The Dothraki are a race of nomadic horseback warriors in Essos. They reside in a vast grassland region called the Dothraki Sea and have many archaic and animalistic traditions. In Westeros, they got called horselords. Having themselves in groups called Khalasars, the Dothraki fight each other for power and dominance, with losers getting sold as slaves in Slaver’s Bay. When a Khalasar passed through a town, its leaders lavished the Khals of the Dothraki to appease them. However, there are some warriors the nomads’ respect, like the Unsullied and the knights of Westeros, who they regard as competent soldiers.
- Name: Dothraki.
- Leader: Khal.
- Religion: Horse God.
The Dothraki are known for their copper-colored skin and almond-shaped eyes. The men have long hair, which gets braided when they have a victory in battle. Bells get added to their long braids after winning more victories. However, their hair gets cut if they get defeated. Both men and women of the Dothraki wear leather vests over their chests and leggings made from horsehair. They wear sandals and boots made from leather or sometimes sandals from woven grass for their feet. They use bronze medallion belts to fasten their leggings, and the wealthy use silver or golden belts instead.
The Dothraki live in groups called Khalasas, and each has a chief called the Khal and his wife, the Khaleesi. The heir of the Khal is called the Khalakkar, and Kos’ are his military commanders. The Khal has Bloodriders, sworn brothers who protect him from harm day and night. They are an integral part of the Dothraki custom as they share a deep bond with the Khal and get called ‘Blood of my Blood.’ While on the battlefield, Jaqqa Rhan, known as mercy men, kill injured soldiers to stop their suffering.
The Dothraki is a strictly patriarchial society that sees its women as secondary citizens. Owning a horse is the marker for anyone of good standing in a Khalasar, as it is a sign of power. A Khal who cannot ride cannot rule, and a man who cannot ride is below other men. Another aspect of Dothraki’s customs is how pregnant women get treated. A woman with a child must ride her horse up until the moment of birth.
Though the women are second class in the Khalasar, Khals pay homage and respect to the Dosh Khaleen, the wives of fallen Khal who reside in Vaes Dothrak. Strength is the primary focus of the Dothraki, and if a Khal gets killed, his Kos will fight over who gets to become the next leader. The dead Khal’s bloodriders will get permitted to live for as long as it takes to avenge their brother, and they will follow him to the afterlife.
Economy and Religion
The Dothraki do not have an economic structure as they believe buying and selling is unmanly. Instead, they use gift exchange to trade with others. In Vaes Dothrak, though, buying and selling is allowed in the western and easter markets as traders from the Free Cities, Yi Ti, Asshai, the Jade Sea, and the Shadowlands converge. They can do their business if they do not tarnish the Womb of the World and Mother of Mountains. They also have to give gifts of salt, silver, and seed to the Dosh Khaleen.
The Dothraki worship the Horse God and believe that when a person dies, the Horse God will part the grass sea and take the deceased into his starry Khalasar. They also believe in the sun and moon, who are married, and hell. As the Earth is their mother, it is a sin for a Dothraki to plow the soil; this leads them to burn down towns, farms, and fields.
Vaes Dothrak is the only sacred city of the Dothraki. It is located in the shadow of the Mother of Mountains and houses the Dosh Khaleen, their servants, and their slaves. It is the only place where all Khalasars drop their enmities aside. Drawing a sword or shedding blood in Vaes Dothrak is an offense punishable by death. At the edge of Vaes is a large lake called the Womb of the World. It is a sacred location, as the Dothraki believe the first men emerged from it a thousand years ago.
Language and Food
The Dothraki speak roughly with descriptive names. Some of their words include Rhaesh Andali, meaning the Land of the Andals. For their food, they mostly eat horseflesh as they believe it makes a man strong. They also take a slightly alcoholic drink from a mare’s milk, pepper beer, sweetgrass stew, blood pies, and black sausages.
Marriage and Childbirth
As a nomadic race, the Dothraki wed under the open sky. They do not believe in privacy and have sex openly. When a wedding gets conducted, the couples get the first food, and anyone they reject goes to the rest of the guests. Men sleep with women in public, and if two guys want a woman, they fight to the death over her. At Khal’s wedding, the future Khaleesi will get gifts of an arakh, a bow, and a whip from her husband’s bloodriders, and after the wedding, she gets presented to the Dosh Khaleen.
While pregnant, a Khaleesi might participate in the stallion heart ceremony and attempt to eat a stallion’s heart. If she finishes the meal, she will bear a healthy son. The Khaleesi may deliver a stillborn, deformed, or female child if she cannot eat the stallion’s heart.
Military and Death
Dothraki warriors are fearless and one of the best horse riders in the known world. However, they are a less formidable force for incredibly skilled armies like the Unsullied and Knights of Westeros. When a person dies, they get burnt in the open sky. If the dead person is a horse lord, a horse will get slain. If a Khal dies, a wooden square pyre gets made. The Khal’s horse gets killed, and the woods get laid from east to west in two steps. The third step faces the north, and the Khal gets positioned facing the Mother of Mountains.
Popular Phrases and Superstition
There are many phrases associated with the Dothraki, including:
- Yer shekh ma shieraki anni: My sun and stars.
- Yer jalan atthirari anni: You are the moon of my life.
- Fichas jahakes moon: Get him.
The Dothraki have many superstitious beliefs, like The Stallion who Mounts the World, a man who will unite all Khalasars. They also believe all life will end when the ghost grass covers the world. They also consider a maegi to be a vile, evil creature. Amongst Khalasars, number thirteen is unlucky.
According to legend, the Dothraki came from the lands beyond the Bone Mountains, East of Essos. They had no traditions or settlements and soon became nomads with barbaric customs. Four hundred years before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire, the Dothraki took fifty thousand men against Qohor. However, his army got defeated by the Three Thousand of Qohor. After the Doom of Valyria, the Century of Blood started, and the Dothraki terrorized Essos. They destroyed towns to restore the Earth.
Relevance in A Song of Ice and Fire
A Game of Thrones
After marrying Khal Drogo, Daenerys Targaryen becomes Khaleesi and rides to Vaes Dothrak, where she partakes in the stallion heart ceremony. When a man tries killing Dany, Drogo swears to conquer the Seven Kingdoms. When Drogo defeats a Lhazareen town and kills Khal Ogo, he gets wounded, and Dany asks Mirri Maz Duur to help treat him. The witch uses blood magic, causing Dany to lose her unborn son and husband. After Drogo’s death, his Khalasar breaks into factions. Dany enters her husband’s funeral pyre with her dragon eggs and comes out unscathed with three dragons, Drogon, Rhaegon, and Viserion.
A Clash of Kings
While struggling through the Red Waste, Daenerys loses Doreah, her handmaiden. She later arrives at Quarth but leaves when Drogon burns the House of the Undying to the ground.
A Dance with Dragons
After Daenerys disappears from Meereen on Drogon, her bloodriders, Aggo and Rakharo, lead the Khalasar on a search for her. Dany ends up in the Dothraki Sea with Drogon and is unable to make him take her back. She gets sick and hallucinates. However, Jhaqo’s Khalasar finds her.
Relevance in Adaptation
In HBO’s Game of Thrones, the Dothraki were crucial in Daenerys’s rise to power. After her husband died, she became the Khaleesi after emerging from the fire with dragons. Dany then leads her new Khalasar across Essos till she enters Qarth. From Qarth, she travels to Astapor and gets the Unsullied. Leading the Dothraki and Unsullied, Dany conquers Meereen and becomes its Queen. She later marches to Westeror, where she faces the Night King and destroys King’s Landing.
Dothraki: A Barbaric Tribe
The Dothraki are the vilest and most barbaric tribe in A Song of Ice and Fire. Their over-dependence on toxic traditions made them a backward society where everyone acted like animals. The lack of laws and principles made peace a tale as the fighting became the norm. The Dothraki society shows that no group can stand on toxic principles.
Why was the Dothraki so barbaric?
The Dothraki had barbaric customs because they lived as nomads with no laws. They had no aspirations as a society and were not keen on becoming wealthy like other cultures in Essos. Their carefree and animalistic lifestyle made them unruly.
Why did Dothraki Khalasars fight themselves?
Even though they had no laws, the Dothraki were subject to a fundamental aspect of human survival, competition. Khalasars fought each other for power and dominance. However, they believed a great man would arise and unite them all.
Can someone learn the Dothraki language?
Yes, after the success of Game of Thrones, many courses on the Dothraki language sprung up. A website got created to teach people Dothraki and High Valyrian.
What happened to Khal Drogo?
After fighting a rival, Khal Ogo, Drogo gets wounded in battle and refuses to let anyone tend to his wounds. His injury gets infected, and he eventually succumbs to it.