As you may or may not know, Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire has its own Tumblr page (as well as its own Twitter and Facebook pages). Even more excitingly, we here at the blog have partnered with ASOIAF University to answer questions about A Song of Ice and Fire. We – that is, SomethingLikeaLawyer and I – take the text-based questions submitted to us, write up thoughtful, text-based answers, and publish these answers on the Tumblr.
Another productive week for us in the Tumblr-verse. The Hand always has the best answers to meta questions because he is all kinds of brilliant, and his answer to favorite aspects of ASOIAF warfare is no exception. Just as well, the Hand tackled the false assertion that the Freys were justified in enacting the Red Wedding, and dreamed up some excellent alternate histories about Aegon IV dying before the follies of his reign and Jaime Lannister protecting Elia Martell. As for me, I wrote another essay – The Windblown Grass, all about terrible strategist Doran Martell – thought up some Blackfyre words, and added a defining character moment for Theon to Tumblr friend Poor Quentyn’s excellent post to the same.
Following events at the end of A Storm of Swords and the readying of the Golden Company to move on Westeros, the Spider began to aggressively unweave the political and military fabric that kept the Lannisters and Tyrells in power in King’s Landing. Varys’ plan of slow-burn chaos in Westeros seen in the first three books of A Song of Ice and Fire now evolved into an active undermining of the political structure of King’s Landing. Taena Merryweather would work to undermine the relationship between Margaery Tyrell and Cersei Lannister, but she would not be Varys’ only pawn in Westeros.
As I’ve re-read key sections from A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons and The Winds of Winter for the Blood of the Conqueror series, I’ve come to the conclusion that Varys’ intelligence strategy in King’s Landing was not limited to Taena Merryweather. Varys needed to undermine the Lannister-Tyrell alliance in King’s Landing, but Varys also needed to disrupt their military power bloc in Eastern Westeros. The Golden Company and Aegon were coming to Westeros, and they would need the waters cleared for their approach.
In medieval and early Renaissance Europe, allegories or long-form metaphors were used as moral and explanatory story-telling devices. In these allegories, Folly was a character who resembled court jesters in appearance and served as the dramatic device to tempt the protagonist towards foolhardy deeds.
If A Song of Ice and Fire were an allegory, Varys and Illyrio would play the part of Folly in the story. Their soft, powdered hands and tittering laughs guide much of the action in A Song of Ice and Fire. Yet these men aren’t simple mummers performing trickery for laughs. Instead, their tricks and mummery are intended for the highest of dramas.
But their role as Folly is unclear and often misinterpreted. To attempt to expand our knowledge of the Varys-Illyrio plot, I’ve divided their scheming into two parts. In order to understand the plots of Illyrio and Varys, we have to explain the motivations and backgrounds of those pulling the strings. So, in today’s part we’ll be taking a deep dive into the underpinnings of Varys and Illyrio’s conspiracy before the start of events from A Game of Thrones. I plan to do this in three basic ways:
Their overall objective
A deep dive into the background of both players to include discussions of their origins, family dynamic and a bit of prophecy..
Finally, we’ll cover Varys and Illyrio’s opening acts in the folly during the reign of Aerys II.
Through this extended analysis, I hope you’ll come to understand Varys and Illyrio’s role as Folly in the story. But in the end, keep in mind that Varys and Illyrio’s folly will cause the deaths of tens of thousands in Westeros and Essos.