While the literary series, ‘A Song of Ice And Fire’ is immeasurably craftier and more compelling a tale than it’s Television counterpart, it took an almost unknown actor to immortalise a complex, riveting character such as Tyrion Lannister.
Since 2011, Peter Dinklage has been repeatedly acclaimed for his performance as Tyrion Lannister in Game Of Thrones. He has received consecutive Emmy Award nominations from 2011 to 2016, winning two of them. First on the credits and pivotal to the show, he has been praised by critics and public alike. The Los Angeles Times declared that GOT ‘belongs to Dinklage’ while he has been repeatedly voted as the most popular GOT character.
Despite being born with Achondroplasia (A form of Dwarfism), Dinklage has been more than willing to fight the odds to achieve his goals in life. He initially struggled to break into the film industry by refusing to take on ‘stereotyping’ roles, such as leprechauns or magical creatures. He moonlit with a spell at a data processing company (like Chandler Bing!) before giving it up to dedicate his life to acting full time. Never blaming his disease for lack of career opportunities, he instead speaks of accepting it with ‘a sense of humour’ and realising that ‘it wasn’t my problem so much as others’.
However, this is a kinder world than the one his imaginative counterpart exists in. For in Westeros, the prestige and honour of a proud, noble House is tarnished with the birth of such a son. Blessed with beautiful twin children, Tywin and Joanna Lannister awaited the birth of their third child with many expectations. It was the first, in a series of incidents, that Tyrion Lannister would feel the sting of life’s unfair gaze.
He would kill his mother as he was brought into the world, forever blighting his father and sister unknowingly. In response to a harsh and nearly loveless upbringing, he marries a common girl, further enraging his father and encouraging a ruthless response. When he attained his age of adulthood, he sought to travel the world, only to be brusquely told that he will now take charge of the gutters and sewers of their ancestral city, Casterly Rock. Until his brother was captured by Robb Stark, Tyrion was the forgotten child of House Lannister when his father handed him real responsibility by appointing him Acting Hand Of The King, in his stead.
It is here that Tyrion attains a taste for the Game of Thrones, realising that he was adept at political manoeuvring and understanding multiple perspectives at once. Curbing the madness of King Joffrey, he prepares a defence of the city of King’s Landing using guile, cunning and an understanding of human nature. He checks Lord Stannis’s invasion, buying the city time and leads a sortie out to the besiegers at great personal risk. Cheered and hailed by the ordinary soldiers who fought the battle, he finally achieved a measure of the fulfilment and respect he had craved. Adversely rewarded by his attempted assassination, he then recovers in a dark room while his father, Tywin Lannister and the Tyrells reap all the glory. Despite saving his city and his vicious King’s life, he is shunted aside, unheralded and barely acknowledged. His temporary status as Hand of The King is revoked, his decisions overturned and his successes attributed to others, like Petyr Baelish & Cersei. Grand Maester Pyclelle, banished by Tyrion from the Small Council, is reinstated. Finally, in a fit of vulnerability over the numerous slights, he asks his father for his birthright of Casterly Rock and is vehemently and painfully refused.
With a King now secure on his throne and spiteful towards perceived enemies, Tyrion is marked for further humiliations and derision. He is first forced to wed Sansa Stark, whom the King repudiated and then witness a mocking joust with Dwarves. When scornfully asked to participate, he subtly needles the King by reminding him of his own cowardice during the Battle of Blackwater. The turn of events lead to King Joffrey’s death (hurrah!) and Tyrion’s imprisonment as the chief suspect for his murder. Denied a proper trial by a vengeful sister and a father secretly pleased to be rid of this son, he is finally broken by the sight of Shae – his mistress, lying to condemn him and revealing all-too-personal details of their relationship. It is at that moment, with the entire Court laughing at him, that he realises he could have done nothing to merit their admiration. Regardless of the fact that he saved the city and shielded them from the tender mercies of King Joffrey, he has always been, and would always be, on trial for being a dwarf, as he declares in bitter realisation.
More terrible truths would follow, as Tyrion learns from Oberyn Martell that his sister wanted him dead shortly after his birth. The loss of their mother, Joanna, in childbirth, imbued both her sister and father with a corrosive hatred for the apparent cause, Tyrion. His sister’s hatred was more the result of a childish desire to have her mother alive, rather than the whelp she delivered. Cersei confidently predicted Tyrion’s death when he was an infant and seemed imminent to make good on that promise until Jamie and Varys helped him escape.
In Mereen, where he meets Queen Daenerys, is the cosmic event of two central characters of the show meeting for the first time. A true cynic meets a messiah with a reverent following and the clash of conversation is quite a remarkable piece of television history. It is worth recalling that Tyrion did not come to Mereen peacefully, or without his incessant complaints about it’s futility. Facing an existential crisis (granted, on the back of murdering his father), he was thoroughly saturated with the belief that his life held no purpose. To be gradually convinced that he was indeed looking at a saviour, a chance of redemption in bringing this damsel in shining armour to the chaos of Westeros was nothing short of miraculous and attests to Daenery’s charisma.
Her decision at the end to appoint him her Hand Of The Queen speaks to her belief in Tyrion’s abilities, regardless of his height. For Tyrion Lannister, long scorned for no fault of his own, this moment could not be of greater significance. Here he was, trusted and respected for his abilities by a stranger, a once-upon enemy even, when his own family and companions had humiliated him. His unmitigated joy at being acknowledged his father’s son and Acting Hand Of The King had turned to ashes at the hands of those he saved. Yet here was a ruler who valued his counsel enough to make him her pre-eminent advisor. The final scene depicting Tyrion standing proudly at his chosen Queen’s side as they sail towards his vengeful sister was magnificently executed.
Dinklage’s story is a mirror in real life. Hailed and feted after a stunning performance in The Station Agent (2003), he was quick to realise the lack of perception in his career. The film was acclaimed at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, where it swept aside all comers and won 3 awards. Dinklage himself was nominated four times by various associations for his mesmerizing performance. His follow up movies, however, speaks to the level of actual appreciation felt by the film industry. He went on to portray an elf, a Dwarf and a travelling Circus performer in the immediate years after The Station Agent. Since 2011, however, Dinklage’s career has been transformed by his role as Tyrion Lannister. He now carries Top Billing (i.e. GOT Credits begin with Dinklage) on Television’s most watched show, a humongous salary making him one of Television’s top earners and a multi-award winner, garnering both Emmy’s and Golden Globes to his name. When the producers of GOT played an April’s Day prank that Dinklage was to be replaced, the cacophony of outpour and angst by gullible fans must have been music to Dinklage’s ears. There is no other actor afflicted with Dwarfism who has ever managed to make such a mark in the Entertainment industry till date.
Whilst he has been considered a role model to those sharing his afflictions, he shies away from the suggestion stating that ‘every person experiences life differently with a different perspective, and it isn’t my place to preach on dealing with it’
In that, however, he sounds like Tyrion Lannister.