- "I'm sure Lorath adds something to the world, but I can't think of it."
- ―Ser Jorah Mormont
Lorath is one of the Free Cities located to the east of Westeros. It is located on an island just off the northern coast of Essos, east and slightly south of Braavos. The Shivering Sea lies to its north and an inlet of water known as Lorath Bay lies to the south. Lorath is the least-known of the Free Cities, due to its isolated location and the lack of any notable ports further east.
The people of Lorath are known as Lorathi.
- Shae - a prostitute originally from Lorath. Killed by Tyrion Lannister, her former lover, during the assassination at the Tower of the Hand.
- Jaqen H'ghar - a false persona of a Lorathi man adopted by one of the Faceless Men of Braavos. In truth, he may never have even set foot in Lorath - but his appearance and mannerisms are a convincing imitation of what Lorathi people are like.
When Cersei Lannister meets Shae for the first time, she recognizes from her accent that she is a Lorathi. Cersei states that she is familiar with the accent because she once had a handmaiden who was from Lorath.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Lorath is the least-mentioned of the Free Cities. It is likely influenced by Braavos, as it lies quite close to that city. Lorath probably isn't very powerful because there are no major cities further east along the northern shore of Essos. The Inuit-like inhabitants of the island of Ibben probably trade with Lorath, given that it is the closest of the Free Cities to Ibben, yet Ibbenese traders can also be found in Braavos, Pentos, or even as far away as King's Landing in Westeros.
As of the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, descriptions of Lorath's culture and society are scant to nonexistent, nor have any named characters from Lorath appeared. It isn't a mysterious, magical or hidden city, rather it seems to be rarely mentioned simply because it isn't very powerful or important. Jaqen H'ghar does claim to be from Lorath, but given his true nature as one of the mysterious Faceless Men of Braavos, it is possible that he has never even been to Lorath.
Shae being from Lorath in the TV series
A change from the books is that Shae is now stated to be from Lorath. Cersei says she had a Lorathi handmaiden once and recognizes Shae's accent. In the books, Shae is just a camp servant of the Lannister army and her backstory is never gone into in detail, but she is from Westeros. The TV producers stated that they changed it so that when she is introduced in Season 1, Shae is stated to be "from the Free Cities" (they hadn't settled on which one yet) because they enjoyed the audition of actress Sibel Kekilli, but wanted to have some explanation for why she speaks with a German accent. As it is, Kekilli is of Turkish descent but was born and raised in Germany, hence her German accent.
Given that Sibel Kekilli speaks with a German accent, and that fellow German national Tom Wlaschiha (Jaqen) also speaks with a German accent, the implication in the TV continuity may be that a "Lorathi accent" is specifically supposed to sound like a German accent (the Faceless Man who took on the "Jaqen" persona wasn't really a Lorathi, but it was a persona meant to convincingly imitate a Lorathi man). Just as Germany is one of the northernmost regions of continental Europe and borders the cold waters of the Baltic Sea, Lorath is one of the northernmost of the Free Cities and borders the cold waters of the Shivering Sea.
A large amount of information about Lorath was revealed for the first time with the publication of The World of Ice and Fire sourcebook: in its current form, the city was founded by a cult of religious dissidents from Valyria, who followed a god called Boash (though the cult died out hundreds of years ago). Since the Boash'i did not believe in slavery, Lorath became a haven for runaway slaves from other parts of the Valyrian Freehold. As a result, Lorath's population is a mixture of many ethnicities, quite similar to Braavos. This information wasn't available when the TV show changed Shae's backstory to be Lorathi, and cast the ethnically Turkish Sibel Kekilli in the role; the World book only came out in late 2014, after Shae died at the end of Season 4, and it wasn't even decided she was Lorathi until Season 2. Nonetheless, the changes actually fit quite well with the new backstory information about Lorath from the book continuity, that people from Lorath tend to be ethnically diverse. This is in contrast with some of the more ethnically uniform Free Cities, such as Volantis; a plot point is that the Volantene nobility pride themselves on their Valyrian ancestry and look much like Daenerys Targaryen- with pale skin and silver-white hair- and don't intermarry with people from other ethnicities.
The World of Ice and Fire also established that the cult of Boash believed in extreme self-denial. This led to an odd manner of speech among the ancient Lorathi in which they only used indefinite pronouns, as another way of humbling their sense of self-worth. For example, instead of a Lorathi man saying "I thank you, girl", he would only say "a man thanks a girl". Even though the cult of Boash died out hundreds of years ago, in the present day the upper aristocracy of Lorath still consider it a sign of good manners to use this speech pattern. Thus the Faceless Man that Arya Stark encounters doesn't use this "a man thanks a girl" speech pattern because he is a Faceless Man of Braavos - Braavosi people do not speak this way- the speech pattern is just part of his false "Jaqen H'ghar" persona, a convincing imitation of how a Lorathi man would talk. The World book did emphasize that only some of the upper aristocracy in Lorath still use this speech pattern, however, so there is nothing incongruous with the fact that TV-Shae does not use this speech pattern despite being from Lorath.
While the novels themselves have not revealed much about Lorath, The World of Ice and Fire sourcebook explained that this location actually has quite an extensive history. Long before it became a colony of the Valyrian Freehold, the area where Lorath now stands was home to a revolving door of cultures and peoples. Its earliest known inhabitants - dubbed the "mazemakers" by later generations - erected vast labyrinthine structures that still stand in the present day. Although the bones of these master masons have been discovered (they were larger than typical humans but smaller than Giants), the mazemakers themselves disappeared thousands of years ago and left no written records, so the truth about them and their mazes is unknown.
In the centuries that followed, Lorath was inhabited by a race of fisherfolk who bore many similarities to the present-day Ibbenese. They were later displaced by the Andals, who invaded from the mainland which lies to the south. These new arrivals set up a slew of small kingdoms and spent much time warring and quarreling amongst themselves. When the Andals launched an attack on the Valyrian colony of Norvos, located to the southeast, the Freehold sent a force of one hundred dragons and beat the invaders back. The "Scouring of Lorath" that followed razed the Andal kingdoms to the ground and left no survivors.
Afterwards, Lorath remained uninhabited for many years, until religious dissidents from Valyria arrived. These were the followers of Boash, also known as the Blind God. The Boash'i practiced an austere lifestyle of extreme self-abnegation, even more than the Bearded Priests of Norvos (they did not consume flesh or drink wine). The faith of Boash believed that all humans are equal: male or female, rich or poor, free or slave. Therefore, slavery was not practiced in Lorath, and it became a favored destination for runaway slaves fleeing from Valyria itself. The result is that Lorath has a very diverse ethnic composition, due to much of its population being descended from slaves the Valyrians took from across the world.
The Boash'i continued to dominate Lorath for several centuries, but the number of the Blind God's devotees gradually dwindled, both due to new settlers moving into the city from Andalos and Ib, and descendants of the original settlers simply losing interest in it. Their priests became corrupt and more concerned with collecting wealth than observing the faith. At some point before the Century of Blood (roughly four hundred years prior to the War of the Five Kings), the last of the old priests of Boash were wiped out and Lorath became a Freehold, like Valyria before it. In the present day, Lorath is nominally ruled by a triad of elected Princes, though a council of magisters wields the true power. Lorath is now predominantly a fishing port - as the surrounding waters of the Shivering Sea are plentiful - and conducts small-scale trade in items such as salt cod, walrus tusks, sealskins, and whale oil. These resources have not made Lorath wealthy, though it is reasonably prosperous. Overall, Lorath is considered to be the least of the Free Cities in wealth, population, and influence. It is also the most isolated, rarely trading far beyond its borders, instead preferring to trade with its immediate neighbors of Braavos, Norvos, and Ib. Lorath rarely gets involved in wars with the other Free Cities.
"Lorath" is pronounced "LORE-ath", with the stress on the first syllable, as opposed to "Luh-WRATH", "L'wrath", etc. It uses a short "A" as in "wrath", but is pronounced as two distinct syllables, not slurred together as "Lore-uhth".
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