Everyone knows that #GeorgeRRMartin is utterly merciless when it comes to killing off characters, good or evil. But there's one well known rumor that #GameOfThrones and #ASongOfIceAndFire fans have put a lot of faith in, hoping it might keep one beloved character safe throughout the series. Rumor has it, Arya is the favorite character of Martin's wife, and she told her husband that if he ever killed her off, she'd leave him.
"His wife did actually say that if he ever kills off Arya or Sansa, she's going to leave him... I'll just keep smiling, and say 'if you want to stay with your wife, you've got to keep me alive!'"
By the end of Season 6, the youngest Stark daughter had finally finished the worst internship in the world and become of fully-fledged Faceless assassin. She's wiped out the Freys and is currently slaughtering her way home to Winterfell. Once she gets there, will she finally live happily ever after with her family?
That doesn't really sound like George R.R. Martin, does it? But still, he promised his wife he wasn't going to just kill Arya off, so how will a girl's story end?
Let's start at the beginning.
Nymeria, The Man-Eating Direwolf Of Westeros
The direwolf might be the sigil of House Stark, but it's no easy feat keeping those puppies alive. So far, only Jon Snow has been able to keep his pet by his side and out of harm's way. But there's one another Stark wolf that is still running free: Nymeria, Arya's wolf. Way back in Season 1/Book 1, Arya White Fang-ed her beloved direwolf for her own protection, after she ripped a chunk out of Joffrey's arm. Since then, we haven't seen hide nor hair of Nymeria on the show. In the books, however, we get the occasional glimpse into Nymeria's new life through Arya's strange, recurring dreams.
Nymeria tears around Westeros as the alpha in a pack of man-eating dogs. As Ctrl Alt X explains, the books imply that Arya is a skinchanger, or a warg — that is, she has the same magical ability as Bran to control the minds of animals. Arya is actually warging into Nymeria during those magical dreams, literally seeing through her eyes and controlling her actions.
We'll come back to this later.
Arya's Identity Crisis
Since that tragic day in King's Landing, Arya has clung desperately to one thing and one thing alone: Her desire to take revenge on all the people that separated her from those she loved. You know the list: Cersei, The Hound, Ilyn Payne, and so on. But as hate and rage consumed all the waking and sleeping thoughts of this little girl, she's fallen into a bit of an identity crisis. She even assumed the identity of Ary, a peasant boy, while she was traveling, and she pretended to be a poor serving maid while she was in the clutches of Tywin Lannister. While she studied with the Faceless Men, she had her sense of self literally beaten out of her, becoming just "a girl" and "no one." (In the books, she goes through even more identities than these).
Truthfully, the identity crisis started long before that, when Arya felt like an outcast at Winterfell. In the books, she resembles Jon more closely than any of her other siblings, and wondered if she might be a bastard, too. She doesn't want to be a lady like Sansa, and she's not encouraged to learn to fight to the same extent as her brothers. Arya's identity crisis has been a long time coming.
Arya is such a lovable character because she can handle herself, and seemingly anything life throws at her. But at the end of the day, she is still just a little girl. She wants to return to her mother and brother, right up until the Red Wedding, then she stays with Gendry and the other boys even though it might have been smarter to start trekking toward Jon at the Wall. She doesn't want to be alone. The books emphasize that Arya is searching for a pack of her own.
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Only in the last episode of Season 6 did she finally come to reaffirm herself as Arya Stark of Winterfell once more. In a simpler fairytale, this might be the end of her heroic arc. She's come out of the woods and sees the truth of who she really is. She can go home and rejoin her family, taking out all the bad guys on her list, and living a happy life at Winterfell. But if that sounds too good to be true, it means it probably is.
A Time For Wolves
In an interview with Mashable, George R.R. Martin fed us this juicy line, hinting that we haven't seen the last of Nymeria's wolf pack:
"You know, I don't like to give things away. But you don't hang a giant wolf pack on the wall unless you intend to use it."
Martin may only have been talking about the books, but if you've been keeping up with the spoilers for Season 7, you know that Nymeria is going to be bounding back into Arya's life very soon.
In keeping with this Chekovian idea, there's another phenomenon we've seen both in Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire. Wargs — or skinchangers, as they're called in the books — can temporarily evade death by warging into the body of an the animal with which they have an affinity.
Remember this scene, when Jon Snow kills the wildling warg Orell?
Orell will live on in the body of the eagle, but as time goes on and he's unable to return to his human body, his mind will slowly start to slip away and he'll have no more memory of what it's like to be human. Martin, Benioff and Weiss probably wouldn't have introduced us to this concept unless it was going to come back in a bigger, more important way.
Although it might be hard to see it at first, Martin is a pacifist. He doesn't approve of war and murder and bloodshed. When it happens to his characters, it's always painful and senseless. Therefore, it's unlikely he would let a girl who has devoted her life to anger and killing — no matter how much we may empathize with her — have a completely happy ending.
Martin has long said that the ending of his series will be bittersweet. What is more bittersweet than having Arya die a tragic death, likely foiled while trying to carry out her plans for revenge, only to warg into Nymeria with her last breath and go on living? Ctrl Alt X posits that this is the only logical conclusion for Arya's story line: This will be her final life, but she'll finally, finally have a pack of her own.
Do you believe this is how Arya's story will end?
(Source: Ctrl Alt X)