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In Season 2, Episode 7 ("A Man Without Honor") of HBO's Game of Thrones, there is a dialogue between Tywin and Arya.

Tywin Lannister: Girl, m'Lord. Low-born girls say m'Lord, not my Lord. If you're going to pose as a commoner, you should do it properly.

Arya Stark: My mother served Lady Dustin for many years, my Lord. She taught me how to speak proper... properly.

Tywin Lannister: You're too smart for your own good. Has anyone told you that?

Arya Stark: Yes.

I'm not sure I understand this. Thus far Arya is concealing her true identity, claiming to be a daughter of a self-taught and educated stone mason, a commoner.

What does Tywin mean by what he says? Does he believe she's not a commoner, and is really of some noble birth by trying to correct her?

I only seek an explanation up to this point in the tv-series. Nothing beyond in the novels.

  • 15
    The way I see it, Tywin has figured out Arya and knows she's not a commoner like she claims she is (although he doesn't know who she really is). But he's also grown fond of her, and even admires her in some ways. So I think it serves two purposes: to let her know he's on to her deception but also to give her some honest advice. – Royal Flush May 15 '12 at 23:17
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    I see your confusion. Tywin says: "Lowborn girls say M'lord," not "Noble girls." When Arya calls him "My Lord," she betrays her noble upbringing. – Royal Flush May 15 '12 at 23:55
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    I just wanted to add that I'm really enjoying Charles Dance's take on Tywin. He's actually rather likable, and I almost feel like rooting for him. :) – System Down May 16 '12 at 16:25
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    Yes, I do get a chuckle out of his weary hatred of his offspring and soldiers. Especially when he arrives at Harrenhal to find his torturer has killed off a sizeable amount of a potential work force. I get the feeling Tywin would have completely figured out just who Arya was if he had the time. Who knows how the story could have changed if he hadn't been forced to King's Landing to dispatch Stannis! – Starkers May 20 '13 at 7:29
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    I’ve rolled back the edit that corrected noble to low-born, since this mishearing is a very crucial part of the question (and the edit made some answers and comments seem nonsensical). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 25 '16 at 10:42
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Tywin is correcting Arya so that she can make sure her disguise will not be undone by someone other than him.

Her use of "my lord" marks her as a person who is used to the noble form of address. A commoner would use "milord" as the proper form of address.

It is clear that Tywin is aware Arya is not what she appears to be. But judging from the conversation, he enjoys her intellect and her interest in what he is talking about. She is frank in her opinion and he likely does not get much frank conversation. Her disguise appears to have been easily penetrated, given Tywin's suspicious nature, but I think he has not decided what to do with her.

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    I interpreted that her reply "proper... properly" was a smart cover, knowing that one of those, or the fact of making that mistake openly, made her look like a commoner who was trying to hard to look noble vis-a-vis her comment about her fictitious mother working for a noble house. – AJotr May 17 '12 at 20:36
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    Just wanted to point out that, though it is apparent that he knows she isn't a commoner, it is highly doubtful that he knows who she is exactly. If he did know he would certainly take her into custody. – NominSim Oct 22 '12 at 23:44
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    Old answer, but it would be nice to add that Tywin admires resourcefulness & cunning - both of which Arya shows in pretending to be a commoner. He may of even taken her under his wing if not interrupted by events. Thankfully for Arya, since he undoubtedly would have figured out who she was eventually. – Omegacron Jul 10 '14 at 20:27
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    @AJotr Agreed. Her use of the term proper was improper in that context. She did this on purpose so that she could subsequently correct herself in an attempt to outwit Tywin. He obviously wasn't fooled, being quite cunning himself. One of my favorite scenes in the entire series thus far. – b1nary.atr0phy Mar 13 '15 at 9:28
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    Just to be quite pedantic, is he really correcting her to say milord or m’lord? To me, there is a significant difference: milord is quite proper and upper-class (and differs from My Lord in being applicable only to noblemen, but then to all noblemen), whereas m’lord is much more servile and lower-class (though not as much as the now archaic m’lud). Not sure if that distinction is (intended to be) carried through to the Throniverse, though. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 25 '16 at 10:40
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It's a very good scene that has a lot going on. Tywin has figured out (probably pretty fast) that Arya is a highborn posing as a commoner, but he clearly cannot know who exactly she is, otherwise he'd immediately secure her in custody. He has multiple reasons for correcting her disguise:

  • Tywin doesn't want anyone else finding out Arya's secret, since only him knowing about it keeps him in a power position - as such it is a genuine advice on how to maintain her cover.
  • At the same time it is a power play move. Since Arya is trying to hide an important secret from Tywin, she considers herself in an empowered position to him. That could be ok for a while, but he doesn't want her to get too comfortable thinking she's outsmarted him - he's reminding her that he's the one in power.
  • But it also works as relationship trust building - Tywin is showing that he has also had a secret (= knowing Arya's secret) from her, and by revealing it he shows he's now placing more trust to her. Even further, he shows that even though she'd had a secret from him he has chosen to both ignore her mistrust and keep her secret safe from others.
  • The move also places Arya in subtle social debt. Tywin has now revealed a secret to her, while at the same time making sure she no longer has a chance to reveal it herself. This makes her be in social debt to him, and now her only social reciprocity option is to reveal some further secret, like who she actually is.
  • But all that trust building also works as social "entrapment". Tywin is probably also be aiming at making Arya more at ease, so she might accidentally slip her cover and reveal a significant clue to her true identity.
  • This is all made more powerful by Tywin's way of revealing the secret by not directly stating that there was any secret between them. He doesn't say "Girl, I know you're trying to hide you're a highborn but you can't fool me", but instead he plays it like they've both all the time been conspiring together. This, in the surface level, places them in the same company, sharing a secret, which makes it psychologically more hard for Arya to keep a further secret (her identity) from him - especially since, in fact, they are now really sharing the secret. Of course, both of them do clearly understand what happened, but usually humans cannot completely disconnect the surface level - the trick still works, whether you know it's a just a game. He also does the same in-grouping by quite genuinely placing them both in the same group or "clever people" - which clearly works, too, as is revealed by Arya's warm smile at the end of the scene. And he doesn't even have to resort to lying to do it.
  • But in midst of all this, it also seems he genuinely likes her company. Tywin clearly appreciates skills in intelligence and cunning, and Arya has displayed both. It also seems he appreciates the way she states her opinions somewhat frankly, it's the sort of feedback which a man in his position doesn't get often.

... and having all of this in a one simple, small scene is why I really love the show! :)

  • 1
    "...so she might accidentally slip her cover and reveal a significant clue to her true identity." There is no evidence that this is the case. In fact, quite the opposite. Tywin knows she is a highborn Northerner. Thus, he would also know that there is a possibility that she could be used as a bargaining chip, since she could potentially be the child of one of Rob's vassals. Tywin is as ruthless as he is cunning. He doesn't need to outwit Arya to weed out her identity. He could resort to threats, torture, etc. He doesn't take this course of action because he simply respects her that much. – b1nary.atr0phy Mar 13 '15 at 9:19
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    @b1nary.atr0phy sure, he could torture her if that was his only intention. But the chance that she might reveal her identity is just an added bonus, one of the many overlapping motivations Tywin has for his stance towards her. – Ilari Kajaste Mar 13 '15 at 11:58
  • Or maybe he's aware that torture gives pretty shitty information (though it is effective as psychological warfare), especially when the subject's claims can't readily be checked. Keeping her more closely as a hostage (I forgot what he mentioned to do with her when he left) seems like a better idea, then you can try to extort fealty from the other house, or at least an agreement to not battle Lannister forces. If Arya was talking about a very minor house, Tywin may just have figured that was more trouble than it was worth. – Nick T Jan 9 '17 at 23:13
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Tywin hates stupidity. He's pretty consistent here when you remember the things that he says about his children and to Jaime "Lannisters don't act like fools." He's an intelligent, cunning man, and I should say weary of being surrounded by dimwits all the time. He has a high appreciation for smarts, and this is why he is so lenient and appreciative of Arya. She is like a breath of fresh air, and having conversations with her is his way of relaxing and unwinding after all that hard work on the battlefield. Tywin's relationship with Arya is reflective of and consistent with his principles - Tywin holds intelligence in high regard, and this shows in the way Tyrion was brought up. Tyrion knows this, this is why all through his life he has worked hard to reach his father's intellectual standards.

So yeah, he sees right through her, but lets it go, because he likes her.

7

Yes, Tywin definitely knows Arya is not a commoner. He corrects here simply so that she can maintain her ruse. If you didn't catch it, Arya purposely said proper and then corrected herself in order to lend authenticity to her story. Again, Tywin sees right through it. This is all of course, assuming that Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish has not said anything to Tywin. It would not benefit him to do so and don't think that he did.

BTW, she claims that her father is a Stone mason, not an Iron mason. Those were called Blacksmiths.

  • 2
    Agreed. And he corrects her because, in a way, he likes her, but still needs to show he is not fooled! – Andres F. May 21 '12 at 0:35
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Firstly, he doesn't say "noble girls", he says "low born girls." Secondly, in the book, Arya is Roose Bolton's cupbearer and not Tywin Lannister's. Although in the series he says that she reminds him of Cersei, and notes that she is clever for a young girl - a quality he values in people. With Arya Stark supposed to be in Kings Landing (Tyrion only learns of Arya's escape once he goes to KL in Tywin's stead), Tywin has no reason to believe she is Arya Stark, just another high-born girl caught up in the War of the Five Kings.

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I guess...'My lord' was correct but lowborn people having not been much educated didn't know proper usages, so they misused 'Me lord'. Tywin pointed out the correct word that lowborn people couldn't or wouldn't know.

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