“Some battles are won with swords and spears, others with quills and ravens.” (ASOS, Tyrion I)
Artwork by Pojypojy
Editorial Note: While this is primarily a command analysis of Tywin Lannister, there is a significant section dedicated to Roose Bolton towards the end. While that section in and of itself is worthy of its own post, I thought it important to place it in an analysis of Tywin as it is related to Tywin’s skill as a strategist.
Cementing the Tyrell Alliance
Tywin’s decisive victory over Stannis Baratheon did more than simply lift the siege of King’s Landing; it upended the strategic picture in Westeros. As we discussed in part 3, Tywin’s alliance with Mace Tyrell added the necessary manpower for victory over Stannis at King’s Landing, but there were more ramifications of this alliance than simple victory in the field.
First, the influx of Tyrell soldiers ensured that Tywin had a larger army than all of his enemies combined. If we start with the assumption that Tywin had around 20,000 soldiers at Harrenhal and Mace Tyrell had about 80,000 at Bitterbridge, the combined army now totalled 100,000 soldiers. More than bringing more men under his command, Tywin also inherited good commanders through his alliance. While Mace Tyrell, Lord of Highgarden, was not a good commander, some of his subordinate commanders were. Mace Tyrell’s son, Garlan Tyrell, had led the vanguard of the assault on King’s Landing. In the course of the battle, he personally killed Ser Guyard Morrigen, the commander of Stannis’s vanguard. But however good a knight Garlan was, Tywin’s greatest command inheritance from the Tyrell alliance was Randyll Tarly. Lord Tarly was a skilled warrior with several wars under his belt. During Robert’s Rebellion some 15 years previously, he was the only commander to defeat Robert Baratheon in battle at Ashford. During the Siege of King’s Landing, Randyll Tarly was given command of the center. Having both commanders was a significant windfall for Tywin Lannister.
But it was more than soldiers and commanders that the Tyrell alliance provided. The alliance opened the Crownlands up to food.
“The Tyrells have been carting food up from Highgarden and giving it away in her (Margaery’s) name. Hundreds of wagons each day.” (ASOS, Tyrion I)
This placed Tywin in a significant advantage over the Starks and Tullys. If you’ll recall, much of the Riverlands, the source of food for Robb Stark’s army, had been burned by Gregor Clegane and Amory Lorch. For rebellious lords and their starving populations, returning to the king’s peace would mean that they would become eligible for food from the Reach. Additionally, the food arriving from the Reach created popular support for the Tyrells and by extension, Tywin Lannister. If you’ll recall from part 1, Tywin’s reputation in the Crown Lands was… soured by the sack of King’s Landing. The new food did much to restore Tywin’s popularity in the city.
But to secure the legacy of his house, Tywin needed something more than a temporary military alliance. He wanted a permanent relationship between House Lannister and House Tyrell. Fortunately, Lord Petyr Baelish, Master of Coin, had done all the legwork for Tywin. Baelish had been dispatched by Tyrion Lannister from King’s Landing to negotiate an alliance with the Tyrells. Baelish secured this alliance with the Tyrells by promising that Margaery would be wed to King Joffrey Baratheon. This marriage would do more than closely ally Mace Tyrell and Tywin Lannister. It would permanently seal their families together as any children produced from the marriage would be of both Tyrell and Lannister blood. A wedding was planned for New Year’s Day at the start of the 4th century AL.
Neutralizing Potential Enemies
“Your Grace,” said Grand Maester Pycelle, “in regard to the number of guests . . . we have had a raven from Sunspear. Three hundred Dornishmen are riding toward King’s Landing as we speak, and hope to arrive before the wedding.” (ASOS, Tyrion III)
While the alliance with the Tyrells was of the utmost importance to secure the Lannister legacy, other potential enemies had to be politically neutralized. The two most important of these potential enemies were the Martells and the Arryns. The Greyjoys of the Iron Islands did not immediately trouble Tywin Lannister. They had soldiers and a fleet in the field, but they were confined to the North and were strictly a problem for Robb Stark at the moment.
“King Balon’s longships are occupied for the nonce,” Lord Tywin said politely, “as are we. Greyjoy demands half the kingdom as the price of alliance, but what will he do to earn it? Fight the Starks? He is doing that already. Why should we pay for what he has given us for free? The best thing to do about our lord of Pyke is nothing, in my view. Granted enough time, a better option may well present itself. One that does not require the king to give up half his kingdom.” (ASOS, Tyrion III)
The other two regions in Westeros presented more immediate problems to Tywin Lannister. The Vale was in danger of joining Robb Stark’s rebellion. Dorne was in danger of siding with Stannis or just flat-out declaring its independence from the Iron Throne. Tywin needed to develop unique strategies for both of these regions in order to keep them loyal to the crown or failing that, out of the war.
Tywin’s strategy in the Vale was the less complex of the two initially. Lord Jon Arryn had been a stalwart ally of Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon during Robert’s Rebellion. Jon Arryn himself was wed to Lysa Tully, the daughter of Lord Hoster Tully, to solidify Tully support for the rebellion against the Targaryens. Jon Arryn’s marriage to Lysa was a loveless one, but it did produce an heir: Robert Arryn. After the rebellion was victorious, Lord Arryn brokered the marriage alliance between House Lannister and House Baratheon. Jon Arryn served as Hand until his untimely death (most likely as a result of poison). Now with Lysa Tully single and serving as Lady Regent in the Vale, there remained a very real possibility that the Vale would join with Robb Stark as Jon Arryn had joined with Eddard Stark during Robert’s Rebellion. The solution was one that Tywin was very familiar with: marriage. But this was a marriage not to a member of the Lannister family, but rather to a senior member of the court: Petyr Baelish. Lord Littlefinger would wed Lysa Tully and serve as Lord Protector of the Vale. Fortunately (and later unfortunately), Lysa Tully was already on board with this, having been long enamored with Petyr Baelish.
“She’s had me a few times before, Lord Mathis, and voiced no complaints.”(ASOS, Tyrion III)
In this way, Tywin ensured that the Vale would remain loyal to the crown or at the very least remain unaligned in the war.
Dorne presented a more complex challenge to Tywin. The Dornish had a long-standing hatred of the Lannisters after the Sack of King’s Landing. If you’ll recall from part 1, the Martells were allied to the Targaryens on account of the marriage between Elia Martell and Rhaegar Targaryen. During the Sack of King’s Landing, Tywin Lannister had ordered Gregor Clegane and Amory Lorch to murder Elia Martell and her small children. Elia Martell was the sister of Doran Martell, the Prince of Dorne, and her murder sparked outrage among the Dornish. Dorne likely would have continued to fight against the crown had it not been for Jon Arryn’s intervention.
Now in A Clash of Kings, Doran Martell considered joining with Renly Baratheon against the crown. Tyrion Lannister, acting as Hand of the King, had effectively forestalled this rebellion with a proposed marriage between Cersei’s daughter Myrcella and Doran Martell’s son Trystane. Tyrion even sent Myrcella to Sunspear (capital of Dorne) to effectively act as a hostage. But when Tywin assumed his duties as Hand, he wanted to further ensure Dornish loyalty.
To accomplish this task, Tywin invited Doran Martell to join the Small Council. But there were problems. Dorne and the Reach were traditional enemies. Mace Tyrell had both a traditional dislike of Dorne and a personal one. Allowing a traditional enemy entry onto the Small Council had the potential to weaken Mace Tyrell and strengthen his enemy.
Dornishmen and Highgardeners had never had great love for one another; over the centuries, they had fought border wars beyond count, and raided back and forth across mountains and marches even when at peace. The enmity had waned a bit after Dorne had become part of the Seven Kingdoms . . . until the Dornish prince they called the Red Viper had crippled the young heir of Highgarden in a tourney. (ASOS, Tyrion III)
But Tywin was insistent. The Martells had to be neutralized politically rather than militarily. To Tywin, the threat was that Doran Martell would join Stannis Baratheon. Though Stannis had been defeated at King’s Landing, he was still alive and still threatened the crown. Any alliance between Dorne and Stannis Baratheon would be disastrous for the Lannisters and for the realm.
“But a bolder man might roll the dice for Dorne. If he should win Sunspear to his cause, he might prolong this war for years.” (ASOS, Jaime IX)
And so, Tywin’s invitation for Doran Martell to join the Small Council was agreed to by Dorne, but another complication arose. Doran Martell did not come. Instead, his brother, Oberyn Martell arrived in his stead. The Red Viper, the name Oberyn was known by, was a skilled warrior and a famous duelist who as we saw above, crippled Willas Tyrell in a tournament. But Oberyn was more than a skilled warrior; he was a man of vengeance. After Elia Martell was murdered, Oberyn attempted to continue the conflict against the crown. And though his efforts to continue fighting were rebuffed, Oberyn never stopped thirsting for vengeance. When he arrived at King’s Landing, he wasn’t seeking to be an adviser to the King. He was seeking justice and vengeance. He was looking for justice for the person who wielded the sword that killed Elia and her children as well as the person who ordered their deaths.
“I came for justice for Elia and her children, and I will have it. Starting with this lummox Gregor Clegane . . . but not, I think, ending there. Before he dies, the Enormity That Rides will tell me whence came his orders, please assure your lord father of that.” (ASOS, Tyrion V)
Tywin though had already foreseen this and had made plans to shift blame from himself to Gregor Clegane. In Tywin’s telling, Gregor had acted alone and without orders from Tywin. This was, of course, a bald-faced lie, but it had something resembling plausible deniability to it. That being said, Oberyn’s entry into the Small Council prevented Dorne from joining Stannis or rebelling in its own right for the moment.
Back in the Riverlands…
“Lord Hoat, see to those banners above the gatehouse.” (ACOK, Arya IX)
But while Tywin made alliances in King’s Landing and attempted to secure his family’s legacy, the Riverlands were still awash in blood. When Tywin left Harrenhal to confront Robb Stark in the Westerlands, he was forced to deplete the Riverlands of Lannister soldiers. But Tywin was loath to abandon his prizes in Riverrun, especially Harrenhal, so he left a garrison of mixed Lannister soldiers and Brave Companions there under the command of one of his most infamous knights.
“He won’t be going, then. His lordship’s named Ser Amory castellan of Harrenhal. That whole lot’s staying right here, to hold the castle. The Bloody Mummers will be left as well, to do the foraging.” (ACOK, Arya VIII)
Tywin’s intent was simple then: he wanted Harrenhal held until he could return from his campaign in the Riverlands and later the Crownlands. But there were issues with this plan. The first was who he left behind at Harrenhal. Ser Amory Lorch was a portly knight who was renowned more for brutality than success on the battlefield. The second issue was the commander of the Brave Companions, Vargo Hoat. Vargo Hoat, if you’ll recall, led a sellsword company based out of Essos whose services were purchased by Tywin Lannister at the start of the War of the Five Kings. Vargo ostensibly served as a subordinate commander under Amory Lorch, but there was a clash of personalities.
“That goat Vargo Hoat is like to spit, him and Lorch have always hated each other.” (ACOK, Arya VIII)
This disunity of command was a serious flaw in Tywin’s delegation, but it’s not as serious as the second flaw. Sellswords are loyal to coin first and foremost. And if you’ll remember from part 3, the Lannister gold mine at Castamere was taken by Stark loyalists during Robb’s Westerlands Campaign. My conjecture is that Tywin’s money supply was drying up, meaning that other buyers might be able to outbid the Lannisters.
The last but not least important aspect was that Lannister and sellsword alike were demoralized by all of the losses suffered against the Starks. More than being demoralized, there was a general defeatist attitude among the , especially by the Brave Companions.
“You and your father had lost too many battles.” (ASOS, Jaime III)
And so, Tywin’s absence, poor delegation and declining monetary/military fortunes led to a toxic climate at Harrenhal. Opposite Harrenhal’s defenders was Lord Roose Bolton of the Dreadfort. When we last left Roose Bolton in part 2, he had just suffered defeat but not destruction at the Green Fork. Falling nominally under the command of Edmure Tully, Roose Bolton had been tasked with taking Harrenhal back from the Lannisters. With Tywin Lannister now departed from harrenhal, the task became easier.
But even a diminished garrison could hold out against a siege. Roose needed a casualty-averse away to gain entry into the castle. The key came through the Brave Companions. At some point, Vargo Hoat made contact with Lord Roose Bolton. A deal was struck and a plot hatched. I’ll quote from the wiki what happened next:
The Companions pretend to take a group of Bolton’s men prisoner that then seize the castle, taking out the small Lannister garrison left behind and opening the gates to the rest of Roose’s men. This is done with the aid of an incognito Arya and the assassin Jaqen H’ghar.
And so Tywin’s key foothold in the Riverlands fell to Roose Bolton. Amory Lorch, the commander that Tywin Lannister had left in charge of Harrenhal met a grisly fate.
And that evening, a page named Nan poured wine for Roose Bolton and Vargo Hoat as they stood on the gallery, watching the Brave Companions parade Ser Amory Lorch naked through the middle ward. Ser Amory pleaded and sobbed and clung to the legs of his captors, until Rorge pulled him loose, and Shagwell kicked him down into the bear pit. (ACOK, Arya VIII)
But Roose Bolton’s occupation of Harrenhal would prove to be the last victory for the Northern Rebellion for reasons we are about to see.
Enemy Missteps and Misfortunes
The maid came forward last, and very shy. Robb took her hand. “Mother,” he said, “I have the great honor to present you the Lady Jeyne Westerling. Lord Gawen’s elder daughter, and my . . . ah . . . my lady wife.” (ASOS, Catelyn II)
Robb Stark was a brilliant, cunning foe to Tywin Lannister, but two inter-related events were about to shape up in the North and the Westerlands that would shift the war further to Tywin’s favor without Tywin having to do anything. The first was the Ironborn invasion of the North and the “death” of Bran and Rickon Stark. In order to obtain naval superiority in the west, Robb Stark had dispatched Theon Greyjoy back to the Iron Islands to request the aid of Lord Balon Greyjoy in exchange for Ironborn independence. This backfired spectacularly when Balon Greyjoy instead invaded the North. Theon Greyjoy himself led the assault against Robb Stark’s seat at Winterfell. Here, Bran and Rickon met their alleged deaths at the hands of Theon.
Robb Stark was still campaigning in the Westerlands at the time. Robb had seized the Crag, the ancestral home of the Westerlings, a minor house sworn to House Lannister. Having taken an arrow wound to the arm, Robb was attended to by Jeyne Westerling, the daughter of Lord Gawen Westerling and Sybell Spicer. With his brothers presumed dead and the Ironborn reaving in the North, Robb Stark slept with Jeyne Westerling. He then married the girl out of a sense of honor and broke the marriage alliance between himself and one of his chief allies: Lord Walder Frey.
Three Tools for the Task
“There is a tool for every task, and a task for every tool.” (ASOS, Tyrion, IV)
The above sections do not directly involve Tywin Lannister, but they are crucial to understanding how Tywin’s military strategy evolved from one where he hoped to achieve victory by force of arms to one where other methods of victory became Tywin’s strategy. First though, let’s take a look at the overall military picture of the major combatants of the War of the Five Kings at the start of A Storm of Swords.
- The Ironborn were north of the Neck with perhaps 3000-5000 soldiers situated in key strategic positions. (Moat Cailin, Deepwood Motte, Torrhen’s Square).
- Robb Stark was in the Westerlands with about 6000 soldiers.
- Edmure Tully was at Riverrun with approximately 10,000 soldiers.
- Roose Bolton held Harrenhal with about 8000-9000 soldiers.
- Lord Stannis Baratheon was on Dragonstone with about 2000 soldiers and 30-35 ships.
- Tywin Lannister was at King’s Landing with approximately 100,000 Tyrell and Lannister soldiers.
- Another Lannister host was reforming in the Westerlands, led by Ser Daven Lannister
It’s interesting to note that Robb’s position in A Storm of Swords parallels Tywin’s position from A Clash of Kings. If you’ll recall, Tywin was in an impossible situation. Roose Bolton’s army was to his north, Robb Stark was to his west, Renly Baratheon to his south and Stannis Baratheon to his east. Now, Tywin had Robb Stark in the same sort of predicament. The Ironborn were to the north. Tywin Lannister and the Tyrells to his east and south and Daven Lannister to his west. Lord Roose Bolton seemed keenly aware of the imbalance of forces in his response to Ser Aenys Frey.
“Even if Riverrun marshals all its strength and the Young Wolf wins back from the west, how can we hope to match the numbers Lord Tywin can send against us? When he comes, he will come with far more power than he commanded on the Green Fork. Highgarden has joined itself to Joffrey’s cause, I remind you!”“I had not forgotten.” (ACOK, Arya X)
But now that Tywin Lannister had placed Robb Stark in position of weakness, he did something unusual. He did not take to the field with his large army and re-invade the Riverlands, at least not yet. Instead, he stayed put in King’s Landing and developed a new plan. And my thought on this is that Tywin developed this plan, because he started to do something that he hadn’t done previously: Respect Robb Stark’s command prowess. And I think this is the real turning point for Tywin Lannister. I think the best evidence of this new-found grudging respect can be seen later in the story when Tywin justifies his course of action.
“The boy was too wary in the field. He kept his men in good order, and surrounded himself with outriders and bodyguards.” (ASOS, Tyrion VI)
So instead of risking another battle with Robb Stark directly, Tywin began to write. He targeted two lords specifically: Lord Walder Frey and Lord Roose Bolton. And he also wrote to Sybell Spicer, the mother of Robb’s new bride. The choice was specific and smart.
Lord Walder Frey had an obvious grievance against Robb Stark. Originally, Robb Stark secured Frey loyalty with a promise to marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters. Frey levies had served as loyal bannermen to Robb Stark in the Riverlands Campaign and the Westerlands Campaign. When Robb married Jeyne Westerling, he shattered the alliance between himself and the Freys. Aggrieved, the Frey levies deserted Robb’s army upon its return from the Westerlands. But Frey allegiance to the Lannisters would need something more than revenge to motivate Walder Frey to turn cloak completely on Robb Stark. Tywin’s outreach to Walder Frey appealed to his greed and his desire to further his family’s stature in Westeros.
“The price was cheap by any measure. The crown shall grant Riverrun to Ser Emmon Frey once the Blackfish yields. Lancel and Daven must marry Frey girls, Joy is to wed one of Lord Walder’s natural sons when she’s old enough.” (ASOS, Tyrion VI)
Tywin Lannister’s outreach to Roose Bolton was even smarter. Lord Bolton, while an early supporter of Robb Stark (editorial note: I actually don’t believe that Roose Bolton supported anything more than advancing Bolton interests and was not a supporter of Robb Stark from the get-go – something that I’ll touch on below), was a cautious commander and as seen above was keenly aware of the strategic picture after Blackwater and Robb’s marriage to Jeyne Westerling. Roose Bolton also had a number of sons of Walder Frey with him in Harrenhal as well as the remainder of the Frey infantry who survived the Battle of the Green Fork. Tywin’s outreach to Roose Bolton appealed to his lust for power.
“Roose Bolton becomes Warden of the North and takes home Arya Stark.”
“Arya Stark?” Tyrion cocked his head. “And Bolton? I might have known Frey would not have the stomach to act alone. (ASOS, Tyrion VI)
Edit: The third tool of betrayal is someone that I neglected to place in the original post: namely, Sybell Spicer and birth control. This was brought to my attention by /u/TJ29000. Tywin Lannister did not want any biological heir of Robb Stark to pop back up that lead the Northerners back into rebellion. The Westerlings, as you might recall, were leal lords to Tywin Lannister. It was suspicious to Tyrion when Tywin did not seem enraged by the Westerling betrayal.
This Westerling betrayal did not seem to have enraged his father as much as Tyrion would have expected. Lord Tywin did not suffer disloyalty in his vassals. (ASOS, Tyrion III)
Under the assumption that Bran and Rickon Stark were dead, Tywin feared that the union of Robb Stark and Jeyne Westerling would produce an heir. And so, he instructed Lady Sybell Spicer, the mother of Jeyne Westerling, to prevent Jeyne from conceiving. This is only later discovered in A Feast for Crows after Jaime Lannister takes Riverrun and encounters Jeyne Westerling and her mother, Sybell Spicer.
“As you will.” Jaime turned to the daughter. “I am sorry for your loss. The boy had courage, I’ll give him that. There is a question I must ask you. Are you carrying his child, my lady?” (AFFC, Jaime VII)
Jeyne burst from her chair and would have fled the room if the guard at the door had not seized her by the arm. “She is not,” said Lady Sybell, as her daughter struggled to escape. “I made certain of that, as your lord father bid me.” (AFFC, Jaime VIII)
The result of these letters that Tywin sent is a secret three-way alliance between Tywin Lannister, Walder Frey and Roose Bolton while no new Young Wolf would emerge in the future to re-ignite a new Northern Rebellio.
“Kingthlayer,” he slobbered. “You are my captifth.” (ASOS, Jaime III)
But there complications to this secret power dynamic. The first was the capture of Jaime Lannister by the Brave Companions. When we last left Jaime, he was held captive by the Starks after the Battle of the Whispering Wood. To cut a significant arc from ACOK/ASOS short, Catelyn Stark freed Jaime Lannister in hopes that he might be exchanged for her two captive daughters held by the Lannisters in King’s Landing. But Jaime Lannister was captured yet again, but this time by the Brave Companions who were in the employ of Lord Roose Bolton. The Brave Companions seemed to have caught wind that Lord Roose Bolton was planning to switch sides in the war. If Bolton turned cloak, Robb Stark’s chances of defeat were all but assured, and Lord Tywin Lannister was not likely to look kindly on the Brave Companions’s betrayal.
“After a war there is always a peace, and with peace there are pardons . . . for the Robb Starks, at least. Not for the likes of Vargo Hoat.” (ASOS, Jaime V)
And so Vargo Hoat, the commander of the Brave Companions, sliced off Jaime’s hand. The way that Vargo seemed to have seen it, the Brave Companions were employed by Roose Bolton meaning that Roose Bolton would receive the blame from Tywin Lannister for Jaime’s maiming. This would all but certainly end any alliance between the Lannisters and Boltons.
“By maiming you, he meant to remove your sword as a threat, gain himself a grisly token to send to your father, and diminish your value to me. For he is my man, as I am King Robb’s man. Thus his crime is mine, or may seem so in your father’s eyes.” (ASOS, Jaime V)
Of interest here is Roose Bolton’s wordplay that I highlighted. Roose is hinting at his betrayal of Robb Stark heavily here, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Jaime Lannister was released by Roose Bolton to return to his father, but not before understanding what Roose truly wanted.
“You want me to absolve you of blame. To tell my father that this stump is no work of yours.” Jaime laughed. “My lord, send me to Cersei, and I’ll sing as sweet a song as you could want, of how gently you treated me.” (ASOS, Jaime V)
Killing Stark Loyalists
“What of Robb Stark, what has he been doing?”
“There’s some of his wolves burning their way down toward Duskendale. Your father’s sending this Lord Tarly to sort them out. I’d half a mind to join him. It’s said he’s a good soldier, and openhanded with the plunder.” (ASOS, Tyrion I)
Before we proceed too much further, I need to go into an extended tangent on Roose Bolton’s loyalty and take a step back, way back to the Battle of the Green Fork. There, if you’ll recall, Tywin Lannister defeated Roose Bolton in battle. As the conventional narrative goes, Roose Bolton was a loyal bannerman to Robb Stark until shortly after Tywin Lannister won the Battle of the Blackwater and he learned of Robb’s marriage to Jeyne Westerling and the severance of the Stark/Frey alliance.
But as conventional theories go, I think this one is wrong. Now, this is an analysis of Tywin Lannister and not Roose Bolton, but this point is important to understand why Roose Bolton turned cloak on Robb and the battles about to come. I believe that Roose Bolton was never loyal to Robb Stark. I believe that every action he took was meant to further House Bolton from the start.
So, again, let’s briefly turn to the Battle of the Green Fork. Do you remember the map from part 2 of how both sides lined up for the Battle of the Green Fork? Here it is again:
Do you notice something off about how the Northern lines were arrayed? The Freys were on the left, the Glovers in the middle and the Karstarks on the right. Where were the Bolton men in this battle? Behind the main line, held in “reserve.”
And then there’s casualty list for the Northerners in the battle. Here were the major ones:
- Halys Hornwood (Killed)
- Medger Cerwyn (Killed)
- Harrion Karstark (Captured)
- Wyllis Manderly (Captured
What’s missing from the casualty report is Dreadfort men. I find this curious to the point of suspicion. Now, I don’t believe that Roose Bolton was aligned with Tywin Lannister from the get-go. I do think that this alliance occurred after Roose Bolton took Harrenhal. But I think that Roose Bolton was deliberating placing certain lords and their hosts in specific danger in order to bleed the North of loyal Stark bannermen to increase his standing and prominence in the North.
And I feel that my case is bolstered by how Roose Bolton acts to his subordinate commanders in A Storm of Swords after he’s turned cloak. Shortly after his seizure of Harrenhal, Roose Bolton ordered Ser Helman Tallhart and Robett Glover and a large force of infantrymen to march southeast to seize Duskendale. The folly of this movement should be readily apparent when you look at the distance between Harrenhal and Duskendale as compared to the distance between Duskendale and King’s Landing where 100,000 Tyrell and Lannister soldiers were located.
It would be considered folly unless it was a deliberate attempt by Roose Bolton to have loyal Stark men killed by the Lannisters. Tywin Lannister pounced on the opportunity that this folly presented.
“A large force of northmen under Helman Tallhart and Robett Glover are descending toward Duskendale. I’ve sent Lord Tarly to meet them, while Ser Gregor drives up the kingsroad to cut off their retreat. Tallhart and Glover will be caught between them, with a third of Stark’s strength.” (ASOS, Tyrion I)
In the ensuing battle, Randyll Tarly badly defeated the outnumbered Northern Army at Duskendale, killing Ser Hellman Tallhart in the process. Fleeing back towards Harrenhal, Robett Glover and the survivors were then set on by Gregor Clegane probably near the kingsroad where the entire army was completely destroyed and Robett Glover taken prisoner.
Forced to exchanged key Lannister prisoners for the release of Northerners, Robb Stark was horrified.
When they brought him word of the battle at Duskendale, where Lord Randyll Tarly had shattered Robett Glover and Ser Helman Tallhart, he might have been expected to rage. Instead he’d stared in dumb disbelief and said, “Duskendale, on the narrow sea? Why would they go to Duskendale?” He’d shook his head, bewildered. “A third of my foot, lost for Duskendale?” (ASOS, Catelyn V)
To Robb, there was no reason for these men to have gone to Duskendale or for 1/3 of his infantry to now lie dead in the Crownlands. And then later, Roose Bolton laid all the blame on Robett Glover for an action he (Roose Bolton) ordered.
“Glover was heedless after he learned that Deepwood Motte had fallen. Grief and fear will do that to a man.” (ASOS, Catelyn VI)
But Robb had other things on his mind. In order to re-establish the alliance between the Starks and the Freys, Robb Stark badgered/convinced Edmure Tully, Lord of Riverrun, to marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters. Robb then ordered all of his forces back to the Twins to celebrate the wedding and then move back North to deal with the Ironborn invaders.
After he released Jaime, Roose Bolton headed to the Twins to celebrate Edmure’s wedding and join Robb Stark’s war effort to retake the North. But complications arose along the way. In his order of march, he placed the Freys, Karstarks and Dreadfort men at the front and the Norreys, Lockes, Manderlys and Burleys at the rear. When his army reached the River Trident, the front crossed without incident. The rearguard was not so lucky.
“Two-thirds of my strength was on the north side when the Lannisters attacked those still waiting to cross. Norrey, Locke, and Burley men chiefly, with Ser Wylis Manderly and his White Harbor knights as rear guard. I was on the wrong side of the Trident, powerless to help them. Ser Wylis rallied our men as best he could, but Gregor Clegane attacked with heavy horse and drove them into the river. As many drowned as were cut down. More fled, and the rest were taken captive.” (ASOS, Catelyn VI)
In my opinion, there was no way that this was coincidental. I think that Roose Bolton arranged for Stark loyalists to be placed in the greatest danger while placing his own men and allies in the least amount of danger. In the final tally, Stark loyalists died by the droves while Roose Bolton and soldiers loyal to the Dreadfort arrived safely at the Twins. He even makes the point of citing who survived the battle to Robb.
“Some five hundred horse and three thousand foot, my lady. Dreadfort men, in chief, and some from Karhold. With the loyalty of the Karstarks so doubtful now, I thought it best to keep them close. I regret there are not more.” (ASOS, Catelyn VI)
“Weddings have become more perilous than battles, it would seem.” (ASOS, Davos VI)
The most significant of all of Tywin’s political maneuvering in A Storm of Swords was the Red Wedding. It doesn’t bear to repeat the sequence of events at the Twins. Suffice to say, Robb Stark and Catelyn Stark were killed. Edmure Tully along with other Stark loyalist lords were taken prisoner. The Northern Army loyal to Robb Stark was destroyed. The actual mechanics of Red Wedding were planned by Roose Bolton and the Freys.
Lord Walder had ordered the slaughter of the Starks at Roslin’s wedding, but it had been Lame Lothar who had plotted it out with Roose Bolton, all the way down to which songs would be played. (ASOS, Epilogue)
But those were the tactics of the Red Wedding. The strategy was orchestrated by Tywin Lannister. The Red Wedding wouldn’t have been possible if Tywin Lannister hadn’t laid the sword aside and picked up the quill. By convincing the Boltons and Freys to turn cloak, Tywin Lannister crushed the Northern Rebellion. Of course, there was still the need for follow-up military action by the Lannisters to mop up the last pockets of the resistance to the crown. But even at that point, Tywin did not wish to expend any more military resources than were absolutely necessary. He didn’t want to fight lords that he didn’t have to, even if they were former traitors to the crown. And so, Tywin was willing to forgive lords of their past trespasses against the crown in exchange for their loyalty if their armies would no longer take to the field against the Lannisters.
“When your enemies defy you, you must serve them steel and fire. When they go to their knees, however, you must help them back to their feet. Elsewise no man will ever bend the knee to you.” (ASOS, Tyrion VI)
But before he forgave former rebel lords, Tywin first had to reward the lords who turned cloak. He rewarded Roose Bolton with the position of Warden of the North. The Freys were given lands and marriage promises. The Westerlings were forgiven of their treason and Sybell Spicer’s brother, Rolph Spicer, was raised to lordship and given Castamere as his keep.
Everything was going swimmingly until Tywin had his own marriage to plan. As stated earlier, Tywin’s alliance with the Tyrells was contingent on Joffrey marrying Margaery Tyrell. Tywin was looking for permanence in the alliance with the Tyrells, and now that the Northern Rebellion had been decisively put down, he needed to keep true to his promise to Mace Tyrell.
Like the Red Wedding, I won’t go into details of the wedding itself. Suffice to say: Margaery and Joffrey were wed. At the feast, Joffrey choked to death most likely on account of poison, but there are other theories out there. Tyrion Lannister, Tywin’s son, was blamed for the death and was subsequently imprisoned. Without a marriage alliance, the entire Tyrell/Lannister alliance was thrown into doubt.
Thanks for reading this very long essay. The last command analysis of Tywin Lannister will take at Tywin’s last days and actions following the death of Joffrey. We’ll revisit the Lannister family and legacy in some more detail as it will ironically be part of Tywin’s undoing. I’ll also do a speculative section on what Tywin’s actions would have been had he lived and finally close out with some concluding thoughts of Tywin Lannister as a military commander. Thanks again for reading. Cheers.