This text is an exclusive sneak preview to an upcoming essay of mine for the series on the "Tower of the Hand" for characters that are dead in the show but still alive in the books. Read it here before it goes live on the Tower of the Hand!
Prophecies do not lie. Humans may misunderstand them, but some of them are much clearer than others, and all of them come true, at least in a fashion. If a prophecy tells you that your children will die in infancy, with golden shrouds, as a consequence of the “younger, more beautiful queen” taking your place, there really isn’t that much wiggling room. Cersei is justified in being paranoid about the impending doom of her children, and in books and series alike, she’s responsible with her actions for what’s happening, bringing about the prophecy she works so hard to unravel.
In the show, allowing Jaime to go on a covert mission to retrieve Myrcella gives Ellaria Sand the ideal combination of motive and opportunity to poison Myrcella, so that the girl dies in her father’s arms. Had this ill-begotten mission not taken place, it’s likely that Doran’s and Areo Hotah’s protection and the very presence of Myrcella as Trystane’s bride and hostage would have prevented an attack by Ellaria, who only acted once Myrcella was safe out of Doran’s custody.
Tommen, on the other hand, chooses to kill himself after he sees what his mother became in her neverending quest for power and thwarting the “younger, more beautiful queen”. Cersei succeeds, yes, but the price she paid served not only to estrange Jaime, even if they enjoy a brief rebound to a relationship together, but also and in a much more drastic matter Tommen. Other than in the books, the boy is a teenager and not cowed by a threat of a good spanking to his whipping boy. Perfectly understanding what his mother did to Margaery as well as the constraints he himself faces, he chooses to end the misery in the only real act of agency he ever displayed. It’s what drives Cersei fully into villain mode. There’s nothing left now. The prophecy is thwarted, yes, but the cost has proven incredibly high. Now the Iron Throne needs to make up for it, and Jaime, and the new child she’s bearing. It all seems like another chance. But prophecy will strike again for sure.
In the books, on the other hand, both Myrcella and Tommen are still alive. However, the prophecy is way too specific to be misunderstood here, too. What is much more complicated is the nature of the “younger, more beautiful queen”. While the show gives us Margaery and then sweeps in Dany, the books offer a third, even more plausible option: Arianne Martell, marrying Aegon VI and enjoy a brief reign in King’s Landing. The Dornish are uniquely placed in this to essentially finish off the whole Lannister saga in eastern Westeros. There is Tyene, travelling to King’s Landing in her septa’s disguise and a host of deadly poisons at her disposal. There is Arianne herself, easily pushed into aggressive measures, prepared to ally with Jon Connington, who prominently (in terms of page space) announced that next time around, he will (metaphorically) burn women, children and elderly if it means securing his king.
An attack on Myrcella on her long and perilous journey to King’s Landing is anything but unlikely, and there is no way that Tommen survives the upset in King’s Landing. If Aegon becomes king – and I’m absolutely positive he will – Tommen needs to die. This logic has been hammered into us for five books straight. Who will deliver the final stroke remains to be seen; but since Cersei needs to witness it and still have the opportunity to leave (so the volonqar can kill her), I’d put my money on Tyene.
And in the books as well as in the show, it’s Cersei herself bringing down all this on her head. It’s her blind hatred for Margaery that blinds her to the double danger of Arianne and Daenerys, both of which will deliver a double-blow to King’s Landing as a whole (Arianne to the ruling caste, and Dany to the city and the Iron Throne and the concept of continent-wide monarchy with it). Without the Tyrell alliance, Cersei cannot withstand the Dornish-Friends-in-the-Reach-Essosi alliance intent on sitting Aegon on the throne. With the imbeciles she put in charge, there’s no way of discovering a plot by a deadly viper and an assassination against the life of Tommen or Myrcella. Both of them will die in the books, I’m certain. It will not be like in the show. But their death has been foretold. Gold will be their shrouds.