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 react to Chapter 32 with everyone’s favorite: Arya Stark!
My first reaction to this chapter was something along the lines of, “Oh my God Ned is just too stupid to live.” Which, you know, may still be the case, but what made me think it here is his dismissal of Arya’s words. I was like, dude. Your daughter, who is not the one who lives in her head and makes up stories, overheard people talking about killing you when she was lost in the fucking underbelly of the castle, and you try and shrug it off like they were but poor, lost circus performers?
Then I realized that he probably did listen to her words, and all those little details that she could not possibly have known without hearing some very well informed people—the bit about the book and the bastard, and the princess being with child—and so what he was doing was trying to protect her. Either in the paternal just protect her innocence and her faith in the rightness of the world around her, or protect her from herself and opening her mouth at the wrong moment and just blurting out what she had heard to the wrong person.
Okay, so he did listen and hear her intel, but will he do anything about it? What can he do, really, except be on his guard when he already is? In fact this might have made him more tenacious to get to the truth, since this is further confirmation that there really was a conspiracy to kill Jon Arryn.
I don’t have a lot to say about the conspirators themselves. I’m sure the one in the helmet with the torch is Varys, because he speaks of birds and because we have already seen that this is Varys’s favorite disguise—to dress as a soldier instead of his silk-clad self—but I have no fucking clue who the other one is. Am I meant to? I just can’t tell. I’m guessing not any of the people they discussed, so not Loras or Renly or the Lannisters or Littlefinger. Not anyone Arya has seen, so perhaps also not someone the reader has seen?
We do learn the import of Renly’s putting that portrait before Ned and asking if the girl looks like Lyanna: he and Loras want Robert to replace Cersei with Loras’ sister, and they think Robert will be more amenable to it if she remind him of his long-lost love (or, you know, “love,” since we know it wasn’t really love). Uh…are they planning to replace Cersei’s chirrens, too? Do they have some suspicion as to their origins? Is Robert like the cuckold in that old del amitri song, “Always the Last to Know,” and everyone in his castle but him (and, as of now, Ned) knows his kids…aren’t really his?
So, how much of a little badass is Arya? And how much do we believe her that it happened this way exactly? It seemed a little bit much to think that she really managed to dodge and duck and roll around two professional guards, unless they weren’t trying very hard to catch her. And why should they, really—it was clearly the Lannister kids and their septa who were more interested in her. The guards didn’t care. Also? Whose legs did she slide between, thick and white like columns, a guard, or the septa? I was assuming the septa since there’s been no description of guards in Roman-style uniforms, which is the only reason they would have bare legs, but, um, wouldn’t the septa’s skirts have caught her up? I’m sorry, that just doesn’t jibe for me. I have worn full-length period skirts, with paniers to hold them out from my body, and any little kid who tried sliding under them would have been caught in a tangle of fabric and delayed at the very least and more likely had my ass falling on top of them, squish squish crazy River Tam smile style.
So that section was a bit dodgy for me, unless perhaps we get to assume Arya has some special magical talent for elusiveness? Her wolf-spirit, maybe?
Anyway, my favorite marginal comment came at the beginning of that scene: “Here comes a Lannister, always fucking shit up.” Cause that’s pretty much what the Lannisters do when they show up anywhere, sometimes even including Tyrion. Give the family credit, they are a major source of disruption in everyone’s life.
What I called the genesis of Arya’s escape clause also appears in this section. It’s actually kind of hammered home, but the first time it felt subtle. The whole they-think-she’s-a-boy routine. First it’s the Lannister children and their septa who don’t recognize her, and think she’s a boy; then it’s the guards at the gate; then it’s Yoren, and so by the end of the chapter we have all the elements we need for Arya to escape King’s Landing later—she can be disguised as a boy, not recognized as herself, and has become familiar to Yoren. Yay, plot elements getting put into place early that come back later! I just personally might have enjoyed not getting a headache from being hit with the idea so many times in such a short span, though.
Let’s see, what else did I call out? Her dream, the dinosaurs—I mean, dragons–if they recognized her Sansa would never speak to her again from the shame…okay, I lied when I said the Lannisters line was my marginal comment. This one was: “Uh…is that a bad thing?” I mean, Arya can’t stand Sansa, why would she even care, why would she think that? That’s something she’ll worry about in five years, but not now.
Arya’s dream is eerily reminiscent of Jon’s. Coincidence? I think not. Are they going to be the last two Starks alive?
I don’t have much to say about the dragon skulls except T-Rex! And while I would like to go with her on the they didn’t love her bit, that’s just what you feel when you stand next to dinosaur bones and realize you would literally be an amuse-bouche to one of them.
Syrio’s Soundbites were awesome.
Your enemies will give you more than scratches. A water dancer sees with all her senses. All halls lead somewhere. Where there is a way in, there is a way out. Fear cuts deeper than swords.
And then the almost hypnotic poeticism of her mantra:
Quiet as a shadow.
Light as a feather.
Quick as a snake.
Calm as still water.
Smooth as summer silk.
Swift as a dear.
Slippery as an eel.
Strong as a bear.
Fierce as a wolverine.
Still as a stone.
Also? The last line of the chapter is awesome. “Wizards die the same as other men, once you cut their heads off.” HA!
–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 from future books at her. Thanks!
–Do not read on if you have not read the series through A Feast for Crows and want to avoid spoilers–
Number 1: Yea, Arya’s mantra is cool, NOT AS COOL AS THE LITANY AGAINST FEAR.. but still pretty cool. ‘Fear cuts deeper than swords’ would make a fine tattoo. Just sayin’.
Number 2: I’m actually kind of shocked that Elena doesn’t immediately spot Illyrio. I guess we can give her some slack, as we’re going chapter by chapter and the last time we saw Illyrio was…. a while ago. She’s forgotten he existed, or at the very least hasn’t clued to the fact that he’s an important character worth remembering. She will. Just wait. She’ll get there.
Oh Arya… always getting into trouble and always having an uncanny knack for placing herself in JUST the right place to find out crucial information that she won’t understand. She spends the majority of this chapter groping through the castle underbelly – warrens, secret passages – (why do all castles in fantasy have extensive Labyrinth-style mazes beneath them, huh? I mean, seems like the first thing I’d do if I found myself suddenly having to live in a fantasy castle would be to stake a claim on some of those spy-tunnels. NED! I’M LOOKING AT YOU FROM HERE. CAN YOU FEEL IT? I’m in yur spy-tunnelz, hogging your info.) Arya is traveling along, she has no idea who she is following, no idea where she is going and lots of the time she quite literally is blind.
I’m really tempted to say this extended period of blindness is foreshadowing but GRRM has been pretty open about his choice of free-writing. I’m hesitant to declare this a solid bit of foreshadowing in regards to Arya being blind but I am confident that this does foreshadow what is to come for Arya in a broader sense – that her story is going to involve extensive traveling of various underbellies and, of course, the fact that she passes easily as a boy will play an extremely significant role. Elena caught that. She feels she was hit over the head with it. But maybe it’s better this way. The alternative is that Elena is complaining that so many people on the road are believing that Arya is a boy and HOW DUMB IS THAT? This way is better. Arya easily passes as a boy and everything thinks so. Done.
I think Arya’s chapters are satisfying because shit actually happens! A reader can gain and confirm many pieces of information in her chapters simply because Arya spends more time listening (and going where she shouldn’t) than the majority of the other characters with chapter POVs. Arya learns that there’s a plot to bring Taragaryen power back – not that she remembers that bit, she’s more concerned with the part of the plot that involves killing her father, but the reader knows and it’s juicy confirming info! Illyrio and Varys are working together! Jorah reports to Varys! It’s quite easy to get in and out of Westeros without Littlefinger knowing! Everything happening to Dany up until this point (and arguably most of what has happened so far) has been very carefully planned out by these men! Right down to Dany’s dragon egg wedding gifts… where did those actually come from I wonder?
I want there to be a short-story prequel. STAT. The Adventures of the Eunuch and the Magister! Their motivations continue to interest me. How did they meet? Why do they work together? Who has more money? Most people write Illyrio off as this guy who is doing it all for the money – that Varys cannot possibly be paying him. You expect me to believe that a man working only for his own self-interest will risk his life and limb and fortunes just for the POSSIBILITY of future wealth? No. I’m sorry but no. What is it about the Targaryens SPECIFICALLY that motivates these guys? It was Illyrio’s job to keep the Targaryens safe until Dany was wed right? Here’s where I get all conspiracy theory:
If the plan was to give Dany the dragon eggs as a wedding gift – did Illyrio and Varys know about the possibility of these eggs hatching? I know that most people are firmly in the No camp but I’m not so sure. WHERE DID THEY COME FROM? I think that would answer a lot of questions. Did Illyrio just have them? Did he steal them from someone? Did Varys tell Illyrio that the eggs would be a good gift? If either of these men had an inkling about what could happen than it points to a plan to off Viserys from the very beginning. Why give the eggs to Dany if Viserys was the heir?
Yea, I know that it’s probably all a coincidence and Illyrio jut gave her some pretty rocks and is now kicking himself because they turned out to be worth faarrrr more than some pretty rocks should be worth, but that doesn’t explain why a man motivated by money would work for no money. Don’t say Varys was paying him. Wouldn’t Littlefinger notice?
Back to the chapter! So Elena has given Ned far too much credit. It’s cute that she thinks Ned is actually going to do something about what Arya just told him because it’s incredibly hard to still like the guy as he blunders from one problem to the next but COME ON.. he doesn’t do SQUAT. He’s certainly not watching out for Varys. He’s concerned with the Queen. He doesn’t even think that Littlefinger is a poor ally. He IS too stupid to live sometimes. He’s a nice guy. He just doesn’t GET IT. He thinks he can walk into the Southern court, do everything the way he did it in Winterfell (ps – Winterfell is bigger than the Red Keep? WHAT? Totally blocked that out. Now I have to reimagine everything.) and that everyone will just be all “Oh, yes he shames me with all that honor and stuff, I will change my sneaky ways and do everything for the good of the realm and honor my king and loyalty and blah blah blah.” Oh Ned.
As to Elena’s evaluation of Renly and Loras’ plan I’ve thought much the same thing. What were they going to do with Joffrey and co.? Was the plan always to get a legitimate bastard and start a war? Or did they really think that Cersei could be offed along with her children and replaced entirely? If so, Renly and Loras are less honorable than I’d like to believe. Killing children is bad. It’s Ned’s number one rule to live by.
I’m sad that Elena is rejecting Arya’s skillz. She’s a water-dancer in training, yo! SHE TOTES HAZ SKILLZ. I mean, OK, maybe GRRM doesn’t know jack about period clothing but I believe that Arya can run circles around heavily armored guards who don’t give a rip, and that she can shimmy and climb like a dock-rat. Can she tumble like Tyrion (really? Tyrion is a tumbler? That’s always bothered me.) I dunno but she sure can RUN.
The Starks are all so weirdly attuned to dead-things. To old gods no one worships anymore (south of the Wall) and to bones and crypts and ghosts. Maybe it’s the warg stuff? Maybe they’re all a little green-eyed (ha.. HA). I don’t know of Arya and Jon will ever be reunited. I want them to be but how would that happen? My prediction will be that Arya takes up service with Dany as an assassin and is sent to Westeros to take care of some threats, one of whom may be Jon by that point. They could lie to her, it’s not like she can SEE. Hmmm.. or she’ll just end up finding Nymeria and warging around, using wolf-eyes to actually see. That would be cool but also terrifying.
One last note: I also made a face at Arya’s thought that she actually gave a crap what Sansa thought about her. In the end it just proves that despite their differences they are sisters. They care about each other and Arya might think Sansa is stupid but she DOES value what her family thinks. She doesn’t want to shame Sansa anymore than she would want to shame her father. I think she also knows that Sansa has a capacity to hold grudges and while Ned might easily forgive Arya her transgressions, for Sansa having a sister that is mistaken for a homeless boy would be high on the offense list. Sansa’s own standing would be hurt by such a discovery and Ned doesn’t care about that stuff, but Sansa does because she must and so Arya cares, because she loves her stupid bitchy sister.
Elena Nola is the imperial editrix for the BSC empire. She likes genre books, weird movies, and obscure references. She lives in New Orleans, where almost every day is good enough for good times. Contrary to dogma, Rachel Parker is the mind-killer. She is a nerd, writer, and art historian living in Brooklyn, NY. You can read more of her posts at scienceofdiscontent.blogspot.com, or follow @DarthRachel on twitter.