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Who is Jaqen H’ghar? Is he Syrio Forel?

In A Clash of Kings, Arya meets up with Jaqen H’ghar, a mysterious assassin with the added skill of changing his physical appearance. Since Jaqen seems skilled at keeping secret identities, it has been suggested that he is none other than Syrio Forel, Arya’s sword teacher and ‘water dancer.’ But is there proof to back up this claim?

The biggest piece of proof pointing toward the fact that Syrio is still alive is the simple fact that we didn’t see him die, nor have had any proof that he is dead. When we last left him on GoT, page 534, Syrio was preparing to face down Meryn Trant after his wooden sword was broken. Since we see Meryn appear after the encounter but not Syrio, we assume that Syrio was killed. Meryn doesn’t seem like the type to mess around, and he odid order his men to kill Syrio.

But one can doubt this. We never hear any report that he is dead. The closest confirmation that we have is something Cersei tells Tyrion on CoK, pg. 58:

“I sent Meryn Trant to take her {Arya} in hand when Robert died, but her wretched dancing master interfered and the girl fled.”

Note that Cersei says nothing to imply that Syrio was killed in the encounter. Syrio ‘interfered,’ not ‘sacrificed himself.’ Some readers have taken this to mean that Syrio did not die at Meryn’s hands, and, in fact, was placed in the black cells.

Cut to A Clash of Kings. Yoren is taking Arya to the Wall, along with some criminals, including three men from the black cells. One of these men can easily change his physical appearance, and shows an inclination to pay special attention to Arya. Could he be Syrio in a different disguise?

There are some basic similarities. Syrio claimed to be from Braavos. Jaqen claimed to come from Lorath, but later contradicts this and tells Arya to seek out training in Braavos. Both men seem to be good at killing. Both seem to respect Arya a lot. Both men use the phrase “Just so” quite often. And Jaqen was able to figure out that “Arry” was really Arya Stark. Could it be that Syrio Forel was really a Faceless Man the whole time, masquerading as a swordmaster for some unknown purpose?

But there are holes in the theory straight off. Yes, Syrio and Jaqen both say “Just so” a lot. But this is a trademark phrase of the Free Cities. Thoros, Salladhor Saan, Captain Groleo, Illyrio and Dany have all used the phrase at times; there is nothing that remarkable about it.

Then there is the fact concerning Braavos. However, Syrio seems to be a well-known personality, not an identity that Jaqen picked as a simple cover. He claims to have been first sword to the Sealord of Braavos for nine years. (GoT, pg. 224). Either Jaqen had maintained his disguise for a long time, or he was stupidly telling lies that any fool could see through. Also, Eddard thinks that Syrio has an ‘excellent reputation.’ (GoT, pg. 317) This implies that Syrio is a well-known, long-standing personality at King’s Landing; not some false identity conjured out of nowhere.

It has been suggested that perhaps Jaqen killed the real Syrio and is simply masquerading as him. If that is the case, why does he spend so much time teaching Arya in King’s Landing, and later submit to imprisonment and transportation all the way to Harrenhal? What is his mission or objective that he is doing these strage things under various guises, each time going out of the way to help Arya? Jaqen does not seem like a man who can waste time training girls at swords. His conversations with Arya at Harrenhal imply that he is working on some mission that needs to be fulfilled. (“I have promises to keep.”--CoK, pg. 691}. So if Jaqen is Syrio, what is his objective?

Finally, there is the question of when Jaqen had time to change out of his Syrio-persona into the man with the physical characteristics we attribute to Jaqen. Surely someone wmust have noticed this stark change in appearance, even if he did it in his cell.

So, in conclusion, it is possible, even feasible, that Jaqen H’ghar is Syrio Forel. However, some common sense assumptions seem to rule out the fact.