The High Sparrow, by Borja Pindado © FFG
|Alias||the High Sparrow|
|Played by||Jonathan Pryce|
|TV series||Game of Thrones: Season 5 | 6|
Appearance and Character
He is a small, thin, grey-haired man, with a lean, sharp face that is heavily lined. His grey-brown beard is short and closely trimmed, and he wears his hair tied in a hard knot behind his head. His deep-set eyes are mud-brown, and can look suspicious and hard. He is so thin that he looks half-starved. His bare feet are hard and horny, thick with callus.
The High Sparrow is truly devout to his faith, and has an iron will.
Little is known of the history of this man. He claims to have been a traveling septon, tending to half a hundred villages that were too small to have their own septs and septon. He walked a route between each village, where he performed the traditional duties of a septon, such as naming newborn children, absolving sins, and performing marriages. However, the villages and their people were destroyed during the War of the Five Kings.
A Feast for Crows
On the Rosby road, Brienne of Tarth spots a group of sparrows led by a small, thin septon in a threadbare robe, with a lean face, grey-and-brown hair tied in a knot, and feet that are "bare and black, gnarled and hard as tree roots". The septon and the sparrows are going to King's Landing with a wagon filled with bones of septons killed in the Riverlands. This septon is probably the High Sparrow.[N 1] He urges Brienne's traveling companions, Ser Creighton Longbough and Ser Illifer the Penniless, to join the sparrows on their journey, as he says it is time for all knights who love the Seven to abandon their worldly masters and defend the Faith. However, Illifer and Creighton refuse, and though this angers the sparrows, their leader calms his followers and tells them to let the knights pass in peace. Brienne asks the septon if he has seen her lost sister, and though he has not, he asks the Maiden to watch over Brienne and her sister.
After the High Septon apparently dies in his sleep, the Most Devout begin the selection process to determine which one of them will become the new High Septon. The sparrows, who had camped in the plaza of the Great Sept of Baelor with the bones of their martyrs, forcibly take over the selection process. Septon Luceon is nine votes from elevation when the sparrows burst through the doors of the Great Sept with axes in hand and their leader on their shoulders. In fear, the Most Devout name him the new High Septon. The master of whisperers, Qyburn, relates to Queen Regent Cersei Lannister all that had occurred.
The new High Septon begins his term by selling all of the golden crowns of the Faith, including his own gold and crystal crown, as well as their rings, and their robes of cloth-of-gold and cloth-of-silver. The money earned from this is used to buy food for the sparrows and the poor. He clads himself in a humble wool robe, and the Most Devout are forced to follow suit. He has the fat Septon Torbert of the Most Devout confined to a penitent's cell and fed only bread and water, as he feels it is sinful for a man to be so plump when so many people are starving.
The new High Septon refuses to come to the Red Keep to bless young King Tommen I Baratheon, so his mother, Queen Cersei, comes to the Great Sept. She arrives to discover that armed sparrows, including knights, are guarding the doors of the building, and will not allow the armed Kingsguard to enter. When Cersei enters, alone, she is appalled to find the new High Septon and the Most Devout on their knees, scrubbing the floors, even though they knew she was coming. Cersei is also displeased to learn what had become of the crystal crown that her father, Tywin Lannister, had given the previous High Septon. Speaking in private, she asks the new High Septon why the sparrows have befouled the Great Sept with their encampment, and he reprimands her, saying that it was first befouled when Eddard Stark was beheaded on its steps. He tells her that he is still praying for guidance from the Seven to decide if King Tommen is the rightful king, as the Iron Throne has not protected the men and women of the Faith as King Jaehaerys the Conciliator once promised. Cersei, though angered, concedes to his concerns that the holy brothers and sisters need protection from rape and murder, and agrees to have Tommen strike down King Maegor's laws that prohibited holy men from bearing arms. She promises to restore the Faith Militant, for which the High Septon will acknowledge Tommen as king and forgive the near one million dragons the crown owed to the Faith.
The army of sparrows become Poor Fellows, and soon over a hundred knights join the Warrior's Sons. The new High Septon becomes commonly known as the "High Sparrow" per a jape by the court fool, Moon Boy.
Cersei plots against Tommen's wife, Queen Margaery Tyrell, and sends her sworn shield, Ser Osney Kettleblack, to the High Sparrow to falsely confess to bedding Margaery and two of her cousins. When Margaery and her cousins attend the Great Sept on Maiden's Day, they are arrested by the Faith, emboldened by its new power. However, the High Sparrow is suspicious of Osney's confession, as he had never heard a confession from a man so pleased to be guilty, and has Osney scourged. Under torture, Osney confesses the actual truth: that Cersei had him lie, that she was the queen he had bedded, and that he killed the previous High Septon under her orders. When Cersei visits Margaery's cell at the Great Sept, the High Septon shows her Osney in chains, and has Cersei arrested and imprisoned.
A Dance with Dragons
Since the evidence against Margaery and her cousins is quite weak, the High Septon releases them into the custody of Randyll Tarly. The High Septon requires Tarly to swear a holy oath to return them for trial.
Cersei, desperate after days starving in solitary confinement with no knowledge of what has become of her son, tells her guardian septas that she wishes to confess, and is brought before the High Sparrow. To try and gain access to visitors, Cersei confesses that she did have sexual relations with her cousin Lancel Lannister and the Kettleblack brothers. She knows such sins would not earn her an execution, but denies the sins that would result in a death sentence — ordering Osney to kill the previous High Septon, having incestuous relations with her brother Ser Jaime Lannister (or indeed, sex with any man while her husband was alive), and her involvement in King Robert Baratheon's death. The High Septon agrees to allow her one visitor a day.
Lord Regent Kevan Lannister informs Cersei that he has spoken with the High Sparrow, who has agreed to free her on the condition that she atone for her sins, performing a penance walk through King's Landing. Cersei reluctantly agrees, and walks naked from the Great Sept to the Red Keep.
Cersei and Margaery are still to be put on trial for the accusations they deny to be true and that the accusers have not recanted. Cersei chooses trial by combat, with Ser Robert Strong as her champion. Margaery chooses trial by the Faith. While Cersei waits for her trial date, Kevan Lannister places her under house arrest in the Red Keep. Cersei is attended by a septa and three novices selected by the High Septon, rather than her usual ladies-in-waiting. The High Septon insists that no girl spend more than seven days with Cersei, lest she be corrupted. The novices serve as Cersei's handmaids, with one sharing her bed every night to make sure she has no other company. The novices report that of the hours Cersei is awake, she spends a third of that time with Tommen, another third praying, and the rest in her tub, bathing four or five times a day, scrubbing herself with horsehair brushes and lye soap.
Lord Regent Kevan Lannister, Master of Laws Randyll Tarly, and Hand of the King Mace Tyrell are frustrated by having to give in to the demands of the "High Sparrow". However, with so many rebellious subjects in the Seven Kingdoms, they dare not be seen to go against the Faith, lest it drive the pious into the arms of another claimant to the Iron Throne.
Quotes by the High Sparrow
Septon: Join us, friends. Westeros has need of every sword.
Creighton: We were bound for Duskendale, but mayhaps we could see you safely to King's Landing.Septon: The sparrow is the humblest and most common of birds, as we are the humblest and most common of men.
Illifer: If you have the coin to pay us for this escort.
Septon: Sparrows need no gold.
These are the bones of holy men, murdered for their faith. They served the Seven even unto death. Some starved, some were tortured. Septs have been despoiled, maidens and mothers raped by godless men and demon worshipers. Even silent sisters have been molested. Our Mother Above cries out in her anguish. It is time for all anointed knights to forsake their worldly masters and defend our Holy Faith. Come with us to the city, if you love the Seven.
—Cersei Lannister and the High Sparrow
Cersei: My lord father gave your predecessor a crown of rare beauty, wrought in crystal and spun gold.
High Sparrow: And for that gift we honor him in our prayers, but the poor need food in their bellies more than we need gold and crystal on our head. That crown has been sold. So have the others in our vaults, and all our rings, and our robes of cloth-of-gold and cloth-of-silver. Wool will keep a man as warm. That is why the Seven gave us sheep.—Cersei Lannister and the High Sparrow
Let the wicked tremble!
—the High Sparrow to Cersei Lannister
Quotes about the High Sparrow
This man is implacable.—thoughts of Cersei Lannister
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 36, Cersei VIII.
- HBO.com: Game of Thrones Cast & Characters
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 28, Cersei VI.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 54, Cersei I.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 4, Brienne I.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 17, Cersei IV.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 43, Cersei X.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 38, The Watcher.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 65, Cersei II.
- A Dance with Dragons, Epilogue.