In Game of Thrones S04E08 Tyrion told a story about his cousin Orson Lannister to Jaime. Orson was physically handicapped and spent his time smashing beetles.

Is there any relation between the story and Tyrion's current position? Like maybe he will be crushed by his father if Oberyn dies?

When he was telling the story he picked a beetle and released it afterwards. Was it just that or another clue?

P.S - I didn't read the books. If there was any reference in the books do tell.


12 Answers 12


Orson kills beetles. The Mountain kills women and children. In fact, a good many people around Tyrion are killers. Even his brother Jaime who's, at this point, generally considered to be a good dude totally pushed a kid out a window and had all of Ned's servants killed in S1.

Tyrion could not understand the beetle murder habit of Orson's because Tyrion is not a natural killer. He just doesn't have the stomach for the casual relationship with death that so many others in Westeros do. Life is cheap in this world, but the one character who doesn't feel that way is Tyrion. You'll notice he picked up a bug during that monologue and at the end he let it go.

Dude just isn't made for this world.

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    He displays an amazing propensity towards survival for a "dude that just isn't made for this world."
    – arkon
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 5:39
  • 4
    @b1nary.atr0phy Yet his survival often comes from those around him (whether he used his words to sway them or not), not from Tyrion himself. Podrick rescues him at Blackwater. Jaime rescued him from execution. Varys spirited him away. Jorah saved him from the Grayscale attackers. Tyrion's lack of violent tendencies and the fact he gets people to rally behind him voluntarily are both used to express how worthy he would be as a leader. He rarely even insults people. In the initial conversation with Jon Snow, he was blunt, came across as insulting, but it was helpful advice that would serve Jon
    – Flater
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 10:38
  • "Yet his survival often comes from those around him..." Is that not what survival is all about; utilizing everything you have at your disposal to postpone the inevitable? Tyrion is acutely aware of his own abilities (e.g. his wit and charm,) and limitations. Instead of allowing himself to be hamstrung by his limitations, he uses his abilities to reinforce them. He has outlived many characters, some of which were strong warriors, which is a testament to his incredible ability to survive.
    – arkon
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 0:46
  • @b1nary.atr0phy: Your comment is correct, but it does not fit the current question. Tyrion does indeed have good survival skills using his wit and charm, but he does not like (unprovoked) violence. That is what the Orson story was all about. Orson did not think the beetles deserved to die; but he did casually murder them. Tyrion knows the value of life; and is therefore opposed to violence on principle (even the innocent beetles). He also doesn't have the stomach for it. The few times he has used/supported violence is when it targets those who intend to harm others without good reason.
    – Flater
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 14:54

Actually I see it as a veiled putdown on Orson Scott Card who has been criticizing Game of Thrones series. Cousin Orson is Orson Scott Card, also realize that Orson Scott Card is widely known for writing Ender's Game, a novel about a boy who is selected to kill an Alien Race of Bugs aka Beetles. If the writer's had this in mind they made an excellent jest of it. There are some parallels to the Mountain killing left and right but, this parable probably has many meanings.

  • 12
    Very nice observation. I like this theory a lot. Add some links to support it if you can!
    – rbsite
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 2:08
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    @rbsite - I don't think this is anything that requires supporting links; as the character does not appear in the Song of Ice and Fire books, and the name "Orson" and the insect-killing are there, I think the joke (and its other implications - killing off characters with a whim) is fairly straightforward. I think, at most, a link to OSC criticizing GoT/SoIaF would be the only thing needed.
    – JoshDM
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 19:17

There are a couple ideas that have been floating about what this conversation could mean.

First of all,

it can be a simple foreshadowing about Oberyn's final fate at the hands of The Mountain - all that talk about crushing just signifying to the viewer what to prepare for in an unconscious manner as we see his pride get the best of him.

Second one I actually found on Reddit where its actually a metaphor for G.R.R.M.'s behaviours in writing the series, killing characters seemingly left and right without too much reason. In this way it was another signal to the viewer to not expect what they think they can expect in this series, as we have seen many times before in this season and past seasons with characters meeting their demise in some unexpected manners.


I think the beetle discussion foreshadows an immediate application into the Red Viper-Mountain fight. Oberyn's eyes and face were literally smashed in like a beetle. The Mountain is certainly known for his brawn and not his wit, paralleling cousin Orson. The sheer nature of Oberyn's demise from the Mountain invokes disbelief on a level like Tyrion's response to the beetles. The beetle discussion surely has a wider application as well. Indiscriminate killings are everywhere in Westeros; happening within Tyrion's sphere, and outside of it.


Many interesting theories here, and I agree to an extent with most of them. For me however, the story of Orson Lannister's seemingly unnecessary squashing of many beetles was a demonstration that size matters; the bigger man will win. Now this can be literal and figurative. We see Gregor Clegane, the vast 'Mountain', crush Oberyn Martell to a pulp purely because he has the physical means to do so.

However, consider this:

As we later see, Oberyn's poison coated blade kills Gregor eventually (Poison being superior to brute force). Orson was killed by the kick of a horse (Horse>Orson), and so we see that Tyrion's talk can essentially be seen as a representation of the fact that you can crush all who are beneath you for a time, but you will eventually cross the path of someone (or something) that is superior to you and there you will meet your end. Really would like someone to comment back whether they agree with me or not!?

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    Welcome to the site! I've added the spoiler markup to your answer. This can be done by using >! before a paragraph. I like your answer and interpretation of events. I can't say more without really discussing the spoiler content, but this is a good take on things :) Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 10:14

There have already been many excellent theories presented here. Yet I'm still going to add my views, even if many of it's aspects can be found in other answers already and all those probably apply to some degree to this great scene.

What Tyrion might be ultimately explaining could be the cruel and senseless life in general, his treatment by the world and his father in particular, or even an attack on Orson Scott Card. But what he might also be talking about is nothing but the Game of Thrones itself.

All those various houses in Westeros do nothing else the whole day than crushing beetles, destroying men, women, enemies, allies, other houses, their own kin and their own lives for nothing but the seat on a damn uncomfortable chair that doesn't come with any actual achievement at all. Whoever sits on the Iron Throne today can be sure that tomorrow everyone else is keeping on crushing beetles to answer the question who gets the next turn on the Iron Throne. All this ultimately senseless Game of Thrones is bound to go on forever and ever and Tyrion, being one of the few people in the whole world with a bit of common sense, can try to understand what all this is for, but he won't, since there is nothing.

The only thing that will put an end to this whole Game of Beetles is an equally senseless and ununderstandable natural disaster from the outside, be it a mule kicking you in the chest or a horde of White Walkers covering your precious Iron Throne in endless winter (or a dragon army downright melting it away, for that matter). Yet cousin Orson was lucky enough to really die, Westeros will get a new chance and a new summer and be plagued by the Game of Thrones forever and ever, as it did before.

(And of course don't take those ramblings as any kind of spoiler, as I haven't read a single page of the source material, which you don't have to for recognizing such a society's circle of demise.)

  • 1
    And sorry if I was making my horses bolt a bit in those ramblings. Neither do I say this is the only one correct answer. Still I thought a 12th take on this interesting question couldn't hurt. ;-)
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 22:27

This is a discussion between Tyrion and Jaime about their father Tywin. Tyrion has been watching his father all his life, but just cannot understand his brutality. Both Jaime and Tyrion can kill when it needs to be done, but neither son has anything on the cold brutality of their father. An amazing scene, wonderfully acted. Actually the whole episode was great, one of the best yet. Sounds like the name Orson Lannister didn't appear in the books and is an in-joke on that other famous 'moron' Orson Scott Card!

  • Interesting theory - is there any evidence (in or out of universe) that this is what they were talking about?
    – iandotkelly
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 12:15

I thought the point was Tyrion saw himself as the Beetle's and the rest of the world as his cousin. He's small, frail, almost every description he gives of the beetles matches him as well. And his cousin just unmercifully smashes these Beetles for no reason, whatever reason that may be to him would also explain why people so easily smash him even though he's a good person who would never harm anyone (like Tyrion). I saw it as just a deeper psychological look into Tyrion himself. I don't think he himself even realized all of this, but the writer did I think. It even kind of gives insight into human nature itself. They kept describing his cousin as "simple," and he killed these beetles indiscriminately which describes most of the people in this show.


While I do agree that the conversation is a foreshadowing of the impending battle, and probably even a stab at Orson Scott Card, I think that there is further meaning to it.

Tyrion cannot understand why Orson smashes the beetles and yet smashing the beetles is what makes Orson happy. It drives him and gives him purpose. It gives him purpose and meaning until the day he is killed.

The story is Tyrion's struggle to find meaning in life. He is a man on death row and this story is his way of explaining the brevity and pointlessness of life. While others can find meaning in simple things (smashing beetles), Tyrion cannot identify with them.

It is also a demonstration that Tyrion is different from those around him. He is not brutal, takes no joy in killing and finds the misuse of power abhorrent. He cannot understand how people derive joy out of killing.

This scene was a beautiful piece of storytelling and wonderfully acted by Peter Dinklage.


I think Vantha Doun is right.

Orson Scott criticizes GOT since the first episode. This link is about it.


Orson is HATED for his homophobic position.

Then, when Tyrion says that he went to Maester Volarik's library, Jaime makes clear that the Maester has homosexual inclinations.

I don't know if Volarik is a reference for a real person. But his homosexuality appears to be a direct reference to Orson Scott's homophobia.

Note that cousin Orson and Volarik are not mentioned in the book. This scene is an independent write.

Joining the name Orson, the beetles and the homosexuality in this veeeery long text, using characters not in the book, in a scene not in the book...

And calling Orson, moron etc...

  • If the homosexual comment was about the Maester and not Orson how does that relate at all?
    – Tablemaker
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 13:52
  • Orson hates homosexuality. He is not homosexual but homophobic. The message is : Do you want know Orson ? Ask a homosexual.
    – user9967
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 8:28

The said scene has no reference whatsoever in the book. Neither can I recollect any Lannister cousin named Orson (but then I can hardly remember any cousins other than Lancel).

IMHO, it is a very clever piece of monologue manufactured by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss which acts as a filler in this episode. Peter Dinklage (Tyrion) yet again summons his exceptional acting and oratory skills to deliver a thought provoking and introspective scene. I feel, Tyrion here questions the mad lust of people in power to kill just because they can. And then he exclaims on the futility of the activity. Because what is eventually left is empty dry husk of beetles, as long as the eye can see.

If one pays attention, Tyrion very subtly shifts the context to the "circle of life". How the simple minded, beetle crushing Orson is done in by a mule's kick. That is him telling Jaime that power is not permanent, it flows. And what goes around surely comes around.

Now in all this - the beetle, cousin Orson, the mule could just be metaphors to Tyrion, his sister and father, and some "force" that puts an end to the Lannisters.

It could also be some sly piece of joke on Orson Scott Card. Or it just might be an homage by the creators of the series to the master of killings GRR Martin himself. A man who has all these characters at his mercy. And he kills them off, one-by-one.....KUHN...KUHN....KUHN!


Tyrion was the admitting that he was the precipitating factor in Orson's death. My two cents. He's basically foreshadowing that he'll kill in order to protect what he deems to be right- or rather to stop what he deems is wrong.

  • 6
    How did he cause Orson's death?
    – Tablemaker
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 13:49

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