As the series begins to catch up to the books, I think it’s time I wrote a tribute to one of the strongest characters I have ever known: Tywin Lannister.
Starting, as all tributes must, from the beginning…
Lord Tytos Lannister or The Toothless Lion was a kindly, but weak willed, man. His vassals laughed over him in their cups, and his debtors ignored their dues. He once imprisoned his bannerman Lord Tarbeck for defiance, to which Lady Ellyn Tarbeck responded by capturing three Lannisters, one of whom was brother to his son Tywin’s betrothed. The betrothal, however, did not stop young Tywin from counselling his father to return Lady Tarbeck’s lord husband in three pieces, one for each Lannister. Sadly, The Toothless Lion could not agree and eventually set the rebel free.
Young Tywin first tasted battle during the Reyne-Tarbeck Rebellion when Lord Tytos was indisposed, and sent young Tywin in his stead. Tywin met the dissidents with ruthless force, putting the Houses to the sword, and their seats to the torch. An account of his dealings with Lord Reyne of Castamere is described in the cleverly named song The Rains of Castamere:
And who are you, the proud lord said, that I must bow so low? Only a cat of a different coat, that’s all the truth I know. In a coat of gold or a coat of red, a lion still has claws, And mine are long and sharp, my lord, as long and sharp as yours. And so he spoke, and so he spoke, that lord of Castamere, But now the rains weep o’er his hall, with no one there to hear. Yes now the rains weep o’er his hall, and not a soul to hear.
Cats, coats, gold, red, and claws. It’s quite simple, really. The Reyne and Lannister sigils are much alike, only, Reyne was a red lion upon a field of gray, while Lannister: gold upon red. And now the Reynes weep o’er his halls.
After Lord Tytos’ death, Lord Tywin inherited Casterly Rock, the ruins of the Lannister name, married his slightly older cousin Joanna Lannister, and on his wedding gave one of his extremely rare smiles. Joanna gave him twins once, and died birthing a dwarf. And Lord Tywin never smiled in life again.
Tywin mistrusted laughter since watching his father’s bannerman laughing at House Lannister all his childhood. So, naturally, thirteen years after his wife’s death, when he discovered that his dwarf son had secretly taken a crofter’s daughter as wife, he grew afraid of the impact this would have on the House name. And so he took.. drastic measures, for which the dwarf never forgave him.
Lord Tywin ruled beside the Mad King Aerys II Targaryen as Hand for twenty years and kept the King’s peace well. So well, in fact, that the Mad King’s paranoia and jealousy became unbearable, not helped (according to Ser Baristan Selmy) by his lust for Lady Joanna. King Aerys thus rejected His Hand’s daughter Cersei Lannister as a match for the crown prince Rhaegar Targaryen. He went as far as to ‘honor’ (take hostage) Lord Tywin’s first born son and heir Ser Jaime Lannister by raising him to the Kingsguard. Losing Ser Jaime as heir left Tywin distraught, and so under weak pretence, he resigned office and took refuge back at Casterly Rock.
Lord Tywin served as Hand a second time, to his grandson King Joffrey Baratheon, where with more words than swords, he gained the upper hand during the War of The Five Kings. He slew the Rebel King Robb Stark, and kept Dorne from revolting over the death of its prince, all from a distance of a thousand leagues with naught but a few ravens.
Lord Tywin Lannister, the Great Lion of Casterly Rock lived to see his eldest son crippled, his daughter confess to incest, his grandson and King murdered, his seed convicted of the murder, and died with a quarrel to the bowels, sitting on the privy, at the hands of the same dwarf son who had murdered his wife coming into the world. The last words he heard were, “do me a kindness now, and die quickly. I have a ship to catch.”
*spoiler, spoiler, spoiler* Atleast he didn’t see his Queen daughter convicted of regicide, deicide, and fornication, or see her walk stripped and shaved across King’s Landing from the Great Sept of Baelor to the Red Keep. Excerpt:
“Did you love him?” Jaime heard himself ask.
His aunt looked at him strangely. “I was seven when Walder Frey persuaded my lord father to give my hand to Emm. His second son, not even his heir. Father was himself a thirdborn son, and younger children crave the approval of their elders. Frey sensed that weakness in him, and Father agreed for no better reason than to please him. My betrothal was announced at a feast with half the west in attendance. Ellyn Tarbeck laughed and the Red Lion went angry from the hall. The rest sat on their tongues. Only Tywin dared speak against the match. A boy of ten. Father turned as white as mare’s milk, and Walder Frey was quivering.”
She smiled. “How could I not love him, after that? That is not to say that I approved of all he did, or much enjoyed the company of the man that he became . . . but every little girl needs a big brother to protect her. Tywin was big even when he was little.” She gave a sigh. “Who will protect us now?”
Jaime kissed her cheek. “He left a son.”
“Aye, he did. That is what I fear the most, in truth.” That was a queer remark. “Why should you fear?”
“Jaime,” she said, tugging on his ear, “sweetling, I have known you since you were a babe at Joanna’s breast. You smile like Gerion and fight like Tyg, and there’s some of Kevan in you, else you would not wear that cloak . . . but Tyrion is Tywin’s son, not you. I said so once to your father’s face, and he would not speak to me for half a year. Men are such thundering great fools. Even the sort who come along once in a thousand years.”
— A Feast for Crows, Chapter 33.