Claiming to have originated from the Valyrian Freehold, the Faceless Men are feared throughout Braavos and the known world as they are perfect in their missions. After Arya Stark gets taken from King’s Landing by Yoren, she meets a man called Jaqen H’ghar, and after freeing him and his companions, she meets him again in Harrenhal. She then discovers that Jaqen is no ordinary man as he hands her a coin and directs her to sail to Braavos. On getting to the mightiest city in Essos, Arya begins training to become a member of the deadliest guild of assassins.
Faceless Men Details
- Name: Faceless Men.
- Organization Type: Religious Society of Assassins.
- Region Located: Braavos, Essos.
- Region of Operation: The Known World.
- Religion: The Many-Faced God.
The Faceless Men are a distinct group of people who behave oddly. They are men who serve Him of Many Faces. Rooted in their belief is the ideology that death is a merciful end to suffering, and they are the emissaries who deliver the gift of mercy to those chosen by the Many-Faced God.
According to the Faceless Men, their god is present in the vast majority of religions scattered throughout the known world, from the Black Goat in Qohor to the Stranger in the Faith of the Seven and the Lion of the Night in Yi Ti.
The headquarters of the Faceless Men is situated in Braavos and is called the House of Black and White. The temple features altars of the gods of death in many religions and a large black pool surrounded by candles. The water is laced with poison so that those who drink from it may experience a painless death or, as it got called, the gift.
Once one drinks from the pool, they lie on one of the stone beds. After death, the acolytes strip and wash the dead bodies and take them to the lower end of the temple. However, only the priests go down.
There are no specific prayer processions or celebrations among the Faceless Men. The only time any religious activity gets held is in the morning when a priest leads the acolytes and novices in prayer.
For their attire, the priests in the House of Black and White wear cowled robes colored white on the left and black on the right. The acolytes do not have cowls, and their robes are colored white on the right and black on the left instead. Novices in the temple wear the same robes as acolytes but feature a black undertunic. Servants wear baggy breeches with small clothes made from linen, slippers made from cloth, and an undyed woolen tunic.
As an organized assassin league, the Faceless Men kill for a fee which is a sacrament to their god. The charge for a hit is always high but within the means of the person who wants the gift delivered to another. It also depends on how secure the target is and how high of a standing they are in society.
Once a target gets marked, one of the Faceless Men gets sent to them. Before becoming faceless, one learns the art of deception and disguise. They discard their original identity for the mask they put on; this leads to the phrase of them calling themselves no one. An assassin must be unfamiliar with a target to accept the job.
The Faceless Men use many methods to end their target. The most common is Strangler, a poison that delivers a swift death. No matter the technique used, an assassin must never kill an unmarked target to ensure no suspicion gets raised.
To complete their assassin’s persona, the Faceless Men use an ancient magic of deception that cannot even get seen through magic. They achieve this feat by wearing the face of the dead especially. On getting an assignment, an assassin goes to the deep vault of the House of Black and White and chooses an appearance from one of the many there.
Before wearing the face, the assassin drinks a potion and cuts the flesh to make it bleed. They put on the mask over their bleeding face; this makes blood flow into the masked face giving it life.
Once the mask gains life, the wearer will inherit the features of its former owner, including body deformities. Before settling into a new identity, a wearer will dream of the past life of the face’s former owner. While performing a mission or traveling, a Faceless Man can give an iron coin to any Braavosi and say ‘Valar Morghulis;’ this will prompt the Braavosi to say ‘Valar Dohaeris’ and obey whatever the assassin wants.
According to their history, the Faceless Men came from the slave mines of the Valyrian Freehold before the Doom of Valyria. The first Faceless Man appeared to the slaves of the mines and offered them the gift of mercy when they prayed to the god of death. Later, he heard a slave praying for his master’s death and answered his prayer in exchange for him becoming a worshiper of the Many-Faced God.
The first Faceless Man began bringing the gift to the Valyrian masters and mages. According to some people, the Doom occurred because of the assassination of the mages controlling the Fourteen Fires.
Relevance in A Song of Ice and Fire
A Game of Thrones
After Lord Eddard Stark becomes the Hand of the King, he holds a small council meeting with King Robert I Baratheon. Upon learning that Daenerys Targaryen is pregnant with Khal Drogo’s child, Robert asks for her death.
Grand maester Pycelle suggests that the Iron Throne employs the organization of the Faceless Men for the task. However, Lord Petyr Baelish explains it will be too expensive to do so, as hiring one of the Faceless Men will cost twice as much as hiring an army of sellswords. Eddard refuses the plans and offers to resign if any harm comes to the exiled princess.
A Clash of Kings
After leaving King’s Landing, Arya meets Jaqen, a Lorathi criminal traveling to the Wall. When the Gods Eye town gets burned, she saves him and his companions, Biter and Rorge, from getting killed. On reaching Harrenhal, Arya meets Jaqen, who tells her he owes her three names for the god of death. For her first name, she gives him Chiswyck after the soldier narrates how he partook in gang-raping a girl. Later, she names Weese.
When Lord Tywin Lannister leaves Harrenhal, Arya regrets her decision of irrelevant names. She finally decides on the last one and names Jaqen. To free himself, he helps her free the Northmen brought to Harrenhal; this leads to the castle’s fall into Northmen’s hands. Before leaving, Jaqen gives Arya an iron coin and tells her to show any man heading for Braavos and say Valar Morghulis.
A Storm of Swords
After entering the hands of the Brotherhood without Banners, Arya overhears the Ghost of High Heart talking about her dream of a man falling from a bridge. Sometime later, Balon Greyjoy dies at Pyke. After watching her brother’s men get killed, Arya gets taken away by Sandor Clegane. A fight with Biter and some men leave him severely injured, and Arya abandons him. She finds a Braavosi ship at the Saltpans and shows the captain the coin. He allows her onboard, and she leaves Westeros.
A Feast for Crows
At the Citadel in Oldtown, an apprentice, Pate, gets killed after biting a coin he received from an alchemist. Meanwhile, Arya arrives in Braavos and reaches the House of Black and White. She meets a Kindly Man and a waif and becomes a servant.
During her training, Arya gets asked to throw her possessions. However, she hides Needle and begins learning about the god of different faces, poisons, and Braavosi’s tongue. She then meets Samwell Tarly. When Dareon, a man of the Night’s Watch, abandons his vows, Arya kills him and gets punished by getting blinded.
A Dance with Dragons
Arya remains at the House of Black and White and gets assigned to remove the clothes of those who die. She disguises herself as blind beth, and after being beaten by an unknown person many times, she gets her sight. Arya attends a meeting of eleven priests and gets her first task. On completing the mission, she becomes an acolyte and gets sent to a man called Izembaro.
Relevance in Adaptation
In HBO’s Game of Thrones, the Faceless Men played a crucial role in Arya’s journey. After joining the death cult, Arya became no one and went on a revenge spree on those who had a hand in her siblings’ death. She killed Walder Frey and his children gruesomely.
The Faceless Men: An Order of Death
As one of the deadliest and most mysterious orders, the Faceless Men were the messengers of death. However, though to others they were killers, the Faceless Men saw themselves as saviors who helped rid people of their suffering, and for the most part, they were right as most people that came to the House of Black and White looked for a peaceful death and end to their suffering.
Have the Faceless Men ever botched an operation?
The Faceless Men have never botched an operation; this is why they were more expensive to hire than even an army of sellswords. Once hired, they came with a one hundred percent success rate.
How do the Faceless Men work?
When one needed a person to get assassinated, they could go to the Faceless Men. Once they state the target, they need to pay a certain fee. An assassin gets assigned to the target on payment, and the mission gets completed.
Why did Arya get chosen to join the Faceless Men?
Though the Faceless Men rarely chose women and even children to join their guild, they accepted Arya Stark because she had the skills it took to become no one. Even before joining, Arya already had numerous identities.
Did the Faceless Men have magical powers?
Yes, the Faceless Man had magical powers that involved deception. After drinking a potion and putting a person’s face, they could become a different personality.