Dothraki

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Dothraki by Rene Aigner©
Dothraki camp (TV series)
© FFG

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. The Dothraki are large people with copper-toned skin, dark almond eyes, and black hair.[1]

Contents

History

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.[2] Four hundred years ago or more, probably around the time of the Doom of Valyria, the Dothraki rode toward the Free Cities out of the east, sacking and burning every town and city in their path. Khal Temmo and his khalasar of at least 50,000 were stopped by the Unsullied in the Battle of Qohor.[3] During the Century of Blood after the Doom, 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.[4]

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.[5] The godsway in Vaes Dothrak contains monuments the Dothraki have taken from conquered people.[2]

Society, language and culture

The Dothraki rely greatly on their horses as these beasts are an intrinsic part of their nomadic society. They use them for food, transportation, for clothing, and as a source of materials for crafts, and their deity is the horse god, mirroring the importance of horses in Dothraki culture.

The Dothraki are especially skilled in horse riding and mounted warfare. They traverse the Dothraki Sea in tribes known as khalasars and are led by a khal. A khalasar is divided into khas, which are led by one of the khal's captains, called kos. When a khal dies, a new khal may take control of the khalasar or a khas may break away and form new khalasars led by their former kos.

Each khal has bloodriders. Part guardian, brother and companion, the bloodriders guard and accompany the khal in his daily routine. 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. Some khals are known to have shared not only their daily routines with their bloodriders, but their wives as well.[2] However, horses are never shared among the khal and his bloodriders. The khal and his bloodriders commonly refer to each other as "blood of my blood".[2]

Khalasars have no fixed settlements and rely heavily on raiding neighboring nations, and each other, for subsistence. Although they disdain the exchange of currency, they do give and accept gifts, often including slaves. Sometimes a strong khalasar may threaten to sack one of the Free Cities or demand tribute, but their favorite target for slaving are the docile Lhazareen herders. Dothraki can erect large grass canopies for special occasions, but typically live in portable tents, always on the move. The Dothraki have only one permanent city, called Vaes Dothrak, which serves as their capital. While khalasars are typically rivals on the plains, in Vaes Dothrak all Dothraki must behave as brothers. No one may spill blood or draw a blade in the city, on pain of death. The wives of khals, called khaleesis, live in Vaes Dothrak once widowed. There they serve as seers as the dosh khaleen.

The Dothraki speak an eponymous language of their own.[6] All horselords affect a bowlegged swagger when forced to dismount and stride the earth like common mortals.

Cultural, spiritual and social practices

The horse is in the heart of the lives of Dothraki, who are sometimes dubbed the "horselords" It is both a deity, a mount, a power source for its meat and milk of mares, and an inspiration for all craft. The nomadic lifestyle, as well as many cultural taboos, are directly associated with the horse. They fear the sea, calling it the poison water, because they distrust any liquid that a horse will not drink.[3] They are also very wary of sea travel because they cannot imagine crossing large distances without riding their horses.

Riding a horse is, for the Dothraki, a basic marker of social status. A khal who cannot ride is no khal.[7] Custom decrees that the khaleesi must ride a mount worthy of her place by the side of the khal.[6] A pregnant woman is expected to ride on horseback almost up to the moment of birth.[8]

A cart is of less prestige and is used to transport eunuchs (who serve the dosh khaleen[9] as well as slaves who serve as healers with knife, needle and fire [10]), cripples (those that are not left for the feral dogs[11]), women in childbirth, the very young and the very old.[2] It is by this concession that Viserys Targaryen becomes known as Khal Rhaggat, the Cart King.

A man who does not ride is no man at all, the lowest of the low, without honour or pride, most often a slave. Viserys's status as a walker for one day leaves him known as Khal Rhae Mhar (the sorefoot king).

When a Dothraki dies, his horse is sacrificed on the funeral pyre of his master. The Dothraki consume a diet almost exclusively of horse meat, to which they attribute many properties, which they subsequently prefer to beef and pork.[11] They also have black sausages (similar to kaszanka), blood pies and sweetgrass stews.[6] They drink a mildly alcoholic beverage derived from fermented mare's milk (similar to the Central Asian drink kumýs).[9]

A pregnant Dothraki woman will participate in the stallion heart ceremony, in which she 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 were less favourable — the child might be stillborn, weak, deformed or female.

Dothraki have a contempt of cities, they believe that anything of importance in a man's life must take place beneath the open sky.[6] The Dothraki believe that the stars are horses made of fire and are a giant herd that gallops across the sky by night.[9] However it is said by others that the Dothraki believe the stars are the spirits of valiant dead.[12]

Wedding and Bedding

See also: Marriage

Weddings begin at dawn and end at dusk, an endless day of drinking and feasting and fighting. Women with veils of crimson and yellow and orange dance to drums at wedding feasts, and warriors may take them freely before the watching khalasar. If two men take the same woman, they fight to the death. A Dothraki wedding without at least three deaths is seen as a dull affair. The bride receives three traditional gifts: whip, bow, and arakh. She refuses them with traditional words, and the husband takes them, after bride gifts are given, and the sun has gone down, the marriage is consummated.

The Dothraki mate like the animals in their heat. There is no privacy in the khalasar, and their sense of sin and shame is different than that of the Free Cities and the Seven Kingdoms.[6]

Customs

The Dothraki are a very superstitious group. Touching the corpse of a man you have not killed yourself is considered bad luck, as well as the number thirteen.[13] Witches, or maegi, are reviled as evil and unnatural.

Riding in carts in a khalasar is reserved for eunuchs, cripples, women with child, the very young and the very old. To ride in a cart and not be a member of any of those groups is to be worthy of derision.[2] Khalasars keep two sorts of healers. Barren women practice with herbs and potions and spells, and eunuch slaves use knife, needle, and fire. Dothraki leave deformed newborns behind them for feral dogs to eat.

The Dothraki may wear rich fabrics and perfumes in the Free Cities, however among their own people men and women garb themselves in painted leather vests over bare chests, horsehair leggings cinched with belts of bronze medallions[6] and open-toed riding sandals that lace up to the knees. They do not wear armor, considering it craven, so they often fight with no shirt on or with only vests. Dothraki women might wear robes of painted sandsilk.

The Dothraki’s proof of valor is their braided topknots. Whenever they lose a battle they must cut their braids as a sign of defeat. They mark victories by putting tiny bells in their braids, often taking bells from the Dothraki they have slain. Thus, a warrior's topknot is a symbol of his prowess.[1]

The Dothraki do not build. A thousand years before, to build a house they would dig a hole in the earth and raise a grass roof over it.[2]

Traders are free to cross the Dothraki sea unmolested to Vaes Dothrak as long as they keep the peace, do not profane either the Mother of Mountains or the Womb of the World and give the traditional gifts of salt, silver and seed to the dosh khaleen.

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. Light cavalry forms the backbone of their power, with warriors wielding curved cavalry swords called arakhs, curved bows, and whips. They eschew armor as they consider such cowardly and typically wear painted vests and horsehair breeches.

While the khalasar is on the move, their scouts range far ahead, looking for prey or enemies. Outriders guard the flanks.[14] After battles, the jaqqa rhan or mercy men move among corpses and use heavy axes to take the heads of the dead and dying alike, while small girls with baskets go about pulling arrows from bodies to be re-used later.

Inspiration

See also: Themes in A Song of Ice and Fire

George R.R. Martin 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. Resemblance to Arabs or Turks is coincidental, extent that the Turks were also originally horsemen of the steppes.[15]

Quotes

I shall fear the Dothraki the day they teach their horses to run on water.[16]
Eddard Stark, to Robert Baratheon


The Dothraki follow only the strong.[17]
- Jorah Mormont, to Daenerys Targaryen


Godless savages.[18]
- The owner of the Lord Faro's Belly


The Dothraki were wise where horses were concerned, but could be utter fools about much else.[19]
- thoughts of Daenerys Targaryen


The Dothraki are not fond of towns, you will know this even in Westeros.[20]
- Illyrio Mopatis, to Tyrion Lannister


The horselords come, we give them gifts, the horselords go.[21]
- Qavo Nogarys, to Haldon

References and Notes

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Across the narrow sea. The list of authors can be seen in the page history of Across the narrow sea. As with A Wiki of Ice and Fire, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

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