Arakh: Dothraki Sword, Horselord Steel

The "arakh" is a fictional type of handheld, bladed melee weapon in George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series. It is a traditional Dothraki sword.
March 23, 2024  
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An arakh is an iconic sword-like weapon used by the Dothraki of GRRM’s ASOIAF (Game of Thrones) series. One might say it is to the “horselords” what the kukri is to the Gurkhas of the real world. Though described as “half sword and half scythe”, many readers (and fans of the show) continue to debate its real-world provenance.

It should not be confused with Arak liquor, an Arabic drink, or the Arak rifle (Arak-21) built by Faxon Firearms

Arakh Sword: Dothraki Steel

The arakh made its first book appearance in the Daenerys chapter in which she is wed to Khal Drogo. 

She heard a shout, saw a shove, and in the blink of an eye the arakhs were out, long razor-sharp blades, half sword and half scythe. A dance of death began as the warriors circled and slashed, leaping toward each other, whirling the blades around their heads, shrieking insults at each clash. No one made a move to interfere.

It ended as quickly as it began. The arakhs shivered together faster than Dany could follow, one man missed a step, the other swung his blade in a flat arc. Steel bit into flesh just above the Dothraki’s waist, and opened him from backbone to belly button, spilling his entrails into the dust.

Although George RR Martin has been quoted as saying the arakh sword is similar to a scimitar, parts of the GoT/ASOIAF community have compared it to a number of other weapons. Among these are the Nepalese khukuri (kukri), Dacian falx, Iberian falcata, and (most commonly) the Egyptian khopesh. It is the latter weapon the arakh of the HBO television series most resembles. 

As with most any metal weapon, arakhs required honing and care to present rust. And as with all blades, it was forbidden to carry an arakh in Vaes Dothrak, or to shed a free man’s blood. 

Egyptian Khopesh; the sword of Tutankhamen

An example of the Egyptian Khopesh; this was the sword of Tutankhamen

 

Dothraki Swords

In addition to the wedding scene noted above, the Dothraki sickle sword has appeared in many important scenes throughout the series, including (but not limited to) the following events that occurred at the end of A Game of Thrones. 

  • A bloodrider’s arakh inflicted one of Khal Drogo’s wounds after the battle with Khal Ogo’s khalasar. When the wound festered, he died …blood covered the left side of his bare chest like a splash of paint…the arakh cut was wide but shallow; his left nipple was gone, and a flap of bloody flesh and skin dangled from his chest like a wet rag…Dany could see the muscles in his chest where the skin had been cut away…
  • Qotho, one of Khal Drogo’s bloodriders, used an arakh to strike down one of Dany’s warriors, Quaro, and then to badly wound the knight Jorah Mormont, though Mormont subsequently killed him.Quaro took a step forward, reaching for the handle of his whip, but Qotho spun graceful as a dancer, the curved arakh rising. It caught Quaro low under the arm, the bright sharp steel biting up through leather and skin, through muscle and rib bone. Blood fountained as the young rider reeled backward, gasping.The curved blade slipped past the straight one and bit deep into the knight’s hip where the mail gaped open…Qotho shrieked triumph, but his arakh had found bone, and for half a heartbeat it caught. It was enough. Ser Jorah brought his longsword down with all the strength left him, through flesh and muscle and bone, and Qotho’s forearm dangled loose, flopping on a thin cord of skin and sinew. The knight’s next cut was at the Dothraki’s ear, so savage that Qotho’s face seemed almost to explode.In that same fight, with bloodrider pitted against (soon to be) bloodrider, Rokharo killed Haggo with an arakh. Rakharo was fighting Haggo, arakh dancing with arakh until Jhogo’s whip cracked, loud as thunder, the lash coiling around Haggo’s throat. A yank, and the bloodrider stumbled backward, losing his feet and his sword. Rakharo sprang forward, howling, swinging his arakh down with both hands through the top of Haggo’s head. The point caught between his eyes, red and quivering.
  •  Jhogo, who like Aggo initially resisted taking the oath of a bloodrider to Daenerys, was the first to swear loyalty to her when he laid his arakh at her feet.The men of her khas came up behind him. Jhogo was the first to lay his arakh at her feet. “Blood of my blood,” he murmured, pushing his face to the smoking earth. “Blood of my blood,” she heard Aggo echo. “Blood of my blood,” Rakharo shouted.

The weapon makes numerous appearances in later novels as well.

  • The former slave-gladiator (pit fighter) Strong Belwas carries an arakh and eventually uses it to kill the Meereenese champion Oznak zo Pahl in single combat. 
  • Zollo, one of the most depraved mercenaries of the Brave Companions company (which is saying something), uses an arakh to take Ser Jaime Lannister’s sword hand.  
  • Daario Naharis carries an arakh and a Myrish stiletto. The hilts of both weapons were crafted as naked, golden women. 
  • Caggo “Corpsekiller”, a Dothraki sellsword of the Windblown mercenary company, wields an (extremely rare) black arakh made of Valyrian steel. He uses it to hack down Cleon, the Butcher King, at the Siege of Astapor, though it is later discovered that Cleon is already dead, his armored corpse tied to a horse. 

In the television series, Arakh is pronounced “Ah-rock,” not “Ah-RACK” as some have speculated. 

Further Reading

 

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Tactical gear for tactical kids…

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David Reeder

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