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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What Everyone Has Wrong About Arya Stark and the Waif (SPOILERS!!)

  Since last episode of Game of Thrones, the internet has been alive with theories concerning Arya Stark and her seeming "turning away" from the faith of the Many-Faced God. After all, Jaqen H'ghar told her that she would not get another chance if she failed on her second assassination assignment and the Waif has been given permission to kill her. However, this is just another test of her initiation trials and here's why:
She came back to the temple with her sword and snuffed out her candle.
 To many, it may seem as if Arya is simply facing what she knows must surely come next, and returns to the temple because she realizes that the Waif will find her anyway. But surely she also realizes that she'd have a much better chance on the run than in the Faceless Men's home turf! Arya is a clever girl. If she runs, she may have to only face the Waif or Jaqen alone, since someone has to stay behind and tend to the suicide water and the towers of face-flesh. At the temple, for all she knows our little wolf-girl might be facing Jaqen and Waif at the same time in a closed in space where both of her attackers have home-field advantage!
  If Arya were truly breaking ties with Jaqen and the Faceless-Men, it would also aid the plot pacing of book and series, because she'd already be on a ship to Westeros. This would greatly move things along, were Jaqen and the temple and Arya's training not still of significant importance to her greater story arc. If she were on a ship to Westeros, having received all of the training she's going to get at the temple, the Waif could attack her en route. Alternatively, a great sub-plot could be contrived with Arya always having to be one step ahead of the Waif on her revenge adventures through Westeros.
  But that is not what we see here.
  There has to be a literary reason or a practical reason (or both) as to why Arya does not flee the temple and Bravos when she has the chance. The implications seem to be that she has something left to learn at the temple, or that something that will happen at the temple or in Bravos is important to her character development.
  This can only be the fact that her "second chance" was really her "second test." Jaqen has put her in a situation where she must choose between authority and her own core beliefs about death and murder. This is also why Jaqen has not yet revealed that he is Syrio Forel- if he did so, Arya would know that her choice not to kill the actor is indeed correct. As it stands, she must truly follow her own heart instead of the shrouded words of Jaqen H'ghar and authority.
  It is interesting that she has also learned another lesson from her interaction with the actors, which is a certain amount of empathy for her enemies. She has already shed her "list" to some extent as a part of her training, and so learned a valuable lesson. Maybe this is even foreshadowing Arya sparing Cersei's life.
  Something seems to have clued Arya in on the fact that the Waif would be sent to do the dirty work, because if I recall correctly she was formerly in the habit of leaving her candle lit due to fear of an attack by the Waif, a least in the books. She snuffs the candle out deliberately now, and the Waif is in for a big surprise when she comes for our wolf-girl with a quarter-staff.
  I think that Waif's big mistake, in the eyes of Jaqen, is that she kills for pleasure. This is the Waif's test, and she is about to fail it. At the same time, it's probable that only one student can become a Faceless Man at a time, kind of like Sith Lords. Each student is presented with an ethical dilemma perfectly suited to their own short-comings.
  The Waif's dilemma is this- will she kill for pleasure simply because she's been given permission to?
  Arya's dilemma is this- will she kill an innocent person just because her employer told her to do so?
  Neither is acceptable to the Many-Faced God.
  But it isn't enough just to pass this ethical test. It is also necessary to dispose of the rival student who has failed. Jaqen has set up a perfect trial because one of three things has to happen in answer.
A. Arya kills the Cersei actor and is therefore kicked out of the Faceless Men or added to the hall of Faces by Jaqen, not the Waif, for being a tool.
B. Arya learns her lesson but fails her combat trial  The Waif kills her and is therefore expelled from the temple or added to the Hall for being a psychopath.
C. Arya proves herself worthy in both trials- she does not betray her core values and beliefs and also defeats her rival.
There can be only one.

On our Youtube Channel:  How Margaery is Winning the Game at King's Landing, Why Bran Orchestrated his Own Fall from the Tower, Why Coldhands is Benjen Stark in the Books Too, and The meaning of Bran's Flasbacks in "Blood of my Blood!"


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