Littlefinger (believes he) has three hedge knights working for him: Sers Byron, Shadrich and Morgarth. I’ve long believed Ser Byron is the missing Tyrek Lannister, but never looked deeply in to it. Now I have, and given how little we know about either of them, there’s a rather shocking amount of evidence that Tyrek Lannister is currently in Vale in the guise of Ser Byron the Beautiful.
- Does that mean I believe Tyrek and Byron are one and the same?
This post will examine that hypothesis and see how it holds up.
T-Y-R-E-K and B-Y-R-O-N
First, a neat little hook, reminiscent of Alleras/Sarella.
Tyrek and Byron’s names follow the same formula:
“Y-R” repeats and the consonant/vowel structure is the same.
Fun! But hardly definitive.
It’s Ser Byron The Beautiful!
Here’s everything we’re told about Byron, all of which comes through the eyes of Sansa with the exception of his Appendix entry:
—SER BYRON THE BEAUTIFUL, SER MORGARTH THE MERRY, hedge knights in Lord Petyr’s service (DWD Appendix)
“Dutiful and beautiful,” said an elegant young knight whose thick blond mane cascaded down well past his shoulders. (FFC Ala II)
“Knights they are,” said Petyr. “Their gallantry has yet to be demonstrated, but we may hope. Allow me to present Ser Byron, Ser Morgarth, and Ser Shadrich. Sers, the Lady Alayne, my natural and very clever daughter . . . with whom I must needs confer, if you will be so good as to excuse us.”
The three knights bowed and withdrew, though the tall one with the blond hair kissed her hand before taking his leave. (FFC Ala II)
Sounds pretty Lannister, huh? And the kiss recall’s Joffrey’s here:
Instead Joffrey smiled and kissed [Sansa’s] hand, handsome and gallant as any prince in the songs… (GOT S II)
There’s another hint that Byron’s interested in Sansa:
Just as Petyr had promised, the young knights flocked around her, vying for her favor. After Ben came Andrew Tollett, handsome Ser Byron… (WOW Ala I)
Let’s turn now to the likewise “handsome” Tyrek Lannister.
Meet Tyrek Lannister!
Tyrek’s First Appearance: Lancel’s Textual Twin
The first time we “see” Tyrek is in AGOT Eddard VII. We aren’t even told his name.
They found Robert drinking beer from a polished horn and roaring his displeasure at two young squires who were trying to buckle him into his armor.
Tyrek is simply one of Robert’s seemingly interchangeable dual squires, sent on a fool’s errand. Thus Tyrek and Lancel are figuratively born as textual “twins”: a single character—”the squires”—with two bodies. What some don’t realize is that their purely textual association abides long after they separate in-world. Thus in AFFC Jai III:
Tyrek had served King Robert as a squire, side by side with Lancel.
I believe these textual associations suggest the two walk parallel paths: some of Lancel’s story will prove true of his comparatively mysterious literary “twin”, Tyrek—at least after a fashion. We’ll develop this theme as we proceed.
In Ned’s POV with Robert’s squires, Tyrek’s name is unmentioned. Yet it’s only in this appearance that we learn what the for-now nameless boy looks like. Indeed, the only way to figure out which one is Tyrek is to return to this passage after reading Lancel’s description in ACOK. It’s “almost” as if GRRM wants to bury this information…
[Ned] could not help taking note of the two squires: handsome boys, fair and well made. One [i.e. Tyrek] was Sansa’s age, with long golden curls; the other [i.e. Lancel] perhaps fifteen, sandy-haired, with a wisp of a mustache and the emerald-green eyes of the queen. (GOT E VII)
Notice how Tyrek and Lancel are again conflated, “two squires” described as one set of “handsome boys, fair and well made”, textually “twinned” despite their distinct looks. Notice also the implication that Tyrek doesn’t have green eyes.
To our hypothesis: Tyrek is “handsome” like Byron, has long blond hair like Byron—I’ll address blond vs. golden below—and is “well made” like Byron (inasmuch as “well made” jibes with “tall” and “elegant”). So far so good.
It’s implied that Ned thinks of Sansa here (above) because Tyrek is “Sansa’s age”. While both are born in 286, though, Sansa’s born in “December”, while Tyrek’s already 14 by FFC Jai III, about eight months earlier, so it’s a misleading detail to include. Considering that Sansa isn’t even around when Ned thinks of her, this smacks of GRRM intentionally associating two otherwise unrelated characters.
More than a hint that Tyrek will seek out Sansa in the guise of Ser Byron, it’s also a clue that Tyrek and Sansa are in many ways mirror figures: two of a kind, perhaps fated to be together. I’ll keep returning to this theme, as I will Tyrek’s textual twinning with Lancel. For now, note that just as Ned calls Tyrek “fair” before thinking of Sansa, so will Sansa’s false father Littlefinger call Sansa fair in FFC Ala I.
The only time Tyrek is “visible” once we learn his name is after his wedding to “Lady Ermesande, a suckling babe who happened to be the last surviving heir of House Hayford”, a marriage effected “so the Lannisters might claim her lands.” (SOS Tyr I; COK S I) Notice the parallels to his mirror figure, Sansa, and his “twin”, Lancel: all three are forced to marry to enrich House Lannister, and none of the marriages are consummated. That Tyrek and Sansa’s spouses are both little people helps to emphasize their connection.
Lord Gyles stood coughing, while poor cousin Tyrek wore his bridegroom’s mantle of miniver and velvet. Since his marriage to little Lady Ermesande three days past, the other squires had taken to calling him “Wet Nurse” and asking him what sort of swaddling clothes his bride wore on their wedding night. (COK Tyr VI)
Marriage to a baby isn’t most squires’ idea of fun. Indeed, it’s a potential motive for Tyrek to “opt out” and start over as someone else, just as his female-self Sansa does after her forced marriage to Tyrion.
Having to endure the constant “mocking” of the other squires could only make matters worse. It’s not just Tyrion who’s aware of these taunts. Horace Redwyne casually uses “the mocking name” Wet Nurse without explanation, indicating the taunting is widespread. (ACOK Tyr IX) As a nerd, GRRM has surely been the victim of cruel teasing. Indeed, he renews the theme just before Byron debuts:
Frey’s chief contributions to the fight had consisted of contracting the pox from a camp follower and getting himself captured by the White Fawn. The outlaw queen burned her sigil into his arse before ransoming him… Merrett had not been able to sit down for a fortnight, though Jaime doubted that the red-hot iron was half so nasty as the kettles of shit his fellow squires made him eat once he was returned. Boys are the cruelest creatures on the earth. (FFC Jai IV)
It makes sense that Tyrek would be especially sensitive to taunting given his textual twin Lancel’s documented sensitivity:
“Sweet sister,” Tyrion said, “how beautiful you look tonight.” [Tyrion] turned to the singer. “And you as well, cousin. I had no notion you had such a lovely voice.”
The compliment made Ser Lancel sulky; perhaps he thought he was being mocked. (COK Tyr VI)
Tyrek’s she-mirror Sansa has a parallel response to, of all people, Littlefinger:
[Littlefinger] made a sweeping bow to Sansa, so deep she was not quite sure if she was being complimented or mocked. (GOT S III)
Tyrek’s also linked to Sansa via his nickname, Wet Nurse. How? Simple. Out of nowhere, Myranda bizarrely contrasts Sansa to a wet nurse:
“You are prettier than me, but my breasts are larger. The maesters say large breasts produce no more milk than small ones, but I do not believe it. Have you ever known a wet nurse with small teats?…” (FFC Ala II)
4 Romantics: Tyrek, Sansa, Lancel, Byron
Painful as the Wet Nurse taunts may be for Tyrek, the prospect of a life spent in an arranged marriage to someone who won’t flower for at least a decade is surely worse if he’s uninterested in land, wealth and rule—if he’s a dreamer at heart, besotted with visions of fair maidens and knightly glory. I submit that this is exactly how Tyrek Lannister feels and that we’ve just read evidence of this.
- Say what?
Tyrek wears a “bridegroom’s mantle of miniver and velvet,” right? Miniver is a white fur used in medieval garb, yes, but it makes its only appearance in ASOIAF here, so this isn’t one of GRRM’s regular olde tyme fabrics. Today, few people know what miniver is. But plenty of people can tell you who Miniver Cheevy is, and I promise you one of them is GRRM. From wikipedia:
“Miniver Cheevy” is a narrative poem written by Edwin Arlington Robinson… The poem… relates the story of a hopeless romantic who spends his days thinking about what might have been if only he had been born earlier in time.
In the poem, the titular character literally dreams of being a knight:
Miniver loved the days of old
When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
The vision of a warrior bold
Would set him dancing.
Miniver mourns for the death of romance, and in a telling line, “scorned the gold he sought”. Need I remind you of the link between Lannisters and gold, or of the wealth Tyrek would control as Lord of Hayford? A romantic heart eschews such things, and Tyrek’s miniver mantle tells us he hates his assigned lot and dreams of being a “true knight” and finding his maiden fair. Any knowledge he has of Robert’s death, Lancel’s role in it, and/or Lancel’s relationship with Cersei would only kindle the fire of rebellion in “Tyrek Cheevy”.
Sansa is once again his mirror image, herself a Miniver Cheevy-ish lover of chivalry and romance. She flees her marriage to Tyrion with the connivance of Dontos, who she’s convinced is her Florian, a true knight come to save her as in a song.
Lancel, Tyrek’s textual twin, eventually confides that he, too, had similar dreams. He never wanted a castle or land (i.e. exactly what Tyrek is given), he tells Jaime:
“A pile of cold stones. I never asked for it. I never wanted it. I only wanted . . .” Lancel shuddered. “Seven save me, but I wanted to be you.” (FFC Jai IV)
Lancel wanted to be like Jaime, a knight of the Kingsguard, serving the realm for honor and glory, not his House for land and wealth and blood. Tyrek’s “twin” was thus once a Miniver Cheevy, too. And what does Lancel do when he, too, is told who to marry for the glory of House Lannister?
“I am renouncing this lordship and this wife.… On the morrow I will return to King’s Landing and swear my sword to the new High Septon and the Seven. I mean to take vows and join the Warrior’s Sons.” (FFC J IV)
He does exactly what (I believe) Tyrek does. He turns his back on land, wealth and a wife he has not bedded—”Marriage requires consummation”—to become a “true knight”, albeit in his own fashion. (ibid.)
I would be remiss not to point out here that “miniver” is not the only obvious reference to romantic literature afoot. Ser Byron’s glaringly obvious namesake is Lord Byron, one of history’s most famous poets and Romantics. Lord B. even composed an epic version of Don Juan, the legendary tale of a libertine seducer who “disguised himself and used other identities in order to seduce women as he pleased,” as it seems Ser Byron may be doing here. (wikipedia) Lord B.’s version actually begins with a very young Don Juan having an affair with his mother’s friend, which sounds a lot like Tyrek’s co-squire, cousin and textual “twin” Lancel boning Cersei.
Tyrek disappears shortly after his marriage to Baby Ermesande. Ser Addam Marbrand leads a search for him (something we oddly learn of only in AFFC). What he finds is consistent with Tyrek being alive:
Tyrek Lannister had vanished during the riots in King’s Landing whilst Jaime himself was still captive at Riverrun. The boy would be fourteen by now, assuming he was still alive.
“I led a search myself, at Lord Tywin’s command,” offered Addam Marbrand as he boned his fish, “but I found no more than Bywater had before me. The boy was last seen ahorse, when the press of the mob broke the line of gold cloaks. Afterward . . . well, his palfrey was found, but not the rider. Most like they pulled him down and slew him. But if that’s so, where is his body? The mob let the other corpses lie, why not his?”
“He would be of more value alive,” suggested Strongboar. “Any Lannister would bring a hefty ransom.”
“No doubt,” Marbrand agreed, “yet no ransom demand was ever made. The boy is simply gone.” (FFC Jai III)
Thus Tyrek is fourteen by the time Ser Byron appears in the Vale. At first blush, that seems perhaps too young to impersonate a knight, but as we are about to see, not all 14-year-olds are created equal.
Tyrek’s Parents: Tygett Lannister and Darlessa Marbrand
Tywin likely chooses Ser Addam to lead the search because Marbrand is kin to Tyrek, who is the only son of Darlessa Marbrand and Tygett Lannister. Tygett “was always kind” to Tyrion. (COK Tyr IX) If his son is likewise good-hearted, this bolsters his motive to flee: his life is being run by the imperious, acquisitive Tywin. What’s more, a good-heart might be sensitive, and easily wounded and eager to escape the taunts of Wet Nurse.
And fleeing Tywin’s rule is surely something this guy’s son might do:
That shadow Tywin cast was long and black, and each of them had to struggle to find a little sun. Tygett tried to be his own man, but he could never match your father, and that just made him angrier as the years went by. (FFC Jai V)
[Tywin’s] s relations with his brothers Tygett and Gerion were notoriously stormy. (TWOIAF)
There’s seems to be a hint of Tyrek’s fate in Tygett’s backstory. Aerys rebuffed Tywin when he tried to name Tygett as the Red Keep’s Master-At-Arms. In ACOK, that same post is held by Ser Aron Santagar. And what happens to Aron during the riot?
Tyrion saw Aron Santagar pulled from the saddle, the gold-and-black Baratheon stag torn from his grasp.…
Ser Aron Santagar had been found in a gutter, his head a red pulp inside a crushed helm. (COK Tyr IX)
Might a thwarted master-at-arms’ son dodge the fate of the current master-at-arms? We are, after all, also suspiciously given an image of Tygett being “unhorsed” but also unharmed:
[T]he king cheered lustily as his son Prince Rhaegar, newly knighted, unhorsed both Tygett and Gerion Lannister… (TWOIAF)
Tyrek’s paternity tells us something more important than all of this, though. It “just so happens” that Tygett fought like a bad-ass in the War of the Ninepenny Kings at the ripe old age of ten.
Their brother Tygett, a squire of ten, was too young for knighthood, but his courage and skill at arms were remarked upon by all, for he slew a grown man in his first battle and three more in later fights, one of them a knight of the Golden Company. (Westerlands essay)
Clearly, then, Tyrek’s father began to physically mature at a very early age. If his son does the same—and why else include this detail about a dead Lannister if not to imply he does?—it suddenly becomes more-than-plausible that 14-year-old Tyrek could be “an elegant young knight” named Ser Byron.
Tyrek’s maternity is also consistent with that possibility. Not only is his mother a Marbrand, his paternal grandmother is Jeyne Marbrand, so he double-dips Marbrand blood. We’re given one physical example a Marbrand: Ser Addam. His body is described using one word: “rangy”. (GOT Tyr III)
- ran-gy adj – tall and slim with long, slender limbs.
That certainly comports with Ser Byron being “tall” and “elegant”. More on Marbrand ranginess later.
Addam is an able captain for House Lannister, capturing Lord Cerwyn, Wylis Manderly, Harrion Karstark, and four Freys. (GOT Tyr VIII) “Like Jaime, he was the sort of man other men liked to follow.” (SOS Tyr I) He’s also a lady-killer and a bad-ass:
Ser Addam Marbrand was the first of the captains to depart, a day before the rest. He made a gallant show of it, riding a spirited red courser whose mane was the same copper color as the long hair that streamed past Ser Addam’s shoulders.… Some of the castle women sobbed to see him go. Weese said he was a great horseman and sword fighter, Lord Tywin’s most daring commander. (COK A VIII)
If Tyrek-son-of-Darlessa-Marbrand is Ser Byron, he’s being awfully “daring”. And given Byron’s hand-kissing and dancing, he seems to be setting the stage for a seduction as well.
In sum, Tyrek’s parentage suggests he would be a notably tall, physically mature and capable warrior at a very early age, and perhaps a charismatic “Don Juan” as well.
The Verbiage Surrounding Ser Byron
Everything we know of Ser Byron the Beautiful (a) tightly alludes to House Lannister and Addam Marbrand; (b) paints him physically as Joffrey’s quasi-doppelganger (with different eyes, as mentioned); (c) posits him as a male mirror of Sansa; and (d) links him textually to Tyrek and/or Tyrek’s textual “twin” Lancel. A refresher:
“Dutiful and beautiful,” said an elegant young knight whose thick blond mane cascaded down well past his shoulders. (FFC Ala II)
[T]he tall one with the blond hair kissed her hand before taking his leave. (ibid.)
handsome Ser Byron… (WOW Ala)
Ser Byron is tall. The Lannisters are tall, and Addam Marbrand is “rangy”, a more colorful word. As such, it may suggest more notable height. And given that Jeyne Marbrand births Tywin (and Tyrek’s father) and that Tywin’s height and long (rangy!) legs are singularly emphasized in his best description—
Even seated, he was tall, with long legs, broad shoulders, a flat stomach. (GOT Tyr VII)
—I believe it’s his Marbrand blood that is most responsible for Tywin’s notable height. “Portly” Kevan seems to take after their “fat” father, Tytos, whose height, like Kevan’s, is evidently unremarkable. (GOT Tyr VII; FFC C I) Yes, ancestor Gerold L. was “more than six feet tall”, but isn’t that damning with faint praise? (TSS)
If I’m right, Darlessa Marbrand’s son and Jeyne Marbrand’s grandson Tyrek Lannister gets two doses of the same rangy genes that gave Tywin his height, comporting well with Ser Byron’s height and elegance.
In any event, Joffrey is “tall at thirteen as his bride was at sixteen”, and Sansa’s impressions of him—”tall and handsome and strong…”—mirror her thoughts about Ser Byron, setting them up as quasi-doppelgangers. (SOS Tyr VIII; GOT S I)
Jaime is tall. (And Cersei too.) (AGOT J I) Even Tyrion gets his metaphorical “tall as a king” moment. (GOT J I)
Finally, Sansa is “tall and fair,” mirroring tall Ser Byron and fair Tyrik.
Sansa thinks Byron “handsome”, and this is a perfect fit if he’s Tyrek Lannister, whom Ned calls handsome along with Lancel.
Tyrion calls Lancel one of “those born blond and strong and handsome”. (COK Tyr VI) This description interestingly reads like it could apply to Ser Byron, and it literally implies the existence of others who are “born blond and strong and handsome”. This illustrates nicely what I mean by Tyrek being Lancel’s textual twin: in-world, they’re physically distinct, yet here the text presents a vague description applicable to either.
Jaime is also “handsome”. (FFC C II)
Dramatically/thematically, it’s key that Sansa thinks Joffrey is “handsome” more often than any other character. The notion of Sansa falling for a virtual Joffrey doppelganger is tantalizing.
While Tyrek’s double-relative Addam Marbrand is never termed “handsome”, it’s likely he is:
Ser Addam Marbrand was the first of the captains to depart, a day before the rest. He made a gallant show of it… Some of the castle women sobbed to see him go. (COK A VIII)
Ser Byron is dubbed “the Beautiful” and calls Sansa the same. Again, they mirror each other, doubly so since Sansa thinking Byron is “handsome” also mirrors him calling her beautiful.
Sansa is called beautiful by three Lannisters, including her husband Tyrion, so Byron’s comment is par-for-the-Lannister-course if he is Tyrek, and indeed if he will marry Sansa. (GOT S II; S IV; SOS S III)
Meanwhile, the Lannisters and beauty are synonymous:
Ser Cleos Frey… had none of the fabled Lannister beauty, the fair hair and green eyes. (COK C I)
Sansa calls Joffrey beautiful three times, so Byron continues to look like his quasi-doppelganger. (GOT S I; II; S IV) Tyrek’s textual twin Lancel is called “beautiful” by Tyrion, perhaps facetiously. Regardless of in-world intent, my argument is that Lancel and Tyrek are purely textual twins, and this is a great example of just that:
“Sweet sister,” Tyrion said, “how beautiful you look tonight.” He turned to the singer [i.e. Lancel]. “And you as well, cousin.” (COK Tyr VI)
Tyrek’s relative Addam Marbrand isn’t explicitly said to be beautiful, but women weeping over him hardly belies the possibility.
If Byron “the Beautiful” is Tyrek Lannister, two references to beauty light up with portent. First:
“Beauty can be treacherous. My brother learned that lesson from Cersei Lannister.” (SOS J XI)
Note that it’s specifically Lannister beauty—like Ser Byron’s, perhaps—that proved treacherous—as Byron augurs to be to someone if he is Tyrek. Second, is the “masked” Byron the Beautiful a “deadly danger” to someone?
“Still, beauty can sometimes mask deadly danger,” [Cersei] warned the little queen. “Robert lost his life in the woods.” (FFC C VI)
<OMINOUS MUSIC CUE>
I should note here that Sansa holds Loras Tyrell’s beauty above all others, and that this absolutely does establish him as a Byron-analogue. But we’ll talk more about Loras shortly.
Byron calls Sansa “dutiful”, echoing Littlefinger’s oblique reference to this incident:
A true daughter would not refuse her sire a kiss, so Alayne went to him and kissed him, a quick dry peck upon the cheek, and just as quickly stepped away.
“How . . . dutiful.” Littlefinger smiled with his mouth, but not his eyes.
Both Byron’s and Tyrek’s relationships with duty mirror Sansa’s. Byron is working for Littlefinger, and thus has an official duty to the same person to whom he says Sansa is dutiful. And if Tyrek is Byron, it seems he—like his “twin” Lancel—abandoned his duty to his House, making Byron’s words ironic, but also mirroring how Sansa ended up where she is: by abandoning her own filial duty and ratting out Ned to Cersei.
As far as Lannister references go, the text renders Tywin as “dutiful” in terms suspiciously similar to those showing Alayne’s kiss:
He showed more regard for his brother Kevan… and his sister Genna, but yet even in those cases, Tywin Lannister appeared more dutiful than affectionate. (TWOIAF)
Better still, Tywin and Jaime fall out over Jaime’s filial duty:
Jaime stood. “I am tired of having highborn women kicking pails of shit at me, Father. No one ever asked me if I wanted to be Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, but it seems I am. I have a duty—”
“You do.” Lord Tywin rose as well. “A duty to House Lannister. You are the heir to Casterly Rock. That is where you should be.…
[Jaime refuses and…] “You are not my son.” Lord Tywin turned his face away. “You say you are the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, and only that. Very well, ser. Go do your duty.” (SOS Jai VII)
A Tyrek-Byron does exactly what Jaime does: he rejects his duty to Tywin and walks out on a marriage and life he does not want, perhaps to “do his duty” as a true knight, as Jaime threatens to become. More than this, both are thus avoiding figurative “shit” being directed at them: Jaime flees “highborn women kicking pails of shit at me”, which Tyrek avoids “the kettles of shit his fellow squires made him eat” by calling him “Wet Nurse”. The striking parallels here suggest we’re on the right path.
Byron is “elegant”. This suggests grace and a physical form that comports rather perfectly with a blend of Marbrand ranginess (i.e. long, slender limbs) and Tygett Lannister’s precocious, puissant physicality, particularly at a young age. Indeed, GRRM repeatedly pairs elegant with “long” and “tall”, despite only using the word (in any permutation) 33 times in the entire canon.
Byron’s quasi-doppelganger’s parents account for three such references. Jaime rides “an elegant blood bay destrier” in the Hand’s Tourney (which assuredly prefigures the Vale tournament the elegant Ser Byron will enter, perhaps along the lines of @sweetsunray’s excellent work), while Cersei thinks of “the sheer elegance” of her scheme to frame Margaery and the “elegant solution” of docking her washerwoman’s wages rather than whipping her. (GOT E VII; S I; FFC C IV; V)
- Might “Ser Byron” be Tyrek’s “elegant” scheme?
There are three other instances of elegance that resonate with the idea that Ser Byron is more than he appears. In The Sworn Sword, Egg—a prince disguised in plain sight—is said to look “elegant”. And in The Mystery Knight, a story about deception and disguised important people at a tournament with an ulterior motive taking place at a white castle—sound familiar?—”elegant” appears twice.
First, Lord Frey is described as “a lean man elegant in blue and grey…” The elegant Lord Frey thus looks completely different than we would have imagined, just as most readers likely imagine Tyrek as a typical young boy. Second, Glendon Ball strike the decisive blow in the tourney with a lance “twelve feet long, slender, elegant”.
- Might the likewise “elegant” Ser Byron strike the decisive blow in the analogous tourney at the Gates of the Moon? (Spoiler: I think so.)
For her part, Byron-mirror Sansa decides on “the elegant simplicity of a plain silver chain” in GOT San V. There’s little “elegance” in ASOIAF, so at least it’s something.
A “Young Knight”
Sansa calls Byron a “young knight”. Lancel, Tyrek’s textual twin, is—hopefully not surprisingly at this point—called the same:
The defiance went from Lancel all at once. The young knight fell to his knees a frightened boy. (COK Tyr VII)
Obviously no one calls Sansa a knight, but she is called “a maiden tall and fair”, which is surely the feminine counterpart, thereby mirroring Byron.
It’s worth recalling here that Tyrek is literally introduced with no name as one of Robert’s squires—i.e. a proto-knight—and referred to exclusively by that title until ACOK. And as infrequently as his name appears, the text still manages to explicitly state that Tyrek is a squire—a knight-in-the-making—four times. One such mention even coincides with an auspicious reference to 44:
“Lord Tywin feels forty-four hundred guardsmen more than sufficient to find one lost squire, but your cousin Tyrek remains missing.” (SOS Tyr I)
But here’s the good part. Prior to the gathering of “the young knights” for her tourney, Sansa calls only one person other than Byron a “young knight,” verbatim: Ser Hugh of the Vale. (WOW Ala I; GOT S II) Hugh is the first foregrounded mysterious character in ASOIAF. Ned investigates Hugh, while most haven’t looked twice at his fellow young knight, Ser Byron, precisely because the text hasn’t presented Byron as a mystery. Might not Hugh’s on-the-nose epithet and Ned’s investigation be telling us to look at Sansa’s other “young knight”, Ser Byron in the Vale, and hinting that Hugh’s story can inform us about him?
- So what does Ned learn?
“Hugh was Jon Arryn’s squire for four years,” Selmy went on. “The king knighted him before he rode north, in Jon’s memory. The lad wanted it desperately, yet I fear he was not ready.” (GOT E VII)
Hugh is called “lad” (elsewhere: “boy”) and his premature knighthood and inexperience are highlighted. That’s all true of Tyrek, who at 14 is a boy, a lad, and an inexperienced “knight”. But does Hugh’s deadly fate actually foretell Byron’s demise if Byron is Tyrek? Tygett Lannister’s story and Addam Marbrand’s aptitude strongly suggest not, as does the biography of perhaps the most famous “young knight” in Westerosi history: Tyrek’s cousin, Jaime Lannister.
Jaime is “the youngest man ever to wear the white cloak,” and TWOIAF twice describes him as “the young knight”. (COK C VII) He’s knighted at 15. If Tyrek has similar talent and is as precocious as Tygett, he’s easily old enough to pass as a new knight and enter a tourney. He won’t be near the youngest to try this:
“Barristan the Bold, they call you.”
“Some do.” Selmy had won that name when he was ten years old, a new-made squire, yet so vain and proud and foolish that he got it in his head that he could joust with tried and proven knights. So he’d borrowed a warhorse and some plate from Lord Dondarrion’s armory and entered the lists at Blackhaven as a mystery knight. (DWD tDK)
Jaime’s “brother” Barristan the Bold got his name in a tourney at the same age Tyrek’s dad was killing knights dead. Recall Miniver Cheevy’s reference to “The vision of a warrior bold”.
Playing at knight and doing so well should be no problem for Tygett’s son. And in a dramatic narrative, the cousin of the most famous “young knight” in memory (who also turned his back on his family) one-upping him is note perfect.
- If Hugh’s fate doesn’t augur Byron’s demise, whose death does it point to?
Besides being a “young knight”, Hugh is an Arryn-figure, Jon’s squire, garbed in the colors of the vale and the moons of House Arryn:
His cloak was blue, the color of the sky on a clear summer’s day, trimmed with a border of crescent moons… (GOT S II)
The closest analogue? Harry the Heir, a recently knighted, possibly unprepared squire—
“Our cousin Bronze Yohn had himself a mêlée at Runestone,” Myranda Royce went on, oblivious, “a small one, just for squires. It was meant for Harry the Heir to win the honors, and so he did.”
“Harry the Heir?”
“Lady Waynwood’s ward. Harrold Hardyng. I suppose we must call him Ser Harry now. Bronze Yohn knighted him.” (FFC Ala I)
—who is second-in-line to lead House Arryn—
“So tell me, sweetling—why is Harry the Heir?”
“He is not Lady Waynwood’s heir. He’s Robert’s heir. If Robert were to die . . .” (FFC Ala II)
—whose arms are half Arryn—
The arms of Hardyng and Waynwood were displayed in the first and third quarters, respectively, but in the second and fourth quarters he bore the moon-and-falcon of House Arryn, sky blue and cream. (WOW Ala I)
—and whom Littlefinger intends to position as a legitimate Arryn claimant:
“When Robert dies, Harry the Heir becomes Lord Harrold, Defender of the Vale and Lord of the Eyrie. Jon Arryn’s bannermen will never love me, nor our silly, shaking Robert, but they will love their Young Falcon…” (FFC Ala II)
Myranda is clearly dubious of Harry’s mettle, and his knighthood was “engineered”. We saw how being “upjumped” went for Hugh.
Consider also that Sansa prizes youth and that while Harry is young (to us), Tyrek-as-Ser Byron is surely younger, just as Hugh was young but Loras was younger. Indeed, Harry may be too old to truly cut Sansa’s mustard. After all, when considering Jeyne Poole’s swooning over Beric Dondarrion, Sansa thinks:
Beric Dondarrion was handsome enough, but he was awfully old, almost twenty-two. (GOT S III)
The AWOIAF App claims Harry was knighted “in his eighteenth year”—that is, when he’s 17. How would a 13-year-old view a 17 or 18-year-old as a romantic partner?
More to the point: who does Sansa fall for at Ned’s Tourney? Not Harry-figure Hugh, but Loras, a “boy” who is “the youngest rider in the field”. (SOS San I; GOT S II) His defining trait, like Ser Byron the Beautiful’s, is his beauty:
Ser Loras… Sansa had never seen anyone so beautiful. (GOT San II)
And beautiful Loras makes the tourney final via trickery.
Sansa also calls Loras “young and graceful and beautiful.” (SOS San II) Graceful smells like Byron’s “elegant”. And while Loras is gay, young, elegant Ser Byron the Beautiful (aka Tyrek) is probably armed with the ol’ Marbrand lady-charming we see here:
Jaime… watched Addam Marbrand charm the girl beside him, watched Steffon Swyft refight the battle for King’s Landing with bread and nuts and carrots. (FFC Jai IV)
I thus find it very likely that 13-year-old Sansa will find herself irresistably drawn to “the youngest rider in the field” at the Gates of the Moon, 14-year-old Tyrek/Byron.
Of course, Byron will lie about his age, and in so doing he will mirror Sansa yet again:
How many years have you, Alayne?”
“Four-and-ten, my lady.” She had decided that Alayne Stone should be older than Sansa Stark. (FFC Ala II)
Given (a) the links between tourney-finalist Loras and Byron; (b) the links between Harry and the late lamented Hugh; (c) the “young knight” tag with which Sansa ties Byron-to-Hugh-to-the tournament of “young knights”; and (d) the unlikelihood that the son of a man who killed knights in war at age 10 will forget to buckle his gorget, I can only infer that this tournament’s Ser Hugh—Harry the Heir—will be unseated and possibly killed, while Byron will at least make the tourney final, just as Loras did at King’s Landing (via subterfuge!).
That’s not Littlefinger’s plan, of course. The whole point is for Sansa to bewitch Harry, not to be bewitched by Byron. But schemes being dashed by unforeseen machinations and the vagaries of fate is woven into the marrow of ASOIAF.
“A thick blond mane…”
Let’s finish our examination of the verbiage surrounding Ser Byron by combing over the details of his hair. Once again, every word is consonant with Ser Byron being Tyrek Lannister.
“Mane” could not be more on the
head nose. And yes, Lanny hair is explicitly likened to a mane:
“Jaime!… So gaunt, and all in white! And bearded too!”
“This? Mere stubble, against that mane of yours, coz.” Ser Daven’s bristling beard and bushy mustache grew into sidewhiskers as thick as a hedgerow, and those into the tangled yellow thicket atop his head, matted down by the helm he was removing. (FFC Jai V)
Daven’s hair isn’t just a mane like Byron’s, it’s “thick” like Byron’s too. A thick “thicket”, which is evidently common in House Lannister, even where Marbrand blood is strong:
When his once-thick golden hair had begun to recede, he had commanded his barber to shave his head; Lord Tywin… kept his sidewhiskers, two great thickets of wiry golden hair that covered most of his cheeks from ear to jaw. (GOT Tyr VII)
Byron’s quasi-doppelganger Joffrey has “a thick tangle of blond curls.” (GOT J I) Even Tyrek’s textual twin Lancel has “thick” hair that’s also “blond”. (COK Tyr VI)
Again, Sansa mirrors Byron:
Sansa had gotten their mother’s fine high cheekbones and the thick auburn hair of the Tullys. (GOT A I)
Of course, Byron’s hair is “blond” whereas Tyrek’s is “golden”. As someone who prizes analysis of the actual text over what it seems to imply, I know such a thing isn’t always a distinction without a difference. Here, however, it happily is: the same heads of Lannister hair that are dubbed “golden” are also called blond.
Tommen has “golden curls” but is a “little blond boy” with “white-blond hair”, while Joffrey has “golden curls” but also “blond curls”, “soft blond hair” and (again) “blond curls”. (FFC C II; GOT A I; GOT J II; GOT J I; GOT S I; GOT S I; SOS A I). Best of call, Cersei’s hair is universally “golden”… save for one time when Sansa—i.e. “blond” Byron’s observer—describes her “blond curls”! (SOS Jai IX; SOS S III)
For what it’s worth, Sansa seeing Ser Byron’s hair as “only” blond—despite Ned calling it “golden”—jibes with ASOIAF’s mantra: “men see what they expect to see”. The Lannisters and “golden” hair are synonymous:
Lann the Clever supposedly lived to the age of 312, and sired a hundred bold sons and a hundred lissome daughters, all fair of face, clean of limb, and blessed with hair “as golden as the sun.” (TWOIAF)
Tyrek is a Lannister, thus he’s seen as having “golden curls”, while Byron’s hair is just blond, as “befits” a hedge knight.
Note that calling Byron blond not only hides his identity—golden would be a near-giveaway—it indirectly furthers the purely textual twinning between “golden” Tyrek and “blond” Lancel via “blond” Ser Byron. In-world, Tyrek and Lancel do have different shades of hair, but on-the-page, slippery verbiage allows the erstwhile “two squires” to be conflated yet again.
“…Cascaded down well past his shoulders.”
The story gets rinsed and repeated with “cascaded down well past his shoulders”, and the web of references become delightfully entangled. (Sorry.) Ser Byron’s hair “cascades down well past his shoulders”. Only five other heads of hair do so in ASOIAF, and one is Myrcella’s cascade of Tyrek-esque “golden curls”:
She was a wisp of a girl, not quite eight, her hair a cascade of golden curls under a jeweled net. (GOT J I)
Two of the remaining four instances of “cascading” hair point to Byron’s she-mirror, Sansa. In one, we see “the great fall of thick auburn hair that cascaded to her [aunt Lysa’s] waist.” (GOT C VI) The other?
When [Sansa] pulled it free, her long auburn hair cascaded down her back and across her shoulders. (SOS San V)
This is pure Byron mirroring, right down to Sansa’s shoulders.
Finally, Renly’s locket depicts Margaery Tyrell—that is, the sister of Loras, the beautiful, graceful young knight I think prefigures Byron the Beautiful—with “a cascade of soft brown hair”. (GOT E VI) Is this coincidence?
Hardly. When we spread our (hair)net to also include the 20 times hair “tumbles” in ASOIAF (a nearly-identical image), we find our putative Ser-Byron analogue Loras and his sister Margaery’s hair tumbling five times, twice over/about the shoulders. (GOT S III; COK C II; SOS Jai VIII; SOS Tyr VIII; FFC C VI)
Lannister hair (including a bastard’s) also “tumbles” five times, four of which involve shoulders. (GOT Tyr I; COK Tyr XII; COK San V; SOS Jai IX; SOS Pro)
Sansa’s aunt and cousin’s hair tumbles across and over their shoulders, pointing to Sansa mirroring Byron. (GOT C VI; WOW Ala I)
In total, over half the images of cascading and tumbling hair in ASOIAF contrive to tell us something about the meeting of Sansa and “Ser Byrek” near the foot of Alyssa’s Tears just before “the young knights” take up lances and name a queen of love and beauty. You know, Alyssa’s Tears?
Pale white mists rose off Alyssa’s Tears, where the ghost waters plunged over the shoulder of the mountain to begin their long tumble down the face of the Giant’s Lance. (GOT C VII)
Yeah, probably nothing to this hair stuff.
Since all this hair is now likened to water, it’s pertinent that Joffrey has “dripping” hair:
A thick tangle of blond curls dripped down past his golden choker and high velvet collar. (GOT J I)
Not a perfect doppelganger, but pretty close.
And what about the Marbrands? Might Byron’s hair cascading past his shoulders suggest not just that he’s some Lannister but that he’s Tyrek, son of Darlessa Marbrand?
Ser Addam [Marbrand] dropped to one knee, a rangy man with dark copper hair that fell to his shoulders… (GOT Tyr VIII)
…the long hair that streamed past Ser Addam’s shoulders. (COK A VIII)
Ser Addam Marbrand, coppery hair streaming to his shoulders… (COK S VIII)
Story checks out, no?
Only two other characters in the canon are ever said to have copper hair like Tyrek’s cousin Addam, by the way. One of them? Sansa Stark:
“[Sansa] had auburn hair, lighter than mine, and so thick and soft . . . the red in it would catch the light of the torches and shine like copper.” (COK C VII)
In sum: Byron’s hair suggests (a) he is a Lannister; (b) he is a Marbrand; (c) he is Tyrek Lannister-Marbrand; (d) he will play Loras Tyrell’s role in the tourney, seducing Sansa with his able performance; and (e) that he is a mirror-figure to his quarry, making his sucess all the more likely.
Sansa dances with Ser Byron (among many others). We don’t “see” it, but a few comments are in order. The most famous “dancing” in ASAOIF is Arya’s time with Syrio Forel, a character many suspect of having some other identity.
Meanwhile, the first dance in Sansa’s POVs amazingly points right at current events:
Joffrey and Margaery led in their place. How can a monster dance so beautifully? Sansa wondered. (SOS San III)
Byron’s quasi-doppelganger—Tyrek’s nephew Joffrey—pairs with Margaery, the sister of the “boy” who pre-figures Byron the Beautiful! Sansa watches a figurative Ser Byron dance with the sister of a figurative Ser Byron! And all this time she’s been established as his mirror figure. The mind reels.
Anyway, all Lannisters dance ably save Tyrion. Sansa eventually pairs with Joffrey, which surely looks a lot like her dance with Ser B. Even Tywin “danced with smooth unsmiling grace”. Thus if Byron remembers Tyrek’s lessons (and has some Marbrand lady-charm) he probably dances well, and Sansa will likely “remember” he did so later on, during the jousts.
Recall Tyrek’s wedding mantel’s namesake, Miniver Cheevy: “The vision of a warrior bold / Would set him dancing.”
For the record, Tyrek’s “twin” Lancel attempts to dance with Cersei but is rebuffed, so inasmuch as we never see Tyrek dance, aren’t shown his wedding despite being made aware of it and in fact know he could not have danced with his infant bride at their wedding, their textual twinning continues. (FFC C III)
A 14-Year-Old Knight?
That’s everything we’re told about Ser Byron, but we’re not done yet. We’ve seen that Tyrek’s father is a seasoned warrior at 10, that his cousin is a knight at 15 and the youngest ever Kingsguard at 16, and that “a warrior bold” named Selmy enters a tourney at 10, all of which shows that 14-year-old Tyrek could pass himself off as an elegant young knight and even perform well in a tourney. Let’s quickly expand on that evidence.
“He knighted him, a boy of twelve.”
A 14-year-old knight might be rare, but it’s hardly unprecedented. Consider the case of Daemon Blackfyre, whose quality was clear when he was but twelve:
“Daemon was the better man. The old king saw it, too. He gave the sword to Daemon. Blackfyre, the sword of Aegon the Conquerer, the blade that every Targaryen king had wielded since the Conquest . . . he put that sword in Daemon’s hand the day he knighted him, a boy of twelve.” (tSS)
Growing Three Inches
Lancel has been set up as Tyrek’s textual twin (they are “born” as a unit, first described in identical terms as a unit, both harbor dreams of true knighthood, both are sensitive to mockery, both reject land and marriage and the dictates of their family to pursue it, etc.), and thus I see in his story some wonderful hints that Tyrek has matured rapidly.
First, immediately after Lancel believes he’s being “mocked” by Tyrion—just as Tyrek was “mocked” as Wet Nurse—we’re told:
It seemed to Tyrion that the lad [i.e. Lancel] had grown three inches since being knighted. (COK Tyr VI)
We hear that Lancel is knighted in COK Tyr IV, 6 weeks earlier per best estimates. That’s a helluva growth spurt! Lancel’s no early bloomer, but puberty hits him hard when it hits him. If he’s Tyrek’s textual twin, it follows that Tyrek follows suit—not when he is 16, but contemporaneously.
Lest ye doubt, notice that we’re told Sansa, who mirrors Byron and Tyrek, “happens” to grow by that exact amount:
[Sansa] had grown three inches in the past year… (SOS San II)
And look! Tyrion does the same, in a sense, when he dresses to marry Sansa:
Tyrion wore… thigh-high boots that added three inches to his height… (SOS San III)
The odd motif of growing three inches thus connects Tyrek (via his “twin”, Lancel) to not only Sansa—his presumptive quarry—but to Sansa’s wedding: i.e. to what the Vale tourney is ultimately all about.
Lancel’s story contains a second hint that Tyrek is physically mature enough to be a knight at 14. After Lancel’s grievously wounded, what happens to him?
Though only seventeen, he might have passed for seventy; grey-faced, gaunt, with hollow cheeks, sunken eyes, and hair as white and brittle as chalk. (FFC C II)
Lancel ages beyond his years. Indeed, it’s likely he wouldn’t be recognizable if his transformation took place “off screen”. Might his textual twin Tyrek also age dramatically, albeit in far happier style?
Lancel hits puberty late, and in that he’s very much an outlying Lannister. We’ve seen the early development of Tyrek’s father Tygett and his cousin Jaime, but what about Tyrek’s grandfather Tywin? At 20, he was “the youngest man ever to serve as Hand”. At 18, Tywin knighted Aerys II. (TWOIAF) Even at age 12, “men could see that this iron-willed, fearless child was hard beyond his years.” (Westerlands)
For his part, Tyrion marries at 13, and Cersei and Jaime are probably fucking in the womb. (GOT Tyr VI) If anyone’s precocious in all senses, it’s the Lannisters.
The quasi-doppelganger of tall, handsome, blond Byron the Beautiful—tall, handsome, blond, beautiful Joffrey—bears out this thesis:
[Joffrey] was twelve, younger than Jon or Robb, but taller than either… (GOT J I)
Jon and Robb were fourteen at this time, so we might expect a huge gap in the other direction, given puberty’s usual tipping point, yet Joffrey is taller. This is remarkable, and it continues to be remarked on. Thus Joffrey is “tall for his age” and “as tall at thirteen as his bride was at sixteen”. (COK S I; SOS Tyr VIII)
It’s also hinted that is about overall physical maturity, not just height. Is Tyrion merely a poor judge of age when he has this conversation with Jon—
Tyrion sighed. “… You are what, twelve?”
“Fourteen,” the boy said. (GOT Ty II)
—or does he guess “twelve” because the 12-year-old whom he knows best, Joffrey, is as physically mature as Jon, a 14-year-old who will soon be fighting alongside men, despite being of an age when most boys aren’t even visibly pubescent?
Lest we think Joff’s early maturation is irrelevant to the story after he dies, look what we’re reminded of in AFFC, the book in which we meet “Byron”:
Joffrey. He had been a handsome lad, tall and strong for his age… (FFC tSK)
At this point we know Joffrey very well and have heard all this before. So why reiterate if not to give us a clue as to Joff’s uncle Tyrek’s maturation?
Harry the Hair and Joffrey
When Sansa warns herself not to get taken in by Harry’s good looks, we’re actually subtly being handed even more evidence that Joffrey—Ser Byron’s quasi-doppelganger—is remarkably physically mature:
Ser Harrold Hardyng looked every inch a lord-in-waiting; clean-limbed and handsome, straight as a lance, hard with muscle. Men old enough to have known Jon Arryn in his youth said Ser Harrold had his look, she knew. He had a mop of sandy blond hair, pale blue eyes, an aquiline nose. Joffrey was comely too, though, she reminded herself. A comely monster, that’s what he was. (WOW Ala I)
- How does this passage suggest Joffrey is physically precocious?
It does if we read it as a chain of internally motivated thoughts that lead to the thought: “Joffrey”. Notice that Harry’s sandy mop, pale blue eyes, notable nose and “dimples when he smiles” (see FFC Alayne II) hardly evoke a picture of golden-haired, green-eyed Joffrey.
- So why does Sansa think of Joff? Is it because Harry is “handsome”?
No. Sansa thinks Mace Tyrell is “a once-powerful man gone to fat, yet still handsome”, and he’s not going to remind anyone of Joff. (COK S VIII)
- Sure, but what about someone she finds attractive or “comely”?
Sansa thinks Loras is the hottest thing ever—
He even looked a true hero, so slim and beautiful, with golden roses around his slender waist and his rich brown hair tumbling down into his eyes. (GOT S III)
—and Marillion is “comely” (the same word directly linking Harry and Joffrey)—
Marillion was comely, there was no denying it; boyish and slender, with smooth skin, sandy hair, a charming smile. (SOS S VII)
—yet like Mace, neither of them lead her to think of Joffrey.
- So what’s the difference?
Loras and Marillion are boyish, slender, slim. Harry is handsome and comely, sure, but he’s “clean-limbed…, straight as a lance, hard with muscle”, and I submit that (in conjunction with being handsome) is why despite having different features Harry reminds Sansa of Joffrey… which in turn tells us once more that Joffrey’s body was mature beyond its years.
- How does it do that?
Clean-limbed refers to slender but well-proportioned limbs, as against the gangliness of immature adolescence. Straight as a lance implies height. Hard with muscle speaks for itself. When we read that Joff’s body is “tall and strong”, that’s exactly what is meant. Joffrey isn’t an average 13-year-old, and that, along with all the evidence we’ve already reviewed above, suggests his relative Tyrek is likewise no average 14-year-old.
Byron’s Body is Sansa’s Type
I think we can deduce more than Joffrey’s body type and physical maturity from the way Sansa links Harry’s muscular body to Joffrey’s.
Fact: Sansa finds Loras far more attractive than anyone ever. We’ve just seen Sansa wax rhapsodic about slim Loras’s slender waist, and elsewhere she dreams of taking his shirt off and caressing his boyishly “smooth skin”. (SOS San I) It’s pretty clear if she has a body “type”, this, rather than Joff’s/Harry’s, is it.
We know handsome Harry and his hard body remind Sansa of Joffrey, “tall and strong”. Yet handsome Ser Byron, our putative quasi-doppelganger for Joffrey, doesn’t evoke Joff. Why not?
Sure, Ser Byron is just a hedge knight, not yet worthy of consideration. And it’s unlikely Tyrek has Joffrey’s striking green eyes. (GOT J I; E VII) Both of these “help”. But I think the decisive reason Byron doesn’t lead Sansa to think of Joffrey is the inverse of the reason Harry does: I think the “elegant” Byron the Beautiful has Loras’s body type, just as his moniker suggests.
This matters, of course, because it’s yet another hint that Sansa will fall for the Loras-esque (and probably AGOT-era Joffrey-esque), boyish Byron rather than the more manly Harry. And that reveals the dramatic irony in the passage we’ve been looking at.
We see now that even as Sansa is congratulating herself for being wary of Harry’s good looks, she’s completely oblivious to the elegant young knight kissing her hand and dancing with her whose face actually kinda looks like Joffrey’s and who probably has the body of her all-time dream man. In truth, she’s only wary of Harry because she knows she must be involved with him.
Remember how we saw two hints that Lannister beauty hides treachery and danger? They seemed awfully pedantic before, but they now smell like a vitally pertinent warning… although for who is unclear.
Reading Lancel’s Tea Leaves
Tyrek’s textual twin Lancel’s story couches a few other hints of what might befall “Ser Byron”.
Cersei muses about Sansa marrying Lancel.
I would have made Sansa a good marriage. A Lannister marriage. Not Joff, of course, but Lancel might have suited, or one of his younger brothers. (DWD C II)
Might Sansa instead marry Lancel’s textual twin and younger cousin?
Tending To a Wound?
When Lancel is wounded during the attack on King’s Landing, Sansa gives him aid and comfort:
Sansa went to Ser Lancel and knelt beside him. His wound was bleeding afresh where the queen had struck him. (COK S VII)
Might this suggest she will do the same for a wounded Ser Byron?
Serwyn of the Mirror Shield
It seems as though Sansa and Tyrek/Byron are being set up to fall for their mirror-selves. I can’t help but notice that it’s through song-and-true-knight-obsessed Sansa that we first learn anything about the legendary Serwyn of the Mirror Shield:
The way he [i.e. Joffrey] had rescued her from Ser Ilyn and the Hound, why, it was almost like the songs, like the time Serwyn of the Mirror Shield saved the Princess Daeryssa from the giants… (GOT S I)
Sansa foolishly likens Joffrey to Serwyn. Might Sansa’s mirror-knight and Joffrey’s “doppelganger” Ser Byron be poised to rescue Sansa? Rescue her in the shadow of Alyssa‘s tears from Petyr Baelish, a small man whose true sigil is a giant—the Titan of Braavos? (SOS San VI) And might the story of Serwyn we learn of in ADWD tell us how “Serbyrn” will “slay the dragon” Littlefinger?
“How did Serwyn of the Mirror Shield slay the dragon Urrax?”
“He approached behind his shield. Urrax saw only his own reflection until Serwyn had plunged his spear through his eye.” (DWD Tyr III)
Will Ser Byron lead Littlefinger to see in Byron the “reflection” of his own brilliant plan—a simple hedge knight, bought and paid for—until at the last moment he plunges his lance through Littlefinger’s plan and steals Sansa’s heart away?
Conclusion: What’s Tyrek’s Plan?
Hopefully I’ve convinced you that Tyrek and Byron mirror Sansa, that Tyrek and Lancel “twin” one another, that Tyrek is a quasi-doppelganger for (young) Joffrey, that Loras prefigures Ser Byron the Beautiful, and that it’s possible, likely or even certain that Tyrek Lannister is Ser Byron, who is set up to do well in the tourney, stymie Littlefinger’s plans for Harry the Heir—perhaps by killing him a la Hugh of the Vale—and steal Sansa’s heart.
Even if I have, many questions remain: Does Byron actually have a plan at this point, or has he just come to the Vale to start over after shedding the vestiges of his former life? If he has a plan, who if anyone is he working with?
ASOIAF really wants us to think that Varys “snatched” Tyrek. Varys is maudlin over the disappearance, and later Jaime thinks he may have kidnapped Tyrek. (SOS Tyr III; FFC Jai III) That’s almost certainly a red herring, but the twist may be not that someone else “snatched” Tyrek but that Varys aided Tyrek’s escape. Varys seems to despise Littlefinger, and Byron appears ready to upset Littlefinger’s plans. Ser Shadrich seemingly riding Sansa’s old horse could imply Varys helped him, too, and suggest broader collusion.
If you believe that Shadrich is Howland Reed and that Morgarth is the Elder Brother, it’s virtually certain that those two are working together, regardless of Varys’s involvement, and it’s tempting to think “Byron” is with them. Perhaps sparrows aided Tyrek after the mob attack and helped get him to the safety of the Quiet Isle. And lo! If Tyrek is in league with the Elder Brother, he’s again twinned with Lancel, who’s now a Warrior’s Son. For that reason alone I think this is highly probable.
Sure, Tyrek could be a lone
wolf ex-lion, but when Morgarth complains that Littlefinger did not tell the three hedge knights that Alayne is beautiful, Shadrich’s response implies their mutual familiarity and thus assocation:
“I would do the same if she were my daughter,” said the last knight… “Particularly around louts like us.”
Alayne laughed. “Are you louts?” she said, teasing. “Why, I took the three of you for gallant knights.”
Notice that “louts” is repeated for emphasis. It appears only 12 other times in the canon, and several of those burst with pertinent associations. The first lout? A gold cloak sent to capture Sansa’s sister:
The officer smiled. “Old fool. I have five men with me.”
Yoren spat. “Happens I got thirty.”
The gold cloak laughed. “This lot?” said a big lout with a broken nose. “Who’s first?” he shouted, showing his steel. (COK A II)
The next reference is also to a gold cloak, doubling that link. Tyrion calls men “louts” whom Bronn is watching practice at arms and studying for weakness, much as our three hedge knights watch and study Sansa and Littlefinger. (COK Dav I; Tyr IV) Other louts include Lem Lemoncloak, widely believed to be Richard Lonmouth in disguise; Spotted Pate the big-boy, who is later Jaqen trying to steal something from the citadel; and, twice, Dunk, who protects a disguised Targaryen princeling and is now disguised as Coldhands. (SOS Ary II; FFC Pro, tSS, tMK) “Lout” alone implies these three men are disguised and here to steal a Stark.
In any scenario, Tyrek may be just as or more smitten by Sansa than she is by him. Perhaps he pined for her in King’s Landing and has tracked her for that reason.
Nothwithstanding the good omens I’ve described, I can’t help but restate the warnings regarding Lannister beauty, treachery and danger, and wonder what’s missing here.
But Someone Would Recognize Tyrek!
It will be objected that Sansa or Littlefinger (or “someone!”) would surely recognize Ser Byron as Tyrek, given that they were at court at the same time.
The text actually contains tons of evidence that recognition in the world of ASOIAF doesn’t work like that. I have written about this topic in some detail HERE, in “He Did Not Know You: Recognition (and the evident difficultly thereof) in ASOIAF: Deluxe Expanded Edition”.
Two of the examples therein are especially pertinent: Littlefinger dismissing the possibility that the Royces might “make” Alayne as Sansa during the tourney—hopefully I don’t need to spell out the analogy to Tyrek being at the same tourney—and Jaime having no clear memory of what Arya looks like despite having been at court at the same time, simply because he paid her no heed. How much attention did Sansa pay to Tyrek? Judging by her POVs: zero. And how much time did a non-martial guy like Littlefinger spend around the squires of a king who himself avoided his councillors like the plague? Remember: Tyrek has undergone almost two years of aggressive Lannister pubescence, and his textual twin has aged so he looks like a different guy.
Having come this far, and (I hope) presented the powerful case that Ser Byron is Tyrek Lannister, I have a confession: I don’t think he is. But I do think we’ll be openly led to believe he is, and that we must be convinced that it truly seems like Byron is Tyrek—a Loras-bodied, Joffrey-looking Sansa-mirror, the perfect true knight to enchant “Alayne” into going rogue and fleeing the vale—to understand what’s really going on.
Next time: what I think is really going on. Some of you will now see it coming, but I promise you have no idea how many metric fucktons of evidence there are for it.
Note: This is technically part 2 of a loose trilogy. PART 1 IS HERE. It’s a preface dismissing the idea that Tryek is the handsome young man Arya finds dead by the pool in tHoB&W.
I also posted a thing about Sansa’s use of the word “young” that came out of thinking about how old Ser Byron might be based on Sansa calling him “an elegant young knight”. I posted it late Sunday night so nobody really saw it. Warning: it’s not really tinfoil.