Looks like I’m going with another dorky supporting character: first was lovable loser, Milhouse Van Houten of The Simpsons, and now, the equally awkward Podrick Payne of A Song of Ice and Fire (and Game of Thrones).
So, if you aren’t quite up to date with Game of Thrones, you may want to avoid reading this post due to the likely presence of *SPOILERS*.
A not-so-obvious choice
For this post, I wanted to find a character from GRRM’s series who isn’t obviously awesome, which sort of precluded a lot of characters whom I assumed would show up in most people’s lists of top ten favorites (e.g., Daenerys, Jon Snow, Arya, the Lannister brothers, Brienne, Bronn, the Hound).
Clearly, I wasn’t going to go with a character I’m not a fan of, either (e.g., Sansa Stark, Viserys, anyone with Bolton or Frey blood).
With the huge cast of characters in the series, there’s more than a few who are pretty cool but aren’t too popular, like the Blackfish (Catelyn Stark’s uncle), Jorah Mormont (whose popularity seems to have risen thanks to the HBO adaptation), and Syrio Forel.
Ultimately, I wound up choosing Podrick Payne.
A not-so-awesome character
When I told a friend about choosing Pod for this post, I was told he wasn’t a good choice because he’s not a particularly good character: Pod’s impressiveness is, apparently, “unearned” and he seems to be used sort of as a plot device to get our POV characters out of trouble (sort of an unimpressive deus ex machina).
I think he’s just understated (my friend disagrees).
First impressions of the squire
When we’re first introduced to Pod in A Game of Thrones, he’s assigned to Tyrion Lannister as a squire. Due to Pod’s reluctance to speak, Tyrion initially jokes that the boy’s missing a tongue (like his uncle, Ser Ilyn Payne). Pod is obviously unsure of himself, and Tyrion assumes Pod was made his squire as a joke.
So, by the end of the first book, the reader would be justified in going along with Tyrion’s assumptions to see Pod as some dimwitted kid.
Pod’s personality (I think in book one alone) indicated to me that Pod was generally made to feel insignificant while growing up, which made him shy and self-conscious, not (simply) because he’s slow. If most people’s initial opinions of Pod were the same as Tyrions, they would have treated him accordingly: poorly.
Suspicions of crappy life confirmed
Alright, so most peoples’ lives suck in Westeros, but some definitely suck worse than others, Pod included. In A Feast for Crows (book four), a good bit of Pod’s past is revealed which confirms he had a crappy childhood.
Pod is from a lesser branch of House Payne (one of House Lannister’s lackey houses). His father was a squire who died in battle during the Greyjoy Rebellion, and his mother abandoned him when he was four to run away with the cousin of the knight his father was squiring for. Pod ended up in the care of Ser Cedric Payne who dies in battle against Robb Stark’s forces (and before then, Cedric apparently treated Pod as a servant). Then, Pod started following Ser Lorimer around, but Lorimer got himself hanged shortly afterward for stealing a ham from Tywin Lannister’s stash.
After that, Pod became Tyrion’s squire.
The greatness of Pod
Having a crappy childhood gets you a bit of sympathy, but it doesn’t automatically make you awesome. Luckily for Pod, there’s more to him than a sob story.
Under the tutelage of Tyrion Lannister
Pod might have ended up being yet another crappy person in Westeros if not for the influence of Tyrion Lannister. Though Tyrion’s a snarky jerk most of the time (using humor and impoliteness as a defense mechanism), Tyrion is much more compassionate than just about anyone Pod might have been made to squire for.
It’s through the proximity to Tyrion’s awesomeness that Pod develops his own awesomeness—loyalty, compassion, and honor.
Tyrion and Pod have similar histories in that they were both treated horribly by just about everyone. The way I see it, if a person is treated poorly he might become a jerk and treat others as he’s been treated, or he might develop compassion and treat others as he would have liked to be treated. Tyrion chose the latter path, and I think he influences Pod to do the same.
Feats in battle
Pod follows Tyrion into combat in the Battle of the Blackwater, surprising even Tyrion by doing so. When Tyrion is attacked by Ser Mandon Moore (who’s supposed to be on the same side), Pod kills Moore to save his mentor (in the book, he shoves Moore into the bay, causing him to drown due to the weight of his armor; in the HBO adaptation, Pod shoves a spear through the back of the knight’s head).
If I recall correctly, Pod also does a bit of fighting when he’s traveling with Brienne (or maybe she was just training him, I forget).
Dude’s good in bed
This only occurs in the HBO adaptation (in the books, Pod’s only 12 or 13): To reward Pod for saving his life, Tyrion brings Pod to a brothel and pays for three prostitutes to provide their services to the squire. Pod later comes back with a full refund because, as later revealed by Ros, he was apparently the best the prostitutes ever had.
In the show, Pod is offered knighthood in exchange for testifying against Tyrion for the murder of Joffrey, but Pod refuses out of loyalty and agrees to flee King’s Landing after a tearful goodbye. I suppose something similar may be inferred to occur in the book, since Pod does not testify against Tyrion when he likely would’ve been asked to do so.
The book demonstrates Pod’s loyalty to Tyrion by having him take the initiative to find Brienne of Tarth when he hears she is going to look for Sansa Stark. Pod’s motivation is that Sansa Stark may lead him back to Tyrion who’d gone missing after his trial (in the show, Jaime Lannister sets Pod up as Brienne’s underling on her journey to find the Stark girls).
Notably, Brienne deduces that “[Pod] may be a stumbletongue, but he’s not stupid,” which goes to say that Pod is shy and awkward due to being raised poorly, not because of a simple lack of intellect (this differentiates him from Milhouse Van Houten who isn’t very smart).
So, yeah, Podrick Payne is considerably awesome.
I’ll have to avoid this personality type for my next Awesome Character.