Areo Hotah is originally from Norvos, one of the northern Free Cities. He joined the Martell household at Sunspear along with Prince Doran's wife, a Norvoshi noblewoman. He has been a trusted servant of the Martells for many years, and is skilled with an axe.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Areo Hotah is described as a large, broad-shouldered man with white hair. He wields a large axe with a shaft six feet long. He is apparently Caucasian in the books, though casting calls for the TV series indicate that the producers want to cast a black actor. This is not out of keeping for the Free Cities, whose populations are often diverse mixtures descended from Valyrian slaves brought in from far away lands.
As the youngest of six children, Areo was sold to priests of the local religion to be trained as a servant, which is a common practice in the Free Cities - similar to how Thoros, as an eighth son, was given over to the temple of the Lord of Light in Myr. The Bearded Priests of Norvos are a militant order, famed for training young boys into highly dependable guardsmen proficient in combat with an axe. Areo finished his training when he was sixteen years old, and as is customary, his chest was branded with his axe to signify the event.
Areo has been in Doran's service since he married Mellario of Norvos, a noblewoman from the Free Cities. Doran and Mellario wed for love, not to secure a political alliance, but as the years passed they became estranged and Mellario moved back to Norvos. Areo remained in Dorne to guard her and Doran's children: he has seen each of them grow up, and has an avuncular attachment to them. Still, his loyalty to Doran supersedes his loyalty to Doran's children.
Areo found Dorne and its culture to be quite alien when he first arrived: Norvos is one of the northern Free Cities and has a relatively colder climate, very different from the hot deserts of Dorne with its spicy foods and exotic culture. Over time, however, he became quite attached to the Martells.
Areo Hotah is the only significant character from Norvos to appear within the first five novels: only two other named characters from Norvos are even mentioned. Lady Mellario herself is important to Areo and Doran's backstory, but because she moved back to Norvos she is mentioned but does not appear within the narrative. The only other named Norvoshi was Byan Votris, captain of the trade caravan to Vaes Dothrak which contained the Wineseller who tried to poison Daenerys.
|Lord:||Prince Doran Martell||Heir:||Arianne Martell|
|Title(s):||Prince of Dorne · Lord of Sunspear|
|Ancestors:||Prince Maron Martell · Princess Daenerys Martell · Queen Myriah Martell|
|Current members:||Prince Trystane Martell · Ellaria Sand · Obara Sand · Nymeria Sand · Tyene Sand · Sarella Sand · Elia Sand · Obella Sand · Dorea Sand · Loreza Sand|
|Deceased members:||Princess Elia Martell · Prince Oberyn Martell|
|Household:||Princess Myrcella Baratheon · Septa Eglantine · Ser Arys Oakheart · Areo Hotah|
|Overlord:||House Baratheon of King's Landing|