A Clash of Kings

  1. Sandor I: The King’s Name Day Tourney
  2. Sandor II: A fool and a non-knight
  3. Sandor III: Rescuing maidens isn’t like the songs
  4. Sandor IV: Waiting for Blackwater
  5. Sandor V: The Great Battle
  6. Sandor VI: Going Away
  7. ACOK Recap


The King’s Nameday Tourney

by Brashcandy

  • Sansa I

  • Tyrion I

  • Arya IV


Sandor is on duty during Joffrey’s name day tourney—a rather different event than the previous one Sansa attended:

The last tourney had been different, Sansa reflected. King Robert had staged it in her father’s honor. High lords and fabled champions had come from all over the realm to compete, and the whole city had turned out to watch. She remembered the splendor of it: the field of pavilions along the river with a knight’s shield hung before each door, the long rows of silken pennants waving in the wind, the gleam of sunlight on bright steel and gilded spurs. The days had rung to the sounds of trumpets and pounding hooves, and the nights had been full of feasts and song. Those had been the most magical days of her life, but they seemed a memory from another age now. Robert Baratheon was dead, and her father as well, beheaded for a traitor on the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor. Now there were three kings in the land, and war raged beyond the Trident while the city filled with desperate men. Small wonder that they had to hold Joff’s tournament behind the thick stone walls of the Red Keep.

Unlike the previous tourney, the Hound has no intention of competing, and remains on guard for any disturbances that might threaten the king’s life. Despite his lack of participation, Sandor is still called into action when he supports Sansa’s lie about the reason why the king should not have Dontos executed. Right after Tommen jousts, Tyrion and his Vale clansmen, assorted freeriders, and small regiment of Lannister soldiers arrive in the city. There we see the enmity between Sandor and the Imp reigniting quickly, as they exchange barbs:

The dwarf went to one knee before the king. “Your Grace.”

You,” Joffrey said.

Me,” the Imp agreed, “although a more courteous greeting might be in order, for an uncle and an elder.”

They said you were dead,” the Hound said.

The little man gave the big one a look. One of his eyes was green, one was black, and both were cool. “I was speaking to the king, not to his cur.”

Tyrion tells Joffrey that he has brought him “his wits” to be of help in the city, and Sandor makes one final warning to the dwarf before leaving:

Sandor Clegane lingered behind a moment. “I’d guard that tongue of yours, little man,” he warned, before he strode off after his liege.

After offering his condolences to Sansa and promising he is only a little lion who will not savage her, Tyrion proceeds to the small council where he meets with Cersei and is informed about the events in the court concerning the Starks and changes to the small council and Kingsguard.


The Tournament of Gnats

By the time Joffrey’s miserable and mediocre nameday tourney is finished, Sansa has cause to privately lament that she is not betrothed to the kindly Prince Tommen, who is nothing like his tyrannical older brother and king. Despite the fact that we are not privy to the Hound’s POV, we can safely wager that his feelings are much the same on the matter in preferring to serve and protect a king who holds the qualities he observes in Tommen during the tourney. This consensus, although not allowed to be mutually expressed to one another, is revealed in the actions and statements Sandor and Sansa both have to make to try to temper Joff’s excesses; and together they emerge as a covert team or a sort of co-parenting unit, one that highlights two aspects of the fatherhood theme in relation to Sandor: the position he currently holds as Joff’s primary role model and protector/supervisor in contrast to the capacity he possesses to occupy a functional and supportive role in a child’s life.

To explore the first feature of the theme, Tyrion’s arrival to the city and his subsequent conversation with Cersei shines light on how the Hound came to be named to the Kingsguard, and in particular Joffrey’s feelings about his sworn shield:

His Grace has a unique way of winning the hearts of his subjects,” Tyrion said with a crooked smile. “Was it Joffrey’s wish to dismiss Ser Barristan Selmy from his Kingsguard too?”

Cersei sighed. “Joff wanted someone to blame for Robert’s death. Varys suggested Ser Barristan. Why not? It gave Jaime command of the Kingsguard and a seat on the small council, and allowed Joff to throw a bone to his dog. He is very fond of Sandor Clegane. We were prepared to offer Selmy some land and a towerhouse, more than the useless old fool deserved.”

There may have been larger game-playing tactics along with some nepotism thrown in for good measure on Cersei’s end, but it was fundamentally Joffrey’s desire to see his “dog” elevated that determines Sandor’s appointment to the fabled Kingsguard. Joffrey, in all his immature, twisted, power-drunk glory, wanted to see the Hound attain the white cloak. From the moment we are introduced to them at Winterfell, the Hound is a notable role model in Joff’s life: ostensibly challenging Ser Rodrik on his behalf, neutralising his annoyance about Summer’s howling, and making jokes against Tyrion to his nephew’s amusement. Factor in the neglect and strained relationship that is visible between Robert and Joffrey and it’s evident that the Hound acted as a surrogate father to Joffrey, earning the boy’s admiration the longer he spent in his company. At the feast during the Hand’s tourney, Joff shows his confidence in the Hound when questioned by Sansa:

Ser Loras is a true knight. Do you think he will win tomorrow, my lord?”

No,” Joffrey said. “My dog will do for him, or perhaps my uncle Jaime. And in a few years, when I am old enough to enter the lists, I shall do for them all.” 

Fast forward to Joffrey’s nameday tourney, and the Hound is now occupying a very different position from the one he played in the event to honour Ned Stark. He won the championship’s honour on that day after spectacular displays of skill and chivalry—unhorsing Jaime Lannister and saving Loras Tyrell’s life—and even enjoyed the love of the commons for the first time in his life. At the nameday tourney, he is now charged with guarding Joffrey in a humble box erected within the walls of the Red Keep, and more to the point, his relationship with the boy has undergone a significant structural change, as the once crown prince at the Hand’s tourney is now king, with all the reckless power and privilege it affords to abuse others, while Sandor is no longer his “mother’s dog, in truth” but one of the KG expected to be completely loyal to the king and obey his commands.

This compulsion and the looming conflict it presents to the Hound’s service was previewed in Sansa’s closing chapter of AGOT, when Sandor gives her advice on how to mitigate Joff’s abuses, and later commits high treason by covering up the girl’s murderous intent atop the battlements. By the end of AGOT, Sandor is no longer invested in acting as Joff’s surrogate father, as he even denies the boy the petty thrill of a joke at Robb Stark’s expense. However, this significant transferal of Sandor’s loyalty is yet unknown, and Joff’s identification and idealisation of the Hound continues with our first sign of it coming from Sansa’s observation when she is being escorted by Ser Arys Oakheart to join the king’s celebrations:

Shall we go?” Ser Arys offered his arm and she let him lead her from her chamber. 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 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.

As their interaction during the tourney bears out, Joffrey’s relationship with the Hound is characterised by the following features:

  1. A twisted pride in having a fearsome warrior like the Hound as his protector:

The king laughed. “My dog has a fierce bark. Perhaps I should command him to fight the day’s champion. To the death.” Joffrey was fond of making men fight to the death.

2.      Looking to Sandor for validation of his own abilities:

My lady mother said it was not fitting, since the tourney is in my honor. Otherwise I would have been champion. Isn’t that so, dog?”

3.      An intrinsic valuing of Sandor’s judgment and opinion:

As a brace of Lannister guardsmen led him off, the master of revels approached the box. “Your Grace,” he said, “shall I summon a new challenger for Brune, or proceed with the next tilt?”

Neither. These are gnats, not knights. I’d have them all put to death, only it’s my name day. The tourney is done. Get them all out of my sight.”

What this all suggests, and to answer the crucial question of why Joffrey does not ask Sandor to hit Sansa, is that he is attempting to impress the Hound with the abusive power he can wield over his betrothed; in other words, to prove what he considers is an integral part of his manhood—dominating women—to his idealised father figure. Joff does not see the Hound as just another KG member but as an authority figure whose approval he seeks, therefore asking Sandor to beat Sansa would defeat the psychological pleasure he gains if he were to ask Sandor to perform as the rest of his guards do.

To further explicate this point, there is Sansa’s thought that she feels safer when Cersei is around to help restrain her son, revealing the one person at this stage besides the Hound who can effect some control and regulation over Joffrey’s behaviour. If Joff is locked in a dysfunctional endeavour to impress his father figure via abusive displays of power, his relationship to his mother is even more problematic, as she is the one who blocks his aspirations towards manhood, reinforcing the insecure and cowardly aspects of his identity out of love and her obsessive fears over his safety. Fearing his mother’s condemnation on the one hand, and constantly seeking approval from designated father figures (Robert, Sandor) on the other, Joff’s warped psychology comes into being.

As the nameday tourney progresses, no one is more attuned to signs of Joff’s changing moods than Sansa and the man who has equipped her with vital knowledge of how to protect herself against the king. Sansa’s application of the Hound’s advice is evident from the opening lines of this chapter, when her careful attire and polite speech is successful in placating the king:

Joffrey waved a curt dismissal while he studied Sansa from head to heels. “I’m pleased you wore my stones.”

So the king had decided to play the gallant today. Sansa was relieved. “I thank you for them . . . and for your tender words. I pray you a lucky name day, Your Grace.”

Sit,” Joff commanded, gesturing her to the empty seat beside his own.

We are afforded a close description of Sandor’s appearance, with a significant observation on Sansa’s part:

In the back of the royal box, Sandor Clegane stood at guard, his hands resting on his swordbelt. The white cloak of the Kingsguard was draped over his broad shoulders and fastened with a jeweled brooch, the snowy cloth looking somehow unnatural against his brown roughspun tunic and studded leather jerkin. “Lady Sansa,” the Hound announced curtly when he saw her. 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.

The suggestion, of course, is that the KG cloak is at odds with Sandor’s identity, and emphasises that he too, like Sansa, is not exempt from wearing certain apparel which has more to do with performing a prescribed role for Joffrey, rather than indicative of any genuine loyalty or affection. The qualities that distinguish Sandor’s masculinity are not vested in knighthood or the donning of a white cloak, but rather in his warrior prowess and the constructive fathering potential he displays towards Tommen in conjunction with Sansa’s mothering qualities that form a central component of her feminine attributes.

When Sansa asks whether or not he intends to compete during the tourney, Sandor’s reply is frank, showing that he values his skills and takes his participation in such events seriously:

He had been the champion in her father’s tourney, Sansa remembered. “Will you joust today, my lord?” she asked him.
Clegane’s voice was thick with contempt. “Wouldn’t be worth the bother of arming myself. This is a tournament of gnats.”

The Hound’s designation soon proves correct, first to Joff’s amusement and then increasing agitation as one competitor after the next performs poorly and the king takes it as a personal insult. Sandor attempts to ameliorate Joff’s growing aggravation by being forthright about the competition:

I warned you,” said the Hound. “Gnats.”

The incident with Dontos proves to the final straw for Joffrey, however, and Sansa’s challenge to his ruling enrages him even further. It is here that Sandor is faced with a choice: he could let Sansa deal with the consequences of her instinctive defence of the hapless knight, after all, he’s a man who has no respect for the institution, and certainly no reason to care what happens to a perpetual drunkard like Dontos; or, he could summon his most unaffected tone, and backup the lie she tells Joffrey in desperation:

You’re lying,” Joffrey said. “I ought to drown you with him, if you care for him so much.”

I don’t care for him, Your Grace.” The words tumbled out desperately. “Drown him or have his head off, only . . . kill him on the morrow, if you like, but please . . . not today, not on your name day. I couldn’t bear for you to have ill luck . . . terrible luck, even for kings, the singers all say so . . .”

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 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.

The uttering of this direct lie to the king in Sansa’s defence cements the Hound’s shifting loyalties, and provides us with yet another example of the non-knight acting in the true spirit of chivalry at a tourney, only this time in word, not deed. In doing so, he also provides critical assistance to Sansa in helping her to save Ser Dontos, as disarming Joff’s suspicion allows her to make the follow-up recommendation to employ Dontos as a court fool rather than a knight.

If the collaboration between the Hound and Sansa in the nameday lie was more haphazard and accidental, their mutual support of Tommen’s jousting comes across as a lot more deliberate; not in the sense of it being planned, but in both of them being on the same “wavelength” regarding their embodiment of parental qualities. Sandor makes the first intervention in the children’s dispute over Tommen’s right to joust when he supports Myrcella’s reasoning:

We’re children,” Myrcella declared haughtily. “We’re supposed to be childish.”

The Hound laughed. “She has you there.”

Joffrey was beaten. “Very well. Even my brother couldn’t tilt any worse than these others. Master, bring out the quintain, Tommen wants to be a gnat.”

Knowing all too well the trials of having a tyrannical older brother to contend with, Sandor is placed in an empathetic relation to Tommen’s plight. To make the parallel even more apparent, Tommen’s fall off his horse and Joff laughing the “longest and loudest” recalls the scene at the Hand’s tourney when Sandor enjoyed his brother’s (deserved) humiliation by the Knight of Flowers. In contrast, Joffrey’s laughter at Tommen is wholly spiteful and mean-spirited, and while Sansa boldly challenges the king’s reaction, Sandor reveals his admiration for the boy’s determination:

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.”

According to Chava Simon in Fatherhood—The Unsung Voice of Masculinity:

Fathering taps a reserve of meaningful male experiences in the following ways:

It reveals feelings and ideas that show that important aspects of masculinity are constructed in caring and empathic ways; it shows that this is an essential part of men’s lives; and that their participation in the lives of their sons and daughters significantly contributes to their own well-being, as it contributes significantly to the young-adult children’s lives.

The Hound has scarcely been given the chance to experience a functional family life or to explore a positive paternal relationship with a child, neither in his own childhood nor when he has to become the sworn shield of a profoundly disturbed Joffrey. However, this snapshot of his emotional support of Tommen does highlight that Sandor Clegane is capable of parenting in a manner that promotes a child’s well-being. The more he moves away from the destructive association with the Lannisters, the more these aspects of his masculinity can be evinced in complex, self-fulfilling ways.


A Fool and a Non-Knight

by DogLover

  • Sansa II

  • Arya II

  • Catelyn II

  • Arya VI

  • Arya VII


Sansa II, Chapter 18

On the way back to her room from the godswood after a clandestine meeting with Ser Dontos, Sansa thinks about the songs of Florian and Jonquil. Running down the serpentine steps, Sansa runs right into Sandor as he steps out from a doorway, causing her to lose her balance.

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.”

Sansa immediately recognizes the Hound and tries to free herself, informing him that his grasp is hurting her. Still, the Hound doesn’t let go and demands to know why she’s out so late. When she doesn’t answer, he shakes her and demands again that she tell him where she was. Sansa tells him she was at the godswood praying for her father and the king. Sandor accuses Sansa of lying, but lets go, swaying slightly. He then takes notice of Sansa’s figure:

You look almost a woman… face, teats, and you’re taller too, almost… ah, you’re still a stupid little bird, aren’t you? Singing all the songs they taught you… sing me a song, why don’t you? Go on. Sing to me. Some song about knights and fair maidens. You like knights, don’t you?”

Sansa tells Sandor that she likes true knights and calls him “my lord”, which elicits a mocking response from Sandor and a harsh reminder he’s no lord no more than he’s a knight. Nearly falling from inebriation, he declares that he’s had way too much wine, stating that he’s “drunk as a dog,” but not before making another sexually charged statement to Sansa: “A flagon of sour red, dark as blood, all a man needs. Or a woman.”

As he escorts Sansa back to her room, Sandor lapses into a brooding silence while descending the stairs.  When they reach Maegor’s Holdfast, Sansa panics when she sees Ser Boros Blount guarding the bridge. Sandor, sensing Sansa’s fear, lays a hand on her shoulder and tells her, “That one is nothing to fear, girl. Paint stripes on a toad, and he does not become a tiger.” Blount asks where Sandor has been as the king was looking for him earlier. Sandor retorts that he was out getting drunk and it was Blount’s and the other members of the Kingsguard duty to protect the king. Blount then turns his attention to Sansa, asking why she’s out so late. Sansa tells him the same lie she told Sandor and Sandor deflects further questioning by asking about the earlier commotion: “You expect her to sleep with all the noise? What was the trouble?” Blount tells Sandor that Joffrey led a sortie against a group of starving commoners who demanded to be fed upon learning about a feast for Tyrek Lannister’s wedding. Sandor sarcastically remarks that Joffrey is a brave boy.

After the interaction with Blount, Sandor continues to escort Sansa back to her room. Sansa asks Sandor why he allows people to call him a dog when he doesn’t allow anyone to call him a knight. Sandor goes into detail about his family history, explaining how his grandfather used to be the Lannister kennelmaster and it was three of his dogs that saved Lord Tytos from a lioness, earning them a keep and their sigil. He tells Sansa “a hound will die for you, but never lie to you. And he’ll look you straight in the face.” Cupping Sansa’s face, he asks for a song again. Sansa tells him she knows a song about Florian and Jonquil, to which Sandor snorts “Florian and Jonquil? A fool and his cunt. Spare me. But one day I’ll have a song from you, whether you will it or no.” Sansa states that she’ll sing for him gladly and Sandor calls her a liar: “Pretty little 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.”

Arya II, Chapter 19

Gregor and his men capture Gendry, Arya, Hot Pie, and Lommy. After receiving a blow to the head for fighting back, Arya, in a daze, finds herself kneeling before Gregor: someone she thinks is the tallest man she’s ever seen and out of a tale told by Old Nan. A monster with a face cut from stone. She notices the three black dogs on a yellow faded surcoat and recognizes them from what Sansa told her during the Hand’s Tourney: “’That one belongs to the Hound’s brother,’ Sansa had confided when they passed the black dogs on the yellow field. ‘He’s even bigger than Hodor, you’ll see. They call him the Mountain that Rides.’”

Catelyn II, Chapter 22

During a feast hosted by Lord Caswell for King Renly, Catelyn overhears Ser Tanton drunkenly boast that he’ll slay Sandor Clegane in single combat.

Arya VI, Chapter 26

During the march to Harrenhal, now held by Tywin Lannister, Gregor tells the prisoners, “You’re traitors and rebels, so than your gods that Lord Tywin’s giving you this chance. It’s more than you’d get from the outlaws. Obey, serve, and live.” And during this march wherein Arya had to silently bear witness to rape, torture, and murder of innocent captives, she begins to compose a mental list of her enemies, enlisting the Hound for the death of Mycah. “Every night Arya would say their names. “Ser Gregor,” she’d whisper to her stone pillow. “Dunsen, Polliver, Chiswyck, Raff the Sweetling. The Tickler and the Hound. Ser Armory, Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn, King Joffrey, Queen Cersei.”

Arya VII, Chapter 30

The Hound is mentioned in Arya’s death prayer twice: “Weese,” she would whisper, first of all. “Dunsen, Chiswyck, Polliver, Raff the Sweetling. The Tickler and the Hound. Ser Gregor, Ser Armory, Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn, King Joffrey, Queen Cersei,” If she let herself forget even one of them, how would she ever find him again to kill him?” She’s then offered the gift of three deaths from Jaqen H’ghar and ponders her options, including Sandor Clegane. But she thinks he and others are too far away to be viable candidates.


Liquid courage just might be one of the most prominent themes in this section, as Ser Dontos tells Sansa, who accuses him of being drunk when she clandestinely meets him in the godswood, he only had one cup of wine for courage. Ser Tanton, in Catelyn II, drunkenly claims he’ll slay the Hound in single combat, his foot in a gravy boat while he does underscoring the absurdity of the boast. And, in a confession that took a fair amount of liquid courage, the Hound sways and reels when he awkwardly attempts to tell Sansa he’s attracted to her.

Of utmost significance, for the first time since Sandor Clegane and Sansa Stark directly interacted, which is when Sansa backed into Sandor while they made their way to King’s Landing from Winterfell, we have confirmation that Sandor’s feelings toward Sansa go beyond a man who experienced victimization taking pity upon another victim. It’s in this section that Sandor expresses a romantic interest in Sansa Stark, and the bond between the two continues to strengthen, as Sandor, again, reveals to her a part of his family history, but with a notable difference in subject matter, tone, and intent.

Immediately after Sansa met with a “drunken old fool” who surely had more than just one cup of wine for courage, Sansa literally runs right into the Hound who is apparently quite inebriated himself. Or is he?

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.”

Sandor shows pretty quick reflexes for someone supposedly so drunk. Actually, he doesn’t show any signs of excessive inebriation until he makes some very forward and, considering his rank in comparison to Sansa, a high-born lady and the King’s betrothed, very dangerous and not-so-platonic comments about Sansa’s appearance:

And what’s Joff’s little bird doing flying down the serpentine in the black of night?” When she did not answer, he shook her. “Where were you?”

The g-g-godswood, my lord,” she said, not daring to lie. “Praying… praying for my father, and…for the king, praying that he’d not be hurt.”

Think I’m so drunk that I’d believe that?” He let go his grip on her arm, swaying slightly as he stood, stripes of light and darkness falling across his terrible burnt face

You look almost a woman… face, teats, and you’re taller too, almost… ah, you’re still a stupid little bird, aren’t you? Singing all the songs they taught you… sing me a song, why don’t you? Go on. Sing to me. Some song about knights and fair maidens. You like knights, don’t you?”

It’s only just before he overtly takes notice of Sansa’s development into a woman that he starts swaying. The signs of drunkenness become more exaggerated after Sansa calls him a lord, wherein he offers an empty threat to beat her, and, catching himself, says he’s as drunk as a dog while reeling.

And I’m no lord, no more than a knight. Do I need to beat that into you?”  Clegane reeled and almost fell. “Gods,” he swore, “too much wine…”

And it’s right then he tells Sansa that all a man needs is a woman:

Do you like wine, little bird? True wine? A flagon of sour red, dark as blood, all a man needs. Or a woman.” He laughed, shook his head. “Drunk as a dog, damn me. You come now. Back to your cage, little bird. I’ll take you there. Keep you safe for the king.” The Hound gave her a push, oddly gentle, and followed her down the steps. By the time they reached the bottom, he had lapsed back into a brooding silence, as if he had forgotten she was there.

Just as Sansa uses her armor of courtesy as a form of protection, in this case, because she’s frightened since she’s just conspired with Dontos and she knows the Hound doesn’t believe her, Sandor relies on a mocking tone and the excuse of inebriation to mask his vulnerability and insecurities as he attempts to tell Sansa he’s attracted to her. While he’s certainly had enough to drink to give him the courage to talk to Sansa the way he does, he’s not quite as drunk as he’s acting.  There’s no indication Sandor is slurring his words, as anyone would if they were drunk enough to lose their balance. Sandor also handles Sansa “gently” after reeling, another sign he’s not nearly as drunk as he initially lets on.

And what of the brooding silence? First, Sansa thinks he slips back into a brooding silence, except there was no brooding during the entire encounter. This implies she was thinking of the day he escorted her to the Red Keep after the Tourney of the Hand feast. Did Sandor forget she was there? Unlikely, considering what he just said to her, but we can only speculate. Two possible explanations are that Sandor, as he was the night of the feast, is frustrated and irritated by Sansa’s naïveté. Or, just like almost all who have experienced the self-doubting vulnerability when putting oneself out there, professing romantic feelings to someone you have no idea returns said feelings, could possibly be mentally flagellating himself over how he behaved and what he said, or left unsaid, especially since Sansa is unavailable and out of his reach.

Further evidence that Sandor isn’t as drunk as earlier pretended is how quickly he intuits Sansa’s fear of Ser Boros Blount and diverts Blount’s attention away from Sansa.

That one is nothing to fear, girl.” The Hound laid a heavy hand on her shoulder. “Paint stripes on a toad, he does not become a tiger.”

The pattern of Sandor and Sansa providing support, emboldening each other continues, as Sansa now lies with confidence to Boros. Without hesitation, Sandor detracts Boros’ attention away from Sansa by asking about the commotion that Sansa took advantage of earlier to escape to the godswood. Again, not exactly the actions of someone so inebriated that he sways and reels.

After Sandor comes to her defense, Sansa drops her courtesy armor and openly asks Sandor why he prefers to be called a dog instead of a knight. And as Sansa drops her armor, Sandor no longer feigns drunkenness: feeling a comfortable ease with one another, Sandor tells Sansa how his family acquired a keep, a story he relays with a great deal of pride. Placing this into context with past analyses, Sandor reveals his desire to have a wife and lands, but not just any lands; the Clegane lands. And, as his grandfather earned it through a brave and loyal act, this is something Sandor would want to earn through similar deeds. Sandor’s comment about needing a woman while admiring Sansa’s physique is a clear indication that Sansa is the woman he desires, further emphasized by the amount of physical contact. While the relationship between Sandor and Sansa has been characterized by a lot of touching, it’s especially prominent here, with Sandor initiating all of it, from shaking her, grabbing her wrist and holding on, placing his hand on her shoulder, and then cupping her face, forcing her to look at him while asking for a song, the only male currently in Sansa’s life who shows an interest in her love of music.

Sandor’s breaking from the Lannisters becomes even more obvious, demonstrated by his contemptuous comments to Boros, comments that also extend to the king. Even though Sandor is now a member of the Kingsguard, he makes no effort to conceal his disdain for his brothers:

Ser Boros lifted his visor. “Ser, where—“

Fuck your ser, Boros. You’re the knight, not me. I’m the king’s dog, remember.”

The king was looking for his dog earlier.”

The dog was drinking. It was your night to shield him, ser. You and my brothers.

The king is not exempt from Sandor’s scorn:

You expect her to sleep with all the noise?” Clegane said. “What was the trouble?”

Fools at the gate,” Ser Boros admitted. “Some loose tongues spread the tales of the preparations for Tyrek’s wedding feast, and these wretches got it in their heads they should be feasted too. His Grace led a sortie and sent them scurrying.”

A brave boy,” Clegane said, mouth twitching.

The twitching of Sandor’s mouth infers he’s far from impressed and not at all sincere, especially bearing in mind the very genuine comments he made about Tommen in the last section. And why was Joffrey looking for his dog? Possibly because, just as Joffrey tries to impress Sandor with his shows of masculinity when having others beat Sansa, he wants Sandor present for the same reason when he so bravely attacks unarmed and starving commoners.

The parallel between Sansa wishing Lady was with her in the godswood since she could sniff out a lie, making her feel safe, and Sandor telling her a dog could smell a lie symbolizes Sandor’s loyalty to Sansa. He’s her dog now.  And, no doubt, it’s safe to assume Sandor never reported Sansa’s late-night covert activities to Joffrey.


Rescuing Maidens Isn’t Like the Songs

  • Sansa III (Ch. 32)

  • Tyrion VIII (Ch. 36)

  • Tyrion IX (Ch. 41)

  • Tyrion X (Ch. 44)

  • Arya IX (Ch. 47)

by Milady of York


The longer you keep him waiting, the worse it will go for you,” Sandor Clegane warned her.

The Hound’s words, delivered in an ominous tone, and the look he gives her upon arriving to fetch her on orders from the king, have Sansa on the verge of panic, as she fears her secret meetings might have been discovered. She tries to pretty herself up, deciding to wear the dress the king prefers best in an attempt at appeasing Joffrey were he in a bad mood. Not only that, she also solicits from Sandor a clue on what has happened to better prepare herself:

Tell me what I’ve done.”

Not you. Your kingly brother.”

Robb’s a traitor.” Sansa knew the words by rote. “I had no part in whatever he did.”

Used to her parroted replies, Sandor snorts at her saying how traitorous her brother is, remarking that she is so well-trained. He escorts her to the archery butts, where a big throng has gathered round an infuriated Joffrey, who on seeing his betrothed come and kneel submissively before him, grows angrier and warns her that such humble gestures won’t save her, and gives Sandor what appears to be the second order of the day involving her:

Get her up!”

The Hound pulled her to her feet, not ungently.

The Hound stands by as, to her horror, she learns about the manner Lannister troops were ambushed and slaughtered at the Battle of Oxcross by Robb Stark’s army. Joffrey means to make her answer for that, though she doesn’t have anything to say. He rejects the intervention of her “Florian,” points the crossbow at her face and accuses her and her northmen of being unnatural, of using wolves to attack people, mistakenly recalling Lady did that to him. Sansa defends her late direwolf, and is rebuked with a reminder of her father’s execution and of how gladly Joffrey would do the same to her if that didn’t endanger his uncle. Sandor gets then his third order of the day:

I’d shoot you too, but if I do Mother says they’d kill my uncle Jaime. Instead you’ll just be punished and we’ll send word to your brother about what will happen to you if he doesn’t yield. Dog, hit her.”

Dontos’ scrambling to whack her over the head with a melon “morningstar” prevents Sandor’s direct reaction, but Joffrey is far from amused and orders Boros Blount and Meryn Trant to carry out the punishment in what’s an extremely graphic description of a beating that will compel Sandor to defy the king and try to stop it:

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.”

Blount obeys, and as he is about to beat a now half-naked Sansa, the Imp appears in the scene with Bronn and Timett by his side, and lashes out furiously at Ser Boros, to which the knight counters he’s only serving his king and is backed up by Meryn threateningly moving to his side. Tyrion demands to cover the beaten victim, plea that Sandor hears:

Someone give the girl something to cover herself with,” the Imp said. 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.

His uncle reminds Joffrey that “this girl’s to be your queen,” therefore he should value her honour more, to which the entitled boy-king says he can do as he likes. After an impasse with the Kingsguard for his harsh words towards his nephew and threatening Boros to have him killed on the spot if he opened his mouth again, as well as to call Cersei to witness the scene, Tyrion takes her away to be bathed and have her bruises treated. Recovering in momentary safety, the little bird reflects bitterly that no knight helped her and agrees with Sandor’s hatred of them:

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.

She rejects Tyrion’s offer to have her permanently guarded and escorted by his Clansmen, with the excuse that they’re too frightening to her. In answer, the Imp says something that could be read as alluding to Sandor, lumping him in with the rest of the abusive Kingsguard that always do as Joffrey wishes:

Me as well. But more to the point, they frighten Joffrey and that nest of sly vipers and lickspittle dogs he calls a Kingsguard. With Chella or Timett by your side, no one would dare offer you harm.”

Now aware that Joffrey’s sadism is “a matter of some pretty teats,” correctly surmising it’s further fuelled by his hormones and believing that sexual initiation would “sweeten the boy,” the younger Lannister plots to have him secretly visit a luxury brothel, for which he needs Sandor out of the picture lest Tyrion finds the queen breathing on his neck in no time, thus ruining his plans. He enlists Varys for information on Sandor’s routine:

The dog is never far from his master’s heels,” he’d observed to Varys, “but all men sleep. And some gamble and whore and visit winesinks as well.”

The Hound does all these things, if that is your question.”

No,” said Tyrion. “My question is when.”

Varys had laid a finger on his cheek, smiling enigmatically. “My lord, a suspicious man might think you wished to find a time when Sandor Clegane was not protecting King Joffrey, the better to do the boy some harm.”

The plan has to be put aside for the moment, though. Nevertheless, thenceforward the Imp and his pets have to always count the Hound in every time Tyrion wants to do something with his nephews, the thin one and the plump one, like when later he’ll order Bronn to ambush the retinue taking Tommen out of the city:

Bronn was not concerned. “The Hound is Joffrey’s dog, he won’t leave him. Ironhand’s gold cloaks should be able to handle the others easy enough.”

Not long after, a royal party have to go to the docks to bid Myrcella farewell on her way to Dorne. This is a day when the Hound is on duty to guard the king whilst Mandon Moore has the same responsibility with the sovereign’s betrothed. As has become his custom, Joffrey behaves abusively towards his brother and Sansa at the harbour, although on their way back to the castle, when accosted by a hostile crowd whence a poor woman sprang forth with a dead baby to face them, he listens to her counsel and instead of riding the woman down, throws a silver coin at her. The pauperised citizens start a fight over that paltry coin, and the baby’s mother suddenly comes out of her trance-like state to scream insults at Cersei. Someone throws dung at Joffrey, hitting the mark and enraging him so much that he offers a hundred golden dragons to anyone who brings the culprit to him. The guilty had hidden somewhere on the rooftops or balconies, so Joffrey gives Sandor an unreasonable order, heedless of Sansa begging him not to:

Bring me the man who flung that filth!” Joffrey commanded. “He’ll lick it off me or I’ll have his head. Dog, you bring him here!”

Obedient, Sandor Clegane swung down from his saddle, but there was no way through that wall of flesh, let alone to the roof. Those closest to him began to squirm and shove to get away, while others pushed forward to see. Tyrion smelled disaster. “Clegane, leave off, the man is long fled.”

I want him!” Joffrey pointed at the roof. “He was up there! Dog, cut through them and bring—”

This brings the fire to the fuse and a riot explodes. Joffrey doesn’t lose his life only because Mandon Moore cuts down his attacker, and he, Cersei, Tommen, Lancel and Tyrion are able to narrowly escape by the efforts of the Gold Cloaks of Bywater, who violently make way at spear-point for them to reach the Red Keep:

The Hound had vanished behind, though his riderless horse galloped beside them. Tyrion saw Aron Santagar pulled from the saddle, the gold-and-black Baratheon stag torn from his grasp. Ser Balon Swann dropped the Lannister lion to draw his longsword. He slashed right and left as the fallen banner was ripped apart, the thousand ragged pieces swirling away like crimson leaves in a stormwind. In an instant they were gone. Someone staggered in front of Joffrey’s horse and shrieked as the king rode him down. Whether it had been man, woman, or child Tyrion could not have said. Joffrey was galloping at his side, whey-faced, with Ser Mandon Moore a white shadow on his left.

It’s not until all of them are safely within the red walls of the fortress that Tyrion realises they’ve lost their best man, and slaps his hysterical nephew with much force, knocking him to the floor:

You blind bloody fool.”

They were traitors,” Joffrey squealed from the ground. “They called me names and attacked me!”

You set your dog on them! What did you imagine they would do, bend the knee meekly while the Hound lopped off some limbs? You spoiled witless little boy, you’ve killed Clegane and gods know how many more, and yet you come through unscratched. Damn you!” And he kicked him. It felt so good he might have done more, but Ser Mandon Moore pulled him off as Joffrey howled, and then Bronn was there to take him in hand. Cersei knelt over her son, while Ser Balon Swann restrained Ser Lancel. Tyrion wrenched free of Bronn’s grip.

The situation is much worse than that, though, because the Hound isn’t the only person missing. Their most valuable hostage is nowhere to be seen either:

Finally Joffrey said, “She was riding by me. I don’t know where she went.”

Tyrion pressed blunt fingers into his throbbing temples. If Sansa Stark had come to harm, Jaime was as good as dead. “Ser Mandon, you were her shield.”

Ser Mandon Moore remained untroubled. “When they mobbed the Hound, I thought first of the king.”

An ugly verbal confrontation with the Kingsguard over neglecting the girl and their refusal to go out again and find her threatens to become an armed brawl, but the opportune arrival of the two people believed disappeared in the streets stifles it before it erupts:

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.

Tyrion called to her. “Are you hurt, Lady Sansa?”

Blood was trickling down Sansa’s brow from a deep gash on her scalp. “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.”

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.” Maester Frenken scurried forward to obey.

Clegane reports to the Imp who of their party he has seen fall, and answers with a negative to Lady Stokeworth’s anxious enquiry about whether he saw her disabled daughter, too. Someone shouts that fires have started in Flea Bottom, advancing dangerously towards other districts, which could set alight the wildfire stocks. Tyrion decides to send men to fight it, amongst them the Hound, an order that reveals to him for the first time how afraid he is of flames as well as that he’s willing to face it when there’s motivation:

Bronn, take as many men as you need and see that the water wagons are not molested,” Gods be good, the wildfire, if any blaze should reach that . . . “We can lose all of Flea Bottom if we must, but on no account must the fire reach the Guildhall of the Alchemists, is that understood? Clegane, you’ll go with him.”

For half a heartbeat, Tyrion thought he glimpsed fear in the Hound’s dark eyes. Fire, he realized. The Others take me, of course he hates fire, he’s tasted it too well. The look was gone in an instant, replaced by Clegane’s familiar scowl. “I’ll go,” he said, “though not by your command. I need to find that horse.”

Then he also sends the remaining Kingsguard out to patrol, still resisting his orders until Cersei cautions them with charges of treason. This terrible day ends with a bad note for the Hand of the King, when Bywater reports that the people have decided he’s to blame for the incidents despite Joffrey’s action of sending the Hound after the mob being the cause of the riot in the first place:

Most of all?” The injustice was like to choke him. “It was Joffrey who told them to eat their dead, Joffrey who set his dog on them. How could they blame me?”


Abuse and Chivalry

By the middle of the Hound’s arc in A Clash of Kings, the main theme of struggling to balance a personal ethics code with the demands of service to a tyrannical monarch, a staple in his arc so far, is further complicated by the emergence of another important theme: becoming an active co-participant in the use of violence against women.

Sandor has the unenviable experience of being a Kingsguard during the reign of the first king to implicate the royal bodyguards in domestic violence. Because, although Joffrey is definitely neither the first nor the only king to ever be abusive to his queen and family members, he is certainly the first to make use of his protection service to physically abuse them. No other king has done the same, not even the worst: Aegon IV was careful to abuse and humiliate Naerys himself and preferably going down the indirect route; involving the Kingsguard would’ve meant facing their Lord Commander, his feared brother. Aerys had the complicit passivity of his Kingsguard in his sexual abuse, and that was all he needed of them. Robert beat his queen himself, as well as his offspring, and it appears that he could do violence to the Kingsguard as well, if the incident where the threw Jaime to the floor is any indication. But Joffrey, for reasons to be explained ahead, wasn’t content with anything of that sort and made his Kingsguard into a group of domestic abusers, a violent cycle that eventually dragged in the Hound, who had so far stayed by the sidelines due to a decision of the king himself but that now, also by decision of the king, is invited—no, ordered really—to be a domestic abuser too, like the rest.

Knights are for beating

Why construe beating Sansa as a case of domestic violence rather than a matter of mistreating a prisoner/hostage? To answer this, think that none of these approaches are mutually exclusive and to interpret this as mistreatment of a prisoner of war is perfectly valid. Then, let’s remember that Sansa is more than just a hostage: she is the king’s betrothed, which makes her the second highest-ranking lady of the realm after Cersei, and given the in-story stance on royal betrothals as slightly below marriages and requiring of the High Septon to be dissolved like actual marriages, she is for all intents and purposes in the same situation as if she were Joffrey’s concubine or consuetudinarian wife. Even if she weren’t a prisoner, she cannot put an end to the betrothal like a woman today would by just throwing the ring at the fiancé’s face and storming out. Thus, the first criterion for domestic violence, that the partners—both abuser and victim—are in a relationship by blood or by legal/customary union is met, placing this in the category of intimate partner violence within the types of domestic violence.

This isn’t too modern a view to apply to a world like Westeros that follows the medieval mores, rather the approach is actually applicable here because domestic violence wasn’t an alien concept then. Wife battering and domestic violence have been considered inacceptable and typified in customs law and codes before the Middle Ages: the Romans, for example, gave women the rights to sue their husbands for unjustified beatings two centuries before Christ; and during the Middle Ages, women in Wales and Ireland could divorce on grounds of battering (in the former) and physical and emotional abuse (in the latter). That exemplifies that abuse wasn’t acceptable everywhere as the exhortations to “not spare the rod” with women and children to teach them obedience and submission found in medieval writings would imply. And though wife-beating was considered a right of the man until abolished by the 19th century, it never went uncriticised and unchallenged: many a Church theologian wrote against it and argued in favour of treating women honourably based on the “they shall become one flesh” teaching, as did influential medieval female writers like Christine de Pizan and Hildegard von Bingen. And in spite of not being a punishable offence in most of Europe, it did speak poorly of a man’s character to mistreat his woman; more so if he happened to be in a high position.

Abuse dynamics tend to vary from case to case, and not all of the instances of domestic violence check every box listed in the standard profiles elaborated by professionals. However, there are some hallmarks that are commonly present, and for clarity and brevity, these descriptions by the Domestic Violence Project bulletins are the most suited for this analysis:

Domestic abuse is a learnt and chosen pattern of hurtful behaviour used to gain and maintain power and control over an intimate partner. It sometimes erupts in physical violence, but that’s not the whole of it.

[. . .]

The abuser may use coercion, intimidation, emotional abuse, threats, isolation, economic abuse, and/or the children to control his or her partner. He or she also minimizes, denies and blames her for his or her behaviour. The core issue for the abuser is to be in control of the relationship in order to have his or her needs met. If the aforementioned tactics don’t work, then the abuser enforces his threats with physical and/or sexual violence.

[. . .]

Without intervention, a batterer’s abuse increases in intensity and frequency over time. The abuser may stay at higher and higher levels of escalation, rarely dropping to lower levels.

It does read like a succinct summation of Joffrey’s behaviour, doesn’t it? Beginning with the “learnt and chosen” nature of his actions, which is also another reason for employing the lens of domestic abuse. Joffrey comes from and grew up in a household filled with domestic violence, as King Robert resorted to sexual and physical abuse against his queen, which could have been witnessed by Joffrey on occasion, and like many children with this background, he absorbed it and, now in the highest position, reproduces his parents’ situation with his own woman. This line uttered when he ordered the first beating is revealing:

My mother tells me that it isn’t fitting that a king should strike his wife.”

The key word here is my mother. It indicates that Cersei remarked to Joffrey (or within earshot) that Robert’s violence towards her was unseemly. And Joffrey stupidly reinterpreted it as “don’t strike a woman yourself” instead of “never ever strike a woman,” which is the message in Cersei’s complaint. His craving for Robert’s approval and a wish to emulate a strong king that didn’t give a fig informs his interpretation too, because he understands that a king can do what he likes but he still has to avoid certain deeds for the sake of his image, so he reconciles both his father’s violence and his mother’s counsel by resorting to the cowardly solution of doing it through henchmen. Another indication that he’s looking for a middle ground between Robert’s and Cersei’s sides is that during the beating in this chapter, he tells Boros:

Leave her face,” Joffrey commanded. “I like her pretty.”

This could be due to Joffrey wanting to keep Sansa as pretty as usual for use as his walking & talking decorative accessory like he loves to show her in public, as well as because of the pattern of abusers to hit where the bruises won’t be seen. But on second thought, it can be traced to Cersei as well. She did everything in her power to hide the bruises in her face, also to keep her dignified and dashing image in public, but it’s unlikely that she was completely able to hide it from Sandor and from Joffrey, her closest child, as his parroting of her words on kings not beating wives hints at. Even Ned noticed a faint trace of a bruise once. So, with Sansa’s face intact and unbruised, Joffrey won’t be reminded of his mother’s bruises; he gets the pleasure from the deed without the consequences becoming visible to all.

Like his kingly charge, Sandor lived in the conflictive Baratheon-Lannister household, and he must’ve witnessed Robert hitting his wife, or at least seen the aftermath in Cersei’s face or body. It’d be impossible to hide this from a sworn shield on duty every day; the daily interaction would’ve made it hard for her to fool Sandor with powder and long sleeves, plus the couple weren’t exactly discreet about not fighting with onlookers present. If the Hound was a witness in these episodes of marital violence, that sheds more light on why he is able to give Sansa good advice on appeasing Joffrey by giving him “what he wants” and complying to save herself some beatings. It’s true that it stems from knowing Joffrey like the palm of his hand, but not entirely so. He’d have seen how Cersei got struck across the face for mouthing off to Robert at sensitive moments, which isn’t blaming her for the violence he unleashed on her, but the fact that Cersei never makes an effort to not escalate a dispute by viciously backtalking to Robert does serve to illustrate Sandor’s point that unnecessary verbal provocation of someone with violent tendencies is as wise as taunting a viper. This also could apply to his advice for her “to smile and smell sweet and be his lady love.” He’d know what exactly made Joffrey say he “can’t abide the wailing of women” and speak with contempt of his mother’s weeping at Jaime’s capture—and one has to wonder if he’s seen her crying in private for other reasons—which in turn he advises Sansa to avoid as it presses the king’s buttons.

That smiling compliance and knowing when to clamp the mouth shut would diminish the frequency of the beatings proved true, but only up to a point. It’s a fact that abuse increases in intensity and frequency over time, as mentioned previously, especially when unchecked. And when this occurs, no amount of care and pretending can save you some pain, as Sandor discovered. When he goes to fetch her, he appears still confident that his advice is as sound as at the beginning, he snorts that she was “trained well” and seems to believe Sansa’s good behaviour and mock-submission will be enough. But at the bailey, his king proves the contrary is true and his “give him what he wants” has limits and isn’t working with Joffrey anymore. It stopped working a while ago, really, when he’d sent Boros to beat her bloody upon news of Robb’s crowning as King in the North; and in this case Sansa hadn’t even been near him and hadn’t said nor done anything. At least in the other beating episodes, she had spoken: she told Joffrey she hated him, she told him maybe Robb would give her his head, she’d impulsively wished ill on Slynt . . . and from those experiences she could see how right Sandor was and she needed be more cautious for her own protection. But now, how do you protect the little bird from a king that abuses her even when she’s out of sight and she’s not done anything? What advice can you give to shield her against irrational battering? The Hound’s powerlessness couldn’t be more conspicuous than in this scene, his best advice is rendered useless, and he literally cannot do anything; because Joffrey is out of control, nothing Sandor does will suffice.

But here’s when chivalry enters the field dominated by domestic violence. Ragnorak has this great observation that these scenes of beating and rescue aren’t so tidily separated thematically in terms of only abuse and chivalry. There’s chivalry where the main theme is abuse, and there’s abuse where the main theme is chivalry.

For Sandor Clegane, the third beating is the opportunity to out himself as the one Kingsguard who’d lift a finger for Sansa. In the previous two beatings, he’d also intervened to assist her, but he’d done so discreetly and without Joffrey or anyone else realising what he’d done, and whilst this secretiveness doesn’t diminish his interventions, especially not the second instance when he taints himself to stop a murder-suicide, it’s this time that he is risking more by being direct in his intervention. As has become a constant pattern already, when the infuriated king orders to get her up, this man we know is tremendously strong and with an iron grip apt to leave bruises, decides to be gentle:

The Hound pulled her to her feet, not ungently.

This follows her “almost gently” remark the first time she was beaten and her “a delicacy surprising in such a big man” one the second time she’s beaten. It is almost as if it’s written that way for readers to notice the contrast between the brutal force of the mailed fists striking her and the softer touch of the Hound, who is being gentler on purpose for this very reason too, because in other occasions Sansa notices his grip is so strong it hurts.

Sandor stays silent as Joffrey hurls accusations at his betrothed for her brother’s deeds, but there are two elements in that passage that permit a decent guess at what he’d be thinking of. First, that Joffrey is armed and Sansa is not, which in itself is enough to make the king look poorly for threatening an unarmed girl. And it’s not any weapon but a crossbow. Knights tended to dislike crossbows and archery, as it’s beneath them and unchivalrous—worse, uncourageous—to shoot an opponent at a distance on a confrontation, as it was unfair advantage unless it was an archer vs. archer circumstance, otherwise it’d be like bringing a gun to a swordfight, which is definitely not cool unless you’re Indiana Jones. And Sandor might not be a ser, but he fights like a knight and from his sassing of Anguy in ASOS we know he shares the contempt for these weapons, which Jaime also hates for the same reasons. Secondly, Joffrey is bragging of his killing and wounding unarmed commoners for the crime of being hungry enough to clamour for bread. It might have been the same incident as the night of the Serpentine encounter, when the king had led a sortie to scatter protesters before the Keep, or it might have been another after that, but in any case we know for sure what Sandor thinks of Joffrey acting like this: “un brave garçon,” he had said. An irony-laden evaluation of the boy-king’s “bravery” Martin must’ve taken from Druon’s Les rois maudits, where the same phrase is uttered in a similar context of sarcastic pseudo-complimenting.

Dog, hit her.”

The order comes as a complete surprise, because we know Sandor has never been asked to beat Sansa, and it raises the question of why now? We’d have to look at the big picture, all the circumstances surrounding the scene, to find a plausible explanation. The standout factor is that Joffrey is incredibly angry here, angrier than ever before, and in his fury he hasn’t thought this through. Not that he’s ever bothered to stop and think, but thus far he’d been as discreet as he could possibly be, in that though he’d not hidden that he’s had Sansa beaten, he’d not done it before a crowd; the witnesses were always few, mostly his guards and perhaps servants, and he even would have Sansa beaten in the privacy of her bedchamber. Now, he’s lost the last scruple holding him back, he’s now confident in his throne, he knows nobody will stop him and his mother has been so negligent as to leave him to his entertainments, so long as he didn’t kill her (which indicates Cersei did know Sansa was being abused). Next factor would be that there’s been another setback for the Lannisters in an already growing list: the great warrior Jaime was defeated and captured by Robb, they lost the North and the Riverlands to Robb as their king, and to seal the deal, a second crushing Lannister defeat happens. All this would wound his pride, because he sees himself as a Lannister, he styles himself as Joffrey of Houses Baratheon and Lannister, and he has the golden lion in his sigil, so the blunders of his mother’s House hit him personally. To add insult to injury, it’s due to Robb, the “lord of the wooden sword,” barely two years older and already a hero, with an impressive nickname that harks back to Daeron the Young Dragon, whilst Joff is useless with a sword and can hardly shoot a hare with a crossbow.

So it’s reasonable to infer that he ordered the Hound to hit the girl in a moment of blind fury, overwhelmed by the wish to hurt the Young Wolf’s sister like never before, and Sandor is the strongest of the Kingsguard. Were he to hit Sansa, the bruising would’ve been frightful to behold; he could even have broken a bone and left permanent scarring. Perhaps that’s also part of why Joffrey asked him, as his words indicate he was seeking to give Robb a lesson and a common battering like his sister had already suffered wouldn’t be enough: she needed to be hit harder and be left in a sorrier state than ever; as a beating meant to cower Robb, it needed be exquisitely brutal. Who better for this than your Hound? Maybe Dontos, for all his wine-addled brains, also realised what a beating from the Hound would do to someone as young and physically not strong as Sansa and wanted to spare her, but regardless of whether he did it due to that or genuine concern for her no matter who delivered the blows, his intervention deprived us from seeing Sandor’s reaction to the order.

The authorial intent to leave readers wondering about what he’d have done is plain to see. My own interpretation is that Sandor would have refused the order or circumvented it, based on the textual clues. First, right after Dontos’ too opportune interruption, Joffrey’s next words are: “Boros. Meryn.” It’s as if he’d suddenly forgotten that he’d asked Sandor and that he’s still there, without having opened his mouth to say aye or nay; or as if he’d come out of a trance and regretted to have involved his special pet in that. Which goes to support the possibility that he might have given the order simply out of blind rage, unthinking. An alternative is that he might’ve glanced at his dog’s face, didn’t like what he saw there, and decided to fall back to the unquestioning Boros/Meryn duo.

Then, there’s this:

Enough,” she heard the Hound rasp.

No, it isn’t,” the king replied. “Boros, make her naked.”

It’s hard to reconcile the idea of a man who’d boldly contradict the king to his face before half the court to stop a beating with the idea that he’d have obeyed if not for the interruption. Here, he’s directly risking Joffrey’s wrath, someone he knows is hard to rein in when in a foul mood, and is trying to stop the abuse after being spared the dishonour of participating in such an action. And Joffrey ignores him, dismisses his intervention and gets more vicious, debuting in the field of sexual sadism. For Sandor, who’s himself developing an attraction to this girl, to see her beaten by two knights, and get a look at her body in these circumstances would’ve been awful, which is confirmed later as he lay dying.

Again, for the second time, the opportune appearance of Tyrion Lannister precludes our learning of what Sandor would’ve said or done after his “Enough” was contradicted, and we have to rely on his post-facto actions for plausible inferences. Before, let’s go through the ridiculous excuses the Kingsguard tell the Hand:

Is this your notion of chivalry, Ser Boros?” […] “What sort of knight beats helpless maids?”

The sort who serves his king, Imp.”

Boros doesn’t even blush at justifying wanton brutality with obedience to the king, a boy-king known for his misbehaviour, and doesn’t seem to consider what it tells about a king to order such beatings: if he has no regard for his own future queen’s well-being, he won’t have any for his subjects’ either; if he doesn’t respect his future queen, he won’t respect anyone else either; if he dishonours his future queen in public, people won’t honour her either and, by extension, the king can be dishonoured too. That a knight obeys his king, even if that means harming a little girl, seems to be a source of satisfaction for Boros to judge by his words. And it’s notable that following Tyrion’s harsh questioning of knighthood and chivalry, we see the Hound performing another small yet significant deed:

Someone give the girl something to cover herself with,” the Imp said. 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.

The Imp had asked it from no one in particular, so it could’ve been anybody if they had wanted to. Yet it’s the Hound who gives her his cloak, something that’d surely not have pleased Joffrey at all, not after what had just happened. The Hound doesn’t appear to be concerned about how it’d look to give it to the traitor’s daughter and traitor’s sister, the girl who everyone had pretended not to see nor wanted to speak with for fear of displeasing the king, and this action that everyone witnesses aligns him with the victim, though nobody realises it for the time being.

The queen will hear of this!”

No doubt she will. And why wait? Joffrey, shall we send for your mother?”

If handing over his own cloak hints at his possible reaction had Joffrey insisted on his continuing with the naked beating, the detail that the king only relented when Tyrion threatened to call Cersei to the scene might also indicate another reason amongst many for why Joffrey never tried to implicate the Hound in the abuse until now: Sandor has a direct line to the queen, and his past behaviour tells he could report on the boy to his mother. As we’ve surmised, Cersei is certainly not ignorant of what Joffrey does to Sansa and is an enabler of the abuse, but that she bothered to warn her son about what’d happen to his imprisoned uncle if she was killed says that she’d not be wholly unwilling to restrain her son in a circumstance that was threatening to result in irreversible damage to the girl, if only for the sake of Jaime. That might’ve been Sandor’s ace up the sleeve as it was Tyrion’s, though now we can only speculate.

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.

The list of people who behave chivalrously in her worst beating is sad to contemplate: a fool, a dwarf and a dog. None a knight, and two of them have ulterior concerns not purely for her well-being. It’s interesting that this final brutality makes her incorporate the Hound’s worldview at last, though she puts her own spin on it: Sandor concludes “I hate knights, there are no true knights,” and she concludes “I hate knights, they are no true knights.” For him, it’s about the inexistence of true chivalry; for her, it’s about the failure to hold firm to true chivalry. It’s like as a consequence from these experiences they were being drawn out from their respective cynic/idealistic corners of the Opinion on Knighthood spectrum towards meeting at a point in the middle.

The meaning of true chivalry

What exactly is chivalry supposed to be? Not in our modern understanding of the concept but in that of the people who cohabitated with knighthood when it existed? In Chivalry and Violence in Medieval Europe, historian Richard W. Kaeuper answers this question telling us how medieval people saw it:

When they spoke or wrote of chivalry (militia in Latin, chevalerie in French), any of three related meanings may have been in their minds. First, the term could mean nothing more theoretical or ethical than deeds of great valour and endurance on some field of combat, that is, heroic work with sword, shield, and lance. Second, the term could mean a group of knights. In the simplest sense this may be the body of elite warriors present on some particular field of battle. In a more abstract sense the term might refer to the entire social body of knights considered as a group stretching across space and time. Third, chivalry might be used to mean a knightly code of behaviour.

Funnily, Sandor Clegane fits into all three descriptions: he had “deeds of great valour or endurance in a field of combat” (Hand’s Tourney, Blackwater, etc.), he was trained to fight like a knight and is in the top-tier of Westerosi elite warriors, and he definitely has a personal code that sticks more to the real-world example than the literary one, because, as Kaeuper explicates:

Chivalry was not simply a code integrating generic individual and society, not simply an ideal for relations between the sexes or a means for knocking off the rough warrior edges in preparation for the European gentleman to come. The bloody-minded side of the code—even if it seems to moderns, as Twain might say, a shuddering matter—was of the essence of chivalry. The knight was a warrior and not Everyman. [. . .] the sense of honour it conveys was secured with edged weapons and bloodshed.

So, essentially, “chivalry” didn’t mean fine manners and being courteous and polished, as is usually understood in our day. That was just one component, the chief ones being valour, prowess and possessing a code of behaviour. Deeds, more plainly.

There’s one intriguing and not very known aspect of chivalry in literature: that unlike how GRRM has construed it in his fictional world, in the real one, “the great body of chivalric literature was aimed at knights even more than at their ladies,” as the cited scholar says. That is, those knightly songs and stories that Sandor laughs at weren’t meant as some type of romantic novels to have the medieval maidens sighing over and waiting for the handsome knight on a white horse to come to the rescue. It was for the men clad in breastplate, and as much as modern people would find it shocking, they did actually read—and yes, write too—romances and epics without a blush. Historian Elspeth Kennedy says:

Knights in the very real world referred frequently and familiarly to these works of literature. A ‘two-way traffic’ connected these men of war, law, and politics with Arthurian romance no less than chanson de geste. Many owned copies of these texts, which seem to have been readily passed from one set of hands to another, often registering considerable wear. Some, such as the father of the famous jurist Philippe de Beaumanoir, even wrote romance themselves. Under Isabella and Mortimer, the English Privy Wardrobe issued works of romance to male and female courtiers alike; Mortimer himself borrowed twenty-three such works and must have sponsored a romance-reading group. Geoffroi de Charny, the leading French knight of the mid-fourteenth century, apparently knew romances like the Lancelot do Lac and wrote easily (and disapprovingly) of men who would love Queen Guinevere only if they could boast of it. In addition to borrowing heavily from the imagery of the Ordene de chevalerie (Order of Chivalry; one of the vernacular manuals for knights), Ramon Llull, the former knight who wrote the most popular book on chivalry in the Middle Ages, likewise drew heavily on thirteenth-century prose romances.

Romance and other categories become indistinguishable in the minds of those who wrote and those who read.

Men of renown that would never be accused of being romantics even today were avid readers of these stories. There wasn’t a gendered “it’s dreamy thrash for the girls” attitude. Romance, epic and chanson de geste were all equally good literature, it wasn’t unmanly to read or write it, and they found it useful because, citing Kaeuper again:

The knights’ conduct, of course, also shows that the literature is reaching them, as students of chivalry have shown in case after case. Larry D. Benson’s examination of the tournament in the romances of Chrétien de Troyes and in the Histoire of William Marshal, for example, concluded that tournament wonderfully illustrates the interplay of life and art—impossible, of course, were knights not deeply steeped in chivalric romance as well as chanson.

Knights, in sum, say that they have read this literature, which itself does not distinguish genres closely; they show that they have read it by using it in their own writings, and they show by their actions that they have read it and are bringing it into their lives.

In other words, those songs and stories had practical uses, educational, role model uses that serious men of the period acknowledged and followed, and that serious scholars of today also recognise. This makes it curious that Martin chose a girl to present them as ridicule-worthy as something impractical and unrealistic that only young girls and little boys would believe in; but it reflects modern ideas and modern interpretations of what chivalry was supposed to be and assessing the discordance between historical reality and literary chivalry without the metaphorical and social contexts of the time. The major mistake is that these bodies of literature are interpreted as descriptive, that is: how it was. Ergo, when the literature presents the knight fighting the monsters and the baddies whilst the historical record presents the knight riding down peasants during a chevauchée, the immediate conclusion would be that the literature is romanticising real chivalry, which was all blood and guts and brutality. This is the approach Martin chose, one that many not quite familiar with history share and that results in the unfortunate association of medieval romantic and epic literature with the romantic genre of today, that has a different structure and purpose. As a result, Sansa has a descriptive view of the stories that a medieval person wouldn’t have, not past a certain age at least.

In reality, this literature was prescriptive, that is: how it should be.

Chivalric literature was an active social force, helping to shape attitudes about basic questions.

[…] Above all, we need to remember that these works are, in conscious intent at least, more often prescriptive than descriptive; they advance ideals for what chivalry should become, in other words, more often than they mirror an ideal already transformed into social reality.

Kaeuper is saying it acted like a manual of conduct, basically. Those stories reflected the anxieties of the time regarding topics like violence, justice, honour, feudal bonds, etc., but especially knightly violence and the need to restrain it, as violence was their main concern and their biggest social problem. They incorporated real-life incidents into their stories of knightly quests and rescues in symbolical manners that alluded to real problems, for example the rescue of damsels from bad knights and monsters that held them captive reflects the reality of female abduction, rape and forced unions that followed. The black knights, demonic knights, ogres, giants, witches, dragons and all that collection of baddies are metaphors for worrying social truths that begged for remedies, for “the ‘dark side of the force’ of knighthood (to borrow the familiar language of the popular Star Wars films), [which] could scarcely be rendered more powerfully than in the portrayal of these demon knights” and monsters, quoting the same historian.

Back to Sandor, he is a peculiar case in that he also began with a descriptive view of chivalry that resulted in his disillusionment and hatred of all things knightly, but now that he no longer embraces that belief, he’s veered closer to the prescriptive view of chivalry like a real Middle Ages knight. Almost like he “gets” the songs precisely when he has ceased to like them. Stripped of its varnish of superfluous dreamy romanticism, Aemon championing Naerys speaks of the honourable deed of a man defending an innocent queen from abuse and accusations that can cost her head and disinheritance for her son; Florian saving Jonquil and Serwyn rescuing Daeryssa speak of the honourable deeds of men doing the right thing to help a woman out of the perils of abduction and likely rape. All of these untrue stories in an embellished manner appeal to the basic human decency in men to try and do better. And he does react.

That day it was Sandor’s turn to guard the king, and Mandon Moore’s to guard Sansa. And continuing with the theme of abuse where chivalry is the main one, the opening at the docks has the Stark girl defending Tommen’s bawling his eyes out for his sister with the retort that princes do indeed cry:

Be quiet, or I’ll have Ser Meryn give you a mortal wound,” Joffrey told his betrothed.

Joffrey had to desist from having her beaten, but he has by no means desisted from being abusive; only that now he’s back to doing it verbally as at the start, and later he’ll show that he was headed to resuming his physical abuse in the form of sexual abuse after she marries. No mention is made of whether Sandor was standing nearby, so we don’t know whether he heard. Nonetheless, the salient point here is that for once Sansa is right: it’s not unmanly for princes—and knights—to weep. TWOIAF may cause us to doubt if Aemon’s tears really happened in the wedding of his sister, but the very inclusion of a seemingly “feminine” weakness as tears from a man like him underscores the message that it’s not a shame for a knight to cry, and besides we see both Jaime and Sandor cry as well in similar contexts as Aemon supposedly did. In the real world, tears and crying in men weren’t considered unmanly either; because according to Elina Gertsman in Crying in the Middle Ages: Tears of History, tears in life and literature during that period weren’t just about expressing or representing emotions but also about “cultural meaning and social values,” so ideals, morals, religious beliefs and gender roles made crying for men acceptable, and even circumstantially expected. Chivalric heroes and brave knights from medieval literature do cry openly and unashamedly: Tristan, Lancelot, Arthur . . . It’s common enough that a British literary joke says that there are more manly tears at the end of La Morte d’Arthur than in a Mills & Boon (Harlequin, for Americans) novel.

The second instance of abusiveness and needless brutality implicates Sandor directly, when the indignant crowd shows their appreciation for Joffrey with a gift of dung for his face:

Bring me the man who flung that filth!” Joffrey commanded. “He’ll lick it off me or I’ll have his head. Dog, you bring him here!”

Obedient, Sandor Clegane swung down from his saddle, but there was no way through that wall of flesh, let alone to the roof. Those closest to him began to squirm and shove to get away, while others pushed forward to see. Tyrion smelled disaster. “Clegane, leave off, the man is long fled.”

I want him!” Joffrey pointed at the roof. “He was up there! Dog, cut through them and bring—”

Joffrey never learns and for a second time answers with violence to starvation. Again, he orders Sandor to attack unarmed people, the third time for him that he’s been in this position of becoming a sword instead of a shield, after Mycah and the order to beat Sansa that he was able to sidestep. This order could answer the question of why Joff was looking for Sandor that night of the Serpentine, too. The king would have been better off listening to Sansa and Uncle Imp, and so would have Sandor, who was rather too fast in obeying by sheer habit in a too volatile situation. The breaking loose of all hell as Tyrion is still speaking eliminates any chance for the Hound to listen to the counter-order to retreat, and instead he disappears swallowed by the crowd, likely having to get out fighting “thirty to one” as he later would say. During the fighting with the rioters, GRRM creates an inversion of roles that’s just brilliant:

Mandon Moore, Kingsguard on duty to protect Sansa Stark that day, saves Joffrey’s life by cutting off the hand of the rioter that was trying to unhorse him:

The king was wheeling his palfrey around in anxious circles while hands reached past the line of gold cloaks, grasping for him. One managed to get hold of his leg, but only for an instant. Ser Mandon’s sword slashed down, parting hand from wrist.

Sandor Clegane, Kingsguard on duty to protect Joffrey Baratheon that day, saves Sansa’s life by cutting off the arm of the rioter that was trying to unhorse her:

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.”

This ties Sandor’s loyalties to the Stark girl whereas Moore’s goes to the king. And it also works as a contrast of duty vs. chivalry in the Kingsguard, with one member going for chivalry and the other for duty. Ser Mandon, as he explains to Tyrion, fell back on serving the king for duty and didn’t think of anything else. Nor did the other Kingsguard try to save others, excepting two: Preston Greenfield, who lost his life trying to assist a fallen High Septon he wasn’t actually in the obligation to help, and Sandor. He didn’t have to rescue anyone either, given the circumstances: the king was safely riding back to the castle with the rest of the royal family, protected by the Gold Cloaks, and all he had to do was fight his own way out of the mess. Yet he decided to help. And he didn’t single-mindedly go for Sansa, forgetting all else and everyone else as some seem to believe. He went first to try to save Ser Aron Santagar, who’d been the Red Keep’s master-at-arms for ages and as such might’ve trained Sandor in swordfighting alongside the rest of the court retinues that practised daily in the yard. He even speaks of him using ser unironically:

They did for Santagar,” the Hound continued. “Four men held him down and took turns bashing at his head with a cobblestone. I gutted one, not that it did Ser Aron much good.”

It was only after Santagar was dead that he went for Sansa, who’d been left behind (he doesn’t know Lollys has been left behind too). Though he did attempt to downplay his rescue of her by contemptuously calling the rioters “rats,” there are a couple of details that demonstrate that it wasn’t really as easy and our Hound is posturing. First of those is his own “they had me thirty to one” comment, which is quite startling because it reveals the extent of the riot, and a raging mob of that magnitude is no small matter regardless of how well-armed a man is. In our times, Riot Police that were well-protected and well-armed, with tear gas and rubber bullets and such, have been known to be brought down wounded and policemen have died in particularly vicious rioting by unarmed protesters that at best had rudimentary tools and Molotov cocktails. Second, and this is my own deduction: Sandor wasn’t in armour, therefore less protected and more vulnerable to wounding and being knocked down by something as insignificant as a cobblestone hitting him in the head from afar, since he didn’t have his helm on either. He might’ve been using a boiled leather jerkin if he had some sort of protection, but definitely not chainmail nor full steel armour. I deduce that because of this line:

Clegane lifted her to the ground. His white cloak was torn and stained, and blood seeped through a jagged tear in his left sleeve.

He was wounded in the left arm, and the sleeve was torn off. If he’d been using chainmail or full armour, the mailshirt’s metallic sleeve or the vambraces (steel protections for the arms) would’ve stopped a stab to his arm and no sleeve would’ve been torn off because it was metal. In sum, he was fighting with little more than his sword and his own strength as protection, vastly outnumbered, and he definitely got a wound, the severity of which we don’t know in full because Tyrion barely has a cursory glance at it, and Sandor himself doesn’t seem to feel it in his hurry to get some maester tend to the little bird’s gash in the head. If he headed to fetch back his horse immediately, as he seems to have, then he went back to the mess wounded and still not well-protected. No wonder sweet Cersei would send Boros and Meryn, in armour both, stark naked for complaining about being ordered outside . . .

His blurting out of Sansa’s nickname for everyone to hear tells a lot about his emotions in the moment, about the genuine concern that drove him. This is the first of only three occasions he calls her “little bird” in public, and it’s interesting that in all these occasions he is in a stressful situation: the second time it’s after he learns she’s been married and the third when he’s dying. Neither Tyrion nor Arya can make anything of it, however, and in the case of Tyrion, after initially slapping and kicking Joff as he yells “you’ve killed Clegane,” he shows less concern for the man when he reappears alive, especially in sending him to fight the fires despite realising that he’s afraid—“Of course he hates fire, he’s tasted it too well.”—which he’ll repeat later. His concern for Sansa is also coloured by fear for what’d happen to his brother if she was harmed. Except to the Hound himself, who is rather proud of this deed, the rescue doesn’t appear to matter much to the others, perhaps because for his masters it’s a given and not truly unexpected that Sandor does things like these; it’s part of his job and he’s paid good Lannister gold. His heroics are taken for granted in the Lannister circle, so to speak, as one of those peculiarities that nobody reflects on nor entertains the possibility that there’s more to it than plain being amazing at his job, that he might have ideals. And this makes it even more woeful that this rescue, one of his better and most chivalrous acts, went underappreciated and unthanked. But at the end of the day, someone was surely overjoyed at seeing him come to extricate him from the riots: Stranger.


Waiting for Blackwater

by Lyanna Stark

  • Sansa IV (Ch. 52)

  • Tyrion XII (Ch. 54)


Sansa IV opens with this ominous line about the state in Kings Landing.

The southern sky was black with smoke.

Sansa meets with Dontos in the godswood. Tyrion has been setting everything outside the walls on fire, Stannis is “smoking out Tyrion’s savages” and allegedly the “wildlings,” meaning the clansmen from the Vale, are setting fires of their own too. We hear from Dontos who heard it from Tyrion who told Cersei that Stannis ought to try and teach his horses to eat ash since they’d find no grass to eat.

When Dontos tells Sansa not to be afraid, she remembers the bread riots where the mob assaulted her.

They had hemmed her in and thrown filth at her and tried to pull her off her horse, and would have done worse if the Hound had not cut his way to her side. 

After the meeting with Dontos, she passes by her bedchamber and decides to climb up to the roof of the Red Keep to look out over King’s Landing. When she reaches the top, she feels a stab of pain in her belly which later turns out to be her first menstruation and she nearly falls, but is caught by the Hound who’s apparently also made the trek up to the roof.

Sandor and Sansa end up having a conversation fraught with disagreements and where their respective worldviews clash.

Sandor begins rather harshly even for him by referencing Bran as Sansa’s “crippled brother” and asks her if she wants to end up like him. Then he goes on to referencing the bread riots and how she had been happy to see him then even if she could not bear to look at him now, interpreting her looking away as rejection once again.

“The little bird still can’t bear to look at me, can she?” The Hound released her. “You were glad enough to see my face when the mob had you, though. Remember?”

Sansa remembers the bread riots only too well, and since a lady must never forget her courtesies, she decides that she needs to look at him, really look.

The scars are not the worst part, nor even the way his mouth twitches. It’s his eyes. She had never seen eyes so full of anger.

She tells him she should have come to him afterwards to thank him for saving her and for being brave, yet he only snarls back and describes the rioters as “rats” who had him thirty to one.

Unlike most conversations in King’s Landing where Sansa is compliant, subdued or outright submissive, she decides to question Sandor honestly about his, frankly, rather mean-spirited posturing here.

She hated the way he talked, always so harsh and angry. “Does it give you joy to scare people?”

“No, it gives me joy to kill people”. His mouth twitched. “Wrinkle up your face all you like, but spare me the false piety. You were a high lord’s get. Don’t tell me Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell never killed a man.”

Sansa goes on to claim that was his duty, which Sandor rejects as a lie. He then goes on to draw his longsword and talk about how that is the truth, and how The Ned might be of a long and noble line, but he died all the same and “did a little dance” when Ilyn Payne cut off his head.

Sansa hugged herself, suddenly cold. “Why are you always so hateful? I was thanking you...”

“Just as if I was one of those true knights you love so well, yes. What do you think a knight is for, girl? You think it’s all taking favors from ladies and looking fine in gold plate? Knights are for killing.” He laid the edge of his longsword against her neck, just under her ear. Sansa could feel the sharpness of the steel.

Sandor then goes on to tell her that he killed his first man at twelve, and then a long list of the various people he’s killed since, how they are the meat and he is the butcher, how they can have their Sers as long as he has his sword, and as long as he has it, there is no man he needs to fear.

Except your brother, Sansa thought, but she had better sense than to say it aloud. He is a dog, just as he says. A half-wild, mean-tempered dog that bites any hand that tries to pet him, and yet will savage any man who tries to hurt his masters.

Then their conversation turns to Stannis and what will come during the battle for King’s Landing. Sansa questions Sandor what he will do and whether he is afraid, at which point they have a theological discussion where we see their different views of faith and gods really clash.

“Aren’t you afraid? The gods might send you down to some terrible hell for all the evil you’ve done.”

“What evil?” He laughed. “What gods?”

The theological discussion then segues into further debate on True Knights and their nature, after which Sansa declares just what she thinks of Sandor’s view on the world.

Sansa backed away from him. “You’re awful.”

“I’m honest. It’s the world that’s awful. Now fly away, little bird, I’m sick of you peeping at me.”

The chapter then concludes with Sansa dreaming about the bread riot again, and this time Sandor is absent from the long list of saviours and champions she is calling for. The dream ends with her experiencing that she has succumbed to the rioters and get stabbed repeatedly in the stomach, after which she wakes up to realise she has just had her first period and then goes on to set all her clothes and bedding on fire. Cersei invites Sansa to breakfast and imparts her queenly wisdom.

“Robert wanted to be loved.. My brother Tyrion has the same disease. Do you want to be loved Sansa?”

“Everyone wants to be loved.”

“I see flowering hasn’t made you any brighter,” said Cersei. “Sansa, permit me to share a bit of womanly wisdom with you on this very special day. Love is poison. A sweet poison, yes, but it will kill you all the same.”

Tyrion XII

Tyrion has a lavish dinner with Cersei, which opens up with the news of Theon’s murder of Bran and Rickon. Tyrion points out that they had better take care of Sansa or they may lose Jaime. They continue to discuss the political situation, Littlefinger’s potential success or failing at Bitterbridge, Varys’ secrets, and Cersei reveals that Varys’ has been tattling to her about Tyrion’s plans for Sandor.

“For years, I was convinced I had no truer friend at court, but now…” She studied his face for a moment. “He says you mean to take the Hound from Joffrey.”

Tyrion comments that he needs Sandor for more important duties and they argue.

“I need Balon Swann and the Hound to lead sorties, to make certain Stannis gets no toehold on our side of the Blackwater.”

Tyrion and Cersei then have an altercation about Alayaya, and Tyrion goes off to see Shae, whom Varys has brought to his chambers via a secret passage. Unfortunately, Tyrion is greatly worried about the entire situation and suffers a somewhat embarrassing erectile dysfunction.


To start off with, some points people often overlook

To start the analysis, there are some things about the discussion Sansa and Sandor have that people often overlook.

The first is that Sandor is already on top of the Red Keep when Sansa arrives, the second is that although Sansa admits that he scares her on general principles, she is comfortable enough around him that she can challenge his opinions openly without fear of repercussions from him, and although he ends up putting his sword next to her throat, she does not once indicate a worry that he will hurt her with it. In fact, just afterwards she expresses a wish that Dontos would be better with some of the Hound’s ferocity. Given these facts, it puts a unique light on how strangely safe Sansa feels in Sandor’s company, despite his strange and often unpardonable behaviour towards her.

Valar Morghulis, All men must die

Death hangs like a spectre over these chapters and the one in between (Jon VII, at the Skirling Pass, “He is staying to die,” R.I.P. Squire Dalbridge). It opens up with Sansa describing how afraid everyone is in King’s Landing, and that fear is of the death that comes with a sacking. As Cersei puts it later, “there is a dearth of good sacking songs,” and that is for a good reason. When Sansa meets Sandor on the top of the Red Keep, a lot of their discussion deals with death.

“What will you do when he [Stannis] crosses?”

“Fight. Kill. Die, maybe.”

“Aren’t you afraid? The gods might send you down to some terrible hell for all the evil you’ve done.”

Sandor deflects and answers only the question about the gods, and then goes on to tell Sansa how people who can’t protect themselves should get out of the way. Just before the talk about Stannis, he’s been telling Sansa in detail about Eddard Stark’s death and pontificated about how thousands of years of heritage and he died all the same like any other man would.
Valar Morghulis, Eddard Stark.  Everyone is mortal.

Overall, this is quite a lot of macho posturing and Sansa finds his Everything Dies, there are no Gods, no forgiveness and sheep should get out of the way narrative quite frustrating. Further, it’s also untrue as she is living proof of. Had Sandor actually practised what he preaches, he would have left Sansa at the bread riots in the style of Trant and Blount, yet we know that he didn’t, and that he actually tried to get to Aron Santagar and honestly did not see Lollys either.

This also ties in further with the theme of True Knights, whether they exist and what they are meant for. Are they only for killing or is there something more? Are the men who care about deeds only silly Knights of Summer, or is there value in deeds that will be sung of in years to come when you’ve decided to walk through fire or snow to save the Ned’s little girl? To quote something from my own ancestors on the Valar Morghulis theme and what remains of dead men, from the poetic Edda, Havamal:

Deyr fé,

deyja frændur,

deyr sjálfur ið sama.

Eg veit einn,

að aldrei deyr;

dómur um dauðan hvern.

Cattle die, kindred die,

Every man is mortal:

But I know one thing that never dies,

The glory of the great dead.

Perhaps it matters not just that everyone and everything dies, but how you go and what you believe in, too.

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’

‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.”

In the light of
Valar Morghulis and how all men must die, Sansa notes how King’s Landing is a city saturated by fear. Dontos tells her to not be afraid, but she feels it does nothing. Tyrion is so worried about the King’s Landing siege and the Shae/Alayaya situation he cannot get it up for Shae (oh, noes), yet Sandor neatly dodges the question of fear. Yet given the setting, we can ask ourselves, why is he up at the top of the red keep, looking out over the fires he loathes so much? Why does he talk and talk of death, and how he has killed anyone and everyone? Can it maybe, possibly be a way to deal with the fear, the mind-killer?

As we learn, Stannis is no coward, and his army is certainly not made up of rats whom Sandor can defeat even if they have him 30 to 1. Now the danger is very real and very, very near, yet Sandor has no outlet for his fear, no Shae who can hold him and reassure him, and instead, he lashes out and bites the hand that might pet him.

Regarding Sansa’s reaction to Sandor in this chapter, she admits to being afraid of him, but it is clear from her actions that she does not seem overly disturbed when he puts a sword against her neck (which is in itself rather remarkable), she is very comfortable with contradicting him and challenging his opinions. She also looks at his face and states that his scars are not the worst part, what really disturbs her is his anger. It stands in stark contrast to her feelings for Joffrey and the absolute terror she feels at the thought of having to marry him, and the wary fear she displays in Cersei’s company. Even despite his abominable behaviour and the rather unproductive outcome of their conversation, Sansa’s fear is directed elsewhere.

Only a man who’s been burned knows what hell is truly like

King’s Landing is surrounded by fires, and fires and burning is what Sandor fears the most. During the bread riots, Tyrion suspected that the fear he saw in the Hound’s eyes was indeed his terror of fires, but he never considered the full ramifications of it, and he does not know the background. Sansa knows, though, and correctly surmises just why Sandor may suffer a huge extra dosage of fear and stress for what’s to come. Here his fear of fire and his brother Gregor are tightly linked within the chapter.

We also get forewarning from Tyrion’s chapter of how he is planning for the Hound and Balon Swann to lead the sorties in Jaime’s place, while Kettleblack No. 1 and Meryn Trant are left guarding Joffrey, since they are deemed too incompetent to lead men into battle.

 A few other miscellaneous thematic observations:

Love is Poison

Cersei Imparts her Wisdom, Part Nth, where Nth approaches infinity. Sansa reflectively answers that everyone wants to be loved, which Cersei rejects as silliness. Yet, if we are looking at characters like Tyrion and Sandor, the two “monsters” in these chapters, and also at Jon and Ygritte (telling the Bael the Bard story), then yes, I think it’s fairly clear most people do want to be loved. Although for Sansa, the prospect of being Joffrey’s “lady love” is becoming ever more frightening and fraught with danger in this chapter, as she has her first period and officially crosses the threshold to womanhood.

Of Gods and Prayers – Is there anybody out there?

Sandor claims there are no gods, and in the beginning of the chapter Sansa seems inclined to agree with him, yet Dontos cautions her when she tells him she wants the Great Sept of Baelor burned.

“I want it burned”

“Hush, child, the gods will hear you.”

“Why would they? They never hear my prayers.”

Dontos claimed they sent him, yet Sansa is peeved that he has not yet taken her home. As we discussed whether Dontos or Sandor is the “real” Florian sent to Sansa as an answer to her prayers, this could be a rather ironic constellation with Sandor the God-denier being the answer to a prayer. And on a more general note on prayers answered: will the Great Sept of Baelor end up burnt to the ground? Will the gods hear Sansa’s prayer for Sandor (which is yet to come)? Is he himself a somewhat ironic answer to a prayer?

Holy phallic imagery!

Instead of writing this one up from the very beginning, I am just going to link to
brashcandy’s original write up of all the very manly phallic imagery in this chapter and what they point towards, which we will also see more of in the next section and which Cersei will also later helpfully comment on (in her life lesson “Cersei Imparts her Wisdom, Part Nth+1” ) with her “men like to use their swords, both kinds of swords.”

Author’s notes: Thank you for letting me take part in this wonderful re-read project! This little write-up is posted with sincere apologies and admiration for Alice Cooper, my viking ancestors, the Bene Gesserit, Type O Negative, and all of you lovely hostesses of this thread.


The Great Battle

by Ragnorak


We open with Sansa’s perspective and the consonance and dissonance of song at the dawn of the battle. Much like our overarching musical theme of ice and fire, the opposing songs of the Mother and the Warrior frame this chapter with Sandor as the chorus leader of the distant song of battle. Aside from his off-screen sounds, the Hound also appears twice in Sansa’s thoughts, first in her prayers in the sept and second in her wish for him instead of Payne as a protector.

Our camera then switches to the apprehensive Davos amidst the invading fleet. In this battle, caution is the coin Stannis intends to use to buy time and caution is the coin this smuggler has always used to buy his life. Davos sees the Hound charge on horseback onto the deck of the first ship to make ground, showing us that Sandor understands the caution and time dynamic at play as well as the strategic significance of the Blackwater itself as their first line of defense. 

Davos’s up close and personal wildfire hell is transitioned into Tyrion’s distant view of the terrible beauty. Images of fire dominate the beginning of the chapter. The middle is Tyrion’s tactical assessment leading to him believing a sortie must go forth which leads to the end where he confronts the Hound and then chooses to lead the sortie himself.

We then transition back to Sansa, sitting with Cersei among the noblewomen in Maegor’s as we hear the version of the events we’ve just witnessed being brought back to Cersei’s ears. The Hound is mentioned twice. The first is news of his assault on the archers that Davos witnessed and the second is that Ser Osmund has taken his place as Joffrey’s protector. Sansa recalls gossip that Osmund is as strong as the Hound, only younger and faster, which she views with skepticism. Sandor is also thematically present in the songs of Jonquil and Florian and Aemon the Dragonknight that are played, Cersei’s revelation of Payne’s true role as an executioner and not protector echoing back to Sansa’s last chapter, as well as in Cersei’s exchange with Sansa over prayers which is a theme that connects Sandor to both Sansa and Arya.


Sandor the Broken Man?

If one can forgive the sin of looking forward in a reread, Sandor is destined for the Quiet Isle—the place of Broken Men. Here we witness his “breaking,” which is the start of the imperfect parallel. His upcoming journey will bear certain similarities to the Broken Man’s tale, it is also markedly different. The inaccurate rumors spawned by his notorious helm actually track far better with the Broken Man theme which seems to be a clue that Sandor’s own journey is a different one. This would include his “breaking” here. 

For reference, here is the Broken Man’s tale from Septon Meribald, but keep in mind our reread isn’t at the Broken Isle yet, just the breaking point:

Ser? My lady?” said Podrick. “Is a broken man an outlaw?”

More or less,” Brienne answered.

Septon Meribald disagreed. “More less than more. There are many sorts of outlaws, just as there are many sorts of birds. A sandpiper and a sea eagle both have wings, but they are not the same. The singers love to sing of good men forced to go outside the law to fight some wicked lord, but most outlaws are more like this ravening Hound than they are the lightning lord. They are evil men, driven by greed, soured by malice, despising the gods and caring only for themselves. Broken men are more deserving of our pity, though they may be just as dangerous. Almost all are common-born, simple folk who had never been more than a mile from the house where they were born until the day some lord came round to take them off to war. Poorly shod and poorly clad, they march away beneath his banners, ofttimes with no better arms than a sickle or a sharpened hoe, or a maul they made themselves by lashing a stone to a stick with strips of hide. Brothers march with brothers, sons with fathers, friends with friends. They’ve heard the songs and stories, so they go off with eager hearts, dreaming of the wonders they will see, of the wealth and glory they will win. War seems a fine adventure, the greatest most of them will ever know.

Then they get a taste of battle.

For some, that one taste is enough to break them. Others go on for years, until they lose count of all the battles they have fought in…”

From the origin of his tale we see the differences. Sandor was well disillusioned with idealistic songs long before he set off in service of some lord, as his many exchanges with Sansa have already demonstrated. He was not common-born or inexperienced with arms. He was the son of a landed knight in a House that had considerable favor of its wealthy High Lord. He would have been trained for knighthood, combat and leadership in battle much like any lord’s son.

He deliberately sought out the service of the Lannisters as a means of protection from his brother, unlike the future Broken Man who marches with his brother. The very thing that shattered his youthful idealism is what led him to a lord’s service, unlike the typical Broken Man in the making for whom idealism is the call. It is the fear of death that breaks the man, but as Sandor freely admits to Arya later it is fire and not death that he fears and his belly for battle is just fine.

His later arrival at the Quiet Isle will serve to draw our attention to comparing him and the Broken Man. The fact that the inaccurate rumors of the Hound fit better with the actual Broken Man’s tale should serve to draw our attention to the differences. Here in Sandor V we are concerned mostly with what “breaks” him. On the surface, it is the fire and not the battle. Digging deeper, we have a mirror image of the Broken Man. The loss of idealism shatters the Broken Man while there is a return to idealism at play that cracks Sandor. His one-time protectors from Gregor are sending him into the fire just like Gregor did and that fire has illuminated that in his Lannister service, “I stood there in my white cloak and let them beat her.”

The Symbolism of Ships

The ship names, especially in Davos, seem fraught with foreshadowing. “Harridan was only now getting her oars into the water” seems to be a reference to the Queen of Thorns and the Tyrells about to enter the Game. “Davos saw the enemy’s Kingslander drive between Faithful and Sceptre. … Sceptre had lost most of her oars, and Faithful had been rammed and was starting to list”, seem to foreshadow the impending conflict between the crown and the Faith Militant.  There are many others but these seem to refer to Sandor: Dog’s Nose and Loyal Man.

but the fiery heart had been raised over Joffrey’s Loyal Man.

. . .

He saw Black Betha burning, and White Hart and Loyal Man to either side. Piety, Cat, Courageous, Sceptre, Red Raven, Harridan, Faithful, Fury, they had all gone up, Kingslander and Godsgrace as well, the demon was eating his own.

. . . 

My ships.” Joffrey’s voice cracked as he shouted… “My Kingslander’s burning, Queen Cersei, Loyal Man. Look, that’s Seaflower, there.”

 . . .

Stag of the Sea split one of Joffrey’s galleys clean in two, but Dog’s Nose was afire and Queen Alysanne was locked between Lady of Silk and Lady’s Shame, her crew fighting the boarders rail-to-rail.

I have no idea what to make of Dog’s Nose beyond it going up in flames like the Loyal Man. I suspect that Queen Alysanne may be Dany and Lady of Silk and Lady’s Shame the other two queens from Littlefinger’s War of the Three Queens (not that his anticipated three queens will be the actual players.) Even with that, I can’t place further meaning to the symbolism of Dog’s Nose relative to the other ships in the passage.

Loyal Man seems a pretty clear reference to Sandor’s loyalty to the Lannisters going up in flames, and the “fiery heart” being raised over the ship may point to Sandor serving Stannis at some point in the future as he once considered serving Robb. “If this Young Wolf has the wits the gods gave a toad, he’ll make me a lordling and beg me to enter his service.” How Sandor might end up serving Stannis would take a lot of speculative dot connecting, but if true it helps illustrate that his future will diverge from that of the Broken Man tale just as his past does.


The symbolism of the ship Prayer also seems pertinent. Prayer, Piety and Devotion were three ships taken from the “pious Lord Sunglass” who “wore moonstones at throat and wrist and finger.” He tried to leave the service of Stannis after Mel burned the sept on Dragonstone and was burned himself for his troubles. Prayer is the first ship to make ground on the northern bank of the Blackwater and the one where Davos sees the Hound fighting.

Sandor is connected to both Stark girls through prayer. 

The sound of their voices mingled with the whicker of horses, the clank of steel, and the groaning hinges of the great bronze gates to make a strange and fearful music. In the sept they sing for the Mother’s mercy but on the walls it’s the Warrior they pray to, and all in silence.

. . .

Through the quiet, the singing pulled at her. Sansa turned toward the sept.

 . . .

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 climbed on high and called upon the gods to protect and defend their true and noble king, Sansa got to her feet. …

. . .

 Let his sword break and his shield shatter, Sansa thought coldly as she shoved out through the doors, let his courage fail him and every man desert him.

Sansa starts as one praying to the Mother for mercy through song and turns to the silent prayers to the Warrior for Joffrey’s defeat as she is driven from the sept. Sandor starts among the silent ones looking to the Warrior and will find himself moving toward the Mother and mercy through both Sansa and Arya as he is driven from the battle. First will be Sansa’s songful prayer of mercy and then Arya’s prayers involving a different gift of mercy.

Sansa has inspired mercy inside of the Hound. He is merciful to her during Joffrey’s mistreatments and he rescues her during the riot. He led the men who attacked Ned’s household in the Tower of the Hand and given Cersei’s shock at Jeyne Poole’s survival and the fact that it was the Hound who broke down Sansa’s door, Jeyne survived through the Hound’s mercy despite Cersei’s orders. Sansa appreciates his help and prays for the Mother to “gentle the rage inside him.” It is Sandor who condemns himself for his failures on Sansa’s behalf, not Sansa herself.

Arya’s “mercy” theme will come up later as Sandor teaches Arya “the Gift of Mercy”—a gift Arya has been praying to give to Sandor for some time. Unlike with Sansa, Arya will not feel that he did his best to protect her despite an arguably more heroic rescue of Arya at the Twins than Sansa in the riot. That’s a topic for Storm of Swords though…

Sandor the Warrior

The Hound certainly has a formidable reputation, but that isn’t unique among ASOIAF characters. Mance, Oberyn, Greatjon, Jaime, Bronn, Victarion, the Halfhand, Barristan, and many more are all formidable warriors others dread to meet in battle. We know he’s good with a sword, but where does he rank among the other notables? Arthur Dayne seems everyone’s in-story choice for “best,” but beyond that there’s no clear successor among the living to the Dayne crown. Such determinations are vague at best and by no means guarantee the outcome of a conflict. Barristan summed it up best in ASOS:

but… I have seen a hundred tournaments and more wars than I would wish, and however strong or fast or skilled a knight may be, there are others who can match him. A man will win one tourney, and fall quickly in the next. A slick spot in the grass may mean defeat, or what you ate for supper the night before. A change in the wind may bring the gift of victory.”

In trying to puzzle out Sandor’s true ability we are given our most important clue, the duel with Gregor at the Hand’s Tourney, before we’re given all the information to properly evaluate it.  Gregor is the late Joffrey’s champion in Tyrion’s trial by combat. Bronn gives Tyrion a very detailed explanation of what it takes to defeat Gregor Clegane.  Later Tyrion notes that Oberyn draws the same conclusion:

Dance around him until he’s so tired he can hardly lift his arm, then put him on his back. The Red Viper seemed to have the same notion as Bronn.

At the Hand’s Tourney, Sandor goes toe to toe with Gregor on his own terms and holds back in not going for his unarmored head:

The Mountain pivoted in wordless fury, swinging his longsword in a killing arc with all his massive strength behind it, but the Hound caught the blow and turned it, and for what seemed an eternity the two brothers stood hammering at each other as a dazed Loras Tyrell was helped to safety. Thrice Ned saw Ser Gregor aim savage blows at the hound’s-head helmet, yet not once did Sandor send a cut at his brother’s unprotected face.

One can read Sandor’s restraint in avoiding Gregor’s head as his reluctance to kill his brother (something the Elder Brother will elaborate on a bit later), or see it as something more akin to Arthur Dayne letting the Smiling Knight fetch a fresh sword.  There is probably truth in both interpretations.

At this fight, Gregor has a longsword and not his two-handed sword so he technically has a lesser reach advantage, though I doubt it changes the fundamentals of the Bronn/Oberyn assessment (and Gregor’s longsword is likely longer than average, too.) This still requires Sandor to match Gregor’s inhuman strength and his ability to do so on Gregor’s own terms speaks to Sandor’s own physical strength as well as a substantial level of martial skill. Syrio is kind enough to enlighten us about the importance of raw strength in the Westerosi iron dance compared to the Braavosi water dance. Water dancing is ideally suited for Arya specifically because it is not so strength-dependent. Brienne’s reflections about her training also help clue in the non-medieval geek reader. Speed and skill matter, but strength is paramount especially against heavily armored opponents. Longsword slashing attacks against fully armored opponents are more bashing attacks against weak points than they are cutting attacks which rely heavily on strength however skillfully aimed.

Jaime reflects on the importance of strength and Sandor’s strength as he’s losing to Brienne:

She is stronger than I am.

The realization chilled him. Robert had been stronger than him, to be sure. The White Bull Gerold Hightower as well, in his heyday, and Ser Arthur Dayne. Amongst the living, Greatjon Umber was stronger, Strongboar of Crakehall most likely, both Cleganes for a certainty. The Mountain’s strength was like nothing human. It did not matter. With speed and skill, Jaime could beat them all. But this was a woman. A huge cow of a woman, to be sure, but even so… by rights, she should be the one wearing down.

Jaime is described as natural swordfighter and I think that innate ability shows indirectly here. Most, like a Bronn, give very distinct tactical weaknesses before asserting victory. Jaime doesn’t much engage in tactical assessments until after he loses his hand. This fits with a natural talent that hasn’t ever really had to reflect on itself. Jaime may well be correct that his two-handed self would have beaten them all, but we do see that Sandor is assessed as one of the four strongest living men in Westeros and one of only four living fighters that come to Jaime’s mind as a challenge.

Jaime pulled away. “He is still my brother.” He shoved his stump at her face, in case she failed to see it. “And I am in no fit state to be killing anyone.”

You have another hand, don’t you? I am not asking you to best the Hound in battle. Tyrion is a dwarf, locked in a cell. The guards would stand aside for you.”

. . .

Littlefinger was perched on the window seat when Ned entered, watching the knights of the Kingsguard practice at swords in the yard below. “If only old Selmy’s mind were as nimble as his blade,” he said wistfully, “our council meetings would be a good deal livelier.”
“Ser Barristan is as valiant and honorable as any man in King’s Landing.” Ned had come to have a deep respect for the aged, white-haired Lord Commander of the Kingsguard.
“And as tiresome,” Littlefinger added,
“though I daresay he should do well in the tourney. Last year he unhorsed the Hound, and it was only four years ago that he was champion.”

Many characters are fond of drawing the distinction between jousts and actual combat. “By defeated, you mean unhorsed, in tourney. Tell me who he’s slain in battle if you mean to frighten me.” Still, Littlefinger is noting Barristan the Bold unhorsing Sandor as a notable accomplishment.

The Hound?” Ned asked, frowning. Of all the Lannister party, Sandor Clegane was the one who concerned him the most, now that Ser Jaime had fled the city to join his father.

While Ned likely respects his martial prowess, this seems more a concern about the Hound’s leadership of the Lannister men.

The queen has a dozen knights and a hundred men-at-arms who will do whatever she commands  . . . enough to overwhelm what remains of my own household guard.

Ned is the man that took only six others with him to confront Arthur Dayne, Oswell Whent, and Gerold Hightower—Ned has an unhealthy inability to fret over martial prowess.

We can conclude from the in-story information and in-story character assessments that Sandor is among the top tier of even notable warriors in the series. It is not just his strength. While the accounts of others note it as remarkable, it is clear that Gregor is far stronger. Sandor must possess considerable speed and skill to offset Gregor’s strength and reach advantage in this toe to toe fight at the Hand’s Tourney.

Sandor the Leader

Milady has an essay, On the Hound’s Job, that provides evidence Sandor acted as the captain of Cersei’s personal guard. I think the best analogy to offer in summation is that Sandor is to Cersei what Jory Cassel was to Ned—including captain of his household guard. One of her points is on Sandor’s duty to report to Cersei about Joffrey and we can see Jory, Ned’s captain of the guard, fulfilling that role here:

Ned saw she was wearing the rose that Ser Loras had given her yesterday. Jory had told him about that as well.

 . . .

You’re praying for our defeat. What would you call that, if not treason?”

I pray for Joffrey,” she insisted nervously.

Why, because he treats you so sweetly?”

 . . .

Even Joffrey was not so foolish as to command Sandor Clegane to slay a son of Eddard Stark, however; the Hound would have gone to Cersei.

Who has been informing Cersei about Joffrey’s treatment of Sansa? Maids are a possibility as is Varys, but this seems like something for which Cersei wants plausible deniability. Encouraging maids to speak ill of Joffrey’s behavior seems rather unlikely and I suspect Varys would prefer to avoid the topic entirely absent an agenda, pressing political need, or direct query from Cersei on the topic.

Sandor seems to be the trusted pseudo-family member Jory is for the Starks, albeit with a Lannister flavor. He likely has more free time than a Jory since Cersei’s is a shadow household with Robert’s bearing the true responsibility for mundane day to day tasks. That still leaves him in charge of the Lannister soldiers assigned to Cersei.

Sandor was not the heir, but as a spare he would have received the same training and instruction as Gregor—arguably better training once he entered Lannister service at Casterly Rock. The master-at-arms at the Rock would be the one Tywin hired to train Jaime. When tasked with finding leaders during the Blackwater, Tyrion only finds three suitable candidates—Sandor, Balon Swann, and Lancel.

He says you mean to take the Hound from Joffrey.”

Damn Varys. “I need Clegane for more important duties.”

Nothing is more important than the life of the king.”

The life of the king is not at risk. Joff will have brave Ser Osmund guarding him, and Meryn Trant as well.” They’re good for nothing better. “I need Balon Swann and the Hound to lead sorties, to make certain Stannis gets no toehold on our side of the Blackwater.”

. . .

They had dispersed the men on the battering ram, but he could see fighting all along the riverfront. Ser Balon Swann’s men, most like, or Lancel’s, trying to throw the enemy back into the water as they swarmed ashore off the burning ships.

. . .

He is dead on his feet. Tyrion could see it now. The wound, the fire… he’s done, I need to find someone else, but who? Ser Mandon? He looked at the men and knew it would not do. Clegane’s fear had shaken them. Without a leader, they would refuse as well, and Ser Mandon… a dangerous man, Jaime said, yes, but not a man other men would follow.

That Tyrion is using Lancel shows that he’s already hit the bottom of the barrel after Swann and Sandor. Lancel has certainly been trained, but he’s qualified to lead only because he’s a Lannister. This is the squire Robert sent to find the breastplate stretcher. Much like Joffrey’s presence helped keep order and his absence caused the men to break, Lancel’s status as a highborn Lannister would serve to keep men faithful as he’s sharing the same risk they are.

Sandor’s leadership is not born of status. I seem to recall that men break around a 5% casualty rate and casualties jump to around 25% after breaking. Even if I’m a bit off in my recollections, given the near 50% casualty rate Sandor seems to have suffered a lack of breaking is fairly remarkable. It also seems that it was not the battle, but the wildfire that is responsible for the losses.

 “Who commands here? You’re going out.”

No.” A shadow detached itself from the shadow of the wall, to become a tall man in dark grey armor. Sandor Clegane wrenched off his helm with both hands and let it fall to the ground. The steel was scorched and dented, the left ear of the snarling hound sheared off. A gash above one eye had sent a wash of blood down across the Hound’s old burn scars, masking half his face.

Clegane’s breath came ragged. “Bugger that. And you.”

A sellsword stepped up beside him. “We been out. Three times. Half our men are killed or hurt. Wildfire bursting all around us, horses screaming like men and men like horses—”

Open the gates. When they rush inside, surround them and kill them.” The Hound thrust the point of his longsword into the ground and leaned upon the pommel, swaying. “I’ve lost half my men. Horse as well. I’m not taking more into that fire.”

Sandor led three sorties. If Clegane’s helm is scorched, he must have been near the fire. The sellsword talks of wildfire making horses scream like men and men like horses, and Sandor says he’s lost his horse. It may even be that Sandor’s horse was killed by wildfire. I would suspect that the 50% casualty rate came on the last sortie when they were near the shore and were caught in the wildfire explosion. It seems unlikely that there would have been a second or third sortie if the casualties on the first or second were that heavy.

That would mean that Sandor held his men together and they didn’t break even after being caught in wildfire that killed or maimed half of them. “Half our men killed or hurt” seems to imply that Sandor rallied his men to bring the wounded back—impressive for a man with his fear of fire. Sandor has very personal reasons for not wanting to go back into that fire, but he frames his objection as a refusal to bring his men back into that fire. While Tyrion views Sandor as personally broken here, his men hear a leader telling the Hand of the King to pound sand in their defense.  He offers to fight inside but refuses to venture back into the fires that just claimed half his force.

I suppose a case could be made that the gates to the city must be inviolate given Tyrion’s belief that the battle must remain sweet from beginning to end based on the city defenders’ psychology. This is a small isolated force. They are separated from even the meager soldiers Stannis has fighting on the northern shore. The only lasting harm they can do is to the gate itself relative to future assaults. There is nothing inherently wrong with Sandor’s suggestion; it won’t matter which side of the wall they die on as long as the ram stops damaging the gate. I highly doubt such a feint would result in panicked rumors of Stannis having breached the walls, but that’s the only reasonable premise I can concoct that makes Tyrion leading a charge more preferable to opening the gate and letting Sandor slaughter them.

Sandor’s suggested alternative also helps demonstrate that he’s a leader and tactician, and not just a soldier. There is no army waiting to stream in through the would-be breached gate that necessitates it remain shut at all costs. That fear still waits on the wrong side of the Blackwater. He says “when” and not “if” they rush in, indicating that he’s putting himself in the mind of his foe.

The purpose of the sorties is to prevent Stannis from gaining a foothold on the northern bank of the Blackwater. We see through Davos’s eyes the near perfect timing of the Hound led charge against the first forces seeking to establish that foothold.

 when the defenders came pounding down the riverside, the hooves of their warhorses sending up gouts of water from the shallows. The knights fell among the archers like wolves among chickens, driving them back toward the ships and into the river before most could notch an arrow. Men-at-arms rushed to defend them with spear and axe, and in three heartbeats the scene had turned to blood-soaked chaos. Davos recognized the dog’s-head helm of the Hound. A white cloak streamed from his shoulders as he rode his horse up the plank onto the deck of Prayer, hacking down anyone who blundered within reach.

The archers were at the front because they could fire while sailing. The men-at-arms are the melee defense for the archers, but were out of the way both to avoid being a target and to allow the archers to attack from the water.  The Hound timed his attack perfectly. He fell among the enemy not only before the men-at-arms could form a defensive line for the archers, but before the archers could even begin to aim at his assault. Davos sees him charge up the plank onto the deck of Prayer.  He is intentionally hitting them on the ship in their transport disposition before they can disembark and organize.

Later, we’ll see Jaime charge bowmen while he’s Brienne’s prisoner:

A few last arrows sped harmlessly past; then the bowmen broke and ran, the way unsupported bowmen always broke and ran before the charge of knights. Brienne reined up at the wall. By the time Jaime reached her, they had all melted into the wood twenty yards away. “Lost your taste for battle?”

They were running.”

That’s the best time to kill them.”

She sheathed her sword. “Why did you charge?”

Bowmen are fearless so long as they can hide behind walls and shoot at you from afar, but if you come at them, they run. They know what will happen when you reach them.

These were supported bowmen in that they had men-at-arms on the same ship to defend them, but Sandor timed his assault to effectively make them unsupported bowmen.  This also served to use the breaking bowmen to prevent the men-at-arms from ever organizing to use their spears to defend against the mounted charge. 

The Stannis forces aboard Prayer were not reduced to chickens among wolves by chance. They were not undone in the matter of three heartbeats by chance either.  This required timing calculated with an understanding of the battlefield and a knowledge of the speed and capabilities of the attacking force. It required an understanding of how men are arrayed in transport at sea and how they deploy upon landing as well as how much time they take to organize. The man who had that understanding and used it to turn a potential battle into a slaughter is the Hound.


Going away

by Miodrag Zarković

  • Sansa VII

  • Sansa VIII

One thing Sandor Clegane seems to share with the Starks: he doesn’t take killing lightly. Undoing humans is his trade, his day job, so he obviously doesn’t harbor any moral objections to the idea of bringing death upon someone (as if anyone in Westeros does!), but, opposite to that other, even bigger fellow, that goes by the family name Clegane, Sandor doesn’t look like someone who found any joy in ending lives. So far there’s not a hint at some developed philosophy similar to “A man who passes the sentence should swing the sword” in his mind, but it is true that Sandor Clegane was swinging the sword only when ordered, or when the situation couldn’t be resolved any other way.

Such a record from a man who, when it comes to physical and sword-handling prowess, hardly has a match in the entire realm, is quite telling.

It doesn’t mean Sandor hasn’t sinned with his sword. Finding any justification for killing poor Mycah is a fool’s errand, albeit in that instance he was, strictly speaking, acting on orders again. But, that killing presents a serious business for Sandor Clegane, and not a hobby, is probably as good as proven.

That’s why this line of his has to be taken seriously, too:

Bloody dwarf. Should have killed him. Years ago.”

Some other professional killer saying something like that wouldn’t necessarily imply he actually means it. We all make empty, meaningless threats. But Sandor Clegane isn’t fooling around when it comes to killing, even if he’s just talking about it. When he says he should’ve killed the “bloody dwarf” years ago, it does mean the bloody dwarf’s damn lucky Sandor didn’t think about this earlier.

All of which indicates Sandor shares one more thing with the Starks: disdain for the Lannisters. Not just for Tyrion, but for the entire family.

Whatever immediate reason Sandor has for wishing Tyrion’s dead (and the reason is insignificant in no way, which will be addressed a little later), the “years ago” remark suggests deeper and definitely more lasting resentment toward the “bloody dwarf.” Now, in five books published so far, there’s not a single hint at any personal incident between Tyrion and Sandor that would merit such resentment. No love is lost between the two, as evidenced from their very first interaction in AGOT (when Tyrion disciplines Joffrey for not offering any comfort to the Starks), but disliking someone is not the same as lamenting over the fact the same someone wasn’t killed by your hand years ago. We’re given no exact cause for Sandor to wish he’d killed Tyrion way before the chronological start of the novels. Not even Tyrion’s POV offers any hint at some personal problems or incidents the two ever had. They dislike each other, which is hardly unusual considering neither is making themselves easy to like, but that’s it. No sign of any harm done by Tyrion in the past (And besides, it doesn’t look like Sandor was ever wronged by anyone who isn’t his older brother.)

If there really isn’t any explicit reason for Sandor to wish he killed Tyrion years ago, then it has to be a reflection of his, Sandor’s, true feelings for Tyrion, and, by extension, for the Lannisters. Arguably, Tyrion is the most sympathetic member of his family. Whatever he annoys you for, Cersei is bound to disturb you even more, and not to mention ever arrogant Tywin. Hence, if Sandor wouldn’t see a single problem in killing Tyrion for no apparent reason, then it’s not illogical to conclude he’d also kill any other Lannister with the same ease.

However, he’s serving the Lannisters. They are his masters. Also, he’s supposed to be a dog. That’s the sigil of his House. And, as he explains to Sansa earlier in ACOK, a dog will never hesitate to give its own life to save the master, meaning a dog values the master’s life more than its own. Having all that in mind, this:

Bloody dwarf. Should have killed him. Years ago”,

shouldn’t be the thought that can ever find its place in Sandor’s universe. Dogs don’t regret they didn’t kill their masters years ago. Period.

So, Sandor is a very peculiar dog. One that doesn’t care at all for his masters. He serves them, he’s killing for them, perhaps he’ll even die for them (though not from the wildfire), but he just doesn’t care one bit for them.

What does Sandor care about, then? Believe it or not, there is an answer to this question. He does care for something and for someone.

Let’s start with the something part, and with the circumstances in which he says the line about Tyrion. It’s all happening in the bedchamber of Sansa Stark, during the Battle of the Blackwater. To her initial shock, Sansa, after escaping one of the saddest parties in the history of fiction, finds Sandor right by her bed, hidden in the dark. It’s soon revealed he fled the battleground once the wildfire approached him too close. Just like Sansa realizes, his lifelong fear of fire, caused by the childhood trauma only she knows about, was a reason enough for him to run away.

And, before he reveals his untimely wish for Tyrion, he says this:

I only know who’s lost. Me.”

When Sansa asks him “What have you lost?”, he replies:


A few lines later, however, Sandor explains how he plans to leave town:

I have the white cloak. And I have this.” He patted the pommel of his sword. “The man who tries to stop me is a dead man. Unless he’s on fire.” He laughed bitterly.

A few more lines later, and Sandor invites Sansa to go with him. This is the offer:

I could keep you safe,” he rasped. “They’re all afraid of me. No one would hurt you again, or I’d kill them.”

Now, does that sound like a man who lost all?! He knows he can’t be stopped by other Lannister soldiers. He knows they’re all afraid of him. He knows he can kill anyone who tries to hurt Sansa. What loss was he talking about a moment ago, then? How can a man, who’s very aware he’s so feared by everyone and so impossible to beat by anyone, even think he lost—all?

Only if by “all” he wasn’t referring to what others think of him, but to what he himself does.

Yes, Sandor Clegane probably knows very well that, in the case of Stannis’ defeat, he could go back to serve Joffrey and nobody would say a word. Even if Stannis takes the city, he can join Tywin’s forces, without anyone accusing him of anything. He knows he didn’t yet lose the position he had with the Lannisters (their reactions, of which he’s not aware but never mind, only confirm that). As a swordsman, and especially in times of war, he’s just too valuable to be scrapped by anyone. So, the loss he’s talking about has nothing to do with his masters.

It has everything to do with him, Sandor Clegane.

By leaving the battle, Sandor broke something we could describe as his personal code. He knows he ran away. It doesn’t matter if they are going to find out, because they’re all afraid of him anyway and none of them will ever dare to say a word. But he knows. And that’s all it takes for him to lose all.

As a matter of fact, that’s a testament to a rather strong personal code. Even though ASOIAF doesn’t lack characters that take honor pretty seriously, the importance that Sandor’s personal code seems to carry for him is something remarkable and rarely seen. It doesn’t happen too often we meet a man who’s giving up his entire life solely because he somewhat disappointed himself.

What he tries to substitute his previous life with is not a bit less remarkable and memorable: a life with Sansa Stark. The girl who represents the “someone” part in that question from before. She is someone who Sandor obviously cares about. He cares about her a great deal.

There is literally no other explanation for his decision to wait for Sansa in her bedchamber; he wants to see her one more time before leaving King’s Landing for good. And he wants to invite her to come with him. In that dreadful moment in which he lost all, looks like the only thing that can bring a new purpose to his life would be Sansa’s acceptance to go with him.

With Sansa by his side, he’d never care for all he lost in that battle. He’d have something new, something possibly even more fulfilling and more important and definitely more beautiful than what he had in life that just ended with his escape. His personal code would be at peace again, and probably more than ever before: he obviously didn’t care for the Lannisters, but he evidently cares very much for Sansa.

In Sansa, he recognizes not the true master, but something even better: the person he could love, and who could love him back.

That revelation surprises him, too, possibly disturbs him even. Never before he thought the life can have such a magnificent meaning. Serve, obey, kill, don’t get killed, and preserve your personal code along the way; that’s what his life was all about—before he met Sansa. Now, looks like she is the only thing that matters. At the very least, she’s the only thing he’d take from the life he abandoned the moment he fled the battle.

Though definitely not nice, his physically aggressive behavior that ensues after he realizes Sansa isn’t going to accept his invitation, can be explained by the inner turmoil he had to go through ever since he met her. She shook his entire world, from the foundation to the roof. That couldn’t be easy for a guy unpractised in caring for others.

But it’s even more than that, actually. It is about Sandor’s unique position in the world created by George R. R. Martin.

In the culture that is depicted in “A Song of Ice and Fire,” people are dealing with emotions much differently than we do today. More precisely, they are much more in control of what they feel and how they are dealing with it. Otherwise, the basic premise that holds the entire system, and that is the sense of duty, would collapse.

The concept of the Night’s Watch is the first one we meet in the books, and it’s such a strange concept at first, because in our own reality there is hardly anything similar: swearing a vow that lasts for life. The only thing that comes close are various life-long devotions to specific religious groups, but there is also a significant difference—in the Night’s Watch, there is no everyday contact with the core purpose of one’s devotion. People that dedicate their entire life to religion are serving daily rituals through which they remain constantly active in their idea of service to the higher power they recognize, but in the Night’s Watch there’s nothing like that. What is then behind the very idea of joining the Night’s Watch (other than, of course, being forced to, in case you are a criminal)? The sense of duty, that isn’t associated with anything palpable but with an ancient perception that there might be a need for that, possibly not in one’s lifetime, but still.

Soon, readers are introduced to a relatively similar concept in the Kingsguard, which is also for life and, naturally, not as abstract as that of the Night’s Watch—because, after all, the King and his family actually need a constant protection—but also highly dependent on the sense of duty. And a little later on, we realize the main concept of Westeros: duty to one’s family. Definitely much more discernible than the previous ones, this form of duty is also the strongest, because it doesn’t depend on spoken pledges or some other initiation rituals, but on the ever-present feeling a person receives from their own upbringing and never abandons it.

In other words, Westeros is a world that rests on duties. And what is the duty Sandor Clegane was serving up to this point in the novels?

None. For almost two entire books, and large ones at that, Sandor practically recognized not a single duty of his. He feels no connection to his family, e.g. to his older brother Gregor, other than the deep desire to put the sword through Gregor’s heart. He belongs to no order at first, and later, when the ruling Lannisters forcibly and against all regulations make room for him in the Kingsguard, he does accept of course, but it is pretty clear from the get-go that he follows his own rules and not those the rest of the Kingsguard is subjected to.

He also has no lasting ambition, like, to be a knight—God forbid—or something.

His one allegiance is to the Lannister family, but in this chapter in Sansa’s chamber, when he laments the fact he didn’t kill the Imp years ago, it’s evident that was really not the firmest of allegiances—not least because of the fact that, without the wildfire, which is the acute reason Sandor wishes Tyrion dead, King’s Landing would have already fallen under Stannis’ command and the Lannisters would probably be dead or imprisoned by now, which is an outcome Sandor would have no problem with.

In effect, Sandor Clegane had no duty besides protecting Joffrey, which is a job description, and not something that can be compared to the service in the Night’s Watch or in some demanding noble family like, say, the Tyrells. The Hound is a man with no strings attached, which pretty much does make him a unique case among the characters, especially if we consider that he also doesn’t belong to the likes of Bronn (a sellsword) or common people, because he actually comes from a House which is not big or influential by any means, but is recognized as nobility, even if the lowest one.

So, neither society nor he himself have any expectation about Sandor Clegane, other than to do his job. That is why the Hound is possibly the most unrestrained man in Westeros. He doesn’t have to feel anything at all. Or he may feel whatever he damn pleases, as much as he desires. It’s all on him.

And, obviously, so far in life Sandor Clegane was determined not to entertain that freedom. He chose to restrain from any kind of attachment.

Imagine then what it must be like for such a man to suddenly, surprising to him even, start feeling something binding, for the first time in his life. And on top of that, it’s connected to the only individual he’s absolutely not supposed to feel anything similar about: Joffrey’s betrothed!

Because of all that, the relationship between Sandor and Sansa (I’m calling it “relationship” for better understanding, even though at this point there were no traditional elements of a proper relationship between them) is also a stand-alone case in the entire saga. It is, of course, different to any preordained marriage agreement, but it’s also very different in nature from, say, Jaime and Cersei’s love affair. With Jaime and Cersei, yes, they also aren’t a traditional relationship by any means, but it’s more a case of “why shouldn’t we?” than anything else. They are not exercising a rather unconventional possibility, so much as breaking conventions, but in a very controlled way. It could be said, therefore, that, despite the highly irregular (and inappropriate) essence, Jaime and Cersei’s relationship is a very traditional one in form, as evidenced by Cersei’s firm refusal to go public when Jaime suggests it later in ASOS, and also Jaime’s pretty cerebral decision to move away from Cersei at the end of AFFC.

Ygritte and Jon are also unconventional in the sense that she’s a Wildling and he’s a sworn brother, but in the end he, though in love with her, wasn’t willing to pursue life with her. It can be even said that he was never even seriously tempted to do so, according to his thoughts which we were familiar with all the time. Their emotions weren’t strictly controlled, but on the other hand neither Ygritte nor Jon were controlled by their emotions.

Dany and Daario’s relationship is also something that defies conventions, but on the other hand they are both firmly in control of their feelings in it. Dany makes a rational decision to enter the sexual affair with Daario and, later on, she also makes a rational decision to step out of it.

Sam and Gilly are an interesting case, but for now it would be a stretch to call it a relationship, although in the physical sense they went way further than Sandor and Sansa ever did. The thing is, both Sam and Gilly are pretty much directed at each other: she is a survivor of the Craster’s Horror House and everything she experiences after entering the Seven Kingdoms is completely new for her, and Sam is always there to help and guide her; Gilly, on the other hand, from the very beginning was the closest Sam ever came to a normal relation to a female individual that wasn’t his mother. While they aren’t following the rules (at least, he isn’t), they are also not renouncing them and therefore their relationship is hardly a symbol of free choice.

But Sandor and Sansa’s very much is, at least to the extent of how aware of their feelings they happen to be. Due to his age and experience, Sandor seems to be quite aware, and it was never as obvious as in this chapter. So yes, he may be the only character in the entire saga to make a completely personal, unrestricted, uninfluenced and in every way free decision to pursue his own feelings for his love interest. He’s not looking for a sexual affair like Daenerys, nor conquering a dragon queen like Daario. He’s not mocking the society’s norms by secretly engaging in a sexual activity with his twin sister. He’s not waiting for the right moment to let his duties overcome his emotions once again. He’s not finally accepting the only option life has ever thrown his way. No, he is a totally free man making his own choices, as evidenced in his reply to Sansa’s “Where will you go?” question:

Away from here. Away from the fires. Go out the Iron Gate, I suppose. North somewhere, anywhere.”

That’s right, he can really go anywhere. And he’s inviting her to come with him. How many couples in the series ever faced that possibility?

Her refusal was perhaps not surprising to him, but it was not an easy thing to hear. While his somewhat physical reaction was really nothing to be proud of, to his credit, he stopped way before inflicting any damage. All in all, he surely didn’t do anything dishonorable. At least Sansa, the center of this new reality he found himself in, was not hurt in any way.

The only one who’s hurt was him, actually, because she turned down his offer. All things considering, however, it can even be said he took her decision pretty well, before leaving the only person who could give a true purpose to his life.

That is why, if the two of them ever meet again, Sansa may be faced with the same invitation once more. It’s not too realistic to expect Martin’s going to pass on such an opportunity.



A Clash of Kings Recap

by Brashcandy

By the time ACOK is over, Sandor Clegane—once sworn shield to King Joffrey and KG member—has deserted from the Battle of Blackwater and his service to the Lannisters. The personal fates and fortunes of many characters might have been reversed and disturbed in this book, but there is a marked sense of deliberateness in Sandor’s actions that signify his shift away from his employers and towards the interests of Sansa Stark. Even as he continues to dismiss the organized order of knighthood, Sandor comes to embody what it is to be a “true knight,” as he attempts to protect and secure Sansa’s well-being when the abuse and danger she faces as a hostage and the king’s betrothed continues to escalate.

In summing up Sandor’s development in this book, we can look to what Ragnorak described as a “return to idealism,” facilitated by his relationship to Sansa and her influence in reorienting him towards desires that were warped by Gregor’s abuse. Themes of chivalry, loyalty, courage and sacrifice, romantic love, the trauma of war, mercy and salvation, are all explored in charting Sandor’s journey up to his breaking point at Blackwater.

Sandor I centred on Joffrey’s nameday tourney, where we saw Sandor telling a lie in Sansa’s favour after she risks the king’s wrath by coming to Dontos’ defence. It’s a significant act within the context of Sandor’s new role as a member of the Kingsguard, and continues the covert association begun at the end of AGOT between these two in opposition to Joffrey’s tyranny. Sansa’s relative obliviousness to Sandor’s attempts to safeguard her alerts readers to focus on Sandor’s behaviour in these scenes and what it means for the larger questions pertaining to his character. Sansa observes at the beginning of the chapter that Joffrey never asked Sandor to beat her as he did with his other KG, but we find the answer to where Sandor’s allegiance resides long before that question is asked in Sandor III.

Had someone like Arys Oakheart been in the box instead of Sandor, we can be almost assured that Sansa would have earned herself a savage beating for her challenge to the king. Arys might have been saddened by it, but he would not have made the proactive intervention that Sandor did. As Mahaut said in our follow-up discussion:

I find it also interesting that a good portion of the narrative here stresses the differences between Sandor and the other knights. Sandor does it by saying it is a tournament of gnats and not worth it. But Sansa does most of the comparisons herself and they’re all in favour of Sandor Clegane. He does not gossip, he does not beat her, he won a prestigious tournament, etc. I had always assumed that Sansa compares other men to Sandor only after his departure from King’s Landing. But it actually starts as earlier as the beginning of ACOK. By that point, she has already learnt that a man does not need a ser in front of his name to act as a true knight. Looking at it this way, the white cloak being at odds with the rest of Sandor’s clothes might also symbolise his own ambiguity towards his status as a “knight”: he is ruthless and uncourteous (roughspun clothes), yet he is ready to abase himself (by lying) to rescue Sansa (white cloak).

Sandor I also illustrates the productive possibilities of Sandor as a father figure—a feature of his character that often gets obscured due to his position within the profoundly dysfunctional Lannister family.

Sandor II featured his encounter with Sansa on the Serpentine steps, and again highlights his protective stance towards her, but also introduces a clear romantic element to their relationship, which sees him drunkenly attempting to flirt and later making a more sober promise of one day getting a song. Sansa thinks that Dontos is her true knight when he shows up in the godswood with an offer to take her home, but Sandor is the one suggested to be the genuine answer to her prayer in both his warrior prowess and the sincerity that characterises their interactions. He expresses this authenticity when he tells her: “A hound will die for you, but never lie to you. And he’ll look you straight in the face.” Later, when he mentions that a dog can smell a lie, something which Sansa observed Lady was able to do, Lyanna Stark made the point that:

Coupled with other textual hints and King Bob’s “Get her a dog, she’ll be happier for it,” I think these are the strongest arguments for Sandor as Sansa’s Lady replacement. 

Within the story, I also thinks it ties into the fact that there is pride in serving a honourable master, or at least a master who is more often doing what’s right than doing what’s wrong. Tywin and the Lannisters aren’t honourable masters in AGOT/ACOK and before (especially given the Rains of Castamere). We see from Sandor’s story that he thinks highly of his grandfather and his brave action to save Lord Tytos. Yet the killing of Mycah, the sack of King‘s Landing, the murder of Elia’s children, Joffrey’s cruelty and Tywin not caring about Gregor’s atrocities are hardly anything that would lend honour or credibility for anyone to be associated with. This also leads us back to the issue of what a “true knight” is.

Sandor’s decision to share the story of his grandfather enables a much more meaningful intimacy to be shared between him and Sansa at this point in their relationship than the flirtatious innuendo, and echoes the first meeting between them when he told her the truth about his burns. We see the value Sandor places in this family history, and the pride he feels which is so different from the most recent legacy of the Cleganes under Gregor’s rule of terror. Ragnorak made an excellent observation on how this story carries symbolic import for the current generation of Cleganes:

I think House Clegane’s backstory is important. Lord Tytos was attacked by a lioness which is a rather striking bit of symbolism given his sigil. He was defended from this attack by the future founder of House Clegane and his dogs.  Being defended against an attack by one’s own sigil seems symbolic of being defended against one’s own nature, one’s own folly, or one’s own family. Fast forward to Tyrion’s trial, the heir to the Clegane legacy is fighting for the lioness against the rightful heir to Casterly Rock. Instead of protecting the Lannisters against their own nature, folly and family, Gregor is the champion of the point of no return for the House that Tywin Built. He enables the lioness to destroy the lord.

Compare that with the notion of Sandor as a replacement for Lady. Sandor is protecting Sansa against her own nature and her own folly. Despite Sansa’s thoughts of blaming Arya, it was Cersei who got Lady killed. In claiming Sandor, Sansa is essentially stealing Cersei’s dog to replace Lady and leaving her with Gregor as a replacement.

Milady of York presented the summary and analysis for Sandor III with the primary focus on Sansa’s beating in the throne room and the later bread riot in the streets of the city—both events that feature Sandor in a distinctly chivalrous role. Analysing the former event through the lens of domestic violence, Milady noted that Sandor has to confront the reality of his advice to Sansa to give Joff want he wants gradually losing its effectiveness as the boy king grows older and more determined to punish and sexually humiliate his betrothed. Sandor’s refusal of the order to beat Sansa is clear when his inaction allows Dontos to make an intervention and when Joffrey turns to Boros and Meryn to carry out his bidding. Saying “enough” after the beating goes on too long and then giving his cloak to Sansa reveals not only the Hound’s emotional turmoil in the moment, but also shows the depth of his concern for Sansa. This is the first time Joff has attempted to implicate him directly in the beating, but what clearly weighs on him as he will express later is having to stand by and do nothing.

During the bread riot he is able to get directly involved in saving Sansa, and this becomes a source of pride for him. In outlining the prescriptive values of chivalry for informing how things ought to be, Milady writes:

Back to Sandor, he is a peculiar case in that he also began with a descriptive view of chivalry that resulted in his disillusionment and hatred of all things knightly, but now that he no longer embraces that belief, he’s veered closer to the prescriptive view of chivalry like a real Middle Ages knight. Almost like he “gets” the songs precisely when he has ceased to like them. Stripped of its varnish of superfluous dreamy romanticism, Aemon championing Naerys speaks of the honourable deed of a man defending an innocent queen from abuse and accusations that can cost her head and disinheritance for her son; Florian saving Jonquil and Serwyn rescuing Daeryssa speak of the honourable deeds of men doing the right thing to help a woman out of the perils of abduction and likely rape. All of these untrue stories in an embellished manner appeal to the basic human decency in men to try and do better. And he does react.

The implications of this act continue to play out in Sandor IV, when Sansa and Sandor meet atop Maegor’s Holdfast. It’s important for discussions of Sandor’s psyche as the war approaches that his presence there before Sansa arrives is recognised. Although Sandor tries to conceal his deeper feelings beneath macho posturing, we do gain insight into the profound unease he is experiencing as the fires light the night sky and he knows he will be expected to play a major role in the Lannister offence during the battle. His words during this encounter always come across as very harsh on a surface level reading, but should be appreciated within the context of the encroaching war and Sandor’s own increasingly conflicted stance concerning his loyalty to the Lannisters. Ragnorak states:

For Sandor fire recalls Gregor, Gregor recalls the reasons for his Lannister service, and his Lannister service is bringing him full circle back into the literal fire far worse than Tyrion’s last order to venture out into the flames as well as the figurative fire of Joffrey as Gregor 2.0. I don’t think we can separate the roots of his fear from the conflicts that have been emerging since Mycah.  He’s resolved himself to fight regardless of what he might or might not be hoping for in the aftermath so it makes a certain amount of sense that he’s reaffirming the worldview that put him here and lashing out at the center of gravity that has been pulling him away from it.

The phallic imagery of Sandor putting his longsword against Sansa’s neck was also noted for its sexual suggestion and what it could foreshadow for the nature of their relationship in the future, especially when coupled with the fact that this is the night of a significant rite of passage for Sansa as she has her first period. Milady of York further interpreted the act as alluding to the medieval ritual of “kissing the sword” with Sandor receiving a symbolic blessing for his sword this way.

Sandor V examined the events of the Blackwater Battle, and Ragnorak centred his analysis on discussion ranging from the “broken men” parallels to the symbolism of ship names, and Sandor’s role as a commander of Lannister soldiers during the battle. This complex approach elucidated the themes of mercy and compassion with respect to Sandor’s character, in addition to establishing the extent to which the Hound performed courageously. Boarding a ship named “Prayer” connects him symbolically to Sansa’s prayer in the sept to the mother to save him and gentle his rage. Ragnorak wrote:

Sansa goes to the sept, which seems to be the proper feminine role for this battle, and performs her duty with sincerity until she feels the purpose is perverted by prayers for Joffrey.  She stops contributing to the female song, expels herself from the feminine place, and turns toward the masculine song in silent prayers to the Warrior.  Sandor is much the same in reverse. He starts off in the proper masculine role and place and performs his duty well and with sincerity until he, too, reaches a breaking point. He also expels himself from the masculine place and role, stops contributing to the Warrior song of battle and turns (next chapter) towards the feminine song. Both characters start in their respective isolated roles and songs, break away from gravitational pull of their respective roles, and begin to move toward the opposite role against a backdrop that mingles the two characters’ isolated songs into one strange and fearful music.

Sandor’s movement towards the Mother’s song—representing salvation and mercy—reaches its climax as he goes to Sansa’s room to await her return. This takes us to the final chapter analysis of the book, done by Miodrag Zarkovic, who provides insight into the Tyrion/Sandor enmity. Miodrag asserts that Sandor’s hatred of Tyrion, expressed in particularly bitter terms on this night, is indicative of his overall contempt for the Lannister family. Despite not having any significant ties to anyone up to this point within the traditional structures of his society, Sandor does have very one personal bond that makes itself viscerally felt when he vows to protect Sansa against anyone who would hurt her. Milady of York pinpointed this as a declaration of love:

He knows his own worth, his skills, he knows he can offer protection, which is the one skill that allowed him to rise high in service and be so feared. And he’s offering himself to someone whose worst fear and constant reality is to be beaten and otherwise abused by Joffrey, so he’s offering to shield her from ever experiencing that fear again. But not only that, he’s also offering himself as a man. His body language must’ve given him away, otherwise it’s not comprehensible why Sansa would think he was about to kiss her at that precise moment, right when he’s declaring that as he pulls her towards his body, not before, not after; and it also puts into context yet never excuses why Sandor reacted so violently to her closing her eyes: the offer he was making was more than just merely becoming her new sworn shield, he was consciously making an attempt to eventually have his feelings be reciprocated. And Sansa, for all that the scene was botched, must’ve understood, as she later understood what he meant at the Serpentine, for she evolved her fantasising from both these scenes: the UnKiss comes from his declaration to keep her safe when she thinks he was going to kiss her, and in her erotic dream she hears him tell her about his song in precisely the same wording he used in the Serpentine chapter.

Sansa’s confused and frightened response is to close her eyes, which leads to the breakdown of communication and Sandor resorts to force. Doglover explained what all led to this point:

Regarding Sandor’s emotional state, he’s at his absolute lowest point since he’s been introduced early on in the series. The wildfire has triggered his PTSD, he’s incredibly drunk, and Tyrion had just shamed him on the battlefield. When we discussed Sandor I (ACoK), which was presented by brashcandy, the culture of silence surrounding Sandor’s victimization at the hands of his brother, and that a culture of silence surrounding real-world crimes actually exists (high-profile athletes and sexual violence and domestic abuse is just one example), contributes to deep-rooted feelings of shame and anger on the part of the victim. Sandor’s testimony to Sansa was clearly difficult for him and he made it very clear he did not want Sansa to tell anyone about how he received his burns. In addition to Sandor not liking the Lannisters very much, Tyrion’s shaming him on the battlefield had to have had a profound impact, contributing to his reaction to Sansa’s perceived rejection—all of those suppressed emotions bubbling up to the surface, and then add alcohol to the mix. Already at a breaking point, Sansa’s response, or lack thereof, was a tipping point. 

Leaving the bloody cloak behind is Sandor’s acknowledgement of his moral shortcomings and regrets in Lannister service; however, Sansa’s wearing of that cloak after he leaves opens up the possibility of a redemptive arc that can offer him a much more functional and constructive existence than he would have experienced since his torture at Gregor’s hands. Sandor demonstrates the will to change throughout ACOK and it has powerful implications for questions of his identity and where he will ultimately belong in the future.