We’ve all heard it before. Or at least, I have.
“Sansa has too much Tully in her!! She’s just like her mom!!!!!! She’s not a wolf!!! blahfuckingblahfhfhfh”
But what if I were to flip the script? What if I were to say that no, Sansa isn’t just like her mother? What if I were to say, however, that Arya is strikingly similar to Catelyn and that no, that’s not a bad thing at all?
I know, I know. Just hear me out.
See, I think a lot of people do this as a way to discredit both Sansa and Catelyn or to simply lump the two traditionally feminine women together. But even if this wasn’t the case, I’d still disagree with it. Why? Because I see a lot more of the idealistic, naive, internal Ned in Sansa than in Arya. And I see a lot of the pragmatic, fierce, fiery, assertive, unforgiving Cat in Arya, not in Sansa. Does this mean I think either Sansa or Arya is better than the other because one is more like Cat and one is more like Ned? Absolutely not. And nor would I ever argue that either is just a copy of one of their parents - they’re clearly their own people with a mix of inherited traits on the side. But I’m kind of digressing. Let’s begin.
Which parent do you think Arya was taking after when she acted wary and mistrustful? Which parent do you think Arya was taking after when she chafed against societal constraints? Which parent do you think Arya was taking after when she (almost paradoxically) flipped and went into a rage? Not Ned. Yes, it can be said that Arya takes after Lyanna, but 1) we don’t know a lot about her and 2) can it not also be said that it’s quite likely she’s taking after her mother, too?
I mean, when people say Arya and Cat have nothing in common, I have to wonder what books they’re reading. Feeling like an outsider in the situations they’ve been placed in? Check. Fierce natures being stifled by gender constraints? Check. Assertive and active personalities? Check. Sansa is more apt to sit and watch, to wait and see - not so, with Cat and Arya. They can be rash, and while both are highly intelligent (ah, another similarity!), their natures sometimes get the better of them (Arya much more than Cat, but then, she is a child). Inherently mistrustful, keen outlooks? Check. Pragmatism? Check. Less likely to be swayed by empathy/sympathy than Ned and Sansa? Check, check, check.
Remember when Cat released Jaime Lannister in order to get her girls back? No, she’s not like Arya in that she enjoys physical fighting, but she will use any means necessary to protect her family. Remind you of anyone? Arya’s passionate loyalty to her family is what fuels her for a significant portion of the series. And what keeps Cat going? Not to mention: what gives her a purpose as Lady Stoneheart? Family. And as Stoneheart, she’s avenging the ones she loved. Speaking of vengeance, again, does Stoneheart’s revenge-fueled bloodbath ring any bells? Who has a list of people she wants to kill? (I’d go so far as to say that Stoneheart is not a complete departure from the living Cat, but that’s an unpopular opinion and I don’t want to bog down this post with it.)
Remember when Cat stuck up for her daughters?
“I might have been able to trade the Kingslayer for Father, but…”
“…but not for the girls?” Her voice was icy quiet. “Girls are not important enough, are they?”
I love that quote, and it reminds me of something Arya would say.
And do you also recall Catelyn’s remark about Cersei?
“Give me Cersei Lannister, Lord Karstark, and you would see how gentle a woman can be,” Catelyn replied.
Here is yet another time she reminds me much more of Arya than of Sansa. Not to mention that a lot of Arya’s and Cat’s thought processes and inner dialogues are remarkably similar in ways. I admit I didn’t pick up on this until more perceptive readers pointed it out, but it’s undoubtedly there. There is a brilliant, almost startlingly vivid, violent quality to some of Cat’s thoughts, along with Arya’s, that is notably missing in Sansa. There is also a strong desire for justice - both of them are driven by it.
And jfc don’t get me started on all the significance of water and the formidable amount of water symbolism in Arya’s storyline, which is yet another connection to her mother. Don’t bring up how it’s Arya who is traveling the Riverlands. And please, please don’t remind me how it’s Nymeria who pulls Catelyn’s body from the river, because that just breaks my heart. (As an aside, does anyone else find Arya’s connection with cats funny? Because, I mean, cats .)
So what do I have to say about Arya and Catelyn? Both are incredibly strong, resilient people. They’re both excessively active characters, not content to sit back and watch. Nor are they content to be the meek, voiceless women that society demands them to be. They’re assertive. They’re essentially pragmatic. They’re flawed - they can be rash, they can lose their cool, they can be single-minded, they can be cold and dismissive and unforgiving. They’re shrewd. They will do anything - anything - for their families. And I think they have a much greater connection than some corners of the fandom give them credit for.