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sweetsunray

The Valkyrie of the FM - theory about the First and the First Reborn

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I have a crackpot theory that the FM have some prophecy or at least some recruitment profile regarding a rare girl with Valkyrie-like abilities or role. The Red priests of R'hllor have their prophecy of Azor Ahai reborn and the Targaryens have the Prince that was Promised. There is the legend of the Last Hero about the Long Night that belongs to Westerosi First Men beliefs. But they are not the sole factions and societies and orders in the books that may have some sort of prophecy about a special person. I think the FM have a secret prophecy that fits Arya's profile. And I even go as far as to propose this prophecy is based on the identity of the First FM - a woman and not a man, who served the slaves as some nurse with food and drink. That's how she knew their prayers and was able to administer them the poison to help them die. And one of the sayings in the books is that poison is a woman's weapon.

 

What are Valkyries in mythology?

 

Valkyrie = "chooser of the slain". (meaning of the word)

 

Original Valkyries

Originally these were woman who were Odin’s helpers on the battle field. To prepare for Ragnarok, warriors needed to be picked amongst the slain to be able to fight for Odin in the final battle. These warriors would prepare and live in Walhalla, awaiting Ragnarok. The other warriors went to Freya’s Folkvangr. Valkyries were armed and wore armor, but they were not female warriors. Instead they surveyed the battle and then picked half of the slain men to go to Walhalla. These original Valkyries were old hags, ogresses and ugly women. And when there was no battle they served the fallen warriors in Walhalla as cupbearers.

 

Norns

These were the Norse version of the Greek fates, except there were many more Norns than just three. The good fairies and Malificent of the fairytale of Sleeping Beauty are some of the modern remaining leftover over beliefs in Norns. They could decide about the different fates for the whole course of a newborn's life (male and female).

 

Later Valkyries

In time Valkyries became beautiful maidens heroes could fall in love with. Who can blame the Norse for wanting to be served by beautiful maidens in Walhalla, instead of old hags, huh? Aside from maidenhood and beauty, they also gained certain Nornlike powers. Instead of just deciding which afterlife the slain of a battlefield could go to, the Valkyries gained the actual power to decide who would live and and who would die in war and battles, and therefore had the ultimate decision over which side would win a battle or war. Normally they would do this in concordance with Odin's will - they knew which side Odin favored. Because of this, battles would end up being dedicated to the Valkyrie believed to supervise the battle for Odin.

Some extra special powers: One Valkyrie had resurrection powers (Hildr), which resulted in an everlasting battle where the slain were revived every night so the battle would commence in the morning (for both sides of the battle were loved by Hildr). And another was more of a trickster who used potions to make a hero forget certain events and offer him advice to start a war (Gondul).

 

Summary of Valkyrie aspects

  • They are "choosers of the slain"
  • serve as cupbearers on their time "off"
  • beautiful young women
  • battles/fights get dedicated to them, though they do not actively participate
  • serve a person or order with Odin hints
  • believed to know a god's will when it comes to who's supposed to die, live, win or lose and make it come to pass with supernatural powers

Valkyrie aspects featured in Arya's FM arc

 

From the start of Arya's interaction with Jaqen we find hints of him either testing or pushing Arya to have her serve as a 'cupbearer' as well as empower her as a 'chooser of the slain'

 

One of the men in irons was talking to her. Warily, Arya approached the wagon, one hand on Needle's hilt.

The prisoner lifted an empty tankard, his chains rattling. "A man could use another taste of beer. A man has a thirst, wearing these heavy bracelets."

...

"A man must be ashamed of the company he keeps, Arry," the handsome one said. "This man has the honor to be Jaqen H'ghar, once of the Free City of Lorath. Would that he were home. This man's ill-bred companions in captivity are named Rorge"—he waved his tankard at the noseless man—"and Biter." Biter hissed at her again, displaying a mouthful of yellowed teeth filed into points. "A man must have some name, is that not so? Biter cannot speak and Biter cannot write, yet his teeth are very sharp, so a man calls him Biter and he smiles. Are you charmed?"
Arya backed away from the wagon. "No." They can't hurt me, she told herself, they're all chained up.
He turned his tankard upside down. "A man must weep." (aCoK, Arya II)

 

 

Jaqen's first interaction is to ask Arya for beer, lifting his tankard. If she does that, she acts symbolically as his "cupbearer". Doing this for a prisoner/criminal is a hint he's testing her for empathy. He tries to persuade her to overlook Rorge's and Biter's behaviour, but she steps back and does not give him a drink.

 

The next time he textually adresses her (aside from thanking her for the treat of a spoon of rabbit) he asks her to free him and whether it is war
 

 

Before they could hoot her down again, the sound came shuddering through the night—only it was no wolf this time, it was Kurz blowing his hunting horn, sounding danger. In a heartbeat, all of them were pulling on clothes and snatching for whatever weapons they owned. Arya ran for the gate as the horn sounded again. As she dashed past the barn, Biter threw himself furiously against his chains, and Jaqen H'ghar called out from the back of their wagon. "Boy! Sweet boy! Is it war, red war? Boy, free us. A man can fight. Boy!" She ignored him and plunged on. By then she could hear horses and shouts beyond the wall. (aCoK, Arya IV)

 

 

So, the two first times Jaqen adresses Arya it's to have a drink, or to fight. Hmmm.... She frees them when all is lost and they must run, and the threesome is in danger of being burned alive.
 

Jaqen saw her, but it was too hard to breathe, let alone talk. She threw the axe into the wagon. Rorge caught it and lifted it over his head, rivers of sooty sweat pouring down his noseless face. Arya was running, coughing. She heard the steel crash through the old wood, and again, again. An instant later came a crack as loud as thunder, and the bottom of the wagon came ripping loose in an explosion of splinters. (aCoK, Arya IV)

 

 

At Harrenhal she works under Weese, and later under Pinkeye, and part of her job is "serving" drinks.

Weese used Arya to run messages, draw water, and fetch food, and sometimes to serve at table in the Barracks Hall above the armory, where the men-at-arms took their meals. (aCoK, Arya VII)

 

Jaqen, Rorge and Biter join Amory's forces, while separately Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie are caught by the Mountain's men and marched to Harrenhal. During the march Arya starts to pray her list, which she recites nightly. We can regard her list/prayer as her marking people for death. She starts to become a "chooser of the slain". She's already a while in Harrenhal when Ser Amory returns and Arya discovers the three have joined Ser Amory. Rorge and Biter do not see her, Jaqen does, although he pretends he didn't.

 
Rorge had donned a black halfhelm with a broad iron nasal that made it hard to see that he did not have a nose. Biter rode ponderously beside him on a destrier that looked ready to collapse under his weight. Half-healed burns covered his body, making him even more hideous than before.
But Jaqen H'ghar still smiled. His garb was still ragged and filthy, but he had found time to wash and brush his hair. It streamed down across his shoulders, red and white and shiny, and Arya heard the girls giggling to each other in admiration.

I should have let the fire have them. Gendry said to, I should have listened. If she hadn't thrown them that axe they'd all be dead. For a moment she was afraid, but they rode past her without a flicker of interest. Only Jaqen H'ghar so much as glanced in her direction, and his eyes passed right over her. He does not know me, she thought.

She spent the rest of that day scrubbing steps inside the Wailing Tower. By evenfall her hands were raw and bleeding and her arms so sore they trembled when she lugged the pail back to the cellar. Too tired even for food, Arya begged Weese's pardons and crawled into her straw to sleep. "Weese," she yawned. "Dunsen, Chiswyck, Polliver, Raff the Sweetling. The Tickler and the Hound. Ser Gregor, Ser Amory, Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn, King Joffrey, Queen Cersei." She thought she might add three more names to her prayer, but she was too tired to decide tonight. (aCoK, Arya VII)

 

Remember that FM are good in spying. It is not farfetched for Jaqen to have investigated Arya, and overhear her prayer. But very remarkable about her prayer is that she does not offer a sacrifice or price for it. That same night Jaqen wakes her.

 

Jaqen H'ghar took his hand away. The cellar was black as pitch and she could not see his face, even inches away. She could smell him, though; his skin smelled clean and soapy, and he had scented his hair. "A boy becomes a girl," he murmured.
"I was always a girl. I didn't think you saw me."
"A man sees. A man knows."
She remembered that she hated him. "You scared me. You're one of them now, I should have let you burn. What are you doing here? Go away or I'll yell for Weese."
"A man pays his debts. A man owes three."
"Three?"
"The Red God has his due, sweet girl, and only death may pay for life. This girl took three that were his. This girl must give three in their places. Speak the names, and a man will do the rest."
He wants to help me, Arya realized with a rush of hope that made her dizzy. "Take me to Riverrun, it's not far, if we stole some horses we could—"
He laid a finger on her lips. "Three lives you shall have of me. No more, no less. Three and we are done. So a girl must ponder." He kissed her hair softly. "But not too long." (aCoK, Arya VII)
 
The voice startled her. She leapt to her feet and drew her wooden sword. Jaqen H'ghar stood so still in the darkness that he seemed one of the trees. "A man comes to hear a name. One and two and then comes three. A man would have done."
Arya lowered the splintery point toward the ground. "How did you know I was here?"
"A man sees. A man hears. A man knows." ... "Some men have many names. Weasel. Arry. Arya."
She backed away from him, until she was pressed against the heart tree. "Did Gendry tell?"
"A man knows," he said again. "My lady of Stark." (aCoK, Arya IX)
 
Jaqen could not have known her name directly from Gendry. But he could have overheard her shout "Winterfell" just as Hot Pie did during the battle at the holdfast at the Gods Eye, or overheard the conversation where Gendry warns her how he covered for her when Hot Pie wondered about her shouting that, or oeverheard Hot Pie asking Gendry directly about it. There are three occasion where Jaqen could have heard and seen Arya's tie to Winterfell. Her name Arry and the name Winterfell do not make it hard for him to deduce she's Arya Stark of Winterfell.
 
But we can already conclude that Jaqen seems very interested in Arya in particular, in a manner he is not interested at all in others. He showed that interest on KR already, before the Gold Cloaks arrived (who ironically enough for once instantly reocgnized her as a girl).
 
So, he offered her the three names. This is actually quite a lot. Supposedly the reasoning is that she saved 3 lives, and so 3 must die for balance. But the sole price for 3 names was throwing an axe into the cage. They basically still had to save themselves. She can choose any 3 names she wants, including a queen regent and a king. Quite a bargain isn't it? She isn't even required to go to the HoBaW for him to kill even one of those of names. In theory she could have said, "Tywin Lannister, Queen Cersei, King Joffrey." She has some high profile targets on her list, and Jaqen was willing to do them.
 
She gives the name Chyswick and Weese, and then realizes she should make the last one count. Vargo Hoat brings in the Northern prisoners, Gendry doesn't want to help, she blows off steam in the godswood with her stick and Jaqen tells her he wants a third name.
He looked down at her pitilessly. "Three lives were snatched from a god. Three lives must be repaid. The gods are not mocked." His voice was silk and steel.
"I never mocked." She thought for a moment. "The name . . . can I name anyone? And you'll kill him?"
Jaqen H'ghar inclined his head. "A man has said."
"Anyone?" she repeated. "A man, a woman, a little baby, or Lord Tywin, or the High Septon, or your father?"
"A man's sire is long dead, but did he live, and did you know his name, he would die at your command."
"Swear it," Arya said. "Swear it by the gods."
"By all the gods of sea and air, and even him of fire, I swear it." He placed a hand in the mouth of the weirwood. "By the seven new gods and the old gods beyond count, I swear it."
He has sworn. "Even if I named the king . . ."
"Speak the name, and death will come. On the morrow, at the turn of the moon, a year from this day, it will come. A man does not fly like a bird, but one foot moves and then another and one day a man is there, and a king dies." He knelt beside her, so they were face-to-face. "A girl whispers if she fears to speak aloud. Whisper it now. Is it Joffrey?"
Arya put her lips to his ear. "It's Jaqen H'ghar."
Even in the burning barn, with walls of flame towering all around and him in chains, he had not seemed so distraught as he did now. "A girl . . . she makes a jest."
 
At first read it seems Jaqen simply wants to be done with the 3 name business and continue on his way to do his "real" duty. However, this is actually a deception on Jaqen's part. He in fact knows the Bloody Mummers intend to turn their cloak and massacre Ser Amory's men (and he is one of Ser Amory's men) and that the Wolf banners will fly on Harrenhal by the next day. It is war. A battle there will be. He hints that he knows this when he says, "A man hears the whisper of sand in a glass." But keeps this information hidden from Arya until the fights and massacres break out in the yard, after the weasel soup action.
 
So, time is of the essence. If she wants to go with him to Braavos, it must be now, for perhaps the next day Robb's bannermen may recognize her. And if she does not want to come with him, she will be safe, but he has no wish to be targeted by the Bloody Mummers, or Robb's bannermen. Hence he must have the 3rd name now to complete his deal with her.
 
Note how he sounds like salivating almost over her third name possibly being Joffrey. But she gives his name instead. She extorts Jaqen into helping her by giving him his name. Yes, he swore by all the gods, including for him the Many Faced God. But if he regards her as some type of "chooser of the slain" his distress at her giving him his own name would indeed be even more upsetting. This would mark him for death in the eye of the gods (and she does this in the godswood). He says he will not sleep until she unsays his name.

Jaqen's smile came and went. "A girl might . . . name another name then, if a friend did help?"
"A girl might," she said. "If a friend did help."
The knife vanished. "Come."
"Now?" She had never thought he would act so quickly.
"A man hears the whisper of sand in a glass. A man will not sleep until a girl unsays a certain name. Now, evil child."
 
So, he orders her to make broth, and later appears with Biter and Rorge to fetch the broth. Jaqen makes a point of it to have her present as a witness, and dedicates the weasel soup action to her, by smearing his bloodied sword on her shirt. And while he dedicates it to her, he does not want her participate in the fight.
 
Biter licked the grease and honey off his fingers as Jaqen H'ghar donned a pair of heavy padded mitts. He gave a second pair to Arya. "A weasel will help." ...
Inside the door a winding stair led down to the dungeons. Rorge led the way, with Jaqen and Arya bringing up the rear. "A girl will stay out of the way," he told her.
...
"Fuck, we need bowls, cups, spoons—"
"No you don't." Rorge heaved the scalding hot broth across the table, full in their faces. Jaqen H'ghar did the same. Biter threw his kettles too, swinging them underarm so they spun across the dungeon, raining soup. One caught the captain in the temple as he tried to rise. He went down like a sack of sand and lay still. The rest were screaming in agony, praying, or trying to crawl off.
Arya pressed back against the wall as Rorge began to cut throats. Biter preferred to grab the men behind the head and under the chin and crack their necks with a single twist of his huge pale hands. Only one of the guards managed to get a blade out. Jaqen danced away from his slash, drew his own sword, drove the man back into a corner with a flurry of blows, and killed him with a thrust to the heart. The Lorathi brought the blade to Arya still red with heart's blood and wiped it clean on the front of her shift. "A girl should be bloody too. This is her work."
...
"This of the soup, that was clever," the man Glover was saying. "I did not expect that. Was it Lord Hoat's idea?"
...
"This man has the honor to be Jaqen H'ghar, once of the Free City of Lorath. This man's discourteous companions are named Rorge and Biter. A lord will know which is Biter." He waved a hand toward Arya. "And here—"
"I'm Weasel," she blurted, before he could tell who she really was. She did not want her name said here, where Rorge might hear, and Biter, and all these others she did not know.
She saw Glover dismiss her. "Very well," he said. "Let's make an end to this bloody business."
When they climbed back up the winding stair, they found the door guards lying in pools of their own blood. Northmen were running across the ward. Arya heard shouts. The door of Barracks Hall burst open and a wounded man staggered out screaming. Three others ran after him and silenced him with spear and sword. There was fighting around the gatehouse as well. Rorge and Biter rushed off with Glover, but Jaqen H'ghar knelt beside Arya. "A girl does not understand?"
"Yes I do," she said, though she didn't, not truly.
The Lorathi must have seen it on her face. "A goat has no loyalty. Soon a wolf banner is raised here, I think. But first a man would hear a certain name unsaid."
 

She has served, she has chosen the slain, she chose a side in a battle and forced him to help fight for her chosen side. With the battle over, Jaqen has her unname him, changes his face, offers her to go with him to teach it, but when she refuses he gives her the coin, and teaches her the words, before he departs.

 

Not only Jaqen dedicates the Harrenhal switch to Arya. Shagwell (a singer/poet) does too, and many other people, including servants. Of course, Vargo Hoat would have switched sides anyway, but people regard her as the one who decided the battle for the Mummers and the Northerners.


All morning she watched the Bloody Mummers strip the dead of their valuables and drag the corpses to the Flowstone Yard, where a pyre was laid to dispose of them. Shagwell the Fool hacked the heads off two dead knights and pranced about the castle swinging them by the hair and making them talk. "What did you die of?" one head asked. "Hot weasel soup," replied the second.
Arya was set to mopping up dried blood. No one said a word to her beyond the usual, but every so often she would notice people looking at her strangely. Robett Glover and the other men they'd freed must have talked about what had happened down in the dungeon, and then Shagwell and his stupid talking heads started in about the weasel soup.

...

Vargo Hoat came forward. "My lord, Harrenhal ith yourth."
The lord gave answer, but too softly for Arya to hear. Robett Glover and Ser Aenys Frey, freshly bathed and clad in clean new doublets and cloaks, came up to join them. After some brief talk, Ser Aenys led them over to Rorge and Biter. Arya was surprised to see them still here; somehow she would have expected them to vanish when Jaqen did. Arya heard the harsh sound of Rorge's voice, but not what he was saying. Then Shagwell pounced on her, dragging her out across the yard. "My lord, my lord," he sang, tugging at her wrist, "here's the weasel who made the soup!"
...
"My squire could take a lesson from you, it would seem. Frequent leechings are the secret of a long life. A man must purge himself of bad blood. You will do, I think. For so long as I remain at Harrenhal, Nan, you shall be my cupbearer, and serve me at table and in chambers."
 
And finally, Lord Bolton makes her his official cupbearer.
 
The serving of drink reoccurs several times more after this, often combined with death.
  • With the men in the crow cages and Stoney Sept, when Lem and Gendry help her up, before Anguy puts them out of their mysery with his arrows.
  • With the man of Pinkmaiden, before Sandor gives him the gift of mercy and puts the dagger through his heart
  • With Sandor, as he begs her for the gift of mercy. She gives him the water, but refuses to give him the gift of mercy, possibly thereby choosing him to live on as the gravedigger on the Quiet Isle.
  • With the bravo at the pool in the HoBaW when she enters for the first time. She sees him at the pool, reaching. Takes the cup and fills it with the poisoned water and gives it to him. Thereby personally giving him the gift of mercy, completely unaware of it. As her first act within the HoBaW with the waif and KM nearby, watching her no doubt, this must speak volumes to their minds. She could have drunk from the cup herself or inspect the bravo first and cry for help instead. But her first act was to give him the gift of mercy.
  • Inside the HoBaW she serves as a cupbearer to the FM during their meetings.
 
The bars were too narrow to pass a cup through, but Harwin and Gendry offered her a leg up. She planted a foot in Harwin's cupped hands, vaulted onto Gendry's shoulders, and grabbed the bars on top of the cage. The fat man turned his face up and pressed his cheek to the iron, and Arya poured the water over him. He sucked at it eagerly and let it run down over his head and cheeks and hands, and then he licked the dampness off the bars. He would have licked Arya's fingers if she hadn't snatched them back. By the time she served the other two the same, a crowd had gathered to watch her. "The Mad Huntsman will hear of this," a man threatened. "He won't like it. No, he won't."
"He'll like this even less, then." Anguy strung his longbow, slid an arrow from his quiver, nocked, drew, loosed. The fat man shuddered as the shaft drove up between his chins, but the cage would not let him fall. Two more arrows ended the other two northmen. The only sound in the market square was the splash of falling water and the buzzing of flies.
Valar morghulis, Arya thought. (aSoS, Arya V)
...
They had passed a small pond a short ways back. Sandor gave Arya his helm and told her to fill it, so she trudged back to the water's edge. Mud squished over the toe of her boots. She used the dog's head as a pail. Water ran out through the eyeholes, but the bottom of the helm still held a lot.
When she came back, the archer turned his face up and she poured the water into his mouth. He gulped it down as fast as she could pour, and what he couldn't gulp ran down his cheeks into the brown blood that crusted his whiskers, until pale pink tears dangled from his beard. When the water was gone he clutched the helm and licked the steel. "Good," he said. "I wish it was wine, though. I wanted wine."
"Me too." The Hound eased his dagger into the man's chest almost tenderly, the weight of his body driving the point through his surcoat, ringmail, and the quilting beneath. As he slid the blade back out and wiped it on the dead man, he looked at Arya. "That's where the heart is, girl. That's how you kill a man." (aSoS, Arya XII)
...
Long before noon, Sandor Clegane was reeling. There were hours of daylight still remaining when he called a halt. "I need to rest," was all he said. This time when he dismounted he did fall. Instead of trying to get back up he crawled weakly under a tree, and leaned up against the trunk. "Bloody hell," he cursed. "Bloody hell." When he saw Arya staring at him, he said, "I'd skin you alive for a cup of wine, girl."
She brought him water instead. He drank a little of it, complained that it tasted of mud, and slid into a noisy fevered sleep. When she touched him, his skin was burning up. Arya sniffed at his bandages the way Maester Luwin had done sometimes when treating her cut or scrape. His face had bled the worst, but it was the wound on his thigh that smelled funny to her. (aSoS, Arya XIII)
...
In the center of the temple she found the water she had heard; a pool ten feet across, black as ink and lit by dim red candles. Beside it sat a young man in a silvery cloak, weeping softly. She watched him dip a hand in the water, sending scarlet ripples racing across the pool. When he drew his fingers back he sucked them, one by one. He must be thirsty. There were stone cups along the rim of the pool. Arya filled one and brought it to him, so he could drink. The young man stared at her for a long moment when she offered it to him. "Valar morghulis," he said.
"Valar dohaeris," she replied. (aFfC, Arya I)
...
One time the fat fellow and the squinter came together. Umma sent Arya to pour for them. "When you are not pouring, you must stand as still as if you had been carved of stone," the kindly man told her. "Can you do that?"
"Yes." Before you can learn to move you must learn to be still, Syrio Forel had taught her long ago at King's Landing, and she had. She had served as Roose Bolton's cupbearer at Harrenhal, and he would flay you if you spilled his wine.
"Good," the kindly man said. "It would be best if you were blind and deaf as well. You may hear things, but you must let them pass in one ear and out the other. Do not listen." (aFfC, Arya II)
 
Note: when she gives the bravo the sweetwater, the door was opened for her, but there was no one there to welcome her or guide her. She's a 10 year old child wandering into a hall with a pool of poisoned water. It seems strange and especially unsafe that they would let a child wander around into such a dangerous place, towards a pool that looks like water to the uninformed - a pool with stone cups along the rim of the pool to lavish thirst. Arya could have drunken from a cup herself. Or she could have inspected the bravo first and cried for help for his wounds. But she did exactly what the man was there for - the gift of mercy in a cup of sweetsleep poison - without even knowing it. Immediately after this the waif and the kindly man show up and approach her. They must have been watching her. 
 
She chooses for Dareon to die. While initially it seems to Arya that she's punished for this by being made blind, in fact we know this is not punishment, but speeding up her training. In a way she's rewarded for the act.
 
"Just so," said the kindly man. "And the third thing?"
This time she did not hesitate. "Dareon is dead. The black singer who was sleeping at the Happy Port. He was really a deserter from the Night's Watch. Someone slit his throat and pushed him into a canal, but they kept his boots."
"Good boots are hard to find."
...
He turned to the waif. "My throat is dry. Do me a kindness and bring a cup of wine for me and warm milk for our friend Arya, who has returned to us so unexpectedly."
On her way across the city Arya had wondered what the kindly man would say when she told him about Dareon. Maybe he would be angry with her, or maybe he would be pleased that she had given the singer the gift of the Many-Faced God. She had played this talk out in her head half a hundred times, like a mummer in a show. But she had never thought warm milk.
When the milk came, Arya drank it down. It smelled a little burnt and had a bitter aftertaste. "Go to bed now, child," the kindly man said. "On the morrow you must serve."(aFfC, Cat of the Canals)
 
Summary of Valkyrie elements in Arya's FM
  • "chooser of the slain"
  • cupbearer
  • the battle for Harrenhal gets dedicated to her
  • female
  • she is not supposed to participate in fights

 

FM and Valkyries

 

So,on the one hand we have Arya showing Valkyrie features in her arc, but this could either be symbolically done by GRRM, or it may be features the FM are looking for. Long before Harrenhal, before Arya has a list to mark people who should die in her opinion, Jaqen asks her to give him a drink and to free him referring to war, in other words he's pushing for the "cupbearer" and "battle" aspects then. And at the HoBaW, her first act is to be the bravo's cupbearer, which prompts the kindly man to approach her in his skull-face, while her "choice to slay" Dareon moves her training up. So, the "cupbearer" + "chooser of the slain" elements is what they test for and respond to. So the FM are definitely looking for those elements in a profile.

 

The cupbearing element serves a sense of inner humility as well as empathy. It requires a high deal of empathy and humility to give a dangerous criminal in a cage a drink. You won't do this, unless you recognize at heart that basically we are all humans. On the other hand it requires a marked sense of justice as well as confidence in it to put a list of names together marked for death: murderers, rapists, thieves, abusers, liars, deserters, and the truly monstrous end up there. Only two of them have hurt her directly (Weese, Polliver), three hurt her father, some her friends, but there are also those who hurt strangers to her (the Mountain, the Tyckler, Chyswick, Dareon). That Arya's list goes beyond personal harm shows Arya's list is less about personal revenge, and more about justice. So, the FM are looking for an empathic person with a marked sense of justice, and a rather egalitarian sentiment.

 

[special note: personally I'm not a proponent of the death penalty, on the contrary, and I am glad to be living in a country and of a union where the death penalty has long been scrapped out of constitution]

 

The gift of mercy

 

These are not the characteristics we tend to associate with hired assassins, hired to execute the job. Of course, nobody expected the Faceless Men to engage in assisted suicide either. More, the number of people they help with assisted suicide is far greater than the number of people they are hired to assassinate. And it is actually their first cause of origin.

 

"The tale of our beginnings. If you would be one of us, you had best know who we are and how we came to be. Men may whisper of the Faceless Men of Braavos, but we are older than the Secret City. Before the Titan rose, before the Unmasking of Uthero, before the Founding, we were. We have flowered in Braavos amongst these northern fogs, but we first took root in Valyria, amongst the wretched slaves who toiled in the deep mines beneath the Fourteen Flames that lit the Freehold's nights of old. Most mines are dank and chilly places, cut from cold dead stone, but the Fourteen Flames were living mountains with veins of molten rock and hearts of fire. So the mines of old Valyria were always hot, and they grew hotter as the shafts were driven deeper, ever deeper. The slaves toiled in an oven. The rocks around them were too hot to touch. The air stank of brimstone and would sear their lungs as they breathed it. The soles of their feet would burn and blister, even through the thickest sandals. Sometimes, when they broke through a wall in search of gold, they would find steam instead, or boiling water, or molten rock. Certain shafts were cut so low that the slaves could not stand upright, but had to crawl or bend. And there were wyrms in that red darkness too."

...

"Didn't the slaves rise up and fight?"

 

"Some did," he said. "Revolts were common in the mines, but few accomplished much. The dragonlords of the old Freehold were strong in sorcery, and lesser men defied them at their peril. The first Faceless Man was one who did."
"Who was he?" Arya blurted, before she stopped to think.
"No one," he answered. "Some say he was a slave himself. Others insist he was a freeholder's son, born of noble stock. Some will even tell you he was an overseer who took pity on his charges. The truth is, no one knows. Whoever he was, he moved amongst the slaves and would hear them at their prayers. Men of a hundred different nations labored in the mines, and each prayed to his own god in his own tongue, yet all were praying for the same thing. It was release they asked for, an end to pain. A small thing, and simple. Yet their gods made no answer, and their suffering went on. Are their gods all deaf? he wondered . . . until a realization came upon him, one night in the red darkness.
"All gods have their instruments, men and women who serve them and help to work their will on earth. The slaves were not crying out to a hundred different gods, as it seemed, but to one god with a hundred different faces . . . and he was that god's instrument. That very night he chose the most wretched of the slaves, the one who had prayed most earnestly for release, and freed him from his bondage. The first gift had been given."
Arya drew back from him. "He killed the slave?" That did not sound right. "He should have killed the masters!"
"He would bring the gift to them as well . . . but that is a tale for another day, one best shared with no one."(aFfC, Arya II)

 

 

The gift of mercy was the origin of the FM. It requires empathy, humanism and a mind free from religious dogma for a person to come to such a conclusion and help people find freedom from agony and pain in death. This was someone with the ability to freely move amongst the slaves, witness their ordeal, hear their prayers, day and night. It was someone who seemed to have no special belief in one of the hundred gods prayed to, but instead recognized that all those gods were actually the one and the same - death. It sounds like an agnostic, who came to regard death as a god, and death is egalitarian, since everybody dies - rich, poor, sick, healthy, happy, miserable, handsome, ugly, old, young, the worst, the best, men and women. 

 

The cupbearing element is heavily associated with the gift of mercy, bothin Arya's arc as well as the FM's practice of assisted suicide. Poison is their main weapon - both for assassination as assisted suicide - and poison is said to be "a woman's weapon". This is why I think the First was not a "he", but a "she". This was a free woman, most likely learned and of highborn religious liberal upbringing who served in the mines as a nurse or medical assistant, with knowledge on poisons, pain relief and daily confronted with the inability to save the afflicted, while overhearing the prayers for death. Such a person would far more likely come to the conclusions the First made - to become the instrument that gives the gift of mercy. In religion "an angel of death" is often male, but it is often the title given to female, serial killing nurses.

 

Targets of assassination

 

I killed Cat when I killed that singer. The kindly man had told her that they would have taken her eyes from her anyway, to help her to learn to use her other senses, but not for half a year. Blind acolytes were common in the House of Black and White, but few as young as she. The girl was not sorry, though. Dareon had been a deserter from the Night's Watch; he had deserved to die.

"And are you a god, to decide who should live and who should die?" he asked her. "We give the gift to those marked by Him of Many Faces, after prayers and sacrifice. So has it always been, from the beginning. I have told you of the founding of our order, of how the first of us answered the prayers of slaves who wished for death. The gift was given only to those who yearned for it, in the beginning … but one day, the first of us heard a slave praying not for his own death but for his master's. So fervently did he desire this that he offered all he had, that his prayer might be answered. And it seemed to our first brother that this sacrifice would be pleasing to Him of Many Faces, so that night he granted the prayer. Then he went to the slave and said, 'You offered all you had for this man's death, but slaves have nothing but their lives. That is what the god desires of you. For the rest of your days on earth, you will serve him.' And from that moment, we were two." His hand closed around her arm, gently but firmly. "All men must die. We are but death's instruments, not death himself. When you slew the singer, you took god's powers on yourself. We kill men, but we do not presume to judge them. Do you understand?" (aDwD, Blind Beth)

 

This paragraph is what often leads to people concluding that FM assassinate anyone for the right price, regardless of the target's morality, innocense and crimes. But that conclusion does not follow the story of the First's assassination of the slave master.

 

Let us being by examining the story of the First:

  • A slave prayed for a slave master's death, some time after the beginning where only those who yearned for the gift of mercy were killed, and offered a sacrifice (all he had).
  • The First thought this prayer and sacrifice would be pleasing to the god of death
  • Hence, the First considered the slave master marked by death and killed the slave master.

 

Did the First ever hear the Many Faced God whisper "that one", or saw it in a vision of flames? No. The First "thought it would please the god". The First and the FM regard themselves as the god's instruments who know what would please the god of death and simultaneously what would not please the god. So, in fact, the First and the FM are the ones who "decide" who dies and who lives.

 

But how does that mesh with "not judging them"? This is in reference to Arya having said to the kindly man that Dareon "deserved" to die. The kindly man is telling Arya that the mark of death comes from an intuition that would please the god of death, rather than using human laws or rationale of "deserving" death. The order is assumed to have an intuitive link with the god. And that is exactly what a Valkyrie is supposed to be. A Valkyrie doesn't go to a battle with a death-list handed by Odin. They just "know". The most famous Valkyrie is Brynhilde of the Nibelungenlied (the legends and stories on which Wagner based his 3-part opera). Brynhilde had agreed to side with a mortal man at every one of his battles. However, with one battle, she knew Odin wanted the other side to win, and she still made that man win the battle, going against Odin's wish. Odin punished her by making her a mortal woman, a shieldmaiden. She was a "fallen" Valkyrie.

 

So, the kindly man's message is not "we assassinate anyone for the right price", but "we assassinate those we know the god wants to die by assassination." And what he's warning against is the hubris of overriding the god's will they serve, but not necessarily saying she was wrong in regarding Dareon as being marked for death. After all, they sped up her training by at least half a year for Dareon's murder, which basically means in choice and actions at least, the kindly man sanctions Arya's choice. The blindness also serves as a type of "sacrifice", in exchange for the murder, even though the sacrifice was only temporarily and gained her more awareness than she had before.

 

With the insurance man she's trying to convince herself with all sorts of silly reasons he deserves to die. The KM does not want her to use such reasoning. And yet he gives her enough background info on the man - that he cons hard working captains, who put their live savings in their cargo and ship, out of their money and puts widows and their children out on the street to beg by refusing to pay up when the captain and ship are lost at sea. Once, she knows this, she has no further need to justify her action and does it.

 

Marked for death

 

"Death is not the worst thing," the kindly man replied. "It is His gift to us, an end to want and pain. On the day that we are born the Many-Faced God sends each of us a dark angel to walk through life beside us. When our sins and our sufferings grow too great to be borne, the angel takes us by the hand to lead us to the nightlands, where the stars burn ever bright. Those who come to drink from the black cup are looking for their angels. If they are afraid, the candles soothe them. When you smell our candles burning, what does it make you think of, my child?" (aFfC, Arya II)

 

The kindly man ends this paragraph by mentioning those actively seeking their dark angel by drinking the black cup - out of guilt or suffering. But note that "sins" are a part of the beliefs of the FM's faith. The sufferer will pray for the gift of mercy for himself. The great sinner not necessarily so, and yet the mark of death may still be put on him, and then he/she has to die by the hand of an FM as an instrument of the god of death.

 

Who have followers of the Many Faced God assassinated? (regardless of contract)

  • a slave master
  • Chyswick: a gang rapist
  • Weese: an abuser and liar
  • Balon: (based on GoHH's dream), a reaver
  • Pate: a thief and betrayer of his master for coin to someone who may have just as well had every intention to kill Marwyn
  • Dareon: a deserter, betrayer of friends and leaving them to die for all he cared, liar and ogling a 14 year old
  • a ship/cargo insurance man: cons captains and ship owners out of their money, and when they die along with their shipwreck, the widow and children end up on the street begging
  • the waif's stepmother: who poisoned the waif when she was a young girl to remove her as heir
  • possibly the Ugly Girl's father: a child beater

 

Not one of them can be called a "good" person. Even if people are grey, there's pearl-grey and there's anthracite. Pate is the lightest grey of them all, and that's because he's still so young and only just started on a path of darkening grey. Not one of these characters is a light pearly grey character, none.

 

Him of Many Faces and many names

 
"Him of Many Faces."
"And many names," the kindly man had said. "In Qohor he is the Black Goat, in Yi Ti the Lion of Night, in Westeros the Stranger. All men must bow to him in the end, no matter if they worship the Seven or the Lord of Light, the Moon Mother or the Drowned God or the Great Shepherd. All mankind belongs to him . . . else somewhere in the world would be a folk who lived forever. Do you know of any folk who live forever?"
"No," she would answer. "All men must die." (aFfC, Cat of the Canals)
 

The title of the god of death can actually be seen as a reference to Odin. Odin has 170 names/styles and at least 50 disguises, appearing as a young man, an old man, a blind man, a beggar, a king, animals, on and on it goes. So, Odin is a god of Many Faces and many names, wearing disguises and masks. On top of that he is a god of death, resurrection, sacrifice.

 

Hence, a girl with Valkyrie aspects would be a servant of the god of Many Faces, and it would be very fitting that members of the order can change their appearance so drastically as the FM, and have the knowledge how to accomplish this.

 

Volunteer

 

There is a difference between the First FM and the Second. The First was a volunteer. The Second became FM because he offered all he had to have his prayer answered, and the First demanded he'd join her. The waif is not an assassin, but she is not strictly speaking a volunteer, even if becoming one of the guild was to her benefit. We do not know how the other acolytes were recruited, but we do know for certain that Arya is volunteering. 

 
"Die?" she said, confused. What did he mean? "But I unsaid the name. You don't need to die now."
"I do. My time is done." Jaqen passed a hand down his face from forehead to chin, and where it went he changed. His cheeks grew fuller, his eyes closer; his nose hooked, a scar appeared on his right cheek where no scar had been before. And when he shook his head, his long straight hair, half red and half white, dissolved away to reveal a cap of tight black curls.
Arya's mouth hung open. "Who are you?" she whispered, too astonished to be afraid. "How did you do that? Was it hard?"
He grinned, revealing a shiny gold tooth. "No harder than taking a new name, if you know the way."
"Show me," she blurted. "I want to do it too."
"If you would learn, you must come with me."
Arya grew hesitant. "Where?"
"Far and away, across the narrow sea."
"I can't. I have to go home. To Winterfell."
"Then we must part," he said, "for I have duties too." He lifted her hand and pressed a small coin into her palm. "Here."
"What is it?"
"A coin of great value."
Arya bit it. It was so hard it could only be iron. "Is it worth enough to buy a horse?"
"It is not meant for the buying of horses."
"Then what good is it?"
"As well ask what good is life, what good is death? If the day comes when you would find me again, give that coin to any man from Braavos, and say these words to him—valar morghulis."
"Valar morghulis," Arya repeated. It wasn't hard. Her fingers closed tight over the coin. Across the yard, she could hear men dying. "Please don't go, Jaqen."
"Jaqen is as dead as Arry," he said sadly, "and I have promises to keep. Valar morghulis, Arya Stark. Say it again." (aCoK, Arya IX)

"You know that you may leave this place. You are not one of us, not yet. You may go home anytime you wish."
"You told me that if I left, I couldn't come back."
"Just so."
Those words made her sad. Syrio used to say that too, Arya remembered. He said it all the time. Syrio Forel had taught her needlework and died for her. "I don't want to leave."
"Then stay . . . but remember, the House of Black and White is not a home for orphans. All men must serve beneath this roof. Valar dohaeris is how we say it here. Remain if you will, but know that we shall require your obedience. At all times and in all things. If you cannot obey, you must depart."
...
"Why would you wish to fight? Are you some bravo, strutting through the alleys, spoiling for blood?" He sighed. "Before you drink from the cold cup, you must offer up all you are to Him of Many Faces. Your body. Your soul. Yourself. If you cannot bring yourself to do that, you must leave this place."
...
"You believe this is the only place for you." It was as if he'd heard her thoughts. "You are wrong in that. You would find softer service in the household of some merchant. Or would you sooner be a courtesan, and have songs sung of your beauty? Speak the word, and we will send you to the Black Pearl or the Daughter of the Dusk. You will sleep on rose petals and wear silken skirts that rustle when you walk, and great lords will beggar themselves for your maiden's blood. Or if it is marriage and children you desire, tell me, and we shall find a husband for you. Some honest apprentice boy, a rich old man, a seafarer, whatever you desire."
She wanted none of that. Wordless, she shook her head.
"Is it Westeros you dream of, child? Luco Prestayn's Lady Bright leaves upon the morrow, for Gulltown, Duskendale, King's Landing, and Tyrosh. Shall we find you passage on her?"
"I only just came from Westeros." Sometimes it seemed a thousand years since she had fled King's Landing, and sometimes it seemed like only yesterday, but she knew she could not go back. "I'll go if you don't want me, but I won't go there."
"My wants do not matter," said the kindly man. "It may be that the Many-Faced God has led you here to be His instrument, but when I look at you I see a child . . . and worse, a girl child. Many have served Him of Many Faces through the centuries, but only a few of His servants have been women. Women bring life into the world. We bring the gift of death. No one can do both." (aFfC, Arya II)
 
No, she thought. "Yes," she said.
"You lie. And that is why you must now walk in darkness until you see the way. Unless you wish to leave us. You need only ask, and you may have your eyes back."
No, she thought. "No," she said. (aDwD, The Blind GIrl)
 
They hung upon the walls, before her and behind her, high and low, everywhere she looked, everywhere she turned. She saw old faces and young faces, pale faces and dark faces, smooth faces and wrinkled faces, freckled faces and scarred faces, handsome faces and homely faces, men and women, boys and girls, even babes, smiling faces, frowning faces, faces full of greed and rage and lust, bald faces and faces bristling with hair. Masks, she told herself, it's only masks, but even as she thought the thought, she knew it wasn't so. They were skins.
"Do they frighten you, child?" asked the kindly man. "It is not too late for you to leave us. Is this truly what you want?"
Arya bit her lip. She did not know what she wanted. If I leave, where will I go? She had washed and stripped a hundred corpses, dead things did not frighten her. They carry them down here and slice their faces off, so what? She was the night wolf, no scraps of skin could frighten her. Leather hoods, that's all they are, they cannot hurt me. "Do it," she blurted out. (aDwD, The Ugly Little Girl)
 
  • She offers no sacrifice in her prayer list
  • She gets 3 names for throwing an axe into a burning cage. These names could have been Tywin + Cersei + Joffrey and Jaqen would hae done them
  • Jaqen gives her a coin and the password, and offers to take her with him, but nowhere is there any force exerted by him
  • The kindly man offers to find all sorts of alternative lives to her if she desires it, and with each new step asks her she can still leave;

Jaqen's behavior and the kindly man's with regards to her volunteering in light of having killed 3 (well way more than 3) for her, while she offered nothing is in severe contrast to how the First recruited the Second. That is very peculiar and seems to suggest her volunteering is a requirement, either of a profile or prophecy. Arya then is more like the First - one who came to regard him- or herself as an instrument of the Many Faced God of her/his own volition.

 

Fighting

 

Of extra note that like Jaqen, the kindly man does not see any need for Arya to fight. Nor is she trained in sword fighting at the House. Instead, she is taught in making poisons. She learned one knife trick on the streets of Braavos, and she used it to cut open a purse and replace one coin with a poisoned one. And as I mentioned, while Valkyries presided, influenced and supervized a battle, they were not participating shieldmaidens. Instead they used their magical and divine powers, trickery and words. As assassin and spy, Arya is taught to use magic (faces), sleight of hand and poisons.

 
Conclusion
 
This sums up the features of Arya related to the FM:
  • cupbearer
  • intuitive chooser of the slain
  • servant of a god of death of Many Faces and many names (Odin references)
  • the battle of Harrenhal is dedicated to her
  • no fighting (neither while guided by Jaqen or the kindly man)
  • female
  • volunteers like the First

It is likely the First was in fact a woman, while women are rare in the order. With Arya ticking off so many Valkyrie features, I think the FM have a prophecy regarding a girl-child to be the FIrst Born Again who strongly knows the will of the Many Faced God, and want her as the god's voice to guide them against the foes who would destroy humanity and defy the natural order of life and death, for she will intuitively know which deaths and which sacrifices would please the Many Faced God.

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This is brilliant! The possibility of it makes it even more so. Congratulations on this wonderful piece! An interesting read, and very well thought out. I do think this is one of the most likely theories coming to life in the books. :)

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This is brilliant! The possibility of it makes it even more so. Congratulations on this wonderful piece! An interesting read, and very well thought out. I do think this is one of the most likely theories coming to life in the books. :)

 

Thank you :D I developed the idea in the course of several FM discussions and Arya's possible role in it. I was asked to put it out as a separate theory thread, so I did. I know the chapters of the HoBaW aren't as action packed as many of Arya's previous chapters, but they require a lot of rereads and thought to decipher what the heck they're all about. Since the HoBaW is more than just a group of assassins for hire, I doubt GRRM has the intention to make Arya a one dimensional revenge-spirit or deadly assassin.

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This is brilliant! The possibility of it makes it even more so. Congratulations on this wonderful piece! An interesting read, and very well thought out. I do think this is one of the most likely theories coming to life in the books. :)


^Agreed

Like I implied yesterday, your making a believer out of me!

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Very glad to see this fine piece of analysis in its own thread. Really nice job!

 

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Very thought out analysis...

I'm sure there are several Valkyrie like figures in the story, I always assumed Melissandre and VAL are 2 examples of Valkyries for Jon and Tormund

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Arya as a Valkyrie is a theory that, for the first time, gives me some context for where Arya's story is going and how the FM fit into the whole. If the FM see Arya as intuitively knowing which deaths and defeats would be most pleasing to the MFG, it suggests that the prophecy of "the First" reincarnated is part of a prophecy of an apocalyptic conflict in which the FM will have to choose sides and play a role. Naturally, the FM want to/expect to be on the winning side, the side that pleases the MFG. Unless, of course, Arya is Brunhilde. But in addition to a theory of the role of the FM, the theory also sets up internal conflicts for Arya if she has to choose between the person/side her intuition tells her is the right one and someone she loves. Many posters on this board have speculated, variously, that Jon or Bran (or maybe both?) are heading for the "dark side." What if Arya had to choose between a brother and what she intuitively knows is right (or pleases the MFG)? Opens many possibilities.

 

Edited to change "legend" to "prophecy"

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I absolutely love this!  Fantastically researched and thought-out.  Well done, sweetsunray!

 

The blindness doesn't count as a sacrifice in my opinion because it's a training tool to sharpen her other senses.  If it had been permanent then yes sacrifice all the way, as it is, just another hoop to jump through.

 

I disagree about the first FM being a woman, but I have some reasoning you might like.  

 

From a purely practical standpoint, women working in the mines would be unlikely. It's a high-hazard job that likely has a high death rate, so the women were probably kept clear of the mines so that they could stay home and give birth to more slaves. They were also in a culture that as far as we know was no more enlightened with regard to division of labor based on gender than Westeros is several hundred years later.

 

The fact that the Kindly Man says that women bring life into the world while the FM take it, and that women in the organization are rare points to the probability that the first FM was a man. If the founder had been female, you'd think female assassins and servants would be more common.  Bear with me, there is more...

 

There is a theory that the Seven aspects of God in the Andal religion were once heroes on Planetos and they will return in the time of Westeros' greatest need (in fact there have been several threads about who is which of the seven).  In looking at the religions of Planetos, and the possibility of the FM having a prophecy, the Seven fits most closely with their Many-Faced God, so I think their prophecy might derive from that in a way.  And like the R'hllorists with Azor Ahai, they are looking for a reborn hero/leader of some kind.  On to the point...

 

Looking at the Seven, we have three obviously female aspects (maiden, mother, crone) and three obviously male aspects (father, warrior, smith).  To maintain balance, the seventh must be able to be either male or female. From the wiki:

 

 Whilst referred to as male, he is neither male nor female.[1] The Stranger's face has been described as half-human, concealed beneath a hooded mantle.

emphasis mine.  If the face is concealed, then it might be fully human, and just never actually seen.  In essence the Stranger is "faceless."

 

Given the balance issue that seems to underpin a lot of the series' main conflicts, and the information from the wiki regarding the Stranger...if the first FM was the human incarnation of the original Stranger, and was male, then the human incarnation of the Stranger Reborn would have to be female.  

 

P.S. I've long thought that Nymeria's circumstances foreshadow a leadership role of some kind for Arya.

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This is really amazing! Even if it's not a prophesy in the end, your comparisons and research are so thorough and in depth that this could honestly be a published literary essay that college students references in a thesis in like 10 years. 

 

And if Arya's arc is developing somewhere along the lines of this Valkyrie idea, then I'd actually really like her character (presently she's just too immature and indignant for my tastes...). I like this a lot better than the "Arya is Batman" thing.

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This is really amazing! Even if it's not a prophesy in the end, your comparisons and research are so thorough and in depth that this could honestly be a published literary essay that college students references in a thesis in like 10 years. 

 

And if Arya's arc is developing somewhere along the lines of this Valkyrie idea, then I'd actually really like her character (presently she's just too immature and indignant for my tastes...). I like this a lot better than the "Arya is Batman" thing.

Batman is a Valkyrie/Norn.  It is known. ;)

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I love this theory. Seriously, I can't imagine a more neat and tidy direction for her story. Especially the idea of having to choose between someone she loved as Arya and what she feels to be right.

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^Agreed

Like I implied yesterday, your making a believer out of me!

 

Very glad to see this fine piece of analysis in its own thread. Really nice job!

 

 

Very thought out analysis...

I'm sure there are several Valkyrie like figures in the story, I always assumed Melissandre and VAL are 2 examples of Valkyries for Jon and Tormund

 

Thank you all! Interesting. I regard Melissandre and Val more like Norn-seerresses rather than Valkyries. I can't recall them acting as cupbearers or serving drinks (must check for that). Since GRRM wrote the cupbearing and dedication of a battle with Arya in aCoK, he would incorporate similar behaviour with them. And while Brynhilde chose to stick with one king (going against Odin ultimately), a Valkyrie generally does not stick to a particular hero.

 

There are many Valkyrie myths and legends though, with a few actually choosing a lover or husband without abandoning their duty. The Valkyrie Gondul (wand wielder) might be up Melissandre's sleeve. She uses seduction and a potion that erases memory to instigate a war and blood feud between two kings. Initially she arranges for them to become best friends, making bloodbrother oaths. The second meeting the drink makes one of them forget about his oath, and Gondul makes him jealous over the other one's wife, and he slays the wife, taking the daughter Hildr from himself. This is the Hildr Valkyrie with resurrection powers who gets the armies of her husband and her father revived at the end of each day to start anew the next day, since she loves them both. Gondul & Hildr are basically Valkyries at odds with each other, and there is a feel about Melisandre and Val that you can see them being at odds with one another.

 

Of course, then there is also Val shutting herself up in a tower with Wun Wun as protector. Patrek obviously tried to "steal" Val (after Jon's explanation) and it cost him his life. In one of the versions Brynhilde is shut in a tower (instead of a ring of fire) after Odin excludes her from being a Valkyrie any longer. But Brynhilde made Odin promise that she could only be made to marry the man who manages to get into the tower (passed the ring of fire), knowing beforehand already only the hero Sigurd/Sigfried would be able to. Selyse talked of Val needing a husband to teach her some humility, and she shut herself up in that tower as a kind of challenge. And it doesn't seem farfetched that Val only regards Jon as a man fearless enough to "steal" her, and whom Wun Wun would let pass.

 

Arya as a Valkyrie is a theory that, for the first time, gives me some context for where Arya's story is going and how the FM fit into the whole. If the FM see Arya as intuitively knowing which deaths and defeats would be most pleasing to the MFG, it suggests that the prophecy of "the First" reincarnated is part of a prophecy of an apocalyptic conflict in which the FM will have to choose sides and play a role. Naturally, the FM want to/expect to be on the winning side, the side that pleases the MFG. Unless, of course, Arya is Brunhilde. But in addition to a theory of the role of the FM, the theory also sets up internal conflicts for Arya if she has to choose between the person/side her intuition tells her is the right one and someone she loves. Many posters on this board have speculated, variously, that Jon or Bran (or maybe both?) are heading for the "dark side." What if Arya had to choose between a brother and what she intuitively knows is right (or pleases the MFG)? Opens many possibilities.

 

Edited to change "legend" to "prophecy"

 

Well, the FM Valkyrie prophecy and the First being a woman is the crackpot part of the theory obviously. There is substantial textual evidence to establish Arya as a Valkyrie figure in her arc, but there is no actual textual evidence that the FM do have a prophecy, let alone that the First was a woman. The evidence for it so far is slim, and a hunch. But I think it would indeed tie Jaqen's focus on Arya, Arya's role and the FM neatly together for the end-game.

 

And yes, you hit the nail by saying it also opens possibilities for conflict within Arya regarding being a chooser of the slain. What if she intuitively knows someone she cares for or considers light pearly grey but the MFG wants to have out of the way for the greater good (final battle)? That would indeed put her in a Brynhilde conflict.

 

I don't think Bran and Jon are going to fight for the dark side though. In my "IceJon for the Wall" theory I put forward the idea that Jon is not dead yet, though grievously internally wounded, and that Melisandra performs sacrifices for an Ashai healing as MMD attempted with Drogo, and as Moqorro succeeded in doing for Vic. The magic from the blood sacrifice for Drogo was not enough (and she botched it up by putting a horse's soul into Drogo), and Vic's wound was only at his hand (not vital organs). The sacrifice will not be enough to actually heal Jon, but breaks the wards on the Wall, and the Wall's magic pours into Jon. That amount of magic would be enough to heal Jon, and you'd still end up with a coherent Jon POV, but it will ultimately weaken the Wall's magic so it can fall if some stupid blows the horn of Joraman and causes earthquakes, or the Others attack it with whatever magic powers they have. Typically Mel's visions show either a direct threat to her life, or the visions she uses to meddle with disastrous result (example: Garlan defeating Stannis in the Renly armor at the Blackwater). With Vic the Ashai healing gave him a smoking, hot, crackling, lava like mega-strong arm. But the wall's magic trapped in ice and stone for thousands of years would make Jon's body hard and cold as ice & stone (matching Bran's vision about Jon in aGoT). While Westeros gains a SuperJon, it loses the Wall. And SuperJon can't hold an army of Others and wights from invading Westeros by himself. But basically I suspect that Jon will be the Wall.

 

As for Bran - there are several Odin like figures each taking up a different aspect of this god. Bloodraven is one of them imo - one eyed, sacrificed himself to a tree for wisdom and knowledge, uses ravens to see and learn what's going on in the world. Odin has 2 ravens (Huginn and Muginn) and 2 wolves by his side (Geri & Freki, aka Greedy and Ravenous). People jump too readily on Loki's wolves and link them with the Stark children, but forget about Odin's 2 wolves and that Odin is as much a trickster god as Loki is. In many ways Loki and Odin are two sides of the same coin - both trickster gods, except Odin's tricks are meant to gain wisdom, to challenge someone into hero-hood, while Loki is an evil inteded trickster. Loki hasn't sacrificed an eye, hasn't sacrificed himself to a tree, let alone for knowledge, and doesn't use ravens as eyes. Bloodraven effectively has one wolf by his side (and Melisandre sees Bran as a young wolf next to BR in her vision). The other wolf imo is Arya. On her way to the HoBaW she passes under a bridge with 1000 eyes. And of course she serves the MFG (which is a title that perfectly describes Odin in total). Both Bran and Arya have references about being hungry, fitting the meaning of the names Geri & Freki.

 

As I mentioned above, in answer to RockyRagnarok, Val could well play out a part of Brynhilde in the tower. Mya Stone imo seems to play out the Brynhilde part as well for the quadrangle part of the story. Mya was seduced and fell in love with Mychel Redfort, one of the valiant, dashing knights, believing he would marry her. But Mychel ends up marrying another, while Lothor Brune falls for Mya. Lothor is supposed to have no chance. I can see Sansa organize some event where she has Mychel pose for Lothor, or otherwise have him lose some fake duel against Lothor to help him win Mya's heart. Of course, what would happen if Mya finds out about the deception? And what would happen if Lothor finds out that Mychel deflowered Mya? 

 

Very good thread, I really hope it goes in this sense in the books! 

 

Thank you :)  You and me both!

 

Arya Stark Listener for the Dark Brotherhood.


HAIL SITHIS

 

I'm alas not familiar with Sithis :)

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I absolutely love this!  Fantastically researched and thought-out.  Well done, sweetsunray!

 

The blindness doesn't count as a sacrifice in my opinion because it's a training tool to sharpen her other senses.  If it had been permanent then yes sacrifice all the way, as it is, just another hoop to jump through.

 

:D thank you! I understand why you don't necessarily agree. I regard it as a "formality sacrifice". The kindly man said, "We give the gift to those marked by Him of Many Faces, after prayers and sacrifice."

 

Prayer + sacrifice.

 

Nowhere is it stated the sacrifice must be permanent, or how severe the sacrifice must be. Arya's axe action with Jaqen can be seen as a sacrifice of her time and safety for several minutes. She gets 3 names for it, after she starts "praying". Strictly speaking, Jaqen can justify the 3 names, because there was an unrelated sacrifice (no matter how small) and there was a prayer. 

 

The kindly man can argue that Arya herself prayed for Dareon's death, even if she never voiced such a thought in her head, or assume it was her wish for him to die and regard that as being equal to a prayer. But she has not sacrificed anything. So, the temporary loss of her sight is not the sole thing that occurs. As Blind Beth she thinks she "killed Cat" by killing Dareon, though she does not regret it. So, her sacrifice is not her sight, but Cat of the Canals. So, now we have a situation of assumed prayer + sacrifice, and for the kindly man this rebalances the murder. In that sense the kindly man did not only wish to hasten her progress, but protect her from not having made any sacrifice altogether and perhaps invoke the Many Faced God's anger. 

 

I regard the FM as being rather creative with the concepts of prayer and sacrifice.
 

I disagree about the first FM being a woman, but I have some reasoning you might like.  

 

From a purely practical standpoint, women working in the mines would be unlikely. It's a high-hazard job that likely has a high death rate, so the women were probably kept clear of the mines so that they could stay home and give birth to more slaves. They were also in a culture that as far as we know was no more enlightened with regard to division of labor based on gender than Westeros is several hundred years later.

 

The fact that the Kindly Man says that women bring life into the world while the FM take it, and that women in the organization are rare points to the probability that the first FM was a man. If the founder had been female, you'd think female assassins and servants would be more common.  Bear with me, there is more...

 

There is a theory that the Seven aspects of God in the Andal religion were once heroes on Planetos and they will return in the time of Westeros' greatest need (in fact there have been several threads about who is which of the seven).  In looking at the religions of Planetos, and the possibility of the FM having a prophecy, the Seven fits most closely with their Many-Faced God, so I think their prophecy might derive from that in a way.  And like the R'hllorists with Azor Ahai, they are looking for a reborn hero/leader of some kind.  On to the point...

 

Looking at the Seven, we have three obviously female aspects (maiden, mother, crone) and three obviously male aspects (father, warrior, smith).  To maintain balance, the seventh must be able to be either male or female. From the wiki:

 

emphasis mine.  If the face is concealed, then it might be fully human, and just never actually seen.  In essence the Stranger is "faceless."

 

Given the balance issue that seems to underpin a lot of the series' main conflicts, and the information from the wiki regarding the Stranger...if the first FM was the human incarnation of the original Stranger, and was male, then the human incarnation of the Stranger Reborn would have to be female.  

 

P.S. I've long thought that Nymeria's circumstances foreshadow a leadership role of some kind for Arya.

 

 

 

I do like your argument of the Stranger.

 

We do take the rarity of women ever being FM in opposite ways though. His remark on how rare it is, reminds me of "One in a thousand are wargs, and one in a thousand wargs are greenseers." And then there is the fact that the mythological Valkyries are never men.

 

Meanwhile the first mission of the FM - assisted suicide - and this being what the First starts to do suggests to me someone who felt their agency was limited originally. Only with the passing of time and gaining experience did the First grow bold enough to murder the slave master, and by the kindly man's earlier hint, eventually participating or starting events that helped the Moonsingers to bring about the Doom of Valyria. If we add the serving/cupbearer element, then the progression of the First suggest to me it was a woman. While both women and men have equal empathic capacities, they would assess their agency differently in a gender stratified culture - with women choosing to act from a pov where they regard themselves inherently limited in their power and how much change they can effect initially, and men more action and rebellion orientated from the get go. 

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The Doom of Valyria and the Long Night

 

The Moonsingers are the alleged founders of Braavos. This is why their temple is the largest one of Braavos. Originally moonsingers are one of the two leaders of the Jogos Nhai nomadic tribes. A tribe would be led by a jhat and a moonsinger. The jhat is the leading male warrior, while the moonsinger is a priestess, healer and judge into one. Women could be jhats, but have to dress like men, while men who are moonsingers have to dress like a woman. The religion of the moonsingers spread through being enslaved by Valyria. 

 

"The Moonsingers led us to this place of refuge, where the dragons of Valyria could not find us," Denyo said. "Theirs is the greatest temple. (aFfC, Arya I)

 

Supposedly, there was a slave uprising on a fleet of slave ships, seizing the fleet. Moonsingers who had been part of the slaves on that fleet prophesied that the ships had to go north to a place of mudflats, brackish water lagoon and fogs. This ended up being Braavos. Meanwhile the Faceless Men solely have a temple in Braavos. Their origin starts in the mines of Valyria, where fyrewyrms crawled through the earth and the volcanic area, with the First defying the dragonlords.

 

"Revolts were common in the mines, but few accomplished much. The dragonlords of the old Freehold were strong in sorcery, and lesser men defied them at their peril. The first Faceless Man was one who did." (aFfC, Arya II)

 

And then there is the Doom of Valyria: a cataclysm where every volcano blew, water turned acidic and boiled, ...

 

Valyria. It was written that on the day of Doom every hill for five hundred miles had split asunder to fill the air with ash and smoke and fire, blazes so hot and hungry that even the dragons in the sky were engulfed and consumed. Great rents had opened in the earth, swallowing palaces, temples, entire towns. Lakes boiled or turned to acid, mountains burst, fiery fountains spewed molten rock a thousand feet into the air, red clouds rained down dragonglass and the black blood of demons, and to the north the ground splintered and collapsed and fell in on itself and an angry sea came rushing in. The proudest city in all the world was gone in an instant, its fabled empire vanished in a day, the Lands of the Long Summer scorched and drowned and blighted. (aDwD, Tyrion VIII)

 

And who was defying dragonlords again and where?

 

"The tale of our beginnings. If you would be one of us, you had best know who we are and how we came to be. Men may whisper of the Faceless Men of Braavos, but we are older than the Secret City. Before the Titan rose, before the Unmasking of Uthero, before the Founding, we were. We have flowered in Braavos amongst these northern fogs, but we first took root in Valyria, amongst the wretched slaves who toiled in the deep mines beneath the Fourteen Flames that lit the Freehold's nights of old. Most mines are dank and chilly places, cut from cold dead stone, but the Fourteen Flames were living mountains with veins of molten rock and hearts of fire. So the mines of old Valyria were always hot, and they grew hotter as the shafts were driven deeper, ever deeper. The slaves toiled in an oven. The rocks around them were too hot to touch. The air stank of brimstone and would sear their lungs as they breathed it. The soles of their feet would burn and blister, even through the thickest sandals. Sometimes, when they broke through a wall in search of gold, they would find steam instead, or boiling water, or molten rock. Certain shafts were cut so low that the slaves could not stand upright, but had to crawl or bend. And there were wyrms in that red darkness too." ... "Firewyrms. Some say they are akin to dragons, for wyrms breathe fire too. Instead of soaring through the sky, they bore through stone and soil. If the old tales can be believed, there were wyrms amongst the Fourteen Flames even before the dragons came. The young ones are no larger than that skinny arm of yours, but they can grow to monstrous size and have no love for men." (aFfC, Arya II)

 

Since the tales of the First survived of the time before the Doom and the FM managed to make their seat at Braavos, some of the FM operating in the mines of the Fourteen Flames (volcanoes) of Valyria escaped before the Doom.

 

So, either they knew what was coming (like Daenys "the Dreamer" Targaryen did) and escaped for Braavos, possibly with some slaves, somehow knowing where Braavos was (as this was before Braavos "came out in the open"). This suggest they cooperated with or had a moonsinger with them. Or the First and several FM planned and organized the Doom, while dispatching some chosen survivors beforehand intentionally, along with a moonsinger who could lead the way to join the slave refugees in Braavos. Was the First an actual ex-moonsinger?

 

There is the door of HoBaW that has a moon face on it, and thus a connection between the FM and moonsingers.
 

 

At the top she found a set of carved wooden doors twelve feet high. The left-hand door was made of weirwood pale as bone, the right of gleaming ebony. In their center was a carved moon face; ebony on the weirwood side, weirwood on the ebony. (aFfC, Arya I)

 

In any regard, if we consider the Many Faced God and the FM servants as a reference by GRRM to a type of Odin faction, they would regard the Doom as a victory for an apocalyptic battle.

 

Odin prepared against the prophesied Ragnarok, the end of a world-cycle. The apocalyptic ending would come about in three ways - Frost giants from the North, an army of undead, and Fire Giants from the South. In Norse mythology these enemies are called the Fire Giants Surtr* ('Black One') and sons of Muspell. Muspell is the "realm of fire". Odin prepared to fight against both fire and ice. The Doom of Valyria would fit one part of the war to stay an apocalypse. Working against the coming of the Long Night would fit the other required part. The First would be related to the battle against Fire. The prophecy I propose to be believed with the FM would relate to the battle against Ice. If Long Night prophesies exist with the FM we could therefore expect them to prepare for doing what they can to prevent the Long Night and aid where they can to halt the Othes. In a battle against Ice, the First Born Again as Valkyrie would logically be a daughter of the North, of House Stark, with a direwolf sigil to fit the Many Faced God's (Odin's) second wolf.

 

Arya's Cats

 

While Valkyries are servants of the Many Faced God, I mentioned in the OP how they divied up the slain half/half for either Odin's Walhalla or Freyja's Folkvangr. Only the slain warriors in Walhalla would battle during Ragnarok. While Freyja is NOT a Valkyrie (a misconception), the misconception perpetuates and she did host half of the slain in her hall, and Valkyries served Freyja in an indirect way. She was not their mistress. It was not her will they followed. But they did service her by sending half of the slain to her hall, and Freyja was a warrior goddess who rode to battle (furthering the misconception) in a chariot drawn by two cats.

 

Freyja can be associated to three animals - the boar, the falcon and cats. Allegged to have had an incestuous relationship with her twin brother Freyr, within aSoAiF we can see a reference to Freyja in Cersei. Since both Freyr and Freyja posessed a boar, then it is perhaps not so surprising that GRRM links Cersei with the boar (for food). Freyja means 'Lady' and she wore a cloak of falcon feathers. 'Lady' easily brings Sansa to mind, and she ends up being called 'bird' by Sandor, and ends up in the Vale and the Eyrie of House Arryn with the falcon for a sigil. This leaves us Freyja's cats who pulled her chariot. A chariot is not just a carriage to go hither and thither, but related to battle and war, which is the link to Valkyries, and hence possibly the reason why GRRM chose to have Arya skinchange into cats, aside from her direwolf Nymeria.

 

* an interesting tidbit - Surtr's wife Sinmara translates to "pale (night) mare"

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This is really amazing! Even if it's not a prophesy in the end, your comparisons and research are so thorough and in depth that this could honestly be a published literary essay that college students references in a thesis in like 10 years. 

 

And if Arya's arc is developing somewhere along the lines of this Valkyrie idea, then I'd actually really like her character (presently she's just too immature and indignant for my tastes...). I like this a lot better than the "Arya is Batman" thing.

 

:eek: I thank you for the compliment.

 

Funny, I often think her immaturity and indignance rather cute. She's still a child in so many ways - even when she says "Do it!" in the Ugly Little Girl to the kindly man about to give her cuts for the face. And while everything's "stupid", she still soaks in what elders attempt to teach her: her father, Yoren, Beric and Thoros of the BwB, Sandor, the kindly man. I seriously blame Septa Mordane for having failed to teach her anything. Just a reasonable conversation with the kid often does miracles.

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I've just read your first post, sweetsunray, and absolutely love it. Going to read the rest now. Thank you!

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The Doom of Valyria and the Long Night

 

The Moonsingers are the alleged founders of Braavos. This is why their temple is the largest one of Braavos. Originally moonsingers are one of the two leaders of the Jogos Nhai nomadic tribes. A tribe would be led by a jhat and a moonsinger. The jhat is the leading male warrior, while the moonsinger is a priestess, healer and judge into one. Women could be jhats, but have to dress like men, while men who are moonsingers have to dress like a woman. The religion of the moonsingers spread through being enslaved by Valyria. 

 

 

Supposedly, there was a slave uprising on a fleet of slave ships, seizing the fleet. Moonsingers who had been part of the slaves on that fleet prophesied that the ships had to go north to a place of mudflats, brackish water lagoon and fogs. This ended up being Braavos. Meanwhile the Faceless Men solely have a temple in Braavos. Their origin starts in the mines of Valyria, where fyrewyrms crawled through the earth and the volcanic area, with the First defying the dragonlords.

 

 

And then there is the Doom of Valyria: a cataclysm where every volcano blew, water turned acidic and boiled, ...

 

 

And who was defying dragonlords again and where?

 

 

Since the tales of the First survived of the time before the Doom and the FM managed to make their seat at Braavos, some of the FM operating in the mines of the Fourteen Flames (volcanoes) of Valyria escaped before the Doom.

 

So, either they knew what was coming (like Daenys "the Dreamer" Targaryen did) and escaped for Braavos, possibly with some slaves, somehow knowing where Braavos was (as this was before Braavos "came out in the open"). This suggest they cooperated with or had a moonsinger with them. Or the First and several FM planned and organized the Doom, while dispatching some chosen survivors beforehand intentionally, along with a moonsinger who could lead the way to join the slave refugees in Braavos. Was the First an actual ex-moonsinger?

 

There is the door of HoBaW that has a moon face on it, and thus a connection between the FM and moonsingers.
 

 

In any regard, if we consider the Many Faced God and the FM servants as a reference by GRRM to a type of Odin faction, they would regard the Doom as a victory for an apocalyptic battle.

 

Odin prepared against the prophesied Ragnarok, the end of a world-cycle. The apocalyptic ending would come about in three ways - Frost giants from the North, an army of undead, and Fire Giants from the South. In Norse mythology these enemies are called the Fire Giants Surtr* ('Black One') and sons of Muspell. Muspell is the "realm of fire". Odin prepared to fight against both fire and ice. The Doom of Valyria would fit one part of the war to stay an apocalypse. Working against the coming of the Long Night would fit the other required part. The First would be related to the battle against Fire. The prophecy I propose to be believed with the FM would relate to the battle against Ice. If Long Night prophesies exist with the FM we could therefore expect them to prepare for doing what they can to prevent the Long Night and aid where they can to halt the Othes. In a battle against Ice, the First Born Again as Valkyrie would logically be a daughter of the North, of House Stark, with a direwolf sigil to fit the Many Faced God's (Odin's) second wolf.

 

Arya's Cats

 

While Valkyries are servants of the Many Faced God, I mentioned in the OP how they divied up the slain half/half for either Odin's Walhalla or Freyja's Folkvangr. Only the slain warriors in Walhalla would battle during Ragnarok. While Freyja is NOT a Valkyrie (a misconception), the misconception perpetuates and she did host half of the slain in her hall, and Valkyries served Freyja in an indirect way. She was not their mistress. It was not her will they followed. But they did service her by sending half of the slain to her hall, and Freyja was a warrior goddess who wrote battle (furthering the misconception) in a chariot drawn by two cats.

 

Freyja can be associated to three animals - the boar, the falcon and cats. Allegged to have had an incestuous relationship with her twin brother Freyr, within aSoAiF we can see a reference to Freyja in Cersei. Since both Freyr and Freyja posessed a boar, then it is perhaps not so surprising that GRRM links Cersei with the boar (for food). Freyja means 'Lady' and she wore a cloak of falcon feathers. 'Lady' easily brings Sansa to mind, and she ends up being called 'bird' by Sandor, and ends up in the Vale and the Eyrie of House Arryn with the falcon for a sigil. This leaves us Freyja's cats who pulled her chariot. A chariot is not just a carriage to go hither and thither, but related to battle and war, which is the link to Valkyries, and hence possibly the reason why GRRM chose to have Arya skinchange into cats, aside from her direwolf Nymeria.

 

* an interesting tidbit - Surtr's wife Sinmara translates to "pale (night) mare"

Very nice addition to the first post!

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sweetsunray, this is magnificent.  Others have already stated it far better than I but...wow!  Truly well researched and presented.  Please tell me you save this somewhere in preparation for the system upgrade, whenever that might be, as this must be preserved.  Really well done.

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