Playin’ with Ice and Fire: A Game of Thoughts | Arya Stark Chapter 22

She’s new, she’s the re-re-reader.  She’s the newbie, she’s the spoilery vet.  Together they’re rereading George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones and getting their POV on. Today they move on to Chapter 22, an Arya chapter.

If you are new, catch us from the very beginning.


Loved this chapter.  For a lot of different reasons.

First just the craft of it—I loved how easily Martin put me in Arya’s mind and sympathizing with her.  Certainly that feeling of being alone and unwanted resonated with me, and that half-defensive, half simply true “I’d rather be alone” reaction.  The easy relation to her made me defensive on her behalf, poking back at Ned about how Septa Mordane has made her hard job harder on herself, and is he going to give bitch-ass Sansa the same lecture about being sisters and growing up.  I don’t mind having my emotions toyed with in books or movies, so even though it strikes me that Arya’s a character we’re meant to identify with, I don’t mind it, because I do identify with her.  Reminds me of the times I was fighting with my brother, and of the times at school I spent recess reading my book because no one talked to me.

I also loved what happened in this chapter, and what was said in it.  For me the main point of this chapter is that it’s where Arya starts to grow up.  I don’t know about any of you, but I had a very specific point in my life when the time for games and childhood was over.

As I’ve mentioned before in my discussions of the Arya-Sansa rivalry/resentment battles, I don’t hold it against either (Sansa) because it’s what siblings do, in my experience.  My brother and I had a contentious relationship…we knew how to make each other madder than anyone else could, and we knew what would hurt the most to threaten or to say or to mock.  But there was an almost overnight change when our parents hit a rough patch that we just instantly bonded together against a common enemy—them—and stopped all of it.  It was exactly the sort of thing Ned describes, that summer is the time for squabbles and games, but in winter you stay with your pack or you die.  You grow up.  For me it was an overnight thing, but at the time I was older than Arya is here, and winter might be coming but it’s not there yet so she’s probably not going to do it overnight.

But maybe she is, now that Ned has given her the okay and the ability to study something she wants, not the uninteresting pursuits her sister enjoys. Sometimes all it takes is someone to show that they understand you.  Jon used to fill that role for her, but Jon isn’t there anymore, and so someone else had to do it.  Ned did.  I would like to say it proves he’s a good father—but I don’t believe it was about Arya so much as it was about Arya as she reminds him of his dead sister.

I got the impression that he understood it would be better to have Arya’s “wildness” channeled and sanctioned, because his doing so would give her a reason to obey the rules the rest of the time while the the alternative would be for her to find no value whatsoever in the life Septa Mordane prescribed and actually go wild.  When you have a child who doesn’t fit the cultural norm, but for whatever reason you feel they have to be normalized, the only way to do it is to show them it’s a game, and then give them a reason to play.  That’s what Ned does here, and I love that he did.  He at least learned from the lesson his sister offered…fairly sure that was why Martin made a point to have him say that his father had not let Lyanna carry a blade.

I actually am curious about Lyanna, though, because I feel like I’m missing part of her story.  Ned says that Lyanna and his brother had a touch of the wolf “and it led them both to an early grave.”  Uh…what?  I was under the impression that in the war Lyanna was kidnapped, raped, and left for dead, and eventually did die from the attack.  So how, exactly, does someone else imposing that upon her constitute her wildness leading to an early grave?  Because unless Ned is referencing something that hasn’t been said yet (or that I forgot from the tomb scene) about Lyanna running off in the middle of a war…how, exactly, did her wildness have anything to do with what was done to her?  And this on the same page that Ned tells Arya not to blame herself but those who did the deed?

One last point on the Lyanna-Arya connection.  I found it sad that Arya’s first reaction to hearing that she reminded her father of his sister was “Lyanna was beautiful,” with surprise, because she herself is not.  Or has she been told she is not so much that she believes it.  I think that shows that for whatever wildness and unfeminine qualities she has, she also feels inadequate as a girl next to her sister.  That was her first reaction.  But what I want to know is, how does Sansa react if Arya grows up to be the image of Lyanna and all of a sudden Sansa is not “the pretty one”?  Perfect revenge for all those “you shan’t be wanted” comments, what?

I enjoyed the view of what Arya’s life had been like at Winterfell, and got a smile trying to imagine Sansa doing any of those things.  Listening to the men tell stories, playing with the servants’ children, running around constantly in everyone’s way?  Nope.  She was too busy daydreaming and playing the role of perfect lady.  I wonder if part of her insistence on being a perfect lady is in reaction to Arya’s freedom of movement?

She might have at some point started to cling to doing only what was “right” and “ladylike” out of jealousy that Arya never invited her to come exploring or go out and play.  It’s hard for me to believe that any child who would have been allowed to do that—for surely if Arya and the boys were allowed to do what they wanted, Sansa would have been, too—would choose not to without any reference to the others around her.  But maybe it goes back to being her mother’s pet or something.  I suspect now that it was a reaction against what her sister was doing, at least at some point.  By now probably ingrained so deeply she doesn’t even remember the incident that inspired her to cleave to her dignity.

It was interesting to me to see how easily Arya escaped the dining hall…just slid right through Thom’s (that was the name, yes?) legs, picked herself up and got to running before he could catch her.  She is a deft, quick little thing.  Is this a talent she has, being in excellent control of her body, and fearless about using it?  Can’t think of a better base for becoming a bravo.

My favorite line of the chapter was hearing the sword instructor describe himself as “your dancing master.”  Second favorite was his description of what Arya would be learning:

“[T]his is not the iron dance of Westeros we are learning, the knight’s dance, hacking and hammering, no.  This is the bravo’s dance, the water dance, swift and sudden.  All men are made of water, do you know this? When you pierce them, the water leaks out and they die.”

Two sentences encapsulate everything you need to know about the knights around her, the knights like her father is, versus what she will be learning.  Wonderfully descriptive passage.  The part about all men being made of water, is, too.  Very visual.

One last thing I have to point out here, and that is that Arya is left-handed.  This in and of itself explains why I like her.  All of the people I am closest with are left-handed—seriously, like 5 of my7 favorite people in the world–are lefties.  Explains everything.

– Readers, if leaving a comment for Elena please direct (@Elena) them at her – and lead your comments with your messages for her.  Please do not direct spoilers at her. Thanks!

–Do not read on if you have not read the series through A Feast for Crows and want to avoid spoilers–


If there is any way that GRRM could have made me love Arya more, it would be by giving her a sword. Yes!  (Well, in this case giving her the proper training to be a badass with a sword).  These “dancing lessons” that Arya begins with Syrio are a key to Arya’s future survival in every way. It also shows that Ned was familiar with different fighting techniques (assuming because he fought against them) and knew that the Bravosi style would suit his small daughter, so I don’t know about this idea that Elena is putting forth that Ned’s motivation comes entirely from his love for Lyanna.

He is certainly thoughtful and supportive of Arya, remember she is the only one of his true-born children that looks like a Stark.  But Ned certainly had no idea what would lay in store for Arya down this path of water dancing. I love it. It’s the same reason people love Hit Girl in KickAss. Little girls that can kill you are awesome, and right now incredibly popular (Sucker Punch, Hanna) and yet Arya was the first. Trend Setter!

I also love the foreshadowing with Syrio calling her “boy”. Arya’s behavior her entire life has prepared her for the techniques she will use to survive throughout the novels. Disguising herself as a boy, being comfortable with not acting like a highborn child or a girl, etc etc. Arya, the mini-master of disguise. She still has her indignant outbursts because of the honor she was raised with but could you imagine what would have happened had Arya not escaped King’s Landing? She has no skills for surviving court like Sansa does. There is no courtesy in Arya and that is why I love her.

Elena is finally starting to track on the whole Lyanna business. It’s exciting for me to see if she comes to the same conclusions I did while I was reading it the first time. This chapter and Ned’s comment that Lyanna’s own wolf-like nature got her killed was also the point where I started to think that the story behind Lyanna’s death was different than I had first took it for.

Now at this point we’re in speculation land but come ON… if GRRM doesn’t give us this one I will be severely disappointed. Maybe Lyanna IS a red herring, or something we were never supposed to pick apart like we have but I just don’t buy it. There is something going on! What’s in that letter that Ned gave Varys? WHAAAAT!!I mean if Varys is working for the Targaryens then Varys totally sent that letter to Aemon on the wall. HE TOTES DID YOU GUYS!

But let me get back to this particular chapter.

This whole “Arya Horseface” business proves to me that Arya is actually very pretty. (As far as her being attractive is even important.) Arya is the only Stark-like daughter and so she doesn’t look like a Tully. That doesn’t mean she’s ugly just because Sansa calls her ugly because she doesn’t share her looks with Sansa. Remember, Sansa is a horrible stupid bitch. Ahem. They just be jealous haters Arya, don’t listen to them. Except when believing you look like an ugly little boy actually saves your life. Method acting.

Poor Ned. This conversation with Arya is so sad in hindsight. Ned seems to know that things are not going to go well for the Stark’s in King’s Landing. He is encouraging his children to stick together and look out for one another and he is arming the daughter with the inclination to be so armed. For fun? For “normalization” like Elena says? NO WAY. For actual protection.

Why else keep it a secret? What does Ned care for secrets? Just because people would look poorly on teaching a young girl to sword fight doesn’t mean Ned would give a crap. He doesn’t care that people think letting Arya run around like a servant’s child is bad. He’s keeping it a secret because he wants Arya’s abilities to be unknown. Even to Sansa who can not ever keep her damn mouth shut. Maybe Ned DOES know about some of the extra curricular skills of a Bravosi water-dancer. That would be pretty bad ass on Ned’s part if he did.

So the pack. Poor Sansa and Arya are without their direwolves. So how is this sticking with the pack Ned? If Winter is Coming than why did you kill one wolf and approve of driving the other away? He’s got to be kicking himself for that. Perhaps that also helped him make the decision to teach Arya to sword-fight. Nymeria is not available to protect her, so Arya must learn to protect herself. Sansa.. well Sansa is screwed. Deservedly so. Maybe Ned had other plans for her, but maybe not. Sansa sucks.  Ned knew it.  While Arya and Bran and Jon are wargs I don’t believe Rob or Sansa are and that just means there are two packs. Or maybe GRRM enjoys making me hate Sansa as much as I do. Who knows.

I also love that Arya is a lefty. It just sets her even more apart from Sansa and perhaps from the entire family. Symbolic considering where she ends up. So far. I’ve got this hope that Arya will reunite with Nymeria at some point and the wolf will be her eyes like Summer is Bran’s legs. It could happen. GRRM never does what I want though.

All right, that concludes this chapter. Join us next Monday for Chapter 23- Daenerys. Remember we will be posting a chapter every Monday (and sometimes bonus Thursdays) from now on!


  1. @ Elena,
    I agree with everything you said (wrote). Arya’s so adorable as this point. I also think that she’ll grow quite beautiful. Ned is not the only person who compares her to Lyanna.

    As for Lyanna – at this point the only point of view about what happened to/with her has been offered by Robert and he’s *very* biased. He’s pretty much the *only man* in the entire series who hated and despised Rhaegar, and that says a lot in a series like this.

  2. @ Elena

    He’s not actually trying to turn it into a game. He’s being serious. The whole situation is ridiculously dangerous. He understood before he came to Kings Landing that he didn’t belong there, but that was just a logical understanding. He didn’t truly believe it until he got to the council meeting. He wants to make sure that Arya and Sansa trust each other, and look out for each other.

  3. @ Ralia – well, i certainly look forward to seeing her later on! and as to lyanna/robert/rhaegar…glad i haven’t missed something (forgotten something, lol) and i think you make an interesting point about how unusual that singularity of emotion is in a cast this large. hm….

    @ chirios – i think you mistake what i mean when i talk about making it a game. life is a game. sometimes people need incentives to play, and sometimes they need incentives to play in a way that will not be patently self-destructive. what ned is doing (as i read it) is giving arya a reason to play in a non-destructive way, BECAUSE he knows the situation is deadly serious. i am a big believer in Aristotle’s idea that eventually habit becomes character. he just has to get her in the habit of not hating her sister, and eventually that will become part of her psyche.

  4. @Elena

    How I love reading these review from a different point of view than my own.
    I’ve personally totally overread the part of Ned relating Lyanna to Arya and that she got killed since she got a touch of the wolf in her.
    Totally different from Robert’s POV who sees her as a precious girl that he loved and wanted to marry as seen in the crypt and that basically was a victim.

    I think that is the power of GRRM making us see things first from one side and the other one. It forces you to really make up your own mind of what is happening. Can you actually believe what a certain character is saying or not?

    Also is it the wolvish/wild thing that makes her a Stark or the looks? Catelyn is from the south, she probably is more used to a fancier lifestyle so when Sansa is trying to be more of a lady that might resemble herself more. Making the link of the mother’s girl, while the wilder Stark is Daddy’s girl.

    I’ve always wondered if losing the direwolf, the sigil of her house, might mean that Sansa might also mean losing the Starkness (if that’s even a word). I mean she did lie about what happened with Joffrey and Mycah, which is something a Stark with their high sense of honour would not easily do in my mind.

  5. @Elena Oh man, I’m at work so I have to be brief and come back later, but…

    Ah yes, Arya’s resemblance to Lyanna is pronounced, and I, too, was sad to see her react with shock. But “Horseface” is all she’s known until now, and for that Jeyne Poole gets another kick in the rear from me.

    I also wanted to slap Sansa. YOU shan’t be wanted, you little lying minx! It’s your OWN fault that Lady’s dead, not Arya’s! GRRR!! I also wondered if Ned would giver her that same lecture, but maybe he knew his words wouldn’t be wasted on Arya. I like to think that.

    Damn I got misty eyed when she blamed herself, and hated everyone for Mycah’s sake. They moved on because they knew they should, but Arya’s a child trying to deal with these huge griefs, losing her friend and her direwolf. I loved Ned for letting her keep her sword, and for bringing her Syrio!


    I’ll be back with more, but for now I wanted to ask, when would be a good time to introduce her to our fave theory?

  6. @Elena

    “It’s hard for me to believe that any child who would have been allowed to do that—for surely if Arya and the boys were allowed to do what they wanted, Sansa would have been, too—would choose not to without any reference to the others around her. ”

    I’m guessing you were something of a wild child yourself, eh? As someone who was decidedly not, I don’t really agree with you on this. It depends on one’s personality I suppose, but children can feel a very strong impulse to be good, to do what their parents expect of them, for its own sake. Sansa is a model child in every way, and she is proud of it. I don’t think that stems from jealousy; I think she would be horrified if Arya or her brothers or anyone else tried to get her to be any less than the perfect lady. And I wouldn’t say that Arya was *allowed* to do whatever she wanted, she just did what she wanted despite the best efforts of her mother.

  7. (veiled spoilers)


    If your fave theory is the one I assume it is, I really don’t think it’s ever a good time. I still regret stumbling across that one on the message boards, bright-eyed and innocent after my first read through of game of thrones. It would have been so much cooler if I had figured it out for myself!

  8. Ooo, good point. I know an excellent essay about it, and I like pointing people at it (Tower of the Hand) but I like to be sure they’re ready for it. So mum’s the word!

  9. I can agree that Arya was, in her way, very willful. But I also see what you’re saying about being a good daughter and perfect lady. As a child myself I was very obedient, especially since my mother was divorced and always busy trying to keep us going. I guess I felt the need to try and make things easier for her. But I was also a tomboy to the bone, and lonely and awkward and never good at much except reading and being alone, so I relate to Arya very much!

  10. **spoilers**

    I have a mind to see if she picks it up on her own. I’d like to see if she falls slowly into the pit of theory madness or if it all snaps into place one day.

    She might have a leg up though, Elena is watching the series as well and we’re thinking the show will eventually overtake our progress in the novel.

  11. @Rachel

    I gotta say, I’d be disappointed if Anya, Jon and Rickon become every bit the wargs Bran does after Bran sat around getting dreams about it for two books, then disappearing for a book and a half to get control of those powers. Obviously all the Stark children have/had the potential (Sansa is unproven but she didn’t exactly get a lot of time to prove it). But it’s Bran’s whole story (god knows his knowledge of Jamie and Cersei as well as the assassin send after him was totally trivialised).

  12. ***Spoilers***


    Here’s the thing, Arya and Sansa will most likely never realize their warging potentials (assuming Sansa has any, which I doubt, Robb seemed to not have any either). Arya has Nymeria dreams but I think distance has put an end to that career for certain.

    But Jon has displayed Warging abilities, he’s met actual wargs, which would have benefitted Bran greatly since he’s figuring out everything for himself. But Bran has “invented” warging in a human body. I highly doubt anyone else can do that, and even if they could I think there are huge morality issues that GRRM doesn’t actually have to address when it’s only Bran doing that because Bran is a child.

    I think Bran’s story revolves more around connecting the current era with the past, the old world, the green men and the magic that seems to have died with the last of the dragons. Bran is living heritage. I don’t know if Rickon will exhibit the same abilities, I think we’ll just have to wait for Dance to see.

    -and as far as your comment on a previous post about my assessment of Jaime, I don’t recall ever saying that Jaime only wanted to join the Kingsguard because he admired Arthur Dayne (maybe I did but I don’t know where I said it, context would help me in my rationale) but he seems to have a bit of idol worship when it came to him and Barriston. It’s extra crushing when he realizes that he’ll never be like them because his motivations were impure and in the end, for nothing considering what a ho-bag Cersei is.

  13. I’m relatively sure Robb had Warg dreams and like I said before, Sansa didn’t get a lot of room to prove it. She had one chapter before Lady died and he didn’t do any sleeping in it. Moot issue now.

  14. @Elena – You’re not missing anything re: Ned’s comment about Lyanna’s wildness. It’s (very much most likely) a clue. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

  15. Spoilers!! To the  end of Dance with Dragons

    Arya has already shown her developing ability to shape change in Bravos – the cat scene in her last chapter – so it is most probable that she will be able to unite and re-unite with Nymeria and perhaps a host of other animals and people as well. Jon, also a warg, is possibly and probably the son of Lyanna and Raegon  so he is likely to branch out into Dragons as well….assuming that Melissandre revives him from his multiple stab wounds. What intrigues me about the end game of the Arya-Sansa relationship is that I can envisage Sansa going down a Littlefinger designed path to be a kind of Cersei Light and on the “other” side that Arya is on as the final acts play out. Will it be Arya who has to dethrone Sansas’ claim on Winterfell?

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