A Game of Thrones

  1. An Overview of Sandor’s Introduction
  2. Sandor I: Introducing the Hound
  3. Sandor II: The Trident Incident
  4. Sandor III: The Hand’s Tourney
  5. Sandor IV: A Hound amongst lions and wolves
  6. Sandor V: Rise to Kingsguard
  7. AGOT Recap
  8. A Literary Inspiration for Sandor Clegane
  9. AGOT Featured Commentary: Murder as a Plot Device





An overview of Sandor’s introduction

Literary Techniques and Bias

Ned knew many of the riders. There came Ser Jaime Lannister with hair as bright as beaten gold, and there Sandor Clegane with his terrible burned face. The tall boy beside him could only be the crown prince, and that stunted little man behind them was surely the Imp, Tyrion Lannister.

AGOT Eddard I, Chapter 4.

by Milady of York

If something leaps out from the quoted scene in the first book that’s our initial sighting of the Hound, it’s the neutrality of Lord Stark’s comment. Why would it be significant? Because in light of the upward progression after a start as a negatively-assessed Lannister liegeman, it sets up the foundation for readers’ perception of Sandor Clegane, upon which our initial opinion of him rests. The ancient adage that first impressions matter and that we size up people within minutes of meeting them is true also for fictional people, and few authors are more skilful than Martin in manipulating their readership through the crafting of apparently solid first impressions only to kick the stool from under us afterwards. Therefore, knowing his literary techniques for creating character bias is a key element for comprehending the readership’s attitude towards events and characters.

Let’s start with an examination of the way he introduces them, which is where he formulates his intent about how he wants a determined character to be viewed, a trail very likely to be followed, even if unconsciously. For the purpose of illustration and comparison, I’ll use the examples of Jaime Lannister and Theon Greyjoy together with Sandor, as these three are the poster children of “redemptive” plotlines in ASOIAF and provide with ideal case studies.

As Example I, consider Jaime. His defenestration of Bran is popularly identified as the moment when he became a really bad apple in the public’s eyes. That is well and true, but look further back in time and concentrate on the first mention of him in the entire series, in AGOT Daenerys I, because that sets up the tone for him:

Yet sometimes Dany would picture the way it had been, so often had her brother told her the stories. The midnight flight to Dragonstone, moonlight shimmering on the ship’s black sails. Her brother Rhaegar battling the Usurper in the bloody waters of the Trident and dying for the woman he loved. The sack of King’s Landing by the ones Viserys called the Usurper’s dogs, the lords Lannister and Stark. Princess Elia of Dorne pleading for mercy as Rhaegar’s heir was ripped from her breast and murdered before her eyes. The polished skulls of the last dragons staring down sightlessly from the walls of the throne room while the Kingslayer opened Father’s throat with a golden sword.

There you have it: the introduction is a negative one. He’s not even called by his name but it’s his foul reputation as Kingslayer that ushers him in, before we even learn his name is Jaime. And what is said does paint him as a monster, with the cherry on top being that we hear this from Dany, whom we’re inclined to empathise with in her plight. We are told quite graphically that he killed young Daenerys’ father, and that’s what Martin intends us to focus on. In later chapters, Eddard’s misgivings about the Lannisters as a clan and Jaime as a man seep into the reader’s mind as well, with Jon’s positive remarks easily framed as superficially looks-based. And when the Bran incident happens, that practically “confirms” what had been hinted at until then: this man is no good. We are years-light from suspecting the volte-face that awaits in ASOS, and so the build-up of his introduction comes to a boil herein, eliciting the gut reaction of loathing towards this character.

On to our Example II, we have the introduction of Theon in AGOT Bran I:

Finally his lord father gave a command, and two of his guardsmen dragged the ragged man to the ironwood stump in the centre of the square. They forced his head down onto the hard black wood. Lord Eddard Stark dismounted and his ward Theon Greyjoy brought forth the sword. “Ice,” that sword was called. It was as wide across as a man’s hand, and taller even than Robb. The blade was Valyrian steel, spell-forged and dark as smoke. Nothing held an edge like Valyrian steel.

His father peeled off his gloves and handed them to Jory Cassel, the captain of his household guard. He took hold of Ice with both hands and said, “In the name of Robert of the House Baratheon, the First of his Name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, by the word of Eddard of the House Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, I do sentence you to die.” He lifted the greatsword high above his head.

Bran’s bastard brother Jon Snow moved closer. “Keep the pony well in hand,” he whispered. “And don’t look away. Father will know if you do.”

Bran kept his pony well in hand, and did not look away.

His father took off the man’s head with a single sure stroke. Blood sprayed out across the snow, as red as surnmerwine. One of the horses reared and had to be restrained to keep from bolting. Bran could not take his eyes off the blood. The snows around the stump drank it eagerly, reddening as he watched.

The head bounced off a thick root and rolled. It came up near Greyjoy’s feet. Theon was a lean, dark youth of nineteen who found everything amusing. He laughed, put his boot on the head, and kicked it away.

Ass,” Jon muttered, low enough so Greyjoy did not hear.

He doesn’t come off as a high-minded fellow, does he? But unlike the former character, Theon isn’t presented as someone markedly wicked but rather he’s shown as an inconsiderate youngster with an off-putting sense of humour, an ass. His following appearances continue to encourage this perception of him as not particularly bright, cocky, derisive and arrogant; not a very attractive personality on the whole, but his closeness to Robb, how he prevents him from starting a fistfight with the Crown Prince, saves his brother from the wilding, and follows him into battle act as counterweight. With no Reek in sight yet, it’s a mixed medley for the reader this early in the first book, and not until the second book onwards we’ll see the full extent of his grayer side, when Theon’s failures in judgement, which his introduction had intimated to the reader, lead him to make foolish decisions that end up in deaths and disaster.

The example of Sandor, on the other hand, doesn’t move in such a straight line. In contrast with the previous two, his introduction with a brief “. . . and there Sandor Clegane with his terrible burned face” doesn’t paint him as either good or bad, sympathetic or unsympathetic by itself. An intriguing neutrality considering Ned obviously knows him, knows who he is and what he does, and is certainly aware of the reputation he possesses as the Hound, and given his infixed wariness of all things Lannister-connected it would’ve been natural had some of that come through in his “tone.” Yet he doesn’t even use the sobriquet that encompasses the character’s infamy, thus he isn’t framed as the Hound from the onset, unlike the Kingslayer; he’s plain Sandor Clegane with no judgment thrown in, and it’s only two chapters later that he’s called this for the first time.

This doesn’t necessarily mean Eddard’s introduction of him is just a meaningless, perfunctory description for the benefit of a “who is who” exercise. From the overview of the former cases, we can appraise that the products of Martin’s introductory techniques are twofold:

  1. Creating first impressions of the character: As Orson Scott Card said once, when it comes to first impressions upon introduction, we will “try to keep ourselves from acting on all our immediate judgments. But make the judgements we will, whether we like it or not—it happens at an unconscious level, like breathing and blinking and swallowing.” These characters with no POV become inwardly what we see them do or say that first time, at least until they get their own POV, wherein the author has the option of either fulfil those initial expectations or violate them.

  1. Laying out an important narrative theme for the character: Whether a writer chooses to reaffirm or overturn the first impression, he’s under obligation to show readers how it originated. And in the case of a choice like Martin’s that lands in the subversive end of the spectrum, the author must also explain why the character got such a reputation, and that necessitates going beyond pointing a finger at the culprit in that damning introduction. It requires a backstory on whether that reputation is deserved or not, on what drives that character to behave in such a way that he’s seen and judged like that.

Rachel Ballon recommends that writers should allude to a character’s “past experiences and the repercussions these experiences will have on your story before you begin [to unravel it]. All characters come to your story with a problematic past and unresolved personal conflicts, so you should have a full understanding of what these problems are right from the start—even if readers don’t see the connections until later.” And so Martin does in his introductions. For example, Jaime is presented as despicable before he throws Bran from the tower a few chapters later; and this negative introduction also lays out a key theme in his arc: the “If I can’t be the hero, let me be the monster” motif, his desire to be a chivalric paragon like Arthur Dayne that got warped into ending up as the Smiling Knight (the Kingslayer) instead. And Theon is presented as foolish and arrogant before he attacks Winterfell and kills two children in the second book; but it also establishes the origins of his identity conflict that is the root cause of his terrible actions: wanting to be like a Stark and being rejected as a Greyjoy. Correspondingly, Sandor’s introduction does have a second purpose as well, because it does focus on a detail that will determine the public perception of him for the rest of the story. Look at the end of the line:

. . . with his terrible burned face.”

Ned’s habit of highlighting other people’s striking physical traits and/or clothing is manifest here, and through it is how GRRM directs the readers’ attention towards the Hound’s burns, as if wishing we’ll notice and wonder on what the story behind those scars might be. When we add to the equation that the truth about his disfigurement is the point when the plot takes a sharp bend for him in terms of his standing with the readership, it is so obvious that this is a subtle way of laying the foundation of his personal arc: his burning as a child and the deep psychological consequences of it he still carries. Or the origin of the Hound, in other words.

The neutral tone is still there for the most part in the mindset of the POV that second time he appears on page, in AGOT Arya I:

Joffrey said nothing, but a man strange to Arya, a tall knight with black hair and burn scars on his face, pushed forward in front of the prince. “This is your prince. Who are you to tell him he may not have an edge on his sword, ser?”

Master-at-arms of Winterfell, Clegane, and you would do well not to forget it.”

Are you training women here?” the burned man wanted to know. He was muscled like a bull.

I am training knights,” Ser Rodrik said pointedly. “They will have steel when they are ready. When they are of an age.”

The burned man looked at Robb. “How old are you, boy?”

Fourteen,” Robb said.

I killed a man at twelve. You can be sure it was not with a blunt sword.”

Following the senior Stark’s steps in noticing physicality, Arya describes his colouring and his scars first, much like her father had, and doesn’t add her judgment to this by way of assessing it all as either pleasing or displeasing, or in any manner that would influence our own perception. Neither does she hear his notorious nickname of the Hound but instead his family name of Clegane. And although in this scene he can be sized up for acting seemingly supportive of his prince on one hand and talking back to his host’s heir on the other, Arya herself remains neutral in the sense that she doesn’t comment—even if just in inner monologue—on that and on him one way or the other, nor does Jon, and instead the full weight of readers’ antipathy is channelled towards falling heavy on Joffrey, who’s judged to be “truly a little shit” for his behaviour there.

The neutrality fades completely by the third appearance, though. When Tyrion waddles his way down the stairs from the library, he overhears the prince and his guardian talking:

The boy is a long time dying. I wish he would be quicker about it.”

Tyrion glanced down and saw the Hound standing with young Joffrey as squires swarmed around them. “At least he dies quietly,” the prince replied. “It’s the wolf that makes the noise. I could scarce sleep last night.”

Clegane cast a long shadow across the hard-packed earth as his squire lowered the black helm over his head. “I could silence the creature, if it please you,” he said through his open visor. His boy placed a longsword in his hand. He tested the weight of it, slicing at the cold morning air. Behind him, the yard rang to the clangour of steel on steel.

The notion seemed to delight the prince. “Send a dog to kill a dog!” he exclaimed. “Winterfell is so infested with wolves, the Starks would never miss one.”

Tyrion hopped off the last step onto the yard. “I beg to differ, nephew,” he said. “The Starks can count past six. Unlike some princes I might name.”

Joffrey had the grace at least to blush.

A voice from nowhere,” Sandor said. He peered through his helm, looking this way and that. “Spirits of the air!”

The prince laughed, as he always laughed when his bodyguard did this mummer’s farce. Tyrion was used to it. “Down here.”

The tall man peered down at the ground, and pretended to notice him. “The little lord Tyrion,” he said. “My pardons. I did not see you standing there.”

I am in no mood for your insolence today.” Tyrion turned to his nephew. “Joffrey, it is past time you called on Lord Eddard and his lady, to offer them your comfort.”

Joffrey looked as petulant as only a boy prince can look. “What good will my comfort do them?”

None,” Tyrion said. “Yet it is expected of you. Your absence has been noted.”

The Stark boy is nothing to me,” Joffrey said. “I cannot abide the wailing of women.”

Tyrion Lannister reached up and slapped his nephew hard across the face. The boy’s cheek began to redden.

One word,” Tyrion said, “and I will hit you again.”

I’m going to tell Mother!” Joffrey exclaimed.

Tyrion hit him again. Now both cheeks flamed.

You tell your mother,” Tyrion told him. “But first you get yourself to Lord and Lady Stark, and you fall to your knees in front of them, and you tell them how very sorry you are, and that you are at their service if there is the slightest thing you can do for them or theirs in this desperate hour, and that all your prayers go with them. Do you understand? Do you?”

The boy looked as though he was going to cry. Instead, he managed a weak nod. Then he turned and fled headlong from the yard, holding his cheek. Tyrion watched him run.

A shadow fell across his face. He turned to find Clegane looming overhead like a cliff. His soot-dark armour seemed to blot out the sun. He had lowered the visor on his helm. It was fashioned in the likeness of a snarling black hound, fearsome to behold, but Tyrion had always thought it a great improvement over Clegane’s hideously burned face.

The prince will remember that, little lord,” the Hound warned him. The helm turned his laugh into a hollow rumble.

I pray he does,” Tyrion Lannister replied. “If he forgets, be a good dog and remind him.” He glanced around the courtyard. “Do you know where I might find my brother?”

Breaking fast with the queen.”

Ah,” Tyrion said. He gave Sandor Clegane a perfunctory nod and walked away as briskly as his stunted legs would carry him, whistling. He pitied the first knight to try the Hound today. The man did have a temper.

The Imp’s first POV presents readers with three motives for raising an eyebrow: Sandor’s offer to put an end to Summer’s mournful howls, which is bound to rub the wrong way given the readers’ awareness of the bond between the direwolves and the children. Secondly, he makes fun of the likable dwarf which is construed as an act done for the amusement of dislikable Joffrey. And thirdly, Tyrion informs us that this man has an ominous alias we’d not known of so far, the Hound, adding his own inner judgment on the possible why of it that pre-empts free guessing: he has a temper. Any of these is likely to extort an unaffirmative predisposition towards Sandor, be it at that point or later ahead, acting as confirmatory creeping determinism by the time of the Trident.

There’s one salient detail to record here, that might be evident only in hindsight after becoming familiar with the author’s tricks of the trade and each character’s peculiarities: this is a prime example of the opposite end of introduction bias—sometimes called Imbalance and Selectivity Bias—a positive one countering the already cited examples of the negative extremity of this same technique, in which GRRM has cleverly crafted the chapter’s structure so that by measuring up to the POV character everyone else in it, save for Tommen and Myrcella, emerges forth with a negative breeze wafting over them: Joffrey is a self-centred brat that totally deserved those slaps from the only Lannister that seemingly cares a whit about Bran; his sworn shield is a waspish loudmouth that suggests to kill a poor pup and dares laugh at and dole out mock-tinged advice to his witty social superior; and the twins are a depraved pair that only ask their perspicacious brother after the dying child because they’re the cause of the situation. To render results, this technique requires that to elevate the positivity level of a character, another has to be characterised/perceived as less bright, less charming, less intelligent, less moral, less this and less that, by comparison. As an author writing in Third Person Limited style, GRRM does it so his fictional people reflect the reality of a living person’s cognitive processes, as prejudice and judgmental conclusions on sight are common due to inherent human cognitive flaws; and partly he uses it as a storytelling trick to prompt a desired visceral reaction that thenceforward he’ll be free to either heighten or subdue, or completely turn the tables on the readership. And because it’s the POV character’s thoughts, priorities and feelings on another character’s all-round self that shape and dictate first impressions and general perception to the public, this mode of narration is also formally known by literature academics as “Third Person Subjective” point of view.

From the differing openings in these three chapters, Sandor’s introduction in early AGOT can rather look like a pendulum, and continues to oscillate till the end of the book. From the neutral to the negative to the positive and back, creating character ambiguity. In literary craft, such ambiguity can be both a source of richer storytelling with deeper meaning and a source of misinterpretation. On the upside, it gives readers a chance to use their imagination and analytical skills to interpret meanings and layers in several ways, which by default makes a character more interesting and compelling. But on the downside, this makes it more challenging to assess a character, more so those gray ones that fail to fit into tidy categories; it often demands to reframe old thoughts and expectations, and that can make it more tempting to overstep the challenge by resorting to tried-and-proven and formulaic interpretations that might not relate to the textual narrative. When this type of character does possess a POV, the task is made easier, for we then can readily see what there is in their mind and contrast it to what others have seen or said; we have both versions of the tale and get the full picture. Thus, readers can judge by themselves outside of the introduction bias frame. Such a factor could play a role in why for some readers Theon’s arc feels like the most realistic and rounded-up of “redemption” arcs: he has his own chapters in the beginning, not long after being seen only through Starks, and he has them at the end; so the picture would look complete as readers had a chance to be in his head during his “bad” phase and when he’s tortured and broken down, seeing his “good” phase. And it would also have a part in why regarding Jaime’s arc the picture may not feel as complete: he gets the chance to tell his version mid-way in the story, he didn’t have a POV account during the “bad” phase that we got to know through others, and his recounting of that time past is distilled through his POV’s setting in what’s supposed to be the “good” phase.

But if moreover the character lacks a POV permanently, the task becomes thoroughly complicated. To deal with this, and formulate an available tool to dissemble the frame of intro bias with a non-viewpoint personage, the recommended authorial procedure is to show the character’s lights and shadows through a wide range of POVs with different attitudes towards him that provide with useful contrasts and counterpoints, so the absence of a POV, or being restricted to one single POV, doesn’t strip him of complexity. That, too, was Martin’s procedure from AGOT onwards: he made Sandor’s arc be what in writing studies is called a relational story, embedded in and told through his interactions with various doubly seminal viewpoint characters, each significant both for the overarching main ASOIAF plot and for his own individual plot. Through that varied assortment of accounts brought forth by Eddard, Arya, Tyrion, etc., the author signals to the audience that each POV character is tasked with supplying disparate information on the non-POV at varying points of the story, and that who/what the Hound is to each POV influences what they say and how they say it.






Introducing the Hound

by Milady of York

  • Eddard I (Chapter 4)

  • Arya I (Chapter 7)

  • Tyrion I (Chapter 9)


Once upon a summer in a far, far away place up north there stood the stern-faced Lord of Winterfell in the yard of his gray castle patiently awaiting the arrival of his king, childhood friend and drinker extraordinaire, Robert Baratheon . . .

Monarchs have a propensity to take an ungodly time arriving, though, and Eddard entertained himself describing the newcomers one by one. As he gazed a keen eye over them, he spotted and described the man of our interest:

The visitors poured through the castle gates in a river of gold and silver and polished steel, three hundred strong, a pride of bannermen and knights, of sworn swords and freeriders. Over their heads a dozen golden banners whipped back and forth in the northern wind, emblazoned with the crowned stag of Baratheon.

Ned knew many of the riders. There came Ser Jaime Lannister with hair as bright as beaten gold, and there Sandor Clegane with his terrible burned face. The tall boy beside him could only be the crown prince, and that stunted little man behind them was surely the Imp, Tyrion Lannister.

But The Ned doesn’t say much else besides that the Hound had terrible facial scars and implying his affiliation with the crimson-and-gold camp, and that’s as far as his introduction goes. No more is shown, not a word about what else he did that day, not some amusing anecdote. Instead, he provided with plenty of backstory on his king, long-deceased people, and the scarred man’s bosses, the Lannisters. Anyhow, little Arya would give supplementary details her too busy father did not, when after escaping the needlework session with her sister, her sister’s friends, the princess royal, her retinue and Septa Mordane, she goes in search of Jon Snow and finds him perched on a window by a bridge overlooking the yard, watching his brothers engaging in a different sort of needlework with the Baratheon children. There we get to see how good a job Ser Rodrik did training the Stark boys in the art of sticking them with the pointy end as Bran trounces Tommen and Robb becomes involved in a spat with Joffrey over who makes the most and neatest stitches as well as matters of blunt vs. live steel needles, that threatens to end in a brawl when tempers flare on princely provocation, and Sandor intervenes apparently on behalf of his charge when Ser Rodrik forbids the older boys from using sharp blades:

This is your prince. Who are you to tell him he may not have an edge on his sword, ser?”

Master-at-arms of Winterfell, Clegane, and you would do well not to forget it.”

Are you training women here?” the burned man wanted to know. He was muscled like a bull.

I am training knights,” Ser Rodrik said pointedly. “They will have steel when they are ready. When they are of an age.”

The burned man looked at Robb. “How old are you, boy?”

Fourteen,” Robb said.

I killed a man at twelve. You can be sure it was not with a blunt sword.”

Arya could see Robb bristle. His pride was wounded. He turned on Ser Rodrik. “Let me do it. I can beat him.”

Beat him with a tourney blade, then,” Ser Rodrik said.

Joffrey shrugged. “Come and see me when you’re older, Stark. If you’re not too old.” There was laughter from the Lannister men.

The altercation finishes with much cursing on one end and much laughing on the other, and without Joffrey lying flat on his back. It’s not long till this is remedied and the prince acquires a rosy-red tint in the cheeks, not actually from blushing, when one morning his uncle the Imp finds him at the yard, accompanied by his inseparable Hound, making callous comments on the comatose Bran and on killing his direwolf, and decides to drive the point home with the backhand across his face:

A voice from nowhere,” Sandor said. He peered through his helm, looking this way and that. “Spirits of the air!”

The prince laughed, as he always laughed when his bodyguard did this mummer’s farce. Tyrion was used to it. “Down here.”

The tall man peered down at the ground, and pretended to notice him. “The little lord Tyrion,” he said. “My pardons. I did not see you standing there.”

I am in no mood for your insolence today.” Tyrion turned to his nephew. “Joffrey, it is past time you called on Lord Eddard and his lady, to offer them your comfort.”

Joffrey looked as petulant as only a boy prince can look. “What good will my comfort do them?”

None,” Tyrion said. “Yet it is expected of you. Your absence has been noted.”

The Stark boy is nothing to me,” Joffrey said. “I cannot abide the wailing of women.”

Tyrion Lannister reached up and slapped his nephew hard across the face. The boy’s cheek began to redden.

One word,” Tyrion said, “and I will hit you again.”

I’m going to tell Mother!” Joffrey exclaimed.

Tyrion hit him again. Now both cheeks flamed.

Off goes Joffrey to do as Uncle Imp said, and Sandor is left alone with Tyrion, to whom he tells that “the prince will remember” the double slap; advice the latter doesn’t listen to and instead tells him to do his nephew the favour of reminding him of that. The Hound, asked about Jaime’s whereabouts, directs him towards the castle’s Guest House, where Cersei and the younger children are, and whistling goes Tyrion to breakfast there, leaving behind the image of Sandor going to the yard to pound whoever was luckless enough to cross paths with him.


The main topic of the first chapter was covered extensively in a separate write-up on introduction bias contending that lumping Sandor with Jaime (and the Lannisters at large) is a deliberate authorial choice so he’d be amongst three characters set up as unsympathetic to be debunked one after the other in different fashions, a change that’d come more quickly and sooner than the rest for the Hound. The following covers other themes in the next chapters also listed.

The training of would-be knights

Seen through the lens of introduction bias, the scene at the yard was intentionally written to cause readers to choose sides in favour of the Starks and against the crown prince, who’s acting like . . . Joffrey in all his snotty glory, and when Sandor comes forward to challenge Ser Rodrik, the description of his behaviour as a supportive sidekick leaves an impression that’s damning by association.

But on delving deeper into the scene, we come up with a different conception that makes a distinction between Joffrey’s quarrel with Robb and Sandor’s own verbal sparring with Winterfell’s master-at-arms. Look at what he says here:

This is your prince. Who are you to tell him he may not have an edge on his sword, ser?”


I am training knights,” Ser Rodrik said pointedly. “They will have steel when they are ready. When they are of an age.”

Notice the italicised emphasis by Rodrik on “training knights” when Clegane implies he’s molly-coddling the boys as if they were delicate damsels; and note also that Sandor doesn’t react to that by continuing to talk back to Cassel but clarifies his point by asking Robb about his age, and on being told he’s fourteen, he adds this:

I killed a man at twelve. You can be sure it was not with a blunt sword.”

Now take this exchange with Rodrik and Robb about knights and killing, and compare it to his riposte to accusations of murder at his trial by the Brotherhood:

A knight’s a sword with a horse. The rest, the vows and the sacred oils and the lady’s favours, they’re silk ribbons tied round the sword. Maybe the sword’s prettier with ribbons hanging off it, but it will kill you just as dead. Well, bugger your ribbons, and shove your swords up your arses. I’m the same as you. The only difference is, I don’t lie about what I am. So kill me, but don’t call me a murderer while you stand there telling each other that your shit don’t stink.”

Then it dawns on us that Sandor was on another edition of his characteristic “all knights are killers” spiel, having his own separate slanging of words with the young Stark and the old knight, with Joffrey as a vehicle and an accessory to him, but that his own and his prince’s respective disputes are deliberately obfuscated and mingled in the writing in order for Sandor to be tossed into the flock of Lannister-Baratheon backscratchers dutifully laughing at Joffrey’s comebacks, to be seen as a sycophantic companion to an already established as “villainous” and unlikable character this early. Which will enable the author to game with this impression by revealing the other side of the Hound and showing that, in fact, it’s Joffrey who is somewhat in awe of and looks up to Sandor as a pseudo-father, and not the other way round as we’re supposed to think here.

But why would the Hound spout his opinion on this topic precisely here of all times? Let’s consider the circumstances of each of the two disputes, first the boys: Bran and Tommen are training to fight like knights comically overprotected with all that thick padding even on the wooden swords they use, which is understandable due to their ages and the need to not cause injuries lest Ser Rodrik is called to answer to Lord Stark and the sovereigns for it. Yet the protection appears a bit thicker than usual nevertheless, on account of Tommen’s rank. As for Robb and Joffrey, they’re older and would qualify for using steel in sword practice already, the crown prince even has one, and both are of an age that lands them square on that blurry zone of transition from boyhood to manhood when youths feel pushed by the need to prove themselves to peers and elders, to compete and demonstrate that they’ve passed childish stuff over for grown-up stuff and lack self-reliance if their manliness is questioned, all of which translates into answering to challenges with ready eagerness and aggressiveness no matter how absurd. So when Joffrey points out that he wants to use a sharp-edged sword, and he two years younger, it’s a jab at Robb’s self-image that Ser Rodrik’s refusal only makes bleed worse, so he tries to reply with his fists on further taunting. Here, Cassel has again chosen caution in trying to balance his teaching duty and the need to keep the boys out of harm’s way as well as diplomatically avoid the princes’ humiliation, that clashes with Robb’s cheerleading pride for his own and his brother’s swordfighting proficiency compared to the royal family’s performance.

On the other corner, there’s the perspective of Sandor. At the same age as Tommen and Bran, he’d discovered the harshest imaginable way what knights actually were, and had been a little younger than Robb and Joff when he bloodied his sword at the Sack of King’s Landing, a nasty business for which his overlords and brother are still remembered unkindly, and whose horrors he wasn’t spared on grounds of young age as hinted by his comment about killing his first man. Besides, from his wearing full armour to a boring routine swordplay practice at dawn in next chapter instead of one less cumbersome and his show below Ned’s tower window, it seems that Sandor is another of those who go to daily workout as if to the battlefield and we can imagine he practises realistically a la Garlan-Jon-Brienne, unceremoniously pummelling his partners as if he were in the middle of a battle and not in the middle of a training yard. So, hearing the master-at-arm’s reason for withholding sharp steel from the boys with an emphasis on honour, fair play and knightly behaviour when he asks with what right does he deny a sharp-edged weapon to a prince, it’d look to Sandor that Ser Rodrik diminishes with forethought the killing aspects of swords and thusly goes counter-current to his notion that knights are just swords with a horse and that they are for killing. His exchange with Cassel is therefore one of a disenchanted non-knight and a punctilious knight disagreeing on this quite formal training with dull-edged swords and a focus on honour and knightly codes of behaviour acting as lines of demarcation to deter any wounds accidental or not amongst these high-ranking children.

What dogs do and don’t do to wolves

From that overheard conversation between Sandor and Joffrey in Winterfell, the first noteworthy line is the former’s remark that Bran is taking too long to die. This passage contains what’s probably the earliest allusion to the gift of mercy that will continue throughout the Hound’s arc. He can’t know how this accident came to be nor would have cause to suspect that the twins are the guilty party for he had gone hunting with the hosts, the king and the prince when that happened; he’d only know the same version everyone else in Winterfell must: that Bran was on his customary climbing of the castle towers and fell, breaking his spine, and is now undergoing a slow agony that can only end in death because it’s quite far-fetched to hope that such a small boy would survive that fall. His comment that he’d wish Bran would die comes out filtered through his own view of suffering, that it’s better to end it cleanly than to leave someone to endure till the pain runs its course towards death, a view that diverges from Robert’s and Jaime’s very similar comments in that Sandor doesn’t suggest killing the boy but wishes that his agony should be short and the end swift, which we could deduce is influenced by his own experience enduring indescribable pain when he was burnt (“only a man who’s been burned knows what Hell is truly like”), that would later shape his attitude towards both giving and asking for the gift of mercy. Robert and Jaime, who’ve not experienced that sort of agony, emphasise on the challenging life as a cripple that’d await the boy were he to survive, but Sandor’s words are more in the same vein as Tyrion’s defence of the grotesques, because Sandor himself is one; it’s about sparing someone the torment of an excruciatingly prolonged yet inevitable demise, and not about renouncing life as a cripple. His words to Arya in the third book on that dying soldier and on his own “deathbed” reinforce this impression.

Then Joffrey follows with a complaint about the noisy direwolf, prompting the offer by the Hound to whack the pup into silence, that causes his prince’s mirth:

Send a dog to kill a dog!” he exclaimed. “Winterfell is so infested with wolves, the Starks would never miss one.”

What are we to make of it, besides that Joffrey is funnily not discriminating between dogs and wolves and is a mathematical illiterate? Perhaps the answer to what could’ve possibly driven Clegane to wish ill upon poor fluffy Summer is in scrutinising the line just before the offer:

It’s the wolf that makes the noise. I could scarce sleep last night.”

There it is: Sandor said he could dispatch the wolfling only after the prince grumbled about a sleepless night. And knowing he’s never far from Joffrey, his own sleeping quarters must be close to the Guest House, if not therein, and he’d have also been treated to a never-ending loud howling marathon that kept him up all night like it did Joff. Ahead in the same chapter, Tyrion—who’s also been awake all night but happily reading—remarks to himself that the Hound’s fuse is shorter that morning, which makes much more sense if he had the pup to thank for the tired bad mood of the day. What wouldn’t make sense is to take this seriously as a genuine proposal to bump off the wolf, though, when Joffrey himself didn’t think it was serious and laughed as he always does at his bodyguard’s brand of wit. Moreover, Sandor knows that the direwolves are their hosts’ pets and sigil, their wet-nurses as he’d call them, and he’d be aware of how great a folly it would be to ignite a potentially unpleasant incident under Stark’s own roof by killing a dear pet belonging to the hostess’s favourite child only because it is noisy; so sleep-deprived irreverence and annoyance are more conceivable reasons for speaking as he did.

Squiring for Sandor

One of the small mysteries in Sandor’s storyline is the fate of the boy that is mentioned only once as his squire, during the slapping incident in AGOT, and is never again brought into the stage or referred to. Sansa knows more about him than most and offers us the most intimate glimpses into Sandor’s life, seems to be unaware that he has a squire, nor mentions anyone in this role in relation to him. Neither does anyone else with a decent amount of knowledge on Sandor, least of all Cersei, his own liege lady. After he’s left King’s Landing, there’s no mention of ordering to interrogate the Hound’s squire about his master’s whereabouts the way it was done with Podrick Payne when Tyrion escaped. And before, when speaking to Tyrion about him, a squire is never mentioned by über-spy Varys, who knows Sandor’s daily routine apparently well. Even Gregor’s squires are named in the books, and one is questioned by Qyburn at one point, but not a peep is heard about the younger Clegane’s squire.

In trying to puzzle out this riddle, there are four possible explanations that come to mind:

  1. Tis a hole in the plot that swallowed him.

This would be the most evident explanation: the author forgot about this unnamed character afterwards, or simply left him out. In a cast of dozens and dozens of characters to keep track of, and with innumerable people mentioned only once or twice and then forgotten after they’ve served their purpose, this wouldn’t be out of place. This sort of characters, commonly called “placeholders,” have the same role as extras in TV shows and films: they make for a crowd, serve food, drive a car by, sell flowers or coffee . . . In this context, the squire appeared because a squire was needed to assist Sandor with his armour in this scene, and in later scenes he was no longer needed, so he just faded into the background.

  1. The Hound doesn’t have a squire.

This one also makes a lot of sense on first glance, considering that Sandor is famous for detesting knights, and squires are essentially knights-in-training.

But then, Sandor himself is a knight in all but name, if we go by the strict definition of it as a mounted warrior. And not all squires become knights necessarily, nor are all those who become one knighted by the ser that trained them; and additionally, for noble boys, the post not only trains them for war but functions like a preparatory school for feudal lords. Even those who can’t become knights for reasons of religion, like the Northmen, do squire themselves and take boys to work as such, like Ned’s brother did. In this light, it wouldn’t go against Sandor’s stance to take a boy to squire and train him in the martial arts, prepare him to be a good Lannister man-at-arms if he’s a commoner or spare son, or a martially proficient feudal master if the boy is of the aristocracy. He has a reputation as a great fighter, isn’t known for mistreating his men like his brother, he’s in the intimate circle of a powerful House, and he has money for a boy’s upkeep, so there’d certainly be candidates to work for him.

Then there’s another reason, of more importance: armour. That full plate armour knights and noblemen wear to tourney and battlefield isn’t easy to put on all by oneself, and requires assistance from helping hands. When boys are training, the first things they learn are to use a wooden sword and about the different parts of armour, the basic ABC’s so to speak, and that’s why they’re assigned to cleaning weaponry and helping their masters to put armour on. Of course, Sandor isn’t always in plate armour; he’s described in the books wearing chainmail and boiled leather too, simpler to put on without help. But still, he does wear plate like in this chapter, and later often enough to need helpers. And let’s not forget that this is the man who criticised Ser Hugh of the Vale for arming himself without aid (and getting killed by Gregor for that mistake), and who also mentioned to Joffrey “the bother” that arming oneself can be; it would be neglectful to the point of stupidity for him to relinquish the services of a boy conscientious in his squiring duties.

  1. The Imp was mistaken.

Tyrion might’ve been using the term “squire” rather loosely, as in a blanket description encompassing the grooms and servants swarming round Sandor and Joffrey alongside the proper squires, so that boy wouldn’t be a squire really. But this brings us back to the problem addressed above of how unlikely it is that Sandor would dispose of such help or take just any random groom or stableboy to assist him with armour. Alternately, that boy was a squire for sure, only not Sandor’s personal one; which sounds likelier when we factor in that Tyrion doesn’t live at court and wouldn’t necessarily be aware of all household minutiae, so he honestly thought it was the Hound’s boy. Which brings us to the following point . . .

  1. Twas one of the Lannister household squires.

Another explanation is that the boy was a House Lannister squire, either one of Joffrey’s or one of those serving all the knights employed by Cersei in her personal detachment of guards that Sandor was commanding at the time. This finds support in Arya’s observation of the yard squabble that mentions Joffrey surrounded by “young squires in the livery of Lannister and Baratheon.” It’s not uncommon for wealthy nobles and royals to have several squires at once and not just one: Robert has two, Gregor has two, Jaime has three, etc., so it’s probable that Joffrey has more than one as well, and as the prince’s shield and queen’s man, Sandor is entitled to take on anyone else in their service from man-at-arms to stableboy as required for the heir’s safety. Therefore, if he doesn’t have a personal squire, he makes use of Joffrey’s squires or a household one paid by his superiors to serve a number of knights at once, both of which would be well-trained enough to satisfy the Hound’s standards for efficiency.

Personally, option A and option D resonate as the most plausible, and both are compatible too, as one doesn’t negate the other and can even be combined, like that the boy could be a Lannister squire serving Sandor, who was either forgotten or wasn’t important enough for the author to show onstage again.

Of Hounds and Imps

On the animosity between Sandor and Tyrion a lot has been theorised, but as GRRM hasn’t included an explicit backstory for it—or hasn’t revealed it yet if there’s one—all that we have for now is a general notion that it was written for thematic relevance to the plot, which required both men to be at cross purposes for narrative reasons, into which the author hasn’t given any insight and that could stay as is or be expanded on later.

Reasonable inferences do however come from looking past the scope of this chapter specifically at the Lannister family dynamics. The seeds of this enmity could’ve been planted in the Tyrion-Cersei rivalry that, as we saw during their Queen Regent vs. Hand of the King feuding in ACOK, can drag into the fray everyone round them working for their divided House, and even humble domestic hirelings are involved with all that bribing and counter-bribing for espionage. And because both siblings have been at it practically since the younger one was born, Sandor would’ve been drawn into the conflict as soon as he set foot in front of Cersei to be sworn in as her shield. Or earlier, because he’d first gone to Tywin at Casterly, who chose Sandor to guard his daughter, and would’ve implicitly allowed the friction to thrive bearing in mind his own attitude towards his dwarf son. In any case, it’s possible that this fledgling dislike between both men was just that at the beginning: simple mutual dislike and swapping of reciprocal derogatory words, and it flourished over the years as Sandor tested his mettle as the queen’s dog and proved himself loyal whilst Tyrion’s relationship with his sister grew worse. Both men are equally prone to smartarsery and sassing others, and in the case of the Imp there’s his tendency to intentionally push everyone’s hottest buttons by mouthing off to them on volatile topics, like the slaps he got from Cersei for tweaking her nose on the incest or the tooth he lost to Jorah’s knuckles for the khaleesi; so he might have also mouthed off to Sandor at some point on very touchy matters (his inner thought on Sandor’s face is a hint) either alone with the big man or during some confrontational scene between Lannisters. And the Hound doesn’t lag far behind in paying the Imp with the same “gold” either, with the acquiescence of the queen.

Whatever the causa originalis was, Sandor has served successively Tywin, Cersei and Joffrey, precisely the three out of the six lions forming the nucleus of House Lannister who happen to be at odds with Tyrion and hate him; so independently of Clegane’s work for them as originator or not of this hostility, the intrafamilial dynamics should’ve at a minimum thrown more wood on the fire by creating plenty of opportunities for both to engage in their outspoken exchanges.

Back to the current scene, there’s more to their conversation than their matching mouthiness. Here, Joffrey has amply earned a good cracking across the face for his behaviour, but he’s still the heir to the throne and in the Seven Kingdoms to hit a royal is a punishable offence regardless of the justness of motivations. This is an uncle berating a bratty nephew, yet when the brat’s mummy is Queen Cersei this puts Sandor in a tricky position because he was assigned by her to protect her precious boy. Joffrey likely knows his father the king will just wave it away as not worth his time if he complained of a few slaps that did nothing to his face other than redden it, so he threatens to tell Mother, who has a track record of reacting strongly to any insult and injury to her firstborn, like when she told Robert she’d kill him if he hit Joff again or the Trident incident we’ll discuss later. If Mother were told, she would summon Sandor post-haste to do some explaining for merely standing there as the prince was struck.

Sandor does more than stand by and observe, though; he speaks up:

The prince will remember that, little lord,” the Hound warned him. The helm turned his laugh into a hollow rumble.

I pray he does,” Tyrion Lannister replied. “If he forgets, be a good dog and remind him.”

This is much like the advice he’ll later give Sansa on how to behave with Joffrey to save herself some pain; advice that he’ll repeat a second time when he reencounters Tyrion in King’s Landing. Guard your tongue, stay your hand, don’t bring it on yourself, this prince isn’t one to forgive. That’s essentially all he’s recommending. But Tyrion’s tongue is his blessing as well as his curse, and by now Sandor has lived amongst lions for long enough to expect that the Imp won’t pay any heed to his forewarning, and he laughs knowingly. Retrospectively, his was a good point seeing how Tyrion’s second time hitting Joffrey during the bread riots was used as proof against him at his kingslaying trial, where this incident at Winterfell goes curiously unremembered. Which might indicate that, in the end, Joffrey didn’t tell Mother nor did the Hound.






The Trident Incident


The soldier, be he friend or foe, is charged with the protection of the weak and unarmed.

It is the very essence and reason for his being.

If he violates this sacred trust, he profanes his entire culture.”

Douglas MacArthur.

By OldGimletEye


The death of Mycah is one of the most shocking and saddest events in ASOIAF. The manner of Mycah’s death serves notice to us that ASOIAF is not a “Disneyland Middle Ages”.1 Mycah is killed, of course, by Sandor Clegane, a.k.a. “The Hound”. It’s probably more than fair to say that our initial reaction to Mycah’s death is to despise and loathe Sandor. Mycah’s death makes Sandor look like nothing more than a mindless and sadistic murderer.

 As the story progresses, though, we learn that Sandor isn’t a simple-minded murderer. We learn that he is a very complex human being. It’s true that Sandor is often obnoxious and rude and that he often says things that sound awful, but a simple-minded murderer he is not.

The fact remains, though, that Sandor killed Mycah. For very understandable reasons, Sandor’s actions with regard to Mycah remain highly controversial. Often when Sandor’s character is discussed, arguments over Sandor’s killing of Mycah break out. One side of the argument will explain Sandor’s actions as “just following orders”. To which, the other side invariably responds with “Nuremburg”.

There are, however, at least two conceptual problems with mentioning “Nuremburg” when it comes to Sandor’s killing of Mycah. The first conceptual problem is whether Sandor’s actions were even illegal according to Westeros’ law. Theoretically, at least, the tribunals at Nuremburg tried war criminals for breaking international and national laws that had been established before the outbreak of World War Two.2 The second conceptual problem with casual mentions of Nuremburg is that those mentions often assume that “the superior orders defense” died at Nuremburg. It did not.

The notion that a soldier is not legally responsible for actions that he committed while following orders is typically known as the “the superior orders defense”.3 In many jurisdictions, a limited form of the superior orders defense is still a viable defense for soldiers accused of committing crimes under orders.

Since disputes about Sandor’s killing of Mycah so often revolve around the question of “just following orders”, I think it might be useful to look at how Sandor’s case might be actually be resolved under “modern” doctrines of dealing with soldiers accused of committing crimes while under orders.4

To orient the reader, I will briefly state here the plan of attack. First, I will review the factual circumstances around Mycah’s death. It’s important to note here that not only are the facts around Mycah’s death important, but the “legal facts” about Westeros are important too. The “legal facts” are important because the modern law of war crimes ultimately concerns itself with actual crimes committed by soldiers and not merely questionable or bad ethical acts. After discussing the facts and the “legal facts”, I’ll proceed to give a brief overview of the various approaches to the superior orders defense. Next, I will apply the approaches to Sandor’s case. I’ll then wrap up this discussion with some concluding remarks about Sandor and his killing of Mycah.


As we know, Joffrey, along with Sansa, found Arya and Mycah playing near the Trident. Joffrey proceeded to bully Mycah. Arya, attempting to defend Mycah from Joffrey’s bullying, hit Joffrey in the back of the head with a stick, causing a laceration to the back of Joffrey’s head. Arya and Joffrey then got into an altercation. During this altercation, Nymeria bit Joffrey in the arm. Also, during the altercation, Mycah fled. Joffrey’s and Arya’s altercation ended when Arya fled from the scene.

Lannister troops were sent to find Arya and Mycah. Stark troops were sent to find Arya, but we do not know exactly whether they were instructed to find Mycah as well. Eventually, Stark soldiers found Arya and attempted to return her to Ned Stark. But Lannister soldiers were guarding the gate at Raymun Darry’s castle. On orders from Cersei, the Lannister soldiers had Arya taken immediately to the audience chamber of the Darry Castle, where Robert Baratheon was waiting with Cersei and Joffrey. Ned then proceeded to the audience chamber. Upon entering the audience chamber, Ned noticed thick silk bandages on Joffrey’s arm. Shortly after his arrival, Arya began to give her version of the events at the Trident. After Arya concluded her testimony, Joffrey began to give his version of events. Joffrey’s untruthful version of events was very different from Arya’s. Joffrey claimed that he had been attacked, without provocation, by both Arya and Mycah. Joffrey further claimed that Mycah and Arya had attacked him with clubs. After having been attacked by clubs, Joffrey stated that Nymeria had bitten him. At some point, Sansa Stark was brought to the audience chamber in order to give her testimony. Sansa claimed that she didn’t remember the events near the Trident.

After Sansa’s failure to testify, Robert decreed that he wouldn’t punish Arya. Cersei, upset about Robert’s refusal to punish Arya, insisted that a direwolf be punished. Unable to put his foot down, Robert acquiesced to Cersei’s demands. The execution of Lady was ordered, although Lady had not bitten Joffrey. Ned decided to carry out Lady’s execution himself.

After Lady’s execution and death, Ned was met by Sandor. Sandor had with him several Lannister soldiers whom Sandor was in command of. Sandor stated that he and his soldiers had been sent out to find Arya. Sandor also stated that, while his party had not found Arya, it had found Mycah. Sandor then presented Mycah’s dead body to Ned, telling Ned that he had killed Mycah. Sandor then made statements about the manner of Mycah’s death that were rather callous. Mycah was at or near 13 years old at the time of his death.

As the novels progress, we get a few more important details about the circumstances surrounding Sandor’s killing of Mycah. Ned tells Arya that the death of Mycah was the responsibility of Cersei and Sandor. Ned’s comment to Arya implied that Cersei had ordered Mycah’s death. Later in SOS, Sandor is captured by the Brotherhood without Banners (BWB). After his capture by the BWB, Arya accused Sandor of murdering Mycah. Sandor admitted to killing Mycah, but stated that he did so upon being ordered to. Sandor further stated that Mycah had attacked Joffrey and that was the reason for the order being given to him. Sandor also stated that Sansa had confirmed the unprovoked attack upon Joffrey. After hearing Sandor’s justification for killing Mycah, Beric Dondarrion, the leader of the BWB, asked Sandor whether he saw Mycah attack Joffrey. Sandor told Beric that he had not and that it wasn’t his place to question princes. Beric’s reaction to Sandor’s statements was not to immediately execute Sandor. Apparently, Beric believed that Sandor had pled a prima facie defense.5 Beric, therefore, ordered that Sandor be given a trial by combat. Sandor won the trial by combat and was granted his freedom by Beric.

Finally, in Chapter 30: Jaime, AFFC, we get some details regarding the events immediately before Mycah’s death. Jaime recounts the events to Ilyn Payne. Pointing to a window in the Darry Castle, Jaime states:

That was Raymun Darry’s bedchamber. Where King Robert slept, on our return from Winterfell. Ned Stark’s daughter had run off after her wolf savaged Joff, you’ll recall. My sister wanted the girl to lose a hand. The old penalty, for striking one of the blood royal. Robert told her she was cruel and mad. They fought for half the night . . . well, Cersei fought, and Robert drank. Past midnight, the queen summoned me inside. The king was passed out snoring on the Myrish carpet. I asked my sister if she wanted me to carry him to bed. She told me I should carry her to bed, and shrugged out of her robe. I took her on Raymun Darry’s bed after stepping over Robert. If His Grace had woken I would have killed him there and then. He would not have been the first king to die upon my sword . . . but you know that story, don’t you?” He slashed at a tree branch, shearing it in half. “As I was fucking her, Cersei cried, ‘I want.’ I thought that she meant me, but it was the Stark girl that she wanted, maimed or dead.” The things I do for love. “It was only by chance that Stark’s own men found the girl before me. If I had come on her first . . .”


Comparisons of Sandor’s case with Nuremburg or with post-Nuremburg cases would be difficult without having any notion about what the law is in Westeros. The law of war crimes concerns itself with the breaking of laws, and not merely questionable ethical acts committed by soldiers. Accordingly, some discussion about the “legal facts” of Westeros is necessary.

Despite being often a cruel and barbaric place, Westeros does have laws. Some of these laws even regulate moral and ethical conduct. Many or most of these laws, of course, wouldn’t be found in any book of legal statues. They would be established by both tradition and custom. It would be a mistake to think that tradition and custom aren’t legitimate sources of law. One only need look at those countries that follow the common law legal tradition to know that tradition and custom can establish the law.

With respect to the current discussion, a few legal facts need to be established. They are: 1) who is authorized to judge cases and to mete out punishment, 2) what are the penalties that may be given out, and 3) what are the procedural rights and/or trial rights given to those accused of crimes.

A great deal about how the law in Westeros works is found in The Sworn Sword. In The Sworn Sword, Rohanne Webber, the Lady of Coldmoat, states that lords or ladies have the right of “pit and gallows”. The right to “pit and gallows” simply means the right to imprison and to impose the death penalty for offenses.6 This right of “pit and gallows”, however, is limited to the lord’s or lady’s own lands, as Egg (later known as Aegon V) points out to Rohanne. In short, the lords and ladies have a significant amount of authority to punish crimes that is only limited by territorial jurisdiction.

There seems to be pretty standard penalties for certain crimes, within Westeros. For instance, the crime of rape usually seems to be punished by gelding or castration of the offender. The crime of theft seems to be punished with the loss of fingers. The penalty for striking one of royal blood is typically the loss of the offending appendage, as established by Baelor Breakspear’s comments to Dunk in The Hedge Knight and Jaime’s comments in Chapter 30, AFFC .

However, it appears that the lords and ladies in Westeros have a great deal of discretion when deciding upon punishments. At the begging of The Sworn Sword, Dunk and Egg come upon two rotting corpses stuffed in a crow cage. Dunk and Egg have some discussion about what crimes the two dead men could have committed to merit such a harsh punishment. Dunk suggests that their offense could have been poaching, robbery, rape, or murder. Also, in The Sworn Sword, Rohanne Webber implies that she might execute Ser Bennis for his assault upon one of her small folk, if Ser Bennis is not handed over to her peacefully.

In Westeros, it appears that lords and ladies quite often delegate their authority to judge crimes to others. Randyll Tarly administers justice in Maidenpool, well outside his own ancestral lands, on behalf of King Tommen Baratheon. When Ned Stark leaves for King’s Landing, he presumably leaves Catelyn Stark with the authority to administer judicial cases.

Another feature of Westeros is that all persons that have at least the social rank of hedge knight are entitled to a minimal level of trial rights. In The Hedge Knight, Dunk, a lowly hedge knight, is entitled to a trial by combat for his assault upon Aerion Brightflame. In A Game of Thrones, it is made clear that Lysa Arryn cannot deny Tyrion Lannister a trial or a trial by combat. However, it is never made apparent that the smallfolk of Westeros are entitled to any level of trial rights.


Trying to apply “modern” doctrines regarding the superiors order defense might seem like a useless intellectual exercise. But there are four reasons to apply it. For one, “just following orders” as full defense for a soldier’s illegal acts has not been historically accepted. The ancient Roman military code, evidently, rejected “the just following orders” defense.7 And, apparently, medieval canon law rejected it as well.8 Accordingly, assertions claiming that limitations upon superior orders are a relatively modern notion miss the mark. Likewise, assertions claiming codes of conduct that regulate the actions of soldiers are a relatively modern invention also miss the mark. Secondly, there are, within Westeros, standards of appropriate conduct. Stannis gelds his soldiers for raping wildling women. Ned Stark, as Hand, orders that Gregor Clegane be punished for his role in the murder of smallfolk. Brienne considers the killing of commoner women to be shameful. Robb Stark executes Rickard Karstark for murdering unarmed prisoners of war. Thirdly, trying to do such an analysis might help to flesh out all the relevant facts and circumstances with regard to Sandor’s killing of Mycah. Finally, while the modern doctrines regarding soldier behavior are not perfect guides to ethical behavior, they do, arguably, help to sort out the truly atrocious cases from the morally gray ones. There are three approaches to handling the superior orders defense. They will be briefly explained here.

  1. Full Defense Approach to the Superior Orders

The first approach is the full defense approach. The full defense approach relieves a soldier from any criminal liability so long as he operated under an order from a superior. As mentioned, this approach has not historically ever been generally accepted, at least in European history. Its heyday as a doctrine was during the late Nineteenth Century and the early Twentieth Century.9 Generally, it died as a doctrine during the Nuremburg trials. It’s probably fair to say that the full defense approach would have very few defenders. Accordingly, no further discussion of it will be made here.

  1. Absolute Liability Approach to Superior Orders

The second approach is the absolute liability approach. Under the absolute liability approach, an order is never a defense to an illegal act committed by a soldier. However, typically the fact that a superior order was given may be considered in mitigation when punishment is being decided. Officially, it was the absolute liability approach that was used by the tribunals at Nuremburg.10 The absolute liability approach is currently used by the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

Also, it needs to be noted that mistake of fact is still a valid defense under the absolute liability approach.11

  1. Conditional Liability Approach to Superior Orders

The final approach is the conditional liability approach. Conceptually, perhaps the easiest way to think of the conditional liability approach is that it’s a limited mistake of law defense.12 The conditional liability approach is the most prevalent approach to the superior orders defense in Western democratic states.13 It’s also the approach used by the Rome Statute of the ICC.14 Under the conditional liability approach, a soldier accused of a crime may plead superior orders as a defense. For the most part, in jurisdictions that use the conditional liability approach, a plea of superior orders will be a valid defense, so long as the soldier did not follow a “manifestly illegal” order.15

The policy rationale behind the conditional liability approach is to balance the reality that obedience and discipline are part and parcel of a soldier’s training, with the need of preventing soldiers from engaging in the most egregious forms of conduct.16 Military organizations simply cannot function without discipline and obedience17. Soldiers are taught from the day they begin their training the importance of promptly obeying orders from their superiors. On the other hand, individual nations, along with the international community as a whole, have a strong interest in preventing atrocities being committed by members of military forces. Accordingly, it is necessary to hold soldiers accountable for certain types of conduct even if the conduct was done under an order.

A manifestly illegal order was described by Judge Halevy, in the Kafr Qasim Case. He described it as:18

The distinguishing mark of a “manifestly unlawful order” should fly like a black flag above the order given. ..Not formal unlawfulness, hidden or half hidden, nor unlawfulness discernible only to the eyes of legal experts.. ..Unlawfulness appearing on the face of the order itself…Unlawfulness piercing the eye and revolting the heart, be the eye not blind nor the heart stony and corrupt, that is the measure of “manifest unlawfulness” required to release a soldier from the duty of obedience.

A manifestly illegal order was also described by the court in Her Majesty the Queen v. Imre Finta. It wrote:19

When is an order from a superior manifestly unlawful? It must be one that offends the conscience of every reasonable, right-thinking person; it must be an order which is obviously and flagrantly wrong. The order cannot be in a grey area or be merely questionable; rather it must patently and obviously be wrong. For example the order of King Herod to kill babies under two years of age would offend and shock the conscience of the most hardened soldier.


Sandor’s killing of Mycah would only constitute a crime if Sandor had illegally followed Cersei’s orders. For Sandor to have illegally followed orders, two minimum initial conditions have to be met. First, the order itself would have to be illegal. Secondly, to extent the order was illegal in some respect, it would have to be shown that Sandor didn’t have a mistake of fact defense.

If there was no illegality to Cersei’s order or if Sandor had some viable mistake of fact of defense, then Sandor would not be guilty of murdering Mycah, even under the absolute liability approach.

In Sandor’s particular case, there are questions of mistakes of fact and, potentially, mistakes of law.20 As mentioned, a mistake of fact defense is permissible even under the absolute liability approach to the superior orders defense whereas mistake of law defenses are generally not. Of course, a mistake of law is permitted under the conditional liability approach to the superior orders defense. With respect to Sandor’s killing of Mycah there appears to be two mistake of fact issues and three mistake of law issues.

The two mistake of fact issues are: 1) whether Sandor could have plausibly believed that Mycah had in fact committed a crime which merited punishment, and 2) whether Sandor could have plausibly believed that Robert had given Cersei the authority to punish Mycah for his alleged crime, or, at least, had acquiesced to Cersei’s demand for such punishment. The reason these two issues are mistake of fact issues is because if Sandor could not have plausibly believed that Mycah had committed a crime or that Cersei had the authority to punish said crime, then Cersei’s order to Sandor would have not been just illegal but manifestly illegal.

The three mistake of law, or just plain law, issues are: 1) whether the punishment to be delivered to Mycah went beyond that authorized for an assault, not resulting in death, upon a person of royal blood, 2) whether capital punishment could be delivered to one of Mycah’s age, and 3) whether any procedural or trial right of Mycah was violated under Westerosi law.

Was It Plausible For Sandor To Have Believed That Mycah Had Committed A Crime?

It’s possible that Sandor may have had his doubts about the veracity of Joffrey’s story. However, it’s important to remember that Sandor was employed as a soldier and not as judge. His situation was much like what Justice Robert H. Jackson described to Harry Truman, when Jackson wrote about possible scenarios where the the superior orders defense would be valid.21 Jackson wrote:22

There is doubtless a sphere in which the defense of obedience to superior orders should prevail. If a conscripted or enlisted soldier is put on a firing squad, he should not be held responsible for the validity of the sentence he carries out. But the case may be greatly altered where one has discretion because of rank or the latitude of his orders.

Joffrey did have extensive injuries to his arm. He also likely had a laceration on the back of his head from being hit by a stick. The bottom line is that Joffrey did have physical injuries to back up his untruthful claims. It’s true of course that soldiers may not be willfully blind to facts.23 But, soldiers are not expected to go on extensive fact-finding missions in order to determine the legality of an order.24 Most likely Sandor did have a reasonable basis to believe that Mycah had perpetrated a crime against Joffrey.

Before leaving the issue of whether Sandor had a reasonable basis to believe that Mycah had unlawfully assaulted Joffrey, there is one additional factual issue to consider. After being accused of murder by Arya, Sandor claimed that Sansa had corroborated Joffrey’s version of events. We as readers, of course, know that is not true. Sansa did no such thing. So from whom did Sandor hear this bit of information? And when did he hear it? If Sandor had been told before he went looking for Mycah that Sansa had corroborated Joffrey’s story, then that would bolster the argument that Sandor had reasonably believed that Mycah had committed an offense.

Could Sandor Have Plausibly Believed That Cersei Had The Authority To Order Punishment For Mycah?

From The Sworn Sword, we know that lords or ladies are only empowered to order punishments for crimes upon their own lands. Mycah’s alleged offense did not happen in the Westerlands, Cersei’s ancestral home. Accordingly, whatever powers to judge and punish criminal cases Tywin would have delegated to Cersei did not apply in the Riverlands. If Cersei had any authority to order punishments for an alleged crime, then that authority would have had to be derived from Robert Baratheon who, as king, was presumably empowered to punish offenses anywhere in Westeros.

If Sandor had known that Cersei had been prohibited by Robert to impose punishment upon Mycah, then Sandor’s killing of Mycah would have been illegal. In fact, Sandor’s actions wouldn’t be merely illegal but most likely would have been manifestly illegal. On the other hand, if Sandor plausibly but erroneously believed that Cersei had such authority, then he would not be guilty of having committed an illegal act.

As a preliminary matter, it must be acknowledged that Cersei Lannister was Sandor’s liege lady and direct superior. Because Cersei was Sandor’s direct superior, he had little reason to interact with Robert. Anyone that has had military experience knows the importance of the chain of command. Going over a superior’s head is not something that is done lightly as it’s usually seen as a serious breach of professional courtesy and protocol. In many respects, feudal societies mirror military organizations very closely because feudal societies are very hierarchical by their very nature. Although in theory a vassal may have duties to the liege lord of his liege lord, the actual practice seems to have been, generally, that the vassal would give the bulk of his loyalty to his direct liege lord.25 In Westeros, the “chain of command” seems to be more or less in operation. Lords do not give orders to the common soldiers of their bannermen but to the bannermen themselves. In short, there is no reason to believe that Robert would have typically given direct orders to Lannister soldiers. His commands to Lannister soldiers would have gone through either Tywin or Cersei.

Although Sandor may not have had much direct interaction with Robert, it’s likely that he knew the general nature of Cersei’s and Robert’s relationship. Sandor had served Cersei for years. Accordingly, he probably would have known that Robert had a rather difficult time standing up to Cersei’s demands. At the audience chamber of the Darry Castle, Robert did put his foot down when Cersei demanded that Arya be punished. However, Robert was seemingly unable to stand up to Cersei’s demands that Lady be punished. Although Cersei’s insistence that Lady be killed was clearly unjust, Robert was willing to acquiesce on that point. In short, Cersei bent Robert to her will with respect to Lady’s execution. A good illustration of Robert’s manner of handling Cersei’s unreasonable demands was recounted by Jaime Lannister in Chapter 30 of AFFC, which was discussed in the fact section of this essay.

From Jaime’s recollection, it’s fairly evident that Robert had a difficult time expressly refusing Cersei’s demand that Arya be physically harmed. Robert’s reaction to Cersei’s demands was to get drunk. Sandor might not have thought that Robert would demand that Mycah be punished, but it is not unreasonable to believe that Sandor might have thought that Robert had simply acquiesced to Cersei’s demands that Mycah be punished.

Arguably, Sandor could have gone to Robert in order to verify the legitimacy of Cersei’s order. But, this assertion forgets one important fact. It would have been rather drastic for Sandor to have gone over Cersei’s head. By going over her head, Sandor would have most certainly incurred the wrath of Cersei and, perhaps, Tywin too. It would have been seen as an act of disloyalty on Sandor’s part. Further, Sandor would have had to risk Cersei’s wrath under a great deal of uncertainty as to the result of going to Robert. Given Robert’s careless nature and the difficulty Robert had with putting his foot down with Cersei, Sandor couldn’t have had any reasonable certainty that going to Robert would have resulted in anything different from what he was ordered. Sandor’s own, not inaccurate, assessment of Robert was “If he couldn’t fuck it, fight it or drink it, it bored him”. While the cases resulting from Nuremburg, and the cases thereafter, highly suggest that soldiers are to risk life and limb rather than follow an illegal order, there is very little case law to suggest that soldiers are to risk life and limb to investigate the legality of an order.

While in the audience chamber of the Darry Castle, nobody broached the issue of Mycah’s fate. Not even Ned Stark. Why Ned did not seems to be a bit of a mystery. Whatever the reason, none of the nobles mentioned Mycah’s fate. If the highborn nobility didn’t give much thought to Mycah’s fate, then it’s hard to comprehend how it ought to be expected of Sandor to think that Mycah’s fate, as ordered by Cersei, was unusual. Sandor might have thought that Mycah’s ordered punishment was harsh. But it’s difficult to fathom that his ordered punishment would have raised the proverbial black flag, given the lack of concern for Mycah’s fate at the Darry Castle.

Also, before the events at the Darry Castle there was no effort by anyone to recall Lannister troops from the field or to relay to them any order with regard to Mycah. That Lannister troops were scouring the area was well known and was not a secret. Sandor had no cause to believe that being sent into the field was unusual.

Finally, that Sandor had no cause to see the proverbial black flag because of Cersei’s order to him seems to have been reinforced by Beric’s reaction, after Sandor gave his reason for killing Mycah. After being accused of the murder of Mycah by Arya, Sandor does not deny killing Mycah. He simply tells Beric that he was ordered to kill Mycah because Mycah had attacked Joffrey. After Sandor gave that justification, which was basically the superior orders defense, Beric did not reject Sandor’s defense out of hand. Beric simply asked, “Did you see the boy attack Prince Joffrey?”. Beric, evidently, did not see Sandor’s asserted defense as being invalid on its face. Accordingly, Beric granted Sandor a trial by combat rather than merely executing Sandor, after Sandor admitted to killing Mycah.

It seems plausible that Sandor wouldn’t have seen anything particularly unusual about Cersei’s order, except maybe the severity of the punishment that Cersei wanted imposed upon Mycah.

Did Cersei’s Ordered Punishment Go Beyond What Was Authorized?

From The Hedge Knight and from Chapter 30: Jaime, AFFC, we know that the traditional penalty for kicking or punching one of royal blood was the loss of the offending appendage. The issue here is whether the traditional penalty was controlling precedent in Mycah’s case. If it was, then Cersei’s order would have been illegal.

There are two reasons to doubt that the traditional penalty was controlling precedent. First, the allegations made by Joffrey were that he had been hit with clubs and had been bitten by Nymeria, suffering severe arm wounds. Arguably, the assault upon Joffrey was much more egregious than having been kicked with a foot or hit with a fist. Secondly, from The Sworn Sword it is suggested that the lords and ladies of Westeros have a great deal of discretion when deciding upon punishments for criminal offenses. Cersei’s punishment for Mycah might have been very harsh, but it is difficult to conclude that it was illegal because of prior precedent dealing with assaults upon those of royal blood.

Even if Cersei’s chosen punishment were illegal, because prior precedent was controlling, it would be difficult to conclude that it was manifestly illegal to a person similarly situated as Sandor. Sandor was trained as a soldier, not as a Maester, specializing in the law. He could not be expected to pick through the finer points of Westerosi legal precedent in order to determine whether Mycah’s sentence, given the allegations, were unlawful. As Baelor Breakspear told Dunk, allegations of striking a prince is a serious affair. It is difficult to conclude that Sandor should have seen a black flag with respect to Cersei’s ordered punishment for Mycah.

Was Mycah Too Young to Receive a Death Sentence Under Westeros’ Law?

In Westeros, there appears to be no general prohibition on a 13-year-old receiving a death sentence for their criminal conduct. Cersei intended to execute Sansa Stark for her alleged role in Joffrey’s death. Cersei’s intended punishment for Sansa does not appear to elicit a great deal of outrage among the people aware of the intended punishment. In short, Sansa’s age doesn’t seem to be a bar against her receiving an execution for her alleged crime.

Also Westeros’ general attitude towards minors is certainly different from our own. This is clearly highlighted by the fact that, in Westeros, boys as young as 12 years of age are sent into combat. Sandor himself first saw combat at only 12 years of age. Adam Osgrey died at 12 years of age while in combat. Podrick Payne was around 12 or 13 years of age when he fought at the Battle of the Blackwater.

It is hard to conclude that Mycah’s age precluded a sentence of capital punishment. And it is certainly more difficult to conclude that Cersei’s ordered punishment for Mycah was manifestly illegal.

Was Mycah’s Trial Or Procedural Rights Violated?

The law in Westeros does not appear to grant any special trial rights to the smallfolk. Accordingly, it is hard to conclude that Cersei’s order was unlawful because it violated Mycah’s trial or procedural rights.

The fact that in Westeros nobles are granted some minimal level of trial rights, while the small folk are not, shows the very classist nature of Westeros.26 It’s hard to hold Sandor personally accountable for the classicist nature of Westerosi society.


Sandor’s actions regarding Mycah will always be troubling. However, when debating Sandor’s actions with respect to Mycah, assertions about his degree of culpability, based on rather casual mentions about Nuremburg, are likely to be off the mark. Ultimately, at Nuremburg, and thereafter, soldiers were tried and convicted for breaking the law.27

It’s true, of course, that what is legal is not always moral or ethical. But, it is also probably true that most people’s value systems are highly influenced by the societies in which they live. Quite often it is by the law that a society most strongly shows its disapproval of certain types of conduct. The law helps to put people on notice as to what types of conduct are wrong or inappropriate. It’s much more reasonable to expect individuals to follow moral and ethical norms when those ethical and moral norms are backed by the law, or, at least, widely accepted standards of conduct. On the other hand, when moral or ethical norms are contradicted by the law or widely accepted modes of practice, some degree of ethical confusion by moral agents ought to be expected. Accordingly, Sandor’s killing of Mycah needs to be understood within the context of the social institutions and the legal framework that exists in Westeros.28

Although Sandor’s killing of Mycah might not have been illegal or manifestly illegal, it does not necessarily follow that his actions with respect to Mycah are free of all ethical baggage. Modern doctrines regarding the superior orders defense do not guarantee perfect ethical conduct by soldiers operating under orders. Even the absolute liability approach to the superior orders defense does not guarantee perfect moral conduct by soldiers because it does not inquire into whether a soldier made the best moral choice, in a given situation, but only whether the soldiers actions were legal.29 However, both the absolute liability approach and conditional liability approach to the superior orders doctrine do separate out the truly atrocious cases of soldier conduct from the morally gray ones.

It may be fair to say that with respect to Mycah, Sandor did the “bare minimum”. If Sandor did not take any “extra steps” to discover the truth about Mycah’s it’s likely because of Sandor’s general disposition of “blaming the system”. That Sandor does seem to be a bit predisposed to “blaming the system” for his ethically questionable conduct seems to have been indicated when he told Sansa Stark, on top of the Red Keep, that “I’m honest. It’s the world that’s awful.” Sandor’s habit of “blaming the system” is likely to be his biggest moral and ethical weakness.

Certainly Sandor ought to be troubled by his actions with regard to Mycah. If Sandor is troubled by his killing of Mycah, it’s important that that he draw some appropriate lessons from his role in Mycah’s death. Perhaps the most important lesson that Sandor should learn is that if he is to create no more Mycahs, he can’t simply be the good obedient dog anymore, should he ever take up arms again. Fortunately, since leaving his Lannister masters, Sandor describes himself being “his own dog”. By “being his own dog”, hopefully Sandor will be more proactive in deciding who he will kill and who he will not, even if ordered to do so. Ironically, by being bit of a “bad dog”, Sandor may end up being a better moral actor.

Fortunately, Sandor does seem to be troubled by his killing of Mycah. In one conversion with Arya, Sandor tells Arya that the killing of Mycah might make him a “monster” but that he also saved Sansa’s life. If Sandor wasn’t troubled by the killing of Mycah, there would be little reason for Sandor to explain to Arya his good acts. In another conversation with Arya about Mycah, Sandor angrily tells Arya not to mention Mycah again, as if he doesn’t want to be reminded about the incident.

Sandor might be a highly effective warrior and killer, but there is little to suggest that he is the sort of person to kill a thirteen year old boy just because he wanted to do so. In ASOS, during Sandor’s time in the Riverlands, we never see him kill unless in self-defense, not even when he is angered. Shortly after his trial by combat, Beric makes a rather curious remark about Sandor. Beric states that while Sandor would gladly kill the members of the BWB for appropriating his gold, Sandor would not do it while they slept. This suggests that Sandor has some self-imposed limits upon killing. It’s as if Sandor has some notion that fights ought to be fair. In Chapter 30: Jaime, AFFC, we get a bit more insight into Sandor’s character. Jaime is told about the atrocities committed at the Saltpans and that Sandor Clegane is responsible for them. Jaime, however, has doubts about whether Sandor is responsible for the atrocious acts committed at the Saltpans. Jaime thinks that Sandor is a hard and brutal man, but the commission of pointless atrocities is not within Sandor’s mode of operation. Sandor is not the sort of man to kill for purposes of entertainment.

In sum, Sandor’s killing of Mycah was a horrible act, but it doesn’t make Sandor a monster. Jaime Lannister was right when he said that the real monster in the Clegane family was Gregor, not Sandor.



1. Interview by John Hodgeman, Public Radio International(PRI), with George R.R. Martin(Sept 21, 2011) (Martin criticizes fantasy works portraying “Disneyland” Middle Ages).

2. Anyone with more than a passing familiarity with Nuremburg Tribunals knows that their legitimacy was questioned. Among other things, the Nuremburg Tribunals were accused of applying retroactive criminal laws. The Nuremburg Tribunals, however, vigorously denied applying ex post facto laws. The tribunals maintained they had judged the Nazi war criminals according to established law. Some sources of said law, according to the Tribunals, were 1) The 1907 Hague Convention, 2) The 1929 Geneva Convention, 3) The 1928 Pact of Paris, and 4) Established Rules and Customs of War.

3. I generally avoid here any discussion about other possible defenses that soldiers may have like duress and necessity for two reasons. For one, neither duress or necessity are directly applicable to Sandor’s case. Secondly, I omit any discussion of them for purposes of brevity.

4. I use the term “modern” very loosely in this essay. The issue of the superior orders defense has been around long before Nuremburg and the Twentieth Century. And, certainly, it isn’t the case that the superior orders defense has been generally accepted as a full or perfect defense before the onset of the Twentieth Century. When I use the term “modern”, I mean mainly how the various the approaches to the superior orders defense are described in the current literature.

5. Prima facie is Latin. It generally means “on the face of it”.

6. In the real world, the term “pit and gallows” seems to have been used extensively in feudal Scotland.

7. See Mark J. Osiel, Obeying Orders (Transaction Publishers 2009).

8. See Mark J. Oseil, Obeying Orders; Also “just following orders” was rejected in the trial of Peter von Hagenbach, which occurred in 1474. Two hundred years later it would be rejected again by an English court in the case of Captain Axtell.

9. Historically, the full defense approach didn’t seem to gain any real momentum until around or after1906 when Professor Oppenheim published his treatise “International Law”. In that treatise Oppenheim argued for the full defense approach to superior orders.

10. Technically speaking the Nuremburg Charter completely banned the superior orders defense. But there are some qualifications to this. For one given the gravity of the crimes charged, it would have ridiculous for the defendants to have claimed that the orders given to them were not manifestly illegal. See Obeying Orders, Oseil. Also some of the statements made by the tribunals themselves seem to indicate that the superior orders defense was a valid defense in certain cases. In Re Von Leeb, the court wrote,”within certain limitations, [a soldier] has the right to assume that the orders of his superiors… are in conformity to international law”. In Re Von Leeb, 11 Nuremburg Military Tribunals 511 (1948) (The High Command Trial). Also, See Generally Robert H. Jackson’s letter to Harry Truman. International Conference on Military Trials: London, 1945, Report to the President by Mr. Justice Jackson, June 6, 1945

11. See Article 32 Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court (ICC) (It is apparent that a mistake of fact defense is conceptually different than a defense based on the superior orders defense); See also Her Majesty The Queen v. Imre Finta, 1 S.C.R. 701 (1994); See also Prosecutor v. Erdemovic, Case No. IT-96-22, Sentencing Judgment (Nov. 29, 1996)

12. Most legal systems are much more unforgiving with mistakes of law, than they are with mistakes of fact. In the Anglo/American system mistakes of law are never a defense, with a couple of exceptions, the main one being where it negates mens rea.

13. See Mark J. Oseil, Obeying Orders

14. Article 33 Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

15.. See Her Majesty The Queen v. Imre Finta, 1 S.C.R. 701 (1994)(“The Manifest Illegality Test has received a wide measure of international acceptance”);Technically both The United States and Germany do not use the manifest illegality standard. The standard in both countries appears to be whether a soldier’s actions were reasonable under the circumstances. Arguably the reasonable under the circumstances standard is a bit more restrictive than the Manifest Illegality standard.

16. Jean-Jacques Fresard, The Roots of Behavior in War: A Survey Of The Literature (2004)(“In extreme cases, as Holmes [British Soldier and Military Historian] points out, ‘many training systems are deliberately designed to break recruits down to a lowest common denominator before building them up again.’It is a new man who emerges from the mould. This process is especially remarkable in crack units. They are subjected to iron discipline……”); Thomas E. Ricks, Making The Corps (Touchstone 1998)(” ‘Now!’ ” begins Staff Sergeant Biehl. It is the first word they [Marine Recruits] hear on Parris Island, and it is entirely appropriate. For the next eleven weeks, every order they hear will carry a tacit insistence that it be executed immediately.”)

17. Williamson Murray; War, Strategy, and Military Effectiveness (Cambrigde University Press 2011) (“Thus discipline was the glue that made the individuals composing an army stay on the field of battle, no matter how terrible the conditions of fear, death, and mutilation might be. Without discipline armies were not armies, but armed mobs incapable of maintaining cohesion, tactical formations, or obedience.”); McCall v. McDowell, 1 Abb. 212(1867)(Holding that military subordinate not liable for damages for false arrest so long as the order to the subordinate was legal on its face)(The court wrote: “The first duty of a soldier is obedience, and without this there can be neither discipline nor efficiency in any army. If every subordinate officer and solder were at liberty to question the legality of the orders of the commander, and obey them or not as they may consider them valid or invalid, the camp would be turned into a debating school, where the precious moment for action would be wasted into wordy conflicts between the advocates of conflicting opinions”);

18.See Ofer v. Chief Military Prosecutor, (A) vol 44: 362 ; The same language was quoted in Attorney-Gen of Gov’t of Israel v. Eichman, 36 I.L.R. (Supreme Court of Israel 1962). For obvious reasons, Eichmann’s conduct during World War Two was found to have gone way beyond the standard of manifest illegality.

19. See Her Majesty The Queen v. Imre Finta, 1 S.C.R. 701 (1994).

20. It’s typical that these sorts of cases will involve both mistakes of fact and mistakes of law.

21. Robert H. Jackson was an associate justice of The United States Supreme Court. Jackson was appointed as the Chief Prosecutor for The United States at the Nuremburg Trials. He helped to draft the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal.

22. See Robert H. Jackson’s letter to Harry Truman. International Conference on Military Trials: London, 1945, Report to the President by Mr. Justice Jackson, June 6, 1945; Also, the comments made here by Jackson could be construed as a situation where a soldier operated under a mistake of fact, which would excuse his conduct.

23. See Her Majesty The Queen v. Imre Finta, 1 S.C.R. 701 (1994).

24. See for instance Rule 11 of Canada’s Code of Conduct.

25. Thierry Baudet, The Significance of Borders: Why Representative Government and the Rule of Law Require Nation States (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers 2012) (“Vassallus vassalli mei non est meus vassalus”)(“A vassal of my vassal is not my vassal.”).

26. Interview by James Poinewozik, Part 2, Time Magazine, with George R.R. Martin (April 18, 2011) (Martin stated: “I mean, the class structures in places like this had teeth. They had consequences. And people were brought up from their childhood to know their place and to know the duties of their class and the privileges of their class.”)

27. See footnote 2.

28. I personally disdain moral relativism as a starting point in evaluating ethical and moral actions. However, when evaluating the “goodness” or “badness” of an actor’s actions or the “goodness” or “badness” of the actor himself, it certainly would be highly unrealistic to evaluate those actions without making some account for the social and legal environment the actor operated in.

29. For instance, consider General Colin Powell’s statements about not unleashing coalition air power upon retreating Iraqi Soldiers. While unleashing such air power might be legal, it might be ethically problematic as it would, arguably, cause more death that what was absolutely necessary. Or consider a battery commander ordered to fire white phosphorus (known as “willie pete” in military slang) rounds at an enemy position, knowing that for the given mission regular high explosive rounds will just work as well. Willie Pete causes very nasty wounds, arguably much worse than normal munitions do. It’s not illegal to fire Willie Pete at enemy combat soldiers. But, it might be highly unethical if there is no particular good operational need to do so.





The Hand’s Tourney

by Brashcandy

  • Eddard V

  • Sansa II

  • Eddard VII


The city is hosting a grand tourney in honour of the King’s Hand, Eddard Stark, and the first mention of the Hound regarding these festivities occurs in Ned’s fifth POV chapter, when Littlefinger reveals that Sandor was unhorsed by Barristan Selmy in the previous year’s joust. It is in Sansa’s second POV, with the young girl experiencing the intoxicating pleasure of attending such an extravagant and exciting event, that we learn of the Hound’s intention to try his luck again. In view of the dominance he will attain in this tourney, the initial reference to his participation is remarkably unremarkable:

The Hound entered the lists as well, and so too the King’s brother, handsome Lord Renly of Storm’s End.

The next time Sansa makes reference to him is later in the day, and with many knights already defeated, his prowess is now highlighted alongside his brother’s:

Sandor Clegane and his immense brother, Ser Gregor the Mountain, seemed unstoppable as well, riding down one foe after the next in ferocious style.

The shocking death of Ser Hugh of the Vale shows how ferociously dangerous Gregor Clegane can be, and while Jeyne begins to cry uncontrollably and has to be escorted off by Septa Mordane, Sansa keeps her composure, feeling a sense of melancholy for the young knight’s death. The last to fall to the Hound before the day’s end is Lord Renly:

Renly was unhorsed so violently that he seemed to fly backward off his charger, legs in the air. His head hit the ground with an audible crack that made the crowd gasp, but it was just the golden antler on his helm. One of the tines had snapped off beneath him. When Lord Renly climbed to his feet, the commons cheered wildly, for King Robert’s handsome young brother was a great favorite. He handed the broken tine to his conqueror with a gracious bow. The Hound snorted and tossed the broken antler into the crowd, where the commons began to punch and claw over the little bit of gold, until Lord Renly walked out among them and restored the peace. By then Septa Mordane had returned, alone. Jeyne had been feeling ill, she explained; she had helped her back to the castle. Sansa had almost forgotten about Jeyne.

Septa Mordane’s drunken slumber at the feast later in the night prompts Joffrey to call Sandor into duty to escort Sansa back to the Red Keep:

Sandor Clegane seemed to form out of the night, so quickly did he appear… “Did you think Joff was going to take you himself?” He laughed. He had a laugh like the snarling of dogs in a pit.

As they walk, Sansa thinks to herself that while she is frightened of his face, she ought to attempt to be courteous and compliment him on his riding. This earns an instant rebuke from the Hound, and his deep distaste for knights rises to the surface:

Spare me your empty little compliments, girl … and your sers. I am no knight. I spit on them and their vows. My brother is a knight. Did you see him ride today?”

Yes,” Sansa whispered, trembling. “He was …”

Gallant?” the Hound finished. 

He was mocking her, she realized. “No one could withstand him,” she managed at last, proud of herself. It was no lie.

Sandor Clegane stopped suddenly in the middle of a dark and empty field. She had no choice but to stop beside him. “Some septa trained you well. You’re like one of those birds from the Summer Isles, aren’t you? A pretty little talking bird, repeating all the pretty little words they taught you to recite.”

He follows this reprimand by revealing to Sansa the truth about Ser Hugh’s death and the fact that Gregor’s lance didn’t stab the boy by accident. Forcing her to look at his face, he then tells the chilling story of the violence he suffered at his brother’s hands as a young boy. The story elicits considerable empathy on Sansa’s part and she tells him that Gregor was no true knight. The Hound laughingly agrees with her, and they make the final part of the journey back to her room, where, before leaving, he threatens to kill her if she tells anyone the true story of his scars.

Eddard VII picks up the narrative the next day at the tourney, and Sandor’s first match is against the Jaime Lannister. While Ned holds no investment whatsoever in the match, he notices that Sansa is watching it “moist-eyed and eager.” Littlefinger and Renly place bets on the Kingslayer and the Hound respectively:

A hundred golden dragons on the Kingslayer,” Littlefinger announced loudly as Jaime Lannister entered the lists, riding an elegant blood bay destrier. The horse wore a blanket of gilded ringmail, and Jaime glittered from head to heel. Even his lance was fashioned from the golden wood of the Summer Isles.

Done,” Lord Renly shouted back. “The Hound has a hungry look about him this morning.” “Even hungry dogs know better than to bite the hand that feeds them,” Littlefinger called dryly. Sandor Clegane dropped his visor with an audible clang and took up his position. Ser Jaime tossed a kiss to some woman in the commons, gently lowered his visor, and rode to the end of the lists. Both men couched their lances.

Sandor is nearly unhorsed by Jaime, but recovers just in time and goes on to win the tilt, while Jaime ends up “golden and dented” in the dirt. With the next match beginning between Ser Gregor and Ser Loras of Highgarden, Ned thinks about the infamous reputation the Mountain holds:

Unlike his brother, Ser Gregor did not live at court. He was a solitary man who seldom left his own lands, but for wars and tourneys. He had been with Lord Tywin when King’s Landing fell, a
new-made knight of seventeen years, even then distinguished by his size and his implacable ferocity. Some said it had been Gregor who’d dashed the skull of the infant prince Aegon Targaryen against a wall, and whispered that afterward he had raped the mother, the Dornish princess Elia, before putting her to the sword. These things were not said in Gregor’s hearing.

Ned Stark could not recall ever speaking to the man, though Gregor had ridden with them during Balon Greyjoy’s rebellion, one knight among thousands. He watched him with disquiet. Ned seldom put much stock in gossip, but the things said of Ser Gregor were more than ominous. He was soon to be married for the third time, and one heard dark whisperings about the deaths of his first two wives. It was said that his keep was a grim place where servants disappeared unaccountably and even the dogs were afraid to enter the hall. And there had been a sister who had died young under queer circumstances, and the fire that had disfigured his brother, and the hunting accident that had killed their father. Gregor had inherited the keep, the gold, and the family estates. His younger brother Sandor had left the same day to take service with the Lannisters as a sworn sword, and it was said that he had never returned, not even to visit.

If Ser Hugh’s death was left open to ominous speculation by those familiar with Gregor’s “accidents,” his attack on Ser Loras leaves no doubt about the kind of man that the Lannisters have in their service. The Hound’s laughter at his brother’s fall in the joust quickly ends when the Mountain viciously kills his horse and goes after the Knight of Flowers in a rage:

It all happened so fast. The Knight of Flowers was shouting for his own sword as Ser Gregor knocked his squire aside and made a grab for the reins of his horse. The mare scented blood and reared. Loras Tyrell kept his seat, but barely. Ser Gregor swung his sword, a savage two-handed blow that took the boy in the chest and knocked him from the saddle. The courser dashed away in panic as Ser Loras lay stunned in the dirt. But as Gregor lifted his sword for the killing blow, a rasping voice warned, “Leave him be,” and a steel-clad hand wrenched him away from the boy.

The fight between the brothers ends upon the orders of the King and, as Sansa anticipates, the Hound is named champion of the tourney when Ser Loras declines a final match in order to honour him for his heroics. Sandor wins not only the sizeable champion’s purse, but “perhaps for the first time in his life, the love of the commons.”



The Hand’s Tourney, with all its pomp and pageantry, displays of gallantry, tricks and treachery, doesn’t seem at first like a place where any character can be laid bare before us, or where Martin would even consider an appropriate setting for truth-telling. But this is precisely what happens with Sandor’s narrative, a critical development that reveals what it is that haunts the man and, most significantly, a development that for the first time since he is introduced at Winterfell, acts to profoundly humanise him in the reader’s eyes. This is achieved, I will argue, through the literary mode of testimony, an act of bearing witness to the trauma he suffered and survived as a young boy.

In Trauma and Literary Studies: Some “Enabling Questions,” Elissa Marder explores the meaning of trauma which is relevant for our understanding of the Hound’s predicament:

The word “trauma” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “wound.” Although the precise definition of the modern concept of trauma varies accordingly to context and discipline, there is the general consensus that if trauma is a wound, it is a very peculiar kind of wound. There is no specific set of physical manifestations identifying trauma, and it almost invariably produces repeated, uncontrollable, and incalculable effects that endure long after its ostensible “precipitating cause”. Further, because traumatic events often happen due to social forces as well as in the social world, trauma has an inherently political, historical, and ethical dimension.

Although he bears terrible burn scars on his face, these do not in themselves hold meaning in designating Sandor as a trauma victim. Rather, the scars act like markers, pointing to a deeper pathology that only the man himself can reveal. To put it another way, the wound that Sandor carries is not represented by his burns, but in the effects it generates: his ingrained cynical outlook on the world; the anger that is always so close to the surface; the pronounced aversion and disgust shown towards the institution of knighthood; and last, but certainly not least, the “desire” to kill his brother. This doesn’t operate in the usual manner of wish and resolve that structures normal human desires. It is instead something unique to Sandor’s trauma, a desire that he is compelled to repeat, a kind of coping strategy that enables him to function. This is revealed by Sandor’s seemingly contradictory words and actions during the tourney. When he is called to escort Sansa at the end of the feast, he tells her:

Come, you’re not the only one needs sleep. I’ve drunk too much, and I may need to kill my brother tomorrow.”

However, when tomorrow comes and Gregor’s brutal attack on Loras provides him with not only opportunity, but justification, we read:

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.

If Sandor’s trauma resurfaces at the Hand’s Tourney, it is not simply because of the mere presence of his brother at the event. As I see it, it is Gregor’s more covert act in killing Ser Hugh that brings the spectre of his brother’s menace back, and this, when combined with his later encounter with the naïveté and presumed superficiality of Sansa Stark, compels Sandor into giving, for perhaps the first time of his life, the testimony of what happened to him as a child. Like Ser Hugh, the violence that was done against Sandor is attributed to an accident by his father; and in what is reminiscent of Sansa’s idealism, the young boy whose face was held to a burning brazier suffered this punishment for indulging in a fascination with knights.  Sansa and readers alike are made to listen to Sandor’s visceral testimony:

Most of them, they think it was some battle. A siege, a burning tower, an enemy with a torch. One fool asked if it was dragonsbreath.” His laugh was softer this time, but just as bitter.

I’ll tell you what it was, girl,” he said, a voice from the night, a shadow leaning so close now that she could smell the sour stench of wine on his breath. “I was younger than you, six, maybe seven. A woodcarver set up shop in the village under my father’s keep, and to buy favor he sent us gifts. The old man made marvelous toys. I don’t remember what I got, but it was Gregor’s gift I wanted. A wooden knight, all painted up, every joint pegged separate and fixed with strings, so you could make him fight. Gregor is five years older than me, the toy was nothing to him, he was already a squire, near six foot tall and muscled like an ox. So I took his knight, but there was no joy to it, I tell you. I was scared all the while, and true enough, he found me. There was a brazier in the room. Gregor never said a word, just picked me up under his arm and shoved the side of my face down in the burning coals and held me there while I screamed and screamed. You saw how strong he is. Even then, it took three grown men to drag him off me. The septons preach about the seven hells. What do they know? Only a man who’s been burned knows what hell is truly like.

My father told everyone my bedding had caught fire, and our maester gave me ointments. Ointments! Gregor got his ointments too. Four years later, they anointed him with the seven oils and he recited his knightly vows and Rhaegar Targaryen tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘Arise, Ser Gregor.’”

What Sandor testifies to here is not simply the personal injustice done to him by his brother’s depravity and his father’s complicity, but also to the institutionalised violence that is masked under a show of chivalry and solemn vows, one that has considerable social and moral implications, as evidenced by Rhaegar’s knighting of the Mountain. Whether or not Sandor personally witnessed the latter event is not known, but it doesn’t lessen the impact it has on his psychic trauma, acting, I would suggest, as a double wound that hardens over time into the Hound persona.

As many theorists have noted, giving testimony is not only useful for speaking of the destructiveness of the traumatic event, but it also attends to the survival of the witness and to the possibility of healing. In taking the role of an active listener to Sandor’s testimony, Sansa is established as an important companion in this process. Earlier in the day, her ability to perform in this role is signalled by her mature perception of her own reaction to Ser Hugh’s death. Unlike Jeyne who becomes overwhelmed and has to be taken away, Sansa faces the spectacle with a degree of nerve and quiet empathy for the dead knight. Later on, she is forced into looking at another gruesome spectacle – the Hound’s face:

Look at me. Look at me!” Sandor Clegane put a huge hand under her chin and forced her face up. He squatted in front of her, and moved the torch close.

There’s a pretty for you. Take a good long stare. You know you want to. I’ve watched you turning away all the way down the kingsroad. Piss on that. Take your look.”
His fingers held her jaw as hard as an iron trap. His eyes watched hers. Drunken eyes, sullen with anger. She had to look.

The right side of his face was gaunt, with sharp cheekbones and a grey eye beneath a heavy brow. His nose was large and hooked, his hair thin, dark. He wore it long and brushed it sideways, because no hair grew on the other side of that face.

The left side of his face was a ruin. His ear had been burned away; there was nothing left but a hole. His eye was still good, but all around it was a twisted mass of scar, slick black flesh hard as leather, pocked with craters and fissured by deep cracks that gleamed red and wet when he moved. Down by his jaw, you could see a hint of bone where the flesh had been seared away.

It’s hard to imagine anyone else being invited to inspect Sandor’s scars in this intimate manner, and when he follows it up by telling her just how he received those burns, Sansa becomes fully connected to the trauma he experienced. According to Dori Laub in the seminal work on testimony co-authored with Shoshana Felman:

[…] the listener to trauma comes to be a participant and a co-owner of the traumatic event. Through his very listening, he comes to partially experience trauma in himself. The relation of the victim to the event of the trauma, therefore, impacts on the relation of the listener to it, and the latter comes to feel the bewilderment, injury, confusion, dread and conflicts that the trauma victim feels.

Laub’s point is substantiated in Sansa’s deeply empathic response outlined in the next quote, and it is little wonder that her father will later observe her emotional investment when the jousting resumes.

The rasping voice trailed off. He squatted silently before her, a hulking black shape shrouded in the night, hidden from her eyes. Sansa could hear his ragged breathing.

She was sad for him, she realized. Somehow, the fear had gone away. The silence went on and on, so long that she began to grow afraid once more, but she was afraid for him now, not for herself. She found his massive shoulder with her hand.

He was no true knight,” she whispered to him.

The fact that Sansa not only respects Sandor’s story, but offers a way—“he was no true knight”—to understand what is fundamentally an incomprehensible event in its assault on one’s bodily and psychic integrity, provides him with the means to begin to recalibrate his moral compass, and reconstruct a narrative for himself that does not revolve in a damaging cycle of violence. This is something we will see playing out throughout the length of his time with Sansa in King’s Landing, as they are both meant to bear witness to each other’s respective trials and traumas, and grow closer together as a result. That the Hound will the very next day take up the challenge of being a true knight through the rescue of Loras, and secure the love of the commons for it, suggest that it is eventually possible for victims to escape the very alienating and solitary experience of trauma.

To conclude, it is vital to appreciate the magnitude of Sandor’s testimony, and how difficult it would have been for him to tell his story as a victim whose survival up to this point has been based on an identity that admits no weakness or vulnerability. Despite the dark rumours about Gregor and the Clegane family that Ned recalls when watching the jousting, there is a culture of silence in place, one that Sandor has been obliged to keep since he was a young boy. Coming in the wake of his involvement in Mycah’s death, Sandor’s testimony is an act of truth-telling that begins a long process towards his own personal redemption. If we consider the judicial relevance of testimony, then telling his story accomplishes a critical first stage in his will to change and speaks to the wider need for systematic societal transformation.





A Hound Amongst Lions and Wolves

by DogLover

  • Eddard XI

  • Sansa III

  • Eddard XXII

  • Eddard XXIII

  • Eddard XIV

  • Sansa IV


EDDARD XI, Chapter 43

Eddard sits the Iron Throne, listening to petitions and doling out judgment while King Robert enjoys a hunting trip with an entourage that also includes Sandor Clegane.

A party of villagers from Sherrer in the Riverlands had come to tell Ned of  “brigands” who terrorized their lands. However, the villagers, including three knights who bore witness, insisted the men who laid waste to the lands (Wendish Town, Mummer’s Ford, and Sherrer) and slaughtered the inhabitants and livestock, were actually soldiers carrying out orders given by Lannisters with Gregor Clegane leading the charge.  While the raiders carried no banners, the fact that they were armored, rode war horses, and were led by someone as unmistakable as Gregor drew the obvious conclusion that the raiders were under orders and much more than mere brigands.

The brewer, Joss, shook his head. “It grieves me, m’lord, but no, the armor they showed us was plain, only…the one who led them, he was armored like the rest, but there was no mistaking him all the same. It was the size of him, m’lord. Those as say the giants are all dead never saw this one, I swear. Big as an ox he was, and a voice like stone breaking.”

The Mountain!” Ser Marq said loudly. “Can any man doubt it? This was Gregor Clegane’s work.”

After Maester Pycelle tries to cast doubt on the accusations by telling the accusers that there are many large men, several knights spit back, including Ser Raymun who states “Even his brother is a pup beside him.”

Grand Maester Pycelle retorts back, claiming that an anointed knight wouldn’t just turn brigand. Ser Marq responds by calling Gregor “Lord Tywin’s mad dog.”

After listening to what the knights want in return for the massacre—the king’s leave to retaliate—Ned thinks he does not doubt that Gregor was commanded to lead a raid party to burn and pillage, but finds the situation a sticky once since, if the knights of the Riverlands retaliate, the Lannisters would simply claim the Tully’s were the ones to break the king’s peace. Ultimately, Ned sends a party under the leadership of Beric Dondarrion, along with Thoros of Myr, Ser Gladden, and Lord Lothar, to seek justice.

And then announces the punishment:

In the name of Robert of the House Baratheon, the First of his Name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, by the word of Eddard of the House Stark, his Hand, I charge you to ride to the westlands with all haste, to cross the Red Fork of the Trident under the king’s flag, and there bring the king’s justice to the false knight Gregor Clegane, and to all those who shared in his crimes. I denounce him, and attaint him, and strip him of all rank and titles, of all lands and incomes and holdings, and do sentence him to death. May the gods take pity on his soul.”

SANSA III, Chapter 44

Sansa, who witnessed the judgment passed on Gregor Clegane, tells Arya about it, recounting that Beric Dondarrion had been charged to take the command against Gregor Clegane. Arya asks why Jaime and the Hound haven’t been beheaded for their crimes:

Arya screwed up her face in a scowl. “Jaime Lannister murdered Jory and Heward and Wyle, and the Hound murdered Mycah. Somebody should behead them.”

It’s not the same,” Sansa said. “The Hound is Joffrey’s sworn shield. Your butcher’s boy attacked the prince.”

EDDARD XII, Chapter 45

Petyr Baelish pays Ned a visit and lets him know that Lord Tywin, displeased with Ned’s judgment and sentence, is gathering an army. He also lets him know that some of the king’s hunting party has returned. Ned asks about the Hound:

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.

Lord Baelish tells Ned that Sandor returned with Joffrey and, of course, went straight to the queen, stating, “I would have given a hundred silver stages to have been a roach in the rushes when he learned that Lord Beric was off to behead his brother.” Ned responds with how obvious it is that the Hound hates his brother. Petyr informs Ned that he has just deprived the Hound of his own opportunity to kill Gregor.

Ah, but Gregor was his to loathe, not yours to kill. Once Dondarrion lops the summit off our Mountain, the Clegane lands and incomes will pass to Sandor, but I wouldn’t hold my water waiting for his thanks, not that one.”

EDDARD XIII, Chapter 47

A dying Robert tells Eddard that he didn’t tell the Hound about the orders to execute Gregor, leaving it to Cersei to pass on the news:

A fuck you, Ned,” the king said hoarsely. “I killed the bastard, didn’t I?” A lock of matted black hair fell across his eyes as he glared up at Ned. “Ought to do the same for you. Can’t leave a man to hunt in peace. Ser Robar found me. Gregor’s head. Ugly thought. Never told the Hound. Let Cersei surprise him.”

EDDARD XIV, Chapter 49

An injured Ned wakes to the sound of men practicing in the yard below his window and sees Sandor Clegane:

Ned watched Sandor Clegane gallop across the hard-packed ground to drive an iron-tipped lance through a dummy’s head. Canvas ripped and straw exploded as Lannister guardsmen joked and cursed.

Ned wonders if this is meant to intimidate him:

Is this a brave show for my benefit, he wondered. If so, Cersei was a greater fool than he’d imagined. Damn her, he thought, why is the woman not fled? I have given her chance after chance…

Later, King Robert dies and Ned plans to support Stannis’ claim and is meeting with the small council, but Cersei acts quickly. Joffrey summons Ned and the rest of the small council to the throne room. When Ned slowly makes his way to the Iron Throne, he sees Sandor next to Joffrey.

Above them, Prince Joffrey sat amidst the barbs and spikes in a cloth-of-gold doublet and a red satin cape. Sandor Clegane was stationed at the foot of the throne’s steep narrow stair. He wore mail and soot-grey plate and his snarling dog’s-head helm.

Joffrey demands immediate oaths of fealty from his “loyal councilors.” Ned presents Robert’s letter: his will and testament. Cersei mocks him and rips up the letter. Ned, refusing to back down, declares in front of everyone that Stannis is Robert’s true heir. Cersei demands that Ned be seized, prompting Ned’s men to draw their swords. Ned then hears the Hound draw his own sword: “With an ominous rasp of metal on metal, the Hound drew his longsword. The knights of the Kingsguard and twenty Lannister guardsmen in crimson cloaks moved to support him.” The gold cloaks quickly join the Lannisters and the slaughter of Ned’s men begins. One of Ned’s men, Cayn, almost freed himself, but the Hound cuts off Cayn’s sword hand and then kills him by slicing down from shoulder to breastbone.

SANSA IV, Chapter 51

Sansa is confined to her room during the slaughtering of the Stark household. Other than Ned and Sansa, who are prisoners, only Jeyne survives the bloodshed and is placed in Sansa’s room. Jeyne, bruised and clearly terrified, screams, “They’re killing everyone,” and tells Sansa that the Hound had broken down her door with a warhammer.


Violence finally erupts between Stark and Lannister after escalating tensions between the two great houses reaches a peak, and the newly appointed Hand of the King finds himself troubled by both Clegane brothers—one on the offensive in the Riverlands, and the other a dangerous presence at King’s Landing. Their participation in the violence against Tully and Stark bookends this section, as Sandor IV begins with the account of Gregor’s atrocities in the Riverlands and ends with the slaughtering of the Stark household in King’s Landing. In the midst of this, Sandor occupies a place in the thoughts of Ned’s daughters, as the younger proclaims Sandor should be beheaded for the killing of Mycah, and the elder comes to his defense. And a possible act of disobedience by the younger Clegane hints to a shift from Lannister to Stark.

While Sandor’s participation in the slaughter of Ned’s men may have yet again earned the animosity of readers, the comparison between him and the brother he loathes, as well as how the Lannisters employ both, offers a greater understanding of Sandor’s character. Tywin, a shrewd, calculating man, knows exactly how to extract the most out of his resources, so it’s no accident that Gregor acts as vicious aggressor while Sandor is employed as the ferocious protector. In a section where Sandor appears on-page in only one of the outlined chapters, developing a better understanding of who Sandor is lies within his relationship with his brother, and just how the Lannisters use both.

Sandor’s hatred and cynicism toward the institution of knighthood and his own brother becomes even more understandable after a few surviving villagers bear witness to the wanton violence Gregor and his men unleash on the Riverlands commoners. Indiscriminate of age, gender, and method of violence used, the hypocrisy of knighthood, an institution that romanticizes and glamorizes violence, is openly displayed right on the heels of Sandor’s own testimony to Sansa wherein he recounts his own victimization at Gregor’s hands. In addition to tarnishing the ideals of knighthood by deceitfully disguising themselves as marauding brigands, the toying of the apprentice boy also underscores that they’re not just strictly following orders, but derive pleasure from inflicting pain and terror.

They rode down my ‘prentice boy,” said the squat man with a smith’s muscles and a bandage around his head. He had put on his finest clothes to come to court, but his breeches were patched, his cloak travel-stained and dusty. “Chased him back and forth across the fields on their horses, poking at him with their lances like it was a game, them laughing and the boy stumbling and screaming till the big one pierced him clean through.”

This strongly contrasts with Sandor’s style of killing, wherein he quickly and efficiently delivers the fewest amount of blows.  And regardless of his “I’m the butcher and they’re the meat” proclamations, there is no textual evidence to suggest Sandor finds enjoyment from watching others suffer, especially considering the theme that is significant to his arc—that of mercy. What we can discern from his feelings toward his brother is that he goes well out of his way to be nothing like Gregor, from emphatically eschewing knighthood and demonstrating that he does follow an honorable code, already exhibited when defending Loras from Gregor’s murderous rage.

Sandor would certainly have had to prove himself a fearsome and efficient warrior, as well as loyal, to earn him the rank of Sworn Shield, but Tywin would never entrust his daughter and grandson to a savage rapist and killer. Despite his brooding, angry temperament, Sandor thus far has only displayed discipline and tremendous restraint, especially in contrast to Gregor’s explosive temper. Tyrion’s comment, “the man does have a temper” when at Winterfell, and Sandor’s training in the yard both there and at King’s Landing, as well as his performance in the tourney, implies that Sandor channels all of his rage and pain into the practice yard, tourney matches, and battlefield, rather than allowing it to bubble up to the surface only to explode into random acts of violence, such as Gregor punching Pia in the face and smashing out all of her teeth simply because she spoke in his presence.

Sandor’s hatred for his brother and his desire to kill him is clearly well known since both Robert and Littlefinger comment on it.

A fuck you, Ned,” the king said hoarsely. “I killed the bastard, didn’t I?” A lock of matted black hair fell across his eyes as he glared up at Ned. “Ought to do the same for you. Can’t leave a man to hunt in peace. Ser Robar found me. Gregor’s head. Ugly thought. Never told the Hound. Let Cersei surprise him.”

Ah, but Gregor was his to loathe, not yours to kill. Once Dondarrion lops the summit off our Mountain, the Clegane lands and incomes will pass to Sandor, but I wouldn’t hold my water waiting for his thanks, not that one.”

While Sandor may appear outwardly angry that he just might be deprived at killing his own brother, which may have something to do with the early practice session beneath Ned’s window (though, would it be unusual for the Hound to be practicing early, as we already know he’s an early riser and practices hard?), however, he already passed up the perfect opportunity to kill Gregor. As Brashcandy stated in her analysis, Sandor is using this “desire” as a coping mechanism. There’s also future evidence that indicates that Sandor actually harbors a much deeper desire, a desire that moves to the forefront of his consciousness as his relationship with Sansa evolves: to have lands and family of his own.

Sandor’s attack against Ned’s own soldiers casts him in the role of villain as the Starks have been built up as the protagonists and the Lannisters as antagonists, especially ramped up when readers realize the extent of the Lannisters’ avarice and viciousness. However, Ned’s men drew first steel and Sandor’s primary duty was to protect the king and the queen regent. Yet, it is possible he disobeyed direct orders.

Considering that neither Vayon Poole nor Septa Mordane were spared in the bloodshed, it stands to reason that a sadistic Joffrey, or even a vicious Cersei, ordered every member of the Stark household killed with the exception of Ned, Sansa, and Arya. Yet, Jeyne Poole was spared, which angered Cersei upon finding out Jeyne had been rooming with Sansa.

Everyone has been very sweet and pleasant, Your Grace, thank you ever so much for asking,” Sansa said politely. “Only, well, no one will talk to us or tell us what’s happened…”  

Us?” Cersei seemed puzzled.

We put the steward’s girl in with her,” Ser Boros said. “We did not know what else to do with her.”

The queen frowned. “Next time you will ask,” she said, her voice sharp. “The gods only know what sort of tales she’s been filling Sansa’s head with.”

There are only two people who would have motivation to keep Jeyne alive: Sandor and Littlefinger. Sandor for the sake of Sansa, and Littlefinger for the sake of his own machinations. Since we know Sandor commands his own men and led the attack against Ned’s own soldiers, and, according to Jeyne, he was the one who broke down her door; it stands to reason that Sandor ordered that Jeyne be taken to Sansa’s quarters.* It’s this act of disobedience that implies Sandor is shifting his loyalty from Lannister to Stark, and, more specifically, from Cersei to Sansa. In addition, Sansa’s defense of the Hound after Arya declares she wants someone to cut off his head suggests that she continues to hold favorable feelings for him.

*For more on this, please see Milady of York’s essay here .





Rise to Kingsguard

by Milady of York

  • Bran VI (Ch. 53)

  • Sansa V (Ch. 57)

  • Jon VIII (Ch. 60)

  • Arya V (Ch. 65)

  • Sansa VI (Ch. 67)

  • Tyrion IX (Ch. 69)


Arya and Sansa had been murdered by the Hound.

So says the first rumour that reaches Robb the Lord and his younger brothers at Winterfell about the fate of their sisters, in AGOT Bran VI, ascribing to Sandor the murder of innocent girls, like a callback to his actions at the Trident.

But a letter from their sister will clarify this falsity: their father is a prisoner, and the girls are alive, the eldest of which is going to be present as a hostage in the first audience of the new king in the splendid throne room, in which the aged Lord Commander is dismissed with a consolation prize of holdings in the Westerlands that’s little more than a veiled attempt at keeping him within Lannister control. Selmy sees through their duplicity, and refuses:

I am a knight,” he told them. He opened the silver fastenings of his breastplate and let that fall as well. “I shall die a knight.”

A naked knight, it would seem,” quipped Littlefinger.

They all laughed then, Joffrey on his throne, and the lords standing attendance, Janos Slynt and Queen Cersei and Sandor Clegane and even the other men of the Kingsguard, the five who had been his brothers until a moment ago.

Everyone laughs at him but Sansa, even the Hound. Men “young and strong” are what the new regime wants, and he’s called next to fill in the vacancy by an eager Joffrey who’s behaving smugly as if he’s done his favourite dog the biggest of all favours:

The king and council have determined that no man in the Seven Kingdoms is more fit to guard and protect His Grace than his sworn shield, Sandor Clegane.”

How do you like that, dog?” King Joffrey asked.

The Hound’s scarred face was hard to read. He took a long moment to consider. “Why not? I have no lands nor wife to forsake, and who’d care if I did?” The burned side of his mouth twisted. “But I warn you, I’ll say no knight’s vows.”

The Sworn Brothers of the Kingsguard have always been knights,” Ser Boros said firmly.

Until now,” the Hound said in his deep rasp, and Ser Boros fell silent.

Take the job, the Hound will. But taking vows as a knight is an embuggerance he won’t suffer kindly, and after Blount’s feeble objection, everyone else accepts that now they’ve got the first non-knight in the Kingsguard; since with Selmy one seminal rule was broken by setting a precedent, breaking another can’t mean much now. Little do the Lannisters imagine what a poor stunt this is in terms of public relations, for the realm won’t receive this news with approving nods, as Lord Mormont tells Jon:

The message concerned Ser Barristan Selmy. It seems he’s been removed from the Kingsguard. They gave his place to that black dog Clegane, and now Selmy’s wanted for treason. The fools sent some watchmen to seize him, but he slew two of them and escaped.” Mormont snorted, leaving no doubt of his view of men who’d send gold cloaks against a knight as renowned as Barristan the Bold.

In this same audience, Sansa pleads for mercy for her father and the boy-king agrees. The day of the public confession that’d have ended this confrontation between Houses by sending the ex-Hand to the Wall, Arya Stark spots the Hound amongst the people standing near her father at the Sept of Baelor:

Clustered around the doors of the sept, in front of the raised marble pulpit, were a knot of knights and high lords. Joffrey was prominent among them, his raiment all crimson, silk and satin patterned with prancing stags and roaring lions, a gold crown on his head. His queen mother stood beside him in a black mourning gown slashed with crimson, a veil of black diamonds in her hair. Arya recognized the Hound, wearing a snowy white cloak over his dark grey armour, with four of the Kingsguard around him. She saw Varys the eunuch gliding among the lords in soft slippers and a patterned damask robe, and she thought the short man with the silvery cape and pointed beard might be the one who had once fought a duel for Mother.

Upon his fake mea culpa, Lord Eddard is pelted with stones by the crowd, and two Kingsguard move to the front to protect the royals from the stoning. Not the Hound, though, he’s no longer registered in Arya’s field of vision and we are barren from knowing what exactly he saw or did when Eddard fell victim to Joffrey’s “Ser Ilyn, bring me his head!” But perhaps we can guess a few things from this description by Sansa, which contains similarities to his own words at Maegor’s:

Yet those were the best times, for when she dreamed, she dreamed of Father. Waking or sleeping, she saw him, saw the gold cloaks fling him down, saw Ser Ilyn striding forward, unsheathing Ice from the scabbard on his back, saw the moment . . . the moment when . . . she had wanted to look away, she had wanted to, her legs had gone out from under her and she had fallen to her knees, yet somehow she could not turn her head, and all the people were screaming and shouting, and her prince had smiled at her, he’d smiled and she’d felt safe, but only for a heartbeat, until he said those words, and her father’s legs . . . that was what she remembered, his legs, the way they’d jerked when Ser Ilyn . . . when the sword . . .

Joffrey won’t allow a deeply depressed and suicidal Sansa any respite, and demands she be at his appearances in court, ignoring her pleas to be left to mourn in peace:

If you won’t rise and dress yourself, my Hound will do it for you,” Joffrey said.

I beg of you, my prince . . .”

I’m king now. Dog, get her out of bed.”

Sandor Clegane scooped her up around the waist and lifted her off the featherbed as she struggled feebly. Her blanket fell to the floor. Underneath she had only a thin bedgown to cover her nakedness. “Do as you’re bid, child,” Clegane said. “Dress.” He pushed her toward her wardrobe, almost gently.

She puts up some resistance and boldly tells him she hates him, earning the first-ever beating for that. Forced to agree to his demands to avoid more violence, she’s offered by Clegane a valuable piece of advice

Save yourself some pain, girl, and give him what he wants.”

What . . . what does he want? Please, tell me.”

He wants you to smile and smell sweet and be his lady love,” the Hound rasped. “He wants to hear you recite all your pretty little words the way the septa taught you. He wants you to love him . . . and fear him.”

She goes to the throne room as commanded, not before first managing to throw a soft-voiced invective at Meryn Trant without success as she would’ve had it been the Hound escorting her. There is a show of terrible decision-making from her hitherto prince charming going on, for kinghood has freed him from the need to pretend and answer for his behaviour, and neither his mother nor his councillors will open their mouth to object. Of course, Sandor is there too, and he accompanies the king to the battlements, repeating gently once more the advice to comply to save herself from another beating.

On the battlements, Sandor does obey his king’s order to turn round Lord Eddard’s rotting head towards his daughter so she can look at it, but when she refuses to give Joffrey the pleasure of a reaction, he also follows suit and doesn’t humour the king in his taunting:

Your brother is a traitor too, you know.” He turned Septa Mordane’s head back around. “I remember your brother from Winterfell. My dog called him the lord of the wooden sword. Didn’t you, dog?”

Did I?” the Hound replied. “I don’t recall.”

Not the first time Joffrey is deprived of sadistic satisfaction by claims of “not remembering,” and he’s further provoked when Sansa outwits him by saying it’s just as likely that her brother will have Joffrey’s head as the other way round like he is bragging, earning her second beating by Trant. In desperation, she contemplates killing Joffrey and herself in one single push and fall, but Sandor gets in her way in a discreet manner that dissimulates to potential onlookers what her true intentions had been:

Here, girl.” Sandor Clegane knelt before her, between her and Joffrey. With a delicacy surprising in such a big man, he dabbed at the blood welling from her broken lip.

It’s a blessing amongst a myriad of misfortunes for the king’s betrothed that he’s a Kingsguard, but for the king’s grandfather it is a source of vexation, because he’s clever enough to realise his family’s blunder:

His father had not raised his voice, yet Tyrion could see the anger in the gold of his eyes. “And dismissing Selmy, where was the sense in that? Yes, the man was old, but the name of Barristan the Bold still has meaning in the realm. He lent honour to any man he served. Can anyone say the same of the Hound? You feed your dog bones under the table, you do not seat him beside you on the high bench.” He pointed a finger at Tyrion’s face. “If Cersei cannot curb the boy, you must. And if these councillors are playing us false . . . ”

Thus does Sandor Clegane inaugurate his period of service in the Kingsguard, with the distaste of high lords towards his appointment and going behind his king’s back to protect a hostage as one of his first deeds wearing that snowy cloak.



In the classic tales of chivalry of the Arthurian cycle and derivations, there’s always one man that rises to become the greatest knight in court and a beloved of both king and peers, whose great deeds include fighting with giants, brigands, dragons, sorcerers, green-eyed courtiers and various assortment of baddies. And, of course, he’ll often be the Chosen One when the time comes to guard his lady queen and champion her against the Malegaunts, Mordreds, Morholts, Morgils . . .

These brave knights frequently earn the love of the queen, of the chaste and unchaste sort both, and when it’s of the latter kind the wrongness of a romantic attachment to her is underscored not only because of the enormity that high treason means for a knight’s repute but also because, to add insult to injury, the king is often a good man. The betrayal of Lancelot and Guinevere is made to look even more evil by the fact that King Arthur is a great king, a decent husband and an admired man. Tristan and Isolde’s treacherous love looks even more disastrous and tragic because King Mark is a good if dull king, a well-meaning and affectionate foster father, and a benevolent man. Whatever flaws the kings may have, they’re no bigger than those of any other human being; whatever severe measures they may take, it’s driven by the lovers’ acts.

In contrast to these courtly love stories, we have Martin’s subversions of the Arthurian romances: there are no literal monsters to fight and the enemy is within. Aemon and Naerys had Aegon the Unworthy, Jaime and Rhaella had Aerys the Mad King, Jaime and Cersei had Robert, and Sandor and Sansa have Joffrey. That’s one of two salient differences: that the challenge for the knight comes from his own king first and foremost, which is just as big and difficult a test of loyalty and chivalry for the knight, but doesn’t pose the same moral dilemmas as betraying a good king. The other distinction is the nature of the attachment to the queen, because in the old Round Table tales it’s romantic love regardless of consummation, but that’s not always present in GRRM’s versions: Aemon/Naerys are doomed lovers in the songs and popular Westerosi culture, but not in the histories told in TWOIAF; and the Jaime/Rhaella relationship had not a whiff of romance. That leaves only Jaime/Cersei and Sandor/Sansa as the unmistakable “illicit lovers” figures.

Much has already been discussed about the romance aspect of all king-queen-knight arcs mirroring the Arthurian ones, such as in these two examples [] []. So this time the focus will be rather on knighthood, the all-encompassing theme in Sandor Clegane’s storyline, and how the values it is supposed to contain as well as personal honour codes are put to the test by the need for the knight to protect the queen.

So many vows . . .

When young Sansa so dreamily likened Joffrey dismissing his frightful Hound from her presence to Prince Aemon championing Naerys from scurrilous gossip tainting her honour, she couldn’t have imagined she had assigned the roles wrongly and her “Dragonknight” was really the burnt man sent away. In this context, it’s interesting to note that she’s present in his elevation to Kingsguard, where the first thing she registers is that he’s taken a long time to accept the post, keeping his face unreadable, and his first remark is on a wife and lands. This comes in the wake of Ser Barristan’s tale of giving up a betrothal and his rights to the Selmy lands to pursue his life’s goal of becoming a White Sword, and might have been prompted by that at least in part, but it also alludes to what he’s going to renounce forever, that’s unveiled by the Night’s Watch oath:

Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.”

According to The World of Ice and Fire, this is how the Kingsguard was created by Queen Visenya:

But out of all the tragedy was born one glorious thing: the Sworn Brotherhood of the Kingsguard. When Aegon and Visenya placed prices on the heads of the Dornish lords, many were murdered, and in retaliation the Dornishmen hired their own catspaws and killers. On one occasion in 10 AC, Aegon and Visenya were both attacked in the streets of King’s Landing, and if not for Visenya and Dark Sister, the king might not have survived. Despite this, the king still believed that his guards were sufficient to his defense; Visenya convinced him otherwise. (It is recorded that when Aegon pointed out his guardsmen, Visenya drew Dark Sister and cut his cheek before his guards could react. “Your guards are slow and lazy,” Visenya is reported to have said, and the king was forced to agree.)

It was Visenya, not Aegon, who decided the nature of the Kingsguard. Seven champions for the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, who would all be knights. She modeled their vows upon those of the Night’s Watch, so that they would forfeit all things save their duty to the king.

That tells us what sort of oath Sandor took when he joined the Kingsguard: the same one that Jon Snow and all other Black Brothers took. Poignantly enough, it’s not having a wife the first forfeiture mentioned, also the first that Uncle Benjen mentions to his nephew when he wants to go to the Wall. Sandor, the least ambitious nobleman of the power-hungry and overbearing Lannisters together with Jaime, talks of lands and titles only twice and both times in the context of a woman: here, by pointing out that he’s giving up on any chance of ever marrying, he highlights what matters to him in relation to possessions: a woman and, by extension, a family with her, and later when he talks of the King in the North granting him a lordship, his constant babbling about his hostage’s sister makes it plain that his motivation is again a woman. Similarly, Jaime has this “Bugger Casterly Rock, I want Cersei” attitude to lands and titles that later is updated to “Bugger the Iron Throne, I want Cersei,” thus also making it clear that he doesn’t value possessions by themselves over the woman and what she brings to him.

Both men show parallel regrets, therefore, in that their joining the Kingsguard equals loss of love, and perhaps that factors in on their posterior involvement with their respective queens as an indication that none of them had actually given up on it, vows or no. But whilst Jaime in the end does assume his Lord Commander duties with all that this involves, Sandor walks further and further from these duties until he breaks away and leaves. Interestingly, he ends up finding refuge with the Faith, the one institution in all of Westeros with the power and authority to release a Kingsguard from his vows, as revealed in ASOS Jaime VII:

Cersei ended that when she replaced Ser Barristan on grounds of age. A suitable gift to the Faith will persuade the High Septon to release you from your vows. Your sister was foolish to dismiss Selmy, admittedly, but now that she has opened the gates—”

“—someone needs to close them again.” Jaime stood. “I am tired of having highborn women kicking pails of shit at me, Father. No one ever asked me if I wanted to be Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, but it seems I am. I have a duty—”

That might have some significance in the future, or it’s a huge coincidence otherwise, as the Elder Brother is also the only one that knows he’s alive and can vouch for him to the Faith—or anyone else for that matter—in relation to the Saltpans incident. It remains to be seen how it turns out, but the possibility is there.

Back to his entrance to the Kingsguard, Sandor steps in for Ser Barristan Selmy, and that’s some big shoes to step in, for the Bold is admired and loved by everyone for his feats whilst Sandor is reviled for his association to an infamous family and his reputation. Selmy brings in the baggage of a glorious reputation that reflects well on whoever he’s serving, and Sandor brings in the contrary. Of Selmy, songs are sung and tales are told that are heard even in the North. But for Sandor, outside of the castle rumours have him killing Sansa and Arya in cold-blood, when the reality is that he’s saved Sansa and “Arya” (Jeyne), and that gives a taste of what sort of stuff is repeated in taverns and towns about him, what those terrible deeds were that those villagers in the remote Vale and the monk of the Quiet Isle heard before meeting him: likely wild and untrue, but for the most part believed because . . . it’s the Hound, after all.

Selmy’s dismissal also has one detail that Sandor will mimic in the future: the striping off of the white cloak in disgust at the status quo. And he’s also the only one in the room that stands up for the Kingsguard first and knighthood second, being mocked in return by all, not least by the Hound, whose opinions on both institutions are low and he is vocal about his lack of respect for them. For example, when Ser Boros challenges him for his refusal to take vows, invoking that the rules state Kingsguard must be knights (confirmed in the passage on how Visenya founded it), Sandor cuts him off with a final “Until now.” So Boros fails to stand up to the Hound in favour of the institution of knighthood and the Kingsguard whose ethos is being so blatantly violated, which makes for a poor show of knightly honour. Ragnorak has one great observation on this, stemming from Tywin’s words to Tyrion upon learning of Sandor’s new status:

He lent honour to any man he served. Can anyone say the same of the Hound? You feed your dog bones under the table, you do not seat him beside you on the high bench.”

This again underscores the degree of malfunctioning in knighthood and Kingsguard, for Boros Blount will be eventually relegated by Jaime to the very unknightly task of becoming Tommen’s food taster, quite literally being fed scraps from the Lannister table. But putting aside the irregular nature of his nomination, there’s something positive in Sandor being chosen, because when originally the Kingsguard was created with high ideals, the requisite quality that Queen Visenya stressed on, overruling Aegon’s more chivalry-based criterion, was loyalty:

And when Aegon spoke of a grand tourney to choose the first Kingsguard, Visenya dissuaded him, saying he needed more than skill in arms to protect him; he also needed unwavering loyalty. The king entrusted Visenya with selecting the first members of the order, and history shows he was wise to do so: two died defending him, and all served to the end of their days with honour. The White Book recounts their names, as it has recorded the name and deeds of every knight who swore the vows: Ser Corlys Velaryon, the first Lord Commander; Ser Richard Roote; Ser Addison Hill, Bastard of Cornfield; Ser Gregor Goode and Ser Griffith Goode, brothers; Ser Humfrey the Mummer, a hedge knight; and Ser Robin Darklyn, called Darkrobin, the first of many Darklyns to wear the white cloak.

Her pragmatism was shrewdly correct, as the second bolded line demonstrates, in view of how the history of the Kingsguard would become littered with disloyal men. No wonder, therefore, that three centuries later, another Targaryen queen expresses a desire to have bloodriders for her son Rhaego instead of Kingsguard: a bloodrider will die for and with his khal, a Kingsguard won’t die for and with his king.

Joffrey’s garde de corps was not an exception: Mandon Moore and Osmund Kettleblack are of dubious loyalty to the king, just to name a pair of conspicuous cases. And amongst all those men, Sandor is the one whose loyalty nobody suspects for an instant, least of all the prickly Lannisters themselves; it’s the quality that defines him, that makes him be appreciated by his superiors and despised by outsiders, the quality that dissuades every game-player from Varys to Littlefinger to Tyrion from even contemplating the madness of trying to bribe him somehow. In this regard, Sandor does fit the ideal of the royal bodyguard as conceived in its origins, and that he’s no knight just once more elevates him above the others, who are knights but don’t possess this sort of personal honour. It also makes the fact that he forsook his loyalty to the king and regent for the sake of a mistreated girl all the more notable.

Incidentally, having a Gregor Goode amongst the founding members of the Kingsguard is surely meant as an in-joke by GRRM. That name is certainly chuckle-worthy for its oxymoronic ring, as is that said knight had a brother also in the Kingsguard. For additional humour, I’d venture a thought that Ser Humfrey the Mummer could be some oblique allusion to Ser Florian the Fool, the only other knight-jester that we know of.

Knight takes Queen

Seated upon the Iron Throne, his misrule began with small acts of pleasure, but in time his appetites knew no bounds, and his corruption led to acts that haunted the realm for generations.

Thus begynneth the rule of goode kynge Aegon IV . . . But the same could’ve been said of Joffrey, from what we read happens in his first audience as new monarch: he delights in chopping off the hand of a thief, imprisoning a woman for asking permission to bury her lover, sentencing two knights to fight to death for land and having a singer choose between either his fingers or his tongue. “Small acts of pleasure,” indeed. Sadistic pleasure that impels him to drag his betrothed to the battlements in order to see her suffer at the sight of her father’s head. This incident—and the entire day, really—will be for Sandor the first direct test to his Kingsguard vows, which are spelt out by Ser Barristan in ADWD The Queensguard:

The first duty of the Kingsguard was to defend the king from harm or threat. The white knights were sworn to obey the king’s commands as well, to keep his secrets, counsel him when counsel was requested and keep silent when it was not, serve his pleasure and defend his name and honour. Strictly speaking, it was purely the king’s choice whether or not to extend Kingsguard protection to others, even those of royal blood. Some kings thought it right and proper to dispatch Kingsguard to serve and defend their wives and children, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins of greater and lesser degree, and occasionally even their lovers, mistresses, and bastards. But others preferred to use household knights and men-at-arms for those purposes, whilst keeping their seven as their own personal guard, never far from their sides.

Let’s see how many of these vows he breaks this day: defend the king from harm? He did, but then he omitted to reveal what the threat had been and who from. Obey the king’s commands? He did some, but dodged others. Keep his secrets? He did, but then he revealed to Sansa the secret to manipulating Joffrey to save herself. Counsel him? He did not, but he also refused to participate when Joffrey looked up to him for validation on Robb. He protected his future queen by decision of the king to extend that protection to her? He did obey when ordered to escort her, but he protected her on his own. It’s interesting that in all three occasions described on-page that Sansa is beaten by the Kingsguard with Sandor being present, he always does something in her favour, whatever he can within the limitations of his station and job. Here, just in one day that Sansa is beaten twice, he intervenes three times to help her directly. For instance, when Joffrey goes to her bedchamber and orders him to take her off bed, he obeys but handles her almost gently, which contrasts with the blow with a mailed glove that she’ll receive from Meryn, and advices her to give the king what he wants. Advice that she will have to remind herself of twice in the course of that day:

But a voice inside her whispered, There are no heroes, and she remembered what Lord Petyr had said to her, here in this very hall. “Life is not a song, sweetling,” he’d told her. “You may learn that one day to your sorrow.” In life, the monsters win, she told herself, and now it was the Hound’s voice she heard, a cold rasp, metal on stone. “Save yourself some pain, girl, and give him what he wants.”

. . . . .

Thank you, Your Grace,” she murmured. The Hound was right, she thought, I am only a little bird, repeating the words they taught me. The sun had fallen below the western wall, and the stones of the Red Keep glowed dark as blood.

It’s the first of all her lessons from the Hound’s Non-Violent Combat Masterclass, Lesson I: Blind Them with the Polite End. And it’s important because, although this is by no means the first time someone warns her to wake up to the ugliness of reality, it is actually the first time someone tells her what to do to protect herself. Littlefinger just limited himself to some vague “life isn’t a song” remark that is of no use to her at present, and Septa Mordane’s “courtesy is a lady’s armour” mantra is meant as social polish only. But Sandor tells her how to use her best quality, what she is good for and excels at as a means of defence, he teaches her the way of passive resistance, the same way he learnt to use his own qualities as defence and survival method. Later, he’ll tell her also learn to lie better to protect herself, and by giving her both pieces of advice he shows her a way to turn her natural politeness and manners into weapons, thus becoming her first mentor in survival matters.

I can have Ser Meryn drag you up,” he said. “You won’t like that. You had better do what I say.” Joffrey reached for her, and Sansa cringed away from him, backing into the Hound.

Do it, girl,” Sandor Clegane told her, pushing her back toward the king. His mouth twitched on the burned side of his face and Sansa could almost hear the rest of it. He’ll have you up there no matter what, so give him what he wants.

That’s the second time he intervenes directly on her behalf, again with the same advice. And after her second beating of the day, ordered when she forgets this advice and defies Joffrey, he still helps her a third time, only that this time he commits high treason himself in doing so. He taints his own sort of honour by forsaking his loyalty to the king in favour of his “queen.”

He spoke to them about what it meant to be a knight. “It is chivalry that makes a true knight, not a sword,” he said. “Without honour, a knight is no more than a common killer. It is better to die with honour than to live without it.”

The third time she’ll be beaten and almost sexually assaulted, he’ll also make an attempt to help her by saying “Enough,” in direct violation of the vow to not counsel the king if not asked first. His intervention is ultimately fruitless, but it’s that he did what counts. And yet, for all that he did everything that was reasonably in his power to help Sansa, he still thinks it wasn’t good and not enough. He still assesses himself rather harshly and is haunted by what he sees as his failure to protect and help his little “queen,” as indicated by his words to Arya in ASOS, when he mentions to her how he “watched them beat your sister bloody too” and “stood there in my white cloak and let them beat her.” He isn’t even taking into account what he did do for her, only what he didn’t do, and he self-flagellates by putting all that in the same category of heinous crimes like killing Mycah and watching Lord Eddard’s beheading, two other instances in which he realistically didn’t have the power to do much anyhow. Jaime Lannister is another “soiled” Kingsguard with the same ghost of an abused queen he failed to protect on his conscience, that of Rhaella Targaryen, as he recalls in AFFC Jaime II:

The sight had filled him with disquiet, reminding him of Aerys Targaryen and the way a burning would arouse him. A king has no secrets from his Kingsguard. Relations between Aerys and his queen had been strained during the last years of his reign. They slept apart and did their best to avoid each other during the waking hours. But whenever Aerys gave a man to the flames, Queen Rhaella would have a visitor in the night. The day he burned his mace-and-dagger Hand, Jaime and Jon Darry had stood at guard outside her bedchamber whilst the king took his pleasure. “You’re hurting me,” they had heard Rhaella cry through the oaken door. “You’re hurting me.” In some queer way, that had been worse than Lord Chelsted’s screaming. “We are sworn to protect her as well,” Jaime had finally been driven to say. “We are,” Darry allowed, “but not from him.”

Jaime had only seen Rhaella once after that, the morning of the day she left for Dragonstone. The queen had been cloaked and hooded as she climbed inside the royal wheelhouse that would take her down Aegon’s High Hill to the waiting ship, but he heard her maids whispering after she was gone. They said the queen looked as if some beast had savaged her, clawing at her thighs and chewing on her breasts. A crowned beast, Jaime knew.

He also did seek a way to protect his queen from abuse by the king, by appealing to an older and more respected knight. But unlike Sandor, he didn’t do anything of his own volition for Rhaella’s sake, even as little as offer some consolation, some advice, find some sneaky way to guard her behind the king’s back as the Hound demonstrated is doable. Instead, he passively takes the advice of Jonothor Darry and shuts up. He chooses his vows above doing what’s right, essentially, and Rhaella goes off to die in childbed as a result from that rape that both he and the greatest knights of the Kingsguard didn’t protect her from. He didn’t protect his next queen, Cersei, from the rapes and beatings she suffered at the hands of Robert either, but in this case he did show a willingness to solve the situation through a second kingslaying and she had a say in keeping him as ignorant as possible with regard to the abuse, going as far as hiding her bruises from him with make-up, just as Sandor’s northern “queen” does with her own bruises.

Barristan has similar failures on his conscience, related to the same queen as Jaime, and his actions plague his honour and drive him to seek redemption in protecting another queen, Daenerys. He even employs similar wording to Sandor’s hard self-assessment when reflecting on his time wearing the white cloak:

In that same cloak he had stood beside the Iron Throne as madness consumed Jaehaerys’s son Aerys. Stood, and saw, and heard, and yet did nothing.

But no. That was not fair. He did his duty. Some nights, Ser Barristan wondered if he had not done that duty too well. He had sworn his vows before the eyes of gods and men, he could not in honour go against them … but the keeping of those vows had grown hard in the last years of King Aerys’s reign. He had seen things that it pained him to recall, and more than once he wondered how much of the blood was on his own hands. If he had not gone into Duskendale to rescue Aerys from Lord Darklyn’s dungeons, the king might well have died there as Tywin Lannister sacked the town. Then Prince Rhaegar would have ascended the Iron Throne, mayhaps to heal the realm. Duskendale had been his finest hour, yet the memory tasted bitter on his tongue.

It was his failures that haunted him at night, though. Jaehaerys, Aerys, Robert. Three dead kings. Rhaegar, who would have been a finer king than any of them. Princess Elia and the children. Aegon just a babe, Rhaenys with her kitten. Dead, every one, yet he still lived, who had sworn to protect them. And now Daenerys, his bright shining child queen. She is not dead. I will not believe it.

Like Selmy, Sandor also saved the life of a king not worth saving, not being aware of the consequences that rescuing Aerys and stopping Sansa from killing Joffrey respectively would have for the realm and for their queens. In that, both men also parallel Aemon the Dragonknight, who fell in action so Aegon IV could live, and that cost Naerys one more year of unwanted marital relations and death in childbirth, plus eventually the Blackfyre rebellions born of the intrafamilial quarrelling. Aemon is also the only one of these knights that was able to protect his queen openly and actively, though not from her unwanted marriage. But then, he was a prince of the blood with all the privileges of the station and was feared by everybody including his kingly brother in addition to being idolised by the commonfolk. All advantages that Sandor didn’t enjoy, and this lack also makes it ironical that the least privileged of our knights would be the one to do more for protecting his queen. Jaime had the resources and privileges of the Lannisters, Selmy had the love of the people and admiring respect of the nobles, assets that can be used for good to various extents, but the Hound’s capital was the sway he held over Joffrey, which can’t be much in the long run as he grew increasingly erratic.

The Kingslayer and Ser Barry’s experiences also provide us with a way to deduce how Sandor could’ve felt about the other crime he witnessed that seems to weigh heavily on him too, that of the execution of his “queen’s” sire. In the previous quote, Selmy states that he “had seen things that it pained him to recall,” and appears to feel his hands are bloody too by reason of inaction. Jaime’s feelings are exactly the same in relation to witnessing the horrible murder of the Starks:

Lord Rickard demanded trial by combat, and the king granted the request. Stark armoured himself as for battle, thinking to duel one of the Kingsguard. Me, perhaps. Instead they took him to the throne room and suspended him from the rafters while two of Aerys’s pyromancers kindled a blaze beneath him. The king told him that fire was the champion of House Targaryen. So all Lord Rickard needed to do to prove himself innocent of treason was… well, not burn.”

When the fire was blazing, Brandon was brought in. His hands were chained behind his back, and around his neck was a wet leathern cord attached to a device the king had brought from Tyrosh. His legs were left free, though, and his longsword was set down just beyond his reach.”

The pyromancers roasted Lord Rickard slowly, banking and fanning that fire carefully to get a nice even heat. His cloak caught first, and then his surcoat, and soon he wore nothing but metal and ashes. Next he would start to cook, Aerys promised… unless his son could free him. Brandon tried, but the more he struggled, the tighter the cord constricted around his throat. In the end he strangled himself.”

As for Lord Rickard, the steel of his breastplate turned cherry-red before the end, and his gold melted off his spurs and dripped down into the fire. I stood at the foot of the Iron Throne in my white armour and white cloak, filling my head with thoughts of Cersei. After, Gerold Hightower himself took me aside and said to me, ‘You swore a vow to guard the king, not to judge him.’ That was the White Bull, loyal to the end and a better man than me, all agree.”

For a second time, Jaime is told by an older and seemingly more honourable knight to shut up and be a good little knight. Because of his Kingsguard vows, he again has to passively accept it. And later, he’ll describe how he “went inside” as a defence mechanism to cope with this horror. Did Sandor, the other one to be an eyewitness in the unjust execution of a Lord of Winterfell by an Aegon IV/Aerys II hybrid in lion pelt likewise “go inside” for the same reason? We have no POV from him, but it’s not difficult to infer that it did affect him too: we only have to read what he told Sansa atop Maegor’s Holdfast before the Blackwater, cruel words that nevertheless are so strikingly like what she remembers herself, as well as what he told her sister as mentioned before. If Jaime and Barristan consider that the white cloak soiled them, for Sandor it was more a coup de grâce, as he’d already been “soiled” by the crimson cloak of the Lannisters, the one that he really needed to cast off, and by making the choice that the other knights hadn’t been able to—protect his queen—he would find the path out of soiled cloaks eventually.



A Game of Thrones Recap


by DogLover

Sandor Clegane, a secondary character, enters the A Song of Ice and Fire epic early in A Game of Thrones.  While easy to initially perceive him as a lackey villain due to his station within the Lannister rank and file, of whom Ned Stark is so very wary, Sandor slowly and subtly evolves as a very complex and fleshed out character. It’s in this book that the Hound also commits a truly heinous act, one that borders on the unforgivable: the slaying of Mycah, an act that sets up his redemptive arc. Yet, not too soon afterward is Sandor presented as a humanized and sympathetic character, wherein he reveals the secret behind his scars to Sansa. It’s this power of testimony that emboldens him to protect Loras Tyrell from his savage brother’s murderous rage.

The compassion Sansa shows Sandor when he provides testimony to his trauma establishes a connection between the two, and it’s then that we begin to see small cracks of disloyalty. Sandor crosses the line back to villainy again after participating in the attack against Ned Stark’s household, and is then promoted to Kingsguard. However, very significantly, disobeys orders to “kill them all” by saving Jeyne Poole, another act of chivalry from someone who holds the institution of knighthood in contempt. In the very first book of this epic series, we are already seeing a man expressing and acting on the will to change as he slowly breaks from the dysfunctional and avaricious Lannisters and makes a shift to Sansa Stark.

To add to the complexity, themes of knighthood, mercy, redemption, trauma and testimony, and identity and belonging are central to Sandor’s arc, and an array of motifs, symbolism, and foreshadowing thread throughout his storyline.



Knighthood, specifically the subverted knight trope, is perhaps the most ever-present and obvious theme in Sandor Clegane’s storyline. Milady of York, who provided the analysis for Sandor I, explicates upon Sandor’s dismissive and confrontational remarks (or so perceived by readers) to Ser Rodrik Cassel in the Winterfell practice yard after Joffrey insists on using real steel in competition with Robb Stark, remarks that glean first insight into Sandor’s attitude toward the institution of knighthood: “His exchange with Cassel is therefore one of a disenchanted non-knight and a punctilious knight disagreeing on this quite formal training with dull-edged swords and a focus on honour and knightly codes of behaviour acting as lines of demarcation to deter any wounds accidental or not amongst these high-ranking children.”

The knighthood theme is much more prominent after Sandor challenges the idealistic Sansa with an eye-opening lesson on the hypocrisy of knighthood, and lets Sansa know just how he feels about them and their vows.

Spare me your empty little compliments, girl . . . and your sers. I am no knight. I spit on them and their vows. My brother is a knight. Did you see him ride today?”

Lady Gwynhyfvar provided an expansion on an Arthurian comparative analysis, making the important observation that “Sandor’s identification of his monstrous brother with the institution has led him to dismiss it outright.  His relationship with Sansa will allow him to explore those ideals and conflicts. Viewed as an echo of The Knight of the Cart, this scene can be seen as symbolising the idea that true knights aren’t necessarily without flaws and that rescue can come from places unlooked for.”

Tying in with knighthood is the sub-theme of Protector, as, apart from the Mycah incident, Sandor is always positioned to protect others, as eloquently stated by Ragnorak, who also addresses the killing of Mycah:

One aspect that I think would bother him, again subconsciously at first, is that this may be the only time we see Sandor in the metaphorical sword role instead of the shield.  He was Cersei’s sworn shield, her protector, and then Joffrey’s.  He saved Sansa during the riot.  At the Blackwater he was a defender of the city, not an attacker.  He talks aggressively at his trial in the BwB cave, but again he’s on the defensive and protecting himself and not the aggressor.  He takes Beric’s offer to sally in words first before he is forced to switch to swords. Even with Gregor’s men when he knows the inevitable outcome, he waits for them to be the aggressors.  He warns the innkeeper of his impending fate to protect him.


Sandor IV further explores Sandor’s role as protector, especially in contrast to Gregor, the vicious aggressor who is tasked by Tywin Lannister to terrorize the Riverlands. While Sandor’s position requires the fearsome and dangerous reputation he holds as the Hound, as well as the skill of a tried and tested warrior, his role is that of the loyal defender.

It’s also foreshadowed that Sandor will replace both Ned and Lady as Sansa’s protector when Sansa backs into Sandor and mistakes him for her father, as well as Robert’s “Get her a dog, she’ll be happier for it” remark to Ned when Cersei orders Lady’s death.

Honor, loyalty, and obedience, pertinent to knightly vows, are all themes interwoven through Sandor’s narrative. This is explored in depth in Sandor V:

And amongst all those men, Sandor is the one whose loyalty nobody suspects for an instant, least of all the prickly Lannisters themselves; it’s the quality that defines him, that makes him be appreciated by his superiors and despised by outsiders, the quality that dissuades every game-player from Varys to Littlefinger to Tyrion from even contemplating the madness of trying to bribe him somehow. In this regard, Sandor does fit the ideal of the royal bodyguard as conceived in its origins, and that he’s no knight just once more elevates him above the others, who are knights but don’t possess this sort of personal honour. It also makes the fact that he forsook his loyalty to the king and regent for the sake of a mistreated girl all the more notable.

Milady of York



The first glimpse of mercy, a significant theme to Sandor’s arc, is highlighted by Milady of York in Sandor I.

From that overheard conversation between Sandor and Joffrey in Winterfell, the first noteworthy line is the former’s remark that Bran is taking too long to die. This passage contains what’s probably the earliest allusion to the gift of mercy that will continue throughout the Hound’s arc… His comment that he’d wish Bran would die comes out filtered through his own view of suffering, that it’s better to end it cleanly than to leave someone to endure till the pain runs its course towards death, a view that diverges from Robert’s and Jaime’s very similar comments in that Sandor doesn’t suggest killing the boy but wishes that his agony should be short and the end swift.


Trauma and Testimony


Brashcandy’s Sandor III analysis delves deeply into Sandor’s source of trauma and the significance of revealing how he received his burns to Sansa:

What Sandor testifies to here is not simply the personal injustice done to him by his brother’s depravity and his father’s complicity, but also to the institutionalised violence that is masked under a show of chivalry and solemn vows, one that has considerable social and moral implications, as evidenced by Rhaegar’s knighting of the Mountain. Whether or not Sandor personally witnessed the latter event is not known, but it doesn’t lessen the impact it has on his psychic trauma, acting, I would suggest, as a double wound that hardens over time into the Hound persona.

This act of testimony is also crucial to the healing process, and it’s Sandor’s retelling of his trauma to Sansa, which establishes a deep connection between the two that forces him to recalibrate his moral compass and sets him on a path to redemption, as Brashcandy expounds:

It is vital to appreciate the magnitude of Sandor’s testimony, and how difficult it would have been for him to tell his story as a victim whose survival up to this point has been based on an identity that admits no weakness or vulnerability. Despite the dark rumours about Gregor and the Clegane family that Ned recalls when watching the jousting, there is a culture of silence in place, one that Sandor has been obliged to keep since he was a young boy. Coming in the wake of his involvement in Mycah’s death, Sandor’s testimony is an act of truth-telling that begins a long process towards his own personal redemption. If we consider the judicial relevance of testimony, then telling his story accomplishes a critical first stage in his will to change and speaks to the wider need for systematic societal transformation.


Yolkboy pointed out that victims of trauma often adopt black and white thinking patterns, which is so very apparent in Sandor’s attitude toward knights: “Here we see the first glimpse of Sandor’s black and white outlook on knights; he puts them all in one basket. He seems to hate the institution, yet we immediately see that Gregor’s brutality has shaped this perception.”

The Relationship between Sandor and Joffrey


Sandor is initially perceived as Joffrey’s lackey sidekick; however, upon closer inspection, Sandor is the one who astutely manages Joffrey. It becomes increasingly apparent that Joffrey actually looks up to Sandor, someone Cersei actually considers the closest Joffrey ever had to a father. As we’ll see in the future, Joffrey is careful not to ask the Hound to do certain things. However, the older Joffrey gets, the more emboldened he becomes, even more so when he’s proclaimed king and his behavior becomes increasingly erratic and more blatantly cruel and sadistic, as pointed out by Avlonnic:

When Sandor pretends he can’t see Tyrion, it seems like a shtick that is familiar to all three of them and one that has amused Joffrey previously. It illustrates to me that Joffrey is just crossing the cusp from boy prince to be protected to entitled crown prince to be obeyed. Sandor’s goofing around with short jokes is not going to suffice as entertainment much longer. This interaction telegraphs some of the difficult decisions ahead for Sandor in serving the petulant boy royal and his mother.

As Joffrey grows increasingly erratic and difficult to manage, Sandor subtly separates himself from Joffrey and the Lannisters, but not insignificantly, by breaking his vows and disobeying orders. Sandor goes as far as committing high treason when hiding the fact that Sansa attempted to kill him, and offers Sansa advice on how to best protect herself. Sandor also violates the vow on offering the king counsel when not asked, yelling “Enough!” during a beating in which Sansa is stripped of her clothes.


The Trident Incident


The most controversial and shocking act committed by the Hound is the slaying of Mycah, one that many consider irredeemable and that simply can’t be excused with an “I was just following orders” explanation, often referred to as the Nuremberg Defense, and used so often as a way to cast Sandor as guilty of committing an illegal act. OldGimletEye’s analysis brilliantly shines light on the complexity of evoking the “Superior Orders” defense.

Examining two conceptual problems that arise when using the Nuremberg defense as a way to criminalize the Hound, OldGimletEye states:


The first conceptual problem is whether Sandor’s actions were even illegal according to Westeros’ law. Theoretically, at least, the tribunals at Nuremburg tried war criminals for breaking international and national laws that had been established before the outbreak of World War Two.2”

The second conceptual problem with casual mentions of Nuremburg is that those mentions often assume that “the superior orders defense” died at Nuremburg. It did not.”

Further examining the possible illegality of Cersei’s orders and Sandor’s own culpability, OldGimletEye surmises that:

Sandor’s killing of Mycah would only constitute a crime if Sandor had illegally followed Cersei’s orders. For Sandor to have illegally followed orders, two minimum initial conditions have to be met. First, the order itself would have to be illegal. Secondly, to extent the order was illegal in some respect, it would have to be shown that Sandor didn’t have a mistake of fact defense.

If there was no illegality to Cersei’s order or if Sandor had some viable mistake of fact of defense, then Sandor would not be guilty of murdering Mycah, even under the absolute liability approach.

He then concludes: “It seems plausible that Sandor wouldn’t have seen anything particularly unusual about Cersei’s order, except maybe the severity of the punishment that Cersei wanted imposed upon Mycah.” And while Sandor’s actions were legal, it doesn’t mean they were ethical or moral. While Sandor didn’t know that Mycah was innocent and had little choice in following orders, we do see this act is one he is not proud of and takes a psychological toll.


Home, Belonging, and Identity


Sandor’s choice of dress, which is plain, dark, and lacking in garish ornamentation, establishes him as someone who cares little for material things. This is reinforced when he throws the piece of gold Renly hands him after Sandor bests Renly in the joust. Sandor, like Jaime, has little ambition, and what drives them is to be the best warriors they can possibly be. Sandor’s rank, that of sworn shield to the king and promotion to the Kingsguard is based on merit. Everything Sandor has, he earned.

Not only does Littlefinger underestimate the Hound during the tournament, stating that the Hound dare not bite the hand the feeds him, he does so again when he tells Ned Stark that the Hound will not thank him for ordering his brother executed, as killing Gregor is what Sandor lives for. Brashcandy noted Sandor’s hatred of Gregor and his pronouncements that he wants to kill him is a coping mechanism, as Sandor did not attempt to kill Gregor when the opportunity presented itself. It seems that Sandor actually harbors a deeper desire, one that is actually healthy and normal.


Milady of York, in Sandor V, places into context Sandor’s long moment to consider accepting Cersei’s and Joffrey’s offer to elevate him to Kingsguard and his words of acceptance:


The king and council have determined that no man in the Seven Kingdoms is more fit to guard and protect His Grace than his sworn shield, Sandor Clegane.”

How do you like that, dog?” King Joffrey asked.

The Hound’s scarred face was hard to read. He took a long moment to consider. “Why not? I have no lands nor wife to forsake, and who’d care if I did?” The burned side of his mouth twisted. “But I warn you, I’ll say no knight’s vows.”

The Sworn Brothers of the Kingsguard have always been knights,” Ser Boros said firmly.

Until now,” the Hound said in his deep rasp, and Ser Boros fell silent.


Sandor, completely lacking in ambition, has contemplated owning his own lands, but in relation to having a woman and family, which would give such holdings meaning. This is paralleled with Jaime’s own lack of ambition, giving up his claim to Casterly Rock for Cersei.

Sandor’s sense of identity is also tied to his Hound persona and that of the loyal dog. And while he would take pride in being called a “black dog” since he loathes being called a “ser,” his connection to Sansa forces him to question his loyalty to the masters he serves.


Cloak Symbolism


The cloak symbolism is especially significant to Sandor’s narrative and makes a symbolic appearance when Sandor is elevated to Kingsguard and given the white Kingsguard cloak, the very one Barristan Selmy, the epitome of knightly virtue, is stripped of. However, before donning the cloak, Sansa uses it to kneel on when she pleads for mercy. As noted by Brashcandy:

In begging for mercy on Barristan’s white cloak, Sansa enables that garment to be symbolically invested with the honour and ideals that Barristan would have spent his life trying to fulfill, but sadly falling short when expected to stand by and watch the madness of the men he served go unchecked. The joke may have brought him some humiliation, yet in ending his tenure with the Lannisters as a naked knight, Barristan has the opportunity to reestablish his own personal sense of honour and duty. As a non-knight replacing the naked knight, Sandor begins his service by challenging the long-held and meaningless codes of the institution; further, even though he is expected to obey and serve his king in everything he does, he begins by displaying kindness and compassion to Sansa when she is ordered to attend Joffrey in court. Perhaps it is significant that instead of the white cloak of his Kingsguard brothers, Sandor is wearing a plain brown doublet and green mantle in that scene.


The “bloody cloak” imagery is also presented when Sandor rides back from the search party with Mycah wrapped in his cloak, foreshadowing the bloody Kingsguard cloak he’ll leave for Sansa after he rips it off in disgust.




Beauty and the Beast

The Beauty and the Beast motif is intricately threaded throughout Sandor’s storyline, becoming far more prominent as his relationship with Sansa Stark develops. Yet, this motif is established very early on, even before Sandor and Sansa interact, which Lyanna Stark points out:

With regards to Sandor’s introduction and the theme of the beast and the beastly in ASOIAF, it is perhaps worth noting that he is not just lumped in with the rest of the Lannisters, he is one in a line of three other “beasts.” Jaime, Sandor, Joffrey and Tyrion are all characters who, at various stages in the story, take on various forms of the beast, the beastly and in some cases also the monstrous. All of them also get to star in some way in a “beauty and the beast” setting, whether opposite Sansa (Sandor, Joffrey, Tyrion) or in other settings. In the cases of Jaime and Joffrey, they have all this pretty surface, but still come across to us as hardly better than monsters, at least initially in Jamie’s case.


Dogs and Wolves

The motif of dogs and wolves is also significant and pervasive in Sandor’s storyline. Brashcandy mentions that the closer dogs are to wolves, the wilder they become, and we see this with Sandor, the loyal dog. As his relationship develops with Sansa, Sandor demonstrates acts of disobedience: “One consequence of wolves and dogs interacting is that the latter becomes less tractable, less willing to simply serve and obey.”

Milady of York points out the significance of the “dogs take after their masters” lesson that Sansa received:

The a dog mimics its master motif is presented very early in AGOT, funnily enough by Sansa herself in her first chapter, where she says:


Sansa couldn’t help but smile a little. The kennelmaster once told her that an animal takes after its master. She gave Lady a quick little hug. Lady licked her cheek. Sansa giggled.”


So the little lady got her first lesson on dogs from Winterfell’s kennelmaster, Farlen, no less. She’ll later apply this knowledge to a certain huge hound, most notably in the scene on Maegor’s rooftop, where she’ll compare Sandor to a dog that’ll bite anyone who tries to pet him but will loyally defend his masters from any threat. I think that’s a really accurate and very poignant way of summing up his service with his lion masters, and also puts into perspective why he starts to break away once the collision of core values with them aligns with the appearance of someone willing to bring forth his better side.

Shadows and Light


The significance of colors, especially the white vs. black motif and darkness/shadows/lightness is especially apparent. Ornitorrinca commented:

Now onto the subject of shadows, which has been mentioned a few times already. He’s clearly associated with shadows; his shadow comes into play twice in Tyrion I and throughout ACoK and even into ASoS we will see the man emerge from the shadows. This seems fitting, given, as Maroucia said, his gray armor and gloomy moods, and also when we consider what a morally gray character he is, and how he seems to be tentatively leaving some of the darkness of his life as the story progresses.


Bran’s prophetic dream also brings shadows, darkness, and lightness into play, which Ragnorak explores here.

And LongRider notes: “During the walk back from the tourney, Sandor tells Sansa the story of his burns. It’s noted during the telling how dark it is and how, except when he holds the torch near his face he can’t be seen. It’s been mentioned by fans before that Sandor is many times seen coming from the darkness into the light and that motif may have its start here.”

And last, but not least, Milady of York uncovers the literary inspiration for Sandor Clegane here.





by Milady of York

Many others must’ve noticed and commented on this across the decades, the veteran readers here most of all, yet I’ve never seen a detailed write-up on this topic, and I think it’s interesting not only for what it reveals about GRRM’s process of reinventing and recycling old writings but also because the parallels go deeper than it appears from the few existing comments, and there’s some subtle stuff that might be valuable in analysing Sandor. Before I get into these details, a summary of the plot of Dying of the Light, Martin’s first novel, published in 1977, will help to become familiar with the background of the tale and characters:

By the confines of the galaxy, the Fringe, there’s a group of fourteen planetary systems with different cultures and worldviews that have built and colonised fourteen extravagantly large cities on the planet Worlorn, of a free-floating type known as rogue planets, whose unstable orbit is perpetually pushing it farther and farther away from a source of light to support all known life, and is therefore freezing at a good pace. In transit towards the vacuum beyond the Fringe, it passes near a group of stars circling round a gigantic sun-like red star, which gives it enough light to remain habitable for a while more, which is when all nearby interplanetary societies sent their representatives there for as long as the planet stayed close to the light, a period known as Festival of the Fringe. It’s not long before the planet again detaches itself from the red star’s gravity field, going away towards the void, and with the slow dying of the light, the fourteen cities are abandoned en masse as the darkening increases each day, with only a few people staying to live in too-large and too-empty places, each with their own set of rules. One of those dwellings is Larteyn, an enormous city-fortress made of glowstone—a dark stone that absorbs light in the day and casts it back in the night, glowing red as coals—founded by the people from the planet High Kavalaan, a warlike culture that suffered so horrendously from continuous interworld wars and was almost driven to extinction that as a means of survival they developed a rigidly martial social structure in which all men must be warriors and live in holdfasts, city-fortresses originally built underground or carved on solid rock. All Kavalars belong to four holdfast gatherings in their birth planet, and men are customarily grouped in pairs for life, fight and hunt in twos: the higher-ranking male, often a high-bond, and his teyn, who’s a shieldmate and companion in a manner that’s evocative of the Theban Sacred Band of antiquity. In their society, women are breeders only, kept in separate quarters in each holdfast reserved for them and children, and men do everything else. Some women, usually outsiders, are married to highbonds and become betheyn or held-wife, and must be shared with the teyn. This society esteems these bonds above all, which they call the bond of iron and fire, and the first duty of a Kavalar is towards his holdfast and his companion, values best encapsulated in their unique way of greeting. For they don’t say good day; instead they do like the Braavosi with their valar morghulis/valar dohaeris, and greet you with “Honour to your holdfast, honour to your teyn.

To this moribund world arrives the protagonist, Dirk t’Larien, after he receives a whisperjewel, a meaningful gem from his youthful love Gwen Delvano—whom he calls Jenny—asking him to meet her at Worlorn, where she’s doing ecological research on the native versus extraneous flora on the planet. When they were young, both had made a solemn promise to go to each other with help no matter what happened and wherever they might be. Thinking the woman he’s never forgotten is in need of him, and with his nostalgic feelings resurfacing, he leaves his home planet Avalon, discovering on arrival that she’s been married for years to a progressive-minded Kavalar of the Ironjade holdfast called Jaan Vikary. Progressive he may be, and educated as a historian in Avalon, the closest thing to Earth they have that side of the galaxy, but he’s still bonded to a harsh and conflicted teyn, Garse, who resents her. Prodded by Gwen’s insistent long-time friend Arkin Baelish, pardons, Arkin Ruark, that he must rescue her from a marriage he swears she’s miserable in, Dirk goes with her on research expeditions to the semi-dark and perilous Worlorn forest, with a warning to avoid an encounter with the men of a conservative band from the Braith holdfast also dwelling in Larteyn, who go there hunting “mockmen,” non-human demonic beings of their mythos—in reality, deformed survivors of the time of fire, a nuclear war of extermination a rival coalition unleashed in the past on the Kavalars, who survived in the hills and mountains and that those of the holdfasts didn’t recognise as humans and hunted because they believed them to be shapeshifters, mistaking them for an alien slave race used in that war, as Jaan concludes. In the wild, Dirk gets romantic and tries to kiss Gwen, is rejected and told that the woman he loved no longer exists, that he loves an ideal only, and that she might not be wholly happy as betheyn, but the problem is Garse rather than Jaan. Disillusioned, he makes the mistake of listening to Ruark and decides to stay, to save her anyhow, courting disaster willingly.

And disaster enters the stage soon enough, when our Dirk foolishly goes alone to the deserted Larteyn car park looking for transportation to go after Gwen, and finds there an imposing aircar with a canopy in the shape of a wolf’s head, armoured with laser cannons, that he decides to inspect. But before he can get out of it, the owner comes back and he’s caught inside by a man with facial burns.

“Honour to your holdfast, honour to your teyn. I am Bretan Braith Lantry.”

Our scarred character is a young man born in a Braith holdfast, whence his name comes. He is second teyn to the recently-widowed Chell Daveson, much older than himself and very unattractive too, a source of amusement and whispers about his motivations for agreeing to the bondage with such an aged specimen. He is so riled up by finding Dirk in his wolf-car that he immediately declares him a “mockman” and challenges him to a duel for the offences. Jaan protects Dirk from the accusations, vouching for his status as human and not “mockman,” and appeals to Kavalar authority to thwart Bretan by claiming Dirk as protected property of his holdfast, therefore untouchable to the others. The duel has to take place nevertheless, with two pairs of duellists, Bretan vs. Dirk and Jaan vs. Chell, yet it doesn’t go as planned because Dirk goes missing. He’s caught with Gwen by the Braiths whilst trying to escape, and she’s injured in the altercation that flares up when the Ironjades arrive, causing Jaan to commit the most dishonourable sin of their culture for her sake: duel-breaking. He attacks his fellow Kavalars to save her, and conflict between the men of the different holdfasts erupts, with Jaan, Gwen and Dirk declared prey to be hunted to death all over Worlorn by the others, led on by Bretan Braith. The youth’s teyn, Chell, perishes during the hunt, and in his grief he takes out his wolf-car’s hitherto unused laser cannons and sets some of the mostly-deserted cities ablaze, completely reducing them to ashes, including the one where the hunted had been taking refuge in and from where they escape alive by a hair’s breadth. During a crazed chase through the impossibly thick forest, pursued by the surviving hunters, Jaan guns Garse down and kills him, not knowing that he’s come to help and isn’t with the hunters. Dirk does know, but on realising Jaan is emotionally crushed by this death, keeps silent. The experience convinces Gwen to stay with Jaan and resume their lives together, without his troubled teyn. Now aware that she never sent the whisperjewel to him, that it had been Ruark, who’d loved Gwen since a past drunken one-night stand she doesn’t recall, had hoped to stir trouble in her marriage so she’d abandon her husband and had likewise betrayed their hiding place to Lantry, almost getting them killed, Dirk feels at a loss upon finding him dead by his own hand. Thinking on what to do now, and tormented by dreams in which he sees Bretan, he finally decides to send word to him that he’ll honour their code duello, and goes to face him in their delayed duel. The outcome is left ambiguous, but considering that the duel is with swords and that Dirk is a near inutile with steel whereas his opponent is a famed duellist, it can be guessed.

When it comes to similitudes between Sandor and Bretan, appearance is the one that leaps off the page first, but others exist: physical similarities and resemblances in personality, three relevant ones for the former and a couple for the latter.

  1. Both have half their face burnt and a story behind

The obvious and most remarked on of all parallels, and that prompted a fan to ask Martin directly, as reported in this SSM

Maltaran asked about comparisons of Bretan Braith (from Dying of the Light) to the Hound.

He said yes, they are similar, but Bretan has much more duality in him, as he is handsome on the unburnt side, while Sandor was only average before the burning.

Just how alike are their facial descriptions? Let’s compare both. Here’s the description of Sandor in AGOT Sansa II:

The right side of his face was gaunt, with sharp cheekbones and a grey eye beneath a heavy brow. His nose was large and hooked, his hair thin, dark. He wore it long and brushed it sideways, because no hair grew on the other side of that face.

The left side of his face was a ruin. His ear had been burned away; there was nothing left but a hole. His eye was still good, but all around it was a twisted mass of scar, slick black flesh hard as leather, pocked with craters and fissured by deep cracks that gleamed red and wet when he moved. Down by his jaw, you could see a hint of bone where the flesh had been seared away.

And here’s the more complete of the two descriptions of Bretan, the one in chapter 6 of Dying of the Light:

His face, his strange half-face, was ugly beyond anything that Dirk had ever seen, but as the day waned and false dusk became real, he found himself getting used to it. When Bretan Braith paced in one direction, he looked utterly normal: a whip-lean youth, full of nervous energy held tightly in check, so tightly that Bretan almost seemed to crackle. His face on that side was unlined and serene; short black curls pressed tightly around his ear and a few ringlets dropped to his shoulder, but he had no hint of a beard. Even his eyebrow was only a faint line above a wide green eye. He appeared almost innocent.

Then, pacing, he would reach the edge of the roof and turn back the way he had come, and everything would be changed. The left side of his face was inhuman, a landscape of twisted plains and angles that no face ought to have. The flesh was seamed in a half-dozen places, and elsewhere it was shiny-slick as enamel. On this side, Bretan had no hair whatsoever, and no ear—only a hole—and the left half of his nose was a small piece of flesh-coloured plastic. His mouth was a lipless slash, and worst of all, it moved. He had a twitch, a grotesque tic, and it touched the left corner of his mouth at intervals and rippled up his bare scalp over the hills of scar tissue.

In the daylight, the Braith’s glowstone eye was as dark as a piece of obsidian. But slowly night was coming, the Helleye sank, and the fires were stirring in his socket. At full darkness, Bretan would be the Helleye, not Worlorn’s tired supergiant of a sun; the glowstone would burn a steady, unwinking red, and the half-face around it would become a black travesty of a skull, a fit home for an eye such as that.

These are the coincidences: both men are hairless on one side of the head, and have only a hole where their ear should be. The left side of their faces are “a ruin” and “inhuman” respectively, confirming that GRRM meant the left side of the character and not the left side of the viewer when he wrote this passage. The landscape/texture of their burns is described similarly in terms of a twisted mass with undulations and cracks and angles which, and this is a very important detail, are brought into sharp relief because of the dim light in both scenes, as in one it’s night and in the other it’s dusk when Sansa and Dirk describe the faces, and darkness adds to the dramatic effect the burns wouldn’t have in full daylight. This is noteworthy because some have taken the description of Sandor’s burns too literally to mean they’re still fresh and oozing, not taking into context the type of artificial light and the angle it fell on, how the mix of light and dimness plays on highlighting the texture of the scars to look that way, and details such as sweating (it had been a hot Summer day after all) and ambient humidity that account for the “wet” appearance.

Another pair of salient aspects to consider in these descriptions is the emotional state of the POV narrators and the intentions of the scarred men. Neither Sansa nor Dirk are at their calmest here: the former is terrified of the Hound, and the latter is aware that he could be killed by the Kavalar; and both Clegane and Lantry are in a tempestuous mood, attempting to scare Sansa and Dirk for different reasons by deliberately forcing them to observe their burns at close range. One turns Sansa by the chin to look at him and the other paces in front of Dirk flaunting his burnt side. Both do achieve their goal, but only momentarily, because once the light is put out and she hears Sandor’s story, Sansa is no longer afraid, and Dirk ceases to be afraid as he comes to realise Bretan is tricking him:

It all seemed very terrifying until you remembered—as Dirk remembered—that it was all quite deliberate. Bretan Braith had not been forced to have a glowstone for an eye; he had chosen it, for his own reasons, and those reasons were not hard to comprehend.

Furthermore, the idea that Sandor’s mouth twitching is an indication of strong emotions and duress rather than just an omnipresent tic gets validated by comparison to Bretan’s exact twitch happening only when he’s furious or distressed, and not the rest of the time. See:

His young teyn made the odd noise again, and the left side of his face twitched. But his laser hand was quite steady.

. . . . .

Does your truth depend on our reasons, highbond?” Bretan asked harshly. His scarred cheek twitched violently.

. . . . .

The scarred face twitched. “Insult was taken.”

. . . . .

Here.” A rasp from the darkness. A few meters away a single glowstone shone dimly. Bretan Braith Lantry came forward and stood next to Chell. His face twitched.

There are differences, indeed. For starters, Lantry’s scars are much, much more terrible than Clegane’s. He has lost an eye in his burning, replacing it with one made of glowstone, whereas Sandor saved his eye and it hasn’t been affected besides the scarring round it. Another variation in severity between their burns is underlined by the description of Bretan’s nose and mouth, as he has lost part of his nose and half of his lips, which didn’t happen to the Hound, whose nose is intact and apparently his mouth is mostly too, although the left corner of his lips has been touched by the fire. A third contrast in severity is that Bretan’s face is seamed in a dozen places and the scars are extended down to the neck, making it stiff, and Sandor’s aren’t that massive.

Then there’s the point of comeliness on which GRRM emphasised in his reply. Bretan is a beautiful youngster with green eyes and dark short curls, of whom Garse says half-mockingly and half-seriously is famous everywhere as much for his duelling as for his striking good looks. Yet for all that the characters in-story remark on his beauty, they also don’t hesitate to call him ugly, which does suggest that it’s the scars they’re fixating on when saying that, as happens with Sandor, the gray-eyed and dark-haired one described as average who, despite the author clarifying repeatedly is not monstrously ugly, is nonetheless called ugly as well.

The major difference is sans doute in their physique. Here I must confess that Dying of the Light gave me the weirdest reading experience, because apart from his scars and his voice, his huge size is another of the three identifiers without which Sandor cannot be Sandor. And Bretan isn’t tall or muscled like a maiden’s fantasy but average-height, lithe and graceful, and incredibly handsome to boot, all of which spells out the Knight of Flowers, not the intimidating Hound of the Westerlands. According to Elio, GRRM did admit Loras shares some of Bretan’s characteristics too, and his slim physique and good looks would be one, the other being that Tyrell went on a vengeful killing spree spurred on by Renly’s assassination, echoing Bretan’s destruction of cities over his teyn’s demise. The following could be said of any of them:

He has a violent way of mourning,” Dirk agreed.

Getting down to the backstory of their burns, Sandor’s is told in detail by himself to Sansa, and even if he’d not talked, we’d still have had some bit of tittle-tattle to ponder on, like the strip of gossip Eddard recalls during the tourney that would’ve been enough to point a finger at Gregor as the suspect. We also know the lifelong impact that the burning had on Sandor, how badly scarred he is on the inside also, as a result of the triple betrayal on the part of a brother that almost killed him, a father that protected the guilty, and a system that rewarded violence done to him. But not a word there is about how Bretan got his scars, not a rumour someone listened to once, nothing. His case leaves us in the same position we’d have been if nothing had been said of the Hound’s burns either: we’d be forever speculating if it was in a battle, a burning assault tower, a house aflame, improper cooking, dragonsbreath, or Moon Boy with a candle for all we know. But fortunately, there’s a clue on which we can base a good guess that, regardless of how it happened, it was an experience that did leave Bretan inwardly scarred too.

Remember that the other characters in the novel muse on why a handsome man like Bretan is bonded to that decrepit Chell? Their conclusions are conspicuously judgemental and do him a disservice, as they go from gold-digging, which is Garse’s belief . . .

Bretan Braith Lantry is as widely known for his skill in duel as he is for his striking good looks. In truth, he is notorious. I suppose he is here hunting mockmen with Chell, but he is not really much a hunter. He is more comfortable in the death-square than in the wild, from all that I have heard of him. Even his own kethi find him difficult. In addition to being ugly, he took Chell fre-Braith to teyn. Chell was once a highbond of great power and honour. He outlived his betheyn and his original teyn. Today he is a superstitious dodderer with a small mind and great wealth. The holdfast rumours say the wealth is the reason Bretan Braith wears Chell’s iron-and-fire. No one tells this to Bretan openly, of course. He is said to be quite touchy.”

. . . to a desire to cling to the outdated traditions of the Kavalars, which is Dirk’s belief:

They were misfits, he decided, more outcast and more alone than Dirk himself, worldless in a sense, because High Kavalaan had moved beyond them and could be their world no longer. No wonder they came to Worlorn; they belonged here. They and all their ways were dying.

Bretan in particular was a figure of pity, Bretan who tried so hard to be a figure of fear. He was young, perhaps the last true believer, and he might live to see a time when no one felt as he did. Was that why he was teyn to Chell? Because his peers rejected him and his old man’s values? Probably, Dirk decided, and that was grim and sad.

Both assessments miss the target by a mile, though. Neither is the man a gold-digger nor a diehard reactionary. In the epilogue, he talks about his reason for being teyn to Chell, one of the biggest surprises in the book, in my opinion, and unveils the poignant truth:

Bretan slid his weapon back into its holster. “I would have duelled you. In Larteyn, in Challenge, here—it makes no difference. I would have duelled you. I do not believe in mockmen, t’Larien. I have never believed in mockmen. Only in Chell, who wore my bond and somehow did not care about my face.”

Did not care about my face . . . That does sound familiar. And very telling, besides. In absence of a backstory for Bretan, his “half a god, half a monster” appearance adds in the tragedy feel in a way analogous to how his own backstory works with Sandor; it tells of wanting to be loved and accepted, but his face acts as some sort of barrier, until this highbond veteran says a pox on differences and scars, and becomes his teyn. An argument can also be made that the concrete example of Bretan Braith Lantry would suggest that even if Sandor had this beauty, his storyline would’ve been much the same with a beautiful unburnt side/ugly burnt side duality, for handsomeness or plainness don’t make a difference in this regard, not in Martin’s writings, as the real issue has never been looks or the scars in themselves but the circumstances, how it happened.

  1. Both will never sound melodious

. . . said in a voice that rasped like sandpaper.

. . . there was a grating rawness to it . . .

. . . he rasped.

. . . made the odd noise again, and the left side of his face twitched.

. . . gave his strange grunt-growl again.

 . . . said in his sandpaper growl. 

. . . asked harshly.

. . . and the rawness caught in his throat . . .

The twisted, rasping voice of . . .

A rasp from the darkness.

. . . asked in his sandpaper voice.

. . . with his strange voice . . .

. . . in his rasping voice . . .

Time to guess: who is speaking in the lines above, Sandor or Bretan? Correct answer: the latter. But all these lines fit the former so well that we could place his name in them and swear they were pulled out from ASOIAF. The interchangeability is striking, for apart from the most common “rasping voice,” “growled,” “snarled,” “rasped” and “rasp,” the descriptions for Sandor’s voice read like this:

. . . and roared.

. . . said in his deep rasp,

His voice was as rough as the sound of a saw on wood.

. . . a deep voice rasped at . .

. . . like the snarling of dogs in a pit.

. . . rough as a saw on stone.

. . . his voice raw and harsh as steel on stone.

. . . rough, rasping laughter.

. . . laughter was iron scraping over stone.

. . . a sour sound, part rumble and part snarl.

His voice was rough and hard as an iron rasp.

. . . laugh was half a growl.

. . . the rough rasp of his voice . . .

. . . asked in a hoarse whisper.

He made a queer sound. . .

This roughness in the sound is likely caused by damage to the vocal chords by either the smoke of the fire or the burns in the neck. Martin makes it worse for the one that has it bad, however, because there’s a significant difference between their voices: Bretan can’t shout. Due to the thickness of the burns in his neck that have stiffened like a hard collar, his head movements are awkward and jerky, and the damage to his larynx is so serious that his voice is now a few octaves too low on top of being raspy. He can’t raise it louder, when he tries to yell it gets trapped in his throat or breaks and he chokes, sputtering soundlessly:

Bretan whirled and tried to shout. His voice was not capable of it, and he sputtered and choked instead.

No wonder he has to take advantage of other methods of intimidation, then, for who’s going to tremble like a leaf before someone that slim and with a voice hardly above a murmur? On the other hand, Sandor’s voice is raspy as well, but the damage to the throat is lighter and seems to have affected only the timbre, the quality of the sound, and not the pitch range. He can speak and laugh as loud or as low as he pleases, and not have a problem. We see it in Ned’s observations during the tourney, when he notes that Sandor’s laughter is ringing loudest above the din when his brother is unhorsed, after noting the same about Robert, the one with the “commander’s voice” that can be heard by deaf old ladies in Dorne. Arya also will note that the Hound does shout and is heard clearly from afar and above loud noise, like by the ferryman on the opposite riverbank or by herself during the battle outside the Twins. Tellingly, the only time Sandor speaks in a whisper is when he’s given up and thinks he’s going to die, to ask Arya if she remembers where the heart is.

  1. Both are ticklish about the proper way to address them

There’s no surer way in Westeros to infuriate the Hound than calling him ser, although he does let it pass occasionally without a fuss. The same combative attitude towards using unsanctioned forms of address is present in the Braith, who doesn’t accept to be called by his first name, and when clueless Dirk tries to explain himself as he’s found trying to . . . borrow his wolf-car, he earns a stinging put-down for doing exactly that:

Bretan,” he began, in a voice laced by hysteria, but the Kavalar only turned on him and delivered a stinging open-handed blow across the mouth.

I am not ‘Bretan’ to you,” he said. “Call me Bretan Braith if you must address me, mockman.”

This is reminiscent of the time Sandor slapped the squire at the Crossroads Inn for using the verboten word to address him:

The boy didn’t seem to hear him. “I came for the girls,” he whimpered. “ . . . make me a man, Polly said . . . oh, gods, please, take me to a castle . . . a maester, take me to a maester, my father’s got gold . . . it was only for the girls . . . mercy, ser.”

The Hound gave him a crack across the face that made him scream again. “Don’t call me ser.” He turned back to Arya. “This one is yours, she-wolf. You do it.”

The coincidence isn’t fortuitous. As a matter of fact, both men reject to be addressed that way because of honour. Lack of honour in Sandor’s case, as he believes knights don’t have any and refuses to partake in the hypocrisy of swearing holy oaths that their actions will render as worthy as sheep pellets, thus doesn’t accept the association to knighthood through being called a ser, forcing people to use other forms or his sobriquet. And Bretan’s insistence in a correct form of address emanates from honouring the old customs of his society regarding the duties to kethi and teyn that determine who is allowed this familiarity:

And so too Bretan, who slapped Dirk soundly because he used the wrong form of address, a form permitted only to kethi. Another dying custom, Garse had said; even the highbonds were growing lax. But not Bretan Braith, young and not high at all, who clung to traditions that men generations older than himself had already discarded as dysfunctional.

To a Kavalar, his name is the container of his identity and his values. A glance at their naming traditions sheds light on why it shouldn’t be taken lightly: only their first name is imposed at birth by the kethi, the members of a holdfast, and therefore its exclusive use is for them and for the teyn when they are bonded. Their middle name is the name of their holdfast, determining their group membership and their loyalty. Some of them, those who are highbonds, can choose a second middle name that’s normally an animal. And the surname is chosen by each man individually; they can pick the name of someone they admire from history, someone whose ideas they like or whose deeds they wish to emulate. So, Bretan is the name he got at birth, Braith is his people, and Lantry is the name of his heroic role model; one man, one group, one ideal.

  1. Both notorious fighters have canines as symbols

He is a liar,” […] said. “Even our dogs smell out his lies.”

No, that wasn’t Sandor lecturing a little bird on how hounds can sniff out lying liars who lie lyingly. It was a certain Lorimaar of the same Braith Gathering as Bretan, complaining about Dirk’s failure to tell the truth, and that passage got recycled by GRRM for one of Clegane’s most iconic lines:

Pretty thing, and such a bad liar. A dog can smell a lie, you know. Look around you, and take a good whiff. They’re all liars here . . . and every one better than you.”

This is just one instance amongst a few of canines linked to Lantry, whose Braith holdfast has for sigil a white wolf on a purple field. Bretan is the one most adept at taking the sigil as personal identifier, for he dresses in white with a purple wolf on his chest for duelling, unlike the others, and is easy to spot when he’s on the move because his aircar is so conspicuous with that white wolf’s head:

Thoroughly Kavalar, the car was a stubby two-seater with short triangular wings that looked even more useless than the wings on other aircars of High Kavalaan manufacture. It was all silver and white enamel, and the metal canopy was shaped to resemble a wolf’s head. Lasercannon were mounted on both sides of the fuselage.

. . . . .

The aircar with the snarling wolf’s-head canopy appeared in the sky just as predicted.

Comparably, Sandor takes his famous black hound’s-head helm as a personal identifier from his family’s coat of arms with the three black dogs on a yellow field. Each of these canines has something that mirrors the other; look at the bolded lines above, and then to these below:

He had lowered the visor on his helm. It was fashioned in the likeness of a snarling black hound, fearsome to behold.

. . . . .

He wore mail and soot-grey plate and his snarling dog’s-head helm.

It’s not just the heads of any placid doggie and any placid wolfie these men are using as badges, it’s the heads of a snarling hound and a snarling wolf. When a canine rumbles or growls, it’s a fair warning signal. But when they bare their fangs and snarl, it indicates they’re very pissed and you best stop and tread with caution if you don’t want to find out firsthand what dogs and wolves do to primates. As metaphor, this snarling conjures up the men’s anger and aggressiveness, the two emotions a snarl is supposed to communicate in animals. It’s more noticeable in Lantry, who is comparatively more impulsive, full of nervous energy and overall more prone to fury. Personality traits is where Sandor and Bretan differ more abysmally, as the former is better fleshed-out, with more layers and a longer, richer arc, but with regard to temper, it’s quite an interesting discovery to ascertain Martin used this small detail of snarling canines for both to symbolise their mental framework induced by their life experience.

  1. Both give respectively a kiss for love and a kiss for death

When Dirk consents to engage in duelling, he gets a shock lesson in foreign mores when, instead of the expected handshake or ponderous bow, this happens:

And Bretan Braith Lantry, scarred and one-eyed, his lip half gone—Bretan Braith Lantry kissed Dirk.

It’s plain old Kavalar ceremony. But poor Dirk becomes obsessed with it as he loiters into realising he’d be killed at the duel, and starts having dreams where Bretan appears as a figure on a barge shrouded in dark and leaning on a bared sword, an imagery easily recognisable for what it is: the bargeman Charon who transports the souls of the dead towards the realm of Hades.

Dirk’s own sleep was plagued by recurrent nightmares of the half-faced Braith: Bretan with his strange voice and his glowing eye and his grotesque twitch, Bretan slim and smooth-cheeked and innocent, Bretan the destroyer of cities. Dirk woke from those dreams sweaty and exhausted, twisted in his bed clothes, remembering Gwen’s screams (high shrill laments like the towers of Kryne Lamiya) and the way Bretan looked at him.

Once, he sees himself fighting the young man alone in the dream, and another time he relives the gentlemen’s agreement ritual, dreaming that Lantry gives him “a cold and frightening kiss.” Dirk rightly makes the association that Bretan embodies death, from which he’s been running away for so long, ever since he backtracked on his word, and that his Bargeman’s kiss is one that brings death to him. At first, it’s a dream of terror, of death foretold, but subsequently Martin writes the earliest example of mingling eros and thanatos in an oneiric scenification of an upcoming event, when one of Dirk’s nightmares suddenly turns out different:

Finally he shut off the torch and all sight of his Jenny, and tried to sleep himself. It came in time. But nightmares came with it. He dreamed he was with Gwen, kissing her, holding her closely. But when his lips met hers, it was not Gwen at all; it was Bretan Braith he was kissing, Bretan whose lips were dry and hard, whose glowstone eye flamed frighteningly close in the blackness.

If this has brought to mind memories of another scene written two decades later, in a different book and involving another scarred character, you’re on the right path:

That night Sansa scarcely slept at all, but tossed and turned just as she had aboard the Merling King. She dreamt of Joffrey dying, but as he clawed at his throat and the blood ran down across his fingers she saw with horror that it was her brother Robb. And she dreamed of her wedding night too, of Tyrion’s eyes devouring her as she undressed. Only then he was bigger than Tyrion had any right to be, and when he climbed into the bed his face was scarred only on one side. “I’ll have a song from you,” he rasped, and Sansa woke and found the old blind dog beside her once again. “I wish that you were Lady,” she said.

Dirk’s dreams are nightmares in which he is kissed by the personification of death that is Bretan, which originates from the real kiss he gave him to seal the pact to duel, and this nightmare for once gets tempered when Gwen, the woman he loves, appears in it and he’s able to stage in unconscious fantasy what he most desires when awake. He experiences his sweetest wish and then Gwen transforms into Bretan, foreshadowing what will happen eventually. Four chapters after this dream, he shares a heartfelt parting kiss with Gwen when she tells him of her decision to remain by Jaan’s side, which influences in part his own conclusion that “a man ought to have a code too. A friend, a teyn, a cause,” and decides to run no longer from his overdue appointment with the Bargeman:

He brought out the matched blades; straight sabers of Kavalar steel, with glowstones and jade set in the ornate pommels. Bretan chose one and tested it—it moved through the air with a song and a shriek—then stepped back, satisfied, to one corner of the square. He was very still as he waited; for an instant he appeared almost serene, a slim black figure leaning ever so slightly on his sword. Like the bargeman, Dirk thought, and despite himself he glanced wildly at the wolf-car to make certain it had not been transformed into a low barge. His heart was beating hard.

It plays out so much like in his dream, it begins with love and it ends in death, two amongst the most recurrent motifs in Martin’s literary output that he seems to favour writing about together with revenge and honour, from his opera prima to his ongoing opera magna.

Like with Bretan, there’s also death imagery embedded into Sandor by way of the Stranger, that’d be the Westerosi simile to the Bargeman by description and by role. There’s his steed with that name, and his marred face that harks back to the god’s inhuman one as well as his continual walking in and out of shadows. There’s his killer aspect in sending souls to the other side, and then there’s his gravedigger aspect putting bodies to rest. And more seminally, there’s the direct allusion to the Stranger’s kiss:

I ought to have shown her to the black cells as the daughter of a traitor, but instead I made her part of mine own household. She shared my hearth and hall, played with my own children. I fed her, dressed her, tried to make her a little less ignorant about the world, and how did she repay me for my kindness? She helped murder my son. When we find the Imp, we will find the Lady Sansa too. She is not dead . . . but before I am done with her, I promise you, she will be singing to the Stranger, begging for his kiss.

Sweet Cersei believes that the Stranger’s kiss means exactly the same as the Bargeman’s kiss. But in a droll turnaround, GRRM has made it one of passion instead, through the imagery and structuring the layout of Sansa’s dream as the reverse of Dirk’s: it begins with death and it ends in love, the undesirable transforms into the desirable. For the Hound, there’s no real basis for the kiss he gives in dreams besides Sansa’s own feelings, but just like Bretan had given Dirk plenty of reasons to fear him and reinforced his threat with a real ritual kiss, Sandor definitely has given her clues, loads of them, that she had time to process and interpret. If we take the parallels for what they are, an example of use of literary symbolism as foreshadowing of things to come and we throw in Martin’s remarks that it would mean something, it looks plausible for the author to ultimately make the Stranger’s kiss come to reality like he did with the Bargeman’s.