Varys is one of the most slippery characters on Game of Thrones. You’re never sure where his true allegiances lie. He claims to always be looking out for what’s best for the realm, but he’s done a number of fairly suspicious things in pursuit of that goal. In the books, he’s committed murder, and on the show he’s certainly been a party to it.
Varys may be the only person in all of Westeros who favors stability above all else, but that doesn’t make him a less dangerous player in any way.
Part of what makes Varys so fascinating is his ability to keep a variety of secrets. He’s rarely afraid to speak his mind, but that doesn’t mean he’s always telling the truth. Varys is one of the smartest players in the world of Westeros, but his personal history is a bit of a mystery.
It’s fitting, of course, that Varys would hold back secrets about his own life. After all, he made his name in Westeros by digging up dirt on other noble houses. Still, Varys’s habit of withholding details about his own life means that fans don’t know a great deal about the character, at least until now.
Here are 15 Things You Didn't Know About Varys.
16 He Was Born Across the Narrow Sea in Lys
Although Varys seems to care deeply about the state of the realm, he’s not a native of Westeros. He was born across the Narrow Sea in Lys, and didn’t come to Westeros until he was a boy.
The fact that Varys is not a native of Westeros may actually have actually helped him understand the way Westerosi politics operates. Whereas natives of the realm may be inclined to view things through the lens of the nation’s history, Varys is able to examine Westeros through the eyes of an outsider. He doesn’t bring the same biases and preconceived notions to the world of Westeros as the rest of the show’s characters.
One of the most interesting pieces of commentary inside of Martin’s story is the way those without great means rise above their station in order to attain vast amounts of power. Varys’s story speaks to the kind of ascendance, as does Littlefinger’s, and it’s not a coincidence that those two always seem to be the smartest people in the room.
Varys may not be a native, but he’s used that to his advantage.
15 He Was Castrated by a Sorcerer
In his youth, Varys was born a slave and traveled with a troupe of actors until he was eventually sold by his master to a sorcerer during a trip to Myr.
After he was sold to this sorcerer, Varys was given a potion that made him unable to move or speak, but left the rest of his senses intact. Varys experienced the excruciating pain of his own castration, and watched as his genitalia was burnt in a fire during a blood magic ritual.
The sorcerer had no further use for Varys, and so he was thrown out into the street to starve or die. Of course, Varys refused to die so easily, and he went from being a homeless child to a member of the small council to the King of Westeros.
Varys has had a natural aversion to magic ever since that day, and it’s part of what makes him wary of red priests and priestesses. Although he supports a woman with several fire breathing pets, it’s safe to say that Varys isn’t sold on the idea of magic as a whole.
14 Conleth Hill's Brother Has Won Three Emmys for Game of Thrones
Conleth Hill’s performance on Game of Thrones has yet to earn him any love from the Emmys, but his younger brother has had his fair share of awards success with the show.
Ronan Hill works as a sound designer on Game of Thrones, and he’s won three Emmys for his work. His wins are understandable, especially considering how effects-heavy the world of Game of Thrones is. Between designing the sound of a dragon’s roar and orchestrating the effects for a number of truly chaotic battle sequences, Hill has certainly had to use his imagination, and his sound design is the reason the world of Westeros feels so immersive.
Conleth Hill’s performance is definitely deserving of recognition, but if only one of the Hill brothers can earn some love from the Emmys for his work on the show, Ronan might be the correct choice.
Conleth Hill has yet to be outmatched in a scene, but Ronan is at least partially responsible for creating an entire world. Without his masterful work behind the scenes, the show just wouldn’t be the same.
13 There's a Fan Theory That He's a Merman
As crazy as this may sound, there’s a large amount of support for the theory among fans, in part because of some fairly convincing evidence.
Varys’ general behaviors seems to coincide with that of a merman, and he also seems to have an incredible ability to travel from one continent to another. Some have suggested that Varys’s ability to travel this way may have something to do with the secret fins he’s hiding beneath his skin.
Varys has also dropped hints throughout the books that he may actually be hiding a secret that has something to do with water. When Tyrion suggests that he may throw Varys overboard a ship, Varys remarks that Tyrion might be quite surprised by what happens. Also, when a discussion of eating people begins, Varys is seen to be licking his lips.
It’s possible that these are all just coincidences, but we can’t rule out the possibility that Varys is a merman hiding among the citizens of Westeros.
12 He Has No Inherited Lands or Titles
Like his rival Littlefinger, Varys doesn’t come from much. He was not born into nobility, and he actually isn’t even a Lord. Due to his position on the small council, those around him have granted that title to him in an honorary fashion.
It’s easy to see how Varys could be even more intimidating because of his lack of inherited property. Whereas most of the characters in Game of Thrones inherited at least some of their power, Varys crafted his influence completely on his own.
As a result, Varys has less to lose than most of the characters in Game of Thrones, and is therefore able to focus solely on protecting the realm. Unlike Tywin, who was a brilliant strategist, Varys not looking out for his own family. He has no name to protect.
Varys understands that his only real legacy will come if he brings peace and prosperity to a nation that has been in turmoil for more than a generation, and he’s been working toward that goal since we first met him.
11 He May be the Last Member of House Tarbeck
Varys may claim to be a penniless orphan who rose from nothing, but one fan theory suggests he’s actually the last surviving member of an ancient house.
House Tarbeck was a noble house in the Westerlands that joined House Reyne in rising up against the Lannisters. Like House Reyne, House Tarbeck was almost completely annihilated by Tywin following the rebellion, but one child of the house survived, and The World of Ice and Fire reveals that he traveled across the Narrow Sea and became a bard.
Fans have theorized that this young child could be Varys, and supported the theory with evidence suggesting that many of Varys’s action throughout the series have harmed Tywin in one way or another. Varys was the one originally responsible for creating a divide between Aerys and Tywin, one which ultimately led Tywin to step down from his role as hand of the king.
What’s more, Varys deep interest in the future of Westeros suggests he may have been born there.
10 He Told Aerys Not to Let Tywin Into King's Landing
In a move which may surprise some, Varys insisted that Aerys shouldn’t open the gates of King’s Landing to Tywin Lannister, believing that Tywin was not a man who could be trusted. Of course, Varys’s assessment of Tywin was ultimately correct, but Aerys chose to listen to Grand Maester Pycelle, who insisted that Tywin could be trusted.
What this move suggests, then, is that Varys did not want the Mad King to be deposed. He actively fought to keep him on the throne, likely because he believed that even a Mad King was better than a usurper. This argument is sound, especially considering the turmoil that has infected the realm ever since Aerys was usurped by Robert.
Of course, Varys is also a Targaryen loyalist, and has been working to reinstall a Targaryen to the throne in both the books and show since the moment Robert Baratheon declared himself king. Varys believes in the Targaryen dynasty above all else, and it seems like one Targaryen or another may take the throne soon enough.
9 He Began as a Thief, but Realized Information Was More Valuable
After he was castrated, Varys worked as a thief for many years, and eventually became a master. Gradually, Varys began to realize that the most valuable things that could be stolen weren’t physical objects, they were pieces of information.
He became a notorious spy and knower of secrets, so much so that his reputation brought him to King Aerys. Varys’s ability to dig up information proved incredibly valuable for him, and it has continued to be an asset as the show develops.
It’s striking that, although many characters have come and gone in the world of Westeros over the course of the show’s run, Varys has remained a relatively safe player. Part of his ability to keep himself out of danger likely stems from his understanding of Westeros and its most powerful players.
Varys understands when a situation is too dangerous, and he genuinely believes in helping those he thinks are good and decent.
8 His Influence Grew With Aerys's Paranoia
Vary’s gained notoriety for his ability to gather information, and eventually became the Master of Whisperers on King Aerys’s small council. Varys’s influence didn’t stop there. In fact, he gained a great deal of influence with the Mad King because of Aerys’s general paranoia.
Aerys stopped trusting everyone in his family, and relied on Varys to point out those who may be planning to betray him. Although Varys wasn’t ultimately able to keep the Mad King in power, he did provide a great deal of counsel to him toward the end of his life.
Varys also spent time mastering the tunnel system under the Red Keep, and he used them to his advantage to meet with his many spies. Every day Aerys became more paranoid, Varys’s influence naturally grew. Fortunately, Varys was slippery enough to be pardoned by Robert after Aerys was killed.
Though he is still a Targaryen loyalist, Varys was able to talk his way out of a hanging, which is an impressive feat on its own.
7 He Suggested Rheagar Was Plotting Against Aerys
Although this likely wasn’t the case, Varys once suggested to the Mad King Aerys that his son Rhaegar was planning a rebellion against his father. Varys, who is usually a reputable source for information like this, may have been playing on the Mad King’s fear of losing his power, or he may have heard genuine whispers that Rhaegar was planning to usurp his father.
Everything we’ve heard about Rhaegar suggests that he was a good and decent man, much more interested in music than he was in fighting. Varys suggested that Rhaegar was using the tourney at Harenhall to rally troops against his father. The accusation may have been untrue, but it proved powerful enough to force Aerys to attend the tournament, which was the first time he had left the Red Keep in many years. It’s unclear what Varys’s motivation was for creating a rift between Aerys and his son, but it did make Aerys even more paranoid than he already was, and thereby increased Varys’s influence.
6 In the Books, He's a Master of Disguise
Varys has plenty of little birds on the show that make him an invaluable spy, but in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, Varys is also a master of disguise. He can hide himself anywhere, and it’s suspected that he has several alternate personas, including a turnkey in the dungeon, a beggar, and a woman.
Each of these disguises allows Varys to hear things he shouldn’t know. Varys wisely appreciates how little attention is paid to servants and peasants in the world of Westeros, and so he assumes their identities in order to hear secrets.
In the world of the show, we have yet to see any indication that Varys has the same mastery over disguises. The Varys of the show does much more through children, appreciating that they are also among those that are ignored by the nobility.
Both versions of the character understand how much the characters of Westeros ignore, and they exploit the information they receive when those powerful people get sloppy.
5 In the Books, Varys Kills Pycelle and Kevan Lannister
In the show, Cersei Lannister goes on something of a tirade, killing many of her enemies in King’s Landing in one fell swoop and rapidly ascending to the throne. In the books, Varys is the one responsible for the deaths of Maester Pycelle and Kevan Lannister, which Cersei orchestrates on the show. Although this may seem like a cold-hearted act for someone like Varys, he makes it clear that there’s nothing personal about it.
Varys kills Pycelle and Kevan in defense of the realm, or so he claims. In fact, with regard to Kevan, who has been named Regent in the books, Varys makes it clear that his competence is actually what assured Varys that he must be killed. Varys’s careful planning to get a Targaryen back on the throne would be undone if one the Lannisters proved a decent king. Varys had to throw the realm into anarchy to make way for the person he believes to be the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.
4 He Heard a Voice When He Was Castrated
During his castration at the hands of the sorcerer who bought him, Varys heard a voice speak to him from the flames where his genitalia was roasting. We’ve heard about this voice on multiple occasions in the world of Game of Thrones, but we still don’t know exactly what the voice said. It’s possible that Varys has at least one last massive secret stored in his brain, and it could be a pivotal one for the future of the realm.
The red priestess Varys encountered last season suggested the voice Varys heard was that of the Lord of Light, and also seemed to know what the voice had said to Varys. If the voice did speak to Varys through the flames, which Melisandre claims to have experienced as well, then Varys may know who Azor Ahai is.
Of course, that’s only one possibility, but the fact that Varys still has one card he has yet to play suggests that his role in the last two seasons of the show will be significant.
3 Varys is Trying to Get Aegon Back on the Throne in the Books
As part of its adaptation to the screen, Game of Thrones has omitted several prominent storylines from Martin’s book. One of the most prominent involves the person Varys wants to see on the throne.
In the world of the books. Varys is seeking to put Aegon Targaryen, Rhaegar’s only son with Elia Martell, on the throne. Although most believed that Aegon had been killed during the raid on King’s Landing, Varys had Aegon swapped with another child, and safely smuggled him out of the city.
Although there is some suspicion that the young man claiming to be Aegon is actually an imposter, this is the Targaryen Varys wants to see on the throne in the world of the books.
Of course, avid show watchers may notice that Varys has different motivations on the show, which has allowed the show to omit the story of Aegon completely. They might have figured that at the end of the day, Varys is still backing a Targaryen.
2 Conleth Hill Was Reluctant to Take the Part
It’s hard to deny that Conleth Hill has brought this slimy but charming character to life perfectly, but the actor revealed that he was nevertheless reluctant to take the part. Hill, who is an experienced stage actor more accustomed to plays than worlds of fantasy, initially believed the show would have too many genre elements for him.
Of course, Hill has changed his tune since taking the part, and believes the show is actually one of the best written on television. Speaking with What’s On Stage, Hill explained how much he appreciates the show. “The writing is exquisite, the production values are second to none. I am proud to be part of it. It’s the best job in the world. I’ve always said that,” Hill said.
He may not have been interested in a show about ice zombies and dragons when he heard about it initially, but like many of the show’s viewers, he has since come around on the idea.
1 He May Be a Member of House Blackfyre
The Blackfyres are an offshoot of the Targaryen family, one which rebelled against the Throne in an uprising that ultimately failed. One book theory suggests that Varys may actually be a descendant of this family, and that Aegon, who Varys is trying to put on the throne, is actually a Blackfyre as well. There’s plenty of evidence for the theory about Aegon in the books, but the evidence that Varys is also a Blackfyre is much more speculative.
Although the theory isn’t based in a ton of hard evidence, it does help to explain some inconsistencies about Varys’s character. The theory argues that Varys would never have suggested that Rhaegon was conspiring against the Mad King if he was really a Targaryen loyalist, but he would say things like that if he wanted a Blackfyre on the throne.
The theory also claims that Varys shaves his head to hide the color of his hair, and that he was castrated by the sorcerer as a boy because he has the blood of royals.
Do you have any other trivia about Varys from Game of Thrones to share? Leave it in the comments!