After Yoren pulled Arya into the alley, he shaved her head and informed her she would be known as Arry the orphan and pretend she is a boy. She is now on the road north with Yoren and thirty recruits for the Night’s Watch culled mostly from the dungeons. The worst of them are three criminals that are kept in one of the wagons in chains; one of them has no nose, and another is fat and bald with pointed teeth and weeping sores on his cheeks. There are also wagons full of supplies for the Watch. Yoren plans to take Arya back to Winterfell on his way to the Wall. There are two orphan boys from the streets, a former dyer’s apprentice and thief named Lommy Greenhands and the son of a baker nicknamed Hot Pie, who tease Arya and call her Lumpyhead. One day, Lommy and Hot Pie taunt Arya about Needle and threaten to hurt her if she does not give it to them, even after the Bull, an older and stronger boy that was given that name by the other boys because of the bull’s head helmet he always carries, tells them to back off, so Arya attacks them with her wooden practice sword and beats Hot Pie mercilessly until Yoren breaks it up. He takes her aside and whacks her with the wooden sword three times and tells her to behave. He also tells her that a man had come to him with a boy, some gold, and a promise that Eddard would be joining the Watch too. Arya realizes that her father was supposed to live, but Joffrey killed him anyway. After the incident, the orphan boys avoid her.
So, we get our first Arya chapter since the death of Ned and things aren’t looking particularly great for her. Then again, things never look good for Arya and even when they seem relatively ok, it’s just because we haven’t found out the full extent of how bad they really are. Still, this chapter marks the beginning of Arya’s grand tour of the Seven Kingdoms. She is our eyes on the plight of the smallfolk, as well as our eyes on what is happening in the enemy camps. I think this is one of the reasons I’ve found her POV so riveting – that and the fact that there’s something morbidly fascinating of seeing the birth of a psychopath up close and personal. Still, none of that happens in this chapter – we are after all only at the very beginning of ACOK and this chapter is more about Arya finding her place in her new, terrible makeshift ‘family’ and re-introducing her and her plight to the reader.
That is not to say that there is nothing noteworthy in this chapter, just that there is nothing that is relevant to the grand scheme of things.
She wished the Rush would rise and wash the whole city away, Flea Bottom and the Red Keep and the Great Sept and everything, and everyone too, especially Prince Joffrey and his mother.
Yes, this, a hundred times over, this. Seriously, if King’s Landing does not burn by the end of the series, Mr. Martin will be receiving a very angry letter, perhaps several. Not from me, obviously, since that’s not how I do things, but still I imagine there will be many more people who are just plain sick of the city and more likely, the government that it represents.
Entertaining as this chapter is, I find it hard to give much credence of Arya’s claim that two boys named Lommy and Hot Pie respectively pose much in the way of a problem. I’m not doubting her, mind you; they’re bigger than her and possibly meaner but it does make for a ridiculous imaginary sight.
I killed a boy, a fat boy like you, I stabbed him in the belly and he died, and I’ll kill you too if you don’t let me alone.
This gave me pause. I don’t know whether to read this as Arya’s frustration getting the better of her, you know the way kids don’t really know how to handle irritation, anger and frustration, or whether this is a real anger management issue popping up. Still, it’s extremely chilling to read her casually contemplate killing her bully, for a bunch of reasons. One reason is definitely because there’s a close link to the way tragedy in playgrounds begin over bullying but the much bigger reason is that it’s one thing to think of killing someone when it’s this abstract concept, like it’s the worst thing you can think of doing to someone you hate, but it’s an entirely different thing when you’ve already killed someone and know exactly what it meant. Yet, it’s so hard to censure her for it – she’s been through so much and is still going through more. That line about how she had no tears left to cry is practically heart-breaking on its own but more so when you compare how she falls asleep thinking of Jon and home here to how in the near future she falls asleep ‘praying’ her prayer.
Still it’s not all bad – we get Gendry. I feel like these first two chapters of ACOK have been a lot of bad (as in bad things happening, not bad writing obviously) mixed with these hope spots of good. Davos in the sea of depression and Dragonstone and Gendry in the middle of what was looking like nightmare for Arya. I love Gendry. I think everyone loves Gendry. He’s like Robert without … everything that made Robert himself. Ok, so he’s nothing like Robert now that I think about it except strong and apparently pretty good looking. In any case, Gendry and Arya meeting the first time and getting along had me gushing about a Baratheon (kind) plus Stark reunion of sorts but alas, Martin has stomped by dreams into the ground and I doubt I’ll ever see Gendry again (#stillrowing). Yoren’s revelation that Ned was supposed to survive isn’t news to us but it must be crushing for Arya to learn that her father was just one sociopath of a brat away from escaping the nightmare of King’s Landing with his head still on his heads.
I don’t really blame Yoren for disciplining Arya the way he did. He can’t be seen playing favourites and he can’t be seen treating Arya any differently from the rest of the lot. Arya also did mess Hot Pie up something special if the boy literally soiled himself and that’s another thing that really bothers me. I don’t know many ‘normal’ kids (for the lack of a better word) that would go that far even in their worst rage. The kids I knew who would (and sometimes did) go that far weren’t really right in the head. I guess a part of it is, as Yoren says, the guilt and rage that Arya feels over her father’s death and I certainly hope that’s all it is, but I doubt it. She learns to control the rage, but the violence in her never goes away and to be fair that just might be because she never leaves the violence around her either.