The Significance of Aerys x Joanna in George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire”

The Significance of A + J = C & J & T


What is the significance of Aerys being the biological father of all of Joanna’s children? After all, Tywin was to all intents and purposes their true father. They conceive of themselves as his children. They model themselves after him. He played an outsized presence in all of their lives. When Tyrion looses those quarls into Tywin, he is both physically and psychologically killing his father. Of these things we can be certain. But, there have to be reasons why George R. R. Martin plotted it this way. At the very least, it is an extraordinarily disconcerting revelation that everything we thought we knew about Tywin, Joanna, Aerys, and the Lannister family is in some respects a lie.



It is clear from The World Book, “A Song of Ice and Fire”, “The Princess and the Queen”, and “The Rogue Prince” that one needs to have dragon blood to have a chance of riding a dragon. Even Nettles, who used sheep to tame the dragon Sheepstealer in the Dance of the Dragons, was a “dragonseed” according to The World Book if not the unclear wording of “The Princess and the Queen”. With all three of Joanna’s children having Aerys’ blood, all three are potential dragon riders. Whether any and all get to ride dragons is completely up in the air, as it were, but it does open up a realm of possibilities.


Deceptive History

George R. R. Martin has a running theme throughout the “A Song of Ice and Fire” tales that official histories cannot be trusted. The maesters’ attempts to eliminate all notion of magic from the world, the erasure of the Night’s King and Queen from the records, and various aspects of the story like the “kidnapping” of Lyanna are all demonstrations of this version of the unreliable narrator. Martin’s technique of using maesters to write his self-described “fake histories” enables him to play with the narrative as he hides vital information, colors the descriptions, and enters inaccuracies, fog of recollection, and historical debates into the histories. It is also evidence of Martin’s contentious relationship with professional historians. It is not for nothing he decries their work as less accurate, compelling, and reliable than historical fiction. His talk of the song being truer than the histories is not just self-promotional mysticism. It is a creed, a celebration of his profession over that of the academic historians he dismisses.


Dramatic Effects

Having your audience believe one thing then revealing the trick you have played on them from the beginning is an entertainment tactic as old as literature and magicians’ performances. Misdirection, deception, and showmanship make for surprise, wonder, and dramatic tension even for audiences as jaundiced, experienced, and aware as today’s cultural consumer. It is like being on a rollercoaster without having seen the whole in advance. You know the trip up is prelude to the drop, but it is even more shocking than the known truth bomb.


Love Triangles

George R. R. Martin loves love triangles. From the Ned/Ashara/Brandon triangle to the Rhaegar/Lyanna/Robert configuration to the Barristan/Ashara/Stark one to the originally planned Tyrion/Arya/Jon conflict, these unrequited loves tangling with true attractions litter “A Song of Ice and Fire”. Likely stemming from Martin’s own horrible personal experiences, they make for drama as well as fraught relationships. We can now safely add Aerys/Joanna/Tywin to the list. However, it is very different from the one we assumed with Aerys no longer creeping on Joanna who was as devoted to Tywin as he was to her. The truth appears to be very different with Aerys and Joanna being the love match and Tywin the proverbial third wheel.


The Ultimate Comeuppance

Tywin Lannister may be fairly described as being obsessed with his reputation. In his own revolt against his father, Tywin did everything possible to show that he was the opposite of the cheerful, indulgent, and openly lustful for life Tytos including massacring his house’s rivals, the Reynes and Tarbecks, kicking his father’s mistress to the curb using a walk of shame, and promoting himself and his family as above reproach. One of the reasons he hated Tyrion was that Tyrion behaved way too much like Tytos as well as not having the warrior, handsome physique Tywin so prized in Jaime. It would be a complete refutation of Tywin’s attempt to construct a legacy according to his arrogant pride that none of his children are biologically his.


The Deeper Quandaries Posed, But Not Answered

“A Song of Ice and Fire” is full of deep quandaries that admit of no easy answers. Is there such a thing as a just war? What means are justified to achieve the ultimate good? In a conflict between obligations to family, realm, god, which one should prevail? But, there is also the question of nature v. nurture. What makes us who we are? Who matters most: our biological parent or parents or those that raised us? For Jon Snow, the question is clear from the get-go. Who is my mother and who am I? What he does not realize is that he is wrong about both parents and right. Ned raised him. Catelyn hated him. It is natural he would seek out his mother, but not his father. But, what will he do if he ever learns the truth of his biological parentage? Does it matter?


For Tyrion, Jaime, and Cersei, the questions become even harder. They were raised by Tywin, but he was not their biological father. Will it matter if they learn the truth? What is their truth?


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