High Sparrow

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The High Sparrow
Jonathan Pryce High Sparrow With Candle.png
Jonathan Pryce as The High Sparrow
First appearance
Last appearance
Created byGeorge R. R. Martin
Portrayed byJonathan Pryce
In-universe information
  • High Septon
  • Father of the Faithful
  • Voice of the Seven on Earth

The High Sparrow is a fictional character in the A Song of Ice and Fire series of high fantasy novels by American author George R. R. Martin and its television adaptation Game of Thrones.

The High Sparrow first appears in A Feast for Crows (2005) and subsequently appeared in Martin's A Dance with Dragons (2011). He is the de facto leader of the protest 'sparrow' movement that arises from the Faith of the Seven as a result of the carnage inflicted by the War of Five Kings. Although he appears to be humble and compassionate, his demeanor belies his shrewd and unrelenting fanaticism, which often borders on dangerous zealotry. He becomes of central importance to the shadow conflicts at court between Houses Lannister and Tyrell, and is open about his disgust with the corruption and impiety in the capital. His true name is unknown; his title was given mockingly by political opponents as a comparison to the formal leader of the Faith, the High Septon.[1]

The character is portrayed by Welsh actor Jonathan Pryce in the HBO television adaptation. The High Sparrow shares many similarities with Girolamo Savonarola, an Italian friar who de facto ruled the Republic of Florence from 1494 to 1498, denouncing clerical corruption, despotic rule and the exploitation of the poor.[2]

Character profile

The High Sparrow is a prominent member of the "sparrows", a religious movement formed during the War of the Five Kings, and a septon (priest) in the Faith of the Seven.[3] He is a small, thin, hard-eyed, grey-haired old man with a heavily lined face. He does not wear rich robes or any gold; instead, he wears a simple white wool tunic.[3]

The High Sparrow is not a point of view character in the novels, so his actions are witnessed and interpreted through the eyes of other people, such as Cersei Lannister. The High Sparrow is mostly a background character in the novels.[4]


A Feast for Crows

In the aftermath of the War of Five Kings, "Sparrows", religious folk seeking the protection of King Tommen Baratheon following a spate of atrocities committed against members of the Faith of the Seven, converge on King's Landing. When the Most Devout convene to elect the new High Septon, the sparrows hijack the selection process and force the selection of their leader, who is dubbed the "High Sparrow" by the royal fool Moon Boy. Cersei Lannister permits the High Sparrow to re-establish the Faith Militant, the military arm of the Faith, in return for the Faith forgiving the Crown's debt to it and blessing Tommen. The Faith Militant subsequently arrest Margaery Tyrell and several of her cousins when Cersei's confidante Osney Kettleblack claims to having slept with the women. The High Sparrow is suspicious of Osney's testimony (not unfairly, as Osney had been persuaded to perjure Margaery by Cersei to shore up her own power) and has him tortured until he confesses not only that Cersei arranged for his false testimony, but also that she ordered him to kill the previous High Septon. When Cersei visits the Great Sept of Baelor, the High Sparrow has her arrested and imprisoned.

A Dance with Dragons

The High Sparrow releases Margaery and her cousins into Randyll Tarly's custody due to the weakness of the evidence against them, but continues to hold Cersei prisoner. In order to obtain visitors, Cersei confesses to bedding the Kettleblack brothers as well as her cousin Lancel. The High Sparrow agrees to release her on condition of performing a walk of penance, naked, through the streets of King's Landing.

TV adaptation

Jonathan Pryce plays the role of The High Sparrow in the television series

The High Sparrow is played by the Welsh actor Jonathan Pryce in the television adaption of the series of books.[5] Pryce admitted that one of the main reasons he took the role was because of how influential the character is plot-wise. While at first being quite sceptical about "sword and sorcery" shows, he later had a change of heart after his positive experiences on the Game of Thrones sets.[6]

Remarking on the character:

I quite like the fact that people are going, "Oh, he's a horrible character!" And I'm going, "No! He's one of the good people in Game of Thrones! He's clearing out all the bad people![7]

Season 5

The High Sparrow arrives in King's Landing after Tywin Lannister's death to serve the poor, downtrodden, and infirm. He quickly amasses a large following, including Cersei Lannister's cousin and former lover Lancel, who are dubbed the "sparrows". He comes to the attention of Cersei after Lancel and the other sparrows force the High Septon to walk naked through the streets as punishment for soliciting prostitutes. The High Septon demands the High Sparrow's execution, but Cersei instead has the High Septon imprisoned and the High Sparrow appointed as his successor. To further gain his support, Cersei also reinstates the Faith Militant. Hoping to destabilise House Tyrell, Cersei arranges for the Faith Militant to arrest Loras Tyrell for being homosexual, with Margaery also arrested when she lies in an attempt to exonerate him. However, Lancel confesses to his affair with Cersei, as well as their role in Robert Baratheon's death. Cersei is subsequently arrested when she visits the Great Sept of Baelor. She eventually confesses to her adultery with Lancel to secure her release, and is ordered to walk naked through the streets of King's Landing as punishment.[8]

Season 6

The High Sparrow is confronted by Jaime Lannister, who is furious at Cersei's treatment at his hands, though Jaime is forced to stand down when the Faith Militant surround him. When Tommen begins visiting the High Sparrow to negotiate visits with Margaery, he begins to fall under the High Sparrow's influence. Jaime marches on the Great Sept with the Tyrell army to secure Margaery and Loras' release, but is thwarted when Tommen reveals that he has formed an alliance between the Crown and the Faith. The High Sparrow's thrall over Tommen leads him to abolish trial by combat, thwarting Cersei's hopes of being absolved by that means.

Tommen announces that Loras and Cersei's trials will be held on the same day, but on the day of the trial both Cersei and Tommen fail to appear. Margaery realises that Cersei has set a trap and tries to persuade the High Sparrow to evacuate the Great Sept, but he refuses and orders the Faith Militant to restrain the crowd. Moments later, wildfire primed by Cersei's subordinate Qyburn detonates beneath the Sept, with the High Sparrow instantly vaporised in the resulting explosion.[9]


  1. ^ "The Official Website for the HBO Series Game of Thrones - Season 5". HBO. Archived from the original on 2015-04-07. Retrieved 2016-09-10.
  2. ^ History and Legends of Game of Thrones: The High Sparrow and the Bonfire of the Vanities
  3. ^ a b "A Read of Ice and Fire: A Feast for Crows, Part 26". Tor. August 14, 2014. Retrieved September 10, 2016.
  4. ^ "Game of Thrones Viewer's Guide". HBO.
  5. ^ "Game of Thrones season five cast announced at Comic Con!". Watchers On The Wall. July 25, 2014. Retrieved September 10, 2016.
  6. ^ "Interview Roundup: John Bradley, Jonathan Pryce, and many more!". Watchers On The Wall. March 3, 2015. Retrieved September 10, 2016.
  7. ^ Jennifer Vineyard (April 28, 2016). "Game of Thrones' Jonathan Pryce on the High Sparrow's Political Philosophy and His Resemblance to Pope Francis". Vulture. Retrieved September 10, 2016.
  8. ^ Collins, Sean (June 14, 2015). "'Game of Thrones' Season Finale Recap: The Naked and the Dead". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 10, 2016.
  9. ^ Hibberd, James (June 26, 2016). "Game of Thrones star on that shocking finale death". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on August 17, 2016. Retrieved June 28, 2016.