Beauty and the Beast project



Origins of the Tale in Ancient Greece and Rome (Milady of York)

1.a. On the symbolism of Psyche’s tasks (Milady of York)
1.b. From Apuleius to Villeneuve: The Transformation of Cupid and Psyche into Beauty and the Beast (Milady of York)


2.a. An Analysis of the Beauty and the Beast elements in the Epic of Gilgamesh (Fiekie)


3. Northern Europe: East of the Sun and West of the Moon (Elba the Intoner)


4.a. Retellings by Villeneuve (Lady Lea)
4.b. Retelling by Beaumont: Comparative Analysis of La Belle et la Bête and A Song of Ice and Fire (Doglover)


1. TV series: Beauty and the Beast: The Original TV series – An Analysis (Brashcandy)
2. Films: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (Caroh99)
2.b. La belle et la bête: Comparative Analysis of La Belle et la Bête and A Song of Ice and Fire(DogLover)
3. Influences in Literature: The Phantom of the Opera (Elba the Intoner)
3.b. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Elba the Intoner)
4. Music: Music to Dream and Think About (Bgona)



1.a. The Hound: The Two Faces of the Beast I: By Fire Transformed, The Making of the Hound (Milady of York)
1.b. The Two Faces of the Beast II: The Road to the Hound’s Deathbed Confession
(Milady of York)
2. The Kingslayer: The Beast in ASOIAF: Jaime Lannister (Danelle)
3. Infirmity and Deformity: A Symbolical Reading of the Beastly Figures in ASOIAF (Mahaut)


1. Awakening the Beast: Female Sexuality and Empowerment in Sansa’s Arc (Brashcandy)
1.a. Awakening the Beast II: The Courtship of Mr. Lyon (Brashcandy)
2. Analysing the father figures – Baelish vs. Stark: Parallels in Littlefinger’s interplay with Eddard and Sansa (Milady of York)
3. On Martin’s Inversion of Beauty and the Beast (Tze)
4. The Inspiration for “I’m No Ser” (Milady of York)





Origins of the Tale in Ancient Greece and Rome

by Milady of York

A Very Old Tale This Is, My Young Padawan

Tale as old as time,
True as it can be.
Tale as old as time,
Song as old as rhyme,
Beauty and the beast.

Thus begins and ends the theme song of one of the most famous animated films of the 20th century: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, the most widespread version of this celebrated tale. And it’s certainly a very old tale. The first written version is at least a pair of millennia old, we can find it in written form in Rome during the second half of the 2nd century A.D. The myth itself may be older but what’s known for sure is that the earliest work that mentions one of the protagonists—Theogony—is from seven centuries B.C., and was composed by the great Greek poet Hesiod, but focuses more on the gods’ origins—in this case, Eros—than their interactions with humans.

Legends about Eros’ origins have changed over the centuries. Hesiod declares that he was the last of the four primal gods to come into existence, after Chaos, Gaia (Earth), and Tartarus (Abyss); and later it was registered by the likes of philosopher Parmenides and historian Acusilaus that he was the first. In the Orphic version, Eros was double-sexed, had golden wings and four heads: a bull, a lion, a snake and a ram; and had no parents. Moreover, later mainstream Greek mythology attributes the paternity of Eros to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who conceived him in an extramarital affair (she was married to the ugly and lame smith god Hephaistos) with handsome but ruthless Ares, the god of war, with whom she had three more sons that together with the firstborn would be known as Erotes or Amores. The Romans, who would adopt the Greek pantheon as their own, called him Cupid and his mother Venus, yet Psyche kept her Greek name [1].

It was the Roman writer Lucius Apuleius Africanus who bequeathed to posterity the story of these two lovers in his most famous work, The Metamorphoses, or The Golden Ass. In the middle of this novel he inserted the beautiful allegory of Cupid and Psyche, which goes as follows:

There was a certain king who had as wife a noble dame, by whom he had three daughters exceedingly fair: of whom the two elder were of most comely shape and beauty, yet they did not excel all the praise and commendation of mortal speech; but the singular passing beauty and maidenly majesty of the youngest daughter was so far excellent, that no earthly tongue could by any means sufficiently express or set out the same: by reason whereof the citizens and strangers there, being inwardly pricked by zealous affection to behold her famous person, came daily by thousands to see her, and as astonished with admiration of her incomparable beauty did no less worship and reverence her, bringing their right hands to their lips, with the forefinger laid against the thumb, as tokens, and with other divine adorations, as if she were the goddess Venus indeed. [2]

The ancients made the aforementioned gesture, called proskynesis, only in the presence of their deities to honour them. Therefore this conveyance of divine worship to a mortal kindled the anger and jealousy of Venus, who couldn’t suffer a mortal maiden to partake in her worship and, in true Snow White Stepmother fashion, decided she’d punish the younger and more beautiful Psyche for her loveliness.

Then by and by she called her winged son Cupid, […] egged him forward with words and brought him to the city, and showed him Psyche –for so the maiden was called– and having told him of her rival beauty, the cause of her anger, not without great rage, ‘I pray you,’ quoth she, ‘my dear child, by the motherly bond of love, by the sweet wounds of your piercing darts, by the pleasant heat of your fire, revenge fully the injury which is done to your mother upon the false and disobedient beauty of a mortal maiden; and this beyond all I pray you without delay, that she may fall in desperate love with the most miserable creature living, the most poor, the most crooked, and the most vile, that there may be none found in all the world of like wretchedness.

Cupid bent to her will, and thenceforward Psyche was wondered at and praised by everyone, but no man approached her or dared to woo her. Her sisters were soon married to kings, but Psyche stayed at home lamenting her loneliness, and began to hate her own beauty. Then her father went to the oracle of Apollo, where he made his prayers, offered sacrifices and asked for a husband for his daughter. The god commanded that she be clad in mourning clothes and set on a rock to await her destiny:

Her husband is no wight of human seed.
But serpent dire and fierce as may be thought.
Who flies with wings above in starry skies
And does subdue each thing with fiery flight.
The gods themselves and powers that seem so wise
With mighty Jove be subject to his might;
The rivers black and deadly floods of pain
And darkness eke as thrall to him remain.

Psyche resigned herself to this gloomy fate she suspected was Venus’ doing, and even tried to console her distraught parents and those walking with her in the bridal procession before she was left weeping and trembling on the highest top of the mountain, whence a gentle wind carried her down into a valley at the foot of the mountain. When she awoke, she found a stunning golden palace in the woods nearby, where she found all sorts of precious things she could wish for, and she heard a disembodied voice that told her to dress in her bridal costume for the wedding banquet. Food and drink appeared in front of her, and she went through the whole feast hearing invisible voices only and a ghostly choir. At midnight, as she lay awake in her bed, her unknown bridegroom

[climbed into bed beside her…] and after he had made her his very wife, he rose in the morning before day and departed.

Psyche soon made herself a home at the palace and grew to love the husband that continued to come in the dark of night and depart before sunrise could expose his face. One day, Cupid warned her that her sisters, thinking her dead, were coming to their home and she shouldn’t respond. But her solitary life had made her long for human contact, and she begged him to allow her to see her sisters; he yielded to her tearful wishes on condition that she must keep his identity a secret. The young woman entertained her sisters graciously and gave them splendid gifts, and responded when asked about her spouse that:

“[…] he was a young man of comely stature with soft down, rather than a beard, just beginning to shadow his cheeks, and had great delight in hunting in the hills and dales hard by.”

Her sisters returned home feeling utterly envious of their little sister’s happiness in comparison to their unsuccessful marriages, and decided to ruin it. The god was aware of their treacherous intentions and warned his wife that they’d try to make her succumb to the temptation of looking at his face and that if she did, she’d lose him forever and the baby she carried in her womb would be a mortal, whereas if she kept quiet about his identity, the child would be immortal. Next time her sisters approached her, Psyche told them her beloved was a prosperous merchant, middle-aged and with hair already greying. This contradicting statement made her sisters suspect the truth about Psyche’s husband’s divine nature, and they became even more determined to ruin her good fortune. The third time they went to her palace, they revealed that her unseen partner was in truth the cruel serpent the oracle of Apollo had spoken of, a savage and dreadful beast that would devour her and her unborn child. Terrified by this, she confessed that she’d never seen her husband and agreed to follow their advice: she had to hide a knife under her pillow and have a lamp ready near the bed, and when her husband fell asleep, she should light the lamp and cut his head off to save herself and her child. That night, whilst he slept, she uncovered the lamp and

“[…] she saw the most meek and sweetest beast of all beasts, fair Cupid.”

Overcome with awe and guilt, Psyche tried to stab herself, but the knife fell off her hands and she dropped to her knees. Steadying herself, she saw one of his arrows, took it out of curiosity and unwittingly pierced her thumb and drew drops of blood. As she went to embrace him, a bit of hot oil from the lamp she was still holding fell on Cupid’s right shoulder. He instantly leapt from bed and flew away with Psyche clinging to his leg to stop him. From the top of a cypress, he reproached her for not trusting him and then revealed he’d disobeyed his mother’s command, and now he had to leave her for good. And so he did, after promising her sisters would suffer for what they’d done. Depressed, she made an attempt at suicide by throwing herself into a river, but was saved by the river deity, and later Pan, who happened to be at the riverbank, advised her not to kill herself but try to find her beloved and win him back. She then went to see her eldest sister, explained to her that Cupid had pronounced the Roman formula of divorce and was now free to remarry. Her hopeful sister went to the mountain from whence the god’s servant Zephyrus used to carry visitors down into the valley where the palace lay, and prayed for him to come and take her there as his new bride, but as she leapt trying desperately to catch the gentle wind she missed it and fell to her death. The middle sister died in like sort.

Hearing from a white bird [3] about what had happened between her now grievously burnt son and the mortal woman, an enraged Venus tried to find her with no success, and then issued a proclamation for Psyche’s capture. Not knowing Cupid was with his mother, she’d been wandering from one place to another in search of him, trying to get any help from the god Pan and goddesses Ceres and Juno, who declined and only bade her beware of Venus’ vengeance, and soon she was brought before this goddess, who imposed upon her as punishment some tasks as impossible as those of Hercules’, with the difference that hers were four in number:

  1. Venus […] took a great quantity of wheat, barley, millet, poppy-seed, pease, lentils, and beans, and mingled them all together on a heap, [and told Psyche to] ‘separate all these grains one from another, disposing them orderly in their quality, and let it be done […] before night’.

Psyche managed to enlist the support of some ants that commiserated with her and sorted all this grain for her.

  1. “There be great sheep shining like gold, and kept by no manner of person; I command you that you go thither and bring me home some of the wool of their fleeces.”

She picked a lapful of fleeces hanging in the briars at the woods where the sheep went to rest.

  1. “See the high rock that overhangs the top of yonder great hill, from whence there runs down water of black and deadly colour which is gathered together in the valley and thence nourishes the marshes of Styx and the hoarse torrent of Cocytus? […]Go thither and bring me a vessel of that freezing water from the middest flow of the top of that spring.”

Psyche almost died because of the poisonous waters and the dragons that guarded them. But Jupiter was indebted to Cupid for a past service; and he sent an eagle that filled his wife’s bottle for her.

  1. “Take this box and go to Hell and the deadly house of Orcus, and desire Proserpina to send me a little of her beauty, as much as will serve me the space of one day, and say that such as I had is consumed away in tending my son that is sick; but return again quickly.”

This meant Psyche’s death, for the living couldn’t descend into the Underworld while still breathing. She was about to throw herself from a tower, but a spirit spoke through the tower giving her detailed instructions as to how to get there and warning her that she shouldn’t look in the box. She obeyed the voice, but in the end was unable to resist opening that box, which contained no beauty ointment but a deadly sleep, and she fell to the floor unconscious. By then, Cupid, who’d been closed fast in a chamber by his mother to recover from his wounds and prevent him from seeing Psyche, escaped and reached her in time to remove the sleep from her. Thus she was able to complete the last task.

Cupid went to plead with Zeus to approve his marriage despite his mother’s opposition, and the god agreed, forcing Venus to approve it as well. Psyche was summoned to the god’s dwelling and was given a cup of nectar to drink and become an immortal.

“… thus Psyche was married to Cupid, and after in due time she was delivered of a child, whom we call Voluptas”  [4]

So is the ending of the first ever Beauty and the Beast in History.

For the love of Zeus and Jove!
The immense majority of classicists and folktale experts agree that there’s no better parallel with the contemporary Beauty and the Beast to be found in ancient mythology than the story of Eros and Psyche; however, Swedish folklorist Jan-Öjvind Swahn claims some elements point to the legend of Zeus and Semele as the earliest variation of this tale, but only if we take into account a very late version told in the epic poem Dyonisiaca, written by Hellenised Egyptian poet Nonnus of Panopolis in the second half of the fifth century A.D., because earlier mainstream Greek renditions such as Hesiod’s and Pindar’s differ from this later version from a time when classical myths were in their final stage of degeneracy. In this, we find the narrative of a curious relationship between the highest-ranking Hellene god and a mortal female:

Semele, the beautiful fourth daughter of Harmonia, the goddess of concord, and King Cadmus, felt troubled by a strange dream she once had, in which she saw:

[…] in a garden a tree with fair green leaves, laden with newgrown clusters of swelling fruit yet unripe, and drenched in the fostering dews of Zeus. Suddenly a flame fell through the air from heaven, and laid the whole tree flat, but did not touch its fruit; then a bird flying with outspread wings caught up the fruit half-grown, and carried it yet lacking full maturity to Cronion. The Father received it in his kindly bosom, and sewed it up in his thigh; then instead of the fruit, a bull-shaped figure of a man came forth complete over his loins. Semele was the tree. [6]

Because of this, she was advised to go to a temple and sacrifice a bull to appease the father of the gods, and there she had the sacrificial victim’s blood sprinkled on her, having therefore to bathe later in the waters of a river that stood near the road on her way back home. She was seen bathing there by Zeus, who, after being shot in the thigh by playful Eros, took the form of an eagle and descended into Earth to take a closer look at Semele. Satisfied with what his eyes had seen, he decided to seduce her. One night, he visited her taking various forms:

[…] a horned head on human limbs, lowing with the voice of a bull… a shaggy lion’s form; or a panther… a young bridegroom [who] bound his hair with coiling snakes and vine-leaves intertwined, and twisted purple ivy about his locks… a writhing serpent crawl[ing] over the trembling bride…

After the wedding night, Zeus reveals his identity to her and that she’s to give birth to a boy who’s going to be merry Dionysus. When word reached Hera, the ever-vigilant consort of Zeus, she decided to disguise herself as an old woman and goaded Semele into asking Zeus to show himself in all his glory, with thunder and lightning, so people have no doubt that it’s in truth the god himself who’s her spouse and the child is his, and not some baseborn mortal. Zeus replied that she was being unrealistic, because his thunders were anything but safe or gentle to be around, and that she should wait patiently until she brought forth their son. He warned her that none of his lovers, immortal or otherwise, had demanded thunderbolts and flames to celebrate their unions, only Hera was entitled to that honour. But Semele was adamant, she thought everybody derided their secret union, and blamed her and sneered at her for having a furtive affair. Zeus gave in and went unwillingly into her chamber with fires of thunder in his hands, which would in a moment destroy her.

When Semele saw her fiery murderers, she held up a proud neck and said with lofty arrogance: “I want no clearsounding cithern, I need no hoboy! Thunders are here for my panspipes of Zeus’s love, this boom is my Olympian hoboy, the firebrands of my bridal are the flashes of heavenly lightning! I care not for common torches, my torches are thunderbolts! I am the consort of Cronion.”

“So she spoke in her pride, and would have grasped the deadly lightning in her own hands—she touched the destroying thunderbolts with daring palm, careless of Fate. Then Semele’s wedding was her death, and in its celebration the Avenging Spirit made her bower serve for pyre and tomb. Zeus had no mercy; the breath of the bridal thunder with its fires of delivery burnt her all to ashes.

So she died, but her child was saved and grew up to be the god Dionysus.

Considering that the fundamental elements in Cupid and Psyche’s story are six (the marriage, the supernatural husband, the breaking of the prohibition/promise, the search for the husband, the reunion and the –usually satisfying– ending), it can be argued that this one is a variant that has barely half of the myth’s motifs, but nevertheless it’s the closest we have to a Beauty and the Beast plotline in the Classical world apart from the one we’ve mentioned before. It also illustrates that there are various types of endings to Beauty-and-the-Beast-like stories and those are both happy and unfortunate ones. According to Jerry Griswold, the main types are:

  1. Beast is transformed into a normal human being/returns to his former handsome self.

  2. Beauty is transformed into a beast to join her mate.

  3. The final transformation takes place in perception only.

  4. The transformation happens in the middle, and the Beauty must prove herself through tasks.

Zeus and Semele’s story doesn’t fit well into any of these categories, although technically it would belong in the 4th had it not been for the heroine’s early death. Cupid and Psyche, on the other hand, do belong in this same category, and this brings to our attention what differentiates them from the French originals that present a maiden who accepts a monster as a mate: The Beast plays a passive role in a tale of feminine maturation, whilst Cupid plays a more active role in a tale that is essentially of masculine maturation. Psyche and Cupid enjoy sex first and then fall in love, Belle and Beast’s case is reversed, for theirs is a courtship where emotional bonds come before any sexual union; and besides, Psyche is a flawed woman that learns by trial and error and has to prove herself undergoing a series of tasks, and Belle is a virtuous girl whose tests are mostly psychological in nature, for she has to learn to reevaluate her perceptions and values. These differences with the Classical storyline have more to do with the fact that the ancients had a preference for converting inner issues like desires, emotions and feelings into externalised forms and figures, and they preferred to deal with concrete things, as classicist Eric R. Dodds has noted.

From Greek Egg to Roman Chicken and Beyond: Evolution of the Myth

And what inspired this legend? There is no doubt about Apuleius’ authorship of The Golden Ass, but the storyline might not be his own. There are various hypotheses about his sources of inspiration:


  1. It was taken from a still extant Greek novel The Ass, ascribed to satirist Lucian of Samosata (Maria Tatar’s theory), but probably the work of an anonymous writer scholars refer to as Pseudo-Lucian, and this is based upon The Metamorphoses by Lucius of Patrae. Apuleius greatly improved it, cutting down one or two of the scenes of the original and then enlarged it with an abundance of enjoyable stories of love, sorcery, jests, and outlaws, that probably belonged to earlier works from Greek and Roman literature now sadly lost. (Graham Anderson’s theory).

  2. It was a very ancient folktale Apuleius heard or read and elaborated on his own. (Louis Purser’s theory).

  3. Apuleius may have introduced Eros and Psyche in a contemporary folktale because there’s no proof of earlier versions of this specific myth before him (Michael Grant’s theory).

  4. It was a popular current folktale already furnished with mythological elements that Apuleius related, and no earlier renditions of this myth have anything in common with his writings (Jan-Öjvind Swahn’s theory).

  5. It was derived from an oral story Apuleius was familiar with (Alex Scobie’s theory).

  6. It was an adaptation by Apuleius of an old Oriental tale, most probably Egyptian (Richard Reitzenstein’s theory), or a Greek story derived from Indian sources (Jerry Griswold’s theory).

  7. It was the result of a dream experience in which a woman dreamt she’d been married to a supernatural male until her happiness is shattered when she breaks a promise or a taboo. It might have been the core storyline in the original that inspired all later renditions (Ernest Tegethoff’s theory).

  8. It has religious origins, either Psyche alone was a goddess or both she and Cupid were gods from the ancient Persian religion (Karl Kerenyi’s theory), or she’s a version of the myth of goddess Isis (Reinhold Merkelbach’s theory).

  9. Artistic representations from as far back as the 4th century B.C. prove that Eros and Psyche were popular mythical figures, but they don’t show any narrative similar to Apuleius’ version, which is quite different (Carl Schlam’s theory).

  10. There’s no way of knowing where and when this tale originated, and neither if it appeared first in oral or written form, so it’s up for debate (Stith Thompson’s theory).

Whichever the inspiration for his plot was, we can assert that Apuleius’ Cupid and Psyche has endured the test of time better than many other myths from Classical Antiquity, which attests to its importance as a philosophical allegory of the progress of the rational soul towards intellectual love, in the words of Robert Graves. Unlike many Greco-Roman tales that have unfortunately disappeared or have changed too greatly over the ages, this was preserved in its original version to this day, and the first attempt at interpreting it, made by Fulgentius circa the 5th century B.C., has been preserved as well [5]. Translations from the extinct Latin tongue into the language of the common folk appeared in the Renaissance: the Spanish translation by Diego López de Cortegana in 1513, and the English translation by William Adlington in 1566 were the first, and both played a double role: firstly, these translations served as a stimulus for writers to compose their own versions, and soon poetical and theatrical renditions of Eros and Psyche were published across Europe, and the fashion went on thanks to later English writers who turned to classical sources for inspiration. According to Stith Thompson, one of the scholars who developed the Aarne-Thompson Tale Type Index, there are fifteen variants of Eros and Psyche’s story in existence; and most retellings follow the Roman plotline closely. They can be divided in four groups to see how much they’ve deviated from Apuleius’ text:

1. 16th century retellings (Milton, Harvey, etc.):

– Cupid and Psyche have twin sons instead of a daughter.

– Tragic ending: Psyche does not find Cupid again, at least not here on Earth.

  1. 17th and 18th century retellings (Corneille, Molière, Racine, La Fontaine, etc.):

– Psyche has two suitors who are killed by Cupid.

– Her sister’s names are Aglaura and Cidippe, a thing Apuleius doesn’t mention.

– Cupid fell in love when he shot himself willingly. Apuleius doesn’t tell how it happened.

– The oil from the lamp fell not on Cupid’s shoulder but his cheek, thus burning one side of his face.

– Psyche’s pregnancy and quest for her husband are omitted.

– They omit all Psyche’s tasks but the fourth.

  1. 19th century retellings (Tighe, Bridges, Keats):

– Psyche is from Crete; the Roman tale says nothing about her city of birth.

– One version omits that Psyche is worshipped for her beauty.

– The beast the oracle prophesied would be Psyche’s husband is a dragon.

– Cupid had to poison her, but fails and falls in love with her.

– Another version says that the reason Cupid loved her was because the Fates sentenced him to fall in love with a mortal as punishment for his misbehaviour.

– It’s not stated that Psyche is pregnant with Cupid’s child throughout her search for him.

– Venus doesn’t treat Psyche so cruelly.

– A knight and his squire help her with the only task Venus imposed on her, which in the Apuleius’ version was the last.

  1. 20th century retellings (Bulfinch, Hodges, Peabody, etc.):

– The role of the envious sisters is minimal, they’re not destroyed.

– Psyche’s attempts at suicide aren’t included.

– There’s no appeal for help to Ceres and Juno.

– Venus’ harsh punishment of Psyche is understated, she just asks for her to bring her the waters from the Styx.

– Jupiter doesn’t play so big a role; Venus relents after all tasks are completed.

Moreover, these translations inspired men and women from all other creative trades of life: painters, sculptors, songwriters, opera composers, filmmakers, etc.; therefore this tale’s role in the cultural and artistic revival from the Renaissance onwards was significant, and from the epoch of the Enlightenment to this day it has been the subject of numerous analyses by philosophers, psychologists, social scientists, historians, folklorists and mythographers. And secondly, the most important for the project at hand, is that this translated legend influenced some writers to create new plots with elements taken from it, from Parmetella by Italian poet Giambattista Basile in 1646 to the most recent Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. Amongst those countless writings shaped by this myth, one outshines the others: a tale published in 1740 with the title Beauty and the Beast by French author Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Gallon de Villeneuve, that in turn inspired Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont to write another variant published five years after the former, and hers is the version so many know –and cherish– in our time, the most popular folktale of all times, the one that inspired a then relatively unknown scriptwriter named Martin for both a TV serial and the books we love.


[1] It’s commonly believed this means “soul,” but in the extinct classical Greek language it was associated with “butterfly.”

[2] All quotes are from Apuleius’ The Golden Ass, UK reprint of the translation by W. Adlington, Woods & Sons Ltd, 1921.

[3] Adepts of bird symbology should note that Venus is constantly surrounded and attended to by birds of all kinds: seagulls, sparrows, doves, etc., but no birds of prey.

[4] Pleasure, delight.

[5] For interested readers: Fulgentius: Mythologies, translated by L. G. Whitbread,. Ohio State University Press, 1971. The relevant passage is in Book 3:6.

[6] Books VII-VIII of Nonnos: Dionysiaca, Volume I, Books 1-15; translated by H. J. Rose, Loeb Classical Library Collection, 1940.



 On the symbolism of Psyche’s Four Tasks

“[…] personal development requires the courage of a pioneer, the honesty of a child, the imagination of an artist, and the confidence of the naïve, and often begins from deep despair, disillusionment, and a change of mind. The journey gives one a special energy and changes the traveler forever.”


 by Milady of York

The variety of academic works aiming at explaining only the symbolism of the trials Psyche went through before gaining immortality is extraordinarily large, as each scholar and writer interprets it differently according to the body of knowledge unique to each field, yet there are three interpretations that rise high above the rest due to their relevance with regards to our present project’s object of study. These are the theosophical/philosophical interpretation, the psychological interpretation and comparative mythology. Let’s see how each field views these trials:

  1. Theosophy and Philosophy: There are modern theosophical theories that see this tale as a voyage of spiritual initiation. According to this interpretation of the Psyche myth, she is a figure that represents the soul, which is in itself beautiful due to being an image and child of the divine, yet she is parted early from her parent by ignorance. And because of this, she must begin a long search during which hardship, disappointment and failure are the hallmarks of her inner growth, until she reaches a higher dimension requiring qualities that she brings forth as she completes the tasks forced upon her by Venus. For the Stoic philosophers of the Classical period, the purpose of each trials is to push the development of moral, intellectual, and spiritual character traits, and each task corresponds to the four cardinal virtues this school of thought considers fundamental: wisdom, courage, justice and temperance (or self-mastery).
  1. Psychology: This field is the most prolific regarding interpretative works on this tale, because of all the Greco-Roman myths, only Oedipus’s story has received more attention from these professionals than Psyche’s. Psychological interpretations of this myth are split in two major camps: the Freudian, which is largely outdated, and the Jungian; and whilst both agree that it symbolises a process of mental development, they differ on the whys and what fors: those in the former camp see it as a process of overcoming sexual anxieties, repressed infantile curiosity and guilt, and those in the latter see it as the unfolding of the unconscious, and some within this camp have expanded it to allude specifically to a woman’s struggle to reach greater consciousness without cutting herself off from deeper sexual and affective needs. Carl Gustav Jung, the creator of this school, found the number four very significant, so the fact that the trials are four signals their purpose to lead the young woman to psychological wholeness, that is, maturity. Venus is here in the place of the motherly archetype that gives comfort and security, but, at the same time, resists inner growth and consciousness (as exemplified by the manner in which she manipulates, bullies and infantilises Eros, who is the potential for love) and thus retards the normal progress of a woman towards wholeness.

The Jungians go into more detailed explanations of the tasks above all else in the plot and therefore theirs could be considered the most complete psychological interpretation for this myth, despite not being a unified theory but one with vast ramifications, a reason to not list them individually for this study but to sort out a few of the most relevant ones, featuring prominently some from the first interpretative essay on this story, Amor and Psyche by Erich Neumann, who saw this tale as a mythical portrait of the way women develop psychologically, and his perspective would influence all subsequent theorists who’d address this topic. To him, the four tasks had each a peculiar meaning, and he explains them as confrontations with negative principles Psyche must overcome in her path to completion.

  1. Comparative mythology: According to classicists Juanita Elford and Ellen Finkelpearl, Psyche’s trials have some elements that allow comparisons to the story of Aeneas, Prince of Dardania, a son of Venus by a mortal lover, who after fleeing the fires that destroyed Troy, had to undergo a rosary of trials because he’d earned the enmity of goddess Juno (Hera), and after a long voyage that took him to Carthage, would finally establish himself somewhere in ancient Italy. Roman poet Publius Vergilius Maro (Virgil) has told his story in the epic poem The Aeneid, written approximately a century earlier than Apuleius’ The Golden Ass. In many ways, Psyche’s tasks are a parody or subversion of Aeneas’, for they go from the epic scale of Aeneas’ escape from Troy, his travels and his role in the birth of Rome down to the level of love, marriage and children. Interestingly, the first parallel is right at the beginning, when Venus is, again, trying to manipulate for her own plans an unsuspecting mortal, Dido, and cajoles her boy into wounding her with his arrows so she falls in love with Aeneas, who’s also her son! But the motives are different: cruel and selfish in Psyche’s case, and caring and sympathetic in Aeneas’. Highlighting allusions and shared elements such as these in both hero journeys, for that’s what they are, help us decipher the symbolism present in Psyche’s quest for identity and love.

The tasks

Task Number One: Little Creatures Shall Succour Thee

a. The sorting of grain with the ants’ assistance is a metaphor for the development of basic yet crucial qualities like patience and discrimination or selectivity (the grain), and diligence (ants). This, in the Stoic perspective, is self-mastery.

b. According to the Jungian first interpretation, seeds represent the fertility principle (and as a counterpart the negative principle of promiscuity associated with Venus as goddess of love and, by extension, of fertility); sorting them is to deal with this negative aspect, and the ants represent the forces of the vegetative or peripheral nervous system that controls automatic bodily functions such as the reproductive ones.

c. Elford states that while Aeneas is not compelled by Juno to attempt a task analogous to the separation of seeds imposed on Psyche, her reaction at the prospect is expressed in a phrase from the Aeneid (silens obstupecit, “stunned silence”), and the intervention of the ant is a Virgilian motif as well, although more well developed.

The ants as helpers in times of distress are a recurrent motif that appears in the very earliest Greek myths, as exemplified by the legend of the Myrmidons, the élite troops Achilles led against Troy. There had been a plague in the Greek kingdom of Aegina, that was destroying all that walked, crawled, flew or swam, so their monarch begged the gods to succour his people, which Zeus did by sending an army of ants–who had been peacefully gathering grain until then–and they transformed into humans before the eyes of the astounded king, and repopulated the cities, tilled the empty fields to feed the few survivors, and became a disciplined and much feared corps of warriors. Them and their progeny would be from then on be known as Myrmidons, from myrmex: ant. In another tale, ants originated from an Athenian maiden called Myrmices, who was the darling of Athena for her diligence and honesty, but she disobeyed the goddess when she gave the plough she was hiding to Ceres, the earthy deity, and was transformed into an ant in punishment, this new grain-gathering insect would become sacred to Ceres.

Ants were a godsend to Aeneas and Psyche as well. Not so much for the former as for the latter, because in the Aeneid ants don’t have an active role, but the similes they appear in enlighten us about their symbolism in Roman culture: industriousness, collectivity and prudence.  They are animals for winter: they accumulate huge amounts of grain that make it possible for them to survive the crudest of climates going underground, which also explains why they are linked to the Underworld. They are small, they work in silence, overlooked by all, underestimated by all and ignored by all, except for the Olympians, who chose these small creatures to help their human creatures and to teach them important  lessons about love, charity, diligence and helpfulness when necessary. Even the God of Israel does that, as we can read in the Book of Proverbs a line that asks the lazy of spirit to observe the ants’ hardworking habits and mimic it for their own good: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!”

The seeds were wheat, poppy, lentils, beans, millet and barley, the most common grain people consumed in ancient times and still do in many parts. Wheat is the most significant of all these, for it’s the symbol of bounty and prosperity. Beans share that symbolic significance, but they’ve got also a negative side wheat doesn’t. Seeds, especially wheat, have also a spiritual meaning, for they are products from the womb of the earth, that is of Demeter, mother of Persephone, and sowing and harvesting this grain was regarded as a symbol of death and rebirth: the seed must go underground (die) to be reborn as something different and vital.

Task Number Two: The Glitter of Gold on a Bough

a. The collecting of the golden fleece symbolises unification and truth (the “golden strands” of truth). This would chiefly develop a sense of justice according to Stoicism.

b. Fleece in itself represents wisdom and strength of spirit, but rams are the destructive masculine principle (aggression), and the reed that advises her is the feminine vegetative principle of growth, say theorists in the Jungian camp.

c. There’s no exact parallel with the gathering of the golden wool in Aeneas’ story but with the legend of Jason and the Golden Fleece. Nevertheless, certain elements are to be found in both, such as the dawn, the woods setting, the search for a golden item (in Psyche’s case a fleece and in Aeneas’ a bough), and the reception of instructions (from the reed for her, from the Sybil of Cumae for him) on how to gather it. In each case, they both have to find a tree which glistens with gold and remove the desired golden object, and do not retrieve them without physical effort. For the Hellenes, gold–both the colour and the metal–symbolised incorruptibility, indestructibility and immortality, and was thought to have the power to clarify what was murky or dark, thus paving the way for knowledge, light and action/activity. Hence the emphasis on golden carriages, armour, arms, tools and, above all, golden hair in their gods’ descriptions, and why they were especially insistent in Aphrodite’s case, to the point of flatly rejecting different colouring in depictions of this deity, a tradition the Romans wouldn’t always follow.

A quest for a golden object could be interpreted as the search for a higher dimension within a woman’s being to discover her own untried talents –her inner gold– and gaining knowledge about them would enable her to be more independent and self-confident, push her into action, thus she’d depend only on herself to carve out a future for herself and her loved ones. Moreover, finding the gold and retrieving it requires effort and investing a lot of energy, which is proven by the fact that, though Psyche receives instructions, she still has to gather it, to tire herself working in it. Gold is never a gratuitous gift of the gods for the ancients: discovering it, extracting it from mines, or gathering it from the golden sheep, meant sweat and tears and blood. All the heroes who went for it had to display organisation skills, courage, astuteness, etc. This was therefore a task that developed inner strength, determination and willpower in all of them, including Psyche.

But the Hellenes didn’t see things so black and white, there’s no light without shadows and the terrors living within. Gold had also a negative symbolism: corruption, the perversion of people and society from the roots up, the exaltation of negative appetites, the pure becoming impure. In Jason’s case, the temptations he faced on his quest for the Golden Fleece were that of perverse dominance (misuse of power) and debauchery. Gold is a double-edged spiritual symbol, as we’ve seen, and a ram is innocence, much like the Judeo-Christian lamb is purity, whilst fleece stands as a symbol of sublimation; therefore, this was a quest to win strength of spirit and purity of soul, and to retrieve the fleece from the trees–a symbol of life, but also of brave warriors dying heroically in battle in Homeric allegory–it hung on, the source of perversion had to be killed first, or he’d still be in danger of being corrupted by the other side of the golden coin.

Task Number Three: The Waters of Death

a. Curiously, the third task has no clear interpretation in this field. But in philosophy this is supposed to teach her about prudentia, wisdom, represented by the intervention of an eagle.

b. Neo-Jungian interpreters say that the act of retrieving the waters is characterised as a way of learning to channel and use inner psychic energies without being unbalanced by them, because these waters are from the River of the Dead, a symbol of spiritual death, and the glass vessel used to contain them is the fragility of the human soul that is in danger of losing itself while preparing for transformation though spiritual death and rebirth.

c. Psyche’s third trial is also reminiscent of Aeneas’ experiences, starting with the language Venus uses to describe the landscape and the task itself when issuing the order, which suggests a link to the underworld described in the Aeneid; and continuing with the description of Psyche’s travel towards attaining the deadly waters, the rocky landscape of the location where the Styx is placed, and the inclusion of monsters and an eagle, closely associated with Jupiter. In this task, Psyche is passive and weak, unlike her Trojan counterpart, and does not actually do a single thing, failing even to kill herself as she wishes because of despair.

In Greece and Rome, the eagle is Zeus’ bird; it symbolises omnipotence, and because of that no other deity had a right to be associated with this bird, and they were banned from Venus presence because her birds were fragile ones that’d be hunted down and killed. His was a special, giant white eagle with the power to communicate telepathically the messages the god sent, and when an eagle appeared, it meant that mortal was to move to a different plane of existence –which for Psyche was going to the Underworld– so it was an omen for changes as well.  The Styx, on the other hand, was a female river in Greek mythology (stream and river gods are male), and its black waters had the power of conferring invulnerability (that’s why Achilles was dipped in it by his mother). Its powers were so great that gods had to swear their oaths by the waters of the Styx, binding ones they could not break. Moreover, the Styx was the personification of hate, as evidenced by its name in old Greek: stygos = hatred.

Like other elements from the underworld, this stream could symbolise the end of a cycle; in Apuleius’ scenario rebirth can occur and new circumstances will unfold, as evidenced by the eagle’s presence, but the old way/the old person is dead and will never return in its original form, as Psyche didn’t, thus the black colour of its waters would be a metaphor for the mourning experience necessary to prepare for a new cycle as a changed person.

Task Number Four: A Visit to Hell

a. The descent into the Underworld is difficult to describe without employing the somewhat imprecise language of mysticism, for this task is an allegory of the supreme initiation for a neophyte in the ancient mystery cults such as those of Isis and Demeter, where a neophyte whose emotional and mental states were highly developed thanks to successfully completing earlier stages, was able to enter into a state of ecstasy that made possible for his soul to reach the highest spiritual dimension where he’s supposed to join with the divine, and when he is back in his body, the soul has followed in full awareness the path it otherwise could have traveled only unconsciously during sleep, or death. Having experienced the wonder-life beyond, he is reborn soul and must share this knowledge, as far as he is able, with those who dwell in darkness, that is, non initiates. Psyche, as the neophyte’s soul, passes the ordeal and is “resurrected” from mortal to immortal.

b. Traditional Jungian theory considers that the beauty ointment is a metaphor for the eternal youth of death, the state of eternal barren maidenhood, lacking the love of a man; and the deadly sleep is a regressive attempt of the narcissistic part of the unconscious (of which the Underworld is a symbol) to pull Psyche back from womanhood to her former girlhood, putting a halt to her mental development.

c. Elford declares that the most striking link between Psyche and Aeneas is that their descensus ad Infernus is placed in the sixth book–ancient works are divided in “books,” equivalents to our chapters–of their respective stories; proof that Apuleius was using Virgil as a model for his construction of the Underworld, because Latin authors place their homages, imitations and subversions in the same order they are in the work that inspired it. The elements in common are again an advisor (the voice in the tower for Psyche and the Sibyl for Aeneas) that tells them the secrets of the location, describes the topography and characters they’ll encounter; plot similarities (the danger of Psyche accepting Proserpine’s invitation to sit, both Psyche and Aeneas must appear before the goddess with an object, and both undergo labors) with some funny twists (Charon is an efficient and humourless bureaucrat, and Cerberus is a useless watchdog whose barking serves for nothing and is tricked into letting her enter the forbidden realm with honey cakes), and inversion of plot (Aeneas’ safe return back to the living through the Gate of Sleep is inverted when Psyche falls into a sleep akin to death after she opens the box of beauty). Elford also notes that Psyche going there is in itself the greatest plot twist on the traditional myths of descending into Hades’ dwellings, because this task is carried out by males only. That, this scholar asserts, is a plot device to stress just how pretty ludicrous it is to place girly, helpless, unfortunate, innocent and trusting Psyche in the same position of strong, invincible Hercules, cunning, multitalented Orpheus or heroic Aeneas; as is her comparatively “trivial” womanly goal of obtaining a pot of beauty, which contrasts with the male heroes’ more “serious” goals. And one more interesting detail is that the Underworld is for the first time in Roman literature called Domum Proserpinae,“House of Proserpine,” rather than the usual Domus Ditis,“House of Dis” (Dis is another name for the god Hades/Pluto).

All of which makes this the story of a woman’s descent to a woman’s realm at the order of a woman.

So the hero journey, or rather the improbable heroine journey, that had begun in a significant place –on the top of a mountain– is completed. In antiquity, exposure on a rock symbolised the end of childhood; it marked the dead of the girl and the birth of the maturing woman, the first change and the first step toward a new identity, a new course of action, a new role, like we expect for Sansa, and descending to where the dead dwelt was the ultimate trial that a mortal could complete on his transformative journey. That she was pregnant during this quest represents her biological maturing as a woman (sex and motherhood), and that she goes down to the Underworld of all places is a metaphor for finally leaving all the past behind her. Venus wanted to kill her, and so she did. She “killed” the old persona of Psyche by sending her on a path to maturity.



From Apuleius to Villeneuve: The Transformation of Cupid and Psyche into Beauty and the Beast

by Milady of York

Once upon a time, Beauty was an ugly woman

We are so used to the heroine of this tale as a surpassingly beautiful young woman that it might be a surprise to discover, after decades of reading, watching and listening to the familiar retelling, that the version that links the one we know today to the original Greco-Roman myth has as its heroine a girl who is anything but beautiful. Indeed, this Beauty was quite the opposite of Pysche, the opposite of Belle and the opposite of Sansa regarding her appearance, and that determined the course of her life since birth, starting with the vastly unflattering name she was given as a newborn.

Let’s learn about her story:

Once upon a time, there was a great queen who gave birth to twin daughters. She invited twelve fairies who lived in the neighbourhood to come and see them, and bestow gifts on them according to the custom of the time.

When the fairies were all in the banqueting hall, a magnificent repast was served. Just as they were sitting down to table, Magotine entered. She was the sister of Carabosse, and was equally wicked. The queen trembled at the sight, fearing some disaster, for she had not invited her to the feast; but carefully concealing her anxiety, she went to find for Magotine a green velvet arm chair embroidered with sapphires.

Sounds familiar? It certainly should. This is a scene out of La belle du bois dormant, known to us as Sleeping Beauty, and there are also components that resemble the beginning of the Trojan War; “forgetting” to invite a powerful supernatural and abhorred person is usually the shortest of all the roads to perdition. In imitation of Eris, the goddess of discord and strife, who dropped the Apple of Discord in the wedding banquet of Peleus and Thetis––Achilles’ parents––because she’d not been invited, this fairy showed up anyway, and whoever has read The Iliad is cognisant of the consequences; in this case, they were not directly war or destruction, but there was suffering nonetheless.

Let us hasten to bestow our gifts on the little princess, in order to anticipate Magotine.

Preventive strike, that was the solution the good fairies thought about first when they saw how infuriated the ill-tempered and resentful fairy was behaving despite the Queen’s too eager and unfruitful attempts at making her feel welcome. She’d already decided how she’d exact her vengeance for this affront, and it was disproportionate to the offence.

My gift to you, she said quickly to one [of the twin princesses], “is that you shall be the ugliest creature in the world.” She was on the point of laying a like curse on the other when the fairies ran up in great agitation and prevented her. Wicked Magotine broke a window-pane, and passing through it like a flash of lightning, disappeared from view.

Thus, the little baby was disfigured and, unbeknownst to her, the other was spared due to the opportune intervention of the other fairies. Like in Sleeping Beauty, none of the fairies was, apparently, powerful enough to reverse the situation. All they could do was to bestow upon her all sorts of agreeable virtues to compensate for the creature’s ugliness. Yet,

[…] the queen was less sensible of their kindness than of the pain of finding herself mother of the ugliest creature in the world.
They held a great council, and afterwards told her not to grieve so deeply, since, at an appointed time, her daughter would be very happy.
“But,” interrupted the queen, “will she become beautiful?”
“We cannot,” they replied, “explain ourselves more fully let it suffice you that your daughter will be happy.

One would think that a sensible parent would care more about her child’s well-being and happiness than her looks. As we are beginning to glean from her handling of the disastrous banquet, diplomacy was not an ability the Queen shared with Sansa. Neither did the Queen seem to prize sensibility, given her preference for looks over everything else; she adopted an attitude that would determine her daughter’s destiny and have an initial negative impact on her. The name she saw fit for her elder child was Laidronette, and Bellotte for the younger, names that were purposefully chosen[i]; and thus, between parental favoritism and their natural differences in temperament, they grew up to be so abysmally different from each other that it seemed as if they didn’t share the same blood:

Laidronette became so ugly, that in spite of her great intelligence, it was impossible to look at her; her sister grew very beautiful and was most charming.

Heartbroken at seeing how much her ugliness pained her family and the courtiers, when Laidronette turned twelve, she asked her parents for permission to retire with her nurse and a few retainers to the isolated Castle of Solitude, placed in the middle of a desert forest. She stayed there for the next two years of her life, and intelligent as she was, her time was spent writing books (she also wrote poetry, played the harp and loved to sing, like Sansa). One day, she felt she missed her family too much, and decided to pay her parents and sister a visit. She arrived the same day her twin was to be married, a jolly day, and everybody was happy and smiling. But laughter disappeared at the sight of Laidronette entering the hall. The embarrassed king and queen refused to embrace or give her a kiss, and instead greeted her coolly, remarking on how much uglier she’d grown, and then requested that she not appear at the wedding banquet; and if she wished to see it anyways, she could view it from a hidden place. That cold-hearted greeting from those she’d longed to see again for so long, convinced her that they would not either endure her presence if she stayed nor had they the slightest desire to try and cultivate her friendship; so she returned to her solitude.

One day, she went for a walk in the nearby forest, where she encountered under a tree a gigantic serpent, with green wings, a multicoloured body, ivory jaws, fiery eyes, and long, bristling hair. And much to her amazement and terror, she heard the serpent speak to her:

Laidronette, you are not alone in misfortune. Look at my horrible form, and learn that I was born even more beautiful than you.

She couldn’t hear the rest of whatever the monster intended to say, for she ran shrieking in fright, and didn’t venture out of the castle for days, until she finally dared to go for a walk again, this time in the sea-shore, where she found an enchanting golden boat. Desirous to see its contents, she went aboard, and the moment she stepped in, the boat left the shore. Believing she would die, Laidronette accepted that fate resignedly, but then the great serpent she’d seen before reappeared from water beneath and hovered above the waves to speak to her. She again decided to reject his company, so the snake disappeared without protest. Soon the boat drifted aimlessly to sea, heading toward a rock and crashing violently on it. Laidronette clung for safety to a piece of floating wood at the foot of the big rock … or so she thought. Because when she looked up, she found out she was tightly embracing the green serpent, who had saved her life.

The princess was alarmed at seeing him, and he had to let her go in haste, not before reproaching her for her ingratitude:

If you knew me better you would fear me less, but it is my cruel fate to terrify everybody.

So, our heroine shares with the little bird the inability to look at the other that frightens her. The serpent left Laidronette alone on a real rock, to await what might come to her. At length, she fell asleep and thus didn’t notice the rock had turned into a palace, and the spot where she was sleeping was now a luxurious bedchamber. She woke up when she heard the sound of musical instruments, and voices singing a tune that seemed composed especially for her:

Here within this palace gay
May you suffer Cupid’s dart!
Here shall gladness be our part,
Sorrows all he’ll drive away.
Here within this palace gay
May you suffer Cupid’s dart!

Here we read the first line that reveals where the idea for the plot came from. Henceforward this tale is practically a reworking of Apuleius’ myth, with some twists.

In that palace of glass, gold, pearls, precious gems and even more precious gardens, she met the servants: a hundred pagodas and pagodinas of distinct shapes, sizes and colours, who welcomed her to the palace as mistress, singing, dancing, playing instruments and preparing a lavish banquet for her. Their king was absent, they told her, but they would take care of her until he returned. Every day, they gave her new clothes, jewels, and “told her the most secret and curious things that went on in the world,” to amuse, divert and keep her informed. They improvised a theatre and had balls for her as well; and little by little the princess that could not endure the sight of her face in the mirror began to find herself less ugly thanks to their attentions. But soon she began to feel bored and lonely again, and whilst she lay in bed wondering what she was doing there, she heard a voice tell her that if she loved someone, she’d be conscious that happiness in solitude wasn’t that insipid. This was an invisible man speaking. She was incredulous at his confession that he had feelings for her.

 Has he eyes, or is he blind? Has he seen that I am the ugliest creature in the world?                                                                              

The voice replied that he indeed had seen her:

…to me you are not what you represent yourself to be, and whether on account of your person, your merits, or your misfortunes, I can only repeat that l adore you.

Here was he, telling that he adored her for her potentiality, not despite her appearance. But Laidronette’s fixation on her ugliness and her inexistent sense of self-worth made her balk at the prospect of accepting this offer, and refused to allow him to show himself before her.

No,” said the princess, “I do not wish to see anything that might attract me.

Yet her curiosity impelled her to inquiry about who this king was, and the pagodas replied that their monarch was young, handsome and was still absent, but he knew that she was in his palace, because frequent messages were sent to inform him of her activities. Laidronette grew used to hearing that voice every night, always courteous, always insistent; and soon began to relent in her resistance.

Notwithstanding my firm resolve never to love,” said the princess, “and the good reason I have to keep out of my heart an emotion that can only cause me misery, I confess I should like to know a king whose taste is so eccentric as yours, for if you really do love me, you are probably the only person in the world who could care for a woman as ugly as I am.

That night, she felt a presence walking beside her bed, and thinking it was one the pagodinas who acted as her handmaids, stretched her hand to call her, and felt another hand seizing hers, she felt a kiss on her hand and someone wetting her hand with tears. She realised who it was, and asked him if he thought it possible for her to love him without knowing who he was or what he looked like, and he told her the conditions were to be decided by her, but that he couldn’t show himself yet, for the same fairy that had made her so monstrously ugly, Magotine, had also put a spell on him for seven years, of which five had already passed. If she decided he was worthy of being her husband, she’d have to wait two more years. She implored for some days to reflect on his offer, in which the attentions of the pagodas redoubled. Loneliness and her own conviction that nobody else would look lovingly at her weighed heavily on her mind; and she finally consented to marry him, promising not to look upon him.

Therein lies everything for you and me,” he said. “If you give way to indiscreet curiosity, I should have to begin my penance all over again, and you would share the hardship with me; but if you can refrain from following the bad advice that will be given you, you will find that I shall be exactly to your taste, and you will at the same time recover the marvellous beauty taken from you by the wicked Magotine.

The marriage took place without excessive splendour, yet in her contentment Laidronette did not miss it.

After some time, Queen Laidronette of the Pagodas longed to receive her mother, the queen, her father, the king, her sister Bellotte and her husband. Her husband had a premonition about what her family would do, and unsuccessfully tried to dissuade her, but finally relented, on one condition: she had to read a book about a marriage similar to theirs:

The book you are reading,” he added, “will teach you what were Psyche’s misfortunes. I beg of you take heed and avoid them.     

It was an innovative narrative technique on the author’s part to insert this explicit reference; to have her heroine reading the story of the heroine she’s modelled after, confirms that the source of the analogies to be found in this tale is Apuleius.

She read the book over and over again, in preparation for her relatives’ visit. Her mother, who had believed her dead, upon hearing that now she was a powerful monarch and married, did not delay and came to the palace bringing her other daughter and son-in-law with her. When they asked to meet her husband, Laidronette gave contradictory explanations each day, which caused her mother and sister to conclude that she was deceiving them, and deceiving herself, too. They planted fears and doubts in Laidronette’s mind; she had to confess she’d never seen her husband; she also told them how much longer his penance would last, that she hoped at the end of that period she’d see him and become beautiful as well. The Queen laughed at her naïveté, telling her she’d fallen in a trap and her husband was really a monster; she only had to look at the pagodas to admit her words were truthful.

I rather believe,” replied Laidronette, “that he is the god of love himself.

Here we see she’s taking the stories from her book as true, and trying to resist temptation at the same time.

A mistaken notion!” exclaimed Queen Bellotte; “Psyche was told she had a monster for a husband, and found him to be Cupid himself. You persist in believing your husband is Love and assuredly you will discover him to be a monster. Any way set your mind at ease, enlighten yourself on so simple a matter.

She felt so disturbed by this, and after sending away her mother, sister and good brother, she determined, happen what might, to see her husband. Convinced that she’d not repeat Psyche’s mistake, she concealed a lamp  with a cover, and looked upon the invisible husband that lay asleep in her room, and screamed in horror: instead of fair Cupid, the person in her bed was the dreadful Green Serpent that had frightened her so much twice, in the forest and at sea. Her screams made the Serpent jump out of her bed, and after furiously chastising her for breaking her promise, he went away.

Laidronette plunged into a profound depression, and when the armies of Magotine attacked her Kingdom of Pagody, she was in such a catatonic state that she couldn’t bring herself to give any orders for the defence. The pagodas were defeated, and she was taken prisoner to the fairy. On seeing her, Magotine decided to make a slave of her and torture her further by imposing ludicrously impossible tasks on her.

[…] your first work shall be to teach my ants philosophy; prepare to give them a lecture every day.”   

The queen complained that she could not do such a thing, she knew nothing about philosophy, and even if she did, ants wouldn’t learn. Magotine changed her mind then, and imposed a second task on her:

“Here,” said Magotine, “is a distaff filled with cobweb; in two hours you must spin it as fine as your hair.

She was taken to an obscure grotto, where she was dumped with nothing but some bread and water, and the entrance was closed up by an enormous stone. There she tried to spin the cobweb, and the spindle would fall to the ground every time she tried. All her efforts were In vain; she was getting desperate, but moments later she heard the voice of the Serpent, who said that although she had broken her promise, he was not able to abandon her, and that the good-hearted fairy called Protectress, a friend of his, would help her. Two hours later, Magotine came to order her to weave fishing nets with these sticky threads, and Protectress aided her again. The bad fairy, however, realised that Laidronette and the monster had been communicating with each other by reciting verses at night. After she’d listened to one of these exchanges, she told them:

Proserpine, who is my best friend, has asked me to provide her with some poet on hire. It’s not that she lacks them, but she wants more of them. Go then, Green Serpent, finish your penance in her gloomy kingdom, and present my compliments to the charming Proserpine.  

All alone, Laidronette begged to die too, to join him in the Underworld. Magotine, pleased with herself, asked a third sacrifice of the queen:

 […] you must first fetch water from the inexhaustible spring.

She tied a very heavy millstone round her neck, and ordered her to climb to the top of a high mountain to gather four-leaved clover, and then fetch the magical water in a broken pitcher. If she failed, the fairy warned her, the serpent would suffer for that. Fortunately, the queen was able to complete this task with the good fairy’s assistance in the form of little canaries that fetched the water for her; but she was told to hide in a wood afterwards instead of going back to Magotine, and wait there for three years, so the fairy would believe her dead and leave her in peace. She did as she was bid, yet when she learnt the name of the waters–the Fountain of Discretion–she thought it would be good for her to drink it, for it’d make her more prudent and discreet than she’d been until then. After she’d drunk it, her hitherto hideous face turned into a very beautiful one. The fairy Protectress was so pleased with her choice of drinking the waters that she offered to shorten her penance, because she’d known its power of beautifying mind and body, and she’d chosen it for what it’d do to her mind. Laidronette refused, arguing that she deserved her penance, for she’d not forgiven herself for her indiscretion, and preferred to go live in the wood, where she’d be constantly accompanied by enchanted animals, who were really people doing penance for some misconduct (there’s an allusion to a famous B&B pairing in ASOIAF because, curiously, lovers had been transformed into little birds–pigeons, sparrows, canaries–and dogs). Protectress had changed her name from Laidronette to Discrète, and she was Queen in the Wood for three years.

 […] you must go on my behalf to Proserpina and ask of her the elixir of long life; […] take heed therefore not to uncork the bottle or to taste the liquor, for you would thus diminish my share.

That was Magotine’s new order when she presented herself before the fairy with the water in the broken glass. Desperate, the queen wandered away thinking of ways to kill herself, but before long she was hearing again the voice of her protectress, who gave her a green branch to strike on the ground as she recited some verses. That, the fairy assured her, would take her to Hades to rescue her serpent.

No more shall you grieve,
For the heavens I leave
To wipe the tear-drops away from your eyes.
Everything for your sake
Will I undertake;
Once more shall you see the loved one you prize.
Green Serpent again
Sweet life shall regain,
And with punishment dire his foe we’ll chastise.

The singer who thus responded was none other than Cupid in person, another nod of the author to the Greco-Roman original. The god ordered the Earth to open wide, and guided Laidronette in her descent to see Proserpine. The first person she met in the Underworld was a comely man, whom she recognised in her heart as the Green Serpent in his true form, and wanted to stay with him there; but the deity pressed her to go obtain the elixir from Proserpine first, and later conducted them to Magotine. The fairy, unable to resist Cupid, grudgingly agreed to lift the spell and restore the Serpent to its human body, and sent him and his wife back to live in their old kingdom.

The legacy of a rebellious noblewoman

         “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”

                                          LAUREL THATCHER ULRICH

The Green Serpent[ii] is the title of the fairy tale we’ve just read; it was written by Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy, a French baroness whose life is the most interesting of all the women who contributed to the creation of the contemporary version of Beauty and the Beast. Unlike Villeneuve and Beaumont’s marriages, which were arranged, hers was apparently forced and therefore unhappy, so much that she and the man she’d taken as lover would eventually conspire to have the Baron d’Aulnoy convicted of high treason against King Louis XIV of France, a crime that cost a man his head. The reasons for this marital incompatibility were that Monsieur d’Aulnoy was far from being a good husband in every aspect: he was thirty years her senior, abused her, was a dissolute womaniser and a compulsive gambler, apart from being a nouveau riche who’d been raised to nobility quite recently, whilst she was herself from an old and proud aristocratic family of higher rank. Unfortunately for the plotters, the conspiracy crumbled and the Baroness’ lover and his accomplice were executed; she was imprisoned and her mother had to flee the country.

After she was freed, she travelled abroad for some years, and on her return to Paris established her own literary salon, which would establish her reputation as an erudite and as a writer, as well as help her in getting acquainted with some of the brightest minds of her time, men and women. She first published her memories from her voyages, then three historical novels that were well received, and her first fairy tale three years before Charles Perrault, who’s popularly and incorrectly believed to be the first to have written and published a fairy tale in the strict definition of the genre we accept today. And finally, in 1697 she published a four-volume collection of tales named Les contes des fées, which makes this woman the writer responsible for the invention and later introduction of the term fairy tale in both France and England, where it was translated literally as Tales of the Fairies; and the following year she published another four-volume collection called New Tales, or Fairies in Fashion, in which she blended narrative styles of the folktale and the novel, a style Madame de Villeneuve would imitate. The fairy tale we analyse in the present essay was included in the second collection.

The Green Serpent is classified as Aarne-Thompson Tale Type 425-A, whereas Beauty and the Beast is an Aarne-Thompson 425-C type of fairy tale. Both types have the same motif: a monstrous supernatural partner and a human one that is usually beautiful, or what folktale experts call “animal marriage motif,” but what differentiates them and makes d’Aulnoy’s tale and its Roman predecessor superior with regard to female agency is the search motif, because, to quote Barbara Leavy, “the centrality of the search motif underscores what feminists applaud in Cupid and Psyche narratives, since Psyche’s search involves her in an active pursuit that contrasts her with such fairy tale characters as Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, who lie passively in deep sleep or virtual coma until they are awakened by brave and adventurous princes.” Both Villeneuve and Beaumont are of the second generation of women writers of fairy tales, and they’re more conservative and pedagogical than d’Aulnoy; their versions are “didactic discourses on manners, moral and social class,” as one scholar put it, but Aulnoy’s had a notorious reputation for advocating for female agency through her writing, which isn’t always obvious. The bitter experience that was her marriage influenced her greatly, and it shows in her storylines. For her, the search for autonomy and personal identity are crucial to her character’s psychological development; in all her fairy tales, she shows a preference for heroines over heroes, some of them are strong-willed ones, rulers in their own right, pursuing traditionally male interests; others are submissive and very dependent, but the author is prone to developing them into more autonomous characters, making them outgrow childhood dependencies and naïveté, and deal with the consequences of resistance to parents, to name just two recurrent motifs in her tales that could very well be compared to Sansa’s arc.

Laidronette’s story underscores the importance of developing a positive self-image and a healthy sense of self-worth, the need to overcome the fear of sexuality and the risks of loving another, and that femininity doesn’t have to equate passivity. By making her an erudite, a writer, singer and composer while retaining her traditional feminine tastes (she loves dresses, jewels and dancing), the author touched what was a very controversial theme in her time, and raised a scandal because it challenged a widely respected hostility toward intellectual pursuit and education of women popular in France. Also, in her rendition of the tasks, a critique of the restrictions of domesticity is evident, because the queen who had left her family whilst pursuing intellectual enterprises at the same time, is cruelly taunted for them–as in the “philosophy for ants” scene–and forced to perform domestic chores she neither knows how to do nor wants to, the futility of which is symbolised masterfully by the millstone, the iron shoes (a Cinderella reference) and the glass full of holes. And neither does she submit meekly to Magotine’s punishments but protests, only to be again mocked for “reasoning too much.” Her depiction of violence in many of her tales, like this one, were her way of addressing the abuse of women she’d experienced herself. Even in the peculiar way she had of ending her tale, putting all the power in a pagan god, she voiced her resentment with the religious establishment that often allowed feminine submission.

In spite of the numerous and readily apparent similarities between her fairy tale and the ancient one, Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy didn’t really consider it a reconstruction of the Apuleius’ myth, but she most certainly did ask readers to compare it to the Roman version by using that as basis for her plotline, because she took her references from her contemporary Jean de la Fontaine’s romanticised retelling: The Loves of Cupid and Psyche (1669), and two scenes from her tale are taken from similar ones in The Golden Ass that have no connection with the myth itself (the canary’s speech and the wood full of enchanted animals). Gabrielle de Villeneuve, on the other hand, seems to have reworked the myth more literally; and it’s known that she was a follower of d’Aulnoy’s writings, that she admired her and imitated her narrative style in the version that would be abridged and improved by Beaumont sixteen years later. Thus, the long process of transforming a mythological story about a god and a mortal into the tale of a monster and a beautiful maid is completed: Lucius Apuleius Africanus inspired Jean de la Fontaine, Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy took it from him and passed it to Gabrielle de Villeneuve, and it was picked up by another conteuse, Jeanne-Marie de Beaumont, who wrote Beauty and the Beast in her definitive form.    


[i] Laideronnette in the original French. In some English editions, her name has been translated as Little Ugly and her sister’s as Little Beauty.

The Dictionnaire de la Langue Française states the following:

LAIDERONNE: Adj., fam. Ugly girl or woman.

BELLOTTE: Adj., fam. [when speaking of a child] cute, amiable, sweet. Diminutive of belle.

[ii] D’Aulnoy, Marie-Catherine, The Fairy Tales of Madame D’Aulnoy. Translated by Annie MacDonell and Ms. Lee, illustrated by Clinton Peters, Lawrence & Bullen, London, 1892. Read online here:



An Analysis of the Beauty and the Beast elements in the Epic of Gilgamesh,

and how it pertains to the character (development) of Sansa

by Fiekie

Part one: Introduction and Summary

The epic of Gilgamesh is one of the earliest surviving works of literature. It is an epic, and deeply depressing poem about man’s search (and failure to find) immortality. The history of the figure of Gilgamesh starts with four independent Sumerian poems. The first “Old Babylonian” version of the epic dates from the 18th BCE; although only fragments of this version survive. The later “standard Babylonian” version has been partly recovered such that approximately two thirds of the text is available.

The epic is divided into 12 tablets, with two distinct arcs. The first part of the poem deals primarily with the friendship between King Gilgamesh and Enkidu. The second part of the poem deals with Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality, his failure in this quest, and his return.

This analysis will deal mainly with tablets one and two.

[1] King Gilgamesh of Uruk is introduced. He is two parts god and one part man and a ferocious tyrant. He takes the “lords’ right” with newlywed brides in his city and exhausts the men of his city with endless games, tests of strength and [implied] forced manual labour. The citizens cry out to the gods for help and they decide to create an equal for Gilgamesh in order to distract him. The wild man Enkidu is thusly created. He is covered with hair and lives with the beasts. Gilgamesh hears of Enkidu and decides to send a harlot to seduce him. Shamhat the temple prostitute* is duly sent to him and Enkidu is introduced to civilisation. He spends six days and seven and nights with her. However, after this time, the wild animals who were Enkidu’s companions shun him. Shamhat persuades him to join her and return to Uruk.

[2] Shamhat brings him to a shepherd’s camp where he learns a human diet and is made the watchman. Here he learns of the way Gilgamesh has been using the “lord’s right” with regards to newlywed brides. He is disgusted and decides to put a stop to it at the next wedding. Enkidu blocks Gilgamesh’s path when he attempts to enter the wedding chamber. A fierce battle ensues. Enkidu is victorious, and Gilgamesh acknowledges his superior strength. They become friends and Gilgamesh proposes that they slay the monstrous beast Humbaba in order to win renown. Enkidu and the council of elders warn against this but Gilgamesh goes anyway.

For the purpose of this analysis, we will be focussing on the four main “character types”: the sovereign (Gilgamesh); his subjects (men and women of the city); the outsider/companion/Beast (Enkidu) and The Woman/Beauty (Shamhat).

The story-elements can be listed as follows:

  1. The sovereign terrorises his subjects and they cry out for help

  2. The gods intervene

  3. An outsider (Beast) is created. He is fully the Other

  4. The sovereign hears about the Beast

  5. He decides to “invite” him

  6. A woman is sent to the Beast

  7. The woman introduces the Beast to civilisation

  8. The Beast is separated from the beasts

  9. The Beast is taken to the sovereign

  10. The Beast learns of the sovereign’s conduct and judges him and finds his conduct unfit

  11. The sovereign is challenged by the Beast

  12. The Beast wins

  13. The sovereign and the Beast unites

* Just a note on temple prostitution: Do not confuse the notion with that of a common “whore.” Temple prostitution was a sacred duty and these individuals were treated with the respect and reverence that were accorded any priest. The position was further coveted because these individuals lived in luxury and it was one of the few ways a women could wield power outside of her household.

Part Two: Analysis

The parallels between Joffrey and Gilgamesh are immediately apparent. They are both tyrants, neither cares for the wellbeing of others and they have an utter disregard for women. The parallels between Enkidu and Sandor are equally obvious: Sandor also started out as a “Beast” (both physically unattractive and beastly behaviour-wise). Both were transformed when they came in contact with The Woman. Both start to “challenge” their ruler (Enkidu challenged Gilgamesh to a duel and Sandor started to “challenge” Joffrey’s behaviour towards Sansa).

Apart from these parallels, there are a few more salient points that are less obvious (but no less important):

Many scholars read no further than the obvious implication of the sexual intercourse between Enkidu and Shamhat. However, this has always puzzled me. For starters, no matter how fit you are there is a physical limit to how much sex a human can have in a period of time. So Enkidu and Shamhat would have spent some time not engaged in carnal relations. What did they do during this time? Sit around and feel awkward? Somehow I think not. Secondly, how does sex differentiate us from beasts? In fact, it’s one of the things we have in common with them! So how can the simple act of sex “make” Enkidu less beastly and more civilized? Thirdly, after meeting Shamhat, Enkidu is shown to be Gilgamesh’s superior in at least two ways: he physically beat him and he is morally superior; i.e. able to judge Gilgamesh’s actions towards the newlywed women and recognize that his behaviour is wrong. If Enkidu and Shamhat only had sex, how would he be able to make this moral distinction? Biologically (i.e. from a “beastly” point of view), the “lord’s right” makes perfect sense. Impregnating the largest amount of women possible increases the chances of having healthy offspring and that your offspring will survive. Moreover, if Enkidu and Shamhat only had sex, why would he value a woman as anything more than a sexual object? I suppose the argument can be made that Enkidu was actually protecting the husbands rather than the brides; but that seems a bit far-fetched. Why would he care if the husbands got “used goods” (if you would forgive the term). The more likely possibility is that Enkidu was appalled at the way Gilgamesh casually violated these girls. Enkidu recognized the value of women and the sanctity of their bodies. Why? Because of Shamhat. She taught him more than just the “ways of the seven sighs”. She taught him about society, respect, family and compassion. Hey that sounds a bit like Sansa…

Moving on: A second perplexing point in the narrative is why Gilgamesh cared so little for other people. It can be inferred that he also had some experience with prostitutes; perhaps even Shamhat herself. After all, it was his idea to send her to Enkidu. So how come he was still misogynistic, rapist pig? I suppose it has something to do with his position and his personality. Like Joffrey, he was “born” a king and felt he had some divine right to do as he wished. Enkidu had humble beginnings (what can be more humble than eating grass with a bunch of herbivores in the field?). Sandor likewise had no delusions of grandeur. They both met The Woman (Sansa/Shamhat) as “equals” in the sense that they are both, man and women, human and worthy of recognition as such. It is true that Sandor was a bit condescending towards Sansa in the beginning. Yet I think her courtesy and the respect she shows, well, everyone soon had him seeing her in another light. This led him to open up to her influence. He started to see her as valuable in and of herself and not just as a pretty walking womb. But this influence she had on him went deeper still. He started to “judge” Joffrey and question his actions – especially his actions towards a mere girl. In the same way, Enkidu was open to Shamhat’s influence when they first met. No doubt they equally developed a rapport because of the respect and courtesy she showed him.

In conclusion: I’ve read on these forums that the only reason Sandor reacted towards Sansa in the way that he did was because she’s pretty. I challenge this notion, calling upon the most ancient of texts for comparison. Sandor reacted towards Sansa because of the way that Sansa reacted towards him. The compassion she shows and the way in which she recognises him as human and worthy of respect sets her apart from any other person in his life. He is touched by this in a way that simple physical attraction would not. In contrast, Joffrey was also treated with respect and adoration by Sansa but he remained untouched. He treats her (and everyone else) with contempt and casual cruelty.




Northern Europe: East of the Sun and West of the Moon

by Elba the Intoner

What a strange illusion it is to suppose that beauty is goodness.

Leo Tolstoy, novelist and philosopher (1828-1910).

It’s time to take a look at the Norse tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Here’s a link to the full tale.

I found the annotations for the tale on this site, SurLaLune, to be very helpful and I will be basing most of my essay of the comments from them.

East of the Sun is classified by Aarne-Thompson as type 425A, the search for the lost husband. Beauty and the Beast is similar but has some important differences (which will be discussed below) and therefore is in a slightly different category, Aarne-Thompson type 425C.

Right off it is apparent that East of the Sun is very similar to Cupid and Psyche and Beauty and the Beast. Themes that are central to all these fairy tales include:

  • all three stories center on a mortal girl attempting to regain her lover, who is not what he appears;
  • travel and transformation feature prominently;
  • the “wedding”/abduction stems from troubles in the family; and
  • the beauty of the girl is a blessing to her family but not to herself, forcing her into an arranged marriage with a stranger.

Main difference:

In C & P and East of the Sun, the heroines undergo dramatic change from having to achieve nearly impossible tasks or trials which are masked in riddles and are not as they appear. This is where these stories diverge most from Beauty and the Beast in that in the latter story, the heroine undergoes change from within and that internal conflict results in her free will to make the choice herself. For this reason B&B relates more to our modern outlook. (See Annotation #47 on the Sur La Lune site).

Let’s take a look at the specifics of East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

Once upon a time there was a poor peasant who had so many children that he did not have enough of either food or clothing to give them. Pretty children they all were, but the prettiest was the youngest daughter, who was so lovely there was no end to her loveliness.

One day — it was on a Thursday evening late in the fall — the weather was wild and rough outside, and it was cruelly dark. The rain was falling and the wind blowing, until the walls of the cottage shook. They were all sitting around the fire busy with this thing and that. Then all at once something gave three taps on the window. The father went out to see what was the matter. Outside, what should he see but a great big white bear.

“Good evening to you,” said the white bear.

The same to you,” said the man.

Will you give me your youngest daughter? If you will, I’ll make you as rich as you are now poor,” said the bear.

Well, the man would not be at all sorry to be so rich; but still he thought he must have a bit of a talk with his daughter first; so he went in and told them how there was a great white bear waiting outside, who had given his word to make them so rich if he could only have the youngest daughter.

The girl said “No!” outright. Nothing could get her to say anything else; so the man went out and settled it with the white bear, that he should come again the next Thursday evening and get an answer. Meantime he talked to his daughter, and kept on telling her of all the riches they would get, and how well off she herself would be. At last she agreed to it, so she washed and mended her rags, and made herself as smart as she could. Soon she was ready for the trip, for she didn’t have much to take along.

The next Thursday evening came the white bear to fetch her. She got on his back with her bundle, and off they went. After they had gone a good way, the white bear said, “Are you afraid?”

No, she wasn’t.

Just hold tight to my shaggy coat, and there’s nothing to be afraid of,” said the bear.


First of all, I thought I’d comment about the fact that a specific time of Thursday evening in fall is given for when the Bear makes his first appearance. Annotations 6 & 7 explain that Thursday is named after Thor, the Norse god of thunder, lightning, storms and strength who was known for wielding his great hammer. This image reminds me a lot of King Robert Baratheon and in ASOIAF it’s interesting that the story starts off with Robert’s visit to Winterfell, which sets all the rest of the story in motion and of course the storm to follow. Also, the idea that autumn is the season when this tale starts off is pretty much the same time setting as when ASOIAF begins.

In these tales the loveliest, youngest daughter agrees to go with the “animal bridegroom” which shows her willingness to sacrifice her desires for her family’s welfare. This is a sign of virtue. (Annotations 14 and 15). However, I noted right off how this girl first says “No” immediately and then has to be talked into it. Even though it appears that she is being given a choice when her father speaks to her, she really has none or at least very little, which was always the case with arranged marriages.

Once the girl makes the decision to go, she claims she is not afraid. Here she clings tight to the Bear’s back, holding his fur tightly and this keeps her from danger. This signifies how her spouse will protect her from danger if she clings to him. (Annotation 21).

She rode a long, long way, until they came to a large steep cliff. The white bear knocked on it. A door opened, and they came into a castle, where there were many rooms all lit up; rooms gleaming with silver and gold. Further, there was a table set there, and it was all as grand as grand could be. Then the white bear gave her a silver bell; and when she wanted anything, she only had to ring it, and she would get it at once.

Well, after she had eaten, and it became evening, she felt sleepy from her journey, and thought she would like to go to bed, so she rang the bell. She had barely rung it before she found herself in a room, where there was a bed made as fair and white as anyone would wish to sleep in, with silken pillows and curtains, and gold fringe. All that was in the room was gold or silver. After she had gone to bed, and put out the light, a man came and laid himself alongside her. It was the white bear, who cast off his pelt at night; but she never saw him, for he always came after she had put out the light. Before the day dawned he was up and off again.


The Bear takes the girl to his castle hidden inside a mountain where she is given everything she could possibly want or need. She has gold and riches at her disposal, and lives in complete luxury so she should be content but she also knows there is more to life than this. (Annotation 26) Basically, her new husband has provided everything she needs, except she is lonely and has no one for companionship during the day at least, when she is awake. However, at night when the lights form her candles go out and she goes to bed, a man comes and lies down on the bed with her. She never sees what he looks like. Analysts suggest that this aspect is meant to alleviate a maiden’s fears about the marriage bed since her husband appears to be a beast, but he is really just a caring man. (Annotation 28). This is the one big stipulation to her new found wealth and status, that she may never look upon her spouse and has been interpreted as a warning against female curiosity.

Things went on happily for a while, but at last she became quiet and sad. She was alone all day long, and she became very homesick to see her father and mother and brothers and sisters. So one day, when the white bear asked what was wrong with her, she said it was so lonely there, and how she longed to go home to see her father and mother and brothers and sisters, and that was why she was so sad, because she couldn’t get to them.

Well,” said the bear, “that can happen all right, but you must promise me, not to talk alone with your mother, but only when the others are around to hear. She will want to take you by the hand and lead you into a room to talk alone with her. But you must not do that, or else you’ll bring bad luck on both of us.”

So one Sunday the white bear came and said they could now set off to see her father and mother. Off they went, she sitting on his back; and they went far and long. At last they came to a grand house. Her brothers and sisters were outside running about and playing.

 Everything was so pretty, it was a joy to see.

This is where your father and mother live now,” said the white bear. “Now don’t forget what I told you, else you’ll make us both unhappy.”

No, heaven forbid, she’d not forget. When they reached the house, the white bear turned around and left her.

She went in to see her father and mother, and there was such joy, that there was no end to it. None of them could thank her enough for all she had done for them. They now had everything they could wish for, as good as good could be. Then they wanted to know how she was.

Well, she said, it was very good to live where she did; she had all she wished. I don’t know what else she said, but I don’t think she told any of them the whole story. That afternoon, after they had eaten dinner, everything happened as the white bear had said it would. Her mother wanted to talk with her alone in her bedroom; but she remembered what the white bear had said, and wouldn’t go with her.

What we have to talk about we can talk about any time,” she said, and put her mother off. But somehow or other, her mother got to her at last, and she had to tell her the whole story. She told her, how every night, after she had gone to bed, a man came and lay down beside her as soon as she had put out the light, and how she never saw him, because he was always up and away before the morning dawned; and how she was terribly sad, for she wanted so much to see him, and how she was by herself all day long, and how dreary, and lonesome it was.

Oh dear,” said her mother; “it may well be a troll you are sleeping with! But now I’ll give you some good advice how to see him. I’ll give you a candle stub, which you can carry home in your bosom; just light it while he is asleep, but be careful not to drop any tallow on him.”
Yes, she took the candle, and hid it in her bosom, and that evening the white bear came and took her away.

But when they had gone a piece, the white bear asked if all hadn’t happened as he had said.

She couldn’t deny that it had.

Take care,” said he, “if you have listened to your mother’s advice, you will bring bad luck on us both, and it will be finished with the two of us.”

No, by no means!


Here we have the climax of the conflict between the girl’s feelings of homesickness and missing her family, and the idea that she must live with and obey her husband. Homesickness is the catalyst for the next events in the story, as the maiden’s failure to let go of her home and family and to be completely happy in her new home causes the separation form her lover/husband and his near destruction. (Annotation 30). This leads into the seminal moment of the gaze, which here is encouraged by the girl’s mother, and in C & P by Psyche’s sisters, who comes up with a plan for her to be able to look upon her husband while he is asleep and against his instructions. The conflict between a young wife listening to her mother or older sisters instead of her new husband is often a source of strife in a new marriage. (Annotation 35).


So when she reached home, and had gone to bed, it was the same as before. A man came and lay down beside her; but in the middle of the night, when she heard that he was fast asleep, she got up and lit the candle. She let the light shine on him, and saw that he was the most handsome prince one ever set eyes on. She fell so deeply in love with him, that she thought she couldn’t live if she didn’t give him a kiss at once. And so she did, but as she kissed him she let three drops of hot tallow drip onto his shirt, and he woke up.

“What have you done?” he cried; “now you have made us both unlucky, for had you held out only this one year, I would have been free! I have a stepmother who has bewitched me, so that I am a white bear by day, and a man by night. But now all ties are broken between us. Now I must leave you for her. She lives in a castle east of the sun and west of the moon, and there, too, is a princess, one with a nose three yards long, and now I will have to marry her.”

She cried and grieved, but there was no help for it; he had to go.

Then she asked if she could go with him.

No, she could not.

Tell me the way, then” she said, “so I can look for you; surely I may do that.”

Yes, she could do that, but there was no way leading to the place. It lay east of the sun and west of the moon, and she’d never find her way there.


The candle the girl uses to gaze upon her husband literally sheds light on him and is a symbolic representation of her “seeing the light”, gaining knowledge of something about which she was in the dark before. It is a very significant moment.

In this story in particular we see that the girl immediately falls in love with her handsome husband and kisses him and this leads to the wax from the candle spilling on his shirt and waking him up. (Kind of a reversal of the usual trope in which a handsome Prince finds a sleeping Princess and kisses her to wake her up, which is what happens with Cupid and Psyche later on). I find this to represent the girl’s sexual awakening and I think it is very important that it happens at the moment of her gaze, when she is able to shed light on her situation and see the truth. However, as with Adam and Eve who eat the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge, gaining that insight and opening their eyes to see the real truth comes with a huge cost.

It is at this point that this story and C & P diverge from the Beauty and the Beast type. Here the girl must now go on a quest to find her husband and prove her worthiness and dedication to him after her indiscretion. (Annotation 47). So, while Beauty and the Beast involves a fundamental inner transformation on behalf of Belle, the transformation of the other party to this relationship, the Beast, is fundamental as well. In East of the Sun however, the beast’s transformation is not a part of this story. It is all about the beauty’s journey to prove her worth, and it is an external struggle as she has already “fallen in love” with her spouse upon seeing him.

Her journey begins as she sets off to find the castle that lay East of the Sun and West of the Moon. In the first part of her journey the girl separately meets 3 old crones who each give her advice and a gift. The first aged woman gives her a golden apple, the second a golden carding comb and the third a golden spinning wheel. They also note that she must know about the Prince because she is the one who should have had the Prince.

Annotation 48 explains that the aged women who give the girl guidance and gifts to help her with her quest are often sources of wisdom and advice in fairy tales, and the gifts help younger characters on quests. Sometimes the old women are gods, fairies, or angels in disguise. The aged women appear to give the heroine help since she is the first and true bride of the prince, not for any of her own virtues. Annotation 50 suggests that this is meant to show how the tale upholds the sanctity of marriage.

Two of the items that the girl receives as gifts are household items – the carding comb and the spinning wheel. They are meant to represent the idea that the girl will need to know common household chores, but that they are gold shows how an ordinary item becomes extraordinary. (Annotation 49). The golden apple is something we have discussed before. Annotation 49 also explains the significance of the apple as “a symbol of love and affection. The apple was sacred to Aphrodite and represented knowledge, especially sexual knowledge, fertility and love.”

The second part of her journey has our heroine riding on the four winds, which represents how she has literally traveled the four corners of the earth, and it is the North wind that finally brings her to the land East of the Sun and West of the Moon. The North wind is considered the strongest and brings with it winter and bitter cold weather. (Annotation 54).

Yay, she has finally found the castle where her Prince is living. But even after all she has been through to find him, the story is not over yet. She still has to go through another series of trials.

Our young heroine (who doesn’t have a name by the way) runs into the Princess with the long nose who was to marry the Prince. The Princess asks the girl if she can buy her golden apple and the girl says, “it wasn’t for sale for gold or money, but if she could go to the prince who was there, and be alone with him that night she could have it. “ The Princess agrees and takes the apple. That night the girl goes to be with the Prince. However, he is fast asleep and she cannot wake him no matter how hard she tries. She cries and frets all night but the Prince does not wake up. The next morning the princess casts the girl out of the castle but later sees her with her golden carding comb and again asks if she can buy it. Again the girl replies as she did the day before and again the girl goes to the Prince that night but cannot wake him no matter how hard she tries. She cries and frets all night. The next day, you guessed it, the same thing happens with the golden spinning wheel. The Princess asks to buy it and the girl says she can have it if she can go to the Prince that night and be with him. However, this third time something different happens. It seems that for some inexplicable reason there are some Christians being held captive in the castle and they have heard the girl’s cries the last two nights coming from the Prince’s room. They tell the Prince about it and that night, when the Princess with the long nose gives him a drink he only pretends to drink it because he realizes that it is really a sleeping potion. So, on the third night the girl goes to the Prince’s room and this time he is awake and sees her. They have a joyful reunion and she tells him how she came to be there.


“The ‘true bride’ often tricks the ‘false bride’ into letting her spend the night with the prince, or, as in this tale, she bribes her. The imposter bride is always eager to take possession of an object and will sacrifice the prince’s welfare for material gain.” (Annotation 56). I think this idea is meant to show that the false bride is undeserving of the handsome Prince because she is greedy and does not care for his welfare. A true bride will always have her husband’s best interests at heart. There is also an irony now in that the girl cannot wake the Prince at all to get him back, whereas when she first gazed upon him he woke up immediately and that is what led to her losing him. (Annotation 58). Boy they really want to make this girl pay for her daring to look upon the true image of her husband. The other thing that is of note is the help the girl receives from the “Christians”. According to Annotation 59 this was added by the original chroniclers of the folk tale as the influence of Christianity spread. I am curious as to what the original tale used because I interpret this as the smallfolk, every day little people, helping the girl in her quest to get her husband back, just as Psyche had help from the ants and other animals in completing her seemingly impossible tasks. If not for the information from these people, the Prince would not have known about the sleeping potion and the girls third and last chance to wake him up would have been futile.

But, this is still not the end of the tale as the Prince is still required to marry the ugly Princess with the long nose and they have one more test to go through before they can live together happily ever after. However, this time the Prince comes up with a plan.

Ah,” said the prince, “you’ve come in the very nick of time, for tomorrow is to be our wedding day. But now I won’t have the long-nose, and you are the only woman in the world who can set me free. I’ll say that I want to see what my wife is fit for, and beg her to wash the shirt which has the three spots of tallow on it. She’ll agree, for she doesn’t know that you are the one who put them there. Only Christians, and not such a pack of trolls, can wash them out again. I’ll say that I will marry only the woman who can wash them out, and ask you to try it.”

So there was great joy and love between them all the night. But next day, when the wedding was planned, the prince said, “First of all, I’d like to see what my bride is fit for.”

“Yes!” said the stepmother, with all her heart.

Well,” said the prince, “I’ve got a fine shirt which I’d like for my wedding shirt, but somehow or other it got three spots of tallow on it, which I must have washed out. I have sworn to marry only the woman who is able to do that. If she can’t, then she’s not worth having.”

Well, that was no big thing they said, so they agreed, and the one with the long nose began to wash away as hard as she could, but the more she rubbed and scrubbed, the bigger the spots grew.

Ah!” said the old troll woman, her mother, “you can’t wash. Let me try.”

But she had hardly touched the shirt, before it got far worse than before, and with all her rubbing, and wringing, and scrubbing, the spots grew bigger and blacker, and the shirt got ever darker and uglier.

Then all the other trolls began to wash, but the longer it lasted, the blacker and uglier the shirt grew, until at last it was as black all over as if it been up the chimney.

Ah!” said the prince, “none of you is worth a straw; you can’t wash. Why there, outside, sits a beggar girl, I’ll bet she knows how to wash better than the whole lot of you. Come in, girl!” he shouted.

She came in.

Can you wash this shirt clean, girl, you?” he said.

I don’t know,” she said, “but I think I can.”

And almost before she had taken it and dipped it into the water, it was as white as driven snow, and whiter still.

Yes, you are the girl for me,” said the prince.

At that the old troll woman flew into such a rage, she exploded on the spot, and the princess with the long nose after her, and the whole pack of trolls after her — at least I’ve never heard a word about them since.

As for the prince and princess, they set free all the poor Christians who had been captured and shut up there; and they took with them all the silver and gold, and flew away as far as they could from the castle that lay east of the sun and west of the moon.


I really like how Annotation 60 explains the significance and symbolism of the task of washing the white shirt clean so I am just going to quote it:

First the maiden’s ability to clean the garment would mark her as skilled at domestic arts and thus a suitable bride.

Second, the heroine is accomplishing a difficult task, removing a settled stain from clothing. Psyche, in Cupid and Psyche, has to perform three impossible tasks to prove her devotion to Cupid.

Third, the endeavour emphasizes the Christian themes of forgiveness and purity. The maiden is washed clean of her sins when she cleans the shirt–which becomes as white as driven snow–since she is now shown to be of the Christian faith. In many religions, brides go through ritualistic cleansing before their marriage. The pagan creatures–the trolls–only make the shirt dirtier and blacker as they attempt to clean it. Their failed attempts to remove the spot is reminiscent of Lady Macbeth’s inability to remove the vision of blood from her hands in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

It is only after the girl has been purified and her past transgression wiped clean, for she must clean off the three spots of tallow that fell from the candle when she first committed her transgression, that all further obstacles are removed and they can live happily ever after. The happily ever after, of course, includes living with great wealth, since “[w]hile supporting the ideals of love, honor, and virtue, fairy tales are very practical, supporting the idea that heroes need some degree of material wealth and security to live happily ever after.” (Annotation 63).

The reason I picked many of the annotations I highlighted above is that I found them very eye opening in explaining how this type of tale promotes the institution of marriage as a contract and business arrangement. Even more it emphasizes that for a girl to be worthy of a good match to a wealthy spouse she must be skilled in the domestic arts, virtuous in putting herself above others and once married must be completely devoted to her spouse. If she defies her spouse or shows any curiosity she will be punished. Just as I finished writing this paragraph the movie The Stepford Wives jumped into my head. It’s like these tales are meant to train girls to be the perfect wife. I think that’s why the similar but slightly varied tale of Beauty and the Beast is more preferred today because in that story the girl’s inner transformation is the main idea that is being promoted, and from that inner transformation she can make her own decision about accepting the Beast. Also, in Beauty and the Beast as I mentioned earlier, the Beast has to prove himself too. He must conquer his more monstrous aspects to prove his love to her.

Special thanks to Milady of York for her links to some useful resources. I especially liked this woman’s feminist interpretation of this tale.

And I loved the romantic and more optimistic sentiment expressed by the woman in this blog:

The lesson of this allegory is that the everlasting love is not given free, but one has to have courage and be prepared to sacrifice everything for it. Nor does the real love consist only of the physical attraction and material things, but it goes much deeper, overcoming the four elements, the four winds, sleep and even death: Amor vincit omnia; et nos cedamus amori.

Both those blogs also have some beautiful paintings and illustrations of the images from East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and from Cupid and Psyche that are worth checking out. Here’s a link to some more stunning illustrations of East of the Sun by Kay Nielsen. Hope you enjoy them!




Madame de Villeneuve

by Lady Lea


The story of Beauty and the Beast was originally written by Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, in 1740. This story was then abridged and modified in 1757 by Madame Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont, and this is the version we know today. The 1949 film, La Belle et la Bête, is based on Beaumont’s story.

Most of us are familiar with Beaumont’s version, or at least the Disney film, but what was the story originally like? What was its message? With these questions in mind, let’s take a look at Villeneuve’s story.


Here is the original in French: 1st part, 2nd part.

The French audiobook: here.

And a good English translation: here.


I decided to do this as a sort of summary of the story, with my commentary in red. Everything inside the quotation marks are direct quotes (that I translated myself—the English translation made the Beast’s speech much fancier and genteel than it actually was, so I just followed the original text). This ended up taking a different direction than I had originally though, because I didn’t think there’d be so many Tyrion parallels. Oh, well.


Once there was a wealthy merchant, who had six children: six boys and six girls. None of them were settled in life; the men were too young to give it any serious thought, and the women, though they had many admirers, thought they were secure in life so they didn’t have to make a choice too soon.

As it happens, a series of tragedies befell the family, and the merchant’s house burned down and he lost all his fortune. All he had left was a small country house, very far away from the city, in the middle of an almost impenetrable forest.

The daughters were horrified at the prospect of living in such a desolate place, and thought that their many suitors would take the opportunity to propose to them again, but that was not the case. “The season of choice was over for them”. The suitors disappeared, the family’s friends ceased to know them, the city folk even started blaming their misfortunes on them, laughing at their disgrace.

So, first in the story there is a really interesting social commentary about marriage. The young men didn’t want to think about settling down (this reminded me of Edmure Tully) and the young women were confident that they didn’t have to marry too soon because their family was rich enough to support them (quite like Emma by Jane Austen). Then, when they became poor, they decided to marry, but their suitors were gone. Almost a warning for well-off girls: nothing is certain in life, marry when you can!

Also, we see here something that recalls the Stark fall: when Ned was Hand, Sansa commented on how people were always smiling at her and treating her kindly, but when her family was disgraced, everyone ceased to know her, and people even laughed at her in court when she was being beaten and mistreated.

So the family moved to this country house, and they had to live off the land and divide the work between them. Everyone was very unhappy, thinking back on their former life, but the youngest daughter displayed greater perseverance than the others, and decided to forget where she came from and make the best of her new life. This youngest daughter, who was 16 years old, was so pretty that everyone called her “la Belle” (literally, “the Beautiful”, but we have come to know her in English as “the Beauty”). She was very amiable and did her best to cheer the others up, but her sisters were jealous of her, and said that she was only happy because she had no sensibility and was made for coarse activities.

Another thing I want to comment on, that I’ve seen discussed elsewhere, is how we don’t know the youngest daughter’s name. She is only “the Beauty”. Even though she has other qualities (she’s amiable, kind, cheerful, a good musician, etc.), she is reduced to her physical appearance, stripped of her identity and individuality.

One day the father learnt that one of the ships he thought he had lost suddenly turned up at port, full of riches. It was summer, and he decided to go back to the city to manage this, and the eldest daughters requested many expensive gifts. The youngest said she only wanted her father home safely, but after much insistence from her family, she made one request: a rose.

It turned out he couldn’t recover anything, so he made his way back, in a harsh winter. Freezing and hungry, he wandered into a palace. It seemed empty, though suspiciously full of statues depicting people in all sorts of clothes and positions. There was a fire and a table with a banquet, so he helped himself. Afterwards he started going from room to room to find the palace’s owner, but, finding everywhere to be empty he decided to sack the place (!). He also thought it would be a good idea to move with his family there. He then found a winter garden with rare flowers and a nice rose-bush, and remembered his promise to bring Beauty a rose. As soon as he picked one, a terrible Beast appeared. “Who gave you permission to gather my roses? Isn’t it enough that I kindly allowed you to remain in my palace? Instead of gratitude, reckless fool, I see you stealing my roses! Your insolence shall not go unpunished”.

The man was very frightened of the Beast, and threw himself on the ground. “My lord, have pity on me. I do not lack for gratitude. Overwhelmed by your kindness, I could not imagine that such a small thing could offend you”.

Terribly angry, the Beast yelled: “Shut up, you damn pompous fool! I have no use for your flattery, or the titles you give me. I am not my Lord, I am The Beast, and you won’t escape the death you deserve!

First, I really like the winter garden idea. It reminds me of Winterfell. But the really great thing here is the Beast’s speech. It’s so rough, he even curses the man (“Tais-toi, maudit harangueur!”). And yes, it is italicized in the original. Basically you could change The Beast for The Hound and it would be just like a line out of ASOIAF. Compare: “I’m no lord, no more than I’m a knight.” Sandor Clegane snarled at her. (…) “Spare me your empty little compliments, girl… and your sers.”

Desperate, the man told the Beast of all his misfortunes, explaining in the end that he only wanted the rose for his daughter. Calmer, the Beast said he would spare the man, but only if he gave him one of his daughters. The man wondered how he could keep his word. “Could I be so inhuman as to save my own life at the expense of one of my children’s; under what pretext could I bring her here?”

To which the Beast replied: “There must be no pretext. I want that whichever daughter you bring here she will come willingly, or I will not have her. See if there’s one among them courageous enough and who loves you enough to expose herself to save your life”. The Beast gave one month for the man to either come back with a daughter, or alone to die. In the end he even let the merchant take the rose to Beauty, and he lent his own horse to the merchant. (This horse seemed to have a special bond with the Beast, for he only obeyed his master’s wishes, he didn’t turn back when the merchant tried, and he knew when it was time to go back to the Beast, after a month passed. Also, the horse was singularly fast).

Well, I think we have here some inconsistency from the Beast. He seems to prize honesty, doesn’t want false courtesies and doesn’t want the man to lie to his daughters, so that whoever comes should do so willingly. But is it consent that he’s looking for from the daughter? After all, he is setting up a coercive environment; someone has to be his prisoner, and if no one offers themselves up “willingly”, he will kill the father.

Also of note: the Beast places a lot of faith in words and honour, something that the Hound definitely does not.

I like that the Beast has his own special horse, like Stranger. The Beast’s horse lets other people ride it, but only really obeys the Beast.

When the merchant told his family what had happened, they were very unhappy. The sisters blamed Beauty for trying to “show off” by asking for a trifle when they asked for expensive gifts, and said it was unfair that they should be punished for something she brought upon them. Beauty replied: “I am to blame for this misfortune: it is up to me alone to repair it. I confess it would be unjust for you to suffer on my account. Alas! The wish itself was quite innocent. How could I imagine that the wish to have a rose in the middle of the summer would be punished by such an ordeal. The mistake is made: whether I am innocent or guilty, it is only fair that I should expiate it. It cannot be blamed on anyone else. I shall expose myself, to save my father from such a fatal engagement. I shall go to the Beast, happy to die in order to save the life of the one who gave me mine.

Beauty, in the summer, asked for a rose. It was an innocent wish, as roses in the summer are quite common, how could she imagine that her father would go around stealing roses from Beasts? She got her rose, but was forced to go stay with a Beast in his magnificent palace, shut off from the world and the rest of her family. Is she guilty? Is she the bringer of destruction to her own family? Her sisters think so.

Sansa, in the summer, asked also for a simple thing: to stay in King’s Landing. It was an innocent wish, no one had bothered to inform her of any conspiracies or anything, how could she imagine that her father was actually about to expose the King as a bastard? She also got her wish, but was forced to stay amongst many Beasts (Joffrey, Tyrion, Cersei, Ilyn Payne, Littlefinger, the Hound, etc.), shut off from the world, as she had no friends, and the rest of her family. Cersei blames the whole thing on her, accusing Sansa of betraying her father, and so do many readers, who think it is right that Sansa is punished in KL. Actually, we know that Sansa never “spilled her father’s plans” because she didn’t know her father’s plans. Her only wish was to stay in KL.

Whether she is guilty or not, Sansa is forced to pay for her and for her father’s mistakes, but Sansa is given no choice in the matter. Moreover, Beauty gets to go instead of her father, while Sansa’s pleas for her father’s life are fruitless.

The Beast prepared a lavish reception for the Beauty, with fireworks, decorations and a feast. Though “she could not behold him without a shudder” she was very courteous and respectful to him, but called him “Beast” and not “my lord” or “sir”. The Beast asked if she had come willingly and if she would be contented with seeing her father go without following him, to which Beauty replied she had no other intention. He asked what Beauty thought would become of her. She said “Whatever you wish. My life is at your disposal, and I submit blindly to whatever you shall order of me”. “Your docility pleases me”, said the Beast.

Hmmm, I’m sorry, but this is quite creepy. She didn’t really come willingly, did she? That is a lot like Tyrion’s “proposal” to Sansa, when she had already been told by Cersei that she would marry him one way or another. So what if Beauty said she was forced? Her father would die. So what if Sansa said she wouldn’t marry Tyrion? Either the king would force her, or she’d marry another Lannister. Choices!

Actually, on the way to the Beast’s palace, Beauty thinks to herself that it wouldn’t matter if the Beast was as terrible as her father told her, or a handsome man. “As I reckon on a speedy death, and believe it to be unavoidable, what does it matter that he who should destroy me be agreeable or hideous?”. I think this is very much the attitude Sansa had when she resigned herself to the fate of being forced to marry a Lannister. What did it matter if it was a handsome one or a hideous one? Whoever it was, he would destroy her identity as a Stark, he would make her a Lannister, which, to be honest, she probably thought worse than death.

Beauty’s reply, that she would submit blindly to him, is actually like Sansa’s reply to Tyrion. “I am a ward of the throne and my duty is to marry as the king commands.”

Sansa is, of course, using her courtesy armour (which happens to be super-effective on Tyrion; he hates it). I suppose Beauty is, too, but it “pleases” the Beast.

At night, she dreamt of a young man as beautiful as Cupid, telling her that she should judge him by his company and not his appearance, and that he loved her and she would make him happy by being happy herself. He asked her not to abandon him, but to deliver him from his torment. Beauty thought this young man was someone who the Beast had imprisoned in the palace.

Nice nod to the Cupid myth here.

The next night, Beauty and the Beast had dinner together. They conversed for a while, and suddenly the Beast asked if the Beauty would like to sleep with him (!). She was frightened, screamed and said a vehement “no”. The Beast then said, calmly, “Oh well, if that is your wish, then I shall leave you. Good night, Beauty”.

Beauty took to exploring the palace, and found an aviary full of pretty birds and parrots that would talk to her. She said: “Lovely prisoners, I find you charming. I am vexed that you should be so far from my apartment, as I should often like the pleasure of hearing you sing”. The parrots all knew different phrases and disputed her attentions, and Beauty even though one of them was “gallant.

Beauty is very much like those pretty birds, she is a pretty prisoner who sings and knows how to recite her courtesies to the Beast when she is with him.

Sansa, as we know, is given the nickname of “little bird” by the Hound for exactly the reasons above. I think it’s a nice touch that Sandor even calls her “a pretty little talking-bird” like the ones from the Summer Islands (which we can assume are parrots).

“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.”


Every night, the Beast would ask her how her day went and then ask the question that would put an end to Beauty’s good humour: “do you want to sleep with me?” She always answered “no”, but one night she wondered: “What is to be the end of all this? The question he puts to me every time, ‘will I sleep with him’, shows me that he persists in loving me: his gifts to me confirm it. But though he does not insist on my compliance, and though he does not show resentment to my refusals, who is to say that one day he will not lose his patience, and that my death shall be the result?

Very astute observation by Beauty, and something we have discussed in the PTP. The Beast seems unfazed by Beauty’s refusals, not like Tyrion, who looked like he had been “slapped in the face” when Sansa said she might not ever want to sleep with him. And still Beauty feared that one day the Beast would lose his patience and kill her. We don’t get any POVs from Sansa when she is married, but I think it is only natural that this would also be something that she would think about. One day, Tyrion would take what was “his” (and indeed he does think about it), and no one would stop him.

Every night, Beauty would also dream about the agreeable fellow who looked like Cupid. This particular night when she was thinking about her fate, he asked her what was wrong. She said she was in love with him, and so the Beast’s wish to marry her [note: this is the first time in the story where the verb épouser (marry) is used instead of coucher (sleep)] distressed her greatly—and would even if the Beast was handsome.

He replied that she should love the one who loved her, see past appearances, and free him from his prison.

After a while, Beauty’s eyes grew accustomed to the Beast’s ugliness, but she found his conversation dull and stupid, his compliments clumsy and his questions foolish, though his manners were gentle and he complied to her every wish (seriously, she has a monkey theatre).

What odd advice. “Love the one who loves you”. I guess what she wants and who she loves don’t matter. Some guy loves her, so she should love him back, and care not for his appearance.

A lot of people say Sansa should stop being shallow and learn to love Tyrion. Except that I don’t think Tyrion loves her. He thinks her stupid and childish, deceitful and cold, and cares not for who she is as a person, or her feelings. It’s all very well to wish that she would bring him “her joys and sorrows and lust”, but let’s be real, he only cares about her lust (in ADWD he says “my wife does not want me, least of all the part that seems to want her”). And even if he did love her, why should she love him back? I mean, there is literally no reason for her to love him. Unless you count gratitude for not raping her.

Anyway, people keep insisting to Beauty in this story that she should love/say yes to the Beast (by the way, the Beast in this story has an elephant trunk and scales. Just sayin’. Imagine sleeping with that). I still don’t really get why. I mean, the Beast seems pretty sincere in his affections, but the fact remains that she is his prisoner. Besides, she doesn’t see him all day, and when they meet at night he “only utters the same five sentences” and answers in monosyllables, and then finishes off with the “will you sleep with me” question. That is hardly an encouraging environment for affection. I mean, it’s very nice that he hasn’t hurt or killed her, and gives her everything she wants, but that’s pretty far from “yes, let’s totally sleep together”.

One night in her dreams the Unknown man (the handsome guy) asked her why she was sad (she was missing her family) and asked if it was because of the sight of the Beast’s ugly face. Then the Beast appeared in the dream, and the Unknown moved to stab him. Beauty surprised herself by jumping in his defense. The Unknown accused her of taking the Beast’s side, and she said it wasn’t so – that she loved the Unknown, but she was grateful for the Beast’s kindness and would not stand to see him harmed.

This reminded me a lot of Littlefinger saying that Tyrion would die and Sansa wondering if that was what she wanted; and also when she defended him to Lysa saying he was “kind” to her. Sansa would very much like to not be married to him, and perhaps not see him again, but she recognizes his “kindness” for not harming her or forcing her to consummate the marriage. The same way, Beauty would love nothing more than to see her family again, and to be with her beloved Unknown, but still she does not want to see the Beast harmed, because he treated her “kindly”.

In another dream, a lady appeared to her, and said: “Courage, Beauty, be a model of female generosity; be as wise as you are charming; don’t hesitate to sacrifice your inclination to your duty. You will take the true path to happiness. You will be happy, provided you pay no mind to deceitful appearances”.

Eh, this again. She sounds like Septa Mordane, doesn’t she? Sacrifice your wishes to duty; duty is the path to happiness; forget about appearances and you’ll be happy… “Septa Mordane said all men are beautiful, find his beauty, try”.

With every passing day, Beauty missed her family more, though she tried to hide her tears from the Beast. One day she confessed to him the reason for her sorrows, and he called her ungrateful, accusing her of preferring to live in a poor house with jealous sisters than live in luxury with his affections. She assured him it was nothing of the sort, she just missed her family a lot, and would like to visit them for two months and then come back. He said yes, “though it might kill him”.

At night her Unknown man said that she should stay longer than two months away in order to kill the Beast, who was only a monster and of no use to the world. “Is it to be counted a misfortune that your happiness should cost only the life of a monster?”

Beauty was angry at this, saying that she would lay down her life to save his, and that “this Monster, who is only one in form, has a heart so humane, that he should not be persecuted for a deformity for which he cannot be blamed.

Again the Unknown playing the part of Littlefinger here. And some divergences from ASOIAF: sorry folks, but in my opinion Tyrion is every bit as ugly on the inside as he is on the outside. He thinks people persecute him for his ugliness, but it’s actually because of his actions. I don’t think he has a “heart so humane” though sometimes he can be kind. And when Tyrion was arrested for Joff’s murder, Sansa didn’t really insist to go back and lay down her life to save his (not that she murdered Joff), however “grateful” she might have been to him. A question: do you think, in the future, if her happiness depended on it, Sansa would be OK with someone murdering Tyrion?

Of course, the other character who has a “deformity” is Sandor, and him I’m sure Sansa would insist should not be killed. Unfortunately, again, he isn’t actually an innocent guy with a human heart, but a pretty ruthless killer.


When Beauty goes to her father’s house, bringing a few chests of gold and jewelry, she finds that her family is living well (off the money the Beast had given the father when he took Beauty), they even had slaves. Her father tells her that when they moved up in life again, her sisters had many proposals, and he was about to marry them off. When he saw the riches Beauty had brought him, he counseled her to marry the Beast immediately. “Do not take heed your eyes. You have been increasingly exhorted to let yourself be guided by gratitude. By following her inspirations you are sure to be happy. It’s true that you have only received such advice from dreams, but they are too frequent to be random. You have been promised considerable advantages, it is enough for you to overcome your repugnance. So next time the Beast asks if you want to sleep with him, don’t refuse him. You have confessed to me that he loves you tenderly. Do whatever is necessary to make your union to him indissoluble. It is more advantageous to have a husband with an amiable character than one whose only recommendation is a handsome person. How many girls have married rich Beasts, beastlier than the Beast, who is only one by figure and not by sentiments or actions?

Villeneuve doesn’t waste a single opportunity to vilify Beauty’s sisters and call them jealous, but the father is often referred to as “a good man”. Is he? I think he totally forgot about the one time when the Beast was about to kill him for picking a rose and then held his daughter captive. (keep in mind that to the merchant the rose was just a rose, not a magical rose) Does he really want his daughter to marry “an amiable man” or a really rich guy who sometimes sends chests filled with treasures to him? He’s seen the Beast. He wants his favourite daughter to sleep with the Beast in order to secure that union. I think this shows that this whole ‘sleep with’ thing is actually about sex and not just sleeping – making a union indissoluble is like consummating a marriage, and right afterwards he starts referring to the Beast as a husband.

Anyway, this is why I think Tywin was lying to Tyrion when he said everyone always refused his offers of marriage. Everyone knows that Tyrion is a Lannister from the main branch and thus very rich—in fact he was the heir apparent, since Jaime was in the Kingsguard. As ugly as he might be, if he had a nice subservient wife he would make for an “amiable” husband as well. So I find it really hard to believe that there wasn’t a single lord in need of some money or power who would give his daughter’s hand in marriage to Tyrion. Consider that Karstark offered his daughter to anyone who would bring him Jaime Lannister (and it almost turned to be Vargo Hoat), and that Walder Frey keeps finding noble and young girls to marry.

I also think he was just bluffing when he mentioned Lollys. There was no way Tywin would ever allow for such a union, because he hates being mocked, and imagine the easy target they would be as a couple: “the lackwit and the dwarf”.

Olenna Tyrell taught Margaery that she should value a kind husband more than a handsome or gallant one. Do you think she would counsel Margaery to sleep with the Beast?

But still Beauty resisted. She could not imagine herself choosing a husband that was not only horrible, but also stupid, boring, and had no interesting conversation. Besides, she would have no other company but him. “It is not in my power to endure such a union, and I would rather perish at once than be dying every day of fright, sorrow, disgust, and boredom. There is nothing to plead in his favour, except the consideration he shows in paying me very short visits, and presenting himself before me but once a day. Is that enough to inspire love?”. Her father thought that the exquisite riches and furniture of the palace showed that the Beast could not be quite as stupid as Beauty thought.

Go Beauty! I really like that she insists on marrying someone she loves (like Sansa), and that she is not blinded by the Beast’s riches—she knows exactly what she is grateful for (her life, her comforts, not having to endure the Beast’s company a lot, etc.), but does not confuse gratitude with love.
And her father, again showing how materialistic he is, says that the Beast cannot be so stupid because he has a really nice palace with beautiful furniture and the likes. We don’t know much about the Beast at this point, but if I were in the story and had to guess, from the extent of his wealth, and the fact that he doesn’t work, I’d say he was a noble. And if that is the case, then he didn’t pick out anything in his house, he inherited everything. Yes, Beauty’s father is a merchant and “new money” but I think even he would have considered the possibility. I think it is just more convenient to suppose that the Beast made his own fortune (Erm, how exactly?) and bought all that stuff.

During her two-month stay at her father’s new house, Beauty became the center of attention in the city. She had many admirers, and even her sisters’ fiancés wanted to break off their engagement to declare their love for her, and the men even started fighting amongst themselves, though Beauty did her best to discourage all affections, tried to get them to return to their fiancées, acted cold and distant, said she was only staying for two months – but nothing worked. Beauty was getting quite annoyed by all of this, and the fact that her sisters now had another reason to hate her.

At the end of the two months, Beauty had a dream where the Beast lay dying, cursing her for being the cause of his death. The lady also appeared and chastised her for taking too long to do her duty; that she had promised to be back at the end of 2 months and they had expired, and one day more would be fatal to the Beast; that the trouble she was causing at her father’s house and her sisters’ anger should only make her want to go back even more.

We don’t actually know anything about this lady at point in the story, but really, blaming Beauty for “causing trouble” at her father’s house? When she had been very explicit about not returning anyone’s affections? That is so not cool. It’s like Lysa blaming Sansa for “enticing” Littlefinger.

So Beauty went back to the Beast’s palace. She wanted to see the Beast, but also wanted to see the Unknown man in her dreams. She started to question herself. “One moment she reproached herself for not returning the affection of a lover who, under a monstrous figure, seemed to have a beautiful soul; the next she was sad about giving her heart to a fantastic image who had no existence except in her dreams. She questioned whether she should prefer a phantom over the real love of a Beast. The dreams in which she saw her beautiful Unknown advised her not to heed her eyes”.

That night the Beast did not come to visit her, and, concerned, she started looking for him. She missed her boring conversations with the Beast, and was surprised to have so much feeling for him. She reproached herself for not having married him. Then she found him, nearly dead. She revived him and said: “How you have worried me! I did not know how much I loved you. The fear of losing you made me recognize that I was attached to you by stronger ties than those of gratitude. I swear to you that I had determined to die if I had failed in saving your life”.

The Beast replies: “You are good, Beauty, to love a monster so ugly; but you do well; I love you more than my own life. I thought you would never return: it would have killed me. Since you love me I will live. Go rest, and be certain that you will be as happy as your good heart deserves”.

That was the first time Beauty heard the Beast pronounce so long a speech. She thought it was not very eloquent, but it was sweet and sincere all the same. She had expected to be scolded, and from this moment started to have a better opinion of the Beast’s character – no longer thinking him to be so stupid, she started to think his short answers were even a mark of prudence.

At night Beauty dreamt of her Unknown, who said the only way for her to be happy was to marry the Beast. The lady also appeared and said she was pleased, but Beauty protested that she was partial to the Unknown and could not consider the repugnant Beast loveable. The lady smiled at her objections and said that her feelings “were not incompatible with her intentions to fulfill her duty.

Beauty seems torn about the Beast. She says she is bound to him by stronger ties than those of gratitude, and says she would have died if she had failed to save him, but then says he is repugnant and unlovable. She thinks his conversation is boring, but misses it all the same.

This lady, when appearing to Beauty, always seems to characterise her union with the Beast as a “duty”. She does not explain why she has a duty to marry the Beast, only that she does.

The next time the Beast asked if Beauty wanted to sleep with him, she said trembling “Yes, I am willing, as long as you pledge me your faith, and I pledge you mine”. “I do”, said the Beast, “and I promise never to have any wife but you”. “And I”, said Beauty, “take you for my husband, and promise you a tender and faithful love”. There was a big fireworks display and then Beauty went to her room with the Beast.

So, what do you think? Did Beauty love the Beast? Was she succumbing to pressure? Was it a mixture of “well, this isn’t so bad” and duty?

Beauty dreamt that the Unknown was telling her “How deeply I am obliged to you, charming Beauty. You have released me from the frightful prison in which I have groaned for so long a time. Your marriage with the Beast will restore a king to his subjects, a son to his mother, and life to a whole kingdom. We shall all be happy”. Beauty was annoyed that the Unknown wasn’t sad about losing her. The lady also appeared in order to thank her.

That night, Beauty had slept on the edge of her bed, to make room for her giant husband. He snored at first, but when she fell asleep she heard nothing more. When she awoke, there were no sounds, so she thought the Beast had gotten up and left already. What was her surprise when she opened her eyes and saw the Unknown sleeping beside her, and not the Beast! She understood then that they were one and the same. She tried everything to wake him up, call him, shake him, kiss him, sing to him, but nothing worked. The spell was finally broken when a carriage arrived.

Inside there was the lady from her dreams and other distinguished persons. She discovered that the lady was actually a fairy, and the Beast was actually a prince under a spell. A woman that arrived in the carriage was the Queen, the prince’s mother, and she said she was very pleased with Beauty for saving her son. However, when she learned that Beauty was only a merchant’s daughter her distress could not have been greater. “I am very grateful to her for what she has done, powerful spirit, but I cannot refrain from pointing out to you the incongruous mixture of that noblest blood in all the world which runs in my son’s veins with that obscure blood which the person you want to marry him to comes from. I confess I am little gratified by the supposed happiness of the Prince, if it must be purchased by an alliance so degrading to us, and so unworthy of him. Is it impossible to find in the world a maiden whose birth is equal to her virtue? I know many excellent princesses by name; why am I not permitted to hope that I may see him the possessor of one of those?

Well. For a story that has put such great importance in gratitude so far, the Queen seems like a major ingrate. Her son had an elephant’s trunk until a couple of hours before, and she cannot stop going on about Beauty’s shameful origins. I know blood is really important, but considering the circumstances, I really think the Queen could have at least tried not to humiliate Beauty in front of everyone. Besides, the spell had to be broken by someone who was so generous that they could marry a huge monster because he had a kind nature. I really don’t think the Prince would be getting such a bad deal here—Beauty may not be wealthy or noble but she is good-looking and kind.

The Fairy turned to the Prince and said: “Your mother condemns the engagement you have entered into with Beauty. She considers that her birth is too much beneath yours. For my part, I think that her virtues make up for that inequality. It is for you, Prince, to say which of us your own feelings coincide; and that you may be under no restraint in declaring to us your real sentiments, I announce to you that you have full liberty of choice. Although you have pledged your word to this amiable person, you are free to withdraw it. I will answer for her, that Beauty will release you from your promise without the least hesitation, although, through her kindness, you have regained your natural form; and I assure you also that her generosity will cause her to carry disinterestedness to the extent of leaving you at liberty to dispose of your hand in favour of any person on whom the Queen may advise you to bestow it. What say you, Beauty? Have I been mistaken in this interpreting your sentiments? Would you desire a husband who would become so with regret?

I admire that the Fairy seems to think that Beauty’s virtues make up for her low birth, but look at what she does here. The Beast knew full well the origins of the Beauty when he took her in—in fact, he had met her father first, and heard of his misfortunes. Still the Beast and the Unknown pledged their love and their word to Beauty, and the Beast asked her incessantly to sleep with him. When she finally acceded, with a promise of marriage, suddenly the Fairy speaks for her, saying that she’d be happy to let the Prince go. Really? So the Fairy doesn’t think it’s the Prince’s “duty” to keep his word to Beauty, like it was her “duty” to sleep with him? Not cool, Fairy.

Beauty replied that the Prince was free, she renounced the honour of being his wife. When she entered the engagement, she thought she was taking pity on something below humanity, there was no ambition in her thoughts. The Fairy then reproached the Queen: “Do you consider that princesses, who are so by the caprice of fortune, better deserve the high rank in which it had placed them than this young maiden? For my part, I think she should not be prejudiced by an origin from which she has elevated herself by her conduct”. The Queen replied that Beauty’s virtues were indeed incomparable, and that she was entitled to whatever reward she chose – except her son. The Queen would even let her marry any noble from her court, and elevate his title so he was very near the throne. Beauty said all she wanted was to go back to her father.

The Prince finally said that he did not wish to be parted from Beauty, and that if that was to be, then he preferred to go back to being a Beast and stay with her.

The Fairy said that they were meant to be together, and that she would not separate them. She reproached the Queen’s pride. But Beauty exclaimed: “Do not expose me to the misery of being told all my life that I am unworthy of the rank to which your kindness would elevate me. Reflect that this Prince, who now believes that his happiness consists in the possession of my hand may very shortly perhaps be of the same opinion as the Queen.

Very smooth, Queen. She doesn’t think Beauty is good enough for her son but should be good enough for another noble. I don’t think there’s any reason to assume that any other noble would be happy in taking a merchant’s daughter for a wife, especially one who had been engaged before…

Anyway, I think Beauty is really sensible here in thinking that the Prince would one day feel the same as the Queen, and she really shows that she too has a sense of pride and dignity.

In ASOIAF, when Sansa is no longer deemed worthy of Joffrey, Cersei considers other nobles to marry her, when all Sansa wanted was to go back to her family. Cersei, of course, didn’t see it as any kind of reward, but as an opportunity to make an advantageous alliance to a Lannister.

The Fairy explained that that wouldn’t happen, because Beauty actually was noble. She was the Queen’s niece and the Fairy’s niece. The Queen’s brother had married the Fairy’s sister, and so Beauty and the Beast were actually first cousins. The Fairy said she wanted to see how much the Queen trusted her with the well-being of the Prince, and that’s why she didn’t say anything sooner.

Everyone was satisfied now, and Beauty and the Prince could marry without any further obstacles.

Ohoho, twist! They were cousins all along! I really would have preferred if this wasn’t part of the story, it seems a bit of a cop-out (“no need to worry about class differences—she’s a secret noble!”). But, here is it, folks. Beauty and the Beast by Villeneuve.




Comparative Analysis of La Belle et la Bête and A Song of Ice and Fire

 by DogLover


Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont published her much shortened version of Madame de Villeneuve’s La Belle et la Bête in 1756, sixteen years after Mme. de Villeneuve’s publication. The primary theme in the Beauty and the Beast tales is that one can never judge a book by its cover and beauty is more than skin deep. In a time when arranged marriage was common, Mme. de Beaumont’s version was intended as moralistic instruction for young upper-class girls on manners and ensuring a successful marriage through virtue, patience, humbleness, and hard work, all qualities that would enable the wife (typically much younger than her husband) to see through a husband’s physical flaws while taming his bestial side. While the narrative of both versions are quite similar, Mme. de Beaumont’s version provides a different social perspective, supporting the merging of the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy through marriage, which she believed was the best way to guarantee the aristocracy’s success. Mme. de Villeneuve, on the other hand, supported a “pure” aristocracy and criticized the nouveau riche.

Mme. Le Prince de Beaumont’s reasons for writing a concise version of Mme. de Villeneuve’s La Belle et la Bête brings to mind Sansa’s own upbringing. Sansa, born into a great house, spent her youth being groomed to marry a great lord or even higher in station, a marriage that would be arranged by her parents. Her education was typical of what a female of her social class would receive—learning letters, dancing, singing, playing a musical instrument, sewing, and learning courtesies. From Eddard’s, Arya’s, and Sansa’s POVs, the reader learns that Septa Mordane is Sansa’s primary teacher, and has taught Sansa that a lady “must always remember her courtesies” and “courtesy is a lady’s armor.”

In 1946, famed film director Jean Cocteau’s critically acclaimed adaptation of Mme. de Beaumont’s La Belle et la Bête was released. While the film’s storyline does not diverge much from Mme. de Beaumont’s version, the film is intended for an adult audience. While Mme. de Beaumont wrote her tale as a lesson for girls and young women, Cocteau, whose health suffered greatly as a result of World War II, wanted to instill the message to survivors of the war that anyone who has unhappy childhood can grow up to be a beast. Whereas Mme. de Beaumont’s version conjures thoughts of Sansa’s upbringing and education, Cocteau’s opinion that an unhappy childhood could create a beast invokes thoughts of Sandor Clegane, who, as a child, was abused, tormented, and emotionally and physically scarred by his older brother, Gregor.

The Tale

In La Belle et la Bête, Belle’s father, a former wealthy merchant who has fallen on hard times, incurs the wrath of Beast by picking a rose for Belle from Beast’s garden, after Beast allowed the merchant to stay the night in his palace (while never making himself known). As punishment, Beast demands the merchant’s life or one of his daughters. Belle, ever virtuous and self-sacrificing, saves her father by insisting over her father’s protest that she will go to Beast’s palace as his captive.

When Belle first meets Beast, she is terrified. Yet, while she’s horrified by Beast’s appearance, she forces herself to remain composed: “When [Belle and father] had supped they heard a great noise, and the merchant, all in tears, bid his poor child, farewell, for he thought Beast was coming. Beauty was sadly terrified at his horrid form, but she took courage as well as she could, and the monster asked her if she came willingly; ‘ye — e – es’ said she, trembling.”

Later that evening as Belle sat to sup, she heard Beast and felt sadly terrified. Beast asked if he could watch her sup, to which she responded while trembling, “that is as you please.” Beast told her she was the mistress and she could do as she wanted. He also asked her if she thought he was ugly. Unable to lie, Belle told him she did think he was ugly, but also believed he was very good-natured. Beast agreed, then told Belle to eat and amuse herself, as everything in the palace was hers to enjoy and he only wanted her to be happy. Beauty communicated her graciousness and told Beast that his kindness made his deformity much less noticeable. Beast confirmed that he was still a monster, but Belle replied that there were many among mankind who deserved that name more than him. As her fear of him began to subside, Beast asked her to marry him. Fearful of making him angry, she was unable to answer right away, but then told him no. Beast hissed frightfully, but left the room, turning back now and again to gaze upon Belle. As soon as Belle was alone, she felt great compassion for Beast, finding it a pity that someone so good-natured had to be so ugly.

For the next three months, while Belle felt content, Beast visited her nightly to talk to her, but, while rational with plain good common sense, she found him dull. But each day, Belle found some redeemable qualities in Beast, and she had come accustomed to his deformities and looked forward to his company. However, the only thing that she found disconcerting was he proposed to her every night. She declined, but promised him she would never leave him entirely. She did, however, long to see her father again and asked if she could visit him. Beast consented, but told her if she didn’t return, he would die from grief. Beauty couldn’t bear the thought of his death and promised to return in a week. Beast told her as soon as she was ready to come back, all she had to do was take her ring off before going to sleep.

The next morning, Belle awoke in her father’s house and as elated as she was to see him, she found she missed Beast terribly and fretted over his well-being, realizing she sincerely loved him. Yet, her jealous, petty, and materialistic sisters tricked Belle into extending her stay with her family by pretending to miss her with the hopes that Beast would die of heartbreak. On the tenth day, Belle dreamed of Beast, who, in a dying voice, accused her of ingratitude. Belle woke up startled and panicked, and asked herself how she could have refused Beast’s marriage proposals after all he’d done for her, thinking, “Why did I refuse to marry him? I should be happier with the monster than my sisters are with their husbands; it is neither wit, nor a fine person, in a husband, that makes a woman happy, but virtue, sweetness of temper, and complaisance, and Beast has all these valuable qualifications. It is true, I do not feel the tenderness of affection for him, but I find I have the highest gratitude, esteem, and friendship; I will not make him miserable, were I to be so ungrateful I should never forgive myself.” Beauty took off her ring and placed it on the table before going back to sleep. The next morning she woke in Beast’s palace, where she found him dying from heartbreak. Belle begged Beast not to die, asking him to be her husband, which transforms Beast into a handsome prince.

The Film

While Cocteau’s film stays fairly close to Mme. de Beaumont’s version, the surreal, fantastical, and haunting interpretation of the childhood classic is intended for an adult audience, as it is teeming with strong sexual undertones. Cocteau also slightly changes Mme. de Beaumont’s version by adding a subplot introducing a new character, Avenant, a handsome young man who courts Belle.

In Mme de Beaumont’s tale, at the beginning Belle lives with her two sisters and three brothers, along with her successful father right before he loses his fortune. Belle’s sisters are petty, jealous, materialistic, and prefer leisure over hard work while her brothers, who remain nameless and fairly nondescript, appear to be humble and hardworking. In Cocteau’s film, Belle’s family has already fallen on hard times. Belle’s sisters are portrayed as they are depicted in the tale; however, instead of having three brothers, she has one brother, Ludovic, who is lazy, hapless, and prone to gambling and drinking. Avenant is Ludovic’s scoundrel friend who professes to be in love with Belle and proposes marriage on numerous occasions. Belle is secretly in love with Avenant, but she declines his proposals in order to stay and care for her father.

The film also diverges when Belle’s father is caught stealing a rose from Beast’s garden. Instead of staying the night to return back home to get one of his daughters on his own horse, Beast gives Belle’s father his own horse—a beautiful white stallion named Magnificent who obeys the command “Go where I am going, Magnificent. Go, go, go!” by whomever rides him. Also, rather than the father returning with Belle, Belle steals off on her own on Magnificent. When she first sees Beast, unlike Belle in the tale who forces herself to remain composed in spite of her fright, the film character faints from terror.

In the added subplot, Ludovic and Avenant’s character flaws are further revealed when Ludovic sinks the family further into poverty after leveraging his father’s newfound wealth against a bad investment. Avenant and Ludovic, upon hearing about Beast’s wealth after Belle returns for a visit, conspire to kill him and steal his treasure, receiving help from Belle’s sisters who delay Belle from returning to Beast when promised.

Thematic Comparison of La Belle et la Bête and Sansa and the Hound

There are many similarities between Belle’s relationship with Beast and Sansa’s relationship with the Hound in both the tale and the film; however, in GRRM’s world, there are many twists to this trope. Sansa shares a similar initial reaction of fear when she first sees the Hound as Belle in the tale does when she first meets Beast. Belle is sadly terrified when she first sees Beast, but forces herself to remain composed. When Sansa first meets the Hound, it’s when he places his hands on her shoulders and she backs into him and thinks it’s her father (foreshadowing that he will replace Ned as protector). When she turns, she is frightened by his terrible burned face, but then recognizes he is not so half as terrifying as Ser Ilyn Payne.

Strong hands grasped her by the shoulders, and for a moment Sansa thought it was her father, but when she turned, it was the burned face of Sandor Clegane looking down at her, his mouth twisted in a terrible mockery of a smile. “You are shaking girl,” he said, his voice rasping. “Do I frighten you so much?”

He did, and had since she first laid eyes on the ruin that fire had made of his face, though it seemed to her now that he was not so half as terrifying as the other.

Sansa is also frightened when Joffrey orders the Hound to escort her back to the Red Keep and finds it difficult to look at him, but, much like Belle, she recalls her courtesies and tries not to notice how ugly he is: “Sansa could not bear the sight of him, he frightened her so, yet she had been raised in all the ways of courtesy. A true lady would not notice his face, she told herself.”

In the film, Belle faints from terror when she first sees Beast. The scene is somewhat similar to Sansa, who is consumed with terror and panic in the face of Stannis’ attack on King’s Landing, nearly falls when she buckles over from a sharp pain to her stomach:

A stab went through her, so sharp that Sansa sobbed and clutched at her belly. She might have fallen, but a shadow moved suddenly, and strong fingers grabbed her arm and steadied her.

After Belle faints, Beast very gently lifts Belle and carries her to her room he has prepared for her. This gentleness calls to mind each time it’s described that Sandor gently touches Sansa.

Do as you’re bid, child,” Clegane said. “Dress.” He pushed her toward her wardrobe, almost gently.

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

The Hound gave her a push, oddly gentle, and followed her down the steps.

A continuing theme in Sandor and Sansa’s relationship is Sandor, who is clearly drawn to Sansa, feeling rejected, angry, and frustrated when he thinks Sansa can’t bring herself to look at him. He’s also annoyed by her courteous behavior and mocks her: “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.” Sandor sees through the shallowness of Sansa’s wall of courtesy, whereas in Mme. de Beaumont’s version, Belle’s courtesy, which demonstrates she’s pure of heart, is exactly what is required for her to establish a connection with Beast. Sandor, on the other hand, will have none of it.

Like Belle, Sansa’s feelings for the Hound change over time, beginning with when Sandor tells her how he received his burns. Sansa is sad and frightened, but more frightened for him than for her.

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.

As Sansa becomes more familiar with Sandor, she starts to look past his terrible burned face, but remains frightened by the anger in his eyes—the anger that gave birth to the Hound and fuels the Hound persona.

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

Sansa made herself look at that face now, really look. It was only courteous, and a lady must never forget her courtesies. The scars are not the worst part, nor even the way his mouth twitches. It’s his eyes. She had never seen eyes so full of anger.

In the film, when Belle comes to after fainting, she awakens to find Beast leaning over her. She’s clearly terrified, and Beast backs away from her, telling her she must never look into his eyes. Beast also stands behind Belle when she’s dining so she doesn’t have to look at him. Yet, this is what Sandor wants—he wants Sansa to be able to look at him.

Belle, when she returns to visit her sickly father, assures him Beast harbors no malicious intent: “He suffers. One half of him is in constant struggle with the other half. He’s more cruel to himself than he is to human beings.” Belle tells her father that while he appears terrifying at first, it’s really his eyes, they look so sad that she has to turn away to keep from crying. Her father asks if Beast has threatened her, to which Belle replies, “He comes to me only at times when his cruelty is not too frightening. Sometimes his bearing is almost noble. Other times, he’s unsteady and seems stricken with some infirmity.”

Sansa has a similar relationship with Sandor. She turns away from Sandor’s eyes, which are full of rage rather than the sadness in Beast’s eyes. Belle tells her father Beast comes to her when he’s not “too terrifying” and “his bearing is almost noble.” Sansa’s experience with the Hound is similar. He’s there to provide advice on how to handle Joffrey, saves her from the rioters, prevents her from falling, and offers to help her escape from King’s Landing while promising to keep her safe. Of course, in many of these encounters, the Hound is “unsteady” and “seems stricken.” Sansa often encounters the Hound when he’s drunk and distressed, as he is when she runs into him on the Serpentine steps, when he catches her from falling, and most of all when she finds him in her room during the Battle of the Blackwater.

While Sansa finds herself occasionally afraid of the Hound, he is the one person who she feels comfortable enough to let her guard down. Like Belle, Sansa thinks fondly of her beast when he isn’t around, taking into consideration his hard lessons about the hypocrisy of knights and being surrounded by liars. She also thinks that he wouldn’t hurt her at times when she feels threatened, wishing he was with her. “I would be gladder if it were the Hound, Sansa thought. Harsh as he was, she did not believe Sandor Clegane would let any harm come to her.”

In both tale and film, Belle tells Beast that “Among mankind are many that deserve that name [monster] more than you, and I prefer you, just as you are, to those, who, under a human form, hide a treacherous, corrupt, and ungrateful heart.” Sansa, upon seeing Joffrey’s true colors, often refers to him as a monster, while her opinion of Sandor continues to improve over time. And while Sandor cannot be considered good-natured, she does recognize that he does do what he can to protect her, and begins to develop clear feelings for him and since Sandor’s desertion, Sansa’s feelings have continued to develop and are becoming more sexual. She imagines that the Hound kissed her before taking a song from her and dreams of him in her marital bed. She has also kept his cloak and compares all men to him.

In Cocteau’s film adaptation, Avenant, Ludovic’s extremely handsome friend who courts Belle (and whom Belle is secretly in love with), is actually quite the scoundrel. After Belle returns home for a visit, Avenant plots with Ludovic and Belle’s sisters to kill Beast and steal his treasure. They steal a golden key given to Belle by Beast, a key to all his treasures, and ride Magnificent to the palace. Once there, Avenant and Ludovic find a pavilion where Beast keeps his riches. Avenant breaks through the glass ceiling, and as Ludovic lowers him in, a statue of Diana launches an arrow into Avenant’s back, turning him into the beast just as Beast turns into a handsome prince who resembles Avenant (played by the same actor) when Belle looks upon him lovingly. There are clear parallels between Avenant and Joffrey. Joffrey, who Sansa once believed she loved and thought her Prince Charming, turns out to be the real monster in Sansa’s life, the monster the Hound tries to protect her from. In the film, Belle experiences a higher form of love from Beast than the material and sexual desire from Avenant. In A Song of Ice and Fire, Sansa often laments that she’s only wanted for her claim and not for herself. However, Sandor is the one person who has shown a romantic interest in Sansa without interest for her claim.

Belle finally realizes her true feelings for Beast while they are separated. It’s when she’s visiting her father that she discovers she’s actually in love with Beast. And it’s this love for Beast that eventually transforms him from a hideous monster into a handsome prince. While Sandor has a long way to go before he can mentally and emotionally heal, it’s Sansa who acted as the catalyst to his shedding of the Hound persona by reaching out to him and showing him true compassion and empathy during one of his darkest moments.

At the end of the film, when Beast transforms into a handsome prince, Belle seems hesitant and a little taken aback, indicating she prefers Beast the way he was. Many fans of the original tale and the film complained that they liked Beast as he was. This was actually intentional on the part of Cocteau. Viewers are supposed to miss Beast and be upset about the transformation. According to Cocteau, “The ‘trick’ does work, and when the syrupy-sweet, smiling Prince Charming miraculously appears, we immediately long for the old, melancholy monster. Even Belle seems unsure that she likes the transformation.”[i]

There has been a lot of discussion as to what will become of Sandor Clegane. Will he be a completely transformed person? A sanitized version unrecognizable from the rage-filled, ferocious warrior? Will the rage be gentled while the ferocity remains? Many ASOIAF fans hope the transformation won’t be too dramatic and he’ll still be the same man minus the pain, rage, and self-loathing.
[i] http://www.gwarlingo…-and-the-beast/

Highborn Falls in Love with Lowborn

As brought up earlier, Mme. de Beaumont wrote La Belle et la Bête not only as instruction on how to ensure a successful arranged marriage, but to encourage the upward mobility of middle-class women by marrying into the aristocracy. Belle, in both tale and film, is a merchant’s daughter and Beast is a member of the aristocracy. Even though Belle’s father loses everything, Beast still considers her worthy enough for marriage. Sansa and Sandor’s relationship is an inversion of this trope. Sansa is the one who is highborn, the oldest daughter of a lord to one of the greatest houses. In comparison, Sandor is lowborn. And less than that, he isn’t even a knight and is called “dog,” a moniker and reputation he actually prefers and reinforces.

In further contrast to Beast, who dresses nobly and owns a spectacular palace, the Hound dresses plainly even though he has money (one can assume his positions as the King’s Sworn Shield and a member of the Kingsguard are fairly lucrative, and he won 40,000 Dragons at the Hand’s Tourney). Sansa often notices his drab clothing and his dull soot-grey armor, which is much more similar to the Northmen than the southron knights. Conversely, in La Belle et la Bête, it is Belle, due to her modesty, who dresses plainly, while Sansa prefers beautiful gowns.

I Am No Ser

In addition to their external ugliness, there are some similarities between the Hound and Beast. Already pointed by Lady Lea and Milady of York, the Beast responds angrily to the merchant’s addressing him as “lord”: “My name is not My Lord”, replied the monster, “but Beast. I don’t like flattery. I like people who say what they think.” This sounds very similar to the Hound’s “I’m no Ser” and “I hate liars and gutless frauds” remarks. The Hound also values brutal honesty (“a dog will never lie to you”) over flattery, and doesn’t indulge Sansa when she compliments him, both after the Hand’s Tourney and after she thanks him for saving her during the riot.

Spare me your empty little compliments, girl… and your sers. I am no knight. I spit on them and their vows.”

“I should have come to you after,” [Sansa] said haltingly. “To thank you, for…for saving me… you were so brave.”

“Brave?” His laugh was half snarl. “A dog doesn’t need courage to chase off rats.

A True Lady Never Forgets Her Courtesies

Another twist to the trope is the theme of courtesy. Belle uses courtesy to see past Beast’s outer ugliness and discover his inner beauty. This is Mme. de Beaumont’s key lesson—courtesy is essential in developing a relationship with a husband and ensuring a successful marriage. Conversely, Sansa uses courtesy to protect herself from those she doesn’t trust. It’s her armor. Yet, the one person at King’s Landing she can let her guard down for is the Hound, who shows contempt for Sansa’s courtesies. He’s the only one able to break through that barrier since he desires Sansa for who she actually is—not for her claim.

The lesson in courtesy invokes thoughts of Sansa’s marriage to Tyrion and their wedding night when Sansa recalls what Septa Mordane taught her: “Look at him, Sansa told herself, look at your husband, at all of him, Septa Mordane said all men are beautiful, find his beauty, try.” Sansa, while telling herself that Tyrion has been kind to her, is unable see past Tyrion’s ugliness (and “Lannister-ness”), and, in contrast to Belle, who uses courtesy to bond with Beast and see past his ugliness, Sansa uses hers in protest, refusing to let down her guard around Tyrion, frustrating him in the process. In addition to this icy courtesy, Sansa, all of twelve years old, sums up all her courage to tell Tyrion she will never desire him.


There have been many interpretations of the Beauty and the Beast tale with regard to Beauty’s agency, some arguing it’s Mme. de Beaumont’s intention to strip Belle of any agency at all (in the film, Belle is much more assertive), completely succumbing to Beast and only putting others’ needs ahead of hers, and others arguing the tale is actually a symbol of female empowerment, in that Belle discovers her own feelings and acts upon her own wishes and desires as soon as she realizes her feelings for Beast. Sansa is largely perceived by readers as being a character stripped of any agency, but her resistance to Tyrion suggests she can and will assert herself. She also does this on several occasions with Joffrey: pleading for her father’s life, telling him her brother might bring her his head; and saving Dontos by lying to Joffrey. Littlefinger may have further stripped Sansa of her agency, but here’s to hoping that might change. Sansa has indeed demonstrated she’s a young woman of strength and can eventually determine her own destiny. Particularly poignant is Sansa drawing upon her roots to find strength. Referring to Littlefinger in her thoughts:

I am not your daughter, she thought. I am Sansa Stark, Lord Eddard’s daughter and Lady Catelyn’s, the blood of Winterfell.
[i] http://asoiaf.wester…v/#entry3726258; http://asoiaf.wester…40#entry3696115

Symbolism in La Belle et la Bête

La Belle et la Bête is filled with symbolism, but due to the limited scope of this essay, only a few will be discussed.

Rose: Belle asks her father for one thing, a simple rose. Her father picks a rose from Beast’s garden, enraging him and demanding either Belle’s father’s life or one of his daughters. A rose, among other things, symbolizes love, beauty, female sex organs, and the heart. Sansa receives a red rose from Loras, the Knight of Flowers, during the Hand’s Tourney, and he compliments her beauty. However, this is an empty gesture on Loras’ part—all show, no substance. The rose in La Belle et la Bête has also been interpreted as a symbol of Beast’s masculinity (the thorns) and Belle’s femininity (the petals of the flower). However, the Hound, who comes to Loras’ defense, is the one who takes on the role of the masculine.

He doesn’t remember, Sansa realized, startled. He is only being kind to me, he doesn’t remember me or the rose or any of it. She had been so certain that it meant something, that it meant everything. A red rose, not a white.

Ser Loras had given Sansa Stark a red rose once, but he had never kissed her… As the boy’s lips touched her own she found herself thinking of another kiss.

She could still remember how it felt, with his cruel mouth pressed down on her own.

Snow: The passing seasons play an integral part in La Belle et la Bête, often contrasting with the season in the Beast’s garden. Snow can represent purity, chastity, and virginity. Snow is extremely significant in Sansa’s story, as it is in the entire ASOIAF series. One of the most significant scenes relating to Sansa in the entire series is the snow castle chapter, in which the snow connects her to Winterfell and symbolizes Sansa’s purity and innocence before it was lost. It can also symbolize her virginity, which is threatened by Littlefinger.

Give me one of your daughters and She must come willingly: In the days when many marriages were arranged, women rarely had a voice in the choice of their husbands, who were selected by their parents. Marriages were often made for political or social reasons, especially in higher society. Since the thought of being given to a man (especially a beast) is scary, the Beauty and the Beast tales deal with the issues of learning to love one’s spouse after marriage. Belle comes to love the Beast after living in his house. But Belle also must replace her father willingly. In the tale, Belle’s father, while he initially protested, was eventually willing to sacrifice his daughter to Beast. In a twist to this trope, Ned agrees to betroth Sansa to Joffrey (the real beast), even though he’s suspicious of the Lannisters and has doubts about Joffrey’s nature, which becomes apparent after the Arya/Mycah incident and the killing of Lady. Despite this, Ned, for political reasons, still continues with the plan to marry Sansa to Joffrey.

Mirror: A mirror symbolizes truth and representation of a person’s heart. In both tale and film, Beast gives Belle a magical mirror enabling her to not only see her family, but allowing her to read their emotional state. While Sansa does not have a magical mirror, the Hound is her window to the outside world, as he’s the one who helps her see the hypocrisy, danger, and lies that surround her. In return, Sansa acts as Sandor’s mirror as she is the one who forces Sandor to really look at his inner self. Through his contact and connection with Sansa, he struggles with his passive acceptance of the status quo and beings to break away from the Lannisters, culminating in the clear beginning of a mental breakdown in Sansa’s room the night of the Battle of the Blackwater.

Ring: Rings symbolize marriage, union, bond, and female love. In the tale, while Belle is starting to develop feelings for Beast, she misses her family dearly, especially her father, and asks to visit them. Beast consents, but tells her if she doesn’t return he will die from heartbreak. Belle promises to return and Beast says she only need take off her ring and lay it on her nightstand before going to sleep and she will wake in Beast’s palace. In the film, the ring is replaced with a glove, which Belle places on her right hand when she wants to be transported to her father’s home from Beast’s palace, and vice versa.

In ASOIAF, the cloak takes the place of the ring and glove. Instead of exchanging rings, the betrothed exchange marriage cloaks. Sansa protests her marriage to Tyrion by refusing to kneel and accept the Lannister cloak. When she does willing accept a cloak, it’s the Hound’s, both when he covered her after she had been stripped naked by his brothers of the Kingsguard and on the night of the Battle of the Blackwater. The way she accepts, wraps herself with, and keeps the cloak symbolizes her deepening connection to Sandor.

Sandor Clegane unfastened his cloak and tossed it at her. Sansa clutched it against her chest, fists bunched hard in the white wool. The coarse weave was scratchy against her skin, but no velvet had ever felt so fine.

She found his cloak on the floor, twisted up tight, the white wool stained by blood and fire. The sky outside was darker by then, with only a few pale green ghosts dancing against the stars. A chill wind was blowing, banging the shutters.

Sansa was cold. She shook out the torn cloak and huddled beneath it on the floor, shivering.

Knife: In the film, when Beast first approaches Belle while she’s eating, Belle toys with a knife, which is a clear phallic symbol. This is also the case when Sandor places his sword at Sansa’s throat and then, again, places a dagger at her throat when he demands her to sing for him.

Fairy: An evil fairy is responsible for putting a curse on the handsome prince, turning him into a dim-witted beast. A twist to this in ASOIAF is Gregor cursing Sandor, turning him into the Hound.

Dogs: Worthy of mention, in the film, Beast’s palace is surrounded by a wall adorned with ferocious hunting dogs which are typically hounds.

Smoke/Blood: In the film, smoke is used to symbolize blood since it was considered unseemly to depict actual blood during that era. Blood can symbolize the essence of life, mortality, and sacrifice. After Beast hunts, his hands smoke. In two very sexually charged scenes, Beast goes to Belle’s room late at night while smoke emanates from his hands. Both times, Belle demands to know why he’s there. In the first scene, Beast offers Belle a gift—a pearl necklace that magically appears in his hand. Belle tells Beast to get out, but after he leaves, takes the necklace. In the second scene, Belle, noticing he’s covered in blood, tells him to clean himself up. She also wants to know why he’s come to her room so late. Beast asks her forgiveness for being a beast, which angers Belle. He then demands she close the door to her room because he can’t bear her look because it “burns like fire.”

These scenes are reminiscent of when Sandor goes to Sansa’s room during the Battle of the Blackwater. Like Beast, Sandor, who’s killed many men that night, is covered in blood, both his and the blood of others. His cloak is also stained by fire. After throwing Sansa on her bed and forcing a song from her, he leaves his blood- and fire-stained cloak: “He took a song and a kiss, and left me nothing but a bloody cloak,” thought Sansa. This can be possible foreshadowing that Sandor will one day sacrifice himself for Sansa.

Water: Water symbolizes change, cleansing, baptism and spiritual awakening. After staying with her family longer than promised, Belle dreams of a dying Beast and uses her ring to return to Beast’s palace. When she’s unable to find him, she fears she’s caused his death and in despair searches the palace for him. Unable to find him, she remembers her dream in which Beast is dying next to a canal, she runs to the canal in the garden and finds Beast stretched out and unconscious. Fearing him dead, she throws herself on him and finds his heart still beating. To revive him, she fetches water from the canal and pours it over his head, causing Beast to stir and regain consciousness. Beast tells Belle he can now die happy because he’s been able to see her once more. Belle begs him to live and asks him to be her husband: “No, dear Beast,” said Beauty, “you must not die. Live to be my husband; from this moment I give you my hand, and swear to be none but yours. Alas! I thought I had only a friendship for you, but the grief I now feel convinces me, that I cannot live without you.” Upon hearing these words, Beast transforms into a handsome prince.

Sandor also goes through a transformative process. When he goes to Sansa’s room during the Battle of the Blackwater to offer her an escape from King’s Landing, he badly botches the attempt. Sansa is too frightened to respond, and feeling rejected, Sandor is the one who throws himself on Sansa and forces her to sing him a song. Sansa, in a panic, can only think of the Mother’s Prayer. As an inversion of Belle sprinkling water on Beast’s face, the Hound sheds tears over Sansa during/after Sansa sings to him, penetrating his emotional wall which has already begun to break down as a result of his PTSD brought on by facing his ultimate fear during the fighting. Since he first met Sansa, she’s been a catalyst for a slow transformation, but this moment brings about a sudden realization, causing Sandor to rip off his Kingsguard cloak in shame and disgust.

Much later, Sandor also goes through a baptism, or spiritual awakening, after his fight at the Crossroads Inn with Gregor’s men, but it’s Arya who performs the rite by pouring wine over his wounds and giving him water. After leaving him to die, the Elder Brother arrives for the final stage; laying the Hound to rest and guiding Sandor through a rebirth.

~Le Fin~




Beauty and the Beast: The Original TV series

An Analysis

by Brashcandy

”He was such a unique voice on that staff; nobody wrote like George. He was so kinky and twisted but beautiful.”

                                                                                                            Ron Perlman

In speaking of the role he played in the cult series ‘Beauty and the Beast’, which lasted for three seasons on the CBS network, George R.R. Martin notes:

The show was twice nominated for an Emmy award as Best Dramatic Series. I wrote and produced thirteen episodes, did uncredited rewrites on a score of others, and had a finger in everything from casting and budgeting to post production.

The next time Martin would be so heavily involved in a project would be for his own epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, which he began working on in 1991, the year after the television series was cancelled. My approach in this essay will be to examine the elements which contributed to the success of the show, with close attention paid to the episodes Martin was responsible for writing. The objective is to explore the influences on Martin’s interpretation of the Beauty and the Beast story – a tale that would come to resonate quite strongly in the Ice and Fire novels. I have chosen to focus on the first season of B&B, which is widely agreed by fans and critics alike as the best one, and presents a satisfying development of the relationship between Catherine and Vincent, the two lead characters in the show, and the Beauty and the Beast we are studying here.

Described as “one part Gothic romance, one part crime busters-in-action” by a New York Times critic, Beauty and the Beast managed to capture the attention of audiences who were impressed by the show’s use of literary allusions, the exploration of themes relating to social justice and politics, and not least Catherine and Vincent’s romance. Calling it “that perfect but impossible relationship,” the creator of the series, Ron Koslow, admitted that it was bond between Catherine and Vincent which fascinated the writers:

It certainly does hearken back to the era of courtly love, the idealized love of a knight for his lady. Catherine and Vincent must make love with their minds, with an exchange of ideas and feelings.

For Martin, it was Koslow’s appreciation of what the series represented and what made it unique for modern audiences that convinced him to dedicate his talents as a writer in bringing it to the small screen. Martin recalls in an interview:

There were certain elements from the network right at the beginning that regarded us a hairy version of The Incredible Hulk. If we were going to be primarily an action/adventure show oriented towards children with an obligatory beast-out at the second act’s end, and a major rescue to end the fourth act, I really didn’t want to be involved. But from talking to Ron Koslow, it became clear that his ambitions for the show were very high and that he regarded it as adult-oriented drama, rather than formula action/adventure. That was one of the factors that changed my mind, and determined that I would take a crack at it.

With Jean Cocteau’s classic film La Belle et la Bête as inspiration, Beauty and the Beast premiered in September 1987, featuring Linda Hamilton as Catherine Chandler and Ron Perlman as Vincent. From the second episode onwards, the opening credits are accompanied by voiceovers from Catherine and Vincent, which establish their enduring connection to one another, and suggest that despite whatever plots each episode may contain, this is a programme that deeply identifies as a love story:

 [opening credits narration]

Vincent: This is where the wealthy and the powerful rule. It is her world… a world apart from mine. Her name… is Catherine. From the moment I saw her, she captured my heart with her beauty, her warmth, and her courage. I knew then, as I know now, she would change my life… forever.

Catherine Chandler: He comes from a secret place, far below the city streets, hiding his face from strangers, safe from hate and harm. He brought me there to save my life… and now, wherever I go, he is with me, in spirit. For we have a bond stronger than friendship or love. And although we cannot be together, we will never, ever be apart.

The concept of being from “different worlds” is rendered explicit in the TV show via the use of two different settings by which to associate Catherine and Vincent and to organize the action of the plot. Catherine’s world is the fast paced, lively and perilous New York City, where she works as an assistant District Attorney and has often to do battle with unsavory criminal elements. The tall buildings and the bright lights of the city are replaced in Vincent’s world by long winding tunnels and the soft, misty lights of a community that exists under the city, led by a benevolent patriarch they refer to as “Father”. Whilst Vincent’s world may seem somewhat fantastic, the distinct setting lends credibility to his relationship with Catherine for a modern audience. It upsets the standard expectation of Beauty going to the Beast’s domain and there remaining (with the exception of a brief return to her father’s home) until he is transformed into a prince and they live happier ever after. Instead, throughout the series, the two settings are used as a way of complicating the romance between the couple: they can never quite be together in the open, but still find ways to connect and bond.

The first episode, “Once Upon a Time in the City of New York,” introduces Catherine as a wealthy socialite and attorney. The first shot is of her getting out of a taxi as she arrives at work, dressed in beautiful clothes. She is late, but heads straight to her father’s office for a chat. The relationship with her father is a good one, but it’s immediately noticeable that it’s characterized by a dependency on him, both for her career prospects and her love life. We learn that he is responsible for her relationship with her current beau, Tom Gunther:

Mr. Chandler: I used to be invited to all these functions; I should have thought twice before handing you over to our best client.

Catherine: You make it sound like a horse trade!

And when he tries to reassure her that she’s an asset to the firm and a good corporate lawyer, Catherine responds: “No dad, I’m the daughter of a fine corporate lawyer.”

Despite seeming to live the typical life of a carefree and nonchalant “daddy’s girl,” Catherine’s personality is shown to be caring and compassionate to others when she joins her partner Tom for a dinner later in the episode. As Tom mingles with the guests and the businessmen he is trying to impress, Catherine sits at a table, quietly trying to console a friend who is experiencing personal problems. Tom is not happy about this, and tells Catherine that she should show “better judgment” in her choice of friends, not to mention in neglecting him throughout the evening. Catherine, affronted and upset, leaves the party immediately, only to be kidnapped once outside. It is a case of mistaken identity, but Catherine pays a heavy cost: her face is slashed and she is thrown unconscious from the moving van. It is here that Vincent finds her and takes her to his underground home for healing and recovery.

In the underground tunnels, Catherine is tended to by Vincent and his father, and eventually awakens to wonder where she is and who has taken care of her during this time. Her entire face is bandaged so she can only hear Vincent’s voice, not see his face. The viewer too is restricted from seeing what Vincent looks like whilst Catherine cannot; our appreciation of him comes from the soothing voice with which he speaks to Catherine, and the concern and tenderness he displays toward her. We also “see” him through Father’s eyes, as the elder man shows affection to him as a father would to a son. By the time Catherine unwraps her bandages and is shocked to see the lion-man who has tended to her all this time, viewers understand perfectly the old adage: looks can be deceiving. It’s important too that at the same moment Catherine sees Vincent, she’s also confronting the horror of what was done to her face. The show doesn’t dwell on Catherine’s facial scars for very long (she quickly gets plastic surgery in the same episode), but in that moment the suggestion is of a profound empathic bond between her and Vincent, one that becomes very real later on:

Vincent: I’ve never regretted what I am…until now.

Catherine: How…how did this happen to you?

Vincent: I don’t know how. I have ideas… I’ll never know. I was born and I survived… It’s time for you to back.

Catherine: Tell me it’s a nightmare, that it didn’t happen, it can’t be.

Vincent: It’s not a nightmare, it happened, and you’re alive. (kneeling before her) Catherine, you survived and what you endured will make you stronger.

Catherine: I don’t have your strength… I don’t know how to do it.

Vincent: You have the strength Catherine, you do. I know you…

[Catherine removes Vincent’s hood]

The removal of the hood signifies Catherine’s full acceptance of what Vincent looks like, and they depart the tunnels together, as we see glimpses of the various individuals and families that have made their life underground. Vincent is able to locate the tunnel that leads directly to Catherine’s building, and she tells him solemnly, “Vincent your secret is safe with me. I would never betray your trust.” They share an embrace, but a man’s voice is heard off screen and Vincent has to leave quickly. This is at the mid-way point of the episode, and it proceeds to show Catherine getting plastic surgery in the hospital, going to a self-defence class, and applying for a job with the District Attorney. She has grown from the incident, and not only is determined to learn to how to protect herself, but actively pursues an independent career that can bring her more fulfillment than she found working for her father.

Thoughts of Vincent are never far away: she has a dream where everyone is mocking her, but Vincent smiles reassuringly; and later she smiles when passing over a grate in the city street. Upon returning to her apartment one night after a date with Tom – a man she’s clearly no longer happy with – Catherine hears a noise on her balcony and finds Vincent waiting in the shadows there. He has placed a copy of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens on the floor (it is the book that he read to Catherine when she was still recovering underground). Catherine is extremely pleased to see him and it is here that Vincent reveals that he is able to sense what Catherine is feeling at all times, an actual spiritual manifestation of their empathic connection. It becomes the one “magical” element in their relationship. Vincent tells her that he must forget his dream he had of being part of her world and she must find someone to love. Cathy convinces him to stay for a while longer, and the scene ends with her reading Great Expectations to him.

The climatic point of the episode happens when Catherine is able to bring charges against the men who kidnapped her and their boss, but is then trapped by these very killers in an abandoned house. Just at the moment when she is about to be shot, Vincent –sensing her fear – arrives to save her life. It is Catherine’s first glimpse of Vincent animal side, and she experiences some shock at the violence he can display. Vincent may be the hero, but he cannot wait around for the authorities to arrive. The episode ends with Catherine embracing him after he has promised that he will always be with her in spirit.

I wanted to be fairly detailed in the summary of the first episode because it sets the framework and essential thematic outlines for the rest of Season One. Catherine and Vincent return to her balcony many times throughout the season to share intimate moments together, and his empathic bond becomes instrumental in bringing him to her assistance when her life is endangered. Ron Koslow said at the time of the show’s debut:

The relationship between Catherine and Vincent will be continually challenged by the fact that Vincent will remain who he is – a perfect man; ironically Catherine’s perfect soul mate—trapped in an imperfect body. The power of his character lies in the fact that he’s a survivor who accepts who he is, and continues to move forward.

Martin’s Episodes

Martin wrote five out of twenty-two episodes that were featured during the first season of Beauty and the Beast:

  • Terrible Savior (Episode 2)
  • Masques (Episode 5)
  • Shades of Grey (Episode 12)
  • Promises of Someday (Episode 16)
  • Ozymandias (Episode 21)

In interviews about his work, Martin admits to being a lot more creatively satisfied with the vision he was able to achieve starting from Shades of Grey:

Early on, of course, the network was kind of putting us precisely in the direction we didn’t want to go: formula action/adventure kind of scripts. They were putting restrictions on us in the first season which we labored under that were kind of difficult, including the most irritating to me: they didn’t want to see any other people in the underworld. Initially, the network saw it as a cop show with a hairy hero who saved people at the end. Thankfully, we were finally able to break through when the ratings were strong enough and we earned a little freedom to do what we wanted. These battles are worth fighting, because sometimes you lose them for a while, but eventually the tide turns. In our case, that turn came in the middle of the first season with ‘An Impossible Silence’ and ‘Shades of Grey,’ in which we were finally able to introduce the underground community in the way we wanted to.

The real challenge that Martin found was in the character-based episodes, those that allowed him to flesh out the different groups of people in Beauty and the Beast, and explore their interactions and relationships.

In ‘Terrible Savior’, which Martin calls his least favourite episode, the plot is centred on a vigilante who is murdering those he finds doing harm to others on the subway at night. Due to the victims’ injuries – they look as though they’ve been mauled by a wild animal – Catherine fears that it might be Vincent, acting out of a misguided pursuit of justice. The first problem for Martin was that the audience was able to tell right away that the vigilante was not Vincent, thereby losing any potential suspense. He notes:

Most of that scene should have been played in darkness or near darkness,     and the idea was to create the possibility that it was Vincent. You have to remember that at the time neither the writers nor the audience nor Catherine knew Vincent very well. So the dilemma, Catherine’s fear of Vincent ability to kill, I think was still something that could be played. That was really the thematic point of the script.

Whilst the plot suspense might have been shortchanged, the episode still succeeds in developing the relationship between Catherine and Vincent, as it relates to former’s fear and the implicit trust that she comes to have in Vincent’s goodness. It is Catherine who ends up reassuring him towards the end of the episode that he is not like the vigilante they seek:

Vincent: They hunt for this man as they might hunt for me, if they dreamed of my existence. You have your laws, and your courts to tell right from wrong, your police to protect to protect you, we have only ourselves. By what right do I condemn him … am I so very different?

Catherine: Yes, Vincent … you are.

Another positive of the episode from Martin’s perspective was that it worked to expand a bit more on the underground space:

It introduced the Whispering Gallery, which was the first kind of really magical chamber down there. If you look at the pilot, which is all any of us had seen before, there are tunnels down there, subways, sewers and steam tunnels—essentially very realistic things. When I invented the Whispering Gallery, it was a deliberate attempt to make that underworld a little more mythic and a little more extraordinary. I wasn’t sure it would be accepted at first. I was concerned that people at the network would not want these wondrous semi-magical chambers under New York, but fortunately everybody greeted the notion with great enthusiasm. Subsequently, I added some chambers myself, Ron Koslow added the waterfall chamber, I came up with the chamber of winds, Howard and Alex came up with the crystal cavern. There was a process of that world growing. It was very organic in a sense; we were all sort of feeding off of each other once we gathered together for our story session. It was not a case where we sat down one day and said, ‘Let’s plan this world’ and got out this map-drawing thing.

Vincent’s words at the Whispering Gallery are appropriately lyrical—a hallmark of his speech throughout the series, and a particular illustration of Martin’s talent in the episodes he wrote:

Father: I’ve heard the children talk of this place.

Vincent: It was our secret place when I was a child. I used to come down here with my friends. We thought it was magic.

Father: Magic?

Vincent: All the tunnels. If you stand in just the right place, you can hear sounds, whispers from the world above: people on the subway, children playing in their homes, lovers walking in the park. Sounds of a thousand different lives if you know just where to stand. The magic places we call them.

 Overall, the episode touches on important themes that would be developed later on in the series relating to justice and the morality of violence.

[Special mention should go to the third episode of the series, ‘Siege’, which introduced the character of Elliot Burch, a serious love interest for Catherine, who would reappear in later episodes.]

* * *

‘Masques’ was the Halloween episode of the season, and it represents the one time when Vincent can be free to walk around the above world, as people assume he’s dressed in an elaborate costume. It is the one night when Catherine and Vincent can portray “beauty and the beast” without fear of reprisal. Essentially, this should be a night of romance, which is what Martin had in mind:

When I came on the show, I came in with two story ideas. One of them was ‘Masques’ and the other was ‘Terrible Angel,’ which had jeopardy, a subway vigilante and all that. I wanted ‘Masques’ to be very different, and I wanted it to be a very romantic kind of magic episode with mystery and the pageantry of Halloween night. I didn’t necessarily want a strong jeopardy element in it. I wanted to make it almost picturesque, with Catherine and Vincent out on Halloween night and encountering the strange sights of New York City, seeing parts of the city they’d never seen before—little moments of romance and little moments of humor, mystery and action.

The network had another vision, however, and Martin’s plot is made to include more of the action/adventure escapades. It takes the focus off Catherine and Vincent and placed on the character of Brigit O’Donnell – an Irish poet who is visiting New York City on professional business. Unfortunately, despite Brigit’s kind and sweet disposition, she comes from a family that has been involved in Irish political violence, and she is targeted by a man who is looking for vengeance over his brother’s death. This leads to a series of twists and turns where Catherine’s life is threatened along with Brigit’s, and Vincent must return to help both women.

At the beginning of the episode, we learn that Vincent is a big fan of the poet, and he is excited to possibly interact with Catherine at the party where Brigit will also be present. Despite Father’s misgivings, Victor insists he must go, quoting one of Brigit’s lines: “Sometimes we must leave our safe places, Father, and walk empty-handed among our enemies.”

Later on at the party, Vincent meets with Brigit (after narrowly missing Catherine), and the two share a long conversation on her family’s history and her romance with her deceased husband. Brigit’s story is relevant to the theme of different worlds for Catherine and Vincent, and she speaks of how she and her husband attempted to resolve that divide:

Brigit: Ian and I were born six straits apart and yet in different worlds. A stiff-necked Orangeman and a croppy girl from Bogside we were. Daft enough to fall in love but not so big a pair of fools that we thought he could live in my world or me in his. So we tried to create a new world that we could share together. Well, you know how that ended.

After the jeopardy is over (with the theme of the futility of revenge), Catherine and Vincent have a brief taste of what it might be like if they were able to share each other’s worlds. They walk through the city and sit together on a park bench as daylight breaks:

Vincent: I’ve lived here all my life and yet it’s as though I’d never seen this city… until now.

Catherine: You’ve seen so much of the violence and hatred of my world… I wanted you to know that there’s beauty as well.

Vincent: Oh, I know that… Ever since the night I found you Catherine.

The next directions follow in Martin’s actual script:

She smiles, lifts her face to him. They seem enchanted mythic lovers of the Samhaim night. For a fleeting second, it seems that they will finally kiss, but just as Vincent begins to move, we hear pounding footsteps. The magic is shattered. They look up, break apart slightly.

Despite having to significantly retool his script, Martin still manages at the end to create that romantic fantasy, however fleeting. When the jogger interrupts to tell Vincent that Halloween was yesterday, the sense of hope, of perhaps being able to create a world that they both can share, still clearly lingers with Catherine.

* * *

‘Shades of Grey’, the 12th episode of the season, represented a crucial breakthrough for Martin and the series as a whole, by showing that it was possible to have an episode that was character driven rather than the usual violence of adventure plots. Says Martin:

In many ways, it was one of the most important episodes of the first season. It established the underground world and it was the episode in which we brought back Elliot Burch and began the slow transformation of that character… There was jeopardy in the episode, but I was also one of the first ones that got away without guys with guns that Vincent has to kill in the fourth act, which we were fighting desperately to stay away from. I think it established that you could do a dramatic and very effective show without having to resort to that kind of action/adventure format.

And Martin’s colleagues shared the same sentiment:

Alex Gansa states, “A fantastic episode, with a lot of good stuff between Father and Vincent. It introduced Mouse and a lot of other characters, and, again, more the way I envisioned the show. And some great stuff between Elliot Burch and Cathy. Elliot Burch was really George’s baby. George really loved Elliot and treated him that way.”

“Definitely a classic episode,” concurs Howard Gordon. “What was good about that is that, for the first time, the underworld opened up and it helped to create the reality of Below.”

The jeopardy in ‘Shades of Grey’ is centred on Vincent and Father being trapped after a cave in, having gone to an unstable part of the tunnels to rescue a hurt child. We are introduced to underground oddball Mouse, who at the beginning of the episode is placed on punishment by Father for stealing from the city above, but later plays a crucial role in helping to rescue the trapped men, along with Catherine.

To understand Martin’s fascination with the character Elliot Burch, one need only examine the title of the episode. Elliot personifies this theme, a man that is neither all good nor all bad – someone that Catherine can still admire, even though she opposes many of his methods. After the falling out that occurred between them in episode three, this was Elliot’s reintroduction to the audience, and his chance to prove to Catherine that he was someone she could trust. She is sent to see Burch because he has decided to provide evidence against a crooked businessman he once dealt with:

Elliot: I’ve dealt with a dozen Max Averys since I began and not because I wanted to. I mean maybe in your life your choices have always been black and white, but in mine they are always grey. I wanted to build and I found that it was easier … and cheaper to play ball with him Avery than to fight him. And maybe you were right to walk out on me when you did. My employees were breaking the law in my name, things were happening that were inexcusable and ultimately it’s my responsibility, but Cathy I didn’t know. Maybe I didn’t want to know. I’ve had a lot of regrets in my life and losing you is one of them. My attorney advised me to shred this file… I got a new attorney.

 Later on, when Catherine needs to source the dynamite and equipment to free Vincent and Father from the cave in, she calls on Elliot for assistance. It establishes a sort of reciprocity of good faith on both their parts, as Elliot can only wonder about why she needs such materials. Trapped in the tunnel, Vincent has to tend to Father who has been injured by the falling rocks. When Father asks if Vincent can see anything in the darkness, he replies: “dimly, shadows, shapes, greys in dozen different shades”. The suggestion is that Vincent too knows about making difficult choices.

As the underground dwellers rally to save them, the inherent camaraderie of their community is underscored. Even when Winslow – a burly and outspoken man played by the late James Avery – refuses to support Mouse’s plan at first, we see that at the root of his disagreement is a desperate determination to free Vincent and Father before it too late. The punishment that was imposed on Mouse to have no one speak to him for a month is quickly broken in the crisis, and everyone joins together to assist in the rescue. At the end of the episode, Catherine and Vincent’s romance is reaffirmed:

Catherine: I’ve never been so frightened.

Vincent: Your courage saved our lives.

Catherine: I felt like I was losing the best part of myself. I would have done anything. It wasn’t courage Vincent… it was love.

* * *

Martin counts ‘Promises of Someday’ as the favourite first season episode he wrote, and I consider it mine as well. The audience is introduced to Devin, who once lived in the tunnels as a boy and was like a brother to Vincent. The major revelation at the end of the episode is that Devin is actually Father’s son, whose mother died in childbirth. Devin moved away from the tunnels without letting anyone know where he had gone, and returns as the consummate con-man—not necessarily taking advantage of others, but holding multiple identities and pretending to be qualified at one job or another. The job he takes on in this episode is that of a trial lawyer working in the DA’s office, a position that obviously brings him into contact with Vincent’s love interest. It is through Catherine that Vincent learns about Devin’s reappearance, and the two men are reunited.

The episode makes frequent use of flashbacks to depict Vincent and Devin’s childhood escapades, with the highlight being “Mini-Vinnie” as the writers called him- a young Vincent who shows the same courage and idealism of his older self. Devin bears the mark of three deep scars on his cheek—a remnant of a disagreement between them, when he accused Vincent wrongly. But there is no ill will in the men’s relationship. There is genuine love between them, a fact that is brought out in one of the flashbacks scenes. Knowing that Vincent could not go out in public during the day when people were around and places were open, Devin organizes a late night excursion to the carousel playground in the park with some of their friends. It is a magical moment for Vincent, as he is able to ride on the merry-go-round and experience the thrills that other children naturally took for granted. However, the fun is cut short by the appearance of a policeman, and Vincent is nearly captured, leading to Father’s ire when the boys return to the tunnels. It is an attitude that Devin was accustomed to eliciting from the community leader, and when confronted with it by Vincent (in the present) the truth of Devin’s parentage is revealed. Not wanting to give the boy any special preference, Father went to the other extreme of not showing him much appreciation or patience.

When Catherine plans to expose Devin as an imposter in the DA’s office, Vincent is alarmed by what it will mean for his friend. Earlier in the episode as the two men were reunited and embraced, Devin jokingly quoted Mark Twain, saying: “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” But on Catherine’s balcony, when Vincent is trying to get her to understand just how much Devin means to him, we learn the true depths of that allusion for the two men:

Catherine: You knew the boy he was, many years ago. You don’t know the man he’s grown into.

Vincent: I know his heart.

Catherine: I’m sorry Vincent; I can’t allow this to go on. There’s too much at stake.

Vincent: We were going to build a raft together… Huck and Jim on the Mississippi … I had other friends, others who grew up with me in the tunnels, but Devin… Devin was the only one who was irresponsible enough to dream dreams that included me.

It’s an evocative and moving statement, made even more so by Perlman’s expert ability in capturing the inherent sadness and wistfulness that Vincent feels.

At the end, Devin is able to make good on his charade as a trial lawyer, and finishes the legal brief for Catherine’s case. He accepts his new found identity as Father’s son, and uses his real name at the airport when departing to Alaska. Fittingly, the episode concludes with a flashback of Mini-Vinnie gazing contentedly at a toy carousel – a memory of the night he got to have that ride- as Devin observes silently in the background.

* * *

If The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn evoked positive associations for Devin and Vincent, the final episode of Martin’s for the first season relied on the opposite literary symbolism to explore the threat to Vincent’s world by a massive building project. Titled ‘Ozymandias’, the reference is to the famous sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley:

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:

And on the pedestal these words appear:

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

It is a poem that speaks to the ravages of time and the arrogance of men—the fact that all these monuments they build to glorify themselves and solidify their legacies will one day only be “colossal wrecks”. The episode’s Ozymandias is Elliot Burch, who is finally on the cusp of achieving his life’s dream: building a tower to adorn the New York City skyline. Martin is able to communicate Burch’s desires sympathetically, as he enthusiastically shares his dream with Catherine, and later on proposes marriage to her. Desperate to save Vincent’s world, Catherine agrees to marry Burke if he will halt construction, but he refuses. Later on, she learns that he was once again involved in crooked schemes to ensure the project’s success, and is able to gain a court injunction to stop the building of the tower.

Elliot’s boundless ambition is contrasted with the artistic work done by one of the tunnel dwellers, Elizabeth, whose art adorns the walls in the upper chambers. Elizabeth is an older woman, but fiercely dedicated to her work, and refuses to stop painting even when the walls begin to shake and crumble from the construction of Burch’s tower. Her paintings contain images from both the above and below world, with the suggestion that this is a more lasting, and “humane” tribute than anything Burch could offer.

Burch describes the tower as a city within a city, but the one Catherine is intimately familiar with does not exist in the sky, but below the ground. Her act of self-sacrifice in marrying Burch if it means saving the only home Vincent has ever known illustrates just how much Vincent and his people have come to mean to her. As she tells Elliot, “people are more important than buildings… more important than dreams, even…”


The final episode of the season was entitled ‘A Happy Life’ and written by Ron Koslow. After managing to save his world in the previous episode, ‘A Happy Life’ presents Catherine experiencing a personal crisis about her future with Vincent. She knows she loves him, but the reality of never being able to openly live together begins to affect her. As the writers agreed, the episode is testament to the strength of Koslow’s appreciation for the romance between the lead couple.

Catherine’s breakdown is initiated by the 20th anniversary of her mother’s death: an occasion that not only results in the usual grief, but causes Catherine to begin to look closely at her life and whether she will ever find the true fulfillment her mother would have wanted her to have. After seeing a psychiatrist and going away to visit an old school friend, Catherine finally reaches the decision that no matter the challenges, she wants to be with Vincent. It was an emphatic and rewarding way to close the first season on their relationship, even though the degree to which physical intimacy could be shown between them was still obviously an awkward issue for the network. Their reunion is sealed with what can only be described as a “shadow kiss,” as Catherine and Vincent remain gazing at each other, while in the background they appear to kiss. Martin states:

They filmed the ending with a kiss and without the kiss, and came to some sort of compromise. What we kept hearing about the kiss is that once it happens, the show’s over. But that’s too literal an interpretation of the original model. In the original Beauty and the Beast, once they kiss it is over, because the kiss symbolically represents what turns him back into human form. For us, there was a lot more to explore beyond the kiss.

Despite the compromise, fans were eager for what the second season would hold for the couple now that they were committed to each other wholeheartedly. The show had succeeded through the strength of its writing, production, and the chemistry between Hamilton and Perlman, in offering an engaging reinterpretation of the tale as old as time. In a piece entitled ‘Prince of the Underground City’, Perlman talked about the beauty of playing Vincent:

I had played beasts prior to this. This is not only a beast, but a beast who lived as an extension of his pain every moment of every day, and all of that was there in the relationship with this woman who opened up all of these new feelings in him. It was just mind-blowing that somebody could come up with a character that crystallized all of the beasts which had ever been written in history, including the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the beast from the Cocteau film and the beast that I played in Name of the Rose. These guys, I always felt, had tremendous feelings underneath their ugliness and these things were always touched on by other characterizations, but never as articulately as in this version.

I just saw an incredible sensitivity on the part of the writer for this man’s pain and his ability to transcend it.

Perlman’s ability to grasp the fundamental poignancy of his character was perhaps a major reason why Martin felt he would make a good choice for the part of Sandor Clegane – Martin’s very own complex beast in the ASOIAF series.

In The Meanings of Beauty and the Beast, Jerry Griswold argues that the television series makes use of the B&B tale to explore a “missing wildness” that both men and women need to recover to be truly empowered. This is certainly something that we see emphasized in Martin’s portrayal of Sandor and Sansa’s relationship, as both of them move further and further apart from the kind of civilized and obedient roles they occupied at the start of the series. Rather than simply viewing B&B as a transformative myth where the beast turns into a prince, Griswold reminds us that the true power of the tale lies in its ability to challenge our perceptions about Otherness, and holds considerable value for themes to do with agency, sexuality and love. As Griswold notes, and I think Martin discovered, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is “good to think with.”




Who Could Ever Learn to Love a Beast?

by Caro99

Belle = Sansa:

At the start of the movie, Belle longs to see the outside world much like Sansa wished to see something besides Winterfell, and Belle loves to read and lose herself in her books, dreaming of what it would be like to live one of those adventures. This reminds me of the way Sansa wished she could be a lady from a song. Belle and Sansa are similar in this. Tales about faraway places, swordfights and magic spells, princes in disguise, all fit in into the category of what these two characters find entertaining. And there is also this: Belle says that she doesn’t feel like fitting in the small village she lives in, and has no one to talk to. Sansa also once thought there were places in the south where she could be happier than in Winterfell. Sansa must have felt isolated at times with her initial location. Not many singers took the trouble to go up so far north, for example. Yet it is when she is living as a hostage in Maegor’s Holdfast that her true isolation starts, where there really isn’t anybody she can talk to, for she is an outcast, the way the villagers considered Belle and her father to be for their different way of seeing life.

Another similarity between Belle and Sansa is the development they undergo during the journey they undertake. Belle and Sansa wanted to have adventures at the start, but at the end of the film and in Feast for Crows, we can see that what they really care for is only to be loved for themselves. Belle found a man in the end who accepted her for who she was just as much as she did him, and while Sansa yearns for this, she has yet to be allowed to obtain it by Martin, I do see her at least wishing currently to marry someone she loves rather than to obtain an “ambitious” future. And so far, the only man whom we know cared for Sansa herself rather than her claim was Sandor. He didn’t want to change her and mold her into something she wasn’t. The Beast didn’t do this with Belle either.

The Prince and Gaston = Joffrey, Tyrion & Littlefinger:

“Once upon a time in a faraway land, a young prince lived in a shining castle,” is how the movie starts, and associating it with Sansa, it already sounds like a story that the Sansa from AGOT would love to hear. And when Joffrey Baratheon comes into her life, this is exactly what he appears to be. There was no way Sansa, a sheltered eleven year old could know that, just as the Beast at the start, Joff was spoiled, selfish and unkind, although he had everything his heart desired. And just as the prince in the beginning, when he sneers at the simple rose the witch offers to him in exchange of shelter, Joffrey sneers at simple things like love or well, anything really. Even Tyrion noticed that Sansa would have made Joff a splendid queen if he had only had sense enough to love her.
Gaston, the antagonist of the movie, (whom I must admit I always thought of as handsome), is a handsome, conceited, rude man. I think that when it comes to him, we can link him with Joffrey, Tyrion and Petyr.

Let’s start with Joff: Sansa in the first book reminds me of the blonde triplets who have a huge crush on Gaston. Sansa goes through this with Joff and Loras, but by the third book, she has grown and matured into a “Belle,” not one of the blonde sisters. She sees right through Joff the way Belle sees through Gaston, and pities the Tyrell cousins for fawning over Joffrey’s lips and the knights and men they’ve kissed or allow to pay them courtship.

Other little resemblances between Joffrey and Gaston are that they don’t like reading books one bit, and that they both plead for their lives, Joff to Arya near the Trident and Gaston to the Beast towards the end. And both men think that the girl they are meant to marry couldn’t have been luckier. Gaston even tells Belle that there isn’t a girl in town who wouldn’t wish to be on her shoes as he is proposing, and while many would agree, in the sense of what being married to Gaston or to the future king of Westeros, Belle and Sansa know how empty that position would be for them, full of pain and limitations and humiliation, submission, and more such things.

Many would think that Tyrion could be the Beast to Sansa’s Belle, but I associate the Imp more with Gaston too. When Belle asks Gaston, “What do you know about my dreams?” as he is proposing to her, I asked myself, “What does Tyrion really know about Sansa?” Gaston wanted a wife who would rub his feet and give him strong sons and cook for him. Tyrion wanted a wife who would give him an heir one day, as well as bring him her sorrows and her joys. Tyrion never stops to consider what Sansa would want.

Another of the men in Sansa’s life we can associate with Gaston is Littlefinger. In the movie, there is a scene in a tavern in which Gaston is persuading the owner of an asylum to help him out with imprisoning Belle’s father so that he can be brought one step forward in his scheme of marrying her. I think this resembles what Littlefinger did with Joffrey. We know he convinced Joff to kill Ned, and then he went ahead and asked Cersei for Sansa’s hand. So both Gaston and Littlefinger sought to take Belle and Sansa’s fathers out of the way, while they were also intending to marry them.

Yet when Belle and Sansa plead for their fathers’ freedom and lives, Joffrey, Littlefinger and Gaston couldn’t have cared less.

The Beast = The Hound & Sandor Clegane:

Moving on, the message that Disney wants to transmit is that one shouldn’t be deceived by appearances, for beauty is found within. No one told Sansa this, if I remember correctly. The closest anyone got to it was Septa Mordane when she told her that all men were beautiful. Sansa remembered this during her wedding night, but for many reasons she couldn’t find this advice one bit helpful with Tyrion. Yet it does fit with the first two “love interests” she is associated with. Joffrey and Sandor Clegane, the Hound. We know that there was no love in the heart of the prince from the movie at the start, and there never was in Joffrey’s, but what about the man who looks more like the beast on the outside? What of the Hound?

Joffrey was the true beast in this tale as we all know, and can even be associated with Gaston later on, but with Sandor it is quite a different story. Sure, he and the Beast have many similarities, mostly at the start of the books and of the Disney film, for we are introduced to them in a manner that makes it clear many fear and respect them both, whether they be servants, commoners, peasants, Lannisters or old friends turned into clocks, candlesticks, or tea kettles.

Nonetheless, while the Beast hides and isolates himself in his castle, Sandor has to learn to live with his appearance, because he is lowborn, unlike the enchanted prince. And it also matters to them both the whole concept of “having people look at their faces”. Sandor demands Sansa to look at him more than once, and when we first see the Beast in the film he asks straightaway to Belle’s father if he has come to stare at the fabled beast. The narrator of the movie at the beginning asks the audience, “Who could ever learn to love a beast?” Sandor may have asked himself this very question as he was growing up as well as when Sansa came into his life. When the little bird appeared on the picture, Sandor had given up hope that the dreams and illusions he yearned for as a kid—the child who wanted to play with a wooden knight before his brother put half of his face upon a brazier—much like the Beast had of ever finding someone who would be able to care about him before Belle went to his castle.

With time, Sansa and Belle come to see that the real monsters in their lives are the handsome men. Belle tells Gaston to his face after he confronts her about having feelings for the Beast, “He is not the monster, Gaston. You are.” Sansa also comes to identify who is the vicious man in her life as she is kept prisoner in King’s Landing. And after she has fled the capital, she remembers more than once that even if the Hound was fearsome, he was also kind and gentle with her. Both Sansa and Belle inspired a change in Sandor and the Beast.

Gaston asks the Beast in incredulity if he really believes Belle would want someone like him. While Sansa hasn’t yet been presented with someone asking her something like this, it is possible that Sandor could have wondered something similar at one point. Yet by the way Sansa wonders what the Tyrell cousins would think if they knew Sandor had kissed her; by the way she dreams of Tyrion transforming into Sandor in a marriage bed; and by the way the kiss she wants to pretend is from the Knight of Flowers becomes one she thinks the Hound gave her, I think that it isn’t too far-fetched that Sansa Stark could find herself wanting Sandor Clegane if the opportune moment presented itself.

And both male characters suffer a poignant meltdown towards the end. And curiously it’s during an armed conflict. For the Beast, it is when the mob attacks his castle, and he thinks he has lost Belle forever; and for Sandor it is the Battle of Blackwater.

The Beast’s spell is broken when he learns to love another and earns the love of a woman in return. Sansa and Sandor’s relationship had been described with so much care and subtle hints by Martin, and in the time they were together in King’s Landing it couldn’t really be called love, but Martin has made sure to remind us all that something is still there books after Sansa and Sandor last saw each other. The influence and impact they caused upon each other is strong, and in Sandor’s case it has helped him to break away from his own brand of Beast “spell,” and allowed him to start again in the Quiet Isle, if we believe in the gravedigger theory.

Near the end of the Disney adaptation of the classic tale, the Beast asks Belle if she is happy living with him in his castle. He asks her how she feels about it, and when he notices that though she is indeed, she would still like to go away and look for her father, the Beast doesn’t object to Belle leaving him, knowing that there is the risk, however small, that they could not see each other again. The Beast knows Belle has the right to choose what she should do, and doesn’t deny her this, making me think of the UnKiss moment.

Sandor tells Sansa what he intends to do, and in the end respects her choice. Though she doesn’t exactly refuse his offer, he doesn’t force her to go along with him. If these two were to reunite again, and if something romantic were to develop between them, I speculate with full certainty that though Sandor wouldn’t like it, he wouldn’t stop Sansa from marrying another if she decided that, because he cares more about her happiness than his own, just like the Beast and Belle. Now, can we say the same of the Beast when he was the Prince, or of Joff or Littlefinger? Taking Sandor out of the picture now, since Tyrion and Sansa are still married, I wonder if the Imp will give Sansa her freedom back if it comes to it in the end, when the High Septon and the others that mattered upon this decision have agreed upon the annulment.

To finish up, I would like to put some links below about some pretty images from the Disney film and the HBO series that show just how much Sansa and Sandor are Westeros’ Beauty & the Beast.










The Phantom of the Opera

by Elba the Intoner

As part of delving into the Beauty and the Beast theme and Cupid and Psyche as the first such story in history, I will be addressing this theme’s influences in literature. First up, Phantom of the Opera.

A few words on setting

Some of these stories take place in a grand building that almost becomes a character in and of itself. This is the case with the Grand Opera House in Paris, where almost all of the action takes place. It has a very interesting history:

The building was conceived on a gigantic scale. . . . The Opera was conceived not merely for performances on stage but as a setting for grand state occasions, for galas and balls, festivals and feasts. It was to be a palace both for culture and society, a gathering point for the new middle classes where they could parade and show off their finery.

(Source 1. The Complete Phantom of the Opera by George Perry, pp. 10-11, published in the US by Henry Holt & Co. 1988)

When the Opera eventually opened in 1875, it would cover a site of nearly 3 acres, stand 17 stories high with 7 of them below street level, and basements so large that they could store complete stage sets (Source 1. p.14). The site chosen for the building was problematic because it had an underground stream, but this was turned to advantage by creating a lake beneath the stage in the fifth basement which is still there to this day (Source 1. p.11).

But the most interesting part of its history is that it played a significant role in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, when the construction was halted and though unfinished, was taken over by the Communards (the working classes who rose up during the revolution that followed the new republic after the reign of Napoleon III came to an end.) The members of the Commune of Paris made the Opera its central base of operations and this included a military prison. There was plenty of room to imprison enemies in the large underground chambers. (Source 1. p.13).

In some of the Opera’s deep cellars, which seem to extend into the dark infinity of Piranesian voids, there is a perpetual chill… It is easy enough to imagine that the first notion of the great building being haunted by tormented prison spirits took hold during the period of the siege and Commune. (Source 1. p.14)

The Phantom of the Opera was published in 1911. It’s author, Gaston Leroux (1868-1927), was inspired to write the story after visiting the Paris opera house and exploring the lower cellars. (Source 1. p.28) His background was as a journalist and roving reporter so he was a painstaking researcher. “Leroux explored every inch of the Opera before writing his novel. He remembered particularly the sinister lake in the depths of the building where he stumbled over the bones of a prisoner who had died during the Commune.” (Source 1. p.10, caption under the photo of the lake). There was also a real life accident in 1896 in which one of the counterweights from the Opera’s grand chandelier fell on the audience which Leroux had remembered, (Source 1. p.28) and famously put in this story. Because of his background as a journalist, he presents the story as if it was true, incorporating the horrific accident with the chandelier from 1896, and he himself is the narrator presenting his research and documentation. For example, in the Prologue, he as himself explains that this body that he stumbled upon was in fact that of the Opera ghost, not some prisoner of the Commune. This idea of mixing real events and people with fictional and blurring the lines of truth and imagination was a new and innovative style of writing then. However, the basic theme of the story itself is a very old one. This critique of the story seems relevant to our discussion:

The story, however, was typical of many other Leroux novels, in which a heroine was placed in extreme danger by a mysterious figure on the outside of society. To be fair, such a plot is one of the most basic there is. (Source 1. p.30)

Yes, it is in fact a tale as old as time.

The Beauty is a young, pretty singer named Chrisine Daaé. She has blue eyes and golden hair. (Chapt. 5, p.9) We’ll see more about her background in a bit.

The Beast, a.k.a. the Opera ghost or Phantom, and known to Christine as Erik, is described in detail as being very thin with a skeleton frame, deep set eyes with fixed pupils that look like two big black holes as in a skull, yellow skin stretched tightly over his bones, a missing nose and three or four long dark hairs. (Phantom of the Opera, Kobo e-book, Chapt. 1, p.5) So basically, he looks like a walking skeleton.

The handsome lover, a.k.a. Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny, is a handsome yet shy stripling just over 21 years old but looked 18, with “a small, fair mustache, beautiful blue eyes and a complexion like a girl’s.” (Chapt. 2, p.6)

Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but personally I don’t find this description of Raoul all that appealing, though maybe this was the standard for handsome in the 1880s. Also, I need to confess here that I did not recognize at first how Raoul fit into the B&B theme or Cupid and Psyche motif and I really struggled with how a character like Raoul fit. It was not until some of the wonderful discussions we’ve had on this topic on this thread, that a light bulb went off and I facepalmed myself and thought, “Duh! It’s so obvious.” In a story that is supposed to be based in a “real” world without magic, the beast and the beautiful lover are not one and the same, but have been split into two separate personas. The Beast character’s outward appearance is not going to magically transform into a beautiful specimen at the end of the story the way it happens in B&B, though inner transformation is a different issue. Here, the two combined traits of the Beast in the original story have been split into two different characters. Maybe this was always obvious to many of you who know this story, but I am ashamed to admit it took me a little while to see it.

Since this essay is going to be really long, I thought I’d split it up in to three sections, discussing the three major events of the story. The events at Christine’s father’s grave at Perros, the night when the Phantom first takes Christine to his lair, and the final showdown between Christine, the Phantom and Raoul.


The main story between these characters begins on the night when Christine has just had the most triumphant performance of her life, singing with a seraphic, almost superhuman quality that no one had ever seen or heard before. It was so transforming that Christine sobs and faints at the end of it. (Chapt. 2, p.3) Christine had sung before, but had always been rather ordinary and in the background so this performance was a real departure for her, especially since she was not known to be taking singing lessons with anyone. Raoul had come to the Opera on a few occasions before and had seen Christine in the background. He remembered her from his childhood and that night he had been watching the performance as well and is stunned at the change. He wants to go and see Christine because he is worried about her fainting and says “’she never sang like that before.’” (Chapt. 2, p.8) He gets to Christine’s dressing room just as she is coming to, but it seems she does not recognize him even when he explains that he is the little boy from their childhood who ran into the sea to rescue her scarf. (Chapt. 2, p.12) She asks to be left alone but Raoul waits behind as everyone leaves because he wants to talk to her in private. Once he thinks Christine is alone in her dressing room he goes to her door but stops before knocking as he hears two voices inside. One is Christine’s and the other is of an unknown man. The man says to Christine, “’you must love me!’” Christine replies, “’How can you talk like that? WHEN I SING ONLY FOR YOU!’” (Chapt. 2, p.15) She then tells the man how that night she gave him her soul and she is dead. Raoul is devastated for he realizes that he loves Christine and he wants to know who this man is that he has come to hate. He waits until Christine leaves her dressing room expecting to see the man with her but she is alone. She walks off without seeing Raoul who then goes into her dressing room to look for the man but there is no one there. It is completely empty. (Chapt. 2, pp.17-18)

At the same time as this excitement with Christine is going on, there have been further strange events happening backstage. Rumors had been spreading for a few months of a ghost who wore gentleman’s dress clothes, “who stalked about the building, from top to bottom, like a shadow, who spoke to nobody, to whom nobody dared speak and who vanished as soon as he was seen, no one knowing how or where.” (Chapt. 1, p.3) A man named Josef Buquet, the chief scene-shifter, had claimed to have seen the ghost and was the first to give a description of the ghost as a dress suit covering a skeleton with a death’s head. (Chapt. 1, pp. 4-5). Now Joseph Buquet has been found dead, hanging between two large pieces of scenery in the third cellar underneath the stage (Chapt. 1, pp.17-18). The talk amongst the dancers and workers at the Opera is that this was due to the “Opera Ghost.” That night’s performance marked the changeover in management of the Opera to two new managers, Monsieur Moncharmin and Monsieur Richard, but they do not believe in the Opera Ghost at all and think someone, possibly the former Opera managers, are playing an elaborate prank on them.

After that Christine does not sing in public again and even seems afraid to do so. Raoul writes to her many times asking to see her, but never gets a response until one morning he finally gets a note from Christine. It says that she has not forgotten the little boy who ran into the sea to rescue her scarf for her when they were children. She is writing to tell him that tomorrow she is going to fulfill her “sacred duty” to her father, whom Raoul knew and who was fond of Raoul, as it is the anniversary of his death. She is going to Perros where he is buried with his violin, in the graveyard of a little church near where they used to play as children. (Chapt. 5, p.2) Raoul decides to head to Perros to meet up with Christine there and see the grave of her father. As he travels he thinks back fondly on the story of the little Swedish singer. Here’s where we get Christine’s background.

Her father was a peasant from a small town near Upsala in Sweden. He taught Christine the musical alphabet before she could read. (Chapt. 5, p.4) He was himself a very talented musician and fiddler, and became known throughout Scandinavia for his playing. His wife died when Christine was 6, and the two of them traveled the countryside wandering from fair to fair, he playing his fiddle while his daughter listened to him or sang to his playing. She “never left his side.” (Chapt. 5, p.4) One day a man named Professor Valerius heard them and took them in along with his wife “Mamma” Valerius.

He maintained that the father was the first violinist in the world and that the daughter had the making of a great artist. Her education and instruction were provided for. She made rapid progress and charmed everybody with her prettiness, her grace of manner and her genuine eagerness to please. Chapt. 5, pp.4-5)

Valerius and his wife moved to France, and they took Daaé and Christine with them. Mamma Valerius came to treat Christine as her daughter. (Chapt. 5, p.5) [I’m not going to spend much time discussing Mamma Valerius’s role other than to mention that to me she becomes like the mysterious witch in Beauty and the Beast who gives Belle advice about trusting her heart. Mamma Valerius is the only person to whom Christine confides about hearing an Angel of Music and Mamma tells Christine to pursue that “relationship.”] One summer they all went to stay at Perros where, during a week of festivals and dancing in that area, Daaé went off to play his fiddle in the villages and he took Christine with him.

They gave the smallest hamlets music to last them for a year and slept at night in a barn, refusing a bed at the inn, lying close together on the straw, as when they were so poor in Sweden. At the same time, they were very neatly dressed, made no collection, refused the halfpence offered them; and the people around could not understand the conduct of this rustic fiddler, who tramped the roads with that pretty child who sang like an angel from Heaven. (Chapt. 5, p.6)

It was there that Raoul had first heard Christine sing when he was a boy. One day after he heard her sing, he went looking for her and came upon her at the beach on a windy day that blew Christine’s scarf out to sea. He said he would get if for her and ran into the sea fully dressed to rescue it. They became friends and during that season would play together almost every day. Raoul’s aunt convinced Daaé to give him violin lessons and he learned to love the same songs Christine had loved. (Chapt. 5, p.8)

They also greatly enjoyed hearing stories, especially tales of old Breton legends. But their favorite was when Daddy Daaé would sit down with them at twilight and tell them legends of the land of the North. (Chapt. 5, p.8) There was one legend about a girl named Little Lotte who loved most of all to hear the Angel of Music when she went to sleep.

The Angel of Music played a part in all Daddy Daaé’s tales; and he maintained that every great musician, every great artist received a visit from the Angel at least once in his life. . . .

No one ever sees the Angel; but he is heard by those who are meant to hear him. He often comes when they least expect him, when they are sad and disheartened. Then their ears suddenly perceive celestial harmonies, a divine voice, which they remember all their lives. Persons who are visited by the Angel quiver with a thrill unknown to the rest of mankind. And they cannot touch an instrument, or open their mouths to sing, without producing sounds that put all other human sounds to shame. (Chapt. 5, p.10)

Daddy Daaé tells Christine that one day she will hear the Angel of Music. He will send him to her when he is in heaven. (Chapt. 5, p.11) Christine and Raoul meet up again at Perros three years later and they have feelings for each other but eventually they part. Raoul says he will never forget her but he is sad because he knows Christine could never be his wife as he is the Vicomte de Chagny. Christine kept up with her singing and made wonderful progress until her father died, “and, suddenly, she seemed to have lost, with him, her voice, her soul and her genius.” She continues to live with Mamma Valerius and enters the Conservatory only to please her. (Chapt. 5, p.12)

First, the legend of the Opera Ghost sounds awfully similar to our dear Hound, who seems to have quite a bit of legendary status himself. He stalks about like a shadow, seemingly appearing out of thin air and vanishing the same way. This is similar to the Hound who on the Serpentine Steps and rooftop scene of Maegor’s seemed like a shadow moving to stop Sansa and keep her from falling. Also, neither one of them is a great conversationalist and hardly anyone talks to the Hound. His status as a fighter is also well known.

As for the Beauty, we have a pretty young girl who is charming, full of grace, eager to please, loves to sing and greatly enjoys stories. Sound like another character we know of? Oh, and she’s a Northern girl from Sweden! She was also very close to her father, even sharing the same bed with him as a child and never leaving his side for long. Her father instills in her this idea of being visited by an Angel of Music, a rather romantic notion if you think about it. He maintains a strong presence in her life even after his death. Christine loses her voice and her soul when she loses her father. I think the same could be said of Sansa once Ned dies.

The Father Figure

I think it’s important to recognize the influence of the Beauty’s father in all these stories, and fairy tales like Cinderella and Snow White, in which the father’s absence seems to be more strongly felt than the mother’s absence. That’s why I focused on this part of the story in Phantom, which details just how close Christine and her father were with each other and how his death affects her very deeply. I would say with Belle also there is a significant hold that her father has on her. (However, the role of the father specifically seems minimal in Psyche’s story unless I’ve missed something). This is carried even further with Christine and Sansa who loved their fathers and who are still very much under their fathers’ influences even after their deaths.

Also, there is a “fish out of water” quality to the father’s story which reminds me of Ned. Once they move to Paris, Daddy Daaé becomes sad and begins “to pine away with homesickness”, and grow weak. He regained some strength that summer they went to Perros, “in a far-away corner of Brittany, where the sea was the same color as in his own country. Often he would play his saddest tunes on the beach . . . .” (Chapt. 5, p.5) Ned also seemed uncomfortable and homesick for the North and Winterfell once he went south, and I think we can pretty much all agree that he did not fit in well at King’s Landing. Daaé’s pining away for the sea reminds me of Ned thinking of the Godswood at Winterfell.


When Raoul gets to Perros, he finds Christine at the Inn of the Setting Sun. He tells her he loves her, but that seems to distress Christine somewhat. He also asks her why she acted as if she did not recognize him that night in the dressing room, and confronts her about the voice he heard in her dressing room and Christine goes pale. He tells her how he heard the whole conversation in her dressing room and Christine runs off in some distress and confusion. (Chapt. 5, pp. 17-19) Feeling bad about their argument, Raoul takes a walk to the little church where Christine’s father is buried. [I am including the imagery in quotes because it exemplifies all the flower imagery and rose symbolism that we have discussed in this thread, By the way, this takes place in the winter with snow on the ground]:

Raoul walked away, . . . to the graveyard in which the church stood and was indeed alone among the tombs, reading inscriptions; but, when he turned behind the apse, he was suddenly struck by the dazzling note of the flowers that straggled over the white ground. They were marvelous red roses that had blossomed in the morning, in the snow, giving a glimpse of life among the dead, for death was all around him. It also, like the flowers, issued from the ground, which had flung back a number of its corpses. Skeletons and skulls by the hundred were heaped against the walls of the church . . . (Chapt. 5, p.20)

Christine meets him near the church after this, and she reminds Raoul about the legend of the Angel of Music. She confesses that her father is now in heaven and she has been visited by the Angel of Music just as her father said would happen. (Chapt. 5, p.22) She explains that she has heard the Angel of Music in her dressing room and that Raoul heard him too. That was the voice he heard that night when he went to talk to her after her triumphant performance. The reason she flipped out on him earlier at the Inn was because she thought she was the only one who could hear him. She was truly shocked that Raoul could hear his voice too. (Chapt. 5, p.24)

That night Raoul hears Christine stir in her room at the Inn, and sees that she is leaving the Inn and walking towards the churchyard. He follows her, and though he is making noise with his footsteps Christine does not seem to hear him. She is all in white and seems to be in a trance but the moon is full and it is a clear winter’s night so there is plenty of light. Raoul sees her enter the graveyard and go towards her father’s grave. He does not see anyone else there. She is praying there when at the last stroke of midnight she looks up towards the sky and stretches out her arms as if in ecstasy. When he gets nearer he hears the most beautiful perfect music playing. It is a violin playing the Resurrection of Lazarus, but he has never heard it played so beautifully, as if with a divine art, not even when he was a boy and heard Christine’s father play it. (Chapt. 5, pp.28-30) Though he can see no one playing the music, he seems to hear a noise that sounds like a chuckling coming from the skulls in the heap of bones next to the church. Christine is absorbed and never seems to see Raoul and she leaves but Raoul stays to investigate if the musician was hiding in the pile of bones somehow. One skull rolls up by his feet, then another, then he sees a shadow glide along the wall of the church and enter it. He runs to the shadow, catching hold of its cloak and when the shadow turns around, he sees a death’s head looking at him from a pair of scorching eyes. Raoul describes it as coming face to face with Satan, and then he passes out and remembers nothing more. (Chapt. 5, pp.30-32)


I included this scene because it shows how enraptured Christine becomes by her Angel of Music and believes him to be heaven sent by her father. She goes into a trance-like state when she hears him. It exemplifies how drawn she is to this creature, who at this point she has not seen yet. She has only heard his voice. So, at this point she really believes she is being visited by a heavenly being that was meant just for her and to whom she gave her soul when she so triumphantly that night.
Sunset and Midnight/Angel vs Devil:

There is a lot of sunset imagery surrounding Raoul and Christine. When they were children, they would sit on the hill at twilight and listen to Christine’s father tell them stories, and the Inn that Raoul and Christine stay at in Perros is called the Setting Sun. On the other hand, the imagery associated with the Phantom and Christine is midnight and death. He looks like death walking, though she has not seen him yet. When she goes to hear him play the violin in a thrall, it is in a churchyard by her father’s grave at midnight. Also, her father is dead, but Christine has come to associate the voice with her father, as she believes he is the Angel who her father promised to send her. Remember that Raoul heard her tell the voice how she sang only for him, that she gave him her soul and now she is dead. Of course, when Raoul comes face to face with him, he thinks he has confronted Satan. Then, of course there is that description of the red roses bursting through the snow in the graveyard by the church, giving the appearance of life amongst death. This whole scene takes place in winter which symbolically represents death, but even in death there is life. This is reaffirmed by the image of the Phantom as a living corpse.


The next significant event happens at the opera the night of the accident with the chandelier. The Opera Ghost had sent a note to the two managers of the opera demanding that Christine be the one to sing the lead role that evening rather than the opera’s resident diva, Carlotta. The managers don’t follow the Opera Ghost’s instructions, Carlotta goes on stage and suddenly begins croaking in place of singing, causing an uproar, and then the chandelier crashes down on the audience killing a woman. (Chapt. 7) Christine disappears after the performance and is missing for two weeks. (Chapt. 8) When she eventually reappears at her home with Mamma Valerius, she is wearing a gold ring around her finger and proclaims that she will never marry, but she does promise to send for Raoul again. (Chapt. 10) But the real interesting stuff comes when Christine eventually tells Raoul about what happened and where she went the night she disappeared. They start meeting again daily at the opera and growing close again, even acting as if they are secretly engaged. They know it can only last for a month, because at the end of the month Raoul is supposed to go off on a sailing expedition and Christine is supposed to go back to HIM. They always stay at the opera though and roam only through the upper floors, never below the stage because “EVERYTHING THAT IS UNDERGROUND BELONGS TO HIM!” (Chapt. 11, p. 12) One day, Christine takes Raoul all the way up to the roof of the opera house. They sit down on the roof under the statue of Apollo holding his lyre to the “crimson sky.” (Chapt. 12, p.1) The sun in setting on a beautiful spring evening. [Here’s that sunset imagery between Christine and Raoul again.]

Christine there confides in Raoul that she is afraid to go back to live with the demon underground but if she does not go back terrible things will happen.

I know one ought to be sorry for people who live underground … But he is too horrible! And yet the time is at hand; I have only a day left; and, if I do not go, he will come and fetch me with his voice. And he will drag me with him, underground, and go on his knees before me, with his death’s head. And he will tell me that he loves me! And he will cry! Oh, those tears Raoul, those tears in the two black eye-sockets of the death’s head! I cannot see those tears flow again! (Chapt. 12, pp.2-3)

But even so, she does not want to run off with Raoul right there and then as Raoul proposes, because it would be too cruel to Erik. She wants to let him hear her sing one more time tomorrow evening and then Raoul can come to get her in her dressing room at midnight and take her away. (Chapt. 12, p.3) Christine then tells Raoul that she has never seen him by daylight. The first time she saw him, she thought he would die because of the very fact that she had seen him! (Chapt. 12, p.4) Then she tells the story of what happened to her that night when she first saw him.

The terrible night when Carlotta croaked like a toad onstage and then the chandelier came crashing down on the audience, Christine ran offstage in fear back to her dressing room. She is worried that the voice might have been injured in the crash as she knew it would come to see her performance, so she figures if the voice was safe it would come to her dressing room. She calls for the voice but does not hear a response, then she suddenly hears beautiful music, “a long, beautiful wail which I knew well.” (Chapt. 12, p.12) It is the music from the resurrection of Lazarus which she had heard at her father’s grave at Perros. The music has a profound effect on her, as if commanding her personally to stand up and come to it. She does so and somehow, extraordinarily, her dressing room seems to lengthen out with the mirror in front of her and she somehow ends up outside her room without knowing how. (Chapt. 12, pp. 12-13) She then finds herself in a dark passage with a faint red glimmer in the distance and she cries out.

My voice was the only sound, for the singing and the violin had stopped. And, suddenly, a hand was laid on mine … or rather a stone-cold, bony thing that seized my wrist and did not let go. I cried out again. An arm took me round the waist and supported me. I struggled for a little while and then gave up the attempt. I was dragged toward the little red light and then I saw that I was in the hands of a man wrapped in a large cloak and wearing a mask that hid his whole face. I made one last effort; . . . my mouth opened to scream, but a hand closed it, a hand which I felt on my lips, my skin … a hand that smelt of death. Then I fainted away. (Chapt. 12, p.14)

When Christine comes to, she sees a white shape standing beside the man’s back shape in the darkness. The white shape turns out to be a beautiful white horse named Cesar, who had been stolen from the opera’s stables earlier that day by a black shadow. Christine recognized Cesar and remembered hearing how he had been stolen by the Opera ghost. She had never believed in the ghost. Now she is beginning to wonder if the voice and the Opera ghost are the same. (Chapt. 12, p.15)

Christine’s eyes begin to adjust as she is being carried by the horse, the black shape holding her up, and notices that they are moving through along circular gallery down into the lower cellars of the opera. She sees figures down there which she describes as demons, “quite black, standing in front of boilers, and they wield shovels and pitchforks and poke up fires and stir up flames . . . .” (Chapt. 12, p.16) Then, as the demon figures eventually disappear as they go further down their winding path, Christine describes how “Cesar walked on, unled and sure-footed. . . . We seemed to turn and turn and often went down a spiral stair into the very heart of the earth.” (Chapt. 12, p.16) This goes on until they finally reach the edge of a lake.


Abduction from the dressing room: OK, I know I am not the only one to read this as almost exactly like the scene in Sansa’s bedroom the night of the Battle of the Blackwater. We have Christine running in fear from a scary situation back to her room, a song which calls to her, then silence, then being grabbed by the wrist and the waist, a little red light in the darkness (like fire in the black sky), then a man with a mask wearing a cloak. Then she tries to scream again and the man’s hand covers her mouth to keep her from screaming, and the hand smells like death. The order is not exactly the same, and in Sansa’s case she sings the song, but otherwise it’s the same situation. Also, Christine is telling this to Raoul while they are on a rooftop at sunset when the sky is crimson, reminding me of the rooftop scene between Sansa and Sandor the evening before the battle, when fires are already burning on the horizon.

Psyche/Persephone descent into the underworld: Obviously, Christine’s spiral path downwards is very clear detailed imagery of a descent into hell. It reminds me of the circles of hell in Dante’s “Inferno”, and it also evokes for me Persephone’s journey to the underworld. We also have the demons who are stoking the fires of hell, and note that when Christine first begins telling her story to Raoul, she now refers to Erik as a Demon. Also, there is a lot of black and white imagery associated with the Phantom, just as there is a lot of sunset imagery associated with Raoul. Cesar, the beautiful white horse, is stolen by a shadow, for example. I just had to include the description of Cesar because it is an awesome horse with a cool name and clearly the Phantom has a great appreciation for him, just like our Hound has with his horse Stranger.

There’s also an image that evokes the ferryman crossing the river Styx when Christine describes their journey across the lake. Her “gruesome escort” jumped into the boat, took the oars and “rowed with a quick, powerful stroke;” (Chapt. 12, pp.17-18) When they reach the other side of the lake the man in the mask picks her up and carries her to his lair and tells her not to be afraid. She is in no danger so long as she does not touch the mask. (Chapt. 12, pp. 18-19) He takes her gently by the wrists, has her sit down in a chair in an ordinary looking drawing room, and goes down on his knees before her. She realizes that the voice was just a man under the mask and she starts to cry. He says that it is true he is not an Angel, nor a genius, nor a ghost, but Erik. (Chapt. 12, pp.19-20)

Though Christine is horrified by him, she also does not hate, him because she thinks of the man there at her feet. He loves her, and lays at her feet an “immense and tragic love”, and has carried her off for love. She at first stands up and demands that he set her free that instant, and he offered to do so, but then he rose too and he sang, and she remembered that he was the voice. “That night, we did not exchange another word. He sang me to sleep.” (Chapt. 12, pp.23-24) So, in this case, the Beast figure is the one who sings and calms the fears and anxiety of the Beauty who realizes that he will not harm her.


The next day Erik shows Christine around his apartment. When they get to his bedroom, she says it felt like she was entering the room of a dead person. It is hung with black curtains, and in the middle of the room is a red brocaded canopy underneath which is an open coffin. Erik says that is where he sleeps and explains, “’One has to get used to everything in life, even to eternity.’” (Chapt. 12, p.27) (Also, Christine notes later that there are no mirrors in his apartments (Chapt. 12, p.28)) There is also a large keyboard of an organ in the room and a desk with a music book on it. Christine goes over to look at it and sees Don Juan Triumphant. He says he composes sometimes, and that he has been working on that piece for twenty years. When he is finished with it, he will take it with him in that coffin and never wake up again. (Chapt. 12, p.27)


It seems that Erik is a vampire a la Bram Stoker’s Dracula. A walking corpse and no, he does not sparkle in the sunlight. 😉 Anyway, it is interesting that the masterpiece he is working on is called Don Juan Triumphant, because Don Juan is a tale about a man who is known as a womanizer or libertine. See this link: Does this suggest that once he has successfully seduced a woman he will have fulfilled his mission in life? Or in a less cynical interpretation, is he looking for the love of a good woman and once he has that love he will be fulfilled?


Erik sits down at his keyboard and begins to play and as he does so Christine is overcome with curiosity.

… Suddenly, I felt the need to see beneath the mask. I wanted to know the FACE of the voice, and, with a movement which I was utterly unable to control, swiftly my fingers tore away at the mask. Oh, horror, horror, horror!” (Chapt. 12, p.29) … “I fell back against the wall and he came up to me, grinding his teeth, and, as I fell upon my knees, he hissed mad, incoherent words and curses at me. Leaning over me, he cried, ‘Look! You want to see! See! Feast your eyes, glut your soul on my cursed ugliness! Look at Erik’s face! Now you know the face of the voice! You were not content to hear me, eh? You wanted to know what I looked like! . . . When a woman has seen me, as you have, she belongs to me. She loves me forever. I am a kind of Don Juan, you know! . . . Look at me! I AM DON JUAN TRIUMPHANT!’ And when I turned my head and begged for mercy, he drew it to him, brutally, twisting his dead fingers into my hair.” (Chapt. 12, p.31)

Eventually, Erik lets go of Christine, sobbing and dragging himself on the floor and finally crawling away like a snake to his room. (Chapt. 12, p.33) Over the course of the next two weeks, Christine convinces Erik that she will return if he releases her by having faith in herself and telling Erik to let her see him without fear. Eventually, he turns to her to let her see him, though she admits to Raoul that she was lying as she would close her eyes and not really look at him, but finally he has enough confidence to believe that she will return to him and he lets her go. (Chapt. 12, pp.34-35)


The main thing here is the cost of looking at the monster without his mask and seeing his true face. This is the big reveal and is the most important factor in Cupid and Psyche, Beauty and the Beast, and the Sandor and Sansa story. Seeing what they truly face represents the loss of childhood innocence and they can never go back to what they were after their eyes have been opened. The symbolism of Erik crawling on the floor like a snake is blatantly meant to represent how Eve truly sees the Snake after she takes a bite from the forbidden fruit. Once she gains that knowledge, her innocence is lost and she can never go back to what she was before. Furthermore, there is a parallelism here in that just as Christine gazes on Erik’s face for the first time and loses her innocence, she also realizes that the voice was not some Angel from heaven but a man. Her illusion about her Angel of Music is shattered from that point where she sees Erik’s true face.

Also, though at first the Phantom does not want Christine to look at him, when she pulls off her mask and then is horrified she tries to turn away, but Erik then grabs her face and forces her to look at him. This is exactly what Sandor does with Sansa a couple of times. They are forcing them to see reality and it’s not pretty.


The whole time Christine had been telling Raoul this story on the roof, it turns out that they were not alone as Christine had believed. As Christine admits that she loves Raoul and they kiss, the skies open up to a storm. As they flee, there appears “high up above them, an immense night-bird that stared at them with its blazing eyes and seemed to cling to the string of Apollo’s lyre.” (Chapt. 12, p.37) It now knows their plans to run off after Christine’s performance the next night.

Now, before I get to the climax of the story and its ending, it’s important to note that Erik was not just a good person with a tortured soul because of his looks and the fact that he had never been loved. He was a “monster” in many ways on the inside as he looked on the outside. Before he came to Paris, he lived in India where he became greatly skilled in using a “Punjab lasso” or noose, by which he could strangle people with great ease. (Chapt. 21, p.21) He became a pet of the “little sultana” at Mazenderan (in Persia) and would entertain her and her friends by strangling some great warrior, usually some man condemned to death, who would be given weapons to use against Erik who only had his lasso. Erik would always win by throwing the lasso around the opponent’s neck. (id.) He had also had some involvement with the palace at Mazenderan. He “turned it into a house of the very devil…” (Id., p.23) He created trap doors which he could use to cause all kinds of tragedies and even built a horrible torture chamber where any wretch thrown into it could choose to put an end to things himself by using the Punjab lasso which would be left for them at the foot of an iron tree. (Id. pp.23-24) This must have been what happened to poor Joseph Buquet who must have happened upon Erik accidentally near one of the trap doors between two big sets in the third cellar that was an entrance to Erik’s lair. (Id.) Erik refers to his time there as “the rosy hours of Mazanderan,” which I first took to mean that he looks on that time fondly, as he clearly does. He smiles when he thinks of his friendship with the little sultana although she sounds quite like a vicious fiend herself. But the “rosy” color could also refer to the fact that his time there was somewhat bloody as well.

The next night, Christine disappears from the stage in front of everyone during the climax of her performance. Just as she finishes singing, with arms outstretched and throat filled with music, “’Holy angel, in Heaven blessed, My spirit longs with thee to rest!’” The stage is plunged into darkness for only a second and when it lights up again she is gone! (Chapt. 13, pp.21-22) Raoul goes running off to find her and comes across the Persian who knows of a way to get to Erik’s chambers through a hidden door between to large pieces of scenery in the third cellar. Raoul and the Persian both end up in the torture chamber of Erik’s lair, with the iron tree and Punjab lasso at its base. (Chapt. 21, p.24) They hear Erik’s voice in a nearby room saying to Christine that she must make a choice, the requiem mass or the wedding mass. (Chapt. 22, p.2) Though they hear Erik and Christine in the next room, they can’t find a door to get to her.

Erik continues:

“I can’t go on living like this, like a mole in a burrow! Don Juan Triumphant is finished; and now I want to live like everybody else. I want to have a wife like everybody else and take her out on Sundays . . . You are crying! You are afraid of me! And yet I am not really wicked. Love me and you shall see! All I wanted was to be loved for myself! If you loved me I should be as gentle as a lamb; and you could do anything with me that you pleased.” (Chapt. 22, p.3)

Soon, Erik leaves Christine alone in the other room and Raoul calls out to her from the chamber. She tells him that Erik has gone mad with love and will kill himself and everybody with him if she did not agree to marry him. She has until 11 o’clock the next night to make her decision between the wedding mass and the requiem. (Chapt. 22, p.6) It seems that Erik has filled the lower cellars with barrels of gunpowder. (Chapt. 24) He plans to blow up the Opera house with everyone there the next evening for a performance depending on Christine’s choice. (Chapt. 25, p.2)

Erik returns and discovers that Raoul and the Persian are in the torture chamber. (Chapt. 23) He leaves them in there, assuming that eventually they will go crazy in there and try to hang themselves like anyone does who ends up in the torture chamber. At the appointed time Erik confronts Christine and asks her for her decision. Christine agrees to marry him so he does not blow up the Opera. Instead, water rushes in to the floor below to soak the barrels of gunpowder, but the water keeps rising into the torture chamber where Raoul and the Persian are still alive, and the water threatens to drown them. (Chapt. 25, pp. 12-15)

Erik saves them from drowning after Christine pleads with him. (Chapt. 26, p.5) It seems that as the water was taking over and they were about to drown, Christine went to Erik and swore that she consented to be Erik’s living wife. She would not kill herself, but live with him alive. It was a bargain for Raoul’s life. (Chapt. 26, p.11) Erik is moved by Christine’s agreement and he sets the Persian free, but it is still not enough to set Raoul free. He takes Raoul as hostage, locking him up “comfortably” in the most deserted level of the Opera, below the fifth cellar where prisoners of the Commune were once held. (Chapt. 26, p.12) Then, he returns to Christine who is waiting for him. She not only is waiting for him but she moves to him and even leans her head forward a little and lets him kiss her on the forehead! (Id., p.12) He is overcome with emotion by this little act, for even his mother would not let him kiss her nor any other woman. (Id., p.13) He is so overcome with happiness he cries and falls at her feet. He cries and Christine cries too, and he feels her tears falling on his forehead, mingling with his tears and flowing on his lips. He rips off his mask so as not to lose any of her tears, and she does not run away nor does she die! She remains alive with him, weeping with him. (Id.) Then Christine takes his hand and he says he has become like a poor dog, ready to die for her. (Id., p.14, my emphasis) To show her that he means it he tells her to keep the gold ring he had given her earlier as a wedding present. When she asks him what he means, he says again,

where she was concerned, I was only a poor dog, ready to die for her … but that she could marry the young man when she pleased, because she had cried with me and mingled her tears with mine … (Id.)

He has Christine swear to him to come back with the ring one day when he is dead to bury him in the greatest secrecy with the gold ring, which she was to wear until then. (Id., p.15) Christine then herself goes and kisses Erik on the forehead. She had stopped crying. He alone cried. (Id.) Christine does keep this promise in the end, burying Erik with his gold ring (Epilogue, p.15) and then goes off to live a quiet life with Raoul, they withdrew from the world, taking the train from “the northern railway station of the world.” (Epilogue, p.2)


Saved by the Kiss

As with Beauty and the Beast, we have a kiss which transforms the monster, in this case not physically, but emotionally. The kiss is what finally makes Erik break down and let Christine go forever to be with her true love. But what is striking to me in this story is that it’s not a kiss from the Beauty which first causes the monster to break down. Rather it is the fact that she allows him to kiss her, even making a move to let him do so more easily, that causes his emotional transformation. Even his own mother never let him kiss her. This is how Erik describes it to the Persian, who he calls daroga:

… I even believe … daroga that she put out her forehead … a little … oh, not much … just a little … like a living bride … And … and … I … kissed her! … I! … I! … I! … And she did not die! … Oh, how good it is, daroga, to kiss somebody on the forehead! … You can’t tell! … But I! I! … My mother, daroga, my poor, unhappy mother would never … let me kiss her … She used to run away … and throw me my mask! … Nor any other woman … ever, ever! … Ah, you can understand, my happiness was so great, I cried. And I fell at her feet, crying … and I kissed her feet … her little feet … crying. You’re crying, too, daroga … and she cried also … the angel cried! …” (Chapt. 26, pp. 12-13)

So, this singular, powerful act of compassion, Beauty allowing the Beast to kiss her is what transforms him, and this transformation is sealed by tears mingling together, falling on his forehead. These tears on the forehead symbolise a baptism and a baptism of course is a ceremony in which you renounce the ways of the devil. Also, we have the manly tears and the reference to him being like a loyal dog to her—need I say more? 😉 Finally, the Beauty and her handsome lover decide to go off in hiding together, to live happily ever after, to the North!


I would be remiss in any Phantom discussion if I did not also bring up the musical version of this tale, which became a sensation. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s inspiration to write the musical (which opened in 1986), and to focus on the love story aspect of it came about after he read the original story in 1985. He had been looking to write a major romantic love story from the beginning of his career, but he had never found the right plot for it until he read Phantom. (Source 1. p.67) Hal Prince signed on as director for the same reason, “It was exactly the sort of show I wanted to do—I felt that there was a real need for a romantic show.” (1. p. 69) Prince also went to the Opera house in Paris and spent many hours examining the building from the lake to the rooftop. (Source 1. p.69) Finally, they had to find a good lyricist for Webber’s score. Webber’s friend and prior collaborator Tim Rice was busy with a new show he was working on, and they eventually found a young unknown lyricist named Charles Hart from a musical writers’ competition. “…he immediately accepted the deep romanticism of the story and the special potency of the situation in which a talented young woman is in thrall to three male figures – her high-born lover, her deceased father and Erik, the Phantom.” (Source 1. pp.69-70, my emphasis) Lloyd Webber made some adaptations from the novel to heighten its dramatic effect for the theatre and to follow the romantic thread of the Leroux novel. (Source 1. p.70)

Here is an informative link I found that sums up the differences between the book version and musical quite nicely.

It also has a cool graphic of the original cover of the book.
Relevant lyrics by Charles Hart, and of course the score is by Andrew Lloyd Webber—I will focus on the songs from the show that go along with the scenes I described in detail above.


The Perros setting is where we first learn about the Angel of Music and this song from the show really captures the mystique of that legend. The Mirror/Angel of Music (Reprise)


Angel, I hear you.

Speak—I listen . . .

stay by my side,

guide me.

Angel, my soul was weak—

forgive me . . .

enter at last,



Flattering child, you shall know me,

see why in shadow I hide.

Look at your face in the mirror—

I am there inside!


Angel of Music,

Guide and guardian,

Grant to me your


Angel of Music,

Hide no longer.

Come to me, strange



I am your Angel of Music…

Come to me: Angel of Music…


Who is that voice?

Who’s in there?


I am your Angel of Music…





Come to me: Angel of Music…

This notion of an Angel of Music, sent by her father to help Christine, also suggests to me the idea of a Guardian Angel. This ties into Sansa and Sandor, especially as we’ve discussed that he is her Lady replacement, and becomes her protector. Also, it could be that in a way he was sent by Ned as we know that Ned wanted to break Sansa’s betrothal to Joffrey and find someone who is brave, gentle and strong. Sandor also seems to want to embody some of the more honorable Stark traits that Ned embodies as he interacts with Sansa more, which is one of the reasons why he wanted to join up with Robb after leaving King’s Landing.


Here are the lyrics to The Phantom of the Opera:


In sleep he sang to me

In dreams he came

That voice that calls to me and speaks my name

And do I dream again for now I find

The Phantom of the Opera is there

Inside my mind


Sing once again with me

Our strange duet

My power over you grows stronger yet

And though you turn from me to glance behind

The Phantom of the Opera is there

Inside your mind


Those who have seen your face

Draw back in fear

I am the mask you wear


It’s me they hear…


Your/My spirit and my/your voice in one combined

The Phantom of the Opera is there

Inside my/your mind


He’s there, the phantom of the opera!


He’s there, the phantom of the opera


Sing, my Angel of Music

Sing, my Angel

Sing for me

Sing, my Angel!

Sing for me!

The main thing that strikes me in these lyrics is of course the Phantom pleading with Christine to sing for him, and she, entranced, sings as she sings for no one else. Even the night of her triumph at the Opera, Christine had said to the voice that she sings only for him. The whole thing has a haunted feel to it.

Next, there are lyrics from the song the Phantom sings in Act I: Scene 6, when Christine wakes up in his lair where he’s taken her the night before and she pulls off his mask. The lyrics here that I have emphasized in bold directly refer to beauty and the beast and also evoke the whole lurking shadow and “look at me” themes that are so much a part of Sandor:

First when Christine wakes, she sings of how she remembers a mist on a lake and wonders:

Who was that shape in the shadows?

Whose is the face in the mask?

Then she rips off the Phantom’s mask and he screams:

Damn you … Curse you…

Stranger than you dreamt it—

can you even dare to look or bear to think of me:

this loathsome gargoyle, who burns in hell,

but secretly yearns for heaven,

secretly … secretly …

But Christine, … Fear can turn to love – you’ll learn to see,

to find the man behind the monster: this … repulsive carcass,

who seems a beast, but secretly dreams of beauty,

secretly … secretly …

And now for some real fun—visual aids! YouTube links to this scene.
Music of the Night into Stranger than you dreamt it

In Music of the Night, I am very intrigued by the lyrics, which suggest that light is garish, cold and unfeeling. Light represents knowledge, and in this case knowledge leads to a very not pretty reality.

Night time sharpens, heightens each sensation

Darkness stirs and wakes imagination

Silently the senses abandon the defences

Slowly, gently night unfurls its splendour

Grasp it, sense it – tremulous and tender

Turn your face away from the garish light of day

Turn your thoughts away from cold unfeeling light

And listen to the music of the night.

Close your eyes and surrender to your darkest dreams

Purge all thoughts of the life you knew before

Close your eyes let your spirit start to soar

And you’ll live as you’ve never lived before.

Softly, deftly music shall caress you

Hear it, feel it secretly poseess you

Open up your mind let your fantasies unwind

In this darkness which you know you cannot fight

The darkness of the music of the night.


Let your mind start a journey through a strange new world,

Leave all thoughts of the life you knew before.

Let your soul take you where you long to be

Only then can you belong to me.


Floating, folding, sweet intoxication.

Touch me, trust me, savour each sensation

let the dream begin let your darker side give in

to the power of the music that I write.

The power of the music of the night.

You alone can make my song take flight.

Help me make the music of the night.

I must say, given the sexual undertones of the idea of singing that we made note of in the Pawn to Player thread, the term Music of the Night takes on new meaning. 😉
The first three links are from the 2004 Joel Schumacher film, starring Gerard Butler as the Phantom and Emmy Rossum as Christine. Personally, I think he is the weakest singer of the ones I will also show, but I think the movie in this particular grouping, from the Phantom taking Christine to his lair through Music of the Night, really does a great job of capturing the sensuality of these scenes. Also, and this may seem like a silly comment, but Gerard Butler is actually too good looking for the Phantom. He’s supposed to be menacing and I don’t think he really comes off that way especially because he’s such a pretty boy, but that’s just me. (Also, the horse is the wrong color—he’s supposed to be white!)
The Phantom of the Opera

Music of the Night

I Remember/Stranger than you dreamt it
Now, here is a link to Michael Crawford, with Sarah Brightman, singing Music of the Night
This is just such a treat for me to watch. Sarah’s eyes are huge at the start! As a lover of musical theatre and someone who has performed as a hobby, I much prefer live, stage performances to movies of musicals because a great performance has such power to draw you in. And Michael’s performance here is a great one!
Here’s another great live performance I really love from the 25th anniversary staging at the Royal Albert Hall in London, with Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom and Sierra Boggess as Christine. Ramin is also stellar as the Phantom here and has a beautiful voice.

The Final Showdown

Again, I am going to link to the 25th anniversary staging at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

The big difference here from the book is that it is Christine who kisses the Phantom straight off rather than her letting him kiss her as in the book, that makes the Phantom change his mind and let Christine and Raoul go. The music swells just at the moment Christine kisses him and it fits beautifully together and the Phantom’s one eye that is visible also gets huge when Christine kisses him. Then she hugs him too which I really like.

This is a really long sequence so I am not going to post all the lyrics but if you want to check out the lyrics to the show, here’s a good site (thanks to Bgona for the link).

And now, watch THE FINAL LAIR/THE POINT OF NO RETURN, with Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom, Sierra Boggess as Christine and Hadley Fraser as Raoul. Enjoy!



The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Elba the Intoner

(Originally titled, Notre-Dame de Paris, published in 1831)

by Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

(NOTE: The version of the book I am referencing in this essay is by The Modern Library, New York, 2004 Modern Library Mass Market Edition, a division of Random House, Inc.)

This Wikipedia page offers a good synopsis of the story and characters and the links to the characters are also very good. See here: http://en.wikipedia….k_of_Notre-Dame

Beauty and the Beast influences
It’s time to look at some other Beasts in literature that have a role in Sansa’s story as well. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame offers examples of three other Beasts to consider, Tyrion, Petyr Baelish and Joffrey. Let’s take a look.

Hunchback is a tragic story of fate. In the Author’s Preface, we learn that Hugo got the idea for writing this book after roaming around Notre-Dame Cathedral and finding this word, “FATE” in Greek capital letters engraved in a corner of a wall of one of the towers of the Cathedral. He was “struck by the ominous and fatal feeling emanating from this writing,” and wondered at the “tortured soul” who left that mark.

There is no happy ending for our beauty, Esmeralda, as she is surrounded by three versions of the Beast. Quasimodo, the Hunchback, who is beastly in form but who has a good soul, Claude Frollo who is depraved of soul, and Captain Phoebus, who is very handsome but does not truly care for Esmeralda as Quasimodo does. In the end, it is her rejection of the Beast Quasimodo, whose feelings for her are true, in favor of the handsome but vain Captain Phoebus, who just wants to use her, that is Esmeralda’s final undoing, more so than Claude Frollo’s actions to destroy her when she (rightfully) rejects him.

The most obvious choice for Beast in terms of appearance is Quasimodo, who is a dwarf like Tyrion. We first see him when he is crowned the Pope of Fools on the day of the Epiphany and the Festival of Fools, January 6, 1482.

He has a “tetrahedron nose”, “horseshoe mouth”, a “little left eye, obscured by a bristly red eyebrow, while the right was completely overwhelmed and buried by an enormous wart”, “irregular teeth”, a “horny lip, over which one of those teeth protruded, like the tusk of an elephant;” and a “hook like chin”. His head is “prodigious”, his legs are shortened and “strangely put together”, but most notably it is the enormous hump between his shoulders that defines him. “He looked like a giant who had been broken in pieces and badly soldered together again.” [Note the giant reference which has also very much been associated with Tyrion.]

Quasimodo was left as a foundling at Notre-Dame when he was four years old and taken in by Claude Frollo, “a man of an austere countenance, with a wide brow and piercing gaze.” Though still a young priest at the time he adopted Quasimodo, he already had an ominous reputation as a sorcerer. Claude Frollo is the Beast in terms of his soul by the time he meets Esmeralda, but he did not start out that way. He was very smart and excelled at all his studies, was destined for the Church and devoted himself to it, and by sixteen was rising fast in the Church hierarchy. He also mastered medicine, liberal arts, and learned the Latin, Greek and Hebrew languages. When his parents died from a plague in 1466 he took in his infant brother Jehan to whom he became devoted when previously he had only been devoted to his studies. It was because of his love for his brother Jehan that he decided to take in the deformed, monstrous, foundling.

He approached the unfortunate little creature, so hated and so threatened. Its distress, its deformity, its destitution, the thought of his young brother, the idea that suddenly flashed across his mind, that if he were to die his poor little Jehan too might be mercilessly thrown on the same spot, assailed his heart all at once; it melted with pity, and he carried the boy away.

So Frollo did have some humanity and compassion in him at one point and because of what he did for the foundling, whom Frollo names Quasimodo after the day he found him and which also means in Latin “half formed”, Quasimodo becomes deeply devoted to him. Until Esmeralda comes into the picture, Quasimodo has only two things in the world that he is devoted to, Frollo and his beloved bells of Notre-Dame where has grown up. His years as bell ringer have made him deaf to human voices though he can still hear the bells ring.

Nevertheless, by the time this story starts in 1482, Frollo had grown more austere and grave. Moreover, he has aged prematurely being almost completely bald with some tufts of hair that were completely gray. “He was a somber and awe-inspiring character, before whom . . . all trembled as he stalked slowly along beneath the lofty arches of the choir, majestic, pensive, with arms folded and head so bowed on his bosom that one could see only his great bald forehead.” He became increasingly disillusioned and upset by his brother Jehan who grew up to be an alcoholic, womanizing waste of life who only comes to Claude for money, and he spends more time studying the “forbidden” subjects, particularly, alchemy and was obsessed with finding the philosopher’s stone that was supposedly hidden by Nicolas Flamel. (Off topic: so that’s where J.K. Rowling got the idea of the sorcerer’s stone from, I assume?) Frollo would also hide for many hours in a small and secret room he made for himself in one of the towers of Notre-Dame, the room in which FATE was written, that no one dared enter without his permission.

So it’s no wonder that by this time the Archdeacon is “on the outs with all good Christians”, and when he and Quasimodo do venture out of Notre-Dame into the neighborhoods from time to time, they are a very unpopular pair among the people who view Quasimodo as a demon and Frollo is the conjurer. Often as they would go walking by you could hear a group of old women say, “’Here comes one whose soul looks like the others body!’” [I put this comment in here because it is a great example of the two aspects of the Beast that these two characters represent, one whose body is beastly but not his soul, and the other whose soul is beastly though not his body. Also, this brought to mind to me a strong corollary to the Tyrion-Tywin relationship, when Tywin says to Tyrion that the gods have given him Tyrion to teach him humility.]

Claude Frollo by this time has spent his life completely away from women and it seems that he hates them more than ever. In one notable case, he denied the King’s daughter admission to the cloisters of Notre-Dame and refused to appear before her causing a great scandal. Finally, his horror at the gypsy girls has grown so vehement over time that he got an edict from the Bishop prohibiting Gypsies from dancing in the area of the Parvis. [The similarities to Tywin Lannister are just so obvious that I really believe Frollo must have been some inspiration for Tywin. He and Tywin are described physically as very similar. I could not imagine Frollo smiling any more than I could Tywin. They are both extremely imposing figures. Plus, as I said above, the father-son dynamic between Frollo and Quasimodo is very similar to Tywin and Tyrion.]

So, by the time our Beauty Esmeralda comes along, Frollo’s obsession with her is all the more striking. When we first see Esmeralda she is dancing and presents a dazzling vision. Everyone watching her is fixated:

With her smooth bodice of gold, her colorful dress that swelled with the rapidity of her motions, with her bare shoulders, her finely turned legs that her skirt now and then revealed, her black hair, her flaming eyes, she was a supernatural creature.

She is accompanied by her pretty goat, Djali, whom she has taught to do tricks. If Esmeralda’s dancing is wonderful, then her singing is even more beautiful. “Her voice, like her dancing and her beauty, was indefinable, something pure, sonorous, aerial, winged, as it were.” When another character, Pierre Gringoire, first hears her sing it brings tears to his eyes, and then she is described as seeming to sing like a bird. [Bird reference alert! Plus, she has a beautiful singing voice.]

One other thing that our Beauty Esmeralda has in common with all the beauties is that she has no parents. She was raised by a gypsy woman, but she is not her real mother. Esmeralda wears a green pouch around her neck and is told to keep it close as that will lead her to finding her mother one day, and Esmeralda does long to find her mother.
The act of compassion that transforms the Beast

We learned in our Beauty and the Beast stories that there is often one singular act of compassion and kindness towards the Beast that transforms him, and later leads the so-called Beast to save the Beauty. In this story, this act of compassion comes when Quasimodo is being punished in the pillory. The night before he is taken to the pillory, Quasimodo and Frollo had attempted to kidnap Esmeralda. He doesn’t know Esmeralda and only helps Frollo because of his devotion to him. It is because of his love for Frollo that he helps him in his kidnap attempt. However, the attempt fails as Esmeralda is saved by Captain Phoebus. Frollo escapes, but Quasimodo is captured. The next day, Quasimodo is taken to the pillory to be punished. (There are a few pages before this in which we see a ridiculously sham “hearing” taking place before Quasimodo is convicted, which clearly shows that Quasimodo is really being punished for being hideous and unpopular, and also because he is deaf and cannot answer the questions properly, not for his part in the kidnapping attempt, but poor Quasimodo doesn’t really understand this because of his deafness. [Sham trial condemning the beast for his looks sound familiar?] At the pillory, he is whipped repeatedly and then left bound for an additional hour. Frollo appears in the crowd and Quasimodo is ecstatic thinking that Frollo will save him, but instead when Frollo realizes who is in the pillory he turns around and hurries off, not wanting to be recognized. Quasimodo is despondent at this. He also is in a lot of pain and is really thirsty and cries out for water. Many people in the crowd, including Jehan Frollo, start laughing at him and some throw things at him. Suddenly, the crowd parts and he sees a strange figure approaching him. He realizes it is the Bohemian girl he had tried to carry off, followed by a little white goat with gilded horns. He thinks she is coming to take revenge on him and add her blow to the rest.

Without uttering a word, she approached the victim, who vainly writhed away from her, and, taking a gourd from her belt, she gently lifted it to the parched lips of the exhausted wretch. A big tear flowed out of his dry and bloodshot eye, and it trickled slowly down his deformed face so long contracted by despair. It was perhaps the first tear that he had shed since he arrived at manhood.

Notice the pattern here of the kind act from the Beauty causing the Beast to cry. But in this case, Quasimodo was never a bad person or a beast in his heart. So how has he been transformed? His transformation takes place in the form of a transference of his loyalty. He had only been loyal to one person his whole life, Claude Frollo, but after this, he will become loyal to Esmeralda and place her above everyone else, including Frollo. [Also, this is where we see the major difference between Quasimodo and Tyrion as deformed, dwarf beasts to their respective beauties in that Tyrion does not switch his loyalty to Sansa. Throughout their time together, Tyrion is still very much acting to promote the Lannister cause. He does not love Sansa for herself as Quasimodo does with Esmeralda.]

However, what differs from the normal Beauty and the Beast story is that the Beauty has not come to accept this Beast. In the end of the B&B story with the happy ending, the Beauty’s act of compassion also signifies that she has come to accept the Beast in her heart as well. But here, that has not happened. She draws her hand away from him in fear when he goes to kiss it after she gives him the water:

When he had finished the hunchback puckered his dark lips, no doubt to kiss the kind hand that had brought such welcome relief; but the girl, perhaps remembering the violent assault of the previous night, quickly drew back her hand with the same start of terror that a child does when he is afraid of being bitten by a beast. The poor fellow then fixed on her a look full of reproach and unutterable woe.

This is what I believe leads to Esmeralda’s downfall in the end. For she has become blindly infatuated with Captain Phoebus, who had saved her from the kidnapping attempt the night before this. He is the captain of the archers of the King’s Order, tall and handsome, and he came riding up on his horse out of the darkness when he heard Esmeralda’s scream and scooped her up onto his horse. Esmeralda falls in love with him right then and there, though she runs off as Phoebus goes to secure Quasimodo. Phoebus eventually starts to pursue her too, but it becomes pretty clear early on that he is only looking for some distraction from his engagement to his pretty but “mean girl” cousin and is really only interested in getting into Esmeralda’s pants as it were. In fact, when they finally arrange to meet for a tryst one night, the jerk Phoebus can’t even pronounce her name right. He tells her it’s a really hard name and calls her Similar! What. An. Idiot.

In this respect, I think Phoebus qualifies as the kind of beast that Joffrey is for Sansa at first, he is the beast disguised as the handsome lover. Esmeralda asks him if he loves her and Phoebus says he does love her and that he has never loved anyone but her, but it turns out that he has said this phrase often and in similar circumstances, so he’s used to saying it. He even says that he knows of another girl who is jealous of his attentions towards Esmeralda. Esmeralda does not realize that he is not serious about her, and in fact, though it is obvious that he does not want to marry her, she is so blinded by her feelings for him that she says she doesn’t care. She pledges her love to him all the same that night and just as they are about to get down with it, Claude Frollo bursts in from behind the Captain and in a jealous rage stabs him in the back. Phoebus collapses and Esmeralda also faints in fright, but as she does so she thinks she feels a kiss, “like the executioner’s hot iron, impressed on her lips.” Frollo runs off and when Esmeralda awakens she is arrested as a witch who has stabbed the Captain.

Then as Phoebus recovers, he makes no effort to inquire about Esmeralda or show up at her trial to prove that he is alive because, “He had a vague impression that he should cut a ridiculous figure in it.” So, because he is embarrassed and feels like he was the butt of some strange joke, and also because he is quite superstitious and starts to believe that there was some sorcery involved, he decides to put it out of his mind and hopes that his name is not connected to the affair. He waits two months until he figures that it has blown over and goes back to his beautiful, jealous cousin Fleur-de-Lis and makes up a story that he was ill when she asks him why he hasn’t been by to see her. [Well, okay, it’s not totally a lie because he was ill due to being stabbed during an evening with Esmeralda, but he doesn’t want his cousin to know that].

The two other Beasts also pledge their love

Esmeralda is put on trial and at first denies having stabbed Phoebus. Of course, they eventually start to torture her and so she confesses. She thinks Phoebus is dead or dying anyway, so does not want to live without him. The night before she is to be hanged (along with her goat Djali who is also tried and convicted), Frollo visits her in the dungeon where she is being held. He confesses that he loves her. However, he also believes that she was sent by a demon from hell to come for his perdition, but he can’t escape it. Her voice, her dancing, have drawn him in and everything he has done was for her. He tells her how he was there when she was being tortured and that he carried a dagger with him and when he heard her shriek he stabbed himself with it. He throws open his cassock to show her and his breast is still bleeding. He begs her for her pity and her love:

Do you know what agony it is when, during the long nights, your arteries boil, your heart is breaking, your head splitting, and your teeth tear your own flesh! Thoughts of love, jealousy, and despair are pitiless tormentors, and they turn me pitilessly on a red hot spit! Girl, have mercy! Stop for a moment! A bit of ash on that fire! Wipe, I beg you, the sweat pouring off my brow in great drops! Child! Torture me with one hand, but caress me with the other! Have pity, girl! Have pity on me!

He tries to take her away and says he wants to save her from the gallows, but she asks him coldly what has happened to Phoebus and he let’s go of her. He tells her Phoebus must be dead and she attacks him “like an enraged tigress”, thrusting him up the steps and screaming for him to be gone and that she will never be his not even in hell itself. So dejected, Beast number one leaves her for the gallows.

[With regard to how Frollo lusts after the Beauty causing him to head down a path that ultimately corrupts his soul, Frollo is the kind of Beast that Petyr Baelish represents in Sansa’s story. All their actions are based on their lust for the Beauty, their need to possess the Beauty and they will do anything, no matter how base, to get to her. They are ruled by their lust and it leads them to complete moral corruption.]

Esmeralda is taken to the gallows. First, she must make penance and once again Frollo approaches her and asks her if she will have him, saying he can still save her and once again she asks him what happened to Phoebus. Frollo tells her Phoebus is dead, but as he does so he looks up and sees Phoebus standing on a balcony of a house overlooking the square. The sight of him makes Frollo shudder, as he can’t stand the idea of any other man having Esmeralda, so he says to her that she shall die then and no man shall have her. He walks off and out of the city leaving her to be hanged.

As Esmeralda’s hands are being tied, she looks up and also spies Phoebus on the balcony and cries out for joy. He is standing next to a beautiful girl, who turns and looks at him with anger when Esmeralda spies him, and the girl and Phoebus both retreat back into the house. So, Phoebus, who now knows that Esmeralda is alive and is being hanged for the crime of killing him does nothing.

Of course, we all know who does help Esmeralda. Quasimodo, who had been watching the proceedings in the square in front of Notre-Dame unobserved. As the two Executioner’s assistants take hold of Esmeralda to lead her to the gallows, Quasimodo runs up to them, knocks them down with his enormous fists and carries off Esmeralda. It is his most memorable moment of triumph and beauty.

With one bound he was in the church, holding the young girl up above his head and shouting with a terrific voice, “Sanctuary! Sanctuary!” This was all done with the speed of lightening.

“Sanctuary! Sanctuary!” repeated the mob, and the clapping of ten thousand hands caused Quasimodo’s only eye to shine with joy and exultation. . .

Quasimodo paused under the great entrance. His large feet seemed as firmly rooted in the pavement of the church as the massive Roman pillars. His great hairy head appeared to be set upon his shoulders like that of a lion, who too has a copious mane and no neck. He held the young girl, trembling all over, suspended from his calloused hands like a piece of white cloth. But he carried her so carefully that it was as if he was fearful of breaking or bruising her. He felt, it seemed, that a thing so delicate, so exquisite, so precious, was not made for such hands as his. At times he looked as though he did not dare touch her even with his breath. Then, all at once, he would clasp her tight in his arms, against his angular bosom, as his treasure, as his all, as the mother of that girl would herself have done. His Cyclops eye bent over her, shed over her a flood of tenderness, of pity, of grief, and was suddenly raised again, flashing lightening. At this sight the women laughed and cried; the crowd stamped with enthusiasm, for at that moment Quasimodo was really beautiful. Yes, he was beautiful—he, that orphan, that foundling, that outcast . . .

Need I mention the obvious references that bring Tyrion to mind? He looks like a lion, he is strong despite his size, Tyrion is an orphan in a way (“all dwarfs are bastards in their father’s eyes), and the obvious tension between Frollo and Quasimodo, when Frollo publicly rejects Quasimodo at the pillory when all Quasimodo wanted to do was serve Frollo’s cause.

Three Monsters and a Maiden

Quasimodo sets up Esmeralda comfortably in a cell and brings her his food and mattress for her to use. Djali somehow also makes it to her room and stays with her. At first, Esmeralda cannot look at Quasimodo because he is so hideous, but then one morning after she sees him hiding behind a wall so that he can see her but she won’t see him, she has him come and stand before her. They have a long moment where they look at each other, she finding a new deformity with every new place she looks and he, of course, thinking how beautiful she is. [This scene obviously represents the all-important gaze moment and is very reminiscent of when Sansa forces herself to look at Tyrion on their wedding night to try and find something beautiful about him, but can’t.]

He tells her he is deaf but he can read her lips and speak to her, because he used to be able to hear. He also gives her a whistle and tells her that if she ever needs him, she can use the whistle to call him as he will hear that. He brings her food and water, and she appreciates his kindness, but she still can’t quite get used to the poor hideous creature. One time, when Quasimodo comes to bring her some water he sees Esmeralda petting Djali and he says that he is too much like a human and he would rather be a beast like the goat. There was also a grotesque head sculpture in one of the walls that Quasimodo would sometimes look at as if it were a brother and one time he says to the head, “’Oh! Why am I not made of stone, like you?’”

One morning, Esmeralda looks out at the square and sees Phoebus riding towards the house in which Fleur-de-Lis lives. She cries out for him and Quasimodo sees that she is greatly agitated. He looks at where she is staring and sees Phoebus and how young and handsome he is, and how he cuts a dashing figure as captain. He laments that, “’That is how one should look, then! One only has to be handsome on the outside!’”

Quasimodo offers to get Phoebus and bring him back to talk to her just to make Esmeralda happy. He goes to the house where Phoebus went and waits for him all day and into the night. He peers into the house and it looks like they are making preparations for a wedding. There appears to be a party of some kind going on, but he cannot hear it. Later on, he sees Phoebus and Fleur-de-Lis come out on the balcony by themselves and they kiss. Quasimodo is sad because he knows he will never share a moment like that with a woman, but also because he knows Esmeralda would suffer if she saw this. Finally, well after midnight, the party breaks up and Phoebus emerges from the house. Quasimodo stops him and says to come with him because there is someone who wishes to speak with him, but Phoebus resists as he recognizes Quasimodo from the night he had taken him prisoner. Quasimodo then tells Phoebus that it is the Gypsy girl who wants to see him. But Phoebus had thought that Esmeralda was hanged that day when he saw her near the gallows, as he retreated into the house before Quasimodo had rescued her so he did not see that. He fears that Quasimodo is some demon come from the afterlife to take him and he refuses to come. Quasimodo lets him go and when he returns to Esmeralda without Phoebus, he tells her that he couldn’t find him because he doesn’t want to hurt her by telling her that Phoebus wouldn’t come. She gets upset with him and says that he should have waited all night, and then tells him to go away.

One morning after this, Esmeralda awakens to find a cage with birds hanging in her window, [bird reference alert!] and another morning she finds two bouquets of flowers in her window. One bouquet is in a crystal vase that is bright and beautiful but cracked, so the water has run out and the flowers have dried up. The other bouquet is in a common stoneware pot, but it has all its water and the flowers are fresh. Esmeralda takes the faded flowers and carries them all day close to her heart. She spends her days after this petting Djali and watching the door of the mansion where Phoebus goes, talking to herself about Phoebus and feeding swallows with bread crumbs.

Meanwhile, the other monster in this story, Frollo, has learned that Esmeralda is alive, saved by Quasimodo, and living in sanctuary at Notre-Dame. His torments begin anew, and this time he realizes that he is jealous of Quasimodo. He can’t understand it and is disturbed. Jealousy because of the handsome Captain he can understand, but not jealousy for deformed, ugly Quasimodo. He keeps thinking of Esmeralda when she was half-naked lying over the Captain’s body and her leg when she was tortured and has images that make his blood boil and a thrill run up his spine.

One night, he can’t contain himself anymore and goes to find Esmeralda. She had been sleeping in her cell, but she sleeps lightly, like a bird [I think this is the third bird reference for Esmeralda] and wakes up when she hears a noise to see Frollo staring at her through the window. A moment later, he grabs her with both his arms and she screams for him to get away from her, calling him murderer and monster. He begs her for mercy and starts kissing her shoulders and she struggles with him again saying get away, demon, but he is too strong for her. However, she manages to get her hands on the whistle Quasimodo had given her, and with all the force she has left she blows the whistle. Within seconds, a vigorous arm grabs Frollo and he sees the blade of a knife above his head. Frollo realizes it is Quasimodo who has grabbed him. Quasimodo is about to stab him, but hesitates because this is all happening in Esmeralda’s cell and he doesn’t want any blood on her hands. So he drags Frollo out on to the landing, and as he does so the moonlight shines in the priest’s face and Quasimodo sees that it is Frollo that he has grabbed. He is shocked and with a start jumps back. Esmeralda sees that now their roles are reversed as Frollo is angrily assailing Quasimodo with gestures and he motions for Quasimodo to retreat. Quasimodo, now the supplicant, cannot bring himself to harm Frollo. He sinks to his knees and begs Frollo to kill him first and then do what he pleases. Esmeralda grabs the knife at this point and threatens the Priest. Frollo hesitates going after her because he knows she would strike without hesitation, and she laughs at him hysterically saying, “You don’t dare approach me now, coward.” The Priest kicks Quasimodo and knocks him down, and then runs off. As Frollo heads back to his room, he now understands for sure that he is jealous of Quasimodo and he says to himself that nobody shall have Esmeralda.
[Note how Quasimodo does not want any blood on Esmeralda’s hands, which is very much the opposite of LF with Sansa, who is not only telling her she has blood on her hands because of what he has done, but is also teaching her how to do hurtful things while keeping her hands clean. LF likes to keep his hands clean, as does Tywin, who orders others to do his evil deeds, as opposed to the Stark way of handling even the bad and messy things yourself. Quasimodo is always thinking of Esmeralda’s best interest as a true, goodhearted person would.]

The Escape

Frollo learns that Parliament has issued a decree that in three days’ time Justice will remove the protection of sanctuary for Esmeralda and seize her. He wants to “save” Esmeralda from this and give her one more chance to accept him. [It’s not clear whether Frollo was behind getting this decree issued or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was. He’s persistent in his attempts to gain Esmeralda’s love, very much like how Petyr would not give up in his duel with Brandon despite how futile it was.] He seeks out the help of Pierre Gringoire to come up with a plan to get Esmeralda out of Notre-Dame. He goes to Pierre because he knows that a few months earlier Esmeralda had saved Pierre’s life and he owes her. In a strange twist of circumstances, Pierre had been taken captive by the group of gypsies with whom Esmeralda lived, and the King of the Gypsies, Clopin Trouillefou, was going to hang him unless one of the women would agree to marry him. Esmeralda agrees because she doesn’t want to him to be killed unfairly, but she never lets him touch her as husband and Pierre doesn’t push that issue. He’s just happy to be allowed to live. For a couple of months before Esmeralda is imprisoned, Pierre performs with her in her Gypsy shows and he becomes very attached to Esmeralda’s pet goat Djali during this time. [Pierre is very much like Dontos, not only in his role here to help the LF character get Esmeralda out of her captivity, but in that he owes the Beauty who had saved his life once, and also he’s a bit of a foolish character and he likes to write plays, though basically he is harmless.]

Pierre comes up with a plan in which he tells Clopin that Esmeralda is going to be hanged and they have to get her out of Notre-Dame. Clopin rouses the Gypsies who all want to save “their sister” and they all gather one night and arm themselves with whatever makeshift weapons they can find. At midnight, they all leave in silence and walk towards Notre-Dame. When they get there, Clopin raises his voice saying that their sister Esmeralda has been falsely condemned for use of magic and if she is not surrendered to them, they will take the girl and plunder the church. However, Quasimodo is deaf and does not hear what Clopin has said. He sees the rabble and believes they are coming to take Esmeralda away to hurt her. He has no idea about the decree to remove the protection of sanctuary. As the first group of Tramps rushes the door, Quasimodo defends the church. He drops down a heavy beam on the crowd at the door crushing some of them. After the initial shock Clopin orders them to “sack!”, and they begin to attack the building in droves. Quasimodo uses building materials from some repair work that was being done in one of the towers to throw down on the crowd, like he had done with the beam, and he succeeds in scattering the crowd and killing many of them.

Meanwhile, amidst the confusion and noise, people of the city are waking up and alarms are going off. Word reaches King Louis XI, who had been visiting in Paris for the last two days, that Notre-Dame is under attack. Since the church is under the King’s safeguard, this is considered a personal affront to himself. He orders his friend Tristan L’Hermite, [http://en.wikipedia….stan_l’Hermite] who is the Provost of the Marshalls (basically the chief of the military police) to gather his men and go kill the mob attacking the church. He also says to take Captain Phoebus and his archers to help. When Tristan asks the King what to do with the witch, he orders her to be hanged. Soon the King’s troops with Captain Phoebus in the lead descend on the mob attacking Notre-Dame, just as the first few tramps have made their way inside the gallery. Quasimodo throws them down, the first of whom is Jehan Frollo, and kills them, as the King’s men cut down the tramps in the mob, including Clopin Trouillefou. When Quasimodo sees their defeat, he is exultant, falling on his knees and raising his arms to heaven. Then, frantic with joy, he runs up to Esmeralda’s cell, to throw himself at the feet of the woman he believes he saved for a second time, but when he gets there, her cell is empty.

While Quasimodo was busy defending Notre-Dame against the mob and the battle was going on below, Pierre Gringoire and a hooded man had come to Esmeralda’s cell to take her out of there. She is relieved to see Gringoire, but feels unease at the black muffled figure standing silently at his side. She asks Gringoire who that is with him and he tells her not to worry, it is a friend. Gringoire is so happy to see Djali with her. He tells her that they must leave at once because they mean to hang her again. They descend to a back door which the man in black unlocks with a key that he brought with him, and they go out behind Notre-Dame, which was deserted though they can hear the noise of the fighting coming from the front. They walk to the water’s edge and get into a small skiff that has been set there. The mysterious man who had been holding a lantern sets it down and takes up the oars to row the skiff out into the middle of the Seine. Esmeralda is watching the “mysterious stranger” with increasing terror and it seems that he looks like a specter.

As they are rowing in the skiff, they hear the crowd of King’s men who have arrived to put down the mob screaming death to the Gypsy and the sorceress! Esmeralda is despondent and Pierre becomes increasingly distressed as he realizes that if they are caught, Djali would be condemned with Esmeralda, and he thinks that he can’t save both of them. So, knowing that his companion was most concerned with the girl, not the goat, when the skiff reaches a landing and they climb out, Gringoire runs off with Djali, leaving Esmeralda alone with the strange man who has not spoken a word this whole time. The man grabs her wrist and takes her towards the Place de Greve, where the gallows are placed. He finally stops, turns to her, and removes his cowl and Esmeralda can see that it is the Priest. With the moonlight shining on him, he looks like a Phantom. Frollo tells her, “’Listen to me! Here we are. I want to talk to you. This is the Greve. We go no farther. Fate delivers us up to the hands of each other. Your life is at my disposal; my soul at yours.’” He pulls her towards the gallows and pointing to it tells her she must choose between the two of them. She falls at the foot of the gallows, kisses it and says, “’This horrifies me less than you.’” He sobs and cries and begs her to give him one kind word, not even that she must love him, but just a kind word but she refuses, calling him a murderer and monster. He gives one last violent shriek, and tells her “’Die then!’” and drags her over to the rat hole where a recluse woman lives.

The recluse, or sack woman, hates all gypsies because she believes they stole her beautiful baby daughter fifteen years ago and killed her. Since then, she has come to the rat hole and shut herself off from society, but whenever Esmeralda would come by she would scream at her and curse her with vehemence. Esmeralda was as afraid of the recluse almost as much as she was afraid of Claude Frollo. Frollo had seen the recluse’s hatred towards Esmeralda, and on the day that Esmeralda was supposed to have been hanged the first time, before Quasimodo had saved her, the recluse had told him that she wanted to see the gypsy girl hanged. Frollo has the recluse grab Esmeralda. He tells the recluse not to let the gypsy girl escape and that he will go get the sergeants. The recluse will see the gypsy girl hanged at last. Then he leaves to find the Sergeants.

The recluse laughs at Esmeralda, telling her she is going to be hanged. Esmeralda tries to break free of her grip, but it is supernaturally strong. Esmeralda asks the recluse what she has done to her that she should hate her so much. The recluse tells her how she had a beautiful baby girl, her little Agnes, whom she loved more than life itself, but one day the gypsies came to her town and they stole her little girl and ate her. She hates Esmeralda the most because she would have been the same age as her little Agnes, who was a year old when taken, and for fifteen years she has suffered and prayed for her child to come back. The only thing she has left of her is a tiny little pink shoe, one of a pair that she herself had decorated with embroidery for her infant, which was left behind when she was taken. She shows Esmeralda the shoe and Esmeralda shudders. She takes out a pouch with green beads that she has always worn around her neck, and inside the pouch is the matching baby shoe! The recluse realizes that Esmeralda is her daughter and that she hasn’t been killed after all, and in a split second her hate turns to love. She takes Esmeralda’s hand and kisses it and begins to cry. “The poor mother poured on that adored hand the dark, deep wellspring of tears that was within her, and from which her sorrows had filtered drop by drop for fifteen years.”

She takes a paving stone from her cell and with superhuman strength breaks the iron bars of her window and pulls Esmeralda into her cell. The mother is ecstatic with happiness and says how much she loves her, hugs her and kisses her and tells how they will be so happy together. Of course, at that moment, they hear the clatter of arms and horses making their way from Notre-Dame and Esmeralda throws her arms around her mother, saying they mean to hang her, asking her to save her. The mother cannot believe that she would find her daughter after fifteen years and then have her taken again so soon from her. God could not be so cruel. After tearing out the gray hair from her head and pacing back and forth, she comes up with a plan to save Esmeralda, for she can no longer run away as Tristan and other men at arms are approaching the rat hole. She hides Esmeralda in one dark corner of her cell, which cannot be seen from outside. When the men ask the recluse where the witch is that she was told to hold, she says that the girl bit her hand and so she let her go. She tries to sound careless and unaffected as she says she saw the girl run down the street. She manages to convince them that she’s a bit crazy and doesn’t know what happened to the girl, saying that maybe she went off in the other direction. Finally, they decide that she is mad and start to take their leave. As Tristan mounts his horse, the recluse/sack woman/mother, starts to feel relief and says to Esmeralda that she is saved. Then Esmeralda hears the voice of Phoebus saying that he is going to take his leave of Tristan as he is not in the business of hanging witches, that is beneath him, and that he must return to his company, who are without a captain. Esmeralda springs up from the corner, and before the recluse can stop her dashes to the window crying for Phoebus. Phoebus has already ridden away and doesn’t hear her, but Tristan is still there and sees her. Esmeralda has been discovered and Tristan sends men in to get her.

The mother is determined that they will not get her daughter and tries to fend them off fiercely. She even scares some of the men, who are quite superstitious. But it’s no use. Tristan says it is on orders of the King and he tells the men to proceed to break the wall around the window to make it large enough for them to get in and get the girl. The mother then tries to entreat with Tristan and the other men to have them take pity on her with a very moving speech through sobs [more on this below]. Tristan the Hermit seems moved, but he doesn’t change his mind saying, “’The King wills it.’”

When they get in and reach her, Esmeralda faints, but her mother who has pressed herself to Esmeralda is now hanging onto her and won’t let go. They have to grab the both of them and drag them along to the gallows. The sun has come up now and it is morning. On the top of the tower of Notre-Dame that overlooks the Greve, two men can be seen who appear to be watching what is happening. The hangman gets them to the bottom of the gallows and starts to pry the mother apart from her daughter. As he does so, the mother springs up and seizes the hand of the hangman and bites him hard. Some men at arms run up to free his hand, and as they do so they throw down the recluse hard on the pavement. She hits her head and dies. The hangman continues to ascend the ladder to the gallows, carrying Esmeralda’s limp body over his shoulder.

The end

Quasimodo, who had been searching for Esmeralda since he discovered that she was missing, sees Claude Frollo standing on the balustrade of the tower in Notre-Dame that overlooks the Place de Greve. He tries to get Frollo’s attention, but Frollo is fixated, motionless, staring at what is taking place on the Greve. He looks over to where Frollo is staring and sees the figure of Esmeralda, all in white, with a rope around her neck being carried up the ladder to the gallows. Both watch as the hangman hangs her and Quasimodo can see the rope spin around several times and her body shake with convulsions. At that moment, Quasimodo sees Frollo laugh, “a demon laugh, a laugh such as only one who has ceased to be human is capable of . . .” Quasimodo recoils from him a few steps, then rushes at him and throws Frollo over the balustrade. Frollo cries, “’Damnation!’” as he goes over. However, Frollo’s fall is broken by a gutter that catches him, and as he struggles to gain hold of something to keep him from falling the rest of the way, he tries to cry out to Quasimodo to lend him a hand, but when he sees the look on Quasimodo’s face he says nothing. Quasimodo has finally broken with Frollo completely as he could have lent a hand to Frollo even at that point to save him, but he doesn’t. His sole focus is now on the body of Esmeralda in her white dress hanging from the gallows. Her body is the only thing that now exists for him, and as he stares at her, he is weeping from his one good eye. Frollo continues to struggle in silence while Quasimodo continues to weep in silence. Then, finally Frollo can hold on no longer, loses his grip and falls to his death. “Quasimodo watched him fall.”

This sad story ends with two marriages. The first is that of Captain Phoebus, who marries Fleur-de-Lis and it is strongly implied that it will not be a happy marriage for them. The second is that of Quasimodo. Though he is never seen or heard from again after that day, there is evidence of him at the mass grave at Montfaucon, where the bodies of those executed over the years are taken. About two years after the events in the story take place, two skeletons were found “in an unusual posture.” One skeleton was that of a woman that has some faded white cloth attached to it and also a green beaded bag, open and empty, attached to the neck. The second skeleton was a man’s and it embraced the first tightly. But the man’s skeleton has a crooked spine, a head jammed between the shoulder blades, and one leg shorter than the other. There was no evidence that this man was hanged, so he must have come there and died in that place. When attempts were made to disengage the man’s skeleton from the other that it was embracing, it fell to dust.


The scene in which Esmeralda and Pierre cross the river with a dark and mysterious oarsman and Gringoire being much like a Dontos figure reminds me so much of Sansa being taken to Petyr’s boat after the purple wedding, when she escapes King’s Landing, and also is similar to Christine being taken to the Phantom’s lair in Phantom of the Opera. These scenes also both evoke an image of Persephone being abducted by Hades, the god of the underworld and death. The Persephone image is obviously a recurring theme in these stories.

Then we have the death-like Phantom figure of Frollo give Esmeralda a choice, just as Eric did with Christine in Phantom. We have speculated on this thread that Sansa is on the verge of a moral precipice and that she will have to make a choice, most likely regarding Sweetrobin, as to whether she will accept Petyr’s methods or turn away from him. Based on the pattern we have seen in these other stories, this speculation seems to be more like a real probability rather than mere possibility.

It is Esmeralda’s refusal to give up on Phoebus that is the ultimate cause of her demise. Frollo’s second attempt to have her hanged would have failed as well, because he left her in the hands of the recluse, who turned out to be Esmeralda’s mother and therefore in the end she tried to help Esmeralda rather than ensure that Esmeralda would die as Frollo believed. The mother/recluse would have been successful in saving her, too, if it had not been for Esmeralda’s shout to Phoebus to try and get his attention. That was the cause of her doom. In Sansa’s case, we do have her opening her eyes to the monster that Joffrey truly is, which is a good thing, but her story is not at an end yet, and she is now in the clutches of another monster. Will her eyes be opened to who and what he really is as well? There are hints in the text that she will see the truth and turn against Petyr, but there are a couple of things that could suggest otherwise. I am taking the optimistic view that there are more hints that Sansa will make the right choice in saving Sweetrobin and come to realize what LF really is rather than fall into that moral abyss.

I mentioned earlier that even though Frollo represents the LF monster parallel, with regard to his relationship with Quasimodo, he very much comes across as a Tywin figure. In the end, the similarities are striking. Quasimodo at first cannot turn against Frollo, even when he realizes that he was attacking Esmeralda in her cell. It takes a final realization for Quasimodo to turn against his father figure completely and kill him. Quasimodo kills Frollo because of a girl, his first and only love, just as Tyrion finally kills his father over a girl, Tysha, his first and only real love, and Sansa is a sort of Tysha replacement in Tyrion’s eyes in some ways. It really seems like much of Sansa’s story in King’s Landing plays out very similarly with the whole Hunchback story, with the major difference being that the monster figures in ASOIAF do their monstrous acts by proxy rather than first hand. The other big deviation in ASOIAF is that while Quasimodo represents Tyrion, unlike Quasimodo who switches loyalty to Esmeralda and becomes completely devoted to protecting her physically as well as her soul morally, Tyrion did not switch his loyalty from his Lannister family’s purposes which were to destroy Sansa’s family.

The mother

At first, I wasn’t going to focus too much on the recluse or her speech as it doesn’t have much to do with the beast aspects of the story, but I decided to include it because it is such a great study in the mother figure, and she reminds me of Catelyn in many ways. Here is her plea:

Gentlemen, and Messieurs Sergeants, one word! There is one thing that I must tell you. It is my daughter—my dear little girl, whom I had lost. Listen—it is a strange story . . . You will leave me my child when you know all. I was a poor unfortunate girl. The Bohemians stole my infant. Look, here is her shoe, which I have kept for fifteen years. Her foot was no bigger than that. . . You will take pity on me, won’t you, gentlemen? The gypsies stole her from me and hid her away for these fifteen years. I thought she was dead. Only think, my good friends, I thought she was dead. I have lived here these fifteen years, in this den, without fire in winter. It is hard, is it not? The poor dear little shoe! I have prayed so earnestly that God Almighty has heard me. This very morning He has restored my daughter to me. It is a miracle of His doing. She was not dead, you see. You will not take her from me, I am sure. If it were myself I would not say a word – but as for her, a girl of sixteen, give her time to see the sun! What harm has she done to you? None whatever. Nor I either. If you knew that I have none but her, that I am getting old, that she was a blessing bestowed on me by the Holy Virgin herself! . . . I would rather be stabbed in the heart than have a scratch upon her finger! . . What I tell you explains everything, no? Oh, my lord! If you ever had a mother! You are the captain; leave me my child! Consider that I am praying to you on my knees, as one prays to Jesus Christ. I ask nothing of anyone . . . I am not a beggar, I want nothing but my child! God Almighty, who is the Master of us all, did not give her to me for nothing. The King, you say! The King! How could it please him for you to kill my daughter! And then the King is merciful! It is my daughter! Mine, I tell you! She is not the King’s! She is not yours. I will be gone; we will both go. Who would stop two weak women, one of them the mother, the other the daughter, Let us pass, then! . . . You will not take my darling from me—it is impossible. Isn’t it? My child! My own dear child!

I can picture Catelyn saying something very similar to the above speech. It shows her desperation to save her child and how she will do anything in her power to save her, though just like with Catelyn, her efforts are sadly futile. Also, the physical change in the mother when she loses her child reminds me of Catelyn. Catelyn’s transformation into Lady Stoneheart is based on her growing feeling of loss for her children culminating with the ultimate horror of seeing her son killed before her eyes. Now she has become a shell of her former self that is only fixated on revenge against everyone whom she believes was involved with taking her children from her. The recluse too started out as a very pretty young girl and as soon as she loses her daughter she physically transforms into a shell of her former self. Her hair turns gray overnight for example and now she looks like an old lady when in fact she is only 36 (isn’t that about the same age as Catelyn was?) Also, though she shuts herself up in the rat hole, the recluse’s thoughts turn to bitter revenge against the gypsies for taking her child from her. It’s a similar sad story.




Beauty and the Beast: Music to Dream and Think About

by Bgona

Music is always present in our lives, it reflects our mood, it makes us cheer up or calm down; it even helps us cry and thus release tension.

It shows emotion, sensitivity, tells stories and experiences. One of these stories is the one we are dealing with now, Beauty and the Beast. It does so from as many different angles and perspectives as each composer or singer is different from the other. Each of them offers their own unique perspective. I am going to focus on musicals, ballet, opera music and songs that all of us can hear on the radio or on TV any day.

As this is about music, I am going to add a lot of links to YouTube (especially because most of this music is related to visual aspects, and more so in this case) and to song lyrics. I advise you to listen to the music, preferably with your headphones on (especially film soundtracks and opera) if you can, because it will help you feel carried away by the melody.

  1. Film Soundtrack

The soundtrack for Jean Cocteau’s movie was composed by Georges Auric (1899-1983), a French composer considered a musical genius since childhood and who was buried in Montparnasse Cemetery.

The soundtrack consists of 24 parts:

First Part

  1. Main Title (2:01)
  2. Beauty and Avenant (1:25)
  3. In the Forest (3:15)
  4. The Banquet Hall (3:35)
  5. The Theft of a Rose (1:48)
  6. The Merchant´s Return (0:59)
  7. Beauty´s Departure (1:37)
  8. Mysterious Colors (3:37)
  9. Appearance of the Beast (1:39)
  10. In the Bedroom (1:18)
  11. The Dinner (3:39)
  12. Frightful Moments (4:13)
  13. The Burlesque of the Draper (2:51)

Second Part

  1. Conversations in the Park (3:59)
  2. The Promise (2:07)
  3. Beast´s Jealousy (1:29)
  4. Love´s Despair (1:39)
  5. The Five Secrets (4:03)
  6. The Waiting (2:08)
  7. Avenant´s Proposal (1:25)
  8. The Mirror and the Glove (3:29)
  9. Diane´s Pavilion (4:16)
  10. Prince Charming (2:50)
  11. Flying upwards (2:22)

The music was composed separately and played at the same time as the film. This BSO can be considered a masterpiece although its parts are brief, because each of them can carry us to a magical, tender and mysterious oneiric world, full of romanticism.

The Banquet Hall

The music sounds like a soft breeze, mixed with human humming (as a boy falling asleep and entering dreamland carried by the sound of his mother’s voice). It takes you to a strange place where you can feel the weirdness, but still don’t feel fear, and instead there is a disturbing echo, like the Stark motto, Winter is Coming. They know what will happen, that people will suffer, but it’s still summer and winter is far away, so people go on with their normal lives as if winter will never come.

The Mysterious Colors

This song begins with slow, soft sounds. Gradually, slowly, it gains more and more intensity, all filled with romantic notes. It is one of the most beautiful pieces of the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack.

Sansa dreams of her songs, and of love. And these dreams are deeply rooted in her. It is a longing for love (to give and receive it). All her beauty comes from that love more than from her external appearance. And it is what gives her more strength.

The Mirror and The Glove

This piece is a mixture of softness and forcefulness. You feel ready to jump, feeling all the accumulated tension. And, then, just a minute later, you are again in a quiet mood. It is just like the feelings that Sansa has. You can think that nothing is happening, but everything is moving and it is ready to start a fight. It is like the quiet moment before a battle.

  1. The Opera

Both lyrics and libretto were composed by Philip Glass in 1994, inspired by Jean Cocteau’s film. It’s part of a trilogy about this director; the other two works are Orpheus (a piano suite) and Les Enfants Terribles (a dancing opera). The opera has nine characters, but can be sung by four voices: a mezzosoprano, a soprano, a baritone and a bass.

The opera is divided in nineteen sections, which are related to certain dialogues in the film. They are related to such an extent that, in its premiere, the movie was projected in silent mode at the same time as the opera was performed in a concert without acting (only singing).

I have found a performance by Legos which I would like to show you. It is divided in three parts. Here you can see the first one, the one that leads to the rest. I do not know the names of the performers and it is written in French.

I must talk about Philip Glass, the composer. He belongs to the minimalist movement, which gets rid of unnecessary elements. His music is based on repetitive movements. Personally, this has not bothered me, for Pachelbel’s Canon is one of the works I like best. as it is one of the compositions that soothes me and helps me restore my balance. Perhaps this is the reason why I prefer this opera to the original movie soundtrack, despite the fact that I find the opera darker and disturbing.

In my view, Beauty and the Beast has been lucky, because both Auric and Glass can be considered great composers. Auric manages to bring out a more romantic atmosphere, which fuels the sort of surrealistic dreams they inspire so often. I find the atmosphere Glass depicts more claustrophobic.

We could relate Auric’s music to the Sansa we met in Winterfell, with her dreams and ideals, while the Sansa Glass suggests is more the one of King’s Landing and the Vale. A more reclusive Sansa, whose dreams still exist, but they are gradually changing as if she was awakening to a new reality.

  1. Disney’s Movie and the Musical

The Beauty and the Beast musical is based on the songs from the Disney movie with the same title. The soundtrack was composed by Allan Menken and Howard Ashman. The latter died from AIDS before the composition was finished, but left the premises for the Broadway musical.

The movie songs were performed at the same time as the orchestra was playing, they were not added afterwards. At the end of the film, we can hear the pop song Beauty and the Beast, sung by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson, which is famous all over the world. The movie received two Oscar awards, to the best soundtrack and to the best original song (Beauty and the Beast), and it also received two other nominations (Belle and Be Our Guest). It was the first movie in the history of the Oscars to have three songs nominated simultaneously.

The musical includes seven more songs which are not present in the film, such as Human Again (these were included in the 2002 Special Edition), and has received other awards, such as a Tony. It also holds a record for being the eighth longest running production in Broadway.

In the musical, there are several obvious differences to be found if we compare it to the movie. For example, Phillip the horse is not present and there are no sheep in the initial Belle song, or that LeFou sings instead of the men in the canteen. Gaston is even viler in the musical, which makes clear he has no intention to remain loyal to Belle, while this is not clear in the movie.

This show retains the essence of the tale (as the song says: beauty is inside you), which remains exemplary. Selfish, vile and violent actions only generate more violence and they end up damaging the one who commits them, whereas love conquers all. Perhaps the best conclusion is that we should not be deceived by external appearances in order to judge a person’s character accurately, we must find what their inner self, the real person, is like.

This is exactly what Sansa has learned throughout the series. In the beginning, she was misled by appearances, but later she decided to keep her ideals, as she started to realize appearances are not what they seem: Joffrey is not her ideal prince, but a vile psychopath who enjoys seeing other people suffer. Sandor is not the heartless monster he seems and ends up becoming a real friend she misses when he is gone, and whose real heart she has been able to glimpse. Petyr is someone she does not trust because she has learned to go further and seen his real inner self. Now she is learning to see how his mind works.

With regards to love, Sansa decides that if one day she becomes queen, she will be able to make people love her and not fear her. She has learned how much power love holds, and how dangerous fear is. Fear can turn into panic, and then situations cannot be controlled, as people who are terrified cannot listen to the voice of reason; scared people do not trust you, so you cannot calm them down.

Here you can have all the musical lyrics.


This song can be associated with Sansa’s feelings at the Vale. She doesn’t know how long she will stay there, she doesn’t know if she can feel the Eyrie is her home because there is too much silence, no animals, and no godswood. Her family is not there. Her home is where her heart is: Winterfell, her childhood. She has lost her freedom; she does not have a shelter to protect herself against danger.

Human Again

And the last song can be related to all the Starks, Sandor, and even Theon. Maybe this song is too naïve. They are too damaged to be able to return to the starting point (we can never return to that point because events around us change us). But either way, they are still dreaming of freedom, of being able to do again what they want to do.

  1. Ballet

Beauty and the Beast has been performed many times as a ballet. It has a wide variety of formats. We can find classic ones with music from the film or the opera, and with music by other composers. We can also find performances based on the musical. I have even found a performance by the Russian Ballet on Ice.

Among everything I have seen on the internet, what has attracted my attention more is the Birmingham Royal Ballet. It is a classic one, which transmits elegance, while it evokes a wide range of emotions.

Perhaps it is through ballet that we can see more clearly how similar Belle and Sansa are. Watching Belle dancing is witnessing how she expresses herself without words.

Although Sansa can use words very well, she does not show her feelings. Joining Belle and Sansa, it looks as if their feelings took flight, you can see their emotions, even those emotions book Sansa hardly ever shows. She keeps them hidden, so hidden that those around her come to think she is stupid. She does not show any sign of a reaction to those people’s words, not even when they insult her family. However, she does react when Dontos’ life is forfeit because of Joff´s decision to put an unnecessary end to it. In the same way, she wants to save Margaery Tyrell from a psycho, Joffrey, by honestly telling her what he is really like. She always shows her reactions in front of Sandor, as he is the only one she can face in equal terms. He is the only one she tells her true opinions about himself. He is the only one in whose presence she takes off her courtesy armor, either because he does not let her hide behind it, or because of other reasons.

  1. Songs and Video clips

There are plenty of songs about this theme. And each author has a different vision. I made a special selection, choosing songs that have something special: the main idea, the song importance and the music, the singer. The last songs are the most powerful visually.

Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson

Beauty and Beast

Tale as old as time,

True as it can be.

Barely even friends,

Then somebody bends,


Just a little change,

Small, to say the least.

Both a little scared,

Neither one prepared,

Beauty and the Beast.

Ever just the same,

Ever a surprise,

Ever as before,

And ever just as sure

As the sun will rise.

Whoa, whoa, oh, whoa-oh.

Ever just the same,

Ever a surprise,

Ever as before,

Ever just as sure

As the sun will rise.

Oh, oh, oh.

Tale as old as time,

Tune as old as song,

Bittersweet and strange.

Finding you can change,

Learning you were wrong.

Certain as the sun,

(Certain as the sun)

Rising in the east,

Tale as old as time,

Song as old as rhyme,

Beauty and the Beast.

Tale as old as time,

Song as old as rhyme,

Beauty and the Beast.

This is the first complete song lyrics that I have added here. Not only because it obtained an Oscar award (that gives a certain entitlement) but also, and mostly, because it reflects Sansa. Her illusions through tales and songs (she loves the romantic ones, while Bran loves the horror ones).

The song also shows her interactions with Sandor. They are barely friends (the night of the Hand’s Tourney was the first spark to their friendship). And there begins a little change that will be followed by other little changes (like his cover up at Joffrey´s Tourney, his advice). They are both scared of the other: Sansa is always a little scared around Sandor. During their conversation on the roof of Maegor’s Holdfast, with Sandor using his sword in such a foolish way, he proved that he was also scared of her, and there is no need to remind you of the scariest moment for both: the night of the Battle of the Blackwater.

Neither of them was prepared for their feelings (Sansa needed the long distance to begin to notice them). For both, their feelings had been a surprise. And these feelings are bittersweet. In their case, bitterness takes the biggest part, but deep inside all the sweet, candid feelings are even stronger than that bitterness, in my opinion.

David Bowie

Beauty and The Beast

Why have I put David Bowie here? Just because he is a chameleon with a prolific career, and has been imitated all around the world; and because he has also worked with Auric. The song can lead to the interpretation that both beauty and the beast live inside each person.

Anyway, the song can also be related to Sansa and her courtesy shield. She is suffering and, to protect herself, she smiles. She knows she can be killed, but smiles nonetheless. I don´t believe that there is nothing that can corrupt her, but her main values will not be corrupted by all her experiences and the vile people that she is encountering.

Also, the song demonstrates the dichotomy that exists inside Sansa. It may seem that she does not do anything, but she manages to survive and escape from King’s Landing. She is learning to lie and to use others, but she has goodness inside her. She seems to have contributed unwittingly to her father´s downfall, but there was nothing she could have done to stop it.

Finally, the song also can show the two sides of the coin: Sansa and Arya. Each one with her own part of Beauty and Beast inside, both hiding, without a name, both without a wolf, both being daughters of a giant of Braavos, both being seemingly corrupted, without morals or honor, but both keeping their attachment to their dreams (to Nymeria and Sandor, respectively) and both keeping something that shows their wishes (Needle and Sandor’s cloak). If both are reunited, I am sure they will not fight each other. They will fight their enemies with the knowledge they are acquiring.

The Ark

Beauty is the Beast

This famous Swedish rock band got a different idea about the tale of the Beauty and the Beast. First, they express through their song all the ugliness of the world, that men are killers. But the most terrible thing is the creation of the idea of beauty, discriminating people who don’t fit into that idea. Not taking the time to get to know what ugly people are really like, deep inside, where true beauty as well as ugliness really reside.

Also, this song attacks vanity, those people that only value beauty. Cersei is a good example of vanity. She uses her own beauty (what men see as beauty in her) for her purposes. But she can’t stand the outward ugliness of others. She does not really look inside. And when she does, it is with scorn. Sansa has learned that external beauty can help her achieve her goals, but she likes to look inside and find other people’s souls.


Bella y Bestia

Porta is a Spanish rap singer. He composed this song in response to the reaction caused by some of his other songs (the Spanish Woman Institute sent him a protest letter due to this).

This song shows us a different idea of Beauty and the Beast. Here the outside is not ugly, it is the inside. This one has to do with abuse.

I can see Sansa and Joffrey’s relationship here: when Joffrey ordered Sansa’s beatings; how she had to cover up all her bruises, all her sadness, thus proving stronger than the beast, than Joffrey.

Also there is a part of her marriage with Tyrion that is reflected here. Sansa knew that he slept with whores, but she did not know that his mistress was her chambermaid. That is an example of disrespect towards Sansa.

Meat Loaf

I would do anything for love

Meat Loaf is a hard rock US band that reached Nº 1 in the lists in 1993 with this song. This video clip, directed by Michael Bay, is aesthetically a mixture of Beauty and the Beast and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

The song can be related to the moment in which Sandor tells Sansa that he will never lie to her. He will never forget the way she felt in King’s Landing, or the way she felt during the night of the Blackwater, as he proves in his conversation with Arya before she leaves him to die. Sandor is not a talkative man, and even less during the time he spends with Arya, but he talks to her about her sister twice.

This lyric can show the feelings more from the Beast’s perspective, from Sandor’s perspective. And more when it is associated with fire and ice, and his memories of her.

Sandor will never lie to Sansa, and he proved he can do anything for her (saving her from the Mob, covering her up from others, like Joffrey and Boros), but he will not force her (not rape her, not force her to leave with him). Maybe one of his main regrets is forcing her to sing. Perhaps this can only be related to his insistence not to let her remain ignorant of what is happening around her, not to let her stay in fairyland. Or maybe he will not hit her, never. He will not hurt her.

Sandor knows that Sansa can save him from himself. He needs her, that is why he searches for her that infamous night. She is his lifeline.

There is one and only promise that he can keep: that he will keep her safe. And some days he prays for Arya’s silence, for his own silence, and not only on the road, I believe he does it also at the Quiet Isle. There he is healing his soul, that soul that so many times he shows off not having.

He is alone because he thinks he does not deserve to be with her. And if he were with her, he would never leave her (that is the way the song ends). He left her when he thought Sansa did not want him. If he knew that she wanted him near her, then he would be with her and would never leave her, as becomes the loyal person that Sandor is.

Gérard Lenorman (music: Jean Michael Jarre)

La Belle et La Bête

It is true that I was born

Of a selfish mating:

A black widow and a toad.

You, your mother has fair hair,

And your father showers you with gifts

Other world, other ways.

The Beauty and the Beast,

A fairy tale that amused you

When you read your tales.

I, the Beast, I cried.

I, the Beast, I suffered.

You, the Beauty, you laughed.

You laughed.

I had a bear´s walks and a monkey´s virtue,

I wasn´t a man, I almost wasn´t a man.

The whole county chased the terrible animal

But you held out your hand to me.

The Beauty and the Beast,

We had meet when I more bled,

The more I die, the more I lived.

I, the Beast, I dreamed.

I, the Beast, I hoped.

And you, the Beauty, you calmed,

You took care of, you loved.

The witche´s spells broke up

Because of love,

Come to my carriage,

I´m taking you to the Great King’s Court Ball

Oh! I am young and handsome.

The Beauty and the Beast,

Must be forgotten,

Dead and buried under the past dust.

I, the Beast, I am here (bis)

You, the Beauty, you are here.

Yes, you, the Beauty, you are here.

We are here,

Come, come.

Gerard Lenorman (Le Petit Prince) is a French ballad singer that features this song composed by Jean Michael Jarre. I couldn´t find the lyrics in English, so I translated them for all of you to understand. I like this song for different reasons, one of them is Jean Michael Jarre, as I have loved him for so long. Also, in the video, we can see a performance of a Barry Collins ballet piece. The complete Beauty and the Beast tale.

The Beast’s feelings are powerful, fluctuating from the deepest hole to the highest mountain. The image of the Beast crying and suffering just brings The Hound to my mind. And the Beauty is reflected as the healer, a caretaker, and a lover.

Also, I love the idea of burying the concepts of Beauty and the Beast, just to become normal people again. As if the two concepts must meet, as if their paths should cross again somewhere and they could find a place to live.

Julieta Venegas

Limon y Sal

Julieta Venegas is a famous Mexican singer-songwriter who won two Grammy awards in 2007 with the album this song is in.

What I like most about this video is the soundless oneiric, dreamlike movie tribute. It is not based on Beauty and the Beast, it is rather about lycanthropy, but it works the other way around, because the wolf turns into a man when there is a full moon, and the rest of the time he is a wolf, a beast. And when he turns human, she gets scared.

The song is a declaration of love. She loves him the way he is, just the way he is, nothing more is needed, and she only needs him to be near her, even if he lacks romanticism. There is a special mention to meeting the eyes of one’s lover. I want to end with it as a possible future for Sansa. To have the love that she wants, not the one that others choose for her. Not to stay unmarried, not to be married to someone she doesn’t love. It does not matter who he is (Tyrion, Sandor, Harry, Aegon or another); I just hope that, at last, she finds happiness.




The Two Faces of the Beast I

by Milady of York

“He is driven by hate. That is how he survives, that’s why he never loses.”



There came Ser Jaime Lannister with hair as bright as beaten gold, and there Sandor Clegane with his terrible burned face.

When we are introduced to the Hound of the Lannisters in the first POV of Lord Eddard Stark, we also learn about the central characteristic that defines him: his burnt face. It’s not his impressive height, his status or his fame as a warrior the first things that are mentioned. Martin has the reader focus on the scar this man bears. He doesn’t tell us much besides that it is “terrible.” Because of this, in the beginning, we do not pay much attention to it; a very natural conclusion would be that surely that man had gotten his scar in a fight, given the violent times this saga is based on, and then forget it.

But Martin doesn’t let us forget; in every chapter he appears afterwards, his face is the centre of attention, and his raspy voice, again and again, and curiosity makes the reader wonder who this man is, and in what circumstances he got the scars and which object caused them. We finally discover more about them through Sansa’s eyes:

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.

She is not just being overly dramatic when describing details such as how the reddish light illuminates the interstices of his skin or the hint of bone in the jaw; because highly sensitive children like Sansa have a tendency to pay more attention to details, not less, when they’re particularly scared, as if they were exploring with their minds rather than their limbs, she’s registering every minute detail of how it looks like under those circumstances; and if that had happened in daylight, her description wouldn’t have been less detailed, though there would’ve been some variations due to a change of circumstances.

At this point, we know how the Hound looks like, yet we still ignore why he seems so fixated on his burns, a type of wound that surely is of no great importance in a society where battles are commonplace and prowess at war is highly prized.

In the Ancient world, wounds and scars were a source of pride, not an aesthetic concern to be eliminated through cosmetic surgery. The solid Greek hoplites and rude Roman legionaries bore their wounds and scars as if they were awards for bravery, for they were a testament to eminent service to their homeland, to their valor and their worth as men. A scar meant that a man had fought courageously, had survived, and therefore was a citizen worthy of everybody’s respect.

Moreover, they were so proud of their wounds and scars that it was not unusual for them to brag about them and compete to see who had the worst ones and how many, where and when they’d received them. Alexander III the Great, the King of Macedonia and Persia from whose name derives the Hound’s, was immensely proud of his scars and would tell his soldiers:

Come now, whoever of you has wounds, let him strip and show them, and I will show mine in turn; for there is no part of my body, in front at any rate, remaining free from wounds; nor is there any kind of weapon used either for close combat or for hurling at the enemy, the traces of which I do not bear on my person. For I have been wounded with the sword in close fight, I have been shot with arrows, and I have been struck with missiles projected from engines of war; and though oftentimes I have been hit with stones and bolts of wood for the sake of your lives, your glory, and your wealth...

Arrian’s Anabasis of Alexander, Book VII:10.
And in the Memorabilia of Greek general and historian Xenophon we learn that, like later in Rome, military service was a prerequisite to be elected to public office in any Hellene polis, and one way a candidate had of publicising his image as a capable leader was to show his scars:

…since my name first appeared on the muster-roll I have literally worn myself out with military service—now as a captain, now as a colonel—and have received all these wounds from the enemy, look you! (at the same time, and suiting the action to the word, he bared his arms and proceeded to show the scars of ancient wounds).

The scars on the front of the body were the most impressive and considered the noblest. What where the reasons? In ancient battle tactics, the rule was to draw up the best men in front and rear, with those of inferior ability in between, where they may be led on by the former and pushed on by the hinder. It was an honour to be chosen to lead an attack, for it was a reward, as in the case of the exaggeratedly competitive armies of Alexander, where the finest troops were placed in the front line and push-and-shove matches ensued in order to have the honour of being the first to assault a city’s walls. Because of that, burns were extremely common, in fact, they were one of the leading causes of injuries amongst élite soldiers, along with projectiles (arrows, javelins, stones), due to the use of boiling oil, incendiary arrows, torches, bitumen, naphtha, etc., to repel assaults and destroy siege engines.

In the Middle Ages, the attitude wasn’t so dissimilar. Scars not related to illnesses were still seen as symbols of a man’s ability to survive and of bravery. Those who acquired theirs due to wounds enjoyed a particular social status in this epoch, because scars were amongst the requisites for a newly appointed and green knight to fulfill in his debut on the field so he could be considered a preudome, a man of worth.

It’s not surprising, then, that Sandor comments about the assumptions people have made about the origins of his scars:

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.

The Hound is famous throughout Westeros as one of the best warriors of the Realm, and his bravery has nothing to envy someone else’s in terms of risk-taking and daring, as we can infer from his performance at the Battle of the Blackwater, when he went aboard a ship wrapped in green flame mounted on his warhorse, despite his terror of fire. Therefore, it’s only natural that people around him should think he was burnt in the line of duty; and because we know that the common folk and his peers alike talked about him when he’s not nearby, it’s not illogical to assume that probably they whispered in awe behind his back, wondering about such an occasion and assessing his aptitudes as a fighter. Sandor Clegane could have had a wife and a family, his disfigurement was not in itself the cause of his solitude. He has the skills, the fame, he’s young, he’s physically fit, he has no genetically transmitted infirmities, he’s got a highly prestigious and well-paid position at court, he’s intelligent though not an erudite, he can obtain riches, lands and a title if he wants to, and he can protect his loved ones.

Definitely, it’s not the scar per se: if he’d not born it with a faint tinge of pride, at least he’d not have minded it so much. It’s how he got it what matters to him.

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.

It’s frequent for children to covet other children’s toys even if they’re not objectively better than theirs; psychologists will explain that they feel the need to have the same things the other has, yet aren’t mature enough to understand that they can have it without taking it from the other; that it’s a comprehensible expression of curiosity, a desire for experiencing novelty, to manipulate objects that are new to them; and it’s also the manner they have of symbolically expressing their fears, hopes and feelings through their choice of toy. But there was a price the littlest Clegane had to pay for this innocent enough action:

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.

Sandor’s pleas after a second burning in ASOS echo his childish screams:

Please, […] I’m burned. Help me. Someone. Help me.” He was crying. “Please.

This is certainly a shocking overreaction on the part of Gregor, from whichever angle you examine it. I dispute any assumption that this scene might be overdone just to elicit sympathy. As part of my research, I had to look for cases at a paediatric burn unit, where there’s the example of an eight-year-old boy burnt by his own biological father, and whose mother lied to the paediatricians––and later the police––telling them there’d been a fire in their house and he’d been accidentally burnt. The old adage that real life is stranger than fiction is once more proven true, but it is because realistic fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities, and Martin did.

Moreover, Gregor wasn’t going to only burn his face and then let him go.

You saw how strong he is. Even then, it took three grown men to drag him off me.

He was going to keep his face against the hot coals until it turned black, and the smallest boy suffocated and his body went limp, had these three men not intervened. For playing with a toy he didn’t even use, he was going to murder his brother.

My father told everyone my bedding had caught fire, and our maester gave me ointments. Ointments!

There’s bitterness in these words. Ointments, indeed, is all he got. It’s improbable that his father was a weak-willed man afraid of his extremely brutal son, or that he felt sorry and powerless to do anything to contain his violent demeanour. Ser Clegane, as head of the House, had the moral obligation and the legal right to punish his eldest son for this attempted murder, for that’s what it was according to the law in Medieval England, and nobody would’ve thought less of him for whatever harsh measures he took against a son to protect another son, who needed it most. He overlooked the incident willingly, possibly to cover his own back and save himself from a scandal, but his own the-ends-justify-the-means attitude is an indication that he himself had no sweet temper, that he was prone to using physical violence, that he was also an abuser; and demonstrates coldness in his choice of protecting Gregor’s reputation. Moreover, by his silence, he encouraged his son’s aggressiveness, which got worse over time, and probably had him eventually killed in that hunting “accident.” His attitude wasn’t the rule in the Middle Ages; as studies by renowned Medievalists such as Hans-Werner Goetz and Barbara Hanawalt have demonstrated, contrary to modern belief, there was no general indifference toward children’s safety and well-being despite the violence and social and economic hardships of the times; they were mostly treated lovingly, protected as much as possible, and abuse and maltreatment were both a sin and a felony.

Had there been another adult to care for him, justice would’ve have been done. But Sandor was alone in this, with no proof but his word, and his father had lied and probably threatened or bribed the witnesses to keep it confidential. It’s true that child abuse was rampant in the Middle Ages, beatings, mutilation and infanticide were too common, and there were no Child Protection Services. But it would be a mistake to believe that they were completely defenceless and there were no laws and no institution to protect them. For instance, the clergy had the authority to cite a parent to answer for accusations of infanticide, abortion, abandonment, molestation, injuries and fatal neglect. Ecclesiastical courts could impose fines on defendants if found guilty, even excommunicate them, which in such a religious period was a grave punishment, for it meant damnation for a person’s soul. And that’s how it was usually for the smallfolk. Using English Medieval law as an example, Sandor’s father and brother could have ended up in a secular court, either his liege lord––if Tywin Lannister had cared for his people as Lord Stark––or any of the King’s courts, where royal officials were guided by gender, social status and marital status in their decisions throughout the legal process in terms of indicting, prosecuting, and sentencing; and this was a legitimate male child of a landed knight.

His age––six or seven––is also a factor to take into consideration, for at seven children begin to think logically about objects, events and people, but are very concrete in their thinking: they think in tangible, definite, exact, and unidirectional terms, based on real and concrete experiences rather than on abstractions. This means little Sandor was old enough to be able to comprehend memories, feelings and actions to judge his brother and his father’s demeanour and reach a conclusion on his own. This decision of his progenitor, the adult who was supposed to love him, to care for him and protect him, imprinted on the child’s mind that he was unloved and totally vulnerable to further abuse, that there was no justice and goodness wasn’t rewarded, that his own knightly father had made a mockery of his vows, that bad people could live and prosper doing bad things and go unpunished. The seeds of the Hound had been planted.

The psychological sequelae of this type of trauma can continue into adulthood. The physical pain is unbearable, so Sandor must have spent weeks drugged with milk of the poppy to ease it. Child psychiatrists like Dr. Frederick Stoddard and others have been studying the long-term consequences of burns in children aged 3 to 7, and their findings show that they suffer the most terrifying nightmares in the first weeks after a burn injury, which leaves them intermittently panicky and confused for hours. They’re fearful of falling asleep because they have vivid visions of monsters, often they cannot concile sleep due to nightmares where they see themselves burning again, and may develop insomnia as a result. Then comes prolonged and apparently illogical weeping, demands to be cuddled and consoled, and overwhelming rage that leads to verbal and physical aggression. Some have also suicidal ideations. Based on the developmental theories of child psychologists Jean Piaget and Maria Nágy about the emotional reactions of children younger than ten, we can know that Sandor went through three emotional phases: first, protest, in which he displayed the anxious behaviour described by Dr. Stoddard; then despair, in which he grieved and wept alone, and finally detachment, in which he created his own infantile understanding of the events in order to make sense of what happened to him and explain his relatives’ actions.

Children’s post-burn adjustment depends on nine variables related to parental and peer support, age, pre-burn personality and psychological functioning, location, extension and nature of the burn, visible scarring and demographics (gender, status). Studies have demonstrated that of these, three have the biggest impact; in order: body location (where the burn is), burn injury (severity of the burn) and parental adjustment (reaction and support of the father and mother). These three variables worked against Sandor: the burn is on his face, very visible, making him the target of appearance-related teasing, by the description of his scar, we know his injuries were grave, and his father gave him no emotional support. In fact, familial support––and peer acceptance––is so crucial that absence of that means the adjustment will take longer, be more problematic and it’s more likely that sequels will persist into adulthood. The most common long-term psychological outcomes are: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and low self-esteem. Sandor Clegane has all of these, most notoriously the first two: he fears fire, although he seems to have an above-average resilience, to judge by his performance at the Blackwater and the fight with Dondarrion; and he suffers from chronic depression which he tries to escape through wine.

While the smallest dog had to cope with all of this, the biggest dog continued to live a reasonably normal life, and became a knight.

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.’

Ironically, he would soon break these vows killing the wife and child of the man who’d knighted him. That he can describe this scene indicates that Sandor might have been present in the ceremony or was told by an eyewitness. To see his brother get rewarded with knighthood must have been the death blow to any ideals about justice and knights he might have been still entertaining in the bottom of his mind and hadn’t died years before, consumed by the fire.

Fire holds a double-edged symbolism, because its nature is ambiguous: it serves and it destroys, it’s purifying and murderous. The Greeks possessed an interesting allegory about fire’s power to transform; in a variant of the Achilles’ myth that goes contrary to the usual rendition, Thetis, his mother, wanted to make her baby an immortal, but she needed to destroy his mortal persona first. So, instead of dipping the infant Achilles in the waters of the Styx as the standard version goes, she put him in a sacred fire, a fire that only burnt his skin, which was no more than a shroud of mortality wrapping his real undying self. The fire burnt away the persona of Achilles the child and revealed the persona of Achilles the hero, and thus he started his hero journey wandering down the paths of love and war, hope and misery, honour and glory. The Hound may lack the epic dimension of classical heroes, but both sides of fire are present in his life: the flames created the beast known as the Hound; by fire he did penance for his crimes, and thus, like in the Grecian myth, a second burning might have marked his rebirth; and fire may have healed that almost fatal wound and helped him find his peace.


For further reading:

Barrett, Deirdre, Trauma and Dreams, “Chapter II: Dreams and nightmares of burned children,” pp. 25, Harvard University Press, 2001.




The Two Faces of the Beast II

 by Milady of York

“There is a great deal of pain in life,

and perhaps the only pain that can be avoided

is the pain that comes from trying to avoid pain.”


The Road to the Hound’s Deathbed Confession: A Psychological Study

The origins of the monster and the moment he passes away in order to be transformed back into his human self is a central theme not only in the tale we are presently analysing but in many other stories which focus on the psychological evolution of the protagonist or protagonists. The original idea for this essay was intended to be a symbolical analysis of the final stage of the Hound’s life, from the Blackwater to the Riverlands. However, this has been done many times on this board and elsewhere; therefore, Milady decided to do a psychological study of the scene of his supposed death, especially his last.

This is, above all, an attempt at explaining the cognitive process that was behind his words, and not place moral judgement on them. Clinical theory concerns itself about a comprehensive study of cognitive and behavioural patterns, and we think in terms of health and well-being. And because of that, we don’t speak of “redemption,” as it’s a concept that is out of place in our complex theoretical corpus and our understanding of human nature. “Healing process” is a more correct description.

Because Sandor Clegane’s state of mind is the result of an unique combination of factors that together led to his breakdown under that willow tree near the Trident, to examine this scene as if in a vacuum, judging his words in an isolated manner is counterproductive and results in an equivocal assessment of the man. No human behaviour of any kind comes out of the blue, there’s always a psychological pattern and convergent circumstances that help explain it and comprehend it, and verbalisation is rarely enough for this purpose. Actions can explain, reinforce or disprove words in ways that words cannot explain, reinforce or disprove actions, because there’s less conscious control for them and, due to this, one of our standard courses of action is observation. When an analyst hasn’t enough data provided verbally for whatever reason, he has to resort to non-verbal clues, and, not surprisingly, it’s very common to acquire a wealth of reliable data to work on and get an often more accurate idea of what’s going on than by verbalisation alone. You can control your mouth and your thoughts, but no matter your level of self-control, your mind will always, always find ways to speak—even yell—about what’s taking place there through the body. This is especially important in the case of a character like the Hound, who lacks a POV that could give us valuable information about his inner workings, his motivations, etc., and who is principally seen through the eyes of two girls as different as salt and sugar, one whose feelings towards him are still developing and another whose feelings were hostile, both of them very young and with the fallibility and cognitive limitations of very young people that hinder full comprehension of certain acts and words.

The real roots of his acts are seldom evident on first glance, so the peculiarities of the path he followed until his “death” may have been missed. To better understand what lies beneath the beastly skin, we have to go back to the beginning of the Hound’s end: the last night of the Battle of Blackwater. It’s true that the cracks had been appearing earlier, but it’s in these circumstances in which it’s evidenced, by the convergence of factors such as trauma by fire, resurfacing of chronic PTSD, depressive symptoms, sleeplessness and hunger, binge drinking, physical exhaustion and emotional outburst, that the cracks have widened so much that he will soon have a definite breakdown. From then onwards, it’s necessary to analyse his evolution stage by stage until his final scene, in which the same factors—save trauma by fire—are present, with the addition of wound-induced physical suffering and fever.

After taking this into consideration, let’s begin our analysis of Sandor’s time in the Riverlands, from his desertion from King’s Landing to the moment he’s captured by the Brotherhood without Banners. What do we know about this time? Nothing. However, that doesn’t mean we cannot have an accurate idea about how he’d been acting by the snippets of data provided by the first Arya POV in which he makes his appearance, as well as from the last Sansa POV in which he left. By the information in ACOK Sansa VII, we can infer that at the time of his capture he was still suffering from residual PTSD symptoms, depression being the most glaring one and which can account for his constant drunkenness, as he doesn’t indulge in wine when his mood is stabilised, as we will see in the course of this step-by-step examination. From the fact that he was stone drunk and sleeping under a tree when he was made a prisoner, we can infer that he was wandering aimlessly across the Riverlands, not knowing exactly where to head for or what to do, possibly hiding in the woods, eating whatever he could and drinking a lot, which didn’t help his mental state; and quite possibly was hanging around this war zone in hopes of finding Gregor, whom he is aware must be hereabouts as he knows the Lannister forces are, because killing him is now the only motivation he has in life, having lost everything else.

Then we move to his appearance in Arya VI, in which we see more signs reinforcing the previous guesses. He’s definitely been fighting a profound depressive state for some time now; in the last chapter, he’d stayed indifferent to being pelted with dung and stones, and now he shows indifference toward losing his life, being murdered now that he’s no longer even his horse and his gold, but he doesn’t give in completely despite that, and sticks to his peculiar values, refusing to be executed as a criminal for offences that aren’t his. When the girl confronts him in relation to Mycah, the way he identifies her is very revealing: he doesn’t call her Arya Stark, daughter of Lord Eddard and Lady Catelyn of Winterfell. It’s “the little sister.” This gives away a hint about what he’s really thinking about, Sansa’s is the name he cannot bring himself to pronounce here. After the trial by battle is over, we have two more negative factors to add to Sandor’s mental condition: Trauma by fire and physical pain. He’s been forced to face his traumatic fear of fire through trickery, as both Thoros and Dondarrion are aware that he is afraid of fire, and even so, Dondarrion uses a flaming sword and seems to have been willing to fight an unarmoured Hound whilst being in armour himself, at least we can infer that from the fact that he denied him his armour—not lawful according to real Medieval rules of trials by combat, for all combatants had to be armoured, whether lightly or heavily depended on each champion, and even smallfolk and non-knights had to be given a boiled leather corset for the trial when the weapon was of steel. Only when fighting with non-steel weapons, such as clubs, lack of armour was permitted and both combatants had to be equally equipped—and removed his breastplate after it’s been brought to his attention that he’s donning it and the other isn’t.

Burnt through this action, he has to relive that emotionally crippling childhood trauma that gave rise to the Hound in the first place. He’s crying, which it itself is proof that the wound is bad enough and horribly painful—“a piece of burned flesh sloughed right off his arm”—but it’s not the physical pain alone that has him sobbing like a child, because he’s a seasoned soldier and as such must have sustained numerous wounds already, considering his years of service and his skill with the blade, because you don’t serve the Lannisters and grow to become the fearsome Hound, one of the top warriors in the realm, without paying the price in blood, yours as well as others’. No, it’s not the physical pain of the burn. We know from our studies that military men who have more battlefield experience, are on average more resistant to pain and injuries than civilians and less experienced recruits who’ve sustained them too; as a fighter, he’s psychologically conditioned by training to be stoical to bodily suffering. It’s the fire, the emotional distress stemming from his old trauma and non-treated PTSD. It’s now, in a situation where all the same factors that led to his breakdown at the Blackwater converge again, that he makes his first confession:

I did.” His whole face twisted. “I rode him down and cut him in half, and laughed. I watched them beat your sister bloody too, watched them cut your father’s head off.

ASOS, pp. 947, e-book.

Notice that in the first part he is practically saying the same things he would tell Arya at the Trident, and he also tells her that if she wants him dead so much, then she should stab him, as it would be “cleaner than fire,” meaning that it’s better than the pain, physical and emotional, so inherently associated with fire in his mind. In this phrase, we find the first clue as to the reasons behind the future one: he’s conjoining not doing enough for Sansa and being present in the Lannisters’ execution of Lord Stark with killing Mycah, his worst act. Considering how it affected him to see Sansa beaten and stripped in public—he’d not intervened in previous beatings, but one time he publicly tells the king that’s it is enough—we can assert with no room for mistake that neither the boy’s death nor his own participation in the slaughter of the Stark household after the arrest of their liege lord are actions he’s proud of. These are the first verbal signs of regret we get from him.

In Arya VII and VIII, we see him briefly again, and judging by what we can glean from both chapters, he seems at least partially recuperated emotionally. He’s sober, too. The only negative aspect that is observable in both chapters could be the pain from his burnt arm, which we know he still feels in Arya IX, even if he doesn’t give any signs of it, as the girl herself notes, because it’s not been so long since he was burnt and it’s not healed yet. He no longer seems to be in a depressive state, possibly because he’s already thought of something to do, which brings him into full fighting mode again, and he recuperates his typical ferocity. Thoros observes that he’s “lost his master and kennel,” and that he has nowhere to go, not suspecting that the Hound has a plan to get himself a new master and kennel, or at a minimum get back his gold, by kidnapping the little direwolf pup.

That action gives him a purpose for the next three chapters, for as soon as he does that, he knows what to do with himself and is no longer lost. From Arya IX to Arya XI, he livens up and is comparatively more relaxed, he doesn’t drink nor expresses a wish for a wineskin as he will later, which indicates his depressive mood has improved, his arm seems to heal well, and he no longer gives hints of PTSD. He even seems oddly hopeful for the future, as he, who never cared for a title before, entertains the possibility of being made a lordling in the service of the King in the North. Before he says that, he speaks of the little bird again, unprompted, and for the first and so far last time in the series, he calls her only by her first name, Sansa, without the title of Lady before it, as he’d once done in a more formal fashion in King’s Landing. He talks of her as just plain Sansa. It’s a significant hint. In our cognitive-behavioural theories concerning attachment, seeking and bond formation, we contend that once you refer to another by his or her name, it speaks of said person’s significance to you in terms of affection, especially when there is a romantic interest in that person, as it’s part of the natural process of moving from seeking physical proximity to seeking emotional proximity, to put it in typical clinical convoluted talk. To put it plainly: at this stage, Clegane has become fully aware of his feelings for Sansa and has admitted it to himself consciously. His constant bringing of her into conversation isn’t subconscious but deliberate.

In this calmer state, the second confession takes place:

Because I hacked your little friend in two? I’ve killed a lot more than him, I promise you. You think that makes me some monster. Well, maybe it does, but I saved your sister’s life too. The day the mob pulled her off her horse, I cut through them and brought her back to the castle, else she would have gotten what Lollys Stokeworth got. And she sang for me. You didn’t know that, did you? Your sister sang me a sweet little song.

ASOS, pp. 1313, e-book.

Once more, Arya confronts him concerning the butcher’s boy, and he again admits it. From the last time she did this, as well as from the rough reaction when she mentioned Mycah some moments previously, it’s clear that the issue still rankles him, and not precisely because he attempts to dodge blameworthiness for this incident, which he’s admitted already. This time, there are no other regrets aggregated to this killing. Instead, he’s contrasting a bad act with a good one: cleaving the boy in two vs. saving Sansa from being raped or killed, as he’d contrasted killing Mycah vs. being the Kingsguard that didn’t beat Sansa. What he does is refuse to accept the label of complete monster, as he’s always strived to be different from his brother, “the monster of House Clegane” as Jaime Lannister would say. In view of the hopes he’s harbouring in regard to the immediate future, he seems to have done this more for himself, as a way of reassuring himself that, for all the things he did wrong, there’s also some he did right, for her, and that is something that can speak in his favour in case the Starks accept him, and the last line about the song seems to be a mix of wishful ideation and regret, because he’s still nettled about not being thanked immediately the way he’d wished, as we can infer from a line in Arya XII in which he tells her that she should thank him for saving her at The Twins with a song. On the surface, this appears out of place here, for now he knows her well enough not to ignore that Arya would never do that, so it’s again for himself; it’s about how he wishes things had turned out but didn’t: she didn’t thank him until after she was reminded of what he’d done, one of the very few actions he must be proud of, and neither did she sing willingly as he’d desired and longed for; he took the song.

On the road to the Red Wedding, he’s still in reasonably good spirits, he’s practical in adopting a disguise to avoid recognition, can make some of his characteristic japes and is generally relieved that everything has gone well and soon his plan will come to fruition, until they both arrive at the Frey castle and he suddenly slips into furious fighting mode a moment before the slaughter of the northern troops starts. It’s in part due to his lifelong martial training, in part due to survival instinct and in part to a conscious desire to live—“I am not done living yet”—which, considering in what state he was approximately two weeks ago, more or less, indicates that at this point he’d recovered remarkably well.
In Arya XII, after everything he’d hoped for is lost, he’s again in a state of emotional turmoil. It’s not immediate, at first it’s just fury, which he tries to let out by chopping all kinds of wood, an attempt at calming himself through physical labour and exhaustion, as an exhausted body means an exhausted mind that can only focus on sleeping and no more, no nightmares, no sadness. As the weeks go by, he’s more withdrawn and depressed, talks less and becomes less and less interested in the world around him, to the point he no longer cares what Arya—who’s going through the first stages of bereavement, not depression—does or stops doing, and there’s an indication that he loses appetite as well, because he doesn’t hunt or search for food and both go hungry. He’s also perpetually angry, as the Stark girl observes, and that, together with his expressed desire for the unavailable wine, is a sign that depression has settled on his psyche once more. For a month or so, this is his constant mood, and it improves a little when they reach the foothills of the Mountains of the Moon, as he seems to have made his mind to take Arya to Lysa Arryn, but has to stay at a village, where he mostly works himself to exhaustion and drinks himself daily into oblivion. He’s back again to the state he was in at the moment of his capture by the Dondarrion band; he’s moving by force of habit at this point, in the village, and regains some of his initiative when they are practically expelled from there and decides to go to Riverrun to ransom the girl to the Tullys.

But it’s evident that he’s definitely under no illusions and has no hopes this time; Plan A went to the seventh hell by the intervention of the Freys and Plan B due to climate and the savage Vale clans. Plan C might end up there, too. By Arya XIII, apart from the ongoing lack of appetite and drinking, he no longer troubles to hide his face or cares who recognises him, which considering that they’re back in the Riverlands where Gregor and the Lannister men-at-arms are, may be imprudent, but it also speaks about his troubled emotions. The first thing he orders after entering the inn’s common room and meeting the Tickler, Polliver and his squire, is a flagon of wine, and he drinks half of it with an empty belly. A Medieval flagon was a measure equivalent to about 3,78 litres, so this possibly means he drank more or less a litre and a half too quickly, and that quantity of alcohol in his blood severely impairs his mental, physical and sensory functions, namely his judgment, fine motor coordination, visual tracking, reasoning, depth perception, as well as, by lowering self-control, results in inappropriate behaviour, though he can tolerate large amounts of wine due to his size, because a smaller man would’ve ended up in the floor ipso facto.

Yet even a worst-case scenario can get worse in GRRM’s world, and to add one more emotional complication to the Hound’s baggage, he learns from Polliver that the little bird has married the Imp he despises. It’s his body language which betrays how hard the blow was, for he has to sit after hearing this news. This behaviour follows the pattern of profound psychological shock, which differs from mild psychological shock and weak psychological shock, in that even if the cause in all three types is an emotionally traumatic experience, bad news in this case, it not only affects a person’s state of mind but induces physical symptoms such as palpitations, shakiness, weakness in the extremities and feeling faint due to a flood of neurochemicals in response to the cause. That’s why in these cases people, if they don’t lose consciousness right away, have to either sit or lie down.

The problem is that, as we know already, he suffers from PTSD and is currently undergoing a depressive period, so this means the shock will not merely leave him stunned, unfocused and thoughtful for some moments and then, vive la vie!, he’ll carry on. No, this type of shock tends to hit someone with PTSD right, left and centre, and it manifests itself in three ways:

Intrusive thoughts: The incident is constantly replayed in the person’s mind. In the Hound’s case, we have a verbal confirmation twice:

The little bird flew away, did she? Well, bloody good for her. She shit on the Imp’s head and flew off.


I meant to take her too. I should have. I should have fucked her bloody and ripped her heart out before leaving her for that dwarf.

Avoidant behaviour: As the individual feels emotionally numb, he may immediately resort to alcohol and/or drugs as a form of self-medication to ease this. The Hound drank two more cups after hearing this news, so by now he’d have drunk about two litres of wine or more.

Increased irritability: The individual displays disproportionate anger and angry behaviour, and is prone to emotional outbursts. The Hound does in fact have one:

His mouth twitched, but only the burned side. “She ought to dip him in wildfire and cook him. Or tickle him till the moon turns black.

It’s the twitching of his mouth which gives him away, as anger and emotional distress and strain are some of the usual reasons behind a tic like his. Here, it’s interesting to note three things: a. that he automatically directs his anger at the Lannisters, whom he knows like the palm of his hand, and the fact that his first comment upon learning these news allude to them, the queen and his little brother, points to the possibility that he considers that it was these two’s idea to force Sansa to marry the Imp, with all that such a thing means for the little bird, which could be a logical conclusion with what little information he has. b. His outburst has the curious detail that he doesn’t express a desire to kill Tyrion himself nor implies that he should die at his—Sandor’s—own hands, as it happened the last time he wished for the Imp to die. This isn’t jealousy speaking, he doesn’t feel for himself but for her, as he afterwards expresses that it was good for the little bird to have escaped. This is more about the Lannisters than anything. c. There’s a small detail that indicates he’s thinking of the night of the Blackwater, the fire, and possibly also of what happened in Sansa’s bedroom: he stares at the hearthfire (let’s remember he fears fire, yet he’s deliberately looking at it here), drinks another cup of wine despite already having drunk too much, and then he says it was good that she escaped.

Now, think of the sequence:

Talks about Gregor, Harrenhal and the Blackfish—Pours another cup of wine—Stares at the fire in the hearth—Gulps the wine down—Suddenly mentions Sansa’s escape.

Then it becomes evident that his words are about her, not about himself: first, fury at the Lannisters who did that to her, especially the husband, and then, relief that she’s free of them.

In these disadvantageous emotional and physical conditions, he fights Gregor’s men and survives with Arya’s assistance, not before getting three wounds, two not so important ones and one that looks serious from the start.


Such is the stage by stage psychological evolution of Sandor Clegane on the road to his solitary supposed demise. Before getting down to analysing the scene of his death, let’s sum up his physical and emotional state at this point. The key factors to take into account when judging his last words are divided in two groups:
Negative Physical Factors:

  • Physical suffering, which mostly stems from three sources, first and most important the pain in his leg, which is the acute type, and is so intense he has to lean on things in order not to fall to the ground, and after it’s disinfected and partially cauterised with boiling wine so hot it gave Arya blisters on her finger, he passed out from it. And second, from high fever as a result of his wound. And third, from haemorrhage, as he was losing blood from his neck wound, his ear and his leg wound, which weakened him even further. Up to the moment he lies down under a tree to die, the bleeding from his ear hadn’t stopped yet.
  • Malnourishment and dehydration, as he’d not eaten, so he was probably physically weakened by hunger, too. Furthermore, he’d drank a lot, and after having too much of an alcoholic beverage you need to drink more water to rehydrate. He went on for hours without doing that, and only drank some water when the fever was high.
  • Sleeplessness, as he hadn’t been getting proper and absolutely necessary rest, he just passed out from too much pain. We don’t know exactly how long he endured this, and the effects are too many to list, but amongst the important ones which appear combined with the effects of acute pain are: difficulty coordinating and concentrating, reduction in memory retrieval processes (which is to be taken into account here because it’s possible that the mistake of Mycah for Michael was either a lapsus linguae or a memory lapse, and not intentional), and impaired or fragmented thought processing.

Which of these is the most significant factor?

Physical suffering. Because the effects of acute bodily pain are different from chronic pain, more immediate and crippling. At a purely neurological level, both emotional and physical pain are modulated by the brain’s dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This area is also heavily involved in the performance of attention-demanding cognitive tasks. The problem is that, because acute and unending pain demands all attention from the brain, which has to deal with heart rate, blood pressure, and endocrine response through releasing stress hormones, an injured person has to exert extra effort to concentrate on anything of a cognitive nature and stay concentrated once he/she does, and this extra effort increases brain activity that can raise stress levels further, resulting in Irritability, touchiness, harsh words, or emotional outbursts; as all doctors, nurses and paramedics that have had to deal with patients in pain at emergency and intensive care units know well. A person in pain is in the worst of all possible states for any activity; moreover, if you add to this the fever, the bleeding, and worst of all, the emotional pain and negative thinking, you have the recipe for lamentable behaviour, as the intensity of the physical pain is increased, because a person who is psychologically distressed feels higher levels of pain.
Negative Emotional Factors:

  • Emotional distress, originated by the recent news, which he obviously has had no time to fully process yet.
  • Depression, which is a chronic ongoing problem at this point. The most observable and significant points are that he loses appetite, drinks daily and engages in risky behaviour when he’s at his lowest. I listed drunkenness as a separate issue because of his negative cognitive-behavioural effects on him, but he can in no way be diagnosed as an alcoholic, because he can set the bottle aside when he feels good and has something to do, a purpose, an activity, and drinks solely when he’s emotionally distressed and depressed. An alcoholic doesn’t use alcohol as an emotional regulator, as this illness is first and foremost physiological. Clegane does. An alcoholic has the compulsion to drink regardless of his psychological state, good, mild or bad. Clegane hasn’t. An alcoholic cannot regulate his intake by himself. Clegane can.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, another chronic condition in him. Due to GRRM’s writing, the most observable symptoms in Clegane’s case are four: being easily startled, feeling tense or on edge (hyperarousal), having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts. His depression originated from PTSD in childhood, but as he often displays depressive self-destructive behaviour with no other PTSD signs, it can be listed as a separate issue.

Which of these is the most significant factor?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Because of the increased levels of depression, hyperarousal, suicidal thoughts and behaviours, as well as bad dreams when sleeping and frightening thoughts when awake and overwhelming feelings of guilt or worry. If the affected person is a male, it’s most likely that he will tend to externalise his reactions and emotions by his behaviour rather than verbally, though if he does it verbally, it’s more likely that it’ll be in the form of an emotional outburst. This PTSD-induced emotional outburst can be an angry one in the form of aggressively harsh language, or a sad one in the form of uncontrollable sobbing. Or both. Because both can and do coexist in PTSD, and it’s a way for the person to be relieved of the inner pressure.

Taking all this into account, let’s now move to his final scene. An attentive reader will experience a déjà vu sensation during this episode. After observing this graphic, we can see that the same elements are present in the first and last scenes; in Arya VI and Arya XIII, not only the Hound’s psychological state is the same and his physical state is also for the most part similar but both scenes also follow the same script, complete with tears of pain, and we see that in all three scenes what impels him to speak is Arya’s desire to kill him. The pattern is this:

Arya insists that he killed Mycah and then attempts at killing Clegane when he’s wounded and weakened by pain—Stops speechless/stammers when he looks at her in the face, making it two times that she couldn’t kill him whilst looking him in the eye as Lord Eddard Stark’s code demands—He tells her to “do it.”—And she mentions Mycah a second time at different times in both scenes, as if to reassure herself—Then the Hound admits that he did kill the butcher’s boy and laughed after—After he admits this murder, his face contorts in pain in both occasions (the second time, at the end of his speech)—Right after this is when he mentions Sansa, the beatings she endured—Adds other details, which are different in both scenes—Arya loses the dagger/steps away—In both occasions, Arya wishes for him to suffer and has angry words at the end.

Now let’s examine the contents of his last speech, and by the words he pronounces this time and the two previous occasions, we can see a pattern too, although less obvious. On close examination, Milady has found reasons to contend that Sandor Clegane is speaking of four separate issues and has different emotions in every case:
One: The things I did for the Lannisters


I rode him down and cut him in half, and laughed.” “Watched them cut your father’s head off.”
“I killed your butcher’s boy. I cut him near in half, and laughed about it after.

Two: Didn’t do enough for the little bird

I watched them beat your sister bloody too.”
“And the little bird, your pretty sister, I stood there in my white cloak and let them beat her.


Three: That offer I made as Blackwater burnt…
Self-reproach and shame

And she sang for me. You didn’t know that, did you? Your sister sang me a sweet little song.”
“I took the bloody song, she never gave it.


I meant to take her too. I should have.

Issue Four: And they married her to that Imp…
Anger and sorrow

I should have fucked her bloody and ripped her heart out before leaving her for that dwarf.

What can be observed is that he starts talking quite coherently about the Mycah incident, a good summary of his life in the service of House Lannister; then he suddenly breaks down and sobs, and it’s as if the flood-gates on his past had opened and words pour out of him in a rapid succession, going from one incident to another, all related to Sansa, and ends in a sharp outburst exactly in the moment when a spasm of pain rakes him.

By focusing on his harsh words alone and what he did or didn’t mean, readers often miss these details, which in the absence of his POV serve as visual guides to what he’s feeling after each sentence, sort of like tempo markers on a music-sheet. For people in Milady’s area of expertise, what is said during an emotional breakdown—which isn’t the clinical terminology, by the way, but is used in this essay for simplicity—is not as important as why the emotional-psychological collapse happens in the first place, that is, the causes, because this is in itself a symptom and matters only as such, an indicator pointing to the deeper source. Whilst experiencing this, the person is temporarily out of his normal cognitive functioning, because his mind is overworking itself to deal with the psychological or sensory overload; in the Hound’s case it’s both: emotional overload and physical overload due to fever and pain. Such a combination is more commonly found in dying people, as he thought he was, and it’s also known that dying, especially whilst in acute pain, has the effect of exhuming hitherto buried emotions, feelings and thoughts and bringing them to the surface for conscious examination previous to the individual’s last breath. Any attempt at consciously suppressing those will not be met with success, and if the person is in pain or with high fever (or, in our world, medicated with strong painkillers), the attempt will be utterly futile, as these physiological processes take over control and the intellect is just kicked out of the equation by these pressing biological matters, and thus the injured person is left confused and struggling with feelings and thoughts which resurface for the purpose of resolution, with or without the individual’s will. This peculiar cognitive process elicits only the issues that need resolution, is not subject to conscious control and due to cultural conditioning that demands the blocking of certain behaviours in men and women, the most common emotions that resurface in men are sadness and fear and anger in women, the former cry openly and the latter curse and yell. As in the case of the Hound, all three can resurface at the same time in the same person regardless of gender; it all depends on what is in his or her baggage. And Clegane carried around a heavy one.

As mentioned before, doctors, nurses, paramedics, caregivers and even the septons and their dog know this sort of emotional temporary disintegration well, though not all of them are familiar with the psychological explanation and not all persons react the same way depending on aggravating circumstances or lack thereof; and the more experienced ones are aware that the verbal, and sometimes physical, aggression displayed by someone collapsing emotionally when a life-threatening injury or illness lands them at death’s door can only mean that this someone needed to go off in order to off-load an overabundance of unexpressed feelings, be it of regret, of pain, of shame, of anger, or even love. Endearing, repulsive, shameful. All of them.

Normally, this is a negative occurrence, a symptom, as mentioned previously. But there’s always the light side opposing the dark side; and Milady knows of some geniuses in the psychotherapeutic field contending, quite convincingly, that there’s such a thing as positive emotional breakdown. This is the breakdown of a unhealthy/dysfunctional pattern in order for a healthier/more functional behavioural pattern or personality to emerge. Two developmental theorists in particular, Jean Piaget and Kazimierz Dabrowski, can support this with their research. Dr. Piaget would’ve said that when an individual’s schema—his worldview, in plain English—fails to properly assimilate new content or accommodate to new information/occurrences, then the schema is obsolete and needs to be broken and dismantled in order for a new schema to form and replace it. And Dr. Dabrowski would say that personal growth occurs through a succession of psychological disintegrations (“breakdowns”) and reintegrations that transform an individual’s worldview and his idea of self. He says that “positive disintegration forges a personality that motivates one to perform at newer and higher levels, with emphasis on developing altruism and morality.” This is precisely what was necessary for Clegane.

In the beginning, Milady asserted that she doesn’t use the term redemption but prefers to speak of a healing process instead; and after this long exposition, she hopes her reasons are clear. Because the Hound had long outlived its purpose, bad but useful in his world, and had begun to cost Sandor too much in blood and pain to maintain this schema, the Hound had to disintegrate in order for Sandor to heal. If a grave, life-changing wound gave origin to the Beast at an age when children are still learning the cognitive and reasoning skills to survive, then another grave wound was his undoing, which paradoxically was best for him as it stopped him on the road to self-destruction. Fortunately for him, this time he’s not alone, but has someone to assist him, a healer who does understand him, because he himself broke down and disintegrated his old schema as a result of a fatal wound. “He is at rest,” said a certain monk, which indicates good handling of his case, for when a man has this breakdown, it’s desirable for the therapist to have him rest before attacking the issues that overwhelmed him, as a measure of calm is necessary to elaborate on his thoughts and feelings and motivations. By what the Elder Brother chirped, Milady believes the Quiet Isle can help Clegane symptom-wise only, as the ex-soldier-turned-monk seems to have assessed the man correctly, and by determining the underlying causes of his breakdown, he’d be able to learn a new self-awareness, self-assessment and other coping skills that will help him deal with his symptoms, depression and binge drinking and anger, to name just the obvious ones. The rest, avoiding relapse, sticking to his new schema, a longtime purpose, etc.—in one word: the heavy lifting—is in Sandor’s hands. Like the therapist’s couch, the Isle is just a means to an end, the tool with which he can carve out a new pattern.

And he could’ve already found one potential purpose that can last for as long as he lives, one related to the person that directly set him on the path to healing. According to the Global Timeline, the Hound “died” in Arya XIII the same day that the little bird had that clearly erotic dream in Sansa VI at the Fingers, in which she sees him climbing into the marriage bed. There, he’s not the Hound. He’s not Sandor Clegane. He’s simply the man she’s to give a song willingly. That cannot be a mere coincidence.


Note: Authorship of the graphics used in this essay belongs to Milady of York, who did them all herself.




Jaime Lannister: The Kingslayer

Becoming a monster

by Danelle

That boy had wanted to be Ser Arthur Dayne, but somewhere along the way he had become the Smiling Knight instead.

In ASOIAF, just like in most tales, a true knight is the embodiment of a hero. He defends the weak, protects the innocent, he is just and brave. He is honourable and stands for justice.

In the first book of the series, Jaime Lannister is introduced as a knight of the KG, handsome, son of the wealthiest man in Westeros and he has a bad reputation. He was only 15 when he joined the KG, and by the time he was seventeen he had killed the king he had sworn to protect.

In ASOIAF there is a precedent of a KG knight rumoured to have had an affair with his Queen. Prince Aemon the Dragonknight had an affair with his sister Naerys, although she was married to their brother, Aegon. Aemon was athletic and handsome, a skillful fighter just like Jaime Lannister. Naerys was a beautiful woman just like Cersei, forced to marry a man she did not love for political reasons. Aegon IV was a handsome young man, who later became fat, irresponsible, constantly humiliated his wife with his many mistresses, had many bastards, and whose death caused political instability in the kingdoms; in a way, he is similar to Robert Baratheon.

The big difference between these relationships is the fact that Targaryens were allowed to practice incest but Lannisters weren’t. Jaime’s first act in the books is to make love to his twin, thus breaking his vows of chastity and offending the gods by committing incest.

His attempt to kill Bran further removes Jaime from the definition of a knight, and reveals the monstrous aspect of his personality:

To a boy, Winterfell was a grey stone labyrinth of walls and towers and courtyards and tunnels spreading out in all directions. In the older parts of the castle, the halls slanted up and down so that you couldn’t even be sure what floor you were on. The place had grown over the centuries like some monstrous stone tree, Maester Luwin told him once, and its branches were gnarled and thick and twisted, its roots sunk deep into the earth.

It is quite interesting that Bran’s chapter, in which Jaime pushes him, starts with the description of Winterfell as a labyrinth. The most famous labyrinth was the one built in Crete by Daedalus, a craftsman, in order to imprison the Minotaur. Half man and half bull, the Minotaur was a monster, a beast that killed all those who entered the labyrinth. Bran’s full name is Brandon, a Stark name that alludes to the founder of House Stark, Brandon the Builder, from the Age of Heroes. Brandon built the Wall, Winterfell and Storm’s End. Eddard’s son wanted to climb high, Jaime Lannister wanted to make love to his sister. Bran aspired to become a knight of the Kingsguard, Jaime was disillusioned by knighthood. Bran at the abandoned tower found Jaime, who tried to kill him. Bran was no different to the people who got lost in the labyrinth. Jaime was no different to the Minotaur, who devoured those who dared to enter his realm and threaten his existence.

It is interesting to note that Jaime Lannister has placed himself, through his acts, apart from society. He is superior to his friends, his sworn brothers look down on him because of Aerys, his younger brother adores him, he has an unhealthy relationship with his sister, his father never forgave him for becoming a KG.

It is the business of the very few to be independent; it is a privilege of the strong. And whoever attempts it, even with the best right, but without being OBLIGED to do so, proves that he is probably not only strong, but also daring beyond measure. He enters into a labyrinth, he multiplies a thousandfold the dangers which life in itself already brings with it; not the least of which is that no one can see how and where he loses his way, becomes isolated, and is torn piecemeal by some minotaur of conscience. Supposing such a one comes to grief, it is so far from the comprehension of men that they neither feel it, nor sympathize with it. And he cannot any longer go back! He cannot even go back again to the sympathy of men!

— Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil)

Jaime Lannister is a beast, responsible for the worst acts committed in the books. After all, he is a Lannister. Great Houses in Westeros use animals in their sigils. Lannisters are from the Westerlands, where the great lions once lived. Before he became the Kingslayer, Jaime was referred to as the Young Lion, back when people expected him to be an honourable man. The Lannisters not only refer to themselves as lions but tend to associate with “beasts” as well. There are the Clegane brothers, Gregor who is a monster, both in terms of attitude and physical strength, Sandor, who is simply called the Hound, Amory Lorch, who slaughtered a little girl, Vargo Hoat and the Brave Companions, and Qyburn, the notorious maester.

Jaime lacks the strength of the Clegane brothers, he doesn’t share Amory’s needless cruelty, he is not motivated by greed like Vargo Hoat and he abhors Qyburn’s acts. Yet Jaime has placed himself in a position between gods and monsters. He is a beast.

Maybe there is a beast… maybe it’s only us.

— William Golding

Jaime was raised by his father, who was a living legend in Westerosi society. Just like his siblings, he looks up to his father, and although he acknowledges the mistakes that Tywin Lannister made, Jaime aspires to become like his father. Another important figure in his early life was Arthur Dayne.

I learned from Ser Arthur Dayne , the sword of the morning, who could have slain all five of you with his left hand while he was taking a piss with his right.

As a young squire, Jaime had the chance to be near Ser Arthur and learn from him. He also had the opportunity to fight against a formidable enemy, the Smiling Knight. Ever since he became a knight, Jaime’s entire life has been a struggle between the knight and the outlaw.

In ancient Greece, great heroes were sent to Chiron, a centaur, to be trained by him. A centaur was half man and half horse. It has been suggested that Chiron’s dual nature, a beast and a man, was meant to imply that the main lesson a hero should be taught is the balance between law and force. It is quite important to emphasize the fact that Jaime, from a young age had the opportunity to meet the greatest knight in the kingdoms and the vilest outlaw. Ser Arthur was his ideal of a knight, whereas the Smiling Knight was insane and infamous. The process of how his dream turned into a nightmare is quite interesting.

It was that white cloak that soiled me, not the other way around.

Jaime Lannister is confronted with the harsh reality of being a KG and the son of Tywin Lannister. His sister urged him to join the KG, in order for them to be together, but once his father finds out, he leaves for the Rock, taking Cersei with him. The rest of the KG were just knights, Jaime, though, was the son of Tywin. Aerys only wanted to control and humiliate him. Jaime soon learned that his duties included guarding the King while he raped his sister-wife, and standing still while the Starks burned.

Robert’s Rebellion brought Jaime closer to the King, especially after he was left alone with Aerys. Out of fear of Tywin, Aerys refused to let Jaime join the fight against Robert, like the rest of the KG did. Jaime was a witness to Aerys’ decline to insanity and took action once Aerys planned to destroy the city. First Jaime killed Rossart, the Hand and the man who had burned Lord Rickard, and then he killed Aerys, ensuring that he wouldn’t warn the other pyromancers and destroying the King’s plan to burn the city.

Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster…

The question is when Jaime became a monster, when he tolerated the rape of Rhaella and the torture of the Starks or when he killed his King, who had committed those terrible acts? In any case, it was Aerys who defined Jaime’s character.

For some people the day comes

when they have to declare the great Yes

or the great No. It’s clear at once who has the Yes

ready within him; and saying it,

he goes from honor to honor, strong in his conviction.

He who refuses does not repent. Asked again,

he’d still say no. Yet that no–the right no–

drags him down all his life.

— Cavafy, the Great Yes.

Jaime refused to obey Aerys, turned against his King, disobeyed his orders and eventually killed him. The act of regicide almost always suggests that the killer means to replace the dead monarch. Yet Jaime’s motives had little to do with power. As a knight, he had sworn to protect the innocent, as a KG he had been forced to obey an insane king. He simply killed a tyrant, who just happened to be his Lord and King. All great knights earn a nickname: Prince Aemon was the Dragonknight, Barristan was the Bold, Prince Duncan was the Prince of Dragonflies, and Jaime Lannister became the Kingslayer. Just like his younger brother, Tyrion, Jaime’s nickname is a reference to his deformity. Unlike Tyrion, though, who was born a monster, Jaime became a monster through his actions. Tywin Lannister’s sons encompass the external and internal aspect of monstrosity. The beastliness that defines Jaime Lannister sets the character apart from the traditional version of the monster. Jaime is tall, handsome, athletic and a fine swordsman, yet despite his exquisite appearance he acts like a beast. There is no balance between body and soul in the case of Jaime and Tyrion. His younger brother is rejected by society due to his physical deformity, whereas Jaime is defined by his psychological deformity. Tyrion was forced to be regarded as a monster, whereas Jaime chose to act like one. In Plato’s Republic, Socrates suggests that evil acts disfigure one’s soul. In that case, Jaime Lannister is a lot like Dorian Gray, the difference being that while the deformity of Dorian’s actions were depicted on an actual portrait, the ugly aspect of Jaime’s actions are evident in the behavior and traits of his son Joffrey.

Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.

The image of a gallant knight in a white cloak and golden armour killing a fiend that uses fire to torture and kill people evokes images of dragon slayers from Christian iconography, most notably St. George. According to Jaime, Aerys thought that he was a dragon in a human form, just like his great uncle Aerion. Killing the dragon did not make Jaime a hero, though.

Killing Aerys was the completion of hi transformation process. The boy became a man, a knight who broke his oath. Ser Arthur was dead and the Smiling Knight became part of Jaime’s identity.

The things I do for love.

Jaime Lannister is not ashamed of his love for Cersei, and if it was possible he would reveal the truth to everyone. On the other hand, he is ashamed of the things he does for love. Most notably trying to kill that boy in Winterfell. His incestuous relationship is despicable, but it was his attempt against Bran that placed Jaime amongst the villains in the story. Once again, Jaime broke his oath while trying to protect his sister and her children. Interestingly, Cersei, though she is responsible for acts of cruelty, such as ordering the murders of Robert’s bastards, was against harming the boy, preferring to scare and intimidate him instead.

What is done out of Love is beyond Good and Evil.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Jaime Lannister is handsome, skilled, and in a way he could have been the subject of songs and love stories, if he hadn’t been responsible for several heinous acts. His character arc and his transformation into a beast could be a reference to the decline of knighthood following Robert’s Rebellion. While Ser Arthur managed to kill the Smiling knight, he failed to tame the beast within Jaime Lannister.

There is the great lesson of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ that a thing must be loved before it is lovable.

— G.K. Chesterton

Catelyn Stark, grief stricken, forced him to swear that he would return her daughters. Jaime decided to keep that oath only because he knew that everyone expected him not to. Brienne was to escort him to KL and take the girls back to their mother.

Brienne is ugly, uglier than any woman ought to be. She is also stubborn and lacks Cersei’s charm and charisma. She is appalled by Jaime and his revelation that he is his sister’s lover and the father of her children. Brienne is disgusted by the fact that Jaime is an oathbreaker and refuses to refer to him by his proper name. Instead she calls him Kingslayer, insulting him.

Jaime is handsome, possibly one of the most handsome men in the kingdoms. Yet he lacks the inner beauty that Brienne has. Ugly Brienne has all the qualities that make her a beautiful person: she is kind, loyal, honourable, and, most importantly, true to her word.

The lovers,” Shagwell sighed loudly, “and what a lovely sight they are. ’Twould be cruel to separate the good knight and his lady.” Then he laughed that high shrill laugh of his, and said, “Ah, but which one is the knight and which one is the lady?

Jaime’s relationship with Brienne is mirrored in the song The Bear and the Maiden Fair. The bear is as ugly as the maiden is fair, but in the end they both dance. Jaime humiliated Brienne by referring to her as wench, refusing to address her by her name, just like she refused to call him Jaime. Initially, Jaime is appalled by Brienne and compares her unfavourably to his beautiful sister. He plans to kill her, but Brienne proves to be a formidable adversary and Jaime had spent too long locked in a cell. They are both caught by the Bloody Mummers, and then something strange occurs: all of a sudden Jaime has sympathy for the big ugly wench, who is about to be raped. He convinces the Mummers that Brienne is worth her weight in sapphires and thus protects her. Nevertheless, he fails to protect himself from the sellswords, and at the orders of Vargo Hoat they cut his sword hand.

Can it be? They took my sword hand. Was that all I was, a sword hand? Gods be good, is it true?

In tragedy, anagnorisis occurs once the hero discovers his true identity and reaches a level of self-awareness unbeknownst to him before. While Jaime was well aware of his actions and the results, only after he was maimed he realised that his existence was limited to his right hand.

I’ve lost the hand I killed the king with. The hand that flung the Stark boy from that tower. The hand I’d slide between my sister’s thighs to make her wet.

The loss of his hand not only has made Jaime more self-aware; for once he also questions the motives behind the actions of his father and sister further in the story.

An important part of the tale of Beauty and the Beast is the castle where they live. Jaime and Brienne are taken to Harrenhal, where they are briefly under the protection of Roose Bolton. Of course, Harrenhal is far from the beautiful castle described in the fairy tale. It is a big, ugly building, meant to impose and scare people. Harrenhal is cursed, just like the Beast was cursed by a fairy. For Jaime, Harrenhal is the completion of a circle: it was there where he was admitted to the KG and his path to destruction began. It is also the place where Roose tosses away his severed hand and Jaime reveals the truth behind Aerys Targaryen.

Later, Brienne described Jaime at Harrenhal as half a god, half a corpse. Harrenhal is the place where a journey ended and another began.

Love, Labours and Lies: Parallels between Jaime Lannister and Eros & Psyche
In the myth of Eros and Psyche, part of Psyche’s labours includes a descent to Hades. Descent to the Underworld is a common trope. Several heroes attempted to enter the kingdom of the dead, for different reasons: Odysseus seeks knowledge that only the dead can provide, Orpheus demands his beloved to be returned to him. Psyche visits the Underworld under the commands of Venus. Eros, son of Venus, is in love with Psyche, a beautiful mortal. Eventually, Eros becomes Psyche’s invisible lover, who visits her at night and forbids her from looking at his face. Urged by her jealous sisters, who insist that her lover ought to be a monster, Psyche gazes at him and it turns out that he is a god, but he abandons her. Once Psyche discovers that he is Eros, she pleads his mother, Venus, to assist her. Instead, the goddess orders the girl to complete a series of impossible labours. Psyche succeeds and eventually reunites with Eros and she becomes immortal.

There are certain parallels between the tale and Jaime’s storyline.

The most obvious is the presence of a beautiful woman, who wants to keep the younger man for herself and forbids him from engaging in a relationship with any woman. Cersei, just like Venus, is breathtakingly beautiful. In certain stories, Ares is presented as Venus’ lover and father of Eros. In Cersei’s life, there are some men who to a certain extent bear similarities to the God of War. There is her father Tywin, her husband Robert, and Jaime himself. Venus cannot tolerate any woman in Eros’ life. Cersei, once she found out that her father and Hoster Tully intended to marry Jaime to Lysa, persuaded Jaime to join the KG so as to be together. It should be noted that in order to convince Jaime to renounce his claim to the Rock and the chance to marry a pretty girl like Lysa, she spent an entire night with him, making love. Just like Venus, Cersei feels threatened by the presence of younger, more beautiful women. Once Cersei is told that Jaime was last seen in the Riverlands in the company of Brienne, she can barely believe that her brother would prefer the company of a woman as ugly as Brienne.

The descent to the Underworld motif is crucial to Jaime’s storyline. One of the impossible tasks that Venus imposes on Psyche is to go to Hades and obtain a jar containing beauty from none other than Persephone. In mythology, Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, a goddess associated with nature, who is abducted by Hades for her beauty. Demeter mourns the loss of her child and wanders the earth, seeking Persephone. When she eventually reunites with her daughter, she discovers that Persephone shared a pomegranate with Hades, therefore she is forced to divide her time between the living and the dead. Persephone’s absence turned Demeter mad from despair, thus breaking the balance and causing the crops to wither. Demeter lost her beauty, dressed in black and became a ghost of her former self.

In the books, when Lady Stark visits Jaime at the cell, another descent to the Underworld begins. Jaime informs her on the gruesome details regarding the deaths of her betrothed Brandon and his father, Lord Rickard. It must be noted that Jaime never shares those information with anyone. His meeting with Lady Stark brought the dead back to the spotlight. Later, once Lady Stark witnesses the brutal murder of her son, Robb, she becomes Lady Stoneheart, a shadow of her former self, lacking the beauty of Lady Stark. In Eleusis there is a monument called the Smileless Stone, where according to tradition Demeter sat while looking for her lost child. Shortly after the events of ASOS, winter comes in Westeros. It is quite common in stories to explain harsh weather as a punishment delivered by the gods to those who were unjust.

Psyche had to gather water from the river Cocytus, which is guarded by a serpent, and runs in the underworld. On their way back to KL, Brienne and Jaime cross the Riverlands, that are devastated by war. Cocytus means the river of wailing. Jaime and Brienne see the body of a dead Lannister soldier, ruined houses and the corpses of women, hanging from trees.

Once captured and taken to Harrenhal, Jaime embarks on another journey in the world of the dead. He reveals to Brienne the truth behind Aerys’ death, his intentions to burn the city, he tells her about Rossart, Garigus, Belis, Lord Chelsted. Roose Bolton orders his men to escort Jaime safely back to KL, while Brienne is left for Vargo Hoat. On the way to KL, Jaime has a strange dream. The figures of Prince Rhaegar and his Sworn Brothers appear and confront Jaime for the deaths of Aerys, Elia, Aegon and Rhaenys. Once Jaime wakes from the dream, he returns to Harrenhal and rescues Brienne from a bear.

By the time he arrives at KL, it is too late. His son Joffrey has been murdered; Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister are to blame. Jaime finds Cersei at the sept, standing next to Joffrey’s coffin. His son looked a lot like him and was buried in armor, eerily similar to Jaime’s. The death of Joffrey, along with other events, such as Robert’s death, the oath he was forced to take, the loss of his hand, signify the end of Jaime’s relationship with Cersei. Eros, against the wishes of Venus, fell in love with Psyche. Jaime begins to defy Cersei. Joffrey was part of himself, a part that he was ashamed of. Joffrey was a monster through and through, with few redeeming qualities. He was cruel, insensitive, ruthless and stupid. Jaime was so indifferent to his son that he did not hesitate to make love to his twin, next to the boy’s coffin. Jaime refuses to turn against Tyrion and demands to marry Cersei, but she ignores him. Later, he will refuse Cersei again, several times in fact. One might argue that with Joffrey dead, the part of Jaime that linked him to Cersei had died as well. The descent to the Underworld in the story of Eros and Psyche can be interpreted as a symbolic death.

While Lady Stark bears certain similarities to Demeter, there is a resemblance as well between her daughter Sansa and Persephone. Psyche has to seek the consort of Hades. Jaime sends Brienne on a quest to find the girl and keep her safe, in a final attempt to keep his word. What Brienne finds though is Lady Stoneheart and in order to save the life of an innocent, Brienne is forced to misguide Jaime and lead him to Lady Stoneheart. She lies to him, insisting that she found Sansa, a captive of Sandor Clegane, the Hound. Three dogs are the sigil of House Clegane, a reference to the fact that Lord Tytos Lannister had once been saved by a Clegane. Lem Lemoncloak is currently in possession of Sandor’s helmet, shaped like a snarling dog. Cerberus was a dog with three heads that guarded the entrance to the Underworld. As of his last chapter, Jaime’s journey is about to be completed, since most likely he shall reunite with Lady Stoneheart and his fate shall be determined.

Another possible reference to Persephone might be his own mother Joanna. At Riverrun, former seat of House Tully, the night when winter finally came, Jaime Lannister has a vision of his mother. Jaime barely remembered his mother, who told him that “We all dream of things we cannot have. Tywin dreamed that his son would be a great knight, that his daughter would be a queen. He dreamed they would be so strong and brave and beautiful that no one would ever laugh at them.”

Once Jaime informs his mother that indeed he is a knight and Cersei a queen, Joanna shed a tear and left him.

Whosoever is delighted in solitude, is either a wild beast or a god.

— Aristotle

While Jaime as a young man followed the path of the Smiling Knight, one might argue that his relationship with Cersei, isolated him from the real world. He rejected Lysa and Pia, because he wanted to remain faithful to his sister. Their relationship makes both Cersei and Jaime beasts. His mother crying was not a reference to the later crimes of her children but rather to their persistence to pursue their sexual relationship. Joanna had tried to stop the incest, but her death sealed the fate of her husband and children.

I thought that I was the Warrior and Cersei was the Maid, but all the time she was the Stranger, hiding her true face from my gaze.

Jaime knew his actions were wrong, but he justified himself thinking about Cersei. His love for his sister gave a monstrous aspect in his character. The thought of Cersei was what kept him sane, while the Starks burned the thought of returning back to his sister was what made him endure the Bloody Mummers. He was thinking of Cersei when he attempted to kill Bran and maim Arya. Yet there is nothing worse for a child to be confirmed as bad from its own mother. After Jaime dreams of Joanna, he wakes to discover that winter finally came and he is presented with a letter from his sister, begging him to come to her aid. Jaime refuses her once more, and continues his mission to the riverlands until Brienne finds him and lures him with the promise of Sansa Stark. Jaime might be one of the few men in Sansa’s storyline whose interest for her is not prurient. He doesn’t lust after Sansa, nor is he interested in her claim to Winterfell.

Sansa Stark is my last chance for honour.

His sister has failed him, he has failed his brother, his father is dead because of him, and he cannot reveal the truth to his children, because that would endanger their status in society and most importantly their lives.

The tale of Eros and Psyche is often regarded as a parable for the condition of the human soul. Psyche means soul and Eros refers to sexual love. The story refers to the balanced union of body and spirit. Eros is a prerequisite for the soul to become immortal. Psyche also means butterfly. Quite often, Psyche was depicted as a winged woman. In ancient Greece, people believed in Psychostasia, the weighing of the souls, which eventually determines the fate of the people.

Psyche, although beautiful, cannot marry. Her suitors hesitate to ask for her hand, exactly because she is too beautiful for a mortal man. Brienne cannot marry; her suitors reject her because she is too ugly. Both women are lonely, like virgin widows (lat. virgo vidua). Eventually, Psyche, like a living corpse (lat. Vivum funus) is led to a rock as an offer to a monstrous bridegroom. Brienne, suffering from a terrible moral dilemma, having survived the attack of Biter, guides Jaime to his doom.

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?

Psyche was redeemed through Eros, Jaime thought that Cersei was the guiding light of his life. Instead, as a beast he is confronted with two different types of beauty. Beautiful Sansa is related to the men who were tortured by Aerys, to the children that Jaime tried to kill. She is also the innocent that the KG knights harmed under the orders of his son. Rescuing Sansa will not undo the harm that Jaime caused to her and her family, but it will take him one step closer to Ser Arthur Dayne. Brienne assumes the role of Jaime’s companion, taking the torch from Cersei and stubbornly guides him.

According to Fulgentius, Psyche symbolised the soul, her two sisters’ flesh and free will. Aphrodite stands for lust and Eros is desire, who at first tries to seduce her, but then loves her. Hildenbrand suggested a more Platonic approach to the myth. Psyche is the soul, Eros represents heavenly love, Aphrodite is fate who commands base desire and envy, Psyche’s sisters, to cause the fall of Psyche. Psyche goes through several trials until she is reunited with love and earns her proper place. Cersei could represent both concepts of Aphrodite, lust and fate, responsible for her sibling’s negative impulses. Tyrion could represent the aspect of free will.

Jacques Barchilon’s interpretation of the myth draws parallels to the story of Beauty and the Beast. The sisters taunt Psyche, scaring her about the prospect of being married to a monster. Cersei, as already mentioned cannot see beyond Brienne’s ugliness. Sex was often regarded as a beastly act, in English there is the expression the beast with two backs, which refers to intercourse. In Jaime’s storyline the kings he serves, Aerys, Robert, and even to a certain extent Joffrey, display a monstrous attitude during sex.

Jaime also shares characteristics with Eros. Aphrodite is betrayed by her own son, who acts against her wish and disobeys her. Jaime disobeyed his sister. It can be suggested that Cersei stands as a wife, mother figure and lover to Jaime. Eros escapes from the confinement that his mother had imposed on him, just like Jaime severs his bonds with his sister.

The tale of Eros and Psyche and consequently the story of Beauty and the Beast share common elements with the story arc of Jaime Lannister. Psyche undergoes a journey to reclaim her rightful place by her lover; true love transforms the Beast to a handsome prince. It remains to be seen where Jaime’s journey will lead him, to his redemption or to his destruction or even to an entirely different path.

Homeric Similes and the Force of a Beast

Jaime Lannister had been allowed no razor since the night he was taken in the Whispering Wood, and a shaggy beard covered his face, once so like the queen’s. Glinting gold in the lamplight, the whiskers made him look like some great yellow beast, magnificent even in chains. His unwashed hair fell to his shoulders in ropes and tangles, the clothes were rotting on his body, his face was pale and wasted . . . and even so, the power and the beauty of the man were still apparent.

(A Clash of Kings, Catelyn)


No one can fault Lannister on his courage,” Glover said. “When he saw that he was lost, he rallied his retainers and fought his way up the valley, hoping to reach Lord Robb and cut him down. And almost did.”

“He mislaid his sword in Eddard Karstark’s neck, after he took Torrhen’s hand off and split Daryn Hornwood’s skull open,” Robb said. “All the time he was shouting for me. If they hadn’t tried to stop him—”

(A Game of Thrones, Catelyn)

The son of Peleus from the other side sprang forth to meet him, like some fierce lion that the whole country-side has met to hunt and kill.

(Iliad XX:153-258)

There are no pacts between lions and men.

(Iliad 22.260)

In The Iliad, Achilles refuses to cooperate with Hector, stating that no matter what they will always be enemies. It is one of several mentions of beasts and lions in particular in the poem. In most epic tales, there is an emphasis on the humanity of animals and on the animality of humans. It is quite reasonable to compare a fierce warrior to a wild beast. On the other hand, the comparisons usually add a deeper meaning.

Achilles is described as lionheart, breaker of men. Jaime Lannister exhibits animal-like ferocity in his attempt to kill Robb Stark and literally breaks any man who stands on his way. Both of them are predators in the battlefield, governed not by reason but by bloodlust and wrath. The closer both characters come to the concept of the wild beast, the further they depart from reason and logic. Excessive violence is partly a refusal to approach a situation through a more sensible way. Might is right. Achilles, ruled by his grief and anger, acts does not think. Likewise Jaime simply does what he knows best, he fights and kills, whether it is Bran, Ned Stark’s men, Robb’s guards, it doesn’t matter. Only after he loses his hand and his ability to kill, he resolves to more reasonable solutions, e.g. the siege of Riverrun.

According to Simone Weil, the true hero of The Iliad “is force. Force employed by man, force that enslaves man, force before which man’s flesh shrinks away”. A similar approach might be used in ASOIAF. Weil in particular emphasizes on the force that kills, the force that turns a human being to a lifeless object. Men who are powerful exercise their power on others, depriving them from their right to exist. Pushed, they fall. Fallen, they lie where they are, unless chance gives somebody the idea of raising them up again. Yet the time comes when the powerful men need to pay for the harm they caused and often they find themselves in the place of the victim. In the Iliad, the battlefield is the place where men are turned into vicious beasts. This transformation is crucial and almost irreversible, force possesses the warriors and escape to human form is difficult.

Weil suggests that a miracle can reverse this process. There are small moments that define the characters and allow them to reach a certain level of self-awareness. Sometimes it is a simple thing, like Hector deciding to act and think not according to gods and men but according to his own judgment. More often though, just like in the tale of Beauty and the Beast, this situation is reversed through love. Not simply the love that two lovers share but also the love between friends, brothers, family members, comrades. But since both stories are about war, the love that is most strange is the love between enemies. As Weil suggests “the purest triumph of love, the crowning grace of war, … the friendship that floods the hearts of mortal enemies.” In the Iliad there is nothing beastly about Achilles when he receives Priam, the father of the man that he had slaughtered earlier. Priam arrived to retrieve the body of his child, yet his interaction with his son’s killer is a rare moment of love, truth and beauty. In that case, the victor and the vanquished share a bond that is stronger than anything else.

Interestingly, Weil refers to Eros, the concept of love which connects earth and heaven, flesh and spirit.

One damp cold morning when he was feeling slightly stronger, a madness took hold of him and he reached for the Dornishman’s sword with his left hand and wrenched it clumsily from its scabbard. Let them kill me, he thought, so long as I die fighting, a blade in hand. But it was no good. Shagwell came hopping from leg to leg, dancing nimbly aside when Jaime slashed at him. Unbalanced, he staggered forward, hacking wildly at the fool, but Shagwell spun and ducked and darted until all the Mummers were laughing at Jaime’s futile efforts to land a blow. When he tripped over a rock and stumbled to his knees, the fool leapt in and planted a wet kiss atop his head.

Rorge finally flung him aside and kicked the sword from Jaime’s feeble fingers as he tried to bring it up. “That wath amuthing, Kingthlayer,” said Vargo Hoat, “but if you try it again, I thall take your other hand, or perhapth a foot.”

Jaime lay on his back afterward, staring at the night sky, trying not to feel the pain that snaked up his right arm every time he moved it. The night was strangely beautiful. The moon was a graceful crescent, and it seemed as though he had never seen so many stars. The King’s Crown was at the zenith, and he could see the Stallion rearing, and there the Swan. The Moonmaid, shy as ever, was half-hidden behind a pine tree. How can such a night be beautiful? he asked himself. Why would the stars want to look down on such as me?

Jaime pushing Bran had an effect. Jaime turned Bran into a thing, and at the same time he was turned to a senseless killer that simply wished the destruction of his enemy. Bran was simply an obstacle that needed to be removed. The Brave Companions turn Jaime into a thing and refuse to treat him like a human being that possesses a soul. They even deny him a proper death and continue to humiliate him. Jaime, at this point, discovers beauty in simple things and at the same time finds a friend in an enemy.

It is quite difficult to define Jaime Lannister. Is he a villain who occasionally commits heroic acts? Is he a hero who gradually became a villain? In AFFC, when he walks through the field where the Freys had camped, he is well aware of the fact that his current allies were once, not long ago, his enemies and he might have slaughtered them as well in his attempt to kill Robb Stark. Jaime is well aware of the fear, terror and disgust he causes to everyone, even after he becomes a cripple.

At the beginning of the books, Jaime is content by his status as a fearsome adversary. All he wants is the love of his twin sister. As the plot gradually progressed, he is no longer satisfied by his twin and he becomes more aware of the monstrous aspect of his personality and he appears willing to return to the path of Ser Arthur.

There is nothing humane about Jaime pushing Bran from the window.

There is nothing monstrous about Jaime lying and staring at the stars.



Infirmity and Deformity:

A symbolic reading of the beastly figures in ASOIAF

by Mahaut

So far in this Beauty and the Beast project, we have not focused the figure of the Beast yet. This little essay will try to remedy that. In ASOIAF, there is no Prince Charming hidden in an ugly monster. However, in Sansa’s narrative there are characters made ugly by infirmities or deformities, and this essay is all about them as it will try to explain the hidden symbolism of these afflictions. This essay will focus on Gregor Clegane, Petyr Baelish, Tyrion Lannister and Sandor Clegane, as they are all more or less related to Sansa’s storyline. The aim of this essay is to discover the symbolic meanings of these afflictions and see how they fit these characters.


In popular belief, infirmities or deformities are given by gods (positive meaning) or by evil entities (negative meaning). In fact, infirmity is a sign of mysteriousness that can be either good or bad. At first sight, an infirmity is repulsive and may be a difficult condition one has to overcome. This is the case of Hephaestus in Greek mythology. He is a lame one-eyed hunchback god who has to earn his place among the Olympians through his art (smithing). However, in many cultures, infirmity is a “place” to hide a precious knowledge or ability. But this extraordinary power is never gratuitous and the infirmity is always the price to pay. For example, the god Odin had to lose an eye in order to receive the ability to see the invisible. In addition, blind people are often believed to be seers or soothsayers in popular belief. Still in traditional belief, the infirm is protected against magic as he can neither be cursed nor bewitched. For these reasons, the infirm is also considered as an intercessor between this world and the other. He is thus singled out among men, and inspires fear as well as respect in people around him.
There are two types of infirmities:

  1. The first type is associated with power (positive meaning) or excessiveness (negative meaning), and includes conditions such as gigantism and dwarfism.
  2. The second type is connected to dissymmetry, which either means a loss of balance (negative) or a return to unity (positive).

The giants: Gregor and Petyr
The giants are the symbol of excessiveness. They are the embodiment of the primitive and brutal nature one has to destroy to achieve the civilized state. Their violence and lust for power make up for their stupidity and their ignorance. Their gigantism is also transferred on their personality: giants are gluttonous, greedy, intemperate and lecherous. They are degraded by their passions and their serious lack of moderation. In Greek mythology, giants cannot be killed. It requires a god and a hero—a mortal whose father or mother is a god—to overpower a giant. Zeus needed the help of Heracles to restrain Porphyrion before he was able to throw the giant in Tartarus. A Giant was believed to stand for everything the hero had to defeat to embrace his own true personality.

Gregor Clegane is the first character that pops to mind when giants are mentioned as he is probably the biggest man in all of Westeros. Like his popular Greek counterpart, Gregor is brutal, intemperate, lecherous, and knows no limits as he tortures, kills and rapes without hesitation or remorse. In short, just like his size, his personality is excessive and that leads him to atrocious acts such as the mutilation of his little brother with fire. Gregor also seems impossible to defeat because of his size. In addition, it is probable that, though he was poisoned by Oberyn Martell, he is now back from the dead as ser Robert Strong, which also adds to the myth of his invincibility.

Speaking of size, Petyr Baelish has nothing of a giant in him. However, his father’s sigil is a titan and consequently leads some fans to assume that he is the giant from the Ghost of High Heart’s prophesy. In addition, Petyr Baelish seems to share some personality features with the giants from the myths. Firstly, he is excessive in regards to his personal grudge against Brandon Stark, which turned into a real vendetta against House Stark and into a queer obsession for Catelyn Stark that he later transfers on her daughter, Sansa Stark. He is also brutal as he does not hesitate to kill people like Lysa Arryn or Dontos Hollard. Petyr Baelish also seems unable to restrain himself around Sansa Stark once he has “rescued” her from King’s Landing, as exemplified by the scene where he kisses her in sight of his legitimate wife. He also displays rather clearly his sexual desire for Sansa Stark by kissing her repeatedly while pretending to be her father. Finally, Petyr Baelish can be considered the giant Sansa has to defeat to embrace her true personality, as he somehow holds her prisoner in the Alayne Stone persona.

The dwarf: Tyrion
In most mythologies, the dwarf is associated with caves, mountains, gemstones, treasures and smithing. He is playful, friendly and scary at the same time. In royal courts, he is known to speak very freely and is consequently often associated with the figure of the fool who is allowed to say what he wants without being punished as he is–supposedly–not responsible for what he utters. This is why the dwarf is often connected to the unconscious. On the other hand, he also displays deep cunning, perspicacity and logic. As mentioned earlier, the dwarf is an ambiguous and scary figure as well. Traditionally, he is represented as bearded and old, but he is also associated with children because of his small size and his lack of sexual life. In traditional belief, there is no female dwarf and thus dwarves are magically created or are immortal. For this reason, in Snow White’s tale, the dwarves illustrate her emotional immaturity. History has kept record of famous dwarves such as the Roman Licinius Calvus, who was a brilliant orator, and Alypius of Alexandria, who was renowned for his knowledge and his wisdom. Note also that during the Renaissance, it was fashionable to keep dwarves for company.

Interestingly enough, Tyrion shares many of these features with his popular counterpart. Firstly, his name, Lannister, is linked to gold and wealth in Westeros; as we well know: “A Lannister always pays his debts”. Secondly, he is from Casterly Rock, which stands upon vast caves. Then, his personality is also similar to the one described above. At first, he appears as a very friendly character, but as the story goes on, scary aspects of his personality appear. This is the case when he orders Bronn to kill the singer who offended him or when he personally kills his former lover Shae and his father, Tywin. Tyrion is also known to speak very freely, especially to his nephew, which often lands him in trouble, as later on in the saga he is charged with Joffrey’s murder. He is also connected with the figure of the fool when he is forced to joust on a pig/dog in ADWD. During his time as Hand, Tyrion displays cleverness, cunning and understanding of the Game of Thrones, qualities he shares with the traditional dwarf. However, there is one aspect in which he differs from the popular tales: sexuality. His affair with Shae is an important feature of his narrative in the first three books. His sexuality takes him out of the fairy tale and grounds him in real life. His desire to be loved also makes him definitely human. Still on the topic of sexuality; Sansa (our Belle figure) refuses to have sex with him for various reasons. Maybe, like the dwarves in Snow White’s tale, his role is to highlight her emotional immaturity at that point in the story. The quality connected with his infirmity is power, that he holds during his time as Hand, but which he can also gain thanks to his cleverness and cunning. The flaw is excessiveness, which is expressed through his very free talk, his delusional relationship with Shae and his jealousy as well as his anger, that led him to kill people himself (the singer, Shae and Tywin).

The burnt and lame gravedigger: Sandor

The symbolic meanings of fire are numerous, so what follows is only a short and incomplete list. Usually, fire means life, energy, power and sexual desire. Fire is also the weapon of the gods, as thunder and lightning belong to Zeus. But fire has a dangerous aspect as well, because it burns and destroys, leaving only ashes, a symbol for mourning, solitude, destitution and renunciation. However, grasses and trees are born again from these ashes, thus connecting fire with rebirth and fertility. Note that fire and water are complete opposites, but both are associated with destruction and fertility. Fire also means purification. It destroys everything and kills germs. On a spiritual level, the soul is purified of its stains and sins. The Inquisition had two reasons for burning people: the first one was to purify the soul. The second one was to ease the passing of the soul by destroying its carnal prison. In Greek mythology, Hephaestus is the god of metals and fire. Now, assuming that Sandor is the gravedigger, this leads us to lameness as Hephaestus is lame as well. In Greek mythology, the god of fire is lame. His infirmity seems to be the price he has to pay for his craft. He is married to his polar opposite, the goddess Aphrodite. To limp is also a sign of weakness, incompleteness and unsteadiness. However, it can be compensated with a cane. In addition, lameness can hold a positive signification as it means new found unity. The foot is also a symbol for the soul: a flaw in the walk is also a flaw or a weakness in the soul. In mythology, the Greek hero Achilles, though he is not lame, has one weak spot: his heel. There is a reason for it being the heel: Achilles’s tendencies to violence and wrath are considered as flaws of the soul by the Ancient Greeks, and wrath is Achilles’s weak spot. Sometimes, lameness means a spiritual wound: in the Bible, Jacob, unbeknownst to him, sees and wrestles with God himself. After his fight, Jacob becomes lame for having seen God.

As far as the reader knows at this point in the story, Sandor has only experienced the destructive aspect of fire, for it took away half his face. But the fire did not only take his face, but it seems that it took his innocence, his hopes and his ideals as well. Sandor would then be in a renunciation state symbolized by his ashen grey armour. Earlier, it was mentioned that the fire is purifying and kills the germs. The last time the reader sees Sandor, he is dying because of an infected wound at the leg. There is a medical technique called cauterization, that consists of burning a body part to remove or close off a part of it. The aim of this operation is to mitigate damage or remove infection. The technique was widespread before the discovery of antibiotics and was effective to close amputations and stop loss of blood. Cauterization was also believed to prevent infection as well. So wouldn’t it be quite ironical that the same fire that took Sandor’s face would give him his life back? The Elder Brother is a renowned healer, so it wouldn’t be too improbable to assume that he knows about cauterization. Assuming that Sandor is the gravedigger, he is now lame. Like Hephaestus, he is lame and associated with fire. Will he get a gorgeous wife as well? Sandor also shares a similarity with Achilles: the rage that scares Sansa. The limp could be the mark left by his (former?) wrath, this flaw of the soul according to the Ancient Greeks. The limp could also be interpreted as the mark of a spiritual revelation, a bit like in Jacob’s case. Having just had a near-death experience and living among a community of monks, it would not be too far-fetched to assume so. Finally, Sandor’s burns fit into the category of dissymmetrical infirmities as they break the symmetry of his face. In Sandor’s case, this injury definitely means a loss of balance as it leads him to create the Hound’s persona. Lameness is also a dissymmetrical affliction. So if infirmities work like mathematics, and negation of a negative term is positive, then Sandor is truly at rest and his lameness would be the symbol of his new found unity.

CHEVALIER Jean, GHEERBRANT Alain: Dictionnaire des symboles, mythes, rêves, coutumes, gestes, formes, figures, couleurs, nombres, Laffont, Paris, 1982.

MOREL Corinne: Dictionnaire des symboles, mythes et croyances, L’Archipel, Paris, 2004.





Awakening the Beast: Female Sexuality and Empowerment in Sansa’s Arc

by Brashcandy

I don’t understand this insistence that Sansa absolutely must be saved by someone else, that she is totally unable for the rest of her life to take care of herself. Why force her into the damsel in distress trope forever and ever?
Lyanna Stark, in the thread ‘Sandor’s Return.

A free woman in an unfree society will be a monster.
Angela Carter, “The Sadeian Woman and the Ideology of Pornography”


Sansa Stark is often read quite insistently by readers of George R.R. Martin’s ASOIAF series as a passive, victimized character, carried along by the whims of fate and the desires of others. This viewpoint is particularly entrenched by events within the narrative concerning threats of sexual violence and other predatory behavior in relation to her character. My intention in this essay is to provide a definitive intervention into such perceptions, arguing that whilst Martin wants us to appreciate Sansa’s vulnerability, he does not intend for readers to view her as the quintessential damsel in distress. Instead, as the essay will highlight, these threats appear to galvanize Sansa’s strength and resistance to patriarchal authority, beginning a journey into womanhood marked by the acquisition of creative power and illuminating the development of her erotic desires. These accomplishments are enabled through two very important active modes – the gaze and touch. In order to fully communicate my ideas on this subject, I’ve found it enlightening to include discussion of British writer Angela Carter and her revisionist work on two iconic fairy tales, Beauty and the Beast and Little Red Riding Hood. I believe that both tales hold currency for assisting with the decoding of Sansa’s arc, but it is truly in Carter’s revisions – ‘The Tiger’s Bride’ and ‘The Company of Wolves’ respectively, that we see these young girls come alive, with a voice of their own, and desires that seek fulfillment. With agency and identity as the organizing themes of these stories, both Carter and Martin can be said to be on quest not to show the beastly nature in men, but to awaken the beast in their heroines.

From its inception, feminist theory has been focused on examining the denial of equality and agency for women within patriarchal societies. The male gaze in particular has come under scrutiny by feminist film theorists for how it operates in framing women as objects and constructing gender differences, with masculinity functioning as active and desiring, whereas femininity occupies a space of passive inaction. Laura Mulvey, drawing on Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, was one of the first critics to explain how the male gaze operates as a marginalizing force:

In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its phantasy onto the female figure which is styled accordingly. In their traditional exhibitionist role, women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness. Women displayed as sexual object is the leitmotif of erotic spectacle … she holds the look, plays to and signifies male desire.

Women emerge as spectacles, not subjects, and spectators are encouraged to identify with the male protagonist who controls the look and the action. However, this look is not entirely unproblematic for the male figure. The woman—due to her lack of a penis – evokes castration anxiety in the male, who must find a way to disavow/combat this threat in order to maintain a sense of control and omnipotence. I have quoted Mulvey’s “solution” at length here due to its importance for later analysis:

The male unconscious has two avenues of escape from this castration anxiety: preoccupation with the re-enactment of the original trauma (investigating the woman, demystifying her mystery), counterbalanced by the devaluation, punishment or saving of the guilty object (an avenue typified by the concerns of the film noir); or else complete disavowal of castration by the substitution of fetish object so that it becomes reassuring rather than dangerous (hence overvaluation, the cult of the female star). This second avenue, fetishistic scopophilia, builds up the physical beauty of the object, transforming it into something satisfying in itself. The first avenue, voyeurism, on the contrary, has associations with sadism: pleasure lies in ascertaining guilt (immediately associated with castration), asserting control and subjecting the guilty person through punishment or forgiveness. Sadism demands a story, depends on making something happen, forcing a change in another person, a battle of will and strength, victory/defeat, all occurring in a linear time with a beginning and an end. Fetishistic scopophilia, on the other hand, can exist outside linear time as the erotic instinct is focused on the look alone.

While Mulvey’s theory was undoubtedly important for establishing the primary divisions in looking, many scholars found it unsatisfying for its neglect on the question of female spectatorship. Do women not desire too? Are they always passive? Since then, other feminist film theorists have produced valuable work on the female gaze, chief among them Mary Ann Doane, Kaja Silverman and Linda Williams. The latter’s essay ‘When the Woman Looks’ begins by highlighting just why the activity of looking is so challenging for women:

There are excellent reasons for this refusal of the woman to look, not least of which she is often asked to bear witness to her own powerlessness in the face of rape, mutilation and murder. Another excellent reason for the refusal to look is the fact that women are given so little to identify with on the screen…

Like the female spectator, the female protagonist often fails to look, to return the gaze of the male who desires her. In classic narrative cinema, to see is to desire, allowing the look of the male protagonist to regard the woman at the requisite safe distance necessary to the voyeur’s pleasure, with no danger that she will return the look and in so doing express desires of her own.
Williams goes on to state two examples of the female look within the cinema, but notes that these examples—the silent screen vamp and the “good girl” heroine—are quite problematic. The former’s “dubious moral status” requires punishment by the end, and “undermine the legitimacy and authentic subjectivity of the look, frequently turning it into a mere parody of the male look”. Quoting Doane, Williams explains:

In both cases, as Doane suggests, “the woman’s exercise of an active investigating gaze can only be simultaneous with her own victimization.” The woman’s gaze is punished in other words, by narrative processes that transform curiosity and desire into masochistic fantasy.

Williams turns to examining the horror film genre to further explore the punishment of the good girl heroine, and suggests that contrary to traditional readings, the body of the monster might not signify the repressed sexuality of the civilized male, but as the “feared power and potency of a different kind of sexuality (the monster as double for the women)”:

The female look—a look given preeminent position in the horror film – shares the male fear of the monster’s freakishness, but also recognizes the sense in which this freakishness is similar to her own difference. For she too has been constituted as an exhibitionist object by the desiring look of the male. There is not much difference between an object of desire and an object of horror as far as the male look is concerned… The strange sympathy and affinity that often develops between the monster and the girl may thus be less an expression of sexual desire (as in King Kong, Beauty and the Beast) and more a flash of sympathetic identification.

The lack that is credited to women in phallocentric culture isn’t a lack at all but rather a “protective fantasy” aimed at disguising the potency of that very difference. What the male child fears is that not the mother’s castration, but the power to “mutilate and transform the vulnerable male”. Williams concludes by saying:

So there is a sense in which the women’s look at the monster is more than simply a punishment for looking, or a narcissistic fascination with the distortion of her own image in the mirror that patriarchy holds up to her; it is also a recognition of their similar status as potent threats to a vulnerable male power. This would help explain the often vindictive destruction of the monster in the horror film and the fact that this destruction generates the frequent sympathy of the women characters, who seem to sense the extent to which the monster’s death is an exorcism of the power of their own sexuality…Thus, I would suggest that, in classic horror film, the woman’s look at the monster offers at least a potentially subversive recognition of the power and potency of a non-phallic sexuality. Precisely because this look is so threatening, it is violently punished.


As we can see, the female look resists easy classification and does not necessarily confer the same power and authority that is implicit in the male gaze. It is perhaps for this reason that some feminist theorists have instead underscored the importance of touch for women rather than the gaze. Women do not, and as the difficulty in constructing theories of female spectatorship would imply, cannot depend on sight alone to communicate their desires or agency. This is why touch becomes critically important if one is seeking to foreground female agency within a patriarchal society that does not recognize women as autonomous beings. Catherine Lappas makes this clear in her essay, ‘Seeing is believing, but touching is the truth’, which looks at female spectatorship in Angela Carter’s The Company of Wolves:

For Carter … it is sight in combination with touch, rather than sight alone, which most accurately reflects the complex and polymorphous potential of female desire. Challenging psychoanalyses’ privileging of sight as the supreme form of knowledge, she reveals the radical potential of touch… Carter … implies that truth is constituted differently for women than it is for men. For if under patriarchy sight is the privileged way of knowing, when appropriated by the female subject, knowing becomes equated with touching. But for Carter, this difference is not equated with inferiority—touching is an alternate way of knowing that has been repressed by patriarchal ideology.


Elisabeth Grosz (quoted in Lappas) sheds further light on this:

Vision performs a distancing function, leaving the looker unimplicated or uncontaminated by its object. With all the other senses, there is a contiguity between the subject and object, if not an internalization and incorporation of the object by the subject. The tactile, for example, keeps the toucher in direct contact with the object touched; taste further implicates the subject, for the object must be ingested, internalized in order for it to be accessible to taste.

Touch (and taste) therefore allows for greater connection between subject and object, undermining the supremacy of the gaze and opening a space for a feminine subjectivity to be articulated. In so doing, a breakdown occurs between the old dichotomies of self/other, male/female, passive/active which the gaze inherently manifests. In turning to an analysis of ‘The Company of Wolves’ and ‘The Tiger’s Bride’, stories which deal with the fear of sexual violence and the victimization of women within patriarchal societies, what we witness is not the subjugation of young women beneath the yoke of beastly authority, but rather their negotiation and exploration of their own erotic desires; a confrontation of the beast within themselves.

Angela Carter (1940-1992) sought to rewrite fairy tales from a decidedly feminist perspective, challenging the representation of women as passive and bringing into sharp focus the patriarchal conditions that restrict women’s agency. The sexual danger and eroticism present within these fairytales are brought to the surface in Carter’s revisions, but with the specific purpose of overturning the old misogynistic narratives. As Carter herself says: “I am all for putting new wine in old bottles, especially if the pressure of the new wine makes the old bottles explode.”
The first explosion we will examine is Carter’s revision of Charles Perrault’s ‘Le Petit Chaperon Rouge’ (Little Red Riding Hood). In Perrault’s tale, LRRH sets out into the woods on a visit to her grandmother’s house with some refreshments for the sick old woman. On her way there, she encounters a wolf who enquires about the nature of her journey. The wolf wants to eat LRRH but has to be wary about the huntsmen working nearby. Upon learning the location of Granny’s House, the wolf tells LRRH he will go visit Granny as well, setting off in the another direction to see who will arrive first. LRRH spends some time picking flowers, and the wolf gets there ahead of her, promptly proceeds to eat the old woman, and then gets into bed to await LRRH. When she arrives, the wolf – pretending to be Granny – tells her to get into bed with him, and LRRH takes off her clothes and does so. Once in the bed, we have the famous exchange between the two:

“Grandmother, what big arms you have!”

“All the better to hug you with, my dear.”

“Grandmother, what big legs you have!”

“All the better to run with, my child.”

“Grandmother, what big eyes you have!”

“All the better to see with, my child.”

“Grandmother, what big teeth you have got!”

“All the better to eat you up with.”

At this point, LRRH is consumed, and Perrault ends his tale with a moral:

Children, especially attractive, well-bred young ladies, should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf. I say “wolf” but there are various kinds of wolves. There are also those who are charming, quiet polite, unassuming, complacent, and sweet, who pursue young women at home and in the streets. And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are the most dangerous ones of all.

What are we to take away from the ending of Perrault’s tale? In the oral versions of the story, Little Red Riding Hood is about a girl’s journey into womanhood, and the ensuing issues surrounding sexuality and agency. In Perrault’s treatment of the tale, the young girl is powerless in the face of predatory male sexuality, and ends up as a helpless victim, raped and murdered. The lesson for young girls is that they should “know better” than to associate with strange men, who will ultimately be the cause of their demise. LRRH doesn’t achieve any agency in the version by the Brothers Grimm either. In their tale, adapted from Perrault’s, LRRH (and her grandmother) is saved by a passing huntsmen who cuts her from the belly of the wolf. The end of this version echoes Perrault’s as well, as LRRH is now chastened by the error of her ways:

Then all three were delighted. The huntsman drew off the wolf’s skin and went home with it; the grandmother ate the cake and drank the wine which Red-Cap had bought, and revived, but Red-Cap thought to herself, “As long as I live, I will never by myself leave the path, to run into the wood, when my mother has forbidden me to do so.”

Patriarchal order is restored, and LRRH learns her lesson. “Leaving the path” becomes a metaphor for female disobedience and desires which only create havoc. Ideal women should be passive, obedient and above all wary of strange men who will gobble them up.

Carter sets about to subvert this portrayal of LRRH in her story The Company of Wolves with a heroine who not only survives the encounter with the wolf, but actually invites it. The story opens with the lore of werewolves and lean wolves in the forest, where even the setting conspires to entrap you:

You are always in danger in the forest, where no people are. Step between the portals of the great pines where the shaggy branches tangle about you, trapping the unwary traveler in nets as if the vegetation itself were in a plot with the wolves who live there, as though the wicked trees go fishing on behalf of their friends – step between the gateposts of the forest with the greatest trepidation and infinite precautions, for if you stray from the path for one instant, the wolves will eat you. They are grey as famine, they are unkind as plague.

The forest is presented to us as a dangerous environment where one can easily fall victim to wild beasts. However, upon meeting the protagonist of the story, Little Red Riding Hood, we see that she is not afraid to journey through the woods at all. The portals and gateposts which Carter writes of above suggests that one is entering into new territory and as a result the unexpected can take place. This is symbolic of a liminal space which Cynthia Jones expands on in her essay Into the Woods: Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf:

The forest in folklore is often associated with fear; it is the place where anxieties and desires clash into one another. This is the space where all metamorphoses take place. The deeper one goes into the forest, the darker and more ominous it becomes, as if digging through the depths of the human
mind, going into dark corners where one would normally never dare to explore…This space becomes a place that is neither here nor there. It is a space of transition, where one is no longer in a fixed state… In the liminal space, one
is at the threshold…

Significantly, when we meet LRRH she too is at an important threshold, neither here (child) nor there (woman). She has just started her menstrual cycle and Carter introduces her to us as a young girl who “does not know how to shiver”.

Children do not stay young for long in this savage country. There are no toys for them to play with so they work hard and grow wise but this one, so pretty and the youngest of her family, a little late-comer, had been indulged by her mother and grandmother who’d knitted her the red shawl that, today, has the ominous if brilliant look of blood on snow; her breasts have just begun to swell; her hair is like lint, so fair it hardly makes a shadow on her pale forehead; her cheeks are an emblematic scarlet and white and she has just started her woman’s bleeding, the clock inside her that will strike, henceforward, once a month.

The sexual imagery of the blood on snow is immediately noticeable in Carter’s description. LRRH is about to enter the forest, a setting the reader already knows is violent and threatening, and in her innocent naïveté towards the danger, seems to have been set up as the perfect prey that Perrault warned about in the moral to his story. And yet, like the werewolves Carter speaks of in the opening of the story, LRRH is more than she seems. When she meets a handsome man in the forest, LRRH is immediately charmed and the two are soon “laughing and talking like old friends”. She even lets him carry her basket where she had placed a knife for her protection. When the man suggests a challenge to see who reaches to Granny’s house first, Little Red acquiesces:

‘Is it a bet?” he asked her. ‘Shall we make a game of it? What will you give me if I get to your grandmother’s house before you?’

‘What would you like?’ She asked disingenuously.

‘A kiss.’

Commonplaces of a rustic seduction; she lowered her eyes and blushed.

It’s important to understand that LRRH is very much “in on the game” here and is actively involved in the flirtation. Her question to the man is noted to be “disingenuous,” and although she refuses to leave the path and trust his compass, she dawdles along the way to make sure that the handsome stranger wins his bet. Kimberly J. Lau observes that Carter portrays LRRH as the “sexual nymphet, typical object of male fantasy” in the above exchange, but explains:

Carter is just toying with that fantasy, writing her own moral pornography as a way of further dismantling a world of sexual absolutes. As Carter writes her, Little Red Riding Hood is, ultimately, a sexual agent, more akin to Tex Avery’s stripteasing Red than to Perrault’s innocent. Early on, Carter hints at her emerging phallic power: “Her father might forbid her, if he were home, but he is away in the forest, gathering wood, and her mother cannot deny her.” Despite (or perhaps because of?) her alluring innocence, Little Red Riding Hood shares her father’s power, participates in his authority over her mother.

When the man reaches Granny’s house, he proceeds to remove his clothes, revealing himself as a werewolf to the terrified old woman. Unlike Little Red Riding Hood whose clock has just begun to tick, time is winding down for the grandmother, and she can only stare at the man’s body in shock and horror before he eats her:

He strips off his shirt. His skin is the colour and texture of vellum. A crisp stripe of hair runs down his belly, his nipples are ripe and dark as poison fruit but he’s so thin you could count the ribs under his skin. He strips off his trousers and she can see how hairy his legs are. His genitals, huge. Ah! huge.

The man-wolf’s sexual potency is stressed here, and we know the danger into which LRRH is walking. When she discovers the bones of her grandmother burning in the fire and the man-wolf blocks the exit, LRRH experiences a momentary sense of fear. She comments on the man’s big eyes, and then upon hearing wolf howling outside, goes to the window and sympathizes with the cold they must be feeling. At this point we read:

She closed the windows on the wolves’ threnody and took off her scarlet shawl, the colour of poppies, the colour of sacrifices, the colour of her menses, and since her fear did her no good, she ceased to be afraid.

This description has led some critics to claim that the story merely details Little Red Riding Hood’s passive acceptance of rape; however, what we see is not a damsel in distress, but a girl actively deciding to take her own pleasure in this interaction. The man no longer represents a threat to her, not because she has decided to let him have his way, but because she is responding to her own desires. This becomes clear in what follows, as LRRH proceeds to undress herself slowly, asking at each point what she should do with the discarded clothing. When she stands naked before him, she then begins to undress him:

‘What big arms you have.”

‘All the better to hug you with.’

Every wolf in the world now howled a prothalamion outside the window as she freely gave him the kiss she gave she owed him.

‘What big teeth you have!’

She saw how his jaw began to slaver and the room was full of the clamour of the forest’s Liebestod but the wise child never flinched, even when he answered:

‘All the better to eat you with.’

The girl burst out laughing; she knew she was nobody’s meat. She laughed at him full in the face, she ripped off his shirt for him and flung it in the fire, in the fiery wake of her own discarded clothing.

The girl’s declaration that she is “nobody’s meat” profoundly articulates Carter’s feminist vision in this story. LRRH’s identity is not vested in a patriarchal vision of herself as weak and helpless, needing to fear the big bad wolf. Instead, we have an authoritative assertion that belies societal constructions of femininity as passive and powerless. The traditional exchange between the wolf and LRRH is re-coded by Carter to make LRRH’s questions not those of a fearful girl, but those of seductive flirtation and anticipation. Interestingly, Carter breaks up the exchange, with the first part taking place when she has newly arrived. She tells the man about his big eyes and feels actual alarm:

She wanted her knife from her basket but she did not dare reach for it because his eyes were fixed upon her—huge eyes that now seemed to shine with a unique interior light, eyes the size of saucers, saucers full of Greek fire, diabolic phosphorescence.

If we recall the theoretical outline in Part I of this essay, LRRH’s fear, not of the man-wolf himself, but of his gaze, makes perfect sense. Within the gaze, she is trapped and terrified, objectified within a system that denies her agency. For this brief moment in the story, she is the victim. And what is it that breaks this tension? That causes LRRH to “cease to be afraid”? It is the appeal to another sense, the howling of the wolves, which disrupts the mastery of the stranger’s gaze, and inspires a feeling of sympathy in LRRH when she looks out the window. Perhaps Williams’ theory on the female gaze in the horror film holds some relevance here. Although the man-wolf attests that these wolves are his brothers, it is LRRH who seems to have created a bond/affinity with them in that instant. The stranger is a werewolf, part human himself, but LRRH’s sympathy is given to these pure “monsters” and it is this potential identification that awakens her own animal desires and ends her fear, what Williams refers to as the power of a non-phallic sexuality. As Merja Makinen states:

Reading Carter’s fairytales as her female protagonists’ confrontations with desire, in all its unruly ‘animalness’, yields rich rewards… Read the beasts as the projections
of a feminine libido, and they become exactly that autonomous desire which the female characters need to recognize and reappropriate as a part of themselves.

By the time the exchange picks back up between the two, touch is the sense which is now foregrounded, and LRRH is leading the way. She talks of his big arms and he replies that these will be better to hug her with; we are moving towards the territory of equality and mutual pleasure, not exploitation and assault. As the story comes to a close, we are given a forecast of future harmony between LRRH and the wolf:

She will lay his fearful head on her lap and she will pick the lice from his pelt and perhaps she will put the lice into her mouth and eat them, as he will bid her, as she would do in a savage marriage ceremony.

This brings to mind Elisabeth Grosz’s point about how taste functions in implicating the subject with the object – as there is actual ingestion taking place. In presenting her vision of equitable gender relations, Carter has elevated the other senses of sound, touch and taste, and revealed how these can contribute to pleasure and a more profound happiness outside of the traditional patriarchal reliance on sight. In taking the wolf into herself, LRRH’s own bestial nature is underscored, along with her partner who is no longer half beast. We learnt in the first part of the story that the burning of a werewolf’s clothes meant that they would be condemned to live as a wolf forever, and in the moment of their passion LRRH throws the man-wolf’s clothing into the fire. She has secured her beast and in the final lines of the story, she sleeps “sweet and sound” in her grandmother’s bed, “between the paws of the tender wolf”.

‘The Tiger’s Bride’ is Carter’s revision of the traditional beauty and the beast tale, where the beast is transformed at the end into a handsome prince. The heroine of Beaumont’s tale—the version of the myth that we are most familiar with today – is chaste and demure, self-sacrificing and obedient, and in the end she is magically rewarded with a gentile husband. Things do not quite work this way in Carter’s story. As Meyre Santana da Silva attests:

Carter’s specific goals are to update, twist and demythologize the classic fairy tales from a feminist perspective… Carter uses fairy tales to treat themes relating to liberation and change, re-evaluating the female experience in patriarchal society. She intends to deconstruct masculinity and femininity and it’s explored through the contemporary feminist lens.

The first important strategy Carter utilizes in lending credence and agency to her protagonist is through the employment of first person narration. The girl’s ability to tell her own story immediately establishes her as an authority figure, undermining the natural inclination to see her as a victim of the patriarchy. The opening line of the story illustrates this achievement:

My father lost me to the Beast at cards.

What is ostensibly an admission of the transactional exploitation of women under patriarchy becomes in the heroine’s voice a simple matter of fact. Of course these events affect her considerably, but there is a sense of inner strength and courage that infuses her tone throughout the story. When she does finally experience an emotional breakdown of sorts, it is more akin to a breakthrough, and linked to her experience of empowerment, not weakness. Indeed, it is the girl’s father whom we see in tears, and this is associated with his moral failings. The word “lost” in the opening sentence also carries a double meaning. By the end of the story we realize that it is the father who has truly lost, and the daughter who has won. As Santana da Silva noted above, Carter wants us to rethink our views on masculinity and femininity and the qualities we associate with both.

In the heroine’s thoughts, her father is revealed as a foolish, indulgent man who expects to live a life of constant luxury in the South, away from the harsh climate of their home in the North. Eventually of course, winter reaches them too, described by the girl as “flocking against the windowpanes to mock my father’s expectations of perpetual pleasure”. The father is frivolous and carefree, and as the game continues with La Bestia, or Milord as the girl calls him, the father bets everything he has, until only his daughter is left. Throughout the game we are privy to the girl’s observations, and her ironic and sarcastic comments and deft descriptions of her father and Milord, expose these men as essentially desperate and comical respectively. The beast wears a mask and a wig to hide his features, and stinks so badly of heavy perfume that the girl wonders what he must smell like to require such excessive masking. She also takes note of his physical discomfort:

There is a crude clumsiness about his outlines, that are on the ungainly, giant side, and he has an odd air of self-imposed restraint, as if fighting a battle with himself to remain upright when he would rather drop down on all fours.

The girl’s gaze is active in this scene where she becomes the take home prize; even though she has been treated as an object and commodified, she is not afraid to take stock of her circumstances and those responsible for it. Her father receives the harshest censure:

Gambling is a sickness. My father said he loved me yet he staked his daughter on a hand of cards. He fanned them out; in the mirror, I saw wild hope light up his eyes. His collar was unfastened, his rumpled hair stood up on end, he had the anguish of a man in the last stages of debauchery. The draughts came out of the old walls and bit me; I was colder than I’d ever been in Russia, when nights are coldest there.

When the game is finally over and the father has lost, the beast’s valet informs the girl that she will be escorted to Milord’s palazzo in the morning. The valet plays an important role in the story, acting as go between his master and the girl, and translating the beast’s speech, which only comes out in grunts and growls. As the girl looks ahead to what awaits her with fear and trepidation, she remembers her old childhood nurse, who would tell her of a tiger man who would come and take her away if she did not behave.

But if this young lady was not a good little girl and she did not eat her boiled beetroot, then the tiger-man would put on his big black travelling cloak lined with fur, just like your daddy’s, and hire the Erl-King’s galloper of wind and ride through the night straight to the nursery and—Yes, my beauty! GOBBLE YOU UP!

The way in which fairytales are used as moralizing codes and dictates for feminine obedience is skillfully introduced into the narrative by Carter via this memory. According to Santana da Silva:

In the nurse tale can be observed the installation of the fear of the father, a pre-Oedipally necessary construction. It can also be associated to the anticipation of the consumption of the marriage night. The tale installs fear of defloration. Defloration is linked to female destruction. It causes abjection and the woman’s sexuality is denied. The nurse’s “gobble you up” suggests the sexual relation as
something that causes female annihilation.

The fact that this tale represents an implicit warning for female sexuality becomes evident in the girl’s continued recollections of the things she could not reveal to her nurse during this time. In the company of “giggling nursemaids” she learns of “mysteries of what the bulls did to the cows” and hears of the gossip concerning the waggoner’s daughter, who has gotten pregnant, but is so notoriously ugly that no one can imagine who the father is.

Yet, to her shame, her belly swelled amid the cruel mockery of the ostlers and her son was born of a bear, they whispered. Born with a full pelt and teeth; that proved it. But when he grew up, he was a good shepherd, although he never married, living outside the village and could make the wind blow any way he wanted to besides being able to tell which eggs would become cocks, which hens.

The girl’s rustic education in the realities of sex between animals and those between humans and beasts acts as a kind of perverse preparation for her current predicament. Despite the nurse’s best efforts, she is not totally an innocent.

Unlike the magnificent palace filled with servants to tend to Beauty’s every whim that we read of in other popular versions of the tale, Milord’s palazzo is an isolated, desolate place, which appears to the girl as though one is in the process of moving out, or never fully moved in. Entering the beast’s room, she meets him defiantly, refusing to smile. It is left to the valet to communicate what it is that his master wishes, a request which causes him considerable difficulty to utter:

“My master’s sole desire is to see the pretty young lady unclothed nude without her dress and that only for the one time after which she will be returned to her father undamaged with bankers’ offers for the sum which he lost to my master at cards also a number of fine presents such as furs, jewels and horses—”

The girl’s response to this is not tears or pleading but instead a “raucous guffaw” reminding her of her nurse’s remonstrations that no young lady laughed like that, to which she thinks, “But I did. And do”. The girl refuses to subject herself to this humiliating scene and instead suggests a strict sexual contract of one night, after which the beast can pay her as he would any other woman or not. She is pleased to see that upon this qualification she has wounded him to the heart.

Throughout this initial meeting between the girl and Milord, she is the one who stares at him, subjecting him to her gaze while the valet is making the perverse request, and he is the one to evade her eyes. After she rejects his offer and suggests her own, a single tear drops from the beast’s eye. This episode truly begins the deconstruction of traditional representations of masculinity and femininity. The power and authority allotted to masculinity is otherwise seen in the girl’s control of this space, where she unsettles the valet, causes the beast to feel a sense of shame over his voyeuristic impulses, and refuses to participate in the dehumanizing contract. Her raucous laughter is reminiscent of LRRH’s own hilarity in The Company of Wolves when the man-wolf declared that he would eat her up. Milord wants to set up a ritual staging of the male gaze, with the girl acting as lifeless object for his pleasure, but in denying his request, it is the girl’s subjectivity which we are meant to recognize and credit. Thomas Bonnici states:

Carter builds the surface structure of an innocent virgin girl and paradoxically imbues it with desire and autonomy. From the very beginning of her conscious life the daughter is aware of the prettiness of her rosy cheeked face, her curls and her body … The detailed description that the girl gives of the Beast proves that, reciprocally, the female gaze is an element to be taken into account and does not permit itself to be passive.

The valet escorts the girl back to her room where she is met with a clockwork maid to powder her cheeks and assist with her clothing. Santana da Silva posits that the mechanical helper can be read as representing the woman whose subjectivity is denied. She is a creature of the patriarchy, devoid of real feelings or desires, simply existing to fulfill the wishes of another. After the girl twice rejects the beast’s gifts and continues to refuse to be naked before him, the valet arrives with a new request that she join Milord to go out riding. It is in this open space where the girl begins to glean that she and the beast might not be so dissimilar after all:

I was a young girl, a virgin and therefore men denied me rationality just as they denied it to all those who were not exactly like themselves.

Yet, the transformative potential of this connection is only grasped when the beast proceeds to strip off his clothes and reveal his naked body to the girl in powerful act of reversal which subverts the hegemony of the male gaze:

“If you will not let him see you without your clothes—”

I involuntarily shook my head—

“—you must, then, prepare yourself for the sight of my master naked.”

The river broke on the pebbles with a diminishing sigh. My composure deserted me; all at once I was on the brink of panic. I did not think I could bear the sight of him, whatever he was. The mare raised her dripping muzzle and looked at me keenly, as if urging me. The river broke again at my feet. I was far from home.

“You,” said the valet, “must.”

When I saw how scared he was that I might refuse, I nodded.

The reed bowed down in a sudden snarl of wind that brought with it a gust of the heavy odour of his disguise. The valet held out his master’s cloak to screen him from me as he removed the mask. The horses stirred.

The tiger will never lie down with the lamb; he acknowledges no pact that is not reciprocal. The lamb must learn to run with the tigers…

I therefore, shivering, now unfastened my jacket to show him I would do him no harm…

The girl is not afraid for herself, but for the beast. Stripping naked before him is no longer a humiliating experience, but rather a gesture of reciprocity and affinity. She experiences a sense of liberation and empowerment as she finally faces a beast that does not in fact gobble her up, but allows for the recognition of her sexuality and the expression of repressed desires. When she returns to the room, she begins to take off her clothes, describing the process of removing each item as akin to flaying. Santana da Silva describes it as ridding herself of the “artificiality of gender construction”:

Her maturation comes with her sexual realization, her self-knowledge, discovery of her sexuality, her freedom from “the nursery fears.

She resolves to send the mechanical maid to her father (who is once again wealthy) and goes to find the beast in his den. Conditions in the castle have changed as well, with the valet also feeling secure in revealing his animal nature. The beast’s room is no longer filled with the scent of the heavy perfume, but his natural rank animal scent. Approaching the animal, she realizes that his “appetite need not be my extinction.” Indeed, she realizes that the beast is more afraid of her than she is of him. She stretches out her hand to signal the wish for contact, and the beast in return sniffs the air but can smell no fear.

Slowly, slowly, he began to drag his heavy, gleaming weight across the floor towards me.
A tremendous throbbing, as of the engine that makes the earth turn, filled the little room; he had begun to purr.

The sweet thunder of this purr shook the old walls, made the shutters batter the windows until they burst apart and let in the white light of the snowy moon…

He dragged himself closer and closer to me, until I felt the harsh velvet of his head against my hand, then a tongue, abrasive as sandpaper. “He will lick the skin off me!”

And each stroke of his tongue ripped off skin after successive skin, all the skins of a life in the world, and left behind a nascent patina of shiny hairs. My earrings turned back to water and trickled down my shoulders; I shrugged the drops off my beautiful fur.

The transformation that occurs at the end of the story is of the girl into a beast herself, and once again Carter foregrounds the importance of touch and taste in creating intimacy and breaking down the binaries of beast/beauty, self/other, masculine/feminine. According to Jenny Fabian, the intense shaking of the house symbolizes the crumbling of “the very edifice of gender construction.” Thomas Bonnici captures the essential significance of Angela Carter’s work:

By means of the time-battered and problem-ridden fairy-tales, Carter has tried to denounce patriarchy and its containment ideology … the reciprocity the gaze, equal sexual relationship and the appreciation of female desire produces a world vision, if not fully women-centered, at least, of poise and balance. If the formula of beast equals female sensuality is correct, then Carter has struck on the much debated elements in feminist trends. Patriarchy has created such conditionings on the female that the free expression of sensuality and voice became impossible and differentiated her from the male in her most inherent rights. Through Carter’s fiction and especially through her rewriting of the old fairy-tales, the reader in feminist thought succeeds in visualizing the fearless approach of the female towards sensuality, her recovery of subjectivity and a new empowerment.


Sansa Stark continues this tradition of heroines who manage to maintain their courage and dignity in the face of patriarchal oppression which often manifests as explicit or implicit sexual threats. As we see with Little Red Riding Hood and the Tiger’s bride, female sexuality has been constructed as an exploitable resource, and the challenge for these young girls is to recognize the legitimacy of their desires (or lack thereof), and to reclaim what has been repressed and subsumed by various societal forces. As I have tried to show with the discussion of Carter’s short stories, there is a serious need to rethink what constitutes feminine agency and authority. Like LRRH who must go through the forest to reach Grandma’s house, and the tiger’s bride who has to venture to the beast’s palazzo, Sansa too experiences has fearful experiences and emerges not cowed or demoralized but stronger and more resilient. In the discussion to follow, I am going to focus on three events in Sansa’s storyline, which I think work to illustrate her gradual empowerment throughout the novels. Like Carter, Martin shows a similar reliance on the female gaze in Sansa’s story, and is equally invested I would argue in deconstructing masculinity and femininity as discrete categories.
The first event under analysis is the meeting between Sandor and Sansa on the night of the Blackwater battle. Returning to her room, she finds the Hound in her bed, and is initially terrified and perplexed by his presence. On first glance, the scene appears to plays out as a typical representation of the woman as damsel in distress, at the mercy of a powerful, domineering male figure. The reading that tends to result from such a view is that Sandor went to Sansa’s room on that night to rape her, and she was lucky to escape with her innocence intact. What I want to suggest however, is that Sansa does not indeed escape untouched or unaffected by this incident, but it doesn’t take the form of trauma or sense of violation.

Sandor, despite his later resorting to violence in a desperate moment, is not the all-powerful masculine authority in this scene. He has just deserted the hellish Blackwater battle where he had to confront his fear of fire in an even more destructive form. His perceived failures, on both the personal and public front, weigh heavy:

“Don’t you want to ask who’s winning the battle, little bird?”

“Who?” she said, too frightened to defy to him.

The Hound laughed. “I only know who’s lost. Me.”

He is drunker than I’ve ever seen him. He was sleeping in my bed. What does he want here? “What have you lost?”

“All.” The burnt half of his face was a mask of dried blood.

What soon becomes clear is that the Hound isn’t there to terrorize or assault Sansa, but wants her to accompany him when he leaves the city. This, however, is contingent upon her consent, a necessity that constructs Sansa not as passive receiver, but rather someone with the power to make a choice, to decide what it is that she wants to do.

Sandor’s insistent “look at me” also gives Sansa the control of the look in this moment. He is the one asking for recognition and acceptance, offering himself up as the object of desire for her contemplation. What happens next illustrates the inherently problematic nature of the gaze for adequately attending to both male and female sensibilities. When Sansa closes her eyes (as he pulls her closer), Sandor takes it as a rejection, and reacts violently. The gaze is what he has relied on throughout most of his interaction with Sansa as a way for him to make meaning and sense of their relationship and how she feels about him. We only have to think back to their first conversation after the tourney feast to realize that the same is not true for Sansa. What she has used as her means of knowing and communicating her feelings for Sandor is the sense of touch; from her active and instinctive reaching out to him in moments of empathy and compassion, to the sensation of comfort and protection in wearing his cloak. There can be little wonder then that after the violent threat has passed, Sansa proceeds to touch Sandor:

Some instinct made her lift her hand and cup his cheek with her fingers. The room was too dark for her see him, but she could feel the stickiness of the blood, and a wetness that was not blood. “Little bird,” he said once more, his voice raw and harsh as steel on stone. Then he rose from the bed. Sansa head cloth ripping, followed by the softer sound of retreating footsteps.

Martin deliberately subjugates the sense of sight in this description, relying instead on what Sansa feels to communicate to her and the reader about Sandor’s emotional state. As noted before, touch (and taste) implicates the subject (Sansa) with the object (Sandor) in a much more intimate and meaningful manner. What is interesting to consider is the productive potential of this implication/incorporation for Sansa’s sexuality. We’ve noted in the past that the UnKiss is a way for Sansa to assume agency over her sexual development/awakening, and I think this reading remains valid. However, to tease out additional strands, what is a kiss if not a means of tasting, indeed, the harmony of both touch and taste? The UnKiss shouldn’t be written off as foolish fantasy as many readers tend to do, but warrants appreciation as the next logical step in the development of Sansa’s autonomous desires, and a construction of “truth” for her that corresponds to a very real internal logic.

The next event under consideration is Sansa’s marriage to Tyrion, specifically the wedding night. Once again, Martin deconstructs the traditional association between masculinity and mastery, and ends the chapter with Sansa’s firm rejection of Tyrion. It is evident that what little power Tyrion has in this scene comes not from any innate sense of power and authority, but rather that he is relying on patriarchal sanctions – the law of the father (and literally his father) – to legitimize his actions and give him the courage to rape his wife. It’s a distasteful prospect for Tyrion, and we see him struggling not only between his own personal sense of right and wrong vs. the public mandate that he has been given to “take what is his by right,” but also with his desire for Sansa and his awareness of her complete lack of interest in him.

What’s interesting in a chapter which is from Sansa’s POV is how much “inside” information Martin gives us into Tyrion’s psyche and his anxieties. Whilst we could argue about the authorial handling of the chapter with respect to certain details, I think Martin’s overall achievement was in showing how both Sansa and Tyrion end up rejecting their respective patriarchal mouthpieces – Septa Mordane and Tywin Lannister. However, and this is a big however, Sansa dismissal of the Septa’s words is founded on concrete lack of desire for her husband, transforming Tyrion’s offer of a reprieve into an outright rejection of him as an object of desire.

It’s important to understand just why Sansa’s active deployment of the gaze is so central to the question of her sexuality and agency.

Look at him, Sansa told herself, look at your husband, at all of him, Septa Mordane said all men are beautiful, find his beauty, try. She stared at the stunted legs, the swollen brutish brow, the green eye and the black one, the raw stump of nose and crooked pink scar, the coarse tangle of black and gold hair that passed for his beard. Even his manhood was ugly, thick and veined, with a bulbous purple head. This is not right, this is not fair, how have I sinned that the gods would do this to me, how?

Sansa’s looking takes on distinct properties of the male gaze in this scene. She not only looks at Tyrion, but zeroes in and singles out each of his imperfections that are distasteful to her. It is not a passive rejection, in that she thinks to herself that she is merely not attracted to him, but a remarkably active appraisal, that judges at the same time as it looks, establishing Sansa’s right to find pleasure in her husband and asserting that female erotic desires are just as valid as male ones. Somehow, I don’t think such active truth seeking is what Septa Mordane had in mind when she told Sansa all men were beautiful.

This scene also seems pertinent to the theory by Linda Williams on the “flash of sympathetic identification” that can take place between the girl and the monster in the horror film, which is not related to sexual desire, but to the awareness on the girl’s part that she and the monster have been constructed as lacking within normative male identity:

He is as frightened as I am, Sansa realized. Perhaps that should have made her feel more kindly toward him, but it did not. All she felt was pity and pity was death to desire. He was looking at her, waiting for her to say something, but all her words had withered. She could only stand there trembling.

There can be no happy ending for this beauty and beast pairing and to stress, there should not be. This is not an example of the classic fairytales and myths where one can magically fall in love with a suitor visiting them in the dark of night.

I should note here that Tyrion has not yet embraced his “monster” persona at this point in the story; he’s still trying to embody the ideals of a good husband and desirable partner for Sansa. In order words, he is still invested in the patriarchal aspiration of a loving family despite his awareness of why it can’t work; he’s still a Lannister. And it is perhaps for this reason that he is opened to the symbolic power of Sansa’s rejection as a castrating force, a devastating blow to the male psyche which Tyrion spends the remainder of the time in his marriage trying to disavow, first through voyeurism, then via fetishistic scopophilia. Let’s recall what Mulvey says about how these operate:

The male unconscious has two avenues of escape from this castration anxiety: preoccupation with the re-enactment of the original trauma (investigating the woman, demystifying her mystery), counterbalanced by the devaluation, punishment or saving of the guilty object (an avenue typified by the concerns of the film noir); or else complete disavowal of castration by the substitution of a fetish object so that it becomes reassuring rather than dangerous (hence overvaluation, the cult of the female star). This second avenue, fetishistic scopophilia, builds up the physical beauty of the object, transforming it into something satisfying in itself.

The first avenue, voyeurism, on the contrary, has associations with sadism: pleasure lies in ascertaining guilt (immediately associated with castration), asserting control and subjecting the guilty person through punishment or forgiveness. Sadism demands a story, depends on making something happen, forcing a change in another person, a battle of will and strength, victory/defeat, all occurring in a linear time with a beginning and an end. Fetishistic scopophilia, on the other hand, can exist outside linear time as the erotic instinct is focused on the look alone.
Tyrion the Voyeur—I’m just going to pull some quotes from the text to begin the discussion:

He’d risked his skin to avoid the bedding ritual, hoping to preserve the privacy of his bedchamber, but that hope had been dashed quick enough. Either Sansa had been stupid enough to confide in one of bedmaids, every one of whom was a spy for Cersei, or Varys and his little birds were to blame.

Sansa’s misery was deepening every day. Tyrion would have gladly broken through her courtesy to give her what solace he might, but it was no good.

I want her, he realized. I want Winterfell, yes, but I want her as well, child or woman or whatever she is. I want to comfort her. I want to hear her laugh. I want her to comfort her. I want her to come to me willingly, to bring me her joys and her sorrows and her lust.

“The last thing my wife needs is more songs,” said Tyrion.

Tyrion the Fetishist:

She is just as comely as the Tyrell girl. Her hair was a rich autumn auburn, her eyes a deep Tully blue. Grief had given her a haunted, vulnerable look; if anything, it had only made her more beautiful. He wanted to reach her, to break through the armor of her courtesy.

Sansa wore a gown of silvery satin trimmed in vair with dagged sleeves that almost touched the floor… Tyrion had never seen her look more lovely, yet she wore sorrow on those long satin sleeves. “Lady Sansa,” he told her, “you shall be the most beautiful woman in the hall tonight.”

In the examples for Tyrion as voyeur, we see him alternating between the devaluation of Sansa, suggesting that she may have been stupid enough to confide in her bedmaids, to wanting to get past her courtesy armor and have her confide in him, and finally in controlling what she hears when he tells the singer that his wife needs no more songs. The case for Tyrion as fetishist can be made if we consider how he begins an over-valuation of Sansa’s looks, going so far as to compliment her in front of his mistress, and seeming to gain perverse pleasure from the association of her beauty with the sorrow and grief she is experiencing.
It all underscores the dysfunction in their relationship. For Tyrion, Sansa herself represents the lack that threatens him—he is barred from touching her in any intimate manner, and we witness the trauma of this symbolic castration playing out in the marriage, with the end result that he is no closer to knowing the real Sansa throughout their time together. Ultimately, whilst we could argue that Sansa has some passive moments on her wedding night to Tyrion, in the final analysis, this is far outweighed by the importance of the female gaze in helping her to overcome the patriarchal directives from Septa Mordane, challenge the expectation of women’s subjugation within marriage and participating in the symbolic castration of her husband by rejecting his reprieve. I consider these to be very significant achievements, contradicting Sansa’s victim status and moving her closer to an awakening of her beast.
The final incident concerns Marillion’s attempted rape of Sansa when she is in the Fingers at Littlefinger’s keep. As the wedding celebrations between LF and Lysa wind down, Sansa decides to take a walk, reminiscing on her marriage to Tyrion – one that was of course completely devoid of any pleasure or happiness, something that appears in stark contrast to the sexual nirvana Lysa is experiencing inside. As she thinks of Tyrion, and the lies he told her about being the Knight of Flowers in the dark, her thoughts naturally turn to Sandor Clegane, the one who warned her about the liars in KL, and she wonders what has become of him. When she re-enters the hall, Marillion pounces, telling her that he can make her sing louder than the Lady Lysa. Despite Sansa’s protests, Marillion is still persisting until Lothor Brune appears and stops him.

And quick as that, Marillion was gone. The other remained looming over Sansa in the darkness. “Lord Petyr said watch out for you.” It was Lothor Brune’s voice, she realized. Not the Hound’s, no, how could it be? Of course it had to be Lothor


That night Sansa scarcely slept at all, but tossed and turned just as she 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 bed his face was scarred only 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.


My reading of this dream, concerning the Sandor bits, has always been that it’s an erotic dream, but the part where Sansa awakens and expresses longing for Lady always seemed if not to be an anomaly exactly, at least to indicate that Martin chooses to give us no reaction to the dream at all. Others have read it as a sign that the dream was actually traumatic, not erotic, and this is why Sansa wants comfort from her wolf. It was not until I read Carter’s stories, and appreciated the feminist outlook that the wolf/beast is symbolic of the female libido that I finally grasped that this statement by Sansa is the response to the dream, and convincingly establishes its erotic nature. When Sansa wishes that the old dog were Lady, she’s not expressing a desire for comfort or protection, but rather to embody the beast herself and be able to adequately respond to the dream’s content. We know that Sansa is a warg, and even though she loses her wolf early in the story, she’s still connected to the animal in memory and thought. By seeking to reclaim her animal identity, Sansa is rebelling against the stifling societal constructions for women under patriarchy, and moving towards a conscious pursuit of agency and empowerment. The dream moves from death to life, from suffering to pleasure, appropriate metaphors for the journey women must undertake in patriarchal societies as they strive for autonomy. As Ben Barootes states:

Contemporary British fiction is fraught with the opposition of the human and the beast and its parallel binaries—the prudish and the lusty, civility and abandon, repression and assertion, reason and passion. The oft-reproduced and reinterpreted story of Beauty and the Beast best categorizes such a contrast. Beauty, the female, is virginal and self-controlled. The male beast on the other hand, represents unbridled sexuality—an utter lack of restraint. Traditionally, Beauty and her social mores win, transforming the Beast into a fine gentleman of suppressed urges and desires. However, if the young woman opts to embrace her sexuality—if she gives in to her desires and becomes master of her flesh—it is she who is transformed…

Lyanna Stark has observed that we have to pay attention to what Sansa is exactly seeing in the dream. Tyrion took off his clothes before he went to the bed, so what Sansa is looking at here is a naked Sandor, heightening the dream’s eroticism. I agree with this reading, but want to take it a little further: the important point related to this is not only that Sansa is seeing a naked Sandor in her dream, but that she is seeing at all. We’ve established that the gaze connotes desire, but in the real life version of this night, Sansa’s eyes are tightly closed when Tyrion gets into bed with her:

The cold made her shiver, but she obeyed. Her eyes closed, and she waited. After a moment she heard the sound of her husband pulling off his boots, and the rustle of clothing as he undressed himself. When he hopped up on the bed and put her hand on her breast, Sansa could not help but shudder. She lay with her eyes closed, every muscle tense, dreading what might come next. Would he touch her again? Kiss her? Should she open her legs for him now? She did not know what was expected of her.

“Sansa.” The hand was gone. “Open your eyes.”

She had promised to obey; she opened her eyes. He was sitting by her feet naked. Where his legs joined, his man’s staff poked up stiff and hard from a thicket of coarse yellow hair, but it was the only thing about him that was straight.

Compare this to dream above where we see Sansa’s eyes are fully open, able to identify the man with the scar on one side of his face as he climbs into the bed. Martin also craftily creates an intertextual link with the tale of LRRH through Sansa’s observation that “… only then he was bigger than Tyrion had any right to be,” recalling of course the ritual exchange that takes place before LRRH is “devoured” by the wolf. I like to think that this is more in keeping with ‘The Company of Wolves’ than the version by Perrault.

In conclusion, I hope the essay goes some way towards freeing Sansa from imprisonment within the damsel in distress trope forever and ever. The three young women discussed in the paper are vulnerable to patriarchal exploitation and objectification within the male gaze, but this does not render them weak or passive. The path to female empowerment and autonomy remains in Sansa’s ability to ultimately awaken her beast—and claim what has been denied of female sexuality and subjectivity from time immemorial. The three analyses I did above confirm to me that she is indeed on this trajectory, and it is little wonder that she hears the ghost wolf as she is making her way down from the Eyrie in A Feast for Crows.




 Awakening the Beast II: The Courtship of Mr. Lyon

 by Brashcandy
Unlike The Tiger’s Bride, where Angela Carter discernibly revises the traditional Beauty and the Beast narrative, The Courtship of Mr. Lyon utilizes the conventional plot of the popular version by Mme. Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont, featuring the father/beast encounter and the conflict over the rose, the confinement of Beauty and her relationship with the Beast, and the final transformation of the latter into a handsome man. However, despite keeping the framework and the familiar trappings in place, Carter manages to infuse her retelling with the same feminist outlook of her other tales, stressing the complex motivations of her heroine, the erotic nature of the interaction between Beauty and the Beast, and their gradual movement toward equal relations.

The Story
The story opens with the father experiencing car troubles. It’s another unwanted problem to add to the news he received that morning of his impending financial ruin, and he doesn’t even have the money to buy his daughter the white rose she requested. Meanwhile, Beauty is at home, worried over her father’s delayed arrival:


Outside her kitchen window, the hedgerow glistened as if the snow possessed a light of its own; then the sky darkened towards evening, an unearthly, reflected pallor remained upon the winter’s landscape, while still the soft flakes floated down. This lovely girl, whose skin possesses that same, inner light so you would have thought she, too, was made all of snow, pauses in her chores in the mean kitchen to look out at the country road. Nothing has passed that way all day, the road is white and unmarked as a spilled bolt of bridal satin. Father said he would be home before nightfall.

The snow brought down all the telephone wires; he couldn’t have called, even with the best of news.

The father trudges through the snow to seek assistance and ends up at the Beast’s house. The door opens by itself, and he is soon ushered into a warm study by a little spaniel wearing a diamond necklace. In the study, he’s treated to food and drink which has already been laid out on the table, along with a recommendation for a 24hr car rescue service. After he enjoys a few more drinks and relaxation, the spaniel appears again and wags its tail to let him know his time is up. As he’s leaving, the father spies a single white rose in the Beast’s garden and decides that such a kind and hospitable host would not mind him taking the flower for his daughter. He’s mistaken however, and the beast soon appears in a fury. The father is full of apologies, and produces a photograph of his daughter to aid in his explanation:

“It was for my daughter,” said Beauty’s father. “All she wanted in the whole world was one white, perfect rose.”

The Beast rudely snatched the photograph her father drew from his wallet and inspected it, first brusquely, then with a strange kind of wonder, almost the dawning of surprise. The camera had captured a certain look she had, sometimes, of absolute sweetness and absolute gravity, as if her eyes might pierce appearances and see your soul. When he handed the picture back, the Beast took good care not scratch the surface with his claws.

“Take her the rose, then, but bring her to dinner,” he growled, and what else was there to be done?”

Beauty goes to dinner and forms her first impression of the Beast:

How strange he was. She found his bewildering difference from herself almost intolerable, its presence choked her. There seemed a heavy, soundless pressure upon her in his house, as if it lay under water, and when she saw the great paws lying on the arm of his chair, she thought: they are the death of any tender herbivore. And such a one she felt herself to be, Miss Lamb, spotless, sacrificial.

Yet she stayed and smiled because her father wanted her to do so; and when the Beast told her how he would aid her father’s appeal against the judgment, she smiled with both her mouth and eyes. But when as they sipped their brandy, the Beast, in the diffuse, rumbling purr with which he conversed, suggested with a hint of shyness, of fear of refusal, that she should stay there, with him, in comfort, while her father returned to London to take up the legal cudgels again, she forced a smile. For she knew with a pang of dread as soon as he spoke, that it would be so and her visit to the Beast must be, on some magically reciprocal scale, the price of her father’s good fortune.

Beauty moves into the home and has all the luxuries at her disposal. She is often bored though and spends time reading. One evening the dog escorts her to meet with the beast and they both make an effort to overcome their shyness, ending up talking late into the night. After this, Beauty begins to enjoy her stay in the home, and the evenings she spends with the Beast.

Yet, still his strangeness made her shiver; and when he helplessly fell before her to kiss her hands, as he did every night when they parted, she would retreat nervously into her skin, flinching at his touch.

Her father’s fortunes are restored and he invites her down to London for a pleasure trip. Beauty promises the Beast that she will come back before winter is over, and thinks of dropping a kiss on his shaggy mane but still cannot bear to touch him on her own free will since “he was so different from herself”. In London, she gradually begins to forget the Beast and to think of it as a magical time in the past. She is enjoying the nightlife and shopping in the city, and doesn’t notice that winter is almost coming to an end:

Returning late from supper after the theatre, she took off her earrings and stood in the mirror; Beauty. She smiled at herself with satisfaction. She was learning, at the end of her adolescence, how to be a spoiled child and that pearly skin of hers was plumping out, a little, with high living and compliments. A certain inwardness was beginning to transform the lines around her mouth, those signatures of the personality, and her sweetness and her gravity could sometimes turn a mite petulant when things were not quite as she wanted them to go. You could not have said that her freshness was fading but she smiled at herself in mirrors a little too often, these days, and the face that smiled back was not quite the one she had seen contained in the Beast’s agate eyes.

There is an urgent noise at the door and Beauty opens to find the spaniel from the Beast’s home, all matted and thin. The dog makes clear that she wants Beauty to return to the Beast and they take the late train from London that very night. The house is now in a state of disrepair and when she finds the Beast in his bedroom he tells her that he is dying.

She flung herself upon him, so that the iron bedstead groaned, and covered his poor paws with her kisses.

“Don’t die, Beast! If you’ll have me, I’ll never leave you.” When her lips touched his meat-hooked claws, they drew back into their pads and she saw how he had always kept his fists clenched, but now, painfully, tentatively, at last began to stretch his fingers. Her tears fell on his face like snow and, under their soft transformation, the bones showed through the pelt, the flesh through the wide, tawny brow. And then it was no longer a lion in her arms but a man, a man with an unkempt mane of hair and, how strange, a broken nose, such as the noses of retired boxers, that gave him a distant, heroic resemblance to the handsomest of beasts.

“Do you know, said Mr. Lyon, I think I may be able to manage a little breakfast today, Beauty, if you would eat something with me.”

The story ends with an image of peaceful domesticity:

Mr. and Mrs. Lyon walk in the garden; the old spaniel drowses on the grass in a drift of fallen petals.


Critical Analysis
As noted, this revision of Beauty and the Beast closely follows the formula of the well-known version by Mme de Beaumont, but unlike her French predecessor, Carter has none of the moralistic imperative or interest in cultivating young girls to be obedient wives and mothers. As Marina Warner states:

Part of Angela Carter’s boldness—which made her unpopular in some quarters of the feminist movement in the 1970s—was that she dared to look at women’s waywardness, and especially at their attraction to the Beast in the very midst of repulsion … her beauties choose to play with the Beast precisely because his animal nature excites them and gives their desires licence.

The “attraction in the very midst of repulsion” is readily observed in The Courtship of Mr. Lyon, when Beauty meets the Beast for the first time:

Although her father had told her of the nature of the one who waited for her, she could not control an instinctual shudder of fear when she saw him, for a lion is a lion and a man is a man and, though lions are more beautiful by far than we are, yet they belong to a different order of beauty and, besides, they have no respect for us: why should they? Yet wild things have a far more rational fear of us than is ours of them, and some kind of sadness in his agate eyes, that looked almost blind, as if sick of sight, moved her heart.

There is something in the Beast’s otherness that Beauty is able to respond to and sympathize with; moreover, when she describes herself as “Miss Lamb, spotless, sacrificial”, it highlights Beauty’s cognizance of her vulnerability as a “tender herbivore.” Like the narrator in The Tiger’s Bride, she begins her tenure with the Beast in full awareness of the pressures of patriarchal society and what will be required of her to secure her father’s good fortune.

The image of the road as “white and unmarked as a spilled bolt of bridal satin”, along with the white rose that Beauty’s father picks from the garden symbolize not only Beauty’s virginity, but also represent the traditional landscape of male domination. According to Thomas Bonnici:

The ease and comfort of the male in the house of another foretells a reinforcement of patriarchy, the establishment of pacts and a united front against feminine pressures. Although the theft of the white rose seems to be a breach in the male bonding, there is a disguised and an implicit will of transference of property within patriarchy.

The photograph of Beauty that compels the Beast to release the father on the condition that his daughter returns with him is another way for Carter to explore how women are bartered under patriarchy. The photography only “captured a certain look she had, sometimes,” but it is enough to arouse the Beast’s interest. This is a clear departure from Beaumont’s tale when the Beast requests the father to send him any daughter on his return home. In this case, the Beast is judging Beauty solely on her appearance, and what he imagines she is like.

On the first night of at the Beast’s home, Beauty is very much playing a part in order to help ensure her father’s return to prosperity. She “stayed and smiled because her father wanted her to do so” and later on “smiled with both her mouth and eyes” when she learns that he will indeed intercede on her father’s behalf. The narrator confirms:

Do not think she had no will of her own; only, she was possessed by a sense of obligation to an unusual degree and, besides, she would gladly have gone to the ends of the earth for her father, whom she loved dearly.

The importance of demystifying the constructed masculine and feminine identities is also underscored in the narrative. When the spaniel takes Beauty to a meeting with the Beast in his study, she is initially at a loss for how she will communicate with him: “The voice that seemed to echo from a cave full of echoes, his dark, soft rumbling growl; after her day of pastel-coloured idleness, how could she converse with a voice that seemed an instrument created to inspire terror that the chords of great organs bring?” Meyre Santana da Silva explains Carter’s perspective on this issue:

She argues that the patriarchal language doesn’t communicate. It has failed… Language is seen as an ideological construction that empowers man and inspires dominance and control. Carter proposes a reformulation of it…There’s a necessity of another language that could set people free from conventions. In the rewriting of these tales language is marked by poetry and sensuality.

It is with this sense of inadequacy that Beauty views Mr. Lyon as “irradiated, as if with a kind of halo, and she thought of the first great beast of the Apocalypse, the winged lion with his paw upon the Gospel, Saint Mark”. Likewise, the Beast looks at Beauty as though “she had been carved out of a single pearl”. It is only when they both make an effort to have a genuine conversation, and overcome mutual “shyness”, that they begin to humanize one another and move beyond their socially constructed roles.

The conversation lasts long into the night, and Carter establishes another important difference between her heroine and the Beauty of Beaumont’s tale: sexual awareness. We read:

… they both fell silent, as if these strange companions were suddenly overcome with embarrassment to find themselves together, alone, in that room in the depths of the winter night. As she was about to rise, he flung himself at her feet and buried his head in her lap. She stayed stock-still, transfixed; she felt his hot breath on her fingers, the stiff bristles of his muzzle grazing her skin, the rough lapping of his tongue and then, with a flood of compassion, understood: all he is doing is kissing my hands.

Two things are important here: the recognizable sexual tension between Beauty and the Beast, and her understanding of the Beast’s method of showing affection. Thomas Bonnici opines:

The overt display of male sexuality, an almost jubilant offering up of the self, exhibited in the prostration of the Beast with his head in the lap and the kissing of her hand reveals the demystification of sexuality and transgression of patriarchal values.

The female gaze is also prominent in the story, with Beauty paying close attention to the Beast’s body throughout their interactions.

It is when she departs to the city that Carter makes the final collapse of the artificial divide between beauty and the beast. Due to privileged lifestyle in the city, we see Beauty gradually turning into a beast, not like the one she has left behind, but a girl becoming spoiled and vain: “Her face was acquiring, instead of beauty, a lacquer of the invincible prettiness that characterizes certain pampered, exquisite, expensive cats.”

For Carter, this transformation is central to her message that men and women have both beautiful and beastly characteristics. When the spaniel comes to collect Beauty, Carter supplies an ironic twist, where Beauty’s “rescue” of the Beast is more about her own deliverance:

There was a sudden, urgent, scrabbling sound, as of claws, at her door. Her trance before the mirror broke; all at once, she remembered everything perfectly. Spring was here and she had broken her promise. Now the Beast himself had come in pursuit of her! First, she was frightened of his anger; then mysteriously joyful, she ran to open the door. But it was his liver and white spotted spaniel who hurled herself into the girl’s arms in a flurry of little barks and gruff murmurings of whimpering and relief.

She has seen herself in the mirror, and by confronting her own “beastiality” she can now fully appreciate the Beast’s nature. Now it her time to fling herself upon him and to cover his paws with kisses – actions that reflect her coming to terms with the sexuality he represents. The Beast’s transformation is less magical and more of reconstructive conversion, less princely and more rugged suitor with a broken nose. To conclude with Bonnici’s remarks:

In choosing the Beast, Beauty is actively choosing the dangerous, the unexplored, the perverse and the unusual. When the lion turns into the Mr. Lyon at the touch of the female, the old gender roles have exploded, female sexuality does not signify passivity anymore and femininity can face masculinity as an equal.


Sansa and Sandor
I’m not going to say much here, as we’ve already gone into a lot of the B&B dynamics when it comes to these two. The key elements in Carter’s two revisions ( Courtship and The Tiger’s Bride) are found in this pairing, as Martin puts an emphasis on their developing attraction to each other (the compassion and intimacy); the importance of the female gaze in fostering equality, and the reliance on touch as a (different) way of knowing and communicating with the other. Sandor’s role as a Lady-replacement also brings into focus Sansa’s own beastly nature, and how it complements their union. It is through him that she encounters the beast in herself (while he arguably discovers the beauty in himself), and must proceed to chart a path to self-fulfillment and autonomy.

Sansa and Tyrion
If Sansa and Sandor represent a successful and functional reworking of Beauty and the Beast, her relationship with Tyrion offers a stark contradictory contrast; it’s Beauty and the Beast with all the dysfunction and hopelessness that implicitly threatens any such pairing in literature. Given the focus on Beauty and a Mr. Lyon, I thought it fitting to devote a bit more time to discussing just why Sansa’s relationship with the little Lannister lion is so defective, as we’ve seen that there’s nothing inherently preventing an ugly man and a beautiful woman from connecting (or vice versa a la Jaime and Brienne). Sansa detractors would have one believe that it comes down to shallowness on her part, but as I hope to show, unless we’re going to go base these assessments on the noses of our two beasts – Mr. Lyon ends up with a broken one, and Tyrion has practically none – physical imperfections are just the tip of the iceberg.
Physical Appearance
This is perhaps the only true element of Beauty and Beast which this pairing represents. What is important about Sansa’s lack of attraction to Tyrion and the way Martin highlights it, is that it overturns the “woman-as-spectacle” and makes Tyrion subject to Sansa’s appreciation, or lack thereof in this case. This isn’t to say that we cannot become attracted to someone over time, and even grow to love and value what we earlier disparaged and thought unappealing, but too often, male privilege places the onus on women to get over their hang-ups about men’s bodies, and to find them attractive at any size, height, or facial attribute. A woman’s beauty is objectified and commodified within patriarchal society, and men are the established buyers and benefactors. A key element in Beauty’s relationship with the Beast is the attraction in the midst of repulsion, there is something there that interests her and can elicit her compassion, despite that initial wariness. In the Courtship of Mr. Lyon, Beauty detects a noble quality about the beast, something otherworldly that intrigues her. There is no such fascination on Sansa’s part for Tyrion, as Martin stresses repeatedly just how repulsed she is by his looks:
At Joffrey’s name day tourney:

With his bulging brow and mismatched eyes, he was still the ugliest man she had ever chanced to look upon.

When she is taken to Tyrion’s chambers:

Sansa found it hard not stare; his face was so ugly it held a queer fascination for her.

At the motley wedding:

He is so ugly, Sansa thought when his face was close to hers. He is even uglier than the Hound.

And on the wedding night she laments:

This is not right, this is not fair, how have I sinned that the gods would do this to me, how?

Whereas Beauty sees Mr. Lyon as a kind of half-god, Sansa wonders why the gods have punished her. By establishing the pattern of Sansa’s thoughts about Tyrion’s ugliness, Martin isn’t trying to paint her as shallow, but rather to suggest that there is a serious lack of attraction on her part for Tyrion, and ultimately this is a valid reason why the relationship will not work. While physical attraction alone cannot ensure the success of a relationship, it is an important factor in fostering intimacy and longing. Even when Sansa manages to feel pity for Tyrion, Martin writes that this is the death of desire, which brings us to the next point…
Sexual Pleasure
In her essay, Sexual Pleasure as Feminist Choice, Patricia McFadden writes:

Without a discourse that enables women to step beyond the bounded, limited notions of sexuality as being either tied to reproduction or to the avoidance of disease or violation, we cannot begin to imagine ourselves in new and profoundly life-transforming ways. We have to see the cage for what it is – a set of carefully placed bars that keeps us locked into suffocating spaces efficiently reproduced by an uncompromising patriarchal system, and often closely patrolled by women from a cross-section of classes and social standings.


If Martin did not want us to appreciate the importance of sexual pleasure in Sansa’s estimation, he would never have written about pity being the death of desire, and he would not have ended the chapter with her total rejection of Tyrion as a lover (she had already refused him as a husband by refusing to kneel). As McFadden advises, Sansa is able to see the cage for what it is, and significantly, the role of women like Cersei Lannister and Septa Mordane in keeping those bars closed.
Cersei Lannister:

“… Cry if you must. In your place, I would likely rip my hair out. He’s a loathsome little imp, no doubt of it, but marry him you shall… You may come along quietly and say your vows as befits a lady, or you may struggle and scream and make a spectacle for the stableboys to titter over, but you will end up wedded and bedded all the same.”

Septa Mordane:

Look at him, Sansa told herself, look at your husband, at all of him. Septa Mordane said all men are beautiful, find his beauty, try.

Whether the threats are violently coercive as we see with Cersei in the beginning of the chapter, or are remembered ‘words of wisdom’ from a deceased mentor, the desired result is the same: the denial of women’s pleasure as a legitimate pursuit, and the continuation of patriarchal domination in whatever guise.
In The Courtship of Mr. Lyon, the sexual anticipation is coded within the language Carter uses: the couple finding themselves “embarrassed” to be talking late in the night, and the “groaning bedstead” when Beauty flings herself upon the Beast on her return. There are no such suggestive hints in Sansa’s and Tyrion’s interactions. Instead, we see stilted conversation, awkward and delayed contact, and general discomfort.

By insisting that she will never want to sleep with Tyrion, Sansa is making a direct assault against a system that strives on female sexual submission, especially within the bounds of marriage, where the husband is seen as the authority figure. Both Sansa and the protagonist in Courtship are young, sheltered girls, but they are not portrayed as complete innocents with no erotic yearnings. When she’s in the Fingers, Sansa thinks:

It would not have been so bad being undressed for a man she loved, by friends who loved them both.

McFadden asserts:

It is this sense of sexual freedom that feeds our deepest instincts and makes us long for a wildness within, a wildness that cannot be caged or marked in any way, and that propels us to search relentlessly for the wonder which we encompass. Clarissa Pinkola Estes describes those who follow this urge as “the women who run with the wolves”.

To recall my previous essay on ‘Awakening the Beast’, it is no surprise that after her erotic dream where Sandor features prominently, Sansa wishes the old dog were Lady.
Family Matters

There’s a reason that Beauty stays and smiles with the Beast and tries hard to be entertaining when she first goes to his estate: it’s because she recognizes that her father’s good fortune depends on the help the Beast can provide. This is not the Beauty of Beaumont’s tale, going in an innocent, self-sacrificial manner to save her father’s life. Beauty in Courtship is actively playing the game in trying to charm the Beast and even feels a bit of resentment in knowing that she must do this to ensure her father’s success. What it boils down to is that family matters. Beauty has a vested interest in being nice, and only later comes to appreciate the Beast for his personal qualities. With this in mind, we have to ask ourselves, what vested interest did Sansa have in being a “good wife” to Tyrion? Not only had the Lannisters killed her father, and subjected her to abuse, but she soon learns that her brother and mother have been murdered at the Twins. It is little wonder that on the day of her escape, she thinks that her “torments would soon be ended, one way or the other.”

In The Courtship of Mr. Lyon, the Beast is able to connect with Beauty when he begins to ask her personal questions about her family. We see a similar connection fostered between Sansa and Sandor when he confesses the truth about his burns, and how his family became part of the landed nobility. Tyrion tries to make an attempt with this strategy, but there is a blatantly hypocritical and deceitful quality to his overtures. In the first instance, we know that he accepted the marriage on the condition that Sansa would be the sole heir to Winterfell, meaning that her brother would have to die. The next time he tries to engage her is with talk of Casterly Rock, but again, as Tyrion recognizes, a visit to the Rock is hardly going to be met with enthusiastic anticipation by Sansa. Finally, he tries to zero on the love they both share for their brothers, but in this very moment, Tyrion is also trying to ascertain whether Sansa knows the details of what happened at Winterfell, and he is the one with the knowledge that it was Jaime who pushed Bran and Joffrey who sent the assassin.

Suffice to say: all of Tyrion’s desires to communicate and establish some kind of intimacy are invalidated and undermined by the heinous crimes of his family members, and his own guilty awareness. The issue here is the clear imbalance of power that exists in the relationship between Sansa and Tyrion. There can be little honestly, much less closeness. He is aware of things which would give Sansa even greater reason to despise the Lannisters, and although he may not have participated in the early grievances at Winterfell, he comes on board in due time to help keep his nephew in power. Compare this to Sandor’s hopes of working with Robb, where he seems to have some valuable information that could help the Starks or is at least willing to join up as a fighter. By directly helping Sansa’s family, Sandor hoped to be awarded lands and made a lordling; for going along with the plan to destroy Sansa’s family and acting as her jailor-husband, Tyrion hoped to become Lord of Winterfell, with vast control over the North.

Patriarchal Exchanges
The work of French feminist Luce Irigaray in a chapter entitled ‘Women on the Market’ has proved particularly relevant for this section. To begin, she states that:

… all systems of exchange that organize patriarchal societies and all the modalities of productive work that are recognized, valued, and rewarded in these societies are men’s business. The production of women, signs and commodities is always referred back to men (when a man buys a girl, he “pays” the father or the brother, not the mother), and they always pass from one man to another, from one group of men to another.

It is this exchange that Carter lays bare in her two revisions of Beauty and the Beast; by giving us insight into the women’s point of views, we are able to appreciate how they are affected by and feel about being made to go live with the Beast. While The Tiger’s Bride highlights Beauty’s outright anger and resentment, the more conservative Courtship settles for revealing the girl’s reluctant and wary acquiescence. In this latter case, the old patriarchal compulsion is at work, masquerading as Beauty’s intense love for her father. The way in which the exchange is bargained is also exposed in the story. Unlike the classic tale, where the Beast orders the father to send a daughter to take his place in captivity (or else), Beauty’s father in The Courtship of Mr. Lyon brandishes an actual photograph of his daughter which the Beast is careful not to scratch with his claws when handing it back. The father has made clear what it is he has to offer as merchandise for mercy, and the Beast seems all too willing to accept Beauty as payment based on what is revealed in the photograph.

Sansa is the subject of multiple exchanges and attempted exchanges within ASOIAF. The first one happens in the dark, deep crypts of Winterfell, when Robert Baratheon proposes that he and Ned Stark make a union between their houses through her marriage to the crown prince Joffrey. Although marriage arrangements are the norm of such a society, and Ned’s loving nature appears to bode well for Sansa’s happiness, we quickly see the negative effects women have to suffer under such naturalized patriarchal authority. Even before they leave Winterfell, Sansa’s happiness has already been set aside for a much darker necessity. Ned tells Catelyn:

“Sansa must wed Joffrey, that is clear now, we must give them no grounds to suspect our devotion…”

And crucially, throughout all of Sansa’s time in KL, she remains largely ignorant of the extent of the drama unfolding between her family and the Lannisters. Even after the fight between her father and Jaime, she still doesn’t realize that the betrothal with Joffrey is anything but the idealized fantasy she has in her mind or that her father used her from the start as a way of keeping the Lannisters from becoming suspicious.

If we can find mitigating reasons for Ned Stark’s actions and his later attempt to rectify them (finding someone brave, gentle and strong), there is little to excuse the Tywin/Tyrion/Joffrey/Cersei patriarchal quartet. This exchange – Sansa’s marriage to Tyrion—is purely exploitative and predatory, with everyone involved holding varying, but nonetheless damning degrees of culpability. Tyrion is seduced into accepting the match, although he knows that he’s far from what Sansa would want in a husband. To return to Irigaray’s insights:

The virginal woman … is pure exchange value. She is nothing but the possibility, the place, the sign of relations among men. In and of herself, she does not exist: she is a simple envelope veiling what is really at stake in social exchange… The ritualized passage from woman to mother is accomplished by the violation of an envelope: the hymen, which has taken on the value of taboo, the taboo of virginity. Once deflowered, woman is relegated to the status of use value, to her entrapment in private property; she is removed from exchange among men.

These comments hold credible currency for Sansa’s situation in her marriage to Tyrion. As we have strong reason to suspect, after she had given birth to a child (with Tyrion taking the heir North as Tywin specified), Sansa’s “use value” for the Lannisters would have been up. Even if she was not killed, her entrapment within the Lannister family would have been all but guaranteed. Tywin tells Tyrion:

“Then open your eyes. The Stark girl is young, nubile, tractable, of the highest birth, and still a maid. She is not uncomely. Why would you hesitate?”

Essentially, Sansa is presented as possessing all the feminine “virtues” that will make her an ideal commodity for exchange in patriarchal society; and Tyrion’s thoughts of “soft-spoken, sweet-smelling Sansa” show that he’s not insensitive to this characterization. Joffrey will tell her on the day of the wedding:

“… I’m your father, and I can marry you to whoever I like. To anyone. You’ll marry the pig boy if I say so, and bed down with him in the sty.” His green eyes glittered with amusement. “Or perhaps I should give you to Ilyn Payne, would you like him better?”

In speaking about the plight of women within such a social order, Irigaray notes:

Socially, they are “objects” for and among men and furthermore they cannot do anything but mimic a “language” that they have not produced; naturally, they remain amorphous, suffering from drives without any possible representatives or representations… Women, animals endowed with speech like men, assure the possibility of the use and circulation of the symbolic without being recipients of it… Putting men in touch with each other, in relations among themselves, women only fulfill this role by relinquishing their right to speech and even to animality.

We are reminded of Beauty in The Courtship of Mr. Lyon where she struggles at first with knowing how to speak to him versus the ease and comfort of the father in the Beast’s home. Sansa’s and Tyrion’s marriage is marked by a profound lack of conversation, but in this case, Sansa’s silence acts as a shield and reflects the dysfunction in the relationship itself:

He looks like a starving child, but I have no food to give him. Why won’t he leave me be.

We see that in addition to learning how to converse with the Beast, the two heroines in Carter’s revisions also do not give up their right to animality that Irigaray speaks of above, and significantly, neither does Sansa Stark. Carter’s women are transformed into beasts/half-beasts by the end of the stories, and Sansa continues to have a close bond with Lady, up to the point where she hears a ghost wolf as she’s descending the Eyrie. What we see therefore, is an active resistance on Sansa’s part in allowing herself to be consumed within an exploitative system of relations. It’s interesting that she refers to Tyrion as a starving child here, since it positions her as a delinquent mother who is withholding nourishment. Realizing that she’s also the archetypal virgin who is withholding sex, Sansa is actually effecting a serious destabilization of the ways in which patriarchal society perpetuates its dominance. Irigaray makes the claim that:

Mother, virgin, prostitute: these are the social roles imposed on women. The characteristics of (so-called) feminine sexuality derive from them: the valorization of reproduction and nursing; faithfulness; modesty, ignorance of and even lack of interest in sexual pleasure; a passive acceptance of men’s “activity”; seductiveness, in order to arouse the consumers’ desire while offering herself as its material support without getting pleasure herself … Neither as mother nor as virgin nor as prostitute has woman any right to her own pleasure.

Now, given that Sansa has removed two of these social roles by which Tyrion attempts to gain control over her, what is he left with except to resort to the prostitute?
After her escape from the Lannisters, Sansa has to endure two more betrothals –the aborted one to Sweetrobin, and the one that is currently in place to Harry the Heir of the Vale. This last one has been brokered by another man posing as Sansa’s father, one who is even more dangerous than Joffrey was in KL. There is reason to be optimistic however, that Sansa will no longer be forced to accept an arrangement that is not to her liking and restricts her agency. Luce Irigaray made the point above that none of the social roles prescribed for women allow them to have any pleasure; however, what is peculiar about Sansa’s situation is the liminal space she occupies with respect to each of those roles. If we replace prostitute with bastard, the comparison fits: She’s a married virgin, who is keeping the bloody cloak of another man – no spilled bolt of bridal satin for Sansa at this point; she’s acting as a surrogate mother/crush for Sweetrobin, and is disguised as a bastard waiting to be unveiled as the heir to the North on her wedding day. She’s both either/or, neither/nor and inside/outside the dominant social constructions for women, and this has already granted her an important perspective which may bring about the courage to confront and undermine oppressive conditions and individuals.
Furthermore, Sansa has a clear object of desire in Sandor Clegane, which means that despite LF’s best laid plans, he has failed to disabuse her of the possibility of genuine love or sexual pleasure. He took care of virtually all of the other beasts in Sansa’s storyline – Joffrey, Willas, Tyrion – but remains apparently ignorant of the one who actually matters with respect to Sansa’s personal desires. In looking at how Sandor functions under this topic of patriarchal exchanges, I think it’s significant that his relationship with Ned was fraught with tension and ill feelings, and that Robb died before Sandor could meet with him and be awarded lands and a keep for his service. The point is that Sandor is unable to take part in the traditional patriarchal bargaining process with any of the men in Sansa’s family who would have had legal control over her person. Instead, he becomes more closely aligned with the women associated in some way with Sansa. Unknown to Brienne, he’s the gravedigger on the Quiet Isle, and he ends up helping to protect and ultimately confessing to Arya about his sins. Both Brienne and Arya also get insight into the Hound’s feelings for Sansa but either cannot breakdown what they’ve heard, or realize why it’s significant. All this begs the question of whether it’s possible that Sandor may meet up with Lady Stoneheart, completing the switch to matriarchal relations with Sansa’s family, and symbolizing the negation of exploitative patriarchal domination.
To conclude, it’s necessary to understand how Carter constructs the issue of women’s choices within patriarchal society and why it has meaning for a discussion of Sansa’s character. In an article on third wave feminism and choice, R. Claire Synder-Hall states:

For third-wavers, feminism requires not a particular set of choices, but rather acting with a “feminist consciousness,” defined as “knowledge of what one is doing and why one is doing it.” … I am more interested in feminists who embrace and enjoy femininity, while also struggling for gender equality… The third-wave version of “choice feminism” I am advocating views freedom not as simply “the capacity to make individual choices” but rather as the ability to determine your own life path. At the same time, however, just because coercive forces exist and many of our decisions are not the product of perfect “free choice,” whatever that is, that does not mean that women’s decisions about how to live their lives should not be respected.

Carter’s heroines in the two B&B revisions and our own Sansa Stark are women who have to strive for equality in their relationships with men and to find a way to have some agency and self determination within patriarchal society. This is also in tandem with their traditionally feminine aspirations towards love and marriage, and the exploration of erotic desires. Unlike second wave feminism, which tended to only recognize and credit specific choices and modes of empowerment, the third wave introduced a much more pluralistic vision of how women operate and can find fulfillment in oppressive environments. Synder-Hall’s focus on feminist consciousness is relevant to Sansa’s marriage to Tyrion, where we see her having no choice but to go ahead with the marriage, but does develop this critical awareness during the bedding, where she questions Septa Mordane’s teachings, and begins to be a lot more cynical and wary about future marriages which could restrict her happiness and freedom. What becomes clear is that feminist consciousness represents an active understanding of patriarchal pressures, and this can lead to real change and progress for the female protagonists. In speaking about the two B&B revisions, Merja Makinen attests:

in both cases the protagonists choose to explore the dangerous, exhilarating change that comes from choosing the beast. Both stories are careful to show a reciprocal awe and fear in the beasts, as well as in the beauty, and the reversal theme reinforces the equality of the transactions: lion kisses Beauty’s hand, Beauty kisses lion’s; tiger strips naked and so Beauty chooses to show him ‘the fleshly nature of women’. In both cases the beasts signify a sensuality that the women have been taught might devour them, but which, when embraced, gives them power, strength and a new awareness of both self and other.

In The Courtship of Mr. Lyon, it is Beauty’s choice to return to the Beast, just as the Tiger’s bride makes the choice to reveal her body after seeing the spectacle of the naked tiger. Based on the content of her dreams and waking thoughts, it’s not hard to imagine Sansa making a similar choice with respect to Sandor Clegane when she is older; however, it’s almost certain that Tyrion and Sansa will never be able to foster a successful romantic relationship.




Baelish vs. Stark: Parallels in Littlefinger’s interplay with Eddard and Sansa

by Milady of York
Many readers have the conviction, acquired due to abundant textual hints and foreshadowing, that Sansa Stark will be the person to cause the fall and ruin of the man who was the mastermind behind some events that led to the deaths of her loved ones, Petyr Baelish. Littlefinger’s participation in those events has been indirect, through pawns and puppets, but in one he was involved personally: the downfall, arrest and beheading of Lord Eddard Stark, which, amongst other things, made it possible for him to have his eldest daughter in his power, to use her for his own ends.

And it’s precisely by closely examining the details in this series of fateful events that a case can be made for Sansa as the Stark that will bring him down, because as it’ll be seen in the following passages, Baelish is now unknowingly treading the same path with another Stark. Only that this time the second Stark has aces up her sleeve that the first Stark didn’t have.
“The lies we tell for love”

Before moving to the breakdown of the Baelish vs. Stark/Stark vs. Baelish face-off, let’s examine the placement of the POV chapters in AGOT belonging to some of the Starks, that has been noted before by others, but not analysed in search for an underlying theme, which, once found, is very interesting.

There’s a pattern in this book: Lord Eddard’s chapters precede and follow those of four other people, as if nesting them for some reason. On glance, it doesn’t seem to have any particular significance, but once I took note of their names—Jon Snow, his bastard, Catelyn Tully, his wife, Sansa Stark, his eldest daughter, and Daenerys Targaryen, daughter of the last dragonking—it began to dawn on me the idea that there could be something hidden in this peculiar chapter placement.

Effectively, there’s something: all four are persons whom The Ned had been protecting by either omitting the truth or telling lies for their sake, even at the expense of his honour.

  • Jon IV is placed between Eddard V and Eddard, and Jon VI is between Eddard XIII and Eddard XIV: If due to the textual evidence we consider that Rhaegar and Lyanna are Jon Snow’s true parents, then Ned has had to lie for years to family and friends about a supposed marital infidelity that resulted in him fathering Jon, recognising him as his baseborn son and raising him along with his trueborn children, in order to keep him safe and protected.

There’s also a secondary pattern in AGOT related to two Stark children who are the only ones to be surrounded by both Stark parents’ POVs. Jon is the first, as Jon I is placed between Eddard I and Catelyn II, and curiously, it ties in with the “lies told for love” main motif, because in Ned’s chapter, we find out part of the story of Lyanna and we can figure what he’s had to do to keep the promise made to his sister, at the cost of alienating his wife, whose feelings of resentment toward the bastard boy and the incident in which she asked if Ashara Dayne was the mother are revealed in her next chapter.

  • Catelyn VI is placed between Eddard VIII and Eddard IX: His wife seized Tyrion Lannister and took him as prisoner to the Eyrie, an action she evidently hadn’t contemplated prior to unexpectedly finding him at the Crossroads Inn, and which Lord Stark didn’t know about until Jaime Lannister ambushed him when coming out of a brothel, and informed him about what his lady wife had just done. To protect her, Ned had to lie to the Kingslayer: “Your brother has been taken at my command, to answer for his crimes.” And he later repeated this lie to Robert as well.
  • Sansa III is placed between Eddard XI and Eddard XII: When Varys visited him in the black cells and recommended that he confess to high treason, to acknowledge Joffrey as the rightful monarch and denounce Stannis and Renly as usurpers, Ned refused all of that at first. But then, when the Spider mentioned that Queen Cersei had his daughter and that she might end up paying with her head for his refusal, he forsook his personal honour to protect Sansa and gave a public confession that unfortunately didn’t save him, though it did his child.

Continuing with the pattern of the Stark child sandwiched between the parents, there’s a third theme to be found in the placement of Sansa’s chapters in AGOT, which are always preceded or followed by a POV of one of her parents, excepting her last one when she’s already a hostage and in which the nearest Stark is Bran (which may or mayn’t be a hint that in the end he might be the one to somehow assist his isolated sister); and twice she’s “nested” between both: Sansa I is placed between Catelyn III and Eddard III, and Sansa II is encroached by Catelyn V and Eddard VII, which is interesting as Sansa is the child that is outwardly more like her mother, and inwardly more like Eddard, which brings us back to Baelish’s deluded assessment of her: he sees the mother in her, but brushes over the father.

  • Daenerys V is placed between Eddard XII and Eddard XIII: When King Robert ordered the murder of the pregnant Khaleesi with the compliance of his Council save for his Hand and Selmy, he and Ned had the second big fight of their lives, that resulted in the latter quitting the Handship. Interestingly, history was repeating itself, for their first big fight had also been over the murder of Targaryen children, and had ended much like the second round, with Ned storming out in a fury and a disgrace paving the way for reconciliation: the death of Lyanna the first time and Ned’s wound the second. In this case, Ned didn’t have to lie straightforwardly to protect Daenerys and her yet unborn child, as he voiced his objections clearly, but to redeem his lifelong friend he had to resort to lies old and new nonetheless: what he never revealed about Lyanna, hiding Jon’s paternity and lying to Robert about the identity of his mother, not telling him about Cersei’s incestuous adultery and her children’s bastardy, altering a line of the royal will declaring Joffrey his heir…

Lord Eddard seems to have adopted the view that to be a good and true ruler a high lord, Warden of the North and Hand of the King has the moral obligation to protect his people above all, so he listened to his household and bannermen, and even powerful lords like Bolton fear that the complaints of a mere nobody like one of his peasants will be heard in Winterfell, to give only some examples. At one point, Baelish tells Sansa that men of honour will do for their children what they will not do for themselves, and by Ned’s behaviour we can see that for once he wasn’t mistaken: he did what was right even if it meant doing something as dishonourable as lying to his wife, lying to his best friend who also happens to be his king, which would be treason from a strictly legalistic standpoint, and lying to the common folk in a sacred place. Those of his children most similar to him followed/could follow this very exemplary paternal behaviour: amongst the reasons Jon had for breaking his NW vows was family, his brother Robb the first time and his sister Arya later; and we can speculate that what could make Sansa snap and muster the courage to defy or escape Baelish could possibly be to help or protect her family, not necessarily Sweetrobin, although it’s more likely.

Always remember this is a Stark

The first thing that is noticed when Lord Stark and Littlefinger meet on-page, as well as when he meets his eldest daughter later, is his fixation on the wife and mother of both, Catelyn. In AGOT Eddard IV, we read:

He eyed Ned with a smile on his lips that bordered on insolence. “I have hoped to meet you for some years, Lord Stark. No doubt Lady Catelyn has mentioned me to you.”

“She has,” Ned replied with a chill in his voice. The sly arrogance of the comment rankled him. “I understand you knew my brother Brandon as well.”

Renly Baratheon laughed. Varys shuffled over to listen.

“Rather too well,” Littlefinger said. “I still carry a token of his esteem. Did Brandon speak of me too?”

“Often, and with some heat,” Ned said, hoping that would end it.

Littlefinger’s way of introducing himself reveals that he’s been obsessing for years over the husband of the woman he claims to have loved, and quickly prods him to see whether he is or isn’t aware of his past connection to his wife. The Ned’s ‘of course she and my brother mentioned how he beat you bloody’ reply is a reminder to Baelish of whom he’s talking to: a Stark of Winterfell, not just ‘the man who stole my Catelyn,´ as the other seems to be implying slyly, as well as revealing that Catelyn has no secrets about her past with her lord husband, and that she’s told him the good, the bad and the ugly of her life growing up with Baelish in Riverrun.

Shortly after this, Littlefinger takes Eddard to see the newly arrived Catelyn in a brothel of his:

He crossed the outer yard, passed under a portcullis into the inner bailey, and was walking toward what he thought was the Tower of the Hand when Littlefinger appeared in front of him. “You’re going the wrong way, Stark. Come with me.”

Hesitantly, Ned followed. Littlefinger led him into a tower, down a stair, across a small sunken courtyard, and along a deserted corridor where empty suits of armor stood sentinel along the walls. They were relics of the Targaryens, black steel with dragon scales cresting their helms, now dusty and forgotten. “


At the foot of the steps was a heavy door of oak and iron. Petyr Baelish lifted the crossbar and gestured Ned through. They stepped out into the ruddy glow of dusk, on a rocky bluff high above the river. “We’re outside the castle,” Ned said.

“You are a hard man to fool, Stark,” Littlefinger said with a smirk. “Was it the sun that gave it away, or the sky? Follow me. There are niches cut in the rock. Try not to fall to your death, Catelyn would never understand.” With that, he was over the side of the cliff, descending as quick as a monkey.

Ned studied the rocky face of the bluff for a moment, then followed more slowly. The niches were there, as Littlefinger had promised, shallow cuts that would be invisible from below, unless you knew just where to look for them. The river was a long, dizzying distance below. Ned kept his face pressed to the rock and tried not to look down any more often than he had to.

When at last he reached the bottom, a narrow, muddy trail along the water’s edge, Littlefinger was lazing against a rock and eating an apple. He was almost down to the core.


He had two horses waiting. Ned mounted up and trotted behind him, down the trail and into the city.

In that place he’s sheltering Catelyn, to whom he’s lied with no shame about the ownership of the dagger carried by the man who attempted to murder her son Brandon and wounded her in the process; lies which in turn would spark a Stark-Lannister confrontation because, believing his version, Catelyn will arrest Tyrion, and to avenge this perceived affront to his family, Jaime will ambush Ned, most likely after he was fed information about his whereabouts by Littlefinger, since anyone that knew him would think it beyond ridiculous to look for the uptight Hand in a brothel, and Jaime knows him and his wife fairly well.

When Robert orders the assassination of Daenerys and unborn Rhaego, Eddard and Baelish find themselves on opposite sides once more, and Baelish gets to learn that a Stark will not condone the murder of children for political motives. Ned is the one that is most fiercely opposed to this assassination and has a heated argument with Robert, trying to get him to change his mind. Once the Council members start voting, only Lord Commander Selmy backs him. In Eddard VIII, we read how Baelish voted:


Littlefinger was the last. As Ned looked to him, Lord Petyr stifled a yawn. “When you find yourself in bed with an ugly woman, the best thing to do is close your eyes and get on with it,” he declared. “Waiting won’t make the maid any prettier. Kiss her and be done with it.”

“Kiss her?” Ser Barristan repeated, aghast.

“A steel kiss,” said Littlefinger.

The first part of this passage reads like an allusion to his relationship with Lysa, indicating what a poor Catelyn substitute he finds her to be, yet a useful one nonetheless. And it could also be gleaned from this that Baelish had already considered disposing of the younger Tully sister as soon as she ceased to be useful in his schemes, as he eventually did. Another interesting aspect of this episode is that Barristan Selmy, the only other Councilman that voted against the murder of children is now with the intended victim; and it could be detrimental to any of Baelish’s plans involving the Targaryen queen if he were to eventually tell her that Lord Stark was the one that opposed the murder and Baelish the one that approved of it. His chapters in ADWD reveal just what a poor opinion of Littlefinger the aged Queensguard has: he associates his reputation with “deceit, whispers and lies and plots hatched in the dark” and remembers that “bribes had been Littlefinger’s domain.”

Later, when a still recovering Eddard is named Lord Protector of the Realm upon King Robert’s death, he finds himself a lone man surrounded by lions and with no army, in dire need of allies in order to be able to successfully complete his plan of handing the throne over to a true-blooded Baratheon instead of a Lannister bastard. In Eddard XIII, Baelish proposes to become this ally and take measures that are in opposition to Stark’s honour:

“Joffrey is but twelve, and Robert gave you the regency, my lord. You are the Hand of the King and Protector of the Realm. The power is yours, Lord Stark. All you need do is reach out and take it. Make your peace with the Lannisters. Release the Imp. Wed Joffrey to your Sansa. Wed your younger girl to Prince Tommen, and your heir to Myrcella. It will be four years before Joffrey comes of age. By then he will look to you as a second father, and if not, well . . . four years is a good long while, my lord. Long enough to dispose of Lord Stannis. Then, should Joffrey prove troublesome, we can reveal his little secret and put Lord Renly on the throne.”

“We?” Ned repeated.

Littlefinger gave a shrug. “You’ll need someone to share your burdens. I assure you, my price would be modest.”

“Your price.” Ned’s voice was ice. “Lord Baelish, what you suggest is treason.”

“Only if we lose.”

Yet Lord Stark sticks to his principles, and quickly reminds him of the reasons why he cannot heed his advice:

“You forget,” Ned told him. “You forget Jon Arryn. You forget Jory Cassel. And you forget this.” He drew the dagger and laid it on the table between them; a length of dragonbone and Valyrian steel, as sharp as the difference between right and wrong, between true and false, between life and death. “They sent a man to cut my son’s throat, Lord Baelish.”

Littlefinger sighed. “I fear I did forget, my lord. Pray forgive me. For a moment I did not remember that I was talking to a Stark.” His mouth quirked.

But even so, Ned recognises he needs him for a task: to bring him the Gold Cloaks to enforce his orders and his rule as Lord Protector:

“Robert has named me Protector, true enough, but in the eyes of the world, Joffrey is still his son and heir. The queen has a dozen knights and a hundred men-at-arms who will do whatever she commands . . . enough to overwhelm what remains of my own household guard. And for all I know, her brother Jaime may be riding for King’s Landing even as we speak, with a Lannister host at his back.”

“And you without an army.” Littlefinger toyed with the dagger on the table, turning it slowly with a finger.


“I must have the gold cloaks. The City Watch is two thousand strong, sworn to defend the castle, the city, and the king’s peace.”

“Ah, but when the queen proclaims one king and the Hand another, whose peace do they protect?” Lord Petyr flicked at the dagger with his finger, setting it spinning in place. Round and round it went, wobbling as it turned. When at last it slowed to a stop, the blade pointed at Littlefinger. “Why, there’s your answer,” he said, smiling. “They follow the man who pays them.”


“For the sake of the love I bear for Catelyn, I will go to Janos Slynt this very hour and make certain that the City Watch is yours. Six thousand gold pieces should do it. A third for the Commander, a third for the officers, a third for the men. We might be able to buy them for half that much, but I prefer not to take chances.” Smiling, he plucked up the dagger and offered it to Ned, hilt first.

It’s so fitting that the dagger serves as a means to differentiate Ned from Littlefinger, because the dagger carries a two-edged symbolism: on one hand, it’s the symbol of deception, betrayal and treachery due to its millennial association with assassins (some scholars contend that the oldest assassination registered in literature, that of Abel at the hands of Cain, was committed with a sacrificial knife/dagger, though the Bible is silent on the issue of the weapon employed); and on the other hand, as it was their standard secondary weapon, it’s linked to the oaths of Roman legion officers and medieval knights, with all that it entails: justice, valour and honour.

Following this ambiguous symbolism, we see Stark use the weapon to remind Baelish that he is a man whose idea of fairness and honour prevents him from lending an ear to treasonous talk; and we see Baelish playing carelessly with the dagger, making it spin and wobble, an appropriate visual imagery alluding to his disregard for ethics and morals. Also, in Dr. Carl G. Jung’s theory, the dagger (only this, not the sword) is a representation of the Shadow, that unconscious dark side of the male Self, and this united to the traditional symbolism of the dagger, brings to the surface not just the moral deficiency that is Littlefinger’s trademark but also his unacknowledged delusion about Catelyn, that stems from a badly resolved encounter with his Shadow as a youth, the root cause of his desire to place Sansa in her mother’s pedestal, and his more immediate desire to get rid of her father.

As his men died around him, Littlefinger slid Ned’s dagger from its sheath and shoved it up under his chin. His smile was apologetic. “I did warn you not to trust me, you know.

Thusly ends the first round of Baelish vs. Stark: the seemingly harmless little mockingbird personally puts the dagger to the big direwolf’s throat before he could lift a finger; an underhanded move in itself, because he takes advantage of surprise, the chaos around him, and his victim’s presently unfit physical state, because it’s doubtful that in other circumstances a short man with at best mediocre swordfighting skills could have done this to a taller, fitter and experienced warrior like The Ned.

The last time we see him and his victim sharing the stage is when, as a crowning achievement, he is present in that public trial where we’ll see how his persuading the Lannister boy-king to order Stark’s execution has found willing ears in said little monarch. In this scene, which we see through the eyes of Eddard’s younger daughter, there’s a clear yet subtle allusion to the real cause of his death when Arya identifies Baelish as “the man that fought a duel for Mother” and not by name, as if the author were reminding the readers that he’s dying as a result of lies told by the warped love that man had for his wife.

And even in his last hours, Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell is still symbolically linked to his eldest daughter:

He was dressed in a rich grey velvet doublet with a white wolf sewn on the front in beads, and a grey wool cloak trimmed with fur, but he was thinner than Arya had ever seen him, his long face drawn with pain. He was not standing so much as being held up; the cast over his broken leg was grey and rotten.

He therefore dies wearing his House colours, but inverted: instead of the Stark sigil of a gray direwolf on a white background, it’s a white direwolf on a gray background… like a bastard. And he confesses his “treason” invoking the Seven as his witnesses, not he Old Gods he’s kept all his life and are the only ones he worships, which stresses just how false were the words he had to yell to save Sansa, who’d be later forced by the same man to adopt a false bastardy.

In the name of the (true) father

“For a moment I did not remember that I was talking to a Stark,” said Littlefinger when Lord Eddard rejected his morally dubious counsel, and even if in the end he did win that match, he seems to be repeating that same mistake with Eddard’s daughter, as he purposefully chooses to focus just on one side of the girl. Let’s see his demeanour when he meets her for the first time in Sansa III:

When Sansa finally looked up, a man was standing over her, staring. He was short, with a pointed beard and a silver streak in his hair, almost as old as her father. “You must be one of her daughters,” he said to her. He had grey-green eyes that did not smile when his mouth did. “You have the Tully look.”

I’m Sansa Stark,” she said, ill at ease. The man wore a heavy cloak with a fur collar, fastened with a silver mockingbird, and he had the effortless manner of a high lord, but she did not know him. “I have not had the honor, my lord.”

Septa Mordane quickly took a hand. “Sweet child, this is Lord Petyr Baelish, of the king’s small council.”

“Your mother was my queen of beauty once,” the man said quietly. His breath smelled of mint. “You have her hair.” His fingers brushed against her cheek as he stroked one auburn lock. Quite abruptly he turned and walked away.

It then becomes apparent that from Day One he seemingly wants to forget she’s a Stark. Baelish doesn’t see Sansa for what she is: daughter of Lord Eddard Stark, the Hand. When he approaches her, he tells her that she must be one of her daughters, and though the name isn’t spoken at first, it’s clear who it is. He “forgets” her Stark blood and is fixated on the ‘my lost love Catelyn’s daughter’ half of the girl, and it’s Sansa herself who had to remind him plainly that he’s forgetting she’s a Stark.

Littlefinger quickly “forgets” that again, and begins probing the child to learn about her personality, takes note of her naïveté, and also slyly seems to encourage her on questioning her father’s decisions through compliments (“Oh, I don’t know, Septa. Some of her lord father’s decisions could do with a bit of questioning. The young lady is as wise as she is lovely.”). Later, when the father is arrested and the little bird is called from her confinement before the Queen and the Council, he advocates for her tossing aside her Stark identity a second time.

She reminds me of the mother, not the father,” Lord Petyr Baelish said quietly. “Look at her. The hair, the eyes. She is the very image of Cat at the same age.

It’s possibly at this point that he decided that he’d have her father killed instead of allowing him to be released to join the Night’s Watch, for we know from Cersei that he’d asked to marry Sansa himself and was refused (it’s curious that Baelish would request this, because Sansa was still betrothed to Joffrey, and it’s doubtful that the Lannisters would have had it annulled and then allowed her to marry just anyone, due to her value as hostage).

Months later, he uses his pawn Dontos the fool to spirit her away from King’s Landing after the poisoning of Joffrey. Reading the escape in ASOS Sansa V, there are some interesting details to be observed…

They continued down the serpentine and across a small sunken courtyard. Ser Dontos shoved open a heavy door and lit a taper. They were inside a long gallery. Along the walls stood empty suits of armor, dark and dusty, their helms crested with rows of scales that continued down their backs. As they hurried past, the taper’s light made the shadows of each scale stretch and twist. The hollow knights are turning into dragons, she thought.

One more stair took them to an oaken door banded with iron. “Be strong now, my Jonquil, you are almost there.” When Dontos lifted the bar and pulled open the door, Sansa felt a cold breeze on her face, She passed through twelve feet of wall, and then she was outside the castle, standing at the top of the cliff. Below was the river, above the sky, and one was as black as the other.

“We must climb down,” Ser Dontos said. “At the bottom, a man is waiting to row us out to the ship.”

“I’ll fall.” Bran had fallen, and he had loved to climb.

“No, you won’t. There’s a sort of ladder, a secret ladder, carved into the stone. Here, you can feel it, my lady.” He got down on his knees with her and made her lean over the edge of the cliff, groping with her fingers until she found the handhold cut into the face of the bluff. “Almost as good as rungs.”

Even so, it was a long way down. “I can’t.”

“You must.”

“Isn’t there another way?”

“This is the way. It won’t be so hard for a strong young girl like you. Hold on tight and never look down and you’ll be at the bottom in no time at all.” His eyes were shiny. “Your poor Florian is fat and old and drunk, I’m the one should be afraid. I used to fall off my horse, don’t you remember? That was how we began. I was drunk and fell off my horse and Joffrey wanted my fool head, but you saved me. You saved me, sweetling.”

He’s weeping, she realized. “And now you have saved me.”

“Only if you go. If not, I have killed us both.”

It was him, she thought. He killed Joffrey. She had to go, for him as much as for herself. “You go first, ser.” If he did fall, she did not want him falling down on her head and knocking both of them off the cliff.

“As you wish, my lady.” He gave her a sloppy kiss and swung his legs clumsily over the precipice, kicking about until he found a foothold. “Let me get down a bit, and come after. You will come now? You must swear it.”

“I’ll come,” she promised.

Ser Dontos disappeared. She could hear him huffing and puffing as he began the descent. Sansa listened to the tolling of the bell, counting each ring. At ten, gingerly, she eased herself over the edge of the cliff, poking with her toes until they found a place to rest. The castle walls loomed large above her, and for a moment she wanted nothing so much as to pull herself up and run back to her warm rooms in the Kitchen Keep. Be brave, she told herself. Be brave, like a lady in a song.

Sansa dared not look down. She kept her eyes on the face of the cliff, making certain of each step before reaching for the next. The stone was rough and cold. Sometimes she could feel her fingers slipping, and the handholds were not as evenly spaced as she would have liked. The bells would not stop ringing. Before she was halfway down her arms were trembling and she knew that she was going to fall. One more step, she told herself, one more step. She had to keep moving. If she stopped, she would never start again, and dawn would find her still clinging to the cliff, frozen in fear. One more step, and one more step.

The ground took her by surprise. She stumbled and fell, her heart pounding. When she rolled onto her back and stared up at from where she had come, her head swam dizzily and her fingers clawed at the dirt. I did it. I did it, I didn’t fall, I made the climb and now I’m going home.

Comparing this scene to the one quoted in the first part of this write-up, it dawns on the reader that the escape route is familiar. Sansa is following the same path her father did, thinking she’s going home, led by a puppet of the same man who lured unsuspecting Eddard down the cliff and into a brothel instead of his dwelling place in the Keep as he expected, where he’d feed him lies. At the center of both scenes is his obsession with Catelyn Stark, fittingly symbolised by his eating an apple, which, though the fruit itself can have different symbolical meanings, the act of eating it is generally either a metaphor for forbidden knowledge or forbidden love/desire, and in Littlefinger’s case, the latter is the one to be applied here for he harbours a delusional desire for a married woman who never reciprocated his sentiments, which is expressed outwardly when in the ship he lies to Sansa that he’d taken her maidenhead (curiously, there’s a variety of apple called Sansa). What also stands out from both scenes is precisely the difference in attitudes between father and daughter: The Ned was more trusting, he followed Littlefinger’s steps without questioning, and that trust would be his doom in the long run; yet the daughter does asks for alternatives, she wants choices, and follows the lead of Littlefinger’s paid man only after she’s told there’s no alternative. This might be significant in the future, because Sansa isn’t blindly accepting all of the Mockingbird’s prattle at face value (“he’s feeding me lies, too”) and she’s compliant only when she has no alternatives at the time.

Continuing with his underestimating of her Stark side, once he has her out of King’s Landing, he forces on her the identity of a bastard daughter of his as a way of appropriating Eddard’s place in Sansa’s mind and heart, as demonstrated by his comment that she should have been his daughter and not the Lord of Winterfell’s, manipulating her into forgetting her Stark father without setting aside her Tully mother despite rejecting the name Catelyn for her, as at this point “the love of his life” is already dead and now he sees Sansa as a replacement for her. And as he wants to start from zero, he chooses for her his own mother’s name, as another attempt at erasing Eddard from the girl’s family tree by introducing a grandparent she never had but who has his, Littlefinger’s, blood:

“Varys has informers everywhere. If Sansa Stark should be seen in the Vale, the eunuch will know within a moon’s turn, and that would create unfortunate… complications. It is not safe to be a Stark just now. So we shall tell Lysa’s people that you are my natural daughter.”

“Natural?” Sansa was aghast. “You mean, a bastard?”

“Well, you can scarcely be my trueborn daughter. I’ve never taken a wife, that’s well known. What should you be called?”

“I… I could call myself after my mother… ”

“Catelyn? A bit too obvious… but after my mother, that would serve. Alayne. Do you like it?”

“Alayne is pretty.” Sansa hoped she would remember. “But couldn’t I be the trueborn daughter of some knight in your service? Perhaps he died gallantly in the battle, and…”

“I have no gallant knights in my service, Alayne. Such a tale would draw unwanted questions as a corpse draws crows. It is rude to pry into the origins of a man’s natural children, however.” He cocked his head. “So, who are you?”

“Alayne… Stone, would it be?” When he nodded, she said, “But who is my mother?”

It’s likely that the story he told her of the woman that she should say was her mother, if asked, could be true at least in part, as it might have bits of Alayne Baelish, Petyr’s mother. Thus he starts the messiest subconscious projection ever, mixing the fake grandmother, the real mother, the fake daughter and the coveted lover all in one girl.

Yet whilst he’s confident in his own conviction that things are going as planned, the girl is showing small signs of not going along with his wishes so meekly. In the following two chapters since her escape until ASOS ends, for example, we have two instances in which she rejects his advances, one symbolically and the other not so symbolically.

Petyr cut a pomegranate in two with his dagger, offering half to Sansa. “You should try and eat, my lady.”

“Thank you, my lord.” Pomegranate seeds were so messy; Sansa chose a pear instead, and took a small delicate bite. It was very ripe. The juice ran down her chin.

Lord Petyr loosened a seed with the point of his dagger. “You must miss your father terribly, I know. Lord Eddard was a brave man, honest and loyal… but quite a hopeless player.” He brought the seed to his mouth with the knife. “In King’s Landing, there are two sorts of people. The players and the pieces.

Is the dagger he’s using to eat the pomegranate the same he put to her real father’s throat? Quite probably. If so, then here we have again another parallel to his toying with a dagger whilst he speaks dismissively about honour and reveals the murky court politics he was involved in, like he did in the presence of Eddard, and he is trying to do with her the same he did with him: to suggest to her that she should not fixate on these values when playing the game of thrones, because it would mean her downfall as it did for her sire. All the while offering her a fruit that in itself is an outstanding metaphor for what he might really desire from her. Apart from the widely known symbolism of the pomegranate as a fruit related to fertility, abundance, etc., and its link to the myth of Hades and Persephone, there’s another: eating the seeds of a pomegranate symbolises the indissolubility of a marital union, which is why it was the fruit of weddings in Ancient Greece and the reason why it appears in the Hades/Persephone myth, and even today, it’s still used in weddings in China, be it employing real fruits or art depicting them, and amongst Bedouin tribes, to name some examples. She rejects his offer of this fruit, figuratively rejecting his desires, too. And interestingly, she chooses a pear, which in itself is a fruit that, amongst its varied symbolical meanings, stands for a healthy sexuality and innocent love.

Lord Petyr cut the blood orange in two with his dagger and offered half to Sansa. “The lads are far too treacherous to be part of any such scheme… and Osmund has become especially unreliable since he joined the Kingsguard. That white cloak does things to a man, I find. Even a man like him.” He tilted his chin back and squeezed the blood orange, so the juice ran down into his mouth. “I love the juice but I loathe the sticky fingers,” he complained, wiping his hands. “Clean hands, Sansa. Whatever you do, make certain your hands are clean.”

Sansa spooned up some juice from her own orange.

Whilst ordinary oranges have no specific symbolism applicable to this scenario, the pulp and the juice of this unique species of orange has been a long-standing metaphor for blood due to its colour (hence its name sanguinello, from sanguine = blood), including the blood of innocents in special, and just like bloodstains are hard to wipe out, sometimes never come out, the juice of the blood orange generally leaves permanent stains on fabric. Expanding on the idea posed to me by Ragnorak that in the Eddard-Petyr talk just before the latter goes to bribe the Gold Cloaks there’s this imagery of Littlefinger’s acts as a mockery of the First Men justice, here we can see the fake father again attempting at replacing the true father’s rule of “wield the sword yourself and get your hands bloody” with his own “keep your hands clean and let others own the blame” philosophy, so similar to Tywin Lannister’s modus operandi. Sansa accepts the orange, but keeps her hands clean by daintily spooning the juice, fitting with the image of herself as a tool. Yet Baelish himself gets his hands sticky with orange juice, only to clean them quickly afterward, which brings us back to his two-step act to bring Stark down: in the mentioned scene, he first hears The Ned’s “last words” that were his doom, and then personally “wields the weapon” by using the northman’s own dagger to arrest him, so in the first stage he did bloody his hands, and just as he cleans the orange juice as soon as it dirties his hands, he crowned the betrayal by “cleanly,” i.e. indirectly, having Ned beheaded through influencing the boy-king to have him executed with his own Valyrian greatsword. Fittingly, he later repeats this pattern a third time, when he dirties his hands with Lysa’s blood, but quickly cleans them by framing Marillion, and entrapping Sansa as an accomplice.

The scene that precedes this murder illustrates once more the multifaceted nature of Baelish’s obsession with Sansa. He’s posing as her father in Eddard’s shoes, yet he wants to be more than that, and he will not shy away from employing despicable tricks to attain this. After the snow castle is completed, he forcefully tries to relive a distant event in the godswood at Riverrun:

Sansa tried to step back, but he pulled her into his arms and suddenly he was kissing her. Feebly, she tried to squirm, but only succeeded in pressing herself more tightly against him. His mouth was on hers, swallowing her words. He tasted of mint. For half a heartbeat she yielded to his kiss… before she turned her face away and wrenched free. “What are you doing?”

Petyr straightened his cloak. “Kissing a snow maid.”

“You’re supposed to kiss her.” Sansa glanced up at Lysa’s balcony, but it was empty now. “Your lady wife.”

“I do. Lysa has no cause for complaint.” He smiled. “I wish you could see yourself, my lady. You are so beautiful. You’re crusted over with snow like some little bear cub, but your face is flushed and you can scarcely breathe. How long have you been out here? You must be very cold. Let me warm you, Sansa. Take off those gloves, give me your hands.”

“I won’t.” He sounded almost like Marillion, the night he’d gotten so drunk at the wedding. Only this time Lothor Brune would not appear to save her; Ser Lothor was Petyr’s man. “You shouldn’t kiss me. I might have been your own daughter…”

“Might have been,” he admitted, with a rueful smile. “But you’re not, are you? You are Eddard Stark’s daughter, and Cat’s. But I think you might be even more beautiful than your mother was, when she was your age.”

That would be the second time in which Baelish’s allowed his undisguised lust be uncomfortably evident to her, and this time not just to her but to anyone that could be looking. And he gets from the daughter the same response he did from the mother, with good reason, as he’s reminding her of a previous failed rape attempt. This line:

“[…] How long have you been out here? You must be very cold. Let me warm you, Sansa. Take off those gloves, give me your hands.”

Is exactly the same her would-be rapist, the singer Marillion, had uttered at the Fingers:

“Alayne.” Her aunt’s singer stood over her. “Sweet Alayne. I am Marillion. I saw you come in from the rain. The night is chill and wet. Let me warm you.”

Lysa Arryn had witnessed the scene at Riverrun (“Petyr tried to kiss your mother, only she pushed him away.” “Catelyn kissed you in the godswood, but she never meant it, she never wanted you.”), and witnessing it happening again with a younger and more beautiful version of her sister, forced the unstable-minded woman to kill the “rival,” and also explains why when she tried to shove Sansa out the Moon Door she seemed to be having difficulty with differentiating between her niece and her sister. Baelish himself shifts during this scene from naming her as the child of the woman he thinks he lost (“She’s a child, Lysa. Cat’s daughter.”) to calling her Alayne, his daughter (“I think she understands now. Isn’t that so, Alayne?”), and again Sansa, the girl he lusts after (“Just let go of Sansa’s hair…”), and ends the scene with pushing her to her death in the name of Catelyn.

With the girl now entangled in his web and isolated in an inaccessible castle, he can now begin to groom her and transform her into what he desires, hoping that she sheds her old Stark self. But Sansa doesn’t comply as readily, and begins to model Alayne after her bastard brother Jon, coincidentally the other child more similar to Eddard, showing that she’s not devoid of means of protecting herself from complete emotional isolation, for even if the fake identity is forced upon her, she is the one that decides which this persona’s characteristics will be and not her groomer, which in itself doesn’t forecast success for the conditioning, for emotional isolation is a key component, more than physical isolation. And later, when in her first AFFC chapter Littlefinger insists that she’s his daughter, she thinks to herself:

He smiled. “I know Lord Nestor, sweetling. Do you imagine I’d ever let him harm my daughter?”

I am not your daughter, she thought. I am Sansa Stark, Lord Eddard’s daughter and Lady Catelyn’s, the blood of Winterfell.

She’s also aware that the man that supposedly is helping her has a double identity as well, and that none of his personalities means well for her:

He saved Alayne, his daughter, a voice within her whispered. But she was Sansa too… and sometimes it seemed to her that the Lord Protector was two people as well. He was Petyr, her protector, warm and funny and gentle… but he was also Littlefinger, the lord she’d known at King’s Landing, smiling slyly and stroking his beard as he whispered in Queen Cersei’s ear. And Littlefinger was no friend of hers. When Joff had her beaten, the Imp defended her, not Littlefinger. When the mob sought to rape her, the Hound carried her to safety, not Littlefinger.

When the Lannisters wed her to Tyrion against her will, Ser Garlan the Gallant gave her comfort, not Littlefinger. Littlefinger never lifted so much as his little finger for her.

Except to get me out. He did that for me. I thought it was Ser Dontos, my poor old drunken Florian, but it was Petyr all the while. Littlefinger was only a mask he had to wear. Only sometimes Sansa found it hard to tell where the man ended and the mask began. Littlefinger and Lord Petyr looked so very much alike. She would have fled them both, perhaps, but there was nowhere for her to go.

The daughter is therefore cognisant of the dual nature of this man, thus more suspicious and mistrustful than her true father ever was, though she also has witnessed what he’s capable of. When Petyr decides to further his campaign to obliterate that old identity and asks her to be his daughter more than just from the teeth outward, she uses his own counsel against him:

“Thank you.” She felt absurdly proud for puzzling it out, but confused as well. “I’m not, though. Your daughter. Not truly. I mean, I pretend to be Alayne, but you know…”

Littlefinger put a finger to her lips. “I know what I know, and so do you. Some things are best left unsaid, sweetling.”

“Even when we are alone?”

“Especially when we are alone. Elsewise a day will come when a servant walks into a room unannounced, or a guardsman at the door chances to hear something he should not. Do you want more blood on your pretty little hands, my darling?”

Marillion’s face seemed to float before her, the bandage pale across his eyes. Behind him she could see Ser Dontos, the crossbow bolts still in him. “No,” Sansa said. “Please.”

“I am tempted to say this is no game we play, daughter, but of course it is. The game of thrones.”

I never asked to play. The game was too dangerous. One slip and I am dead. “Oswell… my lord, Oswell rowed me from King’s Landing the night that I escaped. He must know who I am.”

“If he’s half as clever as a sheep pellet, you would think so. Ser Lothor knows as well. But Oswell has been in my service a long time, and Brune is close-mouthed by nature. Kettleblack watches Brune for me, and Brune watches Kettleblack. Trust no one, I once told Eddard Stark, but he would not listen. You are Alayne, and you must be Alayne all the time.” He put two fingers on her left breast. “Even here. In your heart. Can you do that? Can you be my daughter in your heart?”

“I…” I do not know, my lord, she almost said, but that was not what he wanted to hear. Lies and Arbor gold, she thought. “I am Alayne, Father. Who else would I be?”

Lord Littlefinger kissed her cheek. “With my wits and Cat’s beauty, the world will be yours, sweetling. Now off to bed.”

Three things stand out in this scene in what is the last POV in the books with her real name Sansa: one, that Littlefinger is repeating to the daughter what he had told the father, but unlike the father, the daughter actually uses his lessons to her benefit and to his detriment not long after she’s gotten them, as we see in the example of the usefulness of lies, damned lies and Arbor gold; two, that she doesn’t trust him and she’s lying to him, definitely not the actions of someone that is following him unquestioningly. And three, perhaps the more important point: Sansa finally adopts the persona of Alayne, and from then on her remaining POVs have that name, only after Petyr Baelish has threatened her with more deaths for her cause: “Do you want more blood on your pretty little hands, my darling?”
Even so, Alayne isn’t an entirely different person as Baelish would have it, because in the following two chapters, we observe that parts of Sansa Stark are so well interwoven into Alayne Stone as to make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obliterate her at a subconscious level, which is the most important level when it comes to personality, though she can separate both on a conscious level at will, because she knows she has to pretend to be that new person. Let’s see how Sansa is still present:

  • “A falcon soared above the frozen waterfall, blue wings spread wide against the morning sky. Would that I had wings as well.”

Alayne Stone is supposed to be the daughter of the Lord Protector, not be feeling like prisoner Sansa Stark, who is a warg as a bonus. This would be a severe blow to Baelish’s plans, for if her warging abilities are somehow awakened, possibly through the assistance of Bran through the godswood at the Gates of the Moon, she’d be beyond his control.

  • She still has that habit Lord Eddard had, of getting up from bed and walking barefoot to greet the cold air.
  • She deliberately chooses a dress of her aunt’s in Tully colours: “This morning her eye was caught by a parti-colored gown of Tully red and blue, lined with vair.”

A bastard girl raised in a sept would be using dull clothes; Alayne Stone isn’t supposed to have any preference for pretty dresses, much less choose the colours of the House of Sansa Stark’s mother. Alayne has no highborn mother.

  • She refers to Lysa as her “aunt” once. Alayne Stone is supposed not to have any aunts, it’s Sansa who is the niece of Lysa Tully.
  • As Sansa, she perceives her “father” lusts for her: “He looked at her with Littlefinger’s eyes,” which she had also noticed in AGOT, and it’s after noticing this that she chooses to switch to Alayne, the dutiful daughter of Petyr:

A true daughter would not refuse her sire a kiss, so Alayne went to him and kissed him, a quick dry peck upon the cheek, and just as quickly stepped away.

“How… dutiful.” Littlefinger smiled with his mouth, but not his eyes.


It’s noteworthy to remember that Tyrion Lannister, another man who also lusted for her and whom she flatly rejected, also remarked on this behaviour of hers: “She’s nothing if not dutiful, this wife of mine.”

  • When she learns that Bronze Yohn Royce is coming, she worries that he’ll recognise Sansa, immediately having a flashback of her first infatuation, his son Ser Waymar, and then corrects her slip of the tongue for Petyr’s benefit telling him who Bronze Yohn saw was Sansa a second time at King’s Landing, omitting the first time at Winterfell. Petyr underestimates the threat, which proves to be very valid, since even if she’s older and with different hair, she still looks familiar to the Lord of Runestone.
  • She thinks of the Hound when she sees Bronze Yohn Royce arriving in the Eyrie (“The Lord of Runestone stood as tall as the Hound”), and because his sole presence brings back memories of happier times at Winterfell, she considers revealing herself to him and ask for protection, curiously linking a possible protector to her memory of the Hound, as she’d done with Lothor Brune for saving her from Marillion and Petyr for not saving her. Again, Alayne Stone isn’t supposed to know the Hound at all, much less think of him positively in comparison to all men she encounters. She also thinks of Robb, when she supposedly has no brothers, trueborn or baseborn, and decides not to trust him.

It’s to be noted that during this scene, she’s fully is in the skin of Sansa and thinks of herself with that name, not Alayne, until Lord Royce asks her if they’ve met before and she goes back to wearing her bastard mask.

Then we have these examples in Alayne II:

  • “Will they be lemon cakes?” Lord Robert loved lemon cakes, perhaps because Alayne did.

Alayne likes lemon cakes, another personal preference she’s keeping from Sansa.

  • She tries to fantasise about Sansa’s old infatuation Loras Tyrell whilst Sweetrobin is kissing her; it doesn’t work, and she ends up reliving the kiss with the Hound instead. She consciously separates the first as a memory belonging to her past personality, but not the second, which is still part of her new personality as Alayne. That gives Clegane a place in both girls’ lives, for she fantasises about him when she’s Sansa Stark and when she’s Alayne Stone, whereas the only other man she’s thought about in a sexual context, Loras, is left behind in Sansa’s past.
  • When she’s told there’s going to be music and dancing at Lord Nestor’s feast at the Gates of the Moon, she’s conflicted because Sansa loves to dance, but Alayne shouldn’t. In the end, Sansa wins, because when she arrives in the castle, these are amongst the things she’s happy for.
  • She laments that the Eyrie has a sept without a septon, and a godswood without a heart tree, so she believes no prayers are heard or answered in that place. Yet Alayne is supposed to worship only the Seven as she’s been raised by septas; Sansa is the one that keeps to both the old gods of her father and the new gods of her mother.
  • She again repeats that she “must be Alayne all the time, inside and out” for fear of being discovered by Cersei’s bounty hunters when she learns about it from “Petyr’s friends at court.” But so far she doesn’t seem to be doing so well, to judge by the examples we’ve examined thus far, and those to come after, below.
  • She notices on her own that Lothor Brune harbours feelings for Mya, and earns his trust enough that he confesses part of his earlier life to her. This in itself isn’t related to keeping her Stark identity, but is important because this means she’s not emotionally or psychologically isolated, and is able to earn other people’s trust by herself, which can be valuable long-term when/if she tries to get out of where she is at present.
  • When she meets Mya, she thinks this:

Yes, she thought, looking at her now, those are his eyes, and she has his hair too, the thick black hair he shared with Renly.

Alayne Stone never met Robert the king nor his brother Renly. This is one hundred percent Sansa. What happened to “being Alayne inside and out”?

  • Thinking of Myranda Royce, she again separates Sansa from Alayne: Sansa had been at the Gates of the Moon on her way to the Eyrie, but Randa hadn’t been there, yet Alayne knows a lot about this woman from the servants. In this passage, she thinks of Lysa Tully as Sansa’s aunt, not Alayne’s. But some passages later, she is again Sansa, wondering what “her aunt” could’ve been thinking as she was pushed out the Moon Door and about her last thoughts, and tries not to dwell on it.
  • She decides that Alayne should be older than Sansa: instead of three-and-ten it would be four-and-ten now, the age of Jon Snow, the brother on whom she’s modeling her bastard persona, when they parted ways.
  • Speaking of Jon, it’s not only the mention of him which makes her accidentally blurt out his name to Myranda but also her real father’s name:

There’s a new High Septon, did you know? Oh, and the Night’s Watch has a boy commander, some bastard son of Eddard Stark’s.”

“Jon Snow?” she blurted out, surprised.

“Snow? Yes, it would be Snow, I suppose.

This is a chain reaction: the name Eddard Stark makes her think of her brother Jon, and in turn thinking of her brother Jon makes her think also of her brothers Robb, Bran and Rickon.

  • Her descent from the Eyrie to the Gates of the Moon is filled with references to her real mother, Catelyn Stark, that are examined in a separate heading below.
  • When she’s asked by Randa if Alayne is still a maiden, she thinks of Sansa’s husband and of the Hound in Sansa’s bed, all whilst thinking, feeling and reacting like Sansa.
  • She again slips into Sansa when thinking about wishing for a friend: “Despite herself, Alayne found herself warming to the older girl. She had not had a friend to gossip with since poor Jeyne Poole.” Yet Alayne is supposed to never have met Jeyne Poole, who was Sansa’s best friend.
  • This inner monologue is also very much based on Sansa’s memories and wishes:

It will be a featherbed, she told herself, soft and warm and deep, piled high with furs. I will dream a sweet dream, and when I wake there will be dogs barking, women gossiping beside the well, swords ringing in the yard. And later there will be a feast, with music and dancing.


The wolf pup follows in the mother’s footsteps

GRRM apparently is subtly reinforcing in the reader’s mind how intricate Sansa’s connection to both her parents is precisely when there’s an apparent danger of losing her identity, through the textual similarities with their own ordeal. Before, we saw how Sansa followed in her father’s footsteps down the cliff to the boat that would take her to the Eyrie. And once she’s there, Martin again draws a parallel to a parent, this time her mother.

Even though she thinks that “Sansa Stark went up the mountain, but Alayne Stone is coming down” and to muster her courage during a perilous stage of the descent she tells herself that Alayne is braver than Sansa was, she still thinks and acts like her core original self. In fact, the whole descent from the castle is an inversion of the ascent and stay of her mother at the Eyrie:

There’s this scene of Catelyn when she was at her sister’s home awaiting the trial of her prisoner, the Imp:

The eastern sky was rose and gold as the sun broke over the Vale of Arryn. Catelyn Stark watched the light spread, her hands resting on the delicate carved stone of the balustrade outside her window. Below her the world turned from black to indigo to green as dawn crept across fields and forests. Pale white mists rose off Alyssa’s Tears, where the ghost waters plunged over the shoulder of the mountain to begin their long tumble down the face of the Giant’s Lance. Catelyn could feel the faint touch of spray on her face.

Alyssa Arryn had seen her husband, her brothers, and all her children slain, and yet in life she had never shed a tear. So in death, the gods had decreed that she would know no rest until her weeping watered the black earth of the Vale, where the men she had loved were buried. Alyssa had been dead six thousand years now, and still no drop of the torrent had ever reached the valley floor far below. Catelyn wondered how large a waterfall her own tears would make when she died.

Which is similar to this scene of Sansa in King’s Landing as the prisoner of the Lannisters and unwilling wife of her mother’s former prisoner:

She threw back the shutters and shivered as gooseprickles rose along her arms. There were clouds massing in the eastern sky, pierced by shafts of sunlight. They look like two huge castles afloat in the morning sky. Sansa could see their walls of tumbled stone, their mighty keeps and barbicans. Wispy banners swirled from atop their towers and reached for the fast-fading stars. The sun was coming up behind them, and she watched them go from black to grey to a thousand shades of rose and gold and crimson. Soon the wind mushed them together, and there was only one castle where there had been two.

They are looking at the same sky from the same angle and at the same time of the day: the morning. There’s an interesting contrast in what mother and daughter are seeing in those occasions: by the time this happens, Catelyn hasn’t yet lost her husband, children and sibling, but she’s welcoming the new day filled with a sense of dread. And when she finally does lose them, in the same book where Sansa’s scene is, she is unable to mourn them as she would like; and then the piety of Dondarrion condemns her to live without knowing peace until she has avenged her loved ones. Hers is therefore a negative outlook. Sansa, on the other part, is already in a situation similar to Alyssa Arryn: she has lost both her parents and her brothers and her sister, and cannot mourn them properly either but in private, yet she’s welcoming the new day with hope. Hers is a positive outlook.
Then we have the similarities in the ascent and the descent:

  • Both Catelyn and Sansa describe Mya Stone similarly when they meet her, and both think of Jon Snow at different times during their respective ascent/descent.
  • Mother and daughter reflect on Mya’s love life, one thinking that she will not marry the highborn boy she loves, Mychel Redfort, and the other that her lowborn admirer, Lothor Brune, would be good for her.
  • Catelyn compares Mya to her daughter: “She sounded so like Sansa, so happy and innocent with her dreams.” Later, when Mya and Sansa have a talk, none of them are so happy or so innocent anymore: Mya tells her bitterly that men lie, die or leave, sounding like Sansa’s also bitter inner monologue about being left by a man with nothing but a bloody cloak.
  • The mother ascends from Sky to the Eyrie in the basket, the daughter descends from the Eyrie to Sky in the same basket, with Sweetrobin; and both are nervous during this stage.
  • At the beginning of the ascent, Catelyn boasts that she’s a Tully and a Stark, and not easily frightened, but where the slope is steepest, she’s weary and frightened, and has to be guided tiny step by tiny step by Mya. Sansa acts more resolutely and refuses to close her eyes and let the mule guide her, because that’d be what a frightened Stark girl would do, not a bastard brave girl.
  • Both describe the sound of the wind in the same words:


Alayne could hear the wind shrieking, and feel it plucking at her cloak.

It sounds like a wolf, thought Sansa. A ghost wolf, big as mountains.


Above Snow, the wind was a living thing, howling around them like a wolf in the waste, then falling off to nothing as if to lure them into complacency.

She could hear the wind shrieking.


  • Mother and daughter eat the same food, but curiously at different stages: Alayne eats “a hot meal of stewed goat and onion” at Snow, when she’s going down; and Catelyn eats “skewers of charred meat and onions still hot from the spit” at Stone, when she’s going up. This is noteworthy considering what snow means for Sansa and her identity, and that Catelyn would be later transformed into Lady Stoneheart.
  • They arrive in their destination when the sun is at opposite sides in the sky: at the end of Catelyn’s ascent, it’s dawn; at the end of Sansa’s descent, it’s dusk.
  • Catelyn ascended to the Eyrie as a gaoler taking prisoner Tyrion Lannister with her, which she lost at the Eyrie in a trial by combat that ruined her plans, and descended without him. We didn’t see her descending. Sansa ascended being herself a prisoner of Littlefinger, and we didn’t see her ascending; yet she descended without her gaoler and he may very well lose her due to events that might unfold at the new location and that might ruin his plans.
  • The trial by combat that wrested Catelyn’s prisoner from her hands was supposed to be won by martial prowess (although trickery wasn’t out of the picture); so considering that the “loss” of the real Catelyn—whom he never had in the first place—to a Stark thanks to his own atrocious swordsmanship is at the root of his present behaviour, one of the many variables is that things might come full circle with Littlefinger losing the surrogate Catelyn in circumstances that required of martial prowess as well.

A king without an army

Finally, in their last scene in the books, in AFFC Alayne II, we again have Littlefinger assaulting her identity as a Stark, when she tells her she’s to be betrothed to Harry the Heir, and she is first about to object that she doesn’t want to, but switches to “cannot marry” because he will not listen otherwise:

Petyr put a finger to her lips to silence her. “The dwarf wed Ned Stark’s daughter, not mine. Be that as it may. This is only a betrothal. The marriage must needs wait until Cersei is done and Sansa’s safely widowed. And you must meet the boy and win his approval. Lady Waynwood will not make him marry against his will, she was quite firm on that.

Littlefinger again “forgets” who the real father is, and as his modus operandi is buying people’s cooperation by giving them what they want, he is confident that he’s giving her what she wants:

Petyr arched an eyebrow. “When Robert dies. Our poor brave Sweetrobin is such a sickly boy, it is only a matter of time. When Robert dies, Harry the Heir becomes Lord Harrold, Defender of the Vale and Lord of the Eyrie. Jon Arryn’s bannermen will never love me, nor our silly, shaking Robert, but they will love their Young Falcon… and when they come together for his wedding, and you come out with your long auburn hair, clad in a maiden’s cloak of white and grey with a direwolf emblazoned on the back… why, every knight in the Vale will pledge his sword to win you back your birthright. So those are your gifts from me, my sweet Sansa… Harry, the Eyrie, and Winterfell. That’s worth another kiss now, don’t you think?”

But he’s underestimating that he’s dealing with not just any Stark, which merits repetition: it’s the child of Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell who is the more similar in personality, values and innocence to him and who has assets her father didn’t have. This means there are certain holes in his scheming he apparently is not counting on, which make the success of his plans not as sure as he believes. Let’s examine only the critical ones now:

  1. He ignores that the Sansa he has in his clutches isn’t the same eleven-year old Sansa he met, so he bases his belief about what her greatest wishes are on the static idea about her personality he’s got from her first months in King’s Landing. This Sansa doesn’t want her claim to Winterfell; she doesn’t want the Eyrie nor the Vale, which isn’t her home, and she definitely no longer falls for gallant and handsome knights as he’s trying to present Harrold Hardyng, whose reputation she already knows through Randa, and whose description is so similar to Marillion’s.
  1. Sansa isn’t as isolated from people as he would believe. She can bond with inconspicuous people that could be of help long-term in one way or another, Lothor Brune for one, as well as Mya Stone. In other words, she’s started her own little network comprised of the “humblest pieces” and “sheep” behind his back. He’d told the Lannisters during a meeting in ACOK: “I’ve never been frightened of shepherds. It’s the sheep who trouble me;” and one of his lessons to Sansa was that “even the humblest pieces can have wills of their own. Sometimes they refuse to make the moves you’ve planned for them,” but he’s underestimating the threat that these people could be for his aims in the near future.
  1. Unlike Eddard, Sansa knows very delicate and damning information about Baelish, and that could prove useful in the future.
  1. Robb’s will disinheriting Sansa could pose an obstacle, and the survival of Bran and Rickon definitely are serious obstacles. That makes three Stark heirs still around. Baelish can scheme against Jon or Rickon, but Bran is beyond his reach, and it’s difficult that he could do much, if anything, to prevent a godlike being from reaching his sister, or doing something in favour of House Stark if he wished to. Which brings us to…
  1. … Sansa is a warg. Does Baelish know this? It doesn’t seem so, and it’s unlikely that she’d confide in him if/when this ability is awakened. How is he going to prevent Bran (or even Jon) from signaling to her, communicating with her, or keeping an eye on her via trees and animals? There’s the possibility that he could already have done/is doing that, considering that he is now able to warg birds, and Sansa noticed falcons circling above her head at least twice at the Vale, and there’s also the scene of the wind sounding like a wolf, and the fact that there’s a godswood at the Gates of the Moon. Even without these external elements, there are dreams like those Bloodraven planted on Bran’s mind himself.

This is one of the biggest problems for Baelish’s success, that this is not just non-warg and politically naïve Eddard Stark anymore. The current Starks have magical powers, including Sansa, and if/when she starts warging, then she’ll use it to her advantage without him having much of a say in it, as she doesn’t trust him.

  1. Grooming her as a potential lover doesn’t look like it’s going smoothly either, not less because she has already focused her sexual and romantic fantasies on Sandor Clegane—which in itself is an emotional shield, and of which Baelish isn’t aware—but because now there will be less opportunity and the required time alone with her at the Gates of the Moon, as there are more people around that don’t answer to him, and she will be spending more time with Randa Royce and Mya Stone, one that Baelish doesn’t trust and another whom he doesn’t seem to care about; and likely also people coming to and going out of the Vale, passersby, etc. All of this makes the necessary emotional isolation impracticable at the new location.
  1. Alayne has understood the usefulness of the “false compliance” defence grooming victims, kidnapping victims and abuse victims use to shield themselves from further advances from the groomer/abuser, which is basically at the core of her employing the “lies and Arbor gold” on Littlefinger: she knows what he wants to hear from her and how he wants her to act like.
  1. In the Gates of the Moon, there’s more danger of recognition by people living there, and newly arrived persons like Ser Shadrich, who’s looking for Sansa Stark and is one of the most likely to discover the truth, and more that might arrive in the near future. Also, servants gossip, so the Royce household is bound to find out about certain things from the visiting Arryn household; and people leaving the Gates might spread the tale that Baelish has a beautiful bastard daughter, which might pique some convenient curiosities enough to investigate further.
  1. The danger of Sweetrobin’s untimely death. Although it’s not the most likely of outcomes, little Robert Arryn’s frail health means there’s a realistic possibility that he could die prematurely, be it of natural causes, during one of his attacks or of health complications that might arise due to the crude winter, or due to the side effects of the drugs he’s given to control them, accidentally or on purpose (the least probable case), which would screw with Littlefinger’s plans, paralleling how his scheming to have Lord Eddard die prematurely screwed with the plans of the Stark and Lannister families, as well as an ironic shot in the foot because the poisoning of an Arryn was what made it possible for his plans to begin to bear fruit and the poisoning or natural death of another Arryn would potentially ruin said plans.
  1. And last the arguably biggest problem, which GRRM in person pointed out:

Who is overlord of the Riverlands? (Since the Freys have Riverrun yet Littlefinger was named Lord Paramount). George says that Littlefinger is the Lord of the Riverlands but that he is going to run into trouble. I commented that Littlefinger is really powerful now that he has the Riverlands and supposed control of the Eyrie. GRRM laughed and said that I need to remember that for all his power Littlefinger has no army. (I thought that was interesting). GRRM also commented that (I forget which Frey, Emmon?) the Frey given Riverrun really wants to be Lord of the Riverlands and has dreams of having his father be his vassal. (I thought that was interesting also).


Following the adage that “a king without an army is just a man in a funny hat,” the author has stressed that despite the fact that the Mockingbird has a title of Lord Protector and is on the surface very powerful, he lacks an army like The Ned did (which proved to be fatal for him): he only has about thirty men from the garrison of the Eyrie and some untrustworthy hedge knights he recently hired, definitely no match for the Lords of the Vale. He may have bribed most of them, but as a conversation with Tyrion in ACOK demonstrates, he knows that even if “bribes might sway some of the lesser lords,” there are always incorruptible lords, Bronze Yohn for one, and even the supposedly bribed Vale lords, such as Nestor Royce or Anya Waynwood, still are the ones that have the support and the swords, not him; and those who have the swords can solve inconveniences and surmount irksome obstacles with steel, if not through lamentable accidents, that is, they can oust him from his position or retake control over their liege lord, Sweetrobin Arryn by force.

Thus, we have plenty of reasons and foreshadowing to believe that it will be Sansa the one to bring her captor down into the mud. In accordance with GRRM’s tendency to subvert plotlines, her arc seems to be already following the reverse pattern of what Baelish did to Lord Eddard; the snowball has been rolling down slowly for a time now, and at this moment he’s in the same position Stark was: a Lord Protector without an army and with who he believes to be his ally in the ideal position to put the dagger to his throat, literally or figuratively.

There were four people directly responsible for the beheading of Lord Stark, and Baelish was the mastermind that manipulated the others: he convinced Joffrey to go against the advice of his Councilmen and his mother, he bought Slynt, and even if Ilyn Payne was just doing his job as royal executioner, he’s not free from a connection to Baelish, who sold one of the offices under the headsman. Of these, two are already deceased, in a violent manner it must be added, and in their deaths a Stark was involved: the poison that killed Joffrey was carried by an unknowing Stark; Janos Slynt met the justice of the First Men at the hands of a baseborn Stark… And now, again a Stark is in the ideal place to do the same to the major culprit, a threat Baelish “forgets,” that is, underestimates. Even if Sansa doesn’t personally slit his throat, beheads him, poisons him, etc., if his downfall comes as a direct consequence of her actions, then Littlefinger would arguably have met a sort of First Men justice at the hands of a Stark, and the circle would be poetically completed with the protagonists back in the end to a situation so alike to the beginning, but with their roles inverted.




On Martin’s Inversion of Beauty and the Beast in Sansa’s Arc

by Tze

I think Sansa actually inverts quite a bit of the “Beauty and the Beast” story, rather than sticking to the traditional arc. B&B is a story in which a girl chooses imprisonment with a Beast—a transformed Prince who has shut himself away from the world—in exchange for her father being set free by the Beast; she and the Beast then fall in love, and the Beast is transformed back into a handsome prince. Sansa starts out on that path . . . but while Sansa is definitely imprisoned, her father ultimately isn’t set free by the “beast” Joffrey, he’s executed. The expected results never materialize: Sansa’s imprisonment does not save Ned, Joffrey is never transformed out of his “beast” self, and Sansa falls out of love with, and ultimately escapes from, him—this is the exact opposite of the “Beauty and the Beast” plot arc. The same thing happens with Tyrion: the new male head of Sansa’s House, Robb, is again killed, Tyrion never transforms from his physical “beast” state, and Sansa never falls in love with him either. The Beauty neither loves nor transforms these Beasts.

The idea of self-sacrifice, via self-imprisonment, is a strong element of B&B—but Sansa never chooses to be imprisoned by Joffrey, Tyrion, or Sandor. She actively flees from the first two, and refuses to isolate herself on the road with the latter. There’s an argument that her time with Littlefinger basically has her more accurately following the story by choosing imprisonment with a beast in exchange for her father—just with Littlefinger in both the “beast” and “father” roles—but I think it’s hard to judge right now, given the open-endedness of Sansa’s current storyline (especially given the chances of Sansa killing Littlefinger, which certainly would throw a huge wrench in any parallel or inversion to B&B).

And as it pertains to Sandor Clegane, there’s an interesting inversion operating with the effect the “beauty” has on the “beast”. In B&B, the Beast isolates himself from human society, and the Beauty causes him to re-enter the social arena, via transforming him, with her love, from an animalistic figure into a handsome prince—into a person both operating in a hierarchical role created and sustained by human society while existing in a form celebrated by that society (a handsome prince). This is actually the exact opposite of what happens to Sandor as a result of Sansa’s influence: he goes from operating in a clear-cut role in human society (sworn shield to the prince, later the king) to a more animalistic-associated (in that he’s closer to the wilderness) figure divorced from the social hierarchy of his society. Sandor goes from a celebrated (more or less) position at the royal court into isolation at the Quiet Isle—the exact opposite of the Beast’s traditional journey.

In a way, this seeming inversion might be more understandable if we understand just what influence Sansa appears to be having on Sandor. Sansa, never forget, is a warg. Wolves, we’re told, can never be tamed, and we repeatedly see people try—and ultimately fail—to “tame” and control Sansa. Dogs by their very nature are easily tamable. Sandor Clegane starts out as a dog, obeying all of the orders he’s given. He slowly becomes wilder and wilder, more and more difficult to “tame”, over the course of his association with Sansa, leading to him eventually abandoning his position and the court entirely—Sansa’s influence drives him into the wilderness, away from the “center” of society. This is the opposite of what we’d expect from the “Beauty’s” influence on the “Beast”, but what’s interesting is that here, the Beauty does indeed transform the Beast into a form more like her. In B&B, the Beast basically becomes a male Beauty. But Sansa, as a warg, is herself a “beast”—just in a more literal sense than “beasts” like Joffrey/Tyrion/Littlefinger. Sandor becomes more “wolflike” via the influence of Sansa, a warg, so in a twisted sense the Sansa/Sandor influence arc does parallel B&B, simply with the ultimate destination of the two character arcs inverted—the Beauty is actually more of a true beast than the Beast himself, and she influences the Beast to become more of a “beast”, to make himself more like her (more of a wolf than a dog).

Others have already brought up the parallels between Sandor and Ser Bonifer, and I also think there’s actually quite an interesting parallel operating (inversely) between Sansa and Rhaella Targaryen. Sansa and Rhaella seem to have started traveling on the same path, but instead of directly mirroring Rhaella (and thus, suffering her fate), Sansa’s plot arc seems to frequently be veering off the path Rhaella’s arc took.

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.


Entering the royal wheelhouse was something Sansa strove for back in AGOT (remember how excited she was when she was permitted to ride in the royal wheelhouse with Cersei and Myrcella?), yet the royal wheelhouse was a space forbidden to Lady, and therefore to Sansa’s internal “beast”—the royal wheelhouse was a place that barred Sansa’s direwolf both literally (as Lady could not enter it) and figuratively (as Sansa would have to act in a certain “ladylike” fashion there). The things represented by the “royal wheelhouse” are things that Sansa originally desired, but soon grew to despise; we know little about Rhaella’s early life, but we do know that, in the end, she was forced into the royal wheelhouse whether she wanted it or not. Rhaella has access to the royal wheelhouse because she was married to Aerys—but the price of her status, her queenship, was her physical destruction, first via Aerys’s vicious rape(s), and later by her own death in childbirth. Rhaella leaves for Dragonstone (and her own death) surrounded by the benefits (the royal wheelhouse) and costs (her injuries) of her own queenship. We don’t know if queenship was ever something Rhaella desired, but we do know it was something Rhaella could never escape.
Rhaella Targaryen was the beauty here, and Aerys was the beast. But again, Aerys’s “beastliness” comes from his humanity, not from any association with actual animals. Because “beast” isn’t necessarily synonymous with “evil monster”.

The man who raped and killed at Saltpans was not Sandor Clegane, though he may be as dangerous. The riverlands are full of such scavengers. I will not call them wolves. Wolves are nobler than that… and so are dogs, I think.

Throughout ASOIAF we see characters like Rorge referred to as “beasts in human skin”, and described by other characters using animalistic imagery, but in reality, such men are acting like humans, not “beasts”. They have little intrinsically in common with the literal “beasts in human skin” (the skinchangers), because when the former act, they’re simply showing the worst aspects of their own humanity, they’re not copying or embodying the actions of actual animals. Real animals tend not to hang each other in cages just to watch them slowly die, after all. There’s a difference between a “beast” like Joffrey, who was of course simply acting like a terrible human being, and a “beast” like the Stark wargs, because in the latter case “beast” is synonymous with “animal” but not with “monster”, while those like the former act out a particular amount of viciousness that only humans tend to exercise, and thus are synonymous with “monster” (or rather, the monstrous aspects of humanity) but not necessarily with “animal”. As his marriage with Rhaella progressed, Aerys became more “bestial” in the sense that he began demonstrating the absolute worst characteristics of his own human nature, which does parallel what happened with, for example, Sansa and Joffrey (who was of course associated with Aerys on more than one occasion, and whose desire to rape Sansa was ultimately thwarted, while Aerys’s rape of Rhaella was ultimately facilitated).

I think it’s interesting to compare Rhaella and Sansa, because Sansa seems in so many ways to be this generation’s inversion of Rhaella, so I wonder what implications that comparison has for Sansa’s eventual fate. Rhaella ended up a tortured Queen at the mercy of a mad king—something that Sansa, early in AGOT, seemed destined to become (via her betrothal to Joffrey). Joffrey made it clear that he intended to rape Sansa, as Aerys raped Rhaella—but Joffrey died before he could do so. And then there’s the Ser Bonifer/Sandor Clegane parallel:

His passion was impossible, of course. A landed knight is no fit consort for a princess of royal blood.

While still a princess, Rhaella fell in love with a landed knight from the Stormlands, Ser Bonifer Hasty. Sansa is considered a princess in the North, and she has some form of relationship with Sandor Clegane, whose House (of landed knights) is of approximately the same status as House Hasty (and with Gregor’s death, Sandor can make a claim to the holdings of a landed knight, so he’s potentially in that weird position of being a non-knight who’s heir to the holdings of a landed knight); both “princesses” fell for “landed knights” who were too lowborn to marry.

But instead of marrying Ser Bonifer, Rhaella was forced to marry her brother Aerys, who by the end of his life “smell[ed] like a privy”. In ACOK, Sansa’s “brother”, Theon, thinks:

A pity Ned Stark had taken his daughters south; elsewise Theon could have tightened his grip on Winterfell by marrying one of them. Sansa was a pretty little thing too, and by now likely even ripe for bedding. But she was a thousand leagues away, in the clutches of the Lannisters. A shame.


And Theon, of course, later becomes the smelly, smelly Reek. But while Rhaella ended up getting repeatedly raped by her “smelly” brother in the Red Keep, Sansa actually escaped suffering the same fate at the hands of her “brother” Theon due to her imprisonment in the same place as Rhaella—the Red Keep. We don’t know if Ser Bonifer ever offered to take Rhaella away from the Red Keep, as Sandor did for Sansa, but we do know that both Sansa and Rhaella remained there—yet Rhaella suffered a fate there that Sansa did not suffer, rather ironically, because she was there. (Not in the sense that she wasn’t in terrible danger at the Red Keep, obviously, simply that the end result was different for each.) Theon was a false Prince of Winterfell, just as Joffrey was a false King of Westeros. When Joffrey publicly cuts himself on the Iron Throne, people start yelling about how the Iron Throne is rejecting him—and Aerys cut himself on the Iron Throne all the time, (hence the nickname King Scab). There’s this repeated emphasis on Sansa not marrying a “false” ruler, where Rhaella was forced to do just that—to marry someone ill-equipped to hold the office of King.

And had Sansa been in Winterfell rather than King’s Landing, she might have eventually found herself in Jeyne Poole’s position (forced to marry Ramsay). Look at Rhaella’s injuries from her “beast” Aerys—she looked “as if some beast had savaged her, clawing at her thighs and chewing on her breasts“—and compare them to Jeyne Poole’s injuries from her “beast”, Ramsay:

The wolfskins fell away from her. Underneath them she was naked, her small pale breasts covered with teeth marks.

What Ramsay does to Jeyne echoes what Aerys did to Rhaella, and it’s a fate that Sansa could easily have suffered, but has explicitly escaped, ironically due to her own imprisonment. And where both Jeyne and Rhaella hide their physical injuries, Sansa’s are viewed by everyone (as Joffrey had her beaten in full view of the entire court). Yet while Jeyne is physically attacked by Ramsay, and Rhaella is physically attacked by Aerys, Sansa is not (personally) physically attacked by Joffrey—he farms out the beatings to the Kingsguard. There might be implications in the fact that “the beast” personally wounds both Rhaella and Jeyne, but Sansa’s “beast” does not or cannot personally (physically) harm her.

What’s also interesting is the juxtaposition between the failed methods of protection: Jeyne is wearing wolfskins, but she is no wolf. Rhaella is exiting from Aegon’s High Hill, a place that, as a Targaryen (and just as much a descendant of Aegon the Conqueror as Aerys was), should have been a place of power for her, yet it was the place where she was actually weakest (due to the fact that Aerys, the one person who could torment her as he liked, never left the Red Keep). Sansa is separated from both Winterfell and Lady, two sources of personal protection—but as I already remarked, she would probably have suffered a terrible fate had she remained in Winterfell, and though Lady is dead, Ned had Lady’s body sent to the Winterfell lichyard so that Lady’s “skin” would forever be out of the reach of House Stark’s enemies; and indeed, no matter how many people try to injure Sansa, her wolfskin—her wolf “self”—is always out of their reach.

Rhaella’s “landed knight” love, Ser Bonifer Hasty, is the current holder of Harrenhal. Sansa’s current “beast”, Littlefinger, is the current Lord of Harrenhal. Rhaella was just about the only noblewoman in Westeros who failed to attend the Tourney of Harrenhal, and while Sansa has never visited it either, Sansa has been repeatedly associated with the same bat imagery that Lords of Harrenhal tended to take as their sigils. And in ASOS, we had this scene:

Sansa chose a pear instead, and took a small delicate bite. It was very ripe. The juice ran down her chin.

And in AFFC, we had Ser Bonifer Hasty:

cutting up a pear as withered as he was, so as to make certain that its nonexistent juice did not stain his pristine purple doublet, embroidered with the white bend cotised of his House.

Both Sansa and Ser Bonifer are shown eating pears, but Ser Bonifer’s pear is juiceless, whereas Sansa’s is filled with juice. Is this a hint that, while Ser Bonifer went out of his way to avoid “staining” himself (by embracing the Faith), Sansa in fact will “stain” herself (by rejecting the Faith)?

Jaime thinks that Ser Bonifer and his Holy Hundred are “better known for their lovely horses than for the foes they’d slain.” There are interesting implications for Sansa and Sandor in Ser Bonifer: as of AFFC, Sansa is trapped in the Vale, the first land conquered by the Andals (supposedly the Andals actually landed on Littlefinger’s land on the Fingers, which I doubt is coincidental): this is a place heavily associated with the Faith, yet while there Sansa seems drawn closer and closer to the Old Gods. We last saw Sandor on the Quiet Isle, a stronghold of the Faith—but let’s not forget that the brothers there dwell in a hollow hill, a place heavily associated with the Old Gods. I don’t think it’s safe to assume that Sandor will be, or at the very least will remain, a fighter for the Faith in perpetuity. Ser Bonifer threw himself into the Faith after acknowledging his inability to marry Rhaella, but that decision provided little actual benefit to anyone, as Ser Bonifer and his men are all show: he never saved Rhaella (and Rhaella could not save herself), and the soldiers he leads have accomplished no great deeds. (Interesting that when we last saw Ser Bonifer, he was being positioned as an enemy of the Brotherhood Without Banners, a group that is certainly not “all show”.) If Sandor Clegane is meant to invert Ser Bonifer, then looking at Ser Bonifer’s fate—leader of a basically useless Faith-based martial group—tells us what Sandor will not become.

Rhaella fell in love with a landed knight, but instead was forced to marry her “beastly” brother and become a Queen. Ser Bonifer did nothing to help her, instead throwing himself into a showy—but ultimately useless—religious-based order, and Rhaella apparently had neither the means nor the ability to rescue herself. Sansa inverts Rhaella in several ways, and I wonder what implications there are for Sansa in Rhaella’s fate: Sansa has her own beastly nature as a skinchanger, an ability that Rhaella lacked. Will Sansa’s ability to be a “beast” help to save her from Rhaella’s fate? Rhaella ended up as a Queen, but the nature of her path to queenship destroyed her. Sansa was intended for Rhaella’s path in AGOT, but evaded it. Littlefinger now wants to put her back on that path, but it seems likely that Sansa will again evade it. (And as a side note, the Rhaella comparison is one reason why, though I can see Aegon trying to marry Sansa, I don’t think he’ll ever actually succeed.)




I am no Ser: The Inspiration Behind the Line

By Milady of York

Case for the prosecution:
The night Sandor Clegane escorted Sansa to her bedchamber for the first time was also the night he told her the story of his burns, after mocking her for her romantic notions about knights and for calling him a ser. Since she first read that scene, Milady has been fostering this particular hypothesis of hers: that the famous I Am No Ser line was in truth inspired by the tale as old as time we’re currently dissecting. Impelled by curiosity, generous amounts of a certain beverage made from grapes and a healthy dose of eccentricity, she thought it was time to get her tiny hands dirty and do a little digging for evidence. The results of her investigations were fruitful, she’s happy to inform the court, as is expected of an impenitent reader of old school crime fiction, and are to be presented before Judge Brashcandy, who asked yours truly to make public what material proof she had to back up this claim and also add more elements to confirm that he is the Beast to Sansa’s Beauty. Toss aside His Grace Prince Golden Piece of Filth™ and all other contenders for the position! Our man wears scars, our man is big and scary, our man has an animal nickname, our man is complex, our man is loath to be called ser. And the responsibility of this lies with Martin, of course; in no way was this done unintentionally by an author that, like we all know, buried a respectable quantity of symbolism in the narrative of Sandor and Sansa’s interactions, apart from a lot of textual allusions to other landmarks in popular culture, and he’s not shied away from taking a passage from Beauty and the Beast for the Hound. But how will it be proved, you ask? Elemental, Watson! I– I mean Your Ladyship. To confirm it, we can resort to examining those works with Beauty and the Beast motifs that have crossed his path, ergo making him fully cognisant of their storylines.
So, sers/my ladies, here is the evidence the Devi– the Hound’s advocate has collected, in chronological order:

Exhibit A: Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve’s fairy tale Beauty and the Beast (1740) [1]:

“Pardon me, noble sir. I’m truly grateful to you for your hospitality, which was so magnificent that I couldn’t imagine that you would be offended by my taking such a little thing as a rose.”

You’re very ready with excuses and flattery,” he cried; “but that won’t save you from the death you deserve.”

Exhibit B: Jeanne-Marie de Beaumont’s fairy tale Beauty and the Beast (1756) [2]:

Original French

Monseigneur, pardonnez-moi ; je ne croyais pas vous offenser en cueillant une rose pour une de mes filles, qui m’en avait demandé.”

Je ne m’appelle point monseigneur,” répondit le monstre, “mais la Bête. Je n’aime pas les compliments, moi ; je veux qu’on dise ce que l’on pense ; ainsi ne croyez pas me toucher par vos flatteries.”

First English translation

My Lord, I beseech you to forgive me, indeed I had no intention to offend in gathering a rose for one of my daughters, who desired me to bring her one.”

My name is not my lord,” replied the monster, “but Beast; I don’t love compliments, not I. I like people to speak as they think; and so do not imagine I am to be moved by any of your flattering speeches.”

Modern English translation

My lord, he said, forgive me, I did not mean to offend you when I gathered a rose. It was for one of my daughters […]”

My name isn’t my lord,” replied the monster, “but Beast. And I don’t like flattery. I like people who say what they think. So, don’t imagine I can be persuaded by your compliments.”


Exhibit C: Charles Lamb’s poem Beauty and the Beast (1811) [3]:

My Lord, I swear upon my knees,

 I did not mean to harm your trees,

But a lov’d daughter, fair as spring,

Intreated me a rose to bring.”


I am no Lord,” Beast angry said.

And so no flattery!

Exhibit D: Jean Cocteau’s film La belle et la bête (1946):


Sir, I didn’t know. I mean no harm. My daughter asked me to bring her a rose.”


Don’t address me as sir, I’m called Bête. I don’t like compliments.”

Exhibit E: A certain American’s novel A Game of Thrones (1996) [4]:

“You rode gallantry today, Ser Sandor.”

Spare me your empty little compliments, girl… and your sers. I am no knight.”

Closing arguments:




Martin may or may not have read the original of this fairy tale by Villeneuve, but there’s absolutely no doubt that he’s familiar with the contents of Beaumont’s fairy tale, for all contemporary renditions in both sides of the pond, visual or written, arose from this one, and this is the standard version all modern retellings are based upon.

It’s definitely reasonable to entertain the possibility that Martin read or heard a reciting of Lamb’s poem; there was a lot of poetry in the Beauty and the Beast show he wrote for, and eleven out of at least twenty five poets whose verses are recited in the serials were Lamb’s contemporaries: Arnold, Blake, Byron, Carroll, Coleridge, Moore, Poe, Whitman, Shelley, Wordsworth and Tennyson[5]. For this reason, it’s not out of the ordinary to find them together in one-volume or multi-volume anthologies.

And another thing we can be sure of is that he has the French film amongst the fantasy films he loves, as stated by himself[6]. Considering that this film is faithful to the book by Beaumont, creative liberties notwithstanding, this strengthens our thesis that he does know the French version well.

Then it’s clear that he subverted the above quotes to create Sandor’s. As such, we can confidently assert that he was inspired by this tale for the line in question and that our favourite canine plays the role of The Beast with regards to our northern Beauty. [Doubters sniggering in the background] Milady heard that! A suitable reply would be that there are more examples of possible inspirations for some precious-sounding lines that came out of Sandor’s mouth. Let’s consider this particular example:

How did this same second son describe the coat of arms of House Clegane, ladies and sers?

The three dogs on our banner are the three that died, in the yellow of autumn grass.”[7]


Now, let me ask you this: does it sound like a demonstration of poetic artistry to you? If so, you probably have heard it before if you are a B&B follower, or read it if you are an incurable rhyme lover or happen to have a friend with bard tendencies. As a scriptwriter for Beauty and the Beast, Martin belongs in the first group. One of the poets quoted there was Walt Whitman, who has a poem[8] with a verse that resembles the aforementioned line:

“The same, late in autumn—the hues of red, yellow, drab, purple, and light and dark green,

The rich coverlid of the grass.”

And also consider this verse by Ezra Pound, which isn´t in the television storyline:

“[…] the grass goes yellow with autumn.”[9]

And this one by John Freeman[10], which isn’t either:

“[…] yellow leaves

Above the renewed green of wet August grass—

First Autumn yellow that on first Autumn eves.”

And finally this verse by Chinese poet Li Po:

“Trees fall, the grass goes yellow with autumn.”

Solicitor Milady of York hereby beseechs you to bear in mind that the logical conclusion ought not be different from declaring Mr. Martin guilty as charged, and she rests her case.

[1] Gabrielle Suzanne de Barbot de Villeneuve’s Beauty and the Beast, illustrated by W. Crane, Planet Books, 2011, pp. 7.
[2] Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s tale can be found in Four and Twenty Fairy Tales, translated by J.R. Planché, Routledge and Co., 1858, pp. 233. For further study, I recommend Maria Tatar’s The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, W.W. Norton & Co., 2002. The Beaumont version is in pp. 58-78, and notes added by authors and Ms. Tatar are wonderful.
[3] Beauty and the Beast, Charles Lamb, Forgotten Books, pp. 50.
[4] A Game of Thrones, pp. 587, e-book edition, Bantam Books, 2003.
[5] These American and British poets lived about 1772 to 1892, the period of the Romantic movement.
[6] GRRM’s Top 10 fantasy films:
[7] Clash of Kings, pp. 515 in the e-book edition, Bantam Books, 2003.
[8] Leaves of Grass, written in 1900.
[9] This line is taken from the poem Lament of the frontier guard, and is an adaptation of a similar verse by Li Po, which can be read in The Oxford Book of Verse in English Translation, edited by Charles Tomlinson, Oxford University Press, 1980.
[10] Called Lime tree.