Ser Gregor keeps Arya, Gendry, Hot Pie, and the villagers imprisoned for eight days. Every day he, with the aid of the Tickler, questions one villager about the town and about Lord Beric. The villager never survives. After that, Gregor marches them to Harrenhal to serve there. Arya gets to know Gregor’s men along the way, including Dunsen, Raff the Sweetling, who killed Lommy, Chiswyck, Shitmouth, and Polliver, who took Needle from her. Each night, she says a litany of all those she hates: Ser Gregor, Dunsen, Polliver, Chiswyck, Raff the Sweetling, the Tickler, the Hound, Ser Amory, Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn, King Joffrey, and Queen Cersei. When they finally arrive at Harrenhal, Arya, now going by the name Weasel, is brought before Goodwife Amabel and Goodwife Harra, who assign her to the Wailing Tower, where the servants are controlled by an understeward named Weese.
I don’t think that there is a way to properly describe the level of trauma that real-life people would endure if they went through the kind of shit that Arya has. I mean, the torture and the bare-faced murder are painful to just read through but it is described so nonchalantly that I can see why I read past it the first time and just barely registered it. As it stands, it obviously isn’t important in the bigger scheme of things but it is certainly important in helping us understand just how fucked up Gregor and the rest of his band are. Is there a higher purpose to that knowledge though? I think there is – ACoK and ASoS have sort of coalesced in my mind but both novels really ram home the fact that war sucks. I think chapters like these, apart from just telling us what kind of a psychopath the Mountain is, also tell us about life for the prisoners of war and more importantly, establish very firmly that this is not one of those series in which the readers are protected from the gruesome details of war.
The Lannisters had taken everything: father, friends, home, hope, courage.
Doesn’t this sound exactly like the origin story of some comic supervillain? I’m not criticizing the writing; I’m just suggesting that if Arya turns to not really be on the ‘good’ side, whatever that means, I don’t think it would shock any of us. Let’s do a quick recap of everything that she’s seen so far in the last, oh let’s say, one year? First, she sees her brother in a near death coma. Ok, that’s fine, I mean she’s old enough to know about how shit happens, and it’s no big deal. Then, there was the whole business with Nymeria where she had to drive her puppy away and live with the fact that her actions (however indirectly) got another puppy killed. That’s pretty heavy for an eight year old. Next, she sees her father executed after starving on the streets for a couple of days. That’s heavy by any means. We’ll skip past the bullying that she encountered at the hands of Lommy and Hot-Pie because that’s minor league by this point but then Yoren is killed in front of her eyes and she has to take care of Weasel, who probably also dies. She sees men killed, including her useless friend Lommy, and she sees people tortured, living in constant fear that she might be next. The line above really shows us just how powerful constant fear can be to people who have already lost everything: it keeps them from accumulating the willpower to ever try to regain what they lost.
“Paid? He took two of my chickens and gave me a bit of paper with a mark on it. Can I eat a bit of raggy old paper, I ask you? Will it give me eggs?”
This is a fairly good point. I mean, I think we can all appreciate the idea of repaying what one takes but at the end of the day, if you’re taking (as opposed to buying) then it doesn’t really matter whether or not you repay them. What I mean is that if the poor lady wasn’t allowed to refuse to ‘sell’ her chickens to Dondarion’s lot then are they really that different from Clegane’s lot? Ok, they are definitely less violent and less shitty people as a whole, I agree, but the basic principle of taking from others without asking is the same isn’t it? Yet, you’ll notice that that isn’t what the smallfolk are complaining about – they are unhappy that they were given an IOU instead of actual gold, which is another valid complaint though kind of missing the whole point a little, if you ask me. In any case, what would they even spend the gold on? Gregor would have taken it anyway.
You had to learn that even though the one they called Shitmouth had the foulest tongue she’d ever heard, he’d give you an extra piece of bread if you asked, while jolly old Chiswyck and soft-spoken Raff would just give you the back of their hand.
I love how each of these fuckers has a distinct personality and that they are not uniformly twisted. I guess, they are all twisted in one sense or another – I mean how long can you ride with Gregor before it starts taking its toll on you? – but they aren’t all evil in the same ways. This Shitmouth fellow has probably killed dozens of people just for the fuck of it and there’s no way of telling how many men/women/children he’s raped but the sad thing is that in this context, just by offering an additional piece of bread, he gets to appear a little kinder than the rest. It’s like the Nazi officer that shoots the prisoners instead of torturing them; are you supposed to thank him for it?
“Ser Gregor,” she’d whisper to her stone pillow. “Dunsen, Polliver, Chiswyck, Raff the Sweetling. The Tickler and the Hound. Ser Amory, Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn, King Joffrey, Queen Cersei.”
I’m disappointed at just how few of these Arya kills herself. I can’t remember it now, but is this the first time we’ve heard The Prayer? I feel like it isn’t but my memory is terrible these days so I can’t tell. Either way, there are still a fair few alive on that list and no one’s saying that the list can’t get longer before the series is done, so there’s still that. It’ll be awful if a character we know and love (apart from the Hound, who we probably love so much as enjoy being entertained by) is put on that list. I can’t see anyone we know and like making it onto Arya’s personal list though it’s plausible that Arya might be sent to kill Dany.