Father doesn’t discriminate. We’re all being shipped off to hell together.
Father doesn’t discriminate. We’re all being shipped off to hell together.
One of the big themes of asoiaf as I see it is the deconstruction of chivalry. And when I refer to the term deconstruction I don’t mean the same thing as subverrsion, even though these two terms are often used synonymously. A deconstruction is when a trope is twisted around, subverted, taken apart, and then put back together to make something new. Martin uses many of his characters for this purpose. He turns his characters inside out and takes them apart in order to get closer to the real story he’s telling, “the only story worth telling […] the human heart in conflict with itself.”
One of the ways he does this is by setting up Tyrion and Jaime as sometime parallels of each other. This is made pretty obvious from the beginning of AGOT from the first glimpse of the Lannister brothers we get in the series, through the eyes of Jon Snow:
The Lion and the Imp; there
was no mistaking which was which. Ser Jaime Lannister was twin to Queen
Cersei; tall and golden, with flashing green eyes and a smile that cut
like a knife. He wore crimson silk, high black boots, a black satin
cloak. On the breast of his tunic, the lion of his House was embroidered
in gold thread, roaring its defiance. They called him the Lion of
Lannister to his face and whispered “Kingslayer” behind his back.
Jon found it hard to look away from him. This is what a king should look like, he thought to himself as the man passed.
he saw the other one, waddling along half-hidden by his brother’s side.
Tyrion Lannister, the youngest of Lord Tywin’s brood and by far the
ugliest. All that the gods had given to Cersei and Jaime, they had
denied Tyrion. He was a dwarf, half his brother’s height, struggling to
keep pace on stunted legs. His head was too large for his body, with a
brute’s squashed-in face beneath a swollen shelf of brow. One green eye
and one black one peered out from under a lank fall of hair so blond it
seemed white. Jon watched him with fascination.
Jon is fascinated by the dichotomy present between the brothers, as a boy who himself occupies a liminal space as a bastard raised in a noble household. Jon is very familiar with the concepts of chivalry and knighthood, concepts which also serve to reinforce the status quo, the divine right of kings, and the belief that those who were unfortunate enough not to be favored by the gods were inherently morally inferior.
One of the ways that GRRM deconstructs these concepts here is by playing with appearances. Jaime is “what a king should look like”, while Tyrion is contrasted unfavorably with the rest of the Lannisters, who are described with imagery invoking nobility. But GRRM also emphasizes the point that appearances can be deceiving. There is something rotten behind all of Jaime’s kingly glory: his green eyes are “flashing” and his smile “cut like a knife”, while his cloak and boots are black. While at face value he might appear to be the perfect image of nobility and knighthood, behind his back he is called “kingslayer”. This is the first indication that we have of Jaime’s complicated relationship with chivalry and his status as a knight.
Tyrion, by contrast, is not a knight, and can never be one. He is openly called Imp, and has to work harder to be seen as a respected member of his family. His relationship with chivalric values is quite different from Jaime’s because whereas Jaime’s conflict comes from expectations that he behave in accordance with corrupt chivalric values, the expectation for Tyrion is that he is the monster in the songs. As the series progresses, Jaime will attempt to get back to that state of assumed nobility, whereas Tyrion has to prove that he is not the monster he was expected to be since birth.
GRRM sets this up by showing the irony of appearances, by giving both Jaime and Tyrion kingly imagery, but Tyrion’s is associated with shadows, with hidden value that lurks below the surface:
“Remember this, boy. All dwarfs may be bastards, yet not all bastards
need be dwarfs.” And with that he turned and sauntered back into the
feast, whistling a tune. When he opened the door, the light from within
threw his shadow clear across the yard, and for just a moment Tyrion
Lannister stood tall as a king.
What Tyrion says to Jon here is important. The above statement is not as often quoted as the previous part, about never forgetting what you are and reclaiming what is used against you, but I think it’s equally as important. Tyrion may be assumed to have bastard status because of his disability, but what he’s telling Jon here is that he is not defined by his bastardry, that he does not have to accept the role assigned to him by society. In the scene quoted above, light reveals what is hidden in darkness. Shadows often show us who we really are. In the shadows, a bastard can become noble, and dwarf can become a king.
Which makes me think of a famous quotation:
“Character is what you are in the dark.” – Dwight L. Moody
Which I think GRRM had to have been thinking of when he had Tyrion say “In the dark I am the knight of flowers,” which brings me to a discussion of Tyrion and Jaime and their relationship to chivalry as it applies to romance/sex.
I’ve written before about Tyrion and Jaime’s reactions to the Tysha incident, and how Jaime’s response of wanting to track down and punish the rapists is a performative masculine display of chivalry that fits in with Martin’s deconstruction of chivalry as an institution that fails to do what it is ostensibly supposed to do, which is protect women. Jaime’s preoccupation with punishing the rapists is about Lannister pride, while Tyrion, who can never be a knight, is the one who stays behind to take care of Tysha.
My brother unsheathed his sword and went after them, while I dismounted to protect the girl.
They’d torn the rags she was wearing half off her back, so I wrapped her
in my cloak while Jaime chased the men into the woods. By the time he
came trotting back, I’d gotten a name out of her, and a story.
Jaime was all in a lather to hunt down the men. It was
not often outlaws dared prey on travelers so near to Casterly Rock, and
he took it as an insult. The girl was too frightened to send off by
herself, though, so I offered to take her to the closest inn and feed
her while my brother rode back to the Rock for help.
While Jaime takes on a much more masculine role of hunting down the men in the name of honor, it’s interesting to me that Tyrion’s role here is much more like a feminine, nurturing role. I think there’s also a parallel to be made here with what GRRM does with Brienne in Jaime’s narrative, who he uses as a character to show true knighthood in contrast with a masculine ideal of knighthood. True knighthood comes from caring for others, not from heteronormative ideas of knights and ladies. This concept also reappears in Sansa’s storyline, with Sansa as the mouthpiece of what true knighthood should be. True knighthood in this series, I would argue, is feminine, or at least, atypically masculine. And back to Tyrion’s “In the dark I am the Knight of Flowers,” line. The Knight of Flowers, of course, is a knight who appears to have all the performative pieces of what it means to be a knight, but who, in the dark, hides his own atypical romance with another man.
There’s another layer of deceptive appearances in the Tysha story, as Tyrion spends most of his formative years thinking that this early romantic experience was a lie, blanketed with another layer of sexual trauma. And, not coincidentally, it’s Jaime who perpetuates that lie, and Jaime who reveals the truth to Tyrion at the end of ASOS. Tyrion really WAS Tysha’s knight but was not allowed to be, because Tysha was lowborn and because Tyrion himself is a dwarf.
It’s also worth noting that Tyrion’s chivalric impulses are all towards fallen women, women and girls who are not the typical object of chivalric protection. “He has these fits of gallantry from time to time,” says Jaime of Tyrion, remarking on how odd it is for a dwarf to have chivalric impulses at all. Tywin also points out this behavior in Tyrion with Alayaya:
Tyrion would not deny it. “I made threats, yes. To keep Alayaya safe. So the Kettleblacks would not misuse her.”
“To save a whore’s virtue, you threatened your own House, your own kin? Is that the way of it?”
To Tywin, it is illogical for Tyrion to extend protection to a woman who sells her body at the risk of those of noble, more worthy birth. But it’s perhaps because of Tysha or because of his own place in society as a high born dwarf, or because of his distance with his family, and his own experience with sexual abuse, that Tyrion’s knightly impulses extend towards such women.
Meanwhile, young Jaime learns that although it is his job as a knight to protect women of noble birth, such as Queen Rhaella, he cannot protect her from the King himself. This is the injustice of chivalry: “Protect women, but only those of noble birth, and only when that doesn’t conflict with the desire of a noble born man.”
Although Jaime may extend protection to the kinds of women Tyrion associates with, he dissociates with them and thinks of them as “more fitting for Tyrion’s bed than his.” He specifically tells Brienne – albeit in a joke – that he “only rescue[s] maidens,” because he’s learned the rules of chivalry through his own traumatic experiences. He tells Brienne that it is better for a high born maiden to be dead than to be raped.
Sansa is an unusual case – another liminal character – because she is a noble born girl who often inspires chivalric protection in those around her, because of her delicate, ladylike femininity. She’s also, however, the fallen daughter of a traitor, and that is part of what inspires a protective impulse for her in Tyrion. For Jaime, Sansa is “his last chance at honor”, the noble born princess that could perhaps renew his status as chivalrous white knight.
Finally, this parallel and contrast is seen in Tyrion and Jaime’s relationship with Penny and Brienne, respectively. As stated above, Brienne is a true knight, the embodiment of what knightly compassion should be, as seen through a female lens. Jaime’s protective instincts towards Brienne are very in line with heteronormative chivalry: protect the honor of noble born women. Yet they are deconstructed because of Brienne’s gender nonconforming activities and her unattractive appearance. Jaime does not know what to make of her half the time, simultaneously seeking to protect her and berating her while he’s at it. Tyrion’s relationship with Penny is similar, but in keeping with Tyrion’s nontraditional chivalric impulse, Penny is a common woman who would not be the object of chivalric romance, being both lowborn, unattractive, and disabled. She is a perfect mirror for Tyrion’s chivalric empathy because she is also a dwarf, and is thus both the object of Tyrion’s compassion and repulsion.
I think there’s also something to be said about Tyrion’s murder of Shae and Jaime’s eventual murder of Cersei, and how that also fits with the differing trajectory of Tyrion and Jaime’s arcs, but I’ll leave that unsaid for now.
I kind of think you’ve got everything backwards here.
What George does is deconstruction, not subversion. So I would seriously disagree with your interpretation as it is pretty shallow and reductive. You’re half right, but it’s not a “perfect double cross”.
Since Martin is writing deconstruction, he relies on our understanding of several tropes, subverts our expectations, only to subvert them again. Westeros has the expectation of Jaime as the white knight and Tyrion as the monster, but, as I said above, and as you mentioned, Martin also subverts this idea and introduces another set of tropes readers are familiar with: Jaime as the embodiment of villainous masculinity and Tyrion as the noble outcast.
As the series goes on, these perceptions of these characters do change.
However, Martin is writing deconstruction, not subversion.
A “perfect double cross” of these tropes would be pulling a 360 and ending up right back where we started, with the idea that beauty and patriarchal masculinity really does equal goodness after all. It’s problematic that some readers think this is what Martin is doing because this is a seriously ableist trope. Tyrion isn’t really the monster and Jaime really isn’t the perfect knight. What Martin does, thankfully, is something much more complex. He introduces dark sides and heroic sides to both these characters. He makes them human.
As to your specific arguments, Tyrion has misogynistic tendencies, but not moreso than Jaime. Tyrion’s relationship with Shae is awful and complicated and he is using her and obviously does not know the real her, but as a disabled abuse victim he’s also using her in a sort of carer role. He doesn’t just want her for sex, he wants companionship and for her to help him with things like when his legs cramp. As a disabled person it kind of rubs me the wrong way when people go on about how Tyrion is a misogynist for paying Shae for things that are not a given for disabled people in Westeros. Tyrion is the only one who tries to protect Alayaya, and the reason she was in danger in the first place was because Cersei and Tywin hate Tyrion and don’t care at all about what happens to these women. It’s very convenient to talk about Tyrion’s misogyny here but not Cersei’s or Tywin’s. Chataya is not nearly killed. Lollys also disgusts Shae and Bronn, and her own mother treats her in an awful and ableist way. Lollys is also treated like a joke within the text itself, so I blame Martin for that bit of ableism and misogyny. Not saying Tyrion gets off the hook for it, but it’s not an example of the author trying to portray this as a trait unique to Tyrion or evidence of his character becoming darker, since many characters act this way.
Where did it benefit him to care about Sansa’s feelings? When he stood up to Joffrey and spoke out against him abusing her? It certainly didn’t benefit him the many times that he does this, and in fact it comes back to harm him in the end as it is used as evidence against him at his trial (as is his defence of Alayaya). Out of the times I can think of when he defends Sansa (to Tywin when Tywin proposes the marriage and Tyrion says It’s wrong, to Joff when Joff says he is going to serve Sansa’s head to Robb, when Joff has her beaten before the court, and at his trial, the only time where it benefited him was when he stopped the bedding, because not only was he protecting Sansa from getting molested but he was protecting himself from a bunch of people who would have loved to humiliate him. I don’t see anything wrong with a disabled person wanting to protect both themselves and a child from being sexually assaulted, though. Not sure why that should be used against Tyrion.
“Downplays the murder of her family and wants to possess her despite that fact.” Wait, what?
“He had expected anguish and anger when he told her of her brother’s death, but Sansa’s face had remained so still that for a moment he feared she had not understood. It was only later, with a heavy oaken door between them, that he heard her sobbing. Tyrion had considered going to her then, to offer what comfort he could. No, he had to remind himself, she will not look for solace from a Lannister. The most he could do was to shield her from the uglier details of the Red Wedding as they came down from the Twins. Sansa did not need to hear how her brother’s body had been hacked and mutilated, he decided; nor how her mother’s corpse had been dumped naked into the Green Fork in a savage mockery of House Tully’s funeral customs. The last thing the girl needed was more fodder for her nightmares.
It was not enough, though. He had wrapped his cloak around his shoulders and sworn to protect her, but that was as cruel a jape as the crown the Freys had placed atop the head of Robb Stark’s direwolf after they had sewn it onto his headless corpse.”
Actually, this is a running theme in Tyrion’s chapters after the wedding and the very first reason Tyrion brings up to Tywin about why he does not want the marriage. The second reason is that Sansa is a child. Once Tyrion is forced into the marriage, he also wishes that she could love him – because he is convinced that this is his only option – but he also knows why she can’t. We get a lot of details about just how awful what the Lannisters did to Sansa’s family was, and Tyrion thinking about how the marriage was just one more act of cruelty and there wasn’t anything he could do to make it better. He also brings this up to Tywin several times, and specifically mentions the murder of her family, far from downplaying it.
The way he treats the sex slaves in ADWD is awful, but it’s also a reflection of his own self-loathing and depression and ptsd and he hates himself even more afterwards. He’s also the only person out of everyone he interacts with in those chapters who sees this treatment as wrong. He does it anyway, so it’s still awful, but again, this isn’t used by the author to show that Tyrion is really the monster everyone thought he was at first or that “appearances are decieving.” It’s used to show Tyrion’s trauma, it’s the valley before the heroic peak (in case you didn’t know, Tyrion is one of the heroes. Surprise!). Now, you could criticize Martin, and I do, for using rape as a flaw for his male heroes to overcome, but he does this with Jaime and many other characters, too, so you have to apply that criticism evenly across the board.
As for Penny, Tyrion’s relationship with her is complicated (and very like Jaime and Brienne’s). He admires her in some ways and resents her in others. He wants to protect her but insults her. He especially hates how she degrades herself in order to keep herself safe, and while Penny is not at fault for surviving the only way she knows how, Tyrion is not wrong for hating it. He is not wrong for thinking himself better than the ableist role assigned to people with dwarfism.
Tyrion is also not wrong for rejecting Penny’s kiss. He tries to let her down gently, and yes, he is using his marriage as an excuse, but guess what? Tyrion is not entitled to reciprocate Penny’s feelings. Or is it because Tyrion is disabled that I see this argument so often? It’s a pretty big double standard, because this fandom will call Tyrion all sorts of disgusting names for having his own preferences, but Tyrion is not allowed to have preferences and must accept unwanted kisses. Are you fuckin’ serious, because don’t talk to me about misogyny or consent or rape if you don’t also think Tyrion’s consent matters.
You make a blanket statement about Tyrion never protecting the weak unless it benefits him but as I already pointed out in some examples above (there are many more) this is not true. And again, your interpretation is a shallow one that leads right back into ableist medieval tropes.
As for Jaime, he never, ever, addresses pushing Bran. He is kind to Brienne in some ways but awful to her in others. He makes gross misogynistic comments about Brienne, and his defense of Pia is kind of gross because it is full of infantalizing language and his madonna/whore complex is on full display when he tells his man that Pia is not fit for marriage (because she has been soiled, even though it was rape) but that he should have fun with her. Jaime is also pretty gross about Tysha and does not care about what happened to her, only Tyrion, and even then does not seem to realize the full extent of how it hurt Tyrion and starts to resent Tyrion in AFFC when Tyrion does not instantly forgive him for being complicit in Tyrion and Tysha’s sexual abuse. He also becomes more and more misogynistic and sexually violent towards Cersei. And the siege of Riverrun was not an act of goodness, it was damage control for a corrupt regime. Jaime thinks he is being redeemed and regaining his position as white knight but he is not (and he strongly resents people who don’t recognize his supposed heroism). Similarly, Tyrion in ADWD thinks himself the monster everyone told him he was at birth, and tries to play the part, but his instinct towards helping others keeps coming back.
I’ve given you kind of a shortened version because I have made all of these arguments before, so you can check my tags if you are still curious, because there is a lot more to say about why the idea that Tyrion and Jaime are on opposing arcs of villainy and heroism respectively is both wrong and reductive. Martin does show us that appearances are deceiving, but he does it by portraying these characters as nuanced and complex, not just exchanging one trope for another. And as I said above, the tropes you mentioned, Jaime as the embodiment of toxic masculinity and Tyrion as the noble outcast, exist in the first place to combat old, ableist and misogynistic tropes. If he were merely pulling a 180 subversion he would wind up in a place that is, in a literary sense, overdone and reductive, and also seriously harmful, especially in Tyrion’s case, because the evil/corrupt dwarf trope very much still exists in media (in fact I saw it the other day in Berserk, and Martin uses it himself with minor scenes, like Bonobo and Dany’s HOTU visions). But Martin adds a lot of complexity to Tyrion’s narrative, so don’t make blanket statements based on ableist tropes, and especially don’t do so in order to make Jaime, who is just as much of a misogynistic asshole as Tyrion, look better.
TOP 50 Characters (as voted by my followers) #50 → Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones)
“My mind is my weapon. My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer, and I have my mind. And a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”
There’s always been more than enough
death in the world for my taste. I can do without it
in my leisure time.
a game of slap joffrey
I LIVE for Joffrey being bitch slapped.
He is Watching you.
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This painting was made from a scene from the Game of Thrones series, where Varys talks with Tyrion at King’s Landing. My intention was to test the new tools from Procreate app for iPad, so I used that scene as reference wich was easy. The hard job was the painting process, there’s a lot of details and it took me forever.