The silent sisters, also referred to as the Stranger's wives, death's handmaidens, and the handmaidens of the Stranger, are an order of women belonging to the Faith of the Seven. They are sworn to the service of the Stranger and have taken vows of chastity and silence. The silent sisters attend to the dead. They are not to be confused with septas.
Girls and women are sometimes sent to become silent sisters as a punishment, and it is said that the silent sisters are always glad to welcome widows. According to a semi-canon source, female criminals can join the silent sisters. Novices shave their heads, take cold baths, eat meatless meals, are scrubbed with horsehair brushes, and wear roughspun robes. Disobedient novices can be caned.
The silent sisters' main function is the collection and handling of the bodies of noble dead, such as preparing them for funerals. Silent sisters can be skilled barbers, as they might need to trim beards and cut hair. The women can remove the bowels and organs and drain a body of blood, stuffing it with salts and fragrant herbs. Silent sisters often dress the deceased in their finest attire, such as tunics or armor. To allow for easier transport or burial, silent sisters can strip flesh from the deceased's bones through boiling or beetles.
People of Westeros are often uneasy about and wary of the women; since the silent sisters prepare men for the grave, it is considered ill fortune to look on the face of death. The belief that their tongues are removed is a myth; silent sisters are silent because of piety. It is said that silent sisters have a serene life, a life of prayer and contemplation and good works. They bring solace to the living and peace to the dead. However, they also administer harsh discipline among their order.
Marla Sunderland rebelled against House Arryn during Aegon's Conquest, but she was deposed by her younger brother Steffon with the failure of the Sistermen's Rebellion. After five years of imprisonment, Marla's tongue was removed and she was forced to join the silent sisters.
When Queen Alysanne Targaryen visited Oldtown in 54 AC, she spent a day in prayer and contemplation with silent sisters at their motherhouse in the city. Later in life, Alysanne considered renouncing her marriage to King Jaehaerys I Targaryen and instead joining the silent sisters. In 84 AC, Princess Saera Targaryen was sent to Oldtown to serve with the silent sisters as a novice, but she fled for Lys the following year.
The small council did not call for the silent sisters after learning of the death of King Viserys I Targaryen, so the king's body swelled and rotted as the greens kept his death a secret. Only after a week had passed were silent sisters finally allowed to prepare the corpse for burning. During the ensuing Dance of the Dragons, silent sisters and septas were raped and violated by greens after the First Battle of Tumbleton. After his execution by Lord Cregan Stark during the Hour of the Wolf, the remains of Lord Larys Strong were given to the silent sisters.
Maris Baratheon became a silent sister during the regency of Aegon III. Lady Samantha Tarly ignored the command of the High Septon that she leave Lord Lyonel Hightower and join the silent sisters.
Alysanne Osgrey was sent to the order because her father, Ser Eustace, rebelled during the First Blackfyre Rebellion. During the Great Spring Sickness, nearly all of the silent sisters in King's Landing died of the plague.
A Game of Thrones
Silent sisters attend to the body of Ser Hugh of the Vale, who was killed by Ser Gregor Clegane during the Hand's tourney. Lord Eddard Stark tasks one of them with sending the young knight's armor back to his mother.
A Clash of Kings
Silent sisters present Eddard's bones to Catelyn Stark at Riverrun, as arranged by Tyrion. Catelyn requests the silent sisters take Eddard's bones to Winterfell so that he may be buried in the crypt beneath the castle in accordance with the tradition of House Stark. They are to be escorted by Hallis Mollen.
A Storm of Swords
A Feast for Crows
Travelling to Duskendale, Brienne of Tarth comes across a band of silent sisters. She asks them if they have seen her sister but they shake their heads. Later Brienne, Ser Illifer, and Ser Creighton Longbough come across some poor fellows marching to King's Landing, who tell them that even silent sisters have been molested.
Silent sisters tend to the body of Lord Tywin Lannister after he is found murdered in the Tower of the Hand. During Ser Jaime Lannister's vigil over his father's body, the silent sisters come single file down the Stranger's Steps of the Great Sept of Baelor. They and the other devout make a circuit of the sept, worshiping at each of the seven altars to honor the seven aspects of the deity. To each god they make a sacrifice and sing a hymn. When the funeral procession departs King's Landing, six silent sisters ride attendance on Tywin's bones.
Queen Regent Cersei Lannister suggests to Falyse Stokeworth that she join the silent sisters after Bronn ordered her gone from Stokeworth. Cersei then thinks of a better way to get rid of her and gives Falyse to Qyburn. During Cersei's imprisonment three silent sisters hold her down as Septa Scolera strips her bare.
After resolving the siege of Riverrun, Jaime dreams of a woman all in grey, a silent sister. A hood and veil conceal her features, but he can see the candles burning in the green pools of her eyes; it is his mother, Joanna Lannister.
A Dance with Dragons
The silent sisters prepared men for the grave, and it was ill fortune to look on the face of death.—thoughts of Eddard Stark
The silent sisters do not speak to the living, Catelyn remembered dully, but some say they can talk to the dead.—thoughts of Catelyn Stark
If I had any sense I'd give you to the silent sisters. They cut the tongues out of girls who talk too much.
Podrick: The silent sisters never speak. I heard they don't have tongues.
Meribald: Mothers have been cowing their daughters with that tale since I was your age. There was no truth to it then and there is none now. A vow of silence is an act of contrition, a sacrifice by which we prove our devotion to the Seven Above.
Wylla, every time you open your mouth you make me want to send you to the silent sisters.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 4, Brienne I.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 8, Jaime I.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 42, Brienne VIII.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 65, Cersei II.
- The Sworn Sword.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 32, Cersei VII.
- So Spake Martin: Stockholm and Archipelacon Report, June 28, 2015
- Fire & Blood, The Long Reign - Jaehaerys and Alysanne: Policy, Progeny, and Pain.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 31, Brienne VI.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 23, Daenerys II.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 30, Arya VII.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 39, Catelyn V.
- Fire & Blood, Reign of the Dragon - The Wars of King Aegon I.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 30, Eddard VII.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 17, Cersei IV.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 70, The Queen's Hand.
- Fire & Blood, Under the Regents - The Hooded Hand.
- Fire & Blood, Aegon's Conquest.
- Fire & Blood, Birth, Death, and Betrayal Under King Jaehaerys I.
- Fire & Blood, the Dying of the Dragons - The Blacks and the Greens.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - Rhaenyra Triumphant.
- Fire & Blood, Aftermath - The Hour of the Wolf.
- The Mystery Knight.
- So Spake Martin: Private Meeting (Santa Fe, NM), May 04, 2004
- The World of Ice & Fire: The Westerlands (unabridged). georgerrmartin.com
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 41, Alayne II.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 39, Eddard X.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 3, Tyrion I.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 65, Arya XII.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 28, Cersei VI.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 3, Cersei I.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 16, Jaime II.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 43, Cersei X.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 44, Jaime VII.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 19, Davos III.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 33, Tyrion VIII.