No theory better illustrates the divide between Campbellites and historians than that of Tyrion Targaryen. To recap: Campbellites is my general stand-in label for those who like using Joseph Campbell’s and other literary theories to analyze “A Song of Ice and Fire”. For example, “would ruin the dynamic of that relationship” and “this is how fantasy is written” are how Campbellites might respond to theories they do not like. Historians use contextual evidence of both the author’s personal life and real history to understand the work. Preston Jacobs for one has read and analyzed all of George R. R. Martin’s work prior to “A Song of Ice and Fire” including his autobiographical writings (See Martin’s website and Dreamsongs I, II for starters.), and uses them to argue that “A Song of Ice and Fire” is science fiction. While I take the historians’ tack, I wish to posit that both views have something to offer. Although reconciling the two positions is probably hopeless, there is value in making the attempt. In the following, I will use the Tyrion Targaryen theory as my test case.
In short, the theory is that Aerys the Mad King is at least partly Tyrion’s father – giving Tyrion a special role to play as one of the prophesied three heads of the dragon along with Daenerys and Jon Snow. The primary objection to the theory is that it would ruin the father-son dynamic Tyrion has with Tywin Lannister – justifying as it were Tywin’s views and properly placing Tyrion outside of the Lannister family. The Campbellites also hold that there is insufficient evidence to conclude that Tyrion has any Targaryen ancestry. Before I address the first counterargument, a review of the evidence for Tyrion Targaryen is in order.
First, there is the mix of light blonde hair and one dark eye that Tyrion exhibits rather than the more typical yellow blonde hair and two green eyes that is more typical of the Lannisters. Nobody Suspects the Butterfly counters that Tommen has light blonde hair as well and his ancestry is completely Lannister in the form of Cersei and Jaime. This would be quite persuasive except that hair tends to darken as one ages and, while Tyrion is around twenty-six years old, Tommen is around four. Tommen’s hair is likely to darken to yellow blonde while Tyrion’s is set to a more Targaryen silver blonde. Even more problematic is that the original theory is probably getting the hair reversed. Both Tywin and Joanna Lannister are yellow blondes. Because blonde hair is a recessive genetic trait, they cannot produce anything but yellow blonde children. Aerys the Mad King, however, while a silver haired Targaryen, is also the grandson of a Blackwood who had dark hair and dark eyes, Betha Blackwood. Tyrion’s Aerys parentage is designated by his dark hair, not his blonde.
Second, Tyrion has the Targaryen fascination with dragons and fire including telling Jon that he has dragon dreams and asking if Jon has them too. (Jon does not respond. Thanks, Martin, for not disclosing that.) Again, this is not dispositive evidence either. As many have noted, it is not unexpected for a little person and a small boy to have an interest in dragons and/or dream about them.
Third, Tyrion’s mother, Lady Joanna Lannister, died giving birth to him, just like Daenerys’ and Jon’s respective mothers. It is a running theme in “A Song of Ice and Fire” that death must pay for life a la the Faceless Men and blood magic with “blood for fire, fire for blood” being inscribed on the horn, Dragonbinder. The correlation to the blood of the crucifixion and the mass in Christian rituals as well as the blood sacrifices of animals and, occasionally, human beings is unlikely to be coincidental. It is likely significant that no other house than the Tagaryen’s seems to think that death of the mother is related to significant children, much less the correspondence between “fire and blood” that forms the motto of House Targaryen.
Fourth, the objection that there is no possible way Joanna Lannister would have consented to sexual relations with the Mad King, therefore, if it happened, it would have been a rape, and Tywin is never going to tolerate such an affront and not know received a critical blow upon the publication of The World of Ice and Fire. Prior to that point, all readers knew was that Ser Barristan Selmy had some unpleasant recollections about Aerys lusting after Lady Joanna with “liberties” taken during the bedding ritual. The World Book not only added an unseemly remark about her bosom to Lady Joanna before the entire court when she brought her twin children to court without Tywin when they were around seven, but also that Aerys had been having an affair with Lady Joanna after his marriage and before hers while she was a lady in waiting to his wife, Queen Rhaella. When one adds these bits of information to Martin and Elio Garcia’s statements about how the author of The World Book, Maester Yandel, is writing to please his audience, namely Tywin Lannister and his family, we get a potential version of events that makes a potential liaison between the pre-Duskendale Aerys – not yet the unkempt deviant he would become – and Lady Joanna a rekindling of a romance rather than an abusive encounter. Even the reputed remark about Lady Joanna’s figure might well be a revision to make Tywin’s betrayal during Robert’s Rebellion less repulsive. It would also be perfectly consistent with Martin’s penchant for “hidden history” and perspective for a completely different Aerys-Joanna relationship than the official history’s.
Fifth, Tyrion’s dimorphic physical appearance is a sign of a chimera-ism – a genetic condition in which two different embryos have become fused together with some parts coming from one and the rest from the other. For example, eye color and hair color dimorphism are signs of the condition. Thus, even though being the son of Lady Joanna Lannister, who did not have to change her name on her wedding day (She and Tywin were first cousins, the children of two brothers.), makes him part Lannister regardless, Tyrion is a true combination of Lannister and Targaryen. In that respect, he is both Tywin and Aerys’ son.
Sixth, the Tywin-Tyrion relationship will be unaffected by any revelation of Tyrion’s biological heritage. Parent-child relationships in “A Song of Ice and Fire” are fraught with tensions, conflict, and unresolved issues, none more so than between Twyin and Tyrion. One cannot help but wonder how much of Martin’s relationship with his distant, but caring, “functioning alcoholic”, and disconnected father is in the Tywin-Tyrion dynamic. According to Martin, the Martins did not share much other than their mutual, developed interest in the Jets and Giants. On those topics, they could watch every Sunday and bask in the contest of the gridiron as the gladiators of Giants, Vikings, Eagles, and Cowboys among others did war against each other for gold and glory. (One might do a whole piece on how the “game of thrones” is actually about the NFL.)
However, in “A Song of Ice and Fire”, the tensions are “dialed up to eleven”. Tyrion both loves and hates his father. His father is beyond abusive to Tyrion and all that Tyrion holds dear. Tyrion is haunted by his patricide. If he is “no son of mine” to Tywin, then he is no one’s. Tywin was Tyrion’s father regardless of his biological contribution. And, there is no escaping your parents no matter how far you travel. For these reasons, Tyrion Targaryen is a viable theory both in terms of the literary qualities and the histories.
Seventh, Maggie the Frog uses the High Valyrian word “valonqar” to describe the younger brother who will wrap his hands around Cersei’s neck and choke the life from her. Many predict it will be Jaime because he is the younger brother and someone Cersei does not expect. It makes literary sense. However, Jaime is one-handed and part of the perils of prophecy is their occasional self-fulfilling nature such as the Oedipus prophecy. Martin is very much aware of this kind of problem. Also, if you did not notice, it is a sneaky way for Maggie to intimate that Tyrion has Valyrian ancestry, that is, his Targaryen roots.
Note: Most of the foregoing is from Preston Jacobs You Tube videos and commentators as well as other writers.