By definition, sully means to tarnish, stain, blemish, disgrace, dishonor, etc. When Daenerys first inquires about how the Unsullied are trained, the merchant has Missandei explain how every soldier is first trained, degraded and punished until they're fully obedient to their master and don't fear death (i.e., have no desire to value their own life). Even the names they're given are meant to be a reminder of how their lives mean nothing, not to mention that they're all also castrated...

Given this, there seems to be a kind of irony here. That, the group known as Unsullied (without tarnish, dishonor, blemish, etc.) is made by completely sullying every member until they're basically stripped of all humanity.

So my question is, how did the Unsullied get their name? Is it meant to be ironic?

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    I have no specific knowledge to back this up with, but my assumption was that it meant that they would always be virgins (at least with respect to never penetrating another). Commented May 23, 2019 at 22:35

1 Answer 1


They are unsullied by temptation.

One of the selling points (literally) of the Unsullied is their unfailing devotion. They will not betray the one they serve, not for money or love or greed or lust. Presumably this is what the name refers to. The sullying of their manliness, or the possible sullying of their souls by removing instincts such as mercy or compassion during the training process which involves murdering babies and their own pet dogs, is unlikely to be something their trainers or owners care about. The name is chosen to reflect their positive aspects (from the point of view of those selling them), not anything more human.

"In Yunkai and Meereen, eunuchs are often made by removing a boy's testicles, but leaving the penis. Such a creature is infertile, yet often still capable of erection. Only trouble can come of this. We remove the penis as well, leaving nothing. The Unsullied are the purest creatures on the earth." He gave Dany and Arstan another of his broad white smiles. "I have heard that in the Sunset Kingdoms men take solemn vows to keep chaste and father no children, but live only for their duty. Is it not so?"

"It is," Arstan said, when the question was put. "There are many such orders. The maesters of the Citadel, the septons and septas who serve the Seven, the silent sisters of the dead, the Kingsguard and the Night's Watch . . ."

"Poor things," growled the slaver, after the translation. "Men were not made to live thus. Their days are a torment of temptation, any fool must see, and no doubt most succumb to their baser selves. Not so our Unsullied. They are wed to their swords in a way that your Sworn Brothers cannot hope to match. No woman can ever tempt them, nor any man."

His girl conveyed the essence of his speech, more politely. "There are other ways to tempt men, besides the flesh," Arstan Whitebeard objected, when she was done.

"Men, yes, but not Unsullied. Plunder interests them no more than rape. They own nothing but their weapons. We do not even permit them names."

-- A Storm of Swords, chapter Daenerys II

  • Perfect answer from the book. Love your handle ;) Wheel of time >>>>> Song of Ice and Fire Wish they'd do a show for it, though I think it may be too long. Maybe 14 movies instead ;)
    – shenk
    Commented May 24, 2019 at 7:35
  • @shenk No screen adaptation could do justice to the brilliance of WoT. Better to leave well enough alone :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented May 24, 2019 at 7:47
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    They remove the testicles as well? Wouldn't that be counter productive as they would no longer produce testosterone, and in someone who spends their life fighting wouldn't you want high testosterone?
    – adickinson
    Commented May 24, 2019 at 8:32
  • @adickinson They do. Idk about the why, but the Unsullied are consistently described as thin for soldiers, which is somewhat reflected in the TV show. Commented May 24, 2019 at 15:24
  • @AzorAhai I asked a question about this myself, and someone managed to quote a passage talking about how the rude master guy that Dany burns acknowledges the Unsullied will be not as strong physically, but that strength isn't everything.
    – adickinson
    Commented May 24, 2019 at 15:29

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