Up until near the end of season four we're led to believe Cersei or Jaime had Jon Arryn — previous Hand of the King — murdered to cover up Cersei's offspring being the product of incest, yet in the episode First of His Name

Lysa Arryn admits to poisoning Jon (her then husband) after being prodded to do so by Petyr Baelish, aka Littlefinger.

The prodder always has a reason for doing something even if it's rarely obvious. What purpose was served by killing Jon Arryn?

  • 1
    To cause some chaos, then to see what he could gain out of it. Or mayhaps he just wasn't ready for the "truth" about Robert's "seed" being revealed yet.
    – Möoz
    Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 2:47

5 Answers 5


Petyr's endgame is complicated, and I'm not even sure we know what the whole plan is yet. He may not even know. Littlefinger's biggest skill is being adaptable: he knows how to take advantage of opportunities as they come up. It's entirely in character for him to create some chaos just to see what happens, knowing he'll make the best out of any outcomes.

However, there are two common threads that run through all of Petyr's plans, from the very beginning. Two things he wants more than anything else:

  • Catelyn Stark, and
  • Lots of power

At the time the story starts, Baelish has gotten himself into a very key role in the Kingdom: Master of Coin. He did so largely through what, in modern times, we might call "creative accounting" -- lots of borrowing money to pay off loans, shuffling debt, etc. At this point, he's in very deep to the Lannisters, and has basically been stuck in his current position for a while.

So, the status quo in the kingdom wasn't really working for Baelish, and he was looking for a way to stir things up. The opportunity came around when Jon Arryn discovered Cersei and Jaime's secret (which Baelish knew, because he had Jon followed). At that point, Baelish's plan started coming together. By telling Lyssa that Jon wanted to send her son off to be fostered with Stannis (for his own safety), and telling her that if Jon were gone he (Baelish) could marry her, he convinced her to murder her husband and, most importantly, blame it on the Lannisters.

His goal here appeared to include several possible elements:

  • He would remove someone with influence - Jon Arryn - that Petyr saw as being in the way of his advancement.
  • He would ingratiate himself with Lyssa, someone who could give him power by way of her control of the Vale
  • He would cause a rift between the Starks and Lannisters, opening up any number of possible political opportunities.
  • He might get lucky, and get Eddard Stark killed, leaving Catelyn single and vulnerable. (Note how hard he worked to "shelter" and "protect" Catelyn when she first arrived in King's Landing.)
  • Or, he might get the Lannisters accused of murder and arrested/disgraced/hanged/etc, which would take off much of the pressure Tywin had on Baelish due to his debts.

It's even possible that civil war was always his end goal, much like it was Varys's, on the theory that he could do exactly what he eventually did: ingratiate himself to whoever seemed to be winning until he was able to "trade up" to someone with more power. Note that Petyr also quickly took advantage of Bran's attempted murder by trying to pin it on Tyrion, again knowing that it would drive a wedge between the Starks and Lannisters and weaken Robert's control over things. He also gave Lyssa strict orders to stay out of any political mess that might come up, knowing he wanted the Vale for himself later on.

We also certainly haven't seen the last of Baelish and his plans, so we may learn more in the future about his end game, and how much of it he had planned out all the way back when he was first plotting Jon Arryn's murder.

  • You just made me think that perhaps he sort-of foresaw that Robert would choose Ned as his Hand, leaving Cat in Winterfell. Alone. In need of some... Affection. (he might have been banking on this possible outcome, similar to you fourth dot-point).
    – Möoz
    Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 2:50
  • Few nits to pick. Jon Arryn was responsible for Petyr's advancement from a minor Tax collector to Master of Coin. Lysa had a hand in it but Jon Arryn knew Petyr's usefulness given the extravagance of King Robert. Lysa was already a tool in hands of Petyr since their childhood in Riverrun, he did not need to ingratiate himself with her. Lysa was the one who made Jon Arryn promote Baelish.
    – Aegon
    Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 7:16
  • 1
    And Of course, Tywin had no pressure on Baelish. Baelish was not in his debt to be pressurized. The Crown was in debt. Baelish was simply the Crown's agent to arrange such debts.
    – Aegon
    Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 7:17

The answer is given by Varys in Season 3 Episode 4 when was talking with Lady Olenna Tyrell:

Lord Varys: Littlefinger is not long for the capital. A confidant of mine has told me that when he goes, Sansa Stark goes with him.

Lady Olenna Tyrell: And why have you come to me with this matter?

Lord Varys: Littlefinger 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. Littlefinger is one of the most dangerous men in Westeros. If Robb Stark falls, Sansa Stark is the key to the North.

Lady Olenna Tyrell: And if Littlefinger marries her, he'll have the key in his pocket.

Lord Varys: Which seems such a shame. Why should a man with such a low reputation steal away such a lovely bride?

Lady Olenna Tyrell: You must despise him, you're working so hard to undermine him.

Lord Varys: Actually, I rather enjoy him. But he would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes.

Littlefinger's end game is much more ambitious than most people realize.

Littlefinger was born the minor of the Lords, with just a few acres of lands on Fingers. However, he wants to rise up. But that's not plausible as Seven Kingdoms were dominated by following ancient Houses with big names and rich histories:

  1. Royal Dynasty: House Baratheon of King's Landing
  2. House Baratheon of Storm's End
  3. House Baratheon of Dragonstone
  4. House Tully of Riverrun
  5. House Stark of Winterfell
  6. House Lannister of Casterly Rock
  7. House Greyjoy of Pyke
  8. House Arryn of Vale
  9. House Martell of Dorne
  10. House Tyrell of Reach

He wants to be the King but how must he do that unless there is a power vacuum? He explains his philosophy to Varys:

Chaos isn't a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some, are given a chance to climb. They refuse, they cling to the realm or the gods or love. Illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.

He wanted to create chaos which he would use as a ladder to climb up in social hierarchy. And of course he needed a Power Vacuum with waned power of the Great Houses, possibly extinction of some, so that their place could be filled by House Baelish. He does not care about the price, he would see the realm burn if he could be King of the ashes as Varys puts it.

So How did he plan to deal with the great Houses?

  1. House Baratheon of King's Landing: He was not too much bothered by it. He knew the secret behind Joffrey's, Tommen's and Myrcella's birth. He also knew that Jon Arryn and Stannis Baratheon suspected foul play and were on verge of actually finding out what was wrong. He let them do it, even facilitated them by Housing one of King Robert's whore and their bastard in his brothel. He wanted that secret to come out so that there could be a war of succession. When Robert was killed by Cersei (As he must be, since Cersei was getting more and more nervous each day and Robert was getting wilder every day), this House would go extinct de-facto and that will spark a war, If Petyr Baelish could help it.
  2. House Baratheon of Storm's End: He knew that Renly and Stannis could barely stomach each other so He was certain that it was unlikely that they would form an alliance to win the Iron Throne. He wanted them to battle hard and long while he could create other strands of the web.
  3. House Baratheon of Dragonstone: Stannis Baratheon suspected something about birth of the Princelings and he was very close to finding substantial evidence. When Jon Arryn died suddenly, that made Stannis believe that it must have been Cersei who did it to thwart their investigation. So Stannis bided his time until Robert left for Winterfell and then he ran back to Dragonstone and refused to return. He was sure now that they were right and Lannisters wanted to usurp the throne.
  4. House Tully of Riverrun: House Tully was a complex case. How to get them involved in the War of Succession in such a way that they choose a side which will help prolong the war and bleed away power from the rival houses. The answer was in their Stark alliance. Get House Stark involved, House Tully will join the fray.
  5. House Stark of Winterfell: This was the main piece. House Stark was loyal to King Robert and had enough power to defy the Lannisters. So in the planned war, they must be made to stand against the Lannisters, the other party in the dispute. Which is why Petyr Baelish asked Lysa to write a letter to her sister Catelyn and lie to her that Lannisters had killed Jon Arryn. This will make Eddard Stark dislike Tywin Lannister even more and force him to investigate the murder. There Petyr Baelish will lay breadcrumbs to follow so that Eddard Stark would come to the same conclusion as Jon Arryn and Stannis Baratheon. So he helped Eddard Stark find Barra. And coup de grace, he lied that the knife used for assassination of Bran belonged to Tyrion Lannister, further deepening the mistrust of Lannisters by Starks. This was the last straw and eventually resulted in arrest of Tyrion by Catelyn Stark, an event which began the War of the Five Kings.
  6. House Lannister of Casterly Rock: If everything went well with House Stark, House Lannister will be automatically at war with them.
  7. House Greyjoy of Pyke: Not that important and on the wrong side of Westeros, there wasn't much House Greyjoy could have done to further Petyr's ambitions. But still a great naval Power, House Greyjoy could make the war longer by engaging either Starks or Lannisters. In any case, there is nothing to suggest that Baelish had anything to do with their rise.
  8. House Arryn of Vale: If Jon Arryn died as per plan, Vale falls under regency for Young Lord Robin Arryn. And the regent was Lysa Tully who was being manipulated by Baelish for a long time. That means that Vale was already in Baelish's hands by proxy even before the war started.
  9. House Martell of Dorne: Unclear plans for House Martell if any existed.
  10. House Tyrell of Reach: As upjumped Stewards, Tyrells had achieved something what Petyr wanted to gain through a stroke of luck. Except that Petyr's plans were bigger.

So Petyr had to kill Jon Arryn because:

  1. That will make Stannis Baratheon sure that their suspicion was right and that he is the true heir.
  2. He could use Lysa to put the blame on Lannisters, creating a cold war between representatives of Starks and Lannisters in King's Landing.
  3. He could use the inquiry as a pretext to reveal to Eddard Stark that the Baratheon princelings were bastards born of incest thus sowing seeds of the war of succession.
  4. Get hold of the Vale in eventual war and then use that power to plot the next steps to the Iron Throne.

As it happened, War took an interesting turn and Sansa Stark was left as sole heiress of Winterfell. With Vale under his control, Petyr Baelish believed it would be more beneficial for him to marry the heiress to the North and thus use the combined power of Riverlands, North and unscathed Vale to break the crumbling great Houses in aftermath of the War.

Petyr Explained his final motives in Season 4 Episode 4:

Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish: So many men, they risk so little. They spend their whole lives avoiding danger, and then they die. I'd risk everything to get what I want.

Sansa Stark: And what do you want?

Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish: [pauses] Everything.

He made it clear to Sansa in Season 6 Episode 10:

Every time I am faced with a decision I close my eyes and see the same picture. Whenever I consider an action I ask myself, 'Will this action help to make that picture a reality'. I pull it out of my mind and into the world, and I only act if the answer is yes. A picture of me on the Iron Throne, and you by my side.

And of course about his actions he had following thing to say:

A man with no motive is a man no one suspects. Always keep your foes confused.

  • you credit Littlefinger with so much. He is an oportunitic weasel and the luckiest man alive to not have been caught so far! I'm soo looking for his death scene next season!! It has to be grander that that boltons mut scene.
    – Cherubel
    Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 7:34
  • @Cherubel Lol. Well thats what it looks like to me. Given how the pieces fit in the puzzle, Littlefinger appears to be the grandarchitect, pulling the strings and making things go his way. I'd rather see him alive a bit longer, he is fun.
    – Aegon
    Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 7:40
  • maybe sansa will get somebody to cut his tongue and fingers off so he cant cause more strife. a mute that cant write... and then make him be the court jester. or better yet send him on to cersei in that condition as a gift of what is to come.
    – Cherubel
    Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 9:07
  • @Aegon I skipped the other answers an just looked for yours. Not disappointed. However, I don't fully agree with your list of important ancient houses. I wouldn't have put the Houses Tully and Greyjoy on that list. We perceive them as important, because they get a lot of pages/screen time, but considering size and political influence, they are more at a level with Frey and Bolton than the others. House Greyjoy is very special because the small Iron Islands have their own religion and their main military force is their navy. And of course once can argue that your list needs House Targaryen. Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 8:06
  • @user1129682 Thank you for your feedback. I would like to justify putting Tullys and Greyjoys in the list. Tullys and Greyjoys are overlords of their regional lords and Kingdoms which are Riverlands and Iron Islands. Both Houses are of ancient lines, with histories beginning in Age of Dawn and Andal landings. House Tully can muster more than 25k swords (More than House Stark can due to rich and more populous lands) and House Greyjoy though admittedly not a major land power and isolated, remains one of the greatest naval powers of the West along with House Redwyne and the royal fleet.
    – Aegon
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 8:43

Littlefinger was one of the primary drivers of the war and the assassination attempt of Jon Arryn was a part of it.

Littlefinger had Lysa Arryn kill her husband, Jon Arryn -- Ned Stark's friend, who had been investigating the parentage of the incest-made Lannister children.

Littlefinger implicated Tyrion in the knife carrying, and in the books he did so knowing full well that it was actually Joffrey in order to cause more chaos. As noted above, the person who hired and armed the assassin in the books was Joffrey -- and Littlefinger knew it. In order to impress Robert (who said putting Bran out of his misery would be the right thing to do), Joffrey stole the dagger and hired the assassin.

In the show, however, it is revealed in the Season 7 finale that the knife was Littlefinger's own -- Bran reveals that the knife belongs to him at his trial, which allows Sansa to draw out the implication that the enmity between the Starks and the Lannisters is due to Littlefinger's conniving.

These two threads work to pit the Lannisters and Starks against each other -- allowing Littlefinger to both dispose of one of the two people preventing him from separating Sansa Stark from her family and get himself one step closer to the throne, after betraying Ned and setting the events leading to the war in action.

With this knowledge, Littlefinger's chat with Varus becomes a tacit admission of his hand in starting the war by getting the balls rolling. He admits to wanting the throne and having a hand in Lysa Arryn's widowhood in one response while talking about the throne:

Lord Varys: The Lysa Arryn of chairs. Shame you had to settle for your second choice.

Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish: Early days, my friend. It is flattering really, you feeling such dread at the prospect of me getting what I want.

The assassination of Jon Arryn is one of the major reason that Ned Stark went to King's Landing, his suspicions against the Lannisters only further exacerbated by the assassination attempt on Bran.

Littlefinger flat out admits to stopping Sansa's marriage to Loras Tyrell:

Lord Varys: Thwarting you has never been my primary ambition, I promise you. Although, who doesn't like to see their friends fail now and then.

Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish: You're so right. For instance, when I thwarted your plan to give Sansa Stark to the Tyrells, if I'm going to be honest, I did feel an unmistakable sense of enjoyment there.

Sansa's being held captive was one of the major points leading to the war, and her marriage to the Tyrells was to be her way out of Lannister captivity.

Given our near-omniscient viewpoint, which Bran clearly has some insight into, we see that, yes, Littlefinger is absolutely at fault in starting the war -- and he did so purposefully, because chaos is a ladder and he intended to climb it to the top -- he wanted to be the king, and he plotted a way to eliminate everyone in his way.


So Jon Arryn would not discover that his own wife got pregnant by another man, just as he had discovered King Robert Baratheon's wife was impregnated by somebody other than King Robert.

There's a fan theory that Petyr Baelish is the secret father of Robert Arryn. Here's the support for that theory.

  1. He warmly greets Robyn each time he sees him, and this is something he does not do for others. He's not affectionate with anyone else, but he hugs this young boy.

  2. He once impregnated Lysa Tully, but forced her to drink an abortifacient poison to cause a miscarriage. (Which also removes Jon Arryn's doubts about whether his wife was fertile enough to get pregnant.)

  3. Jon Arryn was nearly 70 when he died, and Lysa said he was too old to get her pregnant.

  4. Baelish chose the mockingbird as his sigil, and the mockingbird is known for getting other birds to raise their eggs.

  5. Robin's dark brown hair color matches that of Petyr Baelish, but does not match that of Jon Arryn. Jon Arryn was blonde as a young man.

It would be ironic if Jon Arryn discovered adultery in another marriage, but not in his own. If he could learn the truth about somebody else's wife, he could eventually learn the truth about his own wife. Baelish could not allow that to happen because Baelish would be one of the suspects, and would be killed by Jon Arryn.

  • Reminds me of "King of the Hill" and Dale Gribble's obliviousness to the affair of his wife Nancy and Native American John Redcorn resulting in his son, Joseph
    – m1gp0z
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 22:54

There seems to be a lot of duplicate questions leading here, and it's nice to see how different answers change over time, based on what we see. Ultimately, the answer is-because Peter wanted the Iron Throne. And getting there as a commoner is virtually impossible. Time and again he had people killed or otherwise manipulated in an effort to further his own power. So in a very simple way-he was the guy who started all the wars.

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