The Game of Thrones theory explained. Plus, what all this has to do with Azor Ahai, and what it could mean for season 6 and beyond.
After spending the last couple months rewatching HBO’s Game of Thrones in its entirety (at least to date), I’d like to revisit a theory that’s been around for a little while, because I’m beginning to believe what I once dismissed as idle speculation. And, more importantly, it has the potential to shape what happens in both season 6 of Game of Thrones and beyond that, to the very end of the show.
If you already know the theory’s details and want to skip past all the evidence and just see why it matters going forward, click here.
Here’s the theory:
Tyrion Lannister is NOT actually a Lannister
Instead, he’s the son of the Mad King Aerys II Targaryen and Tywin’s wife Joanna Lannister. That has a lot of implications, including the fact that it would make Tyrion Daenerys’s half-brother. We’ll get into some of these.
But first, let’s admit that yes, this theory seems a little crazy at first. Tyrion not a Lannister? Why would Tywin treat him as a legitimate son, particularly when Tywin already hates Tyrion so much? It’s like a built in excuse. Plus, some would argue that it makes for bad storytelling, that it undercuts the troubled father/son relationship between Tyrion and Tywin.
I once was in that camp. But no longer. Tyrion is not a Lannister. We’ve been given all the proof we should need to know it’s true, and it’s going to be a significant reveal in season 6.
The Book Evidence
I’ll go ahead and say that I haven’t read the A Song of Ice and Fire books myself (yet), so I’m relying on some secondhand accounts here. But the facts I’m relying on aren’t really passage interpretations, just straight descriptions. So I think it’s ok.
First, let’s look at Tyrion’s physical appearance compared to his supposed father and siblings. Other than his dwarfism, Tyrion is said to have two key physical characteristics. One, he’s got mismatched eyes: one’s green, the other is black. Two, he’s got mismatched hair, pale blonde interspersed with black.
That sort of matches the descriptions of Tywin, Cersei, and Jaime, who all have green eyes and golden blonde hair, as well as that of Joanna, near as I’ve been able to discover. But it also sort of doesn’t. Even though he’s a dwarf, if Tyrion were the natural born child of cousins Tywin and Joanna Lannister, both of whom had green eyes and golden blonde hair (as do their close relations), you’d expect Tyrion to turn out the same.
But he doesn’t. He has a black eye that’s somewhat similar to the purple eyes of the Mad King, and the pale blonde hair is also reminiscent. The origins of the black tufts of hair are harder to directly explain, but given both the genetic defects in Tyrion (which are another explanation for the rest of it, of course) and the fact that he doesn’t match up with a long family run of specific hair and eye color, we can excuse these anomalies without completely discounting the rest.
Next, a little context for how it might have been that the Mad King actually impregnated Joanna. According to the books, there were rumors that in their youth Joanna and Aerys (again, that’s the eventual Mad King) were secret lovers. These rumors have been discredited by Grand Maester Pycelle, but we’ve seen Pycelle either lie or knowingly look the other way too many times to take him at face value.
But of course, as the youngest child, Tyrion would have been conceived well after Joanna’s marriage to Tywin. But there are rumors to be found of their continued involvement, despite Joanna’s supposedly happy marriage to Tywin, and there was opportunity when Joanna went to King’s Landing for a tournament honoring the Mad King’s tenth year as king.
So so far, let’s say it’s at least possible that Tyrion is actually the child of the Mad King Aerys Targeryan and Joanna Lannister. There’s some circumstantial evidence that calls into question his parentage, and Aerys and Joanna could have slept together at the right time without one or the other having to cross hundreds of miles for a secret tryst.
Tywin’s Motive for Keeping Tyrion
If there’s one huge thing that stands in the way of this theory, it’s the question of why Tywin, who hates Tyrion and has repeatedly tried to engineer his death, would profess Tyrion as his legitimate son if he knew otherwise.
In the absence of DNA tests, let’s remember Tywin can never be sure whether or not Tyrion is his trueborn son. Moreover, even if he wasn’t, there’s good reason for Tywin to pass Tyrion off as his own.
This is a little bit of a mix between evidence from the show and evidence from the books, but it’s repeatedly made clear that family is the one great thing that Tywin is interested in. He is constantly concerned about the family legacy, and expects the individuals to sacrifice for the sake of the family.
There’s this speech he gives Jaime on the value of family in season 1. (Sorry, YouTube has a pretty complete moratorium on embedding Game of Thrones clips. But the links are cued up for you.) Then he lectures Cersei and Tyrion. Later, it’s a lecture for Tyrion alone. These are just a few of many examples throughout the show. Tywin considers the legacy of his family above all else, even his personal desires.
It’s easy enough to see, then, that even if Tywin was SURE that Tyrion wasn’t his son, he might pretend Tyrion was to protect the Lannisters’ image and the perception of his late wife Joanna. It’s repeatedly stressed how much Tywin loved Joanna. He’s not a forgiving character (as Tyrion well knows), but he might forgive her for sleeping with the king.
This is also important for understanding Tyrion’s character. Tyrion has been raised as a Lannister, told he is a Lannister, told he’s Tywin’s son and brother to Jaime and Cersei. He is, by his upbringing and in his own mind, a Lannister, and Tywin is his father. So even though some might say it cheapens the dynamic between Tywin and Tyrion (and Tyrion’s eventual murder of Tywin) to have them not be father and son, I’d argue that the narrative is no worse the wear because regardless of his natural parentage, to Tyrion, Tywin is his father. No questions asked.