Mythic Studies, Writing

The Mythic Feminine, Part 9: Modern Heroine: Arya Stark (A Song of Ice and Fire series by GRR Martin)

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark and Miltos Yerolemou as Syrio Forel, Game of Thrones, 2011- present

Arya Stark, daughter of Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell, is one of the many heroines to be found throughout the world of A Song of Ice and Fire and her story is still unfolding. Arya comes from a noble family, but is ill at ease with the role society would have her play. She does not feel like a lady and would prefer to learn sword-play to needlecraft. She has no interest in the things her society deem acceptable for women, such as marrying, having children, tending a house.

Arya is feisty and sure of herself. She will stand firm for what she believes in and she doesn’t hold with people trying to intimidate her. This are all good skills and traits for her to have. Her journey starts when the king visits their father, to name him as the Hand of the King. Arya and her sister go with Eddard, when he leaves for the capitol. On the way there, she practices sword-fighting with a friend, using a sword given to her by her half-brother. She is caught at this by Sansa and Prince Joffrey, and defends her friend when Joffrey tries to challenge him. Arya takes Joffrey’s sword and throws it in a lake, while her pet dire-wolf takes a bite out of his arm. To keep her wolf from being killed in retaliation, Arya chases her away. Unfortunately, this does not soothe Joffrey and Queen Cersei, who demand that the remaining dire-wolf, Sansa’s, be killed. Eddard has no choice but to comply and he carries out the deed himself.

Once they reach King’s Landing, the capitol, Eddard finds a sword-master to teach Arya, reasoning that if she will persist in doing this, then she should have proper instruction. Not long after this, the king dies and Eddard is accused of treason, to remove him as a player. Arya and Sansa are separated and Arya finds herself living in the Flea Bottom, the city’s lower class district. A member of the Night’s Watch recognizes her and takes her away before Eddard is executed. She cuts her hair, and changes her name to Arry, passing as a boy recruited for the Night’s Watch. She travels with the Night’s Watch soldier and his other recruits for some time, until she is separated from the majority of them during an attack. She and her small group are later captured by roving knights loyal to the crown and are taken to the stronghold of Harrenhal, to be servants.

Arya faces many more trials along her journey before finally reaching Braavos. There she makes her way to a place called the House of Black and White, a place where people go to seek death, and becomes an initiate to the Faceless Men. She is required to discard her old personality, the trappings of her old life and start with a fresh slate. She adopts the persona of ‘Cat of the Canals’, and her training consists of gathering information for the one in charge of the House of Black and White. During the next phase of her training, Arya is given a ‘milk’ that renders her blind. It is to help her more fully discard her previous persona of ‘Arya Stark’. She wanders Braavos in the guise of a blind beggar girl named ‘Beth’. She passes the tests of this phase of training and is given her first assassination assignment, for being purveyors of death is what the Faceless Men are known for. She succeeds and is raised to acolyte.

This is where Arya’s story currently stands. One hopes that the next book installment will be out sooner rather than later! I want to know how her story ends! She is such a fascinating character. To get the full richness of her journey, I strongly encourage you to read George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. Just be warned- the wait between books is quite a long one!  However, there are already several in the series.


Arya’s Journey (thus far) following Murdock’s variation:

*Separation from feminine- Arya definitely does *not* want anything to do with being a ‘Lady’ in her time. She thinks the skills and expectations of a noblewoman are boring.

*Identification with masculine and gathering allies- Arya would prefer to be able to learn the skills allotted to men in her time. She prefers swordplay and horsemanship. When she must disguise herself and flee King’s Landing, she does so in the guise of a boy, a guise she keeps up for a good portion of her story thus far. Arya has many temporary allies that come and go from her story.

*Road of Trials- Arya faces many trials, including her flight from King’s Landing.

*Finding the illusory boon of success- Arya thinks she has reached safety several times, only to have it snatched away at the last moment.

*Awakening to feelings of spiritual aridity; death- Arya has ended up in Braavos, cut off from her family. As far as she knows, House Stark is no more and she is the last of her family. She ends up at the House of Black and White, a place where people go to die, literally and figuratively.

*Initiation and descent to the goddess- Arya is initiated into the guild known as the Faceless Men, a group of assassins. The trappings of past and ego are stripped during this time and Arya learns to be many people and no one at all.

*Urgent need to reconnect with the feminine- Look for the following aspects of Arya’s journey to come up in future books in the series.

*Healing mother/daughter rift- Look for the following aspects of Arya’s journey to come up in future books in the series.

*Healing the wounded masculine- Look for the following aspects of Arya’s journey to come up in future books in the series.

*Integration of feminine and masculine- Look for the following aspects of Arya’s journey to come up in future books in the series.


*Cambell, Joseph, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 1972

*Frankel, Valerie, From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine’s Journey through Myth and Legend, 2010

*Martin, G.R.R., A Song of Ice and Fire series, 1996-2011

*Murdock, Maureen, The Heroine’s Journey, 1990

*Schmidt, Victoria, Story Structure Architect, 2005

*Schmidt, Victoria, 45 Master Characters, 2007

*Volger, Christopher, Writer’s Journey, 1992


Next up: The Mythic Feminine, Part 10: Gender-Bender: Stephen Ezard (The Last Enemy, BBC)

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