Arya is the third child and younger daughter of Eddard and Catelyn Stark. She has four siblings: an older brother, Robb, two younger brothers Bran and Rickon, and an older sister, Sansa. She grew up with Jon Snow, whom she assumed was her illegitimate half-brother although he is actually her cousin.
In contrast to Sansa, who favors activities befitting a noble and expresses disdain for outdoor activities, Arya shows no interest in dancing, singing, and sewing, and revels in fighting and exploring, much to the chagrin of her mother and tutor Septa Mordane. She is particularly close to her bastard half-brother Jon Snow, who encourages her to learn how to fight and gives her Needle (her small sword). The sword is well suited to Arya's slight build and her "Water Dance"-style (fencing) which emphasizes speed and agility with a thin, light rapier used in quick thrusting attacks. Throughout her travels, Arya displays great resourcefulness and cunning, and becomes increasingly ruthless.
She is said to take after her fiery aunt Lyanna in temperament. At the start of the series, she is generally regarded as plain-looking, and often mistaken for a boy; but there are multiple instances in the books of her (favorable) comparison to the beautiful Lyanna, and catching the eye of men. She is capable of possessing her direwolf Nymeria in dreams.
Arya travels with her father, Eddard, to King's Landing when he is made Hand of the King. Before she leaves, her half-brother Jon Snow has a sword made for her as a parting gift, which she names "Needle" after her least favorite ladylike activity.
While taking a walk together, Prince Joffrey and her sister Sansa happen upon Arya and her friend, the low-born Mycah, sparring in the woods. Arya defends Mycah from Joffrey's torments and her direwolf Nymeria helps Arya fight off Joffrey, wounding his arm in the process. Knowing that Nymeria will likely be killed in retribution, Arya chases her wolf away; but Sansa's direwolf is killed in Nymeria's stead and Mycah is killed by Sandor Clegane.
In King's Landing, her father arranges for fencing lessons under the Braavosi swordsmaster Syrio Forel, who teaches her the style of fighting known as 'water dancing'. After her father's arrest, Syrio is killed protecting her and Arya narrowly escapes capture. She later witnesses the execution of her father before falling under the protection of the Night's Watch recruiter Yoren.
Arya escapes King's Landing with Yoren and his party of recruits; and on the road, she clashes with the other Night's Watch child recruits Lommy, Gendry, and Hot Pie but eventually befriends them. On the way, the party is attacked by Amory Lorch when Yoren refuses to yield Gendry to the Lannisters. Arya and the other children escape; but the rest of the party is massacred. Before escaping, she saves the prisoner Jaqen H'ghar.
Arya and her friends are later captured by Ser Gregor Clegane and taken to Harrenhal. After witnessing the death of her relatives there, Arya begins nightly reciting the names of the people upon whom she wishes to exact revenge. At Harrenhal she is reunited with Jaqen, now under the employ of the Lannisters, who offers to kill any three people she names; whereupon she names two people who hurt her at Harrenhal; the third person is Jaqen himself. In exchange for his life, Jaqen helps her free northern prisoners. Afterwards, Jaqen gives Arya an iron coin to ensure her safe-conduct to his colleagues, the Faceless Men, and tells her to remember the phrase "Valar Morghulis" ("all men must die" in High Valyrian). The next morning, Roose Bolton acquires the castle. Eventually, Arya and her friends escape, after Arya kills a guard.
While Arya and her companions are making their way north, she begins dreaming of her lost direwolf, Nymeria. Later, she and her companions are discovered by the mercenary group The Brotherhood Without Banners, and is recognized as Arya Stark. At the Brotherhood's secret base, Arya encounters Sandor Clegane, where she accuses him of Mycah's murder; but the Hound survives a trial by combat and is released.
Arya eventually escapes alone before being captured by the Hound, who plans to return her to her family for a reward. They reach the Twins just as her brother and mother are killed therein, and Sandor strikes her senseless to prevent her own death. Later, Sandor decides to ransom her to her aunt at the Vale. On their way they meet two men on Arya's death list; and in the ensuing fight, Arya reclaims Needle, but Sandor is severely injured, whereupon Arya leaves him to die. She gains passage on a boat to Braavos with the iron coin that Jaqen gave her along with the Valyrian phrase "Valar Morghulis."
Arriving in Braavos, Arya makes her way to the headquarters of the Faceless Men, the House of Black and White, where she is initiated into the guild at the expense of her possessions, but secretly retains Needle. She continues having wolf-dreams, which prevents Arya from discarding her identity, and her master repeatedly chastises her for this. During her training, she murders a Night's Watch deserter and briefly meets Samwell Tarly. After admitting her unauthorized murder to her mentor, she is given milk to drink; the next morning, she wakes up blind.
Arya remains blind and in the service of the House of Black and White in Braavos. She continues to dream through the eyes of her direwolf, Nymeria, but speaks of it to no one. While she is blind, Arya wanders the streets of Braavos, and becomes better at lying and detecting the lies of others.
Arya receives her sight after she is able to identify the Kindly Man while blind. After regaining her sight, Arya is given her first assassination assignment. When she succeeds, the Kindly Man gives Arya an acolyte's robe and assigns her to begin her first apprenticeship.
Arya Stark is played by British actress Maisie Williams in the television adaption of the series of books, this being Williams' first role as an actress.
Arya accompanies her father Ned and her sister Sansa to King's Landing. Before their departure, Arya's half-brother Jon Snow gifts Arya a sword which she dubs "Needle". On the Kingsroad, Arya is sparring with a butcher's boy, Mycah, when Sansa's betrothed Prince Joffrey Baratheon attacks Mycah, prompting Arya's direwolf Nymeria to bite Joffrey. Arya shoos Nymeria away so she is not killed, but is furious when Sansa later refuses to support her version of events. Mycah is later killed by Joffrey's bodyguard Sandor "The Hound" Clegane, earning him Arya's hatred. Ned arranges for Arya to have sword lessons with the Braavosi Syrio Forel, who later defends her from Ser Meryn Trant after Joffrey ascends to the throne and kills the Stark household. Arya flees the Red Keep, accidentally killing a stable boy in her escape, hiding out as a beggar in the streets of King's Landing. Ned is eventually taken to the Great Sept of Baelor to face judgment; he spots Arya in the crowd, and alerts the Night's Watch recruiter Yoren to her presence. Yoren prevents Arya from witnessing Ned's execution and has her pose as a boy as she joins Yoren's recruits on the march north.
The recruits are attacked by Lannister soldiers under Ser Amory Lorch, who have been ordered by Cersei Lannister to kill Robert Baratheon's bastard Gendry, who is part of the party. Needle is confiscated by a soldier, Polliver, who then uses it to kill Arya's friend Lommy Greenhands (who Arya later claims is Gendry). The recruits are taken to Harrenhal, where Tywin Lannister recognises her as a girl and takes her as his cupbearer. Jaqen offers to kill three people for Arya as reward for saving his life and those of his cellmates during the attack; Arya picks Harrenhal's torturer The Tickler and Ser Amory. When Arya is unable to have Tywin killed before his departure, she has Jaqen help her, Gendry and her friend Hot Pie escape. Jaqen offers to take Arya to Braavos to join the Faceless Men assassin guild, and although she declines he gives her an iron coin that will allow her to obtain passage to Braavos.
Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie encounter Thoros of Myr, a Red Priest who is a member of the Brotherhood Without Banners, a group of men sent by Ned to restore order in the Riverlands. As Thoros takes them to the Brotherhood's hideout they encounter the Hound, a captive of other Brotherhood men. The Hound is brought before the Brotherhood's leader, Ser Beric Dondarrion, and after Arya accuses him of Mycah's murder Beric sentences him to trial by combat. The Hound wins, to Arya's fury, and is released by Dondarrion. Arya is further enraged when the Brotherhood sell Gendry to Melisandre and escapes the Brotherhood. She is captured by the Hound, who intends to take her to The Twins to ransom her to her brother Robb. However, as they arrive the Freys betray the Starks and slaughter their forces, with Arya barely escaping the massacre. In the aftermath of their escape, Arya encounters a Frey soldier bragging about his role in desecrating Robb's corpse. Arya stabs the soldier to death, marking the first time she has deliberately killed another person.
Arya and the Hound encounter Polliver in a tavern; Arya reclaims Needle and uses it to kill Polliver to avenge Lommy. They also encounter Rorge and Biter, Jaqen's fellow prisoners, and Arya kills Rorge after recalling he had threatened to rape her. The Hound takes Arya to the Vale to ransom her to her aunt Lysa Arryn, only to be turned away at the Bloody Gate when they are informed that Lysa has apparently committed suicide. Returning from the Bloody Gate, they are approached by Brienne of Tarth, who had sworn to Catelyn Stark to take Arya to safety. Distrusting Brienne's allegiances, the Hound attempts to kill her but is severely beaten and is seemingly mortally wounded. Arya manages to hide from Brienne in the confusion, and after Brienne leaves Arya takes the Hound's silver, leaving him to die. She then encounters a Braavosi captain, who offers her passage to Braavos after she gives him the iron coin.
Arya arrives in Braavos and is accepted into the House of Black and White by a man who wears Jaqen H'ghar's face. After impressing Jaqen with her ability to lie undetected by convincing a terminally ill girl to drink poison, she is given the assignment of assassinating a corrupt insurance salesman. However, she is distracted from her mission by the arrival in Braavos of Ser Meryn Trant. Assuming the identity of the girl she had poisoned, Arya disguises herself as a prostitute and infiltrates a brothel, where she kills Meryn. However, when she returns to the House of Black and White she is caught by Jaqen, who chides that Arya has not dissociated from her identity and that as a result wearing another person's face will poison her. Arya is subsequently struck blind.
Arya is forced to beg on the streets of Braavos, with her fellow acolyte the Waif arriving daily to attack her. Eventually, Jaqen brings Arya back to the House of Black and White and restores her vision. She is tasked to assassinate an actress named Lady Crane, but Arya has a change of heart at the last minute, instead warning Lady Crane of the attempt on her life. The Waif witnesses this disobedience, and is given permission by Jaqen to kill Arya. Aware that she is now in danger, Arya retrieves her sword Needle from its hiding place and arranges for passage out of Braavos, but is stabbed by the Waif and barely escapes. Lady Crane nurses her back to health, but the Waif reappears, kills Lady Crane and pursues a recovering Arya. Arya leads the Waif to her quarters underneath Braavos and extinguishes the only candle in the room, her experience fighting blind ultimately giving her the advantage and allowing her to kill the Waif. She removes the Waif's face and adds it to the Hall of Faces before telling an impressed Jaqen that she is Arya Stark, and returns to Westeros.
Arya travels to the Twins, assuming the identity of a servant girl. She kills Lord Walder Frey's sons, Black Walder Rivers and Lothar Frey, before cooking them in a pie that she serves to Walder Frey. After revealing her subterfuge and her true identity to Walder, she cuts his throat, avenging Robb and Catelyn.See: Extended family tree of House Stark