It’s difficult to predict what the future holds for Arya, even after reading the Mercy chapter from The Winds of Winter. With so few clues to go on, it’s worth considering storytelling logic to gather ideas and then see if the text supports them.
Identity is a huge theme in these books for many characters, but especially for Arya who has had eighteen different names and personas at this stage. GRRM likes to attack the issue of identity from all angles, and each book reveals a new layer to the theme–from multiple characters being reborn with altered selves to Bran inhabiting Hodor. Identity is so closely tied to Arya’s arc it might be a good idea to consider how GRRM might chose to advance her story by furthering this theme–taking Arya and identity to the next level.
With Arya now wearing faces of the dead with the Faceless Men, it seems likely that her association with new identities would develop through this channel. It’s interesting to consider whose face Arya could end up wearing, especially when she returns to Westeros, which would not only further the identity theme, but also provide the most intriguing opportunities from a storytelling perspective. The identity that Arya could adopt which be the most poetic and lend itself to the most fascinating story dynamics would unquestionably be that of ‘fake Arya’–Jeyne Poole. After examining ADwD and the TWoW sample chapters, the opportunity for Arya to wear Jeyne’s face seems quite plausible.
First of all, the Faceless Men of Braavos would need to obtain Jeyne’s face, which would require her to go to Braavos in the near future. In ADwD, Jon believes Arya has arrived at the Wall. It turns out to be Alys Karstark, but before realising this, Jon thinks his ‘sister’ “won’t be safe” and that “The Wall was no place for a woman, much less a girl of noble birth.”.
His first idea to keep the girl safe is to send her to Braavos with the Iron Bank representative:
“She could return to Braavos with Tycho Nestoris”
Tycho is heading back to Braavos, and there’s logic in sending ‘Arya’ away from Westeros and the Wall to the nearest Free City, a relatively safe, civilised place as yet untouched by war. Alys approaching the Wall on a dying horse is a clear parallel with Jeyne Poole who, based on the Theon sample, is going to be doing exactly the same thing in TWoW. Even more intriguing is that Jeyne is currently in the company of Tycho Nestoris, who plans to go to Braavos with Justin Massey once he reaches the Wall. Here are some passages from the Theon chapter:
Stannis nodded. “You will escort the Braavosi banker back to the Wall. Choose six good men and take twelve horses.”
“To ride or eat?” (parallel with Alys on her dying horse)
“The king was not amused. “I want you gone before midday, ser. Lord Bolton could be on us any moment, and it is imperative that the banker return to Braavos. You shall accompany him across the narrow sea.”
“Oh, and take the Stark girl with you. Deliver her to Lord Commander Snow on your way to Eastwatch.”
In the aftermath of Jon’s stabbing, it’s highly likely the Wall will be a more dangerous place than ever. Alysane Mormont is accompanying Jeyne, and it seems very unlikely she will abandon the young girl (whom she thinks is Arya Stark), in a dangerous situation. The most logical choice to make, which might have already been foreshadowed by Jon’s thoughts on what to do with the girl he thought was Arya–-is to send her to Braavos.
If Jeyne is to go to Braavos, she would need to ask for ‘the gift’ at the House of Black and White for the Faceless Men to obtain her face. From what we know of Jeyne, this is something that seems plausible. Jeyne seemed like a happy girl early on in the books, but was forced into prostitution after her father was executed and then suffered untold and horrific abuse at the hands of Ramsay Bolton in the guise of Arya Stark. Although she has escaped, her inner torment isn’t even close to being resolved. In the Theon sample, we realise that Jeyne must continue to pose as Arya–-she is caught in the worst identity crisis imaginable. Jeyne can’t shed her past; she’s forced to continue posing as someone she is not, someone who has truly suffered. We see how this effects her:
“Jeyne Poole had wept all the way from Winterfell to here, wept until her face was purple as a beetroot and the tears had frozen on her cheeks, and all because he told her that she must be Arya”
Imagine thinking you are saved, only to be told you must continue to be this character whose life has been misery and pain. This psychological torment is not Jeyne’s only source of pain though. In the sample chapter, her nose is frostbitten:
“When the tip of her nose turned black from frostbite, and the one of the riders from the Night’s Watch told her she might lose a piece of it, Jeyne had wept over that as well.”
This is a girl who had probably always imagined herself growing up to be an attractive young lady. She says she had always been pretty in ADwD. But Jeyne is continually weeping now, and with good reason: her family and friends are dead, her mind in ruin, her body abused, and her face about to become disfigured.
So Jeyne Poole has reason to feel hopeless and perhaps want to visit the house of Black and White and ask for ‘the gift’, if she found herself in Braavos. This would provide the Faceless Men with a very valuable face, and GRRM with abundant storytelling opportunities regarding Arya.
Theon assures Jeyne that ‘no one’ will care what “Arya” looks like. We saw in the Mercy chapter with Raff’s line “are you blind girl?” that GRRM likes to make plays on Arya’s names, and this would be another such play using ‘no one’:
“No one will care what Arya looks like, so long as she is heir to Winterfell,” he assured her.
The storytelling potential, if Arya were to wear Jeyne’s face and return to Westeros, is truly fascinating. The possibilities this situation would lead to are many, and foremost among them would be Arya bringing about Ramsay’s death by feeding his dogs basilisk’s blood.
But Arya appearing as Jeyne and then meeting Sansa would probably be the ultimate in terms of dynamics; and GRRM’s theme of identity would have advanced to yet another level. Jaqen H’ghar posing as Pate showed us that taking a face is a full body glamour rather than just the face, and with Arya’s experience we learned the wearer learns something of the face’s original owner. Such knowledge could lead the real Arya directly to Ramsay, and with the evidence from the text, and the storytelling opportunities outlined here, we see no reason why Arya Stark couldn’t one day become (f)Arya Stark.
Co-written with yolkboy
As discussed in Radio Westeros Episode 01: Arya- A Gift of Mercy