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"Storms come and go, the big fish eat the little fish, and I keep on paddling."
Varys to Tyrion Lannister[src]

Varys, sometimes called The Spider, is a major character in the second season. He initially appeared as a recurring character in the first season and debuted in "Lord Snow". He is played by starring cast member Conleth Hill. Varys is a eunuch and the Master of Whisperers on the king's small council. He is a skilled manipulator and commands a network of informants across two continents.



Varys was born across the Narrow Sea in the Free Cities. He is a eunuch and was castrated in his youth. He is a member of the King's small council, where he serves as Master of Whisperers, the King's foremost spymaster and intelligence agent. He holds no inherited title or land in Westeros, but is called 'Lord' as a courtesy due to his position on the council, which traditionally is made up of great lords.[1]

Varys is bald and tends towards fat (due to his castration). He has a gift for impersonation. Varys often puts on the public persona of being nothing more than a pudgy man well suited to the pleasantries of court life; humble, obsequious, fawning and a little effeminate. This is simply a facade that Varys has developed, which often leads those who do not know him well to underestimate him as a cheerful and vapid flatterer. In reality he is a cunning and ruthless manipulator of court politics, on-par with Master of Coin Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, with whom he frequently spars. Unlike Baelish, Varys insists that his goals are to achieve what he honestly feels is best for the realm, though of course, what he and the current king feels is best might be two separate things.[2]

He is disparagingly known as 'The Spider' due to his vast web of intelligence sources. His sophisticated intelligence network spans both Westeros and Essos, as far as Vaes Dothrak and even Qarth.[3][4] He refers to his agents and sources of information as his 'little birds'. One of his jobs is to keep an eye on the movements of Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen and ensure they do not become a threat to King Robert's reign.[1]

Season 1

The Hand of the King Jon Arryn dies unexpectedly and King Robert Baratheon rides north to ask Eddard Stark to replace him. The small council are left to run the kingdom in his absence.[5] Eddard is summoned to the small council upon his arrival in King's Landing. Varys greets him as he enters. During Eddard's first meeting he learns that Robert has ordered a tournament to honour his appointment and that the realm has descended into debt.[6]

Varys provides Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish with intelligence that Catelyn Stark is travelling to the city incognito. She brings news of an assassin being sent to kill her son Bran. They meet with Catelyn and attempt to identify the dagger used by the catspaw. Varys is surprised when Littlefinger says that he lost the dagger in a wager to Tyrion Lannister.[7]

Varys joins the rest of the small council to discuss the rise in crime in the city as a result of the tournament. He is concerned about the capacity of the city watch to cope. In a private meeting with Eddard, Grand Maester Pycelle implies that Varys was involved with Jon Arryn's death poison being a favored weapon of eunuchs.[8]

Varys meets with Eddard Stark and frankly tells him that King Robert is a fool and likely doomed unless Eddard can save him. He confirms that Jon Arryn was murdered with a poison called the Tears of Lys and implicates the deceased Ser Hugh of the Vale in the murder, though he is unable to pinpoint who ordered the killing. He claims to be a man of honor, like Eddard, who only wants to keep the realm stable and at peace.[9]

Varys and Illyrio

Varys speaks with Illyrio

Varys is overheard by Arya Stark (who is unable to identify him) conspiring with Magister Illyrio Mopatis of Pentos during a secret meeting. Varys and Illyrio want the realm plunged into civil war to faciliate the Dothraki invasion under Khal Drogo and thus the revival of House Targaryen. However, at a small council meeting Varys supports King Robert's proposal to assassinate Daenerys Targaryen.[10]

Varys has a tense confrontation with Littlefinger. Varys reminds Littlefinger of the incriminating information he holds: Varys knows of the illegalities going on in Littlefinger's brothels and his implication of House Lannister in the attempted murder of Bran. In turn Littlefinger reveals he knows that Varys met with Illyrio for some reason kept secret from the King and council.[11]

Varys is present when Eddard is arrested for treason after trying to deliver Robert's proclamation naming him protector of the realm.[12] Varys visits Eddard in the dungeons. He is incredulous that Eddard trusted Littlefinger over him, and even more so that he warned Cersei what he was going to do. Eddard says that he wanted to extend mercy to Cersei's children, whom Robert would have killed if he'd known the truth. Varys bluntly tells Eddard that his mercy is what killed King Robert, to Eddard's shame. Varys then tells him that Catelyn also no longer holds Tyrion as her prisoner, meaning that the Starks have nothing to barter with for Eddard's life. When Eddard suggests they should just kill him, Varys says "Not today, my lord.". As he departs, Eddard asks Varys who he truly serves: Varys, in a rare display of honesty, replies "The realm, my lord. Someone must".[13]

Varys returns to Eddard in his cell and informs him that Sansa appeared before the King to plead for his life. Varys thinks that Ned may be spared if he will acknowledge the legitimacy of King Joffrey Baratheon. Eddard refuses, saying that he cares more for his honour than for his life. Varys changes his mind by reminding him that continued defiance could endanger Sansa.[14] Varys is present at Eddard's trial outside the Great Sept of Baelor. The onlookers are stunned when Joffrey orders Eddard's public execution despite his confession. Varys, Cersei and the council try to intervene, but can only watch as Eddard is beheaded in front of a horrified Sansa and the jeering crowd. As Eddard's headless body is dragged away, Varys stares at the ground, clearly disgusted by the spectacle and later runs to aid Sansa as she faints from shock. Varys is present in Joffrey's court when the king sentences the singer Marillion to be maimed for mocking the royal family.[15]

Season 2

Main: Varys Season 2

Varys continues to serve King Joffrey Baratheon. Queen Regent Cersei Lannister orders the city closed to refugees from the War of the Five Kings. She is furious when her brother Tyrion Lannister is made acting Hand of the King by their father Lord Tywin Lannister.[16] Varys discovers that Tyrion has brought his lover Shae with him despite being instructed not to by Tywin. Varys lets Tyrion know that he is aware and Tyrion warns Varys not to threaten him.[17] Tyrion involves an unwitting Varys in a plot to test the loyalty of the small council. He gives each member a different version of a marriage alliance involving Myrcella Baratheon and waits to see who will reveal the information to Cersei. Pycelle exposes himself as Cersei's man and Tyrion has him arrested. Varys compliments him on the scheme. Varys assists Tyrion in installing Shae as a hand maid to the captive Sansa Stark.[18]

Varys helps Tyrion to plan the defence of King's Landing against an impending attack by King Stannis Baratheon. Varys disparagingly tells Tyrion that Daenerys Targaryen lives and has hatched three dragons, and that when they are grown, her enemies will have nowhere to hide. Tyrion prefers to focus on the problem at hand.[19]

Varys provides Tyrion with a map of the tunnel network under the city. He warns Tyrion that their success depends on his leadership. He relays rumors of Stannis's conversion to the Lord of Light and tells Tyrion that he despises the dark arts practiced by Stannis's adviser Melisandre. The Battle of the Blackwater is won, thanks to Tyrion's ingenious defensive tactics and the timely arrival of a host of House Lannister and House Tyrell cavalry under the command of Tywin and Ser Loras Tyrell. Tyrion is betrayed and wounded by Ser Mandon Moore during the fighting.[20]

Varys attends court as Joffrey rewards Tywin, Loras and Littlefinger for their service. Varys visits the recuperating Tyrion and sadly informs him that his father is being given all of the credit for the victory and that he has relieved Tyrion as Hand of the King, that the members of the hill tribes have been paid and sent back to the Vale and that Bronn has been removed from command of the City Watch. He also suggests that Queen Cersei was responsible for Ser Mandon's treachery and leaves Tyrion alone with Shae. Varys also approaches Ros and recruits her as a spy in Littlefinger's brothel.[21]


Season One appearances
Winter is Coming The Kingsroad Lord Snow Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things The Wolf and the Lion
A Golden Crown You Win or You Die The Pointy End Baelor Fire and Blood
Season Two appearances
The North Remembers The Night Lands What is Dead May Never Die Garden of Bones The Ghost of Harrenhal
The Old Gods and the New A Man Without Honor The Prince of Winterfell Blackwater Valar Morghulis

Image gallery


"Power is a curious thing...Three great men, a king, a priest, and a rich man. Between them stands a common sellsword. Each great man bids the sellsword kill the other two. Who lives, who dies? Power resides where men believe it resides; it's a trick, a shadow on the wall, and a very small man can cast a very large shadow."
Varys to Tyrion Lannister[src]
"The big fish eat the little fish, and I just keep on paddling."
―Varys To Tyrion Lannister[src]

In the books

In the Song of Ice and Fire novels, Varys is the most enigmatic member of the small council. While Varys' own account of his past might not be fully trusted, he was apparently born as a slave in the Free City of Lys and found himself in a mummer's troupe in Myr, where he was castrated, and he later spent time in Pentos. He later found his way to Westeros and rose to the position of Master of Whisperers during the reign of King Aerys II Targaryen. After the conclusion of Robert's Rebellion Varys was pardoned by King Robert Baratheon and continued to serve him as spymaster and intelligence-gatherer.

Varys says that he despises the dark magical arts practiced by witches and warlocks like Melisandre, claiming to have had unsavory run-ins with them in the past.

According to the TV series official pronunciation guide developed for the cast and crew, "Varys" is pronounced "VAIR-iss".

See also


v  d  e
Lord: King Tommen I Heir:
House-Baratheon-of-King's Landing-Main-Shield
Seat: Red Keep, King's Landing Lands: The Crownlands
Title(s): King of the Andals and the First Men · Lord of the Seven Kingdoms · Protector of the Realm
Current members:Queen Mother Cersei Lannister · Queen Margaery Tyrell
Deceased members:King Robert I · King Joffrey I · Princess Myrcella Baratheon
Household:Lord Mace Tyrell · Grand Maester Pycelle · Ser Jaime Lannister · Ser Gregor Clegane · Ser Preston Greenfield · Ser Arys Oakheart · Ser Boros Blount · Ser Balon Swann · Ser Osmund Kettleblack · Ser Ilyn Payne · Lord Gyles Rosby · Ser Aron Santagar · Qyburn · Septa Eglantine

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