With the midpoint of Season 5 taking such an ominous turn of events for Tyrion and Jorah, now felt like a good time to discuss Tyrion’s ambitious sojourn in Essos in the show compared to the books. Tyrion is persuaded to abandon his brooding self-pity and help a would-be Targaryen ruler, but it gets a little more complicated than that in the books. And the key player in that web is our favorite eunuch.
WHEN YOU SPOIL THE GAME OF THRONES, YOU DIE! Especially important for this feature.
Varys’ Mysterious Loyalties
We’ve heard from Varys plenty of times that his priority is to serve the welfare of the Realm. This is his motivation for trying to thwart Littlefinger at every turn, counseling Ned to bend the knee to Joffrey, and helping Tyrion keep King’s Landing out of the hands of Stannis. But it was not until recently that Varys revealed the true designs of his motivation. He wants to help a person he deems capable and worthy of ruling fairly ascend to the Iron Throne. He helped rescue Tyrion because he thinks that Tyrion would be a great political asset to Daenerys Targaryen.
Although as I’ve mentioned before, in the books, Varys does not accompany Tyrion across the Narrow Sea after Tyrion kills Tywin and Shae. In the books Varys disappears into the shadows, though some anti-Lannister propaganda that pops up in the city is attributed to him.
Tyrion escapes and Varys disappears at the end of A Storm of Swords and Varys doesn’t reappear again until the epilogue of A Dance with Dragons. We’ll leave specific details of another storyline unspoiled for another time, but the affect is that Varys assassinates a powerful figure in King’s Landing. Varys rarely ever resorts to violence himself, but in that instance he says his victim must be removed from the picture for a new ruler to rise.
Who is Varys working so diligently and secretly to put on the Iron Throne? In the show it seems pretty clear that Daenerys is his claimant of choice. But in the books, it turns out that Varys has had a different Targaryen in mind, going all the way back to before the books and the show begin.
Jon Connington and Aegon VI Targaryen
Back to Tyrion. Since Varys stays in King’s Landing in the books, Illyrio Mopatis of Pentos hosts Tyrion and urges him to join the plan to restore the Targaryen dynasty.
We met Illyrio Mopatis all the way back in season 1. He was the man who hosted Viserys and Daenerys, introduced them to Khal Drogo and gave Daenerys her dragon eggs. In the books, Illyrio sends Tyrion off to meet Daenerys with a company that includes an aged sellsword named Griff and his son called Young Griff.
In terms of plot, Tyrion is sailing with Griff when they are attacked by stonemen and Griff is the one who catches greyscale. Jorah doesn’t come into the picture until sometime after. The books also make it seem like Griff as a few months or years before the greyscale claims him, but based on the tone of Jorah’s greyscale reveal, I think it’s likely his fate will be sealed before the end of the season.
The company is initially secretive with Tryion but Tyrion is still quite sharp and after all, they should be on the same page if they are going to make their case to Daenerys and join her cause.
Griff is in fact the exiled Jon Connington, former hand of the King to Aerys II who fled Westeros during Robert’s Rebellion. And his “son” Young Griff is in fact Aegon Targaryen, the sixth of his name, son of Prince Rhaegar, grandson of King Aerys and heir to the Iron Throne.
Wait, who-Targaryen? Wasn’t he supposed to be dead?
Well, yes, he is supposed to be dead. Tywin Lannister ordered the Mountain to murder Aegon and his sister and mother. And he did present the corpse of the baby Aegon to King Robert. And years later in season 4 Oberyn came to King’s Landing prowling for vengeance on Tywin and the Mountain for those very same murders of his sister and nephew and niece.
So yes, it has been a big cornerstone of the lore of the show that Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia Martell’s children were brutally murdered by the Lannisters during Roberts Rebellion. But it comes to light in the books that it was not in fact Rhaegar and Elia’s son that the Lannisters murdered. Varys, the slippery spider, swapped the infant Targaryen Prince with a tanner’s unwanted infant’s son. Once the world believed that Aegon was dead, Varys smuggled Aegon across the Narrow Sea to Illyrio’s estate in Pentos where he has lived among the people and trained as a sellsword.
Now the exiled Targaryen Prince with aspirations of Kingship is trying to unite with his aunt Daenerys and take back Westeros. In so far as the books have gotten with the story, Aegon has actually returned to Westeros on his own with an army of sellswords called the Golden Company. Tyrion actually floats the suggestion, telling Aegon that instead of trying to gain favor with Daenerys here in Essos, he’ll be much more useful to her if he starts winning Westeros back towards a Targaryen monarch. Jorah only recognizes and captures Tyrion after that, forcing him to continue in the direction of the dragon queen.
Plenty of characters doubt that Aegon VI is who he claims to be in the books. Fans and in-universe characters suspect that he is either a common man hijacking royal ancestry to gain power or even an ancient Valyrian rival of House Targaryen. As stated above, many prominent figures in Westeros witnessed Tywin laying the corpse of Aegon at King Robert’s feet. Though it’s also an important detail in the books that who’s ever body it was had been mutilated beyond all recognition. So several characters, including Kevan Lannister, concede that it is possible Aegon VI survived.
Where is Aegon VI in the show? Yet to appear. Of all the characters and arcs from the books that HBO has or will apparently omit form the show, Aegon seems the least feasible. He’s not like Lady Stoneheart, cool and shocking but so far insignificant, or Coldhands, with world-building flavor text. His very existence (if it’s true) rewrites a major part of the show’s mythology and could lead to all kinds of interesting and exciting payoffs for Daenerys, Tyrion, Varys and Aegon in his own right.
Perhaps he’ll be introduced in Episode 9 which IMDB now labels as “The Dance of Dragons” which was essentially the title of book 5.
Jorah’s infection will certainly put the pressure on return to and serve Daenerys as long as he can. Tyrion isn’t going to be pleased when he finds out Jorah deceived him on that shore. Hard to imagine that Jorah completely gave Varys the slip in Volantis. The real question is, if Aegon is bound to appear in the show, will Varys try to recover Tyrion and continue on to Daenerys or will he take this opportunity to seek out Aegon now? As I’ve discussed in previous featues, any true child of Rhaegar Targaryen would have a stronger claim on the Iron Throne than Daenerys.
Sigh. Sometimes watching the story play out one episode at a time is unbearable slow!