Note that it’s been nearly a year since Tyrion had sex. The TV show’s introduction of his character seemed off to me for exactly this reason: the books show him not as a guy who constantly sleeps with lots of random prostitutes (at once!), but as a fairly strict serial monogamist. I think the only time we’ll see him have sex with a woman who isn’t his “girlfriend” is in ADwD, and he doesn’t exactly enjoy that.
For me, the battle scenes in fantasy novels are generally the boring stuff I have to get through, but this chapter’s is about as good as they meant. Tyrion’s rallying speech, and later taking out of the knight … classic. And I can hear the sounds of the Lannister trumpets. (And it’s interesting that, if I’m remembering the later books correctly, pretty much all the real battle scenes are from the POV of Tyrion, e.g., someone on the “bad” side.)
- “Ser Kevan seldom ‘had a thought’ that Lord Tywin had not had first.” I don’t think that’s exactly fair.
- Another awesome line: “Black Ears did not eat with Stone Crows, Stone Crows did not eat with Moon Brothers, and no one ate with Burned Men.”
- Shae is introduced: “slim, dark-haired, no more than eighteen,” little over five feet tall. I do like the “men call me … often” line.
- But more importantly, Podrick Payne is introduced!
- Shagga and Conn are sweet.
- Tywin’s withholding of battle plans from Tyrion parallels Robb’s later treatment of Edmure.
Mormont: “The things we love destroy us every time.” Is this true? Just sticking to the major POV characters:
- Ned is destroyed by his love of (his idealized image of) Robert, and his resulting blindness to crucial aspects of his situation. (His love of honor figures in also, but this reread has shown Robert to be much more important than I previously realized.)
- Catelyn is destroyed by her love of her family(or of her concept of herself as perfect family woman), and of drama (e.g., foolishly insisting on traveling to King’s Landing herself; kidnapping Tyrion and then ignoring all logical arguments as to his innocence).
- Jon is destroyed by his love of being right (see his own comment about himself below). Ultimately this stems from his love of his father and yearning for a level of security and recognition not afforded by his social status.
- Daenerys was, for quite a while, on the path to being destroyed by her love of her people, or more cynically, of her image of herself as mother savior and emancipator. (Daario’s just a blip on the radar screen.)
- Theon is destroyed by his yearning for validation, stemming from his frustrated love of the Starks and what they stand for.
- Jaime did rather poorly living a life defined by his love of his sister.
- If Brienne has been destroyed, it’s by her love of honor and, possibly, Jaime.
On the other hand:
- Arya loves her family, her freedom, and the satisfaction of attaining mastery, and has mostly benefited by at least the latter things. And she’s about as far from destroyed as any major POV character at this point.
- Sansa loves her illusions, and is also far from destroyed yet.
- Tyrion loves his own intellect and the idea of being in love with a woman. Things haven’t gone well for him, but when it comes down to it, most of his misfortunes have been visited on him by others in spite of his efforts to avoid them. In particular, the bane of his existence is his father, who he mostly has the sense to hate.
- Bran suffered significant harm due to his love of climbing, but once again, I think the blame for that (as well as for his increasingly creepy situation) largely falls on others, including possibly the gods/fate.
- Davos seems to love his family and to have a generally strong but realistically calibrated moral compass, which one could describe as a love of goodness. He’s lost a lot, but once again, largely due to the actions of others, and he has remained more stolidly himself (i.e., undestroyed) than any other major adult character.
- Sam loves knowledge, comfort, and his brothers (particularly Jon), and is doing quite well so far.
- Cersei loves herself (her brother/husband and children, I think, are loved only as extensions thereof). I don’t think I’d call her destroyed as all her sufferings don’t seem to have made much of a psychological dent.
Elsewhere in this chapter.
- I think this is the point where Jon chapters, never my favorites, become the boring stuff I have to get through to reach the good stuff (like, yes, Sansa chapters). I’m just not that into zombies, male bonding, or teen angst.
- “Jon Snow was nothing if not stubborn.” Word.
- Jon was “a babe in arms” when the current summer began. So Robert’s war took place in winter?
- Old Nan says: in the past, the Others invaded the south and destroyed human cities and even kingdoms.
- Jon is bright enough to doubt that Joffrey would allow Eddard to live (Joffrey’s handlers apparently weren’t).
- “If Lord Eddard was killed, [Catelyn] would be as much to blame as the queen.” Word again.
- Mormont’s raven initially screams “corn,” but is later able to manage the much more situation-appropriate “burn.” If the raven is a front for the three-eyed crow, this suggests a limited degree of control of its faculties (insufficient, for example, to make it say “There’s a zombie in the solar!”)
Tyrion: “Lord Eddard is a proud, honorable, and honest man, and his lady wife is worse.”
This implies that Catelyn is prouder, more honorable, and more honest than Ned. Is this true? She is proud, as in vain: by treating the existence of a bastard child, which seems quite common in noble families, as an egregious crime, she implicitly holds herself above other noblewomen. Pride also prevents her from seeing that her actions are problematic, even in the face of mounting evidence. She is honorable in the sense of adhering to the letter of prescribed standards for noble behavior, but much less so in examining her own actions for their adherence to the spirit of those standards. No doubt she believes she is honest, but she can be self-deceiving: she thinks of herself as devoted to her sons and, to a lesser extent, her husband, but her actions tend to undermine and endanger them. It’s as if Catelyn’s outer construction of honor is indeed more elaborate than Ned’s, but lacks the inner scaffolding that makes him this story arc’s most honorable (to an ultimately self-destructive fault) character by modern standards. Where Ned’s appreciation for his common soldiers and servants is repeatedly depicted, Tyrion knows that the most appreciation Catelyn could ever summon for someone like Bronn is “a polite word and a look of distaste.”
Elsewhere in this chapter:
- Will Mord ever show up at the gates of Casterly Rock?
- The Tysha story is told for the first time (I guess this is where we begin to approach those twenty thousand million rapes). Bronn, as the voice of common(er) sense, suggests a psychologically appropriate response.
- Are the mountain clans matriarchal? The clan chiefs repeatedly refer to their desire to please, feed, etc. “the mothers.” At minimum they clearly appreciate the miracle of childbirth.
I really do like these Tyrion chapters, but for some reason usually find little in them to specifically remark upon. His banter (“Don’t kill him anywhere”) is generally great (and Catelyn’s obtuseness infuriating).
- Lots of minor players are mentioned by name and their battle deeds enumerated, despite the fact that most of them are going to be either killed before the chapter is out, or never significantly mentioned again.
- The death of Tyrion’s horse is “one more debt owed to the Starks,” which he has yet to personally repay. One could say the Lannisters communally repaid it via the Red Wedding, but I like these words better as foreshadowing of a future Tyrion-against-Stark move.
- Meet Bronn: “bone thin and bone hard, with black eyes and black hair, and a stubble of beard.” He’s a surprisingly worldly guy, knowing, for example, that Dothraki like horse meat.
Tyrion’s character really comes to life here for me, particularly in the complexity of his reaction to Mormont.
One line that stands out: “most of my kin are bastards” … more true than he knows (or is admitting he knows), if he counts his nieces and nephews.
…but only after feeling betrayed by his father, fantasizing his uncle’s death, and mooning after his “true brothers” (or are they cousins?). His life has already taught him, though, that it’s “better not to speak of the things [he] want[s].”
Other stuff I noticed in this chapter:
Tyrion calls Jon “remarkably polite for a bastard.” I’d say he’s remarkably polite because he’s a bastard. Either way, Tyrion manages to break Jon’s cool for the first time in the book, by stating what he believes to be the unromantic truth about the Night’s Watch: that they’re a bunch of criminals (true) guarding the wall against imaginary foes (yeah, right, and–as Tyrion also says in this chapter–“there are no dragons.” But “life is full of these little ironies.”)
Tyrion also reflects that Jon’s unknown mother “had left little of herself in her son.” We’ll see.
Other fun facts about Tyrion we learn in this chapter: he is a pyro(!), has homicidal fantasies about his immediate family, and has difficulty walking (less than a hundred pages after doing a handspring/somersault).
Finally, #love this line:
The Lannisters never declined, graciously or otherwise. The Lannisters took what was offered.
Bonus: in this chapter we meet Yoren: “stooped and sinister” and unwashed, with matted and lice-filled black hair and beard and a twisted shoulder.