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Milady of York

The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor

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Welcome to Rereading Sandor!



This project hosted by Doglover, Brashcandy, and myself aims to meticulously examine Sandor Clegane’s depiction and development throughout the current five novels of the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The Hound occupies a special place in the pantheon of secondary characters that help to enrich Martin’s narrative, despite having no POV chapters, as his character has been richly presented and explored by the author, shown mainly through the perspectives of two young girls, Sansa and Arya Stark. In starting this reread, our central preoccupation is with discussing Sandor on his own terms and for his own sake. By this we mean to establish the authority of Sandor’s viewpoint: delving inside the man’s unique characteristics, the conflicts, the controversies and, of course, the connections he is able to foster with others. We fundamentally believe that while the Hound may be dead, Sandor Clegane is still alive, and still has a significant part to play in how the rest of the drama unfolds in Martin’s fantasy epic. The Will to Change is concerned with his personal journey, with looking at the experiences that have defined the man we meet, but also at the ones that eventually challenge and transform him.



In absence of his own POVs that would facilitate a traditional chapter-by-chapter analysis, we have opted for grouping his appearances and mentions of him in POV chapters across all volumes by similarities in topics and events, that joined together form a Sandor “viewpoint chapter” with a numeral for identification, followed by listing the chapters’ name and number below for readers to find them readily. For example, in AGOT the chapters Eddard I, Arya I and Tyrion I have in common that they introduce the Hound into the story, and will be analysed together as Sandor I; the chapters Sansa I and Eddard III deal with the Mycah incident and together go as Sandor II, and so on successively as shown in the list below. With this methodology, we aspire to not leave out anything pertaining to the Hound, be it chapter-length appearances or two-line mentions distributed throughout a large canvas of POVs, all pieces big and small that contribute to a complete and thorough understanding of his whole arc. In addition to this, we’ll also feature chapter analyses by Guest Posters and Featured Commentary write-ups, all by the hosts and fan contributors whose insight into relevant topics in certain chapters we hope will make the rereading experience much more rewarding.



In order to promote proper discussion, chapter analyses will be posted once per week. As general guidelines for discussion, we only have these important recommendations: Keep within topics discussed after each chapter and don’t jump ahead in the story, as well as avoid going off-topic. Be polite and respectful, ad hominem and confrontational posting don’t add to an atmosphere ideal for discussion. And try to maintain an open mind and be constructive.



And last, we’d also like to share the lovely official poster for the reread that was illustrated by ASOIAF fan artist Bubug especially for us.



Enjoy posting!




AGOT Chapter Analyses:




ACOK Chapter List:



  • SANDOR I: THE KING’S NAMEDAY TOURNEY


Sansa I (Ch. 2)


Tyrion I (Ch. 3)


Arya IV (Ch. 14)



  • SANDOR II: A FOOL AND A NON-KNIGHT


Sansa II (Ch. 18)


Arya II (Ch. 19)


Catelyn II (Ch. 22)


Arya VI (Ch. 26)


Arya VII (Ch. 30)



  • SANDOR III: RESCUING MAIDENS ISN’T LIKE THE SONGS


Sansa III (Ch. 32)


Tyrion VIII (Ch. 36)


Tyrion IX (Ch. 41)


Tyrion X (Ch. 44)


Arya IX (Ch. 47)



  • SANDOR IV: WAITING FOR BLACKWATER


Sansa IV (Ch. 52)


Tyrion XII (Ch. 54)



  • SANDOR V: THE GREAT BATTLE

Sansa V (Ch. 57)


Davos III (Ch. 58)


Tyrion XIII (Ch. 59)


Sansa VI (Ch. 60)


Arya X (Ch. 64)



  • SANDOR VI: GOING AWAY

Sansa VII (Ch. 62)


Sansa VIII (Ch. 65)


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An overview of Sandor’s introduction


Literary Techniques and Bias




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. The tall boy beside him could only be the crown prince, and that stunted little man behind them was surely the Imp, Tyrion Lannister.


— AGOT Eddard I, Chapter 4.




If something leaps out from the quoted scene in the first book that’s our initial sighting of the Hound, it’s the neutrality of Lord Stark’s comment. Why would it be significant? Because in light of the upward progression after a start as a negatively-assessed Lannister liegeman, it sets up the foundation for readers’ perception of Sandor Clegane, upon which our initial opinion of him rests. The ancient adage that first impressions matter and that we size up people within minutes of meeting them is true also for fictional people, and few authors are more skilful than Martin in manipulating their readership through the crafting of apparently solid first impressions only to kick the stool from under us afterwards. Therefore, knowing his literary techniques for creating character bias is a key element for comprehending the readership’s attitude towards events and characters.



Let’s start with an examination of the way he introduces them, which is where he formulates his intent about how he wants a determined character to be viewed, a trail very likely to be followed, even if unconsciously. For the purpose of illustration and comparison, I’ll use the examples of Jaime Lannister and Theon Greyjoy together with Sandor, as these three are the poster children of “redemptive” plotlines in ASOIAF and provide with ideal case studies.



As Example I, consider Jaime. His defenestration of Bran is popularly identified as the moment when he became a really bad apple in the public’s eyes. That is well and true, but look further back in time and concentrate on the first mention of him in the entire series, in AGOT Daenerys I, because that sets up the tone for him:



Yet sometimes Dany would picture the way it had been, so often had her brother told her the stories. The midnight flight to Dragonstone, moonlight shimmering on the ship’s black sails. Her brother Rhaegar battling the Usurper in the bloody waters of the Trident and dying for the woman he loved. The sack of King’s Landing by the ones Viserys called the Usurper’s dogs, the lords Lannister and Stark. Princess Elia of Dorne pleading for mercy as Rhaegar’s heir was ripped from her breast and murdered before her eyes. The polished skulls of the last dragons staring down sightlessly from the walls of the throne room while the Kingslayer opened Father’s throat with a golden sword.



There you have it: the introduction is a negative one. He’s not even called by his name but it’s his foul reputation as Kingslayer that ushers him in, before we even learn his name is Jaime. And what is said does paint him as a monster, with the cherry on top being that we hear this from Dany, whom we’re inclined to empathise with in her plight. We are told quite graphically that he killed young Daenerys’ father, and that’s what Martin intends us to focus on. In later chapters, Eddard’s misgivings about the Lannisters as a clan and Jaime as a man seep into the reader’s mind as well, with Jon’s positive remarks easily framed as superficially looks-based. And when the Bran incident happens, that practically “confirms” what had been hinted at until then: this man is no good. We are years-light from suspecting the volte-face that awaits in ASOS, and so the build-up of his introduction comes to a boil herein, eliciting the gut reaction of loathing towards this character.



On to our Example II, we have the introduction of Theon in AGOT Bran I:



Finally his lord father gave a command, and two of his guardsmen dragged the ragged man to the ironwood stump in the centre of the square. They forced his head down onto the hard black wood. Lord Eddard Stark dismounted and his ward Theon Greyjoy brought forth the sword. “Ice,” that sword was called. It was as wide across as a man’s hand, and taller even than Robb. The blade was Valyrian steel, spell-forged and dark as smoke. Nothing held an edge like Valyrian steel.


His father peeled off his gloves and handed them to Jory Cassel, the captain of his household guard. He took hold of Ice with both hands and said, “In the name of Robert of the House Baratheon, the First of his Name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, by the word of Eddard of the House Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, I do sentence you to die.” He lifted the greatsword high above his head.


Bran’s bastard brother Jon Snow moved closer. “Keep the pony well in hand,” he whispered. “And don’t look away. Father will know if you do.”


Bran kept his pony well in hand, and did not look away.


His father took off the man’s head with a single sure stroke. Blood sprayed out across the snow, as red as surnmerwine. One of the horses reared and had to be restrained to keep from bolting. Bran could not take his eyes off the blood. The snows around the stump drank it eagerly, reddening as he watched.


The head bounced off a thick root and rolled. It came up near Greyjoy’s feet. Theon was a lean, dark youth of nineteen who found everything amusing. He laughed, put his boot on the head, and kicked it away.


“Ass,” Jon muttered, low enough so Greyjoy did not hear.



He doesn’t come off as a high-minded fellow, does he? But unlike the former character, Theon isn’t presented as someone markedly wicked but rather he’s shown as an inconsiderate youngster with an off-putting sense of humour, an ass. His following appearances continue to encourage this perception of him as not particularly bright, cocky, derisive and arrogant; not a very attractive personality on the whole, but his closeness to Robb, how he prevents him from starting a fistfight with the Crown Prince, saves his brother from the wilding, and follows him into battle act as counterweight. With no Reek in sight yet, it’s a mixed medley for the reader this early in the first book, and not until the second book onwards we’ll see the full extent of his grayer side, when Theon’s failures in judgement, which his introduction had intimated to the reader, lead him to make foolish decisions that end up in deaths and disaster.



The example of Sandor, on the other hand, doesn’t move in such a straight line. In contrast with the previous two, his introduction with a brief “. . . and there Sandor Clegane with his terrible burned face” doesn’t paint him as either good or bad, sympathetic or unsympathetic by itself. An intriguing neutrality considering Ned obviously knows him, knows who he is and what he does, and is certainly aware of the reputation he possesses as the Hound, and given his infixed wariness of all things Lannister-connected it would’ve been natural had some of that come through in his “tone.” Yet he doesn’t even use the sobriquet that encompasses the character’s infamy, thus he isn’t framed as the Hound from the onset, unlike the Kingslayer; he’s plain Sandor Clegane with no judgment thrown in, and it’s only two chapters later that he’s called this for the first time.



This doesn’t necessarily mean Eddard’s introduction of him is just a meaningless, perfunctory description for the benefit of a “who is who” exercise. From the overview of the former cases, we can appraise that the products of Martin’s introductory techniques are twofold:



  1. Creating first impressions of the character: As Orson Scott Card said once, when it comes to first impressions upon introduction, we will “try to keep ourselves from acting on all our immediate judgments. But make the judgements we will, whether we like it or not—it happens at an unconscious level, like breathing and blinking and swallowing.” These characters with no POV become inwardly what we see them do or say that first time, at least until they get their own POV, wherein the author has the option of either fulfil those initial expectations or violate them.


  1. Laying out an important narrative theme for the character: Whether a writer chooses to reaffirm or overturn the first impression, he’s under obligation to show readers how it originated. And in the case of a choice like Martin’s that lands in the subversive end of the spectrum, the author must also explain why the character got such a reputation, and that necessitates going beyond pointing a finger at the culprit in that damning introduction. It requires a backstory on whether that reputation is deserved or not, on what drives that character to behave in such a way that he’s seen and judged like that.


Rachel Ballon recommends that writers should allude to a character’s “past experiences and the repercussions these experiences will have on your story before you begin [to unravel it]. All characters come to your story with a problematic past and unresolved personal conflicts, so you should have a full understanding of what these problems are right from the start—even if readers don’t see the connections until later.” And so Martin does in his introductions. For example, Jaime is presented as despicable before he throws Bran from the tower a few chapters later; and this negative introduction also lays out a key theme in his arc: the “If I can’t be the hero, let me be the monster” motif, his desire to be a chivalric paragon like Arthur Dayne that got warped into ending up as the Smiling Knight (the Kingslayer) instead. And Theon is presented as foolish and arrogant before he attacks Winterfell and kills two children in the second book; but it also establishes the origins of his identity conflict that is the root cause of his terrible actions: wanting to be like a Stark and being rejected as a Greyjoy. Correspondingly, Sandor’s introduction does have a second purpose as well, because it does focus on a detail that will determine the public perception of him for the rest of the story. Look at the end of the line:



“. . . with his terrible burned face.”



Ned’s habit of highlighting other people’s striking physical traits and/or clothing is manifest here, and through it is how GRRM directs the readers’ attention towards the Hound’s burns, as if wishing we’ll notice and wonder on what the story behind those scars might be. When we add to the equation that the truth about his disfigurement is the point when the plot takes a sharp bend for him in terms of his standing with the readership, it is so obvious that this is a subtle way of laying the foundation of his personal arc: his burning as a child and the deep psychological consequences of it he still carries. Or the origin of the Hound, in other words.



The neutral tone is still there for the most part in the mindset of the POV that second time he appears on page, in AGOT Arya I:



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.”



Following the senior Stark’s steps in noticing physicality, Arya describes his colouring and his scars first, much like her father had, and doesn’t add her judgment to this by way of assessing it all as either pleasing or displeasing, or in any manner that would influence our own perception. Neither does she hear his notorious nickname of the Hound but instead his family name of Clegane. And although in this scene he can be sized up for acting seemingly supportive of his prince on one hand and talking back to his host’s heir on the other, Arya herself remains neutral in the sense that she doesn’t comment—even if just in inner monologue—on that and on him one way or the other, nor does Jon, and instead the full weight of readers’ antipathy is channelled towards falling heavy on Joffrey, who’s judged to be “truly a little shit” for his behaviour there.



The neutrality fades completely by the third appearance, though. When Tyrion waddles his way down the stairs from the library, he overhears the prince and his guardian talking:



“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 clangour 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.”


Tyrion hopped off the last step onto the yard. “I beg to differ, nephew,” he said. “The Starks can count past six. Unlike some princes I might name.”


Joffrey had the grace at least to blush.


“A voice from nowhere,” Sandor said. He peered through his helm, looking this way and that. “Spirits of the air!”


The prince laughed, as he always laughed when his bodyguard did this mummer’s farce. Tyrion was used to it. “Down here.”


The tall man peered down at the ground, and pretended to notice him. “The little lord Tyrion,” he said. “My pardons. I did not see you standing there.”


“I am in no mood for your insolence today.” Tyrion turned to his nephew. “Joffrey, it is past time you called on Lord Eddard and his lady, to offer them your comfort.”


Joffrey looked as petulant as only a boy prince can look. “What good will my comfort do them?”


“None,” Tyrion said. “Yet it is expected of you. Your absence has been noted.”


“The Stark boy is nothing to me,” Joffrey said. “I cannot abide the wailing of women.”


Tyrion Lannister reached up and slapped his nephew hard across the face. The boy’s cheek began to redden.


“One word,” Tyrion said, “and I will hit you again.”


“I’m going to tell Mother!” Joffrey exclaimed.


Tyrion hit him again. Now both cheeks flamed.


“You tell your mother,” Tyrion told him. “But first you get yourself to Lord and Lady Stark, and you fall to your knees in front of them, and you tell them how very sorry you are, and that you are at their service if there is the slightest thing you can do for them or theirs in this desperate hour, and that all your prayers go with them. Do you understand? Do you?”


The boy looked as though he was going to cry. Instead, he managed a weak nod. Then he turned and fled headlong from the yard, holding his cheek. Tyrion watched him run.


A shadow fell across his face. He turned to find Clegane looming overhead like a cliff. His soot-dark armour 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.



The Imp’s first POV presents readers with three motives for raising an eyebrow: Sandor’s offer to put an end to Summer’s mournful howls, which is bound to rub the wrong way given the readers’ awareness of the bond between the direwolves and the children. Secondly, he makes fun of the likable dwarf which is construed as an act done for the amusement of dislikable Joffrey. And thirdly, Tyrion informs us that this man has an ominous alias we’d not known of so far, the Hound, adding his own inner judgment on the possible why of it that pre-empts free guessing: he has a temper. Any of these is likely to extort an unaffirmative predisposition towards Sandor, be it at that point or later ahead, acting as confirmatory creeping determinism by the time of the Trident.



There’s one salient detail to record here, that might be evident only in hindsight after becoming familiar with the author’s tricks of the trade and each character’s peculiarities: this is a prime example of the opposite end of introduction bias—sometimes called Imbalance and Selectivity Bias—a positive one countering the already cited examples of the negative extremity of this same technique, in which GRRM has cleverly crafted the chapter’s structure so that by measuring up to the POV character everyone else in it, save for Tommen and Myrcella, emerges forth with a negative breeze wafting over them: Joffrey is a self-centred brat that totally deserved those slaps from the only Lannister that seemingly cares a whit about Bran; his sworn shield is a waspish loudmouth that suggests to kill a poor pup and dares laugh at and dole out mock-tinged advice to his witty social superior; and the twins are a depraved pair that only ask their perspicacious brother after the dying child because they’re the cause of the situation. To render results, this technique requires that to elevate the positivity level of a character, another has to be characterised/perceived as less bright, less charming, less intelligent, less moral, less this and less that, by comparison. As an author writing in Third Person Limited style, GRRM does it so his fictional people reflect the reality of a living person’s cognitive processes, as prejudice and judgmental conclusions on sight are common due to inherent human cognitive flaws; and partly he uses it as a storytelling trick to prompt a desired visceral reaction that thenceforward he’ll be free to either heighten or subdue, or completely turn the tables on the readership. And because it’s the POV character’s thoughts, priorities and feelings on another character’s all-round self that shape and dictate first impressions and general perception to the public, this mode of narration is also formally known by literature academics as “Third Person Subjective” point of view.



From the differing openings in these three chapters, Sandor’s introduction in early AGOT can rather look like a pendulum, and continues to oscillate till the end of the book. From the neutral to the negative to the positive and back, creating character ambiguity. In literary craft, such ambiguity can be both a source of richer storytelling with deeper meaning and a source of misinterpretation. On the upside, it gives readers a chance to use their imagination and analytical skills to interpret meanings and layers in several ways, which by default makes a character more interesting and compelling. But on the downside, this makes it more challenging to assess a character, more so those gray ones that fail to fit into tidy categories; it often demands to reframe old thoughts and expectations, and that can make it more tempting to overstep the challenge by resorting to tried-and-proven and formulaic interpretations that might not relate to the textual narrative. When this type of character does possess a POV, the task is made easier, for we then can readily see what there is in their mind and contrast it to what others have seen or said; we have both versions of the tale and get the full picture. Thus, readers can judge by themselves outside of the introduction bias frame. Such a factor could play a role in why for some readers Theon’s arc feels like the most realistic and rounded-up of “redemption” arcs: he has his own chapters in the beginning, not long after being seen only through Starks, and he has them at the end; so the picture would look complete as readers had a chance to be in his head during his “bad” phase and when he’s tortured and broken down, seeing his “good” phase. And it would also have a part in why regarding Jaime’s arc the picture may not feel as complete: he gets the chance to tell his version mid-way in the story, he didn’t have a POV account during the “bad” phase that we got to know through others, and his recounting of that time past is distilled through his POV’s setting in what’s supposed to be the “good” phase.



But if moreover the character lacks a POV permanently, the task becomes thoroughly complicated. To deal with this, and formulate an available tool to dissemble the frame of intro bias with a non-viewpoint personage, the recommended authorial procedure is to show the character’s lights and shadows through a wide range of POVs with different attitudes towards him that provide with useful contrasts and counterpoints, so the absence of a POV, or being restricted to one single POV, doesn’t strip him of complexity. That, too, was Martin’s procedure from AGOT onwards: he made Sandor’s arc be what in writing studies is called a relational story, embedded in and told through his interactions with various doubly seminal viewpoint characters, each significant both for the overarching main ASOIAF plot and for his own individual plot. Through that varied assortment of accounts brought forth by Eddard, Arya, Tyrion, etc., the author signals to the audience that each POV character is tasked with supplying disparate information on the non-POV at varying points of the story, and that who/what the Hound is to each POV influences what they say and how they say it.


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So wonderful to finally have the project off and running, and it's nice to be back on the board :) Milady of York will be posting the chapter summary and analysis for Sandor I tomorrow, but in the meantime, please read her opening essay carefully, and comment as you will on her points articulated there.


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Milady, an eloquent and very informative introductory essay. It certainly highlights GRRM's masterful use of literary techniques to create such a fascinating and complex non-POV character. I await with giddy anticipation for your Sandor I summary and analysis.





So wonderful to finally have the project off and running, and it's nice to be back on the board :) Milady of York will be posting the chapter summary and analysis for Sandor I tomorrow, but in the meantime, please read her opening essay carefully, and comment as you will on her points articulated there.





It's great to have you both back. I'm confident I'm not the only one who has missed your presence. :)



I would like to extend a very special thank you to Bubug for creating our very own poster (you exceeded expectation!), as well as to Yolkboy and Lady Gwynhyfvar for showing their support by inviting us to announce the reread project and collaborate with them on the examination of Sandor's arc on Radio Westeros. If you haven't already listened to the podcast, it's a delightfully entertaining way to ready yourself for the reread (of course, carefully rereading the chapters outlined in the OP never hurts :P).



http://radiowesteros.com/radio-westeros-e11-sandor-a-knights-honour


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Great to see this re-read off to a fine start and to welcome Milady and brash back to the board!



Milady, your introductory essay is wonderful in the way you lay out the literary techniques necessary for GRRM to produce such a rich and layered non-PoV character. From the niggling mystery of the "terrible burned face", as you say, the pendulum swings throughout AGoT leaving us with an impression of a character at once brutal and chivalrous, tragically flawed, and of intriguing depth for one who appears so relatively seldom on the page. I eagerly await the analysis of Sandor I.







I would like to extend a very special thank you to Bubug for creating our very own poster (you exceeded expectation!), as well as to Yolkboy and Lady Gwynhyfvar for their support by inviting us to announce the reread project and collaborate with them on the examination of Sandor's arc on Radio Westeros. If you haven't already listened to the podcast, it's a delightfully entertaining way to prepare yourself for the reread.



http://radiowesteros.com/radio-westeros-e11-sandor-a-knights-honour





It was a great pleasure to work with you three on the Sandor episode and to announce your project there!


Yolkboy and I both wish the re-read well, and will be following here closely :)


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Thank you, DogLover and Gwyn! It's been a full year of absence, and it feels great to be back with another project we're so enthusiastic about.





I would like to extend a very special thank you to Bubug for creating our very own poster (you exceeded expectation!), as well as to Yolkboy and Lady Gwynhyfvar for their support by inviting us to announce the reread project and collaborate with them on the examination of Sandor's arc on Radio Westeros.




It was a lot of work, that poster, and Bubug ended up surprising even me. She is a huge Sandor fan, and I'm glad we gained her participation for this reread.


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I recommend reading attentively Milady’s introductory post on what is perhaps GRRM’s central aim. Many of us see primarily in GRRM’s work the project of a talented fabulist: an enthralling epic informed by myth, folklore, fantasy, historical fiction, history. But Martin has often claimed to see himself primarily as a moralist writer: what interests him foremost is the "human heart struggling with itself", a phrase which is often understood as referring to the conflicted emotions of the fictional characters, but whose meaning I extend to the real mechanisms that rule the emotional system of the reader. Martin is constantly pulling the rug under our feet, to make us reflect on our moral prejudices and to make us question our initial moral evaluations. Asking ourselves how our moral understanding is determined is just as important as asking ourselves what is the moral nature of such and such character.



Just like events are not always what they seem in Martin’s world, our protagonists' moral nature is not always what it initially appears to be. Are we really better informed by having a POV? At the risk of being provocative, let me allude to a study of Jon Snow I had been undertaking. It turns out that the saga invites a comparison between Jon and Euron, as their stories (in AFfC and ADwD) are comparable, and even run in parallel. Both became leaders following an election. Both are visionaries who broke with traditions and pursued daring policies. Even the execution of Baelor Blacktyde mirrors closely the beheading of Janos Slynt. Without drawing a moral equivalence between Jon and Euron, it seems that our perception is principally conditioned by the fact that Euron is seen through his detractors’ eyes while we follow Jon from the inside. Thus we see Euron as megalomaniac and perverse. We interpret Blacktyde’s execution as an act of tyranny, while we applaud Slynt’s beheading. To impartial eyes, those executions are rather equivalent. In my opinion, it’s worthwhile to re-examine those judgments and to consider that Euron projects an image on us which is not very different from what Jon appears to be to his men (by the time of the assassination).


Of course, this is not intended to be the start of a debate on Euron/Jon, just a tentative illustration (I hope not too eccentric!) of the point made by Milady: astute writers have literary techniques to tell their story in order to bias our moral evaluations. We see initially Sandor as a butcher, then revise our opinion, then Sandor unjustly becomes one of the most reviled man of Westeros following the rape of Saltpans. This theme of the hero unfairly, or maybe not so unfairly, seen as a monster is recurring in the series (Tyrion, Daenerys, etc) and will be fascinating to watch in the reread.


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While it’s true Arya doesn’t think anything about Sandor on that first meeting as far as we know, he does really come off as a total jerk IMO. The way he speaks with Ser Rodrick and Robb is totally disrespectful, plus he expects everyone to have all that deference toward Joffrey while he’s just a whiny little boy. I remember reading that scene and immediately thinking he was a jerk. So if GRRM’s goal was for us to dislike him at that early point of the story, it was well done - at least for me.



Another interesting thing is how much GRRM wants us to think of Sandor as a gloomy character. It’s not only his physical appearance I’m talking of – black hair and gruesome scars – but also his armour which blots out the sun, his laugh that turns into a hollow rumble thanks to his helm and even the way he looms like a cliff and the description of his long shadow we see twice in this chapter. Like he really sounds like someone you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.


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Of course, this is not intended to be the start of a debate on Euron/Jon, just a tentative illustration (I hope not too eccentric!) of the point made by Milady: astute writers have literary techniques to tell their story in order to bias our moral evaluations. We see initially Sandor as a butcher, then revise our opinion, then Sandor unjustly becomes one of the most reviled man of Westeros following the rape of Saltpans. This theme of the hero unfairly, or maybe not so unfairly, seen as a monster is recurring in the series (Tyrion, Daenerys, etc) and will be fascinating to watch in the reread.

Thanks, Bran, glad to have you here. You make good points; I confess I've been fascinated by the theme of literary manipulation for long, special emphasis on the Jaime-Theon-Sandor trio, but hadn't had a chance to explore it till now. The highlighted part of your comment is especially relevant for this reread, and ahead I'll expand on this theme of bias applied to the “butcher” impression you noted.

While it’s true Arya doesn’t think anything about Sandor on that first meeting as far as we know, he does really come off as a total jerk IMO. The way he speaks with Ser Rodrick and Robb is totally disrespectful, plus he expects everyone to have all that deference toward Joffrey while he’s just a whiny little boy. I remember reading that scene and immediately thinking he was a jerk. So if GRRM’s goal was for us to dislike him at that early point of the story, it was well done - at least for me.

Welcome to the reread, Maroucia.

We will be addressing that scene in the yard with Arya in the chapter analysis to be posted tomorrow. Right here, I'd like to point out that in the topic of bias it's important to keep in mind the type of narrative style GRRM uses: Third Person Limited, which means that the bias is created through the character whose POV it is, and the same happens with First Person narratives. In the specific case of the chapter you're mentioning, the impression doesn't come from the POV herself but from the events narrated there, and therefore the reaction in the reader could or couldn't be negative, depending on how you read and identify with the POV. Some may react negatively, and some may not, but that doesn't alter the fact that Arya herself isn't the cause of the judgment towards Sandor as much as she is for Joffrey, for example, on which both her and Jon do think negatively. In that light, her standpoint is mostly neutral.

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I recommend reading attentively Milady’s introductory post on what is perhaps GRRM’s central aim. Many of us see primarily in GRRM’s work the project of a talented fabulist: an enthralling epic informed by myth, folklore, fantasy, historical fiction, history. But Martin has often claimed to see himself primarily as a moralist writer: what interests him foremost is the "human heart struggling with itself", a phrase which is often understood as referring to the conflicted emotions of the fictional characters, but whose meaning I extend to the real mechanisms that rule the emotional system of the reader. Martin is constantly pulling the rug under our feet, to make us reflect on our moral prejudices and to make us question our initial moral evaluations. Asking ourselves how our moral understanding is determined is just as important as asking ourselves what is the moral nature of such and such character.

A beautifully articulated post, Bran Vras! Speaking specifically to Sandor Clegane, with regard to GRRM’s primary goal to reveal the “human heart struggling with itself,” what intrigues me most about the younger Clegane is not only how well GRRM meticulously unfolds this character’s personal struggle with his own moral compass, sense of loyalty, the hate and thirst for revenge he so desperately clings to that is so poignantly contrasted with his desire to be loved and his ability to forge a relationships with two special young ladies, but also how GRRM challenges us readers to constantly reevaluate and rethink Sandor and his modus operandi: it is anything but black and white and takes us readers on an emotional journey, complete with twists and turns, highs and lows. And absolutely: we are constantly challenged to reevaluate our own moral prejudices.

Just like events are not always what they seem in Martin’s world, our protagonists' moral nature is not always what it initially appears to be. Are we really better informed by having a POV?

Excellent point! Sandor, a non-POV character, appears in many POVs and is perceived quite differently by each of those POV characters (he’s feared, loathed, respected, elicits awe, is measured up, and is even loved) which builds such a deeply complex and layered character and quite possibly presents the reader with a much fuller and more objective picture than say Daenerys, a character who is largely shaped by her own POV, often with the intent of eliciting the sympathy of the reader, which underlines Milady’s points about bias.

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Thank you for the efforts involved in organizing this ambitious and intriguing task. It is difficult to reread a secondary character. Part of that is that the references are so scattered which involves far more preparation and planning compared to a POV. It is also a challenge to create a framework where the secondary character doesn't get lost in the POVs who observe or think about him or her. I think you've laid an excellent foundation and wanted to tip my metaphorical hat to the considerable organizational efforts you all have made to reach the starting point. I'm looking forward to it.






While it’s true Arya doesn’t think anything about Sandor on that first meeting as far as we know, he does really come off as a total jerk IMO. The way he speaks with Ser Rodrick and Robb is totally disrespectful, plus he expects everyone to have all that deference toward Joffrey while he’s just a whiny little boy. I remember reading that scene and immediately thinking he was a jerk. So if GRRM’s goal was for us to dislike him at that early point of the story, it was well done - at least for me.



Another interesting thing is how much GRRM wants us to think of Sandor as a gloomy character. It’s not only his physical appearance I’m talking of – black hair and gruesome scars – but also his armour which blots out the sun, his laugh that turns into a hollow rumble thanks to his helm and even the way he looms like a cliff and the description of his long shadow we see twice in this chapter. Like he really sounds like someone you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.





I had a fairly similar reaction, but in my case it was almost entirely due to the association with Joffrey. Had Sandor said the same thing on behalf of a Prince with the personality and passion for swordplay of a young Robert Baratheon I think the scene would have come across quite differently in terms of how it shades the Hound. The same lines could have been spoken by Theon in the hopes that he'd call Joffrey's bluff and they wouldn't be inherently offensive. The author is deliberately casting Joffrey in a considerably negative light. He is the embodiment of the worst qualities of every antagonist from the High School movie genre. The potential to view Sandor negatively is there, as I said that was my reaction as well, but I think it is negativity by association rather than the deliberate negative depiction we get with Joffrey.



I had an initially negative reaction to his Tyrion exchange as well, but that was mitigated by his warning that Joffrey would remember. The warning struck me as sincere despite its lack of a purely amicable delivery. That and his offer to kill Summer helped portray him as the gritty warrior type who often gives offense but also has a rather thick skin when receiving it-- at least for me on my initial read. That type isn't inherently good or bad. It can run the spectrum from a Big Bucket Wull to a Victarion to a Randyl Tarly-- well maybe Randyl's skin is a bit thin.



The book is starting off setting up this Stark/Lannister conflict. Part of Tyrion's sympathy is Martin's deliberate alignment of him with the Starks-- his concern for Bran, Jaime's quip about family, his friendship with Jon, his travelling North while his family goes South. Sandor's initial negative portrayal is through his Lannister association (Joffrey in the training yard, killing Mycah and Cersei's orders) and his "redemptive" portrayal is through his association with Sansa or through Sansa's eyes like the Hand's Tourney and his actions after Ned's imprisonment and death. The "objective" portrayal of Sandor judging from the author's application of his bias tools isn't so much about positive or negative. Those I think come (largely) from Stark or Lannister associations. Sandor is really the first character Martin ping pongs back and forth across the sympathy line and is the earliest example of the "bias of our moral evaluations" Bran Vras brought up. Jaime and Theon's journey back and forth across that line takes books while Sandor, depending on the individual reader, can cross that line multiple times in the first book.


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Excellent point! Sandor, a non-POV character, appears in many POVs and is perceived quite differently by each of those POV characters (he’s feared, loathed, respected, elicits awe, is measured up, and is even loved) which builds such a deeply complex and layered character and quite possibly presents the reader with a much fuller and more objective picture than say Daenerys, a character who is largely shaped by her own POV, often with the intent of eliciting the sympathy of the reader, which underlines Milady’s points about bias.

I definitely agree, Doglover. Many times in the course of studying and discussing Sandor Clegane, readers have expressed the wish that he had his own POV, in order for us to go deeper into his psyche and the motivations behind his behaviour. But in preparing for this reread, I think we can now fully appreciate Martin's remarkable feats with Sandor, as seeing him through this multiplicity of POVs, but largely filtered through the developing narratives of Sansa and Arya, really goes very far in establishing a textured character, one that emerges perhaps as one of the more "honest" presentations in Martin's arsenal of character portrayals.

Thank you for the efforts involved in organizing this ambitious and intriguing task. It is difficult to reread a secondary character. Part of that is that the references are so scattered which involves far more preparation and planning compared to a POV. It is also a challenge to create a framework where the secondary character doesn't get lost in the POVs who observe or think about him or her. I think you've laid an excellent foundation and wanted to tip my metaphorical hat to the considerable organizational efforts you all have made to reach the starting point. I'm looking forward to it.

Thanks so much, Ragnorak :) And it's great to have you participating with us on this endeavour. When you choose to reread a character like the Hound, you're really taking on a much greater task with respect to the larger thematic and structural framework of ASOIAF, but we expect it to be immensely rewarding and illuminating, as Milady's opening essay reflects.

I had a fairly similar reaction, but in my case it was almost entirely due to the association with Joffrey. Had Sandor said the same thing on behalf of a Prince with the personality and passion for swordplay of a young Robert Baratheon I think the scene would have come across quite differently in terms of how it shades the Hound. The same lines could have been spoken by Theon in the hopes that he'd call Joffrey's bluff and they wouldn't be inherently offensive. The author is deliberately casting Joffrey in a considerably negative light. He is the embodiment of the worst qualities of every antagonist from the High School movie genre. The potential to view Sandor negatively is there, as I said that was my reaction as well, but I think it is negativity by association rather than the deliberate negative depiction we get with Joffrey.

This is a salient point. At this stage, Joffrey has already been undermined in readers' estimation by Jon's observing of his "disdainful" look during the Winterfell feast, and the impression is only compounded by the haughty and dismissive attitude he shows in the practice yard. By seeming to support Joffrey's desire to fight with live steel and challenging Ser Rodrik, we are tempted to taint Sandor by association. However, it's Sandor's final statement directed to Robb - "I killed a man at twelve. You can be sure it was not with a blunt sword" - which establishes a curious neutrality and invites our attention to shift from the Lannister/Stark conflict for just a moment, and unto the personal experiences of this man.

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Happy that you came, Ragnorak, and thank you for sticking round to participate. I’ll wait for my Cyvasse name.



We move next to analysing the first chapter, but before I’ve got some words for Yolk and Gwyn from our artist friend, Bubug, who after listening to their Sandor: A Knight’s Honour podcast, told me to convey her appreciation and thanks to you two. She’s listened and re-listened to it, and thinks you both did a great job.


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SANDOR I


Introducing the Hound




• Eddard I (Chapter 4)


• Arya I (Chapter 7)


• Tyrion I (Chapter 9)



SUMMARY



Once upon a summer in a far, far away place up north there stood the stern-faced Lord of Winterfell in the yard of his gray castle patiently awaiting the arrival of his king, childhood friend and drinker extraordinaire, Robert Baratheon . . .



Monarchs have a propensity to take an ungodly time arriving, though, and Eddard entertained himself describing the newcomers one by one. As he gazed a keen eye over them, he spotted and described the man of our interest:



The visitors poured through the castle gates in a river of gold and silver and polished steel, three hundred strong, a pride of bannermen and knights, of sworn swords and freeriders. Over their heads a dozen golden banners whipped back and forth in the northern wind, emblazoned with the crowned stag of Baratheon.


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. The tall boy beside him could only be the crown prince, and that stunted little man behind them was surely the Imp, Tyrion Lannister.



But The Ned doesn’t say much else besides that the Hound had terrible facial scars and implying his affiliation with the crimson-and-gold camp, and that’s as far as his introduction goes. No more is shown, not a word about what else he did that day, not some amusing anecdote. Instead, he provided with plenty of backstory on his king, long-deceased people, and the scarred man’s bosses, the Lannisters. Anyhow, little Arya would give supplementary details her too busy father did not, when after escaping the needlework session with her sister, her sister’s friends, the princess royal, her retinue and Septa Mordane, she goes in search of Jon Snow and finds him perched on a window by a bridge overlooking the yard, watching his brothers engaging in a different sort of needlework with the Baratheon children. There we get to see how good a job Ser Rodrik did training the Stark boys in the art of sticking them with the pointy end as Bran trounces Tommen and Robb becomes involved in a spat with Joffrey over who makes the most and neatest stitches as well as matters of blunt vs. live steel needles, that threatens to end in a brawl when tempers flare on princely provocation, and Sandor intervenes apparently on behalf of his charge when Ser Rodrik forbids the older boys from using sharp blades:



“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.”


Arya could see Robb bristle. His pride was wounded. He turned on Ser Rodrik. “Let me do it. I can beat him.”


“Beat him with a tourney blade, then,” Ser Rodrik said.


Joffrey shrugged. “Come and see me when you’re older, Stark. If you’re not too old.” There was laughter from the Lannister men.



The altercation finishes with much cursing on one end and much laughing on the other, and without Joffrey lying flat on his back. It’s not long till this is remedied and the prince acquires a rosy-red tint in the cheeks, not actually from blushing, when one morning his uncle the Imp finds him at the yard, accompanied by his inseparable Hound, making callous comments on the comatose Bran and on killing his direwolf, and decides to drive the point home with the backhand across his face:




“A voice from nowhere,” Sandor said. He peered through his helm, looking this way and that. “Spirits of the air!”


The prince laughed, as he always laughed when his bodyguard did this mummer’s farce. Tyrion was used to it. “Down here.”


The tall man peered down at the ground, and pretended to notice him. “The little lord Tyrion,” he said. “My pardons. I did not see you standing there.”


“I am in no mood for your insolence today.” Tyrion turned to his nephew. “Joffrey, it is past time you called on Lord Eddard and his lady, to offer them your comfort.”


Joffrey looked as petulant as only a boy prince can look. “What good will my comfort do them?”


“None,” Tyrion said. “Yet it is expected of you. Your absence has been noted.”


“The Stark boy is nothing to me,” Joffrey said. “I cannot abide the wailing of women.”


Tyrion Lannister reached up and slapped his nephew hard across the face. The boy’s cheek began to redden.


“One word,” Tyrion said, “and I will hit you again.”


“I’m going to tell Mother!” Joffrey exclaimed.


Tyrion hit him again. Now both cheeks flamed.



Off goes Joffrey to do as Uncle Imp said, and Sandor is left alone with Tyrion, to whom he tells that “the prince will remember” the double slap; advice the latter doesn’t listen to and instead tells him to do his nephew the favour of reminding him of that. The Hound, asked about Jaime’s whereabouts, directs him towards the castle’s Guest House, where Cersei and the younger children are, and whistling goes Tyrion to breakfast there, leaving behind the image of Sandor going to the yard to pound whoever was luckless enough to cross paths with him.

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ANALYSIS




The main topic of the first chapter was covered extensively in a separate write-up on introduction bias contending that lumping Sandor with Jaime (and the Lannisters at large) is a deliberate authorial choice so he’d be amongst three characters set up as unsympathetic to be debunked one after the other in different fashions, a change that’d come more quickly and sooner than the rest for the Hound. The following covers other themes in the next chapters also listed.




The training of would-be knights



Seen through the lens of introduction bias, the scene at the yard was intentionally written to cause readers to choose sides in favour of the Starks and against the crown prince, who’s acting like . . . Joffrey in all his snotty glory, and when Sandor comes forward to challenge Ser Rodrik, the description of his behaviour as a supportive sidekick leaves an impression that’s damning by association.



But on delving deeper into the scene, we come up with a different conception that makes a distinction between Joffrey’s quarrel with Robb and Sandor’s own verbal sparring with Winterfell’s master-at-arms. Look at what he says here:



“This is your prince. Who are you to tell him he may not have an edge on his sword, ser?”


[…]


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



Notice the italicised emphasis by Rodrik on “training knights” when Clegane implies he’s molly-coddling the boys as if they were delicate damsels; and note also that Sandor doesn’t react to that by continuing to talk back to Cassel but clarifies his point by asking Robb about his age, and on being told he’s fourteen, he adds this:



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



Now take this exchange with Rodrik and Robb about knights and killing, and compare it to his riposte to accusations of murder at his trial by the Brotherhood:



“A knight’s a sword with a horse. The rest, the vows and the sacred oils and the lady’s favours, they’re silk ribbons tied round the sword. Maybe the sword’s prettier with ribbons hanging off it, but it will kill you just as dead. Well, bugger your ribbons, and shove your swords up your arses. I’m the same as you. The only difference is, I don’t lie about what I am. So kill me, but don’t call me a murderer while you stand there telling each other that your shit don’t stink.”



Then it dawns on us that Sandor was on another edition of his characteristic “all knights are killers” spiel, having his own separate slanging of words with the young Stark and the old knight, with Joffrey as a vehicle and an accessory to him, but that his own and his prince’s respective disputes are deliberately obfuscated and mingled in the writing in order for Sandor to be tossed into the flock of Lannister-Baratheon backscratchers dutifully laughing at Joffrey’s comebacks, to be seen as a sycophantic companion to an already established as “villainous” and unlikable character this early. Which will enable the author to game with this impression by revealing the other side of the Hound and showing that, in fact, it’s Joffrey who is somewhat in awe of and looks up to Sandor as a pseudo-father, and not the other way round as we’re supposed to think here.



But why would the Hound spout his opinion on this topic precisely here of all times? Let’s consider the circumstances of each of the two disputes, first the boys: Bran and Tommen are training to fight like knights comically overprotected with all that thick padding even on the wooden swords they use, which is understandable due to their ages and the need to not cause injuries lest Ser Rodrik is called to answer to Lord Stark and the sovereigns for it. Yet the protection appears a bit thicker than usual nevertheless, on account of Tommen’s rank. As for Robb and Joffrey, they’re older and would qualify for using steel in sword practice already, the crown prince even has one, and both are of an age that lands them square on that blurry zone of transition from boyhood to manhood when youths feel pushed by the need to prove themselves to peers and elders, to compete and demonstrate that they’ve passed childish stuff over for grown-up stuff and lack self-reliance if their manliness is questioned, all of which translates into answering to challenges with ready eagerness and aggressiveness no matter how absurd. So when Joffrey points out that he wants to use a sharp-edged sword, and he two years younger, it’s a jab at Robb’s self-image that Ser Rodrik’s refusal only makes bleed worse, so he tries to reply with his fists on further taunting. Here, Cassel has again chosen caution in trying to balance his teaching duty and the need to keep the boys out of harm’s way as well as diplomatically avoid the princes’ humiliation, that clashes with Robb’s cheerleading pride for his own and his brother’s swordfighting proficiency compared to the royal family’s performance.



On the other corner, there’s the perspective of Sandor. At the same age as Tommen and Bran, he’d discovered the harshest imaginable way what knights actually were, and had been a little younger than Robb and Joff when he bloodied his sword at the Sack of King’s Landing, a nasty business for which his overlords and brother are still remembered unkindly, and whose horrors he wasn’t spared on grounds of young age as hinted by his comment about killing his first man. Besides, from his wearing full armour to a boring routine swordplay practice at dawn in next chapter instead of one less cumbersome and his show below Ned’s tower window, it seems that Sandor is another of those who go to daily workout as if to the battlefield and we can imagine he practises realistically a la Garlan-Jon-Brienne, unceremoniously pummelling his partners as if he were in the middle of a battle and not in the middle of a training yard. So, hearing the master-at-arm’s reason for withholding sharp steel from the boys with an emphasis on honour, fair play and knightly behaviour when he asks with what right does he deny a sharp-edged weapon to a prince, it’d look to Sandor that Ser Rodrik diminishes with forethought the killing aspects of swords and thusly goes counter-current to his notion that knights are just swords with a horse and that they are for killing. His exchange with Cassel is therefore one of a disenchanted non-knight and a punctilious knight disagreeing on this quite formal training with dull-edged swords and a focus on honour and knightly codes of behaviour acting as lines of demarcation to deter any wounds accidental or not amongst these high-ranking children.




What dogs do and don’t do to wolves



From that overheard conversation between Sandor and Joffrey in Winterfell, the first noteworthy line is the former’s remark that Bran is taking too long to die. This passage contains what’s probably the earliest allusion to the gift of mercy that will continue throughout the Hound’s arc. He can’t know how this accident came to be nor would have cause to suspect that the twins are the guilty party for he had gone hunting with the hosts, the king and the prince when that happened; he’d only know the same version everyone else in Winterfell must: that Bran was on his customary climbing of the castle towers and fell, breaking his spine, and is now undergoing a slow agony that can only end in death because it’s quite far-fetched to hope that such a small boy would survive that fall. His comment that he’d wish Bran would die comes out filtered through his own view of suffering, that it’s better to end it cleanly than to leave someone to endure till the pain runs its course towards death, a view that diverges from Robert’s and Jaime’s very similar comments in that Sandor doesn’t suggest killing the boy but wishes that his agony should be short and the end swift, which we could deduce is influenced by his own experience enduring indescribable pain when he was burnt (“only a man who’s been burned knows what Hell is truly like”), that would later shape his attitude towards both giving and asking for the gift of mercy. Robert and Jaime, who’ve not experienced that sort of agony, emphasise on the challenging life as a cripple that’d await the boy were he to survive, but Sandor’s words are more in the same vein as Tyrion’s defence of the grotesques, because Sandor himself is one; it’s about sparing someone the torment of an excruciatingly prolonged yet inevitable demise, and not about renouncing life as a cripple. His words to Arya in the third book on that dying soldier and on his own “deathbed” reinforce this impression.



Then Joffrey follows with a complaint about the noisy direwolf, prompting the offer by the Hound to whack the pup into silence, that causes his prince’s mirth:



“Send a dog to kill a dog!” he exclaimed. “Winterfell is so infested with wolves, the Starks would never miss one.”



What are we to make of it, besides that Joffrey is funnily not discriminating between dogs and wolves and is a mathematical illiterate? Perhaps the answer to what could’ve possibly driven Clegane to wish ill upon poor fluffy Summer is in scrutinising the line just before the offer:



“It’s the wolf that makes the noise. I could scarce sleep last night.”



There it is: Sandor said he could dispatch the wolfling only after the prince grumbled about a sleepless night. And knowing he’s never far from Joffrey, his own sleeping quarters must be close to the Guest House, if not therein, and he’d have also been treated to a never-ending loud howling marathon that kept him up all night like it did Joff. Ahead in the same chapter, Tyrion—who’s also been awake all night but happily reading—remarks to himself that the Hound’s fuse is shorter that morning, which makes much more sense if he had the pup to thank for the tired bad mood of the day. What wouldn’t make sense is to take this seriously as a genuine proposal to bump off the wolf, though, when Joffrey himself didn’t think it was serious and laughed as he always does at his bodyguard’s brand of wit. Moreover, Sandor knows that the direwolves are their hosts’ pets and sigil, their wet-nurses as he’d call them, and he’d be aware of how great a folly it would be to ignite a potentially unpleasant incident under Stark’s own roof by killing a dear pet belonging to the hostess’s favourite child only because it is noisy; so sleep-deprived irreverence and annoyance are more conceivable reasons for speaking as he did.




Squiring for Sandor



One of the small mysteries in Sandor’s storyline is the fate of the boy that is mentioned only once as his squire, during the slapping incident in AGOT, and is never again brought into the stage or referred to. Sansa knows more about him than most and offers us the most intimate glimpses into Sandor’s life, yet seems to be unaware that he has a squire, nor mentions anyone in this role in relation to him. Neither does anyone else with a decent amount of knowledge on Sandor, least of all Cersei, his own liege lady. After he’s left King’s Landing, there’s no mention of ordering to interrogate the Hound’s squire about his master’s whereabouts the way it was done with Podrick Payne when Tyrion escaped. And before, when speaking to Tyrion about him, a squire is never mentioned by über-spy Varys, who knows Sandor’s daily routine apparently well. Even Gregor’s squires are named in the books, and one is questioned by Qyburn at one point, but not a peep is heard about the younger Clegane’s squire.



In trying to puzzle out this riddle, there are four possible explanations that come to mind:



a. ‘Tis a hole in the plot that swallowed him.


This would be the most evident explanation: the author forgot about this unnamed character afterwards, or simply left him out. In a cast of dozens and dozens of characters to keep track of, and with innumerable people mentioned only once or twice and then forgotten after they’ve served their purpose, this wouldn’t be out of place. This sort of characters, commonly called “placeholders,” have the same role as extras in TV shows and films: they make for a crowd, serve food, drive a car by, sell flowers or coffee . . . In this context, the squire appeared because a squire was needed to assist Sandor with his armour in this scene, and in later scenes he was no longer needed, so he just faded into the background.



b. The Hound doesn’t have a squire.


This one also makes a lot of sense on first glance, considering that Sandor is famous for detesting knights, and squires are essentially knights-in-training.


But then, Sandor himself is a knight in all but name, if we go by the strict definition of it as a mounted warrior. And not all squires become knights necessarily, nor are all those who become one knighted by the ser that trained them; and additionally, for noble boys, the post not only trains them for war but functions like a preparatory school for feudal lords. Even those who can’t become knights for reasons of religion, like the Northmen, do squire themselves and take boys to work as such, like Ned’s brother did. In this light, it wouldn’t go against Sandor’s stance to take a boy to squire and train him in the martial arts, prepare him to be a good Lannister man-at-arms if he’s a commoner or spare son, or a martially proficient feudal master if the boy is of the aristocracy. He has a reputation as a great fighter, isn’t known for mistreating his men like his brother, he’s in the intimate circle of a powerful House, and he has money for a boy’s upkeep, so there’d certainly be candidates to work for him.


Then there’s another reason, of more importance: armour. That full plate armour knights and noblemen wear to tourney and battlefield isn’t easy to put on all by oneself, and requires assistance from helping hands. When boys are training, the first things they learn are to use a wooden sword and about the different parts of armour, the basic ABC’s so to speak, and that’s why they’re assigned to cleaning weaponry and helping their masters to put armour on. Of course, Sandor isn’t always in plate armour; he’s described in the books wearing chainmail and boiled leather too, simpler to put on without help. But still, he does wear plate like in this chapter, and later often enough to need helpers. And let’s not forget that this is the man who criticised Ser Hugh of the Vale for arming himself without aid (and getting killed by Gregor for that mistake), and who also mentioned to Joffrey “the bother” that arming oneself can be; it would be neglectful to the point of stupidity for him to relinquish the services of a boy conscientious in his squiring duties.



c. The Imp was mistaken.


Tyrion might’ve been using the term “squire” rather loosely, as in a blanket description encompassing the grooms and servants swarming round Sandor and Joffrey alongside the proper squires, so that boy wouldn’t be a squire really. But this brings us back to the problem addressed above of how unlikely it is that Sandor would dispose of such help or take just any random groom or stableboy to assist him with armour. Alternately, that boy was a squire for sure, only not Sandor’s personal one; which sounds likelier when we factor in that Tyrion doesn’t live at court and wouldn’t necessarily be aware of all household minutiae, so he honestly thought it was the Hound’s boy. Which brings us to the following point . . .



d. ‘Twas one of the Lannister household squires.


Another explanation is that the boy was a House Lannister squire, either one of Joffrey’s or one of those serving all the knights employed by Cersei in her personal detachment of guards that Sandor was commanding at the time. This finds support in Arya’s observation of the yard squabble that mentions Joffrey surrounded by “young squires in the livery of Lannister and Baratheon.” It’s not uncommon for wealthy nobles and royals to have several squires at once and not just one: Robert has two, Gregor has two, Jaime has three, etc., so it’s probable that Joffrey has more than one as well, and as the prince’s shield and queen’s man, Sandor is entitled to take on anyone else in their service from man-at-arms to stableboy as required for the heir’s safety. Therefore, if he doesn’t have a personal squire, he makes use of Joffrey’s squires or a household one paid by his superiors to serve a number of knights at once, both of which would be well-trained enough to satisfy the Hound’s standards for efficiency.



Personally, option A and option D resonate as the most plausible, and both are compatible too, as one doesn’t negate the other and can even be combined, like that the boy could be a Lannister squire serving Sandor, who was either forgotten or wasn’t important enough for the author to show onstage again.




Of Hounds and Imps



On the animosity between Sandor and Tyrion a lot has been theorised, but as GRRM hasn’t included an explicit backstory for it—or hasn’t revealed it yet if there’s one—all that we have for now is a general notion that it was written for thematic relevance to the plot, which required both men to be at cross purposes for narrative reasons, into which the author hasn’t given any insight and that could stay as is or be expanded on later.



Reasonable inferences do however come from looking past the scope of this chapter specifically at the Lannister family dynamics. The seeds of this enmity could’ve been planted in the Tyrion-Cersei rivalry that, as we saw during their Queen Regent vs. Hand of the King feuding in ACOK, can drag into the fray everyone round them working for their divided House, and even humble domestic hirelings are involved with all that bribing and counter-bribing for espionage. And because both siblings have been at it practically since the younger one was born, Sandor would’ve been drawn into the conflict as soon as he set foot in front of Cersei to be sworn in as her shield. Or earlier, because he’d first gone to Tywin at Casterly, who chose Sandor to guard his daughter, and would’ve implicitly allowed the friction to thrive bearing in mind his own attitude towards his dwarf son. In any case, it’s possible that this fledgling dislike between both men was just that at the beginning: simple mutual dislike and swapping of reciprocal derogatory words, and it flourished over the years as Sandor tested his mettle as the queen’s dog and proved himself loyal whilst Tyrion’s relationship with his sister grew worse. Both men are equally prone to smartarsery and sassing others, and in the case of the Imp there’s his tendency to intentionally push everyone’s hottest buttons by mouthing off to them on volatile topics, like the slaps he got from Cersei for tweaking her nose on the incest or the tooth he lost to Jorah’s knuckles for the khaleesi; so he might have also mouthed off to Sandor at some point on very touchy matters (his inner thought on Sandor’s face is a hint) either alone with the big man or during some confrontational scene between Lannisters. And the Hound doesn’t lag far behind in paying the Imp with the same “gold” either, with the acquiescence of the queen.



Whatever the causa originalis was, Sandor has served successively Tywin, Cersei and Joffrey, precisely the three out of the six lions forming the nucleus of House Lannister who happen to be at odds with Tyrion and hate him; so independently of Clegane’s work for them as originator or not of this hostility, the intrafamilial dynamics should’ve at a minimum thrown more wood on the fire by creating plenty of opportunities for both to engage in their outspoken exchanges.



Back to the current scene, there’s more to their conversation than their matching mouthiness. Here, Joffrey has amply earned a good cracking across the face for his behaviour, but he’s still the heir to the throne and in the Seven Kingdoms to hit a royal is a punishable offence regardless of the justness of motivations. This is an uncle berating a bratty nephew, yet when the brat’s mummy is Queen Cersei this puts Sandor in a tricky position because he was assigned by her to protect her precious boy. Joffrey likely knows his father the king will just wave it away as not worth his time if he complained of a few slaps that did nothing to his face other than redden it, so he threatens to tell Mother, who has a track record of reacting strongly to any insult and injury to her firstborn, like when she told Robert she’d kill him if he hit Joff again or the Trident incident we’ll discuss later. If Mother were told, she would summon Sandor post-haste to do some explaining for merely standing there as the prince was struck.



Sandor does more than stand by and observe, though; he speaks up:



“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.”



This is much like the advice he’ll later give Sansa on how to behave with Joffrey to save herself some pain; advice that he’ll repeat a second time when he reencounters Tyrion in King’s Landing. Guard your tongue, stay your hand, don’t bring it on yourself, this prince isn’t one to forgive. That’s essentially all he’s recommending. But Tyrion’s tongue is his blessing as well as his curse, and by now Sandor has lived amongst lions for long enough to expect that the Imp won’t pay any heed to his forewarning, and he laughs knowingly. Retrospectively, his was a good point seeing how Tyrion’s second time hitting Joffrey during the bread riots was used as proof against him at his kingslaying trial, where this incident at Winterfell goes curiously unremembered. Which might indicate that, in the end, Joffrey didn’t tell Mother nor did the Hound.


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I’m in awe, Milady. I would have never thought of all those details you explained so well. I was just reading your essay and nodding steadily.


On the matter of the squire I’d go with D even though it’s much more farfetched.


I cannot wait to read all you have prepared and get to know Sandor Clegane better.


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Hello, everyone! I’ve spent the past few months coming to this site and reading as often as possible. In fact, I did my own little “re-read-along” with the From Pawn to Player threads, where I was thrilled by the insights offered up by the users of this board. It was nice to see corroboration of some of the conclusions I’d drawn but even better to feel challenged to take a third or fourth look at situations presented in the book and to try and understand others’ well-thought out deductions. I really regret not having been around for past discussions, and I’d like to thank everyone who participated in the Sansa threads for all their hard work and consideration.



I’ve recently started listening to RadioWesteros (please keep up the good work, Lady Gwyn and yolkboy!), and last night I had the chance to hear the latest podcast, which mentioned the imminent Sandor Clegane reread. It struck me as an opportunity to sign up and participate in something meaningful. I hope to be able to contribute to this discussion, though anything I add probably won’t be very academic or profound.



So… thank you all for the past efforts and, especially, for this new opportunity to analyze Sandor, a person who, in my opinion, is one of the most intriguing – and, perhaps, most misunderstood – characters in A Song of Ice and Fire. Milady of York's introductory post and recent summary/analysis of Sandor I has already got me thinking and organizing my thoughts! Milady, you've got a truly elegant writing style.



PS – Writing this first post was so intimidating! Having spent so much time reading the thoughts and opinions of the members of this board, but at the same time being separated by months and, sometimes, years with regard to those opinions, it’s strange to finally address you all. I’m creeping myself out here, so I’ll stop, but… srsly, can i have ur autografs??


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Agreeing with all the praise towards the users who will take care of this reread, I'll follow it religiously :read:



Hoping to not step beyond the boundaries of chapter 1 or future events, but I'd like to point out that the following passage introduces us a "guest" that will come back more than once.


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.

According to Milady of York, if I did read correctly, Sandor is introduced to the reader by three very different POVs whose perceptions modify the reader's attitude towards the younger Clegane.


Call it crackpot if you want, but I don't think that Tyrion's meeting with Sandor is the first one to cast a negative light over the disfigured man: more like, the first "negative" impression of Sandor comes out exactly with the Hound's (or maybe the Hound's helm) appeareance on scene.


The helm and the Hound persona walk really close to each other, both for thematic reasons (I mean, that helm's basically a metallic dog head) and as an ominous spectre over the smallfolk, as we will see in the future.


If that helm brings some kind of improvement to Sandor Clegane, it's merely aesthetic.


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.


As far as the dynamics between Sandor and Tyrion, until GRRM tells us something more concrete, I'll believe that the two don't bode well togheter because Clegane can't stand the Imp's witty remarks, since unlike Joffrey he's pretty spot on about people's meanings behind their words or actions.


Thanks for the reread!


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An excellent analysis, Milady, and I quite enjoyed the storytelling style you used to write the summary :)



The point you highlighted about Sandor's conversation with Ser Rodrik being an early evocation of his "knights are for killing" doctrine is spot on, and shows just how Martin was in firm control of his characterisation even from this early scene. It would have been easy to dismiss Sandor as just another Lannister lackey, but as I also noted in my earlier post, his statement to Robb manages to shift our attention to his personal narrative, one that has already been teased by the "terrible burned face" description that Ned makes when he arrives at Winterfell. As you noted in your bias overview, we're constantly challenged to rethink our assessments about the Hound, and it's often via his interactions with Starks and what they and the circumstances developing around them prompt him to reveal about himself. He is yet to directly meet the Stark girls at Winterfell, but we are able to glean important facts and clues from his association with their brothers. No one could have foreseen it at that moment in the training yard, but Robb would very soon need to use live steel, and all of the Stark children would have to grow up very quickly and painfully.







What dogs do and don’t do to wolves



From that overheard conversation between Sandor and Joffrey in Winterfell, the first noteworthy line is the former’s remark that Bran is taking too long to die. This passage contains what’s probably the earliest allusion to the gift of mercy that will continue throughout the Hound’s arc. He can’t know how this accident came to be nor would have cause to suspect that the twins are the guilty party for he had gone hunting with the hosts, the king and the prince when that happened; he’d only know the same version everyone else in Winterfell must: that Bran was on his customary climbing of the castle towers and fell, breaking his spine, and is now undergoing a slow agony that can only end in death because it’s quite far-fetched to hope that such a small boy would survive that fall. His comment that he’d wish Bran would die comes out filtered through his own view of suffering, that it’s better to end it cleanly than to leave someone to endure till the pain runs its course towards death, a view that diverges from Robert’s and Jaime’s very similar comments in that Sandor doesn’t suggest killing the boy but wishes that his agony should be short and the end swift, which we could deduce is influenced by his own experience enduring indescribable pain when he was burnt (“only a man who’s been burned knows what Hell is truly like”), that would later shape his attitude towards both giving and asking for the gift of mercy. Robert and Jaime, who’ve not experienced that sort of agony, emphasise on the challenging life as a cripple that’d await the boy were he to survive, but Sandor’s words are more in the same vein as Tyrion’s defence of the grotesques, because Sandor himself is one; it’s about sparing someone the torment of an excruciatingly prolonged yet inevitable demise, and not about renouncing life as a cripple. His words to Arya in the third book on that dying soldier and on his own “deathbed” reinforce this impression.






Another great observation, and one that gives useful context to what would appear to be simply an off-hand callous statement. The exchange between two Lannisters and the Hound also sets up an important fact to bear in mind regarding the Hound's relationship with this family: Sandor's power only goes so far as the duties he is obligated to perform for the Lannisters. He does not have the leverage of Tyrion Lannister, who can boldly slap his nephew and order him to go give his regards to the Starks without having to fear too much about Cersei's reprisals.



I also felt the passage where Sandor offers to kill Summer holds some potential symbolic relevance:



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.


Just as he is fitted with the Hound's helm is when he makes this dire pronouncement, he becomes the Hound before our very eyes, wearing not only the armour, but assuming the kind of harsh, uncaring persona that goes along with it. Joff's response to this is also ironic, and marks the first hint of Sandor's eventual alignment with the Starks:



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.”


Later on, as we all know, Robert will declare: "Get her a dog, she'll be happier for it."






Hello, everyone! I’ve spent the past few months coming to this site and reading as often as possible. In fact, I did my own little “re-read-along” with the From Pawn to Player threads, where I was thrilled by the insights offered up by the users of this board. It was nice to see corroboration of some of the conclusions I’d drawn but even better to feel challenged to take a third or fourth look at situations presented in the book and to try and understand others’ well-thought out deductions. I really regret not having been around for past discussions, and I’d like to thank everyone who participated in the Sansa threads for all their hard work and consideration.








Welcome to the thread, Ornitorrinca! Thank you for the lovely comments on the PTP and I'm very happy to hear you enjoyed the content there. I hope you have a productive and fun time participating with us now in Rereading Sandor.


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Excellent and very thorough analysis Milady!



I find it interesting that Ned first sees Jaime and Sandor together with descriptions of both. Despite the obvious contrast in their physical appearance, there's some intruiging points of comparison between the two. Both are identified by their monicker early and through the books. Jaime must surely resent his Kingslayer monicker, and I'm sure Sandor's relationship with the Hound will be looked at in this reread. Both have defining moments related to fire, and perhaps they're also paired together in Bran's coma dream, with descriptions that are so similar to Ned's immediate impression here.





Hello, everyone! I’ve spent the past few months coming to this site and reading as often as possible. In fact, I did my own little “re-read-along” with the From Pawn to Player threads, where I was thrilled by the insights offered up by the users of this board.





Welcome to the boards!



And best of luck to Milady, Doglover and Brashcandy! An awesome team and subject matter :cool4: .


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