Hi, quick question because I haven't read the books in a while. Did Ned encourage Arya's unladylike behaviour at all? I know he obviously let her keep Needle but apart from that I'm sure he wanted to make her a lady (the whole 'your sons will be knights... quote etc) but he and Cat just sort of gave up. I see people say because she remind him of Lyanna he encouraged it but I would've thought if she reminded him of Lyanna, he would discourage it, hoping she doesn't share the same fate
The short answer to your question, Nonnie, is NO. Ned did not “encourage” Arya in unladylike behavior. The Ned Stark who indulges his youngest daughter in every whim and thinks it’s charming if she’s rude to people is entirely a fandom creation. At least as far as the books go. Not having seen the show, I never pretend to speak to portrayals of the characters there. Honestly, this idea of Ned as the super progressive, indulgent father who would want all his children to live freely and marry for love and spend their lives doing whatever their little hearts desire if it weren’t for that horrible bitch he’s married to infuriates me as much on Ned’s behalf as it does on Catelyn’s!
As much as I love the guy, as much as he genuinely loves both his wife and children a great deal more than many other lords in ASOIAF seem to, as much as he absolutely values women as human beings capable of rational thought and worthy of respect in a way that far too few of the men in the series do, Lord Eddard Stark is a pretty traditional guy. He married for duty, became Lord of Winterfell for duty, lives his life with as much honor as he can–as he understands the concept. He expects no less of his children. He does not want them unhappy and would not willingly place them in harm’s way, but he expects Robb to fulfills his responsibilities as heir to Winterfell and one day its lord, to rule with honor and wed a woman who will make a good Lady of Winterfell. He expects Bran and Rickon to grow up and become bannermen of their elder brother, perhaps with their own holdfasts in the North, helping defend House Stark and the North and administer justice in their brother’s name. He expects Sansa AND Arya to make marriages which are advantageous to House Stark. Not because he thinks of his children as pawns, but because this is WHAT PEOPLE DO! This is how a good father secures his children’s future and how a good lord secures the future of his House.
So, OF COURSE, he doesn’t encourage Arya’s wild ways. Now, we don’t get to see any actual hands-on parenting by Ned of his daughters in Winterfell on the page. Catelyn is obviously in charge of them. Not because she’s controlling and he’s lenient–but because that is HER job. Arya sees her mother as the primary disciplinarian in her life simply because her mother, as the more hands-on parent in her daily life, is the one who’s telling her what to do and not to do on a far more regular basis.
We DO see Ned interacting directly with Arya in King’s Landing, when Catelyn is far away and unavailable for the duty. He’s exhausted, he’s miserable away from his home and his wife, he’s frustrated with his seeming inability to make Robert act like a king or to make headway in the matter of Jon Arryn’s death or the attempt on Bran’s life, and he’s completely bamboozled on how to handle the open warfare between his daughters. And now Septa Mordane comes to him and tells him that after he left the Small Hall in frustration without finishing his dinner after yet another altercation between the two girls, Arya has made a scene and left the Hall without permission. He goes to her room, wondering how in hell to deal with her and finds her with a sword she informs him is his.
During their exchange, (which is from Arya’s POV), she notes more than once how tired her father looks. Upon realizing the sword was made by Mikken, he SIGHS. “My nine-year-old daughter is being armed from my own forge, and I know nothing of it. The Hand of the King is expected to rule the Seven Kingdoms, yet it seems I cannot even rule my own household.”
This is a dude at the end of his rope!
When Arya informs him that she hates Septa Mordane, his answer is given in a voice GRRM refers to as ‘curt and hard’. “That’s enough. The septa is doing no more than is her duty, though gods know you have made it a struggle for the poor woman. Your mother and I have charged her with the impossible task of making you a lady.”
YOUR MOTHER AND I, he says. Not just ‘your mother.’ Like Catelyn, Ned understands that Arya chafes against a lot of what is asked of her. Like Catelyn, he sees learning to do it anyway as necessary to her future.
Arya protests, of course, and gets the well-known speech from her father about having a wildness in her, or the wolf blood as his own father used to call it. And when he tells her she reminds him of his sister, even nine-year-old Arya hears the sadness in his voice. And when he tells her she looks like Lyanna, and she protests that Lyanna was beautiful he says, “She was. Beautiful, willful, and dead before her time.”
In this moment, Ned is remembering his sister with both great love and great fear for as much as he might love the echoes of her which he sees in Arya, he DOES NOT want her to follow Lyanna’s path or share her fate. Immediately after that is when he asks her what she thought to do with that sword. He’s trying desperately to figure out what to do with this daughter who is so unhappy, so determined to do what she wants, and eerily like the sister who followed her own will right into an early grave and triggered a terrible war.
They go on to have quite a wonderful conversation in which he tries to understand her and make her understand him–talking of the pack and winter and honor, etc. Some things, she understands, and others not so much. He never mentions Lyanna again in the conversation. He tells her Septa Mordane is a good woman and emphasizes her sisterhood with Sansa, telling her that while they may be as different as the sun and the moon, the same blood flows through their hearts and they need each other. And he needs them both.
We’re in Arya’s head here–not Ned’s. But you can almost feel his desperation when he then tells her she has to STOP with the willfulness. “This is not Winterfell. We have enemies here who mean us ill. We cannot fight a war among ourselves. This willfulness of yours, the running off, the angry words, the disobedience … at home, these were only the summer games of a child. Here and now, with winter soon upon us, that is a different matter. It is time to begin growing up.”
Basically, he just told her to knock off all the things that so many in fandom feel he encouraged in her. While he may have been fairly lenient (NOT encouraging) of her shenanigans in Winterfell, they’re now in a dangerous place, and at the ripe old age of nine, he expects her to act more grown up!
Then, he lets her keep her sword and arranges lessons for her. Why does he do that? I think at least in part, it’s because he needs somebody to be happy about SOMETHING. He’s so guilty about Sansa’s wolf that he can barely speak with her, and he knows Arya hates King’s Landing, and he knows even better how much HE hates King’s Landing. Maybe if he gives her this one thing–he can keep his daughter from a full-on rebellion like that of his sister’s.
But even after that, some time later after word arrives that Bran has awakened, Arya asks Ned if he can still be a knight, and he tells her no, but that her brother may still someday be lord of a great holdfast and sit on the king’s castle or raise castles like Brandon the Builder or sail a ship across the Sunset Sea or enter their mother’s faith and become High Septon. Arya promptly asks if she can be king’s councillor and build castles and become High Septon, and Ned, of course, tells her no.
“You,” Ned said, kissing her lightly on the brow, “will marry a king and rule his castle, and your sons will be knights and princes and lords and, yes, perhaps even a High Septon.”
Arya wants none of that, of course, but my point here is that, sword lessons or not, this is the future Ned saw for Arya, the future he WANTED for Arya, not because he was a bad father, but because he loved his daughter. And to this traditional High Lord of Westeros, having his daughter become a Queen or a great Lady was the absolute most he could offer her.
So while he loved his daughter Arya dearly, and had loved his sister dearly as well, and probably did love that he could see a bit of Lyanna living on in Arya, he did not encourage her to be willful and wild any more than he had encouraged it in his sister.