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Alyn Oakenfist

Littlefinger's Plans

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Littlefinger is one of the most intriguing and mysterious people in Westeros matched only by Varys. However a question that is always present is what is his plan. What is clear is that Littlefinger brilliantly mixes careful planning and opportunism is order to achieve his goals.

Goals

Before we can understand Littlefinger's plans we need to understand his goals and what drives him. Arguably what made Littlefinger into the man he is, is his fostering at Riverrun. There he became infatuated with Catelyn Tully. She did not reciprocate said felling, however her sister Lysa was infatuated with Littlefinger. One night Littlefinger got very drunk and that night using his stupor Lysa had sex with him, however Littlefinger believed she was Cat. As a result when she got engaged to Brandon Stark, Littlefinger challenged him to a duel and was almost killed. As a result of all this, Lysa got pregnant with Littlefinger's child which she was forced by her father to abort, while Littlefinger was badly wounded, forced to return to his rocks and left incredibly bitter realizing the world would never let him rise above or forget his status.

As a result of all this we can surmise that Littlefinger's goal was to spite the high nobility by reaching as far as he could, becoming a great lord or even the king (or if he could not do that, the power behind the throne).

Rise to Kings Landing

After Robert's Rebellion, Littlefinger's situation was dire. He was a petty lord (and that's being generous) with no power or connections. Except one. Lysa Tully, now Arryn, was still obsessed with him and so he would use her as a springboard. Lysa convinced her husband Jon Arryn to appoint Littlefinger as chief of customs in Gulltown, where his innate brilliance was allowed to flourish, managing to increase the income 10 fold. This talent was quickly noticed by Jon Arryn, who eventually made Littlefinger Master of Coin. That was as highest position someone of Lttlefinger's status could hope to ever achieve (that is ignoring Barth). However that was only the beginning.

The Debt

Judging form the Throne's huge debt in spite of the never ending summer, we can suspect that Littlefinger immensely defrauded the Throne. This can be seen through the fact that while still only being the lord of a couple of rocks he became one of the wealthiest people in all of Westeros. As we will see this will have massive consequences later on. Another thing to note is that Little finger took most of the debt from the Iron Bank. This was most probably a calculated act on his behalf. One of his plans seems to be constantly trying to bankrupt Westeros is order to make himself the only person able to bail out the nobles and as such buy their loyalty. 

Divide and Conquer

However, no matter how wealthy or how indebted Westeros became, he would still find it impossible to advance any higher without one crucial factor. War. Not just war however, but a long destructive war, in which he could play both sides to gain as much as he could. However that proved incredibly problematic as he saw with the Greyjoy rebellion. An intricate web of friendships and marriages created a massive super-block made of the North, the Riverlands, the Vale, the Stormlands and the Westerlands. Only the Iron Islands, Dorne and the Reach were left out, and even in the unlikely even of those 3 kingdoms allying the war would still be incredibly one sided. So he would need to split up this alliance.

The only thing he had was the silver bullet of the twincest. However simply revealing it wouldn't have been enough. Would it have been revealed, it would have led to a Lannister rebellion, with them against the Crownlands, the Riverlands, the Vale, the North, the Stormlands and Dorne (wanting vengeance). The same problem arose. If he were to however kill Robert and the reveal the twincest in some way, it would have been even worse. Now maybe th Crownlands would have changed alliegence, however the result would still have been the same, only now Stannis would be on the Throne, a situation that would probably leave Littlefinger short a head. This probably could have been alleviated if Jon Arryn was to suffer some terrible accident meanwhile, as he would gain effective control over the Vale, through Lysa, pulling the Vale out of any possible war. That would still put the Westerlands, the Crownlands against every other kingdom, especially given Renly's bond with the Tyrells, and even more so, his bond with Loras Tyrell. Basically is whichever scenarios he chose The Lannisters would be crushed, with Robert or Stannis as king, one case only returning to Status Quo, now with an even stornger realm and the other resulting in Littlefinger's death. As such he realized that he needed to think outside the box and create a third faction, Renly.

If, in the event of Robert's untimely death, Renly could be convinced to stake his claim to the Throne, then it would be Westerlands and Crownlands on one side, the North, the Riverlands and Dragonstone on the second and the Reach and Stormlands the third, with Dorne and the Iron isles going either way. Whatever the war would be very long and allow him a lot of opportunities to ingratiate himself to various factions and accumulate more and more power. As an added perk Stannis is this case would be the least probable to win.

The Plan 1.0.

At the beginning of AGOT, Littlefinger's plan is ready. Having set the proper ground work by letting enough people know of the twincest and working to increase Renly's ambition and greed the pieces were set. His first move would be to arrange the murder of Jon Arryn, thereby securing a powerbase of his own in the Vale. Afterwards when Robert inevitably appoints Ned Stark as Hand, he would slowly reveals to him the twincest, becoming Ned's ally and confidant, however at the last moment he would inform the Lannisters of Ned's plan, thereby forceing their hand to kill Robert and proclaim Joffrey as king. Afterwards the 3 way civil war would begin allowing him to become incredibly influencial, on one side by maybe being granted some land and on the other by exploiting the deep financial turmoil that would be inevitably caused by the war.

At first the plan works incredibly well. Jon Arryn's death goes exactly as planned, and using Lysa and the attempt on Bran's life to destroy any good faith between Starks and Lannisters. Ned also perfectly falls into Littlefingers trap and discovering the twincest and reacting almost as Littlefinger would expect. Almost. The first deviation from the plan is when Ned tells Cersei about his discovery. This does mean that Littlefinger can no longer get the prize form informing the Lannisters about Ned's intent, however this doesn't affect Littlefinger's plan. However then disaster strikes. When Robert is killed, rather then fleeing the city Ned tries to execute a palace coup. This had two possible outcomes. If Ned succeds then Stannis ascends to the throne with no bloodshed, with Joffrey and Tommen as hostages. So his only choice is to help the Lannisters stop Ned, who is then captured and imprisoned.

The Plan 1.5.

At this point Littleifnger's plan is still somewhat intact. In order to make sure the Starks join the fight his plan is to have Ned executed rather then being sent to the Wall or kept as a hostage, as the latter would mean the Starks and Tully's support of Joffrey which would translate to Renly's and Stannis's quick defeats. There would also be the problem of Joffrey, who while relatively easy to influence could just as well have his head. So his plan is to have Joffrey execute Ned, which would put the Starks in a collision course in the Riverlands, one he hopes Tywin Lannister would win, and after that what would follow is a long drawn out war between Renly and Joffrey in which he would win either way

Catastrophe and planning just to survive in ACOK

While the first part of his new plan when well, i.e. the execution of Ned, everything else goes horribly wrong. While Littlefinger expected Tywin to quickly deal with Robb before turning and facing Renly with a massive host of around 60k (his 20, Jaime's 20 and Daven's soon to be 20), what happens is the complete opposite. Robb quickly destroyed Jaime at Riverrun therefore pinning the entire Westerland force in the Riverlands. However another even worse disaster happen afterwards. Renly is shadow-babied to death, leaving Stannis with a massive host, set to attack KL, At this point, especially given Littlefinger's past, he knows that is Stannis wins, he will face the axe. So with his very survival on the line, he is forced to act for the Lannisters and not himself. At the orders of Tyrion he successfully arranges a Tyrell-Lannister marriage pact, who at the last second is able to defeat Stannis. However some good does come of all this for Littlfinger as he is named Lord of Harrenhal (though an empty title is does finally allow him to marry Lysa and get dirrect control over the Vale) and he does begin to silently work with the Tyrells for another future endevour.

The plan 2.0

By the time A Strom of Sword begins the situation had gone out of his control. By now the war seemed over, with Northern and Ironborn submission being just a matter of time. However a new dynamic seemed to be emerging. With only the Reach and the Westerlands remaining as strong realms, his plan now was geared for total domination. He would try and force a Tyrell-Lannister rift, first by severing the marriage, and after a devastating war between them we would fianlly sweep in using the untaped power of the Vale. He would also be aided by his attempt to gain the trust of Sansa both directly as well as through Dontos. His hope was to use her in order to gain the North and Riverlands to his side once Robb and Edmure were killed. Therefore his plan was simple at this point. Marry Lysa, wait for the war to end and the Starks and Tullys to be defeated, orchestrate a Lannister Tyrell split while gaining control of the Vale and finally after the Lannisters and Tyrells cancelled each other out then walk in with the support of the Vale and whatever remained of the North and Riverlands (rallied by Sansa) and gain total power. As usual the first parts went very well. He fianlly managed to marry Lysa, and as expected the war with the North finally turned. However one thing he didn't expect was the Tyrell marriage plot with Sansa. He was however able to salvage the situation by informing the Lannisters who, rather predictably married Sansa to Tyrion. This, due to all that transpired, meant that Sansa would be perfectly available for when he framed Tyrion for the upcoming murder of Joffrey. Things got even better after the Red Wedding. Which for one made Littfinger LP of the Riverlands and insured a deep hatred from both the Riverlands and North towards the Lannisters, one which he would be able to exploit in his favor.

The the Purple Wedding happened which was an even bigger success. He managed to create the first rift in the Tyrell Lannister alliance, while also gaining Sansa. It's aftermath however was weirder, as on one side it eliminated Tywin, therefore further tearing the Lannisters and Tyrells apart, however one side-effect was that Tyrion got away, meaning that Sansa was still technically married to him. Another problem came when she brought Sansa to the Vale. Lysa immediately started to make plans about Sansa marring SweetRobin and then turned envious of her. So Littlefinger out of necessity to keep Sansa alive and under his control killed Lysa. However this weakened his grip on the Vale. For the rest of the currently published books Littlefinger only seems to try to regain control of the Vale, while also making moves to increase his power. However one good thing to happen in AFFC is the Iron Bank's request of all loans to be repaid. This puts Littlefinger in the ideal situation to finally gain control of The Vale and many other nobles by using his vast wealth to pay their loans.

The next Failure

However while his plan remains about the same a myriad of factors start to undermine it. The first is Stannis. Littlefinger like everyone else thought Stannis was a goner until his brilliant campaign in the North. Now at the end of ADWD Littlefinger's Northern part of the plan seems dead given Jon Snow's soon to be resurrection as well as Rickon's reemergence. Also his plan of a Lannister-Tyrell split is gone now with the introduction of the Faith, Faegon and soon Dany.

The Plan 3.0. in TWOW

I suspect that in TWOW, after securing the Vale Littlefinger will travel North hoping to gain control of whoever wins there (probably Jon Snow). What will happen there is hard to say though I suspect his pawn, Sansa will finally turn on him, along side the lord of the Vale and kill him.

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Besides Arya, Littlefinger is to me the most interesting character in ASOIAF. I think though that you tend to misjudge his strategies. In contrast to Varys, Littlefinger has short or medium term plans only. His only long term plan is to raise to a position and power which his birth would normally not allow for. He describes his strategy to Sansa, when he explains to her that some pieces (as he calls them) have a will of their own and thus you must always expect the unexpected and have patience to see if your last move works out as you planned or not.

Actually, he consolidates the Vale economically and gathers food for the coming winter.

I do not believe that he tried to bankrupt the crown or something like that. He just did everything to satisfy Robert. That is all.

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1 hour ago, Greywater-Watch said:

Besides Arya, Littlefinger is to me the most interesting character in ASOIAF. I think though that you tend to misjudge his strategies. In contrast to Varys, Littlefinger has short or medium term plans only. His only long term plan is to raise to a position and power which his birth would normally not allow for. He describes his strategy to Sansa, when he explains to her that some pieces (as he calls them) have a will of their own and thus you must always expect the unexpected and have patience to see if your last move works out as you planned or not.

I tend to agree. He seems to only try to influence the game on the grand scheme while on the small and medium scale he uses his cunning and opportunism. For example, it's pretty obvious that he manufactured the Stark-Lannister conflict hoping to gain as much as possible from it.

1 hour ago, Greywater-Watch said:

Actually, he consolidates the Vale economically and gathers food for the coming winter.

Well it's clear he means to use the Vale as a power base, after consolidating his power there.

1 hour ago, Greywater-Watch said:

I do not believe that he tried to bankrupt the crown or something like that. He just did everything to satisfy Robert. That is all.

Hard to say. I find it fishy the massive amount of debt Robert collected just from a few tourneys. Plus after becoming master of coin he quickly turned from dirt poor to one of the richest men in all of Westeros.

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14 hours ago, Alyn Oakenfist said:

snip

I don't believe Littlefinger is acting alone here. I think we will soon find out that he is working for Illyrio, unbeknownst to Varys, in a master-plot to bring down the Iron Bank and the Braavosi economy with it. This will allow Pentos to shred the peace treaty it signed nearly 100 years ago that prevents Pentos from defending itself, keeping/trading slaves and other things.

First off, let's consider Petyr's initial rise to power. As a lowly customs officer in Gulltown, LF was able to suddenly bring in far more revenue than another other collector, and he was quickly appointed Chief of Customs. There are only two ways a customs officer can increase revenue all by himself: he is either taking more than he is supposed to from the traders and merchants he encounters, or he is taking the correct amount while all the other collectors are not, most likely because they are being bribed. Either way, this is a sure way for Petyr to make some powerful enemies down at the docks because he is taking more money than anyone else and handing it over the Arryns. Petyr is a small, skinny young boy with few resources of his own to hire guards, so this should have gotten him a one-way ticket to the bottom of the Narrow Sea. Later, as Chief of Customs, word would get out that the normal bribery and whatnot that allowed people to skirt their taxes was no long available in Gulltown, and trade, and thus incomes, could have suffered, not increased.

The only way around this is if Petyr was being bankrolled. Now, he can hand over money to the Arryns, seemingly out of nowhere, without stepping on the toes of powerful and dangerous men, and make it seem like he is a financial wizard who can rub two coins together to make a third.

This same pattern would be repeated in King's Landing, of course, first in the customs office, then as Master of Coin. Supposedly, Littlefinger is "putting the crown's gold to work", buying low, waiting for a shortage, then selling high. But, if done honestly, this is at best a risky, low-profit strategy because you can never know where and when a shortage will occur, and all the while you have to pay storage fees on whatever goods you are hoarding. Now, LF can always create these shortages artificially by, say, buying up all the silk right off the boats. But this is not going to win him any friends, particularly among the high lords and ladies who now have to pay triple for their fine clothes while the crown sits on warehouses full of silk. So again, the much more likely explanation is that Littlefinger is being bankrolled, and the books he gives to Tyrion are all a sham.

How would all this affect the Iron Bank? Simple. The IB has made substantial loans to the crown, through Littlefinger, which the crown cannot pay back even if it wants to. In response, the IB is doing what it always does: find somebody to take the throne and make good on the loans. That somebody is Stannis, whom they have just loaned even more gold to. But suppose Stannis fails? The man is literally freezing his Baratheons off in the north, with little chance of taking Winterfell, let alone King's Landing. Meanwhile, Illyrio has landed his own champion in the south, and that champion has taken no gold from the IB and has absolutely no reason to make good on the debts incurred by those who usurped the crown from his family. If he wins, the Iron Bank is out the money it loaned the Iron Throne and the money it loaned Stannis, and is probably not going to collect on the loans it is calling in across Westeros. (This, in fact, is a telltale sign that a bank's coffers are running low: when it starts calling in other loans). Oh, the bank has also loaned an unknown amount to the Night's Watch, which will probably not be paid back until spring comes. And at the same time, it will have to deal with the disruption of the slave trade, which is bound to hamper trade in silks, spices, furs, ore and myriad other products that the bank is involved with.

In this situation, it would take only one depositor to be refused a withdrawal to create a run on the bank, just like what happened to the Rogare Bank and countless banks in the real world. And who might the depositor be? Why, none other than Lord Petyr Baelish, former Master of Coin, who has likely embezzled millions from the crown and re-deposited it right back in the very bank that loaned it in the first place. With the bank insolvent, the iron coin becomes worth the iron it is made of, not the gold that had backed it, the Braavosi economy collapses and Pentos is free again to chart its own destiny.

Meanwhile, Illyrio has his puppet on the Iron Throne and two of the principal houses that could oppose him, the Tyrells and the Lannisters, are financially strapped as well because their loans to the crown are lost too. And Littlefinger? He is now the true Lord of the Realm, probably by charting the course you highlighted to gain control of the Vale and the north, and probably the riverlands as well, for a start.

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Littlefinger seems a master of the Xanatos Gambit, the ability to initiate a complicated plan where most, if not all possible outcomes benefit him.  Between be de jure ruler of the Riverlands, de facto ruler of the Vale and having direct influence over the legitimate heir to the North, he has his fingers in a lot of pies and can stir things up to his benefit no matter what happens in King's Landing. 

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One of the great strengths of Littlefinger is his patience. He does nothing to push his claim as Lord of Harrenhal and Lord Paramount of the Trident, while consolidating the Vale. In the Vale he is Lord Protector, the most fragile of his three titles, as it will expire as soon as Robin has become of age. And we know that Cersei wouldn't help Baelish if the Lords of the Vale rebelled againt Littlefinger.

So, Petyr fully concentrates on the fragile title in the Vale, but in his backhand he still has Harrenhal and the Trident. Wonderful strategy.

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1 hour ago, Greywater-Watch said:

One of the great strengths of Littlefinger is his patience. He does nothing to push his claim as Lord of Harrenhal and Lord Paramount of the Trident, while consolidating the Vale. In the Vale he is Lord Protector, the most fragile of his three titles, as it will expire as soon as Robin has become of age. And we know that Cersei wouldn't help Baelish if the Lords of the Vale rebelled againt Littlefinger.

So, Petyr fully concentrates on the fragile title in the Vale, but in his backhand he still has Harrenhal and the Trident. Wonderful strategy.

Don't forget that he still has the person with the best claim on the North (at least until Rickon shows up) and he can further control the Riverlands by having Catelyn Tully's daughter.

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2 minutes ago, Alyn Oakenfist said:

Don't forget that he still has the person with the best claim on the North (at least until Rickon shows up) and he can further control the Riverlands by having Catelyn Tully's daughter.

While here it might be that Littlefinger may be surprised to learn Robb's last will.....

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Just now, Greywater-Watch said:

While here it might be that Littlefinger may be surprised to learn Robb's last will.....

I'm not saying it will work, but it's still a very good plan/position given that Littlefinger had no way of knowing Robb's will.

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Littlefinger's wealth might be a bit overrated. He certainly doesn't hold vast lands. As for stealing money from the crown, he may have filled his pockets but there is no way that is the reason for the debt. Robert just spent a lot. Made him popular as a king but left a big problem for his successors. Governments do that all the time in the real world. If Littlefinger really had stolen all that money he would have to keep it somewhere. He couldn't put it into some bank account in Braavos, he'd have to store all the gold somewhere, physically. Where would that be? 

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Posted (edited)
On 1/6/2020 at 3:13 AM, Alyn Oakenfist said:

What is clear is that Littlefinger brilliantly mixes careful planning and opportunism is order to achieve his goals.

While I agree with many of your points, I can't support presenting Littlefinger as a careful planner or a great mastermind. Nothing he did seems particularly clever to me, and in fact some of his moves are dumb. The realistic outcome for most of his actions would be his head on a pike, and if he succeeded it's only because he was very lucky (and the plot required it).

On 1/6/2020 at 3:13 AM, Alyn Oakenfist said:

he would still find it impossible to advance any higher without one crucial factor. War. Not just war however, but a long destructive war, in which he could play both sides to gain as much as he could

This has been brought many times as Littlefinger's main strategy, and to some degree it's true. But if this was Littefinger's logic, it was a faulty one.

Provoking a war it's a very risky path to walk, specially if you want it to be "long" and "destructive". To achieve that, the forces have to be roughly equal, and that also means that the winner is uncertain. A member of the small council will have to take sides eventually, and choosing the wrong horse will end your career.

Meanwhile, Littlefinger had easier, more realistic ways to rise. Robert was known to be prodigal, and to reward generously those who helped him. He also couldn't stomach any of his brothers, and given Barristan and Pycelle's age, he would be a clear candidate to become Hand of the King once (not if) Eddard got tired of Robert, his debauchery and his orders to kill children. Perhaps the only one, if just after Eddard departed he revealed to Robert that he had been cuckholded and that his brothers knew it but had kept silence.

On 1/6/2020 at 3:13 AM, Alyn Oakenfist said:

As such he realized that he needed to think outside the box and create a third faction, Renly.

This is one of the things that turned out well for Renly only because of sheer luck, or in this case, because of "magic". With Renly claiming the crown with the support of the Tyrells, the Lannisters had no chance against him. King's Landing was only saved because Renly choose to delay the advance of his army, because Stannis took the wild chance of attacking Storm's End, and because Melidandre's sorcery killed Renly. None of this could have been foreseen by Littlefinger, and therefore, it wasn't part of an infallible masterplan.

In the normal course of events, Renly's army arrives to King's Landing, crushes Tywin's force if he dares to appear, and kills Cersei and her children. What reward could Littlefinger hope for in this situation? Probably, he could count himself lucky if he was allowed to return home alive.

 

On 1/6/2020 at 3:13 AM, Alyn Oakenfist said:

The Plan 1.0.

After the suspicious death of Jon Arryn, Stannis inexplicably flees to Dragonstone and decides not to inform Robert what he and Jon were investigating at the time of his death. Instead, he prefers to brood in Dragonstone while Robert travels surrounded by Lannisters in the empty roads of the North. In the normal course of events, Stannis would have told Robert.

When Catelyn appears with the dagger, Littlefinger flat out tells a thin lie to Eddard accusing Tyrion of being the dagger's owner. He tells the lie in front of Varys, who could have easily denied it thus putting an end to Littlefinger's "plans". Eddard could have also checked the story with anyone else. But most importantly, it could not be foreseen that Cat and Tyrion would randomly meet in the Kingsroad. In the normal course of events, Eddard arrests Tyrion once he arrives at King's Landing, he denies being the owner of the dagger, and Littlefinger has managed to antagonize both the Starks and the Lannisters in just one stupid stroke.

Eddard happens to discover the twincest in a moment where a huge rift has been created between him and Robert, and while the king is away at hunting. He meets with Cersei and gives her until Robert returns (three days) to depart King's Landing. In the normal course of events, Robert would have been at court and Cersei wouldn't have had the luxury of three days to plan anything.

Even though, everything Cersei manages to conjure to kill Robert is to ask a 15 year old to give him an extra does of strongwine when he goes to hunt a boar. And hope that Robert gets killed instead of all the other equally likely outcomes (Robert kills the boar, Roberts receives a non-mortal wound, the boar flees, Robert drinks to his sleep). In the normal course of events, Robert wouldn't have died.

It's a pattern. Littlefinger's "plan", if it can be called so, only works because all the dices have been cast in his favour. Not because of his cleverness, but in spite of his mindless bets.

On 1/6/2020 at 3:13 AM, Alyn Oakenfist said:

The Plan 1.5.

At this point Littleifnger's plan is still somewhat intact. In order to make sure the Starks join the fight his plan is to have Ned executed rather then being sent to the Wall or kept as a hostage, as the latter would mean the Starks and Tully's support of Joffrey which would translate to Renly's and Stannis's quick defeats.

The numbers do not add up. Renly crossed the Reach with an army of 100.000 men. Counting Tywin's 20.000 men, the remanants of Jaime's army, Ser Steffon's recruits and the City Watch, the Lannisters control about 40,000 -50,000 men. If Littlefinger's goal had been to make both sides even, he would have wanted the Starks and the Tullys to support Joffrey.

But it any case, I find it hard to believe that they would have supported the Lannisters anyway. They still had imprisoned Eddard, and Tywin had just smashed Edmure's army at the Golden Toth. The best they could hope for is neutrality.

It's just another instance where Littlefinger got lucky. The stars just aligned for him.

Edited by The hairy bear

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1 hour ago, The hairy bear said:

Counting Tywin's 20.000 men, the remanants of Jaime's army, Ser Steffon's recruits and the City Watch, the Lannisters control about 40,000 -50,000 men.

You forget that at that point the news of Whispering Woods didn't reach KL. A thing I just realized is that if Ned lived everyone would have found out that he betrayed Ned, and this would forever force him to side with the Lannisters.

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The main thing about Littlefinger is that most people in the series underestimate him, even those who know how clever he is. In a society where power is often believed to flow from the number of spears and knights at one's command his lack of lands and troops causes many to dismiss the danger he poses. It is pretty clear from Tyrion's thoughts once he replaces Littlefinger as Master of Coin that Littlefinger made out like a bandit and placed people loyal to him in positions all around King's Landing and within the Red Keep. Littlefinger got richer as he moved coin around and yet the Crown went further and further into debt and he always seemed to have gold in position to accomplish the next part of his plan - like how he purchases the debts of House Waynwood in order to secure Harry the Heir for marriage.

I've always thought of Littlefinger as the rich man in the riddle of power - it's just most of the Westerosi Nobility have a disdain for counting coppers and for those who fight for money (see all the shots taken at the courage of sell swords and free riders), in the riddle of power they would kill for their King or for their Faith but hate admitting any temptation for killing for money. Hence they keep ignoring the men whose power is based in the purse and Littlefinger makes another jape and they assume that he's clever and ambitious but harmless. 

He got away with so much because really only Varys and Tyrion see through him and Tyrion needs him in ACOK. By the time Tywin arrives at the end of Clash Littlefinger is too necessary to the Lannister plans to be ousted and Tywin is dead before he can burn Littlefinger once LF outlives his usefulness to the Lion. At that point it's Varys, who has his own problems after freeing Tyrion, and Cersei, who is busy making enemies rather than dealing with them, left to "deal" with him.  

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13 hours ago, The hairy bear said:

While I agree with many of your points, I can't support presenting Littlefinger as a careful planner or a great mastermind. Nothing he did seems particularly clever to me, and in fact some of his moves are dumb. The realistic outcome for most of his actions would be his head on a pike, and if he succeeded it's only because he was very lucky (and the plot required it).

This has been brought many times as Littlefinger's main strategy, and to some degree it's true. But if this was Littefinger's logic, it was a faulty one.

Provoking a war it's a very risky path to walk, specially if you want it to be "long" and "destructive". To achieve that, the forces have to be roughly equal, and that also means that the winner is uncertain. A member of the small council will have to take sides eventually, and choosing the wrong horse will end your Career.

Meanwhile, Littlefinger had easier, more realistic ways to rise. Robert was known to be prodigal, and to reward generously those who helped him. He also couldn't stomach any of his brothers, and given Barristan and Pycelle's age, he would be a clear candidate to become Hand of the King once (not if) Eddard got tired of Robert, his debauchery and his orders to kill children. Perhaps the only one, if just after Eddard departed he revealed to Robert that he had been cuckholded and that his brothers knew it but had kept silence.

This is one of the things that turned out well for Renly only because of sheer luck, or in this case, because of "magic". With Renly claiming the crown with the support of the Tyrells, the Lannisters had no chance against him. King's Landing was only saved because Renly choose to delay the advance of his army, because Stannis took the wild chance of attacking Storm's End, and because Melidandre's sorcery killed Renly. None of this could have been foreseen by Littlefinger, and therefore, it wasn't part of an infallible masterplan.

In the normal course of events, Renly's army arrives to King's Landing, crushes Tywin's force if he dares to appear, and kills Cersei and her children. What reward could Littlefinger hope for in this situation? Probably, he could count himself lucky if he was allowed to return home alive.

 

After the suspicious death of Jon Arryn, Stannis inexplicably flees to Dragonstone and decides not to inform Robert what he and Jon were investigating at the time of his death. Instead, he prefers to brood in Dragonstone while Robert travels surrounded by Lannisters in the empty roads of the North. In the normal course of events, Stannis would have told Robert.

When Catelyn appears with the dagger, Littlefinger flat out tells a thin lie to Eddard accusing Tyrion of being the dagger's owner. He tells the lie in front of Varys, who could have easily denied it thus putting an end to Littlefinger's "plans". Eddard could have also checked the story with anyone else. But most importantly, it could not be foreseen that Cat and Tyrion would randomly meet in the Kingsroad. In the normal course of events, Eddard arrests Tyrion once he arrives at King's Landing, he denies being the owner of the dagger, and Littlefinger has managed to antagonize both the Starks and the Lannisters in just one stupid stroke.

Eddard happens to discover the twincest in a moment where a huge rift has been created between him and Robert, and while the king is away at hunting. He meets with Cersei and gives her until Robert returns (three days) to depart King's Landing. In the normal course of events, Robert would have been at court and Cersei wouldn't have had the luxury of three days to plan anything.

Even though, everything Cersei manages to conjure to kill Robert is to ask a 15 year old to give him an extra does of strongwine when he goes to hunt a boar. And hope that Robert gets killed instead of all the other equally likely outcomes (Robert kills the boar, Roberts receives a non-mortal wound, the boar flees, Robert drinks to his sleep). In the normal course of events, Robert wouldn't have died.

It's a pattern. Littlefinger's "plan", if it can be called so, only works because all the dices have been cast in his favour. Not because of his cleverness, but in spite of his mindless bets.

The numbers do not add up. Renly crossed the Reach with an army of 100.000 men. Counting Tywin's 20.000 men, the remanants of Jaime's army, Ser Steffon's recruits and the City Watch, the Lannisters control about 40,000 -50,000 men. If Littlefinger's goal had been to make both sides even, he would have wanted the Starks and the Tullys to support Joffrey.

But it any case, I find it hard to believe that they would have supported the Lannisters anyway. They still had imprisoned Eddard, and Tywin had just smashed Edmure's army at the Golden Toth. The best they could hope for is neutrality.

It's just another instance where Littlefinger got lucky. The stars just aligned for him.

I see things differently. In parts you are right: Littlefinger couldn't foresee events in the long run. But his actions rarely put him in danger, and he knows he is very good at managing chaotic situations to his own Advantage. Example:

1) Take the dagger lie. Varys had just admitted he didn't know that dagger. Now, LF could have said

a) Nothing: not very risky, but no true advantge for him. In case Eddard would ask Robert, and the king would remember, LF would be in some difficulties to explain why he had forgotten. But all in all no big risk for himself, but also no gain.

b) That he lost it in a bet to King Robert: bringing the King in connection with an attempted murder on the Hand's son? Very bad idea, whether it is true or not.

c) Invent something. Exactly what Littlefinger did. A bit dangerous step, but the rift between Lannisters and Starks had already been created, amongst others by Littlefinger (Lysa's letter). And Littlefinger knew well that Tyrion was not in high esteem at court or anywhere else. In case Tyrion comes to KL safe and sound and denies: Well he finally did. But could he harm Littlefinger then? No, he couldn't. He didn't dare step up against Littlefinger when he was acting hand, knowing that Littlefinger was too well connected and appreciated.

 

I could name other examples like what would have happened if Renly had stormed KL. Well, Littlefinger had very good chances to survive as he was no open enemy to anyone. Renly would have kept him as Master of Coin or dismissed him, but kill him: why? Same for Stannis, had he won the battle.

So, Littlefinger took little risks for himself in his actions.

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5 hours ago, Greywater-Watch said:

Varys had just admitted he didn't know that dagger.

Not exactly. Catelyn gives the blade to Varys (“Here. Perhaps your little birds will whisper the name of the man it belongs to.”). Varys never answers, and Littlefinger interrupts to say that it was his knife and that he lost it to Tyrion.

5 hours ago, Greywater-Watch said:

c) Invent something. Exactly what Littlefinger did. A bit dangerous step, but the rift between Lannisters and Starks had already been created, amongst others by Littlefinger (Lysa's letter).

 

Lysa's letter had been a reasonable move. Accusing the Lannisters of poisoning Jon Arryn was hard to disprove. Littlefinger's name didn't appear anywhere. Lysa was secluded in the Eyrie, so it was unlikely that any Stark would soon have the opportunity to ask her about the basis of her accusation.

Lying about the dagger was foolishly reckless. Even if Varys choses not to expose you at the moment, you will always be at his mercy. At any time he wishes to gain the favor of Robert, Eddard, or the Lannisters he can go to them and explain the kind of lies Baelish is telling.

Or Eddard can discover the truth somewhere else. For instance, he can easily learn that Robert was stolen a Valyrian steel blade during his stay at Winterfell (it is, after all, a valuable and rare item).

5 hours ago, Greywater-Watch said:

Renly would have kept him as Master of Coin or dismissed him, but kill him: why? Same for Stannis, had he won the battle.

So, Littlefinger took little risks for himself in his actions.

Littlefinger was, already, the Master of Coin. And he was Master of Coin with a careless king and an ineffectual aging Hand that left him to his fraudulent devices.

The thesis that is being presented is that he conspired to provoke a war between 4 equally matched parties where:

  • If the Lannisters win and he is able to help them in the process, he can obtain some gains. So it's fine here.
  • If the Starks win, he loses his head.
  • If Stannis win, he loses his position at the Small Council: it's obvious the two men can't stand each other. He also loses all his brothel business (Stannis wants to forbid whoring). And if the new master of coin ever discovers or suspects that he defrauded the crown, he also loses his head.
  • If Renly wins, he surely loses his position too. Littlefinger is nothing to him, and he'll want to fill his small council with the Southerner lords that had supported his claim.

It's like throwing a four-sided dice where three sides leave you worse off than you are, and the other may give you a chance of advance. How is that taking "little risk"? How is that the work of a clever master planner instead of a lucky madman?

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15 hours ago, The hairy bear said:

Not exactly. Catelyn gives the blade to Varys (“Here. Perhaps your little birds will whisper the name of the man it belongs to.”). Varys never answers, and Littlefinger interrupts to say that it was his knife and that he lost it to Tyrion.

You are right. I mixed up TV and books. I stand corrected.

 

Lysa's letter had been a reasonable move. Accusing the Lannisters of poisoning Jon Arryn was hard to disprove. Littlefinger's name didn't appear anywhere. Lysa was secluded in the Eyrie, so it was unlikely that any Stark would soon have the opportunity to ask her about the basis of her accusation.

Lying about the dagger was foolishly reckless. Even if Varys choses not to expose you at the moment, you will always be at his mercy. At any time he wishes to gain the favor of Robert, Eddard, or the Lannisters he can go to them and explain the kind of lies Baelish is telling.

If Varys knew that Littlefinger lied. Do you have proof of that?

Or Eddard can discover the truth somewhere else. For instance, he can easily learn that Robert was stolen a Valyrian steel blade during his stay at Winterfell (it is, after all, a valuable and rare item).

Littlefinger was, already, the Master of Coin. And he was Master of Coin with a careless king and an ineffectual aging Hand that left him to his fraudulent devices.

The thesis that is being presented is that he conspired to provoke a war between 4 equally matched parties where:

  • If the Lannisters win and he is able to help them in the process, he can obtain some gains. So it's fine here.
  • If the Starks win, he loses his head. Why? Lannisters, Tyrion incl. dead => who could reveal anything? It is said somewhere that Robert most probably forgot that he ever possessed that dagger (I think it was Tyrion's thoughts)
  • If Stannis win, he loses his position at the Small Council: it's obvious the two men can't stand each other. He also loses all his brothel business (Stannis wants to forbid whoring). And if the new master of coin ever discovers or suspects that he defrauded the crown, he also loses his head. That Littlefinger frauded the crown is a theory that I do not adhere to.
  • If Renly wins, he surely loses his position too. Littlefinger is nothing to him, and he'll want to fill his small council with the Southerner lords that had supported his claim. There is no mentioning that Renly distrusted or hated Littlefinger.

It's like throwing a four-sided dice where three sides leave you worse off than you are, and the other may give you a chance of advance. How is that taking "little risk"? How is that the work of a clever master planner instead of a lucky madman?

 

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It is generally believed that Littlefinger somehow engineered the majority of the events of the books with the aim of exacting revenge on the Starks, due to his unrequited feelings towards Catelyn and his duel with Brandon. This is not supported by the text. Littlefinger neither could nor did cause the war of the five kings. In fact, many aspects of it were the last thing he wanted.

LF immediately prior to the beginning of the books would have been as happy as a pig in shit. He was influential, he was using the treasury as his own personal bank and due to his own seeming efficiency largely unaccountable for his crimes. The one person who was most content with the status quo was Littlefinger. The problem was that the status quo was about to be overturned through no fault of his own, because of the investigation that Stannis and Jon Arryn were undertaking. This meant a number of things. Stannis would gain influence both in the court in general as well as with Jon Arryn, while the Lannisters were being ousted. Meanwhile, whatever influence Lysa had with her husband was obviously at an end and the removal of her son from her care would have made her dangerously unstable. It is also questionable whether he could maintain his financial "miracle" without the easy access to Lannister gold that he had. 

In short Littlefinger faced the prospect of simultaneously having his one true enemy gaining prominence and falling out of favor with his liege lord. This could lead to further scrutiny to his activities, the loss of his position and eventually his head. 

The rest is Littlefinger trying to juggle the conflicting needs of maintaining the status quo or something close to it with deflecting inquiries towards the circumstances of Jon Arryn's death, until the situation in King's Landing grew too dangerous for him and he managed to extricate himself from it in the Vale, where he hopes to profiteer on food in peace. 

This is pretty much it. There is no grand plan and never has been. 

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22 minutes ago, The Sleeper said:

It is generally believed that Littlefinger somehow engineered the majority of the events of the books with the aim of exacting revenge on the Starks, due to his unrequited feelings towards Catelyn and his duel with Brandon. This is not supported by the text. Littlefinger neither could nor did cause the war of the five kings. In fact, many aspects of it were the last thing he wanted.

LF immediately prior to the beginning of the books would have been as happy as a pig in shit. He was influential, he was using the treasury as his own personal bank and due to his own seeming efficiency largely unaccountable for his crimes. The one person who was most content with the status quo was Littlefinger. The problem was that the status quo was about to be overturned through no fault of his own, because of the investigation that Stannis and Jon Arryn were undertaking. This meant a number of things. Stannis would gain influence both in the court in general as well as with Jon Arryn, while the Lannisters were being ousted. Meanwhile, whatever influence Lysa had with her husband was obviously at an end and the removal of her son from her care would have made her dangerously unstable. It is also questionable whether he could maintain his financial "miracle" without the easy access to Lannister gold that he had. 

In short Littlefinger faced the prospect of simultaneously having his one true enemy gaining prominence and falling out of favor with his liege lord. This could lead to further scrutiny to his activities, the loss of his position and eventually his head. 

 The rest is Littlefinger trying to juggle the conflicting needs of maintaining the status quo or something close to it with deflecting inquiries towards the circumstances of Jon Arryn's death, until the situation in King's Landing grew too dangerous for him and he managed to extricate himself from it in the Vale, where he hopes to profiteer on food in peace. 

This is pretty much it. There is no grand plan and never has been. 

Very interesting post. You make a good case but...

I never saw LF as someone fighting to keep the status quo, to be honest I thought the exactly oposite to be true.

LF was from a family that barely arrived at westeros, his grandfather was a hedge knight and he is lord of a pretty insignificant piece of land, even being mocked for it, if the nobility in Westeros is petty to the point they still call the Tyrells stewarts after 300 years, what do they think about the Baelish?

LF was ousted from Riverrun because he was not a member of the status quo. 

It is trut that he does benefit from Robert's corrupt court, and Stannis being his legal heir would be a nightmare for him, but even there would be some easier way to get rid of Stannis, and I don't think that LF would be against King Renly.

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12 minutes ago, Arthur Peres said:

Very interesting post. You make a good case but...

I never saw LF as someone fighting to keep the status quo, to be honest I thought the exactly oposite to be true.

LF was from a family that barely arrived at westeros, his grandfather was a hedge knight and he is lord of a pretty insignificant piece of land, even being mocked for it, if the nobility in Westeros is petty to the point they still call the Tyrells stewarts after 300 years, what do they think about the Baelish?

LF was ousted from Riverrun because he was not a member of the status quo. 

It is trut that he does benefit from Robert's corrupt court, and Stannis being his legal heir would be a nightmare for him, but even there would be some easier way to get rid of Stannis, and I don't think that LF would be against King Renly.

What you say is true, except for the fact that he had it made. He was influential and he was wealthy well beyond his birth and he got in by fucking a great lord's wife. And I am not talking about the status quo in general, but about Robert's court at that time. 

LF was already a success story. 

He didn't necessarily have another way to deal with Stannis. In fact it would have been preferable to kill Stannis. What works for the goose works for the gander. Arryn would have assumed that Stannis would have been murdered at the behest of the Lannisters and worked to place Renly on the throne. It may have worked better for Littlefinger. It might have not. There many ways it could have played out. It doesn't mean that he could go after Stannis directly (and get away with it). Remember Arryn was poisoned by his own wife and he was an old man whose death was passed off as a sickness. It is extremely doubtfull that LF had the necessary access to Stannis. 

Regardless, we know that the situation was threatening to him and we know that he had Arrynn killed. That is more than enough to explain his actions.

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4 hours ago, Greywater-Watch said:

If Varys knew that Littlefinger lied. Do you have proof of that?

I don't. But it's a pretty transparent lie. As Tyrion claims afterwards, he never bets against his family. And Varys, of all people, would know that. Perhaps he wouldn't remember exactly, but it would be easy to check what happened if any suspicion had been arised.

I think Varys was fully aware of the blade's history, because... he's Varys, and because of his reluctance to answer to Ned's question (it seems as if he waits for Littlefinger to reply). But at the end of the day, it's not a matter of whether Varys knew it or not. It's that there was a significant chance that Varys had known, and therfore, Littlefinger's decision to lie was very risky.

4 hours ago, Greywater-Watch said:
  • If the Starks win, he loses his head. Why? Lannisters, Tyrion incl. dead => who could reveal anything? It is said somewhere that Robert most probably forgot that he ever possessed that dagger (I think it was Tyrion's thoughts)

If the Starks had been the winners, there would have been a trial for the losers. Admittedly, Tyrion could have died in battle, but it's not that a likely outcome. Once the case of the dagger is publicly made, Littlefinger's story completely crumbles. Anyone who was at the royal bench that day can explain what happened. And anyone at court would know about Tyrion's betting pattern.

And from the time that Littlefinger betrays Eddard, it's clear cut. Even if Ned is killed, all people at court and the senior soldiers of the City Watch would know that Littlefinger was instrumental on Lord Starks downfall.

4 hours ago, Greywater-Watch said:
  • If Renly wins, he surely loses his position too. Littlefinger is nothing to him, and he'll want to fill his small council with the Southerner lords that had supported his claim. There is no mentioning that Renly distrusted or hated Littlefinger.

There are some signs that he did. For instance, the night of Robert's death he fled King's Landing instead of trusting that the City Watch (controlled by Baelish) will side with Eddard. In the same night, when he tries to convince Eddard to strike immediately, he doesn't include Littlefinger as his potential allies.

We can't know whether Renly realized Littlefinger was a creature of the Lannisters or a neutral agent. But in any case, wouldn't a brand new young king who comes to the throne want to include in his council people who completely trusts or that he wants to reward? The Tyrells seem to have a clear mind to appoint Garth the Gross as master of coin, and Renly would oblige.

47 minutes ago, Arthur Peres said:

LF was ousted from Riverrun because he was not a member of the status quo. 

I'd daresay that the fact that he challenged to a duel the lord's son-in-law and that fucked one of his daughters may have something to do with that, too.

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