While Arya was at Harrenhal with Tywin Lannister, he once corrected her about which people say "my lord", "m'lord" and/or "milord". As part of the discussion in this question, there seems to be a common consensus, that Tywin (easily) figured out Arya is not who she claims to be.

I don't share this impression. I think Tywin believes Arya's story. I get to that conclusion because he never investigates any further, which I think he would have, if he hadn't bought her story.

There is a war going on between noble houses and if Tywin suspected an unknown (and therefore potentially hostile) noble close to him, I'm sure he would do something about it. However, I don't recall reading or watching anything about Tywin investigating Arya. To me, this draws a picture of Tywin just noticing this inconsistency about Arya, addressing it once, and letting go afterwards, because he is not curious anymore.

Is there any canon that proves Tywin is still suspicious about Arya? Or maybe canon showing he is certain he caught himself a noble in hiding and keeps her for fun?

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    This was only in the show, as the books had someone else (Lord Bolton I think; it has been a while since I read the books) in that role while Arya acted as manservant.
    – Broklynite
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 11:37
  • Can't edit my comment because I went underground :/ anyway, I wasn't trying to be pedantic, only to alert you to this.
    – Broklynite
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 11:44
  • @Broklynite: :-D I was just trying to put as little information as possible into the question to avoid spoilers. Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 11:51
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    Maybe he knows a few words of Sanskrit... "arya" means "noble". Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 17:40
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    @BrianDrummond - What is this "Sanskrit" you speak of? Surely it is not a language spoken in Westeros or any of the other known lands in this world. (I mean, technically, neither is English - like most fantasy works they speak a language that just happens to be exactly like English, but is known by another name - I think they call it just "Common", but not sure if that's ever been made explicit.) Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 18:04

3 Answers 3


If you're going to pose as a commoner, you should do it properly.

That one little sentence would seem to indicate he has figured it out. Tywin, it should be noted, is always shown as having a formidable intellect coupled with cunning and a chilling lack of empathy for others. That does not mean that he disregards their feelings; he knows that others feel, and uses their feelings to manipulate and, well, rule them. He is very, very, very good at what he does. Frankly, given the doofuses who have taken the throne, he probably would have been better than any of the others. Cruel when necessary but not otherwise, always cognizant of his responsibilities, and understanding that willy-nilly torturing and killing people is merely asking to be overthrown.

The point that I am trying to make is that for him, how Arya incorrectly addresses him is but one of many signs that he has penetrated her disguise. And they show this remarkably well in the show. A peasant would always keep their eyes averted, not speak up and out, not argue or disagree, not do all manner of things that Arya does. Combined with her way of incorrectly addressing him, it is obvious. The disguise works on others because people generally see what they want to see. And the high and powerful rarely see the low and weak, which is frankly one of the many reasons that most of them suck as rulers.

Twyin Lannister, however, is a ruler of a different breed. He actually pays attention to what is around him. Arya is either a peasant trying to appear to have come from noble origins (or something similar) or a noble trying to pretend to be otherwise. Given all the tiny mistakes and slip ups and attitude, the latter is more likely than the former.

This is especially true given that she is in a castle which was overrun, in which case the smart thing for any aristocrat would be to pretend to just be another peasant; generally, if one of the invaders thought she had a touch of noble blood, she might be killed outright just as a safety precaution. Arya is clearly not stupid, and therefore is trying to suppress rather than emphasize her background. She's is imperfect at it, but it functions.

Tywin knows that she isn't what she seems. And it amuses him to keep her as a pet. Had he known exactly who she was, I have little doubt he would have either held her prisoner or killed her without a second thought. But remember, Tywin is only cruel when he feels it necessary. A little girl clearly terrified and powerless who is nonetheless smart enough to keep quiet, maybe comes from a noble family which otherwise no longer exists, is not a threat and is unlikely to ever become one. Thus, there's no point in singling her out for cruelty.

Whereas Tywin finds himself surrounded by people who can't seem to see past the end of their noses. And Tywin, curiously, genuinely deeply loved his wife. Someone like him would seem to be incapable of loving a mindless yes-woman. So he knows and values a female intellect. And having a sharp mind around, that nobody else knows about or even properly really sees, sitting right in his pocket? A useful resource, and oddly a sort of friend for the friendless man. Someone to challenge his wits against, which is probably the closest Tywin gets to having a friend.

So, yes, it seems clear that Tywin knows that Arya isn't just some peasant. And it amuses him to draw her in closer rather than spurn her. If he could gain her trust, at the very least he would effectively create a very loyal spy that nobody else sees who could give him intelligent reports rather than just dumbly reporting conversation. Conversation is all well and good, but even better is someone who sneakily reads documents laying out even upside down while listening to a conversation. Tywin is arranging things such that all roads lead to advantage to him, a more or less trademark trait of his.

Edit: as an aside, it's a very drastic contrast with the book, where Arya serves Lord Bolton rather than Tywin. Bolton is terrifying because of his power and cruelty (flayed man sigil and all that) but is at least reeeeelatively stable (certainly compared to his son). So while he is somewhat unpredictable, so long as Arya is careful and quiet, she is probably relatively safe.

But with Tywin, her every word, every motion, they all betray her and scream what she is, if not who she is. It sets up a very different but I think much more interesting dynamic.

Tywin is not the only one who notices these things, by the way. The Faceless Man does as well. Part of her training of erasing her identity is to eradicate all of these telltale little traces of who and what she is, so hat in the future nobody can be able to detect her via such subtle cues. Really going off here: Which of course only further begs the question of how the faceless man ended up in the cage. He can change his looks and his actions at will, and appear to be someone else entirely. The only conclusion I can come to therefore is that he wanted to be captured. Why? Well, we know that people in this world receive messages from their respective gods. What if he was under instruction from his God of death, who wanted Arya as an acolyte for some reason to be revealed later, and this was done as a setup to gather Arya in?

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    "maybe comes from a noble family which otherwise no longer exists" is an especially important point, I think - Tywin is accustomed to crushing rival families and seeing what becomes of their descendants. Once he's surmised that Arya is a survivor of a noble family that was deposed, scattered, or killed in the war, he probably believes he can tell from her behavior whether she is likely to be dangerous to him.
    – recognizer
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 14:59
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    @user1129682 I would, but I got surprised by rain on the way there, and when I got to their hall, no one was there to see.
    – MPF
    Commented Apr 26, 2016 at 4:05
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    @HBhatia Why should he? She amused him while he was there. That doesn't make her important to him, important enough to take her around and such. Because what little potential benefit as a spy she had would be gone then, and she isn't an actual friend that he values, and he has a justifiably high enough opinion of himself that he doesn't need her help. If he did effectively (maybe not legally so) adopt her, that would potentially threaten his own bloodline.
    – Broklynite
    Commented Apr 26, 2016 at 7:58
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    Oh yes, he is extremely arrogant. Arguably, somewhat justifiably, but unquestionably arrogant. Not narcissistic tho. Although perhaps it's more that he is supremely self-confident. Not sure where the line is at that point.
    – Broklynite
    Commented Apr 26, 2016 at 11:36
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    Excellent analysis of an excellent scene: The dynamic between Tywin and Arya is IMHO by far one of the best deviations from the books. Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 9:08

"I get to that conclusion because he never investigates any further, which I think he would have, if he hadn't bought her story."

-- but he does investigate further -- he asks some searching questions, she gives answers, he points out inconsistencies in her story, and so on. He keeps it up until she gets to a story that doesn't have an obvious hole - and then he lets it go for a while, until he takes it up again when she makes a slip ("my lord") that betrays her story isn't likely to be true again -- apparently because he's starved of intelligent conversation and is enjoying the challenge of figuring out who she is. [It seems clear he already didn't think she was a common person, but he wanted her to give herself away - to catch her at it.]

Each time he points out an error or hole in her story, he acts as if he'd scored a point. He knows she's hiding who she is, and they're playing a game of wits, which he's also quite clearly amused by.

He doesn't suspect she's Ned Stark's daughter (for then he'd certainly act - he'd presumably get someone to take her to King's Landing so she could be married off to someone or other useful when the time came) but he accepts that she's from the north, so presumably he already thinks she's a daughter from some minor noble family (too minor to be of enough strategic use to stop the game just yet), from somewhere in the north. She finally gave him a story that was more or less consistent with what a girl from those circumstances would try to claim (i.e. she's still trying to hide that she's no servant but the broad gist of the rest of it seems to make sense to him), and was able to answer the questions she should be able to answer if she was. He doesn't actually believe she's who she says, but he can see she knows the answers well enough to be from somewhere nearby to where she said.

So he's got a long way to confirming his suspicions about her but he doesn't want to push the game too far because he's enjoying the banter - to get to the complete truth too quickly would end the game. Instead he encourages her to be better at her part. Tywin clearly despises fools and appreciates a bit of wit and cleverness, and has had precious little of intelligent conversation for a while. He certainly doesn't think there's any danger from her -- for him she's a minor amusement for when he's got a few free moments.

  • Thank you, I thought I had remembered him quizzing her more than the once but didn't want to either rely on my faulty memory or rewatched the episodes to check.
    – Broklynite
    Commented Apr 26, 2016 at 11:42
  • +1. The real story is too far-fetched for him to imagine, so he imagines a lesser story which Arya's cover story is close to. I also think the fact that she isn't terrified of him reinforces the idea that she's a minor player, far removed. I also got the impression that in some ways she's the child he wished he'd had. (Not strongly enough to graft her into the family, of course, but, she's a pleasant distraction at the end of the day.)
    – Wayne
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 13:48

My fan theory: Tywin notices that a mysterious child with a fake cover story appears to be spying on him. He assumes she is working for Varys.

Tywin knows that Varys is technically his ally, and certainly doesn't want to make an enemy of Varys (by executing the "Little bird" for instance). He isn't actually concerned about Arya seeing the letter, because he planned to share the information with Varys anyway. He is curious to know why Varys is spying on him, but he also wants the "little bird" to tell Varys that her cover's been blown, and that he doesn't appreciate being spied on.

I think Baelish recognised her, but as knowledge is power for him, he decided to keep it a secret, until he can use the knowledge to his advantage. He is a little confused by the situation, wondering if Tywin is keeping Arya hostage disguised as a servant, and wants him to know this, or if Tywin genuinely doesn't realise who she is. Baelish is a devious person, afraid that he is being played in a complex intrigue, so he wants to figure out the situation before he does or says anything.

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