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Petyr Baelish

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This Article Contains Spoilers - WARNING: This article contains major spoilers. If you do not wish to know vital information on plot / character elements in a story, you may not wish to read beyond this warning: We hold no responsibility for any negative effects these facts may have on your enjoyment of said media should you continue. That is all.


Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail, and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb, but refuse. They cling to the realm, or love, or the gods…illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is. But they’ll never know this. Not until it’s too late.
~ Littlefinger to Varys at the end of "The Climb"

Lord Petyr Baelish (also referred to as Littlefinger) is one of the main antagonists from the book series A Song of Ice and Fire as well as in the TV series Game of Thrones. He's a former member of the Small Council, serving as the Master of Coin for the Seven Kingdoms under both Robert and Joffrey Baratheon. He currently serves as Lord Protector of the Vale and also serves as Lord Paramount of the Trident (only in the books; in the TV series this position is occupied by Walder Frey).

In the TV series he is portrayed by Aidan Gillen, who also notably portrayed Miles Jackson, Nelson Rathbone, Janson and Paul Serene.

Personality

On the outside, Petyr Baelish may seem like an eccentric, meek, friendly and unexceptional man. In truth, he is an absolutely different character entirely. The exact inner motivations that drive Baelish are unclear, as are his ultimate goals, but he has no real loyalty or genuine affection for anyone (besides Catelyn Stark). Behind his smiles and forced mild manners, Littlefinger is cunning and calculating, willing to casually dispose of people who trusted him, like a man replacing an old pair of gloves he doesn't want anymore. Even so, he is an extremely intelligent man.

He is not only a genius at financial matters, but he is also a master manipulator. He can easily control other people by appealing to their weaknesses. The fact that he is a big-time brothel keeper means that he can control hundreds of people in his employment, and also attract and manipulate powerful people into entering his establishments and then threaten to reveal that they visited if they don't do as he says. He personally expresses that he should not be trusted because he does not truly serve anyone permanently or loyally. That being said, he is far from sycophantic, and serves only himself.

Petyr is a cold, calm and calculating sociopath with no true open compassion which isn't falsified, or just genuine but warped. He has no complaints about using other people's opinion or view of him to his advantage - Lysa's infatuation with him, Ned's uneasy distrust of him, Sansa's reliance on him, Cersei's caution but inevitable need of him. He is certainly ambitious, even if his true intentions are completely shrouded in mystery.

Early life

Petyr Baelish’s great-grandfather was a Braavosi sellsword in the service of Lord Corbray; when his son became a hedge knight he took the stone head of the Titan of Braavos as his sigil. Lord Baelish’s father was the smallest of small lords of a few rocky acres on the smallest of the Fingers. His father befriended Hoster Tully during their service in the War of the Ninepenny Kings, which led to Petyr being sent to be fostered at Riverrun with Lord Tully’s children.

At Riverrun Petyr was fostered as a ward and raised alongside his social betters, the Tully children, Catelyn, Lysa and Edmure, the latter being the one who first gave him the nickname "Littlefinger" as a reference to his family holdings. As they grew older, Petyr fell in love with Catelyn, who in turn loved him as a brother, but no more. When the betrothal between Catelyn and Brandon Stark was announced, Petyr challenged the much older and stronger Brandon to a duel for her hand. Brandon won handily, leaving Baelish with a significant scar, but spared his life in compliance with Catelyn's request. Catelyn did not speak to him afterwards and burned the single letter Petyr sent after Brandon's death.

Lysa, on the other hand, was madly in love with Petyr. Overlooking his obsession with her sister, one night, while he was drunk and miserable over Catelyn's rejection, she slipped into his bedchamber and bedded him. The delirious Petyr may have mistaken Lysa for Catelyn, and indeed called her "Catelyn" that night. He has since claimed (at court and in private) to have taken the maidenhood of both Tully sisters. Lysa became pregnant with Petyr's child as a result of their encounter. When Hoster Tully discovered this, he forced Lysa to drink moon tea to abort the pregnancy and banished Petyr from Riverrun, as the Baelish family was too small and insignificant to wed into his house.

Petyr maintained a relationship with Lysa even after her marriage to Lord Jon Arryn. Lysa convinced her husband to give Petyr control of customs at Gulltown, where he increased incomes tenfold. His skill with finances resulted in a series of appointments leading to his being named Master of Coin in King's Landing under King Robert Baratheon. There his influence furnished him with many allies and contacts, including the City Watch. He also bought numerous brothels in the city.

Just before the events of the first book, Jon Arryn discovered that all of King Robert Baratheon's children were actually fathered by Jaime Lannister and planned to alert the king. Petyr manipulated Lysa to poison her husband, claiming that it was to prevent him from sending her young son Robert away to be fostered at Dragonstone, with Stannis Baratheon. Jon Arryn did plan to send Robert Arryn to Dragonstone to protect him from his enemies, but Queen Cersei found out and convinced King Robert I to interfere and send young Robert to Casterly Rock with Tywin Lannister instead. Lysa, who was fiercely protective of her son, did his bidding. After that Lysa and Stannis fled from the capital to gather their forces at the Eyrie and Dragonstone. After Jon was killed, Petyr convinced Lysa to write a letter to her sister Catelyn stating that Lord Arryn had been poisoned and that the Queen was responsible.

A Game of Thrones

Petyr would meet Catelyn again, after Ned Stark was appointed Hand of the King. She came to King's Landing in secret to find information about the attempt on their son Bran's life and tell Eddard about it. Petyr learned of her arrival, and stashed her away in one of his brothels to protect her. Believing Petyr trustworthy due to their time together in Riverrun, Catelyn shows him the Valyrian Steel dagger that was used on her son. Petyr tells her that the dagger belonged to him once, but that he lost it in a wager with Tyrion Lannister. This was a lie however, and in truth, Petyr lost it to Robert Baratheon. This lie indirectly led to the War of the Five Kings, since Catelyn's belief that Tyrion was behind the attempted murder led to her arrest of him, and the war between the Riverlands and Westerlands. 

Petyr brings Ned Stark to meet his wife, and convinces him not to move against the Lannisters, who maintain a large power base at court, until they have proof. Petyr goes on to feign friendship with Ned, claiming his fondness for Catelyn as his motivation for befriending him, promising to help him find Jon Arryn's killer, and teaching him the intrigues of court life.

When Robert Baratheon learns that Daenerys Targaryen has married Khal Drogo, and is pregnant with her child, Petyr supports his plan to assassinate her. Ned refuses to condone this however, and resigns as Hand when Robert refuses to change his position. Before Ned can return to Winterfell, Petyr brings him to Chataya's Brothel , where one of Chataya's whores is raising King Robert's bastard child, Barra. Seeing the child sets Ned on a path of realisation that Robert and Cersei's children are illegitimate, and that the children's true father is Cersei's brother Jaime Lannister. 

After King Robert is mortally wounded, and dies of his wounds, Ned is named Lord Regent, and Protector of the Realm. Petyr advises Ned to ensure Prince Joffrey's succession, despite the fact that he is illegitimate and that the true heir is King Robert's brother; Stannis Baratheon. Ned refuses however, and tasks Petyr with securing the City Watch in order to seize the Iron Throne  for Stannis. Petyr betrays him however, and bribes the City Watch into supporting the Queen. Ned is arrested, and later executed by Joffrey.

A Clash of Kings

When Tyrion Lannister arrives in King's Landing as acting Hand of the King, he begins investigating Petyr's hand in framing him for the attempted murder of Bran Stark. He decides however, not to make a move against Petyr until he can weaken his powerbase by replacing Petyr's men with his own.

After the assassination of King Renly Baratheon, Petyr and Tyrion plot to ensure the loyalty of House Tyrell, who control the largest army in Westeros. Petyr volunteers to travel to Bitterbridge, to secure the alliance. He negotiates a deal with the Tyrells, gaining their loyalty in exchange for the betrothal of Margaery Tyrell to King Joffrey. The Tyrells enter the war on the Lannister's side, breaking Stannis' siege of King's Landing in the Battle of the Blackwater. For his part in ensuring the victory, Petyr is made Lord Paramount of the Trident, and given Lordship of Harrenhal, making Petyr into a High Lord. 

Petyr fosters contact with Ned's daughter Sansa, through Ser Dontos the Red, who promises her a way home to Winterfell. He also manages to outmanouver Tyrion Lannister, by ensuring the loyalty of Queen Cersei's guards; the Kettleblack Brothers, whom Tyrion believes are in his pay.

A Storm of Swords

Petyr informs Lord Tywin of the Tyrell's plans to spirit Sansa Stark away to Highgarden, where they intend to marry her to Willas Tyrell, in order to claim the North. Tywin intervenes, and marries her to his son Tyrion instead. Petyr also supplies the Lannisters with Jeyne Poole, a northern lady who had accompanied Sansa Stark to King's Landing. She is passed off as Arya Stark, and betrothed to Ramsay Bolton, in order to allow the Boltons to further cement their claim to the North. 

His new standing as a High Lord earns him the marriage prospect of the widow Lysa Arryn, as part of a plan of Tywin Lannister's to bring the Vale of Arryn into the fold without violence, since the Vale had up until then maintained neutrality. Petyr leaves King's Landing to woo Lysa into marrying him, with Tyrion serving as Master of Coin until his return. Petyr only makes a show of leaving however, and remains nearby King's Landing until after the wedding of Margarey and Joffrey, during which he and Olenna Tyrell executed a plot to poison the young king with the strangler. All evidence points to Tyrion as the culprit, seemingly ridding Petyr of a dangerous rival. Through the fool Ser Dontos Hollard, Petyr secures Sansa Stark, and has Dontos killed by Ser Lothor Brune's crossbow. Petyr takes Sansa with him to the Vale and has her hair dyed, disguising her his bastard daughter; Alayne Stone.

Petyr, Sansa, Ser Lothor, and the Baelish men stop on the Fingers for a few days. Lysa meets them there and insists upon marrying Petyr on the spot. He reluctantly agrees, and after the wedding they travel to the Eyrie, where Petyr spends much of his time traveling to visit the various lords of the Vale to cement his authority. Lysa names Petyr the Lord Protector of the Vale, much to the disapproval of the other nobles of the Vale. As Alayne, Sansa is betrothed to Lysa's child, Robert "Sweetrobin" Arryn, and they will marry as soon as Tyrion Lannister, Sansa's husband, is executed.

While in the Eyrie, Petyr grows increasingly attracted to Sansa, who grows into a beautiful 13 young woman bearing a strong resemblance to her mother. For a moment Petyr goes so far as to kiss her, a kiss that was witnessed by Lysa, who in a fit of jealous rage, attempts to kill Sansa, by tossing her out of the Moon Door. Petyr intervenes, and Lysa breaks down into tears, complaining that Petyr doesn't love her despite all she has done for him, also admitting that he convinced her to poison Jon Arryn. Petyr consoles her by telling her he has only ever loved one woman. He reveals that one woman as her sister Catelyn, before pushing her out of the Moon Door. He calls the guards and blames the vain singer Marillion, who had been terrorizing Sansa, for the murder.

A Feast for Crows

Marillion is tortured into confessing that he did kill Lysa and confined to the sky cells. In return for his confession he is allowed to keep his life but loses his eyes and a few fingers. During his imprisonment he sings various songs of the Seven Kingdoms. Meanwhile Sansa is getting into the role of Alayne Stone and Robert follows her everywhere now that Lysa is dead.

The lords of the Vale had been infuriated by Baelish controlling the Vale and Lysa's rule. She had isolated the Vale from the rest of the realm and remained neutral during the war, ignoring the fact that their wildling enemies, the Vale Mountain clansmen have become stronger after being rewarded by Lord Tywin after helping the Lannisters to fight King Stannis at the Battle of the Blackwater. The Royces were already considering open revolt against House Arryn to support Robb Stark before the Red Wedding and many Vale houses were on Lord Yohn Royce's side.

The High Steward of the Vale Lord Nestor Royce, keeper of the second Arryn castle, the Gates of the Moon, arrives at the Eyrie with his son Albar and Ser Marwyn Belmore to inquire about Lysa's sudden death. While the late Lord Jon Arryn was serving King Robert as Hand of the King, Nestor had been Protector of the Vale before Lysa returned to the Eyrie with her son. Because he virtually ruled the Vale for so long, Nestor feels he is owed for his long years of service. Petyr confidently puts the blame on Marillion. Sweetrobin and Alayne support Littlefinger's version. Petyr has Marillion repeat his confession in front of Nestor and then confines him again to the sky cells. Since the entire Vale hates Marillion, and the three guests were personally insulted by him, they are satisfied with Littlefinger's lies. In order to secure his loyalty, Lord Protector Baelish grants Nestor hereditary lordship over the keep after the War of the Five Kings, forming House Royce of the Gates of the Moon. The parchment contains the Arryn seal, but was signed by Petyr as Lysa was murdered before she could sign it.


With Lysa dead, Petyr claims the title of Lord Protector of the Vale, and guardianship of Robert Arryn, heir to the Vale. This angers to powerful and noble Lords of the Vale, who come together, led by Yohn Royce, to demand that Petyr relinquish his position and Robert Arryn. Yohn Royce forms a group called the Lord Declarant, who sign a letter stating their intent to remove Lord Petyr Baelish as Lord Protector of the Vale by any means necessary. The letter, signed at Runestone, is sent both to the Eyrie and King's Landing. The Queen Dowager Cersei, who's ruling the kingdoms in Tommen's name, tells Royce to do what he wants, but no cause any harm to Lord Baelish. The signatories are Lord Yohn Royce, Lady Anya Waynwood, Lord Gilwood Hunter, Lord Horton Redfort, Lord Benedar Belmore, and Ser Symond Templeton.

After some time of denying access of food and other goods from the outside to the Eyrie, the Lords Declarant negotiate a meeting and arrive with Lyn Corbray, brother of Lord Lyonel Corbray, to confront Petyr with their objections to his rule and their insistence at taking Lord Robert Arryn away from him. Nestor escorts the Lords Declarant up to the Eyrie to meet Petyr and Robert. Yohn Royce had already visited Winterfell once, on his way to the Wall to accompany his youngest son, the missing Ser Waymar, to the Wall. Sansa remembers how he defeated both Eddard and Rodrik Cassel in duel and she's afraid he might recognize her.

Lord Royce wants to remove Baelish from his office and take Robert to foster at Runestone, the seat of House Royce. However, the demands of the Lords Declarant are stymied by a display of belligerence from Corbray: Lyn Corbray, who is secretly on Petyr's pay-roll, feigns disgust for Petyr and draws his sword during the meeting, winning Petyr a trial period on his role as guardian of young Robert, much to Yohn Royce's rage and which shaming the Lords Declarant into giving Petyr a year to show his prowess at raising Robert and ruling the Eyrie. As it turns out, Petyr has his own agent among them and believes the weaknesses of the Lords will make them easy to manipulate from now on. Lord Royce sees Alayne Stone during the proceedings and shows sign of recognizing her, until his cousin Nestor assures him she's just Baelish's daughter.

Robert has become even more emotional, whiny, and unstable after his mother's death, and has become highly attached to Sansa, who has taken on a surrogate maternal role with regards to him. Robert states he is unable to sleep because of the singing of the maimed Marillion. Marillion died in the sky cells and Sansa assures Robert that Marillion has died, but Robert insists that he can still hear Marillion singing at night. Whatever that means it's unknown. At Petyr's suggestion, Maester Colemon has been using sweetsleep to treat Robert's seizures, although he is also worried about the potentially fatal side-effects of using it too often. 

Lord Benedar, Lady Waynwood, and Ser Symond attended the wedding of Lord Lyonel Corbray with a merchant's daughter in Gulltown, an event arranged by Petyr Baelish. The other Lords Declarant shun the wedding. Petyr had bought up the debts of the Waynwoods and persuaded Lady Anya to give permission for Sansa to wed her ward, Harrold Hardyng, if Harry agrees.

Due to the onset of winter, the Eyrie is currently empty and the Arryn court is currently living in the second castle of House Arryn, the Gates of the Moon. The Eyrie will be uninhabitable during the entire winter because of the cold weather of the Mountains of the Moon. Baelish has gained the loyalty of Nestor Royce since he promised him the Gates of the Moon. Petyr also invites the young boys Gyles Grafton and Terrance Lynderly to be companions for Robert at the Gates of the Moon.

Petyr returns from Sansa, who deduces the truth behind Lyn Corbray's actions, and Petyr confides in her his plans to use the trial period to eliminate, marginalize or win over the lords who stand in his way, with Lyn Corbray serving as an informer on any potential plots against him. Petyr considers Lord Yohn as the biggest threat to his plans to take over the Vale, for he is too honorable and has great influence over the other lords and cannot be easily bought, extorted or disposed of, in contrast to the other lords of the Vale. Petyr hopes to win the support of the other lords, since as long as Lord Yohn stands alone he is not so much a threat.

Petyr also informs Sansa of his intent to help to take Winterfell and her re-gain the North by marrying her to Arryn's second heir, Ser Harrold Hardyng, hinting at his intent to dispose of young Lord Robert. During Robert's Rebellion, the other two last Arryns, Elbert and Denys, died and Jon Arryn named his heir Ser Harrold, a son of a daughter of Alys Arryn, Jon's dead sister. Sansa will marry Harry as soon as the sickly Robert inevitably dies. He also notes that Queen Cersei's rule in King's Landing is bringing the Seven Kingdoms to disaster faster than he expected.

A Dance with Dragons

Petyr sets his eyes on Winterfell. The Lannisters gave Arya Stark to marry Lord Roose Bolton's son, Ramsay, helping to cement the alliance between House Bolton and the Crown. The captive Prince Theon Greyjoy later learns that the girl sent by the Lannisters to marry Ramsay Bolton is not Arya Stark, but a disguised Jeyne Poole, who had been whipped and trained while being kept in one of Petyr's brothels. Petyr plans to bring the army of the Vale on Winterfell, which is currently under the threat of an attack by King Stannis Baratheon and his force who also include numerous northern houses.

While Sansa befriends Nestor's daughter, Lady Myranda Royce, and helps and comforts Robert Arryn, Petyr plans to reveal her true identity and to reclaim Winterfell in her name. If Baelish succeedes he will gain control of the North through Sansa, while he already controls the Vale and the riverlands. It's unknown if Sansa is planning to manipulate Baelish and her future husband Harrold Hardyng. Robert's life might be in danger, as the namesake of House Arryn is currently weak.

News reaches Sisterton and White Harbor about Lord Yohn Royce publicly vowing to remove Lord Petyr Baelish from power in the Vale.

The High Septon and the Tyrells control King's Landing now and Cersei has been stripped of her regency. With the Crown having huge financial problems due to the follies of Cersei, the Lord Regent Protector of the Realm Ser Kevan Lannister wishes that Petyr was back in King's Landing as master of coin.

The Winds of Winter

Harrold rides with the Waynwoods to the Gates of the Moon, for the tourney for the Brotherhood of Winged Knights. There, he is met by Myranda Royce and Alayne Stone, his betrothed. When Alayne informs Harrold that he is to stay at Falcon Tower, he responds rudely, and insults her status as a bastard. Alayne runs off, desperately embarrassed, and encounters Lothor Brune, who gives Harrold the moniker of "Harry the Arse".

Later, during the feast, after Alayne has danced with several eligible knights, Harry comes and asks her forgiveness for his rudeness and asks her to dance. Alayne agrees, and while they dance, Harrold tells her how he fathered many bastards even though he's still in his teens. Sansa learned a few things from her experiences with Baelish, the Lannisters, and the Hound. She starts playing the game of thrones and manipulates Harry the Heir.

Robert Arryn shows to be smarter than he seems, as he starts to the other lords of the Vale. The boy grew fond of Sansa and trusts only her. Robert tells Sansa he wants to marry her, but she says he can't as she is baseborn. Robert doesn't like his cousin Harrold, thinking they are waiting for him to die so they can take over the Eyrie.


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Trivia

  • Petyr is arguably the true main antagonist of the War of the Five Kings. Jon Arryn's death is what triggers conflicts between the Baratheons and the hostilities between the Lannisters, the Tullys, and the Starks, which causes the Greyjoy to join the war as well. However the war could have still been prevented in many different ways, even with Baelish's help as well.
  • He is similar to Elliot Carver and Charles Augustus Magnussen; they gather information and use it to blackmail others, and are also quite manipulative.

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