This question and related answers contain some serious spoilers from books 3 to 5. Littlefinger's endgame would be something only a person having read those books would understand.

I'm re-reading ASoIaF, but I've only just finished AGoT and I'm specifically looking for evidence regarding Petyr Baelish and Sansa Stark. I do not believe that he whisked her away to the Eyrie without some kind of plan. I've been doing a little bit of digging around as to thoughts on Littlefinger's plans regarding Sansa. The Tower of the Hand has some interesting thoughts, but it doesn't appear that anything has been discussed since before ADWD was published.

I have my own thoughts. I believe that once things settle down in the Seven Kingdoms again and it's safe to reveal Sansa's true identity, he's going to try to marry Sansa and take control of Harrenhal, Winterfell, and possibly the Vale in addition to his lordship of the Fingers. Pretty much everyone believes that all the male Starks are dead leaving Sansa as the sole heir of Winterfell. In addition to that, he'll get Sansa who is apparently a dead-ringer for Catelyn and go on to fulfill all his Catelyn fantasies.

I'm really partial to this theory. Can anyone shoot holes in it for me or offer up alternative theories?

  • He cannot be relying too much on Sansa, considering that he betrayed her father (to his death as it turned out) in a rather public fashion. Once she learns of it, she will likely turn against him.
    – TLP
    Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 7:20
  • At the end of the day, Sansa is just another means to an end. Albeit one that he has more affection for, due to his love of her mother. But even if he does love Sansa, I highly doubt Petyr's concept of love is the same as yours or mine. He'll keep Sansa around as long as she remains useful. I find it incredibly unlikely that he is actually planning any kind of "happily ever after" with her.
    – arkon
    Commented Mar 4, 2017 at 3:28
  • @TLP Things have happened. Season 7, episode 7.
    – NVZ
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 21:36
  • We never got to see the scar that Brandon Stark gave him
    – m1gp0z
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 21:51

6 Answers 6


I think it is somewhat thin that Littlefinger should be able to secure a betrothal for his illegitimate daughter to the heir to the Eyrie. IIRC there was some explanation for that regarding money, which is a little bit weak. However...

dianod is correct in that Littlefinger stated his plan to Sansa in AFFC, and it is a solid plan. Not without cost, though, as it would alienate any remaining Lannisters. The gain would be considerable, as he would gain a firm hold of the north through Sansa, a somewhat less firm hold of the Vale through Harry, and a yet again somewhat less firm hold of the Riverlands through his own Lordship of Harrenhal.

Is it his true plan? It does seem so, but with Littlefinger, who knows.

Would that be his endgame? To paraphrase Littlefinger himself, to know how to move a piece, you have to know what motivates them. Littlefinger seems to be callous and egocentric, but it is implied that he is strongly motivated by his love of Catelyn. With Catelyn dead (or undead, as it turns out) he has shifted his desires to Sansa, but the question is if that is something he would have counted on in his long con. I think not.

Remember that this whole mess was started by him. He is literally the spider in the middle of the whole Lannister-Stark web. He made Lysa poison Jon Arryn and send a letter to Catelyn, thereby triggering all the events that lead to war. Littlefinger thrives on chaos, but I highly doubt he could have hoped to win Catelyn, even if Ned died. I somehow do not have the impression that he knew of Sansa beforehand, but rather noticed her when she came to King's Landing with Ned. So, if not love of Catelyn/Sansa, what then?

Is it power he lusts for? It may be. Although he was already fairly high up in power from the start: treasurer and member of the small council is perhaps one of the highest offices in Westeros. As someone (Tyrion?) said, though, Why would a man with a pot of gold want another? Perhaps, but I think there is more.

Littlefinger comes from a (somewhat) humble background, being the son of a minor lord. He is short, does not inspire love or loyalty or trust (except in Lysa, who he deceived and murdered). People (rightly) consider him sleazy and untrustworthy. His biggest love Catelyn spurned him, and he was humiliated by Brandon Stark. I believe Littlefinger wants to win and be acclaimed hero, and win the love of the people, the respect of honourable lords and the love of women (Sansa, perhaps). And also in the meantime, get some revenge on people and houses who he feels have wronged him. In short, I think he wants real love and respect.

It feels like a logical plan from his side. He tried to fight Brandon, but swords are not his best game. He plays the game of thrones. So he sets the kingdom up for chaos and then puts it back together again, and is (possibly) celebrated as a great hero.

I believe, though, that in Sansa, he will have met his match. I do not think she will be as accommodating to him as he thinks. But that's another story. It is interesting to note, however, that Sansa is not yet aware that Littlefinger betrayed Ned. She will be told by someone, I am sure, and I wonder how he will try to fix that. He should realize that this knowledge will forever alienate Sansa.

I also remember some people having theories on Littlefinger having some plans for Daenerys' return. By his own statement, he stopped the small council from hiring a faceless man to kill her, and also he has worked on similar goals as Varys: causing chaos, setting houses against each other. If this was the case, he would have done more for Dany than Varys and Illyrio in securing half the kingdom before she even lands. But seeing as he scarcely seems interested in Dany, or is mentioned in any such connections (unlike Varys and Illyrio), it does not seem likely. Interesting, though, and food for speculation as to what he will make of Aegon's army, and Dany when/if she comes to Westeros on Drogon's back.

  • I realize that Littlefinger has told Sansa this plan of his, but as you've pointed out he frequently says one thing and does another. What he tells Sansa and what his true intentions are can be completely different, and that's sort of the crux of my theory. Littlefinger isn't going to reveal his true plan to Sansa--at least, not right now. As for Sansa finding out about his hand in Ned's death, I wonder who is left who knows of his involvement. He's not going to tell her, Janos Slynt has been sent of to the Wall (and isn't he dead now too?). And Tyrion is now across the Narrow Sea.
    – Meg Coates
    Commented Apr 29, 2012 at 15:14
  • That leaves Varys and isn't he also across the Narrow Sea? Just started re-reading and can't remember. Granted any if these characters could reappear at any time, but for now it seems like Petyr's secret is pretty safe.
    – Meg Coates
    Commented Apr 29, 2012 at 15:17
  • @MegCoates No, in the epilogue of ADWD we learn where Varys is. As for Littlefinger's betrayal... he did this in front of the entire court, so the information is out there. It is not a question of who knows it that might tell Sansa, it is a question of someone seeing Sansa trusting Littlefinger and saying "But... he betrayed your father!" Since Littlefinger's and Ned's dealings were somewhat discreet, the full extent of his betrayal is not common knowledge, but I would say that it still qualifies as a substantial plot element.
    – TLP
    Commented Apr 29, 2012 at 16:21
  • @MegCoates Another thing that bothers me about the plan he told Sansa is that it is totally out of character for him to get himself so deeply committed. As he told Sansa: Keep your hands clean With this plan, he will firmly assert himself as an enemy of the crown and the Lannisters, which seems deeply out of character for him.
    – TLP
    Commented Apr 29, 2012 at 16:33
  • Totally did, but long drawn-out responses are harder to type on the iPad. As I was saying...My biggest problem with his "plan" is exactly what he pointed out. He can't think that Harry is going to take a betrothal between him and Baelish's supposed illegitimate daughter seriously? Additionally, there are a lot of contingencies that have to fall into place for everything to go as planned--many of which are completely out of Petyr's hands. It's not like him to stake so much on a situation that he has no control over.
    – Meg Coates
    Commented Apr 30, 2012 at 20:50

Petyr's plan is revealed in A Feast for Crows (Chapter 41). With the Arryns reduced to a single sickly child in Robert, the trueborn heir to Robert is Harrold Hardyng, a cousin several times removed via the maternal line. Petyr has set up a betrothal to Harrold for Sansa (as Alayne Stone), resulting in the Vale continuing under his influence via Sansa once Harrold inherits from Robert.

Given we have already seen the results of Petyr's schemes, I expect that Robert will not outlive the proposed marriage by very long. The intention is for Sansa's identity to later be revealed, to unite the North and the Vale under the one family. Petyr is setting himself up to be the power behind the throne in this scenario.

To quote Petyr,

"When Robert dies, Harry the Heir becomes Lord Harrold, Defender of the Vale and Lord of the Eyrie. Jon Arryn's bannermen will never love me, nor our silly, shaking Robert, but they will love their Young Falcon... and when they come together for his wedding, and you come out... clad in a maiden's cloak of white and grey with a direwolf emblazoned on the back... why, every knight in the Vale will pledge his sword to win you back your birthright. So those are your gifts from me, my sweet Sansa... Harry, the Eyrie, and Winterfell."

  • Don't you find that his actions in the TV series suggest he might have another plan after all? I know they diverge, but he must have some master plan in the TV series, being the conniving strategist that he is. Why shouldn't that be his plan in the books as well?
    – einpoklum
    Commented Jul 11, 2015 at 21:03
  • I gather his actions in the TV series are significantly different to that in the books to date, although I haven't watched the TV series. The question is about the books, and in the books Petyr is yet to put Sansa in fundamental danger despite his planning, whereas marrying her off to a Bolton in the TV series is a very different change in character. As such I suspect his plans are different between media, though obviously this suspicion may change when the next book becomes available.
    – dlanod
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 0:05
  • There is one simple thing this has in common with the TV show: both end with Baelish in a position to influence "every knight in the Vale [to] pledge his sword to win [the North in Sansa's name]". In the show, he and Sansa pricked Royce's pride and motivated them to support the Stark cause, then, he got a royal decree by telling Cersei about Sansa's marriage, giving him legal right to raise an army against the Boltons. So, both show and books end with him, for the first time, one step away from having a proper army. Littlefinger with an army... a sobering thought. Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 23:41

Deep down, I think that Baelish had two main goals from the start:

1) Marry Catelyn

2) More power

Betraying Ned This move is a roll of the dice towards both goals. He thinks that it might eventually lead him into Cat's bed and it might win him favor and power from the Lannisters. Long odds on both, but from his perspective a worthy gamble.

Marrying Sansa to Harry On my first read, I loved the plan and totally bought it. But, that's what Sansa is supposed to believe. It is perfectly crafted into the story that she would most want to hear. I do believe that Harry could be wed for enough money and that Littlefinger has the gold required.

But, then he gives up his chance at marrying Sansa. Which he definitely wants to do. I don't believe the story.

Littlefinger vs. Varys It seems that the entire Game of Thrones story centers around these two fighting each other. The Targarians are Varys' champion and Baelish seems to have chosen everyone else. I think that Varys wants to weaken everyone in preparation for Dany and Aegon. I think that Littlefinger is looking to personally control as much of the rest of Westeros as possible.

Where will Littlefinger Control

Kingslanding: Through the Tyrells, which he set up with the Lannisters.

Winterfell: Thru Sansa, either her loyalty and by marrying her himself.

Highgarden: The Tyrells.

Harrenhall: His own lordship.

Eyrie: Thru Robert or Sansa or Harry or by remaining the regent there.

  • I hadn't even thought about the control of Kingslanding and Highgarden via the Tyrells relationship. Petyr has said more than once that the people of the Vale do not love him and he doesn't expect to be able to maintain sway over them once Robert is gone. I wonder if he hasn't set the whole Sansa/Harry plot in motion simply to have a back-up plan in case he isn't able to sway the loyalties of the Vale families before Robert kicks the bucket. I would imagine that losing Sansa is a small price to pay if it maintains the loyalty of the Vale.
    – Meg Coates
    Commented Aug 25, 2012 at 17:21

Prepare to have your mind blown.

Sansa is actually Littlefinger's daughter. Years ago, Cat was so pissed off about Jon Snow (not Ned's son, BTW) that she figured two could play at that game and had an affair with Littlefinger. Sansa is the result. Littlefinger knows the truth.

Look, most of his lies have a hint of truth to them, why not this one? Also, something Catelyn says to him in King's Landing in book one chapter 18. Go agead, read it again. I'll wait.

  • 1
    To support this, Sansa acts the least like any of the other Starks, like she is from some other stock.
    – Mr.Mindor
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 23:43
  • 1
    Well... I don't think Littlefinger would kiss his daughter the way he did Sansa...
    – Kalissar
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 8:48
  • 1
    OMG! As sleezy as this sounds, in GRRM land anything is possible! Now I have to go read that chapter again!!
    – Meg Coates
    Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 2:31
  • 6
    Interesting theory, but it would be much improved if you were to actually add the relevant quote here as per the meta consensus.
    – Möoz
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 2:29
  • 1
    I've re-read that chapter and can't see anything suggesting this. What part do you mean? The closest is '[Petyr] "I was ever a friend to your sister, Lysa, Varys knows that" [Cat] "Does Varys know about..."' but that could just as easily be "Does Varys know that you got Lysa pregnant" or "Does Varys know Lysa is obsessed with you". In fact, when Cat meets him the description is as if she hasn't seen him since he was a boy ('The years had not changed him much. Petyr had been a small boy, and he had grown into a small man') Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 23:30

From a previous answer, 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 (In the Show):

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 killed Lord 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.

Now Petyr has Paramount Lordship of Trident, Sansa in his hands, along with the Vale as Lord Regent. But how to secure his hold? Marry Sansa to Harry the heir who will inherit the Vale on Sweet Robin's inevitable demise, let her give Harry a Son, Kill Harry, Let Sansa be regent of her minor Son the new Lord Arryn, Marry the grieving Widow and there you have it, the North, Trident and Vale, three Kingdoms are in his pocket and Sky is the limit.


In the finale of Season 6, we have this scene:

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.

So your guess was pretty accurate. Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish wants two things:

  1. The Iron Throne
  2. Sansa

The order I think is relevant though...

  • Littlefinger has at least once said he was playing the game of thrones - and given that "when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die" (that was Cercei to Ned Stark in the first book / season 1, but still, everybody knows what playing the game of thrones entails), it's plain that he ultimately seeks the Iron Throne. And Petyr Baelish sees Cat in Sansa's eyes, so... +1 from me. ..although picturing Littlefinger with Sansa is... disrupting at best. Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 18:58

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