The write-ups under Female Influences I were done in the first phase of the Rethinking project, and were designed to briefly introduce pertinent ideas and topics for discussion on female characters with a direct role in Sansa’s life, or those that helped to illustrate themes and issues relevant to her development. As such, these are short in length with an informal tone and structure designed to elicit further consideration. If you are interested in gaining more insight, reading the follow-up discussion in the original threads is highly recommended.
FEMALE INFLUENCES I:
Margaery and Olenna Tyrell by Mladen
Catelyn Tully, Sansa’s mother by Lyanna Stark
Mya Stone by Caro99
Cersei Lannister by Kittykatknits
Kella by Brashcandy
Jeyne Poole by Butterbumps
Septa Mordane by KittensRuleBeetsDrool
Myranda Royce by A…
Lysa Tully by Lady Lea
Lollys Stokeworth by Dr. Pepper
Arya Stark by Lady Gwynhyfvar
Shae by Queen Cersei I
The first part of Margaery and the QOT’s influence on Sansa:
I am free of Joffrey. I will not have to kiss him, nor give him my maidenhood, nor bear him children. Let Margaery Tyrell have all that, poor girl.
The first time when Sansa mentioned Margaery Tyrell, it is in the context of compassion to her. Sansa’s feeling sorry for the girl she hadn’t even met, knowing what truly a monster Joffrey is. Someone would think that after everything she survived, there’d be no sympathy or compassion in Sansa. This was proven otherwise. Sansa is still that sweet, innocent child, who means no harm to anyone; well, except of Lannisters, of course . . .
The invitation seemed innocent enough, but every time Sansa read it her tummy tightened into a knot. She’s to be queen now, she’s beautiful and rich and everyone loves her, why would she want to sup with a traitor’s daughter. It could be curiosity, she supposed; perhaps Margaery Tyrell wanted to get the measure of the rival she’d displaced. Does she resent me, I wonder? Does she think I bear her ill will?
Poor Sansa . . . Her position was determined a long time before this, and now, in the city where no one wishes her well, she was given a kind gesture. Unfortunately for Sansa, Margaery and the QOT had different plans, but I believe that this, Margaery`s move, was incredibly smart, because she gained maybe not a friend but someone who wishes no evil to her. Sansa’s naïveté has no limits.
Even so, she must accept. She was nothing now, the discarded daughter of a traitor and disgraced sister of a rebel lord. She could scarcely refuse Joffrey’s queen-to-be.
Can`t be clearer: she knows her place.
Sansa was finding it hard to walk and talk and think all at the same time, with Ser Loras touching her arm. She could feel the warmth of his hand through the silk.
God save us all, if it wasn`t so sad, it would be so funny. I sometimes believe that she had learned nothing all that time in KL. She still has a crush on Loras.
“You would know that more than most, poor child. You’ve had your share of grief, I know. We are sorry for your losses.”
Was this quite honest? Did the QOT actually speak the truth? Were they really sorry? Maybe not, but who cares. You have a frightened, tortured girl who lost everything and you are polite and kind to her. This was well done. They sympathized with her and made her more comfortable so they could find out what they really want. I actually think that Sansa learnt here how powerful kind words are (she used those many times in the Vale).
Sansa’s mouth opened and closed. She felt very like a puff fish herself.
Here, Sansa found out what a smart woman is. I truly believe that the QOT, just by having that speech about the Tyrells showed Sansa how women can be smart and clever, and not use their beauty in those purposes. Women take what they want the oldest way, and the QOT showed her that women can be smart, not just by widening their legs at the right time but actually can speak and say what they want and have to:
“I want you to tell me the truth about this royal boy,” said Lady Olenna abruptly. “This Joffrey.”
Sansa’s fingers tightened round her spoon. The truth? I can’t. Don’t ask it, please, I can’t. “I… I… I…”
And finally, Sansa realizes why she was invited, all the courtesy and talking. She was brought in for information. This is very peculiar about this scene. Everything was well prepared. Loras coming for Sansa, Margaery`s warm welcome, the QOT rapidly speaking about her family. Sansa was cornered in a perfect way. How to deny information to the woman who was so kind to you? To someone you actually like? She saw in Margaery a big sister, someone she can rely on. The marriage conspiracy made Sansa even thinking of Willas. This was a master move in the Game. Sansa learnt a lot from here: to make alliances, you have to give something. I hope that in the future we will see how this scene impacted on Sansa, especially in her friendship with Myranda Royce.
The first part was finished with the party in Margaery’s chambers, when Sansa was asked if she would like to marry Willas Tyrell.
Margaery’s kindness had been unfailing, and her presence changed everything. Her ladies welcomed Sansa as well. It had been so long since she had enjoyed the company of other women, she had almost forgotten how pleasant it could be.
Sansa was finally given the kindness she craved for so long. She wasn’t happy, but she was indeed relaxed. Margaery and her entourage, orchestrated by Olenna, perfectly did this. They were polite, shared gossips with her, talked freely with her. The burden she carried was almost gone. But Sansa was well aware that all those pleasantries and gossiping couldn’t make her forget everything she had lived.
They are children, Sansa thought. They are silly little girls, even Elinor. They’ve never seen a battle, they’ve never seen a man die, and they know nothing. Their dreams were full of songs and stories, the way hers had been before Joffrey cut her father’s head off. Sansa pitied them. Sansa envied them.
Sister. Sansa had once dreamt of having a sister like Margaery; beautiful and gentle, with all the world’s graces at her command. Arya had been entirely unsatisfactory as sisters went. How can I let my sister marry Joffrey? she thought, and suddenly her eyes were full of tears. “Margaery, please,” she said, “you mustn’t.” It was hard to get the words out. “You mustn’t marry him. He’s not like he seems, he’s not. He’ll hurt you.”
“I shouldn’t think so.” Margaery smiled confidently. “It’s brave of you to warn me, but you need not fear. Joff’s spoiled and vain and I don’t doubt that he’s as cruel as you say, but Father forced him to name Loras to his Kingsguard before he would agree to the match. I shall have the finest knight in the Seven Kingdoms protecting me night and day, as Prince Aemon protected Naerys. So our little lion had best behave, hadn’t he?” She laughed.
Can we say that in this point everything was settled? For sure, Dontos already gave Sansa a hairnet, and Margaery’s confidence and certainty are just proof that Joffrey’s days were numbered. Poor Sansa. She loved Margaery, she enjoyed her company, she was happy to marry her brother. I don’t believe that the Tyrells wanted to blame her for Joffrey’s death, I think they meant that Tyrion would suffice. After all, Sansa would have been part of the family. What has Sansa learnt here? She learnt what she already knew, but she was taught another way. Sweet words, kind gestures, it’s all like a hidden knife pointed to someone’s back. Sansa all of this used in the Eyrie, false kindness meant to buy devotion from a suffering girl. Sweetrobin became her, and she became Margaery. Did Margaery love Sansa? The answer would be: same as Sansa loves Sweetrobin. Margaery taught her that love is also a weapon in your arsenal, and it is all right to use it.
Margaery gave her such a sad look, and when the Queen of Thorns tottered in between Left and Right, she never looked at her at all. Elinor, Alla, and Megga seemed determined not to know her. My friends, Sansa thought bitterly.
This of course changed everything. I believe the Queen of Thorns meant to blame Tyrion for Joffrey’s murder, but Sansa got involved, so they threw her under the bus. Here, Sansa lost everything. And right there, she revealed how fragile those friendships were. No one cared about her, it was just her claim they all wanted. And when they stopped needing her, they despised her. What a wonderful parallel can be made with the situation with Cersei. She learnt all over again, trust no one.
Tyrion led Sansa around the yard, to perform the necessary courtesies. She is good at this, he thought, as he watched her tell Lord Gyles that his cough was sounding better, compliment Elinor Tyrell on her gown, and question Jalabhar Xho about wedding customs in the Summer Isles . . . She would have made Joffrey a good queen and a better wife if he’d had the sense to love her.
Courtesy is a lady’s armor . . . But, no, it also can be a powerful weapon. I actually think Sansa finally understands that she can be as deadly talking courtesies as shouting and telling what she thinks. Or even more. That armor line was supposed to teach young ladies to be polite and well-mannered, but in the Game, they take completely another form.
“Your brother was a terrible traitor, I know, but if we start killing men at weddings they’ll be even more frightened of marriage than they are presently. There, that’s better.” Lady Olenna smiled. “I am pleased to say I shall be leaving for Highgarden the day after next. I have had quite enough of this smelly city, thank you. Perhaps you would like to accompany me for a little visit, whilst the men are off having their war? I shall miss my Margaery so dreadfully, and all her lovely ladies. Your company would be such sweet solace.”
This is very peculiar. People on the forums talk that one day we’ll have a Red Wedding 2.0, I actually think Purple Wedding is some sort of that, in honor of a very simple truth: “A Lannister always pays his debts.” And second, can we interpret it in two ways? Maybe, I’ll give you both options, and you pick one you like. First, Olenna inviting Sansa is another proof that she hasn’t given up marrying Sansa to Willas, and now without Robb, the North would be free for the Tyrells. And second, it was just polite conversation. I believe in the first, I don’t think Sansa was meant to be blamed here, she could have been more useful to the Tyrells, and that’s maybe the main reasons why Sansa doesn’t hold grudges against two of them.
What Sansa learnt from the Tyrells is simply a truth she already knew: the Rose is beautiful, it can smell nice, it can look divine, but beneath all those leaves and that beauty, there are thorns, that can be deadly as the lion’s roar and the wolf’s howling. The Tyrells gave Sansa an ultimate lesson, and that she has learnt when she goes to the Eyrie. If you want to survive, play the Game of Thrones (or even more appropriately, the Game of Thorns).
Part I: http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/topic/69551-from-pawn-to-player-rethinking-sansa-vi/page-19#entry3376888
Part II: http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/topic/70258-from-pawn-to-player-rethinking-sansa-vii/#entry3380836
by Lyanna Stark
Cat’s impact on Sansa is something we have to deduct from second-hand sources and from internal monologue, as they don’t actually have any interaction “on stage” in ASOIAF.
Physical appearance: Sansa is definitely her mother’s daughter insofar as she has inherited her looks. This is perhaps enforced the most in how Littlefinger reacts to seeing her at the Hand’s Tourney, where he seems vaguely stunned at first, and then says that Sansa’s mother was once his Queen of Love and Beauty. Both Catelyn and Sansa are supposed to be very beautiful, although neither of them seem to compare themselves to others particularly.
Littlefinger’s introduction to Sansa:
When Sansa finally looked up, a man as 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 honour, 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 and he stroked one auburn lock. Quite abruptly her turned and walked away.
Behaviour: Sansa is good at being dutiful and ladylike, and has learnt from an early age to use courtesy efficiently. Cersei comments that Sansa has almost nothing of the North in her, and that she is all her mother’s daughter. Cat surely wanted Sansa to be brought up to be a proper lady, but Cat herself mostly chooses to not dress ostentatiously and from what we know, she doesn’t seem overly focused on stereotypical ladylike pursuits like embroidery, gossip and reading romance novels. In fact, we know Cat got a rather male-centred upbringing, and she chooses to give Sansa a rather different one (more on this below).
Indulgent parenting: Both Cat and Ned seem fairly indulgent with their children and they seem to want to parent them more than perhaps is common among other noble families in Westeros. For instance, none of the Stark children are sent off to be fostered elsewhere, and Cat lets us know in her chapters how she dismissed the handmaidens so she could brush Sansa’s hair herself.
View on marriage and sex: I think this is one area where Cat and also Ned had perhaps the greatest impact on Sansa. Their marriage was arranged, but it was also one of those rare happy arranged marriages, where the parties really and truly grew to love each other. Both the readers and Sansa realise that this is far, far from the norm of Westeros, but Sansa grew up assuming that marriage equals love. This is all well and good, and it makes for a nice, stable and loving family life, but a fairly disastrous illusion to have in the cut-throat “a claim means everything” world of marriage alliances in Westeros. Cat herself tells us that she was afraid at her wedding and that she thought of Ned as a stranger to whom she gave her maidenhead. It seems she has not chosen to divulge this information to Sansa?
Cat’s history with Littlefinger: This is something Sansa learns about during the novels. Littlefinger tells her in AGOT that her mother was once his Queen of Beauty, but in ASOS he also tells her that he was the one to deflower Cat:
“You are old enough to know that your mother and I were more than friends. There was a time when Cat was all I wanted in this world. I dared to dream of the life we might make and the children she would give me…but she was a daughter of Riverrun, and Hoster Tully. Family, Duty, Honour, Sansa. Family, Duty, Honour, meant I could never have her hand. But she gave me something finer, a gift a woman can give but once. How could I turn my back upon her daughter? In a better world, you might have been mine, not Eddard Stark’s. My loyal loving daughter….Put Joffrey from your mind sweetling. Dontos, Tyrion, all of them. They will never trouble you again. You are safe now, that’s all that matters. You are safe with me, and sailing home.”
Later on, when Sansa hears of Littlefinger’s marriage to Lysa, she thinks he should honour her mother better and she is still not completely convinced that Cat loved Littlefinger either:
“Wed?” Sansa was stunned. “You and my aunt?”
“The Lord of Harrenhal and the Lady of the Eyrie.”
You said it was my mother you loved. But of course Lady Catelyn was dead, so even if she had loved Petyr secretly and given him her maidenhood, it made no matter now.
Sansa also want to take her mother’s name when Littlefinger wants her to masquerade as his daughter. Regardless of what people say to her, she seems to feel a deep loyalty to her mother throughout, and like Arya, when masquerading as someone else, she picked her mother’s name, just like Arya as Cat of the Canals.
Some things to discuss:
- Ned and Cat were quite indulgent parents. Was this due to that they experienced war and strife while still quite young themselves? Cat also lost her mother quite early in. Is she compensating for her own lost childhood with Sansa?
- It seems Littlefinger and others assume that Sansa and Cat are alike and only defined by Family, Duty, Honour. Is this something people assume based on physical looks alone?
- Ned and Cat’s marriage was one of love. Will this forever colour Sansa’s view of marriage or will she be so disillusioned that she thinks of it only as a political institution?
- What is the impact of Littlefinger divulging his relationship with Cat which he claims they had before she married Ned?
What I learned from Mya in regards to Sansa is that though Randa is the one constantly chattering on about men, marriages, what happens in bed and more, Mya is the one who is much closer to Sansa where matters of the heart are concerned . . .
Mya Stone is first introduced as a pretty, lean, cocky girl from the Vale when Cat is bringing Tyrion to Lysa. Some of the first things we learn about her is that she’s clever and trustworthy, according to Lord Nestor Royce. The only “fault” Cat can find in her is that she is a bastard, reminding her of Jon. But these, along with some other little remarks, are maybe “foreshadowy” of the time Sansa will spend in the Vale later on. In that time Sansa ends up using the surname given to the bastard of the region and is recalling Jon with fondness. This may be her Stark nature breaking through the Stone persona . . . Anyways, ever since AGOT, George lets us know that Mya & Sansa are similar, like with this passage:
“Mychel’s my love,” Mya explained. “Mychel Redfort. He’s squire to Ser Lyn Corbray. We’re to wed as soon as he becomes a knight, next year or the year after.”… She sounded so like Sansa, so happy and innocent with her dreams. Catelyn smiled, but the smile was tinged with sadness. The Redforts were an old name in the Vale, she knew, with the blood of the First Men in their veins. His love she might be, but no Redfort would ever wed a bastard. His family would arrange a more suitable match for him . . . If Mychel Redfort laid with this girl at all, I would be on the wrong side of the sheet.
This last remark sounds a lot like Sansa’s in her last Feast chapter:
And no Tyrell would ever kiss Alayne Stone. Pretty as she was, she had been born on the wrong side of the blanket.
So Sansa and Mya started in a relatively similar path, but given fate and circumstances they were both disillusioned with their first love. When Alayne and Myranda are talking about Mya, the latter remarks:
Mychel was the best young swordsman in the Vale, and gallant . . . or so poor Mya thought.”
Just as Mya was mistaken with Mychel, Sansa was also mistaken about Joff . . . But between the 2nd and 3rd books, Sansa’s fate intertwines with Sandor, Willas, Tyrion, Sweetrobin, Harry . . . Myranda states that though her father has tried finding a match for her, Mya just won’t have any of them. Sansa and Mya’s paths connect again here, since at present they are both “bitter” where men are concerned. I’m thinking on Sansa’s “No one will ever love me for myself” line, and of Mya telling Sansa that:
“Men come and go. They lie, or die, or leave you. A mountain is not a man though, and a stone is a mountain’s daughter…”
Well, the first part of that quote reminds me a lot of this: “He took a song and a kiss and left me nothing but a bloody cloak.” So I can see Sansa possibly agreeing with Mya here, since even though Sandor doesn’t lie to her, at least by the end of Crows Sansa is giving us the impression that she believes he choose to leave her. Maybe in the near future these two girls who’ve been in a “similar” path where romantic relationships are concerned will decide to choose for themselves the man they want to share their lives with. And that brings me to Lothor Brune and Sansa’s future romantic decisions. This man trusts Sansa, showing us her ability to have commoners open up to her. He tells her the story of his childhood, and Sansa notices that he always smiles when he speaks of Mya. Sansa ends up measuring him up pretty good with:
Alayne wondered what Mya made of Ser Lothor… It is a common face but an honest one… Sober, he was a quiet man, but a strong one. And loyal… Mya was much younger than Ser Lothor, but her father had told her that young girls were always happier with older man… Brune would be as good a match for a bastard girl like Mya Stone.
Of course, Sansa isn’t really a bastard girl, and she can do much better than that. But then the whole Winterfell claim issue would have to be dragged out, and maybe that’s something Sansa does not want? I’m not saying that she should forget Winterfell and stay a Stone forever, but maybe knowing for the first time true happiness and love was only possible while she was pretending to be a bastard. And so when the time for Sansa Stark to appear again comes, Sansa will treasure what she knew as a Stone enough to not let go of it? She has the example of Lysa and Cersei to guide her as well.
It’s like what Lady Lea said in a previous post:
But it was good for Sansa to see that some highborn ladies do sometimes find love among the “lower class” and how duty was poison to both Lysa and Cat. I really think she’ll take this into consideration in the future.
And then Elba the Intoner and Kittykat touched the issue with these:
Could this become a parallel later for Sansa and Sandor? Sansa is as highborn as you get and Sandor has nothing.
It may be. I took this as a message on how a woman could change the social circumstances for their personal desires.
Anyways, besides the love issue, Sansa manages to break Alayne’s composed mature thread of thoughts when Mya is concerned. We see the younger ladylike Sansa appear as she does the Lothor/Mya match-making and even remarks that if Mya would only wear girl clothes, she could be pretty, and then the whole “Do you think Ser Lothor prefers her in mail or satin?” thoughts.
From what I’ve seen of Sansa, Mya & Randa together, I think that it would be nice if Sansa ended up as the sort of Marg of the trio. Marg was the little leader of the Tyrell cousins group, and Sansa is very strong and inspires people to break allegiances and help her, so I’m hoping Mya will have an important part to play in Sansa’s role in the next book. Alongside Lothor, maybe?
I’m sure that even though being a Stone is at present useful and safe and maybe even fun, Sansa Stark will appear again. Mya may love the Vale and the mountains are her home, but Sansa lets us know exactly what she thinks of a stone (whether it be the surname or the actual living in the Vale with LF or with Harry means) with this passage:
The Eyrie was built of fine white stone, and winter’s mantel made it whiter still. So beautiful, Alayne thought. So impregnable. She could not love this place, no matter how she tried.”
I think that this means that Sansa does care about Winterfell and that just as the snow covers up the stone, Sansa will end up controlling Alayne, not the other way around. So maybe that means LF’s influence won’t pay off in the end and Sansa will still be honorable, good, compassionate . . . just a bit more wised up. And will rule through love, not fear? And live a happy life where love for her family is first and foremost atop the list?
Reading through Sansa’s scenes with Cersei made me think of the story of Scrooge for some reason. Listening to Cersei talk, I had an image in my head of the potential horrible fate that might be in front of Sansa if she continues to walk in Cersei’s shoes. I was really struck by just how much Cersei seemed to be projecting herself on to Sansa and I’m not sure she even realized that. This begs the question of how much of this is just Cersei talking and is there anything we can take away that might foreshadow Sansa’s future.
Marriage/Motherhood: Cersei presents a very dismal picture of married life, a sharp contrast to what Sansa has seen with her own mother. According to Cersei, marriage means that you may not love the king, but you’ll love the children. The marriage is a burden to endure. She also highlights the distance between her and Robert, showing Sansa what an arranged marriage without love or affection is like. During the BBW, Cersei paints a very bleak picture of a woman’s role in marriage:
I was to be sold to some stranger, like a horse to be ridden whenever my new owner liked, beaten whenever he liked, and cast aside in time for a younger filly. Jaime’s lot was to be glory and power, while mine was birth and moonblood.
Ruling: During the BBW, Cersei shares her views of ruling with Sansa, but her advice seems embittered and rather cynical. Sansa’s responses vary from surprise to horror to quiet disagreement. At one point, Cersei says the only way to ensure loyalty is through fear. Yet, Sansa thinks to herself that if she is ever a queen, she would make her people love her. Sansa is still young, but is already thinking about a different way to rule than Cersei. She also tells Sansa that her duty is to offer and that she will be remembered for the fact that her “courage inspired them and lifted their spirits”. Yet, we never see Cersei make any effort to do so In fact, it is Sansa that does so. For all of Cersei’s talk, it is Sansa who behaves like a queen that night. The final piece of wisdom that Cersei shares with Sansa is that a queen is still little more than a device to bear heirs.
Women’s weapons: Cersei tells Sansa that the weapons a woman has available are her tears and that which lies between her legs. Cersei also says she would use her woman’s weapons on Stannis willingly if she felt it would work at all. It’s disappointing that Cersei never mentions love, intelligence, kindness, charisma, leadership, or any other skill that would be useful for a woman, especially one that is a queen. It shows just how limited her thinking is, a reflection on just what a queen is for.
Love is poison. A sweet poison yes, but it will kill you all the same.
A woman’s life is nine parts mess to one part magic, you’ll learn that soon enough…and the parts that look like magic often turns out to be the messiest of all.
Lothor and old Oswell rowed them ashore. Sansa huddled in the bow under her cloak with the hood drawn up against the wind, wondering what awaited her. Servants emerged from the tower to meet them; a thin old woman and a fat middle-aged one, two ancient white-haired men, and a girl of two or three with a sty on one eye. When they recognized Lord Petyr they knelt on the rocks. “My household,” he said. “I don’t know the child. Another of Kella’s bastards, I suppose. She pops one out every few years.”
The two old men waded out up to their thighs to life Sansa from the boat so she would not get her skirts wet. Oswell and Lothor splashed their way ashore, as did Littlefinger himself. He gave the old woman a kiss on the cheek and grinned at the younger one. “Who fathered this one, Kella?
The fat woman laughed. “I can’t rightly say m’lord. I’m not one for telling them no.”
“And all the local lads are grateful, I am quite sure.
I like to think of Kella as an older, lowborn Myranda Royce. She displays a similar kind of laissez-faire attitude regarding sex and men, with the former presented as a pleasurable pursuit that one does not have to think very seriously about. Obviously, that kind of extreme casual view leads to the constant “popping out” of bastards: the little girl with the sty on her eye. Sexual freedom is one thing, but it still has to be matched by sexual responsibility.
Kella cannot be considered as a role model for Sansa, but her brief appearance does serve to illustrate an important theme in Sansa’s storyline: that of sexual and erotic agency. She might be lowborn and poor, but she has something that most highborn women are not privileged to enjoy: control of her own body and sexuality. Sansa has just spent her time in KL with those very things under threat of being forcefully stripped from her, and has once again found herself under the dubious protection of another man similarly interested in exploiting her for his own pleasure and profit. Kella lives a simple life on the Fingers, but it is an honest one, seemingly marked by honest consensual desire.
It’s also interesting that Kella is unsure and frankly not very bothered about her children’s fathers. Again, the idea of noblewomen behaving in this manner is unthinkable, but it highlights how “the law of the father” can be undermined by a woman who is able to take control of her sexuality and has the means to provide for her children without relying on a husband. Littlefinger’s question (“Who fathered this one?”), so central to patriarchal power and inheritance in Westeros, is simply inconsequential to a woman like Kella, who positions her roles as mother, sexual agent and provider as the ones that hold principal relevance in her life.
… No one has made off with any of my rocks or sheep pellets, I see that plainly.” Petyr gestured toward the fat woman. “Kella minds my vast herds. How many sheep do I have at present, Kella?”
She had to think for a moment. “Three and twenty, m’lord. There was nine and twenty, but Bryen’s dogs killed one and we butchered some others and salted down the meat.
Despite the initial impression one might have had of Kella, she displays a serious approach to her work for LF, and gives him specific numbers on the sheep and the reasons for the losses. A woman who is sexually free does not equate to being a woman who is inept or unproductive and marriage does not define a woman’s worth. These are all important examples for Sansa to be exposed to as she grows older, especially in the aftermath of her own marriage to Tyrion, where she rebels against the traditional expectation for women to find their husbands sexually desirable.
As a side note: you guys are aware of my theory that the Fingers could serve as a temporary refuge for Sansa at some point in time, perhaps with a loyal dog along for company. It’s notable that most of the men in LF’s household are fairly elderly, along with Grisel, his old nursemaid. There’s Kella and her children, but she doesn’t strike me as the kind of woman to ask any uncomfortable questions to an unconventional couple showing up. Suffice to say, there’s a considerable lack of patriarchal power on this island, and the matriarchal influences are definitely open-minded and tolerant. Anyways, just a pet theory.
Here’s some thoughts on Jeyne Poole. I know that the comparative focus has been on role models, that is, older or otherwise more “powerful”/“authoritatively positioned” women. Jeyne is a bit different in her role to Sansa, in my opinion. They’re peers in terms of age, but in this relationship, Sansa is in the more “powerful” role given their stations, as well as a more “authoritative” one based on Jeyne’s apparent reverence for Sansa’s perceived excellence at studies and natural grace. To this end, I would call Sansa Jeyne’s role model.
On a literary register, I think of Jeyne as a foil for Sansa. Both begin at relatively the same “point A”: lose their families, are imprisoned, undergo a series of physical and mental abuses, and are then coerced into assuming new identities as pawns for someone else’s game. (As a side note, even though Jeyne becomes “Arya Stark,” I don’t think the Jeyne-Arya symmetry is nearly as poignant as the Jeyne-Sansa parallel.) What’s fascinating to me is that while their arcs contain a fairly symmetrical “action” trajectory, the evolution of the two characters could not be more different. Sansa emerges from her trials in King’s Landing with hope, compassion, stronger self-control and a sense of self, whereas Jeyne is broken by her abuse, no longer believing herself an agent, without any fight left in her, nor hope for a better life; she is resigned to a life of misery.
Quick caveat: I hate the thought of quantifying levels of abuse; with that said, I feel I must express that I think Jeyne’s arc of abuse reached a higher and more invasive degree of physical, sexual and psychological depravity than Sansa’s did, both during and after KL. I bring this up only to recognize that while their trials have been quite similar, the unfathomably disgusting abuse that Jeyne endured may have broken even the hardiest spirit, and in fairness to Jeyne’s breakdown, I wanted to acknowledge this nuance since I’m “foiling” them.
I wanted to highlight a few key points from their “Point A” to their respective evolutions as foils.
Sewing Instruction: Sansa as role model
The first we see of Jeyne is through Arya’s POV, where they along with Beth, Myrcella and Sansa are receiving sewing instruction at Winterfell. During this interaction, the authority figure, Septa Mordane, swoons over both Sansa and Myrcella, and unsurprisingly, Beth and Jeyne fawn over them as well. Interestingly, even though Myrcella is the “most important” lady there, Arya’s observations suggest that Sansa is actually the most graceful and “noble” of the girls. When Arya asks what the girls are talking about, Jeyne is catty, trying to exclude Arya. Sansa, however, graciously opens the conversation to include Arya.
My impression of Jeyne is that she recognizes Sansa’s natural graciousness and excellence, and rather than outright envying Sansa, believes that by being closer to her, Sansa’s grace will “rub off” on her. She seems keen to reinforce their closeness, and as an extension of that, to highlight the differences between the sisters, perhaps to maintain a kind of fantasy that she and Sansa are social equals. As part of this cattiness, we learn that Jeyne coined the insult “Arya Horseface.”
The Tourney: peers & difference
Sansa and Jeyne giggle together fancifully of all the young men en route to the Hand’s Tourney. Jeyne confesses she’s afraid of Jalabhar Xho, but that she wants to marry Beric Dondarrion. During the lists, “Jeyne covered her eyes whenever a man fell, like a frightened little girl, but Sansa was made of sterner stuff. A great lady knew how to behave at tournaments.” Not only does Sansa refrain when others engage in mean comments, she also maintains “ladylike” composure even when watching brutal sports. That difference between Sansa’s “appropriate” behavior and Jeyne’s “little girl” reactions strongly foreshadows the course of their arcs, in my opinion. The climax of this event is the death of Arryn’s squire by Gregor: “Jeyne Poole wept so hysterically that Septa Mordane finally took her off to regain her composure, but Sansa sat with her hands folded in her lap, watching with a strange fascination.” Jeyne is “too ill” and doesn’t return to the tourney.
Later, Sansa thinks of Jeyne’s interest in Beric: “Sansa thought she was being silly; Jeyne was only a steward’s daughter, after all, and no matter how much she mooned after him, Lord Beric would never look at someone so far beneath him, even if she hadn’t been half his age.” It seems that Jeyne is wilfully overlooking the social hierarchy in subconsciously wishing herself a higher position by proxy to Sansa, whereas despite Sansa’s compassion for Jeyne, understands the invisible line between them.
Capture: Sansa the “mother”
The guards locked Sansa and Jeyne together in Sansa’s chambers after Ned revealed his plans to Cersei. Sansa calls her “useless,” as all she does is cry and sob about her father. Sansa tries to cheer Jeyne by saying that she will put in a request to let Jeyne see her father, but it causes Jeyne to cry that much harder. Sansa thinks to herself that Jeyne is “such a child,” but I wondered if it was perhaps Sansa who might have been naïve in this instance rather than Jeyne. Jeyne was confined after Sansa, and I think that Jeyne may have already been aware of the fate of her father. Is the look she gives Sansa here the first indication of resentment over her lower status, which is the root of why her father was killed while Sansa’s Lord father was not?
New Identity: bowed, bent, broken?
After their shared imprisonment, we know that Jeyne is taken by Littlefinger and trained in one of his brothels, while Sansa endures her trials in KL. She is married against her will to Ramsay as Arya Stark. During the bedding, Theon notes the spiderweb of scars across her back, suggesting that she has undergone severe physical abuse during her “training” in KL. Her abuse continues at the hands of Ramsay, as the Lords can hear her nightly sobs, and Theon observes that she is covered with wounds and bruises when he comes to rescue her at the end of ADWD. Before the rescue, she comes close to confiding in Theon of their past identities, but Theon tells her that she must “know her name”: Arya.
Notably, when Theon and the Spearwives come to take her away, she refuses, believing it is a trick and that Ramsay will beat her more thoroughly if she trusts them: “I’m a good girl. They trained me.” Heartbreaking. Where Sansa could still trust enough to put faith in the Tyrells’ and Dontos spiriting her away, Jeyne is so broken that she won’t come by her own volition, even after Theon tries (unsuccessfully) to get her to say her name: Jeyne. She can’t bring herself to walk out of Winterfell unsupported, and is such an emotional wreck that she screams and blows their cover right before they reach freedom.
People talk of Sansa as though she were a simple little girl swept in the wind of her surroundings, as though Sansa does nothing extraordinary for someone thusly beaten and imprisoned. Not so. She could have become Jeyne. There is no “rebuilding of Winterfell of snow” for this poor soul.
On Septa Mordane, and her influence on Sansa Stark:
The Starks, minus Catelyn, worship the Old Gods. Catelyn has a small sept, but the rest of the family worships the old way (and, disclaimer, I’m pro-Old Gods myself!). So why have a septa for Sansa and Arya? Not to train them in religion, but to inculcate in them the social graces necessary for a lady and to provide them with an education. Noble Westerosi women, at least at Sansa’s level, are literate. Mordane also seems to be the one responsible for teaching Sansa how to sew, how to sing and dance, in short all the graces needed for a lady.
In Jon’s first POV chapter, he muses that both his sisters are to wed great southern lords. I could see that being planned for Sansa, but for Arya? It would certainly bring the LOLs if Arya were to wed Ser Loras and go live at Highgarden. I think that Ned was blinded by love of his daughter (I love her therefore everyone else will) and the fact that the Stark name and house were prizes on the marriage market.
Sansa, though, I could see as showing innate talent from birth. A pretty, graceful child, so quick to walk and talk, already knowing her letters at five or six . . . I’m sure it was at Catelyn’s behest that Septa Mordane was summoned from the Southlands to make Lord Eddard Stark’s lovely older daughter into a perfect lady, a prize for some southern lord. Arya—well, do the best you can with her!
So Sansa becomes a teacher’s pet and excels at everything, except math, that Septa teaches her. In turn, I think Septa Mordane genuinely loves the girl. She’s a virgin nun, and who knows why she took vows? Did she seek out the quiet life or was the decision made for her—a younger daughter of a poor noble house like the Westerlings, far down in the family birth order and with no good matches remaining for a younger and plain daughter?
The Septa is a bit of a social climber and has fixated on Sansa as her prize. I think Sansa is the closest to a daughter that she has. But—danger, Will Robinson!—Septa Mordane is a maid and not suited for the Mother role.
I blame Septa Mordane for filling Sansa’s head with fluffy romance stories and songs. Sansa is intelligent! Weren’t there any GOOD books for her to read? Was there no Jeyne Austen to be found anywhere in the library tower? And just what kind of illuminated manuscripts may have been hidden in the back stacks of that tower—Brandon Stark the elder sounds like a player . . . maybe Septa was trying to keep Sansa from finding them. I think Septa Mordane tried to keep Sansa reading “wholesome” stuff that would “keep her in the right mind for marriage” but allowing your daughter to get her Sex Ed from a celibate nun is like asking a vegan what prime rib tastes like.
Septa Mordane’s unhelpful Birds and Bees advice was that all men were beautiful in the dark. Said by a celibate nun. What does she know? Sansa is too polite to laugh, but I can imagine Arya laughing till she wet her pants at the irony of that. Don’t take Mother advice from a Maiden! Except . . .
. . . Sansa has shown that she can find Sandor Clegane beautiful and appealing in the dark despite his scars. So, yay Septa Mordane on that one! I’m sure Mordane meant it to work with someone like Tyrion (and that didn’t work), but when it came to Sandor, her advice, er, flowered. And long may it bloom, say I.
More helpfully, Septa Mordane has done an excellent job teaching Sansa the things that have continued to serve her well: her graciousness, her manners, and her charm. Mordane has told Sansa that good manners are as tough as good armor, and Sansa wields them well. Sansa treats people well, and even after she becomes Alayne, she remembers her courtesy and charm. The Knights of the Vale remark upon it when they see her.
In the end, Mordane’s maiden lessons don’t all serve Sansa bad. And to be fair to her, she had no idea what the Lannisters were about or what kind of political shitstorm they were all to be caught in. A Maiden is an innocent and chaste archetype, naïve to the ways of the world. Sansa always had more of the Mother in her, and although she might play “maid” on the surface, she is all Mother deep down.
The final death of Sansa’s maidenly innocence was seeing Septa Mordane’s head, along with her father’s, on a spike after Joffrey had her executed. One could say that Sansa lost her spiritual and emotional virginity that day. She is no longer the Maiden and her song is the Mother.
Two brief points: The Starks, like most northerners, worship the old gods. Sansa always pronounces herself fascinated by the Sept of Baelor, but all for the incense and beautiful carvings and flashy crystals—not really for any strong feelings toward the Faith of the Seven, except, again, the Mother. She is always seen much more drawn to the godswood, and when she is in the Vale, she regrets that the stony soil of the Vale can’t grow a good Godswood. Crackpottily, I wonder if she will bring back a kind of mother-goddess worship allied with the Old Religion. And don’t forget how many goddesses were accompanied by dogs!
Finally, Septa Mordane’s name, comes from mor, meaning death. Her death is the death of any illusions Sansa might have as living the life of a highborn maid (like Margaery) as well as the death of one of her premier mother figures.
What that clears away and leaves her free to do, is to explore sides of herself that would have Mordane in a conniption fit—hanging out with bastards! With women who have sex! Maybe even HAVING sex herself! Taking care of herself, a child, and a household. Acting as Petyr’s chatelaine and holding her own with the knights of the Vale. Growing up.
At first glance three things strike one straight away when one reads about Myranda:
1) She doesn’t conform to the Westerosi idea of ‘perfect beauty’ ideal insomuch as she’s described as:
Lord Nestor’s daughter proved to be a short, fleshy woman, of an age with Mya Stone, but where Mya was slim and sinewy, Myranda was soft-bodied and sweet-smelling, broad of hip, thick of waist, and extremely buxom. Her thick chestnut curls framed round red cheeks, a small mouth, and a pair of lively brown eyes.
Interesting to note at this point that whenever GRRM describes a woman as other than pretty/beautiful, he always says something nice about her eyes as an afterthought? See: Brienne.
Could it be that Randa not being super pretty could be another example of the done to death: a woman can either be ugly or clever stereotype, or merely another example of the Sansa arc leading to a rejection of superficial appearances in favour of intrinsic value? That would depend on how their friendship develops, it’s too early to judge as yet, but I think Randa’s plain-spokenness might be some kind of alternative to LF’s scheming insomuch as she admits to wanting to be wicked and jokes about it, while LF smiles a lot but really is deadly serious in his wickedness—again the whole appearances can be deceiving motif.
Kind?” The older girl gave a laugh. “How boring that would be. I aspire to be wicked.
2) She talks about sex. A LOT. Whether it be her own sex life (husband/Marillion) with detailed descriptions of her husband dying inside her (ew, also surprising how untraumatised she is by this), Mya’s (the squire), or the size of Littlefinger’s finger, she seems to have no scruples discussing as she so unashamedly puts it ‘fucking’. Sansa/Alayne is blushing like crazy all the time, and she’s just going on and on and on (‘Do you know what goes on in the marriage bed?’, etc.) And she makes comments about Alayne’s breasts and the general value of breast size with regard to breastfeeding.
This is probably her most obvious role in the book, as an initiator of the sexual development of Sansa/Alayne—which could prove to be potentially dangerous if well-meaning Randa took upon herself the task of finding Sansa/Alayne some nice hunky man to deflower her, thus leading to an impossibility of a divorce from Tyrion. Or, on the other hand, it could lead to a deeper realisation of Sansa’s feelings for Sandor with some preliminary girlishness along the way. “Hey, Randa I’m having sexy dreams about this man who took a song and a kiss and left me with nothing but a bloody cloak!” “OMG, seriously Alayne? Has he ravened you yet? Have you ravened him? Don’t be the first to raven him, you’ll look needy!” A.k.a. Basically the typical teenage silliness she missed out on while being tortured by Joff in KL.
3) She is very plain-spoken in general and seems shrewd and intelligent. She keeps her father’s household in order, just like Alayne does for LF, and does it competently and well. She’s very well-informed about the goings on in Westeros both in political terms (Siege of Storm’s End Vol. 2/Riverrun yielding), gossipy terms (Harry’s bastards/Lyn’s married life/Bronze Yohn’s mêlée), and weird trivia (Jon Snow is a bastard and he’s LC of the NW!). The one thing she doesn’t seem to be aware of is Lothor Brune liking Mya Stone . . . Why should this be—she clearly knows pretty much everything else there is to know about the girl and she seems a good and shrewd observer of people—why shouldn’t she notice Lothor?
Aside from that, she knows how to make conversation with some bastard girl she’s never met before, while riding down a mountain in the freezing cold, and manages to make her like her enough in the process to agree to share her bed. She also knows how to flatter Sweetrobin, telling him how big he’s grown when she sees him—clearly she always knows exactly what to say.
This shrewdness in Randa reminds me a lot of the Queen of Thorns, as does her sense of humour, which definitely brought to mind echoes of the old QoT for some reason. I’m not suggesting they’re connected in any way, but maybe this quality, coupled with the possibility of Sansa/Alayne still having the hairnet might result in some clever plotting to assassinate LF? Okay, this is a bit of a stretch, we don’t even know if she’s trustworthy yet, although as regards sheer brain capacity, yes, I think she is clever enough to poison LF if she put her mind to it, and Sansa/Alayne presented good reasons for her doing so. Crackpotting here, so I’ll stop now.
One last thing: I wouldn’t put it past Randa to be the one to overhear something inappropriate between Sansa/Alayne and LF, either some evidence of his creepy attraction and kissing or some conversation when one of them slips up and reveals her Sansa identity. Although I’m more inclined to think the former. In these cases, she could turn either be threat or ally depending on how the story progresses, but somehow I just don’t see such an intelligent character being introduced just to talk about sex a lot. Also, Sansa/Alayne thinks to herself, ‘You’ll get no secrets from me,’ in response to Randa’s wanting to learn her wicked secrets and that just seems like famous last words to me. But I don’t know, at this point my guess is as good as anyone’s.
by Lady Lea
Lysa is the daughter of Hoster Tully, widow of Jon Arryn, as highborn a lady as they get, and Sansa sees her marry . . . Littlefinger, lord of a tiny piece of rock and some sheep. For love. She’s very open about the fact that she loves this lowborn man and is not ashamed of it at all. She would have married him even when he didn’t have any important titles.
The day after the wedding, Lysa tells Sansa her story and compares her marriage to Arryn to Sansa’s marriage to Tyrion. Sansa sees how bitter and unhappy Lysa is about her life, and how much happier she is now that she finally has control over her life. Sansa even notes during the wedding feast how happiness seemed to make Lysa younger. This could be an important source of inspiration for Sansa, who has already been forced to marry once and is fed up with men who only want her for her claim.
Unfortunately, Lysa goes on to tell Sansa that she would like to marry her to Sweetrobin, to which Sansa immediately thinks, “It is not me she wants her son to marry, it is my claim. No one will ever marry me for love”. Lysa tells Sansa she’s no better than a beggar now, and should be grateful and obedient, but at the same time it’s clear she wants Sansa to marry SR for her claim.
Lysa is also very open about her sexual desires:
Poo to my court. I have waited so long, I could not bear to wait another moment.” She put her arms around him. “I want to share your bed tonight, my sweet. I want us to make another child, a brother for Robert or a sweet little daughter.”
“I dream of that as well, sweetling. Yet there is much to be gained from a great public wedding, with all the Vale—”
“No.” She stamped a foot. “I want you now, this very night. And I must warn you, after all these years of silence and whisperings, I mean to scream when you love me. I am going to scream so loud they’ll hear me in the Eyrie!
When Lysa and LF are having sex and Lysa is screaming, Sansa ponders on her own wedding night, and how Tyrion lied to her by saying that in the dark he was the Knight of Flowers and that he could be good to her. Then she compares him to Sandor, how he wouldn’t lie, and wonders where he is at the moment.
We see then her calling the old dog a “sad old hound” and petting him, and Marillion using the song metaphor in a way that is definitely sexual: “l’ll have you singing louder than the Lady Lysa.” Then when Lothor Brune arrives, she thinks it’s the Hound to save her. When she sleeps, she dreams of her wedding night again, and in her marital bed she sees Sandor, demanding a song. There is no mistaking that Sansa truly knows what goes on in a marital bed, and what asking for a song means, and that this was indeed an erotic dream. This is truly a moment of sexual awakening for Sansa.
Another potentially important piece of advice from Lysa: “A man will tell you poison is dishonorable, but a woman’s honor is different. The Mother shaped us to protect our children, and our only dishonor is in failure. You’ll know that, when you have a child.”
So Lysa killed Arryn with poison to protect SR (Arryn wanted to send him to Dragonstone), and Sansa knows that the Tyrells, probably Olenna, poisoned Joffrey to protect Margaery from his cruelty. Sansa sees Lysa justify her use of poison, and she can understand the reasoning behind Joff’s murder. Will Sansa ever resort to poison? It’s a common theory that she will end up poisoning LF, maybe even with her old hairnet if she still has it.
Another thing is that during Lysa’s fit of rage at seeing LF kissing Sansa, she talks about how she gave her maidenhood to LF, out of love, out of wedlock, with not even a betrothal, and she doesn’t regret it. This fact, combined with LF’s false information that Cat gave his maidenhood to him as well, could mean big things for Sansa. Cat is the woman she most admires in her life. If she can have sex before marriage, and Lysa, both highborn ladies, and not regret it, this opens up a new possibility to Sansa, one she has never considered before.
Even Lysa’s death can be considered a lesson. Lysa was entirely devoted to LF, who in turn also acted like a devoted husband when she was around. And he threw her out of the moon door without even blinking an eye. This teaches Sansa more about LF than the death of Ser Dontos, it makes it really explicit how false and untrustworthy he is.
by Dr. Pepper
Lollys isn’t exactly a role model for Sansa, at least not one that Sansa consciously internalizes. She doesn’t think back on the things she sees when she’s around Lollys, for example. However, the few brief encounters Sansa has with her reveals quite a bit about Sansa’s character, and perhaps about Lollys as well. They are sometimes described in the same way and they sometimes react to things in similar fashions which might suggest that perhaps Lollys is more than she appears, much like Sansa is.
The first time Sansa mentions Lollys, she describes her as placid and dull. This is in sharp contrast to all of the descriptions Lollys gets from nearly everyone else: bovine lackwit, dimwit . . . terms meant to devalue her mental capacity and insult her shape. Sansa neither thinks nor says one insulting thing about Lollys, unless placid and dull can be considered insulting. Compare this with the way people describe Sansa: dim-witted, a mouse, a chirping liar. The physical adjectives used to describe these two are quite different—Lollys is large and unattractive while Sansa is thin and beautiful. One’s appearance obviously goes a long way in establishing one’s opinion about a person.
The next time Sansa encounters Lollys, it is on the way to Maegor’s Holdfast. Sansa stops to help coax Lollys across a bridge. Sansa speaks gently to Lollys, and Lollys is able to be moved after. Again, she does not note Lollys’ mental capacity, only that Lollys is sick which Sansa understands to mean pregnant.
The most curious thing about this scene is when Lollys stops and gapes at Sansa. I have a couple of ideas about what it could mean. One, there is a theory that part of Sansa’s warg abilities appear in the way she can empathize and calm people. There could be something that Sansa is unknowingly doing that calms Lollys in a way her mother, sister and maid Shae cannot.
My other idea about this scene is one I think much more likely. Lollys is obviously traumatized by what happened to her during the riots and since then (and perhaps even before) people, including her immediate family, speak to her in rough commands and condescending tones. Sansa does not. She explains to Lollys where they are going and why, and assures her that she will be safe. This is a big thing when dealing with traumatized people and I think this means a lot to Lollys. This may also be a confidence booster for Sansa when she has to calm the women in Maegor’s Holdfast after Cersei flees.
At Sansa’s wedding, Lollys is seen to be sobbing. Let her sob, Sansa thought. Perhaps I shall do the same before this day is done. Sansa soon starts crying. My initial thoughts about Lollys crying was that she was scared to be out of her room, and she might have been upset to have lost a potential husband. After all, Tyrion was one of the men Lady Tanda pursued for her daughter. However, Tyrion never did meet privately with Lollys and her family, so it’s a pretty big assumption that Lollys would be devastated about losing this potential match.
Considering how Sansa calmed Lollys during the Blackwater, I think a more likely explanation is that Lollys understands what this may be like for Sansa. Where Lollys was saying “I don’t want to,” before going into Maegor’s Holdfast, Sansa was saying the same thing before being brought into the sept. One wonders what Lollys would have said to Sansa if she had been able to meet her on the walk to the altar.
It’s obvious why Sansa cried during her wedding. However, it is interesting that she acknowledges that Lollys is the only other one doing so and then thinks she will do the same. Sansa is not afraid to be compared to a woman in which so many men have contempt for. She is a little more subtle than Lollys, but her crying and acting dim-witted is helpful in that many do not suspect her capable of being a mastermind of anything. Subtly is probably more important for Sansa than for Lollys considering Sansa doesn’t have the same courtly protections that Lollys has.
A few questions for further consideration, in this thread or another. Will Sansa consider Lollys as any sort of ally in the future? Will there ever be a reason their paths might cross again? Considering the comparisons, is Lollys more clever than other characters think she is? Will she come out a strong, powerful woman?
The Sun and the Moon: The Sisterhood of Sansa and Arya Stark
by Lady Gwynhyfvar
When thinking of Sansa and Arya Stark, readers often tend to see them as opposites, from their first scene to their last. Though this opposition of characters is undeniable, it doesn’t mean that opposites have to be always in conflict. A complementary interpretation is possible, as the following incident illustrates:
In AGOT, chapter 65, Arya wonders why Sansa is on the steps of the Great Sept as their father is brought before the mob, and why she looks “so happy.” The reader knows that Sansa has used her courtesy and her pretty words, a lady’s armour and weapon, to buy her father’s life:
As it please Your Grace, I ask mercy for my father, Lord Eddard Stark, who was Hand of the King.” She had practiced the words a hundred times. […] King Joffrey looked her up and down. “Your sweet words have moved me.” He said gallantly, nodding, as if to say all would be well. “I shall do as you ask … but first your father has to confess …AGoT, chapter 57
When it becomes clear that Joffrey is ordering Ned’s execution, Arya
… threw herself into the crowd, drawing Needle […] Arya slashed at them with Needle […] She could still hear Sansa screaming.
At first glance these are two very different reactions to the same situation: Sansa— accommodating and sensitive, attempts to create a shield for her father, while Arya— belligerent and headstrong, would use her sword to defend him. On closer examination, the two girls doing exactly the same thing: using their individual talents in an effort to defend and save their father’s life. Their talents and actions in this situation are complementary, but their objective is the same.
Sisterhood refers to the relationship of two females who share a parent or parents. But a secondary definition of the word is “the solidarity of women based on shared conditions, experiences, or concerns.” While GRRM admittedly created Arya and Sansa as complementary characters (SSM), I propose that the shared bond of their sisterhood has embedded a blueprint in the arc of each girl, that their arcs and the roads each has to travel after their parting in King’s Landing move in tandem each to the other, along seemingly opposite paths, but progressing towards a common outcome: reunion with their family and the reformation of the pack. Ned’s words to Arya in AGOT chapter 22 reflect the values the girls were raised with, which will affect this outcome:
Let me tell you something about wolves, child. When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. Summer is the time for squabbles. In winter, we must protect one another, keep each other warm, share our strengths. So if you must hate, Arya, hate those who would truly do us harm … Sansa is your sister. You may be as different as the sun and the moon, but the same blood flows through both your hearts. You need her, as she needs you …
From the beginning, we are alerted to the differences between the two girls:
Sansa’s work is as pretty as she is,” Septa Mordane told their lady mother once. “She has such fine, delicate hands.” […] “Arya has the hands of a blacksmith. AGoT, chapter 7
Sansa even points out the difference to Cersei, in a moment of self-defence:
“I’m not like Arya,” Sansa blurted. “She has the traitor’s blood, not me. I’m good…” AGoT, chapter 51
Yet, are they really so different? Septa Mordane, she of the blacksmith hands analogy, has this sentiment for Sansa, who loved Lady as much as Arya loved Nymeria:
“You’re a good girl, Sansa, but I do vow that when it comes to that creature you’re as willful as your sister Arya.” AGoT, chapter 15
Even in their occasional indifference to each other, there are similarities:
“It was not until later that night, as she was drifting off to sleep, that Sansa realized she had forgotten to ask about her sister.” AGoT, chapter 51
Not to be outdone, Arya initially spares no thought for her sister once she escapes the horrors of King’s Landing:
“when at last she slept, she dreamed of home … She yearned to see her mother again, and Robb and Bran and Rickon . . . but it was Jon Snow she thought of most.” ACoK, chapter 1
Shortly we see both girls having thoughts of their home and the “pack,” coupled with assertions of their defenses:
What was it that Septa Mordane used to tell her? A lady’s armour is her courtesy, that was it. She donned her armour and said, “I’m sorry my lady mother took you captive, my lord.” […] Once she had loved Prince Joffrey with all her heart, and admired and trusted his mother, the queen. They had repaid that love and trust with her father’s head. Sansa would never make that mistake again. ACoK, chapter 2
Sansa resolves to armour herself in courtesy, steeling her heart against the girlish love and admiration that once filled it. While for Arya we see a resolution to stand fast with sword in hand:
It made her sad to think of Sansa and her father […] If she was a real water dancer, she would go out there with Needle and kill all of them, and never run from anyone ever again […] Arya wouldn’t let them die for her like Syrio. She wouldn’t! Shoving through the hedge with Needle in hand, she slid into a water dancer’s stance.
ACoK, chapter 5
As Yoren leads her towards Harrenhal, Arya’s hope that she will find someone to rescue her sounds like an echo of her sister:
That was what knights did; they kept you safe, especially women. ACoK, chapter 14
We know Sansa has long believed in true knights, and while she still hopes, we begin to see the cracks in her conviction:
Knights are sworn to defend the weak, protect women and fight for the right, but none of them did a thing. ACoK, chapter 32
“True knights protect the weak.” He snorted. “There are no true knights, no more than there are gods.” […] Wordless, she fled … There are gods, she told herself, and there are true knights too. All the stories can’t be lies. ACoK, chapter 52
Arya’s hope begins to fade as well after she is taken by The Mountain’s men:
By the time she marched, Arya knew she was no water dancer […]Syrio would never have sat silent in that storehouse, nor shuffled along meekly with the other captives. The direwolf was the sigil of the Starks, but Arya felt more a lamb, surrounded by a herd of other sheep. ACoK, chapter 26
In ACOK, chapter 18, Sansa receives a mysterious message saying “Come to the godswood if you want to go home.” Her thoughts at first are full of fear of betrayal, yet she resolves to go:
If it is some trap, better that I die than let them hurt me more.
Over the course of several months, Sansa meets Ser Dontos in the godswood of the Red Keep, forging an alliance that she believes will take her home to Winterfell once and for all. During those months, we hear the following words in her internal monologue on more than one occasion echoing the resolve she felt on her visit, “I can be brave.” In fact, Sansa tells herself to “be brave” so many times in her final chapters in King’s Landing, it seems to have become her mantra.
By the time she flees King’s Landing in ASOS, chapter 61, Sansa’s emotional shield is fully functional. Her internal monologue has grown increasingly rebellious, while the façade she presents to the world is all courtesy and pleasant words. As Tyrion tells her, “You hide behind courtesy as if it were a castle wall.” Yet as she flees, she feels her skin has turned “to porcelain, to ivory, to steel…”
Meanwhile at Harrenhal, Arya has been finding her courage and visiting the godswood as well. Arya uses her time in front of the heart tree to practice her needlework, recite her ever growing litany of judgement, and pray:
I was a sheep, and then I was a mouse, I couldn’t do anything but hide […] Jaqen made me brave again. He made me a ghost instead of a mouse. ACoK, chapter 26
Help me you old gods …Help me get those men out of the dungeon so we can kill Ser Amory, and bring me home to Winterfell. Make me a water dancer and a wolf and not afraid again, ever. ACoK, chapter 47
Arya finds her prayers answered in the form of Jaqen and weasel soup. Sansa’s prayers for delivery seem to be answered by Ser Dontos. But prayers, as we soon see, can be answered in unexpected ways. While Dontos ultimately spirits Sansa away, it is not yet to Winterfell; and while Jaqen does help Arya to free the northmen, which leads to the death of Amory Lorch, and is indeed the agency that allows Arya to rediscover her identity and conquer her fear, neither are Arya’s prayers for home answered. Both girls are set to move into a new phase of their journeys, but in paying homage to the gods of their father each has strengthened their gift– the shield has become steel, and the sword arm stiffened.
The next major settings in the arcs of the two girls are Braavos and the Vale. In the interim, between godswoods and the destinations, each forms a brief alliance with a faction that may one day prove fortuitous: Arya with the Brotherhood without Banners and Sansa with the Tyrells. During these brief interludes, a matter of weeks really, both girls complete a reconnection with their “Stark family values.”
Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid? That is the only time a man can be brave. Eddard to Bran, AGoT, chapter 1
Brave. Sansa took a deep breath. I am a Stark, yes, I can be brave. ASoS, chapter 28
I must be brave, like Robb. ASoS, chapter 59
… she felt calmer than she ever had in Harrenhal. The rain had washed the guard’s blood off her fingers, she wore a sword across her back, wolves were prowling through the dark like lean grey shadows, and Arya Stark was unafraid. ASoS, chapter 3
You never could lie for love nor honor, Ned Stark. Robert Baratheon, AGoT, chapter 30
My father always told the truth […] Joffrey is a monster. He lied about the butcher’s boy and made Father kill my wolf. When I displease him he has the Kingsguard beat me. ASoS, chapter 6
“You are very beautiful, Sansa,” he told her. “It is good of you to say so my lord.” She did not know what else to say. Should I tell him he is handsome? He’ll think me a fool or a liar. She lowered her gaze and held her tongue. ASoS, chapter 28
Arya, being younger, struggles with the moral implications of her survival instinct. I found this line reminiscent of Ned’s “there were some secrets it was too dangerous to share”:
Arya told of Yoren and their escape from King’s Landing as well, and much that had happened since, but she left out the stableboy she’d stabbed with Needle, and the guard whose throat she’d cut to get out of Harrenhal. Telling Harwin would be like telling her father, and there were some things she could not bear having her father know. ASoS, chapter 17
Her father used to say that a lord needed to eat with his men, if he hoped to keep them. “Know the men who follow you,” she heard him tell Robb once, “and let them know you. Don’t ask your men to die for a stranger.” AGoT, chapter 22
“Another lesson you should learn, if you hope to sit beside my son. Be gentle on a night like this and you’ll have treasons popping up all about you like mushrooms after a hard rain […] The only way to keep your people loyal is to make certain they fear you more than they do the enemy.”
“I will remember, Your Grace,” said Sansa, though she had always heard that love was a surer route to the people’s loyalty than fear. If I’m ever a queen, I’ll make them love me. ACoK, chapter 60
“Don’t be afraid,” she told them loudly. “The queen has raised the drawbridge. This is the safest place in the city. There’s thick walls, the moat, the spikes …” […] Sansa went to Ser Lancel and knelt beside him […] “Help him,” Sansa commanded two of the serving men. ACoK, chapter 62
Arya took the lead, kicking her stolen horse to a brisk heedless trot […] Arya kept them moving at a slow steady pace. ASoS, chapter 3
The blood of the First Men still flows in the veins of the Starks, and we hold to the belief that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword […] If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die. AGoT, chapter 2
But when the septon climbed on high and called upon the gods to protect and defend their true and noble king, Sansa got to her feet. […] Let his sword break and his shield shatter, Sansa thought coldly as she shoved out through the doors, let his courage fail him and every man desert him. ACoK, chapter 57
Ser Gregor, Dunsen, Polliver, Raff the Sweetling, The Tickler and the Hound. Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn, King Joffrey, Queen Cersei…
Arya’s oft-repeated litany of judgement changes somewhat by the end of Storm:
Ser Gregor the Mountain… Dunsen, Raff the Sweetling, Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn and Queen Cersei […] she was glad [Joffrey] was dead, but she wished she could have been there to see him die, or maybe kill him herself. ” ASoS, chapter 74 (emphasis mine)
Both girls have yet to complete their journey to fulfill this particularly ideal, but their thoughts, cold and unyielding as the north itself, indicate they understand the Stark concept of righteous judgement.
Their thoughts about Robb and their faith in his prevailing over his enemies are strikingly similar:
Robb will beat him, Sansa thought. He beat your uncle and your brother Jaime, he’ll beat your father too. Sansa, ACoK, chapter 32
Robb will kill you all, she thought, exulting. Sansa, ACoK, chapter 32
Robb has beaten them every time. He’ll beat Lord Baelish too, if he must. Sansa, ACoK, chapter 65
If the Lannisters hurt Bran and Rickon, Robb will kill them every one. He’ll never bend the knee, never, never, never. He’s not afraid of any of them. Arya, ACoK, chapter 64
“The Lannisters will soon have Riverrun under siege.”
“Robb will beat them.” Arya, ASoS, chapter 43
In AFFC, chapter 6, Arya arrives in Braavos and her thoughts turn to Winterfell, but only for half a heartbeat. Telling herself that all is lost, she determines that she doesn’t need her pack:
But that was stupid. Her home was gone, her parents dead, and all her brothers slain but Jon Snow on the Wall […] Arya never seemed to reach the place she set out to reach […] what good had friends ever done her? I don’t need any friends, so long as I have Needle.
Yet, much as we will see with Alayne, Arya’s inner thoughts are often at odds with what she says aloud or even what she wishes to think. She continues to think about Winterfell, about Old Nan and Maester Luwin and her family even as she tells herself she will not. And we know that for her Needle is
… Robb and Bran and Rickon, her mother and father, even Sansa… Winterfell’s grey walls, and the laughter of its people… the summer snows, Old Nan’s stories, the heart tree with its red leaves and scary face, the warm earthy smell of the glass gardens, the sound of the north wind rattling the shutters of her room… Jon Snow’s smile. AFfC, chapter 22
As Arya beholds the Titan at close range, she is awed by its scale “He could step right over the walls of Winterfell,” and when Yorko Terys delivers her to the steps of the House of Black and White, she affirms her Stark identity:
“I am a wolf, and will not be afraid.”
After she enters, she reveals who she is:
“I am Arya, of House Stark.”
“You are,” he said, “but the House of Black and White is no place for Arya, of House Stark.”
“Please,” she said, “I have no place to go.”
She stubbornly clings to her identity, to her Stark qualities and her memories, in spite of being told she must abandon them. And her observation about Braavos’ Titan has a very interesting parallel with what is happening with her sister in the Vale.
Sansa arrives at the Eyrie at the end of Storm with no illusions that her aunt is a little better than the Lannisters, with the intention of marrying her to her son to take advantage of her claim. Her thoughts are also full of Winterfell, home and her lost family, though she also spends much time thinking that she must be Alayne. Her first chapter to open at the Eyrie begins with a dream of home, of sharing a room with her sister. It continues with the oft discussed snow castle. In terms of connection with her sister’s arc, one line stands out:
… he stepped over both walls with a single long stride and squatted on his heels in the middle of the yard. ASoS, chapter 80
In the aftermath, as Sansa is escorted by Marillion to Lysa her thoughts echo Arya’s on the steps of the HoBaW:
I am a Stark of Winterfell, she longed to tell him. Instead she nodded, and let him escort her down the tower steps and along a bridge.
Later, as Lysa drags Sansa to the Moon Door, we have echoes of Arya in Harrenhal, contrasted with Cat’s bravery:
“You squeak like a mouse now, but you were bold enough in the garden, weren’t you? […] Your mother was brave at least.” ASoS, chapter 80
When Petyr arrives, a ranting Lysa tells him:
“Why did you bring her to the Vale, Petyr? This isn’t her place. She doesn’t belong here.”
ASoS, chapter 80
In her new phase, Arya begins honing the skills foreshadowed with her “needlework”, while Sansa continues to develop her own foreshadowed by her “armour of courtesy”—her diplomacy and kindness, and her social and political skills. The parallels identified above, and the continued similarities in their thoughts, illustrate that their arcs, while different in approach, continue in a complementary direction.
Both Sansa and Arya assume new identities at this stage. As Alayne and No One they must present these new identities flawlessly to the world, for their own survival. But in spite of continued self-assurance that they are indeed becoming those characters, both remain Starks in their hearts:
I am not your daughter, she thought. I am Sansa Stark, Lord Eddard’s daughter and Lady Catelyn‘s , the blood of Winterfell. AFfC, chapter 10
“Who are you?” he would ask every day.
“No one,” she would answer, she who had been Arya of House Stark, Arya Underfoot, Arya Horseface. She had been Arry and Weasel too, and Squab and Salty. Nan the cupbearer, a grey mouse, a sheep, the ghost of Harrenhal … but not for true, not in her heart of hearts. In there she was Arya of Winterfell, the daughter of Lord Eddard Stark and Lady Catelyn, who had once had brothers named Robb and Bran and Rickon, a sister named Sansa, a direwolf named Nymeria, a half-brother named Jon Snow. AFfC, chapter 22
As Sansa concludes her stay in the Eyrie, she focuses on presenting Alayne Stone to the world, telling herself:
I must be Alayne all the time, inside and out. AFfC, chapter 41
And yet she is still demonstrates Stark qualities:
Bravery: “So you’re brave as well as beautiful,” Myranda said to her.
Honesty: “Almost, I said. I saw you.”
Leadership: “Alayne knew she dare not wait for Mya to return. She helped the boy dismount, and hand in hand they walked out onto the bare stone saddle…”
Judgment: One of the squires sniggered, until she said, “Terrance, lay out his lordship’s riding clothes and his warmest cloak. Giles, you may clean up that broken chamber pot.” (A minor point of justice, but a judgment nonetheless)
Arya is also focused on being No One, more importantly on not being Arya of House Stark. Yet she is still the night wolf, and her experiences with the cats of Braavos prove she cannot leave her identity wholly behind. As well, she remains a Stark. Her bravery is beyond question, she is learning to speak truth while hiding her innermost thoughts, and in learning to follow the FM learns a valuable in leadership.
As for judgment, she remembers a lesson learned from her father early in life:
The girl was not sorry, though. Dareon had been a deserter from the Night’s Watch; he deserved to die.
Last we see Sansa, she is poised for the next phase, possibly one that will bring some moral ambiguity through her continued association with Petyr Baelish, but one that seems to be moving her closer to home, to Winterfell. Her sister as well is moving on to a new phase. Her conflict is clear as she is about to begin an unknown apprenticeship under the auspices of the Faceless Men. But it’s also clear that she is unable to fully abandon her true self and her memories of home.
The sun and the moon, the shield and the sword do not exist without each other but move in concert, each complementing the other. So do these sisters. To paraphrase the words of GRRM: they have issues to work out, but they need each other. One day we hope they will meet again to prove that the solidarity of sisterhood can overcome even the most diametrically different personalities.
by Queen Cersei I
The following is a look at the Shae/Sansa interactions, and how Shae influenced Sansa’s growth and development. It ended up being monstrously long, so feel free to skim or skip it!
Shae and Sansa
Shae is an 18-year-old girl who is working as a prostitute when we first meet her in AGOT. Born into poverty, the exact details of Shae’s background are unclear. She claims at one point to have run away from home to escape frequent rapes at her father’s hands; at another point, it is hinted that Shae is making this story up. At any rate, it is clear that Shae’s background features some form of sexual or economic exploitation, and that she turned to a life of prostitution to escape this.
Tyrion meets Shae when she is working as a camp follower in AGOT, and hires her to sleep with him and essentially assume the role of fantasy girlfriend. Tyrion then proceeds to bring Shae with him to King’s Landing, despite knowing that doing so will cause a direct threat to her personal safety. He sets her up in a large house, providing her with clothes, jewelry, and other material rewards. However, the controlling nature of the relationship (Tyrion jealously prevents Shae from making friends; grows envious of her platonic friendship with a singer; tells her that he uninterested in her opinions, and only wants her for sex; and slaps her when he believes she’s out of line) makes the situation less than ideal for Shae. Later, Tyrion moves her to work as a maid for Lollys Stokeworth.
Sansa first meets Shae formally in ASOS. After Tyrion has agreed to marry Sansa (rather ironically, mere pages after professing mentally to love Shae with all his heart), he intends to rid himself of Shae somehow. Shae learns of the Sansa/Tyrion engagement from Varys, yet seems to hold no grudge, maintaining a happy friendly attitude towards Tyrion. Probably eager to keep a lucrative job as the sole mistress of an incredibly wealthy and powerful man rather than return to the life of a prostitute in Westeros, where rape, physical abuse, and diseases are very real occupational hazards. Shae tells Tyrion that Sansa is just a child, and he will soon return to her (Shae) for his sexual needs.
When Sansa honestly informs Tyrion she has no desire for him, Tyrion resumes his sexual relationship with Shae. Later, Tyrion decides to have his mistress Shae start working for his wife for reasons of his own convenience.
Sansa describes Shae as a girl with “short dark hair and bold eyes.” Though she has nothing against her, Sansa seems to feel a subtle discomfort around Shae from the beginning. It seems as though Sansa senses that something is “off” about Shae and feels some degree of discomfort around her. For instance, Sansa seems to notice the resentment burning behind Shae’s “bold eyes,” which occasionally cast “insolent looks” Sansa’s way.
We later learn that Sansa is correct in this assessment, when Shae comments to Tyrion,
You should give her dreamwine,” Shae said, “like Lady Tanda does with Lollys. A cup before she goes to sleep, and we could fuck in bed beside her without her waking.
Revealing a great deal of apparent bitterness and resentment towards Sansa. Surprisingly, Tyrion never once rebukes Shae; in fact, his thoughts regarding the 13 year old child he essentially forced into marriage are arguably resentful as Shae’s:
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 her bedmaids . . .
At any rate, as Tyrion’s former mistress, Shae sees Sansa as a threat who may well take away the most lucrative job Shae’s ever had. Furthermore, Tyrion’s epic insensitivity does nothing to diffuse the situation, or Shae’s resentment. At one point he tells Sansa (with Shae standing by in the same room):
Lady Sansa,” he told her, “you shall be the most beautiful woman in the hall tonight.
Tyrion Lannister: Sensitive Male.
Through Shae’s and Sansa’s later interactions, we also see how Sansa’s changed since the first book, With regard to her hopes and dreams for the future. When Sansa sees a cloud formation and points it out to Shae, the latter comments that it looks like a golden castle, noting “A castle all of gold, there’s a sight I’d like to see.” While the wealthy but entrapped and miserable Sansa grows to care less and less about material things, Shae, who has lived most of her life in poverty, at times seem to represent the romanticism and love for pretty dresses and material things Sansa once has. While Shae is implied to be coldly greedy on many occasions (something that Sansa has most certainly never been), she does seem to possess a sense of girlish excitement with regard to parties and feasts that characterized the younger, more carefree Sansa of AGOT. For instance:
My lady,” said Shae wistfully. “Couldn’t I come serve at table? I so want to see the pigeons fly out of the pie.
This excitement over feasts and shows recalls Sansa’s gaiety and girlish hopes at the beginning of AGOT; like Sansa once did, Shae loves pretty things, and feels the giddy hope that a new, wonderful life for her full of romance and beauty is just beginning.
In contrast, it seems that Sansa no longer expects or even dares to dream of romance and beauty.
Later, when the Dornish come into town for Joffrey’s wedding, Shae informs Sansa that Oberyn’s lover, Ellaria Sand “was almost a whore when he found her . . . and now she’s near a princess.” Nevertheless, when Sansa meets Ellaria, and finds her very kind and dignified, despite the fact that Ellaria’s past leads people like Olenna Tyrell to refer to her as “the Viper’s whore.” Once consigned to the opinions of most girls of her class and birth, Sansa is now being disposed to all different sorts of people, and is learning to both look past appearances and reputations, and always question the judgments of others.
What Sansa Learns from Shae:
- Not to judge others solely by reputation, occupation, or social background. Shae’s comments with regard to Ellaria Sand (“She was little better than a whore when he found her, milady”) would, due to the deep seated social prejudices of Westeros alone, lead most if not all highborn girls to instantly look upon Ellaria with some degree of disapproval.
However, Sansa’s position as hostage allows her a clearer view of Ellaria than most girls of her social class and birth would generally be given. She finds that Ellaria, who started as “little better than a whore” shows more class than any of the legitimate highborn people surrounding Sansa. Ellaria clearly goes out of her way to be friendly towards Sansa, and kindly comforts her when Oberyn teases her. In this act of simple, unpretentious kindness, Ellaria reveals herself to be more kind, decent and compassionate than highborns like Cersei, Tyrion, even Oberyn. Cersei treats Sansa callously; Oberyn (not cruelly, but somewhat thoughtlessly) mocks her; and Tyrion, so praised for his kindness to Sansa, often seems to make comments that make himself, rather than her feel better, and inevitably is being nice to Sansa with the hopes of receiving something sexual in return. Out of all the highborn people in King’s Landing, who ignored Sansa’s abuse and mistreatment, the kindest and most noble person turns out to be an illegitimately born woman with a shady sexual past.
Sansa also sees that, in addition to being kind and compassionate, Ellaria carries herself with dignity and appears to possess a good deal of self-respect.
By not letting herself be put off by Shae’s description of Ellaria’s past, Sansa learns that social background and sexual history do not determine a person’s decency or worth.
- To not always trust those around you. Sansa, who is often proclaimed naïve, seemed to have noticed the resentment behind Shae’s eyes from the first. While Sansa is lonely and needs a friend, she wisely decides not to confide in Shae.
However, for me, the most relevant information to be gleaned from the Sansa/Shae interactions (and an overall comparison of their characters) is not what Sansa learns from Shae but how Shae allows we, the readers, to learn more about Sansa.
A few things that we, the readers, learn from the Shae/ Sansa interactions:
- Sansa is very intuitive, and has sound judgment. Unlike many others in these books, she is able to see people for what they are, not what she wants them to be. Whilst Shae worked for Tyrion, he alternated between seeing her as a perfect dream girl/Tysha replacement and a dirty whore who was using him for his money. Very little time (or effort) is dedicated to getting to know her as a person; in fact, at numerous points he actually takes effort not to get to know her, due to his own insecurities and shallowness.
However, Sansa can even after a brief acquaintance see Shae far better than Tyrion can; unlike Tyrion who sees her as he wants to, Sansa can instantly sense the deep resentment Shae feels.
- Sansa is learning to keep her psychological distance from those around her as a defense mechanism.
- Even in her precarious situation, Sansa seems to reject the utter ruthless that females like Shae and Margaery Tyrell have shown.
- Though on first glance Shae and Sansa seem to have nothing in common, a closer analysis reveals that in certain ways they are parallel characters. Both young, beautiful, in a precarious position, must constantly (and carefully) put up a wall and play a prescribed role, must hide their secrets in their hearts, and are in situations that, in one way or another, they find oppressive. Is it fair to say, under the circumstances, that Sansa’s compassion makes her the morally “better” of the two? Or are the situations they started out in (a happy family for Sansa; poverty, exploitation, and possibly paternal rape for Shae) make such comparisons untenable?
- What led Sansa to feel an innate distrust for Shae? Was it her ever-sharpening instincts (as I speculate), or was there some other factor at play?
- Does Sansa show both superior intelligence and judgment in picking up on Shae’s resentment, something Tyrion cannot do in nearly two years acquaintance with her? Is Tyrion self-deluded not to notice Shae’s (In this case, in my opinion, just) simmering resentment; or is he simply as naive as others criticize Sansa for being about Joffrey? Why does Sansa get so much hatred and distain for her “naivety” with Joffrey; whilst Tyrion almost always gets sympathy for his nearly identical naivety about Shae? Is it an issue of the individual prejudice of readers, or does the way GRRM choses to portray (and sympathize) with his characters come into play?
- Could Sansa ever come to possess Shae’s ruthlessness?
- Is there a distinct moral difference between Shae and Margaery Tyrell? Should Sansa look to either of these women as role models?
- Do you see any parallels between Shae’s willingness to sacrifice Tyrion and Sansa, and Sansa’s possible future behavior with Sweet Robin?