Kick Ass: Tyrion Lannister

Take every cutesy or not-so-cutesy stereotype about dwarves that you can possibly imagine, from Gimli son of Gloin chopping up orcs to Mulch Diggums unfastening his bumflap and chuck them in a heap: Tyrion Lannister sends them all packing in a towering inferno of Lannister crimson with a decent rally speech thrown in for good measure. Played by the glorious Peter Dinklage, he’s complex, charismatic, cheeky, hung like a donkey and far too smart for his own good, characteristics that make him rather overqualified for this second installment of Kick Ass.
Name: Tyrion Lannister
Show: Game of Thrones
Played by: Peter Dinklage

A central theme of A Storm of Swords is that of how out of all the younger Lannisters, Tyrion resembles his father Lord Tywin the most in terms of his brilliant mind for strategy and his unfortunate preference for the company of prostitutes rather than that of noble ladies, similarities that Tyrion only discovers moments before he ascertains that Lord Tywin does not, after all, shit gold. This is an example of GRRM’s titanic feel for poignancy, because the relationship between the two men is disastrous. Tywin’s grief for his dead wife has metamorphosed into a blinding hatred for his youngest son, to whom he speaks these appalling words: ‘You are an ill-made, devious, disobedient, spiteful little creature full of envy, lust, and low cunning. Men’s laws give you the right to bear my name and display my colors, since I cannot prove that you are not mine. To teach me humility, the gods have condemned me to watch you waddle about wearing that proud lion that was my father’s sigil and his father’s before him.’ Deep down, Tyrion still maintains a desire to win his father’s love, but constant rejections and innumerable humiliations have led him to adopt his customary armour of sarcasm and insolence not just in his relationship with his father, but in his interaction with most people he meets. It is this side of Tyrion that first wins him the affection of the audience, because his insolence is very witty, but our admiration comes from his true self. His true self is the shrewd politician and the filthy-mouthed, silver-tongued conversationist with great compassion for the downtrodden and excluded, as well as utter ruthlessness when it comes to his enemies. He uses the inevitable occurrence of people seeing his height rather than him (which happens 99 times out of 100) to his own advantage by managing to spectacularly deceive those he (often justifiably) has his knife in for, but this unique camouflage is also responsible for turning him into an emotional volcano that spews sorrow, loneliness, and of course, guilt, in his weaker moments. His sister Cersei believes that he is infected by the ‘sickness’ of wanting to be loved, something he’d never admit to in a million years despite the unusual astuteness of Cersei’s observation.

Tyrion is not exactly battle-trained (perhaps for obvious reasons) and has spent his life refining his mind by reading every book he can get his hands on. While he did once impressively kill a guy with a shield and get knocked out by a club before a battle even started, his crowning achievement is his spectacular rally speech at the Battle of the Blackwater that succeeded in convincing an entire garrison of gold cloaks half-paralysed by fear to follow him into the mouth of Hell. His aforementioned adoption of books rather than swords has also turned him into a master tactician despite his lack of hard experience and is directly responsible for the grand wildfire scheme that stalled Stannis Baratheon’s attack on King’s Landing by setting the entire river on fire (see the view from Sansa Stark’s bedroom window for confirmation). His reign as Hand of the King was probably one of the most successful in recent Westeros history, despite its cruelly unceremonious end, boasting a significant balancing-out on the political scene (i.e. keeping Cersei in her place), more efficient spending of money and strategies to defend the capital that are slightly more efficient than shouting ‘the king can do as he likes’ at anyone who’ll listen.

To both literary and TV buffs, Tyrion is absolutely irresistible because you never stop finding new stuff in him. Sometimes he’s in such a black pit that you think he’s utterly lost, other times he’s so dazzlingly brilliant that the idea of him turning out to be the greatest statesman in the history of the world isn’t far-fetched at all. The minute you think you’ve seen each facet that exists in him, another one appears and you plunge into all that glorious complexity and fierce intelligence all over again and begin from scratch. He is the true Faceless Man, I think.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Darryn Lee says:

    interesting in your introduction that you include fantasy/mythological dwarfs/dwarves in with Tyrion Lannister who is a person with dwarfism, since the first has supernatural powers and is considered more than a humam, whilst the second is a so called birth defect along with weaknesses etc. Any reason for this?

    1. ladygilraen says:

      Darryn, dear. Re-read the introduction (thanks for commenting, by the way! :-)) My intention was to discourage grouping Tyrion with the conventional fantasy novel dwarf. Gimli and Mulch both fall cleanly into that category.

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