A Song of Ice and Fire Books Game of Thrones Speculation

Game of Thrones fan theory corner: Varys is the last surviving member of House Tarbeck

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.

Game of Thrones Season 6 predictions

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.


  • Well if Tyrion is actually a “secret Targ” then Varys isn’t actually helping Tywin’s son :) Maybe Varys knows Tyrion’s true parentage?

    • Oh man. I mean that makes sense, it’s just starting to get rather complicated. Also proving theories with other theories is a slippery slope.

  • Always thought this theory would be pretty neat but prefer the Varys is a secret Blackfyre theory. That would be more book then show since Varys backs Aemon in the books and not Dany.

    • You meant to say Varys backs Aegon VI AKA Young Griff, son of Rhaegar & Elia, not Aemon, Maester at Castle Black. I know you meant to say that, but had to correct it for everyone else’s benefit. As for the post, let’s think about another theory that Young Griff is ACTUALLY Prince Rhaegar’s son & The Mountain didn’t actually kill the Targaryian second in line heir to the throne. Varys knew Tywin’s army was coming to sack the city & Robert & Ned’s army wasn’t far behind. Varys could have had Connington smuggle Prince Aegon out of Westeros.

      • I really hope you are right about Prince Aegon being the nephew of Prince Doran. That work well for the novels of Random House. Since ASOIAF was inspired by the War of the Roses it has always been my belief that like Queen Elizabeth via the two princes in the tower – Princess Elia, working with Lord Varys, swapped the heir to the Iron Throne with the pisswater prince who was killed by the Mountain. How magnificent would it be if Lord Varys and Lord Connington were genuinely justified and later officially verified by Prince Doran that his sister’s son has returned!!!

      • There be no chance of Elia giving Varys her kid, he foiled rhaegars plot to usurp aerys at harrenhal, where there’d be a peaceful reign. He just took the opportunity of a smashed faced infant to plant his sisters serra’s son aegon blackfyre, he’s playing the game of thrones for the blackfyres

        • I realize Varys drove Aerys to leave the Red Keep and attend the tourney at Harrenhal, and that Rhaegar as king would have made the realm a more peaceful place, but how exactly was Rhaegar & his allies going to usurp his fathers throne, without you know, fire & blood? Cause the Mad King would not have gone peacefully.

        • Might I propose an alternate theory, That might explain his actions, what if Varys was the mad king’s bastard son ? it would explain why the mad king appointed him as Spymaster, who better to watch his back then his own son? it would explain Varys unusual affinity to the Targaryens.

  • An intriguing idea, but whoever Varys is, it’s rather late in the game to introduce a new storyline dontcha think?

  • Good theory. I don’t believe we will get any confirmation of Varys true identity on the show. I do, however, believe George will give us more info on his true ID along with others. These thoughts help me come to reason with the show finishing first. We may see the big reveal in the show but there are so many more little pieces that George can fill In with the final books. I look forward to both!

  • Being a pragmatist, I tend to dislike “X is a secret member of House Y” theories, excepting Jon’s background, which even my own pro-Starkness cannot discount. And now Jon’s is proven. Esoteric genealogical theories might work well in the books but less so on the show. Truth to tell, most viewers can’t remember which house anybody belongs to except for Starks and Lannisters. Most can’t even recall that Khaleesi has a name! I feel especially strongly about this now that we’re entering the endgame of the Game of Thrones and starting the endgame of the Living v the Dead war. Varys, the delver out of mysteries, is entitled to his own mystery. At least this theory does not also believe he is a mer-man. (For what it’s worth, my highly educated brother-in-law knows Walder Frey as “That old geezer who ran the Red Wedding and finally ate his sons.” and the Dornish as “Oh no, not them again.”. He can’t see how they’re related to Oberyn.)

    • But that’s the thing show watchers tend to be pretty stupid because they just don’t care so this stuff is more for us book readers who deeply care about the world grrm has created. The show has screwed up so many houses it’s not even worth mentioning in the same breath and honestly who cares what D&D do and what show watchers think about things like this.

  • I’m not buying this one. Not even interested in renting it short-term. There is, however, a certain attraction to the idea that Tywin could not have possibly accounted for all the Reyne and Tarbeck sympathizers, and one might come back to bite the Lannisters in the ass.

    Tywin would have been able to find all the members of Houses Reyne and Tarbeck that carried those names, so it would be wise to look for distaff descendants or bastards. You might want to check out the Duskendale Road in Feast, for example. Make sure you take a close look at the shield-painter’s door for a clue. And Arya’s arc. And some classic European tales. Knowledge of the Westerlands chapter of TWoIaF is necessary.

  • All “arguments” are EXTREMELY weak except the 3rd one.
    I mean seriously… This is obviously a theory about the books, but
    “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.”
    Maybe he cares deeply about the fate of Westeros because he has been spending 15 years scheming to install a Targaryen/Blackfyre/Fake on the throne of Westeros?

  • it’s a pretty good theory, but yeah I don’t know how the show will generalize this in correlation with Vary’s if true – because people are right, show watchers don’t know anything other than the major houses. i mean, they don’t even talk about the blackfyres in the show. so, who knows really. I do think in the books the sole character that survived tywin’s victory in the rebellion will be pretty major for book readers though, might even be a main character but the show won’t introduce this. ALSO I do think the show will reveal something hidden about Vary’s by the end, maybe he’ll fuck Tyrion over. I’ve always had the feeling that this would happen

  • I think that this theory is tenuous at best. Vardy almost certainly does have a secret identity, but I’m far from convinced that he’s really a Tarbeck – the evidence put forward is circumstantial at best.

  • In the books, Varys supported another Targaryen, who he wanted to marry Dany. The show is winding down, and it would be futile to spend time on one character background.

  • Bring on the tinfoil! I really enjoy reading all the different theories. Tarbeck- I think it’s a nice catch from AWOIAF text, but I’m not convinced. Personally, I believe Varys is a Blackfyre. The Blackfyres are mentioned through the books and Dunk & Egg stories. To me, it seems like the Blackfyre subplot is too important to quietly disappear. It might not be show material, but it is one of the stories I most look forward to the books solving.

    Impatiently waiting for TWOW, ADOS, more Dunk & Egg, ANYTHING!!!

  • Then why not out Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen as the children of Cersei and Jaime? I have no doubt he knows about their affair. This would have done serious damage to House Lannister and maybe could have avoided a war.

  • Because that would not necessarily place a Targaryen back on the throne. The Tyrells would grab it. I’m curious to see where the Viking Greyjoys fit in. They’re none too happy with the Lannisters either.

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  • If he was the man this theory is claiming him to be, he would’ve mentioned it when he killed tywin lannister.

    theory denied.