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Ragnorak

A Series of Essays Discussing Tywin

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Tywin is an often debated character and certainly one of Martin's more interesting creations. He isn't one of the POV characters and the snippets required to piece him together are fairly scattered in the text. I thought it might be interesting to look at him in a series of essays covering different angles and facets of his character. As a rough outline:

  • Tywin the Military Commander (always a lively topic...)
  • Tywin and Gregor
  • Tywin the Politician
  • Tywin and Marriage
  • Tywin and Tyrion

A number of things are just unknowable. We hear Tywin ruled the Seven Kingdoms as Hand and that might be 100% true or it could be complete BS-- there just isn't enough information provided in the text to know. We can speculate but when doing so try to keep it grounded in the text even if it is only through indirect inference. In the interest of full disclosure, I have an extraordinarily negative view on Tywin mostly rooted in what I perceive as a morally repugnant character (but I'm also in less than awe over his ability as a player.) I've tried to filter or tone down that take in deference to more summation but there are conclusions that led me to that view that are hard to avoid. Agree, disagree, offer a different perspective or approach it from a different angle-- it's all welcome. Just back it up from the text.

Rains of Castamere

When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die

While this most certainly seems to be the case as events unfold before us, it is far from a historical truth. Prior to Tywin and his Rains of Castamere philosophy the game of thrones was not a zero sum game. You win or your children get involuntary day care, you win or you go to the Wall, you win or you lose some mills and a few beehives. The Golden Company is comprised of people who played the game and neither won nor died. Even in The Mystery Knight Bloodraven lets Butterwell keep a tenth of his wealth along with his life in what is supposed to be an exceedingly harsh punishment.

The multi-thousand year Stark Kings and Bolton rivalry speaks to the non-lethal aspect of playing at regal intrigue. The Blackwoods and Brackens are able to fight for centuries because of the same non-lethal rules of the game. One of the most significant contributions Tywin Lannister makes to the plot of this series is the transformation of the game of thrones to the zero sum "you win or you die."

Tywin the Military Commander

god is on the side of the big battalions

The underlying meaning of that popular military phrase is that the biggest army usually wins. As one of the more powerful High Lords Tywin, in most cases, is going to have the biggest army. As a commander Tywin ought to be a traditionalist looking to fight more or less straight forward slugfests far more than an out of the box innovator. He already brings the tactical and strategic advantage of his scorched earth thinking and value system. Other lords are concerned with the cost of victory, the price of rebuilding, dead family members, etc. Tywin is willing to write off whatever he must including Jaime (if Tyrions's post Greenfork assessment is to be believed) and there are no pyrrhic victories in "you win or you die."

This characterization seems to be reflected in his actions on the field, the assessments we hear, and those who learned from him. Jon Connington did everything he thought he could at the Battle of the Bells up to the acceptable limits of the rules of war. We're told Tywin would have exceeded those limits. We see Jaime take a page from his father's book and threaten to assault Riverrun with nothing but Riverlands men in the opening wave. We see Tyrion note that his father would have poisoned all the wells around Meereen even though those wells would obviously be much needed after a victory. On the field we see a disciplined force, well maintained defenses, and a host that isn't taken unaware despite the attempt in a surprise force march by Roose.

We see Tywin's scorched earth philosophy in the three main military actions we know of prior to the series. He slaughters the Reynes and Tarbecks, he slaughters House Darklyn (though Aerys seems to deserve some credit there) at Duskendale and he slaughters House Targaryen during the sack of Kings Landing. He was willing to assault Duskendale while Aerys was still hostage, he wanted to send Lord Tarbeck back to his wife in three pieces while she held three Lannister hostages (including Stafford who was both his first cousin and brother-in-law,) and he gained entry to Kings Landing through treachery prior to the sack. In each case we see a total annihilation of the enemy and a willingness to exceed the accepted rules of war and/or write off any hostages as effectively already dead.

A strong king acts boldly?

Tywin doesn't react well to this line from Joffrey and with good reason. Kings are at the top of the game with everything to lose and nothing to gain outside of maintaining the status quo. Bold actions find their greatest wisdom in those with nothing to lose or whose fate is one of loss if unchanged. What stands out about this line and Tywin's reaction are his actions at the end of Game of Thrones which most certainly fall into the "bold" category.

Tywin effectively goes to war with what reasonably ought to be the rest of the Seven Kingdoms without a single ally. It was certainly bold which means it was either stupid (Tywin's own assessment of acting boldly at the top) or Tywin had very much to lose if his fate remained unchanged. The latter seems true if Stannis Baratheon were to assume the throne. At best Stannis would execute Cersei for treason, Jaime for kingslaying, Tywin for the murder of the Targaryen children and his treachery during the sack, leaving Tyrion as the Lord of Casterly Rock. At worst he'd declare House Lannister attainted and show them a Rains of Castamere fate. So what was Tywin thinking?

My best guess is that he believed Riverrun was the key. The old alliance was Stark, Arryn, Tully, and Baratheon. With Jon Arryn dead and Ned captured that leaves women and boys ruling the Eyrie and Winterfell and both of those women are Tullys. Taking Riverrun would give him Hoster and Edmure as hostages to leverage against Cat and Lysa along with Ned as a hostage in Kings Landing including Arya and Sansa. Taking Riverrun would eliminate three of the four Houses in the old rebellion alliance (at least in his thinking.) He could either leverage those hostages to keep them out of the fighting or even make them swear allegiance to Joffrey and actually fight against Stannis. This more or less fits with his statement that war is butcher's work and Robb Stark won't have the stomach for it and what we can infer of his views of women given his low regard for Cersei, fondness for rape as a punishment, and even his careless dumping of the Dornish alliance his own wife fostered mere days after her death. I'm not certain this was his plan but it is the only one I can think of that makes remote sense of his actions.

getting inside the enemy's decision cycle

Tywin amassed a host so Edmure amassed a host in response. Tywin sent Gregor to raid the Riverlands and Edmure let his host largely disband to protect their lands from the raids. Tywin successfully got into Edmure's decision cycle and made him act in accordance with Tywin's designs.

Tywin then mops up the various Riverlands resistance and sits his host at the Crossroads in the path of either an Arryn or a Stark host. His assessment to Tyrion is that Robb Stark is untested and either has no stomach for a fight or will meet him in a straight on battle that Tywin expects to win. Robb does neither. He formulates his own plan and successfully gets into Tywin's decision cycle.

Robb lays out his plan to Cat:

"Both plans have virtues, but… look, if we try to swing around Lord Tywin’s host, we take the risk of being caught between him and the Kingslayer, and if we attack him… by all reports, he has more men than I do, and a lot more armored horse. The Greatjon says that won’t matter if we catch him with his breeches down, but it seems to me that a man who has fought as many battles as Tywin Lannister won’t be so easily surprised."

"When Lord Tywin gets word that we’ve come south, he’ll march north to engage our main host, leaving our riders free to hurry down the west bank to Riverrun." Robb sat back, not quite daring to smile, but pleased with himself and hungry for her praise.

Catelyn frowned down at the map. "You’d put a river between the two parts of your army." "And between Jaime and Lord Tywin," he said eagerly. The smile came at last. "There’s no crossing on the Green Fork above the ruby ford, where Robert won his crown. Not until the Twins, all the way up here, and Lord Frey controls that bridge. He’s your father’s bannerman, isn’t that so?"

Robb has a smaller force than Tywin and wisely chooses to avoid a straight forward battle since he expects to lose without surprise. Roose tries the surprise angle anyway but clearly can't be expected to win without it since Robb doesn't think surprise likely and expected to lose with his entire host and he's sending only a fraction with Roose.

We get Tywin's reaction and Kevan's commentary:

"My lord," he said, "Ser Addam bid me tell you that the Stark host is moving down the causeway."

Lord Tywin Lannister did not smile. Lord Tywin never smiled, but Tyrion had learned to read his father’s pleasure all the same, and it was there on his face. "So the wolfling is leaving his den to play among the lions," he said in a voice of quiet satisfaction. "Splendid. Return to Ser Addam and tell him to fall back. He is not to engage the northerners until we arrive, but I want him to harass their flanks and draw them farther south."

"It will be as you command." The rider took his leave.

"We are well situated here," Ser Kevan pointed out. "Close to the ford and ringed by pits and spikes. If they are coming south, I say let them come, and break themselves against us."

"The boy may hang back or lose his courage when he sees our numbers," Lord Tywin replied. "The sooner the Starks are broken, the sooner I shall be free to deal with Stannis Baratheon. Tell the drummers to beat assembly, and send word to Jaime that I am marching against Robb Stark."

Robb feigned giving Tywin the single conflict to decide it all and he fell for it. Tywin moved north and away from the ford according to Robb's designs and sent word to Jaime which further aided in Robb's surprise on the other side of the river.

Ser Jaime had gone out to deal with them the night before… well, with what we thought was them. We were told the Stark host was east of the Green Fork, marching south…"

In the aftermath of Robb's victory Tywin decides to use the same tactic he used on Edmure to draw Robb into an assault on Harrenhal.

Ser Kevan frowned over the map, forehead creasing. "Robb Stark will have Edmure Tully and the lords of the Trident with him now. Their combined power may exceed our own. And with Roose Bolton behind us… Tywin, if we remain here, I fear we might be caught between three armies."

"I have no intention of remaining here. We must finish our business with young Lord Stark before Renly Baratheon can march from Highgarden. Bolton does not concern me. He is a wary man, and we made him warier on the Green Fork. He will be slow to give pursuit. So… on the morrow, we make for Harrenhal. Kevan, I want Ser Addam’s outriders to screen our movements. Give him as many men as he requires, and send them out in groups of four. I will have no vanishings."

"As you say, my lord, but… why Harrenhal? That is a grim, unlucky place. Some call it cursed."

"Let them," Lord Tywin said. "Unleash Ser Gregor and send him before us with his reavers. Send forth Vargo Hoat and his freeriders as well, and Ser Amory Lorch. Each is to have three hundred horse. Tell them I want to see the riverlands afire from the Gods Eye to the Red Fork."

"They will burn, my lord," Ser Kevan said, rising. "I shall give the commands." He bowed and made for the door.

Tywin must be expecting Robb to march against Harrenhal in response to the burning of the Riverlands if he expects the business with the young Lord Stark to be finished before Renly marches. So Tywin tries to get into Robb's decision cycle and fails. The result is the waiting game Tyrion describes to Cersei

"The city will not fall in a day. From Harrenhal it is a straight, swift march down the kingsroad. Renly will scarce have unlimbered his siege engines before Father takes him in the rear. His host will be the hammer, the city walls the anvil. it makes a lovely picture."

Cersei’s green eyes bored into him, wary, yet hungry for the reassurance he was feeding her. "And if Robb Stark marches?"

"Harrenhal is close enough to the fords of the Trident so that Roose Bolton cannot bring the northern foot across to join with the Young Wolf’s horse. Stark cannot march on King’s Landing without taking Harrenhal first, and even with Bolton he is not strong enough to do that." Tyrion tried his most winning smile. "Meanwhile Father lives off the fat of the riverlands, while our uncle Stafford gathers fresh levies at the Rock."

After Tywin's Riverlands burning fails to goad Robb into attacking Harrenhal, Martin goes out of his way to have Tyrion explicitly lay out the military situation of the current waiting game. He then has Robb attack the Westerlands and eliminate those fresh levies Stafford was gathering and begin to ravage Tywin's home territory. This Westerlands attack succeeds in getting into Tywin's decision cycle and makes him march from Harrenhal to meet Robb despite the disastrous vulnerability he's going to leave Kings Landing in.

So what are we to infer from Martin going out of his way to demonstrate that Tywin is being outmaneuvered on the strategic field of battle? This isn't because of some inherent flaw with Tywin as a commander as we see with Jaime being impatient and overconfident. Tywin was well positioned to reasonably expect victory at the Greenfork and waiting at Harrenhal was the proper strategic call given the state of the field. There's a case to be made that his underestimating Robb is a flaw but again this isn't manifested in command deficiencies on Tywin's part, he's simply outmaneuvered as Robb takes actions that force Tywin to alter his war priorities and react to the conditions that Robb created. Again this is something Martin deliberately uses the text to demonstrate by having Robb lay out his plan to Cat and then Tyrion sum up the Harrenhal waiting game for Cersei before showing Tywin reacting. What is he telling us and what are the overall implications for Tywin's character?

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I wish I could remember where this is from, but I know somewhere it is said that Tywin has an easy time making friends and a hard time keeping them. That's the problem with a strategy based on brutality. There is always blowback. The arrogance is a problem too. Robb, a green boy tricked him because he was underestimating Robb. Tywin just took it as a given that he could easily beat Robb in battle.

Tywin is completely over rated IMO.

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Not that we are on speaking terms but I thought I’d stick my pretty little nose in anyway.

The distinguishing marks of Tywin’s conduct of operations in the books are an immoral brutality calculated to achieve military objectives, combined with a strategically sound sense of when to be aggressive or cautious. This latter is in contrast to other commanders, like the Baratheon brothers who are, respectively, accused of being temperamentally reckless (Robert) or overly methodical (Stannis). Tywin had a good appreciation of how to construct his strategy to meet his war aims, and nearly always made the ‘correct’ military moves, even if this often turned out poorly. The sole exception was the decision to appoint Ser Stafford Lannister to command the third lannister army, which was a grave blunder.

The essence of Lord Tywin’s problem was of a competent strategist trying to fight a war while outnumbered, threatened from multiple directions, and tied to the political need to hold king’s landing. Even in the initial stages of the war, Tywin was thinking in terms of how to quickly achieve victory in one area, in order to redeploy in another, as evidenced by his reason for advancing up the Green Fork to meet Robb Stark. This gave Robb an opportunity, but it was a strategically sound move to make in the context of preparing to meet Stannis to the south. This dynamic, of offering opportunities to a foe because of the need to concentrate on the other, is repeated when Tywin marched west, allowing Stannis, with help from the shadowbaby, to advance on King’s Landing. Interestingly, when the problem had been removed, by the Tyrell alliance, Robb’s fortunes did not take long to nose dive.

Contrary to popular opinion therefore, Robb did not really manage to ‘outthink’ Tywin, rather, he exploited this dilemma facing the lannister leaders and often did this unconsciously. This is seen most clearly in one of the examples in the OP. There, it is claimed, Robb cracked Tywin’s strategic assumptions governing his behaviour and thereby predicted his move up the Green Fork, which separated his army from Jaime. However, close analysis reveals this was, truly, only a lucky guess on Robb’s part, as he simply did not possess the information to allow him to see what Tywin was going to do.

Robb assumed that when he marched south Tywin would advance to meet him. The question though, is why? Ser Kevan thought they should remain at the crossroads, a plan that had great merit if they were not faced with the urgent need to settle affairs in the riverlands quickly, and move south to confront Stannis. So Tywin advanced instead, gambling that Frey would not commit. The question is, how did Robb know, or why did he assume, Tywin would reject Kevan’s advice? As far as I can tell Robb didn’t know about the incest, and therefore, Stannis’s presumed bid for the throne (Tywin arguably didn’t know about the incest either, but Cersei will have told him Stannis was a threat) or about Renly. So he couldn’t crack into Tywin’s ‘decision cycle’ as he didn’t have the information. It can also be noted that his assessment of Frey was no better or worse than Tywin’s; Robb wrongly thought Frey would commit in the capacity of a bannerman of Rivverun, (when he needed a price) while Tywin either ruled out Frey not repeating his Trident performance, or gambled on the situation not occurring.

The second piece of ‘outthinking,’ or of entering successfully into Tywin’s ‘decision making cycle,’ is the Stark invasion of the west and Tywin’s march to the Red Fork. Here it is argued that Tywin’s attempt to draw Robb to battle failed, but Robb’s own offering in this regard was successful, deranging Tywin’s strategy of using the main lannister army to defend King’s Landing. However, there are a number of points that need to be made about this. First, it needs to be made clear that Tywin knew Renly was dead when he decided to march west, and that Stannis was busy laying siege to SE. It was not made 100% clear in the novel (although one could figure it out) but the author clarified in an SSM.

http://www.westeros....yrion_and_Tywin

Thus his response was not solely predicated on Robb’s actions, but on the fact the Baratheon menace to King’s Landing seemed to have abated for the time being. If Tywin stayed put, at this time, the time he spent in Harrenhal would be dead time. He couldn’t threaten either of his enemies unless he marched to SE, or went west. So he made the decision to pursue Robb, at a time when Robb was separated from most of his army and away from friendly castles and the natural defences of the west side of the Red Fork. This was a grim risk, but it was only a disaster because the siege of SE ended so swiftly, owing to the shadowbaby.

The second point, in relation to this, is that Robb is unlikely to have imagined Tywin would pursue him so quickly, if at all. As we have seen, Tywin’s march west was predicated not only on Robb’s presence there, but on the actions of Stannis and Renly, which, from the timeline, we can see Robb can’t have known about when he went west, or, indeed, for some time after he got there. Thus it is important to take his attack on Edmure for botching his grand design to lure Tywin west with a pinch of salt. Robb even says to him that, but for his actions, Stannis was just about to fall on king’s landing, which neither Robb nor Edmure could have possibly known about at the time. At best, Robb could have known, by the time he reached the Crag, that Penrose was holding SE against Stannis. So it is extremely unlikely Robb really did plan his western invasion as a form of strategic bait, to lure Tywin across the map and away from king’s landing, rather, he would have originally intended this operation to secure his rear from Stafford’s army, and to put pressure on the lannister government in king’s landing (note Cat II refers to the king as a mummer too).

Overall, the author portrayed Tywin as an intelligent, cunning (and ruthless) commander, who only made one real military mistake (appointing a man widely known as an idiot to command the crucial third army). The other assumed missteps generally owe to an improper appreciation, among readers, of how the lannisters perceived the war, and their awareness of the need to confront multiple enemies, or, more simply, confusion over timelines and available information. Robb Stark, ‘my father’s bane,’ in Tyrion’s word, was also a very able commander, and successfully ruined Tywin’s war effort to the point he needed bailing out by the Tyrells (and Tyrion). It does need to be said though, that Robb often didn’t have as clear a vision of the strategic imperatives of the enemy as readers tend to ascribe to him.

Note: it seems relatively clear Tywin’s statement to Tyrion that he attacked the riverlands over the Catnap was ‘just another lie.’ The invasion of the riverlands was preparatory to defeating the northern allies (the Starks and Arryns) who were supposed party to the plot against Cersei and her children, and would therefore support Stannis, the biggest threat, when he moved on king’s landing. The rapid advance into the riverlands therefore showed a thorough appreciation on Tywin’s part that he was facing very grim odds from the beginning, and he thus moved swiftly to knock his opponents out in turn. That he failed to achieve this was thanks to Robb Stark (and some ineptitude on Jaime’s part) but the situation Tywin was in by CoK is illustrative of the situation he was trying to avoid in GoT.

Implications for character: dunno. I think GrrM largely plays the idea that Tywin is an experienced, cunning general straight. His big mistake, the appointment of Ser Stafford could be seen as indicative of Tywin’s narcissistic flaws, and his general blindness in matters concerning his family. His attitude to Tyrion when they first meet is also interesting. He lies, and tells him he is the reason for the war, while trying to shame him by pointing to Jaime’s successes. Of course, it is Jaime who is really the cause of the war (along with Cersei) on account of the incest, and Jaime’s ineptitude that ruins Tywin’s plan of knocking out the northern powers in preparation to face Stannis. Tyrion’s despatch of Littlefinger to the Tyrells won the war, in contrast, even though Tywin was ok with him dying at the Green Fork. You might have thought the war would have caused Tywin to revise his opinion of the worth of his family members ... but no.

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Looks interesting and I'll get back with a longer reply this evening if things turns out as I want them.

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A thread that will examine Tywin's action while separating Tywin's private and politic life?

I'm completely sold, cannot wait for read all the essays.

In the meantime, a couple of personal opinions.

Modernity?

My personal opinion is that Tywin's one of most the "modern" characters, togheter with Jon Snow.

The difference is, that while Jon's modernity is more a constructive-positive trait, Tywin's one is destructive-negative.

A couple of examples to show how these two characters are somehow related, if anything at least by opposition:

Jon Snow:

-forging new alliances regardless of centuries of hate

-the decision of building greehouses at the Wall for vegetables, most likely something new (and considering that Winterfell has always being nearby the Wall I find it rather odd ^^)

-the decision to keep undeads nearby to study them

-more importantly, the tendency to conveniently ignore or overcome rules whenever the situation requires it (namely: with Alliser Thorne, the whole Samwell Tarly situation in AGoT, playing the game with Stannis and tricking Melisandre, the whole situation with the wildlings, etc...)

Tywin Lannister instead, really looks like a conservative figure, but we soon learn that this happens only when it suits to his purposes.

At the end of the day, exactly like Jon, Tywin conveniently ignores or overcomes rules whenever the situation requires it.

-The whole Robert rebellion, he basically cheats to win - and guess what? He even manages to spare Jaime not only a death sentence or the Wall, but any kind of punishment.

-Always speaking of Jaime, he still wants him to be his heir regardless of any vow. He basically considers them irrelevant.

-Like you already said, he conceives the warfare rules to a different level than other commanders: not only war is not just battles, but quills and ravens... war is also an act of annihilation.

You simply do not joke with the Lions, or you will get your due.

And it's not a surprise that Lannister's motto has been overcome by the saying about Lannisters paying their debts, for there hasn't been one that Tywin hasn't paid in full. More on the saying and songs should be said, but I'm waiting for the essay on Tywin's politics ^^ (in the meantime, I'll just say that Tywin is one of the very few characters to have not only considered, but mastered the act of "propaganda").

-The Red Wedding

-The whole Elia and children's situation (although it was more of personal feelings rather than anything... yet he ignores rules once again. Nor the princess, nor her children were fighting or posing a menace...).

Unlike many other characters, Tywin perceives war as if it was butchery, and like the expert butcher that he is, he's not afraid of getting his hands dirty.

Like you already pointed out, he somehow introduces a new rule in the Game: it's not about armies, but populations.

It reminds me of how war were said to be conducted once compared to nowadays, where innocents are targeted to reach different goals.

"Modern", but disgusting.

Commander or politician?

Tie? ...win!

Forgive the ugly pun, but that describes perfectly Tywin's conduct during wars.

How could you blame him?

He has the means, the troops, the money... stalling the situation would be only a benefit to him.

He's not Robb or Stannis, who have to play it unconventional battles to make the situation more even. All Tywin needs to do is playing textbook and wait for an opening.

The curios thing is that the nature of said opening is always political, and never military.

Let's be honest for a while: nominally, Tywin's record of battles after Castamere is beyond the terrible.

It features doing nothing during Robert's rebellion to then sit at the winner's table, having Lannisport sacked without any significant victory during the Greyjoys rebellion, losing battles left and right during Robb's rebellion and winning at the Blackwater Battle thanks to an unexpected trick and the Tyrell's alliance.

Not a complete disaster, but neither an almost complete clean record like Stannis (or a complete one like Robb, that is).

The thing is... somehow, he always manages to win, at least politically:

Robert's rebellion? He put a Lannister queen on the Throne.

Balon's rebellion? The Ironborn lost.

Robb's rebellion? He was most likely to beat Edmure, but we cannot reason with if X did Y.... Yet he managed to beat all the enemies nearby and got someone else to get the blame.

Gurkhal tell it straight: Tywin finishes wars, some way or another.

Can't wait to read the other essays!

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Not that we are on speaking terms but I thought I’d stick my pretty little nose in anyway.

The distinguishing marks of Tywin’s conduct of operations in the books are an immoral brutality calculated to achieve military objectives, combined with a strategically sound sense of when to be aggressive or cautious. This latter is in contrast to other commanders, like the Baratheon brothers who are, respectively, accused of being temperamentally reckless (Robert) or overly methodical (Stannis). Tywin had a good appreciation of how to construct his strategy to meet his war aims, and nearly always made the ‘correct’ military moves, even if this often turned out poorly. The sole exception was the decision to appoint Ser Stafford Lannister to command the third lannister army, which was a grave blunder.

<snip>

I think the bold is an excellent summation. I do think Stannis is intentionally portrayed as an adaptable creature of military thought but that's a topic for another thread.

In fairness to our fictional Stafford if both Jaime and Tywin had hosts of 30,000 that would most likely leave him with a very green army of largely fresh recruits. (For in series perspective, I think Jon's NW basic training class was about 6 months until graduation) That wouldn't just include the bulk of the men but the officers and NCO equivalents as well. I suspect the majority of them had never actually been in or set up a military encampment before. Of course that doesn't prevent Stafford from being an idiot commanding the inexperienced. I know Tyrion mentions him to Sansa as he demystifies the warg claims and I think there are two other Stafford assessments but I don't recall where. I have Stafford as an idiot flagged in my memory with a question mark but that may just be because Tyrion's Kevan assessment was a bit off and not something from another reference.

But overall I'm more interested in what it says about Tywin. If Stafford was a known idiot and Tywin picked him anyway that says a great deal about family over merit. How are we to assess the choice of giving Gregor command over Tyrion relative to a known idiot Stafford getting a whole army? Gregor and Tyrion both seem to be somewhat unique cases in Tywin's eyes but that is the nature of the type of things I was looking for more in terms of extracting text based character assessments of Tywin.

Similarly, it is probably of far lesser importance as to whether Robb actually duped Tywin compared to the dynamic that plays out with Kevan and Tywin as Tywin takes the bait. Tywin is in far more of a rush than Kevan. Kevan's point about proximity to the ford is a very valid one which Tywin dismisses in favor of a concern young Stark might dawdle. There's clearly an imperative to the timetable that Tywin has not shared with Kevan-- and we know from Feast when he turns down being Hand that he's a late believer to the incest claims. It also hints at Tywin having a preconceived vision of how things will play out that fails to come to fruition, possibly in part because he keeps it too much to himself, which may be a bit of a theme in things like the Cersei/Rhaegar marriage.

Note: it seems relatively clear Tywin’s statement to Tyrion that he attacked the riverlands over the Catnap was ‘just another lie.’ The invasion of the riverlands was preparatory to defeating the northern allies (the Starks and Arryns) who were supposed party to the plot against Cersei and her children, and would therefore support Stannis, the biggest threat, when he moved on king’s landing. The rapid advance into the riverlands therefore showed a thorough appreciation on Tywin’s part that he was facing very grim odds from the beginning, and he thus moved swiftly to knock his opponents out in turn. That he failed to achieve this was thanks to Robb Stark (and some ineptitude on Jaime’s part) but the situation Tywin was in by CoK is illustrative of the situation he was trying to avoid in GoT.

I agree, The implication here is that Tywin has long known of the twincest but I don't think that surprises most readers. Tywin seems to be reacting to an existential crisis for House Lannister (if Stannis wins) or at least the Lannister throne ambitions if a Renly wins. This is a situation created by Jaime and Cersei who also undermined his plans for a Cersei royal marriage years ago when she conspired to get Jaime into the Kingsguard. That analysis is a bit involved but it is something to look at in terms of Tywin and Lannister family dynamics. That he gives Tyrion the pretense of his capture as leading to war is also worth noting. Tywin is attacking the Riverlands (at least in theory) over an offense committed by Lady Stark of the North who took her Lannister prisoner the Vale neither of whom he actually attacks. That Cat used her Riverlands roots to capture Tyrion is a hypothetical justification for attacking them, but he accuses Tyrion of being weak enough to be taken by a woman which is deliberately ignoring the role of those Riverlands men in his capture in favor of a shot at Tyrion. He never really addresses the root cause of the problem with either Jaime or Cersei. even indirectly, but is willing to chastise Tyrion over his coincidentally helpful role in a premise for war. There are these dense layers of family dynamics that come to the surface by piecing together Tywin's actual motives.

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I think the bold is an excellent summation. I do think Stannis is intentionally portrayed as an adaptable creature of military thought but that's a topic for another thread.

It is interesting though that GrrM includes explicit criticism of the methods of some good generals but doesn't do that for Tywin/Robb.

In fairness to our fictional Stafford if both Jaime and Tywin had hosts of 30,000 that would most likely leave him with a very green army of largely fresh recruits. (For in series perspective, I think Jon's NW basic training class was about 6 months until graduation) That wouldn't just include the bulk of the men but the officers and NCO equivalents as well. I suspect the majority of them had never actually been in or set up a military encampment before. Of course that doesn't prevent Stafford from being an idiot commanding the inexperienced. I know Tyrion mentions him to Sansa as he demystifies the warg claims and I think there are two other Stafford assessments but I don't recall where. I have Stafford as an idiot flagged in my memory with a question mark but that may just be because Tyrion's Kevan assessment was a bit off and not something from another reference.

Stafford is referred to as an idiot three times, afaik. Once by the BF in CoK Cat I, and then by Tyrion after news of Oxcross, and, finally, by Jaime, in Affc. IMHO this is information we are supposed to take at face value. I think the idea, on the author's part, was to maintain suspense in the war. Robb was winning victories but the structure of those victories is meant to cast doubt on whether he could pull off the same if he faced Tywin personally. Hence Stafford being surprised owing to doltishness, which, we are told, and to an extent shown, is less likely to work with Tywin. This is meant to lend credibility to Tyrion's statement to Sansa after Oxcross, 'don't take this battle too much to heart.'

The numbers in the novel are 20,000 for Tywin and 14-15,000 for Jaime btw. 30,000 was, I think, the television series.

But overall I'm more interested in what it says about Tywin. If Stafford was a known idiot and Tywin picked him anyway that says a great deal about family over merit. How are we to assess the choice of giving Gregor command over Tyrion relative to a known idiot Stafford getting a whole army? Gregor and Tyrion both seem to be somewhat unique cases in Tywin's eyes but that is the nature of the type of things I was looking for more in terms of extracting text based character assessments of Tywin.

Yes, although, I now remember the BF was worried (in Cat I CoK) that Ser Daven, Stafford's son would be in charge ( as he was supposed to be more competent). So, it was less a question of family name over merit as opposed to a disinclination on Tywin's part to give a son command over their father (although he might have hoped Daven would hold Stafford's hand). Why was this? I'm not sure, maybe a sense Tywin likely shares with other lords that sons have to give precedence to their fathers in the chain of command.

Similarly, it is probably of far lesser importance as to whether Robb actually duped Tywin compared to the dynamic that plays out with Kevan and Tywin as Tywin takes the bait. Tywin is in far more of a rush than Kevan. Kevan's point about proximity to the ford is a very valid one which Tywin dismisses in favor of a concern young Stark might dawdle. There's clearly an imperative to the timetable that Tywin has not shared with Kevan-- and we know from Feast when he turns down being Hand that he's a late believer to the incest claims. It also hints at Tywin having a preconceived vision of how things will play out that fails to come to fruition, possibly in part because he keeps it too much to himself, which may be a bit of a theme in things like the Cersei/Rhaegar marriage.

I agree with this. One of the curious things to emerge from analysis of the late GoT Tyrion chapters is the fact Tywin doesn't have a proper advisor, and that seems to be a conscious decision based on Tywin's control of information. Everyone, apart from Tywin, seems to be in the dark. Kevan's advice suggests he was not appraised of the true nature of the conflict, and so he couldn't give Tywin useful advice. Later, in the war council, Tywin withholds the news about Renly, rendering the (admittedly not very useful) advice he receives of negligible value. He can't expect his commanders to provide good advice on how to respond to the new situation unless he gives them the full facts.

After this, Tyrion and Kevan remain and Tywin unfolds the true situation, and, at one point, nettles Tyrion for not providing useful advice. Again though, Kevan's role is reduced to 'fetch the map,' and we see Tywin makes the decision about moving to Harrenhal and launching a ravaging campaign while Kevan is still not on the page. Kevan asked why Harrenhal and then went to give out the orders. Tywin didn't bother explaining his intentions to Tyrion either, Tyrion had to work them out for himself. It gets even murkier when we consider Kevan's response to news of Renly's crowning. He is 'poleaxed' when Tywin says, 'it seems we have another king,' but didn't Kevan know Stannis was thought to be coming to claim the throne? One wonders too, if Tywin had heard rumours of Renly's flight to Highgarden before he advanced on Robb, and that this explains the fact he and Kevan were not on the same page, as he evidently did not share the information with him until some time after he received it. In regard to your remark about Tyrion being wrong about Kevan (never had a thought Tywin didn't have first) we could actually view Tyrion's assessment as correct, but note it was a product of Tywin's own way of doing business wrt what details he shared rather than deficiency on Kevan's part.

Anyway, Tywin's actually pretty extreme husbanding of information is curious. It negates any opportunity to develop competent advisers, he needs to do all the strategic decision making himself. It might also be, in part, due to the fact the actual strategic situation was pretty damn scary, and so Tywin adopted a drip drip method of informing his leading lords about the true nature of the war, to avoid spooking them.

I agree, The implication here is that Tywin has long known of the twincest but I don't think that surprises most readers. Tywin seems to be reacting to an existential crisis for House Lannister (if Stannis wins) or at least the Lannister throne ambitions if a Renly wins. This is a situation created by Jaime and Cersei who also undermined his plans for a Cersei royal marriage years ago when she conspired to get Jaime into the Kingsguard. That analysis is a bit involved but it is something to look at in terms of Tywin and Lannister family dynamics. That he gives Tyrion the pretense of his capture as leading to war is also worth noting. Tywin is attacking the Riverlands (at least in theory) over an offense committed by Lady Stark of the North who took her Lannister prisoner the Vale neither of whom he actually attacks. That Cat used her Riverlands roots to capture Tyrion is a hypothetical justification for attacking them, but he accuses Tyrion of being weak enough to be taken by a woman which is deliberately ignoring the role of those Riverlands men in his capture in favor of a shot at Tyrion. He never really addresses the root cause of the problem with either Jaime or Cersei. even indirectly, but is willing to chastise Tyrion over his coincidentally helpful role in a premise for war. There are these dense layers of family dynamics that come to the surface by piecing together Tywin's actual motives.

Yea, although I always assumed Tywin knew (from Cersei) that there was a plot to claim her children were bastards and depose her and them. This is because Tyrion claims Tywin is 'blind' to the incest, and, at one point gloats when he thinks Tywin is going to get Stannis's letter. Now, Tyrion could be wrong of course, and it would make good sense of the events in the novel for Tywin to know the full situation, but Tyrion's statements make me unsure.

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Very interesting thread, and some fascinating points all around. I think this comment in particular stands out to me though.

It is interesting though that GrrM includes explicit criticism of the methods of some good generals but doesn't do that for Tywin/Robb.

I had never even thought of this before, but its true. Neither robb nor tywin do, as far as i remember catch any negativity on their skills as a leader. This interests me because, imo, both stannis and robert are superior commanders of men then Tywin and robb. but Stannis and robert both get some flak. I dont know what to make of this, just yet.

Anyhow, this is a great thread, its objective about a very controversial character, and that's awesome. I will be sticking around for this.

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It is interesting though that GrrM includes explicit criticism of the methods of some good generals but doesn't do that for Tywin/Robb.

That's a good observation. If I had to speculate I'd guess he's intentionally removing the military aspects from a search for fatal flaws in those characters to put the focus on the character, personality, non-military choices, etc.

I'm toying with the idea that their flaws center around knowing their men and in a semi-related fashion a hair splitting distinction between politics and diplomacy with Robb being a satisfactory diplomat but rather poor politician and the reverse being true for Tywin. That dividing line isn't exactly precise though and neither is the line between diplomacy and politics.

In Robb's case we have Cat's thoughts and words

Over the years, she had hosted many of them at Winterfell, and been welcomed with Ned to their own hearths and tables. She knew what sorts of men they were, each one. She wondered if Robb did.

You cannot afford to seem indecisive in front of men like Roose Bolton and Rickard Karstark. Make no mistake, Robb—these are your bannermen, not your friends.

Bolton and Karstark end up being the real problems which adds a bit of emphasis to the passage in hindsight. I also focus in on Cat's specific use of "hearths and tables" which is a different form of knowing than understanding what type of soldier or commander a man is. "All politics is local" springs to mind. Then you have Robb's glaringly naïve comment that will seal his fate in a way:

“There’s no crossing on the Green Fork above the ruby ford, where Robert won his crown. Not until the Twins, all the way up here, and Lord Frey controls that bridge. He’s your father’s bannerman, isn’t that so?

We'll also get Balon Greyjoy's "no man gives me a crown. I pay the iron price." Had Robb offered him Theon back for an iron price ot some other variation of that theme would Balon have chose differently? :dunno: His actual offer to Balon is more than fine and more than fair but he clearly doesn't understand the Iron Islands or its ruler. There does seem to be a case to be made that Robb knows his men on the field but does not know them in terms of "hearths and tables" which is the center of gravity of politics.

Tywin gives an incredibly prophetic account of how the Riverland lord's will react post-Red Wedding

Surely they will choose submission rather than destruction.”

“Most,” agreed Lord Tywin. “Riverrun remains, but so long as Walder Frey holds Edmure Tully hostage, the Blackfish dare not mount a threat. Jason Mallister and Tytos Blackwood will fight on for honor’s sake, but the Freys can keep the Mallisters penned up at Seagard, and with the right inducement Jonos Bracken can be persuaded to change his allegiance and attack the Blackwoods. In the end they will bend the knee, yes.

I'm not sure this is a "hearths and tables" understanding so much as it is understanding the interaction among honor, avarice and family future, but he clearly knows those men. He does seem to underestimate the fallout from the Red Wedding and the "end all" blow that it would be. He also doesn't seem to account for his insufficient insulation from Walder Frey's actions or how Guest Right violations cross a line that will drive otherwise "honorable" opponents to stoop to levels they would otherwise likely avoid. We have a bit of an example in Manderly but most of that discussion detours into the Great Northern Conspiracy and the extent to which one does or doesn't buy into it. Without going too much into it, there does seem to be a miscalculation of fallout on Tywin's part despite nailing the Riverland's reaction perfectly.

His biggest "knowing your men" failure comes with Littlefinger and second to him is probably the Tyrells (everyone gets a pass for missing Varys.) Tywin's problems and miscalculations come more from Kings Landing and his own family than a battlefield or even any bannerman so lining up the comparisons to Robb isn't straight forward. (Is Littlefinger Tywin's Balon, Walder Frey or Roose Bolton?) There are a number of contrasting parallels between Tywin and Robb but it is hard to pin down an overarching one that works as a defining distinction or even one where they're the extreme ends of a spectrum. Of course that's probably why they make for good discussion material.

Stafford is referred to as an idiot three times, afaik. Once by the BF in CoK Cat I, and then by Tyrion after news of Oxcross, and, finally, by Jaime, in Affc. IMHO this is information we are supposed to take at face value. I think the idea, on the author's part, was to maintain suspense in the war. Robb was winning victories but the structure of those victories is meant to cast doubt on whether he could pull off the same if he faced Tywin personally. Hence Stafford being surprised owing to doltishness, which, we are told, and to an extent shown, is less likely to work with Tywin. This is meant to lend credibility to Tyrion's statement to Sansa after Oxcross, 'don't take this battle too much to heart.'

The numbers in the novel are 20,000 for Tywin and 14-15,000 for Jaime btw. 30,000 was, I think, the television series.

Yes, although, I now remember the BF was worried (in Cat I CoK) that Ser Daven, Stafford's son would be in charge ( as he was supposed to be more competent). So, it was less a question of family name over merit as opposed to a disinclination on Tywin's part to give a son command over their father (although he might have hoped Daven would hold Stafford's hand). Why was this? I'm not sure, maybe a sense Tywin likely shares with other lords that sons have to give precedence to their fathers in the chain of command.

Ok, so maybe there's some minor application to Tyrion but there isn't anything unusual about giving the father the command-- in fact it would probably only stand out as significant if he actually did give command to the son.

I agree with this. One of the curious things to emerge from analysis of the late GoT Tyrion chapters is the fact Tywin doesn't have a proper advisor, and that seems to be a conscious decision based on Tywin's control of information. Everyone, apart from Tywin, seems to be in the dark. Kevan's advice suggests he was not appraised of the true nature of the conflict, and so he couldn't give Tywin useful advice. Later, in the war council, Tywin withholds the news about Renly, rendering the (admittedly not very useful) advice he receives of negligible value. He can't expect his commanders to provide good advice on how to respond to the new situation unless he gives them the full facts.

After this, Tyrion and Kevan remain and Tywin unfolds the true situation, and, at one point, nettles Tyrion for not providing useful advice. Again though, Kevan's role is reduced to 'fetch the map,' and we see Tywin makes the decision about moving to Harrenhal and launching a ravaging campaign while Kevan is still not on the page. Kevan asked why Harrenhal and then went to give out the orders. Tywin didn't bother explaining his intentions to Tyrion either, Tyrion had to work them out for himself. It gets even murkier when we consider Kevan's response to news of Renly's crowning. He is 'poleaxed' when Tywin says, 'it seems we have another king,' but didn't Kevan know Stannis was thought to be coming to claim the throne? One wonders too, if Tywin had heard rumours of Renly's flight to Highgarden before he advanced on Robb, and that this explains the fact he and Kevan were not on the same page, as he evidently did not share the information with him until some time after he received it. In regard to your remark about Tyrion being wrong about Kevan (never had a thought Tywin didn't have first) we could actually view Tyrion's assessment as correct, but note it was a product of Tywin's own way of doing business wrt what details he shared rather than deficiency on Kevan's part.

Anyway, Tywin's actually pretty extreme husbanding of information is curious. It negates any opportunity to develop competent advisers, he needs to do all the strategic decision making himself. It might also be, in part, due to the fact the actual strategic situation was pretty damn scary, and so Tywin adopted a drip drip method of informing his leading lords about the true nature of the war, to avoid spooking them.

The limited flow of information is an excellent observation and I think it has wide applicability for Tywin. We get a variation of it with the Tyrion/Cersei marriage arrangements in that he withholds the fact that the decision is already made and puts on a little farce of considering options, but there also seems to be more of an agenda behind the choices than Tywin lets on as well. A similar thing happens with Gregor's head where he tells Tyrion he'll think about it but the decision seems to already have been made. The more straight forward examples that come to mind are the Red Wedding and knowing Jaime was free.

In terms of musing on Robb parallels there's the Edmure "hold Riverrun" example and a series of observations by Cat that she's out of the loop especially with the whole issue of naming Jon in the will.

Yea, although I always assumed Tywin knew (from Cersei) that there was a plot to claim her children were bastards and depose her and them. This is because Tyrion claims Tywin is 'blind' to the incest, and, at one point gloats when he thinks Tywin is going to get Stannis's letter. Now, Tyrion could be wrong of course, and it would make good sense of the events in the novel for Tywin to know the full situation, but Tyrion's statements make me unsure.

I've gone back and forth on this for some time. In the end so many things make much more sense if Tywin knows so I've pretty much moved solidly into that camp. When he knew is still a very interesting question to ponder and one I don't have an answer for. I've wondered if he put it together as far back as Jaime's entering the Kingsguard when he tried to figure out how that happened but that's almost pure speculation.

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` I maintain that Tywin is overrated by the fandom. I don't see him as a great commander or politician. People tend to look at the end result and crown Tywin as great. But boy does Tywin get a lot of help along the way.

First, let's take his tenure as Hand. I was in the 'Was Tywin a great hand?' thread and stated that GRRM himself (in a video clip) called Tywin "very qualified" and "a competent and strong Hand". I also pointed out that there isn't much stated about his tenure for us to be able to call him great. At best, we get comments from characters (his family and lickspittles) about how he gave the realm peace. So there's not much to go on. I've compared Jon Arryn favorably to Tywin and his fans try to diminish Jon Arryn's accomplishments.

And with regards to the Wot5K, I maintain that Tyrion had more to do with the Lannister victory than Tywin. Tyrion was the one who proposed marrying Myrcella to Trystane Martell in order to keep Dorne out of the war. He also offered Joffrey to the Tyrells in order to gain their support (without which the Lannisters probably don't win the war).

Once Tywin installs himself as the Hand of the King (and regent for Joffrey) he gets spanked politically by Littlefinger and the Tyrells, who in one fell swoop get rid of Joffrey, get Tywin's most important asset accused of the murder, and are able to substitute Tommen (much more pliable) for Joffrey. Tywin and the Lannisters are so in debt to the Tyrells that he won't even listen to Cersei's worries about the Tyrells as to not upset them.

I'm sure this stuff has been mentioned before and isn't earth shattering, but I think it paints a good picture of who Tywin is. He comes off as delusional. His despise of his most important asset, Tyrion. His obsession with the Lannister name being the most honorable and prestigious yet he behaves in dishonorable ways (the Red Wedding, using Gregor and Amory Lorch, his whoremongering, etc...).

I thought your evidence and analysis was really good, especially your use of examples from the book. I do think that Robb was able to dictate the war against the Lannisters. I do think that chasing Robb west and leaving King's Landing vulnerable played into Robb's hands (can we call defending his territory a mistake?). I don't know how Tywin could have thought that he could deal with Robb quickly enough to get back in time to defend King's Landing (I doubt he knew at the time that the Tyrells were going to align with the Lannisters) when the Young Wolf had been given him so many headaches on the battlefield? (The SSM merely confirms that Tywin took a risk.)

It's late, I'm tired and I'm going to bed. But before I go I think Tytos' failures caused Tywin to swing all the way to the other extreme. The Lannister name could no longer be tarnished no matter the price. I know it's simplified, but I'm tired.

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Tywin feared Stannis Baratheon

Another misconception, almost as bad as "Tywin was the most feared man in Westeros". Tywin didn't fear Stannis. He felt that Stannis, due to his experience and personality, would be the biggest threat amongst the five kings.

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Coil, I like the way you draw attention to Tywin's "modernity". For all his snobbery and pride, he is in one very important sense, a modern figure.

He has no qualms about committing atrocities against his own class. Every other upper class figure assumes that lords and knights will be ransomed, or sent into exile, and that upper class women and children are safe from reprisals. Tywin, by contrast, is happy to exterminate whole aristocratic families if that suits his purposes.

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` I maintain that Tywin is overrated by the fandom. I don't see him as a great commander or politician. People tend to look at the end result and crown Tywin as great. But boy does Tywin get a lot of help along the way.

First, let's take his tenure as Hand. I was in the 'Was Tywin a great hand?' thread and stated that GRRM himself (in a video clip) called Tywin "very qualified" and "a competent and strong Hand". I also pointed out that there isn't much stated about his tenure for us to be able to call him great. At best, we get comments from characters (his family and lickspittles) about how he gave the realm peace. So there's not much to go on. I've compared Jon Arryn favorably to Tywin and his fans try to diminish Jon Arryn's accomplishments.

<snip>

I'd like to try and avoid subjective or vague generalities like "great" or "overrated." It isn't that I disagree with you-- it is fairly difficult to find a lower opinion of Tywin than mine-- but those types of assessments don't help illuminate the character and the imprecise nature of those types of value judgments tend to foster circular debates.

Take "Tywin was the most feared man in Westeros." Well at some point in the plot almost every single House outside of the Westerlands either goes to war with Tywin or expresses a strong desire to go to war with Tywin. Bowen Marsh and Lysa are about the only two people we see who express being intimidated out of a conflict with Tywin. That doesn't translate into Tywin not being feared though. I think the zero sum nature of conflict with Tywin plays a large role in a fear of Tywin (and that seems to be intentionally fostered by Tywin.) That fear of Tywin plays at least some role in Walder Frey's choice to side with Robb, but also in Frey's willingness to deal with Tywin for the Red Wedding. Jaime repeatedly exploits the feared nature of Tywin in Feast as he goes about the Riverlands. So looking for examples in the text of where Tywin is and isn't feared and what role that fear plays in his dealings with others is helpful and fleshes out the character. "Most feared" is too subjective and just an invitation to throw arguably more feared candidates up against the wall and circularly argue about it. That type of discussion would be a great fun in a "Scared Shitless" thread but tends to derail analysis.

You're correct in that we have almost zero objective information on Tywin as Hand. Hear me Meow points out the lack of military criticism in both Tywin and Robb which seems intentional and meaningful. What are we to make of the vagueness of Tywin's historical tenure as Hand? The same is true about Casterly Rock. We're told Tywin ruled the Seven Kingdoms but Joanna was said to rule at home. Was she Castellan? If so she actually ruled at home and that would have been clear. Just a turn of phrase? Did Tywin name another Castellan and leave a Casterly Rock scenario much like he did with Cersei and Tyrion in Kings Landing? That's just speculation but if true it would soften the family dysfunction angle a bit and play more towards Tywin securing his hold during his absence. Tyrion did fall in love with the position but the infighting with Cersei ensured he could never completely solidify control. Intentional? Coincidence? I tend to think Joanna ruled and his psychological grip over his two children was such that he had very little to fear (not to mention he had the actual army) but maybe Lorch and Hoat at Harrenhal also fits the pattern and it is worth exploring.

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I'm not sure I agree with Tywin being a modern figure. Modern from a medieval stand point perhaps but he reminds me most of what Machiavelli exoects "the prince" to be like in renaissance Italy. This makes him more modern than the feudal lords of Westeros, but still not all that modern at all. A total lack of interest in moderation towards the smallfolk and a disinterest in cultivating their support shows just how "modern" Tywin is.

That being said, giving Tyrion credit for helping the Lannister cause out so much still reflects well on Tywin - no matter how much the father may hate the son, Tywin did appoint Tyrion to position of acting hand of the King and the Kingslappers success there vindicates Tywin's decision. However, other appointments do smack of nepotism - Jaime leading the second Lannister army began well when an energetic and aggressive commander was needed to quickly subdue the Riverlords, but at the Whispering woods a more cautious and conservative commander was needed and the Lannisters paid the price. Tywin was extremely lucky when Robert didn't have Jaime killed or even shipped off to the wall after the rebellion - it's downright suspicious that Jaime is captured and yet gets out without having to be exchanged or doing harm to Tywin's war effort at all. Appointing Stafford as leader of the third Lannister army is more evidence of destructive nepotism, regardless of whether he expected Daven to hold Stafford's hand or not.

I think that Tywin probably is just as crafty politically as the forum gives him credit for, but isn't as strong militarily. He's certainly a capable commander but lacks Robb's off-the-cuff brilliance and his nepotism shows he lacks Robb's intimate knowledge of his own fighting men as well.

For those who think that Tywin didn't understand the ramifications of the RW consider this - he knew exactly how dire abusing the guest right was. He also knew that this would effectively doom the Frey family to a slow and lingering death and in all probability, eventually finish Roose Bolton as well. But, just as during the sack of KL and the murder of Rhaegar's children, he had plausible deniability for all of it. It's highly unlikely that Roose and Lord Walder acted alone, but no one can prove it and it could never come to a trial. Like with the Mountain, the victims of the crime focus entirely upon the direct culprits, not the Lannisters themselves. When the time came for recriminations (as he must have known it would) the Frey's would bear the brunt of the hostility, but unlike the Tyrell's they are far to small to care about or defend. Tywin was actually counting on the Northmen to eventually finish the Boltons since this would pave the way for a Lannister/Stark baby being appointed to Winterfell. Politically speaking all this is diabolical but ruthlessly effective.

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Once Tywin installs himself as the Hand of the King (and regent for Joffrey) he gets spanked politically by Littlefinger and the Tyrells, who in one fell swoop get rid of Joffrey, get Tywin's most important asset accused of the murder, and are able to substitute Tommen (much more pliable) for Joffrey. Tywin and the Lannisters are so in debt to the Tyrells that he won't even listen to Cersei's worries about the Tyrells as to not upset them.

Concerning the assessment that Tywin got "spanked" politically by Littlefinger - this is a conclusion that can only really be drawn by the reader, who has the advantage of knowing a heck of a lot more about what Baelish is up to than Tywin does. Tywin has no way of knowing about any of Littlefinger's machinations except for those that are known to Tyrion - who pointedly does not inform him thereof, except for the vague assertion that Baelish is a liar, and cannot be trusted. On the other side of the scales, what Tywin does know about Littlefinger is this:

- He was the Master of Coin who multiplied the Crown's incomes several times over

- He played a central role in winning control of the Gold Cloaks for the Lannisters, so that Joffrey could be successfully crowned after Robert's death.

- He negotiated the alliance with the Tyrells, which effectively hands victory to the Lannisters in the war against the Baratheons.

- He brought Tywin the information about the Tyrell plot to marry Sansa to Willas, thereby allowing him to foil them by marrying her to Tyrion instead.

Based on the information that is available to the reader, granting Littlefinger the lordship of Harrenhal and the permission to marry Lysa were obviously mistakes, but it is difficult to see how Tywin could have known this short of possessing clairvoyance.

.......

WRT the Tyrells - needless to say, I fall into the camp that sees Tywin's treatment of them as more pragmatic than anything else. Again, he would have needed clairvoyance to forestall the assassination of Joffrey, and once those events are put into motion, Tywin is limited to responding as best he can. It overstates the case, I think, to describe Tyrion as Tywin's "most important asset". This might have been true during ACOK, when Tywin's other son was a captive, and he desperately needed someone to rule in King's Landing, but by the time of ASOS both of those imperatives have disappeared. As is pointed out repeatedly by all of the politically savvy members of House Lannister at one point or another - Tyrion, Jaime, and Kevan as well as Tywin himself - maintaining the military alliance with the Tyrells is the new imperative. From a completely cold-blooded perspective, sacrificing Tyrion for the sake of appeasing Mace Tyrell (who in all likelihood was sincere in his ignorance that his own mother was behind the assassination) was probably the correct political calculation, even if Tywin had not already been pre-disposed to seize on an opportunity to send Tyrion either to the Wall or the headsman's block.

Tywin's general strategy for dealing with the Tyrells seems to have basically been in sync with the (logically unimpeachable) approach that both Jaime and Kevan continue to advocate for in AFFC: first concentrate on making sure that an actual marriage takes place between the two Houses so that they are bound to each other by at least some extent, and then worry about finding ways to constrain them from intruiging for a greater share of the power. I think that some readers have a tendancy to color their view of the political events in ASOS based on what they know is coming in AFFC - almost all of the Tyrells' public moves to supplant the Lannisters (i.e. hankering after royal offices and appointments, Margaery's charm offensive with the smallfolk, etc, etc) did not begin to take place until after Tywin was dead. While he was alive, they were fairly passive in their acceptance of the Lannisters' political dominance, to the point that they did not even object to Joffrey using a Lannister cloak in his wedding to Margaery (contrast this with Tommen's wedding, when they insisted on using Baratheon colors).

Throughout ASOS, Tywin treats the problem of managing relations with the Tyrells as a secondary concern, because most of his focus is tied up in orchestrating an end to the war with Robb Stark, which he succeeds in via the conspiracy of the Red Wedding. How he would have responded to the challenges that are later faced (and bungled) by Cersei is a question that is rendered moot by his murder at the hands of Tyrion, which ties back into what I think ought to be read as the central issue of his character. Despite the numerous critiques that have been formulated of his ability as either a politician or as a general, the true weakness of Tywin Lannister always comes back to his family, for the sake of whose aggrandization he was more than willing to sacrifice anything and everything (including most of his own humanity), but who ultimately proved to be his undoing in almost every way imaginable.

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Ragnorak, I don't have time to get caught up on this thread right now, but I must say that your OP is the single best analysis of Tywin's total war strategy I have read on the boards. You don't overreach or assume, you use solid text support appropriately. Sir (or Ma'am?), I salute you.

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To address another facet of the Tywin Debate that causes a lot of vexation - namely the question of whether or not Tywin was a "great" Hand during his first tenure under Aerys, my view is that this issue can be usefully examined by means of a comparison with another great lordly repuatation from the books that inspires a lot of heated debate. I would argue that Tywin's first Handship can be considered basically analogous to the supposed military genius of Randyll Tarly. A lot of fans have expressed a considerable degree of skepticism about Tarly's reputation as the "finest soldier in the realm", given that we know almost nothing about his military career that would seem to justify this. Nonetheless, at least two men (Kevan Lannister and Stannis Baratheon) of apparent impartiality and good judgement on this issue have described him in just such terms, and we tend to advance on the assumption that they do so based on a degree of information/observation that is available to them but has not yet been revealed to the reader.

My view is that a somewhat similar dynamic is at work with Tywin's first Handship. Despite the dearth of specific information about his politics and policies that have been revealed to the reader concerning this two-decade-long period of his career, the simple fact that the reputation which he commands amongst the characters old enough to have been contemporary to his Handship is sufficiently consistent (characters as diverse as Ned Stark, Balon Greyjoy, Meera Reed, and Jon Connington are in agreement that Tywin was, at the very least, a man of formidable attributes, particularly in his "cunning") that we can reasonably accept that the record of his first term of office as Hand forms, at the minimum, a substantial basis for this. Even if we choose to disregard the panegyrics delivered by Pycelle and Kevan (although given what we see of the latter's POV, I do not think that Kevan ought to be discounted as a potentially reliable source of information), it is worth noting that even Aerys, when insulting Tywin by describing him as a "servant" was forced to concede that he was "the most able" of servants.

So there's not much to go on. I've compared Jon Arryn favorably to Tywin and his fans try to diminish Jon Arryn's accomplishments.

I don't think that it's necessary to downplay Jon Arryn's accomplishment to affirm Tywin's reputation as a Great Hand (albeit bad man). Arryn clearly played an instrumental role as the chief political counsellor to Robert throughout the Rebellion and his subsequent reign, but all the same, I would contend that his tally of political accomplishments is not as lengthy as Tywin's.

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