Fair warning, everyone: there will be spoilers! You have been warned.
Who is Petyr Baelish?
Lord Baelish, as portrayed in the HBO series by Aidan Gillen (Queer as Folk, The Wire), is Master of Coin to the king of the Seven Kingdoms, whoever that may be at any given time. While at first he appears as somewhat unimportant in the books as well as in the tv show, it slowly unfolds that Petyr, nicknamed “Littlefinger”, has had his hands in quite a number of intrigues at court and throughout the lands.
While the main storyline revolves around the great houses of Westeros and what’s happening at the Wall, Littlefinger hardly seems worth mentioning. His family is poor, they have hardly any land to speak of and there is no mention of any important ancestors Baelish might have had. His family estates are part of the Vale – the boy himself is later fostered at Riverrun, where he encounters Lysa and Catelyn Tully.
Fingers in various pies – Motivation and Position
Throughout the books, as well as in the tv show, Littlefinger has managed to ascend through the ranks of nobility. While he started out as the son of some small noble, he takes off as Master of Coin. Subsequently Harrenhal – one of the largest, most important strongholds within the Seven Kingdoms – is granted to him and he eventually ends up as Protector of the Vale with Sansa Stark at his side, whether by choice or not. This puts him one step closer to the crown. With the war raging on, thanks to his own efforts, and no matter who is king, or who his hand is, Littlefinger somehow manages to end up on top of it all, safely counting the realm’s coins and accumulating more and more power, without anyone bothering to get rid of him.
However, the question remains whether said crown is actually what he wants. There are two factors that go against this theory.
Much of what Littlefinger does is in his own interests, in so far as getting his hands on either Catelyn Stark, who he tried to win for himself by duelling Ned Stark’s elder brother (and failing miserably), or her daughter Sansa whom he considers a very close match to her mother. Saving Sansa after the assassination of King Jeoffrey wasn’t without personal risk to him. Yes, there was a lot in it for him as well, but it might just as well have cost him his head.
Also, Lord Baeilish is portrayed as one of the smartest characters in the A Song of Ice and Fire universe. Would he then be foolish enough to become the target for revenge and wrath within the kingdom? Possibly not. Especially if it is much easier to just stick a puppet on the throne, who can be manipulated as he pleases. With Sansa Stark in his hands, he even has someone with a legitimate claim to the throne, seeing as nobody would accept a bastard – read, Jon Snow – as king, thus leaving Sansa as the eldest offspring of Eddard Stark.
Looking into the Seeds of Time
To look into this man’s future is difficult; mostly because he is probably the most chaotic character ever to walk the halls of the Red Keep. And, lest we forget, George tends to kill off people just when we thought we had figured it all out. Nobody is safe.
Perhaps, after all these years, he will find Catelyn again and live happily ever after with her, though that is somewhat hard to imagine. Perhaps the Spider will get a hold of him and finally exact his revenge for the countless hours of “light” banter within the Small Council. Or he may simply stumble and break his neck by accidentally falling from the Moon Door.
I for one will keep on cheering for him, if only because I think he is one of the best developed characters in the books and because I like a semi-villain with a good background. Keep on mocking, little bird!