The Book That Was Promised

Winds of Winter theory reveals the White Walkers' unexpected ally

All men must die.

The final seasons of Game of Thrones saw the HBO series struggle to bring its many ongoing storylines to a satisfying conclusion.

Nowhere was that more true than in the series’ handling of the Faceless Men, a religious group of for-hire assassins capable of changing their faces and appearances at any given time.

Introduced in the show’s second season, the Faceless Men quickly became some of the most interesting, mysterious, and potentially dangerous characters in all of Thrones. It was for those reasons that Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) training with them was so exciting; and yet, Thrones ultimately failed to develop the Faceless Men in compelling ways over its fifth and sixth seasons.

Fortunately, George R. R. Martin fans believe the author will make far better use of the Faceless Men in The Winds of Winter — the highly anticipated sixth installment in his Song of Ice and Fire book series — than Thrones ever did.

The Theory — One popular Winds of Winter theory speculates that the Faceless Men have grander motives than most fans believe. The theory in question argues that the group is secretly working to destabilize Westeros and the rest of the “modern” world, so that human beings won’t stand a chance against the White Walkers (known as “The Others” in the books) once the undead army nevitably makes it past the Wall.

Why? Because ensuring humanity’s destruction would, in effect, allow the Faceless Men to give the “gift of death” to everyone on the planet. In other words, the group would be ending the world’s suffering and paying the ultimate tribute to their chosen deity, the Many-Faced God, at the same time.

Tom Wlaschiha in Game of Thrones.HBO

The Ultimate Tribute — This is an intriguing theory — one that has the power to totally change the way we look at the Faceless Men and their place in Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire story. Specifically, it makes the group — world-renowned for its effectiveness (and strangeness) — an unexpected ally of the Others. That’s worth noting, especially since Game of Thrones essentially made the White Walkers one united force no human was interested in siding with or working alongside.

Like the Winds of Winter theory speculating that the Faceless Men are secretly trying to hatch a dragon egg, this theory also gives the group a greater purpose beyond the role they’re playing in Arya’s ongoing arc. Indeed, even if nothing were to come of the group’s attempts to help the Others, just the reveal that the Faceless Men have been trying to sabotage humanity’s chances of survival would give the group far more depth (and make them more dangerous) than Game of Thrones ever did.

Plus, it makes sense, in a way, that the Faceless Men might have a philosophical interest in supporting the Others’ cause. Who would be more interested in mass death than a death cult?

The army of the dead marches south.HBO

The Inverse Analysis — The sixth, seventh, and eighth seasons of Game of Thrones seemingly gave away many of the twists and turns set to take place in George R. R. Martin’s final two installments of the Song of Ice and Fire series. That said, given how significantly the HBO series ended up diverging from Martin’s original novels, there’s reason to believe that the author will still have plenty of opportunities to surprise his readers.

When it comes to the Faceless Men, a group that Game of Thrones failed to develop in any real or effective ways, this feels especially true. Will Martin reveal that the Faceless Men have been secretly working in support of the Other? That remains to be seen.

The Winds of Winter will be released whenever George R. R. Martin finishes writing it.