Secure in the knowledge that everyone in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels has a secret identity (or that we all ascribe one to them), we bring you a new fan theory, tinfoil hats firmly affixed to our heads: Lord Varys, the Master of Whisperers, the Spider, is the last remaining member of House Tarbeck, a house Lord Tywin Lannister purportedly destroyed in his youth.
The theory comes from Redditor JohnCribbin, and isn’t wildly implausible, as far as Game of Thrones fan theories go. Let’s dive in.
House Tarbeck was a rebellious house in the Westerlands sworn to House Lannister. Along with House Reyne, it rose in rebellion against Tywin Lannister’s weak-willed father, Tytos. Tywin, however, was coming into his own around this time, and swiftly crushed the rebellion. He wiped both houses off the face of Westeros, down to their chickens and dogs. “The Rains of Castamere,” which would go on to become a sort of Lannister family anthem, was written in memory of his triumph.
So where does Varys fit into this? For that, we look to The World of Ice & Fire, a desktop history book of Westeros. The book mentions that one member of House Tarbeck—a grandson of matriarch Ellyn Tarbeck (née Reyne) survived Tywin’s purge. Not only that, but the grandson reportedly escaped across the Narrow Sea to Essos, where he became a bard. On the show, we are told Varys traveled with a troupe of actors throughout Essos. Are he and this unnamed Tarbeck bard one and the same? He’d be about the right age…
JohnCribbin presents a lineup of circumstantial evidence to support the theory. Among the highlights:
- We’re told that Varys was born in Lys, a city on Essos. Yet he cares very deeply about the fate of Westeros, and who will rule it. If he was born in Westeros, that might explain his attachment.
- A lot of Varys’ skillset—his patience, his skill with disguises, his facility with gathering information—are well-suited to someone who has a longterm revenge scheme in mind, perhaps a revenge scheme against the man who killed his family: Tywin Lannister.
- Varys is said to have fed into the Mad King’s paranoia as regards Tywin. That paranoia eventually led the Mad King to slight Tywin, whereafter Tywin quit his job as Hand of the King. Was Varys trying to humiliate Tywin, or to drive a wedge between him and the Mad King?
- In Season 2’s “Blackwater,” Varys tells Tyrion, “I’ve always hated the bells. They ring for horror. A dead king, a city under siege…” Could this hatred have its origins in his early memory of House Tarbeck coming under attack?
- Varys may take a perverse pleasure in allying with Tyrion, the hated son of his most bitter enemy, to take the rest of the Lannister family down. Also, Varys freed Tyrion from prison, meaning he had a major role in Tywin’s death, whether he meant to or not. Who’s to say Varys didn’t know what he was doing when he brought Tyrion directly under Tywin’s bedchamber, where he could have known Tywin was having sex with Shae at that very moment? If nothing else, Varys was always very well-informed.
For more points, consult JohnCribbin’s post.
Again, a lot of this evidence is highly circumstantial, but what the Song of Ice and Fire fandom with a little speculation? Is it plausible? You decide.
And if you don’t buy that Varys could be a Tarbeck, maybe you’d be interested in the theory that he’s actually a merman. We could totally buy that one.