"All men must die" signifies the inevitability of death, and "All men must serve" signifies that we all need to perform our roles in the world.

In this case, why is "Valar Dohaeris" the traditional answer? How does "Valar Dohaeris" fit as the response to "Valar Morghulis"?

Is there an implicit ".. but first.." between the sayings? Or is it purely tradition at this point with no real explanation?

  • 1
    I think it's tradition, a ritual answer. I can't find any references for this, though. The Wiki of Ice and Fire cites Chapter 22 of A Feast for Crows as a reference, but I don't have it handy to check.
    – Andres F.
    Jun 10, 2015 at 1:50
  • 1
    @AndresF. I found a explanation of valar dohaeris, but it doesn't reference valar morghulis. Ch 22 of AFFC: "Then stay . . . but remember, the House of Black and White is not a home for orphans. All men must serve beneath this roof. Valar dohaeris is how we say it here." I'm assuming that's what the Wiki is referencing
    – kuhl
    Jun 10, 2015 at 2:26

5 Answers 5


I believe your interpretation of "Valar Dohaeris" is incorrect. This greeting/response belongs to a culture that worships the many-faced god, i.e. the god of death.

My assumption is that "all men must serve" does not refer to performing one's role in the world; rather, it refers to death as an inevitable act of service to the many-faced god.

The address "Valar Morghulis" and response "Valar Dohaeris" are simultaneously a greeting and a religious ritual.

  • 2
    But those who serve R'Hlor (I don't think I spelled that correctly) also use it. Both Mellisandre and Thoros of Mir use it so it's not exclusive to those who serve the Many Faced God.
    – Monty129
    Jun 10, 2015 at 8:54
  • But has either of them ever responded to "Valar Morghulis" with "Valar Dohaeris?"
    – Misha R
    Jun 10, 2015 at 9:00
  • 3
    ...Also, their usage of the expression could be formal rather than religious. Plenty of people use expressions like "Oh Jesus," "I swear to God," and "Bless you" without belonging to any religion at all. High Valyrian to them might be what French was to many European aristocrats.
    – Misha R
    Jun 10, 2015 at 9:07
  • 3
    @chriszumberge: I think the idea is that everyone serves the many-faced god because everyone dies. Death is a service to him, and, eventually, "every man serves." Valar Morghulis - Valar Dohaeris. But as for some people using it without knowing its meaning, that isn't exactly strange. When you say "Bye" to someone, do you necessarily mean "God be with you?" That's where "goodbye" game from. High Valyrian expressions have its origins, but that doesn't mean they retain their meaning to everyone who speaks it.
    – Misha R
    Jun 10, 2015 at 19:53
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    @MishaRosnach well put, I think with that final comment I'd consider this a wholly satisfactory answer. Jun 10, 2015 at 19:56

I disagree with the premise of the accepted answer.

My assumption is that "all men must serve" does not refer to performing one's role in the world; rather, it refers to death as an inevitable act of service to the many-faced god.

If that were the case, then the greeting and the response would be redundant. I believe all men must serve implies that everyone must serve their purpose in life before death.

  • Religious rituals tend to have a great deal of redundancy. Greetings too are often redundant. For instance, the response to "As-Salaam-Alaikum" is "Wa-Alaikum-Salaam" - almost the same thing, grammatically changed mainly to offset the redundancy of the exchange. And the standard response to "How do you do" is "How do you do." But even so, I don't think it's redundant in this case. "Valar Morghulis" describes reality, and "Valar Dohaeris" qualifies it. Without the response, the greeting is just a obvious fact; without the greeting, the response is meaningless.
    – Misha R
    Jun 12, 2015 at 1:10
  • The first gift was given to a slave in the mines of Valeria. IIRC even the first few gift_s_. "All men must serve" might be a reference back to the origin of the religion of the many faced god. As such it could intent to remind people that death must not be a bad thing. Or, it could mean that everybody is worthy of receiving the gift. With these meanings the response would identify oneself as peer to the greeter, or recognise the greeter as a peer. Reminding people they are all the same before their god. Jun 28, 2015 at 22:33
  • Do you have exact quotes from the stories which support your interpretation?
    – RichS
    Jun 23, 2017 at 17:12
  • 1
    It seems to me it's a pair of statements about what the speakers believe to be the nature of existence -- a serious version, with spiritual undertones, of the old joke, "Nothing in life is certain but death and taxes."
    – bgvaughan
    Jun 23, 2017 at 19:53

Valor Morghulis is a greeting. But VM plus an assassin's coin gives the speaker great power, as per Joaquin when giving the coin to Arya. But what is this compelling power of the phrase and coin?. The power is in the response Valar Dohaeris. All men must serve. The power is that the responder will now actually provide some service, either to the Many Faced God, or to the bearer of the coin. The compulsion is so strong as to compel service without even taking the coin or payment. So Valar Dohaeris is not a dusty old empty set of words, but a compulsion to provide such service that all men must provide. Especially in the presence of the assassin's coin.


My impression is that all men must die and all men must serve are the SOIAF equivalent of how we say ‘Only two things in life are certain: death and taxes.’ In their world, taxes are replaced with the will of the gods. Thus you say (this is certain:) All men must die. And my reply is (this also is certain:) all men must serve (the gods). Another analogy might be greeting someone with, ‘what do you know?’ I know we all die, they might reply. ‘And we all pay the gods in the form of service...’ chortles, chortles.

  • Hi. Do you have any source for this theory of yours?
    – Mithical
    Jan 14, 2018 at 8:16

All men must die

⇒ Since we all finally die and seeing how shallow are our daily worries, how vain and futile is our existence comparing to greater achievement, there must be something better to do.

⇒ Besides, Multiface God belong to something beyond our understanding.

⇒ Since he lives in such complex world, he must know what to do in every basic life as we have.

All men must serve

This reasoning is done in a lot of religions (if not all).

  • 4
    I believe the spoiler block is not entirely necessary. The quote is already mentioned in the question itself.
    – Stark07
    Jun 10, 2015 at 13:28
  • @Stark07 I must admit it was only to raise the suspense.
    – Yohann V.
    Jun 10, 2015 at 13:35

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