The Lion’s Fury: The Deeply Personal Actions of Tywin Lannister

Introduction

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Tywin Lannister’s name and reputation in A Song of Ice and Fire is associated with the consequentialist political mantra of “the ends justify the means.” But how true is that sentiment when examined against the text? And if true, does the series’ gray morality give Tywin a wider moral berth for his conduct?

Tywin Lannister is a fascinating character in that his actions result in such differing fan-opinions of the character. For his supporters, he’s viewed as someone willing to do evil to achieve a greater good best seen in his defense of his conduct during the Sack of King’s Landing.

“As stupid as he was, even he knew that Rhaegar’s children had to die if his throne was ever to be secure. Yet he saw himself as a hero, and heroes do not kill children.” (ASOS, Tyrion VI)

Tywin’s detractors see his actions as dark, evil acts perpetrated by an evil man for politically nefarious reasons. Eddard Stark was firmly in this camp.

I would sooner entrust a child to a pit viper than to Lord Tywin. (AGOT, Eddard II)

But both perspectives miss something fundamental about Tywin’s conduct. He may have shrouded his actions in political terms, but subtext and context shows that Tywin actually couched all of his major evil actions from a deeply personal perspective.

In this analysis, I’ll hope to show Tywin’s deeply personal reasons for his brutalities through 3 seminal events, all of which took place prior to events of the main book series:

  • The Reyne/Tarbeck Rebellion
  • The Defiance of Duskendale
  • The Sack of King’s Landing at the end of Robert’s Rebellion

The Destruction of the Reynes and Tarbecks

Chronologically, the first macro political event that puts Tywin Lannister on the political map was his conduct during the rebellion by the Reynes and Tarbecks. We all know the familiar story of how Tywin crushed the rebellion with utter ruthlessness, but the background and extent of the ruthlessness is worth a little more examination.

We learn that Tywin’s father, Tytos, was a kind yet weak overlord of the Westerlands.

“Our own father was gentle and amiable, but so weak his bannermen mocked him in their cups. Some saw fit to defy him openly. Other lords borrowed our gold and never troubled to repay it. At court they japed of toothless lions.” (ASOS, Tyrion IX)

Tywin apparently found this trait by his father to be infuriating. Some lords took this mockery a bit too far.

Tywin Lannister’s own father Lord Tytos had once imprisoned an unruly bannerman, Lord Tarbeck. The redoubtable Lady Tarbeck responded by capturing three Lannisters, including young Stafford, whose sister was betrothed to cousin Tywin. “Send back my lord and love, or these three shall answer for any harm that comes him,” she had written to Casterly Rock. (ASOS, Jaime VI)

The bannerman who took the Lannisters hostage was none other than Lady Ellyn Tarbeck who we’ll come back to. Tytos. Tywin’s advice was fairly brutal, especially given that Tywin was probably 14-15 at the time.

Young Tywin suggested his father oblige by sending back Lord Tarbeck in three pieces. (ASOS, Jaime V)

However, Tytos Lannister, in defiance of his son’s advice, released Lord Tarbeck to secure the lives of the Lannisters in custody. Here’s where my speculation comes in: given that Tywin was embarrassed by the way his father was treated by his lords and given that Tytos has disregarded his advice, I think it created a personal grudge in Tywin’s mind. GRRM himself juxtaposed Tywin to his father in a So Spake Martin from 1999:

Tywin was not actually lord when he dealt with the Reynes (of Castamere) and the Tarbecks (of Tarbeck Hall). His father was still alive. Lord Tytos was an altogether different character, amiable but ineffectual, and he allowed himself to be pushed around a good deal, by a number of people.. including Lord Walder Frey (ever wonder how Genna came to marry so poorly?) and the Red Lion of Castamere, the richest and most powerful Lannister bannerman, and a formidable soldier/warrior in his own right… So Spake Martin: Tywin & the Reynes

So, here we have Tytos portrayed as ineffectual and weak — things that Tywin despises. So, when the Reynes and Tarbecks rose up against the Lannisters in rebellion and Tywin was put in charge of putting the rebellion down, the vengeance wreaked on the Reyes and Tarbecks went pretty far.

Lord Tywin did not suffer disloyalty in his vassals. He had extinguished the proud Reynes of Castamere and the ancient Tarbecks of Tarbeck Hall root and branch when he was still half a boy. (ASOS, Tyrion IV)

The deaths of the culprits directly responsible for the rebellion seems just as far as Westerosi custom (and ours) is concerned. However, what I find really interesting is that Tywin killed men, women and children — everyone, and this flies directly in the face of his advice to Joffrey later on.

“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)

Given that there were a number of innocents who probably could have bent the knee to the Lannisters, it seems strange that Tywin would kill them. That is, unless you consider that Tywin was acting from a deeply personal grudge. Genna Lannister relates a short anecdote about Tywin during the rebellion.

“When Tarbeck Hall came crashing down on Lady Ellyn, that scheming bitch, Tyg claimed he smiled then.” (AFFC, Jaime V)

Tywin is famous for not smiling, and yet he felt enough personal satisfaction by the death of Lady Ellyn Tarbeck that he smiled. The only other time he reportedly smiled was when he wed Joanna Lannister. So, there was something deeply personally satisfying for Tywin in killing Lady Ellyn Tarbeck, and in the deaths of every man, woman and child of Houses Reyne and Tarbeck.

It shows a deep grudge that defies his own later statement on how to treat surrendering (or in my extrapolation: innocent) enemies and operating from emotion. It was the first instance where I think this happened, but it wouldn’t be the last.

Tywin’s Deeply Personal Defiance at Duskendale

Tywin’s actions during the rebellion and his strong rule of the Westerlands after the death of Tytos garnered the attention of Aerys II Targaryen who thought that Tywin would make an excellent Hand of the King. And for a while, the partnership was a good one. Tywin was an able Hand of the King and seemed to serve faithfully. Aerys II trusted in Tywin and his ability.

But strains emerged. Aerys II grew jealous of Tywin and his ability. Aerys II ordered Ilyn Payne’s tongue  cut out when he boasted that Tywin was the one who really ruled the kingdom. And then the relationship began to tear when Tywin wed Joanna Lannister.

“Prince Aerys … as a youth, he was taken with a certain lady of Casterly Rock, a cousin of Tywin Lannister. When she and Tywin wed, your father drank too much wine at the wedding feast and was heard to say that it was a great pity that the lord’s right to the first night had been abolished. A drunken jape, no more, but Tywin Lannister was not a man to forget such words, or the … the liberties your father took during the bedding.” (ADWD, Daenerys VII)

This seems to have been the first focal tear, but it wasn’t the last. A few years later, Tywin staged a tourney at Lannisport. There, Tywin proposed that Aerys II’s son Rhaegar marry his daughter Cersei. Aerys II’s response couldn’t have been chillier.

You are my most able servant, Tywin, but a man does not marry his heir to his servant’s daughter.” – Aerys II to Tywin (AFFC, Cersei V)

As I’ve hopefully shown, Tywin operated from deep-set emotions. Aerys’ refusal infuriated Tywin, and when Aerys II married Rhaegar to Elia of Dorne, the grudges that Tywin nursed only increased (something we’ll get into below).

When the town of Duskendale and its lords defied Aerys II, Aerys decided to ride out to Duskendale to seize its lords and execute the king’s justice on them and their treason. He did all this without Tywin Lannister. And his actions cost him his own freedom and the life of one of his Kingsguard (Gwayne Gaunt).

With his king imprisoned, Tywin rode out with an army to free the king. However, there’s something a bit off about the whole affair from Tywin’s perspective. Consider the length of the siege.

“For half a year Aerys was held within these very walls, whilst the King’s Hand sat outside Duskendale with a mighty host. Lord Tywin had sufficient strength to storm the town any time he wished, but Lord Denys sent word that at the first sign of assault he’d kill the king.” (AFFC, Brienne II)

Tywin didn’t storm the castle because he thought that they might kill Aerys — at least according to people near Duskendale. However, when Barristan tells his side of the story, it’s a bit different.

He (Tywin) gave me a day to bring out Aerys. Unless I returned with the king by dawn of the following day, he would take the town with steel and fire, he told me. (ADWD, The Kingbreaker)

If he had not gone into Duskendale to rescue Aerys from Lord Darklyn’s dungeons, the king might well have died there as Tywin Lannister sacked the town. (ADWD, The Queensguard)

At first glance, this seems a prudent play on Tywin’s part; he sacks the town while Barristan conducts a rescue mission. But a closer look is a bit mystifying as to why the hell Tywin was sacking Duskendale if he was afraid that the king would be killed by the Darklyns. It doesn’t make sense unless something else was at play. To me, that something was Tywin’s badly bruised ego from his bedding and the Tourney at Lannisport.

But wait, you might say, Tywin sent Barristan in on rescue mission! Tywin was trying to rescue the king! Look closely at what was going on. Tywin was intentionally provoking the Darklyns by sacking Duskendale. And at the same time, he sent Barristan on a one-man rescue mission into the Dun Fort. To me, this is Tywin attempting to get Aerys killed while covering his ass with Barristan’s rescue mission. Barristan’s rescue mission was not meant to the succeed, but it had to be undertaken for appearances to be kept up.

For his part, Aerys II believed that Tywin allowed him to rot in the dungeon at the Dun Fort. And while Aerys isn’t necessarily the best source (y’know with his insanity and so forth), I’m inclined to take it a step further and say that Tywin maintained appearances during the siege with the secret hope that Aerys would be killed by the Darklyns. And furthermore, Tywin did all this due to his wounded pride.

And events from this time period would have an even greater impact come Robert’s Rebellion.

The Sack of King’s Landing

Aerys Targaryen must have thought that his gods had answered his prayers when Lord Tywin Lannister appeared before the gates of King’s Landing with an army twelve thousand strong, professing loyalty. So the mad king had ordered his last mad act. He had opened his city to the lions at the gate. (AGOT, Eddard II)

The final event I want to examine a bit is the Sack of King’s Landing. Having hopefully established Tywin’s emotional basis for his actions at Tarbeck Hall and Duskendale, we turn towards Tywin’s greatest act of brutality.

Following Duskendale, Tywin and Aerys were completely alienated from each other. Whether you think that the theory that Tywin attempted to get Aerys II killed has any merit is beside the point. The relationship between the two was fraught with animosity. The seeming last straw was when Aerys named Jaime to the Kingsguard, thus depriving Tywin of the heir that he so desperately wanted.

Jaime’s investiture freed him from Lysa Tully. Elsewise, nothing went as planned. His father had never been more furious. He could not object openly – Cersei had judged that correctly – but he resigned the Handship on some thin pretext and returned to Casterly Rock, taking his daughter with him. (ASOS, Jaime II)

Thus, Tywin left the Handship and brooded in the West. When Robert’s Rebellion erupted, Tywin stayed out of the war at first, refusing to take a side. However, after rebel victories, Tywin expected to be recalled by Aerys. He was soon disappointed.

The Battle of the Bells had proved the truth of that. Ser Kevan had expected that afterward Aerys would have no choice but to summon Tywin once more … but the Mad King had turned to the Lords Chelsted and Rossart instead, and paid for it with life and crown. (ADWD, Epilogue)

And so, Tywin marched his army to King’s Landing. When he arrived there, he feigned loyalty to the crown. When his soldiers entered the city, the cruelty began.

“Your Grace,” said Jorah Mormont, “I saw King’s Landing after the Sack. Babes were butchered that day as well, and old men, and children at play. More women were raped than you can count.” (ASOS, Daenerys II)

An alert commenter to one of my older essays alerted me to the fact that these Westerlander soldiers were not recently bloodied on the battlefield and did not “have the blood” on them. Rather, they marched into the city and sacked it. This was almost certainly done under orders from Tywin, especially when you consider Tywin’s claim to two specific murders.

“I grant you, it was done too brtually. Elia need not have been harmed at all, that was sheer folly. By herself she was nothing.”

“Then why did the Mountain kill her?”

“Because I did not tell him to spare her. I doubt I mentioned her at all. I had more pressing concerns…The rape…even you will not accuse me of giving that command, I would hope. Ser Amory was almost as bestial with Rhaenys. I asked him afterward why it had required half a hundred thrusts to kill a girl of…two?” (ASOS, Tyrion VI)

Tywin had ordered the murders of Rhaenys and Aegon and thus almost certainly ordered the sack of the city. But was Tywin telling the truth about Elia’s murder? I don’t think so. I think that Tywin ordered the murder of Elia, and her murder harkens back to Tywin’s bruised ego. In the final conversation between Tyrion and Oberyn prior to the duel, Oberyn tells Tyrion something interesting.

“What I did not tell you was that my mother waited as long as was decent, and then broached your father about our purpose. Years later, on her deathbed, she told me that Lord Tywin had refused us brusquely. His daughter was meant for Prince Rhaegar, he informed her.” (ASOS, Tyrion IX)

Cersei was to marry Rhaegar, not Oberyn Martell, nor was Jaime to marry Elia. So, when Aerys II married Rhaegar to Elia Martell, it was a double insult to Tywin Lannister. First, Aerys had refused Tywin. Secondly, Aerys had married his son to the woman that Tywin had refused to allow to be married to Jaime.

So, did Tywin order the murder of Elia? Prince Oberyn believes it, and I’m inclined to agree.

“Well, Prince Rhaegar married Elia of Dorne, not Cersei Lannister of Casterly Rock. So it would seem your mother won that tilt.”

“She thought so,” Prince Oberyn agreed, “but your father is not a man to forget such slights. He taught that lesson to Lord and Lady Tarbeck once, and to the Reynes of Castamere. And at King’s Landing, he taught it to my sister.” (ASOS, Tyrion IX)

Conclusion

Tywin as someone not to forget slights shows a different side to Tywin — a side where Tywin isn’t the ruthless consequentialist, but a man who holds deep grudges and moves the politics and warfare of the nation to quench his deep emotional thirsts. It’s in my estimation that Tywin’s evils are only magnified by the personal nature of those evils he committed as they weren’t for any greater good — they were selfish in nature.

Thousands likely died at Castamere, Tarbeck Hall and Duskendale. Tens of thousands (perhaps as high 100,000) died at the Sack of King’s Landing. And for what? They died to satiate the grudges of an evil man.

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33 Comments

Filed under ASOIAF Analysis, ASOIAF Character Analysis, ASOIAF Speculation

33 responses to “The Lion’s Fury: The Deeply Personal Actions of Tywin Lannister

  1. I’m not sure that the position that Tywin was acting in the interests of the realm is seriously held by anyone. Tywin’s explicit motivation is to further the power and prestige of his FAMILY, not the realm. To him, the family was the unit of true lasting value and the noble “greater good” for which individually evil acts can be justified.

    If you want to argue that Tywin’s actions are selfish, you have to address the alternative explanation that his actions are motivated by a desire to see the Lannister name live on and prosper.

    • lylebot

      I don’t know about you, but to me that “alternative explanation” qualifies as selfish. Tywin knows he won’t be around forever, so obviously the best extension of his “self” to get -ish about is his own children and descendents, to the exclusion of everyone else’s.

      • bernardlewis

        I think that Tywin’s acting with the interests of his family should occupy a larger role in this analysis. For any instance in which Tywin supposedly acts from a deep, personal grudge, I think you can substitute the claim that he acted with his family’s interest. The upshot of such an interpretation is that acting in the interests of the family seems to coincide with many of Tywin’s commands of his children and grandchildren, his conflicts with Tyrion, as well as explaining the incidents you mention in this piece.

        However, perhaps the strongest piece of evidence in favor of the claim that Tywin ‘always’ acts to strengthen his family’s position is that his own hypocrisy on this principle proves to be his dying act. Tywin’s great strength is not necessarily his ruthlessness or cunning, but that he *seems* so committed to the primacy of the Lannister family that there is no action he will not take (or force others to take) if that action works in the family’s favor. Unlike so many other characters in the novels, Tywin appears to have no torn loyalties. But as Tyrion discovers when he finds Shae in Tywin’s bed, none of what Tywin claimed about taking whores shaming the family truly mattered to Tywin; he’s as lustful as Tyrion (or anyone else), and indeed, may have used Shae as a trap for Tyrion, using her evidence against him at trial. This would undermine the claim that Tywin puts family above all, because it would mean that Tywin had plotted to murder or at least disgrace Tyrion. Tywin’s great failing, then, is that he is not as single-minded as he would have everyone think, and discovering him in the very act that evidences this is what leads Tyrion to murder him.

        In a sense, then, there’s something more deeply right about your analysis than you let on or may realize. Tywin’s claiming to put family above all functions as a way of putting himself above all. And when even family comes into conflict with his own desires (Shae, his disdain for Tyrion), he acts as many others in these novels do, and chooses what he desires rather than what his self-proclaimed principles would dictate.

  2. The Broke Howard Hughes

    Tywin Lannister constantly portrays an aura of emotional detachment but if you take a serious look at what he DOES, instead of listening to what he SAYS, you see it isn’t true. He pretends to have these practical reasons for doing things but it’s clearly not the case. For example. Look at the Sack of King’s Landing. Tywin is by no means dumb, but lets say he did legitimately forget to inform the Mountain to leave Elia alone. Given at how things ended up you’d think he’d never make such a mistake again. But look at the Red Wedding. He claims again, subordinates went rogue. If you ask him, only Robb was supposed to die, but the Frey’s and Boltons went crazy and simply killed everyone. How could a man as ruthless as him, a man everyone knows not to cross lest incur his wrath, let this happen to him twice? Neither time nobody was punished for disobeying orders, or going off script as he’d likely call it. Not punishing men for sullying your name is basically giving anyone else the go ahead to do it in the future. For a man who prides himself on order how could he just let something like this go, both times? Because they were following HIS orders and he knows punishing them for that will expose him and prevent anyone from following them in the future. And finally, take his supposed brilliant justification of the Red Wedding. Why is it more noble to kill then thousand men in battle than a dozen at dinner? That quote is always used to explain away his actions with the Northmen, but if he honestly thought it was okay and justifiable, why did he deliberately hide and downplay his involvement? This is a glowing example of everything he’s done in his life, he lets his emotions get the better of him, use brutality to dispatch anyone who slights his ego, then downplays his role in all of it. We all know he orchestrated the Red Wedding, but he sanitizes his role in it when he talks to Tyrion, we know its a lie, or at the very least a watered down edit, this is a glaring red flag that shows us he’s done this a thousand times. Elia, of course he gave the order. Of course he lies about it later because he knows it was wrong and doesn’t want to face the consequences, it’s what cowards do, anything to get ahead, anything to survive.

  3. new djinn

    Well, Tyrion and Cersei clearly display that kind of emotional drive(along with ambition). Tywin creates a public image of himself, that’s he all about control and pragmatist, but pride(mainly in his family) and ambition play a very significant role in his reasonings. He just comes of diferently because he’s smart enough to conceal it. By the way, AWoIaF will confirm that Ellyn Tarbeck was his mom’s greatest rival, so the grudge is generational.

  4. Stache

    Just one comment, When you quote Genna saying “When Tarbeck Hall came crashing down on Lady Ellyn, that scheming bitch, Tyg claimed he smiled then.” I believe she was referring to their brother Tygett Lannister, who was her and Tywin’s younger brother.

    Minor point though, I think the rest of your essay is pretty spot on. Tywin is pretty much a straight up war criminal that only escaped the consequence of his actions by pretty slim circumstances.

  5. Jober Sudge

    One issue that was overlooked here was the lengths Tywin went to for his preferred line of succession. The Birth order of his children is Cersei, Jamie then Tyrion. By the laws in 6 of the 7 kingdoms the heirs to his land and titles are Jamie, Tyrion then Cersei. After Aerys appointed Jamie to the Kingsguard his lawful heirs are now his youngest son Tyrion then his only daughter Cersei. Tywin can’t get Jamie off the Kingsguard and restored as his heir until he is once again ruling from the Kings Landing.

  6. Sam

    Wrong.. Why would she be referring to Tyg? Have you even read the whole quote in context? She is clearly referring to Tywin.

    • She refers to Tyg, because Genna wasn’t present for the Siege of Tarbeck Hall. Tyg is her source for the claim that Tywin smiled with the towers collapsed. So, yes, she’s referring to Tywin. Not sure where the disagreement comes from?

      • Stache

        Ohhhhh, I always thought that she meant that Tyg claimed that he smiled at Tarbeck’s destruction. Wrong interpretation of the text. My Baaaaad

  7. axrendale

    Good essay, but I have some quibbles with it. I see it as a mistake to classify Tywin’s behaviour as driven by either pure consequentialism or purely personal motivation – it’s a mixture of both, the precise ratio of which is left ambiguous, and therefore up to the interpretation of the reader.

    (Note: for some of these points, I refer to the information imparted in a reading of the forthcoming “World of Ice and Fire” about the history of the Westerlands, notes for which can be read here: http://www.historyofwesteros.com/concarolinas-westerlands-reading/ )

    – Starting with the Reyne/Tarbeck rebellion. Here I’d disagree with you on two counts: 1) Tywin did not violate his maxim that “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.” in this instance; and 2) He did have a compelling political rationale for the complete extirpation of the two rebellious Houses.

    The principle that if your enemies submit, you should extend mercy to them so as to encourage others to follow their example is a wise one (and we see Tywin follow it in the case of the stormlords after the Battle of the Blackwater, and with the riverlords after the Red Wedding), but the obvious corollary to it is that if the enemy does *not* go to his knees, then it is advisable to pursue his destruction.

    The details we have about the Reyne/Tarbeck rebellion show clear instances of that corollary both times. Ellyn Tarbeck refused to surrender to Tywin even after he defeated her husband in battle – instead she defied him, because she thought that the defences of Tarbeck Hall were strong enough to withstand assault. When he subsequently stormed the castle, she and her surviving family were consequently at his mercy.

    Ditto with the case of Castamere. Instead of bending the knee after the Red Lion was defeated in battle, the Reynes holed up inside their impregnable fortress, and demanded that the Lannisters surrender to *them*, since their underground castle could never be taken by storm. If they had chosen to submit, I suspect that Tywin would have been willing to pardon them (albeit at the price of forfeiting most of their lands and wealth), but since they defied him, it is understandable why he opted to divert a lake into their tunnels and drown them.

    As for the question of why Tywin ordered the deaths of all the Tarbeck male heirs (with the exception of Lady Ellyn, the women were all sent to join the Silent Sisters), I think it is worth remembering that in ADWD, when Jaime is discussing the history of the eternal feud between the Brackens and Blackwoods with young Hoster, he specifically quotes his father’s rationale for this action as representing an alternative to the endless cycle of vendetta puntuated by temporary truces. Wiping out all traces of the family line of the enemy is the most efficient way of ensuring that his descendants won’t be honor-bound to someday seek revenge against you. Obviously, you cannot pursue this logic against *every* foe (hence the observation that “elsewise no man will ever bend the knee to you”), but in limited doses it stand as an object lesson for your vassals and rivals (thus Tywin won the absolute loyalty of the westerlords for the rest of his life).

    That is not to deny that he also took a great deal of malicious satisfaction in the destruction of the Houses that had humiliated his father and brought chaos to the Westerlands (note the rumour that before he sent the female Tarbecks to the Silent Sisters, he had their tongues removed), but the point stands that it was a mix of political calculation and personal vindictiveness that drove his actions, with the two motivations not really being in conflict with each other.

    – Moving on to the discussion of the Defiance of Duskendale. I fully agree with you that throughout this affair Tywin was clandestinely hoping that he could manipulate events so as to cause the death of Aerys (with his strategy being to use his long delay and authorization of Barristan’s rescue attempt before the attack as a cover against anyone who accused him of desiring this outcome).

    However, what I think your essay neglects is that in this situation also, Tywin’s actions could just as easily have been driven by cold political calculation as by wounded pride. Tywin doesn’t need to have a personal animus against the King (although I’m certain that he does) to desire his death. It would be sufficient for him to believe that he would have benefitted greatly from having Aerys replaced on the throne by the young Rhaegar, who would presumably have retained Tywin as Hand, would have been a far more desirable partner in the task of ruling the Seven Kingdoms, and might have been far more receptive to Tywin’s ambition to marry his daughter into the royal family.

    In other words, what we have here is another instance of Tywin’s cold-blooded consequentialism and hot-blooded vindictiveness being perfectly aligned with each other by events.

    – Finally, the Sack of King’s Landing and the murder of Elia Martell. This is the most interesting of the three issues to me, because it is the only one where Tywin’s political calculation and his personal grudge were not in concert with each other, and he elected to satisfy one over the other.

    From a cold-blooded perspective, Tywin was correct in his rationale for ordering the murder of Rhaegar’s children, as a necessary act to earn the goodwill of Robert Baratheon. Raison d’État would have dictated that Princess Elia be spared however, as she would have made a useful hostage (a lesson that Tywin obviously understood, given his later – albeit disregarded – directive to the Freys to take Catelyn Stark hostage at the Red Wedding), and avoiding her death would have lessened the enmity incurred with the Martells.

    I disagree with you slightly, in that I believe that Tywin was telling the truth when he claimed that he never gave the order for Elia’s murder. However, what he *did* lie about was his claim that he never thought about her. As Jaime testifies in AFFC, Tywin was not a man who overlooked important details. He knew that by failing to order the Mountain to spare her life, he was effectively signing her death warrant (although I do believe that even he was actually shocked by the extent of Gregor’s bestiality), but he held silent so as to avenge what he saw as the slight against the honor of his House.

    As for the sack of the city, I think that Tywin’s motivation in this regard was much more prosaic. My assumption is that his objective here was two-fold: 1) He wanted to loot the riches of the largest city in Westeros (because we all know how much Tywin loved gold); 2) He wanted to punish the citizens of the city for their loyalty to the Targaryens – as further demonstration that House Lannister had completely severed ties with the old regime, and was willing to act as the hatchet-man for the new regime.

    • mimiianian

      Well-written, to claim that Tywin’s actions were mostly driven by personal grudges does little justice to the man. As one of the most shrewd and ruthless players in the Game, Tywin’s behaviours were more likely to driven by both cold political calculation and personal motivation. As you pointed out, there were certainly political advantages in utterly destroying House Reynes and Tarbeck (ie: ensuring the respect and fear of other vassals) and clandestinely hoping the death of Aerys in Duskendale (being Hand to a more agreeable king).

  8. Nihlus

    I think unleashing the Mountain’s men on the Riverlands is an even better example of Tywin showing that his actions are motivated by pride and spite rather than any sense of pragmatism.

    Tyrion had been captured by Starks. Tyrion wasn’t at all worried; he thought that any sane person would just let him be kept, and wait for Cat to show the king her non-existent evidence. This would make the Lannisters look civilized and loyal, and the Starks look like fools.

    But Tywin can’t have that. Apparently Tywin has a small penis or something, because he NEEDS everyone else to think of him as unstoppable and all powerful. Tyrion being captured, to him, isn’t a great opportunity to employ some political maneuvering and gain more favor with Robert. It’s an insult to his pride and influence. So he sends soldiers under Gregor Clegane to start raping, burning, and looting, like bandits.

    Not only was this comically evil, it was arrogant and suicidal. The Riverlands are allied with the North and the Vale, the North is effectively allied with the Stormlands via Robert, and Robert is not going to take an outright act of war lying down. Tywin effectively made enemies with half of Westeros by doing that, solely to stroke his own ego. He’s damn lucky that Lysa chose not to support her sister, Robert suddenly died, and Renly claimed a crown before dying himself.

  9. Winterfell is Burning

    “I think unleashing the Mountain’s men on the Riverlands is an even better example of Tywin showing that his actions are motivated by pride and spite rather than any sense of pragmatism. ”

    Yes, exactly. Unleashing the Mountain’s men on the Riverlands accomplished NOTHING and had absolutely nothing to do with Tyrion’s release.

    As someone else point out, one has to look not at what Tywin says, but what Tywin does. And what he does is quite often completely irrational.

    • I think it accomplished quite a lot strategically Winterfell is Burning. Tywin knew Hoster Tully or Edmure cared for his subjects and refugees would cause logistical issues for Robb’s army.

      • Mitch

        But at the time that Tywin unleashed The Mountain on the Riverlands, at least at first, Eddard Stark was still alive and acting Hand of the King. Robb becoming King of the North was a long way off—and I argue unforeseeable at that point.

        If Joffrey hadn’t gone off script and beheaded Ned at Baelor’s Sept, Robb would’ve never risen up in revolt and be crowned King of the North. In Tywin’s mind, that wasn’t even a possibility.

    • Darkdoug

      It was explicitly stated in the books that Tywin’s plan was to provoke the Tullys so he could attack to punish them for Catelyn kidnapping Tyrion and then running off to her sister. Furthermore, the plan was to lure Ned out to hunt down Gregor, knowing how Ned is about doing his own executions, and take him hostage to exchange for Tyrion (and presumably other concessions, since Ned for Tyrion is a rather unequal exchange). As far as his later unleashing, the point is to gather as many supplies to himself at the expense of his enemies, and deprive his foes of the same. My moving east to Harrenhal, he is moving away from his base of supply, while settling in at the heart of enemy country. The pillaging makes it difficult for any army marching on his position at Harrenhal. We see the same thing with Brynden Blackfish at the siege of Riverrun. Although it was the Lannisters who presumably did most of the denuding, Brynden would definitely have finished the job once their armies moved on Riverrun. He even expelled anyone who could not contribute to the siege. IDK if the rule is the same in Westeros, but in our medieval era, one of the few rights that serfs had was the right to take shelter in their lord’s castle in time of danger.

  10. Faiz Petra

    Very good essay and I fully agree that Tywin’s hypocrisy is often masked by supposedly political objectives. One example that comes to mind is his punishment of Tyrion for marrying Tysha for love while conveniently forgetting that he married Joanna for love too. I have always wondered if his punishment of Tyrion was due to “sour grapes” that he resented Tyrion having the happiness he could no longer have and of course blaming Tyrion for Joanna’s death.

    • Mitch

      I think there’s a simpler explanation here: Tywin is very concerned with reputation and status of his family name and Tyrion marrying a commoner is a stain on his family’s honor.

      • Darkdoug

        Not to mention that with the tricky issues of inheritance, namely Tyrion’s technical preeminent position as lawful heir, it could lead to some peasant’s children inheriting Casterly Rock & the greatest family fortune. Even if he did find a way to regain Jaime as his heir, or maybe name Tommen or one of Joffrey’s younger sons, there would still be the half-peasant grandchildren cluttering up the Rock. Jeyne Westerling’s marital prospects were severely curtailed by her maternal great-grandparents being commoners, however wealthy. How much more of a headache would it be trying to convince some noble of appropriate rank to take bride whose mother was a peasant and father was a dwarf? He’d have to all but buy a groom with a huge dowry (which is embarrassing even if he could afford it) or settle for a spouse of much lesser blood, which is also embarrassing.

  11. Rumpelstilzhen

    I think there are two mistakes in your text (it’s good as always nonetheless): First, Tywins’ advice to Joffrey doesn’t apply here in my opinion, because Tywin did not need the Reynes and Tarbecks. In the Riverlands, on the other hand, he needed some loyal men, he can’t govern them from the westwerlands. Seond, the smile could also ome from the satisfaction of restoring the pride of his House whih his father put at stake, so it was not the killing itself that he liked, but the symbolism in it.

  12. As Michael Corleone told his brother Sonny. It is nothing personal just business…

    • Darkdoug

      As he told Tom Hagen, that’s actually bullshit. The Godfather takes everything personally, that’s why he is so effective. You see throughout the books, that whenever the Corleones tell someone “nothing personal, just business” that someone seeks revenge anyway. But when Don Corleone makes it personal, he gets results. When he rejected Sollozzo, he used the NPTJB line, and got shot. When he told the assembled dons of the Commission that he would take it personally if anything, even an accident happened to Michael when he came home, nothing happened to Michael. The whole horse’s head affair was personal, even though the victim was trying to make a business deal with Don Corleone. Don Corleone sent the message that this was not about business, about making a profit, it was about getting his way no matter what. If it was just business, he’d have taken a huge payoff from the studio head and done the favors the guy wanted, and told Johnny Fontane, “Sorry, it was just a business deal. Better luck with your next venture.”

      Tywin’s the same way. That, and not his competence, is why he was so feared. That was why Roose Bolton wanted Jaime to make it clear that he had nothing to do with his maiming, the personal offense. Roose himself is characterized as a cold-blooded pragmatist and sociopath, by his closest supporter and nearest kinswoman, no less, and his rational assessment of Tywin is that the man would try to get revenge no matter how many “long leagues” separate the Dreadfort from Casterly Rock.

      I think Tywin’s lesson to Joffrey was aimed at reining in the personal affront part of his grandson’s game, rather than being ruled by it. He’s too young and inexperienced to be making decisions about how and when to apply personal vengeance as a factor in your policies.

  13. Darkdoug

    Just one point regarding the extermination of the Tarbecks and Reynes, due to subsequently released information. As per the World of Ice and Fire resource book, that complete obliteration had more to do with the circumstances than any deliberate attempt to slaughter the whole blood lines. The Tarbecks were killed when his siege engines knocked their castle down on their heads, and the Reynes were killed by flooding their mostly subterranean castle and sealing the exits. The noncombatant members of the families died because they were inside the castles at the time of the siege, not because Tywin targeted them specifically.

    For the record, Ellyn Tarbeck was a Reyne by birth, and the connection by which both Houses rebelled together. Before marrying Lord Tarbeck, she had been married to Tytos Lannister’s older brother, and had expected to be the Lady of Casterly Rock someday. Her attitude at the time, and the payback from the in-laws she alienated when her husband died before inheriting, made her beef with the Lannisters a personal score.

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  16. Targaryen-schmargaryen

    Cheers Captain Obvious.

  17. Chimeny

    Nope, he was not “evil”.

  18. Khanya Ncoyini

    What other choice did he have? Remain outside the town, with a strong force while the king was held by a rebel lord? I think it was a brilliant move to send the bold Ser Barristan and prepare for an assualt.

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