Author Archives: bryndenbfish

The Monster Who Wasn’t There: The Adaptation of Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones

This essay contains Winds of Winter spoilers from a George RR Martin interview and a released sample chapter towards the end. So, beware, spoiler-averse!

Intro

Image result for tyrion books vs show

“I am Hugor Hill, a little monster. Your little monster, if you like. You have my word, all that I desire is to be leal servant of your dragon queen.” (ADWD, Tyrion III)

Game of Thrones, Season 8, Episode 5 “The Bells”  has ushered in a wave of controversy over Daenerys Targaryen burning King’s Landing after its surrender. While much of the controversy has focused on whether the necessary plot foundation and character groundwork for the event exists for Dany or even whether the act will occur in the books (I think it will occur in the books too for reasons I outlined back in 2015), there’s an under-analyzed aspect of the event in need of unpacking: namely, the character and role of Tyrion Lannister in the affair.

Tyrion Lannister is a fan-favorite character and viewed as one of the “good guys” on the show. But in the books, Tyrion is more ambiguous. A Game of Thrones has Tyrion’s darkness emerging at a few points, but it mostly stays in the background. But just prior to the publication of A Clash of Kings, author George RR Martin was interviewed by Amazon.com and stated:

Interviewer: “Do you have a favorite character?”

Martin: “I’ve got to admit I kind of like Tyrion Lannister. He’s the villain of course, but hey, there’s nothing like a good villain.” – Amazon.com Interview with GRRM, 1999

Tyrion’s Clash arc finds more darkness emerging in Tyrion, but it’s not until A Storm of Swords that this darkness comes roaring out. Thereafter, in A Dance with Dragons, we find Tyrion’s darkness festering into nihilism and self-loathing, resulting in monstrous acts and evil desires/thoughts.

But the version of Tyrion found in Game of Thrones is different, changed. The monster who emerges at the end of A Storm of Swords, who may have always been there in the books, is gone.

Tyrion in the show has most of his character flaws and evil deeds airbrushed from the narrative. While his murderous turn at the end of ASOS is retained in the show, there are two major story changes which undercut Tyrion’s plot resolution in Season 4. And when his arc progresses into Essos in Season 5, his character state, plot actions and even his underlying motivations are altered significantly from the source material as a result.

All of these changes have had consequences, undercutting the character of Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones.

And the fallout from the adaptation of Tyrion Lannister was felt most acutely in the destruction of King’s Landing.

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The Broken Country: Politics and Warfare in the Wake of Catastrophe, Part 2: Marriage, Lands and Allies

Intro

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Artwork by Tomasz Jedruszek

Westerosi politics has a passing resemblance to the politics of late medieval Europe. Mortaring the politics of Westeros is the concept of marriage, marriage alliance, heirs and family. And though the North considers itself separated out from the flowery politics of the South, the truth is that as George RR Martin has advanced the story of Westeros, the North has become more three dimensional, more political. And who better to help readers flesh out the complexity of northern politics than an immortal, skin-changing vampire: Roose Bolton.

As we talked about in part 1, Bolton rule of the North was designed by Tywin Lannister to be undercut down the road by Tyrion and Sansa. But Roose Bolton had an ally on his side: time. If the Leech Lord could secure the North politically, he could defend himself and his claim to the Wardenship of the North all the while working to achieve his true aim: to become King in the North.

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The History behind the George RR Martin’s Fire and Blood (And some tantalizing new clues about The Winds of Winter)

At long last, George RR Martin’s Fire and Blood, Volume One is here. And, though some fans were disappointed that it wasn’t The Winds of Winter, others rejoiced at having new material to read and talk about. New theories and ideas arose, while others saw parallels to the main series.

But how that material came to us is full of surprising turns and twists. And fans wonder whether Fire and Blood will help Martin in completing his long-awaited Wild C … The Winds of Winter. In that light, I reached out reached to Elio Garcia Jr and Linda Antonsson, George RR Martin’s co-authors of 2014’s The World of Ice and Fire, for an exclusive interview and peek behind the curtain.

And … I also learned some new things and rumors about Winds from others in the process.

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The Broken Country: Politics and Warfare in the Wake of Catastrophe, Part 1: Double-Crossing the Double-Crosser

Intro

Image result for Lannister Bolton sigil

The north is hard and cold, and has no mercy. (ASOS, Catelyn III)

The North was in ruins. The North is in ruins. The king was dead. His armies decimated. Half the country was under foreign occupation. And the Starks, the ancestral rulers of the North, were dead, fled or captives of hostile houses. The Ironborn Invasion, the savagery of the Bastard of Bolton and above all the Red Wedding had despoiled a whole region of its king, its lords, its lands, its armies and its people. Injustice reigns in the North. But despite all the horrors visited on the region, despite it being a broken country, there was hope, a hope that wrongs would be righted and that justice would return.

Hello! And welcome to a brand new monthly series analyzing northern politics and winter warfare in the wake of the Red Wedding. In this series, I’ll be covering the major, middling and minor players, their plots and their conspiracies set in the North. We’ll be taking a deep-dive into all of this, because if anything, the North is an intriguing mess. Shifting alliances, vengeance and claims to Winterfell and the North present readers of A Song of Ice and Fire with a chaotic and enticing plot that starts in A Storm of Swords and takes off in A Dance with Dragons.

To kick things off, I wanted to talk about a theory about a subtle double-crossing that starts in A Clash of Kings, bounds its way into A Storm of Swords and sees some ramifications in the northern plotline from A Dance with Dragons. Tywin Lannister conspired with Roose Bolton and Walder Frey to betray the Starks and end Stark independence, but that may not have been the only betrayal he planned. In fact, Tywin Lannister seemed to be planning another betrayal against those he conspired with.

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No Happy Choices and No Happy Endings: A Monstrous Sacrifice in TWOW

Intro

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Artwork by Fantasy Flight Games

“There is power in a king’s blood,” the old maester had warned, “and better men than Stannis have done worse things than this.” The king can be harsh and unforgiving, aye, but a babe still on the breast? Only a monster would give a living child to the flames. (ADWD, Jon I)

“Sacrifice is never easy or it is not true sacrifice” underpins the central struggle between Stannis, Melisandre and Davos in A Storm of Swords. Where Stannis wonders aloud, “what is the life of one bastard boy against a kingdom”, Davos responds with “everything.” The context of this conversation is the fate of Edric Storm, bastard nephew to Stannis. And while readers find resolution in the survival of Edric Storm in A Storm of Swords, the question that Stannis poses and Davos answers doesn’t conclude with Edric Storm.

While Game of Thrones showed us a version of that conclusion with the burning of Shireen Baratheon, this will likely not be the extent of the dynamic of human sacrifice in A Song of Ice and Fire. Instead, George RR Martin has laid down significant groundwork in the extant material for a similar conflict to erupt early in The Winds of Winter — with Melisandre, a Davos archetype and the life of a bastard boy set against the fate of a kingdom.

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Iron Bends: The Surprising Flexibility of Stannis Baratheon

The following essay is used with permission from the Tower of the Hand e-book “A Hymn for Spring” featuring essays by fellow Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire writer SomethingLikeALawyer, Steven Attewell from Race for the Iron Throne, Stefan Sasse from the Boiled Leather Audio Hour, Aziz and Ashaya from the History of Westeros podcast, Amin Javadi  from A Podcast of Ice and Fire,  John Jasmine, Marc Kleinhenz and Alexander Smith from Tower of the Hand.

It’s a real good book if I do say so myself!

Introduction

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Artwork by HBO

A large part of the success of A Song of Ice and Fire comes through George R.R. Martin’s ability to write compelling characters with complex motives. In the books themselves, the thoughts, words, and actions of the POV characters are windows into the plot, setting, and, most of all, the personality and values of other characters in the series – and easily one of the more controversial of these characters is Stannis Baratheon. He inspires love by some, hatred by others, and fear by most of the other characters in A Song of Ice and Fire.

But if there were a point of agreement between Stannis’s supporters and detractors alike, it would be that he is inflexible. Throughout the narrative, the stern Lord of Dragonstone is spoken of as being an excellent commander but also of being brittle and inflexible.

“Robert was the true steel. Stannis is pure iron, black and hard and strong, yes, but brittle, the way iron gets. He’ll break before he bends. And Renly, that one, he’s copper, bright and shiny, pretty to look at, but not worth all that much at the end of the day.” – Donal Noye (ACOK, Jon I)

Noye’s sentiment is shared by others.

“The man [Stannis] is iron, hard and unyielding.” – Petyr Baelish (AGOT, Eddard XIII)

“They are quite a pair, Stannis and Renly. The iron gauntlet and the silk glove.” – Varys (AGOT, Eddard XV)

This one will never bend, she thought. – Catelyn Stark (ACOK, Catelyn III)

His eyes were sunk in deep pits, his close-cropped beard no more than a shadow across his hollow cheeks and bony jawbone. Yet there was power in his stare, an iron ferocity that told Asha this man would never, ever turn back from his course. – Asha Greyjoy (ADWD, The King’s Prize)

Even Davos Seaworth, the one character who unconditionally loves Stannis, considered his king and friend to be inflexible.

Davos held up his gloved hand. “My fingers will grow back before that man bends to sense.” (ACOK, Prologue)

Within the Song of Ice and Fire fan community, Noye’s analogy of Stannis Baratheon as iron has gained a lot of traction – even Stannis’s fair share of fan-admirers mainly hold to Noye’s perspective. Readers admire his tactical and strategic acumen and view his actions in saving the Night’s Watch from wildling invasion favorably. But many also hold to the belief that the would-be king is inflexible and stubborn to his cause’s detriment.

Even those who think that Stannis is more flexible don’t see this transformation taking place until sometime in A Storm of Swords. The running theory of this group seems to be that once Davos convinced Stannis to put the horse in front of the cart and rescue the realm from wildling invasion, the would-be king became more willing to bend to make alliances in the north.

But I think that Donal Noye, Catelyn Stark, and the fans who view Stannis as unyielding iron have an incomplete view of the man. While I think that Stannis is, indeed, hard and strong, the brittle and breaking aspect of the metaphor is lacking. I think that he is much more flexible than the characters in – and fans of – Ice and Fire give him credit for. And I hold that this flexibility goes farther back in the timeline than previously thought.

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Blood of the Conqueror, Bonus Essay: The Turncloak

Editor’s Note: This was originally going to be one of the featured essays from the series, but I ended up scrapping the idea as the series grew from a 5-part series to a 12-part series. However, after finishing a first draft of my own manuscript for my own book, I thought I might now publish this essay as a bonus to the main series. I hope you enjoy! 

Introduction

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Artwork by Romik Safarian

“So I am a coin in the hands of some god, is that what you are saying, ser?”

“No,” Ser Barristan replied. “You are the trueborn heir of Westeros. To the end of my days I shall remain your faithful knight, should you find me worthy to bear a sword again. If not, I am content to serve Strong Belwas as his squire.” (ASOS, Daenerys VI)

Of all the knights of Westeros, none seem quite so true as Barristan the Bold. From figures as far apart as Stannis and Renly Baratheon, Tywin Lannister, Ned Stark, Daenerys Targaryen,  Tyrion Lannister and even Varys the Spider, Selmy’s reputation as a true knight shines bright. More than that, Barristan’s renown and honor lends significant political advantage to whatever king he serves.

However, does Barristan’s reputation gel with the reality? More importantly, does Barristan’s past actions provide a pathway for how his story will play out in The Winds of Winter and beyond? In this essay, I’d like to tackle these issues in the context of what I see as Barristan’s coming Winds of Winter arc.

Though many fans believe that Barristan will die during the Battle of Fire, I think that GRRM has something much more narratively fulfilling in mind for Barristan than a death on Meereenese battlefield: namely, a massive conflict over his loyalties spurred forward by his guilt over his service to a bad king, his nostalgia for a “good” Targaryen prince and the changing character dynamics of the queen he serves and a boy binding up the wounds of bleeding Westeros.

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