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 40 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapter 66 (“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 brand new 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 66: Tyrion
Ser Kevan tells Tyrion that as the Hand of the King is the father of the accused and the grandfather of the deceased, Lord Tyrell and Prince Oberyn will judge at his trial, which does not reassure Tyrion. He asks if he will be allowed to demand trial by combat, but Kevan says he can, but advises him that Cersei intends to name Ser Gregor Clegane as her own champion if he does so. Tyrion demands that he be allowed to gather witnesses in his defense, and asks for Podrick Payne if he cannot go himself, and Kevan agrees. As he goes to leave, Tyrion tells Kevan he is innocent, but Kevan does not believe him.
Tyrion has been unable to think of any witnesses who will speak for him by the time Podrick arrives. He sends Podrick for Bronn with the promise of much gold, but the boy does not return by the next day. Tyrion thinks that Sansa’s disappearance has confirmed his belief that she killed Joffrey, and berates himself for thinking her marriage vows to him had any meaning. He knows, though, that she could not have done it alone, and that no one will believe Tyrion wasn’t in on it. He writes her name on his list anyway.
Kevan warns him he only has three days to come up with others, and says the hunt for Sansa continues apace. Podrick does not return until the day after that. Bronn is with him, but informs Tyrion that he is to wed Lollys. Tyrion tells him his sister has sold Bronn “a lame horse,” but Bronn doesn’t care, cheerfully speculating on the barrenness (and possible death) of Lollys’ older sister. Tyrion wonders whether Cersei “had any notion of the sort of serpent she’d given Lady Tanda to suckle.” But Bronn points out that Tyrion offered once to double any bribe he was given. Tyrion knows that only someone in Lady Tanda’s desperate position would agree to marry their daughter to lowborn scum like Bronn. Tyrion offers gold, and reminds Bronn that if he comes out of this trial alive he may rule the north one day through his wife. Bronn grins and opines that Tyrion’s offer is all maybes, and freely admits he fears fighting Ser Gregor. He says he likes Tyrion, but not enough to risk it and risk losing Lollys and Stokeworth. Tyrion tells him to go then.
Bronn hesitated at the door. “What will you do, Imp?”
“Kill Gregor myself. Won’t that make for a jolly song?”
“I hope I hear them sing it.” Bronn grinned one last time, and walked out of the door, the castle, and his life.
Despite his words, Tyrion knows he has no chance against Gregor himself. Tyrion considers sending Podrick for Shagga or Timett, but knows they will be nigh impossible to find. Kevan reports over the next two days that Sansa has not been found, nor the fool Dontos. Tyrion wonders how to prove that he didn’t poison Joffrey, when everyone at the feast saw him fill Joffrey’s cup.
The next day is the trial, and Ser Addam Marbrand brings Tyrion to the throne room, where hundreds are gathered. Tyrion reflects that Lord Tyrell and Prince Oberyn despise each other, and hopes to use that. Tywin immediately asks Tyrion flat-out if he killed Joffrey; Tyrion says “No.” Then he asks if Sansa did it, and Tyrion thinks that she is still his wife, and replies that the gods killed Joffrey, by having him choke on a pie. He makes an ill-advised jest, and Tywin tells him coldly that he will not speak until the witnesses against him have spoken.
Ser Balon Swann is first, and though he says he does not believe Tyrion killed Joffrey, also reluctantly admits that Tyrion struck Joffrey on the day of the riot. Ser Meryn Trant supports the story enthusiastically, adding that Tyrion had defended Sansa Stark against the king. Tyrion blurts that they should say what Joffrey was doing at the time, and Tywin shuts him up. The Kettleblacks report how Tyrion had threatened Cersei that he would “make her joy turn to ashes in her mouth,” but fail to mention Alayaya.
Ser Osmund claims Joffrey knew and feared that Tyrion wanted to kill him, and Tyrion cries that he is a liar. Cersei asks that he be put in fetters, for Tywin’s protection, but Tywin adjourns the court to resume the next day. Tyrion thinks of Tysha and Shae that night, and asks Kevan for Varys.
The next day, Maesters Ballabar and Frenken aver that poison killed the king. Grand Maester Pycelle identifies a number of poisons Tyrion had stolen from his cell, and Tyrion demands to know if any of the ones found could strangle a person the way Joffrey had died. Pycelle admits they could not, but opines that Tyrion must have used that particular one up. Tyrion declares that he had no part on Joffrey’s death, and again Tywin tells him to be silent. Then there is a parade of witnesses from the feast who testify that they saw Tyrion fill the king’s cup after threatening him, and Lady Merryweather swears she saw him drop something into the cup. Tyrion wonders when he made so many enemies. That night Kevan tells him Varys will not come, as he is testifying against Tyrion the next day.
Kevan urges Tyrion to confess to the murder and take the black instead of execution, and Tyrion laughs and reminds him of what happened to Ned Stark. Kevan points out that Tywin wasn’t involved in that, and says Tywin sent Kevan here with the offer. Tyrion declines, and asks if he is even going to be allowed to defend himself. Kevan reminds him he has no witnesses, and says even if he is innocent of the crime, the Wall would still be a safer place for him than King’s Landing; the mob will kill him if his judges don’t. Kevan makes a passionate speech in support of his brother’s honor, which leaves Tyrion rather amazed, and he agrees to think on the offer. He does, but cannot decide if his father is to be trusted, and does not know if he could bear being called a kinslayer for the rest of his life.
On the third day, Varys is called, and speaks of Tyrion’s schemes to remove the Hound from Joffrey’s guard and his desire to seat Tommen as king. He confirms (with documentation) every accusation brought against Tyrion short of the poisoning itself—Tyrion wonders how he is supposed to cross-examine “little birds,” and damns himself for ever trusting the eunuch. After Varys, Cersei says she has one more witness to call the next day, and Tyrion thinks that after this farce, execution will be almost a relief.
That night, Prince Oberyn comes to Tyrion’s cell, and asks if Tyrion poisoned Joffrey. Tyrion says no. Oberyn tells him he has found Alayaya, but then speaks of Cersei and her tacit offer to marry him if Oberyn finds Tyrion guilty. He relates how Dorne escaped the Young Dragon’s tyranny when their regent was killed by a well-placed bed of scorpions, and opines that he would rather have the scorpions than Cersei in his bed. Oberyn points out with irony that had Tyrion not fallen under suspicion he himself might have, since by Dornish law the Iron Throne should pass to Joffrey’s sister Myrcella, currently betrothed to Oberyn’s nephew.
Tyrion points out that Dornish law does not apply, and Tommen will inherit, but Oberyn counters that they could choose to crown Myrcella in Sunspear anyway, and asks if Cersei would support her son over her daughter. Tyrion thinks of how much Cersei resents being barred from inheritance by her gender, and answers that he is not sure how she would choose, but adds that Tywin will give her no choice.
“Your father,” said Prince Oberyn, “may not live forever.”
Tyrion warns him against speaking treason where the “little birds” can hear, but Oberyn is unconcerned. He remarks that Lord Tyrell is quite convinced of Tyrion’s guilt, but for himself, thinks that Tyrion looks “so very guilty that I am convinced of your innocence.” Still, he thinks that justice is paltry here, and Tyrion will be condemned. Tyrion tells him truthfully that Ser Amory Lorch killed Princess Rhaenys, but really was killed by a bear, and that Ser Gregor Clegane murdered young Prince Aegon and raped Oberyn’s sister Elia, but lies that Tywin never gave the order. Oberyn doesn’t believe him, but says that he might be able to save Tyrion anyway.
“You?” Tyrion studied him. “You are one judge in three. How could you save me?”
“Not as your judge. As your champion.”
Oh ho ho!
I was waiting this entire chapter for the unexpected last-minute save for Tyrion—bearing in mind, of course, that this is the kind of story where I might not actually have gotten one—but this is definitely not where I expected it to come from. I was expecting it to be Varys, actually, but I guess not so much, eh?
Varys = total weasel. Not that this is especially shocking or anything, but, well. I’d kind of thought that he’d rather work with Tyrion over Cersei and Tywin, but then he’s also totally the guy who jumps ship the minute it even looks like it’s sinking—and you have to admit, no metaphorical ship on earth looked more leaky than Tyrion’s in this chapter. Thanks to Cersei, mainly, because wow.
Anyway, so much for Varys. But this, this is kind of brilliant. Not least in how it is so very believable: Oberyn wants to be Tyrion’s champion, not to save Tyrion’s sorry ass, but for the chance to kill the man who murdered his nephew and raped his sister. Thoroughly plausible characterization FTW!
And oh, how I hope it happens. I hardly think Oberyn is any kind of saint, but if he accomplishes the twofer of saving Tyrion’s life while simultaneously ridding the world of that butt-boil Gregor Clegane, I will have nothing but kudos for him.
And don’t think I have missed that this is inadvertently getting me to endorse the eminently idiotic “trial by combat” thing I was yelling about in previous chapters. To which I can only say, DAMN YOU, GEORGE R. R. MARTIN.
Give me sweet lies, and keep your bitter truths.
And the rest of this chapter (which was fucking uncompressible, Jesus H. will everyone please stop having complex nuanced conversations that are impossible to efficiently summarize in this book) was devoted to (a) demonstrating how very bad an idea it is to have Cersei as an enemy, and (b) making me have ALL THE FEELS about Tyrion and how completely tragic he is and how no one loves him ever, and holy moly that was depressing.
Because, okay, I understand that Tyrion is not a perfect person. I mean, DUH, do you think I have not noticed what series I’m reading at this point, come on. But at least part of my love and/or rooting-for-ness of him is based on how wonderfully he has always embodied (whether he wanted to or not) the truths about deep-seated prejudices against those who are Different, in whatever way that might be, and how that, legitimately and through no fault of the victim, impairs their ability to fulfill their own potential as people.
Because, how high would someone as brilliant and cunning as Tyrion have risen, if not hampered by how people look at him and see only a deformed dwarf? Sure, you can argue that much of that brilliant cunning was borne from the very adversity that curtails it, but the core root of that stubborn brilliance still had to be there within him from the beginning, otherwise would he have not long since crumpled under the onslaught of the bullshit that is his entire life? I ask you.
Tyrion, to me, is (among many other things, obviously) a stellar demonstration of the evils of privilege: of humanity’s thoroughly regrettable tendency to value (or devalue, rather) a person’s physical appearance over their less tangible attributes—their character, abilities, intelligence, or virtue. Or even, in many cases, over their basic humanity. It is such a kneejerk, immature, stupid thing to do, and yet we all do it, all the time. And anyone who says they haven’t made that mistake in their lives is a liar, because it is how we are all programmed from childhood on, and to disregard it is a lesson learned only with more effort than most people are willing to employ. Even the privilege that Tyrion does have (i.e. his noble birth) is not enough to overcome it. As Eddie Izzard once said, it’s 70% how you look, 20% how you sound, and only 10% is what you actually say.
This is a discussion that has a significant presence in my online life (and I suspect, or at least hope, in many people’s lives who spend time online), but it is often shocking how frequently it goes unexamined in “real” life. I just very recently had the extremely frustrating experience of trying to explain to a “real-life” friend what exactly privilege is and how it functions to oppress those who do not have it, and so I am led to imagine just how much more impossible it would be to explain that problem to anyone in Westeros. And then I shudder, because agh.
The kangaroo court Tyrion is subjected to in this chapter is especially distressing in how I can see, so disturbingly clearly, how closely it reflects the way a similar trial for him might go in the modern-day United States, despite the fact that there ought to be a fucking WORLD of difference between the U.S. justice system and this pile of medieval bullshit. And yet.
It’s a little bit chilling, when you think on it.
Tangentially, I was super upset (even as I was not particularly surprised) by Bronn’s abandonment of Tyrion. Tyrion, of course, was even less surprised by it than I was, but that didn’t stop me feeling a pang of sympathy for him over it—not to mention over Tyrion’s inability to think of anyone who would speak for him. How shitty must it be, to feel that you have no allies in the world of any kind? To have no one who could be bothered to speak for you even to save your life. Ugh, I can’t even imagine it.
Anyway. I do feel that Kevan has a good point, though: even if Tyrion wins this trial, he is still convicted in the court of public opinion, and therefore really probably ought to not stick around afterwards. I wonder (assuming Oberyn’s scheme works) where he will go? Where could he go?
Go looking for Sansa, maybe? Because there were even more Tyrion feels for me, in that he refused to throw her under the bus even though he was convinced she had done so to him. As he did for Tywin, actually, to Oberyn, but I have much less sympathy for that because fuck Tywin, y’all.
Kevan’s big speech about Tywin’s awesomeness in this chapter had me rolling my eyes for real, justly or not, because seriously, Tywin, these are your children. Political expediency should not win over family, dude. And maybe this is just proof that I should never be the head of a noble dynasty, but you know, all things considered I am totally okay with that.
Speaking of which, Oberyn does raise an interesting (if disturbing) question: if it did come down to a contest between Myrcella and Tommen over the throne, which one would Cersei support, assuming no interference from Tywin?
And the answer is… well, like Tyrion, I dunno. I guess it depends on whether Cersei’s (entirely understandable) frustration with the limitations pressed on her by her gender are expanded to the female population at large (or even just her own daughter) or are more concentrated on herself personally. Based on what I know of Cersei thus far (which honestly isn’t all that much, and all outsider POVs), it’s kind of hard to say. So that’ll be an interesting thing to watch unfold, for sure.
I suppose it will be a matter of academic speculation (since I can’t imagine that Tyrion wouldn’t take Oberyn up on his offer) whether Tywin’s plea bargain re: Tyrion taking the black was actually legit or not. I tend to think it was, actually, since for all the shit I (rightly) give Tywin, he does seem to be genuinely reluctant to actually kill his progeny (and how sad is it that we’re giving him points for not murdering his children, WTF). But then again, considering what Tyrion’s likely survival chances would be as a member of the Night Watch, maybe the difference between sending him to the Wall and outright killing him is so small as to be negligible.
Jeez, this family.
And, yeah. That’s what I got for this one. Have a lovely seven days, and I’ll see you next Thursday!