HBO’s Game of Thrones

The Women in Game of Thrones: Arya and Sansa Stark

Like Winter, spoilers are coming…!

“So if you hate, Arya, hate those who would truly do us harm. Septa Mordane is a good woman, and Sansa…Sansa is your sister. You may be as different as the sun and the moon, but the same blood flows through both your hearts. You need her, as she needs you…and I need both of you, gods help me.”

George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones is part romance, part murder mystery, fantasy (though light on the magic), and political thriller. It is also, at its core, an inter- and intra-family drama. It is a story of siblings: The relationship of Robert Baratheon with his brothers Stannis and Renly is important. The fate of a nation at times hinges on the interaction between Catelyn Tully Stark and her sister Lysa.

The siblings Lannister of Casterly Rock, Cersei, Jaime and Tyrion are central to all of the seven kingdoms in Westeros. Even in days past, Ned Stark’s allegiance to his family, particularly his brother, had him wed Catelyn when his brother, her original betrothed, was killed. The Starks of Winterfell are an oasis of family cohesion…almost.

HBO debuts its miniseries version of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones on April 17th, and today we consider Eddard’s daughters, Arya and Sansa Stark, who are far more than just pawns in the game.

It isn’t that Arya Stark doesn’t love her older sister, Sansa, or vice versa. They are just very different. Sansa is the perfect highborn daughter. Her looks are perfect, her manners perfect. Her singing, her dancing…even her needlework is exquisite. Sansa knows and, more importantly, relishes her place. She’s knowledgeable about who’s who and what’s what in the kingdom. She’s all set to make some highborn lord the perfect wife, just as she’s been taught since birth. And then, for someone who seems to have everything going for her, life gets even better! Her father is traveling south, to the heart of the kingdom, and she is to go with him. Not only is she going to live the life of fairy tales, but she is to be betrothed to a prince, who will one day make her queen of the realm. Yes, an arranged marriage, but one she would have chosen. Prince Joffrey is her golden-haired Prince Charming come to life.

Arya, of course, is the exact opposite of her sister. She isn’t good at any of the things she’s supposed to be good at. More importantly, she doesn’t care to be good at those things. There is no appeal for her in sewing and any of the other “womanly arts” that she’s supposed to learn. Arya would much rather be doing what her brothers do. Riding horses and learning swordsmanship and hunting and being outdoors. That is what interests her.

The trip south, though, opens wider the divide between the two. Both of them have grievances: Sansa feels that Arya lives to make trouble for her because she is jealous of her accomplishments and future position. Arya is aggrieved because when Sansa had a chance to tell the details of an incident they were involved in, with Prince Joffrey, she skirted the truth. And, as a result, one of Arya’s friends was killed. Arya wasn’t the only person punished in that episode, however, as Sansa’s pet direwolf, Lady, also lost her life in the incident. Even though Sansa began to really see (and hate) Queen Cersei after that incident, she still casts most of the blame for the ordeal on her sister.

As usually happens, Dad was right when he’d said they had bigger fish than each other to fight. By the end of the book, the sisters are separated and their family (and the realm) is in chaos. Both of the girls have been disillusioned and both of them would have given anything to turn back the clock to more simple days. The Stark words, “Winter is Coming,” stretch from Winterfell to the South where the warm winds blow cold for the Stark family.

This post and its ensuing discussion originally appeared on our sister site Heroes & Heartbreakers.


Robin Bradford is a lawyer, a librarian and, most importantly, a longtime lover of words. You can check her out on Twitter @tuphlos, On Unpaged, or read the backlist at Obiter Dictum.

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