Friday, June 27, 2014

[Re-read] Tyrion VIII: Another Wedding in the Heading, Part II

Yeah, sorry about splitting up the Purple Wedding like this, but I had a deadline for a short story and so I had to refocus! I got it done if barely (it was a rush to the finishing line; I hate that I can't just work and tweak a little on things like this every day - it's always full tilt before a deadline, same goes for actual work). Anyway. It's done, I achieved my goal, which was to deliver a short story for the SFF World May/June short story competition (incidentally, one I set up myself as I won the previous competition for March/April...but only because I was the only one who managed to submit something. This time, we're two who have submitted a short story so my guess is I'll grab that coveted second place). And with that out of the way, I could introduce to my eight year old son and heir that most classic of classic movies from my childhood, E.T.: The Extra- Terrestrial. Seeing it again after so many years was a weird experience. When I saw it as a kid I cried. Especially when E.T. went home again. Because I wanted to take care of E.T. It was also sweet to see my son love the movie and love E.T., and get teary-eyed during the more intense moments as well. Seeing the film reminded me of how many great movies Steven Spielberg did back in the day. And how original they still feel, compared to the same-over-and-over-again movies that are big these days. Maybe it's just me being old and all that - but I'd love to see a sweeping sweet movie like E.T. again, a movie that gives kids the feels but which is also entertaining for adults. Speaking of adult entertainment, let's get back to the Purple Wedding.

A purple wedding, as seen through Tyrion Lannister's eyes
So Sansa is complementing everyone, and Tyrion notices how both Lancel Lannister (brought down from his sickbed for the special occasion) and his father, Ser Kevan, beam at Sansa's compliments. Martin is telling us right here how Sansa's social interaction skills have improved. Tyrion wonders if Joffrey is capable of loving anyone. He must be the only one wondering that. The rest of us know he is quite incapable of that. Olenna Tyrell, the Queen of Thorns, fiddles with Sansa's hair - and I love how Martin never falls for the tempation to have Tyrion notice the old woman's fingers touching that hairnet or whatever. Olenna talks for a while while "tugging and fiddling", giving her the time to plant the poison - but the scene is constructed in such a way that I doubt anyone reading this for the first time suspects something is afoot here. At least I didn't. In the TV show it was more obvious in a way because you see it and they didn't have Olenna talk "over" what she was doing. Olenna suggests that Sansa come with her to Highgarden; Sansa respectfully declines but you just know she would do anything to get out her misery - and going to Highgarden sounds like a nice change of environment. It's a bit like the promise of paradise.

Big surprise - it's been a while since I read this book - when Olenna begins to talk about "dwarf's pennies". Coincidence or is Martin thinking of Penny from A Dance with Dragons already? I am not sure. There doesn't seem to be a direct link between the talk of coins and Penny the dwarf, but still, Martin might have had some fun with this - although he claims to be a "gardener" rather than an "architect", these books have a surprisingly large number of foreshadowings and hints and clues that suggest he does a bit of architecture as well. The best bit though is when Tyrion begins to wonder whether Lord Luthor Tyrell had "ridden off that cliff intentionally". That makes me laugh out loud. Imagine the look on Olenna's face if Tyrion had voiced that thought. Wonder how that would have played out. Oh, and I've kind of forgotten that Olenna is a very small woman in the books. Tyrion doesn't feel like hanging out anymore with her, though, so he excuses them, she pats Sansa on the hair(net) one more time and they split. And so they enter the throne room, and I just love how Martin can't help but tell us there are musicians - pipers, drummers and fiddlers and so on and so forth - on the gallery, mirroring the Red Wedding at the Twins, and by simply stating this, you have your readers go, Oh noes, not again...I can imagine him sitting there at his hamster-wheel-operated computer writing it and chuckling to himself. Heeheeh-style. Of course, Martin would just shrug, look innocent and say, "Me do mischief? No no. All weddings have musicians on the gallery" and we would just have to accept that. But he is toying with our emotions here, I am convinceth.

Anyway. Putting on some underground metal to accompany the celebration to commence. I feel that Wagner's bridal chorus is so overused. Better to have something more aggressive and pounding, to help put King Joffrey Baratheon in his place.

SO, Tyrion "cluthed" Sansa's arm (a sign that he's nervous perhaps - or just Martin playing with our expectations again, as to who will be behind the murder to come - like that little detail; just one word changes perception, excellent); and he can feel everyone staring at his fresh scar. The Queen of Thorns follows, and Sansa wonders who looks the more absurd. Now here's a bit I'd love to have witnessed in Game of Thrones: Joffrey and Margaery riding into the throne room on 'matched white chargers' and both look even more splendorous (actually Marge looks more sexy), and she gives the audience a "shy but sweet" smile. I think that in the show they made her personality more obvious. In the books, when reading this, you still have no clue where to place her in the grand scheme of things. Does she scheme along with her grandmother of thorns? Is she a pawn being played? How shy is she really? And how virgin is she, really (getting ahead of myself there).

The Kingsguard escorts them onto the dais (no mention of which Kingsguard members are doing this deed, nor how they get the horses up on the dais - since there's no mention of the royal couple dismounting or anything). Their seats of honor are beneath the Iron Throne. By the way, I wonder why the producers of Game of Thrones chose to put the wedding outside? Since the Iron Throne is the big McGuffin of the show, the one thing every faction is, directly or indirectly, fighting for/against/about, wouldn't it make more sense to set the wedding in the throne room as per the book - it would be a simple way to remind viewers of the Iron Throne both as an artifact and as the symbol of power so important to the characters and plot. The High Septon rises to lead a prayer.

Sansa and Tyrion have been seated far to the king's right, next to Ser Garlan Tyrell and his wife, Lady Leonette. Tyrion is happy to be far away from Joffrey, though he obviously also realizes his placement is an insult. "Let the cups be filled!" Joffrey proclaims after the prayer and he drinks wine from a chalice given to him by Lord Tyrell. The hall shouts Margaery's name, and the feast is on. Tyrion has barely finished the first toast before he demands a refill. What a drunkard. In the show, it's Cersei, but in the books, it is quite obviously Tyrion who is drinking more and more (at least in this book).

We get a lot of food descriptions, of course, and Martin sneaks in the fact that Sansa fiddles nervously with her hair, as if to suggest that maybe she's the one who's behind the assassination to come. Tyrion wonders if she wishes to be in Margaery's place, which goes to show how little of Sansa Stark he truly understands. Needing a distraction he looks around only to see the hall filled with "fair fine beautiful happy women" (yes the observation needs a few commas) - and it allows Martin to quickly set up some of the characters that will rise to the fore in A Feast for Crows: There's Lady Alerie, wife of Mace Tyrell, Margaery's three cousins, Taena Merryweather with her "big black sultry eyes"; Ellaria Sand, with the Dornishmen as far away from the Tyrells as possible (love that "keg of gun powder"-feeling you get from having the Tyrells and Martells in the same room, though you'd think it would rather be a simmering hate between Lannisters and Martells but oh well). There's also, as the last of his observations on the women in the hall, the "wife of one of the Fossoways", heavy with child, and apparently very in love with her husband. I wonder why we get a whole paragraph on her, I can't remember the character showing up later but maybe she does and I will be surprised when I return to book four or five. Or six. Wait, George R.R. Martin has taken to spoiling plot points from The Winds of Winter! That is not like him at all. No huge spoilers, or even slightly big, but still. Weird. I'm not taking too much away from it, only that Tyrion and Daenerys will both become the characters we knew again (I'm not buying "home" as the literal interpretation). And that there will be a lot of action at the Wall is news to me. Bleh give us the book. It is unfair to begin spoiling it when we have been waiting for three years already.

Tyrion wonders what Sansa would do if he leans over to kiss her, decides she would go along with it; which makes him realize he can sex her up anytime because she will suffer that, too, as the dutiful wife she is showing herself to be. I suppose that doesn't make him horny.

More food!

Hamish the Harpers performs a new composition for the audience, "Lord Renly's Ride". In the song, we hear of the Lord of Death which is a title we don't hear too often. I suppose it is another way of naming the Stranger. Other songs are "A Rose of Gold", "The Rains of Castamere", "Maiden, Mother and Crone", "My Lady Wife"...and we get more food. Now I'm hungry again dammit.

The feast goes on, and Martin relishes describing it - especially the food. What is it with this series and food? Another singer shows up, one Collio Quaynis (you'll be excused if you have forgotten his existence) who sings "The Dance of the Dragons" (ooh!); he sings it in High Valyrian so Martin deftly avoids giving us too much info (beyond the lyrics being about two dying lovers amidst the Doom of Valyria - though I thought this dance was about the stuff that happened in The Princess and the Queen - now I am confuseth again). Tyrion asks Sansa what's wrong when she hasn't been paying attention to the singers; he immediately realizes that he's stupid for asking. Of course she isn't paying attention, of course she is not eating. Her life is hell.

More extravagant performances are described, including, to my surprise "sword swallowers" (so Game of Thrones did not invent that word as I believed until now - they actually took even that small detail from the books, not bad). More food! So much food. Martin is clearly inspired here by some of the legendary grand courses of the middle ages, but this is getting ridiculous. Even if they are eating here all day (which they do), there's still so much food.

Another minstrel, this time Galyeon. He sings of the Blackwater, in which Joffrey is glorified and the Baratheons are vilified. Echoing many a reader's feelings, Tyrion mutters that if he ever becomes Hand again, he will hang all the singers. Lady Leonette as his side has to chuckle at that. Later, she giggles when Tyrion finishes a sentence for the bard sarcastically. Love how this gives us an impression of Ser Garlan's wife without ever telling that much about her. Ser Garlan Tyrell, much to many a reader's delight I suppose, does give Tyrion credit for his chain and his wildfire during the battle of Blackwater Bay - now that's something. Tyrion feels "absurdly grateful" and so do I, actually. Finally someone who gives credit where credit is due! When the singer sings of the valor of Queen Cersei, Sansa blurts out an objection, to which Tyrion responds, "Never believe anything you hear in a song, my lady." This is an important line, since Sansa started out a character whose emphasis lay on, well, believing in songs. It is a moment of change for Sansa Stark, though we are not in her POV as it is being said.

It becomes night, and Galyeon is still singing. Seventy-seven verses! No wonder Tyrion is drinking himself stupid. And others are getting proper drunk as well. Pycelle falls asleep; one of Lord Rowan's men stabs a Dornishman, but the incident doesn't escalate. More food! Joffrey then orders the royal jousters to come forth. Tyrion thinks Joffrey must be drunk cause you can't joust in the throne room, but then he sees that a pair of dwarfs enter the throne room, met by a wave of laughter. Their mounts are a dog and a pig. Yes, Penny has arrived! The only one beside Tyrion not amused is Sansa. But nothing amuses her, of course. Tyrion takes the dwarf joust as another insult on his person and decides to punish whoever came up with the idea. The dwarf joust is an entertaining spectacle for most people in the throne room, and Martin describes it vividly. Wearing stag and wolf helmets, the performance also doubles as an insult to Sansa and House Stark, as well as insulting the Baratheons. It is, simply put, a play set up by the winners. Joffrey laughs so hard he's snorting wine through his nose; when the dwarfs have finished their fight, he calls for Tyrion to take up the challenge and ride the pig. This is met by another wave of laughter, "crashing over him" (of course it would feel that way, so that's a nice description). Poor Tyrion. And he finds himself standing on the table; he's drunk ("the hall was a torchlit blur.."); he tells Joffrey he'll ride the pig if Joffrey rides the dog. Joffrey doesn't get it. Tyrion tells him he's the only one he can defeat.

A shocked silence follows, and Tyrion thinks it is sweet; the blind rage on Joffrey's face is nice too. It probably feels good to finally put the boy in his place, in front of a thousand people no less, but Tyrion is clearly not considering consequences much at this point. And it is all terribly exciting of course; on the one hand I am cheering him for daring to stand up against the boy king, and on the other I am worried that now, indeed, his mouth will be the end of him. He is relieved that Ser Osmund and Ser Meryn help Joffrey to his seat - the dwarf jousters are escorted out of the hall and the music begins to play. But you can't catch a breath before Ser Garlan warns Tyrion that Joffrey is approaching.

The king upends the chalice over Tyrion, soaking him in wine. Ser Garlan actually tells the king that "was ill done", but Tyrion now realizes he can't let this get any worse and says to the Tyrell knight that he deserves it. That's a pretty wise move considering how rash he was seconds before. I am still amazed Ser Garlan is so outspoken. What a man! As if he has stepped in from a better, more chivalrous world to attend the wedding. he doesn't feel very Westerosi, if you know what I mean. Even his name sounds gallant. Margaery comes to calm Joffrey down, and Tyrion is for the moment safe. But Martin has definitely ramped up the tension. Joffrey decides to make Tyrion his cupbearer, and Tyrion replies it would be an honor. Hilariously, Joffrey roars, "It's not meant to be an honor!" I love that bit. Joffrey is doing his best to shame his uncle, but Tyrion has turned in time, and Joffrey's insult do not make the impact he wants them to have. Great writing.

Tyrion is further humiliated by the boy king before Lord Tywin interrupts, telling his grandson the pie is being brought in, and Joffrey's sword is needed. Did Tywin actually interrupt to spare his dwarf son more humiliation? I like to think so, that somewhere within Tywin's cold heart there was a warm spot at this moment. Joff doesn't want to use his new sword on the pie, and so Ser Ilyn Payne is brought forth. When he pulls out his huge sword, Sansa realizes it is Ned Stark's Ice reforged. Another thing to hurt and torment her. More food! More humiliation of the Imp!

When you've read it all before (even if the details are forgotten), you kind of want to get on with it, get to the climax of the chapter, and here it finally comes as Joffrey begins to choke. Martin has taken good care of giving the readers many options as to what is happening - is it the pie? The wine? You have to be a detective and sort through the clues, find out what could and could not be possible. Rather well written, almost like a chapter from a murder mystery. Tyrion feels "curiously" calm as he realizes Joffrey is dying. The way it is written immediately (to my mind at least) makes me know Tyrion is innocent even though Martin has spent some time giving us reason to suspect him. He's so detached, he manages to think that Joffrey has his brother Jaime's eyes, and that his own wedding was, after all, better than this one. He sees the wine chalice on the floor, picks it up and pours the wine on the floor.  Guests are rushing out, full of fear. When Tyrion hears Cersei scream, he knows he's been a fool, and that he should leave. Instead he waddles toward her, as Cersei is pried loose from her dead son. The High Septon begins to pray for the boy king, Margaery begins to sob (a good actress?); her mother says Joffrey choked on the pie, but Cersei's sharp voice claims it was a poisoning.

"Arrest my brother," she commanded him. "He did this, the dwarf. Him and his little wife. They killed my son. Your king. Take them! Take them both!"

And that's how the Purple Wedding ends! A surprising twist indeed - how was Martin able to surprise me again? Well, up to this point (give or take), we had learned not to feel too attached to the Starks. And it seemed Joffrey was to be the main villain for a long time to come. But then, Martin shows us that no side is safer than the others, as he slowly turns his bloodlust from the Starks to the Lannisters. Lovely stuff. An impressive choice, when Joffrey is such a great love-to-hate character. Of course, it makes sense within the story and the setting. Thrilling, tense, and of course, with a cliffhanger you would not wish to wait five or six years for. What's going to happen to Tyrion now? And Sansa?

Well, the chapters continue to alternate between Tyrion and Sansa, so she's next, and we'll see what happen next soon enough.


  1. Maybe filming outside was chealer or easier rather than in a room?

  2. Was Ice reforged into 2 swords or 3?