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Yellow toad Mariah

Why the constant haircuts?

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Dumb question but I haven't seen any analysis or theories for why George is insist on keeping Arya's hair short.

Anytime it seems her hair is growing out someone cuts it for her. George always writes a new reason for a haircut. To disguise her as a boy, to keep her safe on the road, to hide her identity, lice, to complete her transformation as blind Beth, for Mercy to wear wigs better. 

I've seen people point out the parallels between Dany, Arya and Cersei's bald haircuts but with more of a focus on Dany and Cersei.

What's the reason why Arya can't have longer hair? Does George just like short hair for her character? Was the bald trio intentional or a coincidence?

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I think it's done for trope reasons. You know, she's the plucky tomboy that rides horses and cuts her hair short and swings swords and takes no one crap. Anime-style training montages optional.

Arya-like characters have the "not like other girls" theme going on, and yet all of them are very much like each other. We have an entire crowd of "not like other girls" "unique" characters in fantasy literature. So I'd venture her hair is short all the time simply because that's the aesthetic of her trope.

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19 minutes ago, The Jingo said:

I think it's done for trope reasons. You know, she's the plucky tomboy that rides horses and cuts her hair short and swings swords and takes no one crap. Anime-style training montages optional.

Arya-like characters have the "not like other girls" theme going on, and yet all of them are very much like each other. We have an entire crowd of "not like other girls" "unique" characters in fantasy literature. So I'd venture her hair is short all the time simply because that's the aesthetic of her trope.

The trope thing makes sense but it's usually the tomboy character that cuts their own hair off by choice. Arya's haircuts aren't her choice. When she's traveling on her own she doesn't cut her hair. 

That's why I'm wondering if the fact that other characters being the ones cutting her hair have any meaning behind it?

Edited by Yellow toad Mariah

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2 hours ago, Yellow toad Mariah said:

The trope thing makes sense but it's usually the tomboy character that cuts their own hair off by choice. Arya's haircuts aren't her choice. When she's traveling on her own she doesn't cut her hair. 

That's why I'm wondering if the fact that other characters being the ones cutting her hair have any meaning behind it?

Good point.  The obvious tomboy benchmark to my mind is the super-tomboyish Mya Stone, what with her (presumably-self-cut) short hair, mule whispering exploits, and pants. Now I'm wondering if there isn't something to this idea.

If we assume that someone like Mya Stone wears her hair short because she chooses be "not like other girls"  then the short hair could be viewed as an expression of independence and a symbol of self-determination.  If Arya's hair by contrast keeps getting cut short at the direction of various authority figures, that could be some sort of hint that her fate is not in her own hands.  

I'm wandering into literary analysis territory here... which for me is like dancing on rotten ice. :D

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Nice catch. 

Jaime cuts his hair off because it's gross after leaving Riverrun and also for a disguise but the symbolism is heavily that it's a symbolic death of his Lannister self. His hair later starts growing back in gray and Cersei sees him as not her other self anymore. I suspect Cersei's hair being cut off will be about her just becoming her, not a Lannister. Dany's hair seems in the same vein as she's very conflicted over being herself (house with the red door) and being what others want her to be - Drago's wife, a Targ, Queen of Meereen, whatnot. Sansa's hair is dyed when she becomes Alayne. Arya has Stark hair and maybe it staying cut represents distance from her Stark identity. Growing it back may indicate coming around to being Arya Stark again. 

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13 minutes ago, Lollygag said:

Nice catch. 

Jaime cuts his hair off because it's gross after leaving Riverrun and also for a disguise but the symbolism is heavily that it's a symbolic death of his Lannister self. His hair later starts growing back in gray and Cersei sees him as not her other self anymore. I suspect Cersei's hair being cut off will be about her just becoming her, not a Lannister. Dany's hair seems in the same vein as she's very conflicted over being herself (house with the red door) and being what others want her to be - Drago's wife, a Targ, Queen of Meereen, whatnot. Sansa's hair is dyed when she becomes Alayne. Arya has Stark hair and maybe it staying cut represents distance from her Stark identity. Growing it back may indicate coming around to being Arya Stark again. 

Oh, I like!  So if I ham-fistedly smash your observations here together with mine above, I can theorize that Arya Stark is being forced to keep her Stark identity supressed because it's not safe for her to express it.  She has to live with that because she is living under the protection of others, contingent on her submission to their proscriptions of anonymity.   Her nature can't be changed- at most it can be squelched to a degree by those in charge of her nurture. Maybe she will grow her hair out when she can take care of herself, when her nature and her nurture can converge.

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On 18. Januar 2020 at 3:33 AM, Yellow toad Mariah said:

The trope thing makes sense but it's usually the tomboy character that cuts their own hair off by choice. Arya's haircuts aren't her choice. When she's traveling on her own she doesn't cut her hair. 

That's why I'm wondering if the fact that other characters being the ones cutting her hair have any meaning behind it?

Arya's "conflict" consists of identifying very much as a female, but not fitting into that narrow box, that society has carved out for femininity.  She very much identifies as a girl and actually doesn't bash other girls (she never says:"most girls are stupid" like she does on the show.) She hates being mistaken as a boy or the Hound's son and when Jon makes a snarky remark about Joffrey having both his parents sigil on his shield, she says: "the woman is important, too"

So I think she very much identifies herself belonging to the group "women" and wants to find her own place within that group, she'd like to expand the "rules" a bit or a lot :) 

Other characters cutting her hair against her will and making her pretend to be a boy is a reminder, that that's not possible in  Westeros' society however. If you "want to behave like a boy", you gotta "be" a boy, otherwise things could get dangerous. Sansa could not just ride through the Riverlands without attracting trouble, solely because of her obvious gender.

So the symbolism of Arya's involuntary haircuts is, that while other female tomboy characters, cut their hair themselves to symbolize them getting tough and choosing their "masculine side" (if we want to stereotype it like this), Ayra consciously does not want to let go of her female identity. She wants to do it all, but as a girl. Just because she is the way she is and likes the things she likes, does not mean she is a boy.

Of course for this symbolism to work, we are talking about very stereotypical ideas of masculinity and femininity (male=short hair, female=long hair) 

Edited by Nagini's Neville

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On 1/18/2020 at 12:59 AM, Reekazoid said:

Oh, I like!  So if I ham-fistedly smash your observations here together with mine above, I can theorize that Arya Stark is being forced to keep her Stark identity supressed because it's not safe for her to express it.  She has to live with that because she is living under the protection of others, contingent on her submission to their proscriptions of anonymity.   Her nature can't be changed- at most it can be squelched to a degree by those in charge of her nurture. Maybe she will grow her hair out when she can take care of herself, when her nature and her nurture can converge.

I do hope you're right on this. With Arya being pulled from the Riverlands because she could no longer pass as a boy, not being able to take care of herself in that world is now a big issue. 

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On 1/17/2020 at 11:59 PM, Reekazoid said:

Oh, I like!  So if I ham-fistedly smash your observations here together with mine above, I can theorize that Arya Stark is being forced to keep her Stark identity supressed because it's not safe for her to express it.  She has to live with that because she is living under the protection of others, contingent on her submission to their proscriptions of anonymity.   Her nature can't be changed- at most it can be squelched to a degree by those in charge of her nurture. Maybe she will grow her hair out when she can take care of herself, when her nature and her nurture can converge.

Love your analysis Lollygag and Reekazoid! I couldn't puzzle out if the haircuts were symbolic of something.

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Losing her hair is a traumatic thing for most women, in contrast to men. Sansa would probably be most traumatized, had she to cut her hair. For Arya it shows that she is ready to sacrifice anything to survive and that she doesn't really care for standard female attributes.

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11 hours ago, Greywater-Watch said:

Losing her hair is a traumatic thing for most women, in contrast to men. Sansa would probably be most traumatized, had she to cut her hair. For Arya it shows that she is ready to sacrifice anything to survive and that she doesn't really care for standard female attributes.

I think she does care. Otherwise she would cut it herself as well. Especially when the Hound cuts it, it looks like a mess and it's very clear it does bother her a lot. But lets be honest, it's not like she has a choice with either Yoren or the Hound, they just do without asking.

have to disagree, that it's traumatic to lose your hair as a woman. grows back, couldn't care less. Also having short hair is a cool experience, despite cold head and waking up like a cockatoo. I have very long hair and twice cut it off completely, so it could be made into a wig for cancer patients. It's the men, who always made a big fuss about that LOL

Edited by Nagini's Neville

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I think there's too much emphasis here on the notion that men have short hair and women have long hair. In ASOIAF there are a number of men who have long hair and it is important to the impression they convey to others - Bloodraven and Sweetrobin, for instance, have long hair that falls in front of one eye (or eye socket). There is a lot of discussion of beards, as well: I have just heard again Cersei thinking about Pycelle's beard that was cut by order of Tyrion. Why does this come up in her POV so long after the beard was cut? Probably because the fall from power and replacement of Pycelle is a very important symbolic moment in Cersei's arc - and because she is about to get a haircut of her own.

GRRM sets up some interesting contrasts that are probably symbolic and that we can trace across characters and situations: one of these contrasting pairs is between the "shaggy and sharp" Stark faces that Bran notices as he looks on the statues in the Winterfell crypt. If we can figure out why some Starks are shaggy and others are sharp, we may gain a better understanding of the constant haircutting inflicted on Arya by various barbers.

Of course, I can't depart without noting the important wordplay around "hair" and "heir." Catelyn's dying thought is, "Don't cut my hair! Ned loves my hair." Lady Stoneheart's hair is grey. Sansa subsequently "dyes" her hair and seems to buy into Littlefinger's plans for her to marry Harry the Heir. Arya, by contrast, has her hair cut short.

Aside from the rebirth and reinvention symbolism (Arya constantly changing names and identities), I think the purpose of Arya's haircuts is to contrast her with Sansa whose auburn hair is hidden during her Alayne interlude, but remains long.

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15 hours ago, Nagini's Neville said:

I think she does care. Otherwise she would cut it herself as well. Especially when the Hound cuts it, it looks like a mess and it's very clear it does bother her a lot. But lets be honest, it's not like she has a choice with either Yoren or the Hound, they just do without asking.

have to disagree, that it's traumatic to lose your hair as a woman. grows back, couldn't care less. Also having short hair is a cool experience, despite cold head and waking up like a cockatoo. I have very long hair and twice cut it off completely, so it could be made into a wig for cancer patients. It's the men, who always made a big fuss about that LOL

 

15 hours ago, Nagini's Neville said:

I think she does care. Otherwise she would cut it herself as well. Especially when the Hound cuts it, it looks like a mess and it's very clear it does bother her a lot. But lets be honest, it's not like she has a choice with either Yoren or the Hound, they just do without asking.

have to disagree, that it's traumatic to lose your hair as a woman. grows back, couldn't care less. Also having short hair is a cool experience, despite cold head and waking up like a cockatoo. I have very long hair and twice cut it off completely, so it could be made into a wig for cancer patients. It's the men, who always made a big fuss about that LOL

Yep, Arya seemed to hate the haircut she got from both Yoren and Sandor or at least disliked the unevenness of the cuts. 

Have to add that the 3 times Arya is in charge of her journey back home or to her family (Wind Witch, Riverrun, trying to convince the Titan's Daughter's captain to take her to the wall) she doesn't cut her hair off even though she has Needle and could easily do so. The closer she is to home the more her hair grows out/the more time passes between hair cuts.

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Along with a lot that has been brought up by others posters above, I feel like the frequent haircuts Arya gets point to a parallel that is drawn between her and Egg from the Dunk and Egg tales, who would later become king Aegon the Unlikely (Aegon V). 

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