Dothraki

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The Dothraki people are a culture of nomadic warriors in Essos who range across the vast grasslands of the Dothraki sea in hordes known as khalasars.

Appearance

The Dothraki Khal Drogo by Rene Aigner©.

Dothraki typically have a copper-toned skin and dark almond eyes,[1][2][3] black hair,[1] and black eyes.[4] Dothraki men wear their hair in long braids, oiled[5] or greased with fat from the rendering pits.[6] Dothraki warriors carry small bells in their braids, which ring softly when they move.[1] They are only allowed to braid their hair after they have won a victory.[7] A bell is added to their braid after each victory;[8] The braid is only cut when a Dothraki warrior is defeated in battle,[5] an act through which he lets the world know his shame.[1] Only few men die with their braids never having been cut off.[5] Men further might wear metal rings bound in their mustachios.[1]

Both men and women might wear painted leather vests over bare chests and horsehair leggings cinched by bronze medallion belts,[6][9] although wealthier Dothraki might also have silver and golden medallions on their belts.[4] Others might wear sandsilk trousers.[10][11][12] For footwear Dothraki wear leather boots,[13] leather sandals which lace up to the knee,[4][10] or sandals of woven grass.[8] However, when visiting the Free Cities, the Dothraki wear rich fabrics and sweet perfumes.[6]

Being accustomed to riding horses every entire day, Dothraki warriors walk with a bowlegged swagger on the ground.[12]

The Dothraki clean themselves using sand to scrub them.[5]

Culture & customs

Khalasars

Main article: Khalasar

Dothraki live in hordes called khalasars. Their chieftains are called khals, while the wife of a khal is known as a khaleesi.[6] Both have their personal guard; A khal is guarded and accompanied in his daily routine by his kos, also called bloodriders. These men fulfill the roles of guards, brothers, shadows, and friends to the khal in ways that run deeper than the oath of the Kingsguard to the king on the Iron Throne.[7] Ancient traditions proclaim that when a khal dies, his bloodriders die with him. Should the khal die in battle, the bloodriders live only long enough to avenge him and then die shortly after. The khal and his bloodriders commonly refer to each other as "blood of my blood".[7] Each Ko has his own khas.[citation needed] The khaleesi is guarded by the young men in her own khas.[2] A khal’s heir is named the khalakka.[4][2] Another important position is that of the jaqqa rhan, the mercy men, who move among the corpses in battlefields, cutting off the heads of the dead and dying.[2] When the khalasar is on the move, scouts range ahead while outriders guard the flanks.[14]

Khalasars keep two sorts of healers. The first are barren women who practice their healing with herbs, potions, and spells, and eunuch slaves, who use knives, needles, and fire.[2]

Social status

The Dothraki consider riding a horse as a basic marker of social status. A khal who cannot ride cannot rule.[10][13] Custom decrees that the khaleesi must ride a mount worthy of her place by the side of the khal.[6] Pregnant women are expected to ride on horseback almost up to the moment of birth. Doing anything else might be considered weak.[9] Some women giving birth ride on a cart. A cart is of less prestige, and is further meant for eunuchs, cripples, the very young, and the very old.[7] A man who does not ride is considered the lowest of the low. He is not even seen as a man, and considered to be without honor or pride.[14]

Although some are respected, women have a lower social status than men. For example, the bloodriders of a khal will not allow themselves to be commanded by his khaleesi.[10] Nonetheless, even the mightiest khal will bow to the wisdom and authority of the dosh khaleen, the widowed khaleesi’s who reside at Vaes Dothrak.[4]

Most of all, the Dothraki follow strength. Should a khal die without an adult heir, his kos (bloodriders) will fight among themselves to take the place of the fallen khal. In the case that the khal does have a child khalakka (heir), the khalakka will be killed so as not to be a rival.[10]

Religion

The Dothraki worship a horse god.[15][16] The Dothraki believe that, when someone dies, the horse god parts the grass and claims the deceased for his starry khalasar, so the deceased can ride the nightlands.[17][18] The Dothraki further believe that the moon is a goddess, and that she is the wife to the sun.[14] In addition, they believe in hell.[5][8]

Language

Main article: Dothraki language

The Dothraki have their own language. It is known to be a rough, harsh language.[1][6][2] They use descriptive names, e.g. “Rhaesh Andahli”, meaning “the land of the Andals”, for Westeros,[1] "Shierak qiya", literally meaning “bleeding star”, used to describe the red comet,[5] or the term “Milk Men” for the Qartheen, pointing towards their paleness.[19]

Economy

The Dothraki neither buy nor sell[20][18] and do not really comprehend it.[21] Buying and selling is considered to be unmanly.[22] Instead, the Dothraki use giving and receiving gifts as a common way for doing trade.[23][24][18] However, giving a gift in return might not always occur immediately upon receiving a gift.[25] This is exemplified by the Dothraki "selling" their captives on occasion to the Slaver Cities.[5] They call these slaves "gifts", and as payment receive gifts from the slavers.[24]

Trade is allowed in the sacred city Vaes Dothrak, where, by the leave of the dosh khaleen, merchants and traders gather to exchange goods and gold,[22] though they mostly trade with each other, and only little with the Dothraki themselves.[9] Two markets exist in Vaes Dothrak; On the Western Market merchants from the Free Cities come to trade, while on the Eastern Market traders from Yi Ti, Asshai, the Shadow Lands, and the lands from beside the Jade Sea place their caravans.[7] The merchants are tolerated provided that they do not break the peace of the city, do not profane the sacred mountain of lake, and honor the dosh khaleen with the traditional gifts of salt, silver, and seed.[9]

The Free Cities (like Myr, Pentos, and Norvos) and the slave cities in Slaver's Bay deal carefully with the Dothraki. The rulers of the cities give lavishly to every khal who passes with his khalasar, feasting them and giving them gifts, so the khalasar will pass on without sacking then city.[3]

Culinary customs

The Dothraki eat horseflesh, which they prefer to beef and pork.[26] They believe horseflesh makes a man strong.[7] They also have black sausages[N 1], blood pies and sweetgrass stews.[6] They drink a mildly alcoholic beverage derived from fermented mare's milk.[6][4][N 2] They also drink pepper beer.[10]

Structures

A Dothraki camp as depicted in HBO's TV series Game of Thrones.

The Dothraki do not build.[7] A thousand years before, to build a house they would dig a hole in the earth and raise a grass roof over it.[7] They can raise 'palaces' of woven grass.[6] In Vaes Dothrak, all buildings have been made by the slaves serving there. Since the slaves all originate from different lands, they have built after the fashion of their own people. As a result, Vaes Dothrak consists of many different types of buildings, including carved stone pavilions, manses of woven grass as large as castles, rickety wooden towers, stepped pyramids faced with marble, and log halls open to the sky.[7]

Vaes Dothrak

The sacred city of Vaes Dothrak is the only city the Dothraki have.[22] Here, only the dosh khaleen reside permanently, together with their slaves and servants.[7] Regardless, the city is large enough to host all khalasars at one time, as the dosh khaleen have prophesized that one day all Dothraki would return to the city at the same time.[7] Within the city, the khalasars are to set their enmities aside. It is death to draw a blade in Vaes Dothrak or to shed a free man’s blood,[7] – although this does not entirely prevent murders within the city.

Vaes Dothrak is located in the shadow of the Mother of Mountains,[22] a mountain which only Dothraki men are allowed to ascend.[7][4] Residing at the edge of the city is the Womb of the World,[22][27] a large lake from where, the Dothraki believe, the first men emerged a thousand years ago upon the back of the first horse.[4]

Marriage, sexual relations, and childbirth

See also: Marriage

Among the Dothraki, weddings occur beneath the open sky. The ceremony might last the entire day, during which the guest's feast, drink, dance, and fight. The Dothraki mate like the animals in their heads. There is no privacy in the khalasar. During the wedding feast, women dance to drums, while warriors may take them before the watching khalasar freely. If two men take the same woman, they fight to the death. A wedding without at least three deaths is seen as a dull affair.[6] During the feast, each dish is offered first to the newlywed pair; All food they refuse is offered to the rest of the participants at the wedding feast.[6] Towards the end of the ceremony, the bride is presented with her bride gifts. As is tradition, a khaleesi will be presented with a gift from each of her husband’s bloodriders – a whip, a bow, and an arakh – which she is to decline and give to her husband instead. Following the receiving of the gifts, the khal and khaleesi will consummate their marriage.[6] After the wedding, the khal is to present his new bride to the dosh khaleen at Vaes Dothrak.[6]

Polygamy is practiced among the Dothraki; At least the Dothraki khals Jommo[4] and Temmo[28] have been known to have had multiple wives. Other khals might decide to share their wife or wives with his bloodriders.[7]

Pregnant women are expected to ride on horseback almost up to the moment of birth,[9] although some women giving birth might ride on a cart.[7] When children are born deformed they are left out for the feral dogs who run behind the khalasar.[26]

A pregnant khaleesi might participate in the stallion heart ceremony, although it is unknown under what circumstances the ceremony occurs. During the ceremony, the khaleesi will attempt to consume the heart of a stallion under the supervision of the dosh khaleen. Due to the prohibition on bearing steel in Vaes Dothrak, the mother must tear apart the stallion's heart with her bare teeth and fingernails. If she eats the entire heart, she will bear a son who is strong and swift and fearless; if she chokes on the blood or retches up the flesh, the omens are less favorable — the child might be stillborn, weak, deformed or female.[4]

Death

The Dothraki believe that the stars in the sky are horses made of fire, and that the starry sky is a great herd of fiery horses racing across the sky.[4] The Dothraki further believe that these horses of fire are ridden by deceased Dothraki, and that the more fiercely a person burned in life, the brighter said person’s star will be in death,[11] causing maesters to say that the Dothraki believe the stars are the spirits of the valiant dead.[29] When a horselord dies, a horse is slain so he can mount it in death.[5] The bodies of deceased Dothraki are next burned beneath the open sky.[11] However, when a child dies at an age at which he is too young to ride, the child will not ride in the night lands but instead be reborn to begin life anew.[5]

At least a khal is given a funeral pyre after he dies.[11] A great square is made from wood, in the middle of which the khal's slain horse is positioned. Over the horse, the platform is constructed on which the khal will be placed. The wood of the platform is laid east to west, from sunrise to sunset. The platform consists of three levels. The wood of the third of these levels are positioned from north to south. On this level the body of the khal is placed. The khal is placed upon the pyre with his head in the direction of the Mother of Mountains. His treasures are positioned around him. The pyre is only lit after the first star has been seen in the sky.[11]

Ancient traditions of the Dothraki demand that a khal’s bloodriders die with him, riding the night lands by his side. When a khal is killed by an enemy, his bloodriders live only long enough to avenge him.[7] The last duty the bloodriders owe their khal is taking the khal's wife or wives to Vaes Dothrak to join the dosh khaleen. After their last duty has been completed, the bloodriders join their khal in death.[10]

The Dothraki believe it is bad luck to touch the body of a dead man whom they have not personally killed themselves.[20]

Military

Dothraki outriders gallop towards a disturbance with weapons drawn - by Tomasz Jedruszek. © Fantasy Flight Games

The Dothraki are nomadic warriors; they ride better than any Westerosi knight.[7] The Dothraki fight from horseback,[7] with warriors wielding arakhs, curved bows, and whips.[6][8][14] The bows the Dothraki use outrange the bows used in the Seven Kingdoms.[7] According to Jorah Mormont, the Dothraki are utterly fearless.[7]

The Dothraki ride on small, flat saddles with short stirrups.[6][14]

Miscellaneous beliefs and superstitions

The Dothraki hate and fear the sea and the ships in it, as they mistrust all water their horses do not drink. They refer to the sea as “the poison water"[8][30] and the “black salt sea”.[9][3]

Dothraki believe that anything of importance in a man's life must take place beneath the open sky.[6]

Ancient prophecy of the Dothraki predicts that one day the khal of all khals will rise, called the stallion who mounts the world. This khal is prophecised to unite the Dothraki into a single khalasar and ride to the ends of the earth, making everyone on the world his herd.[4]

The Dothraki believe that someday ghost grass will cover the world, and then all life will end.[14]

The number thirteen is considered to be a bad number.[31]

Bloodmagic is forbidden amongst the Dothraki.[10] The Dothraki consider a maegi to be a woman who lays with demons and practices the blackest of sorceries. A Maegi is considered to be a vile thing, evil and soulless.[2]

When the gods are gone from a certain place, according to the Dothraki, evil ghosts feast by night. The Dothraki feel it best to shun such places.[5]

History

The ancestors of the Dothraki came from the lands beyond the Bone Mountains in the Further East, leaving behind the bones that give the Bone Mountains their name.[32]

The nomadic Dothraki do not have a tradition of settlements. To make a house a thousand years ago, they dug a hole in the ground and covered it with a woven grass roof.[7] Four hundred years ago,[22][30] the Dothraki rode toward the Free Cities out of the east, sacking and burning every town and city in their path, including the Kingdom of Sarnor, the Qaathi cities in the Red Waste,[22] and the Ibbenese settlements in the Kingdom of the Ifequevron.[28] Khal Temmo and his khalasar of at least fifty-thousand were stopped by the Unsullied in the Battle of Qohor.[30] During the Century of Blood after the Doom of Valyria, the Dothraki drove smallfolk from their hovels and nobles from their estates, until only grass and ruins remained from the forest of Qohor to the headwaters of the Selhoru.[33]

Ruined cities and regions ring the vast plains of the Dothraki sea, including the Kingdom of Sarnor, the Kingdom of the Ifequevron, the upper Skahazadhan, and the red waste.[34] The godsway in Vaes Dothrak contains monuments the Dothraki have taken from conquered people.[7]

Books and scrolls about the Dothraki

Quotes

I shall fear the Dothraki the day they teach their horses to run on water.[35]

Eddard Stark, to Robert I Baratheon


The Dothraki follow only the strong.[13]

Jorah Mormont, to Daenerys Targaryen


Godless savages.[8]

– the owner of the Lord Faro's Belly


The Dothraki were wise where horses were concerned, but could be utter fools about much else.[20]

– thoughts of Daenerys Targaryen


The Dothraki are not fond of towns, you will know this even in Westeros.[23]

Illyrio Mopatis, to Tyrion Lannister


The horselords come, we give them gifts, the horselords go.[36]

Qavo Nogarys, to Haldon

Behind the Scenes

George R.R. Martin has stated that the Dothraki were fashioned as an amalgam of a number of steppe and plains cultures. "Mongols and Huns, certainly, but also Alans, Sioux, Cheyenne, and various other Amerindian tribes... seasoned with a dash of pure fantasy. So any resemblance to Arabs or Turks is coincidental. Well, except to the extent that the Turks were also originally horsemen of the steppes, not unlike the Alans, Huns, and the rest."[37]

See also

  • Dothrawiki, a wiki dedicated to the Dothraki language.

Notes

  1. Similar to kaszanka
  2. Similar to the Central Asian drink kumýs

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 3, Daenerys I.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 61, Daenerys VII.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 23, Daenerys II.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 46, Daenerys V.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 5.9 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 12, Daenerys I.
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 11, Daenerys II.
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 7.15 7.16 7.17 7.18 7.19 7.20 7.21 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 36, Daenerys IV.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 63, Daenerys V.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 54, Daenerys VI.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 10.7 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 64, Daenerys VIII.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 72, Daenerys X.
  12. 12.0 12.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 27, Daenerys III.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 68, Daenerys IX.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 23, Daenerys III.
  15. So Spake Martin: Gods of Westeros (November 18, 1998)
  16. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 48, Daenerys IV.
  17. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 52, Daenerys IX.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 71, Daenerys X.
  19. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 27, Daenerys II.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 2, Daenerys I.
  21. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 56, Tyrion VII.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 22.5 22.6 The World of Ice & Fire, Beyond the Free Cities: The Grasslands.
  23. 23.0 23.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 5, Tyrion II.
  24. 24.0 24.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 50, Daenerys VIII.
  25. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 36, Daenerys VI.
  26. 26.0 26.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 31, Tyrion IV.
  27. The Lands of Ice and Fire, The Dothraki Sea.
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 The World of Ice & Fire, Beyond the Free Cities: Ib.
  29. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 66, Theon VI.
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 8, Daenerys I.
  31. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 17, Jon IV.
  32. The World of Ice & Fire, The Bones and Beyond.
  33. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 14, Tyrion IV.
  34. The Lands of Ice and Fire.
  35. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 33, Eddard VIII.
  36. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 22, Tyrion VI.
  37. So Spake Martin: On Ethnicities (February 04, 2012)