Welcome back to A Read of Ice and Fire! Please join me as I read and react, for the very first time, to George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.
Today’s entry is Part 44 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapter 70 (“Tyrion”).
Previous entries are located in the Index. The only spoilers in the post itself will be for the actual chapters covered and for the chapters previous to them. As for the comments, please note that the Powers That Be have provided you a lovely spoiler thread here on Tor.com. Any spoileriffic discussion should go there, where I won’t see it. Non-spoiler comments go below, in the comments to the post itself.
And now, the post!
Chapter 70: Tyrion
Tyrion contemplates life in the Night’s Watch if he confesses to the crime, and almost wishes he had done it, since it seems he will be punished for it regardless; even Podrick thinks he is guilty. In the throne room, they bring in Shae, who claims that Tyrion confessed to her that he and Sansa intended to kill not only Joffrey, but Cersei, Tywin, and Tommen eventually, to take the throne himself. She adds that Tyrion had insisted that he call her “my giant of Lannister,” which causes the spectators (except Tywin) to laugh. Tyrion shouts for silence, and tells them he will confess if they take the “lying whore” away. He wonders what Cersei had promised Shae, and feels sure she will end up entertaining the gold cloaks anyway. When Shae leaves, however, Tyrion confesses not to Joffrey’s murder, but to the crime of being a dwarf.
“This is folly, Tyrion,” declared Lord Tywin. “Speak to the matter at hand. You are not on trial for being a dwarf.”
“That is where you err, my lord. I have been on trial for being a dwarf my entire life.”
Tyrion says he didn’t do it, but wishes he had, and wishes for enough poison for the whole court. He demands trial by combat. Cersei is pleased, and says that Ser Gregor Clegane will stand for Joffrey; the uproar is deafening when Prince Oberyn declares himself Tyrion’s champion. Tywin declares he is washing his hands of the affair, and leaves, the contest set for the next day.
In his cell that night, Tyrion feels strangely at peace with his decision, knowing that the duel would screw up Tywin’s plans no matter who won, and feeling a certain glee at all the trouble he’d managed to cause. He sleeps well, and asks to attend Oberyn the next morning. He finds Oberyn in good spirits, and though he tries to warn the prince of Clegane’s battle prowess, Oberyn is supremely confident of his success. Tyrion is dismayed to see that Oberyn intends to face Clegane armed with a spear, but Oberyn warns him not to touch it, and Tyrion wonders if it is coated in poison. Oberyn suggests that Tyrion and Sansa can come back to Dorne with him after, and speaks openly of “Queen Myrcella.” Tyrion is shocked, but cannot help but think of the political possibilities therein.
Oberyn tells him the story of his and his sister Elia’s first journey to the Seven Kingdoms and Casterly Rock, and how Tyrion’s mother intended one or both of them to become betrothed to Jaime and Cersei, but died birthing Tyrion before they arrived. He tells how Tywin then refused the offer brusquely, informing Oberyn’s mother that “his daughter was meant for Prince Rhaegar,” and offering Tyrion in place of Jaime for Elia, which surely even Tyrion could see was an outrage. Tyrion observes that it was Elia who married Rhaegar, not Cersei, and Oberyn replies that Tywin never forgave that slight, either, and what happened to Elia was his repayment.
“Elia and her children have waited long for justice.” Prince Oberyn pulled on soft red leather gloves, and took up his spear again. “But this day they shall have it.”
The combat site is choked with onlookers. Ser Gregor Clegane looks extremely impressive, but Oberyn remains unimpressed. Tyrion hopes it is not overconfidence. When the duel begins, Oberyn calls out to Clegane, telling him who he is and who his sister is, but Clegane acts (possibly truthfully) like he has no idea what Oberyn is talking about. As they fight, Oberyn hisses that he will hear Clegane’s confession of Elia’s rape and murder, and the murder of her children, and continues repeating the accusation as he feints at the larger man.
Finally Clegane roars at Oberyn to shut up, and gets inside his guard, driving him back into the crowd. He beheads an innocent bystander when Oberyn dodges, and the crowd scatters. Oberyn continues his litany, and uses the emerging sun to blind Clegane and wound him. He shouts for Clegane to confess, and wounds him again in the knee. Clegane collapses, and Oberyn screams Elia’s name and impales Clegane, still demanding a confession. Tyrion thinks it is all over, but then Clegane grabs Oberyn and drags him down on the ground. As they wrestle, Clegane confesses with relish to Elia’s murder and rape, and smashes Oberyn’s face in, killing him.
Tyrion vomits, and then laughs hysterically, not even hearing his death sentence, and is not surprised when they take him not back to his tower cell, but the black cells.
[His guards] did not bother to answer. Why waste your breath on the dead?
I had really thought Oberyn was going to win that, for a minute there. But of course, he was on the side of righteous vengeance (or, at least, he was more on that side than frickin’ Clegane ever was), and therefore it would be way too trope-fulfill-y for him to actually win, and basically I shoulda oughta known bettah.
Although, spitting in the face of all reason and previous experience here (even the one that just happened), I still don’t believe that Tyrion is actually going to be executed. I literally have no clue what could rescue him at this point (like, seriously, I’m postulating a conveniently-timed alien invasion here, that’s how much at a loss I am), but in what is possibly a bout of sinus-infection-induced psychosis, I am still stubbornly clinging to the conviction that even Martin will not kill off such an awesome character as Tyrion.
Brilliant insight, or staggering naïvete? WE SHALL SEE, SHAN’T WE.
Also, wow, Shae. Way to totally live down to my worst expectations. I’ve been speculating from the moment she was introduced about whether Shae was going to screw Tyrion over (and not in the good way, ba dum dum), and I guess in retrospect that was one pony I’m really glad I never quite committed to laying money on, because that was a betrayal and a HALF, right there. Damn.
Of course, even having said that, I’m not really sure I’m blaming Shae for it all that much, because seriously, what were her options here? I don’t know about you, but I’m guessing they were probably something along the lines of “say this ridiculous shit about Tyrion or die.” And, well. That’s really not a choice at all, is it? Even Tyrion didn’t really seem to blame her for it, even though he was also almost certainly right that her “reward” for perjury probably isn’t going to be all that much more fabulous, and he did admittedly seem a tiny bit gleeful about that. And, well. Under the circumstances, I can’t say I can really blame him for that either.
But either way and from any direction, the whole thing sucks large hairy goat balls. Blargle.
But aside from that: politics! Because there are always politics.
So earlier in the chapter, Tyrion speculates that were Oberyn to die, the result might be Dorne breaking with Cersei/Tommen/Tywin altogether, and declaring Myrcella for the throne instead. I (like Tyrion) sort of gleefully hope this happens now. If for no other reason than that we appear to be getting perilously short on royal pretenders to the throne here, and having less succession-related turmoil will obviously just never do. And here’s a mop to clean up all the sarcasm that just dripped all over your monitor, sorry about that.
But seriously, anything that throws more confusion into Tywin’s life specifically I am really pretty okay with. Maybe that introduces more strife for the average folk in the short run, but (a) it’s not like that’s actually different from what they’re already dealing with, and (b) in the long term, I still believe it’s better to keep Tywin (and, honestly, all his progeny, Tyrion included) as far from the throne as possible.
I’m aware that this might not make total sense from a practical point of view, because yes, I know that Tywin is a very smart and savvy guy, and that some people persist in viewing ruthless assholery as a plus when it comes to wielding power, and I can see, in a way, the rationale for that. And yes, probably in the aggregate Tywin would not be the worst king ever.
But whatever, I don’t have to be rational if I don’t wanna, and what I want is to see that smug asshat get served. So there.
Anyway. There was also some interesting intel from the soon-to-be-late Oberyn in this chapter, namely that Tywin had intended to wed Cersei to Rhaegar, and then (I presume) got beaten to the punch by the Martells. I think we only have Oberyn’s word for that being the motivation behind Elia’s particularly vicious treatment during the sack of King’s Landing, but given what I know of Tywin’s character, plus knowing exactly how much such an end-run would have chapped his ass, I have no trouble believing that Oberyn’s assertion is perfectly accurate. This, as you may imagine, has done precisely nothing to further endear Tywin Lannister in my eyes. I will give you a moment to recover from your shock.
See, all better.
“The only one who was even halfway presentable was young Baelor Hightower. A pretty lad, and my sister was half in love with him until he had the misfortune to fart once in our presence. I promptly named him Baelor Breakwind, and after that Elia couldn’t look at him without laughing. I was a monstrous young fellow, someone should have sliced out my vile tongue.”
Yes, Tyrion agreed silently. Baelor Hightower was no longer young, but he remained Lord Leyton’s heir; wealthy, handsome, and a knight of splendid repute. Baelor Brightsmile, they called him now. Had Elia wed him in place of Rhaegar Targaryen, she might be in Oldtown with her children growing tall around her. He wondered how many lives had been snuffed out by that fart.
I was struck by this passage, not because I think it has any real significance plot-wise (going forward, I mean), but because I’m always drawn by the bittersweetness of a Might-Have-Been moment. Not to mention the inherent fascination of the idea of the butterfly effect. Reading this particular example of both things put me in mind of a poem/proverb thingy I first read when I was very young:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost;
For want of a shoe the horse was lost;
For want of a horse the rider was lost;
For want of a rider the message was lost;
For want of a message the battle was lost;
For want of a battle the war was lost;
For want of a war the kingdom was lost;
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
The entire course of history, changed by a nail. Or a fart, as the case may be. It’s a daunting thing to think upon.
At any rate, whatever the outcome, I give props to Tyrion for not taking the dishonest/cowardly way out. I know having honor is extremely hazardous to your health in this story (and so far Tyrion’s situation is certainly not contradicting that observation) but nevertheless I’m proud of him; for metaphorically telling his asshat dad to suck it, of course, but more importantly for speaking blunt, unyielding truth to privilege, which is that he’d been screwed from the beginning, merely for being what he is—a deformed dwarf, and therefore less than human in the eyes of his peers, no matter what he did to prove them wrong.
Because there’s no way you can convince me (or Tyrion, who would know) that the inevitability of the outcome of his trial was not at least partially based on his judges’ inherent distaste for his very existence. And that is sad and wrong, and nothing Tyrion said is going to change it, maybe, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t need to be said anyway.
Now all we need is some transdimensional portals and a deadly extraterrestrial invasion force or two up in this thang for maximum distraction, and we good! Amirite, eh, eh?
… Yeah, well. Seriously, I got nothin’. At least, I don’t until next week, when, hopefully, MOAR WILL BE REVEALED. DUN! See you next Thursday!