I am trying to understand the differences between/among the glamors used by Melssandre and the Faceless Men in ASOIAF.

In AFFC Arya and "the kindly man" have this exchange:

“...Jaqen used magic.”
“All sorcery comes at a cost, child. Years of prayer and sacrifice and study are required to work a proper glamor.”

Maester Aemon to Sam

...we all deceive ourselves, when we want to believe. Melisandre most of all, I think. The sword is wrong, she has to know that... light without heat... an empty glamor... the sword is wrong, and the false light can only lead us deeper into darkness

In ADWD Melisandre describes the nature of the glamor she used

“The spell is made of shadow and suggestion. Men see what they expect to see. The bones are part of that.” Was I wrong to spare this one? “If the glamor fails, they will kill you.”

She later says to Mance and Jon Snow

"The strongest glamors are built of such things. A dead man’s boots, a hank of hair, a bag of fingerbones. With whispered words and prayer, a man’s shadow can be drawn forth from such and draped about another like a cloak. The wearer’s essence does not change, only his seeming."

However, when Arya first changes her face, it is described as something beyond a simple glamor:

“Mummers change their faces with artifice,” the kindly man was saying, “and sorcerers use glamors, weaving light and shadow and desire to make illusions that trick the eye. These arts you shall learn, but what we do here goes deeper. Wise men can see through artifice, and glamors dissolve before sharp eyes, but the face you are about to don will be as true and solid as that face you were born with. Keep your eyes closed.”

So, my question is what are these different types of glamors? If Jaqen's was indeed a glamor, how was it different from what Arya does at the temple?

  • Any formatting help on this would be much appreciated- I tried my best now to spoil anything, but it may have made my question too vague... Aug 28, 2013 at 14:39
  • Has GRRM said that "glamor" is supposed to be spelled with a "u"? Given that he is from New Jersey, US, I can't believe he would write it with a "u" and then let his publisher remove the "u."
    – mawcsco
    Aug 28, 2013 at 14:45
  • @mawcsco That makes sense- it's just that the bulk internet sources (e.g. AWOIAF) seem to be using the u, so... U-less? Aug 28, 2013 at 14:48
  • No U in my book ;)
    – mawcsco
    Aug 28, 2013 at 14:49

1 Answer 1


If I recall correctly, the only magic that Jaqen was shown to have used was changing his appearance. Given that the appearance he chooses seems to be more than a short-term single disguise, it seems extremely likely that he used the same technique the kindly man showed Arya (or a variant thereof).

The technique the kindly man uses is clearly identified as more than just a glamor.

In the first exchange between Arya and the kindly man that you quoted, it seems to imply that the magic Jaqen use is a "proper glamor", but the context lends itself to another interpretation.

When they have the conversation,

Arya is asking to be taught how to use magic.

The kindly man's response is pointing out that if she wants to do this, it will not be as simple as being told a secret, but will instead require years of dedication, learning, and practice. In that context, perhaps the kindly man is only using "a proper glamor" as a reference point, meaning "even basic magic takes years to learn", instead of "the magic you want me to teach you takes years to learn".

Indeed, Arya has undergone many months of training before she is given a new face, and that new face is only given to her as part of her initiation test. It is only after completing this test that she is considered ready to be an apprentice.

This kind of makes sense when you consider that the kindly man seems to go out of his way to obscure the training that Arya is undergoing (i.e. many of the things he has her do don't seem like training until after the fact, much like "wax on, wax off" from The Karate Kid).

In general, the techniques and magic employed by the Faceless Men seem to rely upon deep understanding and thorough knowledge. This is why

much of Arya's training involves learning such diverse skills such as reading body language, being able to tell when someone is lying, being able to lie well, gaining basic control over her own facial muscles, and pharmacology.

Their magics seem (from our limited knowledge) to focus more on subtlety, and supplementing other, non-magical skills.

By contrast, Melisandre seems to rely more on "flashier" magic. Illusions to change appearance. Exchanging life energy for power. Using powders and special smokes to make herself seem more mysterious. She is very aware of how other perceive her, and has even outright stated that she believes the more effortless the sorcery appears, the more men fear the sorcerer.

Melisandre is a shadowbinder and sorceress, so when the kindly man is talking about "weaving light and shadow and desire to make illusions that trick the eye", it is a pretty clear indication that glamors like the one she uses

on Mance Rayder and Rattleshirt

are simpler than the Faceless Men's techniques (although what Melisandre does is by no means simple).

So it is possible that what Jaqen did was not a glamor at all, but rather some more advanced technique. However, if what Jaqen did was, in fact, a glamor, it was probably merely a temporary measure until he could "properly" change his face into the more long-term disguise. It is pretty clear that a glamor is not as comprehensive as a disguise as to what is used on Arya, and even what is used on Arya is described as crude by comparison to the more advanced techniques.

  • What a great analysis! It seems like the depth of the 'disguise' (for lack of a better word) relates to changes in someone's essence versus seeming. I wonder, too, then, if the wisdom necessary to do this more advanced technique might also translate into an ability to see beyond the superficial glamor. Aug 28, 2013 at 17:28
  • @Beofett Awesome analysis! I must wonder if Jaqen's "magic" isn't merely sufficiently advanced technology ;)
    – Andres F.
    Aug 28, 2013 at 17:36
  • 2
    @AndresF. Thanks! At least some of Jaqen's magic actually has been shown to be sufficiently advanced technology (e.g. how he got the dog to kill Weese). I'm pretty sure the face-changing thing, though, is a bit more than slight of hand and excellent makeup :)
    – Beofett
    Aug 28, 2013 at 18:17
  • @batpigandme Using Faceless Men training to see through superficial glamor seems very likely, given the kindly man's words and the exercises we see with Waif regarding being able to tell a lie from truth.
    – Beofett
    Aug 28, 2013 at 18:21
  • 2
    @TLP That was precisely my point: when Weese was killed, it seemed like magic, but later it was revealed that it was merely "sufficiently advanced technology".
    – Beofett
    Aug 28, 2013 at 22:09

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