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Arya Stark in Game of Thrones explained

Want to know the essentials about one of the best Game of Thrones characters? You're in the right place. Here, we explain Arya Stark.

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

She’s making a list, she’s checking it twice. Arya Stark won us over early in Game of Thrones and went on to be a pivotal figure in Westeros, even if she spent most of her time in the shadows.

Game of Thrones has many important players, but Arya’s youth, determination, and prowess as a warrior make her stand out as one of our favorite Game of Thrones characters. Whether you’re watching one of the best fantasy series for the first time or just want a refresher, here’s everything you need to know about Winterfell’s lone wolf, Arya Stark.

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

Arya Stark in Game of Thrones explained

Arya Stark is one of the main characters in Game of Thrones. She’s the daughter of Eddard and Catelyn Stark and spends most of the series seeking revenge against the Lannisters.

As a member of House Stark, Arya is a crucial character and is in all eight seasons. She was born and raised at Winterfell and had an older sister, Sansa, an older brother, Robb, two younger brothers, Bran and Rickon Stark, and a half-brother, Jon Snow.

Over the course of several seasons, Arya becomes an exceptional fighter, motivated by a list of enemies she vows to kill. Eventually, though, she prioritizes reuniting with her family and battling the Night King’s forces.

Arya’s ability to put her rage against those who wronged her family down for a second is a strength.

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Arya Stark’s backstory explained

Even as a young girl, Arya hated the idea of becoming a lady and marrying for power.

More interested in learning how to wield a sword than sew, she and Sansa quarreled a lot because of how different they were. This led to some resentment between them, and Arya sought out quiet ways to hone her skills.

But that’s small bananas compared to how things end up for the Stark siblings — not quite Targaryen family tree-level of bad, but pretty bad.

When her father is executed by the Lannisters, Arya is helpless to stop the beheading. Her inability to prevent the murder, paired with her growing hatred of House Lannister, leads her on a long journey; first to find refuge posing as a member of the Night’s Watch, and then to build her strength so she can one day get back at her father’s killers.

During her time away, thought dead by the world, Arya also became an assassin with the faceless men, where she refined her stealthiness and quick kills.

These abilities would come in handy later. Specifically, when she was the one to end the Night King’s reign of terror in season 8, episode 3. At the time, the shock factor of the scene felt exciting. In retrospect, it also was a bit of an unsatisfying conclusion to one of the series’ longest threads. It happened too quickly, perhaps. That being said, the way she did it was very cool.

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Arya Stark in the books explained

In A Song of Ice and Fire, Arya Stark is one of the main characters whose point of view is used to tell the story.

The broad strokes are the same as in the series, although, in the books, she is much younger, beginning the story at nine years old and not having the time passage the series has.

Additionally, in the show, Arya becomes a bit of a loner. This differs from her characterization in the book, which paints her as more of an extrovert with better social skills. This could be explained by the age difference, though. Arya is more mature in the show, ending the series as an adult.

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While her relationship with Sansa is important in the series, in the books, their bond feels stronger. Because the books allowed us to be aware of their internal monologues, we know that they spent lots of time thinking about each other.

Similarly to the show, her relationship with femininity is more strained than Sansa’s. She’s willing to play the part of a lady when it’s beneficial, but it doesn’t come naturally to her.

Who plays Arya Stark in Game of Thrones?

Maisie Williams played Arya Stark in Game of Thrones.

She went on to be nominated for two Emmys for her acting in the series. Outside of her role in the Game of Thrones cast, Williams was in the infamous X-Men movie The New Mutants, the rom-com Then Came You, and showed up for a Doctor Who guest spot, among other roles.

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How old was Maisie Williams when Game of Thrones started?

Maisie Williams was only 14 years old when Game of Thrones started, after being cast as Arya at age 12.

The role was actually her acting debut — not too shabby.

For more women from Westeros, read all about Daenerys Targaryen. We’ve also got guides to the Game of Thrones dragons, our speculation on whether Game of Thrones season 9 will ever happen, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon season 2.

For the team’s hot takes, read why we got an AI to write the Snow prequel and why we think House of the Dragon fans don’t get Alicent.