In the Season 7 finale of Game of Thrones, The Dragon and the Wolf

Petyr Baelish is sentenced to death by Sansa, and Arya kills him

According to the old way, The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword

So, why did the person who passed the sentence not carry it out?

  • 21
    I believe the saying is "The man who passes the Sentence should swing the sword.". Sansa is evidently not a man
    – Aegon
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 14:16
  • 30
    @Aegon: “Sansa is evidently not a man” — Sorry, I’ll need to see proof of that. Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 14:19
  • 15
    Vaguely relevant notes: neither Sansa nor Arya were present when Ned said that to Bran; and as we saw with Theon in season 2, if you’re no good at beheading someone, it’s kinder to them if you let someone else do it. Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 14:33
  • 7
    @PaulD.Waite but Sansa did see the lesson first hand when Ned told Robert he should have to kill Lady, but then decided since the wolf is of the north, a northerner should do it.
    – Skooba
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 14:34
  • 21
    I always interpreted it as part of Ned's personal code of honor, not some law, or even commonly held belief. It is part of what made Ned special, and set him apart from the other Lord's. Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 18:23

5 Answers 5


I assume that Sansa and Arya are aware of Ned's wise words. The Winterfell plot line this season has been centered around Littlefinger sowing discord amongst the Stark siblings.

However, Littlefinger's final scene shows Arya, Sansa, and Bran coming together to pass judgment on Lord Baelish. Over the past several episodes all 3 siblings had touched the dagger. They've held it and passed it between each other.

So while Sansa might have said the words and Arya's hand was on the blade when it killed Littlefinger they operated together as a unit. The Starks did pass the sentence and the Starks swung the sword.

  • 21
    Pretty much my thoughts when watching the episode/recalling this quote - I also figured in a metaphorical sense Arya IS the sword in this scene. Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 17:41
  • 10
    +1 "When the cold winds blow the lone wolf dies and the pack survives." Guess who was the lone wolf there facing against the pack.
    – jo1storm
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 11:12
  • 6
    In a sense, they are judge (Bran - vouching for truth due to greensight), jury (Sansa - passing the sentence) and executioner (Arya - obviously).
    – Flater
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 12:15
  • 4
    @Cat'r'pillar. I saw that as well. I thought that part of the whole setup was Sansa showing off her powerful new killing tool (Arya) to the other lords. Everyone had seen Arya train at that point, but no one knew if it was all dancing or if she could actually deliver the killing stroke. The result of the trial helped bolster the survivors' loyalty. Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 17:16
  • @Flater I think Bran would be the jury (deciding innocence/guilt) and Sansa the judge (passing the sentence).
    – Reid
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 4:33

Sansa was never taught this.

This lesson was likely never taught to Sansa or Arya to begin with. In the original scene, the lesson was for the benefit of the male children present (Robb, Jon, Bran). Given the attitudes towards what was proper for women to learn, he would not have bothered teaching this bit of wisdom to either Sansa or Arya (though Arya might have heard about it secondhand).

Sansa would have no reason to want to strike the blow herself. In addition, she has been learning, the hard way, the art of manipulation. It would fit with both this change in her personality, as well as her upbringing as a lady to let another hand do the dirty work.

She may have become aware of this later, but not likely - it's not the sort of thing that would come up in conversation before she was spirited away by Littlefinger, and it certainly was not among the behaviors he was trying to teach her. If she has not had occasion to pass this sentence on someone, there is zero reason for anyone to mention it. Certainly no one had the temerity to bring up at that moment.

Think of where she began, and where she is now. That sort of thinking belongs to the bright, honorable world she was expecting long ago when Robert and friends first came to town, a world view that has long since been shattered. Even if she IS aware of the tradition, it belongs to a world that must appear to her as naive and fanciful, where people do the right and honorable thing. she's seen what happens to people that think that way.

Whether she knows of it or not, she has no reason to do the deed herself.

  • 1
    Sansa is in charge of the North during the absence of Jon, and it's a tradition, so I'm not sure that she didn't know
    – Kepotx
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 14:40
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    It wasn't something she was taught when she was younger, and it's unlikely that other families held to this tradition. There would be no reason for anyone to point it out to her up to this moment, and it would take a very brave person to pipe up at that point to interject with it.
    – Irishpanda
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 14:42
  • 1
    I would point out that, despite Jon likely being taught the old ways of carrying out a sentence, he executed Ramsay Bolton using Ramsay's hounds (an execution at which Sansa was present). That's not really following "the old ways" either (unless there are additional old ways laws governing poetic justice). Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 19:27
  • 9
    The Stark children seem to have pretty much abandoned Dad's way of thinking, especially our favorite little Murder Machine.
    – Irishpanda
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 19:41
  • @ConjureFlyingFoxes I thought it was Sansa who released the hounds on Ramsay. Jon just locked him up.
    – TylerH
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 14:04

As you say, the old way was The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword (emphasis mine). There is no natural law of the universe that prevents someone else carrying out the sentence, which is what happened in this case.


There is two quotes at work here.

"The Man who passes the sentence should swing the sword"


"The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives."

The event in question symbolizes that the Stark children aren't lone wolves anymore, but they are a pack again. And the "man" (or rather the entity) that passes the sentence is the wolf pack. Thus Bran, Sansa, and Arya are all one in respect to the first quote.


I like to think that Arya added Baelish to her list once Bran told her that he was responsible for their father's death (assuming this happened behind the scenes) and therefore wanted to be the one to end his life.

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