the Lord of Harrenhal. And while Tyrion was the one who made the offer in the first place, this is the first time he’s ever had to come face to face with the reality that it’s something other than an empty title, but rather a stepping stone to the lordship of the Vale.

Another addition to Tyrion’s feeling of alienation in this chapter, therefore, is that he’s the only one who questions or argues against Littlefinger, and no one else sees Littlefinger’s actions as threatening. Take for the example of Tyrion being given the position of Master of Coins (which frees up Littlefinger to go to the Vale):

Littlefinger smiled. “My little friend is too kind. All I do is count coppers, as King Robert used to say. Any clever tradesman could do as well . . . and a Lannister, blessed with the golden touch of Casterly Rock, will no doubt far surpass me.”

“A Lannister?” Tyrion had a bad feeling about this.

Lord Tywin’s gold-flecked eyes met his son’s mismatched ones. “You are admirably suited to the task, I believe.”

“Indeed!” Ser Kevan said heartily. “I’ve no doubt you’ll make a splendid master of coin, Tyrion.”

Just to show that I don’t always dump on Littlefinger, I actually think that Littlefinger selling Tywin and Kevan on this ahead of time is a really clever ploy. The Master of Coins is an ostensible promotion, but it’s also exactly the kind of promotion that Tywin would think would be suitable for Tyrion, since it’s the kind of job “any clever tradesman can do” since Tywin’s bigotry encompasses both class and disability.  More importantly, it means that the one clear enemy he has in the Lannister regime is going to be busy counting coppers rather than pursuing any vendetta…and, since Littlefinger is about to begin the phase of his plan that involves breaking with the Lannister regime (which may well involve revealing his embezzlement and thus ruining the Iron Throne’s credit), it’s amazingly petty that he’s sticking Tyrion with the mess he created (and possibly the blame as well, since it’s easy to get people to believe the worst).

However, I do think this scene is a great piece of evidence for my interpretation of Littlefinger’s character. Look at what happens when Tyrion questions Littlefinger’s actions:

Master of coin?” said Tyrion in a thin strained voice. “Whose notion was that, pray?”

“Lord Petyr’s,” his father said, “but it serves us well to have the treasury in the hands of a Lannister. You have asked for important work. Do you fear you might be incapable of the task?”

“No,” said Tyrion, “I fear a trap. Littlefinger is subtle and ambitious. I do not trust him. Nor should you.”

“He won Highgarden to our side…” Cersei began.

“…and sold you Ned Stark, I know. He will sell us just as quick. A coin is as dangerous as a sword in the wrong hands.”

His uncle Kevan looked at him oddly. “Not to us, surely. The gold of Casterly Rock…”

“…is dug from the ground. Littlefinger’s gold is made from thin air, with a snap of his fingers.”

It’s not that the Lannisters like and trust Littlefinger – after all, Cersei and Jaime were talking about Littlefinger as an ambitious enemy when Bran caught them canoodling in the tower – it’s that they think House Lannister is so rich and powerful that Littlefinger couldn’t possibly hurt them and that they could always outbid anyone for his loyalties. As happened with Jon Arryn, as happened with Eddard Stark, their natural distrust of a patently untrustworthy man is overcome by their privilege:

..Ser Kevan cleared his throat. “I would sooner have Petyr Baelish ruling the Eyrie than any of Lady Lysa’s other suitors. Yohn Royce, Lyn Corbray, Horton Redfort . . . these are dangerous men, each in his own way. And proud. Littlefinger may be clever, but he has neither high birth nor skill at arms. The lords of the Vale will never accept such as their liege.”

Once again, it’s not that the Lannisters trust Littlefinger, but that they don’t see Littlefinger as a threat according to the normal rules of feudal politics. Littlefinger “has neither high birth nor skill at arms,” nor does he have thousands of bannermen while Roose Bolton holds Harrenhal, and Kevan is right that the nobles of the Vale despise Littlefinger. The problem is that Littlefinger isn’t playing by the normal rules of feudal politics, and it’s this, not his friendliness, that makes him a threat.

Meanwhile, while it may seem as if Littlefinger is the only one on the offensive (after all, this chapter sees him take a major step in his grand strategy) and Varys is inactive, underneath the surface Varys is also making moves (albeit more cautious ones).

The eunuch drew a parchment from his sleeve. “A kraken has been seen off the Fingers.” He giggled. “Not a Greyjoy, mind you, a true kraken. It attacked an Ibbenese whaler and pulled it under. There is fighting on the Stepstones, and a new war between Tyrosh and Lys seems likely. Both hope to win Myr as ally. Sailors back from the Jade Sea report that a three-headed dragon has hatched in Qarth, and is the wonder of that city—”

“Dragons and krakens do not interest me, regardless of the number of their heads,” said Lord Tywin. “Have your whisperers perchance found some trace of my brother’s son?”

“Alas, our beloved Tyrek has quite vanished, the poor brave lad.” Varys sounded close to tears.

Here we see Varys casually slipping in a mention of a dragon in Qarth in such a way that, rather than taking the news as evidence that the Targaryens have returned or that Dany has hatched three dragons, they’ll dismiss the news as a travelogue’s fantasy, and will be much less likely to believe future reports from others, as Cersei does repeatedly in AFFC.  (Given what we learn in ADWD about Varys and Illyrio’s links to the Golden Company, I wouldn’t be surprised either if he included the news about the trade war between Tyrosh and Lys in order to obscure the identity of the mercenary army that will land on Westeros, since the Golden Company would be “busy” in the Disputed Lands.) And just to show that Varys isn’t without an ego of his own, I’m pretty sure he describes the dragon as “three-headed” because it amuses him to describe the sigil of House Targaryen to Tywin’s face and get away with it.

Speaking of getting away with it, the fact that Varys manages to pull off a mummer’s trick of fake-crying over the Lannister he all-but-certainly kidnapped right in Tywin’s face is sang-froid of the highest order. As I’ve speculated before, I believe that Varys’ plans for Tyrek are aimed at discrediting Tommen’s legitimacy (in both senses of the word) among the population of King’s Landing so as to fulfill the prophecy of the “mummer’s dragon.” However, this section raises the question as to what the rest of Varys’ intentions were vis-a-vis Tywin’s regime – he probably knew about the Purple Wedding, but whether he was planning to do anything until the end of ASOS, I’ll have to keep my eye out.

Wedding (Jingle)Bells

We move on from our two conspirators to the major subject of the back half of this chapter: Tywin’s plans for for the marriages of Tyrion and (but very much not to) Cersei. We begin with news that the reader is already privy to:

He looked to his brother. When Lord Tywin nodded, he continued. “And there is this—Lord Petyr continues to demonstrate his loyalty. Only yesterday he brought us word of a Tyrell plot to spirit Sansa Stark off to Highgarden for a ‘visit,’ and there marry her to Lord Mace’s eldest son, Willas.”

“Littlefinger brought you word?” Tyrion leaned against the table. “Not our master of whisperers? How interesting.”

This passage suggests that Tyrion III comes before Sansa II, or rather that it comes before the present-tense portions of that chapter but after the past-tense portions of that chapter, and that GRRM shuffled the order somewhat so as to hide the reveal of Sansa’s impending marriage to Tyrion, at the cost of making the timeline a bit less intuitive. I do like, however, how the different context creates new implications: being the only one who doesn’t trust Littlefinger, Tyrion’s the only one bringing up how coming forward serves Littlefinger’s interests (although he doesn’t connect the dots to Sansa’s claim on the North), and no one actually follows up on his point about why Varys didn’t come forward (probably because, with Stannis defeated, Varys no longer has an interest in making the Lannister regime stronger).

What we do see right off the bat is how the news about Sansa’s intended engagement shows off the underlying weaknesses inside House Lannister:

Cersei looked at their uncle in disbelief. “Sansa is my hostage. She goes nowhere without my leave.”

“Leave you must perforce grant, should Lord Tyrell ask,” their father pointed out. “To refuse him would be tantamount to declaring that we did not trust him. He would take offense.”

“Let him. What do we care?”

Bloody fool, thought Tyrion. “Sweet sister,” he explained patiently, “offend Tyrell and you offend Redwyne, Tarly, Rowan, and Hightower as well, and perhaps start them wondering whether Robb Stark might not be more accommodating of their desires.”

“I will not have the rose and the direwolf in bed together,” declared Lord Tywin. “We must forestall him.”

To begin with, we get a very different portrait of Cersei Lannister as a politician than we’ve seen in recent seasons – jealous of her few successes, standing upon the formalities she disparaged in AGOT, and constitutionally incapable of understanding the necessities of coalition politics. Speaking of which, we also see that how difficult Tywin’s balancing act really is, publicly professing that the Tyrells and Lannisters are to be eternally linked by blood while privately trying to undermine the Tyrells without appearing to have done so.

It also shows that Tywin takes seriously the possibility that the Tyrells could jump ship to the Starks (or at the very least make their own play for the North), enough so that he’s willing to bring down the patriarchial hammer on Cersei:

“How?” asked Cersei.

“By marriage. Yours, to begin with…”

“No. Not again. I will not.”

“So long as you remain unwed, you allow Stannis to spread his disgusting slander,” Lord Tywin told his daughter. “You must have a new husband in your bed, to father children on you.”

“Three children is quite sufficient. I am Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, not a brood mare! The Queen Regent!”

“You are my daughter and will do as I command…you will marry and you will breed. Every child you birth makes Stannis more a liar.” Their father’s eyes seemed to pin her to her chair.  “Mace Tyrell, Paxter Redwyne, and Doran Martell are wed to younger women likely to outlive them. Balon Greyjoy’s wife is elderly and failing, but such a match would commit us to an alliance with the Iron Islands, and I am still uncertain whether that would be our wisest course…Oberyn Martell might suit, but the Tyrells would take that very ill. So we must look to the sons…”

“I have considered the Redwyne twins, Theon Greyjoy, Quentyn Martell, and a number of others. But our alliance with Highgarden was the sword that broke Stannis. It should be tempered and made stronger. Ser Loras has taken the white and Ser Garlan is wed to one of the Fossoways, but there remains the eldest son, the boy they scheme to wed to Sansa Stark.”

As much as one might share Tyrion’s dislike of Cersei and his vicarious enjoyment of her sudden reversal of fortunes, this is a brutal browbeating. Not only is this a father treating his adult child with no more consideration than he did in their infancy, this is specificlaly a patriarch insisting on his authority to control his daughter’s body as a child-bearing commodity. And if Cersei ever needed evidence that her title as Queen Regent is a paper shield, the way that Tywin rolls over every objection as if she wasn’t even talking is proof in and of itself.

At the same time, Tywin’s control over his daughter is based on a complex combination of psychological pressures. It’s telling that Tywin starts with Stannis’ “disgusting slander,” which is both a direct attack on Cersei’s main transgression against her father’s will, and about as close as Tywin could ever come to acknowledging the truth of Joffrey’s birth. He then uses a succession of truly undesirable candidates – elderly, previously-married men, then callow youths like “Horror” and “Slobber” – in order to lower Cersei’s resistance to Willas Tyrell, his main target. After all, if Tywin’s “one great House” is to work, it’s not enough to have the Tyrells bound to the Lannisters only through Margaery, but to ensure that Willas’ heirs will be part-Lannister too.

So brutal is Tywin’s psychological pummeling that it gets Tyrion – even after Cersei’s beating of Alayaya and Tyrion’s threats in response, even after ordering Tommen’s capture, even after the assassination attempt on his life – to feel a pang of sympathy for his sister:

When she hesitated, then sat, Tyrion knew she was lost, despite her loud declaration of, “I will not marry again!”

You are the queen, Tyrion wanted to tell her. He ought to be begging leave of you.

Cersei swept swiftly from the room, her rage plain to see. Yet in the end she will do as Father bid. She had proved that with Robert.

Tyrion’s sympathy goes deeper than feeling bad for Cersei: Tyrion has such a close read on his sister’s character in the way that only someone who grew up with her that he can predict her actions (something that’s almost certainly going to be very important to his storyline in TWOW). Even more surprisingly, given Tyrion’s deeply-problematic attitudes about women, Tyrion actually sides with Cersei and believes that her status and authority shouldn’t be overlooked because of her gender – it is not an accident that this change of heart takes place when he sees their father force her to marry in the same way he forced Tyrion into dissolving his marriage. This passage suggests a minor tragedy, that Tywin’s two children whose privilege is leavened by their gender or disability couldn’t find common cause in a mutual desire for independence.

Because despite his gender, Tywin intends to impose his patriarchal control over Tyrion’s body and sexuality/reproductive capacity, as he has always done. And this is what makes Tywin’s drive for patriarchal control so lethal to his hopes for his House and his own person, because unlike his sister, an increasingly-alienated Tyrion will eventually snap back:

“Your whoring is a weakness in you,” Lord Tywin said without preamble, “but perhaps some share of the blame is mine. Since you stand no taller than a boy, I have found it easy to forget that you are in truth a man grown, with all of a man’s baser needs. It is past time you were wed.”

I was wed, or have you forgotten? Tyrion’s mouth twisted, and the noise emerged that was half laugh and half snarl.

We’ve seen since AGOT that Tyrion bears a barely sub-conscious patricidal desire for revenge against his father for what he did to Tysha, and Tywin’s plan instantly reopens that wound to instant (if half-hidden) aggression. It doesn’t help at all that Tywin starts the conversation by bluntly stating “your whoring is a weakness in you,” which brings back his threat of murder from Tyrion I, symbolically linking Tysha to Shae once more. And just to underline why Tywin is so eminently deserving of patricide, he manages to throw together ableism (“since you stand no taller than a boy”) with hypocritical (because we know damn well that Tywin’s fixation on a “man’s baser needs” stems from his own sexuality) prudery.

This passage also raises an interesting question: is Tyrions till technically married? In the longest version of the story we’ve gotten so far, it’s not particularly clear. Tyrion says that “my father had the marriage undone. It was as if we had never been wed, the septons said,” but (to jump ahead to Tyrion IV) we know that annulments are actually quite difficult (requiring the High Septon or a Council of Faith), and one of the main grounds for annulment (non-consummation) doesn’t apply here. It could well be that Tywin simply covered up the marriage rather legally dissolving it, given Tysha’s lowly status.

And of course, Tywin’s pater familias horribulus routine doesn’t stop with his own family, because he absolutely thinks of Sansa as a pawn rather than a human being:

“… You mean to wed me to Sansa Stark. But won’t the Tyrells take the match as an affront, if they have designs on the girl?”

“Lord Tyrell will not broach the matter of the Stark girl until after Joffrey’s wedding. If Sansa is wed before that, how can he take offense, when he gave us no hint of his intentions?”

“…That seems singularly cruel. Even for you, Father.”

“Why, do you plan to mistreat her?” His ta father sounded more curious than concerned. “The girl’s happiness is not my purpose, nor should it be yours. Our alliances in the south may be as solid as Casterly Rock, but there remains the north to win, and the key to the north is Sansa Stark.”

“She is no more than a child…”

“Your sister swears she’s flowered. If so, she is a woman, fit to be wed. You must needs take her maidenhead, so no man can say the marriage was not consummated.”

Even taking as given that Tywin’s intent is to outflank Mace Tyrell through Sansa, his statement that “the girl’s happiness is not my purpose” is the definition of the banality of evil. Tywin is once again using women’s bodies for his own political ends – in this case to get his hands on Winterfell to achieve an existential victory over House Stark – in the bluntest of biological terms. Once again, Tywin is ordering Tyrion to commit marital rape on a minor, bringing up the memory of Tysha again, which intensifies his feelings of alienation from his family and helps to explain why Tyriin on will begin to rebel against his father on this very issue (which may result yet in the downfall of House Lannister).

That being said, since he still needs Tyrion to agree – a consideration that he notably doesn’t extend to Cersei – Tywin has to find some sort of psychological hook to gain his compliance. And naturally, he goes with ableism:

“You asked me to reward you for your efforts in the battle,” Lord Tywin reminded him forcefully. “This is a chance for you, Tyrion, the best you are ever likely to have.” He drummed his fingers impatiently on the table. “I once hoped to marry your brother to Lysa Tully, but Aerys named Jaime to his Kingsguard before the arrangements were complete. When I suggested to Lord Hoster that Lysa might be wed to you instead, he replied that he wanted a whole man for his daughter…When I offered you to Dorne I was told that the suggestion was an insult,” Lord Tywin continued. “In later years I had similar answers from Yohn Royce and Leyton Hightower. I finally stooped so low as to suggest you might take the Florent girl Robert deflowered in his brother’s wedding bed, but her father preferred to give her to one of his own household knights.”

After asserting that Tyrion doesn’t deserve to get the reward he asked for, he effectively insinuates that this is Tyrion’s only chance to get married (and attain the status of lordship) due to the unrelenting bigotry of Westerosi society. It doesn’t matter whether the lords in questions are ones we consider to be “good guys” (Hoster Tully, Yohn Royce, etc.) or “bad guys” (the Florents), they all consider Tyrion to be less than “a whole man;” even the supposedly universally progressive Dornish consider the very idea “an insult.” Similar to his recitation of Cersei’s potential mates, this roll of rejection hits on a key weak point – Tyrion’s fear that he doesn’t deserve to be loved or to have a normal relationship.

However, as with everything else in this chapter, this move by Tywin is but a small part of his larger design…

The Red Wedding Planning

One of the most interesting things about Tyrion III is the way that GRRM does foreshadowing of the Red Wedding. We’ve seen a number of approaches: Dany has a prophetic dream but has no context to put the pieces together; Theon also has a prophetic dream and context, but no clues that would help him understand how his dream would come about; Arya has a significant clue, but not the other half of the puzzle. Tyrion’s situation is significantly different:

Tyrion watched his father closely. There’s something he’s not saying. He remembered those important letters Lord Tywin had been writing, the night Tyrion had demanded Casterly Rock. What was it he said? Some battles are won with swords and spears, others with quills and ravens…He wondered who the “better option” was, and what sort of price he was demanding.

Tyrion has the proper context (he knows all of the players involved, on both the Stark and Lannister sides), he knows a lot of the details (he knows about Duskendale, he’ll know very shortly about the Freys and the Spicers), and he even has it from Tywin’s own words that his father is planning to win the war in an underhanded fashion. He just can’t put the puzzle pieces together to see the whole.

There’s a lot of different moving parts to this, so they need to be discussed one-by-one. The first piece of the puzzle has to do with Robb Stark’s marital situation:

“Lord Tywin was unconcerned. “Robb Stark will father no children on his fertile Frey, you have my word. There is a bit of news I have not yet seen fit to share with the council, though no doubt the good lords will hear it soon enough. The Young Wolf has taken Gawen Westerling’s eldest daughter to wife.”

For a moment Tyrion could not believe he’d heard his father right. “He broke his sworn word?” he said, incredulous. “He threw away the Freys for…” Words failed him.

This short passage actually has several things going on: given that the news of Robb broken betrothal was being kept very close to the very in the Stark camp until very recently, the fact that Tywin knows is a clue that he’s made his deal with the Freys. However, the fact that he knows the identity of Robb’s bride – something that almost no one even in the Stark camp knew about until very recently – is a sign that Tywin’s also made a deal with Sybell Spicer. Moreover, the comment about “Robb Stark will father no children on his fertile Frey” is something of a hint that Sybell illicitly dosing her daughter with contraceptives to prevent the King in the North from having an heir of his body was part of their arrangement.

Tyrion III also gives us an interesting portrait in miniature of the character of Sybell Spicer, his partner in crime:

“A maid of sixteen years, named Jeyne,” said Ser Kevan. “Lord Gawen once suggested her to me for Willem or Martyn, but I had to refuse him. Gawen is a good man, but his wife is Sybell Spicer. He should never have wed her. The Westerlings always did have more honor than sense. Lady Sybell’s grandfather was a trader in saffron and pepper, almost as lowborn as that smuggler Stannis keeps. And the grandmother was some woman he’d brought back from the east. A frightening old crone, supposed to be a priestess. Maegi, they called her. No one could pronounce her real name. Half of Lannisport used to go to her for cures and love potions and the like.” He shrugged. “She’s long dead, to be sure. And Jeyne seemed a sweet child, I’ll grant you, though I only saw her once. But with such doubtful blood…”

Combined with what we learn about her in AFFC, this passage suggests that Sybell is something of a frustrated social climber, having been balked in her desire to marry her daughter into House Lannister. (Depending on how one interprets Kevan’s comment that “he should never have wed her. The Westerlings always did have more honor than sense,” it may have even been the case that Sybell’s marriage to Gawen Westerling was the result of a scenario not that different from Robb and Jeyne.) Likewise, Kevan’s offhanded comment about Jeyne’s “doubtful blood” suggests that no small part of Sybell’s motives have to do witho the rampant prejudice she faced in Lannisport (think of the mindset that treats a spice merchant who as both the daughter of an upwardly-mobile merchant and an Essosi woman. Finally, the information about Sybell’s grandmother always makes me wonder whether love potions were part of her plan (and possibly part of her marriage) or whether that’s just Kevan’s prejudice speaking.

Finally, we have an interesting section where the Lannisters speculate as to the motives of their enemies; this more than other parts of this chapter come across as more writerly, where GRRM uses his characters to explain why other characters do certain things:

“I am surprised,” Tyrion had to confess. “I thought Robb Stark had better sense.”

“He is a boy of sixteen,” said Lord Tywin. “At that age, sense weighs for little, against lust and love and honor.”

“He forswore himself, shamed an ally, betrayed a solemn promise. Where is the honor in that?”

Ser Kevan answered. “He chose the girl’s honor over his own. Once he had deflowered her, he had no other course.”

“It would have been kinder to leave her with a bastard in her belly,” said Tyrion bluntly. The Westerlings stood to lose everything here; their lands, their castle, their very lives. A Lannister always pays his debts.

“Jeyne Westerling is her mother’s daughter,” said Lord Tywin, “and Robb Stark is his father’s son.”

At the same time, there’s a lot we can learn from this: firstly, Tyrion’s continued admiration for Robb, as with his concern for Sansa and his quasi-Romantic ambivalence about the fall of Winterfell, I think is an artifact of his Ur-Text storyline (either that or it’s meant to set up Tyrion as the avenue for rapprochement between Dany and the North if the show’s storyline is anywhere near accurate). Secondly, I find Tywin’s analysis really interesting, despite the fact that he’s never been very good at reading Robb Stark. He’s clearly wrong about Jeyne, who couldn’t be more unlike her mother if she tried, but he might be right about Robb Stark (although not in the way he thinks.

But as with everything that’s come before, Tyrion has the pieces but can’t quite put the pieces together:

This Westerling betrayal did not seem to have enraged his father as much as Tyrion would have expected…

“You’d think the Westerlings might have ridden past and seen the lesson there.”

“Mayhaps they have,” Lord Tywin said. “They are well aware of Castamere, I promise you.”

“Could the Westerlings and Spicers be such great fools as to believe the wolf can defeat the lion?”

Every once in a very long while, Lord Tywin Lannister would actually threaten to smile; he never did, but the threat alone was terrible to behold.

Historical Analysis:

When we last left off with the story of the House of Atreus, the eponymous founder of the House had worked his terrible revenge against his brother for seducing his wife and stealing the throne of Mycenae. However, the curse of Tantalus and Pelops was not done with the royal house of Mycenae. To revenge himself for the murder and cooking of his son, Thyestes went to the Oracle of Delphi and asked what he might do to accomplish his aims. When the Oracle told him to father a child on his own daughter Pelopia, Thyestes did not second-guess the gods, and so incest enters into the story of the fall of the House of Atreus (not for the first time and not for the last).

Atreus, meanwhile, met Pelopia and not knowing her to be his niece, married her. When she gave birth to a son, he believed that Agistheus was his own. And so when Thyestes was finally found and brought back to Mycenae, Atreus ordered the boy to kill his funcle:

atreus

credit to Eric Shanower

However, Thyestes would not last not on the throne. Atreus’ adult sons, Agammemnon and Menelaus found support from Sparta and overthrew their uncle, although his son Agisthus escaped. But the curse of the House of Atreus would not end with such a tidy tale of restoration…

What If?

So it seems to me that there several what-if scenarios in Tyrion III, all of which are matrimonial:

  • Lancel not Tyrion marries Sansa? This is a rather subtle change, at least at first. Given his health at the time, Lancel probably wouldn’t be able to conssumate the marriage either, so that doesn’t change. What might change is what happens after the Purple Wedding; without the direct link between Tyrion and Sansa, it might complicate either Tyrion’s trial (if he can present Sansa as an alternative suspect) or possibly lead to Sansa not being a suspect for regicide after her escape.
  • Cersei marries any of the candidates? This is a more substnatial change, and honestly there probably wouldn’t be enough time for Cersei’s wedding to take place prior to Tywin’s death, and once he’s dead there’s no way she’s going through with it. However, if the marriage did take place, then quite possibly this sets up a very different power struggle  after Tywin’s death, because it would be very hard for Cersei to be named Queen Regent and not her husband. Indeed, it may well be the case that Cersei is out of King’s Landing when Tywin dies, in which case she would be completely out of the running and isolated from royal politics completely. Needless to say, I don’t see her husband living long unless they’re very smart and very clever.
  • If the previous marriages had worked out? Well, first off if Jaime’s married he probably doesn’t become a member of the Kingsguard, which means that King’s Landing goes up in flames, taking Tywin’s army with it. Robert still becomes king of Westeros, but the odds of Dany finding any support when she lands will be quite low. Lysa marrying Tyrion probably means that Jon Arryn isn’t murdered, which probably means that Cersei is found out, although the politics of that conflict would be complicated with the Tullys caught in the middle. Tyrion marrying Arianne is incredibly unlikely given Doran’s plans, but if it happened, I could see an attempt to bring Tyrion in as a defector and encourage a split within House Lannister. If Tyrion marries Bronze Yohn’s daughter, than even Lysa would know better than to arrest him and put him on trial; a marriage into the Hightowers might be enough to really split the Reach when Renly raises his banners. Finally, if Tyrion marries the Florent girl, then Stannis’ situation gets quite complicated indeed.

 Book vs. Show:

One of the things that starts to slip somewhat in the show is that by having Loras be the only heir to Highgarden, Benioff and Weiss created a real problem for themselves: how realistic is Tywin’s threat of naming him to the Kingsguard, since clearly the only scion of a House would have a plausible reason to say no? How do they explain what happens to the Tyrells when he dies? The result is that you get clumsy storytelling as happened in Season 7, where Highgarden gets knocked over with a tiny army.

This is why you should always mention tertiary characters and keep them off-screen, in case it turns out you’ll need them later.

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100 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion III, ASOS

  1. Sean C. says:

    This aspect of Tyrion’s character has always puzzled me, because A. Tyrion’s ambivalence about the Starks has never stopped him from dealing with them in bad faith when it could help his family, so it’s hard to say what impact it has on the story exactly, and B. I wonder whether this is an artifact left over from the Ur-Text when Tyrion was supposed to fall in love with Arya and yet burn Winterfell, and that’s where his internal conflict on the Starks vs. Lannisters would go.

    I think it’s just GRRM making clear that Tyrion can be ambivalent or sympathetic toward his House’s enemies, which separates him from his family members.

    Though this had an effect that GRRM probably didn’t foresee, namely, that lots of readers use this lack of malice as a shield to argue that Tyrion really isn’t an enemy of the Starks at all, despite all the stuff he does against them.

    • Captain Splendid says:

      There’s a great line in Gorky Park (spoken, interestingly enough, by a character who’s also a dwarf):

      ” A normal person always sees himself in others, you know. Always. I see more clearly.’ Andreev winked. ‘Trust the freak’s eyes.’”

      Tyrion will always see the world more clearly (and thus be able to do things like admire his enemies) because he doesn’t have the luxury of being able to view the world the way he wants to. Add that to the fact that he has a lordly education, and it’s easy to think that he might be one of the most perceptive characters int he whole country.

      • Yes and no. As other people have pointed out, Tyrion pretends to see the world a bit more clearly than he actually does – for example, he very rarely actually employs his advice to “”never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”

    • Hedrigal says:

      I think the character reason for why Tyrion sympathizes with the Starks so much more now is that he is being confronted by Tywin face to face. At this point in the story the Starks are the most impressive anti-tywin force in the field, and so he is seeing their struggle against Tywin as subconsciously connected to his own hate for his father.

      Previously, he could tell himself that any successes on his part might finally mean some respect from his father, and he genuinely loved the power he got to excercize. Alongside that Stannis posed a real and significant danger to his person. Now Stannis is effectively beat, it’s clear he will never be appreciated or acknowledged as the heir, and he has been totally politically emasculated. He has lost any real reason to sympathize with House Lannister, and he has seen Robb repeatedly defeat Tywin when Tywin has always seemed so invincible to him.

      So I think his sympathy makes a lot of sense.

      • You know what? I think this is right on the money; even in AGOT, Tyrion loved that Robb had outfoxed Tywin by splitting his army.

      • scarlett45 says:

        Yes! I agree.

      • Wat Barleycorn says:

        OMG, you are so right! It’s all his Daddy issues.

        This insight you had made me think of Tyrion’s behavior towards women.

        I love Tyrion and want him to be decent and woke. And I’m always unable to square that with murdering Shae & raping/terrifying slave girls in Essos, but being kind and understanding to Sansa.

        But duh, he doesn’t refuse to rape Sansa because he loves the Starks or he’s unwilling to use women as sexual objects and disregard their humanity. It’s because, perversely, he gets back at Daddy by refusing to rape Sansa. He’s weaponizing decency against his father. This time (unlike Tysha), he’s refusing what Daddy wants him to do. He’s getting one over his rapist in the most perfect way.

        I do think Tyrion is a romantic and fundamentally wants to be with a woman who will love him–and believes in his heart that he deserves love. But after Jamie’s lie that Tysha was paid to love him and his father’s rape, he is traumatized which he handles by becoming bitter and cynical.

        So he likes prostitutes because the transaction is clear and hey, they’re like this with all men, it’s not just him. He’s not being rejected personally. And surely they’ll like him a little bit for him because he treats them very nicely and tries to sexually please them and doesn’t beat them and pays them well. He’s better than most men who visit prostitutes!

        This is why Shae’s girlfriend-experience-followed-by-public-betrayal-and-then-literally-getting-in-bed-with-his-oppressor was so devastating to Tyrion. He was so deep into his own competing fantasies of what Shae represented to him that he couldn’t see Shae the person at all. She was all women and her behavior towards him would define him as fundamentally loveable or unloveable. He had completely lost sight of the fact that she had no choice in being brought to Tyrion by Bronn, and had for all her life been a prisoner of circumstance making the best of horrible situations, desperate for ways–gold, jewels, patronage–to live comfortably and safely.

        It doesn’t make his violence and cruelty justified or OK (it’s horrifying), it just finally makes sense to me. And it explains his utter collapse into self-loathing.

        And it also explains his behavior towards Sansa prior to that point (and possibly in the future?). Beyond getting back at daddy, which helpfully removes sex fron the relationship, the “forcibly marry the prisoner” circumstances of his match with Sansa interacts with his effed up family dynamic and Sansa’s decent and kind nature to allow him to develop genuine affection towards her.

        With Sansa, for the first time in his life (or maybe first time since Tysha), Tyrion is on equal standing with his siblings, romantically. Sansa finds Tyrion no more loathsome than she’d find beautiful, perfect Jaime, were she married to him. Because, hi, the Lannisters killed her father in front of her eyes and publicly humiliated and beat her, and keep her prisoner and make her tell lies constantly…of course Sansa hates Tyrion! But hey, everybody hates him. With Sansa, at least it’s for reasons he can respect. So, of course he feels affection towards her! And over time it grows because not only does she hate him for all the right reasons, she gradually seems to hate him less and less for all the right reasons. She might even be fighting the urge to like him a little bit. This is one of the best relationships he’s ever had! To the point where, when she betrays him by fleeing he basically brushes it off. Because he figures she was escaping the Lannisters, not him particularly. And he’s like: “well, can’t fault her on that. Smart move, kid.”

    • As to ambivalence or sympathy, to me the strange thing is the way it fades in and out.

  2. Grant says:

    Being fair, Stannis has much better military reasons than Tywin to back the North against the Free Folk. Still, it’s another piece of what we see Tywin’s policies leading to. Everything not Lannister ultimately getting broken down, not built up. Even if Tywin had lived and defeated his enemies united forces, I imagine that at some point Lannister power would be greatly damaged and they’d find themselves without any other sources to call in a crisis, all thanks to Tywin the Great who they no doubt wish was present to save them.

    • Well, keep in mind that Stannis didn’t have to go to the North, he chose the North because of Davos’ political rather than military argument.

      • Keith B says:

        Just from a strategic view, Stannis’ move was shrewd, if only because Tywin completely failed to anticipate it. Tywin thought Stannis might go to the Stormlands, or to Dorne, but he never thought of the North.

  3. rando, says:

    First, the reason that Varys didn’t mention the Tyrell’s plan could be because they outplayed him in the counter-intelligence department – when they first talked about it they make sure that “if the walls have ears, let them enjoy a song”, for example – or when Sansa and Margery talk about it in private, it was outside of the city.
    Second, first time I notice this:

    “You’d think the Westerlings might have ridden past and seen the lesson there.”

    “Mayhaps they have,” Lord Tywin said. “They are well aware of Castamere, I promise you.”

    Mayhaps, you say?

    • Could be, but on the other hand he’s on it enough to know that Sansa escaped with Ser Dontos….

      • Sean C. says:

        That’s not a hard connection to make after the fact, since Dontos disappeared at the exact same time Sansa did.

        • David Hunt says:

          Plus, Dontos considers Moonboy to be in Varys’ pay. Moonboy is one of the people most likely to keep track of Dontos as part of his regular duties as Fool. He has to know when Joffrey’s mood is about to change and he has to step in a let the professional do his job.

  4. Keith B says:

    Quite a lot to digest here, but I’m surprised you didn’t quote this from Tyrion:

    My lords, grant me the men, and I will sort out Lysa Arryn.” He could think of nothing he would enjoy more, except perhaps strangling Cersei. Sometimes he still dreamed of the Eyrie’s sky cells, and woke drenched in cold sweat.

    Tyrion is a villain. He’s willing to start a war against the Vale, which hasn’t made a move against the Lannisters, and kill thousands of people out of a personal grievance. That’s a classic villainous motivation and a classic villain’s response. There’s a reason why Genna Lannister considers Tyrion and not Jaime to be Tywin’s truest son.

    Also:

    Balon Greyjoy inexplicably waited until now to send his demands …

    Not true. Tyrion had already received the offer in ACOK, Tyrion XI, and put it aside because it could be of no immediate help against Stannis. In fact, the offer under consideration here may be the exact same letter.

    • Hedrigal says:

      I think this vastly oversimplifies Tyrion’s charafter.

      • Keith B says:

        Oh, there’s much more to Tyrion than that, but he’s also a nasty piece of work. Think back to when he saw that Tywin had hanged the innkeeper where Tyrion had been arrested, and how completely unsympathetic he felt.

        • Hedrigal says:

          I honestly see no value to calling him a nasty piece of work for wanting the people who hurt him to be hurt in return.

          • Keith B says:

            The people who hurt him were, first of all Littlefinger, whom Tyrion knew had set him up. And second, Lysa Arryn. The people he wanted to hurt included large numbers of people in the Vale, most of whom had done nothing to him at all. So he wanted a lot of people who hadn’t hurt him to be hurt in return. That’s plenty villainous, and very much like Tywin. But for some reason he didn’t strike back at Littlefinger when he had the chance, and he seems incapable of telling his father what he knew Littlefinger had done, which might have put Tywin on guard.

          • Keith B says:

            And by the way, the innkeeper hadn’t hurt him either. She had no ability to stop Catelyn from arresting him. But he wasn’t at all sorry to see an innocent person die for something she couldn’t have prevented, just because she had some proximity to what happened.

    • I left a lot out – the issue of Cersei needing Lancel dead, for example – because this essay was super, super-long already. However, while I wouldn’t go that far (after all,e the Vale is actually hostile to his House), it is a sign that Tyrion does have a vindictive streak and I imagine a part of his TWOW story will be learning to look beyond himself.

      That’s true, but the overall point that Balon waited until after he attacked the Starks is still valid.

    • Sean C. says:

      Regarding the Vale, I’d initially forgotten that, but on that subject, this is a rare time in the books where Tyrion gives flat-out bad strategic advice. Politically, Lysa didn’t do anything when the Lannisters were on the ropes, so there’s no reason at all to think she’d start something now. Militarily, mounting an invasion of the Vale of Arryn, a location that has not been successfully invaded in 6000 years, when winter is mere months away and will soon make large-scale ground operations in a mountainous region suicidal, is a terrible, terrible idea.

      • JG says:

        I think it’s just a heat of the moment response and Tyrion would recognize the folly after a few seconds of thinking about it.

  5. Anders Bloomquist says:

    How many Boss references are you up to in these reviews?

  6. Hedrigal says:

    You know, I appreciate how Kevan seems to be genuinely praising how Tyrion would handle the role of Master of Coin, and it kind of reinforces how Tywin is atleast somewhat projecting in his claims that everyone will dismiss Tyrion. Given how before he became convinced Tyrion murdered Joffrey, Kevan seems to genuinely appreciate Tyrion. In spite of Kevan being Tywins dutiful lickspittle.

    • Kevan is indeed genuine wrt to Tyrion, but he’s also not someone who’s going to go out of his way to help Tyrion, as we see when Tyrion’s arrested.

      • Sean C. says:

        He seems genuinely skeptical of Tyrion’s innocence at that point, though.

      • Hedrigal says:

        Kevan gives a fairly believable case that he was actually convinced that that Tyrion was guilty of kinslaying and regicide. The evidence that convinces him is superficial and there are reasonable arguments to argue against it, but it makes sense why he would find it incriminating.

        Like, had the murder of Joffrey not been a factor, I think Kevan might have supported Tyrions right to inherit the Rock. Especially given how Tyrion being passed over would mean the niece he despises will become lady of the rock.

        • David Hunt says:

          While Twyin was alive, Kevan would have said exactly what Tywin wanted. Also, he’s not going to argue for Tyrion’s inheritance rights with Tywin either. Kevan knows Tywin’s opinion of his son very well. Even if he thought that Tyrion should be heir to the Rock, he would know that broaching the subject would be useless at best and likely to prompt Tywin to taking some sort of explicit action toward getting Tryion formally disinherited. As long as no one said anything, Tyrion has a formal legal right to the Rock. If Tywin dies without taking any explicit steps, Tyrion’s claim has real standing.

          I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Tyrion was on trial for a capital crime a few short months after he made an explicit claim to the Rock to Tywin. This is not to say that Tywin had anything to do with Joffrey’s death, but he did use it as an excuse to get rid of the son he hated so much.

          • Murc says:

            I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Tyrion was on trial for a capital crime a few short months after he made an explicit claim to the Rock to Tywin. This is not to say that Tywin had anything to do with Joffrey’s death, but he did use it as an excuse to get rid of the son he hated so much.

            This.

            It’s worth noting that Tyrion being seized at the Purple Wedding on Cersei’s word wasn’t a foregone conclusion. Cersei, who was (understandably) acting rather hysterically, points at Tyrion and, with no kind of evidence whatsoever, like, at all, declares that he’s murdered her son.

            Now, the narrative stops right there and moves on to the aftermath. But I would bet all the money in my pockets against all the money in your pockets that after Cersei issued that order, the heads of literally everybody in the room swiveled over to look at Lord Tywin Lannister, Hand of the King.

            And Tywin gave a little nod. And Tyrion was seized.

            All he’d have had to do is instead give a little shake of the head and nothing would have happened to Tyrion, and then cooler heads would have prevailed. But Tywin didn’t do a goddamn thing.

          • Hedrigal says:

            1. For Tywin being alive and Kevan saying exactly what Tywin wanted, true. Although I do believe that he genuinely thinks Tyrion was guilty of the crime.
            2. I wasn’t suggesting he’d fight with Tywin over the question, more that he would recognize Tyrions inheritance rights on Tywins death. Possibly even if Tywin took steps to formally disinherrit Tyrion becuase we do know he absolutely despised Cersei for what she did to Lancel.
            3. I am of two minds here. On one level, it definitely makes sense that Tywin would take any chance to disinherit Tyrion. But on another level, I really don’t think Tywin would allow such a grievous crime against house Lannister to go unavenged, and if he was consciously framing Tyrion he would essentially be allowing the real killer to get away with killing a Lannister king unavenged.

          • David Hunt says:

            @hedrigal,

            Yeah, after Tywin’s death Kevan might have actually supported Tyrion’s claim if he wasn’t an attainted traitor whose guilt he believed in. But in an alternate universe where that didn’t happen, sure. Tyrion considered Kevan a fair man so it would seem he at least never went out of his way to torment him.

            As to your (3), if I’m reading it correct you’re saying that Tywin believed in Tyrion’s guilt because he wouldn’t have let the actual killer get away with it. I’m of two minds. On the one hand, Tywin’s specific hatred of Tyrion makes him highly predisposed to believe any bad thing about him, so if he’s accused of kinslaying and regicied, Tywin thinks, “Well, of course.” On the other hand, if Tywin can’t punish the real killer through some combination of not knowing who it is and being unable to prove it/punish them, his obsessive need to not have the House appear at all weak means that someone has to publicly take the fall…and his son who he hates more than any other living person has been accused of the crime. In the latter scenario, Tywin MIGHT have been making the offer to join the Night’s Watch for a confession in good faith as it would disinherit Tyrion as handily as beheading him.

  7. Chinoiserie says:

    Tywin does not see the North and Iron Islands as part of the realm while they are rebelling so not being interested what will happen to them does not damage Tywin’s reputation as an administrator like you said.

    Regarding Jeyne I wondered reason this if feel we honestly know her. I am quite sure what we saw was correct but this just made me think a bit. It would not be impossible for her to be a clever schemer since we know her so little. But there would not really be any point for her to conceal her real opinions form everyone, guess that was jus a silly thought of mine.

    I think season 7 only neened to establish the Tyrell army was elsewhere (such as preparing to siege King’s Landing) when the Lannister and Tarly (and other former Reach bannermen) marched to Highgarden. And since it could have happened it’s not an issue to me. I would have liked more characters but I think if something is not impossible I can be fine with it if alternative is in the end mainly exposition in a visual medium.

    • Grant says:

      If he’s going to claim it’s a united system, he doesn’t get to say that some parts of it are officially out of his administration. In fact, the entire argument for why they’re rebels rests on their lands legally being part of the system. Making an argument that the military situation has made it so that crown’s ability to act has weakened, maybe, but if he wants to be an administrator then he needs to have at least plans to reassert crown authority.

      As for Jeyne, that’s counter to what we do see of her post-Red Wedding. She’s openly grieving for Robb at a time when it’s impolitic and earns her the anger of her mother (the key plotter in the Westerling side of things).

      And the Tyrells are supposed to be very powerful, enough so that they can at least outfield an enemy. Season 7’s military results happened because the writers said they happened.

    • Well, think about Tywin in contrast to Davos’ idea of “trying to save the kingdom to win the throne.” Tywin’s willing to burn down the kingdom to avoid losing it.

      Regarding Jeyne…wouldn’t we have seen a payoff on that by now?

      That would have helped, certainly.

    • If Tywin wants to reincorporate the North through Tyrion and Sansa imaging the PR coup he misses. Send Ravens to White Harbor, Karlshold etc. stating they are sending deserters to the wall by ship via Tyrion’s order and not to attack them. He should be building up Tyrion’s acceptability to eventually pit him against the Bolton/Frey alliance.

  8. Andrew says:

    1. Cersei’s constant interruptions and dismissal of Tyrion’s warnings prove to ironic given Littlefinger ends up killing her son. This isn’t the last time she really drops the ball with that. Aurane Waters tries to warn the council of talk of Dany’s dragons only for her to dismiss him. She does it again with Qyburn, only for to to interrupt and dismiss again. She ends up becoming ignorant about a real threat that practically the rest of the entire world has heard by then.

    2. “Yesterday at dawn our brave Lord Randyll caught Robett Glover outside Duskendale and trapped him against the sea. Losses were heavy on both sides, but in the end our loyal men prevailed.”

    Got to hand it to Robett Glover, he was pinned against the sea by who Kevan described as the finest soldier in the realm, yet as the line “losses were heavy on both sides” suggests, he managed to put up a decent fight and escape.

    3. Wrt Cersei’s political skills, you would have thought that if Tywin had expected her to be a queen, he would have taught her a few things about politics and statecraft like Hoster did Cat.

    4. Regarding the “What if?” of Lancel marrying Sansa, he also wouldn’t consummate the marriage even after he got better due to his baptism by fire. He would eventually annul the marriage like he did with Amerei Frey, and join the Warrior’s Sons. Sansa would be a bachelorette again, and the Tyrels would likely re-ignite their plans to marry her to Willas. Cersei would block them on that, until she is imprisoned and Kevan arrives. He might let her go to Highgarden as part of repairing the alliance with the Tyrells.

    • Grant says:

      I don’t think Tywin ever viewed Cersei as acting as a political figure, just as a Lannister daughter to be a queen and have royal children.

    • Andrew says:

      5. Regarding Mace’s comments to Tyrion of “beast leaving fighting to the fighters,” I think in a fit of irony, Tyrion is going to face Mace in battle with Tyrion crushing him and Mace losing his life a la Field of Fire.

    • 1. Yep, GRRM loves the ironic dismissal in council thing.
      2. Absolutely. I’m looking forward to seeing some payoff there.
      3. I think it’s one of those things where his explicit lessons and his implicit ones were at odds, but he also didn’t pay as much attention to Cersei as he did to Jaime.
      4. Good point!

    • Sean C. says:

      4. That all presumes that Sansa wouldn’t have escaped, though. She wasn’t going to hang around just because she married Lancel.

      • Andrew says:

        Fair point. Lancel getting an annulment, and joining the Warrior’s Sons, would have suited Littlefinger’s plans perfectly.

    • Hedrigal says:

      3. While Tywin did leave Cersei woefully unprepared to be queen, Cat’s education was likely beyond the norm for a woman in terms of politics and statecraft because she spent a significant amount of time as the heir apparent.

  9. Keith B says:

    Garlan Tyrell gets his political instincts from his father, as Margaery gets hers from Olenna. Mace’s generous words to Tyrion in this chapter presage Garlan’s at his wedding. Tyrion reacted differently, but that’s a function of his mood. It’s the Tyrell way. Kind words cost nothing, and can pay dividends if said to someone who could be useful to you in the future.

    • Yes and no, depending on how we see his role in the PW.

      • David Hunt says:

        Good point. As someone who thinks the Tyrells and LF actually pulled off the regicide without Varys knowing it was coming, that has to mean keeping the conspiracy to the absolute minimum number of people and killing off any expendable pawns once they’ve served their purpose. Also never talking about when there’s the least possibility of ears in the walls overhearing things. I’m sure Varys knew they were plotting something and maybe even suspected an assassination plot, but I don’t think he knew that the murder was going to go down when it did.

  10. Mathias says:

    Like Sansa and JON you mean lol. There’s two people to blame, not one especially when Jon’s whole issue in politicking is not actually establishing a fair actual conversation between his people and him about what he should do. He has something he wants to do and he just does it without warning or giving a shit about the opinion of other people. That’s the reason he got killed, and that’s the reason why the Northern people are quickly changing allegiances. Of course, Sansa should not be so public about her disagreement with Jon’s plans, but at the same time, while she is his sister, she is first and foremost the person who’s managing Winterfell and he is making decisions that impact Winterfell and it’s surroundings, she should very much be able to voice her opinion and if he doesn’t want to give her the time to do so, she should not be afraid to do it in the council. It’s Jon’s responsibility to set up a meeting beforehand, not Sansa’s, it’s Sansa’s responsability to not be so rash about her disagreement I agree but at the end of the day, it’s both of their faults, not just Sansa’s, and in all actuality, it would be in fact more Jon’s.

  11. artihcus022 says:

    Two points to make:

    1) Given the mentions of the Ur-Text/Outline of GRRM, I was drawn to this:
    Throughout the chapter, Tyrion reacts to pretty much everything that happens with a mix of resentment driven by grievance (seems a bit Stannis-esque there)
    If you read the original outline, Stannis is missing from it, and it’s very likely that Stannis was created by splittling off Outline-Tyrion. And that another splitting off effect led to Theon (who takes over Outline-Tyrion’s role as the sacker of Winterfell). And of course, Stannis, Theon and Tyrion are all based on Richard III and his legend.

    2) Tywin’s mention that once the Tyrell-Lannisters and Martell-Lannister marriages go through, reminds me of nothing so much as Egg’s plan to marry his children to LP families and great houses. Had Tywin’s plan gone ahead, he would by marriage include House Stark, House Martell and House Tyrell as extended family and through Tyrion-Sansa, claim Winterfell…Given that Tywin served as a cupbearer to Egg in his youth, and then as Hand subverted his legacy, and maybe saw Duncan-Jenny Oldstones as a precedent when he attacked Tysha…you wonder if you can see long-term influences here.

  12. Please find a better and bigger scan of that comic page. It’s impossible to read any of the text in this one.

    I don’t think that Balon’s unattractiveness as a potential husband is so much about his age (I’m not sure how old he is supposed to be, but I don’t think he’s anywhere near as old as the show Balon appeared to be – and he can’t be that much older than Euron? In any case, he’s no Walder Frey, and for most people in Westeros, Willas’ disability would be a much stronger mark against him) as it is about the distaste that most of Westeros, Cersei probably included, has for the Ironborn.

    I don’t know if Tywin’s suggestion about Balon as a potential husband is serious at all – since Balon is married and the idea that his wife will just conveniently die (without someone actively deciding to make her die) is really weird, especially since she is not really that “elderly” (again, I’m not sure about her age, but I don’t think she’s older than Tywin, and he certainly doesn’t expect himself to just drop dead) and doesn’t seem to be ailing from anything that she could die of. Then again, Tywin had similarly unrealistic expectations when he seemed to think that Rhaegar’s marriage presented no problem and that Elia would die in due time and that Cersei still had a chance of marrying Rhaegar. Unless he was actually planning to marry Cersei to Viserys, no matter what Cersei thought he was planning.

    As for Tywin manipulating Tyrion into agreeing to the marriage with Sansa by making it look like Tyrion is unmarriagable – that’s also BS. Tywin himself contradicts it a bit later when he says that, if Tyrion refuses Sansa, they could always find a minor lordling’s daughter for him as a bride – but then he uses it to ‘threaten’ him with Lollys Stockworth (and also uses it to as a part of his pitch to Tyrion that he’d get to be the Lord of Winterfell if he marries Sansa, rather than just possibly a lord of some minor estate, if even that). Tyrion could find a wife, if Tywin did not insist on not going below a certain rank of nobility. Most of the families he mentions as those that he offered Tyrion to were either Great Houses or the among the oldest and most renowned houses in Westeros – the ‘lowest’ house he offered him to were the Florents. Tywin could have easily found (and could still find) a wife for Tyrion (one who is not an underage political prisoner whose family they are fighting) or allowed Tyrion to find a wife, if he didn’t insist that a Lannister not go below a certain level of nobility in marriage, due to his own pride. Tyrion could easily find a wife among the lower nobility or the merchant class (and hey, he did in fact find himself a commoner wife, when he was 13!). But that’s unimaginable to Tywin, of course. Even though he doesn’t want Tyrion to inherit Casterly Rock – so, if Tyrion being Lord of the Rock is a no-no, it’s not like he has to worry that his heirs wouldn’t be noble enough on their mother’s side.

    “Since you stand no taller than a boy, I have found it easy to forget that you are in truth a man grown, with all of a man’s baser needs. ”

    I never forget how terrible, abusive and gross Tywin was to Tyrion and in general, but reading lines like these brings it all up again very sharply.

    • Crystal says:

      I surmise that Tywin used the prospect of marriage to Balon in order to threaten Cersei and make the man he really wanted to marry her to – Willas – look better by comparison, and thus get Cersei’s assent. Because, as you said, Balon was still married, and there was no real reason to think Alannys would drop dead in time to marry Cersei to Balon. (And who knows whether Balon would have wanted Cersei? By that time he had settled on Asha as his heir, he disliked “Greenlanders,” and Aeron would have shat enough bricks to build another town.)

    • It’s the only scan I’ve got I’m afraid. Just my limited graphics ability.

      Well, Balon is 11 years older than Cersei.

      Good point re Lollys.

      • Exactly! So Balon is just in his mid-40s – far from being “elderly” or an appropriately older spouse for a person in their mid-30s (and Alannys is probably of similar age, which makes Tywin’s comment even more ludicrous).

      • David Hunt says:

        Yeah, Balon’s age isn’t the most problematic thing about him…besides Cercei’s desire to not marry anyone at all, First, marrying Balon, means that she’d be moving to Pyke and living among the Ironborn. Pyle is a dismal location and one thing that Cercei did get from Tywin was his snobbery. Also, I get the impression that Balon’s early life on ships has left him looking more worn than his years would suggest.

        As an aside, I can see a Cercei murdering Balon and falling under Euron’s charismatic spell…until he eventually decided to cover his smiling eye and showed her his true face. But by then it would too late.

        • Abbey Battle says:

          Don’t forget the chilling example offered by the last marriage between a daughter of House Lannister and a Lord of the Iron Islands; the fate of Lelia Lannister, exiled after mutilation by her younger son (presumably directly after seeing her eldest overthrown & disfigured) cannot have inspired anything but furious outrage in the present Queen Dowager’s heart.

          • JG says:

            Presumably she knows of this incident. She seems well-versed in history when she talks to Jaime but she conveniently forgets it when she makes the deal with the High Sparrow.

  13. Sam says:

    One thing I noticed here is that Tywin has absolutely no sense of duty whatsoever. I mean he has no concern for the Nights Watch despite it being neutral. To Tywin duty is either people doing their duty to him or something to pay lip tribute towards for appearances sake.

    Also Tywin wants to give Tyrion the North but he also doesn’t mind if the Wildlings invade the North? Then again it is Tyrion so that might have been deliberate on his part.

    Can anyone think of any decent Reach Lords besides Rowan because Mace, Paxter, Alester Florent Randyll, and Caswell are all scum in their own ways?

    Finally I have never understood why so much of the asoiaf fandom thinks Kevan Lannister is a nice guy. I mean his commentary about the Spicers is incredibly arrogant and snobbish. Not to mention he has no problem with the idea of Tyrion raping a 13 year old girl and I would be astonished if Kevan wasn’t aware of Red Wedding.

    • Yeah, the wildling thing is so weird when one includes his whole plan with Tyrion and Sansa, because that’s a lot of getting other people to kill each other first.

    • Hedrigal says:

      Honestly, it comes down to him calling out Cersei for her own bullshit and getting a POV chapter for the most part.

      Also, since mine was the most overtly nice to Kevan comment, I wasnt trying to imply he was a good person so much as just bringing it up as a way to call attention to Tywins own Myopia.

    • Crystal says:

      I think maybe because Kevan is loyal to his brother and is a loving father and husband. Even bad guys can have their good qualities – they can’t all be Ramsay Bolton or Joffrey the Worst Of His Name. I mean, even *Tywin* was a good and loving husband to Joanna.

      But no, Kevan is not a nice guy despite the fact that he’s a better dad than Tywin. *snerk* That’s a pretty low bar…

    • JG says:

      I think Tywin does have a sense of duty as he clearly believes in prudent governance based on his time as Aerys’ hand. However, it has to be completely on Tywin’s terms and he thinks doing anything is justified to get there. In Tywin’s mind he will be able to fix anything later and burning the realm will be justified by the “good” governance he will provide after the war. The rationale kind of falls apart, though, when it is clear that Tywin is fighting to keep a young psychopath in power who does not even possess a nominal interest in good governance.

  14. Tywin of the Hill says:

    Fantastic essay.
    Regarding the Florents’ being able to hold off Garlan’s army, I think this is where phrase “One man on a wall was worth ten beneath it” applies.

  15. stark500 says:

    So many marriage what-ifs, and no Garlan doesn’t get Florentine seat what if?

  16. “is Tyrions till technically married? … Tyrion says that “my father had the marriage undone. It was as if we had never been wed, the septons said,” but (to jump ahead to Tyrion IV) we know that annulments are actually quite difficult (requiring the High Septon or a Council of Faith)”

    You answer yourself. “The septons said” = a Council of Faith. It wouldn’t be septons, plural, if it weren’t there on purpose.

    “one of the main grounds for annulment (non-consummation) doesn’t apply here.”

    One of the main grounds. Another could certainly be that Tyrion was a minor (well underage) and his legal guardian did not approve of his oaths. Add in Jaime’s lies (about hiring Tysha as a prostitute and hiring thugs to fake an attack for Tyrion to rescue her), and you have misrepresentation and fraud. A two-week marriage, short duration. A very voidable contract, easily annulled by general standards.

    • Crystal says:

      The question in my mind is: was Tyrion’s previous marriage to Tysha valid enough, even after Tywin had it annulled to his satisfaction, that Petyr Baelish could use it as a way to invalidate the marriage to Sansa? By, for instance, whistling up a fake “Tysha” who can testify that yup, they really were married, which invalidates the Sansa marriage, which means that Sansa is free to marry Harry the Arse?

      In the show, it was like Sansa could get a divorce on the grounds of abandonment, or something, because it was just…not brought up at all when she married Ramsay Bolton (no, I will never forgive D&D for that). I know it doesn’t work that way in the books.

    • Hedrigal says:

      I would also bring up that the Septon officiating the marriage was drunk. Which very well might be a reason to consider a marriage invalid legally.

    • You may well be right, but I think there’s some ambiguity.

      • Hedrigal says:

        Its probably the most likely possibility, although I’d be interested to know how a rule like that could actually be enforced politically since it would create a lot of situations where an alcoholic septon like the one at the wall could cause serious troubles in terms of marriages.

    • Grant says:

      If Tyrion was 16 then by Westerosi law he’s at the age of majority. Still I imagine the marriage is very easy to undo in these circumstances.

    • David Hunt says:

      As to whether Tyrion is technically still married to Tysha, that presumes that she’s still alive. The mass rape was as much about punishing Tyrion as Tysha. I’d be entirely unsurprised if Tywin had her killed and disappeared after he ordered Tyrion to rape her. I can actually see Tywin going out of his way to quietly eliminate anyone who knew anything about the marriage: Tysha, her family, the septon, whoever Tyrion got the house they were living in from…

      • Crystal says:

        I doubt that would stop Littlefinger from finding a fake Tysha, if that’s the tactic he wants to take. He set up a fake Arya – even though Jeyne Poole was ideally placed to be a fake Arya, given that she had grown up in Winterfell and was close in age and a slender brunette like Arya – faking a Lord Paramount’s daughter is a lot harder than faking some peasant girl. Petyr could reach into one of his brothels and find a woman of the right age, no problem, since no-one except Tyrion probably remembers or cares what Tysha really looked like.

        • David Hunt says:

          I don’t think that would work. We don’t know exactly what Tywin did to cover things up but Tyrion thinks that it was as if it had never happened. There are people alive today that remember Tyrion’s marriage, I’m sure. Cercei uses it as a barb to attack him with and I’m sure good oppo research would uncover it. But anyone who could identify Tysha and be taken seriously (i.e. somebody Highborn enough to have some measure of power) are all in the Lannister camp. They’d all benefit from Sansa not being able to re-marry as part of Baelish’s political schemes.

          LF might still trot this out, but only to some Counsel of the Faithful that he already had in his pocket. No gathering that was remotely fair would take LF’s word. He’d need some proof, preferably Tysha herself. Afterall, who’s to say she’s still alive even if the story’s true. And why should they believe that whatever lowborn girl LF put in front of them was actually her without some witness they’d take seriously. Short of Tryion acknowledging that “this is Tysha,” no fair hearing is likely to annul his marriage to Sansa Stark .

          I think the best option for annulling the marriage is non-consummation. It has the advantage of being true…so it would be cheaper for LF to bribe the Faithful.

    • Wat Barleycorn says:

      Of course Tyrion is still legally married to Tysha.

      Weak fathers, like Egg, tolerate childish defiance and doom their house. Normal fathers beg & file papers & have the marriage annulled by septons, and courtiers titter about it behind their backs. The mighty Tywin, on the other hand, Makes. A. Statement. Through outrageous cruelty, he shows he is powerful and magnificent and none dare thwart his will or belittle him, lest they be similarly crushed.

      Making sure the annulment paperwork was properly executed? Not a priority. None would dare bring it up, after all.

      • JG says:

        In fairness to Egg he threatened and then followed through with disinheriting Prince Duncan over the marriage. I suppose he could have tried to annul Jaehaerys and Shaera’s marriage but erasing a marriage to an orphaned crofter’s daughter is a lot different than erasing one between a prince and princess (I suppose he could argued for an annulment because of incest but that would create more problems than it would solve). He could have been more forceful with Daeron but I think the worldbook said he was dispirited by that point and the political opportunity was lost by then.

        Where Egg seems to be weak in my mind is not refuting his kids’ argument that they should be able to marry for love because he did. The situation isn’t even remotely comparable because Egg was far down the line of succession at the time and the Blackwoods are also a powerful and old house.

  17. Sean C. says:

    How do they explain what happens to the Tyrells when he dies? The result is that you get clumsy storytelling as happened in Season 7, where Highgarden gets knocked over with a tiny army.

    This is why you should always mention tertiary characters and keep them off-screen, in case it turns out you’ll need them later.

    Belatedly, I’m not clear what your argument is here. The Season 7 rapid defeat of Highgarden was the writers desiring to sweep the Tyrells off the board permanently so that they could further cull the cast. Having more Tyrell boys alive off-screen wouldn’t affect that calculation at all; they’d just have been unceremoniously killed in the sack of Highgarden.

  18. brown ben romney says:

    in regards to tywin offering tyrion to dorne, i thought tywin offered him for elia (at least according to oberyn) not arianne?

    great essay! this has always been one of my favorite chapters in the entire series

  19. CriticalFan says:

    Tywin’s “better option” is Euron, who shows up at the kingsmoot handing out gold, right?

  20. Murc says:

    Tyrell demanded the lands and castles of Lord Alester Florent, his own bannerman, who’d had the singular ill judgment to back first Renly and then Stannis.

    You know, I generally have a more sanguine view of the Tyrells than many people in the fandom… but god damn, this is a huge dick move on Mace’s part, because it isn’t like he, himself, didn’t back Renly Baratheon’s play for the throne, and it was mere happenstance that Mace didn’t, say, decide to accompany Renly to Storm’s End, in which case he himself would have likely ended up backing Stannis himself like a number of other Reacher lords who found themselves at loose ends there did.

    And if Cersei ever needed evidence that her title as Queen Regent is a paper shield, the way that Tywin rolls over every objection as if she wasn’t even talking is proof in and of itself.

    It’s interesting that Cersei doesn’t even attempt to call his bluff. Like, she doesn’t even think of saying “You know, father, not remarrying is kind of a big deal to me. A big enough deal for me to kick up a giant public stink over it. I am the Queen Regent; I do outrank you, and the legitimacy of your appointment as Hand of the King comes in the form of a document with my signature on it. Mayhaps I could offer Mace Tyrell the Handship? He’d love to have it. You could claim I don’t have the power to offer it to him, but you’d have to actually somehow depose me in order for that happen. You could do that. You’ve ended Kings before, a Queen Regent isn’t much different… but with Robb Stark still in the field and the krakens bestirring themselves? Tricky. And of course that would shatter the outward display of Lannister unity.

    “Or, you could treat me as something resembling an equal, and give me the very small victory of allowing me to not be used as a fucking brood mare again, and everyone can be happy.”

    Sidebar: how far this father/daughter relationship has fallen. Cersei used to be Tywin’s special little girl, the one he’d show his “secret smile” to that he never showed to anyone else except maybe his wife. Christ.

    • David Hunt says:

      IIRC, that Secret Smile stuff is how Cercei remembers it. She’s not a reliable narrator even to herself. I’m sure that Tywin was nice to her when (he thought) she was doing exactly what he wanted. He wouldn’t brook defiance from any member of his family and would certainly deal with any member of it in similar fashion or worse.

    • brown ben romney says:

      i dont think mace was ever going to back stannis. he only backed renly because then margaery could be queen, and stannis is already married

      • David Hunt says:

        Yeah, plus Stannis is great at nursing grievances. Mace and Paxter Redwyne(?) had regular feast in full view of Stannis and his men while they were besieging Storm’s End. I think Mace would need some serious reassurances before he ever put himself under Stannis’ vassalage.

        Heh. My auto correct recognizes “vassalage”…but not “heh,.”

        • brown ben romney says:

          definitely and even if stannis decided to accept mace into his good graces he wouldnt be giving him land and rewards like tywin did

          • Murc says:

            Stannis isn’t above giving people bribes for their service, tho. He doesn’t like it, but he’ll do it. A major bone of contention between him and Jon Snow is Stannis wants land to give to people as rewards, he gives Salladhor Saan actual law enforcement powers, he’s promised Justin Massey a rich reward for his errand… he knows how the game is played. For all the might of Highgarden? He’d shell out for that.

      • Hedrigal says:

        Also, Stannis is married to a Florent. He would not only not be ensuring that his daughter ended up a queen, but also would be ensuring that the daughter of a man he absolutely despises takes Margaerys spot as queen.

    • JG says:

      I really don’t see the problem with him getting Brightwater for Garlan is, though. Tarly’s claim is really weak and I don’t think there’s a good reason why Dickon should be able to control both Brightwater and Horn Hill.

  21. thatrabidpotato says:

    Urgh, I can’t believe I missed this! Don’t check the site for two days, see what happens.

    Honestly, Tyrion’s sympathy towards the Starks has always struck me as him knowing, from the very beginning, that they were the good guys and the right side to be on, but he could not divorce himself from his identity as a Lannister, therefore an enemy of the Starks, until the Lannisters threw him out. I believe that a large part of his role in any upcoming books will be to facilitate a rapprochement between the Starks and the Targs, and to work against his family in the interests of the Starks in a sort of atonement (though IDK whether he’ll see it that way).

    • I don’t think it counts as atonement when his motive is revenge against his family, rather than doing the right thing.

      This is a mistake that I see a lot lately in discussions about fictional characters. People tend to overuse words like “redemption” to describe villainous or antagonistic characters who start helping the good guys or end up doing something that helps the good guys, for whatever reason – even if it happens simply because their motives happen to align with the interest of the good guys for once. I would personally limit that concept to cases where a character actually takes a look into their life, realizes that they’ve been a terrible person and actually makes a conscious decision to stop being awful and try to do good things for right reasons.

      • thatrabidpotato says:

        He may end up doing that as well. Even if not, if he stops aiding the bad guys and starts aiding the good guys, that has to count for something, does it not?

  22. Ioseff says:

    Tywin’s disgusting hypocrisy is even more disgusting when you realize how similar Melessa’s and Sansa’s positions are. Yet, maybe in order to make the northmen more disposed to Lannisters after spring (completely flying over the fact that their enmity is guaranteed no matter what exceot that Tywin admits his own crimes) he does not strip Sansa orf her inheritance to give her again through marriage, as “reward” (hey, there are men who enslave, then free a slave then marry her saying their slave price is their ) but instead makes Tyrion marry her a sreward to Tyrion.

    Tywin hipocrisy is so bad because supposedly, reward for battling is lands, reward for keeping loyal but without much intervention (as Sansa case would be and unlike Melessa, whose husband did unfailingly fulfill his duties to the one who end up drinking the reward) should be marriage. Although he did the same for Lancel, I admit,and Riverrun is to Emmon instead of Daven (although surely thinking of Genna and poor ser Cleos) but still, the Melessa/Sansa parallel is striking here. Why to strip Melessa and not Sansa? Sansa is loyal but does no war effort nor either of his family nor can she bring anyone, so her reward is marrying whoever gets Winterfell. And who deserves Winterfell? Why, Tywin, is the one your bigotry does not allow you to see! But no, he needs control, he gets off on control, he suffocates on control (who knows if he also put his own collar and suffocates himself to get a more potent orgasm? this guy is too deviant) he starves for more control. Joffrey wants people to bow to him, or if not, dead. Tywin wants people to be useful for him, or dead, no other way around.

  23. JG says:

    Paxter preferring tax benefits always stuck out to me. I don’t know if there will be any payoff to this (or if the Redwynes will even survive the series) but you are right about seeing the foundations of a commercial revolution in Westeros.

    I don’t really see why Mace’s annexation of Brightwater for Garlan is outrageous. Yes, it’s a power grab but not a huge one, especially compared to the other dramatic changes across the map. Tarly will feel resentment since he has a good claim but he would only have one son for two castles. The Hightowers also have a claim but it’s not clear how many or what kids come from Rhea Florent. They would probably be a better option than Tarly since they have more spare kids (assuming Rhea had kids) but it doesn’t seem wise to let the Hightowers expand to that degree. It’s even plausible that Alerie Hightower (Mace’s wife) is one of Rhea’s kid which would mean that Garlan actually has a legitimate blood claim.

    We don’t know anything about him but Merrell Florent could plausibly be a good candidate for Brightwater since he is a squire at the Arbor.

    • Brian says:

      Yeah, the Redwynes strike me as having more than a few brain cells (Olenna had to get her brains from somewhere, after all). I think they survive to a degree, although it also wouldn’t surprise me if the only child to survive is Desmera. Wonder if she and Devan will wind up getting hitched at the end of all this.

      As far as Brightwater goes, I don’t think Rhea is Alerie’s mother…Rhea is Hightower’s fourth wife. I do think it’ll be a factor in Tarly betraying Mace when Aegon lands. Mace is just being greedy, but hey, seizing lands and redistributing them was a favorite pastime during the Norman Conquest.

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