In the first half of A Dance with Dragons, Tyrion becomes more vengeful, crueler, and more manipulative. But at about the book’s midpoint, his arc takes a bit of a turn when he is sidelined from the game of thrones for a while, and meets the dwarf girl Penny. Tyrion’s reactions to Penny are layered and complex. He rediscovers empathy through her, comes to care for her, and works to protect her. Yet some of her traits make him disturbed, angry, and even contemptuous. And ahead looms the game, and the specter of Tyrion’s father. Can there be any place for Penny there?
I don’t believe Tyrion’s ADWD arc builds to a neat conclusion or turning point, as Dany’s and Jon’s do. Perhaps the Battle of Meereen, which Martin originally intended to include in ADWD, will resolve some of the issues I explore here. The Penny plotline in particular could be wrapped up early in TWOW, or not. For now, I will focus on the thematic importance of the Penny/Tyrion relationship — how their interaction changes Tyrion, what it reveals about him, and what it could mean for his future.
(Spoiler note: This essay briefly discusses one scene from an early Winds of Winter chapter that Martin has read at a convention — not a big spoiler, but be warned.)
Tyrion’s Empathy for Penny
So far in the book, Tyrion has avowed vengeance on his siblings and on Westeros in general, played a ruthless mindgame on Aegon, and cruelly mistreated two slave girls. And immediately before Tyrion meets Penny, we see where his head is — he is driven by hate:
“What do you plan to offer the dragon queen, little man?”
My hate, Tyrion wanted to say. Instead he spread his hands as far as the fetters would allow. “Whatever she would have of me. Sage counsel, savage wit, a bit of tumbling. My cock, if she desires it. My tongue, if she does not. I will lead her armies or rub her feet, as she desires. And the only reward I ask is I might be allowed to rape and kill my sister.” (TYRION VII)
The appearance of Penny seems designed to restore Tyrion’s capacity for empathy. First of all, she has many similarities to Tyrion himself. She is an ugly dwarf, recently traumatized when someone she loved was cruelly taken from her by a powerful Lannister. In that, in her hopefulness, and in her desire for love, she resembles the young Tyrion when he loved Tysha. Sometimes it’s unclear whether Tyrion is talking about her, or himself:
The girl deserves better than a pig, he thought. An honest kiss, a little kindness, everyone deserves that much, however big or small. (TYRION IX)
Second, Penny is a victim of the game of thrones. Her life was ruined by the whims of the powerful — specifically, a feud among powerful Lannisters, including Tyrion himself:
“You’re both dwarfs.”
“Yes, and so was her brother, who was killed because some drunken fools took him for me.”
“Feeling guilty, are you?”
“No.” Tyrion bristled. “I have sins enough to answer for; I’ll have no part of this one. I might have nurtured some ill will toward her and her brother for the part they played the night of Joffrey’s wedding, but I never wished them harm.”
“You are a harmless creature, to be sure. Innocent as a lamb” …
…“He died for you. His blood is on your hands.”
The accusation stung, coming so hard on the heels of Jorah Mormont’s words. “His blood is on my sister’s hands, and the hands of the brutes who killed him.” (TYRION VIII)
Cersei is truly the person responsible for Oppo’s death. But Tyrion admits that his pride, his refusal to tolerate being mocked, and his reckless chiding of a king helped lead to the disastrous situation:
“Uncle! You’ll defend the honor of my realm, won’t you? You can ride the pig!”
The laughter crashed over him like a wave. Tyrion Lannister did not remember rising, nor climbing on his chair, but he found himself standing on the table. The hall was a torchlit blur of leering faces. He twisted his face into the most hideous mockery of a smile the Seven Kingdoms had ever seen. “Your Grace,” he called, “I’ll ride the pig . . . but only if you ride the dog!” Joff scowled, confused. “Me? I’m no dwarf. Why me?”
Stepped right into the cut, Joff. “Why, you’re the only man in the hall that I’m certain of defeating!” He could not have said which was sweeter; the instant of shocked silence, the gale of laughter that followed, or the look of blind rage on his nephew’s face. (ASOS TYRION VIII)
“We would never have had to run at all but for you… Why couldn’t you just come joust with us, the way the king wanted? You wouldn’t have gotten hurt. What would that have cost m’lord, to climb up on our dog and ride a tilt to please the boy? It was just a bit of fun. They would have laughed at you, that’s all.”
“They would have laughed at me,” said Tyrion. I made them laugh at Joff instead. And wasn’t that a clever ploy? (ADWD TYRION VIII)
Feeling somewhat guilty, and feeling genuine empathy and compassion, Tyrion requests that Penny join them on their journey to Daenerys.
He felt nothing but pity for the girl. She did not deserve the horror visited on her in Volantis, any more than her brother had…
…“By any name, she needs a friend.”
Ser Jorah sat up in his hammock. “Befriend her, then… ….You were the one who insisted that we bring her.”
“I said we could not abandon her in Volantis. ” (TYRION VIII)
Then he reaches out to her, comforts her, helps her get through her grief, and promises to stay with her — again stressing their similarities:
“I thought I wanted to die,” she said, “but today when the storm came and I thought the ship would sink, I…I…”
“You realized that you wanted to live after all.” I have been there too. Something else we have in common…
…Daenerys has a kind heart and a generous nature.” It was what she needed to hear. “She will find a place for you at her court, I don’t doubt. A safe place, beyond my sister’s reach.”
Penny turned back to him. “And you will be there too.”
Unless Daenerys decides she needs some Lannister blood, to pay for the Targaryen blood my brother shed. “I will.” (TYRION VIII)
In a previous essay, I argued that Martin uses Hizdahr to symbolize the path of peace and Daario to symbolize the path of war, so he can force Dany to grapple with those themes. I believe Penny has a similar purpose — she embodies innocence, kindness, and goodness. Aside from her brief pained attack on Tyrion — driven by sorrow and desperation — Penny appears to be entirely kind, without any cruel or base impulses. She innately likes and trusts people, she lacks pride — particularly Tyrion’s variant of self-destructive pride, she cares deeply for her dog and pig, and despite her grief she retains a fundamentally hopeful and optimistic worldview. Tyrion’s attempts to help her and protect her are, in a sense, his attempt to hang on to whatever remains of his own morals. She is repeatedly compared to a child:
When Penny giggled, she sounded like the sweet young girl she was … seventeen, eighteen, no more than nineteen…
…Penny’s face lit up with joy. “We’re moving again. The wind …” She rushed to the door. “I want to see. Come, I’ll race you up.” Off she went. She is young, Tyrion had to remind himself, as Penny scrambled from the galley and up the steep wooden steps as fast as her short legs would allow. Almost a child. Still, it tickled him to see her excitement. He followed her topside. (TYRION IX)
But there’s another layer to how Tyrion interacts with Penny — he actually finds some of Penny’s traits quite disturbing and troublesome. In particular, he has a very difficult time dealing with (1) the possibility that Penny loves him, (2) Penny’s optimism/naivete, and (3) what he sees as Penny’s weakness and servile mindset. And as ADWD goes on, he finds himself increasingly in conflict with these traits of Penny.
Penny’s Love, Tyrion’s Rejection
Tyrion and Penny become friends. He talks her through her brother’s death and is there for her. They start to have all their meals together. They joke and laugh together. After being betrayed by everyone at the end of ASOS, Tyrion has found a friend again. And then, one day, she kisses him:
“That game won’t do,” Tyrion told her, gritting his teeth. “Sorry. I don’t know what game—”
“I do.” Penny kissed him.
It was an awkward kiss, rushed, clumsy. But it took him utterly by surprise. His hands jerked up and grabbed hold of her shoulders to shove her away. Instead he hesitated, then pulled her closer, gave her a squeeze. Her lips were dry, hard, closed up tighter than a miser’s purse. A small mercy, thought Tyrion. This was nothing he had wanted. He liked Penny, he pitied Penny, he even admired Penny in a way, but he did not desire her. He had no wish to hurt her, though; the gods and his sweet sister had given her enough pain. So he let the kiss go on, holding her gently by the shoulders. His own lips stayed firmly shut. (TYRION IX)
Tyrion does not, and will not, feel any sexual desire for Penny. And I don’t think this is just about a lack of physical attraction. Martin sometimes uses his characters’ sexual impulses to tell us something about them. Again, I recall Dany’s lack of desire for “Hizdahr of the tepid kisses” and his path of peace, and her intense desire for the violent and amoral Daario, who advocated war. Now we have Tyrion, who just had sex with a traumatized, whipped Westerosi slave girl in Selhorys — twice — but is unable to feel any sexual stirrings for Penny. And how does Penny feel?
Pretty eyes, he thought, but he saw other things as well. A lot of fear, a little hope … but not a bit of lust. She does not want me, no more than I want her. (TYRION IX)
Tyrion may be accurate that he does not see “lust” in someone so innocent. But what about love? The evidence that Penny has fallen for Tyrion continues to pile up in the rest of this book, and into the next:
Tyrion pinched her nose. “I am fond of looking at your nose. I would rather that you kept it.”
Her eyes got big. “You like my nose?”
Oh, Seven save me. Tyrion turned away and began rooting amongst some piles of old armor toward the back of the wagon.
“Are there any other parts of me you like?” Penny asked. Perhaps she meant that to sound playful. It sounded sad instead. (TYRION XII)
Paraphrased: “He then explains his thoughts on strategy for the upcoming battle – a great plan to be heard and followed by no one. And as he remembers his father remaining above the fighting at the Green Fork, Penny kisses him.” (Reading of TWOW TYRION II)
Yet Tyrion repeatedly rejects her, lying that he must be true to Sansa, and internally clinging to the ideal of Tysha, and the question of where whores go:
“We cannot play that game, my lady.” Above the thunder boomed, close at hand now.
“I never meant.. I never kissed a boy before, but … I only thought, what if we drown, and I … I …”
“It was sweet,” lied Tyrion, “but I am married. She was with me at the feast, you may remember her. Lady Sansa.”
“Was she your wife? She … she was very beautiful …”
And false. Sansa, Shae, all my women … Tysha was the only one who ever loved me. Where do whores go? “A lovely girl,” said Tyrion, “and we were joined beneath the eyes of gods and men. It may be that she is lost to me, but until I know that for a certainty I must be true to her.”
“I understand.” Penny turned her face away from his. My perfect woman, Tyrion thought bitterly. One still young enough to believe such blatant lies. (TYRION IX)
He is uncomfortable when Penny touches him:
His legs were cramping badly, so he found himself a likely rock and sat on it to rub his thighs. “I could do that for you,” offered Penny. “I know where the knots are.” As fond as he had grown of the girl, it still made him uncomfortable when she touched him. (TYRION XI)
Tyrion has wanted to be loved for so long. But now that someone seems to be genuinely falling for him, he doesn’t want it (or doesn’t recognize it). An interesting choice by Martin, this undercuts Tyrion’s “woe is me, no one loves me, the whole world hates me, so I’ll take vengeance on them” schtick — to the reader, at least, if not to Tyrion. And the new kiss in TWOW shows that this plotline isn’t going away, so we’ll see how it plays out in the next book.
Penny’s Idealism/Naivete, Tyrion’s Cynicism/Realism
Penny is grieving when she meets Tyrion, but it soon become clear that she is fundamentally trusting, optimistic, and good-natured.
“We make the most coin in the big cities, but I always liked the little towns the best. Places like that, the people have no silver, but they feed us at their own tables, and the children follow us everywhere.”
That’s because they have never seen a dwarf before, in their wretched pisspot towns, Tyrion thought. The bloody brats would follow around a two-headed goat if one turned up. Until they got bored with its bleating and slaughtered it for supper. (TYRION VIII)
As above, Penny’s idealism is contrasted with Tyrion’s much more negative worldview. After the two are sold into slavery, though Tyrion feels empathy for Penny personally, his misanthropic view of humanity has reached new depths of cynicism. The below passage makes it clear that Tyrion is deeply disturbed by Penny’s continued hope. He believes the world is so full of horrors that she must abandon her fantasies:
Sometimes he envied the girl all her pretty little dreams. She reminded him of Sansa Stark, the child bride he had wed and lost. Despite the horrors Penny had suffered, she remained somehow trusting. She should know better. She is older than Sansa. And she’s a dwarf. She acts as if she has forgotten that, as if she were highborn and fair to look upon, instead of a slave in a grotesquerie. At night Tyrion would oft hear her praying. A waste of words. If there are gods to listen, they are monstrous gods who torment us for their sport. Who else would make a world like this, so full of bondage, blood, and pain? Who else would shape us as they have? Sometimes he wanted to slap her, shake her, scream at her, anything to wake her from her dreams. No one is going to save us, he wanted to scream at her. The worst is yet to come. (TYRION XI)
But at this point, Tyrion still feels an impulse to protect her from the cruel truths of the world — to protect her innocence:
Yet somehow he could never say the words. Instead of giving her a good hard crack across that ugly face of hers to knock the blinders from her eyes, he would find himself squeezing her shoulder or giving her a hug. Every touch a lie. I have paid her so much false coin that she half thinks she’s rich. He had even kept the truth of Daznak’s Pit from her. (TYRION XI)
This conflict between idealism and cynicism/pragmatism plays out around Penny’s dog and pig. Soon after they are sold into slavery, Tyrion begins plotting his escape, but notices a problem:
All he had to do was reach those gates and pass beyond, and he would be a free man again. But that was hardly possible unless he abandoned Penny. She’d want to take the dog and the pig along. (TYRION X)
Penny deeply loves her dog and pig, and surely could never imagine abandoning them:
Penny crawled across the cabin floor on her hands and knees, wrapped her arms around the sow’s head, and murmured reassurance to her. Looking at the two of them, it was hard to know who was comforting whom. The sight was so grotesque it should have been hilarious, but Tyrion could not even find a smile. The girl deserves better than a pig, he thought. (TYRION IX)
She gave him a reproachful look, then retreated to the back of the cart and sat with her arms around Crunch, as if the dog was her last true friend in the world. Perhaps he is. (TYRION X)
When Tyrion does see an opportunity to escape, he makes sure to bring both Penny and Jorah along. But, pragmatically, he sacrifices the animals by leaving them behind, and tricks Penny into coming. When she finds out the truth, she is very upset:
“Hugor? What is it?”
“Talking again, are we?” It was better than her usual sullen silence. All over an abandoned dog and pig. I saved the two of us from slavery, you would think some gratitude might be in order…
… “Has anyone seen Pretty Pig? Inkpots said he’d ask after her. Or Crunch, has there been word of Crunch?” (TYRION XII)
In his final ADWD chapter, as he’s trying to teach Penny how to fight, she is reluctant. So Tyrion finally acts on his previously-expressed desire to “slap” Penny and “wake her from her dreams”:
“I don’t want to hack off heads.”
“Nor should you. Keep your cuts below the knee. Calf, hamstring, ankle … even giants fall if you slice their feet off. Once they’re down, they’re no bigger than you.”
Penny looked as though she was about to cry. “Last night I dreamed my brother was alive again. We were jousting before some great lord, riding Crunch and Pretty Pig, and men were throwing roses at us. We were so happy …”
Tyrion slapped her.
It was a soft blow, all in all, a little flick of the wrist, with hardly any force behind it. It did not even leave a mark upon her cheek. But her eyes filled with tears all the same.
“If you want to dream, go back to sleep,” he told her. “When you wake up, we’ll still be escaped slaves in the middle of a siege. Crunch is dead. The pig as well, most like. Now find some armor and put it on, and never mind where it pinches.” (TYRION XII)
And in TWOW — at the battle — Martin intertwines Penny’s naivete with her love for Tyrion:
Paraphrased: “And as he remembers his father remaining above the fighting at the Green Fork, Penny kisses him. Tyrion is enraged. He rants at her about the slaughter of the battlefield and the reality about to invade her innocent world. Penny apologizes, saying she’s frightened. But this echo of Shae makes matters worse. (Reading of TWOW TYRION II)
This part of the arc has not yet been resolved, but Martin is clearly building to something. We will have to wait for TWOW to see whether Penny’s “innocent world” can survive the battle and subsequent events — and how Tyrion deals with it.
Penny’s Servility, Tyrion’s Pride
Penny has one more important trait that makes Tyrion uncomfortable and annoyed. Since birth, she has been raised to perform for the amusement of “big people,” and to “know her place.” Despite Penny’s general innocence and naivete, it’s clear that she views this behavior as a deliberate survival strategy:
“We have to make them laugh,” Penny had said, pleading. “We have to make them like us. If we give them a show, it will help them forget. Please, m’lord.” And somehow, somewise, someway he had consented…
…“You mustn’t mock him. Don’t you know anything? You can’t talk that way to a big person. They can hurt you. Ser Jorah could have tossed you in the sea. The sailors would have laughed to see you drown. You have to be careful around big people. Be jolly and playful with them, keep them smiling, make them laugh, that’s what my father always said. Didn’t your father ever tell you how to act with big people?”
“My father called them smallfolk,” said Tyrion, “and he was not what you’d call a jolly man.” (TYRION IX)
Indeed, Penny’s mindset and behavior reflect a point Martin has made about medieval class structure:
“The bad authors adopt the class structures of the Middle Ages; where you had the royalty and then you had the nobility and you had the merchant class and then you have the peasants and so forth. But they don’t seem to realize what it actually meant. They have scenes where the spunky peasant girl tells off the pretty prince. The pretty prince would have raped the spunky peasant girl. He would have put her in the stocks and then had garbage thrown at her. You know. I mean, the class structures in places like this had teeth. They had consequences. And people were brought up from their childhood to know their place and to know that duties of their class and the privileges of their class.” –George R. R. Martin
Depressing as it may be, Penny’s father seems to have had an accurate understanding of this. He was a lower-class dwarf without money or power, so he acted as he thought best to keep himself and his family alive, and taught Penny accordingly. And all in all, things appear to have gone pretty well for Penny until Cersei demanded dwarf heads — she frequently looks back on the past fondly.
“His own father sold him to a slaver when he was three, but he grew up to be such a famous mummer that he bought his freedom.” (TYRION VIII)
Penny’s father managed to buy his own freedom! Yet Tyrion is utterly contemptuous of Penny’s lack of pride, in a way only a privileged upper-class man truly can be. He insults her father for teaching her to be that way:
Penny’s mouth was frozen in a rictus of a smile. Well trained for your amusement. Her father had a deal to answer for, in whatever small hell was reserved for dwarfs. (TYRION X)
As mentioned above, Tyrion’s pride — his unwillingness to let himself be mocked at Joffrey’s wedding — helped contribute to his downfall in King’s Landing (and, inadvertently, to Oppo’s death). And in Tyrion’s interactions with Penny, that pride is still quite present:
She turned her head away and gazed out across the sea. “What will I do? Where will I go? I have no trade, just the jousting show, and that needs two.”
No, thought Tyrion. That is not a place you want to go, girl. Do not ask that of me. Do not even think it. (TYRION VIII)
Eventually, Tyrion proves willing to temporarily debase himself to survive, but he is always thinking about how such behavior is beneath him:
He was no champion, just a dwarf on a pig clutching a stick, capering for the amusement of some restless rum-soaked sailors in hopes of sweetening their mood. Somewhere down in hell his father was seething and Joffrey was chuckling…Her shield and armor had been painted red, though the paint was chipped and fading; his own armor was blue. Not mine. Groat’s. Never mine, I pray. (TYRION IX)
The very prideful Tyrion can’t stand the idea of capering for others’ amusement. In that, he is once again reflecting the deep-rooted influence of his father:
For half a year he cartwheeled his merry way about Casterly Rock, bringing smiles to the faces of septons, squires, and servants alike. Even Cersei laughed to see him once or twice. All that ended abruptly the day his father returned from a sojourn in King’s Landing. That night at supper Tyrion surprised his sire by walking the length of the high table on his hands. Lord Tywin was not pleased. “The gods made you a dwarf. Must you be a fool as well? You were born a lion, not a monkey.” (TYRION IV)
Compare how Penny is named after a near-worthless coin, with Tywin’s instructions to Tyrion during Tysha’s gang rape:
“The poor creature’s name is Penny.”
“I know her name.” He hated her name. Her brother had gone by the name of Groat, though his true name had been Oppo. Groat and Penny. The smallest coins, worth the least, and what’s worse, they chose the names themselves. It left a bad taste in Tyrion’s mouth. (TYRION VIII)
“Lord Tywin had me go last,” he said in a quiet voice. “And he gave me a gold coin to pay her, because I was a Lannister, and worth more.” (AGOT TYRION VI)
It is interesting that, despite the horrible revelations about Tywin at the end of ASOS, Tyrion continues to cling to his Lannister identity, rather than rejecting it:
“Kinslayer or no, I am a lion still” … The lords of the Seven Kingdoms did make rather much of their sigils, Tyrion had to admit. “Very well,” he conceded. “A Lannister is not a lion. Yet I am still my father’s son…” (TYRION I)
The slave soldiers of Volantis were fiercely proud of their tiger stripes, Tyrion knew. Do they yearn for freedom? he wondered. What would they do if this child queen bestowed it on them? What are they, if not tigers? What am I, if not a lion? (TYRION VI)
Without money or power, he takes refuge by remembering his name and nobility. For example, after he and Penny are sold into slavery, he whips out the name and the title:
“Tell me your names.”
“Penny.” Her voice was a whisper, small and scared.
Tyrion, of House Lannister, rightful lord of Casterly Rock, you sniveling worm. “Yollo.” (TYRION X)
In contrast, Penny tries to make the best of her lot as a slave — keeping her head down, doing her job, and hoping things will work out. She’s not made for battle, so when Tyrion brings her to the sellsword camp, she doesn’t know what she’s supposed to do there:
Penny touched the cheek he’d slapped. “We should never have run. We’re not sellswords. We’re not any kind of swords. It wasn’t so bad with Yezzan. It wasn’t. Nurse was cruel sometimes but Yezzan never was. We were his favorites, his … his …”
“Slaves. The word you want is slaves.”
“Slaves,” she said, flushing. “We were his special slaves, though. Just like Sweets. His treasures.”
His pets, thought Tyrion. And he loved us so much that he sent us to the pit, to be devoured by lions. (TYRION XII)
Tyrion is right that Penny is absurdly optimistic. But she’s a dwarf with nothing, alone in the world. She wasn’t raised to challenge her lot, she was raised to make the best of it. This leaves her vulnerable to the whims of those with power — as she already was, merely because of her class (just like Mycah the butcher’s boy could be murdered on a Lannister whim). But Penny has no name, and no stockpiles of gold back at her family’s castle. She can’t walk into a sellsword camp and use those assets to finagle something better for herself.
Servility in general, and Penny’s servility in particular, are the focus of Tyrion’s final internal monologue in ADWD. Some have argued that Tyrion became a slave so he could develop empathy for those less fortunate than him — but I see very little empathy here.
She was not all wrong. Yezzan’s slaves ate better than many peasants back in the Seven Kingdoms and were less like to starve to death come winter. Slaves were chattels, aye. They could be bought and sold, whipped and branded, used for the carnal pleasure of their owners, bred to make more slaves. In that sense they were no more than dogs or horses. But most lords treated their dogs and horses well enough. Proud men might shout that they would sooner die free than live as slaves, but pride was cheap. When the steel struck the flint, such men were rare as dragon’s teeth; elsewise the world would not have been so full of slaves. There has never been a slave who did not choose to be a slave, the dwarf reflected. Their choice may be between bondage and death, but the choice is always there.
Tyrion Lannister did not except himself. His tongue had earned him some stripes on the back in the beginning, but soon enough he had learned the tricks of pleasing Nurse and the noble Yezzan. Jorah Mormont had fought longer and harder, but he would have come to the same place in the end. (TYRION XII)
Tyrion takes the rather unempathetic view that slaves choose their lot, because they could always, you know, die. Though he says he’s no different, the implicit contrast does seem to be that he, Tyrion Lannister, was bold enough and self-reliant enough to choose a different path, and win his freedom. And some people are simply too weak to do the same. Specifically:
And Penny, well…
Penny had been searching for a new master since the day her brother Groat had lost his head.
She wants someone to take care of her, someone to tell her what to do.
It would have been too cruel to say so, however. Instead Tyrion said, “Yezzan’s special slaves did not escape the pale mare. They’re dead, the lot of them. Sweets was the first to go.” Their mammoth master had died on the day of their escape, Brown Ben Plumm had told him. Neither he nor Kasporio nor any of the other sellswords knew the fate of the denizens of Yezzan’s grotesquerie … but if Pretty Penny needed lies to stop her mooning, lie to her he would. (TYRION XII)
Tyrion is still protecting Penny, but he now seems to feel contempt for her naivete and her servility. How long will he keep trying to protect her? Again, we will have to wait for TWOW to see how this is resolved.
Tyrion’s Future in the Game of Thrones
As first a prisoner of Jorah Momont, and then a slave, Tyrion was sidelined from the game of thrones for the second half of ADWD. But his return to power is inevitable:
“Dragons old and young, true and false, bright and dark. And you. A small man with a big shadow, snarling in the midst of all.”
“Snarling? An amiable fellow like me?” Tyrion was almost flattered. (TYRION VIII)
What kind of person will Tyrion be when he regains power? In Part I, I described how Tyrion tried to force himself to become a monster, because he thought it was necessary to play the game. In Part II, he was consumed by thoughts of vengeance. Now, he’s found some empathy for Penny, true — but will this empathy affect his “gameplay”?
The fact that there were any good wells at all within a day’s march of the city only went to prove that Daenerys Targaryen was still an innocent where siegecraft was concerned. She should have poisoned every well. Then all the Yunkishmen would be drinking from the river. See how long their siege lasts then. That was what his lord father would have done, Tyrion did not doubt. (TYRION XI)
Tyrion clearly still has his ruthless strategic mind, and he can channel his father. Will he give Dany this sort of advice? The figure of Tywin still haunts his dreams. Does Tyrion fear meeting him, or becoming him?
He dreamt of his lord father and the Shrouded Lord. He dreamt that they were one and the same, and when his father wrapped stone arms around him and bent to give him his grey kiss, he woke with his mouth dry and rusty with the taste of blood and his heart hammering in his chest. (TYRION VI)
Sleep meant dreams as like as not, and in his dreams the Sorrows waited, and a stony king with his father’s face. (TYRION VIII)
Back in the cabin he shared with Jorah Mormont, Tyrion twisted in his hammock for hours, slipping in and out of sleep. His dreams were full of grey, stony hands reaching for him from out of the fog, and a stair that led up to his father. (TYRION VIII)
And what is Penny’s future? She is thoroughly unsuited for the game of thrones, as symbolized by her utter ineptitude at cyvasse:
To atone for that Tyrion made an attempt to teach her cyvasse, though he soon realized that was a lost cause. “No,” he said, a dozen times, “the dragon flies, not the elephants.” (TYRION VIII)
“We should play a game,” Tyrion suggested. “That might help take our thoughts off the storm.”
“Not cyvasse,” she said at once. “Not cyvasse,” Tyrion agreed… (TYRION IX)
Penny’s fate will be very important to Tyrion’s arc. Will she end up, once again, as collateral damage? Might she symbolize the innocent lives that will be lost if Tyrion pursues his vengeance? Note in the dream below, how Tyrion attempts to shoot Tywin, but ends up killing Penny instead:
That night he dreamed that he was back in King’s Landing again, a crossbow in his hand. “Wherever whores go,” Lord Tywin said, but when Tyrion’s finger clenched and the bowstring thrummed, it was Penny with the quarrel buried in her belly. (TYRION IX)
After the Battle of Meereen, two particularly important moral choices may loom ahead for Tyrion — two cases where Tyrion’s personal interests in the game could result in the deaths of many people. The first is how he handles delivering the news of Aegon. He is the only person in Slaver’s Bay with knowledge of the other Targaryen claimant, and he will undoubtedly seek to use this knowledge to worm his way into Dany’s confidences. But a scheming, self-interested game-player — as Tyrion appeared to be during his cyvasse game with Aegon — could take advantage of this situation. Tyrion could advise Dany not to trust Aegon. He could cast doubt on Aegon’s origins. He could invent lies about why Aegon chose to go west — who is there to dispute him? If Tyrion chooses to try and bring about a war between Dany and Aegon, the consequences could be devastating for innocent life in Westeros.
Teora gave a tiny nod, chin trembling. “They were dancing. In my dream. And everywhere the dragons danced the people died.” (TWOW ARIANNE I)
Second, Archmaester Marwyn is likely to arrive and meet Dany in TWOW. If and when he does, he will inform Dany of the threat from the Others and how she could be humanity’s only hope. But flying to the Wall would benefit Tyrion very little in the game. His inside knowledge of the Lannisters and of Aegon would be useless there. The ruthless advice would be that Dany should leave the grumkins and snarks to Stannis, focus on the South for the time being, and deal with the Northern threat later if need be. So if Tyrion is in a position to advise Dany at this point, does he recommend what’s best for humanity? Or what’s best for himself in the game of thrones? We will see.
Thank you for reading!