During this scene in Game of Thrones where the Kingsguard go to kidnap Arya and Syrio fights them, Syrio uses his wooden practice sword against their real metal swords.

Syrio had several opportunities to replace his wooden sword with a metal one, most notably 40 seconds into the scene when he beats down one knight with a blow to the head and has ample time to pick up that knight's sword.

I doubt it's because the knights' swords were incompatible with his fighting style. They almost certainly would've been preferable over a broken wooden practice sword. Also, as a former First Sword of Bravos, Syrio would've been experienced with many fighting styles and weapons - he of all people should know that combat can happen at any time and doesn't always give you your weapon of choice.

If Syrio chose his wooden sword over a metal one not for practical reasons, did he do so out of pride? Pride bringing about a man's fall seems to be a common theme in Game of Thrones. The fact that he preferred his broken wooden sword over Arya's also supports this.

  • Have not read the books or watched the series (except for some YT), so this ain't an answer really.... but perhaps Syrio didn't want Arya to witness her teacher and mentor to kill {insert number} of men bloodily before getting hacked to pieces himself. The situation was traumatizing for Arya already, and -- me being in the "he's done for anyway" camp -- killing any number of guards wouldn't have changed that. Arya would witness real bloodshed soon enough; no reason to start then and there, when his practice sword was enough to delay them. He also gave her a last lesson about courage and style.
    – DevSolar
    May 20, 2016 at 11:50
  • Unofficial speculation and thus not an answer: his sole goal was to provide Arya with enough time and distraction to escape, not to escape himself. There have been other great answers about why he chose not to arm himself; mostly what he needed to do was tire out the opposition and keep them from informing others of Arya's escape. Easier to do with a light weapon against guys in full plate than with a heavy hunk of steel. Jan 26, 2017 at 3:19

6 Answers 6


He is a Bravo; their swords, Rapiers (Arya's sword, Needle is created based on a Rapier), are not the same as a Westerosi Knight's (who usually use a Long or Broadsword).

Unlike the fighting style of Westerosi knights, Water Dancers favor slender, lighter swords for a faster, more elegant fighting style based on sword thrusts, instead of the hacking and slashing of heavy longswords and greatswords.
-Water Dance Wikia

Picking up a heavy and clunky Westerosi sword would have actually been a detriment to his fighting style.

  • 3
    He pretty much used the wooden sword as a a broadsword (Considering that the knights were in full armor, he couldn't really thrust). Also, the books mentioned that the practice swords were filled with lead for weight training so they were just as heavy as the broadswords.
    – JPtheK9
    Jul 17, 2015 at 5:54
  • 2
    He explains the difference between the "dances" here. Jul 17, 2015 at 6:01
  • 1
    Before the fight began, he said "Arya, child, we are done with dancing for the day." I think he recognizes the difference between dance and combat. Also, in the scene you linked, Syrio shows his knowledge of the Westerosi fighting style with broadswords.
    – JPtheK9
    Jul 17, 2015 at 6:03
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    Two ideas come to my mind: 1. It is totally possible to keep up with a wooden sword. Just don't let them swords clash together, but let them "slide off each other". 2. There were about over 9000 knights. Maybe he just knew he would be dead anyway, so he dies with his favored weapon in his hands.
    – Trollwut
    Jul 21, 2015 at 8:36
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    @JPtheK9 Would you take a little girl's only method of defence away from her, while her family were under attack? What if you were a proud fighter with a reputation to uphold - and you felt personally responsible for her ability to defend herself because you were the person her father trusted to teach you to do it? Jul 21, 2015 at 8:37

My take is he wanted to die fighting. He knew he would die, just as he knew Ser Meryn Trant lied about who sent him. Ser Meryn Trant claimed he was sent by Eddard Stark. But only the king could order 5 men of the Kingsguard around.

Realizing this and thus uncovering the lie, Syrio Forel chose to defy the king's order. He knew fairly well that defying the king's order and "attacking" the Kingsguard would get him something along the lines of lifetime sentence if not capital punishment.

Being a show-off he chose to die with style:

  • fighting
  • with a wooden sword
  • being outnumbered
  • for a lady
  • with a smile
  • almost winning.

His choice to die was also exemplified by his deliberate disuse of his standard quote:
He made Arya say "Not today" (to death). He himself did not say it (as far as I remember; although he used to made her say it, just to repeat it after her).

I wonder, if he really tried as hard as he could. It might've been my prejudiced view (or the actors' lack in actual skill affecting the choreography) but I thought he slowed down considerably against Ser Meryn Trant.

  • This makes the most sense, I think. It was pride that eventually killed him, but it was badass!
    – JPtheK9
    Sep 9, 2015 at 17:54

While watching this scene, I always got the impression that he knew he was finished. Taking on four fully armored knights is no small feat, no matter how accomplished a swordsman you are.

If he's confident that he is about to die (or at least that it's a likely possibility), it doesn't matter at all what sword he's using. His objective here is to delay them long enough for Arya to get away. Notice how many times he tells her to leave. He can delay as well with a leaded wooden sword, since he's mainly just bashing them around with it.

Taking Arya's sword wouldn't help her get away, or change the overall outcome. There was no reason for him to do that, either. Although I'm sure it would have hurt his pride to take a weapon from a little girl, I also believe that if it would have turned the tide of the fight, he would have done it.

  • 1
    He incapacitated 4 fully armored knights fairly with what seemed like little effort. The most challenging battle was the one with Ser Meryn Trant. I do agree that he could have had the intention of delaying Trant but in any case, full sword > broken sword. Is it possible that all these contradictions concerning Syrio's possible death points towards Syrio actually not being dead?
    – JPtheK9
    Aug 19, 2015 at 1:32
  • I'm of the "Syrio is dead" camp to be honest, and think "reviving" him after this long would be a strange plot device, but there's really no telling what Martin will do with it.
    – Geobits
    Aug 19, 2015 at 1:41
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    Yeah, definitely would be a strange plot device but a girl can always hope ^^. One thing I noticed that really sparked my suspicions is the sound of clanking metal after Arya flees (in the show). Meryn Trant was seen later on though, which makes no sense if he had dropped his sword during his battle with Syrio. Maybe Syrio sparred his life?
    – JPtheK9
    Aug 19, 2015 at 2:16

Speaking as a fencer, the action of picking up the sword of a fallen foe with active foes in range would almost certainly have poor result. (i.e. the most likely outcome is to be stabbed or cut down in the time it took to retrieve the weapon and raise one's guard. Knight's swords may be heavier than rapiers, but it is still a quick weapon, especially if the target is unarmored, removing the need for a powerful blow.)

That said, many of the other answers seem quite legit also.


How do we know he even died? Arya runs never see's the fight, we assume he died because Trant lives but maybe beating Trant to the dirt was enough for the first sword of Bravos. If he killed Lannister guards or a member of the King's Guard he is dead for sure, but if he takes them all down with a child's toy killing none he can walk away free and clear. When Trant and the guards report back with out Arya they will say "We couldn't find her" not "The five foot six guy beat us like rugs with a stick and she got away arrest him". Their shame keeps him out of a situation where he has Lannisters looking to settle a score with him and saves his student.

  • Because Martin would never write it that way. He believes in logic deaths. One man, basically unarmed, surrounded by armed and armored soldiers, surely died.
    – cde
    May 20, 2016 at 14:13

He has just a wooden sword because it is his sparring sword.

It is a question whether he could have picked up the sword of the first man he knocked out. Maybe he had enough time, maybe he didn't. Maybe he would uncover himself in a similar way as did Jamie with Bronn during training (4x02):

enter image description here

Jaime: Bold warrior you are, attacking a man when his guard's down.

Bronn: Best time to attack a man.

Maybe he could also disarm one of those men in a similar manner as he disarmed Arya (in 1x06), and then use their sword:

enter image description here

But he didn't. Either because it wasn't that easy, or just because the authors (GRMM or D&D) needed him dead, so that ....

... Arya can put Meryn Trant on her list and then brutally kill him :-))

In any case, I don't think that he died because of pride.

PS: About why he didn't take Arya's sword - we are obviously not talking about Needle, since Needle was already outside in the wooden box (from which she takes it in the next scene). When Meryn Trant broke his wooden sword, he was already very close to Syrio, so Syrio didn't have the time to take Arya's wooden sword.

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