|In 263 AC or 264 AC, Braavos
Game of Thrones:
Season 5 | 6
The waif is the name given by Arya Stark to a priest of the Many-Faced God in the House of Black and White. Her given name is unknown. In the television adaptation Game of Thrones, she is portrayed by Faye Marsay.
The waif appears to be a pale little girl with a gaunt bony face, hollow cheeks, and large dark eyes. Despite her appearance, she is a grown woman, thirty-six years of age. She does not speak the Common Tongue.
Based on a tale told by herself, the waif was once the only child of an ancient noble house, her father's heir. Her mother died when she was too young to remember her. When the waif was six years old, her father remarried. Her new stepmother treated her well, until she gave birth to a daughter of her own. Her stepmother then wanted the girl to die, so that her own daughter would inherit her husband's wealth. The stepmother could not bear the sacrifice that the Faceless Men would ask of her, so she tried to poison her stepdaughter herself. She did not succeed, although the poison left the girl with a permanent child-like appearance.
When the healer in the House of the Red Hands told the girl's father what the stepmother had done, he offered a sacrifice to the Many-Faced God, offering two-thirds of his wealth and his daughter, so that the Faceless Men would deliver the gift of death to his wife. His prayer was accepted, the stepmother was killed, and the girl came to the House of Black and White to serve. However, the waif herself specifies that her story contains an untruth.
She is now a woman grown, who has spent her life serving the Many-Faced God, and will never have any children. Some days she leads the dawn prayer of the priests and acolytes within the House of Black and White. She frequently deals with poisons, including emptying a flagon of poison into the pool of dark water in the temple every evening. According to the kindly man, those poisons are what gives the waif her appearance of a child, which could mean that the lie in her tale is about the effect of the original poisoning by her stepmother.
A Feast for Crows
Arya Stark meets two priests, the waif and the kindly man, after she enters the House of Black and White in Braavos, and the Westerosi is allowed to become a servant at the temple. The waif's face reminds Arya of Weasel. After Arya disposes of her possessions, the kindly man makes her a novice of the Faceless Men. The priest tells Arya and the waif to teach each other their respective languages, the Common Tongue of Westeros and the tongue of Braavos; the waif learns more quickly. The two women also play a lying game so that Arya can learn to detect lies. One time, the waif reveals that she is not a child, but actually thirty-six years old. Arya disbelieves the waif, but the kindly man confirms her story.
The kindly man sends Arya to live with Brusco as "Cat". She sells fish on the streets of Braavos, but returns to the House of Black and White each new moon to serve the temple for three days. One time when she returns, Arya helps the waif with her preparation of potions, while the waif explains the properties of different poisons, including sweetsleep, the tears of Lys, and basilisk blood. The waif also relates her history to Arya, but Arya is not sure how truthful it is. Later that evening, Arya tells the kindly man that she has killed Dareon, a deserter from the Night's Watch, and the kindly man requests that the waif bring Arya some warm milk. The milk smells burnt and has a bitter aftertaste, and the next morning Arya wakes up blind.
A Dance with Dragons
Every night, the waif brings Arya a cup of poisoned milk that keeps her blind. Arya knows that if she asks for her sight, the Faceless Men will send her away, so she drinks without complaint. The waif trains Arya how to deal with her blindness, including how to use a staff, as well as an adaptation of the lying game that works by tone of voice and feeling facial muscles. The waif also teaches her how to tell coins apart by touch alone. When Arya dresses as "Beth", a blind beggar, the waif shaves her head and applies mummer's makeup on her face. After Arya has passed the last test of her blindness, the waif gives her a cup that tastes of fire, and in the morning Arya's eyesight is restored.
The waif attends the meeting of servants of the Many-Faced God in the temple, after which plague face tasks Arya with assassinating an old man, an insurance agent whom Arya determines has cheated the family of a client. Arya decides to use poison, and the waif helps her with that. The kindly man decides that Arya must wear a new face for the assassination, so he and the waif bring Arya for the first time to the holy sanctum on the temple's third level. Arya sees the hanging faces collected by the Faceless Men, and the waif assists the kindly man with applying the face of an ugly girl to Arya. After delivering a poisoned coin to her target, Arya returns to the House of Black and White and is made an acolyte.
Quotes by the waif
Waif: Who are you?
Arya: No one.Waif: Better stupid. I will show you.
Waif: You lie. You must lie gooder.
Arya: Gooder? You mean better, stupid.
—Waif and Arya Stark
Arya: What part was the lie?
Waif: No part. I lied about the lie.Arya: Did you? Or are you lying now?
—Arya Stark and the waif
Arya: How long must I be blind?
Waif: Until darkness is as sweet to you as light, or until you ask us for your eyes. Ask and you shall see.
Quotes about the waif
- See the Waif calculation.
- George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Waif.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 22, Arya II.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 6, Arya I.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 34, Cat Of The Canals.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 45, The Blind Girl.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 64, The Ugly Little Girl.