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Varys the Sorcerer

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Varys' story of him being castrated as a child is both emotional and thought evoking. You cannot help but feel sympathy for the conniving eunuch for going through such a disturbing ordeal as a child. It also makes you wonder as to Varys' identity and why his manhood was sought after by the sorcerer.

The story itself does not raise any suspicion for it's too detailed to be fabricated. It also doesn't seem to advance any agenda for Varys other than establishing him as a character who's developed a hatred for--or even fear of-- magic and those practice it, as the eunuch himself puts it

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...since that day I have hated magic and all those who practice it.

 

However upon rereading Varys' conversation with Illyrio in King's Landing, one cannot help but wonder about the repetitive use of magic-related terms in the description of the Spy Master.

Considering the traumatising experience of losing one's manhood and Varys' self proclaimed hatred for magic and sorcery, Illyrio's choice of words is odd.

 

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“What good is war now? We are not ready. Delay.”
“As well bid me stop time. Do you take me for a wizard?”
The other chuckled. "No less."

 

 

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You are more than a juggler, old friend. You are a true sorcerer. All I ask is that you work your magic awhile longer.

 

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I actually imagine that Varys’ actions are specifically to work against the sorcerer. He stated that he resolved to live because the sorcerer told him to die.

Perhaps Varys worked to learn what the sorcerer and voice had said, perhaps what plans they spoke of, and works against them. If Varys considers those 2 enemies of the “realm” then all he has done is “for the realm” as he always claims.

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Here's a few more quotes linking sorcerers to Varys which reinforce the others you quoted. GRRM often repeats what he doesn't want us to overlook.

AGOT Eddard II

The king's mouth twisted in a bitter grimace. "No, gods be cursed. Some pox-ridden Pentoshi cheesemonger had her brother and her walled up on his estate with pointy-hatted eunuchs all around them, and now he's handed them over to the Dothraki. I should have had them both killed years ago, when it was easy to get at them, but Jon was as bad as you. More fool I, I listened to him."

AGOT Arya III

"They did," she told him. "There was a fat one with rings and a forked yellow beard, and another in mail and a steel cap, and the fat one said they had to delay but the other one told him he couldn't keep juggling and the wolf and the lion were going to eat each other and it was a mummer's farce." She tried to remember the rest. She hadn't quite understood everything she'd heard, and now it was all mixed up in her head. "The fat one said the princess was with child. The one in the steel cap, he had the torch, he said that they had to hurry. I think he was a wizard."

"A wizard," said Ned, unsmiling. "Did he have a long white beard and tall pointed hat speckled with stars?"

"No! It wasn't like Old Nan's stories. He didn't look like a wizard, but the fat one said he was."

 

 

 

 

If you read the context around Varys story about his being cut, a strong motive appears. Varys has just told Tyrion that Storm's End has fallen by magic and Tyrion mocks the existence of magic meaning Tyrion will not defend KL properly and Varys really, really, REALLY doesn't want Aegon to have to come up against Stannis. Sorry for the quote bomb...

 

ACOK Tyrion X

"You ought to dress in black feathers, Varys, you're as bad an omen as any raven." Awkwardly, Tyrion pushed to his feet, half afraid to ask the next question. "Is it Jaime?" If they have harmed him, nothing will save them.

"No, my lord. A different matter. Ser Cortnay Penrose is dead. Storm's End has opened its gates to Stannis Baratheon."

Dismay drove all other thoughts from Tyrion's mind. When Shae returned with the wine, he took one sip and flung the cup away to explode against the side of the house. She raised a hand to shield herself from the shards as the wine ran down the stones in long fingers, black in the moonlight. "Damn him!" Tyrion said.

Varys smiled, showing a mouth full of rotted teeth. "Who, my lord? Ser Cortnay or Lord Stannis?"

"Both of them." Storm's End was strong, it should have been able to hold out for half a year or more . . . time enough for his father to finish with Robb Stark. "How did this happen?"

Varys glanced at Shae. "My lord, must we trouble your sweet lady's sleep with such grim and bloody talk?"

"A lady might be afraid," said Shae, "but I'm not."

"You should be," Tyrion told her. "With Storm's End fallen, Stannis will soon turn his attention toward King's Landing." He regretted flinging away that wine now. "Lord Varys, give us a moment, and I'll ride back to the castle with you."

...

"Why no, I trust you implicitly." A bitter laugh echoed off the shuttered windows. "I trust you like one of my own blood, in truth. Now tell me how Cortnay Penrose died."

"It is said that he threw himself from a tower."

"Threw himself? No, I will not believe that!"

"His guards saw no man enter his chambers, nor did they find any within afterward."

"Then the killer entered earlier and hid under the bed," Tyrion suggested, "or he climbed down from the roof on a rope. Perhaps the guards are lying. Who's to say they did not do the thing themselves?"

"Doubtless you are right, my lord."

His smug tone said otherwise. "But you do not think so? How was it done, then?"

For a long moment Varys said nothing. The only sound was the stately clack of horseshoes on cobbles. Finally the eunuch cleared his throat. "My lord, do you believe in the old powers?"

"Magic, you mean?" Tyrion said impatiently. "Bloodspells, curses, shapeshifting, those sorts of things?" He snorted. "Do you mean to suggest that Ser Cortnay was magicked to his death?"

"Ser Cortnay had challenged Lord Stannis to single combat on the morning he died. I ask you, is this the act of a man lost to despair? Then there is the matter of Lord Renly's mysterious and most fortuitous murder, even as his battle lines were forming up to sweep his brother from the field." The eunuch paused a moment. "My lord, you once asked me how it was that I was cut."
...

"Yet I still dream of that night, my lord. Not of the sorcerer, nor his blade, nor even the way my manhood shriveled as it burned. I dream of the voice. The voice from the flames. Was it a god, a demon, some conjurer's trick? I could not tell you, and I know all the tricks. All I can say for a certainty is that he called it, and it answered, and since that day I have hated magic and all those who practice it. If Lord Stannis is one such, I mean to see him dead."

When he was done, they rode in silence for a time. Finally Tyrion said, "A harrowing tale. I'm sorry."

The eunuch sighed. "You are sorry, but you do not believe me. No, my lord, no need to apologize. I was drugged and in pain and it was a very long time ago and far across the sea. No doubt I dreamed that voice. I've told myself as much a thousand times."

 

...and since that day I have hated magic and all those who practice it. If Lord Stannis is one such, I mean to see him dead."

And this line makes no sense whatsoever as Varys supports the uber-magical Targs/Blackfyres. Stannis only dabbles compared to the Targs and Valyrians who deal in dragons, blood magic, pyromancers, more. And Varys seems tight with the pyromancers and has been for some time. Pyromancer literally translates as a practitioner of fire magic. It doesn't add up.

 

Add to this all of the times that various characters report Varys' voice dropping in register. GRRM wants us to question whether he's really a eunuch as claimed.

 

"Why no, I trust you implicitly." A bitter laugh echoed off the shuttered windows. "I trust you like one of my own blood, in truth.  

You are sorry, but you do not believe me.

And I've noticed that GRRM often has the character doubt the trustworthiness of another character around the time that the character (and reader) is fed something less than the whole truth.

Edited by Lollygag

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Does a Eunuch have facial hair?

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A Game of Thrones - Arya III

The other chuckled. "No less." Flames licked at the cold air. The tall shadows were almost on top of her. An instant later the man holding the torch climbed into her sight, his companion beside him. Arya crept back away from the well, dropped to her stomach, and flattened herself against the wall. She held her breath as the men reached the top of the steps.

"What would you have me do?" asked the torchbearer, a stout man in a leather half cape. Even in heavy boots, his feet seemed to glide soundlessly over the ground. A round scarred face and a stubble of dark beard showed under his steel cap, and he wore mail over boiled leather, and a dirk and shortsword at his belt. It seemed to Arya there was something oddly familiar about him.

Is this Varys true appearance.  Does he powder his face to cover the scars and any trace of facial hair?
 

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A Game of Thrones - Eddard XIV

Varys entered in a wash of lavender, pink from his bath, his plump face scrubbed and freshly powdered, his soft slippers all but soundless. "The little birds sing a grievous song today," he said as he seated himself. "The realm weeps. Shall we begin?"

A Game of Thrones - Eddard VIII

"Desperately," Varys said, "yet he craves life even more. By now, the princess nears Vaes Dothrak, where it is death to draw a blade. If I told you what the Dothraki would do to the poor man who used one on a khaleesi, none of you would sleep tonight." He stroked a powdered cheek. "Now, poison … the tears of Lys, let us say. Khal Drogo need never know it was not a natural death."

A Game of Thrones - Eddard VIII

"There is no axe," Ned told his king. "Only the shadow of a shadow, twenty years removed … if it exists at all."

"If?" Varys asked softly, wringing powdered hands together. "My lord, you wrong me. Would I bring lies to king and council?"

A Game of Thrones - Eddard IV

The councillor Ned liked least, the eunuch Varys, accosted him the moment he entered. "Lord Stark, I was grievous sad to hear about your troubles on the kingsroad. We have all been visiting the sept to light candles for Prince Joffrey. I pray for his recovery." His hand left powder stains on Ned's sleeve, and he smelled as foul and sweet as flowers on a grave.

A Clash of Kings - Tyrion II

"To whom, I wonder?" Tyrion did not trust Varys, though there was no denying his value. He knew things, beyond a doubt. "Why are you so helpful, my lord Varys?" he asked, studying the man's soft hands, the bald powdered face, the slimy little smile.

A Clash of Kings - Tyrion IV

Varys stroked a powdered cheek. "And if Prince Doran demands the blood of the lord who gave the command as well as the knight who did the deed . . ."

A Clash of Kings - Tyrion VI

Varys stroked a powdered cheek. "This would doubtless involve the four men your man Bronn searched for so diligently in all the low places of King's Landing. A thief, a poisoner, a mummer, and a murderer."

Why does he always stroke his cheek?  Is it to determine if there is any stubble?  Powdering the face to cover any facial hair and scars?  Is Varys really a eunuch or just playing at one?

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Snippet from the web

Eunuchs do not develop hair as mature men and women do. They are not hairless – children have a thin covering of body hair, just that the growth of hair on pubis and in armpits would not occur, and certainly not the facial and chest hair that men grow.

Is his whole story a lie then?

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A Feast for Crows - Jaime I

"Rugen," the old man supplied. "An undergaoler. He had charge of the third level, the black cells."

"Tell me of him," Jaime had to say. A bloody farce. He knew who Rugen was, even if Longwaters did not.

"Unkempt, unshaven, coarse of speech. I misliked the man, 'tis true, I do confess it. Rugen was here when I first came, twelve years past. He held his appointment from King Aerys. The man was seldom here, it must be said. I made note of it in my reports, my lord. I most suredly did, I give you my word upon it, the word of a man with royal blood."

 

Edited by LynnS

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@LynnS I've often wondered the same. He is the ultimate mummer, why would he show everyone his true identity? If I had to guess Varys is not his real name either which would fit into Varys's "face" not being his real "face" either. 

It seems it would be much harder to "put on" a beard than to take it off. Sure he could use make-up but it would have to be really good make up or he would have to stay far away from any viewers else they would see it wasn't true hair. I suppose it is dark in the cells though. 

 

Edited by Lyanna<3Rhaegar

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Here's another one:

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Ned's mouth twisted in anger. "Damn Varys and his little birds. Catelyn spoke truly, the man has some black art. I do not trust him."

 

On 9/8/2019 at 10:25 AM, Lollygag said:

"Yet I still dream of that night, my lord. Not of the sorcerer, nor his blade, nor even the way my manhood shriveled as it burned. I dream of the voice. The voice from the flames. Was it a god, a demon, some conjurer's trick? I could not tell you, and I know all the tricks. All I can say for a certainty is that he called it, and it answered,

Varys hears the voice of a god/demon/trickster from a blue flame, that voice still speaks to him in his dreams.  Mel says that dreams are the whisperings of the Great Other,

"And she feared to dream. Sleep is a little death, dreams the whisperings of the Other, who would drag us all into his eternal night."

So, I think it is the Great Other that visits Varys in his dreams.--he is the Master of Whisperers.

Bran also gets visits from the Great Other in his dreams, in the form of a 3 eyed crow that whispers to him.  (and Mel suggests that Bran might be the Great Other or at least his champion)  Bran means crow in Welsh, and varis means "hooded crow" in Finnish and Varys is associated with "little birds" and secret intel.  We learn in one of Bran's Dance chapters that all the ravens have CoTF spirits in them, capable of spying on human affairs--this could be one of the ways Varys gets his intel.

(Euron had flying dreams also, and Uran means crow in Welsh, Jojen had 3 eyed crow dreams and joj means crow).  When Bran appears to Jon in a dream he is a whispering weirwood.

Varys claims to love the children, but abducts, tortures, and kills children by the dozens.  He claims to hate magic but multiple people describe him as a sorcerer.  He claims to serve the realm, but is actively trying to destroy it.

 

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40 minutes ago, By Odin's Beard said:

Varys claims to love the children, but abducts, tortures, and kills children by the dozens.

Do we have any evidence of this?

  Nevermind, I think I know what you’re referring to.

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“So many?” The voices were fainter as the light dwindled ahead of her. “The ones you need are hard to find … so young, to know their letters … perhaps older … not die so easy …”
“No. The younger are safer … treat them gently …”
“… if they kept their tongues …”
“… the risk …”

40 minutes ago, By Odin's Beard said:

He claims to hate magic but multiple people describe him as a sorcerer.

Only the superstitious like Cat.  Varys never claims to be a sorcerer.

ETA And yes, Illyrio as well

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“You are more than a juggler, old friend. You are a true sorcerer. All I ask is that you work your magic awhile longer.”

Of course we can’t discount that this is’t just hyperbole and flattery from Varys friend.

 

40 minutes ago, By Odin's Beard said:

He claims to serve the realm, but is actively trying to destroy it.

?

Not sure about that.  He seems not to be a big fan of the current power structure in Westeros, and notes how damaging the game of thrones is on the populace.  Now that ultimately may make him a hypocrite, we have to see how his plan to crown Young Griff will affect the small folk, but I don’t think that this is the same as wanting to destroy the realm.  I think it may be more accurate to say he wants to change the realm.

Edited by Frey family reunion

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On 9/8/2019 at 2:16 PM, White Night said:

Considering the traumatising experience of losing one's manhood and Varys' self proclaimed hatred for magic and sorcery, Illyrio's choice of words is odd.

 

On 9/13/2019 at 6:39 PM, Frey family reunion said:

Of course we can’t discount that this is’t just hyperbole and flattery from Varys friend.

 

I also have a burst of cognitive dissonance around this phrasing of Illyrio's - it's exactly what you would expect to come with a trigger alert when said to Varys - if his tale is true. Effectively, to Varys 'You are a sorceror' has the same meaning as 'You are someone who captures and castrates children then abandons them to to die on the city's streets'.

How much more insensitive could a man's/eunuch's best friend possibly get? This alone - never mind anything else, like, oh, TARGARYENs - makes me suspect the whole story Varys gave Tyrion is a crock of lies....

Not only do i doubt the sorceror part of the tale, I also doubt the cutting part. I know some folks believe Varys is still a man entire, I veer the other way, I think Varys may actually be a woman masquerading as a eunuch. Claiming to 'know all the mummers' tricks' would certainly cover fake beards and the like. And of course, people see what they expect to see.

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Varys is not a fool like most maesters. Between red priests like Moqorro, Valyria's doom and its great magicians, tales of the Others, Varys knows magic exist. Whether his personal experience is true or not.

But I would rather believe he is an unsullied bought by Illrio. Either before or after Serra. One leading to the other. The last Maelys Blackfyre relatives, sold to slavery after the rebellion.

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On 9/18/2019 at 7:04 PM, Rufus Snow said:

 

Not only do i doubt the sorceror part of the tale, I also doubt the cutting part. I know some folks believe Varys is still a man entire, I veer the other way, I think Varys may actually be a woman masquerading as a eunuch. Claiming to 'know all the mummers' tricks' would certainly cover fake beards and the like. And of course, people see what they expect to see.

The best lies have an element of truth in them. Mayhaps that actually happened to him but had an opposite effect on him; ie, it made him believe in blood magic and the power of the gods.

I've always wondered why he's heavily powdered and why no one notices his eye colour. Is it because he's a woman or an uncastrated man? 

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2 hours ago, White Night said:

I've always wondered why he's heavily powdered and why no one notices his eye colour.

Or is he shaved, because like Egg, his hairs would be silver?

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On 9/8/2019 at 11:25 AM, Lollygag said:

...and since that day I have hated magic and all those who practice it. If Lord Stannis is one such, I mean to see him dead."

And this line makes no sense whatsoever as Varys supports the uber-magical Targs/Blackfyres. Stannis only dabbles compared to the Targs and Valyrians who deal in dragons, blood magic, pyromancers, more. And Varys seems tight with the pyromancers and has been for some time. Pyromancer literally translates as a practitioner of fire magic. It doesn't add up.

Actually it does make sense.

The classical Targaryens (Daenys, Aegon I, Visenya, Rhaneyra, Daemon, Maegor, Rhaena, etc.) are uber-magical.

The "modern" Targaryens (after Aegon III), by in large, are not magical. Some of them like Rhaegar and Aegon V had magical aspirations but no, they just aren't. The Blackfyres are also decidely not magical.

This is part of the reason why Daenerys is so special. She symbolizes the rebirth of House Targaryen at its height: dreamcatching seers, dragonriding warlords and inconspicuous sorcerers.

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I hadn't considered Varys to be a sorcerer, no. He is a type of magician. And I understand why George would use similar words when describing him to a reader. But if he had anything at all similar to what Mel has, then he would of been able to prevent LF from accelerating the Lannister downfall. And he wouldn't of needed to take Kevan down the way he did.  Just IMO. 

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On 9/8/2019 at 9:16 AM, White Night said:

The story itself does not raise any suspicion for it's too detailed to be fabricated.

At the very least, it is fabricated by GRRM.  Varys may also have fabricated it within the story.

On 9/8/2019 at 9:16 AM, White Night said:

It also doesn't seem to advance any agenda for Varys other than establishing him as a character who's developed a hatred for--or even fear of-- magic and those practice it, …..

So it diverts suspicion from his use of blood magic and/or association with blood mages.

But that's not it's only purpose.  It also diverts suspicion from his complete lack of male genitalia (unlike most eunuchs).  No-one who happens to see him piss the wrong way, after hearing this story, will suspect that he is a woman. 

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