[Re-Read] A Storm of Swords – Arya I


This post has spoilers for George RR Martin’s fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, including fan theories and speculation. If you do not wish for certain information regarding future plot points from this series or other related series to be revealed to you, you might want to consider not reading any further.

We continue our run through of first chapters, catching up this time with Arya, fresh from her bloody escape from Harrenhal. It turns out that daring as the little girl is, she is not much of a navigator and soon all three children are lost in the scary woods separating Harrenhal from Riverrun. I’ve realized that these posts would benefit tremendously from a simple map and so have decided to add one. I wanted one that was detailed, so I found the most detailed map I could. It can be found below – you’ll probably need to click it to appreciate the insane level of detail. You can be damned sure that that map isn’t mine but bless the soul of any fan dedicated enough to spend time crafting that behemoth. Anyway, back to the point, Riverrun and Harrenhal aren’t particularly far away but you can see that if you follow the wrong river like this lot probably did, then you’re going to end up in some fairly strange, not too friendly territory. The chapter ends on an interesting note even if it means we have to suffer through a little bit of a travelogue to get to it

They rode north, away from the lake, following a rutted farm road across the torn fields and into the woods and streams.

So far, so good. I’ll try my best to track their progress the best I can, but at some point the directions, distances and descriptions all get a little too confusing.

Others called them Bloody Mummers (though never to their faces), and sometimes the Footmen, for Lord Vargo’s habit of cutting off the hands and feet of men who displeased him.

Hoat’s been set up as a nasty piece of work for a while now – rivalling the likes of Lorch and the Mountain in terms of cruelty – but this is the first time we’ve heard of Hoat’s penchant for cutting off hands and feet; just in time to serve as foreshadowing for Jaime’s punishment. It’s interesting to note just how calm Arya is through all this; but also a little troubling. Think about it, this chapter is taking place on the very night of Arya’s escape from Harrenhal – the fact it is still night and that they are still within sight of Harrenhal confirm this – and Arya has just killed a man. Her thoughts however, are not filled with guilt, remorse, shock or anything of the sort. Instead, there’s a disturbing rationality in her that is reminding her that she needs to put some distance between the castle and herself if she doesn’t want to end up losing hands and feet. I can’t tell if Bolton did not send a force after them because they weren’t worth the trouble or because he genuinely didn’t realize until quite a bit later or because he didn’t want to weaken his position at Harrenhal. The obvious answer was that when he did realize, he deployed a small force, but nothing crazy – just enough to catch three runaway kids.

Not long after, they came upon three wolves devouring the corpse of a fawn.

This is the first hint of Nymeria’s pack, isn’t it? I know that not all wolves everywhere belong to Nymeria’s pack but Arya had parted ways with Nymeria near the castle of Darry which – check the map! – isn’t too far from Harrenhal either. Given that Arya & co had been heading north for a while, that would put her right around Nymeria’s last known location. We also see that Arya’s familiarity with animals, both horses and wolves is coming in very useful in the woods, though I can’t help but wonder what would happen if the wolves decide that Nymeria’s soul mate is fair game.

It was mushy and overripe, but she ate it worms and all.

Apart from the unintentional foreshadowing of Arya’s first meeting with the kindly old man, her eating the apple from the dead men’s tree showcases a total lack of fear of death. The contrast was especially stark (heh) when compared to Hot Pie’s fervent praying. Arya’s seen some shit, true, but so have Hot Pie and Gendry, yet neither of them have developed quite the same level of bravery. Is it bravery though? To some extent, at least, there’s no denying that Arya has the kind of pluck and courage that most adults will never possess but her attitude towards death and murder seems to be apathy more than courageous tolerance. Dead people are like inanimate objects to her; not worth expressing an opinion about.

Gendry had his own secret, though even he didn’t seem to know what it was.

It’s amazing to me that despite everything that has happened, no one except Ned and Varys (and possibly Stannis) know that Gendry is Robert’s bastard. In fact, at this point, I’m pretty sure prosecuting Robert’s bastards has fallen so low on Cersei’s priority list that Gendry could probably just turn around and head straight back to King’s Landing and resume life as a blacksmith. Arya could probably join him too – she’s been gone so long that most people would probably think she was dead though I guess if Sandor Clegane can recognize her from a distance, there’s no guarantee that others in the city wouldn’t.

They were her pack, her friends, the only living friends that remained to her, and if not for her they would still be safe at Harrenhal, Gendry sweating at his forge and Hot Pie in the kitchens.

I’m glad to see that Arya still has some humanity left in her, even if that means describing her friends as a pack of wolves. As far as I can tell, she has yet to fully lose that humanity and moral core, though the Faceless Man training will do its best to burn it out of her. Her consideration for her friends however, does not imply equal rights and soon enough, she’s bossing them around and getting them properly lost. I don’t know about the whole moss only growing on one side stuff but isn’t it well known even in this society that the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west? Isn’t that why Westeros is called the Sunset Kingdom? Arya’s determination to stubbornly keep going could have ended pretty horribly but at the same time, her wisdom in keeping them off the roads probably kept them all alive. Which of the Brave Companions, in his right mind, would spend his time hunting in the rain, through the scrub, for a bunch of kids that are of no strategic value?

The Mummers were in them, four at least, a pale Lyseni and a dark brutal axeman from Ib, the scarred Dothraki horse lord called Iggo and a Dornishman whose name she never knew.

As it turns out, there are four Mummers who have just a tad too much free time. We never really learn how far they are from Arya and her friends but the fact that they are out and possibly not on the road mean that they have picked up Arya’s trail and are approaching in. The rest that follows is fairly straightforward – Nymeria’s pack attacks and all four Mummers die, at the cost of two wolves. The only question left is whether it was pure coincidence that the Mummers chanced upon these wolves or whether Arya’s fears somehow subconsciously pushed the wolves to hunt the men she feared. I don’t personally think that Arya has that level of control over them but it’s certainly something to think about. The other thing to think about is just what the relationship between girl and wolf would be if they met now – Arya seems to think that she has little to fear from the wolves as long as she gives them some modicum of respect but we don’t really know what would have happened if it had been Arya and her company riding in the Mummers’ places. One thing is for sure – the eventual meeting between the two will be a real treat to watch.

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