All Men Must Die: Examining The Faceless Men’s Place In ‘Game Of Thrones’

While Game of Thrones may be one of the most complex and elaborate shows on television right now, the amount of subplots included pale in comparison to what’s going on in George RR Martin’s books. But even if you’ve read through A Song of Ice and Fire, there’s a lot you may have missed out on. Martin has littered his world’s history with secret plots and intrigue for those who take the time to research carefully and connect the dots.

There are several large communities on the internet devoted to digging through the mythology in an attempt to figure out what is in store for Westeros, and now we’re going to take a look at some of the most interesting theories presented by amateur Game of Thrones scholars, starting with the Faceless Men and their not-so-secret mission to give the gift of death to all living creatures.

The Faceless Men

What do we know for sure about the Faceless Men? They’re a death cult based in Braavos that worships the Many-Faced God, a god of death. They believe that death is the ultimate gift one can give, and are renowned across the land as unstoppable assassins who will kill anyone for the right price. That price, though, is always extremely high and only gets more expensive with the importance of the person being killed.

The history of the Faceless Men begins in the volcanic slave mines of Valyria, where life was so terrible many slaves prayed for death. From across the world these slaves came and they all prayed to different gods in different languages … but they always prayed for death. A man — the first Faceless Man — heard these prayers and concluded that they were all praying to the same god — a god with a hundred different faces, whose greatest gift was an escape from life into death. It was here that the Faceless Men began giving that gift to people — first the slaves of Valyria but eventually to the Masters as well.

If that story sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a tale told by Jaqen H’ghar to Arya during her acolyte training. He never revealed to her what happened to the Masters, but the history books are clear: Doom came to Valyria in the year 102 BC (Before the Conquest of Westeros by the Targaryens) and the lands were destroyed by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes and other disasters. Even today the entire region remains nothing more than a smoking, cursed wasteland.

So what caused the Doom? This is where history veers into speculation. Many believe that it was caused by dragon eggs, which have great power within them. In 259 AC, Aegon V’s attempt to hatch dragon eggs resulted in the castle of Summerhall’s complete destruction and the deaths of many Targaryen royals. This event proves how powerful dragon eggs can be, and is the best evidence that the Faceless Men used similar methods to give the gift to the Masters of Valyria.

Who Has A Dragon Egg?

Here’s how that all ties into the Faceless Men’s current activities. A large amount of A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons focuses on the Greyjoy family and their succession. (Warning! This section may contain spoilers for the upcoming season six of Game of Thrones!) One night, Balon Greyjoy is unceremoniously tossed from a tower bridge to his death during a storm. The very next day, his brother Euron Crow’s Eye returns from exile with several ships and a massive horn he claims will allow him to control dragons. Euron has been obsessed with magic and dragons his whole life. He once had a dragon egg of his own but claims he threw it into the ocean during a rage.

But what is more likely? That he threw such a valuable item away, or that he paid the Faceless Men with it to assassinate the king of the Iron Islands, Balon Greyjoy? For many, his arrival in Pyke the day after the death of Balon is one of those details too specific to mean nothing. (end spoilers)

So what do the Faceless Men plan on doing with the dragon egg? To help our speculation, let’s look back at the Doom of Valyria. According to the history books, the dragonlords of Valyria used magic to maintain their power over everyone — specifically blood and fire magic. The opposite of this is implied in the name of the book series, Death and Ice. Tying the Faceless Men to death and ice against the blood and fire of the Valyrians could signal a connection between the cult and the Others.

The Others And The Wall

Currently, the Others are still trapped behind The Wall, which is clearly more than just a physical structure that keeps them out of Westeros due to its height. There’s a very obvious magical component to this 700-foot-tall wall of ice, and in this song of ice and fire, magical ice may need to be undone by magical fire: the kind of fire a dragon’s egg can produce.

This is where the theory gets shaky. For it to be true, you need to believe that the Faceless Men are working with the Others in an attempt to end all life on earth (not that far-fetched). And Euron Greyjoy’s dragon egg, which was only mentioned in the books a few times in passing, becomes the lynchpin for the entire Wall coming down (more far-fetched). But even if the Faceless Men aren’t trying to nuke the Wall with a dragon egg, there’s too many connections between them and apocalyptic death to simply ignore.

All Men Must Die

What is the purpose of the Faceless Men in the grand scheme of George RR Martin’s books? What is their connection back to the core story elements of Game of Thrones? Why would Martin dedicate one of his most popular characters in Arya to their storyline if they had no large part to play in the coming Song of Ice and Fire? The Faceless Men clearly caused the Doom that came to Valyria, and aren’t shy about telling everyone that “all men must die.” Maybe we should believe they mean what they say.