August 16, 2011

The Blind Girl

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark in HBOs Game of Thrones
Arya is dreaming a wolf dream. Nymeria is killing some sheep, the dogs guarding them and their sheperd, not fearing men and feasting on their flesh as well as on mutton. When she wakes up, she is still blind and prepares for another day. She has by now learned to know her surroundings and effects by touch, so she can take on her clothing without a problem, even getting the white and black sock on the appropriate foot. Her own hunger drives her to the kitchens. She not only knows the way there by know, she can also smell them and know from the smell what food is cooked. When she sits down eating, she savors the tasted and the feeling of the food, thinking about how she learned to use her other senses since she lost her sight.

She then goes to the kind man, who asks her which three new things she learned out in the streets of Braavos, begging. She tells him some rumors about the expected passing of the current Sealord and his predecessor, but the kind man chides her for not really knowing, but only thinking. She then begins to go about her duties, using a stick to compensate her missing eyes. While she walks through the temple, she remembers the first days and weeks of being blind. The lying game was much harder, but now she can literally hear lies. She got scraped and bruises, which aren't a problem today. Her main duty, which she goes about now, is to find the dead in the temple and to bring them down into the cellars, where she strips them for valuables. This work sometimes takes most of the day. She has no fear at all of the dead. While she goes about her work in a lonely cellar, she suddenly is attacked by someone with a stick who taunts her for not seeing nor hearing. She tries to defend herself, getting hit several times before managing to counter one of the strikes for the first time. The attacker vanishes as suddenly as he came, leaving her to her chores again.

After the day's work at the temple, she is again prepared for begging in the streets by the waif, who does some make up on her making her ugly. She remembers lessons about the philsophy of the House of Black and White, and still doesn't understand why they kill people but do not judge them. When she walks out on the streets of Braavos, mists cover them, which makes her think that the city is half-blind as well. She can hear people praying to R'hollor and thinks that the night holds no terror to her. She then decides on which tavern to use for begging today, thinking that one should not go to the same twice in a row since the innkeeps are more inclined to let you beg when you're not a regular.

In the tavern she choses she overhears the talk of some Lyseni sailors, talking about slave ships that made the way from the North. She not only hears the sailors, but can see them through the eyes of a cat wandering about, too. Two ships came from a place called Hardhome, where wildlings are assembled in dispair, and lured them aboard with false promises. One of the ships was wrecked by storms and came to Braavos, where slavery is forbidden. She tells these two things to the kind man on her return, and when he asks her for a third thing she learned, she knocks the stick out of his hand telling him that he was the one attacking her. Surprised, the kind man asks how she knows that, and she replies that she already told three things and doesn't need to say more.

And there is Arya again. We last saw her in "A Feast for Crows", which means that this timeline has connected again too. The peculiar thing about all Arya chapters in "A Feast for Crows" and "A Dance with Dragons" is that they don't seem to fit in the normal timeline. It seems like there is much, much more time passed in the Arya chapters than in the rest of the book, since she came back every month to the temple to work one day and tell three things, and she told so much that over a year seems to have passed by the end of "A Feast for Crows". Her chapter here starts with her established as blind for weeks. It's strange, but since Arya has recent news from Hardhome and Jon it is likely that her timeline is in conjunction with the others.

The chapter generally shows Arya acquiring additional skills for her assumed new career as an assassin. There is not much to be discussed here, since the use of her new skills is pretty obvious, as is the way she is acquiring them. It is more interesting what happens to her mentally. At first, she still has vivid wolf dreams, where she hunts down innocents without mercy and isn't repulsed even after she wakes up. Hey, I just killed a sheperd and his dogs. Nice event, was fun. This might be a part of her training as to kill without asking for a reason, but it also might be her giving herself up to Nymeria entirely. Either way, it's unsettling.

Arya also still regards herself as a Northener, feeling the Old Gods with her, as witnessed by her reaction to the prayers to R'hollor. She might not put it that way, but in these moments, she is more Arya Stark then ever, but does an increasingly better job at hiding it from the blind man, to whom she starts to lie without him really noticing, for example when she doesn't tell him about the snows in Westeros and he doesn't seem to feel that she is withholding. There is also the small detail that she is still chewing her lip, Arya-behavior, which she still hasn't overcome.

The most interesting thing about her training, however, is that she grows better at warging without anyone teaching her or even recognizing her new skills. Perhaps not having eyes aggregated it somehow, since she seems to instinctively use the eyes of beasts around her to compensate for her missing eyes. The gift for warging therefore is strong in Bran, Jon and Arya. We don't know about Robb, who died too early to discover it, or Sansa, who has no gentle beast nearby to teach her, or Rickon, for whom we lack POV-perspective. It is sure, however, that the warging ability makes Arya a really special assassin already.


  1. "Hey, I just killed a sheperd and his dogs. Nice event, was fun."

    I agree that this part of her, particularly her thoughts of its beauty, is very unsettling. She's become hardened to death, we knew that, but she also seems to be missing the Kindly Man's lessons on how they're not just cold blooded killers (something I'm not so sure about), and her continual recital of the names proves that she hasn't let go of her past or given up completely being Arya Stark. I do sometimes fear, though, that she's given up a great deal of what made her father love her.

    Maybe not, but her sense of compassion is at an all time low.

    Her training itself, however, couldn't be more perpatory for any situation. The skill of blind fighting and moving about successfully without sight is a very useful skill to have. I wonder how it will serve her in the future, and often imagine her slicing and dicing the enemy in cold darkness. A cool image, if somewhat confusing.

    I do believe that the trauma of sudden blindness pushed her warging skills further, especially as it's her only way to see at this time. I was very interested to see how she kept this secret, and justified it to herself. I agreed with her reasoning, but wonder what future consequences this will bring.

  2. Did she warg into the cat on the rafters to spy down on the old man? Is that how she knows it was him?