Just to put your minds at ease, I have been very careful to avoid all spoilers for fans of both the books and television series.
Tyrion Lannister is most people’s favourite character (and in everyone’s top three) in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, as well as in the HBO adaptation Game of Thrones. But what is it about him that lures readers and watchers? What magic is his wonderfully crafted character emanating to captivate us so?
He is not a cruel and evil villain or a faultless hero, but that goes for the vast majority of the Game of Thrones cast, so let us delve a little deeper. His birth – where it all began – didn’t exactly spark a carefree life. There were complications with his arrival, which killed his mother – something for which his father, Tywin, and sister, Cersei, have forever punished him. To further cripple his father’s love, Tyrion was born a dwarf. As discussed in A Song of Ice and Fire, without have his noble name of Lannister, he would have been dumped in the streets to die.
This mentioning of his nobility leads on to the second aspect of his life in Westeros: Tyrion is vastly rich and, despite his ‘disability’, extremely privileged. He is a shameless frequenter of brothels, a lavish drinker, and he lives in luxury with few concerns (at least at the start of A Game of Thrones).
So here we have a contrast, a pair of extremes. The characters of simpler minded authors than George R. R. Martin might only have one, but Tyrion Lannister is a rich and whoring drunk without a care in the world… and a friendless dwarf without a purpose, maligned by all and despised by his father and sister. Yet calling him a ‘neutral’ is not enough. It doesn’t fit. His character has not leaned towards a single extreme, but swayed between them, making heroic decisions, selfish decisions, and downright crazy ass decisions too. I suppose you could say he was a song of ice and fire.
So in Tyrion Lannister we have realism at its finest. He says cruel things, but we know he’s not cruel. We admire his heroism, but he doesn’t drone on about honour, or how he would give his life for his kingdom or his king; he just does what he thinks is right. We read and we watch him survive through torturous trials throughout the series; we’re by his side as he wades through the pain and suffering, and it is there we see why we love him. He is a hero, and through all of his life he has lived like a villain.
By D. C. Ward.
Thank you for reading, and if you enjoyed this article, please email subscribe or follow us on twitter @Sentient_Ink. If you like the tone of this character profile article, we have another on Harry Potter’s Severus Snape. And if you’re a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire or A Game of Thrones, then you might also enjoy George R. R. Martin’s short story, The Ice Dragon, which is reviewed here.