Apr 16 2011 2:00pm

The Women in Game of Thrones: Arya and Sansa Stark









Like Winter, spoilers are coming...!

'So if you hate, Arya, hate those who would truly do us harm. Septa Mordane is a good woman, and Sansa…Sansa is your sister. You may be as different as the sun and the moon, but the same blood flows through both your hearts. You need her, as she needs you…and I need both of you, gods help me.'

George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones is part romance, part murder mystery, fantasy (though light on the magic), and political thriller. It is also, at its core, an inter- and intra-family drama. It is a story of siblings: The relationship of Robert Baratheon with his brothers Stannis and Renly is important. The fate of a nation at times hinges on the interaction between Catelyn Tully Stark and her sister Lysa.

The siblings Lannister of Casterly Rock, Cersei, Jaime and Tyrion are central to all of the seven kingdoms in Westeros. Even in days past, Ned Stark’s allegiance to his family, particularly his brother, had him wed Catelyn when his brother, her original betrothed, was killed. The Starks of Winterfell are an oasis of family cohesion...almost.

HBO debuts its miniseries version of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones on April 17th, and today we consider Eddard's daughters, Arya and Sansa Stark, who are far more than just pawns in the Game.

(For an in-depth read of the books themselves, visit our sister site,, for their Game of Thrones series). 

It isn’t that Arya Stark doesn’t love her older sister, Sansa, or vice versa. They are just very different. Sansa is the perfect highborn daughter. Her looks are perfect, her manners perfect. Her singing, her dancing...even her needlework is exquisite. Sansa knows and, more importantly, relishes her place. She’s knowledgeable about who’s who and what’s what in the kingdom. She’s all set to make some highborn lord the perfect wife, just as she’s been taught since birth. And then, for someone who seems to have everything going for her, life gets even better! Her father is traveling south, to the heart of the kingdom, and she is to go with him. Not only is she going to live the life of fairy tales, but she is to be betrothed to a prince, who will one day make her queen of the realm. Yes, an arranged marriage, but one she would have chosen. Prince Joffrey is her golden-haired Prince Charming come to life.

Arya, of course, is the exact opposite of her sister. She isn’t good at any of the things she’s supposed to be good at. More importantly, she doesn’t care to be good at those things. There is no appeal for her in sewing and any of the other “womanly arts” that she’s supposed to learn. Arya would much rather be doing what her brothers do. Riding horses and learning swordsmanship and hunting and being outdoors. That is what interests her.

The trip south, though, opens wider the divide between the two. Both of them have grievances: Sansa feels that Arya lives to make trouble for her because she is jealous of her accomplishments and future position. Arya is aggrieved because when Sansa had a chance to tell the details of an incident they were involved in, with Prince Joffrey, she skirted the truth. And, as a result, one of Arya’s friends was killed. Arya wasn’t the only person punished in that episode, however, as Sansa’s pet direwolf, Lady, also lost her life in the incident. Even though Sansa began to really see (and hate) Queen Cersei after that incident, she still casts most of the blame for the ordeal on her sister.

As usually happens, Dad was right when he’d said they had bigger fish than each other to fight. By the end of the book, the sisters are separated and their family (and the realm) is in chaos. Both of the girls have been disillusioned and both of them would have given anything to turn back the clock to more simple days. The Stark words, Winter is Coming, stretch from Winterfell to the South where the warm winds blow cold for the Stark family.


Robin Bradford is a lawyer, a librarian and, most importantly, a longtime lover of words. You can check her out on Twitter @tuphlos, On Unpaged, or read the backlist at Obiter Dictum.

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Megan Frampton
1. MFrampton
At first, like many, I can't stand Sansa, and wonder how she could be so damn girly all the time. But then I really begin to sympathize with her, and hate how her girly blinders get ripped off. Poor Sansa.

Arya is fierce and admirable. I love her toughness.
Regina Thorne
2. reginathorn
The first time I read Game of Thrones, I really did blame Sansa for a lot of the 'bad things' that happen to her family, and then I realized that a whole lot of the blame actually belonged to her parents, who, because they are who they are, are totally incapable of providing their children with the tools they need to navigate the treacherous waters ahead of them.

Plus, Sansa's so drastically punished for her cluelessness that I cannot find it in my heart to hate her. She's like Frances Hodgson Burnett's little princess, only her personal Mrs. Minchin could easily cut off her head, and there's no fairy-tale Indian gentleman to rescue her.
cassandra kinsella
3. cassandra kinsella
I've just finished the final book, Dances with Dragons, are there more books to tell what happens to Sansa, Samwell, Ayra, Dany? I feel like I've been left hanging...............(All books so far in the series have been spellbinding so much so I haven't been able to stop reading since my daughter bought the colletion for me for Christmas)
Christopher Morgan
4. cmorgan
@ Cassandra

Get comfortable. Speaking as someone that follows Mr. Martin almost religiously, he is not known as being timely with his releases. TO my knowledge he doesn't have any short stories featuring his Song of Ice and Fire characters. We will have to wait for the next release to find out more. Which looking at his past history could be anywhere between 2 and 7 years. Though with the popularity of the Television series, I expect he will have a more timely writing schedule.
cassandra kinsella
5. Arya Stark
I really enjoy Arya's individuality. Amazingly savvy and one of the more interesting players in the show. I'm looking forward to her venture in Braavos, though I think they'll be diving considerably more into that next season.

- Direwolf Necklaces
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