Arya Stark water danced her way into the hearts of Game of Thrones fans immediately — how could audiences everywhere not fall in love with the feisty tomboy who stood up to Joffrey’s lying, sadistic prince when her big sister wouldn’t? From her service as Tywin Lannister’s cupbearer to her pairing with Rory McCann’s Hound to her stint in the House of Black and White, Arya’s journey has always been fun and entertaining, yet laden with heartbreak.
The show hit a home run by casting the mega-charismatic Maisie Williams to play the fan favorite from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series (ASOIAF). Williams scored her first Emmy nomination in 2016, and with Arya finally back in Westeros working on crossing names off that infamous list of hers, her story shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. But Game of Thrones doesn’t return until July, and to fill the emptiness in our lives, we decided to compile a list of little-known facts about our favorite almost-Faceless Girl. The list includes some things that only the most careful of book readers know, and some things they don't, so be warned: there will be spoilers from the ASOIAF series.
Here are 16 Things You Didn’t Know About Arya Stark:
16 She, like Bran, is a Warg
Book readers know that it’s not just Bran who has warging capabilities — Jon Snow and Arya have them, too. Arya, however, only has warging abilities when she is dreaming. And, as you’d expect, her warged out dreams are very … Arya-esque: “She was strong and swift and fierce, and her pack was all around her, her brothers and her sisters. They ran down a frightened horse together, tore its throat out, and feasted.” Naturally. But, in true Arya fashion, one of her warg-centric dreams was devastating.
One night, while warging into Nymeria while sleeping, the direwolf sniffs out Lady Catelyn's body in the river after she was killed at the Red Wedding. Nymeria/Arya drags the body from the water and makes a gut-wrenching plea while staring at Catelyn’s corpse: “Rise, she thought. Rise and eat and run with us.” Ugh. Poor Arya. Even her dreams are prone to immense sadness!
15 She killed one of Jon Snow's brothers
In the books, Jon Snow assigns a brother from the Night’s Watch, a singer named Dareon, with recruiting much-needed brothers to boost the Watch’s dwindling numbers --Yoren's old job, basically. Dareon travels with Sam, Gilly, and Maester Aemon towards Oldtown, but stops in Braavos, where he immediately takes a wife and abandons his mission with the Watch. Arya, who is there in the midst of her Faceless Man training, takes umbrage one day when she overhears Dareon bragging about ditching Jon Snow and co.
In the very first episode of the TV series, we saw what Ned Stark did to men who fled from their duties and shirked their responsibilities on the Wall. But Arya didn’t behead Dareon for being a traitor to the Watch. Instead, she slit his throat and pushed him into the nearby canal, taking his boots before she did so. We all have our methods.
14 She’s the only character to have POV chapters in every book
While it is certainly arguable that characters like Daenerys, Tyrion, or Jon Snow are more integral to the story or the show, their presence has not been as much of a constant in the books. Only Arya Stark has had POV chapters in every one of Martin’s books — including the yet-to-be-released Winds of Winter.
Book readers haven’t heard as much from Arya since she got to Braavos (she has three POV chapters in A Feast for Crows and only two in 2011’s A Dance with Dragons, both doozies) but there have been entire 900+ page books in the series in which we don’t hear from our favorites at all (the perspectives of Tyrion, Jon, and Dany are all absent from A Feast for Crows, for example). But, fortunately, we always hear from Arya, and we hope it stays that way.
13 She named her direwolf after an ancient warrior princess
The legend of Princess Nymeria of Ny Sar goes like this: fleeing potential enslavement at the hands of the Valyrian Freehold, the princess led 10,000 ships packed with her fellow Rhoynar in search of free lands where her people would be safe. After a long and perilous journey, Nymeria landed on Dorne, where she formed an alliance with the Martells and ended up becoming the leader of Dorne for several decades.
Nymeria’s story parallels that of Daenerys, to be sure, so it seems perfectly fitting that Arya would choose a fierce female leader like her to be her direwolf’s namesake. It’s also worth noting that Nymeria is, with Ghost, one of the only two remaining living direwolves, and in the books at least, she has become the leader of a huge pack of wolves that travel the countryside killing man and beast alike. It's safe to say that we're all dying for an Arya/Nymeria reunion (more on this later).
12 Arya murders her way out of Harrenhal and kills a Stark bannerman
On the show, Arya has Jaqen H’ghar help her kill her way out of Harrenhall in season two. In the books, it goes down much differently, and it shows the depth to which Arya can plot and plan. After Jaqen leaves and gives her the Bravosi coin, Arya gathers Gendry and Hot Pie, some food, and then promptly kills their way out of the castle.
She gives pause when she sees the guard she must kill is a Northman, but because he was one of Roose Bolton’s men and not associated with Winterfell, she slits his throat anyway. At the time, House Bolton were still Stark bannermen, and were still technically allied with Robb. Ned would have never committed such an act, but we see that his daughter isn’t as honor bound as he is — and it might just be why she’s still alive.
11 She's a lot younger than people realize
We’ve gotten to watch Maisie Williams (and much of the cast) grow up over the last six years, so she doesn’t seem so young to us anymore. But considering how much murdering Arya does (her death count is way higher in the books), it’s alarming when bearing in mind the fact that she was 9 years old in the first book and is still only around 11 years old in the most recent one.
It’s also alarming when you consider the ways (and ease) in which she disposes of her victims. On the show alone, she has gauged mens’ eyes out, carved the Waif’s face off, and killed Freys so that she could use their corpses to bake into people pies to serve to their dad. In the books, she’s arguably even scarier. After killing her way out of Harrenhal, she looks at her hands, which are covered in blood. “It’s no matter, she thought, swinging up into the saddle. The rain will wash them clean again.” Most terrifying ten year-old ever?
10 She plans an uprising at Harrenhal all by herself
Not only did Arya kill a few guards so that she and her friends could escape captivity, in the books, she is pretty much single-handedly responsible for helping the North take Harrenhal back from Tywin Lannister and his men. Just after Tywin rides off into battle, Arya, hatches a plan to free the Northmen trapped in Harrenhal’s dungeons, and she pulls it off with very little manpower/help.
At this point in the books, Jaqen still owed her one death, and when he wouldn’t help her with her planned uprising, she said the name “Jaqen H’ghar,” and refused to unname him unless he helped her kill a few Lannister soldiers. Thus, H’ghar recruited two men, and, as directed by Arya, they killed a few Lannister guards and freed the imprisoned Northmen, who in turn helped take back the castle. Pretty resourceful and clever, even for a ten year-old.
9 She admires Cersei
Pretty much everyone with a Twitter feed knows that the Stark sisters, Arya and Sansa, are BFFs in real life. Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams slay every red carpet they touch, they have matching tats, and they will be appearing on the most anticipated carpool karaoke ever soon. But Williams also gets along swimmingly off screen with one of her primary death list targets: Lena Headey’s Queen Cersei. In fact, Williams has said that given the choice, she would like her career trajectory to mirror that of Lena Headey’s.
“I look at Lena Headey; I admire her lifestyle,” Williams said in a 2015 interview. “She goes to the awards shows and does the famous things, but still lives a very normal life.” Both Headey and Willams also worked together in 2016 with Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth) to raise awareness about the Syrian refugee crisis, showing both ladies to be as formidable off screen as they are on the show.
8 Will THIS be how she meets her end?
Prepare thyself: this may be one of the most tragic and sad Game of Thrones theories we’ve heard yet. Could the reunion of a girl and her direwolf be the most tear-inducing reunion ever? A fan theory considers Arya’s aforementioned warging tendencies, as well as a very brief scene from season three in which wildling Warg Orell entered the body of his crow just before he died. When Wargs die, it is possible for their minds and spirits to enter the bodies of the animals they typically warg into — but they will eventually lose all humanity living in the bodies of their spirit animals.
In the books, this could very well be the fate of Jon Snow … or Arya. The theory also considers the fact that Arya is a stone cold killer, and George R.R. Martin is a pacifist — it’s not likely she will get a totally happy ending considering how many people she has killed. Time will tell, but Arya warging into Nymeria might make our tear ducts dry out for good.
7 She was well on her way to becoming a Faceless Man before she went to Braavos
Part of her survival technique thusfar has been playing various roles: water dancer, Arry the orphan boy, cupbearer to Tywin Lannister; whatever the situation demands, Arya has not only adapted to her surroundings -- she has managed to flourish everywhere she goes. In the books, her POV chapters suggest that she is very aware of all the different roles that she’s playing (more on this later), displaying a keen sense of awareness that we don’t always see on the show.
It is also worth noting here that her first teacher, Syrio Forel, was the first sword of Braavos, so she has been exposed to Bravosi philosophies and culture since she made the trip to King’s Landing. She has been saying “not today” to death ever since (knocking emphatically on wood).
6 Arya has some very, very strange fans
As one of the most popular characters on one of today’s most popular TV shows, it’s no surprise that Arya Stark has a ton of enthusiastic fans around the globe. What IS a bit shocking are the ways in which they express their admiration, or the requests they make when they approach Maisie Williams in public.
Williams has noted that she has been approached everywhere from shopping malls to hair salons after she just had her legs waxed, but her strangest fan encounter is one that has happened more than once: “people love asking me to say the [list of characters Arya wants to kill] with their name in it. It’s quite creepy. It’ll be like ‘Joffrey, Cersei, Alan…’ Just, like, a strange suburban dad’s name in the middle. Then they’re recording it and they’re just like, ‘Thank you.’” No, thank YOU for sharing, Maisie!
5 She's a huge subject of research in media arts academic studies
The world of ASOIAF and Game of Thrones is so dense, it’s no surprise to learn that over nine major colleges and universities teach courses related to material found in the show and/or the books. Many scholarly articles have also been written dissecting and analyzing the roles females play in George R.R. Martin’s universe, and Arya is front and center in many of these articles.
For example, a paper titled “Arya, Katniss, and Merida: Empowering Girls Through the Amazonian Archetype,” discusses the myriad ways Arya’s warrior-like tendencies are empowering, but there are also several articles that discuss the ways the show is detrimental to its female characters by essentially making them women with male-centric qualities and tendencies. It’s an interesting debate that continues to this day, and young Arya is right at the center of it.
4 She is a lot like Ned Stark's sister (and Jon Snow's mom) Lyanna
Both the books and the show have told the audience that Ned’s youngest daughter is very much like his late sister Lyanna in looks, temperament, personality, and more. In episode two of season six, we see a flashback to Winterfell when Ned was a wee lad, and we saw young Lyanna Stark for the first time. Mirroring the first time we met young Arya at Winterfell, Lyanna gallops in on horseback and shows her brothers up, doing tricks on her horse and getting all the attention -- the same way Arya stole Bran’s spotlight early on by showing everyone that her archery skills were superior to his.
Ned also notices how similar his daughter is to his sister. In one of his POV chapters in Game of Thrones, he tells Arya: “Lyanna might have carried a sword…you remind me of her sometimes. You even look like her.” Let’s hope Arya’s fate isn’t as similar…
3 She is hugely connected to animalia.
In the books, Arya’s connection to and identification with animals is abundant in every volume. She’s always a direwolf in her dreams, and she refers to herself as several different animals multiple times throughout the books (at different points in the story, she calls herself a wolf, weasel, sheep, mouse, cat, and more). Sample dialogue from the books: “On the road, Arya had felt like a sheep, but Harrenhal turned her into a mouse … and like a mouse, she kept to the crannies and crevices and dark holes…”
Wherever she goes, she seems to identify with animals more than she does with people. During her time in Braavos, at least in the books, she is referred to as Cat of the Canals, a nickname of her own choosing. Oh, and she used to hang with a certain Hound, and she's one of only two Stark sibs with a living direwolf, so the connections only deepen. We really, really hope she gets to meet a dragon or two!
2 She's multilingual
The training Arya goes through to be a Faceless Man in the books is much more extensive and exhaustive than the truncated training she goes through on the TV series. In the books, she is tasked with frequently becoming different people, each of whom must work hours of manual labor every day and bring home three new pieces of information at the end of the day. Her training also required her to learn to speak not only Bravosi, but several other tongues as well.
While staying at the House of Black and White, Arya also bulked up her High Valyrian (so if Dany were to belt out orders to her dragons, Arya would understand every word), and she also learned how to speak the languages of Lys and Pentos, too, making her one formidable Faceless assassin.
1 Anyone can be killed. Except maybe Arya.
In a series that has pretty much killed off our favorite characters from the beginning on (we’ll never be over you, Prince Oberyn!), fans of Arya might have one thing going for them: the man who created her has been told that he must keep her alive, or else. See, George R.R. Martin's wife Parris has two favorite characters in the entire series: the Stark sisters, and she has reportedly told him that she will leave him if he kills either Arya or Sansa off.
Williams has confirmed this in a 2015 interview: “I'll just keep smiling, and say ‘if you want to stay with your wife, you've got to keep me alive!’” she said. Martin seems ever-smitten with his wife, so we’re hoping he doesn’t jeopardize his marriage by killing off his wife’s favorite character (and one of ours as well, obviously).
What little-known facts about Arya Stark of Winterfell did we leave out? Let us know in the comments!