A Read of Ice and Fire

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords, Part 31

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 31 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapter 53 (“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 in the forums 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 53: Tyrion

What Happens
Tyrion is irritated that the Martells have already been starting brawls with the Tyrells, despite his efforts to keep them separate, and tries not to take it out on Sansa, who takes his complaints about dinner as slights against herself. He offers to go with her to the godswood for her (excessive, in his view) devotions, but she begs off, saying he would be bored. He agrees, and she leaves.

He tries to make sense of Littlefinger’s financial accounts, with little success, until Tywin summons him. He finds his father with Cersei, Joffrey, Kevan, and Pycelle, all of whom are looking suspiciously happy. Tywin gives him a letter from Walder Frey, which reads “Roslin caught a fine fat trout. Her brothers gave her a pair of wolf pelts for her wedding.” Tyrion thinks of Sansa, no doubt praying for her family’s safety, and observes that kings are “falling like leaves this autumn.” Tywin warns them not to be complacent, but Cersei protests that the river lords will surely sue for peace now that they no longer have the northmen to support them.

Tywin agrees that eventually they will all bend the knee, but has instructed Gregor to put Harrenhal to the sword and get rid of the Brave Companions. Joffrey declares that they should all be put to the sword, and tells Pycelle to send for Robb Stark’s head, so that he may serve it to Sansa at his wedding and “make her kiss it.” Tyrion tells him no, and calls him a monster, but Joffrey replies that Tyrion is the monster. Tyrion answers that Joffrey should be more careful of him then, considering the attrition rate of kings these days. Joffrey is incensed, but Tywin silences him and Cersei both, and tells Joffrey that he must accept when his enemies surrender, otherwise no one will ever surrender to him, something Aerys never understood.

Joffrey, surprisingly, challenges Tywin, claiming he was scared of Aerys, that his father Robert won all the battles while Tywin hid at Casterly Rock, and that a true king must be bold. Tywin ignores him and “suggests” that Joffrey be sent to bed. Kevan and Pycelle leave, taking Joffrey with them, and Cersei tries to apologize to Tywin about Joffrey’s “willfulness,” but Tywin tells her there is a difference between “willful” and “stupid.” He wants to know where Joffrey got this “a king must be bold” thing from, and Cersei and Tyrion agree it must have been from Robert. Tywin says he did not fight a war to seat “Robert the Second” on the throne. Cersei insists that Joffrey cared nothing for Robert, nor Robert for him, and Tywin dismisses her, to her fury. Tyrion opines that Joffrey is not Robert the Second, but rather “Aerys the Third.” Tywin says Joffrey is young yet, and can still be taught.

Tyrion sarcastically congratulates Tywin on the Frey affair, and Tywin tells him there was no need for Tyrion to have known about it beforehand, considering how much Tyrion talks. Tyrion suggests that Tywin should have let Joffrey cut out his tongue, then, and Tywin says not to tempt him. They discuss the Martells; Tywin is upset that “half-mad” Oberyn is here instead of his brother, and reveals to Tyrion that Oberyn had tried to declare for Viserys once. Tyrion suggests that they introduce Oberyn to “his” brothels, and Tywin is not amused.

Tyrion is shocked to learn that Tywin does not in fact plan to give Gregor Clegane’s head to Oberyn after all, and instead plans to insist that Ser Amory Lorch (who is already dead) killed Elia and her children. Tywin insists that the deaths had been necessary to assure Robert of the Lannisters’ loyalty, though he claims that the rape and murder of Elia had not been his idea, but rather a result of Gregor’s over-enthusiasm. He moves on to the Starks, and similarly claims Robb and Catelyn’s blood is on Walder Frey’s hands, not his. Tyrion counters that Frey would never have done such a thing without the promise of protection, and Tywin says the price was cheap: Riverrun will go to Emmon Frey once the Blackfish yields, there will be marriages between Freys and Lannisters, and Roose Bolton is to become Warden of the North and marry Arya Stark to his bastard son.

Startled, Tyrion protests that Arya Stark is surely dead, and Tywin replies cryptically that “so was Renly, until the Blackwater,” and that perhaps Littlefinger has succeeded where Tyrion failed. He says Tyrion’s son by Sansa will inherit the north, provided Tyrion ever manages to father one.

“Lest you forget, it is not only Joffrey who must needs take a maidenhead.”

I had not forgotten, though I’d hoped you had. “And when do you imagine Sansa will be at her most fertile?” Tyrion asked his father in tones that dripped acid. “Before or after I tell her how we murdered her mother and her brother?”

My God, but the Lannisters talk too much. Barb, barb, needle, needle, infodump, cryptic insinuation, barb. It’s like Small Talk 101 as taught in the ninth circle of Hell. Sheesh.

I have no idea, for instance, what Tywin’s remark about Renly means, especially as related to the possible deadness or aliveness of Arya Stark. Seriously, what the hell? Is this supposed to suggest Tywin knew something about Stannis and Melisandre’s magical shadow baby assassination stunt? Because, if so, I repeat: the hell?

Or maybe he’s just talking shit in order to make it seem like he knows everything, which I certainly wouldn’t put past him. Of course, I wouldn’t put much anything past a man who writes off the rape and murder of a queen as a mildly regrettable clerical error. You gotta love it (not): he’s all, oh yeah, maybe I should have mentioned to my jackbooted thug not to kill her, oopsie. Wow.

Meanwhile Joffrey continues to be as huggable as ever. But forget it, you little asswart: Walder Frey is going to be holding first place as Supreme Diarrheic Shit Sack of Syphilitic Dickheads for the foreseeable future, so you’re going to have to try a lot harder than that to unseat him. Though I am infinitely assuaged (not) by the assurance that Joffrey will do his level best to do so.

God, these people.

[Tywin:] “Explain to me why it is more noble to kill ten thousand men in battle than a dozen at dinner.”

Yeah, the fact that you even have to ask that question, Tywin, is why you are an utter psychopath, and probably one of the scarier characters in this entire series—which is a position that has a LOT of competition.

Although (and this is the very epitome of finding the silver lining, y’all), I suppose there is some hope in that psychopaths seem to tend toward the conviction that There Can Only Be One, and so at the very least we can root for when Tywin finally gets fed up with Jockstrap Jr.’s shit and dropkicks him off the nearest parapet. At which time I will throw a fucking rave in celebration. Seriously, if Tywin kills Joffrey I will give him a pass on at least 75% of the horrific shit he’s done, just for the service he will have done Westeros. And my blood pressure.

This is assuming that Tyrion doesn’t beat Tywin to it, of course. At which point it won’t be a rave, but rather a full-on Royal Masquerade Ball. Because hey, at this point regicide is the actual fashion trend this season; must keep up with the Joneses, n’est-ce pas? Gotta kill ’em all!

I was a little amused that Tyrion was surprised to discover that Tywin doesn’t plan on following through with the Martell deal, because c’mon, Tyrion, you’re usually a pretty astute dude. Why are you remotely shocked that your father Hannibal Tywin is going to renege on the deal rather than give up such a lovely tool of destruction as Gregor Clegane? I would have seen that coming a mile away… if, er, I had remembered that this whole deal was even happening in the first place.

In my defense, the events of last week have had me a little DISTRACTED.

*throws book against wall*

In other news, I have no idea whether to be terrified that Tyrion is going to find out what Sansa is really doing in the godswood. I mean, I suppose on general principle I am, because Tyrion is going to be in all kinds of deep shit if he manages to misplace his bride and he knows it, but at the same time I can’t help but hope that he would ultimately be sympathetic to her determination to get the fuck away from all of these assholes, including himself, and maybe even help her do it.

However, we’ve all learned about what hope gets us in this story, haven’t we.

*picks up book and throws it against wall again*

Speaking of the giant bowl of shit that was the Red Wedding, I was a little startled to discover that, according to Tywin, anyway, Edmure Tully is still alive. And… well. I thought Sansa and Tyrion’s “honeymoon” was the worst on record, but I’m betting Edmure’s is going to take the gold on that score. Jesus.

And, yeah. Rather than move on just yet, I think I need to retreat to a more meta place for a moment, and do a little more thinking on the Red Wedding and its implications as a whole.

One aspect of the assassination mentioned in the comments to the last post which intrigued me was that Robb’s death, besides being a demonstration to the nth degree of the adage “no good deed goes unpunished,” was also a subversion of the fantasy trope of the boy king. In so many stories (going all the way back to King Arthur and beyond), the boy king is depicted as a godsend and a savior to his kingdom, when historically they are nearly universally disastrous as rulers, for reasons which are screamingly obvious once you consider the basic psychology of such a situation. I mean, we have ample evidence of how bad it nearly always goes when child actors become rich and famous, so how much more worse must it be for a child to be told that he/she is supreme ruler of all they survey, and (depending on the culture) are mandated as such by the gods?

So I definitely see that, and appreciate it, even as I feel compelled to point out that even with all the mistakes Robb made, he was still (in my opinion) doing better than many of his rivals. And granted, that may be damning with faint praise when you consider that freakin’ Joffrey is in the mix, but still. (Joffrey, I feel, is not so much a deconstruction of the boy king trope as he is an argument that there are some people who are just born Wrong, and that’s all there is to it.)

Still doesn’t justify Catelyn’s death, though.

Beyond that, I’ve had a lot of people tell me in the past week, in the comments to the last post and elsewhere, that the Red Wedding was where they gave up on the series, or at least lost a lot of interest in it. And since by a totally unplanned coincidence, the corresponding episode of the TV series happened to fall within the same week, I’ve heard by proxy that a lot of the viewers of the show felt the same way. (The Twitter feed of reactions someone linked me to was, I confess, hilarious.) And concurrent to that, there’s been, I feel, a certain amount of curiosity as to whether I would feel the same.

Now obviously there’s a little bit of mitigating circumstances here, because I, unlike most people, am sort of contractually obligated to carry on reading the series regardless of whether I want to or not. And I’m not going to lie, that definitely has a little bit of influence. However, that being said, I… think that I would have kept on regardless.

I can’t be absolutely sure of that, because obviously I’ve never read a series this way before, but I think it’s so. However upset and betrayed I felt at the events at Edmure’s wedding, it’s still the case that the characters I feel most strongly connected to (which are, at this moment, Jon, Arya, and Tyrion) are still alive, and that I still want to see what happens to them.

Therefore, I have yet to utter the Eight Deadly Words (don’t click that) when it comes to ASOIAF. And given the overall excellence of the writing and worldbuilding, I feel pretty safe in asserting that even having thrown the book against the wall, metaphorically and, er, physically, I would still have gone ahead and picked it up again even if I weren’t contracted to do so.

Not to mention, I still want to see what happens to other, somewhat less personally beloved characters as well, like Dany, Bran, and Brienne. And yes, even Jaime, though I have a theory now that the readers’ love for Jaime Lannister (and the commenters’ not-so-subtle conviction that I will come to love him too) owes perhaps rather a lot to the simple attrition of characters we were all originally rooting for. And sassy snark, as we all know, often goes a lot further for garnering recipients’ sympathy for a character than it sometimes ought to, and sassy snark is something Jaime Lannister possesses in spades.

It is sometimes scary how much we will forgive a character who makes us laugh.

But anyway, to sum up: the Red Wedding was (obviously) an extremely upsetting episode for me, and I’m pretty sure I have not even come close to absorbing all of the ramifications of what happened there, but as of right now, it was not a dealbreaker, personally speaking.

We shall see if that continues to be the case.

And that’s what I got for this one, my chickies! Be well, and I will see you next week!


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