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  1. Hey guys, I've put up a new piece relating to Sansa and the tourney in TWOW on the PTP site that you might be interested in checking out. Feel free to join us there and leave your comments
  2. Rag, congrats on such a comprehensive analysis of Brienne's chapters and how they provide intriguing comparison and contrast for Sandor's story. It really made for enjoyable and informative reading! The fire vs. mud imagery struck a cord, especially in how fire has been a destructive element in Sandor's life and now we have mud providing a healing and hospitable respite for him from the war. However, as your conclusion indicates, this respite looks to only be temporary, and both Sandor and the EB are likely to have strong reasons to depart the QI and re-engage in the conflicts still impacting Westeros. Martin could have kept the lens off Sandor for a while longer; he didn't have to take us there and show us what became of the Hound, in addition to giving such tantalising clues that his fate is not in becoming a humble monk who lives out his days on the Isle in peaceful contemplation. As much as mud now symbolises his daily existence, it is the act of flinging it at Brienne and company that heralds his re-appearance to viewers and signals a man who still has a fire (of a different kind) left in him that may be cooled but cannot be extinguished. If these Brienne chapters emphasise anything at all, it is that Sandor's role in the story in general, and in Sansa's life specifically, is still very much relevant and badly needed. Edit: I hope to have the next chapter analysis for AFFC up in another week! Bear with me, kind readers
  3. Whoa, it's been a while Thanks to Milady of York for restoring the missing content and I hope we see some familiar faces again soon. Rag, really excellent work on your analysis! I loved your discussion on the fire vs. mud symbolism and what it could signify for Sandor's development going forward. This chapter underscores just how much Sandor's life has become structured by the interests of the Starks, especially the two sisters with whom he has forged profound, yet unstable connections. Despite all the violence and disturbing content included here, there's a depth of poignancy that Martin keeps reaching for, especially as it relates to Sandor's feelings for Sansa and his later deathbed confession. The theme of appearance vs. reality stands out from their first entrance into the Inn, where what could appear as a regular tableau of medieval life is quickly shown to have all the ingredients of a powder keg waiting to explode. As the information on what has been happening during the war is revealed, the dynamics of the situation change subtly, and none more so than what we see happening to Sandor, as he digests the news of Sansa's marriage and escape. What appears to Arya to be his terrible similarity to Gregor's men, is in reality his utter dismay over this revelation. Arya's true identity is another way in which Martin teases out the theme, as readers are privy to the fact that she has not actually been sent to the North as a bride for Ramsay, and Sandor's secret mirth over this precipitates the vicious fight. Looking ahead, we're going to see the explorations of this theme play out in ways that oscillate between damnation and deliverance for Sandor.
  4.   Who knows, maybe he's posing as a very big washerwoman at the well :D     Shameless plug is shameless.        Thank you for such a detailed reply, my dear, and I agree with your postulations. Disguised as a monk would afford Sandor the best opportunity for subterfuge, and result in the least questions being directed at him; in addition, these chapters have shown that people see what they want to see, especially lofty knights who think they are better than the commoners and religious folk around them.   [spoiler] There are currently very intriguing dynamics in play at the Gates of the Moon, concerning the Stark Sandor cares most about and a host of knights vying to win honours and her favour, alongside those with hidden agendas. If the fool-knight motif is once again to be enacted by Martin, a tourney would be a particularly meaningful and appropriate setting for Sandor's arc, as this event has twice elevated him to heroic displays in the narrative. [/spoiler] 
  5.     Thanks Avlonnic! Your astute comments and regular participation are very much appreciated :) You've made quite a good point here on Sandor's stance towards the supernatural, where we see him reconciling it in the same kind of caustic pragmatism he's known for. This attitude could prove very significant in his future arc, if we imagine that some kind of encounter and resolution will take place with his brother Gregor, to cite one example.   "... It’s going to be me who hands you over to that mother of yours. Not the noble lightning lord or that flaming fraud of a priest, the monster.”    It's interesting how Sandor chooses to characterise Thoros here, and it tells us how he views the process of returning Beric to the living all these times. While he may accept what is before his eyes, there's no endorsement on his part for these activities. 
  6. A compelling and comprehensive analysis, Milady! I love how you've situated his early time with Arya within the knightly quest tradition, and your exploration of how he plays "the fool" offers an intriguing bit of original insight. Two things stood out to me in reading these chapters, with the first one alluded to in your analysis, which is the remarkable resourcefulness and keen awareness of Sandor Clegane when he has a purpose and objective in mind. Is this the same man that was found "sleeping off a drunk" in the Riverlands? In weighing Ragnorak's point about how he turned to the pursuit of vengeance against Gregor after Sansa declined his offer to leave the city, it's obvious which of these roles -- avenger or protector -- provides Sandor with positive motivation that fuels his intent. While he does end back at the Crossroads Inn to face Gregor's men by the end of the book, it's noteworthy that what consumes his attention and emotional investment at the Inn is not his brother's men or Gregor's whereabouts, but the news of Sansa's escape and her marriage to Tyrion.    The second point that I wanted to highlight, and it's connected to Sandor's resourcefulness, is the strong sense of his will to live that comes through in these chapters, and how much that is connected to the possibility of earning a livelihood with the Starks. We are reading Arya's POV, and it's her much denied and overwhelming desire to reach her family that pierces our consciousness at this stage, but Sandor's hopes are quite palpable as well. With the imagery of battle and death all around them, Sandor is actively choosing to pursue a better life than one he would have ever known with the Lannisters. Their crossing on the river has mythological allusions to Charon's ferrying dead souls to the underworld, and there's some thought provoking threads to pull out there, with Sandor's creative cheating of the ferryman and their post-Red Wedding situation.    I confess that I laughed out loud when he tells Arya "so we play a little game," because game-playing subterfuge is not something we associate with the Hound, but it's something he's adept at in his own way. Do you see the fool-knight role as having any potential relevance for TWOW and how Sandor might re-enter the story? 
  7.   Thanks, Gwyn! Completely agree with your point about Sandor's honesty, and how he's the one who proves more trustworthy and dependable to the Stark girls in the long run. Despite the harsh exterior and oftentimes rough language, he possesses the kind of frank sincerity one wants in a protector. With regard to the above quote I highlighted, this is another salient observation, and in thinking of your Lem as Richard Lonmouth theory, where Lem potentially made a life changing choice to fight on Robert's side of the conflict, one might expect some sort of  sympathy with regard to Sandor's own predicaments at this stage in the story. But there's a definite predilection on the BWB's part to tar him with the same brush they use for all Lannister soldiers. 
  8. Thanks, Rag and Milady!      Spot on comments about the "what if" considerations that emerge in reading these chapters, and that they do highlight for varying reasons how Sansa accompanying Sandor would not have led to the important character development and growth that will make their expected reunion much more satisfying. By flipping the script to another sister's perspective, the Hound is not only going to be challenged and propelled towards additional change, but readers will have the opportunity to see the qualities that define his character be expressed in different, and in some cases, more revealing ways. To your point about Sansa and LF, it's interesting that in the prophecy by the GHH, Sansa is "triumphant." She's the maid with purple serpents in her hair and will later slay a savage giant in a castle of snow. Had it not been for the Hound's interventions, advice and protection, Sansa might not have made it to the Purple Wedding. While his aspiration to journey to the Twins with Arya is always already doomed even before the kidnapping, there's definite space (and need) for him to eventually rejoin Sansa's narrative, especially in light of the giant symbolism in their arcs.        I'm glad you brought this recollection back, since there's an additional detail to the parallel you noted, when at Winterfell Sandor asks Ser Rodrik:    “Are you training women here?” the burned man wanted to know. He was muscled like a bull.   Fast forward to present time and he questions Beric:    “You going to make her a knight too, Dondarrion? The first eight-year-old girl knight?”   Sandor's antipathy towards knights and show of chivalry that hides their true purpose may be as keen as ever, but the irony of him being the one who takes on the training of Sansa and Arya is once again foregrounded here.    I didn't mention this in the analysis, but Lem's comment to Gendry about not romanticising knighthood also struck me as ironic in the context of Sandor's presence and his relationship with Sansa:    “You must be a lackwit, boy,” said Lem. “We’re outlaws. Lowborn scum, most of us, excepting his lordship. Don’t think it’ll be like Tom’s fool songs neither. You won’t be stealing no kisses from a princess, nor riding in no tourneys in stolen armor. You join us, you’ll end with your neck in a noose, or your head mounted up above some castle gate.”   In Sansa's memory of their last encounter at the Blackwater battle, Sandor is thought to have taken a kiss from her in addition to the song, tying him to the ideals of courtly romance and chivalry, even as he rejects the other aspect of what Beric is doing pertaining to the untrained Gendry. 
  9. SANDOR IV   HOW TO KIDNAP A LITTLE WOLF   SUMMARY ANALYSIS   ·         Arya VII ·         Arya VIII     The fact that there’s no love lost between Sandor and Arya was properly established in the preceding chapters, when Arya accused him of killing her friend, Mycah, and then hotly championed for his death during the trial by combat with Beric Dondarrion. Arya VII, which opens up with the BWB attacking a septry where a group of Bloody Mummers are holed up, shows that the girl’s feelings have not changed on the matter:               They should have hanged the Hound too, or chopped his head off. Instead, to her             disgust, the outlaws had treated Sandor Clegane’s burned arm, restored his sword             and horse and armor, and set him free a few miles from the hollow hill. All they’d             taken from him was his gold.   These thoughts take place in the context of the BWB carrying out the trials of the Mummers who were not killed during the attack. While Arya’s sense of outrage about the Hound’s release makes her continue to wish that he was subject to the same punishment as these other criminals, there’s a clear line in the sand between the kinds of men that belong in the Brave Companions, and someone like Sandor Clegane:   The trials went swiftly. Various of the outlaws came forward to tell of things the Brave Companions had done; towns and villages sacked, crops burned, women raped and murdered, men maimed and tortured. A few spoke of the boys that Septon Utt had carried off. The septon wept and prayed through it all. “I am a weak reed,” he told Lord Beric. “I pray to the Warrior for strength, but the gods made me weak. Have mercy on my weakness. The boys, the sweet boys . . . I never mean to hurt them . . .”   Despite Arya’s views being remarkably different from the ones espoused by Sansa at this point in their respective experiences with the former KG, Martin implements a significant element of thematic symmetry that connects Sandor’s personal narrative to the Stark sisters. As the BWB are spending the night in the septry, the theme of knighthood and its relevance to Arya’s relationships and her hopes to return home is first highlighted when Beric promises to return her safely to her mother:   “Do you swear?” she asked him. Yoren had promised to take her home too, only he’d gotten killed instead. “On my honor as a knight,” the lightning lord said solemnly.   Beric’s statement evokes a similar vow made to Sansa by Dontos in the Red Keep’s godswood:                       “Are you going to stab me?” Dontos asked. “I will,” she said. “Tell me who sent you.” “No one, sweet lady. I swear it on my honor as a knight.”   These two men are strange ones to be swearing on their knighthood, as Dontos had recently been demoted to a court jester and Beric is literally a dead man walking, having been resurrected six times by Thoros. As we discussed concerning Sansa and Dontos during the Clash portion of the reread, the Florian wannabe is disingenuous about his motives and cannot guarantee Sansa true protection; rather, it is Sandor Clegane who offered her sincere security, even though he later bungles the rescue attempt during the Blackwater battle. It’s an important contrast that further defines the Hound as a protective figure, even in volatile relationships like the one he shares with Arya, and diffuses the threatening implication of the question: “Do you know what dogs do to wolves?”   It is Gendry’s request to be knighted, and the Hound’s appearance just at the moment when Beric is repeating the final seminal rites of this process, that succeed in sharpening our awareness of how Martin is using the same framework or gateway to introduce the significant role the Hound will play in Arya’s life as he once did with Sansa. Another noteworthy detail is one of the songs that Tom o’ Seven sings just prior to the Hound’s arrival, called “The Mother’s Tears.”   The marcher lord moved the sword from the right shoulder to the left, and said, “Arise Ser Gendry, knight of the hollow hill, and be welcome to our brotherhood.” From the door came rough, rasping laughter. The rain was running off him. His burned arm was wrapped in leaves and linen and bound tight against his chest by a crude rope sling, but the older burns that marked his face glistened black and slick in the glow of their little fire. “Making more knights, Dondarrion?” the intruder said in a growl. “I ought to kill you all over again for that.”   It calls to mind the Hound’s confession to Sansa on the night of the Hand’s tourney, which ended with the following recollection: “My father told everyone my bedding had caught fire, and our maester gave me ointments. Ointments! Gregor got his ointments too. Four years later, they anointed him with the seven oils and he recited his knightly vows and Rhaegar Targaryen tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘Arise, Ser Gregor.’”   Incidentally, both Arya and Sandor have reason to lament the knightly appointments of these two figures in their life. Gendry hasn’t done anything to Arya on the level of a Gregor Clegane, but his knighting represents for her a significant loss of a friend; Gendry is becoming one of the Brotherhood and she expects to return to her family in Riverrun.   Gendry’s knighting also brings back into focus one of the major conflicts as it relates to knighthood and vows that pervades the arcs of those like Sandor and Jaime Lannister. Although Sandor never became a sworn knight, his myriad roles as Lannister liegeman elucidate the torments of divided loyalty that can ensue and the moral quagmire that these men face in fulfilling their duties:   This time the lightning lord did not set the blade afire, but merely laid it light on Gendry’s shoulder. “Gendry, do you swear before the eyes of gods and men to defend those who cannot defend themselves, to protect all women and children, to obey your captains, your liege lord, and your king, to fight bravely when needed and do such other tasks as are laid upon you, however hard or humble or dangerous they may be?”   In the moment at hand, one can’t help to sympathise with the Hound’s indignation at this hypocrisy, as they subjected him to an unfair trial and stole all his money. Gendry’s comment about him burning crops also shows that the guilt by association prejudice towards Sandor is still firmly in place:   Anguy raised his longbow, but Lord Beric lifted a hand before he could loose. “Why did you come here, Clegane?” “To get back what’s mine.” “Your gold?” “What else? It wasn’t for the pleasure of looking at your face, Dondarrion, I’ll tell you that. You’re uglier than me now. And a robber knight besides, it seems.” “I gave you a note for your gold,” Lord Beric said calmly. “A promise to pay, when the war’s done.” “I wiped my arse with your paper. I want the gold.” “We don’t have it. I sent it south with Greenbeard and the Huntsman, to buy grain and seed across the Mander.” “To feed all them whose crops you burned,” said Gendry. “Is that the tale, now?” Sandor Clegane laughed again. “As it happens, that’s just what I meant to do with it. Feed a bunch of ugly peasants and their poxy whelps.” “You’re lying,” said Gendry. “The boy has a mouth on him, I see. Why believe them and not me? Couldn’t be my face, could it?”   When Arya threatens to kill him and his brother, Sandor’s reply is deadly serious:                           “No.” His dark eyes narrowed. “That you won’t.”   This response seems to indicate that Gregor’s death is still a prevailing concern for the Hound, one that he sees as his personal duty to carry out. Ridding himself of the stigma of his brother’s activities is hard enough, but the psychic fixation on killing Gregor illustrates the inner demons that Sandor is still haunted by and must overcome for his emotional well-being. After Sandor leaves the group, Beric and Thoros comment on his character and current state of mind:   Thoros of Myr paid no heed to the banter. “The Hound has lost more than a few bags of coin,” he mused. “He has lost his master and kennel as well. He cannot go back to the Lannisters, the Young Wolf would never have him, nor would his brother be like to welcome him. That gold was all he had left, it seems to me.” “Bloody hell,” said Watty the Miller. “He’ll come murder us in our sleep for sure, then.” “No.” Lord Beric had sheathed his sword. “Sandor Clegane would kill us all gladly, but not in our sleep. Anguy, on the morrow, take the rear with Beardless Dick. If you see Clegane still sniffing after us, kill his horse.”   Beric’s opinion supports the principled nature of Sandor, and Thoros hits on his essential homelessness and lack of direction now that he is no longer tied to the Lannisters. By the end of Arya VII, the Hound is a man not only seeking to restore his fortunes, but someone who needs a renewed purpose and sense of belonging.   Arya VIII details the BWB’s return to High Heart where they meet with the Ghost of High Heart and the old woman delivers her tragic prophecies. Sandor does not appear until the very end of the chapter when he kidnaps Arya after she runs out in distress at hearing Beric can no longer take her to Riverrun because her mother and brother have gone to the Twins for a wedding, and the Tully castle will soon be besieged by Lannisters.   In reading this chapter with the endpoint of Arya’s kidnapping in mind and trying to concentrate on Sandor’s perspective, the paramount consideration seems to be to look at the charge Sandor is taking on and how Arya’s influence will play out in his development. Bereft, thoroughly homesick, and nursing deep grievances and anger, there is a lot in Arya that reflects the Hound’s personal circumstances and state of mind. He is already tied to the personal tragedy of the Starks via what happened in KL and reconnecting with Arya identifies him once more as someone with an important role to perform in how the Stark drama continues to unfold.   “I dreamt a wolf howling in the rain, but no one heard his grief,” the dwarf woman was saying. “I dreamt such a clangor I thought my head might burst, drums and horns and pipes and screams, but the saddest sound was the little bells. I dreamt of a maid at a feast with purple serpents in her hair, venom dripping from their fangs. And later I dreamt that maid again, slaying a savage giant in a castle built of snow.”   The chapter is an interesting mix of the romantic and the tragic: there’s talk of ‘Jenny’s song’ by the GHH that’s a reference to Jenny of Oldstones who was married to the Prince of Dragonflies for love, and Arya gets very upset when she hears the rumour that Ned fell in love with Ashara Dayne at Harrenhal. Most interestingly for the purposes of our analysis, the two songs that Tom mentions having to sing to be admitted into the Vale could be a teasing hint relating to Sandor’s experiences with Sansa:   Lem paced back and forth, coughing, a long shadow matching him stride for stride, while Tom o’ Sevens pulled off his boots and rubbed his feet. “I must be mad, to be going back to Riverrun,” the singer complained. “The Tullys have never been lucky for old Tom. It was that Lysa sent me up the high road, when the moon men took my gold and my horse and all my clothes as well. There’s knights in the Vale still telling how I came walking up to the Bloody Gate with only my harp to keep me modest. They made me sing ‘The Name Day Boy’ and ‘The King Without Courage’ before they opened that gate. My only solace was that three of them died laughing. I haven’t been back to the Eyrie since, and I won’t sing ‘The King Without Courage’ either, not for all the gold in Casterly—”   For all Arya's belief in the Hound as a monster, these two chapters reinforce his humanity and essential honour. Martin is able to maintain this impression through allusions to Sandor's relationship with Sansa and in continuing to explore crucial themes and motifs relevant to the Hound's characterisation that will become even more distinct in the upcoming chapters. 
  10.   Thank you for withdrawing your point, Colonel Green, but I hope you can appreciate our confusion for why it was even introduced in the first place. Regardless of how Sansa may or may not have felt about Mycah, her connection to Sandor didn't occur because he happened not to kill an acquaintance of hers or a close friend.. And it still doesn't work with your qualification to a "significant" factor because you're ignoring very important variables that are integral to the Sandor/Arya/Mycah situation. Without killing anyone, Sandor already had a very fearsome reputation to go along with his burned face, and Sansa had reason enough to be wary and afraid of him, especially the Sansa we meet in early AGOT who tended to equate beauty with goodness. Even when he saves Jeyne Poole during the Lannister takeover, Jeyne's delivery of the news is hardly done on glowing terms, and Sandor's role in the "killing everyone" that was going on wouldn't have led to any particular endearment if Martin ever meant their relationship to be dependent on such circumstances. When she encounters him in Winterfell, Arya was already inclined to dislike Sandor based on his statements in the yard, but as Milady of York pointed out, he makes it on to her prayer list because of specific reasons relating to Mycah's death, involving her sense of guilt and the sensational description of the killing she hears. Likewise, Sansa's connection to the Hound is similarly nuanced, based on their unique interactions, him opening up to her, and the empathy she was capable of responding with. If you're arguing that Sansa would not have entertained Sandor's revelations on the night of the Hand's tourney, then bear in mind that she never so much as asks to hear his story as she is forced to listen to it; secondly, if you're arguing that Sansa would not have demonstrated the kind of compassion and kindness we see, bear in mind that you're diminishing a central element of her characterisation, one which operates even towards those who have personally ill-treated and wronged her. And finally, if you're genuinely searching for a productive comparison involving Sansa and unjust killings, look no further than the death of Lady, done by her very own father, at the very moment the Hound returns with Mycah's body.
  11.   Indeed. As for the textual evidence we do have concerning Sansa's feelings about what happened to Mycah, she tells the Tyrells in ASOS:    Sansa felt as though her heart had lodged in her throat. The Queen of Thorns was so close she could smell the old woman’s sour breath. Her gaunt thin fingers were pinching her wrist. To her other side, Margaery was listening as well. A shiver went through her. “A monster,” she whispered, so tremulously she could scarcely hear her own voice. “Joffrey is a monster. He lied about the butcher’s boy and made Father kill my wolf. When I displease him, he has the Kingsguard beat me. He’s evil and cruel, my lady, it’s so. And the queen as well.”   Here we see Sansa acknowledging Mycah's innocence in the incident, and that it was Joffrey who lied about being attacked. The spat with Arya is more about Sansa's defence of the Hound and her wishful determination to believe in Joffrey's goodness than it is any genuine callousness towards Mycah and what happened to him. 
  12.   I'm glad you highlighted this, OGE, and your point about it being a "mental comfort" to him is quite significant, as we've seen Sandor benefiting from a similar process when Sansa was employed as a witness to the childhood trauma he suffered as a young boy and she reacted with a compassionate response. Here again, Sandor is under a compulsion for truth telling, elicited by the same factors just differently organised: the spectre of Gregor's crimes, the sham of knighthood, the trauma associated with fire, and the presence of a Stark sister who has a simplistic understanding of concepts relating to justice and vengeance. It's interesting that although Arya is by no means going to react to Sandor with the same kind of sympathy as Sansa did, the Hound's suffering is once again foregrounded for readers: "Arya looked at him in astonishment. He’s crying like a little baby, she thought." Martin is not only complicating Arya's perception and rush to judgement, but the same reactions from readers as well. That Sandor goes on to also confess his guilt over what was done to Sansa and Ned illustrates that Mycah functions as a kind of "trigger" for his conscience, which is why the trial and his subsequent extended interactions with Arya are crucial experiences for his development. 
  13. Thanks very much to Ragnorak and Gwyn for the insightful commentary and analyses!    Our last reference to Sandor before Arya encounters him was in Sansa's preceding chapter, where she thinks of Sandor within the context of her marriage ceremony. This introduction to him captive and bound makes for a striking contrast and underscores just how differently he is perceived between the two sisters. When we learn later that he was found "sleeping off a drunk under a willow tree," it also gives some interesting insight into his state of mind since leaving KL. This may be stretching it, but the description of Sandor being pelted with dung and rocks by the Stoney Sept townspeople, and threatened with being put into a cage, reminded me of the KL bread riot, and his rescue of Sansa when he specified: "The little bird’s bleeding. Someone take her back to her cage and see to that cut.”    Another callback to KL was during Beric's speech in the cave, when he speaks of them being originally sent out by Ned Stark. Ned had a difficult choice at the time but he insists on sending Beric and the others to bring justice to Gregor Clegane:   “Vengeance?” Ned said. “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.”   He glanced away before the young knight could voice his outraged protest, and addressed the villagers. “People of Sherrer, I cannot give you back your homes or your crops, nor can I restore your dead to life. But perhaps I can give you some small measure of justice, in the name of our king, Robert.”    Every eye in the hall was fixed on him, waiting. Slowly Ned struggled to his feet, pushing himself up from the throne with the strength of his arms, his shattered leg screaming inside its cast. He did his best to ignore the pain; it was no moment to let them see his weakness. “The First Men believed that the judge who called for death should wield the sword, and in the north we hold to that still. I mislike sending another to do my killing … yet it seems I have no choice.”    Arya allows her thirst for vengeance against the Hound to advocate for him to be put into the crow cages and then to try to kill him herself. The kind of justice that the Hound receives which allows him to live feels profoundly unjust and unfair. Yet, when she attempts to take his life she is stopped short by the spectacle of the man's suffering. The one who called for death cannot in the end wield the sword, which evokes one of the central tenets of Ned's legacy in the series. These are really fascinating chapters to unpick themes of justice, revenge, and mercy; Sandor being subjected to a trial -- however bogus it might be -- feels like a necessary gateway in allowing him to find a true redemptive experience and to connect the roles of the two Stark sisters charged with spearheading that discovery. 
  14.   Thanks, DL :) It is curious why the setting where the unkiss is revealed to readers is so often overlooked in theories that claim it's borne of trauma or somehow Sansa is trying to replace an unpleasant memory with one more palatable. This is something she actually entertains the thought of telling someone else: "Sansa wondered what Megga would think about kissing the Hound as she had," which indicates that it's not a traumatic mismemory or something she feels distressed enough about that she wouldn't want to even consider telling another person. And we have the perfect contrast in her own thoughts about Joffrey as the cousins are going on about how much she must miss him and what wonderful lips he has. She cannot openly tell what a monster Joff is, but she can privately relish a kiss that she has much more positive thoughts about. So we can add Joff to the other list of suitors who are all supplanted in one way or another by Sandor in these opening chapters.       Yeah, it's interesting that of all the functions Sandor assumes in Sansa's life, it's the adviser role that he arguably played first and foremost, seeking to disabuse her on her idealistic viewpoints and later giving her advice on how to mitigate Joff's abuses. You get the feeling that she didn't want him so much to advise her about what to do about the Tyrells – she deduced rather quickly that she would have no choice but to accept – but that it was his presence she found reassuring and comforting. Nevertheless, thinking of Sandor within the context of a meeting with the Tyrells does highlight how Sansa could have always counted on him to be honest and open with her, whereas she now has to navigate a court of liars and game players on her own.        Agreed on all points. For the purposes of analysing the unkiss as fantasy, her prior thoughts about Loras really help to cement the case that Sansa is beginning to have erotic fantasies and dreams about men; and that Sandor would emerge as the stable frontrunner on whom these desires would coalesce should strike no one as strange when taking in the full scale of their interactions. Even the symbolism works to prove the case here, as Sansa is dreaming of the "pure, innocent, beautiful" Loras in his white silk, while keeping Sandor's bloody cloak amongst her possessions. 
  15.   Thanks, LR! Yes, you're spot on with the subtlety factor. In these chapters Martin really gives us a kind of "audition reel" of other possible suitors for Sansa, and in each one there's either a direct comparison to or mention of Sandor that sheds light on Sansa's feelings and undermines the other relationships, but it's done in a very understated manner. I found it funny how even when she's at her most hopeful about the Willas match and enjoying the company of the Tyrell family members, this would be when Martin chooses to reveal the unkiss to readers.