I'm new to Games of Thrones and have seen half of S01 EP01 and most of season five¹. If this is a duplicate, by all means VTC accordingly. Anyhow:

Why would Arya join the Faceless Men?

What would be her motivation for doing so, and what benefit(s) should she expect in return, were she to join?

¹Because I have only seen Games of Thrones as a TV series, this question is asking about TV canon. I had originally included this info in my post, but someone edited it out, which, in my opinion, kind of muddied the waters. If the book canon and the TV canon are identical, then there's no problem. If not, I'm erring on the side of TV canon. I'm sorry this important distinction was striped from the original question.

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    Read this answer, which should explain most of what you want to know. – TLP Jun 1 '15 at 1:30
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    What else is she going to do? Winterfell is a ruin, the Hound is "dead", and she has nowhere to go, really. – user46271 Jun 1 '15 at 3:32
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    "...what benefits should she expect..." Although she's one of the most with-it characters in the books, she's still only 10 years old. There are lots of things she decides on the spur of the moment - without thinking about costs/benefits - but then she's smart enough to follow through on them and make the most of those decisions. scifi.stackexchange.com/a/17083/4167 – Ward Jun 1 '15 at 4:42
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    From what I've heard, they have a great dental plan. – Theik Jun 2 '15 at 8:05
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    @TheHonorableNedStark -- What else is she supposed to do? I have no idea, hence my question. I'm unfamiliar with GoT canon, as well as the books and their canons. You answer my question as if I should somehow know -- if I knew, I wouldn't have had to ask. – Slytherincess Jun 8 '15 at 12:35
up vote 28 down vote accepted
+100

Actually it's well established in the Books how and why Arya ended in The House of Black and White, Braavos.

TL;DR

Right after the Hound gets a mortal wound and Arya parts with him, she arrives in a small town Saltpans. She wants to make it to the Wall, because Jon Snow's there. She buys her passage on a Braavosi galleas with the iron coin given to her by Jaqen. But the captain refuses to sail to the North, so instead she ends up in Braavos. In Braavos she visits the house of the Black and White and seeks Jaqen to learn the art of being assassin. And she wants blood and revenge.

Now the long answer, with the quotes from the book.

ASOS, chapter 74, Arya.

“I want to see the captain,” Arya told him. He only shouted louder. But the commotion drew the attention of a stout grey-haired man in a coat of purple wool, and he spoke the Common Tongue. “I am captain here,” he said. “What is your wish? Be quick, child, we have a tide to catch.”

“I want to go north, to the Wall. Here, I can pay.” She gave him the purse. “The Night’s Watch has a castle on the sea.”

“Eastwatch.” The captain spilled out the silver onto his palm and frowned. “Is this all you have?”

It is not enough, Arya knew without being told. She could see it on his face.

... ... ...

“Wait,” Arya said suddenly. “I have something else.” She had stuffed it down inside her smallclothes to keep it safe, so she had to dig deep to find it, while the oarsmen laughed and the captain lingered with obvious impatience. “One more silver will make no difference, child,” he finally said.

“It’s not silver.” Her fingers closed on it. “It’s iron. Here.” She pressed it into his hand, the small black iron coin that Jaqen H’ghar had given her, so worn the man whose head it bore had no features. It’s probably worthless, but . . . The captain turned it over and blinked at it, then looked at her again. “This . . . how . . . ?”

Jaqen said to say the words too. Arya crossed her arms against her chest. “Valar morghulis,” she said, as loud as if she’d known what it meant.

“Valar dohaeris,” he replied, touching his brow with two fingers. “Of course you shall have a cabin.”

That's how Arya bought her passage. But to what place, that's revealed in the next chapter.

AFFC, chapter 6, Arya

Arya stood at the prow, one hand resting on the gilded figurehead, a maiden with a bowl of fruit. For half a heartbeat she let herself pretend that it was her home ahead.

But that was stupid. Her home was gone, her parents dead, and all her brothers slain but Jon Snow on the Wall. That was where she had wanted to go. She told the captain as much, but even the iron coin did not sway him. Arya never seemed to find the places she set out to reach. Yoren had sworn to deliver her to Winterfell, only she had ended up in Harrenhal and Yoren in his grave. When she escaped Harrenhal for Riverrun, Lem and Anguy and Tom o’ Sevens took her captive and dragged her to the hollow hill instead. Then the Hound had stolen her and dragged her to the Twins. Arya had left him dying by the river and gone ahead to Saltpans, hoping to take passage for Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, only . . .

Braavos might not be so bad. Syrio was from Braavos, and Jaqen might be there as well. It was Jaqen who had given her the iron coin. He hadn’t truly been her friend, the way that Syrio had, but what good had friends ever done her?

That's how she ends up in Braavos.

And again in the same chapter when she enters the House of Black and White, she has the following conversation with a old man, later called "the kindly man".

“What place is this?” she asked him.

“A place of peace.” His voice was gentle. “You are safe here. This is the House of Black and White, my child. Though you are young to seek the favor of the Many-Faced God.”

“Is he like the southron god, the one with seven faces?”

“Seven? No. He has faces beyond count, little one, as many faces as there are stars in the sky. In Braavos, men worship as they will . . . but at the end of every road stands Him of Many Faces, waiting. He will be there for you one day, do not fear. You need not rush to his embrace.”

“I only came to find Jaqen H’ghar.”

“I do not know this name.”

Her heart sank. “He was from Lorath. His hair was white on one side and red on the other. He said he’d teach me secrets, and gave me this.” The iron coin was clutched in her fist. When she opened her fingers, it clung to her sweaty palm.

She's there for Jaqen, and she wants to learn. And as for her motivation, again in this very chapter.

“Do you fear death?”

She bit her lip. “No.”

“Let us see.” The priest lowered his cowl. Beneath he had no face; only a yellowed skull with a few scraps of skin still clinging to the cheeks, and a white worm wriggling from one empty eye socket. “Kiss me, child,” he croaked, in a voice as dry and husky as a death rattle.

Does he think to scare me? Arya kissed him where his nose should be and plucked the grave worm from his eye to eat it, but it melted like a shadow in her hand.

The yellow skull was melting too, and the kindliest old man that she had ever seen was smiling down at her. “No one has ever tried to eat my worm before,” he said. “Are you hungry, child?”

Yes, she thought, but not for food.

She wants revenge. She's hungry for the blood.

  • SUCH an excellent answer. Well done! – Möoz Jun 9 '15 at 2:40
  • Wow... "TL;DR" to a whole nother level! Great answer though! – Arm0geddon Jun 9 '15 at 17:00

She has a large list of people who have wronged her over her time who she wants to kill, and she thinks becoming a Faceless Man will allow her to be able to do so. Basically, she wants to become an assassin to right all of the wrongs that have been done to her throughout the series. She was impressed by Jaqen's magic, and it seems plausible that she thought they might help her on the way. Likely she started heading there without knowing who they were exactly, but as she learned more, she decided she wanted to be a part.

As for her list, it contains a large number of people, which she frequently recites in the books. The include people like Queen Cersei, the Hound, Joffery, Ser Meryn, Polliver, etc. All did something either directly to her, or to a friend, which was particularly horrible.

  • That might be your opinion, or your conclusion, but it is not supported by any fact from the book. She has her list, and she was impressed by Jaqen's magic, but it was never connected. All she ever said was that she had nowhere else to go. – TLP Jun 1 '15 at 1:32
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    Who has wronged her? What did they do? And, again, how would this benefit her? – Slytherincess Jun 1 '15 at 1:32
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    @Slytherincess Joffrey and Cersei got her father killed. The Hound killed her friend Mycah. Raff the Sweetling killed her friend Lommy. The Tickler tortured people to death in front of her. Polliver took her sword. She has plenty of people who've genuinely wronged her, and in an excerpt from the Winds of Winter you can see how she uses her Faceless-Man persona to get revenge. – Rand al'Thor Jun 1 '15 at 9:19
  • (Though if you're going by the TV series instead of the books, I think Raff and Polliver are rolled together into one character, so that WoW excerpt has kind of already happened - in s4e1, if memory serves.) – Rand al'Thor Jun 1 '15 at 9:20
  • @randal'thor - Yes, I have to go by TV canon, as I've not read the novels yet. Thanks for the explanation :) – Slytherincess Jun 3 '15 at 3:59

Just to explicitly state what others have been implying:

Arya doesn't have a proper motivation for joining the faceless men. She haphazardly ended up in the House of the Black and White and has no other place to be, let alone the means to get anywhere. So she stays.

Actually, that's the core of her entire plot.

  • She doesn't have a proper will/drive to join the faceless men, which makes her sort of unfit.
  • She has her own goals (her deathlist), which makes her even more unfit.

Yet, becoming one of the most skilled, feared and efficient assassins in the world suits her in any way she cares about the world. I believe (I don't have the books anymore), there is a chapter where she thinks to herself how becoming a faceless man suits her goal of crossing names off her list. That's as much an actual motivation as it opposes her endeavour.

(Such an ingenious story. Arya's has always been my favourite plot.)

Considering Arya's lust for vengeance, and the reciting of names of those she wishes to kill, as it was in the TV series:

Training as an assassin IS a formidable skill-set for the cruel & treacherous kingdoms of Westeros.

One could argue that she spoils some diplomatic or political options due her single-mindedness, but still she is certainly a prudent member of House Stark.

Given her age, merely ten years, she has a fair chance to become a "Faceless Woman" and return in good time to rule Winterfell. Given the 8000 year old history it is unlikely the Starks would abandon it just because of the treason by Theon Greyjoy.

And keeping that throne might really be much more easy to an assassin...

Arya wants to empower herself.

She has seen horrible things being done to her family and friends and she was powerless to do anything. Ever since her father was arrested all she ever did was run. The only time this ever stopped and she felt like she had agency in the event around her was during her stay in Harrenhal.

At Harrenhal she was working as a maid and often described herself (in the books) as a Mouse. It was only when she met Jaqen H'gar who gave her three deaths did she feel power. Through her association with Jaqen she could now order the death of anyone. During this period she started calling herself the Ghost of Harrenhal and was so intoxicated by the feeling of power that she more or less misused her three deaths. When Jaqen left after his contract with Arya is fulfilled, she was once again felt herself becoming a Mouse again. It was a feeling she did not care for so she decided to leave Harrenhal (killing a guard in the process).

A long while later, Arya stumbles into the chance of going to the House of Black and White where the Faceless Men reside. By this time, she has lost everything. The only two things that are left for her in the world that connected her to her old life were Jon Snow and Nymeria, both of whom were out of reach. The Facless Men may not be family, but they did grant her strength and power albeit for a short while. Arya wants that feeling back, and to stop being a mouse once and for all.

  • Arya never went to the House of the Undying (in Qarth). That was Daenerys. You are thinking of the House of Black and White. – TLP Jun 1 '15 at 21:03
  • Also, Arya left Harrenhal when she heard her father's voice in the Godswood at Harrenhal. "When winter comes, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. You told me you could be strong." – TLP Jun 1 '15 at 21:05
  • @TLP - Ach you're right! – System Down Jun 3 '15 at 2:18
  • That was not my downvote btw. :) – TLP Jun 3 '15 at 10:57
  • @TLP don't worry about it. :) – System Down Jun 3 '15 at 15:48

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