Wednesday, June 25, 2014

[Re-read] Tyion VIII: Another Wedding in the Heading, Part I


[Spoilers might just be found within]

All right, you thought I was just reading through the Rogues anthology, didn't you. Oh no, I also happen to spend waste a lot of time reading this website or that, usually related to one of my main passions, Ice & Fire, Star Wars, metal, or gaming. And every time I feel like I'm wasting my time reading this or that article, I think it would be more interesting to continue one of the books I'm reading. Today the choice fell on the next chapter in A Storm of Swords, Tyrion's eighth chapter, and we're smack dab in the middle of the sudden structural change in the novel where the author suddenly gives us two alternating POVs four chapters in a row. The effect is that for a few chapters we're really into the events of King's Landing - with the primary event being, of course, the marriage of Joffrey Baratheon and seemingly-innocent (in the book at least) young widow Margaery Tyrell. I like how the Tyrells, even though they've kind of been around all the way (through Ser Loras Tyrell's presence), seemed to just sneak into the story and suddenly, by A Feast for Crows, they had seized a lot of power, changing the political landscape in southern Westeros. Of course, some of this advancement was kept off-screen by the author, but still. I like that he dares to kind of overthrow the establishment he has created to show how easily power can slip out of one's grasp. I guess it's one of the big themes the series tackles.

That hair just took away all attention from the actual event.
So, in the TV series we had Margaery looking ridiculous with that hair-do. For a moment I thought I had strayed into the Star Wars prequels. In the books, it is the High Septon who looks ridiculous, with a new crown twice as tall as the one the mob had smashed during a riot, which is only proper considering it seems most religions demand silly headwear. Anyway, the crown is "a glory of crystal and spun gold", and so Martin is beginning to gradually introduce more heavily the subject of religion into his work. Up until this point really religion was more your standard fantasy affair, with different gods for different people, but from here on it seems - or feels - as if Martin is exploring how religion affects politics, and vice versa. He also seems to make the religion of the Seven more realistic in the sense that it draws more heavily from existing organized religions than say, R'hlorr or the almighty Black Goat of Qohor. Even in this opening paragraph, suggesting that the wealth on display - the crown, that is - comes from Tywin Lannister is a small observation on how religious figureheads (the High Septon in this case) either ingratiate themselves with the powerful, or make demands of the powerful (the text doesn't really make clear which way it worked for the High Septon, to get such fabulous headwear). Anyway, enough about headwear.

Tyrion admits to himself that his nephew and Margaery make a regal couple where they stand between the towering gilded statues of the Father and the Mother. She wears ivory silk and Myrish lace, her skirts decorated with floral patterns in typical Tyrell-style; Joffrey wears a doublet of dusky rose and a cloak of deep crimson. Tyrion wonders if Margaery is in fact a maiden, so I assume Martin wants us to wonder the same thing, too - he reminds us of a plot element. And it does become an important one as the story progresses. Which is very in line with Martin's medieval history influences. How much tragedy could have been averted if feudalism and primogeniture had been left on the drawing board? We learn quickly that Tyrion is still bitter about not getting recognition for his deeds ("I saved that bloody crown for him") and that he's drunk too much. Martin plays with the reader when he writes that Tyrion wishes to strangle his "bloody royal nephew" - building up, without the first-time reader even knowing it, the suspense connected to the assassination to come. It's quite interesting to see Tyrion think that it would be best if the gods crushed Joffrey like a dung beetle, what with the criticism Game of Thrones faced for the scene where Tyrion and Jaime talked about beetles being crushed. I still like that scene.

Martin lets Tyrion ponder the implications that Joffrey was behind the attempted murder of Bran Stark, which is a wise move - one could almost forget the whole plot line, buried so deep in all the other threads going on at the same time. If there's one thing this series not very good at, it has to be resolutions, so here we have one, if barely noticeable. He spends a good deal of time, actually, thinking through it, coming to a certain sequence in his mind that is the most likely to have occurred. He still doesn't know why, though, but assumes the boy's just cruel - and with that, Martin kind of puts the lid on the case and we can move on. And why not? Most Starks are dead, anyway. Tyrion regrets having revealed his knowledge though, and wonders if his big mouth will one day be the death of him. Foreshadowing?

Seven vows are made, seven blessings are invoked, and seven promises exchanged. Then, it is time to change cloaks, that sweet tradition that seems to ensure that all goes well in Westerosi weddings. Or not. Tyrion's still bitter about Sansa not kneeling for him at the altar. Not kneeling, people! That's how it really went down. Well, not down, since she refused to kneel, but you know what I mean. The book shot first. Unlike Tyrion and Sansa's ceremony, however, this one goes quite well. The boy king drapes his cloak across Margaery, and he declares loudly, "With this kiss I pledge my love!" which is funny because you know, as a reader, that the concept of love doesn't register with this fellow. And so the two are declared "one flesh, one heart, one soul". I guess the Seven made an exception there, since they are usually intensely preoccupied with the number seven. Can't help but love Tyrion's sardonic thought at the end of the ceremony, Good, that's done with. Now let's get back to the bloody castle so I can have a piss. Such a sobering thought midst the splendor of the royal wedding.

Martin really goes out of his way to tell us just how splendid this wedding is, contrasting it with Tyrion and Sansa's epic fail. Ser Loras and Ser Meryn in their white cloaks looking splendid as they lead the procession; Prince Tommen, scattering rose petals from a basket (how cute is that), Queen Cersei and Mace Tyrell, and so on and so forth. It's good to see Ser Garlan Tyrell again, I missed him in Game of Thrones. If only because he, at least outwardly, seems like a decent person, of which the show has few. Even fewer than the books. Following the stream of noteworthies, Tyrion takes Sansa's arm but he notices how stiff she is and she never looks down at him. Poor Tyrion! Man, I can really feel for him at this point in the books. I'm beginning to realize it's no wonder he was on such a downer in A Dance with Dragons. If only he could have been depressed somewhere else instead of on a boring boat with two-dimensional characters.

As it turns out, the crowds waiting outside the Great Sept are actually cheering, which is another contrast (to the riots where Joffrey got a turd or whatever it was thrown at him) - because they love Margaery Tyrell so much. It seems that the TV show gave us a slightly different spin on this. Martin just quickly summarizes for us why the crowds love her (mainly that she brings the wealth of Highgarden to a city in sore need of supplies) while the show gave us a Margaery who went about helping the poor and the destitute. It's kind of the same thing, but in this instance I'm thinking the show actually did a better job of this little detail. However, I like the irony that Tyrion is fully aware of - that it was Mace Tyrell who had blocked off trade to the city to begin with.

Dinklage's facial expression here is hilarious, in my opinion. 


Tyrion tries to make a joke, but Sansa doesn't seem to dare to say anything wrong so she's as witty as a dead pigeon in her reply. Cleverly, Martin sneaks in a mention of Littlefinger so as to remind the audience of his existence - Tyrion casually says that Littlefinger was smart to leave the city before having to endure such a long and boring ceremony.

They queue up to offer their congratulations; an excellent opportunity for Martin to give us a sizzling exchange of dialogue between Joffrey and Tyrion, but for once he doesn't take it and Tyrion and Sansa are off the hook just like that. I half expected, the first time around, that something was going to go down, but alas. They get into their litter and away they go! It's pretty hot inside the litter because it's been standing out in the sun. I do not know why Martin added that little nugget, maybe just to give us a sense (after all, he doesn't describe the litter using any of the other senses). Tyrion thinks of Sansa as just as comely as Margaery, and her grief only makes her more beautiful. Tyrion wishes to break through her "armor of courtesy", wondering at himself for trying - by talking to her, even though she is clearly expressing little to no interest in conversation with him. Again, I feel sorry for him. And we can read between the lines that he's developing feelings for her in one way or the other.  I hope I can one day write something other people will react to in the same sense. Actually caring about a fictitious character. Martin does it so well.

Tyrion hears the crowds shouting Joffrey's name, and he thinks to himself that when Joffrey becomes a man, and is no longer restrained by his mother the Queen Regent, it will be time for "every dwarf with half his wits" to be far from King's Landing, which might be considered foreshadowing - after all, Tyrion will end up far from the city, though Joffrey isn't the king at that point. In the same paragraph we learn, I believe for the first time, that Tyrion has always wanted to see Braavos; this might be a hint that we'll see him pass through that city at one point. All the while in the litter, Sansa doesn't say a word, to Tyrion's annoyance. When the litter stops, he tells Sansa they'll meet at the feast in an hour, and he waddles off. There's more thoughts suggesting Tyrion fears Joffrey will kill him when he gets the chance, which might be a way to suggest to the reader that Tyrion has a motive for poisoning the king - as in a preemptive strike.

He finds Podrick waiting outside his chambers, delivering another great line that says so much about his character: "I laid out your new doublet. Not here. On your bed. In the bedchamber." Tyrion orders (even) more wine, and goes to sit down by the window to brood. This brooding allows Martin to summarize the political climate, from how Highgarden and Casterly Rock will be united through the royal wedding, to the fighting in the riverlands, Ser Gregor Clegane's capture of Harrenhal, Seagard yielding to the Freys, and so on and so forth. In short, Tyrion concludes that the War of the Five Kings is basically over. Tyrion decides to get very drunk, while Podrick delivers another classic line, completely missing Tyrion's sarcasm. That's a fun pairing. Most pairings with Tyrion are fun (perhaps with the exception of Shae).

Going to get dressed for the wedding, he meets Shae helping Sansa with her hair. He notes that Sansa wears a silver net with dark purple gemstones; and again he thinks of how lovely she looks. Stupidly he decides to tell her just that - with Shae present, none the less. Shae tries to get a spot at the wedding because she wants to see the pigeons fly out of the cake, and Tyrion is annoyed by this; he drinks some more wine, there's some tension between the lines - between Shae and Tyrion - but in the end Tyrion and Sansa are off to the throne room, and he notices how good Sansa has become at "performing necessary courtesies" - a big fat hint from the author that Sansa Stark is growing into the game of thrones if ever there was one.

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