Thursday, February 27, 2014

[Re-read] Tyrion V: Darkly Awesome [Part I]

Wow, just wow! I definitely don't feel like I'm twenty anymore, after three full days of total partying and listening to the most ear-crushing metal bands available. This, followed by a surprise visit by family, has taken its toll on my geekery the last week or so; no gaming, no writing, and almost no reading - though I did find myself re-reading two chapters from A Dance with Dragons last night, which brought me right in the mood for another A Storm of Swords chapter!
While I was gone headbanging and drinking myself sillier than usual, there's been big news in the world of Ice & Fire - Martin has fed us, like the drooling dogs looking for a scrap from his table that we are, a whole new paragraph from an upcoming Tyrion chapter! I'm ecstatic. It is from his first or possibly second chapter, I suppose, when things are going down in Meereen. It features a dying man screaming for his mother, which I remember is a character we have already met before (at least, there's someone screaming for his mother in some other battle in the series). I wonder if Martin will use this battle to contrast Tyrion's first battle experience way back in A Game of Thrones when he was given the vanguard position with his Mountain clansmen. If Martin is still on top of his game, he will. All right, I admit it; though I am being sarcastic about being given a paragraph it does make me excited for The Winds of Winter all over again.
Last night's re-read chapters of Dance confirmed that I still don't like Tyrion's, but the Theon chapters are rather good, even though the constant Reek rhymes are getting on my nerve. Nerve rhymes with horse d'oeuvre. Yay!

Speaking of Tyrion Lannister, whom we also know and love as the Imp, here we have a chapter featuring just the short fellow, and if I'm not mistaken it is also the chapter that introduces us to Oberyn Martell, whom we also know of the Red Viper, and I remember vividly the first time this character was introduced and I was thinking, How does Martin come up with all these cool characters all the time?! Because Martell is a cool character; a short role, but shows a lot of coolness in the few scenes where he is present, much like Boba Fett became a fan favorite in the Star Wars series. Unfortunately later Martells introduced into the story don't reach the Viper to his knees when it comes to being a breath of cool, fresh air. Let's start at the beginning, and remember this is about Tyrion, not Oberyn. Though Oberyn tends to steal scenes, the sneaky viper that he is.

I love how this chapter opens with a "close up" (so to speak) of a horse whickering, and as a reader you have no idea where this horse is or whatever, and then Martin 'zooms out' so that we get the full picture. Almost like how they did it in old movies, know what I mean? So as the camera (also known as "the mind's eye", in this case) zooms out, we see Lord Gyles (always with that cough), and Ser Addam is there, and good old Jalabhar Xho, and a whole lot of people - it's a group, then, with Tyrion obviously among them, and we learn that they are awaiting the arrival of Doran Martell. Tyrion thinks that Joffrey, as the king, should have been here to greet the prince from the south, but maybe it's for the better this way, as Joffrey has been joking a lot about the Dornish recently. Love that little bit of realistic culture-building; here in Norway we make jokes about the Swedes (and the Swedes about us), the Dutch joke about the Belgians (and the Belgians about the Dutch) and I suppose this goes on between many borders - and apparently, in Westeros too.

The riders - the Martell entourage, that is - emerge from the woods (and I can already see this so vividly that I kind of don't want to see this scene on TV because then the image in my head might disappear boo hiss), so many banners waving in the wind that Tyrion thinks half the lords of Dorne are coming up toward him. However in the very next paragraph Bronn counts only nine banners so I'm not that impressed. Pod comes up to help Tyrion identify the various banners (and to allow Martin to indulge in his fetish of describing heraldry, which I understand - I have devised a veritable host of heraldic designs for my role playing campaign). And so we get to learn a little Dornish heraldry. Love Tyrion's quip when the first banner recognized is Martell's own; "My horse would have known that one." 

And here they are, for your convenience. Colorful for the most part, with colors mostly reflecting that "feeling" of Dorne. Man, Martin really made me fall in love with heraldry. I even bought a book on the subject, teaching myself about tinctures and fields and so on and so forth. Anyway, we learn that Podrick - on Tyrion's orders - has become something of an expert in Dornish heraldry. Maybe that will come in handy later in the story? This part also shows us how Tyrion is growing fond of Pod in an almost father-like way; he wants the boy to feel good about himself (which, incidentally, TV-Tyrion did in a radically different way wink wink nudge in conclusion: penis).

These are the most formidable of Dornish lords, Tyrion notes, and he realizes that this means something more. He wonders if it had been a mistake shipping Myrcella off to Dorne (I wonder if TV fans even remember her?) and I wonder why Tyrion doesn't immediately link this to what everybody knows - how the Lannisters were responsible for some rather bad deeds done to House Martell. I mean wouldn't it be obvious that Tyrion swallows a lump in his throat and thinks, "They haven't forgotten?" I don't know. They realize that Doran Martell, the Prince of Dorne himself, actually isn't coming - his litter isn't present, and he always travels in a litter. I simply love how Martin doesn't expand on this issue - it's just stated that Doran always travels like this, and only later will we find out why. Exposition is kept to a minimum here with regards to the prince. Oh wait. Tyrion does think of Doran's gout. Still, we're not being told excessively the whys and hows of the Dornish.

And then to my favorite line of the chapter (not really), which just jumps off the page for me. This waiting was intolerable. THIS WAITING WAS INTOLERABLE. Martin, you're such a troll. You knew all along. I kid, I kid.

After some more exposition on the Dornish people (there are three types of them; the salty coastlanders, the sandy desertmen, and the stony ones - I love these details to make the Dornish so culturally distinct not only from the rest of Westeros but also between themselves; makes them become more real), we finally get to the fateful meeting between Tyrion Lannister and Oberyn Martell. If Tyrion and Bronn was a great duo I could have followed for countless books, Tyrion and Oberyn together would be a nice fun read too. Even the Viper's horse is cool: "A stallion black as sin with a mane and tail the color of fire." Martin really gives Oberyn a nice introduction, with a full description that gives the reader the definite impression that we're meeting a fellow you don't want to start a fight with. A fantastic buildup which I dare say fooled most of us, am I right? With this kind of buildup you could really believe that this guy at least would be good enough to slay Ser Gregor Clegane - thus, a surprise twist when things turn out differently. I loves it so much! Tyrion seals the deal (making us expect trouble) when he thinks, "This will mean blood in the gutters." Martin really builds up expectations here. We are also introduced to Oberyn's paramour, Ellaria Sand. If you're not expecting trouble yet, Tyrion realizes that bringing her along will certainly be seen as a slight by Cersei - more trouble, then.

The people in both parties are introduced by name, but Oberyn himself makes it clear that it is an insult that it is Tyrion Lannister who represents King's Landing. Tension in the air. Martin is so masterful at getting that imaginary tension to feel so real. Martin sneaks in a little tale of how Oberyn had poisoned the old Lord Yronwood (so that we may expect him to use a poisoned weapon later in the story) as the two groups turn toward King's Landing and refreshments. Tyrion wonders what to do with Oberyn Nymeros Martell (did you remember he had a middle name? I had forgotten). We get more dark tales of Oberyn's past, just to make sure we really get how darkly awesome the guy is. And to brew even more trouble, Oberyn was the guy who crippled Willas Tyrell, and aren't the Tyrells currently ingratiating themselves with the Lannisters? Martin skillfully builds up the political tension. It's riveting.

Oberyn tells Tyrion they've met before, mockingly saying that Tyrion was even smaller then than he is now. Not the most jovial of people, this Oberyn. Apparently he had paid a visit to Casterly Rock when Tyrion was born (which Tyrion thinks is queer, which incidentally is a nice choice of word re: Oberyn). I would like to learn more about this particular part of the immense puzzle that is Martin's backstory. But look. Here, Martin is at the top of his game as he foreshadows Tyrion murdering his own father. Breathtaking really.

"You were small, but far-famed (...) all the city talked of was the monster that had been born to the King's Hand, and what such an omen might foretell for the realm (...) your father's fall (...)."

Prince Oberyn (by Amok)
According to a begging brother back then, Tyrion was a punishment from the gods for Tywin had made himself greater than the king (Aerys); it's all very interesting really, but I kind of can't reproduce the entire dialogue between the two here. But if you're like me, you re-read it again and again, enjoying this meeting between two formidable (in different ways) characters. Tyrion, at first taken aback by the arrival of Oberyn (instead of Doran) soon finds his voice again - when Oberyn tells him that as a baby, nothing could make him quiet but a woman's teat, Tyrion quips, "Still true, as it happens." And then Oberyn, for the first time, laughs, and we can see a relation developing between them from this point onward. Oberyn's story also shows us one of the (early) reasons for Cersei's loathing of Tyrion - no doubt having heard it from her father, she blames Tyrion for their mother's death. I hate it when Oberyn tells Tyrion that Cersei twisted Tyrion's thingy hatefully; I hate violence against babies and children. In fact I hate everything that affects children negatively. Especially after I had children myself. Most of all, I hate adults who abuse children. But I'm veering off track. Like Tyrion, I wonder why Viper chose to bring up this tale and elaborate so much. This story certainly doesn't help the theory many fans have that Tyrion is no Lannister, or am I missing something?

Oh, a lovely exchange here. I had forgotten about it, but I do love it (but then I love most of Tyrion's replies):
Prince Oberyn had a chuckle. "You've grown more amusing since last we met."
"Yes, but I meant to grow taller." 

I have to call it quits here, but will try to get the rest up soon. I can't even write one blog post these days without interruption. But reading this chapter does make me even more excited about Season Four!


  1. Yeah, that cool world building. Just like the Meereenese and the Yunkish and all the others in ADWD. Oh, wait. :D

  2. ^^ I *knew* you were going to say that :) The difference remains though: In "ADWD", Martin does it with less flair and with larger walls of text. :-)

  3. Sometimes you warn about spoilers, even if it's hinta only reader or show watcher will understand. But sometimes like this you have no spoiler warning :)

  4. My apologies! I really should have a standard spoiler warning every time I post :)

  5. Where can we find blog posts about first and second books?