A Storm of Swords

by: George R. R. Martin

Important Quotations Explained

1. “It all goes back and back, Tyrion thought, to our mothers and fathers and theirs before them. We are puppets dancing on the strings of those who came before us, and one day our own children will take up our strings and dance on in our steads.”

Tyrion has this thought as he faces charges for poisoning King Joffrey. Already jaded, Tyrion has become supremely cynical, because he knows he has not committed the crime, yet several witnesses have testified against him. When Oberyn visits him, he recounts that Tyrion’s father once offered him to Elia, Oberyn’s sister. Because Tyrion was ugly and a dwarf, the proposal insulted Oberyn’s family. Tyrion never knew this, and he realizes that his family has controlled every aspect of his life to some degree. The quote suggests that everyone in Westeros is subject to this same manipulation. Sometimes family grievances going back generations serve as the reason for families that have no reason to fight today. Family honor and tradition dictate what a child may or may not be, and who that person may marry. Though Tyrion doesn’t mention Tysha, the example is pertinent. Tyrion wasn’t allowed to marry her because of his family, because his was too high and hers too low. Tyrion feels that he is only a pawn in a larger game, which is explicitly described as the “game of thrones.”

It is interesting to note that Tyrion has no children, and he never expresses any interest in having children. He squanders his sexuality on prostitutes, and he refuses to consummate his marriage with Sansa, though technically he is within his rights to do so even if she doesn’t consent. Though it is never explicitly stated, having children is not a priority for Tyrion, perhaps because he fears how those children will look, and perhaps because he does not wish to continue the game. Whatever his unspoken hesitations, Tyrion has reached a dead end and cannot continue this way of life, even if his execution is stayed. This epiphany informs Tyrion’s choice to estrange Jaime and Cersei and murder his own father in his bedchamber. By rejecting his family, Tyrion becomes independent for the first time. Contrary to the quote, Tyrion effectively snips the strings that make him dance.