The question arose in my mind after watching season 4 episode 7. In it

Prince Oberyn tells Tyrion about his visit a long time ago, and how cruel Cersei was to the little baby Tyrion.

It seems like Cersei has the same tendency for cruelty as Joffrey himself. Is it true? What do the books specifically say about Cersei's psychology and behaviour, for example, in childhood, besides the story told by Oberyn?

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    I would say yes, because the mother is really evil. And Joffrey must have seen her evilness since he lived with her. But unless in the novel it says directly that he inherited the evilness from her. Then I would say the question was not answerable objectively. But I totally agree with you though, as he had to of seen the way she treated other people including Robert Barantheon. I would call it nurture instead of nature.
    – Pobrecita
    Jul 9, 2014 at 8:15
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    @iliveunderawesomerock: maybe. In the TV show, Joffrey seemed to really enjoy intense cruelty for its own sake, and see other people as mere toys for his amusement (oh Ros, I miss you). Whereas Cersei seems to be malevolent for vengeance or personal gain, or — in the case of Tyrion — both (gain because she wants most influence in affairs of state, vengeance because she blames him for the death of her mother). With Robert, she resented his infidelity, and his love for the dead Lyanna Stark. Jul 9, 2014 at 9:35
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    In the tv series,while Tommen gets crowned,she says to Margaery Tyrell that Joffrey was a monster...
    – teair
    Jul 9, 2014 at 9:44
  • Related: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/55519/…
    – Möoz
    Jul 9, 2014 at 10:47

1 Answer 1


Cersei is not the primary source of Joffrey's cruelty.

The clearest evidence is that, in both books and TV series, her other children Tommen and Myrcella are portrayed as pleasant, intelligent and well-balanced individuals. Both are as "normal" as can be expected given their royal upbringing.

Also, Cersei's "cruelty" is not on the same level as Joffrey's. This becomes particularly clear in the book A Feast For Crows, in which

there are many chapters from Cersei's point of view, as she rules the seven Kingdoms as regent on behalf of Tommen.

Cersei is mean, petty, vindictive, insecure, and paranoid, but she is still mostly a sane and rational human being. Her cruelty is shown to originate from her fear and insecurity. As the audience, we may consider her behaviour evil but we can still understand it.

By contrast, Joffrey is a pure psychopath who inflicts pain simply because he enjoys it. There is no rational explanation for most of what he does.

A good illustration of the difference between Joffrey and Tommen is their attitude towards animals:

In the book A Game of Thrones, we hear the story of how as a child, Joffrey killed a pregnant cat by cutting open her belly. Nobody encouraged him to do this, it was an early indication of Joffrey's own extreme sadism. On the other hand, in A Storm of Swords and later books, Tommen is shown as being particularly fond of cats and he would never harm one as Joffrey did.

The consequences of Joffrey's action are interesting. King Robert hit him so hard that one of his baby teeth was knocked out, but didn't follow up on the matter. Cersei was horrified by the injury to Joffrey and didn't take any interest in the reason why Robert had hit him. Joffrey seems to have learned he could get away with anything he wanted, as long as Robert didn't find out.

  • There are some strong hints that Joffrey suffered physical abuse from Robert, which may have caused or exacerbated his abnormal behaviour. Jul 9, 2014 at 9:54
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    @MichaelBorgwardt: There is at least one specific example, I've edited to include it. But this can't be the main cause either. Many children are struck by their parents without turning out like Joffrey (and presumably, Robert would also have been willing to hit Tommen). There is no suggestion that Robert subjected Joffrey to the kind of systematic abuse which might fully explain his insanity. Jul 9, 2014 at 10:03
  • There are many real world studies that clearly show that perpetrators of domestic, animal and child abuse (sexual and otherwise) were disproportionally often themselves the victims of abuse. And Joffrey's reaction after he's attacked by Nymeria looks a lot like someone traumatized by recurring beatings. Jul 9, 2014 at 10:28
  • That fact I didn't know, about child abuse. It never got into TV show, AFAIK. Perhaps the creators didn't want Joffrey character get any simpathy at all. Jul 9, 2014 at 10:58
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    There's also the incest angle. It's implied that the Lannisters (and the Targaryens) have practiced incest fairly regularly, like the ancient Egyptian dynasties. Physical deformities like Tyrion's dwarfism and Joffry's insanity are common in incestuous family lines.
    – Joe L.
    Jul 9, 2014 at 12:56

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