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How To Become Death: Arya Stark's Journey Throughout Game Of Thrones

Arya and Map of Westeros

Arya Stark, the hero of the battle of Winterfell, the girl that has no name, the Stark’s spirit of vengeance given form. Very early on audiences are meant to understand that not only is Arya not like the other girls of Westeros, aching to become a noble lady or queen, but she is entirely aware of who she is.

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While Arya experiences growth as a character her commitment to who she is as a person rarely falters. Arya is a student of many teachers, a master of many disciplines, and while she is a very capable student, like any student she takes what she needs from her teachers, improves upon it and drops whatever she feels is unnecessary. Never truly willing to compromise exactly who she is. Death may have many faces, but in Game Of Thrones, it is only Arya who manages to master them in order to become death itself.

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8 No. That’s Not Me. - Season 1

From very early on audiences are meant to understand, much like Arya does, that she will never be a Lady like her sister Sansa, a Lady like she is expected to become. While she finds learning how to sew with her sister to be tedious and unimportant, she takes delight in showing both her brothers and her father, that she is an excellent marksman, exceeding Bran’s skill level easily.

Arya finds her passion and joy in defying the expectations and circumstance which she has been born into. As her father, Ned, sits her down and tells her that one day she will marry a great lord and have beautiful children with him, she adamantly protests “No. That’s not me.” While many others in the series struggle to define themselves, Arya is possibly the only character in the series who knows exactly who she is from the very first episode.

7 Lessons From Tywin - Season 2

Arya Stark and her list on Game of Thrones

With her father gone and King’s Landing no longer a safe place for the Stark children, Arya makes her way out of the city in order to head to wall so that she can find Jon. It is one this journey north where Yoren first gives Arya the idea for her list, what will become her mantra moving forward. Yoren tells her it’s the only way he could sleep after the death of his brother. And for the first time in a long time, Arya Stark falls asleep.

While in hiding Arya finds an unexpected friend in the man who calls himself Jaqen H’ghar and an unexpected mentor in Tywin Lannister. Through her discussions with Tywin, Arya learns the importance of precision, thoughtfulness, planning, and followthrough.  As Arya escapes Harenhal with help from Jaqen, he offers her a position among the faceless men. When she declines Jaqen gives her a single coin with the instructions to speak “Valar Morghulis” to any man of Braavos should she change her mind.

6 The Rains Of Castamere - Season 3

Arya Stark with a sword

As Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie flee from Harenhal and continue making their way to Riverrun they are intercepted by the Brotherhood without banners. While Arya has learned many things from her two mentors, Syrio Forel, and Tywin Lannister, she is still not clever enough or tough enough to escape such a large group of battle-tested warriors. It is here where Arya begins her list. As the Brotherhood without Banners betrays Arya and her company in favor of wealth to help fund the war they are locked in, The Hound manages to take her hostage.

Thus begins the saga of Arya Stark and The Hound. When they finally reach The Twins, The Hound and Arya are stunned to find the aftermath of the Red Wedding. As they ride away from the devastation Arya adds a few more names to her list before impulsively killing a Frey Soldier she hears regaling the tale of how he had defiled Robb Stark’s body with his wolf’s head. As she takes The Hound’s knife and plunges it again and again through the man’s neck, Arya has killed her first man. He won’t be her last.

5 A Girl And The Hound - Season 4

Arya and The Hound on game of Thrones

While previously Arya had only killed for survival, the Frey soldier marks a shift in her character. Not only has she killed in a violent and vengeful rage, but she enjoyed it. She understands and appreciates the catharsis with having taken the life of someone that has wronged her or her family. As she travels with The Hound, perhaps the man best suited to teach her about living a life fueled by revenge, Arya slips more and more into her violent delights.

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For Arya, her list has become not only a mantra, but a goal capable of being accomplished. She has toughened up, and while The Hound may not have been able to give her all the answers, like with all of her teachers, she takes what serves her and leaves the rest behind her. As Arya leaves behind a broken Hound, she boards a Braavosi ship and says, “Valar Morghulis.” The man aboard the ship replies only with, “Valar Dohaeris.” Arya Stark is ready for a new teacher. She is ready to become no one.

4 A Girl Has No Name- Season 5

Arya Stark in the House of Balck and White

Having traveled to Braavos, Arya makes her way to the house of black and white, home of the faceless men. While she is initially turned away, Arya’s persistence grants her entry into the house of black and white where she meets her old friend Jaqen H’ghar. The man teaches a girl may things. He teaches a girl not only how to tell a story, but to become the story. A girl must train to become no one, so that she can become anyone.

While out on her first assignment, an assignment to study “the thin man” a girl notices a man from her past. Arya slips out and seeks to avenge the death of her former teacher, Syrio, by killing Meryn Trant, the man responsible for Syrio’s death. As a girl has taken a life from the many-faced god, a girl must pay the what is owed to the many-faced god. For the life that was taken, a girl pays with her eyesight.

3 A Girl Is Arya Stark Of Winterfell - Season 6

Game of Thrones Arya Stark Maisie Williams Season 7

Having spent her time since losing her eyesight as a blind beggar, Arya is constantly antagonized by the waif. Arya has learned to become the story, but can she fight those she cannot see? After passing Jaqen’s tests, Arya rejoins the faceless men and begins her first assignment. As Arya carries out her mission she begins to notice that trouble with her new teachers. While they are excellent killers, they do so without questioning the reason a life must be taken.

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Rather than kill her target over a petty grudge Arya saves the woman's life, coming to terms with the inherent issues of the faceless men. However, Arya has failed the faceless men one too many times and after being stabbed in the gut, Arya leads the Waif to where she has hidden needle to show her how much she’s learned. Having defeated the Waif, Arya makes one last stop at the house of black and white where she confronts Jaqen. A man is not surprised that Arya lives. She has learned everything she needs to become no one, but a girl is Arya Stark Of Winterfell. A girl has always been Arya Stark.

2 The North Remembers -  Season 7

Having murdered Walder Frey (after feeding him his sons), Arya, wearing Walder’s face, assembles all of his many sons and extended family for a feast. Much like she has with all of her many of the victims of her list, Arya recounts what they have done to earn her wrath.

As she leaves behind the last of the Frey women she tells them that if anyone asks, let them know that the North remembers. Seemingly a lesson taken from Tywin Lannister on trading on reputation. While Lannisters may always pay their debts, the North remembers. A lesson that Arya intends to teach the last remaining Lannister on her list, Cersei.

1 What's West of Westeros? - Season 8

Game of Thrones Finale Arya Ship

After not only surviving the Battle of Winterfell, but also single-handedly taking down the Night King, Arya and The Hound unite once again, two spirits of vengeance, ready for one final fight. As The Hound and Arya make their way through the Red Keep, he turns to her, and placing his hand on the nape of her neck, much like Ned once had, Sandor pleads with her to understand where the path she is walking will take her.

Rather than seeking to become death itself, Arya has chosen to try to save as many as she can. She is broken and bruised as she exits King’s Landing, but she has changed nonetheless. As she makes her exit from the series, commandeering a ship to unknown lands, Arya has chosen to look ahead rather than focus on old wounds.

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