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I haven't read the books, although I am vaguely familiar with the main story lines and the characters.

In the TV show, Mace Tyrell is portrayed like a buffoon, an oaf. Olenna Tyrell calls him that on several occasions, for example:

The Lord Oaf of Highgarden

Game of Thrones, Season 3 Episode 2, "Dark Wings, Dark Words"

In the fourth and fifth seasons he seems to be a spineless idiot that is trying to please the Lannisters royalty, complete with idiotic jokes.

Is Mace Tyrell portrayed as equally silly and spineless oaf in the books?

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    Yes, definitely - at least in the way Olenna Tyrell regards him (which is the only example you quote from the TV show either). I'll be back with canon quotes later, but probably someone else will have answered by then. – Rand al'Thor May 31 '15 at 13:58
  • @randal'thor: Well, I can add more "first-hand" descriptions of him as given by the show. – user46271 May 31 '15 at 15:42
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    There's some fan speculation about how the Tyrells have a much deeper end-game, which partly involves Mace not actually being a dumb-oaf, but rather pretending to be! – Möoz Jun 16 '15 at 5:13
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    @Mooz: That might be true, considering the fact that in this show nothing is what it seems, not even when it is what it seems. With the slight exception of those things which are what they seem to be, and they seem that way, but as this is an exception this is not what it seems to be in general. – user46271 Jun 16 '15 at 17:23
  • @TheHonorableNedStark That was the most on-point comment I've read on a while! – Möoz Jun 16 '15 at 21:46
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+100

Yes, it's in the books. Olenna did call Mace Tyrell "Lord oaf" and much more.

A Storm of Swords, chapter 6, Sansa I.

“Renly was brave and gentle, Grandmother,” said Margaery. “Father liked him as well, and so did Loras.”

“Loras is young,” Lady Olenna said crisply, “and very good at knocking men off horses with a stick. That does not make him wise. As to your father, would that I’d been born a peasant woman with a big wooden spoon, I might have been able to beat some sense into his fat head.”

“Mother,” Lady Alerie scolded.

“Hush, Alerie, don’t take that tone with me. And don’t call me Mother. If I’d given birth to you, I’m sure I’d remember. I’m only to blame for your husband, the lord oaf of Highgarden.

“Grandmother,” Margaery said, “mind your words, or what will Sansa think of us?”

“She might think we have some wits about us. One of us, at any rate.” The old woman turned back to Sansa. “It’s treason, I warned them, Robert has two sons, and Renly has an older brother, how can he possibly have any claim to that ugly iron chair? Tut-tut, says my son, don’t you want your sweetling to be queen? You Starks were kings once, the Arryns and the Lannisters as well, and even the Baratheons through the female line, but the Tyrells were no more than stewards until Aegon the Dragon came along and cooked the rightful King of the Reach on the Field of Fire. If truth be told, even our claim to Highgarden is a bit dodgy, just as those dreadful Florents are always whining. ‘What does it matter?’ you ask, and of course it doesn’t, except to oafs like my son. The thought that one day he may see his grandson with his arse on the Iron Throne makes Mace puff up like . . . now, what do you call it? Margaery, you’re clever, be a dear and tell your poor old half-daft grandmother the name of that queer fish from the Summer Isles that puffs up to ten times its own size when you poke it.”

“They call them puff fish, Grandmother.”

“Of course they do. Summer Islanders have no imagination. My son ought to take the puff fish for his sigil, if truth be told. He could put a crown on it, the way the Baratheons do their stag, mayhap that would make him happy. We should have stayed well out of all this bloody foolishness if you ask me, but once the cow’s been milked there’s no squirting the cream back up her udder. After Lord Puff Fish put that crown on Renly’s head, we were into the pudding up to our knees, so here we are to see things through. And what do you say to that, Sansa?”

And again in the same chapter.

As the servants brought out a broth of leeks and mushrooms, Butterbumps began to juggle and Lady Olenna pushed herself forward to rest her elbows on the table. “Do you know my son, Sansa? Lord Puff Fish of Highgarden?”

“A great lord,” Sansa answered politely.

A great oaf,” said the Queen of Thorns. “His father was an oaf as well. My husband, the late Lord Luthor. Oh, I loved him well enough, don’t mistake me. A kind man, and not unskilled in the bedchamber, but an appalling oaf all the same. He managed to ride off a cliff whilst hawking. They say he was looking up at the sky and paying no mind to where his horse was taking him.

And now my oaf son is doing the same, only he’s riding a lion instead of a palfrey. It is easy to mount a lion and not so easy to get off, I warned him, but he only chuckles. Should you ever have a son, Sansa, beat him frequently so he learns to mind you. I only had the one boy and I hardly beat him at all, so now he pays more heed to Butterbumps than he does to me. A lion is not a lap cat, I told him, and he gives me a ‘tut-tut-Mother.’ There is entirely too much tut-tutting in this realm, if you ask me. All these kings would do a deal better if they would put down their swords and listen to their mothers.”

But no he's not that foolish. Mace knows that the Lannisters need him, and tries to use this for the benefit of his house and for personal benefit as well. Maybe he is too ambitious and sometimes this blinds him, like when he approached Cersei during the funeral of Lord Tywin (AFFC, chapter 7, Cersei) and hinted that he wants the Hand's position, and also reminded her that Tywin did promise the position of Master of Coins to his Uncle. This angers Cersei and in the end no Tyrells make it in Cersei's small council. So Mace serving under Cersei happens only in the TV show.

George RR Martin thinks Mace from the TV show is portrayed like an idiot. He states that the character in the show combines Mace with Harys Swyft, and actually seems more like the latter.

Of course, it could also be a subtle bit of characterization, as you suggest, intended to show that Mace is an idiot who does not know his Westerosi history. (Not a mistake that Book Mace would make, but the character in the show combines Mace with Harys Swyft, and actually seems more like the latter).

Spoilers, short summary of future events:

After Cersei gets imprisoned by the Faith, she confesses her guilt and is forced to step down as Queen Regent. Tywin's brother Kevan starts to act as new Regent and Mace Tyrell gets his desired position, and becomes the new Hand of the King. How good a Hand he will make will be revealed after The Winds of Winter (the next and much awaited book from ASOIAF series) gets released.

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    I mean, how can you not love Olenna? – user46271 May 31 '15 at 15:41
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    He also has too high an opinion of himself as a military commander. – System Down May 31 '15 at 22:30
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    Thanks, you've been helpful. Since I'm going to delete my account soon, I'll bequeath upon you some of the reputation it has gained. See you in the next incarnation! – user46271 Jul 7 '15 at 9:01
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    @TheHonorableNedStark: well, I guess the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. Although you could also just take the black, you know. – PrisonMonkeys Jul 7 '15 at 14:12
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    @PrisonMonkeys Oh yeah, cos that offer worked out so well for him last time... – Dr R Dizzle Jul 7 '15 at 14:24
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The actual quote from GRRM on this, from Nika's link, is:

Q: Side question we've having trouble with on the wiki: in episode 9, Mace Tyrell refers to "Maegor the Third", and clearly describes him as a king of the Seven Kingdoms. There are three possibilities: 1 - the actor flubbed the line and meant "Maegor the Cruel", 2 - the script intentionally wrote Mace making a mistake, trying to depict him as a bumbling fool getting his facts wrong, or 3 - the writers intentionally wanted to introduce TWO separate kings onto the Iron Throne. Given that we have a full listing of kings that is difficult.

GRRM:I suspect that "Maegor III" was a mistake, though I cannot say for certain ... Of course, it could also be a subtle bit of characterization, as you suggest, intended to show that Mace is an idiot who does not know his Westerosi history. (Not a mistake that Book Mace would make, but the character in the show combines Mace with Harys Swyft, and actually seems more like the latter).

This discussion has a nice summary of Harys Swyft's more dubious accomplishments:

  • AGOT: Harys criticizes Jaime, pissing off all of the Lannisters.
  • ACOK: He goes to Harrenhal with Tywin. He somehow pisses off all of the cooks and they spit in his food.
  • Harys' squire taunts the bloody mummers and gets killed. Harys is forced to hug and kiss Vargo Hoat to make up for the argument.
  • During the Battle of the Blackwater, Ser Harys spends most of the battle under his horse. He is eventually rescued by a man named Willit.
  • AFFC: Harys is briefly made the hand of the king, his only qualifying feature being his stupidity. He is soon demoted to Master of Coin before doing anything of any importance.
  • ADWD: As Master of Coin, Ser Harys is sent all the way to Braavos to sort out King's Landing's financial mess.

To bring this discussion back to Mace, he is not nearly the silly and spineless oaf in the books as he is portrayed on the show.

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    Thanks a lot! But does Book-Mace sing as well as TV-Mace? :-) – user46271 Jul 7 '15 at 14:28
  • @TheHonorableNedStark - LOL unfortunately there are no references to Mace's singing in the books :D – System Down Jul 7 '15 at 19:55

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