Jon chuckled. “Perhaps you should do the same thing, little sister. Wed Tully to Stark in your arms.”
“A wolf with a fish in its mouth?” It made her laugh. “That would look silly.” (Arya I, AGoT)
This started out as a joke between Jon and Arya. In this chapter Jon notes that Joffery has equalised the sigils of House Lannister, his mother’s house, and House Baratheon, his royal father’s house, on his surcoat. Arya doesn’t see the problem with it declaring that “The woman is important too!” after which this little jest happens.
It seems like a fairly innocuous moment, nothing more than a jest between siblings, that is until ASoS. After Catelyn Tully is killed at the Red Wedding, she is stripped and thrown into the river. A cruel mockery of Tully funeral rights. House Tully whose sigil is a leaping, silver trout are burned on a small boat on the river after they die.
The Tullys drew their strength from the river, and it was to the river they returned when their lives had run their course. (Catelyn IV, ASoS)
In the confusion of what she saw and what she didn’t see at the Twins, Arya is uncertain of her mother’s death and she wants to go look for her and save her. Though her requests to return to the Twins to find her mother are rebuffed, Arya falls asleep thinking of Catelyn, still wanting to find her and save her. As she sleeps she enters the mind of her direwolf who is roaming the Riverlands.
She splashed noisily through the shallows and threw herself into the deeper water, her legs churning. The current was strong but she was stronger. She swam, following her nose. The river smells were rich and wet, but those were not the smells that pulled her. She paddled after the sharp red whisper of cold blood, the sweet cloying stench of death. She chased them as she had often chased a red deer through the trees, and in the end she ran them down, and her jaw closed around a pale white arm. She shook it to make it move, but there was only death and blood in her mouth. By now she was tiring, and it was all she could do to pull the body back to shore. (…) The white thing lay facedown in the mud, her dead flesh wrinkled and pale, cold blood trickling from her throat. Rise, she thought. Rise and eat and run with us. (Arya XII, ASoS)
Arya, in the body of her direwolf, dragging the body of her dead mother, a Tully of Riverrun, from the river onto the bank turned this somewhat silly joke into a devastating reality. From homelessness, starvation and poverty, to life as a “lowborn” prisoner of war, to the crushing realities of war and the sad plight of the life of a child soldier, Arya’s story grows increasingly darker as it moves along and this chilling scene is only one example of that.
Catelyn Tully’s resurrection and transformation into the cold and revenge driven Lady Stoneheart also takes this mother down a much darker path as she leads the Brotherhood Without Banners in her quest for vengeance.
This story may not even be at its end. When Arya returns to Westeros a meeting with Nymeria, who is in the Riverlands, will be imminent. Lady Stoneheart, who is with the Brotherhood Without Banners; a group of outlaws who played a part in her daughter’s story, is delivering her vengeance in the Riverlands now.
Arya has wanted the stability and the warmth of her mother’s love since her family’s downfall and may very well be reunited with her mother soon. Only time will tell what will be the conclusion of this story or how a wolf with a fish in its mouth will come full circle.