Elly McDonald


Valar Morghulis (26 February 2014)


Archetypes are handy.

In the world of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, better known as Game of Thrones, people in the southern parts of Westeros worship the Seven: The Father, The Mother, The Maiden, The Crone, The Warrior, The Smith, The Stranger (Death).

There are characters in Martin’s narrative who exemplify aspects of the Seven: Ned Stark as the Father, for instance; Catelyn as the Mother; Sansa as the Maiden; Olenna or Mirri Maz Duur as the Crone; Robb or Jon or any number of others as the Warrior; Gendry as the Smith; Arya as the Stranger.

I like Arya. She could be a female aspect of the Warrior, as Brienne is, but as at Book 5 she’s hurtling on a trajectory that will transform her into Death personified. Mostly we cheer her on.

Why would we cheer a young girl turning into an assassin?

Maybe because we think she has good cause, Arya with her hit list of those she wants dead: Joffrey, the Hound, the Tickler, Polliver, the Freys…

Ser Gregor, Dunsen, Raff the Sweetling, Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn, Queen Cersei. Valar morghulis [All men must die] … Yes, it’s you who ought to run, you and Lord Tywin and the Mountain and Ser Addam and Ser Amory and stupid Ser Lyonel whoever he is, all of you better run or my brother will kill you, he’s a Stark, he’s more wolf than man, and so am I.”

These are people who slaughter her family and her friends, who destroy her world and trash her identity as ‘Arya Stark’. We – I feel I speak for all who care – hope she lives to “stick ‘em with the pointy end”, or at least see them dead.

“A long time ago, she remembered her father saying that when the cold wind blows the lone wolf dies but the pack survives. He had it all backwards. Arya, the lone wolf, still lived, but the wolves of the pack had been taken and slain and skinned.”

But maybe it’s more. Maybe we will Arya towards her destiny as an artist of the kill because the Stranger is obviously her nature. She’s a warg, capable of slipping her consciousness into the living body of a wolf, or a cat. So far she’s embodied always as a predator.

“I’m the ghost in Harrenhal, she thought. And that night, there was one less name to hate.”

Early in the narrative, before her father’s death, Arya asks him, “Can I be Lord of a Holdfast?” (She means, like my brothers?)

Ned laughs. “You,” he says, “Will marry a high lord and rule his castle. And your sons shall be knights and princes and lords. Hmm?”

Arya looks at him with Stranger’s eyes. “No,” she says softly. “That’s not me.”

Arya Stark is born to kill. She cannot kill as a knight, as Lord of a Holdfast. So she’ll kill as a kind of super-ninja. Where that will take her, who knows?

Quotes from Arya:

“Swift as a deer. Quiet as a shadow. Fear cuts deeper than swords. Quick as a snake. Calm as still water. Fear cuts deeper than swords. Strong as a bear. Fierce as a wolverine. Fear cuts deeper than swords. The man who fears losing has already lost. Fear cuts deeper than swords. Fear cuts deeper than swords. Fear cuts deeper than swords.”

Quotes about Arya:

Ned Stark: “Ah, Arya. You have a wildness in you, child. The ‘Wolf Blood’, my father used to call it. Lyanna had a touch of it, and my brother Brandon more than a touch. It brought them both to an early grave.”

Jaqen H’ghar to Arya disguised as a boy: “A boy has more courage than sense.”

Jaqen H’ghar to Arya: “Help was not promised, lovely girl. Only death.”

Gendry to Arya: “What kind of lady are you?”

Arya to Gendry: “This kind.”


Not Mother nor Maiden

Author: Elly McDonald

Australian-born, with English mother, has lived in several Australian cities and in London. Travelled widely. Way way back when, published widely as a poet and short story writer. For the first 20 years of my working life I worked as an entertainment journalist, publicist, PR consultant and in advertising and media agencies. In the second 20 years, I worked in marketing roles at non-profit organisations then retrained as a teacher, primarily teaching English to non-English speaking, newly-arrived refugees. Also did miserable McJobs, and a long, happy stint at an art gallery.

2 thoughts on “Valar Morghulis (26 February 2014)

  1. Pingback: Review: My Absolute Darling (2017) by Gabriel Tallent | Elly McDonald

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