Any character to make it out of Game of Thrones alive is very lucky indeed. House Stark suffered many losses along the way, but both Sansa and Arya survived, and they have George RR Martin’s wife to thank for that.
Game of Thrones is not one for the faint of heart, and fans quickly learned that getting attached to any Game of Thrones character was futile. Between beheadings, sword fights, and the White Walkers, no one in the Game of Thrones cast was truly safe, but Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams had something close to a guarantee throughout the course of the show.
That’s because Parris McBride, Martin’s wife, threatened to leave her husband if he ever killed Sansa or Arya Stark. Speaking to Cosmopolitan back in 2015, Williams revealed how she knew Arya would survive: “[George’s] wife did actually say that if he ever kills off Arya or Sansa, she’s going to leave him. I’ll just keep smiling, and say ‘If you want to stay with your wife, you’ve got to keep me alive.'”
Martin himself even admitted as much at a panel in 2016: “She does have a favorite character, and she has threatened to leave me if I kill that character. So I do have to be very careful about that.” At that time, Martin declined to reveal who his wife was protecting, but the fact that both Arya and Sansa survive until the end of the fantasy series suggests there was truth to Williams’ theory.
The funny thing is, in the end, the small screen version of Game of Thrones had to jump ahead of Martin’s literary materials and form its own conclusions, as the author had not finished the books (and, famously, still hasn’t). Martin was involved in the process at first though, and is thought to have told showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss who should live and die. However, further down the line, Martin did claim he was “shut out” of the creative process to a degree.
Still, with or without his influence, Martin’s darlings did go the distance and managed to walk away from the Battle of Winterfell relatively unscathed. Honestly, despite all its issues, season 8 of Game of Thrones definitely got it right when it allowed Arya to be the one to take down the Night King, and put Sansa on the throne as the Queen of the North. The two Stark sisters went through so much throughout the show, and their respective character development was fascinating to watch – after everything, they deserved a big win!
The unpredictable nature of Game of Thrones helped establish it as one of the best TV series ever made, but I, for one, am glad Martin didn’t try and surprise us with a shock death for the Stark girls. His marriage clearly meant more to him than a couple of plot twists, which is definitely the right move.
For more from Westeros, you can learn all about the Targaryen family tree ahead of House of the Dragon season 2. Speaking of, here’s all you need to know about Daenerys Targaryen and the array of Game of Thrones dragons, too.