Tag Archives: Tyrion

Paying His Debts, Part III: Tyrion and Penny

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.)

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Paying His Debts, Part II: Sorrows, Whores, and a Game of Cyvasse

In the first half of A Dance With Dragons, Tyrion goes to some very dark places. He obsesses with his own traumas, and begins to think all good things are lost for him. He responds by treating others cruelly, and fantasizing about vengeance — starting to take on more of his father’s worst traits in very disconcerting ways. And, as he begins to play the game of thrones with more skill than ever before, he starts to resemble two of Westeros’s most infamous schemers as well.

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Paying His Debts, Part I: Tyrion in King’s Landing

As A Song of Ice and Fire opens, Tyrion Lannister is in a good place. He reads his books, goes sightseeing at Winterfell and the Wall, and basically enjoys life without any real responsibilities. He attempts to do good deeds and offer wise advice — counseling Jon about being a bastard, chastising Joffrey to pay his respects to the Starks, consulting with the Night’s Watch on their needs, and building the saddle for Bran. Then, when Tyrion walks into the Inn at the Crossroads, his life changes suddenly and irrevocably. His abduction by Catelyn Stark effectively drags him into the game of thrones, against his will, and forces him to play or die. But Tyrion proves to have a knack for the game, and some luck in battle, so he finishes Book 1 as the newly-appointed Hand of the King. That’s when things get interesting.

As Hand, Tyrion at first vows to do justice, but quickly settles on a course of pragmatism and self-preservation. He tries to rule well, mostly does a fine job of it, and comes to greatly enjoy having power. But the game of thrones is dangerous, and its darker side eventually becomes clear. The traumas of his childhood reemerge. People he cares about are put in danger. And Tyrion tells himself he must be cruel and ruthless, because it is the only way to win. Eventually, he is rejected by those whose approval he sought, and he experiences a shocking set of betrayals from those he loves most.  All the while, the looming, terrible figure of his father both awes and haunts him.

This essay series will analyze Tyrion’s character arc, paying special attention to his values, morality, and mental state — his struggle within his heart. I’ll explore how he’s played the game of thrones so far, how the game has changed him, and how he might play it in the future, along with Martin’s design of his arc as a whole. This first part will focus on Tyrion’s tenure in King’s Landing, as Hand and afterward — specifically, his journey from seeking justice, to seeking vengeance.

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