The pivotal scene in the relationship between Arya Stark and her Master Assassin friend, Jaqen H’ghar was when Arya Parted ways and Jaqen gave her a coin with a great value that would lead her back to him. Remarkably, Arya had a free ride to Braavos. But how does a plain iron coin get a Stark of Winterfell a ride to Braavos? Why did Jaqen give her the coin in the first place? What was the significance of the coin?
Here lie all your answers!
Jaqen H’ghar Iron Coin
To start, let us go back and see the exact scene where it all started. When Jaqen H’ghar parts ways with Arya Stark, he gives her a coin that he claims will allow her to find him again.
“Is it a coin of great value? Could it buy a horse?
“It is not meant for the buying of horses.
“Then what good is it?
“If the day comes when you must find me again, just give that coin to any man from Braavos and say these words stable – Valar Morghulis.”
“Jaqen is dead. Say it again. Valar Morghulis.”
Arya was given a coin of great value. It was not just an ordinary coin meant for buying horses. Instead, that coin, when given to any man from Braavos with the secret phrase Valar Morghulis allowed her to find Jaqen. In reality, it was less about finding Jaqen and more about getting a ride
with a private cabin on a ship to the House of Black and White. But how exactly does that coin work? And what do they indicate to a Braavosi?
The iron coin was essentially the signature coin of the Braavosi assassin guild, the Faceless Men. As could be seen from Jaqen H’ghar’s transformation in the last episode of Season 2, the Faceless Men could change their face at will. They were exceptionally deadly, and feared by all those who knew them. The coin that Jaqen gave Arya was essentially a free pass that would allow her entry into the Faceless Men’s headquarters in Braavos. The coin and the phrase indicated to the Braavosi that the bearer was either a member of the Faceless Men or a recruit on his/her way to join them. When Arya showed the coin to the Braavosi captain in the last episode of Season 4, he immediately allowed her on board his ship. He knew that it was not a smart idea to say no to a potentially deadly assassin.
Valar Morghulis was a very common high Valyrian phrase in Braavosi culture meaning all men must die. Saying Valar Morghulis was not the only password. The Braavosi captain said back Valar Dohaeris meaning all men must serve, to acknowledge that he understood and will take the bearer of the coin to Braavos
The Braavosi had tremendous awe and respect for their organization. It is noteworthy how the on boarders cared for her. They were also nervous around her. Their nervousness sometimes manifested as ignoring her entirely while others attempted to bribe or win her friendship with games and gifts. They told her their names and wanted her to remember them. It was to avoid being killed by her in the future because there were rules that an assassin could not kill a target they knew, even by name.
Was The Coin An Ordinary Coin Or Currency?
The coin was not merely a currency coin. It was definitely something valuable. When Jaqen gave Arya the coin, he clarified that the coin was not to be used as currency. If it was just any other piece of Braavosi currency, how could the Braavosi understand what it was and what the bearer wanted? Of course, we can argue that the coin and the words together made the coin special. The following instances prove that the coin Jaqen H’ghar gave Arya was not just another ordinary coin.
- When Arya showed the coin to the Braavosi captain, he was in a stupor. But when she said the phrase Valar Morghulis, he immediately offered her a cabin on his ship to Braavos.
- The Crew of the Ship then started befriending her and giving her gifts. The Captain asked her to remember the service he had done her.
- Later the Kindly man at House of Black and White confirmed to her that the coin was the fees she paid to enter the House of Black and White and their training.
So as evident, it was a special coin used by the Faceless Men. We see two uses for it:
- Seeking passage to Braavos from anywhere in the world.
- Enrolling in the Faceless Men training program.
What Did The Braavosi Get By Serving The Members Of The Order?
Although it is clear that the coins were used exclusively by the Faceless Men, we do not know exactly where these coins came from or where they were minted. It is also unclear what exactly did the Braavosi get by serving the members of the Order. However, it seems to be deeply rooted in the city’s culture and traditions.
The Faceless Men and the Braavosi were slaves in the old mines of Valyria. They toiled in the deep mines beneath the 14 flames. The 14 flames were in living mountains with veins of molten rock and hearts of fire. So the mines of Old Valyria were always hot, and they grew hotter as the shafts were driven deeper. The slaves toiled in an oven, and the rocks around them were unbearably hot to touch. The air stank of brimstone and seared their lungs as they breathed. The soles of their feet would burn and blister even through the thickest sandals. Sometimes when they broke through a wall in search of gold, they would find steam or molten rock instead. Slaves perished by the score but the Masters did not care. For the Masters, red gold, yellow gold, and silver were reckoned to be more precious than the lives of slaves for the slaves were cheap.
The Faceless Men had a great contribution in freeing the slaves of their plight and misery. Not only were the Faceless Men a key part of the foundation of Bravos, but it is also likely that they were behind the doom of Valyria that allowed the Braavosi to heave a sigh of relief. That the Dragonlords would never come for them, the Braavosi owed them a debt of freedom and vengeance that could never be repaid. It appears that the Faceless Men and the Braavosi reached a mutual understanding. Whenever a member of their order needed aid, any man of Braavos would assist them. It was why Jaqen did not specify any particular person while giving the coin to Arya. Their whole population was honor-bound to help when the coin was presented, and the words were spoken.
Why Did Jaqen H’ghar Give The Iron Coin To Arya Stark?
In episode 10 of season 2, Jaqen asked Arya to join the Faceless Assassins. He told her to join him in Braavos because Arya asked him to teach her how to change her face as he did. Arya refused because she wanted to find and rejoin her family. It was why he gave her the valuable iron coin. Jaqen H’ghar, a Faceless man, perhaps saw some potential in Arya and wanted her to come with him to Braavos. Although Arya refused, he was inclined that she might change her mind. Even though she refused, Jaqen must have wanted to help her out if she ever showed up in Braavos. He told her to show the coin to any Braavosi if she ever were to go to Braavos and say Valar Morghulis. It would eventually lead Arya to Jaqen. The coin, along with the Valaryian phrase, was enough to let any person know that they were talking to someone belonging to the Faceless Men, especially in Braavos. The coin he gave her carried the symbol of the Faceless Men of Braavos, a group of assassins who worshiped ‘The God of many Faces’.