The Faceless Men in ASOIAF/GoT

So I haven’t written much lately, and I have been meaning to do something about that.

I have had this idea in my mind about some stuff from the books (and some on TV too, but mostly the books) concerning the mysterious assassins from Braavos: the Faceless Men.

In the first book we are introduced to the Faceless Men when King Robert’s small council was discussing sending one after Daenerys Targaryen.  It is mentioned that they are very expensive, and that they are quite good at what they do.

We meet our first Faceless Man in book two.  I am pretty sure that it is no accident that the Faceless Man known as Jaqen H’ghar is in Westeros, although I am still not sure if it was an accident that led him to end up in the Black Cells under the Red Keep.  It does seem clear (at least to me) that he never intended to join the Night’s Watch, and thus must have been sent there with the other criminals as part of Yoren’s “recruiting”.  The fact that he is locked up in the Black Cells (and later in the wagon) with Biter and Rorge shows that someone finds him dangerous, we just don’t know who.  But it is also telling that the two of them seem to fear him.  So it is quite possible that even if people don’t know that he is a Faceless Man, and they may not, they do know that he is quite dangerous.

At any rate, it is clear in A Clash of Kings that he is on a mission, and that is why he leaves Arya behind once he has fulfilled his debt to her.  He changes his face right in front of her, which reveals to her (and to us, if there was any doubt) that he is in fact a Faceless Man.  And then he disappears – at least in terms of Book 3 and the TV show up to the end of Season 4.

So all this we know, both in terms of the TV show and the books.  Right?

Why is a Faceless Man in Westeros?  Who hired him?  Where is he going?

Well, logic would dictate that he is there to kill someone (or maybe more than one someone).  Whoever hired him had to have a lot of money, and had to want someone really really dead.  There are two instances that appear later in the books that might answer these questions, but they also lead to more questions, because nothing is simple in the world of Westeros, and let’s face it, that is one of the things we love about GRRM.

First, in book 3, A Storm of Swords, the short old woman known as the Ghost of High Heart seems to have had, among other visions, one of a Faceless Man:

I dreamt of a man without a face, waiting on a bridge that swayed and swung. On his shoulder perched a drowned crow with seaweed hanging from his wings.

We know that Balon Greyjoy, the self-declared King of the Iron Islands and the North, dies after falling from a rope bridge during a storm.  We know that the Faceless Men are very good at making deaths look like accidents.  And we know that Balon’s brother Euron (nicknamed Crow’s Eye) conveniently shows up right after Balon’s death, after a long enforced absence, and gets himself chosen as the new king.  So all of these things together, when added to the vision of the woods witch, would seem to indicate that Euron hired a Faceless Man to kill his brother so that he, Euron, could supplant him as king.  Euron has traveled far during his exile from the Iron Islands, and among other places has been to the ruins of Valyria.  But he could not return while his brother Balon was alive.  So the timing seems more than coincidental.

So how would Euron have paid for a Faceless Man?  Well, he was a reaver and pirate, essentially, so it is possible that he may have accumulated enough wealth to pay for such an assassin.  Or possibly he found a single item that was enough to pay the price.  In book 4 it is mentioned that Euron once had a dragon egg, and supposedly he had thrown it into the sea while in a fit of anger.  I think what actually happened is that the dragon egg paid for the Faceless Man.  That makes more sense to me.  And with the reappearance of dragons in the world, suddenly dragon eggs might be really valuable, even more than they were before.

Second, a man who exactly matches the description of the new face taken on by Jaqen H’ghar appears at the beginning of Book 4, A Feast for Crows, in the Prologue.  He is known only as the Alchemist to Pate, a student at the Citadel in Oldtown.  And this hapless student, who is apparently not very bright (five years and not a single link for his maester’s chain), ends up dead after meeting with the Alchemist.  But the Alchemist gets the key, and it is strongly implied that he takes the identity of Pate as well, since Samwell Tarly meets a boy named Pate when he arrives at the Citadel.

To me, this story is far more interesting, and possibly more important, than a mission to kill the King of the Iron Islands.  Why would a Faceless Man come to the Citadel?  Why would he need access to every lock?  Is he searching for something?  That would seem to be the case.  But what?  Knowledge of some sort?  Some old secrets, hidden in books somewhere in the Citadel?

Maybe.

In book 5, A Dance with Dragons, we learn of a very rare book that is locked away somewhere in the Citadel (according to Tyrion Lannister, who read everything about dragons he could get his hands on) is called The Death of Dragons.  It is supposed to contain a lot of information about the last known living dragons, and it may even have information about why they died.  It is implied that the maesters themselves had something to do with it.  Archmaester Marwyn says this to Sam:

Who do you think killed all the dragons the last time around? The world the Citadel is building has no place in it for sorcery or prophecy or glass candles, much less for dragons. Ask yourself why Aemon Targaryen was allowed to waste his life upon the Wall, when by rights he should have been raised to archmaester. His blood was why. He could not be trusted. No more than I can.

I find this intriguing: the possibility that the disappearance of magic (and the fight against it reappearing) is helped along or maybe even caused by the maesters of the Citadel.  Imagine!   It brings a whole new level of complexity to the story, one of science versus magic.

It also makes sense to me that the same person who is carrying out the assassination mission in Westeros that was paid for with a dragon egg, may also be searching for knowledge hidden in Westeros that will make that dragon egg even more useful.

This is why ASOIAF is so good.  There is just SO MUCH buried in those pages.

-Geoff

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5 thoughts on “The Faceless Men in ASOIAF/GoT”

    1. Thanks!

      It also makes more sense when you think of Stannis and the leeches. If you look at Balon’s death as being an assassination, it means all three kings named with the leeches were murdered, not just two of them.

  1. Look a little more carefully.
    Assume it’s not an accident he gets into the Dark Cells.
    Now, look back and forward.
    Yoren was in town already, it was perfectly predictable that he’d be going to the Night’s watch… (Who was there to kill in the Night’s Watch?)
    Who was Jaqen before?

    1. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting!

      OK, if it is not an accident that he gets into the Black Cells… then why would he end up there? What would be the purpose? If his purpose was to get into the Night’s Watch so he could kill someone, why wouldn’t he have moved on to the Wall after he escaped from the Lannisters? Why move on to Oldtown? And why not just show up at the Wall as a recruit instead of going through all the trouble of getting arrested and put in the Black Cells? There are easier ways to join the Night’s Watch after all.

      I have no idea who Jaqen was before, although I have heard speculation that he and Syrio Forel are the same person. But I don’t think that is true. Sure, they are both from Braavos, but so what?

      Come on, don’t be coy, convince me!

      -Geoff

      1. When he gets into the Black Cells, certain people were known to be heading north to the Night’s Watch.
        By the time he emerges, one of them is no longer.

        If he was already in KL, and wanted to finish his job quickly… well, you’d take the easiest route to continue chasing your quarry, wouldn’t you?

        Jaqen doesn’t fit the usual black cell profile, now does he? Perhaps he was put there… more deliberately.
        (again, once you figure out his quarry, it all falls into place, quite neatly).

        … just think about it. 😉

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