Sunday, 14 May 2017

Game of Thrones Gossip #16 The Small Council

Welcome to my Game of Thrones Gossip, where all of us fanatics get the chance to discuss everything we love about this amazing TV series. I did a few spoiler free posts about the series last year but I found that there were other bloggers out there who were also itching to talk more freely about favourite characters and events without spoiling things for those visiting the blog. So I decided to do a whole series of these discussion posts that let us say everything we want and enjoy every second of it! The topics may talk about a death, an event, a character or be season reviews and so on. Please feel free to comment fully and without restriction!

I have to warn you that it is important that you have seen all six seasons before reading any of these posts because these posts and blogger comments will be oozing and exploding spoilers all over the place. If you haven't watched the series and plan to, be warned that it's a bad idea to be here right now! I take no responsibility if you read on and things are spoiled for you nor do I take responsibility for any mistakes on the pages I link you to.

This week I'm looking at the small council which in season one features Ned Stark, Hand of the King, Grand Maester Pycelle, Lord Petyr Baelish, Master of Coin, Varys, Master of Whisperers, Renly Baratheon, Master of Laws, Stannis Baratheon, Master of Ships, and usually the Commander of the Kingsguard. Ser Barristan Selmy is not at the meetings however, due to his previous service to the Targaryens. Stannis Baratheon does not take his seat at the council in the TV series. I am focusing on these men in season one so there will be more about them in upcoming posts as we go along.

Grand Maester Pycelle has served under four kings and sits on the Small Council. He is expected to give wise counsel to the King based on his wisdom and experience. In truth he flaunts his vow of celibacy to visit prostitutes and is a known spy for Cersei Lannister, who frankly despises him but finds him useful. He is smart enough to appear weaker than he really is to construct an image of a harmless old man. When the Small Council advised The Mad King not to trust Tywin Lannister during Robert's Rebellion, Pycelle gave the opposite opinion and this led to the sacking of King's Landing and the death of the King at the hand of Jaime Lannister. He makes it clear to Ned Stark that he believes Varys poisoned Jon Arryn, which we know is not true and he supports the murder of Daenerys Targaryen to save the lives of countless others. Seeing as his information led to the death of The Mad King, he probably supported her death in fear of what she might do to him if she takes the Iron Throne! 

Pycelle gives Ned the book that Jon Arryn was reading prior to his death, about the linage of noble houses in Westeros. It's not clear if he is aware of the significance of the book or of Cersei's secret affair with Jaime but my guess is that he doesn't know, or if he does, he doesn't care as long as he retains his position. He doesn't have the network of spies that Varys and Baelish have so I think he doesn't know too much of what is going on. He swears loyalty to King Joffrey but later seems to compare his actions to that of The Mad King. He counsels mercy for Ned, probably aware of the danger of all out war with the North if he were to be executed, instead wishing him to be sent in disgrace to the Night's Watch. Joffrey of course ignores all advice and has Ned executed.

Varys was born a slave and travelled with actors until he was sold to a sorcerer who used his sexual parts in a dark magic ritual and left him to die. Varys survived and clawed his way up from the gutter to become part of the Small Council serving The Mad King as a spymaster. He counselled against killing Brandon Stark which led to the rebellion, and letting Tywin into the city at the height of the rebellion but was ignored each time, leading to the downfall of the Targaryens. He remained a staunch supporter, secretly working with Mopatis to prod Daenerys and Drogo into invading Westeros while outwardly supporting her execution to cover his tracks. It was a risky strategy...did he know Jorah would step in to save her? How sure was he that the attempt would be botched? He has a vast network of spies across all the known kingdoms which lets him know what is happening before anyone else. He admires and despises Baelish in equal measures but enjoys their verbal sparring.

Varys seems to admire Ned Stark as an honest man and when he is sure that he can be trusted, he indicates what killed Jon Arryn and that he believes the deed was done by Hugh of the Vale, his squire who has recently been knighted. Varys is unsure who gave the order. When Ned is arrested, only Varys shows him any kindness, visiting him several times to pass on information and showing disbelief at Ned's actions in confronting Cersei and trusting Baelish. Varys is the one who persuaded Ned to forget his honour and confess for the sake of his family so I imagine that Varys felt guilty for that when Joffrey had him executed anyway, condemning Ned to die as a self confessed traitor. 

Petyr Baelish grew up in the home of Hoster Tully, falling in love with Catelyn Tully who never returned his feelings but considered him a friend. As a small boy with minimal land of his own, he gained the hated name of Littlefinger. He was nearly killed in a duel when he challenged Brandon Stark for Catelyn and has always hated Ned for marrying her after his brothers death. He gained wealth through owning brothels and soon learned that information was power. He is willing to do anything to rise higher and has an overall ambition to take the Iron Throne for himself. He and Varys compete to discover secrets to be used for advantage.

When Catelyn comes to King's Landing looking for information about who tried to kill her son, Baelish implicates Tyrion Lannister, setting off a chain of events that leads to Tyrion's arrest and the death of Jory Cassel, sparking the start of a war between the Lannisters and the Starks. He agrees to help Ned which gives him the chance to offer the information that appeared to get Jon Arryn killed-Robert's bastards. It does not take long for Ned to piece that together with the lineage book which shows that Baratheon sons are always dark haired like the bastards, but not like Cersei's blonde children. Ned asks Baelish to help him get Stannis on the throne when Robert dies and needs the City Watch to be loyal to him which Baelish promises. Instead Ned is betrayed and executed as a traitor, the ultimate revenge for marrying Catelyn. His betrayal of Ned also wins him favour with the Lannisters.

As the youngest Baratheon brother, Renly is loyal to Robert but does not like his talk of the 'good old days' when battles were fought and many innocents died. He is not a warrior and prefers court life to the idea of jousting and war and hates being asked about which women he has bedded. Renly is popular at court and is in a relationship with knight Loras Tyrell, whose House are prepared to back him as a future King. It is meant to be a secret but most people are probably aware of it. Loras believes that the people would follow Renly rather than the nasty Joffrey, his young brother or the unpopular Stannis Baratheon.

Renly welcomes Ned warmly to King's Landing and is the one person that Ned is glad to see. Renly is with Robert when he has his hunting accident and seeks out Ned to tell him the news. He suggests using his men to secure Joffrey before Robert dies so they can take control from the Lannisters and Renly can take the throne. Ned considers it treason as Stannis is the true heir, and Renly leaves with Loras and the House Tyrell guards before he can be captured by the Lannisters in the wake of Ned's plot.

Renly is married quickly to Margaery, the sister of Loras and has 100000 men in his army when he declares his intention to be King, more than his brother Stannis. Margaery is understanding of his preference for men, saying he only needs to bed her for duty to get sons. Renly meets Stannis to discuss their next move but Stannis lays down the law, join him and become his heir and Small Council place returned...or be destroyed. Renly refuses and tells Catelyn that Robb can have the north if he allies with Renly to take the south from the Lannisters after he destroys his brother. Minutes later, Renly is murdered by black smoke in the shape of a man wearing the face of Stannis to the horror of Catelyn and Brienne.


  1. Ooh the Small Council. Pit of vipers lol. Poor Ned was sooo out of his league ... I loved the dynamic between Varys and Ned when Ned was languishing in the black cells, and was hopeful that Varys would take a not to Jon or something, but alas it was not to be.

    The Baelish/ Sansa storyline is very different in the books so it will be fun to see what the show does with him vs what the books do.

    I liked Renly a lot more in the books than on the show, but their storylines are pretty similar. The chapter where catelyn visits Renly's camp and they discuss alliances is one of my favorite chapters of the whole series- you get a sense of how big his army is, you meet a bunch of the southern knights and people for the first time, and it's just an awesome chapter. I found myself wishing Renly and Robb could get together and utterly decimate he LAnnisters... :)

    1. I love Varys and all his plotting! GRRM said that the TV portrayal of Varys was one of the closest to his own idea of how the character would be. I like his verbal spats with Littlefinger too! If it hadn't been for Stannis and his smoke monster we would've had a chance to see Robb joining Renly for a joint attack which would've been fun! Of course I get why the author put the nix on it for more drama later! I've started on the books now...about 70 pages into the first one and I like the way it is written...I'm just too tired to read at all right now which is annoying!

    2. Ooh you're reading them- yay! I still that prologue is so chilling (no pun intended-har)! Can't WAIT to see what you think.

    3. He just pulls you into the story without it being over descriptive and I like the POV switches the way he does it. Just finished the murder of Mycah and Lady. Scum!

  2. I agree with Greg! such a viper nest! omg it reminds me so much of so many political assemblies! Their own punishment is to be so little relevant :)

    1. I don't think the UK parliaments are quite as evil as the likes of Littlefinger! Mind you, the Scottish Parliament is a bit poisonous...