After watching the last episode of Game of Thrones, I was struck by the parallels between Arya Stark’s training and Luke Skywalker’s (as well as Rey’s) as a Jedi Knight in the Star Wars franchise. While I am not trying to conflate the two universes, their hero journeys seem, in essence, the same. And while Arya Stark may or may not be the Chosen One to rule a major Throne, the ongoing and detailed development of her character when most of the original main cast has died off — latest among them, Jon Snow — no longer seems coincidental. Chosen by the “kindly old man” to join the guild of the Faceless Men, it appears that Arya is being groomed for some kind of greater destiny.
Arya Stark and Luke Skywalker are archetypes cut from a similar cloth: They are both high-born (although Luke’s royal lineage is originally concealed at the beginning of A New Hope), and both are young, reckless, and eager to avenge the untimely assassination of their family members and friends in a war-torn universe. Both must undergo a series of trials as initiates of an ancient, hierarchical, and even mystical order (heavily influenced by Eastern philosophy) to gain adulthood, self-realization, and a new identity.
Even as a young girl, Arya is permitted to have the sword Needle, and initially undergoes basic training, which consists mostly of balancing and swordplay exercises under Syrio Forel’s tutelage. Although Arya is much younger when she starts her training (at least, compared to Luke), it’s actually quite common in the Jedi Order to begin at a tender age. Force-sensitive individuals must leave their families and pass a series of Jedi Trials at the Jedi Temple in Coruscant. Similarly, Arya is taken into the House of Black and White in Braavos as an acolyte, where she must endure a series of tests to scale the order of the Faceless Men.
But before there is a real chance of Arya restoring order in Game of Thrones, as Luke did for the Galactic Empire, she must first master herself. Like Luke, she must subdue and channel her impulsive, childish emotions — before she can become an effective and focused fighter. Just as Luke’s path towards united emotional, mental, physical, and even spiritual growth is developed through seemingly meaningless exercises — like standing on his hands and running through the swamplands with Yoda on his back — so too is Arya given menial tasks like scrubbing the stone floor and cleaning corpses. Like Jedi novices, she must also be dispossessed of the familiar, and is forced to give up Needle and her plans to carry out her Death List. Arya is also told by the Faceless Man that she thinks she is “someone” (a Stark) when she is really “no one.”
The ideas of renouncing worldly goods, and as the “attachments” of desire that drive the ego and create a solid sense of self are obviously Buddhist. Buddhism also heavily influences the Jedi Knight’s notion of the Force, with Yoda serving not only as a Jedi Master but enlightened bodhisattva figure, which encourages a respect for the energy field that binds all living things together. Under their respective training, both Arya and Luke become more disciplined and mature, learning to let go of overwhelming feelings of fear and anger. Both the Faceless Men and Jedi Knight order involve extrasensory perception and skills; Arya must learn to shape-shift and see through multiple vicarious perspectives — whether as the Cat of Canals or Beth or Mercy — just as Luke learned to levitate objects and manipulate others using the Jedi Mind Trick.
Interestingly, Arya and Luke are both similarly “blinded” during their trials. Obi-Wan instructs Luke to lightsaber a remote while wearing a helmet with the blast shield down over his eyes to heighten, as well as make him trust, his own instincts. Arya is literally struck blind as Beth the beggar girl, and manages to sense the “kindly man’s” presence and hit him with her stick when he sneaks up on her. In the Season 6 premiere of Game of Thrones, we also witness a blinded Arya forced to engage in full-on combat against Izembaro, to whom she serves as apprentice; they fight with staffs instead of lightsabers, but it’s still pretty exciting to watch. Of course, Arya doesn’t win the round — but she does pretty damn well.
In fact, even if she doesn’t turn out to be a Jedi Knight exactly, Arya Stark is still shaping up into quite a formidable warrior, and we’re expecting the results of her extensive training in the following Game of Thrones episodes to be worth the wait. Again and again, Arya proves herself a scrappy survivor and fighter in a world where clearly “the Dark Side” has taken over. So watch out, Ramsay: The Force is clearly strong with this one.