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Him of Many Faces: a theory

John Thompson

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“Then you have come to the wrong place. It is not for you to say who shall live and who shall die. That gift belongs to Him of Many Faces. We are but his servants, sworn to do his will.” [A Feast for Crows, chapter 22.]

“We never give the gift to please ourselves. Nor do we choose the ones we kill. We are but servants of the God of Many Faces.” [A Dance with Dragons, chapter 64.]

What if “Him of Many Faces” is an actual living being? If so, who might he be?

What eventually became the House of Black and White apparently began in Valyria, “amongst the wretched slaves who toiled in the deep mines.” (Crows, chapter 22.) According to the kindly man, the first of the Faceless Men was one who defied the dragonlords of Valyria. (Id.) Since becoming an institution associated with Braavos, the House of Black and White provides two services to its public: it assists those who choose to end their lives; and it murders people on request, provided that an exorbitant price is paid and Him of Many Faces agrees (“Then it was her wish that I should die […] She should have sought the favor of the Many-Faced God, but she could not bear the sacrifice he would ask of her”). (Crows, chapter 34.) Its Faceless Men have supernatural powers to change their appearance, sometimes using faces removed from bodies as a focus for that power. (Dance, chapter 64.)

Aside from those killed in Harrenhal by Jaqen at Arya’s behest, the Faceless Men have killed at least three people shown to us in the books: Raff the Sweetling in the upcoming book, an insurer of merchant vessels in Dance, and the novice Pate in Crows. The vision relayed to Lord Beric by the woods witch in Storm strongly suggests that Balon Greyjoy was killed by a Faceless Man, possibly for Euron Crow’s-Eye. Based on Arya’s training in languages and her instruction to return to the House of Black and White with three new pieces of information every new moon, it would seem that the Faceless Men are also interested in gathering intelligence. (It seems likely that is the purpose for Pate’s killer taking Pate’s identity and a key that supposedly can open any door in the Citadel.)

In a marvelous coincidence, a Faceless Man was imprisoned in King’s Landing as a common criminal. Despite being his powers to kill and change his appearance, and despite the ability to escape Harrenhal and kill its guards without drawing notice, he remained in jail at King’s Landing and accepted Yoren’s invitation to join the Night’s Watch. He provides her with an iron coin which she eventually uses to gain passage to Braavos on the Titan’s Daughter, just before Rorge and Biter fall on Saltpans. Is Arya just very lucky, or was she Jaqen’s purpose for being in King’s Landing all along?

So, at long last, let me get to my theory: Him of Many Faces is the last greenseer, and the Faceless Men are just some of the tools whereby he interacts with the human world.

He has lived beyond his mortal span, and yet he lingers. For us, for you, for the realms of men. Only a little strength remains in his flesh. He has a thousand eyes and one, but there is much to watch. One day you will know.” (Dance, chapter 34.)

“What feeds a dragon’s fire?” Marwyn seated himself upon a stool. “All Valyrian sorcery was rooted in blood or fire. The sorcerers of the Freehold could see across mountains, seas and deserts with one of these glass candles. They could enter a man’s dreams and give him visions, and speak to one another half a world apart, seated before their candles.” [Crows, chapter 46.]

“Now I am as you see me, and now you will understand why I could not come to you…except in dreams. I have watched you for a long time, watched you with a thousand eyes and one. I saw your birth, and that of your lord father before you. I saw your first step, heard your first word, was part of your first dream. I was watching when you fell. And now you are come to me at last, Brandon Stark, though the hour is late.” [Dance, chapter 13.]

The powers of the Valyrian sorcerers whom the first Faceless Man defied sound a lot like some of the demonstrated powers of the last greenseer (e.g., clairvoyance, communication in dreams). We know from Bran’s vision and Ser Bartimus’ conversation with Davos in Dance that the First Men’s religion involved ritual human sacrifice to the weirwoods that serve as a geographical frame of reference for Bran’s clairvoyance. If Marwyn is correct, then maybe these ritual human sacrifices in some way have made the last greenseer’s powers possible. Among those powers is the ability to perceive through the senses of animals as well as the eyes of faces carved into weirwoods and other surfaces. Coincidentally, the island of weirwood groves in the Gods Eye where the last priests of this religion live south of the Neck is called the Isle of Faces.

Nor will your sight be limited to your godswood. The singers carved eyes into their heart trees to awaken them, and those are the first eyes a new greenseer learns to use…but in time you will see well beyond the trees themselves.” (Dance, chapter 64.)

Their tall chairs were carved of ebony and weirwood, like the doors of the temple above. The ebon chairs had weirwood faces on their backs, and the weirwood chairs faces of carved ebony. [Id., chapter 34.]

The Faceless Men only kill in accordance with the wishes of Him of Many Faces. While their powers do not seem to depend on the blood of victims, they do preserve the faces of the dead so that they can later appear as them. Their killing is specific, and does not allow for bystanders to die even if convenient to the killer. It cannot have any personal meaning for the killer. Once they have killed someone as directed, their faces must apparently change as soon as possible. Once the Faceless Men have completed their apprenticeship, their identities are completely subsumed by their work to the point where even they do not refer to themselves as individuals. They are all no one.

All the better to be the human tools of a being that sees and knows everything from his cave beyond the Wall.

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Maybe I did find the weirwoof faces on the door and chairs to be off in my reread of arya's chapters. They seem out of place if you remember when she first showed up in bravos the door only opened once she spoke valar morghulis and then it opened kinda reminded me of the door Sam used under the night fort I think there is a connection here whether it's blood raven it don't know mAybe those trees are just maleable to magic I'm not sure. Good theory though

Also the whole name many faced god when all the trees have different faces. Makes you think that's part of it or a connection between the two also they do have similarities although they seemed more to be shrouded in death where green seers seem shrouded in life. But then again Melisandre had the vision where BR and bran were skulls...and the Kindly man when arya first met him took on a skull as a face

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I'm not sure if I fully buy into this theory, but I like it. There are also some neat correlations and conflicts we can draw here between the Others (as representatives of death) and the Faceless Men/Him of Many Faces.

Most interestingly, the Faceless Men literally take on the physical identities of those they kill, as do the Others and/or the power behind the Others — reanimating the dead bodies of the slain to fight their enemies.

If the Last Greenseer/Him of Many Faces correlation is true, does this indicate some association between the Last Greenseer and the power of the Others? Or is this a conflict between similar forces?

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What started all of this was this thought: why Jaqen H'ghar was even in jail at King's Landing when a fortified Harrenhal couldn't hold him? No one wronged by the killers, thieves and rapists of Flea Bottom is likely to make a trip to the House of Black and White to beg Him of Many Faces for justice, so it was hard for me to see Jaqen having a task inside the jail to fulfill.

At first, I thought it was just a convenient plot hole. But then I wondered - if Jaqen could easily avoid arrest and capture by the City Watch based on his later exploits, why would he allow it to happen since indefinite detention would prevent his service to the House of Black and White? Maybe protecting Arya was his purpose for being in King's Landing, like one of the two other people from Braavos we meet in Game. But if Jaqen meant to protect Arya, landing in jail and swearing to take the black involved information (e.g., Yoren finding Arya in the crowd and deciding to return her to the north) that Jaqen could not have had before doing either. Only Melisandre, Jojen and the last greenseer have demonstrated precognition in the books, but only the last greenseer has demonstrated telepathy.

And then there's this.

“She had to leave now, she told herself, but when the moment came, she was too frightened to move.

Calm as still water, a small voice whispered in her ear. Arya was so startled she almost dropped her bundle. She looked around wildly, but there was no one in the stable but her, and the horses, and the dead men.
Quiet as a shadow, she heard. Was it her own voice, or Syrio’s? She could not tell, yet somehow it calmed her fears.”

“Bran looked at the crow on his shoulder, and the crow looked back. It had three eyes, and the third eye was full of a terrible knowledge. Bran looked down. There was nothing below him now but snow and cold and death, a frozen wasteland where jagged blue-white spires of ice waited to embrace him. They flew up at him like spears. He saw the bones of a thousand other dreamers impaled upon their points. He was desperately afraid.

“Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?” he heard his own voice saying, small and far away.
And his father’s voice replied to him. “That is the only time a man can be brave.”
Now, Bran, the crow urged. Choose. Fly or die.

Nothing dispositive, but certainly suggestive.
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If the Last Greenseer/Him of Many Faces correlation is true, does this indicate some association between the Last Greenseer and the power of the Others? Or is this a conflict between similar forces?

They both seem positioned to work the levers of natural law, just from different platforms. The last greenseer represents the natural world, and his powers are nature harnessed to serve a human purpose. The Others represent the destruction of the natural world, and their powers pervert nature. Nature must operate to keep the Others in check for the most part, except at long recurring intervals when a winter comes that allows the Others to rise.

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And while I'm on the subject:

“Their wise men were called greenseers, and carved strange faces in the weirwood to keep watch over the woods. […] The old songs say that the greenseers used dark magics to make the seas rise and sweep away the land, shattering the Arm…”

"All gods have their instruments, men and women who serve them and help to work their will on earth. The slaves were not crying out to a hundred different gods, as it seemed, but to one god with a hundred different faces... and he was that god's instrument. That very night he chose the most wretched of the slaves, the one who had prayed most earnestly for release, and freed him from his bondage. The first gift had been given."

Arya drew back from him. "He killed the slave?" That did not sound right. "He should have killed the masters!"

"He would bring the gift to them as well... but that is a tale for another day, one best shared with no one."

Some have already speculated that the Faceless Men were responsible for the Doom based on this exchange. If the legend told to Bran by Maester Luwin is correct, then the greenseers can control seismic events well enough to cause earthquakes, tidal waves and perhaps even volcanic eruptions. Perhaps all the blood sacrifices in the tunnels paid for the power necessary to achieve the Doom.

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I have analyzed a great deal - and more in depth - with a premise somewhat similar to yours.

Martin does draw well-articulated connections to Arya and Bran's journeys. My theory also contends that Him of Many Faces and the "nameless, faceless" gods of the north are part of a whole.

Arya and Bran were both guided by agents of their gods - and I analyzed each "guide", all of them marked in some way - even with the colors red and white.

. He

I will see if I can find some of my research and analysis - some of it dialogue word for word from one text to the next, only different speakers.

Actually, the faced-cowls hanging deep beneath the HoB&W relate to the faces carved in the heart trees of godswoods by the singers. BR has 1000 eyes and 1. Bran will have A thousand eyes, a hundred skins, wisdom deep as the roots of ancient trees. Greenseers.

The Stark blood contains powers that are dormant for 100's, even 1,000's of years - so long ago the histories of Stark wargs and direwolves - and of magic, war, and survival - are lost.

But the trees remember - each Stark will command an "elemental" force - Bran is earth - he will command the powers you mention. He has already mastered the wind, leaves, and the grey mists/fog [i have many posts on this as well - so I won't go into details.] Arya is water, Sansa air, Rickon - winter storm and out of control forces that cause destruction; Jon - Fire and Ice.

The Starks will connect in wolf dreams and unite - aligning with one another to win back the night.

Good job.

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How come Jon gets 2 elements totally not fair and isn't he dead ? ;)

You could argue that jaqen h'gar was really syrio forel but then why would a faceless man work for a stark unless he was trying to murder someone in the kings court. Maybe he still is. Maybe he's hunting grand maesters for a certain Mage. But I do agree about something fishy with a FM being in the black cells.

Hard to say if FM are connected to the old gods. I do think weird woods are a sentient tree. That could explain the faces remembering who comes to the door remembering the conversations at the table. There's a connection to the weird woods for sure.

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You could argue that jaqen h'gar was really syrio forel but then why would a faceless man work for a stark unless he was trying to murder someone in the kings court. Maybe he still is. Maybe he's hunting grand maesters for a certain Mage. But I do agree about something fishy with a FM being in the black cells.

It's possible that H'ghar and Forel are the same person, but there isn't any collateral in the text to suggest that it might be the case. On the other hand, it's clear from H'ghar/Pate's example that the Faceless Men have purposes beyond simple murder.

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  • 5 months later...

Jaqen claims to be a Lorathi, he should speak like one.

The first FM was a greenseer who skinchanged into fire wyrms to cause the Doom of Valyria

ETA: The World book says that people from Lorath uses 'a man' instead of 'I', not because they don't know the word for it, but it is their way of speaking. Thier erstwhile main religion, which worships the blind god Boash, encourages of abnegation of self.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 year later...

First time comment/post here.  Forgive me if my tinfoil hat does not fit very well yet.

I came to this thread after listening to Arya's first experience in the house of black and white during my 3rd time through the audio books.  I was struck by the description of the statues of the "Gods" in the hall.  Some of them reminded me of characters we know.


"The nearest was a marble woman, 12 feet tall.  Real tears were trickling from her eyes to fill the bowl she cradled in her arms." [Feast For Crows, CH7 all quotes below]    Cersei perhaps?

"... a man with a loin's head seated on a throne carved of ebony"  - Some Lannister King on the Iron Throne

"..a huge horse of bronze and iron reared up on two great legs - Someone or Something we don't know about yet related to Danny and the Dothraki 

"...a great stone face" - Maybe the leader of the Stone Men or the Shrouded Lord  

"a pale infant with a sword" - Gilly's boy called "Monster"

"a shaggy black goat" - Vargo Hoat?

"a hooded man leaning on a staff" - Barriston Selmey?


I don't know if there are descriptions of any other statues in other books.  Or should I say I wanted to get this posted while it was fresh in my mind and didn't take the time to look.   

So we know that Blood Raven can see into the past and the future.  If he is using the faceless men somehow, then that could have started at any point in time.  Blood Raven may well be the only living (I use that word loosely when talking of BR) person to know what really happened during the Age of Heroes and the Long Night, and even the time in which our story is now playing out.  As he would have witnessed much of what happened through wierwood.net.  Bran will eventually know as well, but he does not yet.  

Could he not have influenced the creation of the Faceless Men the same way.  Suppose he gives the first faceless man, either before or after the slave revolt, visions of a future calamity and the signs of it's coming.  That person immortalizes the memory of those visions by building statues of them in his great hall.  He then covers up their real function by claiming they are "Gods" or representations of the many faced god.  Who is......many faces......many eyes........and one.....who sees through the many wierwood faces.  Blood Raven.  He is literally the many faced god and he has instructed his agents the faceless men in how to either stop or bring about the ultimate end game that he is working towards or knows about.  Whatever that might be.  

Another possibility is that Bran setup the Faceless Men as a way to counteract Blood Ravens plans after he has taken over BR's tasks and powers.  Having them on Bravos would make sense as there are no trees there, so they could be kept out of BR's view until it is too late.  Of course this assumes that BR and Bran do not end up on the same team.    

Ultimately when it is discovered that the "children" of the King of Westross are actually full blooded Lannisters who will eventually gain the throne, a faceless man is dispatched to Kings Landing with orders to make himself available to become the "Dancing Instructor" of a certain high born lady who will be coming.  Protect her from the Lannisters when they take her father.  Take the face of a criminal and befriend her for the next stage of the mission. Guide her on her journey, and make sure that when the opportunity presents itself, she has the means by which to find her way to the House of Black and White for her final training.  

I may be way out there on this one, or maybe I've missed something.  But there is is, my first contribution.  

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Though never a fan of the Syrio is Jaqen idea, it is tidy.   However, it doesn't make any sense to me that Syrio and/or Jaqen are simply in King's Landing for Arya.   There are a million less complicated ways to look out for a young girl and this convoluted plot within a plot to get Arya to Braavos is just so far fetched.  However, if the MFG operates in conjunction with The Old Gods or even the COTF I guess the FM could take this route.   Truth is there are so many religions in this story it makes my eyes bleed.   This is as good a theory as any.  

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