How Retinues Reflect Tyrion Lannister

While I really enjoyed Alt Shift X’s look into Tyrion Lannister and don’t have an interest in writing a broad article about the character, I noticed an aspect of the individual and something pertinent to many feudal stories that escaped notice somewhat: the importance of a powerful character’s retinue.

When purely considering the literature, rather than a case of more limited casting or relationship dynamics as audiences contemplate in television, much like the meznie, companion groups, sisterhoods and so on, these organisations and broader meritorious links were both very engaging and an actual reality of life for those ambitious, aspiring, or the charismatic.

Daenerys Targaryen, Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister show in their roles as tritagonists not just differences in location and a shared effect and exposure to the corners of the world; by dint of their underdog status and intelligence, eventually individuals band around them. Each of these groups are exiles, unknown friends, those with potential, joviality; many ruthless but also those innocent and unassuming.

Tyrion’s story is in many ways the transition of an antihero to villain, a set opposite to the less prominent and more solitary character of his brother Jamie. As their morality arguably exchanges places, or they divide further and further apart despite the status of political operators and warlords, throughout the core text A Song of Ice and Fire gives Tyrion groups of those willing to do his bidding as part of his full maturity and first taste of power, and watching him make alliances and carry on these attendants reflect much of his personality and present state.

Tyrion may be a romantically unloved character, irritated and haunted by the true knowledge that without the trappings of his hated father’s wealth he would have no compulsive power at all. But he is not alone, the show both being more pessimistic than the books, and reasonably lacking an even larger cast. River Clans, then no one, then Second Sons mercenaries reflect Tyrion’s style but also appearance, fitting with GRRM’s theme of looks not being what they appear, military competence coming before all else, the deciding factor -with a good knight- only appearing in series in later books and Tales of Dunk and Egg.

To make the literally ugly, marauding and misunderstood is a clever touch, blatant use of the earlier subversions of the story. The knights are the dislikeable fellows, the axe wielding clansmen only human after being fleshed out in the reader’s eye.

Only reality gives that kind of achievement. Where things are never constant, never clean. An achievement, good or bad lingers. It does not cease to be, so long as you constantly push and address things on a level no screen or reminder can know. It is a real of feelings equalling results, ‘reality’ being both more fictional, yet more rewarding also. Intangible.

Another important point regarding Tyrion mirroring his father in many ways besides a slight moral divide, consider the Mountain’s Men and Brave Companions being similar militia forces. Within the Westerosi feudal society they are seen as the same, Tyrion’s judgement and by extension his people, pelted with stones after harrying Stannis’s forces shows the ingratitude and fickle nature of the crowd, it’s ignorance of military tactics and fixation on the initial visual. Yet the application of wit, and more importantly patronage cause either greater efficiency or evil in the leader’s troops. Tyrion’s men become disciplined, harrying and killing enemies, possible becoming a severe threat to the Vale. Conversely, the blind application of terror has caused supposedly Lannister forces to chew up so many innocents, that they threaten the king’s peace. ‘Ser’ Gregor, as The Hound points out has a veneer of legitimacy due to money and brutishness, but in many ways Tywin has no more nobility or regard from the people than his son (and with fewer excuses).

Tywin’s men are terror weapons who sully the reputation he ironically treasures, and their malevolence directly hurts both his House’s military might and prestige: by maiming his son and failing to be the effective decapitation strike he desires when dealing with Northern and Riverland armies and leaders. A critical difference in Tywin’s true motives are that above reputation pride rules him. just as Tyrion’s deep-seated drive is to be loved, and eventually to force gratification and he morally deteriorates.

“Every man is in need of a beast from time to time”, the callous quote shows how Tyrion echoes Tywin in actions, both have a loyal dutiful brother and savages, however the savages turn out to be undisciplined but useful guards and distractions while the mountain beneath his chivalric title is a pillager. The astounding deafness to heeding his own sound advice is apparent when Tywin remains ignorant of the basic fact that strength and fear is not everything; and how better to sully your grandeur and family’s reputation than to enlist degenerates and penal colonies in literature? In hearkening to Tywin, much like his sister Tyrion becomes ruthless, dangerous and less loved. Which tragically makes him more evil morally, betraying himself, spoiling his potential and remaining friendless and without strong allies.

One cannot be accountable for everything the are given responsibility over, but punishment, and the obvious notion of bribery could dissuade the sadistic, repulsively cynical as this notion is. Tywin’s selective barbarity comes karmically to directly bite him, one of his enlisted savages Vargo Hoat crippling his favoured son, a poignant symbol in keeping with the theme that generationally the distain and careless failures our lesser nature makes comes back in a circuitous fashion to build the core struggles of our descendants and allies’ lives.

For example, despite a rather amusing and serious rage during A Clash of Kings, Tyrion actively curtails his frustration in asking if Shae is being safely guarded and met with mute ignorance and complaining. The notion of threatening his men does not occur as readily or easily to Tyrion, debatably due to possessing more compassion, or hesitancy to be violent due to his stature and relative physical inferiority.

This changes with an utterly different dynamic, the Second Sons he does threaten and is threatened by in turn, their capacity to kill the only tie, Tyrion older but only deteriorated in his physical and mental state, unchanged in the style of writing but so obviously bereft of positive ambition, sense of stabilisation or improving his surroundings.

Tyrion’s vanity and mark is expressed in Bronn’s cloak bearing a hand motif, which interestingly he would take on himself in rather subtle fashion when choosing his sigil and name for his new stepson. Bronn is marked by Tyrion, tied to his fortune, but these trappings are understood to be the first following by all means a lifetime of murderous mercantilism, reaching fruition. Whether the man even has morals could be considered remote, ambiguous or flat out hilarious; but even utterly unscrupulous Bronn was part of a good dynamic and friendly to Tyrion in the self-serving manner of people and brutal lifestyles.

Tyrion like all the characters suffers the flaw we all ultimately do, not so much as selfish people, but constrained to our unique inner monologue, our needs closest at hand. We know our own gratification, our intent, our plans. We see others as an extension of us when giving commands, and Tyrion no doubt feels pride and position to honour himself and Bronn with a cloak boasting their individuality, their rising status and earned ability and renown it implies.

At this time, probably the high point of the show and certainly of his success, Tyrion expresses himself as an enjoyable schemer, but one employing force for arguably noble ends, if not factoring in his limited allegiance to the Lannister regime. Bronn is brutal, able, possibly very notably so. But his actions are observation, joking, defending the city; another opposite to the past father, who like all the tritagonists were richer in reputation than their parents, but lesser really in resolve, in the harm they cumulatively caused, and to varying extents their distaste and disregard for others they did not care to understand to the detriment of wider society.

It does not seem to be a coincidence that when utterly alone, not travelling with Jon, not winding his way through the War of Five Kings, Tyrion is most resentful when alone and almost suicidal. His appreciation of live is mirrored with studying the Shy Maid, and the literal chains of slavery keep Tyrion only with a potential friend he can relate to physically but bears no emotional understanding or clue what to do, without command or confidence or what soulful core he thought he had. The return of force will likely be a tragedy for more of his opponents, but willing or not mercenaries serve Tyrion’s ends, and the banter rises along with the prospects.

Tywin’s rather private and humiliating fall shows as explicitly as anything else how his brutality if anything was an overcompensating and sadistic flaw, robbing him of many admirable qualities and a magnetic character. It is worth stating the interesting status quo GRRM creates by exploring his brother, the only loyal retainer Tywin had, and how just one man constantly looked over remains a human being, and a diligent and perceptive one at that. As we all know in real life but enjoy seeing reflected in story, just a single friend, ‘only’ one loyal man or woman in reality is literally the stuff of power and greatness. For what is the point of it all? Where does our influence reach without people? What are we, when we only command, and if we cannot even do that, who exists as an army of one?

Martin, G.R.R. A Game of Thrones. Harper Voyager, Great Britain 1996.
Martin, G.R.R. A Clash of Kings. Harper Voyager, Great Britain 1998.
Martin, G.R.R. A Storm of Swords. Harper Voyager, Great Britain 2000.
Martin, G.R.R. A Dance of Dragons. Harper Voyager, Great Britain 2011.

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