“So many vows…they make you swear and swear. Defend the king. Obey the king. Keep his secrets. Do his bidding. Your life for his. But obey your father. Love your sister. Protect the innocent. Defend the weak. Respect the gods. Obey the laws. It’s too much. No matter what you do, you’re forsaking one vow or the other.”
When it comes to the many characters created by George RR Martin for his hugely successful fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire (which turned into the TV series Game of Thrones) few of them have gotten a more polarizing reaction than Jaime Lannister. Jaime has had one of the most extensive arcs in both the books and the television series, going from a despicably arrogant yet brilliant swordsman to a wounded, doubtful man who begins to question everything that he always held so surely in his mind. So how did he start out? How is the show version different from the book version? What’s happened to him? Read these facts and get a better idea of the Young Lion.
42. Home Sweet Home
Jaime Lannister is the eldest son of Lord Tywin Lannister, who is the Warden of the West and Lord Paramount of the mineral-rich Westerlands (a former kingdom-turned-province in Westeros). The Westerlands, especially under Lord Tywin’s control, are the wealthiest kingdom in all of Westeros.
41. I am the Greatest!
As well as being extremely skilled with a sword, Jaime is also very strong. In a moment of reflection in the third book, Jaime can only come up with four or five men who are stronger than him, and he still reckons he can defeat them all with skill and speed. So we can safely see that he’s a humble fellow at least.
40. Something is Rotten in the State of Denmark
Don’t let that accent fool you; Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, the actor who plays Jaime Lannister in the TV series Game of Thrones, is actually Danish. He only transitioned to non-Danish work when he appeared in the American film Black Hawk Down in 2001.
39. Lost Chances
When Jaime was ten years old, Tywin suggested to King Aerys Targaryen (the Mad King) that Jaime could be a squire for Aerys’ son, Prince Rhaegar. Aerys spitefully refused, but Jaime would always have a great respect for Rhaegar for the rest of his life.
38. Stay Gold, Ponyboy
Just like the rest of the Lannister family, Jaime has gold-colored hair and green eyes. He has also been described as being tall and unbelievably handsome, so you can decide for yourselves if Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was a fitting choice to represent him.
37. Inbreeding Hypocrisy?
Interestingly, Jaime and Cersei aren’t the first Lannisters to keep things in the family. Their father, Tywin, and mother, Joanna, were first cousins. Admittedly, there are much fewer biological problems with cousins having kids, but you can argue it might undermine Tywin’s stance just a bit.
36. Age Cannot Wither
At the start of the book series, Jaime is around 32 years old. By contrast, Jaime is declared to be 40 years old in the fourth season of the show (though to be fair, the show never quite establishes how time is passing).
35. A Lannister Pays His Debts
Although Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was basically unknown to English-speaking audiences before being cast as Jaime Lannister, that hasn’t stopped him from negotiating hefty salaries in the last few seasons of the show. According to Deadline Hollywood, Coster-Waldau was making “close to $300,000 an episode” in the fifth season, but that number jumped up to “upward of $500,000 per episode” by the time of the seventh season. However, in 2017, it was reported that Coster-Waldau’s salary had jumped up to £2 million per episode. That makes Coster-Waldau one of the highest-paid actors on television right now!
34. What Would You Do?
According to George RR Martin, he’s often approached by people who despise Jaime for pushing Bran Stark off of a tower, intending to kill him. Martin remarks that he never fails to explain that Jaime was acting to protect a secret which would result in him, his sister, and all three of their secret children being slaughtered if the wrong person found out. Martin revealed that many people who initially condemn Jaime were forced to admit to Martin that they might have done the same thing to protect their children.
33. The Mad Queen
While Cersei ended up destroying part of King’s Landing with wildfire in Season six of Game of Thrones, that hasn’t happened yet in the books. However, she did use wildfire in another way. After Tywin Lannister’s murder at the hands of Tyrion, Cersei had the Tower of the Hand destroyed. This action causes a permanent rift in Jaime and Cersei’s relationship, as Jaime sees Cersei’s face while watching the wildfire consume the tower and is reminded of the Mad King.
32. Failed Betrothals
Some people will remember that Prince Rhaegar married Elia Martell, the doomed sister of Oberyn Martell who ends up being gruesomely killed by Tywin Lannister’s bannerman, Ser Gregor Clegane. Ironically, Elia and her brother Oberyn had actually been in talks to marry Cersei and Jaime, respectively. However, Tywin refused to accept that deal, as he was planning to engage Cersei to Rhaegar (which didn’t work out either, it turns out).
31. Missing Sword
As rich as the Lannisters are, and as much as they value their weapons and armor, you might wonder why Jaime and the rest of House Lannister don’t have their own Valyrian steel sword (at least, before they steal the Starks’ sword and melt it down into two new ones). Well, it turns out that the Lannisters did have a sword made of Valyrian steel called Brightroar, but it was lost when an ancient Lannister king sailed to the ruins of Valyria to find more treasures. Many generations later, Jaime’s uncle, Gerion, also sailed east to find that sword, but he disappeared as well.
30. Track Record
In the first season, King Robert Baratheon holds a tournament to celebrate his friend Ned Stark becoming Hand of the King. While Game of Thrones couldn’t show everything that happened in the tourney, non-book readers might not know that Jaime participated in it. He defeats minor characters like Andar Royce and Bryce Caron, and also defeats Ser Barristan Selmy (though given the age difference, it doesn’t seem like a great victory). Ultimately, Jaime loses to Sandor “The Hound” Clegane.
29. Starting Young
When Jaime was fifteen, he was squiring for one of his father’s bannermen, Lord Crakehall, when he joined an expedition to stop the Kingswood Brotherhood, notorious outlaws back in the day. It was there that Jaime saved Lord Crakehall’s life from one of the outlaws, and even tried to fight the Smiling Knight before Ser Arthur Dayne stepped in and killed the foe. To reward Jaime, Ser Arthur knighted him after the battle was over.
28. Award Season
Along with the rest of the main cast, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has been nominated for six Ensemble Awards for a Dramatic Series with the Screen Actors Guild. Sadly, they have never won any of those Ensemble awards, nor has Coster-Waldau ever won an award for playing Jaime Lannister (though he has been nominated several times at various awards and festivals).
27. Awkward Hookup
After King Robert and Cersei didn’t have a very happy wedding night, Cersei cheered up by having sex with Jaime the morning after. We’re hoping that Robert wasn’t still asleep in the room when that happened…
26. The Adventures of Ed and Jaime
While the sixth season of Game of Thrones witnessed Jaime using Catelyn’s brother, Edmure, to end the siege of Riverrun under threat of killing everyone who resists, including Edmure’s infant child. However, this isn’t the first time that Edmure was Jaime’s hostage. In the first book (and first season), Jaime besieges Riverrun after defeating Edmure in a battle outside of the castle. Edmure is taken hostage and is only freed when Robb Stark captures Jaime and wipes out his army.
25. Blame the Showrunners
One storyline of the fifth season which garnered mixed responses was the thread where Jaime and Bronn sneak their way into Dorne to rescue Princess Myrcella, Jaime’s secret daughter with Cersei. For those who hated that plotline but don’t know the books, you’ll be pleased to know that Jaime never made such a journey in print, only on screen.
24. Do You Like Me? Yes or No?
In the TV series, there is a scene in the first season where Ser Barristan Selmy, the legendary knight and old hero of the Kingsguard, shares a complimentary exchange with Ser Jaime Lannister. As nice as that moment is, however, the book version of Ser Barristan has no such liking to Jaime. As Tyrion reflects “Selmy had never approved of Jaime’s presence in his precious Kingsguard. Before the rebellion, the old knight thought him too young and untried; afterward, he had been known to say that the Kingslayer should exchange that white cloak for a black one .”
23. I Will Survive!
Jaime is one of only fourteen Game of Thrones characters who have been part of all eight seasons of the show. As to how many of those fourteen will make it to the very end of the show remains to be seen when the eighth season finally premieres.
22. The Kingslayer was Almost the Kingmaker?
In the third season of Game of Thrones, Jaime bitterly admits the true story of how he murdered King Aerys Targaryen despite being his sworn bodyguard. One detail which didn’t make it onto the show, however, is the fact that Jaime had a chance to decide who would be the new king. At the time that Jaime killed King Aerys, Tywin and his soldiers were attacking King’s Landing. Two of the lords sworn to Tywin burst into the throne room, saw what Jaime did, and basically asked him what to do now. Jaime considered naming Rhaegar’s brother or his son as the new king, but he feared that they would also have the Targaryen madness in them so he chose to let everyone else figure it out.
21. Lick Away
Jaime, as played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, was one of ten different Game of Thrones characters whose likenesses were used on postage stamps in the UK. Among the others included Jaime’s brother (Tyrion), sister (Cersei), in-law (Olenna Tyrell), and father (Tywin).
20. Lend a Hand
In the third season, Jaime and Brienne of Tarth are captured by Roose Bolton’s lieutenant, a man named named Locke, who ends up cutting off Jaime’s right hand out of spite. As shocking and brilliant as that scene is, and as closely as it does follow the events of the book, Locke himself was an invention of the show. In the books, Jaime and Brienne are captured by a vicious group of mercenaries called the Brave Companions, and the he guy who cuts off Jaime’s hand is a Dothraki warrior named Zollo.
19. Dodged a Bullet There!
In case you’ve forgotten, Lysa Tully was Catelyn Tully’s younger sister. She ended up marrying Jon Arryn and became the crazy Lady of the Vale, still breastfeeding her child when he was at least six years too old for that practice. However, what you might not know is that when she was a girl, there was a plan to get Lysa and Jaime betrothed!
18. Family Connections
Reportedly, Jaime visited Lysa and Catelyn Tully’s home, Riverrun, to get to know Lysa better. However, he ultimately wasn’t interested in her (because she wasn’t Cersei) while he went all fanboy over her famous uncle, Brynden “Blackfish” Tully.
17. Oh, Good Times…
In 285 or 286 AC (After the Conquest), Jaime accompanied King Robert and Queen Cersei as one of their bodyguards to the Island of Estermont, the home of Robert’s mother’s family. While there, Jaime discovered that Robert was sleeping with one of his cousins. He and Cersei spent that same night together, which both like to think is when Joffrey was conceived.
16. We Almost Cast This Guy
Interestingly, one of the actors who auditioned for the role of Jaime Lannister was Jamie Bamber. Not only would that have worked name-wise, but it would also have pleased all those people who may have wanted a Game of Thrones/Battlestar Galactica crossover.
15. Mismatched Ages
According to the books, Jaime and Cersei Lannister are supposed to be seven years older than their little brother, Tyrion. However, Peter Dinklage (who plays Tyrion on the show) is actually a year older than Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and four years older than Lena Headey.
14. A New Sparring Partner
In the books, Jaime learns to fight with his left hand while training with Ser Ilyn Payne, the Lannister guardsman who had his tongue taken out years before by the Mad King. Jaime does so because Payne would be unable to tell anyone about Jaime’s lack of swordsmanship, nor could he write about it as he is also illiterate. However, the actor who plays Payne on the show, Wilko Johnson, retired from the series after the second season due to a cancer diagnosis. Payne’s role in the story was then filled by Bronn, Tyrion’s sellsword ally. We can only assume that Bronn is far more trustworthy in the show than he is in the books!
13. Warden for a Day
While Jaime can’t hold land or carry on the family name due to his Kingsguard status, it didn’t stop King Robert Baratheon from naming Jaime Warden of the East after Jon Arryn died. This caused a rift between King Robert and the Vale, since the Warden of the East is traditionally the Lord of the Vale. Tywin Lannister eventually restores the wardenship to Jon Arryn’s sickly young son to avoid the Vale joining the Starks in the war against the Crown.
12. Having Second Thoughts
As a bodyguard for the Mad King, Jaime witnessed many of his worst actions firsthand, including the ghastly murders of Ned Stark’s father and brother. In the books, Jaime reflects that he had to leave the room, having a crisis over what to do. The head of the Kingsguard at the time, Gerold Hightower, confronted Jaime and reminded him that his sworn oaths meant that he must protect the king, not judge him.
11. This is Getting Messed Up
There’s another incident where Jaime saw the hypocrisy between the shining knightly ideal and the Kingsguard’s oath of complete obedience. During Robert’s Rebellion, Jaime had to guard the Mad King’s bedroom while the King was sexually abusing his wife, the Queen Rhaella Targaryen. Feeling a desire to do something (like any decent person would), Jaime commented to his fellow bodyguard that they’re supposed to protect the Queen from harm. The other guy said it’s true that they were sworn to do that, “but not from him.”
10. As Long as Jaime Doesn’t Break the Fourth Wall
According to George RR Martin, he meant to use the character of Jaime Lannister to explore the idea of how far one can go before becoming irredeemable. In an interview, Martin compared Jaime to filmmaker Woody Allen as someone who has attracted equal amounts of harsh criticism for his personal life and praise for his film career. To be honest, the comparison doesn’t seem quite so farfetched as we thought it did when we started writing this article!
9. I Ain’t No Mama’s Boy!
Game of Thrones spends a decent amount of time on Cersei hating on Tyrion for “killing” their mother while she was birthing him. However, there’s a strong case to be made that Cersei and Jaime would quickly grow to hate their mother if she had stayed alive. In the books, it’s recorded that their mother, Joanna Lannister, found out about her twins experimenting sexually when they were small children. She had their beds separated to opposite sides of the castle and warned them to never do that again or she’d tell their father (though that begs the question as to why she didn’t tell him the first time). Certainly their mother wasn’t going to overlook three illegitimate children!
8. Cersei Strikes Again!
The story always went that King Aerys Targaryen nominated Jaime to the Kingsguard to snub Tywin Lannister, since Jaime joining the Kingsguard meant that he couldn’t marry, assume a lordship, or carry on the family name. However, the real reason is that Cersei arranged it! She persuaded Jaime to take the white cloak so that they would be able to stay together in King’s Landing, since their father was serving on the king’s Small Council. It also meant that Jaime wouldn’t need to get married, so he could stay faithful to Cersei. The 15-year-old Jaime agreed to the plan, Cersei gave the Mad King this idea to nominate Jaime, and it all backfired when Tywin resigned his post in disgust, taking Cersei back to Casterly Rock while Jaime was now in King’s Landing for life! Oops!
7. A Change Nobody Asked For
In the fourth season of the TV series, there is a scene where Jaime and Cersei are standing vigil over the body of their son, Joffrey. After a bitter exchange, Jaime has an emotional outburst and the two of them engage in sexual activity which was seen by the audience as a clear act of Jaime forcing himself on Cersei while she protests. This scene has been one of the most controversial in the show’s history, since Jaime was supposedly in the middle of a redemption arc, only to force himself sexually upon Cersei. While the showrunners of Game of Thrones have never offered commentary on the scene, author George RR Martin has defended it, insisting that the scene was always meant to be disturbing (many fans, however, have been quick to point out that while the scene was consensual in the book, it very clearly isn’t in the show).
6. Dubious Content
For their parts, the actors who play Jaime and Cersei have categorically denied that they filmed a non-consensual sex scene, or that they were directed to film something like that. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has put the blame on poor editing to make the sex scene appear non-consensual. All the same, it’s rather ominous when that scene’s episode remains to be the only one of the fourth season to not have a commentary track as part of the DVD release.
5. Omitted Prophecy
In the TV series, there is a flashback given where a young Cersei is given a damning prophecy where she will become queen until someone younger and more beautiful will take away all she values, while she will outlive her children. What the TV show left out, however, was that Maggy the Frog (just roll with it) also predicted that when Cersei has lost everything, “the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.” “Valonqar” means “little brother,” which presumably means that Cersei will be killed by her little brother. While she is convinced that this means Tyrion, fans of the series have never failed to point out that Jaime is also Cersei’s younger brother (even if it was by a few seconds). To be honest, it’s impossible to decide whether it would be more fitting if Tyrion or Jaime is the one to kill Cersei!
In season seven, there was a moment when Cersei and Jaime were standing on a huge map of Westeros painted onto the floor. Hardcore Game of Thrones fans noted that at one point, Cersei was standing on the geographical region of Westeros known as the Neck (the swamps which separate the North from the rest of the continent), while Jaime is standing just aside from an area in the Vale known as the Fingers. This has led to a theory that Jaime will be the one to kill Cersei by strangling her (Jaime’s fingers around Cersei’s neck). This would, incidentally, be completely in keeping with the prophecy made about Cersei’s death.
3. The Story of Tysha…
Jaime has always been one of the only people who treats his brother Tyrion with any kind of respect. However, in the books, Jaime plays a really awkward role in the story of Tyrion and Tysha, his first wife. In the books and show, Tyrion explains that he fell for a common girl and marries her, only for his father to make Jaime admit that Tysha was actually a prostitute whom he had bribed to give Tyrion a good time. Tywin cements the lesson by having Tyrion watch the guards of Casterly Rock making service of Tysha (and in the books, Tyrion is made to use her after all the guards are done, because Tywin Lannister is a monster).
2. … is Even Worse Than You Thought!
One thing that the show changed from the books is the ultimate punchline of the Tysha story. In the books, when Jaime frees Tyrion from jail on the night before his execution, he doesn’t just do it because he loves his brother; he also does it out of guilt because of his horrific role in the Tysha incident. Tysha, Jaime admits, wasn’t a prostitute at all; she genuinely fell for Tyrion, and Tywin had forced Jaime to lie to Tyrion, doing huge psychological damage for years. Tyrion is so infuriated that he punches Jaime in the face, lies that he really did murder Joffrey, correctly tells Jaime that Cersei’s been cheating on him, and swears a bloody revenge on his entire family before Jaime and Tyrion part ways. Imagine if the show had included THAT scene.
1. Wow, That’s Sinister!
While Jaime Lannister has done some very ethically questionable things throughout the books and the TV show, it’s worth pointing out that George RR Martin’s original ideas for Jaime were incredibly dark! In the author’s original three-page synopsis for the books, Jaime was supposed to succeed his secret son, Joffrey Baratheon, as King of Westeros. He manages this by killing everyone before him in the line of succession and blaming those murders on his brother, Tyrion! As wildly contrary to the actual story as that it is, it also means that by that logic, Jaime would have to kill Myrcella and Tommen (ie his secret children with Cersei). Safe to say that there would be no redeeming Jaime in this version of the story!
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