Who Is Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones?

By James T. Cains

Tyrion Lannister is the youngest son of Tywin Lannister, the Lord of Casterly Rock in the Westerlands, and is about 30 years old when Game of Thrones begins. Tyrion has two older siblings: his older brother, Jaime, who is very fond of him and defends him when necessary, and his older sister, Cersei, who despises him, just as his own father does. Tyrion’s mother died giving birth to him, which Cersei and Tywin blame him for. Tyrion is a dwarf and has been mocked as an “imp” or a “half-man” all his life, so much so that he’s allowed that mocking to influence his behavior. He’s famous for his drinking and sleeping with prostitutes. That said, Tyrion possesses a strong intellect, which he believes to be his greatest weapon, and he often uses his mind to manipulate events and people around him. He makes it a point to read as much as possible to sharpen his intellect, and he relishes new experiences.

Tyrion falsely accused

Tyrion travels to Winterfell with King Robert Baratheon, his brother-in-law, and befriends Jon Snow, Ned Stark’s illegitimate son. Tyrion feels a kinship with Jon as a fellow outsider, and he travels with Jon to the Wall, where Jon is to take up his enlistment in the Night’s Watch. On the way back from the Wall, Tyrion is captured by Catelyn Stark, who blames him for the attempted murder of her son, Bran, due to evidence falsely pointing to him as the perpetrator. Catelyn takes him to the Eyrie, where her sister holds court. Tyrion demands a trial by combat and chooses a mercenary named Bronn to fight for him. Bronn wins the combat, much to Catelyn’s disappointment, and Tyrion and Bronn are allowed to leave.

As the War of the Five Kings heats up in the aftermath of King Robert’s death, Tyrion and Bronn unite with Tywin Lannister’s forces. Tyrion takes up with a prostitute named Shae, whom he begins to have feelings for. Tyrion tries his hand at leading troops into combat, only to be knocked out at the beginning of the battle. After the new King Joffrey orders the beheading of Ned Stark, who had been Robert’s Hand of the King (or chief advisor), Tywin sends Tyrion to King’s Landing as acting Hand of the King until Tyrin arrives. Tyrion takes Bronn and Shae with him.

Tyrion becomes a leader

In King’s Landing, Tyrion routinely clashes with Cersei and King Joffrey, and he is appalled at Joffrey’s cruel treatment of his fiancé, Sansa Stark, and tries to protect her as much as possible. Tyrion has long suspected that Cersei’s children are the products of her incestuous relationship with their brother Jaime, but receives confirmation from Cersei herself. Despite this, Tyrion is still determined to keep the Seven Kingdoms under Lannister rule, although Joffrey’s claim to the Iron Throne is false. Meanwhile, Tyion learns of the planned attack by King Stannis, Robert’s brother and rightful heir, in an effort to claim the throne. Tyrion marshals King’s Landing’s defenses and, in a superior display of strategic cunning, manages to repel Stannis’s forces for as long as possible until Lannister forces, accompanied by troops from their new allies House Tyrell, arrive to outflank them. Tyrion is injured during the battle, his face dramatically scarred.

Tyrion wakes from his recovery to find that Tywin has taken over responsibilities of Hand of the King. As usual, Tyrion receives no credit for his role in the defense of King’s Landing, which adds to his bitterness and resentment. Tyrion requests that Tywin make him heir to Casterly Rock, as is his right since Jaime is a member of the Kingsguard and has given up all rights to his inheritance. Tywin says he will never allow Tyrion to have Casterly Rock, calling Tyrion an abomination and a curse. Later, Tywin gives Tyrion the role of Master of Coin (or treasurer) of King’s Landing, as a small token of his status as a Lannister. Shortly thereafter, Tyrion discovers that King’s Landing is deeply in debt.

Tywin has engineered the betrothal of Margaery Tyrell to King Joffrey to cement the alliance between the two houses. This leaves Sansa Stark free of Joffrey. However, Tywin has other plans and makes Tyrion marry Sansa, because he believes that Sansa will eventually inherit Winterfell after he defeats her brother Robb in the war. Tyrion respects Sansa and refuses to sleep with her unless she wants it (which she doesn’t). Meanwhile, Shae is furious at Tyrion for allowing himself to be wed to Sansa.

The trial of Tyrion Lannister

The wedding of Joffrey and Margaery takes place, but at the feast afterward, Joffrey is poisoned and dies in Cersei’s arms. Tyrion, who had clashed with Joffrey during the feast, is jailed for Joffrey’s murder and is to stand trial. At the trial, many people testify against Tyrion, including Shae, who lies about hearing Tyrion and Sansa plotting to murder Joffrey. Tyrion is furious and lashes out publically in court, confessing that his only crime is being a dwarf. Tyrion demands a trial by combat to decide his innocence.

For the trial by combat, Cersei picks a huge warrior named The Mountain as her champion. Jaime wishes that he could fight for Tyrion, but he can’t because he recently lost his sword hand. Oberyn Martell, who has long harbored a desire for revenge against the Lannisters, volunteers to be Tyrion’s champion. However, despite Oberyn’s impressive fighting skills, The Mountain defeats him and Tywin sentences Tyrion to death for the murder of King Joffrey.

Later, Jaime breaks Tyrion out of jail and leads him through a secret passageway, telling him that passage to Essos has been arranged for him. Jaime leaves him at a doorway, but instead of going on his way, Tyrion backtracks to Tywin’s chambers. There, he finds Shae in Tywin’s bed — apparently, she had struck a bargain with Tywin to falsely testify against Tyrion. Tyrion kills her in a rage and then grabs a crossbow. He finds his father in the bathroom, sitting on the toilet. As Tyrion points the crossbow at him, Tywin tells Tyrion that, of course, he wasn’t going to allow Tyrion to be executed, that he’d find a way to vacate the sentence. Tyrion doesn’t believe him and shoots him in the stomach. Tywin exclaims that Tyrion is no son of his, but Tyrion says, “I am your son. I have always been your son,” before sending an arrow into Tywin’s chest. With his father dead, Tyrion makes his escape and boards a ship for the Free Cities of Essos.

See our full list of Game of Thrones characters for information on other main characters.