Everything We Know About The House of Black and White
There are many SPOILERS in A Girl’s list that answers the question “What is the organization Arya is in?” Don’t pay the steep price of being annoyed and come back when you’re caught up on the books and TV series.
The Faceless Men from the House of Black and White are one of the most mysterious shadow groups in A Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire. An assassin’s guild that will kill anyone you ask them to - you just need to pony up the majority of your fortune (if you’re wealthy) or give up your life, child, or something else precious to you (if you’re poor).
What is the House of Black and White? Well, strangely enough, it appeared along with Braavos and the Iron Bank at the Secret City’s unveiling 111 years after its founding by former Valyrian Freehold slaves. The windowless temple sits on a deserted rocky lagoon in Braavos. You have to take a small boat to get there. And you might not be let in when you arrive, even if you have the special iron coin of the Faceless Men and know the guild motto, “Valar morghulis,” or “All men must die.” Cheery greeting, guys.
Who’s the guy who blinded Arya that one time because she killed the wrong man? A Man cannot tell you who is Jaqen H’Ghar because he is No One. "Jaqen H’Ghar is dead.” And probably a hoot at a party. A Man probably forgot to bring the ice and cold cuts again. Since we first laid eyes on Jaqen (or did we earlier?), it seems like he’s gone out of his way to put himself in Arya’s path.
Did Syrio Forel, the First Sword of Braavos, tell the Faceless Men about his protégé? Or was Syrio Forel also a faceless man AND Jaqen H’Ghar? Maisie Williams asked the showrunners and was told no. Like we’re going to believe them after that whole "Jon Snow is definitely” dead thing. And now that Arya has blown her second chance at becoming a Faceless Man on purpose, just how crazy is that fight to the death going to be with the Waif? Oh, it's going to be on.
Let’s drink from the poison fountain and take a closer look the origin of the Faceless Men, their Many-Faced God, their connection to the Iron Bank, if any, the House of Black and White, and their endgame.
What's Arya's Next Move?Photo: HBO
So looks like Arya has said "Bye, Felicia" to the Faceless Men. If Arya survives her fight to the death with the Waif (she will, she has to, right?), Arya might apprentice with the mummers. It's a good way to travel around and get access to one's enemies.Or was Arya's going rogue Jaqen's plan all along?
Origin of the Many-Faced GodPhoto: HBO
The worship of the Many-Faced God originated from the Valyrian Freehold. The god made itself known when Valyria adopted slavery from their conquered enemy, Ghis.
Ghis tried to stop the expansion of Valyria and a series of wars broke out. Valyria prevailed because it had dragons. After razing most of Ghis, Valyria took on the Ghis practice of slavery. Valyria expanded its territory and had influence over the remaining Ghiscari colonies of Slaver’s Bay.
Valyria captured thousands of slaves from various lands from many different cultures and religious beliefs. The slaves built roads and worked in the mines of the Fourteen Flames. The suffering of the slaves was great and they called out to their various gods for mercy, death, or the death of their slave masters.
In the books, the Kindly Man tells Arya the story of how the Many-Faced God came to be. It is said that the first Faceless Man (could also be a he or she or both) heard these prayers to all of these gods with “a hundred different faces” and deduced that they were praying to one god with many names, or the Many-Faced God.
He determined that he would be “god’s instrument” and answer these prayers. The Faceless Man gave “the first gift” (death) to the most “wretched” of slaves, “the one who had prayed most earnestly for release.” Then he gave this “gift” to the slave masters. But we’ll get to that one later...He then began training others to be Faceless Men. Which may or may not have involved blindness or getting beaten repeatedly in stick fighting.
Valar MorghulisPhoto: HBOThe motto of the Faceless Men is in High Valyrian and means, “All men must die.” The formal response should be “Valar dohaeris,” or “All men must serve," with two fingers held to the brow.
Origin of Braavos and the Iron BankPhoto: HBOThe slaves of Valyria revolted in 500 BC. They overtook the Valyrian ships they were sailing on and made their way to a remote, foggy lagoon. The land mass was hidden from dragon riders as well as passing ships. They called their Secret City Braavos. It was an open minded, slave-free city. To maintain their secrecy, they painted their ships with sea snail dye to hide their Valyrian identity. They also carried false charts.
The city was hidden from the rest of the world for 111 years until after the Doom of Valyria. Braavos was unveiled in an event called the Uncloaking or Unmasking of Uthero. Utero Zalnye was a big-time sealord and the elected leader of Braavos. He sent ships throughout the world to reveal the existence of Braavos and more importantly, the Iron Bank.
Zalnye had already told Valyria about the Iron Bank a few years prior. These current Valyrians couldn’t have cared less about a slave revolt that had happened over a hundred years ago, but to establish itself and pay reparations, the Iron Bank paid settlements to the descendants of the slaver Valyrians for the ships the Braavosi founders stole all those years ago. But they didn’t repay the value of the slaves that fled on those ships.
The name Iron Bank comes from the original vault, an abandoned iron mine on Braavos where riches and money were kept. The Iron Bank was established by 23 (16 men and seven women) traders and craftsmen. They each had a key to the mine vault. Their thousands of descendants are known as Keyholders.
The Iron Bank is one of the most powerful banks on the face of GRRM’s earth and has a reputation for collecting debts. It has backed rulers’ enemies when the ruler failed to pay back debts. This is why Tyrion is freaked out about how much the Iron Throne owed the Iron Bank. Thanks, Littlefinger.
What Tywin Lannister Knew About the Iron BankPhoto: HBOTywin and Littlefinger know that no matter how cruel or ruthless you think you are, you never owe the Iron Bank, because terrible things will happen. “One stone crumbles and another takes its place and the temple holds its form for a thousand years or more. And that's what the Iron Bank is, a temple. We all live in its shadow and almost none of us know it. You can't run from them, you can't cheat them, you can't sway them with excuses. If you owe them money and you don't want to crumble yourself, you pay it back."
Tyrion used to enjoy saying, “A Lannister always pays his debts.” But the Iron Bank also has a saying: “The Iron Bank will have its due.”
The Connection Between the Faceless Men and the Iron BankPhoto: HBOIs there one? Many think that part of the Iron Bank's might lies in the threat of sending a Faceless Man to collect a debt because after all, who can afford to pay their prices? The Iron Bank. And what are the Faceless Men doing with the money they receive from wealthy men? Are they giving it to the Iron Bank?
But the Faceless Men aren’t about money. They see death as a natural order to things and “give the gift” to high- and low-born on a sliding price scale. Their religion is their business.