Each week, Fawkes’ resident Maester, Matt Atwell, will be taking all of your Game of Thrones questions, You can ask them in the comments section below, at our Facebook page, via email at FawkesDotCom@gmail.com or through twitter @FawkesCulture & @Matwellsays
Morgan Schatzman asked via Facebook: “Will you still hangout with me on Sunday’s?”
Yes if you can deal with the fact that Game of Thrones is all I’m going to talk/think about.
Mike Ferrier asked via Twitter: Who are the Sparrows? How were they formed and how do they have the authority they have?
Well, the easiest question to answer is your last: they have the authority because Cersei handed it to them.
The history of the High Septon in Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire is both long and boring. Basically, what you need to know is the High Septon is the ruler of the Faith of the Seven, also known as the New Gods and the most prominent religion of the Seven Kingdoms, especially outside of the North. Under Tywin’s stint as Hand of the King, he was content choosing basically what amounts to a corrupt priest who would do his bidding as the High Septon. Tywin’s choice was killed during the Riots of King’s Landing (don’t you miss Joffrey just a little bit?), while Tyrion was the Hand.
In the novels, the King has the power to anoint a new High Septon (where in the novels they are elected essentially by the Westorosi College of Cardinals). Tyrion chooses a non-descript pious man, who eventually loses his crown because he is caught in the act of breaking his vows of celibacy in a brothel (presumably Littlefingers, but aren’t all Brothels his?). This is where things get interesting.
So, this High Sparrow guy had been gathering a following in the aftermath of the war. War has this funny effect of turning people pious out of the blue. As folklore tells it, the High Sparrow walked in bare feet from the Riverlands to King’s Landing amassing this following and basically evangelizing smallfolk and peasants who have experienced the ravages of War firsthand. He and his merry band of Sparrows then made their way to King’s Landing, where Cersei devised a brilliant plot.
Cersei hands the High Sparrow position of High Septon and to sweeten the deal, she decides she is going to reinstate the Faith Militant that had been outlawed since the days of King Jaehaerys I, the Conciliators’ Reign. She does all this thinking that it will give her sway over the High Sparrow and his followers but she drastically underestimates his will (in the books, she makes a deal with the newly elected Sparrow to reinstate the Faith Militant if he ignores the massive debt that the crown owns to the High Septon). This is objectively a horrible idea.
I’d imagine that it seems weird that they get away with what they do but remember that a child sits the Iron Thrones while both his wife and mother are in the custody of these zealots. At the same time, attacking the most followed religious order in the land while you are rumored to be the son of incest may end up causing more trouble than it is worth in the form of open rebellion all across the Seven Kingdoms.
To recap, Cersei appointed a religious extremist, the High Sparrow, as the leader of the largest Religion in the Seven Kingdoms, and then gave that man, who already had a sizable following, the authority to amass a military force in the name of commoners and to uphold the laws of The Faith of the Seven. They, as it happens, believe a lot of things fall under the laws of The Faith.