Game of Thrones season 8: Arya Stark's adventures could be throwback to these ASOIAF characters

Rohini Nair

May 22, 2019 11:34:57 IST

"What's west of Westeros?"

It's a question Arya has asked twice now on Game of Thrones: The first time, when she wants to escape the Waif on Braavos and tells the Lady Crane her plans to sail west, and the second during the season 8 finale, when she told her family (Sansa, Jon and Bran) that she would not be returning to Winterfell.

But maybe her destiny was hinted at in the earliest episodes of Game of Thrones, season 1.

We'd previously talked about how the various characters' fates were expressly laid down in the first-ever episode of Game of Thrones. In 'Winter Is Coming', we saw Arya shunning the domesticated hobbies her sister excels at (embroidery lessons with Septa Mordane) and showing off her prowess at archery. In the very next episode, Jon presented her with Needle, giving her her first lesson in swordplay: "Stick 'em with the pointy end". It may be said that her evolution into a skilled assassin was laid out right then.

But there should have been another hint too, in the fact that she named her direwolf Nymeria.

Game of Thrones season 8: Arya Starks adventures could be throwback to these ASOIAF characters

Arya Stark sets sail in the Sunset Sea. Image from Game of Thrones season 8 episode 6. HBO

Nymeria was a princess of the Rhoynar people on Essos. The ancient and prosperous civilisation along the banks of the River Rhoyne attracted the attention of the Valyrians, who engaged in long-drawn skirmishes with the Rhoynar. Ultimately, the dragonlords from Old Valyria vanquished the Rhoynar in a battle known as the Second Spice War. (The Rhoynish prince, Garin the Great, was suspended in a golden cage above his own city — Chroyane — while the Valyrians destroyed it. It is said that Garin called down the powerful water magic of the Rhoyne in his despair; a heavy fog rose through the city and its Valyrian conquerors were afflicted by a condition that turned their skin to stone. The highly infectious ailment later came to be known as 'greyscale'.)

Even as their civilisation fell to Valyrian might, Nymeria gathered the surviving Rhoynar and set off in 10,000 ships across the Narrow Sea. After a series of adventures she reached Dorne, where she married Lord Mors Martell and helped him bring all of Dorne under their control. She also burned all the 10,000 ships so the Rhoynar could leave their past behind and truly assimilate into Westeros.

But Nymeria isn't the only A Song of Ice and Fire character Arya's adventures draw on.

There is also Elissa Farman — close friend and likely paramour of Rhaena Targaryen (Rhaena was Aegon the Conqueror's grand-daughter).

Elissa, sister of Rhaena's third husband Androw Farman, was known to be a fierce, independent spirit. Rhaena first came to the Farman family seat of Fair Isle, after her brother-husband Prince Aegon was killed by their uncle Maegor the Cruel in the latter's bid to seize the Iron Throne. Rhaena was later forced to marry Maegor; she chose to go back to Fair Isle after his mysterious death, instead of staying back in King's Landing where her younger brother Jaehaerys now held sway.

Androw and Elissa's older brother, who became Lord Farman after their father's death, despised Rhaena's presence in his home and asked her to leave Fair Isle. Androw and Elissa accompanied Rhaena as she moved from one noble house to another, before settling at Dragonstone.

Elissa hated Dragonstone. She yearned for a life of adventure and on Dragonstone, she felt imprisoned. She wanted to sail the Sunset Sea and explore beyond the boundaries of the known world. Building a ship for her voyage required gold, however — and this Rhaena refused to provide. She did, some time later, give Elissa permission to leave Dragonstone.

Elissa left Dragonstone one night, with three dragon eggs. (The eggs had been laid by Rhaena's dragon Dreamfyre, and could be the ones that were ultimately gifted by Magister Ilyrio to Daenerys Targaryen.) These eggs were sold to the Sealord of Braavos, and the money used to build Elissa's ship — the Sun Chaser. For part of her sea voyage, she was accompanied by Gerald and Eustace Hightower. When Eustace returned to his home in Oldtown some years later, he said Gerald had been lost at sea during a storm, that he and Elissa had discovered three islands which they named Aegon, Rhaenys and Visenya, and that Lady Farman had chosen to continue sailing further west of Westeros despite Eustace's advice to the contrary.

No one ever heard of Elissa Farman again, but Westeros' great naval hero Corlys Velaryon claimed to have seen the Sun Chaser, many years later, in Asshai. By travelling west, Elissa may have reached east.

Seafaring may have also been passed down to Arya by blood. Generations before her, when the Starks were still Kings in the North, Brandon the Shipwright displayed a propensity for epic naval voyages. He undertook an expedition across the Sunset Sea, but wasn't heard from again. His grieving son, Brandon the Burner, destroyed all the northern shipyards after his father's disappearance.

The "Known World" in the ASOIAF universe comprises three continents: Westeros, Essos and Sothoryos, the unmapped land-mass known as Ulthros, several islands, and the seas that separate them all.

The Summer and Jade seas lie between Essos and Sothoryos; the Narrow Sea between Essos and Westeros; the Shivering Sea is to the east of Westeros and north of Essos; while the Sunset Sea is to the west of Westeros. It is believed that long before the First Men came to the Iron Islands, it was inhabited by a race that hailed from the West of Westeros; no trace of this people was found except for the Seastone Chair — which the House of Greyjoy came to use as their throne.

Updated Date: May 22, 2019 11:34:57 IST