Lord Varys: Master of Whisperers, Friend or Foe?

At the end of Season 2 we have Lord Varys visiting our wounded Little Lion after the battle of Blackwater.  Varys has no words of comfort for Tyrion, but does bring Shae to him in an act of kindness.

I got to thinking about Varys and came to the conclusion that he is one of the good guys, at least for now.  He’s shown through his actions that he really does want peace in the realm.  He gives advice both straight-forwardly and in riddles.  I like the riddles.  One I care for especially was the conversation he had with Tyrion about power and it’s myth:

“Power is a curious thing, my lord.  Perchance you have considered the riddle I posed you that day in the inn?”  ”It has crossed my mind a time or two,” Tyrion admitted.  ”The king, the priest, the rich man – who lives and who dies?  Who will the swordsman obey?  It’s a riddle without an answer, or rather, too many answers.  All depends on the man with the sword”  ”And yet he is no one,” Varys said.  ”He has neither crown nor gold nor favor of the gods, only a piece of pointed steel.”  ”That piece of steel is the power of life and death” “Just so… yet if it is the swordsmen who rules us in truth, why do we pretend our kings hold the power?  Why should a strong man with a sword ever obey a child king like Joffrey, or a wine-sodden oaf like his father?”

They go on with their usual banter, but the bottom line is something very telling about Varys – “Power resides where men believe it resides.  No more and no less.  A shadow on the wall, yet shadows can kill.  And ofttimes a very small man can cast a very large shadow.”  Varys was in essence telling Tyrion that he could rule and rule well.  Power is an illusion and Tyrion is very good at getting by with smoke and mirrors, brains and wits.

There have been other instances as well where I caught the eunuch trying to work for the betterment of everyone with no real agenda putting himself forward.  When Ned Stark is chained up in the black cells, Varys pays him more then one visit and tries to convince him to recant on his accusations of the Lannisters and thus save his daughters from harm.  Even though it has been inferred in Season 1 that Varys may be working toward the end of a Targaryen once again ruling the 7 kingdoms, it seems that Varys is more interested in keeping the peace – at least for now.  And having Ned Stark take back his words would be a good start.  Varys knows that a war would be imminent.  He couldn’t undo Catelyn capturing the Imp, but he could try to persuade Ned to have Catelyn free Tyrion thus lessening the threat of war.  I don’t see any personal gain Varys would have gotten from this.  Compared to Littlefinger, Varys is practically altruistic.

There have been confusing issues with Varys goading Ned to thinking suspiciously and feeding him information that might cause agitation, but for the most part, I think that Varys means well.  He tried to warn Ned about Robert’s life being in danger; about the reason Jon Arryn died and who was responsible and why.  Varys was biding his time until he felt he could trust Ned.  He wasn’t sure.

With Tyrion, Varys took on an almost protective nature; keeping his secrets and facilitating visits with Shae.  He could have caused a great deal of trouble for Tyrion if Tywin Lannister found out that he brought “that whore” to court at Kings Landing, but he chose to help instead of hurt.

Varys has to have motives; everyone has motives, but I don’t see where they are particularly harmful to anyone.  It seems that things would be much more peaceful if he got his way.  It remains to be seen.

War changes everything…it is known!

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