Lovely little Sansa Spark Notes piece. I appreciate the focus on what were, for me, two big eye-openers right off the bat in AGOT. I came to the series post-S03 GOT and so I had gone through a similar progress with the character that I gather many readers do - albeit through very different pivotal points. I was able to see the false dichotomy set up through Arya/Sansa right off and while it is almost impossible not to like Arya immediately, I didn't really fall into the Tomboy Heroine vs Pretty Pretty Princess trap (my sister and I have equal parts of both somewhere in our identities, with Booknerd, Wanton Slut and lots of other lady-tropes mixed in for spice.) I didn't turn on Sansa during the shit at the Trident, as that was so clearly a moment of Royal Family Assholery that even if ShowNed hadn't bothered to explain the political nuances to Arya later*, I doubt it would have ever occurred to me to somehow blame Sansa or Arya for what happened to Lady or Mycah. I was sad when she burned Ned on the whole doll thing, but that was so very relatable to me...cause kids are the worst. She doesn't do whatever Sansa-the-Snitch thing on the show - an event that, even having really tried to understand, still doesn't make sense to me as a somehow Ending The Ned moment in ASOIAF history. BookSansa did...what, exactly, to expedite the downfall there? She doesn't seem to be adding a single thing to the details of Ned's own pre-declared move that made any difference in how it all went down. If I mentally remove that action, do the events still go down the same way without any logical plotholes? Turns out...that's what happens in S01. That thing where Sansa totally betrayed Ned's whole plan somehow? Lifts right out.
No, I hated ShowSansa for dissing Septa Mordane. I guess they decided to recoup whatever lost fandom hate that the fauxbetrayal generated by instead making Sansa be an outright bitch to an awesome old lady. (Full Disclosure: I think all old ladies are awesome old ladies. Old dudes too. Old folks in general just get my awwww up and I want to condescendingly protect them like some people do babies, I guess.) I never once thought the character was terrible or irredeemable or anything. I just kinda wrote her off as a less-interesting person despite the upticks here and there. It wasn't until I saw Sophie Turner's portrayal of sheer terror and strength through season 3 that it turned me back toward the Sansa+ end of the spectrum. I wrapped S03 mostly ambivalent, but trending up.
So I expected her AGOT chapters to be really frustrating. I didn't want to revisit the girl I'd disliked in S01 on an even more detailed level. I assumed I'd hate her more and lose my gains in those three seasons. But my ears pricked up as she handled the situation in her first chapter. To be able to even manage her own fears at encountering Ilyn Payne and The Hound, plus the added complication of Being Laughed At that literally every one of us has felt during adolescence, this alone is impressive to me. But to then To smoothly soothe mounting tensions between adults in this moment...that is something else entirely. As someone in education I can assure/remind you all that even the most precious-est of middle schoolers doesn't often pull this kind of thing off.
Then there was the scene with Ser Hugh's death at the tourney. A more difficult one to parse my first time through and more interesting, as this additional facet to her inner self defied what I was expecting this girl to represent. I feel like it's is a solid take on the way we are still learning to process life, death, finality and emotional connections during our earlier years. It isn't necessarily the case that we always understand the sight of death as being evocative of loss in the way that Sansa describes the scene. We also don't have all of our wires for empathy aligned just yet either. And yet Sansa seems to not just recognize her own stoicism in the face of death, but work to establish the human connection that she knows belongs between the two. (A connection much more tenuous for her little sister. Though somewhat understandably so.)
I hadn't been totally sold on the series until I read Sansa's walk home with The Hound. I remember calling my girlfriend just so excited about the chapter, how well-written it was and how brilliantly subversive of traditional romantic moments. But mostly how much of a dramatic difference I'd found between the Sansas, Book and Show. I loved her, I proclaimed, to her complete bewilderment. (She did fall into the trap of Tomboy Heroine vs Pretty Pretty Princess...because she believes she is the former and doesn't want to admit it's the latter. Meta-irony: I love it.)
But I have loved Sansa chapters from the first one I read and I understand this is less than common. The way I came to each character through the show has altered the way I might have otherwise felt about them. And like Jaime Lannister, Theon Greyjoy and Queen Bitch Cersei herself...I love Sansa Stark. I never had a chance.
*On this...I'm rereading AGOT for the first time - first ever on page, not audiobook - and caught this overlooked line in Eddard III (almost certainly because I was still laughing at Renly's sarcastic "Lion's Tooth" line the paragraph before):
Ned had heard her version of the story the night Arya vanished. He knew the truth.
So which truth is this? The true truth? Or does he believe that Sansa truly doesn't remember? Because Ned doesn't strike me as the type to just buy the "I don't remember..." explanation from his teenage daughter - especially not while another daughter remains missing as a direct result of this incident. I assume that Ned means the true truth...again, because I find it hard to accept that after several days he wouldn't press for more information, as Arya stays unrecovered. I also don't belie that Sansa herself would lie to Ned in the first place. At this point she's a well-established poor liar and has been raised in the kind of idyllic family environment that wouldn't lend itself easily to parental distrust.
I assume he knew.
Now whether he expected her to deny deny deny when directly questioned is up for more debate. But wouldn't he press it further on the spot if he knew the truth and heard Sansa circumvent that? I guess I could see some version of the "why she had to do that" discussion with Arya actually being an event that BookSansa had (sadly offscreent) with Ned instead. Suggesting a slightly savvier Ned inasmuch as his daughters' lives are concerned. Foreshadowing!
Third option, though less interesting to me: Sansa's inexperience with wine makes the whole thing legitimately a jumbled memory. Meaning she doesn't remember - and that is the true truth.