Milady of York

The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor II

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ANALYSIS

To start of with - Some points people often overlook

To start the analysis, there are some things about the discussion Sansa and Sandor have that people often overlook.

The first is that Sandor is already on top of the Red Keep when Sansa arrives, the second is that although Sansa admits that he scares her on general principles, she is comfortable enough around him that she can challenge his opinions openly without fear of repercussions from him, and although he ends up putting his sword next to her throat, she does not once indicate a worry that he will hurt her with it. In fact, just afterwards she expresses a wish that Dontos would be better with some of the Hound's ferocity. Given these facts, it puts a unique light on how strangely safe Sansa feels in Sandor's company, despite his strange and often unpardonable behaviour towards her.

<snip>

Excellent analysis, Lyanna Stark! And my apologies for such a late reply--I've had a heck of a time trying to get on this site!

Great analysis, Lyanna :) I'm glad you started out with those points that people often overlook, one of which is that Sandor is already atop the roof when Sansa arrives, which tells us a lot about his mindset as the battle approaches, especially knowing that he will have to fight in the suffocating and hellish atmosphere caused by all the burning on both sides. It brings to mind the old saying "you don't fight fire with fire," a memo that Cersei and Tyrion certainly didn't receive if their interplay during dinner in the following chapter is anything to go by.

The beginning of Sandor and Sansa's conversation is firmly connected to the events at the bread riot: Sansa is still suffering from the traumatic after effects of the violence there, and Sandor is still sulking from not being thanked like the true knight he claims he isn't ;) It makes for their own "fighting fire with fire" moments as both challenge and provoke the other with incendiary comments. The difference between their conversation and the one shared between Cersei and Tyrion, however, comes down to the matter of genuine affection and concern vs. the barely concealed contempt that characterizes the siblings' relationship. Despite taking her time to thank him, there's no doubt that Sansa is profoundly grateful for the Hound's rescue of her that day; and despite his attempts to downplay his heroics, Sandor's moodiness speaks to an underlying desire to have Sansa's appreciation, something which would not matter if he was not developing strong feelings for her.

Beautiful analysis, Lyanna! I've always loved how you put so much enthusiasm into them and make them so entertaining and thought-provoking at the same time.

In this chapter, Sandor comes out as ruder than in any previous occasion because the viewpoint character that is narrating this episode, who also happens to be the person he tends to open up with the most and be more candid with, has found him at the end of the day when he's likely been there for hours, and the accumulation of factors have put him in an awful mood that he's now displaying.

I agree with the three of you! The interactions between Sandor and Sansa thus far have been under different circumstances, but the two always seem to be able to express their true feelings to one another, especially when under the radar of others, even if words and actions aren’t always appropriate (specifically thinking of Sandor here). At the king’s nameday tourney, they clicked as a co-parenting unit, providing support to Tommen; and during the Serpentine stairs scene, both fell into an easy interaction with one another wherein Sansa showed genuine interest in learning about Sandor and Sandor was happy to recount how his family earned their lands and sigil. The interaction between Sandor and Sansa here reminds me a bit of couples who fight and do their best to push the other’s buttons. Both Sandor and Sansa are obviously under emotional duress, experiencing fear, anxiety, annoyance with one another, and, for Sandor, perceived rejection when Sansa averts her eyes, and hurt that she didn’t thank him for saving her. While Sansa was slow in thanking Sandor, and she was certainly grateful, would Sansa have promptly thanked Loras Tyrell or even Balon Swann if they were the one to rescue her? Considering Sandor's harsh words, it's very likely he assumes she would have, adding to his hurt and irritation:

Sansa hugged herself, suddenly cold. "Why are you always so hateful? I was thanking you..."

"Just as if I was one of the true knights you love so well, yes. What do you think a knight is for, girl? You think it's all taking favors from ladies and looking fine in gold plate? Knights are for killing."

Does Dontos seem a bit like Littlefinger?

“If you thanked him for making you a fool, he’d make you a knight again,” Sansa said sharply.

Dontos chuckled. “My Jonquil’s a clever girl, isn’t she?”

“Joffrey and his mother say I’m stupid.”

Let them. You’re safer that way, sweetling. Queen Cersei and the Imp and Lord Varys and their like, they all watch each other keen as hawks, and pay this one and that one to spy out what the others are doing, but no one ever troubles themselves about Lady Tanda’s daughter, do they?”

“Give your Florian a little kiss now. A kiss for luck.” He swayed toward her.

Sansa dodged the wet groping lips, kissed him lightly on an unshaven cheek, and bid him good night.

You're right! Great observation! It's as if Littlefinger has his very own mini-me.

Yes, I often find that people somehow interpret Sandor as having stalked Sansa to the rooftop, only to be mean and threaten her with his sword after having done so. At a closer look though, it's clear that is not what is actually going on, given that he was already there, how he is clearly pre-occupied with death, dying, killing and the ever frightening fire. His goal with going up to the roof of Maegor's was most likely the same as Sansa's: to get away. He did not come there to either harass or threaten Sansa, and interestingly, while he certainly scares her and she finds him and his anger unsettling, she is still not afraid enough to leave once he lets her go, or to avoid contradicting him and questioning him. After the conversation is done, she quickly reflects that she'd like Dontos to have some of the Hound's ferocity, too.

Absolutely, and while Sansa thinks to herself that she hates how Sandor talks, she never thinks that she hates him even when he’s behaving his worst and frightening her. The only people she thinks she hates are those who've done her harm. I also agree that Sandor is misinterpreting Sansa's reaction to him, in that she can and does look at him and isn't bothered by the scars.

Edited by DogLover

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It was primarily a gesture to emphasize his point, a bit of theatrical mummery. Other meanings can certainly be read into it but we got our baseline for judging this gesture last chapter.

Joffrey stood in the center of the throng, winding an ornate crossbow. Ser Boros and Ser Meryn were with him. The sight of them was enough to tie her insides in knots.

“Your Grace.” She fell to her knees.

“Kneeling won’t save you now,” the king said. “Stand up. You’re here to answer for your brother’s latest treasons.”

“Your Grace, whatever my traitor brother has done, I had no part. You know that, I beg you, please—”

“Get her up!”

The Hound pulled her to her feet, not ungently.

I killed a man last night who was bigger than your father. They came to the gate shouting my name and calling for bread like I was some baker, but I taught them better. I shot the loudest one right through the throat.”

“And he died?” With the ugly iron head of the quarrel staring her in the face, it was hard to think what else to say.

“Of course he died, he had my quarrel in his throat. There was a woman throwing rocks, I got her as well, but only in the arm.” Frowning, he lowered the crossbow. “I’d shoot you too, but if I do Mother says they’d kill my uncle Jaime. Instead you’ll just be punished and we’ll send word to your brother about what will happen to you if he doesn’t yield. Dog, hit her.”

Both Sandor and Joffrey make a gesture with a deadly weapon. Both also talk of men they've killed in the past. Yet Sansa's reactions to these two scenes couldn't be more different. She is desperately deferential to Joffrey even calling her own brother a traitor. With Sandor she gives it right back to him. Not even the men across the river? And keeps giving it. Lord Stannis is no coward.

I agree that his meaning was to emphasise his point; looking at the sequence, note at what moment he unsheathes his sword:

“Just as if I was one of those true knights you love so well, yes. What do you think a knight is for, girl? You think it’s all taking favors from ladies and looking fine in gold plate? Knights are for killing.” He laid the edge of his longsword against her neck, just under her ear. Sansa could feel the sharpness of the steel.

He does it right after saying that knights are for killing, and with what do knights kill? With a longsword, their emblematic weapon and that sets them apart from other fighters.

But there's a glaring phallic symbolism here, too, that cannot be sidestepped. A longsword has been used in classic literature to signify sexual desire, and, less frequently, also as prelude to a future relationship of the carnal sort. The phallic symbolism existed for very long; the sword as symbol of male aggression and as a phallus simile is so old that we'd have trouble tracing its origins; the practice of holding a sword like a phallic symbol and even taking oaths with a hand on the groin or on a sword is widespread in ancient cultures with Biblical and Koranic influences, two books that whack you over the head with such symbolism; but its connection to sexual relations and marriage is rather more recent, in relative terms, and isn't arbitrary either: it comes from the use of swords during marriage ceremonies in late Antiquity and early Middle Ages (in certain areas of Europe) where the groom would present or be presented with a sword, usually the family sword, on his wedding day, when he was expected to consummate and thus carry on with the tradition that the sword stood for. To make things even more obvious, the Romans' word for the scabbard was the same we currently have for the ladies' parts, vagina, which means "sheath." And yes, they did have the same "both kinds of swords" joke that Cersei told: gladius, their characteristic regulation sword, was also Latin slang for the gentlemen's parts. From the Middle Ages, there's a German lied that literally compares a man and a woman's union using schwert (sword) and scheide (scabbard) as metaphors; and it seems like the Teutonic period literature is more overt in the use of this symbolism than the Anglo-Norman one; for instance, Wagner preserved in the Nibelungenlied operatic cycle this symbolism with Siegmund and Sieglinde, the parents of Siegfried the Dragonslayer: in a scene he has Siegmund pull out a sword from a tree and then embrace Sieglinde sitll holding it in a . . . non-brotherly way, let's say. And this is just one example.

There's one interesting medieval ritual that I think might also be applicable here on a meta-textual level, that's called "the kiss of the sword." In next chapter, we have Joffrey calling Sansa "like a dog" to kiss his new sword, which she does dutifully, all the while wishing him to fail. This is significant for two reasons: that historically, kissing the sword of your liege lord or king was the way to renew oaths of fealty and promises of fidelity to them; and here Sansa is mentally invalidating the meaning of her gesture to the king. Secondly, that knights kissed their swords before entering battle for protection, because the belief was that to kiss the cross-like hilt of the sword would invoke the protection of God. If a lady did it for them, then it meant greater luck, since they were untarnished by shedding others' blood themselves and their purity was more pleasing to the heavens, thus ensuring that the knight would get the "blessing." Joffrey's demand that she "bless his sword" with a kiss is proof that GRRM has taken this ritual for his world and that it has the same meaning in Westeros.

Of course, Sandor isn't asking her to do this for him, not after proclaiming he's not a true knight and therefore wouldn't follow this ritual, nor can he even if he were one and wanted to, because she's not his lady. She's the king's lady. And yet, he is nevertheless doing it by placing his sword on her, thus conveying the image of a maiden blessing a knight's sword before he enters battle, invoking the protection of the gods for him. The fact that she kisses the king's new toy with reluctance and then in the sept it's the Hound she prays for to the Mother to "save him if she can" does reinforce this meta-textual imagery. She "blessed" his sword, and he survived the conflagration.

Adding to your comparison, with Joffrey that symbolism is wholly absent, because a crossbow cannot carry the same metaphorical weight as a sword (or a lance/spear, if not) can. Not only is there a difference in comfort and discomfort from the girl as well as in the level of threat: Sansa knows Joffrey can beat her bloody, and can have her life at any moment. Yes, she hears him tell that Mother Said prevents him from killing her, but that doesn't ease her fear any, for she still has a horrible moment when she thinks the Kingsguard is going to slit her throat open with his sword. Sandor, however, she knows won't do it because he has a track record of doing the contrary where she is involved. Besides, he's not giving her a reason to even entertain the idea that the sword will harm her, as Joffrey did. Also, note that Joffrey was intentionally trying to scare her, he directly pointed the crossbow at her face and threatened her life, so that makes her fixate on the weapon pointed at her. With the longsword, she only notes the feel of the edge, which tells a couple of things: Sandor placed the edge of the sword, not the point, which is sharper and could unintentionally scratch her neck and draw blood. And she doesn't feel nor describe the sharpness of the blade, which indicates he placed it carefully and perhaps softly, or otherwise she'd have felt the sharpness. Those swords are sharp as razors, and she'd have felt it for a certainty, so either he barely touched her skin with the edge, or her comfort/lack of fear allowed her to not pay attention since there was no real threat to her.

Edited by Milady of York

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@Lyanna Stark: "Why does he draw his sword and proceed to put it against Sansa's throat? Do we have a hive-mind verdict on this, or what are your thoughts? Motive? Meaning?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I see so many more potential interpretations to this scene than I did the first time I read it.

* I don't know which of you coined the term "SandorSpeak" but this is an appropriate descriptor of Sandor's words - and actions. He is so busy insisting and demonstrating to Sansa that he is Not A Ser here...but, the Hound, he doth protest too much. Sandor is quite accustomed to having people fear his face, as evidenced by the reaction of the mob (30 to 1 but they fled his face!) It's sad for him, but it is also powerful. So, he chides Sansa for not looking at him when he grabs her arm. Yet when she does look directly at him, she looks right past his face and deep into his angry eyes. Sansa does not fear him like others do...and that is a colossal loss of power. He responds by saying things designed to scare and disgust her but she keeps looking at him. Even the vicious comments about Lord Eddard's death fails to make her look away or leave. He puts his sword to her throat and recites a litany of 'how many I've killed'. Sansa doesn't scream or faint or cry or beg. She doesn't seem to even flinch; she argues with him! (Aren't you afraid you are going to some terrible hell? You're awful. True knights protect the weak.) The encounter only ends when Sandor tells her to go away because "...I'm tired of you peeping at me." I suspect he meant peeping at his face more than arguing with him. Sandor's facial injury has lost the power to scare Sansa - his anger frightens her, but mostly he just made her angry here. How disconcerting that must have been for him.

* Sansa: "Does it give you joy to scare people?" "No, it gives me joy to kill people." (Said Sandor, trying to scare her.)

* When Sandor lifts his sword from her throat, Sansa sums it up nicely in her thoughts, "He is a dog, just as he says. A half-wild, mean-tempered dog that bites any hand that tries to pet him, and yet will savage any man who tries to hurt his masters."

* In the next Sansa chapter we get this very telling passage: "I would be gladder if it were the Hound," Sansa thought. Harsh as he was, she did not believe Sandor Clegane would let any harm come to her.

* This 'sword' moment ties nicely to an upcoming scene where Littlefinger quizzes Sansa regarding the dangers of the naked blade versus the hidden dagger. Sansa immediately responds that the hidden dagger is more dangerous. She should know; she has spent an inordinate amount of time tiptoeing around King's Landing afraid the least little 'hidden' thing could set off Joffrey. But she didn't cringe at Sandor's sharp blade at her throat. She knows he is not going to kill her. Not only did he save her from the ravening hordes in the Bread Riot, but he just grabbed her arm to 'save' her from falling (or jumping) from the top of the Red Keep.

Other random thoughts:

* Sandor asks what kind of gods make someone like the Imp or Lollys. But unspoken he must have added "What kind of gods make a monster like Gregor?"

* Sandor insists to Sansa there are no 'true knights'. I believe he thinks there are no true ladies. But Sansa persists in behaving as a lady toward him, looking at him, trying to practice her courtesies despite everything that has happened. She talks with him honestly and argues with him, person to person. She is disrupting his worldview when he intended to dispel her illusions of 'true knighthood'.

* Again we see Sandor emerging from the shadows into the light.

* Sandor admits to Sansa that he is afraid of "All this burning." That is a momentous confession for him.

* The smoke blotting out the stars here reminds me of the smoke eating the stars during Winterfell's burning.

ETA: I thought I posted this earlier but found it sitting in draft. Now I see other responses; I will go back and read them.

Edited by Avlonnic

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...

You're right! Great observation! It's as if Littlefinger has his very own mini-me.

...

:lmao:

Stannis Baratheon...

Sandor knows Stannis as he sat on the Council for years. He is a younger brother like Sandor. He has (or had) a contentious relationship with his older brother like Sandor, but Sandor also seems to have a good deal of respect for Robert. Or at least who Robert was on the battlefield. Stannis crushed the Iron Fleet at sea which is no small task. Sandor likely had some contact or experience with that victory even if indirectly as he seems to have been involved in the battle at Pyke. Stannis held Storm's End during the siege and rewarded Davos in a manner not dissimilar to House Clegane's own origins. Stannis also commands a rather impressive amount of loyalty from his men as they stayed with him despite his considerable underdog status, the change in religion, and will later still be marching with him in a dreadful blizzard-- a testament that is not diminished by some Mountain Clans calling it Autumn's Kiss. Stannis is a man with whom the loyalty currency Sandor transacts in is most highly valued.

What does Sandor make of Stannis Baratheon?

He almost certainly believes the incest charge. If he didn't know about it prior to the letters he would know Stannis would never lie about such a thing and he would have his own long list of fragmented observations to piece together the truth. (As a side note Sandor in many ways resembles Dontos's description of the ignored Fool who overhears everything-- half Fool, half pseudo-Kingsguard knight for Cersei but never buyable.) Is the dirty little skeleton in the family closet known as incest the type of thing that would strike a chord with Sandor over the dirty little Clegane secret that are his scars? Does Stannis publicly making a charge and seeking justice resonate with him as the justice he wanted as a small boy? Is it as foolhardy a mission as Sansa's naïve wishes? Would he just not care or not think about it?

Does his denial of the gods have anything to do with Stannis, who might have appealed to him on at least some levels, taking a god of fire? Sansa is clearly the ground zero catalyst for him and this scene demonstrates plenty of evidence for that. But Sansa is not really the primary reason why he came up to this roof at this moment to survey the future battlefield and soak in the reality of the imminent future. Stannis is that reason even if only because he is the bringer of red war. What siren song called Sandor the roof to contemplate his doom?

I agree that his meaning was to emphasise his point; looking at the sequence, note at what moment he unsheathes his sword:

“Just as if I was one of those true knights you love so well, yes. What do you think a knight is for, girl? You think it’s all taking favors from ladies and looking fine in gold plate? Knights are for killing.” He laid the edge of his longsword against her neck, just under her ear. Sansa could feel the sharpness of the steel.

He does it right after saying that knights are for killing, and with what do knights kill? With a longsword, their emblematic weapon and that sets them apart from other fighters.

But there's a glaring phallic symbolism here, too, that cannot be sidestepped. A longsword has been used in classic literature to signify sexual desire, and, less frequently, also as prelude to a future relationship of the carnal sort. The phallic symbolism existed for very long; the sword as symbol of male aggression and as a phallus simile is so old that we'd have trouble tracing its origins; the practice of holding a sword like a phallic symbol and even taking oaths with a hand on the groin or on a sword is widespread in ancient cultures with Biblical and Koranic influences, two books that whack you over the head with such symbolism; but its connection to sexual relations and marriage is rather more recent, in relative terms, and isn't arbitrary either: it comes from the use of swords during marriage ceremonies in late Antiquity and early Middle Ages (in certain areas of Europe) where the groom would present or be presented with a sword, usually the family sword, on his wedding day, when he was expected to consummate and thus carry on with the tradition that the sword stood for. To make things even more obvious, the Romans' word for the scabbard was the same we currently have for the ladies' parts, vagina, which means "sheath." And yes, they did have the same "both kinds of swords" joke that Cersei told: gladius, their characteristic regulation sword, was also Latin slang for the gentlemen's parts. From the Middle Ages, there's a German lied that literally compares a man and a woman's union using schwert (sword) and scheide (scabbard) as metaphors; and it seems like the Teutonic period literature is more overt in the use of this symbolism than the Anglo-Norman one; for instance, Wagner preserved in the Nibelungenlied operatic cycle this symbolism with Siegmund and Sieglinde, the parents of Siegfried the Dragonslayer: in a scene he has Siegmund pull out a sword from a tree and then embrace Sieglinde sitll holding it in a . . . non-brotherly way, let's say. And this is just one example.

There's one interesting medieval ritual that I think might also be applicable here on a meta-textual level, that's called "the kiss of the sword." In next chapter, we have Joffrey calling Sansa "like a dog" to kiss his new sword, which she does dutifully, all the while wishing him to fail. This is significant for two reasons: that historically, kissing the sword of your liege lord or king was the way to renew oaths of fealty and promises of fidelity to them; and here Sansa is mentally invalidating the meaning of her gesture to the king. Secondly, that knights kissed their swords before entering battle for protection, because the belief was that to kiss the cross-like hilt of the sword would invoke the protection of God. If a lady did it for them, then it meant greater luck, since they were untarnished by shedding others' blood themselves and their purity was more pleasing to the heavens, thus ensuring that the knight would get the "blessing." Joffrey's demand that she "bless his sword" with a kiss is proof that GRRM has taken this ritual for his world and that it has the same meaning in Westeros.

Of course, Sandor isn't asking her to do this for him, not after proclaiming he's not a true knight and therefore wouldn't follow this ritual, nor can he even if he were one and wanted to, because she's not his lady. She's the king's lady. And yet, he is nevertheless doing it by placing his sword on her, thus conveying the image of a maiden blessing a knight's sword before he enters battle, invoking the protection of the gods for him. The fact that she kisses the king's new toy with reluctance and then in the sept it's the Hound she prays for to the Mother to "save him if she can" does reinforce this meta-textual imagery. She "blessed" his sword, and he survived the conflagration.

Adding to your comparison, with Joffrey that symbolism is wholly absent, because a crossbow cannot carry the same metaphorical weight as a sword (or a lance/spear, if not) can. Not only is there a difference in comfort and discomfort from the girl as well as in the level of threat: Sansa knows Joffrey can beat her bloody, and can have her life at any moment. Yes, she hears him tell that Mother Said prevents him from killing her, but that doesn't ease her fear any, for she still has a horrible moment when she thinks the Kingsguard is going to slit her throat open with his sword. Sandor, however, she knows won't do it because he has a track record of doing the contrary where she is involved. Besides, he's not giving her a reason to even entertain the idea that the sword will harm her, as Joffrey did. Also, note that Joffrey was intentionally trying to scare her, he directly pointed the crossbow at her face and threatened her life, so that makes her fixate on the weapong pointed at her. With the longsword, she only notes the feel of the edge, which tells a couple of things: Sandor placed the edge of the sword, not the point, which is sharper and could unintentionally scratch her neck and draw blood. And she doesn't feel nor describe the sharpness of the blade, which indicates he placed it carefully and perhaps softly, or otherwise she'd have felt the sharpness. Those swords are sharp as razors, and she'd have felt it for a certainty, so either he barely touched her skin with the edge, or her comfort/lack of fear allowed her to not pay attention since there was no real threat to her.

I love the sword blessing comparison. I confess that I also find the crossbow hilarious in that phallic context because it is universally decried in this series as "inadequate." That's even worse than having a name like Littlefinger and always getting associated with daggers.

The striking thing about Sandor drawing the sword is just how non-threatening Sansa finds it. She is under constant threat and hypersensitive to threatening gestures from her traumatic captivity and she doesn't even react in the slightest to the gesture. If anything she in fact finds it comforting as she wishes her wrongly identified protector could manifest a more aggressive nature.

Unlike her mother Cat, Sansa seems fond of swords. Aside from her love of Tourneys she also fondly recalls her brother practicing in the yard like when Tommen reminds her of Bran.

TWOW spoiler:

Catelyn had no love for swords, but she could not deny that Ice had its own beauty.

Outside the window she could hear the laughter of the washerwomen at the well, the din of steel on steel from the ward where the knights were at their drills. Good sounds.

The drawing of the sword gesture is essentially the same as his BwB speech before his trial.

A knight’s a sword with a horse. The rest, the vows and the sacred oils and the lady’s favors, 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. ...

We also have him talking about Ned's dance but we know from Arya that's another thing that bothers him boiling up under the surface.

“I did.” His whole face twisted. “I rode him down and cut him in half, and laughed. I watched them beat your sister bloody too, watched them cut your father’s head off.”

The essence of his speech here is also the essence of his upcoming confession to Arya after winning his trial by combat.

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Of course, Sandor isn't asking her to do this for him, not after proclaiming he's not a true knight and therefore wouldn't follow this ritual, nor can he even if he were one and wanted to, because she's not his lady. She's the king's lady. And yet, he is nevertheless doing it by placing his sword on her, thus conveying the image of a maiden blessing a knight's sword before he enters battle, invoking the protection of the gods for him. The fact that she kisses the king's new toy with reluctance and then in the sept it's the Hound she prays for to the Mother to "save him if she can" does reinforce this meta-textual imagery. She "blessed" his sword, and he survived the conflagration.

Love this post, Milady, and the idea that Sandor receives a symbolic blessing for his longsword when he places it at Sansa's neck. Concerning the phallic imagery represented by the sword, I wanted to highlight how it contrasts with the violent dream Sansa has once she leaves Sandor, which ushers in her first menstruation. We know that when Sansa first arrives on the roof, Sandor catches her right as she feels the first stab of pain in her stomach, which nearly causes her to fall. This is obviously an important rite of passage for Sansa, and while the violence of the dream is connected to the trauma she suffered at the bread riot and the fear she feels about what it means for her relationship with Joffrey, it's significant that Sandor was the one who helped to protect her at the riot and gave her his cloak when Joffrey had her stripped in the throne room. Instead of the violent imagery of the daggers that cut her stomach into ribbons, Sandor's sword could be seen as prefiguring Sansa's womanhood in a "not ungently" and reassuring manner, and importantly, one that does not elicit any objection on her part.

Edited by brashcandy

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From the Middle Ages, there's a German lied that literally compares a man and a woman's union using schwert (sword) and scheide (scabbard) as metaphors; and it seems like the Teutonic period literature is more overt in the use of this symbolism than the Anglo-Norman one; for instance, Wagner preserved in the Nibelungenlied operatic cycle this symbolism with Siegmund and Sieglinde, the parents of Siegfried the Dragonslayer: in a scene he has Siegmund pull out a sword from a tree and then embrace Sieglinde sitll holding it in a . . . non-brotherly way, let's say. And this is just one example.

The Swedish word for scabbard is the exact same as for a woman's genitals, as an aside.

I love the sword blessing comparison. I confess that I also find the crossbow hilarious in that phallic context because it is universally decried in this series as "inadequate." That's even worse than having a name like Littlefinger and always getting associated with daggers.

Hah, yes. If we are looking at further metaphors in the same vein, and more about Littlefinger in this comparison, he's doubly unlucky since not only is he associated with daggers as phallic imagery, but if we are looking at songs and singing as metaphors for sexual relations, then together with Tyrion "my wife needs no more songs" Lannister, Petyr "life is not a song" Baelish doesn't look like he will be getting any anytime soon. No swords, no songs. Ouch. He might end up with his head on a spike on the walls of Winterfell though.

The striking thing about Sandor drawing the sword is just how non-threatening Sansa finds it. She is under constant threat and hypersensitive to threatening gestures from her traumatic captivity and she doesn't even react in the slightest to the gesture. If anything she in fact finds it comforting as she wishes her wrongly identified protector could manifest a more aggressive nature.

Yes, this is remarkable and something worth taking note of. From this I think we can at the very least draw the conclusions that:

- Sansa doesn't think Sandor is a threat to her life, or that he means to injure her

- She feels safe enough with him to contradict him (and even tell him her very honest opinion of him "You're awful" which I don't think she'd say to anyone else in KL) even when she thinks how she hates the anger in his eyes and the angry way he speaks

- As you state, even if she disagrees with his nihilistic view of the world, she still takes some of it onboard as potentially useful information and wishes Dontos was more like Sandor

We also have him talking about Ned's dance but we know from Arya that's another thing that bothers him boiling up under the surface.

“I did.” His whole face twisted. “I rode him down and cut him in half, and laughed. I watched them beat your sister bloody too, watched them cut your father’s head off.”

The essence of his speech here is also the essence of his upcoming confession to Arya after winning his trial by combat.

Yes, I noticed that as well, how he references Ned's death and as we know it is later listed among his regrets in his confession. He's rattling off quite a few things pointing in the direction of him having thought a lot about how his service to the Lannisters have panned out. I wonder if he like Jaime wondered how he wanted to be Ser Arthur Dayne but ended up as the Smiling Knight.

Edited by Lyanna Stark

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Love the analyses by all involved and wanted to add to the conversation about the pre-battle conversation.



It seems like, given what we hear in later chapters about Sandor’s regrets, that we don’t really know his world views, despite his loud and frequent pontification about love of killing, the weak being prey, and how using strength to hurt has conferred him no guilt, etc… His name is Sandor. It rhymes with candor. But it isn’t exactly the same thing.



When I take into account his later reckonings with Arya, in which he recounts his regrets, it seems to give his words to Sansa here a different light. For instance:



“Here’s your truth. Your precious father found that out on Baelor’s steps. Lord of Winterfell, Hand of the King, Warden of the North, the mighty Eddard Stark, of a line eight thousand years old . . . but Ilyn Payne’s blade went through his neck all the same, didn’t it? Do you remember the dance he did when his head came off his shoulders?”



Though harsh, mean-spirited and insensitive, Sandor isn’t saying he hates or even doesn’t respect Ned, his title, lineage, or even honor. Rather it seems (especially when viewed with the quote Rag shared above) that he’s saying powers inferred through offices, respect of accomplishments and family names, importance in hierarchy, don’t protect you.



Same too, the comforting crutches of faith, or that the institutions like knighthood, designed to offer leadership, guidance, and protection, don’t protect you.


His message to Sansa is that she should not look to any of these comforts and ideals to keep her safe, and in order to get that message through, he takes the tactic of deconstructing those deep-seated beliefs that she has. I think he believes in protecting the weak, that there is such thing as sin (or evil) which he feels he’s committed, just that you can’t rely on institution to keep you safe.



In the first version of this thread there was some discussion on chivalry and stories and songs for knights and men in our own world in the times reflected in ASoIaF. The research (by Milady) was eye-opening and wonderful, particularly the idea of prescriptive stories which acted as a code of conduct or exemplars of the times after whom mean should model their behavior. It’s pretty clear that in Martin’s world, if the songs and stories are meant to be prescriptive, they are very rarely followed as such. I love that part of Sandor that shows the codes and songs don’t provide much of guideline for conduct that is actually followed by most, least of all by those whose fellowship treats them as canonical, but he does. He’s the exception to the rule and the man who believes that the world is awful, but that he doesn’t have to be.



I think he hopes Sansa will see the awfulness of the world and not become it. Maybe he hopes she could change it, but he certainly wants her to survive it, and I think he articulates that in his own (Sandorspeak) way.


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@Lyanna Stark: "The Swedish word for scabbard is the exact same as for a woman's genitals, as an aside."

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The things I learn on this board never cease to amaze! Thanks to everyone for their comments and especially for the summary and analysis. Terrific job.

I agree that Sandor has been doing some soul-searching. By the rules he has lived with, he has attained an honorable, prestigious position as the Sworn Shield of the King. He has served Cersei and Joffrey faithfully. As he watches how unjustly Sansa is treated, I suspect he is ruminating on his role in it all. Sandor shared with Sansa that his own father chose to cover up Gregor's abuse of Sandor, thereby facilitating Gregor's subsequent crimes. Now Sandor's job is to protect Joffrey, but if he protects Joffrey, does he not enable Joffrey's continued abuses, especially with respect to Sansa? No wonder he snarls that the world is awful. We've seen the same regrets expressed by Jaime and Barristan regarding Aerys.

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* Sandor asks what kind of gods make someone like the Imp or Lollys. But unspoken he must have added "What kind of gods make a monster like Gregor?"

There are two sides to Sandor's statement: if there are no gods to punish evil deeds, there are no gods to reward good deeds either, so his nihilistic stance is more complex than it appears from this conversation. Like most of what he believes, it’s been shaped up both by his own experience with Gregor, whom gods didn’t punish and men rewarded, and by his service to the Lannisters. His masters are quite atheistic in their worldview; all three Lannister children are irreverent towards the gods and religion in general, so we can assume their father is much similar, though outwardly they don’t go against religion and sometimes even pretend piety, like Cersei. In that environment, it’s easy to see how he’d develop such a worldview as well. And yet, ironically, he is one of the few characters closely associated to the three major religions in the books: thanks to Thoros, he must know quite well the R’hllor doctrine and his trial was by R’hllorist rite; he is connected to the Old Gods through his actions on behalf of Sansa and Arya and maybe at Winterfell he found out a thing or two about this worship, and he’s currently with the Faith, where he ended after a prayer to them. For an atheist, this is funnily remarkable and possibly will have meaningful plot implications; the Hound doesn’t believe in the gods, but the gods do believe in the Hound, metaphorically speaking.

His words on why would the gods create people like Lollys and the Imp speaks of an attitude that is very common in people who’ve suffered a lot in life and that as a result have lost faith or become atheistic. When it pertains to religion, suffering usually results in either becoming closer to religion or walking further from it, with very rare middle-ground cases, and in those that go for the latter, one frequent question they use in arguments against the existence of god or gods is: “If there is a loving and just God up there, why does he allow …?” inserting anything from sickness to war to poverty to injustice, phrased in a variety of different ways, or simply the usual “Why?” Why does calamity X happen if there’s some Supreme Power above? Some will answer that it’s a trial of true faith and the recompense in the other life will compensate for this and others will say that there are no gods or that they’re too sadistic/disinterested/whatever to bother with the struggles of mortal creatures. Sandor has gone for this latter belief, and as black-and-white as it sounds, it by no means indicates a certain attitude towards the crippled as much as being a testament to his deep disillusionment. Coming from him, it’s his own version of Sansa's “true knights protect the weak” or they are no true knights, because true gods wouldn’t be so cruel as to allow so much wrong in the world, ergo they don’t exist.

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Does his denial of the gods have anything to do with Stannis, who might have appealed to him on at least some levels, taking a god of fire? Sansa is clearly the ground zero catalyst for him and this scene demonstrates plenty of evidence for that. But Sansa is not really the primary reason why he came up to this roof at this moment to survey the future battlefield and soak in the reality of the imminent future. Stannis is that reason even if only because he is the bringer of red war. What siren song called Sandor the roof to contemplate his doom?

I'd guess that Sandor went to the roof because he knew the battle plan already, because his next chapter shows Tyrion talking to Cersei about needing Sandor and Balon Swann as army commanders for the Lannister mishmash troops, and considering that the Imp has been planning this for days and days, it stands to reason that he already told Sandor what was going to happen. And as I mentioned, even if he didn't, the Hound doesn't need much to piece all together from just observing and listening the men talk. He should know his side is vastly outnumbered and with someone with no battle experience as the supreme leader, whereas on the other side there's a good commander, the best one still on the field after Robb so far as he knows, with a large fleet and more knights than his side has. The odds are too great and they cannot expect help from Tywin to arrive in time. Plus, he knows firsthand how a good song about sacking sounds like. He was in one. And this time, he's in the seemingly losing side. Any of this would suffice to cause a man to pause and reflect, more so when he's dealing with conflicting loyalties, an unrequited attraction (so he thinks) to a girl out of his reach, bigger responsibilities, the possibility of defeat and dying, and his worst fear at once.

I don't believe his statement on the gods has to do with Stannis' god of fire, nor do I believe he was specifically referring to him when he said "only cowards fight with fire." Reading the passage, seems like he's making a comment in a general manner, and the "cowards" would include just about anyone who uses fire as a weapon, and if he was aware of the battle plan, then that would include Tyrion too. If he meant to single out Stannis as a coward, he'd not have agreed with Sansa when she says he wasn't and he replies that he's not Robert either. Considering how hot-headed and hasty Robert could be in battle, that sounds more complimentary than damning. And Sandor, even though he does readily recognise Robert was a great fighter on an individual level, something he respects, he doesn't hold a high opinion on him at all if we go with his condemnation of his as a king: he fought, drank and whored and that's the summation of his life as a monarch. Overall, Stannis comes out as the Baratheon most respected by the Hound, even though it's less evident, an opinion the rest of House Lannister shares, as at least they recognise he's the biggest of their pains in the back precisely because of the conjuction of conduct and command skills.

Edited by Milady of York

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Great write up Lyanna! I have been meaning to comment for a while but was not able to do so sooner because of: one- real life, two- board issues making it really difficult to get on here for days after an episode airs, and three- getting caught up in the rant and rave of the last episode. But I digress.

This interaction with Sansa and the next one in her room after the BBB are my favorites because of their emotion and intensity. I think it's a really good point to stress that Sandor was up on the rooftop first and he may have been up there for some time before Sansa showed up contemplating his life and his outlook in it. It has been pointed out that the odds are not looking good in general for the defenders of King's Landing, Stannis is a formidable opponent, and he has the fire on top of everything else and Sandor admits that he could die out there this time and it is often during such bleak times as this, with the notion of death and fear all around, that one tends to take stock of their life an do some good old fashioned self reflection. I agree with Old Gimlet Eye that Sansa challenges his outlook on life just as he challenges hers and yet she manages to unnerve him. I think the end of their encounter proves this because for all that Sandor keeps telling Sansa to look at him and often demands her scrutiny, at the end of their heated exchange he is the one to tell her to leave because he's sick of her looking at him. "Now fly away, little bird, I'm sick of you peeping at me." Really"? He's sick of her looking at him? He practically begs her to do that every time he sees her.

I don't have much to add to the other comments about why Sandor draws his sword and places it near Sansa's neck and why Sansa does not appear to be afraid when he does this, though I loved the ideas put forth by Milady as to it representing a sort of good luck kiss. And yeah the phallic imagery is strong with this one. We can compare this to Sansa's next chapter, not to get too much ahead, in which Joff commands Sansa to kiss his sword which she does reluctantly and while wishing him ill in her thoughts. I also loved Ragnorak pointing out the contrast between Sansa's composure here with her abject terror when she is made to appear before Joff and he points the crossbow at her (and the constant reminder throughout the series of how inadequate a weapon a crossbow is LOL).

Of Gods and Prayers - Is there anybody out there?
Sandor claims there are no Gods and in the beginning of the chapter Sansa seems inclined to agree with him, yet Dontos cautions her when she tells him she wants the Great Sept of Baelor burned.

Quote

Dontos claimed they sent him, yet Sansa is peeved that he has not yet taken her home. As we discussed whether Dontos or Sandor is the "real" Florian sent to Sansa as an answer to her prayers, this could be a rather ironic constellation with Sandor the God-denier being the answer to a prayer. And on a more general note of prayers answered: will the Great Sept of Baelor end up burnt to the ground? Will the Gods hear Sansa's prayer for Sandor (which is yet to come)? Is he himself a somewhat ironic answer to a prayer?

I think the answer is yes to all three questions. Good call on the Sept of Baelor being burned. It does appear that the Stark girls (or maybe this pertains to all the followers of the Old Gods who pray as Ragnorak had mentioned in an earlier post that Sam's prayer to be saved was answered and Sam has adopted the Old Gods) prayers are being answered in indirect ways and now that Lyanna has pointed out that Sansa wants the Sept to be burned I am convinced that will happen. As for the second question about will the Gods hear Sansa's prayer for Sandor, I have a feeling that that is what his time on the Quiet Isle is about and we should look at this prayer again when we get to that chapter. I also did a little reading ahead to Sansa's next chapter and I have a comment about Sansa's prayer to the Mother that I am saving for when we get to that. Someone remind me when we get there :-) And yes, I think he is an answer to her prayer for a true knight.

Here's a question I have for everyone. What do you all make of this line when Sansa is remembering how the Hound saved her during the riot and she thinks: "The Hound leapt at them, his sword a blur of steel that trailed red mist as it swung. When they broke and ran before him he had laughed, his terrible burned face for a moment transformed."? It suggests to me that in that moment when he was acting as a true knight and saving her that it was a moment of sheer joy but not because he was the butcher of these people as he referred to himself here (nice call back to his killing of Mycah the butcher's boy by the way), but because he was saving her and doing what he always wanted to do when he dreamed of being a knight as a boy. It sounds to me kind of like what Tyrion will describe as the battle fever.

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@Elba the Intoner: "'The Hound leapt at them, his sword a blur of steel that trailed red mist as it swung. When they broke and ran before him he had laughed, his terrible burned face for a moment transformed.'? It suggests to me that in that moment when he was acting as a true knight and saving her that it was a moment of sheer joy but not because he was the butcher of these people as he referred to himself here (nice call back to his killing of Mycah the butcher's boy by the way), but because he was saving her and doing what he always wanted to do when he dreamed of being a knight as a boy."

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I like this interpretation of Sandor's face reflecting the joy of fulfilling his childhood dream of saving the maiden and behaving as a 'true knight'. Nice catch.

When Sandor waded into the rabid fray to retrieve Sansa, the odds must have seemed staggering. This enraged crowd had just butchered Ser Preston Greenfield, the Kingsguard, and the High Septon. Yet he forged ahead, likely expecting to die...only to have all those people - just stop and run away? Wow. They had him thirty-to-one but Sandor thinks they ran away because they feared his face (harmless) more than his sword (fearsome). (There are a lot of potential themes beneath that scene. The power of having people fear you. The fact that people fear the wrong things: they should fear the comely Joffrey or the lovely Cersei more than the scarred Hound. The poignant irony that his facial mutilation may have helped to save Sandor's life and, by extension, Sansa's. The idea that unrestrained laughter can transform his angry face into something sublime. And so on...)

Musing slightly off-topic: after this scene, I thought about the mountain clan of the Burned Men. If they made Timmett a red hand for burning an eye, would they make Sandor a whole red arm or some type of 'red king'? (A wish for WOW.)

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I also loved Ragnorak pointing out the contrast between Sansa's composure here with her abject terror when she is made to appear before Joff and he points the crossbow at her (and the constant reminder throughout the series of how inadequate a weapon a crossbow is LOL).

The contrast is even more noteworthy if we recall that when Boros Blount first drew his sword during the court room beating, Sansa was initially terrified that he meant to slash her throat. Now Sandor is actually placing his sword next to her throat and she doesn't have the slightest expression of fear. It highlights just how much she now trusts him, and how far their relationship has come. Before, Sansa interpreted Sandor's behaviour via Joffrey's commands - he was distinct in large part from the other KG because Joff didn't use him to beat her as the others did. Now she understands that his treatment towards her is based on his own judgement and that she doesn't have a reason to fear him, a view we later see her expressing once the battle starts and she wishes Sandor was there instead of Ilyn Payne. Despite his complaints that she still won't look at his face, Maegor's illustrates Sansa beginning to "see" the Hound for who he really is.

Here's a question I have for everyone. What do you all make of this line when Sansa is remembering how the Hound saved her during the riot and she thinks: "The Hound leapt at them, his sword a blur of steel that trailed red mist as it swung. When they broke and ran before him he had laughed, his terrible burned face for a moment transformed."? It suggests to me that in that moment when he was acting as a true knight and saving her that it was a moment of sheer joy but not because he was the butcher of these people as he referred to himself here (nice call back to his killing of Mycah the butcher's boy by the way), but because he was saving her and doing what he always wanted to do when he dreamed of being a knight as a boy. It sounds to me kind of like what Tyrion will describe as the battle fever.

Nice interpretation and one that I support.The line is fairly ambiguous, but the use of "transformed" indicates that some significant change occurred, and it's connected to the crowd breaking before him and running away. It does link to an elemental part of Sandor's character, where he rejoices in the power and skill he possesses. This is a moment that he's very proud of, as he will later mention it to Arya, and even here at Maegor's appears a little tiffed that Sansa didn't come to thank him right away. So that transformation is tied to a feeling of pride and satisfaction as he rescues Sansa and performs as a true hero.

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Well, I feared I was missing out on such great discussion while bedridden with the flu for the past few days.

The first is that Sandor is already on top of the Red Keep when Sansa arrives, the second is that although Sansa admits that he scares her on general principles, she is comfortable enough around him that she can challenge his opinions openly without fear of repercussions from him, and although he ends up putting his sword next to her throat, she does not once indicate a worry that he will hurt her with it. In fact, just afterwards she expresses a wish that Dontos would be better with some of the Hound's ferocity. Given these facts, it puts a unique light on how strangely safe Sansa feels in Sandor's company, despite his strange and often unpardonable behaviour towards her.

Sansa knows she can give it right back without fear of repercussion, that's for sure. She does hold back on making a Gregor dig:

"So long as I have this," he said, lifting the sword from her throat, "there's no man on earth I need fear."

Except your brother, Sansa thought, but she had better sense than to say it aloud.

This strikes me as Sansa holding back from issuing what she knows would be a low blow, not out of fear of repercussion. She also is thinking about what she's saying while confronting Sandor, unlike "popping off" to Joffrey when she says maybe Robb will bring her Joffrey's head and her comment about Janos Slynt, so her words are quite deliberate.

And, of course, there’s another Stark girl who can dish it out to the Hound without fear of reprisal. But we’ll get to that soon enough.

I don't believe his statement on the gods has to do with Stannis' god of fire, nor do I believe he was specifically referring to him when he said "only cowards fight with fire." Reading the passage, seems like he's making a comment in a general manner, and the "cowards" would include just about anyone who uses fire as a weapon, and if he was aware of the battle plan, then that would include Tyrion too. If he meant to single out Stannis as a coward, he'd not have agreed with Sansa when she says he wasn't and he replies that he's not Robert either. Considering how hot-headed and hasty Robert could be in battle, that sounds more complimentary than damning. And Sandor, even though he does readily recognise Robert was a great fighter on an individual level, something he respects, he doesn't hold a high opinion on him at all if we go with his condemnation of his as a king: he fought, drank and whored and that's the summation of his life as a monarch. Overall, Stannis comes out as the Baratheon most respected by the Hound, even though it's less evident, an opinion the rest of House Lannister shares, as at least they recognise he's the biggest of their pains in the back precisely because of the conjuction of conduct and command skills.

I’ve also interpreted the “only cowards fight with fire” as a general statement, rather than specific to Stannis. Sandor would also know better than to underestimate an opponent, Stannis especially. The comment might mean something later since Sandor will soon be considered the coward for refusing to follow what was essentially a suicide mission, including by Gregor, as we’ll get to in ASoS.

Here's a question I have for everyone. What do you all make of this line when Sansa is remembering how the Hound saved her during the riot and she thinks: "The Hound leapt at them, his sword a blur of steel that trailed red mist as it swung. When they broke and ran before him he had laughed, his terrible burned face for a moment transformed."? It suggests to me that in that moment when he was acting as a true knight and saving her that it was a moment of sheer joy but not because he was the butcher of these people as he referred to himself here (nice call back to his killing of Mycah the butcher's boy by the way), but because he was saving her and doing what he always wanted to do when he dreamed of being a knight as a boy. It sounds to me kind of like what Tyrion will describe as the battle fever.

Great observation, Elba. I like your take. Sandor is in the “moment.” Much like a professional athlete who experiences “full-court vision," (or battle fever, as you stated) Sandor is in instinct mode and working on pure adrenaline doing something he's trained to do all of his life, similar to Jaime when he finally had a sword back in his hand and sparred with Brienne.

Milady, your post on the longsword as phallic symbol is absolutely fantastic! Even this interaction between Sandor and Sansa, when they’re both in understandably foul moods and sniping at each other, has sexual undertones. When Sandor first expresses his attraction to Sansa, who has yet to flower, on the Serpentine stairs he catches himself and says she's still young. Here, Sansa experiences the first pangs of menstruation, and it’s Sandor who is there to catch her, and, with the sword to the throat, makes a sexual gesture. As brashcandy noted upthread, this is important to keep in mind when we get to the night of the Battle of the Blackwater (and then again when Sansa has her dream at the Vale).

Edited by DogLover

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It sounds to me kind of like what Tyrion will describe as the battle fever.

That's pretty much my interpretation too, Elba. Since Sansa is our viewpoint, and she's never seen a man truly fighting, not just training, her description of Sandor's expression reads as if he was in ecstasy. And she's not wrong in that at all.

Sandor is in what is colloquially known as "battle frenzy" (and other slang) in military circles and as "acute stress reaction" in shrink circles. It happens because, when a man is in the middle of a dangerous situation as combat is, the adrenaline levels rise high and together with it the level of endorphines, the hormones responsible for feeling good. As a result of this chemical onslaught, the man ends up experiencing feelings of elation, even joy, once it has passed and starts laughing, sometimes hysterically, as a stress relief response. This is so well-known that there's even war poems describing it, like Wilfred Owen's, a poet-soldier during WWI that described it in these verses:

"Merry it was to laugh there,

Where death becomes absurd and life absurder."

And these:

"Their senses in some scorching cautery of battle now long since ironed,

can laugh among the dying unconcerned."

Not all men react like this, others might cry or have distinct reactions, but the cause is the same. In the books, there are three characters who experience this, and laugh merrily during combat, all of them quite skilled and veterans in combat: Asha Greyjoy, Jaime Lannister, who told Cersei he only felt alive in battle and in bed, and Sandor, who told Sansa that killing was the sweetest thing there was.

And if we consider the hormone releases during combat and perilous situations, we can see why the latter two would say that: the feeling of elation during dangerous and thrilling situations is due to the dopamine, the same hormone that is released during orgasm (and when you're in love, too), and some people get more of a kick from this dopamine response than others do due to their personal brain network. In this context, the feeling is quite similar to climaxing, which gives a whole new meaning to "transformed" when you think of it and tells you how Sandor's face looked like during that moment.

This is also something non-combatants can experience, like when practising extreme sports, for example, or during common but physically demanding sports like football, because some footballers have likened scoring a goal to sex. This is, however, a passing experience and doesn't attenuate the long-term negative effects of combat PTSD.

Edited by Milady of York

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Milady - fascinating insight and amazing poetry. Thanks for sharing.

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Sandor V

The Great Battle

Sansa V (ACoK) Chapter 57
Davos III (ACoK) Chapter 58
Tyrion XIII (ACoK) Chapter 59

Sansa VI (ACoK) Chapter 60
Arya X (ACoK) Chapter 64

Summary

We open with Sansa’s perspective and the consonance and dissonance of song at the dawn of the battle. Much like our overarching musical theme of ice and fire, the opposing songs of the Mother and the Warrior frame this chapter with Sandor as the chorus leader of the distant song of battle. Aside from his off-screen sounds the Hound also appears twice in Sansa’s thoughts, first in her prayers in the sept and second in her wish for him instead of Payne as a protector.

Our camera then switches to the apprehensive Davos amidst the invading fleet. In this battle caution is the coin Stannis intends to use to buy time and caution is the coin this smuggler has always used to buy his life. Davos sees the Hound charge on horseback onto the deck of the first ship to make ground showing us that Sandor understands the caution and time dynamic at play as well as the strategic significance of the Blackwater itself as their first line of defense.

Davos’s up close and personal wildfire hell is transitioned into Tyrion’s distant view of the terrible beauty. Images of fire dominate the beginning of the chapter. The middle is Tyrion’s tactical assessment leading to him believing a sortie must go forth which leads to the end where he confronts the Hound and then chooses to lead the sortie himself.

We then transition back to Sansa sitting with Cersei among the noblewomen in Maegor’s as we hear the version of the events we’ve just witnessed being brought back to Cersei’s ears. The Hound is mentioned twice. The first is news of his assault on the archers that Davos witnessed and the second is that Ser Osmund has taken his place as Joffrey’s protector. Sansa recalls gossip that Osmund is as strong as the Hound only younger and faster which she views with skepticism. Sandor is also thematically present in the songs of Jonquil and Florian and Aemon the Dragonknight that are played, Cersei’s revelation of Payne’s true role as an executioner and not protector echoing back to Sansa’s last chapter, as well as in Cersei’s exchange with Sansa over prayers which is a theme that connects Sandor to both Sansa and Arya.

Analysis

Sandor the Broken Man?

If one can forgive the sin of looking forward in a reread, Sandor is destined for the Quiet Isle—the place of Broken Men. Here we witness his “breaking” which is the start of the imperfect parallel. His upcoming journey will bear certain similarities to the Broken Man’s tale, it is also markedly different. The inaccurate rumors spawned by his notorious helm actually track far better with the Broken Man theme which seems to be a clue that Sandor’s own journey is a different one. This would include his “breaking” here.

For reference here is the Broken Man’s tale from Septon Meribald but keep in mind our reread isn't at the Broken Isle yet, just the breaking point:

“Ser? My lady?” said Podrick. “Is a broken man an outlaw?”
“More or less,” Brienne answered.
Septon Meribald disagreed. “More less than more. There are many sorts of outlaws, just as there are many sorts of birds. A sandpiper and a sea eagle both have wings, but they are not the same. The singers love to sing of good men forced to go outside the law to fight some wicked lord, but most outlaws are more like this ravening Hound than they are the lightning lord. They are evil men, driven by greed, soured by malice, despising the gods and caring only for themselves. Broken men are more deserving of our pity, though they may be just as dangerous. Almost all are common-born, simple folk who had never been more than a mile from the house where they were born until the day some lord came round to take them off to war. Poorly shod and poorly clad, they march away beneath his banners, ofttimes with no better arms than a sickle or a sharpened hoe, or a maul they made themselves by lashing a stone to a stick with strips of hide. Brothers march with brothers, sons with fathers, friends with friends. They’ve heard the songs and stories, so they go off with eager hearts, dreaming of the wonders they will see, of the wealth and glory they will win. War seems a fine adventure, the greatest most of them will ever know.
“Then they get a taste of battle.
For some, that one taste is enough to break them. Others go on for years, until they lose count of all the battles they have fought in...

From the origin of his tale we see the differences. Sandor was well disillusioned with idealistic songs long before he set off in service of some lord as his many exchanges with Sansa have already demonstrated. He was not common born or inexperienced with arms. He was the son of a landed knight in a House that had considerable favor of its wealthy High Lord. He would have been trained for knighthood, combat and leadership in battle much like any lord’s son.

He deliberately sought out the service of the Lannisters as a means of protection from his brother unlike the future Broken Man who marches with his brother. The very thing that shattered his youthful idealism is what led him to a lord’s service unlike the typical Broken Man in the making for whom idealism is the call. It is the fear of death that breaks the man, but as Sandor freely admits to Arya later it is fire and not death that he fears and his belly for battle is just fine.

His later arrival at the Quiet Isle will serve to draw our attention to comparing him and the Broken Man. The fact that the inaccurate rumors of The Hound fit better with the actual Broken Man’s tale should serve to draw our attention to the differences. Here in Sandor V we are concerned mostly with what “breaks” him. On the surface it is the fire and not the battle. Digging deeper we have a mirror image of the Broken Man. The loss of idealism shatters the Broken Man while there is a return to idealism at play that cracks Sandor. His one-time protectors from Gregor are sending him into the fire just like Gregor did and that fire has illuminated that in his Lannister service “I stood there in my white cloak and let them beat her.”

The Symbolism of Ships

The ship names, especially in Davos, seem fraught with foreshadowing. “Harridan was only now getting her oars into the water” seems to be a reference to the Queen of Thorns and the Tyrells about to enter the Game. “Davos saw the enemy’s Kingslander drive between Faithful and Sceptre. ... Sceptre had lost most of her oars, and Faithful had been rammed and was starting to list” seem to foreshadow the impending conflict between the crown and the Faith Militant. There are many others but these seem to refer to Sandor: Dog’s Nose and Loyal Man.

but the fiery heart had been raised over Joffrey’s Loyal Man.

He saw Black Betha burning, and White Hart and Loyal Man to either side. Piety, Cat, Courageous, Sceptre, Red Raven, Harridan, Faithful, Fury, they had all gone up, Kingslander and Godsgrace as well, the demon was eating his own.

“My ships.” Joffrey’s voice cracked as he shouted... “My Kingslander’s burning, Queen Cersei, Loyal Man. Look, that’s Seaflower, there.”

Stag of the Sea split one of Joffrey’s galleys clean in two, but Dog’s Nose was afire and Queen Alysanne was locked between Lady of Silk and Lady’s Shame, her crew fighting the boarders rail-to-rail.

I have no idea what to make of Dog’s Nose beyond it going up in flames like the Loyal Man. I suspect that Queen Alysanne may be Dany and Lady of Silk and Lady’s Shame the other two queens from Littlefinger’s War of the Three Queens (not that his anticipated three queens will be the actual players.) Even with that I can’t place further meaning to the symbolism of Dog’s Nose relative to the other ships in the passage.

Loyal Man seems a pretty clear reference to Sandor’s loyalty to the Lannisters going up in flames and the “fiery heart” being raised over the ship may point to Sandor serving Stannis at some point in the future as he once considered serving Robb. “If this Young Wolf has the wits the gods gave a toad, he’ll make me a lordling and beg me to enter his service.” How Sandor might end up serving Stannis would take a lot of speculative dot connecting, but if true it helps illustrate that his future will diverge from that of the Broken Man tale just as his past does.

Prayer

The symbolism of the ship Prayer also seems pertinent. Prayer, Piety and Devotion were three ships taken from the “pious Lord Sunglass” who “wore moonstones at throat and wrist and finger.” He tried to leave the service of Stannis after Mel burned the sept on Dragonstone and was burned himself for his troubles. Prayer is the first ship to make ground on the northern bank of the Blackwater and the one where Davos sees the Hound fighting.

Sandor is connected to both Stark girls through prayer.

The sound of their voices mingled with the whicker of horses, the clank of steel, and the groaning hinges of the great bronze gates to make a strange and fearful music. In the sept they sing for the Mother’s mercy but on the walls it’s the Warrior they pray to, and all in silence.

Through the quiet, the singing pulled at her. Sansa turned toward the sept.

toward the end, she even sang for Tyrion the Imp and for the Hound. He is no true knight but he saved me all the same, she told the Mother. Save him if you can, and gentle the rage inside him.
But when the septon climbed on high and called upon the gods to protect and defend their true and noble king, Sansa got to her feet. …

Let his sword break and his shield shatter, Sansa thought coldly as she shoved out through the doors, let his courage fail him and every man desert him.

Sansa starts as one praying to the Mother for mercy through song and turns to the silent prayers to the Warrior for Joffrey’s defeat as she is driven from the sept. Sandor starts among the silent ones looking to the Warrior and will find himself moving toward the Mother and mercy through both Sansa and Arya as he is driven from the battle. First will be Sansa’s songful prayer of mercy and then Arya’s prayers involving a different gift of mercy.

Sansa has inspired mercy inside of the Hound. He is merciful to her during Joffrey’s mistreatments and he rescues her during the riot. He led the men who attacked Ned’s household in the Tower of the Hand and given Cersei’s shock at Jeyne Poole’s survival and the fact that it was the Hound who broke down Sansa’s door, Jeyne survived through the Hound’s mercy despite Cersei’s orders. Sansa appreciates his help and prays for the Mother to “gentle the rage inside him.” It is Sandor who condemns himself for his failures on Sansa’s behalf, not Sansa herself.

Arya’s “mercy” theme will come up later as Sandor teaches Arya “the Gift of Mercy”—a gift Arya has been praying to give to Sandor for some time. Unlike with Sansa, Arya will not feel that he did his best to protect her despite an arguably more heroic rescue of Arya at the Twins than Sansa in the riot. That’s a topic for Storm of Swords though…

Sandor the Warrior

The Hound certainly has a formidable reputation, but that isn’t unique among ASOIAF characters. Mance, Oberyn, Greatjon, Jaime, Bronn, Victarion, The Halfhand, Barristan, and many more are all formidable warriors others dread to meet in battle. We know he’s good with a sword, but where does he rank among the other notables? Arthur Dayne seems everyone’s in-story choice for “best” but beyond that there’s no clear successor among the living to the Dayne crown. Such determinations are vague at best and by no means guarantee the outcome of a conflict. Barristan summed it up best in SoS:

but… I have seen a hundred tournaments and more wars than I would wish, and however strong or fast or skilled a knight may be, there are others who can match him. A man will win one tourney, and fall quickly in the next. A slick spot in the grass may mean defeat, or what you ate for supper the night before. A change in the wind may bring the gift of victory.

In trying to puzzle out Sandor’s true ability we are given our most important clue, the duel with Gregor at the Hand’s Tourney, before we’re given all the information to properly evaluate it. Gregor is the late Joffrey’s champion in Tyrion’s trial by combat. Bronn gives Tyrion a very detailed explanation of what it takes to defeat Gregor Clegane. Later Tyrion notes that Oberyn draws the same conclusion:

Dance around him until he’s so tired he can hardly lift his arm, then put him on his back. The Red Viper seemed to have the same notion as Bronn.

At the Hand’s Tourney Sandor goes toe to toe with Gregor on his own terms and holds back in not going for his unarmored head:

The Mountain pivoted in wordless fury, swinging his longsword in a killing arc with all his massive strength behind it, but the Hound caught the blow and turned it, and for what seemed an eternity the two brothers stood hammering at each other as a dazed Loras Tyrell was helped to safety. Thrice Ned saw Ser Gregor aim savage blows at the hound’s-head helmet, yet not once did Sandor send a cut at his brother’s unprotected face.

One can read Sandor’s restraint in avoiding Gregor’s head as his reluctance to kill his brother (something the Elder Brother will elaborate on a bit later) or see it as something more akin to Arthur Dayne letting the Smiling Knight fetch a fresh sword. There is probably truth in both interpretations.

At this fight Gregor has a long sword and not his two-handed sword so he technically has a lesser reach advantage, though I doubt it changes the fundamentals of the Bronn/Oberyn assessment (and Gregor’s long sword is likely longer than average too.) This still requires Sandor to match Gregor’s inhuman strength and his ability to do so on Gregor’s own terms speaks to Sandor’s own physical strength as well as a substantial level of martial skill. Syrio is kind enough to enlighten us about the importance of raw strength in the Westerosi iron dance compared to the Braavosi water dance. Water dancing is ideally suited for Arya specifically because it is not so strength dependent. Brienne’s reflections about her training also help clue in the non-medieval geek reader. Speed and skill matter but strength is paramount especially against heavily armored opponents. Long sword slashing attacks against fully armored opponents are more bashing attacks against weak points than they are cutting attacks which rely heavily on strength however skillfully aimed.

Jaime reflects on the importance of strength and Sandor’s strength as he’s losing to Brienne:

She is stronger than I am.
The realization chilled him. Robert had been stronger than him, to be sure. The White Bull Gerold Hightower as well, in his heyday, and Ser Arthur Dayne. Amongst the living, Greatjon Umber was stronger, Strongboar of Crakehall most likely, both Cleganes for a certainty. The Mountain’s strength was like nothing human. It did not matter. With speed and skill, Jaime could beat them all. But this was a woman. A huge cow of a woman, to be sure, but even so… by rights, she should be the one wearing down.

Jaime is described as natural swordfighter and I think that innate ability shows indirectly here. Most, like a Bronn, give very distinct tactical weaknesses before asserting victory. Jaime doesn’t much engage in tactical assessments until after he loses his hand. This fits with a natural talent that hasn’t ever really had to reflect on itself. Jaime may well be correct that his two-handed self would have beaten them all, but we do see that Sandor is assessed as one of the four strongest living men in Westeros and one of only four living fighters that come to Jaime’s mind as a challenge.

Jaime pulled away. “He is still my brother.” He shoved his stump at her face, in case she failed to see it. “And I am in no fit state to be killing anyone.”
“You have another hand, don’t you? I am not asking you to best the Hound in battle. Tyrion is a dwarf, locked in a cell. The guards would stand aside for you.”


Littlefinger was perched on the window seat when Ned entered, watching the knights of the Kingsguard practice at swords in the yard below. “If only old Selmy’s mind were as nimble as his blade,” he said wistfully, “our council meetings would be a good deal livelier.”
“Ser Barristan is as valiant and honorable as any man in King’s Landing.” Ned had come to have a deep respect for the aged, white-haired Lord Commander of the Kingsguard.
“And as tiresome,” Littlefinger added, “though I daresay he should do well in the tourney. Last year he unhorsed the Hound, and it was only four years ago that he was champion.”

Many characters are fond of drawing the distinction between jousts and actual combat. “By defeated, you mean unhorsed, in tourney. Tell me who he’s slain in battle if you mean to frighten me.” Still, Littlefinger is noting Barristan the Bold unhorsing Sandor as a notable accomplishment.

“The Hound?” Ned asked, frowning. Of all the Lannister party, Sandor Clegane was the one who concerned him the most, now that Ser Jaime had fled the city to join his father.

While Ned likely respects his martial prowess this seems more a concern about the Hound’s leadership of the Lannister men.

The queen has a dozen knights and a hundred men-at-arms who will do whatever she commands . . . enough to overwhelm what remains of my own household guard.

Ned is the man that took only six others with him to confront Arthur Dayne, Oswell Whent, and Gerold Hightower—Ned has an unhealthy inability to fret over martial prowess.

We can conclude from the in-story information and in-story character assessments that Sandor is among the top tier of even notable warriors in the series. It is not just his strength. While the accounts of others note it as remarkable, it is clear that Gregor is far stronger. Sandor must possess considerable speed and skill to offset Gregor’s strength and reach advantage in this toe to toe fight at the Hand’s Tourney.

Sandor the Leader

Milady has an essay On the Hound’s Job that provides evidence Sandor acted as the captain of Cersei’s personal guard. I think the best analogy to offer in summation is that Sandor is to Cersei what Jory Cassel was to Ned—including captain of his household guard. One of her points is on Sandor’s duty to report to Cersei about Joffrey and we can see Jory, Ned’s captain of the guard, fulfilling that role here:

Ned saw she was wearing the rose that Ser Loras had given her yesterday. Jory had told him about that as well.

You’re praying for our defeat. What would you call that, if not treason?”
“I pray for Joffrey,” she insisted nervously.
“Why, because he treats you so sweetly?”

Even Joffrey was not so foolish as to command Sandor Clegane to slay a son of Eddard Stark, however; the Hound would have gone to Cersei.

Who has been informing Cersei about Joffrey’s treatment of Sansa? Maids are a possibility as is Varys, but this seems like something for which Cersei wants plausible deniability. Encouraging maids to speak ill of Joffrey’s behavior seems rather unlikely and I suspect Varys would prefer to avoid the topic entirely absent an agenda, pressing political need, or direct query from Cersei on the topic.

Sandor seems to be the trusted pseudo-family member Jory is for the Starks albeit with a Lannister flavor. He likely has more free time than a Jory since Cersei’s is a shadow household with Robert’s bearing the true responsibility for mundane day to day tasks. That still leaves him in charge of the Lannister soldiers assigned to Cersei.

Sandor was not the heir, but as a spare he would have received the same training and instruction as Gregor—arguably better training once he entered Lannister service at Casterly Rock. The master-at-arms at the Rock would be the one Tywin hired to train Jaime. When tasked with finding leaders during the Blackwater, Tyrion only finds three suitable candidates—Sandor, Balon Swann, and Lancel.

“He says you mean to take the Hound from Joffrey.”
Damn Varys. “I need Clegane for more important duties.”
“Nothing is more important than the life of the king.”
“The life of the king is not at risk. Joff will have brave Ser Osmund guarding him, and Meryn Trant as well.” They’re good for nothing better. “I need Balon Swann and the Hound to lead sorties, to make certain Stannis gets no toehold on our side of the Blackwater.”


They had dispersed the men on the battering ram, but he could see fighting all along the riverfront. Ser Balon Swann’s men, most like, or Lancel’s, trying to throw the enemy back into the water as they swarmed ashore off the burning ships.


He is dead on his feet. Tyrion could see it now. The wound, the fire… he’s done, I need to find someone else, but who? Ser Mandon? He looked at the men and knew it would not do. Clegane’s fear had shaken them. Without a leader, they would refuse as well, and Ser Mandon… a dangerous man, Jaime said, yes, but not a man other men would follow.

That Tyrion is using Lancel shows that he’s already hit the bottom of the barrel after Swann and Sandor. Lancel has certainly been trained, but he’s qualified to lead only because he’s a Lannister. This is the squire Robert sent to find the breastplate stretcher. Much like Joffrey’s presence helped keep order and his absence caused the men to break, Lancel’s status as a highborn Lannister would serve to keep men faithful as he’s sharing the same risk they are.

Sandor’s leadership is not born of status. I seem to recall that men break around a 5% casualty rate and casualties jump to around 25% after breaking. Even if I’m a bit off in my recollections, given the near 50% casualty rate Sandor seems to have suffered a lack of breaking is fairly remarkable. It also seems that it was not the battle, but the wildfire that is responsible for the losses.

“Who commands here? You’re going out.”
“No.” A shadow detached itself from the shadow of the wall, to become a tall man in dark grey armor. Sandor Clegane wrenched off his helm with both hands and let it fall to the ground. The steel was scorched and dented, the left ear of the snarling hound sheared off. A gash above one eye had sent a wash of blood down across the Hound’s old burn scars, masking half his face.

Clegane’s breath came ragged. “Bugger that. And you.”
A sellsword stepped up beside him. “We been out. Three times. Half our men are killed or hurt. Wildfire bursting all around us, horses screaming like men and men like horses—”

“Open the gates. When they rush inside, surround them and kill them.” The Hound thrust the point of his longsword into the ground and leaned upon the pommel, swaying. “I’ve lost half my men. Horse as well. I’m not taking more into that fire.”

Sandor led three sorties. If Clegane’s helm is scorched, he must have been near the fire. The sellsword talks of wildfire making horses scream like men and men like horses and Sandor says he’s lost his horse. It may even be that Sandor’s horse was killed by wildfire. I would suspect that the 50% casualty rate came on the last sortie when they were near the shore and were caught in the wildfire explosion. It seems unlikely that there would have been a second or third sortie if the casualties on the first or second were that heavy.

That would mean that Sandor held his men together and they didn’t break even after being caught in wildfire that killed or maimed half of them. “Half our men killed or hurt” seems to imply that Sandor rallied his men to bring the wounded back-- impressive for a man with his fear of fire. Sandor has very personal reasons for not wanting to go back into that fire, but he frames his objection as a refusal to bring his men back into that fire. While Tyrion views Sandor as personally broken here, his men hear a leader telling the Hand of the King to pound sand in their defense. He offers to fight inside but refuses to venture back into the fires that just claimed half his force.

I suppose a case could be made that the gates to the city must be inviolate given Tyrion’s belief that the battle must remain sweet from beginning to end based on the city defenders’ psychology. This is a small isolated force. They are separated from even the meager soldiers Stannis has fighting on the northern shore. The only lasting harm they can do is to the gate itself relative to future assaults. There is nothing inherently wrong with Sandor’s suggestion; it won’t matter which side of the wall they die on as long as the ram stops damaging the gate. I highly doubt such a feint would result in panicked rumors of Stannis having breached the walls, but that’s the only reasonable premise I can concoct that makes Tyrion leading a charge more preferable to opening the gate and letting Sandor slaughter them.

Sandor’s suggested alternative also helps demonstrate that he’s a leader and tactician and not just a soldier. There is no army waiting to stream in through the would-be breached gate that necessitates it remain shut at all costs. That fear still waits on the wrong side of the Blackwater. He says “when” and not “if” they rush in, indicating that he’s putting himself in the mind of his foe.

The purpose of the sorties is to prevent Stannis from gaining a foothold on the northern bank of the Blackwater. We see through Davos’s eyes the near perfect timing of the Hound led charge against the first forces seeking to establish that foothold.

when the defenders came pounding down the riverside, the hooves of their warhorses sending up gouts of water from the shallows. The knights fell among the archers like wolves among chickens, driving them back toward the ships and into the river before most could notch an arrow. Men-at-arms rushed to defend them with spear and axe, and in three heartbeats the scene had turned to blood-soaked chaos. Davos recognized the dog’s-head helm of the Hound. A white cloak streamed from his shoulders as he rode his horse up the plank onto the deck of Prayer, hacking down anyone who blundered within reach.

The archers were at the front because they could fire while sailing. The men-at-arms are the melee defense for the archers, but were out of the way both to avoid being a target and to allow the archers to attack from the water. The Hound timed his attack perfectly. He fell among the enemy not only before the men-at-arms could form a defensive line for the archers, but before the archers could even begin to aim at his assault. Davos sees him charge up the plank onto the deck of Prayer. He is intentionally hitting them on the ship in their transport disposition before they can disembark and organize.

Later we’ll see Jaime charge bowmen while he’s Brienne’s prisoner:

A few last arrows sped harmlessly past; then the bowmen broke and ran, the way unsupported bowmen always broke and ran before the charge of knights. Brienne reined up at the wall. By the time Jaime reached her, they had all melted into the wood twenty yards away. “Lost your taste for battle?”
“They were running.”
“That’s the best time to kill them.”
She sheathed her sword. “Why did you charge?”
“Bowmen are fearless so long as they can hide behind walls and shoot at you from afar, but if you come at them, they run. They know what will happen when you reach them.

These were supported bowmen in that they had men-at-arms on the same ship to defend them, but Sandor timed his assault to effectively make them unsupported bowmen. This also served to use the breaking bowmen to prevent the men-at-arms from ever organizing to use their spears to defend against the mounted charge.

The Stannis forces aboard Prayer were not reduced to chickens among wolves by chance. They were not undone in the matter of three heartbeats by chance either. This required timing calculated with an understanding of the battlefield and a knowledge of the speed and capabilities of the attacking force. It required an understanding of how men are arrayed in transport at sea and how they deploy upon landing as well as how much time they take to organize. The man who had that understanding and used it to turn a potential battle into a slaughter is the Hound.

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Sandor V

The Great Battle

(snip)

I suppose a case could be made that the gates to the city must be inviolate given Tyrion’s belief that the battle must remain sweet from beginning to end based on the city defenders’ psychology. This is a small isolated force. They are separated from even the meager soldiers Stannis has fighting on the northern shore. The only lasting harm they can do is to the gate itself relative to future assaults. There is nothing inherently wrong with Sandor’s suggestion; it won’t matter which side of the wall they die on as long as the ram stops damaging the gate. I highly doubt such a feint would result in panicked rumors of Stannis having breached the walls, but that’s the only reasonable premise I can concoct that makes Tyrion leading a charge more preferable to opening the gate and letting Sandor slaughter them.

Sandor’s suggested alternative also helps demonstrate that he’s a leader and tactician and not just a soldier. There is no army waiting to stream in through the would-be breached gate that necessitates it remain shut at all costs. That fear still waits on the wrong side of the Blackwater. He says “when” and not “if” they rush in, indicating that he’s putting himself in the mind of his foe.

(snip)

Excellent write-up and analysis as usual, Rag.

Just thought I'd step into the question of leading a forth sortie. I'd always wondered why Tyrion insisted on the fighting taking place outside the gates. He chose Sandor to lead, knowing men would follow because, as you noted, he was apparently a good commander and not just another Lannister face.

Why Tyrion wouldn't listen to the counsel of a seasoned captain is puzzling. Not that Sandor presented his advice in a deferential way, but still...

We know that Sandor and Tyrion don't have the best of relationships. Did Tyrion try to one-up the Hound here? Was it pride or trying to save face that made Tyrion insist on having the men outside the walls again, or did he fear that Stannis inside the gates would further hurt morale? It seemed perfectly reasonable to let the attackers stay outside to burn and surround them when they came in.

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Why Tyrion wouldn't listen to the counsel of a seasoned captain is puzzling. Not that Sandor presented his advice in a deferential way, but still...

We know that Sandor and Tyrion don't have the best of relationships. Did Tyrion try to one-up the Hound here? Was it pride or trying to save face that made Tyrion insist on having the men outside the walls again, or did he fear that Stannis inside the gates would further hurt morale? It seemed perfectly reasonable to let the attackers stay outside to burn and surround them when they came in.

I think there's one major factor at play here besides what Ragnorak already stated: that both men have dissimilar outlooks on fighting. The Imp, for understandable reasons, isn't a soldier, his experience in battle is limited and a poor preparation to lead the charge with a cool head. He is a strategist, one that can plan the defences and outline the battle plan, can look at the big picture and long-term effects but isn't so good during quick fight crisis-response situations. An armchair general if you will. Sandor, on the other hand, has experience and he's a seasoned soldier, the sort of commander that men will follow because he'll lead, not just shout the orders, and can decide in situ what the best tactic is according to how the fray is going and adapt to the situation quickly. A battlefront general, in other words.

I think that, and not some personal enmity, is at the root of this incident. In the middle of a battle, usually the battlefront general has the right of it over the armchair general. Ragnorak can tell you plenty of stories where the US Army commanders on the field did their best to feign ignorance of behind-the-desk strategy and do as the development of the combat demanded in order to avoid disaster; and looking at history, you'll find plenty of clashes between the British field generals and the War Secretary officials, the German commanders being put down by or talking back to the Führer because they disobeyed or disagreed, and the American admirals going their merry way in the Pacific far from the Pentagon's reach. Being in the place gives you an unique view that cannot be acquired otherwise regardless of skills as an strategist, and Sandor has been there for hours, not supervising and overlooking the whole Lannister war machinery from the walls, but actually driving that machinery, whereas Tyrion was also there but not in the middle of it and his combination of lack of experience and safe-thinking plus a pinch of panicky concern made him insist on that order. It's not like he stopped to think a moment and consider the validity of Sandor's tactic either; instead, he decided to go ahead with his own plan, which was foolish, needlessly killed Lannister men, and almost got himself killed too. Later, in the ASOS chapter where he wakes up, the Imp will recognise it wasn't one of his best notions, and his father reproached him too, which is enough to tell you that it was not just a hasty decision but a bad one.

Sandor's idea was pretty good, actually, as I said years ago when discussing his leading skills, this is a tactic known as double-envelopment or pincer movement, and can be found in the curriculum of all the greatest generals of history, all of which won their most impressive battles with different variations of this tactic, like Alexander the Great, Hannibal Barca, Julius Caesar, Erwin Rommel, Erich von Manstein, Heinz Guderian . . . It's usually better exploited in open field, but can work inside a city too, more so with small detachments of invaders, as this one was. A sortie wasn't the best reaction for this situation, and the very fact that Sandor had already gone out several times and at a high cost in lives should've told Tyrion as much.

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An exceptional analysis, Rag. I liked the broken men parallel and your outlining of how Sandor differs from it in certain aspects, especially the point on his breaking reflecting the return to an idealism associated with his connection to Sansa.




“True knights would never harm women and children.” The words rang hollow in her ears even as she said them.

“True knights.” The queen seemed to find that wonderfully amusing. “No doubt you’re right. So why don’t you just eat your broth like a good girl and wait for Symeon Star-Eyes and Prince Aemon the Dragonknight to come rescue you, sweetling. I’m sure it won’t be very long now.”


Of course, it's precisely his failure to be a true knight to Sansa that causes Sandor so much anguish, so even here as Cersei scoffs at Sansa's innocence, Sandor is in the process of losing faith in a service that has been eroded by the failure to protect such ideals. We see further thematic connections to Sandor in the songs of Florian and Jonquil and Aemon the Dragonknight which you mentioned in the summary portion of the analysis, and there's another link to him when Cersei questions Sansa about her moonblood:



“You look pale, Sansa,” Cersei observed. “Is your red flower still blooming?”

“Yes.”

“How apt. The men will bleed out there, and you in here."


Sandor was present for Sansa's first menstruation and this comment symbolically establishes a sense of their fates being linked or at least Sansa having a stake in what happens to Sandor in the battle, a concern that was already showcased in her prayer for him in the sept. These connections, where Sandor is present in the "women's world" of sheltering from the battle, prefigure his eventually being "saved" by Sansa's singing of the Mother's prayer and signify that meaning for him does not have to be found on the battlefield or in being a warrior.


The sheer hell of the war is evoked quite viscerally in Davos' chapter, and then the spectre of the Hound - "a shadow detached itself from the shadow of the wall" - who is "dead on his feet" as Tyrion observes, really drives the point home on just how terrifying and profoundly dehumanising war can be. Despite the glorious narratives it can inspire after the fact, war is death and destruction. I spent some time examining these topics for my Peacemaker essay, and one of the theorists looked at speaks eloquently to an understanding of Sandor's predicament:


If men were so eager to be fighters, we would not need drafts, training in misogyny, and macho heroes, nor would we have to entice the morally sensitive with myths of patriotic duty and just cause. Indeed, history suggests that men have an even more ambivalent relation to the fighting expected of them than women do to the mothering work for which they are said to be "naturally suited." Some men thrill to battle and to the sexually predatory violence it allows. Others partake with mixed feelings but minimal questions simply because fighting is expected of them. Some of these men later report that they took pleasure not only in excitement and camaraderie but also in destruction, cruelty, and the bizarre deaths around them. But there are others, as well as these same men on other days, who are ashamed and disgusted by the killing. Then in every war, are men who with clear-sighted courage refuse to fight, often at great cost to themselves.

(Sara Ruddick, Maternal Thinking: Towards a Politics of Peace)


Sandor has already bravely fought at great cost to himself when we consider his traumatic fear of fire, but his decision to stop fighting is also no less courageous or costly as it means disobeying the orders of his superior and being branded as cowardly when he deserts. As Ruddick further notes:



Virtually no one denies that military thinking is imbued with masculine values. Yet a boy is not born, but rather becomes, a soldier. Becoming a soldier means learning to control fears and domestic longings that are explicitly labeled "feminine." The soldier earns the right to violence and sex; to fail is to remain womanly while losing the right to women. This much has long been familiar.


Tyrion speaks of the "death and shame" that awaits them despite admitting that the on-going war is "madness." It's particularly relevant to Sandor's development that he refuses to partake in more of the madness, and does end up retreating to the individual's room where his "domestic longings" have been increasingly located throughout Clash.


Nice analysis on the symbolism of the ship names. "Dog's nose" brought to mind Sandor's comment about a dog being able to smell a lie, but I can't pinpoint how it would be relevant in this battle.

Edited by brashcandy

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