Lord Petyr Baelish, popularly called Little finger, was the Master of Coin on the small council under King Robert Baratheon and King Joffrey Baratheon. He was a skilled manipulator and used his ownership of brothels in King’s Landing to both accrue intelligence on political rivals and acquire vast wealth. Baelish’s spy network is eclipsed only by that of his arch-rival Varys.
After marrying Lady Lysa Tully, widow of Lord Jon Arryn of the Vale, and her subsequent death at his hand, he became the Lord Protector of the Vale. Because of his relationship with her, Baelish was able to heavily influence Lysa’s son Robin Arryn, the new Lord Paramount of the Vale. To further his goal of sitting on the Iron Throne, Baelish took Sansa Stark under his wing in order to gain some influence within House Stark, but his role in the deaths of Eddard Stark, Jon Arryn, and Lysa Arryn, which effectively began the War of the Five Kings based on a lie to weaken the Seven Kingdoms, was finally exposed and he was executed for his crimes.
Petyr Baelish was the head of House Baelish and the lord of an extremely minor holding, so small it has neither name nor a maester, located in a small area within the Fingers, a coastal region in the northeastern shores of the Vale of Arryn.
House Baelish had very meager origins and no distinguished lineage: Petyr’s great-grand father was a lowly sells word from Braavos who came to the Vale at the invitation of House Corbray. Petyr’s grand father was a poor hedge knight, who managed to earn a minor lordship of a few stony acres in the smallest peninsula of the Fingers.
Petyr’s father fought in the War of the Nine penny Kings, the preemptive assault on the forces of Maelys Blackfyre, the last of the Blackfyre Pretenders, before they could attempt an invasion of Westeros. During the conflict, Petyr’s father served well under Lord Hoster Tully. Through their good relationship, Hoster agreed to foster his son Petyr at Riverrun, a great honour for a lesser House.
Petyr went to Riverrun when he was eight years old, carrying all he owned in a bundle At Riverrun, he befriended Hoster’s daughters Catelyn and Lysa Tully. Their brother Edmure mockingly nicknamed Petyr “Little finger”, in reference to his small height at the time and the location of his minor landholdings. The nickname would stick with him throughout his life. Eventually, even Petyr sarcastically embraced the nickname, because it showed how far he had risen, from an impoverished noble-born boy from an insignificant minor House in the “little Finger” peninsula of the Vale, to one of the most powerful officials at the royal court.
Petyr became obsessed and in love with Catelyn, but she never returned his affections. Lysa was infatuated with Petyr, but he only loved Catelyn. Eventually when she was betrothed to Brandon Stark, heir to Lord of Winterfell and Lord Paramount of the North, Petyr challenged him to a duel, thinking he could win through pluck and courage but he was promptly overpowered and nearly killed, though Catelyn begged Brandon to spare his life. Embittered, Petyr was cast out of Riverrun and returned to the Vale. During the course of Robert’s Rebellion, however, Brandon was killed by the Mad King Aerys II Targaryen, so Catelyn married his younger brother Eddard Stark, while to secure a political alliance Lysa was wed to Jon Arryn, ruler of the Vale. Manipulating Lysa’s infatuation with himself, Petyr ingratiated himself into Jon’s services, first as a customs officer at Gull town, where he increased the port’s revenues tenfold. Seeing Little finger’s financial acumen, Jon was easily convinced by Lysa to later bring Little finger to the royal court at King’s Landing, and make him Master of Coin on King Robert Baratheon’s Small Council. Petyr’s blatant ambition often placed him at odds with the Master of Whisperers, Varys.
In charge of the crown’s treasury, Little finger rapidly grew into a powerful player in royal politics and a master of court intrigues. Of an older mindset, few who did not know him suspected Little finger as a threat, seeing only that he was a man from a very minor House, with no distinguished lineage, significant landholdings, or armies. Instead, Little finger based his newfound power on money. Baelish is unscrupulous in his search for power and wealth: he has bought multiple brothels in the city. Particularly a high-class brothel catering to the nobles in the city, cynically noting that whores make a better investment than ships because they rarely sink. Baelish makes good use of his brothels to have his agents spy on and manipulate his clientele and owns one of the largest spy networks in Westeros, second only to Varys’s. Little finger has been known to privately bribe lords who have unusual or violent sexual fetishes if they pay the right price; ranging from supplying lords with amputee prostitutes, to delivering young boys to pederasts, and even delivering prostitutes to be secretly murdered by his clients for thrill-kills.
Due to their past friendship as children, Catelyn Stark continued to believe that Lord Baelish was a friend she could count on at court.
Little finger greets Eddard upon his arrival in King’s Landing. They quickly catch up, and Baelish recalls his duel with Brandon Stark, stating that Brandon had left a scar from Petyr’s navel to collarbone. At the first small council meeting with Ned as the Hand, Little finger reports that the realm is six million gold dragons in debt, half of it owed to House Lannister. Catelyn Stark and Ser Rodrik Cassel attempt to sneak into the city, but are spotted by one of Little finger’s men. They are taken to meet Little finger at one of his brothels. Catelyn is angered by their treatment, but asks Little finger for aid. She is trying to identify the people who tried to have her son Bran Stark killed. Little finger is able to answer this quickly: the elaborate dagger wielded by the assassin used to be his, but he lost it in a bet with Tyrion Lannister.
Little finger fetches Eddard to meet his wife, but when Eddard realises he was being brought to a brothel, he thinks Little finger is insulting him by saying his wife is a whore. Eddard throws Little finger up against a wall before Catelyn appears and Eddard becomes pacified. After hearing her news, he vows to find the truth and expose the Lannisters to Robert and Little finger agrees to be his ally in this, for the affection he once bore Catelyn as a youngster. Eddard correctly believes that Little finger is still in love with his wife.
Baelish attends a small council meeting concerning discourse due to the visitors attracted by Robert’s tourney for Eddard, where he is told that he must find expenses to strengthen the City Watch of King’s Landing.
Little finger meets with Eddard and suggests that he keep his investigation into Jon Arryn’s death lower in profile, where he reveals that Pycelle has told him of Eddard’s possession of The Lineages and Histories of the Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms. After pointing out a gardener as a spy of Cersei Lannister, an urchin boy as a little bird of Varys and a septa as one of his own, he gives Eddard some interesting intelligence: Jon Arryn’s former squire has been knighted and will fight in the forthcoming Hand’s tourney. He also advises him to investigate an armorer located in the city. Eddard decides that Little finger may be more trustworthy than he first thought, but Little finger discourages him from thinking that way.
Little finger sits next to Sansa Stark during the tournament, and remarks that she and Joffrey have had a lover’s quarrel. When her sister, Arya, asks about how he got his moniker, he tells her of how his home, The Fingers, was combined with his small height as a child. Following the death of Ser Hugh at the hands of Gregor Clegane, Baelish then tells Sansa that Gregor, the “Mountain That Rides”, has a dark reputation: he pushed his little brother Sandor’s face into a fire for taking and playing with a toy of his when they were young, burning him severely. Little finger recommends that Sansa not spread that story around.
Little finger loses a bet to Renly Baratheon over the joust between Ser Loras Tyrell and Ser Gregor Clegane. He makes it clear that he knows about Renly’s sexual relationship with Loras, to Renly’s discomfort. He then explains to Sansa that Loras had been crafty in his attack, to which Sansa defends Loras’s honour. Petyr rebuffs this by saying that gold provides exception.
Varys finds Little finger in the Great Hall staring at the Iron Throne, where he reveals that he would intend to execute all those who have ever mocked or looked down on him if he was King. Varys reveals that he knows about Little finger’s assistance in Eddard’s investigation of Jon Arryn’s death and reminds Little finger of the consequences that may befall him should the Lannisters discover his involvement. In response, Little finger reveals that he already knows about Varys having met with both Eddard and Illyrio Mopatis, a Pentoshi magister representing House Targaryen. Their conversation is interrupted by Renly, who informs them that Robert will be joining them at their small council meeting. They then both support the motion to have Daenerys Targaryen and her unborn child assassinated before the Dothraki can invade Westeros; Petyr in particular emphasises that the situation should be dealt with quickly, comparing the situation to unwanted sex.
Little finger later introduces Eddard to Mhaegen, a prostitute and mother of yet another of King Robert’s bastard children. Outside the brothel, Eddard gets into a fight with Ser Jaime Lannister. Little finger flees, promising to return with the City Watch.
Little finger is stunned when Eddard orders that Gregor Clegane be arrested and executed for his raids on the Riverlands and when he orders Tywin Lannister to present himself at court to answer for his bannerman’s crimes. Little finger reminds Eddard that Tywin is the richest man in Westeros and that it is gold that wins wars, not armies. Eddard disagrees, asking why Tywin is not the king if this is the case.
Little finger instructs the newly-arrived Ros and another prostitute, Armeca, on how to please their customers and make them happy. When they ask him to join them, he refuses, saying that he only ever had eyes for one woman. He tells them about his past, how he loved and fought a duel for a woman. He lost and subsequently realised that he could never beat those in power by honourable means, as they would never let him compete on equal terms and will defeat them with his intellect. When Ros asks him what he wants, he says, “Oh, everything.” before excusing the two prostitutes.
Later, Eddard tells him the truth of Joffrey’s parentage and his plan to install Stannis on the throne when Robert dies. Little finger suggests instead that they let Joffrey rule but act as the powers behind the throne. If he does not mature into the king they want, they can expose his dirty secret and install Lord Renly instead. Eddard rejects the plan as treason and instead asks Little finger to win over the City Watch to their cause. Little finger agrees, but later the City Watch turns on Eddard’s men and kills them, while Little finger holds a dagger to Eddard’s throat, pointing out, “I did warn you not to trust me.”
Lord Baelish asks the Queen to allow Sansa Stark to prove her loyalty as he attends the girl’s audience with the Queen and the council. He defends Sansa during her testimony, suggesting that she is innocent of any wrong, much to the chagrin of Varys (who believes that Sansa’s confession is the only way to free Ned) and Pycelle (who is under threat from the Lannisters). Subsequently, Cersei orders that Sansa write to her brother, Robb, in order to settle the situation peacefully. He stands with the small council as the details of Joffrey’s reign are read out and Barristan Selmy’s position is ordered to be taken up by Jaime Lannister; a snide remark from Baelish at Selmy’s expense causes the seasoned knight to draw his sword and toss it at the king’s feet. He glances suspiciously at Varys as Sansa seeks pardon for her father’s actions.
Baelish watches on as Eddard Stark confesses at his trial and is executed.
Little finger discusses kingship with Varys, and they engage in banter revolving around the Master of Whisperers’ lack of genitalia. They eventually acknowledge their mutual admiration and respect of one another, before being interrupted by Joffrey and his entourage.
The Citadel announces the coming of winter and Little finger warns the small council that they do not have enough food for a protracted winter lasting more than five years. Cersei orders the city barred to refugees from the War of the Five Kings. Tyrion Lannister arrives to take up his position as acting Hand of the King to Cersei’s consternation.
Stannis Baratheon learns of Jaime Lannister’s incestuous relationship with Cersei in a letter sent by Eddard Stark before his death, which was sent with Petyr’s knowledge. Stannis composes his own missive and sends it to all the high lords of the Seven Kingdoms asking them to declare their loyalty to him and telling them of Joffrey’s illegitimacy. Cersei tasks Little finger with finding the missing Arya Stark and needles him about his love for Catelyn Stark.
He responds by referencing her incest, reminding her that with knowledge, comes power. Little finger receives a violent reprimand when Cersei tells her men to cut Little finger’s throat but then says she has changed her mind, in order to remind him of his place, and that being born into power can never match Petyr’s ambitiousness, threatening his life if does not locate Arya. King Joffrey Baratheon responds to the ensuing rumours by ordering a city wide massacre of his father’s bastards. The City Watch storm into Little finger’s brothel in search of one of Robert’s illegitimate children – a baby girl named Barra. They rip Barra from her mother’s arms and kill the child in front of Little finger’s employees.
Little finger mocks a request from the Night’s Watch for assistance combating wildling activity and reporting an attack by wights. Tyrion has Lord Janos Slynt exiled to the Wall for his part in the massacre. Little finger later has to reorganise a nobleman to whore with Armeca when Ros begins to cry during his time with her. She explains that she is traumatised with Barra’s murder, giving her insomnia. In order to convince her that it is best for her to keep up her work, Little finger intimidates Ros with a story of a Lysene who did not bring him significant income due to her sadness, who he eventually sold to a violently perverted individual. He allows her to take the rest of the day off, but asks her to resume her work the following day.
Tyrion meets with Little finger and outlines a plan to wed Myrcella Baratheon to Robin Arryn to secure the support of the Vale. He promises to make Little finger the Lord of Harrenhal and Lord Paramount of the Riverlands in exchange for his assistance and swears him to secrecy. Pycelle is arrested for revealing that Tyrion plans to wed Myrcella into House Martell and Little finger realises that he was involved in a ruse. He confronts Tyrion who apologises and offers him another opportunity; to act as an envoy to Catelyn to propose a prisoner exchange.
Little finger reaches Catelyn at Renly Baratheon’s camp in the Storm lands. He faces a frosty reception from Renly but nevertheless offers to betray the Lannisters and open the gates of King’s Landing to Renly’s army. He takes interest in Renly’s new bride Margaery Tyrell and lets Margaery know that he is aware that it is a purely political marriage because of Renly’s homosexuality.
He meets with Catelyn as planned and delivers Eddard’s remains as a sign of good faith. She greets him with angry recriminations over his betrayal of Eddard and rejects his poorly timed advances. He delivers Tyrion’s suggested exchange terms; Jaime for Sansa and Arya Stark. Little finger lies that the Lannisters have Arya in their custody.
Renly is killed in mysterious circumstances and Little finger then approaches the Tyrells with a new proposal of an alliance with Joffrey. This will allow Margaery Tyrell to remain a queen and provide Loras Tyrell vengeance on Stannis. He leaves the camp with them for High garden. Catelyn acts alone to free Jaime on returning to Robb’s camp, just as Little finger suggested.
Little finger travels to Harrenhal to propose an alliance between House Lannister and House Tyrell to Lord Tywin Lannister. When arrives at camp, his cupbearer, Arya Stark, who Cersei tasked Petyr with tries to hide her face to prevent Little finger from identifying her. Baelish discusses the assassination of Renly, and the subsequent rallying of the noble Houses from the Storm lands under the banner of Stannis Baratheon. However, House Tyrell of the Reach has retreated its large army back to their capital at High garden, and has not joined Stannis. Baelish discusses with Tywin the possibility of forming an alliance between House Lannister and House Tyrell.
Little finger is successful in negotiating with the Tyrells and the allied forces arrive in time to claim victory at the Battle of the Blackwater.
Little finger is elevated to Lord of Harrenhal in reward for brokering the alliance. He jokes that now he must get started on producing some heirs. Hence, Sansa’s betrothal to King Joffrey is broken so that Joffrey can marry Margaery. Sansa is overjoyed at that she no longer has to marry Joffrey but tries to look heartbroken.
Little finger warns Sansa that she isn’t fooling anyone and that Joffrey will not let her go despite setting her aside. He stresses that, if anything, she is in more danger than ever, as she still remains captive, and now has no protection from her engagement. Lord Petyr tells her that she reminds him of Catelyn and offers to take her home to Winterfell but she is reluctant to trust him.
Baelish colludes with Sansa Stark that he plans to smuggle her out of the city on his ship when he leaves on an upcoming mission. She displays an eagerness to leave as soon as possible. He suggests that when he next leaves the capital by sea, she might be able to stow away. Sansa advises him not to give her too many details since she is a terrible liar. Meanwhile, Ros, who seems to be acting as Little finger’s aide, reminisces about the day Sansa was born, when all the bells in Winterfell were rung in celebration. She asks Shae to look out for Sansa, particularly in regards to Little finger.
With his new position as Lord of Harrenhal, Little finger’s status is elevated considerably, enough for him to leave his position as Master of Coin to Tyrion, purchase a ship and prepare to sail to the Eyrie with a marriage proposal to the widowed Lysa Arryn. However, knowing full well that Sansa could end up being a more politically powerful wife than Lysa, he plans to take her on his ship with him. Ros, now secretly working for Varys, discovers his intentions and informs Varys who promptly convinces Lady Olenna Tyrell to arrange a marriage between Sansa and Loras.
Cersei asks Little finger to collect information on the Tyrells, explaining that she fears that the Tyrells do not have the Lannisters’ best interests at heart, but her father won’t listen. Therefore, she asks that Little finger use his spies to try to find out what they’re up to, because he has a good working relationship with them after brokering the Lannister-Tyrell alliance. He agrees, but Cersei warns him that this had better produce more results than when she previously asked him to find Arya Stark. Little finger orders one of his homosexual prostitutes, Olyvar, to act as Loras’s squire and seduce him all the way to the bedroom. He does so and manages to get Loras to admit to the secret wedding plans. Olyvar relays this piece of information back to Little finger, who tests Sansa. When she declines her place on his ship, Baelish realises Varys’s plan and tips off Cersei and Tywin.
A short time later, Little finger meets with Sansa, offering her a place on his ship that will take him from the capital to the Vale of Arryn. Sansa practices lying for a change, and tells him that they should wait until after Joffrey’s wedding, primarily because she fears for his safety if the plan fails (in actuality, she believes her staying in King’s Landing will result in a marriage to Loras). A master manipulator, Little finger is clearly suspicious of her motives, but doesn’t press the matter for the moment. Instead he says he is touched by her concern for his safety, and insists that she call him “Petyr.”
Baelish deduces that it must have been Ros who betrayed him, so he gives her to King Joffrey, who tortures and kills her with his crossbow. In the throne room, Little finger confronts Varys about his foiled plot. Varys responds by telling him that he “did what he did for the good of the realm” to prevent it spiralling into chaos but Little finger counters him by asserting that he views chaos as the perfect scenario to climb further up the social ladder. His ship then departs for the Vale of Arryn, much to Sansa’s distress, who had just discovered her engagement to Tyrion Lannister.
After Joffrey’s death, Dontos Hollard delivers Sansa Stark to Lord Baelish’s ship. After Sansa climbs aboard, Dontos reminds Lord Baelish about his payment. Baelish snaps his fingers, and crossbowmen kill Dontos. Baelish takes off Sansa’s necklace, which he made himself, and throws it overboard, landing on Dontos’ body.
Still sailing, Lord Baelish approaches Sansa at her cabin and tells her that they are on their way to the Vale where she will be safe. Sansa accuses him of killing Joffrey; he tries to deny it at first, but Sansa knows that he had something to do with the murder because getting her out of King’s Landing was part of the plan. He admits it, telling her about the poison in the necklace, and states that Joffrey couldn’t be trusted and had to be removed. Because Baelish has been away for a while, he would never be suspected, and the whole purpose of the murder was to confuse the Lannisters–which his new friend, Lady Olenna, wanted very badly.
Little finger and Sansa, now pretending to be his niece Alayne, pass the Bloody Gate and make their ascent to the Eyrie, where they meet Lysa Arryn and her son, Lord Robin. After Sansa is acquainted with the two of them and is told that no one can know about her presence, Robin takes her to her chambers. Baelish is left alone with Lysa, who kisses him and tells him she wants to marry him immediately.
He is reluctant at first and wants to inform the Lords of the Vale about the ceremony, but Lysa says that they already had their wedding night long ago. She then asks him what wife would do for him the things she had done for him, including poisoning her husband’s wine, thus killing him, and then writing a letter to her sister Catelyn claiming it had been the Lannisters who did it, all of this at Little finger’s behest. He starts to kiss her before anyone can overhear her. Although Little finger states he will inform a septon the following day, Lysa then brings one into the hall to wed them immediately and says that she will scream loudly as her husband, Lord Baelish, is making love to her that night, even being able to her across the Narrow Sea. She keeps her promise, much to Sansa’s annoyance.
The next day, after Sansa slaps Robin for ruining the snow castle of Winterfell she made in the Eyrie’s courtyard, Little finger approaches her and calms her down, stating that Robin should’ve been disciplined by his mother long ago and that he will deal with Lysa. When Sansa states she will never see Winterfell again, he counters that a lot can happen between “now and never” and that she must demolish her old home if she wants to build one anew. Sansa insists to know why he killed Joffrey.
He answers that he did it out of love for Sansa’s mother. He adds that in a different world she might have been his child. He dismisses the notion and states she’s more beautiful that Catelyn ever was. He kisses Sansa afterward. Later, Petyr prevents Lysa from throwing Sansa out of the Moon Door after she saw the kiss. After, Lysa is more subdued, Petyr tells her he has always loved only one woman, her sister. He then pushes Lysa out of the Moon Door.
Following Lysa’s death, Petyr Baelish is questioned by Lord Yohn Royce, Lady Anya Waynwood, and Ser Vance Corbray about Lysa’s death, which he claims was suicide. The lords don’t believe him, given Lysa’s devotion to her son. They rebuff Little finger’s explanations in favour of speaking with the only other witness: his “niece”, Alayne. Baelish is noticeably concerned after they reveal that they will not allow him to speak to her prior to her testimony so they can hear the “unadulterated truth”. However, after confirming that Baelish can stay for her testimony, Alayne reveals her true identity, the tale of her captivity and flight from King’s Landing. She then speaks of Lysa’s mental instability, jealousy, and death, changing only a few details: saying Little finger only kissed her on the cheek and that Lysa did throw herself from the Moon Door. Sansa breaks down in tears and the lords are convinced, but while none of them are looking, she gives Little finger a stony, almost triumphant gaze.
Following the questioning, Petyr admonishes the lords for hiding away in the Vale during the War of the Five Kings, questioning their loyalty because they refused Catelyn Stark’s plea for assistance in the conflict against the Lannisters. When asked who he thinks they should back, he responds that they should back “Robin Arryn, Lord of the Vale.” When the lords scoff at his suggestion, claiming that Robin is just a sickly boy, Petyr responds by declaring that “even sickly little boys can become powerful men,” and that it is time for young Robin to leave the nest. The boy, he claims, needs to learn to ride a horse, to swing a sword, and to become the lord the Vale needs. He offers to take Lord Robin on a tour of the Vale in order for him to become acquainted with his domains, a request that the lords agree to.
Later, Baelish visits Sansa and asks why she lied on his behalf. Without looking up from the dress she is mending, Sansa explains that she has no idea what Royce, Corbray, and Waynwood would want from her if he were eliminated, but that she does know what it is he wants. Little finger seems impressed that she made such a calculating decision, but attempts to cast doubt on her certainty. Sansa doesn’t take the bait.
Later on, Baelish and Robin stand in the High Hall, preparing to depart for their tour of the Vale. Robin expresses his uncertainty about leaving the Eyrie, echoing his mother’s words that the outside world is a dangerous place where he could die. Petyr calms his fears by stating that people die from everyday causes, and that instead of worrying about his inevitable death to spend time focusing on his life, which lays before him. At that moment, a raven-haired Sansa appears at the top of the stairs in a feathered black dress with a plunging neckline. Petyr stares at her intently, clearly intrigued and pleased by her recent transformation, and she returns his smile knowingly.
Little finger attends a sword jousting session for Lord Robin at Runestone, along with Alayneand Yohn Royce. Royce remarks on Robin’s weak skills at swordsmanship, but Petyr insists his name is all that matters, not his skill. A maester delivers him a raven message, which he reads discreetly. Little finger leaves Robin in the care of Lord Royce, for further training. On the carriage ride, he is questioned by Sansa as to why they are heading west when Lord Royce was told they would be traveling to the Fingers, unsure of his source of distrust. Petyr promises her that they are going somewhere far away, where Sansa will be safe from Queen Cersei.
While at an inn, Petyr and Sansa are confronted by Brienne of Tarth, who previously swore an oath to Catelyn Stark to keep the Stark girls safe. Petyr reminds Brienne that she swore an oath to Renly Baratheon and Catelyn Stark, both of whom are now dead, in order to stop Sansa from trusting her. Petyr attempts to “persuade” Brienne to rest with them, but Brienne and her squire, Podrick Payne, escape, and discreetly continue to follow Petyr and his party.
However, when the party arrives at the ruins of Moat Cailin, Sansa realises that Petyr intends to marry her to Ramsay Bolton, the son of Lord Roose Bolton, who betrayed and murdered her brother and mother. Despite Sansa’s reluctance to marry into another family that harmed hers, Petyr persuades her to go along with the plan, citing it as a chance to avenge her family. They subsequently ride through Moat Cailin, and arrive at Winterfell.
Later, Petyr speaks with Ramsay and subtly warns him not to inflict any harm on Sansa. He also speaks with Roose regarding the validity of Sansa’s marriage to Tyrion Lannister. Petyr insists that since Tyrion never slept with Sansa, their marriage is invalid. Roose declares that he is only interested in Sansa’s name, not her virtue (after Baelish suggests he have Sansa inspected) and voices his doubts as to whose side Petyr is truly on, having essentially betrayed the Lannisters by taking Sansa away from them and returning her to the North to marry into a family that the Lannisters are no longer backing, though Petyr counters by citing Roose’s betrayal of the Starks and Tullys. Roose then presents a letter for Petyr from Cersei which arrived from the Eyrie, and demands to read Petyr’s reply before it is sent off.
Later on, Petyr finds Sansa in the crypts of Winterfell paying her respects to her deceased family members. Petyr recalls about how Rhaegar Targaryen kidnapped Sansa’s aunt, Lyanna, which started Robert Baratheon’s rebellion against the Targaryen family. Petyr then tells Sansa that he has to return to King’s Landing on Cersei’s request. Sansa expresses unease about being left alone in Winterfell, but Petyr tells her not to worry, since Stannis Baratheon is garrisoned at Castle Black and will most likely make another try for the Iron Throne, which will require him to retake Winterfell, destroy the Boltons and win the Northern Lords to his side, and out of respect for Ned Stark’s support of his claim, Stannis will rescue Sansa and name her the new Warden of the North, and if Stannis is killed or does not even come, then Petyr suggests Sansa can destroy the Boltons from within. He kisses her on the lips again and departs.
Baelish returns to King’s Landing to find the city under the rule of the newly-reestablished Faith Militant. Lancel Lannister, a member of the religious cult known as the Sparrows, warns him that his days as a brothel owner in the capital are over. He goes to meet Cersei and he informs her of the Boltons’ plans to marry Sansa to Ramsay. Angered at the Boltons’ betrayal, Cersei agrees with Baelish’s plans to lead an army of Vale knights to Winterfell to reclaim the North for the Lannisters, as the warriors from the Eyrie are trained to fight in winter (the weather is starting to turn at this point), but only once the Boltons and Stannis Baratheon have battled over the North and weakened both armies. In exchange, Baelish asks to be appointed as the new Warden of the North once Winterfell is taken and both the Boltons and Stannis are defeated. Cersei agrees and tells him to return that night to have the King sign a royal decree promoting him.
Baelish later stands in his ruined brothel with a look of regret. He is approached by Olenna Tyrell, having sent her a letter to speak with him. As they speak, Olenna mentions how her grandchildren, Margaery and Loras, have been arrested due to Cersei’s machinations and demands his help by threatening that if anything happens to her or if House Tyrell goes down, she will reveal his involvement in Joffrey’s murder, which will certainly lead to his execution. Baelish reveals that Cersei summoned him to King’s Landing for “a piece of information he had”, his prostitute Olyvar, and he tells Olenna that he will give her the same thing he gave Cersei: a handsome young man — implied, in this instance, to be Lancel. Olenna subsequently forces Lancel to reveal the adulterous affair he had with Cersei to the High Sparrow, who has her arrested.
Baelish returns to Runestone and greets Robin Arryn and Yohn Royce. Yohn quickly voices his suspicion of Baelish’s involvement in Sansa’s marriage to Ramsay Bolton since Baelish had told Yohn that Sansa was going to the Fingers with him. With the intention of manipulating Robin, Baelish responds by falsely claiming the Boltons ambushed Sansa and Baelish on the way to the Fingers and insinuates that Yohn leaked the information to the Boltons. Robin suggests having Yohn thrown through the Moon Door for this false treason but asks for Baelish’s advice on what to do with Yohn. Baelish responds that if Yohn can ensure his loyalty to Robin Arryn, which Yohn quickly gives, that Yohn should be given a final chance. Baelish then immediately follows-up and tells Robin that he has learned that Sansa has fled Winterfell and will likely head to her half-brother Lord Commander Jon Snow at Castle Black for protection, though the Boltons will pursue her. Robin responds that since Sansa is his cousin, he should help her. Baelish takes his cue and orders Yohn to gather the knights of the Vale to rescue Sansa from the Boltons. This brings an end to the neutrality of House Arryn, which until then had steered clear of the War of the Five Kings.
Later, Baelish sends a letter to Sansa at Castle Black asking to meet in Mole’s Town. Sansa travels to Mole’s Town with Brienne and confronts Baelish about her marriage to Ramsay, coldly asking if he knew the truth about Ramsay’s sadistic side all along or if he was unaware and therefore, just stupid. Baelish responds that he made a mistake “trusting a stranger” and apologises profusely, horrified at what Ramsay did, but has rallied the knights of the Vale to her cause and that the army is encamped at Moat Cailin. Sansa refuses his offer, saying that Baelish cannot help her – that he cannot even help himself if she orders Brienne to strike him down. She tells him that she already has her brother Jon’s help and they will rally other Northern houses to their cause. She finishes by warning him never to speak to her again. Baelish, as he prepares to leave, tells Sansa of her great-uncle Brynden Tully’s success in recapturing Riverrun and suggests reaching out to him for support. Before he leaves, he reminds Sansa of Jon’s bastardy.
When failing to rally enough houses to their side, Sansa secretly writes Baelish to take him up on the offer she previously rejected. Baelish arrives with the Vale Knights of House Arryn just when the Stark force is about to be massacred in the Battle of the Bastards, and the Vale forces easily wipe out what remains of the Bolton army. Baelish is present when Wun Wun smashes down the door to Winterfell and witnesses Jon defeat Ramsay in combat. House Stark is subsequently restored as Lords of Winterfell and Ramsay is executed.
In the battle’s aftermath, Baelish approaches Sansa in the Gods wood and finally admits that his goal is to sit on the Iron Throne with Sansa as his queen. Despite Baelish having declared for House Stark, Sansa refuses to trust him, due to Baelish’s tendency to betray those he declares for his own well-being. Upon Sansa’s refusal of him, Baelish attempts to convince Sansa that she should rule the North, calling Jon a “motherless bastard.” Baelish is later present at the meeting where Jon is proclaimed the new King in the North by the Northern lords along with the Vale lords. Baelish is the only one who does not cheer, and instead stares at Sansa.
Petyr watches disapprovingly as Jon hands the castles of Last Hearth and Karhold back over to Ned Umber and Alys Karstark, despite their parents’ role in the Battle of the Bastards.
He later confronts Sansa to see if she is truly “safe” and “happy”. She tells him she is safe in Winterfell, but he continues to question her in regards to her happiness. Sansa dismisses him. Just before he tries to resume speaking, Sansa dismisses Petyr again as Brienne arrives.
In the Great Hall, Petyr watches as Jon discusses accepting the deal to meet with Daenerys Targaryen to the other lords, citing the need for Dragon glass to forge weapons to kill White Walkers after receiving a raven from Samwell Tarly. Petyr smirks as Jon places his half-sister Sansa in charge of the North while he is gone. In Winterfell’s crypts, Petyr finds Jon visiting his father’s tomb and claims to Jon that he only wants to help him. Jon does not buy it and angrily orders Baelish out of the crypt, bluntly stating he has nothing to say to the man. Slightly offended, Baelish retorts that Jon might show him a little gratitude for saving him from death at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. He also admits his love for Sansa – just as he “loved her mother.” Disgusted, Jon shoves Petyr against the wall and strangles him, angrily promising Baelish that he will kill him if he ever touches Sansa, and angrily leaves the crypts.
Sansa and Petyr learn from Maester Wolkan that they have about 4,000 bushels of wheat. Sansa realises that they don’t have enough food for the coming winter. She advocates building granaries to stockpile for a famine and orders leather to be placed on the armoury. While walking, Baelish and Sansa talk about the threat of Cersei. Petyr urges her to fight every battle and to look for threats in every corner. They are then interrupted by a guard who tells Lady Stark that she has received a visitor at the gates, who turns out to be her younger brother Bran Stark.
Petyr later meets with the recently returned Bran and gives him the Valyrian steel dagger that was used to make an attempt on his life from the catspaw. Unimpressed and uninterested, Bran simply asks if he knows who had the dagger before the assassin to which Petyr responds that same question started the War of the Five Kings. Petyr then asks Bran how he survived beyond the Wall only to return to such chaos. Bran replies, “Chaos is a ladder,” the very thing Petyr said to Varys during his rise in power after allowing Joffrey Baratheon to kill Ros. Slightly unnerved, Petyr then exits upon the entrance of Meera Reed, addressing Bran as “Lord Stark”. However, Bran corrects Little finger, explaining that he cannot be a lord because he is now the three-eyed-raven.
Petyr watches from the battlements as Arya Stark returns to Winterfell and later when she spars with Brienne. However, after the practice, Arya looks up at Petyr with a disapproving and untrustworthy look. Yet again hatching another cunning plan, Petyr bows from the high walls and walks away from Arya’s view.
After trying and failing to manipulate Bran, Petyr formulates a plan to separate the Stark sisters, starting with Arya. Arya herself becomes increasingly suspicious of Petyr and begins shadowing him in order to figure out his plan. He engages in conversation with a common girl, before giving her money for her information. Arya follows Petyr around Winterfell and watches him from the battlements as he eerily converses with Yohn Royce and Robett Glover. Petyr then receives Maester Luwin’s copy of Sansa’s letter to Robb, asking him to surrender to Joffrey, from Wolkan, who assures him that there is no other copy in Winterfell. Arya retrieves the letter after investigating his chambers. However, Petyr watches from the shadows as Arya exits, showing that he knew all along of her spying on him, and was counting on her to find the letter. Petyr smiles, hoping this will turn the hot-tempered Arya against her sister.
After Arya confronts Sansa over the letter, Sansa becomes worried that Arya could turn the Northerners against her or even worse, harm her in some way and voices her concerns to Petyr. Petyr reminds her that Brienne swore an oath to Catelyn that she would watch over both Stark sisters and should protect her from Arya if the latter was to try and murder Sansa.
Following this, Sansa receives a letter from Jon, stating his pledge to Daenerys Targaryen. Petyr then talks of rumours of the Dragon Queen’s beauty, making Sansa believe that Jon wishes to marry her. Petyr is also told that Arya had previously worked as a Faceless Man in Braavos, to which he plays on the idea of Arya being a ruthless assassin. Petyr then tells Sansa that he always imagines the worst possible ideas a person has in their mind. He then implants the idea that Arya has come to Winterfell after discovering the letter and her marriages to Tyrion and Ramsay, after which she would become Lady of Winterfell.
However, still unsure of Petyr’s intentions, Sansa visits Bran. From this, she learns of his Greensight powers, in which he proves Petyr’s ultimate guilt in the War of the Five Kings. This proves everything Petyr has done to gain power: his murder of Jon Arryn, his attempt to kill Bran, his betrayal of Ned and his attempt to turn Arya and Sansa against each other.
When Arya is seemingly brought to face trial for murder and treason, Sansa catches Petyr off guard when she asks how he wishes to answer for his crimes. She then reveals to all the Northern and Vale lords gathered there, including Yohn Royce (whom she previously lied to), that Petyr did, in fact, kill her aunt Lysa. He also planned the assassination of Jon Arryn and conspired with the Lannisters to imprison Ned so they could frame him for treason.
When Baelish tries to deny the charges, Bran reminds Petyr that he held a knife to Ned’s throat and repeats what Petyr told Ned: “I did warn you not to trust me,” at which the stunned Petyr fails to muster any type of defence. Arya, holding the Valyrian steel dagger that was given to the Catspaw assassin to kill Bran, who had himself been gifted the dagger by Petyr in an attempt of manipulating him, who passed it along to Arya due to its uselessness is his hands, reminds him that he told their mother the weapon belonged to Tyrion, but deduces it was Petyr’s all along.
Seeing how things are going, Petyr steps closer to the table, telling Sansa that he has known her since she was a girl and all he did was to protect her, which leads her to reply, protected her, by selling her to the Boltons. He then asks Sansa if they can speak alone and asks if he can or deserves to defend himself, before he tries to order Yohn Royce as Lord Protector to escort him back to the Eyrie, but the Lord scornfully refuses. With no one to turn to for aid, Petyr falls to his knees and begs for his life, claiming that he had loved Catelyn since he was a boy, but Sansa replies he still betrayed her.
Petyr insists he loves Sansa, but she replies he betrayed her too. After Sansa thanks him for the many lessons he gave her and that she will never forget, sharing an affirmative look as Arya proceed to kill him. As he pleads for his life Arya slits his throat with the dagger on behalf of the Stark siblings. Petyr collapses to the floor and dies in a pool of his own blood watched by everyone present. Later on, Sansa and Arya discuss the execution, Sansa tells Arya, “In his own horrible way, I believe he [Petyr] loved me”.
- “Little finger was born with no lands, no wealth, no armies. He has acquired the first two. How long before he has the army? Perhaps you’ll laugh, but I know him better than most, and this is the truth. Little finger is one of the most dangerous men in Westeros.”
- ―Varys, regarding Little finger to Olenna Tyrell
Baelish is a cunning, Machiavellian, unpredictable, and ruthless manipulator of court politics. He is at times capable of putting on a seemingly friendly face with a friendly smile – but his eyes don’t smile when his mouth does. Unlike in the books, where the exact inner motivations that drive Baelish are unclear, as are his ultimate goals, in the show he has made clear in several occasions that the iron throne is what he desires, he has no real loyalty or genuine affection for anyone. Behind his smiles and forced mild manners, Little finger is shrewd and calculating, willing to casually dispose of people who trusted him, like a man replacing a coat he no longer needs. He is an extremely intelligent man, not only a genius at financial matters but at cynically controlling those around him. As Varys observed, he is a grasper from a minor House, with a very great skill at befriending and ultimately manoeuvring powerful people.
Little finger started out as an impoverished noble from an insignificant minor House in the “little Finger” peninsula of the Vale, but felt constantly looked down upon for his relatively lowly status by much higher noblemen. His treatment by the Tullys when he was a young man, and his near-death at the hands of Brandon Stark, embittered him against both families. He was also never strongly attached to the other Vale lords who looked down on him most of his life. Petyr loved Catelyn, but she saw him only like a brother, and Catelyn’s father wanted Petyr to have nothing to do with her.
In truth, underneath Little finger’s people-mask, he is a cold sociopath who hungers for power over others basically for its own sake. Curiously, even seemingly plausible goals such as “revenge against the Starks and Tullys” – which at times is what he tells himself he is doing – are really only excuses and rationalisations for his utter ambition to control everything around him – he has stated more than once that he wants “everything.” Even Little finger’s alleged feelings for Catelyn Stark truly seem to have just been a rationalisation for his greed for power. Though surely, Little finger himself is convinced that he truly “loved” her, in reality, his attraction was one-sided, and he was obsessively stalking a girl who never returned his affections beyond a platonic level. Hypocritically, Little finger became angered that the Tullys rejected him, probably for his low social status – when Catelyn’s younger sister Lysa Tully was utterly obsessed with him. Petyr, ironically, wanted nothing to do with Lysa, and used her only as a means to an end to get to Catelyn. Later after Catelyn died, Little finger transferred his obsession to Sansa. Even though, as he himself noted, Sansa is young enough to be his own daughter, she reminds him so much of the young Catelyn at her age that he forgets himself, even allowing himself to try to kiss her – showing that he didn’t really love Catelyn as a person so much as a concept, given that he feels she is interchangeable with her daughter.
In brief moments when Little finger has opened up to Sansa Stark, it is revealed that despite his keen skill at assessing the emotions and goals of others and using this knowledge to manipulate them, he has a disturbing, highly warped, skewed view of the world. In Little finger’s mind, he narrates himself as the hero of his own storybook, as it were: as he says, the weak boy from a minor family who hoped that in a better world, “love could overcome strength and duty”. He genuinely feels (or seems to feel) that he is the victim in all of this, despite the fact that he was the one who orchestrated the entire War of the Five Kings – a war in which tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians have died. Little finger nonetheless believes he is the victim of the uncaring forces of a stratified aristocracy that prevented him from marrying Catelyn – when in reality, Catelyn herself was simply never romantically interested in him, regardless of his social status.
Petyr’s surprising lack of insight when it comes to his romantic obsessions was revealed when he encountered Catelyn again in Renly Baratheon’s army camp after her husband’s execution, a betrayal which Catelyn by now would surely have known he was at least partially complicit in. Instead, Petyr started babbling nonsensically to Catelyn that “fate” had granted them the opportunity to finally be together now that Eddard was dead – even though he previously saw that they were deeply in love, and any sane man would realise that she would be both deeply in mourning for her husband, and have reason to be suspicious that he had something to do with his death. Little finger’s stalker-crush extended to the point that even after years of bitterly hating the Tullys and Starks, and even hating Catelyn at times for rejecting him, at other times he would persist to indulge in fantasies that one day she would come running into his arms.
Some men, such as Varys, engage in court intrigue and murder because they feel they are doing what they must to ensure safety and order for the realm as a whole. Other men, such as Tywin Lannister, engage in court intrigue because they want to secure more power for themselves and for their family legacy. Meanwhile, Baelish does these things just because he can: he enjoys exerting power over other people. Sometimes this can take the form of outwitting or outmanoeuvring major court players such as Varys or Cersei – even Tyrion Lannister enjoyed the challenge of “the game”. Yet Little finger also enjoys crushing the powerless when he thinks he can get away with it. Baelish’s acquisition of multiple brothels sums up a major aspect of his personality: he is willing to use other people, often vulnerable and weak people (i.e., prostitutes), purely for his own gain (cynically selling his whores’ sexual services, or even their lives, for gold), while at the same time using the weaknesses of his enemies as leverage (i.e., blackmailing them about their visits to his brothels). Sometimes Baelish doesn’t even use people for any actual purpose, but simply because he enjoys destroying them like a man swatting a fly.
Despite his ingenious planning and manipulation, Baelish is not incapable of making mistakes, nor is he above overplaying his hand if he is convinced of the superiority of his position, political or otherwise, which is a direct contrast to Little finger’s usual meek and cautious nature, proving himself not above arrogance. The first mistake was when he subtly made a jab at Cersei about her unnatural relationship with her brother Jaime, that knowledge is power, which resulted in Cersei nearly having him killed before deciding to remind him of his place. Another fatal flaw Baelish has is underestimating people. He remarked to Varys that Tyrion is an unworthy ally, seemingly underestimated Ramsay Bolton’s vile nature, wrongly believed that the North would not rally behind a “motherless bastard” like Jon Snow, and was initially skeptical of Bran Stark’s omniscience as the new three-eyed raven, the last of which led to his death.