Tyrion Lannister, in the Privy, with a Crossbow.
Oh, hey. Spoilers, yo.
So. It’s been a bit, but I’m packing a new Game of Thrones post. I had wanted to write another sooner, but I figured it would be easier and fairer to wait until the Season Finale. It’s not fair to declare a TV series racist, sexist, or homophobic until it’s given you all it can. And, well, Game of Thrones Season 4 has given us all it can.
In the books Tyrion of the House Lannister, (or Lord Tywin’s Doom, as I love to call him) is almost exactly the same as the TV series. He is a man who is rather good at sex, a bit quick to anger, and completely unwanted by his family. However, the TV series limits his situation. It takes the pitfalls and limitations that George R.R. Martin visited upon Tyrion and cherry picks them. By doing so the TV series took a man that was a very well written and ingenuous take on the non-traditional hero and made him into…well, a rather traditional hero.
In the books, Tryion Lannister’s connection to sex is deep. His mother died during childbirth. His sister, Cersei Lannister, once visited him as a baby and twisted his penis until he cried. His first wife, Tysha, he met when they were both 13. When Tywin Lannister found out about the marriage he forced her to prostitute herself to his guards. For every man that raped her she was given a silver coin. Tywin made Tyrion be the last, and Tywin gave Tysha a gold coin because “Lannisters are worth more.”
Afterward he took to keeping with whores and prostitutes. While he was presumably very good in bed, his penis was ugly and misshapen. It was deep-veined and purple, bulbous. He told Sansa that he knew he was ugly, but in the darkness and in a bed he was the “Knight of Flowers.”
Calling himself ugly was an understatement. He was hideously deformed. He had a jutting forehead, mismatched green and black eyes, and his hair was a mixture of pale blond and black. His stare made people uncomfortable. When he grew a beard during his exile, it was also mixed between blond and black. After the Battle of the Blackwater, Tyrion had a scar and barely any nose left. Tyrion Lannister was a walking malformation.
While Tyrion found solace in sex, it was ultimately the source of his exile. His second major relationship was with a whore named Shae. He convinced her to start an exclusive relationship with him, and took her to King’s Landing as Sansa Stark’s handmaiden so that they could continue the affair. He loved her, but after his imprisonment and subsequent escape he found her in Tywin Lannister’s bed. In a fit of rage he choked her to death and shot his father in the privy. He then ran away, forced into exile.
This all led to a very non-traditional hero for ASOIAF. He was a disfigured dwarf that was quick to anger, ruthless against his foes, and uniformly disliked by everyone but his brother, Jamie Lannister. He was an alcoholic schemer that only felt at his best when he was having sex with prostitutes. He was a victim of his family’s blood, a man that thought he could be kind but knew that he was a Lannister first. So when he managed to do great good, like doing his best to make Sansa Stark feel at home despite her overwhelming hostile environment or finally killing Tywin Lannister, you cheered. He was a man who was trying to be heroic in a time that killed heroes.
The major difference between the Tyrion of ASOIAF and the Tyrion of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is a simple one. Tyrion is much better off in the TV series.
First of all, Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister is attractive. They did it purposefully too; Peter Dinklage is hands down unattractive in “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” In “Game of Thrones,” his eyes are the same color, and his hair is the same raggedy mess of dirty blonde that Jamie Lannister has. The scar he received at the Battle of the Blackwater was actually very well aimed by that assassin – he is somehow more handsome with that damn scar now. And while we have never seen his penis, we know it’s rather substantial and all of the local whores love it.
While Tyrion Lannister was just as heroic in the TV series as he was in the books, the effect is watered down. Consider once again that in the books Tyrion Lannister told Sansa Stark that in the dark he was the “Knight of Flowers.” He said that he was equal to any other man when there was nothing but darkness and a bed. In the TV series, Tyrion Lannister was better than most men in the light of day, and better than everyone in a bed.
This isn’t as troubling of a distinction as the difference between King Joffrey I in the two mediums, but it does disappoint me. In the books Tyrion was an ugly dwarf who was capable of kindness, but gave in to his Lannister blood all too often. He admitted as much to Sansa on their wedding night. Tyrion was reviled by most and hated by many because of his situation, and Martin played with that to create a unique take on a hero. The most heroic of the House Lannister was hated by his sister and his father, and was not all that moral when it came to women, alcohol, and wrath. His brother, Jamie Lannister liked him well enough, and in the books Jamie Lannister wasn’t a rapist, so it helped reinforce that Jamie was a good man.
In the TV series, Tyrion Lannister was a handsome dwarf that was basically our modern day substitute. He was to “Game of Thrones,” what Bilbo Baggins was to “The Hobbit.” Tyrion was the heroic man we want to be in the “Game of Thrones,” someone who fights against his family and his corrupt nephew-King to do what he thinks is right.
It’s effective, but they watered down a lot of what made Tyrion Lannister such a great, nontraditional hero by lessening what made him such an outcast in the book. You can blame it on anything you’d like, but I like to think that the TV series gave into a basic caveat of TV. It’s easiest for viewers to identify with, and root for, attractive people. Sadly enough, that rule undermined a very well done authorial accomplishment.