Varys

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Varys
Varys by Amoka.jpg
Varys by Amok©

Alias Lord Varys
the King's Spider[1]
the eunuch[2]
the Spider[3]
Rugen
Title master of whisperers
undergaoler (as Rugen)
Born At Lys[4]
Book(s) A Game of Thrones (appears)
A Clash of Kings (appears)
A Storm of Swords (appears)
A Feast for Crows (mentioned)
A Dance with Dragons (appears)

Played by Conleth Hill
TV series Season 1 | Season 2 | Season 3 | Season 4 | Season 5 | Season 6

Lord Varys, called "the Spider", is an enigmatic member of the small council and the master of whisperers for King Robert I Baratheon, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms.[5] In the television adaptation Game of Thrones he is played by Conleth Hill.[6]

Appearance and Character

See also: Images of Varys

A eunuch, Varys is plump, bald, and effeminate. The spymaster has soft white hands. He powders his face and smells of lavender, lilacs, and rosewater.[7][8][9][10]

When at court, Varys wears rich silks, velvets, and damasks and soft slippers.[8][11] His outward manner is obsequious, mysterious, and squeamish. He is a master of disguise, however, and can change his appearance, gait, smell, and costume to become unrecognizable.[8][12][13]

Secrets are Varys's trade, and his skill at acquiring them has earned him a reputation for being seemingly omniscient. Crucial to his trade is a spy network of children that he refers to as his little mice[14] or little birds.[1]

Varys's history of providing information to all sides, of aiding enemies, of pitting rivals against one another, and of manipulation to achieve his ends has earned him a reputation of being distasteful and untrustworthy among the nobles at court.[3][9] In private, however, he claims to value order, stability, and peace above all, and professes loyalty to those who work for those goals as well.[15][16]

Lord Varys is not a true lord, having received the title as a courtesy for being a member of the small council.[1][17]

History

In Pentos, young Varys befriended a poor sellsword named Illyrio Mopatis - by Pojypojy ©

Free Cities

According to Grand Maester Pycelle, Varys was born as a slave in Lys.[3] Varys says he was apprenticed as an orphan to a troupe of mummers who worked the Free Cities, Oldtown, and occasionally King's Landing. During their stay in Myr, a man offered a large sum of money for Varys, an offer his master found too tempting to refuse. The man gave Varys a potion that made him powerless to move or speak, but did nothing to dull his senses as his manhood was cut off at the stem, then burnt in a brazier in a blood magic ritual. The man had no further use for Varys and tossed him out on the streets alone alone. Varys claims to have held a hatred for all things magical ever since.[12] He resorted to begging, prostitution, and thievery, eventually becoming the best thief in Myr, until a rival forced him out and he fled to Pentos.[12][14]

Impoverished and despised in Pentos, Varys made an agreement with a poor sellsword, Illyrio Mopatis. Varys would steal objects from lesser thieves and Illyrio would get the objects back for their original owners for a small fee. Soon, everyone in Pentos who ever had valuables stolen from them knew who to ask to get their belongings back. Varys and Illyrio quickly grew rich. Realizing the value of information, Varys began training his spy network to acquire the information, letters, ledgers and charts of the wealthy and powerful. The little mice were agile orphans purchased by Varys.[14]

Aerys II Targaryen

These secrets increased Varys and Illyrio's wealth tenfold, and in time Varys became so infamous that word of his talents reached the ears of Aerys II Targaryen across the narrow sea. In his growing paranoia, Aerys no longer trusted his son, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, his wife, Queen Rhaella Targaryen, or his Hand of the King, Lord Tywin Lannister.[14]

As spymaster in King's Landing, Varys's influence grew with Aerys's paranoia, as he was quick to point out traitors and schemers to his liege. Varys mastered the secret passages within the Red Keep and made good use of them with his spy network, who became known as his little birds. Varys alerted Aerys to the possibility that his son Rhaegar was using attendance at the tourney at Harrenhal as a pretext to rally lords to his cause in removing Aerys as king. This caused Aerys to attend the tournament, the first time he had left the Red Keep since the Defiance of Duskendale.[18]

Robert I Baratheon

Varys and the Iron Throne - by Mike Capprotti ©

Following the Battle of the Trident during Robert's Rebellion, Varys counseled Aerys II Targaryen to close his gates to Tywin Lannister, as he could not be trusted. Aerys, however, listened to Grand Maester Pycelle and opened the gates to the Lannister forces, who proceeded to kill the remaining Targaryens present in the Sack of King's Landing.[19] The new king, Robert I Baratheon, pardoned Varys and allowed him to remain master of whisperers.[20]

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

Varys whispers to Lord Eddard Stark © Mike Capprotti

One of Varys's spies, Ser Jorah Mormont, sends word from Essos that the exiled Princess Daenerys Targaryen has wed Khal Drogo. Varys sends a rider to inform King Robert I Baratheon, who is returning from Winterfell with his new Hand of the King, Lord Eddard Stark.[21] Varys does not recognize the Valyrian steel dagger used to attack Bran Stark, but Lord Petyr Baelish claims to have once owned it.[1]

After the Hand's tourney, Varys disguises himself and comes to meet Eddard at his chambers. He warns Eddard that Queen Cersei Lannister is trying to kill King Robert. He sttes that his goal is peace and stability and professes to assist Lord Eddard in his investigations against House Lannister. Varys also reveals that the former hand, Lord Jon Arryn, was poisoned with the tears of Lys.[8]

A disguised Varys meets Illyrio Mopatis to delay a war between Houses Stark and Lannister until the right time.[22] Varys brings Jorah's report of Daenerys being pregnant to the small council, which results in Robert's command to assassinate both her and her unborn child.[23]

When King Robert is wounded while hunting in the kingswood, Eddard orders Varys to halt the attempts on Daenerys's life.[24] Varys is in attendance when Cersei has Eddard arrested.[25]

Varys and Littlefinger - by Eeba-ism ©

After Robert dies, Varys remains master of whisperers for the new king Joffrey I Baratheon. When Joffrey demands that someone take the blame for his father's death, Varys suggests Ser Barristan Selmy.[7] Joffrey and Cersei dismiss Barristan, a move many outside the council see as a folly.[26]

After Eddard is imprisoned, Varys visits him disguised as a gaoler. Varys persuades Ned that for the sake of his daughter, Sansa Stark, he must falsely confess to treason so Cersei will allow him to take the black, thus delaying a war between Stark and Lannister.[15] Despite Varys's intentions to spare Lord Stark's life, however, King Joffrey goes against the council's wishes and decides at the last minute to have Ned executed, much to the shock of Varys and the other onlookers at the Great Sept of Baelor.[11]

A Clash of Kings

Varys gathering intelligence. © FFG

Tyrion Lannister acts as Hand of the King while his father, Lord Tywin Lannister, is on campaign during the War of the Five Kings. Varys helps Tyrion hide his lover, Shae, in King's Landing.[7]

An uneasy alliance forms between Varys and Tyrion, with the master of whisperers providing the Hand with information. Varys assists Tyrion in gaining control of the City Watch of King's Landing and informs him that Ser Lancel Lannister was sleeping with his cousin, Queen Cersei.[9][27]

Varys assists Tyrion in protecting Shae, setting a up a secret route through which he can visit her and keep her true identity secret from Tyrion's sister, Cersei.[9] During their work together, Varys reveals to Tyrion the origins of how he became castrated.[27] It is also revealed that Varys was the one who sent Gendry with Yoren to join the Night's Watch, so the boy would not be killed by Cersei's agents simply for the crime of being the late King Robert's bastard.[9]

A Storm of Swords

Varys ushering someone into one of his clandestine entrances. © MarcSimonetti

After Tyrion Lannister's recovers from the Battle of the Blackwater, he resumes his alliance with Varys, which includes assistance in continuing Tyrion's trysts with Shae.[13] Tywin resumes the position of Hand of the King and Tyrion instead becomes master of coin.[28]

Tyrion is put on trial for the murder of King Joffrey I Baratheon at his royal wedding. Varys testifies against Tyrion, providing notes on conversations between the two and a great deal of seemingly-damning evidence.[10]

After Tyrion is condemned to die, Varys is forced at swordpoint by Ser Jaime Lannister to release his brother, Tyrion. During the trip through the secret tunnels beneath the Red Keep, Varys leads Tyrion past a ladder that the dwarf recognizes as leading to the chamber of the Hand of the King. Tyrion ascends the ladder to kill his father, Tywin.[29]

During the siege of Meereen, Ser Barristan Selmy reveals to Queen Daenerys Targaryen’s horror that Ser Jorah Mormont has been spying on her on behalf of Varys and the small council for gold and in hopes of gaining a royal pardon. Barristan tells her that she is watched and since the day of her wedding to Khal Drogo there has been an informer at her side.[30] After Meereen is taken, Jorah confesses he took the eunuch's gold and learned some ciphers and wrote some letters. He admits to Daenerys he had suspected that the wine intended for her in Vaes Dothrak had been poisoned after reading a letter from Varys brought there by caravan. He tells her that Varys wanted her watched, but not harmed. Daenerys banishes Jorah for his betrayal.[31]

A Feast for Crows

The Spider - by Amok ©

After Varys's part in Tyrion's escape and Tywin's murder, he vanishes without a trace. A dungeon turnkey named Rugen disappears as well.[32] In Rugen's living space a Gardener coin is discovered and shown to Cersei, increasing her mistrust of House Tyrell.[33] Rugen is one of Varys's disguises.[34]

Cersei, now ruling in King's Landing as Queen Regent to her son, King Tommen I Baratheon, appoints Qyburn to fill the position of master of whisperers. Qyburn notes that many of Varys's spies came to him with secrets to sell, reinforcing Cersei's belief that Varys had always oversold his value to make people dependent on him and more vulnerable to his schemes.[35] Ser Jaime Lannister begins to suspect that Varys might have had a hand in the disappearance of Tyrek Lannister, once one of King Robert's squires, during the riot of King’s Landing.[36]

A Dance with Dragons

Varys has Tyrion Lannister smuggled across the narrow sea to Pentos, where Tyrion meets Varys's old friend, Magister Illyrio Mopatis.[37] Tyrion learns that during Robert's Rebellion, Varys, a Targaryen loyalist, allegedly switched the baby Aegon with that of a peasant baby. With the realm believing the prince had died during the Sack of King's Landing, Varys had Aegon smuggled to Essos to be raised by Lord Jon Connington, the exiled Hand of the King and the friend of Aegon's father, Prince Rhaegar. To conceal Jon's activities, Varys concocted the false story that Jon had drank himself to death in Lys after being caught stealing from the Golden Company.[38][39] Varys, Illyrio, and the Golden Company now plot to wed the teenaged Aegon to Daenerys Targaryen, Queen of Mereen, and place him on the Iron Throne.[37][14][39] The landing of the Golden Company beings in the stormlands.[40]

Varys employs the secret passages of the Red Keep to enter the chambers of Grand Maester Pycelle and kill him. He then dispatches one of his little birds to fetch Ser Kevan Lannister, now Lord Regent after Cersei's disgrace, under the pretext that the Grand Maester has a message for him. Varys shoots Kevan with a crossbow, going on to apologize and note that his actions are not out of malice but rather because Kevan's competent leadership threatens to undo Cersei's follies and years of Varys's careful planning. Kevan's death will sow further dissent between the Lannisters and Tyrells, making the realm easy prey for Aegon to arrive and be proclaimed king, for the good of the realm. Varys then summons several of his little birds to end Kevan's suffering.[41]

Known Disguises

Varys employs the use of various disguises to go about unnoticed. These include:

  • As a stout man in a heavy brown robe in roughspun, with cracked, mud-caked boots smelling of sweat. His face is hidden by a cowl, and his hands are drawn up into voluminous sleeves. At first he speaks in a strange low voice. Eddard Stark notices Varys's usual cloying tones are gone and his voice is a thin and sharp as a whip.[8]
  • As a begging brother in filthy patched robes, bare feet crusty with dirt, a bowl about his neck on a leather thong where a septon would have worn a crystal. He stinks and his mouth is full of rotted teeth.[12]

Quotes by Varys

A eunuch has no honor, and a spider does not enjoy the luxury of scruples, my lord.[15]
– Varys to Eddard Stark


Eddard: Tell me, Lord Varys, who do you truly serve?

Varys: Why, the realm, my good lord, how ever could you doubt that? I swear it by my lost manhood. I serve the realm, and the realm needs peace.[15]

Eddard Stark and Varys


Why is it always the innocents who suffer most, when you high lords play your game of thrones?[15]
– Varys to Eddard Stark


The storms come and go, the waves crash overhead, the big fish eat the little fish, and I keep on paddling.[9]
– Varys to Tyrion Lannister


Power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less.[9]
– Varys to Tyrion Lannister


Tyrion: Lord Varys, sometimes I feel as though you are the best friend I have in King's Landing, and sometimes I feel you are my worst enemy.

Varys: How odd. I think quite the same of you.[42]

- Tyrion Lannister and Varys


Secrets are worth more than silver or sapphires.[14]
– Varys to Illyrio Mopatis


Ser Kevan. Forgive me if you can. I bear you no ill will. This was not done from malice. It was for the realm. For the children ... There are many like you, good men in service to bad causes ...[16]
– Varys to Kevan Lannister

Quotes about Varys

He smelled as foul and sweet as flowers on a grave.[2]
Eddard Stark's thoughts


Lord Varys knows all.[1]
- Petyr Baelish to Catelyn Stark


The title was but a courtesy due him as a council member; Varys was lord of nothing but the spiderweb, the master of none but his whisperers.[1]
- thoughts of Catelyn Stark


But Varys has ways of learning things that no man could know. He has some dark art, Ned, I swear it.[2]
Catelyn Stark to Eddard Stark


The Lord Varys was born a slave in Lys, did you know? Put not your trust in spiders, my lord.[3]
- Pycelle to Eddard Stark


Lord Varys, sometimes I feel as though you are the best friend I have in King's Landing and sometimes I feel you are my worst enemy.[42]
Tyrion Lannister to Varys


Birds are lost, messages stolen or sold ... there are things I might tell you of that eunuch that would chill your blood ...[43]
Pycelle to Tyrion Lannister


Shae: It's still him. Only dressed different.

Tyrion: A different look, a different smell, a different way of walking. Most men would be deceived.
Shae: And most women, maybe. But not whores.[12]

- Shae and Tyrion Lannister


You think you're the only one he whispers secrets to? He gives each of us just enough to convince us that we'd be helpless without him.[44]
Cersei Lannister to Tyrion Lannister


Ser Barristan once told me the rot in King Aerys's reign began with Varys. The eunuch should never have been pardoned.[20]
Stannis Baratheon to Davos Seaworth

References and Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 18, Catelyn IV.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 20, Eddard IV.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 25, Eddard V.
  4. George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Varys.
  5. A Game of Thrones, Appendix.
  6. HBO: Game of Thrones: cast and crew
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 3, Tyrion I.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 30, Eddard VII.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 8, Tyrion II.
  10. 10.0 10.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 66, Tyrion IX.
  11. 11.0 11.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 65, Arya V.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 44, Tyrion X.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 12, Tyrion II.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 5, Tyrion II.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 58, Eddard XV.
  16. 16.0 16.1 A Dance with Dragons, Epilogue.
  17. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 65, Sansa VIII.
  18. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 67, The Kingbreaker.
  19. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 37, Jaime V.
  20. 20.0 20.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 36, Davos IV.
  21. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 12, Eddard II.
  22. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 32, Arya III.
  23. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 33, Eddard VIII.
  24. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 47, Eddard XIII.
  25. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 49, Eddard XIV.
  26. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 57, Sansa V.
  27. 27.0 27.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 29, Tyrion VII.
  28. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 19, Jon III.
  29. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 77, Tyrion XI.
  30. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 57, Daenerys V.
  31. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 71, Daenerys VI.
  32. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 3, Cersei I.
  33. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 7, Cersei II.
  34. 34.0 34.1 Game of Thrones, Season 1, "The Pointy End", DVD Commentary.
  35. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 17, Cersei IV.
  36. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 27, Jaime III.
  37. 37.0 37.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 1, Tyrion I.
  38. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 22, Tyrion VI.
  39. 39.0 39.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 24, The Lost Lord.
  40. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 63, Victarion I.
  41. A Dance with Dragons, Epilogue.
  42. 42.0 42.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 15, Tyrion III.
  43. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 25, Tyrion VI.
  44. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 54, Tyrion XII.

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