Standalone Essays & Posts

Standalone Essays and Posts:

I. Some mythological and symbolical musings (Queen of Winter)
II. A quick write-up on the Serpentine steps scene (Kittykatknits)
III. On similiarities between Jaime/Brienne and Sandor/Sansa (Lyanna Stark)
IV. On similarities between Sansa and Arya’s arcs (Lyanna Stark)
V. An analysis of female pride in Sansa’s Arc (Queen Cersei I)
VI. Claiming Agency through Erotic Power (Brashcandy)
VII. On Sansa’s clothing and its significance (KittensRuleBeetsDrool)
VIII. Sansa’s connection to motherhood and the Mother (Valkyrja)
IX. Some theorising about Sansa’s warging abilities and the unkiss (Queen of Spades)
X. On Naming (Queen of Spades)
XI. On non-verbal expressions of interest and intimacy (Milady of York)
XII. Some thoughts on the unkiss (Milady of York)
XIII.Heretical summary of thoughts on the Starks and Sansa (Black Crow)
XIV. An analysis of Sansa’s preference in men (Milady of York)
XV. On Sansa’s clothing symbolism (Rapsie)
XVI. Did Lady’s death pay for Bran’s life? (Ragnorak)
XVII. On Sweetrobin’s potential greenseer powers (Bran Vras)
XVIII. The Bat of Harrenhal (Bran Vras)
XIX. On Sandor’s swordmanship (Milady of York)
XX. On Sandor and Drinking (Milady of York)
XXI. A Comparison of Sansa, Arya and Catelyn (Daphne 23)
XXII. GOT’s treatment of the SanSan Romance (Miodrag Zarkovic)
XXIII. Adoption of a MO: Lies and Arbor Gold (butterbumps!)
XXIV: On the Hound’s Job (Milady of York)
XXV: A Duncan/The Fiddler and Sansa/The Hound parallel (Milady of York)

Standalone I

Some mythological and symbolical musings

by Queen of Winter

MYTHS, DOGS, LOVE AND HEROES, PART ONE

In the Ulster Cycle of Gaelic/Irish myths, The Morrigan is a goddess of battle, strife, and sovereignty. She sometimes appears in the form of a crow, flying above the warriors, and sometimes she also takes the form of an eel, a wolf and a cow. She is generally considered a war deity comparable with the Germanic Valkyries, although her association with a cow may also suggest a role connected with wealth and the land.

She is often depicted as a trio of goddesses, all sisters, although membership of the triad varies; the most common combinations are Badb, Macha and Nemain, or Badb, Macha and Anand; Anand is also given as an alternate name for Morrigu. Other accounts name Fea, and others.

First, I think that GRRM naming some of the islands in the Vale region “The Three Sisters” might be a poke at the triple goddess aspects to be found in ASOIAF.

Anyway, we have yet another comparison to a triple goddess scenario similar to Maiden/Mother/Crone (Morrigan representing the Crone aspect).

But some feel that her connection to cows presents her as a goddess of sovereignty, stating that she can be seen as a deity who guides or protects a king.

Could the part about “protecting a King” be referencing Sweetrobin? Granted he’s not a King, but he will be the Lord Protector of the Vale… if he lives long enough. We know Petyr is disgusted by him and Sansa knows that if Robert gets too much sweetsleep, there is a chance he won’t wake up.

Then there’s Petyr’s plan to wed Sansa to Harry the Heir. If something happens to Robert, the Vale becomes his. We also know Sansa doesn’t want another arranged marriage. Will she do something to protect Sweetrobin?

I think she might, because doing this serves two purposes: one saving her cousin’s life and two, by Robert being alive- in the end, it protects herself from another unwanted suitor.

As for the Morrigan and her ambiguous relationship with the hero, Cú Chulainn:

Cúchulainn encounters the Morrígan, but does not recognize her, as she drives a heifer from his territory. In response to this perceived challenge, and his ignorance of her role as sovereignty figure, he insults her. But before he can attack her she becomes a black bird on a nearby branch. Cúchulainn now knows who she is, and tells her that had he known before, they would not have parted in enmity.

 She notes that whatever he had done would have brought him ill luck. To his response that she cannot harm him, she delivers a series of warnings, foretelling a coming battle in which he will be killed. She tells him, “it is at the guarding of thy death that I am; and I shall be.

In their interactions, Sansa was the only one to really get through Sandor’s armour. Her courtesy was a spear that pierced his proverbial armour. We know as he lay “dying” that he had numerous regrets over things he had or hadn’t done, and that he felt a lot of loathing/self-hate towards himself.

I think the connection with these two mythological figures is that in trying to connect Sansa with the Morrigan aspect, she’s not representing physical death—but only a transformation—she triggers something in Sandor that will change him. In many cultures death is often thought of as a “transformation”, it doesn’t mean only physical death but can also mean “the passing away” of certain things/concepts. (It’s like GRRM saying “The Hound” is dead, but Sandor is at rest.) Again, assuming he’s now on the QI, surrounded by those rather interesting monks, and the somewhat mysterious Elder Brother—I have to say I’m really interested to see just what GRRM, has in store for Sandor.

As for the Morrigan’s sister, Macha, it seems there are a few legends/myths that originate from the one name. One is of Macha Mong Ruad (“red mane”); she is, according to medieval legend, the only Queen in the List of High Kings of Ireland:

Her father Áed Ruad, alternated ruling Ireland along with his cousins, Díthorba and Cimbáeth, each one ruling seven years at a time. Áed died after his third stint as king, and when his turn came round again, Macha claimed the kingship. Díthorba and Cimbáeth refused to allow a woman to take the throne, and a battle ensued.

Macha won, and Díthorba was killed. She won a second battle against Díthorba’s sons, who fled into the wilderness of Connacht. She married Cimbáeth, with whom she shared the kingship. She pursued Díthorba’s sons alone, disguised as a leper, and overcame each of them in turn when they tried to have sex with her, tied them up, and carried the three of them bodily to Ulster. The Ulstermen wanted to have them killed, but Macha instead enslaved them and forced them to build the stronghold of Emain Macha (Navan Fort near Armagh), to be the capital of the Ulai…

Macha ruled together with Cimbáeth for seven years, until he died of plague at Emain Macha, and then a further fourteen years on her own, until she was killed by Rechtaid Rígderg.

I found the part where it states Macha “overcame the three men who wanted to have sex with her” very interesting. Yes, Sansa did have help repelling unwanted advances and obviously I don’t think Sansa can physically overcome a man, due to strength and size issues, that passage does make me think of the men who have tried to coerce her into having sex: Marillion the Bard, and Tyrion… who will be the third? I’m betting it’s Petyr Baelish.

The meaning of the name Nemain is somewhat muddled, as it depends on which language root you choose, but one of the interpretations is:

The meaning of the name has been various glossed. Squire (2000:45) glossed the name as ‘venomous’ presumably relating it to the Proto-Celtic *nemi- ‘dose of poison’ ‘something which is dealt out’ from the Proto-Indo-European root *nem- ‘deal out’ (Old Irish nem, pl. neimi ‘poison’ ).

This of course, made me think of the Strangler poison, the black amethysts in the hairnet that Sansa presumably has stashed someplace. (I often wonder as well, did Lysa use her entire supply of the Tears of Lys when she poisoned Jon Arryn? Could some of it still be hanging around? Everyone has left the Eyrie, though.) So we speculate again, could this be how she brings about Petyr’s downfall? Or could it mean something else entirely—maybe not poison directly—but, maybe Sansa herself is the catalyst, meaning she is the “pretty poison” that might lay Petyr low?

More about Cú Chulainn:

Cú Chulainn’s childhood name was Setanta, which means “mythical son of Sualtam”. There is some conflict as to who his father was, Sualtam (a mortal man) or Lug/Lugh (an Irish deity) who is also represented by a triad god/triple god aspect (Esus, Toutatis and Taranis—which is something else I’d like to explore).

Cú Chulainn is associated with dogs in Celtic myth, his name translates to “Culann’s Hound”. Culann was a smith whose house was protected by a ferocious watchdog. Cú Chulainn gained his better-known name as a child after he killed Culann’s fierce guard-dog in self-defense, and:

offered to take its place until a replacement could be reared. It was prophesied that his great deeds would give him everlasting fame, but that his life would be a short one. He is known for his terrifying battle frenzy or ríastrad, in which he becomes an unrecognisable monster who knows neither friend nor foe.

I think I’m seeing a sort of symbolic connection with Lady and Sandor again, where Sandor replaces Lady as a “protector”. Also, above it states that he will “take the dogs place until a replacement could be reared.” Now, in the case of Sansa , who is the “replacement” that will be reared? It doesn’t specifically say another dog–just “a replacement”.

It’s a play on words similar to Cersei’s prophesy of the woman who will take everything from her. It doesn’t specifically state another Queen will take her place, merely “another”, which leaves it open to the readers’ interpretation. ( Quote: Queen you shall be… until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear ).

So in relation to Sansa, “The Hound” is dead, but we still have Sandor. Sandor—the real Sandor himself, is going to replace the Hound.

In the passage above where it states Culann’s original guard dog was “fierce”, Lady, sensing Sansa’s fear, did try and protect her from Ilyn Payne (and Sandor too). Here is that passage again:

… but Sansa could not take her eyes off the third man. He seemed to feel the weight of her gaze. Slowly he turned his head. Lady growled. A terror as overwhelming as anything Sansa Stark had ever felt filled her suddenly. She stepped backward and bumped into someone.

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 had first laid eyes on the ruin that fire had made of his face, though it seemed to her now that he was not half so terrifying as the other. Still, Sansa wrenched away from him, and the Hound laughed, and Lady moved between them, rumbling a warning.

Also, could the part about the prophesy “that his great deeds would give him everlasting fame, but that his life would be a short one” relate to the Hound persona again? We don’t know exactly when Sandor was given the moniker “the Hound” and I would say the Hound was more infamous than famous. So it could be that Sandor had the Hound nickname for 10-15 years—and given a person’s life span, is that a short amount of time?

Or could this mean something more ominous, like Sandor sacrificing himself for an ideal, etc. I might be leaning more towards the former, only because I think Sandor’s days as a “dog” are gone. (More on that in another post!).

Now, I’d like to move on and talk about some other nifty stuff I turned up.

I did some digging on the subject of dogs in mythology. In the past I’ve talked about how the three dogs in the Clegane arms might be a shout out to Cerberus, and how Orthrus might parallel Gregor.

In Chinese legend there is a dog called “Panhu”. Read on:

There are various myths and legends in which various ethnic groups claimed or were claimed to have had a divine dog as a forebear, one of these is the story of Panhu. The legendary Chinese sovereign Di Ku has been said to have a dog named Panhu. Panhu helped him win a war by killing the enemy general and bringing him his head and ended up with marriage to the emperor’s daughter as a reward. The dog carried his bride to the mountainous region of the south, where they produced numerous progeny.

The basic Panhu myth is about a dog who married a princess. The emperor of China in the course of losing a war which he was waging with a neighbor to the west, offered to marry his daughter to anybody that would present him with the head of his enemy. This was accomplished by a large dog. This presented a dilemma to the emperor, who couldn’t stand to see his daughter married to a dog. Accounts vary, but eventually the dog and princess procreated copiously.

There are also various variant versions. In some the dog became transformed into a human, except for his head.

Personally, I’m not sure if Sandor’s future story arc involves him killing his brother. But it’s been speculated that Sandor might at some point fight Robert Strong, and we have heard that there is a large skull that was sent to Dorne that was supposed to be the Mountain’s—though that is also up for speculation.

Because nothing is ever simple in ASOIAF, as usual, I’m thinking this could go a few ways.

It could be that Sandor does fight his undead brother—but, what about Robert Strong’s head? He never takes his helmet off–so we don’t know if he’s got one.
The bringing of the “head” could be a reference to Sandor’s “Hound” helm, currently in the possession of Lem Lemoncloak who is with the Brotherhood without Banners. I think it might tie into Sandor getting his name cleared of the crimes committed by Rorge while wearing the helm. In the case of the “dog” becoming human, that once again, points to a possible transformation in Sandor’s story.

As for the “dog” marrying “a princess”… Well… I guess we have to see!

Then we have the tiangou (Chinese: t’ien-kou; literally “Heavenly Dog”) is a legendary creature from China. The tiangou resembles a black dog or meteor, which is thought to eat the sun during an eclipse.

This brought to mind Robert Strong and how after Cersei’s “walk of shame”, he approaches to carry her into the Red Keep:

A shadow fell across them both, blotting out the sun.

In past threads, many people have likened “the sun” to Jaime wearing his golden armour–specifically when you look at Bran’s dream about Sansa and Arya:

There were shadows all around them. One shadow was dark as ash, with the terrible face of a hound. Another was armored like the sun, golden and beautiful. Over them both loomed a giant in armor made of stone, but when he opened his visor, there was nothing inside but darkness and thick black blood.

The idea entered my mind that it might also refer to Oberyn Martell and his fight against Gregor. I was thinking of how Gregor obliterated Oberyn at the end of the “duel”. (Though I feel the former just fits better).

The tengu of Japanese folklore was derived from the Chinese tiangou. The tengu is usually depicted as a bird, or man with a long nose and other bird-like characteristics, while the tiangou is a dog.

The three dogs on the Clegane shield are black, and Sandor does have black hair and a hooked nose (which can also be called roman, aquiline or beaked—referencing “like the beak of an eagle”, etc.).

Quoting more about the Tengu here:

Tengu, (“heavenly dogs”) are a class of supernatural creatures found in Japanese folklore, art, theater, and literature. They are one of the best known yokai (monster-spirits) and are sometimes worshipped as Shinto kami (revered spirits or gods). Although they take their name from a dog-like Chinese demon (Tiangou), the tengu were originally thought to take the forms of birds of prey, and they are traditionally depicted with both human and avian characteristics. The earliest tengu were pictured with beaks, but this feature has often been humanized as an unnaturally long nose, which today is widely considered the tengu’s defining characteristic in the popular imagination Buddhism long held that the tengu were disruptive demons and harbingers of war. Their image gradually softened, however, into one of protective, if still dangerous, spirits of the mountains and forests. (This might be a link to Sandor possibly tempering his rage– He might be more “focused” but he’s still dangerous).

Tengu are associated with the ascetic practice known as Shugendo, and they are usually depicted in the distinctive garb of its followers, the yamabushi.

Shugendo; is a highly syncretic Buddhist religion or sect and mystical-spiritual tradition which originated in pre-Feudal Japan, in which enlightenment is equated with attaining oneness with the kami (Kami can take on a few meanings. One of them being soul, another “natural forces” or even : In other cases, such as those concerning the phenomenon of natural emanation, kami are the spirits dwelling in trees, or forces of nature).

We did speak briefly of trees I think, a few threads back…

Yamabushi (Literally: “Mountain Warrior”) are Japanese mountain ascetic hermits with a long tradition as mighty warriors endowed with supernatural powers. They follow the Shugendo; doctrine, an integration of mainly esoteric Buddhism of the Shingon sect. For the most part solitary, they did form loose confederations, and associations with certain temples, and also participated in battles and skirmishes alongside samurai on occasion. Their origins can be traced back to the solitary Yamabito. There has also been cross-teaching with samurai weaponry and Yamabushi’s spiritual approach to life and fighting.

“Yamabushi began as yamahoshi, isolated clusters (or individuals) of mountain hermits, ascetics, and “holy men”, who followed the path of shugendo;, a search for spiritual, mystical, or supernatural powers gained through asceticism. Men who followed this path came to be known by a variety of names, including kenja, kenza, and shugenja. These mountain mystics came to be renowned for their magical abilities and occult knowledge, and were sought out as healers or mediums…

I know I wouldn’t be the first to make the connection, but here we have “warrior monks” who live a simple life, who are isolated, and who were sought out as healers. All of these things bring to mind the Elder Brother and the Quiet Isle. The Elder Brother is known as a spectacular healer, being able to cure difficult cases that no other healer could fix. The Quiet Isle is secluded from the rest of the world. And if the Elder Brother was a Knight, how many of the others on the QI were Knights too?

The Faith of the Seven have many “sects” within the Faith Militant. And Bonifer Hasty has his “Holy Hundred”. Interesting enough, Bonifer Hasty, like Ser Barristan, is also another who loved above his station (lost love/unrequited love, seems to be a theme in ASOIAF):

According to Barristan Selmy, Princess Rhaella and Bonifer Hasty were once infatuated with one another prior to the princess’ official betrothal to her brother Prince Aerys. Ser Bonifer once wore the princess’ favor in a tourney in which he defeated all challengers to name Rhaella his Queen of Love and Beauty. Their love was ultimately a brief thing. It could never have been otherwise; Ser Bonifer was of far too low birth to even be considered as a suitor for a princess of royal blood. When Rhaella married Aerys, Ser Bonifer found solace in religion, saying that only the Maiden could replace Rhaella in his heart.

 

MYTHS, DOGS, LOVE AND HEROES, PART TWO

Warning… crazy crackpots ahead!

The Dog and the Hero

Getting back on track in relation to the topic of “dogs”:

Also, I found interesting: ” . . . compared to other cultures, it is “striking “that Chinese literature rarely has given names for dogs. (Eberhard 2003: 82) This means that in the context of Chinese mythology, often a dog will play an important role, but that it will not be given a proper name, but rather being referred to as “dog”.

I think this might refer to “true names” and the power of names, which we did discuss in past incarnations of PTP.

People always call Sandor “Dog”, even Sansa questions him why he lets people do that.

In prior PTP threads, I also brought up Septon Meribald and his dog, which he calls “Dog”.

You can see the whole post here:

http://asoiaf.wester…20#entry3144324

There was a part in that post, about Septon Meribald talking to Podrick about Dog:

Oh.” Podrick did not know what to make of a dog named Dog, plainly. The boy chewed on that a while, then said, “I used to have a dog when I was little. I called him Hero.”

“Was he?”

“Was he what?”

“A hero.”

“No. He was a good dog, though. He died.

This may sound very crackpottish but, in my ponderings I’ve come across a book called “The Last Hero”. It’s part of the series of books involving “The Saint” which was written in the 1930’s, by Leslie Charteris. I feel I’ve come across some interesting parallels.

Just some quotes/synopsis of the book here:

The protagonist is a man called Simon Templar. He is a thief known as The Saint because of his initials and because his heroic exploits fly in the face of an otherwise nefarious reputation. Templar has aliases, often using the initials S.T. such as “Sebastian Tombs. His true name is unknown, and the name “Templar” was adopted at an early age from reading about the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, the Knights Templar. Blessed with boyish humor, he makes humorous and off-putting remarks…

As for “heroic exploits”, I’m thinking of when Sandor traveled with Arya, and how he tried to help Sansa in King’s Landing. He didn’t have to do those things. Sandor’s got a pretty nasty reputation, and I’ll bet no one would have expected him to help two highborn girls, and they would probably have trouble believing it. And yes, he does make some pretty funny (at least to me anyway!) and off putting remarks which are peppered throughout the story.

Again, here is someone who is using a moniker, like The Hound. And ironic that it’s stated Templar’s “true name” isn’t known. (There seems to be a lot of talk about “true” things in ASOIAF. “True wine”, “True knights”, etc.).

Given that Sandor is (we assume) on the QI as the Gravedigger, the mention of the Poor Soldiers of Christ made me think of The Poor Fellows of the Faith of the Seven. I think it’s safe to say that when Sandor was a child he wanted to be a knight, after all it was Gregor’s toy knight that he took, wanting to play with it—that caused him to be burned.

More on “The Saint” book:

The Last Hero starts… with an account of Simon Templar, The Saint, foiling an assassination attempt on a visiting prince by tricking the would-be assassin into blowing himself up. This leads to The Saint becoming a cause célèbre , to the point where the government offers him not only a full pardon for past crimes, but also a job as a sanctioned crime-buster. Templar politely refuses, saying he prefers to remain underground, his identity a secret to all but a select few.

Over the next three months, the Saint proceeds to operate so far in the shadows that the general public thinks he has retired or disappeared.

Now, of course Sandor’s not going to go around Westeros solving crimes (nor do I think that people will become enamored of him), but I think he still has a part to play in the upcoming story, and he’s going to do something fairly important (perhaps having to do with Sansa). I think it’s going to be a totally un-Houndlike deed, that is going to make someone offer to pardon him for “past crimes”, namely the things Rorge did while wearing Sandor’s Hound helm. And depending on what “heroic” thing he does, could he be offered a position in service? If so, does he take it? Will it be a position like Bonifer has? Or perhaps one in service to another person, in a different form.

The timeline to the Saint story above, in relation to Sandor’s might be a little off, because I think spending time out of the public eye, screams the Quiet Isle. Sandor will stay there for a while, then something will cause him to leave—later he’ll get the pardon, etc. (Wondering aloud: Will word get out that “The Hound” is dead? Or will Lem keep the helm?)

Back to the book: (this first bit below included just to fill in some background of the story, due to the mentioning of a “girlfriend”):

Later, during an outing in the countryside girlfriend Patricia Holm, Templar stumbles upon a secret government installation where he and Holm witness the testing of a deadly and mysterious weapon. Templar and Holm are about to leave when they encounter a giant of a man named Rayt Marius, an evil tycoon who wants the weapon for his own purposes.Things become complicated when Marius kidnaps Patricia Holm, setting Templar off into an uncharacteristically murderous rage.

Again, not everything matches up and the timing of the story is off. But I’m thinking the “giant” might be Petyr Baelish (re: the Titan Of Braavos). He’s got money, he’s one of the wealthiest men in Westeros now and we know he was the “Master of Coin”. He’s taken Sansa to the Vale against her will (i.e. kidnapped). Granted it’s not a weapon he wants, it’s Sansa. Does Sandor somehow find out about her being taken to the Vale by Petyr, and fly into a Cú Chulainn-type battle frenzy/ríastrad?

After rescuing Patricia from the clutches of Marius, Templar realizes that his quest for anonymity is at an end (with Rayt Marius now aware of who he really is) and begins to make plans to leave the country (along with his compatriots if they so choose).

Could it be that Sandor has a hand in rescuing Sansa? Would the rescue cause him to reveal himself? As for leaving Westeros? I don’t think that will happen but there is this from ASOS, the Arya chapter where she and Sandor are at the Inn:

The Hound never flicked an eye at Arya. “If I’d wanted you to know, I’d have told you. Are there ships at Saltpans?

It was never said exactly where Sandor was looking to go. One time when Arya asked him, his reply was, “Away. That’s all you need to know”. Where was he looking to go?

When Arya wanted to go to the Wall, Sandor told her they’d never make it. But I do remember from ACOK, after the Battle of the Blackwater when Sandor was in Sansa’s room, he told her he was looking to go “Away from the fire”  and “”North somewhere, anywhere.”

There is also a character in “The Last Hero”, Norman, who harbors an “unrequited love” for Patricia Holm. He is killed during the story. This is said of him:

Norman Kent is in effect “fey”, meaning doomed to die—for example, his hopeless but gallant love for Patricia Holm. Norman Kent, rather than Templar, is the true protagonist – certainly in the book’s later parts – and he is manifestly “The Last Hero” of the title.

Intriguing. We know the Hound already “died” for/because of Sansa. Could this also herald other things?

Part Three covering caves, Sandor’s Trial, and some other “stuff”, coming soon…

CAVES, HIDDEN SWORDS, RUBIES, FIRE OF THE GODS, HERO’S JOURNEY, PART THREE

Do any of my ramblings mean something? Maybe. Do crackpots abound? Definitely!

Caves:

In rereading the Arya chapter in ASOS which contained Sandor’s trial, it struck me how many times the phrase “knights of the hollow hill” or “hollow hill” was mentioned. (It’s generally mentioned whenever people bring up the Brotherhood). We know that the hollow hill is indeed a cave:

The walls were equal parts stone and soil, with huge white roots twisting through them like a thousand slow pale snakes. People were emerging from between those roots as she watched; edging out from the shadows for a look at the captives, stepping from the mouths of pitch-black tunnels, popping out of crannies and crevices on all sides.

Doesn’t that description sound similar to Bran’s thoughts on Bloodraven’s cave?

The roots were everywhere, twisting through earth and stone, closing off some passages and holding up the roofs of others. All the color is gone, Bran realized suddenly. The world was black soil and white wood. The heart tree at Winterfell had roots as thick around as a giant’s legs, but these were even thicker. And Bran had never seen so many of them.

There is a book called “The Crystal Cave” by Mary Stewart, it’s the first book of a quintet in a story about Merlin and King Arthur.

The book starts off with Myrddin Emrys, also known as Merlin, which is the Welsh form of the word “falcon”. Emrys is also known as Ambrosius, or “Prince of Light”. (I feel I found parallels to multiple characters in ASOIAF, including Jon Snow. There’s talk of a comet in the sky, and Merlin is a bastard born of a Princess, but she refuses to name who his father is).

Anyway, part of the summary of the story states:

Merlin is captured by Vortigern who is attempting to build a fortress at Dinas Emrys – but each night the newly built walls collapse. The king’s mystics say the fort will only be built when a child with no father is sacrificed and his blood spilt on the ground. Vortigern plans to use Merlin as the sacrifice. Merlin realizes that the fort’s foundation is unstable due to the caves below ground, but he attributes the problems to dragons beneath the ground.

This really intrigued me as I know many people on the board have speculated just what might be in some of those caves, and dragons were one of the things that were mentioned.

The second book in the series is called “The Hollow Hills.

Summarizing the story:

Merlin arranges for Arthur ‘s upbringing. And he learns that Magnus Maximus possessed an especially beautiful and well-made sword, which was taken back to Britain after his death. Inspired by a dream which he believes to be prophetic, Merlin returns to the North in search of this sword. In Wales, Merlin finds the sword in a deserted temple of Mithras hidden beneath the altar with a spearhead and a chalice. He takes only the sword.

In order to hide from overly curious people, Merlin becomes a hermit in an obscure shrine, providing healing to the injured and advice to the insecure. He commits himself to no religion, but “allows” whatever god is willing to receive the offerings at the shrine.

Years later, out on a ride, Arthur discovers Magnus Maximus’ sword—who is his ancestor and Merlin’s—hidden in a cave on an island in the center of a lake.

Side note: The Island, I presume we are to think of as Avalon: “Avalon or Ynys Afallon in Welsh—probably comes from the Welsh word afal, meaning apple. Geoffrey of Monmouth called it in Latin Insula Avallonis in the Historia. In the later Vita Merlini he called it Insula Pomorum the “isle of apples“. It is also possible that the tradition of an “apple” island among the British was influenced by Irish legends concerning the otherworld island home of Manannán mac Lir and Lugh, Emain Ablach (also the Old Irish poetic name for the Isle of Man), where Ablach means “Having Apple Trees” – derived from Old Irish aball (“apple”)—and is similar to the Middle Welsh name Afallach, which was used to replace the name Avalon in medieval Welsh translations of French and Latin Arthurian tales).

Gee, didn’t we have a whole discussion about apples not too long ago?

Back on track….so we have talk of caves yet again, as well as hollow hills. They seem to be special, sacred places, places that might hold mystical “powers” or meanings.

Sandor comes to mind, when it states “committing himself to no religion, but allowing whatever god is willing to receive offerings at the shrine”—the offering being himself (in a manner of speaking)…..the first shrine being the Hollow Hill—as he’s fought Dondarrion and been “pardoned” by R’hllor. We assume he grew up around the Faith of the Seven to a degree (Sandor is a Westerman by birth) and he’s now in the hands of the Elder Brother.

The Elder Brother is rumored a fantastic healer and the Quiet Isle is an island in the middle of the Trident. He could also be said to sound like Merlin in the book the Hollow Hills–providing healing to the sick and advice to the insecure. Also interesting is him telling Brienne how he was injured at the Battle of the Trident:

I took an arrow through the thigh and another through the foot, and my horse was killed from under me, yet I fought on.

From Arya’s chapter in ASOS, at the Inn:

Polliver and the Tickler had driven the Hound into a corner behind a bench, and one of them had given him an ugly red gash on his upper thigh to go with his other wounds.

(For more info about the EB as a healer, here is a link to a post I wrote regarding “Chiron the Wounded Healer”): http://asoiaf.wester…40#entry3550750

The Elder Brothers quarters, are located inside a cave, thus potentially being yet another shrine…

Quoted from AFFC:

Brother Narbert led the visitors around a chestnut tree to a wooden door set in the side of the hill.

“A cave with a door?” Ser Hyle said, surprised.

Septon Meribald smiled. “It is called the Hermit’s Hole. The first holy man to find his way here lived therein, and worked such wonders that others came to join him. That was two thousand years ago, they say. The door came somewhat later.”

Perhaps two thousand years ago the Hermit’s Hole had been a damp, dark place, floored with dirt and echoing to the sounds of dripping water, but no longer.

And interesting enough, we also know this: (The Elder Brother speaking to Brienne and Co.)

We have found silver cups and iron pots, sacks of wool and bolts of silk, rusted helms and shining swords... aye, and rubies.”

That interested Ser Hyle.

“Rhaegar’s rubies?”

 “It may be. Who can say? The battle was long leagues from here, but the river is tireless and patient. Six have been found. We are all waiting for the seventh.

First: Shining swords. Could he mean an actual sword (à la “Excalibur”)? Maybe.

But perhaps the Elder Brother is talking about Sandor himself. Does he see something in Sandor that could equate to a “shining sword”? Does he have a new purpose for him?

By the time Arya abandoned him near the Trident, Sandor was a broken man…(or for discussions sake) a broken sword.

When a sword is forged, it’s done so in intense heat, the metal beaten down and folded over itself many, many times. The sword is tempered, then sharpened and finished/polished.

The whole sword-making process could be a metaphor for the transformation Sandor must undergo, in order to come out the other side as a better man. The culmination of his life experience is was what led him to the point he’s at now. Living as “The Hound” just doesn’t cut it anymore, and it’s no longer possible for him to continue in that vein. He must be “remade” into something else–something stronger–hence the rebirth theory.

I know this next bit conflicts with what the Elder Brother seems to want for his Gravedigger, stating that the Hound is dead, and Sandor is at rest. But remember this bit from yet another Arya chapter in ASOS, when she and Sandor were traveling to the Red Wedding:

The big bad-tempered courser wore neither armor, barding, nor harness, and the Hound himself was garbed in splotchy green roughspun and a soot-grey mantle with a hood that swallowed his head. So long as he kept his eyes down you could not see his face, only the whites of his eyes peering out. He looked like some down-at-heels farmer. A big farmer, though. And under the roughspun was boiled leather and oiled mail, Arya knew.

And this is from one of Brienne’s chapters in AFFC when she and her companions arrived at the Quiet Isle:

Three men were waiting for them as they clambered up the broken stones that ringed the isle’s shoreline. They were clad in the brown-and-dun robes of brothers, with wide bell sleeves and pointed cowls. Two had wound lengths of wool about the lower halves of their faces as well, so all that could be seen of them were their eyes.

I think the snippet from Arya’s chapter is another foreshadowing/metaphor signaling that our roughspun-wearing Gravedigger might still have some need for a sword in the future. (How that might come about, if it does, still remains to be seen. I know we’ve touched on it here before, using various scenarios).

Also remember what Petyr Baelish said to Sansa about the hidden dagger you don’t see as being the most dangerous one.

Or rather, in this case that “dagger” might be wearing boiled leather and oiled mail, hidden under a roughspun robe.

This metamorphosis also harkens back to “The Hero’s Journey”. In the past I stated that Sandor might get a chance to become something like the knight he wanted to be when he was a child. Quite ironically, I’m going to use the book, “The Call of the Wild” as an example:

Buck, who is the hero, takes a journey, is transformed, and achieves an apotheosis. The format of the story is distinctly divided into four parts. In the first part Buck experiences violence and struggles for survival; in the second part he proves himself a leader of the pack; the third part brings him to his death (symbolically and almost literally); and in the fourth and final part he undergoes rebirth…

We can see phases of the Hounds life in the above as well. The struggle to survive while a young child with an abusive brother, then growing and becoming a feared and accomplished swordsman, the “death of the Hound”, and the coming “rebirth”, which we assume will take place on the QI.

Also, not to mention that at the end of “The Call of the Wild”, Buck goes off with the wolves.

For more about my thoughts on The Hound, his transformation and heroes, here is a link to two older posts of mine, “Myths, Love, Dogs and Heroes”:

http://asoiaf.wester…20#entry3691990

http://asoiaf.wester…80#entry3697844

Second: Rubies. I have long been of the thought that “rubies” don’t necessarily relate to stones, but to people. And that the seventh ruby is not a ruby, but a person. If this is true, then who are the rest of the “rubies”? Who else is on the Quiet Isle (if anyone), in addition to Sandor? Also, was Sandor the sixth “ruby” they found? I am tending to think so, unless they are waiting for his complete “turn-around”, thus becoming the seventh one instead.

Something to think about: I find it highly ironic there were seven men that traveled with Ned Stark to the Tower of Joy, on that one fateful day. (Eddard Stark, William Dustin, Howland Reed, Martyn Cassel, Theo Wull and Ser Mark Rhyswell). Ned Stark and Howland Reed were the only survivors, Ned buried the dead, in cairns.

Could this mean that Sandor will be taking a journey along with some other characters? What journey might that be? Something similar to the importance of what happened at the Tower of Joy?

(I’m sure there are others, but off the top of my head I can come up with the names of five other people whom he might be in close proximity to/has chance of meeting if he leaves the QI: Brienne, Jaime, Stoneheart, Pod, Hyle Hunt—though we’re not sure what happened to Pod or Hyle).

But rubies are associated with R’hllor, “The Lord of Light” (Melisandre wears one around her neck), yet the Quiet Isle is of the Faith of the Seven.

Regarding R’hllor, I want to draw an interesting parallel to Agni, a Hindu god:

Agni is a Hindu deity, one of the most important of the Vedic gods. He is the god of fire and the acceptor of sacrifices. The sacrifices made to Agni go to the deities because Agni is a messenger from and to the other gods. Agni has three forms: fire, lightning and the sun.

As to those three forms, in relation to Sandor’s trial; perhaps fire could relate to Beric Dondarrion’s flaming sword; the sun might be the fire he and Sandor were circling as they fought (my theory on this is that our Earth orbits the sun). And as for lightning, Beric was known as “The Lightning Lord”.

Agni also had the power to impart immortality on mortals, as well as remove all sins at the time of one’s death. Agni is the fire of sacrifice, and thus a mediator between man and the gods.

His attributes are an axe, a torch, prayer beads and a flaming spear. Agni is represented as red and two-faced (reminds me of poor Sandor’s burnt face and his two “personalities”– Sandor/The Hound), suggesting both his destructive and his beneficent qualities, and with black eyes and hair. Seven rays of light emanate from his body…

As to those seven rays of light…we all know seven is an important number in many religions. As stated in the past, certain aspects of The Faith of the Seven bring to mind Christianity:

In early Christian iconography, the dove of the Holy Ghost is often shown with an emanation of seven rays, as is the image of the Madonna, often in conjunction with a dove or doves. The Monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai, , shows the Transfiguration of Christ in the apse mosaic, with “seven rays of light shining from the luminous body of Christ over the apostles Peter, James and John.” In the present day Byzantine-style St. Louis Cathedral in Missouri, the center of the sanctuary has an engraved circle with many symbols of the Holy Trinity. The inscription reads: “Radiating from this symbol are seven rays of light representing the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost.

The seven gifts of the Holy Ghost are: wisdom, understanding, wonder and awe, right judgment, knowledge, courage, and reverence.

Which in the Faith of the Seven probably point to: The Crone, Mother, Maiden, Father, Smith, Warrior, Stranger.

I also found this passage (a conversation between Brienne and Thoros, when she was captured by the BwB) from AFFC intriguing:

And justice? Can that be found in caves?”

“Justice.” Thoros smiled wanly. “I remember justice. It had a pleasant taste. Justice was what we were about when Beric led us, or so we told ourselves. We were king’s men, knights, and heroes… but some knights are dark and full of terror, my lady. War makes monsters of us all.”

“Are you saying you are monsters?”

“I am saying we are human. You are not the only one with wounds, Lady Brienne. Some of my brothers were good men when this began. Some were… less good, shall we say? Though there are those who say it does not matter how a man begins, but only how he ends. I suppose it is the same for women.

I like how Thoros takes a spin on the bit right before Sandor’s trial:

For the night is dark,” the others chanted, Harwin and Anguy loud as all the rest, “and full of terrors.”

“This cave is dark too,” said the Hound, “but I’m the terror here…

And though the underlined quote above can really apply to anybody in the story (take Jaime or Theon for example), I think it could also speak of something for our Gravedigger. Remember how badly Arya wanted Sandor to die? That she was so enraged Beric didn’t kill him, that she ran at Sandor with a knife herself? Perhaps in a way, justice was served that day in the hollow hill. Digging those graves is a penance for all the lives he’s taken over the years. When he’s done, I think he’s going to find a new purpose in life…

I’d like to wrap on a slightly different note and go back to the book “The Crystal Cave”. As I stated earlier, I thought there were definitely parallels to Jon Snow’s story arc, and I know some people on the board have mentioned that Jon and Sansa have some similarities in their literary journey. In regard to Sansa, I found it interesting the chapters in the book are as thus. (Coincidence? I tend to think not):

The Dove

The Falcon

The Wolf

The Red Dragon

The Coming of the Bear

The chapters could correlate to Sansa’s personal journey and growth in the story—starting out as the “Dove”, becoming the “Falcon” in the Eyrie, leaving the Eyrie and changing to a “Wolf” (remember she heard the wind howling like wolf as she came down the mountain?). We still need to find out what the other two chapters might mean.

But I tend to think the chapters probably relate to the men that Sansa has encountered/will encounter in her story.

Again, Sansa herself is “The Dove”, at the beginning of the story.

“The Falcon” could be either (or both) Sweetrobin and Harry the Heir–“The Young Falcon”. We’ve heard a little about Harry, but we’ve not seen him just yet.

“The Wolf” is Petyr Baelish: “The Christian symbolism where the wolf represents the devil, or evil, being after the “sheep” (a.k.a. Sansa)who are the living faithful, is found frequently in western literature. The Bible contains 13 references to wolves, usually as metaphors for greed and destructiveness.

The wolf is repeatedly mentioned in the scriptures as an enemy of flocks: a metaphor for evil men with a lust for power and dishonest gain, as well as a metaphor for Satan preying on innocent God-fearing Christians, contrasted with the shepherd Jesus who keeps his flock safe.

Even more ironic is that there are sheep on the Fingers and Petyr refers to himself as “The Lord of Sheepshit”.

“The Red Dragon”: Not too sure about this one. On one hand, it could be referring to Aegon/Young Griff. (Yes, I know many people feel he’s not a real Targ). We’ve not seen him in relation to Sansa’s story—though we have speculated on things that might happen with the two of them. On the other hand, perhaps this points to Tyrion, again—some people seem to think he’s half-Targ—that his mother was raped by the Mad King.

“The Coming of the Bear”: Sandor came to mind—I recall our discussions on “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”. And gee, don’t bears hibernate in caves?

Okay… I’m leaving now!

Standalone II

A quick writeup on the Serpentine steps scene

by KittyKatKnits

As I’d mentioned, all that was happening between them on the serpentine steps didn’t really click with me until brashcandy and Lyanna Stark told me how to look at it. Since then, I’ve been rereading several scenes with this approach and it’s made a huge difference in helping me understand what is actually happening.

So, Sansa is quickly moving down the serpentine steps, lost in thought about Dontos and going home (I love that she thinks of Florian taking her home when she actually reels into the Hound). From the description, we know that Sansa is moving quickly in an effort to get back to her room unnoticed, not necessarily paying attention to what may be around her. Then, all the sudden Sandor lurches out. We know that she isn’t paying attention but from the way he stops her, we can tell that he deliberately moved out from the doorway to stop her. At this point, Sansa doesn’t just bump into him, she “caromed into him and lost her balance.” In other words, she ran into him at a high speed, likely with a fair amount of bodily contact as it was enough for her to start falling down. Sandor reaches out and grabs her wrist before she actually falls down—but notice that he doesn’t let go. He says something to her, laughs, and then says something else. They talk for a while—and he’s holding onto her the entire time. She tries to wriggle free, but he makes a point of maintaining that contact with her. At this point, he shakes her in an effort to find out where she has been but still does not let go. Sansa answers:

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

So, look at how she says this, not so much at what she is saying. Sansa is pausing, trying to think of what to say; in other words, it is taking a bit for her to get all those words out. And Sandor is still holding onto her. He replies to that comment before finally letting go. At this stage, he’s made a conscious decision not just to grab her to keep her from falling but to maintain that contact. He doesn’t need to, she’s not going to trip and she’s not trying to run away, but he’s still keeping a form of physical contact between them. The only reason why is because he wants too.

Now, he starts rambling away about her looks and her singing songs, but notice what he’s doing the entire time. He’s swaying while standing still, he’s reeling, almost falling, in other words he’s really fucking drunk. His inhibitions are down, he’s not going to be as guarded as he otherwise would be. That helps to explain why he is so comfortable commenting on her body, making a sexually-loaded comment at her, and touching her the way he does. He’s got some liquid courage working on him right now.

Now, they start moving back to her room, with him following right behind her. He’s close but not touching her until they meet Blount at the bridge. Here, Sandor lays a “heavy hand on her shoulder.” He’s not just doing a light touch, he’s gripping her and we don’t read anything about him letting go either. He’s keeping that contact with her again while he talks to Boros. Afterwards, they again resume walking towards her room, while he is telling her about his House. Then, all the sudden, Sandor does this:

A hound will die for you but never lie to you. And he’ll look you straight in the face.” He cupped her under the jaw, raising her chin, his fingers pinching her painfully. “And that’s more than little birds can do, isn’t it? I never got my song.

From the context of what he is saying to her, combined with the fact that he is reaching out to touch her, we can figure out where he is standing. Sandor, based upon his statement, is looking down at her, making eye contact. Then all the sudden, he reaches out to cup her jaw and raising her face to look at him while also bringing the conversation back to the song, a sexual metaphor. So, picture that scene for a moment and think about how close he would have to be for to cup her face like that. Now picture how he has her, is holding onto her face so that they are looking at each other. He’s doing this the whole time he’s talking about taking a song from her, he never lets go. Has the way he is holding onto her at this point made you think of anything yet?

Here’s a hint: [kiss emoticon]

So, hopefully this clarifies that scene you a bit. As I said, what’s unsaid is just as big as what is actually said in this scene. Adds a whole new dimension to it.

Standalone III

On similarities between Jaime/Brienne and Sandor/Sansa

by Lyanna Stark

Just copy-pasted a bullet pointed list from the other thread (without a real explanation, hopefully I’ll get to that later tonight, but I have a couple of things that need doing first!).

  • They are both loyal to House Lannister at the start of the series, with everything that entails.
  • They were both introduced as killers of children.
  • They were or are both at some point part of the Kingsguard.
  • They are both maimed.
  • They both interact with someone who at first glance is their almost complete opposite.
  • This interaction plus outside events work as a catalyst for change and towards looking for their own moral compass.
  • Allegiance shifted from House Lannister (Jaime defies Cersei completely when sending Brienne after Sansa and the Hound is “his own” and was looking to join Robb).
  • They both name their horses (Stranger and Honour).
  • They are both captured by the BWB (well, Jaime is about to be, and in fact when Sandor was captured Gendry thought it was the Kingslayer).
  • They both operate under a sobriquet that isn’t entirely flattering and can be argued is a part of the identity they show to the public.
  • They’re both disillusioned by knighthood.
  • They were both formidable fighters.

So far for the Jaime/Sandor comparison. I think you can make a similar comparison for Brienne and Sansa, but the main characteristic that Sansa and Brienne share is that they are stuck in a naïve worldview where knights are honourable, people are either Evil or Good, noblemen are, well, noble, etc., etc. Jaime and Sandor work as foils for this, but at the same time, neither Jaime nor Sandor come out as they were since the interactions have affected them. As of AFFC, Brienne and Sansa are both more jaded, they’re on their guard constantly, while Jaime and Sandor are both trying to come to terms to various degrees with what they’ve done and try and find some sort of moral compass.

Since I had a really boring and slow day at work I copy pasted together by earlier Jaime/Brienne and Sandor/Sansa parallels with some new stuff and since I felt sorry for myself due to it being a. Monday and b. my birthday c. and songs have a prominent role in story, I made it into a pop quiz about songs. If you get all the songs and artists right, you get a virtual cookie.

Comfortably numb

Naïveté and honour vs. cynicism and lack of moral compass. This is perhaps the first thing that stands out as a similarity. Jaime and Sandor are both pretty jaded and cynical and have adopted defence mechanisms to deal with the world as they see it: Jaime by being arrogant, selfish and flippant and Sandor by being nihilistic in his outlook of how the strong rule and the weak need to get out of the way. Sansa and Brienne are both younger, grew up with the ideals of knighthood and believe that there is good and bad, that the romantic songs are true and that goodness is naturally valued in the world.

Drop Dead Gorgeous

Beauty vs. the Beast. This one is also pretty striking, since Jaime is the golden boy Lannister, perhaps one of the most good-looking men in the realm at the start of the series, if not THE most good-looking man. Sansa, on the other hand, is still very young but said to be very pretty and as she’s growing older, Cat is convinced she will be even better-looking than her, and Cat herself is supposed to be amazingly beautiful, albeit perhaps not in the same fiery way as Cersei.

Brienne and Sandor are constantly described as hideous, ugly or in Brienne’s case even freakish. Sandor’s burned face adds a lot to this, but it’s pretty clear from his description that even without them he would not be taking home any beauty contests.

Knowing me, knowing you

Seeing value and quality in the other. Sandor and Sansa’s relationship starts off with him telling her the story of his burns and she reaches out to him in empathy. This seems to be a milestone of sorts, since one has to wonder if anyone has ever showed Sandor any empathy about what happened to him, or if anyone has taken a firm stand like Sansa did here and basically said “you were wronged.” It’s fairly obvious Sandor sees Sansa’s capability for empathy and justice as good qualities. Sansa, on the other hand, gets the benefit of his advice on how to deal with Joffrey, and even if she is still afraid of Sandor during her stay in Kings Landing, she comes to more and more see him as her protector and adviser. She also wishes Dontos had some of his ferocity.

Jaime and Brienne have a mutual “Woah” moment when they fight each other. This is especially hilarious since we see it first from Jaime’s POV and then from Brienne’s, and both of them are surprised by how great a fighter the other one is. Jaime with two hands would certainly be better than Brienne, but he is still losing to her and after that, he seems to very much appreciate her skills. Brienne, on the other hand, is almost in reverie in AFFC about Jaime’s skills. This is the easy “connect” these two have.

However, Jaime also seems to come to value Brienne’s determination, her bravery and her strict adherence to her moral compass, and also her empathy and understanding. Brienne in turn is more difficult, since she’s less forthright with what she values in Jaime apart from his fighting skills, but I think her empathy is definitely at work here, both when it comes to his maiming but also from when she hears his story of Aerys. She is also clear with that he has trusted her with his honour and that she finds this very compelling.

That’s not my name

What is in a name? Both Sandor and Jaime operate under sobriquets who are perhaps less than flattering and have become part of their official personas. “Kingslayer” and “The Hound” are both infamous. Further, we see Jaime disdainfully calling Brienne “Wench” and at the same time keep getting put off when she refers to him as “Kingslayer” right back. It marks the real transition in their relationship that Jaime thinks of her as “Brienne” and she in turn of him as “Jaime.” This never gets more obvious than when Jaime punches Red Ronnet Connington for speaking to her improperly.

Sansa in turn struggles with naming Sandor, since calling him by his first name would be far too familiar, and he won’t accept “Ser” nor “My Lord,” so instead she settles for “The Hound” with the occasional “Sandor Clegane” thrown in (and speaking directly to him, she seems to stick with “you” and no title or name), and in her fantasies he remains nameless. Sandor, on the other hand, invents his own nickname for Sansa: “Little Bird,” which starts out as a bit of a mockery, but ends up seeming endearing, and quite apt for her situation as a caged little bird in Kings Landing.

Maladjusted

The Not Ser. “I am no Ser.” We know that The Hound is fond of saying this, but Brienne says the same. I almost bounced when checking some AFFC details that she comes right out and uses those exact words. Interestingly, Jaime at one point thinks that she is “The Hound with teats” and he seems to mean this both by way of looks, but also that she is strong and efficient and gets things done. At first glance, only a negative thing, but in some ways also a backhanded compliment. Pod also seems to struggle a bit with naming Brienne in the same way as Sansa does with Sandor. “Ser, My Lady, Ser?”

I hurt myself today

Of Wounds and Injuries. Jaime gets maimed by the loss of his hand and Brienne when she gets bitten by Rorge. Sandor, on the other hand, starts out with half his face burnt off, then gets a part of his arm burnt off at the BWB fight, and then as if that was not enough he suffers a really bad thigh wound from the Tickler/Polliver fight. The poor guy can’t catch a break and soon he will be one big mess of scar tissue. Sansa is the only one who escapes mostly unharmed, except from the beatings in King’s Landing where she has to dress to hide the bruises covering her body. On the other hand, she has arguably sustained a lot of pretty bad emotional wounds in a very short period of time, starting from when her wolf was killed and her father beheaded, and onwards through a forced marriage and almost murder by Lysa.

Brothers in Arms

Keeping it in the family? Jaime has in many ways been shaped by the relationship with his older sister. He’s only ever existed in relation to her, in many ways. The same goes for Sandor, who was forever shaped by his older brother. Both siblings suffer from a lack of empathy for other human beings, and even if Sandor’s psychopath brother is the more obvious case, Cersei also has a huge knack for cruelty. Even more bizarrely, Gregor and Cersei seem to have some sort of odd rapport, in that he rushes to King’s Landing when Cersei writes to fight the Mountain. Later on, he’s also the one who whisks Cersei away after her walk of shame. Just a side note really, but I found it odd that the dastardly siblings of Jaime and Sandor are in cahoots, of sorts.

This charming man

On the issue of rudeness and mocking. Sandor is often crude, sometimes mocking and even occasionally descends into being hurtful and threatening to Sansa. Jaime in the beginning makes a point of mocking Brienne and trying to make jibes at every possible opportunity. As he gets to know her, he stops doing it, and once he finds out how Red Ronnet Connington hurt Brienne (in a rather similar fashion to what he did himself) he gets so angry he punches Red Ronnet in the face. We see later that Brienne found Jaime’s comments very hurtful, but it also seems clear that she was more upset with Red Ronnet and his group.

Keep the Faith

Religious imagery. Knighthood is connected to the Faith of the Seven, and Jaime/Brienne and Sansa/Sandor are also to a degree surrounded by religious imagery. When Jaime loses his hand, he realises that he is praying. Then later on, he stands vigil in the Sept of Baelor and thinks back to the vigil when he became a knight. He also “defiles” the altar of the Mother when he screws Cersei on it. Next to his dead son. Brienne prays to the Warrior and the Crone, she swears a very impressive oath by all the Seven, tags along with Septon Meribald and finally “confesses” of sorts to the Elder Brother. Sansa prays to the Seven and asks them to save a large number of people and to gentle the Hound’s rage. Sandor in turn denies the existence of gods initially, but ends up “pardoned” by Rh’llor and then saved by the Elder Brother and seems to be living a life of penitence among the monks who worship the Seven, in an ironic twist of fate (faith?) for an atheist.

I stand in front of I’ll take the force of the blow

The Protector. Jaime acts like this for Brienne, both when the Brave Companions are about to rape her and then again later on when he returns and jumps down the bear pit with her. The Hound likewise acts as Sansa’s protector when he saves her from the riot and carries her back to safety and also later he prevents her falling. Brienne also motivates Jaime to keep on living and not giving up on life (interesting to note: she calls him “Jaime” in this conversation), while Sandor subtly blocks Sansa’s attempt to throw Joffrey off the battlements.

Bright eyes burning like fire

Eyes are the windows to the soul? Jaime thinks Brienne’s eyes are beautiful. They’re blue like sapphires. Sansa’s eyes are commented on by Tyrion to be a deep Tully blue, while Sansa is not so put off by the Hound’s scars as she is by the rage in his eyes. Incidentally, Jaime reflects while standing vigil over Tywin that he can cry no tears, but also that he feels no rage, and he finds the former totally normal, but the latter strange since he thinks Jaime Lannister always felt rage. Another thing he seems to share with the Hound, together perhaps with “feeling truly alive” while fighting.

Changes

On change and character growth. Jaime thinks to himself that he wanted to become Ser Arthur Dayne but he turned into the Smiling Knight instead. Sandor played with Gregor’s toy knight, which tends to indicate he once wanted to be a gallant knight with what that entails, but instead he’s been forced to live in a world of monsters and made himself hard and brutal to survive. During his gradual breaking down and his final breakdown scene with Arya, it’s obvious he hates what he became.

Brienne realises, of course, that everything is not so black and white and that in some situations there is not a good or honourable way out. Sometimes, oaths will conflict and when they do, which one do you follow?

Sansa has learnt the hard way not to trust anyone and to read people carefully and always asses their motives.

In Dust We Trust

On developing trust in an at first unlikely person. When it comes to trust, this stands out the most in Jaime’s storyline that he seems to trust Brienne implicitly and without question or hesitation. Brienne in turn seems to still sometimes question certain things, as if she doesn’t quite dare put her trust in Jaime, but she still ends up doing it. She doesn’t think he has sent her out on a fool’s errand. Sansa, on the other hand, shares Brienne’s initial doubts as she feels she cannot put her trust in the Hound, but gradually she seems to be won over and even after the Blackwater incident she seems convinced, perhaps more than ever, that he would never hurt her. The hardest one to judge is Sandor since we don’t get to see inside his head, but despite the first death threat, he seems to realize she is keeping his trust and not telling anyone about the secret of his burns.

Touch Me

The physical dimension. Both relationships are characterized with a parallel more platonic and chaste type of love, with Brienne for Renly and Sansa for Loras, yet between Brienne/Jaime and Sansa/Sandor we see an awful lot of physical contact going on. Not always of the positive kind either, but surprisingly often it is. Jaime describes Brienne as warm against him, and at the famous scene in the Harrenhall bathhouse he describes her as strong and her touch as “gentle, gentler than Cersei ever was.” Sansa often describes Sandor’s touch and actions as “surprisingly gentle” or “not ungently.” So, both “the beasts” here are described using very similar vocabulary.

I dreamed a dream

Dreaming and fantasising. Jaime has a dream where he is naked in a cave under Casterly Rock, where he has Brienne alongside with him and they are both naked, and like in the baths at Harrenhal he reflects that she is warm and also that she looks more womanly than he remembers.

Brienne thinks of Renly while in the bath and how he died, but his face keeps turning into Jaime and she tries to get it back to Renly.

Sansa dreams first that she’s back in her marriage bed with Tyrion and that he morphs into Sandor, and then later on when Sweetrobin kisses her she tries to picture Loras, but he turns into Sandor, too.

Good luck, and may the best quizzer reign supreme!

Standalone IV

On similarities between Sansa and Arya’s arcs

by Lyanna Stark

There are several parallels between Arya and Sansa. People tend to somewhat confusingly focus on the differences instead of the similarities.

  • Both Sansa and Arya grew up sheltered in Winterfell, with parents who loved them and sheltered them, and their first real experience with “the outside world” was during the trip down the Kingsroad.
  • There we also see examples of their romantic notions. Yes, both Arya and Sansa have them. Sansa’s are probably more obvious to people with her AGOT focus on knights, songs, romantic love, etc. while Arya has a far more romantic notion about justice and righteousness. She thinks it’s OK to beat up Joffrey, a prince of the blood, because he threatened a butcher’s boy, but in the real world, a prince or a king can kill as many butcher’s boys they want, and nobody is going to say anything about it. It’s the same with Arya being subjected the Gregor’s cruelty, Amory Lorch, etc. In that way, she gets stripped of her romantic notions the same as Sansa.
  • Both Sansa and Arya get to witness cruelty, abuse of power, both get beaten up and start to reflect on the fact that the people who ought to help others don’t. While Arya may vocalise it less, she does think in ACOK that knights should help the weak, just like Sansa thinks. By around the Red Wedding, I think both Arya and Sansa are completely  stripped of any romantic or innocent notions.
  • They also have in common that they get exposed to “teachers” who help them learn new and crucial things. In Sansa’s case, they are the Hound, Cersei and Littlefinger, mainly (although Cersei is not a “nice” mentor by any stretch of the imagination, she does tell Sansa some interesting things about the backside of queendom and the role of a lady). In Arya’s case, she first has Yoren, Jaqen, briefly the BWB and then the Hound before she ends up in Braavos with the Kindly Man.
  • Perhaps interestingly, all of these teachers are rather “inappropriate” either in behaviour or in who they are for girls of that age. The things they teach can also often be “inappropriate” for Sansa’s and Arya’s intended role (intended here as “intended by Ned and Cat”).
  • It’s also probably a given that neither Sansa nor Arya will want a traditional life after all they’ve gone through. (People who think Sansa does, need to read her chapters more carefully.) They are also in the unique position that should they return to Winterfell and somehow reunite, they are in effect without a patriarch who can make decisions for them. They are also the oldest siblings left if we assume Jon is a Targaryen and as Robb is definitely dead. If Bran remains a tree, it will most likely fall to Sansa and Arya to do something about Winterfell’s reconstruction.

Standalone V

An analysis of female pride in Sansa’s arc

by Queen Cersei I

Rapsie said:

Now there is also a general stereotype about people who read fantasy books: namely that they are male, probably have difficulties dating women and invariably have a shit time at high school. While this is a ridiculously over the top assumption, there do seem to be a number of posters who equate Sansa to that mean girl they went to school with, or that girl at high school who would never date them, etc.

Yet is this attitude something that arises through the prejudice and personal experiences of readers alone? Or is it an attitude that is clearly present in GRRM’s presentation of Sansa in the text itself? After a careful rereading of Sansa’s character arc in AGOT through AFFC, I am going to have to say the latter. And here’s the thing—Sansa is not portrayed negatively so much because of her femininity, but because of her pride in herself, her birth, and feelings of entitlement towards what she wants (all qualities that go in numerous positively portrayed male characters unquestioned).

A few quotes to illustrate what I’m talking about:

Arya says,

Sometimes it’s just fun to ride along with the wagons and talk to people.”
Sansa knew all about the sorts of people Arya liked to talk to: squires and grooms and serving girls, old men and naked children, rough spoken freeriders of certain birth. Mycah was the worst; a butcher’s boy, thirteen and wild, he slept in the meat wagon and smelled of the slaughtering black. Just the sight of him was enough to make Sansa feel sick, but Ayra seemed to prefer his company to hers.

Sansa on Arya:

Her long horsey face got the stubborn look that meant she was going to do something willful.
Sansa could never understand how two sisters, born only two years apart, could be so different. It would have been easier if Arya had been a bastard, like their half brother Jon. She even looked like Jon, with the long face and brown hair of the starks, and nothing of their lady mother in her face or her coloring. And Jon’s mother had been common, or so people whispered.

What did Gregor do ?” Arya asked.
“He burned down a holdfast and murdered a lot of people, women and children too.”
Arya screwed up her face in a scowl. “Jaime Lannister murdered Jory and Heward, and Wyl, and the Hound murdered Mycah. Somebody should have beheaded them.”
“It’s not the same,” Sansa said. “The Hound is Joffrey’s sworn shield. Your butcher’s boy attacked the prince.

Once Sansa had feared that Snarks and Grupkins had stolen her sister away, and Arya was only a replacement. But when she’d asked her lady mother if she was sure that Arya was really hers and not a bastard, she had laughed and said she was sure.

Why couldn’t Arya be sweet and delicate and kind, like princess Myrcella? She would have liked a sister like that.

This are only some of the countless quotes in AGOT featuring these two, where the Arya/ Sansa dynamic is portrayed in the following fashion—Sansa as the rather snobbish, elitist, bratty girly girl, Arya as the unfairly persecuted, kind, down-to-earth tomboy with a heart of gold.

On Winteriscoming.net, someone wrote: “Arya is amazing and bucks the Westerosi female role, but that doesn’t mean Sansa sucks for wanting to wear dresses and get married. The habitual pitting of two females against each other is an annoying bit of sexism.” And yet, it judging from quotes like the ones above, it seems that “this annoying bit of sexism” of comparing Sansa unfavorably to Arya comes directly from the author himself.

Numerous people have confessed to either find this harmless or unintentional; GRRM merely mildly taking on some of the prejudices of his time. But honestly, due to the stringency and repetition of this theme (Sansa is a pretty girl who knows she’s a pretty girl, wants a handsome mate, and is proud of herself and willing to disobey her father to get what she wants—and therefore is bad, bad, BAD!) I simply cannot see it as accidental on the author’s part.

What really seems an issue here, rather than GRRM simply trying to characterize a teenage girl and failing to do so, is that Sansa—like Cersei and a few others—is being punished for her pride. Specifically, her female pride. Not the same sort of “acceptable” pride of women like Brienne, Arya and Asha, that entails confidence in oneself and one’s ass-kicking abilities, but that nevertheless leaves the individual in question without airs, accessible, and accepting. This, in stark contrast to the “proud” but friendly, accessible, girl/woman of the people attitudes of females like Arya, Asha, Brienne, et. al., is a sort of pride where the female in question holds herself in high regard due to her beauty, high birth, and accomplishments. She knows what she wants and what she deserves; and this may lead her to looking down upon men GRRM relates to or rejecting men due to their physical appearance, social class, or what have you. (I should say people in general, and yet, when this tendency is shown with both Sansa and Cersei, it is always men who they are rejecting, and being demonized for it.)

With Cersei, strangely, it seems she is very much characterized as “that bitch who wouldn’t talk to me in high school.” It seems that fans are (at least initially) encouraged to dislike her for her cold demeanor and her looking down on Tyrion (as he himself does with ugly females, but whatever) as for her evil deeds.

For instance:

His sister peered up at him with the same expression of faint distaste she had worn since the day she was born.

It seems as though GRRM considers her placing herself above Tyrion and feeling a distaste for his looks, acting snobbishly towards him, as indications of wicked, bitchy nature.

This continues, when Cersei’s aloofness, air of superiority, and tendency to pay little attention to “good” men the author relates to is highlighted, and contrasted with Myrcella’s naturally sweet, accepting nature:

Will Bran get better, uncle?” little Myrcella asked. She had all of her mother’s beauty, but none of her pride.

Consider the way the attitudes of the two women are contrasted as they enter the Winterfell feast in the beginning:

(Mryrcella) …was a wisp of a girl, not quite eight, her hair a cascade of golden curls under a jeweled net. Jon noticed the shy looks she gave Robb as they passed between the tables and the timid way she smiled at him… Robb… was grinning like a fool.
His lord father came first, escorting the queen. She was as beautiful as men said….His father helped her up the steps to the dais and lead her to her seat, but the queen never so much as looked at him.

Cersei’s lack of interest in men like Ned and Tyrion is subtly portrayed as evidence of snobbery and specifically feminine pride on her part. And is portrayed far less favorably than the modesty and friendliness of a “good” girl like Myrcella.

And to an extent, a similar style of characterization is taken with Sansa. Rather overtly in the first book; and far more subtly in books two and three. For instance, Sansa’s thoughts on social class in AGOT:

Arya says, “Sometimes it’s fun to ride in the back, so you get to talk to all different sorts of people.

Sansa knew all about the sorts of people Arya liked to talk to: squires and grooms and serving girls, old men and naked children, rough spoke freeriders of certain birth. Mycah was the worst; a butcher’s boy, thirteen and wild, he slept in the meat wagon and smelled of the slaughtering black. Just the sight of him was enough to make Sansa feel sick, but Ayra seemed to prefer his company to hers.”

Here Sansa places herself above some common born boy. (The more accepting Arya is portrayed as morally correct here.)

I see very little effort being made to understand or sympathize with Sansa’s feelings here, or placing her attitude in context. And, once again, it is worth noting that Sansa is being castigated for her specifically female pride; for placing herself above this boy due to her high birth and social background.

I think this IS a gender issue, too, since I’ve noted males like Jaime, Tyrion, and even Ned Stark doing the same thing (operating with a great awareness of their social situation and place in the Westeros hierarchy, and looking down upon others due to this issue) with no caricature or criticism whatsoever on the part of the author. Hell, Shae and Tyrion’s entire relationship is built around this issue, but that is held against him quite infrequently.

At other points, Sansa demonstrates awareness that her legitimate birth places her above the illegitimate Jon; this attitude is portrayed in the following manner:

“Sansa could never understand how two sisters, born only two years apart, could be so different. It would have been easier if Arya had been a bastard, like their half brother Jon. And Jon’s mother had been common, or so people whispered.”

Sansa sighed as she stitched. “Poor Jon she said. He’ get’s jealous because he’s a bastard.”
He’s our brother,” Arya said, much too loudly. Her voice cut through the afternoon quiet of the tower room. Septa Mordane raised her eyes…
“Our half brother,” Sansa corrected, soft and precise.

“He missed the girls too, even Sansa, who never called him anything but “my half brother” since she was old enough to understand what “bastard” meant.

Once again, Arya is portrayed as the moral, correct sister; Sansa as the foolish, snobbish one. And once again, Sansa taking some pride in her social station and using it to place herself above others—only in the context of her own thoughts, in an utterly harmless manner—is portrayed as bitchy, wrong, unforgivable; something that she needs to be taught a lesson about. And yet, numerous male characters carry these same views, and are not caricatured for them at all. (Also interesting is that once again, Sansa is seeing herself as socially superior to a male the author relates to. Coincidence? Intentional? You be the judge.)

Ultimately Sansa, in AGOT and to an extent later novels, is portrayed as “good” but also with a good deal of subtle devices to portray her as wrong, incorrect, and needing to be “taught a lesson” about countless matters. (Which is perhaps why numerous people have creepily referred to everything that has happened to her since her father’s downfall as (and I quote) “Sansa reaping what she has sown.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………

Actually, that earlier post was just the first part of an incredibly long post regarding how I felt Sansa was being negatively portrayed for unfair reasons, then more or less “broken” over the course of the next few novels. Here’s the second part of my little essay/post, for anyone who’s interested.

It is this Sansa being portrayed as good but (in many respects) intentionally annoying to the reader, and needing to be “taught a lesson”)that makes me so uncomfortable with Sansa’s character arc throughout the first four books. Because try as I might, I cannot get over the idea that Sansa, in ACOK-AFFC, is being punished for something.
Oh, not overtly, and the treatment of Joffrey and others is portrayed as “wrong.” Yet I couldn’t help but notice that in a sense, like Estella from great expectations, it seemed the author was at times using a sociopathic, evil male to “give Sansa what she needed”—i.e., break her noxious pride and beat her into shape. So while Sansa’s physical abuse and trials are portrayed as clearly wrong and she is never portrayed without sympathy, there’s also a weird feel to them, as though GRRM is somehow endeavoring to “break” Sansa of her feminine pride and other undesirable qualities that she shows overtly in AGOT, more subtly in ACOK and ASOS.

*Also interesting—Sansa is clearly portrayed negatively for the following qualities in the books—her awareness of her social position, her awareness of high birth, her attraction to handsome men, being pretty and enjoying being pretty, and feeling she deserves her own happy ending and being willing to disobey her great Stark patriarch to get it. These qualities are overt and mocked in AGOT; but persist far more subtly in ACOK and ASOS. And continue to be portrayed as subtly wrong and something she needs to be broken of in ASOS.

Her turning point seems to come in ASOS, near the end, after she’s been taken to live with LF and Lysa. Note that though Sansa is portrayed with some sympathy here, and not overtly caricatured like she was in AGOT, she still has her “bad” issues of pride, which will be subsequently knocked out of her by the next book. When LF suggests Sansa pretend to be a bastard, she still demonstrates an awareness of her high birth, though she is willing to pretend. When Marillion calls her a beautiful bastard girl, she thinks, “I am a trueborn Stark of Winterfell,” she wanted to shout.” Furthermore, she is still portrayed as having some class pride, taking mild offense and saying “please, no” when LF suggests that he tell everyone she is the daughter of one of his servants.

Most of all, she shows the same willfulness and determination to choose her own mate as she did in AGOT. Though Sweetrobin is technically “a catch,” Sansa is repulsed by marrying him due to his looks, age, and sickliness:

My Lord Husband, Sansa thought, as she contemplated the ruins of Winterfell. She wondered if Lord Robert would shake all through their wedding. At least Joffrey was sound of body.

Sansa decides to refuse Lysa, noting:

I will tell my aunt that I don’t want to marry Robert. Not even the High Septon himself could declare a woman married if she refused to say the vows. She wasn’t a beggar, no matter what her aunt said. She was thirteen, a woman flowered and wed, the heir to Winterfell. Sansa felt sorry for her little cousin sometimes, but she could not imagine ever wanting to be his wife.

Note the pride in social position and self-worth here (“a woman flowered and wed, the heir to Winterfell.” Which is about shortly to be beaten out of her…)

Many may feel that Sansa is being portrayed sympathetically here, however, I sense a certain ambivalence in GRRM’s portrayal of her summation of her own worth; her refusal to marry whom she is supposed to because she does not want him. To quote the latter part of the incident:

My Lord Husband, Sansa thought, as she contemplated the ruins of Winterfell. She wondered if Lord Robert would shake all through their wedding. At least Joffrey was sound of body. A mad rage seized hold of her. She picked up a broken branch and smashed the torn doll’s head down on top of it, then pushed it down atop the shattered gatehouse of her snow castle.

Now, if you are like me, you doubtless laughed and cheered at the following display. However, I can’t get over the feeling that GRRM is portraying Sansa as petty, childish, bratty here. (For those who don’t even sense a bit of ambivalence, I suggest you read the quote again, focusing on the last part.)

We all know what happens next. Lysa attacks Sansa, tries to murder her; they are interrupted by LF, who then proceeds to throw Lysa from the moon door.

In the next book, Sansa is portrayed very positively and sympathetically—if she is being subtly caricatured for “snobby” opinions as she was in AGOT and (to a much lesser extent) ACOK and ASOS, I did not notice it. However, she’s also given up all the qualities that were portrayed so negatively before, and were associated with feminine pride—awareness of her high social position/ class; awareness of her legitimate birth; and the mentality that she had a right to choose her own fate, and that not every guy was good enough for her.

For instance, compare Sansa’s disgust with Sweet Robin with the following:

In ASOS:

Sansa felt sorry for her little cousin sometimes, but she could not imagine ever wanting to be his wife. I would sooner be married to Tyrion again.

In AFFC:

The Lord of the Eyrie had been crying again. His eyes were red and raw, his lashes crusty, his nose swollen and runny. A trail of snot glistened underneath one nostril, and his lower lip was bloody where he’d bitten it….Dipping a soft cloth into the warm water, she began to clean his face… gently, oh so gently. If you scrubbed Robert too briskly, he might begin to shake. The boy was fair, and terribly small for his age.

Later:

Sometime during the night she woke, woke, as little Robert climbed up into her bed….
He cuddled close and laid his head between her breasts.”Alayne? Are you my mother now?”
“ I suppose I am,” she said.

Now consider Sansa’s comments about bastardy and attitude towards Jon Snow, the first in AGOT, the last in AFFC:
AGOT:

Sansa sighed as she stitched. “Poor Jon she said. He gets jealous because he’s a bastard.”
“He’s our brother,” Arya said, much too loudly. Her voice cut through the afternoon quiet of the tower room. Septa Mordane raised her eyes…

“Our half brother,” Sansa corrected, soft and precise.

And then, in AFFC:

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 supposed.”

She had not thought of Jon in ages. He was only her half brother, but still…with Bran and Rickon dead, Jon Snow was the only brother who remained to her. I am a bastard too now, just like him.

(Clearly, in the second of these Sansa is being portrayed far more positively, and “correct.” And note that, significantly, she no longer possesses the sort of pride that leads her to place herself others of illegitimate birth. Now she actually half identifies herself as a bastard.)

Compare Sansa’s attitudes about class shown in the following:

In AGOT:

Sansa knew all about the sorts of people Arya liked to talk to: squires and grooms and serving girls, old men and naked children, rough spoke freeriders of certain birth. Mycah was the worst; a butcher’s boy, thirteen and wild, he slept in the meat wagon and smelled of the slaughtering black. Just the sight of him was enough to make Sansa feel sick, but Ayra seemed to prefer his company to hers.

In ASOS:

I am a Stark of Winterfell, she longed to tell him.

Then, in AFFC:

You know our Mya’s not a maid, I trust?”

She did. Fat Maddy had whispered it to her, one time when Mya brought up their supplies. “Maddy told me.

In the first, Sansa believes herself better than some due to her birth (considering her background and culture, I have no idea why this is so wrong, but it is portrayed as something very negative on her part.) In the second, she is still very aware and proud of her heritage. In the last, the reformed Sansa interacts with everyone, and apparently does not think her social class makes her better than anyone. (She is now apparently close and friendly enough to exchange gossip with “Fat Maddy,” the exact same woman (take note!) whom she scorned earlier when LF suggested they tell people that Maddy was Sansa’s mother.)

Finally, the last issue. Consider Sansa’s thoughts on being married to a man she does not want in ASOS, once again:

I will tell my aunt that I don’t want to marry Robert. Not even the High Septon himself could declare a woman married if she refused to say the vows. She wasn’t a beggar, no matter what her aunt said. She was thirteen, a woman flowered and wed, the heir to Winterfell. Sansa felt sorry for her little cousin sometimes, but she could not imagine ever wanting to be his wife. I would sooner be married to Tyrion again.

Now compare them to her reaction to marrying Harry the Heir:

Petyr Baelish took her by the hand and drew her down into his lap. “I have made a marriage contract for you.”

“A marriage…” Her throat tightened. She did not want to wed again, not now, perhaps not ever. “I do not… I cannot marry father. Father, I…” Alayne looked to the door, to make certain it was closed. “I am married.” She whispered. “You know.”

Petyr put a finger to her lips to silence her.

The new and improved Sansa is still as reluctant to wed as before, yet if you closely compare the two scenes, in the second she shows no signs of the stubborn willfulness or rage she does in the first; nor the same high sense of her own worth (I am a woman flowered and heir to Winterfell, etc.). In contrast, here she is merely sad, frightened, and reluctant. Her feelings are the same; but her attitude and her view of herself is totally different.
Of course, the easiest explanation here would be—GRRM does not mean to portray Sansa’s loss of her identity, deeply held feminine pride, and (reasonable) sense of entitlement about the sort of man she’s going to marry. He is merely portraying how Sansa has been forced into this submission by those around her, and is portraying this as sad/bad. However, if that is the case, riddle me this—why the heck did GRRM portray all those aspects of Sansa—slight social snobbery; awareness of her own birth; pride in her beauty; and, perhaps most of all, willingness to go past her own father to secure the mate she feels she deserves—as so bloody negative to begin with? In AGOT? Because, try as I might, I can’t help but feel that the negative reaction of the fandom to Sansa before AFFC is due to how she is portrayed by the author. Once again, I think the quotes I’ve chosen here sort of speak for themselves.

In an earlier post, I wrote: (in reference to Asha, Arya, Brienne, and the other positively portrayed females: And also, they reject the sort of “pride” that women like Cersei Lannister are castigated for—pride that makes the woman in question feel she is better than people, particularly males the author relates to.” Sansa, when we meet her in AGOT, arguably possesses such pride herself—and also occasionally places herself above others (often in only her own private thoughts, but this is still portrayed as bad and wrong.)

Over the course of the next four books, Sansa is then subjected to a number of horrific punishments that utterly rob her of this pride. In the beginning, she is a girl with confidence in her beauty, high birth, social class, and feel she is entitled to a happily ever after with a handsome prince. By AFFC, she no longer seems concerned with social class, considers herself, for all intents and purposes, a bastard, and seems resigned to allowing her new patriarch, LF, arrange her marriage (Whether or not she will do this is unclear, however, one thing is undeniable—the pride and uncompromising nature, and insistence that she deserves to marry a good, handsome, charming mate of her own choice—that we see in AGOT with defying Ned to be with Joffrey, and in ASOS when she is unwilling to submit to Tyrion and decides she will refuse Sweetrobin as a husband because that is her right—has been done away with).

So, characterizing Sansa’s journey as that of a young girl finding herself and learning what she wants is one interpretation. Another interpretation is that Sansa knows damn well what she wants from the beginning, but that these things are dubbed shallow and frivolous by the author, who then puts Sansa through hell to show her this.

It is also arguable that Sansa is (subtly but undeniably) punished for her specifically female pride, which is beaten out of her throughout the course of the books, until in AFFC, she ends in “acceptable shape.” (Never considering herself above others due to birth or social class, not insisting that she be married to a handsome, charming mate and feelings she deserves a certain kind of husband, etc.)

Whether or not one agrees with this, I think the rather negative portrayal of Sansa in AGOT (and, to a lesser extent, the next two books) and the way she is basically rid of all her expectations and feelings of entitlement as she travels through her story arc is something that is worthy of further examination and discussion.

Standalone VI

Claiming Agency through Erotic Power

by Brashcandy

This analysis is based on the concept of erotic power as defined by feminist theorist Audre Lorde in her essay, ‘Uses of the Erotic: the erotic as power.’ My aim is to use Lorde’s theory to explore how the erotic functions in Sansa’s arc throughout the series, and how tapping into this erotic power will ultimately lead to fulfilment and empowerment.

Some quotes from Lorde’s essay help to establish just what erotic power is and how it operates:

There are many kinds of power, used and unused, acknowledged or otherwise. The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling. In order to perpetuate itself, every oppression must corrupt or distort those various sources of power within the culture of the oppressed that can provide energy for change. For women, this has meant a suppression of the erotic as a considered source of power and information within our lives.

. . .

The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves.

. . .

The very word erotic comes from the Greek word eros, the personification of love in all its aspects—born of Chaos, and personifying creative power and harmony. When I speak of the erotic, then, I speak of it as an assertion of the lifeforce of women; of that creative energy empowered…

We talked a lot of the tremendous compassion and empathy that Sansa demonstrates in her interaction with others, particularly Sandor Clegane. My contention is that these attributes provide evidence of Sansa’s utilising of her erotic power—an ability to feel deeply and experience an almost heightened sense of connection with another person, one that provides genuine intimacy and fulfilment, and underscores legitimate desire.
In the patriarchal society of Westeros, the erotic becomes a threat to male power and their restrictions on female agency and sexuality. As Lorde notes above, “the erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings,” and such power, the power to recognize what it is we want and do not want and to make such a declaration is ultimately dangerous to patriarchal authority. This is why I think that Sansa will be able to defeat LF, not through political machinations as many others seem to believe, but precisely through the power of the erotic which is defined by female desire and authority.

It is Sansa’s relationship with Sandor where we see the true potential of the erotic being revealed. Erotic experiences are not limited to the sexual, but encompass all areas of life, from the psychic and emotional to the physical and intellectual according to Lorde. From the very beginning, there is a bond of trust and openness established between Sansa and Sandor which facilitates their gradual intimacy. Their final interaction during the Blackwater battle is significant:

It was not the song of Florian and Jonquil, but it was a song. Her voice sounded small and thin and tremulous in her ears…

She had forgotten the other verses. When her voice trailed off, she feared he might kill her, but after a moment the Hound took the blade from her throat, never speaking. Some instinct made her lift her hand and cup his cheek with her fingers. The room was too dark for her to see him, but she could feel the stickiness of the blood and the wetness that was not blood. “Little bird,” he said once more, his voice raw and harsh as steel on stone. Then he rose from the bed. Sansa heard cloth ripping, followed by the softer sound of retreating footsteps.

Sansa and Sandor achieve in that brief moment of her touching his face a true erotic connection of compassion and understanding. It is such a powerful moment, and I want to posit the UnKiss as evidence of the creative power of the erotic. The deep experience of feeling that occurs between them results in the creation of a sensual memory that marks Sansa’s first real expression of sexual agency.

Sansa’s marriage to Tyrion is revealing in comparison. Instead of bowing to the pressure of the moment and giving in to her husband’s desires, Sansa instead relies on the truth of the erotic—her own recognition of the lack of desire for Tyrion, and in so doing exposes the lie of patriarchal conditioning which states that all men are beautiful:

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 his 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?

On my honour as a Lannister,” the Imp said. “I will not touch you until you want me to.”
“It took all the courage that was in her to look in those mismatched eyes and say, “And if I never want you to, my lord?

Lorde explains just why Sansa’s denial of Tyrion was so important:

When we live outside ourselves, and by that I mean on external directives only rather than from our internal knowledge and need, when we live away from those erotic guides from within ourselves, then our lives are limited by external and alien forms, and we conform to the needs of a structure that is not based on human need, let alone an individual’s. But when we begin to live from within outward, in touch with the power of the erotic within ourselves, and allowing that power to inform and illuminate our actions upon the world around us, then we begin to be responsible to our selves in the deepest sense. For as we begin to recognize our deepest feelings, we begin to give up, of necessity, being satisfied with suffering and self-negation, and with the numbness which so often seems like their only alternative in our society. Our acts against oppression become integral with self, motivated and empowered from within.

In refusing to sleep with her husband, Sansa is privileging her own desires and needs above those that originate from the “external directives” of her patriarchal society, of which Septa Mordane was the mouthpiece. Marriage represents an oppressive institution for Sansa, and the collective weight of all her betrothals which seek to use her claim – the impersonal mercenary objective – acts to further strengthen her appreciation for erotic agency which does not submit to the exploitation or abuse. Is it any wonder then that when she’s in the Vale, and hears the cries of Lysa’s pleasure in the marriage bed, that she eventually dreams of the possibility of having her own erotic encounter? Lorde writes that:

Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within out lives. And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected nor the merely safe.

I think there’s a lot of value in this statement to understanding how Martin is portraying the growth of Sansa’s agency. It’s through the erotic lens that she is beginning to question social structures of her society which contribute to women’s oppression. It’s not a coincidence that most of the women she comes into contact with are those who have taken control of their sexuality, and have found love and fulfilment outside of marriage.

This is why I think LF’s attempts to corrupt Sansa and involve her in the game will be destined to fail. Although Sansa is posing as Alayne Stone, the power associated with her real identity of Sansa Stark is still present and making itself felt:

As the boy’s lips touched her own she found herself thinking of another kiss. She could still remember how it felt, when his cruel mouth pressed down on her own. He had come to Sansa in the darkness as green fire filled the sky. He took a song and a kiss, and left me nothing but a bloody cloak.

It made no matter. That day was done, and so was Sansa.

She had not thought of Jon in ages. He was only her half-brother, but still… with Robb and Bran and Rickon dead, Jon Snow was the only brother that remained to her. I am a bastard too now, just like him. Oh it would be so sweet, to see him once again. But of course that could never be. Alayne Stone had no brothers, baseborn or otherwise.

 Lord Nestor will have no singers at the feast, only flutes and fiddles for the dancing.” What would she do when the music began to play? It was a vexing question to which her heart and head gave different answers. Sansa loved to dance, but Alayne…

Notice that all of these feelings are particularly powerful as they relate to Sansa’s desire for love, family and excitement. Added to this, during Alayne’s conversation with Randa Royce, she is much more interested in pursuing discussion about Lothor’s feelings for Mya. Whilst LF asked Sansa to become Alayne in her heart, she’s managed to actually keep that domain for Sansa, and this is where we see the true strength of her feelings and concerns remain. This is the “heart” of Sansa’s erotic power so to speak, and although she tries to deny these feelings, I think these deeply felt connections and passions will ultimately be responsible for liberating her, not the cold, calculating politics of LF’s world.
To end with Lorde:

In touch with the erotic, I become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial.

Standalone VII

On Sansa’s clothing and its significance

by KittensRuleBeetsDrool

A few more thoughts on clothes to add on to what KittyKatKnits is saying:

  • Cersei loves fine clothes; when she is described, it is almost always wearing some very fancy and expensive creation of silk, velvet, samite or other luxury fabrics, often in green to set off her hair and eyes.
  • When she is deteriorating physically and mentally in AFFC, she blames her washerwomen for “shrinking her clothes” when in fact it is implied (and pretty obvious to the readers) that she is becoming bloated from drinking—her clothes are not shrinking, SHE is expanding.
  • Then during her Walk of Shame she hears, “my wife has sweeter teats than those,” and her stretch marks and sagging breasts are exposed to the world—she has used fine clothes to disguise her body flaws. I would add that stretch marks and less-firm boobs are pretty normal after bearing and breastfeeding three children, and are not flaws, but Cersei thinks they are and that a queen should appear perfect. And if Cersei were less hated, the spectators wouldn’t zero in on her flaws; but they are there specifically to jeer at and humiliate her. (I would also add that Cersei wants to appear in the image of the Maiden—young and perfect—even after being physically a mother old enough to have a grown son; I guess her to be in her mid-thirties. She is also obsessed with her youth and beauty, and does not want to grow into a more mature beauty that a Mother might have. Cersei is an overaged Maiden gone wrong. She uses her clothes to disguise her Mother’s body but when she is naked there is no hiding behind illusions.)
  • Post Walk of Shame, Cersei wears what is almost a Silent Sister’s garb (maybe foreshadowing?), a modest gown and cowl to cover her shaved head. Kevan thinks she looks like the most respectable matron.

Sansa and clothes:

  • When the seamstress measures her for new clothes prior to her wedding, the seamstress lies to Sansa about what exactly she is being measured for (a wedding gown and trousseau).
  • Sansa loves her new dress, but when the maiden’s cloak is wrapped around her shoulders she realizes to her horror what is going on. Her fine clothes are a sham just as much as her sham wedding. The clothes are not really hers.
  • Again, with clothes not being really hers—the silver hairnet with the poison amethysts is another sham—it’s not there just to make her look pretty, it’s there to poison Joffrey and frame her for the crime.
  • In the Vale, the first dress leftover of Lysa’s that Sansa/Alayne wears is a Tully red-and-blue dress. It is interesting that she picks her mother’s house colors just as she first wanted to use “Catelyn” as her disguise name. I think the dress is a way of remembering her mother, and connecting her with the Mother archetype. Petyr makes her change clothes as the dress is “too Tully” and would give the disguise away. I wonder what the significance is of Petyr, who sees Sansa as a replacement for Catelyn Tully, doesn’t want her to be too Tully. (Other than the obvious—a Tully dress on someone who so strongly resembles Catelyn would instantly scream “Sansa Stark!” to Bronze Yohn or anyone else who knew what the real Sansa looked like.)
  • Then Alayne/Sansa longs for a fancy dress but knows that she has to appear fully Alayne Stone and a bastard daughter of a minor lord can’t dress too far above her station. So she picks the brown wool dress embroidered in gold. I see this as symbolic in another way than just Sansa fully taking on her Alayne disguise—that brown and gold dress must have been insanely flattering on her! Even with the brown dye in her hair, she still would have warm coloring, and the brown would bring out her blue eyes. Sansa is a tall, slender, beautiful teenage girl, just the kind of person who doesn’t need fancy clothes to look gorgeous. (As a Shorty McShortypants I’m jealous!) Just as she is rejecting the idea of handsome knights (and dreaming instead of someone flawed and scarred, yet genuinely protective of her), she is rejecting the idea that beautiful clothes make the lady.
  • Finally, when they leave the Eyrie, Sansa/Alayne leaves behind all her aunt’s luxurious dresses and takes a more suitable Alayne wardrobe of simpler clothes. She still loves fine clothes, but she now realizes she doesn’t need I see this as Sansa growing into the realization that she’s beautiful and strong just as she is, without the trappings of “ladyhood” and high birth. She will carve a place for herself as Alayne Stone, bastard brave young woman, on her terms and without the benefits (and drawbacks) of ladyhood.

I am contrasting Cersei and Sansa here because of the way they use clothes to give the image they want the world to see. Cersei is using fine clothes to disguise her inner nature, and Alayne/Sansa is using simple clothes to be more true to herself and develop a true nature that doesn’t need flash and glitter to shine through.

Standalone VIII

Sansa’s connection to motherhood and the Mother

by Valkyrja

‘brashcandy’, on 24 Jul 2012 – 7:04 PM, said:

A few things I’ve been wondering lately:

– Given Sandor’s dominance in Sansa’s life, would it realistic at this point for Martin to introduce another romantic option for her? Do all roads lead to Sandor? Some new perspectives on this would be interesting. (Of course he has introduced another option for her already in HtH. I mean one that we should take seriously).

– Sansa’s role as mother to Sweetrobin. It seems to be a popular opinion that SR represents Sansa’s ultimate moral test so to speak. If she saves him, then it essentially means she’s saved herself from LF as well. Agree/disagree and is Martin making a larger statement about mothering in the series via this relationship?
————–
I’ve been traveling and without internet again for a couple of days, and I come back to find you discussing something I had just been thinking about! Interesting that you bring up the topic of Motherhood in regards to Sansa, because now that I finally have ASoIaF on my Kindle, I’ve been able to do some brief re-reads of Sansa chapters even while traveling. I recently re-read Sansa’s ACoK chapters and of course motherhood is mentioned a great deal throughout that particular book (which is no surprise to you of course having done many re-reads).

I’m sure all of the below has already been touched up on in the previous re-read threads. I have read the entire Sansa re-read and re-thinking series of threads but after thirteen (?) of them I am already forgetting some specifics.

Obviously, many things have changed for Sansa since ACoK. She seems to be disillusioned to the point that she says she no longer wishes to be married, because she feels no one will love her for herself, only for her claim. I don’t know if my observations below have much bearing on her storyline with Sweetrobin, but I couldn’t help but notice some interesting details in the chapters leading up to the Blackwater.

Sansa’s first flowering, (which as we all know happens with Sandor present, hehe) and which also leads to Cersei’s attempt to give her some ‘womanly’ advice, signifies not just her entrance into womanhood but also the potential for motherhood for Sansa (hence why she freaks out and burns the ‘evidence’ in the first place, since she does not want to have to be forced into giving Joffrey heirs). Note that even after this moment (and after Cersei’s rather harsh advice about only loving your children and loving being a poison, etc.), Sansa still seems to consciously think positively about potentially becoming a mother — this is prior to her dreams about Willas and puppies in Highgarden, and her dreams about having children named after her siblings and father, after all. What she is already dreading and railing against is being forced to have children with Joffrey, a Lannister, aka being forced into a marriage with him (and consummating it) — something that is most certainly not her choice.

Even though choice is important to Sansa (though at this point in ACoK she is not necessarily articulating this out loud), some aspects of motherhood (and possible foreshadowing on GRRM’s part?) seem to be almost completely instinctual for Sansa.

The scene in the Sept before the battle when everyone is praying to the Mother stands out. Sansa visits each of the altars and lights a candle (even for the Stranger’s ‘half-human face’), and proceeds to sing the hymn to the Mother with the other people gathered there (all the while recalling how her own mother was the one to teach her hymn.

Sansa visited each of the Seven in turn, light a candle at each altar, and then found herself a place on the benches between a wizened old washer woman and a boy no older than Rickon, dressed in the fine linen tunic of a knight’s son. The old woman’s hand was bony and hard with callus, the boy’s small and soft, but it was good to have someone to hold on to.

It struck me as interesting that here Sansa is placed between an old woman and a little child—this is the Mother’s position in the traditional “Maiden, Mother, Crone”, not in the Maiden’s position as might be expected. (Foreshadowing?)

Later, within Maegor’s Holdfast, even while Sansa is shocked at Cersei’s talk of the possibility of rape, and blushing at her mention of using what is between her legs as a weapon, it is actually Cersei herself who is described as maiden, in a white dress, with her hair worn long and loose as an unmarried woman:

Cersei’s gown was snowy linen, white as the cloaks of the Kingsguard. Her long dagged sleeves showed a lining of gold stain. Masses of bright yellow hair tumbled to her bare shoulders in thick curls. Around her slender neck hung a rope of diamonds and emeralds. The white made her look strangely innocent, almost maidenly, but there were points of color on her cheeks.

Interestingly, it is an older woman and children who are something of a catalyst for Sansa standing up in Cersei’s place as the mothering comforter to the people within Maegor’s Holdfast:

Oh gods,” an old woman wailed. “We’re lost, the battle’s lost, she’s running.” Several children were crying. They can smell the fear. Sansa found herself alone on the dais. Should she stay here, or run after the queen and plead for her life?

She never knew why she got to her feet, but she did. “Don’t be afraid,” she told them loudly.

I know many people take this as an example of foreshadowing for Sansa’s queenly behavior (as a possible future queen), and I agree that it is likely meant as such. I do think though that this moment also can be read as an example of Sansa’s mothering abilities coming to the forefront in a more public sphere.

Significant as well is that by the end of the night she has experienced an intensely private, intimate moment in which she sings the Mother’s hymn to Sandor Clegane. Of course there is the romantic/erotic aspect to their interaction and especially in relation to Sansa’s later memories of it, and I certainly don’t think Sansa is acting as the Mother during the entire scene. But that moment when she sings the hymn (which she had previously sung in the Sept as a prayer for her entire family as well as for Sandor and for his rage to be gentled), and when ‘some instinct’ makes her reach up and touch his face, are probably the only moments of ‘mothering’ that Sandor may have known in a long, long time.

As for Martin making a statement about mothering in the series in regards to Sansa/Alayne’s later relationship to Sweetrobin, I definitely think this is the case. Robert Arryn is a difficult child in many ways because of Lysa’s way of mothering him (or at least, that is what I think GRRM is insinuating here). I find it strange to think that GRRM would show us this boy who had such a ‘problematic’ mothering as a child and then basically put him into a situation where that would . . . not change at all. Unless, of course, this is because he is intending for Sansa to help LF kill him or to allow him to kill him. But once again, I would also find it odd that so much symbolism regarding motherhood has gone into Sansa’s chapters, only to have her become the complete opposite of the Mother figure. Was all the motherhood symbolism in ACoK and elsewhere really just meant for those two climactic moments with the women and children in Maegor’s Holdfast and in her bedroom with Sandor Clegane? I find that hard to believe.

It is certainly possible that LF may twist her quite far into morally grey areas (he is already doing so). But, is it only Sansa who is associated with Motherhood? Is Alayne a ‘bad’ mother? I don’t know . . .

As brashcandy noted, Sansa and Alayne are not nearly as distinct personalities as some would believe. “That day is done and so is Sansa” . . . Well, GRRM may want us to believe this for now, for whatever reason, but obviously Sansa is still there. As long as through the Alayne persona Sansa is able to explore her own latent abilities to a more amplified degree, then I think ‘that which makes Sansa ‘Sansa’ will survive the time as Alayne. Sansa has always had great compassion, as well as an ability to generate admiration and loyalty from those around her. But even as Sansa, she has always had harder, colder, stronger, and braver sides to her character. I hope that Sansa’s instinctual mothering and compassionate abilities will continue to shine through, no matter what LF may have her do. Even though she is reluctant to take on Sweetrobin and to become his mother at first due to how difficult he can be, I find it rather poignant that she is nonetheless so good at it. It is yet another reminder of how much she once wanted children of her own, and how she has for now given up hope of at least having children within a marriage. If Sweetrobin is indeed Sansa’s only chance at motherhood for now, I sincerely hope that GRRM does not twist it irrevocably down a path so dark that there is no return. I hope that it is significant that motherhood seems to come to Sansa almost by instinct, and that LF won’t be able to stamp out those innate aspects of her character however hard he tries to shape ‘Alayne’ to his own design.

In general, I hope that if Sansa must be Alayne for now that she can basically ‘take over’ Alayne for herself. Instead of being Alayne all the time in her heart, she will be Sansa in her heart, and wear Alayne like a Faceless Man mask.

Standalone IX

Some theorising about Sansa’s warg skills and the UnKiss

by Queen of Spades

And to finish, let’s do a bit of crackpotting about the famous Kiss-That-Never-Happened!

What we know:

  • Sansa Stark is a warg
  • Sandor is (probably) Lady’s replacement
  • Sandor did not kiss Sansa
  • Sandor (probably) wanted to kiss Sansa
  • Sandor did not think clearly (what with being drunk, and emotionally upside-down, and everything)
  • Sansa reached out for Sandor (with her hand)
  • Sansa stays quite a long time in bed after Sandor’s departure

Do you remember how Bran first took Hodor’s skin?

Be quiet!” Bran said in a shrill scared voice, reaching up uselessly for Hodor’s leg as he crashed past, reaching, reaching.

So here’s my personnal theory:

Sansa has finished her song and Sandor has taken the dagger away.

Now he is there, desperately wanting to kiss her, but not daring because she is so afraid of him (but threatening her with a dagger was okay . . . this guy does have issues!), when she reaches for him with her hand . . . and her mind.

Her hand finds his cheek, and her mind finds him too: not taking his skin, obviously, but connecting to him in some way . . . a warg-like telepathic connection, shall we say. So she is able, at this moment, to somehow see his thoughts. It must have been quite a mess, and scary. But here is a fleeting thought she can understand (or perhaps it is the less scary one): he thinks of kissing her.

Then he gets up, the connection is broken, and he leaves. She stays in bed for a long time, wondering “what just happened to me?” Remember, she is not Bran: she has never warged into Lady before, she does not know how it feels. So, basically, she saw/felt something that did not happen. How do you deal with it? She deals with it by deciding that it did happen. So this is what she is doing in her bed during those “long moments after”: she is actually fabricating the UnKiss memory from this very vivid thought she caught in Sandor’s mind.
And when she has convinced herself that he did kiss her, she gets up and takes his cloak.

There has been much discussing about how the UnKiss is going to be important for the rest of the story. What if it is not important because of the memory itself, but because it is Sansa’s first warging experience?

Standalone X

On naming

by Queen of Spades

‘Lady.’, on 15 May 2012 – 11:04 AM, said:

One of the things I noticed was that Sansa hardly ever uses the Hound or Sandor’s name when she is in conversation with him. I first noticed this because (being a super nerd), sometimes I just wanted to rush ahead and see if they had any interactions. So I would search for ‘Hound’ or ‘Sandor’ (on my iPad) and his name wouldn’t crop up and then I would be pleasantly surprised when I came to find she had thought about him in her chapter! For example, in the BBW, despite have a 2-3 page interaction (according to my iPad/Kindle), the name ‘Hound’ comes up only once and Sandor not at all. He is often just described in such a way that we know that it is him (ie. his scars, his voice, his size). I’ve tried to think about the significance of this but can’t come to any definite conclusions – so any further thoughts would be more than welcome!

‘Queen of Winter’, on 15 May 2012 – 11:21 AM, said:

Also, I think that it’s the same with Sandor using Sansa’s name. If I remember correctly, I think he only ever calls her “Little Bird” (and never Sansa–though did he use Sansa’s name when talking to Arya about her? Come to think of it, I think Sandor always called Arya “She Wolf” or “Wolf Bitch” too, never by her name either.)

It is great that you mentioned the name thing, I have always found it interesting.

———-

Sandor named

By Sansa:

As Lady noticed, she sometimes does not even name him.

When he is named, however, he is almost always “the Hound.” Sometimes, we also get an occasional “Sandor Clegane,” but never in direct speech nor direct thought (the ones in italics). And if I recall correctly, all the UnKiss memories are either unnamed or “the Hound“-labelled.

She also doesn’t know how to adress him. She obviously doesn’t want to call him “dog” like the others, and can’t call him “Ser.” We see her once try “my lord,” but it doesn’t work better than “Ser” (“I’m no lord, no more than I’m a knight”). The only time she speaks of him and before him (just after the riot), she says “The Hound.

So, isn’t that interesting? Our sweet Sansa seems to like her big Hound . . .

This is one of the reasons I don’t want to see “the Hound” die completely on QI. I hope Sandor will always keep a part of Hound in him.

By Arya:

He is mostly “the Hound” too, but he gets a lot “Sandor Clegane,” or even simply “Clegane.” I find the last one interesting, because it means that Arya does not make a difference between the two Cleganes: Gregor or Sandor, it’s the same, they are both monsters to her.

And after the Red Wedding, she uses “Clegane” less. He still is “the Hound” or “Sandor Clegane,” but he also gets a lot of “Sandor,” which I find quite cute.

By others:

Other characters address him as “dog,” “Hound” or “Clegane.

The only ones to ever call him “Sandor” in direct speech are Polliver and the Tickler, which I find downright creepy. (I mean, imagine that the only people to use your first name are some psychopaths working for your even madder brother who totally destroyed your childhood . . .)

Sandor naming

Sansa:

He mentions her first name only twice.

The first time is during Joff’s tourney, when he announces her formally: “Lady Sansa,” the Hound announced curtly when he saw her. I think this one does not count, since he is all business-like.

The second time is to Arya:

Didn’t you ever have a brother you wanted to kill?” He laughed again. “Or maybe a sister?” He must have seen something in her face then, for he leaned closer. “Sansa. That’s it, isn’t it ? The wolf bitch wants to kill the pretty bird.

The rest of the time, he seems to avoid mentioning her to other people. When speaking to Arya, he mostly says “your sister.” However, there are times when he lets slip “little bird” or “pretty bird.” There is the quote above, and the other times are when he is distressed: Sansa being hurt in the riot, him learning of the Motley Wedding, his death-bed confession to Arya . . .

Note that “pretty bird” is only when speaking to Arya, the others only get “little bird“. . . as if he would rather keep his affection to her a family secret: “Little bird” can be seen as mocking (“You’re still a stupid little bird“), but “pretty bird” clearly shows how fond of her he has become. Unfortunately, Arya is not the most perceptive person, so it goes unnoticed.

Arya:

She gets a bit of everything : “wolf girl,” “she-wolf,” “wolf bitch.” He always associates her with wolves, which he never did for Sansa. I think he finds her very similar to him in some way (and later he even starts teaching her how to be him when he shows her how to kill men).

But what I totally love is when he meets her at the Hollow Hill. His reaction is not: “Seven hells, Arya Stark!” or “Seven hells, the Hand’s daughter!” or “Seven hells, the missing girl!”
No, it is: “Seven hells, the little sister!” It certainly shows who is the center of his world.

Standalone XI

On non-verbal expressions of interest and intimacy

“Every emotion of the mind has from nature its own peculiar look, tone, and gesture; and the whole frame of a man, and his whole countenance, and the variations of his voice, sound like strings in a musical instrument, just as they are moved by the affections of the mind […] They sound just as the soul’s motion strikes them.”

MARCUS TULIUS CICERO.

by Milady of York
From their first scene at the Trident, where he put his hands on her shoulders, to the last scene the night of the Battle of the Blackwater, where she cupped his cheek, Sandor and Sansa’s interactions have a recurrent touch and feel component. They are always close and make eye and skin contact frequently, usually started by him. We are constantly reading descriptions of the occasions when he places his hand on her shoulder, her arm, her wrist, her chin…

Two of these gestures in special, which might appear as seemingly insignificant to the uninformed reader, caught my attention: when he grasps her wrist and when he lifts her chin.

Not until I read Professor Alan L. Boegehold, an expert in Classical philology and art, and his work on body language in archaic Greek artistic representations of couples did I understand the meaning and importance of wrist-grabbing, which led me to examine more closely the situations where Sandor had taken hold of Sansa’s extremities or face in this particular fashion, and to discover that this wrist-grabbing is present precisely in two scenes that are commonly deemed as important thresholds in their evolution as characters.

First scene, he clasps the little bird’s wrist to prevent her from falling in the Serpentine steps:

She was racing headlong down the serpentine steps when a man lurched out of a hidden doorway. Sansa caromed into him and lost her balance. Iron fingers caught her by the wrist before she could fall, and a deep voice rasped at her. “It’s a long roll down the serpentine, little bird. Want to kill us both?”

A Clash of Kings, pp. 511, e-book.

And he does that again in her room during the Blackwater:

Lady,” she whimpered softly, wondering if she would meet her wolf again when she was dead.

Then something stirred behind her, and a hand reached out of the dark and grabbed her wrist.

A Clash of Kings, pp. 1514, e-book.

The way he touches her is exactly the same on both occasions. And the similarities don’t stop at that.

At first glance, grasping a woman’s wrist doesn’t seem anything out of the ordinary; after all, even Tyrion grabbed Cersei’s wrist to prevent her from slapping him once, and lots of other people repeat the action throughout the series. Is that a correct reading, and have we to discard it altogether?

In the present cases, no. There’s a deeper meaning in the act of clasping a wrist. Professor Boegehold says that, even if this gesture has different interpretations depending on circumstances and the genre of the people involved, when a masculine hand is on a feminine wrist:

Obviously a connection is being made, possibly it’s always an intimate connection […]

In other words, a wrist symbolises intimacy. Grabbing it is a way to state a man’s need for intimacy with the woman he’s touching, emotionally and sexually. Taking a woman’s hand was a prelude to greater intimacy in old Greece; a sign of affection and also a gesture employed to reassure a person in the case of males.

As for lifting and caressing a woman’s chin. Boegehold writes that this gesture is meant

to show affection and a sense of union between two people.

A Roman and a Greek of both sexes would never misread what placing a hand on a chin was supposed to mean: to them, it was always a sign of amorous intent. It was not done at random.

Moving forward to the Middle Ages, an epoch more in accordance with Martin’s pseudo-medieval cultural setting, we see an abundant corpus of literature and art proving that the basic idea has not been modified, either, and chin touching and hand clasping belong in the first stage of the four degrees of intimacy, being the prelude to the second, which is kissing. Contemporary evolutionary psychology has proved that, while times are different, this interpretation has barely changed in our day as well, because it’s instinctive, an unconscious gesture we cannot control, and psychologists who specialise in human relationships, such as Dr. Elaine Kahn, declare that a man who touches a woman’s arm or wrist as he’s speaking to her is being forthright and direct in his approach, and if he clasps it then he’s showing affection and a healthy interest in things physical.

Now, let’s examine the two scenes in question.

The first thing to be noted in both is how they begin with Sansa musing over a figure she associates with home and safety. While she’s rushing down the steps, she is thinking, “home, he is going to take me home, he’ll keep me safe, my Florian.” And just when she’s finished thinking of how Florian was homely but not as old as Dontos, she caroms into Sandor, who is homely and young, thus indirectly and by association transferring the label of my Florian from Dontos to him. In my opinion, he found her there not because he was looking for her as she was nowhere to be seen, and just moved on purpose toward her when he saw her, but not with the intention of causing her to bump into him, which was due to Sansa’s distraction, and gripped her wrist of all parts he could have. Then he asks her where she’d been, showing his concern, and makes fun of her answer, refusing to soften his grip on her arm. Inebriated, he sways noticeably, and there’s an indication that he’s been affected by the closeness of her body against his and he continues to be due to the skin-on-skin contact that is still present, because suddenly he says:

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

A Clash of Kings, pp. 512, e-book.

This part intrigued me. It seems to have come from nowhere, and neither his inebriation nor the brief body contact at full speed explains it satisfactorily, but then, if we remember he’s clasping her wrist as he’s speaking and lets go his grip while he’s at it, we can fully understand both what made him say that seemingly incoherent phrase, and why those words came out of his mouth at that precise moment. We can also infer what parts of her body he’s looking at as he speaks: [He looks probably at the spot he’d been touching her and begins] You look almost a woman… [then stares at her face] face, [and her bosom] teats, [noticing her head’s a bit nearer his own face because she’s grown and has longer legs] and you’re taller too…
 
And his remark on songs just reinforces this interpretation. Plus, although the title of the song is not mentioned, from the short description he gave, we can have a fairly accurate idea that it can be none other than Florian and Jonquil, the very one he’d ask for before he left King’s Landing. The very one about the fool and chevalier Sansa had been recreating in her mind minutes before.

However, drunk and all, he’s painfully aware she’s too young, as evidenced by his insistence in telling her she’s almost a woman. He says almost twice in the same sentence. So, he’s aware that the intimacy he longs for, a desire he is at present unable to conceal due to an excess of wine, is not possible for this and other factors. He makes that comment on his own accord, as if to remind himself. And he also reminds himself that she’s meant for another man, as he tells her he’s taking back to her bedchamber, to keep her “safe for the king.”

In vino veritas, the Romans would say. Inebriated people tell the truth, and a drunk body tells it louder than words. After gripping her shoulder as a way of reassuring her at the bridge before Ser Boros—because that’s what placing hands on shoulders is for: reassurance and protection—he escorts her to her room, and here again his body language betrays his thoughts. She asks him why he lets people call him by his sobriquet, and he responds with the story of how his ancestor became a landed knight, revealing along the way some interesting details about himself: that it’s Grandfather Clegane the family member he’s proud of and that, despite his hatred for knights and knighthood, he’s immensely proud of the courageous action that earned him his title, and that his grandfather is his role model in regards to loyalty and sincerity, because he would do the same: risk his life, even die, but never lie.

And the biggest irony in this scene is that, by declaring this to her, Sandor Clegane, the Hound, the No-Knight, the Knighthood hater, is following the Second Precept the courtly love tradition imposed as a rule for a knight’s behaviour with his lady: Never lie to her.

To reinforce his point—because words are wind, but actions have more emotional impact– so she understands he’s referring to her and not to some abstract master and not to Joffrey, his hand goes then to her chin, cupping it and he utters:

And that’s more than little birds can do, isn’t it? I never got my song.

A Clash of Kings, pp. 515, e-book.

This is the second time in less than an hour he asks for a song, and the fact that this second time he’s cupping her chin as he mentions the song makes it clear that he’s not thinking of the promised, literal song Sansa had to sing as an expression of gratitude for being saved from the mob. His intent is amorous, as was the first time he asked, and this time he’s also bending towards her face, clearly prepared for the second grade of intimacy, but controlling himself, and Sansa apparently senses his intentions because she stammers that she could sing Florian and Jonquil. The Hound replies like the Hound:

Florian and Jonquil? A fool and his cunt. Spare me. But one day I’ll have a song from you, whether you will it or no.

A Clash of Kings, pp. 512, e-book.

His harsh words are normally interpreted as mockery and as a rejection of Florian and Jonquil, yet we have to consider the second part of this phrase to see that he’s not doing that. He’d indirectly asked for this song a moment earlier and would ask for it again during the night of the Blackwater. Now, let’s remember again what he’s doing and consider his gesture simultaneously with the words being uttered. It’s not about hatred for this song in particular, which we can guess is one he knows well and heard countless times, because it’s quite popular. He’s expressing in his peculiar manner his own frustration at that innocence of hers which allowed the obvious metaphor for intimacy to slip past her.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

The scene at her room during the Battle of the Blackwater also begins with Sansa thinking of a protective familiar figure, her direwolf Lady. Right after murmuring her name, Sandor moves from behind and grasps her wrist, stepping once more in the place of a protector. This time, Sansa is scared and he doesn’t make it easier for her with his behaviour, his threats. Despite that, they manage to have a brief conversation where he lets her know he’s lost, he’s going, and nobody can stop him. Then she asks him why he’s here, and once again he mentions the song, still grabbing her wrist. So far, the meaning of the wrist-clasping as reaching out for a connection with the other is applicable. Then, when she says she cannot sing and asks him to let her go, he doesn’t; he is drunker than before, plus still suffering from the trauma of long days fighting and the fire on top of that–he’s no longer coherent, but battles quite desperately for words to tell her what he’s feeling:

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

A Clash of Kings, pp. 1517, e-book.

Now notice what he does while he’s speaking, for it brings an additional meaning: he pulls her closer and Sansa thinks he’s going to kiss her. This time, he doesn’t touch her chin to make eye contact as if wanting to kiss her, like in the previous scene, nor does he try to caress her; he just pulls her closer as if to shield her with his body, emphasising his words in a very personal and physical manner. She closes her eyes. The Hound takes that as rejection. “Still can’t bear to look, can you?” he says. The fact that he comments on her inability to look at him and the absence of touching in an intimate way during the few seconds that follow, indicates that he was not intending to press further for a kiss nor had he intentions of forcing himself on her—when this sort of intention is present, consent, acceptance and discomfort of the woman is not a deterrent, mere lack of eye contact is not enough to stop forcible intercourse—besides, we know the importance the Hound places on being looked in the face by the little bird, linked to his need for acceptance. And from then on, the snowball of emotions rolls downhill: hurt, frustration, stress, fury, terror… He shoves her down onto the bed and puts his dagger in her throat, asking for Florian and Jonquil, and threatening her life if she failed to chirp the tune he’d told her to spare him before.

It’s a miracle that Sansa, in the midst of all that, was able to collect her wits and realise what was that he needed. She sang the Mother Prayer, a soothing song that expresses compassion, understanding and, above all, that she is not rejecting him, she’s rejecting his worst flaw, and then, as if to reinforce the message the prayer carries and get it imprinted on Sandor’s psyche, we see the touching of the chin in its female counterpoint: she cups his cheek, his burnt cheek no less.

The roles have been reversed, this is both a conscious attempt at obliterating his feelings of hurt and anger, and strangely enough, this small gesture in response to an act of violence gives Sansa her power back. Because when the person at the receiving end of the gesture that expresses this desire grasps the wrist of the person at the giving end of the gesture, it does make it clear her rejection and absence of consent, whilst if that same person reacts cupping the face of the one who initiated it, then she’s signaling her desire to share in that emotional connection; and in Sansa’s case it gives her the power to affect the other with her comforting touch in addition to her prayer; thus, she’s not an entirely defenceless and passive receiver here. She touches him, her gaze trying to focus on his face in the darkness of the room, silently asking with her hand to be looked back, and his tears tell her he’s listened to the Mother Prayer and understood. This is the second time Sansa has touched him of her own will, and the last time for both. Later, when he’s left, she wraps herself in his discarded cloak for comfort, and she stores it in her hope chest afterwards, while he goes alone down the path that will eventually take him to the Quiet Isle.

Maybe the ancients weren’t so wrong after all, and, like Cicero declared, their bodily gestures do follow the movements of their souls.

_______________________________

For further reading:

Boegehold, Alan L., When a gesture was expected, Princeton University Press, 1999.

Standalone XII

Some thoughts on the UnKiss

by Milady of York

I have to start by stating that mismemory is a category for a variety of cognitive processes that only have in common the fact that the recalling of an event is not accurate; there are dozens of types neuropsychologists have classified and each type is different from the other, has different causes, motivations and outcomes, can happen to perfectly healthy people and to those with neurological or psychiatric issues. The usage of this term is generic, and the presence of mismemory doesn’t necessarily imply the presence of an ongoing or future disorder such as dissociative ones; sometimes lapses can be simply the product of the brain’s struggling to keep trace of data in the face of information overload, or develop because people have unconsciously assimilated new information. Each type has its own explanation.

Another thing that needs clarification is the idea, fed by the media and popular beliefs, that traumatic events are what lead children to substitute memories with more pleasant ones to cope with trauma, because the reality, proven by clinical studies, is that children’s recollection of traumatic events follow the same cognitive rules that govern the recollection of general, non-traumatic memories. Traumatic memories aren’t simply banished to some black hole in the mind’s backyard and sunnier ones take their place, and it’s not really so easy to fabricate vivid spurious memories, even on purpose and with the intervention of a clinician doing experiments with memory (the rate of successful memory fabrication varies depending on the methodology, vulnerability of participants to false memories, etc., but it generally doesn’t rise above half of the attempts with the most effective technique). This notion that Sansa was traumatised and that’s the reason for the existence of the UnKiss lacks a credible basis.

That said, Milady has to declare that, speaking as a clinician with knowledge of real life mismemory cases, GRRM’s depiction is messy and makes bloody little sense! Sansa’s mismemory doesn’t resemble a mismemory as much as it resembles a sexual fantasy. And Milady would go even further and contend that GRRM has taken an utterly typical and comprehensible teenage first sexual fantasising and passed it off as mismemory for narrative purposes. His lack of specific psychological knowledge is evident here. Of course, he has a basic grasp of the mechanics of the mind, but not accurate enough, and, besides, it wouldn’t be the first time he twisted some well-established scientific rules to suit his plotline requirements. The laws of genetic inheritance come to mind as just one example.

Sansa’s first recall of the kiss has some elements of the selective retrieval/recognition type of mismemory, which is in fact a common memory bias and has generally no psychopathological connotations. Selective recognition and retrieval happens in two forms: explicit and implicit. Explicit means the memory is retrieved deliberately, in a flexible manner, across situations, and the implicit form means that the memory is brought to mind automatically by cues resembling the context in which an event occurred. Sansa’s “recollection” of the kiss doesn’t fill in this type completely because the memory didn’t stem from an actual action as in a real case, and it only resembles it in two things, one: it’s about a specific portion of her recollection of the night of the Blackwater, but hers is an addition (a fantasy), not a reformation of an extant memory of a specific action that really occurred; and two: selective retrieval/recognition attenuates retrieval of other memories––i.e., memories for other details of the event––causing retrieval-induced forgetting, which some say occurs in the latter recollections of the UnKiss; but again, to fill in this field, the “forgetting” should be present since the beginning, and we know she remembers the other details in the first mention of the kiss, and the later recollections are part of the evolution of that inserted fantasy, not of the scene in itself. For an additional blow, selective retrieval works both ways: it can attenuate and enhance/aid the recalling of that specific action, meaning that if Sansa were really suffering from this type of mismemory, she wouldn’t necessarily forget the other details but even remember them more clearly and for a longer period.

And in psychology there’s no X fits this, but not that, yet it’s Y nevertheless. It’s X fits this and that, therefore it’s Y, elsewise it’s not Y. In the game of clinical diagnosis, you fill in all the required fields or you are out; there’s no middle ground.

The UnKiss may have appeared as a result of self-imagination––that is: imagining something from a personal emotional perspective––whilst Sansa lay awake in her bed for some days previous to the first mention of the kiss, thinking about this episode and her own decision not to leave with the Hound. During those reflections, as she tried to recognise what she’d witnessed, how she felt about it, and incorporate these feelings into her new understanding of herself and her blooming womanhood, the image of the kiss came to be, and it was voluntarily constructed, not unlike any other normal fantasy with romantic components. Some may not realise this, because we aren’t privy to its genesis: when Sansa mentions the kiss for the first time, the fantasy is already in a middle stage evolution-wise, and looks like a mismemory that is replacing her recollections of the incident, because the author chose not to let us know about its earliest stage.

The interpretation of the episode as sexual fantasising linked to bodily and psychological development can contribute to comprehend this better. The stage of psychosexual development corresponding to Sansa’s age is the transitional stage, in which she’s no more a child and not yet a woman. At this point, significant biological changes occur, such as the maturation of the genital system and apparition of secondary sexual characteristics, which affect the mind with regards to awakening the hitherto quiescent erotic drive. This libidinal drive leads to new experiences such as lust, falling in love, idealising and fantasising about a person as object of desire. For young girls, this fantasising is no longer non-sexual romanticising of random objects as in the previous pre-puberty period––think of her infatuations with Waymar Royce, Joffrey, Loras––but a desire they are now able to recognise as sexual and link to an object in particular. Fantasies are, according to studies, the most common sexual activity in this period of life, far more common than self-exploration. They mainly help a girl: a. to learn about her needs and preferences, thus becoming familiar with the preconditions for sexual fulfillment; b. adaptive “rehearsal” as mental preparation for a future realisation of sexual activity; c. have control of her own sexuality by elaborating, explicating and expressing her own idiosyncratic erotic scripts regarding dominance/submission, consent/rejection, pleasure/displeasure, etc. Girls are typically less visual in their first fantasies, and privilege smells, touch or sounds (hence why Sansa’s imagines a kiss. Lips are connected to emotional availability), and their fantasising evolves gradually as they mature: they go from very simple and ridiculously chaste images to more complex ones as their growing cognitive sophistication leads them to keep discovering the intricacies of sex and love. They are also more likely to construct a story with the emotional feelings of a romantic encounter to accompany a recurrent fantasy with the object of their choice, i.e. to add details as time goes by, as Sansa is doing. Interestingly, female fantasies also have the less known effect of preserving real memories. They don’t fade for as long as the image persists.

Sansa obviously hasn’t forgotten nor is trying to forget what happened during that night. But, why would she have a memory of a kiss that didn’t exist and with this man and at this point in particular? The answer might be found in the way emotionally-driven cognitions work. Dr. Daniel Kahneman often says it’s memories and not experiences themselves that we remember, and that the experiences we remember are defined by change, for they are new and have therefore greater significance. This expert says: “We actually don’t choose between experiences, we choose between memories of experiences.

That brings me back to emotions as sources of cognitions, and the role objects play in this process.

Dr. Kahneman, the Old Gods bless his neurons, said once in a lecture that the part of our mind in charge of remembering has a marked preference for endings, that is: how episodes and experiences conclude. At the end of the Blackwater scene, Sansa’s wrapped in the bloody cloak, and we do not read her thoughts, partly because she’s blanking as a result of a long day of exhausting emotions and mostly because of the author’s preference for fading to black when it comes to important episodes where her thoughts should be described. Is there a reason to believe that this aided in the development of the fantasy? Aye. Though the fantasy wasn’t originated by the cloak itself, it did serve as a trigger and to consolidate the fantasy. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Mary Lamia: “Holding onto certain possessions is a way to activate the recall of emotion. Yet it is not simply emotional memory that is triggered by an object but also the connection you had with the person who is represented by it [Sandor, in this case]. You may muse about the past because you want to recreate a satisfying emotional experience [the part where she reached to touch his face and he cried], if only fleetingly, through a daydream [the kiss].”

Were the memory an unpleasant one, discarding this memento would be a way to deactivate recall and symbolically “dispose” of the person through this material representation of their mutual interaction. Besides, it’s a fact that negative emotions such as fear, guilt and disgust, which usually accompany uncomfortable memories, don’t promote but inhibit sexual and romantic responses.

Now, did he try to kiss her and could her memory be based on that? We have scarce textual details to assert beyond a doubt whether he had that intention in his mind or not, but to me, his body language in that specific instant doesn’t suggest that he did. We have Sansa’s thoughts––for a moment she thought he was going to kiss her––yet this reads more like a well-known (for clinicians, of course) reflex reaction to fear: in a situation like this, men make direct eye contact to look for what the threat is, but women avert their gaze downward slightly towards the nose and mouth, which looks strangely as if they were expecting the following action to come from the mouth. This is due to women being more sensitive to the negative consequences of making direct eye contact than with what’s really going to happen. The only time when it’s quite clear that he did express a wish to kiss her was in the episode at the Serpentine steps, and she didn’t get the clues then as we can see by her innocent replies to his words and behaviour. Then, her fantasy is a result of her overall assessment of her interactions with him, especially the latter part of Blackwater, and that also explains why it’s evolving into more and more complex images as her emotions get clearer.

And can these fantasies become memories? It’s possible that when retrieving information about an scene to make sense of what we’ve experienced at that moment and to use it for future reference, we draw inferences about what might have happened but didn’t, and these inferences turn into “recollection.” A similar process happens in retrieving truthful life events as well, and is an exceptionally frequent unconscious lapse not related to personality disorders, emotional distress or memory malfunction. A typical experiment clinicians and social researchers have used to prove just how common this is and how prone sane people––average and intelligent––are to succumbing to this lapse, consists in taking an episode of their lives, which they remember well, and tell them a seemingly innocent invented anecdote you recall about something that happened back then, they will correct you because they know it didn’t happen, but you have to insist and stand your ground, and after some time, they’ll most likely say in their next retelling of this event that they recall the fake anecdote you told them. There are dozens of distinct variations of this experiment, and all of them show the extent of human memory’s fallibility and unreliability, nothing else. But bear in mind that for a mismemory to be considered as such, it has to come out of the mental realm into the realm of reality, otherwise it’s fantasising, pure and simple. Thus, as far as Sansa’s imaginary kiss remains in her thoughts, it’s only her imagination at work. We cannot say yet if GRRM will decide that it will develop into a permanent mismemory or will be dispelled either by herself or Clegane, but we do know that the developing of her sexuality that started with it hasn’t finished yet, and her fantasy has already started to disconnect from the Blackwater, moving on to another stage where sexual dreams take place, dreams that have the purpose of rehearsing attachment-related scenarios during sleep, to process affective and mental content from daytime life, and that, were this not fictional, should be already explicit at this point.

In any case, I see nothing to warrant the odd speculations a segment of the fandom indulges in. It has no negative significance with regards to her mental health, and I haven’t seen any signs of a psychological disorder or a major cognitive malfunction about to happen as a result of this. What the kiss reveals to me is her psychosexual maturation, how she’s formed that connection with Clegane, and how her characteristic emotional expressions work, with all its strengths and failings.

Standalone XIII

Heretical summary of thoughts on the Starks and Sansa

by Black Crow

Christmas Greetings from the Heresy channel, and at Brashcandy’s request a brief summary of where we Heretics think we might be heading in regards to what’s going on beyond the Game of Thrones and why the Starks are different.

The usual caveats need to made that as with this thread, it’s a work in progress and we argue, sometimes quite passionately over ideas and interpretations.

Essentially, however, current thinking is that the Wall may be much older than it appears and instead of being built after the Long Night, it isn’t a defensive structure at all, but a magical hinge, delineating the boundary of the realm of Ice, a Faerie realm, and as such has always been there, which is why notwithstanding the vague legend of its being raised by Bran the Builder, we strongly suspect its always been there.

That’s partly background, but relevant to continued thinking on GRRM’s remarks that: “The Others are not dead. They are strange, beautiful . . . think, oh . . . the Sidhe made of ice, something like that . . . a different sort of life . . . inhuman, elegant, dangerous.” Some of us think the reference to the Sidhe is a significant one, and that there are many parallels between Faerie folklore and some of the strange stuff going on beyond the Wall, including the story of Bael the Bard as told by Ygritte in ACoK Jon 6:

The Stark in Winterfell wanted Bael’s head, but never could take him, and the taste o’ failure galled him. One day in his bitterness he called Bael a craven who preyed only on the weak. When word o’ that got back, Bael vowed to teach the lord a lesson. So he scaled the Wall, skipped down the kingsroad, and walked into Winterfell one winter’s night with harp in hand… singers always find a ready welcome, so Bael ate at Lord Stark’s own table, and played for the lord in his high seat until half the night was gone. The old songs he played, and new ones he’d made himself, and he played and sang so well that when he was done, the lord offered to let him name his own reward. ‘All I ask is a flower’ Bael answered, ‘the fairest flower that blooms in the gardens o’ Winterfell.’

Now as it happened winter roses had only then come into bloom, and no flower is so rare nor precious. So the Stark sent to his glass gardens and commanded the most beautiful o’ the winter roses be plucked for the singer’s payment. And so it was done. But when morning come, the singer had vanished… and so had Lord Brandon’s maiden daughter. Her bed they found empty, but for the pale blue rose that Bael had left on the pillow where her head had lain.

… Lord Brandon had no other children. At his behest, the black crows flew forth from their castles in the hundreds, but nowhere could they find any sign of Bael or this maid. For most of a year they searched, till the lord lost heart and took to his bed, and it seemed as though the line o’ Starks was at its end. But one night as he lay waiting to die, Lord Brandon heard a child’s cry. He followed the sound and found his daughter back in her bedchamber, asleep with a babe at her breast… They had been in Winterfell all the time, hiding with the dead beneath the castle… Bael left the child in payment for the rose he’d plucked unasked, and that the boy grew to be the next Lord Stark. So there it is—you have Bael’s blood in you.

Now compare this with the Scottish ballad of Tam Lin: The woods of Carterhaugh [in the Scottish borders] are guarded by Tam Lin, who demands payment of all maidens who pass through, of their virginity. A maiden named Janet travels to Carterhaugh and picks a rose, causing Tam Lin to appear. He questions her presence, to which she relies that Carterhaugh belongs to her father. Nevertheless the inevitable happens and she returns home pregnant, much to the concern of the household. She states that her lover is elfin, and then returns to Carterhaugh, once again encountering Tam Lin. He reveals he is not elfin, but a mortal captured by the queen of Faerie, and that he may be sacrificed to hell as part of the faerie tithe. He then details how she can save him, if she will undergo a trial on Halloween night. She must pull him from his horse as the Sidhe go trooping over Carter Bar, and hold onto him as he is transformed into various beasts, and when he regains his own naked shape she must cover him with her green mantle and he will be free. This she succeeds in doing to the annoyance of the Queen of Faerie, but as they have played it by the rules they are free to depart.

The ballad itself can be found at:

http://tam-lin.org/front.html

Obviously enough, the stories of Bael and Tam Lin are not the same and differ in significant details, but the Rose and the Child are common to both (the hint of warging is intriguing too) and may be a strong pointer to a Sidhe or Faerie connection.

Why there should be this connection is unclear, but we think that together with the requirement there should be a Stark in Winterfell, it may be something to do with the Last Hero and the interface between the realms of Men and of Faerie (or Ice).

You’ll appreciate that it’s not easy to condense 30-odd threads of discussion into a single post, but it may give you the odd idea. Sansa certainly appears trembling on the brink of the Faerie realm in that scene in the garden of the Eyrie, but if it intrigues you do come and visit.

Standalone XIV

An analysis of Sansa’s preference in men

by Milady of York

Whilst re-reading, some probably have wondered if Sansa had an established preference for a certain type of men and what it would be. Milady certainly was assaulted by the Muses and did ponder on this, and so off to investigate in the books and find an answer she went.

But before we start, the major premises we will be talking about are first physical appearance, namely: height, body type, hair colour, eye colour, etc., and not necessarily personality traits of the men mentioned; and second, we’re taking into account only and exclusively those men in whom Sansa has shown interest, and not those who’ve been unilaterally interested in Sansa, because this analysis is about her preferences, not theirs.

This second point therefore narrows down the list to the following men, in chronological order:

Waymar of House Royce

Sansa set eyes on this younger son of Lord Bronze Yohn Royce of Runestone when he was making a stop at Winterfell on his way to the Wall. This young man’s appearance is described thus:

He was a handsome youth of eighteen, grey-eyed and graceful and slender as a knife. Mounted on his huge black destrier, the knight towered above Will and Gared on their smaller garrons.

AGOT, Prologue, pp. 11, e-book.

Sansa should have been more or less ten at the time (at the Hand’s tourney, she remembers Bronze Yohn had been at Winterfell two years before), and an argument can be made that this one was her first crush ever, and a short-lived one. Considering her age, it’s far from being purely speculative, as there’s no mention of any other romantic crush previous to him, and this interpretation is supported by the text. Sansa herself, whilst masquerading as Alayne in the Vale, thinks this:

She had fallen wildly in love with Ser Waymar, she remembered dimly, but that was a lifetime ago, when she was a stupid little girl.

AFFC, Alayne I, pp. 803, e-book.

Joffrey of Houses Baratheon and Lannister

This one was a parental choice as a potential husband for her in the first place, and we get a first physical description of him not through her but her brother Jon Snow:

Sansa, two years older, drew the crown prince, Joffrey Baratheon. He was twelve, younger than Jon or Robb, but taller than either, to Jon’s vast dismay. Prince Joffrey had his sister’s hair and his mother’s deep green eyes. A thick tangle of blond curls dripped down past his golden choker and high velvet collar.

AGOT, Jon I, pp. 101, e-book.

Sansa doesn’t make any remarks about his physical attractiveness before she was told about her betrothal to him but rather about his behaviour (manners), as we can read in the conversation in AGOT Arya I, in which she describes him as simply “gallant,” possibly due to how he behaved in the banquet when he sat by her side, and complimented her beauty, according to Beth Cassel. It fell to Arya to remark on his looks, twice:

Arya knew which prince she meant: Joffrey, of course. The tall, handsome one.

AGOT, Arya I, pp. 136, e-book

“Jon says he looks like a girl,” Arya said.

AGOT, Arya I, pp. 136, e-book.

It’s only after she is told that she’s going to marry the crown prince that she does fancy herself in love with him, and describes his looks for the first time:

Sansa did not really know Joffrey yet, but she was already in love with him. He was all she ever dreamt her prince should be, tall and handsome and strong, with hair like gold.

AGOT, Sansa I, pp. 272, e-book

And from then onwards a behavioural pattern emerges: she describes him as handsome precisely when he’s acting the gallant little prince toward her. For example, when at the Trident she is frightened by some men of the royal entourage, and he intervenes on his mother’s command:

Leave her alone,” Joffrey said. He stood over her, beautiful in blue wool and black leather, his golden curls shining in the sun like a crown.

AGOT, Sansa I, pp. 284, e-book.

She then describes his acts as gallant, seemingly tying her view of him as handsome to his good behaviour. Later, at the banquet following the Hand’s tourney, she repeats this connection of attractiveness to gallantry again:

She could not hate Joffrey tonight. He was too beautiful to hate. He wore a deep blue doublet studded with a double row of golden lion’s heads, and around his brow a slim coronet made of gold and sapphires. His hair was as bright as the metal. Sansa looked at him and trembled, afraid that he might ignore her or, worse, turn hateful again and send her weeping from the table.

Instead Joffrey smiled and kissed her hand, handsome and gallant as any prince in the songs, and said, “Ser Loras has a keen eye for beauty, sweet lady.”

AGOT, Sansa II, pp. 581

There is one more occasion in which she does this again, whilst confined in the tower of Maegor’s Holdfast as the Lannisters are getting rid of opposition after King Robert’s death. Hearing the tolling of the bells, she wonders if “beautiful Joffrey” is the new king, and later she believes the “gallant” young man will listen to her if she pleads for mercy for her father, and again describes his agreeing to it as a gallant act. This is the last time, for her perception of him changes radically when he demonstrates to her his outrageous personal interpretation of being merciful:

Sansa stared at him, seeing him for the first time. He was wearing a padded crimson doublet patterned with lions and a cloth-of-gold cape with a high collar that framed his face. She wondered how she could ever have thought him handsome. His lips were as soft and red as the worms you found after a rain, and his eyes were vain and cruel. “I hate you,” she whispered.

AGOT, Sansa VII, pp. 1451, e-book.

As we can see, when Joffrey abandons all pretension of goodness, not only her feelings for him change, but also her assessment of his physical attractiveness. The next time Sansa mentions his appearance, in her very first chapter in ACOK, she gives a mere description without providing any personal appraising of it: “He was thirteen today, and tall for his age, with the green eyes and golden hair of the Lannisters,” and when he decides to behave well again, she just tells herself that he’d “decided to play the gallant” that day. Furthermore, comments similar to the one above—“his plump pink lips always made him look pouty. Sansa had liked that once, but now it made her sick,” and “those fat wormy lips of his”—will appear throughout the rest of her chapters until Joffrey’s poisoning. In the end, “bright, shining, and empty,” becomes her definition of the boy king.

Renly of House Baratheon

Sansa’s description seems to be a conscious appraisal of the younger Baratheon brother’s appearance rather than an infatuation on her part, yet given the purposes of this analysis, it’s worth including it here:

His companion was a man near twenty whose armor was steel plate of a deep forest-green. He was the handsomest man Sansa had ever set eyes upon; tall and powerfully made, with jet-black hair that fell to his shoulders and framed a clean-shaven face, and laughing green eyes to match his armor. Cradled under one arm was an antlered helm, its magnificent rack shimmering in gold.

AGOT, Sansa I, pp. 282, e-book.

She again calls him handsome twice during the Hand’s tournament, and much later she compliments Renly as “gallant” to his widow Margaery, and when describing the songs being sung at the wedding of the Tyrell girl to Joffrey, she refers to the late lord as “handsome young prince.” Apart from Sansa, we also get a description of this young man from other characters, such as Maester Cressen, who describes him as having “wild black hair and laughing eyes,” and Sansa’s own mother, Catelyn, declares that “Renly was handsome as Robert had been handsome; long of limb and broad of shoulder, with the same coal-black hair, fine and straight, the same deep blue eyes, the same easy smile.” There’s a difference in eye colour here, a small authorial lapsus. But it’s Brienne of Tarth who gives the most complete description, when she encounters his bastard nephew Gendry: “Renly had been lean and lithe… King Renly’s hair had been that same coal black, but his had always been washed and brushed and combed. Sometimes he cut it short, and sometimes he let it fall loose to his shoulders, or tied it back behind his head with a golden ribbon, but it was never tangled or matted with sweat. And though his eyes had been that same deep blue, Lord Renly’s eyes had always been warm and welcoming, full of laughter…”

And Sansa and Brienne aren’t the only girls who consider him handsome, because Arianne Martell reveals in one of her chapters in AFFC that she “did her best to seduce him” when he was visiting Sunspear, to no avail, naturally.

Loras of House Tyrell

She met the third Tyrell brother during the famous tournament in honour of her father, and in the first mention of him she makes, she focuses primarily on describing his feats at the jousts, his armour and what he’s doing—“pluck a single white rose from the blanket and toss it to some fair maiden in the crowd”—after each of his victories. It’s only after his display of courtesy that she finally does describe his appearance:

To the other maidens he had given white roses, but the one he plucked for her was red. “Sweet lady,” he said, “no victory is half so beautiful as you.” Sansa took the flower timidly, struck dumb by his gallantry. His hair was a mass of lazy brown curls, his eyes like liquid gold.”

AGOT, Sansa II, pp. 577, e-book.

After this, Sansa comes to qualify Loras as a “true knight,” an ideal she still believes in, and because of this, she argues it should be him the one sent to slay the Monster, Gregor Clegane, as he was not only the Hero but “looked a true hero, so slim and beautiful, with golden roses around his slender waist and his rich brown hair tumbling down into his eyes.”

And as the apple cannot fall so far from the tree, her father Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell, of “muscled like a maiden’s fantasy” fame, also acknowledged the boy’s comely appearance:

When the Knight of Flowers made his entrance, a murmur ran through the crowd, and he heard Sansa’s fervent whisper, “Oh, he’s so beautiful.” Ser Loras Tyrell was slender as a reed, dressed in a suit of fabulous silver armor polished to a blinding sheen and filigreed with twining black vines and tiny blue forget-me-nots. The commons realized in the same instant as Ned that the blue of the flowers came from sapphires; a gasp went up from a thousand throats. Across the boy’s shoulders his cloak hung heavy. It was woven of forget-me-nots, real ones, hundreds of fresh blooms sewn to a heavy woolen cape.

AGOT, Eddard VII, pp. 611, e-book.

“Lord Eddard!” The shout came from the west side of the hall as a handsome stripling of a boy strode forth boldly. Out of his armor, Ser Loras Tyrell looked even younger than his sixteen years. He wore pale blue silk, his belt a linked chain of golden roses, the sigil of his House.

AGOT, Eddard XI, pp. 916, e-book.

Next time Sansa thinks of him is when she’s in the sept during the Battle of Blackwater, and she includes him in her prayers. Later, after he’s been appointed a Kingsguard, and as he escorts her to sup with his female relatives she has the opportunity to have a conversation with him for the first time; in which she realises the one-sided nature of her crush. On one hand, Sansa is thinking of how graceful and attractive he is, complimenting him in her head and remembering the red rose he gave her; and on the other hand we have Loras just spouting niceties in response to hers, and not even remembering the rose. Once Lady Olenna proposes a betrothal to a Tyrell, she believes it’s him, and goes off to fantasise about how it’d be “to pull up his tunic and caress the smooth skin underneath, to stand on her toes and kiss him, to run her fingers through those thick brown curls and drown in his deep brown eyes,” which, like the UnKiss with Sandor, is part of her sexual awakening.

However, she’s quickly disabused of that idea when they clarify that it’s the eldest, Willas, the one they’re speaking of, and she accepts him in Loras’ stead mainly so she can go out of King’s Landing to a peaceful place she could call home, struggling for a while with the comparison of Willas to his younger brother in her head, and finally determining that she would be good to him and make him love her for herself.

Her forced wedding to the Imp, who intends for her to pretend it’s Loras in her marriage bed, puts an end to all hopes to wed any Tyrell. And by the time Sansa’s living in the Eyrie, it’s evident that she’s completely outgrown the youthful infatuation she’d had with him, as shown in her inner dialogue as Robert Arryn is kissing her:

It was a little boy’s kiss, and clumsy. Everything Robert Arryn did was clumsy. If I close my eyes I can pretend he is the Knight of Flowers. Ser Loras had given Sansa Stark a red rose once, but he had never kissed her… and no Tyrell would ever kiss Alayne Stone. Pretty as she was, she had been born on the wrong side of the blanket.

AFFC, Alayne II, pp. 1459, e-book.

Here, instead of fantasising about a kiss from highborn Loras, she immediately replaces him with a kiss from someone lowborn:

As the boy’s lips touched her own she found herself thinking of another kiss. She could still remember how it felt, when his cruel mouth pressed down on her own. He had come to Sansa in the darkness as green fire filled the sky. He took a song and a kiss, and left me nothing but a bloody cloak.

AFFC, Alayne II, pp. 1459, e-book.

Sandor of House Clegane

Of all those men, this is the only one that’s not traditionally attractive, from the neck up at least, and the one that’s not gone down in Sansa’s estimation. Quite the contrary. As the slow evolution of her relationship with him has been sufficiently analysed previously, here we’ll focus primarily on how she perceives his appearance. The father of the Stark pack had been the first one to remark on Sandor’s “terrible burned face” back in Winterfell, and that’s also the first thing the wolfling describes when he talks to her for the first time:

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.

AGOT, Sansa I, pp. 283, e-book.

She admits to herself that he frightens her, but not half as much as Ilyn Payne does, from which it could be interpreted that she’s implying by this that it’s not so much his burns as his attitude and reputation, because a case can be made that, comparatively, Sandor’s “ruin of a face” is objectively worse in purely aesthetic terms. Frightening as he might be to her, she still notices his performance during the Hand’s tourney, namely that he seems “unstoppable” and jousts in “ferocious style.” But she cannot look at his face yet:

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. “You rode gallantly today, Ser Sandor,” she made herself say.

AGOT Sansa II, pp. 586, e-book.

She tries to follow her ladylike training and overlook his burns, complimenting him on his skills as a jouster instead. Yet he doesn’t allow her to do this, and forces her to take a good look at his face, which she accordingly does and describes in detail:

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

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

AGOT, Sansa II, pp. 589, e-book.

Then he tells her the story of how he got those burns, after snuffing out the torch once he sees she’s crying, and her fright goes away, replaced by sadness, fear for him and compassion. She gets the “little bird” sobriquet there and then, and for once Sandor doesn’t mock her notion of a “true knight.” The next day at the jousts, it becomes clear that this act has changed her perception of him, because she’s eagerly watching the Hound vs. Kingslayer match, revealing that she’s bet against Lannister and in favour of Clegane, who wins. Henceforward, every time she describes his appearance, she will mention from time to time his scarred face, the twitching of his mouth, and also his grip and touch, gentle sometimes, hard other times. Interestingly, Sansa doesn’t praise his physique; the “muscled like a bull” description of his body came from Arya in her first chapter.

In the second book, in which they interact more frequently, her comments about his appearance reveal that there are three things that get her attention the most:

  • His voice. She often describes how it sounds: rough like “saw on wood,” “raspy” and “deep.” And does also hear the emotions his face doesn’t betray (“his voice thick with contempt,” “his voice was flat,” and “his voice raw and harsh as steel on stone”).
  • His laughter. He laughs very easily (eight times only in ACOK, not counting snorts), and Sansa doesn’t stop at just describing the sound of it but can differentiate when he laughs because he’s genuinely amused (as when Myrcella beat Joffrey in their verbal sparring), from when he laughs in derision or self-derision, and when his laugh is bitter. She noticed as well how it changes his features, like when he laughed after making the mob run during the riot and “his terrible burned face for a moment transformed.”
  • His facial tic. Sansa notices how the burnt side of his mouth twitches when he speaks a remarkable amount of times: two times in her first chapter, once in her second, once in her fourth, and one last time in her seventh before he leaves the city. This suggests that, contrary to Sandor’s conviction, she had actually been looking at his face more times that either of them could consciously realise, elsewise she’d not have registered this so many times. Once more, we learn how important it is to pay attention to what these two do and not just to what they say.

For all this good deal of attention, she refers to his scars themselves in surprisingly few occasions, and in two of these, she reveals that it’s not what she really minds:

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.

ACOK, Sansa IV, pp. 1325, e-book.

The blood masked the worst of his scars, but his eyes were white and wide and terrifying.

ACOK, Sansa VII, pp. 1516, e-book.

The first admission was on the rooftop of Maegor’s Holdfast; the latter comes right before she cups Sandor’s cheek in her bedchamber, and it can be inferred that it was the burnt one she cupped, based on what’s stated above, because when she touched him, she felt the blood.

After he’s gone, she reflects on knowing the secret of “his burned face” when she recalls him in her first chapter in ASOS; by then she already has the fantasy of the inexistent kiss, even though she doesn’t disclose it yet until her next chapter, the second; and when she has to marry Tyrion, she compares his appearance unfavourably to the Hound’s, as she finds the dwarf uglier. Furthermore, in the same chapter she gives one small yet significant piece of information about the physical traits of her dream bridegroom, because it reveals more about her preference. Is he handsome? No. She doesn’t list handsomeness as a requisite anymore. In her own words, she’d pictured him as “tall and strong.” This is also significant for another reason: it shows how much more mature she is, because if we look back at the first volume, naïve little Sansa had dreamt he’d be “tall and handsome and strong.”

Once out of King’s Landing, in the Fingers she recalls the raspy sound of his voice thrice; first, when recalling his words on lies and liars, Sansa says she “can almost hear his rough rasp of a voice,” then when she mistakes Lothor Brune’s similar rough tone for his, and finally in her erotic dream, in which she hears the familiar rasping:

And she dreamed of her wedding night too, of Tyrion’s eyes devouring her as she undressed. Only then he was bigger than Tyrion had any right to be, and when he climbed into the bed his face was scarred only on one side. “I’ll have a song from you,” he rasped, and Sansa woke and found the old blind dog beside her once again.

ASOS, Sansa VIII, pp. 1866, e-book.

In this dream, we observe that Sansa is undressing for a man who’s devouring her with his eyes, a clear reference to the fact that she’s looking at him in the face and registering his reaction and not flinching, otherwise she couldn’t have possibly noted the look of desire he had in his eyes, much less if he was looking at her at all; and this textual fact is reinforced by the description of his scars, because she wouldn’t have noticed this either if she hadn’t kept her eyes open and focused on his face.

So, Sansa’s preferred type is…

Apart from the conclusion that The Ned had a good pair of eyes and appreciated beauty, this detailed examination of every man that interested Sansa has led to other interesting conclusions:

  • She doesn’t just fall for any random handsome boy for his looks only, as those she’s had a crush on showed good behaviour toward her and were courteous, flattering and gallant with her; or did something for her in the case of the Hound. In sum, she reacts to their behaviour toward her. We don’t know anything about the Royce boy to speculate beyond his possible courteous treatment of her as is expected of nobles in society, but we do have textual basis to argue that Joffrey’s and Loras’ treatment of her and their real or perceived interest in her had a major impact on her crushing on them and her opinion of them as handsome. Renly also was fairly good-humoured in her presence.

As contrast, we have Jeyne Poole’s random crush on Beric Dondarrion, whom she calls handsome, but as Sansa doesn’t know him nor interacts with him, she barely registers his appearance in passing. And we have the curious case that she never ever remarks on Jaime Lannister’s looks, who’s believed to be one of the handsomest men in Westeros, if not the handsomest. Not even in passing there’s a single description of him as attractive coming out of her mouth, and interestingly, she assesses the performance of Sandor (who is far from handsome and wears drab clothes) as “riding gallantly,” but the most she can tell about Jaime (who’s strikingly beautiful and dresses well) is that he “rode brilliantly,” a compliment on his skills, not on the man’s looks or behaviour. Was it that he was an uncle to her betrothed? But Renly was, too, and even so, she did compliment his appearance. Was it because he is a Lannister? Up to that point, she had no personal reason for disliking him yet as she would later, and even Catelyn, who does have a very valid reason, doesn’t shy away from describing him as beautiful, so at least a casual remark could’ve been expected from Sansa. Was it that he fit too well in her definition of “awfully old”? Possible, but Renly does, too, and Beric, and even so, she admits they’re good-looking. The logical conclusion would therefore be that blond Jaime Lannister isn’t her type, that he didn’t particularly care to show courtesy and due regard to her or hers. Plus, later he became the first Lannister she misliked.

Another point that supports this interpretation of her tying attractiveness to behaviour toward her is the case of Joffrey. She did hate him after his appalling behaviour during the Lady incident, and they reconciled because the betrothal was still valid, she was still to marry him and he was again behaving well with her, something that changed after he beheaded her father. She then no longer talks of him as flawless in appearance, as demonstrated by the quotes on his lips. It isn’t that they’re necessarily ugly and she was blind to it before, because Megga of the Tyrells gushed in her presence that “King Joffrey has such beautiful lips;” it’s a common consequence of romantic disappointment which appears in the anger stage, specifically, and is born of emotional hurt.

  • Her preferred type of men is brunets, men with black or brown hair; the only exception is Joffrey, who was chosen for her. Eye colour varies from light to dark, though light colours are predominant: blue, green, gray.
  • Except for Joffrey, all the men Sansa has fancied have been several years older than her: Ser Waymar was 8 years older, Lord Renly (although not exactly an infatuation) was 9 years older, Ser Loras is 5 years older, and Sandor is 15 years older.
  • An interesting detail is that Waymar Royce and Sandor Clegane, as of AFFC her first crush and her last romantic interest, share the same northern colouring: dark hair and gray eyes; yet none of them is a Northman, as one is from the Vale and the other is a Westerman. We know Royce has First Men blood, yet we don’t know if Clegane does or not. And both are also tall; Clegane for a certainty, Royce’s height isn’t stated, but given Bronze Yohn’s height, it’s likely he was on the tall end of the spectrum.

This coincidence, plus the overwhelming predominance of brunets in her choices, leads me to think that Lord Stark influenced his daughter’s preference for certain physical attributes in males. This is an unconscious cognitive process that starts very early in childhood and usually doesn’t manifest until much later, generally in womanhood. That old popular adage that one’s partner resembles one’s parent is real enough, and it obeys partly to evolutionary biological imprinting (genetic perpetuation) and partly to cognitive shaping due to upbringing rather than some convoluted psychoanalytic hypothesis. But as with everything, there are some nuances: this pattern is more easily found in traditionally feminine, i.e. “girlie,” daughters of fathers who’re themselves a traditional image of virility, requisites met by Sansa and Eddard; and contrary to widespread belief, it’s more likely to happen if the girl grew up with the necessary emotional support from both parents and had a positive father figure. This resemblance is usually to be found first and foremost in facial metrics, i.e. shape of the face, and secondarily in hair and eye colour. Applying the latter to Sansa’s choices, if we observe the various descriptions of her father’s face by different characters—long and sharp-featured—we can notice a correlation between it and Clegane’s face—gaunt and sharp cheekbones—who’s precisely the one she develops feelings for at a time when she’s entering into womanhood. Moreover, unlike his elder brother, Eddard Stark was plain-faced, and according to GRRM, without the scars the Hound would’ve been plain-faced as well; and finally, we have the similarities in their hair and eye colour as noted above.

All points considered, we can conclude that dark-hair, light eyes, tall stature and strength seem to be the physical traits a more mature Sansa Stark appreciates in a man.

Standalone XV

On Sansa’s clothing symbolism

by Rapsie

There is a lot of emphasis put on Sansa’s clothing throughout the series. In our first introduction to her, she is sewing. At the tournament she wears green, which could symbolise her immaturity as well as tie into her crush on Loras.

Then we see her choice of dress being explored through the gown Cersei gives her (that is ruined) and then dyed black, which is befitting of mourning, but we also see her symbolically choosing a silver chain and also wearing silver bracelets at Ned’s execution, both of which symbolise her status as a prisoner[1].

Then we have Joff’s moonstones being a reoccurring feature, as was her choice in dresses to please him, in order to quell his wrath. We also have her dream about the gold gown, which is ominous as the only other associations with golden gowns have been death-related. Although in those cases it has been Olenna, Cersei and Joff (although his corpse was in gold armour, not a gown, it corresponds to her dream).

We have her Wedding dress, which is not of her choosing just as her marriage is not. The dress is beautiful and in Stark colours, which although not mentioned and a bit crackpot, may also have given her the strength not to kneel.

After that, the next dress of importance is the one she wears to Joff’s wedding. Here she is wearing silver, it is lined with purple which is a Royal colour, but also fits the amethysts. Amethysts were regarded in the Middle Ages as going dim when poison was present and I can’t imagine that is just coincidence within the books. In her outfit we have poison and royalty intertwined.

Then she changes into a dark brown dress covered in freshwater pearls and a dark green cloak. Here we have a juxtaposition to the amethysts as pearls represent purity and innocence. Brown and green both tie into the forest connection mentioned above. Also despite the pearls, it is a plainer outfit. She notes the simple but sturdy shoes she puts on. Her attire has gone from opulence to muted, foreshadowing her role as Alayne Stone.

Also notable is that she has no black dresses. As black is a colour of mourning, it seems she is not even to be allowed to visibly display her grief after the loss of her family. Although I doubt it is a plot point, the lack of public ally displaying grief may again count against her in the eyes of the Northerners. Indeed, it could be argued that as far as anyone in the North is aware, she has turned against her family.

Then we have her dress on the boat. She is given a cedar chest full of simple wool and linen clothing. Although she does have a feather bed. Then in the snow castle scene she wears blue lambswool and white fox fur. She is a picture of winter in this scene and it fits with building the snow castle. Everything about her dress affirms a connection to the North.

After that, we see her dressed in Tully red and blue. LF makes a point of telling her it is too Tully and that she must choose something else. It is the fact that it is pointed out that her choice relates to house colours that makes me believe the choice of dress scene is important. The fact she rejects the purple and the blue/silver choices, and goes with a plain dark brown dress that has gold thread embroidered into Autumn leaves and the simple velvet ribbon of Autumn gold seems important in terms of choice and her choosing her own fate.

Notably, we never see her choose to wear Lannister colours, or anything that could be associated as Lannister colours.

This is only a rough run through though and I’m sure there is more interesting relationships between clothing in the series. For example when she chooses the brown dress, Cersei is choosing a similar attire to visit the High Septon.

[1] Thanks to whoever pointed the silver bracelet thing out as I can’t remember who first brought it up.

Standalone XVI

Did Lady’s death pay for Bran’s life?

by Ragnorak

It came up here in the “Wow, I never noticed that.” thread” and I’ve been wondering about the implications.

Mirri Maz Duur tells Dany “Only death may pay for life,” and that sentiment is echoed by Jaqen to Arya when she is offered her three deaths. The timing of Bran’s awakening certainly fits with Lady’s death. What he sees of Ned, Arya, and Sansa in his visions seems to be the moments before Ned chooses to kill Lady himself. There isn’t any immediately apparent medical reason for Bran to awaken then as opposed to earlier or later. Bloodraven specifically tells him to put Jaime pushing him out of his mind, so there isn’t an urgency to get Bran to awaken to help with the fate of his family with the current political intrigue either.

I’m thinking Bran was warged into Summer in a pseudo-second life and Lady’s death is the sacrifice that pays for his return to his own body and “resurrection.” There seemed to be a connection that was keeping his body alive, as Cat notes that Bran grew weaker when the window was closed to block out the wolf’s howling. My first thoughts on this are about Jon’s potential recovery from his stabbing. Borroq, the boar warg that calls him brother, has taken to living in Castle Black’s lichyard (the same place at Winterfell Lady is buried), which always struck me as important. While interesting to speculate on, the Bran/Sansa connection from a sacrifice of Lady’s life probably has far more subtle clues and implications beyond a single cliff hanging event.

Here’s the passage where we learn Lady is buried in the lichyard:

And she says nothing of Arya, nothing, not so much as a word. Damn her! What’s wrong with the girl?”

Bran felt all cold inside. “She lost her wolf,” he said, weakly, remembering the day when four of his father’s guardsmen had returned from the south with Lady’s bones. Summer and Grey Wind and Shaggydog had begun to howl before they crossed the drawbridge, in voices drawn and desolate. Beneath the shadow of the First Keep was an ancient lichyard, its headstones spotted with pale lichen, where the old Kings of Winter had laid their faithful servants. It was there they buried Lady, while her brothers stalked between the graves like restless shadows. She had gone south, and only her bones had returned.

Bran’s reaction of feeling cold and speaking weakly is odd, especially compared to Robb’s anger and frustration. That he notes the connection to Sansa losing her wolf in what is clearly a Lannister-forced letter stands out too. I had been wondering about the connection between Sansa’s dreams with Lady and Bloodraven, but now I’m considering the possibility that they may be connected to Bran instead. That distinction between Bran and Bloodraven becomes less clear after he reaches the CotF cave.

Brash pulled out these references:

AGOT:

She had been dreaming, she realized. Lady was with her, and they were running together, and … and … trying to remember was like trying to catch the rain with her fingers. The dream faded, and Lady was dead again.

ACOK:

Sansa backed away from the window, retreating toward the safety of her bed. I’ll go to sleep, she told herself, and when I wake it will be a new day, and the sky will be blue again. The fighting will be done and someone will tell me whether I’m to live or die. “Lady,” she whimpered softly, wondering if she would meet her wolf again when she was dead.

Then something stirred behind her, and a hand reached out of the dark and grabbed her wrist.

ASOS:

That was such a sweet dream, Sansa thought drowsily. She had been back in Winterfell, running through the godswood with her Lady. Her father had been there, and her brothers, all of them warm and safe. If only dreaming could make it so …

ASOS:

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

AFFC:

… All around the air was empty air and sky, the ground falling away sharply to either side. There was ice under foot, and broken stones just waiting to turn an ankle, and the wind was howling fiercely. It sounds like a wolf, thought Sansa. A ghost wolf, big as mountains.

What is Bran doing while Sansa has these dreams?

The first: he’s in Winterfell with Robb, probably learning to ride Dancer or possibly it might be right after the Osha meeting. Hard to put an exact time on it.

The second seems to be during Theon’s occupation of Winterfell. Maybe while Bran is hiding in the crypts.

The two ASOS dreams are hard to place. The last Bran chapter is the Nightfort and it occurs before either of Sansa’s dreams, but that doesn’t mean the timeline works out that way. Bran has happy moments during Meera’s KotLT story and with the Liddle in the cave. Scary moments in the tower when he sees Jon through Summer and in the Nightfort. I don’t see strong connections, but I haven’t really done an exhaustive compare.

For Feast, Bran is already at the cave with Bloodraven. The Ghost Wolf wind howl might match up with Jon’s stabbing and, especially with Osha’s wind comment, has all kinds of Bran possibilities.

Maybe making a distinction between Sansa’s dreams with Lady and her waking thoughts and wishes about Lady might be more helpful?

Tze had this observation about Snow Winterfell and Bran which has always made me wonder (because it seems so very true):

‘tze’, on 05 Aug 2012 – 3:27 PM, said:

Sansa’s losing time here. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, immediately after she “blacks out” in the godswood, she starts building an incredibly detailed scale model of Winterfell. The Stark that knew Winterfell’s geography best was Bran, certainly not Sansa. What was going on during Sansa’s lost time here? Was she, perhaps, communicating with Bran in the godswood? Could that be why Sansa’s first instinct upon “waking up” from her trance was to start building a model of Winterfell filled with the type of details we know for a fact Bran knew (but which seem like the sort of things Sansa wasn’t really paying attention to when she was living there)?

<snip>

In a semi-related thought, there is Mirri Maz Duur’s resurrection of Drogo that has me wondering too. Someone had a thread about her dagger and whether it being bronze and the ancient glyphs connected it to the First Men.

Mirri Maz Duur chanted words in a tongue that Dany did not know, and a knife appeared in her hand. Dany never saw where it came from. It looked old; hammered red bronze, leaf-shaped, its blade covered with ancient glyphs.

Strength of the mount, go into the rider,” Mirri sang as horse blood swirled into the waters of Drogo’s bath. “Strength of the beast, go into the man.”

She glimpsed the shadow of a great wolf, and another like a man wreathed in flames.

Her lines about the strength of the beast going into the man strikes me as somewhat warg-like. The great wolf shadow in the tent stands out, too, and I’ve never been sure what to make of it. Is this an old gods resurrection that fails because Drogo isn’t a warg? In Bran’s vision he seems to have a choice to wake or not—to live or die. Why did Drogo come back a blank? Did Drogo choose not to live? Did Mirri Maz Duur intentionally fail to guide him the way Bloodraven guides Bran? If it is old gods resurrection, I would be inclined to go with Drogo not being a warg. Is there anything here that sheds light on a Bran/Lady/Sansa connection?

We discussed the Bran/Sansa parallels earlier. Is there anything there that might prove fruitful? Also, since Sandor is in many ways a Lady replacement, what are the parallels and contrasts between Bran and Sandor? Knighthood jumps out as one example and Bran’s discussion about lack of knights in the North with Luwin in particular.

As a final random note, Brash has been interested in Bronze Yohn’s armor. Lummel rained on our magic connection parade (damn him and his English weather), but he very well could be right. Sam also comments to Jon about the First Men history being written by Maesters because the First Men only wrote in runes (since their history was recorded in the weirwoods). Could the runes on the armor be a story or a song? Possibly the original First Men telling of one of Sansa’s favorite stories dating back before the Andals in its original version?

Standalone VII

On Sweetrobin’s potential greenseer powers

by Bran Vras

Robert Arryn is introduced surprisingly early in the story. It happens in the crypts of Winterfell, where the dialogue between Ned and Robert is intense. Given that the conversation contains much of our introduction to the story, it’s remarkable that so much of it is about Sweetrobin.

We both did.” Ned paused a moment. “Catelyn fears for her sister. How does Lysa bear her grief?”

Robert’s mouth gave a bitter twist. “Not well, in truth,” he admitted. “I think losing Jon has driven the woman mad, Ned. She has taken the boy back to the Eyrie. Against my wishes. I had hoped to foster him with Tywin Lannister at Casterly Rock. Jon had no brothers, no other sons. Was I supposed to leave him to be raised by women?”

Ned would sooner entrust a child to a pit viper than to Lord Tywin, but he left his doubts unspoken. Some old wounds never truly heal, and bleed again at the slightest word. “The wife has lost the husband,” he said carefully. “Perhaps-the mother feared to lose the son. The boy is very young.”

“Six, and sickly, and Lord of the Eyrie, gods have mercy,” the king swore. “Lord Tywin had never taken a ward before. Lysa ought to have been honored. The Lannisters are a great and noble House. She refused to even hear of it. Then she left in the dead of night, without so much as a by-your-leave. Cersei was furious.” He sighed deeply. “The boy is my namesake, did you know that? Robert Arryn. I am sworn to protect him. How can I do that if his mother steals him away?”

“I will take him as ward, if you wish,” Ned said. “Lysa should consent to that. She and Catelyn were close as girls, and she would be welcome here as well.”

“A generous offer, my friend,” the king said, “but too late. Lord Tywin has already given his consent. Fostering the boy elsewhere would be a grievous affront to him.”

“I have more concern for my nephew’s welfare than I do for Lannister pride,” Ned declared.

(Eddard I, AGoT)

Ned and Robert return to Robert Arryn a moment later:

His son…” Ned began.

“His son will succeed to the Eyrie and all its incomes,” Robert said brusquely. “No more.”

That took Ned by surprise. He stopped, startled, and turned to look at his king. The words came unbidden. “The Arryns have always been Wardens of the East. The title goes with the domain.” “Perhaps when he comes of age, the honor can be restored to him,” Robert said. “I have this year to think of, and next. A six-year-old boy is no war leader, Ned.”
“In peace, the title is only an honor. Let the boy keep it. For his father’s sake if not his own.
Surely you owe, Jon that much for his service.”

(Eddard I, AGoT)

All this makes me inclined to believe that the Lord of the Eyrie is not likely to die soon as a character of little significance. Within the conversation, the only hint of Sweetrobin’s importance seems to be that Tywin seems interested in fostering the boy, something that he had never done. Of course, I presume Tywin is aware that the boy is difficult.

We would tend to dismiss such a sickly child, so capricious and mean, and raised by a half-crazy, possessive and unpleasant mother.

Come to Mother, my sweet one.” She straightened his bedclothes and fussed with his fine brown hair. “Isn’t he beautiful? And strong too, don’t you believe the things you hear. Jon knew. The seed is strong, he told me. His last words. He kept saying Robert’s name, and he grabbed my arm so hard he left marks. Tell them, the seed is strong. His seed. He wanted everyone to know what a good strong boy my baby was going to be.”

(Catelyn VI, AGoT)

We all understand that Jon Arryn’s last words refer to King Robert and the truth about the paternity of his heirs: it’s about the strength of the Baratheon seed, the prominence of black hair in this family, etc. Why would the Lord of the Eyrie devote his last thoughts to the Baratheon line? After all, shouldn’t Lysa’s interpretation be taken more seriously, even if those very words are preceded what is, under all appearances, an unwise motherly bias. Isn’t it likely that a father reserves his last words for his only and long awaited son?

Lysa repeated to Sansa what she had told Catelyn:

He is eight. And not robust. But such a good boy, so bright and clever. He will be a great man, Alayne. The seed is strong, my lord husband said before he died. His last words. The gods sometimes let us glimpse the future as we lay dying.

(Sansa VI, ASoS)

We heard something about sickly children who would become great men:

In a sense. Those you call the children of the forest have eyes as golden as the sun, but once in a great while one is born amongst them with eyes as red as blood, or green as the moss on a tree in the heart of the forest. By these signs do the gods mark those they have chosen to receive the gift. The chosen ones are not robust, and their quick years upon the earth are few, for every song must have its balance. But once inside the wood they linger long indeed. A thousand eyes, a hundred skins, wisdom deep as the roots of ancient trees. Greenseers.”

(Bran III, ADwD)

Of course, it is Lord Brynden’s lecture to Bran.

So, could Sweetrobin have the gift? There are a few hints of that. There is a striking image the first time we see him with his mother:

She opened her robe and drew out a pale, heavy breast, tipped with red.

(Catelyn VI, AGoT)

The colors of Lysa’s breasts match those of the weirwood, whose color is often called pale. And, especially, the situation of child depending on his mother for nourishment recalls Lord Brynden in a symbiosis with the trees. I noticed the resemblance, even before I read the confirmation of the analogy in GRRM’s very words.

Before them a pale lord in ebon finery sat dreaming in a tangled nest of roots, a woven weirwood throne that embraced his withered limbs as a mother does a child.

(Bran II, ADwD)

The needs of Sweetrobin with his mother mirror those of the greenseer with the tree.

What are the signs that Sweetrobin has the gift? Is he in contact with the old gods? He might be. Here is Sweetrobin at the Eyrie:

The wretched boy had started it, looking down on him from a throne of carved weirwood beneath the moon-and-falcon banners of House Arryn.

(Tyrion V, AGoT)

Could the weirwood throne be a channel for green dreams? Are there green dreams? We don’t know that, because Sweetrobin’s sleep seems controlled by Maester Colemon.

Robert Arryn’s shaking sickness was nothing new to the people of the Eyrie, and Lady Lysa had trained them all to come rushing at the boy’s first cry. The maester held the little lord’s head and gave him half a cup of dreamwine, murmuring soothing words. Slowly the violence of the fit seemed to ebb away, till nothing remained but a small shaking of the hands. “Help him to my chambers,” Colemon told the guards. “A leeching will help calm him.”

(Sansa VII, ASoS)

I am not hungry,” he decided. “I want to go back to bed. I never slept last night. I heard singing. Maester Colemon gave me dreamwine but I could still hear it.”

(Alayne I, AFfC)

Colemon lingered a moment before following. “My lord, this parley might best be left for another day. His lordship’s spells have grown worse since Lady Lysa’s death. More frequent and more violent. I bleed the child as often as I dare, and mix him dreamwine and milk of the poppy to help him sleep, but…”

“He sleeps twelve hours a day,” Petyr said. “I require him awake from time to time.”

(Alayne I, AFfC)

The situation is similar to Bran with Maester Luwin. Indeed, Luwin does not like green dreams and wolf dreams. After Bran has dreamt of being a wolf:

The door to his bedchamber opened. Maester Luwin was carrying a green jar, and this time Osha and Hayhead came with him. “I’ve made you a sleeping draught, Bran.”

Osha scooped him up in her bony arms. She was very tall for a woman, and wiry strong.

She bore him effortlessly to his bed.

“This will give you dreamless sleep,” Maester Luwin said as he pulled the stopper from the jar. “Sweet, dreamless sleep.”

“It will?” Bran said, wanting to believe.

“Yes. Drink.”

Bran drank. The potion was thick and chalky, but there was honey in it so it went down easy. “Come the morn, you’ll feel better.” Luwin gave Bran a smile and a pat as he took his leave. Osha lingered behind. “Is it the wolf dreams again?”

Bran nodded.

“You should not fight so hard, boy. I see you talking to the heart tree. Might be the gods are
trying to talk back.”

“The gods?” he murmured, drowsy already. Osha’s face grew blurry and grey. Sweet,
dreamless sleep, Bran thought.

(Bran I, ACoK)

I shall add this curious line. A sign that the three-eyed crow might have tried to contact him:

Robert was afraid of men with moles.

(Alayne I, AFfC)

Indeed, Lord Brynden has a famous birthmark on his face. There is another hint that Sweetrobin wouldn’t be happy in Lord Brynden’s cave:

Music soothes him,” she corrected, “the high harp especially. It’s singing he can’t abide, since Marillion killed his mother.”

(Alayne II, AFfC)

Indeed, the Children of the Forest sing in the cave:

And they did sing. They sang in True Tongue, so Bran could not understand the words, but their voices were as pure as winter air.

(Bran III, ADwD)

Sweetrobin is very much in danger of dying of excess of sweetmilk, which, I suppose, is the same substance as sweetsleep.

Is that your counsel, maester? That we find a wet nurse for the Lord of the Eyrie and Defender of the Vale? When shall we wean him, on his wedding day? That way he can move directly from his nurse’s nipples to his wife’s.” Lord Petyr’s laugh made it plain what he thought of that. “No, I think not. I suggest you find another way. The boy is fond of sweets, is he not?”

“Sweets?” said Colemon.

“Sweets. Cakes and pies, jams and jellies, honey on the comb. Perhaps a pinch of sweetsleep in his milk, have you tried that? Just a pinch, to calm him and stop his wretched shaking.”

“A pinch?” The apple in the maester’s throat moved up and down as he swallowed. “One small pinch… perhaps, perhaps. Not too much, and not too often, yes, I might try…”

“A pinch,” Lord Petyr said, “before you bring him forth to meet the lords.”

“As you command, my lord.”

(Alayne I, AFfC)

The waif explains to Arya the nature of the substance:

Sweetsleep is the gentlest of poisons,” the waif told her, as she was grinding some with a mortar and pestle. “A few grains will slow a pounding heart and stop a hand from shaking, and make a man feel calm and strong. A pinch will grant a night of deep and dreamless sleep. Three pinches will produce that sleep that does not end. The taste is very sweet, so it is best used in cakes and pies and honeyed wines. Here, you can smell the sweetness.”

(Cat of the Canals, AFfC)

But Lord Robert needed to be calmed on the vertiginous descent from the Eyrie:

Give his lordship a cup of sweetmilk,” she told the maester. “That will stop him from shaking on the journey down.”

“He had a cup not three days past,” Colemon objected.

“And wanted another last night, which you refused him.”

“It was too soon. My lady, you do not understand. As I’ve told the Lord Protector, a pinch of sweetsleep will prevent the shaking, but it does not leave the flesh, and in time…”

“Time will not matter if his lordship has a shaking fit and falls off the mountain. If my father were here, I know he would tell you to keep Lord Robert calm at all costs.”

“I try, my lady, yet his fits grow ever more violent, and his blood is so thin I dare not leech him any more. Sweetsleep… you are certain he was not bleeding from the nose?”

“He was sniffling,” Alayne admitted, “but I saw no blood.”

(Alayne II, AFfC)

I understand that sweetmilk is made with a pinch of sweetsleep. And later:

Just give him a cup of the sweetmilk before we go, and another at the feast, and there should be no trouble.”

“Very well.” They paused at the foot of the stairs. “But this must be the last. For half a year, or longer.”

(Alayne II, AFfC)

Littlefinger expects Robert to die:

When Robert dies. Our poor brave Sweetrobin is such a sickly boy, it is only a matter of time.

(Alayne II, AFfC)

What if the sweetsleep and the near-death experience that could come with it make Sweetrobin open his third eye?

I shall say that a completely different reasoning led me to the greenseer suspicion. But I do not want to go into that reasoning here. Of course, the greenseers are related to the Children of the Forest, or at least to the worshippers of the Old Gods. However, the Arryn are noted for being of pure Andal blood.

The Arryns are descended from the Kings of Mountain and Vale, one of the oldest and purest lines of Andal nobility.

(Appendix, ASoS)

What did Jon Arryn mean when he said: The seed is strong?

Other questions: why was Tywin Lannister interested in fostering Robert Arryn, while he had fostered no other child before? Why did Lysa Arryn leave abruptly King’s Landing with Robert (it is not out of fear for Robert after Jon Arryn’s death, since she poisoned her husband and had no particular reason to feel threatened)? Did she sense that some people had an undue interest in her son?

Sweetrobin, at best, throws chamberpots at those who displease him, and at worst wants to make them fly through the Moon Door. It’s worrying to think what he could do with the power of greenseer: a hundred skins, a thousand eyes and wisdom as deep as the roots of the trees. It’s interesting now to look back at Bran’s fall, and the discussion about letting him live. It was obvious for us that he should live. But, we can only hope for the best now that Bran seems to be inheriting the weirwood throne beyond the Wall. From my perspective, Sweetrobin is a sort of (perhaps evil) twin to Bran.

The same question arises for Sweetrobin. Except that it seems a folly to give so much power to a capricious and irresponsible boy. The question of his life or his death arises in much thornier terms. I don’t know how Sansa would learn about whatever gift her cousin has, but she seems to be in position to save Lord Robert or to let him die. The moral quandary could be her responsibility. Sansa’s choice.

Standalone XVIII

The bat of Harrenhal

by Bran Vras

Somehow, we can’t help thinking that Martin’s universe is supported by hidden structures. Of course, the author would never give us explicitly the keys. Why would he? No character will spell out what the armature of the story is. My suggestion here is that one of those hidden structures, perhaps, is the importance of maternal lineages.

As the insistence of the Targaryens to wed women of their own kin proves, female ancestry should not be neglected, even if the Seven Kingdoms form a patriarchal society, where the family name is carried through the male line, which thus essentially defines the noble houses. But it might be fruitful to pay attention to the other side of the genealogy, even if it seems difficult to keep track of.

This is the second part of the exploration of this theme. Elsewhere, I have tried to see what could lie behind Lyanna Stark’s maternal lineage, and its relations to Dalla.

After Sansa fled from King’s Landing, a little folk tale is reported to the Hound by Polliver:

I forgot, you’ve been hiding under a rock. The northern girl. Winterfell’s daughter. We heard she killed the king with a spell, and afterward changed into a wolf with big leather wings like a bat, and flew out a tower window. But she left the dwarf behind and Cersei means to have his head.”

That’s stupid, Arya thought. Sansa only knows songs, not spells, and she’d never marry the Imp.

(Arya XII, ASoS)

. . . with big leather wings like a bat . . .

I suggest that, unlike Arya, we take that story seriously and see where it leads us. We will explore several themes: the story of Harrenhal, the maternal lineage of Sansa, the quests of Jaime and Brienne, the crown of the north, the possibility of Sansa’s inheritance of the castle.

  1. The Bat of Harrenhal

Of course, the bat belongs to the menagerie familiar to the gothic genre along the black cat, the wolf, the owl, etc.

The strange mix of totemism and feudalism that characterizes the Seven Kingdoms provides a privileged lair to the bat: the cursed castle of Harrenhal . . . which is precisely where Polliver came from when he reported the little story about Sansa, as if the smallfolk of Harrenhal had recognized in Sansa a daughter of their castle as much as a daughter of Winterfell. Indeed, Sansa’s maternal grandmother was a Whent, and probably born in the castle.

So Sansa is a Whent on the maternal line. The daughter of the daughter of the daughter of Harrenhal.

Let’s examine first the relationship between Harrenhal and bats. First, there are indeed bats in the ruined towers:

The ground floor of the Wailing Tower was given over to storerooms and granaries, and two floors above housed part of the garrison, but the upper stories had not been occupied for eighty years. Now Lord Tywin had commanded that they be made fit for habitation again. There were floors to be scrubbed, grime to be washed off windows, broken chairs and rotted beds to be carried off. The topmost story was infested with nests of the huge black bats that House Whent had used for its sigil, and there were rats in the cellars as well… and ghosts, some said, the spirits of Harren the Black and his sons.

Arya thought that was stupid.

(Arya VI, ACoK)

If Arya thinks it stupid, something interesting must be going on. Bats are involved in another tale taken from the folklore of Harrenhal:

My old ma used to say that giant bats flew out from Harrenhal on moonless nights, to carry bad children to Mad Danelle for her cookpots. Sometimes I’d hear them scrabbling at the shutters.”

(Brienne II, AFfC)

Mad Danelle is none other than Danelle Lothston, whose sigil is recognized when Brienne wanders in search of Sansa.

The captain’s eyes lingered on her shield. “The black bat of Lothston. Those are arms of ill repute.”

(Brienne II, AFfC)

My first reading of Martin’s books was not particularly attentive, but I immediately felt that something curious, perhaps sinister, was going on with the shield carried by Brienne. We will return to it.

Danelle is described in The Mystery Knight:

Mad Danelle Lothston herself rode forth in strength from her haunted towers at Harrenhal, clad in black armor that fit her like an iron glove, her long red hair streaming.

(The Mystery Knight)

House Lothston held Harrenhal before House Whent. Of course, Catelyn Stark’s mother was a Whent:

Ser Illifer crooked a bony finger at her shield. Though its paint was cracked and peeling, the device it bore showed plain: a black bat on a field divided bendwise, silver and gold. “You bear a liar’s shield, to which you have no right. My grandfather’s grandfather helped kill the last o’ Lothston. None since has dared to show that bat, black as the deeds of them that bore it.”

(Brienne I, AFfC)

We know how the seat passed to the Whent through the story of Ben Blackthumb:

You know old Ben Blackthumb? He came here as a boy. Smithed for Lady Whent and her father before her and his father before him, and even for Lord Lothston who held Harrenhal before the Whents.

(Arya IX, ACoK)

The last Lothston died during the lifetime of Ben Blackthumb and during the lifetime of Ser Illifer grandfather’s grandfather. I presume the grandfather’s grandfather was already old at the time of Lothston’s demise. Note that Ben Blackthumb is among the few members of the Whent household who survived the turmoil of the war.

Catelyn’s mother was Minisa Whent. Since she married a Tully, we can presume she was no less than the daughter of the Lord of Harrenhal: perhaps not Lady Whent’s sister, otherwise it would be mentioned if Lady Whent were so closely related to Catelyn. She might have been the daughter of the first Whent who held Harrenhal, which would make of Lady Whent a cousin of Catelyn. If this speculation is correct, Lord Whent had at least a sister (Minisa) and a brother (Oswell of the Kingsguard).

The Whents retained the bat as a sigil when they took the seat of Harrenhal. The Whent banner displays nine bats, while the Lothston had a single large bat. The persistence of the bat suggests something strongly: the bat is more attached to the place than to any particular family.

A logical explanation would be that the Whent who took the lordship of Harrenhal married a Lothston daughter and kept the bat sigil to affirm his legitimacy, somewhat like the Lannisters did in Darry by marrying Lancel to Amerei Frey, and displaying the Darry arms of Amerei’s mother. (Hence a persistence of the female line).

It’s conjectural, and not essential for what will follow, but Catelyn’s mother’s mother might have been a Lady Lothston. In any case, House Tully and House Whent must have been on very good terms two or three generations ago, since Hoster Tully married a Whent, and House Whent inherited Harrenhal after the demise of the Lothstons.

In any case, Sansa has been recognized as half wolf, half bat in the story reported by Polliver.

  1. The History of Harrenhal

It is fundamental for the history of Westeros. After the arrival of the Rhoynar, the Seven Kingdoms seem to have known many centuries of stability until . . .

Harrenhal.” Every child of the Trident knew the tales told of Harrenhal, the vast fortress that King Harren the Black had raised beside the waters of Gods Eye three hundred years past, when the Seven Kingdoms had been seven kingdoms, and the riverlands were ruled by the ironmen from the islands. In his pride, Harren had desired the highest hall and tallest towers in all Westeros. Forty years it had taken, rising like a great shadow on the shore of the lake while Harren’s armies plundered his neighbors for stone, lumber, gold, and workers. Thousands of captives died in his quarries, chained to his sledges, or laboring on his five colossal towers. Men froze by winter and sweltered in summer. Weirwoods that had stood three thousand years were cut down for beams and rafters. Harren had beggared the riverlands and the Iron Islands alike to ornament his dream. And when at last Harrenhal stood complete, on the very day King Harren took up residence, Aegon the Conqueror had come ashore at King’s Landing.

Catelyn could remember hearing Old Nan tell the story to her own children, back at Winterfell. “And King Harren learned that thick walls and high towers are small use against dragons,” the tale always ended. “For dragons fly.” Harren and all his line had perished in the fires that engulfed his monstrous fortress, and every house that held Harrenhal since had come to misfortune. Strong it might be, but it was a dark place, and cursed.

“I would not have Robb fight a battle in the shadow of that keep,” Catelyn admitted. “Yet we must do something, Uncle.”

(Catelyn I, ACoK)

Harren the Black was an ironman, and is still remembered as such in the islands:

Aegon the Dragon had destroyed the Old Way when he burned Black Harren, gave Harren’s kingdom back to the weakling rivermen, and reduced the Iron Islands to an insignificant backwater of a much greater realm. Yet the old red tales were still told around driftwood fires and smoky hearths all across the islands, even behind the high stone halls of Pyke. Theon’s father numbered among his titles the style of Lord Reaper, and the Greyjoy words boasted that We Do Not Sow.

(Theon I, ACoK)

We have an account from Old Nan:

Arya was remembering the stories Old Nan used to tell of Harrenhal. Evil King Harren had walled himself up inside, so Aegon unleashed his dragons and turned the castle into a pyre. Nan said that fiery spirits still haunted the blackened towers. Sometimes men went to sleep safe in their beds and were found dead in the morning, all burnt up. Arya didn’t really believe that, and anyhow it had all happened a long time ago. Hot Pie was being silly; it wouldn’t be ghosts at Harrenhal, it would be knights. Arya could reveal herself to Lady Whent, and the knights would escort her home and keep her safe. That was what knights did; they kept you safe, especially women. Maybe Lady Whent would even help the crying girl.

(Arya IV, ACoK)

Old Nan seems to imply that some form of bloodmagic was used to build the castle, which reminds me of the castles at the Wall:

It would be better once they got to Harrenhal, the captives told each other, but Arya was not so certain. She remembered Old Nan’s stories of the castle built on fear. Harren the Black had mixed human blood in the mortar, Nan used to say, dropping her voice so the children would need to lean close to hear, but Aegon’s dragons had roasted Harren and all his sons within their great walls of stone.

(Arya VI, ACoK)

Given that the completion of Harrenhal coincided with the arrival of the dragons, it is tempting to interpret the Conquest as an answer to a plea to stop Harren the Black. It has been noted that the Valyrians and later the Targaryens never dared to come to Westeros before this day, which is a mystery, considering that the Valyrians conquered Dragonstone and were not shy of expanding everywhere beyond the Narrow Sea. Was Westeros warded against the the dragons before the Conquest? Who formulated the plea? Why was Harrenhal so important? Why did Harren the Black, an ironman, build his seat in the Riverlands?

A most important feature of Harrenhal is the proximity of Gods Eye. Indeed, Harrenhal is on the shore of the Lake. The island is one of the sacred places of the Seven Kingdoms, where the First Men once made a pact with the Children of the Forest to share Westeros. It is said that that many weirwood are still standing on the Isle of Faces, which is shunned by the population of the Seven Kingdoms. According to the story of the Knight of the Laughing Tree, Howland Reed went to the island, which seems to still hold power:

The lad knew the magics of the crannogs,” she continued, “but he wanted more. Our people seldom travel far from home, you know. We’re a small folk, and our ways seem queer to some, so the big people do not always treat us kindly. But this lad was bolder than most, and one day when he had grown to manhood he decided he would leave the crannogs and visit the Isle of Faces.”

(Bran II, ASoS)

Does the lake isolate the island from the rest of Westeros? Is this why the weirwood of the Isle of Faces were left alone? Some creature of unknown nature still reside in the island:

No one visits the Isle of Faces,” objected Bran. “That’s where the green men live.”

“It was the green men he meant to find. So he donned a shirt sewn with bronze scales, like mine, took up a leathern shield and a threepronged spear, like mine, and paddled a little skin boat down the Green Fork.”

Bran closed his eyes to try and see the man in his little skin boat. In his head, the crannogman looked like Jojen, only older and stronger and dressed like Meera.

“He passed beneath the Twins by night so the Freys would not attack him, and when he reached the Trident he climbed from the river and put his boat on his head and began to walk. It took him many a day, but finally he reached the Gods Eye, threw his boat in the lake, and paddled out to the isle of Faces.”

“Did he meet the green men?”

“Yes,” said Meera, “but that’s another story, and not for me to tell. My prince asked for knights.”

“Green men are good too.”

“They are,” she agreed, but said no more about them.

(Bran II, ASoS)

Did Harrenhal benefit from the presence of the Isle of Faces? Or was it built in opposition to the Isle? I would rather believe the latter theory. Indeed,

Weirwoods that had stood three thousand years were cut down for beams and rafters.

(Catelyn I, ACoK)

I tend to believe that whatever power residing in the Isle has allowed the dragons to come to Westeros.

In any case, we know the story: Balerion the Black burned Harren and all his sons in the Kingspyre. What about the daughters? Who was Lady Hoare?

The castle never remained long in any house’s possession. Here is Littlefinger’s account:

Has someone made a song about Gregor Clegane dying of a poisoned spear thrust? Or about the sellsword before him, whose limbs Ser Gregor removed a joint at a time? That one took the castle from Ser Amory Lorch, who received it from Lord Tywin. A bear killed one, your dwarf the other. Lady Whent’s died as well, I hear. Lothstons, Strongs, Harroways, Strongs… Harrenhal has withered every hand to touch it.”

(Alayne I, AFfC)

So it seems House Strong lost the castle to House Harroway and regained it. Neither House Strong, nor House Lothston is truly extinct, since both house haves their names claimed by exiles within the Golden Company.

However, we are interested in the story of the female line.

House Whent was reputedly wealthy in reason of the fertile lands around the castle. Lord Whent, presumably the father of Lady Whent, and possibly the brother of Minisa, organized the famous tourney where so important events happened. Curiously, the Tullys didn’t seem to have attended the tourney at the time, despite their geographical proximity and the close family ties they entertained with the Whents.

  1. Jaime and Brienne, the Shield and the Sword

Both Catelyn Stark and Harrenhal played an important role in the story of Jaime and Brienne.

Brienne swore serve Catelyn Stark personally, not House Stark:

Brienne stared at the ground and shuffled her feet. “I do not know your son, my lady.” She looked up. “I could serve you. If you would have me.”

Catelyn was startled. “Why me?”

The question seemed to trouble Brienne. “You helped me. In the pavilion… when they thought that I had… that I had… “

“You were innocent.”

“Even so, you did not have to do that. You could have let them kill me. I was nothing to you.” Perhaps I did not want to be the only one who knew the dark truth of what had happened there,

Catelyn thought. “Brienne, I have taken many wellborn ladies into my service over the years, but never one like you. I am no battle commander.”

“No, but you have courage. Not battle courage perhaps but… I don’t know… a kind of woman’s courage. And I think, when the time comes, you will not try and hold me back. Promise me that. That you will not hold me back from Stannis.”

Catelyn could still hear Stannis saying that Robb’s turn too would come in time. It was like a cold breath on the back of her neck. “When the time comes, I will not hold you back.”

The tall girl knelt awkwardly, unsheathed Renly’s longsword, and laid it at her feet. “Then I am yours, my lady. Your liege man, or… whatever you would have me be. I will shield your back and keep your counsel and give my life for yours, if need be. I swear it by the old gods and the new.”

“And I vow that you shall always have a place by my hearth and meat and mead at my table, and pledge to ask no service of you that might bring you into dishonor. I swear it by the old gods and the new. Arise.” As she clasped the other woman’s hands between her own, Catelyn could not help but smile. How many times did I watch Ned accept a man’s oath of service. She wondered what he would think if he could see her now.

(Catelyn V, ACoK)

The service led Brienne to be assigned to find Arya and Sansa.

Something funny is going on between Jaime and Brienne, as we have all noticed. It seems to have reached its high point in the Harrenhal baths, the very bathtub Lady Lothston used to fill with blood:

Father, Jaime thought, your dogs have both gone mad. He found himself remembering tales he had first heard as a child at Casterly Rock, of mad Lady Lothston who bathed in tubs of blood and presided over feasts of human flesh within these very walls.

(Jaime III, AFfC)

The strange attraction between Jaime and Brienne might not be entirely natural. We see mutual respect, and even mutual affection, building up during the journey from Riverrun to King’s Landing. But the key moment is in Harrenhal. Interestingly, the renegade maester Qyburn took care of both Jaime and Brienne. There is even this curious episode after Qyburn has taken care of Jaime’s stump.

Open your eye.” Qyburn soaked a cloth in warm water and dabbed at the crust of dried blood. The eyelid was swollen, but Jaime found he could force it open halfway. Qyburn’s face loomed above. “How did you come by this one?” the maester asked.

“A wench’s gift.”

“Rough wooing, my lord?”

“This wench is bigger than me and uglier than you. You’d best see to her as well. She’s still limping on the leg I pricked when we fought.”

“I will ask after her. What is this woman to you?”

“My protector.” Jaime had to laugh, no matter how it hurt.

“I’ll grind some herbs you can mix with wine to bring down your fever. Come back on the morrow and I’ll put a leech on your eye to drain the bad blood.” “A leech. Lovely.”

“Lord Bolton is very fond of leeches,” Qyburn said primly. “Yes,” said Jaime. “He would be.”

(Jaime V, ASoS)

Both Jaime and Brienne are bound by an oath to find Sansa:

Her face darkened. “I told you, I will never serve…”

“… such foul creatures as us. Yes, I recall. Hear me out, Brienne. Both of us swore oaths concerning Sansa Stark. Cersei means to see that the girl is found and killed, wherever she has gone to ground…”

Brienne’s homely face twisted in fury. “If you believe that I would harm my lady’s daughter for a sword, you -”

“Just listen,” he snapped, angered by her assumption. “I want you to find Sansa first, and get her somewhere safe. How else are the two of us going to make good our stupid vows to your precious dead Lady Catelyn?

(Jaime IX, ASoS)

Jaime has a gift for Brienne’s quest:

Brienne of Tarth.” Jaime sighed. “I have a gift for you.” He reached down under the Lord
Commander’s chair and brought it out, wrapped in folds of crimson velvet.

Brienne approached as if the bundle was like to bite her, reached out a huge freckled hand, and flipped back a fold of cloth. Rubies glimmered in the light. She picked the treasure up gingerly, curled her fingers around the leather grip, and slowly slid the sword free of its scabbard. Blood and black the ripples shone. A finger of reflected light ran red along the edge. “Is this Valyrian steel? I have never seen such colors.”

“Nor I. There was a time that I would have given my right hand to wield a sword like that. Now it appears I have, so the blade is wasted on me. Take it.” Before she could think to refuse, he went on. “A sword so fine must bear a name. It would please me if you would call this one Oathkeeper. One more thing. The blade comes with a price.”

(Jaime IX, ASoS)

Jaime explains the story of the sword:

When Ned Stark died, his greatsword was given to the King’s justice,” he told her. “But my father felt that such a fine blade was wasted on a mere headsman. He gave Ser Ilyn a new sword, and had Ice melted down and reforged. There was enough metal for two new blades. You’re holding one. So you’ll be defending Ned Stark’s daughter with Ned Stark’s own steel, if that makes any difference to you.”

(Jaime IX, ASoS)

There is a second gift for Brienne’s quest. We have seen it already:

The shield was the one Ser Jaime had taken from the armory at Harrenhal. Brienne had found it in the stables with her mare, along with much else; saddle and bridle, chainmail hauberk and visored greathelm, purses of gold and silver and a parchment more valuable than either. “I lost mine own shield,” she explained.

(Brienne I, AFfC)

Here is how Jaime found the shield:

He found an old shield in the armory, battered and splintered, the chipped paint still showing most of the great black bat of House Lothston upon a field of silver and gold. The Lothstons held Harrenhal before the Whents and had been a powerful family in their day, but they had died out ages ago, so no one was likely to object to him bearing their arms. He would be no one’s cousin, no one’s enemy, no one’s sworn sword… in sum, no one.

(Jaime VI, ASoS)

It’s worthwile to note that Brienne’s search for Sansa is accomplished with the help of two gifts. One of them originates from Sansa’s father’s line (the sword Ice, partially reforged into Oathkeeper) and the other comes from her mother’s line (the shield of Harrenhal). We recover thus the beast, half-wolf, half-bat, into which Sansa was said to have changed to escape King’s Landing. Interestingly, Brienne has the shield repainted later. So both the paternal sword and the maternal shield are carried clandestinely.

Both Brienne and Jaime felt truly compelled to fulfill their quest for Catelyn’s daughters. There is an insistence of Brienne that she doesn’t serve the Stark name, but Catelyn personally.

  1. Catelyn Stark

Catelyn Stark appeared to us as a loving mother caught in a tragedy, and who made understandable mistakes for the sake of her children. We are not going to discuss in-depth such a rich and complex character. Her dislike of Jon Snow falls into the common pattern of the jealousy of the mother for the child of her husband’s mistress. However, such dislike was unnecessary and irrational since Jon Snow was clearly designated as a bastard and never claimed any part of the Stark inheritance.

Beside her dislike for Jon Snow, another aspect makes her unsympathetic: her resurrection as vengeful spirit. Why did Catelyn Stark among all the victims of the War in the Riverlands come back from the dead to seek justice, vengeance? Her suffering as a mother and as a wife was terrible, but far from unparalleled. So why did Beric Dondarrion decide to give his life for her resurrection?

Beric’s decision was certainly motivated by a certain tiredness after so many resurrections. The fact that Nymeria found Catelyn on the Trident does not seem to have influenced Beric and Thoros.

She is,” said Thoros of Myr. “The Freys slashed her throat from ear to ear. When we found her by the river she was three days dead. Harwin begged me to give her the kiss of life, but it had been too long. I would not do it, so Lord Beric put his lips to hers instead, and the flame of life passed from him to her. And… she rose. May the Lord of Light protect us. She rose.”

(Brienne VIII, AFfC)

However, we can suspect the agency of the old gods. Indeed, the direwolves have been associated to the old gods all along, at least in the Greatjon’s eyes. Moreover, Beric Dondarrion, when seated on his “throne” of weirwood roots and watching with his single eye, seemed to be an avatar of Lord Brynden Rivers.

In any case, Lady Stoneheart seems to have a plan in mind. Indeed, the Brotherhood without Banner has ambushed Ryman Frey in Fairmarket and found the crown of Robb Stark.

After having being stolen by the Freys, the crown would end up with Lady Stoneheart, who doesn’t wear it herself.

A trestle table had been set up across the cave, in a cleft in the rock. Behind it sat a woman all in grey, cloaked and hooded. In her hands was a crown, a bronze circlet ringed by iron swords. She was studying it, her fingers stroking the blades as if to test their sharpness. Her eyes glimmered under her hood.

(Brienne VIII, AFfC)

Lady Stoneheart has much interest in the crown. However, a little detail deserves to be noted. House Whent’s sigil consisted in nine black bats. Since a single black bat formed the sigil of House Lothston, it’s likely that House Whent merged the bat of the Lothston with the number nine associated with their own family. Robb Stark descended from the Whents. Here is a more precise description of the crown.

The ancient crown of the Kings of Winter had been lost three centuries ago, yielded up to Aegon the Conqueror when Torrhen Stark knelt in submission. What Aegon had done with it no man could say. Lord Hoster’s smith had done his work well, and Robb’s crown looked much as the other was said to have looked in the tales told of the Stark kings of old; an open circlet of hammered bronze incised with the runes of the First Men, surmounted by nine black iron spikes wrought in the shape of longswords. Of gold and silver and gemstones, it had none; bronze and iron were the metals of winter, dark and strong to fight against the cold.

(Catelyn I, ACoK)

There are nine swords, which share with the bats the characteristic of being black. It might be just a coincidence, since Catelyn does not make the connection.

There can only be one reason why Lady Stoneheart is so much interested in the crown: she intends to crown someone. After the death of Bran, Rickon, and Robb, the heir of the kingdom of the north and the Riverlands is Jon Snow, according to Robb’s will. However, Catelyn Stark disapproved the choice of Jon as crown prince, especially because of the disinheritance of Sansa. The Blackfish, perhaps linked to the Brotherhood, reminds us of Catelyn’s dislike of Jon Snow. So the heir of the crown of the north and the Riverlands, in Catelyn’s eyes, should be Sansa.

However, Lady Stoneheart seems only to want vengeance against the Kingslayer:

What does she want of me?”

“She wants her son alive, or the men who killed him dead,” said the big man. “She wants to feed the crows, like they did at the Red Wedding. Freys and Boltons, aye. We’ll give her those, as many as she likes. All she asks from you is Jaime Lannister.”

(Brienne VIII, AFfC)

So it is unclear to whom Lady Stoneheart intends to give the crown. I am surprised there is no mention of the need to find Sansa, despite Brienne’s assurance that she is pursuing her quest.

Here is the last thing we hear about Jaime and Brienne. Brienne reappears unexpectedly at the village of Pennytree to meet Jaime:

A bite.” She touched the hilt of her sword, the sword that he had given her. Oathkeeper. “My lord, you gave me a quest.”

“The girl. Have you found her?”

“I have,” said Brienne, Maid of Tarth. “Where is she?”

“A day’s ride. I can take you to her, ser … but you will need to come alone. Elsewise, the Hound will kill her.”

(Jaime, ADwD)

So the desire to find Sansa is still intact in both Brienne and Jaime. Oathkeeper is still with Brienne. (Jaime might not recognize the Lothston shield, because it has been repainted.)

  1. Alayne Stone

Sansa could very well have a claim over Harrenhal. Let’s forget for a moment the successive attributions of the castle to Janos Slynt and Littlefinger and go back to Lady Whent, who seems dead and the last of her line.

It seems that the heirs of Lady Whent should be the descendants of Minisa Whent: Edmure Tully, his unborn child, Catelyn Stark (dead), Robb Stark (dead), Bran Stark (disappeared, presumed dead), Rickon Stark (disappeared, presumed dead), Sansa Stark (disappeared), Arya Stark (married to Ramsay Bolton, disappeared), Lysa Tully (dead), Robert Arryn.

That would leave little chance for Sansa to inherit the castle, especially since Lady Whent has been deprived of her birthright.

This follows the standard rules of succession in Westeros. Let’s look at the situation along the female line, which is absurd from the point of view of all laws of the Seven Kingdoms. Sansa is the eldest daughter of Catelyn, herself the eldest daughter of Minisa. That could make of Sansa the “legitimate” ruler along the female line, if such a legitimacy had any currency in the Seven Kingdoms (and it hasn’t, of course).

Littlefinger has given Sansa the role of his bastard girl. For Sansa to inherit as Littlefinger’s heir, two things are needed: the demise of Petyr Baelish and the legitimation of Sansa. Let’s discuss the prospects.

There is no sign as yet that Littlefinger intends Sansa to become his heir. In fact, it seems that Littlefinger wishes Sansa to recover her identity for her marriage with Harry the Heir.  This is what Littlefinger promises:

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?”

(Alayne II, AFfC)

Undoubtedly, a maiden’s cloak of white and grey with a direwolf emblazoned on the back is made for a Stark girl. So it doesn’t seem that Littlefinger will marry Alayne to Harry. The promise to Sansa of having the support of every knight of the Vale to recover her birthright illuminates the machination to provide an imposter instead of Arya Stark. Littlefinger is well placed to denounce the imposture and probably expects to exploit this knowledge to make Sansa win back Winterfell.

However, we can already see several events that could derail the plan: the reappearance of Robb’s Will, which seems to have designated Jon Snow as Robb’s crown prince, or the news of Rickon’s survival and duly defended by House Manderly. There is the small difficulty of getting rid of Tyrion – I suppose Littlefinger has a solution for that particular problem (annulment by the septons). Tyrion could even reappear.

If Sansa is not anymore heiress of Winterfell, why not ask for legitimation of Alayne, rather than annulment of the marriage with Tyrion? As the heiress of Harrenhal, and of the lordship of the Trident, Alayne would have one of the most desirable hand in the Seven Kingdoms. The notion, already put forward, that the lordship of Harrenhal is a high enough station for the lordship of the Eyrie would be confirmed.

I don’t wish to go any further into speculation, except to add that it seems a basic principle of Martin’s storytelling technique that a plan announced to the reader is doomed. The wedding scene has already been described by Littlefinger, hence it will not be repeated for real. Whether the intentions expressed by Littlefinger to Sansa are sincere is an open question, though.

I don’t know whether GRRM intends for Sansa the lordship of Harrenhal, but much in Sansa’s story prepares for her to reach that situation. It doesn’t seem to me that the Alayne Stone persona is a mere parenthesis. Sansa seems to have more prospects as Alayne than as a Stark heiress.

___________________________________

For those interested, there is an expanded version of the post, and a thematically related examination of Lyanna Stark’s maternal lineage. None of this is really part of my Winterfell Huis Clos analysis, which has received a little update for those interested, including the addition of a rough guide.

Standalone XIX

On Sandor’s swordsmanship

This one is dedicated to you, G., for your blessed curiosity.

by Milady of York

The research for this small piece was done months ago at the request of a friend who was very interested in Sandor Clegane’s swordfighting style, to be precise: in his characteristic way of finishing off an opponent, cleaving him from shoulder to breastbone. Unlike Asha Greyjoy and Brienne of Tarth, Milady is quite incompetent with a weapon made of steel, and she wouldn’t have known one technique from another, but fortunately she had contacts with the right type of men: one military historian and the other a veteran military re-enactor. So, following the example of a certain dragon, she put on her best I am only a girl and I know nothing expression and a big smile, and approached the gentlemen in question, who amiably gave her two long, long lessons on how to stick them with the pointy end; that is, swordfighting techniques and training from the Roman legionaries to the Medieval knights, with demonstrations included. As a result, Milady was able to write this based on the notes taken during those private lectures.

That strike, you have to know its name

The first thing that sparked my interest in researching this was the desire to know if his style had a name, and accordingly, that was the first question posed to both men. Turns out Sandor’s death blow is a swordfighting technique from the German knights, who on an average tended to be taller than the English and French knights, and their arms of choice were the longswords. According to my sources, a real swordfight employing a longsword had generally to be decided and ended with the first blow struck, so you had to block and defend so you weren’t the one struck, and if well done could be decided in less than a minute. But you had to know how to deliver this killing/decisive blow, because if done clumsily it was… messy, and dangerous to yourself. You had to be sure in your attack, for if you missed with your first strike, the opponent took advantage of it and could deliver himself a fatal blow.

There was no long steel-on-steel parrying as we see in films and fantasy in live combat, though a real combat could last longer if/when both combatants were equally skilled and well-trained, yet that occurred mostly in individual duels. Medieval longswords and broadswords were fabricated for cutting and thrusting, and though lighter and more manageable than commonly believed, they required strong arms and a well-honed musculature from the man (that’s why Sandor and almost all the Westerosi knights that favour the longsword and hammer are generally more muscled and broader of chest than lancers and archers), unlike the Renaissance and 17th and 18th century swords called rapiers and derivations with a longer and thinner blade, made for stabbing. A cutting/thrusting sword like the Medieval knights had could also be used to make light or flat-side blows that weren’t lethal, and either left ugly scars or wounds that could fester and kill slowly, but you could survive a sword wound even if you suffered some sort of pain, especially when the opponent had been either clumsy or deliberately wounded you where he knew would knock you out without actually killing you on the spot. With a rapier and a thin sword there was no way to really control the depth of a stabbing attack to only cause a minor shallow stab wound as it happens with the other type of swords. Men couldn’t merely brawl and parry one another indifferently with slashing and clashing blows, as with the Medieval longswords, so each attack was potentially a mortal one and there was little room for error or leniency.

Now, to the killing technique itself: after Milady described Sandor’s technique in detail, quoting from the text, her historian friend first talked about a group of longsword-fighting techniques for quickly killing an adversary known as the Five Master Cuts, demonstrating to her with a plastic stick how each was done. These are [1]:

  • Zornhau (strike of wrath), which is a diagonal strike straight to the torso/chest from the right.
  • Krumphau (crooked strike), similar to the cross strike, yet not a straight attack to the head but from the side.
  • Schielhau (squinting strike), this can be done in two ways: you turn slightly the blade and your body and strike downward in diagonal with a sliding motion like when performing the zornhau, but with the short edge (the back) of the sword targeting either your opponent’s head or his right shoulder. The second variation is to do it like the zwerchhau, but with a diagonal downward strike instead.
  • Zwerchhau (cross strike), a horizontal circular strike to the body or the head, from right with the long edge (middle) of the sword and from the left with the short edge, as if you wanted to behead your opponent.
  • Scheitelhau (parting strike), strike to the legs and thighs, as if to fell a tree.

Then he said that, by my description, Sandor’s characteristic move appeared on glance to be either a zornhau, a zwerchhau or a schielhau, because he said his is a two-handed technique from above directed to the shoulder of the opponent, like the ones mentioned. But after comparing both more carefully to the way he killed Beric Dondarrion, I and him concluded that it is a schielhau. The man who performs this cut must wield and grasp his longsword surely, with both hands, betwixt cross and pommel, because this way the strike will be harder than when he wields it by the pommel alone; and he must aim his attack generally to the head or clavicle, so if done correctly, it can cleave a man from the right shoulder to the breastbone, as GRRM described Sandor doing. Later, the re-enactor confirmed this, adding that these cuts are usually surprise attacks to be employed in non-armoured combat, and that at a minimum it can disarm the opponent, or were he armoured the blow on the neck can knock him unconscious.

When asked about the purpose of these cuts, the historian declared that all the Master Cuts are lethal blows, and they were usually attack moves for pre-emptive defence, that could put an end to the fight if the opponent couldn’t or didn’t block or defend adequately, so there was small chance of survival. There are other moves that do give the opportunity to survive, even with a bad wound, but not these if done properly. And considering that GRRM is more knowledgeable about British knighthood and lore than that of other countries, Milady wondered if these cuts were peculiar only of the German school of swordsmanship, and the historian said no, that there are many similarities and few differences amongst the English methods and techniques and theirs.

Before all this research, we had been discussing with the original person interested in this that Sandor might have a preference for this killing technique because he’s so tall and it must be easier for him to strike down a smaller man; but after discussing this with the historian and the re-enactor, Milady is no longer sure this has much to do with his height and brute strength, and she’s more convinced that this has to do with his skills and his penchant for efficiency. As soon as I finished describing it to him, the historian groaned and told me that this technique is, and I quote verbatim, “a bloody difficult strike to master,” and later added that for it to effectively cleave a man in two at first attempt despite being blocked, the swordsman has to be “freaking strong and freaking skilled,” as this requires of the man to combine agility with outstanding upper body strength, and overall martial prowess honed by long training in order to master this combat style.

As for efficiency, Milady explained to the re-enactor her impression that Clegane hates waste, unnecessary things and things not done well, and that he’s not a sadist despite his claims about liking to kill, he can find joy in fighting and killing, demonstrating why he’s one of the best swordsmen in Westeros, but cannot find joy in inflicting pain just because, as nothing in the text suggests he’s prone to torture, or maiming if not in combat. In one word: he sees himself as a professional soldier and killer, taking pride in his ability, and is in possession of a detached efficiency. If you think about it, he’s got this primal instinct for killing swiftly without remorse or waste of time or movements; he kills like a wolf. Wolves always aim at killing their prey in one single strike, rip their throats out and be done with all that mess; playing cat and mouse with the opponent is for felines and vipers. And then asked if having one of these cuts as a personal trademark would be connected to a soldier’s personality and ideas about efficiency, and he said it could be, because all the Master Cuts trained knights for speed and fast kill, as they were designed to be effective with an economy of movement, so wide or useless motions are out of the question, and fastness and deceptiveness (that your adversary doesn’t anticipate your move) are key. No dancing around and no flashy sweeping flourishes. He also suggested that, as most Medieval knights and swordsmen of times past, after he learnt the basics of swordfighting when he was a squire, he would’ve devised his personal approach to the existing combat techniques, found the best and quickest ones for each scenario, which he would have polished and sharpened over the years and now uses almost automatically in fights.

Milady had one doubt in particular sparked by the quote in AGOT Eddard III below:

It was the butcher’s boy, Mycah, his body covered in dried blood. He had been cut almost in half from shoulder to waist by some terrible blow struck from above.

And she wanted a clear answer for the question of how did he exactly kill Mycah? Did he use the schielhau for this killing? After the corresponding description of his corpse she asked if it was possible to cut a running person nearly in two when mounted on horseback as Lord Eddard seemed to think it was done, and both men replied with another question: what weapon was Sandor Clegane using? Unfortunately, there’s no such specification in the books, so we don’t know. Then the historian said he couldn’t have performed the schielhau on horseback, as it’s a two-handed move with a longsword to be performed in a fight on foot, and on horseback generally axes, spears or maces were used. If using a longsword whilst mounted, then the man handled it one-handed, so his moves would be thrusting/cutting, and he could make a deep cut and inflict different kinds of serious wounds, but not cut someone in two. The re-enactor explained that with a hand axe or battleaxe and if the person isn’t armoured, yes, a rider could cleave him in two, hacking at his shoulder, breaking his clavicle and burying the axe deep into the sternum, or he can behead him or carve off a limb. But if wielding a longsword, which weren’t heavy as people assume, one-handed and whilst mounted, it’s not likely, as the cut is made from the wrist, therefore not as powerful as cutting from the shoulder, as with two hands.

This means that the butcher’s boy was possibly killed in one of these two ways: either he was ridden down with an axe or he has hacked down on foot with a longsword with a powerful slicing blow. Which in turn led to some questions and an interesting if short discussion: was Mycah hiding someplace or was he wandering in the woods when he was found? We aren’t told anything about that, but that he ran after seeing the Lannister men gives an indication that he probably wasn’t keeping quiet completely hidden from view (they didn’t use dogs to trail him), which in absence of textual confirmation is as good a guess as any, when he saw the Hound and his riders and ran in fear, but he was on foot and didn’t go far. Was he told to stop and not run? We don’t know, either, and maybe never will. What is clear, however, is that the order given by Queen Cersei wasn’t “bring him alive” but “kill him.” The re-enactor theorised that, based on the state of his corpse, that was very likely, because a man has to place a lot of impact on the target to get that result, and it’s not done to wound but to kill, as it cuts the body’s biggest arteries and nerves located in the neck-shoulder-chest area. Is it painless? Not quite, no killing blow ever is, but there’s not much physical suffering as the copious haemorrhage kills in a very short time.

[1] For the benefit of readers not familiar with these techniques, here is a graphic illustrating each strike

Can he be the same again?

Later on, the discussion delved into Sandor Clegane’s current state as a limping novice at the Quiet Isle, which Milady hadn’t planned on analysing, but ended up doing it as a byproduct of an interesting conversation on leg wounds gotten in combat and what long-term effects these may have on the soldier’s performance whilst we were talking about the case of Alexander the Great. This warrior-king got more wounds that one could possibly count due to his risky habit of leading his men into battle, and in one of his numerous battles in his long campaign to conquer India, he got a severe wound to the leg when fighting the Scythians in what is now Uzbekistan. An arrow got him in the leg and broke a bone. He was 27 years old then, very fit physically, and after some months in recovery (until October more or less, he was wounded in July), which he spent directing his troops from a litter, he was back on his feet, and went on with his fighting as usual, with no noticeable change in his performance until much later, when he would climb up a fortress’ walls, fight on the top alone and jump into the other side before his soldiers could follow him, fight alone again for a while and get a near fatal arrow wound to the chest that possibly punctured a lung, which he survived by a hair’s breadth.

This had Milady doing some mental comparisons, and not exactly only of their names, because the king and Sandor were of approximately the same age when they got their leg wounds, and even if Alexander’s wound was more serious and more prone to resulting in permanent limping, he recovered completely partly due to his youth and physical fitness, which the Hound has too, and partly because he had the best healer a Hellene could have, the physician Philippos of Acarnania, who saved him more than once, and Sandor had the best healer a Westerosi could wish for, the Elder Brother. Also, if we consult the Global Timeline, the elapsed time from his wounding to the next time we see him as the Gravedigger—February to April—is comparable to the time elapsed from Alexander’s wound to the next time we read about him fighting again.

Ask, and thou shalt receive. And ask Milady did some time later: can Sandor recover completely and be the same warrior he was, as did Alexander? First, we discussed wound infection and then his recovery; here’s a transcription of the conversation with the re-enactor:

Re-enactor (RE): How was he wounded? Was it a thrust or a slice to his leg?

Milady of York (MOY): The text says “an ugly red gash on his upper thigh,” which to me sounds like it was done with a slicing strike, not a thrusting one.

RE: Yeah, I think it could be too. How long before he cleaned and bandaged the wound? Did he lose much blood?

MOY: I’d suppose he did lose much blood, because he mentions they could follow his blood to find them, and next day he was weak; that could be as much from haemorrhage as from malnourishment. He just wrapped a strip of cloth around it to stop the bleeding, and didn’t get the cut cleaned and disinfected immediately but after several hours later. Boiling wine was poured over his wound, and strips of cloth sterilised by boiling them in wine were used as bandages.

RE: Alcohol and heat kill germs and prevent infection, but they can also burn the tissue and cause abscesses. They used boiling oil and hot irons to cauterise wounds back then, too. You had to keep the wound clean and dry and change the bandages frequently to prevent infection, though. You said he was left to die, you mean the wound was infected?

MOY: Arya, the girl who was with him, describes that he got up at dawn next day, they rode for hours, and before noon he had to dismount to rest, and slept a little. She describes he had a high fever by then, his skin was burning up.

RE: Fever is a natural reaction to wounds as defence against infection. What else?

MOY: There’s no description of how the wound looked like or a description of signs of gangrene. The passage only says this: “Arya sniffed at his bandages the way Maester Luwin had done sometimes when treating her cut or scrape. His face had bled the worst, but it was the wound on his thigh that smelled funny to her.” Does it indicate gangrene?

RE: Infection is possible, but it strikes me as too early for gangrene. Wait, you mean she didn’t change his bandages then?

MOY: No… And the bandages weren’t dry and clean by then, I’d say. They had been sterilised in wine, so they were wet. Suppose the cloak she used as bandages was of wool, wet wool drenched in wine plus blood and sweat, because he was sweating from the fever, would smell funny.

He said that that was one possibility, that what “smelled funny” was the combination of liquids (wine, blood and sweat) soaking the bandages, as I’d suggested, because gangrene doesn’t set in so quickly, it’d take at least two days more and it’d begin slowly, so an opportune intervention, via an excision of the necrotised tissue and medication (herbal in their time) will be the solution. He also mentioned that the girl, Arya, is young and mimicking an adult’s actions. The biggest giveaway of the presence of infection is the fever, he said, which can appear even in our times after surgical procedures to heal wounds, and not the smell itself. If the Elder Brother found him the same day or the next, then he had the opportunity to get treatment before the gangrene appeared. When I mentioned the case of Jaime Lannister’s hand, he said his impression was that his healing is much less credible, especially because more time had passed by without disinfecting the wound and it already had clear signs of gangrene.

Then we talked about his physical recovery at the Quiet Isle, and he had a good prognosis for Sandor based on my description of Brienne’s chapter, and his own knowledge about these kinds of cases. Here’s a summary of the relevant conversation:

MOY: He is described as limping noticeably, but he still does work that requires physical effort, especially digging graves on a hard and gravelly ground. The question is, can he recover fully from that injury and be just as good a swordsman as before, or would the limp be permanent?

RE: Not exactly. Limping is normal after such an injury, because when a wound is still recent any slight discomfort causes a man to limp, but a limp does not mean it will stay for life, and more so if it’s due to only injured muscle tissue, which can be compensated with muscle building. A limp due to a poorly healed bone fracture, or a wound that affected a nerve are much worse, as both could even cause paralysis. That’s not the case with your hero.

MOY: And the physical exercise he does by digging graves helps with that?

RE: Digging does not help his leg, but it does the upper body. Very much.

MOY: What would help the leg?

RE: Depends on the muscles you want to work. In what part of the leg did you say he was wounded?

MOY: In his thigh.

RE: Aha. A wound in that area doesn’t affect you much long-term. The best thing would be to work the quadriceps, or better yet, the gluteus. Those muscles have to work a lot when you do abs, and going up and down stairs and any exercise that involves the legs would help a lot too. Is there is tower to climb there, in the monastery? [Milady shakes her head] Then run up and down any hill, and weight lifting, such as carrying cubes or logs, would be phenomenal. And swimming. Swimming above all.

MOY: Swimming? Excellent! The monastery is located on an island by a river.

RE: On an island? He should swim in the river, preferably styles such as backstroke, butterfly, front crawl, even doggy paddle [Milady chuckles]… or jog along the beach, which offers resistance and works the legs a lot, and running in the sand also exercises them more than a firm ground.

He concluded that this should keep him in optimal shape, which is way more important at the present than practising with a sword, which he can go back to once his leg doesn’t bother him so much. And he asked how long had he been fighting and training regularly before his wound, and when told that he had since he was twelve, he raised an eyebrow and said he’d started early, so if he was consistent in his training over the years, he’d have been a highly skilled swordsman by age fifteen, and this long practise will also work in his favour once/if he goes back to sword training. In sum, if he was a flesh and blood swordsman he would recover completely and be active for as many more years as he wanted to serve; and only due to authorial decision would he get a permanent limp or be “retired” from fighting.

Standalone XX

On Sandor and Drinking

by Milady of York

For a long time now, there’s been a widely-held belief in the fandom that Sandor Clegane does suffer from alcoholism, which is often argued to be based on facts from the books, and a variety of clinical content taken from different sites that divulge this information to the general public is also thrown in to support this assertion, not infrequently without the careful analysis that is advisable when handling this sort of data. But is that so, and is there really textual proof to back up these claims? In a previous study of this character, The Road to the Hound’s Deathbed Confession, Milady had addressed this issue in a brief paragraph, and after some reflection, she thought it needed to be expanded and completed with a more in-depth examination of the text that would hopefully shed light on this aspect of Sandor Clegane’s behaviour.

With that in mind, yours truly did a chapter-by-chapter analysis of his actions in each book from his first appearance to his last, which has been remarkably enlightening and helpful in finding answers that can be supported by abundant quotes from the books GRRM has written.

In A Game of Thrones:

  • Eddard I: First appearance in the books, visit to Winterfell with the royal family. He is sober and on duty.

Ned knew many of the riders. There came Ser Jaime Lannister with hair as bright as beaten gold, and there Sandor Clegane with his terrible burned face.

  • Arya I: Second appearance, on duty as Joffrey’s sworn shield, taunting Ser Rodrik and Robb. Sober.

Enough!” Ser Rodrik called out. He gave the prince a hand and yanked him back to his feet. “Well fought. Lew, Donnis, help them out of their armor.” He looked around. “Prince Joffrey, Robb, will you go another round?”

Robb, already sweaty from a previous bout, moved forward eagerly. “Gladly.”

Joffrey moved into the sunlight in response to Rodrik’s summons. His hair shone like spun gold. He looked bored. “This is a game for children, Ser Rodrik.”

Theon Greyjoy gave a sudden bark of laughter. “You are children,” he said derisively.

“Robb may be a child,” Joffrey said. “I am a prince. And I grow tired of swatting at Starks with a play sword.”

“You got more swats than you gave, Joff,” Robb said. “Are you afraid?”

Prince Joffrey looked at him. “Oh, terrified,” he said. “You’re so much older.” Some of the Lannister men laughed.

Jon looked down on the scene with a frown. “Joffrey is truly a little shit,” he told Arya.

Ser Rodrik tugged thoughtfully at his white whiskers. “What are you suggesting?” he asked the prince.

“Live steel.”

“Done,” Robb shot back. “You’ll be sorry!”

The master-at-arms put a hand on Robb’s shoulder to quiet him. “Live steel is too dangerous. I will permit you tourney swords, with blunted edges.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Fourteen,” Robb said.

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

  • Tyrion I: Third appearance, on duty with Joffrey, banter with Tyrion. Sober.

Sandor Clegane’s rasping voice drifted up to him. “The boy is a long time dying. I wish he would be quicker about it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Breaking fast with the queen.”

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

  • Sansa I: Fourth appearance, first conversation with Sansa. On duty with Joffrey, later dismissed. No signs of inebriation.

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 had first laid eyes on the ruin that fire had made of his face, though it seemed to her now that he was not half so terrifying as the other. Still, Sansa wrenched away from him, and the Hound laughed, and Lady moved between them, rumbling a warning. Sansa dropped to her knees to wrap her arms around the wolf. They were all gathered around gaping, she could feel their eyes on her, and here and there she heard muttered comments and titters of laughter.

“A wolf,” a man said, and someone else said, “Seven hells, that’s a direwolf,” and the first man said, “What’s it doing in camp?” and the Hound’s rasping voice replied, “The Starks use them for wet nurses,” and Sansa realized that the two stranger knights were looking down on her and Lady, swords in their hands, and then she was frightened again, and ashamed. Tears filled her eyes.

He looked at Sandor Clegane. “And you, dog, away with you, you’re scaring my betrothed.”

The Hound, ever faithful, bowed and slid away quietly through the press.

  • Eddard III: Fifth appearance; is absent from the castle because he was on duty and has gone to hunt Mycah on Cersei’s orders, brings the boy’s corpse to Eddard, who doesn’t describe him as inebriated.

Their only good fortune was that both Jaime Lannister and Sandor Clegane were missing, leading searches north of the Trident.

He was walking back to the tower to give himself up to sleep at last when Sandor Clegane and his riders came pounding through the castle gate, back from their hunt.

There was something slung over the back of his destrier, a heavy shape wrapped in a bloody cloak. “No sign of your daughter, Hand,” the Hound rasped down, “but the day was not wholly wasted. We got her little pet.” He reached back and shoved the burden off, and it fell with a thump in front of Ned.

Bending, Ned pulled back the cloak, dreading the words he would have to find for Arya, but it was not Nymeria after all. It was the butcher’s boy, Mycah, his body covered in dried blood. He had been cut almost in half from shoulder to waist by some terrible blow struck from above.

“You rode him down,” Ned said.

The Hound’s eyes seemed to glitter through the steel of that hideous dog’s-head helm. “He ran.” He looked at Ned’s face and laughed. “But not very fast.

  • Sansa II: Sixth appearance, early in the morning at the Hand’s Tourney, he’s at the jousts and performing well. Sober.

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

Now, in his seventh appearance, we read for the first time that he’s drunk, in his own words. It’s in the night of the royal banquet, so it can be inferred that he drank there with everyone, as wine was flowing freely.

Sandor Clegane seemed to take form out of the night, so quickly did he appear. He had exchanged his armor for a red woolen tunic with a leather dog’s head sewn on the front. The light of the torches made his burned face shine a dull red. “Yes, Your Grace?” he said.

“Take my betrothed back to the castle, and see that no harm befalls her,” the prince told him brusquely. And without even a word of farewell, Joffrey strode off, leaving her there.

Sansa could feel the Hound watching her. “Did you think Joff was going to take you himself?” He laughed. He had a laugh like the snarling of dogs in a pit. “Small chance of that.” He pulled her unresisting to her feet. “Come, you’re not the only one needs sleep. I’ve drunk too much, and I may need to kill my brother tomorrow.” He laughed again.

Suddenly terrified, Sansa pushed at Septa Mordane’s shoulder, hoping to wake her, but she only snored the louder. King Robert had stumbled off and half the benches were suddenly empty. The feast was over, and the beautiful dream had ended with it.

And Sansa confirms he’s inebriated, because as he escorts her back to the castle and to her bedchamber, she describes his “drunken eyes,” and smells the “sour stench of wine on his breath” as he tells her the story of his burns. She also describes him as wearing clothes different from the drab ones he usually wore: a red tunic, the first item in bright colours we ever see him wearing, which means in Sandor’s idea of finery, it’s his best outfit for festive occasions; furthermore, he’s not wearing mail, boiled leather cuirass or plate armour, and no sword or swordbelt is mentioned, all of which indicate he mightn’t have been on duty this night, or at least had leave to enjoy himself at the banquet instead of standing behind Joffrey as usual, because Sansa was there observing and doesn’t see Sandor up until the crown prince summons him.

  • Eddard VII: Eight appearance, he is jousting at the Hand’s Tourney, unhorses Jaime, defends Loras Tyrell against his brother Gregor and is declared champion of the tournament. He hasn’t drunk.

Sandor Clegane was the first rider to appear. He wore an olive-green cloak over his soot-grey armor. That, and his hound’s-head helm, were his only concession to ornament.

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

“Done,” Lord Renly shouted back. “The Hound has a hungry look about him this morning.”

“Even hungry dogs know better than to bite the hand that feeds them,” Littlefinger called dryly.

Sandor Clegane dropped his visor with an audible clang and took up his position. Ser Jaime tossed a kiss to some woman in the commons, gently lowered his visor, and rode to the end of the lists. Both men couched their lances.

Ned Stark would have loved nothing so well as to see them both lose, but Sansa was watching it all moist-eyed and eager. The hastily erected gallery trembled as the horses broke into a gallop. The Hound leaned forward as he rode, his lance rock steady, but Jaime shifted his seat deftly in the instant before impact. Clegane’s point was turned harmlessly against the golden shield with the lion blazon, while his own hit square. Wood shattered, and the Hound reeled, fighting to keep his seat. Sansa gasped. A ragged cheer went up from the commons.

“I wonder how I ought spend your money,” Littlefinger called down to Lord Renly.

The Hound just managed to stay in his saddle. He jerked his mount around hard and rode back to the lists for the second pass. Jaime Lannister tossed down his broken lance and snatched up a fresh one, jesting with his squire. The Hound spurred forward at a hard gallop. Lannister rode to meet him. This time, when Jaime shifted his seat, Sandor Clegane shifted with him. Both lances exploded, and by the time the splinters had settled, a riderless blood bay was trotting off in search of grass while Ser Jaime Lannister rolled in the dirt, golden and dented.

Sansa said, “I knew the Hound would win.”

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

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

It was the king’s voice that put an end to it . . . the king’s voice and twenty swords. Jon Arryn had told them that a commander needs a good battlefield voice, and Robert had proved the truth of that on the Trident. He used that voice now. “STOP THIS MADNESS,” he boomed, “IN THE NAME OF YOUR KING!”

The Hound went to one knee. Ser Gregor’s blow cut air, and at last he came to his senses. He dropped his sword and glared at Robert, surrounded by his Kingsguard and a dozen other knights and guardsmen. Wordlessly, he turned and strode off, shoving past Barristan Selmy. “Let him go,” Robert said, and as quickly as that, it was over.

“Is the Hound the champion now?” Sansa asked Ned.

“No,” he told her. “There will be one final joust, between the Hound and the Knight of Flowers.”

But Sansa had the right of it after all. A few moments later Ser Loras Tyrell walked back onto the field in a simple linen doublet and said to Sandor Clegane, “I owe you my life. The day is yours, ser.”

“I am no ser,” the Hound replied, but he took the victory, and the champion’s purse, and, for perhaps the first time in his life, the love of the commons. They cheered him as he left the lists to return to his pavilion.

  • Eddard XI: Ninth appearance, he is mentioned to have gone with the King to the hunt, accompanying Joffrey, so he was on duty and sober.

A white hart had been sighted in the kingswood, and Lord Renly and Ser Barristan had joined the king to hunt it, along with Prince Joffrey, Sandor Clegane, Balon Swann, and half the court. So Ned must needs sit the Iron Throne in his absence.

Eddard XII: Tenth appearance, returns from the hunt with Joffrey and goes to see the Queen. Sober.

“[…] Prince Joffrey returned this morning, with the Royces, Ser Balon Swann, and some twenty others of the party. The rest are still with the king.”

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

“Oh, returned with Joffrey, and went straight to the queen.” Littlefinger smiled. “I would have given a hundred silver stags to have been a roach in the rushes when he learned that Lord Beric was off to behead his brother.

Eddard XIV: Eleventh appearance, he’s practising with the Lannister men in the training yard, in full control of his capacities. Later in the day, he’s on duty by the new king’s side, fights and kills a Stark man during Ned’s arrest.

The grey light of dawn was streaming through his window when the thunder of hoofbeats awoke Eddard Stark from his brief, exhausted sleep. He lifted his head from the table to look down into the yard. Below, men in mail and leather and crimson cloaks were making the morning ring to the sound of swords, and riding down mock warriors stuffed with straw. Ned watched Sandor Clegane gallop across the hard-packed ground to drive an iron-tipped lance through a dummy’s head. Canvas ripped and straw exploded as Lannister guardsmen joked and cursed.

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

Ned’s shout came far too late. Janos Slynt himself slashed open Varly’s throat. Cayn whirled, steel flashing, drove back the nearest spearman with a flurry of blows; for an instant it looked as though he might cut his way free. Then the Hound was on him. Sandor Clegane’s first cut took off Cayn’s sword hand at the wrist; his second drove him to his knees and opened him from shoulder to breastbone.

Sansa IV [There’s a mention of the Hound during a discussion between the sisters over the death of Mycah in her previous chapter, Sansa III]: Twelfth appearance, it’s the same day, so he’s still sober. He had been in the fight between the Lannisters and the Stark household, breaking the Poole girl’s door.

So she wept, pleading through her door for them to tell her what was happening, calling for her father, for Septa Mordane, for the king, for her gallant prince. If the men guarding her heard her pleas, they gave no answer. The only time the door opened was late that night, when they thrust Jeyne Poole inside, bruised and shaking. “They’re killing everyone,” the steward’s daughter had shrieked at her. She went on and on. The Hound had broken down her door with a warhammer, she said. There were bodies on the stair of the Tower of the Hand, and the steps were slick with blood. Sansa dried her own tears as she struggled to comfort her friend. They went to sleep in the same bed, cradled in each other’s arms like sisters.

  • Sansa V: Thirteenth appearance, he’s on duty beside Joffrey and is named to the Kingsguard. He’s not drunk.

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

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

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

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

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

Arya V: Fourteenth appearance, he’s on duty during Ned’s beheading and there are no signs of inebriation.

Clustered around the doors of the sept, in front of the raised marble pulpit, were a knot of knights and high lords. Joffrey was prominent among them, his raiment all crimson, silk and satin patterned with prancing stags and roaring lions, a gold crown on his head. His queen mother stood beside him in a black mourning gown slashed with crimson, a veil of black diamonds in her hair. Arya recognized the Hound, wearing a snowy white cloak over his dark grey armor, with four of the Kingsguard around him.

  • Sansa VI: Fifteenth appearance, he’s following Joffrey, as his job demands, so he’s sober. He gives Sansa advice.

You will attend me in court this afternoon,” Joffrey said. “See that you bathe and dress as befits my betrothed.” Sandor Clegane stood at his shoulder in a plain brown doublet and green mantle, his burned face hideous in the morning light. Behind them were two knights of the Kingsguard in long white satin cloaks.

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

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

Ser Meryn and Ser Arys followed him out, but Sandor Clegane lingered long enough to yank her roughly to her feet. “Save yourself some pain, girl, and give him what he wants.”

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

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

Later that day, in what is his sixteenth and final appearance in this book, he is still on duty with the little monarch, who’s showing Sansa her father’s head. He subtly prevents her from pushing Joffrey to his death.

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

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

This one is your father,” he said. “This one here. Dog, turn it around so she can see him.”

Sandor Clegane took the head by the hair and turned it. The severed head had been dipped in tar to preserve it longer. Sansa looked at it calmly, not seeing it at all. It did not really look like Lord Eddard, she thought; it did not even look real. “How long do I have to look?”

The outer parapet came up to her chin, but along the inner edge of the walk was nothing, nothing but a long plunge to the bailey seventy or eighty feet below. All it would take was a shove, she told herself. He was standing right there, right there, smirking at her with those fat wormlips. You could do it, she told herself. You could. Do it right now. It wouldn’t even matter if she went over with him. It wouldn’t matter at all.

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

Assessment: Sandor Clegane appears sixteen times in fourteen chapters in AGOT, from Eddard I to Sansa VI, a period of time that spans from May 298 AL to January 299 AL according to the Global Timeline and the ASOIAF Timeline posted in this board, and is drunk only once in nine months, during a banquet.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

In A Clash of Kings:

  • Sansa I: First appearance, he’s guarding the three Lannister children during Joffrey’s name day tourney. He mocks the participants and the tournament, backs up Sansa in her lie to save Dontos, and also supports Tommen against the taunting of his elder brother, and at the end of the chapter warns Tyrion to guard his tongue in the presence of the king. He hasn’t drunk.

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

The Hound’s mouth twitched. “Against this lot? Why not?”

He had been the champion in her father’s tourney, Sansa remembered. “Will you joust today, my lord?” she asked him.

Clegane’s voice was thick with contempt. “Wouldn’t be worth the bother of arming myself. This is a tournament of gnats.”

Joffrey curled his lip. “This is a feeble show.”

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

“The girl speaks truly,” the Hound rasped. “What a man sows on his name day, he reaps throughout the year.” His voice was flat, as if he did not care a whit whether the king believed him or no. Could it be true? Sansa had not known. It was just something she’d said, desperate to avoid punishment.

The master of revels bowed, but Prince Tommen was not so obedient. “I’m supposed to ride against the straw man.”

“Not today.”

“But I want to ride!”

“I don’t care what you want.”

“Mother said I could ride.”

“She said,” Princess Myrcella agreed.

“Mother said,” mocked the king. “Don’t be childish.”

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

The Hound laughed. “She has you there.”

Sansa found herself possessed of a queer giddy courage. “You should go with her,” she told the king. “Your brother might be hurt.”

Joffrey shrugged. “What if he is?”

“You should help him up and tell him how well he rode.” Sansa could not seem to stop herself.

“He got knocked off his horse and fell in the dirt,” the king pointed out. “That’s not riding well.”

“Look,” the Hound interrupted. “The boy has courage. He’s going to try again.

  • Sansa II: Second appearance, encounter with Sansa in the Serpentine steps as she comes back from her secret meeting with Dontos; he asks where she was, talks of her womanly shape, asks for a song, speaks about wine, etc. In this occasion, again in his own words he’s drunk and also shows evident physical signs of it.

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

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

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

“Gods,” he swore, “too much wine. Do you like wine, little bird? True wine? A flagon of sour red, dark as blood, all a man needs. Or a woman.” He laughed, shook his head. “Drunk as a dog, damn me. You come now. Back to your cage, little bird. I’ll take you there. Keep you safe for the king.” The Hound gave her a push, oddly gentle, and followed her down the steps.

He probably went to a winesink that night, for this was his day off, as he told Boros Blount (“The dog was drinking. It was your night to shield him, ser. You and my other brothers.”) on finding him at the bridge leading to Sansa’s bedchamber in Maegor’s Holdfast, to where he escorts her, telling her some of the history of his house as they go, and ends up asking for a song once more and repeating his advice on liars after her innocent reply.

  • Sansa III: Third appearance, he goes to bring Sansa before Joffrey, who orders him to beat her but he doesn’t; he then tries to stop the beating, and the king doesn’t pay heed. He gives her his cloak once Tyrion intervenes.

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

Sansa tried to hurry, but her fingers fumbled at buttons and knots. The Hound was always rough-tongued, but something in the way he had looked at her filled her with dread. […] When she emerged, Sansa walked on the Hound’s left, away from the burned side of his face. “Tell me what I’ve done.”

“Not you. Your kingly brother.”

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

The Hound snorted. “They trained you well, little bird.” He conducted her to the lower bailey, where a crowd had gathered around the archery butts.

“Your Grace, whatever my traitor brother has done, I had no part. You know that, I beg you, please—”

“Get her up!”

The Hound pulled her to her feet, not ungently.

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

“Let me beat her!” Ser Dontos shoved forward, tin armor clattering.

Boros slammed a fist into Sansa’s belly, driving the air out of her. When she doubled over, the knight grabbed her hair and drew his sword, and for one hideous instant she was certain he meant to open her throat. As he laid the flat of the blade across her thighs, she thought her legs might break from the force of the blow. Sansa screamed. Tears welled in her eyes. It will be over soon. She soon lost count of the blows.

“Enough,” she heard the Hound rasp.

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

“Someone give the girl something to cover herself with,” the Imp said. Sandor Clegane unfastened his cloak and tossed it at her. Sansa clutched it against her chest, fists bunched hard in the white wool. The coarse weave was scratchy against her skin, but no velvet had ever felt so fine.

  • Tyrion IX: Fourth appearance, he’s escorting the King and Sansa the day the bread riots broke, he is ordered to kill some rioters; he rescues Sansa and later goes back to search for his horse in the fire.

King Joffrey followed on a tall grey palfrey, a golden crown set upon his golden curls. Sansa Stark rode a chestnut mare at his side, looking neither right nor left, her thick auburn hair flowing to her shoulders beneath a net of moonstones. Two of the Kingsguard flanked the couple, the Hound on the king’s right hand and Ser Mandon Moore to the left of the Stark girl.

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

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

Sandor Clegane cantered briskly through the gates astride Sansa’s chestnut courser. The girl was seated behind, both arms tight around the Hound’s chest.

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

Blood was trickling down Sansa’s brow from a deep gash on her scalp. “They… they were throwing things… rocks and filth, eggs… I tried to tell them, I had no bread to give them. A man tried to pull me from the saddle. The Hound killed him, I think… his arm…” Her eyes widened and she put a hand over her mouth. “He cut off his arm.”

Clegane lifted her to the ground. His white cloak was torn and stained, and blood seeped through a jagged tear in his left sleeve. “The little bird’s bleeding. Someone take her back to her cage and see to that cut.” Maester Frenken scurried forward to obey. […]

Lady Tanda approached him. “My daughter—”

“Never saw her.” The Hound glanced around the yard, scowling. “Where’s my horse? If anything’s happened to that horse, someone’s going to pay.”

“He was running with us for a time,” Tyrion said, “but I don’t know what became of him after that.”

“Fire!” a voice screamed down from atop the barbican. “My lords, there’s smoke in the city. Flea Bottom’s afire.”

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

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

  • Sansa IV: Fifth appearance, he is contemplating the Bay of Blackwater aflame from the rooftop of Maegor’s Holdfast; and it can be inferred that it’s his night off duty, for otherwise he’d be guarding Joffrey, and also because the last time they had an encounter in the night, he was off duty as well. Yet this time he’s sober and even seems pensive. He grabs Sansa as she’s about to fall, reminds her of her rescue from the riots, she tries to thank him…

The little bird thinks she has wings, does she? Or do you mean to end up crippled like that brother of yours?”

Sansa twisted in his grasp. “I wasn’t going to fall. It was only… you startled me, that’s all.”

“You mean I scared you. And still do.”

She took a deep breath to calm herself. “I thought I was alone, I…” She glanced away.

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

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

“Brave?” His laugh was half a snarl. “A dog doesn’t need courage to chase off rats. They had me thirty to one, and not a man of them dared face me.

They have one of their longest conversations, in which he talks rough about killing and killers, her father’s beheading…

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

“Just as if I was one of those true knights you love so well, yes. What do you think a knight is for, girl? You think it’s all taking favors from ladies and looking fine in gold plate? Knights are for killing.” He laid the edge of his longsword against her neck, just under her ear. Sansa could feel the sharpness of the steel. “I killed my first man at twelve. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve killed since then. High lords with old names, fat rich men dressed in velvet, knights puffed up like bladders with their honors, yes, and women and children too—they’re all meat, and I’m the butcher. Let them have their lands and their gods and their gold. Let them have their sers.” Sandor Clegane spat at her feet to show what he thought of that. “So long as I have this,” he said, lifting the sword from her throat, “there’s no man on earth I need fear.

The upcoming conflagration and what he’ll do, the gods and evil deeds, true knights and so on… It’s their last interaction on-page, until approximately a week later, the last day of the battle of Blackwater.

Clegane’s eyes turned toward the distant fires. “All this burning.” He sheathed his sword. “Only cowards fight with fire.”

“Lord Stannis is no coward.”

“He’s not the man his brother was, either. Robert never let a little thing like a river stop him.”

“What will you do when he crosses?”

“Fight. Kill. Die, maybe.”

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

“What evil?” He laughed. “What gods?”

“The gods who made us all.”

“All?” he mocked. “Tell me, little bird, what kind of god makes a monster like the Imp, or a halfwit like Lady Tanda’s daughter? If there are gods, they made sheep so wolves could eat mutton, and they made the weak for the strong to play with.”

“True knights protect the weak.”

He snorted. “There are no true knights, no more than there are gods. If you can’t protect yourself, die and get out of the way of those who can. Sharp steel and strong arms rule this world, don’t ever believe any different.”

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

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

  • Davos III: In Tyrion XII, there’s a mention of sending the Hound to lead sorties against Stannis’ men attempting to land on their side of the Blackwater. And in Davos III, Sandor makes his sixth appearance: we see him doing precisely that, which is later confirmed by one of the Kettleblacks in Sansa VI. Sandor is therefore involved in the defence of King’s Landing for a considerable time since the very beginning of the battle.

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

Sansa was finishing her broth when he came the first time, entering through the back. She glimpsed him talking to his brother Osfryd. Then he climbed the dais and knelt beside the high seat, smelling of horse, four long thin scratches on his cheek crusted with scabs, his hair falling down past his collar and into his eyes. For all his whispering, Sansa could not help but hear. “The fleets are locked in battle. Some archers got ashore, but the Hound’s cut them to pieces, Y’Grace. Your brother’s raising his chain, I heard the signal. Some drunkards down to Flea Bottom are smashing doors and climbing through windows. Lord Bywater’s sent the gold cloaks to deal with them. Baelor’s Sept is jammed full, everyone praying.

On a side note, it’s striking to see that the enemy ship the Hound boarded on horseback was named Prayer, because in the chapter that comes before Davos III—Sansa V—we have Sansa in the sept praying to the Mother to save Sandor if she could.

  • Tyrion XIII: Seventh appearance, he’s commanding the defence of the King’s Gate with what’s left of his men, he disagrees with Tyrion on tactics, and then refuses to lead a fourth sortie due to the fire. He asks for wine, which is very significant considering his physical and emotional state after long hours of exhausting fighting in the fire, but doesn’t drink on-page, so that must’ve happened between the ending of this chapter and his later reappearance in Sansa VII.

Form up,” he shouted as he leapt to the ground. The gate moved under the impact of another blow. “Who commands here? You’re going out.”

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

“Yes.” Tyrion faced him.

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

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

“Did you think we hired you to fight in a tourney? Shall I bring you a nice iced milk and a bowl of raspberries? No? Then get on your fucking horse. You too, dog.”

The blood on Clegane’s face glistened red, but his eyes showed white. He drew his longsword.

He is afraid, Tyrion realized, shocked. The Hound is frightened. He tried to explain their need. “They’ve taken a ram to the gate, you can hear them, we need to disperse them—”

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

Ser Mandon Moore moved to Tyrion’s side, immaculate in his enameled white plate. “The King’s Hand commands you.”

“Bugger the King’s Hand.” Where the Hound’s face was not sticky with blood, it was pale as milk. “Someone bring me a drink.” A gold cloak officer handed him a cup. Clegane took a swallow, spit it out, flung the cup away. “Water? Fuck your water. Bring me wine.”

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

This is madness, he thought, but sooner madness than defeat. Defeat is death and shame. “Very well, I’ll lead the sortie.”

If he thought that would shame the Hound back to valor, he was wrong. Clegane only laughed. “You?”

Tyrion could see the disbelief on their faces. “Me. Ser Mandon, you’ll bear the king’s banner. Pod, my helm.” The boy ran to obey. The Hound leaned on that notched and blood-streaked sword and looked at him with those wide white eyes.

  • Sansa VII: Eighth and final appearance in the second book. Having deserted from the battle, he is really drunk this time, and is actually drinking on-page from a flagon of wine.

Sansa opened her mouth to scream, but another hand clamped down over her face, smothering her. His fingers were rough and callused, and sticky with blood. “Little bird. I knew you’d come.” The voice was a drunken rasp.

Outside, a swirling lance of jade light spit at the stars, filling the room with green glare. She saw him for a moment, all black and green, the blood on his face dark as tar, his eyes glowing like a dog’s in the sudden glare. Then the light faded and he was only a hulking darkness in a stained white cloak.

“If you scream I’ll kill you. Believe that.” He took his hand from her mouth. Her breath was coming ragged. The Hound had a flagon of wine on her bedside table. He took a long pull. “Don’t you want to ask who’s winning the battle, little bird?”

“Who?” she said, too frightened to defy 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. “Bloody dwarf. Should have killed him. Years ago.”

“He’s dead, they say.”

“Dead? No. Bugger that. I don’t want him dead.” He cast the empty flagon aside. “I want him burned. If the gods are good, they’ll burn him, but I won’t be here to see. I’m going.

Then he reminds her of the promised song, offers to keep her safe and kill whoever tries to hurt her, hinting at taking her with him out of the city, interprets her body language as rejection and demands his song at knifepoint. She sings the Mother’s Hymn, he leaves then, ripping his cloak off his shoulders, which she wraps herself with and keeps later.

Assessment: Sandor Clegane appears eight times in eight chapters in ACOK, not counting several mentions of him in passing in other Arya, Tyrion and Sansa chapters; from Sansa I to Sansa VII, a period of time that spans from February 299 AL to October 299 AL according to the Global Timeline posted in this board; and he is drunk twice: first on his night off in March 299 AL, and the second time seven months later (October 299 AL) after a long time fighting and leading three sorties surrounded by wildfyre.

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In A Storm of Swords:

Clegane’s arc in the third book has already been analysed in detail, chapter by chapter, in the psychological study of his last days that can be found in the Resources section, so here Milady will just provide a concise summary of the textual evidence:

  • Arya V and Arya VI: First appearance; he’s not exactly drunk but suffering from a hangover because he’d been captured whilst inebriated.

Down in the square, a thrown stone caught the captive on the cheek, turning his head. Not the Kingslayer, Arya thought, when she saw his face. The gods had heard her prayers after all.

They had bound his wrists with hempen rope, strung a noose around his neck, and pulled a sack down over his head, but even so there was danger in the man. Arya could feel it across the cave. Thoros—if that was Thoros—met captor and captive halfway to the fire. “How did you take him?” the priest asked.

“The dogs caught the scent. He was sleeping off a drunk under a willow tree, if you believe it.

Following the timeline, it’s been a month and a half after he left King’s Landing; and it’s not stated in the text what he was doing during that time, but considering that he’s wanted by his former masters for desertion, has no home because the Clegane lands are his brother’s, no income but his tourney winnings, no overlord to serve and to protect, and, in sum, isn’t wanted anywhere, we can therefore infer that he was wandering aimlessly throughout the Riverlands, in the thick of the war, be it in search of Gregor or of a way to enter into the service of the northern king. We don’t know for a certainty if he’d been drinking much in this period, which is possible considering his psychological state and hopelessness of his situation, but then he’d have been robbed or captured much sooner had he been crossing those lands full of his brother’s pets and Lannister men, Stark-Tully men, fickle sellswords, organised outlaws, desperate peasants resorting to robbery, etc., whilst being stone-drunk all the time.

  • Arya VII to Arya XI: He is completely sober in all his appearances in these five chapters, a period that consists of two weeks and five days according to the Global Timeline, and if to that we add the two days since the Hound’s trial until Arya VII, it’s three weeks in which he’s not had a drop of wine nor has reason for doing that, on the other hand, since he’s now on his way to ransom the girl to her family and see if it’d be possible to become a part of her brother’s forces.
  • Arya XII: Sandor and Arya are both undergoing a depressive relapse and the first stages of bereavement respectively, after the Red Wedding has crushed their respective dreams, including the loss of two family members for her, which explains why her grief is more evident in her behaviour. Sandor doesn’t touch a drink until they reach a remote mountainous village where they can stay and he can work:

In the higher hills, they came upon a tiny isolated village surrounded by grey-green sentinels and tall blue soldier pines, and Clegane decided to risk going in. “We need food,” he said, “and a roof over our heads. They’re not like to know what happened at the Twins, and with any luck they won’t know me.”

The villagers were building a wooden palisade around their homes, and when they saw the breadth of the Hound’s shoulders they offered them food and shelter and even coin for work. “If there’s wine as well, I’ll do it,” he growled at them. In the end, he settled for ale, and drank himself to sleep each night.

“Might be we should stay here awhile,” the Hound told her, after a fortnight. He was drunk on ale, but more brooding than sleepy. “We’d never reach the Eyrie, and the Freys will still be hunting survivors in the riverlands. Sounds like they need swords here, with these clansmen raiding. We can rest up, maybe find a way to get a letter to your aunt.” Arya’s face darkened when she heard that. She didn’t want to stay, but there was nowhere to go, either. The next morning, when the Hound went off to chop down trees and haul logs, she crawled back into bed.

But when the work was done and the tall wooden palisade was finished, the village elder made it plain that there was no place for them. “Come winter, we will be hard pressed to feed our own,” he explained. “And you… a man like you brings blood with him.”

Sandor’s mouth tightened. “So you do know who I am.”

“Aye. We don’t get travelers here, that’s so, but we go to market, and to fairs. We know about King Joffrey’s dog.”

“When these Stone Crows come calling, you might be glad to have a dog.”

“Might be.” The man hesitated, then gathered up his courage. “But they say you lost your belly for fighting at the Blackwater. They say—”

“I know what they say.” Sandor’s voice sounded like two woodsaws grinding together. “Pay me, and we’ll be gone.”

When they left, the Hound had a pouch full of coppers, a skin of sour ale, and a new sword. It was a very old sword, if truth be told, though new to him. He swapped its owner the longaxe he’d taken at the Twins, the one he’d used to raise the lump on Arya’s head. The ale was gone in less than a day, but Clegane sharpened the sword every night, cursing the man he’d swapped with for every nick and spot of rust.

From the Red Wedding in the previous POV until the end of this chapter, a month has passed, and despite his depressive state of mind, Sandor drinks only during the later half of the chapter, and he still has control of it because he drinks only in the night after work, and it goes on for a fortnight, that is, two weeks. That means he’s been sober for five weeks previous to starting to get drunk at the village.

  • Arya XIII: The encounter with his brother’s soldiers at the Crossroads inn is perhaps the most famous scene in which he gets drunken on-page, and has been already examined in its minute details in The Two Faces of the Beast II. For brevity, here’s a concise list of the relevant passages from that chapter:

Outside the inn on a weathered gibbet, a woman’s bones were twisting and rattling at every gust of wind.

I know this inn. There hadn’t been a gibbet outside the door when she had slept here with her sister Sansa under the watchful eye of Septa Mordane, though. “We don’t want to go in,” Arya decided suddenly, “there might be ghosts.”

“You know how long it’s been since I had a cup of wine?” Sandor swung down from the saddle. “Besides, we need to learn who holds the ruby ford. Stay with the horses if you want, it’s no hair off my arse.”

“Looking for your brother, Sandor?” Polliver’s hand was down the bodice of the girl on his lap, but now he slid it out.

“Looking for a cup of wine. Innkeep, a flagon of red.” Clegane threw a handful of coppers on the floor.

“I don’t want no trouble, ser,” the innkeep said.

“Then don’t call me ser.” His mouth twitched. “Are you deaf, fool? I ordered wine.” As the man ran off, Clegane shouted after him, “Two cups! The girl’s thirsty too!”

The innkeep came scurrying back with two stone cups and a flagon on a pewter platter. Sandor lifted the flagon to his mouth. Arya could see the muscles in his neck working as he gulped. When he slammed it back down on the table, half the wine was gone. “Now you can pour. Best pick up those coppers too, it’s the only coin you’re like to see today.”

“King Joffrey’s dead, you know,” he added. “Poisoned at his own wedding feast.”

Arya edged farther into the room. Joffrey’s dead. She could almost see him, with his blond curls and his mean smile and his fat soft lips. Joffrey’s dead! She knew it ought to make her happy, but somehow she still felt empty inside. Joffrey was dead, but if Robb was dead too, what did it matter?

“So much for my brave brothers of the Kingsguard.” The Hound gave a snort of contempt. “Who killed him?”

“The Imp, it’s thought. Him and his little wife.”

“What wife?”

“I forgot, you’ve been hiding under a rock. The northern girl. Winterfell’s daughter. We heard she killed the king with a spell, and afterward changed into a wolf with big leather wings like a bat, and flew out a tower window. But she left the dwarf behind and Cersei means to have his head.”

That’s stupid, Arya thought. Sansa only knows songs, not spells, and she’d never marry the Imp.

The Hound sat on the bench closest the door. 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.” He raised his wine cup and drained it straightaway.

The Hound poured a cup of wine for Arya and another for himself, and drank it down while staring at the hearthfire. “The little bird flew away, did she? Well, bloody good for her. She shit on the Imp’s head and flew off.

The opening line in this POV reveals that it’s been a while since he’s had a cup, and when we consult the Global Timeline, we find that it’s been two weeks since they were expelled from the little village when they arrive at this inn, so he’s been sober all this time. The sequence of events leading to the fight and his wound in the leg is quite straight and rapid: he enters the inn and meets Polliver, the Tickler and his squire; orders a flagon of wine with two cups for himself and Arya, and he drinks half of it with an empty belly, Polliver tells him that Gregor is in King’s Landing, that Joffrey is dead and that Sansa has married the Imp; he has to sit at hearing this and gulps down another cup of wine, he asks for information on Gregor, Harrenhal and the Blackfish, pours another cup of wine, stares at the fire, drinks it and speaks about Sansa; and after some words more, finally he and Arya fight with Polliver, the Tickler and the boy squire, and he is wounded in the ear, the neck and, most severe of all, the leg. He is left to die of this wound the next day, when he’s sober but in extreme pain.
Overall Assessment: Sandor Clegane appears in eight of the thirteen Arya chapters, spanning from December 299 AL to February 300 AL according to the Global Timeline, that is, two months spent with Arya Stark from his capture by the Mad Hunstman to the day he was left to his demise near the Trident. During this time, he’s been drunk thrice: once when he was captured, which we know about by description only, when he’s wandering in a state of emotional distress in the riverlands, having lost everything after deserting at Blackwater; then a second time five weeks later, once again due to a depressive state of mind which lasts until his last day, and is the only time we actually see him drinking daily for a determined period of time if we are to take the word of Arya as truthful, but only in the nights and not to the point of interfering with his daytime work for the villagers. And a third time, after another two weeks of travelling with the younger Stark girl. Comparatively, the time spent drinking is overall minimal and is always after some particularly distressing events, because there’s no indication whatsoever of drinking for the sake of drinking.

All textual evidence examined, it is certainly inaccurate to assert that Sandor Clegane is an alcoholic based on three isolated events in the first two books that take place over a period consisting of one year and five months, from May 298 AL to October 299 AL, each of which is separated by several months from the others, and overlooking the other innumerable occasions in which he’s perfectly in possession of his faculties and not drinking. Furthermore, it cannot be stressed enough that the circumstances in which he’s actually drunk help explain his state, so his drinking makes sense when put in context, within the surrounding events; for example, the first time he’s drunk in the books, he was at a banquet, in which anyone can have a cup too many at least once and where even prim, proper Septa Mordane passed out drunk. The second time, he’s out of duty, so he’s free to go drink, wench and gamble if he pleases, as he’s an adult, unmarried, and with no more responsibilities that those of his job; moreover, considering that he’s Joffrey’s personal bodyguard on top of being a regular Kingsguard, it isn’t like he can do that each night or even regularly, as he’s always by the king’s side (Tyrion doesn’t ask Varys if he does that, but when he does that, since he’s never far from Joffrey, hinting that he mightn’t have many days off), and standing guard by his bedchamber by night, as is the duty of all Kingsguard men by turns. Furthermore, Cersei and Jaime Lannister, who know him since boyhood and who call him by his first name (She: “Bring us Sandor’s head,” He: “Are you sure it was Sandor?” etc.), must know his personality and habits, especially Jaime who knows him much better than his sister does, and in their AFFC chapters, when thinking about him, none of them has trouble listing his character flaws: Jaime describes him as hard and brutal, but also knows he’s not capable of the crimes the Hound is accused of; and Cersei calls him a brute and describes his temper, doesn’t bother to question the veracity of the accusations leveled against him, and even lies to Kevan that she dismissed him from her service, yet none of them ever mentions that drunkenness was one of these flaws, which for Cersei would’ve been a reason for dismissing him from his job, because she was his liege lady and Queen Regent, since it’d endanger her son’s safety to have a bodyguard with a serious problem with wine.

And then we have the third time; we know that due to his brutal burning as a 6-7 year old child, in which he could’ve even died if three men hadn’t restrained Gregor, he’s developed a lifelong trauma-induced fear of fire, about which at least five people know in the books in real time: Sansa Stark (the only one who knows the full story), Tyrion (twice), Thoros of Myr, Beric Dondarrion, and Arya Stark; and to these we’d have to add Gregor’s men, to judge by one of them taunting Sandor at the inn about escaping from Blackwater when it got too “warm.” Despite this, he’s remarkably able to control his fright when he has to do a necessary task, like when he was asked to go back to Flea Bottom in flames with Bronn, and he went because of his prized horse, we had to fight Thoros in a melee and Beric in a trial by combat both using a flaming sword, and when he’s put in command of a detachment of Lannister troops in the battle of Blackwater, in which he fought non-stop and ably despite the numerical inferiority and the raging inextinguishable green fire around him, he lead three sorties and even charged a burning ship. So, when Tyrion finds him, he promptly notices his eyes white with fear, that he is “dead on his feet” and “he’s done.” It’s in this condition of PTSD and utter physical and mental exhaustion that he refuses to continue, and gets drunk afterwards.

His drinking during the time he spent travelling across the Riverlands is not at random either; it’s always linked to a grave circumstance that affects him emotionally. His drunkenness when captured is linked to his being a fugitive lacking a purpose and a destination, for when he’s something to do and harbours hopes and plans for the future, he doesn’t even think of a drink; thus he spent six weeks of the two months with Arya completely sober, and only started drinking regularly after everything collapsed due to the horrendous Red Wedding; and again when his other plan of ransoming her to Lysa Arryn also collapses and they’re expelled from a village, with no certainty at all about whether they might actually reach the Blackfish at Riverrun, as is his Plan C.

Therefore, how is it that the label of alcoholism is attached to his name? Alcoholism is an illness related to physiological as well as psychological factors that has to follow certain patterns to be diagnosed as such. For a start, the term alcoholism doesn’t figure in psychiatrists and psychologists’ official diagnosis manual (it’s used in other specialties, though), for whom this problem is officially known as Alcohol Dependence under the Substance Dependence Disorders category, and we differentiate strictly between Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Dependence, which Milady will explain in a succinct manner now. Alcohol Abuse is a disorder that involves consistently drinking excess amounts of alcohol on a regular basis or sporadically, and that person can stop drinking by him/herself and have periods of sobriety in between drinking episodes, but it has to be persistent over a determined period of time (generally twelve months), during which the individual has to exhibit four important symptomatic behaviours:

  1. Recurrent use of alcohol resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at the workplace, education place or at home: Clegane doesn’t fill in this field. His drinking doesn’t affect his performance as a royal sworn shield or as a Kingsguard, and neither has it prevented him from becoming one of the best swordsmen and unit commanders in Westeros. Also, when he’s effectively drinking daily in ASOS, he still fulfills his part of the agreement working for the villagers.
  2. Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous: The episode at the inn is the most glaring example of getting drunk during a hazardous situation, as in his other episodes he’s no longer on duty or required to work hard, so there’s no continuity.
  3. Recurrent alcohol-related disorderly conduct that results in problems with the authorities (legal problems): Apart from the fight at the inn, a one-time circumstance, we don’t read about him linked to breaking of laws publicly or any other conduct that disrupts the public order whilst inebriated.
  4. Continued alcohol use despite having recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by it: His drinking hasn’t been continued but episodic, and that he drank was not the root cause of his awkward social skills but rather his deeper psychological issues and his own personality.

It’s to be noted that as we apply the either/or rule when assessing individuals, more than one of these criteria should be met, meeting just one criterion and no more is merely an indicator and must always follow the criterion of at least one year of persistent recurrence. If there’s not continuity in the drinking episodes over the specified time and not all the criteria for Alcohol Abuse are met, then it can be considered as episodic binge drinking, a risk behaviour that is troublesome and harmful, and should give the individual pause to reflect and seek useful advice to moderate or change that conduct before/in case it becomes a worse problem, but it’s not in any way a substance-related mental disorder, much less alcoholism.

As for Alcohol Dependence, our clinical manual, the DSM-IV-TR lists seven criteria:

  1. Tolerance; which means that either the same amounts of alcohol lose their effect, or there’s a need for increased amounts to achieve a state of inebriation, as a result. 2. Withdrawal symptoms, which drive the individual to resort to alcohol to alleviate these recurrent symptoms. 3. Alcohol is often used in larger amounts or over a longer period than was desired, that is, the person cannot control his intake nor where and for how long he/she drinks. 4. All efforts to cut down or control alcohol consumption on the person’s own initiative fail and are unsuccessful. 5. The person spends a lot of time trying to obtain alcohol, consume alcohol, or recover from its effects. 6. Social life, work, educational and recreational activities are given up or reduced to a minimum because of alcohol, and finally: 7. Continued alcohol consumption despite being aware of having a physical or psychological problem caused or exacerbated by alcohol.

In this category, the person doesn’t always fill in all the seven fields, though it can and does happen frequently, but it’s absolutely a requisite that the individual meet three important diagnosis criteria as a minimum, not less, which can vary from one case to another, though criteria 1, 2, 3 and 4 are normally the commonly met ones; and, again, the minimum period of recurrent drinking during twelve months is a necessary requisite, with no abstinence periods in between. And Sandor Clegane doesn’t fill in these important criteria: he doesn’t show physiological signs of tolerance and withdrawal because he doesn’t drink consistently all the time, his daytime job, social and recreational activities (tourneys for example) aren’t affected by his drinking, and neither does he spend large amounts of time looking for alcohol, drinking it or recovering from it when there’s work to be done, he can control and cut his intake by himself, and can go variable periods without touching a wineskin, etc.

With the release this month of the newer DSM-V, both categories of Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Dependence are going to be merged into one, now called Alcohol Use Disorder, which combines the eleven criteria listed above, with the exception of criterion 3 in the list for Alcohol Abuse, replaced now by “recurrent cravings for alcohol” over a period of twelve months, that is, physiological cravings, and with the new severity gradation, meeting just one criterion results in no diagnosis at all independently of which criterion is met. And to reach this diagnosis and that of addiction, internal and external validators are employed: personality tests, questionnaires, interviews with the affected party and, often, the family as well, and also medical examinations, etc., because a diagnosis of alcohol abuse or addiction is for life, and once you’re diagnosed, you will always be considered as such no matter the extent of the period of remission/abstinence that can follow after treatment; thus, a label of “alcoholic” should not be attached lightly to just anyone’s name without due regard for factual evidence.

And the evidence demonstrates that Sandor of House Clegane is not an alcoholic, he doesn’t suffer from alcohol abuse nor alcohol addiction; he drinks in a social environment the first time, and on his free time the second, and later engages in binge drinking as a result of deeper psychological issues that have troubled him for long, that is, he used wine as a mood regulator when he exhibits PTSD and depressive symptoms, which is rightly a conflictive behaviour in itself and should be viewed as such, and not as a clinical disorder as is alcoholism. GRRM seems to view it that way, too, for he put this in the mouth of the Elder Brother in AFFC Brienne VI: “He drank, to drown his pain in a sea of wine.”

Standalone XXI

A comparison of Sansa, Arya and Catelyn

by Daphne23

As I’ve been discussing with brashcandy, I’ve been working for a while on a three-way comparison of Sansa, Arya and Catelyn, hoping that this might be illuminating for Sansa and Arya’s character arcs, although I know individual write-ups of Sansa’s relationships with Arya and Catelyn have already been posted. I’ve found it helpful to look at all three characters together—with some brief references to Ned—as I think this highlights some key themes in the novels. The first chunk deals with the themes of honour and mercy, on one hand, and justice and vengeance on the other, and how Sansa, Arya and Cat fit into this schema. (Inevitably, there are some sections that aren’t particularly Sansa-centric.)

I’ve included page references, but I have a motley collection of books. For Game, Clash and Feast, the page numbers refer to the single-volume UK paperbacks, and Dance is the single-volume UK hardback. However, Storm is the single-volume US paperback.

‘I must not pity him’

Honour and mercy are predominantly associated with one character in A Song of Ice and Fire—Ned Stark—and for good reason. The most succinct statement of Ned’s philosophy and of its limitations comes when he rejects Littlefinger’s offer of help after Robert’s death: ‘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.’ [GOT, 512-13]. Renly remembers, “he would not listen and he would not bend.” [COK, 257]. Sansa remembers that ‘My father always told the truth.’ [SOS, 85]. Robert’s desire for revenge on Rhaegar Targaryen is puzzling and disconcerting to Ned: ‘he found himself recalling Rhaegar Targaryen. Fifteen years dead, yet Robert hates him as much as ever. It was a disturbing notion…’ [GOT, 356]. He refuses to send assassins after Dany [GOT, 353-4] or to reject Stannis’s legitimate claim to the throne [GOT 635]. As this evidence suggests, honour and mercy, for Ned, go hand in hand with justice. He perceives no relationship between justice and vengeance, as he demonstrates in his discussion with Ser Loras: “Vengeance?… I thought we were speaking of justice. Burning Clegane’s fields and slaughtering his people will not restore the king’s peace, only your injured pride.” [GOT, 469]. Later in the same scene, he tells him that “we are about justice here, and what you seek is vengeance.” [GOT, 470]

Like Ned, Sansa is predominantly associated with mercy, yet her empathy and compassion are even more marked. We see her singing ‘Gentle Mother, font of mercy… teach us all a kinder way’ [COK, 595] and comforting the women in the Red Keep during the Battle of the Blackwater. She speaks kindly to Ser Lancel, a Lannister and her enemy, in Storm, and is one of the few people in King’s Landing to have any sympathy for Lollys. Before Marillion’s trial, where she bears false witness against him to save her own life, she has to tell herself ‘I must not pity him’ [FFC, 183], reminding herself that he tried to rape her and also stood by while Lysa threatened to murder her. Unlike Ned and Arya, however, she does not seem overly concerned with justice, possessing a more flexible definition of fairness, and indeed she is involved in at least two unjust trials (Joffrey/Lady, Marillion, and if her status as a key, if absent, witness in Tyrion’s trial is counted, a third). By definition, courtesy and kindness does not always involve telling the truth, as Sansa recognises when she thinks ‘A lie is not so bad if it is kindly meant’ [FFC, 182], but Sansa’s willingness to see the truth as a malleable instrument, rather than Ned’s image of it as an inflexible dagger, may yet lead her into danger.

‘Hang Theon in a crow’s cage to die slowly’

On the other hand, justice and vengeance are predominantly associated with Catelyn and Arya. Catelyn’s relationship with the concept of justice is fascinating; in general, before she becomes Lady Stoneheart, she supports Ned’s idea of justice, and continually emphasises the importance of differentiating it from vengeance. Unlike Ned, however, she supports justice for pragmatic, rather than honourable reasons, recognising the essential futility of vengeance. When Edmure tells her “the Lannisters will pay, I swear it, you will have your vengeance,” after Ned’s execution, she asks him“Will that bring Ned back to me?” [GOT, 787]. She has similar exchanges with both Stannis and Renly in Clash:

[Renly] “My lady, I swear to you, I will see that the Lannisters answer for your husband’s murder,” the king [Renly] declared. “When I take King’s Landing, I’ll send you Cersei’s head.”

And will that bring my Ned back to me?she thought. “It will be enough to know that justice has been done, my lord.”

[COK, 253]
[Stannis] “Still, I give you my word, you shall have justice for his murder.” How they loved to promise heads, these men who would be king. “Your brother promised me the same. But if truth be told, I would sooner have my daughters back, and leave justice to the gods.”

 [COK, 346]

She explains herself to Karstark with similar rationality when he tells her that, by releasing Jaime, “You have robbed me of my vengeance”, noting that “Lord Rickard, the Kingslayer’s dying would not have bought life for your children. His living may buy life for mine.” [SOS, 191]

Catelyn also has two monologues on the foolishness of revenge that I think are two of the most powerful monologues in the series. Firstly, when Lord Karstark tells her that “You are the gentle sex… A man has a need for vengeance”, Catelyn replies “Give me Cersei Lannister, Lord Karstark, and you would see how gentle a woman can be… Perhaps I do not understand tactics and strategy… but I understand futility… I will mourn for Ned until the end of my days, but I must think of the living. I want my daughters back, and the queen holds them still. If I must trade our four Lannisters for their two Starks, I will call that a bargain and thank the gods. I want you safe, Robb, ruling at Winterfell from your father’s seat. I want you to live your life, to kiss a girl and wed a woman and father a son. I want to write an end to this. I want to go home, my lords, and weep for my husband.’ [GOT, 795]

Heartbreakingly, when she gives this monologue again, to her dying father, her list of ‘wants’ has moved from being a list of hopes to a list of losses, as she recognises what she cannot have and the ultimate failure of her earlier arguments: ‘Robb must fight the Greyjoys now as well as the Lannisters, and for what? For a gold hat and an iron chair? Surely the land has bled enough. I want my girls back, I want Robb to lay down his sword and pick some homely daughter of Walder Frey to make him happy and give him sons. I want Bran and Rickon back, I want…” Catelyn hung her head. “I want.”… Midnight has come, father, she thought, and I must do my duty. She let go of his hand. [COK, 576]

However, this second monologue is not merely Cat’s acceptance of her fate as, of course, the ‘duty’ she tells Hoster she has to do is releasing Jaime. Indeed, her repetition of the same points becomes a justification for finally acting impulsively, for transgressing social norms and not doing the ‘duty’ that men have told her she must do, but taking the path forwards that she can see most clearly. And, as her first monologue indicated (‘Give me Cersei…’), Catelyn, unlike Ned, is not immune to the emotional attractions of vengeance, although she keeps herself under tight control. The reader is clearly meant to think that she might be intending to kill Jaime, not releasing him, and that is consistent with her previous thoughts of revenge. She tells Brienne: “I have no skill with swords, but that does not mean I do not dream of riding to King’s Landing and wrapping my hands around Cersei Lannister’s white throat and squeezing until her face turns black”, giving Brienne permission to take her revenge on Stannis, although Cat knows by this point that he has the lawful claim to the throne [COK, 410-11]. She tells Robb that his ‘first duty’ is ‘to defend your own people, win back Winterfell, and hang Theon in a crow’s cage to die slowly’, conflating duty and vengeance [SOS, 200]. Most strikingly, she reflects to Brienne after hearing of Bran and Rickon’s deaths, ‘Ned always said that the man who passes the sentence should swing the blade, though he never took any joy in the duty. But I would, oh yes.’ [COK, 574]

‘You don’t deserve the gift of mercy’

The ideas of justice, vengeance and mercy also seem crucial in Arya’s arc. Arya is a staunch defender of the innocent and weak, but her fierce belief in justice seems to exclude the possibility of her being truly merciful. For example, when she gives water to Stark men hanging in crow cages, she is keen to establish first that they are Robb’s men and deserve her help, although a truly merciful action would have been to give them water regardless, as they are dying [SOS, 397-8]. Like Sansa, Arya is involved in numerous trials, where she is often furious when justice is not done; she shouts ‘Liar!’ at Sansa’s unclear testimony, and is angry that the Brotherhood without Banners does not execute the Hound. This, however, is a score that she is able to settle, when she tells him: “You don’t deserve the gift of mercy… You shouldn’t have hit me with an axe… You should have saved my mother.” [SOS, 1038]. Arya’s concern for justice leads her to desperately seek a reason to murder the old man in Dance (‘He has lived too long… He has no courtesy… His face is hard and mean… He is an evil man… and he has a villain’s beard’) whereas the point of her training is that ‘it is not for you to judge him.’ She wants the kind of personal connection with her victim that Ned strove for, albeit in a twisted way: ‘When I kill him, he will look in my eyes and thank me’, but the kindly man is not interested in Stark justice: ‘It would be best if he took no note of you at all.’ [DWD, 837-8] Throughout Dance, the kindly man seems to be trying to tell Arya that she is no longer involved in the kind of ‘Stark of Winterfell’ justice that led her to murder Dareon, and that she has to put this aside if she is to join the Faceless Men and give ‘the gift of death’, which sounds akin to ‘the gift of mercy’ she denied the Hound.

While, as we have seen, Sansa is associated with mercy and pity, Catelyn is far more akin to Arya in this respect. When she pleads for peace, her reasons are pragmatic—saving her family—rather than truly forgiving. As Lady Stoneheart, she is also known as ‘Mother Merciless’, and while an argument can be made that her trials are fair, they are hardly merciful. Overall, Catelyn’s greater affinity with Arya may explain why, although both girls want to take their mother’s name as an alias when they go into hiding, it is only Arya who is allowed to retain it. And for Arya, ‘Cat’ is clearly not just a means to an end—as ‘Nan’, ‘Arry’ and ‘Squab’ were—but a valued identity. She uses ‘Cat’ to keep up her spirits during her isolation in Braavos, telling herself ‘I am a cat now, not a wolf. I am Cat of the Canals.’ [FFC, 627] and ‘Cats never weep, she told herself, no more than wolves do.’ [FFC, 628]. This second statement indicates that, unlike, for example, the mouse-like Nan, ‘Cat’ is an identity that Arya can reconcile with her Stark self, although she is different from the true Arya Stark. In contrast, Sansa plays Alayne Stone, who diverges ever further from the inward Sansa; even her physical resemblance to Catelyn is reduced when she dyes her hair.

‘He had no patience with this game they played’

‘Lying’ and ‘playing the game’ is a crucial theme for both Arya and Sansa, although not for Catelyn; although Catelyn proves herself to be an adept politician, she continues to shun deception. Although Petyr claims to have introduced Sansa to the idea that ‘a lie is not so bad if it is kindly meant’, we know that Sansa has been telling white lies since Game; in her very first appearance, she lies for Arya to protect her from Septa Mordane [GOT, 69], and lies for Arya again in her first point-of-view chapter [GOT, 139]. Her confusion during Lady’s trial can also be read as a type of white lie, as she refuses to speak out directly against Arya, although Arya, of course, has a different opinion: “Liar, liar, liar, liar.” [GOT, 156]. Sansa’s reticience, of course, stems from her recognition of the consequences of accusing her betrothed, the crown prince, in public, and her resort to courtesy for the next three books is also a form of ‘kindly lying.’

In the Eyrie, Sansa becomes more accomplished in deception, but again, this development was prefigured earlier. As early as Game, Sansa has a fair idea of how to manipulate Joffrey, even if she is ultimately unsuccessful, when she pleads for her father’s life; she claims to have accepted that Ned is a traitor, but asks for ‘mercy’, and draws on her personal relationship with the prince ‘Sansa smiled, a shy secret smile, just for him.’ [GOT, 626]. In Storm, Sansa manipulates Tyrion into thinking that she is no threat, sneaking out to meet Ser Dontos in the godswood in front of his nose; when he threatens to come with her, she sees him off effectively ‘you are kind to offer, but… there are no devotions, my lord. No priests or songs or candles. Only trees, and silent prayer. You would be bored.’ Even Tyrion recognises that she has read him accurately: ‘She knows me better than I thought.’ [SOS, 712]. Tyrion’s subsequent chapters indicate quite how badly he has misjudged Sansa [SOS, 797], [SOS, 819]. Interestingly, Martin suggests that Sansa’s ability to read people and situations is innate when he has her note that her avatar, Lady, ‘could smell out falsehood’ [COK, 208].

In contrast, Arya’s attitude to the game of thrones, and the careful social courtesies that allow Sansa to gain her information, is similar to Ned’s: ‘he had no patience with this game they played, this dueling with words.’ Arya’s plans are effective, but her thinking is essentially short-term, and her experience with lying is of a different kind to Sansa’s; she is learning to react instantly to situations and read people swiftly as she trains as an assassin, while keeping her own intentions entirely hidden. By Feast, her ability has become almost preternatural, as she reads ‘the waif’ and identifies her lies [FFC, 643]

‘She was a Stark of Winterfell… This is her place’

Ned’s statement that “She was a Stark of Winterfell… This [the crypts] is her place” [GOT, 43] refers to Lyanna, but it could just as easily relate to Lady, Sansa, Arya, or even, in some contexts, Catelyn. Arya’s links to the north are the most explicit, with her consistent use of wolf imagery, but Catelyn, too, seems to become more of a ‘Stark’ as the series goes on, without forsaking her Tully heritage. Catelyn’s first chapter in Game demonstrates her ‘otherness’ from the Starks [GOT, 24], but this is not a reading of the character that can be sustained throughout the novels. Catelyn adopts the Stark motto: “Because they are the knights of summer, and winter is coming.” [COK, 256] and becomes an increasingly ‘cold’ portent of doom as her sufferings increase, holding fast to Ned’s values and ideals even as she is willing to be more pragmatic than her husband.

When he is forced to kill Lady, Ned says, ‘She is of the north. She deserves better than a butcher’, and he insists that Lady’s bones are taken to Winterfell [GOT, 158-9]. Lady’s essential links to the north mirror Sansa’s; she continually draws strength from the north and from her Stark heritage. ‘I am a Stark, yes, I can be brave,’ [SOS, 384] she reflects, and, later in Storm, thinks ‘If Lady was here, I would not be afraid.’ [SOS, 799] and ‘I must be brave, like Robb.’ [SOS, 802]. Sansa’s snow castle scene at the Eyrie has been much discussed, as it emphasises her links to Winterfell [SOS, 1100] but there are a series of less obvious links in the novels as well. When Ned is imprisoned in Game, his language prefigures Sansa’s castle: ‘He made plans to keep himself sane, built castles of hope in the dark’ [GOT, 629]. More subtly, Catelyn’s comments on Brienne‘There are walls around this one higher than Winterfell’s’ [COK, 409]—recall Sansa’s ‘icy’ courtesy armour and how she uses northern coldness as a defence, especially as we know Brienne can be as romantic and naïve as Sansa inside her walls. Another troubling note in Sansa’s Feast characterisation, indeed, is when she stops using Robb or other Starks as a model of bravery, and turns to Littlefinger instead: ‘Feeling near as bold as Petyr Baelish, Alayne Stone donned her smile…’ [FFC, 417] – although, perhaps it is crucial that the girl seeking courage here is Alayne, not Sansa Stark.

‘Lady didn’t bite anyone, she’s good… I’ll make her be good’

A particular phrase that is associated with Sansa, and later, seems to transfer to Jeyne Poole, is the idea of being a ‘good girl’; a related idea seems to be that of having a ‘gentle heart.’ What is particularly interesting is that Sansa’s lupine alter ego, Lady, does not seem to be innately ‘good’, although she is characterised as ‘gentle.’ Septa Mordane is the first to note that Lady threatens Sansa’s ‘good girl’ status: ‘You’re a good girl, Sansa, but I do vow, when it comes to that creature [Lady] you’re as wilful as your sister Arya’. [GOT, 139]. When Sansa pleads for Lady’s life, she tells the king ‘No, not Lady, Lady didn’t bite anyone, she’s good… don’t let them hurt Lady, I’ll make her be good, I promise, I promise…’ [GOT, 157-8] The idea here is that Sansa, the ‘good girl’, will have to make Lady be a good wolf, even though she is hardly aggressive at the moment, as Ned reflects: ‘She was the smallest of the litter, the prettiest, the most gentle and trusting’. [GOT, 158] Unpicking the relationship between Sansa’s identity as a Stark, her relationship with Lady, and the significance of Lady’s death is torturous, with much of the evidence pointing in different directions, but here, at least, it seems that while Lady represents gentleness, sharp observational skills (see below) and strength, she doesn’t fit with Sansa’s image as a ‘good girl’.

The reasons for this become clear as Game progresses, and it becomes obvious that Sansa uses ‘good girl’ to refer to the ideal, obedient lady she is meant to be, a figure that stands in direct contrast to the rebellious Arya. When she sneaks off to tell Cersei of Ned’s plans, she thinks ‘She was the good girl, the obedient girl, but she had felt as wicked as Arya that morning, sneaking away from Septa Mordane, defying her lord father’ [GOT, 548]. Speaking up for Jeyne, she asks ‘Where are you sending her? She hasn’t done anything wrong, she’s a good girl.’[GOT, 546] and, when frightened by Cersei after being told Ned is a ‘traitor’, she protests ‘I’m not like Arya… She has the traitor’s blood, not me. I’m good, ask Septa Mordane, she’ll tell you’ [GOT, 549]. This refrain comes to be automatic for Sansa: ‘She woke murmuring, “Please, please, I’ll be good, I’ll be good, please don’t”’ [GOT, 742] and when she first puts on her ‘courtesy armour’, the ‘good girl’ language blends into that of the courtesy defence: ‘She was a good girl, and always remembered her courtesies.’ [GOT, 750]. The ‘good girl’, then, once Sansa’s aspiration, becomes her mask. While she realises the restrictions of being the ‘good girl’, and having no agency in her own life, she retains her ‘gentle heart.’ Catelyn reflects on Sansa’s marriage to Tyrion, Mother take mercy on her. She has a gentle soul’, and Lady Tanda tells Sansa, who is crying after Joffrey’s murder, ‘You have a good heart, my lady… Not every maid would weep so for a man who set her aside and wed her to a dwarf,” although Sansa, who is crying for quite different reasons, thinks ‘A good heart. I have a good heart. Hysterical laughter rose up her gullet…’ [SOS, 832]. Unlike the rigidity of the ‘good girl’ persona, Sansa’s ‘gentle heart’ becomes her strength, and her future may depend on whether or not she can retain it.

Both Catelyn and Arya’s character arcs indicate the danger of being ‘heartless’ or ‘hard-hearted.’ Catelyn reflects, after hearing of Bran and Rickon’s deaths, that ‘There is an empty place within me where my heart was once.’[COK, 572] This mirrors Arya’s reaction to Catelyn and Robb’s murders: ‘She could feel the hole inside her every morning when she woke… It was a hollow place, an emptiness where her heart had been’ [SOS, 883]. In the House of Black and White, she uses a similar image: ‘I have a hole where my heart should be, she thought, and nowhere else to go.’ [FFC, 394]. This imagery reflects Catelyn’s new identity—Lady Stoneheart—and links this idea of heartlessness to the pursuit of vengance. The Ghost of High Heart makes this point explicitly when she tells Arya ‘I see you, wolf child. Blood child. I thought it was the lord who smelled of death… Begone from here, dark heart. Begone!” [SOS, 593] However, lest we should assume too neat a division between ‘gentle-hearted’ Sansa and ‘dark-hearted’ Arya, Martin plays with the reader by associating Sansa with Lady Stoneheart as well – in her alias, Alayne Stone. If Sansa allows her natural sympathy to be corrupted, he seems to be saying, she might well follow a path as dark as her sibling’s.

Standalone XXII

The Alarm that Never Sounded: GOT’s treatment of the SanSan Romance

by Miodrag Zarkovic

When adapting female characters from ASOIAF into the TV show “Game of Thrones”, David Benioff and Dan Weiss aren’t unlike Robert Baratheon: if they can’t disrobe it, they’re bored with it. Their rendition of Melisandre, for example, isn’t an intimidating and imposing practitioner of dark and supernatural powers but rather a seductress who’s able to make people obey her only if she rewards them with sex (Stannis, Gendry) or gold (Brotherhood without Banners). One more example would be their rendition of Margaery Tyrell, who was turned from a teenage girl with a perfect facade and somewhat mysterious foundation into a promiscuous lady willing to do anything—even have sex with both her brother and her husband simultaneously, as she proposes to the latter in Season 2—in order to achieve her personal political ambitions that are literally limitless.

With that in mind, Sansa Stark never had a chance to be properly adapted in the show created by D&D. Now, the word ‘properly’ has a rather wide range of possible meanings, and this essay will attempt to examine at least some of them, but, for now, let’s say that the most obvious aspect in which TV Sansa was shorthanded is her screen time. In “A Clash of Kings”, the book that was the basis for the Season 2 of GoT, Sansa’s POV chapters, along with Tyrion’s, are the only ones that depict what’s happening in King’s Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms and the center of political power in the story. This goes for the first two thirds of “A Storm of Swords” as well, e.g. until the moment Sansa escapes from King’s Landing. In short, her chapters couldn’t help but be of paramount importance in the narrative sense. In the show, however, Sansa’s significance is greatly decreased, and not only because the show doesn’t follow the “POV structure” of the novels but because she’s reduced to nothing but a prized captive for the Lannisters.

Yes, TV Sansa is a minor, and she’s played by a minor, named Sophie Turner. Her age, due to the laws that forbid the usage of underage children in explicit sex scenes, prevented D&D from using Sansa in a way they adore. And her age couldn’t be drastically changed without drastic consequences on her overall arc which is, in ACOK at least, built around her first period. That’s why, for example, D&D couldn’t cast Natalie Dormer—one of their favorite ASOIAF characters, by the way, because they did alter Margaery to suit the actress, instead of the other way around—in the role of Sansa, because Dormer, while certainly looking younger than she is, could never pass as a minor.

And that would probably be the only thing that makes Sansa off-limits for Natalie Dormer, or some other actress D&D adore, to play her in D&D’s adaptation. Everything else would’ve been doable. Had George R. R. Martin not put her first period in the books, Sansa’s age, promiscuity, vocabulary, even wardrobe, would’ve been changed accordingly to suit D&D’s vision of a progressive Westerosi woman, which means the first three would’ve been amplified, while the fourth one—wardrobe—would definitely be reduced and freed from all the unnecessary parts. She’d probably even hook up with some rogue brute at some point; when she’d find the time for him, that is; after she’s done with Joff, Tyrion, Lancel, and god knows who else, she’d certainly figure out cynical killers can occupy her bed just as good as other available men can.

Speaking of cynical killers—enter Sandor Clegane. One more character that, alas, couldn’t be played by Natalie Dormer, and therefore not of particular interest to D&D. Sandor in the novels is a truly memorable fellow, who slowly but steadily grows in readers’ eyes as the story progresses. At the beginning, he’s nothing more than a merciless brute used only for killing people the Lannisters want dead. Very soon, however, a reader finds out there might be some traces of a soul under that rough surface. More and more we find out about Sandor, more and more intriguing and understandable he gets. Even—more likable.

Now, what makes him likable? The stories Littlefinger tells to Sansa?! Of course not. The stories Sandor himself keeps telling to Sansa are what fleshes him to the extent that was probably impossible to predict at the beginning of the series. Through his conversations with Sansa, we find out every important thing there is to know about him. Later on, when he hangs up with Arya, Sandor is already a fully developed character, whom we aren’t discovering any more, but rather following. And he became like that precisely through his exchanges with Sansa.

The show went the other way, and a pretty odd way at that. D&D decided it was better for Littlefinger to deliver the story of how Sandor’s face got burned, and that decision carries some very serious consequences in regards to characterization. For example, Littlefinger appears as someone who does know the secrets of King’s Landing, but, at the same time, as someone who doesn’t hesitate to share those secrets with persons he doesn’t have any control over. Yes, he warns Sansa not to tell anyone about the story; but, he warns her because, and here comes the funny part—Sandor is going to kill her.

Now, why isn’t Littlefinger afraid Sandor’s going to kill him? After all, isn’t that the logical question because it’s Littlefinger who offers Sandor’s secrets to others? It seems there are only two possible answers: 1) Sandor is not that scary and dangerous as Littlefinger claims, or 2) Sandor is a dangerous fellow, but Littlefinger is the bravest individual alive, because he goes around telling the secrets of people that physically can literally eat him for breakfast; and he isn’t shy even, because he doesn’t fail to warn Sansa how dangerous is the situation he himself dares so boldly.

Whatever conclusion a viewer draws from there, something is going to be radically changed from the source material. Quite possibly, in fact, a lot of things are going to be altered. After the said scene, both Littlefinger and Sandor are drastically different than their book origins. And the characters we ended up with in the show are not nearly as complex and intriguing as their book counterparts. This is especially true for Sandor, who’s nothing if not scary and dangerous. He is supposed to frighten the living hell out of everyone who isn’t his older brother. If you take that away from Sandor, you’re only left with his tender side.

But, even his tender side was almost entirely removed from the show. This time, not only by Littlefinger, but also by Tyrion: in the throne room, when Joff orders the Kingsguard to undress Sansa, Sandor stands there silently. His face expression suggests he isn’t pleased with what he sees, but that’s it. He doesn’t stand up to his king with a firm “That’s enough” as in the book. It is therefore on Tyrion exclusively to deny Joffrey the pleasure of torturing the girl whose only crime was that she saw him in a moment of unflattering weakness. As in the books, TV Tyrion enters the room with his sellsword and he defends Sansa from Joff, but the important difference is that in the show it looks like Tyrion is the only one both willing to oppose Joffrey and capable of doing it. In the novel, we can sense that Sandor is ready to do the same thing, only, in his case, it comes with a much bigger risk, which is not without importance.

So, in this particular case, Sandor was sacrificed for the sake of TV Tyrion. TV Littlefinger, however, wasn’t forgotten in that regard, because, once again, he’s fed with lines that originally belong to Sandor. In the finale of the second season, it is Littlefinger who tells Sansa to look around and see how much better than her all those liars are. Just as the last time around, this change serves neither Littlefinger nor Sandor: the former’s creepy-mentoring side is exposed much earlier than it would be logical, while the latter is robbed of yet another moment in which he shows how much he cares for Sansa and how protective he is toward her.

Sansa is a case on its own, as far as wrong adaptations are concerned. She’s in the league with her mother Catelyn Stark, as two Stark women that were literally butchered in the show. The thing two of them have in common is the nature of their complexity: opposite to other female characters in ASOIAF, like Dany or Arya or Asha or Brienne or Cersei, Cat and Sansa aren’t interested in hurting their enemies with their own hands, or, in the case of Dany, with her own dragons (this goes for Cersei, too, even though she’s the one ordering the suffering of others, not committing it: her aggression is always personal, as we can sense in the first three novels). And, what’s more, Sansa isn’t interested in hurting anyone, actually. Cat does have an aggressive side in her; it’s female aggression all the way, but aggression it is. Sansa, on the other hand, almost never desires other people to suffer in any way. There’s only one noticeable exception: Joffrey. She does think on one or two occasions how nice it would be if Robb put a sword in Joff, and, by extension, she wishes Lannisters are defeated in the war against her family. However, we have to consider the situation she finds herself in at those moments—imprisoned by the Lannisters and at Joff’s ‘mercy’ all the time; small miracle she wishes them ill. I’ve never been a girl arrested by the grave enemies of my family, but if I was, I’d definitely pray for their most horrible deaths every single night. And we have to remember that, after Joff’s death, she fails to feel happy over it, even though she tries to a little.

Therefore, it maybe isn’t a stretch to say Sansa is probably the one character that is most unlike the author himself. Other major characters, especially POV ones, do resemble Martin at least partially. For males, it’s obvious: even though GRRM never fought in a war, nor had any military training whatsoever, men are men; even in our day and age, no male is a complete stranger to war; while depicting all those dramatic battles and duels was quite an achievement (which no personal experience would make any easier, truth be told, because in ASOIAF the combat as a phenomenon is illustrated from any number of angles, each among them presented with an abundance of details), ultimately it was in himself where Martin could find a lot of answers about his male characters, whose position in a society is never independent from their combat prowess or lack of it. Female characters, on the other hand, had to be trickier, just like they always are for male authors—let’s admit it, they are not that good in creating great females, just like women writers usually don’t produce male characters that are a match to their female characters nor to the male heroes created by male authors. In our day and age, these “gender rules” are rarely spoken of, but they continue to exist, due to gender predispositions that are nowhere as strong as in the mind of an individual. There are exceptions, as in good male characters created by women and vice versa, but they are in a clear minority compared to underdeveloped or unrealistic characters whose only “fault” was that they didn’t share the sex with an author. And in that regard, ASOIAF could very well be unparalleled: it is perhaps impossible to find any other story that features nearly as many memorable male and female characters both, as ASOIAF does (truth be told, that fact alone should be enough to inspire analysts and scholars to look at ASOIAF at a different, more demanding light, and not as a genre piece).

Martin’s girls, however, aren’t completely unlike the man who came up with them. Most of them are willingly participating in “men games”, e.g. power-plays and/or wars, which makes for a precious connection to a male mindset of the author. They are thinking and behaving as women (or, in the case of Arya, and Dany to an extent, as girls), but all of them are interacting with something that, in all its glory and misery, can roughly be called “a man’s world”. Some of the most beautifully written chapters in the series are delivered from female POVs—the Red Wedding and Cersei’s “Walk of Shame” come to mind right away; but, in a thematic sense, those and other female chapters don’t differ too much from male POVs.

Except for Sansa’s chapters, which unmistakably belong to something we can roughly call “a woman’s world”. Chapters of both male and female POVs in ASOIAF are often rich with testosterone, but Sansa’s ones are almost entirely driven by estrogen: look no further than her captivity in King’s Landing, that actually is, as already said, focused around her first period—that decision solely should bring a lot of respect for Martin, because he had to know going that road is never easy for a male writer.

And the funniest thing is, it all fits. Sansa’s storyline is distinctive in tone, but not odd. It is a legitimate part of the general plot of ASOIAF. In fact, as her story progresses, Sansa becomes more and more important for The Game, even though she showed no clear inclination to participate in it so far, but at the same time, Martin keeps Sansa away from all those “male” aspects he decorated other female characters of his saga.

And on top of everything, we’re presented with her love story, a romance with no other than the man who, prior to discovering some delicate feelings for Sansa, could pose for an ideal brute of Westeros. At the beginning of the story, Sandor Clegane could be perceived as the exact opposite of Sansa. As someone who has no business whatsoever in her world, just like she has none in his. But, with some craft wording and master subtlety, Martin succeeds in illustrating the flood of emotions that go both ways in their relationship. Those emotions are never easy, nor appropriate, let alone allowed—even by Sansa and Sandor themselves!—but they’re hard to be denied.

The complexity of their multi-layered characters, of their respective positions in a society and in an ongoing war, and of their relationship that resists all known clichés, represent some of the strongest evidence that ASOIAF is much more than a genre piece. There’s a lot in these novels that escapes genre boundaries, but nothing more evidently than SanSan. Stuff like that is not your usual fantasy element, no matter how flattering fantasy can be as a label (Homer, Shakespeare, Tolkien—to name just a few all-time greats that created unforgettable stories with supernatural aspects in them). Any author who comes up with that kind of love story involving those kind of characters—and with a legion of other characters, and with no less than four different religions, and with themes of honor, redemption, identity, bravery, equality, ancestry, legacy, freedom, revolution…—deserves to be analyzed not as a genre writer.

Now, one can only imagine what kind of enigma Sansa and Sandor were for Benioff and Weiss. And it pretty much remained unsolved, because, when faced with all the complexity of these two characters, Benioff and Weiss decided to remove it almost entirely, along with their relationship that is reduced to occasional and odd mentioning of ‘little bird’. TV Sandor was simplified to a one-note brute that goes around TV Westeros and lectures people about the pleasures of killing, a one-note brute he never was in the novels, not even in the beginning of the saga. TV Sansa, on the other hand, was denied her book complexity by shutting down all her layers, one by one. For example, Benioff and Weiss completely removed her decision to go behind her father’s back and inform Cersei of his plan. They simply refused to go down that road. They did something similar to Catelyn, whose infamous line to Jon they didn’t remove entirely, but did replace it with a much softer one. It is pretty safe to assume that Cat’s and Sansa’s complexity did bother Benioff and Weiss from the get-go.

What’s also removed from the show is Sansa’s agency, primarily represented in the novels by her secret meetings with Dontos, a disgraced knight she herself saved from Joffrey. In the show, we got only the saving scene; it was filmed and executed clumsily, but it was there at least. However, until recently, nobody could be sure Sansa did save Dontos, because the man disappeared afterwards (he was briefly seen as joggling balls in “Blackwater” episode, in the scene in Cersei’s chambers, but he was unrecognizable for the vast majority of audience). It is reported, though, that Dontos will be returning in Season 4, so yes, Sansa did save his life after all. But, even when he returns, Sansa’s attempts at escaping will be two seasons younger than they should’ve been at that point, and it’s hard to see a way D&D can remedy that neglect.

Show-lovers often defend D&D in regards to Sansa, by saying her personality is a difficult and tricky one for portraying on screen, because even in the books she’s introverted. Now, maybe she isn’t the most extroverted character ever, but she’s pretty far from reclusive, as she does communicate with the outside world a lot at the beginning of the series, before she’s imprisoned. And even while in captivity, she can’t help but communicate with Sandor and Dontos. What’s more, around two of them she is her true self, which provides a wide array of possibilities for a good and informative dialogue that, in an adaptation, could compensate for the lack of inner thoughts. With Dontos, she’s open not only because she saved him, but also because he explicitly offers his help (and, truth be told, it is he who enabled her to leave King’s Landing eventually, so, even though he wasn’t exactly honest with her concerning his motivations, her trust wasn’t as misplaced as it may seem at first). And with Sandor, she’s open for no particular reason—other than those subtle, emotional forces, that both of them can’t help but follow and eventually become the closest and most intimate beings to each other.

The way Martin incepted and developed the barely visible, but undeniable romance, between Sansa and Sandor, is nothing short of literary brilliance. With so few words and interactions, he managed so much. The vast majority of readers are aware of restrained attraction they mutually feel, even though they didn’t share a single physical aspect of the romantic relationship.

Martin is indeed a master of subtlety, as evidenced by what looks like the endless amount of carefully hidden clues that point to any number of narrative puzzles, realization of which do make an entire story much richer than if taken at face value. And he’s never more subtle than with two romances: Rhaegar/Lyanna and Sandor/Sansa. Now, the respective nature of subtlety of those two romances is rather different. With Rhaegar and Lyanna, a reader is – through Robert’s retelling – offered a version that is actually the very opposite of what probably happened, and only later a reader can pick up clues here and there, and finally figure out the story of a fatal attraction between the two. But, the clues are presented throughout the text, so much that, even if you don’t decipher everything after the first read, at the end of “A Game of Thrones”—the first book of the series—you’ll probably sense that Robert’s view on events wasn’t exactly accurate.

The story of Sansa and Sandor is a very different one. Their relationship is never as much as addressed, even by themselves. Sandor isn’t a POV character, and he’s not exactly open to people, so his silence on the matter isn’t unexpected. But, Martin didn’t address their romance even in Sansa’s chapters, which are typically packed with inner thoughts of the POV character. It looks like Martin decided to do it the harder way and make their romance somewhat a mystery even for Sansa, which, in hindsight, does seem to be the most logical way: what teenage girl would be fully aware of a romance that “inappropriate”, and experienced in those dire circumstances?! As a result of that decision, the readers got a completely fascinating depiction of a romance, that can be described as a train you hear from miles away: at first, you can’t even tell is it a train or some similar sound, but slowly, with every second, you’re more and more certain that your ears didn’t trick you, and very soon the train is so loud that it is the only thing you can hear at all. In the novels, a reader may find something strange at first, when Sandor shares the secret of his burned face with Sansa. Some alarm may be turned on deep inside. And it becomes more apparent each time two of them share a page, with a culmination during the Battle of the Blackwater Bay, when Sandor, after he decides to desert the Lannisters, visits Sansa in her room and offers to take her home to Winterfell.

It might be the only instance in the entire series where Sandor did ask anyone’s approval, which does speak volumes about his feelings for Sansa. Considering the manner in which Martin described this romance, Sandor’s actions on that day was as good as a confession of his deep attraction to her. Sansa, on the other hand, doesn’t have a single moment which could be pointed at as a prime evidence of her undeniable love for The Hound, but this doesn’t mean her feelings toward Sandor aren’t palpable. It’s one more mastery of the writer: through her frequent (and skewed, but in a telling way) memories on the last time she saw Sandor, he was able to show her feelings resonating more and more inside her.

In the show, Martin was denied a chance to do the same thing, even though he wrote the “Blackwater” episode in Season 2. Thanks to the already destroyed storyline, and to god knows how many changes, and to D&D’s decision to remove from the final cut some scenes Martin referred to with his scenes, the one between Sansa and Sandor near the end of that episode, served more as a greeting to book-fans who like SanSan in the source material, than as a goodbye between two not unlike souls who shared much, and could have shared a lot more, and maybe are going to if they meet again. In that scene, Rory McCann was visibly better than usual as Sandor, and Sophie Turner was as good as usual, but, just like with anything ASOIAF, the scene doesn’t have nearly the same impact and importance if taken out of context.

The exact context of their SanSan is yet to be fully revealed in the books, too. Because of the already mentioned subtlety—a quality that seems to intimidate showrunners Benioff and Weiss, who, in their turn, do retaliate with their on-screen war on subtlety (just recall what they turned other romances into; for example, the romance between TV Jon “Not The Brightest Kid In The Block” Snow and TV “I Know Everything And Therefore I Can’t Stop Talking” Ygritte)—Sansa’s and Sandor’s love story is by no means an open book. Their romance has its own share of mystery, one of which may be: what inspired those two persons to feel so strongly for each other? Personally, I always thought their mutual attraction isn’t only based on a “beauty and the beast” model. There is that, but in their case it goes deeper. If that was the engine behind his emotions, Sandor had more than enough opportunities to find a beauty for his beast long before Sansa entered his life. With Sansa, I’d say their mutual attraction is rooted in their personalities. For example, if you take away Sandor’s aggression, he also isn’t interested in hurting others. He’s naturally talented for violence, and he lives in a society that respects that kind of talent, and that is why he’s violent for a living, but at the end of the day, the suffering of others isn’t any kind of reward for him. Possibly, because he isn’t interested in other people that much. Though, when he is interested in someone, the interest is as strong as they come.

(We don’t know at this point, but it’s not a stretch to imagine that his reaction to the news that his hated brother was killed wasn’t unlike Sansa’s reaction to Joff’s death. “Am I glad he’s dead? Well, not exactly, even though I wanted him killed.”)

Sansa may very well be like that, too. That would be one of the possible explanations of her AGOT actions. Like the rest of the Starks, Sansa is a complex character that has some issues of her own, without which neither she nor the other Starks would be such memorable characters as they obviously are; it is the fact that they are both willing and strong enough to fight those issues, that Starks stand out for. Without going into details (as if I could!), I expect that in the remaining novels Sansa is going to face the reasons that made her go to Cersei that damned night and with the consequences of that action. And whatever comes out of that soul-searching will be inevitably combined with her claim to Winterfell that Littlefinger brought up in AFFC. And that combination is going to elevate Sansa’s arc to even bigger and more important levels than so far, even though so far she was the one Stark that was most engaged – unwittingly, but still—in the bloody dynastic war for the Iron Throne.

And she’ll have to cross paths with Sandor Clegane, one way or another. Their relationship was so meticulously built up, it simply has to get some sort of a closure. What that closure is going to be is impossible to predict, because we are talking of one George R. R. Martin, a writer who managed to shock us as he pleased more than a few times.

What is also impossible, is to take anything that did or didn’t happen in the show as any indication at what the closer may or may not be. There isn’t a storyline in GOT that wasn’t drastically changed, and weakened in the process, but Sansa’s arc, along with her relationship with Sandor, is among the biggest victims of D&D’s inability to adapt.
Whether you happen to like what Benioff and Weiss put in the show, or don’t, you’d be advised not to recognize any significance in their decisions for further developments in ASOIAF. Just like show-lovers tend to remind everyone else, GoT and ASOIAF are two entirely separate beasts. And book Sansa and book Sandor, along with everything Martin has in his store for them, can be really glad about it.

Very Important: If you wish to comment and share your thoughts, please head toward this thread, which has been specifically made available for discussion of the essay. It goes without saying that the essay contains spoilers for the show.

Standalone XXIII

Adoption of a MO:  Lies and Arbor Gold

by Butterbumps!

The following is something of a “pawn to player primer,” delimiting how I understand Sansa’s transition to “player” to have occurred.  I consider LF’s offering direct tutelage to be a critical break in catalyzing this transition, so I’m breaking this “primer” into 2 parts.  In Part 1, I’ve compiled what I consider to be the most significant “lessons” and “moves” prior to Sansa’s escape following the Purple Wedding.  Part 2 focuses on understanding LF’s method of gameplay, how the residue of Sansa’s previous lessons affects how she thinks, and how this residue might shape the modus operandi she is being taught into something that is uniquely hers.

Even though it’s not “named” until aFFC, “lies and Arbor Gold” is an apt metaphor for Sansa’s journey.  At the risk of being overly reductive, sweet lies and masked dangers have been foisted on her, preying upon her compassion and hope for the better part of the first three books.  Though she does express doubts and caution throughout the series, her hope offers those who wish to use her for their ends a relatively tractable pawn.

But it must be noted that this hope is also what sustains her.  The sweet lies and masked dangers others have foisted on her have not broken her, and most importantly, she starts recognizing the mechanics of these attempts to manipulate her as the false seductions they are.  If “part one” of her journey is navigating through the world of Arbor Gold others have attempted to ply her with, then “part two” is shaping up to be where Sansa begins serving some of her own.

If I had to mark a single point at which the “pawn to player” transition occurs, I’d place it at the end of Sansa’s first chapter in FFC: “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?”  Her adoption of “lies and Arbor Gold” as both protection and a weapon seems to be the pivotal moment that promises a more deliberate and sustained method of playing than Sansa’s previously exhibited.  In particular, I posit that “lies and Arbor Gold” is not merely a symbol, but a modus operandi that Sansa has begun to adopt.

A specific sort of deception: lies and Arbor Gold

This series has no shortage of deception, yet not all deception is qualitatively the same.  It seems that Arbor Gold functions as a motif for a very specific sort of lie:  willful self-delusion by purposely consuming the sweet as a way of ignoring hard truths.  In particular, this form of deception seems to involve a high degree of complicity by the party being lied to; the deceived party wants to be served these lies, even asking for the lies directly at times.

Arbor Gold is set up as a prized luxury good in Westeros, allegedly the most desirable of the wines we see.  It’s valuable, coveted, and apparently quite delicious.  Given its luxury status, one would think that this wine would be all the nobility might drink when presented with the opportunity, yet it overwhelmingly appears when a party is seeking to be sold a fictional reality as a means of avoiding the actual situation.  The desirability of Arbor Gold takes on a new association whereby the drinker seeks not just an escape or pleasure, but the illusion of a very different reality than the one that exists.

It’s indeed quite dangerous to ignore reality and buy sweet fictions in its stead.  Arbor Gold is therefore another symbol of seductive beauty masking great danger, like sweetmilk laced with sweetsleep or an amethyst from Asshai that’s actually the Strangler disguised in a hairnet.   That is, a weapon powerful in its subtlety.

For more discussion on Arbor Gold as a symbol, Apple, Dr P. and I collaborated on this thread.

Part I: Education of a Pawn

Courtesy

Sansa was raised to be obedient, pleasing to others, and attuned to the sensibilities of those around her for the sake of being gracious and putting them at ease.  Her early education by Septa Mordane essentially advocated sublimation of her own agency in favor of pleasing others.  At first glance, such precise courtesy seems to fall into “pawn” status, that is, obedience to the point of submission seems counter-intuitive as a form of gameplay.

Though I find Septa Mordane’s tutelage generally problematic, her adage of “courtesy is a lady’s armor” is actually very good advice, and one Sansa consciously wields at various stages.  Courtesy may appear submissive in that it sublimates one’s perceived agency and desires to please another, but when deployed as “armor,” courtesy is a synonym for “poker face.”  Further, to excel at courtesy requires one to be adept at reading people’s faces, recognizing social cues and putting others at ease.  The benefit Sansa receives from courtesy cannot be over-emphasized, as this provides the foundation for game play: reading others while revealing nothing of one’s own desires.

Sansa’s use of courtesy undergoes several iterations throughout the series.  Initially, she strives to be correct in her etiquette for the sake of winning others over with her charm.  This iteration is about earning genuine love and acceptance by impeccable adherence to courtesy; an example of this is when she claims to love riding after she admits that she dislikes horses to herself to be more amenable in Joffrey’s eyes.  This phase of courtesy is a weakness, in that her eagerness to please malicious parties renders her an unwitting pawn.

After Ned’s death, she uses courtesy to create distance between herself and harm, appealing to Mordane’s “armor” adage.  No longer genuinely wishing to please those she now understands to be enemies, she employs courtesy as a form of protection, a mask she can hide behind so that none can draw pleasure from her misery.  To show her true feelings would result in further chastisement, as well as would give her enemies the pleasure of knowing that they are making her miserable.

Perhaps the most outstanding use of courtesy armor occurs during Sansa’s bedding.  As the couple prepares themselves for sex, Tyrion asks for Arbor Gold:

There is a flagon of good Arbor gold on the sideboard, Sansa. Will you be so kind as to pour me a cup?

As mentioned above, Arbor Gold tends to symbolize an individual’s desire to be lied to sweetly.  Indeed, we know from Tyrion’s adjacent POVs (not to mention the entire nature of his employment of Shae) that he wants to feel desired and loved.  Symbolically, by asking Sansa to pour him Arbor Gold, he’s asking her to make him feel desired, to feed him lies as Shae does, to make him feel something.  Sansa refuses, making it clear that courtesy is all that she will give.  It’s a non-reaction, a poker face, more off-putting than if she wept or fought, perhaps.  Weeping or fighting would show that she cares about Tyrion’s presence in some capacity; it would render her vulnerable to yet another Lannister who could witness her misery at their hands.  By making it clear that she sees this as a duty, is resigned to her duty, and that she will not emote, she prevents both physical and emotional exposure and violation.

In Part 1, we see courtesy mutate from a method of earning genuine love to a means of protection.  In part 2, this courtesy will mutate from armor to weapon.

Beauty

Initially, Sansa associated beauty with goodness.  She believed that beauty would win people’s hearts, as beautiful people are inherently good people.  Her dealings with the Lannisters promptly disabused her of this correlation.  Sansa is hardly alone amongst characters who have fallen victim to the assumption that beautiful things (or people) are good, or at least, benign.  Indeed, some of the most dangerous objects and people are also those with transcendent beauty (Asshai amethysts, dragon eggs, petals that hide the thorns, Melisandre, etc.).

Beauty tends to be an asset, in that an object or person of beauty is greatly desired and therefore valuable.  This value cuts both ways, however.  Whether person or object, it tends to evoke a possessiveness and objectification.   Beauty became a form of punishment for her after Ned’s death, as she was coerced into becoming Joffrey’s complaisant object:

Save yourself some pain, girl, and give him what he wants.” “What … what does he want? Please, tell me.” “He wants you to smile and smell sweet and be his lady love,” the Hound rasped. “He wants to hear you recite all your pretty little words the way the septa taught you. He wants you to love him … and fear him.

Her beauty simultaneously put her on Joffrey’s radar as a desirable object to own, while sparing her other abuses by virtue of the fact that “he liked her to look pretty.”

Sansa’s had an extremely turbulent relationship with her own beauty.  She first rejoiced in her beauty as a factor to win love and manifest perfection, yet once her father dies, it brings her no solace.  It failed to win kindness from the Queen and Joff, and she no longer finds joy in being beautiful; looking pretty for public display is a demand imposed on her by her enemies.  When the Tyrells present the notion of her marriage to Willas, she once again finds hope in the notion that looking beautiful may earn his love, and even hopes to impress him with the new gown Cersei is making for her.  This pride and ownership of her looks is short lived, however, as she is immediately married off to a Lannister whom she has no interest in being desirable to.  Beauty becomes a mere duty for her.

There’s potentially great power in beauty, as taking ownership of something that evokes desire in another can gain one the upper hand.  Beauty is seductive, and frequently renders one less cautious about seeing the dangers beneath.

Claim

As with beauty, Sansa’s claim to Winterfell is an asset that has been turned against her for the greater part of the series.  Until Dontos explains that the Tyrells are only planning to spirit her away for her claim, the notion that she might become heir had never occurred to her.  Even after accepting that they only want her for her claim, she doesn’t understand why they’d ever want to expand their interests to Winterfell:

But she had not forgotten his words, either. The heir to Winterfell, she would think as she lay abed at night. It’s your claim they mean to wed. Sansa had grown up with three brothers. She never thought to have a claim, but with Bran and Rickon dead . . . It doesn’t matter, there’s still Robb, he’s a man grown now, and soon he’ll wed and have a son. Anyway, Willas Tyrell will have Highgarden, what would he want with Winterfell?

I believe Sansa wants nothing more than for everything to go back to the way it was as much as it possibly can.  Given this, it hadn’t occurred to her that the families who are still afloat would seek yet more power throughout this war.  Dontos’ words are therefore a critical lesson in the nature of the ongoing power struggle, in that the combatants are not fighting to return to the status quo, but to use any advantage to increase power and emerge more victorious than before.

Just as critically, this passage shows us that Sansa had been egregiously undervaluing her worth all this time.  She thought that her value was merely as a hostage, to be freed and returned once Joffrey shed the betrothal provided Jaime was returned.  Dontos’ words catalyze her into realizing that others will attempt to use her to extend their political influence.  Though she accepts that the Tyrells want to use her to gain power, she still maintains hope that he might grow to love her anyway, that is, there would be an element of reciprocity to the arrangement.  When she’s forced to marry Tyrion, any hope for reciprocity is lost, and she resigns herself to accepting that her value to everyone else goes no further than her claim.

Thus, she goes into “part 2” with a better understanding of her political worth, has experienced 2 attempts to steal this from her through marriage, and understands that the current conflict goes beyond returning to the status quo.  Further, post Red Wedding, Sansa believes that she’s the last surviving heir, which makes her the hope for Winterfell and the Starks.  It adds an additional onus to the dream of returning home, in that she believes that she’s the only Stark who can save the home to return to.

Sex

I’m somewhat hesitant to include sex as part of an arsenal as it’s extremely loaded, yet its omission would be remiss given that this is a direct lesson by Cersei.  During Blackwater, Cersei proffers advice on how to be an effective queen, listing sex as one of her 3 preferred weapons:

You little fool. Tears are not a woman’s only weapon. You’ve got another one between your legs, and you’d best learn to use it. You’ll find men use their swords freely enough. Both kinds of swords.

Sansa is made uncomfortable by this bit of wisdom.  The thought of using people through sex does not sit well with her.  I don’t believe that the issue is overwhelming modesty or shame about nudity or sex; during her wedding, she recalls how she used to look forward to the bedding (which is essentially public nudity leading to sex).  Sansa’s sexuality has been analyzed in these threads with far superior depth and insight than I can do justice to here.  That being said, I posit that Sansa is not uncomfortable about sex, but rather sex without mutual desire.  I think this is where her discomfort with Cersei’s comments stem.

With sex also comes the issue of heirs.  Her “flowering” put her in imminent danger of being wedded and bedded, a prospect especially alarming when she was betrothed to Joffrey.  In her marriage to Tyrion, Tywin urged intercourse so that she would produce an heir, therefore enabling the Lannisters to rightly claim Winterfell and potentially get rid of her in the process.  By producing an heir, she’d forfeit everything, perhaps even her own life.

During her time in KL, her sexuality put her in imminent danger of both rape and forfeiture, and I struggle with the notion of how her sexuality might play out in the future given how traumatizing it’s been for her.  I’m therefore cautious about extolling sexuality as a weapon for Sansa, but a few later developments seem to anticipate that she may realize her sexuality as a form of empowerment.

I think it might be worthwhile to note that Cersei is probably not merely advocating for sexual favors.  As we know, Cersei used sex as a weapon against Robert, ensuring that her children were fathered by the man she chose, not the one foisted on her.

Subtlety

This is another lesson directly articulated by Dontos.  Cersei and Joffrey have long accused her of being stupid, a judgment she finds galling and unfortunate.  When she complains about this to Dontos, he explains that her impression of stupidity is actually a form of protection:

Let them. You’re safer that way, sweetling. Queen Cersei and the Imp and Lord Varys and their like, they all watch each other keen as hawks, and pay this one and that one to spy out what the others are doing, but no one ever troubles themselves about Lady Tanda’s daughter, do they?

Though initially considered a weakness, the perception of Sansa as a fool affords her another layer of armor against her enemies.

Thus, she learns that there is safety in people’s underestimation of her, as it allows her to operate outside their scrutiny, which offers both protection and freedom.  Further, convincing others that one is weak and not a threat is the most critical method of gameplay for anyone who cannot use direct intimidation or force.  This is the source of the major players’ effectiveness, as Varys, LF, Doran and the QoT all sell their weaknesses as arguments against their power, therefore turning their “limitations” into strengths.

Much of the game relies on information asymmetry, as those with the greatest access to reliable information hold considerable advantage over others.  Characters tend to be careless with information around those they deem powerless, which Dontos explains can be a tremendous advantage.  He tells her that as a fool, he has far more access to information than he’d ever had as a knight.  As both a “foolish girl” and eventually a “bastard,” Sansa seems especially primed to wield subtlety as a weapon for her own ends.

Tears

This is a minor lesson, but as it will reiterate at the Eyrie, Cersei’s tears advice deserves mention.  During the Blackwater, Cersei lists “tears” as one of woman’s weapons: “Tears,” she said scornfully to Sansa as the woman was led from the hall. “The woman’s weapon, my lady mother used to call them. The man’s weapon is a sword. And that tells us all you need to know, doesn’t it?”  As I understand it, I believe it relates to the issue of subtlety, as tears are typically understood as weakness, and showing this weakness will evoke pity and mercy from those who might cause harm.   Conceivably, for those who cannot wield a sword, tears can spare one from punishment.

Yet tears have brought Sansa no mercy, so she keeps them hidden so that her enemies can derive no pleasure from her misfortune; withholding tears brings her strength and a sense of agency.  However, the notion of tears will resurface as a weapon begins to manifest at the Eyrie when she’s called to testify about Lysa’s death, and takes on new meaning with her recollection of Alyssa’s Tears.

Politics

It should be noted that Sansa has an excellent background in heraldry and House history, which offers her the advantage of making educated guesses about a person’s identity and at least vague knowledge of their background.  Though not enough on its own, this type of knowledge provides a strong foundation for entry in a political arena.

Her abilities are not limited to rote memorization, however.  She tends to question political moves when she believes they defy logic or will lead to turmoil.  For example, when the “heroes” of Blackwater are rewarded, she finds LF’s reaction to being given Harrenhal perplexing.  Between the curse, the fact that it was occupied by Roose, and that Robb held jurisdiction over the Riverlands, LF’s happiness makes no sense on the surface.  I think the fact that she noticed this and found it suspicious quite promising.

More impressive are her thoughts about the potential mess that would emerge if Marg followed through with the marriage to Joffrey in light of Loras’ being her sworn sword.  She thinks that Joffrey will waste little time before he begins to abuse Marg, and that once Loras found out, it would lead to a second wave of conflict:

The realm might have a second Kingslayer, and there would be war inside the city, as the men of the lion and the men of the rose made the gutters run red.

One interesting precedent occurs in aGoT when Ned chooses to send Beric to bring Gregor to justice over Loras.  LF overhears Sansa say that she’d have sent Loras, and he agrees with her.  Of course, their reasons for this are completely different (she appeals to knights slaying monsters, while he basically wants to bring the Tyrells into the war).  I wonder if she will ever recall this conversation, think about what would have happened in this scenario, and begin to piece together the moves LF won’t reveal himself.

Lies

Despite how often Sansa has felt she must lie, lying makes her uneasy.  She still believes that there is virtue in truth, but has painfully realized that truth is not always compatible with survival:

Tell me the truth, no harm will come to you.” “My father always told the truth.” Sansa spoke quietly, but even so, it was hard to get the words out. “Lord Eddard, yes, he had that reputation, but they named him traitor and took his head off even so.” The old woman’s eyes bore into her, sharp and bright as the points of swords. “Joffrey,” Sansa said. “Joffrey did that. He promised me he would be merciful, and cut my father’s head off. He said that was mercy, and he took me up on the walls and made me look at it. The head. He wanted me to weep, but . . .

That she reveals the truth about Joffrey to the Tyrells is a strong indication that Sansa still yearns for and believes in truth as a good unto itself.  Yet, she understands that truth on its own will not protect her, but rather that one must be carefully protected in order for truth to surface.  I think this is extremely important, as it shows us that Sansa does value truth, but knows that in order to pursue it, she must carefully prepare the conditions for its reveal.

Sansa tells two sorts of lies: ones motivated by compassion and lies to shield herself and others from harm.  She tells small fibs to people out of genuine compassion, such as her remark about Tommen’s knightly appearance when he performs in the tourney.  These are often purely kind gestures, intended to uplift the subject and offer encouragement.  The ability to make others feel good about themselves is a fantastic skill, one that tends to earn people’s love and respect.  When motivated by true compassion, I believe these sorts of lies are usually harmless.  The moral danger occurs when the compassion is absent, and one uses kindly lies to manipulate innocents for one’s own ends.

Kind lies motivated by genuine compassion come easy to Sansa.  However, she’s innately less adept at lying to people she mistrusts.  Though she succeeds at saving Dontos life with a quick lie, Sandor tells her that she must sell her fictions more believably if she hopes to survive: “Pretty thing, and such a bad liar. A dog can smell a lie, you know. Look around you, and take a good whiff. They’re all liars here . . . and every one better than you.”

She takes his advice, and as the series progresses, she becomes better at selling fictions to her enemies even though the prospect of lying remains something that continues to cause discomfort.  In particular, she struggles with using dishonesty toward those she genuinely respects or feels compassion for, though lying to her enemies to ensure both her survival and the survival of innocents becomes part of her skillset.

Love

After Ned’s death, Sansa begins to understand love as a tool for manipulation.  She realizes that love is not innately reciprocal, and that the Lannisters had exploited her love as vulnerability: “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.”

Despite this, she continues to believe in the virtue of love and compassion as something she personally desires, as well as love as a source of power.  During Cersei’s Blackwater advice session, the Queen tells her that the path to loyalty is to invoke fear.  Sansa reflects that this seems poor advice, as she’d been taught that love was a more sustainable approach:

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 am ever a queen, I’ll make them love me. 

I believe that Sansa’s thoughts about ruling through love were quite genuine at that stage, in that she envisioned gracious rule to win people’s love, and that this reciprocal arrangement would be a platonic good.  After the battle, however, she reflects on “the people’s love” more cynically: “The same smallfolk who pulled me from my horse and would have killed me, if not for the Hound. Sansa had done nothing to make the commons hate her, no more than Margaery Tyrell had done to win their love. Does she want me to love her too?”  She retains her belief that love offers political power, but realizes that virtuous rule is not necessary to win popular support, as well as the fact that virtuous rule does not necessarily yield the people’s love.

I think that Sansa is extremely torn about love.  On one hand, she never abandons the hope that she will love and be loved.  On the other, she recognizes that love can be a vulnerability, and further, that love can be conjured without a genuine basis, and can be used as a weapon.

Of particular interest is Cersei’s advice after Sansa’s flowering:  “Sansa, permit me to share a bit of womanly wisdom with you on this very special day. Love is poison. A sweet poison, yes, but it will kill you all the same.”

I have trouble believing that Sansa will follow this advice, that is, close herself to genuine love while manipulating others into loving her so that she might exploit them.  However, as with the distinction she draws with lies according to the subject, I do believe that Sansa might manipulate precise enemy targets thusly, as well as draw strength from some form of popular support.

Poison

The motif of poison in Sansa’s arc is quite curious, especially in light of Cersei’s “love is poison” advice.  Poison’s role as a “woman’s weapon” is a common adage, and indeed it’s a subtle and domesticated one.  In a literal sense, poison is one of the few lethal weapons available to Sansa.  Additionally, Sansa’s been unwittingly complicit in the delivery of poison, from the amethyst hairnet to the sweetsleep she orders for Sweet Robin later.  I think that in either its literal and figurative manifestations, poison is set up to become one of Sansa’s strongest weapons in “Part 2.”

Standalone XXIV

On the Hound’s job

by Milady of York

When thinking about Sandor Clegane’s job, the first thing brought forth to mind is “sworn shield.” And true enough, that’s what he is introduced as since the first mention of his name in AGOT: beside Prince Joffrey as his protector, a position he retains when the crown prince becomes the king and he is raised to the rank of Kingsguard, which he retains until he deserts. Even before Joffrey, all we know of the work he did is also related to being a bodyguard, to Queen Cersei, in which he also stays until he’s needed for the royal heir.

Because of that, it seems like he’s been a sworn shield for approximately half his life, practically since short after he learnt to fight with all sorts of weaponry and built a reputation for himself as a fighter. Given for whom he’s been working, the eldest daughter and biggest political asset of Lord Tywin Lannister, the richest man in Westeros, and Queen of the Realm, and for the heir to the throne, being a simple royal bodyguard is in itself an enviable job: prestigious and coveted, with moderate danger in peacetime, not overly exhausting even if physically demanding, and that confers unto him a social status respectable enough to enable a landless and non-titled minor nobleman to rub shoulders with the powerful and filthy rich, competing in tournaments with men of higher birth, and living in the decadent luxury of the court and its various entertainments and feasts others don’t have access to, etc. And best of all, it’s well-paid in gold in the the form of a regular salary, and one can wonder if there could’ve been generous bonuses for certain activities demanded by his liege (which, knowing the lions, is likely) or on special occasions, plus there are tourney winnings to be had. There are also other small details in his clothing that point to Sandor being a well-off man as a result of the steady income throughout the years in the service of the Lannisters and the royal house which merit a closer look because his appearance can be deceptive: he’s far from being a dandy or showy a la Jaime or Loras, but he does use jewelled brooches for his cloak sometimes, and his best outfits seem to be in bright colours, red for example, which is a colour that used to be hard to obtain and very costly in the real Middle Ages and therefore amongst those reserved for the nobility; so if he dresses in clothes that are described in dark colours and of roughspun and woollen fabric it’s not for lack of resources but rather something that speaks of practicality, and above all of soldierly habits. It’s impractical to fight in velvets and silks and luxurious furs, fabrics that get ripped, dirtied and ruined too easily and are unfit for someone who trains on a daily basis and who’s used to going on military campaigns where men often have to sleep on the bare ground or on bedrolls; so sturdy fabrics of wool, linen and leather are usually preferred.

But there are some frequently overlooked details which reveal that Sandor Clegane is more than an overpaid and glorified bodyguard, and that allow an argument to be made that he’s an army commander for House Lannister in addition to being a sworn shield. The main salient point is that Queen Cersei has her own household troops in King’s Landing, knights and men-at-arms wearing the colours of House Lannister who get their orders from her, troops which Lord Eddard was the first to call “the queen’s men,” and whose commander’s identity we’re not told at first until Osfryd Kettleblack is named captain of a detachment of the crimson cloaks guarding the queen one year later. In this little piece, my contention is going to be that their commander was none other than the Hound himself.

When the Hound appears in the first chapters of Arya and Tyrion during the royal visit to Winterfell, there are “squires in the livery of Lannister and Baratheon” as well as knights described as “Lannister men” following him and Joffrey everywhere, who obviously are a small detachment from Cersei’s troops left at the capital, and the first hint indicating that Clegane commands them is when he rides out to search for Mycah and takes these soldiers with him, as we read in AGOT Eddard III:

Thank the gods,” Ned said. His men had been searching for Arya for four days now, but the queen’s men had been out hunting as well. “Where is she? Tell Jory to bring her here at once.”

. . .

He was walking back to the tower to give himself up to sleep at last when Sandor Clegane and his riders came pounding through the castle gate, back from their hunt.  

That adds another layer to the killing of Mycah, as it not only confirms further that the order was to have the boy dead but also clarifies how Cersei was able to give that order bypassing Robert’s authority: as queen consort she couldn’t overrule Robert by telling Jaime, a Kingsguard whose orders come first and foremost from the king, to kill or maim Arya (she asked him as sister-lover to brother-lover), but as both their liege lady and queen she could order the Lannister men to kill Mycah as these were her own soldiers and obeyed her directly.

Right before that, we’d learnt that it was also Cersei who appointed Clegane as sworn shield to her son, not her husband as it’d have been expected in normal circumstances:

Joffrey laughed. “He’s my mother’s dog, in truth. She has set him to guard me, and so he does.

Yet he the Hound’s behaviour doesn’t follow the expectations for the average sworn shield; any bodyguard of the crown prince and heir to the Seven Kingdoms should have King Robert as direct superior and he’d have been the one to give the orders to him, he should report to the sovereign about his heir’s activities, etc. Robert could give him orders if he wished, for he’s above any liege lord, and so he did occasionally, for example during the fight with Gregor at the Hand’s tourney, and the Hound obeyed as a subject, but as vassal and subordinate, his allegiance was to Cersei. It’s the Queen whom the Hound obeys, her to whom he reports, her whom he informs about what the crown prince is doing and her who he goes to every time he returns to the castle after an excursion outside . . . That he’s efficient is certainly valued, yet it seems like loyalty was the weightier factor in his appointment, as she needed someone she could trust would follow her commands unflinchingly and answer only to her, a very necessary requisite for anyone guarding her son and commanding her soldiers given the rivalry and animosity towards her husband.

At first, the name that comes to mind when considering who’s in charge of those soldiers is Jaime’s. But Kingsguard have forsaken everything that comes with lands and titles besides Ser, and that includes being at the head of armies that aren’t the king’s own soldiers or other troops that the king himself has put under their command for determined tasks, such as happened with Arthur Dayne and Lewyn Martell to name some, which excludes Jaime from being the one captaining the Lannister troops in the city. However, in his position as nobleman of the House Lannister, he can order those men round when he’s in “civilian” errands, i.e. personal business, such as when he ambushed The Ned with more or less twenty soldiers wearing the crimson livery, but apparently those were his own men and not from the Westerlands household army, as he refers to the one leading them, a certain Tregar, as “his captain” and later Cersei herself tells that those were his men.

Thus, Jaime excluded, there’s the Hound left as main suspect for position holder. This passage from a conversation between Eddard and Littlefinger merits attention:

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

“Oh, returned with Joffrey, and went straight to the queen.” Littlefinger smiled. “I would have given a hundred silver stags to have been a roach in the rushes when he learned that Lord Beric was off to behead his brother.

Why does the Lord Hand feel so concerned about Clegane if he’s a mere royal bodyguard whose responsibility is to keep the heir hale and healthy and in one piece? This worry is noteworthy for a reason, and that can only be that the Hound is the leader of the crimson cloaks. Otherwise, the obvious distress shown by Stark appears less justified because, as ferocious and skilled and “badass” as Sandor Clegane is, he alone can’t overwhelm an army, even with a small bunch of guards assisting him. The Ned goes on to make a guesstimate on how many men Cersei’s personal army is made up of:

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 as if to confirm his fears (and support the notion of Clegane as army leader on the side), the morning he had his armed altercation with the queen, he observed a martial show of strength below his window:

The grey light of dawn was streaming through his window when the thunder of hoofbeats awoke Eddard Stark from his brief, exhausted sleep. He lifted his head from the table to look down into the yard. Below, men in mail and leather and crimson cloaks were making the morning ring to the sound of swords, and riding down mock warriors stuffed with straw. Ned watched Sandor Clegane gallop across the hard-packed ground to drive an iron-tipped lance through a dummy’s head. Canvas ripped and straw exploded as Lannister guardsmen joked and cursed.

Is this brave show for my benefit? he wondered. If so, Cersei was a greater fool than he’d imagined.

Ned also observes that some of those queen’s soldiers are at the Throne room when he goes to face Cersei . . . again with the Hound in front of the men-at-arms, and when he’s the first to unsheathe his longsword, the royal guard and the Lannister soldiers follow his lead even before the queen or the new king give the order:

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

Behind the throne, twenty Lannister guardsmen waited with longswords hanging from their belts. Crimson cloaks draped their shoulders and steel lions crested their helms.

“And now the treason moves from words to deeds,” Cersei said. “Do you think Ser Barristan stands alone, my lord?” With an ominous rasp of metal on metal, the Hound drew his longsword. The knights of the Kingsguard and twenty Lannister guardsmen in crimson cloaks moved to support him.

Clegane also led them in the clash with the few northern soldiers of the Hand and the slaughter of his household, which would technically fall outside the competence of a normal sworn shield but not those of a commander of a House army (he wasn’t a Kingsguard yet). During that fight, an incident took place that could be traced to him:

So she wept, pleading through her door for them to tell her what was happening, calling for her father, for Septa Mordane, for the king, for her gallant prince. If the men guarding her heard her pleas, they gave no answer. The only time the door opened was late that night, when they thrust Jeyne Poole inside, bruised and shaking. “They’re killing everyone,” the steward’s daughter had shrieked at her. She went on and on. The Hound had broken down her door with a warhammer, she said. There were bodies on the stair of the Tower of the Hand, and the steps were slick with blood.

Considering that the whole of The Ned’s servants, and not just his soldiers, were killed—even someone that owed the Starks no allegiance due to being godsworn like Septa Mordane, who was innocent in this scenario—Jeyne Poole’s survival is exceptional. Even Cersei is surprised that the girl wasn’t disposed of:

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

“Us?” Cersei seemed puzzled.

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

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

It’s implicit in Joffrey’s words (“Kill them all!”) that the order given was to exterminate all of them and leave no northerner alive, which was likely corroborated by his mother as Regent as can be gleaned from her displeased reaction; so one wonders about the reasons to save Jeyne. Would someone like Boros Blount or any other Kingsguard or a Lannister soldier have recognised who the girl was? And even if they did, would they have cared enough to spare her life? They’d just killed people as innocent as Jeyne after all, servants that had no say in what their lord did or didn’t scheme, so there’s no apparent reason to have spared the girl’s life within that context. But if someone would, it had to be the Hound. He brought down her door violently, and could very well have killed her or allowed the others to finish her off, as she was nothing to him personally. Yet he’d be the one to recognise her as Lady Sansa’s little friend and the one to not only care enough so as to spare her life on those grounds but also have the authority to either order or at a minimum suggest to the other men take Jeyne to Sansa’s bedchamber to keep her company, and as leader of the queen’s forces, he’d be obeyed or his recommendation would be heeded in the absence of any other superior to tell the contrary. If this is correct, then Jeyne Poole would owe her life to Sandor Clegane.

Once a Kingsguard, he seems to have been fulfilling bodyguard duties more often than commander duties, but still he does appear doing work that a regular sworn shield wouldn’t necessarily be doing. As both Hand of the King and Lannister nobleman speaking for his father, Tyrion had now the authority to order and assign specific tasks to his sister’s troops as well as the Baratheon men of the royal troops “inherited” from Robert, not to mention the Gold Cloaks, and he places a lot of value on Clegane as an important member of their House’s army. When the bread riot happens, he reproaches Joffrey that:

You set your dog on them! What did you imagine they would do, bend the knee meekly while the Hound lopped off some limbs? You spoiled witless little boy, you’ve killed Clegane and gods know how many more, and yet you come through unscratched. Damn you!” And he kicked him.

Joffrey is foolish enough to not realise, or mind, that risking to lose a man like him isn’t something the Lannisters can afford in their situation; with Jaime a prisoner, Tywin fighting elsewhere and Stannis’ armies approaching, they need loyal and competent leaders of men and Clegane is the best they have. Tyrion and the Hound aren’t exactly on cordial terms, yet the Imp is intelligent and knows how to put the Hound’s abilities to use for the benefit of their interests. So, he assigns him to go with Bronn and other soldiers to fight the fires in the city and protect the water wagons, whilst he orders the others to go on simple herald chores:

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

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

It’s interesting how mouthy he can be to the Hand, his superior both in social status and in authority, which amongst other things shows a degree of independence others in the crimson-and-gold household aren’t allowed, least of all by Cersei, who takes any doubting as a personal insult. And when the decisive Battle of Blackwater is looming closer, the Imp decides to have the Hound again in the role of battlefront commander; and coming from someone with a good grasp of war tactics as him this is a recognition that having him standing beside the king is a waste of human resources, for apart from the Hound there’s only another Kingsguard competent enough to be leading soldiers into battle:

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

Damn Varys.I need Clegane for more important duties.

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

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

It’s during the battle that we learn that Osfryd Kettleblack “captained the queen’s new red-cloak guard,” the position Clegane probably had before, and that his place beside Joffrey has been taken by Osmund Kettleblack. The two Kettleblacks in exchange for the Hound might appease Cersei, and these men might be convinced of their own suitability and their aptitude with a blade, and the washerwomen can talk about their fastness and strength, but Tyrion sees that these aren’t the men for such a perilous task, and so the Hound and Swann find themselves fighting for hours at the head of the combined forces of Lannister soldiers, Gold Cloaks and sellswords.

That is also part of the reason why Clegane decided to desert at Blackwater of all times: there’s the possibility that he could’ve taken it had the shaming been only to him personally as a warrior, but there he had been the commander of those troops and had been leading those men; his reputation as a soldier could take a blow and recover, especially because he had been fighting for hours and was all dented, bleeding, and exhausted to the core (he’s swaying as he stands and using his sword for support), which men could remember later, but the implication of cowardice as a commander is fatal to his reputation. There’s nothing worse for a battlefront officer than to be accused of that even if implicitly. And this is reinforced by the fact that after he’s gone all that people know of his performance, according to rumours Sansa heard, is that he deserted because of cowardice and no one seems to remember that he’d fought quite impressively and efficiently, going by what we see from Davos’ POV.

His fear of fire is shared by men who don’t have his traumatic background, too, as a sellsword dared to tell Tyrion, though the Imp dismisses it because he’s not been fighting surrounded by it, and in his own limited battle experience he’s desperate to proceed according to the theoretical tactics he knows well, which causes him to reject Clegane’s alternative tactic without hesitation:

The blood on Clegane’s face glistened red, but his eyes showed white. He drew his longsword.

He is afraid, Tyrion realized, shocked. The Hound is frightened. He tried to explain their need. “They’ve taken a ram to the gate, you can hear them, we need to disperse them—”

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

Ser Mandon Moore moved to Tyrion’s side, immaculate in his enameled white plate. “The King’s Hand commands you.

Such an advice clarifies that Clegane does master strategy and tactics as well, not merely hacking people down. The tactic he speaks of can actually be quite effective, and has many variations according to whether the battleground is in an open field or inside a city, and others. Without expanding so in-depth on it, the basic principle painted in broad strokes for simplicity and conciseness is this: lure the infantry into a trap by feigning to relinquish ground, i.e. a fake “we’re losing” feint, and once the infantry is on the spot you’ve marked as the trap, be it in the open field or within the city, surround them through a pincer movement that holds them trapped and still on place (a flanking/double envelopment manoeuvre with the cavalry if in the open field, which can also be reproduced on a smaller scale if the space within the city allows it) and once you have them enveloped with your own troops, proceed to slaughter them at will. As mentioned, it has several variations, and is the tactic that contributed to successful results for famous generals of the past like Alexander the Great, Hannibal Barca, Julius Caesar, and more recently the German panzer commanders, all of whom were able to defeat larger forces employing varieties of this tactic. It looks like Tyrion’s purely theoretical knowledge of battle (one combat experience doesn’t teach much) as well as pride, and perhaps the notion that allowing Stannis’ men into the castle would amount to defeat, factored in his decision to not take a seasoned commander’s opinion into account at least as an alternative, and go lose more soldiers’ lives in a risky and ultimately not very productive sortie that killed many and almost cost him his own life.

In sum, all those textual examples do serve to highlight that the Hound is not just a traditional royal bodyguard, that he has a baggage of experience and knowledge from being both a low-ranking fighter following orders and as a commander planning battle strategies, leading men into battle, etc., and is likely been doing that for a long time:

I killed my first man at twelve. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve killed since then. High lords with old names, fat rich men dressed in velvet, knights puffed up like bladders with their honors, yes, and women and children too—they’re all meat, and I’m the butcher. Let them have their lands and their gods and their gold. Let them have their sers.

These words of his to Sansa on the rooftop of Maegor’s Holdfast definitely do speak of a life that sounds more like that of a soldier than that of a sworn shield since boyhood.

Standalone XXV

A Duncan/The Fiddler & Sansa/The Hound parallel

by Milady of York

Wine, my dear boy, brings truth, sang the Greeks centuries before the phrase became commonplace round the world, a seemingly unimportant bit of historical trivia that came to memory whilst re-reading Sansa’s second ACOK chapter, in which she’s caught at the Serpentine steps by a Hound in a state of inebriation that causes him to lower his guard and start throwing romantic hints that Sansa misses from start to finish, and which led me to find an unexpected yet interesting parallelism.

Let’s take a look at the mentioned scene:

She was racing headlong down the serpentine steps when a man lurched out of a hidden doorway. Sansa caromed into him and lost her balance. Iron fingers caught her by the wrist before she could fall, and a deep voice rasped at her. “It’s a long roll down the serpentine, little bird. Want to kill us both?” His laughter was rough as a saw on stone. “Maybe you do.”

The Hound. “No, my lord, pardons, I’d never.” Sansa averted her eyes but it was too late, he’d seen her face. “Please, you’re hurting me.” She tried to wriggle free.

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

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

“Think I’m so drunk that I’d believe that?” He let go his grip on her arm, swaying slightly as he stood, stripes of light and darkness falling across his terrible burnt face. “You look almost a woman . . . face, teats, and you’re taller too, almost . . . ah, you’re still a stupid little bird, aren’t you? Singing all the songs they taught you . . . sing me a song, why don’t you? Go on. Sing to me. Some song about knights and fair maids. You like knights, don’t you?”

He was scaring her. “T-true knights, my lord.”

True knights,” he mocked. “And I’m no lord, no more than I’m a knight. Do I need to beat that into you?” Clegane reeled and almost fell. “Gods,” he swore, “too much wine. Do you like wine, little bird? True wine? A flagon of sour red, dark as blood, all a man needs. Or a woman.” He laughed, shook his head. “Drunk as a dog, damn me. You come now. Back to your cage, little bird. I’ll take you there. Keep you safe for the king.” The Hound gave her a push, oddly gentle, and followed her down the steps.

The Hound escorted her across the drawbridge. As they were winding their way up the steps, she said, “Why do you let people call you a dog? You won’t let anyone call you a knight.”

“I like dogs better than knights. My father’s father was kennelmaster at the Rock. One autumn year, Lord Tytos came between a lioness and her prey. The lioness didn’t give a shit that she was Lannister’s own sigil. Bitch tore into my lord’s horse and would have done for my lord too, but my grandfather came up with the hounds. Three of his dogs died running her off. My grandfather lost a leg, so Lannister paid him for it with lands and a towerhouse, and took his son to squire. The three dogs on our banner are the three that died, in the yellow of autumn grass. A hound will die for you, but never lie to you. And he’ll look you straight in the face.” He cupped her under the jaw, raising her chin, his fingers pinching her painfully. “And that’s more than little birds can do, isn’t it? I never got my song.”

“I… I know a song about Florian and Jonquil.”

“Florian and Jonquil? A fool and his cunt. Spare me. But one day I’ll have a song from you, whether you will it or no.”

“I will sing it for you gladly.”

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

The line that caught my eye during this re-reading was “drunk as a dog.” This phrase is uttered only by Sandor Clegane in all the 5 books, no one else says that even though other characters do get drunk on-page and make comments on their drunkenness as well. By itself, it didn’t appear to be anything noteworthy . . .

. . . until I read The Mystery Knight and found this scene:

It almost looks as if it’s made of snow.”

Dunk turned. John the Fiddler stood behind him, smiling in his silk and cloth-of-gold.

“What’s made of snow?”

“The castle. All that white stone in the moonlight. Have you ever been north of the Neck, Ser Duncan? I’m told it snows there even in the summer. Have you ever seen the Wall?”

“No, m’lord.” Why is he going on about the Wall? “That’s where we were going, Egg and me. Up north, to Winterfell.”

“Would that I could join you. You could show me the way.”

“The way?” Dunk frowned. “It’s right up the kingsroad. If you stay to the road and keep going north, you can’t miss it.”

The Fiddler laughed. “I suppose not . . . though you might be surprised at what some men can miss.” He went to the parapet and looked out across the castle. “They say those northmen are a savage folk, and their woods are full of wolves.”

“M’lord? Why did you come up here?”

“Alyn was seeking for me, and I did not care to be found. He grows tiresome when he drinks, does Alyn. I saw you slip away from that bedchamber of horrors, and slipped out after you. I’ve had too much wine, I grant you, but not enough to face a naked Butterwell.” He gave Dunk an enigmatic smile. “I dreamed of you, Ser Duncan. Before I even met you. When I saw you on the road, I knew your face at once. It was as if we were old friends.”

Dunk had the strangest feeling then, as if he had lived this all before. I dreamed of you, he said. My dreams are not like yours, Ser Duncan. Mine are true. “You dreamed of me?” he said, in a voice made thick by wine. “What sort of dream?”

“Why,” the Fiddler said, “I dreamed that you were all in white from head to heel, with a long pale cloak flowing from those broad shoulders. You were a White Sword, ser, a Sworn Brother of the Kingsguard, the greatest knight in all the Seven Kingdoms, and you lived for no other purpose but to guard and serve and please your king.” He put a hand on Dunk’s shoulder.

“You have dreamed the same dream, I know you have.”

He had, it was true. The first time the old man let me hold his sword. “Every boy dreams of serving in the Kingsguard.”

“Only seven boys grow up to wear the white cloak, though. Would it please you to be one of them?”

“Me?” Dunk shrugged away the lordling’s hand, which had begun to knead his shoulder.

“It might. Or not.” The knights of the Kingsguard served for life, and swore to take no wife and hold no lands. I might find Tanselle again someday. Why shouldn’t I have a wife, and sons? “It makes no matter what I dream. Only a king can make a Kingsguard knight.”

“I suppose that means I’ll have to take the throne, then. I would much rather be teaching you to fiddle.”

“You’re drunk.” And the crow once called the raven black.

“Wonderfully drunk. Wine makes all things possible, Ser Duncan. You’d look a god in white, I think, but if the color does not suit you, perhaps you would prefer to be a lord?”

Dunk laughed in his face. “No, I’d sooner sprout big blue wings and fly. One’s as likely as t’other.”

“Now you mock me. A true knight would never mock his king.” The Fiddler sounded hurt. “I hope you will put more faith in what I tell you when you see the dragon hatch.”

“A dragon will hatch? A living dragon? What, here?”

“I dreamed it. This pale white castle, you, a dragon bursting from an egg, I dreamed it all, just as I once dreamed of my brothers lying dead. They were twelve and I was only seven, so they laughed at me, and died. I am two-and-twenty now, and I trust my dreams.”

Dunk was remembering another tourney, remembering how he had walked through the soft spring rains with another princeling. I dreamed of you and a dead dragon, Egg’s brother Daeron said to him. A great beast, huge, with wings so large, they could cover this meadow. It had fallen on top of you, but you were alive and the dragon was dead. And so he was, poor Baelor. Dreams were treacherous ground on which to build. “As you say, m’lord,” he told the Fiddler. “Pray excuse me.”

“Where are you going, ser?”

“To my bed, to sleep. I’m drunk as a dog.”

“Be my dog, ser. The night’s alive with promise. We can howl together, and wake the very gods.”

“What do you want of me?”

“Your sword. I would make you mine own man, and raise you high. My dreams do not lie, Ser Duncan. You will have that white cloak, and I must have the dragon’s egg. I must, my dreams have made that plain. Perhaps the egg will hatch, or else—”

Behind them, the door banged open violently. “There he is, my lord.” A pair of men-at-arms stepped onto the roof. Lord Gormon Peake was just behind them.

“Gormy,” the Fiddler drawled. “Why, what are you doing in my bedchamber, my lord?”

“It is the roof, ser, and you have had too much wine.” Lord Gormon made a sharp gesture, and the guards moved forward. “Allow us to help you to that bed. You are jousting on the morrow, pray recall. Kirby Pimm can prove a dangerous foe.”

“I had hoped to joust with good Ser Duncan here.”

Peake gave Dunk an unsympathetic look. “Later, perhaps. For your first tilt, you have drawn Ser Kirby Pimm.”

“Then Pimm must fall! So must they all! The mystery knight prevails against all challengers, and wonder dances in his wake.” A guardsman took the Fiddler by the arm. “Ser Duncan, it seems that we must part,” he called as they helped him down the steps.

Turns out that Ser Duncan the Tall is the only other character in the ASOIAF universe to use the exact same phrase besides Clegane. Coincidence? Not likely. There’s a case to be made for this being a deliberate authorial choice, considering that another of Duncan’s catchphrases, “Dunk the lunk, thick as a castle wall,” is repeated twice in relation to someone that is sure to be his descendant, Brienne of Tarth (it’s also mentioned in relation to two others, but only repeated twice for her), whom Jaime bites back in exasperation using that very phrase, “Are you as thick as a castle wall?”

However, it’s not just the similarity in wording what is intriguing; it’s the scene in its entirety and that it has many elements in common with the Sandor/Sansa encounter in the Red Keep. The scene itself opens with the description of Whitewalls as a castle “made of snow” (a line repeated to describe the Eyrie) followed by a mention of Winterfell, which evoke imagery that’s prominent in Sansa’s storyline; and it unfolds, the parallels stand out:

  • Both scenes take place in the open outside of their living quarters and in the night, without witnesses: Sandor and Sansa meet at the Serpentine steps as he was returning from his night off, and the Fiddler and Duncan meet on the roof of Whitewalls, non-coincidentally, as the former had followed the latter there.
  • In both cases, one of them is unaware of the other’s innuendo. Sansa is too young and innocent to understand what Sandor Clegane is insinuating, and Ser Duncan, though not as young, is nonetheless just as naïve and doesn’t grasp Daemon II Blackfyre is flirting with him.
  • Wine plays a big role in disinhibiting the Hound and the Fiddler, and both men include drinking in their insinuations:

Sandor:

“A flagon of sour red, dark as blood, all a man needs. Or a woman.”

Daemon:

“Wonderfully drunk. Wine makes all things possible, Ser Duncan.

  • There’s talk of “true knights” and lordships in both scenes, and it’s the oblivious parties the ones who hold the belief in true knights. Daemon uses the concept to reproach Duncan for mocking his offer of a lordship he doesn’t want, and Sansa to defend her fondness for knights from Sandor’s derision by telling him she likes only true knights, and he rejects the courteous my lord treatment she bestows upon him.
  • The flirting parties take the initiative to touch the others as they’re saying something filled with double-entendre: the Hound grabs Sansa by the wrist to prevent her from falling down the steps after she bumps into him, and later cups her chin as he reminds her that he hasn’t gotten his song yet, and Daemon puts a hand on Duncan’s shoulder and kneads it as he speaks of the knight serving and pleasing his king, that is, himself.
  • Clegane and Blackfyre remark on Sansa’s and Duncan’s comely appearance, revealing the physical aspect of their attraction:

Sandor:

“You look almost a woman . . . face, teats, and you’re taller too, almost . . .”

Daemon:

“You’d look a god in white, I think.

In addition to this, previously the Fiddler had remarked on Duncan’s size and strength as attractive traits (“I’ve tried men of many lands and races, but never one your size. Was your father large as well?” “Look at the size of him. We want strong men.”), which later Sansa will also consider desirable physical traits in a mate (“She had pictured how her betrothed would stand behind her tall and strong, sweep the cloak of his protection over her shoulders”).

  • The men reveal details about their family and themselves that they weren’t expected to confess: the Hound tells Sansa why he prefers dogs and tells her the history of his House; and the Fiddler tells Duncan about his prophetic dreams and his brothers fallen during the first Blackfyre uprising.
  • The Fiddler uses weapon imagery to insinuate his feelings to Duncan both in this scene (“I had hoped to joust with good Ser Duncan here.”) and before, on their first encounters (“I would love to cross swords with you, ser.” “I should love to try my lance on you.” “What do you want of me?” “Your sword.”), something the Hound never does verbally and as straightforwardly, though he later does employ weaponry in the same phallic context with regard to Sansa.
  • The language used in the flirting is very similar, as both the Hound and the Fiddler use musical metaphors for sexual innuendo: for Clegane, it’s singing; for Blackfyre, it’s fiddling.

Sandor:

“I never got my song.”

“I . . . I know a song about Florian and Jonquil.”

“Florian and Jonquil? A fool and his cunt. Spare me. But one day I’ll have a song from you, whether you will it or no.”

Daemon:

“I would much rather be teaching you to fiddle.” / “Be my dog, ser. The night’s alive with promise. We can howl together, and wake the very gods.

  • Not to mention that when Sandor is making the song insinuation, he’s standing in front of Sansa’s bedchamber, and Daemon forgets in his inebriation that they’re in the open and demands of the intruder to explain “what are you doing in my bedchamber.”

So, all these similarities considered, what are we to make of this? Three possible conclusions occur to me: one, that the cited line at the beginning might be another hint from GRRM that nods towards the existing hypothesis on Sandor as one of Duncan’s descendants just as the “thick as a castle wall” is one of many hints pointing to Brienne as his descendant, and there are others as well that aren’t going to be analysed here. Two, that if Sandor isn’t a descendant of Duncan the Tall, then this might be a matter of thematic parallels, as the salient dilemma in Sandor’s arc is dealing with the knightly code of honour and “true” knighthood, which is also a key motif in Ser Duncan’s storyline, and which also creates a fitting parallel between Sandor’s struggles with keeping knightly principles whilst being a non-knight and Brienne’s status as ASOIAF’s truest knight whilst being a non-knight. And third, perhaps the relevant one for this specific scene, that GRRM intended the Serpentine scene between Sandor and Sansa to be a turning point in their relationship, for thenceforward what was in essence a mentor-pupil/bodyguard-protégée type of interaction veered towards the romantic angle, which the parallel with the scene in The Mystery Knight underscores, and Sansa’s dream at the Fingers would suggest that she now does fully comprehend the nature of that encounter, for when the man in her erotic dream speaks, he repeats the words she was told at the Serpentine: “I’ll have a song from you.”

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