Friday 19 September 2014

Tyrion - the murderer we love to love!

(contains spoilers for A Game of Thrones / A Storm of Swords)

Tyrion Lannister wins all the 'most popular character' polls for Game of Thrones / A Song of Ice and Fire. Pretty much everyone loves Tyrion. They love him because of the charisma of the actor who plays him on TV - they love him because of the wit and charisma and empathy of the character as portrayed in the book.

I've spent a lot of time on fantasy forums etc and never once seen any criticism levelled at the character.

On the other hand I've seen enough criticism of my character, Jorg Ancrath, to fill a Super Bowl stadium.

(Jorg - by Kimberly Kincaid)

... and rightly so. Jorg does terrible things. Within the first 2 chapters of Prince of Thorns 13 year old Jorg distracts a rebellious gang member by steering him toward a spot of rape and murder, and (according to a short paragraph remembering the off-scene incident) Jorg, raised for the past 4 years in a band of killers and thieves, is party to the whole incident.

This isn't an accident, any more than Jorg's subsequent murderous endeavors are - I deliberately emulate the exercise that Anthony Burgess pulled off in A Clockwork Orange 50+ years ago. I have a young, charming, intelligent protagonist do awful deeds and see where the pieces fall, both in terms of the reader and the story. Do age and circumstance muddy the waters of responsibility? How long do we carry the stain of crimes committed at an early age? If that character also has many likeable qualities does it confuse our feelings about them? I never sought to give an answer, just to provoke questions. I try to dance Jorg around that knife-edge and different readers fall on different sides of it.

So, Tyrion:

Few people seem to remark on this but our Tyrion murders a teenage woman. Why? Because he finds her in his father's bed - a place where had she refused to go she would likely have met an unpleasant end. He's angry about who she is having sex with. It's a sexually motivated murder (*).

But we love him? He's our favorite character?

In the TV series they made Shae pick up a knife and try to stab Tyrion - I guess they realised that the book version paints our man rather darkly. But in the book all she does is try to placate his anger with an endearment and he strangles her.

We give Tyrion a pass.

My point here is not that Jorg deserves the same pass - he certainly doesn't - if people did that then a large part of the point of my trilogy would fizzle away.

My point isn't even that GRRM successful exploits the Alex-effect from A Clockwork Orange.

My point is just .... what? Really? Nobody saw that? Nobody cares?

... how come?

(*) yes, Shae testified against him in his trial - but
a) that was a show trial, the result was never in doubt
b) what choice did she have - what would Cersei and/or Tywin have done if she refused
c) Tyrion took her on as a prostitute - what part of 'paying for affection' didn't he understand?


  1. I saw it and he's while he's not my favorite character, he's my favorite instance of why I would hate to live in GRRM's fantasy world.

    As to the murder itself: I understand why he does it, in as much as Shae is the mortal embodiment of everything Tyrion would have outside and away from his family's influence, and she proves utterly that nothing is beyond his father's grasp, including everyone and anything he might love. In that regard, Shae is as much Tywin's victim as Tyrion's.

    Also, understanding does not at all equate to forgiveness. He is a spoiled child who loses the 'object' of his affection to his father and then destroys that 'object'...the only redemptive quality of this crime is the subsequent murder of his father, as well, who is at least as much a dirtbag as he, and bears more responsibility for having raised his children to be so dysfunctional.

  2. It's strange that they chose to change things around in the show. In the book Shae's mocking testimony of Tyrion when, from memory, she says that he asked he to call him her giant during sex among is her biggest betrayal. It cuts right to the bone of everything they were and I think when he kills her in the book it is because of this. In the show her testimony is one of betrayal but it does not seem to be in her eyes and she does not mock him so much and it is implied she was simply a spy all the time. I thought the book was much more effective as that court room scene just made my heart wrench for Tyrion. I think the fact that most of Tyrions family openly loathe him makes him much more sympathetic too.

  3. I didn't like that scene when I read it; but when you compare Tyrion's single murder (brutal and sexually-driven though it is) to the copious amounts of blood on almost every other character's hands (ESPECIALLY his family's), added to the character's charm and frankness - you get a character everyone likes.

  4. Difficult for me to comment since I love Jorg as a character too but . . .

    Perhaps it's that by the time Tyrion kills Shae the reader has already grown to like and admire him. Whereas for Jorg the dark deeds happen right from the off.

  5. I think in one sense it comes down to relatability. I have your books but haven't yet read them, so I'm only guessing based on things I have heard about Jorg, but he sounds like a character I would have a very hard time relating to (just like Alex in A Clockwork Orange). With Tyrion I relate to him very well, even when he murders Shae.

  6. The Shae Murder happens a long way into the book, when it's getting harder to change your opinion about him.
    I'd say Jorg starts on the dark site of the knife and it's really hard for him to recover from that. He did it for me anyways.

  7. To me it doesn't make any sense to apply a modern world mentality to a completely different world. Imagine being teleported back in time and trying to lecture a group of crusader knights about all of their raping and pillaging and wouldn't live very long.