During the Tournament in honour of Ned Starks appointment to Hand of the King (The Tourney of The Hand), Ser Gregor kills Ser Hugh of the Vale in what seems to be an accident.
However, both Ned Stark and Ser Gregor's brother - Sandor "The Hound" Clegane - seem to think that this was not an accident, and we are also lead to believe that it is not. Ned Stark seems to think that Ser Hugh was killed because Ned had wanted to question him.

However, in retrospect (ASOS), we know that it was not Cersei who killed Jon Arryn, we only know that she suspected that Jon Arryn and Stannis knew the secret of who really fathered her children.

I can imagine that Cersei would possibly have had Ser Hugh killed, just in case he actually knew something that she suspected Jon Arryn or Stannis might have suspected, but why would she do it at that time? And why use Ser Gregor in that case?

Looking back at it now, it seems that it is more likely that this was purely coincidental. If Cersei had suspected that Ser Hugh knew anything, she would have had him killed right away. And frankly, it could have been done at any time, and not at the tournament in front of half of King's Landing, done by her own father's bannerman.

What was the reason for Ser Gregor killing Ser Hugh?

Anything is possible, but I prefer having some evidence to support speculation. My personal opinion is that Ser Gregor would not take killing orders from just anyone. The man is not an idiot. It would have to be a Lannister, or someone like Pycelle who is a Lannister loyalist.

It seems that GRRM has left this particular event unexplained, when so many other events were actually explained. For example, we heard who sent the assassin to kill Bran, we have some clue as to what Ned promised Lyanna, we know who poisoned Jon Arryn and who gave the order, we know that Cersei tried to have all of Robert's bastards killed, etc. But no hint as to why this incident happened, besides the obvious?

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    Why discount the possibility of Ser Gregor acting like the mad dog he is?
    – Andres F.
    Commented Oct 12, 2013 at 22:44
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    It could be a coincidence, like I said when I said Looking back at it now, it seems that it is more likely that this was pure coincidence. But you cannot deny the fact that it was portrayed as being very premeditated, but based on a false premise: That the Lannisters killed Jon Arryn.
    – TLP
    Commented Oct 12, 2013 at 22:56

7 Answers 7


This is pure speculation - and based on circumstantial evidence - but I suspect it was actually Littlefinger who was the orchestrator of Hugh's death. Firstly (and this is purely circumstantial), he adequately blocks Ned's first attempt to question Hugh. If you'll remember, when Ned announces his intentions to question Ser Hugh, it is Littlefinger who persuades him that he has to tread carefully. He advises Ned to send a trusted advisor to talk to Hugh, rather than go himself. Now, Littlefinger is an accomplished player of "the game" and I'm sure he would therefore have known all about the prickly disposition of Ser Hugh, and that he wouldn't answer the questions put to him by Jory (bit of a stretch here maybe, but I do think it extremely likely that Littlefinger would have known this).

Therefore it is my opinion that what initially appears to the reader to be helpful advice from Littlefinger (that Ned should question Ser Hugh but do so carefully) is now (in view of what we subsequently learn about him) revealed to be a skilful manipulation of someone unaccustomed to the game - and it is a great delaying tactic in terms of preventing Ned from actually learning anything from Ser Hugh. Now Littlefinger knows he has to resolve the situation before Ned can speak to Ser Hugh - and he has just enough time to set up the killing at the Tourney by Ser Gregor. Remember Clegane's status as an unpredictable wildcard here - given his nature it wouldn't have taken much convincing to get Ser Gregor to kill someone, so we needn't assume that he was acting to kill Ser Hugh on the orders of Cersei. Perhaps even the mere suggestion that the (unjustly) arrogant and jumped-up Ser Hugh should be cut down would be enough to get Ser Gregor to carry out the act.

So this leave Littlefinger's motivations as the loose end. Why does he need to do any of this? Well, we know that he wanted Arryn out of the way in order to marry his wife Lisa and later lay claim to the Vale. But we also know that, contrary to what he tells Lisa, Jon is not the only obstacle to his marrying her - what he needs is a title. At this moment he is still lowly Petyr Baelish of the Fingers. He won't become a viable suitor for her hand in marriage until he is nominated as Lord of Harrenhal, and for that to happen he is reliant on Cersei and her offspring maintaining their grip on the throne in the short term. What Arryn might have surmised about the Lannister children thus represented a severe threat to Littlefinger's plans - so perhaps Ser Hugh's killing wasn't necessary to protect Cersei and the Lannisters per se, but rather necessary to protect the Lannisters for the benefit of Littlefinger. A case of interests being aligned rather than the agency of one individual (Cersei) demanding the death of someone like Ser Hugh.

  • It is possible that Littlefinger had something to do with it. As you say, he was aware of Ned's plans and delayed him from talking with Ser Hugh. He could probably have manipulated the tournament schedule so that Gregor and Hugh became opponents, and manipulated Gregor to want to kill Hugh. There could be many reasons for LF to want Hugh dead, even including his theory of doing unpredictable things, or provoking Ned to become more paranoid about Lannisters. However, it would be nice with some hint from GRRM that this is what happened.
    – TLP
    Commented Oct 13, 2013 at 11:37
  • I think there have been greater speculations made about GRRM's works based on smaller hints! But yes, do agree that it seems to be a loose end somewhat. Maybe it is just a coincidence - not everything can mean something, and I guess that would add to the believability of the world if it doesn't. It may even be deliberate that we don't get an adequate explanation precisely for that reason. Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 17:50
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    I keep thinking of the Kingsguard who tried to murder Tyrion, Mandon Moore, who was said to have kin in the Vale. That is also somewhat unresolved. Some sort of revenge? Another thing that came up today when I was reading AGOT is that when Jaime killed Ned's men, Littlefinger was probably the one who set that up, because afterwards Robert said that Jaime had said that Ned and his men had been "returning from a brothel" -- something only Ned and Littlefinger knew. I think there's more to this Ser Hugh story.
    – TLP
    Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 19:19
  • @TLP I thought it was pretty clear that the Kingsguard who tried to murder Tyrion at the Battle of Blackwater did so at the behest of Joffrey.
    – TylerH
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 16:07
  • @TylerH Why did you think so?
    – TLP
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 20:55

It's just a Gregor thing

Here's what the author, George R.R. Martin has to say about this:

[Jon Nieve] At the end of A Storm of Swords we learned that Jon Arryn was poisoned by Lysa at the instigation of Littlefinger, but who ordered the death of Ser Hugh of the Vale? Cersei? Littlefinger?

[GRRM] It could very well have been either of the two, that's for you to decide. But, it could also just have been a Gregor thing. He's a murderous brute, and really needs no reason to kill someone.
-So Spake Martin http://www.westeros.org/Citadel/SSM/Entry/Asshai.com_Interview_in_Barcelona.

In essence, it seems like this is something that isn't explicitly spelled out by The George. GRRM is notorious for leaving things to the readers' interpretation; but given that there isn't a 'story' behind this particular killing and since no-one has fessed up and taken responsibility, I attribute this to a coincidence; Gregor killed Ser Hugh, because well... Gregor!

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    @TLP I think this should probably be the accepted answer, as it includes direct Word of God over speculation. Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 14:18
  • @SouthpawHare Martin's WoG is only semi-canon
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Dec 10, 2017 at 21:48
  • @SouthpawHare I disagree. Your caption is "It's just a Gregor thing", but what GRRM says in your quote is actually "it could also just have been a Gregor thing". He says it could have been any of those things, or this, it is up for us to decide. I can actually see GRRM before my eyes shrugging as he says this, as if to say "I'm not telling". Basically, the quote says nothing at all. The accepted answer is not just speculation, it contains information from the books. And it makes sense to me. An answer below also notes that Hugh might have told Ned about connections between LF and Lysa.
    – TLP
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 20:36
  • @TLP Yes, GRRM says it also could have been "just a Gregor thing", but I'm saying that it definitely seems to be. Given the info (or lack thereof), that's my summary.
    – Möoz
    Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 2:29
  • @Möoz Personally I like the theory that LF set it up to hide his connection to Lysa from Ned. It may be that we have not yet seen the LF hints that reveals this, but we are right now in a very revealing LF-expose with LF and Sansa, it may very well turn up there in the next book. For example, we just learned there that LF set up the Joffrey murder during his visit in Highgarden by very subtle means.
    – TLP
    Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 17:15

From their wiki page:

Sir Hugh

In a conversation with Eddard, Varys mentions Hugh as a possible suspect for poisoning Jon Arryn. Varys is pointing out that, although he owed everything to Lord Arryn, he did not return to the Vale when Lysa Arryn fled with her household there, instead remaining in King's Landing and rising to knighthood.

When Tyrion Lannister questions Grand Maester Pycelle about his role in the death of Jon Arryn, Pycelle denies it was him who poisoned the Hand, although he admits that he withheld care from him, as he knew that Queen Cersei wanted Jon Arryn dead. Pycelle believes Varys' version that it was Hugh who slipped the poison to Jon Arryn and supects that he acted on Cersei's orders

Hence his death at the hands of the Lannister bannerman is likely to be because Ned was trying to question him.

  • Pycelle's assumptions does not really say anything about the motivations of Ser Gregor though.
    – TLP
    Commented Oct 12, 2013 at 22:53
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    @TLP: To eliminate (again at Cersei's behest) someone who knows too much and has already proven to be not very reliable. Ser Gregor seems to be the Lannisters' first choice for dirty jobs, and is so well known to be a "mad dog" as Andres aptly put it, that him killing a tourney opponent surprises no-one. Commented Oct 12, 2013 at 23:43
  • What I mean is that we already know that Lysa poisoned Jon, and Ser Hugh had nothing to do with it. So that is not an option as a motive for Cersei to have Ser Gregor kill Ser Hugh. Though I suppose you could argue that Pycelle was the one who gave the order to Ser Gregor. But in that case, I would like to see some support of that theory.
    – TLP
    Commented Oct 13, 2013 at 10:11
  • @TLP: what if Pycelle - who believed Cersei wanted Jon Arryn dead, and therefore acted (or rather didn't act) to ensure he died by witholding medical care after the poisoning - had assumed that Hugh had acted on Cersei's orders? Could somebody else such as Pycelle have therefore given the order to have Hugh bumped off on the mistaken premise that it was necessary to protect Cersei and the Lannisters? Commented Oct 13, 2013 at 10:50
  • @TheGiantofLannister Anything is possible, but where is the fun in speculating without evidence? My personal opinion is that Ser Gregor would not take killing orders from just anyone. The man is not an idiot. It would have to be a Lannister, or someone like Pycelle who is a Lannister loyalist. It seems that GRRM has left this particular event unexplained, when so many other events were actually explained.
    – TLP
    Commented Oct 13, 2013 at 11:09

Any answer would be speculative but it is possible that

Littlefinger feared that Hugh knew something about his meetings with Lady Arryn and considered it the cheaper option to have Clegane kill him

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    What I am looking for is some clue that I have missed. For example, we are often made aware of Cersei having killed someone by rather vague hints, such as Cersei remembering Melara Heatherspoon screaming down the well.
    – TLP
    Commented Oct 13, 2013 at 10:14

If you have every tried jousting (or even just riding on horse and controlling a lance) it is very hard to do. It is unreliable to plan to kill somebody by means of a joust. Therefore while Gregor did end up killing a possible liability, I think the passage was just to show too often the dangerous and unglamorous part of the medieval tourney.

It also shows that Gregor Clegane isn't just some big brute but actually has technique and control

Sandor: Gregor's lance goes where he wants it to go.

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    The quote kind of undermines your point, this is said in reply to a comment about the lance splitting on his neck. Sandor is basically saying that it wasn't an accident that Hugh died
    – ediblecode
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 13:01

If there was a plot, most likely Littlefinger, since Hugh's death makes Eddard suspect the Lannisters, which furthers LF's agenda for chaos and war. But there is a missing link between LF and Gregor, who does not take orders from the little man. So most likely an accident that plays into LF's hands.

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    On reflection, I think GRRM leaves it open for the good reason that Medieval history is full of mysteries of this kind. Henri II of France died in a jousting accident in 1559, falling to the splintered lance of a man who later became a Huguenot rebel. Historians still wonder if it was a hit. On 2 August 1100 King William II (Rufus) of England died in a hunting accident, having been "accidentally" shot by one with the intriguingly Westeros-like name Sir Walter Tyrrell. Most historians think it was a hit, but opinion is not unanimous, even today. GRRM's novels are true to life in making us ask.
    – John
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 16:32
  • I don't remember if this is in the book, but in the show when Ned goes to see Ser Hugh's body he asks who picks the jousting matchups, and Barristan tells him they draw straws, to which Ned replies "But who holds the straws". The idea being that LF or someone could have intentionally matched up the inexperienced Ser Hugh with the dangerous Clegane knowing that he would likely get killed — Clegane may have actually been told to kill him, but not necessarily. EDIT: doesn't look like it's in the book, but maybe that's why they added it in the show.
    – shim
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 18:39

GRRM leaves many (not all) questions like this unanswered because real life historical murder mysteries (unlike most fictional ones) often go unanswered (for ever) and his model is history, not murder mysteries. For a real life parallel to Ser Hugh's death, google King Henri II of France. The same thing happened to him on 10 July 1559 and the jury is still out.

  • This answer could be improved if you edited to include evidence that this is indeed what GRRM does.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 18:17

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