Two Sides of the Same Lannister Coin
For me, one of the most unexpected point of views in A Storm of Swords was Jaime Lannister but as I read the third installment in A Song of Ice and Fire I’ve come to really enjoy his chapters and Jaime is now one of my favorite characters.
From the beginning, Jaime is portrayed as a repulsive, lecherous, egomaniac who’s only interested in sleeping with his sister, killing Targaryen kings, and surrounding himself with gold. The only small hint that there’s more to him is in the few mentions he makes of his brother Tyrion. (SPOILERS AHEAD) In A Game of Thrones, Jaime loses his very thin cool and cuts down Ned Stark’s men because he wants Tyrion freed from out of Catelyn Stark’s custody. His motivation isn’t what one might expect from a Lannister insisting on Tyrion’s freedom. Tywin Lannister would want Tyrion freed because it’s an insult to House Lannister. Cersei would probably want Tyrion freed for a similar strategic interest as well. But as Jamie hints with Ned, Jaime’s motivations aren’t quite the same. The dynamic between Tyrion and Jaime becomes much clearer in A Storm of Swords: unlike virtually all the other Lannisters, Tyrion and Jaime actually, consciously, care about and admire each other.
It’s something of a cliché but I actually like this dynamic, especially as we learn more about Jaime. It’s a rather crude and simple sort of affection for each other. Tyrion is smart and, especially in Jaime’s eyes, courageous for enduring all the condescension, sniveling, and hardship involved with being an ugly, stunted dwarf. And Tyrion admires Jamie for everything Tyrion is not: a master swordsman, charming, admired for his skill, handsome, and capable of being direct. Often Tyrion mentions how, if Jaime were in his shoes, Jaime would handle it differently, and he does this without much —if any— scorn or disgust. Also, I suspect Tyrion even envies his brother for having the shallow love of Tywin.
Alongside their differences Jaime and Tyrion both share at least one basic personality trait as well: they both are deeply bothered by the scorn they receive from the world. It doesn’t take long in the Jaime chapters to establish that he’s not actually that thrilled with being most famous for regicide. “Why is it that no one names Robert oathbreaker?” Jaime complains in A Storm of Swords. “He tore the realm apart, yet I am the one with shit for honor?” On the surface Jamie may just smile and bow everytime someone spits the Kingslayer nickname at him but it soon becomes apparent that Jaime isn’t so happy with being that moniker. He may not totally regret killing Aerys, but he clearly would change how the rest of the realm sees what drove Jaime to kill Aerys. Likewise, Tyrion accepts his title as “the Imp” but (unsurprisingly) only after he realizes that it’s easier to just wear that name than fight it. This goes back to what Tyrion says to Jon Snow in A Game of Thrones:
“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”
At first, it seems like only Tyrion follows this philosophy but in truth, so does Jaime. Neither brother would actually have the identity the rest of the realm throws at them but they accept it because, in large part, they have no choice. Being known as either the Imp or the Kingslayer is part of the price of being either Jaime Lannister or Tyrion Lannister. I actually don’t think that Jaime or Tyrion’s affection for each other makes them much more (or less) likable, but it does make them more three-dimensional which I guess is in this case, an indirectly appealing trait.
Again though, this grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side relationship isn’t exactly the most novel or complex one in storytelling but I don’t see why it isn’t a realistic one nonetheless. It’s actually pretty common for people to want the traits other people have and, in the process, forget about personal strengths, and that counts for Lannisters as much as it does for anyone else.
Edit: So I mispelled Jaime’s name originally. Fixed that. Sorry!