Tyrion Lannister

These are intended to be brief analysis of characters from some of my favorite narratives, but as you all should know by know I can be quite long-winded or rather long-worded so I cannot guarantee a short read.  They will more than likely spoil whatever story/series they come from so be wary of that if you have not read, seen, or played whatever that might be.

Updated:  Additional notes on Tyrion’s book vs. show appearance and added discussion about the nature of his marriage to Sansa Stark.

Warning: Discussions of rape.

Name: Tyrion Lannister
Work: The ASOIAF SeriesA Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows (mentioned), A Dance With Dragons, Game of Thrones (TV Series)
Work Author/Creator: George R R Martin
Genre: High/Epic Fantasy
Medium: Book, TV

Tyrion Lannister is the youngest son of the (currently late) Lord Tywin Lannister and the deceased Lady Johanna Lannister.  He is brother to Jaime Lannister, the Kingslayer and Cersei Lannister, current Queen Regent of the Seven Kingdoms, the widow of King Robert Baratheon who died in A Game of Thrones.  Tyrion also has two nephews, Joffrey Baratheon who was king of the Seven Kingdoms until his death at his own wedding and Tommen Baratheon, current king of the Seven Kingdoms in Joffrey’s stead.  Myrcella Baratheon is Tyrion’s niece.  All three of these children are the result of Jaime and Cersei’s incestuous relationship.

Tyrion is a dwarf and despite the picture to the right is not nearly as “book” handsome as the actor who plays him, Peter Dinklage.  He looks more like the above picture prior to the Battle of the Blackwater after which he appears more like the below.  He has a misshapen face, mismatched green and black eyes and lank hair so blond it almost looks white.  However, despite his physical deformities, Tyrion is brilliant, shrewd, and savvy, facts, which along with his propensity to wear his heart on his sleeve, ironically help in his downfall and exile..

Tyrion (along with the Hound) also “breaks” the idea that ugly characters are evil.  The dwarf, while not a “good” character, because there are no entirely good characters in ASOIAF, is still seen as someone who could be redemptive and not entirely evil.  His Moral Event Horizon (killing his father), while obviously kinslaying and murder, did not come out of nowhere.  The miseries and injustices of his life (in addition to Varys) pushed him in that direction, nor can Tywin be cleansed of culpability, but that’s a discussion for another blog post.

Tyrion knows he is more intelligent than most people, but forgets he’s not more intelligent than all.  Unfortunately due to his deformities along with his mother Johanna dying at his birth, both his father and sister abhor him, which leads to them discounting his remarkable mental abilities.  He is known as the Imp or the Halfman and the unfair analysis of his character is widespread throughout the realm.  Even though he was (partly) responsible for staving off Stannis’s advance on the Blackwater, his lord father Tywin is solely lauded for winning the battle.  Tyrion is awarded little to no credit and the only member of his family whom he shares mutual love and respect is his brother Jaime.  This causes their schism at the end of A Clash of Kings to be even more heart-wrenching when Tyrion exchanges lies for lies with his older brother before they part on bad terms (an angle that was not utilized in the show).  The dwarf falsely admits to murdering Joffrey in addition to mixing this falsehood with the truth of Cersei’s infidelity in order to hurt Jaime as he feels his brother hurt him.

A major foundation and showing of Tyrion’s character comes from the case of Tysha whom he believed was a whore Jaime hired so his little brother could experience his first woman.  This shaped Tyrion’s belief that no woman would ever want him for him, but could be satisfied so long as he provided her with money and the finer things.

Jaime Lannister

“It was Jaime, he thought, despairing. He was mine own blood, my big strong brother. When I was small he brought me toys, barrel hoops and blocks and a carved wooden lion. He gave me my first pony and taught me how to ride him. When he said that he had bought you for me, I never doubted him. Why would I? He was Jaime, and you were just some girl who’d played a part. I had feared it from the start, from the moment you first smiled at me and let me touch your hand. My own father could not have loved me. Why would you if not for gold?”


Tyrion accepts this, falls in love with Tysha anyway, and marries her.  When Tywin finds out, he has the girl gang raped by his guards who each give her a piece of silver.  Finally, the Lord of Casterly Rock forces his son to be the last man, and he pays her in gold, because Lannisters are worth more.

When Jaime releases Tyrion he tells him that Tysha wasn’t a whore, but a girl chance met on the road, and she genuinely did love him.  Tyrion is furious with his brother for withholding this information and pays him back with the fore mentioned lie above.  Tysha is also the final straw for Tyrion in his confrontation with Tywin.  When asked about her whereabouts, Tywin responds with the now resonate line of “Wherever whores go,” to which Tyrion shoots him with a crossbow.

While Tyrion does possess some of the Lannister traits of ambition and (some) narcissism, he is not vindictive or cruel without reason, and though he might threaten, he bluffs a lot to maintain the upper hand.  The dwarf known as the Halfman is more of a man than many who can claim the height.  Had he been given…half a chance by his father, Tyrion could’ve been a huge asset to his House more so than just a stand in Hand that more than likely was just a mummer’s farce for Tywin to say “see what you could have ruling you” prior to his arrival in King’s Landing.  Owing to the laud Tywin receives and how Tyrion is shunned and, for all intents and purposes, hidden away in his convalescence, this idea is not that far fetched.

The dwarf is major untapped potential, and he is aware of this.  He is mostly able to out maneuver his sister, though to say this is like proclaiming you have won a chess game against a rat.  Because he “killed” his mother, and I use the quotes for two reasons (theory here).  It is ridiculous to blame a child for killing their mother at birth.  We see the same petty vilification with Viserys and Dany across the Narrow Sea.

Tyrion uses humor and japes to hide the massive amount of injustice and cruelty he is subjected to on a daily basis. He is forced to bear what today we’d call micro-aggressions, and this is by no means an attempt at a cruel pun. Humor is all he has standing in between himself and soul-crushing depression, which he also uses alcohol to suppress. His father, a major cause of his issues, detests his “japes’ as Tywin’s own father Tytos Lannister was ridiculed and mocked by his bannermen and vassals for being too lenient a lord. Tywin quashed all doubts of Lannister supremacy once he became head of the House, and he hates seeing the same traits in the son he so despises even though these traits are probably a defense mechanism against his own loathing.

Tyrion both killed the mother he never knew and the father he detested, performing one half of the Oedipus Complex that Jaime (arguably) completes in coupling with Cersei who looks like their mother.

Tyrion is eventually forced into marrying the hostage Sansa Stark, and in an amazingly modern sentiment, he refuses to deflower her as it would be what we’d today call marital rape.  Per Westeros law, the eldest Stark daughter was his for the taking as her husband.  Now some could argue that he “restrained” himself out of love for Shae, but Tyrion readily admits that he’s attracted to Sansa and was more than able to take her maidenhead, but he wasn’t willing.  He realizes that as he was forced into the marriage, she was even more so as a hostage and captive of the family that murdered her own.  It is very difficult for me to give Tyrion points for not committing rape (I actually feel sick to my stomach in thinking about it), and I am far from a rape apologist; however, looking at the world he lived in where a woman was expected to submit to her husband and allow him his “marital rights,” the fact that Tyrion doesn’t force himself on Sansa is revolutionary and incomprehensible to his father Tywin.

Tywin Lannister

Villains and heroes don’t really exist in the Land of Ice and Fire, and though I cannot absolve Tyrion of what he has done, I can’t completely condemn him for it either.  Nothing occurs in a vacuum, and Tyrion did not murder his father on a whim.  Neither was it done for greed, glory, or position.  The dwarf knew he would never hold claim to Casterly Rock despite Jaime’s service in the Kingsguard, which negates him claim to the Lannister home.  Tyrion was provoked and goaded after a lifetime of abuse.  This speaks to the dangerous idea that paternity provides absolute protection from any critique, criticism, or consequences.  Tywin’s modus operandi was family first to the point of zeal, but it was his legacy he cared about not his individual children.  Having his grandson (either one, though Tommen is far more reasonable and pliable than Joffrey, also saner…) on the throne secures his family’s place in the annals of history, and while he might have detested the idea of twincest for reasons of taboo and the dangers of discovered illegitimacy, it is very possible that the Lord of Casterly Rock would’ve secretly been satisfied that not a drop of Baratheon blood held claim to the Iron Throne.  This is the father Tyrion was forced to grow up with.  One who only saw his children as chess pieces in the great game.  The fact that the Halfman was more of a man than most to last as long as he did without snapping (and for valid reasons raised above) speaks to a will and persistence that tried to be good enough to someone who would never see as more than a misshapen abomination.

Disclaimer: All pictures belong to their respective creators and the URLs are linked in the images.



9 thoughts on “Tyrion Lannister

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