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Is Tyrion Lannister Good or Bad?
Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister
Spoiler alert: as ever, if you’ve not read the first five books within Martin rr’s terrific Song of Ice and Fire series of novels, don’t read this hub! It’s such a terrific series of books that it would be a shame to spoil any of the surprises you might uncover along the way.
So..Is Tyrion Lannister a Good Guy?
Martin RR’s Song of Ice and Fire series treats the very notion of character as an intransigent chimera, unbound by the traditional conventions and mores of modern fiction. Character for GRRM is ever a movable feast as he toys with the reader’s loyalties, first making us hate a character through his or her selfish, evil actions, and then over the course of a couple of novels turning our perspective around entirely and letting us find sympathy for the same character we used to hate. Motives behind evil actions are revealed, previously evil characters are shown to repent and to suffer for their crimes, and little by little the characters we used to love to hate become the characters we are surprised to admire.
Other characters are set up to be evil- their situation, family affections and motives are such that they are bound to be nasty, heinous villains. And yet constantly they surprise- even though they must walk a fine balance of family loyalty and the moral good, they are made better, revealed to be stronger by this contrasting dichotomy. Such a character is Tyrion Lannister. Younger brother of Jaime Lannister and in possession of a shrewd, calculating mind, the hideous dwarf Tyrion Lannister is given every opportunity by plot and circumstance to be an arch villain. The Lannister family are clearly the villains of the piece, their vaulting ambition drips its way through the pages of A Song of Ice and Fire like the enemy blood they so carelessly spill at any opportunity. But is Tyrion Lannister a good guy? Tyrion is aware of some of his family’s misdeeds, ignorant of others, and perhaps quietly chooses to ignore some. For all that he recognises his father and sister for what they are, Tyrion Lannister is always devoted to his brother Jaime and occasionally blinkered to Jaime’s misdeeds. So Tyrion Game of Thrones Lannister is an enigmatic character, a complicated, complex and wonderfully interesting man.
As the plot of A Song of Ice and Fire progresses though, Martin rr gradually swings our impressions of Jaime Lannister round 180 degrees and allows the reader to sympathise with him. As we start to see Jaime in a new light, our view of the character comes into closer alliance with the opinion of him held by Tyrion Lannister. This perhaps suggest that Tyrion Lannister’s view of his brother has been correct all along- rather than simply being purely evil, Jaime has been the, perhaps willing, victim of Cersei’s ambition.
Similarly Tyrion's father and his evil nature become increasingly apparent through the song of ice and fire series. With a father as evil but as domineering Tyrion's father, it's inveitable that Tyrion Lannister would grow up complex and involved, and perhaps also inevitable that both Jaime Lannister and Cersei Lannister would have their faults.
Tyrion Lannister becomes allied to Jon Snow early in A Game of Thrones- they go so far as to announce themselves friends. Thereafter, whenever the opportunity arises, Tyrion’s actions seek to protect his friend Jon and to provide additional resource and men for the night’s Watch whenever possible. Jon Snow’s central moral position in the Song of Ice and Fire series adds credibility to the idea that Tyrion Lannister is a good guy. If Jon Snow, who is so consistently good, can think that Tyrion Lannister is a good guy, then there must be something to it. But still we the reader are left wondering- it is not black and white: is Tyrion Lannister a good guy?
Tyrion Lannister is believed by his family to be perverse and disgusting- they think he is beyond reproach for cavorting with prostitutes like Shae Tyrion also gambles and speaks truth to power at every opportunity: is Tyrion game? You bet. It is precisely these practices and characteristics that endear Tyrion Lannister to the reader. While he certainly does spend time with prostitutes, the relationship with Shae Tyrion creates is clearly an emotional one, for Tyrion Lannister at least, and he worries constantly about protecting Shae from Cersei’s clutches. The true motives of Shae Tyrion is unsure of, as he is no fool, but he is at least honest with himself concerning his own feelings about Shae.
Tyrion is loathed by the people of King’s Landing, despite having put as much work and effort into his position as hand of the king as he can. Tyrion saves the day during the Battle of Blackwater, applying bravery and military cunning and putting himself in considerable jeopardy in the process. This selflessness does certainly suggest that Tyrion Lannister is a good guy, and our sympathies are also aroused elsewhere when Tyrion is wrongly accused of having a hand in Ned Stark’s death, and made by Catelyn Stark to suffer egregiously for a crime he did not commit.
So is Tyrion Lannister a good guy or not? The beauty of Martin RR’s endlessly complex masterpiece, is that there’s no straight answer: as a reader you might as well simply ask yourself whether Tyrion Lannister is a character you like. You could weigh his good deeds and his bad deeds in the balance until the end of the world but still not have a definite idea of whether or not Tyrion Lannister is a good guy, but ultimately it’s his complexity and complications that make him such a compelling character and which keep us coming back to A Song of Ice and Fire book after book.
What do you think? Is Tyrion Lannister good? Is Tyrion game? Are Tyrion Lannister good deeds sufficient to make amends for his loyalties to his pretty much entirely evil family in Song of Ice and Fire? Is his drinking and carousing too nefarious for him truly to be a good person? Does the love of Shae Tyrion clearly feels endear him to the reader? Do comment below, let's see if we can arrive at a consensus.