On the many Reddit threads and comment sections dedicated to Game of Thrones, rumors flutter from peer to peer like whispers from little birds. Several theories panned out — we got the return of The Hound and the resurrection of Jon Snow at the hands of the Red Woman, Melisandre — but as we approach season 8, murkier what-ifs look like they could make or break in either direction. One has particularly high stakes for the overall drama of the series: that Tyrion Lannister is half-Targaryen.
There’s an abundance of Reddit posts such as this one devoted to backing the theory, which is founded upon a few core tenets: Tyrion’s hair is white blonde, not golden; Tyrion’s mother died during childbirth, like Jon’s and Daenaerys’; Daenerys’ dragons allowed Tyrion to approach them without attacking him; and the rumor that on Tywin’s wedding night, it was the Mad King who consummated his marriage for him.
While all of these facts are intriguing, they’re not enough to make this theory stronger than the counterfactual, that Tyrion is still a Lannister. The whole point of Tywin’s hatred for his son is based on the ironic fact that they’re so alike. The iconic scene in which Tyrion shoots his father with a crossbow while Tywin sits on the toilet serves as the crux for most theoretical Targaryen claims, because Tywin says, “You’re no son of mine.” Some people think he meant this literally, that Tyrion’s parents were Joanna Lannister and the Mad King, Aerys Targaryen.
But Tyrion’s character is far less interesting when you consider it this way. If this is a true statement, then Tyrion’s patricidal act of rebellion doesn’t return the irony it’s intended to deliver. The fact is, Tyrion is emphatically Tywin’s son. Of all his children, Tyrion is the one who takes after his father most. Cersei has the brains, but is far too remorseless and quick-to-act to truly be like Tywin. Jaime has the brawn, but he was little more than Tywin’s poster-child, a Kingsguard that was supposed to eventually settle down in Casterly Rock to start a family.
Tyrion is a tactician, a person who knows his strengths and weaknesses inside out. As he tells Jon Snow in the series’ pilot, “Let me give you some advice, bastard. Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.” Finding strength by acknowledging weakness is a measured, Tywinesque approach to life. Ironically, Tywin was ultimately killed because he didn’t recognize the disparity between his weakness and Tyrion’s strength. As he stared Tyrion down in that bathroom, spouting claims that he’d never let a Lannister be killed on his watch, his son called his bluff. Tyrion channelled his own weakness — even as he wrestled with killing his own father — and empowered himself with it. He thought of Shae, who had betrayed him and was in cahoots with Tywin. He thought of his life as “dwarf,” “imp,” “monster,” realizing that he never got to experience what it was like to be truly called “son.”
The real reason Tywin was resentful of his son was that he was embarrassed by him. Ostensibly, this seems to be based on the fact that Tyrion was a dwarf, a half-man — a son to be ashamed of in Westeros. In reality, Tywin was disappointed because he saw shades of himself in Tyrion. Here was the intellectual pride and joy of the Lannisters who doesn’t share the Lannister-first mindset of the rest of the family. Tyrion is a voracious reader who’d sooner talk to a drunkard than an uncle, who’d drink himself to sleep and stumble into family events smelling of wine. Mostly, Tyrion cares deeply about people. When he made perhaps the greatest play in Game of Thrones history — blowing up Stannis’ armada with wildfire at the Blackwater in Season 2 — he outsmarted the most revered general in all of Westeros. However, rather than celebrate his victory, Tyrion felt sorrowful for the irreparable damage he had dealt. Tyrion and Tywin may have different outlooks on life, but in terms of strategic prowess, Tyrion was his father’s son at the Battle of Blackwater Bay. And that’s what crystallizes the reasons as to why Tywin looked down on him — because the day he was his father’s son was the day he did something he’d regret for the rest of his life.
Tywin is only concerned with the success and longevity of the Lannister name. He would change sides in a war in a heartbeat if it meant wealth and prosperity for his family. Such was the case when he stormed King’s Landing at the end of Robert’s Rebellion, fighting on the same side as Ned Stark, who he’d come to betray in later years. Tywin even had Tyrion imprisoned for his dissident behavior in defense of Lannister heritage. It was during this time that Tyrion made his illustrious “I demand a trial by combat” performance. which moved audiences all over the world. When Tywin denied him justice, he stood up and sought his own. Tywin, a truly Machiavellian character, chose The Mountain as his champion. Tyrion, on the other hand, understood when his usual champion, Bronn, announced that this time he couldn’t defend him. He didn’t attempt to manipulate him, because he recognized that his life wasn’t more valuable than his friend’s, to the extent that he would have taken on The Mountain himself had Oberyn Martell not offered to be his champion at the last second.
Ultimately, Tyrion changed sides in the war too. However, Tyrion’s allegiance was never so much to his father’s cause as it was to his brother, Jaime. While most of the Lannisters despise Tyrion, he and his brother were always connected. While other Lannisters may have dismissed Tyrion’s good heart for weakness, Jaime saw it for what it was. Jaime saw his brother as vulnerable, yes, but recognized the power in that vulnerability. As we approach Season 8 of Game of Thrones, it seems likely that Jaime, too, will choose to fight on the side of the living instead of playing political games with his sister Cersei. Perhaps the Tywinesque aspects of Tyrion’s character have inspired Jaime — after all, Tyrion is an isolation of all his father’s best qualities, having refrained from retaining the ones that made him sour..
While it’s certainly interesting to make cases for characters being secret Targaryens after the revelation about Jon’s true parentage at the Tower of Joy last season, in this case the theory doesn’t supersede the seemingly ordinary reality: that Tyrion, son of Tywin, is a Lannister through and through. He’s just more concerned with fighting for what’s right than holding up his family’s legacy.