Monday, November 26, 2012

[Re-read] Tyrion II: Caught in the Riddle

So there's this guy on national TV claiming he lost in some crap reality show because it was the will of God. Stuff like that provokes me to no end, because a) if there had been a god of some sort he'd probably be better off watching out for starving children than some reality show on TV and b) he failed to give proper credit to all the other potential powers that could have been involved in his loss, like Odin, Baal, Anahit, the Easter bunny, Zeus, Ra or Isildur for that matter. Oh, and c) he's talking out of his ass. When something like this gets me fuming I have three different solutions. One is going online and debate something to get my mind off it, another is to put on some loud music to blast away the annoyance, and a third option is to read something good, reminding me that there is still something of worth around. So this post is a combination of all three as I am rioreading another chapter of A Storm of Swords (my apologies for the delays - November hasn't been easy on this body), while blasting some powerful, life-affirming metal and getting out some of my frustration in this paragraph and now on to the good book (pun intended, I guess). But not before a nice crossover I found on the ganz Interwebz.

You have the right to be offended and so have I. Also, funny.

Wow, it's really been a while since last I flipped through the pages of A Storm of Swords. So what was up with Tyrion, our little lord of Lannister? Guess he's been recuperating after that nasty incident with Ser Mandon Moore, and as we step back into his shoes he is still figuring out what's been going on in his absence, as witnessed by Varys' surprise when he here finds Tyrion seated by the hearth, and Martin makes sure to give us the impression that the eunuch is indeed surprised - his voice is squeaky, and he giggles nervously - which is quite the indicator knowing how strong Varys' control usually is. An unexpected event for him then, that Tyrion lives. Cersei must have been very good at keeping it secret that her dwarf brother was merely holed up in some chamber and not dead.

Gotta love Tyrion's comeback line when Varys titters about his quarters being humble: "They are humble. Excessively so, in truth." It's one of those lines that for all their sarcasm get lost among other, more famous lines of dialogue. Really, for these first three books there are so many great lines to quote it's almost ridiculous. In this case, it is of course the oxymoron that makes the comment funny - excessively humble. Bit like the Pope, then. Whooops! Only thing is I completely misunderstood the line and didn't notice until I read a few sentences on. That's the price I pay for blogging as I read, as I am doing now. The quarters are in fact humble, and the 'excessive' part means that they are really humble as in sparse, while I thought Tyrion was kind of telling Varys that "yeah right, if you call this humble..." know what I mean? My bad. Oh well, at least I admit when I bad.

In fact, Tyrion is surprised by just how humble Varys' room is - stating that there was water in the flagon (instead of wine), which goes to show just how...monkish Varys lives. Hey! Could Varys be a monk? Could he be so dedicated to some god (the Lord of Light perhaps) that he lives ascetically? Did he lie about how he lost - did he do it himself to humble himself before his god? Just food for thought. "Your sleeping cell is no wider than a coffin, and that bed, is it actually made of stone (...)?" Yes, Varys sure is an ascetic! The rest is conjecture of course, but there can be no doubt Varys' rooms show a man perfectly comfortable living like a begging brother even though he lives within the walls of the Red Keep!

Here we get a real bit of sarcasm from Tyrion, also funny: Varys asks if Tyrion is cross with him for abandoning him after the battle, to which Tyrion replies, "It made me think of you as one of my family." Heeheeh. Didn't need to wrap my brain around that one. Good good. They talk about Tyrion's scar, especially the missing nose, and Tyrion suggests he should get himself a golden one, which is a nice setup for Jaime getting a golden body part later on. Tyrion asks if it is true Pycelle has been restored to the Small Council - remember Tyrion deposed him in A Clash of Kings. Varys confirms it, which is a tell-tale sign that all the political work Tyrion did is unraveling at the hands of his mad sister. However, Varys tells him that in this case, it wasn't Cersei's doing, but the Archmaesters of Oldtown. According to these guys, only the Conclave can make or unmake a Grand Maester. Not sure if this is the first time the Conclave is mentioned, but it feels that way right now. It comes somewhat off left field, but of course we'll see the maesters of Oldtown take a bigger part in the story as it evolves (or devolves, depending on your point of view). 

Another nice hint that we might just see Tyrion riding a dragon in a future novel: "Alas, I am quite dragonless." Turns out, though, that the Conclave had considered sending a new maester anyway, one from Highgarden, at which Tywin had immediately reacted to prevent this from happening. A hint that the maesters of the Citadel are in league with the Tyrells? After all, the Tyrells are kind of infiltrating the higher echelons of society at the moment, aren't they? And the citadel is in Oldtown, in the Tyrell lands of the Reach. I like how, without showing us too much, Martin still gets across the idea that the Tyrells are bidding for power in their own, secretive ways. More importantly we learn that Varys has little birds in the Citadel at Oldtown; I'm going to put that little bit of tid on file.

Ser Boros Blount is also being restored to his position in the Kingsguard, and Tyrion muses that this guy is probably hating hard on Cersei right now (after having been stripped off rank for "failing to die", I lol'd), so he can be useful. This is another one to file away, as the implications will become clear in A Feast for Crows  I believe.

Varys tells Tyrion that he has noticed Bronn asking around, subject of interest Ser Mandon Moore, the man who betrayed Tyrion on the Blackwater. Wanting to know how Moore had turned against Tyrion, he carefully states, "The man seems to have been quite friendless," hoping to draw out more information from the master of information himself. What Tyrion wants is a link between Moore and Cersei, but he's not getting any help from the eunuch. Varys instead regales just how a perfect white knight Moore was, and I can only imagine how infuriating this must be for Tyrion (though the text does not state Tyrion's feelings as Varys blathers on about Ser Mandon).

The discussion takes a new direction when Tyrion asks that Varys brings him Shae. He wants to see her one last time before sending her off, having decided it is too dangerous for both him and her to keep her at the Red Keep, what with his lord father present. Turns out Tyrion is becoming a bit jealous of anyone near her, as well. He watched a young knight helping her out with a heavy pail of water, and it tied his gut into knots (suggesting jealousy). This in turn swings the direction of the conversation again, and now we get a quick summing up of just who is keeping a close eye on Tyrion: The Kettleblacks report to Cersei; we learn that Ser Osmund is lusting after Cersei, and Varys reminds Tyrion that while he can match her with bribes, she has a "second purse" (nice way of putting it). Janos Slynt's sons are also against Tyrion for what he did to their father, and Varys adds Littlefinger to the list as well though I suspect this could be part of his own agenda as well (to get rid of Littlefinger). Ah, the political intrigues of King's Landing - it really is awesome how Martin keeps truths, half-truths and lies (and half-lies I guess) juggled, it's such an amazing part of the experience that is A Song of Ice and Fire, and as I probably have mentioned sixteen hundred thousand times before, one of my favorite aspects of the series.

The debate returns to Tyrion's wish to see Shae and he tells Varys that a secure place would be the very room they are in - the excessively humble chambers of Varys the eunuch. I'm really thinking he could be part of some monastic order now, dammit. They agree and the scene ends, but the chapter does not. Which is fine by me, since reading Tyrion still rocks baby, even thirteen years later (cue obligatory question about where time goes...cue envisioning Tyrion traveling all over Essos asking people where time goes). Anyway,  the scene is over and we get to the next bit of the chapter, which begins with describing the rest of that day as 'slow as a worm in molasses', which led me to look up that last word (and maybe I have done that before during other re-reads, I don't know). Ah, the thesaurus (fortunately not an extinct species) comes to my rescue - a kind of syrup or some such? Making a worm crawl even slower, at any rate. All right, it's a really slow day and this is of course to punctuate Tyrion's longing for Shae. A bit like being a child waiting for his/her yuletide presents. He tries to distract himself reading History of the Rhoynish Wars reminding us Tyrion is a reader and that one of his more powerful weapons is knowledge; but it is hard to concentrate. He really craves Shae. Some time is spent in the bath tub, and apparently Tyrion has whiskers now. Martin kind of slows the story a crawl to illustrate the slowness of the experience, but fortunately for too long - just enough to give the impression he wants to give us. Which can't always be said for later novels. Tyrion first clothes in fine garbs, then realizes that it is probably a mistake, pulls off those clothes and puts on something less conspicuous. 

It is night - told us through a description of the moon peeping over the castle wall - when Tyrion goes off. That sounded like Tyrion exploding. He tells Pod he's visiting Varys and that he'll be away for a while. He is seen by several characters which the author deems necessary to point out - Ser Balon Swann, the Knight of Flowers - and I'm thinking Swann's the guy here who will report back that Tyrion's been seen waddling about at night. Tyrion stops to chat with Ser Loras, asks him his age. "Seventeen," he replies. Tyrion is envious of the young man, already a hero and admired by the ladies like few others. Tyrion asks his reasons for joining the Kingsguard; Loras replies, among other things, that "when the sun has set, no candle can replace it," which refers to the death of his love, Renly Baratheon. Kind of weird that he says it, really. Maybe he doesn't count on Tyrion connecting the dots. Another stop to extend the painful reunion between Shae and Tyrion when he passes the kennels, a quick paragraph seemingly existing to remind us Sandor Clegane has gone off; then Tyrion finally slips inside "the eunuch's meager abode" (is it a separate building? I'm beginning to wonder from the description here). 

A plump woman appears inside the 'abode' and Tyrion recoils. Now 'recoil' is a cool word, and you really can't stop reading at this moment can you when he fricking recoils. Turns out the plump woman is Varys. One of those bits where you either smile, roll your eyes or do both. I did both. And Shae is there as well, ooh. She asks him what she's wearing (it's dark) and he hopes for nothing and before you know it they are talking, rather frankly, about getting around to the fucking. I'm not going to excuse Mr. Martin's language. Shae is a whore, has nothing to be shy about, and that really comes through in her dialogue that's for sure. Varys disappears in an almost mysterious way, simply vanishing. This results in Tyrion realizing there has to be a secret exit/entrance here - and I can only assume that Varys wants Tyrion to figure it out, or he wouldn't leave in this manner, no? 

Shae is all over him before he gets to think more about it, which could be a clever way of Martin to not having to let Tyrion come to the conclusion that Varys is either not as smart as he appears to be, or wants Tyrion to find secret tunnels and what have you. Well there you go, five strokes in and Tyrion is done. Perhaps it is best that way. Shae continues to be a mystery of sorts as she tells him she likes his new scars, scars that make most people, you know, recoil. No wonder poor Tyrion is confused about this whole thing; she is the conflicting feelings in him incarnate. She begins to complain about being Lollys' servant, clearly not afraid of his father (and why is wonders), and Tyrion gets agitated: "Shae, gods be damned, stop that. Listen to me. You have to go away. The city's full of Tyrells just now, and I am closely watched. You don't understand the dangers." Did they move some of this dialogue to season two of the TV series? It felt so familiar. Also, I am seeing the actors of the show now as I'm reading.

Now after you've recovered from the fact that an old fart like myself has discovered this thing called "Internet meme" let's read on. Shae continues to bug Tyrion about, what it amounts to, getting a better / more luxurious treatment: "Can I come to the king's wedding feast?" Interestingly, perhaps, Shae and Varys are like opposites in this chapter - contrasting, if you will - Varys living humbly, but really wielding a lot of power, and Shae wanting to live luxuriously but being quite powerless in the grand scheme of things. And while Varys is sly, maybe this contrasting means Shae is in fact straight-forward, but that's grasping, I know. Still, I like the contrast between them in this chapter, as if they together tie up thematically what the chapter is about, with Tyrion caught in the middle. Could also tie into Varys' riddle of power with Shae - at the moment - believing power still resides with Tyrion although this and his previous chapter have shown that this is no longer so. She wants him to improve her life, yet he no longer has the power to do so, constrained by Cersei's spies. Neat!

Their talk is also used, efficiently, to foreshadow and setup the king's wedding, nudging its coming in our minds so as to be prepared for it. Seventy-seven courses, a hundred doves baked into a pie, and Tyrion countering that those doves will be shitting all over the wedding guests - the author saying the wedding will not be quite as expected? One can wonder how deep Martin's prose goes, or whether it is deep at all, depending on who you talk to I suppose. It is at any rate quite clever most of the time, like a puzzle with the pieces fitting nicely together once you see the pattern. And Shae continues to demand a lady's clothes and joining the feast, and he refuses. There'll be a thousand guests, she explains as she "cupped his cock and stroked it gently" which comes into the text as a bit of a jarring additional information. She gives him another round of intercourse, and now it becomes obvious at least to me as a reader that she is trying to use "her purse" as Varys would have put it to convince Tyrion to let her come with him to the feast. Another neat touch, then, comparing Cersei and Shae's purses. Cersei has both powers, but Shae has only her purse...this chapter is really full of these little contrasts and comparison, making it all the richer for it. But Tyrion still refuses, at which Shae becomes all sullen and icy (thus supporting my suggestion that she is sexing him for the favor she wants). The thing that hurts is that Tyrion does want to give her the world, but can't. It's a lovely internal conflict for the author to explore. 

Tyrion, however, begins to explore the room, resulting in the discovery of secret steps beneath the stone bed - not only an ascetic's bed, then, but also a concealed hidden door. A "counterweight spell" Tyrion calls the magic Varys uses to open the gate and I'm not sure whether he means an actual magical formula of counterweightness or if he's being a bit sarcastic toward her (she seems to believe it's actual magic). A counterweight isn't magical, but a counterweight spell? Maybe I'm dense. Or maybe the way the author writes this leaves room for ambiguity. Who knows? Not Zeus.

Shae tells Tyrion she has to go because Lollys could need her (funny how she all of a sudden is in a rush, after not having gotten what she wanted), but when she leaves she's all honey again: "You are my lion, aren't you? My giant of Lannister?" She tells him she understands - all of a sudden, it doesn't matter anymore. Has she made up her mind to seek elsewhere? That's the fascinating with Martin's strict adherence to point of views. We're never privy to Shae's thoughts and can only read how she acts and talks through Tyrion's skewed view of the world. Brilliant. Possibly my favorite style in literature and stuff. Also stuff.

Tyrion returns to find Pod sleeping. He sends Pod to find Bronn, initiating the third scene, which starts with Bronn showing up late at night, all grumpy about having been dragged away from the brothel Chataya's (apparently the only brothel in town). Tyrion is annoyed by this; the reader sees a clear sign from the author showing us a shift in Bronn's character: No longer Tyrion's lapdog, most visible because of his easy insolence. Martin repeats twice that Tyrion is annoyed, which takes me out for a bit; Bronn bragging about sexing two whores links to Tyrion's jealousy shown earlier in the chapter; really this is a nice little woven tapestry of characterization. 

Tyrion tells Bronn there's this guy, Symon Silver Tongue who plays for "Lady Tanda's daughter sometimes." Apparently, this guy has 'filled Shae's sweet head with visions of doves and dancing bears', e.g. explained to Shae in meticulous detail all the glories of the coming wedding feast. Turns out Tyrion does not like that one bit (said captain Obvious). He thinks of killing him, but instead asks Bronn to find him. And that's a very short, to the point scene compared to the first two, and we have reached chapter's end. I hope this post enlightened or entertained you in some way, and apologies if any of it offended your sensibilities (but if you're a Martin reader you're probably used to that ^^)

We like in exciting times of geekery; novels, movies, comics, games. The genre is strong, its roots have grown deep...

1 comment:

  1. Is it fools mentioning God in vain that make you angry or is Him being mentioned already enough, no matter the context?
    Also itvseems that atheists try to prove themselves being right more than religious person do :)