requested by onionjulius
If there’s any character trait that spans from North of the Wall to King’s Landing, and all the lands in between, it’s the search for affection. From Theon and Tyrion to Samwell and Joffrey, there is hardly a region or household that doesn’t involve a family member that feels unloved.
We’ll get Joffrey out of the way first (ironically, because no one likes him). Though he’s spoiled by his mother, it’s not Cersei’s love he seeks. Joffrey wants Robert to love him. What does Joffrey know about his father? He drinks, fights, beats his wife, and has lots of sex. What does Joff do?
Though he never gets around to the sex, and luckily for Margaery, doesn’t live long enough to beat his wife, he does ‘honor’ Sansa repeatedly, drinks quite a lot of wine, and is one of the most belligerent kings we’re shown. He must have heard Robert complaining about the smallfolk, as he shows them no love. He hacks Tyrion’s wedding gift to him to pieces, declaring ‘My father had no time for books.’ He even tries to have Bran killed after overhearing something his father said.
But Robert doesn’t love him, any more than we do, the poor little shit. Cersei remarks to Sansa that Robert never cared for Joff, ever since he was a baby and wouldn’t laugh for him. Even Jaime, his actual father, feels next to nothing for him. Sadly, I think this aspect of his character doesn’t come across all that well in the show, and it makes Joffrey a little too one-dimensional for my taste.
But that’s a matter for another ramble, so let’s move on to another character, this one a good deal more popular.
Theon Greyjoy, last born and least loved (Do you know, I can only think of a few examples of characters under this heading that are the first born? That’s sort of interesting) son of Balon Greyjoy. ‘Stolen’ at ten, he was raised by Eddard Stark, and got no fatherly affection from him, he returns home to the Iron Islands at twenty and expects a warm welcome.
He gets scorn (and uncomfortable teasing from his sister) and decides to do something that will earn his father’s respect (or at least help him get the sour taste of his lot in life out of his mouth). While hunting Bran and Rickon, he recalls how he’d saved Bran from the wildlings, and Robb had rebuked him for his actions. That scene really speaks of how Theon feels re: getting recognition for his achievements. When he was a child, all he probably heard was ‘Ah, but your brothers did it faster/better/first’. With Eddard, most of the attention would be for Robb, the heir to Winterfell (and that, a younger boy getting the affection that Theon probably expected as the eldest must have really rankled). Granted, this isn’t in the text, but it feels right to me.
Let’s go back to another first born disappointment, shall we? Samwell Tarly, Lord Too-Fat-To-Be-A-Lord. His father, Randyll, is a man’s Man. Hunter, warrior, genius, brutal judge. His son is bookish and fat and doesn’t like blood. (Probably comes from being forced to bathe in it, but hey, what do I know?). Randyll doesn’t just show his son a lack of affection like Robert or Balon, Randyll openly despises Sam. He literally tortured him for wanting to find an intellectual pursuit. Which, as I said in my Samble, explains Sam’s entire personality. Also, it’s interesting the two extremes we’ve observed in characters so far. Joff and Theon were ignored by their parent, and acted out a form of extreme homage to what they viewed as desirable behavior. Randyll took an active interest in Sam, and warped his psychology so much that Sam’s now afraid to do anything. Furthermore, when Sam’s brother is born (Dickon, I want to say? It’s one of those names that’s not quite a name), Randyll finally ignores Sam, and Sam is happier.
Then, of course, there’s the ‘hunting accident’ event, and Sam is off to the Night’s Watch, where he’s terrified of everything, but at least he’s away from Randyll.
Edmure Tully, son of Hoster, seems to have felt left out as well, since he sets out to a battle saying that should he win, his father will have more reason to love him than the fact that they’re related. Could he have felt second best to Cat and Lysa, especially since Hoster was consumed by guilt over the latter?
Jon Snow, constantly wondering who his mother was because he felt like an outsider, and, in the show, making a conscious decision that he would not father a bastard and put him through something like that.
The Freys, an entire household with no love in it, so gone to social niceties that they flaunt one of the most sacred trusts in the realm.
Quentyn Martell, his father’s plan B, turned down by the princess he felt he was destined to marry. Arriane Martell, convinced her father means to depose her before she learns the truth.
You get the idea.
Alright, without further ado, let’s get into the big two unloved characters: Stannis and Tyrion.
Stannis Baratheon, the First of his name, King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, and Protector of the Realm. I have seen quite a few people on Tumblr make the mistake of saying that Stannis is the eldest, which is telling, I believe. He certainly seems the most mature of the Baratheon brothers, which is probably what makes him such an outsider. For all Robert’s failings, he was fun (as long as you agreed with him and weren’t Cersei) to be around. He drank and joked and told bawdy stories. Renly, the youngest, is just like Robert (at least in public) and everyone loves him too.
But poor Stannis watched his parents drown trying to bring a clown to teach him how to laugh…
Hold on, I’ll get back to the broader strokes of Stannis’ character in a bit. It has never not bothered me that Steffon mentioned Stannis not knowing how to laugh in that letter to Cressen. Now, if you’ve read the Dunk and Egg stories (which you should), you’ll know of a character in the first one, Lyonel Baratheon, the Laughing Storm. Given the timeline, I’m going to assume he’s either Steffon’s father or uncle, so Steffon likely grew up surrounded by laughter. Then he and his wife made Robert, who at the time of their deaths, was sixteen, give or take. Stannis was fifteen. That’s enough years for Robert to have started being Robert, and Stannis to have grown a permanent frown from Robert being number one (again, like Theon and his brothers, this isn’t stated, but I believe it). Just look at the Proudwing story. Stannis does the noble thing, trying to raise the underdog back up to the sky, and Robert just goes with a superhawk and mocks him constantly for it. Anyway, so Stannis is an oddball to Steffon, and he makes no secret of it. Then he dies, and it probably didn’t improve Stannis’ disposition any.
Robert becomes King of the realm, rewards Ned Stark for breaking the siege of Storm’s End (the siege that Stannis had to live through), and gives Storm’s End itself to Renly, a boy of eight. Then he turns around and berates Stannis for letting Viserys and Daenarys escape. No wonder Stannis makes no secret of his disdain for Robert.
Now, someone, I forget who, once pointed out that Dragonstone was the ancestral place that the heir to the Iron Throne stayed, and that by giving it to Stannis, Robert was proclaiming him his heir until he had a child. For one, I doubt Robert had that kind of foresight. I think it was just a snub of Stannis, and he happened to have a nice new castle to give him to seemingly make up for it. For another, I think Robert would have sooner legitimized one of his bastards than give Stannis something.
But enough about the Baratheon boys, let’s look at Stannis looks at the world. He tells Davos that no one has ever loved him, and multiple characters, when reflecting on Stannis, say the same thing. And he still ‘won’ the War of the Five Kings (Because, after all, you win or you die, and Stannis alone survived) and is defending the realm at the Wall.
Now let’s move from villainous hero to heroic villain, with Tyrion Lannister. I can think of only two characters that show Tyrion any genuine affection, and one of them isn’t even in the current timeline. Yes, Tysha and Jaime. Jaime, out of guilt, (I think. If Jaime can be said to feel guilty for anything, I think his lie to Tyrion is about it) but it seems genuine all the same. At least until Tyrion goes off the sliding scale of anti-hero and murders two people. (Including his father, which would cool any brotherly feeling pretty quickly) At the other end of the spectrum, we have Tywin and Cersei. Now, Tywin took the Randyll Tarly approach to childrearin’, and openly detests his son. Tywin offers Tyrion almost nothing but rebuke and insult, and even his compliments are backhanded. Does Tyrion go the route of Sam? No, because he’s a lion. He becomes a voracious reader and an insatiable fan of prostitutes, the latter in open rebellion against his father.
As an aside, I find it odd that Tyrion is so fond of prostitutes, given his experience with Tysha. You’d think he’d be damaged irreparably by that, not seek out similar circumstances (as far as he knows) repeatedly. It probably has something to do with his appearance, but anyway.
Cersei’s feelings for Tyrion are very apparent. She hates him with a passion, because she thinks he’ll grow up to murder her. Like I’ve said elsewhere, this leads to him wanting to murder her. And then, of course, there are the smallfolk. He saves the city from Stannis’ forces, and sees the citizens heap honor upon Tywin and Mace Tyrell. When he’s made master of coin, he deftly comes up with a solution, the dwarf’s penny, and faces ridicule. He’s accused of murdering Joffrey (in fact, he’s falsely convicted) based almost solely on his appearance. Is it any wonder how he turned out?
Unlike Stannis, who seems to have accepted that no one will ever love him and he might as well be a good man anyhow, Tyrion seems to have snapped and decided that if no one will love him because he looks like a monster, then a monster is what he’ll become.
I don’t know why, but feeling least loved of siblings is one of the biggest themes in the books. It’s certainly good to create a resonance with the audience, after all, Stannis and Tyrion are my two favorite characters. Point of fact, except for Joffrey and the Freys, I really can’t think of a character on this list that I don’t like. And to be honest, Joffrey, as a character study, has grown on me quite a bit over the course of this. It makes a lot of his actions make sense. He’s still a little shit, but he’s a fascinating little shit.