Tower of the Hand

The Holes in the Hairnet

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1/14/2008 8:41:00 PM ET

Littlefinger slid Ned's dagger from its sheath and shoved it up under his chin. His smile was apologetic. "I did warn you not to trust me, you know." That act of betrayal occurred early on in the series (AGOT 50) and it seems to me--three and a half books later--many of us still haven't learned the lesson. Sure, we know that Littlefinger can be conniving, greedy, and a murderer (and possibly a perv), but when Petyr Baelish asserts the truth, it's hard not to believe him. I'd like to challenge one of his assertions, one which has been widely agreed upon as truth: Littlefinger's response to the question, Who killed Joffrey?

After Joffrey's death, Littlefinger was the first person to plausibly answer "Whodunnit?" He and the Queen of Thorns formed their sneaky little plan at Bitterbridge. Ser Dontos the Fool gave a hairnet to Sansa, who wore it to Joffrey and Margaery's wedding. The Queen of Thorns discreetly removed a crystal from Sansa's hairnet--in truth, a poisoned tablet. A few minutes later, Joffrey was dead. Littlefinger detailed all this to Sansa in ASOS 69, with much confidence. Many of us snapped our fingers, nodded our heads, and chorused, "Case closed!"

Now, I do believe that most of what Littlefinger recounts is accurate. There are too many details that he could only know if he were involved. But his story raises several questions about House Tyrell's true motivation.

1) If the poison was in Joffrey's wine cup, wouldn't that have put Margaery at risk, as well? She should have been drinking from the cup, too; it was a wedding gift from her father. It's possible that Margaery knew to avoid the wine, but Joffrey insisting that she share a drink at the wrong moment would have turned out rather poorly for her and the whole scheme.

2) Let's assume the Queen of Thorns was willing to risk Margaery's life like that. Wouldn't that contradict her incentive for killing Joffrey in the first place? She couldn't have been merely protecting Margaery from Joffrey's cruelty, unless she gambled that a potential lifetime with a monster was a greater threat than a one-time chance of death.

3) Also, there was no guarantee that House Baratheon would consent to Margaery being betrothed to Tommen. Traditions aren't always followed, and Tywin and Cersei could have easily used the excuse of Margaery being twice-widowed, if not cursed.

4) With Joffrey out of the way, Myrcella suddenly has a strong claim to the Iron Throne. It's true that tradition usually favors male heirs, but she's betrothed to a Dornishman, Trystane Martell, and Dornish tradition gives the edge to Myrcella. What's more, it seems absurd that House Tyrell would allow their bitter rivals, House Martell, even the slightest opportunity to contest Tommen's claim.

5) How did the Tyrells' intentions of wedding Sansa to Willas Tyrell fit into the Joffrey plot? If it wasn't part of the plot, why would the Tyrells whisk Sansa away to Highgarden, thus denying themselves access to her important hairnet? If it was part of the plot, why was Littlefinger unaware of it? He found out eventually, but from Dontos, of all people (Sansa confided it to Dontos in ASOS 17). Shortly after that, Littlefinger himself exposed the plan to Tywin, which ultimately led to Sansa marrying Tyrion. And that doesn't seem to benefit either Littlefinger or the Queen of Thorns. Something's amiss with this whole subplot.

All this assumes that Littlefinger was telling the truth to Sansa. But did we accept Littlefinger's story simply because it's what we wanted to hear? We saw Littlefinger work similar magic on Nestor Royce, in AFFC 11, and later heard this from Littlefinger's own lips: "The man is not utterly stupid, but the lies I served him were sweeter than the truth. He wants to believe..." Well, we want to believe, too. We want to believe that the Queen of Thorns was involved in a conspiracy and that Joffrey was indeed the target. We want to believe that Littlefinger was being clever, and not just opportunistic.

But the truth is, sometimes the simplest solution is the best one. And the simplest solution here is that Joffrey choked on a slice of pigeon pie.


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