Jump to content

Faceless men: Alternative origin theory

Recommended Posts

First: I am sorry if this was already ones discussed in this forum.                                                                                                                                                                                                      But on my reread through TWOIAF I came up with an alternative theory about the origin of the faceless men I would like to hear yout thoughts about:

While reading AFFC I got the sense that GRRM based the religion of the many faced god largely on buddhism. When I then read in TWOIAF about the religion of boash the blind god of Lorath, I noticed that it has also some similatiries with buddhism. That could of course be just a coincidence, but it brought me too a theory based on the similarities between this religions:

1) Boashs followers thought all live is sacred, immortal and equal. (Buddhism)

2) The essential part in the religion of boash was the denial of the self. Only by giving up all worldly desires and properties they could become one with the god. (Main characteristics of buddhism and the many faced god religion)

3) They were the founding fathers of Lorath. They left valyria as religios emigrants, 1300 years before the doom of valyria, which means long before the foundation of braavos. Which means a similar religion to the many faced god was already established in valyria before the first faceless men. So I tend to think that the first faceless man didn't invented a complitely new religion, but was a religios aberrant from the religion of boash the blind god. (aberrant because now everything was equal because of death and not because of sacred live)

4) Boashs priests covered there eyes because they thought that only in the darkness their third eye would open and see the "higher truth behind the world". Again buddhism, but also a similarity with aryas training by the faceless men. She got blinded and in this darkness her third eye (warging ability) opened. GRRM doesn't really explain what it was that brought the kindly man to give arya her eyes back. But I think that the test arya had to pass for that was to discover her third eye. Just like the priests of boash.

5) GRRM made a point in TWOIAF to show that the custom of the faceless men to speak of themself as a man / a girl was originated in lorath by the priests of boash, because it is the custom the lorathi are best known for until today. And this custom seems to be originated in lorath, long after boashs followers left valyria. That the faceless men share this custom means that the religion of the many faced god was in contact / got influenced by the religion of boash after they seperated from them in valyria. (Which makes also sense geographically because braavos and lorath are neighbour citys. And the priests of boash teached that all humans are equal, so the city became a hiding point for running slaves. So the political code of the priests of boash matches with the politic of braavos)

6) According to TWOIAF the religion of boash the blind god died out when the worship slacked and the remaining priests got more mundane and corrupt. The Lorathi rebelled against the religios elite and killed almost all the priest, just a handful managed to escape.

Jaqen H'ghar was introduced as Jaqen H'ghar from the free city of Lorath in ACOK. Of course he could be just a Lorathi that came to braavos and there became a faceless man. But it seems like a strange coincidence that the most prominent faceless man GRRM created just happens to be from Lorath. Since Jaqen is most likely just a face and we can't know how old this face is, I came up with the theory that Jaqen was one of the few priests that escaped, fled to braavos and became a faceless man.

My theory goes with two ways how this could have happened:

A) The surviving priests fled to braavos and converted to the existing religion similar to their own in order to survive. (Since the remaining priests of boash were descibed as more grounded and corrupt they probably would had no problem with that). So the similarities between the religion of the many faced god and the religion of boash (way of speaking, ritual of blinding to discover the third eye) resulted out of this fusion of the two religions.

B) (more tinfoil here) The kindly man didn't told arya the whole truth about the faceless men origin.                                                                                                                                          We know that for a religios organisation the faceless men are quite corrupt (they kill for gold). But the story the kindly man told arya about their origin seems quite flawless.                              Since the origin story he told has quite a few characteristics of a legend (like most origin storys religios people tell) we can assume that it happened a bit different.                                          So my theory goes that the cult of the many faced god was FOUNDED by the escaped priests of boash. We know that the last priests of boash were corrupt, which matches with the faceless men behaviour of killing for gold (something that would be fundamental against the believes of the first priests of boash).                                                                                                             The story the kindly man told arya about the origin of their religion would be just an alteration of an old story from an older religion (boash) that is now interpreted as the faceless men origin story (something that often happened in real world religions).

Either way my theory goes that the corrupt behaviour of the faceless men results out of the corrupt behaviour of the last priests of boash and that jaqen was one of the escaped priests.        I am just not sure if they founded a new religion/cult based on their new corrupt moral code or if they corrupted an already existing religion that ones (in valyria) separated from them.             

I am not exactly sure if my theory matches with the timeline of TWOIAF. But I am quite sure that the story the kindly man told can't be the "real" historic origin of the faceless men.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know that I'd call the assassination for payment corrupt. If you believe the way some people talk, it would sound more like the faceless men are doing it all to fund some grand plan.

Otherwise very interesting, especially the "a man" connection.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
20 hours ago, Shireen Purratheon said:

I don't know that I'd call the assassination for payment corrupt. If you believe the way some people talk, it would sound more like the faceless men are doing it all to fund some grand plan.

Otherwise very interesting, especially the "a man" connection.


I also think that the faceless men have a larger (political or magical) plan behind part of their assassinations, because their is a fair amount of evidence for this through out the story (jaqen in oldtown). But there is also some evidence for faceless men assassinations just for the payment. (Robert wants to hire one in AGOT to kill daenerys, Littlefinger argues about the enormous price the faceless man would demand for a princess assassination)

How corrupt the assassination for payment is is of course arguable, because it depends on the original moral code of the faceless men. If the payment for death was always a part of their religion it wouldn't be corrupt. But this seems strange to me because:

1) The kindly man said that they just deliver the death, but don't judge themself who has to die and who can live (because they are no one).  But if they follow a plan on their own and kill for this plan (which they do; Jaqen in oldtown), that already contradicts with the "moral code" the kindly man told arya.

2) A system of payment based on the targets social status, seems generally a bit strange even for a death cult, when they preach that everyone is equal before their god (death).

3) It contradicts how GRRM in general writes his religious organisations: they always have flaws and to a certain degree also corruption. The religion of the seven has a history with corrupt septons. The old gods were the "sympathetic" religion when the story started, but through the books we learned more about the darker side of this religion (human sacrifices). GRRM always shows us the "darker"/corrupt/mundane truth behind his religions. In the case of the faceless man this can't be the simple fact that they kill, because that is an established part of their religion. So I think that it will be the fact that they kill for more "corrupt" reasons (gold / larger plan) which contradict with the religious believes the kindly man told arya. 

So I tend to think that the cult we met in AFFC is more corrupt than a really strict follower of their religion would be. Most likely as the result of a slow process over the decades when the priests of the faceless men started to use the abilities their religion gave them for more mundane goals (gold / larger plan).

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm going to say that FM's religion has nothing to so with Buddhism because Buddhism is A. an extremely pacifist religion and B. is nontheistic. Buddhism is built around the concept of "do no harm" and absolutely no killing. That includes not killing in self defense. In Buddhism, there are no gods. Buddha is not a god and followers of the religion venerate him, but do not worship him (in real life, lay people who call themselves Buddhists may, but this is a different cultural issue and is not a theological one). Buddha did say that gods ("deva") exist, but they are not really superior to humans or cannot affect human lives in the way theistic religions believe. 

Buddhism is also the path of moderation, not really the denial of self. So i don't see a connection there.

FM is not a religious cult, it's sort of a death cult. But it has a certain mysteriousness to it. This is not a regular group of assassins for sure. They have a higher goal than the assassinations they seem to carry out. 

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now