Where Did The Faceless Men From 'Game Of Thrones' Come From? Their History Is Actually Pretty Complicated
If you're all caught up with George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire books, you're probably wondering what the Faceless Men are up to over at the citadel. If you're all caught up with the HBO show Game of Thrones, but have not chosen to dedicate several months of your life to reading the entire book series, you're probably wondering why you should care about the Faceless Men now that Arya has quit assassin school.
And if all you know about Game of Thrones is that someone took that blonde chick's dragons, then you're probably wondering who the Faceless Men are in the first place.
To all of you, I bring answers (or at least, excessive backstory and wild fan speculation, which amounts to the same thing in the Game of Thrones universe).
The Faceless Men are a society of elite assassins. They'll pretty much kill anyone, for a price. They live in the Free City of Braavos, where they hang out in their temple, the House of Black and White. They worship the Many-Faced God, which is the name they've given to various incarnations of the god of death in different religions. If you come drink at the pool in their temple lobby, you are granted a peaceful death.
Oh yeah, and they can change their faces using flesh mask magic.
But where did the Faceless Men come from? Like so many things in Game of Thrones, it all circles back to dragons.
When the Valyrian Freehold (the Targaryen's ancestors) used to rule over Essos, many slaves were forced to labor and die in the tortuous volcanic mines. The Valyrians had those big nasty dragons, so most slave rebellions utterly failed. But one enslaved man listened to all the different slaves, from many different cultures, praying for death to their various gods. And he decided that 1) all these gods were essentially the same god with different faces, and 2) he should give the most desperate slave the "gift" of death.
After that, he decided it was time to give the "gift" to their masters as well.
Braavos was eventually founded by escaped slaves from Valyria, and the religion of the Faceless Men became part of Braavosi culture. Hence why Arya's Braavosi sword teacher tells her about the God of Death.
In the books, Arya is still with the Faceless Men in Braavos, training to be one of their number. The trouble is, though, that in order to be a Faceless Man you must become "no one." You must not have any identity of your own. You must never kill for personal vengeance. You must let go of everything from your former life, and fully embody whichever face you wear.
Arya... is not so great at that. She hid away her sword instead of discarding it. She still dreams about her wolf, Nymeria. She's already killed a guy outside of her classwork. It's probably safe to assume that she will make her way back to Westeros at some point, with or without the Faceless Men's permission, and reclaim some version of her identity.
But that doesn't mean that the Faceless Men stop mattering as soon as Arya drops out of murder school. After all, the man who once called himself Jaqen H'ghar is currently in disguise as a grad student at the Citadel. He's already stolen a key that will unlock some of the more secret Citadel books. But he's still hanging around campus, to show Sam the ropes. What is he after?
We don't know for sure. But we can wildly speculate.
I mean, yes, there's a good chance that the Faceless Men are just doing their thing and killing whoever they're hired to kill. Their whole deal is about turning away from personal attachments and wearing comfy robes, Jedi-style.
But the Faceless Men and the rest of the Braavosi do have a few core values: they are vehemently against slavery, being descended from slaves themselves. And they are not super cool with dragons, having been terrorized by the Valyrians and their fire monsters for generations.
So maybe Jaqen is acting alone, or maybe he's off on an assassination assignment... or maybe he's been sent to the Citadel to get their special secret dark web info on how to stop dragons. We know that the Citadel keeps their dragon books in the restricted section. And it would make sense for the Braavosi to want to stop Dany's babies before she brings about a second Valyrian Empire. His killing contract could be for a dragon.
But on the other hand, Dany's one clearly stated civic policy is that she is staunchly anti-slavery. She's freed slaves all over Essos. So the Faceless Men might actually be trying to find some info to help her, or to stop her enemies, since she shares one of their deepest held convictions.
And on the third hand... maybe the Faceless Men have their own dragon egg? And they want to know how to hatch it? It's not the most plausible option, but Euron Greyjoy did have a dragon egg, and he did hire a Faceless Man to off his brother. Did he pay them in baby dragons?
All we know for now is that the Faceless Men seem to be sticking their faceless noses in Westerosi politics, whether or not they're being paid to do so. And as much as they claim to be no one... will their Valyrian past dictate which side they fall on?
Let's all tune in whenever the heck GRRM finishes Winds of Winter to find out.