for the souls in blackberry pies,
and all the stories that can’t be lies.
by Milady of York
Sandor Clegane is called by his first name by only a few characters in the books, most always preferring to call him by his nickname, The Hound, or by his surname. But there’s one glaring omission amongst the very few on first-name terms with him: Sansa.
Given the story they share, this omission is intriguing and invites scrutiny to find an explanation to this. Because it has to be more than just an omission, and it hardly could be an authorial oversight. It eventually became apparent to me that there was a literary technique at play, but which one it might be wasn’t clear from the get-go, and merited a long search for hard proof. In trying to find a literary theory that would explain and exemplify what GRRM was doing, I was reminded of another very complex series, The Lymond Chronicles by late Scottish author Dorothy Dunnett, whose protagonist, Francis Crawford of Lymond and Sevigny, exhibits some startling similarities to Sandor.
Bold claim, I know. But do read on and see the evidence to support my point. To begin with, look at these coincidences between the two characters:
- Both have a surname the authors invented based on real surnames: Dunnett said in a 1990 talk that she made up Lymond from an acquaintance’s surname of Lamont, and although GRRM hasn’t said so, we can guess Clegane comes from a similar real-life surname, such as perhaps the still existing Cleggan.
- Both are second sons, and for a while heirs to their noble houses: Francis and Sandor each have one brother and one sister—though one more sibling to the former appears—and are heirs to the Baron of Culter and House Clegane respectively, for a time, due to their brothers’ childlessness.
- Both were victims of childhood abuse and fled their homes: Francis was whipped by Lord Gavin, his father, and Sandor was burnt by his brother with the complicity of his father.
- Both have a Cain-and-Abel dynamic with their elder brothers: Although not for the same reason, as Richard Crawford of Culter is the good egg of the Crawfords as opposed to Gregor being the rotten egg in the Clegane basket.
- Both have a sister deceased before the series’ start, of whose death one of the brothers is thought to be the culprit: Gregor is a suspect in the Clegane sister’s death and Lymond is a suspect in the death of his sister, Eloise.
- Both have a badass but sadly interrupted swordfight with their brothers: Francis duels Richard in The Game of Kings, and Sandor duels Gregor in A Game of Thrones. Even the books’ titles coincide!
- Both débuted in battle at a tender age: When they were squires aged 12 and 14 respectively; Francis at the Battle of Solway Moss, and Sandor most likely at the Sack of King’s Landing going by the books’ timeline.
- Both spent their boyhood in the court of an ironfisted ruler and fell in the schemes of power-hungry and seductive older noblewomen related to them: Francis with King Henry VIII’s niece Margaret Lennox, and Sandor with Lord Tywin’s daughter Cersei.
- Both have similar paths to ennoblement: Saving a high-ranked noble’s life from a feline at a hunt, with a hound as the hero, led to getting a nobiliary title in each case. Francis saved Queen Mary of Scots from a cheetah at a hunt by sacrificing his wolfhound in the fight, which weighed in getting the title of Comte de Sevigny, and Sandor’s grandfather got a knighthood and lands for saving Lord Tytos from a lion with the sacrifice of his three hounds.
- Both men serve child monarchs and their mothers: Francis goes on missions for Dowager Queen Mary of Guise and her child Mary, Queen of Scots, and Sandor guarded Cersei before he went on to guard Joffrey.
- Both own a hot-tempered and combative animal blasphemously named after a deity, who also shares their same colouring: Blond Lymond has the golden eagle Slata Baba, named for a Slavic goddess, and dark-haired Sandor has the black warhorse Stranger, named for one of the Seven.
- Both will eventually fall in love with much-younger women that grow up before their eyes in the course of the series: Lymond is 11 years older than Philippa, and Sandor is 15 years older than Sansa.
- Both men’s first meeting with these women was when they were very young girls, practically still children, and their first scene together involves scaring the sweet Jesus out of the poor girls: Lymond, aged 21 at the time, sneaked into 10-year-old Philippa’s farmhouse at Flaw Valleys to force information out of her father by using her against him, frightened her and made her cry; and Sandor, aged 26 at the time, scared 11-year-old Sansa and got growled at for it by her direwolf at the Trident.
- Both men give their ladies an animal nickname: Francis calls Philippa “Yunitsa” = heifer in Russian, Sandor calls Sansa “little bird.”
- Both men have very characteristic and distinctive voices: They can be recognised merely by describing their voices without having to name them, and they have to disguise their voices to not be recognised, too. Lymond’s countertenor and Sandor’s rasp are impossible to misidentify.
- Both are masters at disguise, from clothes to masking their speech, when in need of passing through enemies undetected: Lymond has several instances of disguising himself, the most hilarious is when he impersonates a pretty prostitute to fool the commander of an English garrison. Sandor has the Twins incident when he fooled the Bolton soldier about his identity to reach the castle.
- Speaking of disguises, both have had to pass as clerics out of necessity: Francis did it twice, first as a priest and then as a Cardinal, and Sandor is currently passing for a novice monk at the Quiet Isle.
- Both men are unjustly accused and sentenced by the Crown for crimes they didn’t commit: Lymond served time in the galleys for treason and is put on trial for treason again in the first book, and Sandor is attainted for treason and pillaging.
- Both men’s arc is haunted by the appalling choices they made because of a boy that’s the product of brother/sister incest, in different contexts: Francis is haunted by what he is goaded into doing for Khaireddin “Crawford” and Sandor by what he is ordered to do in the service of Joffrey “Baratheon.”
- Both men have a brave but suicidal last charge/last stand spurred on by dispiriting news about the real or perceived violation of their ladies, which nearly puts an end to their lives due to injuries sustained: Francis sets off a kamikaze explosion at a river mill a while after he learns what happened to Philippa with Bailey, and Sandor fights drunk and outnumbered at the Crossroads Inn after he learns what happened to Sansa with Tyrion.
- Both men try and fail to goad someone else into mercy-killing them when gravely wounded: A wounded Lymond tries it with his brother in The Game of Kings, a wounded Sandor tries it with Arya in A Storms of Swords. Both are denied their wish.
These are too many coincidences to not wonder if GRRM has read Dunnett’s saga and drawn inspiration from it, a question an enterprising fan asked him once and, according to this SSM from 2001, Martin hasn’t read The Lymond Chronicles, but according to comments by Elio Garcia on westeros.org, he knows about Dunnett and has read her other series, The House of Niccolò, whose protagonist is an ancestor to Lymond, although that series is very different and doesn’t lend itself to be a supporting example for the case I’m building in the present essay. Hard to say if Martin read more of Dunnett’s books since the SSM, but my object here isn’t to prove any derivations or coincidences between ASOIAF and The Lymond Chronicles, and neither is it to prove that Lymond and Sandor are similar characters, which would be too long a shot anyways.
Instead, the intention is to prove that The Lymond Chronicles contains a story arc that can be extrapolated to ASOIAF: the relationship between Francis Crawford and Philippa Somerville—its beginning, development, and conclusion—can be used to theorise on the still unfinished story of the relationship between Sansa Stark and Sandor Clegane, specifically to provide answers to the puzzling matter of Sansa never using Sandor’s first name even in her own headspace, what it may mean now, and what it may mean for the future.
WHEN YOUR NAME WAS JUST ANOTHER NAME THAT ROLLED OUT OF MY TONGUE . . .
Like Sansa, little Philippa Somerville never addresses, or even thinks of addressing, Lymond as anything but “Mr Crawford” as she grows up under his nose. It’s Mr Crawford here and Mr Crawford there, everywhere and most of the time, in her inner monologue and when speaking.
This doesn’t stand out initially in the first book, The Game of Kings, half because nobody calls him “Francis” besides his mother, the Dowager Lady Culter, his brother, Lord Culter, and the femme fatale who seduced him as a boy, the Countess of Lennox—everyone else calls him by his title of Lymond, or “the Master” for his title of Master of Culter, or Crawford of Lymond, or simply Crawford. And the other half because Philippa hates him passionately after his break-in and cross-questioning at Flaw Valleys, so it looks like she’s justified in addressing him in this frosty manner.
But why “Mr Crawford” specifically? Probably it was influenced by the impression left by their first meeting, for in that meeting she learnt his name and heard how he’s called by Gideon Somerville as he’s interrogated:
“Then ask me anything you want. I can assure you that till the ridiculous performance tonight I’ve had no enmity for you, and have never, to my knowledge, done you an injury. I don’t even know your name.”
“My name is Lymond.”
It was unknown to them. “Well, Mr. Lymond—”
“Lymond is a territorial name. My family name is Crawford.”
“Then, Mr. Crawford—” said Gideon patiently, and broke off, for the yellow-haired man was looking beyond him.
“Philippa!” said Lymond.
And so this way of calling him must’ve stuck with her. But in this book, she doesn’t even want to call him anything at all; she’ll later settle for his surname and also his full name plus title in the second book whenever she has to mention him, but never his Christian name. You can detect a comical passive-aggressive ring to her stubborn refusal to name him in light of her family’s forgiving Lymond for Flaw Valleys and the fact that Gideon and Kate Somerville become friends with him. In the same vein, we could easily explain why Sansa never uses the Hound’s name based on this scene in A Game of Thrones, the first and only time she has called him “Sandor,” in which he doesn’t allow her to use his first name because it’s preceded by “ser”:
Sansa could not bear the sight of him, he frightened her so, yet she had been raised in all the ways of courtesy. A true lady would not notice his face, she told herself. “You rode gallantly today, Ser Sandor,” she made herself say.
Sandor Clegane snarled at her. “Spare me your empty little compliments, girl … and your sers. I am no knight. I spit on them and their vows. My brother is a knight. Did you see him ride today?”
With their on-the-wrong-foot beginning as well as 16th century social conventions that discouraged first-name treatment and familiarity with your elders and social superiors, it’s easy to dismiss Philippa’s “Mr Crawford” as just following an ordinary custom dictating proper ways to address people one isn’t on intimate terms with, just like it’s easy to write off Sansa’s not using Sandor’s name because of the impression from the Hand’s Tourney incident that left her with no other option but call him The Hound or by his full name because he loathes “Ser Sandor,” and she can’t call him Ser Clegane because it’s incorrect: you never use a knight’s last name before the title, only the first.
This omission soon becomes a characteristic behavior for both girls in their respective series. With Philippa, it stands out big time from the second book on, as in Queens’ Play a larger number of characters begin to call him Francis: five other people call him so, when it was only three in the first book. But not Philippa. And in the third book, The Disorderly Knights, the total number of people calling him Francis is raised to nine. But still not Philippa . . .
It’s in The Disorderly Knights when the author brings attention in a deliberate, very obvious manner to Philippa’s refusal, and we first notice the hint that there’s more than her self-confessed grudge holding her back from the laid-back treatment the rest of her family engage in (her mother calls Lymond “my dear,” for example). It’s been years since Flaw Valleys, Philippa has been absent from the second book, and reappears as a 13-year-old girl still very much hostile to “Lymond,” as she calls him now, like she confides to Joleta Reid Malett in one scene:
She asked Philippa directly, at last, why she disliked Lord Culter’s younger brother and Philippa, hot-cheeked under three years’ silence, told of the wartime raid when Lymond had broken into the house and had questioned her, a child of ten, against her parents’ wishes.
Turns out she hasn’t upgraded him to the more respectful-sounding “Mr Crawford” yet. For the first half of the book, she’ll be calling him “Lymond” and thinking of him as “Lymond,” up until they meet again three years later, in inconvenient circumstances: at a ditch, on a pitch-dark night, and with a corpse in the midst, and she’ll then be calling him by his full name and title, which she’ll later shorten to just “Francis Crawford”:
Philippa turned to address him, the yellow flame bright on her thirteen-year-old face, and his horse stirred a bit, and was quiet. Then, before she could even speak, he said mildly, ‘Why, the heir of the Somervilles, with attendant. You have a problem, I see. May we help you? Is that your old lady, or someone else’s?’
She knew who it was before he rode forward; before the light fell on his hated face. His skin was dark brown, she saw, so that all its lines were imprinted in white, and his eyes and teeth shone as he smiled.
Philippa’s eyes filled with angry tears. He was Francis Crawford of Lymond, the only man who could airily jest about an old woman battered to death in a ditch.
By this time he’s been made a Count in France, and characters now address him as “M. le Comte,” “M. le Comte de Sevigny,” or more sarcastically “M. le bloody Comte,” including Lymond’s one-time lover and the men of his mercenary company, so Philippa’s emphasis on his Scottish title instead of his French one also makes her way of addressing him stand out from the crowd. And in case we needed further clues that Dunnett is doing this intentionally, it’s made explicit that Lymond doesn’t like to be called by his name by just anyone (sounds familiar?) when Sir Graham Reid Malett, a new character trying to ingratiate himself to him, asks for permission:
(…) ‘I desire,’ he said abruptly to Lymond, ‘to call you Francis. Is that permitted? It is out of affection and a … purely spiritual love.’
At the unexpected half-tone of mischief, even Lymond’s blue stare relaxed. ‘Of course,’ he said.
Without realising it, the Reid Maletts kickstart a new phase in Philippa and Lymond’s relationship. Sir Graham, alias Gabriel, is a Knight Hospitaller and a devious bastard well cloaked by the aura of an angel, and in his desire to have Lymond on his side to spearhead his ambitious schemes for the Hospitallers and grand-scale politics, his beautiful sister is the bait he uses to lure him with lust if persuasion fails. Philippa discovers a crucial aspect of this scheme by accident whilst Joleta is a guest at her farm, but being young and hating Lymond so much, she reacts to the Joleta/Lymond affair in a manner that might read like jealousy:
Philippa’s eyes were suddenly shining. ‘How nice,’ she said genteelly, ‘if your sister and Mr Crawford were married. Love often begins with a show of hate, doesn’t it?’
‘Only common mortals like the Somervilles have good old rotten hates, dear,’ said her mother. ‘Sir Graham manages to love everybody and wouldn’t know what you’re talking about. Have a bun.’
. . .
Tact was not yet Philippa’s strongest point. ‘But Mr Crawford kissed her!’ she said.
‘Philippa!’ Kate could hardly keep the satisfaction out of her voice.
This is the time she finally moves to calling him Mr Crawford, and it’s fitting that she does it in front of Sir Graham, because everything happened due to this newcomer drawing her in as a subsidiary pawn in his games for the entrapment of Lymond. Readers familiar with The Lymond Chronicles will know that the Reid Malett siblings bring into existence one of the biggest—if not the biggest—tragedies of Lymond’s life in the form of Khaireddin “Crawford” and that Gabriel eventually becomes Lymond’s arch-nemesis. Philippa has a significant role to play in this tragedy. She learns early the truth about Joleta, but naïvely spills to Sir Graham her secrets and all she knows about his sister in confession, believing him a trustworthy man of the Church; and allows her hatred of Lymond to overpower her common sense and, to teach him a lesson, withholds crucial information passed on to her that Lymond badly needed to know, a decision that will enable the murders of certain characters and very nearly cost Lymond his own life. She does reveal the truth in the end, saving his life nigh on time as he’s tied to a post and whipped to bloody shreds by Gabriel, but that won’t be enough to appease her guilty conscience. And finally, she stops Lymond from killing Gabriel when he had the opportunity:
‘No, Mr Crawford!’ cried Philippa forbiddingly, and ducking under the snatching arms that tried to prevent her, she ran forward. ‘No! What harm can Sir Graham do now? What might the little boy become?’ And sinking on her knees, she shook, in her vehemence, Lymond’s bloodstained arm.
Her merciful intervention does lead to a lot of harm. So when Sir Graham’s escape sends Lymond on a prolonged wild goose chase across the Mediterranean coasts of Europe, Asia, and North Africa seeking punishment for the ex-knight and salvation for his alleged son, she flees her home with only a maid for company to impose herself on his mission. Convinced of her own usefulness by a guilty conscience and deaf to reasonable rejection, she follows the trail of Khaireddin on her own when Lymond turns her away. She does find Khaireddin “Crawford” all right—she’s the one to give him the surname without asking first—, but Gabriel’s scheme is so truly diabolical that it takes years for the chase to come full cycle and for everyone involved to meet at last in the palace of the Sultan in Constantinople, where the quarrel is settled by a high stakes human chess game (I highly encourage you to read the series to find out how this was possible).
By the end of the fourth book, Pawn in Frankincense, the now seventeen-year-old girl becomes Mistress Philippa Crawford, Comtesse de Sevigny. Love match, that? No. You see, she had travelled abroad unchaperoned and been in the company of men all this time, which in the 16th century meant a ruined reputation and unmarriageable status for a woman. And for Philippa, there’s the extra complication of having lived in the Sultan’s harem with his concubines. So Lymond, in a terrible state of mind after the horrendous experience of the past years, offers to make her his wife in name only so she can have the protection of his titles and his fortune if he didn’t get out of Constantinople alive due to the Sultana’s rancour. It’s significant that, when he’s asking for her hand in marriage, he doesn’t utter any of the conventional phrases a man would when asking a woman to marry him. Instead, he talks of “offering her his name”:
‘Philippa?’ said Francis Crawford. And this time, the tawny silk unrumpling slowly, she rose to her feet.
She had grown. Kate’s vicious friend, once so elevated, was taller by little more than a head. She drew her brows together, and studied the circles under his eyes. He said lightly, ‘My dear girl; it’s Almoner’s Saturday. With six frails of figs and a sackful of almonds, I am offering you my name.’
And it’s also significant that, whilst contemplating whether to accept or turn down his offer, she’s still thinking of him as “Mr Crawford”:
He had foreseen a difficulty, which was undeniable, although she could not see it as pressing. He had further felt he owed her a duty. He had talked of the benefits to her; he had not spoken of what he might be sacrificing. Was there some woman waiting, at home or in France, who might be mortally hurt by this gesture? What indeed would his mother, Sybilla, say? And what, oh, what, would Kate? … Dear Kate. You will be pleased to learn that my hand in marriage has been sought and received by Mr Crawford, and I am happy to inform you that you are now his …
In the course of this adventure, she has come to know him much better, more intimately, and has seen him at his worst, too, sharing experiences to break any man’s soul, and surviving enough misfortune to form a bond not dissimilar to that of comrades in arms. She has come to respect him, so obviously it’s now a respectful naming in her mind. And she accepts his proposal, showing she doesn’t find the idea of him as a husband repugnant. But she’s not calling him Francis.
And then it all changes.
Philippa Somerville by Unknown
Back to King’s Landing, how it’s going for Sansa since that “Ser Sandor”? Events in ASOIAF move slower than in the tighter-plotted and less peopled The Lymond Chronicles and the Philippa/Lymond relationship evolves over a longer period of time—a decade, thus the age gap is bridged in a timely fashion, all of which doesn’t occur with the other pair. For Sansa, it doesn’t stand out as particularly strange that she won’t use his name again in A Game of Thrones, where only two characters call him Sandor, the first one in AGOT Tyrion I:
“A voice from nowhere,” Sandor said. He peered through his helm, looking this way and that. “Spirits of the air!”
The prince laughed, as he always laughed when his bodyguard did this mummer’s farce. Tyrion was used to it. “Down here.”
It shouldn’t be surprising that it’s a Lannister who first uses his name. All three Lannister children call him Sandor—Tyrion in AGOT, Jaime & Cersei in AFFC—, and it makes perfect sense that they should given his pseudo-family status in the household. It’s the other character calling him Sandor who is the surprise, in AGOT Eddard VII:
Ned seldom put much stock in gossip, but the things said of Ser Gregor were more than ominous. He was soon to be married for the third time, and one heard dark whisperings about the deaths of his first two wives. It was said that his keep was a grim place where servants disappeared unaccountably and even the dogs were afraid to enter the hall. And there had been a sister who had died young under queer circumstances, and the fire that had disfigured his brother, and the hunting accident that had killed their father. Gregor had inherited the keep, the gold, and the family estates. His younger brother Sandor had left the same day to take service with the Lannisters as a sworn sword, and it was said that he had never returned, not even to visit.
. . .
The Mountain pivoted in wordless fury, swinging his longsword in a killing arc with all his massive strength behind it, but the Hound caught the blow and turned it, and for what seemed an eternity the two brothers stood hammering at each other as a dazed Loras Tyrell was helped to safety. Thrice Ned saw Ser Gregor aim savage blows at the hound’s-head helmet, yet not once did Sandor send a cut at his brother’s unprotected face.
Ned has no love for The Hound, so it’s a meaningful switch that he is calling him by his first name instead of by his nickname or his full name, like he’s done up to this chapter, precisely when Sandor is doing a good, honourable deed. We have to keep this key detail in mind to better appreciate what’s going to happen in the rest of the books with regards to the use of Sandor’s name by the Starks, because how/when they use it differs from how/when others use it, and adds to the case this essay is building. Next, have a look at the following scene where he’s called Sandor in a Stark POV, Eddard XII, but this time by Littlefinger:
“Oh, returned with Joffrey, and went straight to the queen.” Littlefinger smiled. “I would have given a hundred silver stags to have been a roach in the rushes when he learned that Lord Beric was off to behead his brother.”
“Even a blind man could see the Hound loathed his brother.”
“Ah, but Gregor was his to loathe, not yours to kill. Once Dondarrion lops the summit off our Mountain, the Clegane lands and incomes will pass to Sandor, but I wouldn’t hold my water waiting for his thanks, not that one.”
So, we notice a certain pattern:
- Tyrion calls him Sandor when he is making fun of the Imp to entertain Joffrey (negative), and Littlefinger refers to him as Sandor when he’s reminding the Hand of the King of The Hound’s desire to kill his brother (negative).
- Ned calls him Sandor when he’s defending an unarmed knight from Gregor’s murderous rage (positive), and Sansa refers to him as Sandor, with a courtesy Ser added, in praise of his performance at the jousts (positive).
See the difference? GRRM establishes a positive spin for “Sandor” being used by House Stark members he interacts with early on, and will continue to develop it further in later books.
In A Clash of Kings, as their dynamic changes and she starts to lose her initial fear of him, Sansa struggles to find an acceptable way to call him, and falls short of it again. Naturally, she does try to call him something that doesn’t include ser, and tentatively addresses him as “my lord” instead, as seen in the scene where she’s returning from the meeting with Dontos at the godswood. But he hates it just as much as “Ser Sandor” for the same reason:
“It’s a long roll down the serpentine, little bird. Want to kill us both?” His laughter was rough as a saw on stone. “Maybe you do.”
The Hound. “No, my lord, pardons, I’d never.” Sansa averted her eyes but it was too late, he’d seen her face. “Please, you’re hurting me.” She tried to wriggle free.
. . .
“The g-g-godswood, my lord,” she said, not daring to lie. “Praying . . . praying for my father, and . . . for the king, praying that he’d not be hurt.”
“Think I’m so drunk that I’d believe that?” He let go his grip on her arm, swaying slightly as he stood, stripes of light and darkness falling across his terrible burnt face. “You look almost a woman. . . face, teats, and you’re taller too, almost . . . ah, you’re still a stupid little bird, aren’t you? Singing all the songs they taught you . . . sing me a song, why don’t you? Go on. Sing to me. Some song about knights and fair maids. You like knights, don’t you?”
He was scaring her. “T-true knights, my lord.”
“True knights,” he mocked. “And I’m no lord, no more than I’m a knight. Do I need to beat that into you?” Clegane reeled and almost fell.
However, later in this chapter, when he’s taking her to her bedchamber, he lets her know he doesn’t mind to be called by his nickname when she asks him about it:
The Hound escorted her across the drawbridge. As they were winding their way up the steps, she said, “Why do you let people call you a dog? You won’t let anyone call you a knight.”
“I like dogs better than knights (…).”
This is quite likely why “The Hound” is the name for him Sansa prefers: she calls him that seventy-three times from AGOT to AFFC, most frequently in her ACOK chapters. This indicates that she listens and respects that he loathes to be called a certain way as well as that he doesn’t mind to be called another way. “Sandor Clegane” is the second most common way she has of referring to him. Her least favourite is “Clegane,” which she uses only eight times in all, and it’s noteworthy that she refers to him as plain Clegane most repeatedly in the scene atop Maegor’s Holdfast, when they have a spat over gods & knighthood, the first time she stands up to and talks back at him. This fits with what people often say in real life that when they hear themselves be called by their surnames (or even their actual names for those accustomed to nicknames), they know for sure some serious talk is coming.
But all this she does only when thinking of him, talking about him to others, and describing him in her POVs; never to his face. Unlike Philippa, who actually does call Francis “Mr Crawford” to his face, Sansa can’t call him “The Hound” or ”Sandor Clegane” to his face. With Ser Sandor and my lord deemed unacceptable, whenever she talks to him for the rest of the book until he departs after Blackwater, she calls him you.
English lacks the formal/informal distinction of the personal pronoun you like it once had, so we don’t have the tú/usted, vous/toi, Sie/du differentiation of languages like Spanish, French, and German, etc., that denote the degree of formality and familiarity between two people. Because of this, we’re deprived of verifying whether Sansa is using the formal you or the informal you. We’re supposed to infer it is the formal you, her courtesy and her personality taken into account, and so translators of ASOIAF to other languages seem to understand it, too: my foreign language copies of ASOIAF show Sansa using the formal you when talking with Sandor. Also, although some authors have chosen faux-Medieval speech to mimic past times, Martin chose not to reflect Medieval speech, that was still very much employing the formal (you) and the informal (thou) pronouns, so we cannot see a case here like in James Clavell’s Shōgun either, where Blackthorne and Mariko use thou as their private byword for love.
It’s less complicated for the men, although not devoid of a wee dash of subtlety. Neither Lymond nor Sandor have any trouble calling the girls Philippa and Sansa respectively, but they do follow a pattern, too, one that’s complementary to the girls’ pattern as you will see. Lymond’s case is simpler: he’s always called her “Philippa” from day one. Nothing to raise an eyebrow at, really, he can do that as per the social norms of the period: he’s of higher status, over a decade older, and a nobleman talking to a commoner country gentry girl. And he will call her only Philippa for the longest time, until the fifth book, except for that time he patronisingly calls her “my dear child” when she attempts to join him to help with Khaireddin, and that other time he calls her “my dear girl” in a gentler mood when he proposes to safeguard her reputation.
With Sandor, it isn’t so simple. He famously flouts court conventions whenever he feels like it, regardless of the other person’s status. Ned was his superior, but he calls him “Hand;” Tyrion is his liege’s son and so his superior, but he calls him “Imp,” Joffrey is his king, but he refers to him as merely “Joff,” and so on. He addresses people by their titles and proper rank—ser, Your Grace, etc.—, just as he addresses them by their first names with the same ease. When approaching Sansa, despite knowing she’s higher-ranked and the Hand of the King’s daughter, he chooses informality to talk with her for the first time:
Strong hands grasped her by the shoulders, and for a moment Sansa thought it was her father, but when she turned, it was the burned face of Sandor Clegane looking down at her, his mouth twisted in a terrible mockery of a smile. “You are shaking, girl,” he said, his voice rasping. “Do I frighten you so much?
For the rest of AGOT, he will call her “girl,” or that one “pretty little talking girl,” with only two exceptions in a couple of emotionally-charged scenes. First when he tells her about his deepest secret:
She found his massive shoulder with her hand. “He was no true knight,” she whispered to him.
The Hound threw back his head and roared. Sansa stumbled back, away from him, but he caught her arm. “No,” he growled at her, “no, little bird, he was no true knight.”
And the next one when Joffrey goes to fetch her from her bedchamber to see her father’s head on the castle battlements, the only time Sandor calls her child in a compassionate attempt to steer her away from provoking the king:
“If you won’t rise and dress yourself, my Hound will do it for you,” Joffrey said.
“I beg of you, my prince …”
“I’m king now. Dog, get her out of bed.”
Sandor Clegane scooped her up around the waist and lifted her off the featherbed as she struggled feebly. Her blanket fell to the floor. Underneath she had only a thin bedgown to cover her nakedness. “Do as you’re bid, child,” Clegane said. “Dress.” He pushed her toward her wardrobe, almost gently.
Once we move on to A Clash of Kings, we have the first and only time The Hound calls her by her first name to her face:
The king was shaded beneath a crimson canopy, one leg thrown negligently over the carved wooden arm of his chair. Princess Myrcella and Prince Tommen sat behind him. In the back of the royal box, Sandor Clegane stood at guard, his hands resting on his swordbelt. The white cloak of the Kingsguard was draped over his broad shoulders and fastened with a jeweled brooch, the snowy cloth looking somehow unnatural against his brown roughspun tunic and studded leather jerkin. “Lady Sansa,” the Hound announced curtly when he saw her.
I find it hilarious that the only times they call each other by their first names it had to be so formal and polite and . . . courtly. “Ser Sandor.” “Lady Sansa.” The knight and the lady. The visuals are there, out of one of Sansa’s songs, and knowing GRRM is playing with the knighthood theme, you know this was written intentionally. Were this another couple in a different series, you could almost visualise her curtseying and him bowing in return. But this being ASOIAF, the knight reacts with an infuriated snarl and the lady is so fearful of offending the king that she barely registers his words.
So, if the men using the names of their girls isn’t the way in which the genesis of a deep emotional connection will be made obvious, there has to be another.
. . . NOW, I CAN’T LOOK AT YOUR NAME WITHOUT AN ABUNDANCE OF SENTIMENT.
It was by observing the evolution of the ways characters talked to each other as their relationship progressed that I discovered a naming pattern that revealed the changes in their feelings towards each other, that worked like granite markers along the path. Because of seniority and their bolder, take-charge personalities, these markers appear on the men’s path first, by way of a nickname they bestow on the women.
This sees the light in Sandor’s arc before Lymond’s. ACOK is the book where the dynamic with Sansa takes shape over the course of her year as prisoner of the crown, and throughout the book whenever he steps forward to help her, we see he hasn’t stopped calling her “girl.” Except that . . . Look at their first private scene with no witnesses:
She was racing headlong down the serpentine steps when a man lurched out of a hidden doorway. Sansa caromed into him and lost her balance. Iron fingers caught her by the wrist before she could fall, and a deep voice rasped at her. “It’s a long roll down the serpentine, little bird. Want to kill us both?” His laughter was rough as a saw on stone. “Maybe you do.”
The Hound. “No, my lord, pardons.”
. . .
“And what’s Joff’s little bird doing flying down the serpentine in the black of night?” When she did not answer, he shook her.“Where were you?”
“The g-g-godswood, my lord,” she said, not daring to lie. “Praying . . . praying for my father, and . . . for the king, praying that he’d not be hurt.”
“Think I’m so drunk that I’d believe that?” He let go his grip on her arm, swaying slightly as he stood, stripes of light and darkness falling across his terrible burnt face. “You look almost a woman . . . face, teats, and you’re taller too, almost . . . ah, you’re still a stupid little bird, aren’t you? Singing all the songs they taught you . . . sing me a song, why don’t you? Go on. Sing to me. Some song about knights and fair maids. You like knights, don’t you?”
. . .
“Gods,” he swore, “too much wine. Do you like wine, little bird? True wine? A flagon of sour red, dark as blood, all a man needs. Or a woman.” He laughed, shook his head. “Drunk as a dog, damn me. You come now. Back to your cage, little bird. I’ll take you there. Keep you safe for the king.
. . .
He cupped her under the jaw, raising her chin, his fingers pinching her painfully. “And that’s more than little birds can do, isn’t it? I never got my song.”
Then look at what he says after he rescues her from the bread riots in King’s Landing:
Clegane lifted her to the ground. His white cloak was torn and stained, and blood seeped through a jagged tear in his left sleeve. “The little bird’s bleeding. Someone take her back to her cage and see to that cut.”
Next, look at their second scene of a private nature:
She grabbed a merlon for support, her fingers scrabbling at the rough stone. “Let go of me,” she cried. “Let go.”
“The little bird thinks she has wings, does she? Or do you mean to end up crippled like that brother of yours?”
Sansa twisted in his grasp. “I wasn’t going to fall. It was only . . . you startled me, that’s all.”
“You mean I scared you. And still do.”
She took a deep breath to calm herself. “I thought I was alone, I . . .” She glanced away.
“The little bird still can’t bear to look at me, can she?” The Hound released her. “You were glad enough to see my face when the mob had you, though. Remember?”
. . .
“Aren’t you afraid? The gods might send you down to some terrible hell for all the evil you’ve done.”
“What evil?” He laughed. “What gods?”
“The gods who made us all.”
“All?” he mocked. “Tell me, little bird, what kind of god makes a monster like the Imp, or a halfwit like Lady Tanda’s daughter? If there are gods, they made sheep so wolves could eat mutton, and they made the weak for the strong to play with.”
. . .
Sansa backed away from him. “You’re awful.”
“I’m honest. It’s the world that’s awful. Now fly away, little bird, I’m sick of you peeping at me.”
Now, look at their exchange right before Sansa is beaten in public and he tries to stop Joff and give her his cloak to cover her nudity:
“Tell me what I’ve done.”
“Not you. Your kingly brother.”
“Robb’s a traitor.” Sansa knew the words by rote. “I had no part in whatever he did.” Gods be good, don’t let it be the Kingslayer. If Robb had harmed Jaime Lannister, it would mean her life. She thought of Ser Ilyn, and how those terrible pale eyes staring pitilessly out of that gaunt pockmarked face.
The Hound snorted. “They trained you well, little bird.”
. . . and finally look at their last scene together:
Sansa opened her mouth to scream, but another hand clamped down over her face, smothering her. His fingers were rough and callused, and sticky with blood. “Little bird. I knew you’d come.” The voice was a drunken rasp.
. . .
“If you scream I’ll kill you. Believe that.” He took his hand from her mouth. Her breath was coming ragged. The Hound had a flagon of wine on her bedside table. He took a long pull. “Don’t you want to ask who’s winning the battle, little bird?”
“Who?” she said, too frightened to defy him.
. . .
“He’s dead, they say.”
“Dead? No. Bugger that. I don’t want him dead.” He cast the empty flagon aside. “I want him burned. If the gods are good, they’ll burn him, but I won’t be here to see. I’m going.”
“Going?” She tried to wriggle free, but his grasp was iron.
“The little bird repeats whatever she hears. Going, yes.”
. . .
“Why did you come here?”
“You promised me a song, little bird. Have you forgotten?”
. . .
“Still can’t bear to look, can you?” she heard him say. He gave her arm a hard wrench, pulling her around and shoving her down onto the bed. “I’ll have that song. Florian and Jonquil, you said.” His dagger was out, poised at her throat. “Sing, little bird. Sing for your little life.”
. . .
Some instinct made her lift her hand and cup his cheek with her fingers. The room was too dark for her to see him, but she could feel the stickiness of the blood, and a wetness that was not blood. “Little bird,” he said once more, his voice raw and harsh as steel on stone. Then he rose from the bed. Sansa heard cloth ripping, followed by the softer sound of retreating footsteps.
What do you notice these five scenes have in common? The Serpentine steps, Maegor’s Holdfast, and the Battle of Blackwater are all emotionally-charged conversations they had alone and that left an impact on their relationship, and in all three milestones—just like in the Hand’s Tourney when he reveals a secret only she will know—he’s calling her “little bird.” The other two, the beating in front of the court and the King’s Landing riots are scenes in which he publicly and voluntarily stepped in to protect her, and there he’s also calling her “little bird,” one time even publicly. Why does he use her pet name specifically in these situations?
To answer this, let’s focus on his behaviour in these scenes: in the Serpentine, he’s flirting in an awkward manner, making it obvious through his observations on her maturing from child to woman that he’s attracted, but she’s so young and oblivious that he has to rein himself in and laugh it off when it flies over her head. Atop Maegor’s Holdfast, he’s contemplating life over a looming big battle and having a back-and-forth clash of worldviews with this girl he considers naïve but can’t help caring for, all permeated with a subtle erotic imagery. And in the Blackwater, he’s finally broken away from his masters, and is offering himself as a protector and potential partner to her. The other scenes are self-evident and need no further elaboration.
Like this article explains, “a relationship is like a ‘mini-culture’ unto itself reinforced by rituals and private language” that a couple create only for themselves, the most common and significant part of this so-called idiosyncratic communication being pet names, which “connote a special intimacy that’s reserved for” the significant other. Going by this, you don’t give a pet name to someone you wouldn’t care deeply for, and after judging the entirety of their scenes thus far, the existence of a pet name connotes all on its own that feelings have moved to the next level. In other words, a pet name is the literary equivalent of a neon sign that screams I have feelings for this person, a signpost commemorating these “micromoments that create relationships.”
Francis Crawford of Lymond by Unknown
Lymond is a more straightforward example of using nicknames to mark the moment a character’s feelings do a 180º turn, aided by the bridging of the age gap and the longer time the saga gives characters to grow. In the fifth book, The Ringed Castle, he’s gone sell his services to Ivan the Terrible in Russia and reforges his life as Frangike Gavinovich, the tsar’s hyper-competent mercenary commander, away from the shadow of Gabriel, away from Philippa, his family, his past. He’s doing as well as he could with a madman for a boss, and, never the one-woman type of man, he takes a lover, too. Nothing could be further from his mind than falling in love. But the past has a built-in GPS and an annoying tendency to catch up with you wherever you go, and one day the woman he sardonically calls “dear wife” writes to remind him that he promised a divorce once there was a good second marriage prospect, now she needs he sign the papers. Oh, and she also discovered some interesting tidbits about his bastardy, so come back, mon cher Comte, come back.
And come back to England does the dear Comte, finding Philippa Crawford of Lymond in a plum position as lady-in-waiting at the Tudor court. He does his best to interact with her as little as possible, but circumstances throw them together often, and, after a few adventures investigating Lymond’s true parentage plus a failed attempt at reconciling with the mother he’s avoiding to confront, the change of heart ambushes Lymond at a place called the Hall of Revels, where Philippa and friends go looking for material for upcoming royal festivities. They have such a good jolly time there that, coming out of the Hall carrying an unconscious Philippa in his arms, Lymond does something he hasn’t done before: take a good, hard look at her:
She was a quick-witted child. From Kate, of course. He stirred back the brown hair which had caught in her lashes. And that was Kate’s too. What did she take from Gideon? Honesty. That both her parents had. And courage. Riding through the night once, into unknown country, to find him, and pay some sort of debt she thought she owed to him, or her parents. And, of course, following him for the sake of the child. In spite of a good deal of uncivilized behaviour, he recalled clearly, on his part.
Courage from both parents, too. You would go far to find a woman braver than Kate. And music—from Gideon? Yes. Both studied and felt—that furious display on the harpsichord at Lady Mary’s, defiant though it had been, had been more than plain pyrotechnics. But then, she was no longer ten, and had put to use the years of study and practice. How old, then, was she?
The year he fought his brother, they had met. The year of Pinkie, or the spring just after. Which made her … nearly twenty.
He was aware of deep surprise. But of course, the mind which had comprehended and discussed with him all the intricacies of the present blunderings of nations was not, could not be a child’s. The loving spirit which could serve Queen Mary, seeing clearly all her weakness, had nothing immature about it, or the wit which Ascham had found worthy to teach.
Unlike Kate, this girl had broken from her setting. All that Kate was, she now had. And standing on Kate’s shoulders, something more, still growing; blossoming and yet to fruit.
All that he was not. He looked at her. The long, brown hair; the pure skin of youth; the closed brown eyes, their lashes artfully stained; the obstinate chin; the definite nose, its nostrils curled. The lips, lightly tinted, and the corners deepened, even sleeping, with the remembrance of sardonic joy.… The soft, severe lips.
You could say that this is Lymond’s “you are almost a woman” moment, the moment he realizes the child he knew has grown into a woman without him paying attention, and now that he finally does pay attention, he finds his feelings along the way. Feelings that hit him like a hammer:
And deep within him, missing its accustomed tread, his heart paused, and gave one single stroke, as if on an anvil.
Always prone to too much subtlety to the point of obscurity, Dunnett tosses it away here to instead wham readers with the fact that Lymond has fallen in love, using an anvil to describe the force of his epiphany. It’s Melodramatic with a capital M. But Lymond has always been so fond of theatrics that Melodramatic should be his middle name. The dramatic epiphany fits his personality, it fits his intensity.
Despite the Anvil Epiphany, he still insists in leaving for Russia again, believing the marriage dissolution is going to be dealt with just fine and, his feelings now threatening to become a torment, he wants to stay away for her own good. Before he departs, he gives her a pet name he’s just devised:
Francis Crawford stood with his back to the doorpost and said,‘Yunitsa, forgive me. My ailment will be the worse for it, and so shall I, but I am going to leave you.’
She had seen him look like that before once, at Volos, and she made no move to stop him. Only, ‘Yunitsa?’ she said.
He smiled, a glimmer in his darkened blue eyes. ‘What, after all Best’s Russian teaching? It means heifer,’ he said. ‘
. . .
He said again, without the smile, ‘Goodbye, Yunitsa,’ and turning walked out of the room.
Ludovic d’Harcourt, come to take his wistful leave, stood beside Philippa, as Lymond vanished. ‘Yunitsa?’ he queried.
She smiled, bringing her gaze back to her hand as he lifted and kissed it. ‘A stupid joke. It means heifer, he tells me.’
‘It means heifer,’ d’Harcourt agreed; and, since the others were becoming impatient, pressed her hand and abandoned the subject without informing her how much more it meant.
To Lymond this is what “little bird” is to Sandor, with larger implications than the literal meaning. It also means a young married woman who isn’t yet a mother, a maiden-wife figure from Russian mythology. Thus Philippa is associated with a divine Maiden figure like Sansa is, even though she’s currently married in name only and raising a child not her own, a situation that also sounds like Sansa’s.
But what does Philippa feel? Does she reciprocate? Now we arrive to the central point of this essay: the fact that when the same change befalls her, Dorothy Dunnett makes Philippa’s realisation and conscious acknowledgment of her newfound love for Lymond all obvious and evident by calling him by his first name for the first time ever.
She’s the sensible one, so no anvil-to-the-head moment of realisation for her. It evolves over months of living in a singular married-but-not-really situation in France, where Lymond was taken by friends with wifely support via the swift method of a blow to the head to thwart his return to Russia and the danger of one day the tsar’s axe connecting with Lymond’s head. Working in the French court, he finds time amidst numerous adventures serving the crown for yet another new lover, still intending to divorce Philippa, who stubbornly follows him there for her own reasons. Meeting him again in the sixth and last book, Checkmate, she asks if it’s finally time to call him by this name:
Trotting behind, Philippa found that her eminent escort was making better speed than she was; opened her mouth; closed it, and touched up her horse as soon as she could, to jog alongside him. She said peevishly, ‘Do you consider I’m old enough to stop calling you Mr Crawford?’
‘No,’ said Mr Crawford shortly. ‘What alternatives would you suggest? Master? Uncle?’
‘That would certainly unsettle the Maréchale, for one,’ said Philippa more cheerfully. ‘I shall call you “mon compère”, as the King does the Constable. You haven’t enough artillery, have you?’
So she’ll stick with “Mr Crawford” for a little while more. Philippa’s reasons for coming to France include to continue pursuing the truth about her husband’s parentage, against his wishes, and along the way she’s dragged into conspiracies against Lymond. One night, they’re followed and attacked by assassins in the fog-covered streets of Lyon, and have to fight back to escape, an exhilarating experience teaming up for survival that becomes a turning point for her. At the end of this, she impulsively calls him Francis:
Whooping, Lymond sprang to his feet and in his face was child and man; Kuzúm and Francis Crawford; triumph and mischief and a ridiculous, thoughtless delight that made her seize his hands and fling them apart and say, ‘Francis! Francis, you fool. This is what you should be!’
Again, Dunnett makes it clear that, right after this, Philippa becomes fully conscious of her feelings:
For a girl of twenty to fall in love with an experienced dilettante ten years her senior was nothing out of the way. It was perhaps rarer for such a girl to make up her mind, as did Philippa in Lyon in one night of bitterest soul-searching, that such a relationship was out of the question, and that henceforth his life and hers must lie in different directions.
I’m not fond of the soap-operatic drama the author turned their romance into from here onwards by making both sides deny their feelings and deem their relationship impossible, each thinking they don’t deserve the other and that the other is too good for them. But that’s how the last portion of their relationship is written, so melodramatically it’d make a telenovela proud. Anyhow, after deciding on self-restraint as the best course, Philippa attempts a return to the formal “Mr Crawford” of old.
But once you cross the Rubicon, there’s no going back. Philippa struggles, and struggles hard, to not call him by his name, making a conscious effort to rein herself in whenever she catches her self-control slipping. “Francis . . .no. . . Mr Crawford,” that sort of self-control, like it can be seen in these quotes:
Philippa, who was rarely favoured with the more dramatic ailments of this world, had a head cold of historic virulence.
It assailed her the morning after Francis … Mr Crawford had proposed in public to catalogue the bodily features of his Russian mistress; and by the time she reported for duty had thickened into a turgid, throat-rasping affair which recalled all Gideon used to say, cheerfully, about avoiding claret if your name began with a letter of the alphabet. Madame de Brêne quite rightly turned her away from the little Queen’s chamber, and she returned to blow her nose in her room, where Adam Blacklock presently found her.
. . .
Francis … Mr Crawford, she thought. No. Madame de Brêne would have told her. Not Kate, either: that would have to come to her direct. Then someone else from the Séjour du Roi: Marthe? Jerott? Danny? Or Austin …?
. . .
‘I know your upbringing,’ Adam said. ‘And I know something else. Francis has his divorce and his freedom in prospect, but the headaches have come back. Archie was worried last night. Philippa, this family business has to be laid bare and thrashed out with Sybilla. Not before Richard in a storm of stripped nerves, but with Sybilla, in calm and in privacy.’
‘He won’t,’ Philippa said. ‘And I can’t help. I don’t know the truth and I can’t see any way of finding it. I think F … Francis has reached it by guesswork and it is quite unacceptable. All I can suggest is that with time, the unacceptable usually becomes accepted.’
. . .
Célie called, ‘Madame! You have walked past the turning!’ and she saw, looking round, that she had. She also saw, discreetly strolling behind them, the red-headed bodyguard she had stopped once before. His name, she knew now, was Osias. He shared his duties with another man of Applegarth’s with a scarred cheek. Célie or her serving man took them in occasionally and gave them something hot in a cup if she had kept them out unduly in bad weather. It reminded her, in case she forgot from time to time, that Francis—Mr Crawford—felt that her association with him might bring danger to her.
. . .
The man—the person—the shapeless vessel of envy and malevolence seated opposite her believed that Francis … Mr Crawford … had learned the truth at Flavy, and had imparted it to her. Whereas what Lymond had written was that Béatris and Gavin Crawford were now proved his parents, and Béatris’s daughter Marthe his full sister.
The ‘Francis . . . no . . Mr Crawford’ conflict continues up until a time when, prodded on by other characters that noticed the feelings are mutual, Lymond has to confess. And the moment couldn’t have been more inconvenient: they’re four weeks away from their divorce becoming official, he’s already promised to another girl, whose mother is his current lover, and Philippa is under the mistaken impression that Lymond is in love with Kate, her own mother. Melodrama, as I said. Lymond has to disabuse her of the latter notion by revealing it’s her he loves:
‘Kate loves you,’ Philippa said. ‘It’s all right. She has always …’
‘Philippa, no,’ he said. He stood in an island of space, as isolated as he must have been, directing his forces in Guînes or in Calais. ‘You were right to ask, and wrong only in your conjecture. Kate is my friend. That is true. But the songs were for her daughter. And the passion, for ever. That is why we are parting.’
The words reached her, without bringing the sense any nearer. He would think her very slow: even in the middle of the night; even with undried tears bloating her eyes and her cheeks. She appeared to be on her feet, facing him. ‘But I am her daughter,’ Philippa said.
Like some obscure and difficult text, the look in his eyes was too complex to read at a distance. She said, ‘You can’t mean …?’ and then, as he did not speak, answered herself. ‘No.’
In this chapter, just moments before the confession, she’s calling him Francis without immediately scolding herself. And right after, she’ll keep calling him Francis until the end of the book. This turning point holds additional significance because she’ll learn from his own lips all his secrets, from his early years to the present. But despite this proof of trust he’s not given anyone else, even his beloved mother, he’s still determined to free her from the marriage and leave, arguing he is “a warped hunchback whelped in the gutter,” too damaged by his past and his tragedies to be worthy of her. Philippa, however, is stubborn, and whilst Lymond is distracted by a court procession, decides to do him a favour by buying from greedy Bailey the documents he claims prove Lymond is illegitimate. Bailey demands more than just money, and Philippa, out of love for Lymond, pays him his price: her body.
This has tragic ramifications: she ends up with the same PTSD of rape victims, and, unable to annul their marriage absent the virginity requisite, Lymond is saddled permanently with a traumatised Philippa, whom he sends to his family in Scotland to recover. He stays behind to fulfill duties as marshal in the French king’s army during the war with Spain, and leads a brilliant but suicidal raid to blow a bridge. He’s looking for death at this point, knowing his wife is safe and taken care of through letters they exchange—which he signs I am thou thy selfe, Francis—and he would’ve got his wish if not for his mother’s interfering care as he lay dying of injuries. He recovers, and after a few extra complications and a dash of extra melodrama, goes back to Scotland, where Philippa all of a sudden decides she wants to sleep with him that very day, moments after he arrives, no matter that her third-wheel beau and Lymond’s half-sister have been killed in front of them just minutes ago (I did say it was melodramatic, didn’t I?), and the whole long saga ends with the Dowager Lady Culter listening happily to Lymond and Philippa playing music and singing and telling I love you to each other.
Sansa Stark by Elia-Illustration
Having this example all laid out and extrapolating it to ASOIAF, it dawned on me that Martin is doing this very thing with Sansa in relation to Sandor. How else could it be explained satisfactorily that she’s not called him by his name to date? All readers acquainted with her arc up to the last published book know that Sansa is missing his presence and inventing in her head a kiss Sandor never gave her, as seen in these passages from ASOS:
I wish the Hound were here. The night of the battle, Sandor Clegane had come to her chambers to take her from the city, but Sansa had refused. Sometimes she lay awake at night, wondering if she’d been wise. She had his stained white cloak hidden in a cedar chest beneath her summer silks. She could not say why she’d kept it. The Hound had turned craven, she heard it said; at the height of the battle, he got so drunk the Imp had to take his men. But Sansa understood. She knew the secret of his burned face. It was only the fire he feared. That night, the wildfire had set the river itself ablaze, and filled the very air with green flame. Even in the castle, Sansa had been afraid. Outside… she could scarcely imagine it.
. . .
Sansa wondered what Megga would think about kissing the Hound, as she had. He’d come to her the night of the battle stinking of wine and blood. He kissed me and threatened to kill me, and made me sing him a song.
. . .
The memory of her own wedding night with Tyrion was much with her. In the dark, I am the Knight of Flowers, he had said. I could be good to you. But that was only another Lannister lie. A dog can smell a lie, you know, the Hound had told her once. She could almost hear the rough rasp of his voice. Look around you, and take a good whiff. They’re all liars here, and every one better than you. She wondered what had become of Sandor Clegane. Did he know that they’d killed Joffrey? Would he care? He had been the prince’s sworn shield for years.
She even dreams of him in her bed in ASOS:
Sansa heard the soft sound of steel on leather. “Singer,” a rough voice said, “best go, if you want to sing again.” The light was dim, but she saw a faint glimmer of a blade.
The singer saw it too. “Find your own wench—” The knife flashed, and he cried out. “You cut me!”
“I’ll do worse, if you don’t go.”
And quick as that, Marillion was gone. The other remained, looming over Sansa in the darkness. “Lord Petyr said watch out for you.” It was Lothor Brune’s voice, she realized. Not the Hound’s, no, how could it be? Of course it had to be Lothor…
That night Sansa scarcely slept at all, but tossed and turned just as she had aboard the Merling King. She dreamt of Joffrey dying, but as he clawed at his throat and the blood ran down across his fingers she saw with horror that it was her brother Robb. And she dreamed of her wedding night too, of Tyrion’s eyes devouring her as she undressed. Only then he was bigger than Tyrion had any right to be, and when he climbed into the bed his face was scarred only on one side. “I’ll have a song from you,” he rasped, and Sansa woke and found the old blind dog beside her once again. “I wish that you were Lady,” she said.
And in her AFFC chapters, she’s still comparing people to him, and imagining the kiss and the marriage bed:
Last of all came the Royces, Lord Nestor and Bronze Yohn. The Lord of Runestone stood as tall as the Hound
. . .
Before she could summon the servants, however, Sweetrobin threw his skinny arms around her and kissed her. It was a little boy’s kiss, and clumsy. Everything Robert Arryn did was clumsy. If I close my eyes I can pretend he is the Knight of Flowers. Ser Loras had given Sansa Stark a red rose once, but he had never kissed her . . . and no Tyrell would ever kiss Alayne Stone. Pretty as she was, she had been born on the wrong side of the blanket.
As the boy’s lips touched her own she found herself thinking of another kiss. She could still remember how it felt, when his cruel mouth pressed down on her own. He had come to Sansa in the darkness as green fire filled the sky. He took a song and a kiss, and left me nothing but a bloody cloak.
. . .
“Oh, yes. He died on top of me. In me, if truth be told. You do know what goes on in a marriage bed, I hope?”
She thought of Tyrion, and of the Hound and how he’d kissed her, and gave a nod. “That must have been dreadful, my lady. Him dying. There, I mean, whilst . . . whilst he was . . .”
In other words: there’s copious instances of Sansa daydreaming with and fantasising with kissing the man . . . and she still cannot bring herself to call him Sandor even in the privacy of her own head. It’s not embarrassment, as it’s not like someone’s going to spring out of nowhere to berate her for it or read her thoughts and make fun of her for her choice of dream lover. It isn’t like she has trouble calling people by their first names, either. She does it with Joffrey, Tyrion, Willas, etc., even with Baelish, for whom she also makes a devil-angel separation of his two personae. Something is quite definitely going on here with Sansa’s inability to call him anything but The Hound during these milestone scenes.
My theory is that Martin is doing just what Dunnett did: he’s deliberately writing Sansa holding back from calling him Sandor at least in her thoughts and dreams until the moment he chooses to make it obvious by having her say his name, outwardly or inwardly. And until the moment Sansa acknowledges her feelings in a conscious manner, he’ll be The Hound in her mind, a name she knows he doesn’t mind. For now, Sansa hasn’t made the conscious admission of her feelings, it’s still very much restricted to the fantasising and dreamlike realm.
This possibility isn’t unlikely to happen. Because GRRM already has done it in the books: he has used the technique of a first name to mark a change of heart from one character towards another twice already, so there’s proof in the books that he’s not only familiar with the technique but makes use of it, too.
Our first strong supporting example are Jaime and Brienne, whose relationship mirrors in many ways Sandor and Sansa’s. Brienne, another firm believer in true knights, begins her acquaintance deeply loathing Jaime for his soiled reputation and allegiance to his usurping House; she doesn’t deign to call him Ser Jaime but hurls at him his sobriquet of Kingslayer like an insult, as can be seen in their first conversation in ASOS:
She scowled again, her face all horse teeth and glowering suspicion. “You’ll wear your chains, Kingslayer.”
“You figure to row all the way to King’s Landing, wench?”
“You will call me Brienne. Not wench.”
“My name is Ser Jaime. Not Kingslayer.”
“Do you deny that you slew a king?”
“No. Do you deny your sex? If so, unlace those breeches and show me.” He gave her an innocent smile. “I’d ask you to open your bodice, but from the look of you that wouldn’t prove much.”
Convinced he’s an irredeemable rascal and no true knight, she denies him a respectful treatment by using his knightly title, or even addressing him with a frosty “Lannister,” and continually reminds him of his fallen status by only calling him Kingslayer during their trip back to King’s Landing. Until they’re captured by the Bloody Mummers and he loses his hand. In this situation of utter humiliation, she witnesses another side of the man she didn’t allow he possessed, and this pushes her towards a kinder disposition. She finally calls him by his name in an attempt to fish him out of his misery:
“Jaime,” Brienne whispered, so faintly he thought he was dreaming it. “Jaime, what are you doing?”
“Dying,” he whispered back.
“No,” she said, “no, you must live.”
From then on, you can see a change in the way Brienne treats him—and the way he treats her and calls her Brienne instead of “wench”—as well as the way she calls him: although she will still refer to him as Kingslayer occasionally, she starts using his title and talks to him in a more polite and respectful manner. It’s the effect of their shared experiences as much as her learning about his service under Aerys II. He becomes Ser Jaime, recovering his knightly status and his dignity in her eyes. And not only that, this change isn’t limited to only regained respect but also ushers in feelings of a romantic nature she starts to develop towards him. Which are evidenced in all her AFFC chapters, where she’s always thinking of him as Jaime or Ser Jaime. She even calls him by his name in her feverish dream in AFFC Brienne VIII whilst lying semi-conscious due to wounds from her fight with Biter:
She dreamt she was at Harrenhal, down in the bear pit once again. This time it was Biter facing her, huge and bald and maggot-white, with weeping sores upon his cheeks. Naked he came, fondling his member, gnashing his filed teeth together. Brienne fled from him. “My sword,” she called. “Oathkeeper. Please.” The watchers did not answer. Renly was there, with Nimble Dick and Catelyn Stark. Shagwell, Pyg, and Timeon had come, and the corpses from the trees with their sunken cheeks, swollen tongues, and empty eye sockets. Brienne wailed in horror at the sight of them, and Biter grabbed her arm and yanked her close and tore a chunk from her face. “Jaime,” she heard herself scream, “Jaime.”
So, we have an undeniable example of the technique’s use in ASOIAF, though Jaime and Brienne move faster because they have less time to grow as characters alongside each other than Sansa and Sandor. For them, the Kingslayer-to-Jaime and Wench-to-Brienne switches happen in approximately one month together, spread across a small handful of chapters. And, although the age gap is the same for the two couples, Brienne is older and doesn’t start off her story as a child growing up under Jaime’s nose, making it possible for GRRM to be more straight and obvious with her feelings, so they aren’t written as subtly or evolve as slowly as plot necessity requires for Sansa.
Sandor Clegane by Bubug
It should be noted that this technique isn’t used only for marking the passage from platonic to romantic feelings. In truth, as the second example will prove, it also works as a marker for a change of attitude from negative to positive, from hate or disrespect to respect and appreciation, without the presence or implication of romantic love.
Arya is the most important and best written example of the technique’s use by Martin, because it directly involves Sandor instead of just providing a mirror story and because it’s better fleshed out and with a better background, as well as fitting quite smoothly with the established precedent that the Stark family use “Sandor” in a positive manner, like I argued earlier in the essay.
Sandor is in her kill list not with his name but with his sobriquet, a sobriquet embodying what he is for the younger Stark daughter: the murderous Hound of the Lannisters who cleaved her friend Mycah in two. She doesn’t know the family history that paints the sobriquet with a veneer of honourability in Sandor’s estimation; for her it doesn’t have the same ring as for her sister, because she doesn’t know him for anything besides his crime and his allegiance to the House with the higher number of people she wants to kill: nearly everyone in her list is a Lannister or connected to the Lannisters in some fashion. The man Sandor is an unknown to Arya, only The Hound exists.
Arya is the only other Stark besides Ned that hears people call him by his name, before and after her own change of heart. The “before” occurs following the famous trial by the Brotherhood without Banners at which Clegane won his freedom and lost his gold:
Anguy strung his bow. Notch was doing the same. “Do you wish to die so very much, Sandor?” asked Thoros. “You must be mad or drunk to follow us here.”
The “after” happens in ASOS Arya XIII, when they run into Gregor’s men at the Crossroads Inn:
“Looking for your brother, Sandor?” Polliver’s hand was down the bodice of the girl on his lap, but now he slid it out.
“Looking for a cup of wine. Innkeep, a flagon of red.” Clegane threw a handful of coppers on the floor.
. . .
The Tickler leaned forward. “Would you put to sea without bidding farewell to your brother?” It gave Arya chills to hear him ask a question. “Ser would sooner you returned to Harrenhal with us, Sandor. I bet he would. Or King’s Landing . . . ”
“Bugger that. Bugger him. Bugger you.”
Like with the Lannister siblings, it makes sense that he’d be addressed familiarly by these people: Thoros lived at court for years and was King Robert’s drinking chum, so he’s known The Hound probably since adolescence; and Polliver and Tickler are in Gregor’s retinue, quite likely hail from the Clegane fief and know him since forever. The technique isn’t at play with Tyrion, Jaime, Cersei, Thoros, Polliver and the Tickler calling him Sandor, because it’s the acquaintanceship of years that entitles them to first name terms with Sandor, and, besides, they’re aware of how he reacts to “ser.”
It takes a tragic episode to turn Arya’s opinion of The Hound upside down and make her say his name at last. After his plan to ransom her to her family is drowned in blood at the Red Wedding, Arya doesn’t forgive him for fighting his way out of the Twins with her knocked out insensible, but it’s clear the experience has irreversibly changed their dynamic. No clearer evidence of it than her transition from calling him “The Hound” or “Clegane” or “Sandor Clegane” to calling him “Sandor” right after the Twins. In ASOS Arya XII, she calls him by his name in her thoughts several times:
They had two now, Stranger and a sorrel palfrey mare Arya had named Craven, because Sandor said she’d likely run off from the Twins the same as them. They’d found her wandering riderless through a field the morning after the slaughter. She was a good enough horse, but Arya could not love a coward. Stranger would have fought.
. . .
They had passed a small pond a short ways back. Sandor gave Arya his helm and told her to fill it, so she trudged back to the water’s edge. Mud squished over the toe of her boots. She used the dog’s head as a pail. Water ran out through the eyeholes, but the bottom of the helm still held a lot.
. . .
“Why?” Sandor said. “He don’t care, and we’ve got no spade. Leave him for the wolves and wild dogs. Your brothers and mine.” He gave her a hard look. “First we rob him, though.”
. . .
When morning came, the Hound did not need to shout at Arya or shake her awake. She had woken before him for a change, and even watered the horses. They broke their fast in silence, until Sandor said, “This thing about your mother . . . ”
“It doesn’t matter,” Arya said in a dull voice. “I know she’s dead. I saw her in a dream.”
. . .
Sandor’s mouth tightened. “So you do know who I am.”
“Aye. We don’t get travelers here, that’s so, but we go to market, and to fairs. We know about King Joffrey’s dog.”
“When these Stone Crows come calling, you might be glad to have a dog.”
“Might be.” The man hesitated, then gathered up his courage. “But they say you lost your belly for fighting at the Blackwater. They say—”
“I know what they say.” Sandor’s voice sounded like two woodsaws grinding together. “Pay me, and we’ll be gone.”
Sandor took it off the stick, ripped it apart with his big hands, and tossed half of it into Arya’s lap. “There’s nothing wrong with my belly,” he said as he pulled off a leg, “but I don’t give a rat’s arse for you or your brother. I have a brother too.”
There it is, the prelude to taking him off her list. How could you restore someone his humanity and his dignity by using his name and simultaneously keep him in your murder list? The entirety of ASOS Arya XIII is a testament to this The Hound/Sandor conflicting duality that is tearing at Arya’s insides:
“You know how long it’s been since I had a cup of wine?” Sandor swung down from the saddle. “Besides, we need to learn who holds the ruby ford. Stay with the horses if you want, it’s no hair off my arse.”
. . .
“What if they know you?” Sandor no longer troubled to hide his face. He no longer seemed to care who knew him. “They might want to take you captive.”
. . .
The innkeep came scurrying back with two stone cups and a flagon on a pewter platter. Sandor lifted the flagon to his mouth. Arya could see the muscles in his neck working as he gulped. When he slammed it back down on the table, half the wine was gone. “Now you can pour. Best pick up those coppers too, it’s the only coin you’re like to see today.”
. . .
“So Gregor took Harrenhal?” Sandor said.
“Didn’t require much taking,” said Polliver. “The sellswords fled as soon as they knew we were coming, all but a few. One of the cooks opened a postern gate for us, to get back at Hoat for cutting off his foot.” He chuckled. “We kept him to cook for us, a couple wenches to warm our beds, and put all the rest to the sword.”
Sandor said, “The Blackfish is still in Riverrun?”
“Not for long,” said Polliver. “He’s under siege. Old Frey’s going to hang Edmure Tully unless he yields the castle. The only real fighting’s around Raventree. Blackwoods and Brackens. The Brackens are ours now.”
. . .
The Tickler shrugged, straightened, and reached a hand behind his head to rub the back of his neck. Everything seemed to happen at once then; Sandor lurched to his feet, Polliver drew his longsword, and the Tickler’s hand whipped around in a blur to send something silver flashing across the common room. If the Hound had not been moving, the knife might have cored the apple of his throat; instead it only grazed his ribs, and wound up quivering in the wall near the door. He laughed then, a laugh as cold and hollow as if it had come from the bottom of a deep well. “I was hoping you’d do something stupid.” His sword slid from its scabbard just in time to knock aside Polliver’s first cut.
. . .
Polliver was a grim, methodical fighter, and he pressed Sandor steadily backward, his heavy longsword moving with brutal precision. The Hound’s own cuts were sloppier, his parries rushed, his feet slow and clumsy. He’s drunk, Arya realized with dismay. He drank too much too fast, with no food in his belly. And the Tickler was sliding around the wall to get behind him. She grabbed the second wine cup and flung it at him, but he was quicker than the squire had been and ducked his head in time. The look he gave her then was cold with promise. Is there gold hidden in the village? she could hear him ask. The stupid squire was clutching the edge of a table and pulling himself to his knees. Arya could taste the beginnings of panic in the back of her throat. Fear cuts deeper than swords. Fears cuts deeper . . .
. . .
Sandor gave a grunt of pain. The burned side of his face ran red from temple to cheek, and the stub of his ear was gone. That seemed to make him angry. He drove back Polliver with a furious attack, hammering at him with the old nicked longsword he had swapped for in the hills. The bearded man gave way, but none of the cuts so much as touched him. And then the Tickler leapt over a bench quick as a snake, and slashed at the back of the Hound’s neck with the edge of his short sword.
. . .
Polliver and the Tickler had driven the Hound into a corner behind a bench, and one of them had given him an ugly red gash on his upper thigh to go with his other wounds. Sandor was leaning against the wall, bleeding and breathing noisily. He looked as though he could barely stand, let alone fight. “Throw down the sword, and we’ll take you back to Harrenhal,” Polliver told him.
“If you want me, come get me.” Sandor pushed away from the wall and stood in a half-crouch behind the bench, his sword held across his body.
. . .
Her hands were red and sticky when Sandor dragged her off him. “Enough,” was all he said. He was bleeding like a butchered pig himself, and dragging one leg when he walked.
. . .
“Good.” Sandor’s voice was thick with pain. “If these three were whoring here, Gregor must hold the ford as well as Harrenhal. More of his pets could ride up any moment, and we’ve killed enough of the bloody buggers for one day.”
It’s the effect of the “one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic” phenomenon. Give your intended target a name and a face and a backstory, and you can no longer kill him in cold blood. You’ve humanised him. This is precisely what happens to Arya, who, although she still uses his sobriquet, can no longer use the sobriquet to keep him at arm’s length as “a statistic.” When caring for his wounds before she leaves him, it’s Sandor the man she’s seeing. She practically has to force herself back into seeing him as The Hound in order to restore him to her list:
When he got the fire going, Sandor propped up his helm in the flames, emptied half the wineskin into it, and collapsed back against a jut of moss-covered stone as if he never meant to rise again. He made Arya wash out the squire’s cloak and cut it into strips. Those went into his helm as well. “If I had more wine, I’d drink till I was dead to the world. Maybe I ought to send you back to that bloody inn for another skin or three. “
. . .
Sandor laughed at the fear on her face. “A jest, wolf girl. A bloody jest. Find me a stick, about so long and not too big around. And wash the mud off it. I hate the taste of mud.”
. . .
Sandor moaned, and she rolled onto her side to look at him. She had left his name out too, she realized. Why had she done that? She tried to think of Mycah, but it was hard to remember what he’d looked like. She hadn’t known him long. All he ever did was play at swords with me. “The Hound,” she whispered, and, “Valar morghulis.” Maybe he’d be dead by morning . . .
. . .
I need silver. The realization made her bite her lip. They had found a stag and a dozen coppers on Polliver, eight silvers on the pimply squire she’d killed, and only a couple of pennies in the Tickler’s purse. But the Hound had told her to pull off his boots and slice open his blood-drenched clothes, and she’d turned up a stag in each toe, and three golden dragons sewn in the lining of his jerkin. Sandor had kept it all, though. That wasn’t fair. It was mine as much as his. If she had given him the gift of mercy . . . she hadn’t, though. She couldn’t go back, no more than she could beg for help. Begging for help never gets you any. She would have to sell Craven, and hope she brought enough.
“Sandor” never made it to Arya’s list, “Sandor” got The Hound off Arya’s list. Such is the humanising power of using a first name in literature.
It must be stressed that the strength of the emotional connection in this technique comes not from merely using someone’s first name but from two characters experiencing shared tragedies. It’s shared tragedies that create the bond, that forge and mould and refine the feelings of love or respect. It’s the same bond of deep comradeship that’s created in combat situations, when men have to go through hell and survive it, and the experience makes the connection between survivors of a Band of Brothers unique, a bond different than in any other relationship, different to that of friends who went to school together or that of sweethearts that have been together since school. It’s the outcome of shared tragedies that upset the balance towards a new understanding of the other in all literary examples listed. For Philippa, it was the grueling search for Khaireddin; for Brienne, it was the Bloody Mummers; for Arya, it was the Red Wedding; for Sansa, it was Joffrey’s brutal abuse. Sometimes it’s one big tragedy, other times it’s a string of tragic events as a whole.
That’s behind my choice of The Lymond Chronicles for my comparative analysis of the technique, whose name in formal Literature studies I am not aware of—I call it with a simple descriptive label: marking characters’ emotional bonding through the use of first names. Because characters go through these requisite shared experiences that shape their relationship, because it has the same level of complexity and subtlety in interpersonal dynamics that ASOIAF does, and because of similarities in key points between the main characters. GRRM doesn’t have to have read Dunnett’s historical epic to be acquainted with the technique. Because the technique isn’t unknown or of recent creation, much less began with Dorothy Dunnett.
It’s centuries old. You can find it in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (the “Miss Bennett” to “dearest, loveliest Elizabeth” switch on Darcy’s part that express his feelings towards Lizzy) and in other novels from the period and earlier, and in several 20th century classics by authors that influenced Dunnett, like Georgette Heyer’s Arabella and Those Old Shades or Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries. For more recent examples, it’s a trope in Japanese manga and anime that a character starting to use another’s first name signifies intimacy and romance. I don’t even need to elaborate on how common it is in contemporary romance novels.
But no other so perfect an example as The Lymond Chronicles can be found, not just because of the requisite elements I already mentioned but also because it’s not always possible to clearly distinguish if the Mister-to-First Name switch is done following the technique’s pattern to indicate feelings, and when it’s merely due to social conventions. For example, in Austen’s time, society deemed it bad manners to call someone by their first name if one wasn’t related and/or well-acquainted with them. And this social norm has to be respected in historical romance and historical fiction, too, because social customs of the past were different and you couldn’t simply start addressing any person by their name whenever you wanted. Our modern informality wouldn’t have been acceptable in polite society. In some cultures it still isn’t, like for the Japanese, which might account for why it’s a trope in their literature and visual media to reveal a character’s falling in love through having then call the beloved by their name.
We have ample proof that Martin is as skilled at this technique as Dunnett from our book examples, and capable of doing it for both outcomes, romance and respect. We have Jaime/Brienne and Arya/Sandor already done and completed, so there is no reason why Martin wouldn’t be currently doing the same for Sansa, too, and it’s only a matter of time that he’ll take the pattern to its logical conclusion, which is still in the future. If so, what lies ahead is to look up for just “Sandor” in a POV of hers in the book to come; because that’ll mark the moment Sansa consciously acknowledges what she has in her heart instead of just signaling it through all this subtlety, hints, and small clues we are left to pore over and interpret.