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The Mad Genius Of Petyr Baelish


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#41 Roose Boltons Pet Leech

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 06:43 AM

A good description of him would be that he's the Iago of the series, and yes, I see a lot of Shakespeare in ASOIAF. "I am not what I am" always reminds me of Baelish warning that Ned would be wise not to trust him.


I think an even more apt comparison would be Steerpike from Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast books. Iago is just a shit-stirrer, whereas Steerpike and LF are genuine social climbers.

#42 starki

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 07:04 AM

I would like it if Littlefinger's doom would be Lady Stoneheart.

#43 stannis for king

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 07:41 AM

the_halfhand

some people have nothing better to do than just moan about posts, just ignore them

on topic i think its a very well structured and in depth description of possibly the most interesting character in the series.
hats off to you ser

#44 Logen Ninefingers

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 08:42 AM

I will admit that I've only scanned this, not because I have anything against long posts but because it's mostly recap and I've just re-read the books so I'm pretty sure where LF's sweaty little paw prints are in the story. You've clearly put a lot of work into this so I can see it's a labour of love for you and you're deeply invested in Petyr as a character.

It can't be argued that he's been anything but the most successful player in the game so far but I think there are several reasons for this, and it isn't simply down to his genius.

Firstly, he's managed to keep a low profile. Nobody has perceived him as a major threat so he's allowed to go about his plotting unencumbered by the kind of attention more high profile players have. The only person who has seen the danger he presented was Tyrion, but he was first sidetracked by the preparations for the Battle of Blackwater and then sidelined by the injuries he sustained during it. Nobody has plotted directly against LF, either because they don't see him as a key player or because they mistakenly believe he's an ally. As pieces start to fall and the board becomes less crowded LF may find his life becoming a lot tougher as fellow players start to realise what a threat he presents.

Secondly, he has been able to pursue a purely personal agenda. Other players have had their hands tied by personal honour (Ned), duty to their family (Tyrion) or been distracted by their concern for other people. LF has no loyalty to anything or anyone other than himself, allowing him to be completely amoral and also to act without fear of consequences to those he loves (because he loves no-one).

Lastly LF isn't trying to construct anything, he is just trying to tear it down and profit from the chaos. By definition this is far easier than it is to build something lasting. The true test of his genius will come when he has to do something constructive rather than just spend his time stirring people up and pitting them against each other.

Yes, LF has climbed high at the moment but hopefully that just leaves him further to fall.

Edited by Logen Ninefingers, 08 June 2011 - 08:44 AM.


#45 The_Halfhand

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 12:48 PM

I will admit that I've only scanned this, not because I have anything against long posts but because it's mostly recap and I've just re-read the books so I'm pretty sure where LF's sweaty little paw prints are in the story. You've clearly put a lot of work into this so I can see it's a labour of love for you and you're deeply invested in Petyr as a character.

It can't be argued that he's been anything but the most successful player in the game so far but I think there are several reasons for this, and it isn't simply down to his genius.

Firstly, he's managed to keep a low profile. Nobody has perceived him as a major threat so he's allowed to go about his plotting unencumbered by the kind of attention more high profile players have. The only person who has seen the danger he presented was Tyrion, but he was first sidetracked by the preparations for the Battle of Blackwater and then sidelined by the injuries he sustained during it. Nobody has plotted directly against LF, either because they don't see him as a key player or because they mistakenly believe he's an ally. As pieces start to fall and the board becomes less crowded LF may find his life becoming a lot tougher as fellow players start to realise what a threat he presents.

Secondly, he has been able to pursue a purely personal agenda. Other players have had their hands tied by personal honour (Ned), duty to their family (Tyrion) or been distracted by their concern for other people. LF has no loyalty to anything or anyone other than himself, allowing him to be completely amoral and also to act without fear of consequences to those he loves (because he loves no-one).

Lastly LF isn't trying to construct anything, he is just trying to tear it down and profit from the chaos. By definition this is far easier than it is to build something lasting. The true test of his genius will come when he has to do something constructive rather than just spend his time stirring people up and pitting them against each other.

Yes, LF has climbed high at the moment but hopefully that just leaves him further to fall.


I'd have to disagree with a few of your assertions, which you might not have had if you'd read the whole post. :-)

I think its pretty obvious that Varys percieved Littlefinger as quite a big threat. He refers to him to Ned as "The second most devious man in the seven kingdoms," (though whther the first is Varys himself, or Tywin Lannister, I don't know, since the Eunich never elaborated.) But when there was a concerted effort against him, the Lords Declarant, he was able to break that plot apart and dispense with it. People do underestimate Littlefinger, but I think part of his strategy is keeping a low profile, but in his new position, that's impossible for him, so instead he shores up alliances. He's also very paranoid, and he sets things up so that he has his own people watching each other, and well-placed agents keeping him informed of any plots against him so that he can squash them or prepare for them. He had the Kettlebacks watching the Queen and Tyrion while in King's Landing, and Lyn Corbray in the Vale. It's not that people don't plot against Petyr, its just that he's very practiced in seeing threats before they happen.

And I don't know if I can agree that Littlefinger is looking to tear things down purely for profit. I think he wanted to create a war because it allowed him significant opportunities, but I don't think he wants to see the kingdom destroyed. Since he gained the Vale of Arryn he's worked hard to build it up so its stronger now than any of the other Wardenships. Everyone else has been touched by the war other than his army. What his ultimate goals are, anyone can guess, but I'm willing to bet he doesn't want to be the king of a destroyed kingdom. I don't even think he aspires to be king himself. So far, his motivations are anyone's guess. Yes, there's self interest at play, but there's also something else that hasn't been revealed yet.

I guess we'll have to wait and see.

#46 jellydonut

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 07:23 PM

It's gonna be interesting to see where Littlefinger goes from here on out.

Until now, he's been the Teflon Player of the game of thrones.. Always slipping and sneaking through the cracks, never making enemies, always accomplishing his goals, never failing to use an opportunity.

If what he has told Sansa about his future plans can be believed, though.. His double-dealing days are over. He can't play one side against the other once he goes through with it. Sansa is Littlefinger's 'nuclear option'.. That is, as soon as 'Littlefingers bastard daughter' is revealed to be Sansa Stark and she is wed to the Lord of the Vale, everyone will know Littlefinger was the one who smuggled her out of King's Landing. The Lannisters are hardly going to be thrilled.

It's not exactly a bomb proof plan either.. He has to retake the North from Bolton. Granted, the lords of the Vale seem to consist mostly of good old allies of House Stark, and will probably have loyal bannermen like the Umbers, Mormonts and Glovers rallying behind them, but it's still not Littlefinger's usual 'safe bet'.

Maybe he has an 'in' with Lord Manderly..

#47 Greyjoy67

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 07:16 AM

I personally believe that, whilst ASOIAF is notable in that it doesn't always give characters the fate that they deserve, Littlefinger's progression character can only lead to an unsavoury death that he doesn't expect. It's the wya of things. Or maybe that's just what the reader expects.

I personally love his character, whether the ref point is Shakespearian or more contemporary like Peakes; that sort of "snake" of a character who slithers his way around, without honour and without caring who he hurts (mostly). In real life, such people are detestable and easy to dislike. Consequently, they make brilliant characters in books because whilst this antipathy carries through, they're also highly entertaining and clever. There's almost a grudging respect to be had for a character who is capable of such delicious 'evil'.

Consequently, I hope Littlefinger's schemes carry through right to the end where he, for the reader's sake, reaches his eventual demise.

#48 alaric

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 08:26 PM

Thank you for your post. Teasing out the Littlefinger thread from the novels for presentation was awesome effort! I've just recently completed the first four books and I have to say that I am pretty convinced that Petyr Baelish will be revealed to be Hoster Tully's bastard son. Lord Hoster's dream of having his secret son grow up in Riverrun with his siblings probably seemed like a great idea until Petyr developed romantic notions about his sisters. Suddenly the dream turns into a nightmare and then the overreation of Petyr's banishment.

If what I think is true, then Peytr will now be cursed as a kinslayer for having shoved his half sister out the moon door and that Lysa Arryn's son, Robert, is likely his natural child. What delicious irony it would be for us to see this Machiavelli, who prides himself on knowing the intimate details of everyone around him, discover that he has been ignorant of his own self.

#49 Doomprophet

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 11:45 PM

I can see how people can admire LF in the "badass villain" angle, but I don't understand the notion of actually thinking he's awesome. He's clearly one of the most sociopathic men in the series. Big time evil, like Ser Gregor lvl evil, just in a hands off kind of way.

My own personal theory is that he has a connection to the others, and is just causing chaos so the others can win. Yes, i think he's that evil. I don't have much evidence to back that up, its just my hunch based on how disturbingly evil he is.

#50 Flit

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 02:33 AM

I find LF the most fascinating character out of all of them. Everyone else wears their goals and desires on their sleeve, you know what they're all in it for, but LF was harder to tease out. I mean, it wasn't until aSoS that you really click about there being WAY more to his character than you first think. I think you're never going to get a POV chapter from him because he simply knows too much. A LF chapter would probably give most of the story away.

I found it interesting in your post, Halfhand, that one of the quotes you used was LF talking about pawns and players and understanding what a man wants. I think it gives away quite quickly what LF wants and what might be his downfall, and that will be Sansa, I suspect. He'll sculpt her and teach her how to be a player, and she'll dupe him in the end. But that might not be, and GRRM has rarely ever gone an expected way.

I do find the idea that LF is really for an end to the fuedul system really interesting. I mean, he could easily be blamed for the causing the war to start, but was that to give him more opportunities for money and power, or was it for something more? Maybe he does want to be King? Certainly the smartest thing to do would be to sit back and wait for everyone to kill everyone else off, wait until the Others take the rest and stand up and rule the remainders. But who would want what will be left of Westeros after that? There wouldn't be any real money or power.

I really want a LF chapter, though I doubt that will happen. There's apparently no Sansa in the next one, so I don't think we'll find out any more of his game plan until Winds of Winter, or whatever the book after Dance is. /sad.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':(' />

#51 Eustace Black

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 03:53 AM

My whole appreciation for Petyr Baelish is mired by his hand in having Ned decapitated and setting the wheels in motion to decimate the Starks. That said, when I read about Kings Landers talking about Renly's ghost fighting alongside the Lannister host, I thought that was the perfect mischief that only Littlefinger could come up with. Also him giving Lysa the boot out of the Moon Door improved my opinion of him.

I want to see Littlefinger win but I also want to see him lose, argh, I'm so conflicted.

#52 Shagga's_Dadda

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 05:53 AM

His motivation is quite simple, he wants to be "somebody", and he'll do it on his own terms.

#53 brashcandy

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 04:39 PM

I can see how people can admire LF in the "badass villain" angle, but I don't understand the notion of actually thinking he's awesome. He's clearly one of the most sociopathic men in the series. Big time evil, like Ser Gregor lvl evil, just in a hands off kind of way.

My own personal theory is that he has a connection to the others, and is just causing chaos so the others can win. Yes, i think he's that evil. I don't have much evidence to back that up, its just my hunch based on how disturbingly evil he is.


Very true. LF is not just a "mad genius" in my opinion, but really deep down a complete and utter psychopath. He is able to carry out his machinations so effectively because he is incapable of feeling any remorse, guilt or sadness. He isn't simply playing the game for fun, or for profit. He isn't simply playing it for revenge. Deep down, this man is evil at his core and I don't think he has an endgame, or rather, his endgame is that there is no endgame, simply keep messing with people until he dies. Along the way he'll collect some titles, wealth and women. But it will never be enough.
If he was driven by his childhood humiliation by Brandon Stark and Hoster Tully, that has long ceased to be a factor.
What I find most disturbing is his current association with Sansa Stark because in all respects she is one of the most innocent players in this whole affair. It is ironic that just as Arya is learning to fight with weapons and become a warrior, Sansa is learning the more deceitful, cunning ways to fight one's battles. However, I do think Sansa will be his downfall simply because he has been led to this point to believe he is untouchable. As quote in the original text he thinks that once you know what someone wants you can control them. He is playing on what he perceives as Sansa's desire to return to Winterfell etc etc... But I do think that things will not play out so neatly for him at the Eyrie.

Great post by the way Halfhand. I really enjoyed reading it and it really enlightened me on some things I had missed!

#54 Doomprophet

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 05:21 PM

I would consider also that his "gambling problem" is actually another of his little tricks. Everyone knows he's the best merchant in King's landing, but by showing up at jousting tourny's, he lets lords feel less threatened by him.

stereotypical lord: Oh, that littlefinger, he's a invaluable coin master no doubt, but he knows nothing of fighting. He doesn't understand the subtleties of combat the way men of honor do!

I think the bad gambling bets are a way of feigning ignorance of "knightly things"

#55 Mother of Dragons

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 05:42 PM

tl;dr


What does "tl;dr" mean? Something about being too long? That was an essay. It could be the Petyr Baelish wiki page /stunned.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':stunned:' />

#56 Mother of Dragons

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 05:58 PM

I actually think LF is a sociopath, except Sansa seems to be the exception to that rule. He must think Sansa really stupid (I think so myself) because he breaks his own rule with her re: not to trust anybody!

I think his ego is so out of control, he'll unwittingly give Sansa the tools she needs to destroy him...OR...

Our bittersweet ending to the series is that while Sansa returns to Winterfell, she develops Stockholm Syndrome, marrying Lord Baelish first, handing him Riverrun, Vale, then Winterfell in one easy move.

#57 David Selig

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 06:10 PM

I can see how people can admire LF in the "badass villain" angle, but I don't understand the notion of actually thinking he's awesome. He's clearly one of the most sociopathic men in the series. Big time evil, like Ser Gregor lvl evil, just in a hands off kind of way.

My own personal theory is that he has a connection to the others, and is just causing chaos so the others can win. Yes, i think he's that evil. I don't have much evidence to back that up, its just my hunch based on how disturbingly evil he is.

I doubt that's true. The Others doesn't seem like the type to make deals with human or make such elaborate plans. What does LF gain from this deal anyway? I don't buy that he'd be doing just "for the evulz"


What does "tl;dr" mean? Something about being too long? That was an essay. It could be the Petyr Baelish wiki page /stunned.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':stunned:' />

Too long, didn't read.

#58 Flit

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 06:17 PM

Very true. LF is not just a "mad genius" in my opinion, but really deep down a complete and utter psychopath.



Just a slight geeky correction of word use... I don't think he meets the guidelines for a psychopath. I get what you're meaning, and think you're probably indicating some anti-social traits. While psychopaths can have that charisma element, and the intelligence, they are generally more unstable. LF isn't unstable, he is able to create really intricate plans and carry them through successfully, even being able to cope with sudden changes to those plans without resorting to extremes. Okay, so he kicked Lysa out the Moon Door, but he would have probably planned to have her killed already. And when he changed his plans to save Sansa, he was able to form up a plan to blame someone else who was also causing him troubles and have them removed.

If he was a psychopath he would likely struggle with that kind of situation. He would also not only have a lack of empathy, but struggle with understanding/interpreting other people's emotions that were not in relation to himself, which would cause him troubles being able to read people so well. I don't think LF is deficient enough to warrant the full label. He's certainly dangerous, and maybe you can argue a lack of empathy, but I would find Gregor Clegane and Hoat more suiting that label than LF.

I would also add, for a complete lack of empathy and more sociopathic traits than LF, Stannis is a really good example.

Edited by Flit, 07 July 2011 - 07:58 PM.


#59 tyrion84

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 08:32 PM

Hi is it just me or is Petyr Baelish some sort of medieval/westorosi type of investment banker? In that I mean a person who creates value where there out of nothing...? agree or not?

#60 brashcandy

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 09:52 PM

Just a slight geeky correction of word use... I don't think he meets the guidelines for a psychopath. I get what you're meaning, and think you're probably indicating some anti-social traits. While psychopaths can have that charisma element, and the intelligence, they are generally more unstable. LF isn't unstable, he is able to create really intricate plans and carry them through successfully, even being able to cope with sudden changes to those plans without resorting to extremes. Okay, so he kicked Lysa out the Moon Door, but he would have probably planned to have her killed already. And when he changed his plans to save Sansa, he was able to form up a plan to blame someone else who was also causing him troubles and have them removed.

If he was a psychopath he would likely struggle with that kind of situation. He would also not only have a lack of empathy, but struggle with understanding/interpreting other people's emotions that were not in relation to himself, which would cause him troubles being able to read people so well. I don't think LF is deficient enough to warrant the full label. He's certainly dangerous, and maybe you can argue a lack of empathy, but I would find Gregor Clegane and Hoat more suiting that label than LF.

I would also add, for a complete lack of empathy and more sociopathic traits than LF, Stannis is a really good example.


Yes you are correct. He is not a psychopath in the strict sense of the term. However, I would argue that he does display psychotic tendencies which I do not think are comparable to the Mountain or a man like Vargo Hoat.

According to Wikipedia: "The prototypical psychopath has deficits or deviance in several areas: interpersonal relationships, emotion, and behavior.[13] Psychopaths gain satisfaction through antisocial behavior, and do not experience shame, guilt, or remorse for their actions.[14][15][16] Psychopaths lack a sense of guilt or remorse for any harm they may have caused others, instead rationalizing the behavior, blaming someone else, or denying it outright.[17] [18] Psychopaths also lack empathy towards others in general, resulting in tactlessness, insensitivity, and contemptuousness. Psychopaths can have a superficial charm about them, enabled by a willingness to say anything to anyone without concern for accuracy or truth. Shallow affect also describes the psychopath's tendency for genuine emotion to be short-lived, glib and egocentric, with an overall cold demeanor. Their behavior is impulsive and irresponsible, often failing to keep a job or defaulting on debts."

Yes we can all agree that The Mountain is an extremely violent, sadistic and terrifying man, but what in my opinion makes LF worse is that he is all of these things, yet he manages to hide them behind that "superficial charm". He has this veneer of respectability which conceals a literal madman. He may be able to carefully plan his take overs and take downs and we can never fault him for being able to keep a job or being impulsive, but certainly when we speak of genuine emotion being short-lived and glib and egocentric, this is classic LF.
Also, I think his ownership of the brothel houses speaks not only to good business sense, but also to a certain view of and disconnect from women. They are to be used as Lysa was and then discarded. This is why I fear for Sansa and hopes she finds a way to get out of his hold.