The third of Lord Eddard’s legitimate children, Arya is the very picture of a tomboy, spending her time among the servants and their children, asking questions and playing games and avoiding all kind of of more lady-like pursuits. She exasperates her mother Lady Catelyn, who sometimes wishes she was more like her elder sister Sansa; it’s no surprise that the sisters do not get along. Closest with her bastard half-brother Jon, like him she’s the only other child of Eddard Stark who takes after him with her brown hair and grey eyes.
On the show, Arya started the show as being aged 11, whereas in the novels she starts at 9 years old.
Receiving a present from her bastard brother Jon Snow—the slender sword she calls Needle—Arya travels with her sister Sansa to King’s Landing with her father Lord Eddard and her direwolf Nymeria. Playing at swordsmanship with the butcher’s boy Mycah, Arya is attacked by Prince Joffrey only to have Nymeria rescue her. Realizing that Nymeria will be in danger if caught, she throws stones at the direwolf to send her away. She is eventually found and brought before King Robert. Despite her protests, Robert succumbs to Cersei’s demand and allows her to have Lady killed. The girls are led away as Eddard carries out the killing himself.
At King’s Landing, Arya argues with Sansa about what happened and leaves for her room to hold Needle. Eddard enters and talks to her about the dangers ahead, and the need of the Starks to stick together. He allows her to keep needle, and arranges for Syrio Forel to train her. Taking up her training with gusto, Arya eventually chases a cat into a level deep under the castle where she sees a great dragon skull and then two mysterious men speaking of matters she doesn’t understand. She eventually finds her way back to her father and tries to tell him what she heard, but she’s confused and he is distracted.
When the Lannisters take over the city and seize Lord Eddard, Arya is training with Syrio. Meryn Trant of the Kingsguard attempts to seize her, but Syrio intervenes and she runs. She retrieves Needle from among her goods at the stable, only to have to stab a stableboy to death when he tries to stop her. She escapes into the city, living life as a street urchin. When the bells ring out in the city, she joins the rush of people to Baelor’s Sept to witness her father’s admission of treason. However, when Joffrey pronounces that Eddard is to be executed, she tries to run to him only to be stopped by Yoren of the Night’s Watch. He keeps her from watching as Eddard is beheaded, and carries her away where he begins to cut her hair and calls her, “Boy.” He takes her to join him and the recruits to the Night’s Watch, with the intention of seeing her safe to the North. There, the boys Hot Pie and Lommy Greenhand try to bully her into giving up Needle until she threatens Hot Pie and then Gendry chases them off. Together, the company departs the city.