"Only Death Can Pay For Life" is a notion that's been used several times.

Mirri Maz Duur says it after she

Saves Drogo, explaining that her unborn child died to bring Drogo to life. Make sense, death (Rhaego) paid for life (Drogo).

Jaquen H'ghar says it after

Arya saves him and two other prisoners. His reasoning being that she "took" three deaths from the Red God, and so she owes those three deaths to him.

Once again this makes sense, three deaths pay for three people who continue to live.

However, in the Hall of Faces after

Arya kills Meryn Trant in the brothel. The faceless men know that she's killed someone and that it wasn't part of a contract. One of the faceless men then say that "Only Death Can Pay For Life", and drinks a poison that kills him.

This makes no sense to me, in every other context someone died so someone else lived, however in this last example two people died and not one of them was left to live.

Where is the life that

Meryn Trant's and the Faceless Man's

deaths paid for, that would legitimize the use of the quote in that context?

  • 1
    In the books, it was not Meryn Trant she killed, it was a deserter from the Night's Watch. And the punishment was that she was given a potion that made her blind.
    – TLP
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 12:02
  • @TLP: why did she kill a Night’s Watch deserter? Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 12:06
  • @PaulD.Waite Because she is her father's daughter? Read the book.
    – TLP
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 12:09
  • 1
    @TLP: read the book? Feck that, I’ll wait till they make a movie out of it or something. Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 12:11
  • 1
    @PaulD.Waite As good as the tv-show is, the books are a lot better. A movie would unlikely be as good either. If you liked the tv-show, you'll love the books.
    – TLP
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 12:14

3 Answers 3


My understanding was that the thin gambling man was meant to die but he didn't - so a death was stolen but then Trant was killed paying that debt so "Only Death Can Pay For Life" and because of Arya's actions she was required to pay a price (death) but the faceless man took his life instead so "Only Death Can Pay For Life".

So in the end two lived, and two died, the two deaths "paying" for the two lives.

  • 2
    This is how I see it. The faceless mad died instead of Arya.
    – Jakob
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 8:29
  • That makes so much sense, I completely forgot about the Thin Man. Thanks! Also, welcome to SciFi & Fantasy stack exchange. I'm glad that your first answer went so well! Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 12:38

First off, that's a TV only incident. Not that it matters anymore, since books and TV have more or less caught up to each other and are going their own separate ways.

I digress.

I believe that it is implied that Trant's death was paid for by the death of the Faceless Man who carried the face of Jaqen H'ghar. So everything is balanced again. The question, however, becomes: why did the Faceless Man see fit to pay that ultimate price? Is recruiting Arya into the Facless Men so important that they saw fit to pay the price for her?

  • Ah. Haven't read yet so, given your first point, I'll remove the song of ice and fire tag since it doesn't really apply. But given your second point "Trant's death was paid for by the death of the Faceless Man.." that almost sounds like Death was paid for Death, not Death paying for Life. Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 20:14
  • 1
    Also, I assumed they couldn't kill Arya since there wasn't a contract for her death so in killing her they'd be breaking their own rules. So instead they killed "no one". Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 20:15
  • But it's not balanced. The previous examples were 1 life saved requires 1 death and 3 lives saved requires 3 deaths. In Trant's case we have 1 death requires 1 death, with no lives to balance them out. Makes no sense. Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 23:38
  • conspiratorial nitpicking: are we sure that "Jaqen" is dead? (we'll find out next year T_T )
    – Ciacciu
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 12:26
  • @Ciacciu from what I understand, the fact that the Faceless Men can wear Jaqen's identity implies that Jaqen is dead Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 13:32

I think the intended meaning behind this is -

If you interfere in someone's destiny (which is written by God) then you have to pay one death for it. One death per such life which was interfered by you.

So you always pay death for -

  1. The life you saved which was destined to die


  1. The life you took away which was destined to live at that moment

It seems it has nothing to do with maintaining balance.

As it is said that - All men must die (valar morghulis) so the only thing that matters for God is whether a man dies only when he is destined to die or not.

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