Note: spoilers for both seasons and all five books. Proceed with caution. You have been warned.
Now, are we ready to investigate the shifty mind and black, black soul of one Petyr Baelish? Excellent. Here we go.
One of the (few) disappointments I have with the Game of Thrones TV series is the character of Littlefinger. While it’s clear that he’s shifty and untrustworthy, he’s not the master schemer of the books. This is particularly sad because, when I first saw that Aidan Gillan was cast, I thought “Tommy Carcetti in Westeros! Yes!” But instead we se a Littefinger who’s genuinely afraid of the Lannisters, and who approaches Caitlin directly and get turned down, rather than trying to manipulate her.
Conversely, Littlefinger is one of the great triumphs of the books. He’s never a viewpoint character, and rarely speaks directly about his plans (the only occasion I can think of is his conversation with Sansa bout Harry the heir), but Martin gives us enough clues that we can work out what he’s been doing. F. Scott Fitzgerald once said:
I didn’t have the two top things–great animal magnetism or money. I had the two second things, tho’, good looks and intelligence. So I always got the top girl.
Likewise, Littlefinger didn’t have the two top things, inherited position and power, but he had the next two things, intelligence and no conscience of any kind.
A blogger who calls himself The Halfhand has given us an awesome summary of what Littlefinger has been up to over the course of the books, It’s very long and very detailed, and I can’t say that I’ve thought about all of it, but where I have had time to consider, he’s been, in my opinion, spot on. If you love AGoT, you should read the whole things. There are just a few of the highlights:
- Littlefingr does awful things because they might be of some future advantage. For instance, he has Jon Arryn murdered, not as part of a fully worked-out plan, but because he suspects that Ned Stark would be easier for him to control.
- Littlefinger deliberately creates chaos because he assumes he’ll be able to take advantage of it. For instance , his lie about the dagger that almost killed Bran being Tyrion’s was purely to increase tensions between Starks and Lannisters, because there is great opportunity for an up-and-coming schemer during a civil war.
- Littlefinger likes to dispose of his tools once they’ve done their job: Hugh, Dontos, Lysa Arryn. Dead tools tell no tales. Littlefinger also has a hand in many of the high-profile deaths: Jon Arryn, Ned Stark, Joffrey, Lysa Arryn, as well as in framing Tyrion, which led directly to Tywin’s death.