As fans of Game of Thrones, we know all too well by now how characters rarely get what they want or anywhere near happiness. But there are two characters that might actually have a chance at ending up somewhere in the vicinity of happiness. Those two are not Jon and Dany, Tormund and Brienne, or Sandor and chicken. No, I’m talking about Arya Stark and Gendry.
They started off as companions in Night’s Watch recruiter Yoren’s group heading for the Wall, and parted ways after running into the Brotherhood Without Banners. It’s been quite a while since they’ve seen each other; however there are plenty of hints and foreshadowing throughout the show and books that these two crazy kids will make it work.
In both the books and show, it’s clear that Arya and Gendry have strong affections for each other, first as friends. They meet in Yoren’s caravan going north to the Wall under assumed identities. Arya is pretending to be a boy named Arry, while Gendry has assumed the identity of the “Bull” due to his muscles and the bull helm he made for himself and constantly polished. Gendry makes an impression on the young Stark girl with his physical strength as well as his common sense. He stands out sharply in the group of rabble heading for the Night’s Watch.
“Then you’re stupid. They scare me.” The Bull’s hand fell to the hilt of his sword, and Rorge began to laugh. “Let’s get away from them.”
Arya scuffed at the ground with her foot, but she let the Bull lead her around to the front of the inn. Rorge’s laughter and Biter’s hissing followed them. “Want to fight?” she asked the Bull. She wanted to hit something.
He blinked at her, startled. Strands of thick black hair, still wet from the bathhouse, fell across his deep blue eyes. “I’d hurt you.” – A Clash of Kings, Arya II
The two become closer in their adventures through the Riverlands after escaping the attack of Ser Amory Lorch, being pressed into service at Harrenhal, and eventually escaping following the takeover of Harrenhal by Roose Bolton (Tywin Lannister in the show). They’ve become very close with both of them sharing secrets about their true identities and innermost thoughts, with Gendry standing in for Arya’s favorite sibling Jon.
Gendry and Arya have a similarly teasing relationship throughout A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones; Arya lets no one truly into her life more than Gendry and Jon.
“A shade more exhausting than needlework,” Jon observed.
“A shade more fun than needlework,” Arya gave back at him. Jon grinned, reached over, and messed up her hair. Arya flushed. They had always been close. Jon had their father’s face, as she did.
Jon looked her over with all his fourteen-year-old wisdom. “You’re too skinny,” he said. He took her arm to feel her muscle. Then he sighed and shook his head. “I doubt you could even lift a longsword, little sister, never mind swing one.”
Arya snatched back her arm and glared at him. Jon messed up her hair again. – A Game of Thrones, Arya I
She even confesses her true identity. However, this relationship appears to frustrate Gendry a bit before he joins the Brotherhood Without Banners. There is this curious exchange in the books:
“Why did you say that?” Arya hopped to her feet. “You’re not my brother.”
“That’s right,” he said angrily. “I’m too bloody lowborn to be kin to m’lady high.”
Arya was taken aback by the fury in his voice. “That’s not the way I meant it.”
“Yes it is.” He sat down on the bench, cradling a cup of wine between his hands. “Go away. I want to drink this wine in peace. Then maybe I’ll go find that black-haired girl and ring her bell for her.” – A Storm of Swords, Arya V
That is echoed here in the show. In the show, the subtext is less clear, as Gendry rejects Arya’s plea to be her family and decides he should join the Brotherhood Without Banners, ironically, because of her status as a highborn lady.
In the books, Gendry immediately afterward angrily thinks about having sex with one of the town’s prostitutes known as Bella. (Side note: he does not, and it’s a lucky miss as she is likely King Robert’s bastard as well.)
From these interactions, we can surmise that Gendry is distancing himself from her despite his affections.
As a reader, I appreciate this decision from Gendry. Arya is only 10 or 11 years old here, and while it is normal for young people to have romantic feelings it is uncomfortable for readers. It’s similar to how Dany is only 13 when she marries Khal Drogo, and Sansa is at a similar age when older men like Sandor Clegane, Ser Dontos, and Littlefinger begin showing interest. The show made a smart decision in making these characters older on purpose. It reflects well on Gendry that he recognizes the same moral issue.
Often overlooked in his character, largely due to being King Robert’s bastard, is that Gendry is self-admittedly bad at interacting with girls and has no skill at charming them.
“Look at this fine young ox. Wait till Alyce sees those arms. Oh, and he blushes like a maid, too. Well, Alyce will fix that for you, boy, see if she don’t.”
Arya had never seen Gendry turn so red. “Tansy, you leave the Bull alone, he’s a good lad,” said Tom Sevenstrings. “All we need from you is safe beds for a night.” – ASOS, Arya V
And then along comes Arya: fond of him, smart, tough, tomboyish but a highborn lady. As soon as she returns to Winterfell (whenever that is) and becomes Arya Stark again, she will vault above him in social status. She is also about 4 years younger than the decidedly teenaged Gendry, making it years before they could reasonably be a couple. These facts appears frustrating for him.
Let’s go over some reasons why, near the end of the show and books, they may end up becoming a couple.
First of all is the attraction of personality they both feel. Arya latches onto the bastard smithy, admittedly though because he is surrounded by the dregs of King’s Landing when they meet; however he is somebody she feels comfortable with- and the same back. Arya may be the first girl Gendry ever really got to know and seemingly harbors affection for her beyond friends and ersatz siblings. When Melisandre seduces Gendry in the show, he confesses he’s never been with a girl.
Second, as they grow up they are both likely to become much more attractive. Arya was nicknamed “Arya Horseface” by Jeyne Poole in their youth however it is noted several times the strong resemblance she shares with her aunt Lyanna.
“Lyanna might have carried a sword, if my lord father had allowed it. You remind me of her sometimes. You even look like her.”
“Lyanna was beautiful,” Arya said, startled. Everybody said so. It was not a thing that was ever said of Arya.
“She was,” Eddard Stark agreed, “beautiful, and willful, and dead before her time.” – A Game of Thrones, Arya II
Lyanna was described as a great beauty, although likely overstated by her fame, and turned heads. Gendry as well has some handsomeness coming. At the end of A Feast for Crows, he is favorably compared to his uncle Renly Baratheon by Brienne of Tarth, and descriptions of Robert in his prime are good signs of things to come for the teen.
Gendry was at his forge, bare-chested beneath his leather apron. He was beating on a sword as if he wished it were a foe, his sweat-soaked hair falling across his brow. She watched him for a moment. He has Renly’s eyes and Renly’s hair, but not his build. Lord Renly was more lithe than brawny . . . not like his brother Robert, whose strength was fabled. – AFFC Brienne VII
While the pair are awkward, unkempt teens when they part, should they meet again they could have a “wow you’ve grown up” moment.
Beyond personal attraction, there’s good reason politically for them as well. At the moment there is no legitimate claimant of the Baratheon ancestral seat of Storm’s End with Renly, Robert, and Stannis all dead (or likely doomed, in the books) at the current point in the stories. If Gendry is recognized as a Baratheon heir by a king or queen (hint hint Jon or Dany), he will instantly become prized marriage material. It doesn’t hurt that he’s received the humble upbringing and true view of life in Westeros that many lords lack. Aegon V received a similar maturing process in the Dunk and Egg novellas and as a king, the lessons of poverty and hardship served him well. Gendry Baratheon would be the perfect age to marry, and alliances are often sealed with marriages. It’d be a shrewd political move for the Starks if they recognized Gendry as the Lord of Storm’s End, and then Arya or Sansa married him.
And this is where the literary reasons for this match come into play. As mentioned above, Arya is repeatedly shown as a younger version of Lyanna Stark: from appearance, to temperament, to similar desires for adventure and carving her own path in the world. And many times Gendry is shown as King Robert come again- at least in appearance. His temperament is far tamer and more controlled than the old King.
A main concern of Lyanna’s that informed her decision to run away from the marriage was Robert’s inability to control himself in any way, whether it was women, liquor, or battle. Gendry does not have those problems, and has discipline, loyalty, and cleverness in their place. We are meant to see Arya as her own character; however it is difficult to not see how Gendry is a “fixed Robert”. Had he been Lyanna’s betrothed instead, the marriage may very well have gone through. In this parallel, it could be the intention of the author and showrunners that Arya and Gendry fulfill the broken marriage pact made years earlier.
As well, there is the line Robert says to Ned:
“You helped me win this damnable throne, now help me hold it. We were meant to rule together. If Lyanna had lived, we should have been brothers, bound by blood as well as affection. Well, it is not too late. I have a son. You have a daughter. My Joff and your Sansa shall join our houses, as Lyanna and I might once have done.” – AGOT, Eddard I
Completion of perceived broken promises and patterns in unusual ways is a hallmark of George R.R. Martin’s writing.
From a meta perspective in the show, it’s also apparent that Gendry has been brought back into the cast for a reason. They have a limited amount of time and money for actors and space on the screen; why bring back a seemingly minor character like him? All the rest of Robert’s bastards like Edric Storm, Mya Stone, and Bella have been scrubbed from the narrative. Gendry, while his return this season was delightful, doesn’t make a ton of sense if it was only for fan service. His reunion with Arya now far more grown up may be a plotline that is explored next season. After all, before Lyanna ran away with Rhaegar, she most likely dressed up as a knight and beat squires with a wooden sword, and then fell for the Silver Prince and his songs on harp. As tough as Arya is, there could be a similar shift in character coming for her, and Gendry is standing there with seemingly no other reason for being written back in.
On the other side, what are some reasons this won’t happen? For one, Gendry is not a person Arya thinks a huge amount about after their parting.
Suddenly she was somewhere else . . . back in Harrenhal with Gendry, maybe, or with the Hound in the woods along the Trident. Salty is a stupid child, she told herself. I am a wolf, and will not be afraid. – AFFC, Arya I
When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. She had no pack, though. They had killed her pack, Ser Ilyn and Ser Meryn and the queen, and when she tried to make a new one all of them ran off, Hot Pie and Gendry and Yoren and Lommy Greenhands, even Harwin, who had been her father’s man. She shoved through the doors, out into the night. – AFFC, Arya II
Sometimes she thought she might go back to Sharna’s inn, if the floods hadn’t washed it away. She could stay with Hot Pie, or maybe Lord Beric would find her there. Anguy would teach her to use a bow, and she could ride with Gendry and be an outlaw, like Wenda the White Fawn in the songs. – ASOS, Arya XII
She thinks of him as a lost friend, a deep rejection of her reaching out, and finally a heroic figure fighting for the common people in the Riverlands. And that’s about it; she spends much of the rest of her journey in the books trying to forget who she is and become No One. In the show, Arya mentions Gendry even less. If they were a future item separated and destined to come back together, you’d expect more longing in Arya the way she similarly does for her “pack” and home.
Another huge problem is that Arya is not a normal person anymore. She is a killing machine, a fantasy terminator who bakes people into pies, poisons entire rooms of people, and has a collection of faces in her bag. Given her tenuous grasp on humanity these days, it’s hard to imagine that she could have the human connection with another person that would be necessary for a romantic relationship. She kills with such glee and dispassion that she may be broken mentally beyond repair, and the happy future with Gendry will be an unfulfilled dream.
Third, the White Walkers have broken through the Wall and are marching their army of the dead through the North. There very probably will be a near or total genocide of the North, and depending on how far South they get, of many Southern houses and regions. Such an enormous body count would cause the political structures we know today in Westeros to collapse. As such, being the Lord of Storm’s End or being a Stark of Winterfell may cease being a thing people care about politically. Although a beloved family, if there is virtually no one left in the North, then there are no armies to call, incomes to collect, or people to rule. So for any kind of political match between Stark and Baratheon to make sense, the White Walkers must be defeated very soon. That doesn’t look likely as the Night’s King’s army marches on and he rides the White Walker dragon Viserion.
Lastly, there is the concept of the bittersweet ending that Martin is fond of talking about.
“I think you need to have some hope…we all yearn for happy endings in a sense. Myself, I’m attracted to the bittersweet ending. People ask me how Game of Thrones is gonna end, and I’m not gonna tell them … but I always say to expect something bittersweet in the end,” he said. “You can’t just fulfill a quest and then pretend life is perfect.” – Time Magazine
In the show, this has been translated as the concept of no happy endings. When something is going well for a character, they are often being set up for a heart-wrenching fall. Ned Stark thought he had made a bargain he’d be exiled into the Night’s Watch with Jon, and instead was beheaded with his own sword. Robb Stark thought he had re-secured his alliance with the Freys and would be in a position to win his war – and instead was butchered along with his friends and family at the Red Wedding. And on and on and on. Two characters getting a happy ending would be very out of character for both stories, and as such, it’s tough believing that Arya and Gendry would get one. It’s far more likely that Sansa ends up marrying Gendry as a political match, and that the rejected relationship digs at Gendry and Arya through their years. Or no one marries Arya or Gendry, and it remains an unfulfilled wish from the fandom.
There is also the abandoned “Five Year Gap” from the books that deserves consideration with these ideas in mind. The Five Year Gap was George R.R. Martin’s plan where, after A Storm of Swords, the narrative jumps forward five years. Arya suddenly becomes 16 or 17, and Gendry is 20 or 21 – more appropriate ages for romance. With the Five Year Gap gone, it’s a longer shot in the novels they’ll end up married or together by choice. In the show, this is less of a problem, as even though Arya may chronologically be young, Maisie Williams is now 20 and no longer looks too young for marriage.
As mentioned above and in the title, the Starks and Baratheons have attempted to unite their houses twice already. Robert and Lyanna failed spectacularly, resulting in a full-scale rebellion. Joffrey and Sansa fail as well in another rebellion, although Joffrey is no true Baratheon. You’d think the idea of “third time the charm” applies here, that the Starks and Baratheons are due a successful marriage. However, it could go the other way, and narratively they are doomed to fail. It calls back the image from the first episode and first Bran chapter, of the antler of a stag in the throat of the direwolf:
His father knelt and groped under the beast’s head with his hand. He gave a yank and held it up for all to see. A foot of shattered antler, tines snapped off, all wet with blood. AGOT, Bran I
Which side do you fall on, dear reader? Will Arya have her icy demeanor melted by the return of the Bull in her life? Is yet another happy ending doomed, with Arya and Gendry? Let us know below what you think and why.