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Howland Reed = High Septon?


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I just read this theory on Reddit by user rodesiderose and thought it had to be posted here. What does everyone think?

This is one of my super crackpot theories. When I thought of this I laughed for a while. Then I thought I should pen it down. If you expect a fool-proof theory stop reading right now.

In the books, we have met three High Septons so far. The first was killed in a riot (ACOK). The second High Septon was smothered in his sleep (AFFC). And since then, there has been a new High Septon in Kings Landing.


There is little we know of the current High Septon. The person who occupies the position of the High Septon is usually elected. However this High Septon seems to have got the position without any formal election process, just with the support of the sparrows.

Qyburn’s whisperers claimed that Septon Luceon had been nine votes from elevation when those doors had given way, and the sparrows came pouring into the Great Sept with their leader on their shoulders and their axes in their hands.

Anointing the King

When Aegon the Conqueror first came to Westeros, the High Septon locked himself within the Starry Sept of Oldtown and prayed for seven days and seven nights. When he emerged from prayer, he anointed Aegon as the true King in Oldtown. This tradition of anointing the King by the High Septon was carried on since the days of Aegon the Conqueror. However, the new High Septon has not performed the ritual of blessing Tommen as the King. Much to Cersei’s discomfort. Even though this is merely a ritual, it is an important event in the eyes of the common people.

“He feeds them, coddles them, blesses them. Yet will not bless the king.” The blessing was an empty ritual, she knew, but rituals and ceremonies had power in the eyes of the ignorant. Aegon the Conqueror himself had dated the start of his realm from the day the High Septon anointed him in Oldtown. (Cersei: AFFC)

When Cersei asks the High Septon on why he failed to bless Tommen as King, he replies that ‘the hour is not yet ripe’.

[Cersei] “..and yet you have refused to bless King Tommen.”

[High Septon] “Your Grace is mistaken. We have not refused.”

[Cersei] “You have not come.”

“[High Septon]
The hour is not yet ripe.
” (Cersei: AFFC)

Could the High Septon be waiting for the true King?

It has been hard to figure the motivations of this character, who seems to have appeared out of nowhere. Is he working with Varys or another player?

Who is this High Septon?

When Cersei meets the High Septon, she describes him as a short man, thin as a broom handle (reed thin?), with a grey and brown beard that is closely trimmed and his hair tied in a knot. His face was sharply pointed, and his eyes as ‘brown as mud’.

“He is cleaning the floor.”
The speaker was shorter than the queen by several inches and as thin as a broom handle.
“Work is a form of prayer, most pleasing to the Smith.” He stood, scrub brush in hand. “Your Grace. We have been expecting you.”

The man’s beard was grey and brown
and closely trimmed,
his hair tied up in a hard knot behind his head
. Though his robes were clean, they were frayed and patched as well. He had rolled his sleeves up his elbows as he scrubbed, but below the knees the cloth was soaked and sodden. His face was sharply pointed, with deep-set
eyes as brown as mud
. His feet are bare, she saw with dismay.
They were hideous as well, hard and horny things, thick with callus.
“You are His High Holiness?” (Cersei: AFFC)

When Brienne heads to Duskendale from Rosby, she meets a septon who has a similar description to the High Septon. This man asks Brienne and her companions to join the sparrows headed to King’s Landing

The septon had a lean sharp face and a short beard, grizzled grey and brown
. His thin hair was pulled back and
knotted behind his head
, and his feet were bare and black,
gnarled and hard as tree roots
. (Brienne: AFFC)

The physical description of the High Septon reminds me of crannogmen. When Bran meets Meera and Jojen in Winterfell he notices how the Reeds were short of stature. Meera is short, slim, and has her brown hair knotted behind her.

As the newcomers walked the length of the hall, Bran saw that one was indeed a girl [Meera], though he would never have known it by her dress. She wore lambskin breeches soft with long use, and a sleeveless jerkin armored in bronze scales. Though near Robb’s age,
she was slim
as a boy,
with long brown hair knotted behind her head
and only the barest suggestion of breasts.

Her brother was several years younger and bore no weapons. All his garb was green, even to the leather of his boots, and when he came closer Bran saw that his eyes were the color of moss, though his teeth looked as white as anyone else’s. Both Reeds were slight of build, slender as swords and scarcely taller than Bran himself. (Bran: ACOK)

Taena Merryweather tells Cersei that the High Septon was born with filth beneath his fingernails. If he were born in the swampy marshes of the Neck that would not be surprising. Could the High Septon be a crannogman, one we already know?

[Taena] “My lord husband tells me this new one
was born with filth beneath his fingernails
.” (Cersei: AFFC)


When the High Septon meets Cersei, she complains about the filth at the Great Sept of Baelor due to the sparrows. Surprisingly, the High Septon tells Cersei that the stains of Ned Stark’s execution could never be cleansed off the Great Sept of Baelor, even if the dirt and grime brought by the sparrows could be washed away.

They are common, we agree on that much. “Have you seen what they have done to Blessed Baelor’s statue? They befoul the plaza with their pigs and goats and night soil.”

“Night soil can be washed away more easily than blood, Your Grace. If the plaza was befouled, it was befouled by the execution that was done here.”

He dares throw Ned Stark in my face?
“We all regret that. Joffrey was young, and not as wise as he might have been. Lord Stark should have been beheaded elsewhere, out of respect for Blessed Baelor… but the man was a traitor, let us not forget.”

“King Baelor forgave those who conspired against him.” (Cersei: AFFC)

This High Septon seems to have a strange fondness for Ned Stark, even though Ned Stark kept the Old Gods. Maybe cause he is Ned’s old friend, Howland Reed.

It is strange to see that there has been no sign of Howland Reed so far. The last we know is Robb Stark asking his two messengers (Maege Mormont and Galbert Glover) to deliver a message to Howland Reed, and have Howland send him guides to help his army navigate through the bogs. When Glover asks Robb if Howland would fail him, he replies that the crannongman would never fail him.

Galbart Glover rubbed his mouth. “There are risks. If the crannogmen should fail you…”

“We will be no worse than before. But they will not fail.
My father knew the worth of Howland Reed.
” (Catelyn: ASOS)

We also know that the message Robb sent to Howland Reed was highly significant. Whether Howland Reed received this letter is something we don’t know for certain. Another letter of interest is the letter Ned Stark wrote before his execution. We don’t know if that letter was intended for Howland Reed either.

When Bran recalls what he had been taught about crannogmen, he remembers that crannogmen never fight in open battles. They are called a cowardly people because they hide from their foes.

He tried to recall all he had been taught of the crannogmen, who dwelt amongst the bogs of the Neck and seldom left their wetlands. They were a poor folk, fishers and frog-hunters who lived in houses of thatch and woven reeds on floating islands hidden in the deeps of the swamp.
It was said that they were a cowardly people who fought with poisoned weapons and preferred to hide from foes rather than face them in open battle.
And yet Howland Reed had been one of Father’s staunchest companions during the war for King Robert’s crown, before Bran was born. (Bran: ACOK)

I don’t think we will see Howland Reed raise an army of crannogmen, and head to King’s Landing. Nor will we see him in open battle. I think Howland Reed plans to avenge the Starks, and also get to the bottom of what is really happening at King’s Landing. As High Septon, whatever punishment he metes out to Cersei, is one she must accept. (Her ‘walk of shame’ punishment eerily reminiscent of the way her Lord father Tywin Lannister had once stripped his father’s mistress naked, and paraded her across Lannisport.)

By abolishing the law that prevents the Faith Militant from taking up arms, Howland (as High Septon) has a bigger army (The Faith Militant) than the Lannisters do at King’s Landing currently. When Jaime left for the Riverlands, he took the greater part of the Lannister host with him.

“The new High Septon has revived them. He’s sent out a call for worthy knights to pledge their lives and swords to the service of the Seven. The Poor Fellows are to be restored as well.” (Jaime: AFFC)

Howland Reed as High Septon is the most powerful man in King’s Landing right now. And I think he has a few tricks lined up his sleeve while he makes the Lannisters pay their debts, and prepares the way to reveal the true heir of Rhaegar Targaryen.

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You almost convinced me. That would be rather unexpected if the high septon was Howland Reed. Yet you did compile a decent amount of evidence stating your point. We won't know till the next book come out, but I wouldn't be unhappy if this turns out to be true...

Have you read the theory that the HS is using a glamour? The knot of hair on his head is what is being used similar to rattleshirt bones. It's pretty interesting as well. I forgot the name of it though, something with high septon in it I'm sure.

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Well-argued but I think the HS was concerned at that fact that the Sept had been tainted because an execution had been carried out within its precincts, not because the person executed happened to be Ned Stark.

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Howland Reed follows the Old Gods. It is known. The crannogmen are the people closest to the CoTF who worshipped the old Gods, this means that they could be the most devout or knowledgeable about the old gods. Furthermore Howland Reed spent several years on the Isle of Faces, which is one of the most religious places for the followers of the old gods. After going there he is very unlikely to have turned from the old gods to the Seven

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The faith of HR is not important. He didn't become High septon because he believes in the seven, but because he now controls an ARMY inside Kings Landing to defeat the Lannisters.

This is a plot from Reed to destroy the crown from inside the city. He alse refused to anoint Tommen as king, because he knows who is the true king and is waiting for him.

This was a genius move from Reed, a man who likes to hide and hit when less expected... ;)

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I'd buy into it as it would explain what HR has been up to since mid-ASOS when Maege Mormont and Galbart Glover were sent to fetch him. HR seems versatile enough to pull this off. He wasnt a knight either if you believe he was the mystery man at the Harrenhall tourney.

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No. HS is either a pet of Varys, or he is Varys wearing a glamor. He is working in line with Varys, to pave the stones for fAegon's arrival. He is manipulating Cersei into follies. He will crush whatever left of Lannister-Tyrell alliance.

You should ask this question:

Varys killed Kevan and Pycelle because they were repairing the damage done by Cersei. He wanted Cersei in charge of everything again. How can it be possible that he leaves the fate of fAegon into the hands of this highly influental HS? If the HS would be an enemy of fAegon, then he could have created a significant obstacle to him. In that case, Varys would have to kill him too.

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This is very interesting, and I think a lot more credible than a glancing look would tell. Lets assume that Robett Glover and Lady Mormont (and her daughters, I know that the GNC think this is a secret since Lyanna is the ruling Mormont, however, we know from Cats POV at the Red Wedding that Dacey stayed with Robb while her mother and sisters went to the Neck) meet Howland Reed. Which, if they successfully reached the Neck (we havent heard anything to the contrary) is highly likely since very little passes through the Neck that the crannogmen do not know about. Howland Reed will definitely answer Robbs call. He was one of Neds most trusted and loyal friends. As it happens, Robb gets murdered before he can aid him. I think it unlikely, barring some illness or handicap, that HR doesnt seek vengence. That being said, he doesnt have a military force worth noting, and he has a lot of dangerous territory to cross. I always wondered where the h*** these sparrows keep popping up from. What if its from the Neck? I know HR is a follower of the old gods (most likely has a power of his own, most probable would be green dreams), but that has nothing to do with him pretending to follow the faith. If he were to raise the crannogmen and hatch a plan to overthrow the crown and the Lannisters, this would have to be a brilliant and attainable solution. He has his army now and he is in a position of immense power (all he has to say is "ahh cause the seven told me" and it gets done lol) surrounded by his followers, and he is increasing both on a daily basis. This is my first time reading this theory, but this makes a lot of sense. Its explains the appearence of the sparrows. It explains the noticable absence of Ned's best friend outside of Robert. Ultimately, it gives us an explaination for the HS non standard behavior (torturing Kettleblacks and the like) and what he intends to do with his army. This would also be a check for the R + L = J theory since these actions, assumably, would be on House Stark's behalf. I am surprised I havent heard this theory before nice work!

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No. HS is either a pet of Varys, or he is Varys wearing a glamor. He is working in line with Varys, to pave the stones for fAegon's arrival. He is manipulating Cersei into follies. He will crush whatever left of Lannister-Tyrell alliance.

You should ask this question:

Varys killed Kevan and Pycelle because they were repairing the damage done by Cersei. He wanted Cersei in charge of everything again. How can it be possible that he leaves the fate of fAegon into the hands of this highly influental HS? If the HS would be an enemy of fAegon, then he could have created a significant obstacle to him. In that case, Varys would have to kill him too.

Right and then Varys would kill him.....
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It's an interesting theory and not impossible seeing as we know very little of Howland Reed. The problem with it is that HR is a worshiper of the Old Gods. This doesn't matter if he's just going undercover to get an army, but this is a rouse he would have to keep up for the rest of his life. The High Septon's power at this point comes from his religious belief and it's his belief that has attracted all the members of his army. If Howland Reed were the HS and were to ever reveal himself as such he would lose all of his supporters and power. If someone were to reveal him for a worshiper of the Old Gods, his devout followers might turn against him and try to have him killed. It's a very risky position for him to choose. Plus, he would have to keep up his act of pious devotion to the New Gods at all times and maintain a level of understanding about them one who worshiped the Old Gods might not have/be able to do.

Besides which, I personally prefer the idea that the HS is just a religious zealot. Though my preference will have no bearing on the story, I do think it would make him a more interesting character if he truly believes that everything he does is to please/honour the New Gods.

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You should ask this question:

Varys killed Kevan and Pycelle because they were repairing the damage done by Cersei. He wanted Cersei in charge of everything again. How can it be possible that he leaves the fate of fAegon into the hands of this highly influental HS? If the HS would be an enemy of fAegon, then he could have created a significant obstacle to him. In that case, Varys would have to kill him too.

Aegon is a strict follower of the seven, so the High Septon has no reason to oppose him.

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I saw this theory on reddit the other day and was wondering how the folks over here would react. I don't completely buy the theory, but I think it's plausible. Thank you, Shmoove, for supplying the original post.

I don't want this theory to die on its feet, so I will provide some additional arguments/evidence that were discussed elsewhere. Here, like there, the biggest hole people are finding is that Howland Reed is a follower of the Old Gods, not the Seven. To that I say: Howland Reed still follows the Old Gods, but understands the importance of subterfuge. His belief in the Seven is an act, for the most part. More than that, I think it's entirely possible for a practical, intelligent person to come to the conclusion that the New Gods are just a newer interpretation of the Old Gods. Even true followers of the Seven have different interpretations of their gods, some believing the seven to be seven aspects of a single god, some believing there are literally seven gods. The Faceless Men recognize all of the names and interpretations of their god of Death. Maybe Howland Reed has a similar interpretation of the faith of the Seven. It's just a different way to worship the same thing. Even if Howland Reed doesn't believe the Old Gods are the same as the New, it's also possible that he's only forsaking his Gods on the surface, but keeps true to them in his heart. This would be like Jon Snow forsaking his vows with the Night's Watch in order to infiltrate the Wildlings. No matter what he said or did, his heart was always true.

Either way, there is actually an interesting (and exciting!) bit of circumstantial evidence that could indicate that this High Septon may worship/have some reverence to the Old Gods:

She found the High Septon waiting for her in a small seven-sided audience chamber. The room was sparse and plain, with bare stone walls, a rough-hewn table, three chairs, and a prayer bench. The faces of the Seven had been carved into the walls. Cersei thought the carvings crude and ugly, but there was a certain power to them, especially about the eyes, orbs of onyx, malachite, and yellow moonstone that somehow made the faces come alive.

The way this High Septon chooses to depict and worship the Seven is quite reminiscent of the way the Old Gods are depicted in Weirwood trees. If this person is Howland Reed, he has essentially carved his own Weirwood-esque grove. We've seen with the Wildlings that in the absence of Weirwoods, followers of the Old Gods sometimes resort to carving faces into what they have available.

As for Howland Reed's eye color: We don't know. Meera and Jojen's eyes are green, but this could have been inherited through their mother. The eye color is not a point for or against.

Howland Reed is also described as being able to "weave words" (through Meera's story of the Tourney at Harrenhall). This could be an indication that Howland Reed is a charismatic orator. This helps to explain how he developed such support so quickly (maybe along with a few well-placed crannogs in his entourage). I know this is interpretation is a bit of a stretch, but I'm including it anyway to be provide a comprehensive amount of evidence.

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