“Fear cuts deeper than swords.”

Arya utters this phrase to herself numerous times in the novel, usually during moments of high tension or violence. The mantra came from her Braavosi sword master, and it reminds her that fear can be a greater danger than whatever physical threat she faces. In other words, if she can remain calm and keep her head, she can make the smart decisions that will allow her to stay alive. If she gives in to her fear and panics, however, it could mean her life. Maintaining control of her emotions is particularly important for Arya since physically she is often overpowered. She is still young and quite small, so she’s no match for many of the enemies she faces. Controlling her emotions gives her the closest thing to an advantage she has. That she has to say these words to herself makes clear that she does, in fact, still feel afraid. Though Arya is so young, she’s killed several people by the end of A Storm of Swords, and she often behaves like someone much older and stronger than she is. Each time she says her mantra to steel herself, it also reminds the reader that she’s a child and has to actively override her fear to do the things she does.