She should be more frightened herself, she knew. She was only ten, a skinny girl on a stolen horse with a dark forest ahead of her and men behind who would gladly cut off her feet. Yet somehow she felt calmer than she ever had in Harrenhal. The rain had washed the guard’s blood off her fingers, she wore a sword across her back, wolves were prowling through the dark like lean grey shadows, and Arya Stark was unafraid. (ASOS)
i have always loved this quote so much. the imagery! the symbolism! the emotion! the drama! arya feels almost calm even though she’s in a forest, at night, being pursued by some of the biggest monsters in westeros. she’s very self aware of her weaknesses in this situation. she recognizes her vulnerabilities which is a real character strength imo. but all the same arya feels at ease and theres a real sense of power coming from her in this chapter. she’s in her element. for many forests are scary, dark, godless places. most societies dont like the wilds. but arya’s own culture revolves around it. for her the forest is a shelter. its also a place where she can be herself. thats a recurring theme in her storyline.
and i think on some level arya knows? understands? feels? that she’s actually safe in the forest. esp this one where nymeria - and therefore arya - rules. inside the stone walls of harrenhal arya was a vulnerable prisoner who could be abused or killed. she was essentially in a cage. she escapes that cage and returns to the wilds - where she’s protected. when those men come after arya, in her territory, she hunts them down and tears them to pieces.
which is a perfect follow up to arya’s previous chapter in ACOK. at the end of that one the old gods remind her that arya of winterfell, that she belongs in the north and that she has the wolf blood. the wild is literally calling her back (as they are in twow too) so when is in the woods with the wolves she feels confident in herself and her identity. “and arya stark was unafraid”!!!!! hard emphasis on her full name tbh. and the old gods protect her. the direwolves were gifts from the gods - to protect and guide the starklings - and thats exactly what they do. but they are nature gods and thats where their power is found; in the trees and rivers and animals. they were able to speak to arya within the walls of harrenal - which is miraculous in itself - but to truly tap into that power she needs to be in the wild.