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Ragnorak

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  1. Ragnorak

    The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor II

    Very interesting analysis, Milday. Aside from Sandor, Sansa has a Beauty and the Beast dynamic with Joffrey, Tyrion and Littlefinger. Martin repeatedly plays with a few key aspects of the tale. There is the beauty or beastly visage of the physical appearance and the beauty or beastly aspects of a character’s inner self. Then there is the duality of the beastly aspect. On one hand we are treated to men who are beasts in human skin as the Elder Brother calls them, and on the other we have an admirable identification with beastly totems that coincide with the sigils of Houses. In Sansa’s own case the direwolf sigil goes a step further in the beastly direction with her being an actual warg. These aspects are played with in each in-story tale. Joffrey is outwardly handsome but inwardly a beast in human skin. Tyrion has a beastly appearance, but is written with a deliberate sympathy that is designed to evoke the idea of an inner beauty. Littlefinger is a supposedly handsome man, but one with an inner beast as ugly as Joffrey’s. Sandor knows all three of them, but there have only been on page interactions between Sandor and the first two. Despite living at Court with Littlefinger for years and numerous opportunities for them to have interacted on the page, GRRM seems to have deliberately deprived us of any exchanges between Littlefinger and Sandor. We don’t even get any historical exchanges, rumors, or references to off the page encounters between the two. Sansa’s rite of passage starts with Joffrey and moves to Tyrion, both of whom have a substantial history with Sandor. It then moves on to Littlefinger who ought to have a substantial history with Sandor except we never see or hear about it. If Littlefinger and Sandor encounter each other, any exchange on the page will be as if it were the first they had. This seems a curious point from a literary perspective. Sansa is evolving through Beauty and the Beast archetypal inversions under the greater shadow of the Sansa and Sandor Beauty and the Beast tale and Sandor is connected to all three of them but his connection to Sansa’s final coming of age beast has been intentionally obfuscated. The animal aspects of the beasts are also quite curious. Most of the beasts are Lannisters (Joffrey, Tyrion, Jaime) and their beastly sigil is lion. The lion at Casterly Rock is caged and locked in the bowels of the castle. It is a possession and a thing that is feared by those claiming it as their totem. The dwarf tore a loaf of bread in half. “And you had best be careful what you say of my family, magister. Kinslayer or no, I am a lion still.” That seemed to amuse the lord of cheese no end. He slapped a meaty thigh and said, “You Westerosi are all the same. You sew some beast upon a scrap of silk, and suddenly you are all lions or dragons or eagles. I can take you to a real lion, my little friend. The prince keeps a pride in his menagerie. Would you like to share a cage with them?” The lords of the Seven Kingdoms did make rather much of their sigils, Tyrion had to admit. “Very well,” he conceded. “A Lannister is not a lion. Yet I am still my father’s son, and Jaime and Cersei are mine to kill.” Cersei paced her cell, restless as the caged lions that had lived in the bowels of Casterly Rock when she was a girl, a legacy of her grandfather’s time. She and Jaime used to dare each other to climb into their cage, and once she worked up enough courage to slip her hand between two bars and touch one of the great tawny beasts. She was always bolder than her brother. The lion had turned his head to stare at her with huge golden eyes. Then he licked her fingers. His tongue was as rough as a rasp, but even so she would not pull her hand back, not until Jaime took her by the shoulders and yanked her away from the cage. “Your turn,” she told him afterward. “Pull his mane, I dare you.” He never did. I should have had the sword, not him. Both Sandor and Sansa have an affinity with their totemic sigils. The animals they identify with are allies and positive figures that are not feared by those identifying with them. In Sandor’s case it is largely because he identifies with a domesticated beast and in Sansa’s case there is the magical connection with her having literally internalized her totemic beast according to the information provided by Varymyr Six Skins. Of all the Beauty and the Beast inversions surrounding Sansa, only she and Sandor have a positive association with actual beasts. Another facet from the tale that shows up is the wealth and castle. All of the beasts except Sandor are focused on obtaining a castle. Joffrey is obsessed with the Iron Throne, Tyrion’s fixation is forever on Casterly Rock, and Littlefinger seems just as obsessed with finding a castle. “And there it stands, miserable as it is. My ancestral home. It has no name, I fear. A great lord’s seat ought to have a name, wouldn’t you agree? Winterfell, the Eyrie, Riverrun, those are castles. Lord of Harrenhal now, that has a sweet ring to it, but what was I before? Lord of Sheepshit and Master of the Drearfort? It lacks a certain something.” His grey-green eyes regarded her innocently. “You look distraught. Did you think we were making for Winterfell, sweetling? These three beasts hunger for a castle, but not for a home. The castle is a trapping of power just as the wealth associated with it is. They all seek an external validation of the self through the elements that represent the Beast’s cursed state. In fact their desired end states are the Beast’s cursed existence with Tyrion and Littlefinger also seeking to possess a Beauty as an object having failed with their original Beautys in the past. In contrast both Sandor and Sansa very much want a home, but both emotionally reject the wealth and castle existence that these other beasts crave. Sandor could have tried to kill Gregor at the Hand’s Tourney to become the heir to House Clegane, but his holding back shows the castle is not his true desire. Sansa quite clearly expresses the desire to be loved for herself and not her claim. So even through the Beauty and the Beast lens it still returns to the choice of the hearthfire.
  2. Ragnorak

    The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor II

    Trial by Oaths Brienne is under the impression that she is on the true hero’s path, that her oath to Catelyn and her oath to Jaime to save Sansa Stark are not in conflict. She thinks she can fulfill both oaths with the single act of finding Sansa, and she is very wrong. Jaime serves a king, his own usurping bastard child, who has given Sansa’s home of Winterfell to men who slaughtered almost everyone Sansa grew up with and imprisoned raped and tortured the few he spared. That same usurping bastard king that is Jaime’s son also sent Sansa’s best friend who had been raped into submission to impersonate her thought to be dead younger sister to help legitimize the theft of her home. That Tommen has no idea what he is signing and only thinks he’s playing with crayons makes it worse, not better, as it makes those acts more Jaime’s choice and responsibility and not less. If she fulfills her oath to Jaime, will he depose the Boltons and restore Sansa’s home to her? Will he bring justice to the Freys for the Red Wedding and the murders of Sansa’s family and the families of every Northern House that would owe her fealty upon that restoration? Merely keeping Sansa alive is a hollow act as Mirri Maz Duur has already explained, and the code of knighthood and the oath to Catelyn Stark demands far more than the preservation of vital signs. Brienne’s own thoughts demonstrate an evolution of her own notion and purpose of her oath to save Sansa. She starts off wondering if Jaime has played her and concludes that it doesn’t matter since she is sworn to Cat to save Sansa anyway. Jaime would not do that. He was sincere. He gave me the sword, and called it Oathkeeper. Anyway, it made no matter. She had promised Lady Catelyn that she would bring back her daughters, and no promise was as solemn as one sworn to the dead. In her travels, initially this inner pledge of fealty to Cat grows even stronger: She had spoken of Arya too, her younger daughter, but Arya was lost, most likely dead by now. Sansa, though . . . I will find her, my lady, Brienne swore to Lady Catelyn’s restless shade. I will never stop looking. I will give up my life if need be, give up my honor, give up all my dreams, but I will find her. Yet this fervor fades and the oath to Jaime begins to creep up in importance. By the Quiet Isle, we have this breakdown that leads to her choice: All of it came pouring out of Brienne then, like black blood from a wound; the betrayals and betrothals,(...) Renly dying in her arms, Riverrun and Lady Catelyn, the voyage down the Trident, dueling Jaime in the woods, the Bloody Mummers, Jaime crying “Sapphires,” Jaime in the tub at Harrenhal with steam rising from his body, the taste of Vargo Hoat’s blood when she bit down on his ear, the bear pit, Jaime leaping down onto the sand, the long ride to King’s Landing, Sansa Stark, the vow she’d sworn to Jaime, the vow she’d sworn to Lady Catelyn, Oathkeeper, Duskendale, Maidenpool, Nimble Dick and Crackclaw and the Whispers, the men she’d killed . . . “I have to find her,” she finished. “There are others looking, all wanting to capture her and sell her to the queen. I have to find her first. I promised Jaime. Oathkeeper, he named the sword. I have to try to save her . . . or die in the attempt.” There is a great deal of Jaime in her breakdown to the Elder Brother, and not a whole lot of nothing more sacred than oaths sworn to the dead. She is now willing to die for the oath to Jaime, but the thoughts of losing her honor, life, happiness, and dreams to fulfill the promise to Catelyn’s restless shade are no more. In fact, the thoughts of Jaime seem to be very specifically the breaking her inner promise to give up all her dreams. And after a few of those not so given up fever dreams following the Crossroads in Biter fight, Catelyn has all but vanished: It was a sword she wanted. Oathkeeper. I have to find the girl. I have to find his honor. Finding Sansa Stark has become synonymous with finding Jaime Lannister’s honor. Our in-story morality metaphor is what is one man’s honor worth so long as the realm is safe. That should translate into what is Brienne of Tarth’s honor worth so long as Sansa Stark is safe. Yet Brienne is concerned with Jaime’s honor and not Sansa’s safety, much less the earth-shattering incompatibility of the implications of Sansa experiencing safety within the notion of Jaime’s honor. Earth-shattering may in fact be quite literal given the soon to be alleviated amnesia of the über-magical crippled boy Jaime tossed out a window, who happens to be Sansa’s younger brother and is quite tied to her oath of fealty to Catelyn Stark’s shade. A surface-level reading of Brienne’s POV doesn’t relay these full implications. Brienne is a sweet well-intentioned girl who defends children and feels remorse for even the monsters she kills. She honestly and sincerely wishes to find Sansa, a girl she’s never met and whose life she has no personal stake in, to keep her safe simply because she gave her word. In return for her efforts and hardships in both seeking out Sansa and nearly dying in defense of the members of the BwB, an undead vengeful psychopath leading the BwB seems bent on forcing her to commit murder by threatening to kill her and her companions. Jaime Lannister swore an oath to never take up arms against the Tullys again. He used the threat of taking up arms to get Edmure to relent, and then imprisoned Edmure in a Lannister dungeon as a means of technically fulfilling the letter of that oath to satisfy his own sense of personal honor. The only beneficiary of that legalistic oath-keeping is Jaime Lannister. The Tullys were Lords Paramount of the Riverlands when he made his oath and the owners of Riverrun. The last of the Tullys is in a Casterly Rock dungeon, Riverrun is owned by a Frey/Lannister marriage, both Red Wedding perpetrators, and the Riverlands have been given to Littlefinger, who then murdered Cat’s sister among a long list of other offenses to Houses Stark and Tully. All of this was done in the name of Jaime’s illegitimate usurping son through his playing with crayons, while Jaime has chosen the path of the Kingsguard and protecting this very king in whose name all that was done as the means of restoring his lost honor. Jaime Lannister is playing at honor and naming horses to appease the restless voices inside himself, but he is not forsaking a single solitary benefit that he or his House have reaped from their cataclysm of dishonorable acts. He is like a man who stole millions, bought everything he ever wanted and tithed ten percent of what was left after his spending spree to the Church to declare himself forgiven. No Wodes appeared, nor any of their smallfolk, though some outlaws had taken shelter in the root cellar beneath the second brother’s keep. One of them wore the ruins of a crimson cloak, but Jaime hanged him with the rest. It felt good. This was justice. Make a habit of it, Lannister, and one day men might call you Goldenhand after all. Goldenhand the Just. He hangs a single deserter in a Lannister cloak and he thinks it is justice. Tywin would have hanged him too, he deserted. This is after Jaime takes Gregor’s men into his service knowing the kind of men they are, knowing what they’ve done to the Riverlands he must now set to peace, knowing that they are Tywin’s raping dogs and having Pia and her shattered face right there to drive that point home. These are the men who went Iron Chef Vivisectionist on Vargo Hoat, and Jaime’s thoughts when Bonnifer Hasty won’t have them are: “Very well. I’ll take Gregor’s lot off your hands.” He could always find a use for fighters. If nothing else, he could send them up the ladders first, should he need to storm the walls of Riverrun. That puts the degree morality played in his golden-handed justice of hanging a man who couldn’t fight into perspective. He even frames the usefulness of Gregor’s men in terms of breaking his oath to Catelyn about taking up arms against the Tullys. Brienne knows this man’s sins. This is a man she once named “monster:” “A man who would violate his own sister, murder his king, and fling an innocent child to his death deserves no other name.” So the heartless sentencing by the undead psychotic revenant is not as wholly unreasonable as it seems on a first reading. From a literary standpoint, in fact, what unCat is doing is imposing a non-bloodless choice upon the classical hero. “She says that you must choose. Take the sword and slay the Kingslayer, or be hanged for a betrayer. The sword or the noose, she says. Choose, she says. Choose.” Less grandfatherly, but the same words Aemon spoke to Jon. "Yet soon or late in every man’s life comes a day when it is not easy, a day when he must choose.” ... "You must make that choice yourself, and live with it all the rest of your days. As I have.” His voice fell to a whisper. “As I have...” And just as Jon had blood on his hands during his choice Brienne’s choice is marked with blood as well. In the dream she had bitten off her tongue. My mouth was full of blood. She took a ragged breath and said, “I will not make that choice.” But when it comes to actual blood she chooses. There is an enormous amount of layered symbolism and irony in this exchange between Lady Stoneheart and Brienne, and it is important to recall the circumstances of Brienne entering Cat’s service. Brienne intended to kill Stannis. “You mean to kill Stannis.” Brienne closed her thick callused fingers around the hilt of her sword. The sword that had been his. “I swore a vow. Three times I swore. You heard me.” “I did,” Catelyn admitted. And right before entering Cat’s service Brienne’s condition is that Cat not hold her back from killing Stannis in revenge for Renly’s death. “…And I think, when the time comes, you will not try and hold me back. Promise me that. That you will not hold me back from Stannis.” Catelyn could still hear Stannis saying that Robb’s turn too would come in time. It was like a cold breath on the back of her neck. “When the time comes, I will not hold you back.” Brienne entered Cat’s service seeking a vendetta for Stannis killing Renly, and it is somewhat safe to say that the Red Wedding is at least as bad if not a worse affront to Cat than Renly’s death was for Brienne. These are two women who met and bonded over vengeance for lost loved ones. There is also the ironic persuasion Cat uses to get Brienne to stay given her lack of a pulse: “Then fight... but for the living, not the dead. Renly’s enemies are Robb’s enemies as well.” But those enemies she spoke of were strictly the Lannisters and not Stannis. “He wouldn’t . . . you’d never make a peace with Stannis, would you? Bend the knee? You wouldn’t . . .” “I will tell you true, Brienne. I do not know. My son may be a king, but I am no queen . . . only a mother who would keep her children safe, however she could.” So looking back to the origins of Brienne entering Cat’s service, it isn’t clear that a living Catelyn with a heart would have taken a much more sympathetic view than her undead counterpart. Brienne agreed to fight Lannisters, accepted that the North and Stannis might make a peace, and was promised that Cat would not hold her back from vengeance even if that happened. The safety of Cat’s children was the known paramount concern when Brienne took her oath, and vengeance through murder was an inherent part of that oath. False Friend is an appropriate title upon revisiting their history, and unCat is asking no more of Brienne than Brienne asked of her soon-to-be liege lady when entering her service. Brienne heard Jaime confess to throwing Bran out the window. She knows his guilt, and even if Jaime is to be forgiven, his own words regarding his own desire for vengeance for his lost hand condemn him: “If they made sincere repentance for their sins . . . yes, I would embrace them all as brothers and pray with them before I sent them to the block. Sins may be forgiven. Crimes require punishment.” Hasty folded his hands before him like a steeple, in a way that reminded Jaime uncomfortably of his father. “If it is Sandor Clegane that we encounter, what would you have me do?” Pray hard, Jaime thought, and run. In neither Jaime or unCat’s cases are forgiveness and punishment at play. It is pure revenge in the spirit of the Rains of Castamere. Lady Stoneheart is holding Robb’s crown, the ultimate symbol of authority from the one place where First Men justice still holds sway. She also has Oathkeeper, a piece of Ned’s sword Ice, sitting in front of her and she still chooses hanging over beheading in her sentencing. Behind it sat a woman all in grey, cloaked and hooded. In her hands was a crown, a bronze circlet ringed by iron swords. She was studying it, her fingers stroking the blades as if to test their sharpness. Her eyes glimmered under her hood. . . . The woman in grey gave no answer. She studied the sword, the parchment, the bronze-and-iron crown. Finally she reached up under her jaw and grasped her neck, as if she meant to throttle herself. Instead she spoke... Her voice was halting, broken, tortured. The sound seemed to come from her throat, part croak, part wheeze, part death rattle. It’s as if Lady Stoneheart is studying the authority and means to carry out First Men justice and is choosing the noose anyway. It is a reversal of Jon and “Edd, fetch me a block.” Part of Ice is missing and that part is named Widow’s Wail. Lady Stoneheart is an Alyssa Arryn figure, the woman cursed for never crying for her dead children. The remorse, mercy and redemption inherent in those tears, and in wielding the sword yourself in First Men justice are missing and the vengeance and easy killing of the headsman are filling that void. In fact, the noose is exactly the weapon of choice for Cat’s revenge fantasies. “Every morning, when I wake, I remember that Ned is gone. I have no skill with swords, but that does not mean that I do not dream of riding to King’s Landing and wrapping my hands around Cersei Lannister’s white throat and squeezing until her face turns black.” This is our literary parallel for the absent Sandor Quiet Isle choice. The theme and choice of vengeance is clear and that choice is being imposed by Mother Merciless. In contrast, we have Sansa’s Gentle Mother prayer for Sandor that launched his Riverlands tour and a strong implication from the Elder Brother that Sandor has made a peace with his own vengeance and received the mercy that Brienne did not. Inherent in the peace with vengeance is a moving away from the Rains of Castamere philosophy and towards First Men justice, away from his prior Lannister service and toward service with the Starks. This is also represented in the symbols of Northern authority unCat has before her. We also have the explicit problem with oaths and trusting in words. It is flat out stated to Brienne that words are wind and deeds are required as proof. In addition, and in accordance with the traditions in Westeros, Pod and Hyle remain as hostages to her good behavior. All of these themes fall directly under the main conflict between House Stark and House Lannister. There is the ruling through love and ruling through fear philosophies on display. We also have vengeance vs. mercy, indiscriminate punishment vs. justice, self-serving interests vs. loyalty— all of the facets of the Tywin vs. Ned legacy contrast are on display here in this cave. With Brienne we seem to be seeing the Lannisters reaping the harvest sown by Tywin and his children, and it seems likely that our absent camera at the Quiet Isle would be showing the Starks reaping the fruits of Ned and his children’s labors with Sandor. Our first glaring sign that Sandor is not destined to dwell on the Quiet Isle is Stranger and his reaction to being stabled with draft animals. His reaction to the gelding attempt and trying to be turned into one of the pack animals of this monastic island only strengthens it. Sandor himself seems well on his way to being fully healed as he’s engaged in manual labor. Importantly, Sandor the Gravedigger is burying the dead from Saltpans. One of the things that might pull Sandor away from the Quiet Isle is the men killing “in his name” by wearing his helmet. If he is digging the graves for the victims and not riding off after the man with his helm, this makes his Hound identity far less likely to be his reason for leaving. Brienne had brought fresh news of the outside world with her, but we have also learned that the Quiet Isle has ravens. So whether or not anything Brienne shares might serve to motivate Sandor isn’t that important. Any event that would reasonably spread by raven could easily become known by Sandor given the ravenry here. What those events might be is unknown, but we are given at least one clue. Stranger’s name on this island is Driftwood, after the “gifts” that wash up on shore. When the Elder Brother, also a former warrior and knight, is asked about Saltpans he is bitterly angry with its ruling knight for abandoning the smallfolk: “Ser Quincy is an old man,” said Septon Meribald gently. “His sons and good-sons are far away or dead, his grandsons are still boys, and he has two daughters. What could he have done, one man against so many?” He could have tried, Brienne thought. He could have died. Old or young, a true knight is sworn to protect those who are weaker than himself, or die in the attempt. “True words, and wise,” the Elder Brother said to Septon Meribald. “When you cross to Saltpans, no doubt Ser Quincy will ask you for forgiveness. I am glad that you are here to give it. I could not.” He put aside the driftwood cup, and stood. A cup is a metaphor for fate, and to drink from the driftwood cup is the fate of those who end up on the Quiet Isle. To set aside the driftwood cup is to leave the Quiet Isle and take up another role. The phrase “true words and wise” can be read in response to Meribald as they were spoken, or to Brienne’s unspoken thoughts as written on the page. The former involves a knight seeking forgiveness and the latter a knight seeking to protect the innocent. Either could apply to Sandor and they are not mutually exclusive. Both point toward Sansa. There is also the future the Elder Brother predicts to Brienne as part of his counsel to set down her sword that never comes to pass. “The wars are ending, and these outlaws cannot survive the peace. Randyll Tarly is hunting them from Maidenpool and Walder Frey from the Twins, and there is a new young lord in Darry, a pious man who will surely set his lands to rights.” The wars are not ending, and soon both Aegon and Dany will land and Dorne will enter the fight as well, aside from the Ironborn who will begin warring under Euron even before that. Randyll Tarly will abandon Maidenpool over Margaery’s imprisonment, the young lord of Darry will abandon his wife and lands for the Faith, and it seems the Freys are the ones who cannot survive in this false peace rather than the outlaws. It is difficult enough to believe that this man made to break bones will sit idly by sipping from his sworn cup playing one of Baelor’s doves as the ravens bring more news of more Ser Quincys letting the world burn around them, much less that he would try and force that cup onto Sandor. When his reason for leaving will wash up on the Quiet Isle and when those tides will carry him back into the story are still in question, but that Sandor will set aside his driftwood cup and horse’s name in favor of true wine and set out in search of a hearthfire is not.
  3. Ragnorak

    The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor II

    Fire vs. Mud We first took a closer look at the fire and mud imagery in Arya’s Crossroads Inn POV chapter, but the theme goes back much earlier than that. It stretches back to the beginning of Arya’s POV and was especially prevalent throughout her rain-filled Riverlands travels with Sandor. Mud represents childlike innocence and fire, at least in one of its aspects, anger, vengeful wrath, and the willingness to destroy. That fiery path is one that if fully embraced will consume, but a vital survival tool nonetheless. The two are in tension and need balance, and too much of one or the other will eventually kill you. Perhaps nowhere is this made clearer than in Arya’s Red Wedding chapter during Sandor’s knightly heroics. Arya upended the sack and tossed it to him. He snatched it one-handed from the air and lowered it over his head, and where the man had sat only a steel dog remained, snarling at the fires. “Stupid little bitch.” Fires glinted off the snout of his helm, and made the steel teeth shine. She retreated, darting across the muddy ground on the balls of her feet, putting the wayn between them once more. The knight followed at a trot, only darkness behind his eyeslit. She hadn’t even dented his helm. ... The black sky wept, the river grumbled, men cursed and died. Arya had mud in her teeth and her face was wet. Rain. It’s only rain. That’s all it is. ... I have to run faster. The mud slowed her, though, and then the water. Run fast as a wolf. The drawbridge had begun to lift, the water running off it in a sheet, the mud falling in heavy clots. The last thing that happens in that chapter is that Sandor tells Arya to choose, and she chooses incorrectly—mud over fire. This fight is also the first of two parallels to the Brienne and Shagwell fight. Sandor also faces three-to-one odds and he too has a rock-throwing squire to assist. But Sandor was disguised as a peasant and expecting a wedding feast, and Brienne was wielding a magic sword and expecting trouble. Brienne’s thoughts go back to her master-at-arms lessons about not hesitating over killing while we already know Sandor’s philosophy that a knight is a sword with a horse and swords are made for killing. He doesn’t hesitate to engage as Brienne did and he most certainly doesn’t hesitate to kill, and the imagery used to show that knights are for killing is the fire glinting off his steel helm. The fire vs. mud theme in Brienne is curious when compared to Sandor, because fire is almost entirely absent. This is true in the religious themes as well. Brienne’s travels with Nimble Dick to Crackclaw Point are filled with Old Gods imagery, with the most obvious being Nimble Dick’s weirwood grave. Brienne then travels with Septon Meribald where the imagery of the Faith prevails including bumping into the Mother, Maiden and Crone along the road. Both characters have plenty of these in-story religious references and symbolism to the Old Gods and the Seven, but the Red God is essentially absent from Brienne’s chapters until she meets Lady Stoneheart. Brienne leaves King’s Landing and never succeeds in making a fire her entire POV. There are fires at the inns where she stops, the fire Sers Creighton and Illifer share with her, and the hearthfire at the Quiet Isle, but Brienne never succeeds in making a fire herself a single time in her own POV. Brienne tied her mare to a wall sconce, took off her helm, and shook out her hair. She was searching for some dry wood to light a fire when she heard the sound of another horse, coming closer. . . . It was cold and wet on Crackclaw Point as they retraced their steps. Some days it rained and some days it threatened rain. They were never warm. Even when they made camp, it was hard to find enough dry wood for a fire. . . . The rocks at least would keep the wind off. “Best we keep a watch tonight, m’lady,” Crabb told her, as she was struggling to get a driftwood fire lit. “A place like this, there might be squishers.” The wood was too damp to light, no matter how many sparks Brienne struck off her flint and steel. The kindling sent up some smoke, but that was all. This inability to make a fire is also surrounded by the imagery of mud. It rained all that day. The narrow track they followed soon turned to mud beneath them. What trees they saw were naked, and the steady rain had turned their fallen leaves into a sodden brown mat. Brienne’s meeting up with Pod is also filled with imagery of mud. Somehow Brienne had taken a wrong turn. She found herself in a dead end, a small muddy yard where three pigs were rooting round a low stone well. Brienne turned to retrace her steps, and walked headfirst into someone hurrying round the bend. The collision knocked him off his feet, and he landed on his arse in the mud. The horse reared, and the skinny boy went flying, his cloak flapping like a pair of wings. He landed in the mud and came up with dirt and dead brown grass between his teeth to find Brienne standing over him. “Not puh-puh-please.” He stuck a finger in his mouth, and flicked away a clump of mud, spitting. “Puh-puh-Pod. My name. Puh-puh-Podrick. Puh-Payne.” . . . The boy looked at the bare brown trees, the wet leaves, the muddy road ahead. “I have a longsword. I can fight.” This mud imagery combined with a complete lack of fire seems to point toward the naiveté surrounding her more classical white hat wearing heroic tale. The author’s take on this is spelled out by Septon Meribald to Podrick. “It’s only mud,” insisted Podrick. “Until it fills your mouth and starts creeping up your nose. Then it’s death.” And this is exactly the image we get in Brienne’s Crossroads Inn battle: ... and Biter crashed into her, shrieking. He fell on her like an avalanche of wet wool and milk-white flesh, lifting her off her feet and slamming her down into the ground. She landed in a puddle with a splash that sent water up her nose and into her eyes. All the air was driven out of her, and her head snapped down against some half-buried stone with a crack. “No,” was all that she had time to say before he fell on top of her, his weight driving her deeper into the mud. This stands in contrast to the Elder Brothers statement on Sandor that: “Yet that was the bread that nourished him, the fuel that kept his fires burning.” There is also an important parallel in the Shagwell fight compared to the Arya and Sandor Crossroads Inn battle. Sandor is our stand-in knight and Arya the squire, yet Brienne the knight’s killing of Shagwell parallels Arya the squire’s killing of the Tickler. She knocked aside his arm and punched the steel into his bowels. “Laugh,” she snarled at him. He moaned instead. “Laugh,” she repeated, grabbing his throat with one hand and stabbing at his belly with the other. “Laugh!” She kept saying it, over and over, until her hand was red up to the wrist and the stink of the fool’s dying was like to choke her. But Shagwell never laughed. The sobs that Brienne heard were all her own. When she realized that, she threw down her knife and shuddered. . . . “Is there gold hidden in the village?” she shouted as she drove the blade up through his back. “Is there silver? Gems?” She stabbed twice more. “Is there food? Where is Lord Beric?” She was on top of him by then, still stabbing. “Where did he go? How many men were with him? How many knights? How many bowmen? How many, how many, how many, how many, how many, how many? is there gold in the village?” Her hands were red and sticky when Sandor dragged her off him. “Enough,” was all he said. He was bleeding like a butchered pig himself, and dragging one leg when he walked. It’s another sign of an innocence that runs counter to what Sandor says and all our in-story knights do—knights are made for killing. Brienne’s fights are all against men who make the most vile threats of rape against her, men of whose past evil deeds she has intimate knowledge, and her killing blows are marked by words of personal payback like that one was for Jaime, Laugh, Sapphires. She never fights the nameless impersonal morally average opponent who just happens to be on the other side of the battlefield. She fights on mud each time, manages to summon the fire of revenge in the moment, and then is haunted by the death in the aftermath. It mirrors her personal oaths to Renly and Cat rather than picking a House and fighting for it in all its good and bad aspects as with other knights. The thematic treatment of ravens vs. doves and mud vs. fire continues with Brienne and Nimble Dick’s rather comical in-story who would beat who in a fight superhero debate between Ser Clarence “Crackbones” Crabb and Ser Galladon “Perfect Knight” of the Morne. Crabb thought that was hilarious. “The Perfect Knight? The Perfect Fool, he sounds like. What’s the point o’ having some magic sword if you don’t bloody well use it?” “Honor,” she said. “The point is honor.” That only made him laugh the louder. “Ser Clarence Crabb would have wiped his hairy arse with your Perfect Knight, m’lady. If they’d ever have met, there’d be one more bloody head sitting on the shelf at the Whispers, you ask me. ‘I should have used the magic sword,’ it’d be saying to all the other heads. ‘I should have used the bloody sword.’” Brienne could not help but smile. “Perhaps,” she allowed. Even Arthur Dayne never failed to use his magic sword even if he did allow the Smiling Knight to fetch a fresh blade for honor’s sake. The humorous ending to their debate makes a point as well. Brienne allowed that her Perfect Knight unsheathed his magical Just Maid to slay a dragon and Nimble Dick retorts: Nimble Dick was unimpressed. “Crackbones fought a dragon too, but he didn’t need no magic sword. He just tied its neck in a knot, so every time it breathed fire it roasted its own arse.” Aside from the hero using the symbolic fire, this is an example of using an enemy’s tactic against him. If the enemy resorts to a certain weapon or tactic, you do not cling to notions of “honor” but rather serve him the same in turn. This is exactly what we begin to see from the “honorable” Northmen in the form of Frey Pies and empty oaths of fealty to the Boltons. The Perfect Knight is one of Baelor the Blessed’s doves. Ravens are stronger, bolder, more clever, and better able to defend themselves against hawks, Freys, Boltons, and Lannisters. We continue to see the classic knightly hero lampooned in favor of a more pragmatic approach in line with the harsh realities of life and war consistent with our in-series morality metaphor. Again, we see the knight and fool pairing, but the nature of the fool is different here. Our in-story Florian was a fool when it came to love and in that he was willing to engage in self-deprecation at the expense of his own honor, not because he followed the letter of some code of honor to a fault. All of this reflects on Sandor as he has been established as the “true knight” of the story early on in Sansa’s arc, even if he is still a “true knight” in hiding at this point in the story. Yet Brienne’s story of the Perfect Knight is a good parable, a good child’s tale that holds some of what Martin calls Bard’s Truths. If the point of not drawing the sword is “honor” then it follows that setting the sword aside on those three occasions was the equivalent of setting aside honor. What is a Perfect Knight’s honor worth if the dragon lives to terrorize the innocent? It is an echo of our main morality metaphor. Additionally, knights are the government’s monopoly on the use of force, and if a knight in full plate confronts a member of the smallfolk he may as well be wielding an unbeatable magical sword from the gods given the disparity of power. There is a lesson on restraint in this tale that is tied to honor and one that speaks to Sandor’s killing of Mycah as well as the House he originally served. Honor in a knight is a public trust and not a matter of pride or a celebrity popularity contest. Knights represent the rule of law and the population’s faith in knights’ honor is pragmatically indistinguishable from their faith in their government and its rule of law. Laws must be knowable and predictable and have a spectrum of reasonably known consequences that are commensurate with the offense. A knight’s honor draws the line between Cicero’s age old distinction of the rule of law and the rule of venal men and the parable of the Perfect Knight and his Just Maid speaks to this. An eye for an eye is not a prescription for vengeance, it is a limit placed on responses and repercussions in the spirit of the rule of law and commensurate punishments and offenses. Taking an eye is the limit in response to the offense of having an eye taken. After all, the rest of the phrase is “a tooth for a tooth,” and playing dentist hardly qualifies as Old Testament-caliber vengeance. The Perfect Knight’s withholding of his magic sword speaks to this limit. The tale of the Rat Cook has a similar message—a man is entitled to his revenge, but only within limits. Our in-story violation of the prescription set forth by an eye for an eye is the Rains of Castamere and its in-story opposite seems to be the North’s First Men tradition of justice. Sandor Clegane’s first military campaign was the sack of King’s Landing, which was Tywin’s Rains of Castamere on House Targaryen. In that campaign his brother Gregor, known to his men by the knighthood-embodying title “Ser,” slaughtered the family of Rhaegar Targaryen, the man that knighted him in the first place. Sandor’s slaying of Mycah was technically lawful based on Joffrey’s lie, but was in truth Cersei’s Rains of Castamere response. It is under the shadow of this offense, a Rains of Castamere, an unleashing of the Just Maid on an unworthy opponent, a punishment not commensurate with the offense, which Sandor undergoes his redemption. Sandor’s redemptive journey for Rains of Castamere offenses also moves him closer to First Men justice. He goes from serving House Lannister to House Stark. He re-enters the story after the Blackwater in the chapter that opens with Arya giving the Gift of Mercy to the men in the cage caught by the same Huntsman who finds Sandor. Beric wields the sword himself against Sandor, Arya looks in his eyes when she holds the dagger and stays her hand. He asks Arya to wield the blade herself at the end after the Crossroads Inn. Our “true knight” moves away from the Rains of Castamere and toward First Men justice while the knights of the BwB who initially tried imperfectly to emulate First Men justice move towards the Rains of Castamere. A Rains of Castamere upon House Frey is the form of justice being carried out by these Knights of the Hollow Hill when Brienne arrives for her own trial. Even in such small humorous anecdotes, Martin has carefully crafted his knightly theme comparing the classic heroic tale to his own and he has done so within the overall theme of the series as a whole. Another aspect of a knight’s honor being a public trust and not simply a personal matter involves oaths and the giving of one’s word. Knights pledge their lives and their undying loyalty to fulfill their obligations, and in this it is the external perception of faith in honor that matters. Oaths of loyalty are the fabric from which the civilized society of a feudal culture is woven. It is the fulfillment of those oaths that allows a kingdom to defend itself and its people from external threats and to maintain law and order from internal ones. Oathkeeping is not about personal pride but about maintaining the public faith in the institutions of governance and justice. One of the consequences of the Red Wedding is the deterioration of one of the primary institutions for allowing the resumption of peace—Guest Right. At the core of an oath is trust. For any oath to matter there must be a plausible belief that the words are not wind. Being a knight means being a member of an institution that has a public trust, and even knights with no reputation for truth and veracity of their own may borrow from the trust inherent in the institution so long as the institution remains respected. The Lannister and Frey violation of the laws of hospitality have imperiled institutions of trust. If there is ever going to be a peace in this saga, that institutional trust must be repaired, the violators of the institution must be annihilated or achieve total domination, or honorable men must stand where institutions have fallen. Brienne experiences this deterioration first-hand and witnesses it consequences. The choice imposed upon Brienne is in many ways the direct result of the deterioration of institutions of trust. “Guest right don’t mean so much as it used to,” said the girl. “Not since m’lady come back from the wedding. Some o’ them swinging down by the river figured they was guests too.” . . . There was only one woman that the Maid of Tarth had ever sworn to serve. “That cannot be,” she said. “She’s dead.” “Death and guest right,” muttered Long Jeyne Heddle. “They don’t mean so much as they used to, neither one.” Compare Brienne’s oath to two strangers on the road over whether or not she had a role in the now purely irrelevant dead traitor king Renly’s death to Sandor Clegane’s upon entering the most prestigious and esteemed order of knighthood ever known in Westeros. Brienne: “By the Seven, then. I did no harm to King Renly. I swear it by the Mother. May I never know her mercy if I lie. I swear it by the Father, and ask that he might judge me justly. I swear it by the Maiden and Crone, by the Smith and the Warrior. And I swear it by the Stranger, may he take me now if I am false.” “She swears well, for a maid,” Ser Creighton allowed. Sandor: “Why not?” In fact, Sandor flat out refuses to take any “knightly vows” and no one balks. Boros whines about it as a membership requirement, but never as a question of Sandor’s word. No one doubts Sandor and he never needs to swear an oath to be taken seriously. He blows off Tyrion’s order after the bread riot and says he’s only going to look for his horse, but Tyrion accepts without question that Sandor will get the job done. More importantly, his enemies trust in Sandor’s honor as well: “No.” Lord Beric had sheathed his sword. “Sandor Clegane would kill us all gladly, but not in our sleep." Brienne stakes her own life in oaths with words to try and sway others, but Sandor’s enemies stake their own lives on a faith in Sandor’s deeds. They have robbed Sandor of a fortune, put him on trial for Gregor’s crimes and thus given him cause to strike at them and kill them. They believe he has murderous intent towards them, believe he had nothing left in this world but the gold they stole, and yet still they trust in his honor without a single oath. Amongst the heroic qualities that will be needed from a “true knight” in the coming books is a bond of honor even his enemies can respect to stand where the institutions of trust have fallen. Beric’s trust in Sandor at the end of his BwB trial and the start of his journey to the Quiet Isle stands in sharp contrast to Lady Stoneheart’s lack of trust in Brienne at the end of her BwB trial at the end of her backtracking journey from the Quiet Isle. One Road, Two Paths Brienne’s backtracking journey along the Hound’s course starts and ends with a choice. The first one is posed by the Elder Brother in front of a hearthfire and the second is imposed by Lady Stoneheart and a very different kind of fire. Sandor’s journey started with the choice imposed by fire and the BwB and ends with his yet to be posed on the page choice of the Quiet Isle. Brienne starts off sworn to an individual Stark and then becomes sworn to an individual Lannister, without consciously believing she’s switched sides or has conflicting oaths or interests. Sandor starts off sworn to House Lannister and his loyalty is written in the blood of Eddard’s household. He ends up seeking service to House Stark and again writes that loyalty in Lannister blood without ever even taking an oath. The hearthfire is what Sandor desired and did not believe to be obtainable, which is why he accepted the Kingsguard position. The desire for the hearthfire is why he asked Sansa to leave with him and also why he took Arya after his BwB trial. And the hearthfire is what he stared into while sitting at his Crossroads. Given this build-up and the parallel nature of their mirrored journeys, it seems likely that the hearthfire is also Sandor’s metaphorical choice posed at the Quiet Isle. It is easy to mistake the two choices for direct parallels given that the hearthfire for Sandor points to Sansa and Brienne explains her hearthfire choice to the Elder Brother as a promise to Jaime. Sandor is near the end of a journey of reclaiming innocence and Brienne is near the start of a journey to shed it. Sandor is moving from fire to mud and Brienne is moving from mud to fire. Every knightly quest has a temptation to fall from the path. For Sandor and his battle with fire, this temptation was to give into vengeance and be consumed by his desire to kill Gregor. For Brienne and her struggle with mud, her naïve notions of what Jaime symbolizes as a romantic interest are a temptation to fall from the quest to save Sansa. For Brienne, the hearthfire was always a choice and one offered to her mostly as an insult many times before. The Elder Brother’s counsel prior to her reversing the Hound’s path is the first time it was posed sincerely and the first time Brienne truly ponders that choice or reveals her thoughts about what it means to her. It is the choice she confesses to wanting but for her inability to emotionally cope with her sense of failure and her sense of inadequacy relative to what she feels her father deserves. As she backtracks along Sandor’s road, she too will end up at the Crossroads Inn and she also stares into the hearthfire there as Hyle Hunt makes his less-than-romantic marriage proposal. Brienne’s story is her own, but the literary parallel seems to confirm last chapter’s speculation that Sandor was indeed thinking of Sansa as he stared into the hearthfire there. Brienne, like Sandor, is wounded at the Crossroads Inn and needs to be carried to the end of the journey. Brienne’s inner torments on her way to the BwB offer further speculative material as to the haunting nature of Sandor’s fever dreams that would have accompanied him to the Quiet Isle. Sandor’s path to the Quiet Isle saw him shedding the identity of the Hound in both the loss of the helmet whose mantle was taken up by others and in the Elder Brother’s declaring that identity dead and the man Sandor at rest. As Brienne arrives at the Hollow Hill for her trial, we see the two parallel entities to Sandor donning the Hound identity that he has shed. Brienne in the form of her new facial scar that makes her more resemble the Hound and his terrible burned face and Lem who actually takes the Hound’s helm for himself. The BwB and its origins parallel Sandor’s own story. They were once innocent and defenceless, and after having been abused by Gregor Clegane’s monstrous nature grew into something capable of defending themselves. Unlike Sandor the BwB seems to have been consumed by the fire of the vengeful path, as Thoros laments to Brienne, and their donning the Hound’s helm in following that path points to Sandor having forsaken it along with the helm. Thoros sucked in his breath in dismay. “Is this true? A dead man’s helm? Have we fallen that low?” The big man scowled at him. “It’s good steel.” “There is nothing good about that helm, nor the men who wore it,” said the red priest. “Sandor Clegane was a man in torment, and Rorge a beast in human skin.” “I’m not them.” “Then why show the world their face? Savage, snarling, twisted . . . is that who you would be, Lem?” “The sight of it will make my foes afraid.” “The sight of it makes me afraid.” Aside from this, we have the Elder Brother’s take on the Hound identity that Sandor has shed and in some part Brienne and the BwB have taken up. “I will not call them wolves. Wolves are nobler than that . . . and so are dogs, I think.” … “I know a little of this man, Sandor Clegane. He was Prince Joffrey’s sworn shield for many a year, and even here we would hear tell of his deeds, both good and ill. If even half of what we heard was true, this was a bitter, tormented soul, a sinner who mocked both gods and men. He served, but found no pride in service. He fought, but took no joy in victory. He drank, to drown his pain in a sea of wine. He did not love, nor was he loved himself. It was hate that drove him. Though he committed many sins, he never sought forgiveness. Where other men dream of love, or wealth, or glory, this man Sandor Clegane dreamed of slaying his own brother, a sin so terrible it makes me shudder just to speak of it. Yet that was the bread that nourished him, the fuel that kept his fires burning. Ignoble as it was, the hope of seeing his brother’s blood upon his blade was all this sad and angry creature lived for . . . and even that was taken from him, when Prince Oberyn of Dorne stabbed Ser Gregor with a poisoned spear.” Both men make comparisons to humans acting worse than beasts and the Hound as an identity in torment. It would seem that at least one aspect of Sandor’s post-Quiet Isle story will be that he has left the inner torment behind. We are also given further evidence that Sandor made a choice at the Crossroads Inn. “Why indeed?” He glanced at the candle, as if he could no longer bear to look at her. “You fought bravely at the inn, they tell me. Lem should not have left the crossroads. He was told to stay close, hidden, to come at once if he saw smoke rising from the chimney . . . but when word reached him that the Mad Dog of Saltpans had been seen making his way north along the Green Fork, he took the bait. We have been hunting that lot for so long . . . still, he ought to have known better. Lem, the man who donned the Hound Helm, had been tasked with being the protector, the shield, as was always Sandor’s traditional role. The desire for revenge made him abandon the role of protector at the Crossroads Inn to go forth and seek his long-burning desire for vengeance. Sandor made a very different choice at the Crossroads and we have an implied reason. “Some call her that. Some call her other things. The Silent Sister. Mother Merciless. The Hangwoman.” “My lady,” Thoros said, “I do not doubt that kindness and mercy and forgiveness can still be found somewhere in these Seven Kingdoms, but do not look for them here The seeds of mercy planted in both of the Stark girls’ POVs seem to have borne fruit. The place Sandor’s shed identity ends is a place without the Mother’s Mercy that was prayed for and without the forgiveness his travels with Arya had earned him. Here, for the first time in Brienne’s story, she is described in terms of fire and it is an inner fire: “Might I feel your brow, my lady?” Her gaoler’s hand was scarred and hard with callus, yet strangely gentle. “Your fever has broken,” he announced, in a voice flavored with the accents of the Free Cities. “Well and good. Just yesterday your flesh felt as if it were on fire. Jeyne feared that we might lose you.” … “She did what she could for your face as well, washing out the wounds with boiled ale to stop the mortification. Even so . . . a human bite is a filthy thing. That is where the fever came from, I am certain.” The process through which Brienne obtains her more Hound-like visage is the same process that spawned an inner fire, the thing she was lacking throughout her entire POV. There are multiple ways to read this for Brienne, but the implied Sandor parallel is that he has achieved the inner balance with the symbolic mud. The Quiet Isle, the place where his parallel journey ended, is a place reached by crossing the mud. Broken Man or a broken man? The fate of Broken Men as we’re told through Septon Meribald seems to be to end up as Holy Men on the Quiet Isle, and some are tempted to see this in Sandor’s future. Sandor’s tale is quite different from that of Meribald’s Broken Man even if their paths cross at the Quiet Isle and in some regards Sandor was in fact a broken man. Sandor’s idealism was shattered and shattered by his brother, he did not seek glory in war with his brother and have that quest end in his disillusionment. Sandor was well trained in battle and would have had among the best equipment from his earliest days in Lannister service. He knew quite well which lord he served and why, and as he told Arya his belly for fighting was just fine. It was not the taste of battle that broke him as in Meribald’s tale. His origin is quite different from the Broken Man and so is his likely fate. Additionally, before we meet Meribald and hear his story, Brienne has already crossed paths with a Broken Man by the name of Nimble Dick. We have already been subtly told that not all Broken Men meet the same fate and in Nimble Dick’s case he avoided banditry by heeding the call of home, a call that led him to come to rest beneath the weirwood of the old gods. So before Martin tells us a tale of a Broken Man, he shows us the tale of a Broken Man. The innkeeper at the Stinking Goose is also surprised by Nimble Dick’s fate, so Martin might be having a little bit of layered fun surrounding his teasing of the Sandor in hairshirt ending. An overwhelming amount of textual evidence points against Brother Sandor, but it is discussed often enough to address it. Aside from everything else, it just wouldn’t be consistent for the embodiment of the hated and misunderstood raven to suddenly adopt the dove path by literally following in the footsteps of Baelor the Blessed.
  4. Ragnorak

    The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor II

    AFFC-ADWD SANDOR I Dead and at rest Brienne I (Ch. 4) Brienne III (Ch. 14) Brienne VI (Ch. 31) Brienne VII (Ch. 37) Brienne VIII (Ch. 42) Davos II (Ch. 15, ADWD) Two Knights in a Mirror On a first read of A Song of Ice and Fire, it would seem that Sandor Clegane is as left behind by the tale as he was by Arya under the tree, left out of the story as he was out of her prayer. On a closer inspection, we can deduce that he made it to the Quiet Isle, but both his absence and the journey that leads us to his anonymous cameo are important parts of his arc. With Sandor’s absence Martin is deliberately teasing readers with his death. While that is partly and quite deliberately for dramatic effect, it is also a literary technique that allows him to substantially evolve the character in that absence without having to craft it gradually on the page. Without a sixth book to read, our task can only be to speculate how. The missing part of Sandor’s tale is the journey to the Quiet Isle, but we have another tale in Brienne that is also a journey to the Quiet Isle that we do see. A close reading of Brienne’s chapters brings up a number of parallels, references, and contrasting material that makes it a bit of a vicarious journey for Sandor’s, at least from a literary point of view. The primary commentary seems to be one on the notion of the “true knight” and honor, and one that meshes well with the thematic content in the rest of the series. The author makes it quite clear that Brienne is being compared to the Hound. Some of the comparisons are subtler, but that parallels are being drawn is quite explicit as we see in Jaime’s first POV: “My name is Brienne,” she repeated, dogged as a hound. She’s the Hound with teats, he thought. And Martin even goes so far as to give Brienne Sandor’s signature line, “I am no Ser.”, when she drops her horse off in a stable. We are being given an open invitation to explore the similarities and differences in these characters’ stories. One easily recognizable aspect is the Beauty and the Beast motif and its inversions. Jaime and Brienne is one such treatment and Sandor and Sansa is another, with Sansa having Beauty and the Beast themes with Joffrey and Tyrion as well. But Beauty and the Beast is a relationship story and we’re more focused on the individual’s arc in a reread. Relationships color the individual, but they are not the core theme. For Sandor that theme is redemption and it is told through the out of focus lens of the Knight Errant, and this is our main focus in looking at the Brienne parallels as well. Foundations in Metaphors: Ravens, Doves and One Man’s (or woman’s) Honor Honor, conflicting oaths, incompatible loyalties, love vs. duty, mercy, justice and judgment have been with us from the opening of the series, and explored from many angles through every POV and many secondary characters and in-story background tales. It is a thought-provoking maze made far harder to navigate by the fog of sympathy, but the author does provide us with a compass to help navigate the way. The central morality metaphor of the series is Aemon’s ravens and doves speech to Jon. “A craven can be as brave as any man, when there is nothing to fear. And we all do our duty, when there is no cost to it. How easy it seems then, to walk the path of honor. Yet soon or late in every man’s life comes a day when it is not easy, a day when he must choose.” Choice is the central theme of Aemon’s speech and Jon is currently facing the choice to stay or go. That idea of choice is represented metaphorically in the ravens and doves and spelled out by Aemon as love vs. duty and love vs. honor specific to family, conflicting loyalties, and romance. Importantly, the wise and sagely figure has no specific counsel for Jon’s actual dilemma of staying or going. He simply advises to make a choice and counsels that the consequences last all our days. The archetypal figure of wisdom holds no magic answer for the merits of love vs. honor, only to cease ambivalence, choose and be prepared for the consequences. Choice is also both the ultimatum delivered to Brienne by Lady Stoneheart and the hidden answer to the mystery of Sandor’s post-Quiet Isle fate. In the explanation of the doves and ravens metaphor given by Aemon, one key aspect is public perception vs. pragmatics of survival and the ability to accomplish the ultimate goal. “Doves and pigeons can also be trained to carry messages,” the maester went on, “though the raven is a stronger flyer, larger, bolder, far more clever, better able to defend itself against hawks... yet ravens are black, and they eat the dead, so some godly men abhor them. Baelor the Blessed tried to replace all the ravens with doves, did you know?” “The crow is the raven’s poor cousin. They are both beggars in black, hated and misunderstood.” The Night’s Watch prefers ravens. The ultimate purpose for these birds is to deliver messages, and what matters is their ability to accomplish their primary task and not whether or not “some godly men abhor them.” It is better to be hated and misunderstood and succeed in delivering the message than to be publicly perceived as honorable and yet fail in that core mission. So the right and wrong nature of love vs. honor really depends upon the core mission. In fact, choosing love over honor or vice versa makes that choice the core mission and the true betrayals are in choosing incorrectly. love is the bane of honor, the death of duty the gods have fashioned us for love. That is our great glory, and our great tragedy The glory or the tragedy comes with the choice and the bane of honor and the death of duty are not always bad things. Davos and his choice to save Edric Storm was the death of duty and even a man with the revered honor of Barristan the Bold wonders if his honor and duty would have been better served with a seasoning of bane and death. These choices of love, duty and honor are all prominently at play in the choices facing both Sandor and Brienne, and Sandor is one of our most blatant examples of choosing the death of duty for love as he turns his back on the Lannisters and his Kingsguard oath. The consistent image in the background is Jon serving up the feast for crows with blood on his hands up to his wrists. There will always be consequences. Few choices are black and white and even those that are come with bloodstains. Perhaps the only consistent theme in Martin’s series-long love vs. honor exploration is that it is never the morally correct choice to choose one’s own honor over anything else. It is from this angle that it seems best to approach the notion of heroes and “true knighthood.” Inherent in the raven and dove metaphor is the black and white nature of good guys and bad guys down to the colors of the birds and the cowboy hats. The classic tale of a hero is much like the songs children admire so much in ASOIAF. The heroes are pure and white, the villains are vile and black. Our storybook Knight Errant never soils his honor whether he’s wearing a great helm or a cowboy hat, and this is the primary divergence Martin takes in his heroic acts. The heroes and the heroic acts in ASOIAF involve choosing something over one’s own personal honor. Davos with Edric Storm, Ned with claiming Jon as his bastard, Ned with falsely confessing to save Sansa, even the dramatic heroic appeal of Manderly’s “the North Remembers” is rooted in his self-deprecating act as a lickspittle and embracing every dishonorable aspect of his mocked obese stereotype. For Sandor, these imperfect choices have been as ever-present as his burned face, but with Brienne they are absent until her Lady Stoneheart sentencing. The nature of this type of choice is most clearly explained in Jon. “Our honor means no more than our lives, so long as the realm is safe. Are you a man of the Night’s Watch?” The core purpose of the Night’s Watch is to protect the realm. What does Jon’s personal honor mean so long as the core purpose is fulfilled? More importantly, what does Jon’s personal honor mean if that personal honor is purchased at the cost of failing in his core mission? Jon returns to the Night’s Watch bearing the hated and misunderstood burden of choosing the raven’s path over the dove’s. This lesson comes up again with his sending Val after Tormund. He deliberately breaks his sworn word to Stannis, knowing that it not only stains his honor but may well mean his life—even if Val succeeds. “Do I have your word that you will keep our princess closely?” the king had said, and Jon had promised that he would. Val is no princess, though. I told him that half a hundred times. It was a feeble sort of evasion, a sad rag wrapped around his wounded word. I am the sword that guards the realm of men, Jon reminded himself, and in the end, that must be worth more than one man’s honor. The classic storybook hero is the dove who never has a wounded word. The path of the hero’s personal honor and the path of morality are indistinguishable. There is never a dilemma over the hero’s honor vs. the right thing, never a Catch-22 scenario where the hero will emerge with blood on his hands no matter the choice. Sandor Clegane is clearly established as the “true knight” to answer Sansa’s prayer in the godswood as far back as the Serpentine Steps in Clash of Kings, and he is clearly from the raven school of heroes. He is a knight for the storybooks, but not a knight out of the storybooks. Brienne is a Knight Errant on the dove’s path right out of the storybooks. The parallels between her and Sandor run deep and their paths intersect and overlap geographically and thematically. GRRM is clearly contrasting the nature of their heroic journeys, and analyzing them more closely reveals much regarding Sandor Clegane and Martin’s treatment of heroes. Brienne’s journey starts with reversing the trail she took with Jaime and ends with reversing the steps of the Hound. In between, she has her fight with Shagwell that is nearly a direct parallel to Arya and Sandor’s fight in the Crossroads Inn. Sandor starts with his trial by the BwB, makes his way to the Crossroads Inn and ends up on the Quiet Isle. Brienne starts with seeing Sandor at the Quiet Isle, makes her way to the Crossroads Inn, and is then taken to the BwB and put on trial. Each starts where the other ends. They are opposite journeys, and that serves to highlight the contrasting elements more so than the similarities. Brienne is still completely innocent, naïve, and idealistic at the start of her journey from King’s Landing. These aspects are so prevalent that her initial POVs might read like a parody were it not for her traumatic recollections from her earlier journey along this same road. It gives the opening of her quest a certain fairytale quality. Brienne starts out by asking everyone, literally everyone, whether or not they’ve seen her highborn sister of three-and-ten with blue eyes and auburn hair. As Brienne mounted up again, she glimpsed a skinny boy atop a piebald horse at the far end of the village. I have not talked with that one, she thought The irony is that this is Podrick Payne, who will be stalking her the whole way and is on a not dissimilar quest of his own, but it also shows that Brienne is simply asking every single person she meets because they happen to currently be on the shortest road to Duskendale with absolutely no discriminating factors whatsoever. Initially, this creates that fairytale feel of the young naïve quester asking all the simple village folk like the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker if they’ve seen the lost magic swan. It is such a simplistic form of interrogation that she may as well be asking all the animals or the moon and the sky and the stars for the lost magical MacGuffin. At first, this is a bit of a nod to the classic white hat-wearing Knight Errant archetype. This feel continues for quite a while and is further fostered by the characters of the two comical hedge knights she meets on the road, who are so colorfully full of similar fantastical clichéd notions and exaggerated storybook courtesies, but it is also undermined from the outset by answers like “The younger wanted to know if the girl had that auburn hair between her legs as well.” The gallantry of the feel of the fairytale persists for some time, but the realism demonstrating folly combined with Brienne’s own memories of the horrors of this road is there in equal measure. Brienne’s POV lends its own sympathy to the storybook aspect, but the actual content on the page favors the harsher reality. Her two noble in spirit hedge knight companions are soon contrasted with the Mad Mouse, who is a far more cunning, pragmatic and more importantly capable character. His pragmatism and implied skill and mercenary attitude are contrasted with the parodied hedge knights’ over-the-top courtesies and Ser Creighton’s absurd battle with the monstrous red chicken shield. Most importantly, it is this Mad Mouse, who also admits that he’s questing for Sansa Stark, that actually finds Sansa Stark in the chapter immediately preceding Brienne’s trial before Lady Stoneheart. This effectiveness of pragmatism over storybook gallantry continues with Randyll Tarly and Maidenpool. Brienne is repeatedly shocked by the degree of rebuilding that has taken place and the contrast to the chaos and desolation that ruled on her previous trip through this land. When last she had seen Maidenpool, the town had been a desolation, a grim place of empty streets and burned homes. Now the streets were full of pigs and children, and most of the burned buildings had been pulled down. Vegetables had been planted in the lots where some once stood; merchant’s tents and knight’s pavilions took the place of others. Brienne saw new houses going up, a stone inn rising where a wooden inn had burned, a new slate roof on the town sept. The cool autumn air rang to the sounds of saw and hammer. Men carried timber through the streets, and quarrymen drove their wagons down muddy lanes. Many wore the striding huntsman on their breasts. “The soldiers are rebuilding the town,” she said, surprised. Randyll Tarly is an oft hated if not actually misunderstood man. Readers are more than predisposed to dislike him for his treatment of Sam, and that backstory makes it perfectly clear that he is no gallant storybook knight. In fact, Randyll Tarly is best described as the quintessential dog of war. He is the soldier unleashed on the uncivilized enemies who does what is needed to allow smallfolk to keep their fanciful delusions of storybook knights. Yet this is the man rebuilding and restoring the civilized society of Westeros and not the inept storybook hedge knights Brienne met on the road. Brienne’s near scuffle with the guards at the gate was not as close of a thing as it may have seemed. Hyle Hunt is Tarly’s and he had command of the gate likely for exactly the type of encounter Brienne had. The others were clearly Lord Mooton’s, and they were hours away from learning how close they came to castration or far, far worse. Brienne is immediately taken to see Tarly, who is dispensing justice, and one of those men on trial was Lord Mooton’s who had been cheating a sailor at dice and that sailor had stabbed him through the hand. “For theft, I will take a finger. Lie to me and I will hang you. Shall I ask to see these dice?” “The dice?” The archer looked to Mooton, but his lordship was gazing at the fishing boats. Tarly had heard enough. “Take his little finger. He can choose which hand. A nail through the palm for the other.” Randyll Tarly is explicitly addressing the misbehaviors and abuses in Lord Mooton’s men. The sailor stabbed Mooton’s archer in the hand, and in addition to the finger for stealing, Tarly orders a nail through the hand which mimics the actual act of the sailor stabbing the guard. The look to Mooton clearly shows that this lord used to condone this behavior and Tarly is having none of it. He is sending a crystal-clear message by reenacting the sailor’s stabbing in the sentencing, and an equally clear message by passing this sentence in front of Lord Mooton so there can be zero doubt amongst his men about who is in charge and how things will work from this day forward. Hyle Hunt was at that gate and given charge over Mooton’s men to prevent just such an occurrence as Brienne’s encounter. After word in the barracks spreads about the cheating archer, there will never be a molestation at the gates of Maidenpool again until well after Randyll Tarly has departed. Through the POV structure, our surface presentation is the classic Knight Errant or cowboy standoff with villainous men over an innocent woman’s honor as Brienne draws her sword to protect the smallfolk. In reality, these are guards and Brienne would logically be pitted against the whole garrison of the town for drawing blood at the gates. It is Tarly’s name, Tarly’s harsh justice, and Tarly’s school of pragmatic leadership that prevents the rape and not the heroic storybook approach, just as Tarly has rebuilt the town and restored order and not the gallantry from the pages of fables. This idealism vs. pragmatism theme permeates the entirety of Brienne’s arc and it is at the core of her comparisons to the Hound and the notion of “true knights.” The Pink Shadowcat There is no kind way to describe Brienne’s detective skills. She is, much as her likely ancestor used to describe himself, as thick as a castle wall—and not just any castle, Storm’s End or even The Wall. The items on the list of Brienne’s investigative failures are legion. Would Sansa have worn a hood to cover her hair? Would Sansa be travelling in a manner that would make her appear highborn? Couldn’t she be travelling in a wagon such that she didn’t appear on the road at all? Dressed as a boy as Arya and even Brienne herself do? Brienne has no cover story to hide behind. This is a girl accused of murdering the king, a king she was formerly betrothed to before being forced to marry the monstrous Imp, his uncle with whom with she’s supposedly plotted the murder. This is the follow-on drama to her father supposedly betraying his best friend and being executed for treason. This is a tale that has spread beyond the shadows of Asshai. It would take a miracle for Brienne to find even a hermit who didn’t know she was asking about Sansa Stark. Brienne soon realizes her folly when questioned by the Mad Mouse. Ser Shadrich laughed. “Oh, I doubt that, but it may be that you and I share a quest. A little lost sister, is it? With blue eyes and auburn hair?” He laughed again. “You are not the only hunter in the woods. I seek for Sansa Stark as well.” “I know no Sansa Stark,” she insisted. “I am searching for my sister, a highborn girl . . .” “. . . with blue eyes and auburn hair, aye. Pray, who is this knight who travels with your sister? Or did you name him fool?” Ser Shadrich did not wait for her answer, which was good, since she had none. “A certain fool vanished from King’s Landing the night King Joffrey died, a stout fellow with a nose full of broken veins, one Ser Dontos the Red, formerly of Duskendale. I pray your sister and her drunken fool are not mistaken for the Stark girl and Ser Dontos. That could be most unfortunate.” Even Jaime Lannister had seldom made Brienne feel such a fool. Yet after being made to feel so foolish, she does nothing to rectify it. She doesn’t reconsider her story or even ponder any further flaws it might have. This very quickly becomes apparent. I must ask after Sansa. How else will I find her? ... “Goodwife,” she said to the woman on the turnip cart, “perhaps you saw my sister on the road? A young maid, three-and-ten and fair of face, with blue eyes and auburn hair. She may be riding with a drunken knight.” "...Does the poor girl have a name?” Brienne’s head was empty. I should have made up some name for her. Any name would do, but none came to her. “No name? Well, the roads are full of nameless girls.” “The lichyard’s even fuller,” said his wife. In fact, Brienne’s investigative skills are so awful that it is hard to imagine that there isn’t some intentional allusion at play, specifically the famous French detective Inspector Clouseau. Sansa as the precious jewel stolen from the impregnable keep and Brienne the unlikely detective stumbling after her. The amount of irony surrounding her investigation supports the reference, since Brienne actually tends to stumble upon on all the answers. Brienne had asked along the docks, but no one could remember a ship leaving on the night King Joffrey died. A few trading ships were anchoring in the bay and off-loading by boat, one man told her, but more were continuing up the coast to Duskendale, where the port was busier than ever. This is the very answer as to how Sansa escaped King’s Landing, it just never occurs to Detective Brienne that it was a possibility. Her discovery that the Hound had “Sansa” is also the byproduct of considerable investigative bumbling. She is looking for a fool because she suspects Sansa fled with Dontos, not knowing that Dontos sleeps with the fishes. She follows the wrong lead to a thirty-year-old abandoned smuggling cove used in a deserter’s con job. This is not exactly the most probable location to find clues as to the whereabouts of missing Stark daughters, and yet she does, which is a hallmark of the irony surrounding our bumbling French detective. Upon her return to Maidenpool, she can’t find an inn so she takes Pod up on his suggestion to find a ship to sleep in for the night and nearly stumbles upon the Titan’s Daughter while it is carrying Arya Stark to Braavos. Of course, Brienne could have slept on the Titan’s Daughter in the same room as Arya and she wouldn’t have recognized her, as she’ll later realize in trying to puzzle out whether Jeyne Heddle is or isn’t Arya Stark. Brienne then stumbles on Sandor while looking for the Hound when he throws a shovel full of dirt at her feet and she never notices him. Her finding or nearly finding the targets of her investigation and completely missing them is frequent enough to wonder at our author’s intentions. Part of this seems aimed at the naïveté at play in Brienne’s story, and there is a definitive aspect of GRRM lampooning the traditional Knight Errant-style tale and its traditional hero even with Brienne as a highly sympathetic character. Unlike Sandor, Brienne is a knight right out of the tales and she plays directly into our expectations of the classic hero. Yet this classic image of a knightly hero is the mechanism Martin chose to deliver the hidden aspects of Sandor’s tale during his on-page absence. It is Sandor “Don’t Call Me Ser” Clegane that actually succeeds in finding and protecting Arya, and who protected Sansa at King’s Landing. It is Sandor who rides into the Frey fray and kills three Frey knights breaking his sword, but not a sweat. This bit of heroics is so easily overlooked through the combination of Arya’s unsympathetic POV and the dramatic unfolding of the Red Wedding. This is the road Sandor travelled to get from his BwB trial to the Quiet Isle, and this is the same road that Brienne follows in reverse toward her own BwB trial and we are being invited by the author to explore the differences.
  5. Ragnorak

    The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor II

    Redemption through the journey of a knighthood archetype is a particularly significant point for Sandor's tale and one of two puzzle pieces within the overall series. Sandor is a secondary character and despite having been provided an arc by the author, his story is more subtle by the very nature of the POV structure and from a literary standpoint serves the purpose for being a background measuring stick or commentary for other redemptive arcs and the institution of knighthood in general. Stannis as a secondary character serves a similar purpose in terms of ruling. For the most part, Stannis is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Not because I have a 90 page legal treatise to prove it, but simply because virtually all of our in story characters believe that he is. Everyone in the story (except Dany, Varys, and Doran) embraces the Baratheon Dynasty as the rightful legal framework and either knows or comes to know that Stannis is truly the lawful heir of that dynasty. At times various historical precedents of inheritance are brought up or the right of conquest, but no one is actually looking at those in terms of a legal precedent to adjudicate the issue of the throne within the confines of the rule of law. They are looking to shroud their self serving agendas in the rule of law indifferent to its demands. Any king who wishes to sit the throne as the "lawful king" needs a lawful pretext. Tywin acknowledges Balon's right of conquest to Mace while he is secretly planning to violate guest right to kill Robb Stark because he refuses to acknowledge Robb's right of conquest. In neither case does he remotely care what the law demands and his indifference to the law is shared by virtually all other contenders. Stannis serves as a similar measuring stick for all of our Iron Throne contenders as Sandor does for knights and redemption. It is no coincidence that his defining characteristic is a near blind adherence to the rule of law. Dany is a curious outlier who believes she has a lawful claim to the throne and she also parallels Stannis in ways no other contenders do. With the help of Davos, Stannis comes to realize that a king protects his people or he is no king at all and Dany is the only other monarch in contention to embrace this fact. Dany's tale actually follows the very path of the creation of kingdoms. She starts as conqueror and then transitions into ruling that which was conquered. Hers is the origin tale of the thousands of petty kingdoms of Westeros that grew into seven and then into one. Astapor and its aftermath is the turning point for Dany. She left "wise men" in charge of that city but they failed. While there are many reasons for that failure all of them fall under the umbrella of the use of force. Governments hold a monopoly on the lawful use of force and Dany took her army with her. The wise man had no ability to enforce their wisdom whether or not it would have been wise in the end. In Westeros, knights (or their un-anointed Northern counterparts) are the government's monopoly on the use of force making the knightly code essentially the rule of law. The alternative to the rule of law is "might makes right" also known as the Gregor Clegane school of governance. That naïve belief in noble knightly stories is also a belief in the rule of law. Power resides where men believe it resides and at the end of this tale that will metaphorically either be with Sandor or Gregor Clegane. That final determination will in no small part be decided by the eventual winners and losers in the Game of Thrones. While we are given plenty of compare and contrast material with our various POVs, the major secondary characters also serve as a baseline for the POV perspectives. The three most significant secondary characters seem to be Sandor, Stannis and Doran and all of them have a very distinct tie to major thematic issues of morality, justice and the law. Each has also suffered an injustice of some sort that motivates him through the series and all three serve to provide baselines for comparing our various POV characters. Of the three Sandor stands out in many ways. He has more time on the page, he has been there since the beginning unlike the others, but most importantly his involvement is almost purely personal. Doran and Stannis have their personal stories tied up in the Game of Thrones while Sandor's is purely about the personal level. He may have indirect political consequences to his acts but they are all personal acts not political ones and from an author whose paramount tale is the human heart in conflict with itself this seems to make Sandor the one to pay the closest attention to.
  6. Ragnorak

    The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor II

    A very thought inspiring summary, Milady. I especially enjoyed the last section on names and their use in confronting the guilty. Identity themes run deep in this series and we have names for all of our chapter titles with the recent addition in the last two books of more thematic identifiers that are akin to nicknames. It occurs to me that names play an interesting role internally for at least two of our characters whose arcs are being presented in a redemptive style-- Jaime and Theon. One of the key points in Jaime's tale is his reading of the White Book as he ponders his past and decides that he can write his own future. He engages in this process largely through the use of nicknames. That boy had wanted to be Ser Arthur Dayne, but someplace along the way he had become the Smiling Knight instead. Later when talking with Loras who he has come to see as resembling his younger self he again turns to nickname "Kingmaker" to make his point. “He can’t have been very good.” “Good enough. He died, but his king lived. A lot of brave men have worn the white cloak. Most have been forgotten.” “Most deserve to be forgotten. The heroes will always be remembered. The best.” “The best and the worst.” So one of us is like to live in song. “And a few who were a bit of both. Like him.” He tapped the page he had been reading. “Who?” Ser Loras craned his head around to see. “Ten black pellets on a scarlet field. I do not know those arms.” “They belonged to Criston Cole, who served the first Viserys and the second Aegon.” Jaime closed the White Book. “They called him Kingmaker.” Theon has a much more explicit and far more consuming battle of his own with the name as Reek and he shares his lesson from this struggle with his sister Asha, “Theon,” he repeated. “My name is Theon. You have to know your name.” Both of these men entertain fantasies of the nicknames they'll bear in the glory that they'll win, but all their musings of glory are tied to external perceptions and not born of the sense of self (though once Theon endures the Reek transformation his struggle is almost entirely about the self.) No Wodes appeared, nor any of their smallfolk, though some outlaws had taken shelter in the root cellar beneath the second brother’s keep. One of them wore the ruins of a crimson cloak, but Jaime hanged him with the rest. It felt good. This was justice. Make a habit of it, Lannister, and one day men might call you Goldenhand after all. Goldenhand the Just. It is curious that the measure of their respective needs for redemption is essentially the difference between their fantasy names and their earned nicknames-- Kingslayer and Turncloak. They also each earned these names in a similar mix of the pursuit of glory combined with a desire for affection and approval from family that led them into circumstances that ran counter to their inner sense of morality resulting in an emotional outlash against those circumstances. Jaime sought the glory of being the youngest of the Kingsguard and affection from Cersei. Theon sought the glory of being a king and the approval of his father. Both took actions and inactions that were offensive to their inner sense of morality and then exacerbated that moral conflict with an emotional lashing out that earned them their respective nicknames-- killing Aerys and sacking Winterfell. In contrast we have our most honorable and moral candidate for the series, Ned Stark, who is essentially without a nickname. When one is needed the Mountain Clans simply call him, "The Ned." Jon Snow gets the mocking nickname "Lord Snow" that coincidentally becomes his official title and identity. Both of these men make morally conflicted decisions but they seem to be in line with Aemon's advice about making the decision you can live with. Ned is haunted by the lies he tells for love, but those lies were the imperfect choice he could live with. He is plagued with the lack of honesty to Cat, but is never remotely concerned with his external reputation for supposedly having fathered a bastard. He is perfectly content with being the "hated and misunderstood" raven. Much the same is true for Jon Snow. Circling back to Sandor, he seems to be a mix. We can't know for sure because we lack his inner monologue, but he seems perfectly contented with being called The Hound and Dog as he explains plainly to Sansa. The killing of Mycah is closer to the type of conflict we see in Jaime and Theon. We see him disdain the Tourney of Gnats for lack of competition and every one of those contenders was a better warrior than Mycah. While technically his task is defending the royal person from attack it is hardly a real threat and far more Gregor's role of the sword than the shield that he has chosen to embody and it is this out of character act that he is called to account for by Arya. I find it curious that his Hound identity is stripped, both through the stealing of his helm and through the upcoming declaration of The Hound's death by the Elder Brother, given the role that nicknames play for Theon and Jaime with regard to morality and identity. GRRM could chose to strip that identity completely (which seems to be the course at this point) or choose to reform or reshape that identity. If a Jaime had killed the tyrant Joffrey the Kingslayer name could take on a whole new meaning. If under different circumstances Theon had helped the North retake Moat Cailin through similar treachery, even Turncloak could also be redefined in spirit. Apple Martini has a thread about how The Queen of Thorns was likely once an insult hurled at Olenna for her lost royal marriage that she has redefined and made her own over time. The choice to strip the defining nickname of The Hound from Sandor may point to a far more significant transformation when he emerges from the Quiet Isle-- or perhaps reclaiming it may be his redefining task upon leaving. The nexus between nicknames and morality/redemption is not universal so it may not be such a significant point in Sandor's arc, but GRRM does use the humanizing aspects of names with accusers as you point out, in character's inner thoughts as we see with Arya's use of Sandor, and in most POV characters' identity journey's so I doubt it is meaningless.
  7. Ragnorak

    The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor II

    Hmm... a very interesting bit of conjecture, Milady. It also seems rather obvious now that you've pointed it out. We have numerous examples of good men serving or being subordinate to a morally challenged man and they all include measures of resistance if not an outright rebellious course in some shape. The first that comes to mind is Davos. His initial rebellion to Edric Storm being burned consisted rather simply of saying the boy's name before it eventually grew to an arguable treason for which he immediately confessed. Ned and Robert contains numerous examples as well, and even Jon Snow has his rebellious acts towards Stannis. Mercifully killing "Mance" with arrows stands in possibly deliberate contrast to Jaime's passively watching Rickard burn. The Baratheon rulers are a bit different as they all seem to have an admirable side to some degree. Neither Ned nor Jon found Robert or Stannis wholly unworthy and Davos even less so when it comes to Stannis. Joffrey is another matter and he is often outright compared to the Mad King. You are quite correct. It does not even require any great deal of risk or even courage to show some kind of moral support. In Sansa's POV we get the Redwyne twins reaction to her on the way to meet Joffrey's wrath: The Hound snorted. “They trained you well, little bird.” He conducted her to the lower bailey, where a crowd had gathered around the archery butts. Men moved aside to let them through. She could hear Lord Gyles coughing. Loitering stablehands eyed her insolently, but Ser Horas Redwyne averted his gaze as she passed, and his brother Hobber pretended not to see her. A yellow cat was dying on the ground, mewling piteously, a crossbow quarrel through its ribs. Sansa stepped around it, feeling ill. Simply making eye contact would have been a form of support. In Sansa's POV we're clued into the effectiveness of these small gestures from Sandor just as we are with Davos and his insistence on repeating the name Edric Storm. “Sire, about Edric Storm. .” Stannis made a sharp gesture. “Spare me.” Davos persisted. “Your daughter takes her lessons with him, and plays with him every day in Aegon’s Garden.” “I know that.” “Her heart would break if anything ill should - “I know that as well.” ... “You are making me angry, Davos. I will hear no more of this bastard boy.” “His name is Edric Storm, sire.” “I know his name. Was there ever a name so apt? It proclaims his bastardy, his high birth, and the turmoil he brings with him. Edric Storm. There, I have said it. Are you satisfied, my lord Hand?” Whether it is fear of becoming Joffrey's next focus or simply the shame of doing nothing as a defenseless girl is beaten we can be certain that the Imp's rescue was humiliating for these twins given Tyrion's pathetic martial stature just as an Arthur Dayne's hypothetical actions would have been a source of admiration for the young Jamie-- it is easier to stomach falling short of the Sword of the Morning than it is The Imp. I could speculate about Rhaegar deliberately removing Arthur from the Red Keep following Ashara's death for fear of his reaction, but that takes us far afield from the reread and the implications for Sandor's character. What we do have is the irony of Tyrion acting the knightly protector toward Sansa because he wants to be like Jaime in the face of Sandor's action as a protector demonstrating Jaime's prior shortcomings. One of the things I find interesting in this whole Kingsguard set of parallels is the unconditional loyalty we saw from the three at the Tower of Joy which more resembles Sandor's mindset, compared to the more circumstantial adaptation we see in Jaime and saw in Barristan prior to his time with Dany. Sandor serves the Lannisters with a loyalty that is immune to circumstances right up until he chooses not to anymore. The military circumstance Sandor surveys from the rooftop before the Blackwater are the same circumstances that caused Vargo Hoat to switch sides. They are bleak to hopeless for the Lannister camp and Sandor repeatedly rushes into wildfire to battle these knowingly hopeless odds. Once he leaves their service he shows the same degree of loyalty to his newfound mission of seeking service amongst the Starks. Even after the Red Wedding and the Stark fall to the Boltons, he never thinks of Arya as a political tool beyond what he might benefit from as her rescuer. He never even inquires about the new political player in Joffrey's marriage nor does he think to gain advantage from holding the true Arya and possibly seeking out the Bolton convoy carrying the false one. He is loyal indifferent to likely winners and losers even in the face of his own possible or probable demise. Barristan seems to have learned from his past experiences. His Arstan disguise is as much born of a desire to assess Dany as someone who is or isn't worthy of his service as it is to travel in secrecy. Prior to that he blindly followed Aerys indifferent to his own sense of honor. He never broke from that service as Sandor chose nor did he find a place in the faction of the Kingsguard that chose Rhaegar as a more worthy master. For all his blind following of Aerys he accepted Robert's pardon and accepted a continued place in that order with the Kingslayer as a brother. With Dany he seems to have found his hill to die on and now seems more aligned with his brothers at the Tower of Joy in her service. Jaime in his "redemptive" arc seems to be splitting the difference. He rescues Pia, but accepts the service of Gregor's men that raped her. I suspect that an Arthur Dayne's reaction would have much more resembled a Ned Stark's. He wants to honor his vow to Cat to not raise arms against the Tullys but is willing to threaten Edmure with the pure Rivermen assault. It is a rather dishonorable way of honoring his vow as the undead Catelyn seems likely to remind him. He turns down Margaery and Tywin's restoration of him as heir to the Rock (not that Mace would ever consent to his daughter not being queen nor would Olenna ever consent to making Margaery a Queen of Thorns the Second) for the opportunity to write a new future for himself in the White Book. Yet he wants to confess his relationship with Cersei but continues in the ruse and continues to reap the benefits of the lie. He continues to choose "honor" within the limits of it not costing more than he is personally willing to pay. His "honor" is bound by the limits of self service. Much of this overlaps with the idea of facing one's past as part of a redemptive arc, but it also touches on a more philosophical treatment of the idea of honor. Martin directly poses this question to Jon through Qhorin of the half a hand more than Jaime. “Our honor means no more than our lives, so long as the realm is safe. Are you a man of the Night’s Watch?” “Yes, but—” “There is no but, Jon Snow. You are, or you are not.” Jaime is a character with a lot of "buts" in his honor and this seems to be because his honor is entirely self-contained. In order for honor to mean more than one's life it must be stored safely outside of the self. The concept of storing one's heart or soul outside the self to obtain immortality is common in mythology and it finds a certain metaphorical truth with the concept of honor and service. In knightly tales the receptacle for the heart is typically a feminine figure and often a love interest, but not always as we see with Barristan and Dany or Ned sacrificing his personal honor for Sansa. Sandor must have always had some external sense of a higher purpose outside the self for him to have held back killing blows for Gregor at the Hand's Tourney. His tale is of the tension between finding a role to embody that higher purpose and being consumed by vengeance. It is somewhat similar to the dramatic tension in Arya's arc and a failure on Sandor's part would resemble something like Jaime's killing of Aerys. There are a number of parallels between Sandor and Jaime thematically mostly centered around the Kingsguard circumstances, but also in elements like a stolen identity in the form of Sandor's helm and Jaime's sword hand. Still, Jaime finds an overall closer parallel in Theon, who also chose very selfish paths over an internal sense of honor and is left broken and pathless in a sea of his own consequences. That difference is just as informative for Sandor's arc as are the parallels.
  8. Ragnorak

    The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor II

    Milday, your comment about the Hound as a nickname having potentially once been positive before taking on a negative connotation struck a chord. GRRM has dozens if not hundreds of great nicknames throughout the series and there is a great deal of meaning that can be drawn from his use of nicknames. The Sam POV in Craster's Keep in the chapter where Mormont dies contains a bit of a philosophical discussion between Grenn and Sam on the use and meaning of nicknames mostly centered around Sam's new nickname "Slayer." It is a curious bit of in-story commentary on nicknames from an author who uses them so prolifically. They discuss how the same nickname can be used in a complimentary fashion or as an insult depending on the addresser, but Grenn seems to believe that if you "came by it fairly" your nickname can't be used as a term of disparagement. There is an emphasis on the importance of "earning" your nickname as opposed to having one bestowed upon you-- metaphorically defining yourself as opposed to being defined by others. That ties into Tyrion's advice to Jon Snow about armoring himself in his bastard identity so that it can't be used against you. Sandor has done this quite literally, armoring himself in his Hound identity. We know he has done this and internalized it because he tells Sansa so when she asks why he lets people call him "dog" but not "Ser." This is a very significant point because we are approaching the Quiet Isle where the Elder Brother will declare the Hound dead and Sandor at rest. The Hound identity has been stolen and the helm donned by men who go forth and essentially do Gregor's work-- the very thing the Hound nickname and identity was forged to avoid. It is a curious thing that the chapter with the parting of Arya and Sandor that sends them both to very different places of religious reflection and contains the element of someone "stealing their faces" that seems likely to be a dramatic element to pull them back into the main tale. I have long believed that the central morality metaphor of the series is Aemon's Ravens and Doves speech to Jon. Aemon implies that the "hated and misunderstood" raven is the superior choice to the publicly perceived purity of the dove. In this light it makes the "hated and misunderstood" perception of the Hound as a nickname or identity a rather significant point. Aemon also counsels Jon not on a specific course of action but rather to make the choice he can live with for all the rest of his days. There are few perfect choices, oaths conflict, heart strings pull in different directions and the "proper" course of action is the one whose consequences we can best live with in the aftermath of the choice. In some ways this view of morality can best be summed up by the philosopher Ser Clint Eastwood in his most well known non-Western persona "A man's got to know his limitations."-- both in what he can and can't do and what he can and can't live with. Most all of Ned's choices can be described in these terms from protecting the infant Jon Snow to resigning as Hand over the Dany assassination. Oberyn's death is not the tragedy or failure it might have been with a different character because dying to obtain justice for Elia is the choice a man like Oberyn can "live" with. Jaime's tale is one of making choices he couldn't live with and the weight of those poor past choices haunting and influencing what he can live with in the present. For all his defiance to Cat in the dungeon at Riverrun he essentially confesses to Tywin that he can no longer live with women kicking buckets of shit at him. Stopping a Gregor Clegane is the "right" choice, but somewhat beyond the scope of capabilities of an 11 year old boy and 11 year old boys need to know their limitations too. Sandor's whole story can be described in terms of "making the choice he can live with" based on knowing his limitations starting with his fleeing to Casterly Rock upon the death of his father. In pondering Sandor from this angle I think the most informative comparison is Jaime especially with the Sansa/Rhaella kingsguard parallel. While Sandor clearly regrets some of his past choices, they were the one's he could live with given his limitations at the time he made them. Jaime seems to be someone who made choices he couldn't live with in the moment and choices that he believes were not because of his limitations. Sandor did something to protect Sansa even while his last memory of Robb was playing with wooden swords before the Young Wolf started vexing the lion on the battlefield. While it is doubtful a boy so young had the wisdom to do anything to help poor Rhaella Jaime could certainly have offered himself as Aerys's champion against Brandon in place of fire. Jaime's choice to kill Aerys seems to be emotionally motivated by his inner guilt and frustrations over having sat by doing nothing while Rhaella was raped, Rickard burned, and Brandon was strangled to death. Unlike Sandor who confesses his true crimes to Arya down to lying about the song, Jaime obfuscates his crimes of doing nothing in the supposedly noble deed of slaying Aerys to save Kings Landing. While this may intellectually justify his kingslaying, it really serves as a mechanism for Jaime to avoid facing his own inactions. If saving Kings Landing were truly his motivation in killing Aerys he would have mentioned the caches of wildfire that still lurk beneath the city. Instead, Jaime's past actions still haunt him just as those jars of wildfire haunt Kings Landing and his past is going to burn him in the future as sure as the wildfire is going to burn Kings Landing. Jaime's "journey into the underworld" of Riverrun's dungeons saw an unrepentant confession to Cat of killing Bran and was followed by a false confession to Brienne about killing Aerys. His future is alluded to as one of condemnation in his dream beneath Casterly Rock where all the elements of his past return to condemn him. Sandor's "journey into the underworld" has a sincere confession to Arya as a prelude with an absolution of sorts from Arya with his removal from her list followed by the upcoming absolution of sorts from the Elder Brother on the Quiet Isle. His journey is one of putting his past behind him and freeing him of its shackles. Sandor and Jaime are also thematically tied through the inversions of Beauty and the Beast that play out through Sandor/Sansa and Jaime/Brienne. There are probably elements of the Brienne and Jaime reunion that are worth exploring in the future relative to the path Sandor might follow upon his departure from the Quiet Isle. It is curious that Brienne tells Jaime that the Hound has Sansa given that Sandor's stolen identity and Sansa are the two most likely things to draw him away from the Quiet Isle. Looking forward into the speculative paths of The Winds of Winter, while both the Kingslayer and Hound nicknames bear Aemon's "moral" traits of being hated and misunderstood, the Hound nickname seems to be on a very different redemptive path both publicly and privately.
  9. Ragnorak

    The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor II

    Very interesting thoughts, Milday. Before jumping into that I'd like be a little more explicit regarding GRRM demonstrating Sandor's strength beyond just the jousting helm damage. George teases a lot with regard to swordsmen and their relative skill. It is one of the reasons the board is infected with "Who would win in a fight?" threads. He does it to great effect and one of my personal favorites is Oberyn. Oberyn talks like a braggadocios blowhard to Tyrion from their first meeting with his "all flowers bend before the sun" line. The man has a fearsome reputation and a past that indicates he is not wholly without skill but Oberyn's boasting tends to be of the over the top variety that begs a reader to doubt. It isn't until Ellaria Sand who just moments before said "You're going to fight that?" says that he's just toying with The Mountain that we really know Oberyn is as good as his reputation. That is all intentional on GRRM's behalf to create and draw out the dramatic tension. Jon is another case. Jon Snow has been training since the opening of GoT. He's been training for five straight books-- far more than any other character in the series. He's given a signature gesture of opening and closing his wounded hand in anticipation of a fight. George has built up the case to make Jon the single best fighter in Westeros with all his training-- or Jon could be kind of mediocre. We don't really have any way to tell because we're deprived of context (outside of a berserker moment or two.) Ok, he was better than Robb at Winterfell but Robb is of complete unknown skill with a sword. With all that build up Jon's story in Dance ends with what we all ought to have anticipated was going to be the reveal of just how all that training paid off and-- nothing... This again is intentional on our evil author's behalf. The unknown skill level adds to the tension of Jon's last chapter and leaves the anticipation of 5 straight books of training still hanging in the air along with Jon's fate. He does mostly the opposite with Sandor. Sandor goes toe to toe with Gregor on Gregor's own terms fairly close to the opening of the series. Our first real insight into Sandor as a fighter is the information that "Yes, he is that good." Later we get both Oberyn and Bronn explaining how to fight Gregor that gives us the context to understand the magnitude of Sandor's matching him in a straight on bout of strength. Jaime thinks of Gregor's strength as being "nothing human" while he believes he could have beaten either Sandor or Gregor, but within that thought is the information that Sandor matched that inhuman strength. So with Sandor GRRM has given us the material to know that he is of incredibly profound skill, but then gives us battles and fights that pit Sandor against fire or where he's drunk. Rather than keep us in the dark about his true potential as a swordsman, he reveals the potential first and then adds in external factors that prevent that full potential from manifesting. It is a very different dramatic build up but one that seems just as likely as Jon or Oberyn to have a pay off at some future point in the plot.
  10. Ragnorak

    The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor II

    Thank you, DogLover. This chapter is one of many that demonstrates GRRM's masterful use of the POV structure. We see everything through Arya's eyes and perceptions and that childhood fear, reticence, and ignorance is what helps pull off the Western saloon feel so well. He uses her limited understanding to convey more to the reader than Arya could possibly understand herself. When Sandor and Gregor's men start talking she thinks that Sandor is one of them. As readers we know this is entirely false but her incorrect observation hints at the nature of Sandor's past and his familiarity with being around such men while at the same time alluding to the philosophical idea that outlaws and lawmen are two sides of the same coin. The limits of what Arya can convey from her perspective actually adds to the sum of information her POV conveys to the reader. Using ignorant POV's is common in storytelling because it is a simple way to build mystery and suspense. Even though LotR is a third person omniscient POV, the unnamed narrator only treats us to the most ignorant member of the fellowship's perspective. We don't get Legalos or Aragorn's perspective on the Paths of the Dead, only Gimli the dwarf's. Other than that it is mostly the hobbits. We get Merry and Pippin splitting up to give us a sympathetic and ignorant set of eyes in Rohan and Minas Tirith and as Frodo's perspective under the weight of the Ring would make his perspective more knowledgeable we begin to be limited entirely to Sam's view. George goes far beyond just using the limits of various characters' knowledge as a storytelling tool for drama, suspense, and an air of mystery and Sandor might be one of the most interesting cases in this regard. All of his POV characters have an arc except for poor Areo who is confessed to be just a set of convenient eyeballs with his chapter title "The Watcher" (though with that axe I wouldn't tell him so to his face.) While GRRM has a fascinating cast of minor characters who are dearly loved-- or hated-- with good reason, I'm not sure many of them could really be said to have "an arc." Mance is great and fascinating character, but he is an archetypal appeal to freedom more than a man on an inner journey. Chained by a cloak? Become King of the Wildings and sneak into Winterfell to play Bael the Bard. Shackled by an undead fire mage's glamour? Play Bael the Bard and sneak into Winterfell. Bowen Marsh is character who impacts the story precisely because he doesn't have an arc. He is the refusal to change and the refusal to travel on an inner journey is what makes him stab the element of change. I think there's an excellent case to be made for Stannis as a non-POV character with an arc, but even in his case it isn't nearly as explicit and thoroughly explored as it is with Sandor. It is one of the things that stands out about Sandor as a character and the various ways that GRRM pulls off the storytelling are all tied to his incredibly adept use of the POV structure in his storytelling.
  11. Ragnorak

    The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor II

    Thank you, Milady. I really like your thoughts on the Knight Errant archetype though most of reflections on that topic jump ahead to comparing and contrasting Sandor and Brienne. Sandor is much more the Clint Eastwood style character in the American Western treatment of the archetype while Brienne is closer to the black and white hat wearing John Wayne style. The Fire and Mud theme can serve as a bit of commentary by Martin on the difference between the two. It is something that I think echoes back to Aemon's speech to Jon about Ravens and Doves with Sandor already preferring ravens from the opening of the story but needing to be tempered and Brienne struggling to be a true knight against the restrictions imposed by emulating Baelor the Blessed. Sandor as a "true knight" needs to move toward mud and Brienne needs to move toward fire. But I don't want to elaborate too much because I think this is one of the major thematic elements moving forward into Sandor arriving at the Quiet Isle and the fact that it is through Brienne's POV that we see him and learn of his post-Arya fate. Metaphorically, Sandor needs to move toward mud and Brienne needs to move toward fire to embrace a more perfect "true knight" status. I do believe you are spot on in pointing to the Knight Errant archetype and I suspect the Sandor/Brienne contrast relative to the American Western treatment is quite intentional on Martin's part.
  12. Ragnorak

    The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor II

    Sandor IX (SoS) The Last Fight Arya XIII (Chapter 74) Summary Our chapter opens with a brief tease of a horror movie cliché as Arya, the young “innocent,” “helpless” girl, futilely warned the older brave male not to go into the bad haunted place which of course is occupied by dangerous ghosts and complete with a dead body ornamenting the building. The ghosts are from both of their pasts and aside from the occupants of the inn and the memories of her initial journey down the Kingsroad, the ghosts of Arry, Lumpyhead, Weasel, Nan and Squab lurk in the shadows as well. The doomed squire quotes Gregor referring to Sandor as a puppy who piddled in the rushes so he may have his own shades of past identities waiting in this haunted house as well. Martin immediately turns Arya’s apprehension into the reader’s suspense as she enters an uncomfortably silent room and notes all the people who ought to be making noise. They’re soldiers that know Sandor and Arya knows them too but our teasing author draws out the silence and replicates the tension for the reader by drawing out identifying these soldiers. The effect is a classic Western saloon standoff. Sandor walks into the “saloon” and everything stops. All eyes are on this menacing newcomer who becomes all the more menacing as fear grips the well-armed band that outnumbers him. Tensions are certain to boil over… and someone orders drink. Then lines filled with threatening undertones are exchanged and the “good guy” warns everyone to clear out the back. Violence is imminent but only one line threats are exchanged. The lines become a dialogue that almost begins to resemble civility as we see outlaws and lawmen are cut from nearly the same cloth. The differences always show in the end as someone says the wrong, or the right thing, and someone goes for a gun—or a throwing knife. This is far more a grey Clint Eastwood than a white and black hat wearing John Wayne Western—though Polliver’s head would swear it was a Sam Peckinpah film. Gregor’s men are the corrupt badge wearing lawmen and Sandor is the flawed but noble outlaw. This aspect of the scene is another ghost that will be left behind at this inn. The Brotherhood without Banners will later take up residence here to be haunted by Sandor’s helm, their past judgment of Sandor, and the comparative nobility of their outlaw band’s gunfight compared to our Lone Ranger’s. Sandor kills Polliver and Arya kills the Tickler and mortally wounds the squire. This time Sandor lets Arya give the gift of mercy he taught her earlier. Arya helps the wounded Sandor onto Stranger and they make their way towards Saltpans. Sandor’s wounds are too severe to go on even after Arya tries to treat them. He asks Arya for the gift of mercy and even lashes out with his deathbed confession to try and provoke her to do it. She denies him on the grounds that he doesn’t deserve mercy. This has a double edged meaning since in the First Men tradition of justice not deserving the gift of mercy can mean not deserving death. This is somewhat reinforced by Arya leaving the Hound out of her nightly prayer. Analysis Milady has written two excellent pieces in the Pawn to Player threads that serve as extremely useful background for this chapter. The first is The Road to the Hound’s Deathbed Confession (Part 2) which covers Sandor’s psychological state from his breaking at the Blackwater through the end of Arya XIII when she leaves him under the willow tree. The second is On Sandor and Drinking that illustrates his drinking is actually rather infrequent, only recreational prior to the Blackwater and largely a coping mechanism for depression after the Blackwater but also rather infrequent. She was kind enough to include a chapter by chapter breakdown of his alcohol consumption for the whole series. What is Everyone Thinking? Sandor’s real mission here is to find out who holds the ruby ford to see if it is a viable crossing. Both he and the inn are at a crossroads and the holder of the ford will determine the road he takes. Sandor gets this answer as soon as he opens the door to the inn even if Arya doesn’t know it yet. If these three were whoring here, Gregor must hold the ford The tension in the room when Arya first walks in tells us exactly how this is going to end. House Lannister is all that kept the Gregor/Sandor animosity from spilling over into bloodshed and Sandor’s no longer being in their service means that this encounter must end in blood. Both sides know it. Sandor holds off because he wants information since their presence tells him the ruby ford is closed to him. Polliver and the Tickler hold off because Sandor is a deadly threat. Aside from their shared history in Tywin’s service, Chiswyck’s tale that won him a spot on Arya’s three wish list tells us that Gregor brought seven men with him to the Hand’s Tourney—Chiswyck, Raff the Sweetling, a squire Joss Stilwood and four unnamed others. Given the number of Gregor’s men in Arya’s prayer, “Dunsen, Chiswyck, Polliver, Raff the Sweetling, The Tickler,” it seems likely that both the Tickler and Polliver were at the Hand’s Tourney and actually witnessed the fight between Gregor and Sandor. They know very well the peril they are in. Note the first thing said is Polliver asking, “Looking for your brother, Sandor?” Sandor Clegane is the last person they expected to walk into this inn or they’d be dressed in armor. The question of why he’s in this inn or even this general area is paramount in their minds and to kill Gregor is the only reasonable answer available to them. Sandor defuses the imminent conflict by announcing his intent to order wine, but his “don’t call me, ser” barked at the innkeeper is as good as a death threat to those for whom Gregor is known only as the iconic Ser. Polliver only glances at Arya likely because a glance is sufficient to dismiss her as a tactical threat. The Tickler stares long and hard though. He is most certainly trying to figure out why she is with Sandor. These men wouldn’t be privy to the knowledge that Roose’s Arya is a fake so it is unlikely he would be guessing her true identity. More probably he’s recognizing her as one of his old Harrenhal captives which would serve to reinforce the idea that Sandor is here to kill Gregor and this girl’s familiarity with Harrenhal is somehow part of Sandor’s plan. The poor squire isn’t thinking at all but his taunting serves as an opportunity for Sandor to imply another subtle threat—though warning may be a better word. Part of Sandor’s “code” seems to be not being an aggressor like Gregor. He knows these men will start the fight and letting them do so fits with his sense of honor as does his subtle warnings of the consequences with his lines about being called ser and this spoiled noble’s drinking. Sandor pumps them for information which they are all too happy to give. Their side seems to be winning the war and they’re rubbing it in that Sandor chose to leave the winning side. They’re also intentionally implying that he has no options. They firmly believe he’s here for Gregor and want to know what he intends now that Gregor has gone to Kings Landing. With the mention of the Saltpans they believe they have their answer and The Tickler makes his move. The Tickler also likely waited for the alcohol to kick in and probably hoped conversation might relax Sandor’s guard. Sandor’s excessive drinking here is the curious part. He knew this fight was coming the second he walked in the door. His blatant openness about his intentions to go to Saltpans clues us in that he knows Gregor’s men won’t be leaving alive or he’d have been more coy with his intentions. The fact that he’s in motion the second The Tickler makes his move shows that he’s been waiting for this the entire time. So why did he get so drunk? Oberyn drinks before every fight so it isn’t that any degree of alcohol consumption is dangerous. Milday’s two essays cover the topic well, but in short the reason seems to be Sansa. After his first go at the flagon the wine is primarily a tool for getting information from Gregor’s men. Sandor doesn’t drink again until Sansa’s fate is mentioned. That it is a tool is also demonstrated when he pours wine for Arya only after she reacts to the deaths at Harrenhal—a tool she uses when news of her own marriage confuses her. When Sandor first hears the news of Joffrey’s poisoning at his own wedding he has every reason to believe that Sansa was the bride. So his question about who killed him is really about whether or not Sansa got caught based on what he would reasonably suspect. His comment about his “brave brothers” is also Sansa specific in that in order to poison Joffrey she would had to have outwitted these men who beat her and humiliated them in the process. He would reasonably believe they failed to protect the king from a 13 year old girl—a girl he knows considered killing that king before. The obvious question for Sandor to ask would be, “Who the bloody hell did Joffrey marry if it wasn’t Sansa?” His utter lack of interest in a new queen or what House the Lannisters allied with frames just how much Sansa consumes his thoughts. It also illustrates the nature of his loyalty and his own internal sense of honor. Whether this new House might offer more for Arya never crosses his mind. The Duality of Fire The clear giveaway that it is Sansa he’s thinking about comes when he brings the conversation back to her after they’ve already moved on to news of Harrenhal, Riverrun and the state of the battlefield in the Riverlands. The Hound poured a cup of wine for Arya and another for himself, and drank it down while staring at the hearthfire. “The little bird flew away, did she? Well, bloody good for her. She shit on the Imp’s head and flew off.” Flame gazing isn’t just for fanatical redheads. “As shy as a maid on her wedding night,” the big ranger said in a soft voice, “and near as fair. Sometimes a man forgets how pretty a fire can be.” When the blaze was all acrackle, he peeled off his stiff gloves to warm his hands, and sighed, wondering if ever a kiss had felt as good. When they were done, there was no sound but the faint crackle of the flames and a distant sigh of wind. Jon opened and closed his burnt fingers, holding tight to the words in his mind, praying that his father’s gods would give him the strength to die bravely when his hour came. “I used to start fires in the bowels of Casterly Rock and stare at the flames for hours, pretending they were dragonfire. Sometimes I’d imagine my father burning. At other times, my sister.” he paused and looked back at Jon Snow. The boy stood near the fire, his face still and hard, looking deep into the flames. While our favorite fanatical flame gazer says that “Any cat may stare into a fire and see red mice at play,” there is a definitive theme to the red mice these men see—women and home. The fires Jon and the Halfhand gaze into are campfires to bring warmth to shelter, to cook hot meals. Such fires are echoes of home and these men see the feminine aspect of a home that’s as natural a yearning as the cat’s red mice. Even Tyrion’s vengeful visions are about removing hostile elements to make Casterly Rock more a home. The double edged nature of fire is introduced in our very first prologue Gared dismounted. “We need a fire. I’ll see to it.” “How big a fool are you, old man? If there are enemies in this wood, a fire is the last thing we want.” “There’s some enemies a fire will keep away,” Gared said. “Bears and direwolves and… and other things…” and continues to come up probably most blatantly in CoK “Fire is life up here,” said Qhorin Halfhand, “but it can be death as well.” For Sandor the normally benevolent side of fire still carries negative associations. His father’s cover up of Gregor’s attack poisoned home as a place of solace and protection. Even what little emotional value his father or sister may have had after his burning was destroyed by Gregor as he seems to have killed them both. The fires of his ancestral hearth are denied to him though he still cherishes the story of its founding hinting at a deep rooted desire to establish a home. We saw this desire earlier in his words before accepting a place in the kingsguard. The Hound’s scarred face was hard to read. He took a long moment to consider. “Why not? I have no lands nor wife to forsake, and who’d care if I did?” Though with Sandor, all his desires are blurred by his singular consuming desire for revenge against Gregor. Fire vs. Mud The psychological impact of Sandor’s burns are ever present for him as they have largely defined his path in life, but in this chapter, aside from his wish for Tyrion to be dipped in wildfire, the burning desire to kill Gregor and the hearthfire seem to be the more prominent symbolic meanings in play. Twice after leaving the Crossroads Inn Sandor expresses a dislike for mud. It is Barristan, the man Sandor replaced, that defines for us the struggle between fire and mud through Dany. She wants fire, and Dorne sent her mud. You could make a poultice out of mud to cool a fever. You could plant seeds in mud and grow a crop to feed your children. Mud would nourish you, where fire would only consume you, but fools and children and young girls would choose fire every time. Fire vs. mud seems a symbolic tension between naïve youthful idealism and the pragmatic wisdom that allows the disillusioned to return to idealism. The value of these simple mud-like pleasures is learned in childhood, or as e. e. cummings would say, in Just Spring when the world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful. All the Stark POVs rely on memories of Winterfell and the value of these simple mud-like pleasures when they need to draw strength during their trials. They all have fiery dreams of glory and all grow more and more willing to set those ambitions aside to return to Winterfell’s mud. Robb chooses the fire of a crown and Karstark the fire of vengeance over the mud of trading Jaime for Sansa and Karstark’s last living son. Both are consumed by their fiery choices. At some point the burning youthful fever must be cooled in a poultice of mud. In both Dany’s, whose arc brings us the metaphor, and Sandor’s cases, they never had a proper childhood in which to learn the value of mud. Their journeys back to idealism will be more difficult. Compare Sandor’s views on mud with Arya’s. Arya The green water was warm as tears, but there was no salt in it. It tasted of summer and mud and growing things. She got dirt in her mouth but she didn’t care, the taste was fine, the taste was mud and water and worms and life. Under the earth the air was cool and dark. Above was nothing but blood and roaring red and choking smoke and the screams of dying horses. ... A dozen feet down the tunnel she heard the sound, like the roar of some monstrous beast, and a cloud of hot smoke and black dust came billowing up behind her, smelling of hell. Arya held her breath and kissed the mud on the floor of the tunnel and cried. Walking barefoot was hard at first, but the blisters had finally broken, the cuts had healed, and her soles had turned to leather. The mud was nice between her toes, and she liked to feel the earth underfoot when she walked. Sandor Find me a stick, about so long and not too big around. And wash the mud off it. I hate the taste of mud.” She brought him water instead. He drank a little of it, complained that it tasted of mud, and slid into a noisy fevered sleep. While there is a great deal going on in this chapter beyond the fire and mud theme, this theme is one that will continue for Sandor throughout his obfuscated presence as the Gravedigger for the rest of the series written to date. Consistent with Barristan’s quote and the Florian Knight vs. Fool theme, Sandor at this point is a fool choosing fire over mud. In his case the fire is vengeance against Gregor. Looking forward there is more mud in Sandor’s future as the Quiet Isle must be reached by crossing the mudflats, a trek Martin has devoted a curiously large number of words to describe. If you would sleep beneath a roof tonight, you must climb off your horses and cross the mud with me. but... mayhaps I should take you up to Elder Brother. He will have seen you crossing the mud. This mud vs. fire theme will also be explored through Brienne who will unknowingly discover Sandor at the Quiet Isle. Brienne is often compared to Sandor in both subtle and overt ways and she will have her own fire vs. mud theme on her way to the Quiet Isle that may serve as additional commentary on Sandor. While that part of the discussion is best left for a future chapter, it is worth noting his mindset in our final scene with Sandor identified on screen. The closing of this chapter is clearly a breaking point for Sandor and in his impending absence rumors of the Hound will place him in the role of a Broken Man while he ends up in the healing sanctuary for Broken Men. Yet as we covered earlier the tale of the Broken Man differs from Sandor’s tale just as his breaking here is a stark difference from what broke to create the outlaws who will don his helm. It is in those differences that we will find the most illuminating information on Sandor.
  13. Ragnorak

    The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor II

      Did you perhaps have an alternative mind? A couple of those had occurred to me but not nearly your whole list.   One of the aspects about Sandor that I've ruminated on from time to time is why he hasn't killed Gregor yet. Most, in fact almost every moment of that, can be answered by their mutual Lannister service. However the duel in defense of Loras can not. Why did Sandor hold back? He would have been perfectly justified in killing Gregor given the circumstances and those same circumstances would have offered him political cover from multiple angles.   One possible reason is that he would become head of House Clegane and Tywin might well reassign him to replace the dog he had in Gregor. But the incident does speak generally to a man who burns to kill Gregor yet is not in a dire hurry to accomplish the task. Hope can be a peculiar kind of anticipation and the longer one subsists on it the more it begins to imbue its fulfillment with an artificial weight. Back in the Arya reread Blisscraft had a post on the Mad Huntsman. The relevant line is:   "The huntsman is symbolically the embodiment of desire. He represents a restless spirit who seeks action for its own sake, the pursuit of transitoriness and the will to remain part of an endless chase. He will never be satisfied with the present, only a future he will never run down. He is doomed as he will never snare the quarry he doggedly pursues. Peace forever eludes him."   How much of this applies toward Sandor's pursuit of Gregor? Is he in that depressed state because the Huntsman's quest is nearing the end? He has no future as the Dread Pirate Roberts waiting for him after he ends his career in the revenge business. Is it that he has the freedom to pursue Gregor at long last but not the plan or the means? He'll later slump into a similar alcohol fueled depression while he has Arya but no plan or means that he can devise to do anything with her. Somewhere in the vaguely defined answer to those questions I saw room to explain away Sandor's depression and still do. Though the geography is the hardest to dismiss unless we consider the possibility that Sandor was actually seeking out these outlaws because they are an armed force already in conflict with Gregor. Does he have the type of relationship with Beric or Thoros such that it wouldn't be an unreasonable option for him?   With regard to the gold as Lannister power I was referring more to the choice of land over gold in that regard. Gold is typically the power of the merchant while land is the power of the noble with the Lannisters as a peculiar non-merchant nobility relying more on the merchant's wealth than the noble's land (though they do use both.) To choose Arya over pursuing the gold carrying Huntsman reflects the values he desires in his liege. Though pragmatically if he is hunting for Gregor he is going to need more men than just himself and gold is the only alternative to joining men already in conflict with Gregor. He may have been in pursuit of a Riverlands lord actively resisting Gregor's foraging (as a potential feather in his cap to earn a place with Robb) or again he may have been searching for the very outlaws that found him.   It is possible that he was just wandering aimlessly, but that feels off to me.
  14. Ragnorak

    The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor II

    What a wonderful and delightful treatise on knighthood you've gifted us with, Milday.   For starters I'd like to take a look back at Sandor's intentions upon leaving King's Landing. What was he doing? Where did he intend to go before the BwB so rudely interrupted him? What was there in the Riverlands for him? The answer seems to be Gregor.   Sandor's journey is a struggle to return to innocence and Sansa in many ways is the key to that journey. She is certainly the one who set him on the path. His inner struggle on this journey is between embracing his role as a protector in the spirit of the founder of his House that he admires so much vs. the consuming desire to exact revenge upon Gregor. He asks Sansa to come with him before he leaves King's Landing and she declines. So he has been denied an object to protect and is left only with the path of vengeance to pursue. This seems to be the path he was on before encountering the Huntsman and his trial. The kidnapping of Arya actually puts him back on the path of the protector though he will ironically end up in the same destination as his path of vengeance at the Crossroads Inn.   One of the symbolic representations of Sandor's conflicting journey is symbolized by fire and mud and this will come up again in future chapters. This internal symbolism is later explicitly defined for us by Barristan in his reflections on Dany   You could make a poultice out of mud to cool a fever. You could plant seeds in mud and grow a crop to feed your children. Mud would nourish you, where fire would only consume you, but fools and children and young girls would choose fire every time.   Barristan's mud description aligns perfectly with Sandor's choice to pursue service with the Starks. It is a choice to abandon his gold (Lannister power) and instead seek a lordship that comes with land through embracing his role as the protector of Arya, over his pursuit of vengeance against Gregor on the consuming path of fire. The gold was likely a tool for vengeance to hire men in his plan to kill Gregor so abandoning the gold is abandoning vengeance in a very real way. This also places Sandor in the role of the Fool to the extent that he embraces fire over mud. One of the other symbolic associations with mud is youth and innocence.   in Just- spring when the world is mud- luscious ... spring when the world is puddle-wonderful -- e. e. cummings   Mud is a recurring theme in Arya's chapters and it is prevalent in all three of Arya's POVs covered here. We can see its innocence symbolism as she fails to see what is so very clear to the wiser and more jaded Sandor.   She landed light, the way Syrio had taught her, and bounced up at once with a face full of mud. “Why did you do that?” she screamed. The Hound had leapt down as well. He tore the seat off the front of the wayn and reached in for the swordbelt he’d hidden beneath it.   Despite all the horrors Arya has witnessed she is still fundamentally innocent, though this is the deathblow to that innocence. It is that innocence that prevents her from seeing what's really going on here symbolized by the face full of mud. It is that innocence that makes her cling to the belief that she can still reach her mother and brother inside despite the blatant betrayal she's witnessing. Sandor even unknowingly invokes Syrio's lesson to no avail.   “Dead,” he shouted back at her. “Do you think they’d slaughter his men and leave him alive?” He turned his head back toward the camp. “Look. Look, damn you.”   Life is a song and Walder Frey is just one of many people to prove Littlefinger wrong with his rendition of The Rains of Castamere. Arya still has Sansa's original innocent view of songs such that she expects the "knight" to rescue her mother from the castle and can't see the her own epic rescue whose heroism rivals a dragon slaying. But this is still a curious moment between these two characters because Arya is still at the stage of shedding innocence and Sandor's is one struggling to reclaim it. This moment in time is a major step for both of them on those paths.  
  15. Ragnorak

    The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor II

    Following up on Milady's parallel to Sandor's introductory scene at the training yard in Winterfell we also have Arya's conversation with Ned Dayne.   The burned man looked at Robb. “How old are you, boy?” “Fourteen,” Robb said. “I killed a man at twelve. You can be sure it was not with a blunt sword.”   “I never learned the lance, but I could beat you with a sword,” said Arya. “Have you killed anyone?” That seemed to startle him. “I’m only twelve.” I killed a boy when I was eight, Arya almost said, but she thought she’d better not.   Another curious parallel between Arya and Sandor is the confluence and conflict amongst the various religions that play out thematically in their stories. Sandor's traumatic origins are tied to fire and the Seven with Gregor's oils and his role as a Lady replacement for Sansa ties him to the old gods. The imagery throughout these two Arya chapters is filled with religious symbolism. The battle is fought with fire to take a sept. The guilty are hung to create what Arya thinks of a Mummer's Tree in a line that brings together an image of all three religions:   A mummer tree, Arya thought as she watched them dangle, their pale skins painted a sullen red by the flames of the burning septry.   There is both cooperation and conflict amongst these faiths.   One brother, a young novice, was bold enough to tell the red priest not to pray to his false god so long as he was under their roof. “Bugger that,” said Lem Lemoncloak. “He’s our god too, and you owe us for your bloody lives. And what’s false about him? Might be your Smith can mend a broken sword, but can he heal a broken man?” “Enough, Lem,” Lord Beric commanded. “Beneath their roof we will honor their rules.”   and even the very source of their divine powers seem in conflict as we see on the visit with the Ghost of Highheart.   “Look in your fires, pink priest, and you will see. Not now, though, not here, you’ll see nothing here. This place belongs to the old gods still… they linger here as I do, shrunken and feeble but not yet dead. Nor do they love the flames. For the oak recalls the acorn, the acorn dreams the oak, the stump lives in them both. And they remember when the First Men came with fire in their fists.”   While the magical abilities of flame gazing and the visions of the Greenseers we learn about through Bran and glimpse through the Ghost of Highheart seem quite similar, Martin goes through the trouble of emphasizing that fire consumes. It was fire that consumed the villages Arya sees destroyed along the Riverlands and the consuming nature of fire repeatedly comes up between Thoros and Beric.   “Fire consumes,” Lord Beric stood behind them, and there was something in his voice that silenced Thoros at once. “It consumes, and when it is done there is nothing left. Nothing.”   While fire consumes, wood preserves. The weirwoods contain the memories, knowledge, and history of those who worshipped the old gods. It is a very different sort of immortality than the variety Thoros has "gifted" Beric with:   “Can I dwell on what I scarce remember? I held a castle on the Marches once, and there was a woman I was pledged to marry, but I could not find that castle today, nor tell you the color of that woman’s hair. Who knighted me, old friend? What were my favorite foods? It all fades. Sometimes I think I was born on the bloody grass in that grove of ash, with the taste of fire in my mouth and a hole in my chest. Are you my mother, Thoros?”   The very things preserved in a weirwood are those things being consumed within Beric. There is a parallel here to the conflict within Sandor. He has a consuming desire for revenge against his brother that is at odds with the desires he indirectly hints at while accepting the Kingsguard position-- those of a wife and lands that lead to a different form of immortality through children and the lineage of the House whose origins he deeply embraces. The very thing Beric is lamenting are those same things Sandor risks forgoing if he follows the consuming path of fire and there may be some symbolic evidence of a choice between the fiery Red God and the old gods in his future just as there seems to be an impending choice for Arya between the old gods and the Many Faced God who takes everything on the path to drinking from the cold cup.   We get more coloring of this conflicted choice through the theme of mercy that continues to play out during their time together and see some of that play out in the chapters here. Sandor was given a trial in the eyes of the God these outlaws claim to follow yet his innocence is far from accepted as we see during their parley. Arya herself continues to wish for his death and deliberately puts out of her mind her own merciful hesitation that recalls her father's notion of justice.   They should have hanged the Hound too, or chopped his head off. Instead, to her disgust, the outlaws had treated Sandor Clegane’s burned arm, restored his sword and horse and armor, and set him free a few miles from the hollow hill. All they’d taken was his gold.   And in contradiction to the somewhat universal religious notions of redemption in the afterlife and leaving judgment to the gods Thoros himself has rather vengeful wishes for these men after their naked hangings.   Thoros implored the Lord of Light to roast their souls until the end of time.   Not exactly the pious "have mercy upon their souls" sentiment usually embraced by those of a priestly nature. While Arya herself shares the Thoros sentiment in these chapters she will eventually choose a different path when she and Sandor part ways.   The idea that Sandor has effectively taken it upon himself to fulfill Beric's knightly vow to return Arya home is a very interesting one to explore. Arya's own thoughts and words are specifically about Robb and whether or not Robb would want her back or pay her ransom. Yet the oath the Lightening Lord takes is specifically to return Arya to her mother's arms.    Thoros chuckled. “Your brother will pay, child. Have no fear on that count.” ... I do not have the power to give you back your father, no more than Thoros does, but I can at least see that you are returned safely to your mother’s arms.” “Do you swear?” she asked him. Yoren had promised to take her home too, only he’d gotten killed instead. “On my honor as a knight,” the lightning lord said solemnly.   That is a curious distinction in the oath and it falls in line with the rest of the thematic elements in play. Beric has been brought back to life six times with him forgoing undeath and reviving Cat into Lady Stoneheart as the seventh resurrection.   “How many times?” Lord Beric insisted. “Six,” Thoros said reluctantly. “And each time is harder. You have grown reckless, my lord. Is death so very sweet?” “Sweet? No, my friend. Not sweet.”   This makes Cat the holy seventh number which also aligns her with the face of the Stranger which is the very consuming path Arya will be following for at least two books to come. It also implies that Arya being returned to her mother's arms is perhaps the key to what will quell the Lady Revenant in the end. If so and if Sandor really is the "knight" to carry through on Lord Beric's vow that has rather significant implications for the future. To tie Sandor into that speculation we have Arya's wish for a headless man to be brought back to life which actually seems to have happened with Ser Robert "Gregor" Strong. There is also Arya learning the "truth" about Jon's mother from Ned which may also tie into merciful things that could quell the vengeful Stoneheart. If so that would imply Jon has reached a certain point in his arc by then and would fit with the general speculation of Sandor eventually serving the North in the future.   But back here in the present of our reread we're still in the thematic development of mercy in an interwoven tangle of religious themes that create a strong parallel foundation between Arya and Sandor in the lead up to their brief but extraordinarily significant time together.  
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