A Clash of Kings
It is Joffrey’s nameday and a tourney is being held in his honour. A comet is visible in the sky, and Ser Arys claims that it is a banner from the gods in praise of Joffrey. He has come to escort Sansa down to the tourney grounds. She thinks to herself that she is not so sure about the comet being related to Joffrey, and that she’s heard the servants calling it the “Dragon’s Tail.” Although Ser Arys remains a faithful stooge by continuing to insist that it is in honour of Joff, Sansa still appreciates that it is he, and not one of the other KG knights, who has to come to escort her:
If she must have one of the Kingsguard dogging her steps, Sansa preferred that it be him. Ser Boros was short-tempered, Ser Meryn cold, and Ser Mandon’s strange dead eyes made her uneasy, while Ser Preston treated her like a lackwit child. Arys Oakheart was courteous, and would talk to her cordially. Once he even objected when Joffrey commanded him to hit her. He did hit her in the end, but not as hard as Ser Meryn or Ser Boros might have, and at least he had argued. The others obeyed without question… except for the Hound, but Joff never asked the Hound to punish her. He used the other five for that.
These beatings are clearly something of a ritual, as Sansa has to wear a dress with long sleeves to cover the bruises on her arms (both the dress and the bruises are “gifts” from Joff, she notes). She is very careful in her preparations for the day, making sure that her face is done and wearing a hairnet of moonstones that Joff also gave to her.
Arriving at the tourney, she exchanges greetings with the Hound, Myrcella and Tommen, with the latter excitedly telling her of his plans to ride in the tourney. She is reminded of Bran at Winterfell, and thinks of how she would “do anything to be with him” there. She is extremely gracious and indulgent with Tommen, attesting to her fear for his “foeman,” but Joff wastes no time in belittling his younger brother’s efforts:
His foeman will be stuffed with straw,” Joff said as he rose. The king was clad in a gilded breastplate with a roaring lion engraved upon its chest, as if he expected war to engulf them at any moment. He was thirteen today and tall for his age, with the green eyes and golden hair of the Lannisters.
He proceeds to compliment Sansa on her decision to wear his “stones” and tells her to sit next to him. Sansa is relieved that he has decided to “play the gallant” that day. He tells her about news from the Free Cities, concerning the Beggar King’s death, and how he will one day challenge Robb in open combat. Sansa says neutrally, “I should like to see that, Your Grace,” but inwardly thinks to herself, “More than you know.” We see this pattern repeated when he takes her hand as the tourney begins. On the inside, she is filled with disgust and loathing for him, but she must be remain outwardly calm to avoid suspicion:
A blare of trumpets sounded. The king settled back in his seat and took Sansa’s hand. Once that would have set her heart to pounding, but that was before he had answered her plea for mercy by presenting her with her father’s head. His touch filled her with revulsion now, but she knew better than to show it. She made herself sit very still.
The tourney has none of the “stars” that were present at the Hand’s tourney, and Joffrey grows increasingly irritated. He finally loses his cool when Ser Dontos runs out onto the field, naked from the waist down, and thoroughly drunk. The crowd is howling with laughter, but Sansa sees a look in Joffrey’s eyes which alert her that he is going to be particularly vengeful. When Dontos calls for more wine, Joffrey stands and orders a casket to be fetched from the cellars, which Ser Dontos will be drowned in.
Against her better judgement, Sansa immediately protests, and has to scramble for a reason to give Joff. She comes up with feeble excuse that it’s unlucky to kill a man on your name day, and is fortunate that the Hound backs her up:
Joffrey scowled. He knew she was lying, she could see it. He would make her bleed for this.
“The girl speaks truly,” the Hound rasped. “What a man sows on his name day, he reaps throughout the year.” His voice was flat, as if he did not a care a whit whether the king believed him or no.
Could it be true? Sansa had not known. It was just something she’d said, desperate to avoid punishment.
Joff grudgingly accepts and agrees to kill Dontos the next day, but Sansa again interjects and tells him that he should make Dontos his fool instead. Joffrey thinks it’s a clever idea and tells Sansa that maybe she’s not as stupid as his mother thinks.
After this, Tommen insists that he wants to be allowed to ride in the tourney, and with the insistence of Myrcella, Joffrey relents. When the little boy falls, Joffrey laughs, and again Sansa finds herself having to stand up to Joffrey for his behaviour:
Sansa found herself possessed of a queer giddy courage. “You should go with her,” she told the King. “Your brother might be hurt.”
Joffrey shrugged. “What if he is?”
“You should help him up and tell him how well he rode.” Sansa could not seem to stop herself.
“He got knocked off his horse and fell in the dirt,” the king pointed out. “That’s not riding well.”
“Look,” the Hound interrupted. “The boy has courage. He’s going to try again.
Upon noticing this, Sansa thinks that she would not have minded marrying Tommen if he had only been older than Joffrey.
At this point, Tyrion makes his arrival, entering through the gates with his hoard of Lannister men, sellswords and freeriders, and the Mountain savages. Joffrey is not pleased to see him, but Myrcella and Tommen are delighted. He then goes to greet Sansa and give condolences on her loss, but she is unable to think of what to say to him in return, and wonders if he is mocking her. After Joffrey and the Hound leave, Tyrion tries again by asking her if she feels sad because of her grief for her father. Sansa’s reply is her standard rehearsed one:
My father was a traitor… and my brother and lady mother are traitors as well… I am loyal to my beloved Joffrey.”
“No doubt. As loyal as a deer surrounded by wolves.”
“Lions,” she whispered, without thinking. She glanced about nervously, but there was no one close enough to hear.
At this, Tyrion promises “I shall not savage you,” but Sansa remains wary and guarded. Her final thoughts in the chapter are of how she will not make the same mistake again to trust another Lannister.
This chapter could be called “Learning to survive in the Lion’s Den” and as is to be expected, it’s not easy. We’re meeting Sansa not long after the events in AGOT, and her torment is continuing as evidenced by the bruises of her arm and her careful preparations in order to please, or at least not displease Joffrey. Things that would have once brought her pleasure—dressing up and looking pretty—are now about preventing her pain. I wouldn’t say that Sansa has grown accustomed to the mistreatment, but she’s certainly deduced the varying personalities of her abusers, and is more aware than anyone (besides the Hound perhaps) of what sets Joffrey off.
As such, we see that she at least credits Ser Arys with being a lot kinder to her than the others. She also notes that Joffrey doesn’t ask the Hound to beat her. Another person might have lumped all the KG together as one abysmal bunch, but Sansa at least is capable of recognizing who it is that she must fear the most—a key survival tool.
This chapter really marks the beginning of what I think is the hallmark of Sansa’s chapters from here on: the things that she cannot say, and the intimacies that seem like they’re just between her and the reader. There’s a lot she would like to say to Joffrey, but she’s quite careful to keep her smiles pleasant and her words either neutral or in praise of him. It’s evident, however, that there’s only so much she can do at times to spare herself a beating. Joffrey might be too dumb to recognize double meanings, but he’s also too erratic to predict how his moods will swing. This requires constant vigilance on Sansa’s part, and it must be both physically and mentally exhausting. Her dislike and disdain for him are, however, firmly entrenched as absolutes.
Sansa’s continued sympathy and empathy for others, even those she should understandably despise, are shown via her thoughts and actions concerning three characters in this chapter: Tommen, Ser Dontos and Janos Slynt’s son. With Morros Slynt, she at first wishes that Ser Balon kills him in their tourney joust, but when it looks like he might have been seriously injured, she is appalled, wondering “if the gods had heard her vengeful prayer.”
Her natural ease with children and kindness are brought out with Tommen. She knows just how to flatter him, and genuinely wishes him luck in his contest. It was really sweet to read about her raising her voice to add to the cheers of Lady Tanda and Lord Gyles, and really highlights an essential goodness to Sansa’s nature, and ability to put the cares and concerns of others before her own. Cheering for Tommen wasn’t something she had to do to make Joff happy, in fact, it could have produced the opposite effect, but it was a natural expression that she cannot stifle even with Joffrey brooding in bad natured silence beside her.
It is in her support of Ser Dontos, however, that she risks the most. It really seems to have been an instinctual response to Joffrey’s barbarity:
Sansa heard herself gasp. “No you can’t.”
Joffrey turned his head. “What did you say?”
Sansa could not believe she had spoken. Was she mad? To tell him no in front of half the court? She hadn’t meant to say anything, only … Ser Dontos was drunk and silly and useless, but he meant no harm.
She can’t believe she has spoken, and there’s a real desperation in the excuse she comes up with, but it’s still a pretty good one given how fast she has to think. Again, we see that willingness, even when facing terrible consequences, to put her own safety aside and advocate for someone else’s, even someone as unworthy as Ser Dontos. And of course, she has the Hound to thank for saving her from Joffrey’s wrath at her opposition. Sandor might be standing behind Joffrey, but he’s at the forefront of this entire chapter, serving as critical support of Sansa in two instances, and to undermine Joff’s attempts to bully his siblings.
What is Sandor’s motivation here? And it’s even more noticeable given his recent “interventions” in the last AGOT chapter, when he stopped her from pushing Joff over the edge and counselled her to give him what he wants (love and fear).
Anyways, what’s even more remarkable about the Dontos episode is that Sansa manages to actually spare his life. Her suggestion to Joffrey about making Dontos his clown is just the right thing to appeal to Joff’s arrogance, and perfectly fitting given Dontos’ drunk excesses. For someone that had hitherto believed Joffrey to be the ideal Prince, Sansa has learnt quickly how to both spot the monster’s mad episodes, and to influence his decisions somewhat. She may have been late to the game, but she’s learning to play.
When Tyrion arrives, we see her struck by just how ugly he is. I think that’s important to note given the role Tyrion later plays in her life. Compare her two differing reactions to seeing Tyrion and Sandor in this chapter:
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 jewelled brooch, the snowy cloth looking somehow unnatural against his brown roughspun tunic and studded leather jerkin… His voice was as rough as the sound of a saw on wood. The burn scars on his face and throat made one side of his mouth twitch when he spoke.
In their midst, riding on a tall red horse in a strange high saddle that cradled him back and front, was the queen’s dwarf brother Tyrion Lannister, the one they called the Imp. He had let his beard grow to cover his push-in face, until it was a bristly tangle of yellow and black hair, course as wire. Down his back flowed a shadowskin cloak, black fur striped with white. He held the reins in his left hand and carried his right arm in a white silk sling, but otherwise looked as grotesque as Sansa remembered from when he had visited Winterfell. With his bulging brow and mismatched eyes, he was still the ugliest man she had ever chanced to look upon.
Now, I’m not trying to set up a debate on who’s uglier between the Hound and Tyrion, but it’s notable which one Sansa finds thoroughly unappealing, and whilst both men make for gruesome sights, she seems much more put out by Tyrion’s appearance.
I can appreciate Tyrion’s efforts to say something nice to Sansa, but it’s not surprising that Sansa doesn’t really know what to say to him. What can you really say to a man who’s offering commiserations on the fate of your family, when his family is the one responsible for it? I think this chapter really highlights the essential roadblocks to any “happiness” that could have been found in a Tyrion/Sansa marriage. Not only does she find him disgusting on a purely physical level, she also is smart to realise that no Lannister, no matter how well-meaning or kind, can be trusted. She’s been burned twice by Joffrey and Cersei, and isn’t about to stick her hand out again:
He speaks more gently than Joffrey, she thought, but the queen spoke to me gently too. He’s a Lannister, her brother and Joff’s uncle, and no friend. Once she had loved Prince Joffrey with all her heart, and admired and trusted his mother, the queen. They had repaid that love and trust with her father’s head. Sansa would never make that mistake again.
Sansa may still be a prisoner, but she’s not a fool any longer.
Come to the godswood tonight, if you want to go home.
The chapter starts with Sansa in her chambers reading a message she found folded up under one of her pillows. She is unsure what to do, and first thinks that she should take it to the Queen to show she was being good. As she thinks this, she rubs her stomach where she is still badly bruised from Ser Meryn punching her with a mailed fist for saying she hoped the Others would kill Janos Slynt within Joff’s hearing range. She thinks:
It was her own fault. She must learn to hide her feelings better, so as not to anger Joffery.
She reflects again on the words “Come to the godswood tonight, if you want to go home,” and thinks that she has prayed so hard for a true knight to save her and wonders who it could be. She thinks it maybe one of the Redwyne twins, Balon Swann or Beric Dondarrion. Then she worries that it is a trick by Joffrey. Or a trap to prove her a traitor, and that Ser Ilyn Payne will be waiting for her in the godswood with Ice.
The door opens and a servant enters. Sansa quickly hides the note and asks the girl to set a fire. She doesn’t trust the girl and notes that the Queen changes her servants every fortnight so that she doesn’t befriend them. Sansa thinks that the girl seems stupid, but that she has sly eyes.
Doubtless, she was scurrying off to report to the queen, or maybe Varys. All her maids spied on her, she was certain.
Once the girl has left, she burns the note and looks out to see Ser Preston Greenfield of the KG pacing the drawbridge between Maegor’s and the rest of the castle. She realises she can’t get past him without her being questioned, so undresses and goes to bed. She wonders if her true knight is waiting for her, and how long will he wait for her.
She wishes she had someone to talk to and advise her, like Septa Mordane or Jeyne Poole, who she remembers as her truest friend and had never been mentioned again after she was taken away by LF.
She tried not to think of them too often, yet sometimes the memories came unbidden, and then it was hard to hold back the tears. Once in a while, Sansa even missed her sister. By now Arya was safe back in Winterfell, dancing and sewing, playing with Bran and baby Rickon, even riding through the winter town if she liked.
During her reflections, she hears shouting from outside. She thinks she should go back to her bed and that this is just some new trouble like the gossip being spoken about at the wells. Then she sees that the drawbridge is unguarded. Even though she thinks it is madness, she quickly dresses and takes a knife and hurries towards the Godswood. She avoids being seen by soldiers, the KG and Joff. She hides in the shadows, and at one point:
When something brushed against her leg, she almost jumped out of her skin, but it was only a cat, a ragged black tom with a chewed-off ear. The creature spit at her and leapt away.
She finally reaches the godswood. She notes the smells and thinks:
Lady would have liked this place.
She notes that there is something wild about even this godswood, which is in a city, and that she could feel the old gods watching her. She thinks that she had preferred her mother’s gods with their statues, stained glass windows, incense, crystals and glitzy rainbow colours, but at the same time, she could not deny the power of the godswood and notes that it is especially powerful at night.
Help me, she prayed, send me a friend, a true knight to champion me…
As she prays, she moves from tree to tree, feeling the rough bark of the trees and the leaves on her face. She wonders if she has arrived too late.
Then a man appears: Ser Dontos. A very drunk Ser Dontos. He tries to reach out for her and she warns him off while her hand goes to her knife. He says he is there to help her. She says he’s drunk, and he says it was one cup to help his courage as they will skin him if they catch him.
And what will they do to me? Sansa found herself thinking of Lady again. She could smell out falsehood, she could, but she was dead, father had killed her, on account of Arya. She drew the knife and held it before her with both hands.
Dontos asks if she is going to stab him and she says “I will. Tell me who sent you,” to which Ser Dontos replies no one. Sansa gets upset and says she prayed to the gods for a knight, and they have sent her a drunken old fool. Ser Dontos says he was a fool, but her courageousness in saving him from Joff has also saved him from himself, and that the greatest knight of all was a fool, and falls to his knees in front of her. Sansa thinks of Florian, and a shiver runs through her. Dontos says he can be her Florian, and she asks how he will get her away from the Lannisters, while thinking that it is madness to trust him, but it may be the only chance she gets. He tells her the hardest part is getting out of the castle, but once they have done that, they’ll get a boat. Sansa asks if they can leave tonight. Dontos says no, and asks her to put away her blade.
Dontos then says that her father was a true man and that he stood by and let him be slain, yet when he was in peril, she spoke up for him. He says that he was never a hero,
but I was a knight once and you have helped me remember what that meant.
He then places his hand on the Heart Tree and swears an oath to the Old Gods that he will send her home. Sansa thinks that a solemn oath before the gods is important and accepts his offer of an escape plan.
He tells her that she must come to the godswood as often as she can, as it is the only place they can talk freely and that all conversations can be heard everywhere else, because the stones have ears. He says that he may be cruel and mocking outside the godswood, but it is a role he must play, and she must play her role too if they want to keep their heads. He tells her:
You will need to be brave and strong… and patient, patient above all.
He then says she should go before she is missed and they should not be seen together, so she must leave first. Sansa kisses him on the cheek and thinks, the gods heard my prayer, and that she has her Florian.
As she is hurrying back, she thinks about Florian and Jonquil and how it is her favourite song.
Florian was homely too, though not so old. She was racing headlong down the serpentine steps when a man lurched out of a hidden doorway.
She knocks into him and begins to fall, but he grabs her wrist and says it’s a long way down and does she want to kill them both, and perhaps she does. She realizes it’s the Hound. She tries to get free of his grasp and tells him that he’s hurting her. He asks what she is doing at the serpentine steps, and when she doesn’t answer, he shakes her and demands to know where she was. She tells him she was in the godswood praying for her father and Joff. Sandor says he’s not so drunk as to believe that and lets her arm go. He then tells her:
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?
After going on about songs, about Knights and maidens, he says she likes knights and Sansa responds that she likes true knights. The Hound laughs at this, and says that he is no more a lord than a knight, and asks if he has to beat that into her. He then mentions that he has had too much wine and says she has to go back to her cage.
I’ll take you there. Keep you safe for the King.” The Hound gave her a push, oddly gentle, and followed her down the steps.
They walk in silence until they reach Maegor’s Holdfast, and Sansa gets alarmed when she sees Ser Boros on the Bridge. Sansa thinks that he is the worst of the KG. The Hound, however, notices her apprehension and tells her that Ser Boros is not someone to be afraid of and compares him to a toad painted with tiger stripes. Ser Boros tries to question them, and Sandor tells him to f*** off, and reminds him that he’s not a Ser, he’s the king’s dog. When questioned by Ser Boros, Sansa says she was in the godswood praying for Joff, and thinks the lie sounds more convincing this time. Sandor intervenes and says she could hardly be expected to sleep with all the racket. Ser Boros says there are people rioting because of the food for Tyrek’s wedding feast. Joff led a sortie and Clegane mockingly says a brave boy. Sansa thinks:
Let us see how brave he is when he faces my brother.
As they walk on, Sansa asks why Sandor lets people call him a dog and doesn’t let anyone call him a knight. Sandor tells her that he likes dogs better than knights, and tells her that his grandfather was a kennelmaster who saved Tytos Lannister from a lioness. Three of his dogs died, and his grandfather lost a leg, and in exchange Tytos gave them a tower house, lands and made his father a squire. He notes:
A hound will die for you, but never lie to you. And he’ll look you straight in the face.
He notes that she still won’t look at him and says that he never got his song. Sansa says she will gladly sing for him and mentions Florian and Jonquil, to which Sandor says spare me and describes them as a fool and his cunt, but says he’ll get a song from her one day whether she wills it or not. She says she’d gladly sing for him and he snorts:
Pretty thing, and such a bad liar. A dog can smell a lie, you know. Look around you, and take a good whiff. They’re all liars here . . . and every one better than you.
This is another great chapter for seeing the development of Sansa. Her response to the note is not naïve but a realisation that it could be many things, from real to a trap to a cruel jape. She deliberates on the best course of action and also destroys the note, which shows a lot of sense. She also doesn’t trust her maids and has already worked out they are spies for the Queen or Varys, which is interesting as she doesn’t seem to have much to do with him, but is aware that he maybe spying on her.
We also see her realise that she has to guard what she says more and only think things, whilst hiding her feelings. The beatings she endures sound unpleasant to say the least.
We also see more of the religious side to Sansa. Whether that has become more developed due to her captivity and it being her only course of action, or already deep seated beliefs is debatable. Certainly, her love of the Seven comes across as childish infatuation with the exterior elements of it, while the godswood seems to resonant with her. Similarly, she is still thinking it terms of being rescued rather than trying to orchestrate her own escape attempt. However, when she goes to the godswood, she does arm herself with a knife, thinking:
If it is some trap, better that I die than let them hurt me more.
This struck me as very brave, but also very sad. She is clearly being beaten frequently and is having to play a mummer’s part to survive. She can no longer be Sansa Stark. She must be a modified version that always watches what she says. With Ser Dontos, she pulls a knife on him and is reluctant to drop it until he swears his oath. She is not going to believe the first thing anyone says anymore. She has become more distrustful, and we see more perspective as she asks him who he is working for. On a side note, I always wondered if LF was hiding in the godswood listening to this conversation. Sansa is much more of a player than pawn in this encounter with Ser Dontos.
Also, she thinks about Jeyne Poole and Septa Mordane and enviously of Arya, who she thinks is safely in Winterfell. She is also still blaming Lady’s death on Arya. I don’t have a sibling, but it occurs to me that although Arya and Sansa are sisters, Sansa cared more about Jeyne Poole. She was more of a sister to her than Arya.
Her interaction with the Godswood and her prayer are also interesting, as she prays for:
Help me, she prayed, send me a friend, a true knight to champion me…
She then thinks after meeting Dontos that Florian was homely but younger, and almost instantly runs into Sandor Clegane, who despite being an ass, sees her safely past Ser Boros, and when she is frightened of Ser Boros, tries to comfort her. Also, the Sandor-Lady parallel is highlighted again in this chapter.
And what will they do to me? Sansa found herself thinking of Lady again. She could smell out falsehood, she could, but she was dead.
Pretty thing, and such a bad liar. A dog can smell a lie, you know. Look around you, and take a good whiff. They’re all liars here … and every one better than you.
Despite her mummer’s act and watching what she says, she never seems to do so with Sandor. She talks to him quite openly, even though he scares her.
There is also the strange interaction with the cat, which we know is Balerion, Rhaenys’ kitten. It doesn’t like Sansa and I wonder if this is foreshadowing of Sansa going against the Targs. Again, fitting into the Younger Queen theory if she is married to Aegon and he is a Blackfyre.
Also, in the godswood Sansa notices that there is more power at night and this seems to echo Bran’s dream call to Jon about liking it in the dark.
We have more fears about Ser Ilyn Payne, and there certainly seems to be some idea that he is waiting for her.
Sansa has been summoned to Joff’s court and the Hound is waiting for her outside her room. She is very nervous as the Hound has warned her, “the longer you keep him waiting, the worse it will go for you,” and she thinks that whilst Sandor is “always rough-tongued,” something about the way he had looked at her was distressing. She gets dressed quickly and leaves with the Hound, asking him what about what she has done.
The Hound tells her that it’s because of Robb and Sansa immediately gives her stock answer, that Robb is a traitor and she has nothing to do with his actions. She thinks that if Robb has harmed the Kingslayer it will mean her life. The Hound snorts at her reply, telling her they’ve trained her well, and by this time they’ve reached the lower bailey where a crowd has gathered. Her senses make random observations as she passes through the gathering, Lord Gyles coughing, stablehands eyeing her insolently, the Redwyne twins averting their gazes, and a mewling cat on the floor, dying slowly with a crossbow quarrel sticking from its ribs. Ser Dontos is the only one who approaches her, in his new get-up as a fool, and tries to offer comfort, squeezing her arm and telling her to be brave.
Joffrey is in the centre of the crowd, winding the crossbow, with Meryn Trant and Ser Boros at his side. Sansa immediately feels alarmed at the sight of the two meanest KG knights, and drops to her knees in front of Joffrey:
Kneeling won’t save you now,” the king said. “Stand up. You’re here to answer for your brother’s latest treasons.”
“Your Grace, whatever my traitor brother has done, I had no part. You know that, I beg you, please—”
“Get her up!”
The Hound pulled her to her feet, not ungently.
Joffrey orders Ser Lancel to tell Sansa what Robb has done, and Sansa notes that she had
always thought Lancel Lannister comely and well-spoken, but there was neither pity nor kindness in the look he gave her.
Lancel proceeds to claim that Robb’s men had used an army of wargs to surprise Ser Stafford Lannister, killing thousands of men and then feasting on their flesh. Sansa is horrified and unable to speak, but Dontos interjects when Joff questions her silence, telling him, “the poor child is shocked witless.”
Joff tells Sansa that he has not forgotten the unnaturalness of the Starks and how her “monster” savaged him. Sansa is quick to Lady’s defence however:
That was Arya’s wolf,” she said. “Lady never hurt you, but you killed her anyway.
Joff, countering that it was Ned and not him who had killed Lady, then brags about how he killed a peasant the previous night who had dared to come to the palace asking for bread. He tells Sansa that he is not able to kill her, otherwise his uncle Jaime would lose his life, but can still punish her to teach Robb a lesson. He orders Sandor Clegane to hit her, but Ser Dontos intervenes, telling Joff “Let me beat her!” and proceeding to pelt Sansa with fruit whilst the crowd laughs. Sansa hopes desperately that this will be enough to satisfy Joff but:
Joffrey did not so much as snigger. “Boros. Meryn.”
Ser Meryn Trant seized Ser Dontos by the arm and flung him brusquely away. The red faced fool went sprawling. Broomstick, melon and all. Ser Boros seized Sansa.
“Leave her face,” Joffrey commanded. “I like her pretty.
Boros slammed a fist into Sansa’s belly, driving the air out of her. When she doubled over, the knight grabbed her hair and drew his sword, and for one hideous instant she was certain he meant to open her throat. As he laid the flat of the blade across her thighs, she thought her legs might break from the force of the blow. Sansa screamed. Tears welled in her eyes. It will be over soon. She soon lost count of the blows.
“Enough,” she heard the Hound rasp.
“No it isn’t, the King replied. “Boros, make her naked.”
Boros shoved a meaty hand down the front of Sansa’s bodice and gave a hard yank. The silk came tearing away, baring her to the waist. Sansa covered her breasts with her hands. She could hear sniggers, far off and cruel. “Beat her bloody,” Joffrey said, “we’ll see how her brother fancies—”
“What is the meaning of this?
Tyrion’s demand ends Sansa’s torture, and she drops to her knees, covering her chest. Tyrion goes on to castigate Joffrey and then orders someone to give Sansa something to cover herself. Sandor Clegane takes his cloak from back and tosses it to her. Sansa thinks that:
The coarse weave was scratchy against her skin, but no velvet ever felt so fine.
She is then led from the court, and taken to the tower of the Hand, while servant girls tend to her wounds:
As they scrubbed her down with soap and sluiced warm water over her head, all she could see were the faces from the bailey. Knights are sworn to defend the weak, protect women and fight for the right, but none of them did a thing. Only Ser Dontos had tried to help, and he was no longer a knight, no more than the Imp was, nor the Hound… the Hound hated knights… I hate them too, Sansa thought. They are no true knights, not one of them.
After this, Maester Frenken comes to see her and gives her dreamwine to sleep. He tells her that when she wakes it will seem a bad dream, but Sansa thinks, “No it won’t, you stupid man.”
Upon waking, she is at first disoriented, but the pain in her legs soon reminds her of all that happened.
She tries to leave the room to go implore Dontos to take her away now, but she is stopped by a woman outside her room who tells her that the Imp has left orders for her not to leave.
Tyrion soon arrives and Sansa asks if she is his prisoner. Tyrion, replying that she is his “guest”, suggests that they have a talk. He explains to her why Joffrey was so angry, because it was an important victory for Robb, but advises her not to take it as a sign that her brother will win the war. Sansa questions whether there was truly sorcery involved, but Tyrion scoffs at the suggestion. He questions Sansa on her love for Joffrey, and isn’t convinced about her protestations of love for the king. Inquiring about whether she has flowered or not, he tells her that he does not intend for her to ever marry Joffrey and that she should pray for her brother to bend the knee, and in so doing he would be able to send her home:
If it gives you any solace, I do not intend that you ever wed Joffrey. No marriage will reconcile Stark and Lannister after all that has happened, I fear. More’s the pity. The match was one of King Robert’s better notions, if Joffrey hadn’t mucked it up.
When he suggests leaving Sansa in the Tower of the Hand with armed guards outside, she protests for fear of not being able to go to Dontos. She lies and tells Tyrion that the place would give her bad nightmares as it was where her father’s men were slain.
Tyrion Lannister studied her face. “I am no stranger to nightmares, Sansa. Perhaps you are wiser than I knew. Permit me at least to escort you safely back to your own chambers.
This chapter is always a tough one for me to read for obvious reasons. And yes, let me just start by stating that some time spent in a dungeon with Ramsay Bolton as jailer-in-chief is what I would have considered adequate punishment for the likes of Joffrey, Ser Meryn and Ser Boros.
OK, onto the analysis. The chapter is closely paralleled with the one in AGOT when Sansa petitions Joffrey to be merciful to Ned. The essential difference between the chapters is that this time the blinders are off. Sansa knows exactly the kind of person Joffrey is now and it’s for herself that she’s now pleading for mercy. I thought a chart would be useful in helping to illustrate the parallels:
|AGOT SANSA: THEN||ACOK SANSA: NOW|
|The attempt by the crowd to act as though she doesn’t exist.
|Same attitudes, except now the crowd is filled with all types of people and she is met with more hostility—the “insolent” look of the stablehands.
|Sansa feels no danger for herself, she is only there to ask her beloved to spare her father’s life.||Sansa is acutely aware that Joffrey is a monster, and is very worried that she could be punished harshly.|
|Joffrey is still playing the “gallant”. Trying to appear to be fair and just. Acts as though he really cares for Sansa.||There are no such illusions this time. Joffrey is revelling in his perversity. The dead cat on the ground, bragging about killing peasant and set on punishing Sansa for her brother’s actions.|
|The coldness of court officials like Pycelle and Cersei.||Lancel now takes on that role here. The same sense of betrayal that Sansa felt in having once believed in Lancel’s kindness.|
|Barristan’s cloak is used by Sansa to protect her dress when she kneels in front of the king.||Sansa uses the Hound’s cloak to cover her nakedness after her dress is ripped by Ser Boros.
Whilst the chapter in AGOT ended with Sansa feeling triumphant in her faith in Joffrey, the tone and mood of this chapter are of bitterness and despondency. What we’re seeing in this chapter is Sansa’s continual loss of naïve beliefs in true knights that protect the weak and helpless. Her conscious agreement with the Hound on this is important. She has realised that no one else besides Dontos attempted to help her, and neither Dontos nor the Imp are knights. Sansa’s realisation here is profoundly bittersweet. We can admit that she needed to come to this awakening, she needed to grasp the inherent fallacy of believing that knights possess a code of honour, but it’s still awful to watch the process through which she must learn these harsh lessons, and it’s painful to see the crumbling of a young girl’s idealism. Sansa is no longer the innocent girl thinking that things will be better when she awakes. Her thought concerning Maester Frenken’s platitudes underscores the loss of that childish belief that circumstances can change overnight, and now she is much more intent on making sure that things change by trying to reach Ser Dontos in the godswood.
As I might have intimated before, I’m sympathetic towards Dontos—hell, I’m sympathetic to anyone that had the misfortune of getting mixed up with Littlefinger, but I must say that this chapter proves that Dontos did care about Sansa, and that it wasn’t simply about the money as LF tries to assert later on. He was under no compulsion to protect her here and didn’t have to risk Joffrey’s wrath by stepping in for the Hound and pretending to beat her. It highlights a positive side to Dontos’s character, something that comes through in spite of his weaknesses. Sansa herself is grateful for his actions, thinking:
… My Florian. She could have kissed him, blotchy skin and broken veins and all.
Dontos could never have embodied the romantic Florian of Sansa’s favourite song, but he is nonetheless heroic in this moment, and I think this speaks to the underlying theme of Sansa’s arc—the recognition of non-traditional heroes and heroines that may never be sung about, but still perform acts of bravery and goodness, which challenge the roles society has prescribed for them—namely, fools and dogs.
Speaking of dogs, the Hound again remains a central figure in Sansa’s experiences and growth. She is able to sense from looking at him that she’s in real trouble with Joffrey, and after her beating, it is his opinion about knights that she remembers and agrees with. But the really interesting thing that takes place between the Hound and Sansa in this chapter is what is left unacknowledged and unspoken. First, he utters one word concerning her abuse, “Enough”. Now, there’s been a lot of debate on other threads about whether this “enough” was enough. Should the Hound have said more or done more to protect Sansa in this scene? I’m not going to get into that in this analysis, but certainly others can expand on the question if they want to.
My feelings have always been that it’s important to focus on why Martin had him say it in the first place. His words are not only necessary to reveal his unhappiness with what is happening, but I think they provide a link with his actions later when he is the one to give her his cloak. It’s like they share something in this scene, as I noted it mostly goes unspoken and unacknowledged. The Hound only utters that one word, but it speaks volumes, and Sansa doesn’t recall him saying it later, nor does she really think of how it was his cloak that she clutched desperately, but her words on how the rough wool felt finer than any velvet also says more than what is written down here. The cloak is certainly being used by Martin to symbolise the Hound’s relationship with Sansa: the “rough-tongued” man who nonetheless performs a vital service in helping to shield her from the horrors of the world.
Are we witnessing the beginning of something between these two? Something that defies traditional expectations and works to draw them closer?
The cloak exchange also parallels with Sansa’s earlier use of Barristan’s cloak in AGOT. In that scene she used it as a mere garment to protect her clothing, but now, Sandor’s cloak is a kind of lifeline. Her fists are “bunched hard in the white wool.” Her need for the cloak in this scene is much more critical and perhaps Martin is suggesting that she has a need for a “true knight” after all, but not the one she would have expected, indeed, it may be the one who isn’t even a knight.
In the conversation with Tyrion later on, we also see that Sansa is becoming a better liar. In the previous chapter, the Hound had warned her that everyone else is better at this than she is, but she’s quickly learning to conceal her true agenda and managing to fool one of the more intelligent persons in KL. Tyrion’s comment that perhaps she is wiser than he knew, reveals that he didn’t think much of her intellect before, but comes to feel some common bond with her in his experience of nightmares as well. This is a minor (or major depending on how you see it) triumph for Sansa, to hide her real feelings, and tell a convincing lie. Even throughout the conversation we see how she thinks one thing, but says another. It’s an important skill that she’s been sharpening ever since her captivity began.
Excerpt: Tyrion IX
A quick review of this chapter as it has bearing on Sansa’s arc.
Myrcella is being sent to Dorne. At the docks, Tyrion notices Sansa trying to comfort Tommen. He is crying because Myrcella is leaving. Joff mocks him for being a baby, and Sansa says:
Prince Aemon the Dragonknight cried the day Princess Naerys wed his brother Aegon,” Sansa Stark said, “and the twins Ser Arryk and Ser Erryk died with tears on their cheeks after each had given the other a mortal wound.
Joff tells her to shut up or he’ll have Ser Meryn give her a mortal wound. Tyrion wonders why Cersei can’t see what he is.
Tyrion thinks about Petyr Baelish, and if he has succeed with the Tyrells or is dead.
If Littlefinger is dead, then I’m a giant.
After Myrcella leaves, the group heads back to the palace, but the crowds are unhappy. A woman with a dead baby runs in front of them. Sansa talks to Joff and he gives her money. The crowd gets ugly and someone throws shit as Joff. and Joff orders Sandor Clegane off is horse and into the crowd to capture whoever it was. A full scale riot ensues. Joff, Tyrion, Cersei, etc., get back to the Castle. Tyrion realises the Hound and Sansa are missing and immediately thinks about what will happen to Jaime if she’s hurt. Tyrion proceeds to kick Joff.
Sandor Clegane then rides in with Sansa clinging to him. She has a gash in her head and is in shock.
They… they were throwing things… rocks and filth, eggs… I tried to tell them, I had no bread to give them. A man tried to pull me from the saddle. The Hound killed him, I think… his arm…” Her eyes widened and she put a hand over her mouth. “He cut off his arm.
Sandor tells a Maester to take her back to her cage and treat her wound.
ACOK Sansa IV
Stannis’s army is across the river and the fires from the Kingswood can be seen in the RK. The whole Riverfront with its homes and warehouses has been set on fire by Tyrion and the RK tastes of ash. Sansa goes to the godswood to find Ser Dontos. Ser Dontos asks if she has been crying. She has, but says it is because of the smoke and it looks like half the Kingswood is burning. Ser Dontos says Stannis has set it alight to try and find Shagga and co. Ser Dontos then tells her some of the things he’s heard. He says that people will say things in front of him now that he is a fool, that they would never say when he was a knight. He tells her that the Spider pays for secrets with gold and that he suspects Moon Boy is one of his spies.
Sansa thinks that Ser Dontos is drunk again, but that he is all she has. She asks if it is true Stannis burnt the godswood at Storm’s End and Ser Dontos confirms this, and says Stannis will burn down the Great Sept of Baelor if he takes the city. Sansa thinks how beautiful she had first thought that building was, but then her father had had his head cut off on its steps. She tells Ser Dontos that she wants it burnt. Ser Dontos tells her to hush as the gods will hear her. She says
Why should they? They never hear my prayers.
Ser Dontos says that they sent her him.
Sansa picked at the bark of a tree. She felt lightheaded, almost feverish. “They sent you, but what good have you done? You promised you would take me home, but I’m still here,
Ser Dontos says he knows a good man with a ship and they will get out when the time is right. Sansa insists that the time is right now, because with the upcoming battle they have forgotten about her. Ser Dontos tells her they could get out of the castle, but the city gates are heavily guarded and Tyrion has closed off the river. Most of Stannis’s vanguard is across the river and the tents and banners of 5,000 men can be seen across the river. Sansa says that when he arrives, Stannis will have ten times the men Joff has. Ser Dontos says it doesn’t matter how many men he has. Without ships he can’t cross the river. Ser Dontos says he knows it is not easy for her and when her friend returns to the city they will have their ship, and he tells her to be patient and have faith in him.
Sansa digs her nails into her hand and feels the fear in her tummy “twisting and pinching.” She reflects that she still has nightmares about the riot that leave her struggling for breath when she wakes. She thinks about the screaming people trying to pull her off her horse and what they would have done to her if the Hound hadn’t cut his way through to her. The High Septon was torn to pieces and Ser Aron’s head was caved in with a rock. Then she thinks how ludicrous it was for Ser Dontos to tell her to try not to be afraid, because the whole city was afraid. She notes that people were trying to protect themselves, but the last time the city was sacked by the Lannisters, hundreds died and there was looting and raping, and that was when the city opened its gates. This time Tyrion meant to fight and they could expect no mercy.
Ser Dontos notes that if he were still a knight, he would have to fight and thinks he ought to thank Joff for making him a fool.
If you thanked him for making you a fool, he’d make you a knight again,” Sansa said sharply.
Ser Dontos laughs and says she’s clever. Sansa says that Joff and Cersei think she’s stupid. Ser Dontos tells her that’s a good thing because Cersei, Tyrion and Lord Varys all watch each other, but no one watches Lady Lollys because they think she is stupid. Ser Dontos grows weepy and asks for a kiss. Sansa gives him a kiss and tries not to start crying.
It took all her strength not to weep. She had been weeping too much of late. It was unseemly, she knew, but she could not seem to help herself; the tears would come, sometimes over a trifle, and nothing she did could hold them back.
She goes back to Maegor’s and notes the drawbridge is unguarded,
the white knights of the Kingsguard had duties more important than dogging her heels.
When she reached her bedchamber, she can’t bear to enter and it feels like an airless cell. She continues to climb out the stairs onto the roof. While looking out over the arming city, she feels a sharp stab go through her belly. She thinks she might have fallen, but
a shadow moved suddenly and strong fingers grabbed her arm and steadied her.
She grabs a merlon and demands to be let go. Sandor Clegane asks her if she thinks she has wings or if she wants to end up like her crippled brother. Sansa twists in his grasp and says she wasn’t going to fall and that he startled her. He says that he scared her and still does. She takes a deep breath to calm herself, and then says she thought she was alone, before glancing away from his face. He notes she still can’t bear to look at him, releases her and then says she was glad to see his face on the day of the riot.
Sansa reflects back to the horror of the riot and,
the cruel pinch of fingers on her wrist as she lost her balance and began to fall. She’d though she was going to die then, but the Hound had cut the man’s arm off and pushed her back into her saddle and then proceeded to leap at her attackers. When the mob begins to run away from the Hound, he laughs and his terrible face is for a moment transformed.
Sansa then makes herself look hard at Sandor. She thinks it is only courteous. She thinks the scars and the twitching are not the worst, but that his eyes are fuller of anger than anyone she’s ever seen. She hesitantly says she should have come to him afterwards to thank him for rescuing her and that he was brave. Sandor rebukes the brave comment and says they had him 30 to 1 and yet no one dared face him.
Sansa reflects that she hates the way he talks and how he is always so harsh and angry. She asks him if it gives him joy to kill people.
He says it gives him joy to kill people. She must then give a disapproving look, because Sandor tells her that she can wrinkle up her face all she likes, but she can spare him her false piety. He says she was a High lord’s daughter and that Ned killed men. Sansa says it was his duty but he never liked it. Sandor laughs and says her father was a liar and that killing is the sweetest thing there is.
He draws his longsword and tells her it is truth, and that her father discovered it when he had his head cut off. He goes on about the Stark line and then asks if she remembers the dance her father’s feet made when his head came off.
Sansa hugs herself, suddenly cold and asks him why he is so hateful and that she was thanking him. He says as if I was a knight in one of those stories you like. He then asks her what she thinks a knight is for, expounds on some stereotypes and then says knights are for killing. He puts his long sword to her neck and tells her, he killed his first man at twelve and how he has lost count of all those he’s killed. He says they can all have their trappings and spits at her feet when he mentions Sers, and says he doesn’t need to fear any man as long as he has his sword, and takes the sword away from her throat.
Sansa thinks except his brother, and then also thinks he is a mean tempered dog that will bite any hand that tries to pet him, and will savage any man who tries to hurt his masters. What she says however is “Not even the men across the river?”
Sandor looks at the Kingswood on fire, and says only cowards fight with fire. Sansa tells him Lord Stannis is not a coward, but Sandor says he is not his brother either and Robert would have crossed by now. They talk about what will happen and Sandor seems uncaring that he may die. Sansa asks him if he is afraid of going to hell. Sandor laughs and asks her what gods and what hell. Sansa tells him the gods who made us all. He mocks her and says what gods would make Lady Lollys or Tyrion, and that the gods made the weak for the strong to play with. Sansa tells him that true knights defend the weak. Sandor tells her there are no true knights and she tells him, he’s awful. He says he is honest but the world is awful and tells her to fly away because he is sick of her peeping at him. She goes to her room.
She was afraid of Sandor Clegane…and yet, some part of her wished that Ser Dontos had a little of the Hound’s ferocity. There are gods, she told herself, and there are true knights too. All the stories can’t be lies.
That night she dreams of the riot.
The mob surged around her, shrieking, a maddened beast with a thousand faces. Everywhere she turned she saw faces twisted into monstrous inhuman masks. She wept and told them she had never done them hurt, yet they dragged her from her horse all the same. “no,” she cried, “no, please, don’t, don’t,” but no one paid her any heed. She shouted for Ser Dontos, for her brothers, for her dead father and her dead wolf, for gallant Ser Loras who had given her a red rose once, but none of them came. She called for the heroes from the songs, for Florian and Ser Ryam Redwyne and Prince Aemon the Dragonknight, but no one heard. Women swarmed over her like weasels, pinching her legs and kicking her in the belly, and someone hit her in the face and she felt her teeth shatter. Then she saw the bright glimmer of steel. the knife plunged into her belly and tore and tore and tore, until there was nothing left of her down there but shiny wet ribbons.
She awakes shaking and feeling sick and bleeding, then in horror realises that she is having her first period. Panicking, she tries to wash away the blood, but realises the maidservants will see the bloody water and know. She remembers the bedclothes and taking her knife, tries to cut out the blood stained part.
She couldn’t let them see, or they’d marry her to Joffrey and make her lay with him.
She begins crying and realises they will ask about the hole, so decides to burn the sheets. She notes that the mattress is also stained and tries to burn that as well. The room fills with smoke, and she is on her knees, still trying to shove the mattress into the fire when the maidservants burst in. It takes three of them to pull her away. However as the maids are sorting out her room and taking the burnt items away, her legs are bloody again and she feels her own body has betrayed her. The maidservants bath her, and Sansa now having calmed down realises her actions were silly. The smoke has apparently ruined most of her clothing and she is given a green wool shift to wear and told at least her shoes weren’t burnt. She is then taken to see the Queen.
Cersei is having breakfast when Sansa appears. Cersei asks her if she is hungry, but the sight of food makes Sansa feel ill. Cersei says she doesn’t blame her, and asks what she meant to accomplish. Sansa tells her that the blood scared her. Cersei says her mother should have told her about her first flowering and Sansa says she did, but she thought it would be different, and more magic, less mess. Cersei laughs and tells her to wait until she has a child and that a woman’s life is nine parts mess to one part magic, and the magic bits turn out to be the messiest of all. Cersei tells her she is a woman and asks her if she knows what that means. Sansa tells her that she is fit to be wedded and bedded by the King. The Queen smiles at her and says that prospect no longer holds the joy for her that it once did. She talks about Joff’s difficult birth and Robert being away hunting. She talks about Jaime staying for her labours and says Joff will show no such devotion to her. She tells her:
You could thank your sister for that, if she weren’t dead. He’s never been able to forget that day on the Trident when you saw her shame him, so he shames you in turn. You’re stronger than you seem, though. I expect you’ll survive a bit of humiliation. I did. You may never love the king, but you’ll love his children.
Sansa says she’ll love Joff with all her heart, and Cersei tells her she will need new lies as Stannis will not like that one. Sansa says the new High Septon has said Stannis can’t win as Joff is the rightful king. Cersei smirks at this and calls Joff Robert’s trueborn son and heir, before telling Sansa that Robert’s bastards always gurgled for him, but Joff just cried, and that Robert wanted smiles, so would only go where he got them, from friends, whores, etc. She says:
Robert wanted to be loved. My brother Tyrion has the same disease. Do you want to be loved Sansa?
She responds that everyone wants to be loved and Cersei mocks her, saying that flowering hasn’t made her smarter, and tells her love is a poison. A sweet poison, but one that will kill you anyway.
Okay. Slightly off topic and looking forward to future chapters, but given the three main candidates for being the Savage Giant are currently Ser Gregor/Robert Strong, Littlefinger and Tyrion, there is one line that stood out in Tyrion’s chapter.
If Littlefinger is dead, then I’m a giant.
Now this line, even in the context of the text, seems ill-fitting and I wonder if there is some sort of hint there?
Anyway, Tyrion’s chapter shows Sansa from his POV. Given their future marriage, it is interesting to see his impression of her. He sees Sansa trying to comfort Tommen and Joff’s cruelty, and doesn’t do anything but think why Cersei doesn’t see him for what he is. While Tyrion’s saving of Sansa from the beating was admirable, it is noticeable that Sansa being verbally abused is something of a public and commonplace event. After the riot, in the courtyard Tyrion is furious with Joff as he presumes Sandor Clegane is dead, and then asks “Where’s the Stark girl?” and then thinks:
if Sansa Stark had come to harm, Jaime was as good as dead.
His main concern is not Sansa’s well-being but the consequences for his brother.
This compares to the next moment, when Sandor Clegane appears with Sansa. As we know from the courtyard scene, all the other knights and retainers fled but Sandor stayed back and rescued Sansa. From his own speech, and remarks about Ser Aron and Ser Preston and Lollys, he may have helped them too. Sansa is bleeding and in shock, but it is Sandor, not Tyrion who arranges medical help. From this chapter, it seems that Sansa is not really on Tyrion’s radar. He doesn’t think about her in any special way.
The effect of the riot on Sansa is very clear from the beginning of her chapter. She has experienced this terrible event and has only Ser Dontos for any sort of comfort. She is clearly suffering from PTSD, and her beating from Joff seems to pale in comparison to her experience in the riot. The suffocating dreams and nightmares sound terrible.
She also learns from Ser Dontos about the advantage in being thought stupid and more court intrigue in terms of what is said in front of fools. We also see that Ser Dontos is aware that Sansa is bright, and I wonder who he feed that information back too . . . Yes, Littlefinger we know it’s you.
We also see that rather than just sitting around, Sansa is again pushing Dontos for them to escape as soon as possible. The fact she notes the KG aren’t following her around is interesting, as it means despite being thought stupid, her movements are very carefully observed. She herself sees the opportunity to flee the castle is at its best now. I would actually question if Ser Dontos was right about getting out of the city, as there were no men to spare to go after her if she did escape, and I doubt the city guards were as concerned with people leaving the city as entering. She may well have found a way to escape if not for Ser Dontos telling her to be patient and have faith in him. Interestingly, Ser Dontos along with Sandor is the only person she speaks freely around, and yet even Ser Dontos himself says people should be careful what they say in front of fools. Little does she know this will bite her on the ass with the Tyrion marriage.
Her conversation with Sandor on the roof starts curiously, because it wasn’t him startling her that made her fall, but period pain. The fact he grabs her so quickly and also seems to think she may have fallen seems to suggest he may have indeed saved her from sharp descent, just like on the serpentine steps. He is not nice to her and she thinks herself that he scares her, and yet she talks to him openly and gives as good as she gets and calls him out on everything apart from the fear of his brother. Sandor’s speech about the crowd and only needing steel really brought home the sense that part of his fearful image and violent nature stems from a fear of ever being helpless again, like he was with Gregor. Sansa certainly seems continually annoyed with him because he challenges her beliefs. Although we can see she appreciates some of his ferocity when she wishes that Ser Dontos was a little more like the Hound.
I can’t think of a worse setting in which to get your first period. Poor Sansa. Her terror that she might be bedded by Joff drives her to actions that are desperate and irrational. She herself, once she has calmed down, realises her actions are ridiculous. What they did, though, was reinforce Cersei and probably many other people’s belief that she’s an idiot, when in fact she is a terrified girl. Cersei (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) almost comes across as kind in their conversation and from her reminisces of Robert, you do begin to see that she had a shit time of it. It is interesting, though, that Cersei notes that Sansa is stronger than she seems and can bear the humiliation as she did. Given Robert’s domestic abuse, rape and whoring, you can see how Cersei has got to the point where she can no longer feel sympathy for Sansa. Treatment that should have made her more empathetic has in fact turned her into a tormentor. The bullied becomes a bully as it were.
Also, Cersei casually mentions that Arya is dead. Is this the first confirmation Sansa has had of this? There is no reaction from her if so, but I wonder if she has assumed she’s dead, like she assumes Jeyne Poole is.
Cersei then says the line that fills me with dread in terms of foreshadowing:
You may never love the king, but you’ll love his children.
Especially as she then talks about Tyrion wanting to be loved. While I desperately hope that GRRM separates Sansa from Tyrion, even here there is some support to the idea that they may end up in a loveless marriage, with Tyrion as king. I know there is a lot of speculation about Tyrion’s fate and there is that line about his shadow being as talk as a king’s.
In terms of foreshadowing, there are also some other interesting lines. When she talks to Ser Dontos, she says she wants the Sept to burn down, and Ser Dontos tells her the gods are listening, but she says they never listen to her prayers. This sort of flashes back to her wish that a hero would cut off Janos Slynt’s head, and of course Jon does just that. Arya too has her list of names and as we know, they are all coming to very gruesome ends. Therefore, I wonder if before the end of the series we might not see the great Sept on fire.
Similarly, this chapter, especially in her talk with Sandor, is just full of references to her flying and not just her nickname of little bird. I do wonder if Sansa will learn to warg birds or if she is going to ride a dragon. There also seems to be a continual idea about her falling and being caught by Sandor Clegane.
One thing about her dream that struck me was that she is calling for help and on one comes to her aid. Her family have done nothing to try and rescue her, and she is completely alone. Given the Stark’s treatment of Theon, did they just think Cersei and Joff were being nice to her? Her treatment is why the Tyrells killed Joff. It does highlight how alone she feels. Oddly, the one person she doesn’t call out for in the dream is the person who actually saved her.
Her dream, while part terrifying memory, also has the potential for foreshadowing.
The mob surged around her, shrieking, a maddened beast with a thousand faces. Everywhere she turned she saw faces twisted into monstrous inhuman masks.
This scene is really similar to the Theon chapter in ADWD where he is taking Jeyne to be married to Ramsay and the mist twists all the faces of the bannermen into inhuman masks. And on a side note, in the same scene, Theon thinks:
What had she been thinking, that he would whistle up a winged horse and fly her out of here, like some hero in the stories she and Sansa used to love?
. . . Just another Sansa, flying reference . . .
Also the line about:
Women swarmed over her like weasels, pinching her legs and kicking her in the belly, and someone hit her in the face and she felt her teeth shatter.
Seemed to foreshadow her treatment at the hands of both Cersei and the Tyrell women.
Then there are more references to knights and tales. We have her calling for Ser Ryam Redwyne, the famous Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, who was also one of the worst ever Hands. And the tale of Ser Arryk and Ser Erryk. She also thinks again of Florian and Aemon the Dragonknight.
Also, I apologise or the blatant indulgence of the San/San speculation, but:
Prince Aemon the Dragonknight cried the day Princess Naerys wed his brother Aegon,
Sandor Clegane wept when he found out Sansa had been wed to Tyrion.
It’s the eve of the battle and Sansa has been summoned to the courtyard by Joffrey to bid him a formal farewell as he goes to fight. Sansa notes that there has been singing in the Sept all morning, but the sounds of the preparation for war mingled with it to create “a strange and fearful music.” She recalls that Septa Mordane told her that the Warrior and the Mother are only different aspects of the same god, but wonders if this true exactly whose prayers will be answered.
She observes Joffrey climbing on to his horse with his armor of gilded mail and enameled crimson plate. The armor catches the sunlight ever time Joff moves, and Sansa thinks to herself:
Bright, shining and empty.
She notices Tyrion is there as well, in less flashy armor than Joff, but attired in such a way that he looked like a little boy dressed in his father’s clothes. Tyrion calls to her and inquires why she has not joined with the other highborn women in Maegor’s Holdfast. Sansa informs him that she is there on Joffrey’s command and afterwards means to spend some time praying in the Sept:
I won’t ask for whom.” His mouth twisted oddly; if that was a smile, it was the queerest she had ever seen. “This day may change all for you as well as House Lannister.
As he is musing that he should have sent her with Tommen for safety, Joffrey calls to her across the yard.
He calls me as if he were calling a dog, she thought.
Joffrey brags about how he will use his new sword, called ‘Hearteater’ in battle to kill his uncle Stannis. Sansa remembers that he once had another sword called ‘Lion’s Tooth’ that Arya had thrown into the river. She hopes that Stannis will do the same with this one. Joffrey then tells her to bless his sword with a kiss:
He had never sounded more like a stupid little boy. Sansa touched her lips to the metal, thinking that she would kiss any number of swords sooner than Joffrey.
Joffrey tells her that she will kiss it again when it is bloodied with his uncle’s blood, but Sansa thinks that this is only possible if one of his knights does it for him. She inquires if he will be leading his knights into the battle, and tells him that her brother Robb always goes where the fighting is thickest.
Joffrey promises to deal with Robb after the battle and gallops off on his horse. A hush has descended over the courtyard and Sansa proceeds to the sept, where she finds many people singing and praying:
Sansa had never seen the Sept so crowded, nor so brightly lit; great shafts of rainbow-coloured sunlight slanted through the crystals in the high windows, and candles burned on every side, their little flames twinkling like stars. The Mother’s altar and the Warrior’s swam in light, but the Smith and the Crone and Maid and Father had worshippers as well, and there were even a few flames dancing below the Stranger’s half-human face … for what was Stannis Baratheon, if not the stranger come to judge them? Sansa visited each of the Seven in turn, lighting a candle at each altar…
She finds a seat next to an old woman and a young boy, taking comfort from holding their hands. A hymn begins and Sansa remembers having been taught it by her mother at Winterfell:
Gentle Mother, font of Mercy
save our sons from war we pray,
stay the swords and stay the arrows,
let them know a better day.
Gentle Mother, strength of women,
help our daughters through this fray,
soothe the wrath and tame the fury,
teach us all a kinder way.
She thinks that the gods must surely hear the prayers of so many people, and sings in prayer for all her family and friends, “for Dontos, and Jory Cassel and Maester Luwin, for all the brave knights and soldiers who would die today, and for the children and the wives who would mourn them.” We read:
… and finally, toward the end, she even sang for Tyrion the Imp and for the Hound. He is no true knight but he saved me all the same, she told the Mother. Save him if you can, and gentle the rage inside him.
But when the Septon begins a prayer for King Joffrey, Sansa gets up and leaves, saying her own prayer for her betrothed:
Let his sword break and his shield shatter, Sansa thought coldly as she shoved through the doors, let his courage fail him and every man desert him.
Making her way back to Maegor’s Holdfast, she encounters the Stokeworths and their maid, Shae, trying to get Lollys across the bridge. She notices that the girl’s maid looks as though she would like nothing better than to throw Lollys over onto the spikes below. Sansa speaks kindly to Lollys, encouraging her to come inside where there will be food and songs. Lollys just stares at her blankly and in the end Falyse and Shae have to drag her across. Lady Tanda tries to excuse Lollys as not feeling well, but Sansa has heard the rumour of Lollys being pregnant like everyone else.
They reach the Queen’s Ballroom and Sansa has been given honour of place next to Cersei on the dais. The room is crowded with women and just few old men and children. As Sansa is climbing to her seat she notices Ser Ilyn standing in the shadows in the back and experiences a feeling of terror:
Sansa’s breath caught in her throat. Ser Ilyn Payne seemed to sense her stare. He turned his gaunt, pox-ravaged face toward her.
Sansa questions Osfryd Kettleblack on why Ilyn Payne is there and thinks about whose head Cersei might want.
When the Queen enters, she is dressed magnificently all in white. She asks Sansa if her “red flower” is still blooming and learns that it is:
How apt. The men will bleed out there, and you in here.
Sansa asks her why Ilyn Payne is there and Cersei replies that he is there to protect them. Sansa thinks:
I would be gladder if it were the Hound… Harsh as he was, she did not believe Sandor Clegane would let any harm come to her.
Asking the Queen why they couldn’t rely on the protection of her own guards, Cersei seizes another moment to school Sansa:
And who will protect us from my guards?” The Queen gave Osfryd a sideways look. “Loyal sellswords are rare as virgin whores. If the battle is lost, my guards will trip on those crimson cloaks in their haste to rip them off. They’ll steal what they can and flee, along with the serving men, washerwomen, and stableboys, all out to save their own worthless hides. Do you have any notion what happens when a city is sacked, Sansa? No, you wouldn’t, would you? All you know of life you learned from singers, and there’s such a dearth of good singing songs.
When Sansa replies that true knights would never harm women and children, she thinks that the words sound hollow even as she says them. Cersei, of course, finds her statement amusing, telling her:
No doubt you’re right. So why don’t you just eat your broth like a good girl and wait for Symeon Star-Eyes and Prince Aemon the Dragonknight to come rescue you, sweetling. I’m sure it won’t be very long now.
This is the first of the next 3 chapters where Sansa’s thoughts and experiences revolve around the fear and uncertainty of the Blackwater Battle. The role of religion in Sansa’s life is very prominent in this chapter, as is her utter and complete hatred for Joffrey Baratheon, the first of his name. This is a “quiet” chapter for Sansa, in that she’s not being assaulted or attacked or manhandled, but nonetheless offers a revealing look into Sansa’s relationship with many people.
The first one is Joffrey. Now, there’s been a lot of talk on the board lately about Sansa being shallow and passive. Well, this chapter pretty much knocks those assumptions to the ground in my opinion. She offers an astute analysis of Joffrey in his golden armor as being “bright, shining and empty”. She’s no longer blinded by the flashiness of appearances, but sees beyond what is on the surface to deceive. If there’s one good thing that came out of how awful Sansa was treated by Joffrey, it will be this awareness to look deeper into what a person is really like, and not focus on how they present themselves or what they wear.
Her cunning is also shown to nice effect. She may not be able to kill Joff herself, but she tries her best to make sure that he does so all on his own. I couldn’t help but smiling when she plays on Joff’s ego to get him to do something reckless:
They say my brother Robb always goes where the fighting is thickest,” she said recklessly. “Though he’s older than Your Grace, to be sure. A man grown.
Joff is truly dumb, and of course doesn’t realise that Sansa is trying to goad him into getting himself killed, but it was still a risky statement for Sansa to make given Joff’s notorious temper. Again, Sansa isn’t a master player, or arguably even a minor one, but LF did not receive a blank slate or idiot in the Vale. She’s intelligent, and knows where to strike the weak spot of her enemy.
We also see just how much Joff’s “pouty” lips disgust her. So much so that she’d rather kiss any number of swords but him. So cross pouty lips off the list of what attracts Sansa Stark.
Now, I want to focus a bit on the religious aspect of Sansa’s arc which we really see coming through here. She doesn’t merely go the sept for a feeling of fellowship and safety, but there’s a genuine sincerity to her activities whilst there. She makes sure to visit all the different gods and lights candles for each, and then participates in the singing, holding the hands of the old woman and the young boy. I think her position between these two individuals is significant. It symbolizes, I believe, Sansa’s development up to this point, between wisdom (and experience) represented by the old woman and innocence (and naïveté) represented by the young boy. She’s in that in-between stage, also symbolized by her period, which is still flowing. Not a child anymore, but not yet a woman. There are still many lessons for Sansa to learn.
I thought her memory of Cat teaching her the hymn was a nice way to establish how her experiences and memories of Winterfell can sustain and enrich her life now. When Cat would have taught her the song, Sansa’s life would have been completely different. No threats, no fears, no imminent dangers. But now, the hymn is being sung with real meaning behind it. Sansa’s life has become a battlefield, but being able to remember a hymn taught by her mother goes a long way in calming her fears (and later on as we shall see, in perhaps saving her life).
Her prayers for everyone related to her reveals that Sansa hasn’t forgotten the ones important to her and her family—dead or alive. She thinks of Jory, and Maester Luwin, her uncle Edmure, and her direct family members like Arya and Bran, Robb, Jon and Rickon. Even King Robert gets a mention, along with her grandfather Hoster Tully. Contrast this with the Sansa of AGOT, not seeming to grasp the severity of what had happened when her father’s guard had been slaughtered and Jory lost his life, and it’s evident just how mature she’s become. I think Sansa realizes here that life and death matter. People matter, even if they do not fulfill our traditional images of heroes and heroines. This is very clear when she thinks of Tyrion and the Hound, saying of the latter, “he is no true knight, but he saved me all the same.” Her prayer to the mother to gentle the rage inside Sandor, reveals a depth of concern and caring about this fierce man. She genuinely desires that he finds peace. Of course, her words here are quite ironic given what takes place two chapters from now. There is an honest sense of magnanimity to Sansa’s prayers. No one is left out, everyone is included, the North remembers.
Except, of course, the North not only remembers its friends and loved ones, but also its enemies. I cheered when Sansa got up and walked out when the Septon called for prayers for Joff. Sansa’s empathy and forgiveness do not stretch so far, and this determination not to partake in a sham service for a king that makes a mockery of his crown, suggests that Sansa Stark can one day make a formidable opponent to anyone who challenges her. She doesn’t care that she has to force her way out of that sept, and she does it while saying a few choice prayers for Joffrey herself. Sansa’s prayer list is just as capable as being about vengeance (like Arya’s) as it is about being one of mercy and healing.
When she is crossing the bridge on her back to Maegor’s Holdfast, and encounters Lollys with Shae and the Stokeworths, I thought ahead to ASOS, where these three women—Sansa, Shae, and Lollys, play an important part in Tyrion’s arc. Lollys was thrown out as an offer by Tywin, when he was proposing that Tyrion marry Sansa (and eventually is married to Bronn), and of course Shae is Tyrion’s mistress. When we contrast Shae and Sansa particularly, we see how one girl is still able to have sympathy for others, even when she is virtually a prisoner, being beaten at will; and the other girl, while resenting her position as maid, has been spared the hardships that Sansa is currently enduring, or if she once experienced them, it has turned her into someone that feels no pity for others who cannot help themselves. It made me wish all the more that GRRM never embitters Sansa to the extent that she loses her humanity or ability to care about others in worse situations than herself. That Lollys’ fate could have easily been Sansa’s, makes this encounter all the more affecting.
The abject terror that Sansa feels whenever she sees Ilyn Payne returns again, and I am now fairly convinced that he will pop up in her arc sometime in the next two books. It just seems like ominous foreshadowing that she’ll be at risk of facing his justice, or perhaps someone she loves. (Sandor for Saltpans/Arya for anyone?)
When Cersei enters the Queen’s ballroom, her dress is described for readers:
Cersei’s gown was snowy linen, white as the cloaks of the Kingsguard. Her long dagged sleeves showed a lining of gold satin. Masses of bright yellow hair tumbled to her bare shoulders in thick curls. Around her slender neck hung a rope of diamonds and emeralds. The white made her look strangely innocent, almost maidenly, but there were points of color on her cheeks.
Seeing Cersei attired this way I thought of how apt a comparison she makes with her son: bright, shining and empty. Or better yet, since she is made up to look like a blushing young maiden: white, gleaming, and rotten.
The conversation that follows shows just who the innocent is, and who is the embittered realist. Cersei almost seems to be taking perverse pleasure in Sansa’s naïveté, not that we would have expected any different. Her words to Sansa are true, a loyal sellsword is an absurd contradiction in terms, and if the battle is lost, it will come down to every man (and woman) for themselves, but there is no kindness in Cersei’s words, no attempt to console or reassure even when the truth is necessary. Sansa can never look to Cersei as a maternal figure, and Cersei is only interested in belittling Sansa’s inexperience.
However, even Sansa is no longer quite invested in her belief about true knights. The words are hollow as she says them because she too is aware that the real world and the people in it are a lot more callous and selfish than what exists in the songs. Her own experiences have been a constant challenge to this notion of true knights.
In her final mocking statement, Cersei mentions Aemon the Dragonknight and Symeon Star-Eyes as two knights that Sansa can foolishly sit and wait to arrive to save her. Is it me or does the Dragonknight get referenced a lot in Sansa’s chapters? We know that Sansa considers him one of her heroes; a brave warrior that enjoyed an ill-fated romance with his sister and brother’s wife, Naerys. We’ve already mentioned the parallels between Aemon and Sandor, both KG knights who are forced, it seems, to love these women from afar, and have the distinct pleasure of serving unworthy kings. Interestingly enough, when Cersei talks of how Ilyn Payne is there to protect them, Sansa mentions that she would feel safer if it was the Hound, because he wouldn’t let any harm come to her. I think this again is another hint of the connection that GRRM is establishing between the men and their stories. Cersei may mock Sansa’s belief of a true knight coming to rescue her, but the girl actually has someone in mind who fulfills that idealistic desire.
Sansa is still in the Queen’s Ballroom. She notes that despite the silvery light reflected off the wall scones there is a darkness in the people in the room. She sees it in Ser Ilyn’s eyes, hears it in Lord Gyles’ cough, and in the tone of Osney Kettleback.
Osney is whispering to the Queen, but Sansa can hear what he is saying. It’s a report of the battle: some archers had got across the river, but the Hound had killed them and Tyrion has had the chain raised. There is drunken rioting in Flea Bottom. Lots of citizens have gone to Baelor’s Sept to pray. The Queen asks about Joff, and Osney says he went to the Sept to get the High Septon’s blessing and is walking the walls with Tyrion, and bolstering the moral of the troops.
The Queen has her cup filled and Sansa notes that she is drinking heavily, but that it seems to make her more beautiful.
Her eyes had a bright, feverish heat to them as she looked down over the hall. Eyes of wildfire, Sansa thought.
There are many entertainers and fools on hand to try and take everyone’s mind off the battle and people are laughing, but Sansa thinks that:
… it was a joyless laughter, the sort of laughter that can turn into sobbing in half a heartbeat. Their bodies are here, but their thoughts are on the city walls, and their hearts as well.
More food is brought out, but no one feels like eating. She notes Lord Gyles is coughing more, Lollys is shivering with fear and the bride of a young knight is weeping. Cersei has Maester Frenken put her to bed with dreamwine.
Tears,” she said scornfully to Sansa as the woman was led from the hall. “The woman’s weapon, my lady mother used to call them. The man’s weapon is a sword. And that tells us all you need to know, doesn’t it?
Sansa says that men must be brave to fight, but Cersei responds that Jaime had said that the only time he felt alive was in battle or in bed. Sansa notes that the Queen is not eating but drinking.
Cersei tells her that:
I would sooner face any number of swords than sit helpless like this, pretending to enjoy the company of this flock of frightened hens.
Sansa points out that the Queen had invited them and Cersei tells her that certain things are expected of a Queen, that Sansa best learn that, and that although she considers the women nothing, their men are important and if they prevail the women will tell their menfolk stories of how the Queen helped them to bolster their spirits and keep them safe.
Sansa asks what should happen if the castle fell and Cersei rebukes her saying she knows Sansa would like that to happen. Cersei muses that her own guards might betray her and because the women in the hall are highborn, they may escape rape and murder, but that the serving girls might not. She remarks that even the ransom money they are worth might not save them as men often want flesh after a fight more than gold. She points out that people such as Shae will likely be raped. She says that enough alcohol will make even ugly women seem as attractive to men as Sansa.
Sansa is startled by this and questions her by going “Me?”. Cersei scolds her and tells to stop being a mouse. She says if any other man were trying to take the castle, she might seduce them, but that it won’t work with Stannis. Sansa is shocked by this admission and Cersei calls her a fool and tells her that:
Tears are not a woman’s only weapon. You’ve got another one between your legs, and you’d best learn to use it. You’ll find men use their swords freely enough. Both kinds of swords.
The Kettlebacks then come back into the hall. Sansa notes that they are both popular in the castle with low and highborn alike, and especially wotj the serving wenches.
Of late Ser Osmund had taken Sandor Clegane’s place by Joffrey’s side, and Sansa had heard the women at the washing well saying he was as strong as the Hound, only younger and faster. If that was so, she wondered why she had never once heard of these Kettleblacks before.
Osney tells the Queen that the whole Blackwater is awash with wildfire. The Queen’s only concern is for her son. Osney tells her that he’s at the Mud Gate with Tyrion and the Kingsguard and is giving men tips on how to use a crossbow. Osney says he’s brave and Cersei retorts that he’d best stay alive. Osfryd then reports that two maidservants and a stable boy have been caught with horses trying to escape the castle. Cersei nonchalantly calls them the first traitors of the night and sends Ser Ilyn to see to them, saying that their heads should be put on spikes outside the stable as a warning to others.
She then turns to Sansa and tells her that if you are gentle with people in times such as these, you will have treason sprouting up everywhere, and tells her that the only way to keep people loyal is through fear. Sansa says she will remember that, but thinks:
love was a surer route to the people’s loyalty than fear. If I am ever a queen, I’ll make them love me.
More food is served. Lollys is sick and Ser Gyles coughs more. Cersei expresses her disgust at Ser Gyles, and says the gods are mad to have wasted manhood on the likes of him.
Osfryd returns and tells Cersei that rich merchants are asking for shelter in the Castle. Cersei says they are to return to their homes and if they do not go, the archers are to kill a few so that they get the message and that she won’t have the gates opened for any reason. She then tells Sansa she wishes she could cut their heads off herself.
She then says that when she was little, she and Jaime were so alike that they could not be told apart and would sometimes dress in each other’s clothing and pretend to be each other. She was always surprised how differently Jaime was treated compared to her. She recalls when Jaime got his first sword, she got nothing. She says:
He was heir to Casterly Rock, while I was to be sold to some stranger like a horse, to be ridden whenever my new owner liked, beaten whenever he liked, and cast aside in time for a younger filly.
Sansa responds that she was Queen of Westeros, but Cersei says a queen is just a woman. Cersei then refuses a refill of wine as she wants to keep a clear head.
Osney reappears and tells the Queen that men are on the Tourney grounds and that Tyrion has gone out to face them. The Queen mocks Tyrion’s ability and then queries where Joff is. Qsney says he is at the trebuchets hurling Antler Men into the river. Cersei demands that he be brought into the castle. Osney tries to say that Tyrion had given other orders, but Cersei demands he be brought inside or she will send both Kettleblack brothers out in the next sorties.
The meal is finished and some of the guests request permission to go to the Sept. A singer is brought in to entertain those who are left. He sings about Jonquil and Florian, Prince Aemon the Dragonknight and Nymeria’s ten thousand ships. Several women begin to cry, and Sansa herself is on the verge of tears. Cersei tells her she should practice her tears for Stannis, and then tells Sansa she knows about her treason in the Godswood.
Sansa says she only goes to the Godswood to pray, but thinks:
Don’t look at Ser Dontos, don’t, don’t, Sansa told herself. She doesn’t know, no one knows, Dontos promised me, my Florian would never fail me.
Cersei asks why else she would pray to her father’s gods if it weren’t for the Lannisters’ defeat. Sansa nervously says she prays for Joff, and Cersei mocks her.
Why, because he treats you so sweetly?” The queen took a flagon of sweet plum wine from a passing serving girl and filled Sansa’s cup. “Drink,” she commanded coldly. “Perhaps it will give you the courage to deal with truth for a change.
She makes Sansa down the wine, which makes her head spin, and then tells her that she should know the truth about why Ser Ilyn is there. The Queen beckons Ser Ilyn over and Sansa realizes she hadn’t even noticed him returning to the hall. He has her father’s sword and it is covered in the blood of the maidservants and stableboy he has just beheaded. She thinks about how her father took care of Ice and would clean the blade in the godswood after he had taken a man’s head. Cersei asks Ser Ilyn to tell Sansa why he is there, and Ser Ilyn rattles off a sound from an emotionless face.
He’s here for us, he says,” the queen said. “Stannis may take the city and he may take the throne, but I will not suffer him to judge me. I do not mean for him to have us alive.”
“You heard me. So perhaps you had best pray again, Sansa, and for a different outcome. The Starks will have no joy from the fall of House Lannister, I promise you.” She reached out and touched Sansa’s hair, brushing it lightly away from her neck.
I came to the conclusion a while ago that many people don’t like Sansa and therefore do not fully read her chapters and skim read them instead. I think this is why they are suddenly shocked in AFFC when reading Cersei’s POV and discover she’s not very smart. It is quite apparent from Sansa’s interactions with her that she isn’t very good at playing the game.
Cersei talks about how people will say she lifted the women’s spirits, but she does not interact with them at all and instead is scathing about all the terrified people, whilst slowly getting drunk. She imparts her “wisdom” to Sansa, who is actually seeing firsthand how not to act. Sansa notes the difference between love and fear, and her thought…
love was a surer route to the people’s loyalty than fear. If I am ever a queen, I’ll make them love me.
… shows that she is already more astute in terms of how to rule than Cersei is, but then she did have her father and mother’s example as well.
Cersei’s talk about a woman’s weapons being tears and sex was also interesting, as Sansa is very adept to using her “courtesy armour” for defence, but has yet to go on the offensive in the game. Oddly, this is an important lesson for her to learn. Certainly, it gives us a possible insight into how Joanna controlled Tywin.
Tyrion is mentioned frequently in the chapter, but Sansa never once thinks about him. She does however think about Sandor.
Of late Ser Osmund had taken Sandor Clegane’s place by Joffrey’s side, and Sansa had heard the women at the washing well saying he was as strong as the Hound, only younger and faster. If that was so, she wondered why she had never once heard of these Kettleblacks before.
Sansa has previously mentioned gossip at the well, and I get the impression that no one speaks to her apart from Ser Dontos, Sandor and Cersei. Any information she has is overheard gossip. She also seems to doubt the gossip, as she is aware that the best fighters are widely known about, and is there possibly some mental defence of the Hound’s abilties going on in her mind?
Ser Ilyn is yet again a constant threat and menace. Cersei is incredibly cruel and does scare her with the threat of execution. As well as admitting and mocking how she is treated by Joff. This admission would also seem to suggest that even after the stripping incident, she is still being ill-treated and nothing is being done about it. There is a certain arrogance and unfeeling nature to the Lannisters, as given Cersei and Joff’s behaviour to her, Tyrion’s quip in the previous chapter about her being sent away for safety seems particularly callous, as he could have helped her but didn’t bother. Again, she is not on his radar.
Joff’s immaturity also comes out in this chapter, while men are fighting and dying, he is like a child flings toys into the river for his amusement, only in this instance the toys are people. People who have not even had a trial.
We also see how bitter Cersei is about her life and that her marriage to Robert was particularly poisonous.
I was to be sold to some stranger like a horse, to be ridden whenever my new owner liked, beaten whenever he liked, and cast aside in time for a younger filly.
The beaten whenever he liked part also suggests that domestic violence was more common in their marriage than other areas of the text would indicate.
Again, we also have the songs, Florian and Jonquil and Prince Aemon the Dragonknight. Nymeria’s Ships is a new one to Sansa’s grouping, and always seemed to have more to do with Arya than her. It could however signal the idea that some bridges once burnt cannot be gone back to.
Directly following from the previous chapter, the fight still rages on the Blackwater, but Ser Lancel has entered the Ballroom and announced to the Queen that they’ve lost the battle. Cersei seems almost disinterested and replies that Lancel should inform her brother. Ser Lancel, who is gravely injured, tells her that Tyrion is probably dead already, and that it was wrong of her to call Joffrey back to the castle since this made the Gold Cloaks lose faith and begin to desert. Osney Kettleblack enters with more news. The fighting is on both sides of the river, no one can be sure who’s fighting whom, and the Hound is nowhere to be found. Everything is in chaos: Stannis’ men are ramming the King’s Gate, Lannister soldiers are killing one another, mobs are at the Iron Gate, and there’s rioting in Flea Bottom. Sansa begins to panic inwardly:
Gods be good, Sansa thought, it is happening, Joffrey’s lost his head and so have I. She looked for Ser Ilyn, but the King’s Justice was not to be seen. I can feel him though. He’s close. I’ll not escape him, he’ll have my head.
Cersei orders Osfryd Kettleblack to raise the drawbridge to Maegor’s and bar the doors to prevent anyone from leaving or entering without her leave. Asked about the women who went to pray, she replies that they chose to leave her protection and that the gods might protect them now. Asking for Joffrey, she is informed that he is now at the castle gatehouse, commanding the crossbowmen. She insists that he be brought inside, but Ser Lancel protests that this will cause the same panic as before. Cersei is adamant, however, and roughly pushes past Lancel, slamming her hand into his wound. As Lancel cries out and nearly faints, Cersei departs in a hurry, and Sansa realises that she has left her all alone at Ser Ilyn’s mercy.
The women in the room begin to despair upon the Queen’s departure, and Sansa wonders if she should try to flee as well and beg Cersei to spare her life. However, despite her fears, she rises to help bring calm to the crisis:
She never knew why she got to her feet but she did. “Don’t be afraid,” she told them loudly. “The queen has raised the drawbridge. This is the safest place in the city. There’s thick walls, the moat, the spikes…
The women are not appeased by this, and demand to know of the news Cersei received and what is happening on the outside:
Sansa raised her hands for quiet. “Joffrey’s coming back to the castle. He’s not hurt. They’re still fighting, that’s all I know, they’re fighting bravely. The queen will be back soon.” The last was a lie, but she had to soothe them. She noticed the fools standing under the galley. “Moon Boy, make us laugh.
As nervous laughs follow Moon Boy’s antics, Sansa goes to tend to Ser Lancel. She calls for help for him, noticing that some of the serving men and girls are leaving the hall. Along with two serving men Sansa gets Lancel back on his feet, and orders him to be taken to Maester Frenken for treatment. As she does this she thinks to herself that she should not be helping Lancel, but cannot find it in herself to wish him dead:
I am soft and weak and stupid, just as Joffrey says. I should be killing him, not helping him.
Ser Dontos comes to her on the dais and advises that she return to her room where she’ll be safer. He tells her that he’ll come for her when the battle is over, but Sansa is wary that it may be Ser Ilyn instead. She thinks for one moment of begging Dontos to protect her, but realises it would be futile and she would only be risking his life as well: He has not the courage, or the skill. I would only be killing him as well.
She walks slowly out of the Ballroom, even though she feels like running, and gives into the impulse when she reaches the steps to her chamber. On her way up, she bumps into a guard fleeing the castle with stolen possessions. When she enters her room it is pitch black. Sansa bars the door and goes to the window to look outside.
When she ripped back the drapes, her breath caught in her throat. The southern sky was aswirl with glowing, shifting colours, the reflections of the great fires that burned below. Baleful green tides moved against the bellies of the clouds, and pools of orange light spread out across the heavens. The reds and yellows of common flame warred against the emeralds and jades of wildfire, each colour flaring and then fading, birthing armies of short-lived shadows to die an instant later. Green dawns gave way to orange dusks in half a heartbeat. The air itself smelled burnt, the way a soup kettle sometimes smelled if it was left on the fire too long and all the soup boiled away. Embers drifted through the night air like swarms of fireflies.
Frightened, she backs away from the window and thinks that she’ll go to sleep and tomorrow someone will come to tell her whether she lives or dies. At this point, she thinks of Lady and if she’ll meet her again when she is dead. She whimpers the wolf’s name softly, at the moment something stirs behind her and reaches out to grab her wrist. Sansa tries to scream, but another hand closes over her mouth, the fingers “rough and callused, and sticky with blood.” It is the Hound:
Little bird, I knew you’d come.” The voice was a drunken rasp.
A flare of light illuminates the room and Sansa sees him for a second, blood on his face “black as tar” and his eyes “glowing like a dog’s in the sudden glare”. The Hound tells her that if she screams he’ll kill her, and asks if she doesn’t want to know who’s winning the battle.
Who?” she said, too frightened to defy him.
The Hound laughed. “I only know who’s lost. Me.
Sansa thinks that he is drunker than she has ever seen him, and realises that he was sleeping in her bed. Wondering what it is that he could want, she asks him about what he’s lost. Sandor tells her that he’s lost everything and lashes out at Tyrion, regretting that he didn’t kill the dwarf years ago. He states that he wants Tyrion burnt, not simply dead, but he won’t be around to see it happen. Sansa asks him where he is going.
Away from here. Away from the fires. Go out the Iron Gate, I suppose. North somewhere, anywhere.
Sansa tells him that he won’t get out, but he replies that he has the white cloak and his sword, and that anyone man who tries to stop him will be killed. Sansa asks him why he has come there, and the Hound tells her that she promised him a song.
She didn’t know what he meant. She couldn’t sing for him now, here, with the sky aswirl with fire and men dying in their hundreds and thousands.
She tells him that she cannot sing for him, and pleads to be let go because he is scaring her. The Hound is dismissive, replying that everything scares her, and ordering her to look at him. When she does, she takes in his eyes, “wide, white and terrifying” and the burnt corner of his mouth twitching constantly. The smell of him is also pungent, “a stink of sweat and sour wine and stale vomit, and over it all the reek of blood, blood, blood.”
The Hound tells her that he could keep her safe and that no one would ever hurt her again or he’d kill them. With this declaration, he jerks her closer to him, and Sansa thinks that he is going to kiss her:
He was too strong to fight. She closed her eyes, wanting it to be over, but nothing happened.
Sandor becomes angry because she closed her eyes, and immediately threatens her by putting his knife to her throat, twisting in the point and ordering her to sing for her life. Every song that Sansa knows flees her mind, and she almost gives up trying to think, but at the last moment remembers the song that was sung in the sept, and repeats it to the Hound. After a moment, he takes the blade from her throat, not saying a word.
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.
When she crawled out of bed, long moments later, she was alone. She found his cloak on the floor, twisted up tight, the white wool stained by blood and fire. The sky outside was darker by then, with only a few pale ghosts dancing against the stars. A chill wind was blowing, banging the shutters. Sansa was cold. She shook out the torn cloak and huddled beneath it on the floor shivering.
She stays there for a significant length of time, until she hears bells ringing across the city. She throws off the cloak and goes to the window, noting that these aren’t mourning bells like the last time Robert had died. Ser Dontos is the one to bring her news that Stannis has been defeated. Spinning her around gleefully, he tells Sansa that the powers of Highgarden and Casterly Rock saved the day, and that the vanguard was led by none other than Lord Renly in his green armour.
Okay, so this chapter focuses a lot on Sansa’s maturity and compassion for others. These attributes are divided between the political and the personal: We get insight into what would make Sansa a better, more admirable leader than Cersei could ever be, and we also see how this strength and consideration affect her personal, private relationships, transforming a moment of crisis, to one of deeply felt connection.
What’s remarkable about Sansa’s courage and dignity in these two central scenes is that her life was in credible peril during both of them. In the last chapter, Cersei had issued her threat that if the battle was lost, Sansa would lose her head to Ser Ilyn. This chapter opens with the dire news that the battle is all but over for the Lannisters. No one seems to have any hope, even the Hound, the most ferocious and strongest of them all has gone missing, and rioting is widespread. Even though Sansa doesn’t see Ser Ilyn, she still senses that he is nearby. By the way, could this strong ability to sense danger be a facet of Sansa’s “warghood”?
Sansa had every reason to be panicking and crying. But we see that she keeps her fears to herself, while Cersei, the one issuing the orders and threats, collapses under the pressure of the situation and concern for Joffrey, refusing to hear Lancel’s argument that the boy be allowed to stay at the gatehouse and be visible to his troops. This chapter struck me as presenting an extremely strong case for Sansa as the younger, more beautiful queen in Cersei’s prophecy. She displays a beauty that goes way beyond skin deep, not only in her ability to calm the rest of the women and children present, but also in the way she tends to Ser Lancel, someone that is fighting against her family, and who previously showed no mercy to her when Joff had her beaten and stripped in the court.
Sansa’s decision to get up and speak to the women is something that happens automatically—she doesn’t quite understand her actions here, and we see this same instinctive response later on with the Hound. In this case, she knows she has to calm the women because their alarm has grown now that Cersei has left. Sansa actually then becomes the younger queen here, fulfilling the role that Cersei has shamelessly (and shamefully) abdicated. She knows exactly what she has to tell the women in order to get them to feel more secure, lying about Cersei’s return and the awful conditions of the battle. Just where has Sansa learnt this skill before? And just how is she is able to prevent her own personal fears from taking over? Reading this chapter, she reminded me a lot of her half-brother, Jon, and how he confronts his challenges at the Wall (seems fitting then that she has to pretend to be a bastard later on).
If Cersei represents the destructive qualities of fire—Sansa compares her eyes to wildfire in an earlier chapter—then Sansa symbolizes the healing, restorative quality of ice. Like fire, Cersei’s anger and passion consumes without thought, striking Lancel cruelly on her way out of the ballroom. Sansa on the other hand, remains cool under fire. Her tending to Lancel again illustrates her forgiving and generous heart that we’ve seen through her treatment of persons like Dontos and the Hound. Like Joffrey, lots of readers seem to equate this with being weak and silly, but I think GRRM really wants us to see that it’s something that separates Sansa from the majority of people who would hold grudges against Lancel because of his family, and who would harden their hearts when faced with his suffering. It’s not hard to get an idea of the kind of Queen Sansa would be based on her behaviour in this chapter. The courage, benevolence and compassion she displays matches up with her earlier determination to rule through love and not fear.
And now to the Hound. Their interaction in this scene probably occurred in time frame of 5-8 minutes, but there’s such a concentration of emotions and sensations that it feels longer. As I noted before, this scene is profoundly personal, and showcases the effect Sansa can have on a man who is deeply tortured and bitter about the world and his place in it. But, that effect does not run one-way. I think by the end of the scene, Sansa’s actions (and her later mismemory) indicate that she too was affected by his presence there.
Sansa’s question for the Hound on just why he is there happens to be the same one that the reader shares. We talk a lot about how Sansa conceals her true feelings, but I do think Martin wanted us to be just as surprised as she was in finding Sandor Clegane in her room, sleeping in her bed. The last known interaction these two have shared is when Sansa was on the rooftop and the Hound caught her when she experienced the first stab of her period. At that time, the fires had just begun to burn across the riverside, but now it’s a raging inferno. Can their relationship also be represented by this metaphor: the slow burn that erupts in violent passion, cooled by Sansa’s divine intervention? (speaking of which, we have Dontos coming later to attest that the battle was won by Renly’s ghost).
We also got another interesting hint of Sandor as Lady’s replacement in Sansa’s life. Her fear concerning what will happen when the night is over causes her to think of Lady again, and at the exact moment she whispers the dog’s name, Sandor’s hand reaches out as though he is answering the call. Later, when she glimpses his face in a flash of light, she notes his eyes, which were glowing like a dog’s. However, if Sandor is a replacement for her wolf, he’s capable of scaring her just as much as he would others.
The scene is reminiscent of the one in AGOT when he escorts her back to her room from the tourney feast. They are together, alone in the dark, and the Hound is scaring her by invading her personal space and telling her a frightening story. In that scene, Sansa reached out to him and patted his shoulder; she had forgotten her fear and was worried about him. In this one, she touches him again, but this time the gesture is more intimate, and the Hound is the one crying.
His offer to take her away and protect her is interesting for a number of reasons. The first is that it finally reveals the anger and anxiety that we could see building in the Hound concerning the injustices Sansa was suffering in KL. He wants to look after this girl, to shield her from anything or anyone that would dare to try to hurt her. And secondly, it’s intriguing because it shows that Sandor may have developed feelings of a certain nature for Sansa. Instead of making a direct promise to take her back to her family, he meanders around the question of where he is going, throwing out “North somewhere” almost as an inducement for her to come with him. When he tells her that she promised him a song, it’s obviously a poor attempt at hiding his true motives for being there, which were to get her to come with him, but the song suddenly becomes a battle of life and death, one that Sansa nearly loses.
There’s always been a lot of controversy surrounding this scene. Was he there to rape her? Would he have raped and killed her had she not remembered the song? Personally, I don’t think he was there to rape her, and I don’t believe he would have, but I do think he posed a genuine risk to her life that night. The scene is certainly suggestive of sexual violence, though—the pushing unto the bed, the dagger at the throat, the request for the love song of Florian and Jonquil.
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 on 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.”
Her throat was dry and tight with fear, and every song she had ever known had fled from her mind. Please, don’t kill me, she wanted to scream, please don’t. She could feel him twisting the point, pushing it into her throat, and she almost closed her eyes again, but then she remembered. It was not the song of Florian and Jonquil, but it was a song. Her voice sounded small and thin and tremulous in her ears.
So Sansa sings the song to the Mother, which I think is one example of a song of ice and fire. Sansa is asking for Sandor’s fury, his anger, his fire, to be soothed and alleviated. A song that was taught to her in the North, becomes integral to her life and survival in the South. If we think of Sandor and Sansa and how they are represented by these two elements, Sansa from the North, symbolic of ice, and Sandor having been touched by fire, it’s an evocative suggestion that these two elements don’t have to cancel one another out, or destroy one another, but can instead find a way to connect and resolve the crisis, harmonize in a song that can end conflict and create peace.
Just what makes Sansa touch his face after she sings the song, though? As in the earlier scene with the women in the Queen’s Ballroom, one would have expected that her natural reaction would have been to flee. Just like she cannot explain why she gets up to speak to the women, we see a similar lack of explanation here. Martin characterises it as an instinct, and we have no way of knowing just what drove Sansa to make this gesture. Is it her natural empathy at work, sensing that the Hound is in deep pain and forgetting her fear as she did when he told her what Gregor had done to his face? I think this is certainly a part of it, and her instincts are correct as she feels “a wetness that was not blood.” She’s also touching the burned side of his face here, the part that had been awash in blood when Tyrion had seen him earlier. It’s ironic that before, Sandor had based her acceptance of him on her willingness to look or not look at his face, but in this moment, touch is playing a much more powerful and suggestive role in their relationship.
It is after this moment that a curious lapse in time occurs when we are given no idea of what exactly Sansa was doing. Sandor rises from the bed, rips off his cloak and she hears the sounds of retreating footsteps. She seems to remain in bed for a period of time, but was she awake, sleeping or in a trance? A number of crackpot theories have suggested that the retreating footsteps were not Sandor’s, and that perhaps he remained in the room, and what happens is not narrated by the author.
What is it that causes Sansa to later believe—quite strongly—that the two of them shared a kiss? Does it stem from the overwhelming experiences of that entire day, Cersei’s threats, the fear of her life from Ser Ilyn and then Sandor, making the UnKiss a kind of PTSD type memory? Or is it rather a young girl’s subconscious performing an act of wish fulfilment: creating an event that she secretly longs for after all? GRRM has said that this is a genuine mismemory of Sansa’s, so that should rule out the theory that it happened, and he just didn’t write it. Certainly when Sandor jerked her to him and she felt he was going to kiss her, she consciously realises that nothing happened.
Then we have her wrapping herself in his cloak after she rises from bed. It’s another strange act that seems to belie the earlier terror she felt from him. It’s also an action that GRRM has obviously deliberately included here for a reason. So what is he trying to suggest? It adds to the earlier symbolism of him giving her his cloak to cover herself after she is beaten, except now she is actively choosing to pick his cloak up and use it for warmth and comfort. We later learn that she has kept it as well in her cedar chest beneath her summer silks. The cloak represents marriage and protection in Martin’s world, so is it performing the same signification here? Also, it’s a bloody (white) cloak, which has connotations of a young girl’s bloody marital bedding, taken as proof of her virginity on her wedding night.
Sandor’s decision to leave the cloak can be taken as a sign of his disgust with himself and his actions that night. He rips off the cloak, which for him has always been symbolic of the hypocrisy and deceit of knighthood, and in so doing perhaps performs his own little act of atonement to Sansa, in admission of his ultimate failure and regret. Before, he had asserted that having the white cloak would help him escape the castle, but leaving it behind reveals that he’s going forward as his own man and on his own merit.
The meaning behind Sandor’s actions could also provide us with another reason why Martin has her pick up the cloak. We’ve talked before of how Sansa might operate as a purifying force, offering another chance for these men (Barristan/Sandor) to live up to the ideals that were once embodied in the wearing of a white cloak, or to actually give it true meaning for once. By wrapping herself in Sandor’s bloody cloak, it suggests that there is hope for Sandor to redeem himself, and there may be hope for them too.
The great and the good are gathered in the Throne room
jostling like fishwives on a dock.
Everyone has tried to outdo each other in terms of dress. Queen Cersei is dressed in gold cloth slashed with burgundy, and Varys is dressed in lilac.
Squirming through a press of knights, squires and rich townsfolk, Sansa reached the front of the gallery just as a blast of trumpets announced the entry of Lord Tywin Lannister.
Tywin rides his warhorse down the great hall. Sansa notes that his armour is like nothing she has ever seen.
The Lord of Casterly Rock made such an impressive figure that it was a shock when his destrier dropped a load of dung right at the base of the Throne.
Joff has to step round it to embrace his grandfather. Sansa covers her mouth and smiles nervously.
Joff is acting the gallant King and asks his grandfather to assume governing the realm until he comes of age. Tywin sits beside Cersei. The heroes of the BWB are brought forth and Sansa notes:
the noble knights and highborn ladies cheered as lustily as cutthroats at a cockfight.
Mace Tyrell comes forward with his sons Loras and Garlan. The King fastens a golden chain around each of their throats, comprised of a chain of golden roses and a disk of gold with the Lannister lion at the bottom. Joff asks if there is any boon they would ask of him, and Sansa thinks >
And now it comes.
Loras asks to serve in the KG. Joff agrees. Lord Tyrell asks to join the small council. Joff agrees. Garlan tells him that he has a maiden sister, Margaery, who had been married to Renly, but that Renly went to war before the marriage could be consummated and was therefore still innocent and had heard tales of his wisdom, chivalry and courage and has come to love him, and asks Joff to marry her.
Sansa notes Joff makes a show of looking surprised. He says Margery’s beauty is famed, but he is promised to another and that a King must keep his word. Queen Cersei rises to say:
Your Grace, in the judgment of your small council, it would be neither proper nor wise for you to wed the daughter of a man beheaded for treason, a girl whose brother is in open rebellion against the throne even now. Sire, your councillors beg you, for the good of your realm, set Sansa Stark aside. The Lady Margaery will make you a far more suitable queen.”
Like a pack of trained dogs, the lords and ladies in the hall began to shout their pleasure. “Margaery,” they called, “Give us Margaery!” and “No traitor queens! Tyrell! Tyrell!
Joff says he would like to heed the wishes of his people, but he made a holy vow. The High Septon then gets up to say due to the falseness of the Starks the vow is null and void, and there is no contract between him and Sansa Stark. Cheering goes through the hall and people start crying Margaery, all around Sansa. Sansa is more intent on what Joff is going to say.
Please, she prayed fervently, make him say it, make him say it.
She feels like she was back on the steps of Baelor’s Sept when Ser Ilyn took her father’s head off instead of promising him mercy. Joff says,
The gods are good. I am free to heed my heart. I will wed your sweet sister, and gladly, ser.” He kissed Ser Garlan on a bearded cheek as the cheers rose all around them.
Sansa suddenly feels lightheaded.
I am free. She could feel eyes upon her. I must not smile, she reminded herself.
She notes that the Queen had told her that regardless of what she felt, she must act distraught as she would not have Joff humiliated. She recalls asking the Queen,
Yes. But if I’m not to be queen, what will become of me?”
“That will need to be determined. For the moment, you shall remain here at court, as our ward.”
“I want to go home.” The queen was irritated by that. “You should have learned by now, none of us get the things we want.”
I have, though, thought Sansa, I am free of Joffrey. I will not have to kiss him, nor give him my maidenhood, nor bear him children. Let Margaery Tyrell have all that, poor girl.
Meanwhile, Sansa tries to look forlorn and abandoned. Other heroes have been brought forth, Paxer Redwyne, Lord Mathis Rowan, Lord Randyll Tarly, Ser Kevan Lannister, Ser Addam Marbrand, etc. Four men of lesser birth come next, including Lothor Brune, who for his service is made a knight and will be given lands and a keep in the Riverlands once the fighting is done. More titles and honours are handed out. The alchemist Hallyne was raised to Lord, but with no lands. Sansa thinks:
which made the alchemist no more a true lord than Varys was.
Lancel Lannister is awarded Darry, as the line has been wiped out apart from a bastard cousin. Sansa notes that Lancel is injured and the Imp is said to be dying.
Next, Lord Petyr Baelish is called. He comes forward dressed in rose and plum, his cloak covered in Mockingbirds. He kneels smiling before the throne and Sansa thinks:
He looks so pleased.
She thinks that she hasn’t heard of him doing anything heroic at the battle, but he is being awarded all the same. Petyr is granted the castle of Harrenhal with all its lands and income and the title of Lord Paramount of the Trident, that the lords of the Riverlands should acknowledge him as their liege lord and that these titles shall be hereditary. Littlefinger jokes:
I thank you humbly, Your Grace. I suppose this means I’ll need to see about getting some sons and grandsons.
Joff laughs and the court laughs with him. Sansa doesn’t understand why he is so happy, as she thinks they are empty titles as the Lannisters don’t hold Harrenhal and the place was cursed besides, and that the Lords of the Trident are sworn to House Tully and would never accept Littlefinger,
Unless they are made to. Unless my brother and my uncle and my grandfather are all cast down and killed. The thought made Sansa anxious, but she told herself she was being silly. Robb has beaten them every time. He’ll beat Lord Baelish too, if he must.
More than 600 new knights are made and the day drags on wearily as only 3 KG are on hand to knight them all. Everyone is getting restive and wants to leave, including Joff, but now the captives are brought in. Sansa notes that there are lords and great knights in this company too: including Lord Celtigar, Ser Bonifer the Good, Lord Estermont, Red Ronnet of Griffin Roost, Ser Jon Fossoway, Aurane, the bastard of Driftmark, etc. If they had changed allegiance during the battle they had to swear fealty, but those who hadn’t had to speak and what they said decided their fate. If the begged forgiveness they were fine and restored to their former seats. Some refuse to bend knee.
The bastard son of one of the Florents refuses to and Joff orders Ser Ilyn to take him outside and behead him. As the man is dragged away, another knight comes to his defence.
Stannis is the true king! A monster sits the Iron Throne, an abomination born of incest!” “Be silent,” Ser Kevan Lannister bellowed. The knight raised his voice instead. “Joffrey is the black worm eating the heart of the realm! Darkness was his father, and death his mother! Destroy him before he corrupts you all! Destroy them all, queen whore and king worm, vile dwarf and whispering spider, the false flowers. Save yourselves!” One of the gold cloaks knocked the man off his feet, but he continued to shout. “The scouring fire will come! King Stannis will return!
Joff lurches to his feet, shouting I’m King and demands them man is killed instantly, striking his arm down in a furious gesture and cutting himself on the Iron Throne. He starts screeching for his mother. The man on the floor shouts that the Iron Throne denies him. Tywin motions for Ser Meryn to kill him and he does.
Joff meanwhile has fallen into his mother’s arms and is being attended by Maesters and bundled off. The hall erupts in chatter. Tywin takes control of events and says only those who wish to bend knee are to come forward and there will be no more follies.
As the afternoon drags on, Sansa wonders how badly Joff is hurt. She thinks:
They say the Iron Throne can be perilous cruel to those who were not meant to sit it.
Eventually, everyone is allowed to leave. When she gets back to her room, she hugs her pillow and lets out a squeal of joy. She thinks the gods are good and on that he has set her aside. She almost kisses the servant girl when she brings in her dinner. She thinks even the food tastes sweeter.
After dark, she slips on her cloak and heads for the godswood. Ser Osmund is on the drawbridge and Sansa tries to sound miserable, but he leers at her and she’s not sure she has been convincing.
She sees Dontos and asks him why he is so sad faced, because Joff has put her aside.
He took her hand. “Oh, Jonquil, my poor Jonquil, you do not understand. Done with you? They’ve scarcely begun.” Her heart sank. “What do you mean?” “The queen will never let you go, never. You are too valuable a hostage. And Joffrey . . . sweetling, he is still king. If he wants you in his bed, he will have you, only now it will be bastards he plants in your womb instead of trueborn sons.
Sansa is horrified by this. Dontos gives her a slobbery kiss, and tells her to be brave and that the day of the escape has been chosen. After Joff’s wedding feast during the bedding, no one will notice them slipping away. Sansa is not happy about this as she says the wedding won’t be for a moon’s turn yet.
Dontos tells her to be patient for a while longer and says he has something for her and produces a hairnet of finespun silver with small gems in it that Sansa doesn’t recognize.
What stones are these?”
“Black amethysts from Asshai. The rarest kind, a deep true purple by daylight.”
“It’s very lovely,” Sansa said, thinking. It is a ship I need, not a net for my hair.
Dontos tells her it’s lovelier than she knows: that it’s magic, and revenge for her father and that it’s home.
One of the criticisms of Sansa’s character is that her chapters are dull and that nothing happens, which personally I disagree with, and although on the surface this chapter takes place during one day in the throne room, we see some very important players in the game and where some later to be important pieces started out. This is one of the best chapters to show the realpolitik of court and the falseness of KL and the court.
The first thing I noticed is that all the lords and ladies are standing on the floor of the great hall, while those of lesser importance such as knights, squires and rich townsfolk (moneyed smallfolk, in truth) are in the gallery. Sansa is noticeably among the people on the gallery. Whether that is through choice or where she was told to go is interesting, because by rights she should be on the floor with the other nobles. Instead, she is placed in the lesser nobles and raised commoners. A further indication of her status at court or foreshadowing of her remaining Alayne Stone permanently?
Also the court is described in the most unfavourable terms: the ladies and lords are scrapping like fishwives to get the best places.
Whereas in AGOT a throne room filled with people in their best dress would have consumed Sansa with excitement, now she notes what people are wearing, but her main concern is Joff breaking off their betrothal. She is still terrified it won’t happen. What we are seeing is Sansa in development, while the court has lost its shine, she doesn’t yet grasp that Joff has to marry Marg for political reasons.
It’s quite a sad image that the little girl of AGOT who went to the tourney thinking how wonderful it was that everyone was being courteous to her and admired her, is now seeing many of those same people shouting “no traitor queens,” and calling for Marg as they once may have called for her.
I wonder how convincing she acted her part of looking upset. People are watching her, and I thought given all her humiliations it was ridiculous of Cersei to suggest that Joff should not have her looking happy at the situation. In fact, given that Joff had her father’s head cut off, it was almost ridiculous for Cersei to ask her to play the part of distressed girl as so many people will have known it was bound to be an act.
Jumping forward a bit, to her view that Lothor Brune was a good match for Mya Stone because of her birth, it is noteworthy that he is given a keep and lands. Something I missed before. It suggests that in her role as Alayne Stone she may also be suitable for a landed knight or not-knight with a keep and lands, (possible foreshadowing?).
Not about Sansa as such, but one of her thoughts was interesting:
which made the alchemist no more a true lord than Varys was.
Given the speculation that Varys may be a Blackfyre, the fact the word true is in italics may be a hint that, in fact, he is a true lord. Similarly, he is wearing lilac, and traditionally purple has been the colour of Kings and royalty.
The awards Petyr receives are another example of Sansa developing an inquiring sense of mind in regards to motive. She reasons them to be an empty title and a cursed castle not under his control. She wonders why “He looks so pleased. “Although she is not thinking more about it, she, unlike I think many at court, is curious as to why he should be so pleased. Until she realizes,
Unless they are made to. Unless my brother and my uncle and my grandfather are all cast down and killed. The thought made Sansa anxious, but she told herself she was being silly. Robb has beaten them every time. He’ll beat Lord Baelish too, if he must.
She actually works out what is going to happen.
Moving on to the godswood scene with Ser Dontos for the moment, I can see why LF is so pleased and I wonder when he decided to initiate the plan to kill Joff. The hairnet would have been costly and time-consuming to make and the poison rare. He must have had it made in advance. Indeed, he is so pleased because his plan is coming together so well. How much the Tyrells are in on the plot is unknown at this point, but it seems over the top for him to have made the hairnet if the possibility of Marg marrying Tommen had not already been discussed or eluded to between LF and TQoT. The symbolism with LF’s cloak covered in mocking birds also highlights that he is laughing at those around him.
Also, it seems that LF has twice tried to have Tyrion killed now. Once with the dagger implication, and with Ser Mandon Moore (possibly). Then he sets up Penny and Groat to rile Tyrion into making a scene. Both Sandor and LF seem to have a deep loathing of Tyrion and personal vendetta. The question is why?
The captives are also of interest, especially Ser Bonifer the Good. He has fought for Stannis and although bent knee, how loyal is he to the Lannister cause, and more importantly as of AFFC, he is castellan of Harrenhal, LF’s seat.
Lastly, it is sad to see that Sansa has no idea of her own value. She asks if she can go home and Cersei basically says no, you’re our ward = hostage. Even Dontos says it to her, yet she herself does not recognise what that means. Her main concern seems to be getting home. Sadly, one of the things I think is foreshadowed in both books so far is that Sansa might never see Winterfell again.
Also, in terms of timeline she says the wedding is not for a moon’s turn. Now, even thinking the moon has just turned and therefore it maybe at the end of another moon’s turn, then the story for the first half of ASOS only takes two months. In terms of Sansa’s development (which is often criticised), she should not be that different now from in two months’ time.
Although there may not be much emphasis placed on dress and knowing courtly things, Sansa is immediately curious as to what the stones are because she doesn’t recognise them. She may not hold a sword, but she is astute in other ways and has import knowledge for surviving at court.
Also, Cersei wearing a gold dress when stating that Marg would make a better Queen, again highlights Sansa’s dream from AGOT and Cersei’s prophecy regarding golden shrouds.
The development of Sansa’s character in ACOK is quite substantial, but then according to the vague timelines floating around, the book does cover nearly ten months. By the end of AGOT, Brash nicely summed up Sansa’s arc that starts with her as the naïve girl with a fairytale worldview, which rather than diminishing slowly into a realistic worldview has her world smashed out from under her feet.
All in all, AGOT represents a radically transformative experience for Sansa. She has arguably had one of the most shocking character arcs in this book, going from a sheltered girl, utterly in love with her betrothed, to experiencing violence from his command at the end. One would expect that these things would have embittered Sansa, but there’s still the sense at the end of AGOT that she’s able to recognize the monsters from the men.
As of ACOK:
- Sansa is now a shadow of her former self. With no friends or allies in court, she is completely alone. She is now completely at the mercy of Joff, who delights in having the KG beat her.
- She still has her compassion and sense of right and wrong, speaking up for Ser Dontos when no one else would, but is suddenly aware of the dire consequences of speaking her mind.
- She has begun to learn to be wary of people and not take things at face value. She begins to see that courtly manners are a façade.
- She now just wants to return home, rather than have a life in the south.
- Despite her isolation, she manages to build skewed friendships with Ser Dontos and the Hound. Both of whom give her advice and try to help her, but neither are ideal companions.
- She learns about the terrifying nature of what being in physical danger and being rescued by a “knight” actually entail, and how different it is from the stories she has read.
- She has her first period, accompanied by tremendous amounts of fear for herself for what the consequences of that may entail.
- She experiences battle from the perspective of women and non-military men.
- She also gets lessons in Queenship.
- At the beginning of ACOK we see that Sansa is still willing to speak her mind on occasion, but is fast learning to hold her tongue and kept her real thoughts to herself. We also see how mentally strong she is that she can cope from being plunged from a stable, loving and supportive environment, into the cruelty and neglect of KL.
Symbolism & Foreshadowing
- Slaying savage giants
Lannister reached out and took her hand, and gave it a squeeze. “I am only a little lion, child, and I vow, I shall not savage you.”
He wondered again about Littlefinger. There had been no word from Petyr Baelish since he had ridden off for Bitterbridge. That might mean nothing – or everything. Even Varys could not say. The Eunuch had suggested that perhaps Littlefinger had met some misfortune on the roads. He might even be slain. Tyrion had snorted in derision. “If Littlefinger is dead, then I’m a giant.
According to the prophecy of the Ghost of High Heart, a maiden with purple serpents in her hair will slay a “savage giant” upon a mountaintop. These provocative statements made above indicate that this giant will either be Tyrion Lannister, the Imp, or Petyr Baelish, Littlefinger. Interestingly, both these men have nicknames which reflect their “small” statures, literally in the case of Tyrion as a dwarf, and a metaphorical reference to Littlefinger’s humble origins. Arguably, throughout the course of ACOK, both these men enjoy a rise in power and influence. Petyr goes off to mediate an alliance between the Tyrells and the Lannisters, and Tyrion is in charge as the acting Hand of the King, making preparations for the battle to come against Stannis. However, the end of ACOK has only one man standing and receiving awards and praise: Littlefinger. He is granted the title of Lord Paramount of the Trident, and given Harrenhal as his seat. Tyrion, meanwhile, is on his deathbed, gravely injured during the Blackwater Battle. As LF’s family’s sigil is the Titan of Braavos, there is credible reason to believe that he could be the giant of the prophecy, and he certainly has giant ambitions for himself and Sansa that he managed to keep well hidden. Looking ahead to ASOS, it can be argued that Tyrion did indeed keep his promise to Sansa when he did not “savage” her on their wedding night, but in the aftermath of Joff’s death and Sansa’s disappearance, Tyrion could be rethinking his earlier kindness. At the end of ADWD, Tyrion looks set to make a spectacular return to Westeros, and his path could very well cross with Sansa’s. At this point, LF and Tyrion are still contenders for the savage giant prophecy.
- The younger, more beautiful Queen
If I’m ever a queen, I’ll make them love me.
She never knew why she got to her feet, but she did. “Don’t be afraid,” she told them loudly.
ACOK contributed credible foreshadowing of Sansa’s future role as Queen. We see her ability to think of others before herself, her kindness even to those who have hurt her, along with her compassion and dignity during troubling times. GRRM contrasts these qualities with the absence of such in Cersei Lannister’s behaviour, drawing a glaring parallel between the two women that could point to Sansa being the younger queen that strips Cersei of everything. Sansa’s outer beauty has been noted by many, but it’s the strength of her inner beauty that really surpasses the selfishness and petty cruelty displayed by Cersei.
Sansa is determined to rule with love and not fear, rejecting the advice of her mother-in-law, and making a conscious choice about her style of authority. It’s a mature reflection that she soon gets the chance to put into practice: helping to calm the fears of the women in the hall, and then tenderly assisting Lancel Lannister. Cersei’s desertion of her duties propels Sansa into the spotlight, and at that moment she is the younger, more beautiful queen.
- Cloak Exchanges
Sandor Clegane unfastened his cloak and tossed it at her. Sansa clutched it against her chest, fists bunched hard in the white wool. The coarse weave was scratchy against her skin, but no velvet had ever felt so fine.
When she crawled out of bed, long moments later, she was alone. She found his cloak on the floor, twisted up tight, the white wool stained by blood and fire. The sky outside was darker by then, with only a few pale green ghosts dancing against the stars. A chill wind was blowing, banging the shutters. Sansa was cold. She shook out the torn cloak and huddled beneath it on the floor, shivering.
Cloaks in Martin’s world represent marriage and protection. They symbolize a bond between a man and woman—his pledge and her acceptance. GRRM has given us two very deliberate scenes where Sandor’s cloak is being used to bring security and comfort to Sansa. The cloak exchanges symbolize not only the protective role that he plays in her life, but also suggest a romance developing between the two. In the first example listed above, Sandor’s cloak is symbolic of the man himself. It’s rough and homely, but what it (he) offers Sansa feels anything but. In the second scene, which takes place during the Blackwater Battle, Sansa chooses to take the cloak up herself, seeking warmth and solace. This time the cloak is dirty and burnt, but her choice to wear it could foreshadow a future choice to accept Sandor Clegane with his stained reputation and unpleasant features. We later learn that she keeps the cloak hidden as well, another symbolic action that could be Martin’s way of saying that their relationship/their bond, has to be hidden away for a while, but remains cherished by both of them. This action could also foreshadow Sandor’s future redemption. By not rejecting his cloak, Sansa has not rejected the man or her hope for his rage to be healed. The bloody white cloak could also represent lost virginity.
- Meeting in dark, dangerous places
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.”
Turning back to the stair, Sansa climbed. The smoke blotted out the stars and the thin crescent of moon, so the roof was dark and thick with shadows… A stab went through her, so sharp that Sansa clutched at her belly. She might have fallen, but a shadow moved suddenly, and strong fingers grabbed her arm and steadied her.
Whenever Sandor and Sansa meet up, it is nearly always very dark outside, and on high ground where she is at risk of falling, which requires him to reach out and save her. Besides underscoring his role as her protector, the symbolism of meeting on twisting staircases and on rooftops could be speaking to the challenges and dangers inherent in their relationship. These are two people who do not occupy even ground, and their attraction/repulsion dynamic places them in dangerous territory where either might fall. Added to all this is the power imbalance between the two which makes any conversation a battleground of wills and desires. The darkness that always surrounds them with flashes of light in the distance could be suggesting that whatever it is between them is still forming, not ready yet to be brought into the light of day, i.e. officially recognized. Also, in relation to Sandor’s insistence that Sansa look at him, Martin could be instead establishing the primacy of touch over sight—with the darkness not preventing a connection from developing, or allowing a deeper one to be established. (We see this in the scene after the tourney feast and when he comes to her room during the BBW).
- Sacred Places and Holy Prayers
Sansa had favoured her mother’s gods over her father’s. She loved the statues, the pictures in leaded glass, the robes and crystals, the magical play of the rainbows over altars inlaid with mother-of-pearl and onyx and lapis lazuli. Yet she could not deny that the godswood has a certain power too. Especially by night. Help me, she prayed, send a true knight to champion me…
Sansa had never seen the sept so crowded, nor so brightly lit, great shafts of rainbow-colored sunlight slanted down through the crystals in the high windows, and candles burned on every side, their little flames twinkling like stars. The mother’s altar and the Warrior’s swam in light, but the Smith and the Crone and the Maid and Father had their worshippers as well, and there were even a few flames dancing below the Stranger’s half-human face…
She sang for mercy, for the living and dead alike… and finally toward the end she even sang for Tyrion the Imp and for the Hound. He is no true knight but he saved me all the same, she told the Mother. Save him if you can, and gentle the rage inside him.
In both of these holy places—the godswood and the sept—Sansa makes two prayers which we can argue are answered by the events later on in the book. The first prayer calls for a true knight, foreshadowing Sandor’s rescue of her during the riot on KL, and the second prayer foreshadows the incident in her bedroom where Sansa is able to cool Sandor’s rage and he later goes on to do a kind of penance on the Quiet Isle. Her increasing connection to the godswood is also important, symbolising her growing ties to the North even while exiled.
6. Just don’t call me ser
Sandor Clegane cantered briskly through the gates astride Sansa’s chestnut courser. The girl was seated behind, both arms tight around the Hound’s chest… 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.
She’d thought she was going to die then, but the fingers had twitched, all five at once, and the man has shrieked loud as a horse. When his hand fell away, another hand, stronger, shoved her back into her saddle. The man with the garlicky breath was on the ground, blood pumping out the stump of his arm, but there were others all around, some with clubs in hand. The Hound leapt at them, his sword a blur of steel that trailed red mist as it swung. When they broke and ran before him he had laughed, his terrible burned face for a moment transformed.
“I could keep you safe,” he rasped. “They’re all afraid of me. No one would hurt you again, or I’d kill them.
Sandor may be adamant that Sansa’s belief in true knights is the foolish fantasy of a young girl, but throughout ACOK he’s the one performing the selfless heroics that define the work of a true knight, and at their last meeting he’s the one offering to take her away from her miserable situation and to protect her against any threats. Although Sansa doesn’t realise it on a conscious level yet, her prayers were answered that night in the godswood, but the true knight didn’t come in the form of someone dashing like Ser Loras or well-spoken like Garlan Tyrell. It seems likely that Sandor’s status as her true knight hasn’t ended yet and that he will play a future role in helping to rescue/protect her.