Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Game of Thrones: Varys

A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)

Varys is an enigma to those around him- kings or queens come and go  but Varys remains. Known as the whisperer or the Spider, he has spies everywhere, and seems to always know more than anyone else. He's an integral part of the game of thrones, and to have him as an ally is a boon. But who really is Varys? This post will examine Varys and there will be massive spoilers for the books. 

Varys, as we know, is a eunuch and spymaster who served Aerys Targaryen and then Robert Baratheon after he became king. Varys' informant network includes "little birds", which we find out are kids taken as orphans and pressed into service. Why kids? Well they're little and can wriggle places an adult cannot, and they can be unobtrusive as well. Oh and their tongues are removed. After all a captured spy can talk, right? So from this we can see that there is a certain ruthlessness. 

We learn a lot about Varys throughout the books but the biggest revelations come in A Dance With Dragons. There we learn (last chance to avoid spoilers) that Varys conspired with Illyrio Mopatis to raise a contender for the Iron Throne in secret, keeping him hidden as he grew up. This contender is said to be none other than Aegon Targaryen, who was supposedly killed during the Sack of Kings Landing. Varys says he switched Aegon with a commoner boy, sending him over the sea to Essos to be raised. And the kicker is, the boy's guardian is none other than Jon Connington, former Hand of the King and confidant of Rhaegar Targaryen. 

So if the boy is Aegon, then Daenerys has a rival for the throne. And as Rhaegar's son Aegon would come before Dany in the succession. But... there is a lot of doubt as to whether Aegon is truly the son of Rhaegar. Many think he's the mummer's dragon referred to in this prophecy given to Dany. 

"The glass candles are burning. Soon comes the pale mare, and after her the others. Kraken and dark flame, lion and griffin, the sun's son and the mummer's dragon. Trust none of them. Remember the Undying. Beware the perfumed seneschal."

So there's a list of people to not trust, and many think that Aegon is the mummer's dragon (Varys being the mummer). In other words, a fake contender. Whether this is true or not, Varys obviously has a lot invested in this plot, and indeed we see the seeds of it in the first book when Arya overhears Varys and Illyrio talking beneath the Red Keep. 



Varys doesn't believe in blind loyalty to bad rulers, as he tells Dany on Dragonstone in S7E2. It would seem his motivation in the books is similar, as he expresses to Kevan Lannister at the end of A Dance With Dragons. 

"This pains me, my lord. You do not deserve to die alone on such a cold dark night. There are many like you, good men in service to bad causes... but you were threatening to undo all the queen's good work, to reconcile Highgarden and Casterly Rock, bind the Faith to your little king, unite the Seven Kingdoms under Tommen's rule. So..."

So clearly this is Varys' endgame- to put Aegon (fake Aegon?) on the throne, to give the people a true king who will rule for them, not drench the land in blood. Noble? Perhaps, but his methods? Questionable at best! But this is the game of thrones. What would one expect? Here he's telling Kevan that he has to die because he's been bringing the Lannisters and Tyrells back together, something Varys can't have if Aegon is to win the throne. Obviously the show isn't dealing with any of this, for the sake of keeping the story simpler, but that's why Varys' role in the books, and the whole Aegon subplot, is so interesting. Added depth.

 So what do you think of Varys? And his plans? 

15 comments:

  1. I love Varys but couldn't read this post as I was afraid of the book spoilers! I'm only at book 3! TV Varys is great and GRRM said he thought Varys was the closest tv character to what he saw when he wrote the book character. I love all his scenes with Tyrion and I like that he is capable of ruthlessness and menace...

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    1. I love how he's portrayed on the show too, and of all the actors I think Conleth Hill is the closest to matching my image from the books! And you have lots of good Varys stuff ahead of you- even in book five he's causing trouble!!!

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  2. Ooooh - Varys! I really like Varys and I LOVE his portrayal on the show. I think it's done so well.

    I hope there's no spoilers for this seasons GOT!!! I'm just diving in because I need to know what you're saying!

    I really want to reread these books. I think it's almost time... I just wish I knew when Winds was slated to be published because then I would time it....

    Varys to me has the overall good of the Kingdom at heart, but obviously also has his own plays in the game... To what end I'm not sure...

    I love that GRRM has put all these seeds and tidbits throughout the entire series - I love that sort of foreshadowing. Almost NOTHING is irrelevant.

    Yup, definitely want to read these again... I think there will be much information gleaned from rereads!

    Great post Greg!

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    1. I know, right? Varys!! He's great on the show. And most of my spoilers are for the b ooks, so hopefully you won't be ruined for anything on the show by reading these. I hear you- it would be nice to know when Winds is coming out, but go on- read 'em anyway. :)

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  3. Thanks for sharing Greg, Varys is great and I loved him in this weeks episode.

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    1. Yup. :) I thought he was great on the show too.

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  4. Maybe I can just read your posts instead of watching the show or reading the books. lol

    For What It's Worth

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    1. Sure, I've got you covered!! :)

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  5. Sounds like the books have much more political intrigue than the show. I need to read them but I feel like they're a big commitment I'm not quite ready for.

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    1. I think they do. Varys in particular has more going on, as I mentioned in this post. It gives him higher stakes I think?

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  6. I haven't read the books, but watch the show. After six seasons (I believe the one being currently showed it's the 7th), I still haven't been able to make my mind up about Varys.

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  7. I'm so bad at remembering all of the prophecies in the books, LOL. More on the (possibly fake) Aegon story line is one of the biggest reasons why I NEED The Winds of Winter! I don't know how Varys keeps track of all of his plotting; he seems to be everywhere all at once! With what Melisandre said to him in this week's episode of the show, I wonder what's going to happen to Varys's TV counterpart; it's hard to imagine anyone taking him by surprise.

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    1. You know I probably read them two or more times before I even caught some of this stuff. I just used to read 'em and wonder how I would remember everything. then a few years ago I read em again and took LOTS notes!

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  8. Varys has always intrigued because he has that whole "You might not like the way I'm going about it, but I'm doing it for the right reasons" thing going on. I also liked how he is depicted on the TV series. Great post!

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