Little birds

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A little bird. © FFG

Little birds are what Varys calls his network of spies all over the Seven Kingdoms and perhaps beyond. The little birds supply Varys with much of his intelligence.

Mice in Pentos

Varys originally started out as a thief in Myr, but after a rival thief informed on him, he fled to Pentos. There, Varys met Illyrio Mopatis, and together they formed a team. Varys would spy on lesser thieves and steal from them, whilst Illyrio offered help to the victims of those thieves, for a reward.[1]

After a while, Varys stopped spying and stealing himself, but started to train his "mice". Varys preferred the orphan boys and young girls, the smallest, those who were quickest and quiet. He taught them to climb walls and slip down chimneys. He also taught them how to read.[1]

When Varys explained to Illyrio how secrets were worth more than silver or sapphires, the mice started stealing letters, ledgers and charts. Even later, the mice were taught to read the letters and leave them where they were.[1]

Birds in King's Landing

Word of Varys' talents reached the Red Keep in King's Landing, where King Aerys II Targaryen had grown mistrustful of his heir, wife and Hand. Varys thus came to King's Landing to serve Aerys, as the Master of Whispers.[1] Whilst no longer living in the same city, Varys and Illyrio kept working together. It is Illyrio who provides Varys with his new spies, called little birds in King's Landing. It is hinted that the children who become little birds have their tongues cut out, as to prevent secrets from getting out.[2] The birds are provided to Varys in those conditions.[3]

Revent Events

A Game of Thrones

The birds warn Varys about the sudden arrival of Catelyn Tully in King's Landing.[4] Petyr Baelish warns Eddard Stark that Varys' birds are watching him.[5] This particular bird is a young boy, who was squatting by the steps of the armory door, honing a sword with an oilstone.[5] He had a view on the Tower of the Hand from this position.

Arya Stark overhears Varys telling Illyrio Mopatis in the dungeons of the Red Keep that he needs new birds.[2]

A Clash of Kings

Varys is warned by his birds about Shae, the whore Tyrion Lannister had tried to sneak into King's Landing, since his father had forbidden him to take the girl to court with him.

A Storm of Swords

While questioning Sansa Stark about Joffrey Baratheon, Lady Olenna Tyrell demands her fool to sing as loud as he possibly can, to prevent others, including Varys' birds, from hearing anything that is being said.

A Feast for Crows

Cersei Lannister, fearing that her brother Tyrion is hiding inside the hidden passages of the Red Keep, doesn't realise the people she hears are actually Varys' birds, who are still operating from behind the walls.[6]

A Dance with Dragons

Varys sends one of his bird to fetch Kevan Lannister and bring him to the chambers of Grandmaester Pycelle. Once there, Varys mortally wounds Kevan, and has several of his little birds finish the job.[7]


“Nothing happens in this city without Varys knowing. Oftimes he knows about it before it happens. He has informants everywhere. His little birds, he calls them.”[4]

Littlefinger, to Catelyn Stark

Mice in the walls, she would tell herself, no more than that.[6]

- Cersei Lannister

I must have gold, and another fifty birds.
So many? The ones you need are hard to find... so young, to know their letters... perhaps older... not die so easy...

No. The younger are safer... treat them gently... ...if they kept their tongues...

...the risk...[2]

- Varys and Illyrio Mopatis discussing new birds, a conversation partly overheard by Arya Stark

References and Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 5, Tyrion II.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 32, Arya III.
  3. Q&A Before/After reading ConQuest 44, May 25, 2013 [1]
  4. 4.0 4.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 18, Catelyn IV.
  5. 5.0 5.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 25, Eddard V.
  6. 6.0 6.1 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 32, Cersei VII.
  7. A Dance with Dragons, Epilogue.