So I saw this post and I have to argue here because GRRM is very clearly drawing from the Beauty and the Beast trope in the Sansa x Tyrion relationship. Which is not to say that Sansa and Tyrion have a romantic relationship in canon, because of course they don’t. But neither are Sandor x Sansa and Brienne x Jaime traditional romantic relationships, and all of these relationships have elements of Beauty and the Beast, a story of which GRRM is obviously fond. And while I say that they aren’t romantic relationships, I’m not saying that they can’t ever be or that these characters can’t be shipped together. I’ve made no secret about the fact that I ship Sansa and Tyrion even though their canon relationship is not a romantic one. I also disagree with the poster insisting that shipping Sansa and Tyrion “steamrolls Sansa’s desires and preferences” because that’s only true if you think that Sansa just needs to get over herself and love Tyrion, which I don’t. But anyway.
And while the original poster is right that BatB is about more than an attractive person paired with a “beast”, there are elements of Sansa x Tyrion that are directly taken from the BatB trope, not just the fact that Tyrion is considered a “beast” because of his disability. Like with Sandor x Sansa and Jaime x Brienne, I think GRRM is both invoking and deconstructing the BatB story with Sansa x Tyrion.
The character archetypes are similar: Sansa is our beauty, a kind and gentle romantic soul, while Tyrion is a lonely figure, an outcast considered a monster by society. In the fairytale, the beast also usually has some other flaw besides his appearance, a darker aspect to his personality to contrast him with the usual prince charming, and Tyrion has that in spades. Tyrion is also severely insecure about his appearance, and one of the things I like about the BatB trope is that the male role suffers from traditionally “feminine” insecurities about his body.
One of the major aspects of the traditional BatB story is that they don’t start out in love. The beauty is at first frightened and disgusted by the beast, and it’s only after a while that she begins to see his humanity. I use specific gendered pronouns here because this trope is usually very gendered. It’s skewed towards patriarchal views of romance, wherein attractive women are expected to be available for men, no matter how ugly or monstrous they may be. Men are not asked to find the humanity in “beastly” women. This is an oft cited criticism of the beauty and the beast story. It teaches us that female desire doesn’t matter and that women (and only women) need to stop being shallow and get with that guy who will make her dreams come true if only she could look past his appearance. (I love BatB, but this is a valid criticism. There’s also more to be said about how GRRM plays with this trope, particularly by flipping the genders with Jaime x Brienne, but this meta is not about them).
This is where the deconstruction comes in with Sansa and Tyrion. And I think this is one reason why so many readers encounter their marriage and then feel that Tyrion is owed love from Sansa. We’re used to this kind of (sexist) narrative. So many readers expect Sansa to “look past” Tyrion’s dwarfism and love him, but of course she doesn’t, because that’s just not how love works. (I could also talk about the inherent ableism in the idea that Tyrion’s disability is something Sansa needs to look past, and how Tyrion wants someone to love him and his body for who he is, not look past it.) Furthermore, Sansa is in no position to love Tyrion, even if he was a handsome prince. She does try, though, because she too has grown up with this same kind of fairytale narrative. Florian and Jonquil is a kind of beauty and the beast stand-in in universe, and we also know that girls in Westeros have grown up under the same kind of patriarchal culture that is familiar to us and grooms young girls to be pleasing to their husbands:
Look at him, Sansa told herself, look at your husband, at all of him, Septa Mordane said all men are beautiful, find his beauty, try.
Even here, Sansa tries to live out the fairytale that she’s been taught to expect, but of course she cannot. Nor should she be required to love Tyrion. She does recognize Tyrion’s humanity, but this empathy for him does not make her love him:
He is as frightened as I am, Sansa realized. Perhaps that should have made her feel more kindly toward him,
but it did not. All she felt was pity, and pity was death to desire. He
was looking at her, waiting for her to say something, but all her words
had withered. She could only stand there trembling.
Tyrion also plays his part as the “beast” who hopes that Sansa’s “beauty” might come to love him, but he doesn’t really believe it either and, unlike the beast of the fairytale, doesn’t really make any attempts to win Sansa’s love, because he neither wanted nor chose the marriage.
Another aspect often seen in the BatB trope that GRRM plays with in the Sansa and Tyrion marriage is the beauty as the beast’s captive. There’s also a bit of the trope wherein the villain forces the innocent maiden to marry him, but these two tropes are complicated by the fact that in GRRM’s story things aren’t that simple. For one, Tyrion isn’t actually the villain of the story nor is he the driving force behind the marriage. In fact, he is a victim in this situation as well, although in a different way than Sansa.
The child and the dwarf, neither of them should be in the situation they’re in, and their marriage acts as a twisted version of the fairytale that both of them long for. I say both because even though Tyrion is often considered to be a pragmatist in contrast to Sansa’s romanticism, he too longs for the same kind of romantic ideal that Sansa wants. Tyrion discusses his marriage to Tysha during his wedding night with Sansa, drawing a direct contrast between the two:
“The first time I wed, there was us and a drunken septon, and some pigs
to bear witness. We ate one of our witnesses at our wedding feast. Tysha
fed me crackling and I licked the grease off her fingers, and we were laughing when we fell into bed.”
I think it’s notable that even though Sansa and Tyrion are on different wavelengths, both of them is thinking on their wedding night of what a wedding should be.
[Sansa] had often daydreamed of how she would dance at her wedding, with every eye upon her and her handsome lord. In her dreams they had all been smiling. Not even my husband is smiling.
Although I say that GRRM is deconstructing the traditional BatB narrative, the BatB story is by its nature a subversive tale of transformation, and so lends itself to deconstruction, which is less about tearing down tropes than it is about mixing them up and building them back up again.
Do you have some headcanons for Tyrion and his relationship with Myrcella and Tommen ?
Whenever Tyrion visited King’s Landing, he would bring a new book for the children which he read to them aloud, until finally they knew the books by heart and would catch Tyrion when he invented parts of the story or added in his own comments (”Do you know why Septas always wear those ugly things over their heads? It’s because they don’t have hair. Only shiny bald heads underneath.”) Tommen loved stories about dragons but not the scary ones, and Myrcella would always demand to hear the real ending to the story, even if it was terrible or sad, and Tyrion would always tell her the truth, for which she loved him. Myrcella also learned several bawdy jokes from Tyrion and would recite them around the castle until Cersei heard about it and put a stop to it.
Tyrion often saw himself in Tommen, who was small and fearful and a second son, but Tommen had a gentleness, a trusting joy at the world that Tyrion had never allowed himself to have and never been allowed to have.
And who are you, the proud lord said, that I must bow so low? Only a cat of a different coat, that’s all the truth I know. In a coat of gold or a coat of red, a lion still has claws, And mine are long and sharp, my lord, as long and sharp as yours.