Game of Shipping: I Indulge in Wacky Theories

While I was reading up on goofy fan theories in ASOIAF today, I came across one idea that I actually like, and it is: Tyrion’s first wife, Tysha, is now in Braavos! Read on and I’ll talk about shipping for both of our Lannister brothers!

The idea is that the Sailor’s Wife, a sex worker at a Braavos brothel where Arya sells lots of oysters, is actually Tysha. She works at the Happy Port along with her golden-haired 14-year-old daughter Lanna. Her shtick is that she only beds men who marry her, so she sometimes marries 3 or 4 men per night. This is what Arya learns of her during her time selling oysters:

Whenever Cat happened by with her barrow, the Sailor’s Wife would insist that her new husband buy some oysters, to stiffen him for the consummation. She was good that way, and quick to laugh as well, but Cat thought there was something sad about her too.

The other whores said that the Sailor’s Wife visited the Isle of the Gods on the days when her flower was in bloom, and knew all the gods who lived there, even the ones that Braavos had forgotten. They said she went to pray for her first husband, her true husband, who had been lost at sea when she was a girl no older than Lanna. “She thinks that if she finds the right god, maybe he will send the winds and blow her old love back to her,” said one-eyed Yna, who had known her longest, “but I pray it never happens. Her love is dead, I could taste that in her blood. If he ever should come back to her, it will be a corpse.”

Yeah. I think this backstory works really well for Tysha. Her shtick of marrying her clients before they go to bed is a response to the way Tywin destroyed her and Tyrion’s marriage. She married Tyrion, and Tywin decided she was a whore, subjected her to a gang rape and had his steward ship her off to parts unknown. Now she really is a sex worker, she “marries” all her clients, and her marriages last no longer than a night but she has fun with them. There’s something sad about her because she misses Tyrion, and she still hasn’t entirely recovered from what Tywin did to her. She wasn’t a sex worker when she married Tyrion, but after Tywin and his guards did their number on her, she figures that if she’s going to be treated like a whore, she might as well do it on her own terms. That, and she soon found out she was pregnant, which meant she needed a way to make a living while raising her child.

Her daughter is just about the right age to have been conceived during her marriage to Tyrion, she has golden hair like a Lannister, and “Lanna” is just the sort of name a young mother would give her daughter to remind herself that the child should have been a Lannister.

There are complications to this theory: Tyrion was not lost at sea; he stayed at Casterly Rock while Tysha was forced out with an overflowing fistful of silver. Her co-worker Yna says the husband is dead, and Tyrion is very much alive. However, these complications don’t bother me. Characters don’t always tell the truth. “Lost at sea” may be a story that the Sailor’s Wife has been telling her friends because the reality would break their hearts. Yna’s belief that the husband is dead could be a lie that Yna has been telling their friends so they don’t get their hopes up for the Sailor’s Wife’s true love to show up at their door, or, better yet, Yna could simply be mistaken about what she tastes in Lanna’s mother’s blood. She might not be as competent as Maggy the Frog. Maybe they don’t exactly know what the Sailor’s Wife is doing at the Isle of the Gods, and she’s doing something there that compromises a fortune-teller’s ability to read her.

Then there’s the timing: she appears in A Feast for Crows, which is the next book after Tyrion learns the truth about his first marriage. The fourth and fifth books are basically one book split mostly-vertically in two volumes, and Tyrion doesn’t appear until A Dance With Dragons, in which he keeps asking: “Where do whores go?” Too bad he never visits Braavos. Or maybe it’s for the best that he doesn’t, because he’s especially neurotic at this stage and he might have fucked his own daughter by mistake.

I’ve argued before that Penny the Pig-Riding Mummer Girl is a love interest to Tyrion, and I still think so, but I can’t argue for sure that she’ll be his final relationship. If she’s a temporary partner, that explains why GRRM didn’t get around to introducing her by name until the fifth book of seven, and why D&D appear to have cut her out of the show entirely. If I’m reading the Sailor’s Wife correctly, then Penny won’t be with Tyrion at the end, but Tysha and her daughter will be.

His brother Jaime’s final relationship, however, is much better-developed. Oh yes. I shared the introduction of my big shipping essay on Thursday. Now it’s time for Stage 1. To read the entire essay, online or off, get the PDF or the iBooks version.

When you see a little number, such as (1.1), that comes from having pasted the text from the iBooks version, where these numbers are internal links to the citations.

The Joy of Unintended Consequences, Stage 1: Escape from Riverrun

A Storm of Swords is the first book in which Jaime is a POV character, and the first thing we see of him in his first POV chapter, he is in Brienne’s custody as she manages his escape from Riverrun. At this point, their relationship is asymmetrical and antagonistic; she is the captor and he is the prisoner, and while they both want to get him back to his family alive, she’s not interesting in being his friend and he’s not interested in earning her trust. Traveling with Jaime’s ass-kissing cousin Cleos, they have plenty of time for interaction, which is mostly characterized by Jaime presuming a higher level of familiarity than the situation warrants. This is our first time seeing Jaime and Brienne together, and GRRMartin gets us straight to the process of building their relationship.

In this early stage, Martin establishes eight different processes of building their rapport and foreshadowing a later romance, all of which he carries forward into later stages of their storyline. Those eight processes are, in order of appearance: 1. Jaime compares Brienne to Cersei. 2. They get to know each other through name-calling. 3. Brienne attracts Jaime’s gaze. 4. Jaime feels a sense of kinship with Brienne. 5. Jaime demands a reaction from Brienne. 6. They share a reputation as Kingslayers. 7. The narrative uses overtly suggestive language to describe the way Jaime and Brienne get along. 8. Jaime defends Brienne’s honor.

1. Jaime compares Brienne to Cersei. At this early stage of their story, the comparison tends to come at Brienne’s expense, but it’s still telling that Jaime can’t help but think of Brienne in the role of Cersei, whom he sees as the love of his life and the very Platonic ideal of what a woman should be. First, he enjoys picturing her in one of Cersei’s silken gowns(1.1), while Brienne prefers leather and mail. Later, he creates this entirely absurd picture of floating dead bodies in a river as the six maids bathing in a pool, like in the song. He suggests Brienne take a bath(1.8), and offers to scrub her back. Like he used to do for Cersei. So far, the comparison is silly, if conspicuously intimate, but it will become more significant later.

2. They get to know each other through name-calling. A major theme running through the series is about identity. Many characters, especially Jaime, struggle with the way they’re viewed, and the names they receive. In his case, he has many people calling him Kingslayer behind his back, while Brienne is unusual in that she calls him Kingslayer to his face. She sees nothing wrong with calling him Kingslayer, even while she bristles at him calling her “wench.” It begins with this:

“You will call me Brienne. Not wench.”

“My name is Ser Jaime. Not Kingslayer.” (1.2)

Here, they act like a pair of bickering children, but this dynamic sets the stage for deepening interaction centered on what they call each other, later on in their storyline.

3. Brienne attracts Jaime’s gaze. This one is difficult to explain, because Brienne is remarkably unattractive to most eyes. The first thing Catelyn thinks when she first sees Brienne take off her helmet is, “Is there anything more unfortunate than an ugly woman?” With our big Sapphire Islander, Martin gives us a long-legged, blue-eyed blonde of youthful age and noble birth, yet not what anyone would call pretty. Meanwhile, Jaime is widely considered the most handsome man in the Seven Kingdoms. If he were free to marry, he could have his choice of dozens of healthy young noblewomen who are much prettier to look at and easier to talk to than Brienne, and he’s spent most of his life fucking his equally pulchritudinous twin sister. However, we have already seen that no sooner does Jaime begin traveling under Brienne’s protection, than he begins comparing her to his lovely twin. At the same time, he has a way of looking at her. He keeps telling himself how ugly she is, just in case he might forget. But occasionally, he sees her beauty.

Jaime watched her eyes. Pretty eyes, he thought, and calm. He knew how to read a man’s eyes. He knew what fear looked like. She is determined, not desperate. (1.3)

Both Jaime and Catelyn agree that Brienne has pretty eyes, while the rest of her face is a hot mess. Her body is powerful and capable, but not so nice in a silken gown. Even when Jaime isn’t seeing her pretty blue eyes, he seems inordinately interested in looking at her:

Instead he found himself stretching the oar out over the water. Brienne grabbed hold, and Jaime pulled her in. As he helped her into the skiff, water ran from her hair and dripped from her sodden clothing to pool on the deck.

She’s even uglier wet. Who would have thought it possible? (1.4)

It’s almost like his eyes linger over her soaking wet body, following the trail of water through her clothing. She’s so ugly he can’t stop staring at her. This, too, will become more significant as they spend more time together.

4. Jaime feels a sense of kinship with Brienne. Despite her being his captor and behaving less than warmly to him, Jaime has this odd tendency of viewing Brienne as a sort of family member. For example:

What a wretched creature this one is. She reminded him of Tyrion in some queer way, though at first blush two people could scarcely be any more dissimilar. Perhaps it was that thought of his brother that made him say, “I did not intend to give offense, Brienne. Forgive me.” (1.5)

It’s quite interesting that he associates her with his brother. He’s right that they have hardly any similarities at all. Somehow, he gets that idea of his brother in his head, and the association makes him speak more gently to her.

After they’re taken captive by the Bloody Mummers, he sees her as a partner in crime:

He swayed with the motion of his horse, wishing for a sword. Two swords would be even better. One for the wench and one for me. We’d die, but we’d take half of them down to hell with us. (1.14)

Just within the past hour, he’d been trying to kill her. Now he sees her as being united with him in killing themselves while fighting against the Mummers.

5. Jaime demands a reaction from Brienne. Much of their interaction in A Storm of Swords is characterized by Jaime trying to goad Brienne into being more companionable with him, and then being annoyed when she fails to comply. His attitude to her may be described as, “I hate this girl so much. Why won’t she be my friend?” Sometimes, he almost admits, in as many words, that he is doing exactly this. Such as:

“Has anyone ever told you that you’re as tedious as you are ugly?”

“You will not provoke me to anger, Kingslayer.”

“Oh, I might, if I cared enough to try.” (1.6)

He will successfully provoke her to anger later, as we’ve already seen, and his eagerness to build a rapport with her stands in stark contrast to his annoyance at his suck-up cousin Cleos Frey. He wants Cleos to shut up and go away, whereas he wants Brienne to interact with him more frequently, more directly and more warmly. In fact, his attacking Brienne with Cleos’s longsword can be understood as a desperate attempt to change the terms of their interactions.

Jaime was tired. Tired of her suspicions, tired of her insults, tired of her crooked teeth and her broad spotty face and that limp thin hair of hers. Ignoring her protests, he grasped the hilt of his cousin’s longsword with both hands, held the corpse down with his foot, and pulled. As the blade slid from the scabbard, he was already pivoting, bringing the sword around and up in a swift deadly arc. Steel met steel with a ringing, bone-jarring clang. Somehow Brienne had gotten her own blade out in time. Jaime laughed. “Very good, wench.”  (1.9)

He’s tired of her being unfriendly and untrusting (and he can’t tear his eyes away from her big ugly face), so if he can’t persuade her to be nice, then he’ll force her to deal with him by going at her with a sword. It’ll be the last time he ever tries to attack her with a sword, in fact it’ll be the last viable duel he ever has with anyone, and in a way, he’s getting his wish, because the nature of his dealings with Brienne is about to change drastically. More on that later.

6. They share a reputation as Kingslayers. In Jaime’s case, he really did kill the king he’d sworn to protect, and we eventually find out that he did so with very good reason. In Brienne’s case, she never did the slightest harm to Renly, never even paused in keeping her vows to him, but he died by an act of murder that no one saw coming. What they have in common, therefore, is the unfairness of being seen as breaking oaths and lacking honor, and of being defined by the circumstances of their respective kings’ deaths. Nevertheless, the parallel does exist, and GRRMartin makes sure we see it. This is our introduction to their shared reputation as Kingslayers:

She would not hear it. “Aerys was mad and cruel, no one has ever denied that. He was still king, crowned and anointed. And you had sworn to protect him.”

“I know what I swore.”

“And what you did.” She loomed above him, six feet of freckled, frowning, horse-toothed disapproval.

“Yes, and what you did as well. We’re both kingslayers here, if what I’ve heard is true.”

“I never harmed Renly. I’ll kill the man who says I did.”

“Best start with Cleos, then. And you’ll have a deal of killing to do after that, the way he tells the tale.”

Lies. Lady Catelyn was there when His Grace was murdered, she saw. There was a shadow. The candles guttered and the air grew cold, and there was blood—”

“Oh, very good.” Jaime laughed. “Your wits are quicker than mine, I confess it. When they found me standing over my dead king, I never thought to say, ‘No, no, it wasn’t me, it was a shadow, a terrible cold shadow.'” He laughed again. “Tell me true, one kingslayer to another— did the Starks pay you to slit his throat, or was it Stannis? Had Renly spurned you, was that the way of it? Or perhaps your moon’s blood was on you. Never give a wench a sword when she’s bleeding.” (1.7)

The salient point of this conversation is not that Jaime believes that Brienne killed Renly; that hardly matters to him. The real substance of this exchange is pointing out to her: “We’re both kingslayers here.” It’s a comparison that Martin builds between them over at least two books, starting here. Following this conversation, Jaime dreams of the day he killed Aerys. The dream brings us closer to learning about how he became the Kingslayer, and Brienne’s honesty helps him get to that point.

7. Overtly suggestive language is a theme in characterizing their bond. It begins when they’re having their fight: Jaime has already resorted to swordplay with edged blades to force her to react to him, and now he’s further goading her by framing their duel in terms of lovers at a dance:

He pinned her against an oak, cursed as she slipped away, followed her through a shallow brook half-choked with fallen leaves. Steel rang, steel sang, steel screamed and sparked and scraped, and the woman started grunting like a sow at every crash, yet somehow he could not reach her. It was as if she had an iron cage around her that stopped every blow. “Not bad at all,” he said when he paused for a second to catch his breath, circling to her right.

“For a wench?”  (1.10)

“For a squire, say. A green one.” He laughed a ragged, breathless laugh. “Come on, come on, my sweetling, the music’s still playing. Might I have this dance, my lady?”

He calls her “sweetling” and “my lady.” Of course he’s being facetious, but we’ll see soon enough, he’s already noticing that she is someone who could be his partner in bed as easily as his opponent in battle. The Bloody Mummers find them at the end of their duel, and already Jaime has certain images in his head:

Brienne lurched to her feet. She was all mud and blood below the waist, her clothing askew, her face red. She looks as if they caught us fucking instead of fighting. (1.11)

And just in case we might think that’s a one-off, throwaway remark, he voices similar thoughts out loud:

“Well met, friends,” he called to them amiably. “My pardons if I disturbed you. You caught me chastising my wife.” (1.12)

In the space of a few chapters, he goes from mentally comparing her to his sister and lover, to imagining her as his lover and naming her his wife. Jaime wastes no time at all in making her his lady.

8. Jaime defends Brienne’s honor. This begins, most notoriously, with him convincing their captors that Brienne is worth a hefty ransom in sapphires as long as they don’t rape her. The significance is not really that he must be in love with her to look out for her safety—that’s a baseline level of respect, not romance—so much as that he doesn’t seem to have any incentive to care about what happens to her. He never asked her to be his protector, and he doesn’t owe her anything at this point. If their new captors violate her, that’s no skin off Jaime’s nose. Yet for some reason, he looks out for her, and it’s possibly the first time in the series that we see him acting in the interests of someone outside his family, without any benefit to himself. His thoughts on the matter of Brienne’s safety are simply, “the wench deserved better than to be gang raped by such refuse as these.” (1.13) He’s looking out for her because it’s the right thing to do. Since we first saw Jaime on-page, when has he ever done anything only because it was the right thing to do? There’s something about Brienne that inspires Jaime to behave honorably, years after he’s given up on honor.

All eight of these foreshadowing devices will be used later, and to more powerful effect, but Martin’s processes of developing their relationship are not limited to these. In the next chapter that we see Jaime and Brienne, their interactions will already be different, and there will be additional pressures pushing them together. So in a way, Jaime’s getting his wish where she’s concerned, but he will pay dearly for his escape from Riverrun.