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CamiloRP

Has Varys Created His Own Language?

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Posted (edited)

I know, dumb question, but it's been bugging me for a while.

We know his little birds don't have a tongue, and we also know they communicate with Varys in some way. This way is assumed by most to be through written language, and it makes sense, after all, it's the easiest way to communicate if you can't speak (I assume there's no such thing as a WSL) and the little birds' precursors, the Pentoshi mice, were taught to read and write by Varys, as Illyrio says to Tyrion in his first ADWD chapter.

Quote

"Mice, we called them then. The older thieves were fools who thought no further than turning a night's plunder into wine. Varys preferred orphan boys and young girls. He chose the smallest, the ones who were quick and quiet, and taught them to climb walls and slip down chimneys. He taught them to read as well."

 

The thing is, what's the purpose of taking the LB's ability to speak if you are going to teach them how to communicate any way? I assume Varys takes their tongues so they can't turn on him, but the thing is, any person that represents a threat to Varys is likely able to read or has a trusted ally or servant that can read to them. So any LB could turn on Varys by sending letters, and any enemy of Varys could torture his LBs and get information through some pen and paper (and I imagine the LBs aren't that loyal to Varys, after all, he removed their tongues).

 

Finally there's the subject of Wex. Wex is small, like a LB and the Pentoshi mice, also like the LBs he's mute, and he's able to hide for days in the Godswood without being caught by the Boltons or discovered by Meera, Osha and two direwolves. He's also able to follow Osha and Rickon without being caught. He then reaches White Harbor and by some reason Manderly takes an interest in him and question's him. Wex didn't know how to read or write, save for the words 'yes' and 'no', but he was noted to be a smart and quick learner. 

 

So many people think Wex is a LB, and if he is there are two options either Varys only teaches his LB yes and no and he get's all the information he needs from that, which seems pointless as you can save time, paper and ink by having them nod or shake their head and it would also make it difficult for them to convey conversations they heard. The other option is that Varys teaches his LBs to write, but not in a widely known language. Which makes sense, if you are careful enough to remove their ability to speak and teach them how to write and you where planing on betraying the king while serving in his small council, you would try something like this to cover your ass, this would allow the LB to understand spoken language and spy, but it wouldn't allow them to be questioned or to turn on Varys. The problem with this is that the Pentoshi mice were taught to read specifically to read private letters, which the LBs wouldn't be able to do if what I suggest is true, on the other hand, I assume that spying in the Red Keep is mostly eavesdropping.

 

Anyway, I'm not entirely convinced, and I know it sounds kinda cooky, but what do you think? Also, if this is true, what does it mean for Wex, who would be the only LB to actually be able to communicate to people?

Edited by CamiloRP

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During Tyrion's trial Varys is called in as witness and confirms many of the things said, providing written notes. It does seem like he keeps written records of acts and they are legible to literate Westerosi or it probably wouldn't be accepted as evidence. 

He could have a great many records filled and in a coded written language like you suggest, but transcribing them to Westerosi writing for the trail would probably take a great amount of time. its not undoable, but it is problematic.

Conversely if your theory is true it would give new and significant meaning to that Tyrion quote from Varys finding Shea. 'You see, I speak the same language as you.' which would be great irony and foreshadowing, but that's a weird way to foreshadow this concept so probably not.

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I expect that the little birds write down what they hear is some kind of shorthand code, but not in a completely different language. That would be overly complicated.

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2 hours ago, Targaryeninkingslanding said:

During Tyrion's trial Varys is called in as witness and confirms many of the things said, providing written notes. It does seem like he keeps written records of acts and they are legible to literate Westerosi or it probably wouldn't be accepted as evidence. 

He could have a great many records filled and in a coded written language like you suggest, but transcribing them to Westerosi writing for the trail would probably take a great amount of time. its not undoable, but it is problematic.

Hadn't thought of this and it's really fair.

Tho the records he shows where merely of the things he witnessed, I assume he has no written record of his plans or the way he manages his LBs, so if anyone where to find his records they would have little to learn on Varys himself.

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2 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

I expect that the little birds write down what they hear is some kind of shorthand code, but not in a completely different language. That would be overly complicated.

I agree with it being too complicated, but if the LBs can read and write Westerosi, what prevents them from offering that info to Varys' enemies?

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Posted (edited)

Them having cut tongues is dumb because you'd think people would see a pattern of all these kids having no tongues hanging around. Makes it really easy to find his spies.

George said he doesn't cut their tongues, the kids are provided to him as such. I wouldn't put much thought into it.

Edited by Egged

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10 hours ago, CamiloRP said:

We know his little birds don't have a tongue, and we also know they communicate with Varys in some way. This way is assumed by most to be through written language, and it makes sense, after all, it's the easiest way to communicate if you can't speak (I assume there's no such thing as a WSL) and the little birds' precursors, the Pentoshi mice, were taught to read and write by Varys, as Illyrio says to Tyrion in his first ADWD chapter.

The birds know their letters. AGoT Arya III.

"What I can do, I will," the one with the torch said softly. "I must have gold, and another fifty birds."

She let them get a long way ahead, then went creeping after them. Quiet as a shadow.

"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 . . ."

As for the language they use, I think the birds have to know Common Tongue. Pretty hard to listen in if you do not know what you're hearing. Perhaps it could be that they understand but don't write it... but that sounds counterproductive as well, as noticed in the OP (the mice used to read letters and leave them where they were).

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11 hours ago, Egged said:

Them having cut tongues is dumb because you'd think people would see a pattern of all these kids having no tongues hanging around. Makes it really easy to find his spies.

George said he doesn't cut their tongues, the kids are provided to him as such. I wouldn't put much thought into it.

But then they still all have no tongue and are as easy to find, and why would he accept tongueless children? Them being tongueless is useful to him in some way.

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10 hours ago, TheLastWolf said:

Mute language? 

A written language.

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11 hours ago, CamiloRP said:

I agree with it being too complicated, but if the LBs can read and write Westerosi, what prevents them from offering that info to Varys' enemies?

Obviously their indoctrination. These are enslaved children, not ambitious informants who want to sell their skills to the highest bidder.

The reason they take out their tongues is likely because it stops them from talking where they hide - and at those listening posts where they are stationed in the Red Keep them talking could be heard by the folks they are overhearing - and because others could question them about what they knew or they could accidentally reveal sensitive knowledge.

14 hours ago, Targaryeninkingslanding said:

During Tyrion's trial Varys is called in as witness and confirms many of the things said, providing written notes. It does seem like he keeps written records of acts and they are legible to literate Westerosi or it probably wouldn't be accepted as evidence. 

He could have a great many records filled and in a coded written language like you suggest, but transcribing them to Westerosi writing for the trail would probably take a great amount of time. its not undoable, but it is problematic.

Conversely if your theory is true it would give new and significant meaning to that Tyrion quote from Varys finding Shea. 'You see, I speak the same language as you.' which would be great irony and foreshadowing, but that's a weird way to foreshadow this concept so probably not.

Tyrion's trial didn't come out of the blue, and Varys was a rather late witness. He could have the birds and his other staff transcribe some of the shorthand code into proper writing. The important was Varys' testimony, anyway, not the records he kept. We didn't see the judges examine Varys' records, they just listen to his testimony.

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4 hours ago, TsarGrey said:

The birds know their letters. AGoT Arya III.

"What I can do, I will," the one with the torch said softly. "I must have gold, and another fifty birds."

She let them get a long way ahead, then went creeping after them. Quiet as a shadow.

"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 . . ."

As for the language they use, I think the birds have to know Common Tongue. Pretty hard to listen in if you do not know what you're hearing. Perhaps it could be that they understand but don't write it... but that sounds counterproductive as well, as noticed in the OP (the mice used to read letters and leave them where they were).

That's a good find!

Yeah, my idea was that they know the Common Tongue but they write in a different language, kinda like OG Tarzan, he understood spoken French and was able to speak it, but he didn't understand it in written from, at the same time he was able to write and Read english, but he couldn't speak it.

As for the quote, yeah, most likely the write Westerosi, but the quote does say they know their letters and it doesn't say what language they know them in. I know the French alphabet, yet I can't write in French.

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3 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

Obviously their indoctrination. These are enslaved children, not ambitious informants who want to sell their skills to the highest bidder.

The reason they take out their tongues is likely because it stops them from talking where they hide - and at those listening posts where they are stationed in the Red Keep them talking could be heard by the folks they are overhearing - and because others could question them about what they knew or they could accidentally reveal sensitive knowledge.

I would guess is easier to 'train' them to be silent while hiding than it is to train them to not turn against their enslaver. And if they can write in the CT they can easily be questioned.

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30 minutes ago, CamiloRP said:

I would guess is easier to 'train' them to be silent while hiding than it is to train them to not turn against their enslaver. And if they can write in the CT they can easily be questioned.

Only if folks figure out they can write - children usually can't. But that's the reason why I think they write in shorthand code, rather than normal letters. Shorthand is a given, in my opinion, since you cannot expect children to write entire conversation down in the dark in a longwinded manner.

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1 hour ago, Lord Varys said:

Only if folks figure out they can write - children usually can't. But that's the reason why I think they write in shorthand code, rather than normal letters. Shorthand is a given, in my opinion, since you cannot expect children to write entire conversation down in the dark in a longwinded manner.

I googled shorthand, and I'm fully with you, I didn't know the expression as english isn't my first language and thought it meant writing vaguely or soemthing like that. Can one know shorthand without knowing how to write in english? is there a Westerosi shorthand? 

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I'm not 100% convinced that the LB's are all tongueless but I have some thoughts on them all the same and will proceed as though it is fact that he has all of their tongues removed. (it may be, I dunno)

I've spent a few years managing a warehouse floor.  Give me the power to cut tongues out! I don't think Varys does it to keep the kids from talking to the wrong people or to keep his secrets, I think he does it because people - especially young ones- are easily bored and distracted. Varys' mutes are isolated and I think that this isolation predisposes them to doing Varys' work. They don't get into conversations or games with the other urchins and don't get to bond with them or get caught up in their own schemes and plans. This isolation also leaves them dependent upon Varys as finding alternate sources of food or shelter would be that much harder without the ability to express the need or to bond with the people who may be predisposed to helping them. Literacy or some sort of short hand would be a must, but as it seems these kids come from across the narrow sea it may be an eastern language.

In light of his own mutilations at a young age and the effect it's had on him his whole life, it's a little dismaying Varys he sees mutilating children as an option, let alone his first best option. I am hoping that we get some clarification about this at some future point.

 

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4 hours ago, CamiloRP said:

I googled shorthand, and I'm fully with you, I didn't know the expression as english isn't my first language and thought it meant writing vaguely or soemthing like that. Can one know shorthand without knowing how to write in english? is there a Westerosi shorthand? 

I expect that one could teach somebody to only write in shorthand just as you can teach any child any kind of script. But of course we don't know if there is a Westerosi shorthand.

 

3 hours ago, Jay21 said:

I'm not 100% convinced that the LB's are all tongueless but I have some thoughts on them all the same and will proceed as though it is fact that he has all of their tongues removed. (it may be, I dunno)

I've spent a few years managing a warehouse floor.  Give me the power to cut tongues out! I don't think Varys does it to keep the kids from talking to the wrong people or to keep his secrets, I think he does it because people - especially young ones- are easily bored and distracted. Varys' mutes are isolated and I think that this isolation predisposes them to doing Varys' work. They don't get into conversations or games with the other urchins and don't get to bond with them or get caught up in their own schemes and plans. This isolation also leaves them dependent upon Varys as finding alternate sources of food or shelter would be that much harder without the ability to express the need or to bond with the people who may be predisposed to helping them. Literacy or some sort of short hand would be a must, but as it seems these kids come from across the narrow sea it may be an eastern language.

In light of his own mutilations at a young age and the effect it's had on him his whole life, it's a little dismaying Varys he sees mutilating children as an option, let alone his first best option. I am hoping that we get some clarification about this at some future point.

There is an interesting conundrum there if we assume that all the little birds are mute. After all, they somehow passed the message that lured Kevan out of Maegor's to the servants, something that should be rather difficult if they cannot speak. They could signal nonverbally and show and wave their papers, but surely people would actually try to talk to them, especially illiterate servants.

Varys' older servants, the little mice he and Illyrio employed in Pentos, should also have tongues. And many people assume that Ser Shadrich is one of those ex-mice who has been deployed to the Vale to keep an eye on Littlefinger.

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22 hours ago, CamiloRP said:

I know, dumb question, but it's been bugging me for a while.

We know his little birds don't have a tongue, and we also know they communicate with Varys in some way. This way is assumed by most to be through written language, and it makes sense, after all, it's the easiest way to communicate if you can't speak (I assume there's no such thing as a WSL) and the little birds' precursors, the Pentoshi mice, were taught to read and write by Varys, as Illyrio says to Tyrion in his first ADWD chapter.

 

The thing is, what's the purpose of taking the LB's ability to speak if you are going to teach them how to communicate any way? I assume Varys takes their tongues so they can't turn on him, but the thing is, any person that represents a threat to Varys is likely able to read or has a trusted ally or servant that can read to them. So any LB could turn on Varys by sending letters, and any enemy of Varys could torture his LBs and get information through some pen and paper (and I imagine the LBs aren't that loyal to Varys, after all, he removed their tongues).

 

Finally there's the subject of Wex. Wex is small, like a LB and the Pentoshi mice, also like the LBs he's mute, and he's able to hide for days in the Godswood without being caught by the Boltons or discovered by Meera, Osha and two direwolves. He's also able to follow Osha and Rickon without being caught. He then reaches White Harbor and by some reason Manderly takes an interest in him and question's him. Wex didn't know how to read or write, save for the words 'yes' and 'no', but he was noted to be a smart and quick learner. 

 

So many people think Wex is a LB, and if he is there are two options either Varys only teaches his LB yes and no and he get's all the information he needs from that, which seems pointless as you can save time, paper and ink by having them nod or shake their head and it would also make it difficult for them to convey conversations they heard. The other option is that Varys teaches his LBs to write, but not in a widely known language. Which makes sense, if you are careful enough to remove their ability to speak and teach them how to write and you where planing on betraying the king while serving in his small council, you would try something like this to cover your ass, this would allow the LB to understand spoken language and spy, but it wouldn't allow them to be questioned or to turn on Varys. The problem with this is that the Pentoshi mice were taught to read specifically to read private letters, which the LBs wouldn't be able to do if what I suggest is true, on the other hand, I assume that spying in the Red Keep is mostly eavesdropping.

 

Anyway, I'm not entirely convinced, and I know it sounds kinda cooky, but what do you think? Also, if this is true, what does it mean for Wex, who would be the only LB to actually be able to communicate to people?

I toyed with the idea of a different written language for LBs but rejected it in the end. They would be only marginally useful as spies if they could only hear conversation but not read letters and other documents.

And I don't think anyone says Wex doesn't have a tongue, just that he's mute. And if the serving girl in Pycelle's chambers and the boy who gave Kevan the note are LBs, nobody seems to notice that their tongues are missing. It's kind of a telltale look. 

So I don't know what to make of Varys' "kept their tongues" comment. Maybe they take them out so they are quieter while creeping through the secret tunnels?

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7 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

There is an interesting conundrum there if we assume that all the little birds are mute. After all, they somehow passed the message that lured Kevan out of Maegor's to the servants, something that should be rather difficult if they cannot speak. They could signal nonverbally and show and wave their papers, but surely people would actually try to talk to them, especially illiterate servants.

Varys' older servants, the little mice he and Illyrio employed in Pentos, should also have tongues. And many people assume that Ser Shadrich is one of those ex-mice who has been deployed to the Vale to keep an eye on Littlefinger.

I like your take. So do you figure that bit between V and I was a stub that wasn't subsequently edited or corrected like Jaqen and his 'red god'? I sort of treat it like something I wasn't really supposed to read but I always wonder when I cross it if I'm just pretending away all of these mutilations because I don't want them to be there.

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2 minutes ago, Jay21 said:

I like your take. So do you figure that bit between V and I was a stub that wasn't subsequently edited or corrected like Jaqen and his 'red god'? I sort of treat it like something I wasn't really supposed to read but I always wonder when I cross it if I'm just pretending away all of these mutilations because I don't want them to be there.

I expect that most of the little birds Varys receives from Illyrio are mute, but perhaps not all in his employ.

And while it is weird how they get around the Red Keep and impersonate serving boys and girls and the like - like those luring Kevan to Pycelle did - it is still a fact that none of the birds who show up in the Epilogue do talk ... and neither does the cabin boy that tends Tyrion on his way to Illyrio (who most likely was also a little bird).

So perhaps we do have to imagine them all as mute, and it still works. After all, the boy coming with Pycelle's message could have approached a KG guarding the drawbridge, and they can read, so they would recognize the seal and handwriting of the Grand Maester, etc.

And it is sort of established in AGoT that little children are everywhere in the Red Keep - those little rats the guards cannot keep the Lannister guards confuse Arya with in the chapter where she eventually overhears Varys and Illyrio - so perhaps the people there are just to accustomed to there being silent serving children walking around the castle.

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