Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Catelyn IV

“Varys giggled like a little girl…”I wonder if we might trouble you to show us the dagger?”

Catelyn Stark stared at the eunuch in stunned disbelief…

Littlefinger was lost. “I feel rather like the knight who arrives at the battle without his lance. What dagger are we talking about?”

Synopsis: Catelyn arrives at King’s Landing. While Ser Rodrick goes to talk daggers with Aron Santagar, Catelyn is summoned to the Red Keep to meet with her old “friend” Petyr Baelish and Varys “the Spider,” and is told that the dagger used in the assassination attempt against her son belongs to Tyrion Lannister.

SPOILER WARNING: This chapter analysis, and all following, will contain spoilers for all Song of Ice and Fire novels and Game of Thrones episodes. Caveat lector.

Political Analysis:

I have been looking forward to this chapter for a long time, because it’s so damn rich in political intrigue  and different conspiracies coming together. It’s also the moment at which a lot of the key political players that we hitherto have only have been mentioned in the third person show up in the flesh, so that the reader can begin to make their own assessments independent of the point-of-view narrator.

There’s a lot to talk about, but I’m going to concentrate on Peytr Baelish and the Littlefinger Conspiracy, and  Varys and the Varys/Illyrio Conspiracy, because I really see the two of them as contrapuntal figures, who would be far less interesting or meaningful without someone to compare themselves to, compete against, and manipulate.

The Baelish Conspiracy:

I’ve written a bit earlier about what Littlefinger is up to, but it’s a good idea to go over the basics: Littlefinger, using his control over Lysa Tully’s emotions and Arryn’s reliance on his evident gift for finances (more on this later) has worked his way up from a hedge lord to customs collector at Gulltown to the Master of Coin, through which office he has created a vast network of influence. Recently, he convinced Lysa Tully to murder her husband and send her sister a letter placing the blame on Cersei Lannister once it became clear that Eddard Stark would be the next Hand of the King, with the intent to set House Stark and House Lannister against each other.

And now Catelyn Stark arrives in King’s Landing. Baelish is informed of this by Varys, and understanding as a good covert operative must the importance of information, tries to pump Catelyn Tully for information by playing on their shared history and his understanding of the Tully mindset  (this understanding and calculated use of personal relationships and pasts is a signature of the Baelish conspiracy). When Varys arrives, Baelish is informed of the attack on Bran’s life (probably for the first time) and sees the knife in question. It is at this moment that Baelish makes a critical decision: knowing the dagger for his own, he concocts the story of losing it to Tyrion Lannister at Joffrey’s nameday tourney.

It is hard to state how much of a gamble this decision was. Baelish, improvising in reaction to a potentially transformative unforeseen event, departs from his previous narrative – that Cersei Lannister is the threat to the realm – in a flagrant and easily disprovable lie. Had Catelyn or Eddard or any of their staff asked any of the hundreds of people who were nearby during the joust, he would have been instantly exposed. It has been argued that Baelish somehow could judge Catelyn’s and Eddard’s (who he had never met) temperaments to such an extent that he knew they would trust his word rather than verify. However, we have to consider that Littlefinger couldn’t have known whether they might have simply picked up the fact due to an unknowing exchange (Ser Rodrick Cassel was talking about the dagger with the master-of-arms of the Red Keep at the time!), and that he was saying this in front of Varys. 

While Littlefinger claims to Catelyn that he holds Varys’ “balls in the palm of my hand…if he were a man, or had any balls,” it’s not clear whether he believes this when he says it. If he doesn’t, then Littlefinger at the moment he spoke Tyrion’s name knowingly handed Varys a knife to put into his back if the spymaster wanted to shiv him. If he believes or believed it, that’s an astonishing failure of judgement in a man who clearly prides himself in his ability to understand and manipulate others.

Given that he could have just as easily said, “I lost it to King Robert; the Queen must have stolen/borrowed it from her husband to sow distrust between your husband and the King,” I think this choice shows a lot about Littlefinger as the mastermind of the Baelish conspiracy: he’s clearly talented at manipulating people whose character he’s familiar with, he is very decisive in seizing his chances, but he’s also reckless and impulsive. His spiriting away of Catelyn, the dramatic way he revealed his ownership of the dagger, and the way he will later needle Eddard all speak to a deep-seated need to prove his superior intelligence to those around him and insert himself into the foreground.

Like a classic pulp villain, he can’t stop himself from monologuing (even when bragging about the maidenheads of other men’s wives). And the targets of his monologues are universally either Starks or Tullys, because I think another part of the signature of the Baelish Conspiracy is his emotional obsession with his own past: he fell in love with Catelyn Tully, was seduced by Lysa Tully, was nearly killed by Brandon Stark when he tried to win the Tully he wanted, had his child aborted at Hoster Tully’s command, and is exiled back to his despised birthplace. In his conspiracy, he murders the liege lord who raised him up from obscurity (an ultimate victory of the underdog) by seducing the Tully who loves him, then turns Lysa against Catelyn in order to betray the man she married instead of him, then seeks the position of Lord Paramount of the Riverlands that had belonged to Hoster Tully, then kidnaps the daughter who most resembles Catelyn, then murders Lysa and slowly poisons the last Arryn in order to seize the Regency of the Vale. My suspicion is that this idée fixe will be the cause of his downfall.

At the same time, there are a number of questions that are up in the air:

  1. Why did Littlefinger murder Jon Arryn when he did, and did he do it only on his own behest? The murder of Jon Arryn follows Littlefinger’s overall strategy of turning Stark against Lannister, but the precise timing interests me – Littlefinger clearly knew that Queen Cersei had cuckolded King Robert, and that his own plans would require House Lannister to remain powerful enough to keep the war going (which they wouldn’t have had Cersei been exposed and the House politically isolated prior to Robert’s death). Given what we know about the fostering of Robert Arryn, it’s possible that Littlefinger saw that Arryn was getting ready to make his move, and then used the move to leverage Lysa to act as his poisoner. It’s also possible that Littlefinger accomplished this by spying on Jon Arryn through bribing Ser Hugh of the Vale (hence the sudden inheritance and his equally sudden death).  However, Cersei’s seeming passivity in the face of an existential threat from Jon Arryn makes me wonder whether  Cersei sought to use Littlefinger as her catspaw in turn (which might further explain how it is that Gregor Clegane came to end Ser Hugh’s life).
  2. What was Littlefinger up to as Master of Coin? I raise this mostly as a placeholder, to make sure that people are paying attention to this question, which I will address in detail in Eddard IV.
  3. What did Littlefinger think Varys was up to? While Littlefinger later displays a fairly good grasp of Cersei’s motivations and actions, we don’t get any sign that he had any grasp on Varys’ plans. Perhaps he thought Varys was simply a gun-for-hire with no motivation of his own, but it would be interesting to know what the hypothetical balls Littlefinger thought he had.

The Varys/Illyrio Conspiracy:

Comparing Varys to Baelish, we might as well be comparing a classical composer to a jazz soloist, or perhaps comparing the relative virtues of wisdom versus cunning. Recapping the Varys/Illyrio conspiracy is far more complicated: for all that Varys seems to be a Targaryen loyalist, his history of running cons with Illyrio where he steals objects for Illyrio to sell back to their original owner suggests a more complicated long con is in the works.

As spymaster for King Aerys II, Varys cemented his own power by encouraging the King’s paranoia, building an enormous network of spies, and mastering the system of tunnels under the Red Keep. While Varys argued against opening the gates to Tywin, which would suggest Targaryen loyalty, the fact that he deliberately encouraged a split between the reformist Rhaegar and his father (see Barristan III in Dance With Dragons) and switched the baby Aegon rather than hide or smuggle mother and children out of the capitol (which he demonstrably has the ability to do so) suggests that his long-term goal was to destabilize the monarchy, provoke a rebellion (while notably keeping his hands clean enough of the lawless executions and tortures to avoid execution by the new regime), and use the chaos to steal the rightful heir to the throne so that Varys could have him trained to his precise specification.

Figuring out Varys’ true loyalties is truly ambigious – on the one hand, Varys’ commitment to serving the realm is belied by his repeatedly successful efforts to destabilize the kingdom during the reign of King Aerys II and then again by executing the remaining competent members of King Tommen’s Small Council, and his placement to gain personally from installing his “mummer’s dragon” on the Iron Throne. On the other hand, one could argue that Varys’ ultimate objective of placing the perfect king in charge of Westeros suggests a genuine if extremely utilitarian approach to long-term reform, and Varys does at least try to mitigate the brutality he instigates  (as we see through his efforts to save the lives of Eddard Stark, Gendry Waters, Tyrion Lannister, et al.).

In this scene, the Spider executes a quietly understated piece of intrigue – through his massive network of spies, he knows about Catelyn’s trip to King’s Landing (by paying off either the captain or through an agent he undoubtedly has in White Harbor), and he knows about the attack on Bran (probably through a “little bird” overhearing Ser Rodrick at a tavern, although that requires some very quick footwork). He alerts Littlefinger with the irresistible bait of Catelyn’s presence, thus allowing him to observe his rival closey. When he’s handed the dagger, he undoubtedly recognizes the blade as Littlefinger’s, but says nothing about the blade’s owner even after Baelish lies about who ended up with the knife. This reticence and self-control is the signature of Varys’ conspiracy, as we will see later when he carefully conceals what he knows when he deals with Eddard Stark and Tyrion Lannister.

To me, it is this quality that puts Varys ahead of his rival – unlike Baelish, Varys knows to keep to his shadowy web, only ever revealing himself in a supposedly deserted storeroom with his co-conspirator or while explaining himself to a man who’s murdered. Varys at least, knows that dead men tell no tales.

Historical Analysis:

Sometimes it’s hard to find an exact historical parallel for a historical figure. There are dozens of palace eunuchs who wielded enormous power through their bureaucratic skills, court intrigue, and espionage who could serve as models for Varys: the Dar alSaada Ağası (Chief Eunuchs) of the Ottomon Emperors who operated eunuch spy rings in the imperial palaces, oversaw the education of princes, and ruled from the shadows behind the thrones for centuries; the palace eunuchs who served the Emperors of the China in much the same capacity, and so on. In Peter Baelish’s case, the historical parallel is blindingly obvious:

Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, began his life as the ruffian child of a Putney blacksmith. Running away from home in his teenage years, Cromwell served as a mercenary in Italy before entering business as a banker, merchant, and spy in Italy, France, and the Low Countries. Returning home a wealthy, cosmopolitan, and multilingual expert, Thomas became a London barrister and Member of Parliament before the age of 40. Entering into the service of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Cromwell orchestrated the dissolution of the monasteries, but managed to survive his master’s downfall and within a year was appointed by King Henry VIII to the Privy Council.

Within a year, Cromwell was the chief legal and parliamentary adviser to the King, and over the next few years successfully orchestrated King Henry’s divorce, his installation as spiritual head of the now independent Church of England, his marriage to Anne Boleyn, and the conviction and execution of his spiritual and political rival Sir Thomas More (Cromwell was a reformist Protestant, More a staunch Catholic). Handily dispatching his new rival Anne Boleyn, by 1536, Cromwell was Master of Jewels, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Principle Secretary and Chief Minister to the King, Vicar-General of the Church of England, Lord Privy Seal, and Baron Cromwell. His downfall – due to his selection of the over-hyped Anne of Cleves as Henry’s next bride – came in 1540, mere months after being appointed Lord Great Chancellor and Earl of Essex.

This combination of lowly birth, immense talents and ambition, and a precipitous rise to power in periods of social change and disorder makes him a perfect model for the undersized son of a lord of sheepshit and rocks. If the gods are just (and if GRRM has any gift for dramatic character arcs), his fall from grace will be as precipitous as his ascent.

What If?

This chapter contains yet another critical turning point moment revolving around Catelyn Stark, who seems to be Martin’s chief vehicle for advancing the plot in the most tragic fashion possible (incidentally, a thousand gold dragons to whoever writes an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire as a classic Greek tragedy). This meeting influences the rest of the plot enormously, as we’ll see:

  • What if Catelyn Hadn’t Been Intercepted? If Catelyn had come to King’s Landing under the radar, or had Varys decided to observe rather than pull in Littlefinger, a lot changes. To begin with, Eddard gets the news about the assassination attempt on his son without interference, which probably leads him to make independent inquiries about who the knife belongs to. While Eddard probably would never suspect Robert of such a thing, the dagger points to someone in the King’s immediate household, confirming Eddard’s suspicions about the Lannisters. It also probably keeps Littlefinger outside Eddard’s investigations, which would make it far more difficult for Littlefinger to manipulate him. Quite possibly, Eddard avoids the ambush outside the brothel, leaves the city with his family, and then declares for Stannis when the two of them meet at Dragonstone on Eddard’s way home.
  • What If Baelish Had Told the Truth/A Better Lie? Certainly, Littlefinger could have avoided potentially exposing himself to discovery had he just said the dagger was in Robert’s possession and therefore easily obtainable by Cersei or any Lannister agent in the King’s household. It keeps the Starks at odds with the Lannisters without confusing the plot, and accomplishes his interests. Unbeknownst to him, it also means that Catelyn Stark wouldn’t have arrested Tyrion Lannister, which in turn would mean no attack by Jaime on Eddard delaying his departure from King’s Landing, and no raiding of the Riverlands by Gregor Clegane. This means that when the War of the Five Kings breaks out, it does so with House Stark under Eddard’s command and with no children in harm’s way, and with House Tully aimed to mobilize its forces before it’s invaded. This greatly changes the strategic picture – Eddard Stark is at least the equal of his son when it comes to military tactics, would have been much better placed to make alliances (since he doesn’t have to worry about his own marital status but has five children to work with), and had a stronger reputation with the other lords of Weseros.
  • What if Varys had betrayed Baelish to Catelyn and/or Eddard? On one level, I can see why Varys would want to avoid the Starks taking out the Lannisters before the succession can be screwed up, bringing about the war he needs when he needs it (i.e, he needs multiple claimants to be at war, but no one having won before his Targaryen claimant can land with his army). Delaying Eddard’s realization of what’s going on therefore makes sense, especially since he hasn’t yet made a judgement about his character. On the other hand, Varys missed out on an opportunity to discredit his chief rival when it comes to intrigue, potentially turning Eddard against Littlefinger, and supplanting him as the puppet-master leading the Hand along.  If this is the case, Eddard could have avoided the ambush outside the brothel. Likewise, Varys might have led Stark to the truth via different means and via different timing, with huge implications about what happens when Eddard moves against Cersei.
  • What if Catelyn had landed on Dragonstone? In the chapter, Catelyn notes that the stormy seas almost required their ship to seek shelter on Dragonstone. This could have changed things enormously if she had come to Stannis with her suspicions (or less likely, if Stannis had learned of what happened to the Starks and reached out): by combining the separate sets of information being held by Eddard and Stannis, Catelyn could have allowed the Starks to make a giant leap forward in their investigations when it comes to Cersei’s adultery, Jon Arryn’s murder, and the attempt to legally kidnap his son. With Stannis’ help, Eddard might have become the Cicero of Westeros’ own Cataline Conspiracy.

What I think this all points to is that, however much the fans like to dislike Catelyn, it’s not really her fault. In order for the plot to work, George R.R Martin needs Catelyn to fail. I don’t think we should judge her too harshly, any more than we should blame Oedipus or Cassandra or Orestes for their plights. In the Song of Ice and Fire, the god GRRM uses Catelyn for his sport as flies to wanton boys and all that. 

TV vs. Show: 

Not a huge change here, with the most important change being the movement of Catelyn from the Red Keep to Littlefinger’s brothel, which I like because it underscores his messed-up relationship with Catelyn Stark and her conception of Littlefinger as an annoying, handsy, but nevertheless beloved little brother.

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71 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Catelyn IV

  1. scarlett45 says:

    I am glad you’re back and posting again. I always thought this chapter was a pivotal one.

    Typo- Cromwell fell in 1540 not 1640.

  2. axrendale says:

    Brilliant summary and analysis of the Varys/Littlefinger conspiracies. I’ve loved reading your essays here – keep up the good work!

    There is one point on which I’d take issue with you. You write under the ‘What If?’:

    “Eddard Stark is at least the equal of his son when it comes to military tactics”

    There is a persistent notion among a large section of the fandom that Ned Stark is one of the great military geniuses that we encounter in the series, something that as far as I am aware does not have much to support it in the text. The limited information that we have about Ned’s exploits during Robert’s Rebellion and the Greyjoy Rebellion certainly suggest that he was a highly competent and successful battle commander (with his greatest accomplishment being the victory of the Battle of the Bells), but there is nothing to suggest that he was on quite the same level as his son, who establishes himself as one of the two or three best generals who make an appearance in the series.

    • stevenattewell says:

      It’s hard to say. He’s certainly considered one of the best of his generation, and Robb certainly learned his tactics and strategy from his father. However, we don’t see a whole lot of Eddard in action militarily, and Robb does make some errors in command control and delegation that a more mature commander may have avoided.

      Let me rephrase: Eddard Stark is certainly in the same league as his son.

      • axrendale says:

        Fair points.

        More related to the material that is covered in this chapter, I wonder if Littlefinger’s (as you noted, rather risky) gamble in trying to pin the blame for the attempted assassination of Bran on Tyrion Lannister is taken in the expectation that he and Catelyn might cross paths as she heads north, and he returns south. On the face of it this seems unlikely if only because of the sheer odds involved (it really was a stroke of magnificently bad luck for all concerned that they both tried to stay the night in the same inn), but Varys seems to think otherwise in the chapter where Arya overhears him talking with Illyrio, in which he directly blames “Littlefinger’s meddling” for the rapidly deteriorating situation in Westeros (did he perhaps regret in hindsight being so reticent when Baelish told his lie about the dagger?). For Littlefinger, the possibility of baiting the Starks/Tullys into making an open move against the Lannisters (unintentionally kickstarting a war) by attempting to “bring justice” to Tywin’s youngest son may have been sufficiently tempting that he was willing to run the risk of arousing suspicions on the part of Ned and Catelyn.

        • stevenattewell says:

          Yeah, I don’t think Littlefinger expected Catelyn to meet and arrest Tyrion. He may have thought that Tyrion might be arrested at Winterfell, or by Eddard at King’s Landing, but I think in general he was just trying to line up as many possible casi belli as possible.

  3. Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

    I’m glad you’re focusing on the Baelish organization.

    I don’t think there is any chance of Varys or the Lannisters being believed over Petyr. Certainly not after Lysa’s letter. So its not much of a gamble.

    I’ve often contemplated Petyr’s objective. And come to the conclusion the main target of his wrath is House Tully, particularly Hoster and Edmure. …:

    All three of the sons of the fifth Aegon had wed for love, in defiance of their father’s wishes. And because that unlikely monarch had himself followed his heart when he chose his queen, he allowed his sons to have their way, making bitter enemies where he might have had fast friends. Treason and turmoil followed, as night follows day, ending at Summerhall in sorcery, fire, and grief.

    Marriage contracts are legitimate grounds for war in Westeros. Snubs, broken contracts or alliances. Marriage is part of the political structure of Westeros. And everyone is aware of this.

    Given that:

    1) Most of the death and destruction is not targeted at Catelyn or the Starks. Its mostly targeted at Hoster and Edmure.
    This has even less to do with Catelyn’s romantic feelings or lack there of for Petyr. Those feelings are certainly the initial cause. But it doesn’t have anything more to do with their personal relationship than Aerys’ rejection of Cersei, has to do with Rhaegar’s love for Cersei.
    Its a personal slight. Tywin didn’t like being called “the help” by Aerys and being dismissed as unworthy. Neither did Petyr. It’s just that Petyr is trying to arrange his own marriage. So rather than Tywin being pissed off as in the case with Cersei, we have Petyr as the one who’s pissed off and he also happens to be the proposed betrothal.
    But Catelyn really doesn’t have much to do with it, no more than Rhaegar did. This is between Petyr and Hoster… and Edmure,
    Since Edmure is inheriting and deemed “worthy” despite being a moron.
    Petyr tries to help Ned. And gives him good advice. I don’t really think the Starks are the primary target of operation Riverland Inferno.
    House Tully and House Stark have all the odds massively stacked in their favor. They are the military and political heads of state for their regions. They supposed to be able to defend themselves and their vassals and their smallfolk and their family.
    if they can’t do that, then they shouldn’t and won’t hold on to their position.
    2) Its not all that vindictive. They all got what they deserved. (given: they live in Westeros (or if they lived in America and were in the Mafia))
    When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.
    One of the primary objectives of a Westerosi Lord is to murder other Westerosi Lords so that their power can be usurped
    They all have many, many, many opportunities to save themselves:
    Stark
    Don’t kidknap the son of the Warden of the West
    Don’t tell Cersei you know her “little secret”
    Don’t try to put Stannis on the Throne
    Don’t name yourself king in the North
    Don’t send Theon as an envoy
    Don’t piss on and thereby pissoff Walder Frey.
    Tully
    Don’t put your idiot son in charge of your army
    Don’t drive away your competent younger brother to the Vale
    Don’t put your forces on an exposed position on lower ground than a fortification of the enemy
    Don’t piss on and thereby pissoff Walder Frey.
    3) Catelyn as a Westerosi Lordess should try not to piss people off who will reign down death and destruction upon their lands, people and family.
    She failed, tough shit, dems da breaks.
    A Lord in Westeros doesn’t need a reason to destroy another lord. But it seems to me, Petyr has a perfectly acceptable reason. Because you’re weak and he’s strong is acceptable. Because you have an ugly sigil, because your allies are distracted. ect. Lords are responsible for defending themselves. There would be no inappropriate reason for a house to be destroyed. What reason did the Andals have for invading? They just decided to go west one day. The Starks and Tully are supposed to be able to defend themselves. If they can’t its their own fault.

    • stevenattewell says:

      Holy crap, these are the longest comments I’ve seen yet.

      1. It’s still a gamble. Because he’d have to bank on being so believed that no amount of evidence to the contrary, like say from Ser Rodrick or even King Robert, would be believed.
      2. Petyr is not genuinely helping Ned; he’s keeping tabs on him, and steering him towards the Lannisters. How do we know this? Because he knows exactly what Jon Arryn knows and who killed Jon Arryn and he’s not telling.
      3. This absolutely has to do with Catelyn. He can’t stop talking about sleeping with her, despite it being an incredibly bad idea to do so, seventeen years later. He risks his position with Lysa because he can’t keep away from Sansa, because she looks just like her mother when he thinks he slept with her. My belief is that a big part of Petyr siding with the Lannisters is that he wanted Eddard out of the way so that Catelyn would be free to marry once he rose to high enough status that his suit would be accepted.
      4. His actions go way beyond the norm of the Game of Thrones. Cuckolding and murdering your liege lord and your chief patron is a violation of his oath as a sworn vassal of Jon Arryn; the murder of his wife makes him essentially a kingslayer; and his rampant corruption of his royal office, his treason against the Regent, and his involvement in the death of King Joffrey makes him a traitor as well.

      • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

        1) Robert doesn’t know what knives he has.

        “The steel was sufficient for two blades, not three. If you have need of a dagger, take one from the armory. Robert left a hundred when he died. Gerion gave him a gilded dagger with an ivory grip and a sapphire pommel for a wedding gift, and half the envoys who came to court tried to curry favor by presenting His Grace with jewel-encrusted knives and silver inlay swords.”
        Tyrion smiled. “They’d have pleased him more if they’d presented him with their daughters.”
        “No doubt. The only blade he ever used was the hunting knife he had from Jon Arryn, when he was a boy.” Lord Tywin waved a hand, dismissing King Robert and all his knives. “What did you find at the riverfront?”

        Maybe Renly… I don’t think anyone else would have been believed over Petyr. Ser Rodrick would have had second hand information, and I don’t think the Master at Arms would be believed over Petyr either.

        2)Well genuine help? what does that mean? I think Petyr would have sided with Ned is Ned hadn’t ignored Petyr’s (good) advice with regards to Stannis. That doesn’t mean Petyr’s interests and Ned’s interests are the same. There’s no reason Petyr should give away valuable information about Jon Arryn. But, I think Petyr would have helped Ned avert the war…. Except Ned doesn’t want to avert the war, Ned wants Stannis.

        3) Well I only think Petyr talks about sleeping with Catelyn twice. I don’t think Lysa has the capacity to turn down Petyr. And I think he was going to get rid of her anyway once he was made Lord Protector.

        I don’t think Petyr wants to marry Catelyn. I think he’s been planning to marry Lysa since before Jon Arryn died. The Vale is a better prize than the North. And clearly Catelyn isn’t going to be down with Petyr usurping the Riverlands from house tully, which he tries to do at the beginning of CoK I also, think Petyr’s offer to support Ned as Lord Protector was genuine, which also makes marrying Catelyn difficult. I just don’t see a marriage to Catelyn suiting his purposes.

        4) Not really. Cersei cuckolded and murdered Robert. Roose Bolton murdered Robb. Most Bannermen would probably murder their liege lords given half a chance.


        “Every great lord has unruly bannermen who envy him his place,” he told her afterward. “My father had the Reynes and Tarbecks, the Tyrells have the Florents, Hoster Tully had Walder Frey. Only strength keeps such men in their place. The moment they smell weakness… during the Age of Heroes, the Boltons used to flay the Starks and wear their skins as cloaks.” She looked so miserable that Jaime almost found himself wanting to comfort her.

        • stevenattewell says:

          1. Robert knows this knife, because he kept taunting Jaime about how he won it, remember?
          2. Petyr was lying to him the entire time? That’s pretty good evidence that he didn’t have any intention of helping Ned achieve Ned’s goals. Petyr made an offer to Ned, but I think he did so knowing Ned would refuse, in order to draw out what Ned would do.
          3. No, Tyrion explains that Littlefinger has been talking about that for years. He makes crude sex jokes about it in Small Council meetings, for crying out loud. If Lysa was the end goal, why murder Lysa? Why skeeve on Sansa.
          4. Yes, and all of them are seen as beyond the pale of civilized society, and karma is coming down on their heads. Cersei has seen one of her children die, she’s going mad, and she’s got an eight-foot unstoppable murder machine at her command who’s probably going to accidentally murder Tommen; Roose Bolton is a kingslayer and an oathbreaker, his legitimate children are all dead thanks to his bastard, and he’s going to die in Winterfell. The point is, there are things considered fair game in Westeros, and then there are things beyond the pale, and people who go beyond the pale seem to get what’s coming to them. Petyr’s one of them.

      • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

        1. Do you have a citation? know Robert mocked Jamie over the loss, but I don’t remember him mentioning the knife.

        2. Well that doesn’t make any sense. First of all Ned tells everyone what he’s planning to do. He tells Cersei and he tells Renly. There isn’t a faction that doesn’t know.

        3. Yes, Tyrion does say that, I meant we only see him do it twice. I didn’t think those were the only times, but we don’t we know how many times he’s mentioned. It doesn’t really mean anything to me.

        Petyr only needed her until he was named Lord Protector. Why murder Lysa? The same reason Petyr murdered Dantos. she’s a loose cannon. She can’t be trusted to keep her mouth shut.

        With respect to Sansa, she certainly can’t be part of the plan, Petyr had never seen her until after Jon Arryn was murdered. Obviously when he does meet Sansa she reminds him of Catelyn growing up. But that doesn’t mean Petyr wanted to marry Catelyn.

        4. Yes. I understand, there’s a line. But I think the line for fair game is anything Tywin gets away with, basically. I think he’s the most effective liege lord. And his behavior describes what a liege lord can get away while retaining an air of respectability.

        As for people getting what’s coming to them. I personally don’t think Petyr has done anything wrong, by Westerosi lord standards. Varys is an ordered of magnitude worse, he murdered scores of children just to maintain his spy network.

        The risk of violent death is quite high in Westeros. So I don’t really know that people “get what’s coming to them”. Jon Arryn. Robert and Ned got “what was coming to them”, as did Robb, as did Mormont. If you wait long enough something horrible will kill you in Westeros. Robb is an oath breaker, Edmure is an oath breaker, Stannis is an oath breaker, everyone is an oath breaker.

        What has Petyr really done in the end? He expedited the start of a war that was inevitable as soon as Jon Arryn figured out Joffrey’s parentage. Petyr’s body count is less than Tyrion’s, Balons, Tywins, Hoster Tully, who put is own villagers to the torch. Roert who started a war over high school love triangle.

        Petyr has kept the Vale out of the war. Which is as much as can be said for Doran Martell. Petyr is a good lord. His responsibility only extends to the people of his fiefdom, like Doran.


        Cat knew that the men off the Brazen Monkey would not care about the name of a courtesan’s mother, though. Instead, she asked them for tidings of the Seven Kingdoms, and the war.
        “War?” laughed one of them. “What war? There is no war.”
        “Not in Gulltown,” said another. “Not in the Vale. The little lord’s kept us out of it, same as his mother did.”

        • stevenattewell says:

          1. Storm of Swords. Jaime IX I believe.
          2. Not quite accurate. Ned doesn’t tell Cersei exactly what he’s planning to do, nor does he tell Renly exactly what he’s planning to do. From inside the investigation, Littlefinger knows exactly what Ned’s doing, when he’s doing it, and is on hand to interpret data for him.
          3. Often enough that Tyrion remembers it as a common thing that Littlefinger boasts of.
          4. Tywin doesn’t have respectability – the murders of Rhaenys and Elia tainted his reputation. Hence why he had to remain in Casterly Rock. Petyr’s violated every oath he ever took – oaths of loyalty to Jon Arryn, his oath of marriage to Lysa, his oath of office to two different kings, etc. And in this world, that means karma’s coming for him.
          5. He’s not keeping it out of the war, he’s planning to invade the North for crying out loud.

      • corejay says:

        What has Petyr ultimately done? I agree that War was unavoidable, but Petyr made sure the faultlines would be situated as they were. A Lannister/Tarell-alliance against the rest, with the Vale and Dorne neutral and the Storm Lands in disarray is quite a different prospect than the Lannisters alone against the Power Bloc that won Robert’s Rebellion in the first place (I.e., The Vale under Jon Arryn, the North under Ned Stark, the Riverlands under Edmure Tully, as well as the Storm and Crown Lands under Stannis or Robert). Littlefinger made sure the natural allies in this conflict would distrust each other, resulting in a drawn-out war instead of a short military operation comparable to the Greyjoy rebellion.

        • stevenattewell says:

          I disagree. Petyr brought about a war that didn’t have to happen. Had Ned not gone south because of Petyr’s murder, the Starks remain in the North; there’s no casus belli for Tywin to invade the Riverlands.

      • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

        @corejay

        This is a fantasy. First of Edmure Tully is incompetent, that is the biggest immediate factor leading to war. The riverlands are the most indefensible region and it take great skill to rule there. Edmure doesn’t have it and Hoster is too sick to do anything about it. (If I were Petyr I would call this Hoster’s just desserts for abandoning his more competent foster son and his brother the Blackfish)

        Stannis doesn’t have control of the Stormlands. And the Tyrells won’t support Stannis.

        So it all depends on what happens in what order. The Lannister were already trying to kill Robert. Renly was all ready plotting to supplant Cersei with Margery Tyrell,
        If Robert dies first then the Tyrells-Stormlords and Stannis will be on opposite sides. And I don’t think you have war with Robert still alive.

      • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

        @stevenattewell

        That’s a little short sighted. First of all Tywin invaded the Riverlands under a false flag, pretending to the brigands. Tywin invades the Riverlands because they’re centrally located and Edmure is weak. Now if Stannis or Jon Arryn try to dispose Cersei. what do you think Tywin would have done?

        And ofcourse Jon Arryn wouldn’t live forever. Heir to the throne is illegitimate, Edmure is still weak, Renly is still plotting with the Tyrells, Stannis has already started gathering swords, Varys has hidden away and heir and a spare….

        So how is there not going to be a war with or without Petyr.

  4. Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

    Also, with respect to Petyr as Master of Coin. I think he’s just smart despite some suggestions that he’s embezzling. I really think that’s an unnecessary complication. Which, I’ve discussed before:

    Lord Littlefinger
    I don’t know why Ran insists Littlefinger must be embezzling but I think it stems from a basic misunderstanding of finance. Not that I disagree that he intentionally made sure most of the thrones debt were held by the Iron Bank and Casterly Rock two forces which would unleash hell if no repaid.

    That being said, the comparison between Greece and Madoff is telling. There’s a large distinction. The Greeks like many southern european economies used long term financial contracts to disguise their debt level. Madoff’s approach was far more simplistic. One was mismanagement, but legal the other was fraud. They are not equivalent.

    Its the difference between bluffing and hiding an ace up your sleeve. One is within the rules, one is not.

    It diminishes the character greatly, to no real purpose for his gains to be fraudulent. A character who everyone agrees is quite intelligent. Who has access to information and resources few lords can match. A character who is unafraid of mercantile employment ass Ran notes. And the book explains how Littlefinger is making his money.

    The series, indeed the chapter in question, speaks of vertical integration and commodities speculation. That is something that took a thousand years to develop and could easily represent the type of increase in income that’s speculated. And if the increase were so astronomical one might ask how Robert is managing to spend it ALL. Something neither Tywin nor Jon Arryn are said to question.

    The reality is we don’t know what the 10 fold increase is increasing from. It seems doubtful Aerys was managing his finances particularly well after Tywin.

    Lastly, Petyr was pretty kind to Ned. He would have probably betrayed him in the long run but that’s not an insight and is true of most lords and their alliance. But as J.M. Keynes said, “In the long run we’re all dead.”

    Reply

    Elio M. García, Jr.
    October 11th, 2012 at 5:07 pm
    The reason I think Petyr’s been cooking the books is because, in _A Storm of Swords_, Tyrion — a very clever sort of person — spends weeks trying to make sense of the books, and he concludes that “It was all very well to talk of breeding dragons instead of locking them up in the treasury, but some of these ventures smelled worse than week-old fish.”

    Either one can read this as Tyrion just being wrong and not understanding how Littlefinger is being very effective, or… Littlefinger is up to no good, and it’s just really complicated to figure out just how that is the case. Someone more versed in economics than I might figure out what fishy ventures and (reported) massive revenue growth might mean if someone is deliberately sabotaging or mismanaging the economy.

    As to Aerys, remember that Aerys was not running the realm for more than two years following Tywin, and it seems that the treasury was just fine. Might Aerys have managed things a bit worse? Sure. But I don’t think we’re supposed to believe that the whole apparatus that Tywin had overseen just disappeared and that Littlefinger’s ten-fold improvement is just his improving on awful revenues. It’s presented as his having somehow grandly increased revenues on a system that was already functioning reasonably well.

    Reply

    Lord Littlefinger
    October 12th, 2012 at 4:43 pm
    Ah, ah, I see..

    There is a third option you don’t realize.

    I think. You merely misunderstand. There are two issues at hand:

    1) Petyr is at least as smart as Tyrion and has been working with the Kingdom’s finances his entire adult life. Tyrion comes from a noble house which disdains mercantile matters. It would surprising if Tyrion could understand everything within several months, let alone weeks. It should take Tyrion years to learn his trade.

    2) I have worked for several large financial institutions. ….”some of these ventures smelled worse than week-old fish.”

    Of course some of the ventures smell worse than week old fish! Some of them always do. Some of the ventures are going to lose money. Some of them will be inevitably be incredibly stupid. Afterall its difficult to distinguish the incredibly stupid from genius beforehand. People thought FedEx was incredibly stupid. People spent perfectly good money on shares of Facebook or Pets.com before that.

    Further, Petyr is said to speculate in commodities, and later we see him buying distressed debt in the Vale… These are very risky propositions, often times they go bad. The idea is that on the occassions they go well you make many tens or hundreds of times your original investment so the few large winners offset many more losers.

    So its not suspicious that “some of these ventures smelled worse than week-old fish.” It would be more suspicious if NONE of the ventures smelled like week old fish. The way Bernie Madoff never lost money. That’s the sign of someone cooking the books.

    With respect to the tenfold increase. I don’t see it that way. I don’t think Petyr would have ever been brought in as Master of Coin if the system was functioning reasonably well. The reason he gets chosen is because Jon Arryn is desperate. First Aerys an now Robert are running the Kingdom into the ground.

    • stevenattewell says:

      I’m with Elio. I think Baelish was cooking the books in several ways:
      – borrowing massively and then not paying any of the principle or interest except by taking on new loans is gross malpractice.
      – sale of offices and kickbacks.
      – falsified revenues and losses, to keep the Crown just healthy enough to keep the credit coming but never healthy enough to not need him.
      – diversion of royal funds to his personal accounts and investments, then “finding” just enough money to cover sudden royal expenditures so that no one ever checks why the crown doesn’t have as much money as it should.

      • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

        Well the sale of an office is common practice. It was common practice in the Brittish army even through the 1800’s.

        Borrowing massively, well, he’s only the CFO. If the CEO and COO want to borrow massively Petyr’s job is to figure out how to do it. Its not malpractice at all.

        There is no evidence of falsified losses and revenue.

        There’s no evidence of a diversion of royal funds.

        While its certainly possible. I don’t think there’s any reason for Petyr to need to do any of this. Look at what Tyrion says he’s doing:


        Oh, he was clever. He did not simply collect the gold and lock it in a treasure vault, no. He paid the king’s debts in promises, and put the king’s gold to work. He bought wagons, shops, ships, houses. He bought grain when it was plentiful and sold bread when it was scarce. He bought wool from the north and linen from the south and lace from Lys, stored it, moved it, dyed it, sold it. The golden dragons bred and multiplied, and Littlefinger lent them out and brought them home with hatchlings.
        And in the process, he moved his own men into place. The Keepers of the Keys were his, all four. The King’s Counter and the King’s Scales were men he’d named. The officers in charge of all three mints. Harbormasters, tax farmers, customs sergeants, wool factors, toll collectors, pursers, wine factors; nine of every ten belonged to Littlefinger. They were men of middling birth, by and large; merchants’ sons, lesser lordlings, sometimes even foreigners, but judging from their results, far more able than their highborn predecessors.

        We have vertical integration, this alone would be incredibly profitable generating massive economies of scale.

        Commodities speculation, this is even more profitable. Lets say for example Petyr thinks there will be a shortage of grain (due to say a war in the Riverlands) and Petyr buys 100 dragons worth of grain and ships it to the Vale. Petyr pays 10 dragons out of his pocket and borrows 90 dragons to buy the grain. A war breaks out fields are burned and the price of grain now increases to 200 dragons. Petyr sells his grain for 200 and repays his loan. Petyr now has 110 dragons. which is a 1000% profit.

        Lastly, Petyr hires merchants and not lords. He promotes people based on merit rather than birth. That’s a massive advantage in talent pool.

        There is no reason Petyr couldn’t generate the profits indicated using these techniques. Now he could be embezzling. But I think most of the people who accuse him of it, generally don’t understand economics well enough to make the charge. All someone would really need in a decentralized economy is access to information and money, there isn’t any real competition.

        • stevenattewell says:

          Here’s my thinking:

          1. Sale of office is also illegal unless otherwise observed. So are kickbacks.
          2. Borrowing massively isn’t the issue – it’s borrowing and then not budgeting at all for any payments on the loans, and instead taking out additional loans to pay the interests on existing loans.
          3. The falsification I reason from this: according to what people know, Littlefinger multiplied the King’s revenues tenfold. However, I don’t think we have evidence for a tenfold increase in expenditures. Now we know that Littlefinger’s scheme required destabilization of the realm, and we know that Littlefinger engaged in the sale of tax farming licenses and kickbacks thereon; the only way that kind of scheme draws a profit is if tax farmers take in more than they pass on to the king, and moreover more than they paid for the license and the kickbacks. Hence, total royal taxation and total royal revenues can’t have been matching up. We also know that he bought businesses for himself that he couldn’t have had the income to acquire on his own.
          4. Yes, Littlefinger is making huge amounts of money from speculation, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that that even the majority of that money is going to the crown.
          5. Yes, he’s hiring merchants, and they’re probably skilled. But we know they’re not honest.

      • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

        Well, again, i’ll try to keep it tight and address your points. Again, try not to mistake an attempt at thoroughness for the pedantic,

        1. But the King did know.

        Two men who were prepared to come forward died suddenly on their rounds.” Stannis narrowed his eyes. “Do not trifle with me, my lord. I saw the proof Jon Arryn laid before the small council. If I had been king you would have lost more than your office, I promise you, but Robert shrugged away your little lapses. ‘They all steal’ I recall him saying. ‘Better a thief we know than one we don’t, the next man might be worse.’ Lord Petyr’s words in my brother’s mouth, I’ll warrant. Littlefinger had a nose for gold, and I’m certain he arranged matters so the crown profited as much from your corruption as you did yourself.”

        2. Robert spends his ass off. If that’s what he wants to do its not Petyr’s job to stop him. Lord knows Jon Arryn couldn’t do it.


        “is that His Grace instructs us to stage a great tournament in honor of his appointment as the Hand of the King.”
        “How much?” asked Littlefinger, mildly.
        Ned read the answer off the letter. “Forty thousand golden dragons to the champion. Twenty thousand to the man who comes second, another twenty to the winner of the melee, and ten thousand to the victor of the archery competition.”
        “Ninety thousand gold pieces,” Littlefinger sighed. “And we must not neglect the other costs. Robert will want a prodigious feast. That means cooks, carpenters, serving girls, singers, jugglers, fools
        “Fools we have in plenty,” Lord Renly said.
        Grand Maester Pycelle looked to Littlefinger and asked, “Will the treasury bear the expense?”
        “What treasury is that?” Littlefinger replied with a twist of his mouth. “Spare me the foolishness, Maester. You know as well as I that the treasury has been empty for years. I shall have to borrow the money. No doubt the Lannisters will be accommodating. We owe Lord Tywin some three million dragons at present, what matter another hundred thousand?”
        Ned was stunned. “Are you claiming that the Crown is three million gold pieces in debt?”
        “The Crown is more than six million gold pieces in debt, Lord Stark. The Lannisters are the biggest part of it, but we have also borrowed from Lord Tyrell, the Iron Bank of Braavos, and several Tyroshi trading cartels. Of late I’ve had to turn to the Faith. The High Septon haggles worse than a Dornish fishmonger.”
        Ned was aghast. “Aerys Targaryen left a treasury flowing with gold. How could you let this happen?”
        Littlefinger gave a shrug. “The master of coin finds the money. The king and the Hand spend it.”
        “I will not believe that Jon Arryn allowed Robert to beggar the realm,” Ned said hotly.
        Grand Maester Pycelle shook his great bald head, his chains clinking softly. “Lord Arryn was a prudent man, but I fear that His Grace does not always listen to wise counsel.”
        “My royal brother loves tournaments and feasts,” Renly Baratheon said, “and he loathes what he calls ‘counting coppers.’ “

        And money goes fast living like Robert.


        Anguy shrugged. “He won the Hand’s tourney. In King’s Landing.” The bowman grinned. “I won a fair fortune myself, but then I met Dancy, Jayde, and Alayaya. They taught me what roast swan tastes like, and how to bathe in Arbor wine.”
        “Pissed it all away, did you?” laughed Harwin.
        “Not all. I bought these boots, and this excellent dagger.”
        “You ought t’have bought some land and made one o’ them roast swan girls an honest woman,” said Jack-Be-Lucky. “Raised yourself a crop o’ turnips and a crop o’ sons.”
        “Warrior defend me! What a waste that would have been, to turn my gold to turnips.”

        Now does Robert spend 10x what Aery’s did? I think he certainly could. The Greyjoy rebellion alone would have been expensive. Stannis built a whole fleet, While Tywin never bothered to rebuild his after it was burned at Lannisport. Its also possible revenues shrunk under Robert, so we don’t know the base the 10x increase came from.

        And Petyr was only brought in because Robert was already running out of money.

        Ten years ago, Jon Arryn had given him a minor sinecure in customs, where Lord Petyr had soon distinguished himself by bringing in three times as much as any of the king’s other collectors. King Robert had been a prodigious spender. A man like Petyr Baelish, who had a gift for rubbing two golden dragons together to breed a third, was invaluable to his Hand. Littlefinger’s rise had been arrow-swift. Within three years of his coming to court, he was master of coin and a member of the small council, and today the crown’s revenues were ten times what they had been under his beleaguered predecessor … though the crown’s debts had grown vast as well. A master juggler was Petyr Baelish.

        so I would say nothing illegal so far…
        3. Now… the falsification…

        We certainly know Robert spends like a drunken monkey. And it took 7 year for Petyr to increase income 10 fold. it didn’t happen overnight.

        Petyr certainly bought businesses. But I do think he has the money, he’s been selling offices all over Westeros. He has plenty of income from that to diversify his revenue streams. And since Robert has signed off on this practice, again, I see no crime.


        Brothels are a much sounder investment than ships, I’ve found. Whores seldom sink, and when they are boarded by pirates, why, the pirates pay good coin like everyone else.” Lord Petyr chuckled at his own wit.

        Stannis didn’t approve, but Stannis doesn’t approve of brothels either.


        Lord Renly laughed. “We’re fortunate my brother Stannis is not with us. Remember the time he proposed to outlaw brothels? The king asked him if perhaps he’d like to outlaw eating, shitting, and breathing while he was at it. If truth be told, I ofttimes wonder how Stannis ever got that
        ugly daughter of his. He goes to his marriage bed like a man marching to a battlefield, with a grim look in his eyes and a determination to do his duty.”
        Ned had not joined the laughter. “I wonder about your brother Stannis as well. I wonder when he intends to end his visit to Dragonstone and resume his seat on this council.”
        “No doubt as soon as we’ve scourged all those whores into the sea,” Littlefinger replied, provoking more laughter.

        4. Well I imagine, Littlefinger invests his own money and the crown’s money at the same time. I think it would be stupid of him not to pass most of the money on to the crown. As Stannis points out ” Littlefinger had a nose for gold, and I’m certain he arranged matters so the crown profited as much from your corruption as you did yourself.” That littlefinger gets a cut, is undoubted. Any hedgefund manager gets his carry.

        5. I don’t know how honest or dishonest the appointments Petyr makes are. They seem to be more “honest” than common sense would dictate.


        Wyman Manderly had a great booming laugh. it was small wonder he could not sit a saddle; he looked as if he outweighed most horses. As windy as he was vast, he began by asking Winterfell to confirm the new customs officers he had appointed for White Harbor. The old ones had been holding back silver for King’s Landing rather than paying it over to the new King in the North.

        Those are Petyr’s agents. It doesn’t seem to me any of them are any more or less corrupt than typical.

        However, I certainly think Petyr’s interests are served by Robert owing large debts to Casterly Rock and the Iron Bank. If it weren’t for that, I don’t think Tywin would have let it continue. Honestly I’m shocked Jon Arryn let it happen,

        • stevenattewell says:

          1. Robert knew about Slynt’s petty corruption, he didn’t know about Baelish’s grand corruption.
          2. Again, borrowing and then not servicing the loan at all is malpractice. I don’t think a quickly-crushed rebellion, most of which costs fell on House Lannister, could create enough debt that tenfold revenue only keeps up with the interest. There’s just not enough evidence of spending in orders of magnitude higher than before.
          3. Robert didn’t sign off on Baelish’s sales of offices.
          4. Why wouldn’t he? He’s the one keeping the books and reporting the figures; no one was checking up on him.
          5. They’re paying kickbacks, which requires additional revenue to compensate for. They’re not honest by default.

    • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

      1. There is no grand corruption. You said selling offices was supposed to be some sort of covert action. The king knew about it. Therefore it is not covert.

      2.But the loans were serviced.


      The banker pressed his fingers together. “It would not be proper for me to discuss Lord Stannis’s indebtedness or lack of same. As to King Robert … it was indeed our pleasure to assist His Grace in his need. For so long as Robert lived, all was well. Now, however, the Iron Throne has ceased all repayment.

      There is evidence. The evidence is that Robert doesn’t have any money. You presume that Robert spent the money on something productive that would be readily identifiable. But the reality is he’s wasting it or Torneys and whorehouses and gifts.

      What there isn’t any evidence of is that Petyr stole the money.

      3. He did. He know about them and didn’t fire Petyr and didn’t fire Janos Slynt. That’s signing off.

      4. Why would he? Because he’s smart enough to make money himself and doesn’t want to be banished or killed?

      Why wouldn’t he? There’s the rub. If Petyr is the political mastermind Martin makes him out to be then he’s smart enough not to need steal. There’s no upside to it. Not that he’s morally opposed to it, it would just be stupid. Not to mention that Tyrion and Rosby both testify to the level of expenses.

      Lastly since you have no idea how much revenue we’re talking about you have no idea whether its easy or difficult for Robert to increase his spending accordingly.

      The Hand’s Torney is enough for me to recognize Robert’s profligacy.

      All there is is evidence that Robert wasted the money, there’s zero evidence of Petyr stealing anything. Which after a while makes me think you’re debating in good faith.

      5. What kickbacks?

  5. cyrusdurant says:

    Steven, I was wondering how you think Varys managed to survive Robert’s rebellion? In the books it’s mentioned he’s pardoned by Robert along with Jaime and Pycelle but the reasoning behind the pardon is never explained. My own theory is that Varys bought his pardon by telling Eddard/Robert that Lyanna was being kept at the TOJ.

    • stevenattewell says:

      I don’t think it’s that. I think it’s more that Robert in general wasn’t bothered that much about cleaning up the court (consider how he dealt with Janos Slynt), and that Jon Arryn was trying to engineer a smooth transition rather than bloody purges. Stannis would have given him the chop, but Stannis wasn’t calling the shos.

      As for Eddard, I think he found out by a process of elimination – wasn’t there at KL, then check at the remaining Targaryen army at Storm’s End. He either found out there or he just decided to press on to Dorne on the grounds that it was the remaining Targaryen stronghold and the Kingsguard had to be there.

      • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

        hmmm…. you are still around. i would like to hear your thoughts. i can be pedantic. but i’m trying ti point out genuine points that I’m not sure you’ve considered. Granted I do believe Petyr is the hero of the story.

  6. Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

    p.s. if the gods are just Petyr marry Olena (or Lady Dustin) and sit the Iron Throne. How could you wish a fall upon the Master of the Game of Thrones?

    • stevenattewell says:

      If the gods are just, Petyr’s either going to be executed by Lady Stoneheart or dropped off of the Eyrie by Sansa.

      Baelish is the most pernicious player of the Game of Thrones, because he’s bent on destruction and destabilization and chaos for the hell of it.

      He’s an Iago, and they have to be put down like mad dogs.

      • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

        But Petyr isn’t creating Chaos for its own sake. As you say above. He’s using “chaos” (war) to advance his social position. That’s how most Westerosi lords it, isn’t it?

        If Petyr just wanted Chaos, then there’d be no need to marry Lysa or request Harrenhal.

        You don’t really think he’s just causing chaos for no reason? That’s more Roose Bolton than Petyr. I just can’t imagine anyone actually believes that.

        • stevenattewell says:

          Roose wants a peaceful land and a quiet people.

          Petyr has acknowledged he deliberately creates disorder for the hell of it, even when it’s against his own interests.

      • corejay says:

        If Littlefinger truly earned all his money and his position the right way, why does he fear a Stannis regime that much? Littlefinger has been in the works against Stannis sitting on the throne from the very start, and from all the contenders for the throne, Stannis is the one most willing to overlook heritage and reward merit (as we can see with Davos). So, if he made all his money fair and square, what is it Baelish fears from a calm, rational and meritocratic ruler? Unless, of course, he fears Stannis’ justice (as he well should, considering what Stannis thinks of Janos Slynt, and, by extension, Baelish…)

      • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

        Well first of all I dispute that there’s any such thing as a “right way” to make money. I just don’t think Petyr stole it.

        If you’ll look above I noted that Stannis doesn’t approve of Brothels or selling offices. These are two things Robert is aware. And alone are reason enough.

        Stannis being a meritocratic really doesn’t have anything to do with anything. Petyr would rather use someone misdeeds to blackmale them and leave them in power, Stannis would just cut off their hand or burn them alive or something else horrible and useless.

        And don’t get me wrong, I like Stannis. But Petyr and Stannis have diametrically opposed styles of management.

        Which is why Petyr is warm and well fed in the Gates of the Moon and Stannis is freezing his jibblits off and eating people for dinner in the Wolfswood.

        “I’ve never trusted Littlefinger. For enough coin, he’d go over to Stannis in a heartbeat.”
        “Stannis Baratheon is too bloody righteous to buy men. Nor would he make a comfortable lord for the likes of Petyr. This war has made for some queer bedfellows, I agree, but those two? No.”

      • corejay says:

        I think that’s pretty much where you’re missing the point. If LF didn’t steal anything, what does he have to fear from Stannis, except from having to refocus his business? Stannis is universally agreed to be just.

        I agree the two men have opposing business styles, It’s just that I see Baelish’s business style as floating on corruption and chaos. In the long term, such business hurts the society and government. Reliability is important in these contexts, and Baelish is the opposite of reliable.

        And while Stannis may be sitting in the snow, he’s still the last of the original five Kings to be alive and fighting. Stannis himself may not be a charismatic person, but what he has to offer in terms of leadership (a steady hand, justice, and increased meritocracy) is the best of any of the current pretenders. In the long term, I would probably favor Jon Snow over Stannis, but both are, to me, preferable to the alternative rulers since they offer competent leadership and clear objectives.

      • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

        Well again. I like Stannis. He’s probably my favorite king (at least until Euron came along). Though Stannis’ an evil fuck that burns people alive, that doesn’t bother me.

        However, the reason Stannis is in the snow is because he hold grudges. That is why the Tyrells won’t support Stannis though they supported Renly and Robert. He even holds a grudge against Eddard Stark, who lost his life trying to put Stannis on the throne. Even Davos should have died on the Blackwater by all rights and then was imprisoned by Stannis.


        “Why should I avenge Eddard Stark? The man was nothing to me. Oh, Robert loved him, to be sure. Loved him as a brother, how often did I hear that? I was his brother, not Ned Stark, but you would never have known it by the way he treated me. I held Storm’s End for him, watching good men starve while Mace Tyrell and Paxter Redwyne feasted within sight of my walls. Did Robert thank me? No. He thanked Stark, for lifting the siege when we were down to rats and radishes. I built a fleet at Robert’s command, took Dragonstone in his name. Did he take my hand and say, Well done, brother, whatever should I do without you? No, he blamed me for letting Willem Darry steal away Viserys and the babe, as if I could have stopped it. I sat on his council for fifteen years, helping Jon Arryn rule his realm while Robert drank and whored, but when Jon died, did my brother name me his Hand? No, he went galloping off to his dear friend Ned Stark, and offered him the honor. And small good it did either of them. “

        And, that is why Petyr won’t support Stannis. Changing his business practices aren’t enough because Stannis would already be holding a grudge. On top of that Stannis is the least powerful of any of the 5 kings. Stannis himself only escaped the Blackwater by luck, sine Salador was held back out of spite.

        Just because I like Stannis personally doesn’t mean it makes since for Petyr to support him. Why should Petyr want to change his tactics just to support a king that probably can’t hold the throne in the first place? He’d have to be nuts to support Stannis.


        “Hear me out. Stannis is no friend of yours, nor of mine. Even his brothers can scarcely stomach him. The man is iron, hard and unyielding. He’ll give us a new Hand and a new council, for a certainty. No doubt he’ll thank you for handing him the crown, but he won’t love you for it. And his ascent will mean war. Stannis cannot rest easy on the throne until Cersei and her bastards are dead. Do you think Lord Tywin will sit idly while his daughter’s head is measured for a spike? Casterly Rock will rise, and not alone. Robert found it in him to pardon men who served King Aerys, so long as they did him fealty. Stannis is less forgiving. He will not have forgotten the siege of Storm’s End, and the Lords Tyrell and Redwyne dare not. Every man who fought beneath the dragon banner or rose with Balon Greyjoy will have good cause to fear. Seat Stannis on the Iron Throne and I promise you, the realm will bleed.

      • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

        Oh come on. That’s what Roose says but its not credible. This is the man who lets Ramsay run amuck. There’s only one reason for Roose to let Ramsay reek havoc, it certainly doesn’t promote a quiet land or make it likely Roose will maintain his position. The only possibly reason can be Roose enjoys the spectacle.


        I think he would be pleased if the fat man attempted some betrayal. It would amuse him. Roose has no feelings, you see. Those leeches that he loves so well sucked all the passions out of him years ago. He does not love, he does not hate, he does not grieve. This is a game to him, mildly diverting. Some men hunt, some hawk, some tumble dice. Roose plays with men. You and me, these Freys, Lord Manderly, his plump new wife, even his bastard, we are but his playthings.”

        And Petyr said no such thing. He said he benefits from chaos. Which is not “for the hell of it” It for a specific purpose. Now Petyr tells Sansa that sometimes he makes moves for no apparent reason to keep his enemies guessing. But again, that in and of itself is a reason. The desire to through of one’s enemies is a sipecfic objective.

        I don’t believe that either however. Petyr says he has no reason to kill Joffrey but he lying to Sansa, he always lies to Sansa. The obvious reason is that Petyr and Olena have an alliance. That Joffrey’s life was the price of the Tyrell alliance against Stannis and the Starks . But once they’re defeated, the Reach and the Vale need only reach out their hands and crush Casterly Rock once and for all. After neither of them can be secure if House Lannister is allowed to rebuild its power.


        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.”

      • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

        Oh come on. That’s what Roose says but its not credible. This is the man who lets Ramsay run amuck. There’s only one reason for Roose to let Ramsay reek havoc, it certainly doesn’t promote a quiet land or make it likely Roose will maintain his position. The only possibly reason can be Roose enjoys the spectacle.

        I think he would be pleased if the fat man attempted some betrayal. It would amuse him. Roose has no feelings, you see. Those leeches that he loves so well sucked all the passions out of him years ago. He does not love, he does not hate, he does not grieve. This is a game to him, mildly diverting. Some men hunt, some hawk, some tumble dice. Roose plays with men. You and me, these Freys, Lord Manderly, his plump new wife, even his bastard, we are but his playthings.”

        And Petyr said no such thing. He said he benefits from chaos. Which is not “for the hell of it” It for a specific purpose. Now Petyr tells Sansa that sometimes he makes moves for no apparent reason to keep his enemies guessing. But again, that in and of itself is a reason. The desire to throw of one’s enemies is a sipecfic objective.

        I don’t believe that either however. Petyr says he has no reason to kill Joffrey but he lying to Sansa, he always lies to Sansa. The obvious reason is that Petyr and Olena have an alliance. That Joffrey’s life was the price of the Tyrell alliance against Stannis and the Starks . But once they’re defeated, the Reach and the Vale need only reach out their hands and crush Casterly Rock once and for all. After all neither of them can be secure if House Lannister is allowed to rebuild its power.

        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.”

    • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

      Well again. I like Stannis. He’s probably my favorite king (at least until Euron came along). Though Stannis’ an evil fuck that burns people alive, that doesn’t bother me.

      However, the reason Stannis is in the snow is because he hold grudges. That is why the Tyrells won’t support Stannis though they supported Renly and Robert. He even holds a grudge against Eddard Stark, who lost his life trying to put Stannis on the throne. Even Davos should have died on the Blackwater by all rights and then was imprisoned by Stannis.

      “Why should I avenge Eddard Stark? The man was nothing to me. Oh, Robert loved him, to be sure. Loved him as a brother, how often did I hear that? I was his brother, not Ned Stark, but you would never have known it by the way he treated me. I held Storm’s End for him, watching good men starve while Mace Tyrell and Paxter Redwyne feasted within sight of my walls. Did Robert thank me? No. He thanked Stark, for lifting the siege when we were down to rats and radishes. I built a fleet at Robert’s command, took Dragonstone in his name. Did he take my hand and say, Well done, brother, whatever should I do without you? No, he blamed me for letting Willem Darry steal away Viserys and the babe, as if I could have stopped it. I sat on his council for fifteen years, helping Jon Arryn rule his realm while Robert drank and whored, but when Jon died, did my brother name me his Hand? No, he went galloping off to his dear friend Ned Stark, and offered him the honor. And small good it did either of them. “

      And, that is why Petyr won’t support Stannis. Changing his business practices aren’t enough because Stannis would already be holding a grudge. On top of that Stannis is the least powerful of any of the 5 kings. Stannis himself only escaped the Blackwater by luck, sine Salador was held back out of spite.

      Just because I like Stannis personally doesn’t mean it makes since for Petyr to support him. Why should Petyr want to change his tactics just to support a king that probably can’t hold the throne in the first place? He’d have to be nuts to support Stannis.


      “Hear me out. Stannis is no friend of yours, nor of mine. Even his brothers can scarcely stomach him. The man is iron, hard and unyielding. He’ll give us a new Hand and a new council, for a certainty. No doubt he’ll thank you for handing him the crown, but he won’t love you for it. And his ascent will mean war. Stannis cannot rest easy on the throne until Cersei and her bastards are dead. Do you think Lord Tywin will sit idly while his daughter’s head is measured for a spike? Casterly Rock will rise, and not alone. Robert found it in him to pardon men who served King Aerys, so long as they did him fealty. Stannis is less forgiving. He will not have forgotten the siege of Storm’s End, and the Lords Tyrell and Redwyne dare not. Every man who fought beneath the dragon banner or rose with Balon Greyjoy will have good cause to fear. Seat Stannis on the Iron Throne and I promise you, the realm will bleed.

  7. Brett says:

    I notice that you brought up the baby switch of Aegon when talking about the Grand Varys Conspiracy. Are you discounting the theory that he’s a fraud?

    In any case, great post. I didn’t notice the “What If?” of Catelyn ending up on Dragonstone even on my re-read, so it’s fascinating to consider what might have happened if that had happened.

    • stevenattewell says:

      It’s a possibility, but given that Varys had the means and opportunity – why not take the legitimate heir, especially if Targaryen blood itself is required for his plans.

      • Chad says:

        Well another theory is that Varys is on team Blackfyre not team Targaryen. The conspiracy is to place a Blackfyre, Young Griff, from the female line on the throne Young Griff who parents are likely Llyrio and Serra the Blackfyre decedent.

        A couple things point to this are The Golden Company was founded by Blackfyre survivors with the purpose of seating a Blackfyre on the Iron Throne, is supporting Young Griff’s claim. And they broke a contact for him.

        We’re told that the Blackfyre’s “male line” has died out, but not the femaile line. And Serra physical description seems to be that of the Targaryens.

        Then in ADWD Brienne 7 there is “The Old Inn” where the Black Dragon head is thrown in river and wash up on rusted red on Quite Isle. Black being the Blackfyre colors and Red being the Targaryen. Representing a Blackfyre pretending to be a Targaryen.

        • stevenattewell says:

          Possible but I doubt it. Varys installed Jon Connington as head of the Golden Company and then hid this fact, because he’d switched the Golden Company from pro-Blackfyre (as when they turned down Viserys).

      • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

        boop boop boop, back it up. is there any evidence Varys has the power to install someone as head of the golden company?

        Then again I discount the whole idea that he has any coherent plan. Unless Varys is suspect to have known the Dany’s dragons would hatch. Elsewise, his primary agent is Huckfinn, a proposition which is laughable on its face.

        We see Varys saving not only smuggling Targeryans but Gendry and other nobles and bastards. Its far more likely that this is SOP for Varys. Yet Varys murders children as part of his on going operations. And he sacrificed Dany and Viserys to the Dothraki. So its not a love of children or mercy driving him.

        I think the only conclusion can be that Varys doesn’t have any plan at all.

      • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:


        “The plan—”

        “Which plan?” said Tristan Rivers. “The fat man’s plan? The one that changes every time the moon turns? First Viserys Targaryen was to join us with fifty thousand Dothraki screamers at his back. Then the Beggar King was dead, and it was to be the sister, a pliable young child queen who was on her way to Pentos with three new-hatched dragons. Instead the girl turns up on Slaver’s Bay and leaves a string of burning cities in her wake, and the fat man decides we should meet her by Volantis. Now that plan is in ruins as well.

  8. John W says:

    If Stannis knew about Cersei’s adultery would he have trusted Catelyn with that information?

    It seems to me that there was no love loss between him and Ned and that he was actually jealous of the fact that Robert loved Ned more than him, to the point that he made Ned his hand instead of Stannis.

  9. John says:

    I’m going to also say – there is absolutely no way that we should view the supposed baby switch as a known fact. I tend to think Aegon is Illyrio’s son.

    • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

      What about Ned and Ashara’s son?

      • Brett says:

        He has the silvery-blond hair that you get from people with Valyrian heritage, while both Ned and Ashara apparently had dark hair (her’s was black).

        I kind of wish it wasn’t, and that she had the Valyrian colored hair. That would have been a hilarious bit of irony – he’d be the flipside of Jon Snow, assuming that certain theories about the latter’s parentage are correct.

      • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

        Yeah but she still had the genes her brother the sword of the morning.

        p.s. I assume septa lemore is Ashara.

      • stevenattewell says:

        I don’t think this child lived. I think Ashara had a miscarriage.

      • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

        possible but boring and Young Griff needs a mother.

    • Brett says:

      I think he’s definitely Illyrio’s son as well, and it comes across more clearly upon re-reading the book.

      I also suspect that Varys is trying to prove a point by putting him on the throne: namely, his belief that power is an illusion, existing wherever people believe it exists. If people believe that Aegon is Rhaegar’s son, and he’s a good King upon the throne, then it won’t matter if in actuality he isn’t.

  10. Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

    I just saw this:

    1. Storm of Swords. Jaime IX I believe.
    2. Not quite accurate. Ned doesn’t tell Cersei exactly what he’s planning to do, nor does he tell Renly exactly what he’s planning to do. From inside the investigation, Littlefinger knows exactly what Ned’s doing, when he’s doing it, and is on hand to interpret data for him.
    3. Often enough that Tyrion remembers it as a common thing that Littlefinger boasts of.
    4. Tywin doesn’t have respectability – the murders of Rhaenys and Elia tainted his reputation. Hence why he had to remain in Casterly Rock. Petyr’s violated every oath he ever took – oaths of loyalty to Jon Arryn, his oath of marriage to Lysa, his oath of office to two different kings, etc. And in this world, that means karma’s coming for him.
    5. He’s not keeping it out of the war, he’s planning to invade the North for crying out loud.

    1. I’m too tired to go looking right now, but i will check.
    2. Ned tells Renly and Cersei enough. He tell them he’s going to support Stannis. That’s enough for them to make moves against his interest.

    3. Yes, that’s true, but I don’t think that has to be often. Its something Tyrion would remember. ‘I don’t think that alone is enough declare there to be some fixation on Petyr’s part. Certainly the events leading up to Petyr’s banishment deeply shaped and scarred him. Just as Tysha did for Tyrion just as Sandors burn shaped him and Tywin’s father’s weakness shaped him.

    4. Tywin doesn’t have respectability? That’s a joke right. Look at how many people want to marry into his family. If Tywin doesn’t have respectability no one does. But that’s also besides the point. Its 15 years since Robert’s Rebellion and Tywin is still a Lord in good standing. His daughter was still able to marry the king. He is able to govern effectively. The reality is men like Tywin, Roose Tarly, Frey are effective in their ruthlessness.

    As aan on looker the only conclusion can be that Tywin operate with societal norms, if more ruthlessly than some. Petyr’s conclusion certainly can’t be that behaving like Tywin is detremental to holding and yielding power.

    5. OH COME ON!!!!!!!

    There is no way, Petyr is planning to invade the North. Why on earth would he do it. The North is even worse off than the Riverlands. Petyr isn’t even willing to expend the resources to control the Riverlands. There is absolutely no way he want the North where he’d have to fight Stannis, Roose or both.

    Petyr tells Sansa he’s going to retake winterfell but has to be a lie. The same when he told her he was taking her “home”. Petyr is just telling Sansa what she want hear. There’s no way.

    All that being said, he’s still kept the Vale out of the war. As Doran has kept Dorn out, that fact that he’s planning on doing something in the future doesn’t change that fact. To date both their citizenry have been spared.

    • CoffeeHound14 says:

      Respect for power is not the same as respect for uprightness. I agree with Mr. Attewell that Tywin has little by way of good reputation left by the time of the books. The fact that he survives Robert’s Rebellion, and maintains a good political standing has little to do with his respectability, and much to do with his wealth and hard military power. His daughter was able to marry Robert because it was not politically expedient for Robert to have to subdue Tywin by force when there was a feasible alternative; it had nothing to do with Tywin’s swell reputation.

      The fact that Tywin’s brutality is consistently remarked upon as such by character’s within the story is indicative that it is not normal within Westerosi society. Effective, yes, but not normal.

      I’ve sort of lost the thread of what the Petyr argument is really about; it seems to vacillate between being over Petyr’s relative or objective morality, Petyr’s possible psychological hangups, and Petyr’s financial policy and its legality (as distinct from his overall moral character). The first of these seems like a silly argument; I don’t see how anyone could successfully argue for Petyr’s moral soundness (and to be fair, I am not certain that anyone is; it has been a rather cloudy debate).

      I agree with Mr. Attewell that Petyr seems to have a pschological hangup over Catelyn Tully, though I think it is open to speculation how conscious Petyr is of his own hangup. If he is fairly conscious of his hangup, as I would say he is, I would say it brings into question the idea of Petyr being somewhat out of control or compulsive.

      I am not the most financially or economically literate of analysts, and I don’t think there is much that I could add to the debate over this third point.

      I would however like to revisit another argument over Littlefinger’s culpability in starting the War of the Five Kings. You remarked earlier that Edmure Tully’s incompetence was the primary cause of the war. While I agree that Edmure is incompetent, I fail to see how this necessitates the War of the Five Kings. The fact that the Riverlands bear the brunt of the war’s destruction does not mean that the war was fought as a war of territorial acquisition by House Lannister against House Tully. Rather, House Tully served as a proxy for House Stark in the initial stages of the war due to the marriage alliance between the two houses. The roots of the conflict lie in the antagonism between Stark and Lannister, and the manipulation of this antagonism by Petyr Baelish. This conflict enters its military phase with Tywin’s bannermen making raids on Tully land in retribution for the slight of Tyrion’s abduction. Tywin’s object in his ensuing invasion of the Riverlands seems to be to knock out Stark’s most powerful ally before Stark’s armies can effectively join the conflict. While Edmure’s poor leadership played into the success of Tywin’s invasion, it plays no part in instigating the war.

      • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

        But my point is that Tywin is allowed to survive and keep is wealth and military power. And of course there is no uprightness in Westeros. That is the whole point. The fact that the most powerful and successful lords are the least “upright”.

        I would say that Tywin is within societal norms, as opposed to say Aerys.

        Arguing Petyr’s moral soundness is easy. He’s less ruthless than Tyrion or Tywin, Roose or Randyll Tarly, he’s responsible for less death than them or Dany, anyway.

        I just don’t think the psychological issue are with Catelyn. Its Hoster who denied Petyr Catelyn, its Edmure who squired for Brandon Stark, its Lysa who literally raped Petyr getting herself pregnant and causing him to be banished.

        Yeah his feelings for Catelyn kick all of that off. But Catelyn really has little do with any of the subsequent events.

        The fundamental conflict is between Baratheon and Lannister. Tywin invades the Riverlands before Robert dies. His objective is to cut the Baratheons off from their most powerful traditional allies, the Starks and Arryns.

        So the thing you have to ask yourself is if Tywin thought the Arryns and Starks could reach the riverlands before he succeed again the Tullys, would Tywin have even invaded? I don’t think so. And the only reason Tywin can be confident of his success is that Edmure is so weak.

  11. […] I have argued before, Catelyn Stark is a Greek tragic heroine, a woman dedicated to family by her House and her […]

  12. […] attention from the legal to the military sphere, and that Littlefinger got very lucky that his lie to Catelyn was never […]

  13. […] a lot about Littlefinger’s style as a conspirator from his actions here. As reckless as Littlefinger can be, he’s quite cautious at this moment – after all, there’s no practical limitation […]

  14. […] as reckless by Steven Atwell in his excellent blog: Race of the Iron Throne and especially by this entry. And while I have a strong interest in the military side of ASOIAF, I also have a fascination with […]

  15. […] that Baelish decided to persuade Joffrey to execute Ned Stark instead, which would fit with his improvisational, impulse style (consider that it would mean he got literally nothing out of the deal, and even if he had […]

  16. […] But claimed that it was lost to him in a bet with Tyrion Lannister. Now, pause for a minute. This is a huge gamble on Littlefinger’s part. More than a gamble, it’s a maniac move. To use the poker analogy, Varys could have called Littlefinger on his bluff here OR  Eddard could have asked any number of people in King’s Landing for confirmation for Littlefinger and Tyrion’s bet. Steven Atwell made a similar point in his analysis of Catelyn IV. […]

  17. […] Tyrion’s conversation with Littlefinger bears more examination, not just for what we learn about our protagonist (see Step 2 for that), but what we learn about the mastermind of the Littlefinger Conspiracy. I’ve written before that I consider Petyr Baelish to be a psychopath, and this chapter provides ample evidence of this. Start with the fact that in his first private meeting with the new Hand of the King, he brings the dagger used to attempt the assassination of Bran Stark, and which Littlefinger used to frame Tyrion: […]

  18. […] not a Xanatos Gambit, with Littlefinger having pulled the strings for years. Rather it’s an improvisation – Baelish could not have planned for Renly’s death or the Tyrells’ ability to […]

  19. Joseph says:

    Steven, I like your reference to Iago several comments (and years) back. Harold Bloom has a great essay where he argues that Iago’s journey starts when he tries a few petty manipulations and can’t believe how easy it is, then keeps ramping up and up.

    I see Littlefinger as a similar character – smarter than everyone else, full of simmering resentment, and once he starts playing with people, he can’t believe how easy it is.

    One question is why Varys leaves Littlefinger alone – LF is clever, has a lot of resources, and unpredictable. Everyone else underestimates him; does that include the Spider?

  20. […] hide little jokes for himself in his offhand comments. I’m going to quote Stephen Attwell of Race for the Iron Throne on Littlefinger and his […]

  21. […] what the Lannister brothers are independently telling her; why repeatedly refuse to believe that Littlefinger might have lied to her? My only explanation is that Catelyn subconsciously realizes the truth, but can’t bring […]

  22. […] him; Littlefinger has every reason to believe that Tyrion would seek revenge against him for fingering him as Bran’s would-be killer and resents Tyrion outplaying him with the three messages. Between the three of them, I would rank […]

  23. Philipp says:

    I would just like to point out that Baelish story should have raised a red flag with Catelyn or Eddard. Both of them are suspicious of Littlefinger at first, but never doubt that he is a clever man. Why would a clever man take Tyrion’s wager against his own brother considering that half of King’s Landing thought otherwise. This screams con all over. Neither one knew about Tyrion’s complicated family relations. While you could argue that they assumed, that even Littlefinger has fallen for Lannister scheming, this goes against their initail opinion of Baelish.

  24. […] as reckless by Steven Atwell in his excellent blog: Race of the Iron Throne and especially this entry. And while I have a strong interest in the military side of ASOIAF, I also have a fascination with […]

  25. […] But claimed that it was lost to him in a bet with Tyrion Lannister. Now, pause for a minute. This is a huge gamble on Littlefinger’s part. More than a gamble, it’s a maniac move. To use the poker analogy, Varys could have called Littlefinger on his bluff here OR  Eddard could have asked any number of people in King’s Landing for confirmation for Littlefinger and Tyrion’s bet. Steven Atwell made a similar point in his analysis of Catelyn IV. […]

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