Game of Thrones: How cruel was Tywin Lannister?
A character history of Tywin Lannister from the books.
The Game of Thrones universe is far bigger than what viewers got to see in the show. It has a history of around 12,000 years most viewers are unaware of. Just like that, a lot of characters we saw had rich backstories too. But we never got to see it because of a lack of time. We last did that with The Red Viper of Dorne, Oberyn Martell. This time we’ll be doing a character history of the Tywin Lannister, and will see how well Charles Dance played this role in Game of Thrones.
Tywin Lannister – far crueler in the books
Tywin Lannister was one of the most cunning, skillful, calculating, and politically astute men in all of Westeros. Even though he was often quite cruel in his decisions, he brought a lot of prosperity in the 7 kingdoms. To know him, however, we have to dive into his reign as Hand of the King and the relationship with his father, Tytos Lannister.
Childhood – brought up by a weak father
When Tywin and Arya were together in Harrenhall in the 2nd season of Game of Thrones, he mentioned his father. He told her how he brought shame and humiliation to his house and name. That was true! His father, Tytos Lannister almost brought down the family’s name. Tywin was born in the year 242 after Aegon’s Conquest, and under Tytos’s rule, House Lannister was laughed at. His bannermen used to laugh at him, and never even paid back their debts. That was when Tywin stepped in and restored House Lannister’s pride and name.
The story behind the song “Rains of Castamere”
House Reyne and Tarbecks were two houses sworn to the Lannisters. Due to Tytos’s weak rule, they never repaid their debts to them. When Tywin asserted control and demanded the gold back, the two houses renounced their loyalty to House Lannister. This prompted Tywin to raise an army against the two houses, without his father’s permission. He was barely 19 at the time.
First, he dealt with House Tarbeck, killed every family member and burnt their castle down. When it came to the Reynes, they were hiding in underground mines beneath their castle Castamere. Tywin, after destroying their castle, diverted a nearby water stream into the mines and left them to drown. He sealed the mines too so that the entire house would drown to death. Some say you could hear their screams echo for days and days. That is how the song “Rains of Castamere” in Game of Thrones came into being.
From Best friends to sworn enemies of the Mad King Aerys
When the Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen, became the king, he wasn’t at mad at first. He was friends with Tywin and was impressed by what he did with the Reynes and Tarbecks. Therefore, he appointed him Hand of the King. His 20 years as the Hand were the most prosperous that the 7 kingdoms had ever seen! But as time progressed, that relationship soared.
The first crack came when the Mad King showed lust for Tywin’s wife, Joanna at their wedding. Over time, people started to say that it was Tywin who was actually ruling the 7 kingdoms and not Aerys. Remember Ser Ilyn Payne from Game of Thrones? He passed that comment, and Aerys had his tongue cut out. That caused him to grow jealous over time, sometimes overruling his decisions. He was descending into more and more madness as Targaryens do and that didn’t help.
Later on, 3 major events took place. First, Aerys refused to marry Rhaegar, his son and heir to Cersei. He stated that he considered Tywin his “servant”. Second, the Mad King was held hostage in Duskendale and Tywin had to come and save him. He thought that Tywin had plotted to have him killed and replace him with Rhaegar, which drove him even madder. The final straw was when Aerys rose Jamie Lannister to the Kingsguard, depriving Tywin of his beloved heir. That was when Tywin resigned and left the position of Hand of the King, and headed back to Casterly Rock.
Role in Robert’s Rebellion – Elia Martell’s murder and rape
All throughout Robert’s Rebellion, Tywin Lannister stayed neutral. However, as soon as Rhaegar died at the Battle of the Trident, Tywin marched with his forces to King’s Landing. He sent the Mad King a message that he was there to help him, but as soon as the gates open, he sacked the city. During this turmoil, Aerys tried to have the city burned by wildfire but was killed by Jamie Lannister before he could. Jamie told about this whole event to Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones too.
Later, Tywin’s forces also marched on the Red Keep. There, The Mountain and Amory Lorch killed and raped Ellia Martell, and killed her two young children too. That started a feud between the Tyrells and the Lannisters. However, he wrapped their bodies in crimson cloaks and presented it to Robert Baratheon as a gift.
Relationship with the family
When it came to family, Tywin was just as controlling to his children. However, he really loved his wife Joanna. His sister Genna Lannister said that the only time Tywin ever smiled was at his wedding with Joanna. She gave birth to the two infamous twins from Game of Thrones, Jamie and Cersei Lannister. However, tragedy struck at Tyrion’s birth as it resulted in the death of Joanna. He not only ridiculed Tyrion for being a dwarf but also blamed him for Joanna’s death. And that was Tywin’s biggest mistake as a leader. He never got to see Tyrion’s potential as a leader and controlled the fates of Jamie and Cersei to be his heir. But the sad truth was, the twins were never as wise as Tyrion was. This just tells us about George R.R. Martin’s brilliant writing.
If you want to read about all of these events in great detail, you can either read A Song of Ice and Fire or go to the Wiki of Ice and Fire of Tywin Lannister here.
Charles Dance – Nailed it in Game of Thrones
Charles Dance’s accent, stature and acting absolutely nailed Tywin’s character in Game of Thrones. His performance was so strong, that many book readers think of him whenever they read about Tywin. In the books, Tywin was a lot more ruthless and shrewd, but Charles Dance gave him a more human touch. He said Tywin was a man of principles, that he shared with no one but were important for the feudal society he lived in. This helped the audience relate to him sometimes, which was important. Not every one of the viewers can relate to a ruthless tyrant. His interaction with Joffrey Baratheon were simply amazing and showed his wisdom as a true leader. Therefore, we have to give props to David Benioff and D.B. Weiss over here for some brilliant scripting. This is Dance’s own take on the character:
Another important change was the looks of the character. Book Tywin would have looked absolutely scary with a bald head and side whiskers. Charles Dance’s amazing looks made Tywin look a lot more formidable but wise.
In conclusion, we can say that Tywin Lannister is a complicated character both in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones. He was cruel, but the politics of Westeros and his own upbringing and nature played a role in it. Moreover, he was portrayed brilliantly by Charles Dance, sometimes even overshadowing Tywin from the books. This is what good writing and acting can achieve. We hope we get to see more of this in the prequel, House of the Dragon!