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Game of Thrones: What Happens to Jaqen H'Ghar?
Tom Wlaschiha as Jaqen H'Ghar
George R R Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series is home to a huge array of detailed and fascinating characters. They trip their way through the books, popping up first here with one group of companions, and then over there a couple of novels later in the company of someone entirely different. Loyalties change over time as characters develop; the reader’s opinion of a character is toyed with, pity evoked over the course of several novels as early misdeeds are repaid later with uncommon suffering, their motives made more transparent and a cruel villain eventually made into a pitiable hero. With this long process of empathetic transformation already taking place for several characters it becomes interesting yet increasingly difficult for the reader of Song and Ice and Fire to start to second guess GRRM’s intentions and predict the fortunes of specific characters before they are unfolded.
The complexities of the many relationships in Martin rr's work are so involved and detailed, that to save myself from getting confused when The Winds of Winter is finally published, I wrote this hub that summarises the plot as it stands at the close of Dance of the Dragons.
Who is Jaqen H’Ghar?
Such a character is Jagen H’Ghar. “Who is Jaqen H’Ghar” you ask me. Or perhaps I should say “‘who is Jaqen H’Ghar’, the reader asks a man”. The answer to the question who is Jaqen H’Ghar is really yet to be unfolded to us, the readers of the Song and Ice and Fire series. Jaqen H’Ghar is the name currently used by one of the faceless men of Braavos. A religious assassin whom we meet initially when he is a captive of Yoren of the Night’s Watch, en route to The Wall, Jagen H’Ghar is saved from certain death in a burning cage by the generosity of Arya Stark. Arya throws Jaqen H’Ghar and his associates Rorge and Biter the means to escape their captivity and so evade death. In return, when they both find themselves working in Harrenhal, Jaqen H’Ghar promises Arya three lives: deaths he will give her in return for the three lives she saved. Through the process of Arya giving Jaqen H’Ghar two of her three names, and eventually using the threat of naming him as the third to persuade him to help her and her friends to escape Harrenhal, Arya and Jaqen H’Ghar become almost friendly. Through this relationship the reader is allowed to learn a few details that begin to answer the question of who is Jaqen H’Ghar. Jaqen gives Arya a special coin through which she will be able to elicit aid from any name of Braavos, using the words "valar morghulis". It is at this point that both the reader and Arya Stark learn of Jaqen H’Ghar’s ability to entirely change his face, at the wave of a hand. We learn that this amazing skill is common to all faceless men of Braavos, and are told that the new face Jaqen H’Ghar takes on is that of a man with a hook-shaped nose and a golden tooth.
What Happens to Jaqen H'Ghar?
Such a fascinating and unique character is certain to reappear subsequently. Since meeting Jaqen H’Ghar, Arya Stark has herself become apprenticed to the faceless men of Braavos and their order is given significant prominence in the narrative. It seems likely that her path and that of Jaqen H’Ghar will cross again. But Jaqen H’Ghar has become someone else entirely, changed his face, taken on a brand new identity and seemingly disappeared from the narrative. We the readers are left wondering where is Jaqen H’Ghar, and once more asking who is Jaqen H’Ghar?
There is a clue as to the whereabouts of the elusive Jaqen H’Ghar in A Feast For Crows. In the book’s prologue, we see a rather simple trainee maister murdered by an alchemist who looks very much like the new face that Jaqen H’Ghar took on. When Pate is seen later in the book, it’s hinted at that it’s not Pate we’re seeing but this mysterious alchemist, and that this mysterious alchemist is, in turn Jaqen H’Ghar.
The reader of a Song of Ice and Fire is certain to see this mysterious Jaqen H’Ghar crop up again: we are given the impression that his is a sub plot that will eventually come to the fore. There are a great many questions to ask at this stage, over and above where is Jaqen H’Ghar and that old chestnut, who is Jaqen H’Ghar. What is Jaqen H’Ghar’s mission- who has he been sent to kill, and why? How will Arya and he meet again? Will Jaqen H’Ghar’s mission somehow be implicated with one of the myriad other plots that are constantly bubbling away within George RR Martin’s work?
Is Jaqen Syrio?
There's growing speculation that Jaqen H'Ghar is actually the same person as Syrio, Arya's former dancing/sword fighting instructor. There's little in the text to support the notion that Jaqen H'Ghar is Syrio Forel, however as usual GRRM has left a few little niggling things vague enough that many readers are beginning to ask... Is Jaqen Syrio?
Syrio's death happens off the page- he tells Arya to run, and the chapter being from her perspective, when she does run we don't see him killed, we just assume that he is on account of the unassailable odds he is facing. Often in ASOIAF an off-page death means not a death at all. Is Syrio alive? Is Syrio Jaqen?
Jaqen H'Ghar is taken from Kings Landing as a prisoner, prior to his escape thanks to Arya. And it is in Kings Landing that we last see Syrio. Clearly that's not much of a coincidence, but there are several tiny little nuggets here that may start to add up to a comprehensive conspiracy theory- is Jaqen Syrio?
Syrio Forel and Jaqen H'ghar are both Braavosi, and both have a strong relationship with Arya. GRRM could have made Forel a native of any one of the many nations in his fictional world- it's perhaps more than coincidental that the two male adult characters with whom Arya spends most of her time are from the same country and both particularly good at sword fighting. Since Syrio is a particularly positive character, it's also nice to wonder on the issue of is Syrio dead, and to imagine that he is not, that he has changed his face and is secretly Jaqen H'Ghar.
Is Jaqen the Kindly Man?
There's also the issue of the Kindly Man whom Arya meets when she is studying in Braavos. This faceless man begins her training, taking her under his wing in the temple of the faceless god. Again, given that these men can change their appearance at whim, it's tempting to wonder whether Jaqen is also the kindly man? Given the Jaqen is almost certainly the mysterious character at the University, perhaps it's not possible that he is also the Kindly Man. Which leaves us asking- is Syrio the Kindly man?
Let us know what you think: is this mysterious hook-nosed man really Arya's fascinating friend? Is Jaqen your favourite character in the Ice and Fire series? Is Jaqen Syrio Forel? Or is Jaqen the Kind Man? If not, who is he? Surely GRRM wouldn't have a character in his books who could change his face without having him pop up all over the place.