In my opinion, Tywin Lannister is the best antagonist in Game of Thrones hands down. Planetos has its fair share of evil in it, all the way from the rageful bloodlust of the Mountain to the brattish cruelty of Joffrey, but that isn’t Tywin. The most dangerous people are the ones with brains and the will to use them.
This is Tytos Lannister
Everything Tywin Lannister was, was a result of his father simply existing, which in Tywin’s mind, was all Tytos ever accomplished. Simply existence itself. Tytos was weak. As a third son, Tytos was never meant to be Lord of Casterly Rock, but after the death of his brothers and father, that’s exactly where he found himself. Tytos was such a wackball in fact that, before his father died, he spent his last years trying desperately to prepare Tytos for Lordship, but he still died basically knowing the Westerlands were doomed.
Tytos became known as The Laughing Lion, sounds jovial right? Well it was, but the west wasn’t laughing with Tytos for long, they were laughing at him. It’s hard to even say how weak Tytos was without making it sound like a gross exaggeration, but this man had no backbone. To sum Tytos up we can just say that you could walk up to him, slap him, call him an imbecile, and go home and have a glass of wine with no repercussions.
The Lion and the Lamb
Tywin was the first born son of Tytos and his beloved wife, Jeyne. Tywin grew up hearing about the might, ferocity, and greatness of House Lannister all while watching his father be the exact opposite of all that. Tytos was the fuel to Tywin’s fire and I believe Tywin’s personality was the direct result of his father’s weakness.
When Tywin was ten years old he spoke out against one of his fathers very foolish actions in front of a massive crowd. The betrothal of his sister, Genna, to someone Tywin thought was an uneven match for her (he was).
“My betrothal was announced at a feast with half the west in attendance. Only Tywin dared speak against the match. A boy of ten. Father turned as white as mare’s milk, and Walder Frey was quivering. How could I not love him after that? That is not to say I approved of all he did, or much enjoyed the company of the man he became … but every little girl needs a big brother to protect her. Tywin was big even when he was little.” – Genna
cough Tyrion parallel cough
Even Tytos had enough sense to scrape together to know that his son speaking against him was probably a bad thing. Instead of really dealing with it, Tytos just sent Tywin to live in King’s Landing. There, Tywin became good friends with prince Aerys Targaryen and Steffon Baratheon. Tywin and his brothers fought in the War of the Ninepenny Kings and earned knighthoods.
The Lion has Awoken
“Tywin seems a hard man to you, but he’s no harder than he’s had to be. Our own father was gentle and amiable, but so weak his bannermen mocked him in their cups. Some saw fit to defy him openly. Other lords borrowed his gold and never troubled to repay it. At court they japed of toothless lions.” – Kevan (Tywin’s brother)
House Lannister was a mockery of what it had once been. House Reyne and others grew strong off of Tytos’ weakness. His wife, Jeyne, died and Tytos didn’t smile anymore and things got worse than ever as he fell into misery. Blunder after blunder weakened House Lannister more and more and eventually Tywin said no more.
Tywin basically said he was taking over and Tytos weakly disagreed before crawling back into bed with his new mistress. Tywin went into action and demanded the repayment of loans his father had lent out without care. The Lannisters couldn’t pay their debts with no gold. Those who couldn’t were required to send a hostage until they paid up.
“The lion has awoken” – Harys Swyft on Tywin
The Rains of Castamere
The Reyne’s ignored the demands and encouraged others to do so as well. Tywin told them to come to Casterly Rock, they didn’t, and instead revolted against House Lannister. Tywin took an army to their door. No, there wasn’t a great battle, just a Reyne genocide. Tywin destroyed them, he destroyed their whole line, he destroyed their home, and he destroyed their legacy. Forever. Afterwards, all that remained of the Reyne’s was a song about their destruction called the Rains of Castamere (as seen above ^). Often forgotten are the Tarbecks who Tywin destroyed in a similar fashion. They didn’t get a song. After that, everyone pretty much fell into line.
A little later on, when one Lord was getting argumentative Tywin sent, not a letter, but a bard with a lute to play the Rains of Castamere for the Lord, who quickly decided to obey.
The True Ruler
The next chapter of Tywin’s life was spent back in King’s Landing serving his childhood friend, Aerys, as Hand of the King. The Westerlands were still in Tytos’ incapable hands, but Tywin had put the fear of the lion in his bannermen.
Tytos eventually died of a heart attack while climbing stairs and Tywin returned to Casterly Rock to find his fathers mistress wearing one of his mothers dresses. He also found out that she had been using Tytos as a tool to get whatever she wanted. He told her to strip and sent her onto the streets where she had to tell every man she met that she was thief, and once she was done, he banished her forever.
Tywin married his cousin, Joanna, and on their wedding day he smiled, an extremely rare occurrence. Tywin continued serving as Hand to Aerys and, by all accounts, was the true King of Westeros for twenty years. Aerys was slipping. Slipping slowly and surely into a disease known as the Targaryen madness. Joanna gave Tywin twins, Cersei and Jaime. He was sure Cersei would be Queen and Jaime would be Lord of Casterly Rock.
A third child was born to Joanna, and she died while giving birth to a deformed atrocity, aka Tyrion. Tywin changed after that and Tyrion got the brunt of his hate and anger over the loss of his wife. Some will say that Tywin hated Tyrion for other reasons as well, but I won’t entertain such theories here.
King Aerys and Tywin also began to drift apart and they had many arguments over the ruling of the realm. It all came to a head when Aerys lifted Jaime up to be a member of the Kingsguard, therefore making Tyrion next in line to rule Casterly Rock. And Aerys could also use Jaime as a hostage against Tywin to make him bend and do what he wanted. Tywin was furious and resigned his position as Hand and went back to Casterly Rock.
“It fell to Tywin to restore House Lannister to its proper place. Just as it fell to him to rule this realm, when he was no more than twenty. He bore that heavy burden for twenty years and all it earned him was a mad king’s envy. Instead of the honor he deserved, he was made to suffer slights beyond count, yet he gave the Seven Kingdoms peace, plenty and justice. He is a just man.” – Kevan
Aerys slipped completely into madness and when Robert began his Rebellion, Tywin waited. And waited. And waited. He ignored Aerys’ demands for help and Robert’s offers of alliance. He waited until after the Battle of the Trident and then went into action once he knew who would be victorious. He rode into King’s Landing as a friend to Aerys and proceeded to sack the city, showing Robert whose side he was on. In the fray, Tywin’s man, Gregor Clegane committed atrocities against members of the royal family.
“We had come late to Robert’s cause. It was necessary to demonstrate our loyalty. When I laid those bodies before the throne, no man could doubt that we had forsaken House Targaryen forever. And Robert’s relief was palpable. As stupid as he was, even he knew that Rhaegar’s children had to die if his throne was ever to be secure. Yet he saw himself as a hero, and heroes do not kill children.” – Tywin
Tywin, again, returned to Casterly Rock after the Rebellion. House Lannister flourished under his Lordship. Robert was a terrible King and ended up causing the crown to be over three million golden dragons in debt to the Lannisters.
Tywin was ruthless, but his Handship saw the Seven Kingdoms have peace, prosperity, and plenty for twenty years and it could have been longer if Robert had made Tywin Hand. He was the best ruler in recent memory so is it fair to even call him a bad guy? He was no saint, but he wasn’t evil by any means. He truly cared about his house and by default the Seven Kingdoms. When the War of the Five Kings broke out, Tywin came to defend his house and family and he intended to win.
“When your enemies defy you, you must serve them steel and fire. When they go to their knees, however, you must help them back to their feet. Elsewise no man will ever bend the knee to you. And any man who must say ‘I am the king’ is no true king at all. Aerys never understood that, but you will. When I’ve won your war for you, we will restore the king’s peace and the king’s justice.” – Tywin to Joffrey
The cost of victory brutalized our hearts, but was an easy decision for Tywin. The Red Wedding was bloody, but quick and decisive. Depending on what side you view it from, Tywin was a hero who brought greatness back to the Lannister name and good times to the land, protecting it from the Mad King, or that bad guy who caused Rob and Stannis and Tyrion a bunch of problems.
Atrocities committed? Yes.
Occasionally cruel? (especially to Tyrion) Yes.
Red Wedding? Yes.
For the greater good? *insert opinion here*
His greatest insult was being killed by Tyrion. Poetic justice served as usual in this beautiful world.
“I have served six kings, but here before us lies the greatest man I ever knew. Lord Tywin wore no crown, yet he was all a king should be.” – Pycelle
As always thanks for reading!
All information comes from the A Song of Ice and Fire series.
#1: From a Game of Thrones DVD extra
#2: Art by Magali Villeneuve
#3: Art by Nacho Molina
#4: Art by Etruzion
#5: Art by Magali Villeneuve
#6: Art by unknown
#7: Art by Charles Dance