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Is Tyrion Lannister Good or Bad?

Updated on January 13, 2013

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister

Spoiler Alert

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.


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    • Mike Glen profile image

      Mike Glen 2 years ago

      Tyrion Lannister is a Survivor.

      In the first book, he told his new Man Servant that if someone offered him gold to kill Tyrion, Tell him, Tyrion would pay more.

      As a Dwarf Tyrion stays with his "Family" because they are the only group that might stand with him...

      God help them if Tyrion decides they are not worth his loyalty.

    • profile image

      TheGirl 4 years ago

      Well he can't be worse than Cersei, that's for sure...

    • profile image

      TheRealBukzit 4 years ago

      Let's stop thinking and saying that Tyrion's good guy otherwise you know what will happen if GRRM finds out. We don't want it to happen, do we?

      Tyrion himself, mischievous as he is, keeps playing his Lannister role by pretending not to be a good guy so he can fool GRRM

    • profile image

      necron 4 years ago

      He's a good man, who sadly works for the bad guys. Life sady is not simple. Take Nazie Germany for instance, there were a lot of monsters working there druing war, but there were also a lot of good people as well. Most of us think in black and white when the world is made up, for the most part of greys

    • Edward William profile image

      Edward William 5 years ago from UK

      I agree about Tyrion being fascinating. Originally when he's being a bit disagreeable you can still forgive him because he's essentially just being loyal to his family.

      And then later on when he's being disagreeable you can still forgive him because he's essentially just giving his family the grief they deserve.

      GRRM is a very cunning man.

    • kw colorado profile image

      kw colorado 5 years ago from colorado

      As I said on the "Is Jon Snow dead?" question, I think that Tyrion is a fascinating character precisely because he is so dynamic - moving back and forth along the cold, dispassionate, lawful side to the hot, sexual, and unlawful side throughout the story. So he can't even be qualified as either good or evil - although I think that his actions in the story are more good than evil.

      He is a sympathetic character, even though at the end of book 4, he has murdered two people "in cold blood!"

      Tyrion dies at least twice in the story so far, once in a fiery inferno which he himself set up, in the Battle of Blackwater. Then he dies an icy, cold death by drowning, from which he is rescued, in book 5. So, in my view, every time Tyrion goes to an extreme of passion or calculation, he will "die" somehow, and come back somewhere in the middle between cold and hot, good and evil.

    • Edward William profile image

      Edward William 5 years ago from UK

      Agreed- that's how GRRM shifts your perspective and toys with your sympathy.

    • profile image

      12 5 years ago

      Well to be fair to Jamie, Aerys did plan on kill 500,000 innocent people.

    • ittina profile image

      ittina 5 years ago from bangalore

      Yes, clearly he is a good guy. I think he, unlike Jaime, has been portrayed as a good guy throughout. I often find myself taking pity on him for the way he has been treated by Tywin. Imo Jaime may be beyond redemption, being the kingslayer and all,so tyrion is the only hope for the salvation of house lannister.

    • diplorging profile image

      diplorging 5 years ago from Serbia

      I don't think he is a bad person. But he is a Lannister, so he can't be good, right?:) I think that he is not just good or just bad, he is who he is, like the most of the people