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Syrio neither dead nor Jaqen


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#1 SomethingFunny

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 11:55 AM

I want to use my first post on this board to talk abaout Syrio (again), please don't rip me apart for that. I considered posting this as a reply to the "Syrio Forel" thread, but that one seemed near-dead to me so I'll open a new one.

In said thread there where 3 positions concerning Syrio Forel:
1. He is dead.
2. He is Jaqen, a faceless man.
3. He escaped.

I just finished a ASOIAF re-read and made some observations about the whole Syrio matter. Please tell me what you make of those. I basically argue in favor of the third position, which seemed to lose out in the discussion. I argue 1) that Trant lied to Cersei about what actually happened when he tried to take Arya, and that this means that Syrio is might still be alive and 2) that Syrio is not Jaqen/Alchemist/Pig Boy.

1) Why Trant lied to Cersei
What got me thinking was this comment of Cersei in ACOK:

"I sent Meryn Trant to take her in hand when Robert died, but her wretched dancing master interfered and the girl fled. No one has seen her since. Likely she’s dead. A great many people died that day."

Now, first - why does she still think that Syrio was her dancing master? Okay, he's a water dancer and so on, but the "dancing" part was clearly put out by Ned as a way to hide that Arya was actually learning to fight. Sansa at least believes Arya to be dancing in her chapers in AGOT. So why is there either no irony or a realization that Syrio was not, in fact, a dancing master? The training swords and his effortless mauling of 5 Lannister guardsmen would be definite clues, I think. Plus, he actually told Meryn Trant (and the guards) that he had beed the first sword of Braavos.

To my mind, this implies that Cersei does not really know what went on in that room. This would mean that Trant did not tell her the truth. Now, if he and the guards had eventually killed the dacing master, who had turned out to be the First Sword of Braavos, it would not have been a shame to tell the tale. But if Syrio had escaped, imagine Cersei's reaction to a story like: "Well, the dancing master turned out to be a superfighter from across the narrow sea who mauled us bloody with a wooden stick and then got away. Btw, the girl is gone, too." Yeah, right. Would Cersei have believed that? We have seen how she accuses Pycelle of poisoning Lord Gyles, master of coin, who has been coughing blood for years. When something doesn't go her way, she assumes others to be incompetent.

Better to tell her the tale that Syrio was actually a dancing master and "interfered", maybe threw himself at them and was killed, thus enabling Arya to escape in the confusion of the fighting with the Northerners. It would still be far from glamorous, but better than the truth (supposing Syrio escaped).

I wouldn't put such a lie past Trant, who is described as "sly and cruel" by Jaime and who seems to enjoy making others look bad and abusing his power. This shows in the way he treats Jaime at the sept before he recognizes him (just before the Jaime-Cersei reunion) and also in the standoff he has with Tyrion, when the latter comes to King's Landing to take up his duty as Hand.

Furthermore, Cersei seems to "trust" Trant well enough. There are several scenes where she is with Trant, or Trant is with Tommen and neither does she think about this episode or riddicule Trant - and we all know what a shitmouth Cersei is. And maybe more importantly, Jaime doesn't mention the Syrio incident when he has that first talk with all of the Kingsguard. It seems like just the thing everyone would rub into Trant's face - if he had actually told anyone about the incident.

Now would it have been possible to hide 5 wounded and 1 dead guardsmen plus assert that the dancing master had died? Sure! As Cersei herself mentions: "A great many people died that day". A few more dead and wounded could easily be explained away in the chaos and the guardsmen themselves probably wouldn't want the story to come out either.

2) Why Syrio isn't Jaqen
Phew this is getting a long post, but now to the problems I have with the Syrio=Jaqen/Alchemist/Pig Boy theory.

This would mean that Syrio had beed captured, for Jaqen was in the black cells. Apart form the whole host of problems mentioned before (the first sword of Braavos beaten by Meryn Trant - why don't we hear anything about that?), the main problem I see here is this: The whole bloody city is looking for Arya, so why did't anyone even consider interrogating the man who had last been seen with her? Surely, someone would have had that idea?

And then, how and when did Syrio change to Jaqen? In AFFC we meet the chief undergaoler Longwater, who keeps exact account of the prisoners pesently in the dungeons: "“I am the chief undergaoler, my lord. ... I am charged with keeping the counts. If my lord would like to look over
my books, he will see that all the figures are exact.” He also sends report to the Master of Coin (Littlefinger at the time), Varys, the head goaler and the King's Justice. So when and how, being one of the only 3 inhabitants of the black cells at that time, did Syrio change to Jaqen unnoticed?

3) End
There is of course still the possiblity that Syrio just died in the fight against Meryn Trant, I won't deny that. I think it strange, however, that we don't hear anything about it later on. Ned Stark mentions Syrio's formidable reputation. Surely beating him would be choice gossip and something for Trant to brag with. Furthermore, my argument doesn't answer the question of how Syrio escaped - assuming he wasn't killed. I suppose he could have knocked Trant unconscious or thrown him on him back, thus defeating him without killing him. Or he did actually just run. It is true, he said that the first sowrd of Braavos does not run - but he is not the first sword of Braavos anymore.

Thanks for reading.

#2 Errant Bard

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 12:08 PM

So when and how, being one of the only 3 inhabitants of the black cells at that time, did Syrio change to Jaqen unnoticed?

That's your problem here, most Jaqen=Syrio proponents argue that Jaqen was planted in the Black Cells by Varys, who happens to also be Rugen, the undergaoler, and does things such as leaving old Highgarden coins in Tyrion's cell or come and go through secret passages and make people like Tyrion and jaime come with him too.

Longwaters trusts Rugen and doesn't go down near the cells himself.


There is of course still the possiblity that Syrio just died in the fight against Meryn Trant, I won't deny that. I think it strange, however, that we don't hear anything about it later on. Ned Stark mentions Syrio's formidable reputation.

No, Ned says that Syrio had come to him with "excellent references", that's a far cry from "formidable reputation", and anyway as far as "formidable reputations" go, Ned himself, average swordsman killed three legends with only 6 people. Even uber badass heroes die, Syrio (or Jaqen for that matters) is no exception. Even the best swordsman even won't win a fight when pitting a rock against a dagger, even less with his fists against sword and armour, as Brienne was kind to remind us in AFFC.


Syrio is dead, anyway.

Edited by Errant Bard, 03 November 2008 - 12:31 PM.


#3 Winter Crow

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 12:09 PM

Great work! This really convinced me that he isn't dead! Yay! I really liked Syrio. He was more badass than most people put together, and he (at least to me) seemed to support the Starks (well, Arya at least).

Nice work on this SomethingFunny!

#4 Wik

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 12:17 PM

I really like this topic, I think it's definetly open for debate. Sadly I would go with the "He is dead" vote, although your agrument seems well thought out and supported. I would LOVE to see him alive, but I guess I am a negative person and just anticipate that anything cool I want to happen automatically disqualifies it from actually happening lol.

#5 The Onion Knight

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 12:27 PM

Now, first - why does she still think that Syrio was her dancing master? Okay, he's a water dancer and so on, but the "dancing" part was clearly put out by Ned as a way to hide that Arya was actually learning to fight. Sansa at least believes Arya to be dancing in her chapers in AGOT. So why is there either no irony or a realization that Syrio was not, in fact, a dancing master? The training swords and his effortless mauling of 5 Lannister guardsmen would be definite clues, I think. Plus, he actually told Meryn Trant (and the guards) that he had beed the first sword of Braavos.

The term "dancing" is used to describe sword fighting at least 50 times throughout the series. And the bravaavosi fighters call themselves water dancers. Im pretty sure that everyone, including cersei and sansa, knew that she was taking fighting lessons, and not ballroom dance class....however, i do think it is plausible that trant would have lied about killing syrio. He would likely not want to face the wrath of cersei even more so after losing arya.

As for syrio in the black cells...this is highly unlikely, and i cant figure out how he would have been "captured" cuz trant was def gonna kill him if he could. The only evidence i really see for this case is the "fear" shown by rorge and biter of jaquen. Why would they be afraid of him?? Biter eats people, he doesnt exactly seem the type to shy away from anyone. Well perhaps if syrio did a face glamour down in the black cells to turn into jaquen, that could explain why they were nervous around him. It also could explain his interest in arya...

that being said, i think syrio is either dead, or somewhere where we havnt seen him for 3 books, but probably dead.

#6 BloodoftheDragon

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 01:07 PM

Very well thought out!

I definitely support the theory that he is alive - a past First Sword of Braavos, perhaps one of the finest swordsmen in the world, would likely be able to survive even Meryn Trant's attack. The First Sword does not run, he can strategically relocate himself to return later.

#7 SomethingFunny

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 01:27 PM

@ errant bard

That's your problem here, most Jaqen=Syrio proponents argue that Jaqen was planted in the Black Cells by Varys, who happens to also be Rugen, the undergaoler, and does things such as leaving old Highgarden coins in Tyrion's cell or come and go through secret passages and make people like Tyrion and jaime come with him too.

Longwaters trusts Rugen and doesn't go down near the cells himself.


Longwater says this about Rugen in AGOT:
"Unkempt, unshaven, coarse of speech. I misliked the man, 'tis true, I do confess it. Rugen was here when I first came, twelve years past. He held his appointment from King Aerys. The man was seldom here, it must be said. I made note of it in my reports, my lord."

He dind't like him and thought he neglected his duties. He even made note of that in his reports. I would'nt say that he trusted Rugen.

I found a much more interesting passage a bit further down, still Longwarters:
"There were three others, common men, but Lord Stark gave them to the Night's Watch. I did not think it good to free those three, but the papers were in proper order. I made note of that in a report as well, you may be certain of it."

Now, if Ned Stark has given that order, than Syrio can't be Jaqen. Jaqen is one of those 3 common men who Ned gave to the NW. This means that these 3 men where in the cells and given to the NW before the Syrio incident happened. Plus, the papers being in proper order, a face AND namechange would very likely have been noticed.

That being said, we can still assume some trickery by Varys, who -as Rugen- would have had the possibility to exchange Faceless Man-Syrio for the real Jaqen.

No, Ned says that Syrio had come to him with "excellent references", that's a far cry from "formidable reputation", and anyway as far as "formidable reputations" go, Ned himself, average swordsman killed three legends with only 6 people. Even uber badass heroes die, Syrio (or Jaqen for that matters) is no exception. Even the best swordsman even won't win a fight when pitting a rock against a dagger, even less with his fists against sword and armour, as Brienne was kind to remind us in AFFC.


Well, this is the passage from AGOT:
The man Syrio Forel had come with an excellent reputation, and his flamboyant Braavosi style was well suited to Arya's slender blade, ...

There is talk of Syrios reputation - not a "formidable" one, I grant you, but an "excellent" one nonetheless. And as far as reputation goes, everyone can be killed. I agree. But let's take the example of Ned. He did kill those 3 legends. But, and this is my point, people talk about it and the story is known. Yet strangely nobody throughout the entire series seems to find it noteworthy that the former first sword of Braavos has been killed by Trant after one hell of a fight with a wooden stick.

@ The Onion Knight

The term "dancing" is used to describe sword fighting at least 50 times throughout the series. And the bravaavosi fighters call themselves water dancers. Im pretty sure that everyone, including cersei and sansa, knew that she was taking fighting lessons, and not ballroom dance class....


Can't answer for Cersei as we only have that comment of her on the matter. But Sansa certainly doesn't see through the ruse. Here are a few excerpts from Sansa's chapter in AGOT:

"You should have come. How was your dancing?"
"I'm sore all over", Arya reported happily, proudly displaying a huge
purple bruise on her leg.
"You must be a terrible dancer," Sansa said doubtfully.


Septa Mordane had complained of sore feet after standing in the gallery all day. Arya was supposed to join them, but she was late coming back from her dancing lesson.

And one more from ACOK:

Once in a while, Sansa even missed her sister. By now Arya was safe back in Winterfell, dancing and sewing, playing with Bran and baby Rickon ...

No mention of Sansa being aware. Consider this: Girls are not supposed to fight like Knights in this world. See how Brienne is looked at for wearing men's armor. Arya complains time and again about having to do actual needlework, which she is as terrible at as at being a "lady" in general. Especially at court, where rumours should be kept to a minimum, I can see why Ned would want to disguise Arya's fighting lessons as dancing lessons.

Edited by SomethingFunny, 03 November 2008 - 01:36 PM.


#8 Errant Bard

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 01:55 PM

There is talk of Syrios reputation - not a "formidable" one, I grant you, but an "excellent" one nonetheless. And as far as reputation goes, everyone can be killed. I agree. But let's take the example of Ned. He did kill those 3 legends. But, and this is my point, people talk about it and the story is known. Yet strangely nobody throughout the entire series seems to find it noteworthy that the former first sword of Braavos has been killed by Trant after one hell of a fight with a wooden stick.

First sword of braavos means nothing in Westeros, Syrio isn't known, just like Clarence Crabb is a legend among cracklaw point people but unknown to Brienne, for them he is "the dancing master" and they just sent one knight with 5 thugs to get Arya.

Besides who would actually tell people how the guy died, or that he was actually dead? Trant didn't even know his name at first, doesn't care about it anyway, and isn't the one who would tell stories.

#9 Fireball07

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 02:13 PM

I don't think Syrio is dead. I think your arguments for that are valid, and I can't see hom being just killed off like that. I think he will definitely be seen again, possibly as Jaqwen, but I still have doubts about that. But it is a possiblity.

#10 phoenix_rising

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 02:31 PM

Is my memory faulty about someone else on this board saying GRRM has syrio as dead..???? from a reading or interview or somthing???>>>??? :dunno:

#11 Jedson

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 02:46 PM

I think all story component aside the best way to know if a character is dead is that in the books GRRM usually makes it abundantly clear. When he kills someone off, he kills them off, there is usually no doubt. If there is doubt then they may be around. Characters like, Brienne, Sir Davos, Sandor Clegane, Gregor Clegane...he leaves lotsa speculation as far as I am concerned. Which allows for more mystery and makes it a better read.

Basically if you do not "see" a character die chances are they aren't dead. We left Syrio readily handling five Lannister men. Even if the fight went south he was nimble enough to just dance away, which is exactly what I believe he did after Arya was safely out of the room.

Just what I think.

#12 Winter Crow

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 03:38 PM

I think Jedson has a point- The people in ASoIF don't die unless you see it yourself. Ned Stark for eksample: We didn't see it from his POV, but there were two other POV's as witnesess (Arya and Sansa).

And as far as the whole Water Dancer thing goes: Clearly the royalty of Westeros must have heard of the first sword of Braavos, a legendary fighter that managed to take down 5 bloody men with nothing than a stick! I don't think you can compare him to Clearance Crabb or the guy Briene mensions, since they are obviously nothing but legends. But we do know for a fact that Syrio isn't a legend, after all, so it seems more than reasonable that he should be known in Westeros...

And Syrios isn't Jaquen. I'm sure of it. It just doesn't make any sense. And who says he's a faceless man at all?

#13 YoungPretender

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 05:21 PM

What if he's a faceless man impersonating Syrio? Think about it, why would such a prestigious swordsman demote himself to the level of a Braavosi Mr Miyagi?

*wiggles eyebrows out of shear cleverness*

#14 No. Now it ends.

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 06:07 PM

I agree with all the people that say he's dead. Doesn't Arya think something that Syrio told her during her lessons? Something about looking at the reality of a situation. I always took it to mean that he had actually died. Also, I liked Syrio as much as anyone and he did look like a bamf fighting Trant and the guards, but what is the real allure having him alive? I haven't read many of these threads, but I don't know what important role you all see him playing if he's not dead (syrio=jaqen notwithstanding). I guess maybe meeting up with Arya in Braavos and helping her remember who she is? He died 3 books ago, I don't think that he is going to come back now and save the day.

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 07:07 PM

When Arya is reluctant to abandon him, and he yells at her to go, she thinks of his lesson: see with your eyes, and then notes how all the odds are stacked against him hopelessly. He's completely unarmoured with a broken stick, facing a knight of the KG armoured head to toe and wielding a sharpened broadsword. He's dead meat; it's only matter of time, which is his final gift to her...a few precious seconds to get away.

That's not a meaningless death, 'being just killed off like that'. It's an heroic and noble self-sacrifice.

#16 noble splash

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 07:57 PM

I like to believe Syrio is dead.

I think storywise, the character outlived his usefulness. I hate it when an author clings to an unnecessary character out of sentimental attachment. Syrio was a great character and layed the foundation for Arya's success as a fighter. She still recants his proverbs. The perfect ending to a great character. Master sacrifices himself to save the pupil and perpetuate his teachings. The best fighter in poor circumstances loses out. Too proud to run, not equipped to win, but Arya doesn't see him die, so he stays elevated. Based on Martin's style, I believe this, and like it, as much as I hate it.

It seems in order for Syrio to be alive, we need to stretch and reach for some intricate, complex set of circumstances in perfect allignment and timing. I don't buy it. That would be more the style of high fantasy where good guys don't die, or some mainstream RPG where the departed reappears to save the day. I think fans are suffering from what many people who lose loved ones suffer from; denial.

Now, to contradict myself. IF Syrio is alive the most believable set of circumstances for me, based on characterization and Martin's style is this. Syrio was unarmed, yes. The six men he stomped were armed. If I was Syrio and was facing Trant unarmed, I'd pick up a sword from the guys I just bashed. The problem then is, Trant lived. Based on my knowledge of Trant and Syrio-Syrio wouldn't run. If Trant, however saw a man beat his six-man entourage with a stick, then pick up a sword to face him alone, I think Trant might measure the man with his eyes then back out the door and leave. He was after Arya and Arya was gone. Catching one little girl wasn't worth dieing and the mess could, and was explained away by the chaos. This would explain why Trant never talks much about the incident. And there you go.

#17 redevil

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 08:41 PM

i think Syrio is dead, i loved him, but i do not think he is Jaqen nor that he will escape.

I think storywise, the character outlived his usefulness. I hate it when an author clings to an unnecessary character out of sentimental attachment. Syrio was a great character and layed the foundation for Arya's success as a fighter. She still recants his proverbs. The perfect ending to a great character. Master sacrifices himself to save the pupil and perpetuate his teachings.


i think Syrio's goal as a character was to be an obi wan

#18 Child of the Forest

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 09:35 PM

I've never understood why anyone feels the need to force these two characters to be the same person, apparently simply because they are both Braavosi and good killers. Why would a trained Faceless assassin take a couple decades, say, to add flashy swordplay to his resume, if such a thing is indeed possible. I reject Syrio=Jaqen as plain silly. I assume

For the other two theories, it seems to me Martin is equally likely to have Syrio die to save his protege as have him reappear in a twist later. And leaving it a mystery whether a supporting character in trouble died or escaped is not unheard of in epic fantasy .. e.g. Tolkien leaves all kinds of loose ends throughout, especially in the Silmarillion. Nothing about Trant's or Cersei's statements are clear one way or another.

I'm happy letting it be a mystery, until/unless Martin decides to settle the issue.

-Child of the Forest

#19 SomethingFunny

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Posted 04 November 2008 - 10:17 AM

@ noble splash

IF Syrio is alive the most believable set of circumstances for me, based on characterization and Martin's style is this. Syrio was unarmed, yes. The six men he stomped were armed. If I was Syrio and was facing Trant unarmed, I'd pick up a sword from the guys I just bashed. The problem then is, Trant lived. Based on my knowledge of Trant and Syrio-Syrio wouldn't run. If Trant, however saw a man beat his six-man entourage with a stick, then pick up a sword to face him alone, I think Trant might measure the man with his eyes then back out the door and leave. He was after Arya and Arya was gone. Catching one little girl wasn't worth dieing and the mess could, and was explained away by the chaos. This would explain why Trant never talks much about the incident.


Great explanation! I could really see that happening :) Now, if Syrio indeed died, I agree that it was a great scence and a worthy death, especially as he is living on in Arya. I would be sad, but I love ASOIAF so much precisely because no character is safe. I don't want him to live because of denial. I just don't think he has outlived his usefulness as a character yet and if he died, as I argued above, some things don't quite seem to fit.

But as to Syrio reappearing. Yes, Arya thinks him dead. But - seeing with her eyes - she only sees an unarmoured Syrio with a broken stick and a fully equipped Maryn Trant. She doesn't see him dead, neither do we.

Furthermore, I don't buy the "dead since 3 books" argument. Martin originally intented to write ONLY 3 books of ASOIAF, so Arya would originally have appeared in Braavos either in book 2 or 3. Thus if Syrio was meant to return, there would have been a maximum gap of 1 book, not one of 3 or posibly 4 books.

If Martin had envisaged Syrio to return it most likely would have been in Braavos. What business would Syrio have had in Westeros? After the incident with the Lannister guards, the logical thing to do would have been to flee across the narrow see, likely home to Braavos.

Let's assume that Arya does eventually find back to her Stark identity. Hiding needle suggests so, as well as the fact that her direwolf is not yet dead. (Sansa's wolf is dead and she is hardly a Stark anymore, beginning to think of herself as Alayne Stone). With the FM manipulation Arya is putting herself through she might need someone who actually knows her to remind her of her real identity. Possible candidates are rare in Braavos.

Besides, the "blood child" prophecy by the old woman would, to my reading, make the most sense if she goes on a bloody rampage, "purging" Lannisters and everyone who wronged her left and right (think of her little prayer). This would NOT be faceless woman style. The FM don't go around killing at will. This sort of rampage, then, would require her to act as Arya Stark, not as "no-one".

In addition consider this (this has already been pointed out by someone else, but I forgot by whom): Martin has repeatedly stated that he only does the worldbuilding that is neccessary for the story. The annex to AFFC contains both the Sealord of Braavos and his first sword, neither of which Arya has met as yet. But the fact that they already exist as "characters" indicates she might meet up with them later.

This doesn't mean that Syrio is going to be there too, of course, but it would give ample opportunity to reintroduce him, if that is what Martin intends. At the least we can expect some more dialogue about him in the next books, I think.

Edited by SomethingFunny, 04 November 2008 - 10:19 AM.


#20 DocBean

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Posted 04 November 2008 - 10:18 AM

Martin is equally likely to have Syrio die to save his protege as have him reappear in a twist later. And leaving it a mystery whether a supporting character in trouble died or escaped is not unheard of in epic fantasy .. e.g. Tolkien leaves all kinds of loose ends throughout, especially in the Silmarillion. Nothing about Trant's or Cersei's statements are clear one way or another.

I'm happy letting it be a mystery, until/unless Martin decides to settle the issue.

-Child of the Forest


I agree.

I hope Syrio is dead, I just loved that scene with Arya running out crying and seeing with her eyes.
I thought it was one of the best scenes in the first book.